Saturday, June 30, 2012
Tarzan's New York Adventure is the final MGM Tarzan movie. After a decade with the character, the studio and the cast seem to have wearied of the project. This last movie starring Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane was something of an appeasement to her since it allowed her to dress in civilized up town fashion for much of the movie. The formula for the stories was well established by this time and can be seen here despite the abrupt changes of setting.
The Tarzan clan (Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Johnny Sheffield) is again living happily on the little Eden hidden atop the mysterious Mutia Escarpment when a plane load of lion hunters arrives. The crew is made up of Manchester Montford (Chill Wills), a well-meaning circus man who is kindly to the Tarzan family by and large, Jimmy Shields (Paul Kelly) the pilot of the expediton, also a man of seeming integrity, and Buck Rand (Charles Bickford) the obligatory villain of this story. The trio soon encounter Tarzan who tells them to get out immediately. They ignore him and go about gathering up lions and such for the circus back in America. Boy meanwhile ignores Tarzan's warnings and goes to see the plane which fascinates him. The men see what magnificent control over elephants Boy has and want him for their show, at least Rand does, but Shields says no. Boy saves Montford from a deadly lion and then the Jacuni tribe appears to kill the expedition. Running for their lives the men make for the plane and Boy yells for Tarzan. Tarzan and Jane swing to his rescue but are seemingly killed when they fall together from the trees into a field which is set afire. Boy and the men leave the escarpment for civilization. Tarzan and Jane recover and soon enough head off for civilization to get Boy back. They find that thanks to gold they can maneuver quite well in society and led by Jane the duo head off to New York to get their son back. After a confrontation with Rand and his partner Colonel Ralph Sergeant (Cy Kendall) the two are forced to go to court to try and establish their right to Boy. The hearing goes well until Jane admits Boy was found and is not their natural son and a frustrated Tarzan violently puts an end to the proceedings. Jane admits that her civilized way has failed and Tarzan then leaves police custody and leads them on a wild jaunt across the face of New York City, eventually diving off the Brooklyn Bridge. He heads to the circus to find and Boy and confront the villains. Meanwhile Jane assisted by Jimmy Shields and his girl Connie Beach head to the circus too. Montford tries to keep the villains from making off with Boy but is killed for his trouble. Tarzan arrives and after a furious battle in which he enlists the aid of the circus elephants the villains are seemingly killed in a car crash. The story ends quickly as the court ignores Tarzan's escapades for the most part and the movie closes with the happy Tarzan family again swimming in their jungle paradise one more time.
This is one of the better Tarzan movies as putting the Ape Man into a new environment adds some variety and better establishes his unusual nature. Weissmuller also seems to play Tarzan a tad more sophisticated in this one, though sadly he stills speaks in that miserable broken English. Weissmuller's Tarzan is different in the MGM movies. In the first two he's quite the raw native, a man full of passion and energy, but in the later ones he becomes more childlike. In all of them though, he demonstrates a keen understanding of human nature and is able to size up the people he meets quickly.
This movie alas has quite a bit of Cheetah who mugs for the camera in typical style. There is an extended scene where Cheetah plays with make-up and whatnot. It's perhaps good for the kiddies, but I weary of this stuff quite quickly. This movie also has some more racial stereotypes as Mantan Moreland has a few scenes playing up the black man as naive idiot. Tarzan also calls a porter a "Jacuni", making it seem that he sees all black men as the same. Given his acute understanding of people, this is a distressing slip.
Chill Wills as Montford is a great character who doesn't get enough to do. As with all the characters who seem to show sympathy for the Tarzan family, he gets killed, so justifying the demise of the villains. It's a predictable part of the show, but I hoped this time it might be altered a bit.
The definite highlight of this movie is Tarzan's rampage across New York. Climbing buildings is fun and I especially liked when he threw the lawyer (Charles Lane) into the jury box. There is a ferocious quality in Weissmuller's portrayal here that is effective.
But sadly too, Weissmuller is at the limit of his physical skills. He looks great in his tailored suit, but in the just the loin cloth he is beginning to lose his youthful trim.
This is a very entertaining final MGM effort. RKO studios will take over the franchise and keep Weissmuller and Sheffield aboard, but O'Sullivan says good-bye in this one. It's been a wild and interesting decade of jungle adventures indeed.
Somewhere many years ago, I got hold of Wally Wood's self-published over-sized albums collecting both his Cannon and Sally Forth comic strips produced for the military overseas market. Both strips are notorious for their violence and especially for their sexual content, most notably lots and lots of patented Wally Wood-style nudity. The above image showing Sally Forth bathing while a rather familiar figure watches overhead is very much an image which evokes memories. I explored that similarity here before.
Frank Frazetta's fantastic image of the Ape Man, seen from the back seeing a grand hidden empire before him is arguably my favorite image of the character all time.
That image though is almost certainly inspired by this panel from Hal Foster's comic strip run on the character many many years before. And it's the ultimate source for the image Wood uses in his Sally Forth story.
Here's a Sally Forth four-week sequence (gathered from various sources)featuring "Starzan" and his amorous interactions with Wally Wood's pulchritudinous heroine.
We skip a few weeks and...
In the 90's Fantagraphics collected the Sally Forth material in eight issues, each sporting a new cover by a different artist. Below is Frank Thorne's contribution for issue six of the run, a wild image of "Starzan" and the object of his...ahem...affection. Thorne is one of the few artists who seems to me to be able to combine eroticism and pure fun in his images like Wood could do so very well.
And finally a parting shot from Wood himself.
Friday, June 29, 2012
The dandy Marvel Tarzan comic is nestled in my long boxes somewhere or other. I didn't realize that Neal Adams had inked John Buscema's pencils on this action-filled image. Neat!
Thursday, June 28, 2012
With all the outstanding reprinting of classic comic adventure strips which has been going on in recent years (Flash Gordon multiple times, Popeye, Dick Tracy, etc.), I'm a bit puzzled why the famous Hal Foster comics starring Tarzan have not been reprinted during this celebratory year. It's been over a decade or more since NBM Publishing put out this material, and I for one would be eager to snap up this stuff if it were on the shelves.
I don't own a single one of the NBM volumes, but I sure wish I did. Here's a gallery featuring the artwork of Foster and Burne Hogarth. I'd love to see Russ Manning's material made available in more permanent formats as well. There's a lot of great material out there with an audience I suspect eager to see and buy it.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
When I first noticed the new collection of new short stories about John Carter of Mars titled Under the Moons of Mars edited by John Joseph Adams, I gave it a pass mostly because I am just up to my nose in stuff to read right now. But then a bit of research revealed what my careless scan at the bookstore had not found, the great Peter S. Beagle had contributed a story to the volume, and not only that, but the story featured a meeting of John Carter and Edgar Rice Burrough's other more famous creation Tarzan the Ape Man. The book instantly became a must have.
A new Peter Beagle story. A new Mars story by Beagle. A new Tarzan story by Beagle. Three good reasons to snatch up the book regardless of the quality of the remainder of it. It turns out the book also has some artwork by Mike Kaluta and Charles Vess, among many others, two more good reasons to give it a tumble.
It took a bit of looking, but I found a copy and snagged it. Yesterday I read the Beagle story to my great delight. Spoilers beyond this point.
Beagle has given us a story told from Tarzan's perspective. We find the Ape Man in the jungles of Africa pondering Mars and before you know it his astral self has migrated to the Red Planet. He adapts quickly to the gravity and takes in his new environment with the fatalistic aplomb so familiar from the ERB novels. He chooses not to eat the baby Tharks, but does use the incubators for warmth. He is soon enough discovered by John Carter and Dejah Thoris and the Tharks and he and Carter don't hit it off at all. Carter is furious with Tarzan's British heritage since Carter holds a grudge against Britain for failing to help during "The Great War of Northern Aggression". Nonetheless they give the naked Tarzan some duds and take him to Helium, where Tarzan despite being married finds himself very attracted to the lovely Dejah Thoris. She seems to find him something to marvel at too. But Tarzan is most surprised to find that he can communicate with a great White Ape of Mars, and assumes that the parallel biology of the species must have something to do with the Earth-Mars astral migration technique. Tarzan is furious that the White Apes are treated as vermin by Carter and the the rest of the Martians and this in addition to the other points of friction results in the Tarzan and Carter having a rough and tumble battle which is abruptly ended when Dejah hits Tarzan across the noggin with a pistol. He wakes up back on Earth, but never doubts the reality of his adventure.
End of spoilers.
Beagle packs a lot into a very short tale. His take on John Carter makes him seem more quixotic than I recollect from the ERB tales, but since this story is clearly from Tarzan's point of view, he seems to be given the benefit of a doubt when the two heroes clash. Carter as a Son of the South seems a bit too gung-ho about his allegiance, at least more than I remember.
The attraction between Tarzan and Dejah makes perfect sense, but I'm glad that Beagle had the two show some restraint here. Another writer might've shown less respect to their loyalty to their spouses.
What mostly struck me though was the equanimity Tarzan displays in the face of his arrival on Mars. He takes it all in and simply deals with the result. That's one of the absolute great things about Tarzan, his total acceptance of what life brings him. I only wish I could face life's trials with half the calm assurance the Ape Man brings to his toils and troubles. It's a quality to be much admired.
This is a dandy little tale, not a flawless gem by any means, but a gem nonetheless. I recommend getting hold of it if you can.
Tarzan's Secret Treasure is the fifth of the MGM Tarzan movies. With the addition of Boy in the last movie, the cast was established...almost. This movie sees the addition of Tumbo, a native boy, a "pickaninny" as one of the cast refer to him later in the flick who gives the Mutia Escarpment family a little ethnic diversity as well as giving Boy someone to talk to besides himself and Cheetah.
The story begins naively enough atop the escarpment when the Tarzan clan (Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Hara, and Johnny Sheffield) are frolicking and Boy picks up some gold nuggets from the river bed. Jane tells him what evil gold can do, but says also that it can bring things like airplanes and such. Boy wanting some of that experience, takes a few gold nuggets and leaves home and drops off the escarpment to find his way to a nearby Ubanda village where sadly a plague is underway. He saves a boy named Tumbo (Cordell Hickman) from a rhino and they arrive in time for Tumbo to see his mother die from the plague. The natives blame Boy for the disease and seek to burn him at the stake but he is saved when a safari arrives and they drive off the natives. A hectic battle ensues and the safari is under severe threat when Tarzan shows up and saves the day. To repay the men for saving his son, Tarzan agrees to take the safari, who are seeking only to research a remote tribe over the escarpment and to a shortcut to their destination. But along the way Boy tells two of the men Medford (John Conway) and Vandemeer (Phillip Dorn) about the gold and they get new ideas. The leader of the safari Professor Elliot (Reginald Owen) wishes only to honor his agreement with Tarzan and when Tarzan helps cure the comedy relief member O'Doul(Barry Fitzgerald), Elliot is even more convinced. But he contracts the disease and is allowed to die by Medford and Vandemeer who trick Tarzan away from the escarpment long enough for them to kidnap Jane and Boy. When Tarzan returns Medford blackmails him into showing him where the gold vein is located then seemingly shoots Tarzan in the back. The safari heads out but soon enough is captured by a hostile tribe who torture and murder the bearers. They take the rest of the safari down river. Meanwhile O'Doul has tricked his greedy comrades and gone back with Tumbo to rescue Tarzan and they race to save the safari. But despite a furious river battle, only Boy and Jane are saved. Medford and Vandemeer are killed by crocodiles as are many of the ferocious natives. The Tarzan clan plus Tumbo see O'Doul off atop an elephant as the story closes.
This one is pretty exciting actually. The formula is pretty fixed at this point and there are enough variations in this one to keep it fresh. The interaction between Boy and Tumbo gets somewhat tedious and the desire to give Boy a playmate is understandable, but frankly a little rewriting and poor Tumbo becomes totally unnecessary to the plot. It is refreshing though to see a black character with some attempt at depth.
Cheetah does some dandy tricks this time, this particular Cheetah looking a bit younger and very nimble. The idea of Tarzan and his family sharing the escarpment with giant apes has been missing for several movies now, and all the "apes" are chimps.
The use of the elephants as cavalry is even given a twist when instead of storming yet another native village, this time the elephants block boats on the river causing all sorts of death and mayhem. The crocodiles are retreads though as the croc battle with Tarzan from at least two previous movies is dusted off and shown again, at least in an abbreviated form.
On the upside, the swimming looks great and there is a great scene where the Tarzan clan dives into the river one after another. It's spectacular and must've been a hoot in the theater.
The villains in this one are reasonbly dastardly, especially Tom Conway who sneers wit the worst of them. Reginald Owen is pretty naive and Barry Fitzgerald is pretty funny here and there, though his ability to keep up with Tarzan as he races through the jungle is extremely far fetched. But then this is a Tarzan movie and far fetched is the order of the day.
One nice thing in this one was a scene with just Jane and Tarzan which intentionally attempted to evoke the classic romance scenes they shared in the first two great movies. They cuddle on the river bank in and look again like two lovers and not just a jungle Ozzie and Harriet. It adds some spice to think that there is still some bungling going on in the jungle after all.
Chapter 26 -- The Passing of the Ape-Man
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The next morning they set out upon the short journey to Tarzan's cabin. Four Waziri bore the body of the dead Englishman. It had been the ape-man's suggestion that Clayton be buried beside the former Lord Greystoke near the edge of the jungle against the cabin that the older man had built.
Jane Porter was glad that it was to be so, and in her heart of hearts she wondered at the marvelous fineness of character of this wondrous man, who, though raised by brutes and among brutes, had the true chivalry and tenderness which only associates with the refinements of the highest civilization.
They had proceeded some three miles of the five that had separated them from Tarzan's own beach when the Waziri who were ahead stopped suddenly, pointing in amazement at a strange figure approaching them along the beach. It was a man with a shiny silk hat, who walked slowly with bent head, and hands clasped behind him underneath the tails of his long, black coat.
At sight of him Jane Porter uttered a little cry of surprise and joy, and ran quickly ahead to meet him. At the sound of her voice the old man looked up, and when he saw who it was confronting him he, too, cried out in relief and happiness. As Professor Archimedes Q. Porter folded his daughter in his arms tears streamed down his seamed old face, and it was several minutes before he could control himself sufficiently to speak.
When a moment later he recognized Tarzan it was with difficulty that they could convince him that his sorrow had not unbalanced his mind, for with the other members of the party he had been so thoroughly convinced that the ape-man was dead it was a problem to reconcile the conviction with the very lifelike appearance of Jane's "forest god." The old man was deeply touched at the news of Clayton's death.
"I cannot understand it," he said. "Monsieur Thuran assured us that Clayton passed away many days ago."
"Thuran is with you?" asked Tarzan.
"Yes; he but recently found us and led us to your cabin. We were camped but a short distance north of it. Bless me, but he will be delighted to see you both."
"And surprised," commented Tarzan.
A short time later the strange party came to the clearing in which stood the ape-man's cabin. It was filled with people coming and going, and almost the first whom Tarzan saw was D'Arnot.
"Paul!" he cried. "In the name of sanity what are you doing here? Or are we all insane?"
It was quickly explained, however, as were many other seemingly strange things. D'Arnot's ship had been cruising along the coast, on patrol duty, when at the lieutenant's suggestion they had anchored off the little landlocked harbor to have another look at the cabin and the jungle in which many of the officers and men had taken part in exciting adventures two years before. On landing they had found Lord Tennington's party, and arrangements were being made to take them all on board the following morning, and carry them back to civilization.
Hazel Strong and her mother, Esmeralda, and Mr. Samuel T. Philander were almost overcome by happiness at Jane Porter's safe return. Her escape seemed to them little short of miraculous, and it was the consensus of opinion that it could have been achieved by no other man than Tarzan of the Apes. They loaded the uncomfortable ape-man with eulogies and attentions until he wished himself back in the amphitheater of the apes.
All were interested in his savage Waziri, and many were the gifts the black men received from these friends of their king, but when they learned that he might sail away from them upon the great canoe that lay at anchor a mile off shore they became very sad.
As yet the newcomers had seen nothing of Lord Tennington and Monsieur Thuran. They had gone out for fresh meat early in the day, and had not yet returned.
"How surprised this man, whose name you say is Rokoff, will be to see you," said Jane Porter to Tarzan.
"His surprise will be short-lived," replied the ape-man grimly, and there was that in his tone that made her look up into his face in alarm. What she read there evidently confirmed her fears, for she put her hand upon his arm, and pleaded with him to leave the Russian to the laws of France.
"In the heart of the jungle, dear," she said, "with no other form of right or justice to appeal to other than your own mighty muscles, you would be warranted in executing upon this man the sentence he deserves; but with the strong arm of a civilized government at your disposal it would be murder to kill him now. Even your friends would have to submit to your arrest, or if you resisted it would plunge us all into misery and unhappiness again. I cannot bear to lose you again, my Tarzan. Promise me that you will but turn him over to Captain Dufranne, and let the law take its course--the beast is not worth risking our happiness for."
He saw the wisdom of her appeal, and promised. A half hour later Rokoff and Tennington emerged from the jungle. They were walking side by side. Tennington was the first to note the presence of strangers in the camp. He saw the black warriors palavering with the sailors from the cruiser, and then he saw a lithe, brown giant talking with Lieutenant D'Arnot and Captain Dufranne.
"Who is that, I wonder," said Tennington to Rokoff, and as the Russian raised his eyes and met those of the ape-man full upon him, he staggered and went white.
"Sapristi!" he cried, and before Tennington realized what he intended he had thrown his gun to his shoulder, and aiming point-blank at Tarzan pulled the trigger. But the Englishman was close to him--so close that his hand reached the leveled barrel a fraction of a second before the hammer fell upon the cartridge, and the bullet that was intended for Tarzan's heart whirred harmlessly above his head.
Before the Russian could fire again the ape-man was upon him and had wrested the firearm from his grasp. Captain Dufranne, Lieutenant D'Arnot, and a dozen sailors had rushed up at the sound of the shot, and now Tarzan turned the Russian over to them without a word. He had explained the matter to the French commander before Rokoff arrived, and the officer gave immediate orders to place the Russian in irons and confine him on board the cruiser.
Just before the guard escorted the prisoner into the small boat that was to transport him to his temporary prison Tarzan asked permission to search him, and to his delight found the stolen papers concealed upon his person.
The shot had brought Jane Porter and the others from the cabin, and a moment after the excitement had died down she greeted the surprised Lord Tennington. Tarzan joined them after he had taken the papers from Rokoff, and, as he approached, Jane Porter introduced him to Tennington.
"John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, my lord," she said.
The Englishman looked his astonishment in spite of his most herculean efforts to appear courteous, and it required many repetitions of the strange story of the ape-man as told by himself, Jane Porter, and Lieutenant D'Arnot to convince Lord Tennington that they were not all quite mad.
At sunset they buried William Cecil Clayton beside the jungle graves of his uncle and his aunt, the former Lord and Lady Greystoke. And it was at Tarzan's request that three volleys were fired over the last resting place of "a brave man, who met his death bravely."
Professor Porter, who in his younger days had been ordained a minister, conducted the simple services for the dead. About the grave, with bowed heads, stood as strange a company of mourners as the sun ever looked down upon. There were French officers and sailors, two English lords, Americans, and a score of savage African braves.
Following the funeral Tarzan asked Captain Dufranne to delay the sailing of the cruiser a couple of days while he went inland a few miles to fetch his "belongings," and the officer gladly granted the favor.
Late the next afternoon Tarzan and his Waziri returned with the first load of "belongings," and when the party saw the ancient ingots of virgin gold they swarmed upon the ape-man with a thousand questions; but he was smilingly obdurate to their appeals--he declined to give them the slightest clew as to the source of his immense treasure. "There are a thousand that I left behind," he explained, "for every one that I brought away, and when these are spent I may wish to return for more."
The next day he returned to camp with the balance of his ingots, and when they were stored on board the cruiser Captain Dufranne said he felt like the commander of an old-time Spanish galleon returning from the treasure cities of the Aztecs. "I don't know what minute my crew will cut my throat, and take over the ship," he added.
The next morning, as they were preparing to embark upon the cruiser, Tarzan ventured a suggestion to Jane Porter.
"Wild beasts are supposed to be devoid of sentiment," he said, "but nevertheless I should like to be married in the cabin where I was born, beside the graves of my mother and my father, and surrounded by the savage jungle that always has been my home."
"Would it be quite regular, dear?" she asked. "For if it would I know of no other place in which I should rather be married to my forest god than beneath the shade of his primeval forest."
And when they spoke of it to the others they were assured that it would be quite regular, and a most splendid termination of a remarkable romance. So the entire party assembled within the little cabin and about the door to witness the second ceremony that Professor Porter was to solemnize within three days.
D'Arnot was to be best man, and Hazel Strong bridesmaid, until Tennington upset all the arrangements by another of his marvelous "ideas."
"If Mrs. Strong is agreeable," he said, taking the bridesmaid's hand in his, "Hazel and I think it would be ripping to make it a double wedding."
The next day they sailed, and as the cruiser steamed slowly out to sea a tall man, immaculate in white flannel, and a graceful girl leaned against her rail to watch the receding shore line upon which danced twenty naked, black warriors of the Waziri, waving their war spears above their savage heads, and shouting farewells to their departing king.
"I should hate to think that I am looking upon the jungle for the last time, dear," he said, "were it not that I know that I am going to a new world of happiness with you forever," and, bending down, Tarzan of the Apes kissed his mate upon her lips.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I stumbled across this delightful interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft's iconic short story "The Call of C'Thulhu" by way of Theodor Geisel, the beloved Dr.Seuss. Surely this toddler's tome can be found in the children's section of Miskatonic University's Orne Library right next to R'lyehld Drohl's Wilbur and the Giant Fungi and Shellfish Silverstone's Where the Shoggoths End, as well Dr.Henry Armitage's own Necronomicon for Really Creepy Kids (with illustrations by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Coolaire).
Here is the link. Beware!
Chapter 25 -- Through the Forest Primeval
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
For a brief, sickening moment Tarzan felt the slipping of the rope to which he clung, and heard the scraping of the block of stone against the masonry above.
Then of a sudden the rope was still--the stone had caught at the very edge. Gingerly the ape-man clambered up the frail rope. In a moment his head was above the edge of the shaft. The court was empty. The inhabitants of Opar were viewing the sacrifice. Tarzan could hear the voice of La from the nearby sacrificial court. The dance had ceased. It must be almost time for the knife to fall; but even as he thought these things he was running rapidly toward the sound of the high priestess' voice.
Fate guided him to the very doorway of the great roofless chamber. Between him and the altar was the long row of priests and priestesses, awaiting with their golden cups the spilling of the warm blood of their victim. La's hand was descending slowly toward the bosom of the frail, quiet figure that lay stretched upon the hard stone. Tarzan gave a gasp that was almost a sob as he recognized the features of the girl he loved. And then the scar upon his forehead turned to a flaming band of scarlet, a red mist floated before his eyes, and, with the awful roar of the bull ape gone mad, he sprang like a huge lion into the midst of the votaries.
Seizing a cudgel from the nearest priest, he laid about him like a veritable demon as he forged his rapid way toward the altar. The hand of La had paused at the first noise of interruption. When she saw who the author of it was she went white. She had never been able to fathom the secret of the strange white man's escape from the dungeon in which she had locked him. She had not intended that he should ever leave Opar, for she had looked upon his giant frame and handsome face with the eyes of a woman and not those of a priestess.
In her clever mind she had concocted a story of wonderful revelation from the lips of the flaming god himself, in which she had been ordered to receive this white stranger as a messenger from him to his people on earth. That would satisfy the people of Opar, she knew. The man would be satisfied, she felt quite sure, to remain and be her husband rather than to return to the sacrificial altar.
But when she had gone to explain her plan to him he had disappeared, though the door had been tightly locked as she had left it. And now he had returned--materialized from thin air--and was killing her priests as though they had been sheep. For the moment she forgot her victim, and before she could gather her wits together again the huge white man was standing before her, the woman who had lain upon the altar in his arms.
"One side, La," he cried. "You saved me once, and so I would not harm you; but do not interfere or attempt to follow, or I shall have to kill you also."
As he spoke he stepped past her toward the entrance to the subterranean vaults.
"Who is she?" asked the high priestess, pointing at the unconscious woman.
"She is mine," said Tarzan of the Apes.
For a moment the girl of Opar stood wide-eyed and staring. Then a look of hopeless misery suffused her eyes-- tears welled into them, and with a little cry she sank to the cold floor, just as a swarm of frightful men dashed past her to leap upon the ape-man.
But Tarzan of the Apes was not there when they reached out to seize him. With a light bound he had disappeared into the passage leading to the pits below, and when his pursuers came more cautiously after they found the chamber empty, they but laughed and jabbered to one another, for they knew that there was no exit from the pits other than the one through which he had entered. If he came out at all he must come this way, and they would wait and watch for him above.
And so Tarzan of the Apes, carrying the unconscious Jane Porter, came through the pits of Opar beneath the temple of The Flaming God without pursuit. But when the men of Opar had talked further about the matter, they recalled to mind that this very man had escaped once before into the pits, and, though they had watched the entrance he had not come forth; and yet today he had come upon them from the outside. They would again send fifty men out into the valley to find and capture this desecrater of their temple.
After Tarzan reached the shaft beyond the broken wall, he felt so positive of the successful issue of his flight that he stopped to replace the tumbled stones, for he was not anxious that any of the inmates should discover this forgotten passage, and through it come upon the treasure chamber. It was in his mind to return again to Opar and bear away a still greater fortune than he had already buried in the amphitheater of the apes.
On through the passageways he trotted, past the first door and through the treasure vault; past the second door and into the long, straight tunnel that led to the lofty hidden exit beyond the city. Jane Porter was still unconscious.
At the crest of the great bowlder he halted to cast a backward glance toward the city. Coming across the plain he saw a band of the hideous men of Opar. For a moment he hesitated. Should he descend and make a race for the distant cliffs, or should he hide here until night? And then a glance at the girl's white face determined him. He could not keep her here and permit her enemies to get between them and liberty. For aught he knew they might have been followed through the tunnels, and to have foes before and behind would result in almost certain capture, since he could not fight his way through the enemy burdened as he was with the unconscious girl.
To descend the steep face of the bowlder with Jane Porter was no easy task, but by binding her across his shoulders with the grass rope he succeeded in reaching the ground in safety before the Oparians arrived at the great rock. As the descent had been made upon the side away from the city, the searching party saw nothing of it, nor did they dream that their prey was so close before them.
By keeping the kopje between them and their pursuers, Tarzan of the Apes managed to cover nearly a mile before the men of Opar rounded the granite sentinel and saw the fugitive before them. With loud cries of savage delight, they broke into a mad run, thinking doubtless that they would soon overhaul the burdened runner; but they both underestimated the powers of the ape-man and overestimated the possibilities of their own short, crooked legs.
By maintaining an easy trot, Tarzan kept the distance between them always the same. Occasionally he would glance at the face so near his own. Had it not been for the faint beating of the heart pressed so close against his own, he would not have known that she was alive, so white and drawn was the poor, tired face.
And thus they came to the flat-topped mountain and the barrier cliffs. During the last mile Tarzan had let himself out, running like a deer that he might have ample time to descend the face of the cliffs before the Oparians could reach the summit and hurl rocks down upon them. And so it was that he was half a mile down the mountainside ere the fierce little men came panting to the edge.
With cries of rage and disappointment they ranged along the cliff top shaking their cudgels, and dancing up and down in a perfect passion of anger. But this time they did not pursue beyond the boundary of their own country. Whether it was because they recalled the futility of their former long and irksome search, or after witnessing the ease with which the ape-man swung along before them, and the last burst of speed, they realized the utter hopelessness of further pursuit, it is difficult to say; but as Tarzan reached the woods that began at the base of the foothills which skirted the barrier cliffs they turned their faces once more toward Opar.
Just within the forest's edge, where he could yet watch the cliff tops, Tarzan laid his burden upon the grass, and going to the near-by rivulet brought water with which he bathed her face and hands; but even this did not revive her, and, greatly worried, he gathered the girl into his strong arms once more and hurried on toward the west.
Late in the afternoon Jane Porter regained consciousness. She did not open her eyes at once--she was trying to recall the scenes that she had last witnessed. Ah, she remembered now. The altar, the terrible priestess, the descending knife. She gave a little shudder, for she thought that either this was death or that the knife had buried itself in her heart and she was experiencing the brief delirium preceding death. And when finally she mustered courage to open her eyes, the sight that met them confirmed her fears, for she saw that she was being borne through a leafy paradise in the arms of her dead love. "If this be death," she murmured, "thank God that I am dead."
"You spoke, Jane!" cried Tarzan. "You are regaining consciousness!"
"Yes, Tarzan of the Apes," she replied, and for the first time in months a smile of peace and happiness lighted her face.
"Thank God!" cried the ape-man, coming to the ground in a little grassy clearing beside the stream. "I was in time, after all."
"In time? What do you mean?" she questioned.
"In time to save you from death upon the altar, dear," he replied. "Do you not remember?"
"Save me from death?" she asked, in a puzzled tone. "Are we not both dead, my Tarzan?"
He had placed her upon the grass by now, her back resting against the stem of a huge tree. At her question he stepped back where he could the better see her face.
"Dead!" he repeated, and then he laughed. "You are not, Jane; and if you will return to the city of Opar and ask them who dwell there they will tell you that I was not dead a few short hours ago. No, dear, we are both very much alive."
"But both Hazel and Monsieur Thuran told me that you had fallen into the ocean many miles from land," she urged, as though trying to convince him that he must indeed be dead. "They said that there was no question but that it must have been you, and less that you could have survived or been picked up."
"How can I convince you that I am no spirit?" he asked, with a laugh. "It was I whom the delightful Monsieur Thuran pushed overboard, but I did not drown--I will tell you all about it after a while--and here I am very much the same wild man you first knew, Jane Porter."
The girl rose slowly to her feet and came toward him.
"I cannot even yet believe it," she murmured. "It cannot be that such happiness can be true after all the hideous things that I have passed through these awful months since the Lady Alice went down."
She came close to him and laid a hand, soft and trembling, upon his arm.
"It must be that I am dreaming, and that I shall awaken in a moment to see that awful knife descending toward my heart--kiss me, dear, just once before I lose my dream forever."
Tarzan of the Apes needed no second invitation. He took the girl he loved in his strong arms, and kissed her not once, but a hundred times, until she lay there panting for breath; yet when he stopped she put her arms about his neck and drew his lips down to hers once more.
"Am I alive and a reality, or am I but a dream?" he asked.
"If you are not alive, my man," she answered, "I pray that I may die thus before I awaken to the terrible realities of my last waking moments."
For a while both were silent--gazing into each others' eyes as though each still questioned the reality of the wonderful happiness that had come to them. The past, with all its hideous disappointments and horrors, was forgotten--the future did not belong to them; but the present--ah, it was theirs; none could take it from them. It was the girl who first broke the sweet silence.
"Where are we going, dear?" she asked. "What are we going to do?"
"Where would you like best to go?" he asked. "What would you like best to do?"
"To go where you go, my man; to do whatever seems best to you," she answered.
"But Clayton?" he asked. For a moment he had forgotten that there existed upon the earth other than they two. "We have forgotten your husband."
"I am not married, Tarzan of the Apes," she cried. "Nor am I longer promised in marriage. The day before those awful creatures captured me I spoke to Mr. Clayton of my love for you, and he understood then that I could not keep the wicked promise that I had made. It was after we had been miraculously saved from an attacking lion." She paused suddenly and looked up at him, a questioning light in her eyes. "Tarzan of the Apes," she cried, "it was you who did that thing? It could have been no other."
He dropped his eyes, for he was ashamed.
"How could you have gone away and left me?" she cried reproachfully.
"Don't, Jane!" he pleaded. "Please don't! You cannot know how I have suffered since for the cruelty of that act, or how I suffered then, first in jealous rage, and then in bitter resentment against the fate that I had not deserved. I went back to the apes after that, Jane, intending never again to see a human being." He told her then of his life since he had returned to the jungle--of how he had dropped like a plummet from a civilized Parisian to a savage Waziri warrior, and from there back to the brute that he had been raised.
She asked him many questions, and at last fearfully of the things that Monsieur Thuran had told her--of the woman in Paris. He narrated every detail of his civilized life to her, omitting nothing, for he felt no shame, since his heart always had been true to her. When he had finished he sat looking at her, as though waiting for her judgment, and his sentence.
"I knew that he was not speaking the truth," she said. "Oh, what a horrible creature he is!"
"You are not angry with me, then?" he asked.
And her reply, though apparently most irrelevant, was truly feminine.
"Is Olga de Coude very beautiful?" she asked.
And Tarzan laughed and kissed her again. "Not one-tenth so beautiful as you, dear," he said.
She gave a contented little sigh, and let her head rest against his shoulder. He knew that he was forgiven.
That night Tarzan built a snug little bower high among the swaying branches of a giant tree, and there the tired girl slept, while in a crotch beneath her the ape-man curled, ready, even in sleep, to protect her.
It took them many days to make the long journey to the coast. Where the way was easy they walked hand in hand beneath the arching boughs of the mighty forest, as might in a far-gone past have walked their primeval forbears. When the underbrush was tangled he took her in his great arms, and bore her lightly through the trees, and the days were all too short, for they were very happy. Had it not been for their anxiety to reach and succor Clayton they would have drawn out the sweet pleasure of that wonderful journey indefinitely.
On the last day before they reached the coast Tarzan caught the scent of men ahead of them--the scent of black men. He told the girl, and cautioned her to maintain silence. "There are few friends in the jungle," he remarked dryly.
In half an hour they came stealthily upon a small party of black warriors filing toward the west. As Tarzan saw them he gave a cry of delight--it was a band of his own Waziri. Busuli was there, and others who had accompanied him to Opar. At sight of him they danced and cried out in exuberant joy. For weeks they had been searching for him, they told him.
The blacks exhibited considerable wonderment at the presence of the white girl with him, and when they found that she was to be his woman they vied with one another to do her honor. With the happy Waziri laughing and dancing about them they came to the rude shelter by the shore.
There was no sign of life, and no response to their calls. Tarzan clambered quickly to the interior of the little tree hut, only to emerge a moment later with an empty tin. Throwing it down to Busuli, he told him to fetch water, and then he beckoned Jane Porter to come up.
Together they leaned over the emaciated thing that once had been an English nobleman. Tears came to the girl's eyes as she saw the poor, sunken cheeks and hollow eyes, and the lines of suffering upon the once young and handsome face.
"He still lives," said Tarzan. "We will do all that can be done for him, but I fear that we are too late."
When Busuli had brought the water Tarzan forced a few drops between the cracked and swollen lips. He wetted the hot forehead and bathed the pitiful limbs.
Presently Clayton opened his eyes. A faint, shadowy smile lighted his countenance as he saw the girl leaning over him. At sight of Tarzan the expression changed to one of wonderment.
"It's all right, old fellow," said the ape-man. "We've found you in time. Everything will be all right now, and we'll have you on your feet again before you know it."
The Englishman shook his head weakly. "It's too late," he whispered. "But it's just as well. I'd rather die."
"Where is Monsieur Thuran?" asked the girl.
"He left me after the fever got bad. He is a devil. When I begged for the water that I was too weak to get he drank before me, threw the rest out, and laughed in my face." At the thought of it the man was suddenly animated by a spark of vitality. He raised himself upon one elbow. "Yes," he almost shouted; "I will live. I will live long enough to find and kill that beast!" But the brief effort left him weaker than before, and he sank back again upon the rotting grasses that, with his old ulster, had been the bed of Jane Porter.
"Don't worry about Thuran," said Tarzan of the Apes, laying a reassuring hand on Clayton's forehead. "He belongs to me, and I shall get him in the end, never fear."
For a long time Clayton lay very still. Several times Tarzan had to put his ear quite close to the sunken chest to catch the faint beating of the wornout heart. Toward evening he aroused again for a brief moment.
"Jane," he whispered. The girl bent her head closer to catch the faint message. "I have wronged you--and him," he nodded weakly toward the ape-man. "I loved you so--it is a poor excuse to offer for injuring you; but I could not bear to think of giving you up. I do not ask your forgiveness. I only wish to do now the thing I should have done over a year ago." He fumbled in the pocket of the ulster beneath him for something that he had discovered there while he lay between the paroxysms of fever. Presently he found it--a crumpled bit of yellow paper. He handed it to the girl, and as she took it his arm fell limply across his chest, his head dropped back, and with a little gasp he stiffened and was still. Then Tarzan of the Apes drew a fold of the ulster across the upturned face.
For a moment they remained kneeling there, the girl's lips moving in silent prayer, and as they rose and stood on either side of the now peaceful form, tears came to the ape-man's eyes, for through the anguish that his own heart had suffered he had learned compassion for the suffering of others.
Through her own tears the girl read the message upon the bit of faded yellow paper, and as she read her eyes went very wide. Twice she read those startling words before she could fully comprehend their meaning.
Finger prints prove you Greystoke. Congratulations.
She handed the paper to Tarzan. "And he has known it all this time," she said, "and did not tell you?"
"I knew it first, Jane," replied the man. "I did not know that he knew it at all. I must have dropped this message that night in the waiting room. It was there that I received it."
"And afterward you told us that your mother was a she-ape, and that you had never known your father?" she asked incredulously.
"The title and the estates meant nothing to me without you, dear," he replied. "And if I had taken them away from him I should have been robbing the woman I love-- don't you understand, Jane?" It was as though he attempted to excuse a fault.
She extended her arms toward him across the body of the dead man, and took his hands in hers.
"And I would have thrown away a love like that!" she said.
More to come in Chapter Twenty-Six, the Last Chapter.
Monday, June 25, 2012
I read this Philip Farmer pseudo-biography several decades ago, and this along with Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life were my entry into the Wold Newton universe.
A few days ago, I picked up the Bison Books volume, and it rests on my nightstand waiting its turn. This is a nice book with the original text of Farmer's work along with other short works which sparked its creation. There is an faux-interview titled "Tarzan Lives: An Exclusive Interview with the Eighth Duke of Greystoke" from a 1972 issue of Esquire magazine (the wonderful painting above by Jean-Paul Goude is from that article) and a small essay titled "Extracts from the Memoirs of Lord Greystoke" from a 1974 Farmer anthology. It's very nice to have all this material under one cover.
I haven't seen plans from Titan Books as to whether this book or the Doc Savage volume will be published under their recent Wold Newton banner. I hope the Doc Savage volume at least gets a new edition.
Here's a gallery of previous editions of Farmer's Tarzan Alive.