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To Kill!







From: The Monster Men

The Rajah Muda Saffir, tiring of the excuses and delays which Bududreen
interposed to postpone the fulfillment of his agreement with the
former, whereby he was to deliver into the hands of the rajah a certain
beautiful maiden, decided at last to act upon his own initiative. The
truth of the matter was that he had come to suspect the motives of the
first mate of the Ithaca, and not knowing of the great chest attributed
them to Bududreen's desire to possess the girl for himself.

So it was that as the second mate of the Ithaca with his six men waded
down the bed of the little stream toward the harbor and the ship, a
fleet of ten war prahus manned by over five hundred fierce Dyaks and
commanded by Muda Saffir himself, pulled cautiously into the little
cove upon the opposite side of the island, and landed but a quarter of
a mile from camp.

At the same moment von Horn was leading Virginia Maxon farther and
farther from the north campong where resistance, if there was to be
any, would be most likely to occur. At his superior's cough Bududreen
had signalled silently to the men within the enclosure, and a moment
later six savage lascars crept stealthily to his side.

The moment that von Horn and the girl were entirely concealed by the
darkness, the seven moved cautiously along the shadow of the palisade
toward the north campong. There was murder in the cowardly hearts of
several of them, and stupidity and lust in the hearts of all. There
was no single one who would not betray his best friend for a handful of
silver, nor any but was inwardly hoping and scheming to the end that he
might alone possess both the chest and the girl.

It was such a pack of scoundrels that Bududreen led toward the north
campong to bear away the treasure. In the breast of the leader was the
hope that he had planted enough of superstitious terror in their hearts
to make the sight of the supposed author of their imagined wrongs
sufficient provocation for his murder; for Bududreen was too sly to
give the order for the killing of a white man--the arm of the white
man's law was too long--but he felt that he would rest easier were he
to leave the island with the knowledge that only a dead man remained
behind with the secret of his perfidy.

While these events were transpiring Number Thirteen was pacing
restlessly back and forth the length of the workshop. But a short time
before he had had his author--the author of his misery--within the four
walls of his prison, and yet he had not wreaked the vengeance that was
in his heart. Twice he had been on the point of springing upon the
man, but both times the other's eyes had met his and something which he
was not able to comprehend had stayed him. Now that the other had gone
and he was alone contemplation of the hideous wrong that had been done
loosed again the flood gates of his pent rage.

The thought that he had been made by this man--made in the semblance of
a human being, yet denied by the manner of his creation a place among
the lowest of Nature's creatures--filled him with fury, but it was not
this thought that drove him to the verge of madness. It was the
knowledge, suggested by von Horn, that Virginia Maxon would look upon
him in horror, as a grotesque and loathsome monstrosity.

He had no standard and no experience whereby he might classify his
sentiments toward this wonderful creature. All he knew was that his
life would be complete could he be near her always--see her and speak
with her daily. He had thought of her almost constantly since those
short, delicious moments that he had held her in his arms. Again and
again he experienced in retrospection the exquisite thrill that had run
through every fiber of his being at the sight of her averted eyes and
flushed face. And the more he let his mind dwell upon the wonderful
happiness that was denied him because of his origin, the greater became
his wrath against his creator.

It was now quite dark without. The door leading to Professor Maxon's
campong, left unlatched earlier in the evening by von Horn for sinister
motives of his own, was still unbarred through a fatal coincidence of
forgetfulness on the part of the professor.

Number Thirteen approached this door. He laid his hand upon the knob.
A moment later he was moving noiselessly across the campong toward the
house in which Professor Maxon lay peacefully sleeping; while at the
south gate Bududreen and his six cutthroats crept cautiously within and
slunk in the dense shadows of the palisade toward the workshop where
lay the heavy chest of their desire. At the same instant Muda Saffir
with fifty of his head-hunting Dyaks emerged from the jungle east of
the camp, bent on discovering the whereabouts of the girl the Malay
sought and bearing her away to his savage court far within the jungle
fastness of his Bornean principality.

Number Thirteen reached the verandah of the house and peered through
the window into the living room, where an oil lamp, turned low, dimly
lighted the interior, which he saw was unoccupied. Going to the door
he pushed it open and entered the apartment. All was still within. He
listened intently for some slight sound which might lead him to the
victim he sought, or warn him from the apartment of the girl or that of
von Horn--his business was with Professor Maxon. He did not wish to
disturb the others whom he believed to be sleeping somewhere within the
structure--a low, rambling bungalow of eight rooms.

Cautiously he approached one of the four doors which opened from the
living room. Gently he turned the knob and pushed the door ajar. The
interior of the apartment beyond was in inky darkness, but Number
Thirteen's greatest fear was that he might have stumbled upon the
sleeping room of Virginia Maxon, and that if she were to discover him
there, not only would she be frightened, but her cries would alarm the
other inmates of the dwelling.

The thought of the horror that his presence would arouse within her,
the knowledge that she would look upon him as a terrifying monstrosity,
added new fuel to the fires of hate that raged in his bosom against the
man who had created him. With clenched fists, and tight set jaws the
great, soulless giant moved across the dark chamber with the stealthy
noiselessness of a tiger. Feeling before him with hands and feet he
made the circuit of the room before he reached the bed.

Scarce breathing he leaned over and groped across the covers with his
fingers in search of his prey--the bed was empty. With the discovery
came a sudden nervous reaction that sent him into a cold sweat.
Weakly, he seated himself upon the edge of the bed. Had his fingers
found the throat of Professor Maxon beneath the coverlet they would
never have released their hold until life had forever left the body of
the scientist, but now that the highest tide of the young man's hatred
had come and gone he found himself for the first time assailed by
doubts.

Suddenly he recalled the fact that the man whose life he sought was the
father of the beautiful creature he adored. Perhaps she loved him and
would be unhappy were he taken away from her. Number Thirteen did not
know, of course, but the idea obtruded itself, and had sufficient
weight to cause him to remain seated upon the edge of the bed
meditating upon the act he contemplated. He had by no means given up
the idea of killing Professor Maxon, but now there were doubts and
obstacles which had not been manifest before.

His standards of right and wrong were but half formed, from the brief
attempts of Professor Maxon and von Horn to inculcate proper moral
perceptions in a mind entirely devoid of hereditary inclinations toward
either good or bad, but he realized one thing most perfectly--that to
be a soulless thing was to be damned in the estimation of Virginia
Maxon, and it now occurred to him that to kill her father would be the
act of a soulless being. It was this thought more than another that
caused him to pause in the pursuit of his revenge, since he knew that
the act he contemplated would brand him the very thing he was, yet
wished not to be.

At length, however, he slowly comprehended that no act of his would
change the hideous fact of his origin; that nothing would make him
acceptable in her eyes, and with a shake of his head he arose and
stepped toward the living room to continue his search for the professor.

In the workshop Bududreen and his men had easily located the chest.
Dragging it into the north campong the Malay was about to congratulate
himself upon the ease with which the theft had been accomplished when
one of his fellows declared his intention of going to the house for the
purpose of dispatching Professor Maxon, lest the influence of his evil
eye should overtake them with some terrible curse when the loss of the
chest should be discovered.

While this met fully with Bududreen's plans he urged the man against
any such act that he might have witnesses to prove that he not only had
no hand in the crime, but had exerted his authority to prevent it; but
when two of the men separated themselves from the party and crept
toward the bungalow no force was interposed to stop them.

The moon had risen now, so that from the dark shadows of the palisade
Muda Saffir and his savages watched the party with Bududreen squatting
about the heavy chest, and saw the two who crept toward the house. To
Muda Saffir's evil mind there was but one explanation. Bududreen had
discovered a rich treasure, and having stolen that had dispatched two
of his men to bring him the girl also.

Rajah Muda Saffir was furious. In subdued whispers he sent a half
dozen of his Dyaks back beneath the shadow of the palisade to the
opposite side of the bungalow where they were to enter the building,
killing all within except the girl, whom they were to carry straight to
the beach and the war prahus.

Then with the balance of his horde he crept alone in the darkness until
opposite Bududreen and the watchers about the chest. Just as the two
who crept toward the bungalow reached it, Muda Saffir gave the word for
the attack upon the Malays and lascars who guarded the treasure. With
savage yells they dashed upon the unsuspecting men. Parangs and spears
glistened in the moonlight. There was a brief and bloody encounter,
for the cowardly Bududreen and his equally cowardly crew had had no
alternative but to fight, so suddenly had the foe fallen upon them.

In a moment the savage Borneo head hunters had added five grisly
trophies to their record. Bududreen and another were racing madly
toward the jungle beyond the campong.

As Number Thirteen arose to continue his search for Professor Maxon his
quick ear caught the shuffling of bare feet upon the verandah. As he
paused to listen there broke suddenly upon the still night the hideous
war cries of the Dyaks, and the screams and shrieks of their frightened
victims in the campong without. Almost simultaneously Professor Maxon
and Sing rushed into the living room to ascertain the cause of the wild
alarm, while at the same instant Bududreen's assassins sprang through
the door with upraised krisses, to be almost immediately followed by
Muda Saffir's six Dyaks brandishing their long spears and wicked
parangs.

In an instant the little room was filled with howling, fighting men.
The Dyaks, whose orders as well as inclinations incited them to a
general massacre, fell first upon Bududreen's lascars who, cornered in
the small room, fought like demons for their lives, so that when the
Dyaks had overcome them two of their own number lay dead beside the
dead bodies of Bududreen's henchmen.

Sing and Professor Maxon stood in the doorway to the professor's room
gazing upon the scene of carnage in surprise and consternation. The
scientist was unarmed, but Sing held a long, wicked looking Colt in
readiness for any contingency. It was evident the celestial was no
stranger to the use of his deadly weapon, nor to the moments of extreme
and sudden peril which demanded its use, for he seemed no more
perturbed than had he been but hanging out his weekly wash.

As Number Thirteen watched the two men from the dark shadows of the
room in which he stood, he saw that both were calm--the Chinaman with
the calmness of perfect courage, the other through lack of full
understanding of the grave danger which menaced him. In the eyes of
the latter shone a strange gleam--it was the wild light of insanity
that the sudden nervous shock of the attack had brought to a premature
culmination.

Now the four remaining Dyaks were advancing upon the two men. Sing
levelled his revolver and fired at the foremost, and at the same
instant Professor Maxon, with a shrill, maniacal scream, launched
himself full upon a second. Number Thirteen saw the blood spurt from a
superficial wound in the shoulder of the fellow who received Sing's
bullet, but except for eliciting a howl of rage the missile had no
immediate effect. Then Sing pulled the trigger again and again, but
the cylinder would not revolve and the hammer fell futilely upon the
empty cartridge. As two of the head hunters closed upon him the brave
Chinaman clubbed his weapon and went down beneath them beating madly at
the brown skulls.

The man with whom Professor Maxon had grappled had no opportunity to
use his weapons for the crazed man held him close with one encircling
arm while he tore and struck at him with his free hand. The fourth
Dyak danced around the two with raised parang watching for an opening
that he might deliver a silencing blow upon the white man's skull.

The great odds against the two men--their bravery in the face of death,
their grave danger--and last and greatest, the fact that one was the
father of the beautiful creature he worshipped, wrought a sudden change
in Number Thirteen. In an instant he forgot that he had come here to
kill the white-haired man, and with a bound stood in the center of the
room--an unarmed giant towering above the battling four.

The parang of the Dyak who sought Professor Maxon's life was already
falling as a mighty hand grasped the wrist of the head hunter; but even
then it was too late to more than lessen the weight of the blow, and
the sharp edge of the blade bit deep into the forehead of the white
man. As he sank to his knees his other antagonist freed an arm from
the embrace which had pinioned it to his side, but before he could deal
the professor a blow with the short knife that up to now he had been
unable to use, Number Thirteen had hurled his man across the room and
was upon him who menaced the scientist.

Tearing him loose from his prey, he raised him far above his head and
threw him heavily against the opposite wall, then he turned his
attention toward Sing's assailants. All that had so far saved the
Chinaman from death was the fact that the two savages were each so
anxious to secure his head for the verandah rafters of his own
particular long-house that they interfered with one another in the
consummation of their common desire.

Although battling for his life, Sing had not failed to note the advent
of the strange young giant, nor the part he had played in succoring the
professor, so that it was with a feeling of relief that he saw the
newcomer turn his attention toward those who were rapidly reducing the
citadel of his own existence.

The two Dyaks who sought the trophy which nature had set upon the
Chinaman's shoulders were so busily engaged with their victim that they
knew nothing of the presence of Number Thirteen until a mighty hand
seized each by the neck and they were raised bodily from the floor,
shaken viciously for an instant, and then hurled to the opposite end of
the room upon the bodies of the two who had preceded them.

As Sing came to his feet he found Professor Maxon lying in a pool of
his own blood, a great gash in his forehead. He saw the white giant
standing silently looking down upon the old man. Across the room the
four stunned Dyaks were recovering consciousness. Slowly and fearfully
they regained their feet, and seeing that no attention was being paid
them, cast a parting, terrified look at the mighty creature who had
defeated them with his bare hands, and slunk quickly out into the
darkness of the campong.

When they caught up with Rajah Muda Saffir near the beach, they
narrated a fearful tale of fifty terrible white men with whom they had
battled valiantly, killing many, before they had been compelled to
retreat in the face of terrific odds. They swore that even then they
had only returned because the girl was not in the house--otherwise they
should have brought her to their beloved master as he had directed.

Now Muda Saffir believed nothing that they said, but he was well
pleased with the great treasure which had so unexpectedly fallen into
his hands, and he decided to make quite sure of that by transporting it
to his own land--later he could return for the girl. So the ten war
prahus of the Malay pulled quietly out of the little cove upon the east
side of the island, and bending their way toward the south circled its
southern extremity and bore away for Borneo.

In the bungalow within the north campong Sing and Number Thirteen had
lifted Professor Maxon to his bed, and the Chinaman was engaged in
bathing and bandaging the wound that had left the older man
unconscious. The white giant stood beside him watching his every move.
He was trying to understand why sometimes men killed one another and
again defended and nursed. He was curious as to the cause of his own
sudden change in sentiment toward Professor Maxon. At last he gave the
problem up as beyond his powers of solution, and at Sing's command set
about the task of helping to nurse the man whom he considered the
author of his unhappiness and whom a few short minutes before he had
come to kill.

As the two worked over the stricken man their ears were suddenly
assailed by a wild commotion from the direction of the workshop. There
were sounds of battering upon wood, loud growls and roars, mingled with
weird shrieks and screams and the strange, uncanny gibbering of
brainless things.

Sing looked quickly up at his companion.

"Whallee mallee?" he asked.

The giant did not answer. An expression of pain crossed his features,
and he shuddered--but not from fear.





Next: The Bull Whip

Previous: Treason



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