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the final sentence, and with the last word he brought his fist down
upon the vat before him. In his eyes blazed the light of unchained
madness.

Von Horn was a brave man, but he shuddered at the maniacal ferocity of
the older man, and shrank back. The futility of argument was apparent,
and he turned and left the workshop.

Sing Lee was late that night. In fact he did not return from his
fruitless quest for gulls until well after dark, nor would he vouchsafe
any explanation of the consequent lateness of supper. Nor could he be
found shortly after the evening meal when Virginia sought him.

Not until the camp was wrapped in the quiet of slumber did Sing Lee
return - stealthy and mysterious - to creep under cover of a moonless
night to the door of the workshop. How he gained entrance only Sing
Lee knows, but a moment later there was a muffled crash of broken glass
within the laboratory, and the Chinaman had slipped out, relocked the
door, and scurried to his nearby shack. But there was no occasion for
his haste - no other ear than his had heard the sound within the
workshop.

It was almost nine the following morning before Professor Maxon and von
Horn entered the laboratory. Scarcely had the older man passed the
doorway than he drew up his hands in horrified consternation. Vat
Number Thirteen lay dashed to the floor - the glass cover was broken to
a million pieces - a sticky, brownish substance covered the matting.
Professor Maxon hid his face in his hands.

"God!" he cried. "It is all ruined. Three more days would have - "

"Look!" cried von Horn. "It is not too soon."

Professor Maxon mustered courage to raise his eyes from his hands, and
there he beheld, seated in a far corner of the room a handsome giant,
physically perfect. The creature looked about him in a dazed,
uncomprehending manner. A great question was writ large upon his
intelligent countenance. Professor Maxon stepped forward and took him
by the hand.

"Come," he said, and led him toward a smaller room off the main
workshop. The giant followed docilely, his eyes roving about the
room - the pitiful questioning still upon his handsome features. Von
Horn turned toward the campong.

Virginia, deserted by all, even the faithful Sing, who, cheated of his
sport on the preceding day, had again gone to the beach to snare gulls,
became restless of the enforced idleness and solitude. For a time she
wandered about the little compound which had been reserved for the
whites, but tiring of this she decided to extend her stroll beyond the
palisade, a thing which she had never before done unless accompanied by
von Horn - a thing both he and her father had cautioned her against.

"What danger can there be?" she thought. "We know that the island is
uninhabited by others than ourselves, and that there are no dangerous
beasts. And, anyway, there is no one now who seems to care what
becomes of me, unless - unless - I wonder if he does care. I wonder if I
care whether or not he cares. Oh, dear, I wish I knew," and as she
soliloquized she wandered past the little clearing and into the jungle
that lay behind the campong.


As von Horn and Professor Maxon talked together in the laboratory
before the upsetting of vat Number Thirteen, a grotesque and horrible
creature had slunk from the low shed at the opposite side of the
campong until it had crouched at the flimsy door of the building in
which the two men conversed. For a while it listened intently, but
when von Horn urged the necessity for dispatching certain "terrible,
soulless creatures" an expression of intermingled fear and hatred
convulsed the hideous features, and like a great grizzly it turned and
lumbered awkwardly across the campong toward the easterly, or back wall
of the enclosure.

Here it leaped futilely a half dozen times for the top of the palisade,
and then trembling and chattering in rage it ran back and forth along
the base of the obstacle, just as a wild beast in captivity paces
angrily before the bars of its cage.

Finally it paused to look once more at the senseless wood that barred
its escape, as though measuring the distance to the top. Then the eyes
roamed about the campong to rest at last upon the slanting roof of the
thatched shed which was its shelter. Presently a slow idea was born in
the poor, malformed brain.

The creature approached the shed. He could just reach the saplings
that formed the frame work of the roof. Like a huge sloth he drew
himself to the roof of the structure. From here he could see beyond
the palisade, and the wild freedom of the jungle called to him. He did
not know what it was but in its leafy wall he perceived many breaks and
openings that offered concealment from the creatures who were plotting
to take his life.

Yet the wall was not fully six feet from him, and the top of it at
least five feet above the top of the shed - those who had designed the
campong had been careful to set this structure sufficiently far from
the palisade to prevent its forming too easy an avenue of escape.

The creature glanced fearfully toward the workshop. He remembered the
cruel bull whip that always followed each new experiment on his part
that did not coincide with the desires of his master, and as he thought
of von Horn a nasty gleam shot his mismated eyes.

He tried to reach across the distance between the roof and the
palisade, and in the attempt lost his balance and nearly precipitated
himself to the ground below. Cautiously he drew back, still looking
about for some means to cross the chasm. One of the saplings of the
roof, protruding beyond the palm leaf thatch, caught his attention.
With a single wrench he tore it from its fastenings. Extending it
toward the palisade he discovered that it just spanned the gap, but he
dared not attempt to cross upon its single slender strand.

Quickly he ripped off a half dozen other poles from the roof, and
laying them side by side, formed a safe and easy path to freedom. A
moment more and he sat astride the top of the wall. Drawing the poles
after him, he dropped them one by one to the ground outside the
campong. Then he lowered himself to liberty.

Gathering the saplings under one huge arm he ran, lumberingly, into the
jungle. He would not leave evidence of the havoc he had wrought; the
fear of the bull whip was still strong upon him. The green foliage
closed about him and the peaceful jungle gave no sign of the horrid
brute that roamed its shadowed mazes.


As von Horn stepped into the campong his quick eye perceived the havoc
that had been wrought with the roof at the east end of the shed.
Quickly he crossed to the low structure. Within its compartments a
number of deformed monsters squatted upon their haunches, or lay prone
upon the native mats that covered the floor.

As the man entered they looked furtively at the bull whip which trailed
from his right hand, and then glanced fearfully at one another as
though questioning which was the malefactor on this occasion.

Von Horn ran his eyes over the hideous assemblage.

"Where is Number One?" he asked, directing his question toward a thing
whose forehead gave greater promise of intelligence than any of his
companions.

The one addressed shook his head.

Von Horn turned and made a circuit of the campong. There was no sign
of the missing one and no indication of any other irregularity than the
demolished portion of the roof. With an expression of mild concern
upon his face he entered the workshop.

"Number One has escaped into the jungle, Professor," he said.

Professor Maxon looked up in surprise, but before he had an opportunity
to reply a woman's scream, shrill with horror, smote upon their
startled ears.

Von Horn was the first to reach the campong of the whites. Professor
Maxon was close behind him, and the faces of both were white with
apprehension. The enclosure was deserted. Not even Sing was there.
Without a word the two men sprang through the gateway and raced for the
jungle in the direction from which that single, haunting cry had come.

Virginia Maxon, idling beneath the leafy shade of the tropical foliage,
became presently aware that she had wandered farther from the campong
than she had intended. The day was sultry, and the heat, even in the
dense shade of the jungle, oppressive. Slowly she retraced her steps,
her eyes upon the ground, her mind absorbed in sad consideration of her
father's increasing moodiness and eccentricity.

Possibly it was this very abstraction which deadened her senses to the
near approach of another. At any rate the girl's first intimation that
she was not alone came when she raised her eyes to look full into the
horrid countenance of a fearsome monster which blocked her path toward
camp.

The sudden shock brought a single involuntary scream from her lips.
And who can wonder! The thing thrust so unexpectedly before her eyes
was hideous in the extreme. A great mountain of deformed flesh clothed
in dirty, white cotton pajamas! Its face was of the ashen hue of a
fresh corpse, while the white hair and pink eyes denoted the absence of
pigment; a characteristic of albinos.

One eye was fully twice the diameter of the other, and an inch above
the horizontal plane of its tiny mate. The nose was but a gaping
orifice above a deformed and twisted mouth. The thing was chinless,
and its small, foreheadless head surrounded its colossal body like a
cannon ball on a hill top. One arm was at least twelve inches longer
than its mate, which was itself long in proportion to the torso, while
the legs, similarly mismated and terminating in huge, flat feet that
protruded laterally, caused the thing to lurch fearfully from side to
side as it lumbered toward the girl.

A sudden grimace lighted the frightful face as the grotesque eyes fell
upon this new creature. Number One had never before seen a woman, but
the sight of this one awoke in the unplumbed depths of his soulless
breast a great desire to lay his hands upon her. She was very
beautiful. Number One wished to have her for his very own; nor would
it be a difficult matter, so fragile was she, to gather her up in those
great, brute arms and carry her deep into the jungle far out of hearing
of the bull-whip man and the cold, frowning one who was continually
measuring and weighing Number One and his companions, the while he
scrutinized them with those strange, glittering eyes that frightened
one even more than the cruel lash of the bull whip.

Number One lurched forward, his arms outstretched toward the horror
stricken girl. Virginia tried to cry out again - she tried to turn and
run; but the horror of her impending fate and the terror that those
awful features induced left her paralyzed and helpless.

The thing was almost upon her now. The mouth was wide in a hideous
attempt to smile. The great hands would grasp her in another
second - and then there was a sudden crashing of the underbrush behind
her, a yellow, wrinkled face and a flying pig-tail shot past her, and
the brave old Sing Lee grappled with the mighty monster that threatened
her.

The battle was short - short and terrible. The valiant Chinaman sought
the ashen throat of his antagonist, but his wiry, sinewy muscles were
as reeds beneath the force of that inhuman power that opposed them.
Holding the girl at arm's length in one hand, Number One tore the
battling Chinaman from him with the other, and lifting him bodily above
his head, hurled him stunned and bleeding against the bole of a giant
buttress tree. Then lifting Virginia in his arms once more he dived
into the impenetrable mazes of the jungle that lined the more open
pathway between the beach and camp.



4

A NEW FACE


As Professor Maxon and von Horn rushed from the workshop to their own
campong, they neglected, in their haste, to lock the door between, and
for the first time since the camp was completed it stood unlatched and
ajar.

The professor had been engaged in taking careful measurements of the
head of his latest experiment, the while he coached the young man in
the first rudiments of spoken language, and now the subject of his
labors found himself suddenly deserted and alone. He had not yet been
without the four walls of the workshop, as the professor had wished to
keep him from association with the grotesque results of his earlier
experiments, and now a natural curiosity tempted him to approach the
door through which his creator and the man with the bull whip had so
suddenly disappeared.

He saw before him a great walled enclosure roofed by a lofty azure
dome, and beyond the walls the tops of green trees swaying gently in
the soft breezes. His nostrils tasted the incense of fresh earth and
growing things. For the first time he felt the breath of Nature, free
and unconfined, upon his brow.

He drew his giant frame to its full height and drank in the freedom and
the sweetness of it all, filling his great lungs to their fullest; and
with the first taste he learned to hate the close and stuffy confines
of his prison.

His virgin mind was filled with wonder at the wealth of new impressions
which surged to his brain through every sense. He longed for more, and
the open gateway of the campong was a scarce needed invitation to pass
to the wide world beyond. With the free and easy tread of utter
unconsciousness of self, he passed across the enclosure and stepped out
into the clearing which lay between the palisade and the jungle.

Ah, here was a still more beautiful world! The green leaves nodded to
him, and at their invitation he came and the jungle reached out its
million arms to embrace him. Now before him, behind, on either side
there was naught but glorious green beauty shot with splashes of
gorgeous color that made him gasp in wonderment.

Brilliant birds rose from amidst it all, skimming hither and thither
above his head - he thought that the flowers and the birds were the
same, and when he reached out and plucked a blossom, tenderly, he
wondered that it did not flutter in his hand. On and on he walked, but
slowly, for he must not miss a single sight in the strange and
wonderful place; and then, of a sudden, the quiet beauty of the scene
was harshly broken by the crashing of a monster through the underbrush.

Number Thirteen was standing in a little open place in the jungle when
the discordant note first fell upon his ears, and as he turned his head
in the direction of the sound he was startled at the hideous aspect of
the thing which broke through the foliage before him.

What a horrid creature! But on the same instant his eyes fell upon
another borne in the arms of the terrible one. This one was
different - very different, - soft and beautiful and white. He wondered
what it all meant, for everything was strange and new to him; but when
he saw the eyes of the lovely one upon him, and her arms outstretched
toward him, though he did not understand the words upon her lips, he
knew that she was in distress. Something told him that it was the ugly
thing that carried her that was the author of her suffering.

Virginia Maxon had been half unconscious from fright when she suddenly
saw a white man, clothed in coarse, white, native pajamas, confronting
her and the misshapen beast that was bearing her away to what frightful
fate she could but conjecture.

At the sight of the man her voice returned with returning hope, and she
reached her arms toward him, calling upon him to save her. Although he
did not respond she thought that he understood for he sprang toward
them before her appeal was scarce uttered.

As before, when Sing had threatened to filch his new possession from
him, Number One held the girl with one hand while he met the attack of
this new assailant with the other; but here was very different metal
than had succumbed to him before.

It is true that Number Thirteen knew nothing whatever of personal
combat, but Number One had but little advantage of him in the matter of
experience, while the former was equipped with great natural
intelligence as well as steel muscles no whit less powerful than his
deformed predecessor.

So it was that the awful giant found his single hand helpless to cope
with the strength of his foeman, and in a brief instant felt powerful
fingers clutching at his throat. Still reluctant to surrender his hold
upon his prize, he beat futilely at the face of his enemy, but at last
the agony of choking compelled him to drop the girl and grapple madly
with the man who choked him with one hand and rained mighty and
merciless blows upon his face and head with the other.

His captive sank to the ground, too weak from the effects of nervous
shock to escape, and with horror-filled eyes watched the two who
battled over her. She saw that her would-be rescuer was young and
strong featured - all together a very fine specimen of manhood; and to
her great wonderment it was soon apparent that he was no unequal match
for the great mountain of muscle that he fought.

Both tore and struck and clawed and bit in the frenzy of mad, untutored
strife, rolling about on the soft carpet of the jungle almost
noiselessly except for their heavy breathing and an occasional
beast-like snarl from Number One. For several minutes they fought thus
until the younger man succeeded in getting both hands upon the throat
of his adversary, and then, choking relentlessly, he raised the brute
with him from the ground and rushed him fiercely backward against the
stem of a tree. Again and again he hurled the monstrous thing upon the
unyielding wood, until at last it hung helpless and inert in his
clutches, then he cast it from him, and without another glance at it
turned toward the girl.

Here was a problem indeed. Now that he had won her, what was he to do
with her? He was but an adult child, with the brain and brawn of a
man, and the ignorance and inexperience of the new-born. And so he
acted as a child acts, in imitation of what it has seen others do. The
brute had been carrying the lovely creature, therefore that must be the
thing for him to do, and so he stooped and gathered Virginia Maxon in
his great arms.

She tried to tell him that she could walk after a moment's rest, but it
was soon evident that he did not understand her, as a puzzled
expression came to his face and he did not put her down as she asked.
Instead he stood irresolute for a time, and then moved slowly through
the jungle. By chance his direction was toward the camp, and this fact
so relieved the girl's mind that presently she was far from loath to
remain quietly in his arms.

After a moment she gained courage to look up into his face. She
thought that she never had seen so marvellously clean cut features, or
a more high and noble countenance, and she wondered how it was that
this white man was upon the island and she not have known it. Possibly
he was a new arrival - his presence unguessed even by her father. That
he was neither English nor American was evident from the fact that he
could not understand her native tongue. Who could he be! What was he
doing upon their island!

As she watched his face he suddenly turned his eyes down upon her, and
as she looked hurriedly away she was furious with herself as she felt a
crimson flush mantle her cheek. The man only half sensed, in a vague
sort of way, the meaning of the tell tale color and the quickly averted
eyes; but he became suddenly aware of the pressure of her delicate body
against his, as he had not been before. Now he kept his eyes upon her
face as he walked, and a new emotion filled his breast. He did not
understand it, but it was very pleasant, and he knew that it was
because of the radiant thing that he carried in his arms.

The scream that had startled von Horn and Professor Maxon led them
along the trail toward the east coast of the island, and about halfway
of the distance they stumbled upon the dazed and bloody Sing just as he
was on the point of regaining consciousness.

"For God's sake, Sing, what is the matter?" cried von Horn. "Where is
Miss Maxon?"

"Big blute, he catchem Linee. Tly kill Sing. Head hit tlee. No see
any more. Wakee up - all glone," moaned the Chinaman as he tried to
gain his feet.

"Which way did he take her?" urged von Horn.

Sing's quick eyes scanned the surrounding jungle, and in a moment,
staggering to his feet, he cried, "Look see, klick! Foot plint!" and
ran, weak and reeling drunkenly, along the broad trail made by the
giant creature and its prey.

Von Horn and Professor Maxon followed closely in Sing's wake, the
younger man horrified by the terrible possibilities that obtruded
themselves into his imagination despite his every effort to assure
himself that no harm could come to Virginia Maxon before they reached
her. The girl's father had not spoken since they discovered that she
was missing from the campong, but his face was white and drawn; his
eyes wide and glassy as those of one whose mind is on the verge of
madness from a great nervous shock.

The trail of the creature was bewilderingly erratic. A dozen paces
straight through the underbrush, then a sharp turn at right angles for
no apparent reason, only to veer again suddenly in a new direction!
Thus, turning and twisting, the tortuous way led them toward the south
end of the island, until Sing, who was in advance, gave a sharp cry of
surprise.

"Klick! Look see!" he cried excitedly. "Blig blute dead - vely muchee
dead."

Von Horn rushed forward to where the Chinaman was leaning over the body
of Number One. Sure enough, the great brute lay motionless, its horrid
face even more hideous in death than in life, if it were possible. The
face was black, the tongue protruded, the skin was bruised from the
heavy fists of his assailant and the thick skull crushed and splintered
from terrific impact with the tree.

Professor Maxon leaned over von Horn's shoulder. "Ah, poor Number
One," he sighed, "that you should have come to such an untimely end - my
child, my child."

Von Horn looked at him, a tinge of compassion in his rather hard face.
It touched the man that his employer was at last shocked from the
obsession of his work to a realization of the love and duty he owed his
daughter; he thought that the professor's last words referred to
Virginia.

"Though there are twelve more," continued Professor Maxon, "you were my
first born son and I loved you most, dear child."

The younger man was horrified.

"My God, Professor!" he cried. "Are you mad? Can you call this thing
'child' and mourn over it when you do not yet know the fate of your own
daughter?"

Professor Maxon looked up sadly. "You do not understand, Dr. von
Horn," he replied coldly, "and you will oblige me, in the future, by
not again referring to the offspring of my labors as 'things.'"

With an ugly look upon his face von Horn turned his back upon the older
man - what little feeling of loyalty and affection he had ever felt for
him gone forever. Sing was looking about for evidences of the cause of
Number One's death and the probable direction in which Virginia Maxon
had disappeared.

"What on earth could have killed this enormous brute, Sing? Have you
any idea?" asked von Horn.

The Chinaman shook his head.

"No savvy," he replied. "Blig flight. Look see," and he pointed to
the torn and trampled turf, the broken bushes, and to one or two small
trees that had been snapped off by the impact of the two mighty bodies
that had struggled back and forth about the little clearing.

"This way," cried Sing presently, and started off once more into the
brush, but this time in a northwesterly direction, toward camp.

In silence the three men followed the new trail, all puzzled beyond
measure to account for the death of Number One at the hands of what
must have been a creature of superhuman strength. What could it have
been! It was impossible that any of the Malays or lascars could have
done the thing, and there were no other creatures, brute or human, upon
the island large enough to have coped even for an instant with the
ferocious brutality of the dead monster, except - von Horn's brain came
to a sudden halt at the thought. Could it be? There seemed no other
explanation. Virginia Maxon had been rescued from one soulless
monstrosity to fall into the hands of another equally irresponsible and
terrifying.

Others then must have escaped from the campong. Von Horn loosened his
guns in their holsters, and took a fresh grip upon his bull whip as he
urged Sing forward upon the trail. He wondered which one it was, but
not once did it occur to him that the latest result of Professor


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe Monster Men → online text (page 3 of 14)