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Chapter 16 Tarzan and the Castaways by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Krause and his fellows had not gone two days march from the camp of the castaways, as Tarzan had ordered them to do. They had gone only about four miles up the coast, where they had camped by another stream where it emptied into the ocean. They were a bitter and angry company as they squatted disconsolately upon the beach and ate the fruit that they had made the Lascars gather. They sweated and fumed for a couple of days and made plans and quarreled. Both Krause and Schmidt wished to command, and Schmidt won out because Krause was the bigger coward and was afraid of the madman. Abdullah Abu Nejm sat apart and hated them all. Oubanovitch talked a great deal in a loud tone of voice and argued that they should all be comrades and that nobody should command. By a single thread of common interest were they held together—their hatred of Tarzan, because he had sent them away without arms or ammunition.

"We could go back at night and steal what we need," suggested Oubanovitch.

"I have been thinking that same thing, myself," said Schmidt. "You go back now, Oubanovitch, and reconnoiter. You can hide in the jungle just outside their camp and get a good lay of the land, so that we shall know just where the rifles are kept."

"You go yourself," said Oubanovitch, "you can't order me around."

"I'm in command," screamed Schmidt, springing to his feet.

Oubanovitch stood up too. He was a big hulking brute, much larger than Schmidt. "So what!" he demanded.

"There's no sense in fighting among ourselves," said Krause. "Why don't you send a Lascar?"

"If I had a gun this dirty Communist would obey me," Schmidt grumbled, and then he called to one of the Lascar sailors. "Come here, Chuldrup," he ordered.

The Lascar slouched forward, sullen and scowling. He hated Schmidt; but all his life he had taken orders from white men, and the habit was strong upon him.

"You go other camp," Schmidt directed; "hide in jungle; see where guns, bullets kept."

"No go," said Chuldrup; "tiger in jungle."

"The hell you won't go," exclaimed Schmidt, and knocked the sailor down. "I'll teach you." The sailor came to his feet, a boiling cauldron of hate. He wanted to kill the white man, but he was still afraid. "Now get out of here, you heathen dog," Schmidt yelled at him, "and see that you don't come back until you find out what you want to know." Chuldrup turned and walked away, and a moment later the jungle closed behind him.

"I say!" exclaimed Algy. "What's the blighter doing now?" The tiger had arisen and was standing, ears forward, looking back along the trail. He cocked his head on one side, listening.

"He hears something coming," said Bolton.

"There he goes," said Crouch, as the tiger slunk into the underbrush beside the trail.

"Now's our chance," said Algy.

"He didn't go far," said Bolton; "he's right there; I can see him."

"Trying to fool us," said Crouch.

Chuldrup was very much afraid; he was afraid of the jungle, but he was more afraid to return to Schmidt without the information the man wanted. He stopped for a moment to think the matter over; should he go back and hide in the jungle for a while close to Schmidt's camp and then when there had been time for him to fulfill his mission go to Schmidt and make up a story about the location of the guns and bullets?

Chuldrup scratched his head, and then the light of a great idea broke upon him; he would go to the camp of the Englishmen, tell them what Schmidt was planning, and ask them to let him remain with them. That, he knew, was one of the best ideas that he had ever had in his life; and so he turned and trotted happily along the trail.

"Something is coming," whispered Crouch; "I can hear it," and a moment later Chuldrup came trotting into view.

All three men shouted warnings simultaneously, but too late. As the Lascar stopped amazed and looked up at them, momentarily uncomprehending, a great tiger leaped from the underbrush and rearing up above the terrified man seized him by the shoulder.

Chuldrup screamed; the great beast shook him and then turned and dragged him off into the underbrush, while the three Englishmen, horrified, looked on helplessly.

For a few moments they could hear the screams of the man mingling with the growls of the tiger and then the screams ceased.

"My God!" exclaimed Algy, "that was awful."

"Yes," said Bolton, "but it's our chance; he won't bother anything now that doesn't go near his kill."

Gingerly and quietly they descended to the ground, picked up their rifles, and started back toward camp; but all three were shaken by the tragedy they had witnessed.

In the camp the day's work was done; even Colonel Leigh could find nothing more to keep the men busy.

"I must be getting old," he said to his wife.

"Getting?" she asked. "Are you just discovering it?"

The Colonel smiled indulgently; he was always glad when Penelope was herself. Whenever she said anything pleasant or kindly he was worried. "Yes," he continued, "I must be slipping; I can't think of a damn thing for these men to do."

"It seems to me there should be plenty to do around here," said Penelope; "I am always busy."

"I think the men deserve a little leisure," said Patricia; "they've been working steadily ever since we've gotten here."

"There's nothing that breeds discontent more surely than idleness," said the Colonel; "but I'm going to let them knock off for the rest of the day."

Hans de Groote and Janette Laon were sitting together on the beach talking.

"Life is funny," said the man. "Just a few weeks ago, I was looking forward to seeing New York City for the first time—young, fancy-free, and with three months pay in my pocket; what a time I was planning there! And now here I am somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on an island that no one ever heard of—and that's not the worst of it."

"And what is the worst of it?" asked Janette.

"That I like it," replied de Groote.

"Like it!" she exclaimed. "But why do you like it?"

"Because you are here," he said.

The girl looked at him in surprise. "I don't understand," she said; "you certainly can't mean that the way it sounds."

"But I do, Janette," he said; "I—," his tanned face flushed. "Why is it that those three words are so hard to say when you mean them?"

She reached out and placed her hand on his. "You mustn't say them," she said; "you mustn't ever say them—to me."

"Why?" he demanded.

"You know what I have been—kicking around Singapore, Saigon, Batavia."

"I love you," said Hans de Groote, and then Janette Laon burst into tears; it had been long since she had cried except in anger or disappointment.

"I won't let you," she said; "I won't let you."

"Don't you—love me a little, Janette?" he asked.

"I won't tell you," she said; "I won't ever tell you."

De Groote pressed her hand and smiled. "You have told me," he said.

And then they were interrupted by Patricia's voice crying, "Why, Algy, where is your shirt?"

The hunters had returned, and the Europeans gathered around to hear their story. When they had finished the Colonel harrumphed. "That settles it," he said; "there will be no more hunting in the jungle; no one would have a chance against a tiger or a lion in that tangle of undergrowth."

"It's all your fault, William," snapped Mrs. Leigh; "you should have taken complete command; you should not have permitted that wildman to turn those beasts loose on us."

"I still think that it was quite the sporting thing to do," said the Colonel, "and don't forget that it was quite as dangerous for him as for us. As far as we know the poor devil may have been killed by one of them already."

"And serve him quite right," said Mrs. Leigh; "anyone who will run around the way he does in the presence of ladies has no business to live—at least not among decent people."

"I think the fellow was just a little bit of all right," said the Colonel, "and don't forget, Penelope, if it had not been for him, we would probably be a great deal worse off than we are now."

"Don't forget, Aunt Penelope, that he rescued you from the Saigon."

"I am doing my best to forget it," said Mrs. Leigh.

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