Edgar Rice Burroughs
A selection from
TARZAN OF THE APES
Narrated by Mel Foster
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The tribe of anthropoids over which Kerchak ruled with an
iron hand and bared fangs, numbered some six or eight families,
each family consisting of an adult male with his females and
their young, numbering in all some sixty or seventy apes.
Kala was the youngest mate of a male called Tublat,
meaning broken nose, and the child she had seen dashed to
death was her first; for she was but nine or ten years old.
Notwithstanding her youth, she was large and powerful—a
splendid, clean-limbed animal, with a round, high forehead,
which denoted more intelligence than most of her kind
possessed. So, also, she had a great capacity for mother love
and mother sorrow.
But she was still an ape, a huge, fierce, terrible beast of a
species closely allied to the gorilla, yet more intelligent;
which, with the strength of their cousin, made her kind the
most fearsome of those awe-inspiring progenitors of man.
When the tribe saw that Kerchak's rage had ceased they
came slowly down from their arboreal retreats and pursued
again the various occupations which he had interrupted.
The young played and frolicked about among the trees and
bushes. Some of the adults lay prone upon the soft mat of
dead and decaying vegetation which covered the ground,
while others turned over pieces of fallen branches and clods
of earth in search of the small bugs and reptiles which
formed a part of their food.
Others, again, searched the surrounding trees for fruit,
nuts, small birds, and eggs.
They had passed an hour or so thus when Kerchak called
them together, and, with a word of command to them to
follow him, set off toward the sea.
They traveled for the most part upon the ground, where it
was open, following the path of the great elephants whose
comings and goings break the only roads through those
tangled mazes of bush, vine, creeper, and tree. When they
walked it was with a rolling, awkward motion, placing the
knuckles of their closed hands upon the ground and swinging
their ungainly bodies forward.
But when the way was through the lower trees they moved
more swiftly, swinging from branch to branch with the agility
of their smaller cousins, the monkeys. And all the way Kala
carried her little dead baby hugged closely to her breast.
It was shortly after noon when they reached a ridge
overlooking the beach where below them lay the tiny cottage
which was Kerchak's goal.
He had seen many of his kind go to their deaths before the
loud noise made by the little black stick in the hands of the
strange white ape who lived in that wonderful lair, and Kerchak
had made up his brute mind to own that death-dealing
contrivance, and to explore the interior of the mysterious den.
He wanted, very, very much, to feel his teeth sink into the
neck of the queer animal that he had learned to hate and
fear, and because of this, he came often with his tribe to
reconnoiter, waiting for a time when the white ape should be
off his guard.
Of late they had quit attacking, or even showing themselves;
for every time they had done so in the past the little
stick had roared out its terrible message of death to some
member of the tribe.
Today there was no sign of the man about, and from
where they watched they could see that the cabin door was
open. Slowly, cautiously, and noiselessly they crept through
the jungle toward the little cabin.
There were no growls, no fierce screams of rage—the little
black stick had taught them to come quietly lest they awaken it.
On, on they came until Kerchak himself slunk stealthily to the
very door and peered within. Behind him were two males, and
then Kala, closely straining the little dead form to her breast.
Inside the den they saw the strange white ape lying half
across a table, his head buried in his arms; and on the bed
lay a figure covered by a sailcloth, while from a tiny rustic
cradle came the plaintive wailing of a babe.
Noiselessly Kerchak entered, crouching for the charge; and
then John Clayton rose with a sudden start and faced them.
The sight that met his eyes must have frozen him with horror,
for there, within the door, stood three great bull apes,
while behind them crowded many more; how many he never
knew, for his revolvers were hanging on the far wall beside
his rifle, and Kerchak was charging.
When the king ape released the limp form which had been
John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, he turned his attention toward
the little cradle; but Kala was there before him, and
when he would have grasped the child she snatched it herself,
and before he could intercept her she had bolted through the
door and taken refuge in a high tree.
As she took up the little live baby of Alice Clayton she
dropped the dead body of her own into the empty cradle; for
the wail of the living had answered the call of universal
motherhood within her wild breast which the dead could not still.
High up among the branches of a mighty tree she hugged
the shrieking infant to her bosom, and soon the instinct that
was as dominant in this fierce female as it had been in the
breast of his tender and beautiful mother—the instinct of
mother love—reached out to the tiny man-child's half-formed
understanding, and he became quiet.
Then hunger closed the gap between them, and the son of
an English lord and an English lady nursed at the breast of
Kala, the great ape...
Kala had not once come to earth with her little adopted
babe, but now Kerchak called to her to descend with the rest,
and as there was no note of anger in his voice she dropped
lightly from branch to branch and joined the others on their
Those of the apes who attempted to examine Kala's
strange baby were repulsed with bared fangs and low
menacing growls, accompanied by words of warning from Kala.
When they assured her that they meant the child no harm
she permitted them to come close, but would not allow them
to touch her charge.
It was as though she knew that her baby was frail and delicate
and feared lest the rough hands of her fellows might injure
the little thing.
Another thing she did, and which made traveling an onerous
trial for her. Remembering the death of her own little
one, she clung desperately to the new babe, with one hand,
whenever they were upon the march.
The other young rode upon their mothers' backs; their little
arms tightly clasping the hairy necks before them, while
their legs were locked beneath their mothers' armpits.
Not so with Kala; she held the small form of the little
Lord Greystoke tightly to her breast, where the dainty hands
clutched the long black hair which covered that portion of
her body. She had seen one child fall from her back to a
terrible death, and she would take no further chances with this.
Tenderly Kala nursed her little waif, wondering silently
why it did not gain strength and agility as did the little
apes of other mothers. It was nearly a year from the time the
little fellow came into her possession before he would walk
alone, and as for climbing—my, but how stupid he was!
Kala sometimes talked with the older females about her
young hopeful, but none of them could understand how a
child could be so slow and backward in learning to care for
itself. Why, it could not even find food alone, and more
than twelve moons had passed since Kala had come upon it.
Had they known that the child had seen thirteen moons
before it had come into Kala's possession they would have
considered its case as absolutely hopeless, for the little apes
of their own tribe were as far advanced in two or three
moons as was this little stranger after twenty-five.
Tublat, Kala's husband, was sorely vexed, and but for the female's
careful watching would have put the child out of the way.
"He will never be a great ape," he argued. "Always will
you have to carry him and protect him. What good will he be
to the tribe? None; only a burden.
"Let us leave him quietly sleeping among the tall grasses,
that you may bear other and stronger apes to guard us in our
"Never, Broken Nose," replied Kala. "If I must carry him
forever, so be it."
And then Tublat went to Kerchak to urge him to use his
authority with Kala, and force her to give up little Tarzan,
which was the name they had given to the tiny Lord Greystoke,
and which meant "White-Skin."
But when Kerchak spoke to her about it Kala threatened
to run away from the tribe if they did not leave her in peace
with the child; and as this is one of the inalienable rights of
the jungle folk, if they be dissatisfied among their own people,
they bothered her no more, for Kala was a fine clean-limbed
young female, and they did not wish to lose her.
As Tarzan grew he made more rapid strides, so that by the
time he was ten years old he was an excellent climber, and on
the ground could do many wonderful things which were beyond
the powers of his little brothers and sisters.
In many ways did he differ from them, and they often
marveled at his superior cunning, but in strength and size he
was deficient; for at ten the great anthropoids were fully
grown, some of them towering over six feet in height, while
little Tarzan was still but a half-grown boy.
Yet such a boy!
From early childhood he had used his hands to swing from
branch to branch after the manner of his giant mother, and
as he grew older he spent hour upon hour daily speeding
through the tree tops with his brothers and sisters.
He could spring twenty feet across space at the dizzy
heights of the forest top, and grasp with unerring precision,
and without apparent jar, a limb waving wildly in the path of
an approaching tornado.
He could drop twenty feet at a stretch from limb to limb
in rapid descent to the ground, or he could gain the utmost
pinnacle of the loftiest tropical giant with the ease and
swiftness of a squirrel.
Though but ten years old he was fully as strong as the
average man of thirty, and far more agile than the most
practiced athlete ever becomes. And day by day his strength
His life among these fierce apes had been happy; for his
recollection held no other life, nor did he know that there
existed within the universe aught else than his little forest
and the wild jungle animals with which he was familiar.
He was nearly ten before he commenced to realize that a
great difference existed between himself and his fellows. His
little body, burned brown by exposure, suddenly caused him
feelings of intense shame, for he realized that it was entirely
hairless, like some low snake, or other reptile.
He attempted to obviate this by plastering himself from
head to foot with mud, but this dried and fell off. Besides it
felt so uncomfortable that he quickly decided that he
preferred the shame to the discomfort.
In the higher land which his tribe frequented was a little
lake, and it was here that Tarzan first saw his face in the
clear, still waters of its bosom.
It was on a sultry day of the dry season that he and one of
his cousins had gone down to the bank to drink. As they
leaned over, both little faces were mirrored on the placid
pool; the fierce and terrible features of the ape beside those
of the aristocratic scion of an old English house.
Tarzan was appalled. It had been bad enough to be hairless,
but to own such a countenance! He wondered that the
other apes could look at him at all.
That tiny slit of a mouth and those puny white teeth! How
they looked beside the mighty lips and powerful fangs of his
more fortunate brothers!
And the little pinched nose of his; so thin was it that it
looked half starved. He turned red as he compared it with the
beautiful broad nostrils of his companion. Such a generous nose!
Why it spread half across his face! It certainly must be
fine to be so handsome, thought poor little Tarzan.
But when he saw his own eyes; ah, that was the final blow
—a brown spot, a gray circle and then blank whiteness!
Frightful! not even the snakes had such hideous eyes as he.
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