Tarzan and the Lion Man

Chapter 16


Edgar Rice Burroughs

LONG DAY had followed long day as Orman and West searched vainly through dense forest and jungle for the trail they had lost. Nearly two weeks had passed since they had left camp in search of the girls when their encounter with the lion and the “ghost” of Obroski took place. The encounter left them unnerved, for both were weak from lack of food and their nerves harassed by what they had passed through and by worry over the fate of Naomi and Rhonda.

They stood for some time by the carcass of the lion looking and listening for a return of the apparition.

“Do you suppose,” suggested West, “that hunger and worry could have affected us so much that we imagined we saw—what we think we saw?”

Orman pointed at the dead lion. “Are we imagining that?” he demanded. “Could we both have the same hallucination at the same instant? No! We saw what we saw. I don’t believe in ghosts—or I never did before—but if that wasn’t. Obroski’s ghost it was Obroski; and you know as well as I that Obroski would never have had the guts to tackle a lion even if he could have gotten away with it.”

West rubbed his chin meditatively. “You know, another explanation has occurred to me. Obroski was the world’s prize coward. He may have escaped the Bansutos and got lost in the jungle. If he did, he would have been scared stiff every minute of the days and nights. Terror might have driven him crazy. He may be a madman now, and you know maniacs are supposed to be ten times as strong as ordinary men.”

“I don’t know about maniacs being any stronger,” said Orman; “that’s a popular theory, and popular theories are always wrong; but every one knows that when a man’s crazy he does things that he wouldn’t do when he’s sane. So perhaps you’re right—perhaps that was Obroski gone nuts. No one but a nut would jump a lion; and Obroski certainly wouldn’t have saved my life if he’d been sane—he didn’t have any reason to be very fond of me.”

“Well, whatever prompted him, he did us a good turn in more ways than one—he left us something to eat.” West nodded toward the carcass of the lion.

“I hope we can keep him down,” said Orman; “he looks mangy.”

“I don’t fancy cat meat myself,” admitted West, “but I could eat a pet dog right now.”

After they had eaten and cut off pieces of the meat to carry with them they set out again upon their seemingly fruitless search. The food gave them new strength; but it did little to raise their spirits, and they plodded on as dejected as before.

Toward evening West, who was in the lead, stopped suddenly and drew back, cautioning Orman to silence. The latter advanced cautiously to where West stood pointing ahead at a long figure squatting over a small fire near the bank of a stream.

“It’s one of el-Ghrennem’s men,” said West.

“It’s Eyad,” replied Orman. “Do you see any one with him?”

“No. What do you suppose he is doing here alone?”

“We’ll find out. Be ready to shoot if he tries any funny business or if any more of them show up.”

Orman advanced upon the lone figure, his rifle ready; and West followed at his elbow. They had covered only a few yards when Eyad looked up and discovered them. Seizing his musket, he leaped to his feet; but Orman covered him.

“Drop that gun!” ordered the director.

Eyad understood no English, but he made a shrewd guess at the meaning of the words, doubtless from the peremptory tone of the American’s voice, and lowered the butt of his musket to the ground.

The two approached him. “Where is el-Ghrennem?” demanded Orman. “Where are Miss Madison and Miss Terry?” Eyad recognized the names and the interrogatory inflection. Pointing toward the north he spoke volubly in Arabic. Neither Orman nor West understood what he said, but they saw that he was much excited. They saw too that he was emaciated, his garments in rags, and his face and body covered with wounds. It was evident that he had been through some rough experiences.

When Eyad realized that the Americans could not understand him he resorted to pantomime, though he continued to jabber in Arabic.

“Can you make out what he’s driving at, Tom?” asked West.

“I picked up a few words from Atewy but not many. Something terrible seems to have happened to all the rest of the party—this bird is scared stiff. I get sheykh and el Bedauwy and benat; he’s talking about el-Ghrennem, the other Beduins, and the girls—benat is the plural of bint, girl. One of the girls has been killed by some animal—from the way he growled and roared when he was explaining it, I guess it must have been a lion. Some other fate befell the rest of the party, and I guess it must have been pretty awful.”

West paled. “Does he know which girl was killed?” he asked. “I can’t make out which one—perhaps both are dead.” “We’ve got to find out. We’ve got to go after them. Can he tell us where they were when this thing happened?”

“I’m going to make him guide us,” replied Orman. “There’s no use going on tonight—it’s too late. In the morning we’ll start.”

They made a poor camp and cooked some of their lion meat. Eyad ate ravenously. It was evident that he had been some time without food. Then they lay down and tried to sleep, but futile worry kept the two Americans awake until late into the night.

To the south of them, several miles away, Stanley Obroski crouched in the fork of a tree and shivered from cold and fear. Below him a lion and a lioness fed upon the carcass of a buck. Hyenas, mouthing their uncanny cries, slunk in a wide circle about them. Obroski saw one, spurred by hunger to greater courage, slink in to seize a mouthful of the kill. The great lion, turning his head, saw the thief and charged him, growling savagely. The hyena retreated, but not quickly enough. A mighty, raking paw flung it bleeding and lifeless among its fellows. Obroski shuddered and clung more tightly to the tree. A full moon looked down upon the savage scene.

Presently the figure of a man strode silently into the clearing. The lion looked up and growled and an answering growl came from the throat of the man. Then a hyena charged him, and Obroski gasped in dismay. What would become of him if this man were killed! He feared him, but he feared him least of all the other horrid creatures of the jungle.

He saw the man side-step the charge, then stoop quickly and seize the unclean beast by the scruff of its neck. He shook it once, then hurled it onto the kill where the two lions fed. The lioness closed her great jaws upon it once and then cast it aside. The other hyenas laughed hideously.

Tarzan looked about him. “Obroski!” he called. “I’m up here,” replied the American.

Tarzan swung lightly into the tree beside him. “I saw two of your people today,” he said, “Orman and West.”

“Where are they? What did they say?”

“I did not talk with them. They are a few miles north of us. I think they are lost.”

“Who was with them?”

“They were alone. I looked for their safari, but it was nowhere near. Farther north I saw an Arab from your safari. He was lost and starving.”

“The safari must be broken up and scattered,” said Obroski. “What could have happened? What could have become of the girls?”

“Tomorrow we’ll start after Orman,” said Tarzan. “Perhaps he can answer your questions.”

Tarzan and the Lion Man - Contents    |     Chapter 17 - Alone

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