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Chapter 7 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ulp sat upon the fallen tree gazing into the fire which had lighted the surrounding jungle with its leaping, fitful flames. His black shadow, huge and grotesque, danced weirdly against the shelter in which Kla, the little unwilling high priestess of the sun worshippers, lay wide-eyed and miserable. She could not accustom herself to the terrors of the jungle nights. She knew that great hunting beasts prowled through the black shadows.

The spine-chilling scream of the leopard and the roar of the lion were as terrifying tonight as they had been the first night that she had heard them, nor could she ever entirely allay her fear of the frightful men into whose clutches she had fallen.

Over and over in her mind she revolved the same futile, hopeless plans for escape that she had conjured a thousand times and a thousand times abandoned, and yet, again, they were in the forefront of her thoughts as she lay watching the shadow of Ulp leaping and dancing against the frail wall of her shelter, and Ulp gazed into the fire, letting his own thoughts revolve in his muddy brain. For the most part they were thoughts of fear and hate, and the object of both was Gulm, for Ulp knew that Gulm did not like him and that if a suitable sacrifice was not soon found, it might more likely be Ulp who would be permanently extinguished by the sacrificial knife than any other of the company.

Ulp was hideous, grotesque, sullen, taciturn, ignorant, vindictive, usually half-starved, always entirely uncomfortable from heat or cold or vermin. Life did not seem to offer much to Ulp and yet he clung as tenaciously to it and loved it and nursed it with a fervor quite equal to that of humanity's most favored creature.

In other words, Ulp did not wish to die, and as he sat there upon the log with the firelight playing upon his crooked, hairy body and his ugly, hairy face, he was groping through his turbid brain for some plan to thwart Gulm's bloody intentions toward him.

If he could only find some other sacrifice that would be acceptable to The Flaming God, he knew that Gulm would be satisfied, since naturally the high priest did not wish to weaken the numerical strength of his party by offering its members to The Flaming God unless there was no alternative, but it seemed to Ulp, not even remotely possible that he might discover a substitute, since Gulm avoided the haunts of the natives, knowing full well that his small party of twenty, illy armed as they were, would stand no chance against the black warriors of the interior.

But there was another possibility that loomed large in Ulp's mind and this was based upon his belief that The Flaming God found no sacrifice acceptable unless it was offered to Him through the medium of a sacrificial knife, wielded by the high priestess. Therefore, he reasoned, if there was no high priestess, there would be less likelihood that a sacrifice would be offered to his hungry deity. But how to dispose of the little high priestess without bringing suspicion and punishment upon himself—that was the question. He turned and glared at the shelter, beneath which lay the new La. In the distance, a lion roared. How fortunate it would be, thought Ulp—at least how fortunate for him—if Numa the lion, hungry and searching for food, should accidentally be led to the rear of the shelter of the high priestess.

He thought this matter over seriously and he thought of a wonderful story that he could tell to Gulm in the morning after Numa had come and carried little Kla away.

While he was thinking these thoughts and hoping this hope, two figures descended from a tree at the edge of the clearing and crept stealthily through the brush toward a point upon the opposite side of the camp from where Ulp sat ruminating.

Again from the black jungle roared the thunderous voice of the lion. It was nearer now and Ulp almost thrilled at the suggestion it bore to him of the possible fulfillment of his prayer.

Ulp was not the only one who heard the voice of the king; little Kla heard it and lay stark and trembling on her bed of grasses. The two figures creeping through the brush heard it and came to a sudden halt, huddling close together beside the reassuringly thick trunk of a great tree.

"Golly," whispered Dick, "that last roar sounded pretty close."

"It sounds too darn close to suit me," replied Doc, his voice trembling the least little-bit from the excitement and the nervous tension of the moment. "He must be headed this way."

"Let's shin up this tree for a few minutes," suggested Dick, "until that fellow has gone on about his business."

"You're on," whispered Doc, and the two clambered with the agility of young monkeys in the lower branches of the tree beneath which they had momentarily stopped.

Ulp arose slowly from the log upon which he had been sitting and turned until he faced the direction from which the voice of Numa had come. Between it and him lay the shelter of little Kla, the high priestess of The Flaming God, and upon this shelter his plotting eyes fell.

Ulp's brain was not developed for purposes of rapidity of thought, but he had been thinking of this possibility which now confronted him for some time and the decision that he reached now was not a sudden one, but rather the natural outcome of the slow processes of his brain.

If he was not equipped to think quickly, he could at least act quickly and now he did so. Stooping, he crept into the shelter beside the girl. Kla sat up, a scream of terror trembling upon her lips, but she did not utter it as Ulp's words reassured her.

"Do not be afraid, Kla," he said, "I have come to help you."

"What do you want?" asked the girl. "How can you help me?"

"You do not want to remain with us; you would like to escape and go back to your own people. Is that not true?" asked the man.

"Yes," admitted the girl.

"Then Ulp will help you. Ulp hates Gulm, who would kill him. Ulp will take you away. He will not harm you. He will take you back to your people. He will do it this very night."

"Oh, Ulp, if you only will!" whispered the girl fervently.

"Come!" said Ulp, and he commenced to tear a hole in the rear of the shelter.

"Why are you doing that?" asked Kla.

"I shall take you out this way and hide you in the jungle," replied the man, "and then I shall come back and tell Gulm that a lion broke into the shelter and got you and Gulm will be very angry, and I shall take my cudgel and say to him that I am going out into the jungle to get you away from the lion, but instead I shall join you and we will go away and Gulm will think that the lion has devoured us both. If he thinks this, he will not follow us and so we shall be safe."

Little Kla believed that Ulp was sincere in all that he said to her and so she accompanied him willingly through the opening that he had made in the rear of the shelter, and together they walked to the edge of the clearing, stopping beneath a great tree.

"Wait here," said Ulp, "I shall be gone but a short time."

"I heard a lion roar," said the girl. "I am terribly afraid."

"Do not be afraid," said Ulp. "The lion that roars is lying upon his kill. He will not hunt again until that is devoured. It may be one day; it may be two days before he will be hungry."

"How do you know?" asked Kla.

"I know the language of Numa," replied Ulp. "That lion was eating. He was warning the other beasts of the jungle to keep away from his kill."

"Do not be gone long," begged the little girl pitifully.

"Whatever you do," Ulp admonished her, "do not move; not even if you think a lion is coming near. Stand very still so that he may not hear you."

"I shall try to," replied the girl, but her voice shook with fear.

Ulp returned quickly to the camp and sat upon the log again. He did not wake Gulm as he had promised. He only waited until he should hear certain noises from back there under the great tree that stood at the edge of the clearing. There would be screams and growls and then he would wake Gulm and tell him what had happened.

Once more the voice of Numa stilled the other voices of the jungle. Ulp knew that it was nearer—very near, indeed. Kla heard it and went cold with terror, for to her it sounded almost at her side and yet the lion was not quite so near to her as that, but he was coming nearer. Already he had caught the scent of the flesh of men and now he moved silently, stealthily through the jungle, nor did he raise his voice in warning again.

The dancing beast fire of the twenty frightful men cast a glow even to the furthest extremities of the clearing, invoking many grotesque, shadowy figures so that at first Dick and Doc were not positive that what they saw was really two figures coming from the camp toward the tree in which they had taken temporary refuge. It might only be more of the shadows that moved constantly and fitfully as the flames rose and fell.

At length these shadows took on forms too definite to permit of further doubt and the boys saw that one was a crooked man and that the other was the little captive girl.

They grasped their spears more tightly and both were ready for any eventuality as Ulp and Kla stopped directly beneath them.

Ulp was very near death that moment for two spears were poised above him and had he offered any harm to little Kla, both would have been buried deep in his hairy body.

The boys heard the conversation that passed between Ulp and Kla, but could understand no word of it and they were mystified when they saw the man return to camp, leaving the girl standing beneath the tree.

A moment later the lion roared and it seemed to both boys that he must be very close to them and to the unprotected girl standing in a huddle on the ground beneath them.

"Gee," whispered Doc, "we have got to get her or that lion will."

Kla heard a movement in the tree above her. What could it be? She knew that leopards often sprang upon their prey from the lower branches of the trees, and her little heart stood still.

There was a rustling and a scraping and two bodies alighted upon the ground beside her. The girl shrieked as they seized her.

"We are friends," whispered Dick in French; and then to Doc. "Quick, get her up. I believe the lion is coming."

Doc sprang back into the tree, clinging to a lower limb, and as Dick handed the girl up toward him, he seized her by the arm and dragged her upward. Then Dick clambered to his side and helped him, but it seemed to the two boys that they would never get the frightened, screaming girl pulled high enough from the ground to be safe.

They heard a sudden crashing in the underbrush close by and an instant later a great lion leaped into the clearing beneath them. He looked upward and then he sprang, his mighty talons seeking to seize one of them and drag him down, but by this time the boys had succeeded in dragging the little girl out of reach and Numa fell back baffled and angry.

Once again his thunderous roars shattered the silence of the jungle, and this time it was a roar of baffled rage.

Ulp, seated upon his log, hearing the girl scream and the angry roaring of the lion, smiled to himself. Then he rose and ran hurriedly to Gulm, shaking the high priest by the shoulder.

"Awaken, Gulm!" he cried.

Gulm sat up, startled.

"What is happening, Ulp?" he growled.

"The Flaming God came to the camp of Gulm and took Kla away with Him," cried Ulp excitedly.

"What words are these?" demanded Gulm, leaping to his feet and running with frantic speed toward the shelter.

"They are true words," insisted Ulp. "The Flaming God came himself and the light was so strong that it blinded the eyes of Ulp. With one hand, He tore away the rear of Kla's shelter, and with the other He gathered her from the ground and bore her off into the jungle. Kla screamed and a lion roared and the light of The Flaming God went out, and all was quickly silent."

Gulm looked skeptically at Ulp.

"You saw The Flaming God with your own eyes?" he demanded.

"Yes," admitted Ulp.

"What did He look like?" demanded Gulm in abrupt skepticism.

"I saw only the light. It was so blinding that I covered my eyes with my palm."

"Then, how do you know that it was The Flaming God?" asked Gulm.

"I heard Him speak," replied Ulp.

"And what did he say?"

"He said, 'I am The Flaming God. I have come for Kla, my high priestess, to take her to my temple in the skies. There I have many offerings. There upon my altar, shall Kla give them up to me.'"

Gulm grunted.

"Was that all he said?" he asked.

Ulp had never before enjoyed the thrill of unleashed imagination. He was thoroughly enjoying his interview with God and he felt, as doubtless have many prophets, that revelations might just as well suit one's personal needs as the contrary.

"Oh, yes," he said, "the Flaming God spoke directly to Ulp. He gave him a message for Gulm."

"And what was that message?"

"He said that Gulm was to build a new temple, but that he was to offer no sacrifices until The Flaming God should come in person and demand them."

During this conversation Gulm had crawled into the shelter that had been erected for Kla and found that she was gone and that there was, indeed, a large hole in the rear wall. When he came out, he stood erect and scratched his head.

"I thought, Ulp, that you had lied to me, but I see now that you have told me the truth for, indeed, there is the hole that The Flaming God made when he stole the high priestess."

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