“The guests are coming to the feast,” said Ukundo, grimly, and thereafter the four sat in moody silence, each wrapped in his own thoughts. The actuality of their fate had never seemed more than a bad dream to the boys, but now, at last, it was borne in to them as something very real, and very terrible, and very close. They could see the hideous, painted faces of the newcomers and the grinning mouths that exposed the yellow teeth, filed to sharp points. They saw some of the villagers point them out and scores of greedy eyes directed upon them.
“I remember,” said Dick, “how I used to stand outside the confectioner’s shop looking at the goodies in the window. Those bounders reminded me of it.”
“I suppose we look like the original candy kids,” sighed Doc.
Presently four or five warriors came and seized Bulala. They dragged him to a small hut near the chief’s and there they bound him hand and foot and threw him inside.
“Poor Bulala,” whispered Doc.
“He was a good friend,” said Dick. “Oh, isn’t there anything we can do?”
Doc shook his head and looked inquiringly at Ukundo, but Ukundo only sat staring at the ground.
“Ukundo!” snapped Dick. The pygmy looked up.
“What?” he asked.
“Can’t we escape, Ukundo?”
“He make big medicine,” said Ukundo, jerking a thumb at Doc. “If he can not eseape, how can poor Ukundo, who cannot make any medicine?”
“My medicine is white man’s medicine,” said Doc. “It cannot show me my way through the jungle. If I got out of the village, I should be lost and the lions would get me.”
“If you can get out of the village and take Ukundo with you, he will take you through the jungle to his own people. Ukundo knows the jungle, but he is afraid at night. At night the jungle is full of demons. If you can get out in the day-time, Ukundo will go with you and show you the way. But you can not get out while it is light, for the Bagalla will see you. At night we should be killed and eaten by the demons. It cannot be done.” Thus spoke Ukundo, the pygmy, who knew the jungle better than any man.
It was several minutes before Doc replied, for he was thinking very hard, indeed. Presently he looked quickly up at Ukundo.
“Ukundo,” he cried, “if it is only the demons you fear, there is nothing to prevent our trying to escape at night, for I can make medicine that will protect us from them.”
Ukundo shook his head. “I do not know,” he said, doubtingly.
“You have seen me make stronger medicine than Intamo can make,” urged Doc. “Do you not believe me, when I say that I can make medicine that will keep every demon of the jungle from harming us?”
“Are you sure?” demanded Ukundo.
“Didn’t we spend a night in the jungle before we reached this village?” asked Dick. “Not one single little bit of a demon bothered us. You ought to have seen ’em run, the minute they laid their eyes on Doc.”
Ukundo’s eyes grew very wide as he looked with awe at Doc. “The medicine of the white boy witch-doctor must be very strong,” he said.
“It is,” admitted Doc. “I’ll give you my word that not a demon will hurt you while I am along; but if we stay here, Galla Galla will eat you. Will you come with us?”
Ukundo glanced at the hut in which lay the unhappy Bulala. “Yes,” he said, “Ukundo will go with you.”
“Good old Ukundo!” cried Dick, and then, in a whisper, “We’ll have to go tonight because tomorrow it may be too late for poor Bulala.”
“Bulala?” questioned Ukundo. “Bulala is already as good as dead.”
“You think they will kill him tonight?” demanded Dick. Ukundo shrugged his shoulders, “Perhaps.”
“But we must save him if we can,” insisted Dick.
“We cannot,” said Ukundo.
“We can try,” said Doc.
“Yes, we can try,” agreed Ukundo, without enthusiasm, for Ukundo was a fatalist, believing, as many primitive people do, that whatever is about to happen must happen and that it is useless to struggle against it. Perhaps that is why neither he nor Bulala had given any serious thought to the matter of escape, being content to assume that if Fate had ordained that they were to be eaten by the Bagalla, they would be eaten by the Bagalla, and that was all that there was to it.
But Dick and Doc were not fatalists. They knew that their own wit and ability and courage had a great deal more to do with guiding their destinies than did any legendary lady called Fate. To them Fate was just a silly bogy, like the demons of Ukundo, and so they planned and schemed against the time when conditions might be right for them to attempt to make a break for liberty. Their difficulties were greatly increased because of Bulala, but not once did either of them think of abandoning this good friend without making an attempt to rescue him, even though failure to do so might almost certainly result in preventing their own escape.
As night fell, the boys could see the villagers and their guests assembling for the evening meal. Pots were being brought forth and filled with water that was set to boil over numerous fires. There was a great deal of loud talk and laughter. The captives wondered if the pots of boiling water were waiting to receive Bulala and how soon it would be before their turn would come, and as they sat there, watching the fierce and terrible savages, their minds could not but be filled with gloomy thoughts and dire forebodings, try though they would to cast them out. For some time they had sat in silence, when their attention was attracted by a rustling sound as of a body crushing against the side of their grass-walled hut. They were sitting just outside the entrance; someone, or some thing, was approaching from behind the hut, keeping close to the outside wall, which was in dense shadow. Dick and Doc drew their knives and waited. Who or what could it be? Whoever, or whatever it was it was quite evident that it did not wish anyone to know that it was there; the stealthiness of its approach made that quite plain.
Slowly Dick rose to his feet, his knife ready in his hand, and Doc placed himself at Dick’s side. Ukundo, unarmed, stood at Dick’s left. Thus the three waited in tense silence while the stealthy sounds approached along the side of the hut, through the inky darkness of the shadows cast by the glaring camp fires of the village.
“Demon!” whispered Ukundo.
“Leave him to me then,” said Doc. “But if it’s a lion you can have it.”
“Not a lion,” said Ukundo. “Demon—or man!”
Presently a low “S-s-t!” sounded from the shadows.
“Who are you?” demanded Dick.
“What do you want?” asked Doc.
“I am Paabu,” whispered a voice, very low. “I come to warn you.”
“Come closer,” said Doc. “We are alone.”
A part of the shadow resolved itself into the youth, as he came nearer and crouched low against the side of the hut.
“You saved my life today,” he said, addressing Doc, “so I come to warn you. Intamo has put poison in food for you. I saw him. Paabu hates Intamo. That is all! I go!”
“Wait!” urged Doc. “What are they going to do with Bulala?”
Paabu grinned. “Eat him, of course,” he said.
“Tomorrow night. Next night they eat Ukundo. I think they are afraid of your medicine. They may not eat you, unless Intamo is able to kill you with poison.”
“They couldn’t eat us then,” said Dick, “because the poison would kill them.”
“No!” contradicted Paabu. “Intamo take care of that. Intamo make good poison, and as soon as you die, he cut out all your insides. There will be no poison in your flesh. If he thinks you eat the poison food, and then you do not die, he will be afraid. But he will find another way to kill you unless your medicine is very strong. That is why Paabu come to warn you—so that you may make strong medicine.”
He started away.
“Wait!” said Dick again. “Have they killed Bulala yet?”
“When will they kill him?”
“Will you do something for me?” asked Doc.
“What?” demanded Paabu.
“Bring us some weapons—four knives, four spears, four bows and some arrows. Will you do that for me, Paabu?”
“I am afraid. Galla Galla would kill me. Intamo would kill me, if he knew I come here and speak with you.”
“They will never know,” insisted Doc.
“I am afraid,” said Paabu. “Now I go.”
“Look!” whispered Doc. He drew his pocket knife from his loin cloth.
“See this?” and he held the big medicine close to Paabu’s face.
The youth drew back in terror. “Do not put it in my head!” he whimpered.
“I will not put it in your head, Paabu,” Doc assured him, “because I am your friend, but I will give it to you, if you will bring us the weapons. How would you like to own this big medicine that is stronger than any medicine that Intamo can make? You could be a great witch-doctor if you owned this, Paabu. What do you say?”
“It will not hurt me?” asked Paabu, fearfully.
“It will not hurt you, if I tell it not to,” replied Doc. “If I give it to you, then it will be yours and so cannot hurt you unless you make it.”
“Very well,” said Paabu. “I will bring you the weapons.”
“When?” demanded Doc.
“Good! If you are not back very soon the big medicine will be angry and then I don’t know what it might do to you. Hurry!”
Paabu vanished among the shadows and the three sat down to wait and plan. At least they had taken the first step, but they were still inside the village, surrounded by cruel and savage captors.
While they waited, a man came, bringing them food. He was not one who had brought them food before and they guessed that he had been sent by Intamo. As soon as he had gone, they dug a hole in the ground and buried all the food, then they relapsed into silent, anxious waiting.