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before I found you. Come, we will hasten on to the harbor. Your
father will be worried if we are long delayed, and he is anxious to
make sail and escape before the Dyaks discover the location of the
Ithaca."

The man's story seemed plausible enough to Virginia, although she could
not repress a little pang of regret that her father had been willing to
go on to the harbor before he knew her fate. However, she explained
that by her belief that his mind was unbalanced through constant
application to his weird obsession.

Without demur, then, she turned and accompanied the rascally Malay
toward the harbor. At the bank of the little stream which led down to
the Ithaca's berth the man lifted her to his shoulder and thus bore her
the balance of the way to the beach. Here two of his men were awaiting
him in one of the ship's boats, and without words they embarked and
pulled for the vessel.

Once on board Virginia started immediately for her father's cabin. As
she crossed the deck she noticed that the ship was ready to sail, and
even as she descended the companionway she heard the rattle of the
anchor chain about the capstan. She wondered if von Horn could be on
board too. It seemed remarkable that all should have reached the
Ithaca so quickly, and equally strange that none of her own people were
on deck to welcome her, or to command the vessel.

To her chagrin she found her father's cabin empty, and a moment's
hurried investigation disclosed the fact that von Horn's was unoccupied
as well. Now her doubts turned quickly to fears, and with a little
gasp of dismay at the grim possibilities which surged through her
imagination she ran quickly to the companionway, but above her she saw
that the hatch was down, and when she reached the top that it was
fastened. Futilely she beat upon the heavy planks with her delicate
hands, calling aloud to Bududreen to release her, but there was no
reply, and with the realization of the hopelessness of her position she
dropped back to the deck, and returned to her stateroom. Here she
locked and barricaded the door as best she could, and throwing herself
upon the berth awaited in dry-eyed terror the next blow that fate held
in store for her.

Shortly after von Horn became separated from Virginia he collided with
the fleeing lascar who had escaped the parangs of Muda Saffir's head
hunters at the same time as had Bududreen. So terror stricken was the
fellow that he had thrown away his weapons in the panic of flight,
which was all that saved von Horn from death at the hands of the fear
crazed man. To him, in the extremity of his fright, every man was an
enemy, and the doctor had a tough scuffle with him before he could
impress upon the fellow that he was a friend.

From him von Horn obtained an incoherent account of the attack,
together with the statement that he was the only person in camp that
escaped, all the others having been cut down by the savage horde that
overwhelmed them. It was with difficulty that von Horn persuaded the
man to return with him to the campong, but finally, he consented to do
so when the doctor with drawn revolver, presented death as the only
alternative.

Together they cautiously crept back toward the palisade, not knowing at
what moment they might come upon the savage enemy that had wrought such
havoc among their forces, for von Horn believed the lascar's story that
all had perished. His only motive for returning lay in his desire to
prevent Virginia Maxon falling into the hands of the Dyaks, or, failing
that, rescuing her from their clutches.

Whatever faults and vices were Carl von Horn's cowardice was not one of
them, and it was without an instant's hesitation that he had elected to
return to succor the girl he believed to have returned to camp,
although he entertained no scruples regarding the further pursuit of
his dishonorable intentions toward her, should he succeed in saving her
from her other enemies.

As the two approached the campong quiet seemed to have again fallen
about the scene of the recent alarm. Muda Saffir had passed on toward
the cove with the heavy chest, and the scrimmage in the bungalow was
over. But von Horn did not abate his watchfulness as he stole silently
within the precincts of the north campong, and, hugging the denser
shadows of the palisade, crept toward the house.

The dim light in the living room drew him to one of the windows which
overlooked the verandah. A glance within showed him Sing and Number
Thirteen bending over the body of Professor Maxon. He noted the
handsome face and perfect figure of the young giant. He saw the bodies
of the dead lascars and Dyaks. Then he saw Sing and the young man lift
Professor Maxon tenderly in their arms and bear him to his own room.

A sudden wave of jealous rage swept through the man's vicious brain.
He saw that the soulless thing within was endowed with a kindlier and
more noble nature than he himself possessed. He had planted the seed
of hatred and revenge within his untutored heart without avail, for he
read in the dead bodies of Bududreen's men and the two Dyaks the story
of Number Thirteen's defense of the man von Horn had hoped he would
kill.

Von Horn was quite sure now that Virginia Maxon was not within the
campong. Either she had become confused and lost in the jungle after
she left him, or had fallen into the hands of the wild horde that had
attacked the camp. Convinced of this, there was no obstacle to thwart
the sudden plan which entered his malign brain. With a single act he
could rid himself of the man whom he had come to look upon as a rival,
whose physical beauty aroused his envy and jealousy; he could remove,
in the person of Professor Maxon, the parental obstacle which might
either prevent his obtaining the girl, or make serious trouble for him
in case he took her by force, and at the same time he could transfer to
the girl's possession the fortune which was now her father's - and he
could accomplish it all without tainting his own hands with the blood
of his victims.

As the full possibilities of his devilish scheme unfolded before his
mind's eye a grim smile curled his straight, thin lips at the thought
of the fate which it entailed for the creator of the hideous monsters
of the court of mystery.

As he turned away from the bungalow his eye fell upon the trembling
lascar who had accompanied him to the edge of the verandah. He must be
rid of the fellow in some way - no eye must see him perpetrate the deed
he had in mind. A solution quickly occurred to him.

"Hasten to the harbor," he said to the man in a low voice, "and tell
those on board the ship that I shall join them presently. Have all in
readiness to sail. I wish to fetch some of my belongings - all within
the bungalow are dead."

No command could have better suited the sailor. Without a word he
turned and fled toward the jungle. Von Horn walked quickly to the
workshop. The door hung open. Through the dark interior he strode
straight to the opposite door which let upon the court of mystery. On
a nail driven into the door frame hung a heavy bull whip. The doctor
took it down as he raised the strong bar which held the door. Then he
stepped through into the moonlit inner campong - the bull whip in his
right hand, a revolver in his left.

A half dozen misshapen monsters roved restlessly about the hard packed
earth of the pen. The noise of the battle in the adjoining enclosure
had aroused them from slumber and awakened in their half formed brains
vague questionings and fears. At sight of von Horn several of them
rushed for him with menacing growls, but a swift crack of the bull whip
brought them to a sudden realization of the identity of the intruder,
so that they slunk away, muttering and whining in rage.

Von Horn passed quickly to the low shed in which the remainder of the
eleven were sleeping. With vicious cuts from the stinging lash he lay
about him upon the sleeping things. Roaring and shrieking in pain and
anger the creatures stumbled to their feet and lumbered awkwardly into
the open. Two of them turned upon their tormentor, but the burning
weapon on their ill protected flesh sent them staggering back out of
reach, and in another moment all were huddled in the center of the
campong.

As cattle are driven, von Horn drove the miserable creatures toward the
door of the workshop. At the threshold of the dark interior the
frightened things halted fearfully, and then as von Horn urged them on
from behind with his cruel whip they milled as cattle at the entrance
to a strange corral.

Again and again he urged them for the door, but each time they turned
away, and to escape the whip beat and tore at the wall of the palisade
in a vain effort to batter it from their pathway. Their roars and
shrieks were almost deafening as von Horn, losing what little remained
of his scant self-control, dashed among them laying to right and left
with the stern whip and the butt of his heavy revolver.

Most of the monsters scattered and turned back into the center of the
enclosure, but three of them were forced through the doorway into the
workshop, from the darkness of which they saw the patch of moonlight
through the open door upon the opposite side. Toward this they
scurried as von Horn turned back into the court of mystery for the
others.

Three more herculean efforts he made before he beat the last of the
creatures through the outer doorway of the workshop into the north
campong.


Among the age old arts of the celestials none is more strangely
inspiring than that of medicine. Odd herbs and unspeakable things when
properly compounded under a favorable aspect of the heavenly bodies are
potent to achieve miraculous cures, and few are the Chinamen who do not
brew some special concoction of their own devising for the lesser ills
which beset mankind.

Sing was no exception in this respect. In various queerly shaped,
bamboo covered jars he maintained a supply of tonics, balms and
lotions. His first thought when he had made Professor Maxon
comfortable upon the couch was to fetch his pet nostrum, for there
burned strong within his yellow breast the same powerful yearning to
experiment that marks the greatest of the profession to whose mysteries
he aspired.

Though the hideous noises from the inner campong rose threateningly,
the imperturbable Sing left the bungalow and passed across the north
campong to the little lean-to that he had built for himself against the
palisade that separated the north enclosure from the court of mystery.

Here he rummaged about in the dark until he had found the two phials he
sought. The noise of the monsters upon the opposite side of the
palisade had now assumed the dimensions of pandemonium, and through it
all the Chinaman heard the constant crack that was the sharp voice of
the bull whip.

He had completed his search and was about to return to the bungalow
when the first of the monsters emerged into the north campong from the
workshop. At the door of his shack Sing Lee drew back to watch, for he
knew that behind them some one was driving these horribly grotesque
creatures from their prison.

One by one they came lumbering into the moonlight until Sing had
counted eleven, and then, after them, came a white man, bull whip and
revolver in hand. It was von Horn. The equatorial moon shone full
upon him - there could be no mistake. The Chinaman saw him turn and
lock the workshop door; saw him cross the campong to the outer gate;
saw him pass through toward the jungle, closing the gate.

Of a sudden there was a sad, low moaning through the surrounding trees;
dense, black clouds obscured the radiant moon; and then with hideous
thunder and vivid flashes of lightning the tempest broke in all its
fury of lashing wind and hurtling deluge. It was the first great storm
of the breaking up of the monsoon, and under the cover of its darkness
Sing Lee scurried through the monster filled campong to the bungalow.
Within he found the young man bathing Professor Maxon's head as he had
directed him to do.

"All gettee out," he said, jerking his thumb in the direction of the
court of mystery. "Eleven devils. Plenty soon come bung'low. What
do?"

Number Thirteen had seen von Horn's extra bull whip hanging upon a peg
in the living room. For answer he stepped into that room and took the
weapon down. Then he returned to the professor's side.

Outside the frightened monsters groped through the blinding rain and
darkness in search of shelter. Each vivid lightning flash, and
bellowing of booming thunder brought responsive cries of rage and
terror from their hideous lips. It was Number Twelve who first spied
the dim light showing through the bungalow's living room window. With
a low guttural to his companions he started toward the building. Up
the low steps to the verandah they crept. Number Twelve peered through
the window. He saw no one within, but there was warmth and dryness.

His little knowledge and lesser reasoning faculties suggested no
thought of a doorway. With a blow he shattered the glass of the
window. Then he forced his body through the narrow aperture. At the
same moment a gust of wind sucking through the broken panes drew open
the door, and as Number Thirteen, warned by the sound of breaking
glass, sprang into the living room he was confronted by the entire
horde of misshapen beings.

His heart went out in pity toward the miserable crew, but he knew that
his life as well as those of the two men in the adjoining room depended
upon the force and skill with which he might handle the grave crisis
which confronted them. He had seen and talked with most of the
creatures when from time to time they had been brought singly into the
workshop that their creator might mitigate the wrong he had done by
training the poor minds with which he had endowed them to reason
intelligently.

A few were hopeless imbeciles, unable to comprehend more than the
rudimentary requirements of filling their bellies when food was placed
before them; yet even these were endowed with superhuman strength; and
when aroused battled the more fiercely for the very reason of their
brainlessness. Others, like Number Twelve, were of a higher order of
intelligence. They spoke English, and, after a fashion, reasoned in a
crude sort of way. These were by far the most dangerous, for as the
power of comparison is the fundamental principle of reasoning, so they
were able to compare their lot with that of the few other men they had
seen, and with the help of von Horn to partially appreciate the
horrible wrong that had been done them.

Von Horn, too, had let them know the identity of their creator, and
thus implanted in their malformed brains the insidious poison of
revenge. Envy and jealousy were there as well, and hatred of all
beings other than themselves. They envied the ease and comparative
beauty of the old professor and his assistant, and hated the latter for
the cruelty of the bull whip and the constant menace of the ever ready
revolver; and so as they were to them the representatives of the great
human world of which they could never be a part, their envy and
jealousy and hatred of these men embraced the entire race which they
represented.

It was such that Number Thirteen faced as he emerged from the
professor's apartment.

"What do you want here?" he said, addressing Number Twelve, who stood a
little in advance of the others.

"We have come for Maxon," growled the creature. "We have been penned
up long enough. We want to be out here. We have come to kill Maxon
and you and all who have made us what we are."

"Why do you wish to kill me?" asked the young man. "I am one of you.
I was made in the same way that you were made."

Number Twelve opened his mismated eyes in astonishment.

"Then you have already killed Maxon?" he asked.

"No. He was wounded by a savage enemy. I have been helping to make
him well again. He has wronged me as much as he has you. If I do not
wish to kill him, why should you? He did not mean to wrong us. He
thought that he was doing right. He is in trouble now and we should
stay and protect him."

"He lies," suddenly shouted another of the horde. "He is not one of
us. Kill him! Kill him! Kill Maxon, too, and then we shall be as
other men, for it is these men who keep us as we are."

The fellow started forward toward Number Thirteen as he spoke, and
moved by the impulse of imitation the others came on with him.

"I have spoken fairly to you," said Number Thirteen in a low voice.
"If you cannot understand fairness here is something you can
understand."

Raising the bull whip above his head the young giant leaped among the
advancing brutes and lay about him with mighty strokes that put to
shame the comparatively feeble blows with which von Horn had been wont
to deal out punishment to the poor, damned creatures of the court of
mystery.

For a moment they stood valiantly before his attack, but after two had
grappled with him and been hurled headlong to the floor they gave up
and rushed incontinently out into the maelstrom of the screaming
tempest.

In the doorway behind him Sing Lee had been standing waiting the
outcome of the encounter and ready to lend a hand were it required. As
the two men turned back into the professor's room they saw that the
wounded man's eyes were open and upon them. At sight of Number
Thirteen a questioning look came into his eyes.

"What has happened?" he asked feebly of Sing. "Where is my daughter?
Where is Dr. von Horn? What is this creature doing out of his pen?"

The blow of the parang upon the professor's skull had shocked his
overwrought mind back into the path of sanity. It had left him with a
clear remembrance of the past, other than the recent fight in the
living room - that was a blank - and it had given him a clearer
perspective of the plans he had been entertaining for so long relative
to this soulless creature.

The first thought that sprang to his mind as he saw Number Thirteen
before him was of his mad intention to give his daughter to such a
monstrous thing. With the recollection came a sudden loathing and
hatred of this and the other creatures of his unholy experimentations.

Presently he realized that his questions had not been answered.

"Sing!" he shouted. "Answer me. Where are Virginia and Dr. von Horn?"

"All gonee. Me no know. All gonee. Maybeso allee dead."

"My God!" groaned the stricken man; and then his eyes again falling
upon the silent giant in the doorway, "Out of my sight," he shrieked.
"Out of my sight! Never let me see you again - and to think that I
would have given my only daughter to a soulless thing like you. Away!
Before I go mad and slay you."

Slowly the color mounted to the neck and face of the giant - then
suddenly it receded, leaving him as ashen as death. His great hand
gripped the stock of the bull whip. A single blow was all that would
have been needed to silence Professor Maxon forever. There was murder
in the wounded heart. The man took a step forward into the room, and
then something drew his eyes to a spot upon the wall just above
Professor Maxon's shoulder - it was a photograph of Virginia Maxon.

Without a word Number Thirteen turned upon his heel and passed out into
the storm.



8

THE SOUL OF NUMBER 13


Scarcely had the Ithaca cleared the reef which lies almost across the
mouth of the little harbor where she had been moored for so many months
than the tempest broke upon her in all its terrific fury. Bududreen
was no mean sailor, but he was short handed, nor is it reasonable to
suppose that even with a full crew he could have weathered the terrific
gale which beat down upon the hapless vessel. Buffeted by great waves,
and stripped of every shred of canvas by the force of the mighty wind
that howled about her, the Ithaca drifted a hopeless wreck soon after
the storm struck her.

Below deck the terrified girl clung desperately to a stanchion as the
stricken ship lunged sickeningly before the hurricane. For half an
hour the awful suspense endured, and then with a terrific crash the
vessel struck, shivering and trembling from stem to stern.

Virginia Maxon sank to her knees in prayer, for this she thought must
surely be the end. On deck Bududreen and his crew had lashed
themselves to the masts, and as the Ithaca struck the reef before the
harbor, back upon which she had been driven, the tall poles with their
living freight snapped at the deck and went overboard carrying every
thing with them amid shrieks and cries of terror that were drowned and
choked by the wild tumult of the night.

Twice the girl felt the ship strike upon the reef, then a great wave
caught and carried her high into the air, dropping her with a
nauseating lunge which seemed to the imprisoned girl to be carrying the
ship to the very bottom of the ocean. With closed eyes she clung in
silent prayer beside her berth waiting for the moment that would bring
the engulfing waters and oblivion - praying that the end might come
speedily and release her from the torture of nervous apprehension that
had terrorized her for what seemed an eternity.

After the last, long dive the Ithaca righted herself laboriously,
wallowing drunkenly, but apparently upon an even keel in less turbulent
waters. One long minute dragged after another, yet no suffocating
deluge poured in upon the girl, and presently she realized that the
ship had, at least temporarily, weathered the awful buffeting of the
savage elements. Now she felt but a gentle roll, though the wild
turmoil of the storm still came to her ears through the heavy planking
of the Ithaca's hull.

For a long hour she lay wondering what fate had overtaken the vessel
and whither she had been driven, and then, with a gentle grinding
sound, the ship stopped, swung around, and finally came to rest with a
slight list to starboard. The wind howled about her, the torrential
rain beat loudly upon her, but except for a slight rocking the ship lay
quiet.

Hours passed with no other sounds than those of the rapidly waning
tempest. The girl heard no signs of life upon the ship. Her curiosity
became more and more keenly aroused. She had that indefinable,
intuitive feeling that she was utterly alone upon the vessel, and at
length, unable to endure the inaction and uncertainty longer, made her
way to the companion ladder where for half an hour she futilely
attempted to remove the hatch.

As she worked she failed to hear the scraping of naked bodies
clambering over the ship's side, or the padding of unshod feet upon the
deck above her. She was about to give up her work at the hatch when
the heavy wooden cover suddenly commenced to move above her as though
actuated by some supernatural power. Fascinated, the girl stood gazing
in wide-eyed astonishment as one end of the hatch rose higher and
higher until a little patch of blue sky revealed the fact that morning
had come. Then the cover slid suddenly back and Virginia Maxon found
herself looking into a savage and terrible face.

The dark skin was creased in fierce wrinkles about the eyes and mouth.
Gleaming tiger cat's teeth curved upward from holes pierced to receive
them in the upper half of each ear. The slit ear lobes supported heavy
rings whose weight had stretched the skin until the long loop rested
upon the brown shoulders. The filed and blackened teeth behind the
loose lips added the last touch of hideousness to this terrible
countenance.

Nor was this all. A score of equally ferocious faces peered down from
behind the foremost. With a little scream Virginia Maxon sprang back
to the lower deck and ran toward her stateroom. Behind her she heard
the commotion of many men descending the companionway.


As Number Thirteen came into the campong after quitting the bungalow
his heart was a chaos of conflicting emotions. His little world had
been wiped out. His creator - the man whom he thought his only friend
and benefactor - had suddenly turned against him. The beautiful
creature he worshipped was either lost or dead; Sing had said so. He
was nothing but a miserable THING. There was no place in the world for
him, and even should he again find Virginia Maxon, he had von Horn's
word for it that she would shrink from him and loathe him even more
than another.

With no plans and no hopes he walked aimlessly through the blinding
rain, oblivious of it and of the vivid lightning and deafening thunder.
The palisade at length brought him to a sudden stop. Mechanically he
squatted on his haunches with his back against it, and there, in the


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe Monster Men → online text (page 6 of 14)