Chapter 25. The Outpost of the World
With the report of his gun D'Arnot saw the door fly open and the figure of a man pitch headlong within onto the cabin floor.
The Frenchman in his panic raised his gun to fire again into the prostrate form, but suddenly in the half dusk of the open door he saw that the man was white and in another instant realized that he had shot his friend and protector, Tarzan of the Apes.
With a cry of anguish D'Arnot sprang to the ape-man's side, and kneeling, lifted the latter's head in his arms—calling Tarzan's name aloud.
There was no response, and then D'Arnot placed his ear above the man's heart. To his joy he heard its steady beating beneath.
Carefully he lifted Tarzan to the cot, and then, after closing and bolting the door, he lighted one of the lamps and examined the wound.
The bullet had struck a glancing blow upon the skull. There was an ugly flesh wound, but no signs of a fracture of the skull.
D'Arnot breathed a sigh of relief, and went about bathing the blood from Tarzan's face.
Soon the cool water revived him, and presently he opened his eyes to look in questioning surprise at D'Arnot.
The latter had bound the wound with pieces of cloth, and as he saw that Tarzan had regained consciousness he arose and going to the table wrote a message, which he handed to the ape-man, explaining the terrible mistake he had made and how thankful he was that the wound was not more serious.
Tarzan, after reading the message, sat on the edge of the couch and laughed.
"It is nothing," he said in French, and then, his vocabulary failing him, he wrote:
You should have seen what Bolgani did to me, and Kerchak, and Terkoz, before I killed them—then you would laugh at such a little scratch.
D'Arnot handed Tarzan the two messages that had been left for him.
Tarzan read the first one through with a look of sorrow on his face. The second one he turned over and over, searching for an opening—he had never seen a sealed envelope before. At length he handed it to D'Arnot.
The Frenchman had been watching him, and knew that Tarzan was puzzled over the envelope. How strange it seemed that to a full-grown white man an envelope was a mystery. D'Arnot opened it and handed the letter back to Tarzan.
Sitting on a camp stool the ape-man spread the written sheet before him and read:
TO TARZAN OF THE APES:
Before I leave let me add my thanks to those of Mr. Clayton for the kindness you have shown in permitting us the use of your cabin.
That you never came to make friends with us has been a great regret to us. We should have liked so much to have seen and thanked our host.
There is another I should like to thank also, but he did not come back, though I cannot believe that he is dead.
I do not know his name. He is the great white giant who wore the diamond locket upon his breast.
If you know him and can speak his language carry my thanks to him, and tell him that I waited seven days for him to return.
Tell him, also, that in my home in America, in the city of Baltimore, there will always be a welcome for him if he cares to come.
I found a note you wrote me lying among the leaves beneath a tree near the cabin. I do not know how you learned to love me, who have never spoken to me, and I am very sorry if it is true, for I have already given my heart to another.
But know that I am always your friend,
Tarzan sat with gaze fixed upon the floor for nearly an hour. It was evident to him from the notes that they did not know that he and Tarzan of the Apes were one and the same.
"I have given my heart to another," he repeated over and over again to himself.
Then she did not love him! How could she have pretended love, and raised him to such a pinnacle of hope only to cast him down to such utter depths of despair!
Maybe her kisses were only signs of friendship. How did he know, who knew nothing of the customs of human beings?
Suddenly he arose, and, bidding D'Arnot good night as he had learned to do, threw himself upon the couch of ferns that had been Jane Porter's.
D'Arnot extinguished the lamp, and lay down upon the cot.
For a week they did little but rest, D'Arnot coaching Tarzan in French. At the end of that time the two men could converse quite easily.
One night, as they were sitting within the cabin before retiring, Tarzan turned to D'Arnot.
"Where is America?" he said.
D'Arnot pointed toward the northwest.
"Many thousands of miles across the ocean," he replied. "Why?"
"I am going there."
D'Arnot shook his head.
"It is impossible, my friend," he said.
Tarzan rose, and, going to one of the cupboards, returned with a well-thumbed geography.
Turning to a map of the world, he said:
"I have never quite understood all this; explain it to me, please."
When D'Arnot had done so, showing him that the blue represented all the water on the earth, and the bits of other colors the continents and islands, Tarzan asked him to point out the spot where they now were.
D'Arnot did so.
"Now point out America," said Tarzan.
And as D'Arnot placed his finger upon North America, Tarzan smiled and laid his palm upon the page, spanning the great ocean that lay between the two continents.
"You see it is not so very far," he said; "scarce the width of my hand."
D'Arnot laughed. How could he make the man understand?
Then he took a pencil and made a tiny point upon the shore of Africa.
"This little mark," he said, "is many times larger upon this map than your cabin is upon the earth. Do you see now how very far it is?"
Tarzan thought for a long time.
"Do any white men live in Africa?" he asked.
"Where are the nearest?"
D'Arnot pointed out a spot on the shore just north of them.
"So close?" asked Tarzan, in surprise.
"Yes," said D'Arnot; "but it is not close."
"Have they big boats to cross the ocean?"
"We shall go there to-morrow," announced Tarzan.
Again D'Arnot smiled and shook his head.
"It is too far. We should die long before we reached them."
"Do you wish to stay here then forever?" asked Tarzan.
"No," said D'Arnot.
"Then we shall start to-morrow. I do not like it here longer. I should rather die than remain here."
"Well," answered D'Arnot, with a shrug, "I do not know, my friend, but that I also would rather die than remain here. If you go, I shall go with you."
"It is settled then," said Tarzan. "I shall start for America to-morrow."
"How will you get to America without money?" asked D'Arnot.
"What is money?" inquired Tarzan.
It took a long time to make him understand even imperfectly.
"How do men get money?" he asked at last.
"They work for it."
"Very well. I will work for it, then."
"No, my friend," returned D'Arnot, "you need not worry about money, nor need you work for it. I have enough money for two—enough for twenty. Much more than is good for one man and you shall have all you need if ever we reach civilization."
So on the following day they started north along the shore. Each man carrying a rifle and ammunition, beside bedding and some food and cooking utensils.
The latter seemed to Tarzan a most useless encumbrance, so he threw his away.
"But you must learn to eat cooked food, my friend," remonstrated D'Arnot. "No civilized men eat raw flesh."
"There will be time enough when I reach civilization," said Tarzan. "I do not like the things and they only spoil the taste of good meat."
For a month they traveled north. Sometimes finding food in plenty and again going hungry for days.
They saw no signs of natives nor were they molested by wild beasts. Their journey was a miracle of ease.
Tarzan asked questions and learned rapidly. D'Arnot taught him many of the refinements of civilization—even to the use of knife and fork; but sometimes Tarzan would drop them in disgust and grasp his food in his strong brown hands, tearing it with his molars like a wild beast.
Then D'Arnot would expostulate with him, saying:
"You must not eat like a brute, Tarzan, while I am trying to make a gentleman of you. MON DIEU! Gentlemen do not thus—it is terrible."
Tarzan would grin sheepishly and pick up his knife and fork again, but at heart he hated them.
On the journey he told D'Arnot about the great chest he had seen the sailors bury; of how he had dug it up and carried it to the gathering place of the apes and buried it there.
"It must be the treasure chest of Professor Porter," said D'Arnot. "It is too bad, but of course you did not know."
Then Tarzan recalled the letter written by Jane to her friend—the one he had stolen when they first came to his cabin, and now he knew what was in the chest and what it meant to Jane.
"To-morrow we shall go back after it," he announced to D'Arnot.
"Go back?" exclaimed D'Arnot. "But, my dear fellow, we have now been three weeks upon the march. It would require three more to return to the treasure, and then, with that enormous weight which required, you say, four sailors to carry, it would be months before we had again reached this spot."
"It must be done, my friend," insisted Tarzan. "You may go on toward civilization, and I will return for the treasure. I can go very much faster alone."
"I have a better plan, Tarzan," exclaimed D'Arnot. "We shall go on together to the nearest settlement, and there we will charter a boat and sail back down the coast for the treasure and so transport it easily. That will be safer and quicker and also not require us to be separated. What do you think of that plan?"
"Very well," said Tarzan. "The treasure will be there whenever we go for it; and while I could fetch it now, and catch up with you in a moon or two, I shall feel safer for you to know that you are not alone on the trail. When I see how helpless you are, D'Arnot, I often wonder how the human race has escaped annihilation all these ages which you tell me about. Why, Sabor, single handed, could exterminate a thousand of you."
"You will think more highly of your genus when you have seen its armies and navies, its great cities, and its mighty engineering works. Then you will realize that it is mind, and not muscle, that makes the human animal greater than the mighty beasts of your jungle.
"Alone and unarmed, a single man is no match for any of the larger beasts; but if ten men were together, they would combine their wits and their muscles against their savage enemies, while the beasts, being unable to reason, would never think of combining against the men. Otherwise, Tarzan of the Apes, how long would you have lasted in the savage wilderness?"
"You are right, D'Arnot," replied Tarzan, "for if Kerchak had come to Tublat's aid that night at the Dum-Dum, there would have been an end of me. But Kerchak could never think far enough ahead to take advantage of any such opportunity. Even Kala, my mother, could never plan ahead. She simply ate what she needed when she needed it, and if the supply was very scarce, even though she found plenty for several meals, she would never gather any ahead.
"I remember that she used to think it very silly of me to burden myself with extra food upon the march, though she was quite glad to eat it with me, if the way chanced to be barren of sustenance."
"Then you knew your mother, Tarzan?" asked D'Arnot, in surprise.
"Yes. She was a great, fine ape, larger than I, and weighing twice as much."
"And your father?" asked D'Arnot.
"I did not know him. Kala told me he was a white ape, and hairless like myself. I know now that he must have been a white man."
D'Arnot looked long and earnestly at his companion.
"Tarzan," he said at length, "it is impossible that the ape, Kala, was your mother. If such a thing can be, which I doubt, you would have inherited some of the characteristics of the ape, but you have not—you are pure man, and, I should say, the offspring of highly bred and intelligent parents. Have you not the slightest clue to your past?"
"Not the slightest," replied Tarzan.
"No writings in the cabin that might have told something of the lives of its original inmates?"
"I have read everything that was in the cabin with the exception of one book which I know now to be written in a language other than English. Possibly you can read it."
Tarzan fished the little black diary from the bottom of his quiver, and handed it to his companion.
D'Arnot glanced at the title page.
"It is the diary of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, an English nobleman, and it is written in French," he said.
Then he proceeded to read the diary that had been written over twenty years before, and which recorded the details of the story which we already know—the story of adventure, hardships and sorrow of John Clayton and his wife Alice, from the day they left England until an hour before he was struck down by Kerchak.
D'Arnot read aloud. At times his voice broke, and he was forced to stop reading for the pitiful hopelessness that spoke between the lines.
Occasionally he glanced at Tarzan; but the ape-man sat upon his haunches, like a carven image, his eyes fixed upon the ground.
Only when the little babe was mentioned did the tone of the diary alter from the habitual note of despair which had crept into it by degrees after the first two months upon the shore.
Then the passages were tinged with a subdued happiness that was even sadder than the rest.
One entry showed an almost hopeful spirit.
To-day our little boy is six months old. He is sitting in Alice's lap beside the table where I am writing—a happy, healthy, perfect child.
Somehow, even against all reason, I seem to see him a grown man, taking his father's place in the world—the second John Clayton—and bringing added honors to the house of Greystoke.
There—as though to give my prophecy the weight of his endorsement—he has grabbed my pen in his chubby fists and with his inkbegrimed little fingers has placed the seal of his tiny finger prints upon the page.
And there, on the margin of the page, were the partially blurred imprints of four wee fingers and the outer half of the thumb.
When D'Arnot had finished the diary the two men sat in silence for some minutes.
"Well! Tarzan of the Apes, what think you?" asked D'Arnot. "Does not this little book clear up the mystery of your parentage?
"Why man, you are Lord Greystoke."
"The book speaks of but one child," he replied. "Its little skeleton lay in the crib, where it died crying for nourishment, from the first time I entered the cabin until Professor Porter's party buried it, with its father and mother, beside the cabin.
"No, that was the babe the book speaks of—and the mystery of my origin is deeper than before, for I have thought much of late of the possibility of that cabin having been my birthplace. I am afraid that Kala spoke the truth," he concluded sadly.
D'Arnot shook his head. He was unconvinced, and in his mind had sprung the determination to prove the correctness of his theory, for he had discovered the key which alone could unlock the mystery, or consign it forever to the realms of the unfathomable.
A week later the two men came suddenly upon a clearing in the forest.
In the distance were several buildings surrounded by a strong palisade. Between them and the enclosure stretched a cultivated field in which a number of negroes were working.
The two halted at the edge of the jungle.
Tarzan fitted his bow with a poisoned arrow, but D'Arnot placed a hand upon his arm.
"What would you do, Tarzan?" he asked.
"They will try to kill us if they see us," replied Tarzan. "I prefer to be the killer."
"Maybe they are friends," suggested D'Arnot.
"They are black," was Tarzan's only reply.
And again he drew back his shaft.
"You must not, Tarzan!" cried D'Arnot. "White men do not kill wantonly. MON DIEU! but you have much to learn.
"I pity the ruffian who crosses you, my wild man, when I take you to Paris. I will have my hands full keeping your neck from beneath the guillotine."
Tarzan lowered his bow and smiled.
"I do not know why I should kill the blacks back there in my jungle, yet not kill them here. Suppose Numa, the lion, should spring out upon us, I should say, then, I presume: Good morning, Monsieur Numa, how is Madame Numa; eh?"
"Wait until the blacks spring upon you," replied D'Arnot, "then you may kill them. Do not assume that men are your enemies until they prove it."
"Come," said Tarzan, "let us go and present ourselves to be killed," and he started straight across the field, his head high held and the tropical sun beating upon his smooth, brown skin.
Behind him came D'Arnot, clothed in some garments which had been discarded at the cabin by Clayton when the officers of the French cruiser had fitted him out in more presentable fashion.
Presently one of the blacks looked up, and beholding Tarzan, turned, shrieking, toward the palisade.
In an instant the air was filled with cries of terror from the fleeing gardeners, but before any had reached the palisade a white man emerged from the enclosure, rifle in hand, to discover the cause of the commotion.
What he saw brought his rifle to his shoulder, and Tarzan of the Apes would have felt cold lead once again had not D'Arnot cried loudly to the man with the leveled gun:
"Do not fire! We are friends!"
"Halt, then!" was the reply.
"Stop, Tarzan!" cried D'Arnot. "He thinks we are enemies."
Tarzan dropped into a walk, and together he and D'Arnot advanced toward the white man by the gate.
The latter eyed them in puzzled bewilderment.
"What manner of men are you?" he asked, in French.
"White men," replied D'Arnot. "We have been lost in the jungle for a long time."
The man had lowered his rifle and now advanced with outstretched hand.
"I am Father Constantine of the French Mission here," he said, "and I am glad to welcome you."
"This is Monsieur Tarzan, Father Constantine," replied D'Arnot, indicating the ape-man; and as the priest extended his hand to Tarzan, D'Arnot added: "and I am Paul D'Arnot, of the French Navy."
Father Constantine took the hand which Tarzan extended in imitation of the priest's act, while the latter took in the superb physique and handsome face in one quick, keen glance.
And thus came Tarzan of the Apes to the first outpost of civilization.
For a week they remained there, and the ape-man, keenly observant, learned much of the ways of men; meanwhile black women sewed white duck garments for himself and D'Arnot so that they might continue their journey properly clothed.