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Chapter 5 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Preceded by Blk, the company of sun worshippers moved off cautiously down the trail and with them went the golden-haired girl, walking between two grotesque, low-browed beasts, and a moment later disappeared from the sight of Dick and Doc beyond the same turn in the trail that had first hidden the reconnoitering Blk from their view.

Doc and Dick stood like two statues.

For several minutes neither of the boys spoke. One of the causes of their silence was undoubtedly the result of caution lest they attract the attention of the party to themselves, but the other was amazement induced by the sight of this dainty white girl in such gruesome-looking company.

Dick was the first to break the silence after it seemed quite safe to assume that the men were out of hearing.

"What do you suppose that pretty girl is doing with those awful men?" he whispered.

"She can't possibly be the daughter of one of them," said Doc; "why, they scarcely look like human beings. Did you ever see such terrible-looking creatures? They look more like gorillas than they do like anything human!"

"They were not gorillas, though," said Dick. "They are men all right, but such men! Golly, I'm glad they didn't catch us."

"But they caught her," said Doc.

"Do you suppose she is a prisoner?" asked Dick in alarm.

"She must be. Did you see how one of them walked on either side of her, as though they were afraid she might try to escape."

"What do you suppose they are going to do to her?"

"Maybe they're cannibals."

"They look uglier than Galla Galla's tribe. They might be anything," said Dick with a shudder.

For a few moments the boys were silent, each absorbed in his own thoughts. An entirely new and, to them, unheard-of problem confronted them and each was wrestling with it in his own way. What were they to do? That question kept revolving in the mind of each.

"Listen," said Dick finally, "that girl doesn't belong with such a gang of half-brutes as those fellows are. Maybe they're going to kill her. They certainly aren't taking her along with them for any good. I'll bet they kidnapped her. They may be holding her for ransom or they may be just wild cannibals and are going to eat her. We've got to do something."

"That is just what I've been thinking," said Doc, "but what can we do?"

"I don't know, but we've got to do something," said Dick, scratching his head in perplexity.

"We might follow them," suggested Doc. "Perhaps we could find a chance to rescue her."

"We ought to follow them anyway," agreed Dick, "to see where they take her, and then if we do get a chance to rescue her we'll be there to do it."

"Good old Dick!" exclaimed Doc. "I knew you'd agree."

The question then arose as to whether they should follow along the ground or in the trees and they finally decided that it would be safer to keep to the latter, even though they might have to exert themselves more to keep up with the party.

As they moved back into the forest above the trail taken by the frightful twenty they put behind them all thought of their own safety and welfare, sacrificing their own chances for rescue in the interest of a total stranger; but that was because, being what they were, they could not have done otherwise.

Many generations of brave men lay behind them, men to whom duty meant more than comfort or safety or even life. These two boys did not think of the thing that they were doing as a brave, self-sacrificing, courageous thing to do. They only thought of it as something that they must do, as each had been reared among people in whom it is almost a hereditary conviction that a man is the natural protector of women and the weak. In their veins coursed the sort of blood that sent the women and the children to the life boats of the Titanic while the men remained on the deck until the great ship took its final dive into the icy waters of the Atlantic.

More rapidly now, but still with utmost caution the two boys followed the spoor of their quarry, their nerves tingling with the thrill of the hunt. They were moving through the trees now with far greater ease and confidence and this resulted in greater speed with less effort, so that it was not long before they came within hearing of the twenty men and their fair captive and shortly thereafter they caught a glimpse of the rearmost member of the party.

For hours they followed them, keeping safely out of sight and ever careful to move as quietly as possible. It was hard, gruelling work, not only because of the physical effort involved but because of the nervous tension that never relaxed even for a moment, and, too, they were hungry. The fruit they had eaten early in the day had been far from sufficient to meet the demands made upon their bodies and by noon they were ravenous, but they never once thought of abandoning their self-imposed mission of chivalry.

About mid-afternoon the twenty frightful men halted in a small natural clearing at the edge of a little brook.

The two boys, hiding amidst the foliage of a nearby tree, watched intently. They saw three of the men depart into the jungle in different directions, while some of the others gathered branches and foliage with which they constructed a crude shelter.

The girl, apparently very tired, had sunk listlessly to the ground, where she sat with bowed head, her chin resting in her cupped hands—a picture of forlorn and hopeless misery. The picture that she presented filled the hearts of the boys with compassion and imbued them with a stern resolve to let nothing interfere with their determination to save her.

"Gee," whispered Doc, "it makes me sick just to look at her sitting there among all those awful men. I never saw anyone look so terribly unhappy. We'll just have to do something."

"Perhaps we'll get a chance to save her tonight," suggested Dick.

"What'll we do with her?" demanded Doc.

"I don't know," replied Dick. "I never thought of that."

"She's nothing but a girl," Doc reminded him. "She couldn't swing through the trees or anything. If we got her away from them they'd catch us all again in no time."

"Maybe if we got her early in the evening we could get far enough away before morning so that they couldn't find us."

"I suppose if we kept to the trees with her, even if she couldn't go very fast, they wouldn't have any way of following our trail," said Doc. "Well, anyway," he added with a sigh, "we got to do it whether we get caught or not. We can't leave her with them and that's all there is to it."

"I'll tell you another thing, Doc," said his cousin; "we've got to eat. If we don't we'll be so weak we shan't be able to get out of here ourselves, let alone carrying the girl along with us. That's something to think about, too!"

"Maybe we can find some more of that nice breakfast fruit we had this morning," said Doc, making a wry face.

"What we need is meat," stated Dick, emphatically. "Being a vegetarian may be all right for some folks but it doesn't go for an Englishman."

"Nor for an American either," said Doc. "Ham or bacon for breakfast—that's me."

"Don't talk about such things," begged Dick. "Golly! I can feel my mouth water."

"We had a nurse once that wanted us to live on raw carrots and turnips," said Doc; "but Dad said it would be cheaper to order a bale of alfalfa and put mangers in the dining room. She got sore, then, and quit. But I agreed with Dad."

"Say," exclaimed Dick, "I've got an idea. They are evidently going to camp here until morning. What do you say we go and hunt for food and then come back? It doesn't look as though they were going to kill her right away, because if they were they wouldn't be building that shelter for her."

"How do you know it's for her?" asked Doc doubtfully.

"It must be. It's only large enough for one," was Dick's logical explanation.

"That's right," admitted Doc. "Let's start. It may not be so easy to find the sort of food we want."

"And it may not be so easy to kill it after we do find it."

"I can do better with my bow and arrows than I could a few days ago," Doc reminded him, "and you are pretty keen with your spear."

"All right, come on!"

The boys started off at right angles to the trail directly into the forest. Doc drew his hunting knife and cut pieces of bark from the trees through which they passed. He did it as silently as he could.

"What are you doing?" demanded Dick, who was in the lead and had chanced to turn to see what was delaying his cousin.

"I'm blazing our trail so that we can find our way back again," explained Doc.

"Good old Doc!" exclaimed Dick. "I'll say you use your old bean for something besides a hair farm, and how!"

They had proceeded for about half an hour without discovering the slightest sign of game when Dick came to a sudden halt and simultaneously gestured warningly to Doc.

When Dick then pointed ahead, Doc crept cautiously forward and peered across Dick's shoulder.

Just ahead of them they saw the small brook upon which the twenty had made their camp. Further down its course and in a little opening upon the bank stood a small antelope, drinking.

"It's too far for my spear," whispered Dick, "and anyway there is too much foliage around me. I could not get room for a good throw. You'd better try to get it with your bow and arrow."

"It's an awful long shot," said Doc, dubiously, "and, gee, how I should hate to miss."

"Do you suppose we can get any closer?"

Doc thought a moment

"Let's try."

"You go ahead then," said Dick. "I'll wait here. Two of us will make more noise than one."

"Pray for me," whispered Doc, as he started carefully forward.

Leaving his spear behind with Dick, Doc moved cautiously toward the antelope, his bow and an arrow ready for instant use. A gentle breeze that stirred the foliage of the forest blew toward him from the direction of the quarry, carrying his scent spoor away from the sensitive nostrils of the nervous, timid animal.

Closer and closer he crept—a moment more and he would be within easy range. He strove to keep his nerves under control, so much depended upon the accuracy of his aim, upon his stealth, upon his cunning. He knew now how primitive man must have felt as he stalked his food through the primeval forests of a young world while hunger gnawed at his vitals, for Doc stood face to face with one of Nature's first laws—self-preservation.

Now he was ready! He braced himself against the bole of a great tree, his feet firmly planted upon two adjacent branches. Through an opening in the foliage he could see the antelope below him, only a few yards away. He fitted the arrow and at the same instant the antelope leaped into the air in a sudden, swift bound of fright.

Simultaneously the cause of terror burst from a clump of nearby bushes—a frightful, gnarled man swinging a great cudgel about his head. And in the instant that he appeared, in the same instant that the antelope took its first leap for safety, the man-thing hurled the cudgel.

Straight to its mark flew the heavy missile, striking the fleeing animal a terrific blow that felled it, half stunned. Before it could regain its feet the hunter was upon it, his crude knife finishing the work the cudgel had commenced.

At first Doc and Dick were too surprised to do more than stand and stare at the creature who had robbed them of their meat, but presently anger and resentment made themselves apparent. Just as the primitive hunter would have felt under like circumstance, so these two boys felt—that they had been robbed of what rightfully belonged to them.

Perhaps under different conditions they would have realized that the antelope was as much the property of the beast-man as it was their property—even more so since he had slain it—but as it was they reasoned as the primitive man might have reasoned and they reacted quite in the same way that he might have reacted; that is that they wanted to take the kill away from the killer nor were they deterred by any fine ethical considerations from doing so by any means that lay in their power. The thing that deterred them was fear—fear that the beast-man would kill them in defense of his meat.

Thus easily did the veneer of civilization fall away from these two boys the moment they were faced by the necessity of sustaining life in competition with the savage creatures of primitive Nature. Doc, standing there with his arrow trained upon the priest of the Flaming God, his heart filled with rage and disappointment and hate, had suddenly reverted a hundred thousand years and lived again an instant in the life of some long dead, primordial ancestor.

Aiming at the man's back, just below his left shoulder, Doc bent his bow and at the same instant Dick, who had followed him, laid a hand upon his shoulder.

"Don't!" whispered Dick. "I know how you feel, but—we mustn't do that; not until we are forced to it."

Doc lowered the point of his arrow, standing silent for a moment. "I suppose you are right," he said; "but, gee! you don't know how mad that made me—just as I was going to shoot, too."

"Listen," whispered Dick, "I've got a scheme."

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