From her cabin port upon the Kincaid, Jane Clayton had seen her husband rowe_o the verdure-clad shore of Jungle Island, and then the ship once mor_roceeded upon its way.
For several days she saw no one other than Sven Anderssen, the Kincaid'_aciturn and repellent cook. She asked him the name of the shore upon whic_er husband had been set.
"Ay tank it blow purty soon purty hard," replied the Swede, and that was al_hat she could get out of him.
She had come to the conclusion that he spoke no other English, and so sh_eased to importune him for information; but never did she forget to greet hi_leasantly or to thank him for the hideous, nauseating meals he brought her.
Three days from the spot where Tarzan had been marooned the Kincaid came t_nchor in the mouth of a great river, and presently Rokoff came to Jan_layton's cabin.
"We have arrived, my dear," he said, with a sickening leer. "I have come t_ffer you safety, liberty, and ease. My heart has been softened toward you i_our suffering, and I would make amends as best I may.
"Your husband was a brute—you know that best who found him naked in his nativ_ungle, roaming wild with the savage beasts that were his fellows. Now I am _entleman, not only born of noble blood, but raised gently as befits a man o_uality.
"To you, dear Jane, I offer the love of a cultured man and association wit_ne of culture and refinement, which you must have sorely missed in you_elations with the poor ape that through your girlish infatuation you marrie_o thoughtlessly. I love you, Jane. You have but to say the word and n_urther sorrows shall afflict you—even your baby shall be returned to yo_nharmed."
Outside the door Sven Anderssen paused with the noonday meal he had bee_arrying to Lady Greystoke. Upon the end of his long, stringy neck his littl_ead was cocked to one side, his close-set eyes were half closed, his ears, s_xpressive was his whole attitude of stealthy eavesdropping, seemed truly t_e cocked forward—even his long, yellow, straggly moustache appeared to assum_ sly droop.
As Rokoff closed his appeal, awaiting the reply he invited, the look o_urprise upon Jane Clayton's face turned to one of disgust. She fairl_huddered in the fellow's face.
"I would not have been surprised, M. Rokoff," she said, "had you attempted t_orce me to submit to your evil desires, but that you should be so fatuous a_o believe that I, wife of John Clayton, would come to you willingly, even t_ave my life, I should never have imagined. I have known you for a scoundrel, M. Rokoff; but until now I had not taken you for a fool."
Rokoff's eyes narrowed, and the red of mortification flushed out the pallor o_is face. He took a step toward the girl, threateningly.
"We shall see who is the fool at last," he hissed, "when I have broken you t_y will and your plebeian Yankee stubbornness has cost you all that you hol_ear—even the life of your baby—for, by the bones of St. Peter, I'll foreg_ll that I had planned for the brat and cut its heart out before your ver_yes. You'll learn what it means to insult Nikolas Rokoff."
Jane Clayton turned wearily away.
"What is the use," she said, "of expatiating upon the depths to which you_engeful nature can sink? You cannot move me either by threats or deeds. M_aby cannot judge yet for himself, but I, his mother, can foresee that shoul_t have been given him to survive to man's estate he would willingly sacrific_is life for the honour of his mother. Love him as I do, I would not purchas_is life at such a price. Did I, he would execrate my memory to the day of hi_eath."
Rokoff was now thoroughly angered because of his failure to reduce the girl t_error. He felt only hate for her, but it had come to his diseased mind tha_f he could force her to accede to his demands as the price of her life an_er child's, the cup of his revenge would be filled to brimming when he coul_launt the wife of Lord Greystoke in the capitals of Europe as his mistress.
Again he stepped closer to her. His evil face was convulsed with rage an_esire. Like a wild beast he sprang upon her, and with his strong fingers a_er throat forced her backward upon the berth.
At the same instant the door of the cabin opened noisily. Rokoff leaped to hi_eet, and, turning, faced the Swede cook.
Into the fellow's usually foxy eyes had come an expression of utter stupidity.
His lower jaw drooped in vacuous harmony. He busied himself in arranging Lad_reystoke's meal upon the tiny table at one side of her cabin.
The Russian glared at him.
"What do you mean," he cried, "by entering here without permission? Get out!"
The cook turned his watery blue eyes upon Rokoff and smiled vacuously.
"Ay tank it blow purty soon purty hard," he said, and then he bega_earranging the few dishes upon the little table.
"Get out of here, or I'll throw you out, you miserable blockhead!" roare_okoff, taking a threatening step toward the Swede.
Anderssen continued to smile foolishly in his direction, but one ham-like pa_lid stealthily to the handle of the long, slim knife that protruded from th_reasy cord supporting his soiled apron.
Rokoff saw the move and stopped short in his advance. Then he turned towar_ane Clayton.
"I will give you until tomorrow," he said, "to reconsider your answer to m_ffer. All will be sent ashore upon one pretext or another except you and th_hild, Paulvitch and myself. Then without interruption you will be able t_itness the death of the baby."
He spoke in French that the cook might not understand the sinister portent o_is words. When he had done he banged out of the cabin without another look a_he man who had interrupted him in his sorry work.
When he had gone, Sven Anderssen turned toward Lady Greystoke—the idioti_xpression that had masked his thoughts had fallen away, and in its place wa_ne of craft and cunning.
"Hay tank Ay ban a fool," he said. "Hay ben the fool. Ay savvy Franch."
Jane Clayton looked at him in surprise.
"You understood all that he said, then?"
"You bat," he said.
"And you heard what was going on in here and came to protect me?"
"You bane good to me," explained the Swede. "Hay treat me like darty dog. A_elp you, lady. You yust vait—Ay help you. Ay ban Vast Coast lots times."
"But how can you help me, Sven," she asked, "when all these men will b_gainst us?"
"Ay tank," said Sven Anderssen, "it blow purty soon purty hard," and then h_urned and left the cabin.
Though Jane Clayton doubted the cook's ability to be of any material servic_o her, she was nevertheless deeply grateful to him for what he already ha_one. The feeling that among these enemies she had one friend brought th_irst ray of comfort that had come to lighten the burden of her miserabl_pprehensions throughout the long voyage of the Kincaid.
She saw no more of Rokoff that day, nor of any other until Sven came with he_vening meal. She tried to draw him into conversation relative to his plans t_id her, but all that she could get from him was his stereotyped prophecy a_o the future state of the wind. He seemed suddenly to have relapsed into hi_onted state of dense stupidity.
However, when he was leaving her cabin a little later with the empty dishes h_hispered very low, "Leave on your clothes an' roll up your blankets. Ay com_ack after you purty soon."
He would have slipped from the room at once, but Jane laid her hand upon hi_leeve.
"My baby?" she asked. "I cannot go without him."
"You do wot Ay tal you," said Anderssen, scowling. "Ay ban halpin' you, s_on't you gat too fonny."
When he had gone Jane Clayton sank down upon her berth in utter bewilderment.
What was she to do? Suspicions as to the intentions of the Swede swarmed he_rain. Might she not be infinitely worse off if she gave herself into hi_ower than she already was?
No, she could be no worse off in company with the devil himself than wit_ikolas Rokoff, for the devil at least bore the reputation of being _entleman.
She swore a dozen times that she would not leave the Kincaid without her baby, and yet she remained clothed long past her usual hour for retiring, and he_lankets were neatly rolled and bound with stout cord, when about midnigh_here came a stealthy scratching upon the panels of her door.
Swiftly she crossed the room and drew the bolt. Softly the door swung open t_dmit the muffled figure of the Swede. On one arm he carried a bundle, evidently his blankets. His other hand was raised in a gesture commandin_ilence, a grimy forefinger upon his lips.
He came quite close to her.
"Carry this," he said. "Do not make some noise when you see it. It ban yo_id."
Quick hands snatched the bundle from the cook, and hungry mother arms folde_he sleeping infant to her breast, while hot tears of joy ran down her cheek_nd her whole frame shook with the emotion of the moment.
"Come!" said Anderssen. "We got no time to vaste."
He snatched up her bundle of blankets, and outside the cabin door his own a_ell. Then he led her to the ship's side, steadied her descent of the monkey- ladder, holding the child for her as she climbed to the waiting boat below. _oment later he had cut the rope that held the small boat to the steamer'_ide, and, bending silently to the muffled oars, was pulling toward the blac_hadows up the Ugambi River.
Anderssen rowed on as though quite sure of his ground, and when after half a_our the moon broke through the clouds there was revealed upon their left th_outh of a tributary running into the Ugambi. Up this narrow channel the Swed_urned the prow of the small boat.
Jane Clayton wondered if the man knew where he was bound. She did not kno_hat in his capacity as cook he had that day been rowed up this very stream t_ little village where he had bartered with the natives for such provisions a_hey had for sale, and that he had there arranged the details of his plan fo_he adventure upon which they were now setting forth.
Even though the moon was full, the surface of the small river was quite dark.
The giant trees overhung its narrow banks, meeting in a great arch above th_entre of the river. Spanish moss dropped from the gracefully bending limbs, and enormous creepers clambered in riotous profusion from the ground to th_oftiest branch, falling in curving loops almost to the water's placid breast.
Now and then the river's surface would be suddenly broken ahead of them by _uge crocodile, startled by the splashing of the oars, or, snorting an_lowing, a family of hippos would dive from a sandy bar to the cool, saf_epths of the bottom.
From the dense jungles upon either side came the weird night cries of th_arnivora—the maniacal voice of the hyena, the coughing grunt of the panther, the deep and awful roar of the lion. And with them strange, uncanny notes tha_he girl could not ascribe to any particular night prowler—more terribl_ecause of their mystery.
Huddled in the stern of the boat she sat with her baby strained close to he_osom, and because of that little tender, helpless thing she was happie_onight than she had been for many a sorrow-ridden day.
Even though she knew not to what fate she was going, or how soon that fat_ight overtake her, still was she happy and thankful for the moment, howeve_rief, that she might press her baby tightly in her arms. She could scarc_ait for the coming of the day that she might look again upon the bright fac_f her little, black-eyed Jack.
Again and again she tried to strain her eyes through the blackness of th_ungle night to have but a tiny peep at those beloved features, but only th_im outline of the baby face rewarded her efforts. Then once more she woul_uddle the warm, little bundle close to her throbbing heart.
It must have been close to three o'clock in the morning that Anderssen brough_he boat's nose to the shore before a clearing where could be dimly seen i_he waning moonlight a cluster of native huts encircled by a thorn boma.
At the village gate they were admitted by a native woman, the wife of th_hief whom Anderssen had paid to assist him. She took them to the chief's hut, but Anderssen said that they would sleep without upon the ground, and so, he_uty having been completed, she left them to their own devices.
The Swede, after explaining in his gruff way that the huts were doubtles_ilthy and vermin-ridden, spread Jane's blankets on the ground for her, and a_ little distance unrolled his own and lay down to sleep.
It was some time before the girl could find a comfortable position upon th_ard ground, but at last, the baby in the hollow of her arm, she droppe_sleep from utter exhaustion. When she awoke it was broad daylight.
About her were clustered a score of curious natives—mostly men, for among th_borigines it is the male who owns this characteristic in its most exaggerate_orm. Instinctively Jane Clayton drew the baby more closely to her, though sh_oon saw that the blacks were far from intending her or the child any harm.
In fact, one of them offered her a gourd of milk—a filthy, smoke-begrime_ourd, with the ancient rind of long-curdled milk caked in layers within it_eck; but the spirit of the giver touched her deeply, and her face lightene_or a moment with one of those almost forgotten smiles of radiance that ha_elped to make her beauty famous both in Baltimore and London.
She took the gourd in one hand, and rather than cause the giver pain raised i_o her lips, though for the life of her she could scarce restrain the qualm o_ausea that surged through her as the malodorous thing approached he_ostrils.
It was Anderssen who came to her rescue, and taking the gourd from her, dran_ portion himself, and then returned it to the native with a gift of blu_eads.
The sun was shining brightly now, and though the baby still slept, Jane coul_carce restrain her impatient desire to have at least a brief glance at th_eloved face. The natives had withdrawn at a command from their chief, who no_tood talking with Anderssen, a little apart from her.
As she debated the wisdom of risking disturbing the child's slumber by liftin_he blanket that now protected its face from the sun, she noted that the coo_onversed with the chief in the language of the Negro.
What a remarkable man the fellow was, indeed! She had thought him ignorant an_tupid but a short day before, and now, within the past twenty-four hours, sh_ad learned that he spoke not only English but French as well, and th_rimitive dialect of the West Coast.
She had thought him shifty, cruel, and untrustworthy, yet in so far as she ha_eason to believe he had proved himself in every way the contrary since th_ay before. It scarce seemed credible that he could be serving her fro_otives purely chivalrous. There must be something deeper in his intention_nd plans than he had yet disclosed.
She wondered, and when she looked at him—at his close-set, shifty eyes an_epulsive features, she shuddered, for she was convinced that no loft_haracteristics could be hid behind so foul an exterior.
As she was thinking of these things the while she debated the wisdom o_ncovering the baby's face, there came a little grunt from the wee bundle i_er lap, and then a gurgling coo that set her heart in raptures.
The baby was awake! Now she might feast her eyes upon him.
Quickly she snatched the blanket from before the infant's face; Anderssen wa_ooking at her as she did so.
He saw her stagger to her feet, holding the baby at arm's length from her, he_yes glued in horror upon the little chubby face and twinkling eyes.
Then he heard her piteous cry as her knees gave beneath her, and she sank t_he ground in a swoon.