AT D’Arnot’s request, the authorities were glad to co-operate; and with a delay of only a couple of hours the party was boarding a seaplane anchored in the river. Magra’s expression suggested utmost self-satisfaction, as d’Arnot helped her aboard from the native canoe that had brought the party from shore. Wolff, who had never flown, swaggered a bit to hide his inward perturbation. Ogabi’s eyes rolled fearfully.
“You see how easily everything was arranged?” exclaimed d’Arnot.
“Thanks to you,” replied Gregory.
“How long will it take you to fly to Bonga, Lieutenant?” Tarzan asked the pilot.
“Between two and three hours,” replied Lavac.
“It will take the steamer four days, against the current,” said d’Arnot. “Atan Thome will find a reception committee waiting at the dock.”
As the plane raced up the river into the wind for the take-off, Ogabi closed his eyes and clutched the seat with both hands. When he opened his eyes again, he looked down upon the top of a forest. His face was no longer dark—it was a sickly ashen color.
“This is no place for man, Bwana, in belly of bird,” he said to Tarzan.
“But you are a man, Ogabi,” replied the ape-man; “therefore you are not afraid. Remember that when the storm strikes us.”
“What storm?” asked Gregory.
“A storm is coming,” replied Tarzan.
“How do you know?” demanded Gregory. “There is not a cloud in the sky.”
“Tarzan always knows,” said d’Arnot.
How Tarzan had known that a storm was approaching, not even he could have explained. Perhaps he shared with the wild things, by which and among which he had been raised, a peculiar sensitivity beyond the appreciation of men. However that may be, a half hour after he had foretold it, the ship raced into the heart of a tropical storm.
Lavac, who was accustomed to sudden tropical storms, assumed that it covered but a small area and would soon be astern of them. An experienced flier, with a ship equipped with all the instruments necessary for blind flying, he merely increased his elevation and flew into it. The ship rolled and tossed, and Ogabi became a few shades lighter. Wolff clenched his fists until his knuckles were white.
After an hour of it, Lavac turned and motioned d’Arnot to come forward. “It’s worse than I’d anticipated, Captain,” he said. “Had I better turn back?”
“Got plenty of petrol?” asked d’Arnot.
Lavac nodded. “Yes, sir,” he replied.
“Everything else all right?”
“I’m not so sure about the compass.”
“Then we wouldn’t be any better off flying back than going on,” said d’Arnot. “Let’s keep on. We’re bound to be out of it sooner or later.”
For two long hours more Lavac bucked the storm; then the engine spluttered. D’Arnot went forward hurriedly; but before he reached Lavac’s side, the engine caught itself again and was purring sweetly. It had been a tense moment for these two. D’Arnot breathed a deep sigh of relief—and then the engine spluttered again and stopped. Lavac worked furiously with a hand pump. D’Arnot turned back toward the cabin.
“Fasten your life belts,” he said. “We may have to come down.”
“The line’s clogged,” said Lavac, “and I can’t clear it.”
D’Arnot glanced at the altimeter. “You’ve got about three thousand meters,” he said. “The average elevation in the vicinity of Bonga is around two hundred. Glide as far as you can, looking for a hole.”
“And if I don’t find one?” asked Lavac.
D’Arnot shrugged and grimaced. “You’re the pilot,” he said, “and I understand you’re a very good one.”
“Thanks,” said Lavac. “It will take a very good pilot to fly this ship through a forest. I am not that good. Are you going to tell them?”
“What’s the use?” asked d’Arnot.
“They might wish to take up some matters with God—matters they have been neglecting to discuss with Him.”
“What’s wrong?” demanded Wolff. “The engine isn’t running.”
“You have answered your own question,” said d’Arnot, walking back to his seat.
“We’re coming down,” said Wolff. “He can’t see to land. We’ll crash.”
“Be calm,” admonished d’Arnot; “we have not crashed yet.”
The passengers sat in tense expectancy as the ship nosed down through storm racked clouds.
“What altitude now, Lavac?” asked d’Arnot.
“Three hundred meters.”
“That means we can’t be more than three hundred feet from ground at the best,” said Gregory. “I remember looking at a map the other day. Nearly all this country back here runs about six hundred feet elevation.”
Suddenly Wolff leaped to his feet. “I can’t stand it,” he cried. “I’m going to jump!”
Tarzan seized him and threw him back into his seat. “Sit still,” he said.
“Yes, sit still!” snapped d’Arnot. “Is it not bad enough without that?”
Lavac voiced an exclamation of relief. “We’re out of it!” he cried, “and there’s water just below us.”
A moment later the ship glided to an easy landing on the bosom of a little lake. Only the forest and the jungle were there to welcome it. If there were eyes to see, they remained hidden; and the voices of the jungle were momentarily stilled. The rain beat upon the water, and the wind moaned in the forest. Of these things and of their miraculous escape from death Ogabi was unconscious—he had fainted.
“Do you know where we are, Lieutenant?” asked d’Arnot.
“I haven’t the least idea,” replied Lavac, “—never saw this lake before.”
“Then we are lost?” asked Gregory.
Lavac nodded. “I’m afraid so, sir. My compass wasn’t behaving very well; and then, naturally, we must have been blown way off our course.”
“How lonely and depressing it looks,” said Magra.
“It is the jungle,” breathed Tarzan, almost as one might say, “It is home!”
“How discouraging,” said Gregory. “Just when it seemed certain that we had overcome every obstacle and found a way to circumvent Thome and rescue Helen, this had to happen. Now we are absolutely helpless. We shall never reach her now, poor child.”
“Non! Non! my dear Monsieur Gregory, you must not give up,” said d’Arnot. “This is only a temporary delay. Lieutenant Lavac will have that fuel line cleared in no time, and as soon as the weather lifts we’ll take off again. We have plenty of time. Thome will not reach Bonga for three days yet. As soon as the weather clears, the lieutenant can find Bonga even with no compass at all.”
Lavac worked on the fuel line for half an hour; then he called d’Arnot. “The line was not clogged, sir,” he said. He looked worried.
“Then what was the trouble?” demanded d’Arnot.
“We are out of fuel. The tank must have been leaking badly, as we had a full load when we left.”
“But the reserve tank—what of that?” demanded d’Arnot.
“It was the reserve tank that leaked, and we have emptied the other.”
D’Arnot shook his head. “That poor little girl!” he said.