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What he saw was the giant figure of an almost naked white man emerging
from the bush.

Darting into his tent, the Russian did not halt in his flight, but kept
right on through the rear wall, taking advantage of the long slit that
Jane Clayton had made the night before.

The terror-stricken Muscovite scurried like a hunted rabbit through the
hole that still gaped in the boma's wall at the point where his own
prey had escaped, and as Tarzan approached the camp upon the opposite
side Rokoff disappeared into the jungle in the wake of Jane Clayton.

As the ape-man entered the boma with old Tambudza at his elbow the
seven sailors, recognizing him, turned and fled in the opposite
direction. Tarzan saw that Rokoff was not among them, and so he let
them go their way - his business was with the Russian, whom he expected
to find in his tent. As to the sailors, he was sure that the jungle
would exact from them expiation for their villainies, nor, doubtless,
was he wrong, for his were the last white man's eyes to rest upon any
of them.

Finding Rokoff's tent empty, Tarzan was about to set out in search of
the Russian when Tambudza suggested to him that the departure of the
white man could only have resulted from word reaching him from
M'ganwazam that Tarzan was in his village.

"He has doubtless hastened there," argued the old woman. "If you would
find him let us return at once."

Tarzan himself thought that this would probably prove to be the fact,
so he did not waste time in an endeavour to locate the Russian's trail,
but, instead, set out briskly for the village of M'ganwazam, leaving
Tambudza to plod slowly in his wake.

His one hope was that Jane was still safe and with Rokoff. If this
was the case, it would be but a matter of an hour or more before he
should be able to wrest her from the Russian.

He knew now that M'ganwazam was treacherous and that he might have to
fight to regain possession of his wife. He wished that Mugambi,
Sheeta, Akut, and the balance of the pack were with him, for he
realized that single-handed it would be no child's play to bring Jane
safely from the clutches of two such scoundrels as Rokoff and the wily
M'ganwazam.

To his surprise he found no sign of either Rokoff or Jane in the
village, and as he could not trust the word of the chief, he wasted no
time in futile inquiry. So sudden and unexpected had been his return,
and so quickly had he vanished into the jungle after learning that
those he sought were not among the Waganwazam, that old M'ganwazam had
no time to prevent his going.

Swinging through the trees, he hastened back to the deserted camp he
had so recently left, for here, he knew, was the logical place to take
up the trail of Rokoff and Jane.

Arrived at the boma, he circled carefully about the outside of the
enclosure until, opposite a break in the thorny wall, he came to
indications that something had recently passed into the jungle. His
acute sense of smell told him that both of those he sought had fled
from the camp in this direction, and a moment later he had taken up the
trail and was following the faint spoor.

Far ahead of him a terror-stricken young woman was slinking along a
narrow game-trail, fearful that the next moment would bring her face to
face with some savage beast or equally savage man. As she ran on,
hoping against hope that she had hit upon the direction that would lead
her eventually to the great river, she came suddenly upon a familiar
spot.

At one side of the trail, beneath a giant tree, lay a little heap of
loosely piled brush - to her dying day that little spot of jungle would
be indelibly impressed upon her memory. It was where Anderssen had
hidden her - where he had given up his life in the vain effort to save
her from Rokoff.

At sight of it she recalled the rifle and ammunition that the man had
thrust upon her at the last moment. Until now she had forgotten them
entirely. Still clutched in her hand was the revolver she had snatched
from Rokoff's belt, but that could contain at most not over six
cartridges - not enough to furnish her with food and protection both on
the long journey to the sea.

With bated breath she groped beneath the little mound, scarce daring to
hope that the treasure remained where she had left it; but, to her
infinite relief and joy, her hand came at once upon the barrel of the
heavy weapon and then upon the bandoleer of cartridges.

As she threw the latter about her shoulder and felt the weight of the
big game-gun in her hand a sudden sense of security suffused her. It
was with new hope and a feeling almost of assured success that she
again set forward upon her journey.

That night she slept in the crotch of a tree, as Tarzan had so often
told her that he was accustomed to doing, and early the next morning
was upon her way again. Late in the afternoon, as she was about to
cross a little clearing, she was startled at the sight of a huge ape
coming from the jungle upon the opposite side.

The wind was blowing directly across the clearing between them, and
Jane lost no time in putting herself downwind from the huge creature.
Then she hid in a clump of heavy bush and watched, holding the rifle
ready for instant use.

To her consternation she saw that the apes were pausing in the centre
of the clearing. They came together in a little knot, where they stood
looking backward, as though in expectation of the coming of others of
their tribe. Jane wished that they would go on, for she knew that at
any moment some little, eddying gust of wind might carry her scent down
to their nostrils, and then what would the protection of her rifle
amount to in the face of those gigantic muscles and mighty fangs?

Her eyes moved back and forth between the apes and the edge of the
jungle toward which they were gazing until at last she perceived the
object of their halt and the thing that they awaited. They were being
stalked.

Of this she was positive, as she saw the lithe, sinewy form of a
panther glide noiselessly from the jungle at the point at which the
apes had emerged but a moment before.

Quickly the beast trotted across the clearing toward the anthropoids.
Jane wondered at their apparent apathy, and a moment later her wonder
turned to amazement as she saw the great cat come quite close to the
apes, who appeared entirely unconcerned by its presence, and, squatting
down in their midst, fell assiduously to the business of preening,
which occupies most of the waking hours of the cat family.

If the young woman was surprised by the sight of these natural enemies
fraternizing, it was with emotions little short of fear for her own
sanity that she presently saw a tall, muscular warrior enter the
clearing and join the group of savage beasts assembled there.

At first sight of the man she had been positive that he would be torn
to pieces, and she had half risen from her shelter, raising her rifle
to her shoulder to do what she could to avert the man's terrible fate.

Now she saw that he seemed actually conversing with the beasts - issuing
orders to them.

Presently the entire company filed on across the clearing and
disappeared in the jungle upon the opposite side.

With a gasp of mingled incredulity and relief Jane Clayton staggered to
her feet and fled on away from the terrible horde that had just passed
her, while a half-mile behind her another individual, following the
same trail as she, lay frozen with terror behind an ant-hill as the
hideous band passed quite close to him.

This one was Rokoff; but he had recognized the members of the awful
aggregation as allies of Tarzan of the Apes. No sooner, therefore,
had the beasts passed him than he rose and raced through the jungle as
fast as he could go, in order that he might put as much distance as
possible between himself and these frightful beasts.

So it happened that as Jane Clayton came to the bank of the river, down
which she hoped to float to the ocean and eventual rescue, Nikolas
Rokoff was but a short distance in her rear.

Upon the bank the girl saw a great dugout drawn half-way from the water
and tied securely to a near-by tree.

This, she felt, would solve the question of transportation to the sea
could she but launch the huge, unwieldy craft. Unfastening the rope
that had moored it to the tree, Jane pushed frantically upon the bow of
the heavy canoe, but for all the results that were apparent she might
as well have been attempting to shove the earth out of its orbit.

She was about winded when it occurred to her to try working the dugout
into the stream by loading the stern with ballast and then rocking the
bow back and forth along the bank until the craft eventually worked
itself into the river.

There were no stones or rocks available, but along the shore she found
quantities of driftwood deposited by the river at a slightly higher
stage. These she gathered and piled far in the stern of the boat,
until at last, to her immense relief, she saw the bow rise gently from
the mud of the bank and the stern drift slowly with the current until
it again lodged a few feet farther down-stream.

Jane found that by running back and forth between the bow and stern she
could alternately raise and lower each end of the boat as she shifted
her weight from one end to the other, with the result that each time
she leaped to the stern the canoe moved a few inches farther into the
river.

As the success of her plan approached more closely to fruition she
became so wrapped in her efforts that she failed to note the figure of
a man standing beneath a huge tree at the edge of the jungle from which
he had just emerged.

He watched her and her labours with a cruel and malicious grin upon his
swarthy countenance.

The boat at last became so nearly free of the retarding mud and of the
bank that Jane felt positive that she could pole it off into deeper
water with one of the paddles which lay in the bottom of the rude
craft. With this end in view she seized upon one of these implements
and had just plunged it into the river bottom close to the shore when
her eyes happened to rise to the edge of the jungle.

As her gaze fell upon the figure of the man a little cry of terror rose
to her lips. It was Rokoff.

He was running toward her now and shouting to her to wait or he would
shoot - though as he was entirely unarmed it was difficult to discover just
how he intended making good his threat.

Jane Clayton knew nothing of the various misfortunes that had befallen
the Russian since she had escaped from his tent, so she believed that
his followers must be close at hand.

However, she had no intention of falling again into the man's clutches.
She would rather die at once than that that should happen to her.
Another minute and the boat would be free.

Once in the current of the river she would be beyond Rokoff's power to
stop her, for there was no other boat upon the shore, and no man, and
certainly not the cowardly Rokoff, would dare to attempt to swim the
crocodile-infested water in an effort to overtake her.

Rokoff, on his part, was bent more upon escape than aught else. He
would gladly have forgone any designs he might have had upon Jane
Clayton would she but permit him to share this means of escape that she
had discovered. He would promise anything if she would let him come
aboard the dugout, but he did not think that it was necessary to do so.

He saw that he could easily reach the bow of the boat before it cleared
the shore, and then it would not be necessary to make promises of any
sort. Not that Rokoff would have felt the slightest compunction in
ignoring any promises he might have made the girl, but he disliked the
idea of having to sue for favour with one who had so recently assaulted
and escaped him.

Already he was gloating over the days and nights of revenge that would
be his while the heavy dugout drifted its slow way to the ocean.

Jane Clayton, working furiously to shove the boat beyond his reach,
suddenly realized that she was to be successful, for with a little
lurch the dugout swung quickly into the current, just as the Russian
reached out to place his hand upon its bow.

His fingers did not miss their goal by a half-dozen inches. The girl
almost collapsed with the reaction from the terrific mental, physical,
and nervous strain under which she had been labouring for the past few
minutes. But, thank Heaven, at last she was safe!

Even as she breathed a silent prayer of thanksgiving, she saw a sudden
expression of triumph lighten the features of the cursing Russian, and
at the same instant he dropped suddenly to the ground, grasping firmly
upon something which wriggled through the mud toward the water.

Jane Clayton crouched, wide-eyed and horror-stricken, in the bottom of
the boat as she realized that at the last instant success had been
turned to failure, and that she was indeed again in the power of the
malignant Rokoff.

For the thing that the man had seen and grasped was the end of the
trailing rope with which the dugout had been moored to the tree.




Chapter 15

Down the Ugambi


Halfway between the Ugambi and the village of the Waganwazam, Tarzan
came upon the pack moving slowly along his old spoor. Mugambi could
scarce believe that the trail of the Russian and the mate of his savage
master had passed so close to that of the pack.

It seemed incredible that two human beings should have come so close to
them without having been detected by some of the marvellously keen and
alert beasts; but Tarzan pointed out the spoor of the two he trailed,
and at certain points the black could see that the man and the woman
must have been in hiding as the pack passed them, watching every move
of the ferocious creatures.

It had been apparent to Tarzan from the first that Jane and Rokoff were
not travelling together. The spoor showed distinctly that the young
woman had been a considerable distance ahead of the Russian at first,
though the farther the ape-man continued along the trail the more
obvious it became that the man was rapidly overhauling his quarry.

At first there had been the spoor of wild beasts over the footprints of
Jane Clayton, while upon the top of all Rokoff's spoor showed that he
had passed over the trail after the animals had left their records upon
the ground. But later there were fewer and fewer animal imprints
occurring between those of Jane's and the Russian's feet, until as he
approached the river the ape-man became aware that Rokoff could not
have been more than a few hundred yards behind the girl.

He felt they must be close ahead of him now, and, with a little thrill
of expectation, he leaped rapidly forward ahead of the pack. Swinging
swiftly through the trees, he came out upon the river-bank at the very
point at which Rokoff had overhauled Jane as she endeavoured to launch
the cumbersome dugout.

In the mud along the bank the ape-man saw the footprints of the two he
sought, but there was neither boat nor people there when he arrived,
nor, at first glance, any sign of their whereabouts.

It was plain that they had shoved off a native canoe and embarked upon
the bosom of the stream, and as the ape-man's eye ran swiftly down the
course of the river beneath the shadows of the overarching trees he saw
in the distance, just as it rounded a bend that shut it off from his
view, a drifting dugout in the stern of which was the figure of a man.

Just as the pack came in sight of the river they saw their agile leader
racing down the river's bank, leaping from hummock to hummock of the
swampy ground that spread between them and a little promontory which
rose just where the river curved inward from their sight.

To follow him it was necessary for the heavy, cumbersome apes to make a
wide detour, and Sheeta, too, who hated water. Mugambi followed after
them as rapidly as he could in the wake of the great white master.

A half-hour of rapid travelling across the swampy neck of land and over
the rising promontory brought Tarzan, by a short cut, to the inward
bend of the winding river, and there before him upon the bosom of the
stream he saw the dugout, and in its stern Nikolas Rokoff.

Jane was not with the Russian.

At sight of his enemy the broad scar upon the ape-man's brow burned
scarlet, and there rose to his lips the hideous, bestial challenge of
the bull-ape.

Rokoff shuddered as the weird and terrible alarm fell upon his ears.
Cowering in the bottom of the boat, his teeth chattering in terror, he
watched the man he feared above all other creatures upon the face of
the earth as he ran quickly to the edge of the water.

Even though the Russian knew that he was safe from his enemy, the very
sight of him threw him into a frenzy of trembling cowardice, which
became frantic hysteria as he saw the white giant dive fearlessly into
the forbidding waters of the tropical river.

With steady, powerful strokes the ape-man forged out into the stream
toward the drifting dugout. Now Rokoff seized one of the paddles lying
in the bottom of the craft, and, with terrorwide eyes still glued upon
the living death that pursued him, struck out madly in an effort to
augment the speed of the unwieldy canoe.

And from the opposite bank a sinister ripple, unseen by either man,
moved steadily toward the half-naked swimmer.

Tarzan had reached the stern of the craft at last. One hand
upstretched grasped the gunwale. Rokoff sat frozen with fear, unable
to move a hand or foot, his eyes riveted upon the face of his Nemesis.

Then a sudden commotion in the water behind the swimmer caught his
attention. He saw the ripple, and he knew what caused it.

At the same instant Tarzan felt mighty jaws close upon his right leg.
He tried to struggle free and raise himself over the side of the boat.
His efforts would have succeeded had not this unexpected interruption
galvanized the malign brain of the Russian into instant action with its
sudden promise of deliverance and revenge.

Like a venomous snake the man leaped toward the stern of the boat, and
with a single swift blow struck Tarzan across the head with the heavy
paddle. The ape-man's fingers slipped from their hold upon the gunwale.

There was a short struggle at the surface, and then a swirl of waters,
a little eddy, and a burst of bubbles soon smoothed out by the flowing
current marked for the instant the spot where Tarzan of the Apes, Lord
of the Jungle, disappeared from the sight of men beneath the gloomy
waters of the dark and forbidding Ugambi.

Weak from terror, Rokoff sank shuddering into the bottom of the dugout.
For a moment he could not realize the good fortune that had befallen
him - all that he could see was the figure of a silent, struggling white
man disappearing beneath the surface of the river to unthinkable death
in the slimy mud of the bottom.

Slowly all that it meant to him filtered into the mind of the Russian,
and then a cruel smile of relief and triumph touched his lips; but it
was short-lived, for just as he was congratulating himself that he was
now comparatively safe to proceed upon his way to the coast unmolested,
a mighty pandemonium rose from the river-bank close by.

As his eyes sought the authors of the frightful sound he saw standing
upon the shore, glaring at him with hate-filled eyes, a devil-faced
panther surrounded by the hideous apes of Akut, and in the forefront of
them a giant black warrior who shook his fist at him, threatening him
with terrible death.

The nightmare of that flight down the Ugambi with the hideous horde
racing after him by day and by night, now abreast of him, now lost in
the mazes of the jungle far behind for hours and once for a whole day,
only to reappear again upon his trail grim, relentless, and terrible,
reduced the Russian from a strong and robust man to an emaciated,
white-haired, fear-gibbering thing before ever the bay and the ocean
broke upon his hopeless vision.

Past populous villages he had fled. Time and again warriors had put
out in their canoes to intercept him, but each time the hideous horde
had swept into view to send the terrified natives shrieking back to the
shore to lose themselves in the jungle.

Nowhere in his flight had he seen aught of Jane Clayton. Not once had
his eyes rested upon her since that moment at the river's brim his hand
had closed upon the rope attached to the bow of her dugout and he had
believed her safely in his power again, only to be thwarted an instant
later as the girl snatched up a heavy express rifle from the bottom of
the craft and levelled it full at his breast.

Quickly he had dropped the rope then and seen her float away beyond his
reach, but a moment later he had been racing up-stream toward a little
tributary in the mouth of which was hidden the canoe in which he and
his party had come thus far upon their journey in pursuit of the girl
and Anderssen.

What had become of her?

There seemed little doubt in the Russian's mind, however, but that she
had been captured by warriors from one of the several villages she
would have been compelled to pass on her way down to the sea. Well, he
was at least rid of most of his human enemies.

But at that he would gladly have had them all back in the land of the
living could he thus have been freed from the menace of the frightful
creatures who pursued him with awful relentlessness, screaming and
growling at him every time they came within sight of him. The one that
filled him with the greatest terror was the panther - the flaming-eyed,
devil-faced panther whose grinning jaws gaped wide at him by day, and
whose fiery orbs gleamed wickedly out across the water from the
Cimmerian blackness of the jungle nights.

The sight of the mouth of the Ugambi filled Rokoff with renewed hope,
for there, upon the yellow waters of the bay, floated the Kincaid at
anchor. He had sent the little steamer away to coal while he had gone
up the river, leaving Paulvitch in charge of her, and he could have
cried aloud in his relief as he saw that she had returned in time to
save him.

Frantically he alternately paddled furiously toward her and rose to his
feet waving his paddle and crying aloud in an attempt to attract the
attention of those on board. But loud as he screamed his cries
awakened no answering challenge from the deck of the silent craft.

Upon the shore behind him a hurried backward glance revealed the
presence of the snarling pack. Even now, he thought, these manlike
devils might yet find a way to reach him even upon the deck of the
steamer unless there were those there to repel them with firearms.

What could have happened to those he had left upon the Kincaid? Where
was Paulvitch? Could it be that the vessel was deserted, and that,
after all, he was doomed to be overtaken by the terrible fate that he
had been flying from through all these hideous days and nights? He
shivered as might one upon whose brow death has already laid his clammy
finger.

Yet he did not cease to paddle frantically toward the steamer, and at
last, after what seemed an eternity, the bow of the dugout bumped
against the timbers of the Kincaid. Over the ship's side hung a
monkey-ladder, but as the Russian grasped it to ascend to the deck he
heard a warning challenge from above, and, looking up, gazed into the
cold, relentless muzzle of a rifle.

After Jane Clayton, with rifle levelled at the breast of Rokoff, had
succeeded in holding him off until the dugout in which she had taken
refuge had drifted out upon the bosom of the Ugambi beyond the man's
reach, she had lost no time in paddling to the swiftest sweep of the
channel, nor did she for long days and weary nights cease to hold her
craft to the most rapidly moving part of the river, except when during
the hottest hours of the day she had been wont to drift as the current
would take her, lying prone in the bottom of the canoe, her face
sheltered from the sun with a great palm leaf.

Thus only did she gain rest upon the voyage; at other times she
continually sought to augment the movement of the craft by wielding the
heavy paddle.

Rokoff, on the other hand, had used little or no intelligence in his
flight along the Ugambi, so that more often than not his craft had
drifted in the slow-going eddies, for he habitually hugged the bank
farthest from that along which the hideous horde pursued and menaced
him.

Thus it was that, though he had put out upon the river but a short time
subsequent to the girl, yet she had reached the bay fully two hours
ahead of him. When she had first seen the anchored ship upon the quiet


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 10 of 15)