Without the beyt of Ibn Jad Ateja, the sheik’s daughter, loitered, and with her was Zeyd. They stood very close to one another and the man held the maiden’s hands in his.
“Tell me, Ateja,” he said, “that you love no other than Zeyd.”
“How many times must I tell you that?” whispered the girl.
“And you do not love Fahd?” insisted the man.
“Billah, no!” she ejaculated.
“Yet your father gives the impression that one day you will be Fahd’s.”
“My father wishes me to be of the hareem of Fahd, but I mistrust the man, and I could not belong to one whom I neither loved nor trusted.”
“I, too, mistrust Fahd,” said Zeyd. “Listen Atejal I doubt his loyalty to thy father, and not his alone, but another whose name I durst not even whisper. Upon occasions I have seen them muttering together when they thought that there were no others about.”
The girl nodded her head. “I know. It is not necessary even to whisper the name to me—and I hate him even as I hate Fahd.”
“But he is of thine own kin,” the youth reminded her.
“What of that? Is he not also my father’s brother? If that bond does not hold him loyal to Ibn Jad, who hath treated him well, why should I pretend loyalty for him? Nay, I think him a traitor to my father, but Ibn Jad seems blind to the fact. We are a long way from our own country and if aught should befall the sheykh, Tollog, being next of blood, would assume the skeykhly duties and honors. I think he hath won Fahd’s support by a promise to further his suit for me with Ibn Jad, for I have noticed that Tollog exerts himself to praise Fahd in the hearing of my father.”
“And perhaps a division of the spoils of the ghrazzu upon the treasure city,” suggested Zeyd.
“It is not unlikely,” replied the girl, “and—Ullah! what was that?”
The Beduins seated about the coffee fire leaped to their feet The black slaves, startled, peered out into the darkness from their rude shelters. Muskets were seized. Silence fell again upon the tense, listening menzil. The weird, uncanny cry that had unnerved them was not repeated.
“Billah!” ejaculated Ibn Jad. “It came from the midst of the menzil, and it was the voice of a beast, where there are only men and a few domestic animals.”
“Could it have been——?” The speaker stopped as though fearful that the thing he would suggest might indeed be true.
“But he is a man and that was the voice of a beast,” insisted Ibn Jad. “It could not have been he.”
“But he is a Nasrany,” reminded Fahd. “Perhaps he has league with Sheytan.”
“And the sound came from the direction where he lies bound in a hejra,” observed another.
“Come!” said Ibn Jad. “Let us investigate.”
With muskets ready the ’Aarab, lighting the way with paper lanterns, approached the hejra where Tarzan lay. Fearfully the foremost looked within.
“He is here,” he reported.
Tarzan, who was sitting in the center of the tent, surveyed the ’Aarab somewhat contemptuously. Ibn Jad pressed forward.
“You heard a cry?” he demanded of the ape-man.
“Yes, I heard it. Camest thou, Sheykh Ibn Jad, to disturb my rest upon so trivial an errand, or earnest thou to release me?”
“What manner of cry was it? What did it signify?” asked Ibn Jad.
Tarzan of the Apes smiled grimly. “It was but the call of a beast to one of his kind,” he replied. “Does the noble Beduwy tremble thus always when he hears the voices of the jungle people?”
“Gluck!” growled Ibn Jad, “the Beduw fear naught. We thought the sound came from this hejra and we hastened hither believing some jungle beast had crept within the menzil and attacked thee. Tomorrow it is the thought of Ibn Jad to release thee.”
“Why not tonight?”
“My people fear thee. They would that when you are released you depart hence immediately.”
“I shall. I have no desire to remain in thy lice infested menzil.”
“We could not send thee alone into the jungle at night where el-adrea is abroad hunting,” protested the sheik’.
Tarzan of the Apes smiled again, one of his rare smiles. “Tarzan is more secure in his teeming jungle than are the Beduwy in their desert,” he replied. “The jungle night has no terrors for Tarzan.”
“Tomorrow,” snapped the shiek and then, motioning to his followers, he departed.
Tarzan watched their paper lanterns bobbing across the camp to the sheik’s beyt and then he stretched himself at full length and pressed an ear to the ground.
When the inhabitants of the ’Aarab menzil heard the cry of the beast shatter the quiet of the new night it aroused within their breasts a certain vague unrest, but otherwise it was meaningless to them. Yet there was one far off in the jungle who caught the call faintly and understood—a huge beast, the great, gray dreadnaught of the jungle, Tantor the elephant. Again he raised his trunk aloft and trumpeted loudly. His little eyes gleamed redly wicked as, a moment later, he swung off through the forest at a rapid trot.
Slowly silence fell upon the menzil of Sheik Ibn Jad as the ’Aarab and their slaves sought their sleeping mats. Only the sheik and his brother sat smoking in the sheik’s beyt—smoking and whispering in low tones.
“Do not let the slaves see you slay the Nasrany, Tollog,” cautioned Ibn Jad. “Attend to that yourself first in secrecy and in silence, then quietly arouse two of the slaves. Fejjuan would be as good as another, as he has been among us since childhood and is loyal. He will do well for one.”
“Abbas is loyal, too, and strong,” suggested Tollog.
“Yea, let him be the second,” agreed Ibn Jad. “But it is well that they do not know how the Nasrany came to die. Tell them that you heard a noise in the direction of his hejra and that when you had come to learn the nature of it you found him thus dead.”
“You may trust to my discretion, brother,” Tollog assured.
“And warn them to secrecy,” continued the sheik. “No man but we four must ever know of the death of the Nasrany, nor of his place of burial. In the morning we shall tell the others that he escaped during the night. Leave his cut bonds within the hejra as proof. You understand?”
“By Ullah, fully.”
“Good! Now go. The people sleep.” The sheik rose and Tollog, also. The former entered the apartment of his hareem and the latter moved silently through the darkness of the night in the direction of the hejra where his victim lay.
Through the jungle came Tantor the elephant and from his path fled gentle beasts and fierce. Even Numa the lion slunk growling to one side as the mighty pachyderm passed.
Into the darkness of the hejra crept Tollog, the sheik’s brother; but Tarzan, lying with an ear to the ground, had heard him approaching from the moment that he had left the beyt of Ibn Jad. Tarzan heard other sounds as well and, as he interpreted these others, he interpreted the stealthy approach of Tollog and was convinced when the footsteps turned into the tent where he lay—convinced of the purpose of his visitor. For what purpose but the taking of his life would a Beduin visit Tarzan at this hour of the night?
As Tollog, groping in the dark, entered the tent Tarzan sat erect and again there smote upon the ears of the Beduin the horrid cry that had disturbed the menzil earlier in the evening, but this time it arose in the very hejra in which Tollog stood.
The Beduin halted, aghast “Ullah!” he cried, stepping back. “What beast is there? Nasrany! Art thou being attacked?”
Others in the camp were awakened, but none ventured forth to investigate. Tarzan smiled and remained silent.
“Nasrany!” repeated Tollog, but there was no reply.
Cautiously, his knife ready in his hand, the Beduin backed from the hejra. He listened but heard no sound from within. Running quickly to his own beyt he made a light in a paper lantern and hastened back to the hejra, and this time he carried his musket and it was at full cock. Peering within, the lantern held above his head, Tollog saw the ape-man sitting upon the ground looking at him. There was no wild beast! Then the Beduin understood.
“Billah! It wast thou, Nasrany, who made the fearful cries.”
“Beduwy, thou comest to kill the Nasrany, eh?” demanded Tarzan.
From the jungle came the roar of a lion and the trumpeting of a bull elephant, but the boma was high and sharp with thorns and there were guards and beast fire, so Tollog gave no thought to these familiar noises of the night. He did not answer Tarzan’s question but laid aside his musket and drew his kliusa, which after all was answer enough.
In the dim light of the paper lantern Tarzan watched these preparations. He saw the cruel expression upon the malevolent face. He saw the man approaching slowly, the knife ready in his hand.
The man was almost upon him now, his eyes glittering in the faint light. To the ears of the ape-man came the sound of a commotion at the far edge of the menzil, followed by an Arab oath. Then Tollog launched a blow at Tarzan’s breast. The prisoner swung his bound wrists upward and struck the Beduin’s knife arm away, and simultaneously he struggled to his knees.
With an oath, Tollog struck again, and again Tarzan fended the blow, and this time he followed swiftly with a mighty sweep of his arms that struck the Beduin upon the side of the head and sent him sprawling across the hejra; but Tollog was instantly up and at him again, this time with the ferocity of a maddened bull, yet at the same time with far greater cunning, for instead of attempting a direct frontal attack Tollog leaped quickly around Tarzan to strike him from behind.
In his effort to turn upon his knees that he might face his antagonist the ape-man lost his balance, his feet being bound together, and fell prone at Tollog’s mercy. A vicious smile bared the yellow teeth of the Beduin.
“Die, Nasrany!” he cried, and then: “Billah! What was that?” as, of a sudden, the entire tent was snatched from above his head and hurled off into the night. He turned quickly and a shriek of terror burst from his lips as he saw, red-eyed and angry, the giant form of el-fil towering above him; and in that very instant a supple trunk encircled his body and Tollog, the sheik’s brother, was raised high aloft and hurled off into the darkness as the tent had been.
For an instant Tantor stood looking about, angrily, defiantly, then he reached down and lifted Tarzan from the ground, raised him high above his head, wheeled about and trotted rapidly across the menzil toward the jungle. A frightened sentry fired once and fled. The other sentry lay crushed and dead where Tantor had hurled him when he entered the camp. An instant later Tarzan and Tantor were swallowed by the jungle and the darkness.
The menzil of Sheik Ibn Jad was in an uproar. Armed men hastened hither and thither seeking the cause of the disturbance, looking for an attacking enemy. Some came to the spot where had stood the hejra where the Nasrany had been confined, but Hejra and Nasrany both had disappeared. Nearby, the beyt of one of Ibn Jad’s cronies lay flattened. Beneath it were screaming women and a cursing man. On top of it was Tollog, the sheik’s brother, his mouth filled with vile Beduin invective, whereas it should have contained only praises of Allah and thanksgiving, for Tollog was indeed a most fortunate man. Had he alighted elsewhere than upon the top of a sturdily pegged beyt he had doubtless been killed or badly injured when Tantor hurled him thus rudely aside.
Ibn Jad, searching for information, arrived just as Tollog was extricating himself from the folds of the tent.
“Billah!” cried the sheik. “What has come to pass? What, O brother, art thou doing upon the beyt of Abd el-Aziz?”
A slave came running to the sheik. “The Nasrany is gone and he hath taken the hejra with him,” he cried.
Ibn Jad turned to Tollog. “Canst thou not explain, brother?” he demanded. “Is the Nasrany truly departed?”
“The Nasrany is indeed gone,” replied Tollog. “He is in league with Sheytan, who came in the guise of el-fil and carried the Nasrany into the jungle, after throwing me upon the top of the beyt of Abd el-Aziz whom I still hear squealing and cursing beneath as though it had been he who was attacked rather than I.”
Ibn Jad shook his head. Of course he knew that Tollog was a liar—that he always had known—yet he could not understand how his brother had come to be upon the top of the beyt of Abed el-Aziz.
“What did the sentries see?” demanded the sheik. “Where were they?”
“They were at their post,” spoke up Motlog. “I was just there. One of them is dead, the other fired upon the intruder as it escaped.”
“And what said he of it?” demanded Ibn Jad.
“Wellah, he said that el-fil came and entered the menzil, killing Yemeny and rushing to the hejra where the Nasrany lay bound, ripping it aside, throwing Tollog high into the air. Then he seized the prisoner and bore him off into the jungle, and as he passed him Hasan fired.”
“And missed,” guessed Ibn Jad.
For several moments the sheik stood in thought, then he turned slowly toward his own beyl. “Tomorrow, early, is the rahla,” he said; and the word spread quickly that early upon the morrow they would break camp.
Far into the forest Tantor bore Tarzan until they had come to a small clearing well carpeted with grass, and here the elephant deposited his burden gently upon the ground and stood guard above.
“In the morning,” said Tarzan, “when Kudu the Sun hunts again through the heavens and there is light by which to see, we shall discover what may be done about removing these bonds, Tantor; but for now let us sleep.”
Numa the lion, Dango the hyena, Sheeta the leopard passed near that night, and the scent of the helpless man-thing was strong in their nostrils, but when they saw who stood guard above Tarzan and heard the mutterings of the big bull, they passed on about their business while Tarzan of the Apes slept.
With the coming of dawn all was quickly astir in the menzil of Ibn Jad. Scarce was the meagre breakfast eaten ere the beyt of the sheik was taken down by his women, and at this signal the other houses of hair came tumbling to the ground, and within the hour the ’Aarab were winding northward toward el-Habash.
The Beduins and their women were mounted upon the desert ponies that had survived the long journey from the north, while the slaves that they had brought with them from their own country marched afoot at the front and rear of the column in the capacity of askari, and these were armed with muskets. Their bearers were the natives that they had impressed into their service along the way. These carried the impedimenta of the camp and herded the goats and sheep along the trail.
Zeyd rode beside Ateja, the daughter of the sheik, and more often were his eyes upon her profile than upon the trail ahead. Fahd, who rode near Ibn Jad, cast an occasional angry glance in the direction of the two. Tollog, the sheik’s brother, saw and grinned.
“Zeyd is a bolder suitor than thou, Fahd,” he whispered to the young man.
“He has whispered lies into her ears and she will have none of me,” complained Fahd.
“If the sheykh favored thy suit though,” suggested Tollog.
“But he does not,” snapped Fahd. “A word from you might aid. You promised it.”
“Wellah, yes, but my brother is an over-indulgent sire,” explained Tollog. “He doth not mislike you, Fahd, but rather he would have his bint happy, and so leaves the selection of her mate to her.”
“What is there to do, then?” demanded Fahd.
“If I were sheykh, now,” suggested Tollog, “but alas I am not.”
“If you were sheykh, what then?”
“My niece would go to the man of my own choosing.”
“But you are not sheykh,” Fahd reminded him.
Tollog leaned close and whispered in Fahd’s ear. “A suitor as bold as Zeyd would find the way to make me sheykh.”
Fahd made no reply but only rode on in silence, his head bowed and his brows contracted in thought.