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right course to pursue from there on, and that they had decided that it
would be best for each to advance a little way in the direction he
thought the right one while Bulan and his five creatures remained where
they were.

"We will go but a little way," said the spokesman, "and then we shall
return and lead you in the proper direction."

Bulan saw no harm in this, and without a shade of suspicion sat down
upon a fallen tree and watched his two guides disappear into the jungle
in opposite directions. Once out of sight of the white man the two
turned back and met a short distance in the rear of the party they had
deserted - in another moment they were headed for the long-house from
which they had started.

It was fully an hour thereafter that doubts began to enter Bulan's
head, and as the day dragged on he came to realize that he and his
weird pack were alone and lost in the heart of a strange and tangled
web of tropical jungle.

No sooner had Bulan and his party disappeared in the jungle than
Barunda and Ninaka made haste to embark with the chest and the girl and
push rapidly on up the river toward the wild and inaccessible regions
of the interior. Virginia Maxon's strong hope of succor had been
gradually waning as no sign of the rescue party appeared as the day
wore on. Somewhere behind her upon the broad river she was sure a
long, narrow native prahu was being urged forward in pursuit, and that
in command of it was the young giant who was now never for a moment
absent from her thoughts.

For hours she strained her eyes over the stern of the craft that was
bearing her deeper and deeper into the wild heart of fierce Borneo. On
either shore they occasionally passed a native long-house, and the girl
could not help but wonder at the quiet and peace which reigned over
these little settlements. It was as though they were passing along a
beaten highway in the center of a civilized community; and yet she knew
that the men who lolled upon the verandahs, puffing indolently upon
their cigarettes or chewing betel nut, were all head hunters, and that
along the verandah rafters above them hung the grisly trophies of their

Yet as she glanced from them to her new captors she could not but feel
that she would prefer captivity in one of the settlements they were
passing - there at least she might find an opportunity to communicate
with her father, or be discovered by the rescue party as it came up the
river. The idea grew upon her as the day advanced until she spent the
time in watching furtively for some means of escape should they but
touch the shore momentarily; and though they halted twice her captors
were too watchful to permit her the slightest opportunity for putting
her plan into action.

Barunda and Ninaka urged their men on, with brief rests, all day, nor
did they halt even after night had closed down upon the river. On, on
the swift prahu sped up the winding channel which had now dwindled to a
narrow stream, at intervals rushing strongly between rocky walls with a
current that tested the strength of the strong, brown paddlers.

Long-houses had become more and more infrequent until for some time now
no sign of human habitation had been visible. The jungle undergrowth
was scantier and the spaces between the boles of the forest trees more
open. Virginia Maxon was almost frantic with despair as the utter
helplessness of her position grew upon her. Each stroke of those
slender paddles was driving her farther and farther from friends, or
the possibility of rescue. Night had fallen, dark and impenetrable,
and with it had come the haunting fears that creep in when the sun has
deserted his guardian post.

Barunda and Ninaka were whispering together in low gutturals, and to
the girl's distorted and fear excited imagination it seemed possible
that she alone must be the subject of their plotting. The prahu was
gliding through a stretch of comparatively quiet and placid water where
the stream spread out into a little basin just above a narrow gorge
through which they had just forced their way by dint of the most
laborious exertions on the part of the crew.

Virginia watched the two men near her furtively. They were deeply
engrossed in their conversation. Neither was looking in her direction.
The backs of the paddlers were all toward her. Stealthily she rose to
a stooping position at the boat's side. For a moment she paused, and
then, almost noiselessly, dove overboard and disappeared beneath the
black waters.

It was the slight rocking of the prahu that caused Barunda to look
suddenly about to discover the reason for the disturbance. For a
moment neither of the men apprehended the girl's absence. Ninaka was
the first to do so, and it was he who called loudly to the paddlers to
bring the boat to a stop. Then they dropped down the river with the
current, and paddled about above the gorge for half an hour.

The moment that Virginia Maxon felt the waters close above her head she
struck out beneath the surface for the shore upon the opposite side to
that toward which she had dived into the river. She knew that if any
had seen her leave the prahu they would naturally expect to intercept
her on her way toward the nearest shore, and so she took this means of
outwitting them, although it meant nearly double the distance to be

After swimming a short distance beneath the surface the girl rose and
looked about her. Up the river a few yards she caught the
phosphorescent gleam of water upon the prahu's paddles as they brought
her to a sudden stop in obedience to Ninaka's command. Then she saw
the dark mass of the war-craft drifting down toward her.

Again she dove and with strong strokes headed for the shore. The next
time that she rose she was terrified to see the prahu looming close
behind her. The paddlers were propelling the boat slowly in her
direction - it was almost upon her now - there was a shout from a man in
the bow - she had been seen.

Like a flash she dove once more and, turning, struck out rapidly
straight back beneath the oncoming boat. When she came to the surface
again it was to find herself as far from shore as she had been when she
first quitted the prahu, but the craft was now circling far below her,
and she set out once again to retrace her way toward the inky mass of
shore line which loomed apparently near and yet, as she knew, was some
considerable distance from her.

As she swam, her mind, filled with the terrors of the night, conjured
recollection of the stories she had heard of the fierce crocodiles
which infest certain of the rivers of Borneo. Again and again she
could have sworn that she felt some huge, slimy body sweep beneath her
in the mysterious waters of this unknown river.

Behind her she saw the prahu turn back up stream, but now her mind was
suddenly engaged with a new danger, for the girl realized that the
strong current was bearing her down stream more rapidly than she had
imagined. Already she could hear the increasing roar of the river as
it rushed, wild and tumultuous, through the entrance to the narrow
gorge below her. How far it was to shore she could not guess, or how
far to the certain death of the swirling waters toward which she was
being drawn by an irresistible force; but of one thing she was certain,
her strength was rapidly waning, and she must reach the bank quickly.

With redoubled energy she struck out in one last mighty effort to reach
the shore. The tug of the current was strong upon her, like a giant
hand reaching up out of the cruel river to bear her back to death. She
felt her strength ebbing quickly - her strokes now were feeble and
futile. With a prayer to her Maker she threw her hands above her head
in the last effort of the drowning swimmer to clutch at even thin air
for support - the current caught and swirled her downward toward the
gorge, and, at the same instant her fingers touched and closed upon
something which swung low above the water.

With the last flickering spark of vitality that remained in her poor,
exhausted body Virginia Maxon clung to the frail support that a kind
Providence had thrust into her hands. How long she hung there she
never knew, but finally a little strength returned to her, and
presently she realized that it was a pendant creeper hanging low from a
jungle tree upon the bank that had saved her from the river's rapacious

Inch by inch she worked herself upward toward the bank, and at last,
weak and panting, sunk exhausted to the cool carpet of grass that grew
to the water's edge. Almost immediately tired, Nature plunged her into
a deep sleep. It was daylight when she awoke, dreaming that the tall
young giant had rescued her from a band of demons and was lifting her
in his arms to carry her back to her father.

Through half open lids she saw the sunlight filtering through the leafy
canopy above her - she wondered at the realism of her dream; full
consciousness returned and with it the conviction that she was in truth
being held close by strong arms against a bosom that throbbed to the
beating of a real heart.

With a sudden start she opened her eyes wide to look up into the
hideous face of a giant ourang outang.



The morning following the capture of Virginia Maxon by Muda Saffir,
Professor Maxon, von Horn, Sing Lee and the sole surviving lascar from
the crew of the Ithaca set out across the strait toward the mainland of
Borneo in the small boat which the doctor had secreted in the jungle
near the harbor. The party was well equipped with firearms and
ammunition, and the bottom of the boat was packed full with provisions
and cooking utensils. Von Horn had been careful to see that the boat
was furnished with a mast and sail, and now, under a good breeze the
party was making excellent time toward the mysterious land of their

They had scarcely cleared the harbor when they sighted a ship far out
across the strait. Its erratic movements riveted their attention upon
it, and later, as they drew nearer, they perceived that the strange
craft was a good sized schooner with but a single short mast and tiny
sail. For a minute or two her sail would belly with the wind and the
vessel make headway, then she would come suddenly about, only to repeat
the same tactics a moment later. She sailed first this way and then
that, losing one minute what she had gained the minute before.

Von Horn was the first to recognize her.

"It is the Ithaca," he said, "and her Dyak crew are having a devil of a
time managing her - she acts as though she were rudderless."

Von Horn ran the small boat within hailing distance of the dismasted
hulk whose side was now lined with waving, gesticulating natives. They
were peaceful fishermen, they explained, whose prahus had been wrecked
in the recent typhoon. They had barely escaped with their lives by
clambering aboard this wreck which Allah had been so merciful as to
place directly in their road. Would the Tuan Besar be so good as to
tell them how to make the big prahu steer?

Von Horn promised to help them on condition that they would guide him
and his party to the stronghold of Rajah Muda Saffir in the heart of
Borneo. The Dyaks willingly agreed, and von Horn worked his small boat
in close under the Ithaca's stern. Here he found that the rudder had
been all but unshipped, probably as the vessel was lifted over the reef
during the storm, but a single pintle remaining in its gudgeon. A half
hour's work was sufficient to repair the damage, and then the two boats
continued their journey toward the mouth of the river up which those
they sought had passed the night before.

Inside the river's mouth an anchorage was found for the Ithaca near the
very island upon which the fierce battle between Number Thirteen and
Muda Saffir's forces had occurred. From the deck of the larger vessel
the deserted prahu which had borne Bulan across the strait was visible,
as were the bodies of the slain Dyaks and the misshapen creatures of
the white giant's forces.

In excited tones the head hunters called von Horn's attention to these
evidences of conflict, and the doctor drew his boat up to the island
and leaped ashore, followed by Professor Maxon and Sing. Here they
found the dead bodies of the four monsters who had fallen in an attempt
to rescue their creator's daughter, though little did any there imagine
the real truth.

About the corpses of the four were the bodies of a dozen Dyak warriors
attesting to the ferocity of the encounter and the savage prowess of
the unarmed creatures who had sold their poor lives so dearly.

"Evidently they fell out about the possession of the captive,"
suggested von Horn. "Let us hope that she did not fall into the
clutches of Number Thirteen - any fate would be better than that."

"God give that that has not befallen her," moaned Professor Maxon.
"The pirates might but hold her for ransom, but should that soulless
fiend possess her my prayer is that she found the strength and the
means to take her own life before he had an opportunity to have his way
with her."

"Amen," agreed von Horn.

Sing Lee said nothing, but in his heart he hoped that Virginia Maxon
was not in the power of Rajah Muda Saffir. The brief experience he had
had with Number Thirteen during the fight in the bungalow had rather
warmed his wrinkled old heart toward the friendless young giant, and he
was a sufficiently good judge of human nature to be confident that the
girl would be comparatively safe in his keeping.

It was quickly decided to abandon the small boat and embark the entire
party in the deserted war prahu. A half hour later saw the strangely
mixed expedition forging up the river, but not until von Horn had
boarded the Ithaca and discovered to his dismay that the chest was not
on board her.

Far above them on the right bank Muda Saffir still squatted in his
hiding place, for no friendly prahu or sampan had passed his way since
dawn. His keen eyes roving constantly up and down the long stretch of
river that was visible from his position finally sighted a war prahu
coming toward him from down stream. As it drew closer he recognized it
as one which had belonged to his own fleet before his unhappy encounter
with the wild white man and his abhorrent pack, and a moment later his
heart leaped as he saw the familiar faces of several of his men; but
who were the strangers in the stern, and what was a Chinaman doing
perched there upon the bow?

The prahu was nearly opposite him before he recognized Professor Maxon
and von Horn as the white men of the little island. He wondered how
much they knew of his part in the raid upon their encampment.
Bududreen had told him much concerning the doctor, and as Muda Saffir
recalled the fact that von Horn was anxious to possess himself of both
the treasure and the girl he guessed that he would be safe in the man's
hands so long as he could hold out promises of turning one or the other
over to him; and so, as he was tired of squatting upon the
uncomfortable bank and was very hungry, he arose and hailed the passing

His men recognized his voice immediately and as they knew nothing of
the defection of any of their fellows, turned the boat's prow toward
shore without waiting for the command from von Horn. The latter,
fearing treachery, sprang to his feet with raised rifle, but when one
of the paddlers explained that it was the Rajah Muda Saffir who hailed
them and that he was alone von Horn permitted them to draw nearer the
shore, though he continued to stand ready to thwart any attempted
treachery and warned both the professor and Sing to be on guard.

As the prahu's nose touched the bank Muda Saffir stepped aboard and
with many protestations of gratitude explained that he had fallen
overboard from his own prahu the night before and that evidently his
followers thought him drowned, since none of his boats had returned to
search for him. Scarcely had the Malay seated himself before von Horn
began questioning him in the rajah's native tongue, not a word of which
was intelligible to Professor Maxon. Sing, however, was as familiar
with it as was von Horn.

"Where are the girl and the treasure?" he asked.

"What girl, Tuan Besar?" inquired the wily Malay innocently. "And what
treasure? The white man speaks in riddles."

"Come, come," cried von Horn impatiently. "Let us have no foolishness.
You know perfectly well what I mean - it will go far better with you if
we work together as friends. I want the girl - if she is unharmed - and
I will divide the treasure with you if you will help me to obtain them;
otherwise you shall have no part of either. What do you say? Shall we
be friends or enemies?"

"The girl and the treasure were both stolen from me by a rascally
panglima, Ninaka," said Muda Saffir, seeing that it would be as well to
simulate friendship for the white man for the time being at
least - there would always be an opportunity to use a kris upon him in
the remote fastness of the interior to which Muda Saffir would lead

"What became of the white man who led the strange monsters?" asked von

"He killed many of my men, and the last I saw of him he was pushing up
the river after the girl and the treasure," replied the Malay.

"If another should ask you," continued von Horn with a meaningful
glance toward Professor Maxon, "it will be well to say that the girl
was stolen by this white giant and that you suffered defeat in an
attempt to rescue her because of your friendship for us. Do you

Muda Saffir nodded. Here was a man after his own heart, which loved
intrigue and duplicity. Evidently he would be a good ally in wreaking
vengeance upon the white giant who had caused all his
discomfiture - afterward there was always the kris if the other should
become inconvenient.

At the long-house at which Barunda and Ninaka had halted, Muda Saffir
learned all that had transpired, his informants being the two Dyaks who
had led Bulan and his pack into the jungle. He imparted the
information to von Horn and both men were delighted that thus their
most formidable enemy had been disposed of. It would be but a question
of time before the inexperienced creatures perished in the dense
forest - that they ever could retrace their steps to the river was most
unlikely, and the chances were that one by one they would be dispatched
by head hunters while they slept.

Again the party embarked, reinforced by the two Dyaks who were only too
glad to renew their allegiance to Muda Saffir while he was backed by
the guns of the white men. On and on they paddled up the river,
gleaning from the dwellers in the various long-houses information of
the passing of the two prahus with Barunda, Ninaka, and the white girl.

Professor Maxon was impatient to hear every detail that von Horn
obtained from Muda Saffir and the various Dyaks that were interviewed
at the first long-house and along the stretch of river they covered.
The doctor told him that Number Thirteen still had Virginia and was
fleeing up the river in a swift prahu. He enlarged upon the valor
shown by Muda Saffir and his men in their noble attempt to rescue his
daughter, and through it all Sing Lee sat with half closed eyes,
apparently oblivious to all that passed before him. What were the
workings of that intricate celestial brain none can say.

Far in the interior of the jungle Bulan and his five monsters stumbled
on in an effort to find the river. Had they known it they were moving
parallel with the stream, but a few miles from it. At times it wound
in wide detours close to the path of the lost creatures, and again it
circled far away from them.

As they travelled they subsisted upon the fruits with which they had
become familiar upon the island of their creation. They suffered
greatly for lack of water, but finally stumbled upon a small stream at
which they filled their parched stomachs. Here it occurred to Bulan
that it would be wise to follow the little river, since they could be
no more completely lost than they now were no matter where it should
lead them, and it would at least insure them plenty of fresh water.

As they proceeded down the bank of the stream it grew in size until
presently it became a fair sized river, and Bulan had hopes that it
might indeed prove the stream that they had ascended from the ocean and
that soon he would meet with the prahus and possibly find Virginia
Maxon herself. The strenuous march of the six through the jungle had
torn their light cotton garments into shreds so that they were all
practically naked, while their bodies were scratched and bleeding from
countless wounds inflicted by sharp thorns and tangled brambles through
which they had forced their way.

Bulan still carried his heavy bull whip while his five companions were
armed with the parangs they had taken from the Dyaks they had
overpowered upon the island at the mouth of the river. It was upon
this strange and remarkable company that the sharp eyes of a score of
river Dyaks peered through the foliage. The head hunters had been
engaged in collecting camphor crystals when their quick ears caught the
noisy passage of the six while yet at a considerable distance, and with
ready parangs the savages crept stealthily toward the sound of the
advancing party.

At first they were terror stricken at the hideous visages of five of
the creatures they beheld, but when they saw how few their numbers, and
how poorly armed they were, as well as the awkwardness with which they
carried their parangs, denoting their unfamiliarity with the weapons,
they took heart and prepared to ambush them.

What prizes those terrible heads would be when properly dried and
decorated! The savages fairly trembled in anticipation of the
commotion they would cause in the precincts of their long-house when
they returned with six such magnificent trophies.

Their victims came blundering on through the dense jungle to where the
twenty sleek brown warriors lay in wait for them. Bulan was in the
lead, and close behind him in single file lumbered his awkward crew.
Suddenly there was a chorus of savage cries close beside him and
simultaneously he found himself in the midst of twenty cutting,
slashing parangs.

Like lightning his bull whip flew into action, and to the astonished
warriors it was as though a score of men were upon them in the person
of this mighty white giant. Following the example of their leader the
five creatures at his back leaped upon the nearest warriors, and though
they wielded their parangs awkwardly the superhuman strength back of
their cuts and thrusts sent the already blood stained blades through
many a brown body.

The Dyaks would gladly have retreated after the first surprise of their
initial attack, but Bulan urged his men on after them, and so they were
forced to fight to preserve their lives at all. At last five of them
managed to escape into the jungle, but fifteen remained quietly upon
the earth where they had fallen - the victims of their own over
confidence. Beside them lay two of Bulan's five, so that now the
little party was reduced to four - and the problem that had faced
Professor Maxon was so much closer to its own solution.

From the bodies of the dead Dyaks Bulan and his three companions,
Number Three, Number Ten, and Number Twelve, took enough loin cloths,
caps, war-coats, shields and weapons to fit them out completely, after
discarding the ragged remnants of their cotton pajamas, and now, even
more terrible in appearance than before, the rapidly vanishing company
of soulless monsters continued their aimless wandering down the river's

The five Dyaks who had escaped carried the news of the terrible
creatures that had fallen upon them in the jungle, and of the awful
prowess of the giant white man who led them. They told of how, armed
only with a huge whip, he had been a match and more than a match for
the best warriors of the tribe, and the news that they started spread
rapidly down the river from one long-house to another until it reached
the broad stream into which the smaller river flowed, and then it
travelled up and down to the headwaters above and the ocean far below
in the remarkable manner that news travels in the wild places of the

So it was that as Bulan advanced he found the long-houses in his path
deserted, and came to the larger river and turned up toward its head
without meeting with resistance or even catching a glimpse of the
brown-skinned people who watched him from their hiding places in the

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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe Monster Men → online text (page 9 of 14)