AS CORRIE entered the forest she saw a man standing in the trail about a hundred feet from her. It was Hooft. He removed his hat and bowed, smiling. “Thank you for coming,” he said. “I was afraid to go down into the village until I was sure the people there were friendly.”
Corrie advanced toward him. She did not recognize him. Even though smiling, his appearance was most unprepossessing; so she kept her rifle at ready. “If you are a loyal Dutchman,” she said, “you will find the white men in this village friendly. What do you want of them?”
She had advanced about fifty feet when suddenly men leaped from the underbrush on both sides of the trail. The muzzle of her rifle was struck up and the weapon seized and wrenched from her grasp.
“Don’t make no noise and you won’t be hurt,” said one of the men.
Pistols were levelled at her as a warning of what would happen to her if she cried out for help. She saw that the men surrounding her were Dutchmen, and realized that they were probably of the same band of outlaws from which Tak and Tarzan had escaped. She reproached herself for having stupidly put herself in their power.
“What do you want of me?” she demanded.
“We ain’t goin’ to hurt you,” said Hooft. “Just come along quietly, and we won’t keep you long.” They were already moving along the trail, men in front of her and behind her. She realized that escape now was impossible.
“But what are you going to do with me?” she insisted.
“You’ll find that out in a couple of days.”
“My friends will follow, and when they catch up with you you’ll wish that you never had seen me.”
“They won’t never catch up,” said Hooft. “Even if they should, there are only four of them. We’d wipe ’em out in no time.”
“You don’t know them,” said Corrie. “They have killed forty Japs today, and they’ll find you no matter where you hide. You had better let me go back; because you will certainly pay if you don’t.”
“Shut up,” said Hooft.
They hurried on. Night fell, but they did not stop. Corrie thought of Jerry and the others. Most of all, she thought of Jerry. She wondered if they had missed her yet. She didn’t wonder what they would do when they did miss her. She knew. She knew that the search for her would start immediately. Probably it already had started. She lagged, pretending to be tired. She wanted to delay her captors; but they pushed her roughly on, swearing at her.
Back in the village, Jerry was the first to wonder why Corrie hadn’t joined them as the natives prepared their evening meal. He saw Amat, and asked van der Bos to send him after Corrie. The native went to the house Corrie had occupied and pretended to look for her. Presently he returned to say that she was not there. “I saw her go into the forest a little while ago,” he said. “I supposed that she had returned, but she is not in her house.”
“Where into the forest?” asked van der Bos. Amat pointed to a different trail from that which Corrie had taken.
When van der Bos had interpreted what Amat had said, Jerry picked up his rifle and started for the forest. The others followed him.
“What in the world could have possessed her to go wandering off into the forest alone?” demanded Jerry.
“Maybe she didn’t,” said Rosetti. “Maybe dat little stinker was lyin’. I don’t like dat puss o’ his. He looks like a rat.”
“I don’t believe the little so-and-so, either,” said Bubonovitch. “It just isn’t like Corrie to do a thing like that.”
“I know,” said Jerry, “but we’ll have to make a search anyway. We can’t pass up any chance of finding her however slim.”
“If that little yellow runt was lyin’, if he knows wot become of Corrie, I’m goin’ to poke a bayonet clean through his gizzard,” growled Rosetti.
They went into the forest, calling Corrie aloud by name. Presently they realized the futility of it. In the pitch darkness of the forest night they could have seen no spoor, had there been one to see.
“If only Tarzan were here,” said Jerry. “God! but I feel helpless.”
“Somethin’ dirty’s been pulled,” said Rosetti. “I t’ink we should orter go back an’ give de whole village de toid degree.”
“You’re right, Shrimp,” said Jerry. “Let’s go back.”
They routed the natives out and herded them into the center of the village. Then van der Bos questioned them. Those first questioned denied any knowledge even of Corrie’s departure. They disclaimed having any idea of where she might be. As Lara’s turn came, Amat started to sneak away. Shrimp saw him, for he had been keeping an eye on him, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, wheeled him around, and pushed him into the center of the stage, at the same time giving him a swift kick in the pants.
“This louse was tryin’ to beat it,” he announced. “I told you he was a wrong guy.” He held the business end of his bayonet in the small of Amat’s back.
Van der Bos questioned Lara at length and then interpreted her replies to the others. “This girl says that Amat came and told Corrie that a friend of her father was waiting at the edge of the forest and wanted to see her, but for her to come alone, as he didn’t know whether or not the rest of us were friendly to the Dutch. She went into the forest on that trail there.” He pointed. It was not the trail which Amat said she had taken.
“I told you so!” shouted Rosetti. “Tell this skunk to say his prayers, for I’m goin’ to kill him.”
“No, Rosetti,” said Jerry. “He’s the only one who knows the truth. We can’t get it out of him if he’s dead.”
“I can wait,” said Rosetti.
Tak van der Bos questioned Amat at length, while Rosetti kept the point of a bayonet pressed against the frightened native’s left kidney.
“According to this man’s story,” said Tak, “he went into the forest to gather durians. He was almost immediately captured by a band of white men. He says there were about twenty of them. One of them forced him to take that message to Corrie, threatening to come back and kill him if Corrie didn’t come out alone. He says he was very much frightened. Also, he thought the man merely wished to talk with Corrie. Says he didn’t know that they would keep her.”
“Is dat all?” demanded Shrimp.
“That’s his whole story.”
“May I kill him now, Cap?”
“No,” said Jerry.
“Aw, hell! Why not? You know de bum’s lyin’.”
“We’re not Japs, Rosetti. And we’ve got other things to do right now.” He turned to van der Bos. “Isn’t it likely that those fellows were the same ones that you and Tarzan got away from?”
“I think there’s no doubt of it.”
“Then you can lead us to their camp?”
“We can start now,” said van der Bos.
“Good!” exclaimed Jerry. “Let’s get going.”
Rosetti gave Amat a quick poke with his bayonet that brought a frightened scream from the Sumatran. Jerry wheeled toward the sergeant.
“I didn’t kill him, Cap. You didn’t tell me not to jab him once for luck.”
“I’d like to kill him myself, Shrimp,” said Jerry. “But we can’t do things that way.”
“I can,” said Rosetti, “if you’ll just look de udder way a second.” But Jerry shook his head and started off toward the mouth of the trail. The others followed, Shrimp shaking his head and grumbling. “T’ink of dat poor kid out dere wit dem bums!” he said. “An’ if dis little stinker had a-told us, we’d a-had her back before now. Just for a couple seconds I wish we was Japs.”
Bubonovitch made no wisecrack about misogynists. He was in no wisecracking mood, but he couldn’t but recall how violently upset Shrimp had been when they had had to add a “dame” to their company.
Finding that her delaying tactics won her nothing but abuse, Corrie swung along at an easy stride with her captors. Presently, she heard three sharp knocks ahead, as though some one had struck the bole of a tree three times with a heavy implement. The men halted, and Hooft struck the bole of a tree three times with the butt of his rifle—two knocks close together and then a third at a slightly longer interval.
A woman’s voice demanded, “Who is it?” and the outlaw chief replied, “Hooft.”
“Come on in,” said the woman. “I’d know that schnapps bass if I heard it in Hell.”
The party advanced, and presently the woman spoke again from directly above them. “I’m coming down,” she said. “Post one of your men up here, Hooft. This is no job for a lady.”
“What give you the idea you was a lady?” demanded Hooft, as the woman descended from the platform from which she had been guarding the trail to the camp. She was Hooft’s woman, Sarina.
“Not you, sweetheart,” said the woman.
“We won’t need no guard here no more,” said Hooft. “We’re pullin’ out quick.”
“Why? Some cripple with a slingshot chasin’ you?”
“Shut up!” snapped Hooft. “You’re goin’ to shoot off your gab just once too often one of these days.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” said Sarina.
“I’m gettin’ damn sick of you,” said Hooft.
“I’ve been damn sick of you for a long while, sweetheart. I’d trade you for an orangutan any day.”
“Oh, shut up,” grumbled one of the men. “We’re all gettin’ good an’ goddam sick of hearin’ you two bellyache.”
“Who said that?” demanded Hooft. No one replied.
Presently they entered the camp and aroused the women, whereupon considerable acrimonious haggling ensued when the women learned that they were to break camp and take the trail thus late at night.
Some torches were lighted, and in their dim and flickering illumination the band gathered up its meager belongings. The light also served to reveal Corrie to the women.
“Who’s the kid?” demanded one of them. “This ain’t no place for a nice boy.”
“That ain’t no boy,” said a man. “She’s a girl.”
“What you want of her?” asked a woman suspiciously.
“The Japs want her,” explained Grotius, the second in command.
“Maybe they won’t get her?” said Hooft.
“Why not?” demanded Grotius.
“Because maybe I’ve taken a fancy to her myself. I’m goin’ to give Sarina to an ape.” Everybody laughed, Sarina louder than the others.
“You ain’t much to look at, you ain’t much to listen to, and you ain’t much to live with,” she announced; “but until I find me another man, you don’t go foolin’ around with any other woman. And see that you don’t forget it,” she added.
Sarina was a well built woman of thirty-five, lithe and muscular. An automatic pistol always swung at her hip and her carbine was always within reach. Nor did she consider herself fully clothed if her parang were not dangling in its sheath from her belt. But these were only outward symbols of Sarina’s formidableness. It was her innate ferocity when aroused that made her feared by the cutthroats and degenerates of Hooft’s precious band. And she had come by this ferocity quite as a matter of course. Her maternal grandfather had been a Borneo headhunter and her maternal grandmother a Batak and a cannibal. Her father was a Dutchman who had lived adventurously in and about the South Seas, indulging in barratry and piracy, and dying at last on the gibbet for murder. Sarina, herself, carrying on the traditions of her family, though not expiating them so irrevocably as had her sire, had been serving a life sentence for murder when released from jail at the time of the Japanese invasion.
It is true that the man she had murdered should have been murdered long before; so one should not judge Sarina too harshly. It is also true that, as is often the case with characters like Sarina, she possessed many commendable characteristics. She was generous and loyal and honest. At the drop of a hat she would fight for what she knew to be right. In fact, it was not necessary even to drop a hat. Hooft feared her.
Corrie had listened with increasing perturbation to the exchange of pleasantries between Hooft and Sarina. She did not know which to fear more. She might be given over to the Japs, taken by Hooft, or killed by Sarina. It was not a pleasant outlook. She could but pray that Jerry and the others would come in time.
The outlaws had left the camp by a trail other than that along which Corrie had been brought. Hooft had issued orders for the march that would insure that their spoor would completely deceive anyone attempting to track them, and when Corrie heard them the last ray of hope seemed to have been extinguished. Only prayer was left.
On the march, Sarina walked always close to her. Corrie hoped that this would keep Hooft away. Of the two, she feared him more than she did the woman.