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Chapter 14 Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Edgar Rice Burroughs

When Hunt fell, the torch fell before him, a bright star speeding into dark infinity. Hunt, seeing the torch go fast and away, knew he was lost. Then he struck something solid and the breath exploded out of him.

As he lay there aching, he could still see the torch falling, and for a moment he was confused, then realized what had happened.

He had stepped into a chasm and had landed on a ledge, his head hanging off of it, and he could see the torch falling. Falling. Falling. And then it vanished. Either it had gone out or struck bottom. Hunt suspected the first.

Hunt lay where he had fallen for a time, trying to regain his breath and decide what to do. He was in total darkness, and he feared any move he might make would send him after his torch, yet he could not remain here.

Carefully, Hunt eased to his knees. His ribs ached, but nothing seemed broken. He backed along the ledge until he came up against a rock wall. In backing, he touched his spear and recovered it.

Hunt put the spear across his knee and applied pressure with his hands until the shaft cracked. With this done, he removed his shut and wrapped it carefully around the broken stick. He used the knife-end of his broken spear to hack at the wadded shirt, fraying it. He recovered the flint from his pocket, set about creating a spark. Since he did all of this in the darkness by feel, it took a long time, but eventually a spark jumped onto the shirt and caught. Hunt blew on the spark and it went out. He tried again, was finally rewarded with a blaze. Hunt realized his torch would not last long, so he lifted it high so he could see how far he had fallen.

Twelve feet!

He had been lucky. It was a miracle the impact had not broken his ribs, though they certainly felt deeply bruised.

Hunt tried to find a way to climb up, but the wall was straight and slick as glass. Checking to his left he saw that his ledge wound into an opening in the rock. He proceeded in that direction. As he did, the flame on the torch rippled. There was a strong current of air coming from the shaft.

Stepping into the tunnel, Hunt paused for a moment, considering. The torch had little life left. He could either go back to the ledge and try and scale that slick wall, or he could see where this led. The latter seemed the only logical decision.

He had gone only a few steps when the torchlight revealed open clay gutters running along the sides of the tunnel wall-man-made gutters. He held the torch over one of the gutters. It was full of some kind of black liquid. Stagnant water perhaps. It was clogged with thousands of insects. Hunt stuck a finger into the blackness, rubbed it between thumb and forefinger, sniffed it.

Oil. The gutters were filled with oil. Suddenly, he understood their purpose. Hunt took a deep breath, plunged his torch into the gutter. Flames vaulted up and the corridor turned the color of a jack-o'-lantern. His shadow writhed against the opposite wall.

Hunt lit the gutter on the other side. His path was now well illuminated. He tossed the torch away, took a solid grip on his short spear, and proceeded forward.

* * *
When Small opened his eyes he was looking into a man's face. It startled him and he rolled violently to his left and fell from the tree.

Or would have, but a strong hand grabbed him and pulled him back.

Tarzan said, "Take it easy. I will not eat you."

"You," Small said. "Thank heaven. I thought you were dead . . . hey, wasn't me did that to you. I wasn't in on that. Me and the other guy, Hunt, we didn't have anything to do with it. We were captives ourselves."

"I know," Tarzan said. "I have much to do, so shut up, and let me tell you all that has happened."

When Tarzan finished, Small said, "What about Hunt?"

"I needed to move fast, so I left him."

"What about me?"

"You're a problem," Tarzan said. "I had a good place to leave Hunt. Nkima and Jad-bal-ja can provide him assistance, if he does not decide to be stupid. And I fear he might."

"Hey," Small said, "I've got to tell you, I'm beginning to think Hunt and I don't do anything that isn't stupid."

"I hope you are not proud of it."

"Hardly. But you were saying about me. That's something that concerns me. Me, I mean."

"I have no place to leave you that I feel is safe. I suppose I will have to take you along. The only advantage is that I believe we are not far from the Hansons. Their sign and spoor is strong."

"How did you find me?"

"I smelled you. You stink."

"Yeah, and you're a rose. I'm out here in the jungle, man. You outrun a panther, hide in a tree, and eat grub worms, you get a little ripe."

"What I mean is your natural body odor is a stench. All men smell strong to me. I was raised with the animals. I do not have their highly developed sense of smell, but there is not more than an ounce of difference between me and them."

"How do you manage to be around humans, then? Uh, other humans? I mean, we're so ripe to you, looks like you'd be overwhelmed all the time."

"If I live in civilization, I become accustomed to it in time. But now, back in the jungle, I find my senses are more acute. And therefore, you stink."

"Might I ask about the aroma of animals? Is their smell like perfume?"

"No," said Tarzan, "but it is not nauseating."

Tarzan helped Small down from the tree. Small tried to brush his underwear free of dirt and bark, but it was an insurmountable task.

Tarzan grinned. "You look very silly."

"This from a man in a G-string."

Tarzan laughed.

"Maybe we could find my pants and shirt?" Small said.

"No time," Tarzan said. "Come. We must cover territory. Not only is the spoor of the Hanson safari strong, there is an overlapping spoor. That of your former captors."

"Hey," Small said, "let me tell you about those two, they're meaner than snakes."

"I have been subject to their hospitality," Tarzan said.

"Oh, yeah, that's right. But trust me, they don't mellow out at all. They stay tense. What they did to you, they could do that hourly. Maybe worse."

"You are afraid?" Tarzan asked.

"Yeah," Small said. "I'm afraid. I won't try to snow you. I'm scared to death. Of the jungle. Of them. Even you make me a little nervous."

"Are you coming?"

"Of course. I didn't say I wouldn't. What am I going to do by myself out here? And I want to stop those guys anyway. They're going after the Hansons, and it isn't to share coffee."

"Yes, I know."

"And this other guy that was with them," Small said. "You say he's dead?"

"He could not be any deader," Tarzan said.

"And our safari is gone?"
"Either dead from the storm or they have run off. Now, come."

With that, the ape-man started off at a trot and Small did his best to follow.

Billy awoke and was surprised by the sun. The great storm had cleared such a path that the sky was easily visible. Growing up in the jungle, it was seldom Billy had seen such a vast expanse of sky. Sometimes on the veldt he would look up at it in awe, but his natural habitat was the jungle, and of course he had seen the sun before, but now, here it was, big as a flaming ostrich egg, and all about it was a radiant blue sky.

At first Billy thought he might be dead. That this was the beauty of the other side. Then he felt pain from his wounds and knew, in fact, he was alive. Billy sat up slowly, looked around, saw the bodies of two bearers, friends of his. Hanson's body lay nearby.

Billy eventually made it to his feet, checked the bearers. Quite dead. Hanson, on the other hand, groaned when he touched him.

"Bwana," Billy said. "I thought you dead."

"Help me, Billy."

Billy rolled Hanson on his back. Hanson was bloody, but breathing well enough. There was no gory spittle on his lips, so Billy concluded that no major internal organs had been punctured.

"Sit me up," Hanson said.

"I don't know, Bwana."

"It's all right. I'll be okay."

"Talking about me. Not sure I am strong enough to sit you up. Doing good to squat here."

"Of course. Sorry."

"All right. Give me time, then maybe I hop around like frog, wrestle crocodile, and sit you up. Right now, though, not feeling all that hoppy. Think I will lie down beside you."

Billy practically collapsed beside Hanson.

"Billy?" Hanson said.

"Yeah, Bwana."

"We going to make it?"

"Not a soothsayer. Can't tell. I think old men in village who read future in smoking animal guts probably not know. Figure all along they just handling hot guts. Me, I can lie without guts. But I prefer not to. Too tired to make anything up. We live maybe. Die maybe."

Hanson was uncertain how his simple question had led to reading the future in smoking animal entrails, but all he could say was: "Jean?"

"They took her away, Bwana. Alive."

"Thank God!"

"Took everyone else away, except for two dead. Udalo. Ydeni. Friends of mine. Good men. Both dead."

"Yes, good men."

"I don't think tree-people meant to kill anyone."

"Nice to know it was all an accident."

"They not mind killing. But Billy think they prefer to take alive, for whatever reason, and I got feeling we knew reason it would not make us happy much. They would take us, they thought we were alive. Try and kill us only because we give them serious trouble."

"They leave the guns?"


"At least Jean's alive. I have to go after her, Billy."

"I know that."

"God, I'm so sleepy."

"Loss of blood. Both of us leak like rotten boat."

"I'm not still bleeding, though, am I?"

"No. You have not so good wounds, but not so bad either ... Bwana, got to tell you, don't know when or if I'm gonna feel froggy."

"Got to... they've got Jean and your friends."

"Right now, Bwana ... right now, think maybe I got to nap little bit."

Hanson did not respond.

"Bwana?" Billy said.

Then Billy heard Hanson's deep breathing. Pain and loss of blood had caused him to pass out.

Rest a little, thought Billy. That's all we need. Rest a little, then we'll be okay. Go after Jean and friends. We'll get them back.

But just as Billy was about to close his eyes, he realized things had gone from bad to worse. A man stepped into view and stood over him. Billy recognized the face.


"Dangit," Billy said.

When the great sword fell Jean closed her eyes and hoped there would be no pain.

And there wasn't.

The sword struck with a thunk.

Jean opened her eyes. She could still see. Oh, no, she thought. The head does live for a time after decapitation. But at least she did not feel pain.


Jean tried to move. Her neck turned.

It was connected to her head.

She lifted her chin. The laughter was coming from the warriors, the executioner, and the woman who had led her to the block. They were having a merry time.

The sword that would have taken her head was buried close to her neck in the block. It had all been a joke.

The executioner worked the sword back and forth, managed to remove it from the block. When this was done, the woman jerked the leash, pulling Jean into the dirt. She yanked again and Jean struggled to her feet.

So, thought Jean, all that business before, this woman making the male warrior leave her alone, that had apparently been to expedite matters, and had nothing to do with feelings of humanity.

Jean studied the woman's face carefully. She did not want to forget it. Her time would come, and when it did, this woman would die. And there would be no joke about it.

As Jean was led away, one of the male captives was forced to his knees, his head pushed down on the block.

Jean turned away, heard the sword whistle and thunk soundly into the chopping block. Afterward came the wailing of the condemned and the cheers of the captors.

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