THE GUARDS in the corridor outside the throne-room were so surprised to see anyone coming from the throne-room at that time in the night that Lord was past them before they recovered their wits. They pursued him, shouting commands to halt, to the doorway of the guard-room where, by this time, all the women warriors were aroused and leaping to arms.
Lorro was the first to recognize the Englishman. “What is it, Lord?” she demanded. “What are you doing here? How did you get out of the cell? What has happened?”
“The great emerald!” cried Lord. “The Kaji has killed Woora and stolen the great emerald.”
“Killed Woora!” exclaimed half a dozen of the women in unison. “You mean that Woora is dead?”
“Yes, yes,” replied Lord impatiently. “But the emerald’s stolen. Can’t you understand that?”
“Woora is dead!” screamed the women; as with one accord they rushed for the village street to spread the happy tidings.
Out in the night, a short distance beyond the village, Tarzan heard the commotion, followed by the hoarse notes of a primitive trumpet. He recognized the call to arms to which now was added the throbbing of the war drums, and guessed that Lord had spread the alarm and was organizing a pursuit.
The ape-man increased his speed, moving unerringly along the trail that he had passed over but once before, and that at night; and behind him came the entire tribe of Zuli warrior women with their white men and their black slaves.
Lord had at last succeeded in impressing on the minds of the Zuli that the death of Woora was an empty beneficence without possession of the emerald that was to have given them wealth and independence in the outer world; so that it was an angry, blood-thirsty mob that pursued the Lord of the Jungle through the soft African night.
Plain to the ears of the ape-man came the sounds of the pursuit, and he guessed the temper of the pursuers. If they overtook him, he could hope for neither victory nor quarter. There were too many of them for the one, and they were too angry and too savage to accord the other. Only the cunning of the wild beast that environment and training had implanted within him could avail him against such odds.
As he trotted along the winding trail that led up the course of the rivulet toward the divide he became acutely aware of a presence that he could not see. His acute senses told him that he was alone, yet the feeling persisted that he was not alone. Something moved with him, clinging as closely as his shadow. He stopped to listen. The thing seemed so near that he should have heard it breathe, but there was no sound. His keen nostrils sought a clew—there was none.
As he trotted on he sought to reason out the mystery. He even tried to convince himself that he was the victim of a delusion; but Tarzan had never had a delusion—he had only heard that others sometimes had them. And always the presence was with him, haunting him like a ghost.
He smiled. Perhaps that was it—the ghost of Woora. And then, quite suddenly the truth dawned upon him. It was the great emerald!
It seemed impossible, yet it could be nothing else. The mysterious stone had some quality in common with life—an aura that was, perhaps, mesmeric. It was conceivable that it was this very thing that had imparted to Woora the occult powers that had made him so feared, so powerful. This would account in part for the care with which the stone had been guarded.
If this were true, then the same conditions might obtain with the Gonfal, the great diamond of the Kaji. Without it, the power of Mafka would be gone. The ape-man wondered. He also wondered if Mafka’s power would be doubled if he possessed both the diamond and the emerald.
How would these stones affect the power of others? Did the mere possession of one of them impart to any mortal such powers as those wielded by Woora and Mafka? The idea intrigued Tarzan. He let his mind play with it for a while as he trotted up toward the divide; then he reached a decision.
Turning abruptly to the right, he left the trail and sought a place of concealment. Presently he found a great boulder at the foot of the canyon wall. Behind it he would be hidden from the view of anyone passing along the trail. Always cautious, he looked about for an avenue of retreat, if one became necessary and saw that he could scale the canyon side easily; then he placed himself behind the boulder and waited.
He heard the Zuli coming up the trail. They were making no effort to conceal their presence. It was evident that they were quite sure that the fugitive could not escape them.
Now the head of the column came into view. It was led by Lord. There were over fifty men, mostly white, and three or four hundred warrior-women. Tarzan concentrated his efforts on the latter.
“Turn back! Turn back!” he willed. “Go back to the village and stay there.”
The women kept on along the trail, apparently unaffected; yet Tarzan felt the presence of the emerald more strongly than ever. He raised it from his side and tore away the skin in which he had wrapped it. Its polished surface, reflecting the moonlight, gave forth rays that enveloped the ape-man in an unearthly glow.
As his bare hands touched the stone he felt a tingling in his arms, his body, as though a mild electric current were passing through him. He felt a surge of new power—a strange, uncanny power that had never before been his. Again he willed the women to turn back, and now he knew that they would turn, now he knew his own power without question, without a doubt.
The women stopped and turned about.
“What’s the matter?” demanded one of the men.
“I am going back,” replied a woman.
“I don’t know. I only know that I have to go back. I do not believe that Woora is dead. He is calling me back. He is calling us all back.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Lord. “Woora is dead. I saw him killed. His skull was crushed to a pulp.”
“Nevertheless he is calling us back.”
The women were already starting back along the trail. The men stood undecided.
Presently Lord said in a low tone, “Let them go,” and they all stood watching until after the women had disappeared beyond a turn in the trail.
“There are over fifty of us,” said Lord then, “and we do not need the women. There will be fewer to divide with when we get out with the emerald.”
“We haven’t got it yet,” another reminded him.
“It is as good as ours if we overtake the Kaji before he gets back to his own village. He’s a tough customer, but fifty of us can kill him.”
Tarzan, behind the boulder, heard and smiled—just the shadow of a smile; a grim shadow.
“Come on!” said Lord. “Let’s be going,” but he did not move. No one moved.
“Well, why don’t you start?” demanded one of the others.
Lord paled. He looked frightened. “Why don’t you?” he asked.
“I can’t,” said the man, “and neither can you. You know it. It’s the power of Woora. The woman was right—he is not dead. God! How we’ll be punished!”
“I tell you he is dead,” growled Lord, “dead as a doornail.”
“Then it’s his ghost,” suggested a man. His voice trembled.
“Look!” cried one and pointed.
With one accord they all looked in the direction their companion indicated. One who had been a Catholic crossed himself. Another prayed beneath his breath. Lord cursed.
From behind a large boulder set well back from the trail spread a greenish luminosity, faint, shimmering, sending out tenuous rays of emerald light, challenging the soft brilliance of the moon.
The men stood spellbound, their eyes fixed upon the miracle. Then a man stepped from behind the boulder—a bronzed giant clothed only in a loin-cloth.
“The Kaji!” exclaimed Lord.
“And the great emerald,” said another. “Now is our chance.” But no one drew a weapon; no one advanced upon the stranger. They could only wish; their wills could not command disobedience to him who possessed the mysterious power of the emerald.
Tarzan came down to them. He stopped and looked them over appraisingly. “There are over fifty of you,” he said. “You will come with me to the village of the Kaji. Some of my people are prisoners there. We will free them; then we will all go out of the Kaji country and go our ways.”
He did not ask them; he told them; for he and they both knew that while he possessed the great emerald he did not have to ask.
“But the emerald,” said Lord; “you promised to divide that with me.”
“When, a few minutes ago, you planned to kill me,” replied the ape-man, “you forfeited your right to hold me to that promise. Also, since then, I have discovered the power of the emerald. The stone is dangerous. In the hands of a man such as you, it could do untold harm. When I am through with it, it will go into the Neubari where no man shall ever find it.”
Lord gasped. “God, man!” he cried. “You wouldn’t do that! You couldn’t throw away a fortune of two or three million pounds! No, you’re just saying that. You don’t want to divide it—that’s it. You want to keep it all for yourself.”
Tarzan shrugged. “Think what you please,” he said; “it makes no difference. Now you will follow me,” and thus they started once more along the trail that led across the divide and down into the country of the Kaji.
It was dusk of the following day when, from a slight eminence, Tarzan saw for the first time the city of Kaji and the stronghold of Mafka. It was built at the side of a valley close to the face of a perpendicular limestone cliff. It appeared to be a place considerably larger than the Zuli village from which he had just escaped. He stood gazing at it for a few moments; then he turned to the men grouped behind him.
“We have travelled far and eaten little,” he said. “Many of you are tired. It will not be well to approach the city until well after dark; therefore we will rest.” He took a spear from one of the men and drew a long line upon the ground with the sharp point. “You cannot cross this line,” he said, “not one of you”; then he handed the spear back to its owner, walked a short distance away from the line that he had drawn between them, and lay down. One hand rested upon the gleaming surface of the emerald; thus he slept.
The others glad of an opportunity to rest, lay down immediately; and soon all were asleep. No, not all. Lord remained awake, his fascinated eyes held by the faint radiance of the jewel that conjured in his mind the fleshpots of civilization its wealth might purchase.
Dusk passed quickly, and night came. The moon had not yet risen, and it was very dark. Only the green luminosity surrounding the ape-man relieved the Stygian blackness. In its weird radiance Lord could see the man he called the Kaji. He watched the hand resting upon the emerald—watched and waited; for Lord knew much of the power of the great stone and the manner in which it was conferred upon its possessor.
He made plans; some he discarded. He waited. Tarzan moved in his sleep; his hand slipped from the face of the emerald; then Lord arose. He gripped his spear firmly and crept cautiously toward the sleeping man. Tarzan had not slept for two days, and he was sunk in the slumber of exhaustion.
At the line Tarzan had drawn upon the ground Lord hesitated a moment; then he stepped across and knew that the power of the emerald had passed from the stranger as his hand had slipped from the stone. For many years Lord had watched Woora, and he knew that always when he would force his will upon another some part of his body was in contact with the emerald; but he breathed a sigh of relief with the confirmation of his hope.
Now he approached the sleeping ape-man, his spear ready in his hand. He came close and stood silently for an instant above the unconscious sleeper; then he stooped and gathered up the emerald.
The plan to kill Tarzan was one of those he had discarded. He feared the man might make an outcry before he died and arouse the others; and this did not fit in with Lord’s plan, which was to possess the emerald for himself alone.
Creeping stealthily away, Lord disappeared in the night.