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Chapter 12 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

When his clothes were dry, Hunt dressed and tried to concoct a plan. He eventually decided his best bet was to wait here, as Tarzan had suggested, but found he could not muster the patience to do that. He could not stop thinking about Jean and those two terrible men. He considered trying the trees again, in spite of all that had happened, but this was a consideration that rapidly passed.

Hunt was not a man who loved weapons, but right now he wished he had a rifle. It would make him feel a bit more secure, and he could perhaps provide himself with meat instead of berries, a food he had quickly tired of. And with a rifle, the idea of going to Jean's rescue would be more realistic. What could he hope to accomplish with a knife?

Hunt worked a heavy branch off a tree by swinging on it until it cracked, then he used his knife to sharpen one end so that it might serve as a spear. With his new weapon and knife, he located what passed for a trail and, trying to maintain a northerly direction, set out.

As he went, he did not forget Tarzan's advice entirely. He kept his eyes open for landmarks and trees that he could climb, for he knew that after feeding, the lions would be lying up somewhere in the neighborhood. Even with full bellies, they might make an exception in his case, and decide to gorge on some fresh tenderfoot.

By noon, however, having seen no signs of lions, Hunt experienced a feeling of relief and security. The feeling of security was tempered, however, by his lack of a rifle. His sharpened stick had given him a bit of courage, but now, traveling about, hearing the movements of animals in the bush, he felt less brave. Ultimately, a stick, sharp or not, was just a stick. Also, he was hungry and was not sufficiently familiar with the fruits of the jungle to risk eating anything other than the berries Tarzan had shown him, and they were no longer available.

Late in the afternoon, Hunt noticed a change in the nature of the forest. His quick apprehension of this change was the result of his having spent the day walking and visually searching out trees he could climb, he discovered there weren't any trees in sight that would serve his purpose. The boles of the nearby trees were very large, no limbs grew near the ground, and no lianas dropped within his reach.
He accelerated his speed a little, hoping soon to find more gracious and hospitable foliage. And then, at the far end of a straight stretch of trail, he saw a lion, and worse yet, the lion saw him. It was coming slowly in his direction. Now it stopped. So did Hunt.

The lion lashed its tail and growled. Hunt slowly cocked his spear, then thought better of it and drew his knife. He decided he would rely on neither weapon totally, so he seized the blade between his teeth, and held the spear at ready. He was determined to sell his life dearly. It was either that or lie down and let the beast have a free lunch.

The lion growled softly, arched its body, but Hunt stood his ground. In spite of his willingness to fight, Hunt knew he had about as much chance as a June bug in a hen house. Even if he ran, in a few seconds the lion would overtake him and he would go down without ever defending himself. If he fought, his spear might not even pierce the lion's thick hide. If he used the knife, well, the odds weren't much better.

The lion was not hurrying. He moved steadily forward. When the beast was about twenty feet from Hunt, it dropped on its belly and swished its tail spasmodically, gathering its hind legs beneath its body.

This is it! thought Hunt. Then a large, round fruit struck the lion in the side of the head and blew apart in a red meaty spray. The lion jerked its head, insulted. Another fruit struck him. Then another.

From above, the fruit fell like rain. Heavy rain. It slammed the lion from head to tail. Finally, hurt, humiliated, the great beast turned and darted into the cover of the jungle.

Hunt removed the knife from his mouth, looked up, and laughed. The trees were full of monkeys. One of the little males seemed to be the leader. He leapt up and down on a limb and shook his arms as if they were nothing more than huge, hairy strips of spaghetti.

The monkey slowly descended the tree, and came chattering toward Hunt. Hunt realized it must be Tarzan's monkey, Nkima. He realized, too, that this beast had been the instigator of the attack on him, and now, using the same tactics, Nkima and his friends had saved him from a lion.

Hunt laughed. "Thank you, Nkima."

He doubted the monkey could understand what he was laying, but he hoped his attitude revealed his sincere thanks. Surely, Tarzan had left the monkey behind to keep an eye on him. That had to be it. Tarzan had not abandoned him entirely after all.

Nkima made a chuckling noise, bared his teeth in what might have been a monkey smile, then suddenly leapt into a tree and disappeared into the flora.

When Hunt looked up, trying to spy Nkima, none of the monkeys were in sight. Hunt lowered his head and laughed.

A large, ripe piece of fruit hit him solidly in the back of the head.

"Hey!" Hunt yelled, but his yell was concealed beneath the humorous chattering of a hundred monkeys hiding amongst the African greenery.

Hunt wiped the fruit from his neck, licked his fingers. The juice of the fruit was sweet. He decided it was edible and tried a piece. It was delightful. He shopped for chunks of the fruit that had exploded against the lion's body, and fed himself. When he was full, he sat down on the ground and thought over his situation.

He was going from bad to worse. He had not only failed to follow Tarzan's orders about staying put, he could not even find trees to climb, and he had been rescued from a ferocious lion by a pack of fruit-throwing monkeys.

Additionally, had he not been hit in the back of the head and tasted the juice of the fruit, he might well have gone hungry. He was about as nimble in the jungle as a sumo wrestler performing ballet.

Hunt did not like the idea of abandoning Jean, but he faced the fact that Tarzan was far more suitable as a rescuer than he. Actually, Hunt couldn't quite determine what he was suitable for. He made a great bull's-eye for the monkeys. Maybe that was worth something. He got home, perhaps he could find a job at the zoo as a target for irate monkeys. Kind of a Saturday afternoon kid show thing. There might even be some money in it.

Sighing, using his spear to climb to his feet, Hunt started back in the direction he had come, trying to relocate the cavern of skulls before night set in.

Hunt was only a bit confused. When he left the cavern, he had taken in certain landmarks, peculiar trees, an almost head-high anthill, odd rises and drops in the terrain, and by relocating these he was able to return to his original shelter.

He found an antelope lying dead at the mouth of the cavern. Its head was badly chewed, and there were chunks out of its dank. Hunt determined the meat had been left for him purposely by Tarzan's lion. The lion had helped himself first, but at least he had left a healthy portion.

Hunt was grateful for that, but the idea of eating raw antelope was not appealing. He pulled the carcass into the cavern, left it lying by the stream, and went in search of some stone that he could use against the edge of his knife to strike a spark.

He soon found himself in the cavern of skulls. He followed along the piles of bones farther than he had gone before, and presently came to the end of both skeletal remains and illumination. The rocks beyond were bleached of their phosphorescence, and the cavern was swallowed by absolute darkness.

Stuck between two skulls stacked against the wall with others, Hunt discovered an old torch. He pulled it down, but it crumbled useless in his hands. Even though it was rotten, Hunt realized it had to be relatively recent. Nothing made of wood could have survived since prehistoric times.

For the moment, however, he let that mystery pass. He continued his search for something with which he could strike a spark, and in the mouth of one of the skulls, he found two small pieces of flint, and realized suddenly that here was a primitive light switch. You used the stones to strike the torch to life. Of course, the torch was now nothing more than wood dust.

Hunt returned to the mouth of the cave, went outside and gathered fire tinder and wood, and returned to the comfortable interior of the cave. He struck the pieces of flint together, and after several false starts threw a spark into the tinder and gently blew on it, bringing it to life.

He added wood gradually, until a healthy fire was going, then he cut a portion of antelope meat off the carcass, and began roasting it on a stick he held into the fire. When the meat was somewhere between raw and burned to charcoal, he ate it.

Finished, he felt renewed strength and a stronger sense of purpose. His only problem was he wasn't sure of his purpose. He wanted it to be rescuing Jean, or possibly finding Small, but so far he had discovered that his woodcraft was somewhere on the level of a stone, and therefore, like a stone, it was best he stayed in one area.

But Hunt finally became bored with sitting and waiting. His archaeological curiosity got the better of him, and he felt it better to occupy his time with that than to think about Jean, Hanson, Small, and their predicaments. He drank deeply from the stream, and using strips of wet hide from the antelope's carcass, he bound his knife blade to a long, stout piece of firewood. He then used a couple of sticks to fashion torches by wrapping them with moss and dried vines he had pulled in for the purpose of fire tinder.

Hunt lit one of the torches, put out his cook fire by spreading it apart with a stick, and, taking up his spear and handmade torches, went exploring. He soon reached the end of the illumination and decided to proceed by torchlight. He had not gone far when the torchlight revealed drawings and paintings on the wall. The drawings were done with charcoal, the paintings with some sort of red and yellow ocher. Hunt held his torch close to the cave wall and examined them.

They were of great beasts: lions, buffalo, and creatures he could not identify. The unidentifiable creatures looked more insect than animal. The scenes depicted prehistoric humans battling them with spears. Hunt tried to decide what the creatures reminded him of, and finally came to the conclusion that if a praying mantis could grow to be six to seven feet tall and had heavier body construction, that would be what they most resembled.
What was even more curious was that in some of the drawings, the mantises were in strange and extravagant postures. There was something about the postures that rang a distant bell, but Hunt couldn't quite place them.

Hunt wondered if he had discovered a prehistoric documentation of an afore unknown creature, or if the drawings represented exaggerations. Storytelling. Made-up monsters. Perhaps the drawings were symbolic. The insects could be locusts, they could portray a plague to crops, and the warriors with their spears were representative of mankind battling the horrid plague.

Plague to what?


No. These prehistoric humans were hunters and gatherers, not farmers, and they had little time for silly symbolism. Leave that stuff to the professors who taught Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter by using symbolism charts in the backs of their teacher's editions.

Hunt proceeded into darkness, the torch flickering before him. He decided to advance only a few more feet and then return to the sanctuary of the brightly lit cavern behind him, but the drawings and paintings became more frequent, and he was entranced by them. This was an even greater archaeological find than he had first expected. It was phenomenal, in fact. Once he reported this to Hanson, the cave might even be named after him.

Wouldn't that be something? A prehistoric site named after him.

Hunt's Cavern.

Yeah. Hunt's Cavern. It had a ring to it. He liked it.

Following the cavern wall with his torch, trying to discern the content of the drawings, seeing more and more representations of the sticklike insects, Hunt continued to explore, and did not realize how long he had been walking until his torch began to sputter and smoke.

Pausing to light his spare torch, Hunt was amazed to find he was surrounded by darkness. The torch gave him immediate light, but when he turned to look behind him, extended the torch in that direction, he could no longer see the illuminated walls. He determined that, preoccupied with the paintings, he had most likely turned a corner and had gone off track.

He attempted to start back and was horrified when he came up against solid rock. He turned right and went along the cavern wall, using his torch to examine the paintings, hoping to spot a familiar one, but all of the paintings looked different. Some of them looked to have been painted quite recently.

Hunt tried several directions, but the results were always the same.

He was lost.

How had it happened?

He had been on course one moment, and the next he was utterly and completely confused. He decided to try and backtrack his steps again. He studied his situation, became confident of the problem, certain where he had made his wrong turn, and set out to correct it.

No sooner had he made his first assured step, than the floor went out from under him and he dropped down into empty and total darkness, the torch hurtling ahead of him like a burning meteor.

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