Tarzan’s Quest

Chapter 10


Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHEN Ydeni refused to lead him to the village of the Kavuru, Tarzan was neither surprised nor disappointed. He knew men and especially savage men and the numerous taboos that govern their individual and tribal lives. He would have preferred to have gone to the chief of the Kavuru with one of his own people whom Tarzan had befriended; but if this were impossible, he was at least no worse off than he had been before he had met Ydeni. And he was confident that no matter how brutal or savage the man might be, he was probably not without a spark of gratitude for the service Tarzan had rendered him.

“If I came as a friend,” said Tarzan, “surely there could be no harm in that.”

“The Kavuru have no friends,” replied Ydeni. “You must not come.” The ape-man shrugged. “Then I shall come as an enemy.”

“You will be killed. You saved my life; I do not wish you to be killed, but I could not prevent it; it is the law of the Kavuru.”

“Then you kill the girls that you steal?” demanded the ape-man.

“Who says that the Kavuru steal girls?”

“It is well known among all people. Why do you do it? Have you not enough women of your own?”

“There are no Kavuru women,” replied Ydeni. “The rains have come and gone as many times as there are fingers and toes upon four men since there was a Kavuru woman—since the last one gave her life that the men of the Kavuru might live.”

“Eighty years since there have been women among you?” demanded the ape-man. “That is impossible, Ydeni, for you are still a young man, and you must have had a mother; but perhaps she was not a Kavuru?”

“My mother was a Kavuru, but she died long before the last woman. But I have told you too much already, stranger. The ways of the Kavuru are not as the ways of lesser people, and they are not for the ears of lesser people. To speak of them is taboo. Go your way now, and I will go mine.”

Convinced that he could get no more information from Ydeni, Tarzan took to the trees; and a moment later was lost to the sight of the Kavuru. Purposely he had gone toward the west so that Ydeni would be deceived into thinking that he was not on the right trail toward the Kavuru country. However, he did not go far in that direction; but quickly doubled back toward the spot where he had left the white savage; for he was determined that if Ydeni would not lead him willingly to his village, he should do so unknowingly.

When Tarzan had returned to the spot where he killed the lion, the Kavuru was no longer there; and assuming that he had gone toward the north, his pursuer set off in that direction. After pursuing a northerly course for a short time, Tarzan realized that there were no indications that his quarry had come this way.

Quickly he started a great circle in order to pick up the scent spoor.

For an hour he ranged through forest and open glade before, at last, Usha, the wind, carried to his nostrils the scent spoor of Ydeni; and when at last he came upon the object of his search Tarzan was perplexed, for the Kavuru was moving due south.

Tarzan reasoned that Ydeni might be doing this to throw him off the trail, or perchance he had misinformed him as to the location of the Kavuru village; but he was sure now that if he clung tenaciously to the trail, Ydeni would eventually lead him to his goal.

Back over the long trail he had come since he had escaped from the village of Udalo, the chief, Tarzan dogged the footsteps of his quarry; yet never once was Ydeni aware that he was being followed, though oftentimes he was plainly visible to the ape-man.

Tarzan found it interesting to study this strange creature whose very existence was tinged with mystery. He noted the weapons and the ornaments of Ydeni and saw that they differed from any that he had ever seen before. He was particularly interested in the slender fibre rope that was wrapped many times around the Kavuru’s waist; for of all the savages in the jungle, as far as Tarzan knew, he alone used a rope as a weapon. He wondered just how Ydeni would use it.

Late one afternoon, when Tarzan knew they must be approaching the village of the Bukena, he was surprised to see Ydeni take to the trees, through which he moved with considerable agility and speed, though in no respect to compare with those of the Lord of the Jungle.

He moved with the utmost wariness, stopping often to listen intently. Presently he uncoiled the rope from about his waist, and Tarzan saw there was a running noose in one end of it.

Now Tarzan heard voices ahead of them; they came faintly as from a great distance. It was evident that the Kavuru heard them, too, for he slightly changed his direction to bear more in that from which the voices came.

Tarzan was keenly interested. The attitude of the man in front of him was that of the keen hunter, stalking his prey. He felt that one mystery was about to be cleared up.

In a short time, the Kavuru came to the edge of a clearing and halted. Below him, working in the small fields, were a number of women. Ydeni looked them over; presently he espied a girl of about fifteen and made his way to another tree nearer her.

Tarzan followed, watching intently every move of the Kavuru. He heard him voice a strange call, so low that it must barely have reached the ears of the girl. For a moment she paid no attention to it; and then presently she turned and looked with dull, uncomprehending eyes toward the jungle. The sharpened stick with which she had been cultivating the maize dropped from her limp hand.

Ydeni continued to voice that weird, insistent call. The girl took a few steps in the direction of the jungle; then she paused; and Tarzan could almost sense the struggle that was going on within her breast to overcome the mysterious urge that was drawing her away from the other women; but Ydeni’s voice was insistent and compelling, and at last she again moved listlessly toward him. She moved as one in a trance, with staring eyes fixed on Ydeni.

Now the Kavuru retreated slowly deeper into the forest, calling, always calling to the helpless girl that followed.

Tarzan watched; nor did he make any effort to interfere. To him, the life of the black girl was no more than the life of an antelope or that of any other beast of the jungle. To Tarzan, all were beasts, including himself, and none with any rights greater than another, except that which he might win by strength or cunning or ferocity.

Much more important than the life of the black girl was the possibility of fathoming the mystery that had always surrounded the disappearance of girls supposed to have been taken by the Kavuru.

Ydeni lured the girl deeper into the forest, halting at last upon a broad limb.

Slowly the girl approached. It was evident that she was not the master of her own will. The weird, monotonous droning chant of the Kavuru seemed to have numbed all her faculties.

At last, she came directly beneath the tree and the branch where Ydeni crouched. Then the man dropped his noose about her.

She made no outcry, no protest, as he tightened it and drew her slowly up toward him; nor ever once did the chant cease.

Removing the rope from about her, he threw her limp body across one of his broad shoulders and turning, started back in the direction from which he had come.

Tarzan had watched the abduction of the girl with keen interest, for it explained the seeming mystery of the disappearance of so many other young girls during past times.

He could readily understand the effect that these mysterious disappearances would have upon the superstitious minds of the natives; yet it was all very simple except the strange, hypnotic power of the Kavuru. That was not at all clear to him.

He wondered how the natives had come to connect these disappearances with the Kavuru, and the only reasonable explanation seemed to be that in times past some exceptionally tenacious relatives had prosecuted their search until they had come by accident upon the abductor and his prey and so learned the identity of the former without ascertaining the method he had used to achieve his ends.

Feeling no responsibility in the matter, Tarzan was not moved by any impulse to rescue the girl, his only concern now being to follow Ydeni back to the village of the Kavuru, where he was confident he would find Muviro’s daughter, Buira, if she still lived.

Ydeni kept to the trees for hours, until he must have been reasonably certain that he had passed beyond the point where possible pursuers would be likely to search, since they had no trail to follow. Then he came to the ground; but he still carried the girl, who lay across his shoulder as one dead.

On and on he plodded, apparently tireless; and in the trees just behind him followed Tarzan of the Apes.

It was very late in the afternoon when the Kavuru halted. He carried the girl into a tree then, and tied her securely to a branch with the same rope that had snared her. Leaving her, he departed; and Tarzan followed him.

Ydeni was merely searching for food; and when he found some edible fruits and nuts, he returned with them to the girl.

The hypnosis which had held her in its spell for so long was now relinquishing its hold upon her, and as Ydeni approached her she looked at him with startled eyes and shrank away when he touched her.

Releasing her bonds, he carried her to the ground and offered her food.

By this time, full consciousness had returned; and it was evident that the girl was aware of her plight and the identity of her abductor, for an expression of utter horror distorted her features; and then she burst into tears.

“Shut up,” snapped Ydeni. “I have not hurt you. If you give me no trouble, I shall not hurt you.”

“You are a Kavuru,” she gasped in horror-laden tones. “Take me back to my father; you promised him that you would not harm any member of his family.”

Ydeni looked at the girl in surprise. “I promised your father?” he demanded. “I never saw your father; I have never spoken to one of your men.”

“You did. You promised him when he liberated you from the hut in which Udalo had you bound. Udalo would have killed you; my father, Gupingu, the witch-doctor, saved you. Because of that you made the promise.”

This recital made no impression upon Ydeni, but it did upon the grim and silent watcher in the trees above. So this was the daughter of Gupingu. Apparently Fate was a capricious wench with a strange sense of humor.

Knowledge of the identity of the girl gave a new complexion to the affair. Tarzan felt that by accepting his freedom at the hands of Gupingu he had given the witch-doctor passive assurance that his daughters would be safe from the Kavuru. It was a moral obligation that the Lord of the Jungle could not ignore; but if he took the girl from Ydeni and returned her to her people, he would be unable to follow the Kavuru to his village. However, with a shrug he accepted the responsibility that honor seemed to lay upon him.

Now he devoted himself to a consideration of ways and means. He could, of course, go down and take the girl by force, for it never occurred to him that any creature, least of all man, might be able to prevent him from having his way; but this plan he scarcely considered before discarding it. He did not wish Ydeni to know that it was he who took the girl from him, since he realized the possibility of Ydeni being useful to him in the event that he reached the village of the Kavuru, for after all he had saved the man’s life; and that was something that only the lowest of beasts might forget.

He waited therefore to see what disposal Ydeni would make of the girl for the night, for he had it in mind now to take her by stealth; and if that failed, the likelihood of Ydeni recognizing him would be greatly lessened after dark; and so he waited, patient as any other beast of prey that watches for the propitious moment to attack.

Seeing that she would be unable to move the Kavuru by her pleas, the girl had lapsed into silence. Her brooding eyes glowered sullenly at her captor. Fear and hate were reflected in them.

Darkness was approaching rapidly when the Kavuru seized the girl and threw her roughly to the ground. She fought like a young lioness, but Ydeni was powerful and soon overcame her. Then he deftly bound her hands behind her back and trussed her legs so tightly that she could scarcely move them. Terrified, she lay trembling.

“Now,” he said, when he had finished, “you cannot run away. Ydeni can sleep; you had better sleep; we have a long march tomorrow, and Ydeni will not carry you.”

The girl made no reply. The man threw himself upon the ground near her. A silent figure moved stealthily closer in the trees above them. It was very dark and very quiet. Only the roar of a distant lion, coming faintly to their ears, gave evidence of life in the jungle.

Tarzan waited patiently. By the man’s regular breathing, he knew that Ydeni slept; but his slumber was not yet deep enough to satisfy the ape-man.

A half hour passed, and then an hour. Ydeni was sleeping very soundly now, but the girl had not yet slept. That was well; it was what Tarzan wished for.

He bent low from the branch where he lay and spoke to the girl in a low whisper. “Do not cry out,” he said. “I am coming down to take you back to your people.”

Very gently he lowered himself to the ground. Even the girl beside whom he stood did not know that he had descended from the trees. He stooped over her with a sibilant caution on his lips.

The girl was afraid; but she was more afraid of the Kavuru, and so she made no outcry as Tarzan raised her to his shoulder and carried her silently along the jungle trail until he could take to the trees with less likelihood of arousing Ydeni.

At a safe distance from the sleeping man he paused and cut the girl’s bonds.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

“I am the man that Udalo would have killed and that your father set free,” replied the ape-man.

She shrank back. “Then you are a Kavuru, too,” she said.

“I am no Kavuru. I told them that, but they would not believe me. I am Tarzan of the Apes, chief of the Waziri whose country lies many marches toward the rising sun.”

“You are a Kavuru,” she insisted; “my father said so.”

“I am not, but what difference does it make if I take you back to your father?”

“How do I know that you will take me back?” she demanded. “Perhaps you are lying to me.”

“If you’d rather,” said the ape-man, “I will set you free now; but what will you do here alone in the jungle? A lion or a leopard will surely find you; and even if one did not you might never find your way back to your village, because you do not know in what direction the Kavuru carried you while you were unconscious.”

“I will go with you,” said the girl.

Tarzan’s Quest - Contents    |     Chapter 11 - “Seventy Million Dollars”

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