IN PEACE they marched through the country of the Kaji under the protection of Tarzan and the Gonfal. Those who had been prisoners and slaves for years were filled with nervous apprehension. They could not believe this miracle that had seemingly snatched them from the clutches of the old magician who had dominated and terrorized them for so long. Momentarily they expected to be killed or dragged back to certain torture and death; but nothing happened, and they came at last to the valley of the Neubari.
“I’ll leave you here,” said Tarzan. “You will be going south. I go north.” He handed the Gonfal to van Eyk. “Keep it until morning; then give it to one of these women.” He indicated the three warrior women who had accompanied them from Kaji; then he turned to them. “Take the stone back; and if any among you can use it, use it for good and not for evil.
“Wood, take the great emerald of the Zuli in trust for Gonfala. I hope it will bring her happiness, but the chances are that it will not. At least, however, she need never want.”
“Where do we come in?” demanded Spike.
The ape-man shook his head. “You don’t; you go out—you go out with your lives. That’s a lot more than you could have hoped for a few days ago.”
“You mean to say you’re goin’ to give the big rock back to the niggers and we don’t get no split? It ain’t fair. Look what we been through. You can’t do it.”
“It’s already done.”
Spike turned toward the others. “Are you fellows goin’ to stand for this?” he shouted angrily. “Them two rocks belongs to all of us. We ought to take ’em back to London and sell ’em and divide up equal.”
“I’m glad enough to get out with my life,” said van Eyk. “I think Gonfala has a right to one of the stones; the other will be plenty for both the Kaji and the Zuli to carry out their plans to go out into the world. They’ll be cheated out of most of it anyway, but they’ll get their wish.”
“I think they ought to be divided,” said Troll. “We ought to get something out of this.”
Some of the white men who had been liberated agreed with him. Others said they only wanted to get home alive and the sooner they saw the last of the two stones the better they’d be satisfied.
“They’re evil,” said one of the men. “They’ll bring no good to anyone.”
“I’d take the chance,” growled Spike.
Tarzan regarded him coldly. “You won’t get it. I’ve told you all what to do; see that you do it. I’ll be travelling south again before you get out of the country. I’ll know if you’ve pulled anything crooked. See that you don’t.”
Night had fallen. The little band of fugitives, perhaps a hundred strong, were making camp, such as it was, and preparing the food they had brought from Kaji. The blacks, who had been slaves, fell naturally into positions of porters and personal servants to the whites. There had been some slight attempt toward organization, Wood and van Eyk acting as lieutenants to the man they knew only as Clayton, who had assumed the leadership as naturally as the others had accepted the arrangement.
He stood among them now noting the preparations for the night; then he turned to Wood. “You and van Eyk will take charge. You will have no trouble unless it be from Spike. Watch him. Three marches to the south you will find friendly villages. After that it will be easy.”
That was all. He turned and was gone into the night. There were no farewells, long-drawn and useless.
“Well,” said van Eyk, “that was casual enough.”
Wood shrugged. “He is like that.”
Gonfala strained her eyes out into the darkness. “He has gone? You think he will not come back?”
“When he finishes whatever business he is on, perhaps. By that time we may be out of the country.”
“I felt so safe when he was with us.” The girl came and stood close to Wood. “I feel safe with you, too, Stanlee; but him—he seemed a part of Africa.”
The man nodded and put an arm about her. “We’ll take care of you, dear; but I know how you feel. I felt the same way when he was around. I had no sense of responsibility at all, not even for my own welfare. I just took it for granted that he’d look after everything.”
“I often wonder about him,” said van Eyk musingly—“who he is, where he comes from, what he is doing in Africa. I wonder—I wonder if there could be—if—”
“If there could be a Tarzan.”
Wood laughed. “You know, the same thought came to me. Of course, there is no such person; but this fellow, Clayton, sure would fill the bill.”
The black boy who was cooking for them called them then to the evening meal. It was not much, and they decided that Spike and Troll would have to do some hunting the following day.
Suddenly Wood laughed—a bit ruefully. “What with?” he demanded. “We’ve got spears and knives. What could any of us kill with those?”
Van Eyk nodded. “You’re right. What are we going to do? We’ve got to have meat. All the way to those first friendly villages we’ve got to depend on game. There won’t be anything else.”
“If we raise any game, we’ll have to send out beaters and chase it toward the spears. We ought to get something that way.”
Van Eyk grinned. “If we’re lucky enough to raise something with angina pectoris, the excitement might kill it.”
“Well, they do kill big game with spears,” insisted Wood.
Van Eyk’s face brightened. He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it! Bows and arrows! Some of our blacks must be good at making them and using them. Hey, Kamudi! Come here!”
One of the black boys arose from the two calloused black heels he had been squatting upon and approached. “Yes, Bwana—you call?”
“Say, can any of you boys kill game with a bow and arrow?”
Kamudi grinned. “Yes, Bwana.”
“How about making them? Can any of you make bows and arrows?”
“Yes, Bwana—all can make.”
“Fine! Any of the stuff you use grow around here?” Van Eyk’s tones were both eager and apprehensive.
“Down by the river—plenty.”
“Gee! That’s bully. When the boys have finished supper take ’em down there and get enough stuff to make bows for every one and lots of arrows. Make a few tonight. If we don’t have ’em, we don’t eat tomorrow Sabe?”
“Yes, Bwana—after supper.”
The night was velvet soft. A full moon shone down upon the camp, paling the embers of dying fires where the men had cooked their simple meal. The blacks were busy fashioning crude bows and arrows, roughly hewn but adequate.
The whites were gathered in little groups. A shelter had been fashioned for Gonfala; and before this she and Wood and van Eyk lay upon skins that had been brought from Kaji and talked of the future. Gonfala of the wonders that awaited her in unknown civilization, for she was going to London. The men spoke of America, of their families, and old friends, who must long ago have given them up as dead.
“With the proceeds from the great emerald of the Zuli you will be a very rich woman, Gonfala.” Wood spoke a little regretfully. “You will have a beautiful home, wonderful gowns and furs, automobiles, and many servants; and there will be men—oh, lots of men.”
“Why should I have men? I do not want but just one.”
“But they will want you, for yourself and for your money.” The thought seemed to sadden Wood.
“You will have to be very careful,” said van Eyk. “Some of those chaps will be very fascinating.”
The girl shrugged. “I am not afraid. Stanlee will take care of me. Won’t you, Stanlee?”
“If you’ll let me, but—”
“ ‘But’ what?”
“Well, you see you have never known men such as you are going to meet. You may find someone who—” Wood hesitated.
“ ‘Someone who’ what?” she demanded.
“Whom you’ll like better than you do me.”
Gonfala laughed. “I am not worrying.”
“But I am.”
“You needn’t.” The girl’s eyes swam with the moisture of adulation.
“You are so young and naive and inexperienced. You haven’t the slightest idea what you are going to be up against or the types of men there are in the world—especially in the civilized world.”
“Are they as bad as Mafka?”
“In a different way they are worse.”
Van Eyk stood up and stretched. “I’m going to get some sleep,” he said. “You two’d better do the same thing. Good night.”
They said good night to him and watched him go; then the girl turned to Wood. “I am not afraid,” she said, “and you must not be. We shall have each other, and as far as I am concerned, no one else in the world counts.”
He took her hand and stroked it. “I hope you will always feel that way, dear. It is the way I feel—it is the way I always shall.”
“Nothing will ever come between us then.” She turned her palm beneath his and pressed his fingers.
For a little time longer they talked and planned as lovers have from time immemorial; and then he went to lie down at a little distance, and Gonfala to her shelter; but she could not sleep. She was too happy. It seemed to her that she could not waste a moment of that happiness in sleep, lose minutes of rapture that she could not ever recall.
After a moment she got up and went into the night. The camp slept. The moon had dropped into the west, and the girl walked in the dense shadow of the ancient trees against which the camp had been made. She moved slowly and silently in the state of beatific rapture that was engendered not alone by her love but by the hitherto unknown sense of freedom that had come to her with release from the domination of Mafka.
No longer was she subject to the hated seizures of cruelty and vindictiveness that she now realized were no true characteristics of her own but states that had been imposed upon her by the hypnotic powers of the old magician.
She shuddered as she recalled him. Perhaps he was her father, but what of it? What of a father’s love and tenderness had he ever given her? She tried to forgive him; she tried to think a kindly thought of him; but no, she could not. She had hated him in life; in death she still hated his memory.
With an effort she shook these depressing recollections from her and sought to center her thoughts on the happiness that was now hers and that would be through a long future.
Suddenly she became aware of voices near her. “The bloke’s balmy. The nerve of him, givin’ the Gonfal back to them niggers. We ort to have it an’ the emerald, too. Think of it, Troll—nearly five million pounds! That’s wot them two together would have brought in London or Paris.”
“An he gives the emerald to that damn nigger wench. Wot’ll she do with it? The American’ll get it. She thinks he’s soft on her, thinks he’s goin’ to marry her; but whoever heard of an American marryin’ a nigger. You’re right, Spike; it’s all wrong. Why—”
The girl did not wait to hear more. She turned and fled silently through the darkness—her dream shattered, her happiness blasted.
Wood awakened early and called Kamudi. “Wake the boys,” he directed; “we’re making an early start.” Then he called van Eyk, and the two busied themselves directing the preparations for the day’s march. “We’ll let Gonfala sleep as long as we can,” he said; “this may be a hard day.”
Van Eyk was groping around in the dim light of early dawn, feeling through the grasses on which he had made his bed. Suddenly he ripped out an oath.
“What’s the matter?” demanded Wood.
“Stan, the Gonfal is gone! It was right under the edge of these skins last night.”
Wood made a hurried search about his own bed; then another, more carefully. When he spoke he seemed stunned, shocked. “The emerald’s gone, too, Bob. Who could have—”
“The Kaji!” Van Eyk’s voice rang with conviction.
Together the two men hurried to the part of the camp where the warrior-women had bedded down for the night; and there, just rising from the skins upon which they had slept, were the three.
Without preliminaries, explanation, or apology the two men searched the beds where the women had lain.
“What are you looking for?” demanded one of them.
“The Gonfal,” replied van Eyk.
“You have it,” said the woman, “not we.”
The brief equatorial dawn had given way to the full light of day as Wood and van Eyk completed a search of the camp and realized that Spike and Troll were missing.
Wood looked crestfallen and hopeless. “We might have guessed it right off,” he said. “Those two were sore as pups when Clayton gave the Gonfal back to the Kaji and the emerald to Gonfala.”
“What’ll we do?” asked van Eyk.
“We’ll have to follow them, of course; but that’s not what’s worrying me right now—it’s telling Gonfala. She’d been banking a lot on the sale of the emerald ever since we kept harping on the wonderful things she could buy and what she could do with so much money. Poor kid! Of course, I’ve got enough for us to live on, and she can have every cent of it. But it won’t be quite the same to her, because she wanted so much to be independent and not be a burden to me—as though she ever could be a burden.”
“Well, you’ve got to tell her; and you might as well get it off your chest now as any time. If we’re going after those birds, we want to get started pronto.”
“O.K.” He walked to Gonfala’s shelter and called her. There was no response. He called again louder; and then again and again, but with no results. Then he entered. Gonfala was not there.
He came out, white and shaken. “They must have taken her, too, Bob.”
The other shook his head. “That would have been impossible without disturbing us—if she had tried to arouse us.”
Wood bridled angrily. “You mean—?”
Van Eyk interrupted and put a hand on the other’s shoulder. “I don’t know any more about it than you, Stan. I’m just stating a self-evident fact. You know it as well as I.”
“But the inference.”
“I can’t help the inference either. They couldn’t have taken Gonfala by force without waking us; therefore either she went with them willingly, or she didn’t go with them at all.”
“The latter’s out of the question. Gonfala would never run away from me. Why only last night we were planning on the future, after we got married.”
Van Eyk shook his head. “Have you ever really stopped to think about what that would mean, Stan? What it would mean to you both in the future—in America? I’m thinking just as much of her happiness as yours, old man. I’m thinking of the Hell on earth that would be your lot—hers and yours. You know as well as I what one drop of colored blood does for a man or woman in the great democracy of the U.S.A. You’d both be ostracized by the blacks as well as the whites. I’m not speaking from any personal prejudice; I’m just stating a fact. It’s hard and cruel and terrible, but it still remains a fact.”
Wood nodded in sad acquiescence. There was no anger in his voice as he replied. “I know it as well as you, but I’d go through Hell for her. I’d live in Hell for her, and thank God for the opportunity. I love her that much.”
“Then there’s nothing more to be said. If you feel that way about it, I’m for you. I’ll never mention it again, and if you ever do marry it’ll never change me toward either of you.”
“Thanks, old man; I’m sure of it. And now let’s get busy and start after them.”
“You still think they took her?”
“I have a theory. They have both the Gonfal and the great emerald of the Zuli. You saw how Clayton used that mysterious power to bend the Kaji and Zuli to his will. They used it to compel Gonfala to accompany them without making any disturbance. You know the experience I had. Mafka dragged me away from Clayton in the same way.”
“I guess you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that, but why did they want Gonfala?”
Van Eyk looked uncomfortable, and the other noticed it. “You don’t mean—?” he exclaimed.
Van Eyk shrugged helplessly. “They are men,” he said, “and not very high types.”
“We’ve got to find her—we’ve got to hurry!” Wood was almost frantic.
Some of the blacks picked up the trail of the two men, leading toward the south; and the manhunt was on.