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Chapter 19 The Last of the "Kincaid"

  • Shortly after the break of day Tarzan was on deck noting the condition of th_eather. The wind had abated. The sky was cloudless. Every condition seeme_deal for the commencement of the return voyage to Jungle Island, where th_easts were to be left. And then—home!
  • The ape-man aroused the mate and gave instructions that the Kincaid sail a_he earliest possible moment. The remaining members of the crew, safe in Lor_reystoke's assurance that they would not be prosecuted for their share in th_illainies of the two Russians, hastened with cheerful alacrity to thei_everal duties.
  • The beasts, liberated from the confinement of the hold, wandered about th_eck, not a little to the discomfiture of the crew in whose minds ther_emained a still vivid picture of the savagery of the beasts in conflict wit_hose who had gone to their deaths beneath the fangs and talons which even no_eemed itching for the soft flesh of further prey.
  • Beneath the watchful eyes of Tarzan and Mugambi, however, Sheeta and the ape_f Akut curbed their desires, so that the men worked about the deck amongs_hem in far greater security than they imagined.
  • At last the Kincaid slipped down the Ugambi and ran out upon the shimmerin_aters of the Atlantic. Tarzan and Jane Clayton watched the verdure-cla_hore-line receding in the ship's wake, and for once the ape-man left hi_ative soil without one single pang of regret.
  • No ship that sailed the seven seas could have borne him away from Africa t_esume his search for his lost boy with half the speed that the Englishma_ould have desired, and the slow-moving Kincaid seemed scarce to move at al_o the impatient mind of the bereaved father.
  • Yet the vessel made progress even when she seemed to be standing still, an_resently the low hills of Jungle Island became distinctly visible upon th_estern horizon ahead.
  • In the cabin of Alexander Paulvitch the thing within the black box ticked,
  • ticked, ticked, with apparently unending monotony; but yet, second by second,
  • a little arm which protruded from the periphery of one of its wheels cam_earer and nearer to another little arm which projected from the hand whic_aulvitch had set at a certain point upon the dial beside the clockwork. Whe_hose two arms touched one another the ticking of the mechanism woul_ease—for ever.
  • Jane and Tarzan stood upon the bridge looking out toward Jungle Island. Th_en were forward, also watching the land grow upward out of the ocean. Th_easts had sought the shade of the galley, where they were curled up in sleep.
  • All was quiet and peace upon the ship, and upon the waters.
  • Suddenly, without warning, the cabin roof shot up into the air, a cloud o_ense smoke puffed far above the Kincaid, there was a terrific explosion whic_hook the vessel from stem to stern.
  • Instantly pandemonium broke loose upon the deck. The apes of Akut, terrifie_y the sound, ran hither and thither, snarling and growling. Sheeta leape_ere and there, screaming out his startled terror in hideous cries that sen_he ice of fear straight to the hearts of the Kincaid's crew.
  • Mugambi, too, was trembling. Only Tarzan of the Apes and his wife retaine_heir composure. Scarce had the debris settled than the ape-man was among th_easts, quieting their fears, talking to them in low, pacific tones, strokin_heir shaggy bodies, and assuring them, as only he could, that the immediat_anger was over.
  • An examination of the wreckage showed that their greatest danger, now, lay i_ire, for the flames were licking hungrily at the splintered wood of th_recked cabin, and had already found a foothold upon the lower deck through _reat jagged hole which the explosion had opened.
  • By a miracle no member of the ship's company had been injured by the blast,
  • the origin of which remained for ever a total mystery to all but one—th_ailor who knew that Paulvitch had been aboard the Kincaid and in his cabi_he previous night. He guessed the truth; but discretion sealed his lips. I_ould, doubtless, fare none too well for the man who had permitted the arc_nemy of them all aboard the ship in the watches of the night, where later h_ight set an infernal machine to blow them all to kingdom come. No, the ma_ecided that he would keep this knowledge to himself.
  • As the flames gained headway it became apparent to Tarzan that whatever ha_aused the explosion had scattered some highly inflammable substance upon th_urrounding woodwork, for the water which they poured in from the pump seeme_ather to spread than to extinguish the blaze.
  • Fifteen minutes after the explosion great, black clouds of smoke were risin_rom the hold of the doomed vessel. The flames had reached the engine-room,
  • and the ship no longer moved toward the shore. Her fate was as certain a_hough the waters had already closed above her charred and smoking remains.
  • "It is useless to remain aboard her longer," remarked the ape-man to the mate.
  • "There is no telling but there may be other explosions, and as we cannot hop_o save her, the safest thing which we can do is to take to the boats withou_urther loss of time and make land."
  • Nor was there other alternative. Only the sailors could bring away an_elongings, for the fire, which had not yet reached the forecastle, ha_onsumed all in the vicinity of the cabin which the explosion had no_estroyed.
  • Two boats were lowered, and as there was no sea the landing was made wit_nfinite ease. Eager and anxious, the beasts of Tarzan sniffed the familia_ir of their native island as the small boats drew in toward the beach, an_carce had their keels grated upon the sand than Sheeta and the apes of Aku_ere over the bows and racing swiftly toward the jungle. A half-sad smil_urved the lips of the ape-man as he watched them go.
  • "Good-bye, my friends," he murmured. "You have been good and faithful allies,
  • and I shall miss you."
  • "They will return, will they not, dear?" asked Jane Clayton, at his side.
  • "They may and they may not," replied the ape-man. "They have been ill at eas_ince they were forced to accept so many human beings into their confidence.
  • Mugambi and I alone affected them less, for he and I are, at best, but hal_uman. You, however, and the members of the crew are far too civilized for m_easts—it is you whom they are fleeing. Doubtless they feel that they canno_rust themselves in the close vicinity of so much perfectly good food withou_he danger that they may help themselves to a mouthful some time by mistake."
  • Jane laughed. "I think they are just trying to escape you," she retorted. "Yo_re always making them stop something which they see no reason why they shoul_ot do. Like little children they are doubtless delighted at this opportunit_o flee from the zone of parental discipline. If they come back, though, _ope they won't come by night."
  • "Or come hungry, eh?" laughed Tarzan.
  • For two hours after landing the little party stood watching the burning shi_hich they had abandoned. Then there came faintly to them from across th_ater the sound of a second explosion. The Kincaid settled rapidly almos_mmediatel thereafter, and sank within a few minutes.
  • The cause of the second explosion was less a mystery than that of the first,
  • the mate attributing it to the bursting of the boilers when the flames ha_inally reached them; but what had caused the first explosion was a subject o_onsiderable speculation among the stranded company.