Tarzan and the Lion Man

Chapter 22

The Imposter

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE LORD OF THE JUNGLE awoke and stretched. A new day was dawning. He had travelled far from Mpugu’s village the previous night before he lay up to rest. Now, refreshed, he swung on toward the north. He would make a kill and eat on the way, or he would go hungry—it depended upon the fortunes of the trail. Tarzan could go for long periods without food with little inconvenience. He was no such creature of habit as are the poor slaves of civilization.

He had gone but a short distance when he caught the scent spoor of men—tarmangani—white men. And before he saw them he had recognized them by their scent.

He paused in a tree above them and looked down upon them. There were three of them—two whites and an Arab. They had made a poor camp the night before. Tarzan saw no sign of food. The men looked haggard, almost exhausted. Not far from them was a buck, but the starving men did not know it. Tarzan knew it because Usha, the wind, was carrying the scent of the buck to his keen nostrils.

Seeing their dire need and fearing that they might frighten the animal away before he could kill it, Tarzan passed around them unseen and swung silently on through the trees.

Wappi, the antelope, browsed on the tender grasses of a little clearing. He would take a few mouthfuls; then raise his head, looking and listening—always alert. But he was not sufficiently alert to detect the presence of the noiseless stalker creeping upon him.

Suddenly the antelope started! He had heard, but it was too late. A beast of prey had launched itself upon him from the branches of a tree.

A quarter of a mile away Orman had risen to his feet. “We might as well get going, Bill,” he said.

“Can’t we make this bird understand that we want him to guide us to the point where he last saw one of the girls?”

“I’ve tried. You’ve heard me threaten to kill him if he doesn’t, but he either can’t or won’t understand.”

“If we don’t get something to eat pretty soon we won’t ever find anybody. If—” The incompleted sentence died in a short gasp.

An uncanny cry had come rolling out of the mysterious jungle fastness, freezing the blood in the veins of all three men.

“The ghost!” said Orman in a whisper.

An involuntary shudder ran through West’s frame. “You know that’s all hooey, Tom,” he said.

“Yes, I know it,” admitted Orman; “but—”

“That probably wasn’t—Obroski at all. It must have been some animal,” insisted West.

“Look!” exclaimed Orman, pointing beyond West.

As the cameraman wheeled he saw an almost naked white man walking toward them, the carcass of a buck across one broad shoulder.

“Obroski!” exclaimed West.

Tarzan saw the two men gazing at him in astonishment, he heard West’s ejaculation, and he recalled the striking resemblance that he and Obroski bore to one another.: If the shadow of a smile was momentarily reflected by his grey eyes it was gone when he stopped before the two men and tossed the carcass of the buck at their feet.

“I thought you might be hungry,” he said. “You look hungry.”

“Obroski!” muttered Orman. “Is it really you?” He stepped closer to Tarzan and touched his shoulder.

“What did you think I was—a ghost?” asked the ape-man.

Orman laughed—an apologetic, embarrassed laugh. “I—well—we thought you were dead. It was so surprising to see you—and then the way that you killed the lion the other day—you did kill the lion, didn’t you?”

“He seemed to be dead,” replied the ape-man.

“Yes, of course; but then it didn’t seem exactly like you, Obroski—we didn’t know that you could do anything like that.”

“There are probably a number of things about me that you don’t know. But never mind about that. I’ve come to find out what you know about the girls. Are they safe? And how about the rest of the safari?”

“The girls were stolen by the Arabs almost two weeks ago. Bill and I have been looking for them. I don’t know where the rest of the outfit are. I told Pat to try to get everything to Omwamwi Falls and wait for me there if I didn’t show up before. We captured this Arab. It’s Eyad—you probably remember him. Of course we can’t understand his lingo; but from what we can make out one of the girls has been killed by a wild beast, and something terrible has happened to the other girl and the rest of the Arabs.”

Tarzan turned to Eyad; and, much to the Arab’s surprise, questioned him in his own tongue while Orman and West looked on in astonishment. The two spoke rapidly for a few minutes; then Tarzan handed Eyad an arrow, and the man, squatting on his haunches, smoothed a little area of ground with the palm of his hand and commenced to draw something with the point of the arrow.

“What’s he doing?” asked West. “What did he say?”

“He’s drawing a map to show me where this fight took place between the Arabs and the gorillas.”

“Gorillas! What did he say about the girls?”

“One of them was killed by a lion a week or more ago, and the last he saw of the other she was being carried off by a big bull gorilla.”

“Which one is dead?” asked West. “Did he say?”

Tarzan questioned Eyad, and then turned to the American. “He does not know. He says that he could never tell the two girls apart.”

Eyad had finished his map and was pointing out the different landmarks to the ape-man. Orman and West were also scrutinizing the crude tracing.

The director gave a short laugh. “This bird’s stringin’ you, Obroski.” he said. “That’s a copy of a fake map we had for use in the picture.”

Tarzan questioned Eyad rapidly in Arabic; then he turned again to Orman. “I think he is telling the truth,” he said. “Anyway, I’ll soon know. I am going up to this valley and look around. You and West follow on up to the falls. Eyad can guide you. This buck will last you until you get there.” Then he turned and swung into the trees.

The three men stood staring at the spot for a moment. Finally Orman shook his head. “I never was so fooled in any one before in my life,” he said. “I had Obroski all wrong—we all did. By golly, I never saw such a change in a man before in my whole life.”

“Even his voice has changed,” said West.

“He certainly was a secretive son-of-a-gun,” said Orman. “I never had the slightest idea that he could speak Arabic.”

“I think he mentioned that there were several things about him that you did not know.”

“If I wasn’t so familiar with that noble mug of his and that godlike physique I’d swear that this guy isn’t Obroski at all.”

“Not a chance,” said West. “I’d know him in a million.”

Tarzan and the Lion Man - Contents    |     Chapter 23 - Man and Beast

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