Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Beasts of Tarzan online

. (page 11 of 15)
Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 11 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


water, Jane Clayton's heart had beat fast with hope and thanksgiving,
but as she drew closer to the craft and saw that it was the Kincaid,
her pleasure gave place to the gravest misgivings.

It was too late, however, to turn back, for the current that carried
her toward the ship was much too strong for her muscles. She could not
have forced the heavy dugout up-stream against it, and all that was
left her was to attempt either to make the shore without being seen by
those upon the deck of the Kincaid, or to throw herself upon their
mercy - otherwise she must be swept out to sea.

She knew that the shore held little hope of life for her, as she had no
knowledge of the location of the friendly Mosula village to which
Anderssen had taken her through the darkness of the night of their
escape from the Kincaid.

With Rokoff away from the steamer it might be possible that by offering
those in charge a large reward they could be induced to carry her to
the nearest civilized port. It was worth risking - if she could make
the steamer at all.

The current was bearing her swiftly down the river, and she found that
only by dint of the utmost exertion could she direct the awkward craft
toward the vicinity of the Kincaid. Having reached the decision to
board the steamer, she now looked to it for aid, but to her surprise
the decks appeared to be empty and she saw no sign of life aboard the
ship.

The dugout was drawing closer and closer to the bow of the vessel, and
yet no hail came over the side from any lookout aboard. In a moment
more, Jane realized, she would be swept beyond the steamer, and then,
unless they lowered a boat to rescue her, she would be carried far out
to sea by the current and the swift ebb tide that was running.

The young woman called loudly for assistance, but there was no reply
other than the shrill scream of some savage beast upon the
jungle-shrouded shore. Frantically Jane wielded the paddle in an
effort to carry her craft close alongside the steamer.

For a moment it seemed that she should miss her goal by but a few feet,
but at the last moment the canoe swung close beneath the steamer's bow
and Jane barely managed to grasp the anchor chain.

Heroically she clung to the heavy iron links, almost dragged from the
canoe by the strain of the current upon her craft. Beyond her she saw
a monkey-ladder dangling over the steamer's side. To release her hold
upon the chain and chance clambering to the ladder as her canoe was
swept beneath it seemed beyond the pale of possibility, yet to remain
clinging to the anchor chain appeared equally as futile.

Finally her glance chanced to fall upon the rope in the bow of the
dugout, and, making one end of this fast to the chain, she succeeded in
drifting the canoe slowly down until it lay directly beneath the
ladder. A moment later, her rifle slung about her shoulders, she had
clambered safely to the deserted deck.

Her first task was to explore the ship, and this she did, her rifle
ready for instant use should she meet with any human menace aboard the
Kincaid. She was not long in discovering the cause of the apparently
deserted condition of the steamer, for in the forecastle she found the
sailors, who had evidently been left to guard the ship, deep in drunken
slumber.

With a shudder of disgust she clambered above, and to the best of her
ability closed and made fast the hatch above the heads of the sleeping
guard. Next she sought the galley and food, and, having appeased her
hunger, she took her place on deck, determined that none should board
the Kincaid without first having agreed to her demands.

For an hour or so nothing appeared upon the surface of the river to
cause her alarm, but then, about a bend up-stream, she saw a canoe
appear in which sat a single figure. It had not proceeded far in her
direction before she recognized the occupant as Rokoff, and when the
fellow attempted to board he found a rifle staring him in the face.

When the Russian discovered who it was that repelled his advance he
became furious, cursing and threatening in a most horrible manner; but,
finding that these tactics failed to frighten or move the girl, he at
last fell to pleading and promising.

Jane had but a single reply for his every proposition, and that was
that nothing would ever persuade her to permit Rokoff upon the same
vessel with her. That she would put her threats into action and shoot
him should he persist in his endeavour to board the ship he was
convinced.

So, as there was no other alternative, the great coward dropped back
into his dugout and, at imminent risk of being swept to sea, finally
succeeded in making the shore far down the bay and upon the opposite
side from that on which the horde of beasts stood snarling and roaring.

Jane Clayton knew that the fellow could not alone and unaided bring his
heavy craft back up-stream to the Kincaid, and so she had no further
fear of an attack by him. The hideous crew upon the shore she thought
she recognized as the same that had passed her in the jungle far up the
Ugambi several days before, for it seemed quite beyond reason that
there should be more than one such a strangely assorted pack; but what
had brought them down-stream to the mouth of the river she could not
imagine.

Toward the day's close the girl was suddenly alarmed by the shouting of
the Russian from the opposite bank of the stream, and a moment later,
following the direction of his gaze, she was terrified to see a ship's
boat approaching from up-stream, in which, she felt assured, there
could be only members of the Kincaid's missing crew - only heartless
ruffians and enemies.




Chapter 16

In the Darkness of the Night


When Tarzan of the Apes realized that he was in the grip of the great
jaws of a crocodile he did not, as an ordinary man might have done,
give up all hope and resign himself to his fate.

Instead, he filled his lungs with air before the huge reptile dragged
him beneath the surface, and then, with all the might of his great
muscles, fought bitterly for freedom. But out of his native element
the ape-man was too greatly handicapped to do more than excite the
monster to greater speed as it dragged its prey swiftly through the
water.

Tarzan's lungs were bursting for a breath of pure fresh air. He knew
that he could survive but a moment more, and in the last paroxysm of
his suffering he did what he could to avenge his own death.

His body trailed out beside the slimy carcass of his captor, and into
the tough armour the ape-man attempted to plunge his stone knife as he
was borne to the creature's horrid den.

His efforts but served to accelerate the speed of the crocodile, and
just as the ape-man realized that he had reached the limit of his
endurance he felt his body dragged to a muddy bed and his nostrils rise
above the water's surface. All about him was the blackness of the
pit - the silence of the grave.

For a moment Tarzan of the Apes lay gasping for breath upon the slimy,
evil-smelling bed to which the animal had borne him. Close at his side
he could feel the cold, hard plates of the creature's coat rising and
falling as though with spasmodic efforts to breathe.

For several minutes the two lay thus, and then a sudden convulsion of
the giant carcass at the man's side, a tremor, and a stiffening brought
Tarzan to his knees beside the crocodile. To his utter amazement he
found that the beast was dead. The slim knife had found a vulnerable
spot in the scaly armour.

Staggering to his feet, the ape-man groped about the reeking, oozy den.
He found that he was imprisoned in a subterranean chamber amply large
enough to have accommodated a dozen or more of the huge animals such as
the one that had dragged him thither.

He realized that he was in the creature's hidden nest far under the
bank of the stream, and that doubtless the only means of ingress or
egress lay through the submerged opening through which the crocodile
had brought him.

His first thought, of course, was of escape, but that he could make his
way to the surface of the river beyond and then to the shore seemed
highly improbable. There might be turns and windings in the neck of
the passage, or, most to be feared, he might meet another of the slimy
inhabitants of the retreat upon his journey outward.

Even should he reach the river in safety, there was still the danger of
his being again attacked before he could effect a safe landing. Still
there was no alternative, and, filling his lungs with the close and
reeking air of the chamber, Tarzan of the Apes dived into the dark and
watery hole which he could not see but had felt out and found with his
feet and legs.

The leg which had been held within the jaws of the crocodile was badly
lacerated, but the bone had not been broken, nor were the muscles or
tendons sufficiently injured to render it useless. It gave him
excruciating pain, that was all.

But Tarzan of the Apes was accustomed to pain, and gave it no further
thought when he found that the use of his legs was not greatly impaired
by the sharp teeth of the monster.

Rapidly he crawled and swam through the passage which inclined downward
and finally upward to open at last into the river bottom but a few feet
from the shore line. As the ape-man reached the surface he saw the
heads of two great crocodiles but a short distance from him. They were
making rapidly in his direction, and with a superhuman effort the man
struck out for the overhanging branches of a near-by tree.

Nor was he a moment too soon, for scarcely had he drawn himself to the
safety of the limb than two gaping mouths snapped venomously below him.
For a few minutes Tarzan rested in the tree that had proved the means
of his salvation. His eyes scanned the river as far down-stream as
the tortuous channel would permit, but there was no sign of the Russian
or his dugout.

When he had rested and bound up his wounded leg he started on in
pursuit of the drifting canoe. He found himself upon the opposite of
the river to that at which he had entered the stream, but as his quarry
was upon the bosom of the water it made little difference to the
ape-man upon which side he took up the pursuit.

To his intense chagrin he soon found that his leg was more badly
injured than he had thought, and that its condition seriously impeded
his progress. It was only with the greatest difficulty that he could
proceed faster than a walk upon the ground, and in the trees he
discovered that it not only impeded his progress, but rendered
travelling distinctly dangerous.

From the old negress, Tambudza, Tarzan had gathered a suggestion that
now filled his mind with doubts and misgivings. When the old woman had
told him of the child's death she had also added that the white woman,
though grief-stricken, had confided to her that the baby was not hers.

Tarzan could see no reason for believing that Jane could have found it
advisable to deny her identity or that of the child; the only
explanation that he could put upon the matter was that, after all, the
white woman who had accompanied his son and the Swede into the jungle
fastness of the interior had not been Jane at all.

The more he gave thought to the problem, the more firmly convinced he
became that his son was dead and his wife still safe in London, and in
ignorance of the terrible fate that had overtaken her first-born.

After all, then, his interpretation of Rokoff's sinister taunt had been
erroneous, and he had been bearing the burden of a double apprehension
needlessly - at least so thought the ape-man. From this belief he
garnered some slight surcease from the numbing grief that the death of
his little son had thrust upon him.

And such a death! Even the savage beast that was the real Tarzan,
inured to the sufferings and horrors of the grim jungle, shuddered as
he contemplated the hideous fate that had overtaken the innocent child.

As he made his way painfully towards the coast, he let his mind dwell
so constantly upon the frightful crimes which the Russian had
perpetrated against his loved ones that the great scar upon his
forehead stood out almost continuously in the vivid scarlet that marked
the man's most relentless and bestial moods of rage. At times he
startled even himself and sent the lesser creatures of the wild jungle
scampering to their hiding places as involuntary roars and growls
rumbled from his throat.

Could he but lay his hand upon the Russian!

Twice upon the way to the coast bellicose natives ran threateningly
from their villages to bar his further progress, but when the awful cry
of the bull-ape thundered upon their affrighted ears, and the great
white giant charged bellowing upon them, they had turned and fled into
the bush, nor ventured thence until he had safely passed.

Though his progress seemed tantalizingly slow to the ape-man whose idea
of speed had been gained by such standards as the lesser apes attain,
he made, as a matter of fact, almost as rapid progress as the drifting
canoe that bore Rokoff on ahead of him, so that he came to the bay and
within sight of the ocean just after darkness had fallen upon the same
day that Jane Clayton and the Russian ended their flights from the
interior.

The darkness lowered so heavily upon the black river and the encircling
jungle that Tarzan, even with eyes accustomed to much use after dark,
could make out nothing a few yards from him. His idea was to search
the shore that night for signs of the Russian and the woman who he was
certain must have preceded Rokoff down the Ugambi. That the Kincaid or
other ship lay at anchor but a hundred yards from him he did not dream,
for no light showed on board the steamer.

Even as he commenced his search his attention was suddenly attracted by
a noise that he had not at first perceived - the stealthy dip of paddles
in the water some distance from the shore, and about opposite the point
at which he stood. Motionless as a statue he stood listening to the
faint sound.

Presently it ceased, to be followed by a shuffling noise that the
ape-man's trained ears could interpret as resulting from but a single
cause - the scraping of leather-shod feet upon the rounds of a ship's
monkey-ladder. And yet, as far as he could see, there was no ship
there - nor might there be one within a thousand miles.

As he stood thus, peering out into the darkness of the cloud-enshrouded
night, there came to him from across the water, like a slap in the
face, so sudden and unexpected was it, the sharp staccato of an
exchange of shots and then the scream of a woman.

Wounded though he was, and with the memory of his recent horrible
experience still strong upon him, Tarzan of the Apes did not hesitate
as the notes of that frightened cry rose shrill and piercing upon the
still night air. With a bound he cleared the intervening bush - there
was a splash as the water closed about him - and then, with powerful
strokes, he swam out into the impenetrable night with no guide save the
memory of an illusive cry, and for company the hideous denizens of an
equatorial river.


The boat that had attracted Jane's attention as she stood guard upon
the deck of the Kincaid had been perceived by Rokoff upon one bank and
Mugambi and the horde upon the other. The cries of the Russian had
brought the dugout first to him, and then, after a conference, it had
been turned toward the Kincaid, but before ever it covered half the
distance between the shore and the steamer a rifle had spoken from the
latter's deck and one of the sailors in the bow of the canoe had
crumpled and fallen into the water.

After that they went more slowly, and presently, when Jane's rifle had
found another member of the party, the canoe withdrew to the shore,
where it lay as long as daylight lasted.

The savage, snarling pack upon the opposite shore had been directed in
their pursuit by the black warrior, Mugambi, chief of the Wagambi.
Only he knew which might be foe and which friend of their lost master.

Could they have reached either the canoe or the Kincaid they would have
made short work of any whom they found there, but the gulf of black
water intervening shut them off from farther advance as effectually as
though it had been the broad ocean that separated them from their prey.

Mugambi knew something of the occurrences which had led up to the
landing of Tarzan upon Jungle Island and the pursuit of the whites up
the Ugambi. He knew that his savage master sought his wife and child
who had been stolen by the wicked white man whom they had followed far
into the interior and now back to the sea.

He believed also that this same man had killed the great white giant
whom he had come to respect and love as he had never loved the greatest
chiefs of his own people. And so in the wild breast of Mugambi burned
an iron resolve to win to the side of the wicked one and wreak
vengeance upon him for the murder of the ape-man.

But when he saw the canoe come down the river and take in Rokoff, when
he saw it make for the Kincaid, he realized that only by possessing
himself of a canoe could he hope to transport the beasts of the pack
within striking distance of the enemy.

So it happened that even before Jane Clayton fired the first shot into
Rokoff's canoe the beasts of Tarzan had disappeared into the jungle.

After the Russian and his party, which consisted of Paulvitch and the
several men he had left upon the Kincaid to attend to the matter of
coaling, had retreated before her fire, Jane realized that it would be
but a temporary respite from their attentions which she had gained, and
with the conviction came a determination to make a bold and final
stroke for freedom from the menacing threat of Rokoff's evil purpose.

With this idea in view she opened negotiations with the two sailors she
had imprisoned in the forecastle, and having forced their consent to
her plans, upon pain of death should they attempt disloyalty, she
released them just as darkness closed about the ship.

With ready revolver to compel obedience, she let them up one by one,
searching them carefully for concealed weapons as they stood with hands
elevated above their heads. Once satisfied that they were unarmed, she
set them to work cutting the cable which held the Kincaid to her
anchorage, for her bold plan was nothing less than to set the steamer
adrift and float with her out into the open sea, there to trust to the
mercy of the elements, which she was confident would be no more
merciless than Nikolas Rokoff should he again capture her.

There was, too, the chance that the Kincaid might be sighted by some
passing ship, and as she was well stocked with provisions and
water - the men had assured her of this fact - and as the season of storm
was well over, she had every reason to hope for the eventual success of
her plan.

The night was deeply overcast, heavy clouds riding low above the jungle
and the water - only to the west, where the broad ocean spread beyond
the river's mouth, was there a suggestion of lessening gloom.

It was a perfect night for the purposes of the work in hand.

Her enemies could not see the activity aboard the ship nor mark her
course as the swift current bore her outward into the ocean. Before
daylight broke the ebb-tide would have carried the Kincaid well into
the Benguela current which flows northward along the coast of Africa,
and, as a south wind was prevailing, Jane hoped to be out of sight of
the mouth of the Ugambi before Rokoff could become aware of the
departure of the steamer.

Standing over the labouring seamen, the young woman breathed a sigh of
relief as the last strand of the cable parted and she knew that the
vessel was on its way out of the maw of the savage Ugambi.

With her two prisoners still beneath the coercing influence of her
rifle, she ordered them upon deck with the intention of again
imprisoning them in the forecastle; but at length she permitted herself
to be influenced by their promises of loyalty and the arguments which
they put forth that they could be of service to her, and permitted them
to remain above.

For a few minutes the Kincaid drifted rapidly with the current, and
then, with a grinding jar, she stopped in midstream. The ship had run
upon a low-lying bar that splits the channel about a quarter of a mile
from the sea.

For a moment she hung there, and then, swinging round until her bow
pointed toward the shore, she broke adrift once more.

At the same instant, just as Jane Clayton was congratulating herself
that the ship was once more free, there fell upon her ears from a point
up the river about where the Kincaid had been anchored the rattle of
musketry and a woman's scream - shrill, piercing, fear-laden.

The sailors heard the shots with certain conviction that they announced
the coming of their employer, and as they had no relish for the plan
that would consign them to the deck of a drifting derelict, they
whispered together a hurried plan to overcome the young woman and hail
Rokoff and their companions to their rescue.

It seemed that fate would play into their hands, for with the reports
of the guns Jane Clayton's attention had been distracted from her
unwilling assistants, and instead of keeping one eye upon them as she
had intended doing, she ran to the bow of the Kincaid to peer through
the darkness toward the source of the disturbance upon the river's
bosom.

Seeing that she was off her guard, the two sailors crept stealthily
upon her from behind.

The scraping upon the deck of the shoes of one of them startled the
girl to a sudden appreciation of her danger, but the warning had come
too late.

As she turned, both men leaped upon her and bore her to the deck, and
as she went down beneath them she saw, outlined against the lesser
gloom of the ocean, the figure of another man clamber over the side of
the Kincaid.

After all her pains her heroic struggle for freedom had failed. With a
stifled sob she gave up the unequal battle.




Chapter 17

On the Deck of the "Kincaid"


When Mugambi had turned back into the jungle with the pack he had a
definite purpose in view. It was to obtain a dugout wherewith to
transport the beasts of Tarzan to the side of the Kincaid. Nor was he
long in coming upon the object which he sought.

Just at dusk he found a canoe moored to the bank of a small tributary
of the Ugambi at a point where he had felt certain that he should find
one.

Without loss of time he piled his hideous fellows into the craft and
shoved out into the stream. So quickly had they taken possession of
the canoe that the warrior had not noticed that it was already
occupied. The huddled figure sleeping in the bottom had entirely
escaped his observation in the darkness of the night that had now
fallen.

But no sooner were they afloat than a savage growling from one of the
apes directly ahead of him in the dugout attracted his attention to a
shivering and cowering figure that trembled between him and the great
anthropoid. To Mugambi's astonishment he saw that it was a native
woman. With difficulty he kept the ape from her throat, and after a
time succeeded in quelling her fears.

It seemed that she had been fleeing from marriage with an old man she
loathed and had taken refuge for the night in the canoe she had found
upon the river's edge.

Mugambi did not wish her presence, but there she was, and rather than
lose time by returning her to the shore the black permitted her to
remain on board the canoe.

As quickly as his awkward companions could paddle the dugout
down-stream toward the Ugambi and the Kincaid they moved through the
darkness. It was with difficulty that Mugambi could make out the
shadowy form of the steamer, but as he had it between himself and the
ocean it was much more apparent than to one upon either shore of the
river.

As he approached it he was amazed to note that it seemed to be receding
from him, and finally he was convinced that the vessel was moving
down-stream. Just as he was about to urge his creatures to renewed
efforts to overtake the steamer the outline of another canoe burst
suddenly into view not three yards from the bow of his own craft.

At the same instant the occupants of the stranger discovered the
proximity of Mugambi's horde, but they did not at first recognize the
nature of the fearful crew. A man in the bow of the oncoming boat
challenged them just as the two dugouts were about to touch.

For answer came the menacing growl of a panther, and the fellow found
himself gazing into the flaming eyes of Sheeta, who had raised himself


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15

Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 11 of 15)