Monday, February 23, 2009

The God of Tarzan

This time its "The God of Tarzan" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Comments and requests would be greatly appreciated.

AMONG THE BOOKS of his dead father in the little cabin by the land-locked harbor, Tarzan of the Apes found many things to puzzle his young head. By much labor and through the medium of infinite patience as well, he had, without assistance, discovered the purpose of the little bugs which ran riot upon the printed pages. He had learned that in the many combinations in which he found them they spoke in a silent language, spoke in a strange tongue, spoke of wonderful things which a little ape-boy could not by any chance fully understand, arousing his curiosity, stimulating his imagination and filling his soul with a mighty longing for further knowledge.
A dictionary had proven itself a wonderful storehouse of information, when, after several years of tireless endeavor, he had solved the mystery of its purpose and the manner of its use. He had learned to make a species of game out of it, following up the spoor of a new thought through the mazes of the many definitions which each new word required him to consult. It was like following a quarry through the jungle-- it was hunting, and Tarzan of the Apes was an indefatigable huntsman.
There were, of course, certain words which aroused his curiosity to a greater extent than others, words which, for one reason or another, excited his imagination. There was one, for example, the meaning of which was rather difficult to grasp. It was the word GOD. Tarzan first had been attracted to it by the fact that it was very short and that it commenced with a larger g-bug than those about it--a male g-bug it was to Tarzan, the lower-case letters being females. Another fact which attracted him to this word was the number of he-bugs which figured in its definition--Supreme Deity, Creator or Upholder of the Universe. This must be a very important word indeed, he would have to look into it, and he did, though it still baffled him after many months of thought and study.
However, Tarzan counted no time wasted which he devoted to these strange hunting expeditions into the game preserves of knowledge, for each word and each definition led on and on into strange places, into new worlds where, with increasing frequency, he met old, familiar faces. And always he added to his store of knowledge.
But of the meaning of GOD he was yet in doubt. Once he thought he had grasped it--that God was a mighty chieftain, king of all the Mangani. He was not quite sure, however, since that would mean that God was mightier than Tarzan-- a point which Tarzan of the Apes, who acknowledged no equal in the jungle, was loath to concede.
But in all the books he had there was no picture of God, though he found much to confirm his belief that God was a great, an all-powerful individual. He saw pictures of places where God was worshiped; but never any sign of God. Finally he began to wonder if God were not of a different form than he, and at last he determined to set out in search of Him.
He commenced by questioning Mumga, who was very old and had seen many strange things in her long life; but Mumga, being an ape, had a faculty for recalling the trivial. That time when Gunto mistook a sting-bug for an edible beetle had made more impression upon Mumga than all the innumerable manifestations of the greatness of God which she had witnessed, and which, of course, she had not understood.
Numgo, overhearing Tarzan's questions, managed to wrest his attention long enough from the diversion of flea hunting to advance the theory that the power which made the lightning and the rain and the thunder came from Goro, the moon. He knew this, he said, because the Dum-Dum always was danced in the light of Goro. This reasoning, though entirely satisfactory to Numgo and Mumga, failed fully to convince Tarzan. However, it gave him a basis for further investigation along a new line. He would investigate the moon.
That night he clambered to the loftiest pinnacle of the tallest jungle giant. The moon was full, a great, glorious, equatorial moon. The ape-man, upright upon a slender, swaying limb, raised his bronzed face to the silver orb. Now that he had clambered to the highest point within his reach, he discovered, to his surprise, that Goro was as far away as when he viewed him from the ground. He thought that Goro was attempting to elude him.
"Come, Goro!" he cried, "Tarzan of the Apes will not harm you!" But still the moon held aloof.
"Tell me," he continued, "if you be the great king who sends Ara, the lightning; who makes the great noise and the mighty winds, and sends the waters down upon the jungle people when the days are dark and it is cold. Tell me, Goro, are you God?"
Of course he did not pronounce God as you or I would pronounce His name, for Tarzan knew naught of the spoken language of his English forbears; but he had a name of his own invention for each of the little bugs which constituted the alphabet. Unlike the apes he was not satisfied merely to have a mental picture of the things he knew, he must have a word descriptive of each. In reading he grasped a word in its entirety; but when he spoke the words he had learned from the books of his father, he pronounced each according to the names he had given the various little bugs which occurred in it, usually giving the gender prefix for each.
Thus it was an imposing word which Tarzan made of GOD. The masculine prefix of the apes is BU, the feminine MU; g Tarzan had named LA, o he pronounced TU, and d was MO. So the word God evolved itself into BULAMUTUMUMO, or, in English, he-g-she-o-she-d.
Similarly he had arrived at a strange and wonderful spelling of his own name. Tarzan is derived from the two ape words TAR and ZAN, meaning white skin. It was given him by his foster mother, Kala, the great she-ape. When Tarzan first put it into the written language of his own people he had not yet chanced upon either WHITE or SKIN in the dictionary; but in a primer he had seen the picture of a little white boy and so he wrote his name BUMUDE-MUTOMURO, or he-boy.
To follow Tarzan's strange system of spelling would be laborious as well as futile, and so we shall in the future, as we have in the past, adhere to the more familiar forms of our grammar school copybooks. It would tire you to remember that DO meant b, TU o, and RO y, and that to say he-boy you must prefix the ape masculine gender sound BU before the entire word and the feminine gender sound MU before each of the lower-case letters which go to make up boy--it would tire you and it would bring me to the nineteenth hole several strokes under par.
And so Tarzan harangued the moon, and when Goro did not reply, Tarzan of the Apes waxed wroth. He swelled his giant chest and bared his fighting fangs, and hurled into the teeth of the dead satellite the challenge of the bull ape.
"You are not Bulamutumumo," he cried. "You are not king of the jungle folk. You are not so great as Tarzan, mighty fighter, mighty hunter. None there is so great as Tarzan. If there be a Bulamutumumo, Tarzan can kill him. Come down, Goro, great coward, and fight with Tarzan. Tarzan will kill you. I am Tarzan, the killer."
But the moon made no answer to the boasting of the ape-man, and when a cloud came and obscured her face, Tarzan thought that Goro was indeed afraid, and was hiding from him, so he came down out of the trees and awoke Numgo and told him how great was Tarzan--how he had frightened Goro out of the sky and made him tremble. Tarzan spoke of the moon as HE, for all things large or awe inspiring are male to the ape folk.
Numgo was not much impressed; but he was very sleepy, so he told Tarzan to go away and leave his betters alone.
"But where shall I find God?" insisted Tarzan. "You are very old; if there is a God you must have seen Him. What does He look like? Where does He live?"
"I am God," replied Numgo. "Now sleep and disturb me no more."
Tarzan looked at Numgo steadily for several minutes, his shapely head sank just a trifle between his great shoulders, his square chin shot forward and his short upper lip drew back, exposing his white teeth. Then, with a low growl he leaped upon the ape and buried his fangs in the other's hairy shoulder, clutching the great neck in his mighty fingers. Twice he shook the old ape, then he released his tooth-hold.
"Are you God?" he demanded.
"No," wailed Numgo. "I am only a poor, old ape. Leave me alone. Go ask the Gomangani where God is. They are hairless like yourself and very wise, too. They should know."
Tarzan released Numgo and turned away. The suggestion that he consult the blacks appealed to him, and though his relations with the people of Mbonga, the chief, were the antithesis of friendly, he could at least spy upon his hated enemies and discover if they had intercourse with God.
So it was that Tarzan set forth through the trees toward the village of the blacks, all excitement at the prospect of discovering the Supreme Being, the Creator of all things. As he traveled he reviewed, mentally, his armament--the condition of his hunting knife, the number of his arrows, the newness of the gut which strung his bow--he hefted the war spear which had once been the pride of some black warrior of Mbonga's tribe.
If he met God, Tarzan would be prepared. One could never tell whether a grass rope, a war spear, or a poisoned arrow would be most efficacious against an unfamiliar foe. Tarzan of the Apes was quite content--if God wished to fight, the ape-man had no doubt as to the outcome of the struggle. There were many questions Tarzan wished to put to the Creator of the Universe and so he hoped that God would not prove a belligerent God; but his experience of life and the ways of living things had taught him that any creature with the means for offense and defense was quite likely to provoke attack if in the proper mood.
It was dark when Tarzan came to the village of Mbonga. As silently as the silent shadows of the night he sought his accustomed place among the branches of the great tree which overhung the palisade. Below him, in the village street, he saw men and women. The men were hideously painted--more hideously than usual. Among them moved a weird and grotesque figure, a tall figure that went upon the two legs of a man and yet had the head of a buffalo. A tail dangled to his ankles behind him, and in one hand he carried a zebra's tail while the other clutched a bunch of small arrows.
Tarzan was electrified. Could it be that chance had given him thus early an opportunity to look upon God? Surely this thing was neither man nor beast, so what could it be then other than the Creator of the Universe! The ape-man watched the every move of the strange creature. He saw the black men and women fall back at its approach as though they stood in terror of its mysterious powers.
Presently he discovered that the deity was speaking and that all listened in silence to his words. Tarzan was sure that none other than God could inspire such awe in the hearts of the Gomangani, or stop their mouths so effectually without recourse to arrows or spears. Tarzan had come to look with contempt upon the blacks, principally because of their garrulity. The small apes talked a great deal and ran away from an enemy. The big, old bulls of Kerchak talked but little and fought upon the slightest provocation. Numa, the lion, was not given to loquacity, yet of all the jungle folk there were few who fought more often than he.
Tarzan witnessed strange things that night, none of which he understood, and, perhaps because they were strange, he thought that they must have to do with the God he could not understand. He saw three youths receive their first war spears in a weird ceremony which the grotesque witch-doctor strove successfully to render uncanny and awesome.
Hugely interested, he watched the slashing of the three brown arms and the exchange of blood with Mbonga, the chief, in the rites of the ceremony of blood brotherhood. He saw the zebra's tail dipped into a caldron of water above which the witch-doctor had made magical passes the while he danced and leaped about it, and he saw the breasts and foreheads of each of the three novitiates sprinkled with the charmed liquid. Could the ape-man have known the purpose of this act, that it was intended to render the recipient invulnerable to the attacks of his enemies and fearless in the face of any danger, he would doubtless have leaped into the village street and appropriated the zebra's tail and a portion of the contents of the caldron.
But he did not know, and so he only wondered, not alone at what he saw but at the strange sensations which played up and down his naked spine, sensations induced, doubtless, by the same hypnotic influence which held the black spectators in tense awe upon the verge of a hysteric upheaval.
The longer Tarzan watched, the more convinced he became that his eyes were upon God, and with the conviction came determination to have word with the deity. With Tarzan of the Apes, to think was to act.
The people of Mbonga were keyed to the highest pitch of hysterical excitement. They needed little to release the accumulated pressure of static nerve force which the terrorizing mummery of the witch-doctor had induced.
A lion roared, suddenly and loud, close without the palisade. The blacks started nervously, dropping into utter silence as they listened for a repetition of that all-too-familiar and always terrorizing voice. Even the witch-doctor paused in the midst of an intricate step, remaining momentarily rigid and statuesque as he plumbed his cunning mind for a suggestion as how best he might take advantage of the condition of his audience and the timely interruption.
Already the evening had been vastly profitable to him. There would be three goats for the initiation of the three youths into full-fledged warriorship, and besides these he had received several gifts of grain and beads, together with a piece of copper wire from admiring and terrified members of his audience.
Numa's roar still reverberated along taut nerves when a woman's laugh, shrill and piercing, shattered the silence of the village. It was this moment that Tarzan chose to drop lightly from his tree into the village street. Fearless among his blood enemies he stood, taller by a full head than many of Mbonga's warriors, straight as their straightest arrow, muscled like Numa, the lion.
For a moment Tarzan stood looking straight at the witch-doctor. Every eye was upon him, yet no one had moved-- a paralysis of terror held them, to be broken a moment later as the ape-man, with a toss of head, stepped straight toward the hideous figure beneath the buffalo head.
Then the nerves of the blacks could stand no more. For months the terror of the strange, white, jungle god had been upon them. Their arrows had been stolen from the very center of the village; their warriors had been silently slain upon the jungle trails and their dead bodies dropped mysteriously and by night into the village street as from the heavens above.
One or two there were who had glimpsed the strange figure of the new demon and it was from their oft-repeated descriptions that the entire village now recognized Tarzan as the author of many of their ills. Upon another occasion and by daylight, the warriors would doubtless have leaped to attack him, but at night, and this night of all others, when they were wrought to such a pitch of nervous dread by the uncanny artistry of their witch-doctor, they were helpless with terror. As one man they turned and fled, scattering for their huts, as Tarzan advanced. For a moment one and one only held his ground. It was the witch-doctor. More than half self-hypnotized into a belief in his own charlatanry he faced this new demon who threatened to undermine his ancient and lucrative profession.
"Are you God?" asked Tarzan.
The witch-doctor, having no idea of the meaning of the other's words, danced a few strange steps, leaped high in the air, turning completely around and alighting in a stooping posture with feet far outspread and head thrust out toward the ape-man. Thus he remained for an instant before he uttered a loud "Boo!" which was evidently intended to frighten Tarzan away; but in reality had no such effect.
Tarzan did not pause. He had set out to approach and examine God and nothing upon earth might now stay his feet. Seeing that his antics had no potency with the visitor, the witch-doctor tried some new medicine. Spitting upon the zebra's tail, which he still clutched in one hand, he made circles above it with the arrows in the other hand, meanwhile backing cautiously away from Tarzan and speaking confidentially to the bushy end of the tail.
This medicine must be short medicine, however, for the creature, god or demon, was steadily closing up the distance which had separated them. The circles therefore were few and rapid, and when they were completed, the witch-doctor struck an attitude which was intended to be awe inspiring and waving the zebra's tail before him, drew an imaginary line between himself and Tarzan.
"Beyond this line you cannot pass, for my medicine is strong medicine," he cried. "Stop, or you will fall dead as your foot touches this spot. My mother was a voodoo, my father was a snake; I live upon lions' hearts and the entrails of the panther; I eat young babies for breakfast and the demons of the jungle are my slaves. I am the most powerful witch-doctor in the world; I fear nothing, for I cannot die. I--" But he got no further; instead he turned and fled as Tarzan of the Apes crossed the magical dead line and still lived.
As the witch-doctor ran, Tarzan almost lost his temper. This was no way for God to act, at least not in accordance with the conception Tarzan had come to have of God.
"Come back!" he cried. "Come back, God, I will not harm you." But the witch-doctor was in full retreat by this time, stepping high as he leaped over cooking pots and the smoldering embers of small fires that had burned before the huts of villagers. Straight for his own hut ran the witch-doctor, terror-spurred to unwonted speed; but futile was his effort--the ape-man bore down upon him with the speed of Bara, the deer.
Just at the entrance to his hut the witch-doctor was overhauled. A heavy hand fell upon his shoulder to drag him back. It seized upon a portion of the buffalo hide, dragging the disguise from him. It was a naked black man that Tarzan saw dodge into the darkness of the hut's interior.
So this was what he had thought was God! Tarzan's lip curled in an angry snarl as he leaped into the hut after the terror-stricken witch-doctor. In the blackness within he found the man huddled at the far side and dragged him forth into the comparative lightness of the moonlit night.
The witch-doctor bit and scratched in an attempt to escape; but a few cuffs across the head brought him to a better realization of the futility of resistance. Beneath the moon Tarzan held the cringing figure upon its shaking feet.
"So you are God!" he cried. "If you be God, then Tarzan is greater than God," and so the ape-man thought. "I am Tarzan," he shouted into the ear of the black. "In all the jungle, or above it, or upon the running waters, or the sleeping waters, or upon the big water, or the little water, there is none so great as Tarzan. Tarzan is greater than the Mangani; he is greater than the Gomangani. With his own hands he has slain Numa, the lion, and Sheeta, the panther; there is none so great as Tarzan. Tarzan is greater than God. See!" and with a sudden wrench he twisted the black's neck until the fellow shrieked in pain and then slumped to the earth in a swoon.
Placing his foot upon the neck of the fallen witch-doctor, the ape-man raised his face to the moon and uttered the long, shrill scream of the victorious bull ape. Then he stooped and snatched the zebra's tail from the nerveless fingers of the unconscious man and without a backward glance retraced his footsteps across the village.
From several hut doorways frightened eyes watched him. Mbonga, the chief, was one of those who had seen what passed before the hut of the witch-doctor. Mbonga was greatly concerned. Wise old patriarch that he was, he never had more than half believed in witch-doctors, at least not since greater wisdom had come with age; but as a chief he was well convinced of the power of the witch-doctor as an arm of government, and often it was that Mbonga used the superstitious fears of his people to his own ends through the medium of the medicine-man.
Mbonga and the witch-doctor had worked together and divided the spoils, and now the "face" of the witch-doctor would be lost forever if any saw what Mbonga had seen; nor would this generation again have as much faith in any future witch-doctor.
Mbonga must do something to counteract the evil influence of the forest demon's victory over the witch-doctor. He raised his heavy spear and crept silently from his hut in the wake of the retreating ape-man. Down the village street walked Tarzan, as unconcerned and as deliberate as though only the friendly apes of Kerchak surrounded him instead of a village full of armed enemies.
Seeming only was the indifference of Tarzan, for alert and watchful was every well-trained sense. Mbonga, wily stalker of keen-eared jungle creatures, moved now in utter silence. Not even Bara, the deer, with his great ears could have guessed from any sound that Mbonga was near; but the black was not stalking Bara; he was stalking man, and so he sought only to avoid noise.
Closer and closer to the slowly moving ape-man he came. Now he raised his war spear, throwing his spear-hand far back above his right shoulder. Once and for all would Mbonga, the chief, rid himself and his people of the menace of this terrifying enemy. He would make no poor cast; he would take pains, and he would hurl his weapon with such great force as would finish the demon forever.
But Mbonga, sure as he thought himself, erred in his calculations. He might believe that he was stalking a man-- he did not know, however, that it was a man with the delicate sense perception of the lower orders. Tarzan, when he had turned his back upon his enemies, had noted what Mbonga never would have thought of considering in the hunting of man--the wind. It was blowing in the same direction that Tarzan was proceeding, carrying to his delicate nostrils the odors which arose behind him. Thus it was that Tarzan knew that he was being followed, for even among the many stenches of an African village, the ape-man's uncanny faculty was equal to the task of differentiating one stench from another and locating with remarkable precision the source from whence it came.
He knew that a man was following him and coming closer, and his judgment warned him of the purpose of the stalker. When Mbonga, therefore, came within spear range of the ape-man, the latter suddenly wheeled upon him, so suddenly that the poised spear was shot a fraction of a second before Mbonga had intended. It went a trifle high and Tarzan stooped to let it pass over his head; then he sprang toward the chief. But Mbonga did not wait to receive him. Instead, he turned and fled for the dark doorway of the nearest hut, calling as he went for his warriors to fall upon the stranger and slay him.
Well indeed might Mbonga scream for help, for Tarzan, young and fleet-footed, covered the distance between them in great leaps, at the speed of a charging lion. He was growling, too, not at all unlike Numa himself. Mbonga heard and his blood ran cold. He could feel the wool stiffen upon his pate and a prickly chill run up his spine, as though Death had come and run his cold finger along Mbonga's back.
Others heard, too, and saw, from the darkness of their huts--bold warriors, hideously painted, grasping heavy war spears in nerveless fingers. Against Numa, the lion, they would have charged fearlessly. Against many times their own number of black warriors would they have raced to the protection of their chief; but this weird jungle demon filled them with terror. There was nothing human in the bestial growls that rumbled up from his deep chest; there was nothing human in the bared fangs, or the catlike leaps.
Mbonga's warriors were terrified--too terrified to leave the seeming security of their huts while they watched the beast-man spring full upon the back of their old chieftain.
Mbonga went down with a scream of terror. He was too frightened even to attempt to defend himself. He just lay beneath his antagonist in a paralysis of fear, screaming at the top of his lungs. Tarzan half rose and kneeled above the black. He turned Mbonga over and looked him in the face, exposing the man's throat, then he drew his long, keen knife, the knife that John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, had brought from England many years before. He raised it close above Mbonga's neck. The old black whimpered with terror. He pleaded for his life in a tongue which Tarzan could not understand.
For the first time the ape-man had a close view of the chief. He saw an old man, a very old man with scrawny neck and wrinkled face--a dried, parchment-like face which resembled some of the little monkeys Tarzan knew so well. He saw the terror in the man's eyes--never before had Tarzan seen such terror in the eyes of any animal, or such a piteous appeal for mercy upon the face of any creature.
Something stayed the ape-man's hand for an instant. He wondered why it was that he hesitated to make the kill; never before had he thus delayed. The old man seemed to wither and shrink to a bag of puny bones beneath his eyes. So weak and helpless and terror-stricken he appeared that the ape-man was filled with a great contempt; but another sensation also claimed him--something new to Tarzan of the Apes in relation to an enemy. It was pity--pity for a poor, frightened, old man.
Tarzan rose and turned away, leaving Mbonga, the chief, unharmed.
With head held high the ape-man walked through the village, swung himself into the branches of the tree which overhung the palisade and disappeared from the sight of the villagers.
All the way back to the stamping ground of the apes, Tarzan sought for an explanation of the strange power which had stayed his hand and prevented him from slaying Mbonga. It was as though someone greater than he had commanded him to spare the life of the old man. Tarzan could not understand, for he could conceive of nothing, or no one, with the authority to dictate to him what he should do, or what he should refrain from doing.
It was late when Tarzan sought a swaying couch among the trees beneath which slept the apes of Kerchak, and he was still absorbed in the solution of his strange problem when he fell asleep.
The sun was well up in the heavens when he awoke. The apes were astir in search of food. Tarzan watched them lazily from above as they scratched in the rotting loam for bugs and beetles and grubworms, or sought among the branches of the trees for eggs and young birds, or luscious caterpillars.
An orchid, dangling close beside his head, opened slowly, unfolding its delicate petals to the warmth and light of the sun which but recently had penetrated to its shady retreat. A thousand times had Tarzan of the Apes witnessed the beauteous miracle; but now it aroused a keener interest, for the ape-man was just commencing to ask himself questions about all the myriad wonders which heretofore he had but taken for granted.
What made the flower open? What made it grow from a tiny bud to a full-blown bloom? Why was it at all? Why was he? Where did Numa, the lion, come from? Who planted the first tree? How did Goro get way up into the darkness of the night sky to cast his welcome light upon the fearsome nocturnal jungle? And the sun! Did the sun merely happen there?
Why were all the peoples of the jungle not trees? Why were the trees not something else? Why was Tarzan different from Taug, and Taug different from Bara, the deer, and Bara different from Sheeta, the panther, and why was not Sheeta like Buto, the rhinoceros? Where and how, anyway, did they all come from--the trees, the flowers, the insects, the countless creatures of the jungle?
Quite unexpectedly an idea popped into Tarzan's head. In following out the many ramifications of the dictionary definition of GOD he had come upon the word CREATE-- "to cause to come into existence; to form out of nothing."
Tarzan almost had arrived at something tangible when a distant wail startled him from his preoccupation into sensibility of the present and the real. The wail came from the jungle at some little distance from Tarzan's swaying couch. It was the wail of a tiny balu. Tarzan recognized it at once as the voice of Gazan, Teeka's baby. They had called it Gazan because its soft, baby hair had been unusually red, and GAZAN in the language of the great apes, means red skin.
The wail was immediately followed by a real scream of terror from the small lungs. Tarzan was electrified into instant action. Like an arrow from a bow he shot through the trees in the direction of the sound. Ahead of him he heard the savage snarling of an adult she-ape. It was Teeka to the rescue. The danger must be very real. Tarzan could tell that by the note of rage mingled with fear in the voice of the she.
Running along bending limbs, swinging from one tree to another, the ape-man raced through the middle terraces toward the sounds which now had risen in volume to deafening proportions. From all directions the apes of Kerchak were hurrying in response to the appeal in the tones of the balu and its mother, and as they came, their roars reverberated through the forest.
But Tarzan, swifter than his heavy fellows, distanced them all. It was he who was first upon the scene. What he saw sent a cold chill through his giant frame, for the enemy was the most hated and loathed of all the jungle creatures.
Twined in a great tree was Histah, the snake--huge, ponderous, slimy--and in the folds of its deadly embrace was Teeka's little balu, Gazan. Nothing in the jungle inspired within the breast of Tarzan so near a semblance to fear as did the hideous Histah. The apes, too, loathed the terrifying reptile and feared him even more than they did Sheeta, the panther, or Numa, the lion. Of all their enemies there was none they gave a wider berth than they gave Histah, the snake.
Tarzan knew that Teeka was peculiarly fearful of this silent, repulsive foe, and as the scene broke upon his vision, it was the action of Teeka which filled him with the greatest wonder, for at the moment that he saw her, the she-ape leaped upon the glistening body of the snake, and as the mighty folds encircled her as well as her offspring, she made no effort to escape, but instead grasped the writhing body in a futile effort to tear it from her screaming balu.
Tarzan knew all too well how deep-rooted was Teeka's terror of Histah. He scarce could believe the testimony of his own eyes then, when they told him that she had voluntarily rushed into that deadly embrace. Nor was Teeka's innate dread of the monster much greater than Tarzan's own. Never, willingly, had he touched a snake. Why, he could not say, for he would admit fear of nothing; nor was it fear, but rather an inherent repulsion bequeathed to him by many generations of civilized ancestors, and back of them, perhaps, by countless myriads of such as Teeka, in the breasts of each of which had lurked the same nameless terror of the slimy reptile.
Yet Tarzan did not hesitate more than had Teeka, but leaped upon Histah with all the speed and impetuosity that he would have shown had he been springing upon Bara, the deer, to make a kill for food. Thus beset the snake writhed and twisted horribly; but not for an instant did it loose its hold upon any of its intended victims, for it had included the ape-man in its cold embrace the minute that he had fallen upon it.
Still clinging to the tree, the mighty reptile held the three as though they had been without weight, the while it sought to crush the life from them. Tarzan had drawn his knife and this he now plunged rapidly into the body of the enemy; but the encircling folds promised to sap his life before he had inflicted a death wound upon the snake. Yet on he fought, nor once did he seek to escape the horrid death that confronted him--his sole aim was to slay Histah and thus free Teeka and her balu.
The great, wide-gaping jaws of the snake turned and hovered above him. The elastic maw, which could accommodate a rabbit or a horned buck with equal facility, yawned for him; but Histah, in turning his attention upon the ape-man, brought his head within reach of Tarzan's blade. Instantly a brown hand leaped forth and seized the mottled neck, and another drove the heavy hunting knife to the hilt into the little brain.
Convulsively Histah shuddered and relaxed, tensed and relaxed again, whipping and striking with his great body; but no longer sentient or sensible. Histah was dead, but in his death throes he might easily dispatch a dozen apes or men.
Quickly Tarzan seized Teeka and dragged her from the loosened embrace, dropping her to the ground beneath, then he extricated the balu and tossed it to its mother. Still Histah whipped about, clinging to the ape-man; but after a dozen efforts Tarzan succeeded in wriggling free and leaping to the ground out of range of the mighty battering of the dying snake.
A circle of apes surrounded the scene of the battle; but the moment that Tarzan broke safely from the enemy they turned silently away to resume their interrupted feeding, and Teeka turned with them, apparently forgetful of all but her balu and the fact that when the interruption had occurred she just had discovered an ingeniously hidden nest containing three perfectly good eggs.
Tarzan, equally indifferent to a battle that was over, merely cast a parting glance at the still writhing body of Histah and wandered off toward the little pool which served to water the tribe at this point. Strangely, he did not give the victory cry over the vanquished Histah. Why, he could not have told you, other than that to him Histah was not an animal. He differed in some peculiar way from the other denizens of the jungle. Tarzan only knew that he hated him.
At the pool Tarzan drank his fill and lay stretched upon the soft grass beneath the shade of a tree. His mind reverted to the battle with Histah, the snake. It seemed strange to him that Teeka should have placed herself within the folds of the horrid monster. Why had she done it? Why, indeed, had he? Teeka did not belong to him, nor did Teeka's balu. They were both Taug's. Why then had he done this thing? Histah was not food for him when he was dead. There seemed to Tarzan, now that he gave the matter thought, no reason in the world why he should have done the thing he did, and presently it occurred to him that he had acted almost involuntarily, just as he had acted when he had released the old Gomangani the previous evening.
What made him do such things? Somebody more powerful than he must force him to act at times. "All-powerful," thought Tarzan. "The little bugs say that God is all-powerful. It must be that God made me do these things, for I never did them by myself. It was God who made Teeka rush upon Histah. Teeka would never go near Histah of her own volition. It was God who held my knife from the throat of the old Gomangani. God accomplishes strange things for he is 'all-powerful.' I cannot see Him; but I know that it must be God who does these things. No Mangani, no Gomangani, no Tarmangani could do them."
And the flowers--who made them grow? Ah, now it was all explained--the flowers, the trees, the moon, the sun, himself, every living creature in the jungle--they were all made by God out of nothing.
And what was God? What did God look like? Of that he had no conception; but he was sure that everything that was good came from God. His good act in refraining from slaying the poor, defenseless old Gomangani; Teeka's love that had hurled her into the embrace of death; his own loyalty to Teeka which had jeopardized his life that she might live. The flowers and the trees were good and beautiful. God had made them. He made the other creatures, too, that each might have food upon which to live. He had made Sheeta, the panther, with his beautiful coat; and Numa, the lion, with his noble head and his shaggy mane. He had made Bara, the deer, lovely and graceful.
Yes, Tarzan had found God, and he spent the whole day in attributing to Him all of the good and beautiful things of nature; but there was one thing which troubled him. He could not quite reconcile it to his conception of his new-found God.
Who made Histah, the snake?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quick- Trigger Teacher

This time its: "Quick-Trigger Teacher" by Vernon Shuffett, Jr, and Reuben Craig.
Comments and requests would be greatly appreciated.

I WALKED eagerly up the single flight of stairs. Professor Will Pentley had an apartment on the second floor. He had invited me this afternoon. It was three o’clock on the dot when I knocked on his door.
It opened promptly. Professor Pentley said, "Oh, it’s you, Joe. Come right in." Joe Humphrey—that’s my name.
Going through the door, I looked around me. The first things I noticed were guns. Guns hanging on the walls, standing in the corners, lying on the dresser. Old guns, new guns, good ones, bad ones and indifferent. You’ve guessed it. Pentley, in his spare time, was a gun collector.
That, in fact, was why I was here. For I liked guns, too, even though I knew practically nothing about them. I was a student at a Southern teachers’ college, where Pentley was head of the History and Social Science Department. When the prof had mentioned guns in a lecture, I had become interested. The result had been this invitation to look over his collection.
Pentley ushered me into the living room, which was also more or less cluttered with guns. Pentley was something of a character himself. Short and skinny, but he had a big red face and a pronounced paunch.
"As I told you," he began in his quiet, unobtrusive voice, "I concentrate mostly on scarce models of the old West. Take, for instance, this six-shot revolver here. It’s a single-action, .45 caliber Colt, called the Peacemaker. It was introduced about 1873, this 5-½ inch artillery model. It’s the only gun up here that I keep loaded. Then, over here is a—"
The jangle of the telephone interrupted him. Frowning, he walked over and picked up the receiver. I inspected a flintlock rifle while he talked.
I wondered at a harmless old guy like Pentley making guns his hobby. He’d spent a small fortune on them. I sighed. I decided if I ever made enough money teaching, I’d have a collection like this, too.
When Pentley hung up, he crossed the room slowly. "A man wants to see me on business," he said regretfully. "He said it was about a magazine article of mine. I’m sorry, but I guess our little lecture will have to be postponed. Stick around a while in the lobby. Maybe it won’t take too long to finish my business."
"Okay," I nodded. "By the way, do you have a copy of one of your articles? I’d like to read it while I’m waiting."
"Let me see," Pentley grunted. "I think I have one here. Oh, yes, here by the radio. It’s my very latest article. The name is How Guns Saved City Hall."
I licked my chops mentally. "Sounds interesting. Thanks a lot, Professor. I’ll be back up after a while."
Pentley said, "Very well," and showed me to the door.
OING downstairs, I found a comfortable chair in the lobby. Just as I had gotten my magazine unfolded, a stranger sat down beside me. I paid no attention to him till he started looking over my shoulder.
I turned, stared at him. He gave a start.
"Oh, excuse me," he said quickly. "I didn’t realize what I was doing. My name is Gregg. So you like Pentley’s pieces, too, do you? I read every one I see. He knows his stuff."
"I know him personally," I said, setting aside the magazine. Here was a chance to blow off steam about my relations with Pentley. I was too young and inexperienced to know better. I went on:
"The prof lives right here in the Luckie. On the second floor. I’m going up in a few minutes to look at his gun collection."
Gregg looked me over with increased respect. "It’s wonderful to know interesting people like
that," he sighed. "You’re very fortunate. What kind of a fellow is this Professor Pentley, anyway?"
"Not at all like you’d suspect," I assured him. "He’s just a gentle, kindly old soul. He abhors violence and bloodshed. Funny that he’d pick a subject like guns for a hobby, isn’t it?"
"Very queer. Seems as though he’d be scared at night, surrounded by all those guns."
I laughed. "Oh, he doesn’t keep them loaded, of course. None except one revolver. It’s an old model Colt which he keeps on his piano."
"Then you’ve been up before?" Gregg asked with raised eyebrows.
"Just once, for a few minutes," I replied. "He only had time to show me that Colt when the telephone rang. Pentley had to see someone on business."
Gregg pulled out his watch, looked at it. "That reminds me," he said, rising. "I have to keep an appointment myself. Well, it’s been nice meeting you Mr.—er—ah—"
"Humphrey," I finished for him. "Joe Humphrey. Glad to know you, too, Mr. Gregg."
There goes a nice guy, I thought, as he crossed the lobby. I watched as his slim, well-dressed form disappeared from sight. Rather hard-eyed, and I didn’t like the way his hair was slicked back, but all in all a very nice guy. That’s what I was telling myself as I picked up my magazine again.
Will Pentley had made more money writing articles about guns than teaching school. He usually connected a certain type of gun with a past historical event. That was the case in How Guns Saved City Hall. The subhead read, "—And Without a Shot Being Fired!"
This one was the best by Pentley that I had read yet. It was a factual account of the days when Perryville was little more than a meeting hall and general store. Pentley had delved into some obscure records somewhere and read about Perryville’s biggest Indian raid.
The redskins had succeeded in leveling the store. All the citizens that remained alive were surrounded in the city meeting hall. In this square-walled massive building, they prepared to make a last stand.
Numerically, the defenders of the town were stronger than the Indians. And they had the advantage of positions. But there was a joker in the pack.
The men were armed almost exclusively with Colt Walkers. A five-shot revolver weighing four pounds, nine ounces, and 15-½ inches long, these formidable weapons, however, were of the cap and ball type. The cap was necessary to set off the powder, which in turn expelled the missile. And some traitor among them, dying from an Indian bullet, had crawled away with all the caps!
Making the best of a bad situation, the men threw their nearly useless Walkers into the basement. They armed themselves with whatever weapons they could find, and waited for the attack.
Meanwhile, the wily redskins had stumbled onto something. In the basement of the general store was the entrance to an underground passage. The defenders had forgotten about this passage, which led straight to the city hall. The Indians could easily have overcome the whites in a frontal attack, but they didn’t know about the caps being stolen. Therefore they launched a surprise attack—through the passage!
The end of Pentley’s piece packed a real punch. The Indians had come across all those heavy guns in the meeting hall basement. Imagine how they reasoned! If the palefaces had all these weapons to have to fight with! The Indians gave up the attack and went back.
HAT was the article. It was good, but something in it dissatisfied me. I couldn’t make up my mind what it was.
Then it struck me suddenly with the force of a bombshell. I jumped up from my seat, headed grimly for a telephone booth. Stepping inside, I closed the door and inserted a nickel. I dialed the old city hall museum.
I asked, "Is this the city headquarters for war bond sales?"
I was pretty sure it was, but I had to know.
A feminine voice answered, "Yes. Do you want to buy a bond?"
"Sure," I told her. "Only I don’t have time right now. Thanks a lot." I hung up and mopped my brow feverishly. So far my hunch was working.
You see how I figured it, don’t you? It worked out that Pentley was one of the few men, probably the only one, who knew where that old underground passage was located. Some store had been built in place of the general store, but which one was it? Find out from Pentley, the crook reasons. Then, after bumping the old professor off, pull a nice clean robbery of the war bond money.

The building itself would be guarded, of course—from the outside. But not from the basement, where the long unused passage led!
I strode rapidly across the lobby. The fear was growing in me that Gregg had already struck. Wasn’t Gregg the logical person to suspect? He had smoothly and efficiently gotten information from me concerning Pentley’s guns. And undoubtedly he was making for the prof’s room when he left me!
Accordingly I took the steps three at a time. I knocked breathlessly at Pentley’s door. It seemed an age before it was opened.
Pentley stood there, looking completely at ease. "Come in, Joe," he invited. "We can continue with our interrupted discussion now."
So I had been wrong! I breathed a sigh of relief, followed Pentley inside. When I sheepishly told him about my fantastic theory, he laughed heartily. As though anyone would commit violence in his home! Unthinkable.
We started looking at guns again. Pentley remarked, "Now, here are two interesting guns lying side by side. The Texas Paterson .40 caliber model on the right, Wells Fargo .34 caliber on the left. The Paterson was introduced about 1836, and helped Texas win its independence from Mexico."
I was tremendously interested, yet for some reason my attention was wandering. Something was wrong . . .
Pentley said, "Want me to tell you something about the Wells Fargo model? You know how important the express company was in opening up new frontiers. Well, they wanted good guns for their guards and riders. Notice the points of this gun, then called the Baby Dragoon. It’s light, .31 caliber, five-shot. No ramrod. The octagonal barrel—"
With a gesture, I interrupted him. I had discovered what was wrong. I pointed mutely at the piano. The Colt Peacemaker was gone from its place!
I didn’t have time to ask for an explanation. Gregg, his little dark eyes shining, stepped from concealment. He said purringly:
"My young friend from the lobby has sharp eyes."
In Gregg’s right hand was the Peacemaker, the only gun Pentley kept loaded! I could have cried like a child. Pentley shrugged. He had done his part in trying to keep me from suspecting Gregg’s presence.
"I’m giving you one last chance, Professor," Gregg purred. "Either tell me the secret of the passage, or I shoot you and the boy. I’ll do it with your own gun. The police will call it murder-suicide. I won’t be suspected a moment. I mean what I say, Professor. What’s your answer?"
Pentley shook his head, smiling regretfully.
Gregg’s face underwent a swift change. It twisted into rage and hatred. He jerked the gun up, cursing. I saw his trigger finger tighten, then go white with the pressure he exerted. Nothing happened. Again he winced with the pressure, with no success.
He laid the Peacemaker down in disgust. "I’ll use my own gun," he snarled.
As he reached inside his coat, Pentley picked up the Peacemaker. I asked myself what he hoped to gain by that. The old gun wouldn’t work. But it did!
Just as Gregg got his automatic out, Pentley’s Colt exploded. Gregg clutched at his shoulder and went down!
After the smoke had cleared up and police had taken Gregg away, I asked Pentley:
"Why did the gun shoot for you when it wouldn’t for Gregg?"
"Simple," he chuckled. "Remember, I told you the Peacemaker was a single-action revolver? Well, that meant it had to be cocked. Gregg didn’t know that; I did. I simply pulled the hammer back and let him have it."
The professor sighed reminiscently. "You know," he confessed, "I never realized before today the thrill one could get out of spilling human blood. I wonder if I might try it again sometime."
I reached for my hat. "So long, Professor," I said. "I’d feel safer if we postpone our gun inspection until tomorrow. You’re in the wrong mood today!"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle: Killers Kraal part four (of 4)

Sorry about the long wait between installments, I've been doing a lot of things away from the computer (trips with my family, Chemistry Tests, English tests & essays, etc) hopefully now I can go back to updating everyday so you guys can get your pulp fix in an almost pulp free world.
Comments and Requests would be greatly appreciated.

THE CHAMBER into which Sibitane conducted Sheena was at the back the tower. Round air-holes, no bigger than her clenched fist, pierced the thick stone walls. The air was dead and musty. The last of the sunlight filtered through the matting-chinks which screened off an alcove where there was a skin-covered bed. Small rat voices squeaked. A snake hissed in the shadows, and then darted across the floor, a flash of black and orange in the sifted sunlight, and vanished into a gap between the crudely-fitted, stone blocks of the wall.
After Sibitane had gone the Jungle Queen stood in the center of the floor, her attitude tense, expectant. For some time she stood thus, and then the great drum boomed. Crashes of sound flooded into all the empty spaces. The old tower shook to the pulsing rhythm, so that dust and flaked mud fell from the roof above. Sheena stood with her hands tightly pressed to her ears while the drum hurled its message far into the deep silence of the jungle.
Then silence, and the faint tack-tack of a drum answering the call, or relaying the Galagi's commands, she could not tell. And it did not matter. She knew that the message would reach the Kalundas Sibitane had left with Rick and Ekoti. Also she knew that if the Kalunda party trekked night and day Rick would be at Massumba before the moon was full. And all this because, in an unguarded moment, the prying, shrewd eyes of the old hag Neda had divined a truth that she had tried to hide, even from herself.
Far into the night she paced the floor of her chamber like a caged lioness, At one moment she was telling herself that she was not answerable for whatever might happen to Rick. There wae no end to his folly, and this was the fruit of it. And in the next old Neda's voice echoed hollowly in her ears; "—spy for the Portuguesa!" And the fear that was in her came up into her throat and made her gulp for air.
At last, utterly worn out, she flung herself on the slatted bed, and slept until a bright-eyed Kalunda girl awakened her.
Sunlight was striking through the vent-holes of the tower room and lay on the floor like bright discs of copper. Sheena threw aside her skin coverings and stood up, sweeping the golden veil of her hair from her face. The Kalunda girl, a mere child, stared for a moment in breathless amazment, and then took to her heels in sudden panic as the Jungle Queen smiled and took a step toward her.
The girl had placed a gourd of milk and some bananas on a mat in the outer room. As Sheena sat on her heels Chim came begging for his share of the meal. She was drinking the milk when Sibitane appeared in the doorway and salaamed.
"If it pleases you," he said diffidently, "Neda, the Queen-Mother, will speak with you now, Mateyenda."
"It pleases me," said Sheena with a faint smile, and rose to follow him. In all these high-sounding titles, in all this outward show of respect, there was hollow mockery, she thought. And yet something strange and sad was brought to life. Something that was loathsome and evil too. Something belonging to the dead, like Neda.
She followed the induna along a dark passage which ended in a narrow flight of steps.
"They lead to the top of the tower," Sibitane told her, stepping aside to allow her to pass. "I will tell the Queen-Mother that you await her there."
Sheena went up, and the first thing she saw, as her head came above the level of the stone floor, was the great drum of Yamo Galagi. The tower-top was open to the glare of the sun. A low wall of stone enclosed the square space in the center of which stood the drum under a peaked, thatch roof supported by four poles. It captured the Jungle Queen's attention at first sight, and she glided across the flat roof to examine it more closely.
It was a hollow log, trimmed to an oval shape, its ends plugged with softer wood. The slot measured about the span of a hand at the wide end, and tapered to a mere slit at the narrow end. It was the difference in the thickness of lips of the cleft along the length of the drum which gave the drummer his two notes—the thick lip which was the man-voice and the thin lip which was the woman-voice. Except for size and the weird carvings that covered its cracked surfaces, It was not unlike the big wardrums she had seen in the Abama villages.
Idly she wondered what the witch doctors would think if she made it speak her nadan, her drum name, and then sent a message booming and crashing over the jungle. On a sudden impulse she put her hand into the slot, feeling for the drum sticks, but only to drop them back quickly at the sound of Neda's cackling laugh. She turned to see the old woman hobbling toward her, supported by Sibitane and her stick.
"Beware, Mateyenda!" Neda warned her. "Only those of the blood-royal may beat Galagi's drum, and there is not a drop of that under your white skin!"
There was a challenge in the old woman's eyes, and Sheena's expression became thoughtful. Did the old hag really believe that her hand would shrivel if she, a white woman, took up the sticks?
It might he so. Despite their frauds most witch doctors believed in their own magical powers. And then an idea flashed into her mind, and her eyes narrowed as she let her thought fondle it.
Sibitane retired to a respectful distance, and old Neda sat on the stool he had placed in the shade of the thatch for her.
“Beat the drum if you dare, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela!" Neda challenged her.
"It is not in my mind to beat it," said Sheena absently.
"That is well for you!" the old woman said with her dry chuckle. "But I have come to speak of another thing. We have caught the Portuguesa spy. The drums say that he will be here on the morning of the full moon."
Sheena shrugged and said: "It is foolish to bring him here. He has many friends at the coast, and if harm comes to him they will soon know it. It is nothing to me, but you make much trouble for yourself, I think."
Neda kept her strange eyes fastened on the Jungle Queen's face, and went on as if she had not heard Sheena's words: "When I was young the enemies of my husband were brought up to this tower after the witch doctors had smelt them out. See-yonder?" She pointed with her stick. And Sheena, looking in the direction indicated, saw a long tree trunk, freshly trimmed, balanced on the stone parapet Its butt-end was lashed to rusty, iron staples sunk into the stone roof, and there was a long coil of rattan rope beside it.
"In the old days," Neda went on with her eyes still fastened on Sheena's face, "those who dared to disobey Yamo Galagi were lowered down to the wild dogs from a pole like that. I saw many die that way. But never one of them quickly, because the rope held them at half their own height above the rocks, and the dogs must leap up to tear at their flesh. Oh yes, at sunrise many still lived, but with little flesh on their legs."
The color had left the Jungle Queen's face. The old woman laughed and went on: "The young Bwana is very strong, Sibitane says. He will live for a long time, I think. Yes, he will die of old age—if the Mateyenda sees in my son a true Galagi."
Sheena experienced the faint sense of nausea that always comes with the sudden fulfillment of fear, however much expected. Her leg muscles tensed as her impulsive energy prompted her to spring and sink her knife into her tormentor's throat. But killing Neda would not save Rick's life, nor the Abamas from slavery. And there was another way. There was always a way.
"What do you say now, Mateyenda?" the old woman's voice broke in on her thoughts.
"When the moon is full we will speak of this thing again," Sheena answered with deceptive calm.
The old woman's eyes struck at her venonously, but she only nodded her head and said: "Good! Talk to the Bwana about it when he comes. We would be your friends. We do not deny your right, and if harm come to your white Bwana it will be by your own hand. Think of this, Mateyenda. There is no hope for him if you speak against my son."
Sheena's smile was enigmatical. "Never say of the ajap tree in fruit that it bears nothing but leaves," she murmured, and then turned away and went down the steps.
Down on the terrace Sheena paused to look over the veldt. One group of Abama warriors was already camped in the shadow of Massumba. There was no wind, and the smoke of their cooking-fires rose straight up in the air,spoiling the view of the caravan road. But through the haze she could see the flash of sunlight on metal, and that told her that another band would soon swell the numbers in the camp below the walls.
Frowning, she went to her chamber and sat on the bed to think out the details of the daring plan that had flashed into her mind up on the tower roof. As it came clearer, she contemplated it with a kind of shudder of the mind. She wondered what Rick would think of it, and instantly decided that she would tell him nothing. He would know soon enough, and have good reason to call her she-devil after moonrise tomorrow night.
It was late afternoon, and the ghost of a full moon hung over the veldt, when Sibitane came to tell Sheena that Rick and Ekoti had arrived at Massumba.
"If it please you, I will take you to them now, Mateyenda," he said in his diffident way.
She followed him out onto the terrace. At her first look around she saw that the big drum had been carried down from the tower, and now stood on a platform of logs a short distance back from the head of the steps where it would be in plain view of the Abamas when they assembled in the great square. A faint smile of satisfaction came to the Jungle Queen's lips as she followed the induna across the terrace to the opposite side of the tower. Two of the Black Shields leaned on their spears before an open doorway. Sibitane stepped aside, salaamed, and Sheena walked into a chamber exactly like her own.
Ekoti was hunkered over the remains of a meal, and Rick came through the curtained alcove as the Abama chief spoke her name. He greeted her with a quizzical smile and said:
"We were to meet at the Abama village but it would seem that you changed your mind."
"I did not change my mind," she told coldly. "And speak Swahili. These walls have ears."
His left eyebrow quirked up. "We're in some kind of trouble, eh?" But he did not seem to be very worried about it, and that annoyed her and she said sharply:
"If you stay in this country you will always make trouble for yourself—and your friends."
"Well, I can handle my own trouble," he retorted.
"Ah, you think so?" Her tone was caustic, and she went on: "That is good, and I must tell you about this trouble so that you can deal with it quickly." Then she sat on her heels and gave him a clear and concise account of all that had happened, omitting only the details of her last talk with Neda. It left him only partly aware of his danger, but she could not tell him more of herself than she deemed it good for him to know. When she had finished he looked up at the roof, whistled softly, and then fumbled in his pockets for his pipe and tobacco. Ekoti's face was set in a black scowl, and presently he gave tongue to the question uppermost in his mind:
"Will you do as this witch-woman says, Sheena? Will you make this dog of a Kalunda chief of all the Abamas?"
"I will not betray the Abamas," Sheena answered and gave Rick a keen took. But if he felt fear, it did not show on his face. He merely nodded his head in approval, and went on stuffing tobacco into the bowl of his pipe. She liked his calmness, and thought that his beard, black and curling now, improved his looks, gave him a graver aspect and emphasized his virility. She smiled and added as an afterthought: "And I will not betray my friend."
He glanced up quickly, frowned, then: "You did your best to keep me out of this mess. I'll have to take my chances from now on. I'll have a talk with the Galagi. Maybe I can convince him—"
"If you do so, you will make trouble for me," Sheena interposed hastily. "I ask you to talk with no one, and not to leave this room before moonrise. Promise that you will do this—for me."
His slow smile came and went "Lady,"' he said, "you'll never have to ask me for anything twice. But you have something on your mind. What is it?"
She threw a significant glance at the open door, and shook her head. Then she held out her hand and said: "Give me a little of your tobacco."
Perplexity was on his face as she transfered some of the tobacco from the pouch to the bag attached to her leaopard skin shorts. She ignored the question in his eyes and turned to the Abama chief.
"The swelling has gone from your leg," she observed.
Ekoti grinned, stretched out his leg and flexed powerful calf muscles. "There is great magic in Bwana's little bottles, Sheena," he said. "Always when our people are bitten by the sheep-killer they die. It would be a good thing if Bwana lived at my village for awhile and taught you his magic."
She darted a sidelong look in Rick's direction. So, she thought, he has won Ekoti over to his way of thinking. His face showed only impassive innocence, but, behind his beard, she knew that he was smiling smugly, very pleased with his cleverness. She ignored Ekoti's suggestion and said:
"At moonrise the Galagi will beat his drum, and show himself to the Abamas. Remember, until then, you have promised to talk with no one. I go now."
"One moment!" Rick stepped into her path quickly. "I don't know what is in your mind, Sheena," he went on gravely. "But whatever it is, it may not work out as you think. Back on the trail I called you she-devil, and before you go it is in my heart to say that I am sorry for it."
She gave him a long, steady look, then: "If you did know what was in my mind you would not be sorry, I think. You do not know me well yet, Rick Thorne." And with that and a faint smile she left him.
Back in her own chamber the Jungle Queen took the tobacco from the dacca bag, and with a wry mouth chewed it into a moist wad. Then she took some of the milk she had saved in the gourd and placed it close to the gap between the stones into which she had seen the orange-colored snake disappear. Then she moved back several feet and sat on her heels, to wait. Chim bounced from the bed to her side. He pulled her hair and ran to the door; but when she did not follow he jumped up and down, scolding her.
"Quiet, little one!" she told him. "I know you do not like this place. We will go soon. Quiet now!"
Chim grimaced at her, and went to sulk on the bed. Minutes passed, and then the snake came out of its hole and slid slowly toward the milk. Sheena pursed her lips and began to whistle softly—three, high pitched notes repeated again and again. Presently, the snake lifted its arrow-shaped head, its forked and quivering tongue darting in and out of its mouth. Soon it was swaying like a reed in the wind to the rhythm of the peculiar notes and Sheena cautiously approached it. Then with feline efficiency her hand shot out to grasp the serpent by the back of the neck, and as quick as a flash she spat tobacco-juice into its hissing mouth.
It was an old trick that Ebid Ela had taught her, and one which, when performed by a skilled witch doctor, never failed to fill his audience with awe; for the effect of the nicotine was almost instantaneous, the snake's muscles knotted into lumps and the creature became rigid. Whereupon the witch doctor declared that he had changed it into a stick. And then after a time, to the complete and utter amazment of the spectators, he would rub the snake between the palms of his hands, restoring it to a state of infuriated and deadly animation.
There was a cold light in the Jungle Queen's blue eyes as she carried the paralyzed snake to her bed and covered it with one of the skins. Truly she was a she-devil, she thought. But guile must be matched by guile, and evil fought with evil.
For the rest of the day she sat on the bed in moody silence. She did not speak when the Kalunda girl brought in her evening meal, and she did not touch the food.
Once she got up to squeeze a little more tobacco juice into the snake's mouth when it showed signs of recovering from its topor.
When Sibitane came for her she lifted the skin from the bed and threw it about her shoulders like a native kroos. No sign of the inward tension she felt showed on her face as she followed the induna out onto the terrace.
A big, cold moon had climbed out of the veldt. It flooded the great square with an abundance of light and winked on the spear heads of the Black Shields who stood shield to shield, rank above rank, on the stairway before the tower. Their spears made a bristling barrier holding back the excited Abamas crowded into the compound, and now pressing forward to get a better view of the king-making ceremony.
A great shout went up as Sheena glided across the terrace and came to a stand close to the drum. Soon Rick and Ekoti came out, escorted by Sibitane and a half-dozen Kalunda guards. The induna halted them on the opposite side of the terrace, and then stood, as straight and stiff as a spear-shaft, looking toward the main entrance of the tower.
Silence came as the Galagi stepped out into the moonlight, a splendid figure in his feathered headdress and beaded robes. He was closely followed by Neda, looking like a ghost in her gauzy, white veil. Her eyes sought and found Sheena, and she came bobbling over to the drum. Leaning on her stick she looked up into the Jungle Queen's face, and said in a sibilant whisper:
"The time has come, Mateyenda, for you to say whether the young Bwana lives or dies. Look upon him, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela! Aie, aie, he is tall and handsome. Kill him and his face will haunt you forever!"
Looking down into the old hag's eyes, Sheena thought that she never had seen a face more evil, or ever had set herself against a spirit more unyielding. The strange eyes seemed to be possessed of a quality of resistance that made it useless to oppose, and for the first time doubt struck at her resolution. She shivered as if chilled by the night air, and under her skin cloak she appeared to rub her arms. Watching her closely, old Neda said with her dry chuckle:
"In the arms of the one who stands yonder you would not he cold, Mateyenda."
The Jungle Queen's eyes caught and reflected the moonlight in a cold, blue flame.
"You smell of death, old witch!" she flashed. "Stand back from me!" She made a quick movement as if to strike, and the old woman stepped back with amazing agility.
And just then the Galagi raised both hands above his head. His commanding figure held the attention of all, and when silence came he sent his voice far over the heads of the crowd in the square:

Y CHILDREN, I have called you to Massumba at this holy time so that you might look upon the face of your king. I am the Galagi, the son of the Elephant, the Earth-Shaker. The Son of Yamo Galagi who made you great in war and rich in cattle and slaves. His spirit is mine. His voice is in this drum. You have heard it, and the witch doctors have told you that these things are so. Yet among you there may be those who cannot believe their ears. But no man is so foolish as not to believe his own eyes. So tonight, in the presence of all, I will make the drum speak the fetish-code of the Galagi." He paused to give his words time to sink in, and then went on:
"It is well known that the Galagi put a curse upon his drum. Also it is well known that only he in whose body dwells the spirit of Yamo Galagi may beat this drum and live. If there be one among you who doubts this, let him come forward and beat the drum!"
A murmur like the wind in tall reeds arose from the massed Abamas. But no man moved or lifted his voice to answer the old challenge of the Lunda king. And then Sheena threw her cloak across the drum and glided to the Galagi's side. Her voice rang out, clear and distinct:
"Abama warriors, he speaks the truth! It is as he says, no one but one worthy to command you may beat this drum. I have travelled far to counsel you about this thing. Hear my council, then: If this man who stands before you beats the drum and no harm comes to him, salute him as your king. Now, let the Galagi beat his drum!"
Old Neda sidled up to her son. "Ho, ho!" she cackled. "Did I not say she would do it! This is your hour, my son. Beat the drum—beat it, I say!"
Sheena kept moving back in the direction of Rick and Ekoti. She paused, and her lips tightened, as the Galagi threw aside her cloak and reached into the drum for the sticks. In the next instant he let out a shriek, and staggered back staring at the back of his hand.
All eyes were fastened upon him, and in awe-struck silence all watched him sink to his knees, moaning in his fear. Sibitane, the guards, Rick and Ekoti—all stood like men suddenly turned to stone. And then Neda's scream rang out, shrill and piercing. The square was filled with a sudden commotion, and calamity was on the loose.
Sheena was close to Rick now, and like a flash of light she hurled herself at Sibitane. The unexpectenness of her attack sent the induna reeling back to collide with one of his men, and then Rick and Ekoti awoke from their trance. Rick felled one of the guards with a terrific punch. Ekoti smashed down another and, snatching the spear from the man's hand as he fell, gave tongue to the Abama war-cry and plunged it into the breast of a third. And now old Neda was pointing to the ground and shrieking:
"It was a snake—see, see! A trick! Kill her—kill!"
Sibitane and two of his men rushed upon Sheena.
She leaped backwards to avoid the thrust of their spears, tripped over the body of one of the fallen guards, and fell sprawling on her back. She saw Sibitane's spear flash up, and then Rick came charging to hit the induna in the stomach with his lowered head. He recovered quickly, and with the light of battle in his eyes, stood between her and the Kalundas' spears. Barehanded he beat off their first rush, giving her time to regain her feet. As she straightened up Ekoti came roaring into the fray, and the two Kalundas went down under his flashing spear thrusts.
In these moments of shock and confusion the success of the Jungle Queen's carefully worked out plan hung in the balance. None knew better than she the power of imagination working on superstitious fears. At any moment now, panic would scatter the Abamas, leaving Rick and Ekoti to the mercy of Neda and Sibitane's Black Shields.
For an instant she stood irresolute, and then went flashing across the terrace to the drum. An instant later its great voice boomed out her nadan. The effect upon the Abamas was like magic. They saw their golden Mateyenda, knew her danger, and heard the Galagi's drum speak her commands. They answered her call with the Abama war-cry, and then charged the steps. The Black Shields broke under the fury of their onslaught, and the Abamas came roaring up the stairway in a black wave, driving all before them. Neda and her son stood directly in the path of the now panic-stricken Black Shields, and when the tide of battle swept on across the terrace, it left their trampled and broken bodies in its wake.
Driven into a corner with their backs to the tower, the Black Shields threw down their spears and begged for mercy. Ekoti came striding back to where Sheena and Rick stood beside the big drum.
"What is your will with these Kalunda dogs, Sheena?" he asked.
"Let them live," said the Jungle Queen. "We came only to silence this drum, Ekoti. Let a fire he built under it, and then assemble your warriors in the square. I have words for them."
As he went to carry out her orders, her eyes became fixed on some distant object and she said softly:
"It is well for me that you came on this trek, Rick Thorne. But for you Sibitane's spear would have sent me to the Black Kloof." They moved off as two Abamas came to set fire to the drum, and he did not answer until they stood in the shadow of the tower. Then:
"I had some speech with Sibitane after you left us," he said carefully. "I think that, but for you, I would be food for the dogs before long."
Dismay widened the Jungle Queen's eyes, and put a slight stammer into her speech. "You promised—you—what more did he tell you?"
He folded his arms across his chest and looked up at the moon. "Nothing," he said. "Nothing at all." But the smile was there, provocative, challenging. She asked:
"You will go back to the coast now."
"That is not in my mind," he said complacently. "I will go back to the Abama village with Ekoti and his people."
She looked at him sharply, wondering how much Sibitane had told him. But his face was blank and told her nothing, and before she could pry deeper Ekoti came to tell her that the Abamas were now waiting to hear her words.
The Galagi's drum was burning brightly, crackling and spitting sparks. Sheena came to stand in the light of the flames, and in respectful silence the Abamas waited for her to make her will known.
"Abama warriors," she told them, "you have done well. A great evil grew here at Massumba, but you have rooted it up with your spears. Now, you will go back to your villages in peace. If you be wise, you will tell your women to drive the witch doctors who deceived you from your villages with sticks. Go now, my people, and may the gods who watch over the river-crossing make the homeward trek swift and easy for you. I have spoken!"
There was a moment of absolute quiet, and then the royal salute burst spontaneously from the Abamas:
"Bayete! Bayete!"
Spears flashed upward, and again the thunderous shout of acclaim shook the old wall of Massumba.
The elegant Jungle Queen stood bathed in the ruddy glow of the burning drum, her head lifted her blue eyes alight—a golden Goddess wrapped in a flame of pride.
And seeing her thus, Rick stared and wondered what it was that made him think that this superb creature, who had a thousand spears at her command, would ever stoop from her high place to follow a poor, white hunter to the coast.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle: Killers Kraal Part 3 (of 4)

SHE AWOKE with sunlight in her eyes. It came through a mesh of boughs and palm leaves which had been woven into a flimsy shelter without sides. No bounds restricted her first tentative movements, and she sat up. A man stood looking down at her, but the seived sunlight stabbed at her eyes like knife points. She could see nothing clearly, and felt dizzy. There was the sound of voices and movement all around her; and, as her vision cleared, her eyes came to focus on the man.
He was a squat, flat-featured warrior, certainly not a Kobi. His spine was as straight as the spear he held in his hand. He wore a headdress of egrets' feathers and beaded bands crossed his deep chest to support a kind of kilt and a belt with a knife with a long, curved blade thrust into it. Muscles rippled under his black skin as he lifted his hand in salute, and she thought that his eyes held a worried look.
"I know you, Sheena!" he said in a voice that gave a queer, purring sound to the Bantu words.
She did not answer at once, but looked around the camp. At a glance she saw that she was in the same glade where they had camped the night before. Twenty, or more, black, oval shields lay on the grass, long spears thrust into the ground beside them. In the shadows there was the glint of light on copper bangles where their owners—all squat, heavily muscled warriors—squatted and talked in voices over their morning meal. Rick and Ekoti sat by the tree, hemmed in by a half-dozen warriors with spears held at the ready. Her eyes came to rest on Rick, lingered on his face until he looked up and grinned, and then came back to the man before her. The worried look had become more pronounced during her long silence, and he said:
"I am Sibitane, induna of the Black Shields. And I ask pardon for the violence that has been done to you. The man who struck the blow will strike no more."
"Who is your chief?" she asked coldly.
The induna's expression became puzzled.
"Yamo Galagi," he told her.
"What does he want with me?"
Sibitane's puzzlement deepened, and he answered with a question: "Have you not heard my master's drum, Mateyenda?"
"Truly, I have heard it."
"Then it must be known to you, Daughter of Ebid Ela, that Yamo Galagi is re-born, and that the day of his election to the seat of his fathers is at hand. Also, it must be known to you that all hear and obey his drum. All the young men of the Abamas gather at Massumba. Soon their numbers will be as many—"
"This I know," the Jungle Queen interposed with a faint smile. "But I do not know this man who calls himself Yamo Galagi re-born. And I do not believe that the dead are re-born. I think that your master is a great liar, Captain of the Black Shields!"
Sibitane gasped, and shock and horror were stamped on his flat features. He edged back from the Jungle Queen as if he expected to see her blasted On the spot. But as nothing happened he made a slow recovery, gulped and said:
"Aie, it must be that you wish to test my loyalty. Yes, yes, I see that it must be so!" he reassured himself. "The Mateyenda knows that none but those in whose veins the blood-royal flows dare beat Yamo Galagi's drum, or surely their hands would shrivel and become like a dead monkey's hands. But the spirit of Yamo Galagi has taken possession of my master's body. He makes the drum talk and no harm has come to him, as you will soon see, Mateyenda"
Sheena's smile was dangerous. "So," she said, "you have come to take me to Massumba. Perhaps it is in your mind to bind me also, Sibitane?"
"No, no!" protested the induna, and looked shocked again. "It is my master's will that you be treated with all the honor due to the Mateyenda of Lunda."
"To send his servants to attack my camp is a strange way to show honor, Sibitane?"
Inward distress showed on the induna's face. "The fault is mine, Mateyenda. I thought to take you without a fight. But that fool—"
"Why did you come as an enemy in the night?" Sheena demanded.
He spread his hands in a despairing gesture. "Mateyemda," he said, "I am a simple captain of an impi. The Great Ones speak, I obey. I cannot tell what was in my master's mind. I only know that he sent men into your country to bring you to Massumba. But you slew three of them, and when he heard of it he was very angry. Then he sent me." He shook his head. "I hope that you will not make trouble for me because of what that fool—"
And just then the rumble of Yamo Galagi's great drum came quivering over the tree tops. It had been silent for two days, and at its first booming notes the Jungle Queen's poise became tense. Her head was lifted and turned toward the mountains, her hands were tightly clenched at her side and her blue eyes took fire as her pulse beat quickened to the challenge of the drum. It would not be easy to deal with this man who called himself the Galagi re-born. It was a powerful hand that had reached out from those mountains to pluck her out of her own jungles, and it was a cunning brain that had so cleverly combined the traditions of her people and their deep-rooted superstitions. By merely beating a drum he had broken Ekoti's authority, and had given it to the witchdoctors who would now prey upon the fears of her people, like the spiritual buzzards they were! Worse, she herself was now entangled in his subtle web of lies. She must go to Massumba; because as the Abamas saw it, she was the Mateyenda and it was her right and her duty to affirm or deny this new-born Galagi's claim to the kingship of, all the Abama clans.
And what did he want of her? Did he see in her, the foster-daughter of Ebid Ela who had once possessed the king-making power, a useful tool? Oh yes doubtless he thought that he could bend her to his will. Ah, but he would soon learn that between them it was war to the knife and the knife to the hilt!
A sharp command from Sibitane broke in on her racing thoughts. One the Kalunda warriors ran to a small drum which stood near her shelter. As the voice of the big drum died in quivering echos, the induna spoke to the drummer in a dialect unknown to Sheena. And then the hollow voice of the slotted log repeated his words under the measured beat of the drummer's sticks.
When silence came to the glade again Sibitane said: "My master grows impatient, Mateyenda. If it pleases you I will give the order to march."
Sheena's eyes came to rest on Rick and were clouded with thought. "I am eager to look upon the face of your master," she said, after a long pause, "but I do not think that it will please him if a white man sees so many warriors gathered at Massumba. What the young Bwana does not see he cannot tell the Portuguesa."
The induna's eyes jumped, and his hand tightened on the shaft of his spear. "True!" he breathed.
Sheena gave him a dazzling smile. "I have forgotten what happened last night, Sibitane" she said.
A look of infinite relief came to the induna's face. "Mateyenda," he said warmly, "I am your true and faithful servant!"
Again Sheena's eyes came to rest on Rick, and she said: "The Abama chief has been bitten by a snake, and it will be good for him to return to his own village. Make a litter for him, Sibitane, and let six of your warriors go with him. The white Bwana knows nothing, so let him go with Ekoti. But it may be," she added, and a gleam of humor changed her eyes, "that the Bwana will not want to go. If you do not want trouble, seize him quickly and bind him."
"I hear and obey!" Sibitane turned and shouted guttural orders at the men guarding Rick and Ekoti. There was a moment of hesitation then, as one man, they dropped their spears and flung themselves upon Rick.
The attack was so swift and unexpected that Rick was flat on his back and pinned down before he had a chance to strike a blow. Ekoti let out a bellow of surprise and rage and made a grab at a spear one of the guards had dropped. But a sharp word from Sheena checked him, and he flopped back against the tree, his face almost comical in its expression of complete bewilderment. In a matter of minutes Rick was utterly helpless, bound hand and foot. Sheena glided over and stood looking down into his angry eyes.
"You have nothing to fear," she told him. "There is much that you cannot understand. I do this, because I know that you would follow me to your death. So, do not be angry."
"You—you—" His rage choked him, and his face became charged with blood as he strained at his bonds. Then words came crackling from between his white lips. They were strange, harsh-sounding words, but his blazing eyes and vehemence made her feel the sting of them. She knew that she had hurt him deeply, slashed his pride, and was suddenly ashamed. She did not want him to think so badly of her; and, thinking to sooth him, she favored him with the sweetest of her smiles and said softly:
"Perchance we will meet again at the Abama village soon." But her words did not have the desired effect, indeed it only served to increase his rage.
"We'll meet again," he gasped. "And when we do you'll pay for this, and it won't be in peanuts you—you she-devil!"
"She-devil!" she echoed. She felt her own anger rising to match his. "Did I ask you to come back?" she cried passionately. "No, I did not. But I see how it is with you. I am she-devil because you cannot have your way with me. Now, I tell you, if you wait for me at the Abama village, in very truth it will be a she-devil who'll come to meet you there!" And with that she turned and ran swiftly across the glade to where Sibitane was marshalling his men. She went flashing past the induna. He stared after her for a time, then shouted an order and, a moment later, the impi moved out of the glade in compact formation on the heels of the Jungle Queen.
The jungle was windless, sunless and vociferous, its stridence compounded of the rasping of minute insects, the low moan of the meat-hunters and the queer monkey-whinings which came out of the steaming green. This stretch of jungle was the strongest Sheena ever had seen. It would have taken the impi many days to cut a path through it, but for the fact that a herd of elephants was moving in the same general direction. The herd was headed for the mountains where the young bamboo shoots were now succulent and green, and their going was irresistible, the path they trampled through the tangled mass of bamboos and spikey vines as broad and as firm underfoot as a village road.
On the second day of the trek they came out into a scorching glare that was dazzling after the semi-dark of the forest, searing after its coolness. The country they traversed now was flat, but with walls of shattered rock picturing the chaos as it was left after the rending of some bygone upheaval. The land did not heave and roll itself up into foothills as they approached the Buffalo Mountain, for in this weird upland country the mountains grew out of the veldt like gigantic anthills. Soon they were marching through native fields, neglected and irregular gardens with the flowering vine of the calabash trailing everywhere.
Impatient of delay, Sibitane swung his impi wide of a meager-looking village—the only one they had seen so far—but the people came running out with offerings of milk and food. There was much shouting and laughter. And yapping dogs and naked children eager for another glimpse of the strange golden-haired woman and her ape still raced on their flanks long after the village was hiddon by the cloud of dust rising from under the feet of the fast-moving impi.
They were marching in the shadow of the cone-shaped mountains before sundown, and Massumba loomed black against the skyline. One of the cones looked as if it had been sheared off close to the base to form the foundation of the old, Lunda stronghold which huddled on top of it. The caravan road swept around it, but it was overgrown with grass and vines and no longer resounded to the tramp of marching feet. Yet the citadel seemed to be watching for the caravans richly laden with tribute and the spoils of successful war, not knowing that they were no more. The crumbling walls looked grim, life-less—or living only in the mind of the false Yamo Galagi who dreamed of power and glory amid vine-covered ruins.
A spiral path, which slaves had crudely torn from the mass of sandstone, with rocks dropping away in huge, broken steps led steeply up to the walled plateau. At one point there was a refuse dump, and here the rock ledges were white with the guana of carrion birds, and lank, half-starved dogs snarled and fought over the offal of an unclean people and their animals.
And Sheena thought that if there was a place in Africa where stench reached its highest magnitude, the distinction must belong to Massumba, the once proud capital of Lunda.
A broken-down gate gave into a narrow lane between square, thatched houses. People came to stare in the doorways, shouting and pointing. The tumult grew and died in passing, and as they went Sibitane's Impi melted into the cross lanes, each man making his way to his own house. Sheena and the induna were alone when they came out into an open square.
Houses enclosed it, and their flat, contiguous roofs supported crumbling ramparts of sun-baked mud and wattle. At one time the whole extensive area had been covered by a roof, but fire had destroyed; for the stumps of charred pillars made an aisle across to a broad, flight of steps which led up to a wide terrace of stone and a squat, square tower. This Sheena guessed was the high seat of the Galagi, and, as seen from across the compound as the light changed with the angle of the sun and shadowed out its sharp, square lines, its windows locked like eye-sockets, its square doorway like a black maw, and the whole became strongly suggestive of a human skull.
In silence Sibitane led her across the compound and up the steep flight of steps. The cavernous mouth yawned before them, and they stepped into the half-light of the tower's interior. A few paces beyond the entrance Sibitane stopped outside a doorway curtained by a mat of woven grass.
"Wait," he said in a hushed voice, and then, bending almost double, ducked through the curtain. Time passed while from within came the low mutter of voices. At long last Sibitane's arm swept aside the curtain, and Sheena stepped into a chamber fragrant with the scent of burning incense.
A shaft of sunlight streamed in through a high, round window and, bathed in its golden glare, the Galagi sat cross-legged on a kind of dais under the symbol of African royalty—a big umbrella of stripped cloth fringed with red and yellow tassels.

E WORE a tight-fitting cap of leopard skin, with a long stem attached to it which sprouted a spray of white feathers like the papyrus reed. His robes, encrusted with bead-work, were voluminous, completely covering his person, but his heavy jowls, loose mouth, and the pudgy hand he raised to check her closer approach suggested a bulky man of middle age. At his feet sat a woman, a very old woman. Her withered features showed darkly under the veil of gauzy white which covered her from head to foot, and her eyes seemed to burn through it as she leaned forward to peer into the Jungle Queen's face. The Galagi was the first to speak:
"By the gods, Sibitane, you did not lie!" he exclaimed in a high-pitched, sibilant voice. And the greedy vitality of his stare made Sheena feel as if something were crawling all over her. His loose mouth twisted into a repulsive smile as he went on: "Mateyenda, when I was first told of your beauty I could not believe the eyes of my servants. Now I cannot believe my own!"
His leer whetted Sheena's hostility. Her smile was frankly contemptuous. "When I first heard that the Galagi was re-born," she retorted, "I did not believe my ears. And now my eyes are witness to the greatness of the lie."
His teeth came together with a sharp click, and his heavy-lidded eyes opened wide to fasten on her face in a cold glare. "Speak such words once again," he said with soft menace, "and I will have the tongue torn from your mouth!"
The Jungle Queen's laugh was soft, taunting. She said: "Soon all the Abama clans will be gathered here, and I wonder what they will do when they call upon their Mateyenda for council—and find that she has no tongue to council them with."
"They will do nothing!" his voice rose to a bellow. "My drum will counsel them, and they will obey!" But his bluster was a little uncertain, his eyes uneasy. And Sheena, seeing the fear in him, was quick to take advantage of it.
"If you dare to harm me," she said calmly, "the war-cry of the Abamas will shout down your drum. It will shake this ruin, and bring the walls down upon your head. Do you think that I would have come here alone, if I did not know this?"
The question, brought a scowl to his face, but before he could answer a black, claw-like hand came from under the bundle of gauze at his feet to touch his knee. He bent his head, and the pair consulted in whispers for some time. Then the old woman spoke, and the sound of her voice was like the crackling of dry leaves underfoot.
"Why do you provoke my son's anger, Mateyenda?" she asked "Why do you deny his birth right?"
The Jungle Queen stood calm and serene, balancing an answer in her mind; then: "Because I see nothing but evil and war in his heart. He would make slaves of the Abamas to rebuild these old walls. He would be a great king, but neither his heart nor his mind is strong enough to rule wisely."
The Galagi's mouth was ugly, his eyes blazing. But before he could give vent to the rage that was in him the old woman's hand touched his knee again, and she said sharply:
"Peace, my son! Leave us—you too, Sibitane."
The son got to his feet, and Sheena saw that his bigness was not the bigness of fat but of strength. He stood glaring at her for a moment, a tic jerking at one corner of his mouth, then without a word he left the chamber by a dcor behind the dais. Sibitane salaamed with cupped hands first to the old woman, then to Sheena, and quickly effaced himself.
As they vanished from sight the old woman uttered a cackling laugh. "Men are fools," she said, "always pawing the dust and bellowing like young bulls when there are women about!" She removed the veil from her head, reveiling, a death's head with skin like ripples of mud in a dry stream bed. Only her eyes seemed to be alive—strange black eyes, bright with intelligence. Looking into them Sheena felt that somewhere she had seen this old hag before.
"Come closer, Mateyenda," the other invited. "We can talk without anger." Then as Sheena came to sit beside her on the dais the old woman lifted a knotted stick which was close at hand and struck the floor with it.
"The earth and I—we are very old!" she said. And Sheena's eyes opened wide with astonishment. The old woman chuckled, well pleased with the effect of her words, then:
“You wonder how I know the favorite saying of Ebid Ela, Mateyenda? Well, it was our mother's before we were born. Oh yes, we were sisters, Ebid Ela and I. Our mother was Mateyenda in the old days, and she lived in this tower and she had many children. But of all who were with us then, dancing up and down in the moonlight or the sunlight, I alone remain. The others long since lie sleeping. Truly, I am Neda, once chief wife of Yamo Galagi, and my son is his son. What do you say now, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela?"
Sheena's smile was frankly unbelieving. She said: "Any Kalunda mother might claim the same for her son."
"True!" the old woman admitted with a toothless grimace that was only remotely related to a smile. "But would such a Woman know the secret burial place of Yamo Galagi? Would her son dare to beat my husband's drum? Would he know the fetish-code which even Ebid Ela did not teach you? Who, I say, but the chief wife of Yamo Galagi would know these things?"
Sheena was silent. There was much food for thought here. Who, indeed would know these things but one born of the royal house of Lunda? The old woman's claims could not be silenced by a simple denial. Not while Galagi's drum shouted them into the ears of all the Abamas. But why had the drum been silent for so long?
"If this thing be so," she asked, "why did you not make it known to the Abamas long since?"
Old Neda spat on the floor, and her eyes came alight with a sudden flame of anger. "Ask that of the Portuguesa!" she hissed. "My son was a mere stripling when his father fell at Sao Salvador. But they feared the blood in his veins, and they hunted us down like wild dogs. For a long time they could not catch us but in the end they captured him and sent him to the coast to work in the mines. I lived in a hut near that place. I was not an old woman then, but when they let my son go I was as you see me now."
"But Galagi had many sons," Sheena said dubiously.
"Ah, true! But they were bad times then. Brother slew brother in the struggle for their father's seat. As I have said, of the royal house of Lunda only my son and I are left. We have heen so long away that we come back to our own country as strangers. Few there are who know us for what we are. But when all the Abamas are gathered here my son will show his face to them, the Galagi's drum will speak for him, and they will know him as the Yamo Galagi re-born. Now, I ask you again, why do you deny my son's right? Is there no pity in your heart for the sister of Ebid Ela?"
Again,the Jungle Queen was silent for a long time. Her clear mind had already grasped the fact that the so called Galagi was a mere tool in his mother's grasping hands, so like vultures' tallons. She saw all the covetous dreams, and all the hate and lust for vengence hidden behind Neda's cunning appeal to her woman's instincts, and she was undeceived. She said coldly:
"I will not deny your son's birth, and when the Abama clans are gathered I will not counsel them to join his impis. I will not do so because I think you will make slave-hunters of them. Also, I know that the Portuguesa will soon hear of your plans. They will send soldiers—"
The old woman's stick struck the floor sharply, and she thrust her face close to Sheena's and hissed: "How will the Portuguesa know? Who will tell—ah, the young white Bwana—he is a spy for the Portuguesa!"
"No!" The Jungle Queen jumped to her feet, swiftly apprehensive. Then realizing that she had betrayed herself, she tried to hide her concern for Rick behind a depreciative smile. But it was transparent, and the old hag demanded:
"What is he then? What is he to you?"
"He is nothing," Sheena shrugged. "I have sent him away—"
"Ah, you think nothing of him then? Ho, ho, but when my son's men attacked him you slew three of them? How is this ?"
"He is a hunter," Sheena countered, quickly. "We gave him permission to hunt ivory in our country. Besides, the Abamas are at peace and will not allow strangers to make war in their country."
"So-o-o!" Her strange eyes seemed to punch into Sheena's brain, and on clean through the back of her skull. And then a gleam of satisfaction came into them, and her cackling laughter filled the chamber.
"You lie, Foster-daughter-of-Ebid Ela!" she said, as soon as she had caught her breath. "I see the young Bwana's image in your heart—ho, ho, it is a good thing to know!" Then she struck the floor with her stick, shouting for Sibitane at the same time. When the induna came in and salaamed, she folded her hands on her stick, rested her chin on them, and considered Sheena with a malevolent glint in her eyes.
"The Mateyenda has traveled far, Sibitane," she said at length, "and she wants to sleep. Conduct her to her chamber." Then as Sheena turned to follow the induna she added: "You will have company to your liking soon, Mateyenda."
As the grass curtain fell rustling behind them the Galagi came from behind the dias. He threw a look full of hate at the still moving curtains and said:
"A knife in the heart, or a little calabar bean in her food would rid us of all this trouble quickly, my mother."
Neda's stick tapped the stone floor impatiently. "She has power over the Abamas, my son. They will obey her and—"
"Obey her!" He spat on the ground, and then struck his chest with his fist. "I am the Galagi. It is I they should obey!"
"True! And you will be a great man soon, my son," she told him soothingly. "But you are a small man now, a king without slaves, and with but one impi to do his bidding. The Abamas were your father's strength and shield, and they will be yours if you are patient and listen to me. We need this white Mateyenda's power to win over the Abama clans, and when that is done they will salute you as their king."
His eyes came aglow, and he seemed to swell visibly. In his mind's eye he saw all the Abama warriors marshalled in the great square—Black Shields and White Shields, white and black plumes tossing in the wind; saw the sun flash on a forest of spears, and heard their thunderous shout of acclaim, the old royal salute. "Bayete! Bayete!" swell and roll across the veldt. For a time he stood transported, and then his face lost its rapt expression and settled into a scowl.
"But she will not do it!" he growled. "She says—"
"No matter what she says," the mother interposed with her dry laugh, "she will do it! Her white skin will betray her. Oh yes, I learned much about white people on the coast. They are like the monkeys, they take only one mate. Let her see the young Bwana. Let her feel the strength of his arms about her, and she will be like wet clay in our hands."
"You are very wise, my mother. And it may be as you say," he conceded dubiously. "But while she lives the power will be hers, and she is young."
"Did I not say that her white skin would betray her? Have you forgotten the taboo of Ebid Ela, my son? In her heart she carries a seed that will grow until it destroys her. She will give up everything for this white Bwana. Beat your drum, my son. Bring him here. Soon she will want to go away with him, and then we will whisper in the ears of the witchdoctors and—"
"Aie, aie!" The light of understanding dawned in his eyes. "Truly, you are wise! It might be well to let them run away together, then we would have no fear of the witch doctors—"
"Fool!" hissed old Neda. "Let them go and they will run to the Portuguesa and tell all they know! I am old, my son, only the wish to lift you to your father's seat has kept me alive. Be guided by me and all will be well. But enough now. All this talk has wearied me. I would rest now, and there is much to be thought of."
"There is not much time," he said frowning. "It wants but three days to the change of moon."
"That is time enough. Beat your drum, my son."

To Be Concluded...