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Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Chapter VI: Jungle
wanderings of the tribe brought them often near the closed and silent
cabin by the little land-locked harbor. To Tarzan this was always a source
of never-ending mystery and pleasure.
would peek into the curtained windows, or, climbing upon the roof, peer
down the black depths of the chimney in vain endeavor to solve the unknown
wonders that lay within those strong walls.
child-like imagination pictured wonderful creatures within, and the very
impossibility of forcing entrance added a thousandfold to his desire to do
could clamber about the roof and windows for hours attempting to discover
means of ingress, but to the door he paid little attention, for this was
apparently as solid as the walls.
was in the next visit to the vicinity, following the adventure with old
Sabor, that, as he approached the cabin, Tarzan noticed that from a
distance the door appeared to be an independent part of the wall in which
it was set, and for the first time it occurred to him that this might
prove the means of entrance which had so long eluded him.
was alone, as was often the case when he visited the cabin, for the apes
had no love for it; the story of the thunder-stick having lost nothing in
the telling during these ten years had quite surrounded the white man's
deserted abode with an atmosphere of weirdness and terror for the simians.
story of his own connection with the cabin had never been told him.
The language of the apes had so few words that they could talk but
little of what they had seen in the cabin, having no words to accurately
describe either the strange people or their belongings, and so, long
before Tarzan was old enough to understand, the subject had been forgotten
by the tribe.
in a dim, vague way had Kala explained to him that his father had been a
strange white ape, but he did not know that Kala was not his own mother.
this day, then, he went directly to the door and spent hours examining it
and fussing with the hinges, the knob and the latch.
Finally he stumbled upon the right combination, and the door swung
creakingly open before his astonished eyes.
some minutes he did not dare venture within, but finally, as his eyes
became accustomed to the dim light of the interior he slowly and
the middle of the floor lay a skeleton, every vestige of flesh gone from
the bones to which still clung the mildewed and moldered remnants of what
had once been clothing. Upon the bed lay a similar gruesome thing, but
smaller, while in a tiny cradle near-by was a third, a wee mite of a
none of these evidences of a fearful tragedy of a long dead day did little
Tarzan give but passing heed. His
wild jungle life had inured him to the sight of dead and dying animals,
and had he known that he was looking upon the remains of his own father
and mother he would have been no more greatly moved.
furnishings and other contents of the room it was which riveted his
attention. He examined many
things minutely--strange tools and weapons, books, paper, clothing-- what
little had withstood the ravages of time in the humid atmosphere of the
opened chests and cupboards, such as did not baffle his small experience,
and in these he found the contents much better preserved.
other things he found a sharp hunting knife, on the keen blade of which he
immediately proceeded to cut his finger.
Undaunted he continued his experiments, finding that he could hack
and hew splinters of wood from the table and chairs with this new toy.
a long time this amused him, but finally tiring he continued his
explorations. In a cupboard
filled with books he came across one with brightly colored pictures--it
was a child's illustrated alphabet--
A is for Archer
Who shoots with a bow.
B is for Boy,
His first name is Joe.
pictures interested him greatly.
were many apes with faces similar to his own, and further over in the book
he found, under "M," some little monkeys such as he saw daily
flitting through the trees of his primeval forest.
But nowhere was pictured any of his own people; in all the book was
none that resembled Kerchak, or Tublat, or Kala.
first he tried to pick the little figures from the leaves, but he soon saw
that they were not real, though he knew not what they might be, nor had he
any words to describe them.
boats, and trains, and cows and horses were quite meaningless to him, but
not quite so baffling as the odd little figures which appeared beneath and
between the colored pictures--some strange kind of bug he thought they
might be, for many of them had legs though nowhere could he find one with
eyes and a mouth. It was his
first introduction to the letters of the alphabet, and he was over ten
course he had never before seen print, or ever had spoken with any living
thing which had the remotest idea that such a thing as a written language
existed, nor ever had he seen anyone reading.
what wonder that the little boy was quite at a loss to guess the meaning
of these strange figures.
the middle of the book he found his old enemy, Sabor, the lioness, and
further on, coiled Histah, the snake.
it was most engrossing! Never
before in all his ten years had he enjoyed anything so much.
So absorbed was he that he did not note the approaching dusk, until
it was quite upon him and the figures were blurred.
put the book back in the cupboard and closed the door, for he did not wish
anyone else to find and destroy his treasure, and as he went out into the
gathering darkness he closed the great door of the cabin behind him as it
had been before he discovered the secret of its lock, but before he left
he had noticed the hunting knife lying where he had thrown it upon the
floor, and this he picked up and took with him to show to his fellows.
had taken scarce a dozen steps toward the jungle when a great form rose up
before him from the shadows of a low bush.
At first he thought it was one of his own people but in another
instant he realized that it was Bolgani, the huge gorilla.
close was he that there was no chance for flight and little Tarzan knew
that he must stand and fight for his life; for these great beasts were the
deadly enemies of his tribe, and neither one nor the other ever asked or
Tarzan been a full-grown bull ape of the species of his tribe he would
have been more than a match for the gorilla, but being only a little
English boy, though enormously muscular for such, he stood no chance
against his cruel antagonist. In
his veins, though, flowed the blood of the best of a race of mighty
fighters, and back of this was the training of his short lifetime among
the fierce brutes of the jungle.
knew no fear, as we know it; his little heart beat the faster but from the
excitement and exhilaration of adventure. Had the opportunity presented
itself he would have escaped, but solely because his judgment told him he
was no match for the great thing which confronted him.
And since reason showed him that successful flight was impossible
he met the gorilla squarely and bravely without a tremor of a single
muscle, or any sign of panic.
fact he met the brute midway in its charge, striking its huge body with
his closed fists and as futilely as he had been a fly attacking an
elephant. But in one hand he
still clutched the knife he had found in the cabin of his father, and as
the brute, striking and biting, closed upon him the boy accidentally
turned the point toward the hairy breast.
As the knife sank deep into its body the gorilla shrieked in pain
the boy had learned in that brief second a use for his sharp and shining
toy, so that, as the tearing, striking beast dragged him to earth he
plunged the blade repeatedly and to the hilt into its breast.
gorilla, fighting after the manner of its kind, struck terrific blows with
its open hand, and tore the flesh at the boy's throat and chest with its
a moment they rolled upon the ground in the fierce frenzy of combat.
More and more weakly the torn and bleeding arm struck home with the
long sharp blade, then the little figure stiffened with a spasmodic jerk,
and Tarzan, the young Lord Greystoke, rolled unconscious upon the dead and
decaying vegetation which carpeted his jungle home.
mile back in the forest the tribe had heard the fierce challenge of the
gorilla, and, as was his custom when any danger threatened, Kerchak called
his people together, partly for mutual protection against a common enemy,
since this gorilla might be but one of a party of several, and also to see
that all members of the tribe were accounted for.
was soon discovered that Tarzan was missing, and Tublat was strongly
opposed to sending assistance. Kerchak
himself had no liking for the strange little waif, so he listened to
Tublat, and, finally, with a shrug of his shoulders, turned back to the
pile of leaves on which he had made his bed.
Kala was of a different mind; in fact, she had not waited but to learn
that Tarzan was absent ere she was fairly flying through the matted
branches toward the point from which the cries of the gorilla were still
had now fallen, and an early moon was sending its faint light to cast
strange, grotesque shadows among the dense foliage of the forest.
and there the brilliant rays penetrated to earth, but for the most part
they only served to accentuate the Stygian blackness of the jungle's
some huge phantom, Kala swung noiselessly from tree to tree; now running
nimbly along a great branch, now swinging through space at the end of
another, only to grasp that of a farther tree in her rapid progress toward
the scene of the tragedy her knowledge of jungle life told her was being
enacted a short distance before her.
cries of the gorilla proclaimed that it was in mortal combat with some
other denizen of the fierce wood. Suddenly
these cries ceased, and the silence of death reigned throughout the
could not understand, for the voice of Bolgani had at last been raised in
the agony of suffering and death, but no sound had come to her by which
she possibly could determine the nature of his antagonist.
her little Tarzan could destroy a great bull gorilla she knew to be
improbable, and so, as she neared the spot from which the sounds of the
struggle had come, she moved more warily and at last slowly and with
extreme caution she traversed the lowest branches, peering eagerly into
the moon- splashed blackness for a sign of the combatants.
she came upon them, lying in a little open space full under the brilliant
light of the moon--little Tarzan's torn and bloody form, and beside it a
great bull gorilla, stone dead.
a low cry Kala rushed to Tarzan's side, and gathering the poor,
blood-covered body to her breast, listened for a sign of life.
Faintly she heard it--the weak beating of the little heart.
she bore him back through the inky jungle to where the tribe lay, and for
many days and nights she sat guard beside him, bringing him food and
water, and brushing the flies and other insects from his cruel wounds.
medicine or surgery the poor thing knew nothing.
She could but lick the wounds, and thus she kept them cleansed,
that healing nature might the more quickly do her work.
first Tarzan would eat nothing, but rolled and tossed in a wild delirium
of fever. All he craved was
water, and this she brought him in the only way she could, bearing it in
her own mouth.
human mother could have shown more unselfish and sacrificing devotion than
did this poor, wild brute for the little orphaned waif whom fate had
thrown into her keeping.
last the fever abated and the boy commenced to mend. No word of complaint
passed his tight set lips, though the pain of his wounds was excruciating.
portion of his chest was laid bare to the ribs, three of which had been
broken by the mighty blows of the gorilla. One arm was nearly severed by
the giant fangs, and a great piece had been torn from his neck, exposing
his jugular vein, which the cruel jaws had missed but by a miracle.
the stoicism of the brutes who had raised him he endured his suffering
quietly, preferring to crawl away from the others and lie huddled in some
clump of tall grasses rather than to show his misery before their eyes.
alone, he was glad to have with him, but now that he was better she was
gone longer at a time, in search of food; for the devoted animal had
scarcely eaten enough to support her own life while Tarzan had been so
low, and was in consequence, reduced to a mere shadow of her former self.
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