UNGO, the king ape, was hunting with his tribe. They were nervous and irritable, for it was the period of the Dum-Dum; and as yet they had found no victim for the sacrificial dance. Suddenly the shaggy king raised his head and sniffed the air. He growled his disapproval of the evidence that Usha, the wind, brought to his nostrils. The other apes looked at him questioningly.
“Gomangani, tarmangani,” he said. “They come,” then he led his people into the underbrush and hid close to the trail.
The little band of men and women who formed the Gregory “safari” followed the plain trail left by Atan Thome’s safari, while Tarzan hunted for meat far afield.
“Tarzan must have had difficulty in locating game,” said d’Arnot. “I haven’t heard his kill-call yet.”
“He’s marvellous,” said Magra. “We’d have starved to death if it hadn’t been for him—even with a hunter along.”
“Well, you can’t shoot game where there ain’t none,” growled Wolff.
“Tarzan never comes back empty handed,” said Magra; “and he hasn’t any gun, either.”
“The other monkeys find food, too,” sneered Wolff; “but who wants to be a monkey?”
Ungo was watching them now, as they came in sight along the trail. His close-set, bloodshot eyes blazed with anger; and then suddenly and without warning he charged, and his whole tribe followed him. The little band fell back in dismay. D’Arnot whipped out his pistol and fired; and an ape fell, screaming; then the others were among them, and he could not fire again without endangering his companions. Wolff ran. Lavac and Gregory were both knocked down and bitten. For a few moments all was confusion, so that afterward no one could recall just what happened. The apes were among them and gone again; and when they went, Ungo carried Magra off under one great hairy arm.
Magra struggled to escape until she was exhausted, but the powerful beast that carried her paid little attention to her struggles. Once, annoyed, he cuffed her, almost knocking her insensible; then she ceased, waiting and hoping for some opportunity to escape. She wondered to what awful fate she was being dragged. So man-like was the huge creature, she shuddered as she contemplated what might befall her.
Half carrying her, half dragging her through the woods, with his huge fellows lumbering behind, Ungo, the king ape, bore the girl to a small, natural clearing, a primitive arena where, from time immemorial, the great apes had held their sacrificial dance. There he threw her roughly to the ground, and two females squatted beside her to see that she did not escape.
Back on the trail, the little party, overwhelmed by the tragedy of this misadventure, stood debating what they had best do.
“We could follow them,” said d’Arnot; “but we haven’t a chance of overtaking them, and if we did, what could we do against them, even though we are armed?”
“But we can’t just stand here and do nothing,” cried Helen.
“I’ll tell you,” said d’Arnot. “I’ll take Wolff’s rifle and follow them. I may be able to pick off enough of them to frighten the others away if I come up with them after they halt; then, when Tarzan returns, send him after me.”
“Here’s Tarzan now,” said Helen, as the ape-man came trotting along the trail with the carcass of his kill across his shoulder.
Tarzan found a very disorganized party as he joined them. They were all excited and trying to talk at the same time.
“We never saw them ‘til they jumped us,” said Lavac.
“They were as big as gorillas,” added Helen.
“They were gorillas,” put in Wolff.
“They were not gorillas,” contradicted d’Arnot; “and anyway, you didn’t wait to see what they were.”
“The biggest one carried Magra off under his arm,” said Gregory.
“They took Magra?” Tarzan looked concerned. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place? Which way did they go?”
D’Arnot pointed in the direction in which the apes had made off.
“Keep on this trail until you find a good place to camp,” said Tarzan; then he was gone.
As the moon rose slowly over the arena where Magra lay beside a primitive earthen drum upon which three old apes beat with sticks, several of the great shaggy bulls commenced to dance around her. Menacing her with heavy sticks, the bulls leaped and whirled as they circled the frightened girl. Magra had no knowledge of the significance of these rites. She only guessed that she was to die.
The Lord of the Jungle followed the trail of the great apes through the darkness of the forest as unerringly as though he were following a well marked spoor by daylight, followed it by the scent of the anthropoids that clung to the grasses and the foliage of the underbrush, tainting the air with the effluvia of the great bodies. He knew that he should come upon them eventually, but would he be in time?
As the moon rose, the throbbing of the earthen drum directed him toward the arena of the Dum-Dum; so that he could take to the trees and move more swiftly in a direct line. It told him, too, the nature of the danger that threatened Magra. He knew that she still lived, for the drum would be stilled only after her death, when the apes would be fighting over her body and tearing it to pieces. He knew, because he had leaped and danced in the moonlight at many a Dum-Dum when Sheeta, the panther, or Wappi, the antelope, was the sacrificial victim.
The moon was almost at zenith as he neared the arena. When it hung at zenith would be the moment of the kill; and in the arena, the shaggy bulls danced in simulation of the hunt. Magra lay as they had thrown her, exhausted, hopeless, resigned to death, knowing that nothing could save her now.
Goro, the moon, hung upon the verge of the fateful moment, when a tarmangani, naked but for a G string, dropped from an overhanging tree into the arena. With growls and mutterings of rage, the bulls turned upon the intruder who dared thus sacrilegiously to invade the sanctity of their holy of holies. The king ape, crouching, led them.
“I am Ungo,” he said. “I kill!”
Tarzan, too, crouched and growled as he advanced to meet the king ape. “I am Tarzan of the Apes,” he said in the language of the first-men, the only language he had known for the first twenty years of his life. “I am Tarzan of the Apes, mighty hunter, mighty fighter. I kill!”
One word of the ape-man’s challenge Magra had understood—“Tarzan.” Astounded, she opened her eyes to see the king ape and Tarzan circling one another, each looking for an opening. What a brave but what a futile gesture the man was making in her defense! He was giving his life for her, and uselessly. What chance had he against the huge, primordial beast?
Suddenly, Tarzan reached out and seized the ape’s wrist; then, turning quickly, he hurled the great creature over his shoulder heavily to the ground; but instantly Ungo was on his feet again. Growling and roaring horribly, he charged. This time he would overwhelm the puny man-thing with his great weight, crush him in those mighty arms.
Magra trembled for the man, and she blanched as she saw him meet the charge with growls equally as bestial as those of the ape. Could this growling, snarling beast be the quiet, resourceful man she had come to love? Was he, after all, but a primitive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Spellbound and horrified, she watched.
Swift as Ara, the lightning, is Tarzan; as agile as Sheeta, the panther. Dodging, and ducking beneath Ungo’s great flailing arms, he leaped upon the hairy back and locked a full Nelson on the raging ape. As he applied the pressure of his mighty thews, the ape screamed in agony.
“Kreegah!” shouted Tarzan, bearing down a little harder. “Surrender!”
The members of the Gregory party sat around their camp fire listening to the throbbing of the distant drum and waiting in nervous expectancy, for what, they did not know.
“It is the Dum-Dum of the great apes, I think,” said d’Arnot. “Tarzan has told me about them. When the full moon hangs at zenith, the bulls kill a victim. It is, perhaps, a rite older than the human race, the tiny germ from which all religious observances have sprung.”
“And Tarzan has seen this rite performed?” asked Helen.
“He was raised by the great apes,” explained d’Arnot, “and he has danced the dance of death in many a Dum-Dum.”
“He has helped to kill men and women and tear them to pieces?” demanded Helen.
“No, no!” cried d’Arnot. “The apes rarely secure a human victim. They did so only once while Tarzan ranged with them, and he saved that one. The victim they prefer is their greatest enemy, the panther.”
“And you think the drums are for Magra?” asked La-vac.
“Yes,” said d’Arnot, “I fear so.”
“I wish I’d gone after her myself,” said Wolff. “That guy didn’t have no gun.”
“He may not have had a gun,” said d’Arnot, “but at least he went in the right direction.” Wolff lapsed into moody silence. “We all had a chance to do something when the ape first took her,” continued d’Arnot; “but, frankly, I was too stunned to think.”
“It all happened so quickly,” said Gregory. “It was over before I really knew what had happened.”
“Listen!” exclaimed d’Arnot. “The drums have stopped.”
He looked up at the moon. “The moon is at zenith,” he said. “Tarzan must have been too late.”
“Them gorillas would pull him apart,” said Wolff. “If it wasn’t for Magra, I’d say good riddance.”
“Shut up!” snapped Gregory. “Without Tarzan, we’re lost.”
As they talked, Tarzan and Ungo battled in the arena; and Magra watched in fearful astonishment. She could scarcely believe her eyes as she saw the great ape helpless in the hands of the man. Ungo was screaming in pain. Slowly, relentlessly, his neck was being broken. At last he could stand it no longer, and bellowed, “Kree-gah!” which means “I surrender”; and Tarzan released him and sprang to his feet.
“Tarzan is king!” he cried, facing the other bulls.
He stood there, waiting; but no young bull came forward to dispute the right of kingship with him. They had seen what he had done to Ungo, and they were afraid. Thus, by grace of a custom ages old, Tarzan became king of the tribe.
Magra did not understand. She was still terrified. Springing to her feet, she ran to Tarzan and threw her arms about him, pressing close. “I am afraid,” she said. “Now they will kill us both.”
Tarzan shook his head. “No,” he said; “they will not kill us. They will do whatever I tell them to do, for now I am their king.”