Part 3 out of 4
verandah for the evening meal. The two men were talking,
and without making his presence noticeable the Chinaman
hovered about ever within ear shot.
"I cannot make it out, von Horn," Professor Maxon was
saying. "Not a board broken, and the doors both
apparently opened intentionally by someone familiar
with locks and bolts. Who could have done it?"
"You forget Number Thirteen," suggested the doctor.
"But the chest!" expostulated the other. "What in the
world would he want of that enormous and heavy chest?"
"He might have thought that it contained treasure,"
hazarded von Horn, in an innocent tone of voice.
"Bosh, my dear man," replied Professor Maxon. "He knew
nothing of treasures, or money, or the need or value of either.
I tell you the workshop was opened, and the inner campong
as well by some one who knew the value of money and wanted
that chest, but why they should have released the creatures
from the inner enclosure is beyond me."
"And I tell you Professor Maxon that it could have been
none other than Number Thirteen," insisted von Horn.
"Did I not myself see him leading his eleven monsters
as easily as a captain commands his company? The fellow
is brighter than we have imagined. He has learned much
from us both, he has reasoned, and he has shrewdly
guessed many things that he could not have known
"But his object?" asked the professor.
"That is simple," returned von Horn. "You have held
out hopes to him that soon he should come to live under
your roof with Virginia. The creature has been madly
infatuated with her ever since the day he took her from
Number One, and you have encouraged his infatuation
until yesterday. Then you regained your sanity
and put him in his rightful place. What is the result?
Denied the easy prey he expected he immediately decided
to take it by force, and with that end in view, and taking
advantage of the series of remarkable circumstances
which played into his hands, he liberated his fellows,
and with them hastened to the beach in search of
Virginia and in hopes of being able to fly with her
upon the Ithaca. There he met the Malay pirates,
and together they formed an alliance under terms
of which Number Thirteen is to have the girl, and the pirates
the chest in return for transporting him and his crew to Borneo.
Why it is all perfectly simple and logical, Professor Maxon;
do you not see it now?"
"You may be right, doctor," answered the old man.
"But it is idle to conjecture. Tomorrow we can be up
and doing, so let us get what sleep we can tonight.
We shall need all our energies if we are to save my poor,
dear girl, from the clutches of that horrid, soulless thing."
At the very moment that he spoke the object of his
contumely was entering the dark mouth of a broad river
that flowed from out of the heart of savage Borneo.
In the prahu with him his eleven hideous companions now
bent to their paddles with slightly increased efficiency.
Before them the leader saw a fire blazing upon a tiny island
in the center of the stream. Toward this they turned
their silent way. Grimly the war prahu with its frightful
freight nosed closer to the bank.
At last Number Thirteen made out the figures of men
about the fire, and as they came still closer he was
sure that they were members of the very party he had
been pursuing across the broad waters for hours.
The prahus were drawn up upon the bank and the warriors
were preparing to eat.
Just as the young giants' prahu came within the circle
of firelight a swarthy Malay approached the fire,
dragging a white girl roughly by the arm. No more was
needed to convince Number Thirteen of the identity of
the party. With a low command to his fellows he urged
them to redoubled speed. At the same instant a Dyak
warrior caught sight of the approaching boat as it sped
into the full glare of the light.
At sight of the occupants the head hunters scattered
for their own prahus. The frightful aspect of
the enemy turned their savage hearts to water,
leaving no fight in their ordinarily warlike souls.
So quickly they moved that as the pursuing prahu
touched the bank all the nearer boats had been
launched, and the remaining pirates were scurrying
across the little island for those which lay upon the
opposite side. Among these was the Malay who guarded
the girl, but he had not been quick enough to prevent
Virginia Maxon recognizing the stalwart figure standing
in the bow of the oncoming craft.
As he dragged her away toward the prahu of Muda Saffir
she cried out to the strange white man who seemed her
"Help! Help!" she called. "This way! Across the island!"
And then the brown hand of her jailer closed over her mouth.
Like a tigress she fought to free herself, or to detain
her captor until the rescue party should catch up with them,
but the scoundrel was muscled like a bull, and when the girl
held back he lifted her across his shoulder and broke into a run.
Rajah Muda Saffir had no stomach for a fight himself,
but he was loathe to lose the prize he had but just won,
and seeing that his men were panic-stricken he saw
no alternative but to rally them for a brief stand
that would give the little moment required to slip away
in his own prahu with the girl.
Calling aloud for those around him to come to his
support he halted fifty yards from his boat just as
Number Thirteen with his fierce, brainless horde swept
up from the opposite side of the island in the wake of
him who bore Virginia Maxon. The old rajah succeeded
in gathering some fifty warriors about him from the
crews of the two boats which lay near his. His own men
he hastened to their posts in his prahu that they might
be ready to pull swiftly away the moment that he and
the captive were aboard.
The Dyak warriors presented an awe inspiring
spectacle in the fitful light of the nearby camp fire.
The ferocity of their fierce faces was accentuated
by the upturned, bristling tiger cat's teeth which
protruded from every ear; while the long feathers
of the Argus pheasant waving from their war-caps,
the brilliant colors of their war-coats trimmed
with the black and white feathers of the hornbill,
and the strange devices upon their gaudy shields
but added to the savagery of their appearance
as they danced and howled, menacing and intimidating,
in the path of the charging foe.
A single backward glance was all that Virginia Maxon
found it possible to throw in the direction of the
rescue party, and in that she saw a sight that lived
forever in her memory. At the head of his hideous,
misshapen pack sprang the stalwart young giant
straight into the heart of the flashing parangs
of the howling savages. To right and left fell
the mighty bull whip cutting down men with all
the force and dispatch of a steel saber.
The Dyaks, encouraged by the presence of Muda Saffir
in their rear, held their ground; and the infuriated,
brainless things that followed the wielder of the
bull whip threw themselves upon the head hunters
with beating hands and rending fangs.
Number Ten wrested a parang from an adversary,
and acting upon his example the other creatures
were not long in arming themselves in a similar manner.
Cutting and jabbing they hewed their way through the solid
ranks of the enemy, until Muda Saffir, seeing that defeat
was inevitable turned and fled toward his prahu.
Four of his creatures lay dead as the last of the Dyaks
turned to escape from the mad white man who faced
naked steel with only a rawhide whip. In panic the head
hunters made a wild dash for the two remaining prahus,
for Muda Saffir had succeeded in getting away from the
island in safety.
Number Thirteen reached the water's edge but a moment
after the prow of the rajah's craft had cleared the
shore and was swinging up stream under the vigorous
strokes of its fifty oarsmen. For an instant he stood
poised upon the bank as though to spring after the
retreating prahu, but the knowledge that he could not
swim held him back--it was useless to throw away his
life when the need of it was so great if Virginia Maxon
was to be saved.
Turning to the other prahus he saw that one was already
launched, but that the crew of the other was engaged in
a desperate battle with the seven remaining members of
his crew for possession of the boat. Leaping among the
combatants he urged his fellows aboard the prahu which
was already half filled with Dyaks. Then he shoved the
boat out into the river, jumping aboard himself as its
prow cleared the gravelly beach.
For several minutes that long, hollowed log was a
veritable floating hell of savage, screaming men locked
in deadly battle. The sharp parangs of the head
hunters were no match for the superhuman muscles of the
creatures that battered them about; now lifting one
high above his fellows and using the body as a club to
beat down those nearby; again snapping an arm or leg as
one might break a pipe stem; or hurling a living
antagonist headlong above the heads of his fellows to
the dark waters of the river. And above them all in
the thickest of the fight, towering even above his own
giants, rose the mighty figure of the terrible white
man, whose very presence wrought havoc with the valor
of the brown warriors.
Two more of Number Thirteen's creatures had been cut
down in the prahu, but the loss among the Dyaks had
been infinitely greater, and to it was now added the
desertions of the terror stricken savages who seemed
to fear the frightful countenances of their adversaries
even as much as they did their prowess.
There remained but a handful of brown warriors in one
end of the boat when the advantage of utilizing their
knowledge of the river and of navigation occurred to
Number Thirteen. Calling to his men he commanded them
to cease killing, making prisoners of those who
remained instead. So accustomed had his pack now
become to receiving and acting upon his orders that
they changed their tactics immediately, and one by one
the remaining Dyaks were overpowered, disarmed and held.
With difficulty Number Thirteen communicated with them,
for among them there was but a single warrior who had
ever had intercourse with an Englishman, but at last by
means of signs and the few words that were common to
them both he made the native understand that he would
spare the lives of himself and his companions if they
would help him in pursuit of Muda Saffir and the girl.
The Dyaks felt but little loyalty for the rascally
Malay they served, since in common with all their kind
they and theirs had suffered for generations at the
hands of the cruel, crafty and unscrupulous race that
had usurped the administration of their land. So it
was not difficult to secure from them the promise of
assistance in return for their lives.
Number Thirteen noticed that when they addressed him
it was always as Bulan, and upon questioning them he
discovered that they had given him this title of honor
partly in view of his wonderful fighting ability and
partly because the sight of his white face emerging
from out of the darkness of the river into the
firelight of their blazing camp fire had carried to
their impressionable minds a suggestion of the tropic
moon which they admired and reverenced. Both the name
and the idea appealed to Number Thirteen and from that
time he adopted Bulan as his rightful cognomen.
The loss of time resulting from the fight in the prahu
and the ensuing peace parley permitted Muda Saffir
to put considerable distance between himself and
his pursuers. The Malay's boat was now alone, for
of the eight prahus that remained of the original fleet
it was the only one which had taken this branch of the river,
the others having scurried into a smaller southerly arm
after the fight upon the island, that they might the
more easily escape their hideous foemen.
Only Barunda, the headman, knew which channel Rajah
Muda Saffir intended following, and Muda wondered why
it was that the two boats that were to have borne
Barunda's men did not catch up with his. While he had
left Barunda and his warriors engaged in battle with
the strangers he did not for an instant imagine that
they would suffer any severe loss, and that one of
their boats should be captured was beyond belief.
But this was precisely what had happened, and the
second boat, seeing the direction taken by the enemy,
had turned down stream the more surely to escape them.
So it was that while Rajah Muda Saffir moved leisurely
up the river toward his distant stronghold waiting for
the other boats of his fleet to overtake him, Barunda,
the headman, guided the white enemy swiftly after him.
Barunda had discovered that it was the girl alone this
white man wanted. Evidently he either knew nothing of
the treasure chest lying in the bottom of Muda Saffir's
boat, or, knowing, was indifferent. In either event
Barunda thought that he saw a chance to possess himself
of the rich contents of the heavy box, and so served his
new master with much greater enthusiasm than he had the old.
Beneath the paddles of the natives and the five
remaining members of his pack Bulan sped up the dark
river after the single prahu with its priceless
freight. Already six of the creatures of Professor
Maxon's experiments had given up their lives in the
service of his daughter, and the remaining six were
pushing forward through the inky blackness of the
jungle night into the untracked heart of savage Borneo
to rescue her from her abductors though they sacrificed
their own lives in the endeavor.
Far ahead of them in the bottom of the great prahu
crouched the girl they sought. Her thoughts were of
the man she felt intuitively to possess the strength,
endurance and ability to overcome every obstacle and
reach her at last. Would he come in time? Ah, that
was the question. The mystery of the stranger appealed
to her. A thousand times she had attempted to solve
the question of his first appearance on the island at
the very moment that his mighty muscles were needed to
rescue her from the horrible creature of her father's creation.
Then there was his unaccountable disappearance for weeks;
there was von Horn's strange reticence
and seeming ignorance as to the circumstances
which brought the young man to the island,
or his equally unaccountable disappearance
after having rescued her from Number One.
And now, when she suddenly found herself
in need of protection, here was the same
young man turning up in a most miraculous fashion,
and at the head of the terrible creatures of the inner campong.
The riddle was too deep for her--she could not solve it;
and then her thoughts were interrupted by the thin,
brown hand of Rajah Muda Saffir as it encircled her
waist and drew her toward him. Upon the evil lips were
hot words of passion. The girl wrenched herself from
the man's embrace, and, with a little scream of terror,
sprang to her feet, and as Muda Saffir arose to grasp
her again she struck him full in the face with one small,
Directly behind the Malay lay the heavy chest
of Professor Maxon. As the man stepped backward
to recover his equilibrium both feet struck the obstacle.
For an instant he tottered with wildly waving arms
in an endeavor to regain his lost balance, then,
with a curse upon his lips, he lunged across the box
and over the side of the prahu into the dark waters
of the river.
The great chest in the bottom of Rajah Muda Saffir's
prahu had awakened in other hearts as well as his,
blind greed and avarice; so that as it had been the
indirect cause of his disaster it now proved the
incentive to another to turn the mishap to his own profit,
and to the final undoing of the Malay.
The panglima Ninaka of the Signana Dyaks who manned
Muda Saffir's war prahu saw his chief disappear beneath
the swift waters of the river, but the word of command
that would have sent the boat hurriedly back to pick up
the swimmer was not given. Instead a lusty cry for
greater speed ahead urged the sinuous muscles gliding
beneath the sleek brown hides; and when Muda Saffir
rose to the surface with a cry for help upon his lips
Ninaka shouted back to him in derision, consigning his
carcass to the belly of the nearest crocodile.
In futile rage Muda Saffir called down the most
terrible curses of Allah and his Prophet upon the head
of Ninaka and his progeny to the fifth generation,
and upon the shades of his forefathers, and upon the grim
skulls which hung from the rafters of his long-house.
Then he turned and swam rapidly toward the shore.
Ninaka, now in possession of both the chest and the girl,
was rich indeed, but with Muda Saffir dead he scarce knew
to whom he could dispose of the white girl for a price
that would make it worth while to be burdened with
the danger and responsibility of retaining her.
He had had some experience of white men in the past
and knew that dire were the punishments meted to those
who wronged the white man's women. All through
the remainder of the long night Ninaka pondered
the question deeply. At last he turned to Virginia.
"Why does the big white man who leads the ourang
outangs follow us?" he asked. "Is it the chest
he desires, or you?"
"It is certainly not the chest," replied the girl.
"He wishes to take me back to my father, that is all.
If you will return me to him you may keep the chest,
if that is what you wish."
Ninaka looked at her quizzically for a moment.
Evidently then she was of some value. Possibly should
he retain her he could wring a handsome ransom from the
white man. He would wait and see, it were always an
easy matter to rid himself of her should circumstances
require. The river was there, deep, dark and silent,
and he could place the responsibility for her loss
upon Muda Saffir.
Shortly after day break Ninaka beached his prahu before
the long-house of a peaceful river tribe. The chest
he hid in the underbrush close by his boat, and with
the girl ascended the notched log that led to the verandah
of the structure, which, stretching away for three hundred
yards upon its tall piles, resembled a huge centipede.
The dwellers in the long-house extended every courtesy
to Ninaka and his crew. At the former's request
Virginia was hidden away in a dark sleeping closet
in one of the windowless living rooms which opened
along the verandah for the full length of the house.
Here a native girl brought her food and water, sitting,
while she ate, in rapt contemplation of the white skin
and golden hair of the strange female.
At about the time that Ninaka pulled his prahu upon
the beach before the long-house, Muda Saffir from the safety
of the concealing underbrush upon the shore saw a familiar
war prahu forging rapidly up the stream. As it approached
him he was about to call aloud to those who manned it,
for in the bow he saw a number of his own men;
but a second glance as the boat came opposite him
caused him to alter his intention and drop further
into the engulfing verdure, for behind his men squatted
five of the terrible monsters that had wrought such havoc
with his expedition, and in the stern he saw his own Barunda
in friendly converse with the mad white man who had led them.
As the boat disappeared about a bend in the river Rajah
Muda Saffir arose, shaking his fist in the direction it
had vanished and, cursing anew and volubly, damned each
separate hair in the heads of the faithless Barunda and
the traitorous Ninaka. Then he resumed his watch for
the friendly prahu, or smaller sampan which he knew time
would eventually bring from up or down the river to his rescue,
for who of the surrounding natives would dare refuse succor
to the powerful Rajah of Sakkan!
At the long-house which harbored Ninaka and his crew,
Barunda and Bulan stopped with theirs to obtain
food and rest. The quick eye of the Dyak chieftain
recognized the prahu of Rajah Muda Saffir where it
lay upon the beach, but he said nothing to his white
companion of what it augured--it might be well to
discover how the land lay before he committed himself
too deeply to either faction.
At the top of the notched log he was met by Ninaka,
who, with horror-wide eyes, looked down upon the
fearsome monstrosities that lumbered awkwardly up
the rude ladder in the wake of the agile Dyaks
and the young white giant.
"What does it mean?" whispered the panglima to Barunda.
"These are now my friends," replied Barunda.
"Where is Muda Saffir?"
Ninaka jerked his thumb toward the river.
"Some crocodile has feasted well," he said significantly.
"And the girl?" he continued. "And the treasure?"
Ninaka's eyes narrowed. "They are safe," he answered.
"The white man wants the girl," remarked Barunda. "He does
not suspect that you are one of Muda Saffir's people.
If he guessed that you knew the whereabouts of the girl
he would torture the truth from you and then kill you.
He does not care for the treasure. There is enough
in that great chest for two, Ninaka. Let us be friends.
Together we can divide it; otherwise neither of us will
get any of it. What do you say, Ninaka?"
The panglima scowled. He did not relish the idea of
sharing his prize, but he was shrewd enough to realize
that Barunda possessed the power to rob him of it all,
so at last he acquiesced, though with poor grace.
Bulan had stood near during this conversation, unable,
of course, to understand a single word of the native tongue.
"What does the man say?" he asked Barunda. "Has he
seen anything of the prahu bearing the girl?"
"Yes," replied the Dyak. "He says that two hours ago
such a war prahu passed on its way up river--he saw the
white girl plainly. Also he knows whither they are bound,
and how, by crossing through the jungle on foot, you may
intercept them at their next stop."
Bulan, suspecting no treachery, was all anxiety to be
off at once. Barunda suggested that in case of some
possible emergency causing the quarry to return down
the river it would be well to have a force remain at
the long-house to intercept them. He volunteered to
undertake the command of this party. Ninaka, he said,
would furnish guides to escort Bulan and his men
through the jungle to the point at which they might
expect to find Muda Saffir.
And so, with the girl he sought lying within fifty feet
of him, Bulan started off through the jungle with two
of Ninaka's Dyaks as guides--guides who had been well
instructed by their panglima as to their duties.
Twisting and turning through the dense maze of
underbrush and close-growing, lofty trees the little
party of eight plunged farther and farther into the
For hours the tiresome march was continued, until at
last the guides halted, apparently to consult each
other as to the proper direction. By signs they made
known to Bulan that they did not agree upon the right
course to pursue from there on, and that they had
decided that it would be best for each to advance a
little way in the direction he thought the right one
while Bulan and his five creatures remained where they were.
"We will go but a little way," said the spokesman,
"and then we shall return and lead you in the proper direction."
Bulan saw no harm in this, and without a shade of
suspicion sat down upon a fallen tree and watched his
two guides disappear into the jungle in opposite
directions. Once out of sight of the white man the two
turned back and met a short distance in the rear of the
party they had deserted--in another moment they were
headed for the long-house from which they had started.
It was fully an hour thereafter that doubts began to
enter Bulan's head, and as the day dragged on he came
to realize that he and his weird pack were alone and lost
in the heart of a strange and tangled web of tropical jungle.
No sooner had Bulan and his party disappeared in the
jungle than Barunda and Ninaka made haste to embark
with the chest and the girl and push rapidly on up the
river toward the wild and inaccessible regions of the
interior. Virginia Maxon's strong hope of succor had
been gradually waning as no sign of the rescue party
appeared as the day wore on. Somewhere behind her upon
the broad river she was sure a long, narrow native
prahu was being urged forward in pursuit, and that
in command of it was the young giant who was now never
for a moment absent from her thoughts.
For hours she strained her eyes over the stern of the
craft that was bearing her deeper and deeper into the
wild heart of fierce Borneo. On either shore they
occasionally passed a native long-house, and the girl
could not help but wonder at the quiet and peace which
reigned over these little settlements. It was as
though they were passing along a beaten highway in the
center of a civilized community; and yet she knew that
the men who lolled upon the verandahs, puffing indolently
upon their cigarettes or chewing betel nut, were all head hunters,
and that along the verandah rafters above them hung
the grisly trophies of their prowess.
Yet as she glanced from them to her new captors she
could not but feel that she would prefer captivity in
one of the settlements they were passing--there at
least she might find an opportunity to communicate with
her father, or be discovered by the rescue party as it
came up the river. The idea grew upon her as the day
advanced until she spent the time in watching furtively
for some means of escape should they but touch the
shore momentarily; and though they halted twice her
captors were too watchful to permit her the slightest
opportunity for putting her plan into action.
Barunda and Ninaka urged their men on, with brief
rests, all day, nor did they halt even after night
had closed down upon the river. On, on the swift prahu
sped up the winding channel which had now dwindled
to a narrow stream, at intervals rushing strongly between
rocky walls with a current that tested the strength
of the strong, brown paddlers.
Long-houses had become more and more infrequent until
for some time now no sign of human habitation had
been visible. The jungle undergrowth was scantier and
the spaces between the boles of the forest trees more open.
Virginia Maxon was almost frantic with despair as the
utter helplessness of her position grew upon her.
Each stroke of those slender paddles was driving her farther
and farther from friends, or the possibility of rescue.
Night had fallen, dark and impenetrable, and with it
had come the haunting fears that creep in when the sun
has deserted his guardian post.
Barunda and Ninaka were whispering together in low
gutturals, and to the girl's distorted and fear excited
imagination it seemed possible that she alone must be
the subject of their plotting. The prahu was gliding
through a stretch of comparatively quiet and placid
water where the stream spread out into a little basin
just above a narrow gorge through which they had just
forced their way by dint of the most laborious
exertions on the part of the crew.
Virginia watched the two men near her furtively.
They were deeply engrossed in their conversation.
Neither was looking in her direction. The backs of the
paddlers were all toward her. Stealthily she rose to a
stooping position at the boat's side. For a moment
she paused, and then, almost noiselessly, dove overboard
and disappeared beneath the black waters.
It was the slight rocking of the prahu that caused
Barunda to look suddenly about to discover the reason
for the disturbance. For a moment neither of the men
apprehended the girl's absence. Ninaka was the first
to do so, and it was he who called loudly to the
paddlers to bring the boat to a stop. Then they
dropped down the river with the current, and paddled
about above the gorge for half an hour.
The moment that Virginia Maxon felt the waters close
above her head she struck out beneath the surface for
the shore upon the opposite side to that toward which
she had dived into the river. She knew that if any had
seen her leave the prahu they would naturally expect
to intercept her on her way toward the nearest shore,
and so she took this means of outwitting them,
although it meant nearly double the distance to be covered.
After swimming a short distance beneath the surface the
girl rose and looked about her. Up the river a few
yards she caught the phosphorescent gleam of water upon
the prahu's paddles as they brought her to a sudden
stop in obedience to Ninaka's command. Then she saw
the dark mass of the war-craft drifting down toward her.
Again she dove and with strong strokes headed for the shore.
The next time that she rose she was terrified to see
the prahu looming close behind her. The paddlers
were propelling the boat slowly in her direction--
it was almost upon her now--there was a shout
from a man in the bow--she had been seen.
Like a flash she dove once more and, turning, struck out
rapidly straight back beneath the oncoming boat.
When she came to the surface again it was to find herself
as far from shore as she had been when she first quitted
the prahu, but the craft was now circling far below her,
and she set out once again to retrace her way toward
the inky mass of shore line which loomed apparently near
and yet, as she knew, was some considerable distance from her.
As she swam, her mind, filled with the terrors of the night,
conjured recollection of the stories she had heard of the fierce
crocodiles which infest certain of the rivers of Borneo.
Again and again she could have sworn that she felt some huge,
slimy body sweep beneath her in the mysterious waters
of this unknown river.
Behind her she saw the prahu turn back up stream,
but now her mind was suddenly engaged with a new danger,
for the girl realized that the strong current was
bearing her down stream more rapidly than she had
imagined. Already she could hear the increasing roar
of the river as it rushed, wild and tumultuous, through
the entrance to the narrow gorge below her. How far
it was to shore she could not guess, or how far to the
certain death of the swirling waters toward which she
was being drawn by an irresistible force; but of one
thing she was certain, her strength was rapidly waning,
and she must reach the bank quickly.
With redoubled energy she struck out in one last mighty
effort to reach the shore. The tug of the current was
strong upon her, like a giant hand reaching up out of
the cruel river to bear her back to death. She felt
her strength ebbing quickly--her strokes now were
feeble and futile. With a prayer to her Maker she
threw her hands above her head in the last effort
of the drowning swimmer to clutch at even thin air
for support--the current caught and swirled her downward
toward the gorge, and, at the same instant her fingers
touched and closed upon something which swung low above
With the last flickering spark of vitality that remained
in her poor, exhausted body Virginia Maxon clung to the frail
support that a kind Providence had thrust into her hands.
How long she hung there she never knew, but finally
a little strength returned to her, and presently
she realized that it was a pendant creeper hanging
low from a jungle tree upon the bank that had saved her
from the river's rapacious maw.
Inch by inch she worked herself upward toward the bank,
and at last, weak and panting, sunk exhausted to the
cool carpet of grass that grew to the water's edge.
Almost immediately tired, Nature plunged her into a
deep sleep. It was daylight when she awoke,
dreaming that the tall young giant had rescued her
from a band of demons and was lifting her in his arms
to carry her back to her father.
Through half open lids she saw the sunlight filtering
through the leafy canopy above her--she wondered at the
realism of her dream; full consciousness returned and
with it the conviction that she was in truth being held
close by strong arms against a bosom that throbbed
to the beating of a real heart.
With a sudden start she opened her eyes wide to look up
into the hideous face of a giant ourang outang.
"I AM COMING!"
The morning following the capture of Virginia Maxon
by Muda Saffir, Professor Maxon, von Horn, Sing Lee
and the sole surviving lascar from the crew of the Ithaca
set out across the strait toward the mainland of Borneo
in the small boat which the doctor had secreted in the
jungle near the harbor. The party was well equipped
with firearms and ammunition, and the bottom of the
boat was packed full with provisions and cooking
utensils. Von Horn had been careful to see that
the boat was furnished with a mast and sail, and now,
under a good breeze the party was making excellent time
toward the mysterious land of their destination.
They had scarcely cleared the harbor when they sighted
a ship far out across the strait. Its erratic
movements riveted their attention upon it, and later,
as they drew nearer, they perceived that the strange
craft was a good sized schooner with but a single short
mast and tiny sail. For a minute or two her sail would
belly with the wind and the vessel make headway, then
she would come suddenly about, only to repeat the same
tactics a moment later. She sailed first this way and
then that, losing one minute what she had gained the
Von Horn was the first to recognize her.
"It is the Ithaca," he said, "and her Dyak crew are
having a devil of a time managing her--she acts as
though she were rudderless."
Von Horn ran the small boat within hailing distance of
the dismasted hulk whose side was now lined with waving,
gesticulating natives. They were peaceful fishermen,
they explained, whose prahus had been wrecked
in the recent typhoon. They had barely escaped
with their lives by clambering aboard this wreck which Allah
had been so merciful as to place directly in their road.
Would the Tuan Besar be so good as to tell them how to make
the big prahu steer?
Von Horn promised to help them on condition that they
would guide him and his party to the stronghold of
Rajah Muda Saffir in the heart of Borneo. The Dyaks
willingly agreed, and von Horn worked his small boat
in close under the Ithaca's stern. Here he found that
the rudder had been all but unshipped, probably as the
vessel was lifted over the reef during the storm, but a
single pintle remaining in its gudgeon. A half hour's
work was sufficient to repair the damage, and then the
two boats continued their journey toward the mouth of
the river up which those they sought had passed the
Inside the river's mouth an anchorage was found for the
Ithaca near the very island upon which the fierce battle
between Number Thirteen and Muda Saffir's forces had occurred.
From the deck of the larger vessel the deserted prahu
which had borne Bulan across the strait was visible,
as were the bodies of the slain Dyaks and the
misshapen creatures of the white giant's forces.
In excited tones the head hunters called von Horn's
attention to these evidences of conflict, and the
doctor drew his boat up to the island and leaped ashore,
followed by Professor Maxon and Sing. Here they found
the dead bodies of the four monsters who had fallen
in an attempt to rescue their creator's daughter,
though little did any there imagine the real truth.
About the corpses of the four were the bodies of a
dozen Dyak warriors attesting to the ferocity of the
encounter and the savage prowess of the unarmed
creatures who had sold their poor lives so dearly.
"Evidently they fell out about the possession
of the captive," suggested von Horn. "Let us hope
that she did not fall into the clutches of Number Thirteen--
any fate would be better than that."
"God give that that has not befallen her," moaned
Professor Maxon. "The pirates might but hold her for
ransom, but should that soulless fiend possess her my
prayer is that she found the strength and the means to
take her own life before he had an opportunity to have
his way with her."
"Amen," agreed von Horn.
Sing Lee said nothing, but in his heart he hoped that
Virginia Maxon was not in the power of Rajah Muda Saffir.
The brief experience he had had with Number Thirteen
during the fight in the bungalow had rather warmed
his wrinkled old heart toward the friendless young giant,
and he was a sufficiently good judge of human nature
to be confident that the girl would be comparatively
safe in his keeping.
It was quickly decided to abandon the small boat
and embark the entire party in the deserted war prahu.
A half hour later saw the strangely mixed expedition
forging up the river, but not until von Horn had
boarded the Ithaca and discovered to his dismay
that the chest was not on board her.
Far above them on the right bank Muda Saffir still
squatted in his hiding place, for no friendly prahu
or sampan had passed his way since dawn. His keen eyes
roving constantly up and down the long stretch of river
that was visible from his position finally sighted a
war prahu coming toward him from down stream. As it
drew closer he recognized it as one which had belonged
to his own fleet before his unhappy encounter with the
wild white man and his abhorrent pack, and a moment later
his heart leaped as he saw the familiar faces of several
of his men; but who were the strangers in the stern,
and what was a Chinaman doing perched there upon the bow?
The prahu was nearly opposite him before he recognized
Professor Maxon and von Horn as the white men of the
little island. He wondered how much they knew of his
part in the raid upon their encampment. Bududreen had
told him much concerning the doctor, and as Muda Saffir
recalled the fact that von Horn was anxious to possess
himself of both the treasure and the girl he guessed
that he would be safe in the man's hands so long as he
could hold out promises of turning one or the other
over to him; and so, as he was tired of squatting upon
the uncomfortable bank and was very hungry, he arose
and hailed the passing prahu.
His men recognized his voice immediately and as they
knew nothing of the defection of any of their fellows,
turned the boat's prow toward shore without waiting
for the command from von Horn. The latter, fearing
treachery, sprang to his feet with raised rifle,
but when one of the paddlers explained that it was
the Rajah Muda Saffir who hailed them and that he was alone
von Horn permitted them to draw nearer the shore,
though he continued to stand ready to thwart any
attempted treachery and warned both the professor
and Sing to be on guard.
As the prahu's nose touched the bank Muda Saffir
stepped aboard and with many protestations of gratitude
explained that he had fallen overboard from his own
prahu the night before and that evidently his followers
thought him drowned, since none of his boats had
returned to search for him. Scarcely had the Malay
seated himself before von Horn began questioning him
in the rajah's native tongue, not a word of which
was intelligible to Professor Maxon. Sing, however,
was as familiar with it as was von Horn.
"Where are the girl and the treasure?" he asked.
"What girl, Tuan Besar?" inquired the wily Malay innocently.
"And what treasure? The white man speaks in riddles."
"Come, come," cried von Horn impatiently. "Let us have
no foolishness. You know perfectly well what I mean--
it will go far better with you if we work together as
friends. I want the girl--if she is unharmed--and I
will divide the treasure with you if you will help me
to obtain them; otherwise you shall have no part of either.
What do you say? Shall we be friends or enemies?"
"The girl and the treasure were both stolen from me
by a rascally panglima, Ninaka," said Muda Saffir,
seeing that it would be as well to simulate friendship
for the white man for the time being at least--there would
always be an opportunity to use a kris upon him in the
remote fastness of the interior to which Muda Saffir
would lead them.
"What became of the white man who led the strange monsters?"
asked von Horn.
"He killed many of my men, and the last I saw of him he
was pushing up the river after the girl and the treasure,"
replied the Malay.
"If another should ask you," continued von Horn with a
meaningful glance toward Professor Maxon, "it will be
well to say that the girl was stolen by this white
giant and that you suffered defeat in an attempt to
rescue her because of your friendship for us.
Do you understand?"
Muda Saffir nodded. Here was a man after his own heart,
which loved intrigue and duplicity. Evidently he would
be a good ally in wreaking vengeance upon the white giant
who had caused all his discomfiture-- afterward there
was always the kris if the other should become inconvenient.
At the long-house at which Barunda and Ninaka had halted,
Muda Saffir learned all that had transpired,
his informants being the two Dyaks who had led Bulan
and his pack into the jungle. He imparted the information
to von Horn and both men were delighted that thus
their most formidable enemy had been disposed of.
It would be but a question of time before the
inexperienced creatures perished in the dense forest--
that they ever could retrace their steps to the river
was most unlikely, and the chances were that one by one
they would be dispatched by head hunters while they slept.
Again the party embarked, reinforced by the two Dyaks
who were only too glad to renew their allegiance to
Muda Saffir while he was backed by the guns of the
white men. On and on they paddled up the river,
gleaning from the dwellers in the various long-houses
information of the passing of the two prahus with
Barunda, Ninaka, and the white girl.
Professor Maxon was impatient to hear every detail
that von Horn obtained from Muda Saffir and the various
Dyaks that were interviewed at the first long-house and
along the stretch of river they covered. The doctor
told him that Number Thirteen still had Virginia and
was fleeing up the river in a swift prahu. He enlarged
upon the valor shown by Muda Saffir and his men in
their noble attempt to rescue his daughter, and through
it all Sing Lee sat with half closed eyes, apparently
oblivious to all that passed before him. What were the
workings of that intricate celestial brain none can say.
Far in the interior of the jungle Bulan and his five
monsters stumbled on in an effort to find the river.
Had they known it they were moving parallel with the stream,
but a few miles from it. At times it wound in wide detours
close to the path of the lost creatures, and again it circled
far away from them.
As they travelled they subsisted upon the fruits with
which they had become familiar upon the island of their
creation. They suffered greatly for lack of water,
but finally stumbled upon a small stream at which they
filled their parched stomachs. Here it occurred to Bulan
that it would be wise to follow the little river,
since they could be no more completely lost than
they now were no matter where it should lead them,
and it would at least insure them plenty of fresh water.
As they proceeded down the bank of the stream it grew
in size until presently it became a fair sized river,
and Bulan had hopes that it might indeed prove the
stream that they had ascended from the ocean and that
soon he would meet with the prahus and possibly find
Virginia Maxon herself. The strenuous march of the six
through the jungle had torn their light cotton garments
into shreds so that they were all practically naked,
while their bodies were scratched and bleeding from
countless wounds inflicted by sharp thorns and tangled
brambles through which they had forced their way.
Bulan still carried his heavy bull whip while his five
companions were armed with the parangs they had taken
from the Dyaks they had overpowered upon the island
at the mouth of the river. It was upon this strange
and remarkable company that the sharp eyes of
a score of river Dyaks peered through the foliage.
The head hunters had been engaged in collecting camphor
crystals when their quick ears caught the noisy passage
of the six while yet at a considerable distance,
and with ready parangs the savages crept stealthily
toward the sound of the advancing party.
At first they were terror stricken at the hideous
visages of five of the creatures they beheld, but when
they saw how few their numbers, and how poorly armed
they were, as well as the awkwardness with which they
carried their parangs, denoting their unfamiliarity with
the weapons, they took heart and prepared to ambush them.
What prizes those terrible heads would be when properly
dried and decorated! The savages fairly trembled
in anticipation of the commotion they would cause
in the precincts of their long-house when they returned
with six such magnificent trophies.
Their victims came blundering on through the dense jungle
to where the twenty sleek brown warriors lay in wait for them.
Bulan was in the lead, and close behind him in single file
lumbered his awkward crew. Suddenly there was a chorus
of savage cries close beside him and simultaneously
he found himself in the midst of twenty cutting, slashing parangs.
Like lightning his bull whip flew into action, and to
the astonished warriors it was as though a score of men
were upon them in the person of this mighty white giant.
Following the example of their leader the five creatures
at his back leaped upon the nearest warriors,
and though they wielded their parangs awkwardly
the superhuman strength back of their cuts and thrusts
sent the already blood stained blades through many a brown body.
The Dyaks would gladly have retreated after the first
surprise of their initial attack, but Bulan urged his
men on after them, and so they were forced to fight
to preserve their lives at all. At last five of them
managed to escape into the jungle, but fifteen remained
quietly upon the earth where they had fallen--the victims
of their own over confidence. Beside them lay two
of Bulan's five, so that now the little party was reduced
to four--and the problem that had faced Professor Maxon
was so much closer to its own solution.
From the bodies of the dead Dyaks Bulan and his three
companions, Number Three, Number Ten, and Number Twelve,
took enough loin cloths, caps, war-coats, shields and weapons
to fit them out completely, after discarding the ragged remnants
of their cotton pajamas, and now, even more terrible in appearance
than before, the rapidly vanishing company of soulless monsters
continued their aimless wandering down the river's brim.
The five Dyaks who had escaped carried the news of the
terrible creatures that had fallen upon them in the jungle,
and of the awful prowess of the giant white man who led them.
They told of how, armed only with a huge whip, he had been
a match and more than a match for the best warriors of the tribe,
and the news that they started spread rapidly down the river
from one long-house to another until it reached the broad stream
into which the smaller river flowed, and then it travelled up
and down to the headwaters above and the ocean far below
in the remarkable manner that news travels in the wild
places of the world.
So it was that as Bulan advanced he found the long-houses
in his path deserted, and came to the larger river
and turned up toward its head without meeting
with resistance or even catching a glimpse
of the brown-skinned people who watched him
from their hiding places in the brush.
That night they slept in the long-house near the bank
of the greater stream, while its rightful occupants
made the best of it in the jungle behind. The next
morning found the four again on the march ere the sun
had scarcely lighted the dark places of the forest,
for Bulan was now sure that he was on the right trail
and that the new river that he had come to was indeed the
same that he had traversed in the Prahu with Barunda.
It must have been close to noon when the young giant's
ears caught the sound of the movement of some animal
in the jungle a short distance to his right and away
from the river. His experience with men had taught him
to be wary, for it was evident that every man's hand was
against him, so he determined to learn at once whether
the noise he heard came from some human enemy lurking
along his trail ready to spring upon him with naked
parang at a moment that he was least prepared,
or merely from some jungle brute.
Cautiously he threaded his way through the matted
vegetation in the direction of the sound. Although a
parang from the body of a vanquished Dyak hung at his
side he grasped his bull whip ready in his right hand,
preferring it to the less accustomed weapon of the
head hunter. For a dozen yards he advanced without
sighting the object of his search, but presently his
efforts were rewarded by a glimpse of a reddish,
hairy body, and a pair of close set, wicked eyes
peering at him from behind a giant tree.
At the same instant a slight movement at one side
attracted his attention to where another similar figure
crouched in the underbrush, and then a third, fourth
and fifth became evident about him. Bulan looked in
wonderment upon the strange, man-like creatures who eyed
him threateningly from every hand. They stood fully
as high as the brown Dyak warriors, but their bodies
were naked except for the growth of reddish hair which
covered them, shading to black upon the face and hands.
The lips of the nearest were raised in an angry snarl
that exposed wicked looking fighting fangs, but the
beasts did not seem inclined to initiate hostilities,
and as they were unarmed and evidently but engaged upon
their own affairs Bulan decided to withdraw without
arousing them further. As he turned to retrace his steps
he found his three companions gazing in wide-eyed astonishment
upon the strange new creatures which confronted them.
Number Ten was grinning broadly, while Number Three
advanced cautiously toward one of the creatures,
making a low guttural noise, that could only be interpreted
as peaceful and conciliatory--more like a feline purr
it was than anything else.
"What are you doing?" cried Bulan. "Leave them alone.
They have not offered to harm us."
"They are like us," replied Number Three. "They must
be our own people. I am going with them."
"And I," said Number Ten.
"And I," echoed Number Twelve. "At last we have found
our own, let us all go with them and live with them,
far away from the men who would beat us with great whips,
and cut us with their sharp swords."
"They are not human beings," exclaimed Bulan. "We cannot
live with them."
"Neither are we human beings," retorted Number Twelve.
"Has not von Horn told us so many times?"
"If I am not now a human being," replied Bulan, "I intend
to be one, and so I shall act as a human being should act.
I shall not go to live with savage beasts, nor shall you.
Come with me as I tell you, or you shall again taste the bull whip."
"We shall do as we please," growled Number Ten, baring
his fangs. "You are not our master. We have followed
you as long as we intend to. We are tired of forever
walking, walking, walking through the bushes that tear
our flesh and hurt us. Go and be a human being if you
think you can, but do not longer interfere with us or
we shall kill you," and he looked first at Number Three
and then at Number Twelve for approval of his ultimatum.
Number Three nodded his grotesque and hideous head--
he was so covered with long black hair that he more
nearly resembled an ourang outang than a human being.
Number Twelve looked doubtful.
"I think Number Ten is right," he said at last.
"We are not human. We have no souls. We are things.
And while you, Bulan, are beautiful, yet you are as much
a soulless thing as we--that much von Horn taught us well.
So I believe that it would be better were we to keep forever
from the sight of men. I do not much like the thought
of living with these strange, hairy monsters,
but we might find a place here in the jungle
where we could live alone and in peace."
"I do not want to live alone," cried Number Three.
"I want a mate, and I see a beautiful one yonder now.
I am going after her," and with that he again started
toward a female ourang outang; but the lady bared her
fangs and retreated before his advance.
"Even the beasts will have none of us," cried Number Ten angrily.
"Let us take them by force then," and he started after Number Three.
"Come back!" shouted Bulan, leaping after the two deserters.
As he raised his voice there came an answering cry
from a little distance ahead--a cry for help,
and it was in the agonized tones of a woman's voice.
"I am coming!" shouted Bulan, and without another
glance at his mutinous crew he sprang through the line
of menacing ourang outangs.
On the morning that Bulan set out with his three monsters
from the deserted long-house in which they had spent the night,
Professor Maxon's party was speeding up the river,
constantly buoyed with hope by the repeated reports of natives
that the white girl had been seen passing in a war prahu.
In translating this information to Professor Maxon,
von Horn habitually made it appear that the girl
was in the hands of Number Thirteen, or Bulan,
as they had now come to call him owing to the natives'
constant use of that name in speaking of the strange,
and formidable white giant who had invaded their land.
At the last long-house below the gorge, the head of
which had witnessed Virginia Maxon's escape from the
clutches of Ninaka and Barunda, the searching party was
forced to stop owing to a sudden attack of fever which
had prostrated the professor. Here they found a woman
who had a strange tale to relate of a remarkable sight
she had witnessed that very morning.
It seemed that she had been straining tapioca in a little
stream which flowed out of the jungle at the rear
of the long-house when her attention was attracted
by the crashing of an animal through the bushes a
few yards above her. As she looked she saw a huge MIAS
PAPPAN cross the stream, bearing in his arms the dead,
or unconscious form of a white-skinned girl with golden hair.
Her description of the MIAS PAPPAN was such as to half
convince von Horn that she might have seen Number Three
carrying Virginia Maxon, although he could not reconcile
the idea with the story that the two Dyaks had told him
of losing all of Bulan's monsters in the jungle.
Of course it was possible that they might have made
their way over land to this point, but it seemed
scarcely credible--and then, how could they have come
into posession of Virginia Maxon, whom every report
except this last agreed was still in the hands of
Ninaka and Barunda. There was always the possibility
that the natives had lied to him, and the more he
questioned the Dyak woman the more firmly convinced
he became that this was the fact.
The outcome of it was that von Horn finally decided
to make an attempt to follow the trail of the creature
that the woman had seen, and with this plan in view
persuaded Muda Saffir to arrange with the chief
of the long-house at which they then were to furnish
him with trackers and an escort of warriors,
promising them some splendid heads should they
be successful in overhauling Bulan and his pack.
Professor Maxon was too ill to accompany the expedition,
and von Horn set out alone with his Dyak allies.
For a time after they departed Sing Lee fretted
and fidgeted upon the verandah of the long-house.
He wholly distrusted von Horn, and from motives
of his own finally decided to follow him.
The trail of the party was plainly discernible,
and the Chinaman had no difficulty in following them,
so that they had gone no great way before
he came within hearing distance of them.
Always just far enough behind to be out of sight,
he kept pace with the little column as it marched
through the torrid heat of the morning, until a little
after noon he was startled by the sudden cry
of a woman in distress, and the answering shout of a man.
The voices came from a point in the jungle a little to
his right and behind him, and without waiting for the
column to return, or even to ascertain if they had
heard the cries, Sing ran rapidly in the direction
of the alarm. For a time he saw nothing, but was guided
by the snapping of twigs and the rustling of bushes ahead,
where the authors of the commotion were evidently moving
swiftly through the jungle.
Presently a strange sight burst upon his astonished vision.
It was the hideous Number Three in mad pursuit of a female
ourang outang, and an instant later he saw Number Twelve
and Number Ten in battle with two males, while beyond
he heard the voice of a man shouting encouragement
to some one as he dashed through the jungle.
It was in this last event that Sing's interest centered,
for he was sure that he recognized the voice as that of Bulan,
while the first cry for help which he had heard
had been in a woman's voice, and Sing knew that its author
could be none other than Virginia Maxon.
Those whom he pursued were moving rapidly through
the jungle which was now becoming more and more open,
but the Chinaman was no mean runner, and it was not long
before he drew within sight of the object of his pursuit.
His first glimpse was of Bulan, running swiftly between
two huge bull ourang outangs that snapped and tore at
him as he bounded forward cutting and slashing at his
foes with his heavy whip. Just in front of the trio
was another bull bearing in his arms the unconscious
form of Virginia Maxon who had fainted at the first
response to her cry for help. Sing was armed with a
heavy revolver but he dared not attempt to use it for
fear that he might wound either Bulan or the girl,
and so he was forced to remain but a passive spectator
of what ensued.
Bulan, notwithstanding the running battle the two bulls
were forcing upon him, was gaining steadily upon the
fleeing ourang outang that was handicapped by the weight
of the fair captive he bore in his huge, hairy arms.
As they came into a natural clearing in the jungle
the fleeing bull glanced back to see his pursuer almost
upon him, and with an angry roar turned to meet the charge.
In another instant Bulan and the three bulls were rolling
and tumbling about the ground, a mass of flying fur
and blood from which rose fierce and angry roars and growls,
while Virginia Maxon lay quietly upon the sward where
her captor had dropped her.
Sing was about to rush forward and pick her up, when
he saw von Horn and his Dyaks leap into the clearing,
to which they had been guided by the sounds of the chase
and the encounter. The doctor halted at the sight that
met his eyes--the prostrate form of the girl and the man
battling with three huge bulls.
Then he gathered up Virginia Maxon, and with a sign
to his Dyaks, who were thoroughly frightened at the
mere sight of the white giant of whom they had heard
such terrible stories, turned and hastened back
in the direction from which they had come, leaving
the man to what seemed must be a speedy and horrible death.
Sing Lee was astounded at the perfidy of the act.
To Bulan alone was due the entire credit of having rescued
Professor Maxon's daughter, and yet in the very
presence of his self-sacrificing loyalty and devotion
von Horn had deserted him without making the least
attempt to aid him. But the wrinkled old Chinaman
was made of different metal, and had started forward
to assist Bulan when a heavy hand suddenly fell upon his
shoulder. Looking around he saw the hideous face of
Number Ten snarling into his. The bloodshot eyes of
the monster were flaming with rage. He had been torn
and chewed by the bull with which he had fought,
and though he had finally overcome and killed the beast,
a female which he had pursued had eluded him. In a
frenzy of passion and blood lust aroused by his wounds,
disappointment and the taste of warm blood which still
smeared his lips and face, he had been seeking the
female when he suddenly stumbled upon the hapless Sing.
With a roar he grasped the Chinaman as though to break
him in two, but Sing was not at all inclined to give up
his life without a struggle, and Number Ten was quick
to learn that no mean muscles moved beneath that wrinkled,
There could, however, have been but one outcome to the
unequal struggle had Sing not been armed with a revolver,
though it was several seconds before he could bring it
into play upon the great thing that shook and tossed him
about as though he had been a rat in the mouth of a terrier.
But suddenly there was the sharp report of a firearm,
and another of Professor Maxon's unhappy experiments
sank back into the nothingness from which he had conjured it.
Then Sing turned his attention to Bulan and his three
savage assailants, but, except for the dead body of a
bull ourang outang upon the spot where he had last seen
the four struggling, there was no sign either of the
white man or his antagonists; nor, though he listened
attentively, could he catch the slightest sound within
the jungle other than the rustling of the leaves and
the raucous cries of the brilliant birds that flitted
among the gorgeous blooms about him.
For half an hour he searched in every direction, but finally,
fearing that he might become lost in the mazes of the unfamiliar
forest he reluctantly turned his face toward the river
and the long-house that sheltered his party.
Here he found Professor Maxon much improved--the safe
return of Virginia having acted as a tonic upon him.
The girl and her father sat with von Horn upon the
verandah of the long-house as Sing clambered up the
notched log that led to it from the ground. At sight
of Sing's wrinkled old face Virginia Maxon sprang to
her feet and ran forward to greet him, for she had been
very fond of the shrewd and kindly Chinaman of whom
she had seen so much during the dreary months
of her imprisonment within the campong.
"Oh, Sing," she cried, "where have you been? We were
all so worried to think that no sooner was one of us
rescued than another became lost."
"Sing takee walk, Linee, las all," said the grinning Chinaman.
"Velly glad see Linee black 'gain," and that was all that Sing Lee
had to say of the adventures through which he had just passed,
and the strange sights that he had seen.
Again and again the girl and von Horn narrated the
stirring scenes of the day, the latter being compelled
to repeat all that had transpired from the moment that
he had heard Virginia's cry, though it was apparent
that he only consented to speak of his part in her
rescue under the most considerable urging. Very pretty
modesty, thought Sing when he had heard the doctor's
version of the affair.
"You see," said von Horn, "when I reached the spot
Number Three, the brute that you thought was an ape,
had just turned you over to Number Thirteen, or, as the
natives now call him, Bulan. You were then in a faint,
and when I attacked Bulan he dropped you to defend himself.
I had expected a bitter fight from him after the wild tales
the natives have been telling of his ferocity,
but it was soon evident that he is an arrant coward,
for I did not even have to fire my revolver--
a few thumps with the butt of it upon his brainless
skull sent him howling into the jungle with his pack at his heels."
"How fortunate it is, my dear doctor," said Professor Maxon,
"that you were bright enough to think of trailing the miscreant
into the jungle. But for that Virginia would still be
in his clutches and by this time he would have been beyond
all hope of capture. How can we ever repay you, dear friend?"
"That you were generous enough to arrange when we first
embarked upon the search for your daughter," replied von Horn.
"Just so, just so," said the professor, but a shade of
trouble tinged the expression of his face, and a moment
later he arose, saying that he felt weak and tired and
would go to his sleeping room and lie down for a while.
The fact was that Professor Maxon regretted the promise
he had made von Horn relative to his daughter.
Once before he had made plans for her marriage only to
regret them later; he hoped that he had made no mistake
this time, but he realized that it had scarcely been
fair to Virginia to promise her to his assistant
without first obtaining her consent. Yet a promise
was a promise, and, again, was it not true that but
for von Horn she would have been dead or worse than dead
in a short time had she not been rescued from the clutches
of the soulless Bulan? Thus did the old man justify
his action, and clinch the determination that he had
before reached to compel Virginia to wed von Horn
should she, from some incomprehensible motive, demur.
Yet he hoped that the girl would make it easy,
by accepting voluntarily the man who had saved her life.
Left alone, or as he thought alone, with the girl in
the growing shadows of the evening, von Horn thought
the moment propitious for renewing his suit. He did
not consider the natives squatting about them as of
sufficient consequence to consider, since they would
not understand the language in which he addressed
Virginia, and in the dusk he failed to note that Sing
squatted with the Dyaks, close behind them.
"Virginia," he commenced, after an interval of silence,
"often before have I broached the subject nearest to
my heart, yet never have you given me much encouragement.
Can you not feel for the man who would gladly give his
life for you, sufficient affection to permit you to
make him the happiest man in the world? I do not ask
for all your love at first--that will come later.
Just give me the right to cherish and protect you.
Say that you will be my wife, Virginia, and we need
have no more fears that the strange vagaries of your
father's mind can ever again jeopardize your life
or your happiness as they have in the past."
"I feel that I owe you my life," replied the girl
in a quiet voice, "and while I am now positive
that my father has entirely regained his sanity,
and looks with as great abhorrence upon the terrible
fate he planned for me as I myself, I cannot forget
the debt of gratitude which belongs to you.
"At the same time I do not wish to be the means of making
you unhappy, as surely would be the result were I to marry
you without love. Let us wait until I know myself better.
Though you have spoken to me of the matter before,
I realize now that I never have made any effort
to determine whether or not I really can love you.
There is time enough before we reach civilization,
if ever we are fortunate enough to do so at all.
Will you not be as generous as you are brave,
and give me a few days before I must make you a final answer?"
With Professor Maxon's solemn promise to insure his
ultimate success von Horn was very gentle and gracious
in deferring to the girl's wishes. The girl for her
part could not put from her mind the disappointment she
had felt when she discovered that her rescuer was von
Horn, and not the handsome young giant whom she had
been positive was in close pursuit of her abductors.
When Number Thirteen had been mentioned she had always
pictured him as a hideous monster, similar to the creature
that had seized her in the jungle beside the encampment
that first day she had seen the mysterious stranger,
of whom she could obtain no information either from
her father or von Horn. When she had recently insisted
that the same man had been at the head of her father's
creatures in an attempt to rescue her, both von Horn
and Professor Maxon scoffed at the idea, until at last
she was convinced that the fright and the firelight
had conspired to conjure in her brain the likeness of one
who was linked by memory to another time of danger and despair.
Virginia could not understand why it was that the face
of the stranger persisted in obtruding itself in her memory.
That the man was unusually good looking was undeniable,
but she had known many good looking men, nor was she
especially impressionable to mere superficial beauty.
No words had passed between them on the occasion
of their first meeting, so it could have been nothing
that he said which caused the memory of him to cling
so tenaciously in her mind.
What was it then? Was it the memory of the moments
that she had lain in his strong arms--was it the shadow
of the sweet, warm glow that had suffused her
as his eyes had caught hers upon his face?
The thing was tantalizing--it was annoying. The girl
blushed in mortification at the very thought that she
could cling so resolutely to the memory of a total stranger,
and--still greater humiliation--long in the secret depths
of her soul to see him again.
She was angry with herself, but the more she tried
to forget the young giant who had come into her life
for so brief an instant, the more she speculated upon
his identity and the strange fate that had brought him
to their little, savage island only to snatch him away again
as mysteriously as he had come, the less was the approval
with which she looked upon the suit of Doctor von Horn.
Von Horn had left her, and strolled down to the river.
Finally Virginia arose to seek the crude couch which
had been spread for her in one of the sleeping rooms
of the long-house. As she passed a group of natives
squatted nearby one of the number arose and approached her,
and as she halted, half in fright, a low voice whispered:
"Lookee out, Linee, dloctor Hornee velly bad man."
"Why, Sing!" exclaimed Virginia. "What in the world
do you mean by saying such a thing as that?"
"Never mind, Linee; you always good to old Sing.
Sing no likee see you sadee. Dloctor Hornee velly bad man,
las allee," and without another word the Chinaman turned
and walked away.
After the escape of the girl Barunda and Ninaka had
fallen out over that affair and the division of the treasure,
with the result that the panglima had slipped a knife
between the ribs of his companion and dropped the body overboard.
Barunda's followers, however, had been highly enraged
at the act, and in the ensuing battle which they waged
for revenge of their murdered chief Ninaka and his crew
had been forced to take to the shore and hide in the jungle.
With difficulty they had saved the chest and dragged
it after them into the mazes of the underbrush. Finally,
however, they succeeded in eluding the angry enemy,
and took up their march through the interior for the head
of a river which would lead them to the sea by another
route, it being Ninaka's intention to dispose of the
contents of the chest as quickly as possible through
the assistance of a rascally Malay who dwelt at Gunung
Tebor, where he carried on a thriving trade with pirates.
But presently it became apparent that he had not so
easily escaped the fruits of his villainy as he had
supposed, for upon the evening of the first day the
rear of his little column was attacked by some of
Barunda's warriors who had forged ahead of their
fellows, with the result that the head of Ninaka's
brother went to increase the prestige and glory
of the house of the enemy.
Ninaka was panic-stricken, since he knew that hampered
as he was by the heavy chest he could neither fight
nor run to advantage. And so, upon a dark night near
the head waters of the river he sought, he buried
the treasure at the foot of a mighty buttress tree,
and with his parang made certain cabalistic signs upon
the bole whereby he might identify the spot when it was
safe to return and disinter his booty. Then, with his men,
he hastened down the stream until they reached the head
of prahu navigation where they stole a craft and paddled
swiftly on toward the sea.
When the three bull ourang outangs closed upon Bulan he
felt no fear as to the outcome of the battle, for never
in his experience had he coped with any muscles that
his own mighty thews could not overcome. But as
the battle continued he realized that there might be
a limit to the number of antagonists which he could
successfully withstand, since he could scarcely hope
with but two hands to reach the throats of three enemies,
or ward off the blows and clutches of six powerful hands,
or the gnashing of three sets of savage fangs.
When the truth dawned upon him that he was being killed
the instinct of self-preservation was born in him.
The ferocity with which he had fought before paled
into insignificance beside the mad fury with which
he now attacked the three terrible creatures upon him.
Shaking himself like a great lion he freed his arms for
a moment from the clinging embrace of his foemen,
and seizing the neck of the nearest in his mighty clutch
wrenched the head completely around.
There was one awful shriek from the tortured brute--
the vertebrae parted with a snap, and Bulan's antagonists
were reduced to two. Lunging and struggling the three
combatants stumbled farther and farther into the jungle
beyond the clearing. With mighty blows the man buffeted
the beasts to right and left, but ever they returned
in bestial rage to renew the encounter. Bulan was
weakening rapidly under the terrific strain to which
he had been subjected, and from loss of the blood
which flowed from his wounds; yet he was slowly
mastering the foaming brutes, who themselves were torn
and bleeding and exhausted. Weaker and weaker became
the struggles of them all, when a sudden misstep sent Bulan
stumbling headforemost against the stem of a tree, where,
stunned, he sank unconscious, at the mercy of the relentless bulls.
They had already sprung upon the prostrate form of
their victim to finish what the accident had commenced,
when the loud report of Sing's revolver smote upon
their startled ears as the Chinaman's bullet buried
itself in the heart of Number Ten. Never had the
ourang outangs heard the sound of a firearm, and the
noise, seemingly in such close proximity, filled them
with such terror that on the instant they forgot all
else than this new and startling fear, and with
headlong haste leaped away into the jungle,
leaving Bulan lying where he had fallen.
So it was that though Sing passed within a few paces
of the unconscious man he neither saw nor heard aught
of him or his antagonists.
When Bulan returned to consciousness the day was
drawing to a close. He was stiff and sore and weak.
His head ached horribly. He thought that he must indeed
be dying, for how could one who suffered so revive?
But at last he managed to stagger to his feet,
and finally to reach the stream along which
he had been travelling earlier in the day.
Here he quenched his thirst and bathed his wounds,
and as darkness came he lay down to sleep upon
a bed of matted grasses.
The next morning found him refreshed and in considerably
less pain, for the powers of recuperation which
belonged to his perfect health and mighty physique
had already worked an almost miraculous transformation in him.
While he was hunting in the jungle for his breakfast he came
suddenly upon Number Three and Number Twelve similarly employed.
At sight of him the two creatures started to run away,
but he called to them reassuringly and they returned.
On closer inspection Bulan saw that both were covered
with terrible wounds, and after questioning them
learned that they had fared almost as badly
at the hands of the ourang outangs as had he.
"Even the beasts loathe us," exclaimed Number Twelve.
"What are we to do?"
"Leave the beasts alone, as I told you," replied Bulan.
"Human beings hate us also," persisted Number Twelve.
"Then let us live by ourselves," suggested Number Three.
"We hate each other," retorted the pessimistic Number Twelve.
"There is no place for us in the world, and no companionship.
We are but soulless things."
"Stop!" cried Bulan. "I am not a soulless thing.
I am a man, and within me is as fine and pure a soul
as any man may own," and to his mind's eye came the vision
of a fair face surmounted by a mass of loosely waving,
golden hair; but the brainless ones could not understand
and only shook their heads as they resumed their feeding
and forgot the subject.
When the three had satisfied the cravings of their
appetites two of them were for lying down to sleep
until it should be time to feed again, but Bulan,
once more master, would not permit it, and forced them
to accompany him in his seemingly futile search for the
girl who had disappeared so mysteriously after he had
rescued her from the ourang outangs.
Both Number Twelve and Number Three had assured him
that the beasts had not recaptured her, for they had
seen the entire band flee madly through the jungle
after hearing the report of the single shot which had
so terrorized Bulan's antagonists. Bulan did not know
what to make of this occurrence which he had not
himself heard, the shot having come after he had lost
consciousness at the foot of the tree; but from the
description of the noise given him by Number Twelve
he felt sure that it must have been the report of a gun,
and hoped that it betokened the presence of Virginia Maxon's
friends, and that she was now safe in their keeping.
Nevertheless he did not relinquish his determination
to continue his search for her, since it was quite
possible that the gun had been fired by a native,
many of whom possessed firearms. His first concern
was for the girl's welfare, which spoke eloquently
for the chivalry of his character, and though he wished
to see her for the pleasure that it would give him,
the hope of serving her was ever the first consideration
in his mind.
He was now confident that he was following the wrong direction,
and with the intention in view of discovering the tracks
of the party which had rescued or captured Virginia
after he had been forced to relinquish her,
he set out in a totally new direction away from the river.
His small woodcraft and little experience in travelling
resulted in his becoming completely confused,
so that instead of returning to the spot
where he had last seen the girl, as he wished to
do, he bore far to the northeast of the place,
and missed entirely the path which von Horn
and his Dyaks had taken from the long-house
into the jungle and back.
All that day he urged his reluctant companions on through
the fearful heat of the tropics until, almost exhausted,
they halted at dusk upon the bank of a river,
where they filled their stomachs with cooling draughts,
and after eating lay down to sleep. It was quite dark
when Bulan was aroused by the sound of something approaching
from up the river, and as he lay listening he presently heard
the subdued voices of men conversing in whispers.
He recognized the language as that of the Dyaks,
though he could interpret nothing which they said.
Presently he saw a dozen warriors emerge into a little
patch of moonlight. They bore a huge chest among them
which they deposited within a few paces of where Bulan lay.
Then they commenced to dig in the soft earth with
their spears and parangs until they had excavated a
shallow pit. Into this they lowered the chest,
covering it over with earth and sprinkling dead grass,
twigs and leaves above it, that it might present to a
searcher no sign that the ground had recently been
disturbed. The balance of the loose earth which would
not go back into the pit was thrown into the river.
When all had been made to appear as it was before,
one of the warriors made several cuts and scratches
upon the stem of a tree which grew above the spot where
the chest was buried; then they hastened on in silence
past Bulan and down the river.
As von Horn stood by the river's bank after his
conversation with Virginia, he saw a small sampan
approaching from up stream. In it he made out two
natives, and the stealthiness of their approach caused
him to withdraw into the shadow of a large prahu which
was beached close to where he had been standing.
When the men had come close to the landing one of them
gave a low signal, and presently a native came down
from the long-house.
"Who is it comes by night?" he asked. "And what want you?"
"News has just reached us that Muda Saffir is alive,"
replied one of the men in the boat, "and that he sleeps
this night in your long-house. Is it true?"
"Yes," answered the man on shore. "What do you wish of
the Rajah Muda Saffir?"
"We are men of his company and we have news for him,"
returned the speaker in the sampan. "Tell him that we
must speak to him at once."
The native on shore returned to the long-house without
replying. Von Horn wondered what the important news
for Muda Saffir might be, and so he remained as he had been,
concealed behind the prahu.
Presently the old Malay came down to the water's edge--
very warily though--and asked the men whom they might be.
When they had given their names he seemed relieved.
"Ninaka," they said, "has murdered Barunda
who was taking the rajah's treasure up to
the rajah's stronghold--the treasure which Ninaka
had stolen after trying to murder the rajah and which Barunda
had recaptured. Now Ninaka, after murdering Barunda,
set off through the jungle toward the river which leads
to Gunung Tebor, and Barunda's uncle followed him with
what few men he had with him; but he sent us down river
to try and find you, master, and beg of you to come
with many men and overtake Ninaka and punish him."
Muda Saffir thought for a moment.
"Hasten back to the uncle of Barunda and tell him that
as soon as I can gather the warriors I shall come and
punish Ninaka. I have another treasure here which I
must not lose, but I can arrange that it will still
be here when I return for it, and then Barunda's uncle
can come back with me to assist me if assistance is needed.
Also, be sure to tell Barunda's uncle never to lose
sight of the treasure," and Muda Saffir turned and
hastened back to the long-house.
As the men in the sampan headed the boat's bow up
stream again, von Horn ran along the jungle trail
beside the river and abreast of the paddlers. When he
thought that they were out of hearing of the long-house
he hailed the two. In startled surprise the men ceased paddling.
"Who are you and what do you want?" asked one.
"I am the man to whom the chest belongs," replied von Horn.
"If you will take me to Barunda's uncle before Muda Saffir
reaches him you shall each have the finest rifles that
the white man makes, with ammunition enough to last you a year.
All I ask is that you guide me within sight of the party
that pursues Ninaka; then you may leave me and tell
no one what you have done, nor will I tell any. What say you?"
The two natives consulted together in low tones.
At last they drew nearer the shore.
"Will you give us each a bracelet of brass as well as
the rifles?" asked the spokesman.
Von Horn hesitated. He knew the native nature well.
To have acquiesced too readily would have been to have
invited still further demands from them.
"Only the rifles and ammunition," he said at last,
"unless you succeed in keeping the knowledge of my
presence from both Barunda's uncle and Muda Saffir.
If you do that you shall have the bracelets also."
The prow of the sampan touched the bank.
"Come!" said one of the warriors.
Von Horn stepped aboard. He was armed only with a
brace of Colts, and he was going into the heart
of the wild country of the head hunters, to pit his wits
against those of the wily Muda Saffir. His guides were
two savage head hunting warriors of a pirate crew from
whom he hoped to steal what they considered a fabulously
rich treasure. Whatever sins might be laid to the door
of the doctor, there could be no question but that
he was a very brave man!
Von Horn's rash adventure had been suggested by the hope
that he might, by bribing some of the natives with Barunda's uncle,
make way with the treasure before Muda Saffir arrived to claim it,
or, failing that, learn its exact whereabouts that he might
return for it with an adequate force later. That he was taking
his life in his hands he well knew, but so great was the man's
cupidity that he reckoned no risk too great for the acquirement
of a fortune.
The two Dyaks, paddling in silence up the dark river,
proceeded for nearly three hours before they drew in to
the bank and dragged the sampan up into the bushes.
Then they set out upon a narrow trail into the jungle.
It so happened that after travelling for several miles
they inadvertently took another path than that followed
by the party under Barunda's uncle, so that they passed
the latter without being aware of it, going nearly half
a mile to the right of where the trailers camped a short
distance from the bivouac of Ninaka.
In the dead of night Ninaka and his party had crawled
away under the very noses of the avengers, taking the
chest with them, and by chance von Horn and the two
Dyaks cut back into the main trail along the river almost
at the very point that Ninaka halted to bury the treasure.
And so it was that Bulan was not the only one who watched
the hiding of the chest.
When Ninaka had disappeared down the river trail Bulan
lay speculating upon the strange actions he had witnessed.
He wondered why the men should dig a hole in the midst
of the jungle to hide away the box which he had so often
seen in Professor Maxon's workshop. It occurred to him that
it might be well to remember just where the thing was buried,
so that he could lead the professor to it should he ever see
the old man again. As he lay thus, half dozing, his attention
was attracted by a stealthy rustling in the bushes nearby,
and as he watched he was dumbfounded to see von Horn
creep out into the moonlight. A moment later the man
was followed by two Dyaks. The three stood conversing
in low tones, pointing repeatedly at the spot where the
chest lay hidden. Bulan could understand but little of
their conversation, but it was evident that von Horn
was urging some proposition to which the warriors demurred.
Suddenly, without an instant's warning, von Horn drew
his gun, wheeled, and fired point-blank, first at one
of his companions, then at the other. Both men fell
in their tracks, and scarcely had the pungent odor
of the powder smoke reached Bulan's nostrils ere
the white man had plunged into the jungle and disappeared.
Failing in his attempt to undermine the loyalty of the
two Dyaks von Horn had chosen the only other way to keep
the knowledge of the whereabouts of the chest from Barunda's
uncle and Muda Saffir, and now his principal interest
in life was to escape the vengeance of the head hunters
and return to the long-house before his absence should be detected.
There he could form a party of natives and set out
to regain the chest after Muda Saffir and Barunda's uncle
had given up the quest. That suspicion should fall
on him seemed scarcely credible since the only men
who knew that he had left the long-house that night
lay dead upon the very spot where the treasure reposed.
MAN OR MONSTER?
When Muda Saffir turned from the two Dyaks who had
brought him news of the treasure he hastened to the
long-house and arousing the chief of the tribe who
domiciled there explained that necessity required that
the rajah have at once two war prahus fully manned.
Now the power of the crafty old Malay extended from one
end of this great river on which the long-house lay to
the other, and though not all the tribes admitted
allegiance to him, yet there were few who would not
furnish him with men and boats when he required them;
for his piratical cruises carried him often up and down
the stream, and with his savage horde it was possible
for him to wreak summary and terrible vengeance upon
those who opposed him.
When he had explained his wishes to the chief, the
latter, though at heart hating and fearing Muda Saffir,
dared not refuse; but to a second proposition he offered
strong opposition until the rajah threatened to wipe out
his entire tribe should he not accede to his demands.
The thing which the chief demurred to had occurred
to Muda Saffir even as he walked back from the river
after conversing with the two Dyak messengers. The thought
of regaining the treasure, the while he administered
punishment to the traitorous Ninaka, filled his soul
with savage happiness. Now if he could but once more
possess himself of the girl! And why not? There was
only the sick old man, a Chinaman and von Horn to prevent it,
and the chances were that they all were asleep.
So he explained to the chief the plan that
had so suddenly sprung to his wicked mind.
"Three men with parangs may easily quiet the old man,
his assistant and the Chinaman," he said,
"and then we can take the girl along with us."
The chief refused at first, point-blank, to be a party to any
such proceedings. He knew what had happened to the Sakkaran
Dyaks after they had murdered a party of Englishmen,
and he did not purpose laying himself and his tribe open
to the vengeance of the white men who came in many boats
and with countless guns and cannon to take a terrible toll
for every drop of white blood spilled.
So it was that Muda Saffir was forced to compromise,
and be satisfied with the chief's assistance in
abducting the girl, for it was not so difficult
a matter to convince the head hunter that she really
had belonged to the rajah, and that she had been stolen
from him by the old man and the doctor.
Virginia slept in a room with three Dyak women.