If I remember correctly we left Jane in the hands of Taglat, the evil ape, who abducted her and then took her to a little clearing in the forest where they were then confronted by a lion who likely spoiled Taglat’s desire for some hanky panky. We will soon return to that scene, but first ERB has a liitle fun in store for us – for we return to Mugambi, whom we suspect may possess the jewels of Opar.
Mugambi, after his successful break for liberty, had fallen upon hard times. His way had led him through a country with which he was unfamiliar, a jungle country in which he could find no water, and but little food, so that after several days of wandering he found himself so reduced in strength that he could barely drag himself home.
IX: Jane Clayton and the Beasts of the Jungle
It was with growing difficulty that he found the strength necessary to construct a shelter by night wherein he might be reasonably safe from the large carnivora, and by day he still further exhausted his strength in digging for edible roots, and searching for water.
A few stagnated pools at considerable distance apart saved him from death by thirst; but his was a pitiable state when finally he stumbled by accident upon a large river in a country where fruit was abundant, and small game which he might bag by means of a combination of stealth, cunning, and a crude knob-stick which he had fashioned from a fallen limb.
Realizing that he still had a long march ahead of him before he could reach even the outskirts of the Waziri country, Mugambi wisely decided to remain where he was until he had recuperated his strength and health. A few days’ rest would accomplish wonders for him, he knew, and he could ill afford to sacrifice his chances for a safe return by setting forth handicapped by weakness.
And so it was that he constructed a substantial thorn boma, and rigged a thatched shelter within it, where he might sleep by night in security, and from which he sallied for by day to hunt the flesh which alone could return to his giant thews normal prowess.
One day, as he hunted, a pair of savage eyes discovered him from the concealment of the branches of a great tree beneath which the black warrior passed. Bloodshot, wicked eyes they were, set in a fierce and hairy face.
They watched Mugambi make his little kill of a small rodent, and they followed him as he returned to his hut, their owner moving quietly through the trees upon the trail of the negro.
The creature was Chulk, and he looked down upon the unconscious man more in curiosity than in hate. The wearing of the Arab burnoose which Tarzan had placed upon his person had aroused in the mind of the anthropoid a desire for similar mimicry of the Tarmangani. The burnoose, though, had obstructed his movements and proven such a nuissance that the ape had long since torn it from him and thrown it away.
Now, however, he saw a Gomangani arrayed in less cumbersome apparel – a loin cloth, a few copper ornaments and a feather headdress. These were more in line with Chulk’s desires than a flowing robe which was constantly getting between ones legs, and catching upon every limb and bush along the leafy trail.
Chulk eyed the pouch, which, suspended over Mugambi’s shoulder, swung beside his black hip. This took his fancy, for it was ornamental with feathers and a fringe, and so the ape hung about Mugambi’s boma, waiting an opportunity to seize either by stealth or might some object of the black’s apparel.
Nor was it long before the opportunity came. Feeling safe within his thorny enclosure, Mugambi was wont to stretch himself in the shade of his shelter during the heat of the day, and sleep in peaceful security until the declining sun carried with it the enervating temperature of midday.
Watching from above, Chulk saw the black warrior stretched thus in the unconsciousness of sleep one sultry afternoon. Creeping out upon an overhanging branch the anthropoid dropped to the ground within the boma. He approached the sleeper upon padded feet which gave forth no sound, and with an uncanny woodcraft that rustled not a leaf or a grass blade.
Pausing beside the man, the ape bent over and examined his belongings. Great as was the strength of Chulk there lay in the back of his little brain a something which deterred him from arousing the man to combat – a sense that is inherent in all of the lower orders, a strange fear of man, that rules even the most powerful of the jungle creatures at times.
To remove Mugambi’s loin cloth without awakening him would be impossible, and the only detachable things were the knob-stick and the pouch, which had fallen from the black’s shoulder as he rolled in sleep.
Seizing these two articles, as better then nothing at all, Chulk retreated with haste, and every indication of nervous terror, to the safety of the tree from which he had dropped, and, still haunted by that indefinable terror which the close proximity of man awakened in his breast, fled precipitately through the jungle. Aroused by attack, or supported by the presence of another of his kind, Chulk could have braved the presence of a score of human beings, but alone – ah, that was a different matter – alone, and unenraged.
It was some time after Mugambi awoke that he missed the pouch. Instantly, he was all excitement. What could have become of it? It had been at his side when he lay down to sleep – of that he was certain, for he had not pushed it from beneath him when its bulging bulk, pressing against his ribs, caused him discomfort? Yes, it had been there when he lay down to sleep. How then did it vanish?Yes, ERB is playing with us. Note that he never says what is inside the pouch. We suspect it contains the jewels, but we do not know that for sure. Did Chulk just steal the pretty pebbles, or is ERB just distracting us from his sleight of hand? Let’s see.Mugambi’s savage imagination was filled with visions of the spirits of departed friends and enemies, for only to the machinations of such as these could he attribute the disappearance of his pouch and the knob-stick in the first excitement of the discovery of their loss; but later and more careful investigation, such as his woodcraft made possible, revealed indisputable evidence of a more material explanation than his excited fancy and superstition had at first led him to accept.
In the trampled turf beside him was the faint impress of huge, manlike feet. Mugambi raised his brows as the truth dawned upon him. Hastily leaving the boma he searched in all directions about the enclosure for some further sign of the tell-tale spoor. He climbed trees and sought for evidence of the direction of the thief’s flight; but the faint signs left by a wary ape who elects to travel through the trees eluded the woodcraft of Mugambi. Tarzan might have followed them; but no ordinary mortal could perceive them, or perceiving, translate.
The black, now strengthened and refreshed by his rest, felt ready to set out again for Waziri, and finding himself another knob-stick, turned his back upon the river and plunged into the mazes of the jungle.
As Taglat struggled with the bonds which secured the ankles and wrists of his captive, the great lion that eyed the two from behind a nearby clump of bushes wormed closer to his intended prey.
The ape’s back was toward the lion. He did not see the broad head, fringed by its rough mane, portruding through the leafy wall. He could not know that the powerful hind paws were gathering close beneath the tawny belly preparatory to a sudden spring, and his first intimation of impending danger was the thunderous and triumphant roar which the charging lion could no longer suppress.
Scarce pausing for a backward glance, Taglat abandoned the unconscious woman and fled in the opposite direction from the horrid sound which had broken in so unexpected and terrifying a manner upon his startled ears; but the warning had come too late to save him, and the lion, in his second bound, alighted full upon the broad shoulders of the anthropoid.
As the great bull went down there was awakened in him to the full all the cunning, all the ferocity, all the physical prowess which obey the mightiest of the fundamental laws of nature, the law of self-preservation, and turning upon his back he closed with the carnivore in a death struggle so fearless and abandoned, that for a moment the great Numa himself may have trembled for the outcome.
Seizing the lion by the mane, Taglat buried his yellowed fangs deep in the monster’s throat, growling hideously through the muffled gag of blood and hair. Mixed with the ape’s voice the lion’s roars of rage and pain reverberated through the jungle, till the lesser creatures of the wild, startled from their peaceful pursuits, scurried fearfully away.
Rolling over and over upon the turf the two battled with demonic fury, until the colossal cat, by doubling his hind paws far up beneath his belly sank his talons deep into Taglat’s chest, then, ripping downward with all his strength, Numa accomplished his design, and the disemboweled anthropoid, with a last spasmodic struggle, relaxed in limp and bloody disolution beneath his titanic adversary.
Scrambling to his feet, Numa looked about quickly in all directions, as though seeking to detect the possible presence of other foes; but only the still and unconscious form of the girl, lying a few paces from him met his gaze, and with an angry growl he placed a forepaw upon the body of his kill and raising his head gave voice to his savage victory cry.
For another moment he stood with fierce eyes roving to and fro about the clearing. At last they halted for a second time upon the girl. A low growl rumbled from the lion’s throat. His lower jaw rose and fell, and the slaver drooled and dripped upon the dead face of Taglat.
Like two yellow-green augers, wide and unblinking, the terrible eyes remained fixed upon Jane Clayton. The erect and majestic pose of the great frame shrank suddenly into a sinister crouch as, slowly and gently as one who treads on eggs, the devil-faced cat crept foward toward the girl.
Beneficent Fate maintained her in happy unconsciousness of the dread presence sneaking stealthily upon her. She did not know when the lion paused at her side. She did not hear the sniffing of his nostrils as he smelled about her. She did not feel the heat of the fetid breath upon her face, nor the dripping of the saliva from the frightful jaws half opened so close above her.
Finally the lion lifted a forepaw and turned the body of the girl half over, then he stood again eyeing her as though still undetermined whether life was extinct or not. Some noise or odor from the nearby jungle attracted his attention for a moment. His eyes did not again return to Jane Clayton, and presently he left her, walked over to the remains of Taglat, and crouching down upon his kill with his back toward the girl, proceeded to devour the ape.
It was upon this scene that Jane Clayton at last opened her eyes. Inured to danger, she maintained her self-possession in the face of the startling surprise which her new-found consciousness revealed to her. She neither cried out nor moved a muscle, until she had taken in every detail of the scene which lay within the range of her vision.
She saw that the lion had killed the ape, and that he was devouring his prey less than fifty feet from where she lay; but what could she do? Her hands and feet were bound. She must wait then, in what patience she could command, until Numa had eaten and digested the ape, when, without doubt, he would return to feast upon her, unless, in the meantime, the dread hyenas should discover her, or some other of the numerous prowling canrnivora of the jungle.
As she lay tormented by these frightful thoughts she suddenly became conscious that the bonds at her wrists and ankles no longer hurt her, and then of the fact that her hands were separated, one lying upon either side of her, instead of both being confined at her back.
Wonderingly she moved a hand. What miracle had been performed? It was not bound! Stealthily and noiselessly she moved her other limbs, only to discover that she was free. She could not know how the thing had happened, that Taglat, gnawing upon for sinister purposes of his own, had cut them through but an instant before Numa had frightened him from his victim.
For a moment Jane Clayton was overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving; but only for a moment. What good was her new-found liberty in the face of the frightful beast crouching so close beside her? If she could have had this chance under different conditions, how happily she would have taken advantage of it; but now it was given to her when escape was practically impossible.
The nearest tree was a hundred feet away, the lion less than fifty. To rise and attempt to reach the safety of those tantalizing branches would be but to invite instant destruction, for Numa would doubtless be too jealous of this future meal to permit it to escape with ease. And yet, too, there was another possibility – a chance which hinged entirely upon the unknown temper of the great beast.
His belly already partially filled, he might watch with indifference the departure of the girl; yet could she afford to chance so improbable a contingency? She doubted it. Upon the other hand she was no more minded to allow this frail opportunity for life to entirely elude her without taking or attempting to take some advantage from it.
She watched the lion narrowly. He could not see her without turning his head more than halfway around. She would attempt a ruse. Silently she rolled over in the direction of the nearest tree, and away from the lion, until she lay again in the same position in which Numa had left her, but a few feet farther from him.
Here she lay breathless watching the lion; but the beast gave no indication that he had heard aught to arouse his suspicions. Again she rolled over, gaining a few more feet and again she lay in rigid contemplation of the beast’s back.
During what seemed hours to her tense nerves, Jane Clayton continued these tactics, and still the lion fed on in apparent unconsciousness that his second prey was escaping him. Already the girl was but a few paces from the tree – a moment more and she would be close enough to chance springing to her feet, throwing caution aside and making a sudden, bold dash for safety. She was halfway over in her turn, her face away from the lion, when he suddenly turned his great head and fastened his eyes upon her. He saw her roll over upon her side away from him, and then her eyes were turned again toward him, and the cold sweat broke from the girl’s every pore as she realized that with life almost within her grasp, death had found her out.This was another of ERB’s cunning tricks: have a character proceed to a detailed plan and, then, at the last minute bring it to nothing, all the time leaving the reader in suspense and frustration. But it’s all done in fun, so we quickly forgive him for wasting our time. And less we forget, ERB was not ready to have Jane killed yet.For a long time neither the girl nor the lion moved. The beast lay motionless, his head turned upon his shoulders and his glaring eyes fixed upon the rigid victim, now nearly fifty yards away. The girl stared back straight into those cruel orbs, daring not to move even a muscle.
The strain upon her nerves was becoming so unbearable that she could scarcely restrain a growing desire to scream, when Numa deliberately turned back to the business of feeding; but his back-layed ears attested a sinister regard for the actions of the girl behind him.
Realizing that she could not again turn without attracting his immediate and perhaps fatal attention, Jane Clayton resolved to risk all in one last attempt to reach the tree and clamber to the lower branches.
Gathering herself stealthily for the effort, she leaped suddenly to her feet, but almost simultaneously the lion sprang up, wheeled and with wide-distended jaws and terrific roars, charged swiftly down upon her.
Those who have spent lifetimes hunting the big game of Africa will tell you that scarcely any other creature in the world attain the speed of a charging lion. For the short distance that the great cat can maintain it, it resembles nothing more closely than the onrushing of a giant locomotive under full speed, and so, though the distance that Jane Clayton must cover was relatively small, the terrific speed of the lion rendered her hopes of escape almost negligible
Yet fear can work wonders, and though the upward spring of the lion as he neared the tree into which she was scrambling brought his talons in contact with her boots she eluded his raking grasp, and as he hurled against the bole of her sanctuary, the girl drew herself into the safety of the branches above his reach.
For some time the lion paced, growling and moaning, beneath the tree in which Jane Clayton crouched, panting and trembling. The girl was a prey to the nervous reaction from the frightful ordeal through which she had so recently passed, and in her overwrought state it seemed that never again should she dare descend to the ground among the fearsome dangers which infested the broad stretch of jungle that she knew must lie between herself and the nearest village of her faithful Waziri.
It was almost dark before the lion finally quit the clearing, and even had his place beside the remnants of the mangled ape not been immediately usurped by a pack of hyenas, Jane Clayton would scarcely have dared venture from her refuge in the face of impending night, and so she composed herself as best she could for the long and tiresome wait, until daylight might offer some means of escape from the dread vicinity in which she had witnessed such terrifying adventures.
Tired nature at last overcame even her fears, and she dropped into a deep slumber, cradled in a comparatively safe, though rather uncomfortable, position against the bole of the tree, and supported by two large branches which grew outward, almost horizontally, but a few inches apart.
The sun was high in the heavens when she at last awoke, and beneath her was no sign either of Numa or the hyenas. Only the clean-picked bones of the ape, scattered about the ground, attested the fact of what had transpired in this seemingly peaceful spot but a few hours before.
Both hunger and thirst assailed her now, and realizing that she must descend or die of starvation, she at last summoned courage to undertake the ordeal of continuing her journey through the jungle.
Descending from the tree, she set out in a southerly direction, toward the point where she believed the plains of Waziri lay, and though she knew that only ruin and desolation marked the spot where once her happy home had stood, she hoped that by coming to the broad plain she might eventually reach one of the numerous Waziri villages that were scattered over the surrounding county, or chance upon a roving band of these indefatigable huntsmen.
The day was half spent when there broke unexpectedly upon her strartled ears the sound of a rifle shot not far ahead of her. As she paused to listen, this first shot was followed by another and another and another. What could it mean? The first explanation which sprung to her mind attributed the firing to an encounter between the Arab raiders and a party of Waziri; but as she did not know upon which side victory might rest, or whether she were behind friend or foe, she dared not advance nearer on the chance of revealing herself to an enemy.
After listening for several minutes she became convinced that no more than two or three rifles were engaged in the fight, since nothing approximating the sound of a volley reached her ears; but still she hesitated to approach, and at last, determining to take no chance, she climbed into the concealing foliage of a tree beside the trail she had been following and there fearfully awaited whatever might reveal itself.
As the firing became less rapid she caught the sound of men’s voices, though she could distinguish no words, and at last the reports of the guns ceased, and she heard two men calling to each other in loud tones. Then there was a long silence which was finally broken by the stealthy padding of footfalls on the trail ahead of her, and in another moment a man appeared in view backing toward her, a rifle ready in his hands, and his eyes directed in careful watchfulness along the way that he had come.
Almost instantly Jane Clayton recognized the man as M. Jules Frecoult, who so recently had been a guest in her home. She was upon the point of calling to him in glad relief when she saw him leap quickly to one side and hide himself in the thick verdure of the trail’s side. It was evident that he was being followed by an enemy, and so Jane Clayton kept silence, lest she distract Frecoult’s attention, or guide his foe to his hiding place.
Scarcely had Frecoult hidden himself than the figure of a white-robed Arab crept silently along the trail in pursuit. From her hiding place Jane Clayton could see both men plainly. She recognized Achmet Zek as the leader of the band of ruffians who had raided and made her a prisoner, and as she saw Frecoult, the supposed friend and ally, raise his gun and take careful aim at the Arab, her heart stood still and every power of her soul was directed upon a fervent prayer for the accuracy of his gun.
Acmet Zek paused in the middle of the trail. His keen eyes scanned every bush and tree within the radius of his vision. His tall figure presented a perfect target to the perfidious assassin. There was a sharp report, and a little puff of smoke arose from the bush that hid the Belgian, as Achmet Zek stumbled forward and pitched, face down, upon the trail.
As Werper stepped back into the trail, he was startled by the sound of a glad cry from above him, and as he wheeled about to discover the author of this unexpected interruption, he saw Jane Clayton drop lightly from a nearby tree and run forward with oustretched hands to congratulate him upon his victory.Well, that was quite a chapter. Poor Jane, out of the frying pan and into the fire. And what were the odds of the coincidence that Jane would run into Werper out in the middle of nowhere? That is one thing to which literary critics are quick to condemn ERB’s writing style: the use of coincidence in his stories. But they are definitely reading him wrong, for they miss the roller coaster ride with such an attitude. ERB wrote for fun and wanted his readers to have just as much fun reading the story as he had writing it. So it should come as no surprise that the next chapter is titled:
Though her clothes were torn and her hair disheveled, Albert Werper realized that he never before had looked upon such a vision of loveliness as that which Ladyi Greystoke presented in the relief and joy which she felt in coming so unexpectedly upon a friend and rescuer when hope had seen so far away.
XX: Jane Clayton Again a Prisoner
If the Belgian had entertained any doubts as to the woman’s knowledge of his part in the perfidious attack upon her home and herself, it was quickly dissipated by the genuine friendliness of her greeting. She told him quickly of all that had befallen her since he had departed from her home, and as she spoke of the death of her husband her eyes were veiled by the tears which she could not repress.
“I am shocked,” said Werper, in well-simulated sympathy; “but I am not surprised. That devil there,” and he pointed toward the body of Achmet Zek, “has terrorized the entire country. Your Waziri are either exterminated, or have been driven out of their country, far to the south. The men of Achmet Zek occupy the plain about your former home – there is neither sanctuary nor escape in that direction. Our only hope lies in traveling northward as rapidly as we may, of coming to the camp of the raiders before the knowledge of Achmet Zek’s death reaches those who were left there, and of obtaining, through some ruse, an escort toward the north.
“I think that the thing can be accomplished, for I was a guest of the raiders before I knew the nature of the man, and those at the camp are not aware that I turned against him when I discovered his villainy.
“Come! We will make all possible haste to reach the camp before those who accompanied Achmet Zek upon his last raid have found his body and carried the news of his death to the cut-throats who remained behind. It is our only hope, Lady Greystoke, and you must place your entire faith in me if I am to succeed. Wait for me here a moment while I take from the Arab’s body the wallet that he stole from me,” and Werper stopped quickly to the dead man’s side, and, kneeling, sought with quick fingers the pouch of jewels. To his consternation, there was no sign of them in the garments of Achmet Zek. Rising, he walked back along the trail, searching for some trace of the missing pouch or its contents; but he found nothing, even though he searched carefully the vicinity of his dead horse, and for a few paces into the jungle on either side. Puzzled, disappointed and angry, he at last returned to the girl. “The wallet is gone,” he explained, crisply, “and I dare not delay longer in search of it. We must reach the camp before the returning raiders.’
Unsuspicious of the man’s true character, Jane Clayton saw nothing peculiar in his plans, or in his specious explanation of his former friendship for the raider, and so she grasped with alacrity the seeming hope for safety which he proferred her, and turning about she set out with Albert Werper toward the hostile camp in which she so lately had been a prisoner.
It was late in the afternoon of the second day before they reached their destination, and as they paused upon the edge of the clearing before the gates of the walled village, Werper cautioned the girl to accede to whatever he might suggest by his conversation with the raiders.
“I shall tell them,” he said, “that I apprehended you, after you escaped from the camp, that I took you to Achmet Zek, and that as she was engaged in a stubborn battle with the Waziri, he directed me to return to camp with you, to obtain here a sufficient guard, and to ride north with you as rapidly as possible and dispose of you at the most advantageous terms to a certain slave broker whose name he gave me.”
Again the girl was deceived by the apparent frankness of the Belgian. She realized that desperate situations required desperate handling, and though she trembled inwardly at the thought of again entering the vile and hideous village of the raiders she saw no better course than that which her companion had suggested.
Calling aloud to those who tended the gates, Werper, grasping Jane Clayton by the arm, walked boldly across the clearing. Those who opened the gates to him permitted their surprise to show clearly in their expressions. That the discredited and hunted lieutenant should be thus returning fearlessly of his own volition, seemed to disarm them quite as effectually as his manner toward Lady Greystoke had deceived her.
The sentries at the gates returned Werper’s salutations, and viewed in astonishment the prisoner whom he brought into the village with him.
Immediately the Belgian sought the Arab who had been left in charge of the camp during Achmet Zek’s absence, and again his boldness disarmed suspicion and won the acceptance of his false explanation of his return. The fact that he had brought back with him the woman prisoner who had escaped, added strength to his claims, and Mohammed Beyd soon found himself fraternizing good-naturedly with the very man whom he would have slain without compunction had he discovered him alone in the jungle a half hour before.
Jane Clayton was again confined to the prison hut she had formally occupied, but as she realized that this was but a part of the deception which she and Frecoult were playing upon the credulous raiders, it was with quite a different sensation that she again entered the vile and filthy interior, from that which she had previously experienced, when hope was so far away.
Once more she was bound and sentries placed before the door of her prison; but before Werper left he whispered words of cheer into her ear. Then he left, and made his way back to the tent of Mohammed Beyd. He had been wondering how long it would be before the raiders who had ridden out with Achmet Zek would return with the murdered body of their chief, and the more he thought upon the matter the greater his fears became, that without accomplices his plan would fail.
What, even, if he got away from the camp in safety before any returned with the true story of his guilt – of what value would this advantage be other than to protract for a few days his mental torture and his life? These hard riders, familiar with every trail and bypath, would get him long before he could hope to reach the coast.
As these thoughts passed through his mind he entered the tent where Mohammed Beyd sat cross-legged upon a rug, smoking. The Arab looked up as the European came into his presence.
“Greetings, O, Brother,” he said.
“Greetings!” replied Werper,
For a while neither spoke further. The Arab was the first to break the silence.
“And my master, Achmet Zek, was well when last you saw him?” he asked.
“Never was he safer from the sins and dangers of mortality,” replied the Belgian.
“It is well,” said Mohammed Beyd, blowing a little puff of blue smoke straight out before him.
Again there was silence for several minutes.
“And if he were dead?” asked the Belgian, determined to lead up to the truth, and attempt to bribe Mohammed Beyd into his service.
The Arab’s eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, his gaze boring straight into the eyes of the Belgian.
“I have been thinking much, Werper, since you returned so unexpectedly to the camp of the man whom you had deceived, and who sought you with death in his heart. I have been with Achmet Zek for many years – his own mother never knew him so well as I. He never forgives – much less would he again trust a man who had once betrayed him, that I know.
“I have thought much, as I said, and the result of my thinking has assured me that Achmet Zek is dead – for otherwise you would never have dared return to his camp, unless you be either a braver man or a bigger fool that I have imagined. And, if this evidence of my judgment is not sufficient, I have but just now received from your own lips even more confirmatory witness – for did you not say that Achmet Zek was never more safe from the sins and dangers of mortality?
“Achmet Zek is dead – you need not deny it. I was not his mother, or his mistress, so do not fear that my wailings shall disturb you. Tell me why you have come back here. Tell me what you want, and, Werper, if you still possess the jewels of which Achmet Zek told me, there is no reason why you and I should not ride north together and divide the ransom of the white woman and the contents of the pouch you wear around your person. Eh?”
The evil eyes narrowed, a vicious, thin-lipped smile tortured the villainous face, as Mohammed Beyd grinned knowingly into the face of the Belgian.
Werper was both relieved and disturbed by the Arab’s attitude. The complacency with which he accepted the death of his chief lifted a considerable burden of apprehension from the shoulders of Achmet Zek’s assassin; but his demand for a share of the jewels boded ill for Werper when Mohammed Beyd should have learned that the precious stones were no longer in the Belgian’s possession.Have you been keeping track of the jewels? We suspected that Mugambi had played the old switcheroo on Werper, replacing the jewels in his own pouch, but, as I am sure you recall, Chulk lifted them from Mugambi. So one reasonable hypothesis is that they are now in the possession of Chulk. But maybe we have been deceived. Who knows?To acknowledge that he had lost the jewels might be to arouse the wrath or suspicion of the Arab to such an extent as would jeopardize his new-found chances of escape. His one hope seemed, then, to lie in fostering Mohammed Beyd’s belief that the jewels were sill in his possession, and depend upon the accidents of the future to open an avenue of escape.
Could he contrive to tent with the Arab upon the march north, he might find opportunity in plenty to remove this menace to his life and liberty – it was worth trying, and, further, there seemed no other way out of this difficulty.
“Yes,” he said, “Achmet Zek is dead. He fell in battle with a company of Abyssinian cavalry that held me captive. During the fighting I escaped; but I doubt if any of Achmet Zek’s men live, and the gold they sought is in the possession of the Abyssinians. Even now they are doubtless marching on this camp, for they were sent by Menelek to punish Achmet Zek and his followers for a raid upon an Abyssinian village. There are many of them, and if we do not make haste to escape we shall all suffer the same fate as Achmet Zek.”
Mohammed Beyd listened in silence. How much of the unbeliever’s story might he safely believe he did not know; but as it afforded him an excuse for deserting the village and making for the north he was not inclined to cross-questioning the Belgian too minutely.
“And if I ride north with you,” he asked, “half the jewels and half the ransom of the woman shall be mine?”
“Yes,” replied Werper.
“”Good,” said Mohammed Beyd. “I go now to give the order for the breaking of camp early on the morrow,” and he rose to leave the tent.
Werper laid a detaining hand on his arm.
“Wait,” he said, “let us determine how many shall accompany us. It is not well that we be burdened by the women and children, for then indeed we might be overtaken by the Abyssinians. It would be far better to select a small guard of your bravest men, and leave word behind that we are riding west. Then, when the Abyssinians come they will be put upon the wrong trail should they have it in their hearts to pursue us, and if they do not they will at least ride north with less rapidity than as though they thought that we were ahead of them.”
“The serpent is less wise than you, Werper,” said Mohammed Beyd with a smile. “It shall be done as you say. Twenty men shall accompany us, and we shall ride west – when we leave the village.”
“Good,” cried the Belgian, and so it was arranged.
Early the next morning Jane Clayton, after an almost sleepless night, was aroused by the sound of voice outside her prison, and a moment later, M. Frecoult, and two Arabs entered. The latter unbound her ankles and lifted her to her feet. Then her wrists were loosed, she was given a handful of dry bread, and led out into the faint light of dawn.
She looked qustioningly at Frecoult, and at a moment that the Arab’s attention was attracted in another direction the man leaned toward her and whispered that all was working out as he had planned. Thus assured, the young woman felt a renewal of the hope which the long and miserable night of bondage had almost expunged.
Shortly after, she was lifted to the back of a horse, and surrounded by Arabs, was escorted through the gateway of the village and off into the jungle toward the west. Half an hour later the party turned north, and northerly was their direction for the balance of the march.
M. Frecoult spoke with her but seldom, and she understood that in carrying out his deception he must maintain the semblance of her captor, rather than protector, and so she suspected nothing though she saw the friendly relations which seemed to exist between the European and the Arab leader of the band.
If Werper succeeded in keeping himself from conversation with the young woman, he failed signally to expel her from his thoughts. A hundred times a day he found his eyes wandering in her direction and feasting themselves upon her charms of face and figure. Each hour his infatuation for her grew, until his desire to possess her gained almost the proportions of madness.Yeah, that good ol’ jungle love again rises its head above the obfuscation of the story. If you thought the lust theme in this story ended with the return of La to Opar, you are sadly mistaken and missing the point. ERB meant heartily to create erotic emotion in his plot and this is how it is done by the masters. This time it is the lust for a married woman. Remember, Jane is very vulnerable at this time, believing her husband to be dead. Thus she may be easier to seduce since she won’t experience the guilt of unfaithfulness, no matter how much of her consent is involved. Surely, this is what the evil European is counting on. Of course, he is a cad and could care less if she is married or not – in fact, committing adultery may be a turn-on to him.If either the girl or Mohammed Beyd could have guessed what passed in the mind of the man which each thought a friend and ally, the apparent harmony of the little company would have been rudely disturbed.
Werper had not succeeded in arranging to tent with Mohammed Beyd, and so he resolved many plans for the assassination of the Arab that would have been greatly simplified had he been permitted to share the other’s nightly shelter.
Upon the second day out Mohammed Beyd reined his horse to the side of the animal on which the captive was mounted. It was, apparently, the first notice which the Arab had taken of the girl; but many times during these two days had his cunning eyes peered greedily from beneath the hood of his burnoose to gloat upon the beauties of the prisoner.
Nor was this hidden infatuation of any recent origin. He had conceived it when first the wife of the Englishman had fallen into the hands of Achmet Zek; but while that austere chieftan lived, Mohammed Beyd had not even dared hope for a realization of his imaginings.
Now, though, it was different – only a despised dog of a Christian stood between himself and possession of the girl. How easy it would be to slay the unbeliever, and take unto himself both the woman and the jewels! With the latter in his possession, the ransom which might be obtained for the captive would form no great inducement to her relinquishment in the face of the pleasures of sole ownership of her. Yes, he would kill Werper, retain all the jewels and keep the Englishwoman.
He turned his eyes upon her as she rode along at his side. How beautiful she was! His fingers opened and closed – skinny, brown talons itching to feel the soft flesh of the victim in their remorseless clutch.
“Do you know,” he asked, leaning toward her, “where this man would take you?”
Jane Clayton nodded affirmatively.
“And you are willing to become the plaything of a black sultan?”
The girl drew herself up to her full height, and turned her head away; but she did not reply. She feared lest her knowledge of the ruse that M. Frecoult was playing upon the Arab might cause her to betray herself through an insufficient display of terror and aversion.
“You can escape this fate,” continued the Arab; “Mohammed Beyd will save you,” and he reached out a brown hand and seized the fingers of her right hand in a grasp so sudden and so fierce that this brutal passion was revealed as clearly in the act as though his lips had confessed it in words.
Jane Clayton wrenched herself from his grasp.
“You beast!” she cried. “Leave me or I shall call M. Frecoult.”
Mohammed Beyd drew back with a scowl. His thin, upper lip curled upward, revealing his smooth, white teeth.
“M. Frecoult?” he jeered. “There is no such person. The man’s name is Werper. He is a liar, thief, and a murderer. He killed his captain in the Congo country and fled to the protection of Achmet Zek. He led Achmet Zek to the plunder of your home. He followed your husband, and planned to steal his gold from him. He has told me that you think him your protector, and as he has played upon this to win your confidence that it might be easier to carry you north and sell you into some black sultan’s harem. Mohammed Beyd is your only hope,” and with this assertion to provide the captive with food for thought, the Arab spurred forward toward the head of the column.
Jane Clayton could not know how much of Mohammed Beyd’s indictment might be true, or how much false; but at least it had the effect of dampening her hopes and causing her to review with suspicion every past act of the man upon whom she had been looking as her sole protector in the midst of a world of enemies and dangers.
On the march a separate tent had been provided for the captive, and at night it was pitched between those of Mohammed Beyd and Werper. A sentry was posted at the front and another at the back, and with these precautions it had not been thought necessary to confine the prisoner in bonds.
The evening following her interview with Mohammed Beyd, Jane Clayton sat for some time at the opening of her tent watching the rough activities of the camp. She had eaten the meal that had been brought her by Mohammed Beyd’s negro slave – a meal of cassava cakes and a nondescript stew in which a new-killed monkey, a couple of squirrels and the remains of a zebra, slain the previous day, were impartially and unsavorily combined; but the one-time Baltimore belle had long since submerged in the stern battle for existence, and estheticism which formerly revolted at much slighter provocation.
As the girl’s eyes wandered across the trampled jungle clearing, already squalid from the presence of man, she no longer apprehended either the nearer objects of the foreground, the uncouth men laughing or quarreling among themselves, or the jungle beyond, which circumscribed the extreme range of her material vision. Her gaze passed through all these, unseeing, to enter itself upon a distant bungalow and scenes of happy security which brought to her eyes tears of mingled joy and sorrow. She saw a tall, broad-shouldered man riding in from distant fields; she saw herself waiting to greet him with an armful of fresh-cut roses from the bushes which flanked the little rustic gate before her. All this was gone, vanished into the past, wiped out by the torches and bullets and hatred of these hideous and degenerate men. With a stifled sob, and a little shudder, Jane Clayton turned back into her tent and sought the pile of unclean blankets which were her bed. Throwing herself face down upon them she sobbed forth her misery until kindly sleep brought her, at least temporary, relief.
And while she slept a figure stole from the tent that stood to the right of hers. It approached the sentry before the doorway and whispered a few words in the man’s ear. The latter nodded and strode off through the darkness in the direction of his own blankets. This figure passed to the rear of Jane Clayton’s tent and spoke again to the sentry there, and this man also left, following in the rail of the first.
Then he who had sent them away stole silently to the tent flap and untying the fastenings entered with the noiselessness of a disembodied spirit.Are you feeling that jungle love now? ERB has set us up for another near-rape fantasy, which most of his readers are waiting for. Poor Jane. You remember how he told us that Jane’s clothing was torn, and we know from watching too many old black and white movies that the clothes are always torn in strategic places, exposing as much leg and bosom as the censors will allow. And thus, we sign off until the next chapter, which is called, “The Flight to the Jungle.”
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