“Lion!” he whispered. “He is coming! Take to the trees!”
Dick and Doc could see nothing, could hear nothing. They had been following each other by the not always simple expedient of actually touching the one ahead. If they lost touch, they were as good as lost until they again made contact. Now they saw no trees. They knew there were trees all about them, but they could see none. The blackness was everywhere—darkness absolute. They stood up and groped about.
“Hurry!” warned Ukundo. “He comes!”
They heard a crashing in the underbrush. Doc’s fingers came in contact with the bole of a great tree. “Here, Dick!” he whispered. “Here’s a tree! This way!” He felt Dick touch him. The noise in the underbrush seemed very close.
“Climb!” said Dick. “I’ve found the tree. Hurry up!”
Doc attempted to scramble up the giant trunk, but he could not span it with his arms, nor could Dick. They reached through the darkness searching for a branch, but found none. A horrid growl sounded almost in their ears. Dick realized that the beast was upon him and in the instant he obeyed the first impulse that seized him. He wheeled about facing the animal he could not see and, holding his spear in both hands, thrust it violently outward in the direction of that blood curdling growl. At the same instant he felt a heavy body strike the weapon. He was hurled to the ground and a great weight hurtled against him, a thunderous, deafening roar shook the earth, as the lion lunged into the thicket just beyond him, where there followed such a tumult as might have been made by a dozen lions fighting over their kill.
“Dick!” called Doc. “Are you all right?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“You bet! Hurry! I’ve found a way up this tree. Here! Over here!”
Dick groped his way to Doc, who had discovered a smaller tree growing near the huge one they had been unable to climb, and soon the two boys were perched high above the angry lion thrashing about in the underbrush and emitting terrific roars and growls. By shouting, they soon located Ukundo and Bulala in nearby trees; but they could not see them, and after a short discussion it was decided that they remain where they were until morning, when they could get an early start and hasten on towards the country of Ukundo, who promised that all of them would receive a warm and hospitable welcome.
Presently the lion ceased its noise and the boys tried to settle themselves with some degree of safety and comfort that they might snatch a brief sleep, for they knew that they had a day ahead of them that would tax to the utmost their weakened bodies unfitted by weeks of captivity and the vile food. Dick was concerned about his spear, which had been knocked from his grasp when the lion sprang against him.
And at last morning came, and with the first peep of dawn, Ukundo urged them to descend and continue their flight, assuring them that the Bagalla would be certain to trail them at least to the limits of Ugalla.
Dick and Doc scrambled down to search for Dick’s spear. The first thing their eyes fell upon was the dead body of a great black-maned lion, from the chest of which protruded the missing weapon.
“Gee!” exclaimed Doc. “You killed him, Dick! You killed a lion!”
Ukundo and Bulala joined them and many were the congratulations heaped upon the astonished Dick. A hasty examination revealed what seemed the only explanation of the surprising event. In leaping for Dick, the lion must have misjudged the distance in the darkness and jumped too high. Dick’s spear, thrust outward by chance, had been held at precisely the right angle and the lion had impaled itself upon the point, which had first entered its lungs, after which, the lion, in its mad efforts to dislodge the weapon had turned the point into its own heart.
“Golly!” exclaimed Dick, “I’d like to take it along, just the head, even.”
“Cut off its tail,” suggested Doc. “That’s about all of it you’ll feel like carrying after an hour or so.”
And so Dick took the tail as the trophy of his first big game and the four resumed their flight, already tired and hungry before the day fully dawned.
Their progress was slow because the boys could not travel fast. Their bare feet were sore and bleeding and the naked flesh of their bodies was torn and scratched by the cruel thorns that seemed to reach out to seize them.
At noon they reached an open stretch of country where travelling was easier and their spirits were refreshed, for the dismal jungle had exercised a depressing effect upon them for many days—an effect which they had not actually realized until they had come out into the comparative open of the clearing.
“Gee!” exclaimed Doc. “It’s just like the beginning of a long vacation.”
“I know we’re going to be all right now,” said Dick, and at that very instant three-score painted Bagalla warriors leapt from ambush all about them.
The four looked about in consternation. They were completely surrounded. There was no escape.
“Shall we fight?” cried Doc.
“Yes!” replied Dick. “Bulala! Ukundo! will you fight with us? They will only kill us if they capture us.”
“We had better die fighting,” replied Ukundo.
Doc fitted an arrow to his bow and shot it at the oncoming warriors, but, sped by an unaccustomed hand, the arrow only described a graceful curve and stuck upright in the ground a few yards from Doc’s feet. The Bagalla shouted in derision and rushed forward. Then Dick shot, but the string slipped from the notch in the end of the arrow and when he released the missile, it fell at his feet. But Ukundo was more adept. He drew the shaft far back, and when he let it fly, it embedded itself deeply in the breast of a shouting Bagalla. Then the Bagalla halted. They danced fiercely and shouted insults at the four.
“Why don’t they shoot at us?” asked Dick.
“They want to take us alive,” said Bulala.
“In a moment they will all charge from different directions,” prophesied Ukundo. “We shall kill some, but they will take us alive.”
Dick had thrown down his bow and stood ready with his spear. Doc followed his example. “I never did like an old bow and arrow, anyway,” he said.
“Here they come!” warned Dick. “Good bye, Doc!”
“Good bye, Dick!” replied his cousin.
“Don’t let ’em take you alive!”
“Golly! Here come a million more of the beggars!” exclaimed Dick.
And sure enough, with waving plumes there came what seemed a veritable horde of mighty warriors, grim and savage, pouring out of the nearby forest.
“They are not Bagalla,” said Ukundo.
“Look!” cried Doc. “There’s a white man leading them.”
“It is Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, and his mighty Waziri!” exclaimed Ukundo.
“Tarzan?” shouted Dick. “Yes, it is Tarzan. We are saved!”
The Bagalla, warned now by the savage war cry of the Waziri, turned in their direction. At sight of Tarzan and his warriors the ranks of the Bagalla were thrown into confusion.
They forgot their prey and thought only of escape, for well they knew the power and the wrath of Tarzan of the Apes. Like frightened rabbits they scurried for the jungle, pursued by the Waziri warriors, who showered arrows and spears among them. As they disappeared from the clearing, Tarzan approached the boys.
“I thank God that I have found you,” he said.
“I did not think you could survive the dangers of the jungle. But when I saw you make your stand against the Bagalla, I knew why you had survived. You are brave lads! In the jungle only the brave may live. I am very proud of you.”
Ukundo and Bulala had gone down on their hands and knees before the Lord of the Jungle and now Tarzan noticed them. “Who are these?” he demanded.
“They are our very good friends,” said Doc. “Without them we should never have escaped.”
“They shall be rewarded,” said Tarzan, “when we reach home tomorrow. And so shall you boys. What in all the world would you like most?”
“A whole apple pie,” said Doc.