TAK VAN DER BOS led Jerry, Bubonovitch, and Rosetti through the Cimmerian darkness of the equatorial forest toward the camp of the outlaws. The night noises of the jungle were all about them; but they saw nothing, not even one another. They were guided solely by the slight sounds given off by the accouterments of the man directly ahead. If van der Bos slowed down or stopped as he felt for the trail they bumped into one another. Often they collided with trees or stumbled over obstacles, cursing softly. Otherwise they moved in silence. They did not talk.
Strange sounds came out of the jungle—unaccountable crashings, occasionally a scream of terror or agony. Life and death were all about them. And sometimes there were strange silences, more ominous than the noises. Then, Bubonovitch would think: Death is abroad. The jungle is waiting to see where he will strike, each creature fearing to call attention to itself.
Rosetti felt as a man walking in a dream. He walked and walked and walked, and never got anywhere. It was as though he had walked forever and would keep on walking in darkness throughout eternity.
Jerry thought only of what might be happening to Corrie, and chafed at the slowness of their progress. He was wondering for the thousandth time how much longer it would be before they would reach the camp, when he bumped into van der Bos. Then Rosetti and Bubonovitch bumped into him.
Van der Bos got them into a huddle, and whispered: “Get your guns ready. We are approaching their sentry. We may be able to sneak by in the darkness. If he challenges, Jerry and I will let him have it; then we’ll charge the camp, yelling like hell. But we can’t shoot there until we have located Corrie. When we do, we can commence shooting; then keep right on through the camp. There is a trail on the other side. And keep together.”
“I think we should go in shooting, but in the air,” suggested Jerry.
“That’s better,” agreed van der Bos. “Come on!”
There was no sentry, and so they crept silently into the deserted camp to reconnoiter. It was not so dark here in the open, and they soon discovered that their quarry had flown. Their reactions to this disappointment were expressed variously and profanely.
“Where do we go from here?” demanded Rosetti.
“We’ll have to wait for daylight before we can pick up their trail,” said Jerry. “The rest of you get some sleep. I’ll stand guard for an hour. Then one of you can relieve me for an hour. By that time it should be light.”
“Lemme stand guard, Cap,” said Rosetti. “I can take it better’n you.”
“What makes you think that?” demanded Jerry.
“Well—well, you see you’re pretty old. You’d orter get your rest.”
Jerry grinned. “Ever hear of a general named Stilwell?” he asked. “Thanks just the same, Shrimp; but I’ll take the first trick, then I’ll call you.”
As soon as it was light, they searched for the tracks of the outlaws; but they found none leading out of the camp. It seemed baffling until Bubonovitch suggested that they had gone out by the same trail along which they themselves had come in, and thus the spoor of the outlaws had been obliterated by their own.
“They must have kept right ahead at the fork,” said van der Bos. “I guess we’ll have to go back there and start all over again.” But when they reached the forks, there was no sign of fresh spoor continuing on the main trail.
“Wotinell become of ’em?” demanded Rosetti. “They’s somethin’ phoney about it—people vanishin’ like dat.”
“They probably used vanishing cream,” said Bubonovitch.
“We must have got some of it on our brains,” said Jerry, disgustedly.
“Or up our noses and in our eyes and ears,” said Bubonovitch. “Tarzan was right. Civilization has robbed us of most of our physical sensibilities. I suppose that he would have found that spoor just like that.” He snapped his fingers.
“He’s pretty slick,” said Rosetti, “but even Tarzan can’t find no trail when they ain’t none.”
“About all we can do,” said Jerry, “is go back to the village and wait for him. A bunch of dummies like us couldn’t ever find her, and if we try it we might miss Tarzan entirely when he gets back.”
It was a dejected party that returned to the village. When Amat saw Rosetti entering the village he disappeared into the forest and climbed a tree. There he remained until after dark, a terrified and unhappy collaborator.
Tarzan waited in the camp of the guerrillas until Capt. Kervyn van Prins returned. Van Prins, de Lettenhove, and Tarzan conferred at length. Tarzan told them of the destruction of the Jap detachment in the village and of the extra rifles and ammunition, which he thought the guerrillas might use to advantage.
“When I left yesterday,” he said, “my friends were going out to ambush the Jap relief party that was expected at almost any time. If it has arrived I haven’t much doubt as to the outcome of that engagement; so there should be quite a little additional equipment for you if you care to come and get it. I think that village needs a lesson, too. Those people are undoubtedly working with the Japs.”
“You say you believe the Jap relief party would consist of some twenty men,” said van Prins, “and your party had only five people, and one of them a girl. Aren’t you rather overconfident in thinking that an engagement would result in a victory for your people?”
Tarzan smiled. “You don’t know my people,” he said. “Too, they had a tremendous advantage over the Japs. They knew that the Japs were coming; but the Japs didn’t know we were there and waiting for them in trees on both sides of the trail, armed with rifles and hand grenades. And don’t discount the fighting ability of the girl, Captain. She is a crack shot, and she already has several Japs to her credit. She is imbued with a hatred of Japs that amounts almost to religious exaltation.”
“Little Corrie van der Meer!” exclaimed van Prins. “It is almost unbelievable.”
“And two of our Americans,” continued Tarzan. “They were captured and abused by the Japs, and were about to be beheaded when the American captain and Corrie arrived in time to save them. I think they are good for at least five Japs apiece, if not more. They have become two fisted haters. No, I don’t think we need worry about the outcome of the fight, if there was one. As the Americans would say, ‘we did it before; we can do it again.’”
“Very well,” said van Prins; “we’ll go with you. We can certainly use more rifles and ammunition. Possibly we should join forces. We can discuss that when we all get together. When do you want to start back?”
“I am going now,” replied Tarzan. “We’ll wait in the village for you.”
“We can go along with you,” said van Prins.
Tarzan shook his head. “Not the way I travel, I’m afraid. By forced marches, you may make it by sometime tomorrow. I’ll be back there tonight.”
The Dutchman gave a skeptical shrug; but he smiled and said, “Very good. We’ll see you some time tomorrow.”
Day was breaking as the outlaws emerged from the forest into a narrow valley. They had brought their supply of schnapps along with them, and most of them were drunk. More than anything else, they wanted to lie down and sleep. They made camp under some trees beside the little river that wound down the valley toward the sea.
Hooft said that the women could stand guard, as they had had some sleep the night before. As Sarina was the only woman who had not drunk during the night, she volunteered to stand the first trick. Soon the others were sprawled out and snoring. But Corrie could not sleep. Plans for escape raced through her mind, banishing thoughts of slumber. She saw that all but Sarina were dead to the world. Perhaps Sarina might succumb to fatigue, too. Then she could get away. She knew exactly where she was and where to find the trail, that led back to the village. Farther down the valley she would probably find the bones of the rhinoceros and the deer that Tarzan had killed. Just beyond, she would come to the trail that led up out of the valley and into the forest.
She eyed the weapons of the sleeping men and women. If she could but steal a parang without Sarina seeing her. She would only have to get close to the woman then. In time, her attention would be distracted. She would turn her head away. Then one terrific blow with the heavy knife, and Corrie, armed with rifle, pistol, and parang, would be far on her way to the village before these drunken sots awakened.
Corrie did not even wonder that she entertained such thoughts. Her once sheltered life had become a battle for mere existence. If enemies could not be eluded, they must be destroyed. And this woman was an enemy. Corrie feared her fully as much as she feared the men. She thought of her as a terrible creature, steeped in vice.
Sarina was still a comparatively young woman. She had the sultry beauty that so many Eurasian women have and the erect, graceful carriage that marks the women of Java and Sumatra, and the slimness and physical perfection. But Corrie saw her through eyes of hate and loathing.
Sarina was staring at Corrie, her brows puckered in concentration. Would the woman never look away. “What is your name?” asked Sarina.
“Van der Meer,” replied the girl.
“Corrie van der Meer?” Sarina smiled. “I thought so. You look like your mother.”
“You knew my mother?” demanded Corrie. “You couldn’t have.” Her tone suggested that the woman had insulted her mother’s memory just by claiming to have known her.
“But I did,” said Sarina. “I knew your father, too. I worked for them while you were in school in Holland. They were very good to me. I loved them both. When I got in trouble, your father hired a fine attorney to defend me. But it did no good. Justice is not for Eurasians, or perhaps I should say mercy is not for Eurasians. I was guilty, but there were circumstances that would have counted in my favor had I been white. That is all past. Because your father and mother were kind to me and helped me, I shall help you.”
“What is your name?” asked Corrie.
“I have heard both my father and mother speak of you. They were very fond of you. But how can you help me?”
Sarina walked over to one of the sleeping men and took his rifle and some ammunition from him. She brought them back to Corrie. “Do you know how to get back to the village where they found you?”
“Then get started. These drunken beasts will sleep a long time.”
“How can I thank you, Sarina?” she said. She thought, and I was going to kill her!
“Don’t thank me. Thank your father and mother for being kind to an Eurasian. Do you know how to use a rifle?”
“Then, good-by and good luck!”
Impulsively, Corrie threw her arms about the woman she would have killed, and kissed her. “God bless you, Sarina,” she said. Then she swung off down the valley. Sarina watched her go, and there were tears in her eyes. She touched the spot on her cheek where Corrie had kissed her, touched it almost reverently.
Corrie took advantage of the cover afforded by the trees that grew along the left bank of the river. It was much farther to the trail leading up out of the valley than she had imagined, and it was late afternoon before she saw it winding across the valley from the opposite side. She saw something else, too. Something that made her heart sink. Some natives were making camp for the night directly in her path, and there were two Jap soldiers with them. Now she would have to wait for darkness, and then try to sneak past them.
She climbed into a tree, and tried to make herself comfortable. She was very tired and very sleepy. But she did not dare sleep for fear she would fall out of the tree. At last she found a combination of branches into which she could wedge her body and from which she could not fall. She was very uncomfortable; but nevertheless she fell asleep, utterly exhausted.
When she awoke, she knew that she had slept for some time, as the moon was high in the heavens. She could see the fire burning in the camp of the natives. Now she could slip past them and reach the trail to the village. She was preparing to descend when she heard the coughing grunt of a tiger. It sounded very close. From a little distance there arose the barking and growling of wild dogs. Corrie decided to remain where she was.