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Chapter 3 Beasts at Bay

  • Slowly Tarzan unfolded the note the sailor had thrust into his hand, and rea_t. At first it made little impression on his sorrow-numbed senses, bu_inally the full purport of the hideous plot of revenge unfolded itself befor_is imagination.
  • "This will explain to you" [the note read] "the exact nature of my intention_elative to your offspring and to you.
  • "You were born an ape. You lived naked in the jungles—to your own we hav_eturned you; but your son shall rise a step above his sire. It is th_mmutable law of evolution.
  • "The father was a beast, but the son shall be a man—he shall take the nex_scending step in the scale of progress. He shall be no naked beast of th_ungle, but shall wear a loincloth and copper anklets, and, perchance, a rin_n his nose, for he is to be reared by men—a tribe of savage cannibals.
  • "I might have killed you, but that would have curtailed the full measure o_he punishment you have earned at my hands.
  • "Dead, you could not have suffered in the knowledge of your son's plight; bu_iving and in a place from which you may not escape to seek or succour you_hild, you shall suffer worse than death for all the years of your life i_ontemplation of the horrors of your son's existence.
  • "This, then, is to be a part of your punishment for having dared to pi_ourself against
  • N. R.
  • "P.S.—The balance of your punishment has to do with what shall presentl_efall your wife—that I shall leave to your imagination."
  • As he finished reading, a slight sound behind him brought him back with _tart to the world of present realities.
  • Instantly his senses awoke, and he was again Tarzan of the Apes.
  • As he wheeled about, it was a beast at bay, vibrant with the instinct of self- preservation, that faced a huge bull-ape that was already charging down upo_im.
  • The two years that had elapsed since Tarzan had come out of the savage fores_ith his rescued mate had witnessed slight diminution of the mighty power_hat had made him the invincible lord of the jungle. His great estates i_ziri had claimed much of his time and attention, and there he had found ampl_ield for the practical use and retention of his almost superhuman powers; bu_aked and unarmed to do battle with the shaggy, bull-necked beast that no_onfronted him was a test that the ape-man would scarce have welcomed at an_eriod of his wild existence.
  • But there was no alternative other than to meet the rage-maddened creatur_ith the weapons with which nature had endowed him.
  • Over the bull's shoulder Tarzan could see now the heads and shoulders o_erhaps a dozen more of these mighty fore-runners of primitive man.
  • He knew, however, that there was little chance that they would attack him, since it is not within the reasoning powers of the anthropoid to be able t_eigh or appreciate the value of concentrated action against a_nemy—otherwise they would long since have become the dominant creatures o_heir haunts, so tremendous a power of destruction lies in their mighty thew_nd savage fangs.
  • With a low snarl the beast now hurled himself at Tarzan, but the ape-man ha_ound, among other things in the haunts of civilized man, certain methods o_cientific warfare that are unknown to the jungle folk.
  • Whereas, a few years since, he would have met the brute rush with brute force, he now sidestepped his antagonist's headlong charge, and as the brute hurtle_ast him swung a mighty right to the pit of the ape's stomach.
  • With a howl of mingled rage and anguish the great anthropoid bent double an_ank to the ground, though almost instantly he was again struggling to hi_eet.
  • Before he could regain them, however, his white-skinned foe had wheeled an_ounced upon him, and in the act there dropped from the shoulders of th_nglish lord the last shred of his superficial mantle of civilization.
  • Once again he was the jungle beast revelling in bloody conflict with his kind.
  • Once again he was Tarzan, son of Kala the she-ape.
  • His strong, white teeth sank into the hairy throat of his enemy as he sough_he pulsing jugular.
  • Powerful fingers held the mighty fangs from his own flesh, or clenched an_eat with the power of a steam-hammer upon the snarling, foam-flecked face o_is adversary.
  • In a circle about them the balance of the tribe of apes stood watching an_njoying the struggle. They muttered low gutturals of approval as bits o_hite hide or hairy bloodstained skin were torn from one contestant or th_ther. But they were silent in amazement and expectation when they saw th_ighty white ape wriggle upon the back of their king, and, with steel muscle_ensed beneath the armpits of his antagonist, bear down mightily with his ope_alms upon the back of the thick bullneck, so that the king ape could bu_hriek in agony and flounder helplessly about upon the thick mat of jungl_rass.
  • As Tarzan had overcome the huge Terkoz that time years before when he had bee_bout to set out upon his quest for human beings of his own kind and colour, so now he overcame this other great ape with the same wrestling hold upo_hich he had stumbled by accident during that other combat. The littl_udience of fierce anthropoids heard the creaking of their king's nec_ingling with his agonized shrieks and hideous roaring.
  • Then there came a sudden crack, like the breaking of a stout limb before th_ury of the wind. The bullet-head crumpled forward upon its flaccid nec_gainst the great hairy chest—the roaring and the shrieking ceased.
  • The little pig-eyes of the onlookers wandered from the still form of thei_eader to that of the white ape that was rising to its feet beside th_anquished, then back to their king as though in wonder that he did not aris_nd slay this presumptuous stranger.
  • They saw the new-comer place a foot upon the neck of the quiet figure at hi_eet and, throwing back his head, give vent to the wild, uncanny challenge o_he bull-ape that has made a kill. Then they knew that their king was dead.
  • Across the jungle rolled the horrid notes of the victory cry. The littl_onkeys in the tree-tops ceased their chattering. The harsh-voiced, brilliant- plumed birds were still. From afar came the answering wail of a leopard an_he deep roar of a lion.
  • It was the old Tarzan who turned questioning eyes upon the little knot of ape_efore him. It was the old Tarzan who shook his head as though to toss back _eavy mane that had fallen before his face—an old habit dating from the day_hat his great shock of thick, black hair had fallen about his shoulders, an_ften tumbled before his eyes when it had meant life or death to him to hav_is vision unobstructed.
  • The ape-man knew that he might expect an immediate attack on the part of tha_articular surviving bull-ape who felt himself best fitted to contend for th_ingship of the tribe. Among his own apes he knew that it was not unusual fo_n entire stranger to enter a community and, after having dispatched the king, assume the leadership of the tribe himself, together with the fallen monarch'_ates.
  • On the other hand, if he made no attempt to follow them, they might mov_lowly away from him, later to fight among themselves for the supremacy. Tha_e could be king of them, if he so chose, he was confident; but he was no_ure he cared to assume the sometimes irksome duties of that position, for h_ould see no particular advantage to be gained thereby.
  • One of the younger apes, a huge, splendidly muscled brute, was edgin_hreateningly closer to the ape-man. Through his bared fighting fangs ther_ssued a low, sullen growl.
  • Tarzan watched his every move, standing rigid as a statue. To have fallen bac_ step would have been to precipitate an immediate charge; to have rushe_orward to meet the other might have had the same result, or it might have pu_he bellicose one to flight—it all depended upon the young bull's stock o_ourage.
  • To stand perfectly still, waiting, was the middle course. In this event th_ull would, according to custom, approach quite close to the object of hi_ttention, growling hideously and baring slavering fangs. Slowly he woul_ircle about the other, as though with a chip upon his shoulder; and this h_id, even as Tarzan had foreseen.
  • It might be a bluff royal, or, on the other hand, so unstable is the mind o_n ape, a passing impulse might hurl the hairy mass, tearing and rending, upo_he man without an instant's warning.
  • As the brute circled him Tarzan turned slowly, keeping his eyes ever upon th_yes of his antagonist. He had appraised the young bull as one who had neve_uite felt equal to the task of overthrowing his former king, but who one da_ould have done so. Tarzan saw that the beast was of wondrous proportions, standing over seven feet upon his short, bowed legs.
  • His great, hairy arms reached almost to the ground even when he stood erect, and his fighting fangs, now quite close to Tarzan's face, were exceptionall_ong and sharp. Like the others of his tribe, he differed in several mino_ssentials from the apes of Tarzan's boyhood.
  • At first the ape-man had experienced a thrill of hope at sight of the shagg_odies of the anthropoids—a hope that by some strange freak of fate he ha_een again returned to his own tribe; but a closer inspection had convince_im that these were another species.
  • As the threatening bull continued his stiff and jerky circling of the ape-man, much after the manner that you have noted among dogs when a strange canin_omes among them, it occurred to Tarzan to discover if the language of his ow_ribe was identical with that of this other family, and so he addressed th_rute in the language of the tribe of Kerchak.
  • "Who are you," he asked, "who threatens Tarzan of the Apes?"
  • The hairy brute looked his surprise.
  • "I am Akut," replied the other in the same simple, primal tongue which is s_ow in the scale of spoken languages that, as Tarzan had surmised, it wa_dentical with that of the tribe in which the first twenty years of his lif_ad been spent.
  • "I am Akut," said the ape. "Molak is dead. I am king. Go away or I shall kil_ou!"
  • "You saw how easily I killed Molak," replied Tarzan. "So I could kill you if _ared to be king. But Tarzan of the Apes would not be king of the tribe o_kut. All he wishes is to live in peace in this country. Let us be friends.
  • Tarzan of the Apes can help you, and you can help Tarzan of the Apes."
  • "You cannot kill Akut," replied the other. "None is so great as Akut. Had yo_ot killed Molak, Akut would have done so, for Akut was ready to be king."
  • For answer the ape-man hurled himself upon the great brute who during th_onversation had slightly relaxed his vigilance.
  • In the twinkling of an eye the man had seized the wrist of the great ape, an_efore the other could grapple with him had whirled him about and leaped upo_is broad back.
  • Down they went together, but so well had Tarzan's plan worked out that befor_ver they touched the ground he had gained the same hold upon Akut that ha_roken Molak's neck.
  • Slowly he brought the pressure to bear, and then as in days gone by he ha_iven Kerchak the chance to surrender and live, so now he gave to Akut—in who_e saw a possible ally of great strength and resource—the option of living i_mity with him or dying as he had just seen his savage and heretofor_nvincible king die.
  • "Ka-Goda?" whispered Tarzan to the ape beneath him.
  • It was the same question that he had whispered to Kerchak, and in the languag_f the apes it means, broadly, "Do you surrender?"
  • Akut thought of the creaking sound he had heard just before Molak's thick nec_ad snapped, and he shuddered.
  • He hated to give up the kingship, though, so again he struggled to fre_imself; but a sudden torturing pressure upon his vertebra brought an agonized
  • "ka-goda!" from his lips.
  • Tarzan relaxed his grip a trifle.
  • "You may still be king, Akut," he said. "Tarzan told you that he did not wis_o be king. If any question your right, Tarzan of the Apes will help you i_our battles."
  • The ape-man rose, and Akut came slowly to his feet. Shaking his bullet hea_nd growling angrily, he waddled toward his tribe, looking first at one an_hen at another of the larger bulls who might be expected to challenge hi_eadership.
  • But none did so; instead, they drew away as he approached, and presently th_hole pack moved off into the jungle, and Tarzan was left alone once more upo_he beach.
  • The ape-man was sore from the wounds that Molak had inflicted upon him, but h_as inured to physical suffering and endured it with the calm and fortitude o_he wild beasts that had taught him to lead the jungle life after the manne_f all those that are born to it.
  • His first need, he realized, was for weapons of offence and defence, for hi_ncounter with the apes, and the distant notes of the savage voices of Num_he lion, and Sheeta, the panther, warned him that his was to be no life o_ndolent ease and security.
  • It was but a return to the old existence of constant bloodshed and danger—t_he hunting and the being hunted. Grim beasts would stalk him, as they ha_talked him in the past, and never would there be a moment, by savage day o_y cruel night, that he might not have instant need of such crude weapons a_e could fashion from the materials at hand.
  • Upon the shore he found an out-cropping of brittle, igneous rock. By dint o_uch labour he managed to chip off a narrow sliver some twelve inches long b_ quarter of an inch thick. One edge was quite thin for a few inches near th_ip. It was the rudiment of a knife.
  • With it he went into the jungle, searching until he found a fallen tree of _ertain species of hardwood with which he was familiar. From this he cut _mall straight branch, which he pointed at one end.
  • Then he scooped a small, round hole in the surface of the prostrate trunk.
  • Into this he crumbled a few bits of dry bark, minutely shredded, after whic_e inserted the tip of his pointed stick, and, sitting astride the bole of th_ree, spun the slender rod rapidly between his palms.
  • After a time a thin smoke rose from the little mass of tinder, and a momen_ater the whole broke into flame. Heaping some larger twigs and sticks upo_he tiny fire, Tarzan soon had quite a respectable blaze roaring in th_nlarging cavity of the dead tree.
  • Into this he thrust the blade of his stone knife, and as it became superheate_e would withdraw it, touching a spot near the thin edge with a drop o_oisture. Beneath the wetted area a little flake of the glassy material woul_rack and scale away.
  • Thus, very slowly, the ape-man commenced the tedious operation of putting _hin edge upon his primitive hunting-knife.
  • He did not attempt to accomplish the feat all in one sitting. At first he wa_ontent to achieve a cutting edge of a couple of inches, with which he cut _ong, pliable bow, a handle for his knife, a stout cudgel, and a goodly suppl_f arrows.
  • These he cached in a tall tree beside a little stream, and here also h_onstructed a platform with a roof of palm-leaves above it.
  • When all these things had been finished it was growing dusk, and Tarzan felt _trong desire to eat.
  • He had noted during the brief incursion he had made into the forest that _hort distance up-stream from his tree there was a much-used watering place, where, from the trampled mud of either bank, it was evident beasts of al_orts and in great numbers came to drink. To this spot the hungry ape-man mad_is silent way.
  • Through the upper terrace of the tree-tops he swung with the grace and ease o_ monkey. But for the heavy burden upon his heart he would have been happy i_his return to the old free life of his boyhood.
  • Yet even with that burden he fell into the little habits and manners of hi_arly life that were in reality more a part of him than the thin veneer o_ivilization that the past three years of his association with the white me_f the outer world had spread lightly over him—a veneer that only hid th_rudities of the beast that Tarzan of the Apes had been.
  • Could his fellow-peers of the House of Lords have seen him then they woul_ave held up their noble hands in holy horror.
  • Silently he crouched in the lower branches of a great forest giant tha_verhung the trail, his keen eyes and sensitive ears strained into the distan_ungle, from which he knew his dinner would presently emerge.
  • Nor had he long to wait.
  • Scarce had he settled himself to a comfortable position, his lithe, muscula_egs drawn well up beneath him as the panther draws his hindquarters i_reparation for the spring, than Bara, the deer, came daintily down to drink.
  • But more than Bara was coming. Behind the graceful buck came another which th_eer could neither see nor scent, but whose movements were apparent to Tarza_f the Apes because of the elevated position of the ape-man's ambush.
  • He knew not yet exactly the nature of the thing that moved so stealthil_hrough the jungle a few hundred yards behind the deer; but he was convince_hat it was some great beast of prey stalking Bara for the selfsame purpose a_hat which prompted him to await the fleet animal. Numa, perhaps, or Sheeta, the panther.
  • In any event, Tarzan could see his repast slipping from his grasp unless Bar_oved more rapidly toward the ford than at present.
  • Even as these thoughts passed through his mind some noise of the stalker i_is rear must have come to the buck, for with a sudden start he paused for a_nstant, trembling, in his tracks, and then with a swift bound dashed straigh_or the river and Tarzan. It was his intention to flee through the shallo_ord and escape upon the opposite side of the river.
  • Not a hundred yards behind him came Numa.
  • Tarzan could see him quite plainly now. Below the ape-man Bara was about t_ass. Could he do it? But even as he asked himself the question the hungry ma_aunched himself from his perch full upon the back of the startled buck.
  • In another instant Numa would be upon them both, so if the ape-man were t_ine that night, or ever again, he must act quickly.
  • Scarcely had he touched the sleek hide of the deer with a momentum that sen_he animal to its knees than he had grasped a horn in either hand, and with _ingle quick wrench twisted the animal's neck completely round, until he fel_he vertebrae snap beneath his grip.
  • The lion was roaring in rage close behind him as he swung the deer across hi_houlder, and, grasping a foreleg between his strong teeth, leaped for th_earest of the lower branches that swung above his head.
  • With both hands he grasped the limb, and, at the instant that Numa sprang, drew himself and his prey out of reach of the animal's cruel talons.
  • There was a thud below him as the baffled cat fell back to earth, and the_arzan of the Apes, drawing his dinner farther up to the safety of a highe_imb, looked down with grinning face into the gleaming yellow eyes of th_ther wild beast that glared up at him from beneath, and with taunting insult_launted the tender carcass of his kill in the face of him whom he had cheate_f it.
  • With his crude stone knife he cut a juicy steak from the hindquarters, an_hile the great lion paced, growling, back and forth below him, Lord Greystok_illed his savage belly, nor ever in the choicest of his exclusive Londo_lubs had a meal tasted more palatable.
  • The warm blood of his kill smeared his hands and face and filled his nostril_ith the scent that the savage carnivora love best.
  • And when he had finished he left the balance of the carcass in a high fork o_he tree where he had dined, and with Numa trailing below him, still keen fo_evenge, he made his way back to his tree-top shelter, where he slept unti_he sun was high the following morning.