At last they came to a precipitous wall that no horse could scale. The perpendicular sides of the rocky canyon had drawn close together.
“The horses can go no farther,” announced Ab e1-Ghrennem: “Eyad, thou shalt remain with them. The rest of us win continue on foot”
“And the girl?” asked Atewy.
“Bring her with us, lest she escape Eyad while he is guarding the horses,” replied the sheykh: “I would not lose her.”
They scrambled up the rocky escarpment, dragging Naomi Madison with them, to find more level ground above. The rocky barrier had not been high, but sufficient to bar the progress of a horse.
Sitting in his saddle, Eyad could see above it and watch his fellows continuing on up the canyon, which was now broader with more sloping walls upon which timber grew as it did upon the summit.
They had proceeded but a short distance when Eyad saw a black, shaggy, manlike figure emerge from a bamboo thicket above and behind the sheykh’s party. Then another and another followed the first. They carried clubs or axes with long handles.
Eyad shouted a warning to his comrades. It brought them to a sudden halt, but it also brought a swarm of the hairy creatures pouring down the canyon sides upon them.
Roaring and snarling, the beasts closed in upon the men. The matchlocks of the Arabs roared, filling the canyon with thundering reverberations, adding to the bedlam.
A few of the gorillas were hit. Some fell; but the others, goaded to frightful rage by their wounds, charged to close quarters. They tore the weapons from the hands of the Arabs and cast them aside. Seizing the men in their powerful hands, they sank great fangs into the throats of their adversaries. Others wielded club or battle axe.
Screaming and cursing, the Arabs sought now only to escape. Eyad was filled with terror as he saw the bloody havoc being wrought upon his fellows. He saw a great bull gather the girl into his arms and start up the slope of the canyon wall toward the wooded summit. He saw two mighty bulls descending the canyon toward him. Then Eyad wheeled and put spurs to his horse. Clattering down the canyon, he heard the sounds of conflict growing dimmer and dimmer until at last he could hear them no longer.
And as Eyad disappeared in the lower reaches of the canyon, Buckingham carried Naomi Madison into the forest above the strange city of the gorilla king.
Buckingham was mystified. He thought that this hairless she was the same creature he had captured many days before below the great falls that he knew as Victoria Falls. Yet only this very morning he had seen her taken by Wolsey to the castle of God.
He paused beyond the summit at a point where the city of the gorillas could be seen below them. He was in a quandary, He very much wanted this she for himself, but then both God and the king wanted her. He stood scratching his head as he sought to evolve a plan whereby he might possess her without incurring the wrath of two such powerful personages.
Naomi, hanging in the crook of his arm, was frozen with horror. The Arabs had seemed bad enough, but this horrid brute! She wondered when he would kill her and how.
Presently he stood her on her feet and looked at her. “How did you escape from God?” he demanded.
Naomi Madison gasped in astonishment, and her eyes went wide: A great fear crept over her, a fear greater than the physical terror that the brute itself aroused—she feared that she was losing her reason. She stood with wild, staring eyes gazing at the beast. Then, suddenly, she burst into wild laughter.
“What are you laughing at?” growled Buckingham.
“At you,” she cried. “You think you can fool me, but you can’t. I know that I am just dreaming. In a moment I’ll be awake, and I’ll see the sun coming in my bedroom window. I’ll see the orange tree and the loquat in my patio. I’ll see Hollywood stretching below me with its red roofs and its green trees.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Buckingham: “You are not asleep. You are awake. Look down there, and you will see London and the Thames.”
Naomi looked where he indicated. She saw a strange city on the banks of a small river. She pinched herself; and it hurt, but she did not awake. Slowly she realized that she was not dreaming, that the terrible unrealities she had passed through were real.
“Who are you? What are you?” she asked.
“Answer my question,” commanded Buckingham. “How did you escape from God?”
“I don’t know what you mean: The Arabs captured me. I escaped from them once, but they got me again.”
“Was that before I captured you several days ago?”
“I never saw you before.”
Buckingham scratched his head again. “Are there two of you?” he demanded: “I certainly caught you or another just like you at the falls over a week ago.”
Suddenly Naomi thought that she comprehended. “You caught a girl like me?” she demanded.
“Did she wear a red handkerchief around her neck?”
“Where is she?”
“If you are not she, she is with God in his castle—down there.” He leaned out over the edge of the cliff end pointed to a stone castle on a ledge far below. He turned toward her as a new idea took form in his mind. “If you are not she,” he said, “then God has the other one—and I can have you!”
“No! No!” cried the girl. “Let me go! Let me go back to my people.”
Buckingham seized her and tucked her under one of his huge arms. “Neither God nor Henry the Eighth shall ever see you,” he growled. “I’ll take you away where they can’t find you—they shan’t rob me of you as they robbed me of the other. I’ll take you to a place I know where there is food and water. I’ll build a shelter among the trees. Well be safe there from both God and the king.”
Naomi struggled and struck at him; but he paid no attention to her, as he swung off to the south toward the lower end of the valley.