“GEEZE! wot a country,” growled Shrimp, as they toiled up the steep trail out of the valley in the light of a new day. “If you ain’t crawlin’ down into a hole, you’re crawlin’ up outta one. God must a-been practicin’ when He made this.”
“And when he got through practicing, I suppose, He made Chicago,” suggested Bubonovitch.
“Now you’re shoutin’, wise guy. God sure made Chi. Wen He wasn’t lookin’, somebody else made Brooklyn. Geeze! I wisht I was in dear ol’ Chi right now. Why, de steepest hill dere is de approach to de Madison Street bridge.”
“Look at the view, man. Have you no eye for beauty?”
“Sure, I got an eye for beauty; but my feet ain’t. They joined up for de air force, an’ now they ain’t nuttin’ but goddam doughboys.”
But all things must end, and eventually they reached the top of the escarpment. Tarzan examined the trail. “There was a native here recently,” he said. “Probably late yesterday afternoon. He may have seen us. He stood right here for several minutes, where he could look down on our camp.”
As the little party continued along the trail into the forest, Amat rushed breathlessly into his village, bursting with the information that had been seething within him during a night of terror. So excited was he that he failed to bow to a Jap private and got slapped and almost bayoneted. But at last he stood before Lt. Kumajiro Tada, this time not forgetting to bow very low.
Excitedly he rattled off an account of what he had seen. Tada, not understanding a word of the native dialect and being particularly godlike thus early in the morning, kicked Amat in the groin. Amat screamed, grabbed his hurt, and sank to the ground. Tada drew his sword. It had been a long time since he had lopped off a head, and he felt like lopping off a head before breakfast.
A sergeant who had overheard Amat’s report and who understood the dialect, saluted and bowed. Sucking wind through his teeth, he informed the honorable lieutenant that Amat had seen a party of whites and that that was what he had been trying to tell the honorable lieutenant. Reluctantly, Tada scabbarded his sword and listened as the sergeant interpreted.
A couple of miles from the point at which they had entered the forest, Tarzan stopped and examined the trail minutely. “Here,” he said, “our native friend was treed by a tiger. He remained in this tree all night, coming down only a short tune ago, probably as soon as it was light. You can see where the pugs of the beast obliterated the spoor the fellow made last night. Here is where he jumped down this morning and continued on his way.”
They continued on and presently came to a fork in the trail. Again Tarzan stopped. He showed them which way the native had gone. In the other fork he pointed out evidence that a number of men had gone that way perhaps several days before. “These were not natives,” he said, “nor do I think they were Japs. These are the footprints of very large men. Jerry, suppose you folks follow along the trail the native took, while I investigate the other one. These chaps may be Dutch guerrillas. If they are, they might prove mighty helpful to us. Don’t travel too fast, and I may catch up with you.”
“We’ll probably come to a native village,” said Jerry. “If we do, perhaps we’d better hole up in the jungle until you come along; so that we can all approach it together. In the meantime, I’ll look the place over.”
Tarzan nodded assent and swung into the trees, following the left hand fork of the trail. They watched him until he was out of sight. “That guy likes to travel de hard way?” said Shrimp.
“It doesn’t look so hard when you watch him,” said Bubonovitch. “It’s only when you try to do it yourself.”
“It’s an ideal way to travel, under the circumstances,” Jerry said. “It leaves no trail, and it gives him every advantage over any enemy he might meet.”
“It is beautiful,” said Corrie. “He is so graceful, and he moves so quietly.” She sighed. “If we could all do it, how much safer we should be!”
“I t’ink I’ll practice up,” said Shrimp. “An’ w’en I gets home I goes out to Garfield Park and swings t’rough de trees some Sunday w’en dey’s a gang dere.”
“And get pinched,” said Bubonovitch.
“Sure I’d get pinched, but I’d make de front pages wit pitchurs. Maybe I’d get a job wit Sol Lesser out in Hollywood.”
“Where’d you get the reefers, Shrimp?” inquired Bubonovitch.
Shrimp grinned. “Me? I don’t use ’em. I don’t work fer Petrillo. I just get dat way from associatin’ wit you.”
They were moving leisurely along the trail toward Amat’s village, Bubonovitch in the lead, Rosetti behind him. Jerry and Corrie followed several yards in the rear. Then Corrie stopped to retie the laces of one of her moccasins, and Jerry waited for her. The others passed out of sight beyond a turn in the winding trail.
“Don’t you feel a little lost without Tarzan?” Corrie asked as she straightened up. Then she voiced a little exclamation of dismay. “Oh, I don’t mean that I haven’t every confidence in you and Bubonovitch and Rosetti, but—”
Jerry smiled. “Don’t apologize. I feel the same way you do. We’re all out of our natural environment. He’s not. He’s right at home here. I don’t know what we should have done without him.”
“We should have been just a lot of babes in the—”
“Listen!” cautioned Jerry, suddenly alert. He heard voices ahead. Hoarse shouts in a strange tongue. “Japs!” he exclaimed. He started to run toward the sounds. Then he stopped and turned back. His was a cruel decision any way he looked at it. He must desert either his two sergeants or the girl. But he was accustomed to making hair trigger decisions.
He seized Corrie by an arm and dragged her into the tangle of undergrowth beside the trail. They wormed their way in farther and farther as long as the sound of the voices came no nearer. When they did, indicating that the Japs were investigating the trail in their direction, they lay flat on the ground beneath a riot of equatorial verdure. A searcher might have passed within a foot of them without seeing them.
A dozen soldiers surprised and captured Bubonovitch and Rosetti. They didn’t have a chance. The Japs slapped them around and threatened them with bayonets until Lt. Tada called them off. Tada spoke English. He had worked as a dishwasher in a hotel in Eugene while attending the University of Oregon, and he had sized up the prisoners immediately as Americans. He questioned them, and each gave his name, rank, and serial number.
“You were from that bomber that was shot down?” demanded Tada.
“We have given you all the information we are required or permitted to give.”
Tada spoke to a soldier in Japanese. The man advanced and pushed the point of his bayonet against Bubonovitch’s belly. “Now will you answer my question?” growled Tada.
“You know the rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war,” said Bubonovitch, “but I don’t suppose that makes any difference to you. It does to me, though. I won’t answer any more questions.”
“You are a damn fool,” said Tada. He turned to Rosetti. “How about you?” he demanded. “Will you answer?”
“Nuttin’ doin’,” said Rosetti.
“There were five in your party—four men and a girl. Where are the other three?—where is the girl?” the Jap persisted.
“You seen how many was in our party. Do we look like five? Or can’t you count? Does eider of us look like a dame? Somebody’s been stringin’ you, Tojo.”
“O.K., wise guy,” snapped Tada. “I’m goin’ to give you until tomorrow morning to think it over. You answer all my questions tomorrow morning, or you both get beheaded.” He tapped the long officer’s sword at his side.
“Anday I-ay essgay e-hay ain’tay oolin-fay,” said Rosetti to Bubonovitch.
“You bet your sweet life I ain’t foolin’, Yank,” said Tada.
Shrimp was crestfallen. “Geeze! Who’d a-thought a Nip would savvy hog latin!” he moaned to Bubonovitch.
Tada sent two of his men along the trail to search for the other members of the party. He and the remainder turned back toward Amat’s village with the two prisoners.
Jerry and Corrie had overheard all that had been said. They heard the main party move off in the direction from which they had come, but they did not know of the two who had been sent in search of them. Believing that they were now safe from detection, they crawled from their concealment and returned to the trail.
Tarzan, swinging easily through the middle terrace of the forest, had covered perhaps two miles when his attention was arrested by a commotion ahead. He heard the familiar grunts and growls and chattering of the great apes, and guessed that they were attacking or being attacked by an enemy. As the sounds lay directly in his path, he continued on.
Presently he came within sight of four adult orangutans swinging excitedly among the branches of a great tree. They darted in and out, striking and screaming. And then he saw the object of their anger—a python holding in its coils a young orangutan.
Tarzan took in the whole scene at a glance. The python had not as yet constricted. It merely held the struggling victim while it sought to fight off the attacking apes. The screams of the young one were definite proof that it was still very much alive.
Tarzan thrilled to the savage call to battle, to the challenge of his ancient enemy, Histah the snake, to the peril of his friends, the Mangani—the great apes. If he wondered if they would recognize him as friend, or attack him as foe, the thought did not deter him. He swung quickly into the tree in which the tragedy was being enacted, but to a branch above the python and its victim.
So intent were the actors in this primitive drama upon the main issue that none were aware of his presence until he spoke, wondering if, like Tantor, the great apes would understand him.
“Kreeg-ah!” he shouted. “Tarzan bundolo Histah!”
The apes froze and looked up. They saw an almost naked man-thing poised above the python, in the man-thing’s hand a gleaming blade.
“Bundolo! Bundolo!” they shouted—Kill! Kill! And Tarzan knew that they understood. Then he dropped full upon the python and its victim. Steel thewed fingers gripped the snake behind its head, as Tarzan clung to the coils and the young ape with powerful legs. His keen blade cut deep into the writhing body just back of the hand that held its neck in a viselike grasp. The whipping coils, convulsed in agony, released the young orangutan and sought to enmesh the body of the creature clinging to them. Its frantic struggles released the python’s hold upon the branches of the tree, and it fell to earth, carrying Tarzan with it. Other branches broke their fall, and the man was not injured. But the snake was far from dead. Its maddened writhings had made it impossible for Tarzan to wield his blade effectively. The snake was badly wounded, but still a most formidable foe. Should it succeed in enmeshing Tarzan in its mighty coils, his body would be crushed long before he could kill it.
And now the apes dropped to the ground beside the contestants in this grim battle of life and death. Growling, chattering, screaming, the four mighty adults leaped upon the beating coils of the python, tearing them from the body of the man-thing. And Tarzan’s knife found its mark again.
As the severed head rolled to the ground, Tarzan leaped aside. So did the apes, for the death struggles of the giant snake might prove as lethal as though guided by the tiny brain.
Tarzan turned and faced the apes; then he placed a foot on the dead head and, raising his face to the heavens, voiced the victory cry of the bull ape. It rang wild and weird and terrifying through the primeval forest, and for a moment the voices of the jungle were stilled.
The apes looked at the man-thing. All their lives his kind had been their natural enemies. Was he friend or foe?
Tarzan struck his breast, and said, “Tarzan.”
The apes nodded, and said, “Tarzan,” for tarzan means white-skin in the language of the great apes.
“Tarzan yo,” said the man. “Mangani yo?”
“Mangani yo,” said the oldest and largest of the apes—great apes friend.
There was a noise in the trees, like the coming of a big wind—the violent rustling and swishing of leaves and branches. Apes and man looked expectantly in the direction from which the sound came. All of them knew what created the sound. The man alone did not know what it portended.
Presently he saw ten or twelve huge black forms swinging toward them through the trees. The apes dropped to the ground around them. They had heard Tarzan’s piercing call, and had hastened to investigate. It might be the victory cry of an enemy that had overcome one of the tribe. It might have been a challenge to battle.
They eyed Tarzan suspiciously, some of them with bared fangs. He was a man-thing, a natural enemy. They looked from Tarzan to Uglo, the oldest and largest of the apes. Uglo pointed at the man and said, “Tarzan. Yo.” Then, in the simpie language of the first-men and with signs and gestures, he told what Tarzan had done. The newcomers nodded their understanding—all but one. Oju, a full grown, powerful young orangutan, bared his fangs menacingly.
“Oju bundolo!” he growled—Oju kill!
Vanda, mother of the little ape rescued from the python, pressed close to Tarzan, stroking him with a rough and horny palm. She placed herself between Tarzan and Oju, but the former pushed her gently aside.
Oju had issued a challenge which Tarzan could not ignore and retain the respect of the tribe. This he knew, and though he did not want to fight, he drew his knife and advanced toward the growling Oju.
Standing nearly six feet in height and weighing fully three hundred pounds, Oju was indeed a formidable opponent. His enormously long arms, his Herculean muscles, his mighty fangs and powerful jaws dwarfed the offensive equipment of even the mighty Tarzan.
Oju lumbered forward, his calloused knuckles resting on the ground. Uglo would have interfered. He made a halfhearted gesture of stepping between them. But Uglo was really afraid. He was king, but he was getting old. He knew that Oju was minded to challenge his kingship. Should he antagonize him now, he might only hasten the moment of his dethronement. He did not interfere. But Vanda scolded, and so did the other apes which had witnessed Tarzan’s rescue of Vanda’s balu.
Oju was not deterred. He waddled confidently to close quarters, contemptuous of this puny man-thing. Could he lay one powerful hand upon him, the fight would be as good as over. He extended a long arm toward his intended victim. It was a tactical error.
Tarzan noted the slow, stupid advance, the outstretched hand; and altered his own plan of battle. Carrying the knife to his mouth and seizing the blade between his teeth, he freed both hands. Then he sprang forward, grasped Oju’s extended wrist with ten powerful fingers, wheeled quickly, bent forward, and threw the ape over his head—threw him so that he would fall heavily upon his back.
Badly shaken, roaring with rage, Oju scrambled awkwardly to his feet. Tarzan leaped quickly behind him while he was still off balance, leaped upon his back, locked powerful legs about his middle, and wrapped his left arm about his neck.
Then he pressed the point of his knife against the beast’s side—pressed it in until it brought a scream of pain from Oju.
“Kagoda!” demanded Tarzan. That is ape for surrender. It is also ape for I surrender. The difference is merely a matter of inflection.
Oju reached a long arm back to seize his opponent. The knife dug in again. This time deeper. Again Tarzan demanded, “Kagoda!” The more Oju sought to dislodge the man-thing from his back, the deeper the knife was pressed. Tarzan could have killed the ape, but he did not wish to. Strong young bulls are the strength of a tribe, and this tribe was mostly friendly to him.
Oju was standing still now. Blood was streaming down his side. Tarzan moved the point of the knife to the base of Oju’s brain and jabbed it in just enough to draw blood and inflict pain.
“Kagoda!” screamed Oju.
Tarzan released his hold and stepped aside. Oju lumbered off and squatted down to nurse his wounds. Tarzan knew that he had made an enemy, but an enemy that would always be afraid of him. He also knew that he had established himself as an equal in the tribe. He would always have friends among them.
He called Uglo’s attention to the spoor of men in the trail. “Tarmangani?” he asked. Tar is white, mangani means great apes; so tarmangani, white great apes, means white men.
“Sord tarmangani,” said Uglo—bad white men.
Tarzan knew that to the great apes, all white men were bad. He knew that he could not judge these men by the opinion of an ape. He would have to investigate them himself. These men might prove valuable allies.
He asked Uglo if the white men were travelling or camped. Uglo said that they were camped. Tarzan asked how far away. Uglo extended his arms at full length toward the sun and held his palms facing one another and about a foot apart. That is as far as the sun would appear to travel in an hour. That, Tarzan interpreted as meaning that the camp of the white men was about three miles distant—as far as the apes would ordinarily move through the trees in an hour.
He swung into a tree and was gone in the direction of the camp of the tarmangani. There are no “Good-bys” nor “Au revoirs” in the language of the apes. The members of the tribe had returned to their normal activities. Oju nursed his wounds and his rage. He bared his fangs at any who came near him.