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Chapter 8 Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-ja the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Crouching in the tree above the angry lion, the boys sought to allay the fears of the terrified girl, who was now sobbing hysterically.

"Do not be afraid," said Doc, soothingly. "We do not intend to harm you."

He had forgotten about his intention to speak to her in French, but Dick had not and he repeated Doc's assurances in that language.

The girl appeared to be attempting to stifle her sobs that she might speak to them. Her lips formed inarticulate words, but her gasping sobs cut short what she was about to say.

"Now, now," said Dick, patting her shoulder, "try to stop crying. You are safe with us." He spoke very slowly and deliberately, searching for the right words and phrases in French.

"I guess," said Doc, "that even if she is French, she might not be able to understand that you are trying to speak her language."

"Well, suppose you try it then, smarty," snapped Dick, "although I never saw you carrying away any medals for French at school."

"I couldn't do any worse than you have," said Doc. "If we hadn't agreed to talk French to her, I might have thought you were speaking Chinese."

"That is because you do not know good French when you hear it," replied Dick.

The girl was slowly mastering her emotions, her sobs were becoming less frequent and presently she was able to speak.

"Who are you?" she asked in English.

The boys were dumbfounded.

"Do you speak English?" asked Dick.

"Yes," replied the girl, "but who are you and what are you going to do with me?" She spoke in the precise English that educated foreigners use.

"I am glad you are English," said Dick. "I was afraid you could not understand us."

"I am not English," said the girl, "but I speak English. Who are you?"

"I am an English boy," said Dick, "and my cousin is an American. You need not be afraid of us. We saw you with those men this morning and we were sure that they had kidnapped you."

"Yes," said Doc, "and we have been following all day hoping to get a chance to be of some assistance to you—and save you if possible."

The girl commenced to cry again—softly now, for her hysteria had passed.

"Please don't cry," said Dick. "I tell you that we will not hurt you."

"I am crying because I am happy," said the girl. "I thought that there was no hope for me and now you have come—how can I ever thank you?"

"You do not have to thank us," Doc assured her, "and anyway you may be as badly off with us as you were with those men, for we have not been in the jungle very long."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Doc means, I guess," said Dick, "that sometimes we have trouble getting food, as we are not exactly sure what is safe to eat and we have not lived this kind of a life long enough to be very good at hunting, but we will do our best to feed you and protect you while we are finding our way home."

"Where is your home?" she asked.

"We are visiting Tarzan of the Apes," replied Dick with a touch of pride in his voice.

"Oh!" exclaimed the girl, "everyone knows about Tarzan of the Apes. I never have seen him, but my father has told me that he is a good man."

"What is your name?" asked Doc.

"Gretchen," replied the girl.

"How did those fellows get hold of you, Gretchen?" asked Doc.

"I went out for a walk in the forest one day," she replied, "and I must have gone too far from the mission for when I tried to find my way back, I became confused and, I suppose, I wandered in the wrong direction. I was out all night alone and I was terribly frightened, and the next day these men found me and took me with them. No one can ever know how terribly afraid I was, but they did not harm me, and after a while I became a little bit used to them so that I did not mind them so much, but still I think I should always have been afraid of them. They are such frightful men."

"What were they going to do with you?" asked Dick. "Were they holding you for ransom? They look like kidnappers, or something low like that."

"No, they are sun worshippers and they made me their high priestess. They told me that their own high priestess, who is a white girl, had turned against their religion and driven them from the temple. They were searching for a place to build a new temple when they found me and they thought that The Flaming God had sent me to them."

"Golly," said Dick, "won't they be sore when they find you are gone and learn that we have stolen you away from them?"

"I guess they wouldn't do much to us if they caught us," said Doc.

"You must be sure that they never catch you," said the girl. "They make human sacrifices to their god and for a long time they have been hoping to find someone to sacrifice."

"Gee," said Doc, "I guess we had better get out of here."

"We'll have to wait until that old lion goes away because now that we have Gretchen with us we cannot travel through the trees. We shall have to go upon the ground."

"Maybe she could go in the trees. Could you, Gretchen?" asked Doc.

"I guess I could with a little help," she said. "I was always climbing trees around the mission and Papa was always scolding me for being a tomboy."

"Fine!" exclaimed Dick. "We think it's a lot safer in the trees than it is upon the ground and we can go pretty fast now."

"I'll try it all right," said Gretchen. "I wouldn't want to be a nuisance."

"Then I believe we better try to get away now," said Doc. "That fellow that brought you out here awakened someone else in the camp. See them? One of them is crawling into your shelter. If they come out here to look for you they might find us."

"Ulp said that he would come back for me. He was going to take me home to my people," said the girl in explanation.

"Then why did he leave you alone out here under the tree?" demanded Dick.

"He said he was going back to tell Gulm a story that would throw him off the track so that we would have time to get away."

"Would you rather wait and go with him, then?" asked Doc.

"No, I am afraid of him. He is a terrible man, but I was willing to risk anything for the chance to escape."

"I watched him when he went back to camp," said Dick, "and he did not go then and wake anyone up. He went to a log and sat by the fire until a lion roared and then when I looked again, after we had pulled you up in the tree, I saw that he had gone to awaken someone else."

"It was an awful dangerous thing," said Doc, "to leave you out here alone on the ground with that lion roaring around."

"He said that the lion would not harm me," said the girl, "that it was lying on its kill, feeding, and would not be interested in me."

"Lying nothing," snapped Dick. "I do not know much about lions, but I'll bet my shirt that lion was hunting. We could hear his voice coming nearer every time he roared."

"Maybe he wanted the lion to get you," suggested Doc. "Those fellows look mean enough to do just about anything."

"And they are terribly mean," said the girl. "They are worse than beasts."

"Well, I'll bet he wanted you killed for some reason," said Dick, "because he didn't do a thing about coming back and he must have heard the lion roar when he sprang for you, and he must have heard your scream."

"What we ought to do is to get out of here right away," said Doc. "We can do our talking later—when we're in a safe place."

"Come on, then," said Dick, and slowly the three made their way through the trees, the two boys helping and supporting the girl.

It was very slow work in the dark, but because of the lion they did not dare come to the ground, and because of their proximity to the camp of the sun worshippers they dared not remain until morning. They knew that if they could get even a short distance away they might be safe and so they crept slowly through the night until, finally, the first ray of dawn tinged the eastern sky.

When the daylight finally came the boys saw the girl scrutinizing them very closely and she seemed pleased with the result of her examination of them. They had stopped again to rest as they had frequently during the night; this time in a great old patriarch of a bower in the jungle, festooned with moss and hung with great creepers.

It was here that full daylight came upon them and the girl looked into the faces of the boys and smiled with gladness.

"I am happy," she said. "I thought that I should never be happy again. You cannot imagine how terrible it was to be with those frightful men and how good it is to be with people of my own kind, where I feel secure."

"Well," said Doc, "we are glad that you are happy, though I am afraid you will have to stretch your imagination a lot if you intend to keep on thinking you're happy."

"Why?" asked the girl.

"Because, in the first place, you may get awfully hungry with us, and, in the second place, there is no telling how long we shall be obliged to roam around the jungle."

"Why may we have to stay in the jungle a long time?" she asked.

"Because we are lost," admitted Doc.

Gretchen laughed aloud then.

"What makes you laugh?" asked Dick.

"Oh, because it struck me as being very amusing that my rescuers are now in need of help, being lost themselves," she replied.

"Well, it isn't our fault," said Dick, "and if you would rather go back with those other men—"

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "You know I wouldn't want to do that. I did not mean to make fun of you, but it is funny, isn't it?"

"Well, I guess it is," admitted Doc ruefully, "but, after all, being lost isn't the worst of it."

"Why, is there something you haven't told me?" she asked.

"No," Doc assured her. "We told you all right. It is the question of food."

"Do not let that worry you," said the girl. "I have lived in the jungle nearly all my life. My father is a missionary and a great lover of nature. He taught me ever so many things about the flora of the jungle. I know what is safe to eat and what is not safe, so we shall not have to worry a great deal about food. We shall get enough to keep us alive at least, even if it is not fit for a king."

"Do you see anything around here that we could eat?" demanded Dick. "We are both about starved to death."

"Yes, there are fruits and vegetables and eggs within fifty feet of us; at least I see birds' nests."

Following Gretchen's directions the boys brought the fruits and roots that she indicated and from several nests they gathered enough eggs to make out a fairly satisfactory breakfast.

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