JERRY LUCAS was awakened by the violent shaking of the platform. It awakened Bubonovitch and Rosetti, also. “Wot fell!” exclaimed the latter.
Bubonovitch looked around. “I don’t see anything.”
Jerry leaned far out and looked up. He saw a huge black form a few feet above him, violently shaking the tree.
“Gripes!” he exclaimed. “Do you guys see what I see?”
The other two looked up. “Geeze!” said Rosetti. “Wot a mug! I never knew monkeys came dat big.”
“That is not a monkey, you dope,” said Bubonovitch. “It is known as Pongo pygmaeus, but why the pygmaeus I have not pursued my studies far enough to ascertain. It should be Pongo giganteum.”
“Talk United States,” growled Shrimp.
“It’s an orangutan, Shrimp,” said Lucas.
“From the Malay oran utan, meaning wild man,” added Bubonovitch.
“What does it want?” inquired Shrimp. “Wot in ’ell ’s it shakin’ the tree like dat for? Tryin’ to shake us out? Geeze! wot a mug. Is he a man eater, Perfesser Bubonovitch?”
“He is chiefly herbivorous,” replied Bubonovitch. Rosetti turned to Lucas.
“Do monks eat people, Cap?”
“No,” replied Lucas. “Just leave ’em alone, and they’ll leave you alone. But don’t get fresh with that baby. He could take you apart like nobody’s business.”
Shrimp was examining his .45. “He ain’t a-goin’ to take me apart, not while I got Big Bertha here.”
The orangutan, having satisfied his curiosity, moved slowly off. Shrimp started stripping his .45. “Geeze! It’s started to rust already, just like—” He looked around. “Say! Where’s the dook?”
“Gripes! He’s gone,” said Lucas. “I never noticed.”
“Maybe he fell off,” suggested Rosetti, peering over the edge. “He wasn’t a bad guy fer a Britisher.”
“That’s sure some concession, coming from you,” said Bubonovitch. “Do you know, Cap’n, Shrimp wouldn’t play billiards even for fear he might have to put English on the cue ball.”
Shrimp sat up suddenly and looked at the others. “I just happened to think,” he said. “Did either of youse hear dat scream last night?”
“I did,” said Lucas. “What of it?”
“It sounded like some one bein’ kilt. Didn’t it?”
“Well, it did sound sort of human.”
“Sure. Dat’s it. The dook fell off an’ a tiger got ’im. That was him screamin’.”
Bubonovitch pointed. “Here comes his ghost.”
The others looked. “Per Pete’s sake!” said Rosetti. “Wot a guy!”
Swinging through the trees toward them, the carcass of a deer slung over one shoulder, was the Englishman. He swung onto the platform. “Here’s breakfast,” he said. “Go to it.”
Dropping the carcass, he drew his knife and hacked out a generous portion. Tearing the skin from the flesh with powerful fingers, he squatted in a far corner of the platform and sank his strong teeth into the raw flesh. Shrimp’s jaw dropped and his eyes went wide. “Ain’t you goin’ to cook it?” he asked.
“What with?” inquired Clayton. “There’s nothing around here dry enough to burn. If you want meat, you’ll have to learn to eat it raw until we can find a permanent camp and get something that will burn.”
“Well,” said Shrimp, “I guess I’m hungry enough—”
“I’ll try anything once,” said Bubonovitch.
Jerry Lucas hacked off a small piece and started to chew it. Clayton watched the three men chewing on bits of the warm raw meat. “That’s not the way to eat it,” he said. “Tear off pieces you can swallow, and then swallow them whole. Don’t chew.”
“How did youse learn all dis?” inquired Rosetti.
“From the lions.”
Rosetti glanced at the others, shook his head, and then tried to swallow to large a piece of venison. He gagged and choked. “Geeze!” he said, after he had disgorged the morsel, “I never went to school to no lions.” But after that he did better.
“It’s not so bad when you swallow it whole,” admitted Lucas.
“And it fills your belly and gives you strength,” said Clayton.
He swung into the next tree and got more durian fruit. They ate it now with relish. “After dis,” said Shrimp, “there ain’t nuthin’ I can’t eat.”
“I passed a stream near here,” said Clayton. “We can drink there. I think we’d better get started. We’ve got to do some reconnoitering before we can make any definite plans. You might take some of this meat along in your pockets if you think you’ll be hungry again soon. But there’s plenty of game everywhere. We won’t go hungry.”
No one wanted to take any of the meat; so Clayton tossed the carcass to the ground. “For Stripes,” he said.
The sun was shining, and the forest teemed with life. Bubonovitch was in his element. Here were animals and birds he had studied about in books, or whose dead and mounted frames he had seen in museums. And there were many that he had neither seen nor heard of. “A regular museum of natural history on the hoof,” he said.
Clayton had led them to the stream, and after they had quenched their thirsts he guided them to a well marked game trail he had discovered while hunting for their breakfast. It wound downward in the direction he and Lucas had decided they would take—toward the west coast, many, many long marches away.
“There have been no men along this trail recently,” said Clayton, “but there have been many other animals—elephant, rhinos, tigers, deer. It was on this trail that I found our breakfast.”
Shrimp wanted to ask how he had caught the deer, but realized that he had recently been altogether too familiar with a Britisher. Probably a friend of George Thoid, he thought, and winced. It curled his hair to think what the mob would say could they know of it. Still, he had to admit that the guy wasn’t a bad guy, even though he hated to admit it.
They were moving up wind, and Clayton paused and and raised a warning hand. “There is a man ahead of us,” he said in a low tone.
“I don’t see no one,” said Rosetti.
“Neither do I,” said Clayton, “but he’s there.” He stood still for a few minutes. “He’s going the same way we are,” he said. “I’ll go ahead and have a look at him. The rest of you come along slowly.” He swung into a tree and disappeared ahead.
“You can’t see no one, you can’t hear no one; and this guy tells us there’s a guy ahead of us—and w’ich way he’s goin’!” Rosetti looked appealingly at Lucas.
“He hasn’t been wrong yet,” said Jerry.
Sing Tai did not die. The Jap bayonet inflicted a cruel wound, but pierced no vital organ. For two days Sing Tai lay in a welter of blood, deep hidden in his cave. Then he crawled out. Suffering from shock, weak from loss of blood and lack of food and water, often on the verge of fainting from pain, he staggered slowly along the trail toward the village of Tiang Umar. Orientals are more easily resigned to death than are occidentals, so greatly do their philosophies differ. But Sing Tai would not die. While there was hope that his beloved mistress might live and need him, he, too, must live.
In the village of Tiang Umar he might get word of her. Then he might be able to determine whether to live or die. So Sing Tai’s loyal heart beat on, however weakly. Yet there were moments when he wondered if he would have the strength to carry on to the village. Such thoughts were depressing him when he was startled to see an almost naked giant appear suddenly in the trail before him—a bronzed giant with black hair and gray eyes. This, perhaps, is the end, thought Sing Tai.
Clayton had dropped into the trail from an overhanging tree. He spoke to Sing Tai in English, and Sing Tai replied in English which had just a trace of pidgin. In Hong Kong, Sing Tai had lived for years in the homes of Englishmen.
Clayton saw the blood soaked garments and noted the outward signs of weakness that seemed to verge on collapse. “How you get hurt?” he asked.
“Jap monkey-man run bayonet through me—here.” He indicated the spot in his side.
“Why?” asked Clayton, and Sing Tai told his story.
“Are there Japs near here?”
“Me no think so.”
“How far is this village you are trying to reach?”
“Not very far now—maybe so one kilometer.”
“Are the people of that village friendly to the Japanese?”
“No. Very much hate Japs.”
Clayton’s companions appeared now from around a curve in the trail. “You see,” said Lucas. “Right again.”
“That guy is always right,” muttered Shrimp, “but I don’t see how he done it—not with no glass ball nor nuthin’.”
“Not even with the aid of mirrors,” said Bubonovitch.
Sing Tai looked at them apprehensively as they approached. “They are my friends,” said Clayton—“American aviators.”
“Melicans!” breathed Sing Tai with a sigh of relief. “Now I know we save missie.”
Clayton repeated Sing Tai’s story to the others, and it was decided that they should go on to Tiang Umar’s village. Clayton gathered the Chinese gently into his arms and carried him along the trail. When Sing Tai said that they were near the village, the Englishman put him down, and told them all to wait while he went ahead to investigate. The Jap detachment might still be there. It was not, and he soon returned.
Tiang Umar received them well when Sing Tai had explained who they were. With Sing Tai acting as interpreter, Tiang Umar told them that the Japs had left the previous morning, taking the Dutch girl and one of his young men with them. What was their destination, he did not know. He knew that there was a Jap camp one day’s march to the southwest. Perhaps they had gone to that camp. If they would wait in his kampong, he was sure that the youth, Alam, would return, as the Japs had taken him along only to act as interpreter in the villages they might pass through.
They decided to wait Clayton was especially anxious to; and when it was decided, he went off into the forest alone. “He’ll probably come back wit one of them there water buffalo under his arm,” predicted Shrimp. But when he came back he had only some tough and slender branches and some bamboo. With these and some chicken feathers and fiber cord given him by Tiang Umar, he fashioned a bow, some arrows and a spear. The tips of his weapons he fire hardened. With parachute silk, he made a quiver.
His companions watched with interest. Rosetti was not greatly impressed when Clayton explained that his armament would serve not only to insure them plenty of game but as weapons of defense and offense against men. “Do we hold de game w’ile he shoots at it?” he asked Bubonovitch. “Say, an’ if any guy ever pricked me wid one of dem t’ings, an’ I found it out—”
“Don’t be corny,” said Bubonovitch. But weapons, to Rosetti, meant .45s, tommy guns, machine guns, not slivers of bamboo with chicken feathers at one end.
Late in the afternoon, Alam returned. He was immediately surrounded by a crowd of jabbering natives. Sing Tai finally got his story and retold it to Clayton. Alam knew that the two Jap officers had quarrelled over the girl and that she was still safe at the tune he had left the village that morning.
Sing Tai, with tears in his eyes, begged Clayton to rescue Corrie from the Japs. Clayton and the Americans discussed the matter. All were in favor of the attempt, but not all for the same reasons. Clayton and Bubonovitch wished to save the girl. Lucas and Rosetti wished to discomfit the Japs.
They were little interested in the girl, both being misogynists. Lucas was a woman hater because the girl he had left behind in Oklahoma City had married a 4-F two months after Jerry had gone overseas. Rosetti’s hatred of them stemmed from his lifelong hatred of his mother. Early the following morning they set out, guided by Alam.