THE LITTLE BAND that was to make the attempt to reach Australia, comprising, as it did, Americans, Dutch, an Englishman, and an Eurasian, had been dubbed The Foreign Legion by the guerrillas. Jerry amplified the basis for this designation by calling attention to the fact that Bubonovitch was Russian, Rosetti Italian, and he himself part Cherokee Indian.
“If poor old Sing Tai were with us,” said Corrie, “the four principal Allied Nations would be represented.”
“If Italy hadn’t surrendered,” said Bubonovitch, “we’d have had to liquidate Shrimp. He’s the only Axis partner in our midst.”
“I ain’t a Eye-talian,” said Rosetti, “but I’d rather be a Eye-talian than a lousy Russian Communist.” Bubonovitch grinned, and winked at Corrie.
Captain van Prins, who was sitting a little apart with Tarzan, said in a low tone, “It’s too bad that there’s hard feelings between those two. It may cause a lot of trouble before you’re through.”
Tarzan looked at him in surprise. “I guess you don’t know Americans very well, Captain. Either one of those boys would willingly risk his life for the other.”
“Then why do they try to insult each other?” demanded van Prins. “This is not the first time I have heard them.”
Tarzan shrugged. “If I were an American, perhaps I could tell you.”
Where the guerrillas had made their camp, the valley narrowed and ended in a box canyon the limestone walls of which were pitted with several large caves on each side. Rifles and machine guns firing from the mouths of these caves could develop a deadly cross fire that might render the position impregnable. Another advantage lay in the ability to conceal all evidence of the presence of men which the caves offered. Occasionally, a Jap plane flew over. At the first sound of its motors, the company vanished into the caves.
A sentry, posted on a cliff above the camp, had a full view down the valley as far as binoculars would reach. Should he discover even a single human being approaching, his signal would similarly empty the floor of the canyon.
In this camp, for the first time, The Foreign Legion felt reasonably secure. It was a relief from the constant nervous strain they had been undergoing, and they relaxed and rested while waiting for Jerry’s wound to heal and for him to regain his strength.
Tarzan was often away on reconnaissance missions or hunting. It was he who kept the camp supplied with fresh meat, as he could kill quietly, which was most desirable. A rifle shot might attract the attention of an enemy patrol.
Occasionally, Tarzan was away for several days at a time. On one such mission he found the camp of the outlaws far down the valley. It was located not far from the kampong where Captain Tokujo Matsuo and Lieutenant Hideo Sokabe still held forth, and it was evident that the outlaws were openly collaborating with the Japs.
The outlaws had set up a still and were making schnapps, with which they carried on a brisk trade with the enemy. Tarzan saw much drunkenness in both camps. One observable result of this was a relaxation of discipline and alertness in the enemy camp. There were no sentries out on the trails leading to the village. A single soldier was on guard beside a small barbed wire enclosure. Inside this, beneath a flimsy shelter, Tarzan could see two figures, but he could not make out who nor what they were. They were evidently prisoners, but whether natives or Japs he could not tell. They did not interest him.
As Tarzan turned to leave the village and return to the camp of the guerrillas, a radio blared from one of the houses. He paused a moment to listen; but the voice spoke in Japanese, which he could not understand, and he continued on his way.
However, Lieutenant Hideo Sokabe understood it, and he did not like what he heard. Captain Tokujo Matsuo understood it and was pleased. He was not a little drunk on schnapps, as was Sokabe also. The schnapps heightened the acclaim with which Matsuo received the broadcast from Tokyo. He was quite noisy about it.
“So your honorable uncle has been kicked out,” he exulted. “You may now write to your honorable uncle, General Hideki Tojo, every day; but I shall remain a captain—until I am promoted. Now the situation is reversed. The ‘Singing Frog’ is now Premier. He is not my uncle, but he is my friend. I served under him in the Kwantung army in Manchuria.”
“So did a million other peasants,” said Sokabe.
Thus was the bad blood between the two officers made worse, which was not well for the morale and discipline of their command.
Corrie had often expressed concern over the fate of Sing Tai whom they had left in hiding in the village of Tiang Umar; so Tarzan decided to visit this village before returning to the camp of the guerrillas. This necessitated a considerable detour, but only rarely did either time or distance cause the Lord of the Jungle any concern. One of the features of civilization to which he could never accustom himself was the slavish subservience of civilized man to the demands of time. Sometimes his lack of conformity with established custom proved embarrassing to others, but never to Tarzan. He ate when he was hungry, slept when he was sleepy. He started on journeys when the spirit or necessity moved him, without concerning himself about the time which might be involved.
He moved leisurely now. He made a kill, and after eating, laid up for the night. It was midmorning when he approached the kampong of Tiang Umar. Motivated by the inherent caution and suspicion of the wild beast, Tarzan moved silently through the trees which encircled the kampong, to assure himself that no enemy lurked there. He saw the natives carrying on their normal, peaceful activities. Presently he recognized Alam, and a moment later he dropped to the ground and walked into the village.
As soon as the natives recognized him, they greeted him cordially and gathered around him, asking questions in a language he could not understand. He asked if anyone in the village spoke Dutch; and an old man replied in that language, saying that he did.
Through the interpreter Alam inquired about Corrie, and showed his pleasure when told that she was safe. Then Tarzan asked what had become of Sing Tai, and was told that he was still in the village but never ventured out in the daytime, which was well, as twice Jap scouting parties had come to the kampong without warning.
Tarzan was taken to the Chinese. He found him entirely recovered from his wound and in good physical condition. His first question was of Corrie, and when he was assured that she was all right and among friends he beamed with pleasure.
“Do you want to stay here, Sing Tai,” Tarzan asked, “or do you want to come with us? We are going to try to escape from the island.”
“I come with you,” replied Sing Tai.
“Very well,” said Tarzan. “We’ll start now.”
The Foreign Legion was becoming restless. Jerry had entirely recovered, had regained his strength, and was anxious to move on. He only awaited the return of Tarzan, who had been away for several days.
“Wish he would show up,” he said to Corrie. “I know he can take care of himself, but something could happen to him.” Several of the party were gathered beneath the concealing branches of a tree. They had been stripping, oiling, and reassembling their weapons. The stripping and reassembling they did with their eyes closed. It was a game that relieved the monotony of this ceaseless attention to weapons in the humid atmosphere of these equatorial mountains. Occasionally they timed one another; and, much to the chagrin of the men, it was discovered that Corrie and Sarina were the most adept.
Sarina replaced the bolt in her rifle, aimed at the sky, and squeezed the trigger. She leaned the piece against the tree, and looked long and searchingly down the valley. “Tony has been gone a long time,” she said. “If he does not come soon, I shall go and look for him.”
“Where did he go?” asked Jerry.
“The orders are no hunting,” said Jerry. “Rosetti knows that. We can’t take the chance of attracting the attention of the Japs with rifle fire.”
“Tony took his bow and arrows for hunting,” Sarina explained. “He will not fire his rifle except in self defense.”
“He couldn’t hit anything smaller than an elephant with that archery set of his,” said Bubonovitch.
“How long has he been gone?” asked Jerry.
“Too long,” said Sarina; “three or four hours at least.”
“I’ll go look for him,” said Bubonovitch. He picked up his rifle and stood up.
Just then the sentry on the cliff called down: “A man coming. Looks like Sergeant Rosetti. Yes, it is Sergeant Rosetti.”
“Is he carrying an elephant?” Bubonovitch shouted.
The sentry laughed. “He is carrying something, but I do not think it is an elephant.”
They all looked down the valley, and presently they could see a man approaching. He was still a long way off. Only the sentry with binoculars could have recognized him. After a while Rosetti walked into camp. He was carrying a hare.
“Here’s your supper,” he said, tossing the hare to the ground. “I missed three deer, and then I gets this little squirt.”
“Was he asleep at the time, or did somebody hold him for you?” asked Bubonovitch.
“He was runnin’ like a bat outta hell,” said Rosetti, grinning. “He runs into a tree an’ knocks hisself cold.”
“Nice work, Hiawatha,” said Bubonovitch.
“Anyway, I tried,” said Rosetti. “I didn’t sit around on my big, fat fanny waitin’ for some udder guy to bring home de bacon.”
“That is right, Sergeant Bum,” said Sarina.
“Always the perfect little gentleman, I will not contradict a lady,” said Bubonovitch. “Now the question is, who is going to prepare the feast? There are only fifty of us to eat it. What is left, we can send to the starving Armenians.”
“De starvin’ Armenians don’t get none of dis rabbit. Neither do you. It’s all for Sarina and Corrie.”
“Two people coming up the valley!” called down the sentry. “Can’t make them out yet. Something peculiar about them.” Every eye was strained down the valley, every ear waiting to hear the next report from the sentry. After a few moments it came: “Each of them is carrying some sort of load. One of them is naked.”
“Must be Tarzan,” said Jerry.
It was Tarzan. With him was Sing Tai. When they reached camp, each of them dropped the carcass of a deer to the ground. Corrie was delighted to see Sing Tai and to learn that he had completely recovered from his wound. And Jerry was relieved and delighted to see Tarzan.
“I’m sure glad you’re back,” he said. “We’re all ready to shove off, and have only been waiting for you.”
“I think we have another job to do before we can start,” said Tarzan. “I located Hooft’s gang far down the valley, not far from the village where we got Corrie away from the Japs. The Japs are still there, and while I was scouting the place I saw two prisoners behind barbed wire. I couldn’t make out what they were, but on the way back here from Tiang Umar’s kampong Sing Tai told me that some Japs had passed through the kampong a few days ago with two American prisoners. The Japs told the natives that they were fliers whose plane had been shot down some time ago.”
“Douglas and Davis!” exclaimed Bubonovitch.
“Must be,” agreed Jerry. “They are the only two unaccounted for.”
Bubonovitch buckled on his ammunition belt and picked up his rifle. “Let’s go, Captain,” he said.
Tarzan glanced at the sun. “If we travel fast,” he said, “we can make it while it is still dark; but we should take only men who can travel fast.”
“How many?” asked van Prins.
“Twenty should be enough. If everything goes all right, I can do it alone. If everything doesn’t go all right, twenty men plus the element of surprise should make everything all right.”
“I’ll come along with enough of my men to make the twenty,” said van Prins.
All the members of The Foreign Legion were preparing to go, but Tarzan said no to Corrie and Sarina. They started to argue the matter, but Tarzan was adamant. “You’d be an added responsibility for us,” he said. “We’d have to be thinking of your safety when our minds should be on nothing but our mission.”
“The Colonel is right,” said Jerry.
“I suppose he is,” admitted Corrie.
“That’s the good soldier,” said Tak.
“There is another who should not go,” said Doctor Reyd. Everybody looked at Jerry. “Captain Lucas has been a very ill man. If he goes on a long forced march now, he’ll be in no condition to undertake the trying marches to the south which you are contemplating.”
Jerry glanced questioningly at Tarzan. “I wish you wouldn’t insist, Jerry,” said the Englishman.
Jerry unbuckled his ammunition belt and laid it at the foot of the tree. He grinned ruefully. “If Corrie and Sarina can be good soldiers, I guess I can, too; but I sure hate to miss out on this.”
Ten minutes later twenty men started down the valley at a brisk pace that was almost a dogtrot. Tarzan, at the head of the column with van Prins, explained his plan to the Dutchman.
Captain Tokujo Matsuo and Lieutenant Hideo Sokabe had been drinking all night—drinking and quarreling. There had been much drinking among their men, too. The native men of the kampong had taken their women into the forest to escape the brutal advances of the drunken soldiers. But now, shortly before dawn, the camp had quieted, except for the quarreling of the two officers; for the others lay for the most part in a drunken stupor.
The single guard before the prison pen had just come on duty. He had slept off some of the effects of the schnapps he had drunk, but he was still far from sober. He resented having been awakened; so he vented some of his anger on the two prisoners, awakening them to revile and threaten them. Having been born and educated in Honolulu, he spoke English. He was an adept in invective in two languages. He loosed a flow of profanity and obscenity upon the two men within the barbed wire enclosure.
Staff Sergeant Carter Douglas of Van Nuys, California, stirred on his filthy sleeping mat, and raised himself on one elbow. “Aroha, sweetheart!” he called to the guard. This plunged the Jap into inarticulate rage.
“What’s eatin’ the guy?” demanded Staff Sergeant Bill Davis of Waco, Texas.
“I think he doesn’t like us,” said Douglas. “Before you woke up he said he would kill us right now except that his honorable captain wanted to lop our beans off himself in the morning.”
“Maybe he’s just handin’ us a line to scare us,” suggested Davis.
“Could be,” said Douglas. “The guy’s spiflicated. That stuff they drink must be potent as hell. It sounded like everybody in camp was drunk.”
“Remember that butterfly brandy they tried to sell us in Noumea at eighty-five smackers a bottle? Three drinks, and a private would spit in a captain’s face. Maybe that’s what they’re drinking.”
“If this guy had got a little drunker,” said Douglas, “we could have made our get away tonight.”
“If we could get out of here, we could rush him.”
“But we can’t get out of here.”
“Hell’s bells! I don’t want to have my head lopped off. What a hell of a birthday present.”
“What do you mean, birthday present?”
“If I haven’t lost track, tomorrow should be my birthday,” said Davis. “I’ll be twenty-five tomorrow.”
“You didn’t expect to live forever, did you? I don’t know what you old guys expect.”
“How old are you, Doug?”
“Gawd! They dragged you right out of the cradle. Oh, hell!” he said after a moment’s pause. “We’re just tryin’ to kid ourselves that we ain’t scared. I’m good and goddam scared.”
“I’m scairt as hell,” admitted Davis.
“What you talk about in there?” demanded the guard. “Shut up!”
“Shut up yourself, Tojo,” said Douglas; “you’re drunk.”
“Now, for that, I kill you,” yelled the Jap. “I tell the captain you try to escape.” He raised his rifle and aimed into the darkness of the shelter that housed the two prisoners.
Silently, in the shadows of the native houses, a figure moved toward him. It approached from behind him.
Matsuo and Sokabe were screaming insults at one another in their quarters at the far end of the kampong. Suddenly, the former drew his pistol and fired at Sokabe. He missed, and the lieutenant returned the fire. They were too drunk to hit one another except by accident, but they kept blazing away.
Almost simultaneously with Matsuo’s first shot, the guard fired into the shelter that housed the two Americans. Before he could fire a second shot, an arm encircled his head and drew it back, and a knife almost severed it from his body.
“Were you hit, Bill?” ask Douglas.
“No. He missed us a mile. What’s going on out there? Somebody jumped him.”
Aroused by the firing in their officers’ quarters, dopey, drunken soldiers were staggering toward the far end of the village, thinking the camp had been attacked. Some of them ran so close past Tarzan that he could almost have reached out and touched them. He crouched beside the dead guard, waiting. He was as ignorant of the cause of the fusillade as the Japs. Van Prins and his party were at the opposite end of the kampong; so he knew that it could not be they firing.
When he thought the last Jap had passed him, he called to the prisoners in a low tone. “Are you Douglas and Davis?”
“We sure are.”
“Where’s the gate?”
“Right in front of you, but it’s padlocked.”
Van Prins, hearing the firing, thought that it was directed at Tarzan; so he brought his men into the village at a run. They spread out, dodging from house to house.
Tarzan stepped to the gate. Its posts were the trunks of small saplings. Douglas and Davis had come from the shelter and were standing close inside the gate.
Tarzan took hold of the posts, one with each hand. “Each of you fellows push on a post,” he said, “and I’ll pull.” As he spoke, he surged back with all his weight and strength; and the posts snapped off before the prisoners could lend a hand. The wire was pulled down to the ground with the posts, and Douglas and Davis walked out to freedom over it.
Tarzan had heard the men coming in from van Prins’s position, and guessed it was they. He called to van Prins, and the latter answered. “The prisoners are with me,” said Tarzan. “You’d better assemble your men so that we can get out of here.” Then he took the rifle and ammunition from the dead Jap and handed them to Davis.
As the party moved out of the village, they could hear the Japs jabbering and shouting at the far end. They did not know the cause of the diversion that had aided them so materially in the rescue of the two men without having suffered any casualties, and many of them regretted leaving without having fired a shot.
Bubonovitch and Rosetti fairly swarmed over their two buddies, asking and answering innumerable questions. One of Davis’s first questions was about Tarzan. “Who was that naked guy that got us out?” he asked.
“Don’t you remember the English dook that come aboard just before we shoved off?” asked Rosetti. “Well, that’s him; and he’s one swell guy. An’ who do you t’ink he is?”
“You just told us—the RAF colonel.”
“He’s Tarzan of the Apes.”
“Who you think you’re kiddin’?”
“On the level,” said Bubonovitch. “He’s Tarzan all right.”
“The old man ain’t here,” said Douglas. “He wasn’t—?”
“No. He’s O.K. He got wounded, and they wouldn’t let him come along; but he’s all right.”
The four talked almost constantly all the way back to the guerrilla camp. They had fought together on many missions. They were linked by ties more binding than blood. There existed between them something that cannot be expressed in words, nor would they have thought of trying to. Perhaps Rosetti came nearest it when he slapped Davis on the back and said, “You old sonofabitch!”