Tarzan of the Apes/Chapter 23
WHEN D'Arnot regained consciousness, he found himself lying upon a bed of soft ferns and grasses beneath a little "A" shaped shelter of boughs.
At his feet an opening looked out upon a green sward, and at a little distance beyond was the dense wall of jungle and forest.
He was very lame and sore and weak, and as full consciousness returned he felt the sharp torture of many cruel wounds, and the dull aching of every bone and muscle in his body as a result of the hideous beating he had received.
Even the turning of his head caused him such excruciating agony that he lay still with closed eyes for a long time.
He tried to piece out the details of his adventure prior to the time he lost consciousness to see if they would explain his present whereabouts—he wondered if he were among friends or foes.
At length he recollected the whole hideous scene at the stake, and finally recalled the strange white figure in whose arms he had sunk into oblivion.
D'Arnot wondered what fate lay in store for him now. He could neither see nor hear any signs of life about him.
The incessant hum of the jungle—the rustling of millions of leaves—the buzz of insects—the voices of the birds and monkeys seemed blended into a strangely soothing purr, as though he lay apart, far from the myriad life whose sounds came to him only as a blurred echo.
At length he fell in a quiet slumber, nor did he awake again until afternoon.
Once more he experienced the strange sense of utter bewilderment that had marked his earlier awakening, but soon he recalled the recent past, and looking through the opening at his feet he saw the figure of a man squatting on his haunches.
The broad, muscular back was turned toward him, but, tanned though it was, D'Arnot saw that it was the back of a white man, and he thanked his God.
The Frenchman called faintly. The man turned, and, rising, came toward the shelter. His face was very handsome—the handsomest, thought D'Arnot, that he had ever seen.
Stooping, he crawled into the shelter beside the wounded officer, and placed a cool hand upon his forehead.
D'Arnot spoke to him in French, but the man only shook his head—sadly, it seemed to the Frenchman.
Then D'Arnot tried English, but still the man shook his head. Italian, Spanish and German brought similar discouragement.
D'Arnot knew a few words of Norwegian, Russian, Greek, and also had a smattering of the language of one of the West Coast negro tribes—the man denied them all.
After examining D'Arnot's wounds the man left the shelter and disappeared. In half an hour he was back with fruit and a hollow gourd-like vegetable filled with water.
D'Arnot drank and ate a little. He was surprised that he had no fever. Again he tried to converse with his strange nurse, but the attempt was useless.
Suddenly the man hastened from the shelter only to return a few minutes later with several pieces of bark and—wonder of wonders—a lead pencil.
Squatting beside D'Arnot he wrote for a minute on the smooth inner surface of the bark; then he handed it to the Frenchman.
D'Arnot was astonished to see, in plain print-like characters, a message in English:
I am Tarzan of the Apes. Who are you? Can you read this language?
D'Arnot seized the pencil—then he stopped. This strange man wrote English—evidently he was an Englishman.
"Yes," said D'Arnot, "I read English. I speak it also. Now we may talk. First let me thank you for all that you have done for me."
The man only shook his head and pointed to the pencil and the bark.
"Mon Dieu!" cried D'Arnot. "If you are English why is it then that you cannot speak English?"
And then in a flash it came to him—the man was a mute, possibly a deaf mute.
So D'Arnot wrote a message on the bark, in English.
I am Paul d'Arnot, Lieutenant in the navy of France. I thank you for what you have done for me. You have saved my fife, and all that I have is yours. May I ask how it is that one who writes English does not speak it?
Tarzan's reply filled D'Arnot with still greater wonder:
I speak only the language of my tribe—the great apes who were Kerchak's; and a little of the languages of Tantor, the elephant, and Numa, the lion, and of the other folks of the jungle I understand. With a human being I have never spoken, except once with Jane Porter, by signs. This is the first time I have spoken with another of my kind through written words.
D'Arnot was mystified. It seemed incredible that there lived upon earth a full grown man who had never spoken with a fellow man, and still more preposterous that such a one could read and write.
He looked again at Tarzan's message—"except once, with Jane Porter." That was the American girl who had been carried into the jungle by a gorilla.
A sudden light commenced to dawn on D'Arnot—this then was the "gorilla." He seized the pencil and wrote:
Where is Jane Porter?
And Tarzan replied, below:
Back with her people in the cabin of Tarzan of the Apes.
She is not dead then? Where was she? What happened to her?
She is not dead. She was taken by Terkoz to be his wife; but Tarzan of the Apes took her away from Terkoz and killed him before he could harm her.
None in all the jungle may face Tarzan of the Apes in battle, and live. I am Tarzan of the Apes—mighty fighter.
I am glad she is safe. It pains me to write, I will rest a while.
And then Tarzan:
Yes, rest. When you are well I shall take you back to your people.
For many days D'Arnot lay upon his bed of soft ferns. The second day a fever had come and D'Arnot thought that it meant infection and he knew that he would die.
An idea came to him. He wondered why he had not thought of it before.
He called Tarzan and indicated by signs that he would write, and when Tarzan had fetched the bark and pencil, D'Arnot wrote:
Can you go to my people and lead them here? I will write a message that you may take to them, and they will follow you.
Tarzan shook his head and taking the bark, wrote:
I had thought of that—the first day; but I dared not. The great apes come often to this spot, and if they found you here, wounded and alone, they would kill you.
D'Arnot turned on his side and closed his eyes. He did not wish to die; but he felt that he was going, for the fever was mounting higher and higher. That night he lost consciousness.
For three days he was in delirium, and Tarzan sat beside him and bathed his head and hands and washed his wounds.
On the fourth day the fever broke as suddenly as it had come, but it left D'Arnot a shadow of his former self, and very weak. Tarzan had to lift him that he might drink from the gourd.
The fever had not been the result of infection, as D'Arnot had thought, but one of those that commonly attack whites in the jungles of Africa, and either kill or leave them as suddenly as D'Arnot's had left him.
Two days after, D'Arnot was tottering about the amphitheater, Tarzan's strong arm about him to keep him from falling.
They sat beneath the shade of a great tree, and Tarzan found some smooth bark that they might converse.
D'Arnot wrote the first message:
What can I do to repay you for all that you have done for me?
And Tarzan, in reply:
Teach me to speak the language of men.
And so D'Arnot commenced at once, pointing out familiar objects and repeating their names in French, for he thought that it would be easier to teach this man his own language, since he understood it himself best of all.
It meant nothing to Tarzan, of course, for he could not tell one language from another, so when he pointed to the word man which he had printed upon a piece of bark he learned from D'Arnot that it was pronounced homme, and in the same way he was taught to pronounce ape, singe and tree, arbre.
He was a most eager student, and in two more days had mastered so much French that he could speak little sentences such as: "That is a tree," "this is grass," "I am hungry," and the like, but D'Arnot found that it was difficult to teach him the French construction upon a foundation of English.
The Frenchman wrote little lessons for him in English and had Tarzan repeat them in French, but as a literal translation was usually very poor French Tarzan was often confused.
D'Arnot realized now that he had made a mistake, but it seemed too late to go back and do it all over again and force Tarzan to unlearn all that he had learned, especially as they were rapidly approaching a point where they would be able to converse.
On the third day after the fever broke Tarzan wrote a message asking D'Arnot if he felt strong enough to be carried back to the cabin. Tarzan was as anxious to go as D'Arnot, for he longed to see Jane Porter again.
It had been hard for him to remain with the Frenchman all these days for that very reason, and that he had unselfishly done so spoke more glowingly for his nobility of character than even did his rescuing of the French officer from Mbonga's clutches.
D'Arnot, only too willing to attempt the journey, wrote:
But you cannot carry me all the distance through this tangled forest.
"Mais oui," he said, and D'Arnot laughed aloud to hear the phrase that he used so often glide from Tarzan's tongue.
So they set out, D'Arnot marveling as had Clayton and Jane Porter at the wondrous strength and agility of the ape-man.
Mid-afternoon brought them to the clearing, and as Tarzan dropped to earth from the branches of the last tree his heart leaped and bounded against his ribs in anticipation of seeing Jane Porter so soon again.
No one was in sight without the cabin, and, D'Arnot was perplexed to note that neither the cruiser nor the Arrow was at anchor in the bay.
An atmosphere of loneliness pervaded the spot, which caught suddenly at both men as they strode toward the cabin.
Neither spoke, yet both knew before they opened the closed door what they would find beyond.
Tarzan lifted the latch and pushed the great door in upon its wooden hinges. It was as they had feared. The cabin was deserted.
The men turned and looked at one another. D'Arnot knew that his people thought him dead; but Tarzan thought only of the woman who had kissed him in love and now had fled from him while he was serving one of her people.
A great bitterness rose in his heart. He would go away, far into the jungle and join his tribe. Never would he see one of his own kind again, nor could he bear the thought of returning to the cabin. He would leave that forever behind him with the great hopes he had nursed there of finding his own race and becoming a man among men.
And the Frenchman? D'Arnot? What of him? He could get along as Tarzan had. Tarzan did not want to see him more. He wanted to get away from everything that might remind him of Jane Porter.
As Tarzan stood upon the threshold, brooding, D'Arnot had entered the cabin. Many comforts he saw that had been left behind. He recognized numerous articles from the cruiser—a camp oven, some kitchen utensils, a rifle and many rounds of ammunition, canned foods, blankets, two chairs and a cot—and several books and periodicals, mostly American.
"They must intend returning," thought D'Arnot.
He walked over to the table that John Clayton had built so many years before to serve as a desk, and on it he saw two notes addressed to Tarzan of the Apes.
One was in a strong masculine hand and was unsealed. The other, in a woman's hand, was sealed.
"Here are two messages for you, Tarzan of the Apes," cried D'Arnot, turning toward the door; but his companion was not there.
D'Arnot walked to the door and looked out. Tarzan was no where in sight. He called aloud but there was no response.
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed D'Arnot, "he has left me. I feel it. He has gone back into his jungle and left me here alone."
And then he remembered the look on Tarzan's face when they had discovered that the cabin was empty—such a look as the hunter sees in the eyes of the wounded deer he has wantonly brought down.
The man had been hard hit—D'Arnot realized it now—but why? He could not understand.
The Frenchman looked about him. The loneliness and the horror of the place commenced to get on his nerves—already weakened by the ordeal of suffering and sickness he had passed through.
To be left here alone beside this awful jungle—never to hear a human voice or see a human face—in constant dread of savage beasts and more terribly savage men—a prey to solitude and hopelessness. It was awful.
And far to the east Tarzan of the Apes was speeding through the middle terrace back to his tribe. Never had he traveled with such reckless speed. He felt that he was running away from himself—that by hurtling through the forest like a frightened squirrel he was escaping from his own thoughts. But no matter how fast he went he found them always with him.
He passed above the sinuous body of Sabor, the lioness, going in the opposite direction; toward the cabin, thought Tarzan.
What could D'Arnot do against Sabor—or if Bolgani, the gorilla, should come upon him—or Numa, the lion, or cruel Sheeta?
Tarzan paused in his flight.
"What are you, Tarzan?" he asked aloud. "An ape or a man?
"If you are an ape you will do as the apes would do—leave one of your kind to die in the jungle if it suited your whim to go elsewhere.
"If you are a man, you will return to protect your kind. You will not run away from one of your own people, because one of them has run away from you."
D'Arnot closed the cabin door. He was very nervous. Even brave men, and D'Arnot was a brave man, are sometimes frightened by solitude.
He loaded one of the rifles and placed it within easy reach. Then he went to the desk and took up the unsealed letter addressed to Tarzan.
Possibly it contained word that his people had but left the beach temporarily. He felt that it would be no breach of ethics to read this letter, so he took the enclosure from the envelope and read:
To Tarzan of the Apes:
We thank you for the use of your cabin, and are sorry that you did not permit us the pleasure of seeing and thanking you in person.
We have harmed nothing, but have left many things for you which may add to your comfort and safety here in your lonely home.
If you know the strange white man who saved our lives so many times, and brought us food, and if you can converse with him, thank him, also, for his kindness.
We sail within the hour, never to return; but we wish you and that other jungle friend to know that we shall always thank you for what you did for strangers on your shore, and that we should have done infinitely more to reward you both had you given us the opportunity.
Wm. Cecil Clayton.
"'Never to return,'" muttered D'Arnot, and threw himself face downward upon the cot.
An hour later he started up, listening. Something was at the door trying to enter.
D'Arnot reached for the loaded rifle and placed it to his shoulder.
Dusk was falling, and the interior of the cabin was very dark; but the man could see the latch moving from its place.
He felt his hair rising upon his scalp.
Gently the door opened until a thin crack showed something standing just without.
D'Arnot sighted along the blue barrel at the crack of the door—and then he pulled the trigger.