CAPT. VAN PRINS and Lieut, de Lettenhove, as well as several others of the guerrilla force, knew both Corrie and Tak, whom they had believed to be dead. They gathered around them, laughing and talking, congratulating them and exchanging snatches of their various experiences during the more than two years since they had seen one another. Corrie and Tak asked of news of old friends. Some were known to be dead, others had been prisoners of the Japs when last heard of. They spoke in their own tongue.
Jerry, feeling very much an outsider, sought Bubonovitch and Rosetti. They sat together beneath a tree and cleaned their rifles and pistols, for since they had captured the equipment of the Japs they had all that was necessary to keep their weapons cleaned and oiled, an endless procedure in the humid equatorial atmosphere of the Sumatran mountains.
Presently van Prins and de Lettenhove joined them to discuss plans for the future. Corrie and Tak were sitting together in the shade of another tree at a little distance. Corrie had noticed that Jerry had been avoiding her of late; so she did not suggest joining the conference. She wondered if she had done anything to offend him, or if he were just tired of her company. She was piqued, and so she redoubled her attentions to Tak van der Bos. Jerry was keenly aware of this and was miserable. He took no part in the discussion that was going on. Both Bubonovitch and Rosetti noticed this and wondered at the change that had come over him.
The conference resulted in a decision that the two parties would join forces for the time being at least, but it was not thought wise to remain where they were. When the detail that was to have been relieved did not return to the base, there would be an investigation, unquestionably in force; and the Dutchmen did not wish to risk a major engagement. They had other plans for harassing the enemy.
It was therefore decided to move to an easily defended position of which they knew. This would mean backtracking for Tarzan and the Americans, but van Prins assured them that in the end it would improve their chances of reaching the southwest coast.
“From where I plan on making camp,” he explained, “there is a comparatively easy route over the summit. You can then move down the east side of the mountains where, I am informed, there are comparatively few Japs in the higher reaches, while on this side there are many. I will furnish you with a map and mark out a route that will bring you back to the west side at a point where I think you will find it much easier to reach the coast, if you decide to persist in what I believe a very foolhardy venture.”
“What do you think about it, Jerry?” asked Tarzan.
Jerry, awakened from a day dream, looked up blankly. “Think about what?” he demanded.
Tarzan looked at him in surprise. Then he repeated the plan. “Whatever suits the rest of you suits me,” said Jerry indifferently.
Bubonovitch and Rosetti looked at one another. “Wot the hell’s happened to the ‘old man’?” whispered the latter.
Bubonovitch shrugged and looked in the direction of Corrie and van der Bos. “Cherchez la femme,” he said.
“Talk American,” said Rosetti.
“I think the captain is going to be a misogynist again pretty soon,” said Bubonovitch.
“I getcha. I guess maybe as how I’ll be one of dem t’ings again myself. Trouble is a dame’s middle name—trouble, trouble, nuttin’ but trouble.”
“When do you plan on leaving?” Tarzan asked van Prins.
“I think we can remain here safely today and tomorrow. The Japs won’t really commence to worry about that detail for several days, and then it will take them another day to reach this village. We can leave here day after tomorrow, early in the morning. That will give my men time to fix up their foot gear. I can’t call the things we are wearing shoes. The chief here has plenty of material, and some of the women are helping us make sandals. We were just about barefoot when we got here. Even if the Japs do come, we shall be ready for them. Some of my men are cutting a trail from the village paralleling the main trail toward the Jap base. I’m having them run it out about five hundred yards. If the Japs come, we’ll have a surprise for them.”
The conference broke up. Van Prins went out into the forest to see how his men were getting ahead with the trail. The other Dutchmen went to work on their sandals or cleaned their weapons. Corrie had been surreptitiously watching Jerry. She noticed how glum he looked and that he only spoke when directly addressed, and then curtly. Suddenly she thought that he might be ill. She had been angry with him, but that thought destroyed her anger and filled her with compassion. She walked over to where he was now sitting alone, reassembling the Jap pistol that he had stripped and cleaned. She sat down beside him.
“What’s the matter, Jerry?” she asked. “You’re not ill, are you?”
“No,” he said. He had worked himself into such a state of utter misery that he couldn’t even be civil.
Corrie looked at him in surprise and hurt. He did not see the expression on her face; because he pretended to be engrossed with the pistol. He knew that he was being sophomoric and he hated himself. What the hell is the matter with me? he thought. Corrie arose slowly and walked away. Jerry thought about committing suicide. He was being an ass, and he knew it. But Jerry was very young and very much in love. He slammed the last piece of the pistol into place viciously and stood up.
Corrie was walking toward the little house she occupied with the native girl, Lara. Jerry walked quickly after her. He wanted to tell her how sorry he was. As she reached the foot of the ladder leading up into the house, he called to her: “Corrie!” She did not pause nor look back. She climbed the ladder and disappeared through the doorway.
He knew that she had heard him. He also knew that Tarzan and Bubonovitch and Rosetti had witnessed the whole thing. But worst of all, so had Tak van der Bos. Jerry could feel his face burning. He stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do. The hell with all women, he thought. He had faced death many times, but to face his friends now was worse. It required all his will power to turn around and walk back to them.
No one said anything as he sat down among them. They appeared wholly occupied by whatever they were doing. Tarzan broke the silence. “I am going out to see if I can bring in some fresh meat,” he said. “Anyone want to come with me?” It was the first time he had ever asked anyone to hunt with him. They all knew that he meant Jerry; so no one spoke, waiting for Jerry.
“Yes, I’d like to, if no one else wants to,” he said.
“Come along,” said Tarzan. They picked up rifles and went out into the forest.
Bubonovitch and Rosetti were sitting a little apart from the Dutchmen. “That was swell of Tarzan,” said the former. “I sure felt sorry for Jerry. I wonder what’s got into Corrie.”
“Oh, hell; they’re all alike,” said Rosetti.
Bubonovitch shook his head. “It wasn’t like Corrie—she’s different. Jerry must have said something. He’s been as grouchy as a bear with a sore head.”
“It’s dat Dutchman,” said Rosetti. “He and Corrie are just like dat.” He crossed a middle finger over an index finger. “An’ I t’ought all de time she was fallin’ for de Cap’n. I told you w’en we foist picked up dat dame dat it meant trouble.”
“You sort of fell for her yourself, Shrimp.”
“I liked her all right. Maybe she ain’t done nuttin’. Maybe de Cap’n’s de wrong guy. Dey don’t have to do nuttin’. Just bein’ a dame spells trouble. Geeze! I t’ink w’en I gets back to Chi I’ll join a convent.”
Bubonovitch grinned. “That would be just the place for you, Shrimp—a nice convent without any women. If you can’t find one in Chicago, you might try Hollywood. Anything that’s screwy, Hollywood’s got.”
Shrimp knew that Bubonovitch was ribbing him, but he didn’t know just how. “Yes, sir! I t’ink I’ll be a monk.”
“The correlative wisecrack is too obvious.”
“Talk American, Perfessor.”
Tarzan and Jerry were gone a little more than an hour. They returned to the village with the carcass of a deer. Tarzan had shot it. Jerry was glad that he had not had to. Of course it was all right to kill for food, but still he didn’t like to kill deer. He didn’t mind killing Japs. That was different. The way he felt this afternoon, he would have enjoyed killing almost anything. But he was still glad that he hadn’t killed the deer.
That evening, Corrie ate apart with the Dutchmen. She shouldn’t have done it, and she knew that she shouldn’t. She should have carried on just as though nothing had happened. Afterward she wished that she had, for she realized that now she had definitely acknowledged the rift. It would be difficult to close it again. It would probably widen. She was most unhappy; because she loved those men with whom she had been through so much—to whom she owed so much. She was sorry now that she hadn’t waited when Jerry had called to her.
She made up her mind to swallow her pride and go over to them; but when she did so, Jerry got up and walked away. So she passed them and went to her house. There she threw herself down on her sleeping mats and cried. For the first time in years, she cried.
The day was drawing to a close and Amat was very tired when he reached the Jap base. He bowed low to the sentry who halted him, and in the few Japanese words he had learned he tried to explain that he had important news for the commanding officer.
The sentry called a non-commissioned officer of the guard who happened to have learned a smattering of the native dialect; and to him Amat repeated what he had told the sentry, almost forgetting to bow. So he bowed twice.
The sergeant took him to the adjutant, to whom Amat bowed three times. When the sergeant had reported, the adjutant questioned Amat, and what Amat told him excited him greatly. He lost no time in conducting Amat to the commanding officer, a Col. Kanji Tajiri, to whom Amat bowed four times.
When the colonel learned that some forty of his men had been killed, he was furious. Amat also told him just how many white men there were in the party in his village. He told about the sentries out on the trails. He told about the white girl. He told everything.
Tajiri gave orders that Amat should be fed and given a place to sleep. He also directed that two full companies should march at dawn to attack the village and destroy the white men. He himself would go in command, and they would take Amat along. If Amat had known this, he would not have slept so easily as he did.