Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 9 Chivalry of Villainy

  • 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?"
  • Anderssen grinned.
  • "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.