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NKIMA danced excitedly upon the naked, brown shoulder of his master. He chattered and scolded, now looking up inquiringly into Tarzan's face and then off into the jungle.
"Something is coming, Bwana," said Muviro, sub-chief of the Waziri. "Nkima has heard it."
"And Tarzan," said the ape-man.
"The big Bwana's ears are as keen as the ears of Bara the antelope," said Muviro.
"Had they not been, Tarzan would not be here today," replied the ape-man, with a smile. "He would not have grown to manhood had not Kala, his mother, taught him to use all of the senses that Mulungu gave him."
"What comes?" asked Muviro.
"A party of men," replied Tarzan.
"Perhaps they are not friendly," suggested the African. "Shall I warn the warriors?"
Tarzan glanced about the little camp where a score of his fighting men were busy preparing their evening meal and saw that, as was the custom of the Waziri, their weapons were in order and at hand.
"No," he said. "It will, I believe, be unnecessary, as these people who are approaching do not come stealthily as enemies would, nor are their numbers so great as to cause us any apprehension."
But Nkima, a born pessimist, expected only the worst, and as the approaching party came nearer his excitement increased. He leaped from Tarzan's shoulder to the ground, jumped up and down several times and then, springing back to Tarzan's side, seized his arm and attempted to drag him to his feet.
"Run, run!" he cried, in the language of the apes. "Strange Gomangani are coming. They will kill little Nkima."
"Do not be afraid, Nkima," said the ape-man. "Tarzan and Muviro will not let the strangers hurt you."
"I smell a strange Tarmangani," chattered Nkima. "There is a Tarmangani with them. The Tarmangani are worse than the Gomangani. They come with thundersticks and kill little Nkima and all his brothers and sisters. They kill the Mangani. They kill the Gomangani. They kill everything with their thundersticks. Nkima does not like the Tarmangani. Nkima is afraid."
To Nkima, as to the other denizens of the jungle, Tarzan was no Tarmangani, no white man. He was of the jungle. He was one of them, and if they thought of him as being anything other than just Tarzan it was as a Mangani, a great ape, that they classified him.
The advance of the strangers was now plainly audible to everyone in the camp. The Waziri warriors glanced into the jungle in the direction from which the sounds were coming and then back to Tarzan and Muviro, but when they saw that their leaders were not concerned they went quietly on with their cooking.
A tall Negro warrior was the first of the party to come within sight of the camp. When he saw the Waziri he halted and an instant later a bearded white man stopped beside him.
For an instant the white man surveyed the camp and then he came forward, making the sign of peace. Out of the jungle a dozen or more warriors followed him. Most of them were porters, there being but three or four rifles in evidence.
Tarzan and the Waziri realized at once that it was a small and harmless party, and even Nkima, who had retreated to the safety of a near-by tree, showed his contempt by scampering fearlessly back to climb to the shoulder of his master.
"Doctor von Harben!" exclaimed Tarzan, as the bearded stranger approached. "I scarcely recognized you at first."
"God has been kind to me, Tarzan of the Apes," said von Harben, extending his hand. "I was on my way to see you and I have found you a full two days march sooner than I expected."
"We are after a cattle-killer," explained Tarzan. "He has come into our kraal several nights of late and killed some of our best cattle, but he is very cunning. I think he must be an old lion to outwit Tarzan for so long.
"But what brings you into Tarzan's country, Doctor? I hope it is only a neighborly visit and that no trouble has come to my good friend, though your appearance belies my hope."
"I, too, wish that it were nothing more than a friendly call," said von Harben, "but as a matter of fact I am here to seek your help because I am in trouble—very serious trouble, I fear."
"Do not tell me that the Arabs have come down again to take slaves or to steal ivory, or is it that the leopard men are waylaying your people upon the jungle trails at night?"
"No, it is neither the one nor the other. I have come to see you upon a more personal matter. It is about my son, Erich. You have never met him."
"No," said Tarzan; "but you are tired and hungry. Let your men make camp here. My evening meal is ready; while you and I eat you shall tell me how Tarzan may serve you."
As the Waziri, at Tarzan's command, assisted von Harben's men in making their camp, the doctor and the ape-man sat cross-legged upon the ground and ate the rough fare that Tarzan's Waziri cook had prepared.
Tarzan saw that his guest's mind was filled with the trouble that had brought him in search of the ape-man, and so he did not wait until they had finished the meal to reopen the subject, but urged von Harben to continue his story at once.
"I wish to preface the real object of my visit with a few words of explanation," commenced von Harben. "Erich is my only son. Four years ago, at the age of nineteen, he completed his university course with honors and received his first degree. Since then he has spent the greater part of his time in pursuing his studies in various European universities, where he has specialized in archaeology and the study of dead languages. His one hobby, outside of his chosen field, has been mountain climbing and during succeeding summer vacations he scaled every important Alpine peak.
"A few months ago he came here to visit me at the mission and immediately became interested in the study of the various Bantu dialects that are in use by the several tribes in our district and those adjacent thereto.
"While pursuing his investigation among the natives he ran across that old legend of The Lost Tribe of the Wiramwazi Mountains, with which we are all so familiar. Immediately his mind became imbued, as have the minds of so many others, with the belief that this fable might have originated in fact and that if he could trace it down he might possibly find descendants of one of the lost tribes of Biblical history."
"I know the legend well," said Tarzan, "and because it is so persistent and the details of its narration by the natives so circumstantial, I have thought that I should like to investigate it myself, but in the past no necessity has arisen to take me close to the Wiramwazi Mountains."
"I must confess," continued the doctor, "that I also have had the same urge many times. I have upon two occasions talked with men of the Bagego tribe that live upon the slopes of the Wiramwazi Mountains and in both instances I have been assured that a tribe of white men dwells somewhere in the depths of that great mountain range. Both of these men told me that their tribe has carried on trade with these people from time immemorial and each assured me that he had often seen members of The Lost Tribe both upon occasions of peaceful trading and during the warlike raids that the mountaineers occasionally launched upon the Bagego.
"The result was that when Erich suggested an expedition to the Wiramwazi I rather encouraged him, since he was well fitted to undertake the adventure. His knowledge of Bantu and his intensive, even though brief, experience among the natives gave him an advantage that few scholars otherwise equipped by education to profit by such an expedition would have, while his considerable experience as a mountain climber would, I felt, stand him in good stead during such an adventure.
"On the whole I felt that he was an ideal man to lead such an expedition, and my only regret was that I could not accompany him, but this was impossible at the time. I assisted him in every way possible in the organization of his safari and in equipping and provisioning it.
"He has not been gone a sufficient length of time to accomplish any considerable investigation and return to the mission, but recently a few of the members of his safari were reported to me as having returned to their villages. When I sought to interview them they avoided me, but rumors reached me that convinced me that all was not well with my son. I therefore determined to organize a relief expedition, but in all my district I could find only these few men who dared accompany me to the Wiramwazi Mountains, which, their legends assure them, are inhabited by malign spirits—for, as you know, they consider The Lost Tribe of the Wiramwazi to be a band of bloodthirsty ghosts. It became evident to me that the deserters of Erich's safari had spread terror through the district.
"Under the circumstances I was compelled to look elsewhere for help and naturally I turned, in my perplexity, to Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle… Now you know why I am here."
"I will help you, Doctor," said Tarzan, after the other had concluded.
"Good!" exclaimed von Harben; "but I knew that you would. You have about twenty men here, I should judge, and I have about fourteen. My men can act as carriers, while yours, who are acknowledged to be the finest fighting men in Africa, can serve as askaris. With you to guide us we can soon pick up the trail and with such a force, small though it be, there is no country that we cannot penetrate."
Tarzan shook his head. "No, Doctor," he said, "I shall go alone. That is always my way. Alone I may travel much more rapidly and when I am alone the jungle holds no secrets from me—I shall be able to obtain more information along the way than would be possible were I accompanied by others. You know the jungle people consider me as one of themselves. They do not run away from me as they would from you and other men."
"You know best," said von Harben. "I should like to accompany you. I should like to feel that I am doing my share, but if you say no I can only abide by your decision."
"Return to your mission, Doctor, and wait there until you hear from me."
"And in the morning you leave for the Wiramwazi Mountains?" asked von Harben.
"I leave at once," said the ape-man.
"But it is already dark," objected von Harben.
"There is a full moon and I wish to take advantage of it," explained the other. "I can lie up in the heat of the day for what rest I need." He turned and called Muviro to him. "Return home with my warriors, Muviro," he instructed, "and hold every fighting man of the Waziri in readiness in the event that I find it necessary to send for you."
"Yes, Bwana," replied Muviro; "and how long shall we wait for a message before we set out for the Wiramwazi Mountains in search of you?"
"I shall take Nkima with me and if I need you I shall send him back to fetch and to guide you."
"Yes, Bwana," replied Muviro. "They will be in readiness—all the fighting men of the Waziri. Their weapons will be at hand by day and by night and fresh war-paint will be ready in every pot."
Tarzan swung his bow and his quiver of arrows across his back. Over his left shoulder and under his right arm lay the coils of his grass rope and at his hip dangled the hunting-knife of his long-dead sire. He picked up his short spear and stood for a moment with head up, sniffing the breeze. The firelight played upon his bronzed skin.
For a moment he stood thus, every sense alert. Then he called to Nkima in the tongue of the ape folk and as the little monkey scampered toward him, Tarzan of the Apes turned without a word of farewell and moved silently off into the jungle, his lithe carriage, his noiseless tread, his majestic mien suggesting to the mind of von Harben a personification of another mighty jungle animal, Numa the lion, king of beasts.
ERICH VON HARBEN stepped from his tent upon the slopes of the Wiramwazi Mountains to look upon a deserted camp.
When he had first awakened, the unusual quiet of his surroundings had aroused within him a presentiment of ill, which was augmented when repeated calls for his body-servant, Gabula, elicited no response.
For weeks, as the safari had been approaching the precincts of the feared Wiramwazi, his men had been deserting by twos and threes until the preceding evening when they had made this camp well upon the mountain slopes only a terrified remnant of the original safari had remained with him. Now even these, overcome during the night by the terrors of ignorance and superstition, had permitted fear to supplant loyalty and had fled from the impending and invisible terrors of this frowning range, leaving their master alone with the bloodthirsty spirits of the dead.
A hasty survey of the camp site revealed that the men had stripped von Harben of everything. All of his supplies were gone and his gun carriers had decamped with his rifles and all of his ammunition, with the exception of a single Luger pistol and its belt of ammunition that had been in the tent with him.
Erich von Harben had had sufficient experience with these natives to understand fairly well the mental processes based upon their deep-rooted superstition that had led them to this seemingly inhuman and disloyal act and so he did not place so much blame upon them as might another less familiar with them.
While they had known their destination when they embarked upon the undertaking, their, courage had been high in direct proportion to the great distance that they had been from the Wiramwazi, but in proportion as the distance lessened with each day's march their courage had lessened until now upon the very threshold of horrors beyond the ken of human minds the last vestige of self-control had deserted them and they had fled precipitately.
That they had taken his provisions, his rifles and his ammunition might have seemed the depth of baseness had von Harben not realized the sincerity of their belief that there could be no possible hope for him and that his immediate death was a foregone conclusion.
He knew that they had reasoned that under the circumstances it would be a waste of food to leave it behind for a man who was already as good as dead when they would need it for their return journey to their villages, and likewise, as the weapons of mortal man could avail nothing against the ghosts of Wiramwazi, it would have be«n a needless extravagance to have surrendered fine rifles and quantities of ammunition that von Harben could not use against his enemies of the spirit world.
Von Harben stood for some time looking down the mountain slope toward the forest, somewhere in the depths of which his men were hastening toward their own country. That he might overtake them was a possibility, but by no means a certainty, and if he did not he would be no better off alone in the jungle than he would be on the slopes of the Wiramwazi.
He faced about and looked up toward the rugged heights above him. He had come a long way to reach his goal, which now lay somewhere just beyond that serrated skyline, and he was of no mind to turn back now in defeat. A day or a week in these rugged mountains might reveal the secret of The Lost Tribe of legend, and surely a month would be sufficient to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the story had no basis in fact, for von Harben believed that in a month he could fairly well explore such portions of the range as might naturally lend themselves to human habitation, where he hoped at best to find relics of the fabled tribe in the form of ruins or burial mounds. For to a man of von Harben's training and intelligence there could be no thought that The Lost Tribe of legend, if it had ever existed, could be anything more than a vague memory surrounding a few moldy artifacts and some crumbling bones.
It did not take the young man long to reach a decision and presently he turned back to his tent and, entering it, packed a few necessities that had been left to him in a light haversack, strapped his ammunition belt about him, and stepped forth once more to turn his face upward toward the mystery of the Wiramwazi.
In addition to his Luger, von Harben carried a hunting-knife and with this he presently cut a stout staff from one of the small trees that grew sparsely upon the mountainside against the time when he might find an alpenstock indispensable.
A mountain rill furnished him pure, cold water to quench his thirst, and he carried his pistol cocked, hoping that he might bag some small game to satisfy his hunger. Nor had he gone far before a hare broke cover, and as it rolled over to the crack of the Luger, von Harben gave thanks that he had devoted much time to perfecting himself in the use of small arms.
On the spot he built a fire and grilled the hare, after which he lit his pipe and lay at ease while he smoked and planned. His was not a temperament to be depressed or discouraged by seeming reverses, and he was determined not to be hurried by excitement, but to conserve his strength at all times during the strenuous days that he felt must lie ahead of him.
All day he climbed, choosing the long way when it seemed safer, exercising all the lore of mountain-climbing that he had accumulated, and resting often. Night overtook him well up toward the summit of the highest ridge that had been visible from the base of the range. What lay behind, he could not even guess, but experience suggested that he would find other ridges and frowning peaks before him.
He had brought a blanket with him from the last camp and in this he rolled up on the ground. From below there came the noises of the jungle subdued by distance—the yapping of jackals and faintly from afar the roaring of a lion.
Toward morning he was awakened by the scream of a leopard, not from the jungle far below, but somewhere upon the mountain slopes near by. He knew that this savage night prowler constituted a real menace, perhaps the greatest he would have to face, and he regretted the loss of his heavy rifle.
He was not afraid, for he knew that after all there was little likelihood that the leopard was hunting him or that it would attack him, but there was always that chance and so to guard against it he started a fire of dry wood that he had gathered for the purpose the night before. He found the warmth of the blaze welcome, for the night had grown cold, and he sat for some time warming himself.
Once he thought he heard an animal moving in the darkness beyond the range of the firelight, but he saw no shining eyes and the sound was not repeated. And then he must have slept, for the next thing that he knew it was daylight and only embers remained to mark where the beast fire had blazed.
Cold and without breakfast, von Harben continued the ascent from his cheerless camp, his eyes, under the constant urging of his stomach, always alert for food. The terrain offered few obstacles to an experienced mountain climber, and he even forgot his hunger in the thrill of expectancy with which he anticipated the possibilities hidden by the ridge whose summit now lay but a short distance ahead of him.
It is the summit of the next ridge that ever lures the explorer onward. What new sights lie just beyond? What mysteries will its achievement unveil to the eager eyes of the adventurer? Judgment and experience joined forces to assure him that when his eyes surmounted the ridge ahead they would be rewarded with nothing more startling than another similar ridge to be negotiated; yet there was always that other hope hanging like a shining beacon just below the next horizon, above which the rays of its hidden light served to illuminate the figments of his desire, and his imagination transformed the figments into realities.
Von Harben, sane and phlegmatic as he was, was now keyed to the highest pitch of excitement as he at last scaled the final barrier and stood upon the crest of the ridge. Before him stretched a rolling plateau, dotted with stunted wind-swept trees, and in the distance lay the next ridge that he had anticipated, but indistinct and impurpled by the haze of distance. What lay between him and those far hills? His pulse quickened at the thought of the possibilities for exploration and discovery that lay before him, for the terrain that he looked upon was entirely different from what he had anticipated. No lofty peaks were visible except in the far distance, and between him and them there must lie intriguing ravines and valleys—virgin fields at the feet of the explorer.
Eagerly, entirely forgetful of his hunger or his solitude, von Harben moved northward across the plateau. The land was gently rolling, rock-strewn, sterile, and uninteresting, and when he had covered a mile of it he commenced to have misgivings, for if it continued on without change to the dim hills in the distance, as it now seemed was quite likely- the case, it could offer him neither interest nor sustenance.
As these thoughts were commencing to oppress him, he became suddenly conscious of a vague change in the appearance of the terrain ahead. It was only an impression of unreality. The hills far away before him seemed to rise out of a great void, and it was as though between him and them there existed nothing. He might have been looking across an inland sea to distant, hazy shores—a waterless sea, for nowhere was there any suggestion of water—and then suddenly he came to a halt, startled, amazed. The lolling plateau ceased abruptly at his feet, and below him, stretching far to the distant hills, lay a great abyss—a mighty canyon similar to that which has made the gorge of the Colorado world-famous.
But here there was a marked difference. There were indications of erosion. The grim walls were scarred and water-worn. Towers and turrets and minarets, carved from the native granite, pointed upward from below, but they clung close to the canyon's wall, and just beyond them he could see the broad expanse of the floor of the canyon, which from his great height above it appeared as level as a billiard table. The scene held him in a hypnosis of wonderment and admiration as, at first swiftly and then slowly, his eyes encompassed the whole astounding scene.
Perhaps a mile below him lay the floor of the sunken canyon, the further wall of which he could but vaguely estimate to be somewhere between fifteen and twenty miles to the north, and this he realized was the lesser dimension of the canyon. Upon his right, to the east, and upon his left, to the west, he could see that the canyon extended to considerable distances—just how far he could not guess. He thought that to the east he could trace the wall that hemmed it upon that side, but from where he stood the entire extent of the canyon to the west was not visible, yet he knew that the floor that was visible to him must stretch fully twenty-five or thirty miles from east to west Almost below him was a large lake or marsh that seemed to occupy the greater part of the east end of the canyon. He could see lanes of water winding through what appeared to be great growths of reeds and, nearer the northern shore, a large island. Three streams, winding ribbons far below, emptied into the lake, and in the far distance was another ribbon that might be a road. To the west the canyon was heavily wooded, and between the forest and the lake he saw moving figures of what he thought to be grazing game.
The sight below him aroused the enthusiasm of the explorer to its highest pitch. Here, doubtless, lay the secret of The Lost Tribe of the Wiramwazi and how well Nature had guarded this secret with stupendous barrier cliffs, aided by the superstitions of the ignorant inhabitants of the outer slopes, was now easily understandable.
As far as he could see, the cliffs seemed sheer and impossible of descent, and yet he knew that he must find a way— that he would find a way down into that valley of enchantment.
Moving slowly along the rim he sought some foothold, however slight, where Nature had lowered her guard, but it was almost night and he had covered but a short distance before he found even a suggestion of hope that the canyon was hemmed at any point by other than unbroken cliffs, whose perpendicular faces rose at their lowest point fully a thousand feet above any possible foothold for a human being.
The sun had already set when he discovered a narrow fissure in the granite wall. Crumbled fragments of the mother rock had fallen into and partially filled it so that near the surface, at least, it offered a means of descent below the level of the cliff top, but in the gathering darkness he could not determine how far downward this rough and precarious pathway led.
He could see that below him the cliffs rose in terraced battlements to within a thousand feet of where he stood, and if the narrow fissure extended to the next terrace below him, he felt that the obstacles thereafter would present fewer difficulties than those that had baffled him up to the present time—for while he would still have some four thousand feet to descend, the formation of the cliffs was much more broken at the foot of the first sheer drop and consequently might be expected to offer some avenues of descent of which an experienced mountain climber could take advantage.
Hungry and cold, he sat beneath the descending night, gazing down into the blackening void below. Presently, as the darkness deepened, he saw a light twinkling far below and then another and another and with each his excitement rose, for he knew that they marked the presence of man. In many places upon the marsh-like lake he saw the fires twinkling, and at a point which he took to mark the site of the island there were many lights.
What sort of men were they who tended these fires? Would he find them friendly or hostile? Were they but another tribe of Africans, or could it be that the old legend was based upon truth and that far below him white men of The Lost Tribe cooked their evening meals above those tantalizing fires of mystery?
What was that? Von Harben strained his ears to catch the faint suggestion of a sound that arose out of the shadowy abyss below—a faint, thin sound that barely reached his ears, but he was sure that he could not be mistaken—the sound was the voices of men.
And now from out of the valley came the scream of a beast and again a roar that rumbled upward like distant thunder. To the music of these sounds, von Harben finally succumbed to exhaustion; sleep for the moment offering him relief from cold and hunger.
When morning came he gathered wood from the stunted trees near by and built a fire to warm himself. He had no food, nor all the previous day since he had reached the summit had he seen any sign of a living creature other than the game a mile beneath him on the verdant meadows of the canyon bottom.
He knew that he must have food and have it soon and food lay but a mile away in one direction. If he sought to circle the canyon in search of an easier avenue of descent, he knew that he might not find one in the hundred miles or more that he must travel. Of course he might turn back. He was sure that he could reach the base of the outer slopes of the Wiramwazi, where he knew that game might be found before exhaustion overcame him, but he had no mind to turn back and the thought of failure was only a vague suggestion that scarcely ever rose above the threshold of his conscious mind.
Having warmed himself before the fire, he turned to examine the fissure by the full light of day. As he stood upon its brink he could see that it extended downward for several hundred feet, but there it disappeared. However, he was by no means sure that it ended, since it was not a vertical cleft, but tilted slightly from the perpendicular.
From where he stood he could see that there were places in the fissure where descent would be just possible, though it might be very difficult to reascend. He knew, therefore, that should he reach the bottom of the fissure and find that further descent was impossible he would be caught in a trap from which there might be no escape.
Although he felt as fit and strong as ever, he realized perfectly that the contrary was the fact and that his strength must be ebbing and that it would continue to ebb still more rapidly the longer that he was forced to expend it in arduous efforts to descend the cliff and without any possibility of rebuilding it with food.
Even to Erich von Harben, young, self-confident and enthusiastic, his next step seemed little better than suicidal. To another the mere idea of attempting the descent of these towering cliffs would have seemed madness, but in other mountains von Harben had always found a way, and with this thin thread upon which to hang his hopes he faced the descent into the unknown. Now he was just about to lower himself over the edge of the fissure when he heard the sounds of footsteps behind him. Wheeling quickly, he drew his Luger.
LITTLE NKIMA came racing through the tree tops, jabbering excitedly, and dropped to the knee of Tarzan of the Apes where the latter lay stretched upon the great branch of a jungle giant, his back against the rough bole, where he was lying up after making a kill and feeding.
"Gomangani! Gomangani!" shrilled Nkima. "They come! They come!"
"Peace," said Tarzan. "You are a greater nuisance than all the Gomangani in the jungle."
"They will kill little Nkima," cried the monkey. "They are strange Gomangani, and. there are no Tarmangani among them."
"Nkima thinks everything wants to kill him," said Tarzan, "and yet he has lived many years and is not dead yet."
"Sabor and Shetta and Numa, the Gomangani, had Histah the snake like to eat poor little Nkima," walled the monkey. "That is why be is afraid."
"Do not fear, Nkima," said the ape-man. "Tarzan will let no one hurt you."
"Go and see the Gomangani," urged Nkima. "Go and kill them. Nkima does not like the Gomangani."
Tarzan arose leisurely. "I go," he said. "Nkima may come or he may hide in the upper terraces."
"Nkima is not afraid," blustered the little monkey. "He will go and fight the Gomangani with Tarzan of the Apes," and he leaped to the back of the ape-man and clung there with his arms about the bronzed throat, from which point of vantage he peered fearfully ahead, first over the top of one broad shoulder and then over the top of the other.
Tarzan swung swiftly and quietly through the trees toward a point where Nkima had discovered the Gomangani, and presently he saw below him some score of natives straggling along the jungle trail. A few of them were armed with rifles and all carried packs of various sizes—such packs as Tarzan knew must belong to the equipment of a white man.
The Lord of the Jungle hailed them and, startled, the men halted, looking up fearfully.
"I am Tarzan of the Apes. Do not be afraid," Tarzan reassured them, and simultaneously he dropped lightly to the trail among them, but as he did so Nkima leaped frantically from his shoulders and scampered swiftly to a high branch far above, where he sat chattering and scolding, entirely forgetful of his vain boasting of a few moments before.
"Where is your master?" demanded Tarzan.
The Africans looked sullenly at the ground, but did not reply.
"Where is the Bwana, von Harben?" Tarzan insisted.
A tall man standing near fidgeted uneasily. "He is dead," he mumbled.
"How did he die?" asked Tarzan.
Again the man hesitated before replying. "A bull elephant that he had wounded killed him," he said at last.
"Where is his body?"
"We could not find it."
"Then how do you know that he was killed by a bull elephant?" demanded the ape-man.
"We do not know," another spoke up. "He went away from camp and did not return."
"There was an elephant about and we thought that it had killed him," said the tall man.
"You are not speaking true words," said Tarzan.
"I shall tell you the truth," said a third. "Our Bwana ascended the slopes of the Wiramwazi and the spirits of the dead being angry seized him and carried him away."
"I shall tell you the truth," said Tarzan. "You have deserted your master and run away, leaving him alone in the forest."
"We were afraid," the man replied. "We warned him not to ascend the slopes of the Wiramwazi. We begged him to turn back. He would not listen to us, and the spirits of the dead carried him away."
"How long ago was that?" asked the ape-man.
"Six, seven, perhaps ten marchings. I do not remember."
"Where was he when you last saw him?"
As accurately as they could the men described the location of their last camp upon the slopes of the Wiramwazi.
"Go your way back to your own villages in the Urambi country. I shall know where to find you if I want you. If your Bwana is dead, you shall be punished," and swinging into the branches of the lower terrace, Tarzan disappeared from the sight of the unhappy natives in the direction of the Wiramwazi, while Nkima, screaming shrilly, raced through the trees to overtake him.
From his conversation with the deserting members of von Harben's safari, Tarzan was convinced that the young man had been traitorously abandoned and that in all likelihood he was making his way alone back upon the trail of the deserters.
Not knowing Erich von Harben, Tarzan could not have guessed that the young man would push on alone into the unknown and forbidding depths of the Wiramwazi, but assumed on the contrary that he would adopt the more prudent alternative and seek to overtake his men as rapidly as possible. Believing this, the ape-man followed back along the trail of the safari, expecting momentarily to meet von Harben.
This plan greatly reduced his speed, but even so he traveled with so much greater rapidity than the natives that he came to the slopes of the Wiramwazi upon the third day after he had interviewed the remnants of von Harben's safari.
It was with great difficulty that he finally located the point at which von Harben had been abandoned by his men, as a heavy rain and wind-storm had obliterated the trail, but at last he stumbled upon the tent, which had blown down, but nowhere could he see any signs of von Harben's trail.
Not having come upon any signs of the white man in the jungle or any indication that he had followed his fleeing safari, Tarzan was forced to the conclusion that if von Harben was not indeed dead he must have faced the dangers of the unknown alone and now be either dead or alive somewhere within the mysterious fastnesses of the Wiramwazi.
"Nkima," said the ape-man, "the Tarmangani have a saying that when it is futile to search for a thing, it is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Do you believe, Nkima, that in this great mountain range we shall find our needle?"
"Let us go home," said Nkima, "where it is warm. Here the wind blows and up there it is colder. It is no place for little Manu, the monkey."
"Nevertheless, Nkima, there is where we are going."
The monkey looked up toward the frowning heights above. "Little Nkima is afraid," he said. "It is in such places that Sheeta, the panther, lairs."
Ascending diagonally and in a westerly direction in the hope of crossing von Harben's trail, Tarzan moved constantly in the opposite direction from that taken by the man he sought. It was his intention, however, when he reached the summit, if he had in the meantime found no trace of von Harben, to turn directly eastward and search at a higher altitude in the opposite direction. As he proceeded, the slope became steeper and more rugged until at one point near the western end of the mountain mass he encountered an almost perpendicular barrier high up on the mountainside along the base of which he picked his precarious way among loose boulders that had fallen from above. Underbrush and stunted trees extended at different points from the forest below quite up to the base of the vertical escarpment.