“Thank the Lord!” exclaimed Colt with a sigh of relief.
“It is deserted,” said the guide.
“It does look that way, doesn’t it?” agreed Colt. “Let’s have a look around,” and, followed by his men, he moved in among the tents. His tired porters threw down their loads and, with the askaris, sprawled at full length beneath the shade of the trees, while Colt, followed by Tony, commenced an investigation of the camp.
Almost immediately the young American’s attention was attracted by the violent shaking of one of the tents. “There is someone or something in there,” he said to Tony, as he walked briskly toward the entrance.
The sight within that met his eyes brought a sharp ejaculation to his lips—a man and woman struggling upon the ground, the former choking the bare throat of his victim while the girl struck feebly at his face with clenched fists.
So engrossed was Jafar in his unsuccessful attempt to subdue the girl that he was unaware of Colt’s presence until a heavy hand fell upon his shoulder and he was jerked violently aside.
Consumed by maniacal fury, he leaped to his feet and struck at the American only to be met with a blow that sent him reeling backward. Again he charged and again he was struck heavily upon the face. This time he went to the ground, and as he staggered to his feet, Colt seized him, wheeled him around and hurtled him through the entrance of the tent, amelerating his departure with a well-timed kick. “If he tries to come back, Tony, shoot him,” he snapped at the Filipino, and then turned to assist the girl to her feet. Half carrying her, he laid her on the cot and then, finding water in a bucket, bathed her forehead, her throat and her wrists.
Outside the tent Raghunath Jafar saw the porters and the askaris lying in the shade of a tree. He also saw Antonio Mori with a determined scowl upon his face and a revolver in his hand, and with an angry imprecation he turned and made his way toward his own tent, his face livid with anger and murder in his heart.
Presently Zora Drinov opened her eyes and looked up into the solicitous face of Wayne Colt, bending over her.
From the leafy seclusion of a tree above the camp, Tarzan of the Apes overlooked the scene below. A single, whispered syllable had silenced Nkima’s scolding. Tarzan had noted the violent shaking of the tent that had attracted Colt’s attention, and he had seen the precipitate ejection of the Hindu from its interior and the menacing attitude of the Filipino preventing Jafar’s return to the conflict. These matters were of little interest to the ape-man. The quarrelings and defections of these people did not even arouse his curiosity. What he wished to learn was the reason for their presence here, and for the purpose of obtaining this information he had two plans. One was to keep them under constant surveillance until their acts divulged that which he wished to know. The other was to determine definitely the head of the expedition and then to enter the camp and demand the information he desired. But this he would not do until he had obtained sufficient information to give him an advantage. What was going on within the tent he did not know, nor did he care.
For several seconds after she opened her eyes Zora Drinov gazed intently into those of the man bent upon her. “You must be the American,” she said finally.
“I am Wayne Colt,” he replied, “and I take it from the fact that you guessed my identity that this is Comrade Zveri’s camp.”
She nodded. “You came just in time, Comrade Colt,” she said.
“Thank God for that,” he said.
“There is no God,” she reminded him.
Colt flushed. “We are creatures of heredity and habit,” he explained.
Zora Drinov smiled. “That is true,” she said, “but it is our business to break a great many bad habits not only for ourselves, but for the entire world.”
Since he had laid her upon the cot, Colt had been quietly appraising the girl. He had not known that there was a white woman in Zveri’s camp, but had he it is certain that he would not have anticipated one at all like this girl. He would rather have visualized a female agitator capable of accompanying a band of men to the heart of Africa as a coarse and unkempt peasant woman of middle age; but this girl, from her head of glorious, wavy hair to her small well-shaped foot, suggested the antithesis of a peasant origin and, far from being unkempt, was as trig and smart as it were possible for a woman to be under such circumstances and, in addition, she was young and beautiful.
“Comrade Zveri is absent from camp?” he asked.
“Yes, he is away on a short expedition.”
“And there is no one to introduce us to one another?” he asked, with a smile.
”Oh, pardon me,” she said. “I am Zora Drinov.”
“I had not anticipated such a pleasant surprise,” said Colt. “I expected to find nothing but uninteresting men like myself. And who was the fellow I interrupted?”
“That was Raghunath Jafar, a Hindu.”
“He is one of us?” asked Colt.
“Yes,” replied the girl, “but not for long—not after Peter Zveri returns.”
“I mean that Peter will kill him.”
Colt shrugged. “It is what he deserves,” he said. “Perhaps I should have done it.”
“No,” said the girl, “leave that for Peter.”
“Were you left alone here in this camp witbout any protection?” demanded Colt.
“No. Peter left my boy and ten askaris, but in some way Jafar got them all out of camp,”
“You will be safe now,” he said. “I shall see to that until Comrade Zveri returns. I am going now to make my camp, and I shall send two of my askaris to stand guard before your tent.”
“That is good of you,” she said, “but I think now that you are here it will not be necessary.”
“I shall do it anyway,” he said. “I shall feel safer.”
“And when you have made camp, will you come and have supper with me?” she asked, and then, “Oh, I forgot, Jafar has sent my boy away, too. There is no one to cook for me.”
“Then, perhaps, you will dine with me,” he said. “My boy is a fairly good cook.”
“I shall be delighted, Comrade Colt,” she replied.
As the American left the tent, Zora Drinov lay back upon the cot with half-closed eyes. How different the man had been from what she had expected. Recalling his features, and especially his eyes, she found it difficult to believe that such a man could be a traitor to his father or to his country, but then, she realized, many a man has turned against his own for a principle. With her own people it was different. They had never had a chance. They had always been ground beneath the heel of one tyrant or another. What they were doing they believed implicitly to be for their own and for their country’s good. Among those of them who were motivated by honest conviction there could not fairly be brought any charge of treason, and yet, Russian though she was to the core, she could not help but look with contempt upon the citizens of other countries who turned against their governments to aid the ambitions of a foreign power. We may be willing to profit by the act of foreign mercenaries and traitors, but we cannot admire them.
As Colt crossed from Zora’s tent to where his men lay to give the necessary instructions for the making of his camp, Raghunath Jafar watched him from the interior of his own tent. A malignant scowl clouded the countenance of the Hindu, and hatred smoldered in his eyes.
Tarzan, watching from above, saw the young American issuing instructions to his men. The personality of this young stranger had impressed Tarzan favorably. He liked him as well as he could like any stranger, for deeply ingrained in the fiber of the ape-man was the wild beast suspicion of all strangers and especially of all white strangers. As he watched him now nothing else within the range of his vision escaped him. It was thus that he saw Raghunath Jafar emerge from his tent, carrying a rifle. Only Tarzan and little Nkima saw this, and only Tarzan placed any sinister interpretation upon it.
Raghunath Jafar walked directly away from camp and entered the jungle. Swinging silently through the trees, Tarzan of the Apes followed him. Jafar made a half circle of the camp just within the concealing verdure of the jungle, and then he halted. From where he stood the entire camp was visible to him, but his own position was concealed by foliage.
Colt was watching the disposition of his loads and the pitching of his tent. His men were busy with the various duties assigned to them by their headman. They were tired and there was little talking. For the most part they worked in silence, and an unusual quiet pervaded the scene a quiet that was suddenly and unexpectedly shattered by an anguished scream and the report of a rifle, blending so closely that it was impossible to say which had preceded the other. A bullet whizzed by Colt’s head and nipped the lobe off the ear of one of his men standing behind him. Instantly the peaceful activities of the camp were supplanted by pandemonium. For a moment there was a difference of opinion as to the direction from which the shot and the scream had come, and then Colt saw a wisp of smoke rising from the jungle just beyond the edge of camp.
“There it is,” he said, and started toward the point.
The headman of the askaris stopped him. “Do not go, Bwana,” he said. “Perhaps it is an enemy. Let us fire into the jungle first.”
“No,” said Colt, “we will investigate first. Take some of your men in from the right, and I’ll take the rest in from the left. We’ll work around slowly through the jungle until we meet.”
“Yes, Bwana,” said the headman, and calling his men he gave the necessary instructions.
No sound of flight or any suggestion of a living presence greeted the two parties as they entered the jungle; nor had they discovered any signs of a marauder when, a few moments later, they made contact with one another. They were now formed in a half circle that bent back into the jungle and, at a word from Colt, they advanced toward the camp.
It was Colt who found Raghunath Jafar lying dead just at the edge of camp. His right hand grasped his rifle. Protruding from his heart was the shaft of a sturdy arrow.
The Negroes gathering around the corpse looked at one another questioningly and then back into the jungle and up into the trees. One of them examined the arrow. “It is not like any arrow I have ever seen,” he said. “It was not made by the hand of man.”
Immediately the blacks were filled with superstitious fears.
“The shot was meant for the bwana,” said one; “therefore the demon who shot the arrow is a friend of our bwana. We need not be afraid.”
This explanation satisfied the blacks, but it did not satisfy Wayne Colt. He was puzzling over it as he walked back into camp, after giving orders that the Hindu be buried.
Zora Drinov was standing in the entrance to her tent, and as she saw him she came to meet him. “What was it?” she asked. “What happened?”
“Comrade Zveri will not kill Raghunath Jafar,” he said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because Raghunath Jafar is already dead.”
“Who could have shot the arrow?” she asked, after he had told her of the manner of the Hindu’s death.
“I haven’t the remotest idea,” he admitted. “It is an absolute mystery, but it means that the camp is being watched and that we must be very careful not to go into the jungle alone. The men believe that the arrow was fired to save me from an assassin’s bullet; and while it is entirely possible that Jafar may have been intending to kill me, I believe that if I had gone into the jungle alone instead of him it would have been I that would be lying out there dead now. Have you been bothered at all by natives since you made camp here, or have you had any unpleasant experiences with them at all?”
“We have not seen a native since we entered this camp. We have often commented upon the fact that the country seems to be entirely deserted and uninhabited, notwithstanding the fact that it is filled with game.”
“This thing may help to account for the fact that it is uninhabited,” suggested Colt, “or rather apparently uninhabited. We may have unintentionally invaded the country of some unusually ferocious tribe that takes this means of acquainting newcomers with the fact that they are persona non grata.”
“You say one of our men was wounded?” asked Zora.
“Nothing serious. He just had his ear nicked a little.”
“Was he near you?”
“He was standing right behind me,” replied Colt.
“I think there is no doubt that Jafar meant to kill you,” said Zora.
“Perhaps,” said Colt, “but he did not succeed. He did not even kill my appetite; and if I can succeed in calming the excitement of my boy, we shall have supper presently.”
From a distance Tarzan and Nkima watched the burial of Raghunath Jafar and a little later saw the return of Kahiya and his askaris with Zora’s boy Wamala, who had been sent out of camp by Jafar.
“Where,” said Tarzan to Nkima, “are all the many Tarmangani and Gomangani that you told me were in this camp?”
“They have taken their thundersticks and gone away,” replied the little Manu. “They are hunting for Nkima.”
Tarzan of the Apes smiled one of his rare smiles. “We shall have to hunt them down and find out what they are about, Nkima,” he said.
“But it grows dark in the jungle soon,” pleaded Nkima, “and then will Sabor, and Sheeta, and Numa, and Histah be abroad, and they, too, search for little Nkima.”
Darkness had fallen before Colt’s boy announced supper, and in the meantime Tarzan, changing his plans, had returned to the trees above the camp. He was convinced that there was something irregular in the aims of the expedition whose base he had discovered. He knew from the size of the camp that it had contained many men. Where they had gone and for what purpose were matters that he must ascertain. Feeling that this expedition, whatever its purpose, might naturally be a principal topic of conversation in the camp, he sought a point of vantage wherefrom he might overhear the conversations that passed between the two white members of the party beneath him; and so it was that as Zora Drinov and Wayne Colt seated themselves at the supper table, Tarzan of the Apes crouched amid the foliage of a great tree just above them.
“You have passed through a rather trying ordeal today,” said Colt, “but you do not appear to be any the worse for it. I should think that your nerves would be shaken.”
“I have passed through too much already in my life, Comrade Colt, to have any nerves left at all,” replied the girl.
“I suppose so,” said Colt. “You must have passed through the revolution in Russia.”
“I was only a little girl at the time,” she explained, “but I remember it quite distinctly.”
Colt was gazing at her intently. “From your appearance,” he ventured, “I imagine that you were not by birth of the proletariat.”
“My father was a laborer. He died in exile under the Tzarist regime. That was how I learned to hate everything monarchistic and capitalistic. And when I was offered this opportunity to join Comrade Zveri, I saw another field in which to encompass my revenge, while at the same time advancing the interests of my class throughout the world.”
“When I last saw Zveri in the United States,” said Colt, “he evidently had not formulated the plans he is now carrying out, as he never mentioned any expedition of this sort. When I received orders to join him here, none of the details was imparted to me; and so I am rather in the dark as to what his purpose is.”
“It is only for good soldiers to obey,” the girl reminded him.
“Yes, I know that,” agreed Colt, “but at the same time even a poor soldier may act more intelligently sometimes if he knows the objective.”
“The general plan, of course, is no secret to any of us here,” said Zora, “and I shall betray no confidence in explaining it to you. It is a part of a larger plan to embroil the capitalistic powers in wars and revolutions to such an extent that they will be helpless to unite against us.
“Our emissaries have been laboring for a long time toward the culmination of the revolution in India that will distract the attention and the armed forces of Great Britain. We are not succeeding so well in Mexico as we had planned, but there is still hope, while our prospects in the Philippines are very bright. The conditions in China you well know. She is absolutely helpless. and we have hope that with our assistance she will eventually constitute a real menace to Japan. Italy is a very dangerous enemy, and it is largely for the purpose of embroiling her in war with France that we are here.”
“But just how can that be accomplished in Africa?” asked Colt.
“Comrade Zveri believes that it will be simple,” said the girl. “The suspicion and jealousy that exist between France and Italy are well known; their race for naval supremacy amounts almost to a scandal. At the first overt act of either against the other, war might easily result, and a war between Italy and France would embroil all of Europe.”
“But just how can Zveri, operating in the wilds of Africa, embroil Italy and France in war?” demanded the American.
“There is now in Rome a delegation of French and Italian Reds engaged in this very busines. The poor men know only a part of the plan and, unfortunately for them, it will be necessary to martyr them in the cause for the advancement of our world plan. They have been furnished with papers outlining a plan for the invasion of Italian Somaliland by French troops. At the proper time one of Comrade Zveri’s secret agents in Rome will reveal the plot to the Fascist Government; and almost simultaneously a considerable number of our own blacks, disguised in the uniforms of French native troops, led by the white men of our expedition, uniformed as French officers, will invade Italian Somaliland.
“In the meantime our agents are carrying on in Egypt and Abyssinia and among the native tribes of North Africa, and already we have definite assurance that with the attention of France and Italy distracted by war and Great Britain embarrassed by a revolution in India the natives of North Africa will arise in what will amount almost to a holy war for the purpose of throwing off the yoke of foreign domination and the establishment of autonomous Soviet states througbout the entire area.”
“A daring and stupendous undertaking,” exclaimed Colt, “but one that will require enormous resources in money as Well as men.”
“It is Comrade Zveri’s pet scheme,” said the girl. “I do not know, of course, all the details of his organization and backing; but I do know that while he is already well financed for the initial operations, he is depending to a considerable extent upon this district for furnishing most of the necessary gold to carry on the tremendous operations that will be necessary to insure final success.”
“Then I am afraid he is foredoomed to failure,” said Colt, “for he surely cannot find enough wealth in this savage country to carry on any such stupendous program.”
“Comrade Zveri believes to the contrary,” said Zora; “in fact, the expedition that he is now engaged upon is for the purpose of obtaining the treasure he seecks.
Above them, in the darkness, the silent figure of the ape-man lay stretched at ease upon a great branch, his keen ears absorbing all that passed between them, while curled in sleep upon his bronzed back lay little Nkima, entirely oblivious of the fact that he might have listened to words well calculated to shake the foundations of organized government throughout the world.
“And where,” demanded Colt, “if it is no secret, does Comrade Zveri expect to find such a great store of gold?”
“In the famous treasure vaults of Opar,” replied the girl. “You certainly must have heard of them.”
“Yes,” answered Colt, “but I never considered them other than purely legendary. The folk lore of the entire world is filled with these mythical treasure vaults.
“But Opar is no myth,” replied Zora.
If the startling information divulged to him affected Tarzan, it induced no outward manifestation. Listening in silence imperturbably, trained to the utmost refinement of self control, he might have been part and parcel of the great branch upon which he lay, or of the shadowy foliage which hid him from view.
For a time Colt sat in silence, contemplating the stupendous possibilities of the plan that he had just heard unfolded. It seemed to him little short of the dream of a mad man, and he did believe that it had the slightest chance for success. What he did regonize was the jeopardy in which it placed the members of the expedition, for he believed that there would be no escape for any of them once Great Britain, France, and Italy were apprised of their activities; and, without conscious volition, his fears seemed centered upon the safety of the girl. He knew the type of people with whom he was working and so he knew that it would be dangerous to voice a doubt as to the practicability of the plan, for scarcely without exception the agitators whom he had met had fallen naturally into two separate categories, the impractical visionary, who believed everything that he wanted to believe, and the shrewd knave, actuated by motives of avarice, who hoped to profit either in power or riches by any change that he might be instrumental in bringing about in the established order of things. It seemed horrible that a young and beautiful girl should have been enticed into such a desperate situation. She seemed far too intelligent to be merely a brainless tool, and even his brief association with her made it most difficult for him to believe that she was a knave.
“The undertaking is certainly fraught with grave dangers,” he said, “and as it is primarily a job for men I cannot understand why you were permitted to face the dangers and hardships that must of necessity be entailed by the carrying out of such a perilous campaign.”
“The life of a woman is of no more value than that of a man,” she declared, “and I was needed. There is always a great deal of important and confidential clerical work to be done which Comrade Zvori can entrust only to one in whom he has implicit confidence. He reposes such trust in me and, in addition, I am a trained typist and stenographer. Those reasons in themselves are sufficient to explain why I am here, but another very important one is that I desire to be with Comrade Zveri.”
In the girl’s words Colt saw the admission of a romance; but to his American mind this was all the greater reason why the girl should not have been brought along, for he could not conceive of a man exposing the girl he loved to such dangers.
Above them Tarzan of the Apes moved silently. First he reached over his shoulder and lifted little Nkima from his back. Nkima would have objected, but the veriest shadow of a whisper silenced him. The ape-man had various methods of dealing with enemies—methods that he had learned and practiced long before he had been cognizant of the fact that he was not an ape. Long before he had ever seen another white man he had terrorized the Gomangani, the black men of the forest and the jungle, and had learned that a long step toward defeating an enemy may be taken by first demoralizing its rnorale. He knew now that these people were not only the invaders of his own domain and, therefore, his own personal enemies, but that they threatened the peace of Great Britain, which was dear to him, and of the rest of the civilized world, with which, at least, Tarzan had no quarrels. It is true that he held civilization in general in considerable contempt, but in even greater contempt he held those who interfered with the rights of others or with the established order of jungle or city.
As Tarzan left the tree in which he had been hiding, the two below him were no more aware of his departure than they had been of his presence. Colt found himself attempting to fathom the mystery of love. He knew Zveri, and it appeared inconceivable to him that a girl of Zora Drinov’s type could be attracted by a man of Zveri’s stamp. Of course, it was none of his affair, but it bothered him nevertheless because it seemed to cotistitute a reflection upon the girl and to lower her in his estimation. He was disappointed in her, and Colt did not like to be disappointed in people to whom he had been attracted.
“You knew Comrade Zveri in America, did you not?” asked Zora.
“Yes,” replied Colt.
“What do you think of him?” she demanded.
“I found him a very forceful character,” replied Colt. “I believe him to be a man who would carry on to a conclusion anything that he attempted. No better man could have been chosen for this mission.”
If the girl had hoped to surprise Colt into an expression of personal regard or dislike for Zveri, she had failed, but if such was the fact she was too wise to pursue the subject further. She realized that she was dealing with a man from whom she would get little information that he did not wish her to have; but on the other hand a man who might easily wrest information from others, for he was that type which seemed to invite confidences, suggesting as he did, in his attitude, his speech and his manner a sterling uprightness of character that could not conceivably abuse a trust. She rather liked this upstanding young American, and the more she saw of him the more difficult she found it to believe that he had turned traitor to his family, his friends and his country. However, she knew that many honorable men had sacrificed everything to a conviction and, perhaps, he was one of these. She hoped that this was the explanation.
Their conversation drifted to various subjects—to their lives and experiences in their native lands—to the happenings that had befallen them since they had entered Africa, and, finally, to the experiences of the day. And while thvy talked, Tarzan of the Apes returned to the tree above them, but this time he did not come alone.
“I wonder if we shall ever know,” sbe said, “who killed Jafar.”
“It is a mystery that is not lessened by the fact that none of the askaris could recognize the type of arrow with which he was slain, though that, of course, might be accounted for by the fact that none of them are of this district.”
“It has considerably shaken the nerves of the men,” said Zora, “and I sincerely hope that nothing similar occurs again. I have found that it does not take much to upset these natives, and while most of them are brave in the face of known dangers, they are apt to be entirely demoralized by anything bordering on the supernatural.”
“I think they felt better when they got the Hindu planted under ground,” said Colt, “though some of them were not at all sure that he might not return anyway.”
“There is not much chance of that,” rejoined the girl, laughing.
She had scarcely ceased speaking when the branches above them rustled, and a heavy body plunged downward to the table top between them, crushing the flimsy piece of furniture to earth.
The two sprang to their feet, Colt whipping out his revolver and the girl stifling a cry as she stepped back. Colt felt the hairs rise upon his head and goose flesh form upon his arms and back, for there between them lay the dead body of Raghunath Jafar upon its back, the dead eyes rolled backward staring up into the night.