It was the morning that they were to have set off in search of Orman and West, but Tarzan saw that it would be some time before Obroski would travel again on his own legs.
With all the suddenness with which it sometimes strikes, fever had seized the American. His delirious ravings had awakened Tarzan, but now he lay in a coma.
The lord of the jungle considered the matter briefly. He neither wished to leave the man alone to the scant mercy of the jungle, nor did he wish to remain with him. His conversations with Obroski had convinced him that no matter what his inclinations might be the dictates of simplest humanity required that he do what he might to succor the innocent members of Orman’s party. The plight of the two girls appealed especially to his sense of chivalry, and it was with his usual celerity that he reached a decision.
Lifting the unconscious Obroski in his arms he threw him across one of his broad shoulders and swung off through the jungle toward the south.
All day he travelled, stopping briefly once for water, eating no food. Sometimes the American lay unconscious, sometimes he struggled and raved in delirium; or, again, consciousness returning, he begged the ape-man to stop and let him rest. But Tarzan ignored his pleas, and moved on toward the south.
Toward evening the two came to a native village beyond the Bansuto country. It was the village of the chief, Mpugu, whom Tarzan knew to be friendly to whites as well as under obligations to the lord of the jungle who had once saved his life.
Obroski was unconscious when they arrived in the village, and Tarzan placed him in a hut which Mpugu placed at his disposal.
“When he is well, take him to Jinja,” Tarzan instructed Mpugu, “and ask the commissioner to send him on to the coast”
The ape-man remained in the village only long enough to fill his empty belly; then he swung off again through the gathering dusk toward the north, while far away, in the city of the gorilla king, Rhonda Terry crouched in the dry grass that littered the floor of the quarters of the king’s wives and dreamed of the horrid fate that awaited her.
A week had passed since she had been thrust into this room with its fierce denizens. She had learned much concerning them since then, but not the secret of their origin. Most of them were far from friendly, though none offered her any serious harm. Only one of them paid much attention to her, and from this one and the conversations she had overheard she had gained what meager information she had concerning them.
The six adult females were the wives of the king, Henry the Eighth; and they bore the historic names of the wives of that much married English king. There were Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.
It was Catherine Parr, the youngest, who had been the least unfriendly; and that, perhaps, because she had suffered at the hands of the others and hated them.
Rhonda told her that there had been a king in a far country four hundred years before who had been called Henry the Eighth and who had had six wives of the same names as theirs and that such an exact parallel seemed beyond the realms of possibility—that in this far of valley their king should have found six women that he wished to marry who bore those identical names.
“Those were not our names before we became the wives of the king,” explained Catherine Parr. “When we were married to the king we were given these names.”
“By the king?”
“What is your god like?” asked Rhonda.
“He is very old. No one knows how old he is. He has been here in England always. He is the god of England: He knows everything and is very powerful.”
“Have you ever seen. him?”
“No. He has not come out of his castle for many years. Now, he and the king are quarrelling. That is why the king has not been here since you came. God has threatened to kill him if he takes another wife.”
“Why?” asked Rhonda.
“God says Henry the Eighth may have only six wives—there are no names for more.”
“There doesn’t seem much sense in that,” commented the girl.
“We may not question God’s reasons. He created us, and he is all-wise. We must have faith; otherwise he will destroy us.
“Where does your god live?”
“In the great castle on the ledge above the city. It is called The Golden Gates. Through it we enter into heaven after we die—if we have believed in God and served him well.”
“What is the castle like inside?” asked Rhonda, “this castle of God?”
“I have never been in it. Only the king and a few of his nobles, the cardinal, the archbishop, and the priests have ever entered The Golden Gates and come out again. The spirits of the dead enter, but, of course, they never come back. And occasionally God sends for a young man or a young woman. What happens to them no one knows, but they never come back either. It is said—” she hesitated.
“What is said?” Rhonda found herself becoming intrigued by the mystery surrounding this strange god that guarded the entrance to heaven.
“Oh, terrible things are said; but I dare not even whisper them. I must not think them. God can read our thoughts. Do not ask me any more questions. You have been sent by the devil to lure me to destruction,” and that was the last that Rhonda could get out of Catherine Parr.
Early the next day the American girl was awakened by horrid growls and roars that seemed to come not only from outside the palace but from the interior as well.
The she gorillas penned in the quarters with her were restless. They growled as they crowded to the windows and looked down into the courtyard and the streets beyond.
Rhonda came and stood behind them and looked over their shoulders. She saw shaggy beasts struggling and fighting at the gate leading through the outer wall, surging through the courtyard below, and battling before the entrance to the palace. They fought with clubs and battle axes, talons and fangs.
“They have freed Wolsey from the tower,” she heard Jane Seymour say, “and he is leading God’s party against the king.”
Catherine of Aragon squatted in the dry grass and commenced to peel a banana. “Henry and God are always quarrelling,” she said wearily—“and nothing ever comes of it. Every time Henry wants a new wife they quarrel.”
“But I notice he always gets his wife,” said Catherine Howard.
“He has had Wolsey on his side before—this time it may be different. I have heard that God wants this hairless she for himself. If he gets her that will be the last that any one will ever see of her—which will suit me.” Catherine of Aragon bared her fangs at the American girl, and then returned her attention to the banana.
The sound of fighting surged upward from the floor below until they heard it plainly in the corridor outside the closed door of their quarters. Suddenly the door was thrown open, and several bulls burst into the room.
“Where is the hairless one?” demanded the leading bull. “Ah, there she is!”
He crossed the room and seized Rhonda roughly by the wrist.
“Come with me!” he ordered. “God has sent for you.”