As Numa EL ADREA launched himself with widespread paws and bared fangs h_ooked to find this puny man as easy prey as the score who had gone dow_eneath him in the past. To him man was a clumsy, slow-moving, defenseles_reature—he had little respect for him.
But this time he found that he was pitted against a creature as agile and a_uick as himself. When his mighty frame struck the spot where the man had bee_e was no longer there.
The watching girl was transfixed by astonishment at the ease with which th_rouching man eluded the great paws. And now, O Allah! He had rushed in behin_L ADREA'S shoulder even before the beast could turn, and had grasped him b_he mane. The lion reared upon his hind legs like a horse—Tarzan had know_hat he would do this, and he was ready. A giant arm encircled the black-mane_hroat, and once, twice, a dozen times a sharp blade darted in and out of th_ay-black side behind the left shoulder.
Frantic were the leaps of Numa—awful his roars of rage and pain; but the gian_pon his back could not be dislodged or brought within reach of fangs o_alons in the brief interval of life that remained to the lord with the larg_ead. He was quite dead when Tarzan of the Apes released his hold and arose.
Then the daughter of the desert witnessed a thing that terrified her even mor_han had the presence of EL ADREA. The man placed a foot upon the carcass o_is kill, and, with his handsome face raised toward the full moon, gave voic_o the most frightful cry that ever had smote upon her ears.
With a little cry of fear she shrank away from him—she thought that th_earful strain of the encounter had driven him mad. As the last note of tha_iendish challenge died out in the diminishing echoes of the distance the ma_ropped his eyes until they rested upon the girl.
Instantly his face was lighted by the kindly smile that was ample assurance o_is sanity, and the girl breathed freely once again, smiling in response.
"What manner of man are you?" she asked. "The thing you have done is unhear_f. Even now I cannot believe that it is possible for a lone man armed onl_ith a knife to have fought hand to hand with EL ADREA and conquered him, unscathed—to have conquered him at all. And that cry—it was not human. Why di_ou do that?"
Tarzan flushed. "It is because I forget," he said, "sometimes, that I am _ivilized man. When I kill it must be that I am another creature." He did no_ry to explain further, for it always seemed to him that a woman must loo_ith loathing upon one who was yet so nearly a beast.
Together they continued their journey. The sun was an hour high when they cam_ut into the desert again beyond the mountains. Beside a little rivulet the_ound the girl's horses grazing. They had come this far on their way home, an_ith the cause of their fear no longer present had stopped to feed.
With little trouble Tarzan and the girl caught them, and, mounting, rode ou_nto the desert toward the DOUAR of Sheik Kadour ben Saden.
No sign of pursuit developed, and they came in safety about nine o'clock t_heir destination. The sheik had but just returned. He was frantic with grie_t the absence of his daughter, whom he thought had been again abducted by th_arauders. With fifty men he was already mounted to go in search of her whe_he two rode into the DOUAR.
His joy at the safe return of his daughter was only equaled by his gratitud_o Tarzan for bringing her safely to him through the dangers of the night, an_is thankfulness that she had been in time to save the man who had once save_er.
No honor that Kadour ben Saden could heap upon the ape-man in acknowledgmen_f his esteem and friendship was neglected. When the girl had recited th_tory of the slaying of EL ADREA Tarzan was surrounded by a mob of worshipin_rabs—it was a sure road to their admiration and respect.
The old sheik insisted that Tarzan remain indefinitely as his guest. He eve_ished to adopt him as a member of the tribe, and there was for some time _alf-formed resolution in the ape-man's mind to accept and remain forever wit_hese wild people, whom he understood and who seemed to understand him. Hi_riendship and liking for the girl were potent factors in urging him toward a_ffirmative decision.
Had she been a man, he argued, he should not have hesitated, for it would hav_eant a friend after his own heart, with whom he could ride and hunt at will; but as it was they would be hedged by the conventionalities that are even mor_trictly observed by the wild nomads of the desert than by their mor_ivilized brothers and sisters. And in a little while she would be married t_ne of these swarthy warriors, and there would be an end to their friendship.
So he decided against the sheik's proposal, though he remained a week as hi_uest.
When he left, Kadour ben Saden and fifty white-robed warriors rode with him t_ou Saada. While they were mounting in the DOUAR of Kadour ben Saden th_orning of their departure, the girl came to bid farewell to Tarzan.
"I have prayed that you would remain with us," she said simply, as he leane_rom his saddle to clasp her hand in farewell, "and now I shall pray that yo_ill return." There was an expression of wistfulness in her beautiful eyes, and a pathetic droop at the corners of her mouth. Tarzan was touched.
"Who knows?" and then he turned and rode after the departing Arabs.
Outside Bou Saada he bade Kadour ben Saden and his men good-by, for there wer_easons which made him wish to make his entry into the town as secret a_ossible, and when he had explained them to the sheik the latter concurred i_is decision. The Arabs were to enter Bou Saada ahead of him, saying nothin_s to his presence with them. Later Tarzan would come in alone, and g_irectly to an obscure native inn.
Thus, making his entrance after dark, as he did, he was not seen by any on_ho knew him, and reached the inn unobserved. After dining with Kadour be_aden as his guest, he went to his former hotel by a roundabout way, and, coming in by a rear entrance, sought the proprietor, who seemed much surprise_o see him alive.
Yes, there was mail for monsieur; he would fetch it. No, he would mentio_onsieur's return to no one. Presently he returned with a packet of letters.
One was an order from his superior to lay off on his present work, and haste_o Cape Town by the first steamer he could get. His further instructions woul_e awaiting him there in the hands of another agent whose name and addres_ere given. That was all—brief but explicit. Tarzan arranged to leave Bo_aada early the next morning. Then he started for the garrison to see Captai_erard, whom the hotel man had told him had returned with his detachment th_revious day.
He found the officer in his quarters. He was filled with surprise and pleasur_t seeing Tarzan alive and well.
"When Lieutenant Gernois returned and reported that he had not found you a_he spot that you had chosen to remain while the detachment was scouting, _as filled with alarm. We searched the mountain for days. Then came word tha_ou had been killed and eaten by a lion. As proof your gun was brought to us.
Your horse had returned to camp the second day after your disappearance. W_ould not doubt. Lieutenant Gernois was grief-stricken—he took all the blam_pon himself. It was he who insisted on carrying on the search himself. It wa_e who found the Arab with your gun. He will be delighted to know that you ar_afe."
"Doubtless," said Tarzan, with a grim smile.
"He is down in the town now, or I should send for him," continued Captai_erard. "I shall tell him as soon as he returns."
Tarzan let the officer think that he had been lost, wandering finally into th_OUAR of Kadour ben Saden, who had escorted him back to Bou Saada. As soon a_ossible he bade the good officer adieu, and hastened back into the town. A_he native inn he had learned through Kadour ben Saden a piece of interestin_nformation. It told of a black-bearded white man who went always disguised a_n Arab. For a time he had nursed a broken wrist. More recently he had bee_way from Bou Saada, but now he was back, and Tarzan knew his place o_oncealment. It was for there he headed.
Through narrow, stinking alleys, black as Erebus, he groped, and then up _ickety stairway, at the end of which was a closed door and a tiny, unglaze_indow. The window was high under the low eaves of the mud building. Tarza_ould just reach the sill. He raised himself slowly until his eyes topped it.
The room within was lighted, and at a table sat Rokoff and Gernois. Gernoi_as speaking.
"Rokoff, you are a devil!" he was saying. "You have hounded me until I hav_ost the last shred of my honor. You have driven me to murder, for the bloo_f that man Tarzan is on my hands. If it were not that that other devil'_pawn, Paulvitch, still knew my secret, I should kill you here tonight with m_are hands."
Rokoff laughed. "You would not do that, my dear lieutenant," he said. "Th_oment I am reported dead by assassination that dear Alexis will forward t_he minister of war full proof of the affair you so ardently long to conceal; and, further, will charge you with my murder. Come, be sensible. I am you_est friend. Have I not protected your honor as though it were my own?"
Gernois sneered, and spat out an oath.
"Just one more little payment," continued Rokoff, "and the papers I wish, an_ou have my word of honor that I shall never ask another cent from you, o_urther information."
"And a good reason why," growled Gernois. "What you ask will take my las_ent, and the only valuable military secret I hold. You ought to be paying m_or the information, instead of taking both it and money, too."
"I am paying you by keeping a still tongue in my head," retorted Rokoff. "Bu_et's have done. Will you, or will you not? I give you three minutes t_ecide. If you are not agreeable I shall send a note to your commandan_onight that will end in the degradation that Dreyfus suffered—the onl_ifference being that he did not deserve it."
For a moment Gernois sat with bowed head. At length he arose. He drew tw_ieces of paper from his blouse.
"Here," he said hopelessly. "I had them ready, for I knew that there could b_ut one outcome." He held them toward the Russian.
Rokoff's cruel face lighted in malignant gloating. He seized the bits o_aper.
"You have done well, Gernois," he said. "I shall not trouble you again—unles_ou happen to accumulate some more money or information," and he grinned.
"You never shall again, you dog!" hissed Gernois. "The next time I shall kil_ou. I came near doing it tonight. For an hour I sat with these two pieces o_aper on my table before me ere I came here—beside them lay my loade_evolver. I was trying to decide which I should bring. Next time the choic_hall be easier, for I already have decided. You had a close call tonight, Rokoff; do not tempt fate a second time."
Then Gernois rose to leave. Tarzan barely had time to drop to the landing an_hrink back into the shadows on the far side of the door. Even then h_carcely hoped to elude detection. The landing was very small, and though h_lattened himself against the wall at its far edge he was scarcely more than _oot from the doorway. Almost immediately it opened, and Gernois stepped out.
Rokoff was behind him. Neither spoke. Gernois had taken perhaps three step_own the stairway when he halted and half turned, as though to retrace hi_teps.
Tarzan knew that discovery would be inevitable. Rokoff still stood on th_hreshold a foot from him, but he was looking in the opposite direction, toward Gernois. Then the officer evidently reconsidered his decision, an_esumed his downward course. Tarzan could hear Rokoff's sigh of relief. _oment later the Russian went back into the room and closed the door.
Tarzan waited until Gernois had had time to get well out of hearing, then h_ushed open the door and stepped into the room. He was on top of Rokoff befor_he man could rise from the chair where he sat scanning the paper Gernois ha_iven him. As his eyes turned and fell upon the ape-man's face his own wen_ivid.
"You!" he gasped.
"I," replied Tarzan.
"What do you want?" whispered Rokoff, for the look in the ape-man's eye_rightened him. "Have you come to kill me? You do not dare. They woul_uillotine you. You do not dare kill me."
"I dare kill you, Rokoff," replied Tarzan, "for no one knows that you are her_r that I am here, and Paulvitch would tell them that it was Gernois. I hear_ou tell Gernois so. But that would not influence me, Rokoff. I would not car_ho knew that I had killed you; the pleasure of killing you would more tha_ompensate for any punishment they might inflict upon me. You are the mos_espicable cur of a coward, Rokoff, I have ever heard of. You should b_illed. I should love to kill you," and Tarzan approached closer to the man.
Rokoff's nerves were keyed to the breaking point. With a shriek he spran_oward an adjoining room, but the ape-man was upon his back while his leap wa_et but half completed. Iron fingers sought his throat—the great cowar_quealed like a stuck pig, until Tarzan had shut off his wind. Then the ape- man dragged him to his feet, still choking him. The Russian struggle_utilely—he was like a babe in the mighty grasp of Tarzan of the Apes.
Tarzan sat him in a chair, and long before there was danger of the man's dyin_e released his hold upon his throat. When the Russian's coughing spell ha_bated Tarzan spoke to him again.
"I have given you a taste of the suffering of death," he said. "But I shal_ot kill—this time. I am sparing you solely for the sake of a very good woma_hose great misfortune it was to have been born of the same woman who gav_irth to you. But I shall spare you only this once on her account. Should _ver learn that you have again annoyed her or her husband—should you eve_nnoy me again—should I hear that you have returned to France or to any Frenc_osession, I shall make it my sole business to hunt you down and complete th_hoking I commenced tonight." Then he turned to the table, on which the tw_ieces of paper still lay. As he picked them up Rokoff gasped in horror.
Tarzan examined both the check and the other. He was amazed at the informatio_he latter contained. Rokoff had partially read it, but Tarzan knew that n_ne could remember the salient facts and figures it held which made it of rea_alue to an enemy of France.
"These will interest the chief of staff," he said, as he slipped them into hi_ocket. Rokoff groaned. He did not dare curse aloud.
The next morning Tarzan rode north on his way to Bouira and Algiers. As he ha_idden past the hotel Lieutenant Gernois was standing on the veranda. As hi_yes discovered Tarzan he went white as chalk. The ape-man would have bee_lad had the meeting not occurred, but he could not avoid it. He saluted th_fficer as he rode past. Mechanically Gernois returned the salute, but thos_errible, wide eyes followed the horseman, expressionless except for horror.
It was as though a dead man looked upon a ghost.
At Sidi Aissa Tarzan met a French officer with whom he had become acquainte_n the occasion of his recent sojourn in the town.
"You left Bou Saada early?" questioned the officer. "Then you have not hear_bout poor Gernois."
"He was the last man I saw as I rode away," replied Tarzan. "What about him?"
"He is dead. He shot himself about eight o'clock this morning."
Two days later Tarzan reached Algiers. There he found that he would have a tw_ays' wait before he could catch a ship bound for Cape Town. He occupied hi_ime in writing out a full report of his mission. The secret papers he ha_aken from Rokoff he did not inclose, for he did not dare trust them out o_is own possession until he had been authorized to turn them over to anothe_gent, or himself return to Paris with them.
As Tarzan boarded his ship after what seemed a most tedious wait to him, tw_en watched him from an upper deck. Both were fashionably dressed and smoot_haven. The taller of the two had sandy hair, but his eyebrows were ver_lack. Later in the day they chanced to meet Tarzan on deck, but as on_urriedly called his companion's attention to something at sea their face_ere turned from Tarzan as he passed, so that he did not notice thei_eatures. In fact, he had paid no attention to them at all.
Following the instructions of his chief, Tarzan had booked his passage unde_n assumed name—John Caldwell, London. He did not understand the necessity o_his, and it caused him considerable speculation. He wondered what role he wa_o play in Cape Town.
"Well," he thought, "thank Heaven that I am rid of Rokoff. He was commencin_o annoy me. I wonder if I am really becoming so civilized that presently _hall develop a set of nerves. He would give them to me if any one could, fo_e does not fight fair. One never knows through what new agency he is going t_trike. It is as though Numa, the lion, had induced Tantor, the elephant, an_istah, the snake, to join him in attempting to kill me. I would then neve_ave known what minute, or by whom, I was to be attacked next. But the brute_re more chivalrous than man—they do not stoop to cowardly intrigue."
At dinner that night Tarzan sat next to a young woman whose place was at th_aptain's left. The officer introduced them.
Miss Strong! Where had he heard the name before? It was very familiar. An_hen the girl's mother gave him the clew, for when she addressed her daughte_he called her Hazel.
Hazel Strong! What memories the name inspired. It had been a letter to thi_irl, penned by the fair hand of Jane Porter, that had carried to him th_irst message from the woman he loved. How vividly he recalled the night h_ad stolen it from the desk in the cabin of his long-dead father, where Jan_orter had sat writing it late into the night, while he crouched in th_arkness without. How terror-stricken she would have been that night had sh_nown that the wild jungle beast squatted outside her window, watching he_very move.
And this was Hazel Strong—Jane Porter's best friend!