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|Tarzan of the Apes||Edgar Rice Burroughs|
The Search Party
|Page 2 of 7||
"It was the saddest experience of my life, Miss Porter; and then, added to it, there was my own grief--the greatest I have ever known. But his was so hopeless--his was pitiful. It taught me that no love, not even that of a man for his wife may be so deep and terrible and self-sacrificing as the love of a father for his daughter."
The girl bowed her head. There was a question she wanted to ask, but it seemed almost sacrilegious in the face of the love of these two men and the terrible suffering they had endured while she sat laughing and happy beside a godlike creature of the forest, eating delicious fruits and looking with eyes of love into answering eyes.
But love is a strange master, and human nature is still stranger, so she asked her question.
"Where is the forest man who went to rescue you? Why did he not return?"
"I do not understand," said Clayton. "Whom do you mean?"
"He who has saved each of us--who saved me from the gorilla."
"Oh," cried Clayton, in surprise. "It was he who rescued you? You have not told me anything of your adventure, you know."
"But the wood man," she urged. "Have you not seen him? When we heard the shots in the jungle, very faint and far away, he left me. We had just reached the clearing, and he hurried off in the direction of the fighting. I know he went to aid you."
Her tone was almost pleading--her manner tense with suppressed emotion. Clayton could not but notice it, and he wondered, vaguely, why she was so deeply moved--so anxious to know the whereabouts of this strange creature.
Yet a feeling of apprehension of some impending sorrow haunted him, and in his breast, unknown to himself, was implanted the first germ of jealousy and suspicion of the ape-man, to whom he owed his life.
"We did not see him," he replied quietly. "He did not join us." And then after a moment of thoughtful pause: "Possibly he joined his own tribe--the men who attacked us." He did not know why he had said it, for he did not believe it.
The girl looked at him wide eyed for a moment.
"No!" she exclaimed vehemently, much too vehemently he thought. "It could not be. They were savages."
Clayton looked puzzled.
"He is a strange, half-savage creature of the jungle, Miss Porter. We know nothing of him. He neither speaks nor understands any European tongue--and his ornaments and weapons are those of the West Coast savages."
Clayton was speaking rapidly.
"There are no other human beings than savages within hundreds of miles, Miss Porter. He must belong to the tribes which attacked us, or to some other equally savage--he may even be a cannibal."
"I will not believe it," she half whispered. "It is not true. You shall see," she said, addressing Clayton, "that he will come back and that he will prove that you are wrong. You do not know him as I do. I tell you that he is a gentleman."
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|Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
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