Table of content

Chapter 3 Tarzan and the Forbidden City by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Gregorys, with Tarzan and d'Arnot, were breakfasting on the terrace the next morning, when Wolff arrived. Gregory introduced him to Tarzan. "One o' them wildmen," observed Wolff, noting Tarzan's loin cloth and primitive weapons. "I seen another one once, but he ran around on all fours and barked like a dog. You taking it with us, Mr. Gregory?"

"Tarzan will be in full charge of the safari," said Gregory.

"What?" exclaimed Wolff. "That's my job."

"It was," said Tarzan. "If you want to come along as a hunter, there's a job open for you."

Wolff thought for a moment. "I'll come," he said. "Mr. Gregory's goin' to need me plenty."

"We're leaving for Bonga on the boat tomorrow," said Tarzan. "Be there. Until then we shan't need you."

Wolff walked off grumbling to himself.

"I'm afraid you've made an enemy of him," said Gregory.

Tarzan shrugged. "I did nothing to him," he said, "but give him a job. He'll bear watching, though."

"I do not care for that fellow's looks," said d'Arnot.

"He has good recommendations," insisted Gregory.

"But he is, obviously, no gentleman," said Helen.

Her father laughed good-naturedly. "But we are hiring a hunter," he said. "Whom did you expect me to sign on, the Duke of Windsor?"

"I could have stood it," laughed Helen.

"Wolff has only to obey orders and shoot straight," said Tarzan.

"He's coming back," announced d'Arnot, and the others looked up to see Wolff approaching.

"I got to thinking," he said to Gregory, "that I ought to know just where we're goin'; so I could help lay out the route. You see, we gotta be careful we don't get out o' good game country. You got a map?"

"Yes," replied Gregory. "Helen, you had it. Where is it?"

"In the top drawer of my dresser."

"Come on up, Wolff; and we'll have a look at it," said Gregory.

Gregory went directly to his daughter's room; and Wolff accompanied him, while the others remained on the terrace, chatting. The older man searched through the upper drawer of Helen's dresser for a moment, running through several papers, from among which he finally selected one.

"Here it is," he said, and spread it on a table before Wolff.

The hunter studied it for several minutes; then he shook his head. "I know the country part way," he said, "but I ain't never heard of none of these places up here—Tuen-Baka, Ashair." He pointed them out with a stubby forefinger. "Lemme take the map," he said, "and study it. I'll bring it back tomorrow."

Gregory shook his head. "You'll have plenty of time to study it with Tarzan and the rest of us on the boat to Bonga," he said; "and it's too precious—it means too much to me—to let out of my hands. Something might happen to it." He walked back to the dresser and replaced the map in the upper drawer.

"O.K.," said Wolff. "It don't make no difference, I guess. I just wanted to help all I could."

"Thanks," said Gregory; "I appreciate it."

"Well then," said Wolff, "I'll be running along. See you at the boat tomorrow."

Captain Paul d'Arnot, being of an inventive turn of mind, discovered various reasons why he should remain in the vicinity of Helen Gregory the remainder of the morning. Luncheon was easy—he simply invited the Gregorys and Tarzan to be his guests; but when the meal was over, he lost her.

"If we're leaving for Bonga tomorrow," she said, "I'm going to do some shopping right now."

"Not alone?" asked d'Arnot.

"Alone," she replied, smiling.

"Do you think it quite safe? a white woman alone," he asked. "I'll be more than glad to go with you."

Helen laughed. "No man around while I'm shopping—unless he wants to pay the bills. Goodbye!"

Loango's bazaar lay along a narrow, winding street, crowded with Negroes, Chinese, East Indians, and thick with dust. It was an unsavory place of many odors—all strange to occidental nostrils and generally unpleasant. There were many jutting corners and dark doorways; and as Helen indulged the feminine predilection for shopping for something to shop for, Lal Taask, slithering from corner to doorway, followed relentlessly upon her trail.

As she neared the shop of Wong Feng, she stopped before another stall to examine some trinkets that had attracted her eye; and while she was thus engaged, Lal Taask slipped past behind her and entered the shop of Wong Feng.

Helen dawdled a few moments before the stall; and then, unconscious of impending danger, approached the shop of Wong Feng; while, from the interior, Lal Taask watched her as a cat might watch a mouse. The girl was entirely off her guard, her mind occupied with thoughts of her shopping and anticipation of the adventurous expedition in search of her missing brother; so that she was stunned into momentary inaction and helplessness as Lal Taask seized her as she was passing the shop of Wong Feng and dragged her through the doorway into the dark interior—but only for a moment. When she realized her danger, she struggled and struck at her assailant. She tried to scream for help; but the man clapped a palm roughly over her mouth, stifling her cries, even though they would have brought no help in this vicious neighborhood.

Lal Taask was a wiry, powerful man; and Helen soon realized the futility of struggling against him, as he dragged her toward the rear of the shop.

"Come quietly," he said, "and you will not be harmed."

"What do you want of me?" she asked, as he removed his palm from across her mouth.

"There is one here who would question you," replied Lal Taask. "It is not for me to explain—the master will do that. Whatever he advises will be for your own good—obey him in all things."

At the far end of the shop Lal Taask opened a door and ushered Helen into the dimly lighted room that we have seen before. Magra was standing at one side; and Helen recognized her as the woman who had lured Tarzan to the hotel room where, but for her, he would have been killed. The plump Eurasian sitting at the desk and facing her, she had never before seen; and now, for the first time, she saw the face of the man who had seized her, and recognized him as the hotel companion of the woman.

"You are Helen Gregory?" asked the man at the desk.

"Yes. Who are you, and what do you want of me?"

"In the first place," said Atan Thome suavely, "let me assure you that I deeply regret the necessity for this seeming discourtesy. Your brother has something that I want. He would not listen to reason; so there was no other alternative than force."

"My brother? You have not talked with him. He is lost somewhere in the interior."

"Don't lie to me," snapped Thome. "I know your brother well. I was with him on the first expedition. He reached Ashair and made a map of the vicinity, but he would not let me have a copy. He wanted The Father of Diamonds all for himself. It is the route map to Ashair that I want, and I shall hold you until I get it."

Helen laughed in his face. "Your intrigue and melodrama have been quite unnecessary," she said. "All that you would have had to do would have been to ask my father for the map. He would have let you make a copy of it. If this man will come back to the hotel with me, he can copy the map now." She indicated Lal Taask with a nod.

Atan Thome sneered. "You think you can trap me as easily as that?" he demanded.

Helen made a gesture of resignation. "Go on with your play acting if you must," she said, "but it will only waste time and get everyone in trouble. What do you wish me to do?"

"I wish you to write and sign the note I shall dictate to your father," replied Thome. "If that doesn't bring the map, he'll never see you again. I'm leaving for the interior immediately, and I shall take you with me. There are sultans there who will pay a good price for you."

"You must be quite insane to think that you can frighten me with any such wild threats. Those things are not done today, you know, outside of story books. Hurry up and dictate your note; and I'll promise you'll have the map back as quickly as your messenger can bring it, but what assurance have I that you'll keep your end of the bargain and release me?"

"You have only my word," replied Atan Thome, "but I can assure you that I have no wish to harm you. The map is all I wish. Come and sit here while I dictate."

As the sun sank into the west behind tall trees and the shadows lengthened to impart to Loango the semblance of a softened beauty which the squalid little village did not possess in its own right, the three men discussing the details of the forthcoming safari became suddenly aware of the lateness of the hour.

"I wonder what can be keeping Helen," said Gregory; "it's almost dark. I don't like to have her out so late in a place like this. She should have been back long ago."

"She should never have gone alone," said d'Arnot. "It is not safe here for a woman."

"It is not," agreed Tarzan. "It is never safe where there is civilization."

"I think we should go and look for her," suggested d'Arnot.

"Yes," said Tarzan, "you and I. Mr. Gregory should remain here in case she returns."

"Don't worry, Monsieur Gregory," said d'Arnot, as he and Tarzan left the room; "I'm sure we'll find her safe and sound in some curio shop," but his words were only to reassure Gregory. In his heart was only fear.

As he waited, Gregory tried to convince himself that there was nothing to worry about. He tried to read, but could not fix his mind upon the book. After he had reread one sentence half a dozen times without grasping its sense, he gave up; then he commenced to pace the floor, smoking one cigar after another. He was on the point of starting out himself to search when d'Arnot returned. Gregory looked at him eagerly.

D'Arnot shook his head. "No luck," he said. "I found a number of shop keepers who recalled seeing her, but none who knew when she left the bazaar."

"Where is Tarzan?" asked Gregory.

"He is investigating in the village. If the natives have any knowledge of her, Tarzan will get it out of them. He speaks their language in every sense of the term."

"Here he is now," said Gregory as the ape-man entered the room.

Both men looked up at him questioningly. "You didn't find any trace of her?" asked d'Arnot.

Tarzan shook his head. "None. In the jungle, I could have found her; but here—here, in civilization, a man cannot even find himself."

As he ceased speaking, a window pane crashed behind them; and a missile fell to the floor.

"Mon Dieu!" cried d'Arnot. "What is that?"

"Look out!" cried Gregory. "It may be a bomb."

"No," said Tarzan, "it is just a note tied to a stone. Here, let's have a look at it."

"It must be about Helen," said Gregory, taking the note from Tarzan's hand. "Yes, it is. It's from her. Listen! 'Dear Dad: The people who are holding me want Brian's road map to Ashair. They threaten to take me into the interior and sell me if they don't get it. I believe they mean it. Tie the map to stone and throw it out window. Do not follow their messenger, or they will kill me. They promise to return me unharmed as soon as they get the map.' Yes, it's from Helen all right, it's her handwriting. But the fools! They could have had the map for the asking. I only want to find Brian. I'll get the map."

He rose and went into Helen's room, which adjoined his. They heard him strike a match to light a lamp, and then give vent to an exclamation of astonishment that brought the other two men into the room. Gregory was standing before the open upper drawer of the dresser, his face white.

"It's gone," he said. "Some one has stolen the map!"

Table of content