Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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CRACK! The report of a rifle echoed through the jungle.
A tapir, browsing at the edge of a clearing, gave a convulsive start and then sank slowly to the ground.
On its brown skin in the vicinity of the heart appeared a red stain that gradually widened. The stricken beast rolled over on its side and lay still.
There was a crackling of the underbrush and a lithe figure leaped into the clearing and ran to the side of the tapir. The still smoking rifle held in the right hand betokened the source of the shot that had brought the quarry low.
Bomba, the jungle boy, bent over the animal and assured himself that no other shot was needed. Then he straightened up with a smile of satisfaction.
"Good!" he exclaimed. "The white man's fire stick kills as surely and quickly as the arrows of Bomba. But it speaks with a voice of thunder, while the arrows sing softly. It is not well to make too much noise in the jungle."
His keen eyes searched the vicinity to see what thing, if any, had been aroused by the report of the rifle.
He formed a striking picture as he stood at the edge of the clearing with a glint of sunshine that had sifted through the trees lighting up his bronzed face, a face so tanned by exposure to sun and wind and storm that at first sight it might have been mistaken for that of a native.
But a moment's scrutiny would have dispelled that impression. For the features were undeniably those of a white boy. They were strongly though finely chiseled, the nose aquiline, the mouth firm and handsome, the brow broad and high. Keen intelligence looked through the large brown eyes. The head was magnificently shaped and covered with a mass of wavy brown hair.
The boy's muscular development was remarkable and the rippling ridges on arms and legs marked the athlete. Grace showed in every movement. He wore no clothing except the tunic common to the jungle and a puma skin stretched across his breast—the skin of Geluk, the giant puma that Bomba had slain when, the brute was attacking the parrots, Woowoo and Kiki, two of the boy's feathered friends. Sandals shod his feet.
Besides the rifle he carried in his hands, his weapons consisted of a bow slung over his shoulder and a quiver of arrows at his side, together with the machete that was thrust in his belt—a knife nearly a foot long with a razor edge that could do deadly execution in hand to hand combat or when hurled through the air by the lad's powerful arm.
The rifle was a recent acquisition. It had been given to Bomba by a party of three white scientists with whom Bomba had come in contact in the jungle and whose adventures are recorded in the volume immediately preceding this. With the weapon they had left a plentiful supply of cartridges. For this the boy was grateful, but he was still more thankful for the fact that under the treatment of these wise white men, Cody Casson, Bomba's only white associate in the jungle, was slowly but surely recovering his mind, which had been affected by an accident.
The rifle was new to Bomba, who, up to that time, had been compelled to fight wild beasts and savage men with arrow and knife, in the use of both of which he was wonderfully efficient. True, Bomba had at one time owned a revolver given him by two rubber hunters, Ralph Gillis and Jake Dorn, whom he had met in the jungle and whom he had aided in a time of danger. But the revolver was a feeble weapon against the jungle beasts as compared with this modern rifle Bomba now possessed, or even as compared with the bow and arrows and the machete when used by this jungle-bred lad.
He drew his knife from his belt and set about skinning the tapir.
"There will be rejoicing in the maloca of Hondura when Bomba takes back his meat," he said to himself. "Pipina, the squaw, will be glad that she can make fresh broth for Casson."
With deft strokes he removed the hide from one side of the beast. Then he rolled the body over to continue the operation.
He stretched himself to relieve his cramped limbs and then bent again over the carcass. As he did so, several arrows whizzed over his head. If he had still been in a standing position, he would have been transfixed.
Like lightning, Bomba flung himself into the underbrush that bordered the edge of the clearing. Then, as swiftly and sinuously as a snake, he wormed his way into the tangled depths of the jungle.
There had been no signs that hostile natives were in that part of the jungle. From time to time raiding parties from distant tribes invaded that section, leaving a trail of blood and flame and death. More than once Bomba had come in contact with these invaders and had had to fight for his life. But now for many months there had been peace in the vicinity of the Araos, the tribe whose leader, Hondura, was a firm friend of Bomba.
As silently as a shadow, Bomba made his way through the undergrowth until he was at some distance from the scene of the attack. Then, when he was beyond the sight of prying enemies, he forsook the ground for the air. He knew that his foes could track him through the brush. But the air left no traces.
So he swung himself up to the bough of a tree and passed from branch to branch, from tree to tree, with the agility of a monkey. He kept this up for a considerable time and then his flight halted.
For he had no idea of fleeing indefinitely. All that he had wanted to do was to keep out of the way of his enemies until he could form his own plan of campaign, learn the numbers and plans of his foes, and then take measures to thwart or defeat them.
With his swiftness of foot and the jungle experience he had gained, he could easily have outdistanced them and secured his own safety. But it was not of his own safety he was thinking.
For there was the tribe of the Araos to whom he was bound in closest ties of friendship, the good chief, Hondura, his little daughter Pirah, the unsuspecting natives