The Fight in the Desert
As the three squatted upon the roof above the quarters of
the Ouled-Nails they heard the angry cursing of the
Arabs in the room beneath. Abdul translated from time
to time to Tarzan.
"They are berating those in the street below now," said
Abdul, "for permitting us to escape so easily. Those in the
street say that we did not come that way--that we are still
within the building, and that those above, being too cowardly
to attack us, are attempting to deceive them into believing
that we have escaped. In a moment they will have fighting
of tattend to if they continue their brawling."
Presently those in the building gave up the search, and
returned to the cafe. A few remained in the street below,
smoking and talking.
Tarzan spoke to the girl, thanking her for the sacrifice she
had made for him, a total stranger.
"I liked you," she said simply. "You were unlike the others
who come to the cafe. You did not speak coarsely to me--
the manner in which you gave me money was not an insult."
"What shall you do after tonight?" he asked. "You cannot return
to the cafe. Can you even remain with safety in Sidi Aissa?"
"Tomorrow it will be forgotten," she replied. "But I should
be glad if it might be that I need never return to this or
another cafe. I have not remained because I wished to;
I have been a prisoner."
"A prisoner!" ejaculated Tarzan incredulously.
"A slave would be the better word," she answered. "I was stolen
in the night from my father's DOUAR by a band of marauders.
They brought me here and sold me to the Arab who keeps this cafe.
It has been nearly two years now since I saw the last of mine
own people. They are very far to the south. They never come
to Sidi Aissa."
"You would like to return to your people?" asked Tarzan.
"Then I shall promise to see you safely so far as Bou Saada
at least. There we can doubtless arrange with the commandant
to send you the rest of the way."
"Oh, m'sieur," she cried, "how can I ever repay you! You
cannot really mean that you will do so much for a poor
Ouled-Nail. But my father can reward you, and he will, for
is he not a great sheik? He is Kadour ben Saden."
"Kadour ben Saden!" ejaculated Tarzan. "Why, Kadour
ben Saden is in Sidi Aissa this very night. He dined
with me but a few hours since."
"My father in Sidi Aissa?" cried the amazed girl.
"Allah be praised then, for I am indeed saved."
"Hssh!" cautioned Abdul. "Listen."
From below came the sound of voices, quite distinguishable
upon the still night air. Tarzan could not understand the
words, but Abdul and the girl translated.
"They have gone now," said the latter. "It is you they want, m'sieur.
One of them said that the stranger who had offered
money for your slaying lay in the house of Akmed din
Soulef with a broken wrist, but that he had offered a still
greater reward if some would lay in wait for you upon the
road to Bou Saada and kill you."
"It is he who followed m'sieur about the market today,"
exclaimed Abdul. "I saw him again within the cafe--him
and another; and the two went out into the inner court after
talking with this girl here. It was they who attacked and
fired upon us, as we came out of the cafe. Why do they wish
to kill you, m'sieur?"
"I do not know," replied Tarzan, and then, after a pause:
"Unless--" But he did not finish, for the thought that had
come to his mind, while it seemed the only reasonable solution
of the mystery, appeared at the same time quite improbable.
Presently the men in the street went away. The courtyard
and the cafe were deserted. Cautiously Tarzan lowered
himself to the sill of the girl's window. The room was empty.
He returned to the roof and let Abdul down, then he
lowered the girl to the arms of the waiting Arab.
From the window Abdul dropped the short distance to the
street below, while Tarzan took the girl in his arms and leaped
down as he had done on so many other occasions in his
own forest with a burden in his arms. A little cry of alarm
was startled from the girl's lips, but Tarzan landed in the
street with but an imperceptible jar, and lowered her in safety
to her feet.
She clung to him for a moment.
"How strong m'sieur is, and how active," she cried.
"EL ADREA, the black lion, himself is not more so."
"I should like to meet this EL ADREA of yours," he said.
"I have heard much about him."
"And you come to the DOUAR of my father you shall see
him," said the girl. "He lives in a spur of the mountains
north of us, and comes down from his lair at night to rob my
father's DOUAR. With a single blow of his mighty paw he
crushes the skull of a bull, and woe betide the belated
wayfarer who meets EL ADREA abroad at night."
Without further mishap they reached the hotel. The sleepy
landlord objected strenuously to instituting a search for
Kadour ben Saden until the following morning, but a piece
of gold put a different aspect on the matter, so that a few
moments later a servant had started to make the rounds of
the lesser native hostelries where it might be expected that a
desert sheik would find congenial associations. Tarzan had
felt it necessary to find the girl's father that night, for
fear he might start on his homeward journey too early in the
morning to be intercepted.
They had waited perhaps half an hour when the messenger
returned with Kadour ben Saden. The old sheik entered
the room with a questioning expression upon his proud face.
"Monsieur has done me the honor to--" he commenced, and
then his eyes fell upon the girl. With outstretched arms
he crossed the room to meet her. "My daughter!" he cried.
"Allah is merciful!" and tears dimmed the martial eyes of
the old warrior.
When the story of her abduction and her final rescue had
been told to Kadour ben Saden he extended his hand to Tarzan.
"All that is Kadour ben Saden's is thine, my friend, even
to his life," he said very simply, but Tarzan knew that
those were no idle words.
It was decided that although three of them would have to
ride after practically no sleep, it would be best to make an
early start in the morning, and attempt to ride all the
way to Bou Saada in one day. It would have been
comparatively easy for the men, but for the girl it
was sure to be a fatiguing journey.
She, however, was the most anxious to undertake it, for
it seemed to her that she could not quickly enough reach the
family and friends from whom she had been separated for
It seemed to Tarzan that he had not closed his eyes before
he was awakened, and in another hour the party was on its
way south toward Bou Saada. For a few miles the road was
good, and they made rapid progress, but suddenly it became
only a waste of sand, into which the horses sank fetlock
deep at nearly every step. In addition to Tarzan, Abdul,
the sheik, and his daughter were four of the wild plainsmen
of the sheik's tribe who had accompanied him upon the trip
to Sidi Aissa. Thus, seven guns strong, they entertained little
fear of attack by day, and if all went well they should reach
Bou Saada before nightfall.
A brisk wind enveloped them in the blowing sand of the
desert, until Tarzan's lips were parched and cracked. What
little he could see of the surrounding country was far from
alluring--a vast expanse of rough country, rolling in little,
barren hillocks, and tufted here and there with clumps of
dreary shrub. Far to the south rose the dim lines of the
Saharan Atlas range. How different, thought Tarzan, from
the gorgeous Africa of his boyhood!
Abdul, always on the alert, looked backward quite as often
as he did ahead. At the top of each hillock that they mounted
he would draw in his horse and, turning, scan the country to
the rear with utmost care. At last his scrutiny was rewarded.
"Look!" he cried. "There are six horsemen behind us."
"Your friends of last evening, no doubt, Monsieur," remarked
Kadour ben Saden dryly to Tarzan.
"No doubt," replied the ape-man. "I am sorry that my
society should endanger the safety of your journey. At the
next village I shall remain and question these gentlemen,
while you ride on. There is no necessity for my being at Bou
Saada tonight, and less still why you should not ride in peace."
"If you stop we shall stop," said Kadour ben Saden. "Until
you are safe with your friends, or the enemy has left your
trail, we shall remain with you. There is nothing more to say."
Tarzan nodded his head. He was a man of few words,
and possibly it was for this reason as much as any that
Kadour ben Saden had taken to him, for if there be one
thing that an Arab despises it is a talkative man.
All the balance of the day Abdul caught glimpses of the
horsemen in their rear. They remained always at about the
same distance. During the occasional halts for rest, and
at the longer halt at noon, they approached no closer.
"They are waiting for darkness," said Kadour ben Saden.
And darkness came before they reached Bou Saada. The
last glimpse that Abdul had of the grim, white-robed figures
that trailed them, just before dusk made it impossible to
distinguish them, had made it apparent that they were rapidly
closing up the distance that intervened between them and
their intended quarry. He whispered this fact to Tarzan, for
he did not wish to alarm the girl. The ape-man drew back
"You will ride ahead with the others, Abdul," said Tarzan.
"This is my quarrel. I shall wait at the next convenient
spot, and interview these fellows."
"Then Abdul shall wait at thy side," replied the young
Arab, nor would any threats or commands move him from
"Very well, then," replied Tarzan. "Here is as good a place
as we could wish. Here are rocks at the top of this hillock.
We shall remain hidden here and give an account of ourselves
to these gentlemen when they appear."
They drew in their horses and dismounted. The others
riding ahead were already out of sight in the darkness.
Beyond them shone the lights of Bou Saada. Tarzan removed
his rifle from its boot and loosened his revolver in its holster.
He ordered Abdul to withdraw behind the rocks with the
horses, so that they should be shielded from the enemies'
bullets should they fire. The young Arab pretended to do as
he was bid, but when he had fastened the two animals securely
to a low shrub he crept back to lie on his belly a few
paces behind Tarzan.
The ape-man stood erect in the middle of the road, waiting.
Nor did he have long to wait. The sound of galloping
horses came suddenly out of the darkness below him, and a
moment later he discerned the moving blotches of lighter
color against the solid background of the night.
"Halt," he cried, "or we fire!"
The white figures came to a sudden stop, and for a moment
there was silence. Then came the sound of a whispered council,
and like ghosts the phantom riders dispersed in all directions.
Again the desert lay still about him, yet it was an ominous
stillness that foreboded evil.
Abdul raised himself to one knee. Tarzan cocked his
jungle-trained ears, and presently there came to him the
sound of horses walking quietly through the sand to the
east of him, to the west, to the north, and to the south.
They had been surrounded. Then a shot came from the direction
in which he was looking, a bullet whirred through the air
above his head, and he fired at the flash of the enemy's gun.
Instantly the soundless waste was torn with the quick
staccato of guns upon every hand. Abdul and Tarzan fired
only at the flashes--they could not yet see their foemen.
Presently it became evident that the attackers were circling
their position, drawing closer and closer in as they began to
realize the paltry numbers of the party which opposed them.
But one came too close, for Tarzan was accustomed to using
his eyes in the darkness of the jungle night, than which
there is no more utter darkness this side the grave, and
with a cry of pain a saddle was emptied.
"The odds are evening, Abdul," said Tarzan, with a low laugh.
But they were still far too one-sided, and when the five
remaining horsemen whirled at a signal and charged full
upon them it looked as if there would be a sudden ending
of the battle. Both Tarzan and Abdul sprang to the shelter of
the rocks, that they might keep the enemy in front of them.
There was a mad clatter of galloping hoofs, a volley of shots
from both sides, and the Arabs withdrew to repeat the
maneuver; but there were now only four against the two.
For a few moments there came no sound from out of
the surrounding blackness. Tarzan could not tell whether the
Arabs, satisfied with their losses, had given up the fight, or
were waiting farther along the road to waylay them as they
proceeded on toward Bou Saada. But he was not left long in
doubt, for now all from one direction came the sound of a
new charge. But scarcely had the first gun spoken ere a
dozen shots rang out behind the Arabs. There came the wild
shouts of a new party to the controversy, and the pounding
of the feet of many horses from down the road to Bou Saada.
The Arabs did not wait to learn the identity of the oncomers.
With a parting volley as they dashed by the position which
Tarzan and Abdul were holding, they plunged off along the
road toward Sidi Aissa. A moment later Kadour ben Saden
and his men dashed up.
The old sheik was much relieved to find that neither
Tarzan nor Abdul had received a scratch. Not even had their
horses been wounded. They sought out the two men who had
fallen before Tarzan's shots, and, finding that both were
dead, left them where they lay.
"Why did you not tell me that you contemplated ambushing
those fellows?" asked the sheik in a hurt tone. "We might
have had them all if the seven of us had stopped to meet them."
"Then it would have been useless to stop at all," replied
Tarzan, "for had we simply ridden on toward Bou Saada they
would have been upon us presently, and all could have been
engaged. It was to prevent the transfer of my own quarrel
to another's shoulders that Abdul and I stopped off to
question them. Then there is your daughter--I could not be the
cause of exposing her needlessly to the marksmanship of six men."
Kadour ben Saden shrugged his shoulders. He did not
relish having been cheated out of a fight.
The little battle so close to Bou Saada had drawn out a
company of soldiers. Tarzan and his party met them just
outside the town. The officer in charge halted them to learn
the significance of the shots.
"A handful of marauders," replied Kadour ben Saden.
"They attacked two of our number who had dropped behind,
but when we returned to them the fellows soon dispersed.
They left two dead. None of my party was injured."
This seemed to satisfy the officer, and after taking the
names of the party he marched his men on toward the scene
of the skirmish to bring back the dead men for purposes of
identification, if possible.
Two days later, Kadour ben Saden, with his daughter and
followers, rode south through the pass below Bou Saada,
bound for their home in the far wilderness. The sheik had
urged Tarzan to accompany him, and the girl had added her
entreaties to those of her father; but, though he could not
explain it to them, Tarzan's duties loomed particularly large
after the happenings of the past few days, so that he could not
think of leaving his post for an instant. But he promised to
come later if it lay within his power to do so, and they had
to content themselves with that assurance.
During these two days Tarzan had spent practically all his
time with Kadour ben Saden and his daughter. He was keenly
interested in this race of stern and dignified warriors, and
embraced the opportunity which their friendship offered to
learn what he could of their lives and customs. He even
commenced to acquire the rudiments of their language under the
pleasant tutorage of the brown-eyed girl. It was with real
regret that he saw them depart, and he sat his horse at the
opening to the pass, as far as which he had accompanied
them, gazing after the little party as long as he could catch a
glimpse of them.
Here were people after his own heart! Their wild, rough
lives, filled with danger and hardship, appealed to this half-
savage man as nothing had appealed to him in the midst of the
effeminate civilization of the great cities he had visited. Here
was a life that excelled even that of the jungle, for here he
might have the society of men--real men whom he could honor and
respect, and yet be near to the wild nature that he loved.
In his head revolved an idea that when he had completed his
mission he would resign and return to live for the remainder
of his life with the tribe of Kadour ben Saden.
Then he turned his horse's head and rode slowly back to Bou Saada.
The front of the hotel du Petit Sahara, where Tarzan
stopped in Bou Saada, is taken up with the bar, two dining-
rooms, and the kitchens. Both of the dining-rooms open
directly off the bar, and one of them is reserved for the use
of the officers of the garrison. As you stand in the barroom
you may look into either of the dining-rooms if you wish.
It was to the bar that Tarzan repaired after speeding
Kadour ben Saden and his party on their way. It was yet
early in the morning, for Kadour ben Saden had elected to
ride far that day, so that it happened that when Tarzan
returned there were guests still at breakfast.
As his casual glance wandered into the officers' dining-
room, Tarzan saw something which brought a look of interest
to his eyes. Lieutenant Gernois was sitting there, and as
Tarzan looked a white-robed Arab approached and, bending,
whispered a few words into the Lieutenant's ear. Then he
passed on out of the building through another door.
In itself the thing was nothing, but as the man had stooped
to speak to the officer, Tarzan had caught sight of something
which the accidental parting of the man's burnoose had
revealed--he carried his left arm in a sling.
Return of Tarzan Chapter 7
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