Tarzan the Untamed/Chapter XXIV
Daylight overtook them after they had entered the gorge, but, tiredas they all were with the exception of Tarzan, they realized thatthey must keep on at all costs until they found a spot where theymight ascend the precipitous side of the gorge to the floor of theplateau above. Tarzan and Otobu were both equally confident thatthe Xujans would not follow them beyond the gorge, but though theyscanned every inch of the frowning cliffs upon either hand nooncame and there was still no indication of any avenue of escapeto right or left. There were places where the ape-man alone mighthave negotiated the ascent but none where the others could hopesuccessfully to reach the plateau, nor where Tarzan, powerful andagile as he was, could have ventured safely to carry them aloft.
For half a day the ape-man had been either carrying or supportingSmith-Oldwick and now, to his chagrin, he saw that the girl wasfaltering. He had realized well how much she had undergone andhow greatly the hardships and dangers and the fatigue of the pastweeks must have told upon her vitality. He saw how bravely sheattempted to keep up, yet how often she stumbled and staggered asshe labored through the sand and gravel of the gorge. Nor couldhe help but admire her fortitude and the uncomplaining effort shewas making to push on.
The Englishman must have noticed her condition too, for some timeafter noon, he stopped suddenly and sat down in the sand. "It'sno use," he said to Tarzan. "I can go no farther. Miss Kircher israpidly weakening. You will have to go on without me."
"No," said the girl, "we cannot do that. We have all been throughso much together and the chances of our escape are still so remotethat whatever comes, let us remain together, unless," and she lookedup at Tarzan, "you, who have done so much for us to whom you areunder no obligations, will go on without us. I for one wish thatyou would. It must be as evident to you as it is to me that youcannot save us, for though you succeeded in dragging us from thepath of our pursuers, even your great strength and endurance couldnever take one of us across the desert waste which lies betweenhere and the nearest fertile country."
The ape-man returned her serious look with a smile. "You arenot dead," he said to her, "nor is the lieutenant, nor Otobu, normyself. One is either dead or alive, and until we are dead we shouldplan only upon continuing to live. Because we remain here and restis no indication that we shall die here. I cannot carry you bothto the country of the Wamabos, which is the nearest spot at whichwe may expect to find game and water, but we shall not give up onthat account. So far we have found a way. Let us take things asthey come. Let us rest now because you and Lieutenant Smith-Oldwickneed the rest, and when you are stronger we will go on again."
"But the Xujans--?" she asked, "may they not follow us here?"
"Yes," he said, "they probably will. But we need not be concernedwith them until they come."
"I wish," said the girl, "that I possessed your philosophy but Iam afraid it is beyond me."
"You were not born and reared in the jungle by wild beasts andamong wild beasts, or you would possess, as I do, the fatalism ofthe jungle."
And so they moved to the side of the gorge beneath the shade of anoverhanging rock and lay down in the hot sand to rest. Numa wanderedrestlessly to and fro and finally, after sprawling for a momentclose beside the ape-man, rose and moved off up the gorge to belost to view a moment later beyond the nearest turn.
For an hour the little party rested and then Tarzan suddenlyrose and, motioning the others to silence, listened. For a minutehe stood motionless, his keen ears acutely receptive to sounds sofaint and distant that none of the other three could detect theslightest break in the utter and deathlike quiet of the gorge.Finally the ape-man relaxed and turned toward them. "What is it?"asked the girl.
"They are coming," he replied. "They are yet some distance away,though not far, for the sandaled feet of the men and the pads ofthe lions make little noise upon the soft sands."
"What shall we do--try to go on?" asked Smith-Oldwick. "I believeI could make a go of it now for a short way. I am much rested. Howabout you Miss Kircher?"
"Oh, yes," she said, "I am much stronger. Yes, surely I can go on."
Tarzan knew that neither of them quite spoke the truth, that peopledo not recover so quickly from utter exhaustion, but he saw noother way and there was always the hope that just beyond the nextturn would be a way out of the gorge.
"You help the lieutenant, Otobu," he said, turning to the black,"and I will carry Miss Kircher," and though the girl objected,saying that he must not waste his strength, he lifted her lightlyin his arms and moved off up the canyon, followed by Otobu andthe Englishman. They had gone no great distance when the others ofthe party became aware of the sounds of pursuit, for now the lionswere whining as though the fresh scent spoor of their quarry hadreached their nostrils.
"I wish that your Numa would return," said the girl.
"Yes," said Tarzan, "but we shall have to do the best we canwithout him. I should like to find some place where we can barricadeourselves against attack from all sides. Possibly then we mighthold them off. Smith-Oldwick is a good shot and if there are nottoo many men he might be able to dispose of them provided they canonly come at him one at a time. The lions don't bother me so much.Sometimes they are stupid animals, and I am sure that these thatpursue us, and who are so dependent upon the masters that haveraised and trained them, will be easily handled after the warriorsare disposed of."
"You think there is some hope, then?" she asked.
"We are still alive," was his only answer.
"There," he said presently, "I thought I recalled this very spot."He pointed toward a fragment that had evidently fallen from thesummit of the cliff and which now lay imbedded in the sand a fewfeet from the base. It was a jagged fragment of rock which rose someten feet above the surface of the sand, leaving a narrow aperturebetween it and the cliff behind. Toward this they directed theirsteps and when finally they reached their goal they found a spaceabout two feet wide and ten feet long between the rock and thecliff. To be sure it was open at both ends but at least they couldnot be attacked upon all sides at once.
They had scarcely concealed themselves before Tarzan's quick earscaught a sound upon the face of the cliff above them, and lookingup he saw a diminutive monkey perched upon a slight projection--anugly-faced little monkey who looked down upon them for a moment andthen scampered away toward the south in the direction from whichtheir pursuers were coming. Otobu had seen the monkey too. "He willtell the parrots," said the black, "and the parrots will tell themadmen."
"It is all the same," replied Tarzan; "the lions would have foundus here. We could not hope to hide from them."
He placed Smith-Oldwick, with his pistol, at the north opening oftheir haven and told Otobu to stand with his spear at the Englishman'sshoulder, while he himself prepared to guard the southern approach.Between them he had the girl lie down in the sand. "You will besafe there in the event that they use their spears," he said.
The minutes that dragged by seemed veritable eternities to BerthaKircher and then at last, and almost with relief, she knew that thepursuers were upon them. She heard the angry roaring of the lionsand the cries of the madmen. For several minutes the men seemed tobe investigating the stronghold which their quarry had discovered.She could hear them both to the north and south and then fromwhere she lay she saw a lion charging for the ape-man before her.She saw the giant arm swing back with the curved saber and shesaw it fall with terrific velocity and meet the lion as he rose tograpple with the man, cleaving his skull as cleanly as a butcheropens up a sheep.
Then she heard footsteps running rapidly toward Smith-Oldwick and,as his pistol spoke, there was a scream and the sound of a fallingbody. Evidently disheartened by the failure of their first attemptthe assaulters drew off, but only for a short time. Again they came,this time a man opposing Tarzan and a lion seeking to overcomeSmith-Oldwick. Tarzan had cautioned the young Englishman notto waste his cartridges upon the lions and it was Otobu with theXujan spear who met the beast, which was not subdued until bothhe and Smith-Oldwick had been mauled, and the latter had succeededin running the point of the saber the girl had carried, into thebeast's heart. The man who opposed Tarzan inadvertently came tooclose in an attempt to cut at the ape-man's head, with the resultthat an instant later his corpse lay with the neck broken upon thebody of the lion.
Once again the enemy withdrew, but again only for a short time,and now they came in full force, the lions and the men, possiblya half dozen of each, the men casting their spears and the lionswaiting just behind, evidently for the signal to charge.
"Is this the end?" asked the girl.
"No," cried the ape-man, "for we still live!"
The words had scarcely passed his lips when the remaining warriors,rushing in, cast their spears simultaneously from both sides. Inattempting to shield the girl, Tarzan received one of the shaftsin the shoulder, and so heavily had the weapon been hurled that itbore him backward to the ground. Smith-Oldwick fired his pistoltwice when he too was struck down, the weapon entering his rightleg midway between hip and knee. Only Otobu remained to face theenemy, for the Englishman, already weak from his wounds and fromthe latest mauling he had received at the claws of the lion, hadlost consciousness as he sank to the ground with this new hurt.
As he fell his pistol dropped from his fingers, and the girl, seeing,snatched it up. As Tarzan struggled to rise, one of the warriorsleaped full upon his breast and bore him back as, with fiendishshrieks, he raised the point of his saber above the other's heart.Before he could drive it home the girl leveled Smith-Oldwick'spistol and fired point-blank at the fiend's face.
Simultaneously there broke upon the astonished ears of both attackersand attacked a volley of shots from the gorge. With the sweetnessof the voice of an angel from heaven the Europeans heard thesharp-barked commands of an English noncom. Even above the roarsof the lions and the screams of the maniacs, those beloved tonesreached the ears of Tarzan and the girl at the very moment thateven the ape-man had given up the last vestige of hope.
Rolling the body of the warrior to one side Tarzan struggled tohis feet, the spear still protruding from his shoulder. The girlrose too, and as Tarzan wrenched the weapon from his flesh and steppedout from behind the concealment of their refuge, she followed athis side. The skirmish that had resulted in their rescue was soonover. Most of the lions escaped but all of the pursuing Xujanshad been slain. As Tarzan and the girl came into full view of thegroup, a British Tommy leveled his rifle at the ape-man. Seeing thefellow's actions and realizing instantly the natural error thatTarzan's yellow tunic had occasioned the girl sprang between himand the soldier. "Don't shoot," she cried to the latter, "we areboth friends."
"Hold up your hands, you, then," he commanded Tarzan. "I ain'ttaking no chances with any duffer with a yellow shirt."
At this juncture the British sergeant who had been in command ofthe advance guard approached and when Tarzan and the girl spoketo him in English, explaining their disguises, he accepted theirword, since they were evidently not of the same race as the creatureswhich lay dead about them. Ten minutes later the main body of theexpedition came into view. Smith-Oldwick's wounds were dressed,as well as were those of the ape-man, and in half an hour they wereon their way to the camp of their rescuers.
That night it was arranged that the following day Smith-Oldwick andBertha Kircher should be transported to British headquarters nearthe coast by aeroplane, the two planes attached to the expeditionaryforce being requisitioned for the purpose. Tarzan and Otobu declinedthe offers of the British captain to accompany his force overlandon the return march as Tarzan explained that his country lay tothe west, as did Otobu's, and that they would travel together asfar as the country of the Wamabos.
"You are not going back with us, then?" asked the girl.
"No," replied the ape-man. "My home is upon the west coast. I willcontinue my journey in that direction."
She cast appealing eyes toward him. "You will go back into thatterrible jungle?" she asked. "We shall never see you again?"
He looked at her a moment in silence. "Never," he said, and withoutanother word turned and walked away.
In the morning Colonel Capell came from the base camp in one of theplanes that was to carry Smith-Oldwick and the girl to the east.Tarzan was standing some distance away as the ship landed andthe officer descended to the ground. He saw the colonel greet hisjunior in command of the advance detachment, and then he saw himturn toward Bertha Kircher who was standing a few paces behind thecaptain. Tarzan wondered how the German spy felt in this situation,especially when she must know that there was one there who knew herreal status. He saw Colonel Capell walk toward her with outstretchedhands and smiling face and, although he could not hear the words ofhis greeting, he saw that it was friendly and cordial to a degree.
Tarzan turned away scowling, and if any had been close by theymight have heard a low growl rumble from his chest. He knew thathis country was at war with Germany and that not only his duty tothe land of his fathers, but also his personal grievance againstthe enemy people and his hatred of them, demanded that he exposethe girl's perfidy, and yet he hesitated, and because he hesitatedhe growled--not at the German spy but at himself for his weakness.
He did not see her again before she entered a plane and was borneaway toward the east. He bid farewell to Smith-Oldwick and receivedagain the oft-repeated thanks of the young Englishman. And thenhe saw him too borne aloft in the high circling plane and watcheduntil the ship became a speck far above the eastern horizon todisappear at last high in air.
The Tommies, their packs and accouterments slung, were waiting thesummons to continue their return march. Colonel Capell had, througha desire to personally observe the stretch of country between thecamp of the advance detachment and the base, decided to march backhis troops. Now that all was in readiness for departure he turned toTarzan. "I wish you would come back with us, Greystoke," he said,"and if my appeal carries no inducement possibly that of Smith-Oldwick'and the young lady who just left us may. They asked me to urgeyou to return to civilization."
"No;" said Tarzan, "I shall go my own way. Miss Kircher andLieutenant Smith-Oldwick were only prompted by a sense of gratitudein considering my welfare."
"Miss Kircher?" exclaimed Capell and then he laughed, "You knowher then as Bertha Kircher, the German spy?"
Tarzan looked at the other a moment in silence. It was beyond himto conceive that a British officer should thus laconically speakof an enemy spy whom he had had within his power and permitted toescape. "Yes," he replied, "I knew that she was Bertha Kircher,the German spy?"
"Is that all you knew?" asked Capell.
"That is all," said the ape-man.
"She is the Honorable Patricia Canby," said Capell, "one of themost valuable members of the British Intelligence Service attachedto the East African forces. Her father and I served in India togetherand I have known her ever since she was born.
"Why, here's a packet of papers she took from a German officer andhas been carrying it through all her vicissitudes-single-mindedin the performance of her duty. Look! I haven't yet had time toexamine them but as you see here is a military sketch map, a bundleof reports, and the diary of one Hauptmann Fritz Schneider."
"The diary of Hauptmann Fritz Schneider!" repeated Tarzan in aconstrained voice. "May I see it, Capell? He is the man who murderedLady Greystoke."
The Englishman handed the little volume over to the other withouta word. Tarzan ran through the pages quickly looking for a certaindate--the date that the horror had been committed--and when he foundit he read rapidly. Suddenly a gasp of incredulity burst from hislips. Capell looked at him questioningly.
"God!" exclaimed the ape-man. "Can this be true? Listen!" and heread an excerpt from the closely written page:
"'Played a little joke on the English pig. When he comes home hewill find the burned body of his wife in her boudoir-but he willonly think it is his wife. Had von Goss substitute the body of adead Negress and char it after putting Lady Greystoke's rings onit--Lady G will be of more value to the High Command alive thandead.'"
"She lives!" cried Tarzan.
"Thank God!" exclaimed Capell. "And now?"
"I will return with you, of course. How terribly I have wrongedMiss Canby, but how could I know? I even told Smith-Oldwick, wholoves her, that she was a German spy.
"Not only must I return to find my wife but I must right thiswrong."
"Don't worry about that," said Capell, "she must have convinced himthat she is no enemy spy, for just before they left this morninghe told me she had promised to marry him."