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with his forepaws upon the bow of the boat, ready to leap in upon the
occupants of the other craft.

Instantly Rokoff realized the peril that confronted him and his
fellows. He gave a quick command to fire upon the occupants of the
other canoe, and it was this volley and the scream of the terrified
native woman in the canoe with Mugambi that both Tarzan and Jane had
heard.

Before the slower and less skilled paddlers in Mugambi's canoe could
press their advantage and effect a boarding of the enemy the latter had
turned swiftly down-stream and were paddling for their lives in the
direction of the Kincaid, which was now visible to them.

The vessel after striking upon the bar had swung loose again into a
slow-moving eddy, which returns up-stream close to the southern shore
of the Ugambi only to circle out once more and join the downward flow a
hundred yards or so farther up. Thus the Kincaid was returning Jane
Clayton directly into the hands of her enemies.

It so happened that as Tarzan sprang into the river the vessel was not
visible to him, and as he swam out into the night he had no idea that a
ship drifted so close at hand. He was guided by the sounds which he
could hear coming from the two canoes.

As he swam he had vivid recollections of the last occasion upon which
he had swum in the waters of the Ugambi, and with them a sudden shudder
shook the frame of the giant.

But, though he twice felt something brush his legs from the slimy
depths below him, nothing seized him, and of a sudden he quite forgot
about crocodiles in the astonishment of seeing a dark mass loom
suddenly before him where he had still expected to find the open river.

So close was it that a few strokes brought him up to the thing, when to
his amazement his outstretched hand came in contact with a ship's side.

As the agile ape-man clambered over the vessel's rail there came to his
sensitive ears the sound of a struggle at the opposite side of the deck.

Noiselessly he sped across the intervening space.

The moon had risen now, and, though the sky was still banked with
clouds, a lesser darkness enveloped the scene than that which had
blotted out all sight earlier in the night. His keen eyes, therefore,
saw the figures of two men grappling with a woman.

That it was the woman who had accompanied Anderssen toward the interior
he did not know, though he suspected as much, as he was now quite
certain that this was the deck of the Kincaid upon which chance had led
him.

But he wasted little time in idle speculation. There was a woman in
danger of harm from two ruffians, which was enough excuse for the
ape-man to project his giant thews into the conflict without further
investigation.

The first that either of the sailors knew that there was a new force at
work upon the ship was the falling of a mighty hand upon a shoulder of
each. As if they had been in the grip of a fly-wheel, they were jerked
suddenly from their prey.

"What means this?" asked a low voice in their ears.

They were given no time to reply, however, for at the sound of that
voice the young woman had sprung to her feet and with a little cry of
joy leaped toward their assailant.

"Tarzan!" she cried.

The ape-man hurled the two sailors across the deck, where they rolled,
stunned and terrified, into the scuppers upon the opposite side, and
with an exclamation of incredulity gathered the girl into his arms.

Brief, however, were the moments for their greeting.

Scarcely had they recognized one another than the clouds above them
parted to show the figures of a half-dozen men clambering over the side
of the Kincaid to the steamer's deck.

Foremost among them was the Russian. As the brilliant rays of the
equatorial moon lighted the deck, and he realized that the man before
him was Lord Greystoke, he screamed hysterical commands to his
followers to fire upon the two.

Tarzan pushed Jane behind the cabin near which they had been standing,
and with a quick bound started for Rokoff. The men behind the
Russian, at least two of them, raised their rifles and fired at the
charging ape-man; but those behind them were otherwise engaged - for up
the monkey-ladder in their rear was thronging a hideous horde.

First came five snarling apes, huge, manlike beasts, with bared fangs
and slavering jaws; and after them a giant black warrior, his long
spear gleaming in the moonlight.

Behind him again scrambled another creature, and of all the horrid
horde it was this they most feared - Sheeta, the panther, with gleaming
jaws agape and fiery eyes blazing at them in the mightiness of his hate
and of his blood lust.

The shots that had been fired at Tarzan missed him, and he would have
been upon Rokoff in another instant had not the great coward dodged
backward between his two henchmen, and, screaming in hysterical terror,
bolted forward toward the forecastle.

For the moment Tarzan's attention was distracted by the two men before
him, so that he could not at the time pursue the Russian. About him
the apes and Mugambi were battling with the balance of the Russian's
party.

Beneath the terrible ferocity of the beasts the men were soon
scampering in all directions - those who still lived to scamper, for the
great fangs of the apes of Akut and the tearing talons of Sheeta
already had found more than a single victim.

Four, however, escaped and disappeared into the forecastle, where they
hoped to barricade themselves against further assault. Here they
found Rokoff, and, enraged at his desertion of them in their moment of
peril, no less than at the uniformly brutal treatment it had been his
wont to accord them, they gloated upon the opportunity now offered them
to revenge themselves in part upon their hated employer.

Despite his prayers and grovelling pleas, therefore, they hurled him
bodily out upon the deck, delivering him to the mercy of the fearful
things from which they had themselves just escaped.

Tarzan saw the man emerge from the forecastle - saw and recognized his
enemy; but another saw him even as soon.

It was Sheeta, and with grinning jaws the mighty beast slunk silently
toward the terror-stricken man.

When Rokoff saw what it was that stalked him his shrieks for help
filled the air, as with trembling knees he stood, as one paralyzed,
before the hideous death that was creeping upon him.

Tarzan took a step toward the Russian, his brain burning with a raging
fire of vengeance. At last he had the murderer of his son at his
mercy. His was the right to avenge.

Once Jane had stayed his hand that time that he sought to take the law
into his own power and mete to Rokoff the death that he had so long
merited; but this time none should stay him.

His fingers clenched and unclenched spasmodically as he approached the
trembling Russ, beastlike and ominous as a brute of prey.

Presently he saw that Sheeta was about to forestall him, robbing him of
the fruits of his great hate.

He called sharply to the panther, and the words, as if they had broken
a hideous spell that had held the Russian, galvanized him into sudden
action. With a scream he turned and fled toward the bridge.

After him pounced Sheeta the panther, unmindful of his master's warning
voice.

Tarzan was about to leap after the two when he felt a light touch upon
his arm. Turning, he found Jane at his elbow.

"Do not leave me," she whispered. "I am afraid."

Tarzan glanced behind her.

All about were the hideous apes of Akut. Some, even, were approaching
the young woman with bared fangs and menacing guttural warnings.

The ape-man warned them back. He had forgotten for the moment that
these were but beasts, unable to differentiate his friends and his
foes. Their savage natures were roused by their recent battle with the
sailors, and now all flesh outside the pack was meat to them.

Tarzan turned again toward the Russian, chagrined that he should have
to forgo the pleasure of personal revenge - unless the man should escape
Sheeta. But as he looked he saw that there could be no hope of that.
The fellow had retreated to the end of the bridge, where he now stood
trembling and wide-eyed, facing the beast that moved slowly toward him.

The panther crawled with belly to the planking, uttering uncanny
mouthings. Rokoff stood as though petrified, his eyes protruding from
their sockets, his mouth agape, and the cold sweat of terror clammy
upon his brow.

Below him, upon the deck, he had seen the great anthropoids, and so had
not dared to seek escape in that direction. In fact, even now one of
the brutes was leaping to seize the bridge-rail and draw himself up to
the Russian's side.

Before him was the panther, silent and crouched.

Rokoff could not move. His knees trembled. His voice broke in
inarticulate shrieks. With a last piercing wail he sank to his
knees - and then Sheeta sprang.

Full upon the man's breast the tawny body hurtled, tumbling the Russian
to his back.

As the great fangs tore at the throat and chest, Jane Clayton turned
away in horror; but not so Tarzan of the Apes. A cold smile of
satisfaction touched his lips. The scar upon his forehead that had
burned scarlet faded to the normal hue of his tanned skin and
disappeared.

Rokoff fought furiously but futilely against the growling, rending fate
that had overtaken him. For all his countless crimes he was punished
in the brief moment of the hideous death that claimed him at the last.

After his struggles ceased Tarzan approached, at Jane's suggestion, to
wrest the body from the panther and give what remained of it decent
human burial; but the great cat rose snarling above its kill,
threatening even the master it loved in its savage way, so that rather
than kill his friend of the jungle, Tarzan was forced to relinquish his
intentions.

All that night Sheeta, the panther, crouched upon the grisly thing that
had been Nikolas Rokoff. The bridge of the Kincaid was slippery with
blood. Beneath the brilliant tropic moon the great beast feasted
until, when the sun rose the following morning, there remained of
Tarzan's great enemy only gnawed and broken bones.


Of the Russian's party, all were accounted for except Paulvitch. Four
were prisoners in the Kincaid's forecastle. The rest were dead.

With these men Tarzan got up steam upon the vessel, and with the
knowledge of the mate, who happened to be one of those surviving, he
planned to set out in quest of Jungle Island; but as the morning dawned
there came with it a heavy gale from the west which raised a sea into
which the mate of the Kincaid dared not venture. All that day the ship
lay within the shelter of the mouth of the river; for, though night
witnessed a lessening of the wind, it was thought safer to wait for
daylight before attempting the navigation of the winding channel to the
sea.

Upon the deck of the steamer the pack wandered without let or hindrance
by day, for they had soon learned through Tarzan and Mugambi that they
must harm no one upon the Kincaid; but at night they were confined
below.

Tarzan's joy had been unbounded when he learned from his wife that the
little child who had died in the village of M'ganwazam was not their
son. Who the baby could have been, or what had become of their own,
they could not imagine, and as both Rokoff and Paulvitch were gone,
there was no way of discovering.

There was, however, a certain sense of relief in the knowledge that
they might yet hope. Until positive proof of the baby's death reached
them there was always that to buoy them up.

It seemed quite evident that their little Jack had not been brought
aboard the Kincaid. Anderssen would have known of it had such been the
case, but he had assured Jane time and time again that the little one
he had brought to her cabin the night he aided her to escape was the
only one that had been aboard the Kincaid since she lay at Dover.




Chapter 18

Paulvitch Plots Revenge


As Jane and Tarzan stood upon the vessel's deck recounting to one
another the details of the various adventures through which each had
passed since they had parted in their London home, there glared at them
from beneath scowling brows a hidden watcher upon the shore.

Through the man's brain passed plan after plan whereby he might thwart
the escape of the Englishman and his wife, for so long as the vital
spark remained within the vindictive brain of Alexander Paulvitch none
who had aroused the enmity of the Russian might be entirely safe.

Plan after plan he formed only to discard each either as impracticable,
or unworthy the vengeance his wrongs demanded. So warped by faulty
reasoning was the criminal mind of Rokoff's lieutenant that he could
not grasp the real truth of that which lay between himself and the
ape-man and see that always the fault had been, not with the English
lord, but with himself and his confederate.

And at the rejection of each new scheme Paulvitch arrived always at the
same conclusion - that he could accomplish naught while half the breadth
of the Ugambi separated him from the object of his hatred.

But how was he to span the crocodile-infested waters? There was no
canoe nearer than the Mosula village, and Paulvitch was none too sure
that the Kincaid would still be at anchor in the river when he returned
should he take the time to traverse the jungle to the distant village
and return with a canoe. Yet there was no other way, and so, convinced
that thus alone might he hope to reach his prey, Paulvitch, with a
parting scowl at the two figures upon the Kincaid's deck, turned away
from the river.

Hastening through the dense jungle, his mind centred upon his one
fetich - revenge - the Russian forgot even his terror of the savage world
through which he moved.

Baffled and beaten at every turn of Fortune's wheel, reacted upon time
after time by his own malign plotting, the principal victim of his own
criminality, Paulvitch was yet so blind as to imagine that his greatest
happiness lay in a continuation of the plottings and schemings which
had ever brought him and Rokoff to disaster, and the latter finally to
a hideous death.

As the Russian stumbled on through the jungle toward the Mosula village
there presently crystallized within his brain a plan which seemed more
feasible than any that he had as yet considered.

He would come by night to the side of the Kincaid, and once aboard,
would search out the members of the ship's original crew who had
survived the terrors of this frightful expedition, and enlist them in
an attempt to wrest the vessel from Tarzan and his beasts.

In the cabin were arms and ammunition, and hidden in a secret
receptacle in the cabin table was one of those infernal machines, the
construction of which had occupied much of Paulvitch's spare time when
he had stood high in the confidence of the Nihilists of his native land.

That was before he had sold them out for immunity and gold to the
police of Petrograd. Paulvitch winced as he recalled the denunciation
of him that had fallen from the lips of one of his former comrades ere
the poor devil expiated his political sins at the end of a hempen rope.

But the infernal machine was the thing to think of now. He could do
much with that if he could but get his hands upon it. Within the
little hardwood case hidden in the cabin table rested sufficient
potential destructiveness to wipe out in the fraction of a second every
enemy aboard the Kincaid.

Paulvitch licked his lips in anticipatory joy, and urged his tired legs
to greater speed that he might not be too late to the ship's anchorage
to carry out his designs.

All depended, of course, upon when the Kincaid departed. The Russian
realized that nothing could be accomplished beneath the light of day.
Darkness must shroud his approach to the ship's side, for should he be
sighted by Tarzan or Lady Greystoke he would have no chance to board
the vessel.

The gale that was blowing was, he believed, the cause of the delay in
getting the Kincaid under way, and if it continued to blow until night
then the chances were all in his favour, for he knew that there was
little likelihood of the ape-man attempting to navigate the tortuous
channel of the Ugambi while darkness lay upon the surface of the water,
hiding the many bars and the numerous small islands which are scattered
over the expanse of the river's mouth.

It was well after noon when Paulvitch came to the Mosula village upon
the bank of the tributary of the Ugambi. Here he was received with
suspicion and unfriendliness by the native chief, who, like all those
who came in contact with Rokoff or Paulvitch, had suffered in some
manner from the greed, the cruelty, or the lust of the two Muscovites.

When Paulvitch demanded the use of a canoe the chief grumbled a surly
refusal and ordered the white man from the village. Surrounded by
angry, muttering warriors who seemed to be but waiting some slight
pretext to transfix him with their menacing spears the Russian could do
naught else than withdraw.

A dozen fighting men led him to the edge of the clearing, leaving him
with a warning never to show himself again in the vicinity of their
village.

Stifling his anger, Paulvitch slunk into the jungle; but once beyond
the sight of the warriors he paused and listened intently. He could
hear the voices of his escort as the men returned to the village, and
when he was sure that they were not following him he wormed his way
through the bushes to the edge of the river, still determined some way
to obtain a canoe.

Life itself depended upon his reaching the Kincaid and enlisting the
survivors of the ship's crew in his service, for to be abandoned here
amidst the dangers of the African jungle where he had won the enmity of
the natives was, he well knew, practically equivalent to a sentence of
death.

A desire for revenge acted as an almost equally powerful incentive to
spur him into the face of danger to accomplish his design, so that it
was a desperate man that lay hidden in the foliage beside the little
river searching with eager eyes for some sign of a small canoe which
might be easily handled by a single paddle.

Nor had the Russian long to wait before one of the awkward little
skiffs which the Mosula fashion came in sight upon the bosom of the
river. A youth was paddling lazily out into midstream from a point
beside the village. When he reached the channel he allowed the
sluggish current to carry him slowly along while he lolled indolently
in the bottom of his crude canoe.

All ignorant of the unseen enemy upon the river's bank the lad floated
slowly down the stream while Paulvitch followed along the jungle path a
few yards behind him.

A mile below the village the black boy dipped his paddle into the water
and forced his skiff toward the bank. Paulvitch, elated by the chance
which had drawn the youth to the same side of the river as that along
which he followed rather than to the opposite side where he would have
been beyond the stalker's reach, hid in the brush close beside the
point at which it was evident the skiff would touch the bank of the
slow-moving stream, which seemed jealous of each fleeting instant which
drew it nearer to the broad and muddy Ugambi where it must for ever
lose its identity in the larger stream that would presently cast its
waters into the great ocean.

Equally indolent were the motions of the Mosula youth as he drew his
skiff beneath an overhanging limb of a great tree that leaned down to
implant a farewell kiss upon the bosom of the departing water,
caressing with green fronds the soft breast of its languorous love.

And, snake-like, amidst the concealing foliage lay the malevolent Russ.
Cruel, shifty eyes gloated upon the outlines of the coveted canoe, and
measured the stature of its owner, while the crafty brain weighed the
chances of the white man should physical encounter with the black
become necessary.

Only direct necessity could drive Alexander Paulvitch to personal
conflict; but it was indeed dire necessity which goaded him on to
action now.

There was time, just time enough, to reach the Kincaid by nightfall.
Would the black fool never quit his skiff? Paulvitch squirmed and
fidgeted. The lad yawned and stretched. With exasperating
deliberateness he examined the arrows in his quiver, tested his bow,
and looked to the edge upon the hunting-knife in his loin-cloth.

Again he stretched and yawned, glanced up at the river-bank, shrugged
his shoulders, and lay down in the bottom of his canoe for a little nap
before he plunged into the jungle after the prey he had come forth to
hunt.

Paulvitch half rose, and with tensed muscles stood glaring down upon
his unsuspecting victim. The boy's lids drooped and closed. Presently
his breast rose and fell to the deep breaths of slumber. The time had
come!

The Russian crept stealthily nearer. A branch rustled beneath his
weight and the lad stirred in his sleep. Paulvitch drew his revolver
and levelled it upon the black. For a moment he remained in rigid
quiet, and then again the youth relapsed into undisturbed slumber.

The white man crept closer. He could not chance a shot until there was
no risk of missing. Presently he leaned close above the Mosula. The
cold steel of the revolver in his hand insinuated itself nearer and
nearer to the breast of the unconscious lad. Now it stopped but a few
inches above the strongly beating heart.

But the pressure of a finger lay between the harmless boy and eternity.
The soft bloom of youth still lay upon the brown cheek, a smile half
parted the beardless lips. Did any qualm of conscience point its
disquieting finger of reproach at the murderer?

To all such was Alexander Paulvitch immune. A sneer curled his bearded
lip as his forefinger closed upon the trigger of his revolver. There
was a loud report. A little hole appeared above the heart of the
sleeping boy, a little hole about which lay a blackened rim of
powder-burned flesh.

The youthful body half rose to a sitting posture. The smiling lips
tensed to the nervous shock of a momentary agony which the conscious
mind never apprehended, and then the dead sank limply back into that
deepest of slumbers from which there is no awakening.

The killer dropped quickly into the skiff beside the killed. Ruthless
hands seized the dead boy heartlessly and raised him to the low
gunwale. A little shove, a splash, some widening ripples broken by the
sudden surge of a dark, hidden body from the slimy depths, and the
coveted canoe was in the sole possession of the white man - more savage
than the youth whose life he had taken.

Casting off the tie rope and seizing the paddle, Paulvitch bent
feverishly to the task of driving the skiff downward toward the Ugambi
at top speed.

Night had fallen when the prow of the bloodstained craft shot out into
the current of the larger stream. Constantly the Russian strained his
eyes into the increasing darkness ahead in vain endeavour to pierce the
black shadows which lay between him and the anchorage of the Kincaid.

Was the ship still riding there upon the waters of the Ugambi, or had
the ape-man at last persuaded himself of the safety of venturing forth
into the abating storm? As Paulvitch forged ahead with the current he
asked himself these questions, and many more beside, not the least
disquieting of which were those which related to his future should it
chance that the Kincaid had already steamed away, leaving him to the
merciless horrors of the savage wilderness.

In the darkness it seemed to the paddler that he was fairly flying over
the water, and he had become convinced that the ship had left her
moorings and that he had already passed the spot at which she had lain
earlier in the day, when there appeared before him beyond a projecting
point which he had but just rounded the flickering light from a ship's
lantern.

Alexander Paulvitch could scarce restrain an exclamation of triumph.
The Kincaid had not departed! Life and vengeance were not to elude him
after all.

He stopped paddling the moment that he descried the gleaming beacon of
hope ahead of him. Silently he drifted down the muddy waters of the
Ugambi, occasionally dipping his paddle's blade gently into the current
that he might guide his primitive craft to the vessel's side.

As he approached more closely the dark bulk of a ship loomed before him
out of the blackness of the night. No sound came from the vessel's
deck. Paulvitch drifted, unseen, close to the Kincaid's side. Only
the momentary scraping of his canoe's nose against the ship's planking


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 12 of 15)