THE LITTLE BAND of Waziri warriors under Muviro had moved steadily westward since their encounter with Tarzan. The ten moved silently along a winding jungle trail; there was no song nor laughter; and when they spoke, which was seldom, their tones were low, for they were in a country strange to them, with the temper of whose people they were not familiar. They moved warily, every sense alert.
Some time during this day they hoped to contact the Bukena, the people who lived nearest to the Kavuru; and here they hoped to have word of Tarzan of the Apes.
Presently, above the subdued noises of the jungle, they heard the excited chattering of a monkey above them; and a moment later a familiar little figure swung downward through the trees.
“It is Nkima,” said Muviro. “The big bwana must be near.”
Little Nkima jabbered with excitement. He leaped to the shoulder of Muviro and jumped up and down, screaming and chattering. He leaped to the ground and ran ahead very fast, jabbering excitedly in his high, little voice, as he continually looked back at them. He would run ahead until a bend in the trail threatened to hide them from his view; then he would run back and tug at Muviro’s legs before starting off again at great speed.
“Something is wrong,” said one of the warriors to Mu-viro. “Little Nkima is trying to tell us.”
“He wants us to hurry,” said Muviro; “perhaps something has happened to the big bwana.” Then he broke into a trot, his fellows following close behind; but still Nkima ran ahead always urging them to greater speed.
Members of a warrior clan that is trained from childhood in feats of endurance, the Waziri could maintain for hour after hour a pace that would soon exhaust an ordinary man.
Then smooth, ebony bodies glistening with sweat, their broad chests rising and falling to their unhurried breathing, their supple muscles rolling easily, they presented a splendid picture of primitive savagery, to which a note of barbaric color was added by anklets and armlets of strange design, their weapons, their shields, and the flowing white plumes that surmounted their heads.
Here, indeed, were men, the very sight of whom would have instilled respect, and perhaps fear, in the hearts of any strange tribesmen who might see them.
And thus it was, when breaking from the jungle into a clearing, little Nkima still in the lead, they burst upon the view of a score of women working in the fields before the village of Udalo, chief of the Bukena.
With terrified cries of warning, the women fled for the village gate.
Bukena warriors inside the kraal seized their weapons and ran to meet their women; and as the rearmost of the latter entered the village, the warriors made haste to close the gate behind them; and as some attended the gate, others manned the barbette inside the palisade over the top of which they could loose their arrows upon an enemy.
At the sight of the village and the fleeing women, Muviro had halted his warriors. He saw the hostile attitude of the Bukena, but he attributed it to the fact that they did not know whether he came in peace or war.
Nkima was very much excited. He waved his hands and jabbered loudly; he was trying so hard to make them understand that his master was a captive in the village. It was always a mystery to Nkima that these gomangani could not understand him. It seemed that no one could understand him except his cousins, brothers, and sisters, and his beloved Tarzan. Everyone else must be very stupid.
Muviro left his companions at a short distance from the village and advanced slowly toward the palisade, making the sign of peace that the villagers might know that they did not come with hostile intent.
Udalo, the chief, standing upon the barbette, looked down upon the approaching warrior and his companions. He knew that these were indeed fighting men; and while there were only ten of them he was glad to see the peace sign, for there might be many others back in the forest and this only an advance guard.
As Muviro halted at the foot of the palisade and looked up, Udalo addressed him.
“Who are you? What do you want?” he demanded.
“I am Muviro, chief of the Waziri. We have come here to meet our big chief, Tarzan of the Apes, or to get word of him. Has he been here?”
Gupingu, the witch-doctor, was standing beside Udalo. Searing his heart was the memory of a secret he dared tell no one—the secret of the release of Tarzan upon his promise that the Kavuru would not steal the daughters of Gupingu; and yet almost immediately Naika, his favorite daughter, had been stolen.
Gupingu was confident now that not only was Tarzan a Kavuru, but that it was he who had come back to steal Naika. Resentment and hatred burned in the breast of Gupingu. He recalled that Tarzan had said that he was a Waziri; and, assembling all the facts as he knew them, he conjectured that the Waziri were either the vassals or the allies of the Kavuru.
“Do not trust them, Udalo,” he said to the chief; “they are the people of the Kavuru who escaped us. He has sent them back here to be revenged.” Scowling down upon Muviro, Udalo thought quickly.
He would like to be revenged upon the Kavuru but he feared reprisals; and, too, he did not know but what there might be a large body of them back in the forest. The truth or falsity of this he must ascertain before he could make any definite plans.
Annoyed because he had received no answer, Muviro spoke again, this time impatiently. “We come in peace,” he said, “to ask a question. Is Tarzan, our master, here?”
“There,” whispered Gupingu to Udalo, “he admits that the Kavuru is his master.”
“He is not here,” said Udalo; “we know nothing of him, and I do not know that you come in peace.”
“You are not speaking true words,” said Muviro. “Little Nkima, the monkey, is Tarzan’s friend. He brought us here, and he would not have done so had Tarzan not been here.”
“I did not say that Tarzan had not been here,” retorted Udalo; “I say that he is not here, and that I know nothing of him. I do not know where he went after he left here.
“We do not fear ten men,” said Udalo! “The ten may enter the village; then we may talk. If you come in peace, you will do this; if you do not do it, Udalo will know that you have come to make war. As you can see, he has many warriors. We are not afraid of you, but we do not want war.”
“We have come in peace,” replied Muviro, “but warriors do not lay aside their weapons. If you have so many brave warriors, why should you fear ten men?”
“We do not fear ten men,” said Udalo; “the ten may enter and bring their weapons, but the rest of your warriors must not approach the village.”
“There are no others with us,” said Muviro. “We are alone.”
This was the information that Udalo wished. “You may come in,” he said; “I will order the gates opened.” Then he turned and whispered to Gupingu.
Murviro signalled for his men to approach. The gates swung open, and they entered the village of the Bukena.
Udalo and Gupingu had left the barbette and gone together toward the chief’s hut. They were whispering volubly with many gesticulations, Gupingu explaining, Udalo assenting and giving orders. At the chief’s hut they separated, Udalo remaining to await the coming of the visitors, while Gupingu hastened to his own hut.
As the Waziri entered the village street, they were surrounded by warriors and conducted to the hut of the chief, where Udalo awaited them.
Here commenced one of those long palavers so dear to the hearts of African natives. With endless circumlocution they iterated and reiterated, and in the end nothing had been said by Udalo other than that Tarzan was not in his village and that he knew nothing whatsoever about him; nor did he know anything concerning the Kavuru or the location of their village, none of which Muviro believed.
And while the palaver progressed, Gupingu was busy in his hut grinding herbs and boiling them in water to extract their juices. He constantly muttered and mumbled to himself, but it is doubtful that he was chanting an incantation over the mess that he was brewing and for the same reason that he did not lay out amulets before him or make passes over the brew with magic sticks or the tail of a zebra—he had no audience.
While the Bukena warriors and their visitors palavered and Gupingu concocted his brew, the women were busy preparing a feast at the orders of Udalo; and in the trees beyond the clearing, a little monkey waited, whimpering and desolated—waited for the release of his master whom he thought to be still confined in a hut in the village.
At last Gupingu left his hut, carrying his brew in a small gourd, and made his way directly to the women who were preparing the native beer for the feast.
The women were already filling the gourds that would be passed around among the warriors. Gupingu went to the one who was filling the large ceremonial gourd that would be passed first to the chief and then to the visitors. They held a whispered conversation and then Gupingu walked away, leaving behind him the small gourd containing his brew. He approached the palaver from the rear of the Waziri, and catching Udalo’s eye he nodded. Then the chief clapped his hands and ordered the feast served.
The women came, bringing food and drink; and in the lead was one carrying the ceremonial gourd of native beer.
Udalo took it from her and in silence raised it to his lips. His throat moved, as in the act of swallowing; but none of the liquor passed his lips; then he passed it to Muviro, who took a long drink and handed the gourd to the Waziri next beside him; and so it passed among them all, but when the last of the ten had drunk, the woman was waiting to take the gourd, though it was not yet empty, and the other women brought other gourds of beer to the Bukena warriors; nor did Muviro nor any of his companions suspect that anything was wrong, for had they not seen Udalo drink from the same gourd as they?
Now food was brought, but Muviro did not partake of it. He was looking, strange and glassy-eyed, at his fellow Waziri. What had gone wrong with his eyes? Everything was blurred. He saw his men sitting there with stony stares, their bodies weaving drunkenly; then Muviro, the chief of the Waziri, staggered to his feet. He seized his long knife and drew it from his loin-cloth. “Kill!” he cried. “We have been poisoned.” Then he lurched and fell.
Several of the remaining Waziri tried to rise; but the brew of Gupingu worked quickly and well; and though the Bukena warriors had leaped to their feet at a word from Udalo, following Muviro’s command to his followers, their ready spears were not needed, as one by one the Waziri collapsed upon the ground.
The Bukena gazed in astonishment upon this strange sight, for only Udalo and one woman knew what Gupingu had done.
The witch-doctor leaped among the fallen Waziri and beat his chest.
“The medicine of Gupingu is strong,” he said. “It lays low the enemies of the Bukena; even the great Kavuru it lays low.”
“Kill!” shouted a woman, and others took up the refrain. “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
“No,” said Udalo. “Bind them securely so that they cannot escape and put them in the hut where the other Kavuru was confined. I shall send runners to the other villages of the Bukena; and when the moon is full on the second night, we shall dance and feast and eat the hearts of our enemies.”
Shouts of approval met this announcement, as warriors fell to the work of binding the prisoners and carrying them to the hut where Tarzan had been confined.
In a tree at the edge of the jungle, a little monkey sat gazing disconsolately at the gates of the village. He brightened momentarily when he saw some warriors emerge; lithe young men these, who started off at a brisk gait in different directions; but they were not his beloved Waziri, and he sank again into despondency.
It was many hours before the Waziri recovered from the effects of the narcotic. After they commenced to regain consciousness it was some little time before they could realize their plight. Their heads ached and they were very sick. When they tried to move, they discovered that they were fast bound.
“I knew,” said Muviro, after they were able to talk among themselves, “that the chief lied to me. I should have been more careful. I should not have drunk his beer or allowed you to.”
“I saw him drink it, and so I thought it was safe,” said another.
“He only pretended to drink it,” said Muviro. “This Udalo is a very bad man.”
“What do you think he will do with us?”
“I do not think,” said Muviro; “I know.”
“And what do you know?”
“I have heard about these Bukena. I have heard that while they are not cannibals, they do eat the hearts of their enemies, thinking that this will make them brave, for they are great cowards.”
“They will eat our hearts?”
“That we may not know until we are led out; but if we see that they are preparing for a great feast, we shall know that our end is near.”
“And we must lie here and be slaughtered like goats?”
“If one of us can loosen his bonds, we may die as Waziri should—fighting,” replied Muviro.
“If only the big bwana could know,” said a young man; “he would save us.”
“I think perhaps that the big bwana is already dead,” said Muviro. “I think that Udalo has killed him, and eaten his heart; and if that is so, I am ready to die, too; for I do not care to live if the big bwana be dead.”
“Nor I,” said another. “I am so sick and my head hurts so, that I shall be glad to die.”
Night came, but no one approached the hut to bring them water or food. They were very miserable, and Muviro was chagrined to think that he had been led into such a trap. He was ashamed of himself, and he felt that only death could atone for his great fault.
Miserable as they were, however, there was one even more miserable—a little monkey that shivered and trembled in a tree beyond the clearing that surrounded the village of Udalo, the Bukena. He heard the roar of Numa, the lion, and the cry of Sheeta, the leopard; and he climbed as high as he dared and hung there shivering and trembling waiting for the thing that he knew was about to leap upon him and devour him. For such was the life of little Nkima.