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As if it had been poised upon steel springs, suddenly released, it rose
quickly and silently to the top of the palisade, disappearing,
stealthily and cat-like, into the dark space between the wall and the
back of an adjacent hut.

In the village street beyond women were preparing many little fires and
fetching cooking-pots filled with water, for a great feast was to be
celebrated ere the night was many hours older. About a stout stake
near the centre of the circling fires a little knot of black warriors
stood conversing, their bodies smeared with white and blue and ochre in
broad and grotesque bands. Great circles of colour were drawn about
their eyes and lips, their breasts and abdomens, and from their
clay-plastered coiffures rose gay feathers and bits of long, straight

The village was preparing for the feast, while in a hut at one side of
the scene of the coming orgy the bound victim of their bestial
appetites lay waiting for the end. And such an end!

Tarzan of the Apes, tensing his mighty muscles, strained at the bonds
that pinioned him; but they had been re-enforced many times at the
instigation of the Russian, so that not even the ape-man's giant brawn
could budge them.


Tarzan had looked the Hideous Hunter in the face many a time, and
smiled. And he would smile again tonight when he knew the end was
coming quickly; but now his thoughts were not of himself, but of those
others - the dear ones who must suffer most because of his passing.

Jane would never know the manner of it. For that he thanked Heaven;
and he was thankful also that she at least was safe in the heart of the
world's greatest city. Safe among kind and loving friends who would do
their best to lighten her misery.

But the boy!

Tarzan writhed at the thought of him. His son! And now he - the mighty
Lord of the Jungle - he, Tarzan, King of the Apes, the only one in all
the world fitted to find and save the child from the horrors that
Rokoff's evil mind had planned - had been trapped like a silly, dumb
creature. He was to die in a few hours, and with him would go the
child's last chance of succour.

Rokoff had been in to see and revile and abuse him several times during
the afternoon; but he had been able to wring no word of remonstrance or
murmur of pain from the lips of the giant captive.

So at last he had given up, reserving his particular bit of exquisite
mental torture for the last moment, when, just before the savage spears
of the cannibals should for ever make the object of his hatred immune
to further suffering, the Russian planned to reveal to his enemy the
true whereabouts of his wife whom he thought safe in England.

Dusk had fallen upon the village, and the ape-man could hear the
preparations going forward for the torture and the feast. The dance
of death he could picture in his mind's eye - for he had seen the thing
many times in the past. Now he was to be the central figure, bound to
the stake.

The torture of the slow death as the circling warriors cut him to bits
with the fiendish skill, that mutilated without bringing
unconsciousness, had no terrors for him. He was inured to suffering
and to the sight of blood and to cruel death; but the desire to live
was no less strong within him, and until the last spark of life should
flicker and go out, his whole being would remain quick with hope and
determination. Let them relax their watchfulness but for an instant,
he knew that his cunning mind and giant muscles would find a way to
escape - escape and revenge.

As he lay, thinking furiously on every possibility of self-salvation,
there came to his sensitive nostrils a faint and a familiar scent.
Instantly every faculty of his mind was upon the alert. Presently his
trained ears caught the sound of the soundless presence without - behind
the hut wherein he lay. His lips moved, and though no sound came
forth that might have been appreciable to a human ear beyond the walls
of his prison, yet he realized that the one beyond would hear. Already
he knew who that one was, for his nostrils had told him as plainly as
your eyes or mine tell us of the identity of an old friend whom we come
upon in broad daylight.

An instant later he heard the soft sound of a fur-clad body and padded
feet scaling the outer wall behind the hut and then a tearing at the
poles which formed the wall. Presently through the hole thus made
slunk a great beast, pressing its cold muzzle close to his neck.

It was Sheeta, the panther.

The beast snuffed round the prostrate man, whining a little. There was
a limit to the interchange of ideas which could take place between
these two, and so Tarzan could not be sure that Sheeta understood all
that he attempted to communicate to him. That the man was tied and
helpless Sheeta could, of course, see; but that to the mind of the
panther this would carry any suggestion of harm in so far as his master
was concerned, Tarzan could not guess.

What had brought the beast to him? The fact that he had come augured
well for what he might accomplish; but when Tarzan tried to get Sheeta
to gnaw his bonds asunder the great animal could not seem to understand
what was expected of him, and, instead, but licked the wrists and arms
of the prisoner.

Presently there came an interruption. Some one was approaching the
hut. Sheeta gave a low growl and slunk into the blackness of a far
corner. Evidently the visitor did not hear the warning sound, for
almost immediately he entered the hut - a tall, naked, savage warrior.

He came to Tarzan's side and pricked him with a spear. From the lips
of the ape-man came a weird, uncanny sound, and in answer to it there
leaped from the blackness of the hut's farthermost corner a bolt of
fur-clad death. Full upon the breast of the painted savage the great
beast struck, burying sharp talons in the black flesh and sinking great
yellow fangs in the ebon throat.

There was a fearful scream of anguish and terror from the black, and
mingled with it was the hideous challenge of the killing panther. Then
came silence - silence except for the rending of bloody flesh and the
crunching of human bones between mighty jaws.

The noise had brought sudden quiet to the village without. Then there
came the sound of voices in consultation.

High-pitched, fear-filled voices, and deep, low tones of authority, as
the chief spoke. Tarzan and the panther heard the approaching
footsteps of many men, and then, to Tarzan's surprise, the great cat
rose from across the body of its kill, and slunk noiselessly from the
hut through the aperture through which it had entered.

The man heard the soft scraping of the body as it passed over the top
of the palisade, and then silence. From the opposite side of the hut
he heard the savages approaching to investigate.

He had little hope that Sheeta would return, for had the great cat
intended to defend him against all comers it would have remained by his
side as it heard the approaching savages without.

Tarzan knew how strange were the workings of the brains of the mighty
carnivora of the jungle - how fiendishly fearless they might be in the
face of certain death, and again how timid upon the slightest
provocation. There was doubt in his mind that some note of the
approaching blacks vibrating with fear had struck an answering chord in
the nervous system of the panther, sending him slinking through the
jungle, his tail between his legs.

The man shrugged. Well, what of it? He had expected to die, and,
after all, what might Sheeta have done for him other than to maul a
couple of his enemies before a rifle in the hands of one of the whites
should have dispatched him!

If the cat could have released him! Ah! that would have resulted in a
very different story; but it had proved beyond the understanding of
Sheeta, and now the beast was gone and Tarzan must definitely abandon

The natives were at the entrance to the hut now, peering fearfully into
the dark interior. Two in advance held lighted torches in their left
hands and ready spears in their right. They held back timorously
against those behind, who were pushing them forward.

The shrieks of the panther's victim, mingled with those of the great
cat, had wrought mightily upon their poor nerves, and now the awful
silence of the dark interior seemed even more terribly ominous than had
the frightful screaming.

Presently one of those who was being forced unwillingly within hit upon
a happy scheme for learning first the precise nature of the danger
which menaced him from the silent interior. With a quick movement he
flung his lighted torch into the centre of the hut. Instantly all
within was illuminated for a brief second before the burning brand was
dashed out against the earth floor.

There was the figure of the white prisoner still securely bound as they
had last seen him, and in the centre of the hut another figure equally
as motionless, its throat and breasts horribly torn and mangled.

The sight that met the eyes of the foremost savages inspired more
terror within their superstitious breasts than would the presence of
Sheeta, for they saw only the result of a ferocious attack upon one of
their fellows.

Not seeing the cause, their fear-ridden minds were free to attribute
the ghastly work to supernatural causes, and with the thought they
turned, screaming, from the hut, bowling over those who stood directly
behind them in the exuberance of their terror.

For an hour Tarzan heard only the murmur of excited voices from the far
end of the village. Evidently the savages were once more attempting to
work up their flickering courage to a point that would permit them to
make another invasion of the hut, for now and then came a savage yell,
such as the warriors give to bolster up their bravery upon the field of

But in the end it was two of the whites who first entered, carrying
torches and guns. Tarzan was not surprised to discover that neither of
them was Rokoff. He would have wagered his soul that no power on earth
could have tempted that great coward to face the unknown menace of the

When the natives saw that the white men were not attacked they, too,
crowded into the interior, their voices hushed with terror as they
looked upon the mutilated corpse of their comrade. The whites tried
in vain to elicit an explanation from Tarzan; but to all their queries
he but shook his head, a grim and knowing smile curving his lips.

At last Rokoff came.

His face grew very white as his eyes rested upon the bloody thing
grinning up at him from the floor, the face set in a death mask of
excruciating horror.

"Come!" he said to the chief. "Let us get to work and finish this
demon before he has an opportunity to repeat this thing upon more of
your people."

The chief gave orders that Tarzan should be lifted and carried to the
stake; but it was several minutes before he could prevail upon any of
his men to touch the prisoner.

At last, however, four of the younger warriors dragged Tarzan roughly
from the hut, and once outside the pall of terror seemed lifted from
the savage hearts.

A score of howling blacks pushed and buffeted the prisoner down the
village street and bound him to the post in the centre of the circle of
little fires and boiling cooking-pots.

When at last he was made fast and seemed quite helpless and beyond the
faintest hope of succour, Rokoff's shrivelled wart of courage swelled
to its usual proportions when danger was not present.

He stepped close to the ape-man, and, seizing a spear from the hands of
one of the savages, was the first to prod the helpless victim. A
little stream of blood trickled down the giant's smooth skin from the
wound in his side; but no murmur of pain passed his lips.

The smile of contempt upon his face seemed to infuriate the Russian.
With a volley of oaths he leaped at the helpless captive, beating him
upon the face with his clenched fists and kicking him mercilessly about
the legs.

Then he raised the heavy spear to drive it through the mighty heart,
and still Tarzan of the Apes smiled contemptuously upon him.

Before Rokoff could drive the weapon home the chief sprang upon him and
dragged him away from his intended victim.

"Stop, white man!" he cried. "Rob us of this prisoner and our
death-dance, and you yourself may have to take his place."

The threat proved most effective in keeping the Russian from further
assaults upon the prisoner, though he continued to stand a little apart
and hurl taunts at his enemy. He told Tarzan that he himself was going
to eat the ape-man's heart. He enlarged upon the horrors of the
future life of Tarzan's son, and intimated that his vengeance would
reach as well to Jane Clayton.

"You think your wife safe in England," said Rokoff. "Poor fool! She
is even now in the hands of one not even of decent birth, and far from
the safety of London and the protection of her friends. I had not
meant to tell you this until I could bring to you upon Jungle Island
proof of her fate.

"Now that you are about to die the most unthinkably horrid death that
it is given a white man to die - let this word of the plight of your
wife add to the torments that you must suffer before the last savage
spear-thrust releases you from your torture."

The dance had commenced now, and the yells of the circling warriors
drowned Rokoff's further attempts to distress his victim.

The leaping savages, the flickering firelight playing upon their
painted bodies, circled about the victim at the stake.

To Tarzan's memory came a similar scene, when he had rescued D'Arnot
from a like predicament at the last moment before the final
spear-thrust should have ended his sufferings. Who was there now to
rescue him? In all the world there was none able to save him from the
torture and the death.

The thought that these human fiends would devour him when the dance was
done caused him not a single qualm of horror or disgust. It did not
add to his sufferings as it would have to those of an ordinary white
man, for all his life Tarzan had seen the beasts of the jungle devour
the flesh of their kills.

Had he not himself battled for the grisly forearm of a great ape at
that long-gone Dum-Dum, when he had slain the fierce Tublat and won his
niche in the respect of the Apes of Kerchak?

The dancers were leaping more closely to him now. The spears were
commencing to find his body in the first torturing pricks that prefaced
the more serious thrusts.

It would not be long now. The ape-man longed for the last savage lunge
that would end his misery.

And then, far out in the mazes of the weird jungle, rose a shrill

For an instant the dancers paused, and in the silence of the interval
there rose from the lips of the fast-bound white man an answering
shriek, more fearsome and more terrible than that of the jungle-beast
that had roused it.

For several minutes the blacks hesitated; then, at the urging of Rokoff
and their chief, they leaped in to finish the dance and the victim; but
ere ever another spear touched the brown hide a tawny streak of
green-eyed hate and ferocity bounded from the door of the hut in which
Tarzan had been imprisoned, and Sheeta, the panther, stood snarling
beside his master.

For an instant the blacks and the whites stood transfixed with terror.
Their eyes were riveted upon the bared fangs of the jungle cat.

Only Tarzan of the Apes saw what else there was emerging from the dark
interior of the hut.

Chapter 9

Chivalry or Villainy

From her cabin port upon the Kincaid, Jane Clayton had seen her husband
rowed to the verdure-clad shore of Jungle Island, and then the ship
once more proceeded upon its way.

For several days she saw no one other than Sven Anderssen, the
Kincaid's taciturn and repellent cook. She asked him the name of the
shore upon which her husband had been set.

"Ay tank it blow purty soon purty hard," replied the Swede, and that
was all that she could get out of him.

She had come to the conclusion that he spoke no other English, and so
she ceased to importune him for information; but never did she forget
to greet him pleasantly or to thank him for the hideous, nauseating
meals he brought her.

Three days from the spot where Tarzan had been marooned the Kincaid
came to anchor in the mouth of a great river, and presently Rokoff came
to Jane Clayton's cabin.

"We have arrived, my dear," he said, with a sickening leer. "I have
come to offer you safety, liberty, and ease. My heart has been
softened toward you in your suffering, and I would make amends as best
I may.

"Your husband was a brute - you know that best who found him naked in
his native jungle, roaming wild with the savage beasts that were his
fellows. Now I am a gentleman, not only born of noble blood, but
raised gently as befits a man of quality.

"To you, dear Jane, I offer the love of a cultured man and association
with one of culture and refinement, which you must have sorely missed
in your relations with the poor ape that through your girlish
infatuation you married so thoughtlessly. I love you, Jane. You have
but to say the word and no further sorrows shall afflict you - even your
baby shall be returned to you unharmed."

Outside the door Sven Anderssen paused with the noonday meal he had
been carrying to Lady Greystoke. Upon the end of his long, stringy
neck his little head was cocked to one side, his close-set eyes were
half closed, his ears, so expressive was his whole attitude of stealthy
eavesdropping, seemed truly to be cocked forward - even his long,
yellow, straggly moustache appeared to assume a sly droop.

As Rokoff closed his appeal, awaiting the reply he invited, the look of
surprise upon Jane Clayton's face turned to one of disgust. She fairly
shuddered in the fellow's face.

"I would not have been surprised, M. Rokoff," she said, "had you
attempted to force me to submit to your evil desires, but that you
should be so fatuous as to believe that I, wife of John Clayton, would
come to you willingly, even to save my life, I should never have
imagined. I have known you for a scoundrel, M. Rokoff; but until now
I had not taken you for a fool."

Rokoff's eyes narrowed, and the red of mortification flushed out the
pallor of his face. He took a step toward the girl, threateningly.

"We shall see who is the fool at last," he hissed, "when I have broken
you to my will and your plebeian Yankee stubbornness has cost you all
that you hold dear - even the life of your baby - for, by the bones of
St. Peter, I'll forego all that I had planned for the brat and cut its
heart out before your very eyes. You'll learn what it means to insult
Nikolas Rokoff."

Jane Clayton turned wearily away.

"What is the use," she said, "of expatiating upon the depths to which
your vengeful nature can sink? You cannot move me either by threats or
deeds. My baby cannot judge yet for himself, but I, his mother, can
foresee that should it have been given him to survive to man's estate
he would willingly sacrifice his life for the honour of his mother.
Love him as I do, I would not purchase his life at such a price. Did
I, he would execrate my memory to the day of his death."

Rokoff was now thoroughly angered because of his failure to reduce the
girl to terror. He felt only hate for her, but it had come to his
diseased mind that if he could force her to accede to his demands as
the price of her life and her child's, the cup of his revenge would be
filled to brimming when he could flaunt the wife of Lord Greystoke in
the capitals of Europe as his mistress.

Again he stepped closer to her. His evil face was convulsed with rage
and desire. Like a wild beast he sprang upon her, and with his strong
fingers at her throat forced her backward upon the berth.

At the same instant the door of the cabin opened noisily. Rokoff
leaped to his feet, and, turning, faced the Swede cook.

Into the fellow's usually foxy eyes had come an expression of utter
stupidity. His lower jaw drooped in vacuous harmony. He busied
himself in arranging Lady Greystoke's meal upon the tiny table at one
side of her cabin.

The Russian glared at him.

"What do you mean," he cried, "by entering here without permission?
Get out!"

The cook turned his watery blue eyes upon Rokoff and smiled vacuously.

"Ay tank it blow purty soon purty hard," he said, and then he began
rearranging the few dishes upon the little table.

"Get out of here, or I'll throw you out, you miserable blockhead!"
roared Rokoff, taking a threatening step toward the Swede.

Anderssen continued to smile foolishly in his direction, but one
ham-like paw slid stealthily to the handle of the long, slim knife that
protruded from the greasy cord supporting his soiled apron.

Rokoff saw the move and stopped short in his advance. Then he turned
toward Jane Clayton.

"I will give you until tomorrow," he said, "to reconsider your answer
to my offer. All will be sent ashore upon one pretext or another
except you and the child, Paulvitch and myself. Then without
interruption you will be able to witness the death of the baby."

He spoke in French that the cook might not understand the sinister
portent of his words. When he had done he banged out of the cabin
without another look at the man who had interrupted him in his sorry

When he had gone, Sven Anderssen turned toward Lady Greystoke - the
idiotic expression that had masked his thoughts had fallen away, and in
its place was one of craft and cunning.

"Hay tank Ay ban a fool," he said. "Hay ben the fool. Ay savvy

Jane Clayton looked at him in surprise.

"You understood all that he said, then?"

Anderssen grinned.

"You bat," he said.

"And you heard what was going on in here and came to protect me?"

"You bane good to me," explained the Swede. "Hay treat me like darty
dog. Ay help you, lady. You yust vait - Ay help you. Ay ban Vast
Coast lots times."

"But how can you help me, Sven," she asked, "when all these men will be
against us?"

"Ay tank," said Sven Anderssen, "it blow purty soon purty hard," and
then he turned and left the cabin.

Though Jane Clayton doubted the cook's ability to be of any material
service to her, she was nevertheless deeply grateful to him for what he
already had done. The feeling that among these enemies she had one
friend brought the first ray of comfort that had come to lighten the
burden of her miserable apprehensions throughout the long voyage of the

She saw no more of Rokoff that day, nor of any other until Sven came
with her evening meal. She tried to draw him into conversation
relative to his plans to aid her, but all that she could get from him
was his stereotyped prophecy as to the future state of the wind. He
seemed suddenly to have relapsed into his wonted state of dense

However, when he was leaving her cabin a little later with the empty
dishes he whispered very low, "Leave on your clothes an' roll up your
blankets. Ay come back after you purty soon."

He would have slipped from the room at once, but Jane laid her hand
upon his sleeve.

"My baby?" she asked. "I cannot go without him."

"You do wot Ay tal you," said Anderssen, scowling. "Ay ban halpin'
you, so don't you gat too fonny."

When he had gone Jane Clayton sank down upon her berth in utter
bewilderment. What was she to do? Suspicions as to the intentions of
the Swede swarmed her brain. Might she not be infinitely worse off if
she gave herself into his power than she already was?

No, she could be no worse off in company with the devil himself than
with Nikolas Rokoff, for the devil at least bore the reputation of
being a gentleman.

She swore a dozen times that she would not leave the Kincaid without
her baby, and yet she remained clothed long past her usual hour for
retiring, and her blankets were neatly rolled and bound with stout
cord, when about midnight there came a stealthy scratching upon the
panels of her door.

Swiftly she crossed the room and drew the bolt. Softly the door swung
open to admit the muffled figure of the Swede. On one arm he carried
a bundle, evidently his blankets. His other hand was raised in a
gesture commanding silence, a grimy forefinger upon his lips.

He came quite close to her.

"Carry this," he said. "Do not make some noise when you see it. It
ban your kid."

Quick hands snatched the bundle from the cook, and hungry mother arms
folded the sleeping infant to her breast, while hot tears of joy ran

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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 6 of 15)