With a brownish pigment, which we made by crushing a certain variety of nuts, Dian lightly traced lines and wrinkles on my face, in an effort to disguise me; and when she had completed her task she said she would scarcely have known me herself, so greatly had the procedure changed my facial expression.
“I wish that it were all over and that you were back here with me again,” she said. “I shall live in dread for your safety until your return.”
“If, after you have slept three times,” I told her, “and I have not returned, try to make your way to Sari.”
“If you do not return, it will make no difference to me where I go,” she said.
I kissed her goodbye then; and, after barricading the entrance to the cave and concealing it with brush and grasses, I left and started for the village. The cave was well stocked with food, and I had taken in several gourds of water before leaving; so I knew she would be safe on the score of provisions and water for far longer than three sleeps, and I was certain that the cave was sufficiently well barricaded and hidden that she would be in no danger of discovery by either men or animals.
I made my way to the village gate, where I was halted by the guard, which consisted of a dozen wild-eyed maniacs.
“Who are you?” demanded one. “And what do you want here?”
“I am a visitor from Gamba,” I said. “I have come to join my friend, Zor, who is visiting Meeza, the king.”
They conferred in whispers for awhile; and finally, the one who had originally addressed me, spoke again. “How do we know you are from Gamba?” he demanded.
“Because I am a friend of Zor,” I replied; “and he is from Gamba.”
“That sounds reasonable,” said one of them. “What is your name?”
“Innes,” I replied, using my surname.
“‘In-ess,’ “ the fellow repeated. “That is a strange name; so you must be from Gamba,”
The others nodded their heads, sagely. “There is no doubt about it,” said another; “he is from Gamba.”
“I do not like the looks of it,” said a third. “He has no spear. No man could travel safely all the way from Gamba with only a knife.”
Evidently the fellow had a little more sense than his companions, for his objection was clean and to the point.
“That is right,” said the original speaker. “You have no spear, and therefore you cannot be from Gamba.”
“I tell you he is from Gamba,” shouted another.
“Then where’s his spear?” demanded the bright one, confidently.
“I lost it back on the plains, before I entered the forest,” I explained. “I was hungry and would have eaten; but when I hurled my spear into an antelope, he turned and ran off with it. That, my wonderful friends, is what became of my spear. Come, let me in, or Meeza will be angry. “
“Well,” said the captain of the gate, “I think you’re all right. I’ve thought so right along. You may come into the village. Where do you want to go?”
“I want to go to the palace of Meeza, the king,” I replied.
“Why do you want to go there?” he demanded.
“Because that is where my friend, Zor, is.” Then the bright one had an idea. “How do you know he’s there,” he demanded, “if you just came from Gamba?” “Yes,” demanded all the others, practically in chorus; “how do you know he’s there?” “I don’t know he’s there; but—” “Ah-ah. He admits he doesn’t know. He has come here for some bad purpose, and should be killed.” “Wait a minute!” I exclaimed. “You didn’t let me finish. I said I didn’t know that he was there; but I do know that he came to visit Meeza; and so, naturally, I assume that he is in Meeza’s palace.” “Excellent reasoning,” said the captain of the gate. “You may come in.” “Send someone to the palace with me,” I said to the captain; “so that they will know that I am all right, and will let me in to see my friend, Zor.” To my annoyance, he detailed the suspicious one; and the two of us set off together through the narrow alleyways toward the palace. The scenes in the insane city were much the same as those I had witnessed at the time that I had first arrived, indescribably lunatic, grotesque or bestial, according to the mood of each actor; and in the plaza before the palace, the priests were still turning cartwheels around Ogar, the god of the Jukans.
My guide was still suspicious of me and did not hesitate to inform me of the fact. “I think you are an impostor and a liar,” he said, “and I do not believe that you are from Gamba or that you have a friend named Zor.”
“It is very strange,” I said, “that you should think that.”
“Why?” he demanded.
“Because you are, by far, the most intelligent man I have ever met, and so you should know that I am speaking the truth.”
I could see that he was flattered for he preened himself and strutted a little before he made any reply; then he said, “Of course, I am intelligent; but you are very stupid. If you had not been, you would have known that I was joking all the time. Of course, I knew from the start that you were from Gamba.”
“You are a very amusing fellow,” I said. “You have a wonderful sense of humor. I am certain, now, that I shall have no difficulty in entering the palace and finding my friend, since I have a man of such high standing and great intelligence as you for my friend.”
“You will have no trouble whatsoever,” he assured me, “since I shall take you into the palace myself, and directly to the king’s quarters.”
Well, the fellow was as good as his word. He seemed to be well known and far more important than I had imagined, for the guard at the palace passed us immediately; and once more I entered the room where Goofo had received Zor and me. There was a new major-domo there, but he paid no attention to us. He appeared to be a victim of hypochondria, for he sat on the floor weeping copiously. One of the rules of the palace was that the major-domo question everyone who entered. We could not proceed farther without his permission.
“I can’t be bothered,” said the major-domo, when my guide asked this permission. “I am a very sick man, very, very sick.”
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said, “and that’s the trouble. I am just sick of nothing.”
“You are in a very bad state,” I said.
He glanced up at me with a look of animation. “Do you really believe so?” he said.
“There’s no doubt about it,” I assured him.
“’Where did you say you wanted to go?” he asked.
“I have come to visit my friend, Zor, who is the guest of Meeza, the king.”
“Then what are you waiting for?” he demanded, angrily. “Get out of here and leave me alone;” so my guide and I passed on out of the chamber.
“Sometimes I think he is crazy,” said my guide. “Most people are.”
“I wonder if he could be,” I replied.
As we passed near the kitchen where Kleeto had worked, we met her face-to-face in the corridor. She looked squarely at me but without the faintest indication of recognition. I wondered if my disguise was that effective or if Kleeto had just been too bright to show that she recognized me.
As we proceeded farther into the palace, my guide moved more and more slowly. Something seemed to be troubling him, and at last it came out.
“Perhaps you had better go on alone from here,” he said.
“I don’t know where to go,” I replied. “Why can’t you come with me?”
“Many strange things have been happening in the palace,” he replied; “and Meeza may not be so glad to see a stranger.”
“What has happened?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing, Moko, the king’s son, has disappeared; so has the beautiful Sarian girl who was to be sacrificed to Ogar; then there was a prisoner named David, who disappeared. His hands were tied behind him, and he was locked up in a cell. He also was to have been sacrificed to Ogar; but when they went to the cell to get him, he had disappeared.”
“How very strange!” I exclaimed. “Haven’t they any idea what became of him, or of Moko, or of the girl from Sari?”
“Not the slightest,” he replied; “but Bruma will find out what became of them, as soon as he finds another sacrifice for Ogar; then Ogar will tell him.”
“I shouldn’t think Bruma would have any difficulty finding a sacrifice,” I said:
“Well, he has to have a very special one,” replied my guide. “It should be a man who is not a Jukan, or, perhaps, a Jukan from another village;” then he turned suddenly and looked at me strangely. I didn’t have to ask, to know what was in his mind.