The Son of Tarzan

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 35

more renegade Arabs and Negro slaves--a
fierce, relentless band of cut-throats. Remember them--Carl Jenssen
and Sven Malbihn, yellow-bearded, Swedish giants--for you will meet
them later.

In the heart of the jungle, hidden away upon the banks of a small
unexplored tributary of a large river that empties into the Atlantic
not so far from the equator, lay a small, heavily palisaded village.
Twenty palm-thatched, beehive huts sheltered its black population,
while a half-dozen goat skin tents in the center of the clearing housed
the score of Arabs who found shelter here while, by trading and
raiding, they collected the cargoes which their ships of the desert
bore northward twice each year to the market of Timbuktu.

Playing before one of the Arab tents was a little girl of ten--a
black-haired, black-eyed little girl who, with her nut-brown skin and
graceful carriage looked every inch a daughter of the desert. Her
little fingers were busily engaged in fashioning a skirt of grasses for
a much-disheveled doll which a kindly disposed slave had made for her a
year or two before. The head of the doll was rudely chipped from
ivory, while the body was a rat skin stuffed with grass. The arms and
legs were bits of wood, perforated at one end and sewn to the rat skin
torso. The doll was quite hideous and altogether disreputable and
soiled, but Meriem thought it the most beautiful and adorable thing in
the whole world, which is not so strange in view of the fact that it
was the only object within that world upon which she might bestow her
confidence and her love.

Everyone else with whom Meriem came in contact was, almost without
exception, either indifferent to her or cruel. There was, for example,
the old black hag who looked after her, Mabunu--toothless, filthy and
ill tempered. She lost no opportunity to cuff the little girl, or even
inflict minor tortures upon her, such as pinching, or, as she had twice
done, searing the tender flesh with hot coals. And there was The
Sheik, her father. She feared him more than she did Mabunu. He often
scolded her for nothing, quite habitually terminating his tirades by
cruelly beating her, until her little body was black and blue.

But when she was alone she was happy, playing with Geeka, or decking
her hair with wild flowers, or making ropes of grasses. She was always
busy and always singing--when they left her alone. No amount of
cruelty appeared sufficient to crush the innate happiness and sweetness
from her full

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