Tarzan the Untamed/Chapter XIII
For two days Tarzan of the Apes had been hunting leisurely to thenorth, and swinging in a wide circle, he had returned to withina short distance of the clearing where he had left Bertha Kircherand the young lieutenant. He had spent the night in a large treethat overhung the river only a short distance from the clearing,and now in the early morning hours he was crouching at the water'sedge waiting for an opportunity to capture Pisah, the fish, thinkingthat he would take it back with him to the hut where the girl couldcook it for herself and her companion.
Motionless as a bronze statue was the wily ape-man, for well he knewhow wary is Pisah, the fish. The slightest movement would frightenhim away and only by infinite patience might he be captured atall. Tarzan depended upon his own quickness and the suddenness ofhis attack, for he had no bait or hook. His knowledge of the waysof the denizens of the water told him where to wait for Pisah. Itmight be a minute or it might be an hour before the fish would swiminto the little pool above which he crouched, but sooner or laterone would come. That the ape-man knew, so with the patience of thebeast of prey he waited for his quarry.
At last there was a glint of shiny scales. Pisah was coming. In amoment he would be within reach and then with the swiftness of lighttwo strong, brown hands would plunge into the pool and seize him,but, just at the moment that the fish was about to come within reach,there was a great crashing in the underbrush behind the ape-man.Instantly Pisah was gone and Tarzan, growling, had wheeled aboutto face whatever creature might be menacing him. The moment thathe turned he saw that the author of the disturbance was Zu-tag.
"What does Zu-tag want?" asked the ape-man.
"Zu-tag comes to the water to drink," replied the ape.
"Where is the tribe?" asked Tarzan.
"They are hunting for pisangs and scimatines farther back in theforest," replied Zu-tag.
"And the Tarmangani she and bull--" asked Tarzan, "are they safe?"
"They have gone away," replied Zu-tag. "Kudu has come out of hislair twice since they left."
"Did the tribe chase them away?" asked Tarzan.
"No," replied the ape. "We did not see them go. We do not know whythey left."
Tarzan swung quickly through the trees toward the clearing. Thehut and boma were as he had left them, but there was no sign ofeither the man or the woman. Crossing the clearing, he entered theboma and then the hut. Both were empty, and his trained nostrilstold him that they had been gone for at least two days. As he wasabout to leave the hut he saw a paper pinned upon the wall with asliver of wood and taking it down, he read:
After what you told me about Miss Kircher, and knowing that youdislike her, I feel that it is not fair to her and to you that weshould impose longer upon you. I know that our presence is keepingyou from continuing your journey to the west coast, and so Ihave decided that it is better for us to try and reach the whitesettlements immediately without imposing further upon you. We boththank you for your kindness and protection. If there was any waythat I might repay the obligation I feel, I should be only too gladto do so.
It was signed by Lieutenant Harold Percy Smith-Oldwick.
Tarzan shrugged his shoulders, crumpled the note in his hand andtossed it aside. He felt a certain sense of relief from responsibilityand was glad that they had taken the matter out of his hands. Theywere gone and would forget, but somehow he could not forget. Hewalked out across the boma and into the clearing. He felt uneasyand restless. Once he started toward the north in response toa sudden determination to continue his way to the west coast. Hewould follow the winding river toward the north a few miles whereits course turned to the west and then on toward its source acrossa wooded plateau and up into the foothills and the mountains. Uponthe other side of the range he would search for a stream runningdownward toward the west coast, and thus following the rivers hewould be sure of game and water in plenty.
But he did not go far. A dozen steps, perhaps, and he came toa sudden stop. "He is an Englishman," he muttered, "and the otheris a woman. They can never reach the settlements without my help.I could not kill her with my own hands when I tried, and if I letthem go on alone, I will have killed her just as surely as thoughI had run my knife into her heart. No," and again he shook hishead. "Tarzan of the Apes is a fool and a weak, old woman," and heturned back toward the south.
Manu, the monkey, had seen the two Tarmangani pass two days before.Chattering and scolding, he told Tarzan all about it. They hadgone in the direction of the village of the Gomangani, that muchhad Manu seen with his own eyes, so the ape-man swung on throughthe jungle in a southerly direction and though with no concentratedeffort to follow the spoor of those he trailed, he passed numerousevidences that they had gone this way--faint suggestions of theirscent spoor clung lightly to leaf or branch or bole that oneor the other had touched, or in the earth of the trail their feethad trod, and where the way wound through the gloomy depth of dankforest, the impress of their shoes still showed occasionally inthe damp mass of decaying vegetation that floored the way.
An inexplicable urge spurred Tarzan to increasing, speed. Thesame still, small voice that chided him for having neglected themseemed constantly whispering that they were in dire need of himnow. Tarzan's conscience was troubling him, which accounted forthe fact that he compared himself to a weak, old woman, for theape-man, reared in savagery and inured to hardships and cruelty,disliked to admit any of the gentler traits that in reality werehis birthright.
The trail made a detour to the east of the village of the Wamabos,and then returned to the wide elephant path nearer to the river,where it continued in a southerly direction for several miles. Atlast there came to the ears of the ape-man a peculiar whirring,throbbing sound. For an instant he paused, listening intently, "Anaeroplane!" he muttered, and hastened forward at greatly increasedspeed.
When Tarzan of the Apes finally reached the edge of the meadowlandwhere Smith-Oldwick's plane had landed, he took in the entire scenein one quick glance and grasped the situation, although he couldscarce give credence to the things he saw. Bound and helpless,the English officer lay upon the ground at one side of the meadow,while around him stood a number of the black deserters from theGerman command. Tarzan had seen these men before and knew who theywere. Coming toward him down the meadow was an aeroplane pilotedby the black Usanga and in the seat behind the pilot was the whitegirl, Bertha Kircher. How it befell that the ignorant savage couldoperate the plane, Tarzan could not guess nor had he time in whichto speculate upon the subject. His knowledge of Usanga, togetherwith the position of the white man, told him that the black sergeantwas attempting to carry off the white girl. Why he should be doingthis when he had her in his power and had also captured and securedthe only creature in the jungle who might wish to defend her in sofar as the black could know, Tarzan could not guess, for he knewnothing of Usanga's twenty-four dream wives nor of the black'sfear of the horrid temper of Naratu, his present mate. He did notknow, then, that Usanga had determined to fly away with the whitegirl never to return, and to put so great a distance between himselfand Naratu that the latter never could find him again; but it wasthis very thing that was in the black's mind although not even hisown warriors guessed it. He had told them that he would take thecaptive to a sultan of the north and there obtain a great price forher and that when he returned they should have some of the spoils.
These things Tarzan did not know. All he knew was what he saw--aNegro attempting to fly away with a white girl. Already themachine was slowly leaving the ground. In a moment more it wouldrise swiftly out of reach. At first Tarzan thought of fitting anarrow to his bow and slaying Usanga, but as quickly he abandonedthe idea because he knew that the moment the pilot was slain themachine, running wild, would dash the girl to death among the trees.
There was but one way in which he might hope to succor her--a waywhich if it failed must send him to instant death and yet he didnot hesitate in an attempt to put it into execution.
Usanga did not see him, being too intent upon the unaccustomed dutiesof a pilot, but the blacks across the meadow saw him and they ranforward with loud and savage cries and menacing rifles to intercepthim. They saw a giant white man leap from the branches of a treeto the turf and race rapidly toward the plane. They saw him takea long grass rope from about his shoulders as he ran. They saw thenoose swinging in an undulating circle above his head. They sawthe white girl in the machine glance down and discover him.
Twenty feet above the running ape-man soared the huge plane. Theopen noose shot up to meet it, and the girl, half guessing theape-man's intentions, reached out and caught the noose and, bracingherself, clung tightly to it with both hands. Simultaneously Tarzanwas dragged from his feet and the plane lurched sideways in responseto the new strain. Usanga clutched wildly at the control and themachine shot upward at a steep angle. Dangling at the end of therope the ape-man swung pendulum-like in space. The Englishman, lyingbound upon the ground, had been a witness of all these happenings.His heart stood still as he saw Tarzan's body hurtling through theair toward the tree tops among which it seemed he must inevitablycrash; but the plane was rising rapidly, so that the beast-mancleared the top-most branches. Then slowly, hand over hand, heclimbed toward the fuselage. The girl, clinging desperately to thenoose, strained every muscle to hold the great weight dangling atthe lower end of the rope.
Usanga, all unconscious of what was going on behind him, drove theplane higher and higher into the air.
Tarzan glanced downward. Below him the tree tops and the riverpassed rapidly to the rear and only a slender grass rope and themuscles of a frail girl stood between him and the death yawningthere thousands of feet below.
It seemed to Bertha Kircher that the fingers of her hands were dead.The numbness was running up her arms to her elbows. How much longershe could cling to the straining strands she could not guess. Itseemed to her that those lifeless fingers must relax at any instantand then, when she had about given up hope, she saw a strong brownhand reach up and grasp the side of the fuselage. Instantly theweight upon the rope was removed and a moment later Tarzan of theApes raised his body above the side and threw a leg over the edge.He glanced forward at Usanga and then, placing his mouth close tothe girl's ear he cried: "Have you ever piloted a plane?" The girlnodded a quick affirmative.
"Have you the courage to climb up there beside the black and seizethe control while I take care of him?"
The girl looked toward Usanga and shuddered. "Yes," she replied,"but my feet are bound."
Tarzan drew his hunting knife from its sheath and reaching down,severed the thongs that bound her ankles. Then the girl unsnappedthe strap that held her to her seat. With one hand Tarzan graspedthe girl's arm and steadied her as the two crawled slowly acrossthe few feet which intervened between the two seats. A single slighttip of the plane would have cast them both into eternity. Tarzanrealized that only through a miracle of chance could they reachUsanga and effect the change in pilots and yet he knew that thatchance must be taken, for in the brief moments since he had firstseen the plane, he had realized that the black was almost withoutexperience as a pilot and that death surely awaited them in anyevent should the black sergeant remain at the control.
The first intimation Usanga had that all was not well with him waswhen the girl slipped suddenly to his side and grasped the controland at the same instant steel-like fingers seized his throat. A brownhand shot down with a keen blade and severed the strap about hiswaist and giant muscles lifted him bodily from his seat. Usangaclawed the air and shrieked but he was helpless as a babe. Farbelow the watchers in the meadow could see the aeroplane careeningin the sky, for with the change of control it had taken a suddendive. They saw it right itself and, turning in a short circle, returnin their direction, but it was so far above them and the light ofthe sun so strong that they could see nothing of what was going onwithin the fuselage; but presently Lieutenant Smith-Oldwick gavea gasp of dismay as he saw a human body plunge downward from theplane. Turning and twisting in mid-air it fell with ever-increasingvelocity and the Englishman held his breath as the thing hurtledtoward them.
With a muffled thud it flattened upon the turf near the center ofthe meadow, and when at last the Englishman could gain the courageto again turn his eyes upon it, he breathed a fervent prayer ofthanks, for the shapeless mass that lay upon the blood-stained turfwas covered with an ebon hide. Usanga had reaped his reward.
Again and again the plane circled above the meadow. The blacks, atfirst dismayed at the death of their leader, were now worked to afrenzy of rage and a determination to be avenged. The girl and theape-man saw them gather in a knot about the body of their fallenchief. They saw as they circled above the meadow the black fistsshaken at them, and the rifles brandishing a menace toward them.Tarzan still clung to the fuselage directly behind the pilot's seat.His face was close beside Bertha Kircher's, and at the top of hisvoice, above the noise of propeller, engine and exhaust, he screameda few words of instruction into her ear.
As the girl grasped the significance of his words she paled, buther lips set in a hard line and her eyes shone with a sudden fireof determination as she dropped the plane to within a few feet ofthe ground and at the opposite end of the meadow from the blacksand then at full speed bore down upon the savages. So quickly theplane came that Usanga's men had no time to escape it after theyrealized its menace. It touched the ground just as it struck amongthem and mowed through them, a veritable juggernaut of destruction.When it came to rest at the edge of the forest the ape-man leapedquickly to the ground and ran toward the young lieutenant, and ashe went he glanced at the spot where the warriors had stood, readyto defend himself if necessary, but there was none there to opposehim. Dead and dying they lay strewn for fifty feet along the turf.
By the time Tarzan had freed the Englishman the girl joined them.She tried to voice her thanks to the ape-man but he silenced herwith a gesture.
"You saved yourself," he insisted, "for had you been unable topilot the plane, I could not have helped you, and now," he said,"you two have the means of returning to the settlements. The dayis still young. You can easily cover the distance in a few hoursif you have sufficient petrol." He looked inquiringly toward theaviator.
Smith-Oldwick nodded his head affirmatively. "I have plenty," hereplied.
"Then go at once," said the ape-man. "Neither of you belong in thejungle." A slight smile touched his lips as he spoke.
The girl and the Englishman smiled too. "This jungle is no placefor us at least," said Smith-Oldwick, "and it is no place for anyother white man. Why don't you come back to civilization with us?"
Tarzan shook his head. "I prefer the jungle," he said.
The aviator dug his toe into the ground and still looking down,blurted something which he evidently hated to say. "If it is amatter of living, old top," he said, "er--money, er--you know--"
Tarzan laughed. "No," he said. "I know what you are trying to say.It is not that. I was born in the jungle. I have lived all my lifein the jungle, and I shall die in the jungle. I do not wish tolive or die elsewhere."
The others shook their heads. They could not understand him.
"Go," said the ape-man. "The quicker you go, the quicker you willreach safety."
They walked to the plane together. Smith-Oldwick pressed theape-man's hand and clambered into the pilot's seat. "Good-bye,"said the girl as she extended her hand to Tarzan. "Before I gowon't you tell me you don't hate me any more?" Tarzan's face clouded.Without a word he picked her up and lifted her to her place behindthe Englishman. An expression of pain crossed Bertha Kircher'sface. The motor started and a moment later the two were being bornerapidly toward the east.
In the center of the meadow stood the ape-man watching them. "Itis too bad that she is a German and a spy," he said, "for she isvery hard to hate."