Tarzan and the Lost Empire

Chapter 11

Edgar Rice Burroughs

AS MAXIMUS PRAECLARUS led Tarzan of the Apes from the home of Dion Splendidus in the city of Castra Sanguinarius, the soldiers, gathered by the doorway, voiced their satisfaction in oaths and exclamations. They liked the young patrician who commanded them and they were proud that he should have captured the wild barbarian single-handed.

A command from Praeclarus brought silence and at a word from him they formed around the prisoner, and the march toward the Colosseum was begun. They had proceeded but a short distance when Praeclarus halted the detachment and went himself to the doorway of a house fronting on the avenue through which they were crossing. He halted before the door, stood in thought for a moment, and then turned back toward his detachment as though he had changed his mind about entering, and Tarzan knew that the young officer was indicating to him the home in which he lived and in which the ape-man might find sanctuary later.

Several hundred yards farther along the street, after they had resumed the march, Praeclarus halted his detachment beneath the shade of great trees opposite a drinking fountain, which was built into the outside of a garden wall close beside an unusually large tree, which, overspreading the avenue upon one side and the wall on the other, intermingled its branches with those of other trees growing inside the garden beyond.

Praeclarus crossed the avenue and drank at the fountain and returning inquired by means of signs if Tarzan would drink. The ape-man nodded in assent and Praeclarus gave orders that he be permitted to cross to the fountain.

Slowly Tarzan walked to the other side of the avenue. He stooped and drank from the fountain. Beside him was the bole of a great tree; above him was the leafy foliage that would conceal him from the sight and protect him from the missiles of the soldiers. Turning from the fountain, a quick step took him behind the tree. One of the soldiers shouted a warning to Praeclarus, and the whole detachment, immediately suspicious, leaped quickly across the avenue, led by the young patrician who commanded them, but when they reached the fountain and the tree their prisoner had vanished.

Shouting their disappointment, they gazed upward into the foliage, but there was no sign there of the barbarian. Several of the more active soldiers scrambled into the branches and then Maximus Praeclarus, pointing in the direction opposite to that in which his home lay, shouted: “This way, there he goes!” and started on a run down the avenue, while behind him strung his detachment, their pikes ready in their hands.

Moving silently through the branches of the great trees that overhung the greater part of the city of Castra Sanguinarius, Tarzan paralleled the avenue leading back to the home of Maximus Praeclarus, halting at last in a tree that overlooked the inner courtyard or walled garden, which appeared to be a distinguishing feature of the architecture of the city.

Below him be saw a matronly woman of the patrician class, listening to a tall Negro who was addressing her excitedly. Clustered about the woman and eagerly listening to the words of the speaker were a number of slaves, both men and women.

Tarzan recognized the speaker as Mpingu, and, though he could not understand his words, realized that the man was preparing them for his arrival in accordance with the instructions given him in the garden of Dion Splendidus by Maximus Praeclarus, and that he was making a good story of it was evidenced by his excited gesticulation and the wide eyes and open mouths of the listening men.

The woman, listening attentively and with quiet dignity of mien, appeared to be slightly amused, but whether at the story itself or at the unrestrained excitement of Mpingu, Tarzan did not know.

She was a regal-looking woman of about fifty, with graying hair and with the poise and manner of that perfect self-assurance which is the hallmark of assured position; that she was a patrician to her finger tips was evident, and yet there was that in her eyes and the little wrinkles at their corners that bespoke a broad humanity and a kindly disposition.

Mpingu had evidently reached the point where his vocabulary could furnish no adequate superlatives wherewith to describe the barbarian who had rescued his mistress from Fastus, and he was acting out in exaggerated pantomime the scene in the garden of his mistress, when Tarzan dropped lightly to the sward beside him. The effect upon the Negroes of this unexpected appearance verged upon the ludicrous, but the white woman was unmoved to any outward sign of surprise.

“Is this the barbarian?” she asked of Mpingu.

“It is he,” replied the black.

“Tell him that I am Festivitas, the mother of Maximus Praeclarus,” the woman directed Mpingu, “and that I welcome him here in the name of my son.”

Through Mpingu, Tarzan acknowledged the greetings of Festivitas and thanked her for her hospitality, after which she instructed one of her slaves, to conduct the stranger to the apartments that were placed at his disposal.

It was late afternoon before Maximus Praeclarus returned to his home, going immediately to Tarzan’s apartments. With him was the man who had acted as interpreter in the morning.

“I am to remain here with you,” said the man to Tarzan, “as your interpreter and servant.”

“I venture to say,” said Praeclarus through the interpreter, “that this is the only spot in Castra Sanguinarius that they have not searched for you and there are three centuries combing the forests outside the city, though by this time Sublatus is convinced that you have escaped. We shall keep you here in hiding for a few days when, I think, I can find the means to get you out of the city after dark.”

The ape-man smiled. “I can leave whenever I choose,” he said, “either by day or by night, but I do not choose to leave until I have satisfied myself that the man for whom I am searching is not here. But, first, let me thank you for your kindness to me, the reason for which I cannot understand.”

“That is easily explained,” said Praeclarus. “The young woman whom you saved from attack this morning is Dilecta, the daughter of Dion Splendidus. She and I are to be married. That, I think, will explain my gratitude.”

“I understand,” said Tarzan, “and I am glad that I was fortunate enough to come upon them at the time that I did.”

“Should you be captured again, it will not prove so fortunate for you,” said Praeclarus, “for the man from whom you saved Dilecta is Fastus, the son of Sublatus, and now the Emperor will have two indignities to avenge; but if you remain here you will be safe, for our slaves are loyal and there is little likelihood that you will be discovered.”

“If I remain here,” said Tarzan, “and it should be discovered that you had befriended me, would not the anger of the Emperor fall upon you?”

Maximus Praeclarus shrugged. “I am daily expecting that,” he said; “not because of you, but because the son of the Emperor wishes to marry Dilecta. Sublatus needs no further excuse to destroy me. I should be no worse off were he to learn that I have befriended you than I now am.”

“Then, perhaps, I may be of service to you if I remain,” said Tarzan.

“I do not see how you can do anything but remain.” said Praeclarus. “Every man, woman, and child in Castra Sanguinarius will be on the lookout for you, for Sublatus has offered a huge reward for your capture, and besides the inhabitants of the city there are thousands of barbarians outside the walls who will lay aside every other interest to run you down.”

“Twice today you have seen how easily I can escape from the soldiers of Sublatus,” said Tarzan, smiling. “Just as easily can I leave the city and elude the barbarians in the outer villages.”

“Then why do you remain?” demanded Praeclarus.

“I came here searching for the son of a friend,” replied Tarzan. “Many weeks ago the young man started out with an expedition to explore the Wiramwazi Mountains in which your country is located. His people deserted him upon the outer slopes, and I am convinced that he is somewhere within the range and very possibly in this canyon. If he is here and alive, he will unquestionably come sooner or later to your city where, from the experience that I have gained, I am sure that he will receive anything but friendly treatment from your Emperor. This is the reason that I wish to remain somewhere in the vicinity, and now that you have told me that you are in danger, I may as well remain in your home where it is possible I may have an opportunity to reciprocate your kindness to me.”

“If the son of your friend is in this end of the valley, he will be captured and brought to Castra Sanguinarius,” said Maximus Praeclarus, “and when that occurs I shall know of it, since I am detailed to duty at the Colosseum—a mark of the disfavor of Sublatus, since this is the most distasteful duty to which an officer can be assigned.”

“Is it possible that this man for whom I am searching might be in some other part of the valley?” asked Tarzan.

“No,” replied Praeclarus. “There is only one entrance to the valley, that through which you were brought, and while there is another city at the eastern end, he could not reach it without passing through the forest surrounding Castra Sanguinarius, in which event he would have been captured by the barbarians and turned over to Sublatus.”

“Then I shall remain here,” said Tarzan, “for a time.”

“You shall be a welcome guest,” replied Praeclarus.

For three weeks Tarzan remained in the home of Maximus Praeclarus, Festivitas conceived a great liking for the bronzed barbarian, and soon tiring of carrying on conversation with him through an interpreter, she set about teaching him her own language, with the result that it was not long before Tarzan could carry on a conversation in Latin; nor did he lack opportunity to practice his new accomplishment, since Festivitas never tired of hearing stories of the outer world and of the manners and customs of modern civilization.

And while Tarzan of the Apes waited in Castra Sanguinarius for word that von Harben had been seen in the valley, the man he sought was living the life of a young patrician attached to the court of the Emperor of the East, and though much of his time was pleasantly employed in the palace library, yet he chafed at the knowledge that he was virtually a prisoner and was often formulating plans for escape—plans that were sometimes forgotten when he sat beneath the spell of the daughter of Septimus Favonius.

And often in the library he discovered only unadulterated pleasure in his work, and thoughts of escape were driven from his mind by discoveries of such gems as original Latin translations of Homer and of hitherto unknown manuscripts of Vergil, Cicero, and Caesar-manuscripts that dated from the days of the young republic and on down the centuries to include one of the early satires of Juvenal.

Thus the days passed, while far off in another world a frightened little monkey scampered through the upper terraces of a distant forest.

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