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Chapter 6 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Hunt and Small fought mosquitoes while they finished lunch. Hunt's pale, white skin was sunburned on the neck and forearms, and the mosquito bites were driving him crazy. Small, a Negro, was not so burned, but the mosquitoes seemed to love him. He had long gotten past making jokes about how sweet the dark meat was. After a while, mosquito bites ceased to be funny.

Hunt, finishing up his food-hardtack and canned meat-rose from his camp stool with the excuse he needed to leave camp to relieve himself. He went into the tent, got his .45 automatic and strapped it on, walked past the bearers who were sitting in a circle eating. They eyed him coldly. The way they looked at him made his stomach sour. It wasn't that they hated him, it was just they didn't respect him. Not that he blamed them.

Hunt went out into the bush. When he felt he was far enough away from camp, he leaned on a tree and cried. Not big savage boo-hoos, but hot, wet tears he had been holding back for days.

He was lost as the proverbial goose. He and Small had proved to be little better than a Laurel and Hardy expedition, even if neither of them resembled the comedians. Hunt decided if he were any more lost, he might turn up at the University of Texas, where this whole mess had begun. He had not wanted to go into the jungle anyway. It was hot. He had wanted to be near Jean, and then he had discovered Professor Hanson wanted to split the expedition up, as he was uncertain if the valley containing the lost city could easily be reached from both sides. He thought it might be better if one small group made it and made scientific studies, than if one large group did not make it. Hunt had volunteered to lead the second group, and Hanson had eagerly agreed.

Hunt realized now that Hanson's confidence in him had been vastly overrated, for he was definitely not going to make it. He had just about decided they should turn back, but he didn't know how to turn back. The map had turned into nonsense. Nothing fit out here. It wasn't like there were road signs and such. And Small, he read the map well enough, but he couldn't follow it. Neither of them had any business in the jungle, and he realized now that Jean had been right about him all the time. He was an idiot. And he had been right about Small. He was an idiot, too. They were both idiots. And they were lost.

Hunt wiped his eyes, found the trail, and was about to start back to camp when he saw three men with rifles walking toward him. They started when they saw him, same as he did when he saw them.

One of them, a big black man with a face that looked as if it had been chewed real good and spat out, said, "This is supposed to be the jungle, not Grand Central Station ... Who are you?" "Who are you?" Hunt asked.

Wilson studied Hunt. He was an average-sized man, in his middle twenties. Very blond. Very smooth-faced. And quite sunburned.

"Our safari has run off," Wilson said. "Couple of the askaris convinced our bunch to rob us. We've gone after them."

"To shoot them?" Hunt asked. The whole prospect excited and terrified him.

"Not if we don't have to," Wilson said. "We just want our stuff back. We're hunters."

"I don't hunt animals," Hunt said. "Unless for food, and we have plenty of food."

"We?" Gromvitch said.

Hunt studied Gromvitch. He wished suddenly he hadn't said anything. Gromvitch was a small, weasel-faced man, and the mention of food seemed to excite him. Of course, that could just be because he was hungry. Then again, these men, they didn't exactly look like great checker companions. And the fat one, Hunt didn't like that one at all. He wasn't as tough or confident-looking as the big black man with the chewed-looking face, but there was something about him that made Hunt's skin crawl.

Then Hunt thought: come on, man. You're being judgmental. If there was one thing you learned in Sunday school, it was that you shouldn't judge others. That you couldn't tell a book by its cover. These men are lost, probably hungry, and that accounts for their savage appearance.

"My companion, Elbert Small," Hunt finally answered. "Our ten bearers."

"You have askaris?" Wilson asked. "Guides?"

"They sort of ran off," Hunt said.

"Sort of ran off?" Wilson asked.
"They didn't like the way we were running things, so they sort of ran off."

Wilson thought about that a moment, concluded this man was most likely a fool. He was lost, but wouldn't admit it. The young man's bearers could lead him out of the jungle if they so chose, but perhaps they were having the time of their lives, following this idiot about. In the end, when supplies got low, they would desert, taking what was left, or they would lead the boy into their village and insist they be paid handsomely for bringing him to civilization. Wilson had seen that sort of thing before, back when he hunted big game. Back before the Foreign Legion.

"If you're not a hunting expedition," Cannon said, "then what are you?"

"A scientific expedition," Hunt said. "We're supposed to meet up with some comrades." He started to admit to being lost, but held back.

"Whatcha doing out here away from your safari?" asked Cannon.

"Heeding the call of nature," Hunt said.

"We're hungry," Wilson said. "We've been without food, for the most part of a day, and we figure we don't bring down some game soon, we're gonna be hungrier. I'd rather not wait to bring it down, if you can spare a little food."

Hunt wasn't sure he could spare anything. He wasn't sure how to get out of the jungle, how far the coast was. The desert. Civilization. He might as well have been blindfolded and parachuted into the jungle, confused as he was. But he said, "Come into camp and eat."

Small was sitting on his camp stool, leaning over the camp table, turning the map this way and that. All right now, he thought. The top of the map is north, the bottom south. But where am I on the map, and if I knew, would I know if I was facing the bottom of the map, or the top? Or the sides? Can you go through the center of a map?

He broke out his Boy Scout Handbook. He reread the part about the sun setting in the west, rising in the east, being overhead about midday. But it didn't say anything about the sun falling down behind the jungle when it grew late, or that you could proceed on what you thought was a straight line, only to find yourself back at the spot where you started a day or two later. The Handbook didn't mention that. That was a kind of secret it kept to itself. The part about going in circles.

So far, they had managed to do just that, at least a half-dozen times. Small couldn't decide if they were near their destination, closer to where they started, right in the middle, spinning around, or if they were in the midst of a nightmare.

What he did know was this: they had plenty of food and water and ammunition, but the askaris had deserted with a couple of their packs, leaving only the bearers, who had so little English at their command, Small wasn't sure how to communicate with them properly. He could manage to get them moving, but they merely followed him and Hunt blindly about.

Small put the Handbook away, folded up the map. He fiddled with some of the hardtack and canned meat, but found he wasn't very hungry. He got out a deck of cards. He was pretty good at solitaire. He liked that. It was one . of the few things he did in life that resulted in him winning. At least occasionally. And, as far as Small was concerned, all things considered, occasionally was good enough.

Small had just laid out a row of cards on the table, when he turned his head to the sound of Hunt returning. He saw the three men with him, and at first he thought it was Hanson and his party, then his hopes were immediately dashed when he realized it was not.

He stood up slowly from the camp stool, studying the three men as they approached with Hunt. They didn't look like the friendly sort.

"I found these folks in the jungle," Hunt said.

"You don't say?" Small said. "Well, small world."

"Yeah, ain't it?" said the fat one.

Hunt told Small what they had told him, about their bearers running off. Wilson studied their camp and said, "Seems to me you boys are a little lost."

"Bewildered," Hunt said.

"Lost," Small said. "You fellas wouldn't happen to know this part of the country?"

Wilson leaned over and helped himself to what was left of the hardtack. He dipped a piece of it into an open can of potted meat. He ate it hungrily. "How about we get some grub from you, boys?"

"Well, yeah," Hunt said. "I guess so."

Hunt went into the tent and came out with a pack. He opened it, passed out provisions. Wilson took Hunt's camp stool, sat at the camp table eating. Gromvitch and Cannon squatted nearby, scooping in the meat tins with their fingers, smacking.

"You do know the country, then?" Small asked. "Yeah," Wilson said. "We know it. Some. But we ain't got any supplies. You know what I'm saying?"

"I think so," Hunt said.

"What I think we got to do, see," Wilson said, "is, you know, team up. We share your grub and ammo and stuff, and we point you in the right direction. Where you want to go? The coast?"

"No," Hunt said. "Not really. Like I said. We're a scientific expedition. We're supposed to meet up with another party, and, well, I think we've gotten turned around."

"Maybe more than once, huh?" Gromvitch said. Hunt tried to smile, but only the corner of his mouth worked. "Few times, actually." Gromvitch chuckled.

"You got anything to smoke?" Cannon asked. "Cigarettes? Cigars? Pipe?"

"No," Hunt said. "We don't smoke."

"Chew?" Cannon asked.

"No," Hunt said. "We don't do that either."

"How about some coffee?" Cannon said. "You do that, don't you?"

"Yeah," Hunt said. "We drink coffee ... Wait a minute. I don't like your tone. We don't work for you guys."

Wilson stood up, very quickly, and he had the .45 in his hand. Neither Hunt nor Small had seen him draw the gun. He moved swiftly and swung the .45 out and hit Hunt behind the ear, and Hunt went down on one knee. Small rose to his feet. He half wished he had on his gun, but was half glad he didn't. Had he tried to use it, these men would surely have killed him. He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see the fat man standing behind him, smiling, with potted meat on his teeth.

"Why don't you sit back down there," said Cannon. "Just so's you'll stay comfortable. Know what I'm sayin'?"

Small sat down. Wilson was removing the .45 from Hunt's side, and he wasn't in any hurry about it. The blow had stunned Hunt tremendously. Hunt was bent forward now with his head on the ground. Blood was running out from his hair and onto the side of his face.

Gromvitch walked over to the bearers, who had looked to run at the first sign of commotion. He pointed a rifle at them and spoke in their language. They sat back down in a circle.

Gromvitch came back. He said, "They see it our way, those fellas do. They like that I offered 'em some big money too. 'Course, they ain't gonna get it. Or nothin'. But I think it was real big of me to make the gesture, and it's good to see they got about as much loyalty as a duck."

"Our kind of people, no doubt," Wilson said. Then to Smalclass="underline" "Maybe you could put a compress on your buddy's head there. Naw, never mind. It'll stop bleeding pretty quick, way he's fallen over there in the dirt. Dirt plugs stuff good. Now, what were we sayin'? Oh, yeah, your buddy was sayin' how you boys don't work for us. But you know what? We're beginning to visualize you in the role. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Least from our end of the stick. And about that scientific expedition you're on. I think maybe it's gonna have to wait some. What was it anyway? Catching some kind of rare butterfly or something? Cataloguing grub worms?"

Small shook his head, but offered no explanation. Hunt, slightly recovered, thought: I get out of this. I get back to civilization. I'm going to hunt up my old Sunday school teacher, and tell her sometimes you can judge by appearance, then I'm going to punch her right in the nose.

Wilson reached out and picked up the map Small had folded and placed on the camp table. He opened it. He said, "Well now, and who says there's no such thing as coincidence?"
The first thing Tarzan saw was Wilson, grinning.

"Howdy," Wilson said. "Remember me?"

Tarzan didn't answer. He took in everything. Cannon. Hunt and Small, who, from their manner and lack of weapons, he immediately knew to be captives.

"I just want to wish you a fond farewell," Wilson said. Tarzan's expression didn't change, and that irritated Wilson some. But only for a moment. Then his good humor returned. Smiling, Wilson picked up his pack and headed back through the brush toward the trail.

"Too bad you don't have your big kitty with you," Cannon said to Tarzan, then poked Hunt and Small with his rifle. "You two morons, move on."

Hunt and Small flashed Tarzan helpless looks, then with hung heads they were prodded through the brush by the tip of Cannon's rifle.

Late afternoon in Africa is not yet a time of coolness. It grows hotter until near sundown, and as the day heated, Tarzan felt the tension in his ankles, wrists, and neck. The bonds were tight to begin with, but slowly they began to dry. In another two hours, before it became dark, they would shrink to half their size. They would literally cut through his flesh.

Tarzan was angry with himself. He had grown complacent. Perhaps he had been away from the jungle too long. He had been so preoccupied with the antelope, he had not been as alert as he might have been. It looked as if now he would not get the chance to rehone his abilities. And that was the way of the jungle. A mistake was unforgiving.

An hour passed, and Tarzan continued to strain at his bonds. He had been successful in thrusting his heels against the tree and pushing at the leather bonds at his ankles enough to break them, but he could not get leverage for the ones that bound his wrists. Wilson had Hunt and Small pull his arms too high and fasten them too tight. Struggling against the bond about his neck was useless. The slightest movement choked him.

Tarzan looked out across the veldt, watched a herd of buffalo slowly grazing toward him. He hoped they would eventually pass him. The water buffalo, Gorgo, was probably the most dangerous animal in all of Africa. The most unpredictable, and the one who hated man the most.

Tarzan watched as a great bull strayed away from the others in his direction and went suddenly alert, sniffing the air. Tarzan knew that Usha the wind had carried his scent to the bull's nostrils.

Gorgo snorted, pawed the ground. His eyes had not yet located Tarzan, but the ape-man knew the animal's great sense of smell would lead Gorgo to him.

Tarzan could see the bull was a veteran of many years. There were great marks on its sides from the claws of lions, the horns of other bulls. Tarzan could not help but admire Gorgo's strength and power. The bull was a magnificent animal.

Gorgo trotted forward, filling its nostrils. It turned sideways, ran to the right, turned, ran to the left. It tossed its head from side to side. It was zeroing in on Tarzan's scent, for its sense of smell was far better than its eyes.

Suddenly, the bull stopped. It had spied Tarzan. Tarzan thought: at least death will be quick.

Gorgo lowered its great head. It pawed the earth. Sunlight caught the tips of its horns and threw shining rays at the sky.

Then, with a bellow, the great bull charged.

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