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Treason







From: The Monster Men

On their return to camp after her rescue Virginia talked a great deal
to von Horn about the young giant who had rescued her, until the man
feared that she was more interested in him than seemed good for his own
plans.

He had now cast from him the last vestige of his loyalty for his
employer, and thus freed had determined to use every means within his
power to win Professor Maxon's daughter, and with her the heritage of
wealth which he knew would be hers should her father, through some
unforeseen mishap, meet death before he could return to civilization
and alter his will, a contingency which von Horn knew he might have to
consider should he marry the girl against her father's wishes, and thus
thwart the crazed man's mad, but no less dear project.

He realized that first he must let the girl fully understand the grave
peril in which she stood, and turn her hope of protection from her
father to himself. He imagined that the initial step in undermining
Virginia's confidence in her father would be to narrate every detail of
the weird experiments which Professor Maxon had brought to such
successful issues during their residence upon the island.

The girl's own questioning gave him the lead he needed.

"Where could that horrid creature have come from that set upon me in
the jungle and nearly killed poor Sing?" she asked.

For a moment von Horn was silent, in well simulated hesitancy to reply
to her query.

"I cannot tell you, Miss Maxon," he said sadly, "how much I should hate
to be the one to ignore your father's commands, and enlighten you upon
this and other subjects which lie nearer to your personal welfare than
you can possibly guess; but I feel that after the horrors of this day
duty demands that I must lay all before you--you cannot again be
exposed to the horrors from which you were rescued only by a miracle."

"I cannot imagine what you hint at, Dr. von Horn," said Virginia, "but
if to explain to me will necessitate betraying my father's confidence I
prefer that you remain silent."

"You do not understand," broke in the man, "you cannot guess the
horrors that I have seen upon this island, or the worse horrors that
are to come. Could you dream of what lies in store for you, you would
seek death rather than face the future. I have been loyal to your
father, Virginia, but were you not blind, or indifferent, you would
long since have seen that your welfare means more to me than my loyalty
to him--more to me than my life or my honor.

"You asked where the creature came from that attacked you today. I
shall tell you. It is one of a dozen similarly hideous things that
your father has created in his mad desire to solve the problem of life.
He has solved it; but, God, at what a price in misshapen, soulless,
hideous monsters!"

The girl looked up at him, horror stricken.

"Do you mean to say that my father in a mad attempt to usurp the
functions of God created that awful thing?" she asked in a low, faint
voice, "and that there are others like it upon the island?"

"In the campong next to yours there are a dozen others," replied von
Horn, "nor would it be easy to say which is the most hideous and
repulsive. They are grotesque caricatures of humanity--without soul
and almost without brain."

"God!" murmured the girl, burying her face in her hands, "he has gone
mad; he has gone mad."

"I truly believe that he is mad," said von Horn, "nor could you doubt
it for a moment were I to tell you the worst."

"The worst!" exclaimed the girl. "What could be worse than that which
you already have divulged? Oh, how could you have permitted it?"

"There is much worse than I have told you, Virginia. So much worse
that I can scarce force my lips to frame the words, but you must be
told. I would be more criminally liable than your father were I to
keep it from you, for my brain, at least, is not crazed. Virginia, you
have in your mind a picture of the hideous thing that carried you off
into the jungle?"

"Yes," and as the girl replied a convulsive shudder racked her frame.

Von Horn grasped her arm gently as he went on, as though to support and
protect her during the shock that he was about to administer.

"Virginia," he said in a very low voice, "it is your father's intention
to wed you to one of his creatures."

The girl broke from him with an angry cry.

"It is not true!" she exclaimed. "It is not true. Oh, Dr. von Horn
how could you tell me such a cruel and terrible untruth."

"As God is my judge, Virginia," and the man reverently uncovered as he
spoke, "it is the truth. Your father told me it in so many words when
I asked his permission to pay court to you myself--you are to marry
Number Thirteen when his education is complete."

"I shall die first!" she cried.

"Why not accept me instead?" suggested the man.

For a moment Virginia looked straight into his eyes as though to read
his inmost soul.

"Let me have time to consider it, Doctor," she replied. "I do not know
that I care for you in that way at all."

"Think of Number Thirteen," he suggested. "It should not be difficult
to decide."

"I could not marry you simply to escape a worse fate," replied the
girl. "I am not that cowardly--but let me think it over. There can be
no immediate danger, I am sure."

"One can never tell," replied von Horn, "what strange, new vagaries may
enter a crazed mind to dictate this moment's action or the next."

"Where could we wed?" asked Virginia.

"The Ithaca would bear us to Singapore, and when we returned you would
be under my legal protection and safe."

"I shall think about it from every angle," she answered sadly, "and now
good night, my dear friend," and with a wan smile she entered her
quarters.

For the next month Professor Maxon was busy educating Number Thirteen.
He found the young man intelligent far beyond his most sanguine hopes,
so that the progress made was little short of uncanny.

Von Horn during this time continued to urge upon Virginia the necessity
for a prompt and favorable decision in the matter of his proposal; but
when it came time to face the issue squarely the girl found it
impossible to accede to his request--she thought that she loved him,
but somehow she dared not say the word that would make her his for life.

Bududreen, the Malay mate was equally harassed by conflicting desires,
though of a different nature, or he had his eye upon the main chance
that was represented to him by the great chest, and also upon the
lesser reward which awaited him upon delivery of the girl to Rajah Muda
Saffir. The fact that he could find no safe means for accomplishing
both these ends simultaneously was all that had protected either from
his machinations.

The presence of the uncanny creatures of the court of mystery had
become known to the Malay and he used this knowledge as an argument to
foment discord and mutiny in the ignorant and superstitious crew under
his command. By boring a hole in the partition wall separating their
campong from the inner one he had disclosed to the horrified view of
his men the fearsome brutes harbored so close to them. The mate, of
course, had no suspicion of the true origin of these monsters, but his
knowledge of the fact that they had not been upon the island when the
Ithaca arrived and that it would have been impossible for them to have
landed and reached the camp without having been seen by himself or some
member of his company, was sufficient evidence to warrant him in
attributing their presence to some supernatural and malignant power.

This explanation the crew embraced willingly, and with it Bududreen's
suggestion that Professor Maxon had power to transform them all into
similar atrocities. The ball once started gained size and momentum as
it progressed. The professor's ofttimes strange expression was
attributed to an evil eye, and every ailment suffered by any member of
the crew was blamed upon their employer's Satanic influence. There was
but one escape from the horrors of such a curse--the death of its
author; and when Bududreen discovered that they had reached this point,
and were even discussing the method of procedure, he added all that was
needed to the dangerously smouldering embers of bloody mutiny by
explaining that should anything happen to the white men he would become
sole owner of their belongings, including the heavy chest, and that the
reward of each member of the crew would be generous.

Von Horn was really the only stumbling block in Bududreen's path. With
the natural cowardice of the Malay he feared this masterful American
who never moved without a brace of guns slung about his hips; and it
was at just this psychological moment that the doctor played into the
hands of his subordinate, much to the latter's inward elation.

Von Horn had finally despaired of winning Virginia by peaceful court,
and had about decided to resort to force when he was precipitately
confirmed in his decision by a conversation with the girl's father.

He and the professor were talking in the workshop of the remarkable
progress of Number Thirteen toward a complete mastery of English and
the ways and manners of society, in which von Horn had been assisting
his employer to train the young giant. The breach between the latter
and von Horn had been patched over by Professor Maxon's explanations to
Number Thirteen as soon as the young man was able to comprehend--in the
meantime it had been necessary to keep von Horn out of the workshop
except when the giant was confined in his own room off the larger one.

Von Horn had been particularly anxious, for the furtherance of certain
plans he had in mind, to effect a reconciliation with Number Thirteen,
to reach a basis of friendship with the young man, and had left no
stone unturned to accomplish this result. To this end he had spent
considerable time with Number Thirteen, coaching him in English and in
the ethics of human association.

"He is progressing splendidly, Doctor," Professor Maxon had said. "It
will be but a matter of a day or so when I can introduce him to
Virginia, but we must be careful that she has no inkling of his origin
until mutual affection has gained a sure foothold between them."

"And if that should not occur?" questioned von Horn.

"I should prefer that they mated voluntarily," replied the professor,
the strange gleam leaping to his eyes at the suggestion of possible
antagonism to his cherished plan, "but if not, then they shall be
compelled by the force of my authority--they both belong to me, body
and soul."

"You will wait for the final consummation of your desires until you
return with them to civilization, I presume," said von Horn.

"And why?" returned the professor. "I can wed them here myself--it
would be the surer way--yes, that is what I shall do."

It was this determination on the part of Professor Maxon that decided
von Horn to act at once. Further, it lent a reasonable justification
for his purposed act.

Shortly after their talk the older man left the workshop, and von Horn
took the opportunity to inaugurate the second move of his campaign.
Number Thirteen was sitting near a window which let upon the inner
court, busy with the rudiments of written English. Von Horn approached
him.

"You are getting along nicely, Jack," he said kindly, looking over the
other's shoulder and using the name which had been adopted at his
suggestion to lend a more human tone to their relations with the
nameless man.

"Yes," replied the other, looking up with a smile. "Professor Maxon
says that in another day or two I may come and live in his own house,
and again meet his beautiful daughter. It seems almost too good to be
true that I shall actually live under the same roof with her and see
her every day--sit at the same table with her--and walk with her among
the beautiful trees and flowers that witnessed our first meeting. I
wonder if she will remember me. I wonder if she will be as glad to see
me again as I shall be to see her."

"Jack," said von Horn, sadly, "I am afraid there is a terrible and
disappointing awakening for you. It grieves me that it should be so,
but it seems only fair to tell you, what Professor Maxon either does
not know or has forgotten, that his daughter will not look with
pleasure upon you when she learns your origin.

"You are not as other men. You are but the accident of a laboratory
experiment. You have no soul, and the soul is all that raises man
above the beasts. Jack, poor boy, you are not a human being--you are
not even a beast. The world, and Miss Maxon is of the world, will look
upon you as a terrible creature to be shunned--a horrible monstrosity
far lower in the scale of creation than the lowest order of brutes.

"Look," and the man pointed through the window toward the group of
hideous things that wandered aimlessly about the court of mystery.
"You are of the same breed as those, you differ from them only in the
symmetry of your face and features, and the superior development of
your brain. There is no place in the world for them, nor for you.

"I am sorry that it is so. I am sorry that I should have to be the one
to tell you; but it is better that you know it now from a friend than
that you meet the bitter truth when you least expected it, and possibly
from the lips of one like Miss Maxon for whom you might have formed a
hopeless affection."

As von Horn spoke the expression on the young man's face became more
and more hopeless, and when he had ceased he dropped his head into his
open palms, sitting quiet and motionless as a carven statue. No sob
shook his great frame, there was no outward indication of the terrible
grief that racked him inwardly--only in the pose was utter dejection
and hopelessness.

The older man could not repress a cold smile--it had had more effect
than he had hoped.

"Don't take it too hard, my boy," he continued. "The world is wide.
It would be easy to find a thousand places where your antecedents would
be neither known nor questioned. You might be very happy elsewhere and
there a hundred thousand girls as beautiful and sweet as Virginia
Maxon--remember that you have never seen another, so you can scarcely
judge."

"Why did he ever bring me into the world?" exclaimed the young man
suddenly. "It was wicked--wicked--terribly cruel and wicked."

"I agree with you," said von Horn quickly, seeing another possibility
that would make his future plans immeasurably easier. "It was wicked,
and it is still more wicked to continue the work and bring still other
unfortunate creatures into the world to be the butt and plaything of
cruel fate."

"He intends to do that?" asked the youth.

"Unless he is stopped," replied von Horn.

"He must be stopped," cried the other. "Even if it were necessary to
kill him."

Von Horn was quite satisfied with the turn events had taken. He
shrugged his shoulders and turned on his heel toward the outer campong.

"If he had wronged me as he has you, and those others," with a gesture
toward the court of mystery, "I should not be long in reaching a
decision." And with that he passed out, leaving the door unlatched.

Von Horn went straight to the south campong and sought out Bududreen.
Motioning the Malay to follow him they walked across the clearing and
entered the jungle out of sight and hearing of the camp. Sing, hanging
clothes in the north end of the clearing saw them depart, and wondered
a little.

"Bududreen," said von Horn, when the two had reached a safe distance
from the enclosures, "there is no need of mincing matters--something
must be done at once. I do not know how much you know of the work that
Professor Maxon has been engaged in since we reached this island; but
it has been hellish enough and it must go no further. You have seen
the creatures in the campong next to yours?"

"I have seen," replied Bududreen, with a shudder.

"Professor Maxon intends to wed one of these to his daughter," von Horn
continued. "She loves me and we wish to escape--can I rely on you and
your men to aid us? There is a chest in the workshop which we must
take along too, and I can assure you that you all will be well rewarded
for your work. We intend merely to leave Professor Maxon here with the
creatures he has created."

Bududreen could scarce repress a smile--it was indeed too splendid to
be true.

"It will be perilous work, Captain," he answered. "We should all be
hanged were we caught."

"There will be no danger of that, Bududreen, for there will be no one
to divulge our secret."

"There will be the Professor Maxon," urged the Malay. "Some day he
will escape from the island, and then we shall all hang."

"He will never escape," replied von Horn, "his own creatures will see
to that. They are already commencing to realize the horrible crime he
has committed against them, and when once they are fully aroused there
will be no safety for any of us. If you wish to leave the island at
all it will be best for you to accept my proposal and leave while your
head yet remains upon your shoulders. Were we to suggest to the
professor that he leave now he would not only refuse but he would take
steps to make it impossible for any of us to leave, even to sinking the
Ithaca. The man is mad--quite mad--Bududreen, and we cannot longer
jeopardize our own throats merely to humor his crazy and criminal
whims."

The Malay was thinking fast, and could von Horn have guessed what
thoughts raced through the tortuous channels of that semi-barbarous
brain he would have wished himself safely housed in the American prison
where he belonged.

"When do you wish to sail?" asked the Malay.

"Tonight," replied von Horn, and together they matured their plans. An
hour later the second mate with six men disappeared into the jungle
toward the harbor. They, with the three on watch, were to get the
vessel in readiness for immediate departure.

After the evening meal von Horn sat on the verandah with Virginia Maxon
until the Professor came from the workshop to retire for the night. As
he passed them he stopped for a word with von Horn, taking him aside
out of the girl's hearing.

"Have you noticed anything peculiar in the actions of Thirteen?" asked
the older man. "He was sullen and morose this evening, and at times
there was a strange, wild light in his eyes as he looked at me. Can it
be possible that, after all, his brain is defective? It would be
terrible. My work would have gone for naught, for I can see no way in
which I can improve upon him."

"I will go and have a talk with him later," said von Horn, "so if you
hear us moving about in the workshop, or even out here in the campong
think nothing of it. I may take him for a long walk. It is possible
that the hard study and close confinement to that little building have
been too severe upon his brain and nerves. A long walk each evening
may bring him around all right."

"Splendid--splendid," replied the professor. "You may be quite right.
Do it by all means, my dear doctor," and there was a touch of the old,
friendly, sane tone which had been so long missing, that almost caused
von Horn to feel a trace of compunction for the hideous act of
disloyalty that he was on the verge of perpetrating.

As Professor Maxon entered the house von Horn returned to Virginia and
suggested that they take a short walk outside the campong before
retiring. The girl readily acquiesced to the plan, and a moment later
found them strolling through the clearing toward the southern end of
the camp. In the dark shadows of the gateway leading to the men's
enclosure a figure crouched. The girl did not see it, but as they came
opposite it von Horn coughed twice, and then the two passed on toward
the edge of the jungle.





Next: To Kill!

Previous: A New Face



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