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|Tarzan of the Apes||Edgar Rice Burroughs|
The Search Party
|Page 1 of 7||
When dawn broke upon the little camp of Frenchmen in the heart of the jungle it found a sad and disheartened group.
As soon as it was light enough to see their surroundings Lieutenant Charpentier sent men in groups of three in several directions to locate the trail, and in ten minutes it was found and the expedition was hurrying back toward the beach.
It was slow work, for they bore the bodies of six dead men, two more having succumbed during the night, and several of those who were wounded required support to move even very slowly.
Charpentier had decided to return to camp for reinforcements, and then make an attempt to track down the natives and rescue D'Arnot.
It was late in the afternoon when the exhausted men reached the clearing by the beach, but for two of them the return brought so great a happiness that all their suffering and heartbreaking grief was forgotten on the instant.
As the little party emerged from the jungle the first person that Professor Porter and Cecil Clayton saw was Jane, standing by the cabin door.
With a little cry of joy and relief she ran forward to greet them, throwing her arms about her father's neck and bursting into tears for the first time since they had been cast upon this hideous and adventurous shore.
Professor Porter strove manfully to suppress his own emotions, but the strain upon his nerves and weakened vitality were too much for him, and at length, burying his old face in the girl's shoulder, he sobbed quietly like a tired child.
Jane led him toward the cabin, and the Frenchmen turned toward the beach from which several of their fellows were advancing to meet them.
Clayton, wishing to leave father and daughter alone, joined the sailors and remained talking with the officers until their boat pulled away toward the cruiser whither Lieutenant Charpentier was bound to report the unhappy outcome of his adventure.
Then Clayton turned back slowly toward the cabin. His heart was filled with happiness. The woman he loved was safe.
He wondered by what manner of miracle she had been spared. To see her alive seemed almost unbelievable.
As he approached the cabin he saw Jane coming out. When she saw him she hurried forward to meet him.
"Jane!" he cried, "God has been good to us, indeed. Tell me how you escaped--what form Providence took to save you for--us."
He had never before called her by her given name. Forty-eight hours before it would have suffused Jane with a soft glow of pleasure to have heard that name from Clayton's lips--now it frightened her.
"Mr. Clayton," she said quietly, extending her hand, "first let me thank you for your chivalrous loyalty to my dear father. He has told me how noble and self-sacrificing you have been. How can we repay you!"
Clayton noticed that she did not return his familiar salutation, but he felt no misgivings on that score. She had been through so much. This was no time to force his love upon her, he quickly realized.
"I am already repaid," he said. "Just to see you and Professor Porter both safe, well, and together again. I do not think that I could much longer have endured the pathos of his quiet and uncomplaining grief.
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|Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
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