Late one day he came suddenly in to a large clearing where once a native village had stood. The jungle had not yet reclaimed it and as he entered it he saw a leopard crouching upon the far side, and before the leopard lay the body of a human being. At first Blake thought the poor creature dead, but presently he saw it attempt to rise and crawl away.
The great cat growled and advanced toward it. Blake shouted and spurred forward, but Sheeta paid no attention to him, evidently having no mind to give up its prey; but as Blake came nearer the cat turned to face him with an angry growl.
The American wondered if his horse would dare the close proximity of the beast of prey, but he need not have feared. Nor would he had he been more fully acquainted with the customs of the Valley of the Sepulcher, where one of the greatest sports of the knights of the two enemy cities is hunting the giant cats with lance alone when they venture from the sanctuary of the Wood of the Leopards.
The charger that Blake bestrode had faced many a savage cat, and larger, too, by far than this one, and so he fell into his charging stride with no show of fear or nervousness and the two thundered down upon Sheeta while the creature that was to have been its prey looked on with wide, astounded eyes.
Within the length of its spring Sheeta rose swiftly to meet the horse and man. He leaped and as he leaped he struck full on the metal tip of the great lance, and the wooden shaft passed through him so far that it was with difficulty that the man forced the carcass from it. When he had done so he turned and rode to the side of the creature lying helpless on the ground.
“My God!” he cried as his eyes rested on the face below him. “Stimbol!”
The younger roan dismounted.
“I’m dying, Blake,” whispered Stimbol. “Before I go I want to tell you that I’m sorry. I acted like a cad. I guess I’ve got what was coming to me.”
“Never mind that, Stimbol,” said Blake. “You’re not dead yet. The first thing is to get you where there are food and water.” He stooped and lifted the emaciated form and placed the man in his saddle. “I passed a small native village a few miles back. They all ran when they saw me, but we’ll try there for food.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Stimbol. “And in the name of King Arthur, where did you get the outfit?”
“I’ll tell you about it when we get to the village,” said Blake. “It’s a long story. I’m looking for a girl that was stolen by the Arabs a few days ago.”
“God!” ejaculated Stimbol.
“You know something about her?” demanded Blake.
“I was with the man that stole her,” said Stimbol, “or at least who stole her from the other Arabs.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s dead, Blake!”
“A bunch of those big anthropoid apes got her. The poor child must have been killed immediately.”
Blake was silent for a long time, walking with bowed head as, weighted down by heavy armor, he led the horse along the trail.
“Did the Arabs harm her?” he asked presently.
“No,” said Stimbol. “The sheik stole her either for ransom or to sell her in the north, but Fahd stole her for himself. He took me along because I had promised him a lot of money if he’d save me, and I kept him from harming the girl by telling him that he’d never get a cent from me if he did. I felt sorry for the poor child and I made up my mind that I was going to save her if I could.”
When Blake and Stimbol approached the village the blacks fled, leaving the white men in full possession of the place. It did not take Blake long to find food for them both.
Making Stimbol as comfortable as possible, Blake found fodder for his horse and presently returned to the old man. He was engaged in narrating his experiences when he was suddenly aware of the approach of many people. He could hear voices and the pad of naked feet. Evidently the villagers were returning.
Blake prepared to meet them with friendly overtures, but the first glimpse he had of the approaching party gave him a distinct shock, for these were not the frightened villagers he had seen scurrying into the jungle a short time before.
With white plumes waving about their heads a company of stalwart warriors came swinging down the trail. Great oval shields were upon their backs, long war spears in their hands.
“Well,” said Blake, “I guess we’re in for it. The villagers have sent for their big brothers.”
The warriors entered the village and when they saw Blake the halted in evident wonder. One of their number approached him and to Blake’s surprise addressed him in fairly good English.
“We are the Waziri of Tarzan,” he said. “We search for our chief and master. Have you seen him, Bwana?”
The Waziri! Blake could have hugged them. He had been at his wits end to know what he was to do with Stimbol. Alone he never could have brought the man to civilization, but now he knew that his worries were over.
Had it not been for the grief of Blake and Zeyd, it had been a merry party that made free with the cassava and beer of the villagers that night, for the Waziri were not worrying about their chief.
“Tarzan cannot die,” said the sub-chief to Blake, when the latter asked if the other felt any fear as to the safety of his master, and the simple conviction of the quiet words almost succeeded in convincing Blake of their truth.
Along the trail plodded the weary ’Aarab of the Beny Salem fendy, el-Guad. Tired men staggered beneath the weight of half-loads. The women carried even more. Ibn Jad watched the treasure with greedy eyes. An arrow came from no where and pierced the heart of a treasure bearer close before Ibn Jad. A hollow voice sounded from the jungle: “For every jewel a drop of blood!”
Terrified, the Beduins hastened on. Who would be next? They wanted to cast aside the treasure, but Ibn Jad, greedy, would not let them. Behind them they caught a glimpse of a great lion. He terrified them because he did not come nearer or go away—he just stalked silently along behind. There were no stragglers.
An hour passed. The lion paced just within sight of the tail end of the column. Never had the head of one of Ibn Jad’s columns been so much in demand. Everyone wished to go in the lead.
A scream burst from another treasure carrier. An arrow had passed through his lungs. “For every jewel a drop of blood!”
The men threw down the treasure. “We will not carry the accursed thing more!” they cried, and again the voice spoke.
“Take up the treasure, Ibn Jad!” it said. “Take up the treasure! It is thou who murdered to acquire it. Pick it up, thief and murderer, and carry it thyself!”
Together the ’Aarab made the treasure into one load and lifted it to Ibn Jad’s back. The old sheik staggered beneath the weight.
“I cannot carry it!” he cried aloud. “I am old and I am not strong.”
“Thou canst carry it, or—die!” boomed the hollow voice, while the lion stood in the trail behind them, his eyes glaring fixedly at them.
Ibn Jad staggered on beneath the great load. He could not now travel as fast as the others and so he was left behind with only the lion as company; but only for a short time. Ateja saw his predicament and came back to his side, bearing a musket in her hands.
“Fear not,” she said, “I am not the son thou didst crave, but yet I shall protect thee even as a son!”
It was almost dusk when the leaders of the Beduin company stumbled upon a village. They were in it and surrounded by a hundred warriors before they realized that they were in the midst of the one tribe of all others they most feared and dreaded—the Waziri of Tarzan.
The sub-chief disarmed them at once.
“Where is Ibn Jad?” demanded Zeyd.
“He cometh!” said one.
They looked back along the trail and presently Zeyd saw two figures approaching. One was a man bent beneath a great load and the other was that of a young girl. What he did not see was the figure of a great lion in the shadows behind them.
Zeyd held his breath because, for an instant, his heart had stopped beating.
“Ateja!” he cried and ran forward to meet her and clasp her in his arms.
Ibn Jad staggered into the village. He took one look at the stern visages of the dread Waziri and sank weakly to the ground, the treasure almost burying him as it fell upon his head and shoulders.
Hirfa voiced a sudden scream as she pointed back along the trail, and as every eye turned in that direction, a great golden lion stepped into the circle of the firelight in the village, and at its side strode Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.
As Tarzan entered the village Blake came forward and grasped his hand.
“We were too late!” said the American sadly.
“What do you mean?” asked the ape-man.
“The Princess Guinalda is dead!”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Tarzan. “I left her this morning at the entrance to the City of Nimmr.”
A dozen times Tarzan was forced to assure Blake that he was not playing a cruel joke upon him. A dozen times Tarzan had to repeat Guinalda’s message: “An’ thou findst him tell him that the gates of Nimmr be always open to him and that the Princess Guinalda awaits his return!”
Later in the evening Stimbol, through Blake, begged Tarzan to come to the hut in which he lay.
“Thank God!” exclaimed the old man fervently. “I thought that I had killed you. It has preyed on my mind and now I know that it was not you I believe that I can recover.”
“You will be taken care of properly, Stimbol,” said the ape-man, “and as soon as you are well enough you will be taken to the coast,” then he walked away. He would do his duty by the man who bad disobeyed him and tried to kill him, but he would not feign a friendship he did not feel.
The following morning they prepared to leave the village. Ibn Jad and his Arabs, with the exception of Zeyd and Ateja, who had asked to come and serve Tarzan in his home, were being sent to the nearest Galla village under escort of a dozen Waziri. Here they would be turned over to the Galla and doubtless sold into slavery in Abyssinia.
Stimbol was borne in a litter by four stout Waziri as the party prepared to take up its march toward the south and the country of Tarzan. Four others carried the treasure of the City of the Sepulcher.
Blake, dressed again in his iron mail, bestrode his great charger as the column started out of the village and down the trail into the south. Tarzan and the Golden Lion stood beside him. Blake reached down and extended his band to the ape-man.
“Good-bye, sir!” he said.
“Good-bye?” demanded Tarzan. “Aren’t you coming home with us?”
Blake shook his head.
“No,” he said, “I’m going back into the middle ages with the woman I love!”
Tarzan and Jad-bal-ja stood in the trail watching as Sir James rode out toward the City of Nimmr, the blue and silver of his pennon fluttering bravely from the iron tip of his great lance.