Tarzan of the Apes
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Chapter 2: The Savage Home
And they didn’t have long to wait, because the next morning, as Clayton was emerging on deck for his usual walk before breakfast, a shot rang out, and then another, and yet another. What he was witnessing, completely confirmed his worst fears. Facing the little knot of Officers was the entire motley crew of the Faulkner, and leading the rabble, there stood Black Michael.
At the first volley from the Officers, the crewmen ran for shelter. From vantage points behind masts, the wheel-house, and cabins, the crew returned the fire of the five men who were the hated authority of the Faulkner. Two of the crew had already gone down, shot by the Captain. They lay where they had fallen, between the combatants. But then the First Mate lunged forward, falling on his face. With a commanding cry from Black Michael, the mutineers now charged the remaining four Officers. The crew had been able to muster up only six firearms, so most of them were armed with boat hooks, axes, hatchets, and crowbars.
The Captain had emptied his revolver, and he was reloading as the rabble’s charge began. The Second Mate’s gun had jammed, and so there were only two weapons left that could fire on the mutineers, as they bore down upon the Officers, who now began to retreat before the infuriated rush of their crewmen.
Both sides were cursing and swearing in a frightful manner, which, together with the blasts from the firearms, and the screams and groans of the wounded, turned the deck of the Faulkner into an absolute madhouse. Before the officers had taken a dozen steps backward, the crewmen were all over them. An ax in the hands of a burly African, cleft the Captain from forehead to chin. And an instant later, the others were all down, dead or wounded from dozens of blows and bullet wounds.
The work of the Faulkner’s mutineers had been short and grisly, and through it all, John Clayton had stood, leaning carelessly beside one of the masts, puffing meditatively upon his pipe as though he’d been just watching nothing more important than an indifferent cricket match. As the last Officer went down, he thought it was time that he returned to his wife, in case some members of the crew might find her alone, below.
Though outwardly calm and indifferent, Clayton was inwardly apprehensive and wrought up, for he feared for his wife’s safety at the hands of these ignorant half-brutes, into whose hands fate had so remorselessly thrown them. As he turned to descend the ladder, he was surprised to see his wife standing on the steps, almost at his side. “How long have you been here, Alice?”
“Since the beginning,” she replied. “How awful, John. Oh, how awful! What can we hope for at the hands of such as those?”
“Breakfast, I hope,” he answered, smiling bravely in an attempt to allay her fears. “At least,” he added, “I’m going to ask them. Come with me, Alice. We must not let them think we expect any but courteous treatment.”
The men had, by this time, surrounded the dead and wounded Officers, and without either partiality or compassion, they proceeded to throw both the living and the dead over the sides of the vessel. With equal heartlessness, they disposed of even their own dead and dying. Presently one of the crew spied the approaching Claytons, and with a cry of, “Here’s two more for the fishes,” rushed toward them with an uplifted ax.
But Black Michael was even quicker, so that the fellow went down with a bullet in his back before he had taken a half-dozen steps. With a loud roar, Black Michael attracted the attention of the others, and pointing to Lord and Lady Greystoke cried, “These here are my friends, and they are to be left alone. D’ye understand? I’m Captain of this ship now, an’ what I says goes,” he added, turning to Clayton. “Just keep to yourselves, and nobody’ll harm ye,” and he looked threateningly at his comrades.
The Claytons heeded Black Michael’s instructions so well that they saw very little of the crew. But because of this, they knew nothing of the plans that the men were making. Occasionally, they heard faint echoes of brawling and quarreling among the mutineers. And on two occasions, the vicious bark of firearms rang out in the still air. But Black Michael was a fit leader for this band of cutthroats, and all-in-all, he kept them very well under control.
On the fifth day following the murder of the ship’s officers, land was sighted by the lookout. Whether island or mainland, Black Michael didn’t know, but he told Clayton that if, upon investigation, it was found that the place was habitable, he and Lady Greystoke were to be put ashore with their belongings. “You’ll be all right there for a few months,” he explained, “and by that time we’ll have been able to make an inhabited coast somewhere and scatter a bit. Then I’ll see that yer gover’ment’s notified where you be, an’ they’ll soon send a man-o’war to fetch ye off. It would be a hard matter to land you in civilization without a lot o’ questions being asked, an’ none o’ us here has any very convincin’ answers up our sleeves.”
Clayton argued about how inhumane it would be to land them on an unknown shore, to be left to the mercies of savage beasts, and possibly, to still more savage men. But his words were of no avail, and his argument was just making Black Michael angry. So he was forced to desist, and he knew now that he’d just have to make the best that he could of a bad situation.
1. What happened on deck the next morning?
a) the crew attacked the officers
b) the officers attacked the crew
c) the crew attacked John Clayton and Lady Alice
2. While the fighting was going on, John Clayton
a) grabbed a gun and started shooting
b) ran back to his cabin to hide
c) smoked his pipe as he stood watching
3. What happened to the crew and officers who were killed or hurt in battle?
a) the hurt ones were taken care of by the ship’s doctor
b) they were all thrown overboard
c) no one was hurt or killed
4. Why didn’t Clayton and his wife get attacked?
a) the crew was afraid of them
b) Black Michael told the crew to leave them alone
c) Clayton and his wife jumped overboard and swam to shore.
5. What happened to John Clayton and his wife at the end of this episode?
a) they were put ashore on a deserted beach
b) they were killed
c) they returned to England
Chapter Two continues in Episode Six. Go to Next Episode