The girl’s first terror had subsided, to be replaced by a strange apathy that she could not understand. It was as though her nervous system was under the effects of an anesthetic that deadened her susceptibility to fear but left all her other faculties unimpaired. Perhaps she had under-gone so much that she no longer cared what befell her.
That she could converse in English with this brutal beast lent an unreality to the adventure that probably played a part in inducing the mental state in which she found herself. After this, anything might be, anything might happen.
The uncomfortable position in which she was being carried and her hunger presently became matters of the most outstanding importance, relegating danger to the background.
“Let me walk,” she said.
Buckingham grunted and lowered her to her feet. “Do not try to run away from me,” he warned.
They continued on through the woods towards the south, the beast sometimes stopping to look back and listen. He was moving into the wind; so his now was useless in apprehending danger from the rear.
During one of these stops Naomi saw fruit growing upon a tree. “I am hungry,” she said. “Is this fruit good to eat?”
“Yes,” he replied and permitted her to gather some; then he pushed on again.
They had come almost to the end of the valley and were crossing a space almost devoid of trees at a point where the mountains fell in a series of precipitous cliffs down to the floor of the valley when the gorilla paused as usual under such circumstances to glance back.
The girl, thinking he feared pursuit by the Arabs, always looked hopefully back at such times. Even the leering countenance of Atewy would have been a welcome sight under the circumstances. Heretofore they had seen no sign of pursuit, but this time a figure emerged from the patch of wood they had just quitted—it was the lumbering figure of a bull gorilla.
With a snarl, Buckingham lifted the girl from her feet and broke into a lumbering run. A short distance within the forest beyond the clearing he turned abruptly toward the cliff; and when he reached the edge he swung the girl to his back, telling her to put her arms about his neck and hang on.
Naomi Madison glanced once into the abyss below; then she shut her eyes and prayed for strength to hang onto the hairy creature making its way down the sheer face of the rocky escarpment.
What he found to cling to she did not know, for she did not open her eyes until he loosed her hands by main strength and let her drop to her feet behind him.
“I’ll come back for you when I have thrown Suffolk off the trail,” said the beast and was gone.
The Madison found herself in a small natural cave in the face of the cliff. A tiny stream of water trickled from a hidden spring, formed a little pool at the front of the cave, and ran over the edge down the face of the cliff. A part of the floor of the cave was dry; but there was no covering upon it, only the bare rock.
The girl approached the ledge and looked down. The great height of the seemingly bare cliff face made her shrink back, giddy. Then she tried it again and looked up. There seemed scarcely a hand or foothold in any direction. She marvelled that the heavy gorilla had been able to make his way to the cave safely, burdened by her weight.
As she examined her situation, Buckingham clambered quickly to the summit of the cliff and continued on toward the south. He moved slowly, and it was not long before the pursuing beast overtook him.
The creature upon his trail hailed him. “Where is the hairless she?” he demanded.
“I do not know,” replied the other. “She has run away from me. I am looking for her.”
“Why did you run away from me, Buckingham?”
“I did not know it was you, Suffolk. I thought you were one of Wolsey’s men trying to rob me of the she so that I could not take her to the king.”
Suffolk grunted. “We had better find her. The king is not in a good humor. How do you suppose she escaped from God?”
“She did not escape from God—this is a different she, though they look much alike.” The two passed on through the forest, searching for the Madison.
For two nights and two days the girl lay alone in the rocky cave. She could neither ascend nor descend the vertical cliff. If the beast did not return for her, she must starve. This she knew, yet she hoped that it would not return.
The third night fell. Naomi was suffering from hunger. Fortunately the little trickle of water through the cave saved her from suffering from thirst also. She heard the savage sounds of the night life of the wilderness, but she was not afraid. The cave had at least that advantage. If she had food she could live there in safety indefinitely, but she had no food.
The first pangs of hunger had passed. She did not suffer. She only knew that she was growing weaker. It seemed strange to her that she, Naomi Madison, should he dying of hunger—and alone! Why, in all the world the only creature that could save her from starvation, the only creature that knew where she was was a great, savage gorilla—she who numbered her admirers by the millions, whose whereabouts, whose every act was chronicled in a hundred newspapers and magazines. She felt very small and insignificant now. Here was no room for arrogant egotism.
During the long hours she had had more opportunity for self-scrutiny than ever before, and what she discovered was not very flattering. She realized that she had already, changed much during the past two weeks—she had learned much from the attitude of the other members of the safari toward her but most from the example that Rhonda Terry had set her. If she were to have the chance, she knew that she would be a very different woman: but she did not expect the chance. She did not want life at the price she would have to pay. She prayed that she might die before the gorilla returned to claim his prize.
She slept fitfully through the third night—the rocky floor that was her bed was torture to her soft flesh. The morning sun, shining full into the mouth of her cave, gave her renewed hope even though her judgment told her that there was no hope.
She drank, and bathed her hands and face; then she sat and looked out over the valley of diamonds. She should have hated it, for it had aroused the avarice that had brought her to this sorry pass; but she did not—it was too beautiful.
Presently her attention was attracted by a scraping sound outside the cave and above it. She listened intently. What could it be?
A moment later a black, hairy leg appeared below the top of the mouth of the cave; and then the gorilla dropped to the narrow ledge before it. The thing had returned! The girl crouched against the back wall, shuddering.
The brute stopped and peered into the gloomy cavern. “Come here!” it commanded. “I see you., Hurry—we have no time to waste. They may have followed me. Suffolk has had me watched for two days. He did not believe that you had run away. He guessed that I had hidden you. Come! Hurry!”
“Go away and leave me,” she begged. “I would rather stay here and die.”
He made no answer at once, but stooped and came toward her. Seizing her roughly by the arm he dragged her to the mouth of the cave. “So I’m not good enough for your he growled. “Don’t you know that I am the Duke of Buckingham? Get on my back, and hold tight.”
He swung her up into position, and she clung about his neck. She wanted to hurl herself over the edge of the cliff, but she could not raise her courage to the point. Against her will she clung to the shaggy brute as he climbed the sheer face of the cliff toward the summit. She did not dare even to look down.
At the top he lowered her to her feet and started on southward toward the lower end of the valley, dragging her after She was weak; and she staggered, stumbling often. Then he would jerk her roughly to her feet and growl at her, using strange, medieval oaths.
“I can’t go on,” she said. “I am weak. I have had nothing to eat for two days.”
“You are just trying to delay me so that Suffolk can overtake us. You would rather, belong to the king, but you won’t. You’ll never see the king. He is just waiting for an excuse to have my head, but he won’t ever get it. We’re never going back to London, you and I. Well go out Of the valley and find a place below the falls.”
Again she stumbled and fell. The beast became enraged. He kicked her as she lay on the ground; then he seized her by the hair and dragged her after him.
But he did not go far thus. He had taken but a few steps when he came to a sudden halt. With a savage growl and up-turned lips baring powerful yellow fangs he faced a figure that had dropped from a tree directly in his path.
The girl saw too, and her eyes went wide. “Stanley!” she cried. “Oh, Stanley, save me, save me!”
It was the startled cry of a forlorn hope, but in the instant of voicing it she knew that she could expect no help from Stanley Obroski, the coward. Her heart sank, and the horror of her position seemed suddenly more acute because of this brief instant of false reprieve.
The gorilla released his hold upon her hair and dropped her to the ground, where she lay too weak to rise, watching the great beast at her side and the bronzed white giant facing it.
“Go away, Bolgani!” commanded Tarzan in the language of the great apes. “The she is mine. Go away, or I kill!”
Buckingham did not understand the tongue of this stranger, but he understood the menace of his attitude. “Go away!” he cried in English. “Go away, or I will kill you!” Thus a beast spoke in English to an Englishman who spoke the language of beasts!
Tarzan of the Apes is not easily astonished; but when he heard Bolgani, the gorilla, speak to him in English he at first questioned his hearing and then his sanity. But whatever the condition of either it could not conceal the evident intent of the bull gorilla advancing menacingly toward him as it beat its breast and screamed its threats.
Naomi Madison watched with horror-wide, fascinated eyes. She saw the man she thought to be Stanley Obroski crouch slightly as though waiting to receive the charge. She wondered why he did not turn and run—that was what all who knew him, including herself, would have expected of Stanley Obroski.
Suddenly the gorilla charged, and still the man held his ground. Great hairy paws reached out to seize him; but he eluded them with quick, panther-like movements. Stooping; he sprang beneath a swinging arm; and before the beast could turn leaped upon its back. A bronzed arm encircled the squat neck of the hairy Buckingham. In a frenzy of rage the beast swung around, clawing futilely to rid himself of his antagonist.
He felt the steel thews of the ape-man’s arm tightening, and realized that he was coping with muscles far beyond what he had expected. He threw himself to the ground in an effort to crush his foe with his great weight, but Tarzan broke the fall with his feet and slipped partially from beneath the hairy body.
Then Buckingham felt powerful jaws close upon his neck near the jugular, he heard savage growls mingling with his own. Naomi Madison heard too, and a new horror filled her soul. Now she knew why Stanley Obroski had not fled in terror—he had gone mad! Fear and suffering had transformed him into a maniac.
She shuddered at the thought, she shrank within herself as she saw his strong white teeth sink into the black hide of the gorilla and heard the bestial growls rumbling from that handsome mouth.
The two beasts rolled over and over upon the ground, the roars of the gorilla mingling with the growls of the man; and the girl, leaning upon her hands, watched through fascinated, horror-stricken eyes.
She knew that there could be but one outcome—even though the man appeared to have a slight initial advantage, the giant strength of the mighty bull must prevail in the end. Then she saw a knife flash, reflecting the rays of the morning sun. She saw if driven into the great bull’s side. She heard his agonized shriek of pain and rage. She saw him redouble his efforts to dislodge the creature clinging to his back.
Again and again the knife was driven home. Suddenly the maddened struggles of the bull grew weaker; then they ceased, and with a convulsive shudder the great form relaxed and lay inert.
The man leaped erect; he paid no attention to the girl; upon his face was the savage snarl of a wild beast. Naomi was terrified; she tried to crawl away and hide from him, but she was too weak. He placed a foot upon the carcass of the dead bull and threw back his head; then from his parted lips burst a cry that made her flesh creep. It was the victory cry of the bull ape, and as its echoes died away in the distance the man turned toward her.
All the savagery had vanished from his face; his gaze was intent and earnest. She looked for a maniacal light in his eyes, but they seemed sane and normal.
“Are you injured?” he asked.
“No,” she said and tried to rise, but she had not the strength.
He came and lifted her to her feet: He was so strong! A sense of security swept over her and unnerved her. She threw her arms about his neck and commenced to sob.
“Oh, Stanley! Stanley!” she gasped. She tried to say more, but her sobs choked her.
Obroski had told Tarzan a great deal about the members of the company. He knew the names of all of them, and had identified most of them from having seen them while he had watched the safari in the past. He knew of the budding affair between Obroski and Naomi Madison, and he guessed now from the girl’s manner that she must be Naomi. It suited him that these people should think him Stanley Obroski, for the sometimes grim and terrible life that he led required the antidote of occasional humor.
He lifted her in his arms. “Why are you so weak?” he asked. “Is it from hunger?”
She sobbed a scarcely audible “Yes,” and buried her face in the hollow of his neck. She was still half afraid of him. It was true that he did not act like a madman, but what else could account for the remarkable accession of courage and strength that had transformed him in the short time since she had last seen him.
She had known that he was muscular; but she had never attributed to him such superhuman strength as that which he had displayed during his duel with the gorilla, and she had known that he was a coward. But this man was no coward.
He carried her far a short distance, and then put her down on a bed of soft grasses: “I will get you something to eat,” he said.
She saw him swing lightly into the trees and disappear, and again she was afraid. What a difference it made when he was near her! She puckered her brows to a sudden thought. Why did she feel so safe with Stanley Obroski now? She had never looked upon him as a protector or as able to protect. Every one had considered: him a coward. Whatever metamorphosis had occurred had been sufficiently deeprooted to carry its impression to her subconscious mind imparting this new feeling of confidence.
He was gone but a short time, returning with some nuts and fruit. He came and squatted beside her. “Eat a little at a time,” he cautioned. “After a while I will get flesh for you; that will bring back your strength.”
As she ate she studied him. “You have changed, Stanley,” she said.
“But I like you better. To think that you killed that terrible creature single-handed! It was marvellous.”
“What sort of a beast was it?” he asked. “It spoke English.”
“It is a mystery to me. It called itself an Englishman and said that it was the Duke of Buckingham. Another one pursued it whom it called Suffolk. A great number of them attacked us at the time that this one took me from the Arabs. They, live in a city called London—he pointed it out to me. And Rhonda is a captive there in a castle on a ledge a little above the main part of the city—he said that she was with God in his castle.”
“I thought Rhonda had been killed by a lion,” said Tarzan.
“So did I until that creature told me differently. Oh, the poor dear! Perhaps it would have been better had the lion killed her. Think of being in the power of those frightful half-men!”
“Where is this city?” asked Tarzan.
“It is back there a way at the foot of the cliff—one can see it plainly from the summit.”
The man rose and lifted the girl into his arms again. “Where are you going?” she asked.
“I am going to take you to Orman and West. They should be at the falls before night.”
“Oh! They are alive?”
“They were looking for you, and they got lost. They have been hungry, but otherwise they have gotten along all right. They will be glad to see you.”
“And then we can get out of this awful country?” she asked.
“First we must find out what became of the others and save Rhonda,” he replied.
“Oh, but she can’t be saved!” exclaimed the girl. “You should see how those devils fight—the Arabs, even with their guns, were helpless against them. There isn’t a chance in the world of saving poor Rhonda, even it she is alive—which I doubt.”
“We must try—and, anyway, I wish to see this gorilla city of London.”
“You mean you would go there!”
“How else can I see it?”
“Oh, Stanley, please don’t go back there!”
“I came here for you.”
“Well, then, let Bill West go after Rhonda.”
“Do you think he could get her?”
“I don’t think any one can get her.”
“Perhaps not,” he said, “but at least I shall see the city and possibly learn something about these gorillas that talk English. There is a mystery worth solving.”
They had reached the south end of the valley where the hills drop down almost to the level of the river. The current here, above the falls, was not swift; and Tarzan waded in with the girl still in his arms.
“Where are you going?” she cried, frightened.
“We have got to cross the river, and it is easier to cross here than below the falls. There the current is much swifter, and there are hippopotamuses and crocodiles. Take hold of my shoulders and hold tight.”
He plunged in and struck for the opposite shore, while, the terrified girl clung to him in desperation. The farther bank looked far away indeed. Below she could hear the roar of the falls. They seemed to be drifting down toward them.
But presently the strong, even strokes’ of the swimmer reassured her. He seemed unhurried and unexcited, and gradually she relaxed as though she had absorbed a portion of his confidence. But she sighed in relief as he clambered out on solid ground.
Her terror at the river crossing was nothing to that which she experienced in the descent of the escarpment to the foot of the falls—it froze her to silent horror.
The man descended as nimbly as a monkey; the burden of her weight seemed nothing to him. Where had Stanley Obroski acquired this facility that almost put to shame the mountain goat and the monkey?
Half way down he called her attention to three figures near te foot of the cliff. “There are Orman and West and the Arab,” he said, but she did not dare look down. The three men below them were watching in astonishment—they had just recognized that of the two descending toward them: one was Obroski and the other a girl, but whether Naomi or Rhonda they could not be sure.
Orman and West ran forward to meet them as they neared the foot of the cliff. Tears came to Orman’s eyes as he took Naomi in his arms; and West was glad to see her too, but he was saddened when he discovered that it was not Rhonda.
“Poor girl!” he muttered as they walked back to their little camp. “Poor Rhonda! What an awful death!”
“But she is not dead,” said Naomi.
“Not dead! How do you know?”
“She is worse than dead, Bill,” and then Naomi told all that she knew of Rhonda’s fate.
When she was through, Taraan rose. “You have enough of that buck left to last until you can make a kill?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied Orman.
“Then I’ll be going,” said the ape-man.
“Where?” asked the director.
“To find Rhonda.”
West leaped to his feet. “I’ll go with you, Stanley,” he cried.
“But, my God, man! you can’t, save her now. After what Eyad has told us of those beasts and Naomi’s experience with them you must know that you haven’t a chance.” Orman spoke with great seriousness.
“It is my duty to go anyway,” said West, “not Stanley’s; and I’m going.”
“You’d better stay here,”’ advised Tarzan. “You wouldn’t have a chance.”
“Why wouldn’t I have as good a chance as you?” demanded West.
“Perhaps you would, but you would delay me.” Tarzan turned away and walked toward the foot of the escarpment.
Naomi Madison watched him through half closed eyes. “Good bye, Stanley!” she called.
“Oh, good-bye!” replied the ape-man and continued on.
They saw him seize a trailing liana and climb to another handhold; the quick equatorial night engulfed him before he reached the top.
West had stood silently watching him, stunned by his grief. “I’m going with him,” he said finally and started for the escarpment.
“Why, you couldn’t climb that place in the daytime, let alone after dark,” warned Orman.
“Don’t be foolish, Bill,” counselled Naomi. “We know how, you feel, but there’s no sense throwing away another life uselessly. Even Stanley’ll never come back.” She commenced to sob.
“Then I won’t either,” said West; “but I’m goin’.”