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Chapter 5 Tarzan and the City of Gold by Edgar Rice Burroughs


As Tarzan battled for his life in the swirling waters of the swollen river, he lost all sense of time; the seemingly interminable struggle against death might have been enduring without beginning, might endure without end, in so far as his numbed senses were concerned.

Turnings in the river cast him occasionally against one shore and then the other. Always, then, his hands reached up in an attempt to grasp something that might stay his mad rush towards the falls and death. At last success crowned his efforts-his fingers closed upon the stem of a heavy vine that trailed down the bank into the swirling waters, closed and held.

Hand over hand the man dragged himself out of the water and onto the bank, where he lay for several minutes; then he rose slowly to his feet, shook himself like some great lion, and looked about him in the darkness, trying to penetrate the impenetrable night. Faintly, as through shrubbery, he thought that he saw a light shining dimly in the distance. Where there was a light, there should be men. Tarzan moved cautiously toward it to investigate.

But a few steps from the river Tarzan encountered a wall, and when he was close to the wall he could no longer see the light. Reaching upward, he discovered that the top of the wail was still above the tips of his outstreched fingers—but walls which were made to keep one out also invited one to climb them.

Stepping back a few paces. Tarzan ran toward the wall and sprang upward. His extended fingers gripped the tip of the wall and clung there. Slowly he drew himself up, threw a leg across the capstones, and looked to see what might be seen upon the opposite side of the wall.

He did not see much—a square of dim light forty or fifty feet away— that was all, and it did not satisfy his curiosity. Silently he lowered himself to the ground upon the same side as the light and moved cautiously forward. Beneath his bare feet he felt stone flagging, and guessed that he was in a paved courtyard.

He had crossed about half the distance to the light when the retreating storm flashed a farewell bolt from the distance. This distant lightning but barely sufficed to relieve momentarily the darkness surrounding the ape-man, revealing a low building, a lighted window, a deeply recessed doorway in the shelter of which stood a man. It also revealed Tarzan to the man in the doorway.

Instantly the silence was shattered by the brazen clatter of a gong. The door swung open, and men bearing torches rushed out. Tarzan, impelled by the natural caution of the beast, turned to run, but as he did so, he saw other open doors upon his flanks, and armed men with torches were rushing from these as well.

Realizing that flight was useless, Tarzan stood still with folded arms as the men converged upon him from three directions.

The torches carried by some of the men showed Tarzan that he was in a paved, quadrangular courtyard enclosed by buildings upon three sides and the wall he had scaled upon the fourth. Their light also revealed the fact that he was being surrounded by some fifty men armed with spears, the points of which were directed toward him in a menacing circle.

'Who are you?' demanded one of the men as the cordon drew tightly about him. The language in which the man spoke was the same as that which Tarzan had learned from Valthor, the common language of the enemy cities of Athne and Cathne.

'I am a stranger from a country far to the south,' replied the ape-man.

'What are you doing inside the walls of the palace of Nemone ?' The speaker's voice was threatening, his tone accusatory.

'I was crossing the river far above here when the flood caught me and swept me down; it was only by chance that I finally made a landing here.'

The man who had been questioning him shrugged. 'Well', he admitted, 'it is not for me to question you, anyway. Come! You will have a chance to tell your story to an officer, but he will not believe it either.'

They conducted Tarzan into a large, low-ceilinged room which was furnished with rough benches and tables. Upon the walls hung weapons, spears and swords. There were shields of elephant hide studded with gold bosses. Upon the walls were mounted the heads of animals; there were the heads of sheep and goats and lions and elephants.

Two men guarded Tarzan in one corner of the room, while another was dispatched to notify a superior of the capture. The remainder loafed about the room, talking, playing games, cleaning their weapons. The prisoner took the opportunity to examine his captors.

They were well-set-up men, many of them not illfavoured, though for the most part of ignorant and brutal appearance. Their helmets, habergeons, wristlets, and anklets were of elephant hide heavily embossed with gold studs. Long hair from the manes of lions fringed the tops of their anklets and wristlets and was also used for ornamental purposes along the crests of their helmets and upon some cf their shields and weapons. The elephant hide that composed their habergeons was cut into discs, and the habergeon fabricated in a manner similar to that one of ivory which Valthor had worn. In the centre of each shield was a heavy brass of solid gold. Upon the harnesses and weapons of these common soldiers was a fortune in the precious metal.

While Tarzan, immobile, silent, surveyed the scene with eyes that seemed scarcely to move yet missed no detail, two warriors entered the room, and the instant that they crossed the threshold silence fell upon the men congregated in the chamber. Tarzan knew by that these were officers, though their trappings would have been sufficient evidence of their superior stations in life.

At a word of command from one of the two, the common warriors fell back, clearing one end of the room; then the two seated themselves at a table and ordered Tarzan's guards to bring him forward. As the Lord of the Jungle halted before them, both men surveyed him critically.

'Why are you in Onthar?' demanded one who was evidently the superior, since he propounded all the questions during the interview.

Tarzan answered this and other questions as he had answered similar ones at the time of his capture, but he sensed from the attitudes of the two officers that neither was impressed with the truth of his statements. They seemed to have a preconceived conviction concerning him that nothing which he might say could alter.

'He does not look much like an Athnean,' remarked the younger man.

'That proves nothing,' snapped the other. 'Naked men look like naked men. He might pass for your own cousin were he garbed as you are garbed.'

'Perhaps you are right, but why is he here? A man does not come alone from Thenar to raid in Onthar. Unless—' he hesitated, 'unless he was sent to assassinate the queen!'

'I had thought of that,' said the older man. 'Because of what happened to the last Athnean prisoners we took, the Athneans are very angry with the queen. Yes, they might easily attempt to assassinate her.'

Tarzan was almost amused as he Contemplated the ease with which these two convinced themselves that what they wanted to believe true, was true. But he realized that this form of one-sided trial might prove disastrous to him if his fate were to be decided by such a tribunal, and so he was prompted to speak.

'I have never been in Athne,' he said quietly. 'I am from a country far to the south. An accident brought me here. I am not an enemy. I have not come to kill your queen or any other. Until today I did not know that your city existed.' This was a long speech for Tarzan of the Apes. He was almost positive that it would not influence his captors, yet there was a chance that they might believe him.

Men are peculiar, and none knew this better than Tarzan, who, because he had seen rather less of men than of beasts, had been inclined to study those whom he had seen. Now he was studying the two men who were questioning him. The elder he judged to be a man accustomed to the exercise of great power-cunning, ruthless, cruel. Tarzan did not like him. His was the instinctive appraisal of the wild beast.

The younger man was of an entirely different mould. He was intelligent rather than cunning; his countenance bespoke a frank and open nature. The ape-man judged that he was honest and courageous.

While he was certain that the younger man had little authority, compared with that exercised by his superior, vet Tarzan thought best to address him rather than the other. He thought that he might win an ally in the younger man ad was sure that he could never influence the elder, unless it was very much to the latter's interests to be influenced. And so, when he spoke again, he spoke to the younger of the two officers.

'Are these men of Athne like me?' he asked.

For an instant the officer hesitated: then he said, quite frankly, 'No, they are not like you. You are unlike any man that I have seen'.

'Are their weapons like my weapons?' continued the ape-man. 'There are mine over in the corner of the room; your men took them away from me. Look at them.'

Even the elder officer seemed interested. 'Bring them here,' he ordered one of the warriors.

The man brought them and laid them on the table before the two officers; the spear, the bow, the quiver of arrows, the grass rope, and the knife. The two men picked them up one by one and examined them carefully. Both seemed interested.

'Are they like the weapons of the Athneans?' demanded Tarzan.

'They are nothing like them,' admitted the younger man. 'What do you suppose this thing is for, Tomos?' he asked his companion as he examined Tarzan's bow.

'Let me take it,' suggested Tarzan, 'and I will show you how it is used.'

The younger man handed the bow to the ape-man.

'Be careful, Gemnon,' cautioned Tomos. 'This may be a trick, a subterfuge by which he hopes to get possession of a weapon with which to kill us.' 'He cannot kill us with that thing,' replied Gemnon.

'Let's see how he uses it. Go ahead. Let's see, what did you say your name is?'

'Tarzan,' replied the Lord of the Jungle, 'Tarzan of the Apes.'

'Well, go ahead, Tarzan, but see that you don't attempt to attack any of us.'

Tarzan stepped to the table and took an arrow from his quiver; then he glanced about the room. On the wall at the far end a lion's head with open mouth hung near the ceiling. With what appeared but a single swift motion he fitted the arrow to the bow, drew the feathered shaft to his shoulder, and released it.

Every eye in the room had been upon him, for the common warriors had been interested spectators of what had been transpiring. Every eye saw the shaft quivering now where it protruded from the centre of the lion's mouth, and an involuntary exclamation broke from every throat, an exclamation in which were mingled surprise and applause.

'Take the thing away from him, Gemnon,' snapped Tomos. 'It is not a safe weapon in the hands of an enemy.'

Tarzan tossed the bow to the table. 'Do the Athneans use this weapon?' he asked.

Gemnon shook his head. 'We know no men who use such a weapon,' he replied.

'Then you must know that I am no Athnean,' stated Tarzan, looking squarely at Tomos.

'It makes no difference where you are from,' snapped Tomos; 'you are an enemy'.

The ape-man shrugged but remained silent. He had accomplished all that he had hoped for. He was sure that he had convinced them both that he was not an Athnean and had aroused the interest of the younger man.

Gemnon had leaned close to Tomos and was whispering in the latter's ear, evidently urging some action upon him. Tarzan could not hear what he was saying. The elder man listened impatiently; it was clear that he was not in accord with the suggestions of his junior.

'No,' he said when the other had finished. 'I will not permit anything of the sort. The life of the queen is too sacred to risk by permitting this fellow any freedom. We shall lock him up for the night, and tomorrow decide what shall he done with him.' He turned to a warrior who seemed to be an under-officer. 'Take this fellow to the strong-house,' he said 'and see that he does not escape.' Then he rose and strode from the room, followed by his younger companion.

When they had gone, the man in whose charge Tarzan had been left picked up the bow examined it. 'What do you call this thing?' he demanded.

'A bow,' replied the ape-man.

'And these?'


'Will they kill a man?'

'With them I have killed men and lions and buffaloes and elephants,' replied Tarzan. 'Would you like to learn how to use them?' Perhaps, he thought, a little kindly feeling in the guardroom might be helpful to him later on. Just at present he was not thinking of escape; these people and the city of gold were far too interesting to leave until he had seen more of them.

The man fingering the bow hesitated. Tarzan guessed that he wished to try his hand with the weapon but feared to delay carrying out the order of his officer.

'It will take but a moment,' suggested Tarzan. 'See, let me show you.'

Half-reluctantly the man handed him the bow and Tarzan selected another arrow.

'Hold them like this,' he directed and placed the bow and arrow correctly in the other's hands. 'Tell your men to stand aside; you may not shoot accurately at first. Aim at the lion's head, as I did. Now draw the bow-string back as far as you can.'

The man, of stocky, powerful build, tugged at the bow-string, but the bow that Tarzan bent so easily he could scarcely bend at all. When he released the arrow it flew but a few feet and dropped to the floor. 'What's wrong?' he demanded.

'It requires practice,' the ape-man told him.

'There is a trick to it,' insisted the under-officer. 'Let me see you do it again.'

The other warriors, watching with manifest interest, whispered among themselves or commented openly.

'It takes a strong man to bend that stick,' said one.

Althides, the under-officer, watched intently while Tarzan strung the bow again and bent it; he saw bow easily the stranger flexed the heavy wood, and he marvelled. The other men looked on in open admiration, and this time a shout of approval arose as Tarzan's second arrow crowded the first in the mouth of the lion.

Althides scratched his head. 'I shall have to lock you up now,' he said, 'or old Tomos will have my head on the wall of his palace, but I shall practise with this weapon until I learn to use it. Are you sure that there is no trick in bending that thing you call a bow?'

'There is no trick to it,' Tarzan assured him.

A guard accompanied Tarzan across the courtyard to another building where he was placed in a room which, in the light of the torches borne by his escort, he saw had another occupant. Then they left him, locking the heavy door behind them.

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