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Chapter 4 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Dick and Doc, moving through the great branches of the lower terrace, soon felt the warm blood stirring in their veins and with it a new sense of well being and hopefulness, which, naturally, was soon followed by hunger.

"I feel like some tea and toast and marmalade," said Dick.

They looked at each other and licked their lips.

"And I feel like a stack of buckwheat cakes and maple syrup," said Doc.

"Let's eat, then," said Dick. "Here is some of that stuff that Ukundo gathered for us the morning after we escaped from Galla Galla's village. What was it he called it?"

"I can't remember its name, but it tasted like a mixture of quinine, sugar and castor oil," replied Doc, making a wry face.

"Who cares what it tastes like as long as it's food?" demanded Dick. "We got to eat and that's all there is to it."

"I suppose we have, but, gee, I hate that stuff. I'd rather shoot a harmless little bird or something," demurred Doc.

"You'll have to eat it raw if you do," Dick reminded him. "We could never make a fire in this soggy old jungle."

"No, I suppose not," admitted Doc; "but after what we ate in Galla Galla's prison hut even raw bird would taste good, as long as it was fresh."

Doc's rueful spirits showed in his face.

Dick had climbed to a loftier terrace and was cutting some of the fruit from a swaying branch while Doc, braced in the crotch of two branches below, watched and waited.

When Dick descended the two boys proceeded to eat the rather ill-tasting heart of two of the large fruits that Dick had brought down with him.

"I'll say this doesn't remind me of anything that 'mother used to make'," said Doc.

"It smells like a linseed poultice," laughed Dick. "Or worse!"

"I wish we knew more about the stuff that grows here," said Doc. "There must be lots of things we could eat if we only knew that they were safe."

"If there were some monkeys around we could watch them," said Dick.

"I wonder where they all are." Doc looked about in all directions. "Well, I don't see any and if I did it wouldn't make any difference because I couldn't eat anything more now after eating that nasty stuff. It's taken my appetite away."

"It sure is filling," admitted Dick. "If we could take some of it back to civilization we could make our fortunes."

"How?" asked Doc.

"We could sell it to women who want to reduce. There are about a hundred million fat ladies who want to get thinner and nobody could even commence to guess how much they spend every year trying to reduce. Why, just think of all the customers we would have."

"But how do you know it would reduce them?" demanded Doc.

"That's easy. What makes 'em fat?"

"Eating too much, of course," said Doc.

"Then if they didn't eat they'd get thin, wouldn't they?"

"Sure, but—"

"All they'd have to do would be to eat some of this the first thing in the morning and then they wouldn't want to eat anything more all day," explained Dick; "at least not if they felt the way I feel right now."

"Gee!" exclaimed Doc. "That's a pretty good idea. Let's start a company."

"We've got to get out of here first, though," Dick reminded him.

"Yes, that is the first thing for us to think about," agreed Doc. "What do you say we go down on the ground? We could make better time. After all, we are more used to walking on the ground."

Dick scratched his head. "We're getting so we are pretty good at travelling through the trees," he reminded his cousin, "and it sure is a lot safer up here. It looks pretty rough going down below. I don't see any trail."

"I guess you're right," agreed Doc, "but when we do find a trail running in the right direction I think we'd better go down for a while anyway. We can always take to the trees again if we hear anything."

"The trouble is it might be too late, especially if the thing we heard was a lion springing out of the underbrush onto us."

"Well, let's stick to the trees for a while, then," said Doc, "but it sure makes a fellow tired."

The two boys continued on through the lower terraces of the forest in the direction in which they believed lay the open veldt that stretched away to Tarzan's bungalow. Once they came to a wide game trail leading in the direction they wished to go and as they had seen or heard no sign of dangerous beasts they decided to rest their tired muscles and at the same time increase their speed by following the trail upon the ground for a while at least.

They had been walking along in silence for some time when Doc stopped.

"Dick," he said, "I'm scared. I don't know why, but I just have a hunch that some very grave danger is hanging over our heads."

"What makes you think so?" asked Dick, looking quickly about them in all directions. "Did you see or hear anything?"

"No, I just feel as though something was going to happen—as though something was watching us, and yet it isn't exactly that feeling either. It's sort of a premonition or something. I can't explain it, but I wish we weren't all alone like this."

"Perhaps we'd better take to the trees again," said Dick. "I'll tell the world I feel a lot safer up there than I do down here."

"All right," assented Doc, "I'm willing; and say, let's see how quietly we can go. Maybe we've been making too much noise. Have you ever noticed how silently Tarzan of the Apes moves through the jungle either on the ground or in the trees?"

"Have I? Say he doesn't make any more noise than a butterfly's shadow," said Dick. "Come on!"

With far greater caution now the boys swung to the lower branches and continued their journey. Their eyes and ears were ever alert and they sniffed the air, too, as they had seen Tarzan do, but they were rewarded with no other odors than those of the steaming jungle that had filled their nostrils ever since the rain.

Intermittently they would pause and listen, and satisfied that nothing was amiss, they moved forward.

The leafy foliage beneath them often hid the trail from their eyes and as often hid them from the sight of any animal that might have been on the trail. A wind, stirring among the trees, helped to conceal them, since it gave motion to the foliage and the branches, hiding the motion that the boys imparted as they moved cautiously and silently through the verdure.

Dick, who was in the lead, suddenly halted, raising his finger in a cautionary gesture and laying it upon his lips to enjoin silence. Doc saw him crouch back behind the bole of the great tree through which they had chanced to be passing; he saw the gaze of his cousin directed downward toward the ground.

Doc froze to immobility immediately that he received Dick's warning. He peered downward, but he could see nothing.

What could it be that had quickly aroused Dick's fearful attention? He watched his cousin intently and presently the latter beckoned him to his side, cautioning him to silence with a warning forefinger placed against his lips.

Doc crept forward. Not even Tarzan himself could have moved through the foliage more quietly and skillfully.

Presently Doc was crouching just behind Dick's shoulder.

Without a word Dick pointed downward through the leafy branches. At first Doc saw nothing to arouse excitement—just a tangled mass of undergrowth bordering a wide game trail. Then something moved, ever so slightly, and Doc's attention was riveted upon the thing that had moved. At first it was only something black amidst the greens and browns and yellows of the brush, but presently it resolved itself into a head of hair, tangled, unkempt. Then Doc saw another and another and another as his eyes accustomed to tracing their now familiar lines. They were human heads and beneath the edges of the tangled hair Doc saw an occasional ear, or the tip of a nose.

Once Doc saw a hand—a hand that firmly grasped a sturdy cudgel.

He saw them now upon both sides of the trail and saw that all the heads were turned in the same direction—the direction from which the boys had been coming. There was but one deduction that could be drawn—these creatures, whoever they were, had either heard or seen the boys and were lying in ambush, waiting for them.

Dick and Doc made no sound. They did not even whisper their thoughts or fears to one another. As though by common agreement they remained crouching there in silence, waiting to see what those mysterious watchers would do next.

Each realized that they had been fortunate in not having attracted the attention of a single member of that sinister party to themselves and they were wise enough to know that they might not be so fortunate were they to try to escape from their present position undetected and so they remained quietly where they were.

Not once did a single member of the band beneath them cast a glance upward. Whatever they awaited they expected along the game trail and with the patience of beasts of prey they remained in silent ambush, in no hurry to act.

Doc, always talkative, had never in his life been so anxious to talk. There were a thousand questions and surmises racing through his brain that he wanted to impart to Dick. He wanted so badly to talk, that, as he said afterward, it hurt; but he controlled himself. Perhaps their enforced silence would have been less difficult to bear had they been able to obtain a better view of some of those twenty frightful men, for had they, they would certainly have shrunk from calling attention to their presence.

It seemed a very long time that they waited there, watching the silent men beneath them, but at last there was a change. A slight rustling of the foliage was apparent and their ears caught hoarse whisperings, though they could distinguish no words.

Then there crawled out into the trail a knotted, crooked man. The mere sight of him almost caused the boys to gasp.

It was Blk. Gulm had sent him off to reconnoiter. Cautiously, slowly, stopping often to listen and sniff the air, Blk moved down the trail until presently he disappeared beyond a turn.

The minutes passed by slowly. The boys waited. Below them the priests of The Flaming God waited. After what seemed a very long time Blk reappeared. He stopped in the trail opposite his ambushed fellows and spoke in low tones whereupon there was much rustling among the foliage as the balance of the twenty stepped out into the trail.

With the twenty frightful men was another creature the sight of which gave the boys such a start of surprise as they did not recall ever having had before in all their lives.

The twenty hideous men were surprising enough in themselves, but the figure of a slender, golden-haired girl among these awesome, brute-like creatures took away the boys' breath and left them stunned.

Who could she be?

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