AT BREAKFAST the following morning, the cleavage was again definitely apparent. The Dutch prepared and ate their breakfast a little apart from the Americans and Tarzan. The Englishman knew that it was all very wrong and very stupid and that if the condition persisted it would affect the morale of the entire company. At the same time, however, he could not but be amused; for it was so obvious that the two principals who were responsible were very much in love with each other. They were probably the only ones who did not realize this. He knew that they must be in love; because it is only people who are very much in love who treat each other so damnably.
After they had eaten, Tarzan and the Americans went into the forest to inspect the trail the Dutchmen had cut. They found that it gave excellent concealment from the main trail, but Tarzan thought that the sentry post was not far enough in advance of the trail’s outer end.
Capt. van Prins had posted four men on this post with orders to hold up the Japs as long as possible should they come, falling back slowly to give the main force of the guerrillas tune to come from the village and prepare the ambush.
“I think he should have had one man very much farther in advance,” Tarzan said to Jerry, “and at least half his force posted constantly in this paralleling trail. He is not prepared for a surprise, and he is not giving the Japs credit for the cunning they possess.”
“They’ll have a man way out in front,” said Jerry. “He’ll be well camouflaged, and he’ll sneak through the jungle like a snake. He’ll see the guys on this post and then go back and report. Pretty soon some more will sneak up and toss a few grenades. That’ll be the end of the sentries, and the Japs will rush the village before van Prins can get his men out here to ambush them.”
“Let’s go back and talk with him,” suggested Tarzan.
Shortly after breakfast, Lara had sought out Corrie. “I have just discovered,” she said, “that Amat did not return to the village last night. He left yesterday. I know him. He is a bad man. I am sure that he went to the big Japanese camp and reported everything that has happened here.”
Corrie was repeating this to van Prins when Tarzan and Jerry returned. The Dutchman called them over; and as they came, Corrie walked away. Van Prins told them of Lara’s warning, and Tarzan suggested the plan that he and Jerry had discussed.
“I think I’ll put most of my force out there,” said van Prins. “I’ll just leave a welcoming committee here in case some of them break through to the village.”
“It might be a good idea to withdraw your sentries entirely,” suggested Jerry. “Then the Japs will walk right into the ambush without any warning.”
“I don’t know about that,” said van Prins. “I’d like a little advance information myself, or we might be the ones who would be surprised.”
Tarzan didn’t agree with him, but he said, “I’ll get advance information to you much sooner than your sentries could. I’ll go out four or five miles, and when the Japs show up I’ll be back with the word long before they reach your ambush.”
“But suppose they see you?”
“You seem pretty sure of yourself, Sir,” said the Dutchman, smiling.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said van Prins. “Just to make assurance doubly sure, I’ll leave my sentries out. I’ll tell them that when you come back, you’ll order them in. How’s that?”
“Fine,” said Tarzan. “I’ll go along out now, and you can get your men camouflaged and posted for the ambush. O.K.?”
“O.K.,” said van Prins.
Tarzan swung into a tree and was gone. The Dutchman shook his head. “If I had a battalion like him, I could pretty near chase the Japs off this island.”
Jerry, Bubonovitch, and Rosetti, loaded down with ammunition and hand grenades, preceded the guerrillas into the ambush. They went to the far end of the paralleling trail and prepared to make themselves comfortable and also inconspicuous. With leaves and vines they camouflaged their heads and shoulders until they became a part of the surrounding jungle. Even had there not been several feet of shrubbery intervening between them and the main trail, an enemy would have had to be right on top of them before he could have discovered them.
The guerrillas were soon stationed and busy camouflaging themselves. Capt. van Prins walked back and forth along the main trail checking on the effectiveness of each man’s camouflage. Finally he gave his orders.
“Don’t fire until I fire, unless you are discovered; then start firing. A couple of men at the head of the line can use grenades if they can throw them far enough so as not to endanger our own people. The same goes for a couple at the opposite end, in case some of the Japs get past us. Try to get the Japs directly in front of you. If everything works out as I hope, each one of you will have Japs in front of him when I give the signal to commence firing. Any questions?”
“If they retreat, shall we follow them?” asked one of the men.
“No. We might run into an ambush ourselves. All I want to do is give them a little punishment and put the fear of God in them for Dutchmen.” He came and took up a position about the center of the line.
Jerry presently discovered that van der Bos was next to him in line. Tak had had a little talk with Corrie shortly before. “What’s the matter between you and Jerry?” he had asked.
“I didn’t know there was anything the matter.”
“Oh, yes you do. What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m not interested in what’s wrong with him. I’m not interested in him at all. He’s a boor, and I’m not interested in boors.”
But Tak knew that she was interested, and he suddenly conceived an idea of what the trouble was. It came to him in a flash and made him voice a little whistle of amazement.
“What are you whistling about?” Corrie had asked.
“I whistle in amazement that there are so many damn fools in the world.”
“Meaning you and Jerry and myself.”
“Whistle if you like, but mind your own business.”
Tak chucked her under the chin and grinned; then he went out with van Prins into the forest.
Jerry was not particularly pleased to have van der Bos next to him. Of all the people he could think of van der Bos was the one he was least desirous of being chummy with. He hoped the fellow wouldn’t try to start a conversation.
“Well, I guess we’re in for a long wait,” said van der Bos. Jerry grunted.
“And no smoking,” added van der Bos. Jerry grunted again.
As Jerry was not looking at him, van der Bos allowed himself the luxury of a grin. “Corrie wanted to come out and get into the fight,” he said; “but van Prins and I turned thumbs down on that idea.”
“Quite right,” said Jerry.
“Corrie’s a great little girl,” continued van der Bos. “We’ve known each other all our lives. She and my wife have been chums ever since either of them can remember. Corrie’s exactly like a sister to us.”
There was a silence. Van der Bos was enjoying himself greatly. Jerry was not. Finally he said, “I didn’t know you were married.”
“That only just occurred to me a few minutes ago,” said van der Bos.
Jerry held out his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “I am a goddam fool.”
“Quite right,” said van der Bos.
“Did your wife get away?”
“Yes. We tried to get old van der Meer to send Corrie and her mother out, too; but the stubborn old fool wouldn’t. God! and what a price he paid. That man’s stubbornness was notorious all over the island. He gloried in it. Aside from that, he was a very fine person.”
“Do you suppose that Corrie has inherited any of her father’s stubbornness?” asked Jerry, fearfully.
“I shouldn’t be surprised.” Van der Bos was having the time of his life. He liked this American, but he felt that he had a little punishment coming to him.
Bubonovitch and Rosetti noticed with growing wonder the cordiality that existed between Jerry and van der Bos. As the day wore on, they also noticed that “the old man” was becoming more and more like his former self.
They commented on this. “He’s gettin’ almost human again,” whispered Rosetti. “Whatever was eatin’ him must o’ quit.”
“Probably died of indigestion,” said Bubonovitch. “We’ve known ‘the old man’ a long while, but we’ve never seen him like he’s been the last day or so.”
“We never seen him wit a dame around. I’m tellin’ you—”
“You needn’t tell me. I know it all by heart. Dames are bad medicine. They spell nothing but trouble. You give me a pain in the neck. The trouble with you is that you never knew a decent girl. At least not till you met Corrie. And you haven’t met my wife. You’d sing a different tune if you fell in love with some girl. And when you do, I’ll bet you fall heavy. Your kind always does.”
“Not a chance. I wouldn’t have Dorothy Lamour if she got down on her knees and asked me.”
“She won’t,” said Bubonovitch.
This edifying conversation was interrupted by the return of Tarzan. He sought out van Prins. “Your little brown cousins are coming,” he said. “They are about two miles away. There are two full companies, I should judge. They have light machine guns and those dinky little mortars they use. A colonel is in command. They have a point of three men out only about a hundred yards. Your sentries are coming in.”
“You have certainly done a swell job, Sir,” said van Prins. “I can’t thank you enough.” He turned to the men nearest him. “Pass the word along that there is to be no more talking. The enemy will be along in thirty-five or forty minutes.”
He turned back to Tarzan. “Pardon me, Sir,” he said; “but they are not brown. The bastards are yellow.”
Groen de Lettenhove had been left in command of the guerrillas who had been ordered to remain in the village. He was trying to persuade Corrie to find a place of safety against the possibility that some of the enemy might break through into the village.
“You may need every rifle you can get,” she countered; “and furthermore, I haven’t settled my account with the Japs.”
“But you might get killed or wounded, Corrie.”
“So might you and your men. Maybe we’d all better go and hide.”
“You’re hopeless,” he said. “I might have known better than argue with a woman.”
“Don’t think of me as a woman. I’m another rifle, and I’m a veteran. I’m also a darned good shot.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a burst of rifle fire from the forest.