Tarzan and the Golden Lion
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Published March, 1923
Copyrighted in Great Britain
Printed in the United States of America
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
THE GOLDEN LION
SABOR, the lioness, suckled her young—asingle fuzzy ball, spotted like Sheeta, theleopard. She lay in the warm sunshine beforethe rocky cavern that was her lair, stretched outupon her side with half closed eyes, yet Saborwas alert. There had been three of these little,fuzzy balls at first—two daughters and a son—andSabor and Numa, their sire, had been proudof them; proud and happy. But kills had notbeen plentiful, and Sabor, undernourished, hadbeen unable to produce sufficient milk to nourishproperly three lusty cubs, and then a cold rainhad come, and the little ones had sickened. Onlythe strongest survived—the two daughters haddied. Sabor had mourned, pacing to and frobeside the pitiful bits of bedraggled fur, whiningand moaning. Now and again she would nosethem with her muzzle as though she would awakenthem from the long sleep that knows no waking.At last, however, she abandoned her efforts, andnow her whole savage heart was filled withconcern for the little male cub that remained toher. That was why Sabor was more alert thanusual.
Numa, the lion, was away. Two nights beforehe had made a kill and dragged it to their lairand last night he had fared forth again, but hehad not returned. Sabor was thinking, as shehalf dozed, of Wappi, the plump antelope, thather splendid mate might this very minute be draggingthrough the tangled jungle to her. Or perhapsit would be Pacco, the zebra, whose fleshwas the best beloved of her kind—juicy, succulentPacco. Sabor’s mouth watered.
Ah, what was that? The shadow of a soundhad come to those keen ears. She raised her head,cocking it first upon one side and then the other,as with up-pricked ears she sought to catch thefaintest repetition of that which had disturbed her.Her nose sniffed the air. There was but the suggestionof a breeze, but what there was movedtoward her from the direction of the sound shehad heard, and which she still heard in a slightlyincreasing volume that told her that whatever wasmaking it was approaching her. As it drew closerthe beast’s nervousness increased and she rolledover on her belly, shutting off the milk supply fromthe cub, which vented its disapproval in miniaturegrowls until a low, querulous whine fromthe lioness silenced him, then he stood at her side,looking first at her and then in the direction towardwhich she looked, cocking his little head first onone side and then on the other.
Evidently there was a disturbing quality in thesound that Sabor heard—something that inspireda certain restlessness, if not actual apprehension—thoughshe could not be sure as yet that it bodedill. It might be her great lord returning, but itdid not sound like the movement of a lion, certainlynot like a lion dragging a heavy kill. Sheglanced at her cub, breathing as she did so aplaintive whine. There was always the fear thatsome danger menaced him—this last of her littlefamily—but she, Sabor the lioness, was there todefend him.
Presently the breeze brought to her nostrils thescent spoor of the thing that moved toward herthrough the jungle. Instantly the troubled mother-facewas metamorphosed into a bare-fanged, glittering-eyedmask of savage rage, for the scentthat had come up to her through the jungle wasthe hated man-scent. She rose to her feet, herhead flattened, her sinuous tail twitching nervously.Through that strange medium by which animalscommunicate with one another she cautioned hercub to lie down and remain where he was until shereturned, then she moved rapidly and silently tomeet the intruder.
The cub had heard what its mother heard andnow he caught the smell of man—an unfamiliarsmell that had never impinged upon his nostrilsbefore, yet a smell that he knew at once for thatof an enemy—a smell that brought a reaction astypical as that which marked the attitude of thegrown lioness, bringing the hairs along his littlespine erect and baring his tiny fangs. As the adultmoved quickly and stealthily into the underbrushthe small cub, ignoring her injunction, followedafter her, his hind quarters wobbling from sideto side, after the manner of the very young ofhis kind, the ridiculous gait comporting ill withthe dignified bearing of his fore quarters; but thelioness, intent upon that which lay before her, didnot know that he followed her.
There was dense jungle before the two for ahundred yards, but through it the lions had worna tunnel-like path to their lair; and then therewas a small clearing through which ran a well-wornjungle trail, out of the jungle at one endof the clearing and into the jungle again at theother. As Sabor reached the clearing she sawthe object of her fear and hatred well within it.What if the man-thing were not hunting her orhers? What if he even dreamed not of theirpresence? These facts were as nothing to Sabor,the lioness, today. Ordinarily she would have lethim pass unmolested, so long as he did not comeclose enough to threaten the safety of her cub;or, cubless, she would have slunk away at the firstintimation of his approach. But today the lionesswas nervous and fearful—fearful because of thesingle cub that remained to her—her maternalinstincts centered threefold, perhaps, upon thislone and triply loved survivor—and so she didnot wait for the man to threaten the safety of herlittle one; but instead she moved to meet him andto stop him. From the soft mother she had becomea terrifying creature of destruction, her brainobsessed by a single thought—to kill.
She did not hesitate an instant at the edge ofthe clearing, nor did she give the slightest warning.The first intimation that the black warriorhad that there was a lion within twenty miles ofhim, was the terrifying apparition of this devil-facedcat charging across the clearing toward himwith the speed of an arrow. The black was notsearching for lions. Had he known that therewas one near he would have given it a wide berth.He would have fled now had there been anywhereto flee. The nearest tree was farther from himthan was the lioness. She could overhaul himbefore he would have covered a quarter of thedistance. There was no hope and there was onlyone thing to do. The beast was almost upon himand behind her he saw a tiny cub. The man borea heavy spear. He carried it far back with hisright hand and hurled it at the very instant thatSabor rose to seize him. The spear passed throughthe savage heart and almost simultaneously thegiant jaws closed upon the face and skull of thewarrior. The momentum of the lioness carriedthe two heavily to the ground, dead except for afew spasmodic twitchings of their muscles.
The orphaned cub stopped twenty feet awayand surveyed the first great catastrophe of his lifewith questioning eyes. He wanted to approachhis dam but a natural fear of the man-scent heldhim away. Presently he commenced to whine ina tone that always brought his mother to himhurriedly; but this time she did not come—shedid not even rise and look toward him. He waspuzzled—he could not understand it. He continuedto cry, feeling all the while more sad andmore lonely. Gradually he crept closer to hismother. He saw that the strange creature shehad killed did not move and after a while he feltless terror of it, so that at last he found the courageto come quite close to his mother and sniffat her. He still whined to her, but she did notanswer. It dawned on him at last that therewas something wrong—that his great, beautifulmother was not as she had been—a change hadcome over her; yet still he clung to her, cryingmuch until at last he fell asleep, cuddled close toher dead body.
It was thus that Tarzan found him—Tarzanand Jane, his wife, and their son, Korak the Killer,returning from the mysterious land of Pal-ul-donfrom which the two men had rescued Jane Clayton.At the sound of their approach the cubopened his eyes and rising, flattened his ears andsnarled at them, backing close against his deadmother. At sight of him the ape-man smiled.
“Plucky little devil,” he commented, taking inthe story of the tragedy at a single glance. Heapproached the spitting cub, expecting it to turnand run away; but it did nothing of the sort.Instead it snarled more ferociously and struck athis extended hand as he stooped and reached for it.
“What a brave little fellow,” cried Jane.“Poor little orphan!”
“He’s going to make a great lion, or he wouldhave if his dam had lived,” said Korak. “Lookat that back—as straight and strong as a spear.Too bad the rascal has got to die.”
“He doesn’t have to die,” returned Tarzan.
“There’s not much chance for him—he’ll needmilk for a couple of months more, and who’sgoing to get it for him?”
“I am,” replied Tarzan.
“You’re going to adopt him?”
Korak and Jane laughed. “That’ll be fine,”commented the former.
“Lord Greystoke, foster mother to the son ofNuma,” laughed Jane.
Tarzan smiled with them, but he did not ceasehis attentions toward the cub. Reaching out suddenlyhe caught the little lion by the scruff of itsneck and then stroking it gently he talked to itin a low, crooning tone. I do not know what hesaid; but perhaps the cub did, for presently itceased its struggles and no longer sought to scratchor bite the caressing hand. After that he pickedit up and held it against his breast. It did notseem afraid now, nor did it even bare its fangsagainst this close proximity to the erstwhile hatedman-scent.
“How do you do it?” exclaimed Jane Clayton.
Tarzan shrugged his broad shoulders. “Yourkind are not afraid of you—these are really mykind, try to civilize me as you will, and perhapsthat is why they are not afraid of me when I givethem the signs of friendship. Even this littlerascal seems to know it, doesn’t he?”
“I can never understand it,” commented Korak.“I think I am rather familiar with African animals,yet I haven’t the power over them or theunderstanding that you have. Why