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Title: Tahara - Among African Tribes
Author: Sherman, Harold M.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's note: Extensive research found no evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.]



TAHARA

Among African Tribes


By

HAROLD M. SHERMAN



THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY

CHICAGO



COPYRIGHT, 1933 BY

HAROLD M. SHERMAN

MADE IN U.S.A.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

    I  THE EYES OF DREAD
   II  KING OF TWO TRIBES
  III  ARAB RAIDERS
   IV  THE BATTLE RAGES
    V  CIMBULA WEAVES A PLOT
   VI  HOT WORK
  VII  THE WAR TRAIL
 VIII  BLACK WARRIORS
   IX  THE BAD NEWS BREAKS
    X  WAR CANOES
   XI  KING SOLOMON'S CROWN
  XII  STAMPEDE
 XIII  JUNGLE DANCERS
  XIV  TO THE RESCUE
   XV  READY FOR NEW ADVENTURES



Tahara--Among African Tribes


CHAPTER I

THE EYES OF DREAD

"What's the matter, Raal?  You seem to be worried about something."
Dick Oakwood, blue eyed and smiling and resembling a blond savage in
his garb of soft zebra skin, glanced down at his chief warrior who
prostrated himself at the feet of the boy king.

"Tahara, hal!  Come quickly, O Master!" replied Raal, his whole body
expressing fear.

"What is it, Raal?  What new danger threatens us now?" asked Dick,
dropping the work he was doing and facing the stocky figure of the
warrior.

"Tahara is great!  I do not fear," replied Raal still bowing low before
the boy, but his trembling shoulders and terror-stricken eyes told Dick
that something unusual had happened.

Dick Oakwood cast a glance about the royal enclosure, a spring
surrounded by date palms, then strained his eyes toward the vast
expanse of the Sahara.  Everything was quiet.  It was mid-afternoon and
the savages went about their work in drowsy fashion still only half
awakened from their siesta, the resting time while the blazing sun was
at its height.  The women were in their caves, busy with the weaving
and spinning.  The tribesmen of the kingdom of Tahara were in the
fields, cultivating the ground while others were chipping flint
arrowheads and making bows and spears.  There was no sign of trouble
anywhere.

Dick turned to Raal.  "Speak, Raal, what bothers you?"

"O Master," gasped the chief warrior, nervously gripping his stone
hatchet.  "Near the spot where the great bird-demon rested a few suns
ago, a strange object with terrible staring eyes, is lying in the sand.
It is an evil spirit, I am sure."

"Bring it here, Raal.  I would see what it is."

Raal started violently as if struck, his tanned face turned pale.  "I
dare not, O Tahara!  It is perhaps black magic!  It may work evil.  I
beg of you, Tahara, take your bow and drive an arrow through this
demon's heart before it slays us."

"Come with me, Raal!" commanded Dick.  "Show me this strange creature!
How big is it?  As big as a leopard?"

"No master it is very small, but terrible, and its skin is black and
shiny.  In truth it is a wicked demon."

"Fear not, Raal, for I, Tahara have chased away all evil spirits."

"But the strange creature, O Master, is not good to look at.  It
watches you with great shining eyes that stare and never blink."

Dick looked amused and puzzled.  As the pair walked together over the
sandy waste, Dick's tall, slender body stood out in striking contrast
to that of his thick-set companion.  Raal was heavily muscled and his
blond hair hung about his shoulders while his face was covered with a
light beard.  Though he was an African, Raal was a white savage of the
Stone-Age, for the Taharans were a survival of ancient times.

Dick's blue eyes were glowing with interest as he neared the spot where
the strange creature was said to be hiding.  What could it be?  What
new menace was he about to face?

Suddenly Raal slowed his steps, gripping his stone hatchet in readiness
to strike.  "Not so fast, O Master.  The demon may be asleep and we can
slip up on him unawares," cautioned the warrior.

But Dick had caught sight of the object half hidden in the sand, and
with an exclamation of joy he sprang forward and picked it up.

"Ah-woe, Tahara!" moaned Raal.  "Have a care, Master."

But Dick did not hear him.  "Good!" he exclaimed.  "Just what I need.
Binoculars!  I bet Rex Carter will be mad when he finds that he left
his field glasses behind.  It's my lucky day!"

Raal looked on in fear as Dick put the glasses to his eyes and gazed
out over the desert.

"Good!" said Dick smiling at Raal.  "These are binoculars."

"Binoculars!" muttered Raal.  "What a terrible word.  It must be a
fierce creature to have such a name."  He watched Dick holding the
glasses to his eyes and added with admiration, "How brave is Tahara!
My Master has great courage to handle such a terrifying demon without
fear!"

Dick offered the glasses to his warrior but Raal backed away hastily.

"The evil eye!  Ah-woe, Tahara!"

Dick laughed.  "Take a look, Raal.  They are, in truth, magic glasses.
But you can see that they do not harm me."

Raal shook his head vigorously.  Tahara was all-powerful, that he knew.
Tahara could cast out evil.  But he, Raal, was not a god and could not
afford to take chances.

Dick Oakwood looked at his chief warrior with a tolerant smile.  Here
was a man, brave in battle, a great fighter, a courageous hunter,
taking chances with his life a thousand times in combat with his
enemies or a hand-to-hand struggle with wild animals, yet the sight of
the binoculars with their glass lenses that looked to his savage mind
as great unwinking eyes, had sent him into a panic.--And Raal was one
of the bravest of his subjects.  The others were far less intelligent.

Dick looked forward to the time when he could teach this tribe the
folly of superstition.  These strange fancies of demons and witchcraft,
learned from Cimbula, the wily medicine-man, had more than once stood
him in good stead, for Dick had used their fears to bend their wills to
his, but now that he had brought peace to his kingdom, he wanted to
break down these superstitious ideas that kept the tribe from advancing
in the arts of peace.

Dick Oakwood had joined an expedition to Africa undertaken by his
father, Professor Hector Oakwood, a famous scientist, who had come to
the desert to find and study a tribe of white savages living in an
obscure mountain fastness and said to be of a Stone-Age race.
Professor Mason and Dr. Jarvis had their own projects, the study of the
jungle plants and reptiles, while Rex Carter, the millionaire, who
financed the expedition, was interested in the eclipse of the sun which
he wanted to study from a temporary observatory put up on an oasis in
the desert.  His other interest was in seeing that his son and
daughter, Dan and Ray Carter, had a good time on the trip.  Dan's
carefree disposition, his ability to find fun under all circumstances,
kept the party from taking the dangers and inconveniences too
seriously.  Dan always brought a laugh with him.

All went well until Jess Slythe, an unscrupulous adventurer, managed to
attach himself to the expedition, foreseeing an opportunity to get a
large sum of money from the wealthy Rex Carter.  After helping to
establish the camp at the Pomegranate Oasis, Jess Slythe found that
Dick Oakwood was watching his movements with suspicion.  The boy was
alert to everything that went on in the camp.

The treacherous Slythe, aided by Suli, his Arab servant, persuaded Dick
to take them in his plane, the _Meteorite_, on a trip of exploration
into a mountainous country said to be rich in gold.  Dick was pleased
at this plan, the desert seemed to call to him with a promise of
thrilling adventures.  But when they were far away from the Pomegranate
Oasis, Slythe started a fight with Dick, who was forced to take a
parachute jump in order to save his life.  He landed in a mountainous
district among a white tribe of savages, known as the Taharans.  By a
clever trick the boy made these savages believe that he was Tahara,
their god of the sun.

Only Cimbula, the witch-doctor, refused to accept him as a god, and
continued to stir up suspicion against him, urging his followers to
kill the boy.  It took courage, quick thinking and prompt action to
save Dick from the dangers in which he found himself, for the tribe
would worship him one moment and in the next would be preparing a
ceremony of execution in which Dick was to be the chief sacrifice.

He won the respect of the Taharans by helping them conquer their
enemies, the Gorols, a black, hairy tribe of savages not much above the
apes.  In ancient times the two tribes, the Gorols and Taharans had
been under one ruler, but that was long ago, before the golden crown of
the king had been stolen.  Since then, frequent attacks and raids from
both sides kept the district in a constant state of war.

Dick Oakwood showed the Stone-Age men how to make and use bows and
arrows and once in a battle with the Gorols when defeat and death for
his warriors seemed certain, the boy arranged a catapult to shoot rocks
to the top of a cliff.  Then his warriors hailed him as "Tahara, hal!"
only to turn against him when Jess Slythe took a hand in the battle by
throwing hand grenades from the _Meteorite_ among the Taharan warriors.
The Stone-Age men had scattered quickly to find any refuge from this
deadly fire from the sky, and Dick was taken prisoner by Cimbula and
kept in his cave until such time as he decided to kill him.  Dick
managed to escape and rescued Ray and Dan whom Slythe had left with the
Gorols.  Dan was about to be sacrificed by the jealous Cimbula when
Dick came upon the scene and saved his friend.

Dick found himself in many tight places and in the end it appeared to
the boy that there was no way out.  He and his friends, Dan and Ray,
were to be executed by the Taharans whom Cimbula had set against them.
But Dick did not give up hope and his alert mind found a way out of the
difficulty.  He found the golden crown, which he wore, uniting once
more the two savage tribes.

When Rex Carter arrived in his plane to find his family, Dick had been
crowned King of the Taharans.  After hearing the whole story from Ray
and Dan, he refused to believe that the young people were safe among
this strange race.

"Get ready and let's be off!" he said to Dick as he looked anxiously
around at the suspicious warriors, who gazed in horror at the great
airplane that rested on the sands before the oasis.

"Nothing doing, I'm staying here," replied Dick.  "I wouldn't miss this
for anything!"

"You're fooling, Dick!  You wouldn't want to stay here!  Let's go!"
urged Rex Carter.

"I'm not fooling, Mr. Carter.  This will be my one and only chance to
be a real king.  I've earned this job and I'm not going to give it up.
Tell Dad I've found that Stone-Age tribe!"

Rex Carter looked at Dan and Ray, with a question in his eyes.

Ray took her father's hand and snuggled up to him as if for protection,
but Dan turned to his friend.

"Say Dick are you positive that there'll always be plenty of eats?" he
asked.

"I promise," replied Dick with a smile.

"Then I'm staying as chief adviser to the king!" Dan said with a smile
as he turned to his father.

Rex Carter looked troubled, but Dick's confident manner assured him
that he could trust his son to him.

"It's all right, Mr. Carter," said Dick seriously.  "We couldn't leave
these people without a king and an adviser.  They are depending on us!
We have to stay!"

Thus had Dick Oakwood become Tahara, the Boy King of the Desert.

His ambition was to develop the Stone-Age tribesmen in the ways of
peace and progress, without allowing them to be robbed or reduced to
slavery by greedy fortune-seekers from the outside world.

But in planning this happy future of his people, the Boy King did not
foresee that he would have to fight off raiders and bandits who wanted
to enslave them.

Dick Oakwood's exciting adventures had only just begun and before they
ended he was to go through many fierce battles and hair-breadth escapes.



CHAPTER II

KING OF TWO TRIBES

"Let's go, Dan!  Here's where we give our royal domain a visit of
inspection."

"Okay, Dick.  But first let me finish my breakfast.  One more slice of
wild pig please!"

"Get a move on, Dan!  The sun's up.  We're all ready but you!"

Dick's first interest was to explore his new kingdom, and he set out
early on this expedition with his two chief lieutenants, Raal, who was
the best fighter among the Taharans, carried a treasure, wrapped in a
zebra skin.  Kulki, the young leader of the Gorol tribe, which lived in
the mountains in huts built in the trees, carried Dick's long flint
knife as an emblem of royal power.

Kulki was the son of Wabiti, an old chief who could not lead his tribe
in battle, but was still respected for his wisdom.

These two warriors led the way, and for his bodyguard, the Boy King
took two Taharan tribesmen armed with bows and arrows and flint knives.
Kurt and Kurul were devoted to him, and had proved their courage in
more than one stiff fight.

Dan Carter, his chum, went with the expedition as right hand man and
counselor, though as a matter of fact, Dan was so easy-going and
light-hearted that he was more useful for his company than for his
advice.  As a sign of high rank he was allowed to carry the binoculars.

The party set out from the fertile hills that rose from the Sahara and
climbed by winding trails up the cliffs to Gorol Land.

Here the country was rugged and covered with a growth of trees and
where the forest was thick and hard to penetrate lurked many wild
animals.  Leopards, panthers and other fierce creatures were in those
shadowy recesses, together with poisonous snakes and other reptiles.
Great apes and chattering little monkeys clambered boldly among the
trees while gaily colored tropical birds screeched and scolded the
intruders.

"Jiminy crickets!" cried Dan excitedly.  "This beats any zoo I've seen
yet!  Animals in cages don't seem as interesting as the ones that go
climbing about in the forest."

"You're right at that," Dick answered.  "And as for the Gorols, they
are more like the side-show 'wild man of Borneo' than anything I've
ever heard of."

"Listen.  That sounds like war drums along the trail."

Dan put his hand on his bow, but Dick held him back.

"Don't be foolish!" he said.  "Those are drums of welcome."

He spoke a few words to Kulki in the Gorol language, which he was
beginning to learn, and the savage answered grinning:

"They are the drums of Chief Wabiti, my father.  We are near his camp
now."

"Here they come!" exclaimed Dan.  "Say, this beats a circus parade!"

Ahead of them on the forest trail the boys caught sight of dark figures
moving among the trees and spots of gay color.  As they reached a small
clearing, Kulki led the party to a fallen log at one side, where Dick
sat with his followers standing around him.

Then Chief Wabiti and his people entered to greet their new ruler, the
Boy King, with drums beating and voices raised in a shrill song of
welcome.

"Quick, Raal, where is the crown?" Dick asked and his savage henchman
hastily unwrapped the heavy diadem from a covering of zebra skin and
handed it to his master, bowing low as he did so.

Dick placed the crudely fashioned crown of soft gold and uncut gems
upon his head, while Dan inspected him with a grin, remarking, "It sets
a little sideways, Dick.  Say, you need me along to keep your royal
crown from slipping over your eye."

"Lay off, Dan!  Don't get funny!"

Dick turned to Kulki.  "Where's my sword of state?"

Down on his knees went the hairy, dark-skinned Kulki, and presented the
flint knife on both open palms.

"Good!  Now Dan, you stand close to me and hold out the field glasses
where they will impress the natives."

Dick with his zebra skin garments, his crown, flint knife and
respectful attendants looked enough like a tribal king to impress
Wabiti, who entered the clearing at that moment, following his
bodyguard and a procession of young girls ornamented with garlands of
flowers.  Behind him came his sons, princes of the Gorol tribe, but all
of lesser rank than Kulki.

At the sight of Tahara, the new king, who was now ruler of both the
tribes, Wabiti fell flat on his face and crawled forward to embrace the
young monarch's ankles.

His followers prostrated themselves at the same moment, all but the
drummers, who stood to one side beating furiously upon the instruments
with their flat hands.

"Tahara, hal!"

The words came from the aged Wabiti in a submissive growling voice from
the pit of his stomach.  His gray head was almost between Dick
Oakwood's feet.

Kulki echoed the words in a ringing shout.

"Tahara, hal!  Tahara!"

All the Gorol tribe followed, chanting at the top of their lungs, while
the women and girls repeated the words of submission in shrill,
piercing voices.

The uproar terrified the brightly plumaged birds in the treetops and
sent the curious little monkeys scuttling to safety.

Dick was about to raise Wabiti to his feet, when Dan remarked, "Let him
stay where he is a while longer.  I remember that old scoundrel did not
lift a hand to save me, the night of the witch hunt.  Let him stay
there till his joints get stiff!"

"Don't blame him for that," said Dick.  "Wabiti couldn't help himself."

"That's right.  He was scared of old Cimbula.  By the way, where do you
suppose that rascally witch-doctor is hiding out?"

"Can't say, Dan!  But don't worry!  The tribes are through with him and
his so-called magic."

While Dick and his chum were talking, the tribe of Gorols showed some
degree of uneasiness.  Dick was not aware of it, but his delay in
giving the signal for Wabiti to rise was taken as a sign of anger.

The Gorols remembered how Dan had been chosen for sacrifice in the
Boiling Black Spring that night of the terrible witch hunt, and when
they saw him talking earnestly with Dick, they thought he was urging
the new king to punish them.

The women and girls of the tribe began swaying and weaving their arms
over their heads in a dance of terror.  Their high pitched voices broke
into a wailing plea for mercy:

"Ah-woe, ah-woe, Tahara!"

Even the drummers joined in begging for a pardon, for the drums rolled
in a melancholy rhythm.

Kulki bowed to the ground and cried, "May I speak, Master?"

"Speak, Kulki!"

"Is my lord angry?"

"Angry at what, Kulki?"

"We did wrong!  Be merciful, O King.  Touch my father with the flat of
your knife as a sign of pardon."

"Pardon?"

"Yes, O mighty Tahara.  If one of us must be slain, strike me.  But do
not kill my father before the tribe that loves him."

Dick was astonished at the earnestness of the young savage, and also at
the spirit of sacrifice.

He smiled and spoke to Dan.

"Pretty sporting, eh?"

"I'll say so!  Kulki shows the right spirit."

As the tribe saw Dan and Dick smiling, their fears were turned to
rejoicing, and a great shout went up as Dick stooped and patted the old
chief on his grey head.

"We are friends," he said.

"I am your slave, O Tahara," exclaimed Wabiti.

"And I!" Kulki cried while Wabiti's other sons all shouted in their own
language, "Long live Tahara, King of the two tribes!"

After this ceremony, Wabiti led the way to the clearing under his airy
village in the trees.

In a great pit, filled with glowing coals, were the carcasses of
mountain goats, antelopes and wild boars.  Small birds were roasting on
skewers held by women of the tribe, while girls came forward with woven
trays heaped high with tropical fruits such as Dick had eaten among the
Taharans.

There were melons, dates, pomegranates and many others that he did not
know by name, also gourds full of a delicious drink made from honey and
wild grapes.

"Oh boy!  This is the life!" exclaimed Dan.  "Hey sister, bring over
that basket of figs!  Look at this, Dick!  Ripe figs, purple and white
figs!  They're sweet as sugar."

Dick smiled and tasted the fruit but Dan insisted on keeping a basket
beside him while the guests and Wabiti sat on the grass and the feast
began.

Dan Carter, who enjoyed his meals and never passed up anything, was the
hero of the hour.  The savages believed in doing everything thoroughly:
if they fought, they fought to kill and when they ate, they stuffed to
bursting.

Dick Oakwood, with his habit of moderate eating, would have made a poor
impression but for the exploits of Dan, who upheld the honor of both by
his attacks upon the food.

As Dan picked a bone, he threw it behind him, over his shoulder and
instantly a child of the tribe would snatch it as a prize.

The Gorols were in high spirits.  They foresaw happy days ahead, days
of hunting and feasting with no more fear of war with the Taharans to
disturb their sleep.

"We are all friends and brothers!" said Wabiti, rising with a gourd
full of the honey drink.

"Friends and brothers," echoed Dick.

Wabiti chuckled sleepily, sat down abruptly and the next moment his
head fell forward and he began snoring like a buzz saw.

Dick was not displeased.  He looked forward to many happy years,
studying these simple people, left over from the Old Stone Age, and
watching them develop as he taught them the arts of peace.

After the Gorols had eaten all their skins could hold, they began to
drop off to sleep and Dick called Raal to him.

"Now is a good time for us to explore the country undisturbed," he
said.  "You and I will look over the Black Boiling Spring that I saw
one terrible night.  And I would enter the cave of the Great Gorol,
where we stole the sacred black image."

"I hear.  I obey!"

Raal ordered one of the Gorols to bring a bundle of torches and told
Kurt and Kurul to stay where they were and look after Dan, who was
stretched out in a happy doze.

But as Dick rose to go, Dan started after him.  "I wasn't sleeping," he
cried.  "I just closed my eyes to think!  I'm going along."

"What's the matter?"

"Nothing.  I'd just feel better to go with you."

"You're not afraid, are you?" laughed Dick.  "The Gorols are all
friendly."

"Of course not.  But I was just thinking, suppose that old
witch-doctor, Cimbula, happened to smell the cooking and crash the
party.  He might persuade those fellows to throw me into the Boiling
Spring after all."

"Well, come along, if you're able to walk," answered Dick.

They followed the winding trail to the hot sulphur spring that still
sent its suffocating fumes from the black pit and bubbled menacingly as
the boys looked down.

"Jiminy crickets!  I'll never forget how they wanted to chuck me in
there," exclaimed Dan.  "Walk a little faster!"

"Come along.  There's the cave mouth just ahead."

The chums paused to stare at the tall posts that marked the entrance,
each crowned with a polished human skull, then Raal got the torches
flaring and passed them out to light their way.

Dick followed close beside Raal, with Dan at his heels, as they plunged
into the darkness of the cave.  The narrow walls rose straight beside
them as they proceeded slowly, and soon Dick reached the place where
the passage turned at right angles.

Here the walls were flat surfaces, smoothed and cut artificially.  It
was no longer a rugged cave but a tunnel.

"Look!" exclaimed Dan.  "The walls are all covered with drawings."

Dick held up his torch to the rocky surface and saw that it was painted
with pictures of hunting scenes, men pursuing boars and antelope.  The
drawings were done in outline and rubbed with some brownish color to
make them show clearly.

"These are real Stone-Age pictures," said Dick as they went deeper and
deeper into the cave.  "They are like the ones that Umba is painting
now in his cave, but they show animals that have died out long ago.
See, here are drawings of extinct animals.  There is the sabre-tooth
tiger.  And look, that is a mastodon with long, curved tusks."

"Jiminy, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could find one or two left
over?" said Dan.

"A mastodon?  Not likely!  The climate has changed since the time that
picture was made and those giants died out long ago," Dick replied.

"Well, anyhow, some day we will go hunting in the high mountains.
Maybe we can find one or two animals that are extinct everywhere else."

"We'll certainly do that little thing," said Dick.  He held his torch
closer to the wall to examine a large crack in the surface.  It was of
rotten, crumbling stone in the fissure and as Dick pried at it with his
flint knife, a handful of fragments dropped out.

Dan stooped to look at them.  He rose to his feet with his eyes bright
with excitement.

"Do you know what this is?" he exclaimed.  "Quartz!  Rotten quartz!
And it's heavy with gold."

Dick stared at the glittering bits of ore and echoed: "Gold!"

"We have stumbled on the place where all that metal comes from," said
Dan.  "This is a mine.  See how the passage goes on at a right angle.
It was dug to follow the ledge of gold."

"I wonder.  These people don't value gold.  They use it the way we use
any common metal."

"It's the only metal they know," said Dan.  "And it's common here as
old iron is with us."

Raal showed no interest in their find.  Gold was nothing more to him
than lead or tin.  He picked up a yellow nugget from the floor and
carelessly threw it away again.

"I don't think the tribe hollowed this tunnel for gold," said Dick.  "I
believe they cut it for use as a temple.  And from the rock that was
dumped outside they collected the gold that happened to be mixed with
the crushed stone."

"What a find!" Dan repeated over and over.  "Why, Dick, this would lead
to a gold rush if the news ever got out.  Just like the California and
Yukon stampedes."

"I hope nobody lets the word get out!"

"If Jess Slythe knew about it, he'd be here with an army of ruffians,"
said Dan.

"And kill off all the tribesmen.  It would be a tragedy."

By this time the boys had reached the square dark chamber, with the
stone block on which the idol of the ape-god had once been worshipped.
Here the seams of ore were richer and thicker than in the tunnel and
the floor of the room was heavy with glinting particles of yellow.

"Jiminy crickets!" gasped Dan Carter.  "Gold dust!  Think of it, Dick,
the place is carpeted with gold dust!  We're rich!  Millionaires!"

But Dick was not happy.  He had not come there to make money but to
discover an ancient tribe.  The secret of the gold would mean the
slaughter of those people, if the word spread.

When he left the cave he had resolved to swear Dan to secrecy, and as
for the cave, he would order the natives to wall up its mouth for fear
of evil magic.


Following his visit to Wabiti's tribe, Dick returned to the Taharan
village, where he began teaching the natives the simple arts that they
could practice.

The women were shown how the wool of wild sheep and the hair of goats
could be spun into yarn, and he had primitive looms set up in caves,
where cloth was woven.

Veena, the pretty little handmaiden of the old queen, was quick to
learn and as she was fond of Dick and anxious to please him, she was
among the first to produce a fine piece of cloth.

Veena blushed with pleasure when he praised it and looked at him shyly,
then cast down her blue eyes much like one of the girls at home.  With
her fair skin and blond hair, Veena might have been his own sister.

The sharp-faced Queen Vanga, was given an occupation to keep her quiet.
Now that she no longer ruled the tribe, Vanga was set to overseeing the
women who spun and wove.  She did it with relish.

"Work faster, you lazy creatures!" she cried.  "Don't stop to gossip!
Don't go to sleep over your work!" and if any of them talked back, she
did not hesitate to box their ears.  Old Vanga was still a queen.

Dan was especially useful in teaching the men of the tribe something
about farming and horse-breaking.  Both Dan and Dick had been in
Arizona long enough to see how the cowboys did things and soon the
Taharans had learned to make lariats out of their palm fibre ropes.
Dick and Dan took turns in showing them how to lasso and throw the
little wild horses, which the tribe owned but had never learned to use.

"Can you beat it!" exclaimed Dan.  "These fellows think a pony is good
for just one thing.  They raise them for food."

"They are rather small to ride," said Dick, "but I'll tell you what,
we'll break a few to the saddle anyhow."

"First we'll have to make a saddle."

"And then we'll show these Taharans what a horse-breaker their king can
be."

But that plan had to be delayed for before the horse-breaking could
begin a reign of terror swept like a hurricane over the peaceful
kingdom of Tahara.



CHAPTER III

ARAB RAIDERS

Dan came running to Dick Oakwood and cried, "Say it looks to me like a
sandstorm over there.  Maybe we had all better get under cover!"

Across the desert, far away, Dick saw a cloud of dust rising into the
hot blue sky and called Raal.

"Is that a sandstorm?" he asked.

Raal studied the horizon carefully with narrowed eyes.  "No, Master.
When the sandstorm comes from the desert, it is not like that.
Overhead the color changes and threatens danger.  It may be a herd of
wild horses that raises the dust."

"Do wild horses run about on the desert?" asked Dan.

"Never before have I seen them, but of late I have seen many strange
things.  I have seen birds that carry men and I have seen the sun
darkened."

Dick took his binoculars and studied the morning cloud, but it was too
far for him to make out what was kicking up the dust.  Dan looked
without success, and Dick turned to the natives.

"You try what you can see," he said to Raal, handing over the
binoculars.

The Taharan took the "magic glasses" with awe.  Never could he outgrow
the superstitious terror that they aroused.

"They won't hurt you," laughed Dan.  "Take a chance!  You saw me use
them."

"Yet they are strong magic.  I fear them because I do not understand."

"It's all right.  They are harmless to you.  Look!"  And as Dick helped
him to focus the binoculars, Raal cried out in amazement.

"Ah-woe, ah-woe!  I see warriors!--Or demons, mounted on horses!  The
magic brings them close!  Ah-woe!"

Dick took the glasses and thought he could make out what the sharp-eyed
savage had seen.

"Arabs!" he gasped.  "A wild tribe of nomads!"

"Arabs, Master?"

Raal did not know what he was talking about.  Never had raiding Arabs
found this spot so far from the caravan trails.  In the history of the
tribe, no strangers had ever visited the land until the airplanes had
brought Dick and those others from the sky.  Yet with the instinct of
the savage, Raal was quick to grasp the idea of a raid by enemies.

"Arabs!  If they be men, we will fight them!"

"Lucky for you we are here to protect you!" said Dan.

"Quick, Raal!" cried Dick.  "Assemble the warriors with all their
weapons.  Spears, bows and arrows, stone hatchets and knives!  Order
the war drums to be sounded!"

"I hear, O Master!"

Raal hurried to obey.  Shaggy blond tribesmen sprang to the hollow
logs, with tightly stretched hides and soon the roll of the drums
brought Taharan warriors hurrying from the fields.  The alarm throbbed
until the air was vibrating with a feeling of menace.  The call to
battle carried over the cliffs and beyond to the Gorol tree dwellings,
and soon the ape-men were seen, scrambling down the steep rocks, with
their war chief, Kulki, among them.

Their thin figures, covered with a fine growth of dark hair, made them
resemble something more than beast and less than man.  Like goats they
found a footing on the steep sides.  Their bodies were stringy and
tough-muscled; light in weight, they were far stronger than the average
civilized man, and more agile even than the Taharans.

As warriors they were formidable, and Kulki, their leader, was fearless
and a tricky fighter.

Raal, too, was brave in battle and the Taharans were superb warriors.
With their throwing sticks they could hurl a lance with such force that
it would go right through a man's body, and as archers they could bring
down a bird in flight with their flint-tipped arrows.

"There's trouble coming, sure!" exclaimed Dan Carter.  "Jiminy, I'd
hate to be an Arab and get crowned with Raal's flint hatchet."

But the Arabs were not fighting with such Stone-Age weapons.  They
carried long-barreled guns, that could pick off a bowman far beyond
arrow range, and their swift horses and camels could keep them safe
from attack.

"Dan, you keep close to me!" exclaimed Dick.  "I'll need you to act as
my lieutenant.  This is going to be a real scrap!"

Dick saw at a glance that the battle would have to be carried on from
the cliffs.  There the Taharans and Gorols would have the advantage of
cover and the Arab horses would be useless in fighting.

Yet he knew that a sharp resistance would weaken the Arab force and
lessen their confidence.  The first line of battle he entrusted to Raal
and a force of picked Taharan archers.

"Post your men between the desert sands and the Sacred Spring," Dick
ordered.  "Let each man find shelter behind a rock and see to it that
he can retreat to the cliffs at top speed.  Then as soon as the enemy
comes within bow-shot let drive at him with arrows and retreat, still
shooting.  Post a second line closer to the spring.  And a third beside
the water."

"I hear, O Master.  I obey!"

Without losing a moment Raal ordered his archers to find an ambush
shutting off the invaders from the spring.  Dick knew well that the
cool water would be the first thing these raiders would want after the
long trip across the blistering hot sands.  No matter how full their
water bags had been at the start, they would be empty now.

The spring would be the first point of attack.

Dan studied the Arabs through the binoculars.  "There are hundreds of
them," he cried, "on horses and camels!  They are a fierce looking gang
of bandits."

"Raal will tame them when they get within bowshot," said Dick.

Meanwhile Kulki in command of the Gorols, took up a position on the
cliff edge, while all the small children and old people of the cave
dwellers, hurried to find shelter in the mountains.

The older children and the women brought big stones to the edge of the
cliff to roll down upon the invaders.

All these preparations had gone forward with breathless haste, for the
Arab raiders were closing in fast.

Leaving Dan behind, Dick advanced to meet them, carrying a white flag;
one of the first fabrics woven on his looms.  He did not want to begin
hostilities until he was quite certain that the Arabs were bent on war,
and waved the flag as a signal.

But Dick was not long left in doubt as to their hostile purpose.

The Arabs began shooting at the flag of truce long before they were
within rifle range.  Bullets threw up puffs of dust in the desert and
Dick retreated to the first line, where archers were crouching behind
scattered boulders, and took refuge.

The thunder of hoof beats was loud in his ears, the tossing heads and
flying foam of the horses showed clearly, before Dick shouted:

"Let them have it!"

Raal echoed his command.  "Let them have it!  Tahara, hal!"

Instantly the band of horsemen was stung by a cloud of arrows.  Horses
and riders were pierced by the flint-tipped arrows and a dozen saddles
showed empty as the horses galloped on.

There was a shout of rage and surprise.  The raiders had expected no
such fierce resistance and some shrieked to Allah and Mohammed, his
prophet, while others vented screams of pain.

"Slay them!  The dogs of unbelievers!" shouted Abdul, their leader.

A crackling volley of rifle shots rang out, bullets whined through the
air and flattened themselves upon the boulders and the troop swerved
sharply to one side.

"Another!" cried Dick.  "Give it to them!"

Again arrows stung them like hornets and the Bedouins, firing wildly,
were thrown into confusion.

Then as the charge broke and the riflemen galloped away to reload their
weapons, Dick gave the signal to retreat to the second line of defense.

The Taharans fell back, keeping close to the ground and taking shelter
at every bush and boulder.

So far the battle had been in their favor.  The black-bearded ruffians
had been repulsed with dead and wounded, while the Taharans had escaped
without loss of a man.

Of course, luck could not favor them always.  The raiders had withdrawn
to take counsel with Abdul and that ferocious chieftain swore by the
beard of the Prophet that he would show no mercy to the "infidel dogs"
who had dared to resist him.  His hawk eyes stared furiously at the
cliffs, then at the boulders, behind each of which lurked a bowman.

"We will not make another charge!" he ordered.  "This time each
horseman will ride warily, rifle ready for action.  Make a detour!
Ride to one side of the rocks and try to pick off the archers one by
one."

Suli, who rode beside Abdul, searched the horizon with black, angry
eyes.

"Where is Slythe?" he muttered.  "The winged warrior has failed us!"

Abdul heard him and vented a hearty curse upon the missing airman.

"He has led us into a trap!  May he perish and the dogs devour him!"

"He did not warn us that the savages of this tribe would fight like
demons!" put in a wounded Arab, knotting a strip of linen about his
bleeding arm.

"If we had known that they could fight like tigers, we would have
raided them by night when they slept," growled Abdul.  "Now it is too
late for a surprise or a parley.  We must fight it through."

"And first of all we must have water for ourselves and our horses!"
grumbled Suli.

"Yes, by the Prophet!  First we shall capture the spring.  But not by
storm!  Ride warily and pick off the dogs one at a time!"

Carefully the troop approached and this time Dick used another
strategy.  As an Arab rider would approach a rock, a Taharan would
break and run back to another shelter.  But when the Arab chased him,
firing his rifle, a second tribesman still hiding behind the rock would
take a shot at the Arab at close range.

So keen and clever were the Taharan archers, that few arrows missed.
But the tribesmen were not so fortunate as to go unscathed through the
second attack.  More than one was dropped by an Arab bullet, some to
rise no more.

Dick Oakwood directed the running fight, giving orders to Raal, who
shouted them to his men in a voice that rang out like the bellowing of
a bull.  Though he might be frightened at evil magic and things that he
did not understand, Raal was brave as a lion when it came to battle.

Dan Carter had stayed in the rear according to Dick's orders until the
thrill of watching the fight got his nerves on edge with excitement.
Then, armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows, he ran from one shelter
to another until he was among the fighting men.  At the last rock where
he took refuge, a Taharan archer was already hidden, driving his arrows
to the mark every time an Arab rider came within range.

Dan saw it was Kurt, one of Dick's most trusted henchmen, and with a
word of encouragement, the boy took up his position on the other side
of the big rock.

"Let 'em have it!" said Dan.

"Let 'em have it!" Kurt repeated and both marksmen let fly at a
Bedouin, mounted on a splendid gray horse that came charging toward the
rock.

The arrows whizzed through the air, but the rider was on guard and
dropped from his saddle, hanging to the side of his horse and protected
by its body.

Then before the archers could shoot again he was right beside the rock
and slashing out with his curving sword, struck at Kurt with a blow
that laid open the tribesman's shoulder.

Dan was ready with his second arrow by that time and let drive a dart
that caught the Arab in the throat and dropped him to the ground.  The
horse galloped on, while Kurt and Dan ran back toward the cliffs, for
now other Arabs were close by and their position was too hot to keep.

"_Allah il allah!_" shouted the raiders, galloping to head off the
fugitives.

"Slay the dogs of unbelievers!"

Their howls of fury rose shrill and high amid the rattling of rifle
shots, the whinnying of horses and the war cry of the tribesmen,
"Tahara, hal!  Tahara!"

Dan was racing for life, when he saw that Kurt was lagging.  Loss of
blood from the gash on his shoulder had weakened the Taharan warrior
and it seemed as if he might fall from exhaustion, so Dan forgot his
own danger to help Kurt escape.

The Arab pursuers saw that the two enemies were having a hard time to
get away and let out yells of triumph.

"Allah!  Down with the unbelievers!"

A couple of horsemen sped toward the fugitives and their rifles sent
the echoes flying back from the cliffs, though the bullets missed their
mark and sent puffs of dust from the ground to either side.

"Run, Kurt!  Run for your life!" gasped Dan Carter.

"Leave me!  I grow weak, but I can die like a man," answered Kurt,
brave to the last.

"You're not going to die!" said Dan.  "Here, put your weight on my
shoulder.  I'll help you!"

Their situation was desperate.  Behind them came the two Arabs, tugging
at their scimiters to release them from the scabbards and eager to cut
the fugitives to bits.

Before them raced the riderless horse, zig-zagging to avoid the
tribesmen who yelled and waved their arms at it.  The animal was trying
to reach the spring, for it was eager for water after the long trip.

In desperation Dan dragged his wounded comrade back of a small boulder
and took up his position beside him.  His bow was already sending a
swift arrow at the foremost rider when a yell behind him caused him to
look over his shoulder.

Dick Oakwood had seen the danger that his friends were in and acted
promptly.  He had snatched a coiled rope, carried by one of the
tribesmen, and now ran toward the riderless horse, loosening the loop
as he ran.  Then as the animal swerved and passed, not far away, Dick
whirled the lariat, sent it flying and braced himself for the shock.

It was a good throw.

The loop settled around the animal's neck and as Dick put his weight
against it the noose tightened and the horse came down, half choked and
terrified.

Before the animal could scramble to its feet, Dick was in the saddle,
loosening the lariat and seizing the reins.  A moment later with a new
rider on its back, the Arab horse was heading back to where Dan and
Kurt were standing off the Bedouin attackers.



CHAPTER IV

THE BATTLE RAGES

"Hold 'em, Dan, I'm with you!"

Dan heard the cry, and at the same moment saw one of his attackers drop
with an arrow through the chest.

Dick Oakwood was at home in the saddle and now he drove furiously at
the remaining Arab, who was almost on top of Dan with scimiter upraised
ready to deliver a fatal blow.

Dan reached for an arrow.  But his quiver was empty!

The boy's only weapon was a flint knife, and that was almost useless in
fighting a foe armed with a razor-edged sword.

Dan gave a despairing shout for help as he saw Dick Oakwood galloping
toward him, and dodged the blow of the scimiter, missing it by such a
close margin that the steel whizzed past his ear with a swishing sound.

"Attaboy, Dan!"

At Dick's cry of encouragement, Dan saw the Arab suddenly reel back in
the saddle, fling up both arms and slump to the ground in a heap.  Dick
had no weapon but the rope, but he had learned to use the lariat as
well as any cowboy.

The loop had dropped over the Bedouin's body, and as Dick wheeled his
horse the Arab was dragged from the saddle and pulled across the desert
until he was stunned and helpless.

At this, Dan let out a great shout of relief.

"Hooray, Dick!  Fine work!" and he started hot-foot for safety, helping
the wounded Kurt as best he could.

They were far from safe, however, for though the two Arabs were
disposed of, there were others who had seen what was going on and were
heading that way.

Dick rode up to his friends and bending low in the saddle, he seized
Kurt under the arms.

"Help me give him a lift, Dan," he cried, and the next moment Kurt was
lifted bodily upon the horse ahead of Dick, while the latter directed
his friend:

"Grab the stirrup, Dan!  Now run like blazes!  There they come!"

Dan snatched at the stirrup and as Dick urged his horse to flight he
seemed to be flying through the air.  Every time he raised his foot for
a forward step, he was pulled ahead by the rush of the horse and his
flight was a series of leaps that carried him forward like a kangaroo.

"Gee whizz!" he gasped.  "This is grand if I can keep it up!  I feel
like a giant grasshopper!"

Over his head whizzed the bullets of the galloping Arabs, who were
joining in the chase, and the cliffs ahead seemed very far away.

Dick encouraged his friend to keep up.

"Watch your step, Dan.  Keep going for a minute longer and you're safe!"

The dust rose about them in a cloud.  Dan's mouth was parched and dry.
His lips seemed to be cracking and his eyes full of grit, but he hung
to the stirrup for all he was worth, struggling desperately to keep
from falling.

It was like the end of a Marathon run, with every ounce of his strength
put forth by sheer will power to keep from giving up the race.  But the
difference was that if he should lose the race, he would lose his life
as well.

Half dazed and almost blinded by the dust, Dan suddenly felt the horse
stop and he plunged forward in a heap.  "This is my finish," he
thought.  "I'm a goner, sure!"

He lay there panting, expecting in the next moment to feel a bullet
crash into his body, but instead, he was picked up by friendly hands
and revived with splashes of cool water over his face and head.

"Quick!  Give him a drink!" he heard Dick command and the next instant
a gourd of water was put to his lips and Dan gulped it eagerly.

"Where are we?" he asked, wiping his eyes and looking around in a half
daze.

"At the Big Spring," said Dick.  "We're safe here, but only for a few
minutes.  The Taharans are standing off the Arabs with their bows and
arrows at the last line of defense."

While he spoke Dick was busily engaged in washing the dirt from Kurt's
bleeding shoulder.

"Quick, a piece of cloth!" he said.  "This needs a bandage."

A strip was put into his hands and as Dick finished tying up the wound
he was surprised to see the girl, Veena, standing beside him with more
of the cloth which she had woven.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"I am trying to help, O Master."

"But I gave orders for all the old folks, children and women to take
refuge up there back of the cliffs."

"Forgive me, O Master!  I saw the fighting on the plain, and I could
not stay up there in safety.  I had to come down to do my share."

"Your share?"

"Yes."  Veena touched meaningly the bow and quiver of arrows, that hung
over her shoulder.  "I can send an arrow straight as any man in the
tribe."

"But women are not supposed to go into battle."

"Why not?  If the enemy feels an arrow in his body, does he stop to ask
whether a man shot it or a woman?"

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" cried Dan Carter, who had caught the drift of
this reply.  "Talk about your modern girl!  Why this Stone-Age maiden
belongs to the Twentieth Century!"

Veena blushed.  She knew nothing about either "Stone-Age" or "Twentieth
Century" but she guessed that Dan was praising her and the color
mounted to the fair skin of her cheeks, while her blue eyes smiled with
pleasure.

"Please let me stay, O Master," she begged.

But Dick was not so easily led.  "Nothing doing!  Go back up the cliff.
And get a move on!  You're supposed to be with Queen Vanga.  This is no
place for girls!"

Veena might have argued with anybody else, but Tahara, the king and god
of the tribe, was not to be contradicted.  Hastily she turned away and
ran like a deer to the trail that led up the cliffs.

"We've got to clear out of here right away," said Dick.

"The archers are not able to hold back the Arabs any longer," Dan
agreed.

"That's right.  By this time they must have shot away all their arrows."

From the second line of defense, the Taharans were seen retreating,
singly or in pairs, while the Arabs, grown more cautious now, hesitated
to rush them, fearing another surprise.

"We can't hold the spring any longer," said Dick, and he gave the order
for a general retreat.  In a few minutes, the trails were covered with
tribesmen, running nimbly to the rocky slopes.

They mounted them lightly as goats, and Dan Carter, though he was a
good climber, had to do his best to keep up with the slowest.

As for Dick, he remained among the last.  The horse he had captured was
at the spring with its muzzle deep in the cool water.

Dick hurried to pull it away before it could injure itself by drinking
too much, and swinging into the saddle he brought up the rear of his
retreating forces.

Among all the footpaths that led to the top of the cliffs, there was
only one that a horseman could ascend, and even that required a
sure-footed horse and a steady and fearless rider.

Dick stopped at the foot of the cliffs and turned in his saddle to
shake his fist at the pursuing Arabs, then dug his heels in the horse's
flanks and sent it up the steep incline.  As he reached the top, the
grade was almost as steep as the roof of a house and the stones
underfoot went rattling down the cliff side.

A few bullets sang through the air and flattened on the rocks beside
him, but there was no volley of rifle shots, for at that moment the
majority of the Arabs and their mounts were trying to quench their
thirst at the spring.

As Dick reached the top of the cliffs and put his horse to a trot on
the level stretch, he was greeted with wild shouts of joy by his
followers.  They had not seen a man on horseback until the Arabs raided
them and it seemed like a superhuman feat to bestride a four legged
beast and drive it up a cliff side.

"Tahara, hal!  Tahara!" they shouted.

Raal ran toward his hero and cried, "Tell us what to do, O Master!
Never have we seen such demons, with sticks that speak like thunder and
dart out fire.  But we do not fear them!  You are our king and our
leader and with you we shall conquer."

"They're rooting for you, Dick!" cried Dan Carter.

"Yes, and I've _got_ to save them now."

Dick rode to the edge of the cliff and looked over.  The Arabs had
taken possession of the spring and quenched their thirst.  The horses
and camels were all watered and refreshed and the invaders lolled
about, stuffing themselves with dates, figs and the other fruits they
found there.

If they were planning to attack the stronghold of the tribe on the
cliffs it was clear that they expected to wait until they were
thoroughly rested.  Perhaps the next morning would be the time for the
assault.

As Dick watched them, sitting on his horse, a bullet suddenly sang
close to his ear and a second later the report of a rifle rang out.
Some sniper had taken careful aim, hoping to bring down the leader of
the Taharans, and Dick realized how careless he had been in exposing
himself.

He wheeled his horse away from the edge and Dan hurried to him.

"Hurt, Dick?"

"Not a scratch, Dan!"

"That's lucky.  Lucky for you and all of us.  We would be lost without
you."

"We may be, anyhow.  Dan, how can we fight off those raiders?  They are
armed with guns, old style single-shot, Arab guns, to be sure, but at
that, they are more than a match for stone hatchets and spears."

"Or even bows and arrows," agreed Dan.  "Looks as though we were up
against it."

"Well, there's one thing we can do.  Defend the cliffs and keep them
from coming any farther."

"Yes, we can roll rocks down on them if they start to climb, and if any
get to the top, we can fight them off before they get a foothold."

Raal and Kulki approached followed by the old chief of the Gorols,
Wabiti.  Evidently they wanted a council and Dick asked them to say
what was on their minds.

"Advise me, O mighty warriors!" he said.

Raal spoke first.  "I say, do not wait.  We are many and we are brave.
Let us sweep down upon them from the cliff and destroy them."

"Yes, but you forget the sticks that speak like thunder and carry
death," said Wabiti.

Kulki spoke out: "No matter, some of us must perish, but the rest will
fight on.  I say, wait until it is dark, then my Gorol braves will slip
up on them and kill.  We Gorols are dark-skinned and cannot be seen in
the night like the pale Taharans."

"That is good advice," said Dick.

But the old Chief Wabiti spoke up, shaking his gray head dolefully:

"Our enemies use strong magic.  Their thunder sticks hurl death and
they ride on fire-breathing monsters that travel like the wind.  We can
do nothing against them without even stronger magic."

"That's all bunk," snorted Dan.

But Wabiti went on, "Nothing but magic will save us.  If only the Great
Gorol, the Ape-god had not been destroyed, he would save us."

"I like Kulki's advice better," said Dick.  "And I like Raal's valiant
words.  We will gather the strong warriors among the Taharans and the
Gorols and tonight when it is dark we will attack the Arab camp with
arrows and spears.  If we fight like men we can drive them off.  No
other magic is needed."

"Tahara, hal!" cried Kulki.  "Tahara, good!"

"We fight and win," shouted Raal.

"Attaboy!" Dan cried.

Only Wabiti was not satisfied.  He went away, shaking his head in
gloomy thought and wandered in the forest, muttering invocations to the
Ape-god of his fathers.  Among the rocks he came upon a shelter which
had been built of boughs for the old Queen Vanga by her maidens, and
the two former rulers talked bitterly of the evils that had come to
their tribes since they had ceased to reign.

While Dick Oakwood and Dan were busy with Raal and Kulki, organizing
the forces of the two tribes for a night attack on the invaders, the
two old leaders, shorn of their power, sat in the dark forest, plotting
and grumbling.

"The old ways are the best," muttered Wabiti.  "It brought nothing but
misfortune when our Great Gorol was broken to bits."

"The old ways are the only right ways," said Vanga, her sharp features
screwed into a grimace of hatred.  "Once our tribe had a wise man, a
one-eyed witch-doctor named Cimbula, who could always help us when the
gods were angry.  Now we have Tahara, but as for me, I like Cimbula
better.  His single eye glowed like fire and terrified all the tribe.
But he treated me with respect and his magic was strong."

Vanga spoke sharply to her handmaidens, "Don't sit there doing nothing!
You, Veena, bring a basket of fruit and a gourd of honey and crushed
grapes for my friend the great Chief Wabiti."

"I hear, I obey," said the girl obediently and went to fetch them.

"As for you others," Vanga ordered, "scatter in the mountains.  Call
aloud for Cimbula and look in all the caves where he may be hiding.
Perhaps he can save us yet."

So while the old chieftain and the ex-queen plotted, the women and
girls searched among the wilds of the Gorol Land mountains calling in
their plaintive, shrill voices, "Cimbula!  Come out of hiding, O mighty
magic worker!"

The witch-doctor heard the call, but was in no hurry to answer.

Since he had been driven out of the tribe when Dick Oakwood was
crowned, the treacherous medicine man had lurked in the high hills,
biding his time.

With only one disciple, a youth named Keltan to bring him food and act
as spy among the tribesmen, Cimbula brooded over his loss of power and
planned revenge.

"Go, Keltan," he directed his slave, "ask who wants Cimbula and why?
But do not say that you know where I am to be found.  Just learn what
you can and bring me word in secret."

Through the forest rang the faint, high-pitched call, "Cimbula!  Return
to us, O Master of wizardry!"

Cimbula grinned and his single eye glowed in triumph.

The hour had come for him to be again a power in the land.



CHAPTER V

CIMBULA WEAVES A PLOT

"Dan, I am going to post you here at the edge of the cliff," said Dick
Oakwood.  "Stay hidden among the rocks, or some sniper will take a shot
at you."

"Don't worry, Dick, I'll keep out of sight," said Dan.

"And if you see any sign of attack in the Arab camp, let out a yell of
alarm."

"You're telling _me_?  Nobody will have to ask me to do that little
thing."

"The rest of us are going to be busy getting ready for the night
attack," Dick explained.  "We have to assemble the two tribes, select
the best men for the battle and see to it that they have plenty of
arrows and other weapons."

"Okay.  You've given me a soft job," said Dan.  "I can play sentinel
all day.  Now if I only had a big bunch of dates to eat and a good book
to read--" he added laughing.

"Say, you'd make a great soldier," cried Dick.  "You're the sort of
soldier that goes to the guard house for the duration of the war."

"Go on.  I was just kidding!"

"Well, big boy, this is serious.  Here, I'll lend you the binoculars
and you keep your eyes on the Arabs down there.  If they start to climb
the cliffs, we will roll big rocks on them and give them something to
remember us by."

But the Arabs seemed satisfied to take things easy for a while.

Dan took the binoculars and after a brief survey of the Arab camp,
began to search the horizon in all directions.

"I was just thinking," he explained, "that this would be a great time
for my dad to make his appearance in the cabin plane."

"No such luck, Dan!  Don't even think of it.  I made your father
promise to leave the tribes to me without interference."

"I'm hoping he may shorten the time of even forget that he made such a
promise," said Dan.  "Gee!  Wouldn't it be great to see that big plane
come sailing toward us?"

"With white men and guns to chase off those Arab slavers!" Dick added.
"Yes, it would be fine, Dan.  But don't expect it.  Your father and
mine are busy on the Pomegranate Oasis.  They don't dream that we are
in danger."

"That's right!  Wouldn't it be wonderful if people could send word by
their thoughts.  A kind of human radio."

"There is something like that," said Dick Oakwood.  "It is called
telepathy, but not much is known about it.  People who have the gift
can send or receive messages sent by another person's mind."

"Aw go on.  Quit kidding!"

"I'm not kidding.  Lots of Hindu mystics in India have the gift."

"Well if I had it, I would send a hurry-up call to Ray," said Dan.
"I'd say, 'Sister get busy and tell everybody on the Oasis that we're
in danger.  Load up the cabin plane with rifles and get here before
we're all killed.'"

"Listen, Dan, you're not going to get killed, and I don't like to hear
you talk that way.  Snap out of it, boy!  We're going to put up a fight
that will make those Arabs wish they had never bothered us."

"You can count on me," said Dan.

The Boy King shook his friend's hand and clapped him on the shoulder,
then turned away to organize his force of tribesmen.  Dick summoned
Raal and ordered, "Look over all the Taharans.  Pick out the best men
for tonight's attack and tell them what they are to do."

"I hear, I obey, O Tahara."

"Good.  And let no man be idle.  Even those who are wounded, but able
to work, must keep busy.  They can make arrows and spears, for we will
need plenty of weapons."

"Yes, O Master."

Dick summoned Kulki.

"What about your Gorols?  Are they all assembled?"

"Not all, Master.  Some have strayed off to the woods.  They are not
trained to obey like the Taharans."

"Round up all you can find," said Dick, "and make sure that only the
reliable men are chosen for the raid."

"Yes, Master."

"Send out others to collect pitchwood for torches and stones to roll
down the cliff.  Every man must do something useful."

"I hear, O Tahara."

"I would speak to Wabiti, your father."

"He is not here, Master," said Kulki.  "Wabiti is old and his thoughts
are not as ours.  He has gone away into the woods."

"If Wabiti is up to mischief, it will go hard with him," said Dick.
"Are your brothers faithful to me?"

"I think so, Master.  If I knew that one was a traitor, I would slay
him with my own hands."

There was no doubt of Kulki's loyalty.  His primitive features and dark
eyes expressed the eagerness to serve the Boy King of the two tribes.

"It is well," said Dick.

"Tonight the Arabs will be driven to defeat and shameful flight before
the moon rises.  Let every man be ready."

"All will be ready to die for you, O Tahara!"

Dick turned away to look after Kurt and the other wounded warriors and
found that they were being tended by old women of the tribes who were
skilled in treating cuts with medicinal leaves.

Kurul had come through with only slight scratches and was in attendance
as his body guard.

"I need no guard," said Dick.  "You Kurul, take six of the fleetest
warriors and hunt in the hills for game.  Before sunset we will all eat
and drink to build up our strength and as soon as it is dark we will
strike a blow that will rid the land of our enemies."

With all these preparations for battle, the day passed swiftly.  Dick's
main worry was that Jess Slythe might appear in his stolen monoplane
and drop bombs upon the tribesmen as he had done before.  Of course his
fears might be groundless.  Dick was not sure whether the fellow was
still alive or whether his plane had crashed in the desert, but until
he was assured of the man's death, he would have reason to fear him.
If Slythe should reappear and drop grenades on the tribesmen, that
would give the Arabs a chance to storm the cliffs without resistance,
and would lead to the destruction of the natives and his own death as
well.

But the treacherous flyer was busy elsewhere, it seemed, for the
_Meteorite_ did not appear, and as the sun sank low, Dick breathed more
freely and gave orders for the last meal before the battle.

Down in the Arab camp, Abdul and Suli were also watching anxiously for
the plane and cursing Jess Slythe, who had disappointed them.

"By the beard of the Prophet!" cried the Arab chief, "that dog has
betrayed us."

"What trickery can he be up to?" mused Suli, staring for the hundredth
time at the heavens.

"Allah alone knows what the knave is doing!  But it is for no profit
but his own."

"How can he expect us to storm these cliffs without his help?"
exclaimed Abdul.

"We would be crushed by stones and pierced by arrows," said Suli.
"Nothing for it but to wait until tomorrow.  Today, it is too late to
even try."

"We will send out scouts to see whether there is an easier passage
beyond the cliffs.--A way where we could go up on our horses and take
the savages by surprise."

"They are stubborn, hard-fighting fellows," said Suli.  "By the
Prophet, Abdul, we will find it hard to make slaves of such men."

"You are right.  They are not like the black fellows we have captured
in the past.  These men were not born to be conquered.  We will have to
fight for all the profit we make in this venture."

The two leaders of the Bedouin slave traders scowled at the cliffs that
loomed so high above the spring where they had camped.  From the grim
black edges, arose a fringe of smoke; the fires where the Gorols and
the Taharans were roasting game for the feast before the battle.

The sky had turned flaming red, the glory of the sunset was over the
desert and a deliciously cool breeze followed the parching heat of the
day.

At the same time the old Gorol Chief, Wabiti, was squatting
cross-legged in the rude shelter where the ex-queen Vanga had taken
refuge.  Both of the former rulers had repeated their grievances and
grumbled about the changes in the tribe until they were in a mood of
revolt.

"If only I had my warriors again!" muttered Vanga.

"And if I could lead my brave Gorols, as I did when I was younger,
things would be different!"

"Tahara brought us woe!"

"He destroyed the Great Gorol!"

"Now he sets me to spinning and weaving!  Is that fit work for a queen?"

"And he has made Kulki leader in my place," growled Wabiti.  "Only a
few Gorols obey my orders, and they are the weaklings of the tribe."

"We have come upon evil days, O Wabiti."

"Evil days, O Vanga.  I do not hold with these new weapons like bows
and arrows."

"Nor I.  When Cimbula was my chief adviser, all was happy in the land."

"Would that Cimbula were here," grunted Wabiti.

Suddenly as if he had been waiting to be called, the witch-doctor
leaped from the shadowy forest and capered in a wild dance before them.

Cimbula was arrayed once more in the brightly-colored head-dress of
feathers and tufts of fur on his elbows, knees and ankles.  His lean
old body was streaked and daubed with paint and around his eyes, one
blind and one sound, were painted scarlet rings that gave him a
horrible appearance.

In one hand he brandished a long stone knife, in the other he held the
painted gourd filled with pebbles, which he rattled menacingly.

"Who calls Cimbula?" he shouted hoarsely.  "Lo, as I was floating in
the skies, I heard my name spoken and I come!"

Again he leaped high and the gourd sounded like a nest of angry
rattlesnakes as he shook it.

Vanga and Wabiti shrank back in superstitious dread, while the old
queen's maidens gave shrill and penetrating screeches of terror.

"Cimbula!  Have mercy!" they screamed, and Wabiti's followers among the
Gorols came running and stopped suddenly, held back by fear, crying
hoarsely, "Cimbula!  Cimbula, do not destroy us!"  Vanga spoke her mind.

"We called the mighty Cimbula because strange enemies have driven us
from our caves."

"Show me the enemies," bellowed Cimbula.  "I will slay them all."

His one eye glared hatred and defiance and his flint blade swished
through the air.

"Tahara could not save us," said Vanga.  "Since he came here, our
troubles have multiplied."

"Never before have raiders swarmed upon us from the desert," growled
Wabiti.

"They have driven us from our caves," shrilled Vanga.

There were mutters of assent from the listeners, while Cimbula glared
silently as if planning some deadly reprisal.

Then among the growling murmurs rose the clear protesting voice of the
little maiden Veena.

"Why do you speak evil of Tahara?  He fought the Arabs.  He is a mighty
warrior.  Even now he gathers the tribes to drive off the enemy!"

Instantly there was an uproar.

Cimbula vented a bellow of rage.  The Gorols with Wabiti howled in
protest and Vanga cried sharply,

"Be still.  Who asked _you_ to speak?"

"I _must_ speak.  Tahara is good.  He alone can save us."

"We shall see!" snarled the witch-doctor.  "I, Cimbula, will drive away
the foe."

"Cimbula, hal!  Cimbula!" cried the rest.

"This very night I will show you that Cimbula is mighty in magic.  See,
already, the sun has set.  Soon it will be dark.  I will show you all
that where Tahara fails, Cimbula wins."

The witch-doctor laid violent hands on the terrified Veena and wrenched
her arms until she screamed with pain.

"You shall come with me!" he shouted.  "The blood of a maiden is
required to mix the strong magic I am brewing tonight."

Veena's screams were drowned by the chanting of Wabiti's Gorols and the
shrill cries of Vanga's women.

"Take her, Cimbula!  She is yours!"

"Cimbula, hal!" boomed the Gorols, and the ex-queen Vanga added: "Death
to Tahara!"



CHAPTER VI

HOT WORK

"Come on, Dan, here's where the fun begins," cried Dick Oakwood.

By the light of pitch torches he reviewed his army, the Taharans under
Raal; blond, stalwart fighters; and the Gorols, commanded by Kulki.

The Gorols were more numerous but though they were tough and wiry
fellows, they were not equal to the Taharans in size or war-like
powers.  Dark-skinned and hairy, they resembled an army of giant apes
as they slouched in the ranks, while the Taharans stood proudly upright
and at their chief's signal, raised their stone weapons aloft and gave
a mighty cheer.

Dick, with Dan beside him as his chief lieutenant, gave final
instructions to his two troop leaders.

"You, Kulki, go first with your Gorols.  Climb silently down the cliffs
to the south of the Big Spring where the Arabs are camped.  When you
are all on the plain, light your torches, plant them in the ground
among the brush and raise a great uproar of shouting the war cries.  Do
you understand?"

"I understand, O Tahara!"

"Then when the Arabs rush to attack you, meet them with a shower of
arrows and quietly climb part way up the cliffs.  Leave the torches in
the ground to deceive the Arabs and as they charge upon that spot, you
can shoot at them from the cliffside with more arrows."

"I hear, Master, I obey!" said Kulki.

"Good!  Make sure that every man knows what he is to do."

Dick turned to Raal and continued:

"You, Raal, take your brave Taharans down the cliff to the north of the
Arab camp.  Be quiet and give no alarm.  Then when the Gorols raise the
war cry and the Arabs rush to fight them off, follow with your Taharans
and attack the enemy from the rear.  Use bows and arrows first; then
rush in with stone axes and flint knives.  In a hand-to-hand fight,
their long guns will be useless."

"I hear, Master.  I rejoice in a hand-to-hand battle."

"Good!  I will be in a position to oversee the battle, for Dan and I
will climb down the cliff above the Big Spring, and when your Taharans
charge, I will join you."

Dan reminded his friend, "Be sure to tell them about the signal for
attack."

Dick replied.  "You are right.--This is the signal.  You, Kulki, when
you reach your position, will give a long call like the hyena.  Raal
will answer with a wolf howl.  When you hear the howl of the wolf, it
is the signal to open the battle."

"I hear, O Tahara."

"We obey, O Master."

The two chiefs saluted and withdrew to their troops and the climb down
the cliffs began, silently in the night.

Dick and Dan looked down over the edge of the cliffs and saw the camp
fires of the Arabs below them, with shadowy figures moving about or
squatting by the glowing coals.

Then the two boys began their slow difficult climb down the rocky face,
using every care to move quietly.  A single rock dislodged and bouncing
down the cliffside would put the Arabs on guard and this must be a
surprise attack to be a successful one.

When Dick and Dan finally reached a ledge about a hundred feet above
the camp, they were only too glad to sit there and rest.  The descent
of that steep slope in the dark was hard work; their hands were
scratched and bleeding and their muscles felt the strain.

"We will just sit here and take it easy for a while," said Dick.

"It is like being in a circus waiting for the show to begin," replied
Dan.  "If only----"

"I know what you're going to say," Dick chuckled, "if only we had a
couple of bags of peanuts and a bottle of pop, it would be perfect."

Dan admitted, laughingly, that refreshments would be welcome, but Dick
grabbed his friend's arm.

"Look yonder, Dan."

"Where?"

"Up near the mouth of Cimbula's cave.  What's going on there?"

"Men with torches.  That's funny!  It's the wrong direction for the
torches to appear."

"And there has been no signal yet."

"This is something that is not on the program.  Jumping Jiminy!  I hope
it's not going to spoil our party."

Things moved rapidly.

A procession with torches appeared from the wrong direction and at the
head of a crowd of grotesquely painted figures, leaped and cavorted an
unearthly apparition in feathered head-dress and fur tufts.

"Cimbula!" gasped Dick.

"What is that old fool up to?" Dan exclaimed.

"They are leading some prisoner among them," said Dick.  "It looks like
a girl, but her face is covered with her hair."

"It's a Taharan girl.  Cimbula must be trying to buy off the Arabs with
the gift of a slave."

"What a dog!"

"He is wrecking our whole plan of battle."

The boys looked on in suspense as the witch-doctor approached the Arab
camp, capering and shaking his rattling gourd.  The others who followed
were imitating him, for Cimbula had decided that a magic dance of
demons would terrify the raiders, and therefore he had dressed up a
dozen of Wabiti's men in a garb like his own and painted their bodies
with stripes and daubs of white.

Whirling and leaping the demon dancers approached the Arab camp, while
one of the natives brandished a flint knife above the head of the bound
victim.

"If the Arabs take fright at this hocus-pocus, they are bigger fools
than I take them to be," growled Dick.

"More likely they are laughing at the medicine-man," Dan exclaimed.
"Look, they are rushing the procession."

With shouts of derision the Arabs leaped to their horses and raced
toward the intruders, No shots were fired.  The Arabs did not want to
kill the demon dancers, but shrieked with laughter as they charged
them, bowled over Cimbula and scattered his followers.

"Look," said Dick.  "It's not a fight.  The Arabs are rounding up those
fellows.  They came here for slaves, and now they have got some."

"Serves Cimbula right!  I hope they keep him at hard labor for life!"

"I'm sorry for the others though.--Listen.  There goes the first
signal!"

From the south came the call of a desert hyena, a long unearthly sound
of laughter.

Amid the hubbub of the Arab camp, the signal was not noticed by the
enemy, but Raal was evidently on the alert, for soon a long wolf howl
answered from the north.

"Good!" cried Dick Oakwood.  "Cimbula's little show did not spoil the
big circus, after all.  Now Dan, you're going to see a fight."

To the south of the camp a torch flared among the brush.  Another was
lighted and another.  Soon the place where the Gorols had assembled was
a confusion of dancing lights, flaring and smoking.

A war cry arose among the flames, a shrill cry of "Tahara, Rax!"

"Give 'em the axe!" chuckled Dan.  "Atta-boy, Kulki!  Now the fun
begins."

A few shots from the Arabs produced an immediate effect among the
torches.  They no longer moved, but held their places quietly.

"Get that?" muttered Dick.  "Kulki's men stuck their torches in the
ground.  Now they must be climbing up the cliffs in the dark."

As the Arab horsemen charged the brush where the torches flamed they
were met by a stinging shower of arrows coming from unseen foes.  At
once their cries of "Allah, il Allah," were changed to howls of anger
and shrieks from the wounded.  Yet they charged on, shooting at the
torches and driving ahead with flashing scimiters.

But the Gorols were not near the torches and shot more and more arrows
from places of safety.

"Give 'em the axe!" cried Dan.  "Here come the Taharans!"

As he spoke, Raal's men raced in open formation upon the disorganized
Arabs, only pausing long enough to discharge a flight of arrows at the
enemy.

Now the Arabs, caught between two attacking troops, were at a loss
which way to face.

Dick, with Dan at his heels, scrambled down from the ledge of the cliff
side and joined the Taharans with the war cry:

"Tahara Rax!"

"Give 'em the axe!" echoed Dan.

"The axe!"

"The axe, the axe!"

The terrifying shouts of the Taharans, charging upon the Arabs, drowned
out the battle cry of, "Allah il Allah."

Hand to hand the Stone-Age men struggled fiercely with the Bedouins,
leaping at them like wild cats, pulling them from their mounts,
swinging their keen-edged hatchets of flint and their short knives of
stone with deadly effect.

All the advantage of gunpowder and horses was lost in that battle in
the dark.

The Arabs fought madly with their swords and daggers, but such weapons
were not much more effective than the stone knives and axes.  Therefore
the Arabs began to give away, for their raid had been upon supposedly
weak tribesmen, and instead they were facing better fighters than
themselves.

Yet stubbornly they fought on.  There was nothing else to do--a case of
kill or be killed.

"Give it to 'em!" cried Dick.

"Give 'em the axe," shouted Dan.

"Let out your bull-roaring voice," said Dick to Raal.  "Call the Gorols
to join in!"

Raal gave a war cry that summoned Kulki and his Gorols to clamber down
from the rocks and take part in the battle.

From the ledges of the cliff came the shrill reply of Kulki's
dark-skinned fighters, and instantly the Arabs were engaged in a
life-and-death struggle with new forces.

The Gorols plunged into the fray, carrying their lances, and whenever
the burnous of an Arab showed pale in the darkness, a Gorol plunged his
spearhead with telling effect.

"Go it, Gorols!" shouted Dan.

"Give 'em the axe!" Dick cried.  "After them, boys!  They're giving
way."

The tide of battle had turned against the raiders.  The Arabs on the
fringe of the fray turned their horses toward the desert and galloped
away.  The Bedouins who were guarding the prisoners mounted them on the
camels and fled in a body.  Abdul and Suli swore by Allah and his
prophet that they would return and take vengeance on the tribe, but
they saw that the battle was lost.

Many of their men had been slain or badly wounded, and their horses
were running wild in the melee; there was no chance to organize their
force, for wherever they turned were the hatchets of the Taharans and
the spears of the Gorols.

"Give it to 'em!" shouted Dick.  "We've got 'em on the run."

"Back to home-sweet-home!" laughed Dan.  "They want you back in dear
old Araby."

Abdul shouted the signal to retreat.  Those Arabs who could escape did
so without a second command and the battle was over.

Dick and Dan both caught at the bridles of Arab horses and succeeded in
capturing mounts, but there was no use in giving chase in the dark.

"Tell your men to get all the guns and weapons they can," Dick ordered
the chiefs of the two tribes.  "And catch all the horses you can."

"We hear, O Master!"

"Tahara has brought us victory.  Praise to our king!"

The chiefs answered with shouts of triumph and the tribesmen joined in.
No longer was there any doubt in their minds, Tahara, Boy King of the
Desert, was a mighty warrior and a bringer of victory.


The rising sun showed Taharans and Gorols in fantastic array beside the
Big Spring.  They were dressed in such parts of the Arab garb as they
had captured, and carried what weapons had been found on the
battlefield.

A dozen guns and horses were among the loot, also ammunition, daggers
and swords.  Even a camel had been taken, but it was lame from a shot,
and was promptly butchered for a feast.

While they were all enjoying a hot meal that morning, Dick explained to
the natives who had captured the guns, how to use them, but the
old-fashioned fire-arms were not of much value except to the Arabs who
were used to them.

After breakfast, he showed the most intelligent of the tribesmen how to
ride the captured horses.  They were fearless fellows and managed to
stay on, somehow, and Kulki, who was one of the best men of the tribe,
showed promise of becoming an expert horseman in short order.

"Wait until we round up the wild horses and break them!" said Dan.
"Then you will see some fun."

Dick explained to Raal, who was keen to learn the new sport, the
principles of taming and riding unbroken horses and the Taharan chief
was eager to begin.

With a deep bow he begged Dick to accept an Arab gun he had captured
and declared that when his tribe had learned to ride the wild horses,
they would all set out to find the Arabs and raid them in turn.

Suddenly they were interrupted.  Queen Vanga came to them, weeping and
tearing her hair.

"Cimbula is gone!" she cried.  "Where is Cimbula?"

Dan laughed.

"Your boy-friend was taken by the Arabs," he said.  "You'll never see
him again."

"I hope not," said Dick.

"The Arabs will put him on the chain gang," chuckled Dan.

"Never!" cried the old queen when Dan's remark was explained to her.
"Cimbula works strong magic.  If he is taken by the Arabs, Cimbula will
become their chief."

"There may be something in that," said Dan.  "The witch-doctor is
clever enough to get out of any kind of a scrape."

Vanga began weeping afresh.

"Why the water-works now?" asked Dan.

Raal questioned her and his face grew red with fury.

"Veena has been stolen," he cried.  "The girl with Cimbula was the
Princess Veena."

Dan felt his heart stand still.  The pretty little maiden, a prisoner
of the Arabs!  She was fond of him and while he did not love her, he
resolved that she must be rescued.

"Let me have a horse," cried Raal.  "I will catch up with the Arabs and
bring her back."

He was beside himself with fury.  "Tahara, O Mighty King, use all your
magic to save the girl I love."

Dick grasped his hand and promised: "I will help you!"

"Now, let us start now."

"We will all go!" cried Dan Carter.

"Yes!  All, all!" echoed the warriors.  Tahara and Gorols alike were
excited by the news.  The capture of Cimbula and his followers was not
so bad, for everybody dreaded the witch-doctor and his disciples were
hated.

But Veena was a favorite of all.

"We will take the captured horses!" urged Raal, "and overtake the
raiders."

"Those are bold words," said Dick, "but they are not the words of
wisdom.  Stop and think.  Ten men at the most against a hundred!  What
chance would you have?"

"We will risk it," Raal stormed.

"And lose all chance of rescuing Veena?  No.  We must prepare for a
long journey first--and at the end a hard battle."

"How long must we wait?"

"Until our warriors have tamed wild horses and learned to ride them.
Also we must carry food and water bags for a long trail across the
desert."

Raal was in despair.

"And until then, we will know nothing of the maiden.  I would rather
set out alone than that."

At his words, all fell silent, thinking gloomy thoughts.  Finally Dick
said:

"Here is a way out.  Kulki can ride better than any of the tribesmen,
and has ventured farther on the desert than the rest."

"That is true!" cried Kulki.  "Let me go out and rescue the maiden."

"Not so fast.  Take three of your men who can stay on horseback.  Carry
water and food and follow the trail of the raiders.  Can you try?"

"We will do that, O Master!"

"Do not try to fight the Arabs, that would only put them on their
guard.  But find out where they are taking the captives and bring us
word.  Will you?"

"Gladly, O Master."

"By the time you return," added Dick Oakwood, "I will have our warriors
trained to ride the wild horses and to shoot arrows while they ride,
yes and to throw spears from the saddle."

"Tahara, hal!"

"Then we will set out and punish the raiders!"

"Tahara Rax!  The axe!  The axe!"

With shouts of vengeance, the tribesmen accepted Dick's plan.  Even
Raal, anxious as he was to set out at once, saw the wisdom of the plan.

"But _I_ would go with Kulki.  Now!" he begged.

"If you did, what would happen?  You would try to fight the Arabs then
and there.  All would be lost."

Raal agreed.

"Let me work day and night getting ready for the rescue!" he exclaimed.
"Then I will not grieve."

"We will begin now," Dick answered.

"You will be chief horse-breaker," Dan assured Raal.  "In a week you'll
be a regular Arizona bronco-buster."

Kulki and his chosen three began preparations for the trail at once.
That same day they set out, mounted on Arab horses and carrying water
and food.  Kulki refused a gun.  The "stick that spoke like thunder"
was a magic he did not understand.

As for Raal and his Taharans, they wasted no time but set to work
rounding up all the small wild horses that they could find among the
hills, while Dan and Dick showed the others how to build a corral for
the animals.



CHAPTER VII

THE WAR TRAIL

"Throw your rope over that wicked little beast!" exclaimed Dick Oakwood.

"Okay, Dick," answered Dan.  His quivering lariat sailed through the
air and the loop settled neatly about the neck of one of the small wild
horses in the enclosure, bringing it to the ground.

Quick as a flash, Dick was on its back, much to the delight of the
savage tribe who had never witnessed such feats of bravery.

"Tahara, hal!" they cried.

For days there had been great excitement in the land of the Taharans.
After the raid of the Arabs and the possibility that the tribe might
have to make a return attack to recover the princess, Veena, Dick and
his chum, Dan Carter, had been breaking the wild horses and teaching
the natives to handle them.

They were apt pupils and one after another were mastering the art of
horseback riding.

Now as Dick after a fierce struggle brought the horse down to a gentle
gallop, he dismounted and handed the reins to Raal.  At that moment
Kurt interrupted with a cry.  He ran to Dick with terror in his face.

"O Master, look through your magic glasses and see who is coming.  Is
it a new danger that threatens us?"  Then aside he murmured, "Tahara is
great.  He will protect us!"

Dick beckoned to Kurul to whom he had trusted his binoculars, and the
warrior passed over the glasses as if he were glad to get rid of them.
The savages were still not certain that these strange eyes were
innocent of the spell of black magic.

Dick put them to his eyes and saw a strange figure approaching from the
desert.  It staggered and fell to the ground, then rose wearily and
struggled on.

"It seems to be an old man, bent double with age," said Dick.  "He is
very weary.  Run Kurt, and help him!  And you, Kurul, lend a hand.  It
is good to help the old and feeble."

But suddenly Dan who had taken the glasses, gave a cry.  His face grew
pale.  Turning to Dick he said in a low voice.

"Kulki!  It is Kulki!"

"Kulki!" repeated Dick.  "It can't be.  What has happened?"

The two boys hastened after Kurt and Kurul and had no difficulty in
overtaking them, for the savages were afraid and went warily, invoking
Tahara to protect them at every step.

Dick was the first to reach the Gorol warrior, who limped and staggered
and when he realized that his friends had come to help him he sank to
the sand at Dick's feet.

"Master forgive!  I could not!" he moaned.

Dick raised the Gorol to his feet but he was trembling so violently
that he had to be half carried back to the village where, a word at a
time between his pleas for forgiveness, Dick got his story.

Kulki and his two Taharan companions had found the Arab camp.  Suli was
there and Abdul.  And the wicked Cimbula!

"But Veena!  Where is Veena?" demanded Raal, his heavy face white with
anxiety, His large hands were clenched as he stood menacingly above the
Gorol.  "Where is Veena and where are the two warriors who went with
you?"

"The warriors are dead," replied Kulki.

"But where is Veena?" asked Dick.  His voice was stern as he tried to
hide the emotion he felt.

"Forgive O Master, I could not bring her back.  The Arabs have
imprisoned her.  They tortured me through long hours, hitting me with
heavy thongs and burned me with hot embers, then they sent me home to
tell you.  I have travelled all day and all night to bring help."  The
Gorol youth looked at Raal imploringly, then continued, "Veena, the
little white princess will not be killed and we have still time to save
her if we go at once.  That is what Cimbula said to me and he
understands the language and the ways of the Arabs."

"What do you mean, Kulki?" demanded Dick anxiously.

"Suli and Abdul protect her, for they are anxious to sell her for a big
price."

Cries arose from the listeners, for most of the tribe had gathered to
hear what Kulki had to tell.  The women shrieked and moaned, rocking
themselves back and forth, and tearing their hair.

Dick raised his hand for silence.

"Be quiet my friends," he said calmly.  "Kulki says we still have time
to save her."  Then he turned to the Gorol, "Are you sure?  Tell us all
you know!"

"Cimbula tell me all they said," went on Kulki.  "Suli and Abdul are
waiting for the arrival of Chief Mobogoma who wants the white princess
for his bride.  He is willing to give in exchange a hundred of his best
slaves."

"Ah-woe!  Ah-woe!" moaned the tribesmen.

"Suli and Abdul agreed to this, but the man-demon who flies on the back
of the bird-demon appeared and said that was not enough.  He demanded
much ivory as well."

"Slythe!  That was Jess Slythe!" exclaimed Dick Oakwood with
indignation.  "I might have known that he was somewhere around and had
a hand in my affairs."

"There will be delay while they quarrel with words," continued Kulki
with a groan.

A slave appeared with food and drink for the returned warrior.  He
gulped it hungrily.  Dick questioned him further about the Arabs.

A shiver passed over the body of the Gorol, his eyes looked wild.
"They tortured me and sent me back to say that Veena would be returned
for two hundred Taharan slaves."

"Tahara have mercy!  O Master, save us!" moaned the tribesmen.  "What
are we to do?"

"Send us, O Master," came the cry from many throats.  "Let us be
sacrificed, but bring back the little princess Veena."

Dick looked at Dan in astonishment.  He had not expected to find such a
spirit of chivalry among this savage tribe.

"Say, they're pretty good sports, I'll tell the world!" cried Dan.
"Who would have believed it?  And we want to civilize them!  That's a
joke!"

Raal was standing impatiently frowning, waiting for Dick to give some
word of command.

"What are we going to do, Master?" he asked.

Dick once more raised his hand.  "What will we do?  Get ready to march!
At once!  Food and drink must be carried!  To work!  We will go to that
Arab camp, but not as slaves.  We will go as warriors to bring back
Princess Veena!"

"Tahara, hal!  Tahara, hal!"

The cheer echoed through the hills.  In a moment the village changed
from a quiet, sleepy camp to one bustling with life and excitement.
The women scuttled away toward the caves where the slaves were busy
with the cooking.  They were chattering like magpies among themselves
but they were losing no time in carrying out the orders.  Vanga's
shrill voice carried above the noise.

"Move faster, slaves!" she shrieked.  "Out of my way!"  And with a
resounding slap she boxed the ears of a small child who crossed her
path.  Food and water was ready to be packed on the back of the horses,
when Dick had completed his plans for the march.

Kulki was left behind, he was too weak and tired for the second trip.
And Dick could trust him to protect the cave-dwellers in his absence.

"Say Dick, I'm sure glad we got a few good horses out of that Arab
raid.  At least you and I and Raal will be looked after.  What will the
others do?  Walk?"

"Of course not!  What did I have you break in those small wild horses
for if it wasn't for just such an occasion?  Saddle your horses, men,
and get ready!"

The warriors whooped with delight as they ran toward the enclosure
where the horses were held.  They were pleased at the chance to use
their new saddles.

"Say Dick, what would a western cowboy say about these saddles?  They
make their silver trimmed affairs seem very plain.  Look at Raal's
saddle, it is covered with golden disks.  Some class!"

The warriors shouted and screamed with laughter as they caught the wild
horses and bridled them.  It was a new game.  They liked it.

"Those boys seem to think this is a big picnic they are going on,"
remarked Dan Carter.  "Why don't you tell them it's a serious business?"

"What's the use?" replied Dick.  "Let them get what fun they can out of
the start.  Besides I hope we can settle this without a fight."

"For a king who was going to have nothing but peace in his country, you
have certainly managed to put up some pretty stiff scraps," teased Dan.

"Never mind that," replied Dick with a laugh.  "I'll get around to that
some day.  Just now we've got to undo a great wrong."

"Oh, yes!  You've got to fight for peace.  I see!  All right then, come
along, I'm with you.  But are you sure we'll be able to carry enough
food?"

"You can take as much as you can carry on the back of your saddle.
Besides it wouldn't hurt you to go hungry for a while," said Dick.

"Oh, is that so!" snapped Dan impatiently.  The good-natured Dan was
rarely cross and then only for a second.  His fact cleared suddenly and
he said, "Tough luck!  I suppose I'll have to stand it.  Come on!"

It was a strange looking army that rode out of the land of the
Taharans.  Dick, Dan and Raal were riding ahead on their Arab horses
and the rest of the tribesmen were mounted on the small wild horses
that Dick and Dan had trained to the saddle.  Although these animals
were small they were almost as fleet as the large horses and could
stand the heat of the desert much better.

The Boy King looked back with pride as he saw his warriors riding so
well.

"There is no limit to what I may be able to do with these savages.  All
they need is a good leader," thought Dick as he glanced at Raal whose
heavy figure sitting straight and proud, gave an impression of great
strength.

For an hour they rode almost in silence, the horses eager and prancing.
Then as the ferocious heat of the sun burned into them, the horses
slackened their pace.  Finally Dan drew close to Dick and whispered:
"Isn't it about time for lunch?  I'm starved!"

Dick motioned him away impatiently.  "Nothing doing, boy!  Take a small
drink of water and pretend it's food.  Our first halt is two hours from
here unless we're lucky enough to find an oasis."

"But why take life so seriously?" responded Dan.  "These savages spend
a long time in bartering; we'll get there before they're through.
Besides Slythe will wait to see if you will send the two hundred slaves
to buy the princess."

"I'm not sure, Dan.  We'd better push along as fast as we can.  If
Mobogoma offers enough, Slythe won't take any chances on a slip-up."

Before another hour had gone by, the riders were wilted with the heat
and famished for food and drink.  A green spot in the distance made
them urge their horses on toward the grove of palm trees.

"Come on, let's hurry," cried Dan.  "We can't get to that spring quick
enough to suit me."  The boy dug his heels into the horse's sides.  The
spirits of the men rose at the prospect of a spring of clear water and
the shade of the palm trees beckoned them.  Dan broke into a college
song and the tribesmen took up the air and shouted it at the top of
their lungs.

Suddenly Raal spoke in a voice trembling with excitement.  "Look O
Master, across the desert!  Those are the Arab raiders!"

"Where?"

Raal pointed to the horizon, still wavering with heat, and Dick
adjusted his binoculars.

At first he saw only a long straggling line of moving objects that
resembled a giant centipede with countless legs and undulating back.
Finally Dick made out a caravan of camels striding in single file and
accompanied by Arab horsemen.  They were so far away that Dick could
not see them without the glasses, although Raal's sharp eyes had
distinguished them.

Dick gasped.  "Arabs!  You're right, Raal.  Maybe they are the ones we
are after.  Give orders for the warriors to have their weapons ready
and be on the alert.  Then let's go!"

To encourage the men, Dan once more burst into song.  The tired horses
caught the spirit and leaped ahead for a few minutes then began to lag.
The heat was intense, the sand, catching the sun's rays dazzled the
eyes and made them burn.

But no matter how fast they rode, the oasis seemed as far away as ever.
The caravan was lost in the shimmering haze.

"Who would have believed that it was so far away?" grumbled Dan Carter.
At that moment he caught sight of Dick's face.  It was pale and
troubled.

"What's the matter, old sport?" Dan asked anxiously.  "Are you sick or
something?  Better take a sip of that precious water in the bag."

"No, I'm all right," answered Dick quietly, "but I'm wondering how I'm
going to explain a mirage to these savages."

"A mirage!" exclaimed Dan with a catch in his voice.  "So that's why we
seemed to be getting farther away from that green spot all the time.
But Dick, are you certain?  I'd have sworn it was the real thing."

But even as they talked, Dan noticed the thinning haze ahead.  It
seemed to be rising and soon disappeared into the sky.

"Say, Dick, when did you catch on?" asked Dan.

"About five minutes ago.  How am I going to explain it to them?  They
may never have seen one and may think that it is black magic.  See, the
caravan has vanished, too."

"Tell them it's Cimbula out there," said Dan with a laugh.  "They'll
believe that, all right."

While the boys were talking, the haze dissolved completely, leaving a
far stretch of sandy waste.

"Ah-woe Tahara!" moaned Raal touching Dick's arm.  "Look ahead.  The
spirit of evil has swallowed up the oasis.  It is a warning, O Master.
I have seen it many times before."

Dick gave a sigh of relief.  At least the mirage was not unknown to the
tribesmen.

"A warning, what do you mean, Raal?" asked Dick.

"Thus comes the oasis on the desert at times, leading men to
destruction.  Warriors depart to take possession of the new land and
find themselves without food and drink.  They ride around in circles in
order to find the green oasis.  Then at last the demons gobble them up.
Did you not see the caravan disappear?  It is a bad omen, so say my
people."

Some of the tribesmen shielded their faces against the evil eye while
others muttered anxiously.  A few turned as if to flee back to their
own land but at a sharp command from Dick they followed grumbling.

Dick halted his riders and they ate a hasty lunch while shielding
themselves in the shadow of their horses.

Late that afternoon they came to the oasis in the desert.  The men
threw themselves flat on their stomachs by the spring, dipping up the
water in their hands and drinking with loud sucking noises.  It was
hard for both man and beast to restrain the desire to overdo, for their
parched throats seemed never to get enough.

As soon as the quickly prepared meal was over, the men stretched out on
the green grass beneath the palms and slept.

Long before daylight the tribesmen were up, making ready for the second
day's march toward the jungle.  Dick and Dan were weary and sore from
the journey but there were no complaints from either of them.  They
swung into their saddles and taking the lead, raced their horses over
the desert, making the most of the cool morning, knowing that as soon
as the sun rose the heat would be almost unbearable.

It was late on the third day when they reached the lowlands which lay
at the beginning of the jungle.  Already the atmosphere had changed.
It was oppressive and humid.  Directly in front of them was a path
leading to the wilderness of trees and overgrowing trailing plants.
The stars were just appearing in the sky and Dick ordered his men to
make camp, feeling safer to sleep in the open.  He put Kurt and Kurul,
his most trustworthy warriors, to stand guard.  But Dick could not
sleep.  The sound of jungle life came to him, the sharp cries of night
birds, the yelping of wild animals.  The Boy King felt the menace of
the jungle.

But after hours of listening the sounds seemed to grow fainter as if
the wild life were going far, far away.  His eyes closed.  But just as
he might have dropped off to sleep, he was awakened by Dan's hand on
his face.

"I don't want to frighten you, Dick, but do you see those two greenish
lights at the edge of the trees?  Look!"

"They are probably stars," replied Dick sleepily.  Dick rubbed his
tired eyes and sat up.  Dan pointed out the glowing sparks.  The boys
did not move, for they saw that Kurt and Kurul were aware of the
intruder.  They stood motionless near a jungle tree.

"It's a leopard, Dick, I'm sure of it," said Dan.  "Where's your Arab
gun?"

"It's here," replied his chum.  "But wait!  Kurt and Kurul are on
guard.  They have a plan.  I will not interfere with them."

Slowly the lights grew larger.  Two more appeared, and soon two others,
and one could see the dim shapes of animals crouching low and wriggling
from the tangle of vines and creepers, scarcely making a sound.

Kurt and Kurul stood tense and alert, their bows were drawn back ready
at any second to send the flint pointed arrows into the vital spot of
their enemy.

Dick watched and thought he understood why his bowmen waked so long.
The leopards were making their way toward the wild horses and not
toward the sleeping men.  The warriors were waiting to get them out in
the open where they could see better to shoot.  In the light of the
stars Dick could see the beasts crawling along the ground.  Suddenly
the two first gave a spring, but before they could reach their prey,
Kurt and Kurul had shot their arrows, catching the beasts between the
eyes.  Their bodies jumped high in the air, then dropped.  The other
animals turned and disappeared.

"Oh boy, what a shot!" exclaimed Dan, jumping to his feet and running
toward the dead animals, but Kurul held him back.

"Beware, brother," said Kurul, "the leopard has a way of coming alive
after he is dead!  I've seen it!"

For Dick there was no more sleep that night.  It was time to relieve
Kurt and Kurul and he did not feel sure that the other men were to be
trusted to watch.  Dick knew that Rex Carter was depending on him to
look after Dan and protect him from danger, and besides that the
responsibility of his army weighed on the shoulders of the Boy King of
the desert.

Dick sat up and watched toward the jungle.  From time to time dark
shapes slipped by as if eager to get far away from danger.  The sharp
call of night birds awakened monkeys that kept up a maddening chatter.
The night seemed full of dangers that threatened him.  But Dick Oakwood
was not displeased.

"Who would have believed it!" he said to himself.  "When I left America
I had no idea that my experiences would be stranger even than those of
Matt Binney, our old African trader.  When I get back I'll tell him
some thrillers that will make his hair stand on end, the way he used to
make mine when I was a kid."

As usual on the march, dawn had not tinted the horizon before the
warriors were up and busy preparing breakfast and as the first streaks
of rose and purple made fantastic designs in the sky, Dick and Dan led
the way into the jungle, following the trail that Kulki had told them
would lead to the Arab camp.

In a few minutes steam rose from the horses' sides while perspiration
flowed down the faces of the riders.  Dan wiped his face with the back
of his hand leaving a dusty streak across his cheek.  He turned to look
at his chum to see how he was standing the strain.

The Boy King looked tired.  After a wakeful night, the heat irritated
him.  And the thought that Cimbula and Slythe had their heads together
in a plan to overthrow his rule, did not make him look forward with any
assurance of success in the venture to rescue Veena.

Right now his brain was dulled by lack of sleep.  The raid with his
warriors seemed hopeless and a foolish undertaking.  Dick slumped in
his saddle for a moment and looked the picture of woe and
discouragement.

"How's this for a steam bath!" exclaimed Dan.  "Good for your health.
Doctor's orders.  Oh boy, what a treat!"

Dick smiled at his chum, whose happy-go-lucky nature always brought fun
and a laugh into every situation, no matter how tight a jam it might be.

At last Dick sat erect with a jerk.  Every moment he was coming nearer
to the dreaded spot where his enemies were in wait for his arrival.
This was not the time to weaken.  Brushing his hand across his damp
forehead, the boy took the lead bravely, his head held high.  He knew
that the odds were all against him, as they had been before, but in his
heart he felt sure that he would win.

It was late that afternoon when Dick suddenly drew rein and gave a
signal to halt.  Some danger menaced them; he felt it without knowing
what it was.  The jungle trail was just the same as when they entered
it that morning.  Then why this nameless fear?

He listened intently, but there was only the scolding of monkeys and
the answering screech of birds.  No human sound was distinguishable.

Giving the order to proceed cautiously, every man ready with bow and
arrow, Dick emerged without warning into a clearing.  Suddenly his
horse reared back with a frightened snort.

Blocking the path ahead of him was a score or more of black warriors,
their faces painted in streaks of red and yellow, making them grotesque
and frightful.  Their bows were drawn and their fiendish grins sent
terror to the hearts of the boys.  With hideous yells, a band of the
savages behind the bowmen started a war-dance.

"I see our finish!" exclaimed Dan.  "Give them a taste of your gun,
Dick!"

"That wouldn't help.  Look at the black horde coming from every
direction.  They are two against one!  We'll try to show them that we
are friendly."

"I guess you're right, Dick.  But we are certainly in a tight jam this
time."

"Keep quiet, Dan!" said Dick, really vexed at the boy.

The apparent lack of fear in Dick evidently gained the respect of the
tribe.  Their arrows did not fly, the warriors held them, waiting for a
command.

Then a command came, loud and clear.  It was a surprise to Dick, for it
came from a point directly above his head and the voice was not that of
an African savage.  The hidden chief spoke in the language of the
tribe.  It was an order; the inflection of the voice told Dick that
before the warriors dropped their bows and arrows and bowed low to Dick.

Then the voice again boomed out in broken English, "Advance white men!
I will protect you!  Mahatma Sikandar speaks!"



CHAPTER VIII

BLACK WARRIORS

"Can you beat it!" exclaimed Dan Carter in astonishment, on hearing the
English words spoken among a savage tribe in the jungle.

A chuckle was heard from the tangle of foliage above the heads of the
two boys as they drew rein where the jungle path entered a clearing.

"Advance, Dick Sahib!  Mahatma Sikandar speaks!"

"Don't go!" whispered Dan.  "There's something spooky about this.  How
does he know your name?  Maybe it's a trap.  If we go out there in the
open they will use us for targets."

"Keep quiet, Dan, I want to speak to the man.  Besides they can shoot
us here if they have a mind to do it.  If there is a trap we're in it
right now," Dick answered impatiently.

But Dan could not keep quiet.  Before Dick could stop him the boy
called out:

"Say, Mister, I bet you don't know what my name is."

A hearty laugh issued from the hiding place of the Mahatma.  "Dan Sahib
is young.  After many lives, he will gain wisdom--perhaps!"

Dan stared above his head in speechless amazement.  Here they were
miles away from any one they knew, yet this man had called them both by
their names and in their own tongue.

"Who is he, anyway?" whispered Dan.

"He must be a Hindu with that name, and I judge also by the sing-song
English he uses.  But what is he doing here?  That's what I want to
know."

"Advance friends," once more the Mahatma spoke.  "The men of the
Kungoras are brave warriors, they will not harm you for I have given
them promise that you are my friends."

"Let's go!" said Dick, touching his horse's sides with his heels,
sending the animal trotting into the clearing where the savages had
ranged themselves in a huge semicircle.

A file of the Taharan and Gorol warriors followed Dick and Dan into the
clearing.

There was a tense pause.

It seemed as though a battle might follow at any moment, for the
Taharans and Gorols looked upon all strangers as foes and the blacks
were dangerous looking fellows.  The Kungora tribe was warlike and
powerful, which accounted for the slave raiders leaving them alone.

Tall, well formed and athletic, each man was like an ebony statue,
armed with a long bow or else with a slender lance tipped with a
leaf-shaped iron point and a broad shield of buffalo hide.  The shields
were painted with fantastic designs and light as they were could turn a
spear thrust or withstand an arrow.

The black warriors were scantily clad with strips of hide and adorned
with copper bracelets and neckbands.  Their round heads were covered
with little pointed caps, under which their rolling eyes and shiny
negro features looked fiercely hostile, as they glared at the strange
blond savages and the ape-like Gorols.

As Dick reached the center of the cleared space, he wheeled his horse
suddenly and looked up at the lowest branches of the trees above the
jungle path he had just left, but a dense tangle of vines and moss hung
from limb to limb.  There was no sign of the man who had spoken to them.

"Raal and his people would say this was black magic," exclaimed Dick,
"and I'm half inclined to think it is.  Who ever heard of such a
strange coincidence?  It doesn't happen."

But Dick Oakwood bowed toward the tree.  "We thank you, Mahatma
Sikandar for your protection."

But before Dick could speak further, Sikandar went on in his clipped
English.

"The young Sahib has come far.  The journey was full of frightful
dangers, and Dick Sahib has done this for the sake of a girl he does
not love.  That much I see."

"And that is true, Mahatma Sikandar.  But how did you know it?" asked
Dick.

"He must be a mind reader.  Or maybe it _is_ black magic!" said Dan in
an undertone.

As they talked, the warriors of the Taharans and Gorols glared
suspiciously at the black men; their hands were on their weapons ready
to fight.  Raal tried to quiet them, feeling that the Boy King could be
trusted.  He watched Dick's face but it showed no sign of fear or
uneasiness.  Therefore, he, as Dick's chief warrior, need not be
afraid.  He dismounted and drew near to Dick.

But the Boy King had his eyes on the screen of vines above the path.
At first he could see nothing but the mass of green, but finally
through the foliage he saw two shining eyes staring at him.  Then the
leaves parted and Mahatma Sikandar's whole head appeared.  It was a
broad good-natured face with a luxuriant grey beard.  His dark eyes
were smiling.

"Why he looks exactly like Santa Claus," exclaimed Dan, "Merry
Christmas, old scout!"

The old man ignored this remark from Dan.  His head suddenly
disappeared and a few minutes later the Hindu had dropped from the tree
and was walking toward them.

"Now perhaps Dan Sahib will believe that I am human," he said extending
his hand, English fashion.

His body was short and fat and naked except for a loin cloth of saffron
colored cotton.  His complexion was darker than that of most white men
and his eyes were smiling and friendly yet there was a shadow of a
sneer in them, a look of craftiness that made Dick and Dan determine to
be on their guard.

The boys shook the Hindu's hand, after which the Mahatma turned to the
chief of the Kungoras and ordered him to bring fresh water and fruit
for the visitors and to prepare a feast.  The black savages hurried
away with grinning faces, well pleased to show Mahatma's friends the
hospitality of their village.

Sikandar drew Dick and Dan aside and squatting cross-legged on the
ground, invited the guests to do the same.  In his hand he carried
something that was wrapped in a black cloth.

During a pause in the conversation Dan suddenly blurted out: "Say, I'd
like to know how you can tell about our trek across the desert, and our
names and all that.  Who told you?"

The Mahatma smiled mysteriously.  "There are many things revealed to
wise men that are kept from others," he said very slowly.  "Long before
you arrived in the jungle I saw you."

The Mahatma closed his eyes for a second then opened them and stared at
Dan.  He seemed to be looking straight through him.  Then he continued
in a hollow-sounding voice: "I saw riders, many of them on strange
small horses, the like of which I have never seen until today.  And the
riders urged their horses forward for they saw ahead of them an oasis
where they were to rest and drink."  Suddenly the Mahatma turned to
Dick.  "Is that true, Dick Sahib?" he asked.

"Yes, it is true."  Dick replied simply.

"Then suddenly the riders all slumped in their saddles and looked tired
and ill, for the oasis had disappeared leaving only sandy waste in all
directions.  Is that true, Dan Sahib?"

"Jiminy crickets, you've got it straight all right, but _how_ did you
see all that?"

"And where you are going and what you will do, I also know.  There is a
young girl, a princess, bound and imprisoned.  This I see and much
besides."  He looked meaningly at the boys.

"Boloney!" said Dan in a low tone that Mahatma missed, but he saw the
look of disbelief on the boy's face.

"Dan Sahib does not believe that I speak true.  I will show him!"

Dan was about to make a flippant retort but Dick gave him a threatening
look.

Dick's face was alight with interest.  He had heard of the Hindu Yogi
who spend many years among the wise men of Tibet, who are supposed to
hold all the wisdom of the world in their keeping.  Was Mahatma
Sikandar one of these?  Dick hoped so, for he had always wanted to
study occultism and hoped to learn something of it first hand.  He was
watching the Hindu earnestly and at the first chance he said:

"Can you really see what has not yet happened?  It is true that we are
on our way to rescue a princess of the Taharans.  But tell us, Mahatma
Sikandar, will we arrive in time to save her?"

"Veena is safe at present," replied the Hindu.

"But how do you know that?" interrupted Dan impatiently.  "You may have
been able by mind reading to guess our names, but you can't tell me
that there is anything in this fortune telling."

The Mahatma's eyes flashed fire for a second, then he became calm once
more and turned to Dick, ignoring Dan's outburst.

"I have heard of occultism," said Dick.  "But I want to learn more.  I
would like to have you instruct me."

"It is a long hard way, Dick Sahib.  Many lives are needed to gain
wisdom.  I will show you."

Sikandar unwrapped the black cloth and displayed a ball that looked
like transparent glass.

"He's a crystal gazer!" exclaimed Dan.  "Read your fortune for
seventy-five cents.  It's all the bunk!"

The other two ignored these remarks and Dick spoke quickly.  "Look into
the crystal and tell us what you see.  Is Veena being treated badly?
Where is she?"

"She is well treated even though she is kept prisoner, for a white man
is bargaining for her sale."

"What's _his_ name?" asked Dan, giving Dick a poke in the ribs and with
an elaborate wink whispered, "I bet the old fakir can't answer a direct
question."

"The name of the white scoundrel is Slythe, Jess Slythe.  He is a bad
man and will in his next life be less than the worms.  Thus it is
written."

Dan Carter thrust out his hand which the Mahatma grasped without
understanding why.

"Attaboy, Old Whiskers!" said Dan.  "Now you're talking!  I don't wish
Jess Slythe any bad luck but I'm hoping everything you say comes true."

Dick turned at this moment and saw Raal.  He was sitting with his head
between his knees, a picture of distress.  Dick called him.  "Come
here, Raal!"  And as the warrior obeyed, Dick talked to him kindly.
"Don't worry, Raal.  This man, Mahatma Sikandar, is a very great
witch-doctor.  He can see things hidden from men and gods.  By his
magic, looking through that sacred ball which he holds so tightly in
his hand, he can see everything that goes on in the world.  He says
that he can see into the village of the Muta-gungas."  Dick paused for
a moment to let his words sink in.

"Speak O Master!  What does he see?"

"He sees Veena, who is kept a prisoner.  She is not dead, as you
feared, but is being held for a big bargain with Chief Mobogoma, just
as Kulki told us.  Jess Slythe is asking a big price for the white
princess."

"How far away is she, O Tahara?" asked Raal anxiously.

Dick translated the question for the Mahatma who answered, stroking his
beard:

"The village is a day's march from here."

"Then let us go at once, O Master.  The bargain may be made quickly and
after she is once in the hands of Mobogoma, she will be lost to us.
Hurry, O Tahara!"  Raal threw himself at Dick's feet.

"Yes, Raal, we will go soon," answered Dick.  "And perhaps Mahatma
Sikandar will ask one of his tribesmen to guide us in the shortest way!"

The Mahatma nodded his head.  "I will take counsel with my chief and it
will be decided," he said slowly.

Dick rose and looked about as if he intended to order the men to get
ready.  But Dan put up a detaining hand, "Not so fast, Dick!  There is
plenty of time."  Dan rubbed his stomach, "Don't you smell the eats?
That fruit and water we got a little while ago was just an appetizer.
I'm hungry as a bear!"

"Not thus does a man gain wisdom," muttered the Mahatma.  "It is by
fasting and meditation."

Raal was scowling angrily at Dan but Dick quieted him.

"The men are tired and hungry, Raal.  Some of them are weak from the
long journey.  Mahatma Sikandar, the wise man, has ordered a feast to
be set before us.  After that we will go and the men will be better
able to stand the march when their stomachs are full.  Is that not
true, Raal?"

"Yes, O Master, I know you speak the truth but my heart is heavy for
fear that harm will come to Veena."

Suddenly Sikandar, who had been gazing into the crystal ball, said
quietly:

"Tell Raal, the great warrior, that the little princess is safe.
Before two days are gone she will be under the protection of her own
people.  Do not fear."

Raal smiled but looked eagerly toward his horse as if anxious to be
gone.

"Rest, my friends, and eat for the journey is hard and beset with many
dangers."

"What do you see, Master?" asked Dick again seating himself beside the
Hindu.  "Shall we have to fight?"

"Yes, Dick Sahib, before two days are gone you will have to fight for
someone you love dearly."  The Hindu gazed into the crystal and did not
speak for a long time.  Then he straightened up and drew his hand
across his eyes.

"I do not see clearly.  A fog shuts out the sight.  It is not meant
that you should know.  I cannot see!"

"Say Dick, don't put any stock in all that talk.  I never thought you'd
fall for a lot of bunk like that.  How can he tell, by looking into a
glass ball, what is going to happen?"

"Dan Sahib has still to learn what sorrow is.  He will learn that
lesson soon.  That much I see."

"What does he mean, Dick?" asked Dan nervously.

But the Mahatma had put away the crystal, wrapping it carefully in the
black cloth.

"There you've done it," scolded Dick.  "We might have learned something
that would help us.  Instead of that, you insult him, and it's all off!"

At that moment the chief of the Kungora tribe approached and with much
bowing announced that food was to be brought.  The Mahatma retired to a
sheltered spot to eat alone and in meditation.  Dan and Dick sat down
with the warriors.

"This is what I call service!" said Dan as a black boy spread large
leaves in front of him and deposited there a large roasted spurfowl.
There were large steaks of gazelle meat, wild apricots and a kind of
bread which the Mahatma had taught the natives to make, as he did not
eat flesh but lived on grains and fruit.

Hungrily the warriors set to on the meal, pulling the birds apart with
their fingers and devouring the bits in large mouthfuls.

"You would have made a good savage, Dan!" said Dick with a laugh, as he
watched his chum.

"I wouldn't mind belonging to this tribe," Dan retorted.  "If they can
cook like this, I'm strong for them!"

But finally even Dan had to cry enough, for one course after another
was being served and it seemed as if the feasting might go on for days.
The Kungoras still sat in a semicircle about the visitors and later
Dick learned from the Mahatma that this was a sign of friendship.

"These blacks are a very peaceful tribe, I see," said Dick to the Hindu.

The Mahatma smiled tolerantly at his warriors.  "_My_ ways are ways of
peace," he said quietly.  "But these savage souls are just emerging.
They will learn through suffering.  But just now they are known to be
the most warlike tribe in the jungles of Africa.  Offer any one of them
their choice between a feast and a big battle and they'd take the
battle every time.  And make no mistake about it, Dick Sahib, if I had
not been here to protect you, this present life would be over for you
and your young friend."

"I have no doubt of that, Mahatma Sikandar.  And now as my men are
refreshed I think we should go on to the rescue of our little friend."

"That will only be the beginning of your jungle journey.  Another
search will carry you far, far into its depths."

"Have you seen more?" asked Dick.  "Tell me all, Mahatma Sikandar."

"It is not well for you to know all, Dick Sahib.  For that reason a
cloud comes between me and your search.  But this much I can tell you.
Through suffering and dangers you will finally win.  Make ready, my
friend.  The time is short."

"Your tribesmen are great warriors.  Could you not send them with us to
help us in our search?"

"My ways are ways of peace, my son.  I cannot send my men into battle.
But this I will do.  Mutaba, one of the best trackers of game, who
knows the jungle as you do your house, he will guide you to the village
of the Muta-Gungas."

"We thank you, Mahatma Sikandar.  The jungle is a new country to me and
my tribes of Taharans and Gorols.  It will save us many weary steps."

The Mahatma suddenly raised himself.  "Here, Mutaba!  Make ready my
litter.  I accompany Dick Sahib into the jungle."

"Say," whispered Dan to his chum, "I'm not sure I want Old Whiskers
along.  He's something of a frost.  I don't like him."

But Dick was giving orders to Raal, who joyously set his men to
saddling their horses.

"Let's get ready," he said.  "We've got a big job ahead of us, if
Mahatma Sikandar knows what he's talking about."

"Okay!" answered Dan Carter.  "I'm ready and waiting!  Come on!"



CHAPTER IX

THE BAD NEWS BREAKS

"Let's go!" said Dick.

"We're on our way," Dan replied with a smile on his round face.  "Oh
boy!" he added, "what a relief to have a good square meal under my belt
again.  Honest, Dick, that trek across the desert was terrible!  When I
tightened my belt, my stomach was so empty that I could feel my belt
buckle digging into my backbone."

Dick smiled.  He knew that Dan was a good sport and chock full of
courage in spite of his constant interest in food.

"I'd hate to go through a famine with you," he said.

"You'll never have a chance to," chuckled Dan.  "I can face a jungle
full of black savages and never turn a hair, but don't expect me to do
any fighting on an empty stomach."

"We will have plenty of fighting from here on, Buddy."

Dick turned to Raal and called, "Are the men all set to go?"

"Yes Master.  But Mutaba, our black guide, is putting up another plan."

"What is it?"

"He can tell you.  I can't make out what it's all about."

"Mutaba, come here," said Dick.

"Yes Bwana Dick."  And as the big black fellow began talking fast,
rolling his eyes and shaking both fists excitedly in the air, Dick saw
that he was trying hard to explain something important.

With the little that Dick had learned of native languages, he could
tell that Mutaba was very much opposed to the expedition setting out
through the forest, but that was all he understood.

"What else is there to do?" he asked Raal.

"Push on!  That is my advice, O Master.  Many dangers are ahead of us,
that is clear, but if we push on bravely we will win through."

Dan spoke up.

"Let's get the Mahatma to translate.  Maybe there is something to what
the black boy is proposing."

Dick led Mutaba to where the Hindu was preparing for the journey.  The
wise man had no idea of traveling on foot, like the negroes, or on
horseback, like Dick's warriors.

Instead he had ordered his devoted followers to construct an elaborate
litter like a Pullman berth.  It was covered with woven vines and
leaves, to make a private compartment where he could lie back or sit
cross-legged and meditate.  The litter was hung on two long poles,
extra stout to support his weight, and no less than eight bearers, all
matched for size, carried it easily along the narrow trail.

The Mahatma poked his head out of the curtain of leaves, as Dick hailed
him.

"Who comes to disturb my meditations?" he demanded.  "Ah, Dick Sahib,
it is you.  Whereof would you ask advice of the Master?"

"It is about this guide," Dick explained.  "He has something on his
mind."

"Speak, son!" said the Mahatma inclining his head sideways.

Mutaba burst into a torrent of language, at the same time throwing
himself on all fours in front of the holy man.

The Hindu listened to him earnestly, stroking his long grey beard and
occasionally rolling up his eyes in surprise.

Once in a while he gave vent to a word or two of question, and at that
Mutaba spoke louder and faster than ever.

"That boy would be grand to have in a calm at sea," laughed Dan.  "He
is windy enough to keep the sails full."

"Or to run a windmill," Dick smiled.  "But what's on the fellow's mind?"

"Looks as if we were going to stay here all day!"

Dan glanced at Raal, who was becoming more and more impatient at the
long talk.  Ever since the warrior had learned the whereabouts of the
Princess Veena, he had been in a state of suppressed excitement.  Now
that they were so near to the camp where she was held captive, he could
hardly restrain himself.

But the Mahatma showed not the slightest concern.  In the life that he
led, time meant nothing.  The years could go by until they mounted up
into centuries and it was all one to a man who believed as he did.

The Hindu's carriers were more like other humans, however.  They
shifted uneasily under the burden and once in a while a bearer would
reach out to slap a stinging fly that had lighted on his leg.

Dick and Dan looked on, mopping the perspiration from their foreheads
and finally Dick ventured to interrupt.

"What is the word?  Do we start?"

"We're in a rush," said Dan.  "Particularly Raal, here, is minding it."

"Patience, patience!" observed Sikandar, stroking his beard calmly.
"In patience is wisdom and in wisdom we attain perfection."

"We're losing time," said Dick impatiently.

"On the contrary, we are gaining time."

"By standing here and talking?" Dan blurted out.

"Wise talk is better than rash deeds," said the Mahatma.  "Behold any
fool is strong, but a wise man tells the fool how to use his strength."

"Now what is all this getting at?" exclaimed Dan.  "I bet that Old
Whiskers has made a mistake and is trying to cover up."

Sikandar's dark eyes flashed in anger at this muttered remark, then he
spoke in measured tones:

"My knowledge is vast, yet even a wise man may forget.  This black
guide reminds me that the trail to the land of the Iron-heads is
through swamps.  The land is treacherous.  It hardly bears a man's
weight and the horses would sink in it and be lost."

"Bad luck!" cried Dick.

"We have to _walk_ it," groaned Dan.  "And carry our eats on our backs!"

Raal growled and touched his axe handle.  "I am ready to go afoot,
now!" he asserted.

The Mahatma put up one fat, soft hand.

"Nay, now!  Listen to the words of wisdom.  I, Mahatma Sikandar, am not
the one to be discouraged by difficulties.  I have a better plan."

"Out with it, old-timer!" said Dan.

"Patience!  Patience!  We must all go back instead of forward."

"Never!" interrupted Raal.

"And some miles back from here we are close to a river where my
tribesmen have many canoes."

"They will have to be big ones to carry our horses," said Dan.

"The horses will be put in a corral by the river," went on the Hindu.
"My men will build a corral quickly.  Meanwhile we can start out in
comfort, paddling down the smooth river to a point within a mile of the
enemy camp!"

"Now you're talking," said Dick.

He explained to Raal how that would save time; for a canoe could be
paddled more than twice as fast as it would take to travel through a
swamp.

Raal smiled joyfully at this news and muttered, "Good!  Longbeard,
good!"

"Hooray for Old Whiskers!  He has thought up a good idea at last," said
Dan.  "But say," he whispered to Dick, "Sikandar didn't think of that.
It was the black guide.  The wise old boy is just stealing the credit
for it."

Mahatma Sikandar scowled at Dan and said, "A fool and his folly cannot
be parted!  As I told you, we saved time by talking and taking counsel."

"Okay, let's go!" said Dick.  "We travel by canoe to within a mile of
the camp, you say?  How is the trail from there?"

Sikandar asked the guide a question.  The latter burst out in noisy
explanation.

"Bad.  Very bad!" said the Hindu.

"From the river, there is hardly any trail but just a dense growth of
trees, vines and creepers.  It is full of wild beasts and huge snakes.
We must cut a path.  But the distance is not great."

"Let's be on our way," said Dick.  "I can see that Raal is keen to
start."

"Patience, patience!" said the Mahatma, but already Dick had shouted an
order, the horsemen mounted and Mutaba led the way to the river.

When the party reached the bank of the stream, a broad, sluggish river,
almost entirely overhung with the great trees alive with parrots and
chattering monkeys, they found that swift-footed natives had already
reached it by taking short cuts.  No time had been wasted.  Vines,
tough creepers and branches had been woven between growing trees to
form a large enclosure where the horses could be held in safety.

A fleet of canoes was riding on the river and the Taharans and Gorols
were now to learn the art of paddling a vessel down stream.

Mutaba went in the first canoe with Dick and Dan.

Raal followed in the second, while Kurt and Kurul commanded the third
and fourth.

Following a command from the Mahatma, a number of men came forward.
They were paddlers who were to accompany the expedition and instruct
the desert dwellers how to handle the boats.

Soon the river was crowded with light craft, manned by warriors at the
paddles.

"Where is the Wise Old Bird?" asked Dan.

"Hope he didn't give us the slip," said Dick.  "We may need his help
before the day is over."

"The Master of Wisdom is in the biggest canoe," said Mutaba, pointing
out an exceptionally broad craft with a small cabin of boughs built at
the widest part.

True to form, the Mahatma had insisted upon his privacy even in a
canoe, and his followers had built a bower-like shelter of saplings,
vines and flowering plants, in which the sage could sit cross-legged
and meditate.

"That beats all!" Dan marvelled.  "Old Brains can certainly make the
strong-arm boys wait on him!  When he says 'jump,' they all step
lively."

The Mahatma's canoe was followed by a second, on which his litter was
carried.  Evidently the sage had no intention of doing any part of the
journey afoot.

His vessel kept in the middle of the string of canoes that slid quietly
down the stream, for he had figured out that the safest place was where
he would be protected from attacks from either direction.

As the fleet moved under the strokes of strong-muscled paddlers, a
low-pitched chant arose from the blacks.  It floated over the water and
the Taharans and the Gorols listened and soon joined in with the
melody, though the words meant nothing to them.

But it was clearly a song of battle and raiding, for the eyes of the
black men gleamed excitedly and the whites showed as they rolled them
while they plied their paddles with energy.  The boats sped faster and
faster.

By that time the Taharans and the Gorols, unused to the ways of rivers,
had learned the simple art of driving the canoes forward with strokes
in time to the chant.

The blond warriors bent to it with zest, their great muscles swelling,
while the lighter built Gorols tried to outstrip them in clever use of
the paddle.

Soon it was developing into a race, and Raal, who was burning with
impatience, felt satisfied at last.  He could see progress being made.
That very day he might be able to rescue Veena from the scoundrels who
had captured her.

Then a voice came to the leaders across the water and sounded a
warning: "Patience, patience, my people!  Too much haste now, means
delay in the end."

"There goes Old Whiskers again," exclaimed Dan.  "Maybe we are
disturbing his meditations by going fast."

The Hindu's voice sounded as distinctly in their ears as though he were
alongside.

"Not so fast Dick Sahib.  Let your men rest on their paddles.  I have
much to say to you."

"Oh shucks!" Dan growled.  "We were winning the race.  Now the old
gazabo wants us to fall to the rear."

But Mutaba had heard his master's command and the order was given.
Soon the Hindu's canoe was side by side with the one carrying Dan and
Dick.

Mahatma Sikandar spoke through his screen of leaves.

"Bad news, Dick Sahib and for you, too, Dan Sahib, the crystal ball
brings evil tidings."

"What's up now?" blurted Dan.

"Were you really crystal gazing in the canoe?  And did you see
something that concerns us?" demanded Dick.

"I saw clearly what I saw only dimly before," answered the Hindu
gravely.  "The captives held in the same camp with Veena; one is a man,
gray bearded and full of years.  That is your father, Dick Sahib."

"Dick's father?  Why how did Professor Oakwood get down here in the
jungle?" Dan was incredulous.

"He was lured from the oasis by a trick.  And he was not taken alone.
A young girl is also kept for ransom."

"A girl?  Who can it be?" cried Dan as the truth began to dawn upon him.

"Already you guess who it is, Dan Sahib, and your suspicions are
correct.  The girl who is captured is young and beautiful with dark
eyes and curly black hair.  She is brave, although her case is
desperate, and she calls upon you for help.  She is your sister, Dan
Sahib!"



CHAPTER X

WAR CANOES

Ray Carter a captive!

This terrible news stunned the two boys for an instant, then spurred
them to furious action.  Their canoe drove forward.  Soon the Mahatma's
boat was left far behind.

Now they felt that not a moment must be lost.  To think of Dan's lovely
sister in the grip of those savage and brutal men, made them wild with
the resolve to fight for her freedom.

It was bad enough to know that Dick's father was held for ransom, but
Ray was in ten times as much danger.  She was so sweet and pretty in
her gay, jaunty way, that the mere thought of her coming to harm
aroused them to madness.

They urged the boatmen to greater speed.

"Faster!  Faster!" shouted Dan.  "I've got to get my sister out of
there!"

Gone was all his jolly manner.  His round face was no longer ruddy but
looked pale and strained, and his eyes showed the light of desperate
resolve.

"Faster!  Faster!" commanded Dick Oakwood, and his jaw set in a hard,
fighting line as he stared straight ahead down the tropical river.

Raal echoed the cry for speed and more speed and the paddlers drove
deeper into the sluggish water, while foam curled before the canoes.

Mutaba caught the excitement and his men were stirred to fighting rage.
Their war chant rang out as they bent to the paddles and the alarming
sounds startled the parrots and monkeys in the overhanging trees.

"This will never do," said Dick.  "We don't know how far the sounds may
carry."

"That's right.  We don't want to warn those cut-throats that we are on
our way," Dan urged.

As if his thoughts had been read, a voice of command travelled over the
surface of the water and penetrated the uproar with its calm accent.

"Quiet, my children!  Make speed, but no more noise."

"The Mahatma," gasped Dan.

"Did you hear him?" Dick questioned.  "Did you hear English words?"

"Of course.  At least I seemed to hear them."

"But the black Kungoras obeyed.  And so did the Taharans.  And the
Gorols, too!  Yet none of those people understood English."

"That's a fact.  How do you account for that?"

"The Mahatma sent an order that each man understood in his own
language.  It was not in words, however.  He just sent his thoughts to
us all.  We _imagined_ we heard the words, but what happened was that
we got the idea by some sixth sense."

"That's magic!  The real thing!" Dan exclaimed.

"Not magic.  It's what I told you about; a kind of mental radio."

"Well, if the Mahatma can send his thoughts like that, he must be a
wise old bird, after all!" Dan exclaimed.  "Say, I was wrong to kid him
so much and call him Old Whiskers."

"That's what I think."

"I hope he isn't sore at me."

"Not likely.  He probably does not consider it worth while to be
insulted by a fresh youngster like you."

"Jiminy, I hope you're right, Dick.  We certainly need the Mahatma's
help if we are going to get Ray out of there."

"We do that.  It will take all his scheming and all our fighting speed
to set her free."

Dan's face was very grave.  He was so excited and nervous about his
sister that he almost broke down.

"Do you think I'd better go back to his boat and apologize?" he asked
humbly.  "Say, I'd feel like a dog if anything happened to Ray."

"You can apologize later," counselled Dick.  "What we have to do now is
paddle for dear life and as soon as we reach the camp to put up the
best fight there is in us."

Both Dick and Dan seized a paddle and added their efforts to those of
the boatmen.

It was hot work.

The humid air of the jungle weighed upon them like a blanket of steam.
Their bodies were dripping and it was hard to breathe.

Most of the time they were in the shade of the huge trees, but once in
a while the canoe darted into a patch of sunshine and then the rays of
the afternoon sun beat down upon them fiercely.

The Taharans minded the humidity and so did the Gorols, while Dick and
Dan were terribly fagged, but the black men did not seem to notice it.
Their ebony-like bodies were wet with perspiration, but they seemed
cheerful and eager.  Only the command of the Mahatma kept them from
breaking into song.

The boys looked into the jungle on both sides and saw that it was
densely tangled with hanging vines.  Here and there a clump of bamboo
made a barrier that only a hatchet could cut through; elsewhere the
forest was overgrown with small trees forcing their way to the
sunlight, and among them could be seen the stealthy shapes of wild
beasts.

"Hope we don't run into leopards or lions," said Dan.  "It's going to
be tough to fight the tribesmen, and we don't want to be clawed by wild
animals before the scrap begins."

"That's a chance we have to take."

"You said it!  Hey!----Look at that!  Duck for your life!"

From a near-by branch, a long sinuous object like a giant creeper,
suddenly swung toward them.  It showed a murderous head, with wide open
jaws and a tongue that darted angrily.

"Great snakes!" shouted Dan, striking at it with his paddle.

But the canoe had darted past the danger before the scaly monster could
attack and Dan breathed more easily.

"Look there in the shadows," said Dick.  "Elephants, as I'm alive!"

"And whoppers!" cried Dan.  "Say, I never saw them that big before.
Not even in a circus!"

"They are dangerous to fool with," Dick remarked.  "I would hate to be
in front of that old bull if he started to charge."

The biggest elephant in the herd seemed the size of a freight car as he
calmly reached into the tree tops and pulled down the tender foliage.
His trunk stretched high above his head as he felt for the tender
shoots.

"A regular boarding house reach!" laughed Dan, forgetting his suspense
for a moment.  "Say that bozo would never have to say, 'Please pass the
butter.'  He could grab it from the other end of the table."

One of the Taharans gave a cry of astonishment at seeing the huge
creature so near by, and at the noise the elephant faced about, waving
his enormous ears and looking at the intruders with an expression of
anger in his little, intelligent eyes.

"I feel safer out here!" Dan observed.  "What use would a bow and arrow
be against that tough hide?"

"You're right.  Even my old fashioned Arab gun would hardly send a
bullet through it."

"How do you suppose the Stone-Age men ever hunted mastodons?" asked
Dan.  "Those woolly mastodons with long curving tusks were lots bigger
than the elephant."

"I guess it was the mastodon that did the hunting in those days," Dick
answered.  "The cave-men were not the hunters but the hunted, if you
ask me."

"And that goes for the sabre-toothed tiger, too."

"I bet it was a toss-up whether the human race would conquer the
animals or be eaten by them in the Stone-Age," said Dick.  "Maybe
that's why the people of today get scared and have panics so easily.
It may be a hang-over from the fear that haunted our ancestors."

"I can't say I'm exactly scared----" Dan Carter began, but before he
could finish his sentence a shout from a boatman startled him and he
answered with a yell of terror.

The canoe was passing close to a shallow spot and suddenly a pair of
jaws snapped open right alongside.  They were so wide that it looked as
though they could crash through the canoe with one bite, and the
vicious rows of teeth could easily slice through a man's body.

Dan thought he was facing a horrible death in that instant and in fact
he had never had a narrower escape.  As he yelled, he threw himself
flat, but the black guide, Mutaba showed no sign of fear.

Mutaba had hunted crocodiles before and knew what to do.  His black arm
shot out like lightning with a heavy stick in his fist.  It was
sharpened at both ends and as Mutaba thrust it upright between the
monster's rows of teeth and the jaws snapped to close, the upper and
lower jaw were stuck on the points of the stake.

Mutaba grinned as he jerked away his hand and the canoe darted past,
just in the nick of time, for the enraged monster thrashed about with
his tail, churning the muddy water to foam.

The man-eater was trapped.

The harder he struggled, the more firmly he impaled his open jaws upon
the sharp stick, and all his thrashing about was futile, for the
following boats sped by close to the opposite bank.

"Those black fellows are smart!" gasped Dan.  "Jehosephat, I thought I
was a goner, sure!"

"The natives are pretty well pleased!" said Dick.  "Listen to them
laugh and jeer at the unlucky beast."

"Don't waste any pity on crocodiles!  This one was ready to make a
lunch out of me."

"I am not sorry for him.  And it's no wonder the natives hate those
man-eaters that lurk in the shallows to snap off an arm."

"I've read that they are particularly fond of black children," said
Dan, "so there's one croc' at least that won't eat any babies."

"Hush!  Listen!" said Dick.

Close to his ear came the even voice of the Mahatma as before:

"Quiet, my children.  We are near the journey's end."

Dick and Dan stared at each other.  It was uncanny.  They were sure
this time that they had not actually _heard_ the Mahatma's voice, but
that their minds had received the message in some occult way.

Shadows were slanting from the west.  The river was wider now and the
surface was sluggish with hardly a ripple.

From the depths of the forest echoed the weird call of a bird with a
human note that sounded like lunatic laughter.  Otherwise all was still
and the shadows of the jungle seemed to grow blacker and more
mysterious at every moment.

"It's spooky," whispered Dan.  "Like passing a haunted house at
midnight."

"Cheer up," said Dick.  "It's going to be worse when we have to cut a
path through it."

"Just the same, I'd go through worse than this to save your father and
my sister."

"I don't suppose my Dad worries as much as we do.  Being a scientist,
he is seeing so many new plants, animals and birds, that he has no time
to get scared.  But Ray, poor girl, she must be terrified.  If only we
can get to her before it is too late!"

"The Mahatma said we would save her."

"But you didn't believe a word he said.  You were always kidding him."

"I believe in him now," said Dan.  "Boy, _how_ I believe in him!"

"I would like him better if he would let us have some of his warriors,"
said Dick.  "He's doing us a good turn by lending the canoes and
showing us how to reach the Muta-Gunga camp but what worries me is that
the Taharans and Gorols are not used to this country and won't know
much about fighting in the jungle."

"That's so, they will be at a disadvantage in a battle with these
jungle savages who know every inch of the ground," said Dan
thoughtfully.  "They're brave enough but it would help if they had a
few of the natives of the section to show them the way around."

"Never mind, we will take a chance," said Dick.  "We're going to win
out!  And come through with flying colors!"



CHAPTER XI

KING SOLOMON'S CROWN

Suddenly Mutaba raised both arms above his head and opened and closed
his hands rapidly.

It was a signal.

The paddlers in the following canoes slowed down and the leader in each
little vessel relayed the silent order until the last boat had received
it.

The keen-eyed jungle tracker had spied an opening in the wall of trees
and vines that Dick and his friend could hardly see, even when the
canoe was making straight for it.

Apparently the little vessel which was headed right across the stream
was about to run its nose into the bank, but at a muttered warning from
Mutaba the crew ducked low and the canoe glided under a leafy fringe
and entered a creek that allowed free passage.

As the stream widened Dick could see it extending like a black trail
deep into the forest.  Here the shadows were so heavy that there was
not enough light for plants that grow close to the ground, consequently
the undergrowth was not so dense as it was near the river bank.

Dick and Dan could see farther into the shadowy depths after their eyes
became accustomed to the twilight, and now and then they saw a fleeting
shape, so distant that it could not be recognized as man or beast.

"This is ghostly," whispered Dan.  "A magic forest, if there ever was
one!"

"Cheer up!  We have strong magic on our side," smiled Dick.  "The
Mahatma is with us.  We would be lost without him."

"Old Whiskers--I mean, Mahatma Sikandar, is right there with the
goods!" Dan was enthusiastic.  "Say, I hope he won't hold it against me
that I was so fresh."

"Don't worry.  His mind is full of important things.  I'm sure he
thinks of your wise-cracks as less than the dust."

"It's up to me to do something brave and prove to the Mahatma that I am
more than a smart aleck."

"That's the right spirit!  I have the feeling that a big scrap is about
to break.  You'll have plenty of chances to show what you can do."

"Watch me!  If I can lay hands on Jess Slythe, I'll pay him out for
what he did to my sister."

Dick interrupted him.

"Quiet.  Mahatma Sikandar looks worried.  Maybe there is danger near
by."

The tracker spoke in Swahili, a dialect spoken by many tribes in
different parts of Africa, of which Dick understood a few words.

"Bwana Dick," he said earnestly.  "We are near the place where we leave
the canoes.  I have seen signs of enemies.  So be quiet, Bwana Dick,
and tell your talkative friend to be silent."

Dick translated in whispers and Dan followed the warning.

Cautiously the canoe entered a wide part of the stream where vines and
bushes grew in a patch of sunlight.

Mutaba looked at the banks carefully for signs of footprints or broken
branches that would tell of intruders, then pointed to a certain spot
where the earth had been trodden by animals who came to drink.

"This is the place, Bwana Dick," he said.  "I go first."

As the canoe touched the shore, the powerful native leaped to the bank
as lightly as a cat, crouched low as if smelling the ground and
examined every inch of the soil near him.

Then he peered into the forest depths carefully and finally raised one
hand as a signal.

His blacks, who had been holding their bows in readiness for an attack,
now followed him, and canoe after canoe unloaded.

Mutaba led the way by a narrow trail to a clearing where the forces
could assemble, and here the Taharans and the Gorols awaited orders
from the Mahatma.

The wise man came last.  Even in the dense jungle he refused to walk,
so the litter was carried by his bearers, while hatchet-wielding
natives cut and slashed at the vines and brush.

But when he reached the clearing, Mahatma Sikandar refused firmly to
accompany the war party any further and ordered the litter set down
under a tree.

"My ways are the ways of peace," he said.  "I remain here and my spirit
will direct you from afar."

"I wonder whether he's afraid," whispered Dan.

"Ssh," cautioned Dick.  "There you go!  Offending him again!"

For the Mahatma's dark eyes stared angrily in Dan's direction and he
beckoned the boys to come closer.

"Listen," he said.  "I came from my own country in search of peace.  A
voice led me for many weary miles over seas and strange lands, across
burning deserts and at last I was directed by my unseen guide to this
jungle tribe.  The voice directed me to bring peace to the warlike
tribe of the Kungoras."

"And the natives understood and bowed down to you?" questioned Dick.

"Yes, my son.  Fierce as they are, they received me as a friend and
master.  From that day, they have had no war.  I promised them peace
and I brought them peace."

"I see that they are anxious to join us in this raid," said Dan.  "They
have been quiet too long."

"Can you lend us just a few warriors?" asked Dick.  "They know the
jungle warfare and can show my desert fighters what to do."

"I can lend you a guide, Mutaba," said the Mahatma.  "But once I set
the tribe free to warfare, my days here are ended."

"You mean that they would turn on you and kill you?"

"No, my son.  I mean that the unseen guide who led me here to meditate,
told me that when war came to my tribe, on that day my search would
begin once more."

"Your search?  For what?"

Dan's question brought an unexpected reply from the Hindu.

"My search is for an ancient crown of massive gold and gems," he said.
"It is so old that no man knows when it was made or for whom.  It is of
great value to the possessor."

"If it's gold you want," said Dan, "we know where you can get a
shipload.  Don't we, Dick?"

"Peace, peace!  Gold is nothing to me.  It is the crown I seek.  The
crown that has been in the treasuries of great kings but now has
vanished.  King Solomon had it as a gift from the Queen of Sheba.  It
was lost for centuries, then found in the Court of an Abyssinian king.
Then it disappeared.  Where it is now, I know not."

"Why don't you look for it in your crystal?"

"I have tried.  Many times.  But the magic of the crown is stronger
than my own.  It refuses to show itself in my crystal sphere."

"Why do you want it so much?" asked Dan.

"Because upon that crown is engraved the secret of wisdom.  It is a
secret that is older than man.  If I could look upon that symbol and
fix it upon my memory, I would give all the riches in the world."

Dick was thinking hard.  He turned impatiently, as Raal approached him
and asked, "O mighty Tahara, when do we start?"

"Soon, Raal, very soon."

"My heart is heavy, Master, when I think of the princess held captive."

"And what about me?" exclaimed Dan.  "Am I to wait around here talking,
while my sister's life is in danger?"

"Peace, peace, children!" said the Mahatma.  "All will be well if you
have patience."

"We will never get to the camp today!" exclaimed Dan.

"Then we can fight by the light of the full moon," Dick retorted
sharply.  "Don't break in on the Mahatma when he is planning things.
By this time you ought to know that you make better time by following
his advice."

The Hindu raised both hands above his head and closed his eyes,
murmuring, "The voice that led me here, tells me that I shall learn
more about the ancient crown.  My time here is nearly at an end."

"Let me tell you about the crown of the two tribes," said Dick.  "It is
old and very heavy and set with uncut gems.  And it is covered with
signs like picture writing," and Dick described it as well as he could
remember.

"You have seen this crown?"

"I have had it on my head," replied the Boy King.

"Where is it now?"

"Not here, Mahatma.  It is too heavy to wear for long, and too valuable
to carry on a war expedition, so I placed it in the safest spot I know."

"Tell me!  Tell me where it is hidden," cried the Hindu.

Never before had Dick seen him show excitement.  Now his voice trembled
with eagerness.

"Do you think the crown of the Taharans and Gorols is the lost diadem?"
asked Dick.  "The one that the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon?"

"I believe it is the same.  I cannot rest un I have seen it.  Tell me
where it is."

Dick started to say that he had placed it in the cave of the Great
Gorol, the Ape-god in the land of the Gorols.  Then it occurred to him
that if Mahatma were told, he would lose all interest in helping rescue
the captives.  It would be better to hold the secret until Ray and his
father were saved and Veena restored to Raal.

"Patience, patience, O Mahatma Sikandar," said Dick softly.

"Patience!  _You_ preach patience to me?"

"Yes, O wise man.  For until you have set free the captives I seek, you
shall never learn where the crown is hidden."

"But you must tell me."

"Later.  After the battle."

"But suppose you should be killed?"

"Then my secret perishes with me.  You shall never see King Solomon's
crown and you shall never read the words of highest wisdom."

"Attaboy!" exclaimed Dan.  "You've got the Mahatma where you want him,
Dick.  Make him set Ray free, or tell him nothing."

The Mahatma tightened his lips to keep back an angry retort and then
spoke gently:

"My life is all in vain if I fail to see the crown you have hidden."

"Look for it in your crystal!" cried Dan.

Sikandar ignored him and continued to Dick Oakwood, "With the symbol on
that crown in my memory, I could travel through the air to my own land.
I could go to the high-built lamasaries of Tibet.  I could enter the
presence of the holy Dalai Lama himself and find welcome in the circles
of the wise men of the high places."

"You can do all those things, once you have set free the captives,"
said Dick firmly.

"Sure," said Dan.  "We will help you.  My father has a plane that will
fly you to India."

"Your father will fly with me to Holy India?"  The Mahatma looked at
Dan for the first time with respectful interest.  "The voice told me
that it would be so," he replied.  "An unlicked cub would first annoy
me by his foolish teasing, then would cause me to be carried through
the air to the land of the sacred Ganges."

"Any place you want to go!" said Dan.

"Help me first, and we'll show you the crown and fly with you to
India," Dick promised.

"Only we can't waste any more time here," urged Dan.

"Raal and his warriors are impatient," said Dick.  "And so am I."

"Enough!"  The Mahatma was through preaching patience.  He clapped his
hands and the tracker Mutaba ran to him, falling on his knees and
awaiting orders.

"The days of peace are ended," said Sikandar.

"Good, O Holy Man!"

"And my days with you are nearly at an end."

Mutaba uttered a wail of grief, but Sikandar spoke sharply:

"Lead the way with hatchets and cut a path through the jungle for the
Taharans and the Gorols.  And when you come to the camp of the
Muta-Gungas, fight as you never fought before."

"Good, O Master.  Good!"

"My litter will follow close behind army," said Mahatma Sikandar.
"This is a holy war.  Till it is ended, there shall be no more talk of
peace."

"Or of patience!" cried Dan.

"We strike for the Princess Veena!" Raal exclaimed, signalling to his
warriors.

"We fight for our Holy Man!" cried Mutaba, leading his hatchet-bearers
into the jungle.

"We fight for the rescue of my sister--and your father!" Dan Carter
exclaimed, clapping Dick on the shoulder.  "This is bully.  Now we are
going to put up a swell fight!"

"We fight for the crown of wisdom," said Mahatma Sikandar.  "Forward to
battle!"



CHAPTER XII

STAMPEDE

The jungle closed in upon the warriors.  They seemed like insects
winding through a patch of grass, for the trees grew high and thick
above them and the saplings crowded close to the trail.

The Kungoras used their hatchets and the Stone-Age men slashed with
their flint implements, cutting away the creepers and vines that
blocked their passage.  But it was slow going.

Dick Oakwood watched the progress with anxious eyes, for it was far
past mid-day and he wanted to attack while it was still light.
Otherwise in the darkness, he might lose the captives altogether.

The time was short for what they had to do.

"At this rate we will never make it," said Dan Carter, mopping the
moisture from his face.

"Push on anyhow," said Dick.  "There's nothing else to do."

He and Dan were in the lead, with Mutaba, who directed his axe-wielding
blacks.  The guide kept watching for any sign of hostilities, running
ahead whenever there was a clear space on the trail and searching for
tracks or broken twigs which might indicate that some enemy had passed
that way.

Suddenly he stopped short, crouched low in the brush and raised one
hand high as a warning.  Dick watched him draw his bow and take careful
aim at something in the tangle of vines far ahead, then as he let the
arrow fly, a creature that might have been man or beast fled through
the undergrowth in terror.

With a grunt of anger, Mutaba leaped forward and pursued it, while Dick
and Dan did their best to keep up.  But the black slid through the
tangled growth like a snake, while the two boys were blocked
constantly, so they were soon left behind.

Finally when they did overtake him, Mutaba was squatting on his
haunches, examining everything on the ground and in the brush with the
trained eyes of a tracker.

"It was a man," he said briefly.  "My arrow missed, for there was no
trace of blood on any branch or on the ground."

Mutaba moved a pace forward and pointed to some crushed vegetation,
which to the boys was meaningless.

"It was a Muta-Kunga tribesman," said the tracker.  "A young warrior,
who knows the way of the jungle."

"A regular Sherlock Holmes:" remarked Dan.  "Next thing he will tell us
that the fellow was exactly five feet, eight and a half inches tall,
had a hair lip and wore grey spats and a lion skin."

Mutaba understood nothing of this, but as though in answer to Dan's
sarcasm, he reached out with his thin black fingers and dislodged a bit
of fluff from a bramble.

"It is from the Muta-Kunga warrior's neck feathers," he said.

"Neck feathers?"

"Yes, Bwana Dick, when the Muta-Kunga is at war or on the hunting
trail, he wears a neck piece of feathers.  See, this is a bit that was
torn off in flight."

Dick translated for Dan's benefit, and the latter whistled in
astonishment.

"Guess I pulled another boner," he said.  "Sherlock Holmes was on to
his job after all."

"That ends our surprise attack!" Dick exclaimed.  "The Muta-Kunga
warriors will know we are on our way.  That fellow may be at the camp
already, and warning the tribe."

"Tough luck!" said Dan.

"The worst is that they may rush the prisoners to some other hiding
place in the jungle."

"Or they may ambush us at some spot and shoot us full of arrows without
warning."

"It's a bad break for us, either way," admitted Dick.  "But it's too
late to turn back now.  We'll just have to take a chance."

"Why couldn't the Mahatma have foreseen this in his crystal?" Dan
growled.

"You expect too much.  The Hindu can't see _everything_."

"Well, it's up to him to make good," Dan persisted.  "He said we would
rescue Ray and your father and Veena, and if he lets us down, I'll make
him sweat for it!"

The war party proceeded more cautiously than before.  Word had spread
through the little army that a spy had been shot at but had escaped, so
every man was on his guard for attackers.

For some time nothing unusual happened, though there was a constant
feeling of dread.  At any moment a shower of arrows and spears might
bring death to the invaders.  The forest seemed more terrifying than
ever and even the Kungoras, who would rather fight than eat, showed the
nervous strain.

Finally Mutaba stopped short in his tracks with a sharp "_Psst!_" and
held up his hand.

"What is it now?" gasped Dan, fitting an arrow to his bow.

Dick brought his clumsy Arab gun level for a shot at the hidden enemy.
But this time the foe was not human.

Through the tangle of vines and saplings a huge head loomed above the
party.  It was an enormous elephant that faced them with murderous rage
in its little bright eyes.

Its trunk raised high, the creature trumpeted angrily, while its ears
stood out like wings on both sides of its head.

"Jehosephat!" gasped Dan.  "Now we are done for!"

In his excitement he let fly the arrow he was holding, but it bounced
off the tough hide of the bull elephant as though it had struck a brick
wall.

At this annoyance, the elephant trumpeted more furiously than before,
and from behind him other huge forms crowded to dispute the path of the
warriors.

"It's a whole herd of 'em," cried Dan.  "We'll be trampled to pulp."

But though his voice trembled Dan Carter did not become panic-stricken.
He looked to his friend Dick Oakwood for advice and saw that the Boy
King was facing the danger manfully.

Raising the heavy gun to his shoulder, Dick was taking a steady aim at
the animal's eye.  It was a desperate chance.  Only one shot with a
clumsy old-fashioned gun and if that missed, all was over.

To Dan it seemed like an hour, as Dick held the bead on the infuriated
monster, but it was only a second.  Then Dick squeezed the trigger,
there followed a sharp click--and that was all.  The gun had missed
fire.

"Good night!" gasped Dan.  "This is our finish.  Now they'll charge us,
and we'll be trampled into the mud."

But just as the herd swayed forward in a clumsy attack, the even voice
of the Mahatma sounded among the tribesmen.

"Stand fast!  Fear nothing!"

Once more the wise Hindu sent his thoughts straight to their minds by
his mysterious power and at the same time he used his occult skill upon
the furious brutes.  Some nameless fear struck the leader of the herd
as the Mahatma exerted his mystic forces.

The rage of the bull elephant changed instantly to wild terror.  Trunk
aloft, he trumpeted shrilly, and wheeled about in flight.

The herd caught the panic.

At once the great animals crashed blindly through the jungles,
flattening the saplings and tearing loose the clinging vines as they
fled.

They were stampeding in the direction of the Muta-Kunga camp and
beating a trail for the warriors faster than the hatchet-men could have
cleared it.

Dick Oakwood cocked his gun and pulled the trigger, aiming at the
retreating herd.  This time there was no miss-fire.  The gun roared
like a young cannon.

"Tahara hal!" went up a great shout from Raal, as he leaped forward.
His tribesmen followed, brandishing their weapons and echoing the war
cry: "_Tahara, hal!_"

To Raal and his men this was one more proof of the Boy King's
superhuman power.

Mutaba and his Kungoras took up the chase, yelling fiercely and hurling
insults at the fleeing elephants.

Now there was no further need of caution for the Muta-Kungas were
warned of a coming battle.  All that the invaders had to do was to race
forward, and at their top speed it was not possible to catch up with
the herd.  Clumsy as they appeared, the elephants were capable of
moving fast, and now urged by fear, they tore through the jungle like a
freight train.

The trumpeting of the elephants, the terrified chatter of monkeys in
the trees, and birds, startled by the confusion, raised a terrific din
in the forest that was usually so quiet.  Small game fled in terror
before the onrush that shook the ground.  Snakes slid swiftly out of
the way of the charging herd.  No creature large or small dared to stay
in its path.

And this onslaught was most violent when it swept upon the camp of the
Muta-Kungas.  Warned by their scout who had been shot at by Mutaba, the
tribesmen of Chief Mobogoma were prepared for battle.  Armed with
flat-pointed spears and bows and arrows, they were drawn up awaiting
the word to meet their enemies and attack them from ambush.  The
Muta-Kungas were ferocious looking fellows with degraded faces and
about their necks they wore huge ruffs of brightly colored feathers.

Abdul and his men were ready with their guns and scimiters, while Jess
Slythe was guarding two of the prisoners, Professor Oakwood and Ray
Carter, with the help of a couple of Arabs.  Cimbula who had impressed
the tribe by his craftiness, was guarding the Princess Veena in a hut
reserved for prospective brides of Chief Mobogoma.  The one-eyed
witch-doctor was quite at home in the enemy camp and hoped to see the
Taharans slain.

The Arab horses were in a large corral, for the forest was too dense to
use them in fighting, and as for flight, nobody had even considered it,
as the Muta-Kungas expected to kill off the invaders before they even
reached the camp.

But the whirlwind attack threw them all into confusion.  First came the
small animals, running as though the forest were afire behind them,
then crash, _crash_, CRASH, the old bull elephant charged right through
the village, his herd at his heels.

Down went the fences of the small garden patches and down went every
hut that stood in the way.  Even the chief's big house was not spared
and Mobogoma himself had to duck out of the way as a raging elephant
brought down the thatched roof.  His wives and children fled screaming
into the wilderness, scattering before the thundering terror.

Brave as they were, the Muta-Kungas did not even try to fight off the
charging elephants, but sought shelter behind big trees, and as for the
Arabs, they made a wild dash for their horses, which had broken loose
from the wrecked corral.

Dick shouted to his Taharans and Gorols, "Let 'em have it!" as his
forces swept into the wrecked village.

"Let 'em have it!" echoed Dan Carter.  "Give 'em the axe!"  Both boys
were keenly alive to the danger that the captives were exposed to, and
while their followers took on the Muta-Kungas in hand to hand combat,
the boys looked for Ray and Dick's father among the ruined huts.

Raal was no less eager in the search for Veena and he was the first to
find what he sought.  From a partly wrecked hut he spied the girl
trying to crawl from under the thatched roof, while the witch-doctor
stood over her threatening her with death if she tried to escape.

In one leap Raal was upon him, battle axe upraised and the wretched
Cimbula vented a howl of terror as he saw the weapon flash through the
air.

It was the last sound he uttered, for the next moment Raal's axe found
its mark and the crafty plotter sank in a heap among the débris of the
ruined hut.

Raal dragged out Veena and held her in his arms, looking about fiercely
to protect her from other foes, while the girl clung to him in mingled
terror and gratitude.

Meanwhile Dick and Dan caught sight of Ray struggling with Abdul, who
was mounted on his horse and was holding the girl before him on the
saddle.

Ray struggled frantically and screamed for help.  Jess Slythe who was
tying Professor Oakwood upon a horse, aided by two husky Arabs, snarled
at her to keep quiet.

"I've got a good mind to cut your throat and the professor's too," he
raged.  "If I didn't expect a good big ransom from your father, I'd do
it in a minute."

It was at that moment that Dick saw the girl and rushed toward her,
shouting, "Dan, Dan, there she is!"

The two boys flung themselves at Abdul, striking at him with their
primitive weapons.  Dan had only a flint knife which he tried to use
dagger-fashion, but as he strained upward Abdul raised his scimiter to
slash at his head.

But Dick Oakwood was quick to defend his friend.  With the long Arab
gun, clutched in both hands, he swung at Abdul, delivering a blow that
half stunned the Bedouin.  Abdul reeled in his saddle, releasing his
hold on Ray and like a flash she slipped to the ground, her dark hair
tumbled, her cheeks reddened with anger and her black eyes flashing.

"Don't let him get away!" she cried.  "I want to pay him back for what
he made me suffer."

Dick held her in his arms to keep her from falling, but Dan, whose
hands were free, hurled his flint knife at Abdul just as the Arab's
horse galloped away.

The weapon caught the ruffian on the arm and a gush of blood reddened
his burnous, but the next instant, clinging to his horse's neck, the
fugitive plunged into the forest.

Dick saw to his horror that Jess Slythe had tied his father to a horse
and was now in flight, mounted upon another animal.

Professor Oakwood, too proud to call for help, sent one despairing look
backward, as Jess Slythe lashed the animal's flanks.

"After him!" shouted Dick Oakwood.  "Get me a horse, somebody!  We have
_got_ to rescue my father!"

But the Arab horses were plunging about beyond hope of capture, and
Jess Slythe and his prisoner were already lost in the shadows of the
jungle.



CHAPTER XIII

JUNGLE DANCERS

The victory was complete.

By the time Mahatma Sikandar came on the scene, borne upon his litter,
the Muta-Kungas were in full flight, pursued by the Kungoras, Gorols
and Taharans.

The Arabs, too, had vanished, but a few of their horses were loose,
running about the village and the surrounding forest.

Dick spied his Taharan friends, Kurt and Kurul, returning from the
pursuit of the enemies and cried:

"Round up the stray horses!  Get all you can!  We'll start out to
rescue Dad."

"Yes, Master," they replied obediently, and called upon their fellows
to help in the capture of the terrified animals.

The Mahatma spoke to them in his placid voice:

"Patience, my children!  I see that the battle has gone as I foretold.
Through my power over beasts, I caused the elephants to stampede.  Now
be quiet, and watch.  You will see me bring the horses to you."

Fascinated, Dick and his followers watched the wise old Hindu raise
both hands above his head with a convulsive gesture.  His eyes closed.
At the same time his lips moved as he appeared to be saying something
under his breath.  But no sound came to the ears of the men beside him.
The message was not meant for them.  It was directed at the runaway
horses.

At a distance the beasts were racing madly, at first, then their pace
slackened and a few of them began to graze quietly, while the others
stared in the direction of the holy man.

Kurt and Kurul, ropes in hand, gave a grunt of admiration, "Mahatma
Good!" and started to bring in the horses.

But Dick restrained them.  "Leave it to the wise man," he said.  "He
does not need help."

Sure enough in a few minutes the horses began straying back to where
the Mahatma was sitting, all their fear gone.

"Now you can capture them, Dick Sahib," said Sikandar.  "Go to them
quietly and take them by their bridles."

Dan cried enthusiastically, "You are certainly there with the goods,
chief!"  With one arm around his sister, he exclaimed, "There's the man
you want to thank, Ray!  Without his help we might never have rescued
you!"

"That's right!" cried Dick.  "You owe him everything!"

Ray bowed and expressed her thanks shyly.  The strange old Hindu did
not seem so wonderful to her, but if Dick and Dan said he was a miracle
worker, there must be something to it.

And now Raal came forward, still holding Veena as though he could never
let her go.

Prostrating himself before the Mahatma, Raal drew the girl down beside
him and the pair addressed a chant of thanksgiving to him in their own
language.

The old man beamed upon them and uttered a blessing, then turned to
Dick.

"You are impatient, my son."

"Yes, holy man.  It is about my father.  Can you help me save him?"

"I know.  I know what has happened," said the Hindu.  "Today the
spirits that control my crystal are active, and I have seen everything."

"And will you bring Dad back safely?"

"Tomorrow you shall clasp his hand.  Have no fear."

But Dick was not so easily quieted.

"He is in the power of a murderous scoundrel, a man who tried to kill
me."

"Fear not, my son."

"Let me take the horses and go out with a party tonight."

"That would spoil everything!  You would be lost in the forests.  See,
already the shadows are heavy in the jungle and before you could
overtake him, it would be dark as the souls of evil men.  Also the
jungle is full of fierce beasts.  The leopards, the lions and the
crocodiles would destroy you."

Reluctantly Dick decided to stay in the camp until daylight, and join
in the feasting that celebrated the victory.

"It is well for you that I have taught the Kungoras to advance a little
way in the path of good," said the Mahatma, "otherwise you would have
witnessed a cannibal feast this night."

"Do you mean it?" cried Dan.

"I do mean it.  When I came to the Kungoras, they were eaters of human
flesh.  They believed that eating the heart of an enemy gave them all
his strength and courage."

"And they slaughtered their prisoners?"

"And feasted on them!"

"That's too many for me!" ejaculated Dan Carter.  "I can't deny that
I'm fond of eats, but if it came to making a lunch off one of those
Muta-Kungas, I'd rather go hungry."

The smell of cooking floated over the camp, mingled with the smoke of
wood fires.  Plenty of food had been found in the mud huts thatched
with straw, for the surprise attack had caused the natives to flee
without taking anything.

The feast was served in the clearing before the ruins of Chief
Mobogoma's house.  There a big fire was kept burning and by its light
the warriors gorged themselves with roasted game, corn and other
products of the garden patches and then finished off with quantities of
bananas and other fruit.

Ray and Dick ate sparingly as was their habit, and the Mahatma
contented himself with a little food and that of the plainest, but Dan
Carter joined the warriors in disposing of huge quantities of roasted
and broiled meat.

The savages showed their delight in his prowess.

"Dan good!" said Kural.

"Dan big chief!" replied Kurt, his mouth full, and reached into a stew
pot with a forked stick.

As the boy smiled at them, waving a bone that he was gnawing, Dick sang
out:

"Take care, Dan!  I was tipped off that the Kungoras smuggled in part
of a Muta-Kunga brave among the stew meat."

Dan pulled back hastily and stared at the big pot in which vegetables
and chunks of meat were mingled.

"You take?" asked Kurul.

"Stew good!" suggested Kurt with a broad smile.

"No thanks," gasped Dan Carter, turning a little pale.  "I don't--think
I care--for any more."

He got up hastily and left the circle of heavy eaters.

"Lost your appetite?" laughed Dick.

"No, not exactly.  I just--think I've had--enough!  Guess I'll take a
little walk!"  And Dan disappeared on the trot.

Ray gave Dick a reproachful look.  "Is that nice?" she asked.  But she
was unable to keep back a smile.

"Dan Sahib is bound to the wheel of fleshly enjoyment," remarked the
Mahatma.  "He must learn to restrain his appetites."

"Especially his appetite for stew, when dining with jungle blacks!"
laughed Dick.

The meal was prolonged far into the night and broken by exhibitions of
tribal dances.  First the Gorols pranced about the fire in single file.
They bent low, shuffling along and uttering monkey-like cries, while to
make the resemblance perfect they had tied long twigs to their belts,
so that they waggled like tails during the dance.

With their dark skins, long thin arms and legs and primitive features,
they looked more like ape-men than ever and Ray and Dick shouted with
laughter.

Dan Carter returned to the circle, attracted by the noise.

"Get in line, Dan, you are all that's needed to complete the picture,"
his friend kidded him.

"I don't--think I feel--like dancing," replied Dan, still a little
greenish about the gills.  "I'm not feeling very well."

"Have some more stew!"

Ray slapped Dick's arm and cried, "Don't tease the poor boy!"

"All right," Dick extended his hand.  "Come on, Dan!  Shake on it!
We'll change the subject."

The Taharans were the next to dance and with a great brandishing of
flint knives and stone axes they went through an imaginary battle.  Two
warriors would break away from the line and face each other like
duellists, while the rest danced about them, uttering war cries that
made the forest ring.

"These mock battles look like the real thing!" said Dick.  "Look at
that!  I thought sure that the tall fellow was going to split the other
one with his axe."

"I don't like it," said Ray.  "What if he got excited and landed a
blow?"

"Then there would be one Taharan the less.--Watch out!  Now the
Kungoras are going to it!"

With a howl like jungle beasts, the black men were on their feet and
rushing to the firelight with spears and painted shields waving above
their heads.

At the same time the boom-boom-boom of the hollowed log resounded, the
huge drum that the Muta-Kungas used for sending alarms through the
forest.

"Now it's getting good!" exclaimed Dan, forgetting his attack of
indigestion.  "I wondered whether the natives were going to forget the
old tom-tom."

"Boom-boom-boom," went the big drum like a challenge, and at that the
Kungora dancers lined up in two bands facing each other and howled
defiance and threats back and forth.

"What's going to happen?" whispered Ray clinging to Dick's arm.  "Are
they really going to kill each other?"

"Can't say.  Ask the Mahatma.  He knows this tribe."

"If they do slay a few warriors, it will be an accident," said Mahatma
Sikandar.  "This is a dance of battle and they sometimes forget it is
not the real thing."

"How terrible!" cried Ray.

"Can't you make them be reasonable?" asked Dick as the Hindu watched
the apparently enraged savages.

"Reasonable?  What human being is ever reasonable?" asked the wise man.
"Are your own people reasonable when they slaughter each other with
guns and poison gas?  No, the savages are on a low plane, but the
civilized men are also far from the path of wisdom."

"Go it, Mutaba!" shouted Dan, clapping his hands.

The guide and chief warrior of the Kungoras was dancing in front of his
own band, shaking his spear in the face of the rival leader.  The pair
rushed together furiously, leaped back and returned to the attack,
while their rolling eyes and thick snarling lips expressed murderous
hatred.

Behind each leader swept the warrior ranks, brandishing their weapons,
guarding with their shields and pretending to attack and retreat in
wild convulsive rhythms.

Their bodies, dripping with sweat, gleamed in the firelight, the whites
of their eyes flashed furiously and foam gathered in the corners of
their mouths as they jerked and writhed in mimic warfare.

All the time the drum kept up its beating, ever faster and wilder, like
the pulse of a fever patient.  To this boom-boom-boom was added the
yells and shrieks of the frenzied Kungoras, and above the din rose the
excited chatter of monkeys in the tree tops and the shrill outcries of
parrots and other birds.  Even the beasts in the depths of the forest
had caught the tense excitement from afar, and the black jungle echoed
with the roar of lions and the trumpeting of elephants.

"What a night!" gasped Ray, tightening her grasp on Dick.

"It's a grand show!" exclaimed Dan.  "Wouldn't miss it for a big league
ball game!"

"Reminds me of the witch-hunt," said Dick in a low voice.  "Remember
the night Cimbula was picking out victims for sacrifice?"

"Gee, I thought I was a goner when that black fellow grabbed me," Dan
ejaculated.  "Say, let me tell you I have dreamed of that many a night
and started up in a cold sweat."

"That was horrible!" Ray answered.  "Every second I expected that
witch-doctor to pounce on me."

"Well, Mahatma," said Dan, "you did a good job to tame those wild
Kungoras.  How did you ever teach them to be good?  How did you make
them obey you?"

"By the power of the mind," answered the Hindu.  "The spirit of the
wise is master of the wildest savage.  Watch me, and you shall see."

Fascinated, the two boys and Ray looked on, while the Mahatma leaned
back, closed his eyes and seemed to put the force of his mind upon the
frenzied dancers.

At first there was no response.  The dance was more furious than ever.
Then, one at a time, the warriors seemed to come to their senses.  Man
after man lowered his weapons, dropped quietly out of the ranks and
returned to squat before the fire, all pausing to make a hasty
prostration in front of the wise man before they sat down.

The Mahatma did not open his eyes until the notes of the big drum had
faded out into silence.  By that time all the blacks were seated and
once more eating quietly.

"It's a miracle," said Dick.

"It sure is," answered Dan.  "Listen.  Even the wild beasts in the
jungle have quieted down."

"There is more to this than I can understand," whispered Ray.

"Those Hindus know plenty of things that are beyond me," Dick answered.

"I thought it was all the bunk, at first," said Dan, "but now I think
the old man is the real article."

"Wait until you go to India where the masters are," Dick continued.
"Then you will see miracles that even our Mahatma can't understand."

"I'd love to go," said the girl.  "Africa is thrilling enough, goodness
knows, but India fascinates me."

Before the feast broke up, Dan, Ray and Dick slipped away, too tired to
hold their eyes open.



CHAPTER XIV

TO THE RESCUE!

The next morning before dawn had penetrated the jungle, Dick awoke from
a troubled sleep with a voice sounding in his ears.

"Arise my son!  Now is the time to set forth."

Springing from his bed of leafy branches and soft skins, Dick saw his
faithful Kurt pacing back and forth near by, while Kurul, stretched
under a mango tree, was snoring heavily.

The two devoted tribesmen had guarded him, taking shifts through the
night.  Near his resting place Ray and Dan were still sound asleep,
exhausted by the excitement of the night before.

Dick paused a moment to look at the sleeping girl, whose flushed cheeks
and dark tumbled hair made a pretty picture, but again the voice was in
his ears, and he recognized it as the Mahatma's.

"Take the horses and set out to find your father.  Now is the time."

Dick could not see the Hindu.  A few drowsy natives were stirring about
the camp, but the wise man had sought a hiding place in some hut.  Yet
the Boy King knew that his adviser was guiding him by sending his
message as before, and he hurried to get his force together.

Snatching a hasty bite as he moved about, Dick made up a party of
picked men.  First he selected Kurt, Kurul and Raal, dependable
fighters; then Mutaba, for his knowledge of the jungle, and then a
number of first class warriors from the Gorols and Taharans, as many as
there were horses to mount.

Mutaba seemed to require no explanation.  It seemed as though the
Mahatma had told him where to go and what to do.

In a few minutes the party set out, with Ray and Dan following in the
rear, rubbing their eyes sleepily.  Veena rode with them, looking very
fresh and happy.  Since Raal had won her heart by rescuing her, the
little savage girl was no longer jealous of Ray and wanted to be her
friend.

As for the Mahatma, he stayed in the camp, promising to guide them from
his resting place.

The trail of the fleeing Arabs was not hard to follow, as there were
plenty of hoof prints in the soft earth of the forest, and the
undergrowth gave them no chance to stray from the narrow path.

Yet Dick saw how wise had been the Mahatma's advice to make no attempt
to follow in the previous night's darkness.  The way was crooked as a
snake's trail and passed on narrow strips of hard ground between
treacherous swamps, while sometimes a fallen tree was the only bridge
across a sluggish stream.

The mist hung heavy over the forest, so that the depths were veiled in
gray shadow and the sun could not penetrate the low-hanging fog, though
it soon warmed it until it resembled the steam room of a Turkish bath.

"Glory be!" exclaimed Dan, yawning and mopping his wet brow.  "This is
a terrible place to be lost.  I'd rather be back on the desert.  There
you can see where you are going, at any rate!"

"Don't make a noise," cautioned Ray.  "We don't know what enemies may
be lurking about."

"That's a fact.  Mobogoma and his blacks may be behind any of those
trees, waiting to shoot us full of arrows and make us look like a
pincushion."

"Yes.  Or the Arabs may be close by.  And that terrible Jess Slythe."

"I hope he is!" Dan exclaimed.  "I'd like to get my hands on that
fellow."

"Don't, Dan!  It makes me shudder to think of it.  He wouldn't think
twice about killing you in cold blood."

"I'm not scared of him!" boasted Dan, who always liked to show off a
little before his sister.  "If I could meet him in a fair fight, I'd
soon show you who is the better man."

He was interrupted by the sound of a distant drum.  The noise came from
some native camp, that might be miles away and the message it tapped
out in code seemed to convey a lugubrious warning.

"Gosh, that's enough to make a fellow want to creep in and hide,"
muttered Dan.  "Suppose it is a signal for some war party to attack us!"

"It does scare a person," Ray admitted.  "Here in the jungle everything
is so terrifying and the drums get on my nerves."

Dick was far in advance at the head of the party with Mutaba.

"What do you make of that drum?" he asked.

The guide shook his black head and grinned.

"Is it a war drum?"

"No, Bwana Dick."

"Is it a warning from Chief Mobogoma to some other tribe?"

"No, Bwana Dick.  Pay no attention to that drum."

"Tell me.  If we are in danger I've got to know about it."

"I tell you, Master," said Mutaba.  "The black fellows have drums for
war.  They have drums for other things, too.  This drum tells a man's
wife, 'I am on Snake Island, hunting with my friends and we killed much
meat."

"Is that all?"

"No.  Listen, now it says more.  It says, 'I ate so much last night
that I am too heavy to walk.  I won't come back until tomorrow night.'"

Dick laughed.  "That's like a 'phone call from the office.  What does
the man's wife say?"

"Nothing."  Mutaba grinned.  "Wait until he get home.  Then she say
plenty!"

"I guess it's the same the whole world over," smiled Dick.  "Say, this
is fine!  The fog is lifting.  And look, we are getting out of the
forest."

Mutaba cautioned for silence and, dismounting, ran ahead to see what
was before them, while Dan halted the column.

He awaited anxiously until the guide returned and explained in
awe-struck tones:

"Ahead of us is a wide clearing on high ground.  A great bird is there
with broken wings.  It is terrible magic."

"Are the Arabs there?  And did you see Jess Slythe?"

"Yes, Bwana Dick.  Slythe is there, but the others are leaving.  I
think they are afraid of the giant bird with broken wings."

"Well, I'm not!" cried Dick.  And he shouted back to his followers.
"Forward men!  Let's go!"

The warriors let out their horses and on approaching the cleared space
they scattered among the open trees and charged in from different
angles.  Before Dick's eyes was what he expected, from Mutaba's
description: the _Meteorite_ crashed and helpless.

Instantly he guessed what had happened.

Slythe had landed there with his prisoners whom he had taken to
Mobogoma's camp.  Then after being driven out he had tried to escape
with Professor Oakwood, his remaining captive, and had crashed on the
take-off.

As Dick neared the plane he could see Jess working about it, while his
father, tied by the wrists, sat on the ground, looking very wretched
and hopeless.  No Arabs were in sight.

"Don't worry, Dad!  Your troubles are over!" shouted Dick as he
galloped forward, while behind him thundered the hoofs of his rescue
party.

The professor gave a great shout of delight.  Jess Slythe cursed and
drew his revolver, firing wildly, but the range was too great.  He
emptied his gun without effect and before he could reload, the
tribesmen were almost upon him, yelling and brandishing their weapons.
Already arrows were whistling about his ears, as the riders shot from
the saddle and Jess Slythe saw that his only chance for safety was in
flight.  Cursing like a madman he waved his empty gun at the riders,
then dashed for his own horse and put spurs to it.

"After him, men!" shouted Dick, and he saw the riders hot in pursuit.
But as for himself, he was not so keen to overtake Jess Slythe as to
hold his father in his arms.

Out of the saddle he leaped and the next instant he was embracing the
old man and laughing, almost crying in excitement.

"Oh, Dad, this is wonderful!"

"My boy!  My boy!" the older man exclaimed, and after giving Dick a big
hug he held him off at arm's length and surveyed him.

Dick made a splendid showing in his garb of a savage king, clad in the
skin of a wild beast and carrying primitive weapons, and his father was
proud of him as well as astonished.

"I always trusted you to come out all right!" he exclaimed.  "Rex
Carter said I did wrong to let you run loose in Africa, but I told him
you were able to take care of yourself better than most men."

"But at that, you never expected to hear of me crowned with the ancient
diadem of the Taharans and Gorols," laughed Dick.  "Say Dad, what do
you think!  I found a Hindu wise man who says that crown was once owned
by King Solomon himself."

Professor Oakwood did not try to laugh off this story.  Instead he
answered seriously, "There are more strange things in the wilds of
Africa than I ever dreamed of.  I must talk to your wise man."

The father and son had much to say to each other.  The professor
explained how Jess Slythe had tried to fly with him that morning but
the plane had made a faulty take-off and crashed before it got far from
the ground.

"And Jess had a stiff row with the Arab scoundrel, Abdul," said
Professor Oakwood.  "That's why the Arabs left in a huff, and Jess was
trying to patch up the plane."

Dan and Ray had joined the party now, while most of the tribesmen
gathered about, staring at the damaged _Meteorite_.  One by one, the
men who had been pursuing Jess Slythe returned.  The clever scoundrel
had given them all the slip, and as he was mounted on a fresh horse,
there was little chance of catching up with him.

"Give it up as a bad job!" observed Dan.  "Say, I'll meet that crook
some day and, boy!  How I'll make him suffer!"

"He will be punished sooner or later," said Professor Oakwood.  "No
villain escapes in the long run.  Sometimes the penalty is delayed, but
somehow, sometime, the evil-doers pay for their wickedness."

"Is that why you never get excited, Dad?"

"Yes, Dick, I am philosophic about life.  Believing as I do, I can take
things as they come."

"You and the Mahatma would have a lot to talk about," said Dan eagerly.
"Say, that wise old bird has everything all figured out.  He's
wonderful!"

Ray laughed.

"Dan is funny," she said.  "First he disbelieves everything, but once
he is convinced, he swallows all he is told."

"Oh, come now, Ray," exclaimed her brother.  "You should be the first
to admit that Old Santa Claus--I mean the Mahatma--is the real thing.
Why, without him we would have been killed by the savages and you would
not have been rescued."

Dan went on to explain the Hindu's power to send his thoughts through
space and to control animals by his mysterious gift.

"Seeing is believing!" laughed Ray.  "When I actually _see_ all that,
I'll believe it."

But Professor Oakwood was inclined to take the Mahatma seriously.  "I
am anxious to talk to this wise man from the East," he said.  "There is
nothing I should like better than to learn more about his occult power."

"You will have the chance today," said Dick.  "He is waiting for us at
the camp."

"That's where you're wrong," said Dan.  "Some mysterious power tells me
that he is on his way here."

He gravely closed his eyes, placed one hand on his forehead and raising
the other one spread his fingers rapidly and closed them again.
"Hocus-pocus!  Abracadabra!  Now-you-see-it.  Now-you-don't!  Here
comes the Mahatma now!"

Ray saw a suspicious twitch at the corner of her brother's mouth and
cried, "Dan Carter, you're spoofing us!"

Dick looked hastily in the direction of the jungle trail by which they
had come and saw figures moving through the trees.

"Say, you foxy rascal!" he exclaimed.  "It's easy to guess what
'mysterious power' told you that the Mahatma is on the way.  It was
just good eyesight!"

Sure enough, the litter bearers were now at the edge of the clearing
and the Hindu could be seen plainly moving toward them.

"I told you so!" cried Ray.  "All this crystal gazing and the other
miracles can be explained just as easily.  I bet the Mahatma has been
laughing at you all the time."

Both Dick and Dan paid no attention to her outburst.  Already they were
running to meet the old man, whom they regarded as their benefactor,
and soon they were leading him in triumph to the plane where Professor
Oakwood was standing.

Dick introduced his father and the two elderly gentlemen shook hands.
They were totally different in appearance, the professor so spare and
erect with thin, alert features and the Mahatma, stout, even pudgy,
with his flowing beard and dark intelligent eyes.

"I am grateful to you for helping us out of a great danger," said
Professor Oakwood.  "My son tells me that you have used your strange
science to save our lives."

"I know but little," said the Mahatma gravely, "but what little
knowledge I have is at your service."

"How can I ever repay you?"

"Your son has offered to repay me a thousand times over," replied the
Mahatma.  "When he shows me the ancient crown, engraved with symbols of
knowledge, I shall be the happiest man in the world."

"That's right," Dick cried.  "I'll take you back to the land of the
Gorols.  That's where the crown is guarded."

"It's going to be a long hard trek for a fat man," blurted Dan.  Then
he blushed and stammered, "Excuse me!  You're not so _terribly_ fat!
What I mean is, it's a hot trip across the desert.  I minded it myself."

The Mahatma smiled.  "Don't apologize, my son!  And have no fear about
the long journey, for my crystal tells me that we shall fly there
through the air."

"Oh, you mean in the plane.  That's where we are all out of luck.  Jess
Slythe crashed it this morning."

"So my crystal told me," said the Hindu.  "But we do not need that
plane.  Another one is on the way now.  It is many times larger than
this one and can carry us with ease."

"You mean my father's plane?"  Dan was excited at the prediction.

"Did you not say that your father had an airplane that could fly with
us--even to Holy India?  Behold, it is flying toward us even now."

Dick, Dan and Ray all searched the sky for a glimpse of Rex Carter's
cabin plane, but there was not a speck in the blue.

"False alarm!" laughed Ray.  "Lucky we have horses!"

"You're going to admit that you're wrong," teased Dan.

Dick produced his binoculars from the case that hung over his shoulder
and studied the heavens but there was no trace of a plane to be seen
anywhere.

"Not yet, my son!" said the Mahatma.  "We can go to the fringe of the
forest and rest in the shade.  It will be an hour before the plane
appears from the west."

He signalled to his bearers and they carried his litter to the nearest
clump of trees, while Professor Oakwood walked alongside, conversing
earnestly with the wise man.

The others followed and soon all were comfortably seated in the shade,
and happy to be out of the blistering African sunlight.

Ray, Dan and Dick had plenty to talk about for a while but presently
Ray became drowsy in the heat and yawned.

"I need a good sleep," she declared.  "I've had too much excitement."

"What I crave is a good lunch," said Dan.  "Why didn't somebody bring a
picnic basket?"

His head sank between his knees and he dozed off but suddenly Dick
shook him by the shoulders and the distant roar of engines was the
first thing he heard.

At first Dan thought he was dreaming, then he sprang to his sister and
shouted in her ear, "Wake up!  Wake up!  Look, Ray!  There comes the
plane!"

Ray ran out into the clearing, shouting and waving her arms.

Dan and Dick followed her and yelled at the top of their voices.

"This is silly," said Dick, finally.  "What's the use of shouting?  We
could never be heard above the noise of the engines."

"It's too far away to see us," groaned Dan.

"But they are sure to see the wrecked _Meteorite_" Dick assured him.

"That's so.  If they keep straight on, they will pass right over it,"
said Ray, then her voice broke as she exclaimed, "Look, Dan.  It's
banking for a turn.  The plane is starting the other way!"



CHAPTER XV

READY FOR NEW ADVENTURES

"Quick, Dan, let's get a fire going!"

Dick Oakwood was taking no chances.  He shouted orders to Raal and the
other tribesmen and they rushed about getting dead branches and brush
from the forest.  Soon a huge fire was sending up a column of smoke.

Evidently the pilot was searching for the lost party, for he flew the
plane slowly.  Dick Oakwood was in a position to sympathize with Rex
Carter, the anxious father hunting over the jungle for some trace of
his children.  Dick had gone through so many hours of worry lately that
he knew how terrible was the suspense that the unhappy man was
suffering.

While he felt sure that the wrecked monoplane would be seen, he made
doubly certain of it by sending up a signal that would attract the
pilot's attention from miles away.

With his eyes straining at the cabin plane, he suddenly gave a great
shout:

"Hurrah!  They have seen the fire.  Look!  Now they're banking again."

"Oh Dan!" cried Ray.  "It's coming straight toward us.  I'm so happy!
I could almost believe in your old Mahatma now."

"He's a wise old bird," Dan asserted.  "It's coming out just as he said
it would."

The natives had sighted the cabin plane and expressed their feelings in
different ways.  The Kungoras took to the woods in terror.  The Gorols,
clutching their weapons, dodged behind rocks and bushes, ready to fight
off the flying demons if they should prove hostile.  Only the Taharans,
reassured by Raal, stood their ground without fear, believing that the
Boy King would protect them.  But even they were a little uneasy as the
giant plane flew above the clearing and its shadow swept over them like
a great hawk's.

"Fear nothing!" cried Dick to encourage them.  "They are my friends."

"Tahara hal!" shouted the warriors lustily.

Professor Oakwood, standing beside the Mahatma, shook the Hindu's hand.
"You are a good prophet," he said.  "It is just an hour since you said
the plane would be here.  And now it comes on the dot."

Sikandar smiled and sent his warning to the Taharans in the open space.
"Scatter to the woods, make way for the friendly eagle."

As the tribesmen scampered to safety, the great plane banked and
leveled for a landing, while the pilot searched for a safe spot.  A
minute later it was on the ground with its three powerful motors still.
The door flew open and Rex Carter leaped out to catch his boy and girl
in his arms.

The big, ruddy-faced business man was almost in tears, so great was his
relief.

"I had given you up for lost!" he exclaimed in a choking voice.  "I
never expected to see you alive again!"

"How did you know where to look for us?" asked Ray, hugging and kissing
her father.

"It was Hassam.  The fellow knew about the tribes that Jess Slythe
traded with and directed us here.  But it was a hopeless search, or so
it seemed.  Why you might have been hidden in that jungle and we could
have passed close overhead without seeing you."

"It must have been terrible for you," said Ray, clinging to him.

"And how you must have suffered!" exclaimed her father.  "If ever I lay
hands on that scoundrel who stole you away, I'll make him wish he had
never been born."

"Same here!"  Dan clenched his fists and glared about as though he
expected to see the treacherous Slythe lurking near by.

Rex Carter clapped his son on the shoulder and looked at him
affectionately.  "You're a great boy!" he said.  "These adventures have
hardened your muscles and tanned your skin.  I was wrong to let you out
of my sight so long, but now that it's over, I feel that it has made a
man of you."

Dan eagerly related all his experiences since he had parted from his
father and soon Professor Oakwood and Dick came to shake hands and
exchange congratulations.

Later Rex Carter was introduced to the Hindu seer, who received the
wealthy business man with quiet dignity.  Carter was impressed for
though the Mahatma wore nothing but a saffron-colored loin cloth, he
was as majestic as though he were clad in the robes of a king.

Dan explained how the wise man had come to Africa in search of an
ancient crown, on which was the symbol of perfect wisdom.

At first Rex Carter was inclined to take it lightly, but when he
learned that the diadem was probably the same one that Dick Oakwood had
worn in the land of the Taharans, he could hardly restrain his
impatience.

"I'll fly you there, today," he said.  "By sundown we will all be in
the realm of the Boy King."

"I accept your offer with thanks," said the Mahatma.

"And after that I'll take you to India.  Any place you want to go!"
continued Carter.  "You have done more for my children than I can ever
pay for.  Pack up your belongings and we will take off for Tahara now."

"My belongings are here," said the Mahatma, displaying the square of
black cloth which contained his crystal.

"Is that all you own?"  The millionaire was startled.

"That is all.  More would be a weight to drag me from the higher plane
where my spirit dwells."

"That's all right for a Hindu sage, but it would be all wrong for an
American business man," Rex Carter answered, thinking of his vast
factory, his town house and country estate, his yacht and automobiles.

With only a bow for reply, the Mahatma went a little way off, where he
summoned his faithful Kungoras and took leave of them.

Mutaba threw himself on the ground and howled with grief and the others
wailed in unison.  They had lived in peace and happiness under this
wise man's rule, and though they had sometimes been impatient to go on
the warpath, they now realized that they were losing their best friend
and adviser.  They begged him to change his mind and stay with them but
the Mahatma assured them that the time had come to say goodbye and
urged them to follow the ways of peace and kindness as he had taught
them.

Meanwhile Dick was instructing Raal, as leader of the tribesmen, to
return to the Kungora village, recover their ponies and begin the long
trek home across the desert.  The plane could carry only a limited
number.

"I'll be glad to take the Princess Veena in the plane," said Rex
Carter.  "And of course, Ray, Dan and Dick, besides the Mahatma."

But Veena would not consent to parting from Raal, whom she regarded as
her chosen mate, and Raal was equally certain that he would never trust
the girl to the demon bird.

With great difficulty Kurt and Kurul were induced to go along in the
plane.  Until the last minute the Stone-Age men hung back, fearful of a
strong magic that might destroy them, yet curious to experience the
sensation of flying through the air.

"Plane good!" said Dick giving Kurt a push toward the cabin door.

"Sure!  Big bird good!" Dan laughed.  "Come on, Ray, show them you're
not afraid to go in.  Then they will be ashamed to be scared."

Finally with a grunt of desperation Kurt took one leap that landed him
inside the cabin.  Kurul followed, helped by a shove from Dick and a
minute later the motors roared, the big plane taxied with many bumps
over the clearing and finally took off.

"Tahara hal!" gasped Kurt.

"Tahara hal!" echoed Kurul feebly.  And the two husky savages clung to
each other like scared children as they saw the jungle far, far below.

That same evening the pilot of the cabin plane sighted the cliffs of
Gorol Land and before sunset had made a safe landing near the Big
Spring.

Queen Vanga and Chief Wabiti came out to receive the visitors but Kulki
walked between them and showed that he was having difficulty in keeping
the former rulers from flying at each others' throats.

Since the failure of their plot with Cimbula, each had blamed the
other, and their friendship had turned sour.

Now they joined in greeting the Boy King with due reverence and ordered
a feast that promised to tax even Dan Carter's powers.  Dick assured
them that Raal and the other warriors were on their way home and that
the search for the Princess Veena had been successful.

The following days were busy ones for the Boy King.  Accompanied by his
father and friends, he set out on a tour of inspection to see that all
was in order in the land he ruled.  Proudly he pointed out to his
father the industries he had started going.

"Just think," he said, "these people lived like Stone-Age tribes.  They
did not know how to build houses or weave cloth or make tools out of
metal.  It is going to be interesting to watch them advance in
civilization."

"I can send out motor trucks with machinery," said Rex Carter, "and
start you off right.  And I'll send a few guards with repeating rifles
to keep the natives from starting trouble.  I'll even send you a
machine gun or two."

"No thanks, Mr. Carter!  I don't want _that_ brand of civilization.  We
have enough factory towns and machine guns elsewhere.  I'd like to
start something better here."

"In that case I advise you to blot out that big sign on the desert,"
said his father.  "That word 'Gold' will attract some greedy
adventurer, and before long your whole population will be wiped out."

"You're right, Dad!  It's a word that spells trouble."

Dick gave orders to the Taharans and the Gorols to scatter the rocks
that formed the letters and destroy every trace of the sign, and then
led the party to the cave where Umba had painted the walls with
pictures of animals.

"These are marvelous!" cried Professor Oakwood.  "Just as fine as the
paintings in the caves of Spain and France.  I could spend a whole day
here."

Leaving the rest of the party with Umba, the crippled painter, Dick
Oakwood and Mahatma Sikandar proceeded to the cave of the Great Gorol,
where he had left the ancient crown.  The entrance to the cavern was
guarded by tribesmen, stationed there for that purpose, and when Dick
and the Mahatma approached, they bowed low and cried, "Tahar Tahara,
hal!  Welcome, O Master."

Taking a couple of pitch pine torches, Dick led the way through the
passages of the prehistoric mine, pointing out the seams of
gold-bearing quartz.

But the Hindu paid no attention to the rich ore.

"Make haste, Dick Sahib," he said.  "I would feast my eyes upon the
ancient diadem and its magic inscriptions."

"Patience, O Mahatma!  Patience!" laughed Dick.  "One more turn and the
passage ends in the temple of the Ape-god."

Soon they reached the small, square room where, upon the block of
stone, reposed the crown of the two tribes.

Mahatma Sikandar prostrated himself before it, murmuring a chant of
thanksgiving, then held his torch close to the massive circlet of soft
gold and gems.  His keen, dark eyes were gleaming with excitement as he
studied every detail of the relic engraved with symbols.

Dick Oakwood picked it up and held it so that the inner surface could
be seen and the Mahatma gave an exclamation of delight.

"These are the magic signs!" he cried.  "Behold the wisdom of the ages
engraved by seers many thousand years ago!"

"Do you understand it, Mahatma?"

"_I_ understand it?  Not I!  Only a glimpse of its profound wisdom has
reached my soul."

"Then what good will it do you?"

"I have recorded every detail of the inscription _here_."  The old man
tapped his forehead.  "The picture of that crown is in my brain like a
photograph.  Soon I shall go to Holy India and there in the remote
caves and temples, I shall speak to the masters who are far wiser than
I."

"And will those wise men tell you what it all means?"

"Little by little!  Bit by bit!" replied the Mahatma.  "Each of these
holy men will be able to interpret a part of the meaning.  I shall
visit the cave hermits in the Himalayas and the devotees in the
temples, who recline on beds of spikes.  I shall even go to the
fastness of Tibet, where the lamas spend their lives in the search for
truth."

"The temples of India!  The Himalayas, with Everest the highest
mountain in the world!  The forbidden land of Tibet!  What wonderful
sights you will see!"

"Would you like to see Holy India, my son?"

"Would I?  Say, I'd like nothing better than to be there with you!"
exclaimed Dick.  "It would be a real adventure to visit that land of
mystery."

"The crystal has told me that you shall accompany me," said the Hindu.
"And that before many moons."

"Do you mean it?"

"I have spoken."

"But what about my kingdom?  How can I leave these people?  They trust
me.  They need me."

"Raal is a strong warrior," said the Mahatma.  "He can rule while you
are gone, and Kulki, the clever Gorol can be his chief adviser."

"I hate to go away and leave them to the mercy of Arab slave raiders,"
said Dick.  "After all, being a king, means responsibility.  Suppose
Jess Slythe should start another raid while I am gone.  He could wipe
out the whole population."

"That evil man will not trouble your land.  Certainly not for a long
time.  Perhaps never.  So you are free to fly in the great plane and
see the wonders of Holy India."

"Great!" exclaimed Dick.  "And what about Ray and Dan?  Will they come
too?"

"My crystal says they will be with us.  Also your father and Rex
Carter."

"I'd like to take Kurt and Kurul along," said Dick.  "It would be
interesting to have Stone-Age men in the party.  I'd like to know what
they would do in the great world beyond the desert and the jungle."

"What will be, will be," answered the Mahatma quietly.  "And now, my
son, this is my request to you: say no more to me about the ancient
crown and the symbols engraved on it.  The image is clear in my mind.
By talking about it, the sharp outline will become dim and cloudy.
Promise!"

"Yes, Mahatma, I promise.  Until you speak of it, I remain silent."

"Come then.  Let us go!"


With this future of travel and fresh adventure to occupy his mind, the
Boy King could hardly wait until Raal and his warriors returned.
Meanwhile preparations were made for the flight to India.  Rex Carter
had to return with Professor Oakwood to the Pomegranate Oasis to wind
up the affairs of the solar eclipse expedition.

"I'm taking Ray and Dan along," he said.  "I'll feel safer to have them
in sight."

"But let's work fast, Dad," cried Ray.  "I want to set out for India as
soon as we can."

"Patience, kid sister!  Patience!" laughed Dan.

"Don't talk like the Mahatma.  It gives me the jitters," Ray exclaimed.
"Something tells me that I'll be sorry I ever met that man.  It's one
thrill after another when he is in the picture.  I like it--but it
makes me nervous."


A few weeks later the big cabin plane returned to the land of the Boy
King to find all in readiness for the take-off to India.  Raal had been
appointed viceroy, with Princess Veena sharing the honors as his wife.
Professor Oakwood had been hard at work collecting material for a book
and specimens for museums, and was reluctant to leave the Stone-Age
tribes.

"Don't worry, Dad.  We are all coming back some day," Dick promised him
as the party took off on its search for adventure among the mystics of
India.

Far below on the desert the whole population was gathered to wave
goodbye to Tahara as the great wings bore their Boy King away.  "Tahara
hal!" came their farewell shout, growing fainter and fainter in the
distance as the plane headed eastward toward the home of mystery and
romance.



THE END



Books by

HAROLD M. SHERMAN


  IT'S A PASS
  INTERFERENCE
  DOWN THE ICE
  OVER THE LINE
  STRIKE HIM OUT
  UNDER THE BASKET
  THE TENNIS TERROR
  CAPTAIN OF THE ELEVEN
  TAHARA--BOY MYSTIC OF INDIA
  TAHARA--AMONG AFRICAN TRIBES
  TAHARA--BOY KING OF THE DESERT
  TAHARA--IN THE LAND OF YUCATAN
  THE FUN LOVING GANG--IN WRONG RIGHT
  THE FUN LOVING GANG--ALWAYS UP TO SOMETHING





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