Perhaps Numa was growing old, yet he still was a mighty engine of destruction, and now the pangs of hunger had increased his ferocity many-fold, stimulated his cunning, emboldened him to take great risks that his belly might be filled. It was a nervous, irascible, ferocious Numa that crouched beside the trail. His up-pricked ears, his intent and blazing eyes, his quivering nostrils, the gently moving tail-tip, evidenced his awareness of another presence.
Down the wind to the nostrils of Numa the lion came the man-scent. Four days ago, his belly full, Numa had doubtless slunk away at the first indication of the presence of man, but today is another day and another Numa.
Zeyd, three days upon the back track from the menzil of the sheik Ibn Jad, thought of Ateja, of far Guad, congratulated himself upon the good fortune that had thus far smiled upon his escape and flight. His mare moved slowly along the jungle trail, unurged, for the way was long; and just ahead a beast of prey waited in ambush.
But Numa’s were not the only ears to hear, nor his nostrils the only nostrils to scent the coming of the man-thing—another beast crouched near, unknown to Numa.
Overanxious, fearful of being cheated of his meat, Numa made a false move. Down the trail came the mare. She must pass within a yard of Numa, but Numa could not wait. Before she was within the radius of his spring he charged, voicing a horrid roar. Terrified the mare reared and, rearing, tried to turn and bolt. Overbalanced, she toppled backward and fell, and in falling unhorsed Zeyd; but in the instant she was up and flying back along the trail, leaving her master in the path of the charging lion.
Horrified, the man saw the snarling face, the bared fangs almost upon him. Then he saw something else—something equally awe-inspiring—a naked giant who leaped from a swaying branch full upon the back of the great cat. He saw a bronzed arm encircle the neck of the beast of prey as the lion was borne to earth by the weight and impact of the man’s body. He saw a heavy knife flashing in the air, striking home again and again as the frenzied lion threw itself about in futile effort to dislodge the thing upon its back. He heard the roars and the growls of el adrea, and mingled with them were growls and snarls that turned his blood cold, for he saw that they came from the lips of the man-beast.
Then Numa went limp and the giant arose and stood above the carcass. He placed one foot upon it and, raising his face toward the heavens, voiced a hideous scream that froze the marrow in the bones of the Beduin—a scream that few men have heard: the victory cry of the bull ape.
It was then that Zeyd recognized his saviour and shuddered again as he saw that it was Tarzan of the Apes. The ape-man looked down at him.
“Thou art from the menzil of Ibn Jad,” he said.
“I am but a poor man,” replied Zeyd. “I but followed where my sheykh led. Hold it not against Zeyd sheykh of the jungle, that he be in thy beled. Spare my poor life I pray thee and may Allah bless thee.”
“I have no wish to harm thee, Beduwy,” replied Tarzan. “What wrong hath been done in my country is the fault of Ibn Jad alone. Is he close by?”
“Wellah nay, he be many marches from here.”
“Where art thy companions?” demanded the ape-man.
“I have none.”
“Thou art alone?”
Tarzan frowned. “Think well Beduwy before lying to Tarzan,” he snapped.
“By Ullah, I speak the truth! I am alone.”
“Fahd did plot against me to make it appear that I had tried to take the life of Ibn Jad, which, before Allah, is a lie that stinketh to heaven, and I was to be shot; but Ateja, the daughter of the sheykh, cut my bonds in the night and I escaped.”
“What is thy name?”
“Whither goest thou—to thine own country?”
“Yes, to beled el-Guad, a Beny Salem fendy of el-Harb.”
“Thou canst not, alone, survive the perils of the way,” Tarzan warned him.
“Of that I be fearful, but death were certain had I not escaped the wrath of Ibn Jad.”
For a moment Tarzan was silent in thought. “Great must be the love of Ateja, the daughter of the sheik, and great her belief in you,” he said.
“Wellah, yes, great is our love and, too, she knew that I would not slay her father, whom she loves.”
Tarzan nodded. “I believe thee and shall help thee. Thou canst not go on alone. I shall take thee to the nearest village and there the chief will furnish you with warriors who will take you to the next village, and thus from village to village you will be escorted to the Soudan.”
“May Allah ever watch over and guard thee!” exclaimed Zeyd.
“Tell me,” said Tarzan as the two moved along the jungle trail in the direction of the nearest village which lay two marches to the south of them, “tell me what Ibn Jad doth in this country. It is not true that he came for ivory alone. Am I not right?”
“Wellah yes, Sheykh Tarzan,” admitted Zeyd. “Ibn Jad came for treasure, but not for ivory.”
“In el-Habash lies the treasure city of Nimmr,” explained Zeyd. “This Ibn Jad was told by a learned sahar. So great is the wealth of Nimmr that a thousand camels could carry away not a tenth part of it. It consists of gold and jewels and—a woman.”
“Yes, a woman of such wondrous beauty that in the north she alone would bring a price that would make Ibn Jad rich beyond dreams. Surely thou must have heard of Nimmr.”
“Sometimes the Gallas speak of it,” said Tarzan, “but always I thought it of no more reality than the other places of their legends. And Ibn Jad undertook this long and dangerous journey on no more than the word of a magician?”
“What could be better than the word of a learned sahar?” demanded Zeyd.
Tarzan of the Apes shrugged.
During the two days that it took them to reach the village Tarzan learned of the white man who had come to the camp of Ibn Jad, but from Zeyd’s description of him he was not positive whether it was Blake or Stimbol.
As Tarzan travelled south with Zeyd, Ibn Jad trekked northward into el-Habash, and Fahd plotted with Tollog, and Stimbol plotted with Fahd, while Fejjuan the Galla slave waited patiently for the moment of his delivery from bondage, and Ateja mourned for Zeyd.
“As a boy thou wert raised in this country, Fejjuan,” she said one day to the Galla slave. “Tell me, dost thou think Zeyd could make his way alone to el-Guad?”
“Billah, nay,” replied the black. “Doubtless he be dead by now.”
The girl stifled a sob.
“Fejjuan mourns with thee, Ateja,” said the black, “for Zeyd was a kindly man. Would that Allah had spared your lover and taken him who was guilty.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ateja. “Knowest thou, Fejjuan, who fired the shot at Ibn Jad, my father? It was not Zeyd! Tell me it was not Zeyd! But thy words tell me that, which I well knew before. Zeyd could not have sought the life of my father!
“Nor did he,” replied Fejjuan.
“Tell me what you know of this thing.”
“And you will not tell another who told you?” he asked. “It would go hard with me if one I am thinking of knew that I had seen what I did see.”
“I swear by Allah that I wilt not betray you, Fejjuan,” cried the girl. “Tell me, what didst thou see?”
“I did not see who fired the shot at thy father, Ateja,” replied the black, “but something else I saw before the shot was fired.”
“Yes, what was it?”
“I saw Fahd creep into the beyt of Zeyd and come out again bearing Zeyd’s matchlock. That I saw.”
“I knew it! I knew it!” cried the girl.
“But Ibn Jad will not believe if you tell him.”
“I know; but now that I am convinced perhaps I shall find a way to have Fahd’s blood for the blood of Zeyd,” cried the girl, bitterly.
For days Ibn Jad skirted the mountains behind which he thought lay the fabled city of Nimmr as he searched for an entrance which he hoped to find without having recourse to the natives whose haunts he had sedulously avoided lest through them opposition to his venture might develop.
The country was sparsely settled, which rendered it easy for the ’Aarab to avoid coming into close contact with the natives, though it was impossible that the Gallas were ignorant of their presence. If however the blacks were willing to leave them alone, Ibn Jad had no intention of molesting them unless he found that it would be impossible to carry his project to a successful issue without their assistance, in which event he was equally ready to approach them with false promises or ruthless cruelty, whichever seemed the more likely to better serve his purpose.
As the days passed Ibn Jad waxed increasingly impatient, for, search as he would, he could locate no pass across the mountains, nor any entrance to the fabled valley wherein lay the treasure city of Nimmr.
“Billah!” he exclaimed one day, “there be a City of Nimmr and there be an entrance to it, and, by Allah, I will find it! Summon the Habush, Tollog! From them or through them we shall have a clew in one way or another.”
When Tollog had fetched the Galla slaves to the beyt of Ibn Jad, the old sheik questioned them but there was none who had definite knowledge of the trail leading to Nimmr.
“Then, by Allah,” exclaimed Ibn Jad, “we shall have it from the native Habush!”
“They be mighty warriors, O brother,” cried Tollog, “and we be far within their country. Should we anger them and they set upon us it might fare ill with us.”
“We be Bedauwy,” said Ibn Jad proudly, “and we be armed with muskets. What could their simple spears and arrows avail against us?”
“But they be many and we be few,” insisted Tollog.
“We shall not fight unless we be driven to it,” said Ibn Jad. “First we shall seek, by friendly overtures, to win their confidence and cajole the secret from them.
“Fejjuan!” he exclaimed, turning to the great black. “Thou are a Habashy. I have heard thee say that thou well rememberest the days of thy childhood in the hut of thy father and the story of Nimmr was no new story to you. Go, then, and seek out thy people. Make friends with them. Tell them that the great Sheykh Ibn Jad comes among them in friendliness and that he hath gifts for their chiefs. Tell them also that he would visit the city of Nimmr, and if they will lead him there he will reward them well.”
“I but await thy commands,” said Fejjuan, elated at this opportunity to do what he had long dreamed of doing. “When shall I set forth?”
“Prepare thyself tonight and when dawn comes depart,” replied the sheik.
And so it was that Fejjuan, the Galla slave, set forth early the following morning from the menzil of Ibn Jad, sheik of the fendy el-Guad, to search for a village of his own people.
By noon he had come upon a well-worn trail leading toward the west, and this he followed boldly, guessing that he would best disarm suspicion thus than by attempting to approach a Galla village by stealth. Also he well knew that there was little likelihood that he could accomplish the latter in any event Fejjuan was no fool. He knew that it might be difficult to convince the Gallas that he was of their blood, for there was against him not alone his ’Aarab garments and weapons but the fact that he would be able to speak the Galla tongue but lamely after all these years.
That he was a brave man was evidenced by the fact that he well knew the suspicious and warlike qualities of his people and their inborn hatred of the ’Aarab and yet gladly embraced this opportunity to go amongst them.
How close he had approached a village Fejjuan did not know. There were neither sounds nor odors to enlighten him when there suddenly appeared in the trail ahead of him three husky Galla warriors and behind him he heard others, though he did not turn.
Instantly Fejjuan raised his hands in sign of peace and at the same time he smiled.
“What are you doing in the Galla country?” demanded one of the warriors.
“I am seeking the house of my father,” replied Fejjuan.
“The house of your father is not in the country of the Gallas,” growled the warrior. “You are one of these who come to rob us of our sons and daughters.”
“No,” replied Fejjuan. “I am a Galla.”
“If you were a Galla you would speak the language of the Gallas better. We understand you, but you do not speak as a Galla speaks.”
“That is because I was stolen away when I was a child and have lived among the Bedauwy since, speaking only their tongue.”
“What is your name?”
“The Bedauwy call me Fejjuan, but my Galla name was Ulala.”
“Do you think he speaks the truth?” demanded one of the blacks of a companion. “When I was a child I had a brother whose name was Ulala.”
“Where is he?” asked the other warrior.
“We do not know. Perhaps simba the lion devoured him. Perhaps the desert people took him. Who knows?”
“Perhaps he speaks the truth,” said the second warrior. “Perhaps he is your brother. Ask him his father’s name.”
“What was your father’s name?” demanded the first warrior.
“Naliny,” replied Fejjuan.
At this reply the Galla warriors became excited and whispered among themselves for several seconds. Then the first warrior turned again to Fejjuan.
“Did you have a brother?” he demanded.
“Yes,” replied Fejjuan.
“What was his name?”
“Tabo,” answered Fejjuan without hesitation.
The warrior who had questioned him leaped into the air with a wild shout.
“It is Ulala!” he cried. “It is my brother. I am Tabo, Ulala. Do you not remember me?”
“Tabo!” cried Fejjuan. “No, I would not know you, for you were a little boy when I was stolen away and now you are a great warrior. Where are our father and mother? Are they alive? Are they well?”
“They are alive and well, Ulala,” replied Tabo. “Today they are in the village of the chief, for there is a great council because of the presence of some desert people in our country. Came you with them?”
“Yes, I am a slave to the desert people,” replied Fejjuan. “Is it far to the village of the chief? I would see my mother and my father and, too, I would talk with the chief about the desert people who have come to the country of the Gallas.”
“Come, brother!” cried Tabo. “We are not far from the village of the chief. Ah, my brother, that I should see you again whom we thought to be dead all these years! Great will be the joy of our father and mother.
“But, tell me, have the desert people turned you against your own people? You have lived with them many years. Perhaps you have taken a wife among them. Are you sure that you do not love them better than you love those whom you have not seen for many years?”
“I do not love the Bedauwy,” replied Fejjuan, “nor have I taken a wife among them. Always in my heart has been the hope of returning to the mountains of my own country, to the house of my father. I love my own people, Tabo. Never again shall I leave them.”
“The desert people have been unkind to you—they have treated you with cruelty?” demanded Tabo.
“Nay, on the contrary they have treated me well,” replied Feijuan. “I do not hate them, but neither do I love them. They are not of my own blood. I am a slave among them.”
As they talked the party moved along the trail toward the village while two of the warriors ran ahead to carry the glad tidings to the father and mother of the long missing Ulala. And so it was that when they came within sight of the village they were met by a great crowd of laughing, shouting Gallas, and in the forerank were the father and mother of Fejjuan, their eyes blinded by the tears of love and joy that welled at sight of this long gone child.
After the greetings were over, and every man, woman and child in the company must crowd close and touch the returned wanderer, Tabo conducted Fejjuan into the village and the presence of the chief.
Hatando was an old man. He had been chief when Ulala was stolen away. He was inclined to be skeptical, fearing a ruse of the desert people, and he asked many questions of Fejjuan concerning matters that he might hold in his memory from the days of his childhood. He asked him about the house of his father and the names of his playmates and other intimate things that an impostor might not know, and when be had done he arose and took Fejjuan in his arms and rubbed his cheek against the cheek of the prodigal.
“You are indeed Ulala,” he cried. “Welcome back to the land of your people. Tell me now what the desert people do here. Have they come for slaves?”
“The desert people will always take slaves when they can get them, but Ibn Jad has not come first for slaves, but for treasure.”
“Ai! what treasure?” demanded Batando.
“He has heard of the treasure city of Nimmr,” replied Fejjuan. “It is a way into the valley where lies Nimmr that he seeks. For this he sent me to find Gallas who would lead him to Nimmr. He will make gifts and he promises rich rewards when he shall have wrested the treasure from Nimmr.”
“Are these true words?” asked Batando.
“There is no truth in the beards of the desert dwellers,” replied Fejjuan.
“And if he does not find the treasure of Nimmr perhaps he will try to find treasure and slaves in the Galla country to repay the expense of the long journey he has undertaken from the desert country?” asked Batando.
“Batando speaks out of the great wisdom of many years,” replied Fejjuan.
“What does he know of Nimmr?” asked the old chief.
“Naught other than what an old medicine man of the ’Aarab told him,” replied Fejjuan. “He said to Ibn Jad that great treasure lay hoarded in the City of Nimmr and that there was a beautiful woman who would bring a great price in the far north.”
“Nothing more he told him?” demanded Batando. “Did he not tell him of the difficulties of entering the forbidden valley?”
“Then we can guide him to the entrance to the valley,” said Batando, smiling slyly.