TWO WEEKS rolled by. Tarzan was returning from the north with the information he sought. Sometimes he thought of the two Americans and Gonfala and the prisoners he had released from the Kaji and wondered how they fared. There had been enough of them to make their way in safety to the friendly tribes, and after that it would have been very simple to reach the outposts of civilization. He imagined that they were well on their way by this time with a good safari of trained bearers and ample provisions. He knew that the Americans were amply able to bear the expense even if they were unable to finance themselves on the security of the great emerald of the Zuli.
It was late afternoon as the Lord of the Jungle swung along a game trail at the edge of a forest. A light wind was blowing in his face, waving his black hair. It brought to his nostrils evidence of things unseen that lay ahead. Presently it brought the acrid scent of Numa the lion. It was an old lion, for the odor was stronger than that of a cub or a young lion in its prime.
To Tarzan it was just another lion. He gave it little thought until the wind brought faintly to his nostrils another scent—the scent spoor of a Tarmangani, a she—a white woman. This scent came from the same direction as that of Numa. The two, in conjunction, spelled tragedy.
Tarzan took to the trees. Game trails are winding. Through the trees he could move in a straight line, shortening the distance to his destination; and through the trees he could move with incredible swiftness. They had been his natural element since infancy when he had been borne swiftly from danger by his foster mother, Kala the she-ape.
The woman, haggard, unkempt, starving, exhausted, moved slowly and hopelessly along the trail. Her senses were dulled by fatigue and suffering. She heard nothing, yet some inner sense prompted her to turn a backward glance along the trail; then she saw the lion. He was moving softly and slowly after her. When he saw that he was discovered, he bared his fangs and growled.
The woman stopped and faced him. She had not the strength to climb a tree to safety. She knew that flight was useless. She just stood there, wide-eyed and hopeless, waiting for the end. She did not care. She had nothing to live for. She only prayed that death might come with merciful quickness.
When she had stopped, the lion had stopped. He stood glaring at her, his eyes blazing. Suddenly he started toward her at a trot. A few steps and he would charge—that swift, merciless charge of the king of beasts that is the culmination of ferocity.
He seemed to crouch lower, almost flattening himself against the ground; and now a horrid roar burst from his savage throat as he sprang forward!
The woman’s eyes went wide, first in horror and then in surprise; for as the lion charged, an almost naked man dropped from an overhanging limb full upon the beast’s back. She heard the roars and growls of the man mingling with those of the beast, and she shuddered. She saw a knife flash in the air, once, twice again. Then, with a final hideous roar, the lion slumped to the ground, dead.
The man leaped to his feet. It was then that she recognized him, and a feeling of relief and a sense of security possessed her. They endured for but a moment to be blasted by the hideous victory cry of the bull ape as Tarzan placed a foot upon the carcass of his kill and voiced the weird scream that had echoed so many times through other forests and jungles, deserts and plains.
Then his eyes dropped to the woman. “Gonfala! What has happened? What are you doing here alone?”
She told him a little—just that she felt that she would bring unhappiness into Wood’s life and so had run away. She had come north because she knew that he was going south. She had hoped to find some village where they would take her in; but she had found nothing; and so she had turned back intending to return to Kaji and the only people that she knew as her own.
“You can’t go back there,” Tarzan told her. “Without Mafka’s protection, they would kill you.”
“Yes, I suppose they would; but where else may I go?”
“You are coming with me. Wood will save the emerald for you. You will have all the money you will ever need. You can live then where you wish in safety and comfort.”
It was weeks before the ape-man brought the girl to his home—to the commodious bungalow where his wife welcomed and comforted her. All that time they had sought for word of Wood and van Eyk and their party but had had none. Their total disappearance seemed a mystery to Tarzan, and he planned to set out presently to solve it. Time, however, means little to the ape-man. There were other things to be done, and days passed. Yet time itself was bringing the solution nearer.
Two white men with a small safari trekked through a grim forest—damp, dark, depressing. It seemed endless.
“If ever two people were thoroughly and completely lost, we are they.” Wood had stopped and removed his sun helmet to wipe the perspiration from his forehead.
“We’re no more lost than our guides,” van Eyk reminded him.
“If we keep on going east we ought to strike some village where we can get guides.”
“All right, let’s get going.”
Within half a mile they emerged from the forest at the edge of a wide, rolling plain.
“What a relief!” exclaimed van Eyk. “A little more of that forest and I’d have gone nuts.”
“Look!” Wood seized his companion by the arm and pointed. “Men!”
“Looks like a war party. See those plumes? Maybe we’d better lay low.”
“Well, the responsibility is no longer ours. They’ve seen us. Here they come.”
The two men stood watching a party of a dozen warriors approaching them.
“Gee, they’re a good-looking bunch,” commented Wood.
“I hope they’re also good.”
The blacks halted a dozen paces from the white men; then one who was evidently their leader approached closer.
“What are the bwanas doing in this country?” he asked in good English. “Are they hunting?”
“We’re lost,” explained Wood. “We want to get guides to get us out of here.”
“Come,” said the black. “I take you to the Big Bwana.”
“What’s his name?” asked van Eyk. “Perhaps we know him.”
“He is Tarzan.”
The two whites looked at one another in astonishment.
“You don’t mean to tell me there really is a Tarzan?” demanded Wood.
“Who ever tells you there isn’t does not speak true words. In an hour you shall see him.”
“What is your name?”
“Well, lead on, Muviro; we’re ready.”
An hour later the two men stood on the broad verandah of a sprawling bungalow waiting the coming of their host.
“Tarzan!” muttered van Eyk. “It doesn’t seem possible. This must be he coming. They heard footsteps approaching from the interior of the house, and a moment later a man stepped onto the verandah and faced them.
“Clayton!” they both exclaimed in unison.
“I am glad to see you,” said Tarzan. “I hadn’t been able to get any word of you, and I was worried. Where have you been?”
“The night you left, Spike and Troll stole the Gonfal and the great emerald and beat it. They took Gonfala with them. We have been hunting for them. The very first day we lost their trail in some rocky country. We never found it again. Some of our blacks thought they had gone to the south and west. We searched in that direction and got lost ourselves.”
“The Gonfal and the great emerald are both gone? Well, perhaps it is just as well. They would have brought more unhappiness than anything else. Riches usually do.”
“Hang the stones!” exclaimed Wood. “It is Gonfala I want to find. I don’t give a tinker’s damn for either of the rocks.”
“I think we shall find her. It is not difficult for me to find anyone in Africa. But now I will have you shown to your rooms. You will find a bath and clean clothes; among them something that will fit you, I’m sure. When you are ready, come to the patio; you will find us there.”
Van Eyk was the first to enter the patio, a flowering paradise around which the house was built. A golden haired girl lay on a reed chaise lounge, a copy of the Illustrated London News in her hand. Hearing him, she turned. Her eyes went wide in astonishment.
“Bob!” she gasped as she sprang to her feet.
“Where is he? Is he all right?”
“Yes; he is here. How did you escape from Spike and Troll?”
“Escape from Spike and Troll? I was never with them.”
“You went away alone? Why did you go?”
She told him then what she had overheard Spike and Troll say. “I knew then that I would spoil Stanlee’s life. I knew that he loved me. I never thought that he wanted me just for the emerald. And I loved him. I loved him too much to let him marry me. Perhaps, when he had time to think it over, he was glad that I went away.”
Van Eyk shook his head. “No, you are very wrong. I spoke to him of the matter; and here is what he said, as nearly as I can recall his words: ‘I’d go through Hell for her. I’d live in Hell for her, and thank God for the opportunity. That is how much I love her.’ I think those were about his very words.”
Tears came to the girl’s eyes. “May I see him soon?”
“He’ll be out in a minute. Here he comes now. I’ll go.”
She looked her thanks.
When Wood came into the patio and saw her, he just stood and looked at her for a moment, devouring her with his eyes. He never said a word or asked a question—just—crossed to her and took her in his arms. Their voices were too full of tears of happiness for words.
After a while, when they could speak, each had the other’s story. After that they knew that nothing could ever come between them.
In the evening, with the others, they were discussing their plans for the future. Wood said they would be married and go at once to America.
“I must go to London first,” said Gonfala. “I have a letter to take to the Colonial Office there. You know, I told you about it. Let me get it. I cannot read it. I was never taught to read.”
She went to her room and presently returned with the letter. It was yellow with age. She handed it to Tarzan. “Please read it aloud,” she said. Tarzan opened the single sheet and read:
“To Whom it May Concern:
“I am giving this letter to my daughter to take to London to identify her if she is ever fortunate enough to escape from the Kaji. They killed her mother shortly after she was born and raised her to be queen of the Kaji. They call her Gonfala. I have never dared to tell her that she is my daughter, as Mafka has threatened to kill her if she ever learns that he is not her father.