Part 4 out of 6
Meriem returned slowly toward the tree in which she had left her
skirt, her shoes and her stockings. She was singing blithely; but
her song came to a sudden stop when she came within sight of the
tree, for there, disporting themselves with glee and pulling and
hauling upon her belongings, were a number of baboons. When they
saw her they showed no signs of terror. Instead they bared their
fangs and growled at her. What was there to fear in a single
she-Tarmangani? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
In the open plain beyond the forest the hunters were returning
from the day's sport. They were widely separated, hoping to raise
a wandering lion on the homeward journey across the plain. The Hon.
Morison Baynes rode closest to the forest. As his eyes wandered
back and forth across the undulating, shrub sprinkled ground they
fell upon the form of a creature close beside the thick jungle
where it terminated abruptly at the plain's edge.
He reined his mount in the direction of his discovery. It was yet
too far away for his untrained eyes to recognize it; but as he
came closer he saw that it was a horse, and was about to resume the
original direction of his way when he thought that he discerned a
saddle upon the beast's back. He rode a little closer. Yes, the
animal was saddled. The Hon. Morison approached yet nearer, and as
he did so his eyes expressed a pleasurable emotion of anticipation,
for they had now recognized the pony as the special favorite of
He galloped to the animal's side. Meriem must be within the wood.
The man shuddered a little at the thought of an unprotected girl
alone in the jungle that was still, to him, a fearful place of
terrors and stealthily stalking death. He dismounted and left his
horse beside Meriem's. On foot he entered the jungle. He knew
that she was probably safe enough and he wished to surprise her by
coming suddenly upon her.
He had gone but a short distance into the wood when he heard
a great jabbering in a near-by tree. Coming closer he saw a band
of baboons snarling over something. Looking intently he saw that
one of them held a woman's riding skirt and that others had boots
and stockings. His heart almost ceased to beat as he quite naturally
placed the most direful explanation upon the scene. The baboons
had killed Meriem and stripped this clothing from her body. Morison
He was about to call aloud in the hope that after all the girl still
lived when he saw her in a tree close beside that was occupied by
the baboons, and now he saw that they were snarling and jabbering
at her. To his amazement he saw the girl swing, ape-like, into
the tree below the huge beasts. He saw her pause upon a branch a
few feet from the nearest baboon. He was about to raise his rifle
and put a bullet through the hideous creature that seemed about
to leap upon her when he heard the girl speak. He almost dropped
his rifle from surprise as a strange jabbering, identical with that
of the apes, broke from Meriem's lips.
The baboons stopped their snarling and listened. It was quite
evident that they were as much surprised as the Hon. Morison Baynes.
Slowly and one by one they approached the girl. She gave not the
slightest evidence of fear of them. They quite surrounded her now
so that Baynes could not have fired without endangering the girl's
life; but he no longer desired to fire. He was consumed with
For several minutes the girl carried on what could be nothing less
than a conversation with the baboons, and then with seeming alacrity
every article of her apparel in their possession was handed over
to her. The baboons still crowded eagerly about her as she donned
them. They chattered to her and she chattered back. The Hon. Morison
Baynes sat down at the foot of a tree and mopped his perspiring
brow. Then he rose and made his way back to his mount.
When Meriem emerged from the forest a few minutes later she found
him there, and he eyed her with wide eyes in which were both wonder
and a sort of terror.
"I saw your horse here," he explained, "and thought that I would
wait and ride home with you--you do not mind?"
"Of course not," she replied. "It will be lovely."
As they made their way stirrup to stirrup across the plain the
Hon. Morison caught himself many times watching the girl's regular
profile and wondering if his eyes had deceived him or if, in truth,
he really had seen this lovely creature consorting with grotesque
baboons and conversing with them as fluently as she conversed with
him. The thing was uncanny--impossible; yet he had seen it with
his own eyes.
And as he watched her another thought persisted in obtruding
itself into his mind. She was most beautiful and very desirable;
but what did he know of her? Was she not altogether impossible?
Was the scene that he had but just witnessed not sufficient proof
of her impossibility? A woman who climbed trees and conversed with
the baboons of the jungle! It was quite horrible!
Again the Hon. Morison mopped his brow. Meriem glanced toward him.
"You are warm," she said. "Now that the sun is setting I find it
quite cool. Why do you perspire now?"
He had not intended to let her know that he had seen her with the
baboons; but quite suddenly, before he realized what he was saying,
he had blurted it out.
"I perspire from emotion," he said. "I went into the jungle when
I discovered your pony. I wanted to surprise you; but it was I
who was surprised. I saw you in the trees with the baboons."
"Yes?" she said quite unemotionally, as though it was a matter of
little moment that a young girl should be upon intimate terms with
savage jungle beasts.
"It was horrible!" ejaculated the Hon. Morison.
"Horrible?" repeated Meriem, puckering her brows in bewilderment.
"What was horrible about it? They are my friends. Is it horrible
to talk with one's friends?"
"You were really talking with them, then?" cried the Hon. Morison.
"You understood them and they understood you?"
"But they are hideous creatures--degraded beasts of a lower order.
How could you speak the language of beasts?"
"They are not hideous, and they are not degraded," replied Meriem.
"Friends are never that. I lived among them for years before
Bwana found me and brought me here. I scarce knew any other tongue
than that of the mangani. Should I refuse to know them now simply
because I happen, for the present, to live among humans?"
"For the present!" ejaculated the Hon. Morison. "You cannot mean
that you expect to return to live among them? Come, come, what
foolishness are we talking! The very idea! You are spoofing me,
Miss Meriem. You have been kind to these baboons here and they know
you and do not molest you; but that you once lived among them--no,
that is preposterous."
"But I did, though," insisted the girl, seeing the real horror that
the man felt in the presence of such an idea reflected in his tone
and manner, and rather enjoying baiting him still further. "Yes,
I lived, almost naked, among the great apes and the lesser apes. I
dwelt among the branches of the trees. I pounced upon the smaller
prey and devoured it--raw. With Korak and A'ht I hunted the antelope
and the boar, and I sat upon a tree limb and made faces at Numa,
the lion, and threw sticks at him and annoyed him until he roared
so terribly in his rage that the earth shook.
"And Korak built me a lair high among the branches of a mighty
tree. He brought me fruits and flesh. He fought for me and was
kind to me--until I came to Bwana and My Dear I do not recall that
any other than Korak was ever kind to me." There was a wistful
note in the girl's voice now and she had forgotten that she was
bantering the Hon. Morison. She was thinking of Korak. She had
not thought of him a great deal of late.
For a time both were silently absorbed in their own reflections
as they rode on toward the bungalow of their host. The girl was
thinking of a god-like figure, a leopard skin half concealing his
smooth, brown hide as he leaped nimbly through the trees to lay an
offering of food before her on his return from a successful hunt.
Behind him, shaggy and powerful, swung a huge anthropoid ape,
while she, Meriem, laughing and shouting her welcome, swung upon
a swaying limb before the entrance to her sylvan bower. It was a
pretty picture as she recalled it. The other side seldom obtruded
itself upon her memory--the long, black nights--the chill,
terrible jungle nights--the cold and damp and discomfort of the
rainy season--the hideous mouthings of the savage carnivora as they
prowled through the Stygian darkness beneath--the constant menace
of Sheeta, the panther, and Histah, the snake--the stinging
insects--the loathesome vermin. For, in truth, all these had been
outweighed by the happiness of the sunny days, the freedom of it
all, and, most, the companionship of Korak.
The man's thoughts were rather jumbled. He had suddenly realized
that he had come mighty near falling in love with this girl of
whom he had known nothing up to the previous moment when she had
voluntarily revealed a portion of her past to him. The more he
thought upon the matter the more evident it became to him that he
had given her his love--that he had been upon the verge of offering
her his honorable name. He trembled a little at the narrowness of
his escape. Yet, he still loved her. There was no objection to
that according to the ethics of the Hon. Morison Baynes and his
kind. She was a meaner clay than he. He could no more have taken
her in marriage than he could have taken one of her baboon friends,
nor would she, of course, expect such an offer from him. To have
his love would be sufficient honor for her--his name he would,
naturally, bestow upon one in his own elevated social sphere.
A girl who had consorted with apes, who, according to her own admission,
had lived almost naked among them, could have no considerable sense
of the finer qualities of virtue. The love that he would offer
her, then, would, far from offending her, probably cover all that
she might desire or expect.
The more the Hon. Morison Baynes thought upon the subject the more
fully convinced he became that he was contemplating a most chivalrous
and unselfish act. Europeans will better understand his point of
view than Americans, poor, benighted provincials, who are denied
a true appreciation of caste and of the fact that "the king can do
no wrong." He did not even have to argue the point that she would
be much happier amidst the luxuries of a London apartment, fortified
as she would be by both his love and his bank account, than lawfully
wed to such a one as her social position warranted. There was
one question however, which he wished to have definitely answered
before he committed himself even to the program he was considering.
"Who were Korak and A'ht?" he asked.
"A'ht was a Mangani," replied Meriem, "and Korak a Tarmangani."
"And what, pray, might a Mangani be, and a Tarmangani?"
The girl laughed.
"You are a Tarmangani," she replied. "The Mangani are covered with
hair--you would call them apes."
"Then Korak was a white man?" he asked.
"And he was--ah--your--er--your--?" He paused, for he found it
rather difficult to go on with that line of questioning while the
girl's clear, beautiful eyes were looking straight into his.
"My what?" insisted Meriem, far too unsophisticated in her unspoiled
innocence to guess what the Hon. Morison was driving at.
"Why--ah--your brother?" he stumbled.
"No, Korak was not my brother," she replied.
"Was he your husband, then?" he finally blurted.
Far from taking offense, Meriem broke into a merry laugh.
"My husband!" she cried. "Why how old do you think I am? I am
too young to have a husband. I had never thought of such a thing.
Korak was--why--," and now she hesitated, too, for she never before
had attempted to analyse the relationship that existed between
herself and Korak--"why, Korak was just Korak," and again she broke
into a gay laugh as she realized the illuminating quality of her
Looking at her and listening to her the man beside her could not
believe that depravity of any sort or degree entered into the girl's
nature, yet he wanted to believe that she had not been virtuous,
for otherwise his task was less a sinecure--the Hon. Morison was
not entirely without conscience.
For several days the Hon. Morison made no appreciable progress
toward the consummation of his scheme. Sometimes he almost abandoned
it for he found himself time and again wondering how slight might
be the provocation necessary to trick him into making a bona-fide
offer of marriage to Meriem if he permitted himself to fall more
deeply in love with her, and it was difficult to see her daily and
not love her. There was a quality about her which, all unknown
to the Hon. Morison, was making his task an extremely difficult
one--it was that quality of innate goodness and cleanness which
is a good girl's stoutest bulwark and protection--an impregnable
barrier that only degeneracy has the effrontery to assail. The
Hon. Morison Baynes would never be considered a degenerate.
He was sitting with Meriem upon the verandah one evening after the
others had retired. Earlier they had been playing tennis--a game
in which the Hon. Morison shone to advantage, as, in truth, he did
in most all manly sports. He was telling Meriem stories of London
and Paris, of balls and banquets, of the wonderful women and their
wonderful gowns, of the pleasures and pastimes of the rich and
powerful. The Hon. Morison was a past master in the art of insidious
boasting. His egotism was never flagrant or tiresome--he was never
crude in it, for crudeness was a plebeianism that the Hon. Morison
studiously avoided, yet the impression derived by a listener to the
Hon. Morison was one that was not at all calculated to detract from
the glory of the house of Baynes, or from that of its representative.
Meriem was entranced. His tales were like fairy stories to this
little jungle maid. The Hon. Morison loomed large and wonderful
and magnificent in her mind's eye. He fascinated her, and when
he drew closer to her after a short silence and took her hand she
thrilled as one might thrill beneath the touch of a deity--a thrill
of exaltation not unmixed with fear.
He bent his lips close to her ear.
"Meriem!" he whispered. "My little Meriem! May I hope to have
the right to call you `my little Meriem'?"
The girl turned wide eyes upward to his face; but it was in shadow.
She trembled but she did not draw away. The man put an arm about
her and drew her closer.
"I love you!" he whispered.
She did not reply. She did not know what to say. She knew nothing
of love. She had never given it a thought; but she did know that
it was very nice to be loved, whatever it meant. It was nice to
have people kind to one. She had known so little of kindness or
"Tell me," he said, "that you return my love."
His lips came steadily closer to hers. They had almost touched
when a vision of Korak sprang like a miracle before her eyes. She
saw Korak's face close to hers, she felt his lips hot against hers,
and then for the first time in her life she guessed what love meant.
She drew away, gently.
"I am not sure," she said, "that I love you. Let us wait. There
is plenty of time. I am too young to marry yet, and I am not sure
that I should be happy in London or Paris--they rather frighten
How easily and naturally she had connected his avowal of love with
the idea of marriage! The Hon. Morison was perfectly sure that he
had not mentioned marriage--he had been particularly careful not to
do so. And then she was not sure that she loved him! That, too,
came rather in the nature of a shock to his vanity. It seemed
incredible that this little barbarian should have any doubts whatever
as to the desirability of the Hon. Morison Baynes.
The first flush of passion cooled, the Hon. Morison was enabled
to reason more logically. The start had been all wrong. It would
be better now to wait and prepare her mind gradually for the only
proposition which his exalted estate would permit him to offer her.
He would go slow. He glanced down at the girl's profile. It was
bathed in the silvery light of the great tropic moon. The Hon.
Morison Baynes wondered if it were to be so easy a matter to "go
slow." She was most alluring.
Meriem rose. The vision of Korak was still before her.
"Good night," she said. "It is almost too beautiful to leave," she
waved her hand in a comprehensive gesture which took in the starry
heavens, the great moon, the broad, silvered plain, and the dense
shadows in the distance, that marked the jungle. "Oh, how I love
"You would love London more," he said earnestly. "And London would
love you. You would be a famous beauty in any capital of Europe.
You would have the world at your feet, Meriem."
"Good night!" she repeated, and left him.
The Hon. Morison selected a cigarette from his crested case, lighted
it, blew a thin line of blue smoke toward the moon, and smiled.
Meriem and Bwana were sitting on the verandah together the following
day when a horseman appeared in the distance riding across the
plain toward the bungalow. Bwana shaded his eyes with his hand and
gazed out toward the oncoming rider. He was puzzled. Strangers
were few in Central Africa. Even the blacks for a distance of
many miles in every direction were well known to him. No white man
came within a hundred miles that word of his coming did not reach
Bwana long before the stranger. His every move was reported to
the big Bwana--just what animals he killed and how many of each
species, how he killed them, too, for Bwana would not permit the
use of prussic acid or strychnine; and how he treated his "boys."
Several European sportsmen had been turned back to the coast
by the big Englishman's orders because of unwarranted cruelty to
their black followers, and one, whose name had long been heralded
in civilized communities as that of a great sportsman, was driven
from Africa with orders never to return when Bwana found that his
big bag of fourteen lions had been made by the diligent use of
The result was that all good sportsmen and all the natives loved
and respected him. His word was law where there had never been
law before. There was scarce a head man from coast to coast who
would not heed the big Bwana's commands in preference to those of
the hunters who employed them, and so it was easy to turn back any
undesirable stranger--Bwana had simply to threaten to order his
boys to desert him.
But there was evidently one who had slipped into the country
unheralded. Bwana could not imagine who the approaching horseman
might be. After the manner of frontier hospitality the globe round
he met the newcomer at the gate, welcoming him even before he had
dismounted. He saw a tall, well knit man of thirty or over, blonde
of hair and smooth shaven. There was a tantalizing familiarity
about him that convinced Bwana that he should be able to call the
visitor by name, yet he was unable to do so. The newcomer was
evidently of Scandinavian origin--both his appearance and accent
denoted that. His manner was rough but open. He made a good
impression upon the Englishman, who was wont to accept strangers
in this wild and savage country at their own valuation, asking no
questions and assuming the best of them until they proved themselves
undeserving of his friendship and hospitality.
"It is rather unusual that a white man comes unheralded," he said,
as they walked together toward the field into which he had suggested
that the traveler might turn his pony. "My friends, the natives,
keep us rather well-posted."
"It is probably due to the fact that I came from the south," explained
the stranger, "that you did not hear of my coming. I have seen no
village for several marches."
"No, there are none to the south of us for many miles," replied
Bwana. "Since Kovudoo deserted his country I rather doubt that one
could find a native in that direction under two or three hundred
Bwana was wondering how a lone white man could have made his way
through the savage, unhospitable miles that lay toward the south.
As though guessing what must be passing through the other's mind,
the stranger vouchsafed an explanation.
"I came down from the north to do a little trading and hunting," he
said, "and got way off the beaten track. My head man, who was the
only member of the safari who had ever before been in the country,
took sick and died. We could find no natives to guide us, and so
I simply swung back straight north. We have been living on the
fruits of our guns for over a month. Didn't have an idea there
was a white man within a thousand miles of us when we camped last
night by a water hole at the edge of the plain. This morning I
started out to hunt and saw the smoke from your chimney, so I sent
my gun bearer back to camp with the good news and rode straight
over here myself. Of course I've heard of you--everybody who comes
into Central Africa does--and I'd be mighty glad of permission to
rest up and hunt around here for a couple of weeks."
"Certainly," replied Bwana. "Move your camp up close to the river
below my boys' camp and make yourself at home."
They had reached the verandah now and Bwana was introducing the
stranger to Meriem and My Dear, who had just come from the bungalow's
"This is Mr. Hanson," he said, using the name the man had given him.
"He is a trader who has lost his way in the jungle to the south."
My Dear and Meriem bowed their acknowledgments of the introduction.
The man seemed rather ill at ease in their presence. His host
attributed this to the fact that his guest was unaccustomed to
the society of cultured women, and so found a pretext to quickly
extricate him from his seemingly unpleasant position and lead him
away to his study and the brandy and soda which were evidently much
less embarrassing to Mr. Hanson.
When the two had left them Meriem turned toward My Dear.
"It is odd," she said, "but I could almost swear that I had known
Mr. Hanson in the past. It is odd, but quite impossible," and she
gave the matter no further thought.
Hanson did not accept Bwana's invitation to move his camp closer
to the bungalow. He said his boys were inclined to be quarrelsome,
and so were better off at a distance; and he, himself, was around
but little, and then always avoided coming into contact with the
ladies. A fact which naturally aroused only laughing comment on
the rough trader's bashfulness. He accompanied the men on several
hunting trips where they found him perfectly at home and well
versed in all the finer points of big game hunting. Of an evening
he often spent much time with the white foreman of the big farm,
evidently finding in the society of this rougher man more common
interests than the cultured guests of Bwana possessed for him.
So it came that his was a familiar figure about the premises by
night. He came and went as he saw fit, often wandering along in
the great flower garden that was the especial pride and joy of My
Dear and Meriem. The first time that he had been surprised there
he apologized gruffly, explaining that he had always been fond
of the good old blooms of northern Europe which My Dear had so
successfully transplanted in African soil.
Was it, though, the ever beautiful blossoms of hollyhocks and phlox
that drew him to the perfumed air of the garden, or that other
infinitely more beautiful flower who wandered often among the blooms
beneath the great moon--the black-haired, suntanned Meriem?
For three weeks Hanson had remained. During this time he said that
his boys were resting and gaining strength after their terrible
ordeals in the untracked jungle to the south; but he had not been
as idle as he appeared to have been. He divided his small following
into two parties, entrusting the leadership of each to men whom he
believed that he could trust. To them he explained his plans and
the rich reward that they would win from him if they carried his
designs to a successful conclusion. One party he moved very slowly
northward along the trail that connects with the great caravan
routes entering the Sahara from the south. The other he ordered
straight westward with orders to halt and go into permanent camp
just beyond the great river which marks the natural boundary of
the country that the big Bwana rightfully considers almost his own.
To his host he explained that he was moving his safari slowly toward
the north--he said nothing of the party moving westward. Then, one
day, he announced that half his boys had deserted, for a hunting
party from the bungalow had come across his northerly camp and
he feared that they might have noticed the reduced numbers of his
And thus matters stood when, one hot night, Meriem, unable to sleep,
rose and wandered out into the garden. The Hon. Morison had been
urging his suit once more that evening, and the girl's mind was in
such a turmoil that she had been unable to sleep.
The wide heavens about her seemed to promise a greater freedom from
doubt and questioning. Baynes had urged her to tell him that she
loved him. A dozen times she thought that she might honestly give
him the answer that he demanded. Korak fast was becoming but a
memory. That he was dead she had come to believe, since otherwise
he would have sought her out. She did not know that he had even
better reason to believe her dead, and that it was because of that
belief he had made no effort to find her after his raid upon the
village of Kovudoo.
Behind a great flowering shrub Hanson lay gazing at the stars and
waiting. He had lain thus and there many nights before. For what
was he waiting, or for whom? He heard the girl approaching, and
half raised himself to his elbow. A dozen paces away, the reins
looped over a fence post, stood his pony.
Meriem, walking slowly, approached the bush behind which the waiter
lay. Hanson drew a large bandanna handkerchief from his pocket and
rose stealthily to his knees. A pony neighed down at the corrals.
Far out across the plain a lion roared. Hanson changed his position
until he squatted upon both feet, ready to come erect quickly.
Again the pony neighed--this time closer. There was the sound of
his body brushing against shrubbery. Hanson heard and wondered how
the animal had gotten from the corral, for it was evident that he
was already in the garden. The man turned his head in the direction
of the beast. What he saw sent him to the ground, huddled close
beneath the shrubbery--a man was coming, leading two ponies.
Meriem heard now and stopped to look and listen. A moment later
the Hon. Morison Baynes drew near, the two saddled mounts at his
Meriem looked up at him in surprise. The Hon. Morison grinned
"I couldn't sleep," he explained, "and was going for a bit of a
ride when I chanced to see you out here, and I thought you'd like
to join me. Ripping good sport, you know, night riding. Come on."
Meriem laughed. The adventure appealed to her.
"All right," she said.
Hanson swore beneath his breath. The two led their horses from the
garden to the gate and through it. There they discovered Hanson's
"Why here's the trader's pony," remarked Baynes.
"He's probably down visiting with the foreman," said Meriem.
"Pretty late for him, isn't it?" remarked the Hon. Morison. "I'd
hate to have to ride back through that jungle at night to his camp."
As though to give weight to his apprehensions the distant lion
roared again. The Hon. Morison shivered and glanced at the girl
to note the effect of the uncanny sound upon her. She appeared
not to have noticed it.
A moment later the two had mounted and were moving slowly across
the moon-bathed plain. The girl turned her pony's head straight
toward the jungle. It was in the direction of the roaring of the
"Hadn't we better steer clear of that fellow?" suggested the Hon.
Morison. "I guess you didn't hear him."
"Yes, I heard him," laughed Meriem. "Let's ride over and call on
The Hon. Morison laughed uneasily. He didn't care to appear at a
disadvantage before this girl, nor did he care, either, to approach
a hungry lion too closely at night. He carried his rifle in his
saddle boot; but moonlight is an uncertain light to shoot by, nor
ever had he faced a lion alone--even by day. The thought gave him
a distinct nausea. The beast ceased his roaring now. They heard
him no more and the Hon. Morison gained courage accordingly. They
were riding down wind toward the jungle. The lion lay in a little
swale to their right. He was old. For two nights he had not fed,
for no longer was his charge as swift or his spring as mighty as
in the days of his prime when he spread terror among the creatures
of his wild domain. For two nights and days he had gone empty,
and for long time before that he had fed only upon carrion. He
was old; but he was yet a terrible engine of destruction.
At the edge of the forest the Hon. Morison drew rein. He had no
desire to go further. Numa, silent upon his padded feet, crept
into the jungle beyond them. The wind, now, was blowing gently
between him and his intended prey. He had come a long way in search
of man, for even in his youth he had tasted human flesh and while
it was poor stuff by comparison with eland and zebra it was less
difficult to kill. In Numa's estimation man was a slow-witted,
slow-footed creature which commanded no respect unless accompanied
by the acrid odor which spelled to the monarch's sensitive nostrils
the great noise and the blinding flash of an express rifle.
He caught the dangerous scent tonight; but he was ravenous to
madness. He would face a dozen rifles, if necessary, to fill his
empty belly. He circled about into the forest that he might again
be down wind from his victims, for should they get his scent he
could not hope to overtake them. Numa was famished; but he was
old and crafty.
Deep in the jungle another caught faintly the scent of man and of
Numa both. He raised his head and sniffed. He cocked it upon one
side and listened.
"Come on," said Meriem, "let's ride in a way--the forest is wonderful
at night. It is open enough to permit us to ride."
The Hon. Morison hesitated. He shrank from revealing his fear in
the presence of the girl. A braver man, sure of his own position,
would have had the courage to have refused uselessly to expose the
girl to danger. He would not have thought of himself at all; but
the egotism of the Hon. Morison required that he think always of
self first. He had planned the ride to get Meriem away from the
bungalow. He wanted to talk to her alone and far enough away so
should she take offense at his purposed suggestion he would have
time in which to attempt to right himself in her eyes before they
reached home. He had little doubt, of course, but that he should
succeed; but it is to his credit that he did have some slight
"You needn't be afraid of the lion," said Meriem, noting his
slight hesitancy. "There hasn't been a man eater around here for
two years, Bwana says, and the game is so plentiful that there is
no necessity to drive Numa to human flesh. Then, he has been so
often hunted that he rather keeps out of man's way."
"Oh, I'm not afraid of lions," replied the Hon. Morison. "I was
just thinking what a beastly uncomfortable place a forest is to
ride in. What with the underbrush and the low branches and all
that, you know, it's not exactly cut out for pleasure riding."
"Let's go a-foot then," suggested Meriem, and started to dismount.
"Oh, no," cried the Hon. Morison, aghast at this suggestion. "Let's
ride," and he reined his pony into the dark shadows of the wood.
Behind him came Meriem and in front, prowling ahead waiting a
favorable opportunity, skulked Numa, the lion.
Out upon the plain a lone horseman muttered a low curse as he saw
the two disappear from sight. It was Hanson. He had followed them
from the bungalow. Their way led in the direction of his camp, so
he had a ready and plausible excuse should they discover him; but
they had not seen him for they had not turned their eyes behind.
Now he turned directly toward the spot at which they had entered
the jungle. He no longer cared whether he was observed or not.
There were two reasons for his indifference. The first was that
he saw in Baynes' act a counterpart of his own planned abduction of
the girl. In some way he might turn the thing to his own purposes.
At least he would keep in touch with them and make sure that Baynes
did not get her. His other reason was based on his knowledge of
an event that had transpired at his camp the previous night--an
event which he had not mentioned at the bungalow for fear of drawing
undesired attention to his movements and bringing the blacks of
the big Bwana into dangerous intercourse with his own boys. He
had told at the bungalow that half his men had deserted. That
story might be quickly disproved should his boys and Bwana's grow
The event that he had failed to mention and which now urged him
hurriedly after the girl and her escort had occurred during his
absence early the preceding evening. His men had been sitting
around their camp fire, entirely encircled by a high, thorn boma,
when, without the slightest warning, a huge lion had leaped amongst
them and seized one of their number. It had been solely due to the
loyalty and courage of his comrades that his life had been saved,
and then only after a battle royal with the hunger-enraged beast
had they been able to drive him off with burning brands, spears,
From this Hanson knew that a man eater had wandered into the district
or been developed by the aging of one of the many lions who ranged
the plains and hills by night, or lay up in the cool wood by day.
He had heard the roaring of a hungry lion not half an hour before,
and there was little doubt in his mind but that the man eater was
stalking Meriem and Baynes. He cursed the Englishman for a fool,
and spurred rapidly after them.
Meriem and Baynes had drawn up in a small, natural clearing. A
hundred yards beyond them Numa lay crouching in the underbrush,
his yellow-green eyes fixed upon his prey, the tip of his sinuous
tail jerking spasmodically. He was measuring the distance between
him and them. He was wondering if he dared venture a charge,
or should he wait yet a little longer in the hope that they might
ride straight into his jaws. He was very hungry; but also was he
very crafty. He could not chance losing his meat by a hasty and
ill-considered rush. Had he waited the night before until the
blacks slept he would not have been forced to go hungry for another
Behind him the other that had caught his scent and that of man
together came to a sitting posture upon the branch of a tree in
which he had reposed himself for slumber. Beneath him a lumbering
gray hulk swayed to and fro in the darkness. The beast in the
tree uttered a low guttural and dropped to the back of the gray
mass. He whispered a word in one of the great ears and Tantor,
the elephant, raised his trunk aloft, swinging it high and low to
catch the scent that the word had warned him of. There was another
whispered word--was it a command?--and the lumbering beast wheeled
into an awkward, yet silent shuffle, in the direction of Numa, the
lion, and the stranger Tarmangani his rider had scented.
Onward they went, the scent of the lion and his prey becoming stronger
and stronger. Numa was becoming impatient. How much longer must
he wait for his meat to come his way? He lashed his tail viciously
now. He almost growled. All unconscious of their danger the man
and the girl sat talking in the little clearing.
Their horses were pressed side by side. Baynes had found Meriem's
hand and was pressing it as he poured words of love into her ear,
and Meriem was listening.
"Come to London with me," urged the Hon. Morison. "I can gather a
safari and we can be a whole day upon the way to the coast before
they guess that we have gone."
"Why must we go that way?" asked the girl. "Bwana and My Dear
would not object to our marriage."
"I cannot marry you just yet," explained the Hon. Morison, "there
are some formalities to be attended to first--you do not understand.
It will be all right. We will go to London. I cannot wait. If
you love me you will come. What of the apes you lived with? Did
they bother about marriage? They love as we love. Had you stayed
among them you would have mated as they mate. It is the law of
nature--no man-made law can abrogate the laws of God. What difference
does it make if we love one another? What do we care for anyone
in the world besides ourselves? I would give my life for you--will
you give nothing for me?"
"You love me?" she said. "You will marry me when we have reached
"I swear it," he cried.
"I will go with you," she whispered, "though I do not understand
why it is necessary." She leaned toward him and he took her in
his arms and bent to press his lips to hers.
At the same instant the head of a huge tusker poked through the
trees that fringed the clearing. The Hon. Morison and Meriem, with
eyes and ears for one another alone, did not see or hear; but Numa
did. The man upon Tantor's broad head saw the girl in the man's
arms. It was Korak; but in the trim figure of the neatly garbed
girl he did not recognize his Meriem. He only saw a Tarmangani
with his she. And then Numa charged.
With a frightful roar, fearful lest Tantor had come to frighten
away his prey, the great beast leaped from his hiding place. The
earth trembled to his mighty voice. The ponies stood for an instant
transfixed with terror. The Hon. Morison Baynes went white and
cold. The lion was charging toward them full in the brilliant
light of the magnificent moon. The muscles of the Hon. Morison
no longer obeyed his will--they flexed to the urge of a greater
power--the power of Nature's first law. They drove his spurred
heels deep into his pony's flanks, they bore the rein against the
brute's neck that wheeled him with an impetuous drive toward the
plain and safety.
The girl's pony, squealing in terror, reared and plunged upon the
heels of his mate. The lion was close upon him. Only the girl was
cool--the girl and the half-naked savage who bestrode the neck of
his mighty mount and grinned at the exciting spectacle chance had
staked for his enjoyment.
To Korak here were but two strange Tarmangani pursued by Numa, who
was empty. It was Numa's right to prey; but one was a she. Korak
felt an intuitive urge to rush to her protection. Why, he could not
guess. All Tarmangani were enemies now. He had lived too long a
beast to feel strongly the humanitarian impulses that were inherent
in him--yet feel them he did, for the girl at least.
He urged Tantor forward. He raised his heavy spear and hurled
it at the flying target of the lion's body. The girl's pony had
reached the trees upon the opposite side of the clearing. Here
he would become easy prey to the swiftly moving lion; but Numa,
infuriated, preferred the woman upon his back. It was for her he
Korak gave an exclamation of astonishment and approval as Numa
landed upon the pony's rump and at the same instant the girl swung
free of her mount to the branches of a tree above her.
Korak's spear struck Numa in the shoulder, knocking him from his
precarious hold upon the frantically plunging horse. Freed of the
weight of both girl and lion the pony raced ahead toward safety.
Numa tore and struck at the missile in his shoulder but could not
dislodge it. Then he resumed the chase.
Korak guided Tantor into the seclusion of the jungle. He did not
wish to be seen, nor had he.
Hanson had almost reached the wood when he heard the lion's terrific
roars, and knew that the charge had come. An instant later the
Hon. Morison broke upon his vision, racing like mad for safety.
The man lay flat upon his pony's back hugging the animal's neck
tightly with both arms and digging the spurs into his sides. An
instant later the second pony appeared--riderless.
Hanson groaned as he guessed what had happened out of sight in the
jungle. With an oath he spurred on in the hope of driving the lion
from his prey--his rifle was ready in his hand. And then the lion
came into view behind the girl's pony. Hanson could not understand.
He knew that if Numa had succeeded in seizing the girl he would
not have continued in pursuit of the others.
He drew in his own mount, took quick aim and fired. The lion stopped
in his tracks, turned and bit at his side, then rolled over dead.
Hanson rode on into the forest, calling aloud to the girl.
"Here I am," came a quick response from the foliage of the trees
just ahead. "Did you hit him?"
"Yes," replied Hanson. "Where are you? You had a mighty narrow
escape. It will teach you to keep out of the jungle at night."
Together they returned to the plain where they found the Hon.
Morison riding slowly back toward them. He explained that his
pony had bolted and that he had had hard work stopping him at all.
Hanson grinned, for he recalled the pounding heels that he had seen
driving sharp spurs into the flanks of Baynes' mount; but he said
nothing of what he had seen. He took Meriem up behind him and the
three rode in silence toward the bungalow.
Behind them Korak emerged from the jungle and recovered his spear
from Numa's side. He still was smiling. He had enjoyed the
spectacle exceedingly. There was one thing that troubled him--the
agility with which the she had clambered from her pony's back into
the safety of the tree ABOVE her. That was more like mangani--more
like his lost Meriem. He sighed. His lost Meriem! His little,
dead Meriem! He wondered if this she stranger resembled his Meriem
in other ways. A great longing to see her overwhelmed him. He
looked after the three figures moving steadily across the plain.
He wondered where might lie their destination. A desire to follow
them came over him, but he only stood there watching until they
had disappeared in the distance. The sight of the civilized girl
and the dapper, khaki clad Englishman had aroused in Korak memories
Once he had dreamed of returning to the world of such as these; but
with the death of Meriem hope and ambition seemed to have deserted
him. He cared now only to pass the remainder of his life in solitude,
as far from man as possible. With a sigh he turned slowly back
into the jungle.
Tantor, nervous by nature, had been far from reassured by close
proximity to the three strange whites, and with the report of
Hanson's rifle had turned and ambled away at his long, swinging
shuffle. He was nowhere in sight when Korak returned to look for
him. The ape-man, however, was little concerned by the absence
of his friend. Tantor had a habit of wandering off unexpectedly.
For a month they might not see one another, for Korak seldom took
the trouble to follow the great pachyderm, nor did he upon this
occasion. Instead he found a comfortable perch in a large tree
and was soon asleep.
At the bungalow Bwana had met the returning adventurers on
the verandah. In a moment of wakefulness he had heard the report
of Hanson's rifle far out across the plain, and wondered what it
might mean. Presently it had occurred to him that the man whom he
considered in the light of a guest might have met with an accident
on his way back to camp, so he had arisen and gone to his foreman's
quarters where he had learned that Hanson had been there earlier
in the evening but had departed several hours before. Returning
from the foreman's quarters Bwana had noticed that the corral gate
was open and further investigation revealed the fact that Meriem's
pony was gone and also the one most often used by Baynes. Instantly
Bwana assumed that the shot had been fired by Hon. Morison, and
had again aroused his foreman and was making preparations to set
forth in investigation when he had seen the party approaching across
Explanation on the part of the Englishman met a rather chilly
reception from his host. Meriem was silent. She saw that Bwana
was angry with her. It was the first time and she was heart broken.
"Go to your room, Meriem," he said; "and Baynes, if you will step
into my study, I'd like to have a word with you in a moment."
He stepped toward Hanson as the others turned to obey him. There
was something about Bwana even in his gentlest moods that commanded
"How did you happen to be with them, Hanson?" he asked.
"I'd been sitting in the garden," replied the trader, "after
leaving Jervis' quarters. I have a habit of doing that as your
lady probably knows. Tonight I fell asleep behind a bush, and was
awakened by them two spooning. I couldn't hear what they said,
but presently Baynes brings two ponies and they ride off. I didn't
like to interfere for it wasn't any of my business, but I knew they
hadn't ought to be ridin' about that time of night, leastways not
the girl--it wasn't right and it wasn't safe. So I follows them
and it's just as well I did. Baynes was gettin' away from the lion
as fast as he could, leavin' the girl to take care of herself, when
I got a lucky shot into the beast's shoulder that fixed him."
Hanson paused. Both men were silent for a time. Presently the trader
coughed in an embarrassed manner as though there was something on
his mind he felt in duty bound to say, but hated to.
"What is it, Hanson?" asked Bwana. "You were about to say something
"Well, you see it's like this," ventured Hanson. "Bein' around
here evenings a good deal I've seen them two together a lot, and,
beggin' your pardon, sir, but I don't think Mr. Baynes means the
girl any good. I've overheard enough to make me think he's tryin'
to get her to run off with him." Hanson, to fit his own ends, hit
nearer the truth than he knew. He was afraid that Baynes would
interfere with his own plans, and he had hit upon a scheme to both
utilize the young Englishman and get rid of him at the same time.
"And I thought," continued the trader, "that inasmuch as I'm about
due to move you might like to suggest to Mr. Baynes that he go with
me. I'd be willin' to take him north to the caravan trails as a
favor to you, sir."
Bwana stood in deep thought for a moment. Presently he looked up.
"Of course, Hanson, Mr. Baynes is my guest," he said, a grim twinkle
in his eye. "Really I cannot accuse him of planning to run away
with Meriem on the evidence that we have, and as he is my guest I
should hate to be so discourteous as to ask him to leave; but, if
I recall his words correctly, it seems to me that he has spoken of
returning home, and I am sure that nothing would delight him more
than going north with you--you say you start tomorrow? I think
Mr. Baynes will accompany you. Drop over in the morning, if you
please, and now good night, and thank you for keeping a watchful
eye on Meriem."
Hanson hid a grin as he turned and sought his saddle. Bwana stepped
from the verandah to his study, where he found the Hon. Morison
pacing back and forth, evidently very ill at ease.
"Baynes," said Bwana, coming directly to the point, "Hanson
is leaving for the north tomorrow. He has taken a great fancy to
you, and just asked me to say to you that he'd be glad to have you
accompany him. Good night, Baynes."
At Bwana's suggestion Meriem kept to her room the following morning
until after the Hon. Morison Baynes had departed. Hanson had come
for him early--in fact he had remained all night with the foreman,
Jervis, that they might get an early start.
The farewell exchanges between the Hon. Morison and his host were
of the most formal type, and when at last the guest rode away Bwana
breathed a sigh of relief. It had been an unpleasant duty and he
was glad that it was over; but he did not regret his action. He
had not been blind to Baynes' infatuation for Meriem, and knowing
the young man's pride in caste he had never for a moment believed
that his guest would offer his name to this nameless Arab girl,
for, extremely light in color though she was for a full blood Arab,
Bwana believed her to be such.
He did not mention the subject again to Meriem, and in this he
made a mistake, for the young girl, while realizing the debt of
gratitude she owed Bwana and My Dear, was both proud and sensitive,
so that Bwana's action in sending Baynes away and giving her no
opportunity to explain or defend hurt and mortified her. Also it
did much toward making a martyr of Baynes in her eyes and arousing
in her breast a keen feeling of loyalty toward him.
What she had half-mistaken for love before, she now wholly mistook
for love. Bwana and My Dear might have told her much of the social
barriers that they only too well knew Baynes must feel existed
between Meriem and himself, but they hesitated to wound her. It
would have been better had they inflicted this lesser sorrow,
and saved the child the misery that was to follow because of her
As Hanson and Baynes rode toward the former's camp the Englishman
maintained a morose silence. The other was attempting to formulate
an opening that would lead naturally to the proposition he had in
mind. He rode a neck behind his companion, grinning as he noted
the sullen scowl upon the other's patrician face.
"Rather rough on you, wasn't he?" he ventured at last, jerking his
head back in the direction of the bungalow as Baynes turned his eyes
upon him at the remark. "He thinks a lot of the girl," continued
Hanson, "and don't want nobody to marry her and take her away; but
it looks to me as though he was doin' her more harm than good in
sendin' you away. She ought to marry some time, and she couldn't
do better than a fine young gentleman like you."
Baynes, who had at first felt inclined to take offense at the
mention of his private affairs by this common fellow, was mollified
by Hanson's final remark, and immediately commenced to see in him
a man of fine discrimination.
"He's a darned bounder," grumbled the Hon. Morison; "but I'll get
even with him. He may be the whole thing in Central Africa but
I'm as big as he is in London, and he'll find it out when he comes
"If I was you," said Hanson, "I wouldn't let any man keep me from
gettin' the girl I want. Between you and me I ain't got no use
for him either, and if I can help you any way just call on me."
"It's mighty good of you, Hanson," replied Baynes, warming up a
bit; "but what can a fellow do here in this God-forsaken hole?"
"I know what I'd do," said Hanson. "I'd take the girl along with
me. If she loves you she'll go, all right."
"It can't be done," said Baynes. "He bosses this whole blooming
country for miles around. He'd be sure to catch us."
"No, he wouldn't, not with me running things," said Hanson. "I've
been trading and hunting here for ten years and I know as much
about the country as he does. If you want to take the girl along
I'll help you, and I'll guarantee that there won't nobody catch up
with us before we reach the coast. I'll tell you what, you write
her a note and I'll get it to her by my head man. Ask her to meet
you to say goodbye--she won't refuse that. In the meantime we can
be movin' camp a little further north all the time and you can make
arrangements with her to be all ready on a certain night. Tell
her I'll meet her then while you wait for us in camp. That'll be
better for I know the country well and can cover it quicker than
you. You can take care of the safari and be movin' along slow
toward the north and the girl and I'll catch up to you."
"But suppose she won't come?" suggested Baynes.
"Then make another date for a last good-bye," said Hanson, "and
instead of you I'll be there and I'll bring her along anyway. She'll
have to come, and after it's all over she won't feel so bad about
it--especially after livin' with you for two months while we're
makin' the coast."
A shocked and angry protest rose to Baynes' lips; but he did not
utter it, for almost simultaneously came the realization that this
was practically the same thing he had been planning upon himself.
It had sounded brutal and criminal from the lips of the rough trader;
but nevertheless the young Englishman saw that with Hanson's help
and his knowledge of African travel the possibilities of success
would be much greater than as though the Hon. Morison were to
attempt the thing single handed. And so he nodded a glum assent.
The balance of the long ride to Hanson's northerly camp was made in
silence, for both men were occupied with their own thoughts, most
of which were far from being either complimentary or loyal to the
other. As they rode through the wood the sounds of their careless
passage came to the ears of another jungle wayfarer. The Killer
had determined to come back to the place where he had seen the
white girl who took to the trees with the ability of long habitude.
There was a compelling something in the recollection of her that
drew him irresistibly toward her. He wished to see her by the
light of day, to see her features, to see the color of her eyes and
hair. It seemed to him that she must bear a strong resemblance to
his lost Meriem, and yet he knew that the chances were that she did
not. The fleeting glimpse that he had had of her in the moonlight
as she swung from the back of her plunging pony into the branches
of the tree above her had shown him a girl of about the same height
as his Meriem; but of a more rounded and developed femininity.
Now he was moving lazily back in the direction of the spot where
he had seen the girl when the sounds of the approaching horsemen
came to his sharp ears. He moved stealthily through the branches
until he came within sight of the riders. The younger man he
instantly recognized as the same he had seen with his arms about
the girl in the moonlit glade just the instant before Numa charged.
The other he did not recognize though there was a familiarity about
his carriage and figure that puzzled Korak.
The ape-man decided that to find the girl again he would but have
to keep in touch with the young Englishman, and so he fell in behind
the pair, following them to Hanson's camp. Here the Hon. Morison
penned a brief note, which Hanson gave into the keeping of one of
his boys who started off forthwith toward the south.
Korak remained in the vicinity of the camp, keeping a careful watch
upon the Englishman. He had half expected to find the girl at the
destination of the two riders and had been disappointed when no
sign of her materialized about the camp.
Baynes was restless, pacing back and forth beneath the trees when he
should have been resting against the forced marches of the coming
flight. Hanson lay in his hammock and smoked. They spoke but
little. Korak lay stretched upon a branch among the dense foliage
above them. Thus passed the balance of the afternoon. Korak became
hungry and thirsty. He doubted that either of the men would leave
camp now before morning, so he withdrew, but toward the south, for
there it seemed most likely the girl still was.
In the garden beside the bungalow Meriem wandered thoughtfully
in the moonlight. She still smarted from Bwana's, to her, unjust
treatment of the Hon. Morison Baynes. Nothing had been explained
to her, for both Bwana and My Dear had wished to spare her the
mortification and sorrow of the true explanation of Baynes' proposal.
They knew, as Meriem did not, that the man had no intention of
marrying her, else he would have come directly to Bwana, knowing
full well that no objection would be interposed if Meriem really
cared for him.
Meriem loved them both and was grateful to them for all that they
had done for her; but deep in her little heart surged the savage love
of liberty that her years of untrammeled freedom in the jungle had
made part and parcel of her being. Now, for the first time since
she had come to them, Meriem felt like a prisoner in the bungalow
of Bwana and My Dear.
Like a caged tigress the girl paced the length of the enclosure. Once
she paused near the outer fence, her head upon one side--listening.
What was it she had heard? The pad of naked human feet just
beyond the garden. She listened for a moment. The sound was not
repeated. Then she resumed her restless walking. Down to the
opposite end of the garden she passed, turned and retraced her
steps toward the upper end. Upon the sward near the bushes that
hid the fence, full in the glare of the moonlight, lay a white
envelope that had not been there when she had turned almost upon
the very spot a moment before.
Meriem stopped short in her tracks, listening again, and sniffing--more
than ever the tigress; alert, ready. Beyond the bushes a naked
black runner squatted, peering through the foliage. He saw her
take a step closer to the letter. She had seen it. He rose quietly
and following the shadows of the bushes that ran down to the corral
was soon gone from sight.
Meriem's trained ears heard his every move. She made no attempt
to seek closer knowledge of his identity. Already she had guessed
that he was a messenger from the Hon. Morison. She stooped and
picked up the envelope. Tearing it open she easily read the contents
by the moon's brilliant light. It was, as she had guessed, from
"I cannot go without seeing you again," it read. "Come to the clearing
early tomorrow morning and say good-bye to me. Come alone."
There was a little more--words that made her heart beat faster and
a happy flush mount her cheek.
It was still dark when the Hon. Morison Baynes set forth for the
trysting place. He insisted upon having a guide, saying that he
was not sure that he could find his way back to the little clearing.
As a matter of fact the thought of that lonely ride through the
darkness before the sun rose had been too much for his courage,
and he craved company. A black, therefore, preceded him on foot.
Behind and above him came Korak, whom the noise in the camp had
It was nine o'clock before Baynes drew rein in the clearing. Meriem
had not yet arrived. The black lay down to rest. Baynes lolled
in his saddle. Korak stretched himself comfortably upon a lofty
limb, where he could watch those beneath him without being seen.
An hour passed. Baynes gave evidence of nervousness. Korak had
already guessed that the young Englishman had come here to meet
another, nor was he at all in doubt as to the identity of that
other. The Killer was perfectly satisfied that he was soon again
to see the nimble she who had so forcefully reminded him of Meriem.
Presently the sound of an approaching horse came to Korak's ears.
She was coming! She had almost reached the clearing before Baynes
became aware of her presence, and then as he looked up, the foliage
parted to the head and shoulders of her mount and Meriem rode into
view. Baynes spurred to meet her. Korak looked searchingly down
upon her, mentally anathematizing the broad-brimmed hat that hid
her features from his eyes. She was abreast the Englishman now.
Korak saw the man take both her hands and draw her close to his
breast. He saw the man's face concealed for a moment beneath the
same broad brim that hid the girl's. He could imagine their lips
meeting, and a twinge of sorrow and sweet recollection combined
to close his eyes for an instant in that involuntary muscular act
with which we attempt to shut out from the mind's eye harrowing
When he looked again they had drawn apart and were conversing earnestly.
Korak could see the man urging something. It was equally evident
that the girl was holding back. There were many of her gestures,
and the way in which she tossed her head up and to the right,
tip-tilting her chin, that reminded Korak still more strongly of
Meriem. And then the conversation was over and the man took the
girl in his arms again to kiss her good-bye. She turned and rode
toward the point from which she had come. The man sat on his horse
watching her. At the edge of the jungle she turned to wave him a
"Tonight!" she cried, throwing back her head as she called the words
to him across the little distance which separated them--throwing
back her head and revealing her face for the first time to the eyes
of The Killer in the tree above. Korak started as though pierced
through the heart with an arrow. He trembled and shook like a
leaf. He closed his eyes, pressing his palms across them, and then
he opened them again and looked but the girl was gone--only the
waving foliage of the jungle's rim marked where she had disappeared.
It was impossible! It could not be true! And yet, with his
own eyes he had seen his Meriem--older a little, with figure more
rounded by nearer maturity, and subtly changed in other ways; more
beautiful than ever, yet still his little Meriem. Yes, he had
seen the dead alive again; he had seen his Meriem in the flesh.
She lived! She had not died! He had seen her--he had seen his
Meriem--IN THE ARMS OF ANOTHER MAN! And that man sat below him
now, within easy reach. Korak, The Killer, fondled his heavy spear.
He played with the grass rope dangling from his gee-string. He
stroked the hunting knife at his hip. And the man beneath him
called to his drowsy guide, bent the rein to his pony's neck and
moved off toward the north. Still sat Korak, The Killer, alone
among the trees. Now his hands hung idly at his sides. His weapons
and what he had intended were forgotten for the moment. Korak was
thinking. He had noted that subtle change in Meriem. When last
he had seen her she had been his little, half-naked Mangani--wild,
savage, and uncouth. She had not seemed uncouth to him then; but
now, in the change that had come over her, he knew that such she
had been; yet no more uncouth than he, and he was still uncouth.
In her had taken place the change. In her he had just seen a sweet
and lovely flower of refinement and civilization, and he shuddered
as he recalled the fate that he himself had planned for her--to be
the mate of an ape-man, his mate, in the savage jungle. Then he
had seen no wrong in it, for he had loved her, and the way he had
planned had been the way of the jungle which they two had chosen
as their home; but now, after having seen the Meriem of civilized
attire, he realized the hideousness of his once cherished plan, and
he thanked God that chance and the blacks of Kovudoo had thwarted
Yet he still loved her, and jealousy seared his soul as he recalled
the sight of her in the arms of the dapper young Englishman. What
were his intentions toward her? Did he really love her? How could
one not love her? And she loved him, of that Korak had had ample
proof. Had she not loved him she would not have accepted his kisses.
His Meriem loved another! For a long time he let that awful truth
sink deep, and from it he tried to reason out his future plan
of action. In his heart was a great desire to follow the man and
slay him; but ever there rose in his consciousness the thought:
She loves him. Could he slay the creature Meriem loved? Sadly he
shook his head. No, he could not. Then came a partial decision
to follow Meriem and speak with her. He half started, and then
glanced down at his nakedness and was ashamed. He, the son of
a British peer, had thus thrown away his life, had thus degraded
himself to the level of a beast that he was ashamed to go to the
woman he loved and lay his love at her feet. He was ashamed to go
to the little Arab maid who had been his jungle playmate, for what
had he to offer her?
For years circumstances had prevented a return to his father and
mother, and at last pride had stepped in and expunged from his mind
the last vestige of any intention to return. In a spirit of boyish
adventure he had cast his lot with the jungle ape. The killing of
the crook in the coast inn had filled his childish mind with terror
of the law, and driven him deeper into the wilds. The rebuffs
that he had met at the hands of men, both black and white, had had
their effect upon his mind while yet it was in a formative state,
and easily influenced.
He had come to believe that the hand of man was against him, and
then he had found in Meriem the only human association he required
or craved. When she had been snatched from him his sorrow had been
so deep that the thought of ever mingling again with human beings
grew still more unutterably distasteful. Finally and for all time,
he thought, the die was cast. Of his own volition he had become
a beast, a beast he had lived, a beast he would die.
Now that it was too late, he regretted it. For now Meriem,
still living, had been revealed to him in a guise of progress and
advancement that had carried her completely out of his life. Death
itself could not have further removed her from him. In her new
world she loved a man of her own kind. And Korak knew that it was
right. She was not for him--not for the naked, savage ape. No,
she was not for him; but he still was hers. If he could not have
her and happiness, he would at least do all that lay in his power
to assure happiness to her. He would follow the young Englishman.
In the first place he would know that he meant Meriem no harm, and
after that, though jealously wrenched his heart, he would watch over
the man Meriem loved, for Meriem's sake; but God help that man if
he thought to wrong her!
Slowly he aroused himself. He stood erect and stretched his great
frame, the muscles of his arms gliding sinuously beneath his tanned
skin as he bent his clenched fists behind his head. A movement on
the ground beneath caught his eye. An antelope was entering the
clearing. Immediately Korak became aware that he was empty--again
he was a beast. For a moment love had lifted him to sublime heights
of honor and renunciation.
The antelope was crossing the clearing. Korak dropped to the ground
upon the opposite side of the tree, and so lightly that not even
the sensitive ears of the antelope apprehended his presence. He
uncoiled his grass rope--it was the latest addition to his armament,
yet he was proficient with it. Often he traveled with nothing more
than his knife and his rope--they were light and easy to carry.
His spear and bow and arrows were cumbersome and he usually kept
one or all of them hidden away in a private cache.
Now he held a single coil of the long rope in his right hand, and
the balance in his left. The antelope was but a few paces from
him. Silently Korak leaped from his hiding place swinging the rope
free from the entangling shrubbery. The antelope sprang away almost
instantly; but instantly, too, the coiled rope, with its sliding
noose, flew through the air above him. With unerring precision it
settled about the creature's neck. There was a quick wrist movement
of the thrower, the noose tightened. The Killer braced himself with
the rope across his hip, and as the antelope tautened the singing
strands in a last frantic bound for liberty he was thrown over upon
Then, instead of approaching the fallen animal as a roper of the
western plains might do, Korak dragged his captive to himself,
pulling him in hand over hand, and when he was within reach leaping
upon him even as Sheeta the panther might have done, and burying his
teeth in the animal's neck while he found its heart with the point
of his hunting knife. Recoiling his rope, he cut a few generous
strips from his kill and took to the trees again, where he ate in
peace. Later he swung off in the direction of a nearby water hole,
and then he slept.
In his mind, of course, was the suggestion of another meeting between
Meriem and the young Englishman that had been borne to him by the
girl's parting: "Tonight!"
He had not followed Meriem because he knew from the direction from
which she had come and in which she returned that wheresoever she
had found an asylum it lay out across the plains and not wishing
to be discovered by the girl he had not cared to venture into the
open after her. It would do as well to keep in touch with the
young man, and that was precisely what he intended doing.
To you or me the possibility of locating the Hon. Morison in the
jungle after having permitted him to get such a considerable start
might have seemed remote; but to Korak it was not at all so. He
guessed that the white man would return to his camp; but should he
have done otherwise it would be a simple matter to The Killer to
trail a mounted man accompanied by another on foot. Days might
pass and still such a spoor would be sufficiently plain to lead
Korak unfalteringly to its end; while a matter of a few hours only
left it as clear to him as though the makers themselves were still
in plain sight.
And so it came that a few minutes after the Hon. Morison Baynes
entered the camp to be greeted by Hanson, Korak slipped noiselessly
into a near-by tree. There he lay until late afternoon and still
the young Englishman made no move to leave camp. Korak wondered
if Meriem were coming there. A little later Hanson and one of his
black boys rode out of camp. Korak merely noted the fact. He was
not particularly interested in what any other member of the company
than the young Englishman did.
Darkness came and still the young man remained. He ate his evening
meal, afterward smoking numerous cigarettes. Presently he began
to pace back and forth before his tent. He kept his boy busy
replenishing the fire. A lion coughed and he went into his tent
to reappear with an express rifle. Again he admonished the boy
to throw more brush upon the fire. Korak saw that he was nervous
and afraid, and his lip curled in a sneer of contempt.
Was this the creature who had supplanted him in the heart of
his Meriem? Was this a man, who trembled when Numa coughed? How
could such as he protect Meriem from the countless dangers of the
jungle? Ah, but he would not have to. They would live in the
safety of European civilization, where men in uniforms were hired
to protect them. What need had a European of prowess to protect
his mate? Again the sneer curled Korak's lip.
Hanson and his boy had ridden directly to the clearing. It was
already dark when they arrived. Leaving the boy there Hanson rode
to the edge of the plain, leading the boy's horse. There he waited.
It was nine o'clock before he saw a solitary figure galloping toward
him from the direction of the bungalow. A few moments later Meriem
drew in her mount beside him. She was nervous and flushed. When
she recognized Hanson she drew back, startled.
"Mr. Baynes' horse fell on him and sprained his ankle," Hanson
hastened to explain. "He couldn't very well come so he sent me to
meet you and bring you to camp."
The girl could not see in the darkness the gloating, triumphant
expression on the speaker's face.
"We had better hurry," continued Hanson, "for we'll have to move
along pretty fast if we don't want to be overtaken."
"Is he hurt badly?" asked Meriem.
"Only a little sprain," replied Hanson. "He can ride all right;
but we both thought he'd better lie up tonight, and rest, for he'll
have plenty hard riding in the next few weeks."
"Yes," agreed the girl.
Hanson swung his pony about and Meriem followed him. They rode north
along the edge of the jungle for a mile and then turned straight
into it toward the west. Meriem, following, payed little attention
to directions. She did not know exactly where Hanson's camp lay
and so she did not guess that he was not leading her toward it.
All night they rode, straight toward the west. When morning came,
Hanson permitted a short halt for breakfast, which he had provided
in well-filled saddle bags before leaving his camp. Then they
pushed on again, nor did they halt a second time until in the heat
of the day he stopped and motioned the girl to dismount.
"We will sleep here for a time and let the ponies graze," he said.
"I had no idea the camp was so far away," said Meriem.
"I left orders that they were to move on at day break," explained
the trader, "so that we could get a good start. I knew that you
and I could easily overtake a laden safari. It may not be until
tomorrow that we'll catch up with them."
But though they traveled part of the night and all the following
day no sign of the safari appeared ahead of them. Meriem, an adept
in jungle craft, knew that none had passed ahead of them for many
days. Occasionally she saw indications of an old spoor, a very
old spoor, of many men. For the most part they followed this
well-marked trail along elephant paths and through park-like groves.
It was an ideal trail for rapid traveling.
Meriem at last became suspicious. Gradually the attitude of the man
at her side had begun to change. Often she surprised him devouring
her with his eyes. Steadily the former sensation of previous
acquaintanceship urged itself upon her. Somewhere, sometime before
she had known this man. It was evident that he had not shaved for
several days. A blonde stubble had commenced to cover his neck and
cheeks and chin, and with it the assurance that he was no stranger
continued to grow upon the girl.
It was not until the second day, however, that Meriem rebelled.
She drew in her pony at last and voiced her doubts. Hanson assured
her that the camp was but a few miles further on.
"We should have overtaken them yesterday," he said. "They must
have marched much faster than I had believed possible."
"They have not marched here at all," said Meriem. "The spoor that
we have been following is weeks old."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" he cried. "Why didn't you say so before?
I could have easily explained. We are not coming by the same
route; but we'll pick up their trail sometime today, even if we
don't overtake them."
Now, at last, Meriem knew the man was lying to her. What a fool
he must be to think that anyone could believe such a ridiculous
explanation? Who was so stupid as to believe that they could have
expected to overtake another party, and he had certainly assured
her that momentarily he expected to do so, when that party's route
was not to meet theirs for several miles yet?
She kept her own counsel however, planning to escape at the first
opportunity when she might have a sufficient start of her captor,
as she now considered him, to give her some assurance of outdistancing
him. She watched his face continually when she could without
being observed. Tantalizingly the placing of his familiar features
persisted in eluding her. Where had she known him? Under what
conditions had they met before she had seen him about the farm of
Bwana? She ran over in her mind all the few white men she ever had
known. There were some who had come to her father's douar in the
jungle. Few it is true, but there had been some. Ah, now she had
it! She had seen him there! She almost seized upon his identity
and then in an instant, it had slipped from her again.
It was mid afternoon when they suddenly broke out of the jungle upon
the banks of a broad and placid river. Beyond, upon the opposite
shore, Meriem described a camp surrounded by a high, thorn boma.
"Here we are at last," said Hanson. He drew his revolver and fired
in the air. Instantly the camp across the river was astir. Black
men ran down the river's bank. Hanson hailed them. But there was
no sign of the Hon. Morison Baynes.
In accordance with their master's instructions the blacks manned a
canoe and rowed across. Hanson placed Meriem in the little craft
and entered it himself, leaving two boys to watch the horses, which
the canoe was to return for and swim across to the camp side of
Once in the camp Meriem asked for Baynes. For the moment her fears
had been allayed by the sight of the camp, which she had come to
look upon as more or less a myth. Hanson pointed toward the single
tent that stood in the center of the enclosure.
"There," he said, and preceded her toward it. At the entrance he
held the flap aside and motioned her within. Meriem entered and
looked about. The tent was empty. She turned toward Hanson. There
was a broad grin on his face.
"Where is Mr. Baynes?" she demanded.
"He ain't here," replied Hanson. "Leastwise I don't see him, do
you? But I'm here, and I'm a damned sight better man than that
thing ever was. You don't need him no more--you got me," and he
laughed uproariously and reached for her.
Meriem struggled to free herself. Hanson encircled her arms and
body in his powerful grip and bore her slowly backward toward the
pile of blankets at the far end of the tent. His face was bent
close to hers. His eyes were narrowed to two slits of heat and
passion and desire. Meriem was looking full into his face as she
fought for freedom when there came over her a sudden recollection
of a similar scene in which she had been a participant and with it
full recognition of her assailant. He was the Swede Malbihn who
had attacked her once before, who had shot his companion who would
have saved her, and from whom she had been rescued by Bwana. His
smooth face had deceived her; but now with the growing beard and
the similarity of conditions recognition came swift and sure.
But today there would be no Bwana to save her.
The black boy whom Malbihn had left awaiting him in the clearing
with instructions to remain until he returned sat crouched at the
foot of a tree for an hour when he was suddenly startled by the
coughing grunt of a lion behind him. With celerity born of the
fear of death the boy clambered into the branches of the tree, and
a moment later the king of beasts entered the clearing and approached
the carcass of an antelope which, until now, the boy had not seen.
Until daylight the beast fed, while the black clung, sleepless,
to his perch, wondering what had become of his master and the two
ponies. He had been with Malbihn for a year, and so was fairly
conversant with the character of the white. His knowledge presently
led him to believe that he had been purposely abandoned. Like
the balance of Malbihn's followers, this boy hated his master
cordially--fear being the only bond that held him to the white man.
His present uncomfortable predicament but added fuel to the fires
of his hatred.
As the sun rose the lion withdrew into the jungle and the black
descended from his tree and started upon his long journey back to
camp. In his primitive brain revolved various fiendish plans for
a revenge that he would not have the courage to put into effect when
the test came and he stood face to face with one of the dominant
A mile from the clearing he came upon the spoor of two ponies
crossing his path at right angles. A cunning look entered the
black's eyes. He laughed uproariously and slapped his thighs.
Negroes are tireless gossipers, which, of course, is but a
roundabout way of saying that they are human. Malbihn's boys had
been no exception to the rule and as many of them had been with him
at various times during the past ten years there was little about
his acts and life in the African wilds that was not known directly
or by hearsay to them all.
And so, knowing his master and many of his past deeds, knowing,
too, a great deal about the plans of Malbihn and Baynes that had
been overheard by himself, or other servants; and knowing well
from the gossip of the head-men that half of Malbihn's party lay
in camp by the great river far to the west, it was not difficult
for the boy to put two and two together and arrive at four as the
sum--the four being represented by a firm conviction that his master
had deceived the other white man and taken the latter's woman to
his western camp, leaving the other to suffer capture and punishment
at the hands of the Big Bwana whom all feared. Again the boy bared
his rows of big, white teeth and laughed aloud. Then he resumed
his northward way, traveling at a dogged trot that ate up the miles
with marvelous rapidity.
In the Swede's camp the Hon. Morison had spent an almost sleepless
night of nervous apprehension and doubts and fears. Toward morning
he had slept, utterly exhausted. It was the headman who awoke him
shortly after sun rise to remind him that they must at once take
up their northward journey. Baynes hung back. He wanted to wait
for "Hanson" and Meriem. The headman urged upon him the danger that
lay in loitering. The fellow knew his master's plans sufficiently
well to understand that he had done something to arouse the ire
of the Big Bwana and that it would fare ill with them all if they
were overtaken in Big Bwana's country. At the suggestion Baynes
What if the Big Bwana, as the head-man called him, had surprised
"Hanson" in his nefarious work. Would he not guess the truth
and possibly be already on the march to overtake and punish him?
Baynes had heard much of his host's summary method of dealing out
punishment to malefactors great and small who transgressed the laws
or customs of his savage little world which lay beyond the outer
ramparts of what men are pleased to call frontiers. In this savage
world where there was no law the Big Bwana was law unto himself and
all who dwelt about him. It was even rumored that he had extracted
the death penalty from a white man who had maltreated a native
Baynes shuddered at the recollection of this piece of gossip as he
wondered what his host would exact of the man who had attempted to
steal his young, white ward. The thought brought him to his feet.
"Yes," he said, nervously, "we must get away from here at once.
Do you know the trail to the north?"
The head-man did, and he lost no time in getting the safari upon
It was noon when a tired and sweat-covered runner overtook the
trudging little column. The man was greeted with shouts of welcome
from his fellows, to whom he imparted all that he knew and guessed
of the actions of their master, so that the entire safari was aware
of matters before Baynes, who marched close to the head of the
column, was reached and acquainted with the facts and the imaginings
of the black boy whom Malbihn had deserted in the clearing the
When the Hon. Morison had listened to all that the boy had to say
and realized that the trader had used him as a tool whereby he
himself might get Meriem into his possession, his blood ran hot
with rage and he trembled with apprehension for the girl's safety.
That another contemplated no worse a deed than he had contemplated
in no way palliated the hideousness of the other's offense. At
first it did not occur to him that he would have wronged Meriem
no less than he believed "Hanson" contemplated wronging her. Now
his rage was more the rage of a man beaten at his own game and
robbed of the prize that he had thought already his.
"Do you know where your master has gone?" he asked the black.
"Yes, Bwana," replied the boy. "He has gone to the other camp
beside the big afi that flows far toward the setting sun.
"Can you take me to him?" demanded Baynes.
The boy nodded affirmatively. Here he saw a method of revenging
himself upon his hated Bwana and at the same time of escaping the
wrath of the Big Bwana whom all were positive would first follow
after the northerly safari.
"Can you and I, alone, reach his camp?" asked the Hon. Morison.
"Yes, Bwana," assured the black.
Baynes turned toward the head-man. He was conversant with "Hanson's"
plans now. He understood why he had wished to move the northern
camp as far as possible toward the northern boundary of the Big
Bwana's country--it would give him far more time to make his escape
toward the West Coast while the Big Bwana was chasing the northern
contingent. Well, he would utilize the man's plans to his own end.
He, too, must keep out of the clutches of his host.
"You may take the men north as fast as possible," he said to the
head-man. "I shall return and attempt to lead the Big Bwana to
The Negro assented with a grunt. He had no desire to follow this
strange white man who was afraid at night; he had less to remain
at the tender mercies of the Big Bwana's lusty warriors, between
whom and his people there was long-standing blood feud; and he was
more than delighted, into the bargain, for a legitimate excuse for
deserting his much hated Swede master. He knew a way to the north
and his own country that the white men did not know--a short cut
across an arid plateau where lay water holes of which the white
hunters and explorers that had passed from time to time the fringe
of the dry country had never dreamed. He might even elude the Big
Bwana should he follow them, and with this thought uppermost in his
mind he gathered the remnants of Malbihn's safari into a semblance
of order and moved off toward the north. And toward the southwest
the black boy led the Hon. Morison Baynes into the jungles.
Korak had waited about the camp, watching the Hon. Morison until the
safari had started north. Then, assured that the young Englishman
was going in the wrong direction to meet Meriem he had abandoned
him and returned slowly to the point where he had seen the girl,
for whom his heart yearned, in the arms of another.
So great had been his happiness at seeing Meriem alive that, for
the instant, no thought of jealousy had entered his mind. Later
these thoughts had come--dark, bloody thoughts that would have made
the flesh of the Hon. Morison creep could he have guessed that they
were revolving in the brain of a savage creature creeping stealthily
among the branches of the forest giant beneath which he waited the
coming of "Hanson" and the girl.
And with passing of the hours had come subdued reflection in which
he had weighed himself against the trimly clad English gentleman
and--found that he was wanting. What had he to offer her by comparison
with that which the other man might offer? What was his "mess of
pottage" to the birthright that the other had preserved? How could
he dare go, naked and unkempt, to that fair thing who had once been
his jungle-fellow and propose the thing that had been in his mind
when first the realization of his love had swept over him? He
shuddered as he thought of the irreparable wrong that his love would
have done the innocent child but for the chance that had snatched
her from him before it was too late. Doubtless she knew now the
horror that had been in his mind. Doubtless she hated and loathed
him as he hated and loathed himself when he let his mind dwell
upon it. He had lost her. No more surely had she been lost when
he thought her dead than she was in reality now that he had seen her
living--living in the guise of a refinement that had transfigured
and sanctified her.
He had loved her before, now he worshipped her. He knew that he
might never possess her now, but at least he might see her. From
a distance he might look upon her. Perhaps he might serve her;
but never must she guess that he had found her or that he lived.
He wondered if she ever thought of him--if the happy days that
they had spent together never recurred to her mind. It seemed
unbelievable that such could be the case, and yet, too, it seemed
almost equally unbelievable that this beautiful girl was the same
disheveled, half naked, little sprite who skipped nimbly among the
branches of the trees as they ran and played in the lazy, happy
days of the past. It could not be that her memory held more of
the past than did her new appearance.
It was a sad Korak who ranged the jungle near the plain's edge
waiting for the coming of his Meriem--the Meriem who never came.
But there came another--a tall, broad-shouldered man in khaki at
the head of a swarthy crew of ebon warriors. The man's face was
set in hard, stern lines and the marks of sorrow were writ deep
about his mouth and eyes--so deep that the set expression of rage
upon his features could not obliterate them.
Korak saw the man pass beneath him where he hid in the great tree
that had harbored him before upon the edge of that fateful little
clearing. He saw him come and he set rigid and frozen and suffering
above him. He saw him search the ground with his keen eyes, and
he only sat there watching with eyes that glazed from the intensity
of his gaze. He saw him sign to his men that he had come upon that
which he sought and he saw him pass out of sight toward the north,
and still Korak sat like a graven image, with a heart that bled
in dumb misery. An hour later Korak moved slowly away, back into
the jungle toward the west. He went listlessly, with bent head
and stooped shoulders, like an old man who bore upon his back the
weight of a great sorrow.
Baynes, following his black guide, battled his way through the
dense underbrush, riding stooped low over his horse's neck, or often
he dismounted where the low branches swept too close to earth to
permit him to remain in the saddle. The black was taking him the
shortest way, which was no way at all for a horseman, and after
the first day's march the young Englishman was forced to abandon
his mount, and follow his nimble guide entirely on foot.
During the long hours of marching the Hon. Morison had much time to
devote to thought, and as he pictured the probable fate of Meriem
at the hands of the Swede his rage against the man became the greater.
But presently there came to him a realization of the fact that his
own base plans had led the girl into this terrible predicament, and
that even had she escaped "Hanson" she would have found but little
better deserts awaiting her with him.
There came too, the realization that Meriem was infinitely
more precious to him than he had imagined. For the first time he
commenced to compare her with other women of his acquaintance--women
of birth and position--and almost to his surprise--he discovered
that the young Arab girl suffered less than they by the comparison.
And then from hating "Hanson" he came to look upon himself with
hate and loathing--to see himself and his perfidious act in all
their contemptible hideousness.
Thus, in the crucible of shame amidst the white heat of naked truths,
the passion that the man had felt for the girl he had considered
his social inferior was transmuted into love. And as he staggered
on there burned within him beside his newborn love another great
passion--the passion of hate urging him on to the consummation of
A creature of ease and luxury, he had never been subjected to the
hardships and tortures which now were his constant companionship,
yet, his clothing torn, his flesh scratched and bleeding, he urged
the black to greater speed, though with every dozen steps he himself
fell from exhaustion.
It was revenge which kept him going--that and a feeling that in his
suffering he was partially expiating the great wrong he had done
the girl he loved--for hope of saving her from the fate into which
he had trapped her had never existed. "Too late! Too late!" was
the dismal accompaniment of thought to which he marched. "Too late!
Too late to save; but not too late to avenge!" That kept him up.
Only when it became too dark to see would he permit of a halt. A
dozen times in the afternoon he had threatened the black with instant
death when the tired guide insisted upon resting. The fellow was
terrified. He could not understand the remarkable change that had
so suddenly come over the white man who had been afraid in the dark
the night before. He would have deserted this terrifying master had
he had the opportunity; but Baynes guessed that some such thought
might be in the other's mind, and so gave the fellow none. He kept
close to him by day and slept touching him at night in the rude
thorn boma they constructed as a slight protection against prowling
That the Hon. Morison could sleep at all in the midst of the savage
jungle was sufficient indication that he had changed considerably
in the past twenty-four hours, and that he could lie close beside
a none-too-fragrant black man spoke of possibilities for democracy
within him yet all undreamed of.
Morning found him stiff and lame and sore, but none the less
determined to push on in pursuit of "Hanson" as rapidly as possible.
With his rifle he brought down a buck at a ford in a small stream
shortly after they broke camp, breakfastless. Begrudgingly
he permitted a halt while they cooked and ate, and then on again
through the wilderness of trees and vines and underbrush.
And in the meantime Korak wandered slowly westward, coming upon
the trail of Tantor, the elephant, whom he overtook browsing in
the deep shade of the jungle. The ape-man, lonely and sorrowing,
was glad of the companionship of his huge friend. Affectionately
the sinuous trunk encircled him, and he was swung to the mighty back
where so often before he had lolled and dreamed the long afternoon
Far to the north the Big Bwana and his black warriors clung
tenaciously to the trail of the fleeing safari that was luring them
further and further from the girl they sought to save, while back
at the bungalow the woman who had loved Meriem as though she had
been her own waited impatiently and in sorrow for the return of the
rescuing party and the girl she was positive her invincible lord
and master would bring back with him.
As Meriem struggled with Malbihn, her hands pinioned to her sides
by his brawny grip, hope died within her. She did not utter a
sound for she knew that there was none to come to her assistance,
and, too, the jungle training of her earlier life had taught her the
futility of appeals for succor in the savage world of her up-bringing.
But as she fought to free herself one hand came in contact with the
butt of Malbihn's revolver where it rested in the holster at his
hip. Slowly he was dragging her toward the blankets, and slowly
her fingers encircled the coveted prize and drew it from its resting
Then, as Malbihn stood at the edge of the disordered pile of blankets,
Meriem suddenly ceased to draw away from him, and as quickly hurled
her weight against him with the result that he was thrown backward,
his feet stumbled against the bedding and he was hurled to his
back. Instinctively his hands flew out to save himself and at the
same instant Meriem leveled the revolver at his breast and pulled
But the hammer fell futilely upon an empty shell, and Malbihn was
again upon his feet clutching at her. For a moment she eluded him,
and ran toward the entrance to the tent, but at the very doorway his
heavy hand fell upon her shoulder and dragged her back. Wheeling
upon him with the fury of a wounded lioness Meriem grasped the long
revolver by the barrel, swung it high above her head and crashed
it down full in Malbihn's face.
With an oath of pain and rage the man staggered backward, releasing
his hold upon her and then sank unconscious to the ground. Without
a backward look Meriem turned and fled into the open. Several of
the blacks saw her and tried to intercept her flight, but the menace
of the empty weapon kept them at a distance. And so she won beyond
the encircling boma and disappeared into the jungle to the south.
Straight into the branches of a tree she went, true to the arboreal
instincts of the little mangani she had been, and here she stripped
off her riding skirt, her shoes and her stockings, for she knew
that she had before her a journey and a flight which would not
brook the burden of these garments. Her riding breeches and jacket
would have to serve as protection from cold and thorns, nor would
they hamper her over much; but a skirt and shoes were impossible
among the trees.
She had not gone far before she commenced to realize how slight
were her chances for survival without means of defense or a weapon
to bring down meat. Why had she not thought to strip the cartridge
belt from Malbihn's waist before she had left his tent! With
cartridges for the revolver she might hope to bag small game, and
to protect herself from all but the most ferocious of the enemies
that would beset her way back to the beloved hearthstone of Bwana
and My Dear.
With the thought came determination to return and obtain the coveted
ammunition. She realized that she was taking great chances of
recapture; but without means of defense and of obtaining meat she
felt that she could never hope to reach safety. And so she turned
her face back toward the camp from which she had but just escaped.
She thought Malbihn dead, so terrific a blow had she dealt him,
and she hoped to find an opportunity after dark to enter the camp
and search his tent for the cartridge belt; but scarcely had she
found a hiding place in a great tree at the edge of the boma where
she could watch without danger of being discovered, when she saw
the Swede emerge from his tent, wiping blood from his face, and
hurling a volley of oaths and questions at his terrified followers.
Shortly after the entire camp set forth in search of her and when
Meriem was positive that all were gone she descended from her hiding
place and ran quickly across the clearing to Malbihn's tent. A
hasty survey of the interior revealed no ammunition; but in one
corner was a box in which were packed the Swede's personal belongings
that he had sent along by his headman to this westerly camp.
Meriem seized the receptacle as the possible container of extra
ammunition. Quickly she loosed the cords that held the canvas
covering about the box, and a moment later had raised the lid and
was rummaging through the heterogeneous accumulation of odds and
ends within. There were letters and papers and cuttings from old
newspapers, and among other things the photograph of a little girl
upon the back of which was pasted a cutting from a Paris daily--a
cutting that she could not read, yellowed and dimmed by age and
handling--but something about the photograph of the little girl which
was also reproduced in the newspaper cutting held her attention.
Where had she seen that picture before? And then, quite suddenly,
it came to her that this was a picture of herself as she had been
years and years before.
Where had it been taken? How had it come into the possession of
this man? Why had it been reproduced in a newspaper? What was
the story that the faded type told of it?
Meriem was baffled by the puzzle that her search for ammunition
had revealed. She stood gazing at the faded photograph for a time
and then bethought herself of the ammunition for which she had come.
Turning again to the box she rummaged to the bottom and there in a
corner she came upon a little box of cartridges. A single glance
assured her that they were intended for the weapon she had thrust
inside the band of her riding breeches, and slipping them into
her pocket she turned once more for an examination of the baffling
likeness of herself that she held in her hand.
As she stood thus in vain endeavor to fathom this inexplicable
mystery the sound of voices broke upon her ears. Instantly she was
all alert. They were coming closer! A second later she recognized
the lurid profanity of the Swede. Malbihn, her persecutor,
was returning! Meriem ran quickly to the opening of the tent and
looked out. It was too late! She was fairly cornered! The white
man and three of his black henchmen were coming straight across
the clearing toward the tent. What was she to do? She slipped the
photograph into her waist. Quickly she slipped a cartridge into
each of the chambers of the revolver. Then she backed toward the
end of the tent, keeping the entrance covered by her weapon. The
man stopped outside, and Meriem could hear Malbihn profanely issuing
instructions. He was a long time about it, and while he talked
in his bellowing, brutish voice, the girl sought some avenue of
escape. Stooping, she raised the bottom of the canvas and looked
beneath and beyond. There was no one in sight upon that side.
Throwing herself upon her stomach she wormed beneath the tent wall
just as Malbihn, with a final word to his men, entered the tent.
Meriem heard him cross the floor, and then she rose and, stooping
low, ran to a native hut directly behind. Once inside this she
turned and glanced back. There was no one in sight. She had not
been seen. And now from Malbihn's tent she heard a great cursing.
The Swede had discovered the rifling of his box. He was shouting
to his men, and as she heard them reply Meriem darted from the hut
and ran toward the edge of the boma furthest from Malbihn's tent.
Overhanging the boma at this point was a tree that had been too
large, in the eyes of the rest-loving blacks, to cut down. So they
had terminated the boma just short of it. Meriem was thankful for
whatever circumstance had resulted in the leaving of that particular
tree where it was, since it gave her the much-needed avenue of
escape which she might not otherwise have had.
From her hiding place she saw Malbihn again enter the jungle, this
time leaving a guard of three of his boys in the camp. He went
toward the south, and after he had disappeared, Meriem skirted the
outside of the enclosure and made her way to the river. Here lay
the canoes that had been used in bringing the party from the opposite
shore. They were unwieldy things for a lone girl to handle, but
there was no other way and she must cross the river.
The landing place was in full view of the guard at the camp. To risk
the crossing under their eyes would have meant undoubted capture.
Her only hope lay in waiting until darkness had fallen, unless some
fortuitous circumstance should arise before. For an hour she lay