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Chapter 18 Tarzan and the Castaways by Edgar Rice Burroughs

For six weeks the life in the camp dragged on monotonously and without incident; and during that time, Patricia Leigh-Burden taught Itzl Cha to speak and understand enough English so that the little Mayan girl could carry on at least a sketchy conversation with the others, while Tarzan devoted much of his time to learning the Maya tongue from her. Tarzan, alone of the company, ventured occasionally into the jungle; and, from these excursions, he often returned with a wild pig.

His absence from camp always aroused Penelope Leigh's ire. "He is impudent and insubordinate," she complained to her husband. "You gave strict orders that no one was to go into the jungle, and he deliberately disobeys you. You should make an example of him."

"What do you suggest that I do with him, my dear?" asked the Colonel. "Should he be drawn and quartered, or merely shot at sunrise?"

"Don't try to be facetious, William; it does not become you. You should simply insist that he obey the regulations that you have laid down."

"And go without fresh pork?" asked the Colonel.

"I do not like pork," snapped Mrs. Leigh. "Furthermore, I do not like the goings-on around this camp; Mr. de Groote is far too intimate with that French woman, and the wildman is always around that Indian girl. Look at them now—always talking together; I can imagine what he is saying to her."

"He is trying to learn her language," explained the Colonel; "something that may prove very valuable to us later on, if we ever have any dealings with her people."

"Hmph!" snorted Mrs. Leigh; "a fine excuse. And the way they dress! If I can find some goods in the ship's stores, I shall make her a Mother Hubbard; and as for him—you should do something about that. And now look; there goes Patricia over to talk to them. William, you must put a stop to all this nonsense—it is indecent."

Colonel William Cecil Hugh Percival Leigh sighed; his was not an entirely happy existence. Many of the men were becoming restless, and there were some who had commenced to question his right to command them. He rather questioned it himself, but he knew that conditions would become unbearable if there were no one in authority. Of course Algy, Bolton, Tibbet, and Crouch backed him up, as did de Groote and Tarzan. It was upon Tarzan that he depended most, for he realized that here was a man who would brook no foolishness in the event of mutiny. And now his wife wanted him to insist that this half-savage man wear trousers. The Colonel sighed again.

Patricia sat down beside Tarzan and Itzl Cha. "How goes the class in Mayan?" she asked.

"Itzl Cha says that I am doing splendidly," replied Tarzan.

"And Itzl Cha is mastering English, after a fashion," said Patricia; "she and I can almost carry on an intelligent conversation. She has told me some very interesting things. Do you know why they were going to sacrifice her?"

"To some god, I suppose," replied Tarzan.

"Yes, to a god called Che, Lord Forest, to appease him for the affront done him by a man that claimed you were Che, Lord Forest.

"Itzl Cha is, of course, positive that she was rescued by no one less than Che, Lord Forest; and she says that many of her people will believe that too. She says that it is the first time in the history of her people that a god has come and taken alive the sacrifice being offered to him. It has made a deep impression on her and no one can ever convince her that you are not Che.

"Her own father offered her as a sacrifice in order to win favor with the gods," continued Patricia. "It is simply horrible, but it is their way; Itzl Cha says that parents often do this; although slaves and prisoners of war are usually the victims."

"She has told me a number of interesting things about her people and about the island," said Tarzan. "The island is called Uxmal, after a city in Yucatan from which her people migrated hundreds of years ago."

"They must be Mayans then," said Patricia.

"That is very interesting," said Dr. Crouch, who had joined them. "From what you have told us of your experiences in their city, and from what Itzl Cha has told us, it is evident that they have preserved their religion and their culture almost intact throughout the centuries since the migration. What a field this would be for the anthropologist and the archaeologist. If you could establish friendly relations with them, we might be able to solve the riddles of the hieroglyphs on their stelae and temples in Central America and South America."

"As the chances are that we shall be here all the rest of our lives," Patricia reminded him, "our knowledge would do the world very little good."

"I cannot believe that we shall never be rescued," said Dr. Crouch. "By the way, Tarzan, is this village that you visited the only one on the island?"

"I don't know as to that," replied the ape man, "but these Mayans are not the only people here. At the northern end of the island, there is a settlement of what Itzl Cha calls 'very bad people.' The history of the island, handed down largely by word of mouth, indicates that survivors of a shipwreck intermarried with the aborigines of the island, and it is their descendants who live in this settlement; but they do not fraternize with the aborigines who live in the central part of the island."

"You mean that there is a native population here?" asked Dr. Crouch.

"Yes, and we are camped right on the south-western edge of their domain. I have never gone far enough into their country to see any of them, but Itzl Cha says that they are very savage cannibals."

"What a lovely place fate selected for us to be marooned," remarked Patricia, "and then to make it all the cozier, you had to turn a lot of lions and tigers loose in it." Tarzan smiled.

"At least we shall not perish from ennui," remarked Janette Laon.

Colonel Leigh, Algy, and Bolton sauntered up, and then de Groote joined the party. "Some of the men just came to me," said the Dutchman, "and wanted me to ask you, Colonel, if they could try to break up the Saigon and build a boat to get away from here. They said they would rather take a chance of dying at sea than spending the rest of their lives here."

"I don't know that I can blame them," said the Colonel. "What do you think of it, Bolton?"

"It might be done," replied the Captain.

"Anyway, it will keep them busy," said the Colonel; "and if they were doing something they wanted to do, they wouldn't be complaining all the time."

"I don't know where they would build it," said Bolton. "They certainly can't build it on the reef; and it wouldn't do any good to build it on shore, for the water in the lagoon would be too shallow to float it."

"There is deep water in a cove about a mile north of here," said Tarzan, "and no reef."

"By the time the blighters have taken the Saigon apart," said Algy, "and carried it a mile along the coast, they'll be too exhausted to build a boat."

"Or too old," suggested Patricia.

"Who's going to design the boat?" asked the Colonel.

"The men have asked me to," replied de Groote; "my father is a shipbuilder, and I worked in his yard before I went to sea."

"It's not a bad idea," said Crouch; "do you think you can build a boat large enough to take us all?"

"It depends upon how much of the Saigon we can salvage," replied de Groote. "If we should have another bad storm soon, the whole ship might break up."

Algernon Wright-Smith made a sweeping gesture toward the forest. "We have plenty of lumber there," he said, "if the Saigon fails us."

"That would be some job," said Bolton.

"Well, we've got all our lives to do it in, old thing," Algy reminded him.

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