He could see at a glance that Stimbol was in bad humor, but as that was the older man’s usual state of temper it caused Blake no particular anxiety, but rather gave him cause for added relief that on the morrow he would be rid of his ill-natured companion for good.
Blake was more concerned, however, by the sullen demeanor of the askari who had accompanied Stimbol for it meant to the younger man that his companion had found some new occasion for bullying, abusing or insulting them, and the difficulty of dividing the safari thus increased. Blake had felt from the moment that he had definitely reached the decision to separate from Stimbol that one of the greatest obstacles they would have to overcome to carry out the plan would be to find sufficient men willing to submit themselves to Stimbol’s ideas of discipline, properly to transport his luggage and provisions and guard them and him.
As Stimbol passed and saw the two piles of equipment the frown upon his face deepened. “I see you’ve got the stuff laid out,” he remarked, as he halted before Blake.
“Yes, I wanted you to look it over and see that it is satisfactorily divided before I have it packed.”
“I don’t want to be bothered with it,” replied the other. “I know you wouldn’t take any advantage of me on the division.”
“Thanks,” replied Blake.
“How about the porters?”
“That’s not going to be so easy. You know you haven’t treated them very well and there will not be many of them anxious to return with you.”
“There’s where you’re dead wrong, Blake. The trouble with you is that you don’t know anything about natives. You’re too easy with ’em. They haven’t any respect for you, and the man they don’t respect they don’t like. They know that a fellow who beats ’em is their master, and they know that a master is going to look after them. They wouldn’t want to trust themselves on a long trek with you. You divided the junk, now let me handle the men—that’s more in my line—and I’ll see that you get a square deal and a good, safe bunch, and I’ll put the fear of God into ’em so they won’t dare be anything but loyal to you.”
“Just how do you propose selecting the men?” asked Blake.
“Well, in the first place I’d like you to have those men who may wish to accompany you—I’ll grant there are a few—so well just have ’em all up, explain that we are separating, and I’ll tell all those who wish to return with your safari to step forward, then I’ll choose some good men from what are left and make up enough that way to complete your quota—see? That’s fair enough, isn’t it?”
“It’s quite fair,” agreed Blake. He was hoping that the plan would work out as easily as Stimbol appeared to believe that it would, but he was far from believing and so he thought it best to suggest an alternative that he was confident would have to be resorted to in the end. “In the event that one of us has difficulty in securing the requisite number of volunteers,” he said, “I believe that we can enlist the necessary men by offering a bonus to be paid upon safe arrival at railhead. If I am short of men I shall be willing to do so.”
“Not a bad idea if you’re afraid you can’t hold ’em together after I leave you,” said Stimbol. “It will be an added factor of safety for you, too; but as for me my men will live up to their original agreement or there’ll be some mighty sick porters in these parts. What say we have ’em up and find out just how much of a job we’ve got on our hands?” He glanced about until his eyes fell on a head man. “Here, you!” he called. “Come here and make it snappy.”
The black approached and stopped before the two white men. “You called me, Bwana?” he asked.
“Gather up every one in camp,” directed Stimbol. “Have them up here in five minutes for a palaver—every last man-jack of them.”
As the head man withdrew Stimbol turned to Blake. “Any stranger in camp today?” he asked.
“Ran across a wild man while I was hunting,” replied Stimboi. “He ordered me out of the jungle. What do you know about that?” and Stimbol laughed.
“A wild man?”
“Yes. Some crazy nut I suppose. The askari seemed to know about him.”
“Who is he?”
“Calls himself Tarzan.”
Blake elevated his brows. “Ah!” he exclaimed. “You have met Tarzan of the Apes and he has ordered you out of the jungle?”
“You’ve heard of him?”
“Certainly, and if he ever orders me out of his jungle, I’ll go.”
“You would, but not Wilbur Stimbol.”
“Why did he order you out?” asked Blake.
“He just ordered me out, that’s all. Wouldn’t let me shoot a gorilla I’d been stalking. The fellow saved the gorilla from a python, killed the python, ordered me out of the jungle, said he’d visit us in camp later and walked away with the gorilla like they were old pals. I never saw anything like it, but it doesn’t make any difference to me who or what he thinks he is, I know who and what I am and it’s going to take more than a half-wit to scare me out of this country till I’m good and ready to go.”
“So you think Tarzan of the Apes is a half-wit?”
“I think anyone’s a half-wit who’d run about this jungle naked and unarmed.”
“You’ll find he’s not a half-wit, Stimbol; and unless you want to get in more trouble than you ever imagined existed, you’ll do just as Tarzan of the Apes tells you to do.”
“What do you know about him? Have you ever seen him?”
“No,” replied Blake. “But I have heard a lot about him from our men. He’s as much a part of this locality as the jungle, or the lions. Very few, if any, of our men have seen him, but he has the same hold upon their imaginations and superstitions as any of their demons, and they are even more fearful of incurring his displeasure. If they think Tarzan has it in for us we’re out of luck.”
“Well, all I’ve got to say is that if this monkey-man knows when he’s well off he’ll not come butting into the affairs of Wilbur Stimbol.”
“And he’s coming to visit us, is he?” said Blake. “Well, I certainly want to see him. I’ve heard of little else since we struck his country.”
“It’s funny I never heard of him,” said Stimbol.
“You never talk with the men,” Blake reminded him.
“Gad, it seems as though I’m doing nothing but talk to them,” grumbled Stimbol.
“I said, talk with them.”
“I don’t chum with porters,” sneered Stimbol.
“Here are the men,” said Stimbol. He turned toward the waiting porters and askari and cleared his throat. “Mr. Blake and I are going to separate,” he announced. “Everything has been divided. I am going to hunt a little farther to the west, make a circle toward the south and return to the coast by a new route. I do not know what Mr. Blake’s plans are, but he is going to get half the porters and half the askari, and I want to tell you right now that there isn’t going to be any funny business about it. Half of you are going with Mr. Blake whether you like it or not.”
He paused, impressively, to let the full weight of his pronouncement sink home. “As usual,” he continued, “I wish to keep everyone contented and happy, so I’m going to give you who may want to go with Mr. Blake an opportunity to do so. Now listen! The packs over on that side are Mr. Blake’s; those on this side are mine. All those who are willing to accompany Mr. Blake go over on that side!”
There was a moment’s hesitation upon the part of the men and then some of them moved quietly over among Blake’s packs. Others followed as their understandings slowly grasped the meaning of Stimbol’s words until all of the men stood upon Blake’s side.
Stimbol turned to Blake with a laugh and a shake of his head. “Gad!” he exclaimed. “Did you ever see such a dumb bunch? No one could have explained the thing more simply than I and yet look at ’em! Not one of them understood me!”
“Are you quite sure of that, Stimbol?” inquired Blake.
Stimbol did not immediately grasp the insinuation. When he did he scowled. “Don’t be a fool,” he snapped. “Of course they misunderstood me.” He turned angrily toward the men. “You thick-skulled, black idiots! Can’t you understand anything?” he demanded. “I did not say that you all had to go with Mr. Blake—only those who wished to. Now the rest of you—those who wish to accompany me—get back over here on this side with my packs, and step lively!”
No one moved in the direction of Stimbol’s packs. The man flushed.
“This is mutiny!” he stormed. “Whoever is at the bottom of this is going to suffer. Come here, you!” He motioned to a head man. “Who put you fellows up to this? Has Mr. Blake been telling you what to do?”
“Don’t be a fool, Stimbol,” said Blake. “No one has influenced the men and there is no mutiny. The plan was yours. The men have done just what you told them to. If it had not been for your insufferable egotism you would have known precisely what the outcome would be. These black men are human beings. In some respects they are extremely sensitive human beings, and in many ways they are like children. You strike them, you curse them, you insult them and they will fear you and hate you. You have done all these things to them and they do fear you and hate you. You have sowed and now you are reaping. I hope to God that it will teach you a lesson. There is just one way to get your men and that is to offer them a big bonus. Are you willing to do that?”
Stimbol, his self assurance momentarily shaken at last, wilted in the face of the realization that Blake was right. He looked about helplessly for a moment. The blacks, sullen-faced, stood there like dumb beasts, staring at him. In all those eyes there was no single friendly glance. He turned back to Blake. “See what you can do with them,” he said.
Blake faced the men. “It will be necessary for half of you to accompany Mr. Stimbol back to the coast,” he said. “He will pay double wages to all those who go with him, provided that you serve him loyally. Talk it over among yourselves and send word to us later by your head man. That is all. You may go.”
The balance of the afternoon passed, the two white men keeping to their respective tents; the blacks gathered in groups, whispering. Blake and Stimbol no longer messed together, but after the evening meal each appeared with his pipe to await the report of the head men. After half an hour Blake sent his boy to summon them and presently they came and stood before the young man.
“Well, have the men decided who will accompany Mr. Stimbol?” he asked.
“No one will accompany the old bwana,” replied their spokesman. “All will go with the young bwana.”
“But Mr. Stimbol will pay them well,” Blake reminded, “and half of you must go with him.”
The black shook his head. “He could not make the pay big enough,” he said. “No boy will go with him.”
“You agreed to come out with us and return with us,” said Blake. “You must fulfill your agreement.”
“We agreed to come out with both of you and return with both of you. There was nothing said about returning separately. We will live up to our agreement and the old bwana may return in safety with the young bwana.” There was finality in the tone of the spokesman.
Blake thought for a moment before replying. “You may go,” he said. “I will talk with you again in the morning.”
The blacks had departed but a moment when the figure of a man appeared suddenly out of the darkness into the light of the camp fire.
“Who the—oh, it’s you is it?” exclaimed Stimbol. “Here’s the wild man, Blake.”
The young American turned and surveyed the figure of the bronze giant who was standing just within the circle of the firelight. He noted the clean cut features, the quiet dignity, the majestic mien and smiled inwardly at recollection of Stimbol’s description of this god-like creature—half-wit!
“So you are Tarzan of the Apes?” he said.
Tarzan inclined his head. “And you?” he asked.
“I am Jim Blake of New York,” replied the American.
“Hunting of course?”
“With a camera.”
“Your companion was using a rifle,” Tarzan reminded him.
“I am not responsible for his acts. I cannot control them,” replied Blake.
“Nor anyone else,” snapped Stimbol.
Tarzan permitted his gaze to move to Stimbol for an instant, but ignored his boast.
“I overheard the conversation between you and the head men,” he said, addressing Blake. “Some of your blacks had already told me something about your companion, and twice today I have had an opportunity to form an estimate of my own from personal observation, so I assume that you are separating because you cannot agree. Am I right?”
“Yes,” acknowledged Blake.
“And after you separate—what are your plans?”
“I intend to push in a little farther west and then swing———” commenced Stimbol.
“I was speaking to Blake,” interrupted Tarzan; “my plans concerning you are already made.”
“Well, who the———”
“Silence!” admonished the ape-man. “Go ahead, Blake!”
“We have not had much luck so far,” replied Blake, “principally because we never can agree on methods. The result is that I have scarcely a single decent wild animal study. I had planned to go north a way in search of lion pictures. I dislike going back without anything to show for the time and money I have put into the expedition, but now that the men have refused to accompany us separately there is nothing for it but to return to the coast by the shortest route.”
“You two don’t seem to be taking me into consideration at all,” grumbled Stimbol. “I’ve got as much money and time in this trip as Blake. You forget that I’m here to hunt, and what’s more I’m going to hunt and I’m not going straight back to the coast by a damned sight, monkey-man or no monkey-man.”
Again Tarzan ignored Stimbol. “Get ready to move out about an hour after sunrise,” he said to Blake. “There will be no trouble about dividing the safari. I shall be here to attend to that and give you your final instructions,” and as he spoke he turned and disappeared in the darkness.