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I Am Coming!







From: The Monster Men

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
destination.

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
prahu.

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
them.

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

"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
understand?"

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
brim.

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
world.

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
brush.

That night they slept in the long-house near the bank of the greater
stream, while its rightful occupants made the best of it in the jungle
behind. The next morning found the four again on the march ere the sun
had scarcely lighted the dark places of the forest, for Bulan was now
sure that he was on the right trail and that the new river that he had
come to was indeed the same that he had traversed in the Prahu with
Barunda.

It must have been close to noon when the young giant's ears caught the
sound of the movement of some animal in the jungle a short distance to
his right and away from the river. His experience with men had taught
him to be wary, for it was evident that every man's hand was against
him, so he determined to learn at once whether the noise he heard came
from some human enemy lurking along his trail ready to spring upon him
with naked parang at a moment that he was least prepared, or merely
from some jungle brute.

Cautiously he threaded his way through the matted vegetation in the
direction of the sound. Although a parang from the body of a
vanquished Dyak hung at his side he grasped his bull whip ready in his
right hand, preferring it to the less accustomed weapon of the head
hunter. For a dozen yards he advanced without sighting the object of
his search, but presently his efforts were rewarded by a glimpse of a
reddish, hairy body, and a pair of close set, wicked eyes peering at
him from behind a giant tree.

At the same instant a slight movement at one side attracted his
attention to where another similar figure crouched in the underbrush,
and then a third, fourth and fifth became evident about him. Bulan
looked in wonderment upon the strange, man-like creatures who eyed him
threateningly from every hand. They stood fully as high as the brown
Dyak warriors, but their bodies were naked except for the growth of
reddish hair which covered them, shading to black upon the face and
hands.

The lips of the nearest were raised in an angry snarl that exposed
wicked looking fighting fangs, but the beasts did not seem inclined to
initiate hostilities, and as they were unarmed and evidently but
engaged upon their own affairs Bulan decided to withdraw without
arousing them further. As he turned to retrace his steps he found his
three companions gazing in wide-eyed astonishment upon the strange new
creatures which confronted them.

Number Ten was grinning broadly, while Number Three advanced cautiously
toward one of the creatures, making a low guttural noise, that could
only be interpreted as peaceful and conciliatory--more like a feline
purr it was than anything else.

"What are you doing?" cried Bulan. "Leave them alone. They have not
offered to harm us."

"They are like us," replied Number Three. "They must be our own
people. I am going with them."

"And I," said Number Ten.

"And I," echoed Number Twelve. "At last we have found our own, let us
all go with them and live with them, far away from the men who would
beat us with great whips, and cut us with their sharp swords."

"They are not human beings," exclaimed Bulan. "We cannot live with
them."

"Neither are we human beings," retorted Number Twelve. "Has not von
Horn told us so many times?"

"If I am not now a human being," replied Bulan, "I intend to be one,
and so I shall act as a human being should act. I shall not go to live
with savage beasts, nor shall you. Come with me as I tell you, or you
shall again taste the bull whip."

"We shall do as we please," growled Number Ten, baring his fangs. "You
are not our master. We have followed you as long as we intend to. We
are tired of forever walking, walking, walking through the bushes that
tear our flesh and hurt us. Go and be a human being if you think you
can, but do not longer interfere with us or we shall kill you," and he
looked first at Number Three and then at Number Twelve for approval of
his ultimatum.

Number Three nodded his grotesque and hideous head--he was so covered
with long black hair that he more nearly resembled an ourang outang
than a human being. Number Twelve looked doubtful.

"I think Number Ten is right," he said at last. "We are not human. We
have no souls. We are things. And while you, Bulan, are beautiful,
yet you are as much a soulless thing as we--that much von Horn taught
us well. So I believe that it would be better were we to keep forever
from the sight of men. I do not much like the thought of living with
these strange, hairy monsters, but we might find a place here in the
jungle where we could live alone and in peace."

"I do not want to live alone," cried Number Three. "I want a mate, and
I see a beautiful one yonder now. I am going after her," and with that
he again started toward a female ourang outang; but the lady bared her
fangs and retreated before his advance.

"Even the beasts will have none of us," cried Number Ten angrily. "Let
us take them by force then," and he started after Number Three.

"Come back!" shouted Bulan, leaping after the two deserters.

As he raised his voice there came an answering cry from a little
distance ahead--a cry for help, and it was in the agonized tones of a
woman's voice.

"I am coming!" shouted Bulan, and without another glance at his
mutinous crew he sprang through the line of menacing ourang outangs.





Next: Perfidy

Previous: Desperate Chance



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