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broke the silence of the night.

Trembling with nervous excitement, the Russian remained motionless for
several minutes; but there was no sound from the great bulk above him
to indicate that his coming had been noted.

Stealthily he worked his craft forward until the stays of the bowsprit
were directly above him. He could just reach them. To make his canoe
fast there was the work of but a minute or two, and then the man raised
himself quietly aloft.

A moment later he dropped softly to the deck. Thoughts of the hideous
pack which tenanted the ship induced cold tremors along the spine of
the cowardly prowler; but life itself depended upon the success of his
venture, and so he was enabled to steel himself to the frightful
chances which lay before him.

No sound or sign of watch appeared upon the ship's deck. Paulvitch
crept stealthily toward the forecastle. All was silence. The hatch
was raised, and as the man peered downward he saw one of the Kincaid's
crew reading by the light of the smoky lantern depending from the
ceiling of the crew's quarters.

Paulvitch knew the man well, a surly cut-throat upon whom he figured
strongly in the carrying out of the plan which he had conceived.
Gently the Russ lowered himself through the aperture to the rounds of
the ladder which led into the forecastle.

He kept his eyes turned upon the reading man, ready to warn him to
silence the moment that the fellow discovered him; but so deeply
immersed was the sailor in the magazine that the Russian came,
unobserved, to the forecastle floor.

There he turned and whispered the reader's name. The man raised his
eyes from the magazine - eyes that went wide for a moment as they fell
upon the familiar countenance of Rokoff's lieutenant, only to narrow
instantly in a scowl of disapproval.

"The devil!" he ejaculated. "Where did you come from? We all thought
you were done for and gone where you ought to have gone a long time
ago. His lordship will be mighty pleased to see you."

Paulvitch crossed to the sailor's side. A friendly smile lay on the
Russian's lips, and his right hand was extended in greeting, as though
the other might have been a dear and long lost friend. The sailor
ignored the proffered hand, nor did he return the other's smile.

"I've come to help you," explained Paulvitch. "I'm going to help you
get rid of the Englishman and his beasts - then there will be no danger
from the law when we get back to civilization. We can sneak in on
them while they sleep - that is Greystoke, his wife, and that black
scoundrel, Mugambi. Afterward it will be a simple matter to clean up
the beasts. Where are they?"

"They're below," replied the sailor; "but just let me tell you
something, Paulvitch. You haven't got no more show to turn us men
against the Englishman than nothing. We had all we wanted of you and
that other beast. He's dead, an' if I don't miss my guess a whole lot
you'll be dead too before long. You two treated us like dogs, and if
you think we got any love for you you better forget it."

"You mean to say that you're going to turn against me?" demanded
Paulvitch.

The other nodded, and then after a momentary pause, during which an
idea seemed to have occurred to him, he spoke again.

"Unless," he said, "you can make it worth my while to let you go before
the Englishman finds you here."

"You wouldn't turn me away in the jungle, would you?" asked Paulvitch.
"Why, I'd die there in a week."

"You'd have a chance there," replied the sailor. "Here, you wouldn't
have no chance. Why, if I woke up my maties here they'd probably cut
your heart out of you before the Englishman got a chance at you at all.
It's mighty lucky for you that I'm the one to be awake now and not none
of the others."

"You're crazy," cried Paulvitch. "Don't you know that the Englishman
will have you all hanged when he gets you back where the law can get
hold of you?"

"No, he won't do nothing of the kind," replied the sailor. "He's told
us as much, for he says that there wasn't nobody to blame but you and
Rokoff - the rest of us was just tools. See?"

For half an hour the Russian pleaded or threatened as the mood seized
him. Sometimes he was upon the verge of tears, and again he was
promising his listener either fabulous rewards or condign punishment;
but the other was obdurate. [condign: of equal value]

He made it plain to the Russian that there were but two plans open to
him - either he must consent to being turned over immediately to Lord
Greystoke, or he must pay to the sailor, as a price for permission to
quit the Kincaid unmolested, every cent of money and article of value
upon his person and in his cabin.

"And you'll have to make up your mind mighty quick," growled the man,
"for I want to turn in. Come now, choose - his lordship or the jungle?"

"You'll be sorry for this," grumbled the Russian.

"Shut up," admonished the sailor. "If you get funny I may change my
mind, and keep you here after all."

Now Paulvitch had no intention of permitting himself to fall into the
hands of Tarzan of the Apes if he could possibly avoid it, and while
the terrors of the jungle appalled him they were, to his mind,
infinitely preferable to the certain death which he knew he merited and
for which he might look at the hands of the ape-man.

"Is anyone sleeping in my cabin?" he asked.

The sailor shook his head. "No," he said; "Lord and Lady Greystoke
have the captain's cabin. The mate is in his own, and there ain't no
one in yours."

"I'll go and get my valuables for you," said Paulvitch.

"I'll go with you to see that you don't try any funny business," said
the sailor, and he followed the Russian up the ladder to the deck.

At the cabin entrance the sailor halted to watch, permitting Paulvitch
to go alone to his cabin. Here he gathered together his few belongings
that were to buy him the uncertain safety of escape, and as he stood
for a moment beside the little table on which he had piled them he
searched his brain for some feasible plan either to ensure his safety
or to bring revenge upon his enemies.

And presently as he thought there recurred to his memory the little
black box which lay hidden in a secret receptacle beneath a false top
upon the table where his hand rested.

The Russian's face lighted to a sinister gleam of malevolent
satisfaction as he stooped and felt beneath the table top. A moment
later he withdrew from its hiding-place the thing he sought. He had
lighted the lantern swinging from the beams overhead that he might see
to collect his belongings, and now he held the black box well in the
rays of the lamplight, while he fingered at the clasp that fastened its
lid.

The lifted cover revealed two compartments within the box. In one was
a mechanism which resembled the works of a small clock. There also was
a little battery of two dry cells. A wire ran from the clockwork to
one of the poles of the battery, and from the other pole through the
partition into the other compartment, a second wire returning directly
to the clockwork.

Whatever lay within the second compartment was not visible, for a cover
lay over it and appeared to be sealed in place by asphaltum. In the
bottom of the box, beside the clockwork, lay a key, and this Paulvitch
now withdrew and fitted to the winding stem.

Gently he turned the key, muffling the noise of the winding operation
by throwing a couple of articles of clothing over the box. All the
time he listened intently for any sound which might indicate that the
sailor or another were approaching his cabin; but none came to
interrupt his work.

When the winding was completed the Russian set a pointer upon a small
dial at the side of the clockwork, then he replaced the cover upon the
black box, and returned the entire machine to its hiding-place in the
table.

A sinister smile curled the man's bearded lips as he gathered up his
valuables, blew out the lamp, and stepped from his cabin to the side of
the waiting sailor.

"Here are my things," said the Russian; "now let me go."

"I'll first take a look in your pockets," replied the sailor. "You
might have overlooked some trifling thing that won't be of no use to
you in the jungle, but that'll come in mighty handy to a poor sailorman
in London. Ah! just as I feared," he ejaculated an instant later as he
withdrew a roll of bank-notes from Paulvitch's inside coat pocket.

The Russian scowled, muttering an imprecation; but nothing could be
gained by argument, and so he did his best to reconcile himself to his
loss in the knowledge that the sailor would never reach London to enjoy
the fruits of his thievery.

It was with difficulty that Paulvitch restrained a consuming desire to
taunt the man with a suggestion of the fate that would presently
overtake him and the other members of the Kincaid's company; but
fearing to arouse the fellow's suspicions, he crossed the deck and
lowered himself in silence into his canoe.

A minute or two later he was paddling toward the shore to be swallowed
up in the darkness of the jungle night, and the terrors of a hideous
existence from which, could he have had even a slight foreknowledge of
what awaited him in the long years to come, he would have fled to the
certain death of the open sea rather than endure it.

The sailor, having made sure that Paulvitch had departed, returned to
the forecastle, where he hid away his booty and turned into his bunk,
while in the cabin that had belonged to the Russian there ticked on and
on through the silences of the night the little mechanism in the small
black box which held for the unconscious sleepers upon the ill-starred
Kincaid the coming vengeance of the thwarted Russian.




Chapter 19

The Last of the "Kincaid"


Shortly after the break of day Tarzan was on deck noting the condition
of the weather. The wind had abated. The sky was cloudless. Every
condition seemed ideal for the commencement of the return voyage to
Jungle Island, where the beasts were to be left. And then - home!

The ape-man aroused the mate and gave instructions that the Kincaid
sail at the earliest possible moment. The remaining members of the
crew, safe in Lord Greystoke's assurance that they would not be
prosecuted for their share in the villainies of the two Russians,
hastened with cheerful alacrity to their several duties.

The beasts, liberated from the confinement of the hold, wandered about
the deck, not a little to the discomfiture of the crew in whose minds
there remained a still vivid picture of the savagery of the beasts in
conflict with those who had gone to their deaths beneath the fangs and
talons which even now seemed itching for the soft flesh of further prey.

Beneath the watchful eyes of Tarzan and Mugambi, however, Sheeta and
the apes of Akut curbed their desires, so that the men worked about the
deck amongst them in far greater security than they imagined.

At last the Kincaid slipped down the Ugambi and ran out upon the
shimmering waters of the Atlantic. Tarzan and Jane Clayton watched the
verdure-clad shore-line receding in the ship's wake, and for once the
ape-man left his native soil without one single pang of regret.

No ship that sailed the seven seas could have borne him away from
Africa to resume his search for his lost boy with half the speed that
the Englishman would have desired, and the slow-moving Kincaid seemed
scarce to move at all to the impatient mind of the bereaved father.

Yet the vessel made progress even when she seemed to be standing still,
and presently the low hills of Jungle Island became distinctly visible
upon the western horizon ahead.

In the cabin of Alexander Paulvitch the thing within the black box
ticked, ticked, ticked, with apparently unending monotony; but yet,
second by second, a little arm which protruded from the periphery of
one of its wheels came nearer and nearer to another little arm which
projected from the hand which Paulvitch had set at a certain point upon
the dial beside the clockwork. When those two arms touched one another
the ticking of the mechanism would cease - for ever.

Jane and Tarzan stood upon the bridge looking out toward Jungle Island.
The men were forward, also watching the land grow upward out of the
ocean. The beasts had sought the shade of the galley, where they were
curled up in sleep. All was quiet and peace upon the ship, and upon
the waters.

Suddenly, without warning, the cabin roof shot up into the air, a cloud
of dense smoke puffed far above the Kincaid, there was a terrific
explosion which shook the vessel from stem to stern.

Instantly pandemonium broke loose upon the deck. The apes of Akut,
terrified by the sound, ran hither and thither, snarling and growling.
Sheeta leaped here and there, screaming out his startled terror in
hideous cries that sent the ice of fear straight to the hearts of the
Kincaid's crew.

Mugambi, too, was trembling. Only Tarzan of the Apes and his wife
retained their composure. Scarce had the debris settled than the
ape-man was among the beasts, quieting their fears, talking to them in
low, pacific tones, stroking their shaggy bodies, and assuring them, as
only he could, that the immediate danger was over.

An examination of the wreckage showed that their greatest danger, now,
lay in fire, for the flames were licking hungrily at the splintered
wood of the wrecked cabin, and had already found a foothold upon the
lower deck through a great jagged hole which the explosion had opened.

By a miracle no member of the ship's company had been injured by the
blast, the origin of which remained for ever a total mystery to all but
one - the sailor who knew that Paulvitch had been aboard the Kincaid and
in his cabin the previous night. He guessed the truth; but discretion
sealed his lips. It would, doubtless, fare none too well for the man
who had permitted the arch enemy of them all aboard the ship in the
watches of the night, where later he might set an infernal machine to
blow them all to kingdom come. No, the man decided that he would keep
this knowledge to himself.

As the flames gained headway it became apparent to Tarzan that whatever
had caused the explosion had scattered some highly inflammable
substance upon the surrounding woodwork, for the water which they
poured in from the pump seemed rather to spread than to extinguish the
blaze.

Fifteen minutes after the explosion great, black clouds of smoke were
rising from the hold of the doomed vessel. The flames had reached the
engine-room, and the ship no longer moved toward the shore. Her fate
was as certain as though the waters had already closed above her
charred and smoking remains.

"It is useless to remain aboard her longer," remarked the ape-man to
the mate. "There is no telling but there may be other explosions, and
as we cannot hope to save her, the safest thing which we can do is to
take to the boats without further loss of time and make land."

Nor was there other alternative. Only the sailors could bring away any
belongings, for the fire, which had not yet reached the forecastle, had
consumed all in the vicinity of the cabin which the explosion had not
destroyed.

Two boats were lowered, and as there was no sea the landing was made
with infinite ease. Eager and anxious, the beasts of Tarzan sniffed
the familiar air of their native island as the small boats drew in
toward the beach, and scarce had their keels grated upon the sand than
Sheeta and the apes of Akut were over the bows and racing swiftly
toward the jungle. A half-sad smile curved the lips of the ape-man as
he watched them go.

"Good-bye, my friends," he murmured. "You have been good and faithful
allies, and I shall miss you."

"They will return, will they not, dear?" asked Jane Clayton, at his
side.

"They may and they may not," replied the ape-man. "They have been ill
at ease since they were forced to accept so many human beings into
their confidence. Mugambi and I alone affected them less, for he and I
are, at best, but half human. You, however, and the members of the
crew are far too civilized for my beasts - it is you whom they are
fleeing. Doubtless they feel that they cannot trust themselves in the
close vicinity of so much perfectly good food without the danger that
they may help themselves to a mouthful some time by mistake."

Jane laughed. "I think they are just trying to escape you," she
retorted. "You are always making them stop something which they see no
reason why they should not do. Like little children they are doubtless
delighted at this opportunity to flee from the zone of parental
discipline. If they come back, though, I hope they won't come by
night."

"Or come hungry, eh?" laughed Tarzan.

For two hours after landing the little party stood watching the burning
ship which they had abandoned. Then there came faintly to them from
across the water the sound of a second explosion. The Kincaid settled
rapidly almost immediately thereafter, and sank within a few minutes.

The cause of the second explosion was less a mystery than that of the
first, the mate attributing it to the bursting of the boilers when the
flames had finally reached them; but what had caused the first
explosion was a subject of considerable speculation among the stranded
company.




Chapter 20

Jungle Island Again


The first consideration of the party was to locate fresh water and make
camp, for all knew that their term of existence upon Jungle Island
might be drawn out to months, or even years.

Tarzan knew the nearest water, and to this he immediately led the
party. Here the men fell to work to construct shelters and rude
furniture while Tarzan went into the jungle after meat, leaving the
faithful Mugambi and the Mosula woman to guard Jane, whose safety he
would never trust to any member of the Kincaid's cut-throat crew.

Lady Greystoke suffered far greater anguish than any other of the
castaways, for the blow to her hopes and her already cruelly lacerated
mother-heart lay not in her own privations but in the knowledge that
she might now never be able to learn the fate of her first-born or do
aught to discover his whereabouts, or ameliorate his condition - a
condition which imagination naturally pictured in the most frightful
forms.

For two weeks the party divided the time amongst the various duties
which had been allotted to each. A daylight watch was maintained from
sunrise to sunset upon a bluff near the camp - a jutting shoulder of
rock which overlooked the sea. Here, ready for instant lighting, was
gathered a huge pile of dry branches, while from a lofty pole which
they had set in the ground there floated an improvised distress signal
fashioned from a red undershirt which belonged to the mate of the
Kincaid.

But never a speck upon the horizon that might be sail or smoke rewarded
the tired eyes that in their endless, hopeless vigil strained daily out
across the vast expanse of ocean.

It was Tarzan who suggested, finally, that they attempt to construct a
vessel that would bear them back to the mainland. He alone could show
them how to fashion rude tools, and when the idea had taken root in the
minds of the men they were eager to commence their labours.

But as time went on and the Herculean nature of their task became more
and more apparent they fell to grumbling, and to quarrelling among
themselves, so that to the other dangers were now added dissension and
suspicion.

More than before did Tarzan now fear to leave Jane among the half
brutes of the Kincaid's crew; but hunting he must do, for none other
could so surely go forth and return with meat as he. Sometimes Mugambi
spelled him at the hunting; but the black's spear and arrows were never
so sure of results as the rope and knife of the ape-man.

Finally the men shirked their work, going off into the jungle by twos
to explore and to hunt. All this time the camp had had no sight of
Sheeta, or Akut and the other great apes, though Tarzan had sometimes
met them in the jungle as he hunted.

And as matters tended from bad to worse in the camp of the castaways
upon the east coast of Jungle Island, another camp came into being upon
the north coast.

Here, in a little cove, lay a small schooner, the Cowrie, whose decks
had but a few days since run red with the blood of her officers and the
loyal members of her crew, for the Cowrie had fallen upon bad days when
it had shipped such men as Gust and Momulla the Maori and that
arch-fiend Kai Shang of Fachan.

There were others, too, ten of them all told, the scum of the South Sea
ports; but Gust and Momulla and Kai Shang were the brains and cunning
of the company. It was they who had instigated the mutiny that they
might seize and divide the catch of pearls which constituted the wealth
of the Cowrie's cargo.

It was Kai Shang who had murdered the captain as he lay asleep in his
berth, and it had been Momulla the Maori who had led the attack upon
the officer of the watch.

Gust, after his own peculiar habit, had found means to delegate to the
others the actual taking of life. Not that Gust entertained any
scruples on the subject, other than those which induced in him a rare
regard for his own personal safety. There is always a certain element
of risk to the assassin, for victims of deadly assault are seldom prone
to die quietly and considerately. There is always a certain element of
risk to go so far as to dispute the issue with the murderer. It was
this chance of dispute which Gust preferred to forgo.

But now that the work was done the Swede aspired to the position of
highest command among the mutineers. He had even gone so far as to
appropriate and wear certain articles belonging to the murdered captain
of the Cowrie - articles of apparel which bore upon them the badges and
insignia of authority.

Kai Shang was peeved. He had no love for authority, and certainly not
the slightest intention of submitting to the domination of an ordinary
Swede sailor.

The seeds of discontent were, therefore, already planted in the camp of
the mutineers of the Cowrie at the north edge of Jungle Island. But
Kai Shang realized that he must act with circumspection, for Gust alone
of the motley horde possessed sufficient knowledge of navigation to get
them out of the South Atlantic and around the cape into more congenial
waters where they might find a market for their ill-gotten wealth, and
no questions asked.

The day before they sighted Jungle Island and discovered the little
land-locked harbour upon the bosom of which the Cowrie now rode quietly
at anchor, the watch had discovered the smoke and funnels of a warship
upon the southern horizon.

The chance of being spoken to and investigated by a man-of-war appealed
not at all to any of them, so they put into hiding for a few days until
the danger should have passed.

And now Gust did not wish to venture out to sea again. There was no
telling, he insisted, but that the ship they had seen was actually
searching for them. Kai Shang pointed out that such could not be the
case since it was impossible for any human being other than themselves
to have knowledge of what had transpired aboard the Cowrie.

But Gust was not to be persuaded. In his wicked heart he nursed a
scheme whereby he might increase his share of the booty by something
like one hundred per cent. He alone could sail the Cowrie, therefore
the others could not leave Jungle Island without him; but what was
there to prevent Gust, with just sufficient men to man the schooner,
slipping away from Kai Shang, Momulla the Maori, and some half of the
crew when opportunity presented?

It was for this opportunity that Gust waited. Some day there would
come a moment when Kai Shang, Momulla, and three or four of the others
would be absent from camp, exploring or hunting. The Swede racked his
brain for some plan whereby he might successfully lure from the sight
of the anchored ship those whom he had determined to abandon.

To this end he organized hunting party after hunting party, but always
the devil of perversity seemed to enter the soul of Kai Shang, so that
wily celestial would never hunt except in the company of Gust himself.

One day Kai Shang spoke secretly with Momulla the Maori, pouring into
the brown ear of his companion the suspicions which he harboured
concerning the Swede. Momulla was for going immediately and running a
long knife through the heart of the traitor.

It is true that Kai Shang had no other evidence than the natural
cunning of his own knavish soul - but he imagined in the intentions of


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsBeasts of Tarzan → online text (page 13 of 15)