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|Tarzan of the Apes||Edgar Rice Burroughs|
The Jungle Toll
|Page 6 of 7||
For an instant he listened intently, and then from the jungle came the agonized scream of a woman, and Tarzan of the Apes, dropping his first love letter upon the ground, shot like a panther into the forest.
Clayton, also, heard the scream, and Professor Porter and Mr. Philander, and in a few minutes they came panting to the cabin, calling out to each other a volley of excited questions as they approached. A glance within confirmed their worst fears.
Jane and Esmeralda were not there.
Instantly, Clayton, followed by the two old men, plunged into the jungle, calling the girl's name aloud. For half an hour they stumbled on, until Clayton, by merest chance, came upon the prostrate form of Esmeralda.
He stopped beside her, feeling for her pulse and then listening for her heartbeats. She lived. He shook her.
"Esmeralda!" he shrieked in her ear. "Esmeralda! For God's sake, where is Miss Porter? What has happened? Esmeralda!"
Slowly Esmeralda opened her eyes. She saw Clayton. She saw the jungle about her.
"Oh, Gaberelle!" she screamed, and fainted again.
By this time Professor Porter and Mr. Philander had come up.
"What shall we do, Mr. Clayton?" asked the old professor. "Where shall we look? God could not have been so cruel as to take my little girl away from me now."
"We must arouse Esmeralda first," replied Clayton. "She can tell us what has happened. Esmeralda!" he cried again, shaking the black woman roughly by the shoulder.
"O Gaberelle, I want to die!" cried the poor woman, but with eyes fast closed. "Let me die, dear Lord, don't let me see that awful face again."
"Come, come, Esmeralda," cried Clayton.
"The Lord isn't here; it's Mr. Clayton. Open your eyes."
Esmeralda did as she was bade.
"O Gaberelle! Thank the Lord," she said.
"Where's Miss Porter? What happened?" questioned Clayton.
"Ain't Miss Jane here?" cried Esmeralda, sitting up with wonderful celerity for one of her bulk. "Oh, Lord, now I remember! It must have took her away," and the Negress commenced to sob, and wail her lamentations.
"What took her away?" cried Professor Porter.
"A great big giant all covered with hair."
"A gorilla, Esmeralda?" questioned Mr. Philander, and the three men scarcely breathed as he voiced the horrible thought.
"I thought it was the devil; but I guess it must have been one of them gorilephants. Oh, my poor baby, my poor little honey," and again Esmeralda broke into uncontrollable sobbing.
Clayton immediately began to look about for tracks, but he could find nothing save a confusion of trampled grasses in the close vicinity, and his woodcraft was too meager for the translation of what he did see.
All the balance of the day they sought through the jungle; but as night drew on they were forced to give up in despair and hopelessness, for they did not even know in what direction the thing had borne Jane.
It was long after dark ere they reached the cabin, and a sad and grief-stricken party it was that sat silently within the little structure.
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|Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
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