Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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Gust what he himself would have been glad to accomplish had the means
lain at hand.

But he dared not let Momulla slay the Swede, upon whom they depended to
guide them to their destination. They decided, however, that it would
do no harm to attempt to frighten Gust into acceding to their demands,
and with this purpose in mind the Maori sought out the self-constituted
commander of the party.

When he broached the subject of immediate departure Gust again raised
his former objection - that the warship might very probably be
patrolling the sea directly in their southern path, waiting for them to
make the attempt to reach other waters.

Momulla scoffed at the fears of his fellow, pointing out that as no one
aboard any warship knew of their mutiny there could be no reason why
they should be suspected.

"Ah!" exclaimed Gust, "there is where you are wrong. There is where
you are lucky that you have an educated man like me to tell you what to
do. You are an ignorant savage, Momulla, and so you know nothing of
wireless."

The Maori leaped to his feet and laid his hand upon the hilt of his
knife.

"I am no savage," he shouted.

"I was only joking," the Swede hastened to explain. "We are old
friends, Momulla; we cannot afford to quarrel, at least not while old
Kai Shang is plotting to steal all the pearls from us. If he could
find a man to navigate the Cowrie he would leave us in a minute. All
his talk about getting away from here is just because he has some
scheme in his head to get rid of us."

"But the wireless," asked Momulla. "What has the wireless to do with
our remaining here?"

"Oh yes," replied Gust, scratching his head. He was wondering if the
Maori were really so ignorant as to believe the preposterous lie he was
about to unload upon him. "Oh yes! You see every warship is equipped
with what they call a wireless apparatus. It lets them talk to other
ships hundreds of miles away, and it lets them listen to all that is
said on these other ships. Now, you see, when you fellows were
shooting up the Cowrie you did a whole lot of loud talking, and there
isn't any doubt but that that warship was a-lyin' off south of us
listenin' to it all. Of course they might not have learned the name of
the ship, but they heard enough to know that the crew of some ship was
mutinying and killin' her officers. So you see they'll be waiting to
search every ship they sight for a long time to come, and they may not
be far away now."

When he had ceased speaking the Swede strove to assume an air of
composure that his listener might not have his suspicions aroused as to
the truth of the statements that had just been made.

Momulla sat for some time in silence, eyeing Gust. At last he rose.

"You are a great liar," he said. "If you don't get us on our way by
tomorrow you'll never have another chance to lie, for I heard two of
the men saying that they'd like to run a knife into you and that if you
kept them in this hole any longer they'd do it."

"Go and ask Kai Shang if there is not a wireless," replied Gust. "He
will tell you that there is such a thing and that vessels can talk to
one another across hundreds of miles of water. Then say to the two
men who wish to kill me that if they do so they will never live to
spend their share of the swag, for only I can get you safely to any
port."

So Momulla went to Kai Shang and asked him if there was such an
apparatus as a wireless by means of which ships could talk with each
other at great distances, and Kai Shang told him that there was.

Momulla was puzzled; but still he wished to leave the island, and was
willing to take his chances on the open sea rather than to remain
longer in the monotony of the camp.

"If we only had someone else who could navigate a ship!" wailed Kai
Shang.

That afternoon Momulla went hunting with two other Maoris. They
hunted toward the south, and had not gone far from camp when they were
surprised by the sound of voices ahead of them in the jungle.

They knew that none of their own men had preceded them, and as all were
convinced that the island was uninhabited, they were inclined to flee
in terror on the hypothesis that the place was haunted - possibly by the
ghosts of the murdered officers and men of the Cowrie.

But Momulla was even more curious than he was superstitious, and so he
quelled his natural desire to flee from the supernatural. Motioning
his companions to follow his example, he dropped to his hands and
knees, crawling forward stealthily and with quakings of heart through
the jungle in the direction from which came the voices of the unseen
speakers.

Presently, at the edge of a little clearing, he halted, and there he
breathed a deep sigh of relief, for plainly before him he saw two
flesh-and-blood men sitting upon a fallen log and talking earnestly
together.

One was Schneider, mate of the Kincaid, and the other was a seaman
named Schmidt.

"I think we can do it, Schmidt," Schneider was saying. "A good canoe
wouldn't be hard to build, and three of us could paddle it to the
mainland in a day if the wind was right and the sea reasonably calm.
There ain't no use waiting for the men to build a big enough boat to
take the whole party, for they're sore now and sick of working like
slaves all day long. It ain't none of our business anyway to save the
Englishman. Let him look out for himself, says I." He paused for a
moment, and then eyeing the other to note the effect of his next words,
he continued, "But we might take the woman. It would be a shame to
leave a nice-lookin' piece like she is in such a Gott-forsaken hole as
this here island."

Schmidt looked up and grinned.

"So that's how she's blowin', is it?" he asked. "Why didn't you say so
in the first place? Wot's in it for me if I help you?"

"She ought to pay us well to get her back to civilization," explained
Schneider, "an' I tell you what I'll do. I'll just whack up with the
two men that helps me. I'll take half an' they can divide the other
half - you an' whoever the other bloke is. I'm sick of this place, an'
the sooner I get out of it the better I'll like it. What do you say?"

"Suits me," replied Schmidt. "I wouldn't know how to reach the
mainland myself, an' know that none o' the other fellows would, so's
you're the only one that knows anything of navigation you're the fellow
I'll tie to."

Momulla the Maori pricked up his ears. He had a smattering of every
tongue that is spoken upon the seas, and more than a few times had he
sailed on English ships, so that he understood fairly well all that had
passed between Schneider and Schmidt since he had stumbled upon them.

He rose to his feet and stepped into the clearing. Schneider and his
companion started as nervously as though a ghost had risen before them.
Schneider reached for his revolver. Momulla raised his right hand,
palm forward, as a sign of his pacific intentions.

"I am a friend," he said. "I heard you; but do not fear that I will
reveal what you have said. I can help you, and you can help me." He
was addressing Schneider. "You can navigate a ship, but you have no
ship. We have a ship, but no one to navigate it. If you will come
with us and ask no questions we will let you take the ship where you
will after you have landed us at a certain port, the name of which we
will give you later. You can take the woman of whom you speak, and we
will ask no questions either. Is it a bargain?"

Schneider desired more information, and got as much as Momulla thought
best to give him. Then the Maori suggested that they speak with Kai
Shang. The two members of the Kincaid's company followed Momulla and
his fellows to a point in the jungle close by the camp of the
mutineers. Here Momulla hid them while he went in search of Kai
Shang, first admonishing his Maori companions to stand guard over the
two sailors lest they change their minds and attempt to escape.
Schneider and Schmidt were virtually prisoners, though they did not
know it.

Presently Momulla returned with Kai Shang, to whom he had briefly
narrated the details of the stroke of good fortune that had come to
them. The Chinaman spoke at length with Schneider, until,
notwithstanding his natural suspicion of the sincerity of all men, he
became quite convinced that Schneider was quite as much a rogue as
himself and that the fellow was anxious to leave the island.

These two premises accepted there could be little doubt that Schneider
would prove trustworthy in so far as accepting the command of the
Cowrie was concerned; after that Kai Shang knew that he could find
means to coerce the man into submission to his further wishes.

When Schneider and Schmidt left them and set out in the direction of
their own camp, it was with feelings of far greater relief than they
had experienced in many a day. Now at last they saw a feasible plan
for leaving the island upon a seaworthy craft. There would be no more
hard labour at ship-building, and no risking their lives upon a crudely
built makeshift that would be quite as likely to go to the bottom as it
would to reach the mainland.

Also, they were to have assistance in capturing the woman, or rather
women, for when Momulla had learned that there was a black woman in the
other camp he had insisted that she be brought along as well as the
white woman.

As Kai Shang and Momulla entered their camp, it was with a realization
that they no longer needed Gust. They marched straight to the tent in
which they might expect to find him at that hour of the day, for though
it would have been more comfortable for the entire party to remain
aboard the ship, they had mutually decided that it would be safer for
all concerned were they to pitch their camp ashore.

Each knew that in the heart of the others was sufficient treachery to
make it unsafe for any member of the party to go ashore leaving the
others in possession of the Cowrie, so not more than two or three men
at a time were ever permitted aboard the vessel unless all the balance
of the company was there too.

As the two crossed toward Gust's tent the Maori felt the edge of his
long knife with one grimy, calloused thumb. The Swede would have felt
far from comfortable could he have seen this significant action, or
read what was passing amid the convolutions of the brown man's cruel
brain.

Now it happened that Gust was at that moment in the tent occupied by
the cook, and this tent stood but a few feet from his own. So that he
heard the approach of Kai Shang and Momulla, though he did not, of
course, dream that it had any special significance for him.

Chance had it, though, that he glanced out of the doorway of the cook's
tent at the very moment that Kai Shang and Momulla approached the
entrance to his, and he thought that he noted a stealthiness in their
movements that comported poorly with amicable or friendly intentions,
and then, just as they two slunk within the interior, Gust caught a
glimpse of the long knife which Momulla the Maori was then carrying
behind his back.

The Swede's eyes opened wide, and a funny little sensation assailed the
roots of his hairs. Also he turned almost white beneath his tan.
Quite precipitately he left the cook's tent. He was not one who
required a detailed exposition of intentions that were quite all too
obvious.

As surely as though he had heard them plotting, he knew that Kai Shang
and Momulla had come to take his life. The knowledge that he alone
could navigate the Cowrie had, up to now, been sufficient assurance of
his safety; but quite evidently something had occurred of which he had
no knowledge that would make it quite worth the while of his
co-conspirators to eliminate him.

Without a pause Gust darted across the beach and into the jungle. He
was afraid of the jungle; uncanny noises that were indeed frightful
came forth from its recesses - the tangled mazes of the mysterious
country back of the beach.

But if Gust was afraid of the jungle he was far more afraid of Kai
Shang and Momulla. The dangers of the jungle were more or less
problematical, while the danger that menaced him at the hands of his
companions was a perfectly well-known quantity, which might be
expressed in terms of a few inches of cold steel, or the coil of a
light rope. He had seen Kai Shang garrotte a man at Pai-sha in a dark
alleyway back of Loo Kotai's place. He feared the rope, therefore,
more than he did the knife of the Maori; but he feared them both too
much to remain within reach of either. Therefore he chose the pitiless
jungle.




Chapter 21

The Law of the Jungle


In Tarzan's camp, by dint of threats and promised rewards, the ape-man
had finally succeeded in getting the hull of a large skiff almost
completed. Much of the work he and Mugambi had done with their own
hands in addition to furnishing the camp with meat.

Schneider, the mate, had been doing considerable grumbling, and had at
last openly deserted the work and gone off into the jungle with Schmidt
to hunt. He said that he wanted a rest, and Tarzan, rather than add to
the unpleasantness which already made camp life almost unendurable, had
permitted the two men to depart without a remonstrance.

Upon the following day, however, Schneider affected a feeling of
remorse for his action, and set to work with a will upon the skiff.
Schmidt also worked good-naturedly, and Lord Greystoke congratulated
himself that at last the men had awakened to the necessity for the
labour which was being asked of them and to their obligations to the
balance of the party.

It was with a feeling of greater relief than he had experienced for
many a day that he set out that noon to hunt deep in the jungle for a
herd of small deer which Schneider reported that he and Schmidt had
seen there the day before.

The direction in which Schneider had reported seeing the deer was
toward the south-west, and to that point the ape-man swung easily
through the tangled verdure of the forest.

And as he went there approached from the north a half-dozen
ill-featured men who went stealthily through the jungle as go men bent
upon the commission of a wicked act.

They thought that they travelled unseen; but behind them, almost from
the moment they quitted their own camp, a tall man crept upon their
trail. In the man's eyes were hate and fear, and a great curiosity.
Why went Kai Shang and Momulla and the others thus stealthily toward
the south? What did they expect to find there? Gust shook his
low-browed head in perplexity. But he would know. He would follow
them and learn their plans, and then if he could thwart them he
would - that went without question.

At first he had thought that they searched for him; but finally his
better judgment assured him that such could not be the case, since they
had accomplished all they really desired by chasing him out of camp.
Never would Kai Shang or Momulla go to such pains to slay him or
another unless it would put money into their pockets, and as Gust had
no money it was evident that they were searching for someone else.

Presently the party he trailed came to a halt. Its members concealed
themselves in the foliage bordering the game trail along which they had
come. Gust, that he might the better observe, clambered into the
branches of a tree to the rear of them, being careful that the leafy
fronds hid him from the view of his erstwhile mates.

He had not long to wait before he saw a strange white man approach
carefully along the trail from the south.

At sight of the new-comer Momulla and Kai Shang arose from their places
of concealment and greeted him. Gust could not overhear what passed
between them. Then the man returned in the direction from which he had
come.

He was Schneider. Nearing his camp he circled to the opposite side of
it, and presently came running in breathlessly. Excitedly he hastened
to Mugambi.

"Quick!" he cried. "Those apes of yours have caught Schmidt and will
kill him if we do not hasten to his aid. You alone can call them off.
Take Jones and Sullivan - you may need help - and get to him as quick as
you can. Follow the game trail south for about a mile. I will remain
here. I am too spent with running to go back with you," and the mate
of the Kincaid threw himself upon the ground, panting as though he was
almost done for.

Mugambi hesitated. He had been left to guard the two women. He did
not know what to do, and then Jane Clayton, who had heard Schneider's
story, added her pleas to those of the mate.

"Do not delay," she urged. "We shall be all right here. Mr.
Schneider will remain with us. Go, Mugambi. The poor fellow must be
saved."

Schmidt, who lay hidden in a bush at the edge of the camp, grinned.
Mugambi, heeding the commands of his mistress, though still doubtful of
the wisdom of his action, started off toward the south, with Jones and
Sullivan at his heels.

No sooner had he disappeared than Schmidt rose and darted north into
the jungle, and a few minutes later the face of Kai Shang of Fachan
appeared at the edge of the clearing. Schneider saw the Chinaman, and
motioned to him that the coast was clear.

Jane Clayton and the Mosula woman were sitting at the opening of the
former's tent, their backs toward the approaching ruffians. The first
intimation that either had of the presence of strangers in camp was the
sudden appearance of a half-dozen ragged villains about them.

"Come!" said Kai Shang, motioning that the two arise and follow him.

Jane Clayton sprang to her feet and looked about for Schneider, only to
see him standing behind the newcomers, a grin upon his face. At his
side stood Schmidt. Instantly she saw that she had been made the
victim of a plot.

"What is the meaning of this?" she asked, addressing the mate.

"It means that we have found a ship and that we can now escape from
Jungle Island," replied the man.

"Why did you send Mugambi and the others into the jungle?" she inquired.

"They are not coming with us - only you and I, and the Mosula woman."

"Come!" repeated Kai Shang, and seized Jane Clayton's wrist.

One of the Maoris grasped the black woman by the arm, and when she
would have screamed struck her across the mouth.

Mugambi raced through the jungle toward the south. Jones and Sullivan
trailed far behind. For a mile he continued upon his way to the relief
of Schmidt, but no signs saw he of the missing man or of any of the
apes of Akut.

At last he halted and called aloud the summons which he and Tarzan had
used to hail the great anthropoids. There was no response. Jones and
Sullivan came up with the black warrior as the latter stood voicing his
weird call. For another half-mile the black searched, calling
occasionally.

Finally the truth flashed upon him, and then, like a frightened deer,
he wheeled and dashed back toward camp. Arriving there, it was but a
moment before full confirmation of his fears was impressed upon him.
Lady Greystoke and the Mosula woman were gone. So, likewise, was
Schneider.

When Jones and Sullivan joined Mugambi he would have killed them in his
anger, thinking them parties to the plot; but they finally succeeded in
partially convincing him that they had known nothing of it.

As they stood speculating upon the probable whereabouts of the women
and their abductor, and the purpose which Schneider had in mind in
taking them from camp, Tarzan of the Apes swung from the branches of a
tree and crossed the clearing toward them.

His keen eyes detected at once that something was radically wrong, and
when he had heard Mugambi's story his jaws clicked angrily together as
he knitted his brows in thought.

What could the mate hope to accomplish by taking Jane Clayton from a
camp upon a small island from which there was no escape from the
vengeance of Tarzan? The ape-man could not believe the fellow such a
fool, and then a slight realization of the truth dawned upon him.

Schneider would not have committed such an act unless he had been
reasonably sure that there was a way by which he could quit Jungle
Island with his prisoners. But why had he taken the black woman as
well? There must have been others, one of whom wanted the dusky female.

"Come," said Tarzan, "there is but one thing to do now, and that is to
follow the trail."

As he finished speaking a tall, ungainly figure emerged from the jungle
north of the camp. He came straight toward the four men. He was an
entire stranger to all of them, not one of whom had dreamed that
another human being than those of their own camp dwelt upon the
unfriendly shores of Jungle Island.

It was Gust. He came directly to the point.

"Your women were stolen," he said. "If you want ever to see them
again, come quickly and follow me. If we do not hurry the Cowrie will
be standing out to sea by the time we reach her anchorage."

"Who are you?" asked Tarzan. "What do you know of the theft of my wife
and the black woman?"

"I heard Kai Shang and Momulla the Maori plot with two men of your
camp. They had chased me from our camp, and would have killed me. Now
I will get even with them. Come!"

Gust led the four men of the Kincaid's camp at a rapid trot through the
jungle toward the north. Would they come to the sea in time? But a
few more minutes would answer the question.

And when at last the little party did break through the last of the
screening foliage, and the harbour and the ocean lay before them, they
realized that fate had been most cruelly unkind, for the Cowrie was
already under sail and moving slowly out of the mouth of the harbour
into the open sea.

What were they to do? Tarzan's broad chest rose and fell to the force
of his pent emotions. The last blow seemed to have fallen, and if ever
in all his life Tarzan of the Apes had had occasion to abandon hope it
was now that he saw the ship bearing his wife to some frightful fate
moving gracefully over the rippling water, so very near and yet so
hideously far away.

In silence he stood watching the vessel. He saw it turn toward the
east and finally disappear around a headland on its way he knew not
whither. Then he dropped upon his haunches and buried his face in his
hands.

It was after dark that the five men returned to the camp on the east
shore. The night was hot and sultry. No slightest breeze ruffled the
foliage of the trees or rippled the mirror-like surface of the ocean.
Only a gentle swell rolled softly in upon the beach.

Never had Tarzan seen the great Atlantic so ominously at peace. He was
standing at the edge of the beach gazing out to sea in the direction of
the mainland, his mind filled with sorrow and hopelessness, when from
the jungle close behind the camp came the uncanny wail of a panther.

There was a familiar note in the weird cry, and almost mechanically
Tarzan turned his head and answered. A moment later the tawny figure
of Sheeta slunk out into the half-light of the beach. There was no
moon, but the sky was brilliant with stars. Silently the savage brute
came to the side of the man. It had been long since Tarzan had seen
his old fighting companion, but the soft purr was sufficient to assure
him that the animal still recalled the bonds which had united them in
the past.

The ape-man let his fingers fall upon the beast's coat, and as Sheeta
pressed close against his leg he caressed and fondled the wicked head
while his eyes continued to search the blackness of the waters.

Presently he started. What was that? He strained his eyes into the
night. Then he turned and called aloud to the men smoking upon their
blankets in the camp. They came running to his side; but Gust
hesitated when he saw the nature of Tarzan's companion.

"Look!" cried Tarzan. "A light! A ship's light! It must be the
Cowrie. They are becalmed." And then with an exclamation of renewed
hope, "We can reach them! The skiff will carry us easily."

Gust demurred. "They are well armed," he warned. "We could not take
the ship - just five of us."

"There are six now," replied Tarzan, pointing to Sheeta, "and we can
have more still in a half-hour. Sheeta is the equivalent of twenty
men, and the few others I can bring will add full a hundred to our
fighting strength. You do not know them."

The ape-man turned and raised his head toward the jungle, while there
pealed from his lips, time after time, the fearsome cry of the bull-ape
who would summon his fellows.

Presently from the jungle came an answering cry, and then another and
another. Gust shuddered. Among what sort of creatures had fate thrown


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 14 of 15)