Nor did they have long to wait, for the next morning as Clayton was emergin_n deck for his accustomed walk before breakfast, a shot rang out, and the_nother, and another.
The sight which met his eyes confirmed his worst fears. Facing the little kno_f officers was the entire motley crew of the Fuwalda, and at their head stoo_lack Michael.
At the first volley from the officers the men ran for shelter, and from point_f vantage behind masts, wheel-house and cabin they returned the fire of th_ive men who represented the hated authority of the ship.
Two of their number had gone down before the captain's revolver. They la_here they had fallen between the combatants. But then the first mate lunge_orward upon his face, and at a cry of command from Black Michael th_utineers charged the remaining four. The crew had been able to muster but si_irearms, so most of them were armed with boat hooks, axes, hatchets an_rowbars.
The captain had emptied his revolver and was reloading as the charge was made.
The second mate's gun had jammed, and so there were but two weapons opposed t_he mutineers as they bore down upon the officers, who now started to giv_ack before the infuriated rush of their men.
Both sides were cursing and swearing in a frightful manner, which, togethe_ith the reports of the firearms and the screams and groans of the wounded, turned the deck of the Fuwalda to the likeness of a madhouse.
Before the officers had taken a dozen backward steps the men were upon them.
An ax in the hands of a burly Negro cleft the captain from forehead to chin, and an instant later the others were down: dead or wounded from dozens o_lows and bullet wounds.
Short and grisly had been the work of the mutineers of the Fuwalda, an_hrough it all John Clayton had stood leaning carelessly beside th_ompanionway puffing meditatively upon his pipe as though he had been bu_atching an indifferent cricket match.
As the last officer went down he thought it was time that he returned to hi_ife lest some members of the crew find her alone below.
Though outwardly calm and indifferent, Clayton was inwardly apprehensive an_rought up, for he feared for his wife's safety at the hands of thes_gnorant, half-brutes into whose hands fate had so remorselessly thrown them.
As he turned to descend the ladder he was surprised to see his wife standin_n the steps almost at his side.
"How long have you been here, Alice?"
"Since the beginning," she replied. "How awful, John. Oh, how awful! What ca_e hope for at the hands of such as those?"
"Breakfast, I hope," he answered, smiling bravely in an attempt to allay he_ears.
"At least," he added, "I'm going to ask them. Come with me, Alice. We must no_et them think we expect any but courteous treatment."
The men had by this time surrounded the dead and wounded officers, and withou_ither partiality or compassion proceeded to throw both living and dead ove_he sides of the vessel. With equal heartlessness they disposed of their ow_ead and dying.
Presently one of the crew spied the approaching Claytons, and with a cry of:
"Here's two more for the fishes," rushed toward them with uplifted ax.
But Black Michael was even quicker, so that the fellow went down with a bulle_n his back before he had taken a half dozen steps.
With a loud roar, Black Michael attracted the attention of the others, and, pointing to Lord and Lady Greystoke, cried:
"These here are my friends, and they are to be left alone. D'ye understand?
"I'm captain of this ship now, an' what I says goes," he added, turning t_layton. "Just keep to yourselves, and nobody'll harm ye," and he looke_hreateningly on his fellows.
The Claytons heeded Black Michael's instructions so well that they saw bu_ittle of the crew and knew nothing of the plans the men were making.
Occasionally they heard faint echoes of brawls and quarreling among th_utineers, and on two occasions the vicious bark of firearms rang out on th_till air. But Black Michael was a fit leader for this band of cutthroats, and, withal held them in fair subjection to his rule.
On the fifth day following the murder of the ship's officers, land was sighte_y the lookout. Whether island or mainland, Black Michael did not know, but h_nnounced to Clayton that if investigation showed that the place was habitabl_e and Lady Greystoke were to be put ashore with their belongings.
"You'll be all right there for a few months," he explained, "and by that tim_e'll have been able to make an inhabited coast somewhere and scatter a bit.
Then I'll see that yer gover'ment's notified where you be an' they'll soo_end a man- o'war to fetch ye off.
"It would be a hard matter to land you in civilization without a lot o'
questions being asked, an' none o' us here has any very convincin' answers u_ur sleeves."
Clayton remonstrated against the inhumanity of landing them upon an unknow_hore to be left to the mercies of savage beasts, and, possibly, still mor_avage men.
But his words were of no avail, and only tended to anger Black Michael, so h_as forced to desist and make the best he could of a bad situation.
About three o'clock in the afternoon they came about off a beautiful woode_hore opposite the mouth of what appeared to be a land-locked harbor.
Black Michael sent a small boat filled with men to sound the entrance in a_ffort to determine if the Fuwalda could be safely worked through th_ntrance.
In about an hour they returned and reported deep water through the passage a_ell as far into the little basin.
Before dark the barkentine lay peacefully at anchor upon the bosom of th_till, mirror-like surface of the harbor.
The surrounding shores were beautiful with semitropical verdure, while in th_istance the country rose from the ocean in hill and tableland, almos_niformly clothed by primeval forest.
No signs of habitation were visible, but that the land might easily suppor_uman life was evidenced by the abundant bird and animal life of which th_atchers on the Fuwalda's deck caught occasional glimpses, as well as by th_himmer of a little river which emptied into the harbor, insuring fresh wate_n plenitude.
As darkness settled upon the earth, Clayton and Lady Alice still stood by th_hip's rail in silent contemplation of their future abode. From the dar_hadows of the mighty forest came the wild calls of savage beasts—the dee_oar of the lion, and, occasionally, the shrill scream of a panther.
The woman shrank closer to the man in terror-stricken anticipation of th_orrors lying in wait for them in the awful blackness of the nights to come, when they should be alone upon that wild and lonely shore.
Later in the evening Black Michael joined them long enough to instruct them t_ake their preparations for landing on the morrow. They tried to persuade hi_o take them to some more hospitable coast near enough to civilization so tha_hey might hope to fall into friendly hands. But no pleas, or threats, o_romises of reward could move him.
"I am the only man aboard who would not rather see ye both safely dead, and, while I know that's the sensible way to make sure of our own necks, yet Blac_ichael's not the man to forget a favor. Ye saved my life once, and in retur_'m goin' to spare yours, but that's all I can do.
"The men won't stand for any more, and if we don't get ye landed pretty quic_hey may even change their minds about giving ye that much show. I'll put al_er stuff ashore with ye as well as cookin' utensils an' some old sails fo_ents, an' enough grub to last ye until ye can find fruit and game.
"With yer guns for protection, ye ought to be able to live here easy enoug_ntil help comes. When I get safely hid away I'll see to it that the Britis_over'ment learns about where ye be; for the life of me I couldn't tell 'e_xactly where, for I don't know myself. But they'll find ye all right."
After he had left them they went silently below, each wrapped in gloom_orebodings.
Clayton did not believe that Black Michael had the slightest intention o_otifying the British government of their whereabouts, nor was he any too sur_ut that some treachery was contemplated for the following day when the_hould be on shore with the sailors who would have to accompany them wit_heir belongings.
Once out of Black Michael's sight any of the men might strike them down, an_till leave Black Michael's conscience clear.
And even should they escape that fate was it not but to be faced with fa_raver dangers? Alone, he might hope to survive for years; for he was _trong, athletic man.
But what of Alice, and that other little life so soon to be launched amids_he hardships and grave dangers of a primeval world?
The man shuddered as he meditated upon the awful gravity, the fearfu_elplessness, of their situation. But it was a merciful Providence whic_revented him from foreseeing the hideous reality which awaited them in th_rim depths of that gloomy wood.
Early next morning their numerous chests and boxes were hoisted on deck an_owered to waiting small boats for transportation to shore.
There was a great quantity and variety of stuff, as the Claytons had expecte_ possible five to eight years' residence in their new home. Thus, in additio_o the many necessities they had brought, there were also many luxuries.
Black Michael was determined that nothing belonging to the Claytons should b_eft on board. Whether out of compassion for them, or in furtherance of hi_wn self-interests, it would be difficult to say.
There was no question but that the presence of property of a missing Britis_fficial upon a suspicious vessel would have been a difficult thing to explai_n any civilized port in the world.
So zealous was he in his efforts to carry out his intentions that he insiste_pon the return of Clayton's revolvers to him by the sailors in whos_ossession they were.
Into the small boats were also loaded salt meats and biscuit, with a smal_upply of potatoes and beans, matches, and cooking vessels, a chest of tools, and the old sails which Black Michael had promised them.
As though himself fearing the very thing which Clayton had suspected, Blac_ichael accompanied them to shore, and was the last to leave them when th_mall boats, having filled the ship's casks with fresh water, were pushed ou_oward the waiting Fuwalda.
As the boats moved slowly over the smooth waters of the bay, Clayton and hi_ife stood silently watching their departure—in the breasts of both a feelin_f impending disaster and utter hopelessness.
And behind them, over the edge of a low ridge, other eyes watched—close set, wicked eyes, gleaming beneath shaggy brows.
As the Fuwalda passed through the narrow entrance to the harbor and out o_ight behind a projecting point, Lady Alice threw her arms about Clayton'_eck and burst into uncontrolled sobs.
Bravely had she faced the dangers of the mutiny; with heroic fortitude she ha_ooked into the terrible future; but now that the horror of absolute solitud_as upon them, her overwrought nerves gave way, and the reaction came.
He did not attempt to check her tears. It were better that nature have her wa_n relieving these long-pent emotions, and it was many minutes before th_irl—little more than a child she was—could again gain mastery of herself.
"Oh, John," she cried at last, "the horror of it. What are we to do? What ar_e to do?"
"There is but one thing to do, Alice," and he spoke as quietly as though the_ere sitting in their snug living room at home, "and that is work. Work mus_e our salvation. We must not give ourselves time to think, for in tha_irection lies madness.
"We must work and wait. I am sure that relief will come, and come quickly, when once it is apparent that the Fuwalda has been lost, even though Blac_ichael does not keep his word to us."
"But John, if it were only you and I," she sobbed, "we could endure it I know; but—"
"Yes, dear," he answered, gently, "I have been thinking of that, also; but w_ust face it, as we must face whatever comes, bravely and with the utmos_onfidence in our ability to cope with circumstances whatever they may be.
"Hundreds of thousands of years ago our ancestors of the dim and distant pas_aced the same problems which we must face, possibly in these same primeva_orests. That we are here today evidences their victory.
"What they did may we not do? And even better, for are we not armed with age_f superior knowledge, and have we not the means of protection, defense, an_ustenance which science has given us, but of which they were totall_gnorant? What they accomplished, Alice, with instruments and weapons of ston_nd bone, surely that may we accomplish also."
"Ah, John, I wish that I might be a man with a man's philosophy, but I am bu_ woman, seeing with my heart rather than my head, and all that I can see i_oo horrible, too unthinkable to put into words.
"I only hope you are right, John. I will do my best to be a brave primeva_oman, a fit mate for the primeval man."
Clayton's first thought was to arrange a sleeping shelter for the night; something which might serve to protect them from prowling beasts of prey.
He opened the box containing his rifles and ammunition, that they might bot_e armed against possible attack while at work, and then together they sough_ location for their first night's sleeping place.
A hundred yards from the beach was a little level spot, fairly free of trees; here they decided eventually to build a permanent house, but for the tim_eing they both thought it best to construct a little platform in the tree_ut of reach of the larger of the savage beasts in whose realm they were.
To this end Clayton selected four trees which formed a rectangle about eigh_eet square, and cutting long branches from other trees he constructed _ramework around them, about ten feet from the ground, fastening the ends o_he branches securely to the trees by means of rope, a quantity of which Blac_ichael had furnished him from the hold of the Fuwalda.
Across this framework Clayton placed other smaller branches quite clos_ogether. This platform he paved with the huge fronds of elephant's ear whic_rew in profusion about them, and over the fronds he laid a great sail folde_nto several thicknesses.
Seven feet higher he constructed a similar, though lighter platform to serv_s roof, and from the sides of this he suspended the balance of his sailclot_or walls.
When completed he had a rather snug little nest, to which he carried thei_lankets and some of the lighter luggage.
It was now late in the afternoon, and the balance of the daylight hours wer_evoted to the building of a rude ladder by means of which Lady Alice coul_ount to her new home.
All during the day the forest about them had been filled with excited birds o_rilliant plumage, and dancing, chattering monkeys, who watched these ne_rrivals and their wonderful nest building operations with every mark o_eenest interest and fascination.
Notwithstanding that both Clayton and his wife kept a sharp lookout they sa_othing of larger animals, though on two occasions they had seen their littl_imian neighbors come screaming and chattering from the near-by ridge, castin_rightened glances back over their little shoulders, and evincing as plainl_s though by speech that they were fleeing some terrible thing which la_oncealed there.
Just before dusk Clayton finished his ladder, and, filling a great basin wit_ater from the near-by stream, the two mounted to the comparative safety o_heir aerial chamber.
As it was quite warm, Clayton had left the side curtains thrown back over th_oof, and as they sat, like Turks, upon their blankets, Lady Alice, strainin_er eyes into the darkening shadows of the wood, suddenly reached out an_rasped Clayton's arms.
"John," she whispered, "look! What is it, a man?"
As Clayton turned his eyes in the direction she indicated, he saw silhouette_imly against the shadows beyond, a great figure standing upright upon th_idge.
For a moment it stood as though listening and then turned slowly, and melte_nto the shadows of the jungle.
"What is it, John?"
"I do not know, Alice," he answered gravely, "it is too dark to see so far, and it may have been but a shadow cast by the rising moon."
"No, John, if it was not a man it was some huge and grotesque mockery of man.
Oh, I am afraid."
He gathered her in his arms, whispering words of courage and love into he_ars.
Soon after, he lowered the curtain walls, tying them securely to the trees s_hat, except for a little opening toward the beach, they were entirel_nclosed.
As it was now pitch dark within their tiny aerie they lay down upon thei_lankets to try to gain, through sleep, a brief respite of forgetfulness.
Clayton lay facing the opening at the front, a rifle and a brace of revolver_t his hand.
Scarcely had they closed their eyes than the terrifying cry of a panther ran_ut from the jungle behind them. Closer and closer it came until they coul_ear the great beast directly beneath them. For an hour or more they heard i_niffing and clawing at the trees which supported their platform, but at las_t roamed away across the beach, where Clayton could see it clearly in th_rilliant moonlight—a great, handsome beast, the largest he had ever seen.
During the long hours of darkness they caught but fitful snatches of sleep, for the night noises of a great jungle teeming with myriad animal life kep_heir overwrought nerves on edge, so that a hundred times they were startle_o wakefulness by piercing screams, or the stealthy moving of great bodie_eneath them.