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Chapter 15

  • And out in the jungle, far away, Korak, covered with wounds, stiff wit_lotted blood, burning with rage and sorrow, swung back upon the trail of th_reat baboons. He had not found them where he had last seen them, nor in an_f their usual haunts; but he sought them along the well-marked spoor they ha_eft behind them, and at last he overtook them. When first he came upon the_hey were moving slowly but steadily southward in one of those periodi_igrations the reasons for which the baboon himself is best able to explain.
  • At sight of the white warrior who came upon them from down wind the her_alted in response to the warning cry of the sentinel that had discovered him.
  • There was much growling and muttering; much stiff-legged circling on the par_f the bulls. The mothers, in nervous, high pitched tones, called their youn_o their sides, and with them moved to safety behind their lords and masters.
  • Korak called aloud to the king, who, at the familiar voice, advanced slowly, warily, and still stiff-legged. He must have the confirmatory evidence of hi_ose before venturing to rely too implicitly upon the testimony of his ear_nd eyes. Korak stood perfectly still. To have advanced then might hav_recipitated an immediate attack, or, as easily, a panic of flight. Wil_easts are creatures of nerves. It is a relatively simple thing to throw the_nto a species of hysteria which may induce either a mania for murder, o_ymptoms of apparent abject cowardice—it is a question, however, if a wil_nimal ever is actually a coward.
  • The king baboon approached Korak. He walked around him in an ever decreasin_ircle—growling, grunting, sniffing. Korak spoke to him.
  • "I am Korak," he said. "I opened the cage that held you. I saved you from th_armangani. I am Korak, The Killer. I am your friend."
  • "Huh," grunted the king. "Yes, you are Korak. My ears told me that you wer_orak. My eyes told you that you were Korak. Now my nose tells me that you ar_orak. My nose is never wrong. I am your friend. Come, we shall hun_ogether."
  • "Korak cannot hunt now," replied the ape-man. "The Gomangani have stole_eriem. They have tied her in their village. They will not let her go. Korak, alone, was unable to set her free. Korak set you free. Now will you bring you_eople and set Korak's Meriem free?"
  • "The Gomangani have many sharp sticks which they throw. They pierce the bodie_f my people. They kill us. The gomangani are bad people. They will kill u_ll if we enter their village."
  • "The Tarmangani have sticks that make a loud noise and kill at a grea_istance," replied Korak. "They had these when Korak set you free from thei_rap. If Korak had run away from them you would now be a prisoner among th_armangani."
  • The baboon scratched his head. In a rough circle about him and the ape-ma_quatted the bulls of his herd. They blinked their eyes, shouldered on_nother about for more advantageous positions, scratched in the rottin_egetation upon the chance of unearthing a toothsome worm, or sat listlessl_yeing their king and the strange Mangani, who called himself thus but wh_ore closely resembled the hated Tarmangani. The king looked at some of th_lder of his subjects, as though inviting suggestion.
  • "We are too few," grunted one.
  • "There are the baboons of the hill country," suggested another. "They are a_any as the leaves of the forest. They, too, hate the Gomangani. They love t_ight. They are very savage. Let us ask them to accompany us. Then can we kil_ll the Gomangani in the jungle." He rose and growled horribly, bristling hi_tiff hair.
  • "That is the way to talk," cried The Killer, "but we do not need the baboon_f the hill country. We are enough. It will take a long time to fetch them.
  • Meriem may be dead and eaten before we could free her. Let us set out at onc_or the village of the Gomangani. If we travel very fast it will not take lon_o reach it. Then, all at the same time, we can charge into the village, growling and barking. The Gomangani will be very frightened and will run away.
  • While they are gone we can seize Meriem and carry her off. We do not have t_ill or be killed— all that Korak wishes is his Meriem."
  • "We are too few," croaked the old ape again.
  • "Yes, we are too few," echoed others.
  • Korak could not persuade them. They would help him, gladly; but they must d_t in their own way and that meant enlisting the services of their kinsmen an_llies of the hill country. So Korak was forced to give in. All he could d_or the present was to urge them to haste, and at his suggestion the kin_aboon with a dozen of his mightiest bulls agreed to go to the hill countr_ith Korak, leaving the balance of the herd behind.
  • Once enlisted in the adventure the baboons became quite enthusiastic about it.
  • The delegation set off immediately. They traveled swiftly; but the ape-ma_ound no difficulty in keeping up with them. They made a tremendous racket a_hey passed through the trees in an endeavor to suggest to enemies in thei_ront that a great herd was approaching, for when the baboons travel in larg_umbers there is no jungle creature who cares to molest them. When the natur_f the country required much travel upon the level, and the distance betwee_rees was great, they moved silently, knowing that the lion and the leopar_ould not be fooled by noise when they could see plainly for themselves tha_nly a handful of baboons were on the trail.
  • For two days the party raced through the savage country, passing out of th_ense jungle into an open plain, and across this to timbered mountain slopes.
  • Here Korak never before had been. It was a new country to him and the chang_rom the monotony of the circumscribed view in the jungle was pleasing. But h_ad little desire to enjoy the beauties of nature at this time. Meriem, hi_eriem was in danger. Until she was freed and returned to him he had littl_hought for aught else.
  • Once in the forest that clothed the mountain slopes the baboons advanced mor_lowly. Constantly they gave tongue to a plaintive note of calling. Then woul_ollow silence while they listened. At last, faintly from the distanc_traight ahead came an answer.
  • The baboons continued to travel in the direction of the voices that floate_hrough the forest to them in the intervals of their own silence. Thus, calling and listening, they came closer to their kinsmen, who, it was eviden_o Korak, were coming to meet them in great numbers; but when, at last, th_aboons of the hill country came in view the ape-man was staggered at th_eality that broke upon his vision.
  • What appeared a solid wall of huge baboons rose from the ground through th_ranches of the trees to the loftiest terrace to which they dared entrus_heir weight. Slowly they were approaching, voicing their weird, plaintiv_all, and behind them, as far as Korak's eyes could pierce the verdure, ros_olid walls of their fellows treading close upon their heels. There wer_housands of them. The ape-man could not but think of the fate of his littl_arty should some untoward incident arouse even momentarily the rage of fea_f a single one of all these thousands.
  • But nothing such befell. The two kings approached one another, as was thei_ustom, with much sniffing and bristling. They satisfied themselves of eac_ther's identity. Then each scratched the other's back. After a moment the_poke together. Korak's friend explained the nature of their visit, and fo_he first time Korak showed himself. He had been hiding behind a bush. Th_xcitement among the hill baboons was intense at sight of him. For a momen_orak feared that he should be torn to pieces; but his fear was for Meriem.
  • Should he die there would be none to succor her.
  • The two kings, however, managed to quiet the multitude, and Korak wa_ermitted to approach. Slowly the hill baboons came closer to him. The_niffed at him from every angle. When he spoke to them in their own tongu_hey were filled with wonder and delight. They talked to him and listene_hile he spoke. He told them of Meriem, and of their life in the jungle wher_hey were the friends of all the ape folk from little Manu to Mangani, th_reat ape.
  • "The Gomangani, who are keeping Meriem from me, are no friends of yours," h_aid. "They kill you. The baboons of the low country are too few to go agains_hem. They tell me that you are very many and very brave—that your numbers ar_s the numbers of the grasses upon the plains or the leaves within the forest, and that even Tantor, the elephant, fears you, so brave you are. They told m_hat you would be happy to accompany us to the village of the Gomangani an_unish these bad people while I, Korak, The Killer, carry away my Meriem."
  • The king ape puffed out his chest and strutted about very stiff-legged indeed.
  • So also did many of the other great bulls of his nation. They were pleased an_lattered by the words of the strange Tarmangani, who called himself Mangan_nd spoke the language of the hairy progenitors of man.
  • "Yes," said one, "we of the hill country are mighty fighters. Tantor fears us.
  • Numa fears us. Sheeta fears us. The Gomangani of the hill country are glad t_ass us by in peace. I, for one, will come with you to the village of th_omangani of the low places. I am the king's first he-child. Alone can I kil_ll the Gomangani of the low country," and he swelled his chest and strutte_roudly back and forth, until the itching back of a comrade commanded hi_ndustrious attention.
  • "I am Goob," cried another. "My fighting fangs are long. They are sharp. The_re strong. Into the soft flesh of many a Gomangani have they been buried.
  • Alone I slew the sister of Sheeta. Goob will go to the low country with yo_nd kill so many of the Gomangani that there will be none left to count th_ead," and then he, too, strutted and pranced before the admiring eyes of th_hes and the young.
  • Korak looked at the king, questioningly.
  • "Your bulls are very brave," he said; "but braver than any is the king."
  • Thus addressed, the shaggy bull, still in his prime—else he had been no longe_ing—growled ferociously. The forest echoed to his lusty challenges. Th_ittle baboons clutched fearfully at their mothers' hairy necks. The bulls, electrified, leaped high in air and took up the roaring challenge of thei_ing. The din was terrific.
  • Korak came close to the king and shouted in his ear, "Come." Then he starte_ff through the forest toward the plain that they must cross on their lon_ourney back to the village of Kovudoo, the Gomangani. The king, still roarin_nd shrieking, wheeled and followed him. In their wake came the handful of lo_ountry baboons and the thousands of the hill clan—savage, wiry, dog-lik_reatures, athirst for blood.
  • And so they came, upon the second day, to the village of Kovudoo. It was mid- afternoon. The village was sunk in the quiet of the great equatorial sun-heat.
  • The mighty herd traveled quietly now. Beneath the thousands of padded feet th_orest gave forth no greater sound than might have been produced by th_ncreased soughing of a stronger breeze through the leafy branches of th_rees.
  • Korak and the two kings were in the lead. Close beside the village they halte_ntil the stragglers had closed up. Now utter silence reigned. Korak, creepin_tealthily, entered the tree that overhung the palisade. He glanced behin_im. The pack were close upon his heels. The time had come. He had warned the_ontinuously during the long march that no harm must befall the white she wh_ay a prisoner within the village. All others were their legitimate prey.
  • Then, raising his face toward the sky, he gave voice to a single cry. It wa_he signal.
  • In response three thousand hairy bulls leaped screaming and barking into th_illage of the terrified blacks. Warriors poured from every hut. Mother_athered their babies in their arms and fled toward the gates as they saw th_orrid horde pouring into the village street. Kovudoo marshaled his fightin_en about him and, leaping and yelling to arouse their courage, offered _ristling, spear tipped front to the charging horde.
  • Korak, as he had led the march, led the charge. The blacks were struck wit_orror and dismay at the sight of this white-skinned youth at the head of _ack of hideous baboons. For an instant they held their ground, hurling thei_pears once at the advancing multitude; but before they could fit arrows t_heir bows they wavered, gave, and turned in terrified rout. Into their ranks, upon their backs, sinking strong fangs into the muscles of their necks spran_he baboons and first among them, most ferocious, most blood-thirsty, mos_errible was Korak, The Killer.
  • At the village gates, through which the blacks poured in panic, Korak lef_hem to the tender mercies of his allies and turned himself eagerly toward th_ut in which Meriem had been a prisoner. It was empty. One after another th_ilthy interiors revealed the same disheartening fact—Meriem was in none o_hem. That she had not been taken by the blacks in their flight from th_illage Korak knew for he had watched carefully for a glimpse of her among th_ugitives.
  • To the mind of the ape-man, knowing as he did the proclivities of the savages, there was but a single explanation—Meriem had been killed and eaten. With th_onviction that Meriem was dead there surged through Korak's brain a wave o_lood red rage against those he believed to be her murderer. In the distanc_e could hear the snarling of the baboons mixed with the screams of thei_ictims, and towards this he made his way. When he came upon them the baboon_ad commenced to tire of the sport of battle, and the blacks in a little kno_ere making a new stand, using their knob sticks effectively upon the fe_ulls who still persisted in attacking them.
  • Among these broke Korak from the branches of a tree above them—swift, relentless, terrible, he hurled himself upon the savage warriors of Kovudoo.
  • Blind fury possessed him. Too, it protected him by its very ferocity. Like _ounded lioness he was here, there, everywhere, striking terrific blows wit_ard fists and with the precision and timeliness of the trained fighter. Agai_nd again he buried his teeth in the flesh of a foeman. He was upon one an_one again to another before an effective blow could be dealt him. Yet, thoug_reat was the weight of his execution in determining the result of the combat, it was outweighed by the terror which he inspired in the simple, superstitiou_inds of his foeman. To them this white warrior, who consorted with the grea_pes and the fierce baboons, who growled and snarled and snapped like a beast, was not human. He was a demon of the forest—a fearsome god of evil whom the_ad offended, and who had come out of his lair deep in the jungle to punis_hem. And because of this belief there were many who offered but littl_efense, feeling as they did the futility of pitting their puny morta_trength against that of a deity.
  • Those who could fled, until at last there were no more to pay the penalty fo_ deed, which, while not beyond them, they were, nevertheless, not guilty of.
  • Panting and bloody, Korak paused for want of further victims. The baboon_athered about him, sated themselves with blood and battle. They lolled upo_he ground, fagged.
  • In the distance Kovudoo was gathering his scattered tribesmen, and takin_ccount of injuries and losses. His people were panic stricken. Nothing coul_revail upon them to remain longer in this country. They would not even retur_o the village for their belongings. Instead they insisted upon continuin_heir flight until they had put many miles between themselves and the stampin_round of the demon who had so bitterly attacked them. And thus it befell tha_orak drove from their homes the only people who might have aided him in _earch for Meriem, and cut off the only connecting link between him and he_rom whomsoever might come in search of him from the douar of the kindly Bwan_ho had befriended his little jungle sweetheart.
  • It was a sour and savage Korak who bade farewell to his baboon allies upon th_ollowing morning. They wished him to accompany him; but the ape-man had n_eart for the society of any. Jungle life had encouraged taciturnity in him.
  • His sorrow had deepened this to a sullen moroseness that could not brook eve_he savage companionship of the ill-natured baboons.
  • Brooding and despondent he took his solitary way into the deepest jungle. H_oved along the ground when he knew that Numa was abroad and hungry. He too_o the same trees that harbored Sheeta, the panther. He courted death in _undred ways and a hundred forms. His mind was ever occupied wit_eminiscences of Meriem and the happy years that they had spent together. H_ealized now to the full what she had meant to him. The sweet face, th_anned, supple, little body, the bright smile that always had welcomed hi_eturn from the hunt haunted him continually.
  • Inaction soon threatened him with madness. He must be on the go. He must fil_is days with labor and excitement that he might forget—that night might fin_im so exhausted that he should sleep in blessed unconsciousness of his miser_ntil a new day had come.
  • Had he guessed that by any possibility Meriem might still live he would a_east have had hope. His days could have been devoted to searching for her; but he implicitly believed that she was dead.
  • For a long year he led his solitary, roaming life. Occasionally he fell i_ith Akut and his tribe, hunting with them for a day or two; or he migh_ravel to the hill country where the baboons had come to accept him as _atter of course; but most of all was he with Tantor, the elephant—the grea_ray battle ship of the jungle—the super-dreadnaught of his savage world.
  • The peaceful quiet of the monster bulls, the watchful solicitude of the mothe_ows, the awkward playfulness of the calves rested, interested, and amuse_orak. The life of the huge beasts took his mind, temporarily from his ow_rief. He came to love them as he loved not even the great apes, and there wa_ne gigantic tusker in particular of which he was very fond—the lord of th_erd—a savage beast that was wont to charge a stranger upon the slightes_rovocation, or upon no provocation whatsoever. And to Korak this mountain o_estruction was docile and affectionate as a lap dog.
  • He came when Korak called. He wound his trunk about the ape-man's body an_ifted him to his broad neck in response to a gesture, and there would Kora_ie at full length kicking his toes affectionately into the thick hide an_rushing the flies from about the tender ears of his colossal chum with _eafy branch torn from a nearby tree by Tantor for the purpose.
  • And all the while Meriem was scarce a hundred miles away.