Tarzan of the Apes/Chapter 17
AS IT was now quite light, the party, none of whom had eaten or slept since the previous morning, began to bestir themselves to prepare food.
The mutineers of the Arrow had landed a small supply of dried meats, canned soups and vegetables, crackers, flour, tea, and coffee for the five they had marooned, and these were hurriedly drawn upon to satisfy the craving of long-famished appetites.
The next task was to make the cabin habitable, and to this end it was decided to at once remove the gruesome relics of the tragedy which had taken place there on some bygone day.
Professor Porter and Mr. Philander were deeply interested in examining the skeletons. The two larger, they stated, had belonged to a male and female of one of the higher white races.
The smallest skeleton was given but passing attention, as its location, in the crib, left no doubt as to its having been the infant offspring of this unhappy couple.
As they were preparing the skeleton of the man for burial, Clayton discovered a massive ring which had evidently encircled the man's finger at the time of his death, for one of the slender bones of the hand still lay within the golden bauble.
Picking it up to examine it, Clayton gave a cry of astonishment, for the ring bore the crest of the house of Greystoke.
At the same time, Jane Porter discovered the books in the cupboard, and on opening to the fly-leaf of one of them saw the name, John Clayton, London. In a second book which she hurriedly examined was the single name, Greystoke.
"Why, Mr. Clayton," she cried, "what does this mean? Here are the names of some of your own people in these books."
"And here," he replied gravely, "is the great ring of the house of Greystoke which has been lost since my uncle, John Clayton, the former Lord Greystoke, disappeared, presumably lost at sea."
"But how do you account for these things being here, in this savage African jungle?" exclaimed the girl.
"There is but one way to account for it, Miss Porter," said Clayton. "The late Lord Greystoke was not drowned. He died here in this cabin and this poor thing upon the floor is all that is mortal of him."
"Then this must have been Lady Greystoke," said Jane Porter reverently, indicating the poor mass of bones upon the bed.
"The beautiful Lady Alice," replied Clayton, "of whose many virtues and remarkable personal charms I often have heard my mother and father speak. Poor, unhappy lady," he murmured sadly.
With deep reverence and solemnity the bodies of the late Lord and Lady Greystoke were buried beside their little African cabin, and between them was placed the tiny skeleton of the baby of Kala, the ape.
As Mr. Philander was placing the frail bones of the infant in a bit of sail cloth, he examined the skull minutely. Then he called Professor Porter to his side, and the two argued in low tones for several minutes.
"Most remarkable, most remarkable," said Professor Porter.
"Bless me," said Mr. Philander, "we must acquaint Mr. Clayton with our discovery at once."
"Tut, tut, Mr. Philander, tut, tut!" remonstrated Professor Archimedes Q. Porter. "'Let the dead past bury its dead.'"
And so the white-haired old man repeated the burial service over this strange grave, while his four companions stood with bowed and uncovered heads about him.
From the trees Tarzan of the Apes watched the solemn ceremony; but most of all he watched the sweet face and graceful figure of Jane Porter.
In his savage, untutored breast new emotions were stirring. He could not fathom them. He wondered why he felt so great an interest in these people—why he had gone to such pains to save the three men. But he did not wonder why he had torn Sabor from the tender flesh of the strange girl.
Surely the men were stupid and ridiculous and cowardly. Even Manu, the monkey, was more intelligent than they. If these were creatures of his own kind he was doubtful if his past pride in blood was warranted.
But the girl, ah—that was a different matter. He did not reason here. He knew that she was created to be protected, and that he was created to protect her.
He wondered why they had dug a great hole in the ground merely to bury dry bones. Surely there was no sense in that; no one wanted to steal dry bones.
Had there been meat upon them he could have understood, for thus alone might one keep his meat from Dango, the hyena, and the other robbers of the jungle.
When the grave had been filled with earth the little party turned back toward the cabin, and Esmeralda, still weeping copiously for the two he had never heard of before today, and who had been dead twenty years, chanced to glance toward the harbor. Instantly her tears ceased.
"Look at dem low down white trash out dere!" she shrilled, pointing toward the Arrow. "They-all's a desecratin' us, right yere on dis yere perverted islan'."
And, sure enough, the Arrow was being worked toward the open sea, slowly, through the harbor's entrance.
"They promised to leave us firearms and ammunition," said Clayton. "The merciless beasts!"
"It is the work of that fellow they call Snipes, I am sure," said Jane Porter. "King was a scoundrel, but he had a little sense of humanity. If they had not killed him I know that he would have seen that we were properly provided for before they left us to our fate."
"I regret that they did not visit us before sailing," said Professor Porter. "I had purposed requesting them to leave the treasure with us, as I shall be a ruined man if that is lost."
Jane Porter looked at her father sadly.
"Never mind, dear," she said. "It wouldn't have done any good, because it is solely for the treasure that they killed their officers and landed us upon this awful shore."
"Tut, tut, child, tut, tut!" replied Professor Porter. "You are a good child, but inexperienced in practical matters," and Professor Porter turned and walked slowly away toward the jungle, his hands clasped beneath his long coat-tails and his eyes bent upon the ground.
His daughter watched him with a pathetic smile upon her lips, and then turning to Mr. Philander, she whispered:
"Please don't let him wander off again as he did yesterday. We depend upon you, you know, to keep a close watch upon him."
"He becomes more difficult to handle each day," replied Mr. Philander, with a sigh and a shake of his head. "I presume he is now off to report to the directors of the Zoo that one of their lions was at large last night. Oh, Miss Jane, you don't know what I have to contend with."
"Yes, I do, Mr. Philander; but while we all love him, you alone are best fitted to manage him; for, regardless of what he may say to you, he respects your great learning, and, therefore, has immense confidence in your judgment. The poor dear cannot differentiate between erudition and wisdom."
Mr. Philander, with a mildly puzzled expression on his face, turned to pursue Professor Porter, and in his mind he was revolving the question of whether he should feel complimented or aggrieved at Miss Porter's rather back-handed compliment.
Tarzan had seen the consternation depicted upon the faces of the little group as they witnessed the departure of the Arrow; so, as the ship was a wonderful novelty to him in addition, he determined to hasten out to the point of land at the north of the harbor's mouth and obtain a nearer view of the boat, as well as to learn, if possible, the direction of its flight.
Swinging through the trees with great speed, he reached the point but a moment after the ship had passed out of the harbor, so that he obtained an excellent view of the wonders of this strange, floating house.
There were some twenty men running hither and thither about the deck, pulling and hauling on ropes.
A light land breeze was blowing, and the ship had been worked through the harbor's mouth under scant sail, but now that they had cleared the point every available shred of canvas was being spread that she might stand out to sea as handily as possible.
Tarzan watched the graceful movements of the ship in rapt admiration, and longed to be aboard her. Presently his keen eyes caught the faintest suspicion of smoke on the far northern horizon, and he wondered over the cause of such a thing out on the great water.
At about the same time the look-out on the Arrow must have discerned it, for in a few minutes Tarzan saw the sails being shifted and shortened. The ship came about, and presently he knew that she was beating back toward land.
A man at the bows was constantly heaving into the sea a rope to the end of which a small object was fastened. Tarzan wondered what the purpose of this action might be.
At last the ship came up directly into the wind; the anchor was lowered; down came the sails. There was great scurrying about on deck.
A boat was lowered, and in it a great chest was placed. Then a dozen sailors bent to the oars and pulled rapidly toward the point where Tarzan crouched in the branches of a tree.
In the stern of the boat, as it drew nearer, Tarzan saw the rat-faced man.
It was but a few minutes later that the boat touched the beach. The men jumped out and lifted the great chest to the sand. They were on the north side of the point so that their presence was concealed from those at the cabin.
The men argued angrily for a moment. Then the rat-faced one, with several companions, ascended the low bluff on which stood the tree that concealed Tarzan. They looked about for several minutes.
"Here is a good place," said the rat-faced sailor, indicating a spot beneath Tarzan's tree.
"It is as good as any," replied one of his companions. "If they catch us with the treasure aboard it will all be confiscated anyway. We might as well bury it here on the chance that some of us will escape the gallows to come back and enjoy it later."
The rat-faced one now called to the men who had remained at the boat, and they came slowly up the bank carrying picks and shovels.
"Hurry, ——— you!" cried Snipes.
"Stow it!" retorted one of the men, in a surly tone. "You're no admiral, you ———— ———— shrimp."
"I'm Cap'n here, though, I'll have you to understand, you swab," shrieked Snipes, with a volley of frightful oaths.
"Steady, boys," cautioned one of the men who had not spoken before. "It ain't goin' to get us nothing by fightin' amongst ourselves."
"Right enough," replied the sailor who had resented Snipes' autocratic tones; "but by the same token it ain't a-goin' to get nobody nothin' to put on airs in this bloomin' company neither."
"You fellows dig here," said Snipes, indicating a spot beneath the tree. "And while you're diggin', Peter kin be a-makin' of a map of the location, so's we kin find it again. You, Tom, and Bill, take a couple more down and fetch up the chest."
"Wot are you a-goin' to do?" asked he of the previous altercation. "Just boss?"
"Git busy there," growled Snipes. "You didn't think your Cap'n was a-goin' to dig with a shovel, did you?"
The men all looked up angrily. None of them liked Snipes, and his disagreeable show of authority since he had murdered King, the real head and ringleader of the mutineers, had only added fuel to the flames of their hatred.
"Do you mean to say that you don't intend to take a shovel, and lend a hand with this work? You're shoulder's not hurted so all-fired bad as that," said Tarrant, the sailor who had before spoken.
"Not by a ——— sight," replied Snipes, fingering the butt of his revolver nervously.
"Then, by God," replied Tarrant, "if you won't take a shovel you'll take a pick ax."
With the words he raised his pick above his head, and, with a mighty blow, buried the point in Snipes' brain.
For a moment the men stood silently looking at the result of their fellow's grim humor. Then one of them spoke.
"Served the skunk jolly well right," he said.
One of the others commenced to ply his pick to the ground. The soil was soft and he threw aside the pick and grasped a shovel; then the others joined him. There was no further comment on the killing, but the men worked in a better frame of mind than they had since Snipes had assumed command.
When they had a trench of ample size to bury the chest, Tarrant suggested that they enlarge it and inter Snipes' body on top of the chest.
"It might 'elp fool any as 'appened to be diggin' 'ereabouts," he explained.
The others saw the cunning of the suggestion, and so the trench was lengthened to accommodate the corpse, and in the center a deeper hole was excavated for the box, which was first wrapped in sail cloth and then lowered to its place, which brought its top about a foot below the bottom of the grave. Earth was shovelled in and tramped down about the chest until the bottom of the grave showed level and uniform.
Two of the men rolled the rat-faced corpse unceremoniously into the grave, after first stripping it of its weapons and various other articles which the several members of the party coveted for their own.
They then filled the grave with earth and tramped upon it until it would hold no more.
The balance of the loose earth was thrown far and wide, and a mass of dead undergrowth spread in as natural a manner as possible over the new made grave to obliterate all signs of the ground having been disturbed.
Their work done the sailors returned to the small boat, and pulled off rapidly toward the Arrow.
The breeze had increased considerably, and as the smoke upon the horizon was now plainly discernible in considerable volume, the mutineers lost no time in getting under full sail and bearing away toward the southwest.
Tarzan, an interested spectator of all that had taken place, sat speculating on the strange actions of these peculiar creatures.
Men were indeed more foolish and more cruel than the beasts of the jungle! How fortunate was he who lived in the peace and security of the great forest!
Tarzan wondered what the chest they had buried contained. If they did not want it why did they not merely throw it into the water? That would have been much easier.
Ah, he thought, but they do want it. They have hidden it here because they intend returning for it later.
Tarzan dropped to the ground and commenced to examine the earth about the excavation. He was looking to see if these creatures had dropped anything which he might like to own. Soon he discovered a spade hidden by the underbrush which they had laid upon the grave.
He seized it and attempted to use it as he had seen the sailors do. It was awkward work and hurt his bare feet, but he persevered until he had partially uncovered the body. This he dragged from the grave and laid to one side.
Then he continued digging until he had unearthed the chest. This also he dragged to the side of the corpse. Then he filled in the smaller hole below the grave, replaced the body and the earth around and above it; covered it over with underbrush and returned to the chest.
Four sailors had sweated beneath the burden of its weight—Tarzan of the Apes picked it up as though it had been an empty packing case, and with the spade slung to his back by a piece of rope, carried it off into the densest part of the jungle.
He could not well negotiate the trees with this awkward burden, but he kept to the trails, and so made fairly good time.
For several hours he traveled a little north of east until he came to an impenetrable wall of matted and tangled vegetation. Then he took to the lower branches, and in another fifteen minutes he emerged into the amphitheater of the apes, where they met in council, or to celebrate the rites of the Dum-Dum.
Near the center of the clearing, and not far from the drum, or altar, he commenced to dig. This was harder work than turning up the freshly excavated earth at the grave, but Tarzan of the Apes was persevering and so he kept at his labor until he was rewarded by seeing a hole sufficiently deep to receive the chest and effectually hide it from view.
Why had he gone to all this labor without knowing the value of the contents of the chest?
Tarzan of the Apes had a man's figure and a man's brain, but he was an ape by training and environment. His brain told him that the chest contained something valuable, or the men would not have hidden it; his training had taught him to imitate whatever was new and unusual, and now the natural curiosity, which is as common to men as to apes, prompted him to open the chest and examine its contents.
But the heavy lock and massive iron bands baffled both his cunning and his immense strength, so that he was compelled to bury the chest without having his curiosity satisfied.
By the time Tarzan had hunted his way back to the vicinity of the cabin, feeding as he went, it was quite dark.
Within the little building a light was burning, for Clayton had found an unopened tin of oil which had stood intact for twenty years; a part of the supplies left with the Claytons by Black Michael. The lamps also were still useable, and thus the interior of the cabin appeared as bright as day to the astonished Tarzan.
He had often wondered at the exact purpose of the lamps. His reading and the pictures had told him what they were, but he had no idea of how they could be made to produce the wondrous sunlight that some of his pictures had portrayed them as diffusing upon all surrounding objects.
As he approached the window nearest the door he saw that the cabin had been divided into two rooms by a rough partition of boughs and sail-cloth.
In the front room were the three men; the two older deep in argument, while the younger, tilted back against the wall on an improvised stool, was deeply engrossed in reading one of Tarzan's books.
Tarzan was not particularly interested in the men, however, so he sought the other window. There was the girl. How beautiful her features! How delicate her snowy skin!
She was writing at Tarzan's own table beneath the window. Upon a pile of grasses at the far side of the room lay the negress, asleep.
For an hour Tarzan feasted his eyes upon her while she wrote. How he longed to speak to her, but he dared not attempt it, for he was convinced that, like the young men, she would not understand him, and he feared, too, that he might frighten her away.
At length she arose, leaving her manuscript upon the table. She went to the bed upon which had been spread several layers of soft grasses. These she rearranged.
Then she loosened the soft mass of golden hair which crowned her head. Like a shimmering waterfall turned to burnished metal by a dying sun it fell about her oval face; in waving lines, below her waist it tumbled.
Tarzan was spellbound. Then she extinguished the lamp and all within the cabin was wrapped in Cimmerian darkness.
Still Tarzan watched without. Creeping close beneath the window he waited, listening, for half an hour. At last he was rewarded by the sounds of the regular breathing within which denotes sleep.
Cautiously he intruded his hand between the meshes of the lattice until his whole arm was within the cabin. Carefully he felt upon the desk. At last he grasped the manuscript upon which Jane Porter had been writing, and as cautiously withdrew his arm and hand, holding the precious treasure.
Tarzan folded the sheets into a small parcel which he tucked into the quiver with his arrows. Then he melted away into the jungle as softly and as noiselessly as a shadow.