Part 1 out of 4
THE MONSTER MEN
Edgar Rice Burroughs
As he dropped the last grisly fragment of the
dismembered and mutilated body into the small vat of
nitric acid that was to devour every trace of the
horrid evidence which might easily send him to the
gallows, the man sank weakly into a chair and throwing
his body forward upon his great, teak desk buried his
face in his arms, breaking into dry, moaning sobs.
Beads of perspiration followed the seams of his high,
wrinkled forehead, replacing the tears which might have
lessened the pressure upon his overwrought nerves. His
slender frame shook, as with ague, and at times was
racked by a convulsive shudder. A sudden step upon the
stairway leading to his workshop brought him trembling
and wide eyed to his feet, staring fearfully at the
locked and bolted door.
Although he knew perfectly well whose the advancing
footfalls were, he was all but overcome by the madness
of apprehension as they came softly nearer and nearer
to the barred door. At last they halted before it, to
be followed by a gentle knock.
"Daddy!" came the sweet tones of a girl's voice.
The man made an effort to take a firm grasp upon
himself that no tell-tale evidence of his emotion might
be betrayed in his speech.
"Daddy!" called the girl again, a trace of anxiety in
her voice this time. "What IS the matter with you,
and what ARE you doing? You've been shut up in
that hateful old room for three days now without a
morsel to eat, and in all likelihood without a wink of
sleep. You'll kill yourself with your stuffy old experiments."
The man's face softened.
"Don't worry about me, sweetheart," he replied in a
well controlled voice. "I'll soon be through now--soon
be through--and then we'll go away for a long vacation--
for a long vacation."
"I'll give you until noon, Daddy," said the girl in a
voice which carried a more strongly defined tone of
authority than her father's soft drawl, "and then I
shall come into that room, if I have to use an axe, and
bring you out--do you understand?"
Professor Maxon smiled wanly. He knew that his
daughter was equal to her threat.
"All right, sweetheart, I'll be through by noon for
sure--by noon for sure. Run along and play now, like a
good little girl."
Virginia Maxon shrugged her shapely shoulders and shook
her head hopelessly at the forbidding panels of the door.
"My dolls are all dressed for the day," she cried,
"and I'm tired of making mud pies--I want you to come out
and play with me." But Professor Maxon did not reply--
he had returned to view his grim operations, and the
hideousness of them had closed his ears to the sweet
tones of the girl's voice.
As she turned to retrace her steps to the floor below
Miss Maxon still shook her head.
"Poor old Daddy," she mused, "were I a thousand years
old, wrinkled and toothless, he would still look upon
me as his baby girl."
If you chance to be an alumnus of Cornell you may
recall Professor Arthur Maxon, a quiet, slender,
white-haired gentleman, who for several years was an
assistant professor in one of the departments of
natural science. Wealthy by inheritance, he had chosen
the field of education for his life work solely from a
desire to be of some material benefit to mankind since
the meager salary which accompanied his professorship
was not of sufficient import to influence him in the
Always keenly interested in biology, his almost
unlimited means had permitted him to undertake, in
secret, a series of daring experiments which had
carried him so far in advance of the biologists of his
day that he had, while others were still groping
blindly for the secret of life, actually reproduced by
chemical means the great phenomenon.
Fully alive to the gravity and responsibilities of his
marvellous discovery he had kept the results of his
experimentation, and even the experiments themselves, a
profound secret not only from his colleagues, but from
his only daughter, who heretofore had shared his every
hope and aspiration.
It was the very success of his last and most
pretentious effort that had placed him in the
horrifying predicament in which he now found himself--
with the corpse of what was apparently a human being in his
workshop and no available explanation that could possibly
be acceptable to a matter-of-fact and unscientific police.
Had he told them the truth they would have laughed at
him. Had he said: "This is not a human being that you
see, but the remains of a chemically produced
counterfeit created in my own laboratory," they would
have smiled, and either hanged him or put him away with
the other criminally insane.
This phase of the many possibilities which he had
realized might be contingent upon even the partial
success of his work alone had escaped his
consideration, so that the first wave of triumphant
exultation with which he had viewed the finished result
of this last experiment had been succeeded by
overwhelming consternation as he saw the thing which he
had created gasp once or twice with the feeble spark of
life with which he had endowed it, and expire--leaving
upon his hands the corpse of what was, to all intent
and purpose, a human being, albeit a most grotesque and
Until nearly noon Professor Maxon was occupied in
removing the remaining stains and evidences of his
gruesome work, but when he at last turned the key in
the door of his workshop it was to leave behind no single
trace of the successful result of his years of labor.
The following afternoon found him and Virginia crossing
the station platform to board the express for New York.
So quietly had their plans been made that not a friend
was at the train to bid them farewell--the scientist
felt that he could not bear the strain of attempting
explanations at this time.
But there were those there who recognized them, and one
especially who noted the lithe, trim figure and
beautiful face of Virginia Maxon though he did not know
even the name of their possessor. It was a tall well
built young man who nudged one of his younger companions
as the girl crossed the platform to enter her Pullman.
"I say, Dexter," he exclaimed, "who is that beauty?"
The one addressed turned in the direction indicated by
"By jove!" he exclaimed. "Why it's Virginia Maxon and
the professor, her father. Now where do you suppose
"I don't know--now," replied the first speaker,
Townsend J. Harper, Jr., in a half whisper,
"but I'll bet you a new car that I find out."
A week later, with failing health and shattered nerves,
Professor Maxon sailed with his daughter for a long
ocean voyage, which he hoped would aid him in rapid
recuperation, and permit him to forget the nightmare memory
of those three horrible days and nights in his workshop.
He believed that he had reached an unalterable decision
never again to meddle with the mighty, awe inspiring
secrets of creation; but with returning health and
balance he found himself viewing his recent triumph
with feelings of renewed hope and anticipation.
The morbid fears superinduced by the shock following
the sudden demise of the first creature of his
experiments had given place to a growing desire to
further prosecute his labors until enduring success had
crowned his efforts with an achievement which he might
exhibit with pride to the scientific world.
His recent disastrous success had convinced him that
neither Ithaca nor any other abode of civilization was
a safe place to continue his experiments, but it was
not until their cruising had brought them among the
multitudinous islands of the East Indies that the plan
occurred to him that he finally adopted--a plan the
outcome of which could he then have foreseen would have
sent him scurrying to the safety of his own country
with the daughter who was to bear the full brunt of the
horrors it entailed.
They were steaming up the China Sea when the idea first
suggested itself, and as he sat idly during the long,
hot days the thought grew upon him, expanding into a
thousand wonderful possibilities, until it became
crystalized into what was a little short of an obsession.
The result was that at Manila, much to Virginia's
surprise, he announced the abandonment of the balance
of their purposed voyage, taking immediate return
passage to Singapore. His daughter did not question
him as to the cause of this change in plans, for since
those three days that her father had kept himself
locked in his workroom at home the girl had noticed a
subtle change in her parent--a marked disinclination to
share with her his every confidence as had been his
custom since the death of her mother.
While it grieved her immeasurably she was both too
proud and too hurt to sue for a reestablishment of the
old relations. On all other topics than his scientific
work their interests were as mutual as formerly, but by
what seemed a manner of tacit agreement this subject
was taboo. And so it was that they came to Singapore
without the girl having the slightest conception of her
Here they spent nearly a month, during which time
Professor Maxon was daily engaged in interviewing
officials, English residents and a motley horde of
Malays and Chinamen.
Virginia met socially several of the men with whom her
father was engaged but it was only at the last moment
that one of them let drop a hint of the purpose of the
month's activity. When Virginia was present the
conversation seemed always deftly guided from the
subject of her father's immediate future, and she was
not long in discerning that it was in no sense through
accident that this was true. Thereafter her wounded
pride made easy the task of those who seemed combined
to keep her in ignorance.
It was a Dr. von Horn, who had been oftenest with
her father, who gave her the first intimation of
what was forthcoming. Afterward, in recollecting
the conversation, it seemed to Virginia that the young man
had been directed to break the news to her, that her
father might be spared the ordeal. It was evident then
that he expected opposition, but the girl was too loyal
to let von Horn know if she felt other than in harmony
with the proposal, and too proud to evince by surprise
the fact that she was not wholly conversant with its
"You are glad to be leaving Singapore so soon?" he had
asked, although he knew that she had not been advised
that an early departure was planned.
"I am rather looking forward to it," replied Virginia.
"And to a protracted residence on one of the Pamarung Islands?"
continued von Horn.
"Why not?" was her rather non-committal reply, though
she had not the remotest idea of their location.
Von Horn admired her nerve though he rather wished that
she would ask some questions--it was difficult making
progress in this way. How could he explain the plans
when she evinced not the slightest sign that she was
not already entirely conversant with them?
"We doubt if the work will be completed under two or
three years," answered the doctor. "That will be a
long time in which to be isolated upon a savage little
speck of land off the larger but no less savage Borneo.
Do you think that your bravery is equal to the demands
that will be made upon it?"
Virginia laughed, nor was there the slightest tremor in its note.
"I am equal to whatever fate my father is equal to,"
she said, "nor do I think that a life upon one of these
beautiful little islands would be much of a hardship--
certainly not if it will help to promote the success of
his scientific experiments."
She used the last words on a chance that she might have
hit upon the true reason for the contemplated isolation
from civilization. They had served their purpose too
in deceiving von Horn who was now half convinced that
Professor Maxon must have divulged more of their plans
to his daughter than he had led the medical man to
believe. Perceiving her advantage from the expression
on the young man's face, Virginia followed it up in an
endeavor to elicit the details.
The result of her effort was the knowledge that on the
second day they were to sail for the Pamarung Islands
upon a small schooner which her father had purchased,
with a crew of Malays and lascars, and von Horn, who
had served in the American navy, in command. The
precise point of destination was still undecided--the
plan being to search out a suitable location upon one
of the many little islets which dot the western shore
of the Macassar Strait.
Of the many men Virginia had met during the month at
Singapore von Horn had been by far the most interesting
and companionable. Such time as he could find from the
many duties which had devolved upon him in the matter
of obtaining and outfitting the schooner, and signing
her two mates and crew of fifteen, had been spent with
his employer's daughter.
The girl was rather glad that he was to be a member of
their little company, for she had found him a much
travelled man and an interesting talker with none of
the, to her, disgusting artificialities of the
professional ladies' man. He talked to her as he might
have talked to a man, of the things that interest
intelligent people regardless of sex.
There was never any suggestion of familiarity in his
manner; nor in his choice of topics did he ever ignore
the fact that she was a young girl. She had felt
entirely at ease in his society from the first evening
that she had met him, and their acquaintance had grown
to a very sensible friendship by the time of the
departure of the Ithaca--the rechristened schooner
which was to carry them away to an unguessed fate.
The voyage from Singapore to the Islands was without
incident. Virginia took a keen delight in watching the
Malays and lascars at their work, telling von Horn that
she had to draw upon her imagination but little to
picture herself a captive upon a pirate ship--the half
naked men, the gaudy headdress, the earrings, and the
fierce countenances of many of the crew furnishing only
too realistically the necessary savage setting.
A week spent among the Pamarung Islands disclosed no
suitable site for the professor's camp, nor was it
until they had cruised up the coast several miles north
of the equator and Cape Santang that they found a tiny
island a few miles off the coast opposite the mouth of
a small river--an island which fulfilled in every
detail their requirements.
It was uninhabited, fertile and possessed a clear,
sweet brook which had its source in a cold spring in
the higher land at the island's center. Here it was
that the Ithaca came to anchor in a little harbor,
while her crew under von Horn, and the Malay first
mate, Bududreen, accompanied Professor Maxon in search
of a suitable location for a permanent camp.
The cook, a harmless old Chinaman, and Virginia were
left in sole possession of the Ithaca.
Two hours after the departure of the men into the
jungle Virginia heard the fall of axes on timber and
knew that the site of her future home had been chosen
and the work of clearing begun. She sat musing on the
strange freak which had prompted her father to bury
them in this savage corner of the globe; and as she
pondered there came a wistful expression to her eyes,
and an unwonted sadness drooped the corners of her mouth.
Of a sudden she realized how wide had become the gulf
between them now. So imperceptibly had it grown since
those three horrid days in Ithaca just prior to their
departure for what was to have been but a few months'
cruise that she had not until now comprehended that the
old relations of open, good-fellowship had gone,
Had she needed proof of the truth of her sad discovery
it had been enough to point to the single fact that her
father had brought her here to this little island
without making the slightest attempt to explain the
nature of his expedition. She had gleaned enough from
von Horn to understand that some important scientific
experiments were to be undertaken; but what their
nature she could not imagine, for she had not the
slightest conception of the success that had crowned
her father's last experiment at Ithaca, although she
had for years known of his keen interest in the subject.
The girl became aware also of other subtle changes in
her father. He had long since ceased to be the jovial,
carefree companion who had shared with her her every
girlish joy and sorrow and in whom she had confided
both the trivial and momentous secrets of her
childhood. He had become not exactly morose, but
rather moody and absorbed, so that she had of late
never found an opportunity for the cozy chats that had
formerly meant so much to them both. There had been
too, recently, a strange lack of consideration for
herself that had wounded her more than she had
imagined. Today there had been a glaring example of it
in his having left her alone upon the boat without a
single European companion--something that he would
never have thought of doing a few months before.
As she sat speculating on the strange change which had
come over her father her eyes had wandered aimlessly
along the harbor's entrance; the low reef that
protected it from the sea, and the point of land to the
south, that projected far out into the strait like a
gigantic index finger pointing toward the mainland,
the foliage covered heights of which were just visible
above the western horizon.
Presently her attention was arrested by a tossing speck
far out upon the rolling bosom of the strait. For some
time the girl watched the object until at length it
resolved itself into a boat moving head on toward the
island. Later she saw that it was long and low,
propelled by a single sail and many oars, and that it
carried quite a company.
Thinking it but a native trading boat, so many of which
ply the southern seas, Virginia viewed its approach
with but idle curiosity. When it had come to within
half a mile of the anchorage of the Ithaca, and was
about to enter the mouth of the harbor Sing Lee's eyes
chanced to fall upon it. On the instant the old
Chinaman was electrified into sudden and astounding
"Klick! Klick!" he cried, running toward Virginia.
"Go b'low, klick."
"Why should I go below, Sing?" queried the girl, amazed
by the demeanor of the cook.
"Klick! Klick!" he urged grasping her by the arm--half
leading, half dragging her toward the companion-way.
"Plilates! Mlalay plilates--Dyak plilates."
"Pirates!" gasped Virginia. "Oh Sing, what can we do?"
"You go b'low. Mebbyso Sing flighten 'em. Shoot
cannon. Bling help. Maxon come klick. Bling men.
Chase'm 'way," explained the Chinaman. "But plilates
see 'em pletty white girl," he shrugged his shoulders
and shook his head dubiously, "then old Sing no can
flighten 'em 'way."
The girl shuddered, and crouching close behind Sing
hurried below. A moment later she heard the boom of
the old brass six pounder which for many years had
graced the Ithaca's stern. In the bow Professor Maxon
had mounted a modern machine gun, but this was quite
beyond Sing's simple gunnery. The Chinaman had not
taken the time to sight the ancient weapon carefully,
but a gleeful smile lit his wrinkled, yellow face as he
saw the splash of the ball where it struck the water
almost at the side of the prahu.
Sing realized that the boat might contain friendly natives,
but he had cruised these waters too many years to take chances.
Better kill a hundred friends, he thought, than be captured
by a single pirate.
At the shot the prahu slowed up, and a volley of
musketry from her crew satisfied Sing that he had made
no mistake in classifying her. Her fire fell short as
did the ball from the small cannon mounted in her bow.
Virginia was watching the prahu from one of the cabin
ports. She saw the momentary hesitation and confusion
which followed Sing's first shot, and then to her
dismay she saw the rowers bend to their oars again and
the prahu move swiftly in the direction of the Ithaca.
It was apparent that the pirates had perceived the
almost defenseless condition of the schooner. In a few
minutes they would be swarming the deck, for poor old
Sing would be entirely helpless to repel them. If Dr.
von Horn were only there, thought the distracted girl.
With the machine gun alone he might keep them off.
At the thought of the machine gun a sudden resolve
gripped her. Why not man it herself? Von Horn had
explained its mechanism to her in detail, and on one
occasion had allowed her to operate it on the voyage
from Singapore. With the thought came action. Running
to the magazine she snatched up a feed-belt, and in
another moment was on deck beside the astonished Sing.
The pirates were skimming rapidly across the smooth
waters of the harbor, answering Sing's harmless shots
with yells of derision and wild, savage war cries.
There were, perhaps, fifty Dyaks and Malays--fierce,
barbaric men; mostly naked to the waist, or with war-
coats of brilliant colors. The savage headdress of the
Dyaks, the long, narrow, decorated shields, the
flashing blades of parang and kris sent a shudder
through the girl, so close they seemed beneath the
"What do? What do?" cried Sing in consternation.
"Go b'low. Klick!" But before he had finished his
exhortation Virginia was racing toward the bow where
the machine gun was mounted. Tearing the cover from it
she swung the muzzle toward the pirate prahu, which by
now was nearly within range above the vessel's side--
a moment more and she would be too close to use the
weapon upon the pirates.
Virginia was quick to perceive the necessity for haste,
while the pirates at the same instant realized the
menace of the new danger which confronted them. A
score of muskets belched forth their missiles at the
fearless girl behind the scant shield of the machine
gun. Leaden pellets rained heavily upon her
protection, or whizzed threateningly about her head--
and then she got the gun into action.
At the rate of fifty a minute, a stream of projectiles
tore into the bow of the prahu when suddenly a richly
garbed Malay in the stern rose to his feet waving a
white cloth upon the point of his kris. It was the
Rajah Muda Saffir--he had seen the girl's face and at
the sight of it the blood lust in his breast had been
supplanted by another.
At sight of the emblem of peace Virginia ceased firing.
She saw the tall Malay issue a few commands, the
oarsmen bent to their work, the prahu came about,
making off toward the harbor's entrance. At the same
moment there was a shot from the shore followed by loud
yelling, and the girl turned to see her father and von
Horn pulling rapidly toward the Ithaca.
THE HEAVY CHEST
Virginia and Sing were compelled to narrate the
adventure of the afternoon a dozen times. The Chinaman
was at a loss to understand what had deterred the
pirates at the very threshold of victory. Von Horn
thought that they had seen the reinforcements embarking
from the shore, but Sing explained that that was
impossible since the Ithaca had been directly between
them and the point at which the returning crew had
entered the boats.
Virginia was positive that her fusillade had frightened
them into a hasty retreat, but again Sing discouraged
any such idea when he pointed to the fact that another
instant would have carried the prahu close to the Ithaca's
side and out of the machine gun's radius of action.
The old Chinaman was positive that the pirates had some
ulterior motive for simulating defeat, and his long
years of experience upon pirate infested waters gave
weight to his opinion. The weak spot in his argument
was his inability to suggest a reasonable motive. And
so it was that for a long time they were left to futile
conjecture as to the action that had saved them from a
bloody encounter with these bloodthirsty sea wolves.
For a week the men were busy constructing the new camp,
but never again was Virginia left without a sufficient
guard for her protection. Von Horn was always needed
at the work, for to him had fallen the entire direction
of matters of importance that were at all of a
practical nature. Professor Maxon wished to watch the
building of the houses and the stockade, that he might
offer such suggestions as he thought necessary, and
again the girl noticed her father's comparative
indifference to her welfare.
She had been shocked at his apathy at the time of the
pirate attack, and chagrined that it should have been
necessary for von Horn to have insisted upon a proper
guard being left with her thereafter.
The nearer the approach of the time when he might enter
again upon those experiments which had now been
neglected for the better part of a year the more self
absorbed and moody became the professor. At times he
was scarcely civil to those about him, and never now
did he have a pleasant word or a caress for the
daughter who had been his whole life but a few short
It often seemed to Virginia when she caught her
father's eyes upon her that there was a gleam of
dislike in them, as though he would have been glad to
have been rid of her that she might not in any way
embarrass or interfere with his work.
The camp was at last completed, and on a Saturday
afternoon all the heavier articles from the ship had
been transported to it. On the following Monday the
balance of the goods was to be sent on shore and the party
were to transfer their residence to their new quarters.
Late Sunday afternoon a small native boat was seen
rounding the point at the harbor's southern extremity,
and after a few minutes it drew alongside the Ithaca.
There were but three men in it--two Dyaks and a Malay.
The latter was a tall, well built man of middle age,
of a sullen and degraded countenance. His garmenture
was that of the ordinary Malay boatman, but there was
that in his mien and his attitude toward his companions
which belied his lowly habiliments.
In answer to von Horn's hail the man asked if he might
come aboard and trade; but once on the deck it developed
that he had not brought nothing wherewith to trade.
He seemed not the slightest disconcerted by this discovery,
stating that he would bring such articles as they wished
when he had learned what their requirements were.
The ubiquitous Sing was on hand during the interview,
but from his expressionless face none might guess what
was passing through the tortuous channels of his
Oriental mind. The Malay had been aboard nearly half
an hour talking with von Horn when the mate, Bududreen,
came on deck, and it was Sing alone who noted the
quickly concealed flash of recognition which passed
between the two Malays.
The Chinaman also saw the gleam that shot into the
visitor's eye as Virginia emerged from the cabin,
but by no word or voluntary outward sign did the man
indicate that he had even noticed her. Shortly afterward
he left, promising to return with provisions the following day.
But it was to be months before they again saw him.
That evening as Sing was serving Virginia's supper he asked
her if she had recognized their visitor of the afternoon.
"Why no, Sing," she replied, "I never saw him before."
"Sh!" admonished the celestial. "No talkee so strong,
wallee have ear all same labbit."
"What do you mean, Sing?" asked the girl in a low voice.
"How perfectly weird and mysterious you are.
Why you make the cold chills run up my spine,"
she ended, laughing. But Sing did not return
her smile as was his custom.
"You no lememba tallee Lajah stand up wavee lite
clothee in plilate boat, ah?" he urged.
"Oh, Sing," she cried, "I do indeed! But unless you had
reminded me I should never have thought to connect him
with our visitor of today--they do look very much alike,
"Lookeelike! Ugh, they all samee one man. Sing know.
You lookee out, Linee," which was the closest that Sing
had ever been able to come to pronouncing Virginia.
"Why should I look out? He doesn't want me,"
said the girl, laughingly.
"Don't you bee too damee sure 'bout lat, Linee,"
was Sing's inelegant but convincing reply,
as he turned toward his galley.
The following morning the party, with the exception of
three Malays who were left to guard the Ithaca, set out
for the new camp. The journey was up the bed of the
small stream which emptied into the harbor, so that
although fifteen men had passed back and forth through
the jungle from the beach to the camp every day for two
weeks, there was no sign that human foot had ever
crossed the narrow strip of sand that lay between the
dense foliage and the harbor.
The gravel bottom of the rivulet made fairly good
walking, and as Virginia was borne in a litter between
two powerful lascars it was not even necessary that she
wet her feet in the ascent of the stream to the camp.
The distance was short, the center of the camp being
but a mile from the harbor, and less than half a mile
from the opposite shore of the island which was but two
miles at its greatest breadth, and two and a quarter at
its greatest length.
At the camp Virginia found that a neat clearing had
been made upon a little tableland, a palisade built
about it, and divided into three parts; the most
northerly of which contained a small house for herself
and her father, another for von Horn, and a common
cooking and eating house over which Sing was to preside.
The enclosure at the far end of the palisade was for
the Malay and lascar crew and there also were quarters
for Bududreen and the Malay second mate. The center
enclosure contained Professor Maxon's workshop. This
compartment of the enclosure Virginia was not invited
to inspect, but as members of the crew carried in the
two great chests which the professor had left upon the
Ithaca until the last moment, Virginia caught a glimpse
of the two buildings that had been erected within this
central space--a small, square house which was quite
evidently her father's laboratory, and a long, low
thatched shed divided into several compartments, each
containing a rude bunk. She wondered for whom they
could be intended. Quarters for all the party had
already been arranged for elsewhere, nor, thought she,
would her father wish to house any in such close
proximity to his workshop, where he would desire
absolute quiet and freedom from interruption. The
discovery perplexed her not a little, but so changed
were her relations with her father that she would not
question him upon this or any other subject.
As the two chests were being carried into the central
campong, Sing, who was standing near Virginia, called
her attention to the fact that Bududreen was one of those
who staggered beneath the weight of the heavier burden.
"Bludleen, him mate. Why workee alsame lascar boy? Eh?"
But Virginia could give no reason.
"I am afraid you don't like Bududreen, Sing," she said.
"Has he ever harmed you in any way?"
"Him? No, him no hurt Sing. Sing poor," with which
more or less enigmatical rejoinder the Chinaman
returned to his work. But he muttered much to himself
the balance of the day, for Sing knew that a chest that
strained four men in the carrying could contain but one
thing, and he knew that Bududreen was as wise in such
matters as he.
For a couple of months the life of the little hidden
camp went on peacefully and without exciting incident.
The Malay and lascar crew divided their time between
watch duty on board the Ithaca, policing the camp, and
cultivating a little patch of clearing just south of
their own campong.
There was a small bay on the island's east coast, only
a quarter of a mile from camp, in which oysters were
found, and one of the Ithaca's boats was brought around
to this side of the island for fishing. Bududreen
often accompanied these expeditions, and on several
occasions the lynx-eyed Sing had seen him returning to
camp long after the others had retired for the night.
Professor Maxon scarcely ever left the central
enclosure. For days and nights at a time Virginia
never saw him, his meals being passed in to him by Sing
through a small trap door that had been cut in the
partition wall of the "court of mystery" as von Horn
had christened the section of the camp devoted to the
Von Horn himself was often with his employer as he
enjoyed the latter's complete confidence, and owing to
his early medical training was well fitted to act as a
competent assistant; but he was often barred from the
workshop, and at such times was much with Virginia.
The two took long walks through the untouched jungle,
exploring their little island, and never failing to
find some new and wonderful proof of Nature's creative
power among its flora and fauna.
"What a marvellous thing is creation," exclaimed
Virginia as she and von Horn paused one day to admire a
tropical bird of unusually brilliant plumage.
"How insignificant is man's greatest achievement
beside the least of Nature's works."
"And yet," replied von Horn, "man shall find Nature's
secret some day. What a glorious accomplishment for
him who first succeeds. Can you imagine a more
glorious consummation of a man's life work--your
father's, for example?"
The girl looked at von Horn closely.
"Dr. von Horn," she said, "pride has restrained me from
asking what was evidently intended that I should not
know. For years my father has been interested in an
endeavor to solve the mystery of life--that he would
ever attempt to utilize the secret should he have been
so fortunate as to discover it had never occurred to
me. I mean that he should try to usurp the functions
of the Creator I could never have believed, but my
knowledge of him, coupled with what you have said,
and the extreme lengths to which he has gone to maintain
absolute secrecy for his present experiments can only
lead to one inference; and that, that his present work,
if successful, would have results that would not be
countenanced by civilized society or government.
Am I right?"
Von Horn had attempted to sound the girl that he might,
if possible, discover her attitude toward the work in
which her father and he were engaged. He had succeeded
beyond his hopes, for he had not intended that she
should guess so much of the truth as she had. Should
her interest in the work have proved favorable it had
been his intention to acquaint her fully with the
marvellous success which already had attended their
experiments, and to explain their hopes and plans for
the future, for he had seen how her father's attitude
had hurt her and hoped to profit himself by reposing in
her the trust and confidence that her father denied her.
And so it was that her direct question left him
floundering in a sea of embarrassment, for to tell her
the truth now would gain him no favor in her eyes,
while it certainly would lay him open to the suspicion
and distrust of her father should he learn of it.
"I cannot answer your question, Miss Maxon," he said,
finally, "for your father's strictest injunction has
been that I divulge to no one the slightest happening
within the court of mystery. Remember that I am in
your father's employ, and that no matter what my
personal convictions may be regarding the work he has
been doing I may only act with loyalty to his lightest
command while I remain upon his payroll. That you are
here," he added, "is my excuse for continuing my
connection with certain things of which my conscience
does not approve."
The girl glanced at him quickly. She did not fully
understand the motive for his final avowal, and a
sudden intuition kept her from questioning him. She
had learned to look upon von Horn as a very pleasant
companion and a good friend--she was not quite certain
that she would care for any change in their relations,
but his remark had sowed the seed of a new thought in
her mind as he had intended that it should.
When von Horn returned to the court of mystery, he
narrated to Professor Maxon the gist of his
conversation with Virginia, wishing to forestall
anything which the girl might say to her father that
would give him an impression that von Horn had been
talking more than he should. Professor Maxon listened
to the narration in silence. When von Horn had finished,
he cautioned him against divulging to Virginia anything
that took place within the inner campong.
"She is only a child," he said, "and would not
understand the importance of the work we are doing.
All that she would be able to see is the immediate
moral effect of these experiments upon the subjects
themselves--she would not look into the future and
appreciate the immense advantage to mankind that must
accrue from a successful termination of our research.
The future of the world will be assured when once we
have demonstrated the possibility of the chemical
production of a perfect race."
"Number One, for example," suggested von Horn.
Professor Maxon glanced at him sharply.
"Levity, Doctor, is entirely out of place in the
contemplation of the magnificent work I have already
accomplished," said the professor tartly. "I admit
that Number One leaves much to be desired--much to be
desired; but Number Two shows a marked advance along
certain lines, and I am sure that tomorrow will divulge
in experiment Number Three such strides as will forever
silence any propensity toward scoffing which you may
"Forgive me, Professor," von Horn hastened to urge.
"I did not intend to deride the wonderful discoveries
which you have made, but it is only natural that we
should both realize that Number One is not beautiful.
To one another we may say what we would not think of
suggesting to outsiders."
Professor Maxon was mollified by this apology,
and turned to resume his watch beside a large,
coffin-shaped vat. For a while von Horn was silent.
There was that upon his mind which he had wished to discuss
with his employer since months ago, but the moment had
never arrived which seemed at all propitious, nor did
it appear likely ever to arrive. So the doctor decided
to broach the subject now, as being psychologically as
favorable a time as any.
"Your daughter is far from happy, Professor," he said,
"nor do I feel that, surrounded as we are by semi-savage
men, she is entirely safe."
Professor Maxon looked up from his vigil by the vat,
eyeing von Horn closely.
"Well?" he asked.
"It seemed to me that had I a closer relationship I
might better assist in adding to her happiness and
safety--in short, Professor, I should like your
permission to ask Virginia to marry me."
There had been no indication in von Horn's attitude
toward the girl that he loved her. That she was
beautiful and intelligent could not be denied, and so
it was small wonder that she might appeal strongly to
any man, but von Horn was quite evidently not of the
marrying type. For years he had roved the world in
search of adventure and excitement. Just why he had
left America and his high place in the navy he never
had divulged; nor why it was that for seven years he
had not set his foot upon ground which lay beneath the
authority of Uncle Sam.
Sing Lee who stood just without the trap door through
which he was about to pass Professor Maxon's evening
meal to him could not be blamed for overhearing the
conversation, though it may have been culpable in him
in making no effort to divulge his presence, and
possibly equally unpraiseworthy, as well as lacking in
romance, to attribute the doctor's avowal to his
knowledge of the heavy chest.
As Professor Maxon eyed the man before replying to his
abrupt request, von Horn noted a strange and sudden
light in the older man's eyes--a something which he
never before had seen there and which caused an
uncomfortable sensation to creep over him--a manner of
bristling that was akin either to fear or horror, von
Horn could not tell which.
Then the professor arose from his seat and came very
close to the younger man, until his face was only a few
inches from von Horn's.
"Doctor," he whispered in a strange, tense voice,
"you are mad. You do not know what you ask. Virginia is
not for such as you. Tell me that she does not know of
your feelings toward her. Tell me that she does not
reciprocate your love. Tell me the truth, man."
Professor Maxon seized von Horn roughly by both shoulders,
his glittering eyes glaring terribly into the other's.
"I have never spoken to her of love, Professor,"
replied von Horn quietly, "nor do I know what her
sentiments toward me may be. Nor do I understand, sir,
what objections you may have to me--I am of a very old
and noble family." His tone was haughty but respectful.
Professor Maxon released his hold upon his assistant,
breathing a sigh of relief.
"I am glad," he said, "that it has gone no further, for it
must not be. I have other, nobler aspirations for my daughter.
She must wed a perfect man--none such now exists.
It remains for me to bring forth the ideal mate for her--
nor is the time far distant. A few more weeks and we
shall see such a being as I have long dreamed."
Again the queer light flickered for a moment
in the once kindly and jovial eyes of the scientist.
Von Horn was horrified. He was a man of
little sentiment. He could in cold blood
have married this girl for the wealth he knew
that she would inherit; but the thought that
she was to be united with such a THING--
"Lord! It is horrible," and his mind pictured
the fearful atrocity which was known as Number One.
Without a word he turned and left the campong. A moment
later Sing's knock aroused Professor Maxon from the reverie
into which he had fallen, and he stepped to the trap door
to receive his evening meal.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
One day, about two weeks later, von Horn and the
professor were occupied closely with their work in the
court of mystery. Developments were coming in riotous
confusion. A recent startling discovery bade fare to
simplify and expedite the work far beyond the fondest
dreams of the scientist.
Von Horn's interest in the marvellous results that had
been obtained was little short of the professor's--
but he foresaw a very different outcome of it all,
and by day never moved without a gun at either hip,
and by night both of them were beside him.
Sing Lee, the noonday meal having been disposed of, set
forth with rod, string and bait to snare gulls upon the
beach. He moved quietly through the jungle, his sharp
eyes and ears always alert for anything that might
savor of the unusual, and so it was that he saw the two
men upon the beach, while they did not see him at all.
They were Bududreen and the same tall Malay whom Sing
had seen twice before--once in splendid raiment and
commanding the pirate prahu, and again as a simple
boatman come to the Ithaca to trade, but without the
goods to carry out his professed intentions.
The two squatted on the beach at the edge of the jungle
a short distance above the point at which Sing had been
about to emerge when he discovered them, so that it was
but the work of a moment or two for the Chinaman to
creep stealthily through the dense underbrush to a
point directly above them and not three yards from
where they conversed in low tones--yet sufficiently
loud that Sing missed not a word.
"I tell you, Bududreen, that it will be quite safe,"
the tall Malay was saying. "You yourself tell me that
none knows of the whereabouts of these white men, and
if they do not return your word will be accepted as to
their fate. Your reward will be great if you bring the
girl to me, and if you doubt the loyalty of any of your
own people a kris will silence them as effectually as
it will silence the white men."
"It is not fear of the white men, oh, Rajah Muda
Saffir, that deters me," said Bududreen, "but how shall
I know that after I have come to your country with the
girl I shall not myself be set upon and silenced with a
golden kris--there be many that will be jealous of the
great service I have done for the mighty rajah."
Muda Saffir knew perfectly well that Bududreen had but
diplomatically expressed a fear as to his own royal
trustworthiness, but it did not anger him, since the
charge was not a direct one; but what he did not know
was of the heavy chest and Bududreen's desire to win
the price of the girl and yet be able to save for
himself a chance at the far greater fortune which he
knew lay beneath that heavy oaken lid.
Both men had arisen now and were walking across the
beach toward a small, native canoe in which Muda Saffir
had come to the meeting place. They were out of
earshot before either spoke again, so that what further
passed between them Sing could not even guess, but he
had heard enough to confirm the suspicions he had
entertained for a long while.
He did not fish for gulls that day. Bududreen and Muda
Saffir stood talking upon the beach, and the Chinaman
did not dare venture forth for fear they might suspect
that he had overheard them. If old Sing Lee knew his
Malays, he was also wise enough to give them credit for
knowing their Chinamen, so he waited quietly in hiding
until Muda Saffir had left, and Bududreen returned to camp.
Professor Maxon and von Horn were standing over one of
the six vats that were arranged in two rows down the
center of the laboratory. The professor had been more
communicative and agreeable today than for some time
past, and their conversation had assumed more of the
familiarity that had marked it during the first month
of their acquaintance at Singapore.
"And what of these first who are so imperfect?" asked
von Horn. "You cannot take them into civilization, nor
would it be right to leave them here upon this island.
What will you do with them?"
Professor Maxon pondered the question for a moment.
"I have given the matter but little thought," he said
at length. "They are but the accidents of my great
work. It is unfortunate that they are as they are, but
without them I could have never reached the perfection
that I am sure we are to find here," and he tapped
lovingly upon the heavy glass cover of the vat before
which he stood. "And this is but the beginning. There
can be no more mistakes now, though I doubt if we can
ever improve upon that which is so rapidly developing
here." Again he passed his long, slender hand
caressingly over the coffin-like vat at the head of
which was a placard bearing the words, NUMBER THIRTEEN.
"But the others, Professor!" insisted von Horn.
"We must decide. Already they have become a problem of no
small dimensions. Yesterday Number Five desired some
plantains that I had given to Number Seven. I tried to
reason with him, but, as you know, he is mentally
defective, and for answer he rushed at Number Seven to
tear the coveted morsel from him. The result was a
battle royal that might have put to shame two Bengal
tigers. Twelve is tractable and intelligent. With his
assistance and my bull whip I succeeded in separating
them before either was killed. Your greatest error was
in striving at first for such physical perfection. You
have overdone it, with the result that the court of
mystery is peopled by a dozen brutes of awful
muscularity, and scarcely enough brain among the dozen
to equip three properly."
"They are as they are," replied the professor.
"I shall do for them what I can--when I am gone they must
look to themselves. I can see no way out of it."
"What you have given you may take away," said von Horn,
in a low tone.
Professor Maxon shuddered. Those three horrid days in
the workshop at Ithaca flooded his memory with all the
gruesome details he had tried for so many months to
forget. The haunting ghosts of the mental anguish that
had left him an altered man--so altered that there were
times when he had feared for his sanity!
"No, no!" he almost shouted. "It would be murder.
"They are THINGS," interrupted von Horn. "They are
not human--they are not even beast. They are terrible,
soulless creatures. You have no right to permit them
to live longer than to substantiate your theory. None
but us knows of their existence--no other need know of
their passing. It must be done. They are a constant and
growing menace to us all, but most of all to your daughter."
A cunning look came into the professor's eyes.
"I understand," he said. "The precedent once established,
all must perish by its edict--even those which may not be
grotesque or bestial--even this perfect one," and he touched
again the vat, "and thus you would rid yourself of rival suitors.
But no!" he went on in a high, trembling voice. "I shall not be
led to thus compromise myself, and be thwarted in my cherished plan.
Be this one what he may he shall wed my daughter!"
The man had raised himself upon his toes as he reached
his climax--his clenched hand was high above his head--
his voice fairly thundered out the final sentence, and
with the last word he brought his fist down upon the
vat before him. In his eyes blazed the light of
Von Horn was a brave man, but he shuddered at the
maniacal ferocity of the older man, and shrank back.
The futility of argument was apparent, and he turned
and left the workshop.
Sing Lee was late that night. In fact he did not
return from his fruitless quest for gulls until well
after dark, nor would he vouchsafe any explanation of
the consequent lateness of supper. Nor could he be
found shortly after the evening meal when Virginia
Not until the camp was wrapped in the quiet of slumber
did Sing Lee return--stealthy and mysterious--to creep
under cover of a moonless night to the door of the
workshop. How he gained entrance only Sing Lee knows,
but a moment later there was a muffled crash of broken
glass within the laboratory, and the Chinaman had
slipped out, relocked the door, and scurried to his
nearby shack. But there was no occasion for his haste--
no other ear than his had heard the sound within the
It was almost nine the following morning before
Professor Maxon and von Horn entered the laboratory.
Scarcely had the older man passed the doorway than he
drew up his hands in horrified consternation. Vat
Number Thirteen lay dashed to the floor--the glass
cover was broken to a million pieces--a sticky,
brownish substance covered the matting.
Professor Maxon hid his face in his hands.
"God!" he cried. "It is all ruined. Three more days
"Look!" cried von Horn. "It is not too soon."
Professor Maxon mustered courage to raise his eyes from
his hands, and there he beheld, seated in a far corner
of the room a handsome giant, physically perfect. The
creature looked about him in a dazed, uncomprehending
manner. A great question was writ large upon his
intelligent countenance. Professor Maxon stepped
forward and took him by the hand.
"Come," he said, and led him toward a smaller room off
the main workshop. The giant followed docilely, his
eyes roving about the room--the pitiful questioning
still upon his handsome features. Von Horn turned
toward the campong.
Virginia, deserted by all, even the faithful Sing, who,
cheated of his sport on the preceding day, had again
gone to the beach to snare gulls, became restless of
the enforced idleness and solitude. For a time she
wandered about the little compound which had been
reserved for the whites, but tiring of this she decided
to extend her stroll beyond the palisade, a thing which
she had never before done unless accompanied by von Horn--
a thing both he and her father had cautioned her against.
"What danger can there be?" she thought. "We know that
the island is uninhabited by others than ourselves, and
that there are no dangerous beasts. And, anyway, there
is no one now who seems to care what becomes of me,
unless--unless--I wonder if he does care. I wonder if
I care whether or not he cares. Oh, dear, I wish I knew,"
and as she soliloquized she wandered past the little clearing
and into the jungle that lay behind the campong.
As von Horn and Professor Maxon talked together in the
laboratory before the upsetting of vat Number Thirteen,
a grotesque and horrible creature had slunk from the
low shed at the opposite side of the campong until it
had crouched at the flimsy door of the building in
which the two men conversed. For a while it listened
intently, but when von Horn urged the necessity for
dispatching certain "terrible, soulless creatures" an
expression of intermingled fear and hatred convulsed
the hideous features, and like a great grizzly it
turned and lumbered awkwardly across the campong toward
the easterly, or back wall of the enclosure.
Here it leaped futilely a half dozen times for the top
of the palisade, and then trembling and chattering in
rage it ran back and forth along the base of the
obstacle, just as a wild beast in captivity paces
angrily before the bars of its cage.
Finally it paused to look once more at the senseless
wood that barred its escape, as though measuring the
distance to the top. Then the eyes roamed about the
campong to rest at last upon the slanting roof of the
thatched shed which was its shelter. Presently a slow
idea was born in the poor, malformed brain.
The creature approached the shed. He could just reach
the saplings that formed the frame work of the roof.
Like a huge sloth he drew himself to the roof of the
structure. From here he could see beyond the palisade,
and the wild freedom of the jungle called to him. He
did not know what it was but in its leafy wall he
perceived many breaks and openings that offered
concealment from the creatures who were plotting to
take his life.
Yet the wall was not fully six feet from him, and the
top of it at least five feet above the top of the shed--
those who had designed the campong had been careful to
set this structure sufficiently far from the palisade
to prevent its forming too easy an avenue of escape.
The creature glanced fearfully toward the workshop.
He remembered the cruel bull whip that always followed
each new experiment on his part that did not coincide
with the desires of his master, and as he thought of
von Horn a nasty gleam shot his mismated eyes.
He tried to reach across the distance between the roof
and the palisade, and in the attempt lost his balance
and nearly precipitated himself to the ground below.
Cautiously he drew back, still looking about for some
means to cross the chasm. One of the saplings of the
roof, protruding beyond the palm leaf thatch, caught
his attention. With a single wrench he tore it from
its fastenings. Extending it toward the palisade he
discovered that it just spanned the gap, but he dared
not attempt to cross upon its single slender strand.
Quickly he ripped off a half dozen other poles from the
roof, and laying them side by side, formed a safe and
easy path to freedom. A moment more and he sat astride
the top of the wall. Drawing the poles after him, he
dropped them one by one to the ground outside the
campong. Then he lowered himself to liberty.
Gathering the saplings under one huge arm he ran,
lumberingly, into the jungle. He would not leave
evidence of the havoc he had wrought; the fear of the
bull whip was still strong upon him. The green foliage
closed about him and the peaceful jungle gave no sign
of the horrid brute that roamed its shadowed mazes.
As von Horn stepped into the campong his quick eye
perceived the havoc that had been wrought with the roof
at the east end of the shed. Quickly he crossed to the
low structure. Within its compartments a number of
deformed monsters squatted upon their haunches, or lay
prone upon the native mats that covered the floor.
As the man entered they looked furtively at the bull
whip which trailed from his right hand, and then
glanced fearfully at one another as though questioning
which was the malefactor on this occasion.
Von Horn ran his eyes over the hideous assemblage.
"Where is Number One?" he asked, directing his question
toward a thing whose forehead gave greater promise of
intelligence than any of his companions.
The one addressed shook his head.
Von Horn turned and made a circuit of the campong.
There was no sign of the missing one and no indication
of any other irregularity than the demolished portion
of the roof. With an expression of mild concern upon
his face he entered the workshop.
"Number One has escaped into the jungle, Professor," he said.
Professor Maxon looked up in surprise, but before he
had an opportunity to reply a woman's scream, shrill
with horror, smote upon their startled ears.
Von Horn was the first to reach the campong of the
whites. Professor Maxon was close behind him,
and the faces of both were white with apprehension.
The enclosure was deserted. Not even Sing was there.
Without a word the two men sprang through the gateway
and raced for the jungle in the direction from which
that single, haunting cry had come.
Virginia Maxon, idling beneath the leafy shade of the
tropical foliage, became presently aware that she had
wandered farther from the campong than she had intended.
The day was sultry, and the heat, even in the dense shade
of the jungle, oppressive. Slowly she retraced her steps,
her eyes upon the ground, her mind absorbed in sad consideration
of her father's increasing moodiness and eccentricity.
Possibly it was this very abstraction which deadened
her senses to the near approach of another. At any
rate the girl's first intimation that she was not alone
came when she raised her eyes to look full into the
horrid countenance of a fearsome monster which blocked
her path toward camp.
The sudden shock brought a single involuntary scream
from her lips. And who can wonder! The thing thrust
so unexpectedly before her eyes was hideous in the
extreme. A great mountain of deformed flesh clothed in
dirty, white cotton pajamas! Its face was of the ashen
hue of a fresh corpse, while the white hair and pink eyes
denoted the absence of pigment; a characteristic of albinos.
One eye was fully twice the diameter of the other, and
an inch above the horizontal plane of its tiny mate.
The nose was but a gaping orifice above a deformed and
twisted mouth. The thing was chinless, and its small,
foreheadless head surrounded its colossal body like a
cannon ball on a hill top. One arm was at least twelve
inches longer than its mate, which was itself long in
proportion to the torso, while the legs, similarly
mismated and terminating in huge, flat feet that
protruded laterally, caused the thing to lurch fearfully
from side to side as it lumbered toward the girl.
A sudden grimace lighted the frightful face as the
grotesque eyes fell upon this new creature. Number One
had never before seen a woman, but the sight of this
one awoke in the unplumbed depths of his soulless
breast a great desire to lay his hands upon her. She
was very beautiful. Number One wished to have her for
his very own; nor would it be a difficult matter, so
fragile was she, to gather her up in those great, brute
arms and carry her deep into the jungle far out of
hearing of the bull-whip man and the cold, frowning one
who was continually measuring and weighing Number One
and his companions, the while he scrutinized them with
those strange, glittering eyes that frightened one even
more than the cruel lash of the bull whip.
Number One lurched forward, his arms outstretched
toward the horror stricken girl. Virginia tried to cry
out again--she tried to turn and run; but the horror of
her impending fate and the terror that those awful
features induced left her paralyzed and helpless.
The thing was almost upon her now. The mouth was wide
in a hideous attempt to smile. The great hands would
grasp her in another second--and then there was a
sudden crashing of the underbrush behind her, a yellow,
wrinkled face and a flying pig-tail shot past her, and
the brave old Sing Lee grappled with the mighty monster
that threatened her.
The battle was short--short and terrible. The valiant
Chinaman sought the ashen throat of his antagonist, but
his wiry, sinewy muscles were as reeds beneath the
force of that inhuman power that opposed them. Holding
the girl at arm's length in one hand, Number One tore
the battling Chinaman from him with the other, and
lifting him bodily above his head, hurled him stunned
and bleeding against the bole of a giant buttress tree.
Then lifting Virginia in his arms once more he dived
into the impenetrable mazes of the jungle that lined
the more open pathway between the beach and camp.
A NEW FACE
As Professor Maxon and von Horn rushed from the
workshop to their own campong, they neglected, in their
haste, to lock the door between, and for the first time
since the camp was completed it stood unlatched and ajar.
The professor had been engaged in taking careful
measurements of the head of his latest experiment, the
while he coached the young man in the first rudiments
of spoken language, and now the subject of his labors
found himself suddenly deserted and alone. He had not
yet been without the four walls of the workshop, as the
professor had wished to keep him from association with
the grotesque results of his earlier experiments, and
now a natural curiosity tempted him to approach the
door through which his creator and the man with the
bull whip had so suddenly disappeared.
He saw before him a great walled enclosure roofed by a
lofty azure dome, and beyond the walls the tops of
green trees swaying gently in the soft breezes. His
nostrils tasted the incense of fresh earth and growing
things. For the first time he felt the breath of
Nature, free and unconfined, upon his brow.
He drew his giant frame to its full height and drank
in the freedom and the sweetness of it all, filling his
great lungs to their fullest; and with the first taste
he learned to hate the close and stuffy confines of his prison.
His virgin mind was filled with wonder at the wealth of
new impressions which surged to his brain through every
sense. He longed for more, and the open gateway of the
campong was a scarce needed invitation to pass to the
wide world beyond. With the free and easy tread of
utter unconsciousness of self, he passed across the
enclosure and stepped out into the clearing which lay
between the palisade and the jungle.
Ah, here was a still more beautiful world! The green
leaves nodded to him, and at their invitation he came
and the jungle reached out its million arms to embrace
him. Now before him, behind, on either side there was
naught but glorious green beauty shot with splashes of
gorgeous color that made him gasp in wonderment.
Brilliant birds rose from amidst it all, skimming
hither and thither above his head--he thought that the
flowers and the birds were the same, and when he
reached out and plucked a blossom, tenderly,
he wondered that it did not flutter in his hand.
On and on he walked, but slowly, for he must not miss
a single sight in the strange and wonderful place; and then,
of a sudden, the quiet beauty of the scene was harshly
broken by the crashing of a monster through the underbrush.
Number Thirteen was standing in a little open place in
the jungle when the discordant note first fell upon his ears,
and as he turned his head in the direction of the sound
he was startled at the hideous aspect of the thing which
broke through the foliage before him.
What a horrid creature! But on the same instant his eyes
fell upon another borne in the arms of the terrible one.
This one was different--very different,-- soft and
beautiful and white. He wondered what it all meant,
for everything was strange and new to him;
but when he saw the eyes of the lovely one upon him,
and her arms outstretched toward him, though he did
not understand the words upon her lips, he knew that
she was in distress. Something told him that it was the
ugly thing that carried her that was the author of her suffering.
Virginia Maxon had been half unconscious from fright
when she suddenly saw a white man, clothed in coarse,
white, native pajamas, confronting her and the
misshapen beast that was bearing her away to what
frightful fate she could but conjecture.
At the sight of the man her voice returned with
returning hope, and she reached her arms toward him,
calling upon him to save her. Although he did not
respond she thought that he understood for he sprang
toward them before her appeal was scarce uttered.
As before, when Sing had threatened to filch his new
possession from him, Number One held the girl with one
hand while he met the attack of this new assailant with
the other; but here was very different metal than had
succumbed to him before.
It is true that Number Thirteen knew nothing whatever
of personal combat, but Number One had but little
advantage of him in the matter of experience, while the
former was equipped with great natural intelligence as
well as steel muscles no whit less powerful than his
So it was that the awful giant found his single hand
helpless to cope with the strength of his foeman, and
in a brief instant felt powerful fingers clutching at
his throat. Still reluctant to surrender his hold upon
his prize, he beat futilely at the face of his enemy,
but at last the agony of choking compelled him to drop
the girl and grapple madly with the man who choked him
with one hand and rained mighty and merciless blows
upon his face and head with the other.
His captive sank to the ground, too weak from the
effects of nervous shock to escape, and with horror-
filled eyes watched the two who battled over her. She
saw that her would-be rescuer was young and strong
featured--all together a very fine specimen of manhood;
and to her great wonderment it was soon apparent that
he was no unequal match for the great mountain of
muscle that he fought.
Both tore and struck and clawed and bit in the frenzy
of mad, untutored strife, rolling about on the soft
carpet of the jungle almost noiselessly except for
their heavy breathing and an occasional beast-like
snarl from Number One. For several minutes they fought
thus until the younger man succeeded in getting both
hands upon the throat of his adversary, and then,
choking relentlessly, he raised the brute with him from
the ground and rushed him fiercely backward against the
stem of a tree. Again and again he hurled the
monstrous thing upon the unyielding wood, until at last
it hung helpless and inert in his clutches, then he
cast it from him, and without another glance at it
turned toward the girl.
Here was a problem indeed. Now that he had won her,
what was he to do with her? He was but an adult child,
with the brain and brawn of a man, and the ignorance
and inexperience of the new-born. And so he acted as a
child acts, in imitation of what it has seen others do.
The brute had been carrying the lovely creature,
therefore that must be the thing for him to do, and so
he stooped and gathered Virginia Maxon in his great arms.
She tried to tell him that she could walk after a
moment's rest, but it was soon evident that he did not
understand her, as a puzzled expression came to his
face and he did not put her down as she asked. Instead
he stood irresolute for a time, and then moved slowly
through the jungle. By chance his direction was toward
the camp, and this fact so relieved the girl's mind that
presently she was far from loath to remain quietly in his arms.
After a moment she gained courage to look up into his
face. She thought that she never had seen so
marvellously clean cut features, or a more high and
noble countenance, and she wondered how it was that
this white man was upon the island and she not have
known it. Possibly he was a new arrival--his presence
unguessed even by her father. That he was neither
English nor American was evident from the fact that he
could not understand her native tongue. Who could he
be! What was he doing upon their island!
As she watched his face he suddenly turned his eyes
down upon her, and as she looked hurriedly away she was
furious with herself as she felt a crimson flush mantle
her cheek. The man only half sensed, in a vague sort
of way, the meaning of the tell tale color and the
quickly averted eyes; but he became suddenly aware of
the pressure of her delicate body against his, as he
had not been before. Now he kept his eyes upon her
face as he walked, and a new emotion filled his breast.
He did not understand it, but it was very pleasant, and
he knew that it was because of the radiant thing that
he carried in his arms.
The scream that had startled von Horn and Professor
Maxon led them along the trail toward the east coast of
the island, and about halfway of the distance they
stumbled upon the dazed and bloody Sing just as he was
on the point of regaining consciousness.
"For God's sake, Sing, what is the matter?" cried von Horn.
"Where is Miss Maxon?"
"Big blute, he catchem Linee. Tly kill Sing. Head hit tlee.
No see any more. Wakee up--all glone," moaned the Chinaman
as he tried to gain his feet.
"Which way did he take her?" urged von Horn.
Sing's quick eyes scanned the surrounding jungle,
and in a moment, staggering to his feet, he cried,
"Look see, klick! Foot plint!" and ran, weak and
reeling drunkenly, along the broad trail made by
the giant creature and its prey.
Von Horn and Professor Maxon followed closely in
Sing's wake, the younger man horrified by the terrible
possibilities that obtruded themselves into his
imagination despite his every effort to assure himself
that no harm could come to Virginia Maxon before they
reached her. The girl's father had not spoken since
they discovered that she was missing from the campong,
but his face was white and drawn; his eyes wide and
glassy as those of one whose mind is on the verge of
madness from a great nervous shock.
The trail of the creature was bewilderingly erratic.
A dozen paces straight through the underbrush, then a
sharp turn at right angles for no apparent reason, only
to veer again suddenly in a new direction! Thus,
turning and twisting, the tortuous way led them toward
the south end of the island, until Sing, who was in
advance, gave a sharp cry of surprise.
"Klick! Look see!" he cried excitedly. "Blig blute dead--
vely muchee dead."
Von Horn rushed forward to where the Chinaman was
leaning over the body of Number One. Sure enough,
the great brute lay motionless, its horrid face even more
hideous in death than in life, if it were possible.
The face was black, the tongue protruded, the skin was
bruised from the heavy fists of his assailant and the
thick skull crushed and splintered from terrific impact
with the tree.
Professor Maxon leaned over von Horn's shoulder.
"Ah, poor Number One," he sighed, "that you should have come
to such an untimely end--my child, my child."
Von Horn looked at him, a tinge of compassion in his
rather hard face. It touched the man that his employer
was at last shocked from the obsession of his work to a
realization of the love and duty he owed his daughter;
he thought that the professor's last words referred to
"Though there are twelve more," continued Professor
Maxon, "you were my first born son and I loved you
most, dear child."
The younger man was horrified.
"My God, Professor!" he cried. "Are you mad? Can you
call this thing `child' and mourn over it when you do
not yet know the fate of your own daughter?"
Professor Maxon looked up sadly. "You do not
understand, Dr. von Horn," he replied coldly, "and you
will oblige me, in the future, by not again referring
to the offspring of my labors as `things.'"
With an ugly look upon his face von Horn turned his
back upon the older man--what little feeling of loyalty
and affection he had ever felt for him gone forever.
Sing was looking about for evidences of the cause of
Number One's death and the probable direction in which
Virginia Maxon had disappeared.
"What on earth could have killed this enormous brute, Sing?
Have you any idea?" asked von Horn.
The Chinaman shook his head.
"No savvy," he replied. "Blig flight. Look see,"
and he pointed to the torn and trampled turf,
the broken bushes, and to one or two small trees
that had been snapped off by the impact of the two
mighty bodies that had struggled back and forth
about the little clearing.
"This way," cried Sing presently, and started off once
more into the brush, but this time in a northwesterly
direction, toward camp.
In silence the three men followed the new trail,
all puzzled beyond measure to account for the death
of Number One at the hands of what must have been a
creature of superhuman strength. What could it have
been! It was impossible that any of the Malays or
lascars could have done the thing, and there were no
other creatures, brute or human, upon the island large
enough to have coped even for an instant with the
ferocious brutality of the dead monster, except--
von Horn's brain came to a sudden halt at the thought.
Could it be? There seemed no other explanation.
Virginia Maxon had been rescued from one soulless
monstrosity to fall into the hands of another equally
irresponsible and terrifying.
Others then must have escaped from the campong.
Von Horn loosened his guns in their holsters,
and took a fresh grip upon his bull whip as he
urged Sing forward upon the trail. He wondered
which one it was, but not once did it occur to him
that the latest result of Professor Maxon's experiments
could be the rescuer of Virginia Maxon. In his mind he
could see only the repulsive features of one of the others.
Quite unexpectedly they came upon the two, and with a
shout von Horn leaped forward, his bull whip upraised.
Number Thirteen turned in surprise at the cry, and
sensing a new danger for her who lay in his arms,
he set her gently upon the ground behind him
and advanced to meet his assailant.
"Out of the way, you--monstrosity," cried von Horn.
"If you have harmed Miss Maxon I'll put a bullet in
Number Thirteen did not understand the words that the
other addressed to him but he interpreted the man's
actions as menacing, not to himself, but to the
creature he now considered his particular charge;
and so he met the advancing man, more to keep him from
the girl than to offer him bodily injury for he recognized
him as one of the two who had greeted his first dawning
Von Horn, possibly intentionally, misinterpreted the
other's motive, and raising his bull whip struck Number
Thirteen a vicious cut across the face, at the same time
levelling his revolver point blank at the broad beast.
But before ever he could pull the trigger an avalanche
of muscle was upon him, and he went down to the rotting
vegetation of the jungle with five sinewy fingers at his throat.
His revolver exploded harmlessly in the air, and then
another hand wrenched it from him and hurled it far
into the underbrush. Number Thirteen knew nothing of
the danger of firearms, but the noise had startled him
and his experience with the stinging cut of the bull
whip convinced him that this other was some sort of
instrument of torture of which it would be as well to
deprive his antagonist.
Virginia Maxon looked on in horror as she realized that
her rescuer was quickly choking Dr. von Horn to death.
With a little cry she sprang to her feet and ran toward them,
just as her father emerged from the underbrush through
which he had been struggling in the trail of the agile
Chinaman and von Horn. Placing her hand upon the great
wrist of the giant she tried to drag his fingers from
von Horn's throat, pleading meanwhile with both voice
and eyes for the life of the man she thought loved her.
Again Number Thirteen translated the intent without
understanding the words, and releasing von Horn
permitted him to rise. With a bound he was upon his
feet and at the same instant brought his other gun from
his side and levelled it upon the man who had released him;
but as his finger tightened upon the trigger Virginia Maxon
sprang between them and grasping von Horn's wrist deflected
the muzzle of the gun just as the cartridge exploded.
Simultaneously Professor Maxon sprang from his grasp
and hurled him back with the superhuman strength of a maniac.
"Fool!" he cried. "What would you do? Kill--,"
and then of a sudden he realized his daughter's presence
and the necessity for keeping the origin of the young
giant from her knowledge.
"I am surprised at you, Dr. von Horn," he continued in
a more level voice. "You must indeed have forgotten
yourself to thus attack a stranger upon our island
until you know whether he be friend or foe. Come!
Escort my daughter to the camp, while I make the proper
apologies to this gentleman." As he saw that both
Virginia and von Horn hesitated, he repeated his command
in a peremptory tone, adding; "Quick, now; do as I bid you."
The moment had given von Horn an opportunity to regain
his self-control, and realizing as well as did his employer,
but from another motive, the necessity of keeping the truth
from the girl, he took her arm and led her gently from the scene.
At Professor Maxon's direction Sing accompanied them.
Now in Number Thirteen's brief career he had known no
other authority than Professor Maxon's, and so it was
that when his master laid a hand upon his wrist he
remained beside him while another walked away with the
lovely creature he had thought his very own.
Until after dark the professor kept the young man
hidden in the jungle, and then, safe from detection,
led him back to the laboratory.
On their return to camp after her rescue Virginia
talked a great deal to von Horn about the young giant
who had rescued her, until the man feared that she was
more interested in him than seemed good for his own plans.
He had now cast from him the last vestige of his
loyalty for his employer, and thus freed had determined
to use every means within his power to win Professor
Maxon's daughter, and with her the heritage of wealth
which he knew would be hers should her father,
through some unforeseen mishap, meet death before
he could return to civilization and alter his will,
a contingency which von Horn knew he might have to consider
should he marry the girl against her father's wishes, and
thus thwart the crazed man's mad, but no less dear project.
He realized that first he must let the girl fully
understand the grave peril in which she stood,
and turn her hope of protection from her father to himself.
He imagined that the initial step in undermining
Virginia's confidence in her father would be to narrate
every detail of the weird experiments which Professor
Maxon had brought to such successful issues during
their residence upon the island.
The girl's own questioning gave him the lead he needed.
"Where could that horrid creature have come from that
set upon me in the jungle and nearly killed poor Sing?"
For a moment von Horn was silent, in well simulated
hesitancy to reply to her query.
"I cannot tell you, Miss Maxon," he said sadly,
"how much I should hate to be the one to ignore your
father's commands, and enlighten you upon this and
other subjects which lie nearer to your personal
welfare than you can possibly guess; but I feel that
after the horrors of this day duty demands that I must
lay all before you--you cannot again be exposed to the
horrors from which you were rescued only by a miracle."
"I cannot imagine what you hint at, Dr. von Horn,"
said Virginia, "but if to explain to me will
necessitate betraying my father's confidence
I prefer that you remain silent."
"You do not understand," broke in the man, "you cannot
guess the horrors that I have seen upon this island,
or the worse horrors that are to come. Could you dream
of what lies in store for you, you would seek death rather
than face the future. I have been loyal to your father,
Virginia, but were you not blind, or indifferent,
you would long since have seen that your welfare
means more to me than my loyalty to him--
more to me than my life or my honor.
"You asked where the creature came from that attacked
you today. I shall tell you. It is one of a dozen
similarly hideous things that your father has created
in his mad desire to solve the problem of life.
He has solved it; but, God, at what a price
in misshapen, soulless, hideous monsters!"
The girl looked up at him, horror stricken.
"Do you mean to say that my father in a mad attempt to
usurp the functions of God created that awful thing?"
she asked in a low, faint voice, "and that there are
others like it upon the island?"
"In the campong next to yours there are a dozen others,"
replied von Horn, "nor would it be easy to say which
is the most hideous and repulsive. They are grotesque
caricatures of humanity--without soul and almost without brain."
"God!" murmured the girl, burying her face in her hands,
"he has gone mad; he has gone mad."
"I truly believe that he is mad," said von Horn, "nor could
you doubt it for a moment were I to tell you the worst."
"The worst!" exclaimed the girl. "What could be worse
than that which you already have divulged? Oh, how could
you have permitted it?"
"There is much worse than I have told you, Virginia.
So much worse that I can scarce force my lips to frame
the words, but you must be told. I would be more
criminally liable than your father were I to keep
it from you, for my brain, at least, is not crazed.
Virginia, you have in your mind a picture of the
hideous thing that carried you off into the jungle?"
"Yes," and as the girl replied a convulsive shudder
racked her frame.
Von Horn grasped her arm gently as he went on,
as though to support and protect her during the shock
that he was about to administer.
"Virginia," he said in a very low voice, "it is your
father's intention to wed you to one of his creatures."
The girl broke from him with an angry cry.
"It is not true!" she exclaimed. "It is not true.
Oh, Dr. von Horn how could you tell me such a cruel
and terrible untruth."
"As God is my judge, Virginia," and the man reverently
uncovered as he spoke, "it is the truth. Your father
told me it in so many words when I asked his permission
to pay court to you myself--you are to marry Number
Thirteen when his education is complete."
"I shall die first!" she cried.
"Why not accept me instead?" suggested the man.
For a moment Virginia looked straight into his eyes as
though to read his inmost soul.
"Let me have time to consider it, Doctor," she replied.
"I do not know that I care for you in that way at all."
"Think of Number Thirteen," he suggested. "It should
not be difficult to decide."
"I could not marry you simply to escape a worse fate,"
replied the girl. "I am not that cowardly--but let me
think it over. There can be no immediate danger, I am sure."
"One can never tell," replied von Horn, "what strange,
new vagaries may enter a crazed mind to dictate this
moment's action or the next."
"Where could we wed?" asked Virginia.
"The Ithaca would bear us to Singapore, and when we
returned you would be under my legal protection and safe."
"I shall think about it from every angle," she answered
sadly, "and now good night, my dear friend," and with a
wan smile she entered her quarters.
For the next month Professor Maxon was busy educating
Number Thirteen. He found the young man intelligent
far beyond his most sanguine hopes, so that the
progress made was little short of uncanny.
Von Horn during this time continued to urge upon
Virginia the necessity for a prompt and favorable
decision in the matter of his proposal; but when it
came time to face the issue squarely the girl found it
impossible to accede to his request--she thought that
she loved him, but somehow she dared not say the word
that would make her his for life.
Bududreen, the Malay mate was equally harassed by
conflicting desires, though of a different nature,
or he had his eye upon the main chance that was
represented to him by the great chest, and also upon
the lesser reward which awaited him upon delivery of
the girl to Rajah Muda Saffir. The fact that he could
find no safe means for accomplishing both these ends
simultaneously was all that had protected either from
The presence of the uncanny creatures of the court of
mystery had become known to the Malay and he used this
knowledge as an argument to foment discord and mutiny
in the ignorant and superstitious crew under his
command. By boring a hole in the partition wall
separating their campong from the inner one he had
disclosed to the horrified view of his men the fearsome
brutes harbored so close to them. The mate, of course,
had no suspicion of the true origin of these monsters,
but his knowledge of the fact that they had not been
upon the island when the Ithaca arrived and that it