In peace he had lived with Dango the hyena, Sheeta the leopard and Numa the lion. Man alone had made war upon him. Man, who holds the unique distinction among created things of making war on all living creatures, even to his own kind. Man, the ruthless; man, the pitiless; man, the most hated living organism that Nature has evolved.
Always during the long hundred years of his life, Tantor had known man. There had been black men, always. Big black warriors with spears and arrows, little black warriors, swart Arabs with crude muskets and white men with powerful express rifles and elephant guns. The white men bad been the last to come and were the worst. Yet Tantor did not hate men—not even white men. Hate, vengeance, envy, avarice, lust are a few of the delightful emotions reserved exclusively for Nature’s noblest work—the lower animals do not know them. Neither do they know fear as man knows it, but rather a certain bold caution that sends the antelope and the zebra, watchful and wary, to the water hole with the lion.
Tantor shared this caution with his fellows and avoided men—especially white men; and so had there been other eyes there that day to see, their possessor might almost have questioned their veracity, or attributed their error to the half-light of the forest as they scanned the figure sprawling prone upon the rough back of the elephant, half dozing in the heat to the swaying of the great body; for, despite the sun-bronzed hide, the figure was quite evidently that of a white man. But there were no other eyes to see and Tantor drowsed in the heat of midday and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, dozed upon the back of his mighty friend. A sultry air current moved sluggishly from the north, bringing to the keen nostrils of the ape-man no disquieting perception. Peace lay upon the jungle and the two beasts were content.
In the forest Fahd and Motlog, of the tribe el-Harb, hunted north from the menzil of Shiek Ibn Jad of the Beny Salem fendy el-Guad. With them were black slaves. They advanced warily and in silence upon the fresh spoor of el-fil the elephant, the thoughts of the swart’Aarab dwelling upon ivory, those of the black slaves upon fresh meat. The abd Fejjuan, black Galla slave, sleek, ebon warrior, eater of raw meat, famed hunter, led the others.
Fejjuan, as his comrades, thought of fresh meat, but also he thought of el-Habash, the land from which he had been stolen as a boy. He thought of coming again to the lonely Galla hut of his parents. Perhaps el-Habash was not far off now. For months Ibn Jad had been traveling south and now he had come east for a long distance. El-Habash must be near. When he was sure of that his days of slavery would be over and Ibn Jad would have lost his best Galla slave.
Two marches to the north, in the southern extremity of Abyssinia, stood the round dwelling of the father of Fejjuan, almost on the roughly mapped route that Ibn Jad had planned nearly a year since when he had undertaken this mad adventure upon the advice of a learned Sahar, a magician of repute. But of either the exact location of his father’s house or the exact plans of Ibn Jad, Fejjuan was equally ignorant. He but dreamed, and his dreams were flavored with raw meat.
The leaves of the forest drowsed in the heat above the heads of the hunters. Beneath the drowsing leaves of other trees a stone’s throw ahead of them Tarzan and Tantor slept, their perceptive faculties momentarily dulled by the soothing influence of fancied security and the somnolence that is a corollary of equatorial midday.
Fejjuan, the Galla slave, halted in his tracks, stopping those behind him by the silent mandate of an upraised hand. Directly before him, seen dimly between the boles and through the foliage, swayed the giant bulk of el-fil. Fejjuan motioned to Fahd, who moved stealthily to the side of the black. The Galla slave pointed through the foliage toward a patch of gray hide. Fahd raised el-Lazzary, his ancient matchlock, to his shoulder. There was a flash of flame, a burst of smoke, a roar and el-fil, unhit, was bolting through the forest.
As Tantor surged forward at the sound of the report Tarzan started to spring to an upright position, and at the same instant the pachyderm passed beneath a low hanging limb which struck the ape-man’s head, sweeping him to the ground, where he lay stunned and unconscious.
Terrified, Tantor thought only of escape as he ran north through the forest, leaving in his wake felled trees, trampled or uptora bushes. Perhaps he did not know that his friend lay helpless and injured, at the mercy of the common enemy, man. Tantor never thought of Tarzan as one of the Tarman-gani, for the white man was synonymous with discomfort, pain, annoyance, whereas Tarzan of the Apes meant to him restful companionship, peace, happiness. Of all the jungle beasts, except his own kind, he fraternized with Tarzan only.
“Billah! Thou missed,” exclaimed Fejjuan.
“Gluck!” ejaculated Fahd. “Sheytan guided the bullet. But let us see—perhaps el-fil is hit.”
“Nay, thou missed.”
The two men pushed forward, followed by their fellows, looking for the hoped-for carmine spoor. Fahd suddenly stopped.
“Wellah! What have we here?” he cried. “I fired at el-fil and killed a Nasrany.”
The others crowded about. “It is indeed a Christian dog, and naked, too,” said Motlog.
“Or some wild man of the forest,” suggested another. “Where didst thy bullet strike him, Fahd?”
They stooped and rolled Tarzan over. “There is no mark of bullet upon him.”
“Is he dead? Perhaps he, too, hunted el-fil and was slain by the great beast.”
“He is not dead,” announced Fejjuan, who had kneeled and placed an ear above the ape-man’s heart. “He lives and from the mark upon his head I think but temporarily out of his wits from a blow. See, he lies in the path that el-fil made when he ran away—he was struck down in the brute’s flight.”
“I will finish him,” said Fahd, drawing his khusa.
“By Ullah, nol Put back thy knife, Fahd,” said Motlog. “Let the sheykh say if he shall be killed. Thou art always too eager for blood.”
“It is but a Nasrany,” insisted Fahd, “Think thou to carry him back to the menzil?”
“He moves,” said Fejjuan. “Presently he will be able to walk there without help. But perhaps he will not come with us, and look, he hath the size and muscles of a gaint. Wellah! What a man!”
“Bind him,” commanded Fahd. So with thongs of camel hide they made the ape-man’s two wrists secure together across his belly, nor was the work completed any too soon. They had scarce done when Tarzan opened his eyes and looked them slowly over. He shook his head, like some great lion, and presently his senses cleared. He recognized the’Aarab instantly for what they were.
“Why are my wrists bound?” he asked them in their own tongue. “Remove the thongs!”
Fahd laughed. “Thinkest thou, Nasrany, that thou art some great sheykh that thou canst order about the Beduw as they were dogs?”
“I am Tarzan,” replied the ape-man, as one might say, “I am the sheykh of sheykhs.”
“Tarzan!” exclaimed Motlog. He drew Fahd aside. “Of all men,” he said, lowering his voice, “that it should be our ill fortune to offend this one! In every village that we have entered in the past two weeks we have heard his name. ‘Wait,’ they have said, until Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, returns. He will slay you when he learns that you have taken slaves in his country.”
“When I drew my khusa thou shouldst not have stopped my hand, Motlog,” complained Fahd; “but it is not too late yet.” He placed his hand upon the hilt of his knife.
“Billah, nay!” cried Motlog. “We have taken slaves in this country. They are with us now and some of them will escape. Suppose they carry word to the fendy of this great sheykh that we have slain him? Not one of us will live to return to Beled el-Guad.”
“Let us then take him before Ibn Jad that the responsibility may be his,” said Fahd.
“Wellah, you speak wisely,” replied Motlog. “What the sheykh doeth with this man in the sheykh’s business. Come!”
As they returned to where Tarzan stood he eyed them questioningly.
“What have you decided to do with me?” he demanded. “If you are wise you will cut these bonds and lead me to your sheykh. I wish a word with him.”
“We are only poor men,” said Motlog. “It is not for us to say what shall be done, and so we shall take you to our sheykh who will decide.”
The Shiek Ibn Jad of the fendy el-Guad squatted in the open men’s compartment of his beyt es-sh’ar, and beside him in the mukaad of his house of hair sat Tollog, his brother, and a young Beduin, Zeyd, who, doubtless, found less attraction in the company of the shiek than in the proximity of the sheik’s hareem whose quarters were separated from the mu-kaad only by a breast high curtain suspended between the waist poles of the beyt, affording thus an occasional glimpse of Ateja, the daughter of Ibn Jad. That it also afforded an occasional glimpse of Hirfa, his wife, raised not the temperature of Zeyd an iota.
As the men talked the two women were busy within their apartment at their housewifely duties. In a great brazen Jidda Hirfa was placing mutton to be boiled for the next meal while Ateja fashioned sandals from an old bag of camel leather impregnated with the juice of the dates that it had borne upon many a rahla, and meanwhile they missed naught of the conversation that passed in the mukaad.
“We have come a long way without mishap from our own beled,” Ibn Jad was remarking, “and the way has been longer because I wished not to pass through el-Habash lest we be set upon or followed by the people of that country. Now may we turn north again and enter el-Habash close to the spot where the magician foretold we should find the treasure city of Nimmr.”
“And thinkest thou to find this fabled city easily, once we are within the boundaries of el-Habash?” asked Tollog, his brother.
“Wellah, yes. It is known to the people of this far south Habash. Fejjuan, himself an Habasby, though he has never been there, heard of it as a boy. We shall take prisoners among them and, by the grace of Ullah, we shall find the means to loose their tongues and have the truth from them.”
“By Ullah, I hope it does not prove like the treasure that lies upon the great rock el-Howwara in the plain of Medain Salih,” said Zeyd. “An afrit guards it where it lay sealed in a stone tower and they say that should it be removed disaster would befall mankind; for men would turn upon their friends, and even upon their brothers, the sons of their fathers and mothers, and the kings of the world would give battle, one against another.”
“Yea,” testified Tollog, “I had it from one of the fendy Hazim that a wise Moghreby came by there in his travels and consulting the cabalistic signs in his book of magic discovered that indeed the treasure lay there.”
“But none dared take it up,” said Zeyd.
“Billah!” exclaimed Ibn Jad. “There be no afrit guarding the treasures of Nimmr. Naught but flesh and blood Habush that may be laid low with ball and powder. The treasure is ours for the taking.”
“Ullah grant that it may be as easily found as the treasure of Geryeh,” said Zeyd, “which lays a journey north of Tebuk in the ancient ruins of a walled city. There, each Friday, the pieces of money roll out of the ground and run about over the desert until sunset.”
“Once we are come to Nimmr there will be no difficulty finding the treasure,” Ibn Jad assured them. “The difficulty will lie in getting out of el-Habash with the treasure and the woman; and if she is as beautiful as the sahar said, the men of Nimmr may protect her even more savagely than they would the treasure.”
“Often do magicians lie,” said Tollog.
“Who comes?” exclaimed Ibn Jad, looking toward the jungle that hemmed the menzil upon all sides.
“Billah! It is Fahd and Motlog returning from the hunt,” said Tollog. “Ullah grant that they bring ivory and meat.”
“They return too soon,” said Zeyd.
“But they do not come empty handed,” and Ibn Jad pointed toward the naked giant that accompanied the returning hunters.
The group surrounding Tarzan approached the sheik’s beyt and halted.
Wrapped in his soiled calico thob, his head kerchief drawn across the lower part of his face, Ibn Jad exposed but two villainous eyes to the intent scrutiny of the ape-man which simultaneously included the pock-marked, shifty-eyed visage of Tollog, the shiek’s brother, and the not ill-favored countenance of the youthful Zeyd.
“Who is sheykh here?” demanded Tarzan in tones of authority that belied the camel leather thongs about his wrists.
Ibn Jad permitted his thorrib to fall from before his face. “Wellah, I am sheykh,” he said, “and by what name art thou known, Nasrany?”
“They call me Tarzan of the Apes, Moslem.”
“Tarzan of the Apes,” mused Ibn Jad. “I have heard the name.”
“Doubtless. It is not unknown to’Aarab slave raiders. Why, then, came you to my country, knowing I do not permit my people to be taken into slavery?”
“We do not come for slaves,” Ibn Jad assured him. “We do but trade in peace for ivory.”
“Thou liest in thy beard, Moslem,” returned Tarzan, quietly. “I recognize both Manyuema and Galla slaves in thy menzil, and I know that they are not here of their own choosing. Then, too, was I not present when your henchmen fired a shot at el-fil? Is that peaceful trading for ivory? No! it is poaching, and that Tarzan of the Apes does not permit in his country. You are raiders and poachers.”
“By Ullah! we are honest men,” cried Ibn Jad. “Fahd and Motlog did but hunt for meat. If they shot el-fil it must be that they mistook him for another beast.”
“Enough!” cried Tarzan. “Remove the thongs that bind me and prepare to return north from whence thou came. Thou shall have an escort and bearers to the Soudan. There will I arrange for.”
“We have come a long way and wish only to trade in peace,” insisted Ibn Jad. “We shall pay our bearers for their labor and take no slaves, nor shall we again fire upon el-fil. Let us go our way and when we return we will pay you well for permission to pass through your country.”
Tarzan shook his head. “No! you shall go at once. Come, cut these bonds!”
Ibn Jad’s eyes narrowed. “We have offered thee peace and profits, Nasrany,” he said, “but if thou wouldst have war let it be war. Thou art in our power and remember that dead enemies are harmless. Think it over.” And to Fahd: “Take him away and bind his feet.”
“Be careful, Moslem,” warned Tarzan, “the arms of the ape-man are long—they may reach out even in death and their fingers encircle your throat.”
“Thou shalt have until dark to decide, Nasrany, and thou mayest know that Ibn Jad will not turn back until he hath that for which he came.”
They took Tarzan then and at a distance from the beyt of Ibn Jad they pushed him into a small bejra; but once within this tent it required three men to throw him to the ground and bind his ankles, even though his wrists were already bound.
In the beyt of the sheik the Beduins sipped their coffee, sickish with clove, cinnamon and other spice, the while they discussed the ill fortune that had befallen them; for, regardless of his bravado, Ibn Jad knew full well that only speed and most propitious circumstances could now place the seal of success upon his venture.
“But for Motlog,” said Fahd, “we would now have no cause for worry concerning the Nasrany, for I had my knife ready to slit the dog’s throat when Motlog interfered.”
“And had word of his slaying spread broadcast over his country before another sunset and all his people at our heels,” countered Motlog.
“Wellah,” said Tollog, the sheik’s brother. “I wish Fahd had done the thing he wished. After all how much better off are we if we permit the Nasrany to live? Should we free him we know that he will gather his people and drive us from the country. If we keep him prisoner and an escaped slave carries word of it to his people will they not be upon us even more surely than as though we had slain him?”
“Tollog, thou speakest words of wisdom,” said Ibn Jad, nodding appreciatively.
“But wait,” said Tollog, “I have within me, unspoken, words of even greater worth.” He leaned forward motioning the others closer and lowered his voice. “Should this one whom they call Tarzan escape during the night, or should we set him free, there would be no bad word for an escaped slave to bear to his people.”
“Billah!” exclaimed Fahd disgustedly. “There would be no need for an escaped slave to bring word to his people—the Nasrany himself would do that and lead them upon us in person. Bah! the brains of Tollog are as camel’s dung.”
“Thou hast not heard all that I would say, brother,” continued Tollog, ignoring Fahd. “It would only seem to the slaves that this man had escaped, for in the morning he would be gone and we would make great lamentation over the matter, or we would say: ‘Wellah, it is true that Ibn Jad made peace with the stranger, who departed into the jungle, blessing him’.”
“I do not follow thee, brother,” said Ibn Jad.
“The Nasrany lies bound in yonder hejra. The night will be dark. A slim knife between his ribs were enough. There be faithful Habush among us who will do our bidding, nor speak of the matter after. They can prepare a trench from the bottom of which a dead Tarzan may not reach out to harm us.”
“By Ullah, it is plain that thou art of sheykhly blood, Tollog,” exclaimed Ibn Jad. “The wisdom of thy words proclaims it Thou shall attend to the whole matter. Then will it be done secretly and well. The blessings of Ullah be upon thee!” and Ibn Jad arose and entered the quarters of his hareem.