After dinner I rolled a cigaret and stretched myself at ease upon a pile o_urs before the doorway, with Ajor's head pillowed in my lap and a feeling o_reat content pervading me. It was the first time since my plane had toppe_he barrier- cliffs of Caspak that I had felt any sense of peace or security.
My hand wandered to the velvet cheek of the girl I had claimed as mine, and t_er luxuriant hair and the golden fillet which bound it close to her shapel_ead. Her slender fingers groping upward sought mine and drew them to he_ips, and then I gathered her in my arms and crushed her to me, smothering he_outh with a long, long kiss. It was the first time that passion had tinged m_ntercourse with Ajor. We were alone, and the hut was ours until morning.
But now from beyond the palisade in the direction of the main gate came th_allooing of men and the answering calls and queries of the guard. W_istened. Returning hunters, no doubt. We heard them enter the village amids_he barking dogs. I have forgotten to mention the dogs of Kro-lu. The villag_warmed with them, gaunt, wolflike creatures that guarded the herd by day whe_t grazed without the palisade, ten dogs to a cow. By night the cows wer_erded in an outer inclosure roofed against the onslaughts of the carnivorou_ats; and the dogs, with the exception of a few, were brought into th_illage; these few well-tested brutes remained with the herd. During the da_hey fed plentifully upon the beasts of prey which they killed in protectio_f the herd, so that their keep amounted to nothing at all.
Shortly after the commotion at the gate had subsided, Ajor and I arose t_nter the hut, and at the same time a warrior appeared from one of the twiste_lleys which, lying between the irregularly placed huts and groups of huts, form the streets of the Kro-lu village. The fellow halted before us an_ddressed me, saying that Al-tan desired my presence at his hut. The wordin_f the invitation and the manner of the messenger threw me entirely off m_uard, so cordial was the one and respectful the other, and the result wa_hat I went willingly, telling Ajor that I would return presently. I had lai_y arms and ammunition aside as soon as we had taken over the hut, and I lef_hem with Ajor now, as I had noticed that aside from their hunting-knives th_en of Kro-lu bore no weapons about the village streets. There was a_tmosphere of peace and security within that village that I had not hoped t_xperience within Caspak, and after what I had passed through, it must hav_ast a numbing spell over my faculties of judgment and reason. I had eaten o_he lotus-flower of safety; dangers no longer threatened for they had cease_o be.
The messenger led me through the labyrinthine alleys to an open plaza near th_enter of the village. At one end of this plaza was a long hut, much th_argest that I had yet seen, before the door of which were many warriors. _ould see that the interior was lighted and that a great number of men wer_athered within. The dogs about the plaza were as thick as fleas, and those _pproached closely evinced a strong desire to devour me, their noses evidentl_pprising them of the fact that I was of an alien race, since they paid n_ttention whatever to my companion. Once inside the council-hut, for such i_ppeared to be, I found a large concourse of warriors seated, or rathe_quatted, around the floor. At one end of the oval space which the warrior_eft down the center of the room stood Al-tan and another warrior whom _mmediately recognized as a Galu, and then I saw that there were many Galu_resent. About the walls were a number of flaming torches stuck in holes in _lay plaster which evidently served the purpose of preventing the inflammabl_ood and grasses of which the hut was composed from being ignited by th_lames. Lying about among the warriors or wandering restlessly to and fro wer_ number of savage dogs.
The warriors eyed me curiously as I entered, especially the Galus, and then _as conducted into the center of the group and led forward toward Al-tan. As _dvanced I felt one of the dogs sniffing at my heels, and of a sudden a grea_rute leaped upon my back. As I turned to thrust it aside before its fang_ound a hold upon me, I beheld a huge Airedale leaping frantically about me.
The grinning jaws, the half-closed eyes, the back-laid ears spoke to me loude_han might the words of man that here was no savage enemy but a joyous friend, and then I recognized him, and fell to one knee and put my arms about his nec_hile he whined and cried with joy. It was Nobs, dear old Nobs. Bowen Tyler'_obs, who had loved me next to his master.
"Where is the master of this dog?" I asked, turning toward Al-tan.
The chieftain inclined his head toward the Galu standing at his side. "H_elongs to Du-seen the Galu," he replied.
"He belongs to Bowen J. Tyler, Jr., of Santa Monica," I retorted, "and I wan_o know where his master is."
The Galu shrugged. "The dog is mine," he said. "He came to me cor-sva-jo, an_e is unlike any dog in Caspak, being kind and docile and yet a killer whe_roused. I would not part with him. I do not know the man of whom you speak."
So this was Du-seen! This was the man from whom Ajor had fled. I wondered i_e knew that she was here. I wondered if they had sent for me because of her; but after they had commenced to question me, my mind was relieved; they di_ot mention Ajor. Their interest seemed centered upon the strange world fro_hich I had come, my journey to Caspak and my intentions now that I ha_rrived. I answered them frankly as I had nothing to conceal and assured the_hat my only wish was to find my friends and return to my own country. In th_alu Du-seen and his warriors I saw something of the explanation of the term
"golden race" which is applied to them, for their ornaments and weapons wer_ither wholly of beaten gold or heavily decorated with the precious metal.
They were a very imposing set of men—tall and straight and handsome. Abou_heir heads were bands of gold like that which Ajor wore, and from their lef_houlders depended the leopard-tails of the Galus. In addition to the deer- skin tunic which constituted the major portion of their apparel, each carrie_ light blanket of barbaric yet beautiful design—the first evidence of weavin_ had seen in Caspak. Ajor had had no blanket, having lost it during he_light from the attentions of Du-seen; nor was she so heavily incrusted wit_old as these male members of her tribe.
The audience must have lasted fully an hour when Al-tan signified that I migh_eturn to my hut. All the time Nobs had lain quietly at my feet; but th_nstant that I turned to leave, he was up and after me. Duseen called to him; but the terrier never even so much as looked in his direction. I had almos_eached the doorway leading from the council-hall when Al-tan rose and calle_fter me. "Stop!" he shouted. "Stop, stranger! The beast of Du-seen the Gal_ollows you."
"The dog is not Du-seen's," I replied. "He belongs to my friend, as I tol_ou, and he prefers to stay with me until his master is found." And I turne_gain to resume my way. I had taken but a few steps when I heard a commotio_ehind me, and at the same moment a man leaned close and whispered "Kazar!"
close to my ear—kazar, the Caspakian equivalent of beware. It was To-mar. A_e spoke, he turned quickly away as though loath to have others see that h_new me, and at the same instant I wheeled to discover Du-seen stridin_apidly after me. Al-tan followed him, and it was evident that both wer_ngry.
Du-seen, a weapon half drawn, approached truculently. "The beast is mine," h_eiterated. "Would you steal him?"
"He is not yours nor mine," I replied, "and I am not stealing him. If h_ishes to follow you, he may; I will not interfere; but if he wishes to follo_e, he shall; nor shall you prevent." I turned to Al-tan. "Is not that fair?"
I demanded. "Let the dog choose his master."
Du-seen, without waiting for Al-tan's reply, reached for Nobs and grasped hi_y the scruff of the neck. I did not interfere, for I guessed what woul_appen; and it did. With a savage growl Nobs turned like lightning upon th_alu, wrenched loose from his hold and leaped for his throat. The man steppe_ack and warded off the first attack with a heavy blow of his fist, immediately drawing his knife with which to meet the Airedale's return. An_obs would have returned, all right, had not I spoken to him. In a low voice _alled him to heel. For just an instant he hesitated, standing there tremblin_nd with bared fangs, glaring at his foe; but he was well trained and had bee_ut with me quite as much as he had with Bowen—in fact, I had had most to d_ith his early training; then he walked slowly and very stiff-legged to hi_lace behind me.
Du-seen, red with rage, would have had it out with the two of us had not Al- tan drawn him to one side and whispered in his ear—upon which, with a grunt, the Galu walked straight back to the opposite end of the hall, while Nobs an_ continued upon our way toward the hut and Ajor. As we passed out into th_illage plaza, I saw Chal-az—we were so close to one another that I could hav_eached out and touched him—and our eyes met; but though I greeted hi_leasantly and paused to speak to him, he brushed past me without a sign o_ecognition. I was puzzled at his behavior, and then I recalled that To-mar, though he had warned me, had appeared not to wish to seem friendly with me. _ould not understand their attitude, and was trying to puzzle out some sort o_xplanation, when the matter was suddenly driven from my mind by the report o_ firearm. Instantly I broke into a run, my brain in a whirl of forebodings, for the only firearms in the Kro-lu country were those I had left in the hu_ith Ajor.
That she was in danger I could not but fear, as she was now something of a_dept in the handling of both the pistol and rifle, a fact which largel_liminated the chance that the shot had come from an accidentally discharge_irearm. When I left the hut, I had felt that she and I were safe amon_riends; no thought of danger was in my mind; but since my audience with Al- tan, the presence and bearing of Duseen and the strange attitude of both To- mar and Chal-az had each contributed toward arousing my suspicions, and now _an along the narrow, winding alleys of the Kro-lu village with my hear_airly in my mouth.
I am endowed with an excellent sense of direction, which has been greatl_erfected by the years I have spent in the mountains and upon the plains an_eserts of my native state, so that it was with little or no difficulty that _ound my way back to the hut in which I had left Ajor. As I entered th_oorway, I called her name aloud. There was no response. I drew a box o_atches from my pocket and struck a light and as the flame flared up, a half- dozen brawny warriors leaped upon me from as many directions; but even in th_rief instant that the flare lasted, I saw that Ajor was not within the hut, and that my arms and ammunition had been removed.
As the six men leaped upon me, an angry growl burst from behind them. I ha_orgotten Nobs. Like a demon of hate he sprang among those Kro-lu fighting- men, tearing, rending, ripping with his long tusks and his mighty jaws. The_ad me down in an instant, and it goes without saying that the six of the_ould have kept me there had it not been for Nobs; but while I was strugglin_o throw them off, Nobs was springing first upon one and then upon another o_hem until they were so put to it to preserve their hides and their lives fro_im that they could give me only a small part of their attention. One of the_as assiduously attempting to strike me on the head with his stone hatchet; but I caught his arm and at the same time turned over upon my belly, afte_hich it took but an instant to get my feet under me and rise suddenly.
As I did so, I kept a grip upon the man's arm, carrying it over one shoulder.
Then I leaned suddenly forward and hurled my antagonist over my head to _asty fall at the opposite side of the hut. In the dim light of the interior _aw that Nobs had already accounted for one of the others—one who lay ver_uiet upon the floor—while the four remaining upon their feet were striking a_im with knives and hatchets.
Running to one side of the man I had just put out of the fighting, I seize_is hatchet and knife, and in another moment was in the thick of the argument.
I was no match for these savage warriors with their own weapons and would soo_ave gone down to ignominious defeat and death had it not been for Nobs, wh_lone was a match for the four of them. I never saw any creature so quick upo_ts feet as was that great Airedale, nor such frightful ferocity as h_anifested in his attacks. It was as much the latter as the former whic_ontributed to the undoing of our enemies, who, accustomed though they were t_he ferocity of terrible creatures, seemed awed by the sight of this strang_east from another world battling at the side of his equally strange master.
Yet they were no cowards, and only by teamwork did Nobs and I overcome them a_ast. We would rush for a man, simultaneously, and as Nobs leaped for him upo_ne side, I would strike at his head with the stone hatchet from the other.
As the last man went down, I heard the running of many feet approaching u_rom the direction of the plaza. To be captured now would mean death; yet _ould not attempt to leave the village without first ascertaining th_hereabouts of Ajor and releasing her if she were held a captive. That I coul_scape the village I was not at all sure; but of one thing I was positive; that it would do neither Ajor nor myself any service to remain where I was an_e captured; so with Nobs, bloody but happy, following at heel, I turned dow_he first alley and slunk away in the direction of the northern end of th_illage.
Friendless and alone, hunted through the dark labyrinths of this savag_ommunity, I seldom have felt more helpless than at that moment; yet fa_ranscending any fear which I may have felt for my own safety was my concer_or that of Ajor. What fate had befallen her? Where was she, and in whos_ower? That I should live to learn the answers to these queries I doubted; bu_hat I should face death gladly in the attempt—of that I was certain. And why?
With all my concern for the welfare of my friends who had accompanied me t_aprona, and of my best friend of all, Bowen J. Tyler, Jr., I never yet ha_xperienced the almost paralyzing fear for the safety of any other creatur_hich now threw me alternately into a fever of despair and into a cold swea_f apprehension as my mind dwelt upon the fate on one bit of half-savag_emininity of whose very existence even I had not dreamed a few short week_efore.
What was this hold she had upon me? Was I bewitched, that my mind refused t_unction sanely, and that judgment and reason were dethroned by some ma_entiment which I steadfastly refused to believe was love? I had never been i_ove. I was not in love now—the very thought was preposterous. How could I, Thomas Billings, the right-hand man of the late Bowen J. Tyler, Sr., one o_merica's foremost captains of industry and the greatest man in California, b_n love with a—a—the word stuck in my throat; yet by my own American standard_jor could be nothing else; at home, for all her beauty, for all he_elicately tinted skin, little Ajor by her apparel, by the habits and custom_nd manners of her people, by her life, would have been classed a squaw. To_illings in love with a squaw! I shuddered at the thought.
And then there came to my mind, in a sudden, brilliant flash upon the scree_f recollection the picture of Ajor as I had last seen her, and I lived agai_he delicious moment in which we had clung to one another, lips smotherin_ips, as I left her to go to the council hall of Al-tan; and I could hav_icked myself for the snob and the cad that my thoughts had proven me—me, wh_ad always prided myself that I was neither the one nor the other!
These things ran through my mind as Nobs and I made our way through the dar_illage, the voices and footsteps of those who sought us still in our ears.
These and many other things, nor could I escape the incontrovertible fact tha_he little figure round which my recollections and my hopes entwine_hemselves was that of Ajor—beloved barbarian! My reveries were broken in upo_y a hoarse whisper from the black interior of a hut past which we were makin_ur way. My name was called in a low voice, and a man stepped out beside me a_ halted with raised knife. It was Chal-az.
"Quick!" he warned. "In here! It is my hut, and they will not search it."
I hesitated, recalled his attitude of a few minutes before; and as though h_ad read my thoughts, he said quickly: "I could not speak to you in the plaz_ithout danger of arousing suspicions which would prevent me aiding you later, for word had gone out that Al-tan had turned against you and would destro_ou—this was after Du-seen the Galu arrived."
I followed him into the hut, and with Nobs at our heels we passed throug_everal chambers into a remote and windowless apartment where a small lam_puttered in its unequal battle with the inky darkness. A hole in the roo_ermitted the smoke from burning oil egress; yet the atmosphere was far fro_ucid. Here Chal-az motioned me to a seat upon a furry hide spread upon th_arthen floor.
"I am your friend," he said. "You saved my life; and I am no ingrate as is th_atu Al-tan. I will serve you, and there are others here who will serve yo_gainst Al-tan and this renegade Galu, Du-seen."
"But where is Ajor?" I asked, for I cared little for my own safety while sh_as in danger.
"Ajor is safe, too," he answered. "We learned the designs of Al-tan and Du- seen. The latter, learning that Ajor was here, demanded her; and Al-ta_romised that he should have her; but when the warriors went to get her To-ma_ent with them. Ajor tried to defend herself. She killed one of the warriors, and then To-mar picked her up in his arms when the others had taken he_eapons from her. He told the others to look after the wounded man, who wa_eally already dead, and to seize you upon your return, and that he, To-mar, would bear Ajor to Al-tan; but instead of bearing her to Al-tan, he took he_o his own hut, where she now is with So-al, To-mar's she. It all happene_ery quickly. To-mar and I were in the council-hut when Du-seen attempted t_ake the dog from you. I was seeking To-mar for this work. He ran ou_mmediately and accompanied the warriors to your hut while I remained to watc_hat went on within the council-hut and to aid you if you needed aid. What ha_appened since you know."
I thanked him for his loyalty and then asked him to take me to Ajor; but h_aid that it could not be done, as the village streets were filled wit_earchers. In fact, we could hear them passing to and fro among the huts, making inquiries, and at last Chal-az thought it best to go to the doorway o_is dwelling, which consisted of many huts joined together, lest they ente_nd search.
Chal-az was absent for a long time—several hours which seemed an eternity t_e. All sounds of pursuit had long since ceased, and I was becoming uneas_ecause of his protracted absence when I heard him returning through the othe_partments of his dwelling. He was perturbed when he entered that in which _waited him, and I saw a worried expression upon his face.
"What is wrong?" I asked. "Have they found Ajor?"
"No," he replied; "but Ajor has gone. She learned that you had escaped the_nd was told that you had left the village, believing that she had escape_oo. So-al could not detain her. She made her way out over the top of th_alisade, armed with only her knife."
"Then I must go," I said, rising. Nobs rose and shook himself. He had bee_ead asleep when I spoke.
"Yes," agreed Chal-az, "you must go at once. It is almost dawn. Du-seen leave_t daylight to search for her." He leaned close to my ear and whispered:
"There are many to follow and help you. Al-tan has agreed to aid Du-see_gainst the Galus of Jor; but there are many of us who have combined to ris_gainst Al-tan and prevent this ruthless desecration of the laws and custom_f the Kro-lu and of Caspak. We will rise as Luata has ordained that we shal_ise, and only thus. No batu may win to the estate of a Galu by treachery an_orce of arms while Chal-az lives and may wield a heavy blow and a sharp spea_ith true Kro-lus at his back!"
"I hope that I may live to aid you," I replied. "If I had my weapons and m_mmunition, I could do much. Do you know where they are?" "No," he said, "the_ave disappeared." And then: "Wait! You cannot go forth half armed, and garbe_s you are. You are going into the Galu country, and you must go as a Galu.
Come!" And without waiting for a reply, he led me into another apartment, o_o be more explicit, another of the several huts which formed his cellula_welling.
Here was a pile of skins, weapons, and ornaments. "Remove your strang_pparel," said Chal-az, "and I will fit you out as a true Galu. I have slai_everal of them in the raids of my early days as a Kro-lu, and here are thei_rappings."
I saw the wisdom of his suggestion, and as my clothes were by now so ragged a_o but half conceal my nakedness, I had no regrets in laying them aside.
Stripped to the skin, I donned the red-deerskin tunic, the leopard-tail, th_olden fillet, armlets and leg-ornaments of a Galu, with the belt, scabbar_nd knife, the shield, spear, bow and arrow and the long rope which I learne_ow for the first time is the distinctive weapon of the Galu warrior. It is _awhide rope, not dissimilar to those of the Western plains and cow-camps o_y youth. The honda is a golden oval and accurate weight for the throwing o_he noose. This heavy honda, Chal-az explained, is used as a weapon, bein_hrown with great force and accuracy at an enemy and then coiled in fo_nother cast. In hunting and in battle, they use both the noose and the honda.
If several warriors surround a single foeman or quarry, they rope it with th_oose from several sides; but a single warrior against a lone antagonist wil_ttempt to brain his foe with the metal oval.
I could not have been more pleased with any weapon, short of a rifle, which h_ould have found for me, since I have been adept with the rope from earl_hildhood; but I must confess that I was less favorably inclined toward m_pparel. In so far as the sensation was concerned, I might as well have bee_ntirely naked, so short and light was the tunic. When I asked Chal-az for th_aspakian name for rope, he told me ga, and for the first time I understoo_he derivation of the word Galu, which means ropeman.
Entirely outfitted I would not have known myself, so strange was my garb an_y armament. Upon my back were slung my bow, arrows, shield, and short spear; from the center of my girdle depended my knife; at my right hip was my ston_atchet; and at my left hung the coils of my long rope. By reaching my righ_and over my left shoulder, I could seize the spear or arrows; my left han_ould find my bow over my right shoulder, while a veritable contortionist-ac_as necessary to place my shield in front of me and upon my left arm. Th_hield, long and oval, is utilized more as back-armor than as a defens_gainst frontal attack, for the close-set armlets of gold upon the lef_orearm are principally depended upon to ward off knife, spear, hatchet, o_rrow from in front; but against the greater carnivora and the attacks o_everal human antagonists, the shield is utilized to its best advantage an_arried by loops upon the left arm.
Fully equipped, except for a blanket, I followed Chal-az from his domicil_nto the dark and deserted alleys of Kro-lu. Silently we crept along, Nob_ilent at heel, toward the nearest portion of the palisade. Here Chal-az bad_e farewell, telling me that he hoped to see me soon among the Galus, as h_elt that "the call soon would come" to him. I thanked him for his loya_ssistance and promised that whether I reached the Galu country or not, _hould always stand ready to repay his kindness to me, and that he could coun_n me in the revolution against Al-tan.