“COME!” said Tarzan to Helen, and without waiting for any reply from the savages, he started toward the gate, still carrying Chemungo above his head; and Helen walked at his side.
Some of the warriors started to close upon them. It was a tense moment, fraught with danger. Then Mpingu spoke. “Wait!” he commanded his warriors, and then to Tarzan, “If I open the gates will you set Chemungo free, unharmed?”
“When I have gone a spear throw beyond the gates, I will free him,” replied the ape man.
“How do I know that you will do that?” demanded Mpingu. “How do I know that you will not take him into the forest and kill him?”
“You know only what I tell you, Gomangani,” replied Tarzan. “I tell you that if you open the gates and let us go out in safety, I shall free him. If you do not open the gates, I shall kill him now.”
“Open the gates!” commanded Mpingu.
And so Tarzan and Helen passed in safety out of the village of the cannibals and into the black African night; and beyond the gates Tarzan liberated Chemungo.
“How did you happen to fall into the hands of those people?” Tarzan asked Helen, as they set their faces toward the Gregory camp.
“I escaped from Atan Thome’s camp last night and tried to make my way back to Bonga; but I got lost, and then they got me. There was a lion, too. He had me down, but they killed him. I have had a horrible time. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw you. How in the world did you happen to be here?”
He told her of the events that had led up to his discovery of her in the cannibal village.
“It will be good to see Dad again,” she said; “I can scarcely believe it even now. And Captain d’Arnot came, too—how wonderful!”
“Yes,” he said, “he is with us, and Lavac, the pilot who flew us out of Loango, and Wolff, and Magra.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know about Magra,” she said. “I can’t understand her. She seemed very sorry for me in Loango after I was kidnaped, but she couldn’t do anything for me. I think she was afraid of Atan Thome. Yet she is linked with him in some way. She is a very mysterious woman.”
“She will bear watching,” said Tarzan; “both she and Wolff.”
The sun was an hour high as Magra came from her shelter and joined the others around the fire where Obagj was grilling the remainder of the antelope. Her eyes were heavy, and she appeared unrested. They bade her good morning, but their faces suggested that it seemed anything but a good morning. She looked quickly about, as though searching for some one.
“Tarzan did not return?” she asked.
“No,” said Gregory.
“This suspense is unbearable,” she said. “I scarcely closed my eyes all night, worrying about him.”
“And think of Monsieur Gregory and me, Ma’moiselle,” d’Arnot reminded her. “Not only have we to worry about Tarzan, but Helen—Miss Gregory—as well.” Gregory shot a quick glance at the Frenchman.
A few minutes later, the others walked away, leaving Magra and d’Arnot alone.
“You are very fond of Miss Gregory, are you not?” asked Magra.
“Oui,” admitted d’Arnot. “Who would not be?”
“She is very nice,” agreed Magra. “I wish that I might have helped her.”
“Helped her? What do you mean?”
“I can’t explain; but believe me, no matter what appearances may be or what you may all think of me, I have been helpless. I am bound by the oath of another—an oath I must in honor respect. I am not a free agent. I cannot always do as I wish.”
“I shall try to believe,” said d’Arnot, “even though I do not understand.”
“Look!” cried Magra, suddenly. “Here they are now—both of them! How can it be possible?”
D’Arnot looked up to see Tarzan and Helen approaching the camp; and, with Gregory, he ran forward to meet them. Gregory’s eyes filled with tears as he took Helen in his arms, and d’Arnot could not speak. Lavac joined them and was introduced to Helen, after which his eyes never left her when he could look at her unobserved. Only Wolff held back. Sullen and scowling, he remained seated where he had been.
The greetings over, Tarzan and Helen finished what was left of the antelope; and while they ate, Helen recounted her adventures.
“Thome shall pay for this,” said Gregory.
“He should die for it,” exclaimed d’Arnot.
“I should like to be the one to kill him,” muttered Lavac.
Day after day the little party trudged on through forests, across plains, over hills; but never did they strike a sign of Atan Thome’s trail. Either Lavac or d’Arnot was constantly at the side of Helen Gregory in a growing rivalry of which only Helen seemed to be unaware, but then one cannot always know of just how much a woman is unaware. She laughed and joked or talked seriously with either of them impartially. D’Arnot was always affable and in high spirits, but Lavac was often moody. Tarzan hunted for the party, as Wolff seemed never to be able to find game. The latter occasionally went off by himself and studied the route map to Ashair. He was the guide.
Early one morning Tarzan told Greogry that he might be away from the safari all that day and possibly the next.
“But why?” asked the latter.
“I’ll tell you when I get back,” replied the ape-man.
“Shall we wait here for you?”
“As you wish. I’ll find you in any event.” Then he was gone at the swinging, easy trot with which he covered so much distance on foot.
“Where’s Tarzan gone?” asked d’Arnot as he joined Gregory.
The older man shrugged. “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me. Said he might be away a couple of days. I can’t imagine why he went.”
Wolff joined them then.
“Where’s the monkey-man gone now?” he asked. “We’ve got enough meat for two days—all we can carry.”
Gregory told him all he knew, and Wolff sneered. “He’s ditching you,” he said. “Any one could see that. There’s no reason for him goin’ except that. You won’t never see him again.”
D’Arnot, usually slow to anger, struck Wolff heavily across the cheek. “I’ve heard all of that from you I intend to,” he said.
Wolff reached for his gun, but d’Arnot had him covered before he could draw. Gregory stepped between them.
“We can’t have anything like this,” he said. “We’ve enough troubles without fighting among ourselves.”
“I’m sorry, Monsieur Gregory,” said d’Arnot, bolstering his weapon.
Wolff turned and walked away, muttering to himself.
“What had we better do, Captain?” asked Gregory. “Wait here for Tarzan? or go on?”
“We might as well go on,” said d’Arnot. “We might just lose a day or two by staying here.”
“But if we go on, Tarzan might not be able to find us,” objected Gregory.
D’Arnot laughed. “Even yet, you do not know Tarzan,” he said. “You might as well fear to lose yourself on the main street of your native city as think that Tarzan could lose us in two days, anywhere in Africa.”
“Very well,” said Gregory, “let’s go on.”
As they moved on behind Wolff, Lavac was walking beside Helen.
“What a deadly experience this would be,” he said, “if it were not for—” He hesitated.
“Not for what?” said the girl.
“You,” he said.
“Me? I don’t understand what you mean.”
“That is because you’ve never been in love,” he replied, huskily.
Helen laughed. “Oh,” she cried, “are you trying to tell me you’re in love with me? It must be the altitude.”
“You laugh at my love?” he demanded.
“No,” she said, “at you. Magra and I are the only women you have seen for weeks. You were bound to have fallen in love with one of us, being a Frenchman; and Magra is so obviously in love with Tarzan that it would have been a waste of time to have fallen in love with her. Please forget it.”
“I shall never forget it,” said Lavac, “and I shall never give up. I am mad about you, Helen. Please give me something to hope for. I tell you I’m desperate. I won’t be responsible for what I may do, if you don’t tell me that there may be a little hope for me.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, seriously, “but I just don’t love you. If you are going to act like this, you will make everything even more disagreeable than it already is.”
“You are cruel,” grumbled Lavac; and for the rest of the day walked moodily alone, nursing his jealousy of d’Arnot.
And there was another who was imbued with thoughts of love that clamored for expression. It was Wolff, and just to be charitable let us call the sentiment that moved him love. He had been leading the safari, but the game trail he was following was too plain to be missed; so he dropped back beside Magra.
“Listen, beautiful,” he said. “I’m sorry for what I said the other day. I wouldn’t hurt you for nothin’. I know we ain’t always hit it off so good, but I’m for you. There ain’t nothin’ I wouldn’t do for you. Why can’t we be friends? We could go a long way, if we worked together.”
“Meaning what?” asked Magra.
“Meaning I got what it takes to make a woman happy—two strings on that big diamond and £2000 in real money. Think what me and you could do in God’s country with all that!”
“With you?” she sneered.
“Yes, with me. Ain’t I good enough for you?” he demanded.
Magra looked at him, and laughed.
Wolff flushed. “Look here,” he said, angrily; “if you think you can treat me like dirt and get away with it, you’re all wrong. I just been offerin’ to marry you, but I ain’t good enough. Well, let me tell you this—I always get what I go after. I’ll get you; and I won’t have to marry you, neither. You’re stuck on that monkey-man; but he can’t even see you, and anyway he hasn’t got tuppence to rub together.”
“A guide belongs at the head of the safari,” said Magra; “good-by.”
Late in the afternoon Tarzan dropped from the branches of a tree into the midst of the trekking safari, if the six whites and Ogabi could be called a safari. The seven stopped and gathered around him.
“I’m glad you’re back,” said Gregory. “I’m always worried when you are away.”
“I went to look for Thorne’s trail,” said Tarzan, “and I found it.”
“Good!” exclaimed Gregory.
“He’s a long way ahead of us,” continued the ape-man, “thanks to you, Wolff.”
“Anyone can make a mistake,” growled Wolff.
“You made no mistake,” snapped Tarzan. “You have tried, deliberately, to lead us off the trail. We’d be better off without this man, Gregory. You should dismiss him.”
“You can’t turn me out alone in this country,” said Wolff.
“You’d be surprised what Tarzan can do,” remarked d’Arnot.
“I think it would be a little too drastic,” said Gregory.
Tarzan shrugged. “Very well,” he said; “as you will, but we’ll dispense with his services as guide from now on.”