Tarzan the Untamed/Chapter III
Tarzan was not yet fully revenged. There were many millions ofGermans yet alive--enough to keep Tarzan pleasantly occupied thebalance of his life, and yet not enough, should he kill them all,to recompense him for the great loss he had suffered--nor couldthe death of all those million Germans bring back his loved one.
While in the German camp in the Pare Mountains, which lie justeast of the boundary line between German and British East Africa,Tarzan had overheard enough to suggest that the British were gettingthe worst of the fighting in Africa. At first he had given thematter but little thought, since, after the death of his wife, theone strong tie that had held him to civilization, he had renouncedall mankind, considering himself no longer man, but ape.
After accounting for Schneider as satisfactorily as lay within hispower he circled Kilimanjaro and hunted in the foothills to thenorth of that mightiest of mountains as he had discovered that inthe neighborhood of the armies there was no hunting at all. Somepleasure he derived through conjuring mental pictures from time totime of the German he had left in the branches of the lone tree atthe bottom of the high-walled gulch in which was penned the starvinglion. He could imagine the man's mental anguish as he became weakenedfrom hunger and maddened by thirst, knowing that sooner or later hemust slip exhausted to the ground where waited the gaunt man-eater.Tarzan wondered if Schneider would have the courage to descend tothe little rivulet for water should Numa leave the gulch and enterthe cave, and then he pictured the mad race for the tree againwhen the lion charged out to seize his prey as he was certain todo, since the clumsy German could not descend to the rivulet withoutmaking at least some slight noise that would attract Numa's attention.
But even this pleasure palled, and more and more the ape-man foundhimself thinking of the English soldiers fighting against heavyodds and especially of the fact that it was Germans who were beatingthem. The thought made him lower his head and growl and it worriedhim not a little--a bit, perhaps, because he was finding it difficultto forget that he was an Englishman when he wanted only to be anape. And at last the time came when he could not longer endure thethought of Germans killing Englishmen while he hunted in safety abare march away.
His decision made, he set out in the direction of the German camp,no well-defined plan formulated; but with the general idea thatonce near the field of operations he might find an opportunity toharass the German command as he so well knew how to do. His waytook him along the gorge close to the gulch in which he had leftSchneider, and, yielding to a natural curiosity, he scaled the cliffsand made his way to the edge of the gulch. The tree was empty, norwas there sign of Numa, the lion. Picking up a rock he hurled itinto the gulch, where it rolled to the very entrance to the cave.Instantly the lion appeared in the aperture; but such a different-lookinglion from the great sleek brute that Tarzan had trapped there twoweeks before. Now he was gaunt and emaciated, and when he walkedhe staggered.
"Where is the German?" shouted Tarzan. "Was he good eating, or onlya bag of bones when he slipped and fell from the tree?"
Numa growled. "You look hungry, Numa," continued the ape-man. "Youmust have been very hungry to eat all the grass from your lair andeven the bark from the tree as far up as you can reach. Would youlike another German?" and smiling he turned away.
A few minutes later he came suddenly upon Bara, the deer, asleepbeneath a tree, and as Tarzan was hungry he made a quick kill,and squatting beside his prey proceeded to eat his fill. As hewas gnawing the last morsel from a bone his quick ears caught thepadding of stealthy feet behind him, and turning he confrontedDango, the hyena, sneaking upon him. With a growl the ape-manpicked up a fallen branch and hurled it at the skulking brute. "Goaway, eater of carrion!" he cried; but Dango was hungry and beinglarge and powerful he only snarled and circled slowly about asthough watching for an opportunity to charge. Tarzan of the Apesknew Dango even better than Dango knew himself. He knew that thebrute, made savage by hunger, was mustering its courage for anattack, that it was probably accustomed to man and therefore moreor less fearless of him and so he un-slung his heavy spear andlaid it ready at his side while he continued his meal, all the timekeeping a watchful eye upon the hyena.
He felt no fear, for long familiarity with the dangers of his wildworld had so accustomed him to them that he took whatever came asa part of each day's existence as you accept the homely though noless real dangers of the farm, the range, or the crowded metropolis.Being jungle bred he was ready to protect his kill from all comerswithin ordinary limitations of caution. Under favorable conditionsTarzan would face even Numa himself and, if forced to seek safetyby flight, he could do so without any feeling of shame. There wasno braver creature roamed those savage wilds and at the same timethere was none more wise--the two factors that had permitted himto survive.
Dango might have charged sooner but for the savage growls of theape-man--growls which, coming from human lips, raised a questionand a fear in the hyena's heart. He had attacked women and childrenin the native fields and he had frightened their men about theirfires at night; but he never had seen a man-thing who made thissound that reminded him more of Numa angry than of a man afraid.
When Tarzan had completed his repast he was about to rise and hurla clean-picked bone at the beast before he went his way, leavingthe remains of his kill to Dango; but a sudden thought stayed himand instead he picked up the carcass of the deer, threw it overhis shoulder, and set off in the direction of the gulch. For afew yards Dango followed, growling, and then realizing that he wasbeing robbed of even a taste of the luscious flesh he cast discretionto the winds and charged. Instantly, as though Nature had given himeyes in the back of his head, Tarzan sensed the impending dangerand, dropping Bara to the ground, turned with raised spear. Farback went the brown, right hand and then forward, lightning-like,backed by the power of giant muscles and the weight of his brawnand bone. The spear, released at the right instant, drove straightfor Dango, caught him in the neck where it joined the shouldersand passed through the body.
When he had withdrawn the shaft from the hyena Tarzan shoulderedboth carcasses and continued on toward the gulch. Below lay Numabeneath the shade of the lone tree and at the ape-man's call hestaggered slowly to his feet, yet weak as he was, he still growledsavagely, even essaying a roar at the sight of his enemy. Tarzanlet the two bodies slide over the rim of the cliff. "Eat, Numa!"he cried. "It may be that I shall need you again." He saw the lion,quickened to new life at the sight of food, spring upon the bodyof the deer and then he left him rending and tearing the flesh ashe bolted great pieces into his empty maw.
The following day Tarzan came within sight of the German lines.From a wooded spur of the hills he looked down upon the enemy'sleft flank and beyond to the British lines. His position gave hima bird's-eye view of the field of battle, and his keen eyesightpicked out many details that would not have been apparent to a manwhose every sense was not trained to the highest point of perfectionas were the ape-man's. He noted machine-gun emplacements cunninglyhidden from the view of the British and listening posts placed wellout in No Man's Land.
As his interested gaze moved hither and thither from one point ofinterest to another he heard from a point upon the hillside belowhim, above the roar of cannon and the crack of rifle fire, a singlerifle spit. Immediately his attention was centered upon the spotwhere he knew a sniper must be hid. Patiently he awaited the nextshot that would tell him more surely the exact location of therifleman, and when it came he moved down the steep hillside withthe stealth and quietness of a panther. Apparently he took nocognizance of where he stepped, yet never a loose stone was disturbednor a twig broken--it was as though his feet saw.
Presently, as he passed through a clump of bushes, he came to theedge of a low cliff and saw upon a ledge some fifteen feet belowhim a German soldier prone behind an embankment of loose rock andleafy boughs that hid him from the view of the British lines. Theman must have been an excellent shot, for he was well back of theGerman lines, firing over the heads of his fellows. His high-poweredrifle was equipped with telescope sights and he also carriedbinoculars which he was in the act of using as Tarzan discoveredhim, either to note the effect of his last shot or to discovera new target. Tarzan let his eye move quickly toward that part ofthe British line the German seemed to be scanning, his keen sightrevealing many excellent targets for a rifle placed so high abovethe trenches.
The Hun, evidently satisfied with his observations, laid asidehis binoculars and again took up his rifle, placed its butt in thehollow of his shoulder and took careful aim. At the same instant abrown body sprang outward from the cliff above him. There was nosound and it is doubtful that the German ever knew what manner ofcreature it was that alighted heavily upon his back, for at theinstant of impact the sinewy fingers of the ape-man circled thehairy throat of the Boche. There was a moment of futile strugglingfollowed by the sudden realization of dissolution--the sniper wasdead.
Lying behind the rampart of rocks and boughs, Tarzan looked downupon the scene below. Near at hand were the trenches of the Germans.He could see officers and men moving about in them and almost infront of him a well-hidden machine gun was traversing No Man's Landin an oblique direction, striking the British at such an angle asto make it difficult for them to locate it.
Tarzan watched, toying idly with the rifle of the dead German.Presently he fell to examining the mechanism of the piece. Heglanced again toward the German trenches and changed the adjustmentof the sights, then he placed the rifle to his shoulder and tookaim. Tarzan was an excellent shot. With his civilized friends hehad hunted big game with the weapons of civilization and though henever had killed except for food or in self-defense he had amusedhimself firing at inanimate targets thrown into the air and hadperfected himself in the use of firearms without realizing thathe had done so. Now indeed would he hunt big game. A slow smiletouched his lips as his finger closed gradually upon the trigger.The rifle spoke and a German machine gunner collapsed behind hisweapon. In three minutes Tarzan picked off the crew of that gun.Then he spotted a German officer emerging from a dugout and thethree men in the bay with him. Tarzan was careful to leave no onein the immediate vicinity to question how Germans could be shot inGerman trenches when they were entirely concealed from enemy view.
Again adjusting his sights he took a long-range shot at a distantmachine-gun crew to his right. With calm deliberation he wiped themout to a man. Two guns were silenced. He saw men running throughthe trenches and he picked off several of them. By this time theGermans were aware that something was amiss--that an uncanny sniperhad discovered a point of vantage from which this sector of thetrenches was plainly visible to him. At first they sought to discoverhis location in No Man's Land; but when an officer looking overthe parapet through a periscope was struck full in the back of thehead with a rifle bullet which passed through his skull and fellto the bottom of the trench they realized that it was beyond theparados rather than the parapet that they should search.
One of the soldiers picked up the bullet that had killed hisofficer, and then it was that real excitement prevailed in thatparticular bay, for the bullet was obviously of German make. Huggingthe parados, messengers carried the word in both directions andpresently periscopes were leveled above the parados and keen eyeswere searching out the traitor. It did not take them long to locatethe position of the hidden sniper and then Tarzan saw a machinegun being trained upon him. Before it had gotten into action itscrew lay dead about it; but there were other men to take theirplaces, reluctantly perhaps; but driven on by their officers theywere forced to it and at the same time two other machine guns wereswung around toward the ape-man and put into operation.
Realizing that the game was about up Tarzan with a farewell shotlaid aside the rifle and melted into the hills behind him. For manyminutes he could hear the sputter of machinegun fire concentratedupon the spot he had just quit and smiled as he contemplated thewaste of German ammunition.
"They have paid heavily for Wasimbu, the Waziri, whom they crucified,and for his slain fellows," he mused; "but for Jane they can neverpay--no, not if I killed them all."
After dark that night he circled the flanks of both armies andpassed through the British out-guards and into the British lines.No man saw him come. No man knew that he was there.
Headquarters of the Second Rhodesians occupied a sheltered positionfar enough back of the lines to be comparatively safe from enemyobservation. Even lights were permitted, and Colonel Capell satbefore a field table, on which was spread a military map, talkingwith several of his officers. A large tree spread above them, alantern sputtered dimly upon the table, while a small fire burnedupon the ground close at hand. The enemy had no planes and no otherobservers could have seen the lights from the German lines.
The officers were discussing the advantage in numbers possessed bythe enemy and the inability of the British to more than hold theirpresent position. They could not advance. Already they had sustainedsevere losses in every attack and had always been driven back byoverwhelming numbers. There were hidden machine guns, too, thatbothered the colonel considerably. It was evidenced by the factthat he often reverted to them during the conversation.
"Something silenced them for a while this afternoon," said one ofthe younger officers. "I was observing at the time and I couldn'tmake out what the fuss was about; but they seemed to be having adevil of a time in a section of trench on their left. At one time Icould have sworn they were attacked in the rear--I reported it toyou at the time, sir, you'll recall--for the blighters were pepperin'away at the side of that bluff behind them. I could see the dirtfly. I don't know what it could have been."
There was a slight rustling among the branches of the tree abovethem and simultaneously a lithe, brown body dropped in their midst.Hands moved quickly to the butts of pistols; but otherwise therewas no movement among the officers. First they looked wonderinglyat the almost naked white man standing there with the firelightplaying upon rounded muscles, took in the primitive attire andthe equally primitive armament and then all eyes turned toward thecolonel.
"Who the devil are you, sir?" snapped that officer.
"Tarzan of the Apes," replied the newcomer.
"Oh, Greystoke!" cried a major, and stepped forward with outstretchedhand.
"Preswick," acknowledged Tarzan as he took the proffered hand.
"I didn't recognize you at first," apologized the major. "Thelast time I saw you you were in London in evening dress. Quite adifference--'pon my word, man, you'll have to admit it."
Tarzan smiled and turned toward the colonel. "I overheard yourconversation," he said. "I have just come from behind the Germanlines. Possibly I can help you."
The colonel looked questioningly toward Major Preswick who quicklyrose to the occasion and presented the ape-man to his commandingofficer and fellows. Briefly Tarzan told them what it was thatbrought him out alone in pursuit of the Germans.
"And now you have come to join us?" asked the colonel.
Tarzan shook his head. "Not regularly," he replied. "I must fightin my own way; but I can help you. Whenever I wish I can enter theGerman lines."
Capell smiled and shook his head. "It's not so easy as you think,"he said; "I've lost two good officers in the last week trying it--andthey were experienced men; none better in the Intelligence Department."
"Is it more difficult than entering the British lines?" askedTarzan.
The colonel was about to reply when a new thought appeared to occurto him and he looked quizzically at the ape-man. "Who brought youhere?" he asked. "Who passed you through our out-guards?"
"I have just come through the German lines and yours and passedthrough your camp," he replied. "Send word to ascertain if anyonesaw me."
"But who accompanied you?" insisted Capell.
"I came alone," replied Tarzan and then, drawing himself tohis full height, "You men of civilization, when you come into thejungle, are as dead among the quick. Manu, the monkey, is a sageby comparison. I marvel that you exist at all--only your numbers,your weapons, and your power of reasoning save you. Had I a fewhundred great apes with your reasoning power I could drive theGermans into the ocean as quickly as the remnant of them couldreach the coast. Fortunate it is for you that the dumb brutes cannotcombine. Could they, Africa would remain forever free of men. Butcome, can I help you? Would you like to know where several machinegunemplacements are hidden?"
The colonel assured him that they would, and a moment later Tarzanhad traced upon the map the location of three that had been botheringthe English. "There is a weak spot here," he said, placing a fingerupon the map. "It is held by blacks; but the machine guns out infront are manned by whites. If--wait! I have a plan. You can fillthat trench with your own men and enfilade the trenches to itsright with their own machine guns."
Colonel Capell smiled and shook his head. "It sounds very easy,"he said.
"It IS easy--for me," replied the ape-man. "I can empty that sectionof trench without a shot. I was raised in the jungle--I know thejungle folk--the Gomangani as well as the others. Look for me againon the second night," and he turned to leave.
"Wait," said the colonel. "I will send an officer to pass youthrough the lines."
Tarzan smiled and moved away. As he was leaving the little groupabout headquarters he passed a small figure wrapped in an officer'sheavy overcoat. The collar was turned up and the visor of themilitary cap pulled well down over the eyes; but, as the ape-manpassed, the light from the fire illuminated the features of thenewcomer for an instant, revealing to Tarzan a vaguely familiarface. Some officer he had known in London, doubtless, he surmised,and went his way through the British camp and the British linesall unknown to the watchful sentinels of the out-guard.
Nearly all night he moved across Kilimanjaro's foothills, trackingby instinct an unknown way, for he guessed that what he sought wouldbe found on some wooded slope higher up than he had come upon hisother recent journeys in this, to him, little known country. Threehours before dawn his keen nostrils apprised him that somewhere inthe vicinity he would find what he wanted, and so he climbed intoa tall tree and settled himself for a few hours' sleep.