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Into Savage Borneo







From: The Monster Men

Von Horn cursed the chance that had snatched the girl from him, but he
tried to content himself with the thought that the treasure probably
still rested in the cabin of the Ithaca, where Bududreen was to have
deposited it. He wished that the Dyaks would take themselves off so
that he could board the vessel and carry the chest ashore to bury it
against the time that fate should provide a means for transporting it
to Singapore.

In the water below him floated the Ithaca's masts, their grisly burdens
still lashed to their wave swept sides. Bududreen lay there, his
contorted features set in a horrible grimace of death which grinned up
at the man he would have cheated, as though conscious of the fact that
the white man would have betrayed him had the opportunity come, the
while he enjoyed in anticipation the other's disappointment in the loss
of both the girl and the treasure.

The tide was rising now, and presently the Ithaca began to float. No
sooner was it apparent that she was free than the Dyaks sprang into the
water and swam to her side. Like monkeys they scrambled aboard,
swarming below deck in search, thought von Horn, of pillage. He prayed
that they would not discover the chest.

Presently a half dozen of them leaped overboard and swam to the mass of
tangled spars and rigging which littered the beach. Selecting what
they wished they returned to the vessel, and a few minutes later von
Horn was chagrined to see them stepping a jury mast--he thought the
treasure lay in the Ithaca's cabin.

Before dark the vessel moved slowly out of the harbor, setting a course
across the strait in the direction that the war prahus had taken. When
it was apparent that there was no danger that the head hunters would
return, the lascar came from his hiding place, and dancing up and down
upon the shore screamed warlike challenges and taunts at the retreating
enemy.

Von Horn also came forth, much to the sailor's surprise, and in silence
the two stood watching the disappearing ship. At length they turned
and made their way up the stream toward camp--there was no longer aught
to fear there. Von Horn wondered if the creatures he had loosed upon
Professor Maxon had done their work before they left, or if they had
all turned to mush as had Number Thirteen.

Once at the encampment his questions were answered, for he saw a light
in the bungalow, and as he mounted the steps there were Sing and
Professor Maxon just coming from the living room.

"Von Horn!" exclaimed the professor. "You, then, are not dead; but
where is Virginia? Tell me that she is safe."

"She has been carried away" was the startling answer. "Your creatures,
under the thing you wished to marry her to, have taken her to Borneo
with a band of Malay and Dyak pirates. I was alone and could do
nothing to prevent them."

"God!" moaned the old man. "Why did I not kill the thing when it stood
within my power to do so. Only last night he was here beside me, and
now it is too late."

"I warned you," said von Horn, coldly.

"I was mad," retorted the professor. "Could you not see that I was
mad? Oh, why did you not stop me? You were sane enough. You at least
might have forced me to abandon the insane obsession which has
overpowered my reason for all these terrible months. I am sane now,
but it is too late--too late."

"Both you and your daughter could only have interpreted any such action
on my part as instigated by self-interest, for you both knew that I
wanted to make her my wife," replied the other. "My hands were tied.
I am sorry now that I did not act, but you can readily see the position
in which I was placed."

"Can nothing be done to get her back?" cried the father. "There must
be some way to save her. Do it von Horn, and not only is my daughter
yours but my wealth as well--every thing that I possess shall be yours
if you will but save her from those frightful creatures."

"The Ithaca is gone, too," replied the doctor. "There is only a small
boat that I hid in the jungle for some such emergency. It will carry
us to Borneo, but what can we four do against five hundred pirates and
the dozen monsters you have brought into the world? No, Professor
Maxon, I fear there is little hope, though I am willing to give my life
in an attempt to save Virginia. You will not forget your promise
should we succeed?"

"No, doctor," replied the old man. "I swear that you shall have
Virginia as your wife, and all my property shall be made over to you if
she is rescued."

Sing Lee had been a silent listener to this strange conversation. An
odd look came into his slant eyes as he heard von Horn exact a
confirmation from the professor, but what passed in his shrewd mind
only he could say.

It was too late to attempt to make a start that day for Borneo, as
darkness had already fallen. Professor Maxon and von Horn walked over
to the workshop and the inner campong to ascertain what damage had been
done there.

On their return Sing was setting the table on the verandah for the
evening meal. The two men were talking, and without making his
presence noticeable the Chinaman hovered about ever within ear shot.

"I cannot make it out, von Horn," Professor Maxon was saying. "Not a
board broken, and the doors both apparently opened intentionally by
someone familiar with locks and bolts. Who could have done it?"

"You forget Number Thirteen," suggested the doctor.

"But the chest!" expostulated the other. "What in the world would he
want of that enormous and heavy chest?"

"He might have thought that it contained treasure," hazarded von Horn,
in an innocent tone of voice.

"Bosh, my dear man," replied Professor Maxon. "He knew nothing of
treasures, or money, or the need or value of either. I tell you the
workshop was opened, and the inner campong as well by some one who knew
the value of money and wanted that chest, but why they should have
released the creatures from the inner enclosure is beyond me."

"And I tell you Professor Maxon that it could have been none other than
Number Thirteen," insisted von Horn. "Did I not myself see him leading
his eleven monsters as easily as a captain commands his company? The
fellow is brighter than we have imagined. He has learned much from us
both, he has reasoned, and he has shrewdly guessed many things that he
could not have known through experience."

"But his object?" asked the professor.

"That is simple," returned von Horn. "You have held out hopes to him
that soon he should come to live under your roof with Virginia. The
creature has been madly infatuated with her ever since the day he took
her from Number One, and you have encouraged his infatuation until
yesterday. Then you regained your sanity and put him in his rightful
place. What is the result? Denied the easy prey he expected he
immediately decided to take it by force, and with that end in view, and
taking advantage of the series of remarkable circumstances which played
into his hands, he liberated his fellows, and with them hastened to the
beach in search of Virginia and in hopes of being able to fly with her
upon the Ithaca. There he met the Malay pirates, and together they
formed an alliance under terms of which Number Thirteen is to have the
girl, and the pirates the chest in return for transporting him and his
crew to Borneo. Why it is all perfectly simple and logical, Professor
Maxon; do you not see it now?"

"You may be right, doctor," answered the old man. "But it is idle to
conjecture. Tomorrow we can be up and doing, so let us get what sleep
we can tonight. We shall need all our energies if we are to save my
poor, dear girl, from the clutches of that horrid, soulless thing."


At the very moment that he spoke the object of his contumely was
entering the dark mouth of a broad river that flowed from out of the
heart of savage Borneo. In the prahu with him his eleven hideous
companions now bent to their paddles with slightly increased
efficiency. Before them the leader saw a fire blazing upon a tiny
island in the center of the stream. Toward this they turned their
silent way. Grimly the war prahu with its frightful freight nosed
closer to the bank.

At last Number Thirteen made out the figures of men about the fire, and
as they came still closer he was sure that they were members of the
very party he had been pursuing across the broad waters for hours. The
prahus were drawn up upon the bank and the warriors were preparing to
eat.

Just as the young giants' prahu came within the circle of firelight a
swarthy Malay approached the fire, dragging a white girl roughly by the
arm. No more was needed to convince Number Thirteen of the identity of
the party. With a low command to his fellows he urged them to
redoubled speed. At the same instant a Dyak warrior caught sight of
the approaching boat as it sped into the full glare of the light.

At sight of the occupants the head hunters scattered for their own
prahus. The frightful aspect of the enemy turned their savage hearts
to water, leaving no fight in their ordinarily warlike souls.

So quickly they moved that as the pursuing prahu touched the bank all
the nearer boats had been launched, and the remaining pirates were

scurrying across the little island for those which lay upon the
opposite side. Among these was the Malay who guarded the girl, but he
had not been quick enough to prevent Virginia Maxon recognizing the
stalwart figure standing in the bow of the oncoming craft.

As he dragged her away toward the prahu of Muda Saffir she cried out to
the strange white man who seemed her self-appointed protector.

"Help! Help!" she called. "This way! Across the island!" And then
the brown hand of her jailer closed over her mouth. Like a tigress she
fought to free herself, or to detain her captor until the rescue party
should catch up with them, but the scoundrel was muscled like a bull,
and when the girl held back he lifted her across his shoulder and broke
into a run.

Rajah Muda Saffir had no stomach for a fight himself, but he was loathe
to lose the prize he had but just won, and seeing that his men were
panic-stricken he saw no alternative but to rally them for a brief
stand that would give the little moment required to slip away in his
own prahu with the girl.

Calling aloud for those around him to come to his support he halted
fifty yards from his boat just as Number Thirteen with his fierce,
brainless horde swept up from the opposite side of the island in the
wake of him who bore Virginia Maxon. The old rajah succeeded in
gathering some fifty warriors about him from the crews of the two boats
which lay near his. His own men he hastened to their posts in his
prahu that they might be ready to pull swiftly away the moment that he
and the captive were aboard.

The Dyak warriors presented an awe inspiring spectacle in the fitful
light of the nearby camp fire. The ferocity of their fierce faces was
accentuated by the upturned, bristling tiger cat's teeth which
protruded from every ear; while the long feathers of the Argus pheasant
waving from their war-caps, the brilliant colors of their war-coats
trimmed with the black and white feathers of the hornbill, and the
strange devices upon their gaudy shields but added to the savagery of
their appearance as they danced and howled, menacing and intimidating,
in the path of the charging foe.

A single backward glance was all that Virginia Maxon found it possible
to throw in the direction of the rescue party, and in that she saw a
sight that lived forever in her memory. At the head of his hideous,
misshapen pack sprang the stalwart young giant straight into the heart
of the flashing parangs of the howling savages. To right and left fell
the mighty bull whip cutting down men with all the force and dispatch
of a steel saber. The Dyaks, encouraged by the presence of Muda Saffir
in their rear, held their ground; and the infuriated, brainless things
that followed the wielder of the bull whip threw themselves upon the
head hunters with beating hands and rending fangs.

Number Ten wrested a parang from an adversary, and acting upon his
example the other creatures were not long in arming themselves in a
similar manner. Cutting and jabbing they hewed their way through the
solid ranks of the enemy, until Muda Saffir, seeing that defeat was
inevitable turned and fled toward his prahu.

Four of his creatures lay dead as the last of the Dyaks turned to
escape from the mad white man who faced naked steel with only a rawhide
whip. In panic the head hunters made a wild dash for the two remaining
prahus, for Muda Saffir had succeeded in getting away from the island
in safety.

Number Thirteen reached the water's edge but a moment after the prow of
the rajah's craft had cleared the shore and was swinging up stream
under the vigorous strokes of its fifty oarsmen. For an instant he
stood poised upon the bank as though to spring after the retreating
prahu, but the knowledge that he could not swim held him back--it was
useless to throw away his life when the need of it was so great if
Virginia Maxon was to be saved.

Turning to the other prahus he saw that one was already launched, but
that the crew of the other was engaged in a desperate battle with the
seven remaining members of his crew for possession of the boat.
Leaping among the combatants he urged his fellows aboard the prahu
which was already half filled with Dyaks. Then he shoved the boat out
into the river, jumping aboard himself as its prow cleared the gravelly
beach.

For several minutes that long, hollowed log was a veritable floating
hell of savage, screaming men locked in deadly battle. The sharp
parangs of the head hunters were no match for the superhuman muscles of
the creatures that battered them about; now lifting one high above his
fellows and using the body as a club to beat down those nearby; again
snapping an arm or leg as one might break a pipe stem; or hurling a
living antagonist headlong above the heads of his fellows to the dark
waters of the river. And above them all in the thickest of the fight,
towering even above his own giants, rose the mighty figure of the
terrible white man, whose very presence wrought havoc with the valor of
the brown warriors.

Two more of Number Thirteen's creatures had been cut down in the prahu,
but the loss among the Dyaks had been infinitely greater, and to it was
now added the desertions of the terror stricken savages who seemed to
fear the frightful countenances of their adversaries even as much as
they did their prowess.

There remained but a handful of brown warriors in one end of the boat
when the advantage of utilizing their knowledge of the river and of
navigation occurred to Number Thirteen. Calling to his men he
commanded them to cease killing, making prisoners of those who remained
instead. So accustomed had his pack now become to receiving and acting
upon his orders that they changed their tactics immediately, and one by
one the remaining Dyaks were overpowered, disarmed and held.

With difficulty Number Thirteen communicated with them, for among them
there was but a single warrior who had ever had intercourse with an
Englishman, but at last by means of signs and the few words that were
common to them both he made the native understand that he would spare
the lives of himself and his companions if they would help him in
pursuit of Muda Saffir and the girl.

The Dyaks felt but little loyalty for the rascally Malay they served,
since in common with all their kind they and theirs had suffered for
generations at the hands of the cruel, crafty and unscrupulous race
that had usurped the administration of their land. So it was not
difficult to secure from them the promise of assistance in return for
their lives.

Number Thirteen noticed that when they addressed him it was always as
Bulan, and upon questioning them he discovered that they had given him
this title of honor partly in view of his wonderful fighting ability
and partly because the sight of his white face emerging from out of the
darkness of the river into the firelight of their blazing camp fire had
carried to their impressionable minds a suggestion of the tropic moon
which they admired and reverenced. Both the name and the idea appealed
to Number Thirteen and from that time he adopted Bulan as his rightful
cognomen.

The loss of time resulting from the fight in the prahu and the ensuing
peace parley permitted Muda Saffir to put considerable distance between
himself and his pursuers. The Malay's boat was now alone, for of the
eight prahus that remained of the original fleet it was the only one
which had taken this branch of the river, the others having scurried
into a smaller southerly arm after the fight upon the island, that they
might the more easily escape their hideous foemen.

Only Barunda, the headman, knew which channel Rajah Muda Saffir
intended following, and Muda wondered why it was that the two boats
that were to have borne Barunda's men did not catch up with his. While
he had left Barunda and his warriors engaged in battle with the
strangers he did not for an instant imagine that they would suffer any
severe loss, and that one of their boats should be captured was beyond
belief. But this was precisely what had happened, and the second boat,
seeing the direction taken by the enemy, had turned down stream the
more surely to escape them.

So it was that while Rajah Muda Saffir moved leisurely up the river
toward his distant stronghold waiting for the other boats of his fleet
to overtake him, Barunda, the headman, guided the white enemy swiftly
after him. Barunda had discovered that it was the girl alone this
white man wanted. Evidently he either knew nothing of the treasure
chest lying in the bottom of Muda Saffir's boat, or, knowing, was
indifferent. In either event Barunda thought that he saw a chance to
possess himself of the rich contents of the heavy box, and so served
his new master with much greater enthusiasm than he had the old.

Beneath the paddles of the natives and the five remaining members of
his pack Bulan sped up the dark river after the single prahu with its
priceless freight. Already six of the creatures of Professor Maxon's
experiments had given up their lives in the service of his daughter,
and the remaining six were pushing forward through the inky blackness
of the jungle night into the untracked heart of savage Borneo to rescue
her from her abductors though they sacrificed their own lives in the
endeavor.

Far ahead of them in the bottom of the great prahu crouched the girl
they sought. Her thoughts were of the man she felt intuitively to
possess the strength, endurance and ability to overcome every obstacle
and reach her at last. Would he come in time? Ah, that was the
question. The mystery of the stranger appealed to her. A thousand
times she had attempted to solve the question of his first appearance
on the island at the very moment that his mighty muscles were needed to
rescue her from the horrible creature of her father's creation. Then
there was his unaccountable disappearance for weeks; there was von
Horn's strange reticence and seeming ignorance as to the circumstances
which brought the young man to the island, or his equally unaccountable
disappearance after having rescued her from Number One. And now, when
she suddenly found herself in need of protection, here was the same
young man turning up in a most miraculous fashion, and at the head of
the terrible creatures of the inner campong.

The riddle was too deep for her--she could not solve it; and then her
thoughts were interrupted by the thin, brown hand of Rajah Muda Saffir
as it encircled her waist and drew her toward him. Upon the evil lips
were hot words of passion. The girl wrenched herself from the man's
embrace, and, with a little scream of terror, sprang to her feet, and
as Muda Saffir arose to grasp her again she struck him full in the face
with one small, clenched fist.

Directly behind the Malay lay the heavy chest of Professor Maxon. As
the man stepped backward to recover his equilibrium both feet struck
the obstacle. For an instant he tottered with wildly waving arms in an
endeavor to regain his lost balance, then, with a curse upon his lips,
he lunged across the box and over the side of the prahu into the dark
waters of the river.





Next: Desperate Chance

Previous: The Soul Of Number 13



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