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.