Prologue

 …the tribe, now a full hundred strong, trooped silently through the lower terrace of the jungle trees and dropped noiselessly upon the floor of the amphitheater.

The rights of the Dum-Dum marked important events in the life of the tribe—a victory, the capture of a prisoner, the killing of some large fierce denizen of the jungle, the death or accession of a king, and were conducted with set ceremonialism.

Today it was the killing of a giant ape, a member of another tribe, and as the people of Kerchak entered the arena, two mighty bulls were seen bearing the body of the vanquished between them.

They laid their burden before the earthen drum and then squatted there beside it as guards, while the other members of the community curled themselves in grassy nooks to sleep until the rising moon should give the signal for the commencement of the savage orgy.

For hours absolute quiet reigned in the little clearing, except as it was broken by the discordant notes of brilliantly feathered parrots, or the screeching and twittering of the thousand jungle birds flitting ceaselessly amongst the vivid orchids and flamboyant blossoms which festooned the myriad, moss-covered branches of the forest kings.

At length as darkness settled upon the jungle the apes commenced to bestir themselves, and soon they formed a great circle about the earthen drum.  The females and young squatted in a thin line at the outer periphery of the circle, while just in front of them ranged the adult males.  Before the drum sat three old females, each armed with a knotted branch fifteen or eighteen inches in length.

Slowly and softly, they began tapping upon the resounding surface of the drum as the first faint rays of the ascending moon silvered the encircling tree tops.

As the light in the amphitheater increased the females augmented the frequency and force of their blows until presently a wild, rhythmic din pervaded the great jungle for miles in every direction.  Huge, fierce brutes stopped in their hunt with up-pricked ears and raised their heads, to listen to the dull booming that betokened the Dum-Dum of the apes.

Occasionally one would raise his shrill scream or thunderous roar in answering challenge to the savage din of the anthropoids, but none came near to investigate or attack, for the great apes, assembled in all the power of their numbers, filled the breasts of their neighbors with deep respect.

 As the din of the drum rose to almost deafening volume Kerchak sprang into the open space between the squatting males and the drummers.

Standing erect he threw his head far back and looking full into the eye of the rising moon he beat upon his breast with his great hairy paws and emitted his fearful roaring shriek.

Once—twice—thrice that terrifying cry rang out across the teeming solitude of that unspeakably quick, yet unthinkably dead, world.

Then, crouching, Kerchak slunk noiselessly around the open circle, veering away from the dead body lying before the altar-drum, but, as he passes, keeping his little, fierce, wicked, red eyes upon the corpse.

Another male sprang into the arena, and, repeating the horrid cries of the king, followed stealthily in his wake. Another and another followed in quick succession until the jungle reverberated with the now almost ceaseless notes of their bloodthirsty screams.

When all the adult males had joined in the thin line of circling dancers the attack commenced.

Kerchak, seizing a huge club from the pile which lay at hand for the purpose, rushed furiously upon the dead ape, dealing the corpse a terrific blow, at the same time emitting the growls and snarls of combat.  The din of the drum was now increased, as well as the frequency of the blows, and the warriors, as each approached the victim of the hunt and delivered his bludgeon blow, joined in the mad whirl of the Death Dance.

“Here comes my favorite part,” thought the boy as he continued with the already thrice read book.  

Tarzan was one of the wild, leaping hordes.  His brown, sweat-streaked, muscular body, glistening in the moonlight. Shined supple and graceful among the uncouth, awkward, hairy brutes about him.

None was more stealthy in the mimic hunt, none more ferocious than he in the wild ferocity of the attack, none who leaped so high into the air in the Dance of Death.

As the noise and rapidity of the drumbeats increased the dancers apparently became intoxicated with the wild rhythm and savage yells.   Their leaps and bounds increased, their bare fangs dripped saliva, and their lips and breasts were flecked with foam.

For half an hour the weird dance went on, until a sign from Kerchak, the noise of drums ceased, the female drummers scampered hurriedly through the line of dancers towards the outer rim of squatting spectators.  Then, as one, the males rushed headlong upon the thing which their terrific blows reduced to a mass of hairy pulp,

Flesh seldom came to their jaws in satisfying quantities, so a fit finally to their wild revel was a taste of fresh killed meat.  And it was the purpose of devouring their late enemy that they now turned their attention.

Great fangs sunk into the carcass tearing away huge hunks, the mightiest of the apes obtaining the choice morsels, while the weaker circled the outer edge of the fighting, snarling pack awaiting their chance to dodge in and snatch a dropped tidbit or filch a remaining bone before all was gone.

Tarzan, more than the apes, craved and needed flesh.  Descended from a race of meat eaters, never in his life, he thought, had he once satisfied his appetite on animal food; and so now his agile little body worried its way far into the mass of struggling, rending apes in an endeavor to obtain a share which his strength would have been unequal to the task of winning for him.

At his side lay the hunting knife of his unknown father in a sheath self-shaped in copy of one he had seen among the pictures of his treasure-books.

At last he reached the fast disappearing feast and with his sharp knife slashed of a more generous portion than he had hoped for, an entire hairy forearm, where it protruded out from beneath the feet of the mighty Kerchak, who was so busy engaged in perpetuating the royal prerogative of gluttony that he failed to note the act of lese-majeste.

So little Tarzan wiggled out beneath the struggling mass, clutching his grisly piece close to his breast.

Among those circling futilely the outskirts of the banqueters was the old Tublat.  He had been among the first to feast, but had retreated with a goodly share to eat in quiet, and was now forcing his way back for more.

So it was that he spied Tarzan as the boy emerged from the clawing, pushing the throng with the hairy forearm hugged firmly to his body.

Tublat’s little, close-set, bloodshot, pig-eyes shot wicked gleams of hate as they fell upon the object of his loathing.  In them, too, was greed for the toothsome dainty the boy carried.

But Tarzan saw his arch enemy as quickly, and divining what the great beast would do he leaped nimbly away toward the females and the young, hoping to hide himself among them.  Tublat, however, was close upon his heels, so that he had no opportunity to seek a place of concealment, but saw that he would be put to it to escape at all.

Swiftly he sped toward the surrounding trees and with an agile bound gained a lower limb with one hand, and then, transferring his burden to his teeth, he climbed rapidly upward, closely followed by Tublat.

Up, up he went to the waving pinnacle of a lofty monarch of the forest where his heavy pursuer dared not follow him.  There he perched, hurling taunts and insults at the raging, foaming beast fifty feet below him.

Then Tublat went mad.

With horrifying screams and roars he rushed to the ground, among the females and young, sinking his great fangs into a dozen tiny necks and tearing great pieces from the backs and the breasts of the females who fell into his clutches.

 In the brilliant moonlight Tarzan witnessed the whole mad carnival of rage.  He saw the females and the young scamper to the safety of the trees.  Then the great bulls in the center of the arena felt the mighty fangs of their demented fellow, and with one accord they melted into the black shadows of the overhanging forest.

There was but one in the amphitheater beside Tublat, a belated female running swiftly toward the tree where Tarzan perched, and behind her came the awful Tublat.

It was Kala, and as quick as Tarzan saw that Tublat was gaining on her dropped with the rapidity of a falling stone, from branch to branch, toward his foster mother.

Now she was beneath the overhanging limbs and close above her crouched Tarzan, awaiting the outcome of the race.

She leapt into the air grasping a low-hanging branch, but almost over the head of Tublat, so nearly had he distanced her.  She should have been safe now but there was a rending, tearing sound, the branch broke and precipitated her full upon the head of Tublat, knocking him to the ground.

Both were up in an instant, but as quick as they had been Tarzan had been quicker, so that the infuriated bull found himself facing the man-child who stood between him and Kala.

Nothing could have suited the fierce beast better, and with a roar of triumph he leaped upon the little Lord Greystoke.  But his fangs never closed in that nut-brown flesh.

A muscular hand shot out and grasped the hairy throat, and another plunged a keen hunting knife a dozen times into the broad breast.  Like lightning the blows fell, and only ceased when Tarzan felt the limp form crumple beneath him.

As the body rolled to the ground Tarzan of the Apes placed a foot upon the neck of his lifelong enemy and, raising his eyes to the full moon, threw back his fierce young head and voiced the wild and terrible cry of his people.

One by one the tribe swung down from their arboreal retreats and formed a circle about Tarzan and his vanquished foe.  When they had all come Tarzan turned toward them.

“I am Tarzan,” he cried.  “I am a great killer.  Let all respect Tarzan of the Apes and Kala, his mother.  There is none among you mighty as Tarzan.  Let his enemies beware.”  

Looking full into the wicked, red eyes of Kerchak, the young Lord Greystoke beat upon his mighty breast and screamed out once more his shrill cry of defiance.

Late in the night and several chapters later, the young boy lay asleep, the worn book, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, lay open on his chest, and the dim light of a reading lamp shining down on him.

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