WITH the aeroplane party safely deposited on the ground, Brown cut a narrow path to the trail, using a small hand axe that fortunately had been included in the heterogeneous and generally quite useless impedimenta that the Prince and Princess Sborov had thought essential to the success of their expedition.
Tibbs had offered to help cut trail, but a lifetime of valeting had not fitted him for anything so practical as wielding a hand axe. He meant well, but he could hit nothing that he aimed at; and for fear that he might commit mayhem or suicide, Brown took the implement from him.
Sborov did not offer to help; and Brown ignored him entirely, knowing that he would prove less efficient, if possible, than Tibbs. But when it came to transporting the baggage, the pilot insisted that the prince do his share.
“You may be the scion of a long line of cab drivers,” he said, “but you are going to work or get a punch on the nose.”
Sborov grumbled, but he worked.
After the luggage had been transported to the little clearing beside the stream that Jane had found, she directed the building of a boma and some rude shelters.
In this, the brunt of the work fell on Brown and Jane, though Annette and Tibbs assisted to the best of their ability. No one expected Kitty Sborov to do anything but moan, and she didn’t. Alexis was assigned to the building of the boma after someone else had cut the brush—a job that was far beyond either his physical or mental attainments.
“I can’t see how guys like him ever live to grow up,” grumbled Brown, “nor what good they are after they do grow up. I never seen such a total loss before in my life.”
Jane laughed. “He dances divinely, Brown,” she said.
“I’ll bet he does,” replied the pilot. “Damned gigolo, bringing along just a dinky little hand axe and rifles without any ammunition.” He spat the words out disgustedly. “And look at all this here junk. Maybe there’s something in it; we ought to take an inventory and see what we got.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said Jane. “Oh, by the way, Tibbs, where’s that gun of yours? We really should have it handy.”
“Yes, Milady, right away,” said Tibbs. “I never travel without it; one can never tell when one is going to need it, and especially in Africa with all these lions and things.”
He located his bag, rummaged through it, and finally located his weapon, which he withdrew gingerly and exhibited not without considerable pride, holding it up where all might see it.
“There she is, Milady,” he said, “and rather a beauty I fancy, too.”
Jane’s heart sank as she looked at the little single shot .22 short pistol that Tibbs dangled before her so proudly.
Brown burst into a loud laugh. “Say,” he said, “if the Germans had known you had that, there wouldn’t have been no World War.”
“Beg pardon, Mr. Brown,” said Tibbs, stiffly; “it is really a very fine weapon. The man I got it from said so himself. It stood me back seven bob, sir.”
“Let me see it,” said Brown. Taking the pistol he opened the breech. “’Tain’t loaded,” he said, “and it wouldn’t be no good if it was.”
“Bless me, no!” exclaimed Tibbs; “I wouldn’t think of carrying a loaded weapon, sir; it’s too dangerous. One never knows when it might go off.”
“Well,” said Jane, “it may come in handy shooting small game. Got plenty of ammunition for it?”
“Well—er—Milady,” stammered Tibbs, “you see I’ve always been intending to buy ammunition for it, but I never got around to it.”
Brown looked at the Englishman in pitying astonishment.
“Well, I’ll be—”
Jane sat down on an upended suitcase and burst into laughter. “Forgive me, Tibbs, but really it’s too funny,” she cried.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Brown. “We’ll put Tibbs on guard tonight and if he sees a lion he can throw that thing at him. It ain’t any good for nothing else.”
“I don’t see how you can laugh, Jane,” said Kitty. ‘”Suppose a lion should come. Tibbs, you should have brought ammunition. It is very careless of you.”
“It doesn’t make any difference, Kitty, for as far as a lion is concerned, that pistol is just as effective empty as it would be loaded.”
“I know we are all going to be killed,” moaned Kitty. “I wish I were back in the ship; it’s much safer there.”
“Don’t worry,” said Jane; “the boma will be some protection, and we will keep a fire going all night. Most beasts are afraid of a fire; they won’t come near one.”
Late in the afternoon, a shelter had been completed with two compartments, one for the women and one for the men. It was a very crude affair, but it provided some shelter from the elements and it induced a feeling of security far greater than it warranted, for it is a fact that if we can hide in something, however flimsy, we feel much safer than we do in the open.
While the shelters and boma were being built, Jane busied herself with another activity. Kitty had been watching her for some time, and finally her curiosity got the best of her.
“What in the world are you doing, dear?” she asked, as she watched Jane shaping a small branch with the hand axe.
“I am making weapons—a bow and arrows, and a spear.”
“Oh, how perfectly wonder—I mean, isn’t it ducky? It’s just like you, my dear, to think of archery; it will help us to pass the time away.”
“What I am making will help us obtain food and defend ourselves,” replied Jane.
“Oh, of course!” exclaimed Kitty; “how perfectly silly of me, but when I think of archery I always think of little arrows sticking in the straw target. They are so colorful, my dear—I mean, the way they are painted. I recall such beautiful pictures of young people in sport clothes, of green turfs, and sunshine against a background of lovely trees. But who do you suppose ever thought of using bows and arrows to hunt game? I’m sure it must be original with you, my dear; but it’s very clever of you, if you can hit anything.”
Toward the middle of the afternoon Jane had completed a very crude bow and half a dozen arrows, the tips of which she had fire-hardened.
Her work completed, she stood up and surveyed the camp. “You are getting along splendidly,” she said. “I’m going out to see what I can rustle for supper. Have you a knife, Brown? I may need one.”
“But, my dear, I mean you’re not going out there alone?” cried Kitty.
“Sure she’s not,” said Brown. “I’ll go along with you, Miss.”
“I’m afraid,” said Jane, with a smile, “that where I am going, you couldn’t follow. Here, let me have your knife.”
“I reckon I can go anywhere you can go, Miss,” said Brown, grinning.
“Let me have the knife,” said Jane. “Why it’s a nice big one! I always did like to see a man carrying a man-sized knife.”
“Well, if we are ready,” said Brown, “let’s start.”
Jane shook her head. “I told you, you couldn’t follow me,” she said.
“Want to lay a little bet on that?”
“Sure,” said Jane. “I’ll bet you a pound sterling against this knife that you can’t keep up with me for a hundred yards.”
“I’ll just take you up on that, Miss,” said Brown; “let’s get going.”
“Come ahead, then,” said Jane. And with that, she ran lightly across the clearing, leaped for a low hanging branch and swinging herself into the trees was out of sight in an instant.
Brown ran after her, seeking to catch a glimpse of her from the ground, but he was soon floundering in heavy undergrowth.
It didn’t take him long to realize that he was beaten, and rather crestfallen he returned to the camp.
“Gracious!” exclaimed the princess. “Did you ever see anything like it? It was perfectly wonderful. I mean, it really was; but I am so afraid something will happen to her out there alone. Alexis, you should not have permitted it.”
“I thought Brown was going with her,” said Alexis. “If I had known that he was afraid, I would have gone myself.”
Brown eyed Alexis with contempt too deep for words as he returned to his work on the shelter.
“I should think anyone would be afraid to go out there,” said Annette, who was helping Brown thatch the roof with large leaves. “Lady Greystoke must be so very brave.”
“She’s sure got guts,” said Brown; “and did you see the way she took to them trees? Just like a monkey.”
“Just as though she had lived in them all her life,” said Annette.
“Do you really think she can kill anything with her bow and arrows?” asked Tibbs; “they look so—er—ah inadequate, if I may make so bold as to say so.”
“Say,” said Brown, “she’s not the kind that would go out there if she didn’t know what she was doing. I thought all the time, until just before we crashed, that she was another one of them silly society dames that had never had anything in her noodle heavier than champagne bubbles; but believe me I take my hat off to her now; and you can believe me, when I take orders from a dame she’s got to be some dame.”
“Lady Greystoke is a very remarkable woman,” said Alexis, “and a very beautiful one. Kindly remember also, Brown, that she is a lady, a member of the English nobility, my man; I resent the lack of deference you show by referring to her as a dame, and saying that she has guts. I know you Americans are notoriously ill-bred, but there is a limit to what I can stand from you.”
“Yeah?” inquired Brown; “and what are you going to do about it, you damned pansy?”
“Alexis, you forget yourself,” said the princess. “You should not stoop to quarrel with an employee.”
“You’re darned tootin’, lady,” said Brown. “He better not stoop to quarrel with this bozo; I’m just laying for an excuse to push in his mush.”
Annette laid a hand upon Brown’s arm. “Please, Mr. Brown,” she said, “do not quarrel. Is it not bad enough as it is, that we should make it worse by always quarreling among ourselves?”
Brown turned and looked at her quizzically; then he covered her little hand with his. “I guess you’re right, girlie, at that. I’ll lay off him, if he’ll lay off me.” He closed his hand on hers. “I guess you and me’s going to hit it off O.K. kid.”
“Hit what off, Mr. Brown?”
“I mean, we’re going to be pals!” he exclaimed,
“Pals? What are they?”
“Buddies—friends. I thought you savvied English.”
“Oh, friends; yes, I understand that. I should like to be friends with Mr. Brown. Annette likes to be friends with everyone.”
“That’s all right, baby, but don’t be too promiscuous, for I have a feeling that I’m going to like you a lot.”
The French girl cast her eyes down coquettishly. “I think, Mr. Brown, we had better get along with our work, or we shall have only half a roof over our heads tonight.”
“O.K. kiddo, but we’ll talk about this friendship business later—there ought to be a full moon tonight.”
After she left the camp, lane moved rapidly and silently through the trees paralleling the little stream which she tried to keep in view while she searched for a place where the signs indicated the beasts were accustomed to come to drink.
A light breeze was blowing in her face, bringing faintly various scent spoors to her nostrils, which, while not as sensitive as those of her mate, were nevertheless far more sensitive than those of an ordinary civilized person. Jane had learned long ago that senses may be developed by training, and she had let no opportunity pass to train hers to the fullest of her ability.
Now, very faintly, she caught the suggestion of a scent that set her nerves to tingling with that thrill which only the huntsman knows. Quarry lay ahead.
The girl moved even more cautiously than before; scarcely a leaf stirred to her passage, and presently she saw ahead that which she sought—a small, harnessed antelope, a bush buck, which was moving daintily along the trail just ahead of her.
Jane increased her speed; but now more than ever it was imperative that she move silently, for the little animal below her was nervous and constantly alert. At the slightest unusual sound, it would be gone like a flash.
Presently she came within range, but there was always intervening foliage that might deflect her arrow.
Patience is the most important asset of the jungle hunter, and patience she had learned from Tarzan and from her own experiences.
Now the antelope halted suddenly in its tracks and turned its head to the left; at the same instant Jane was aware of a movement in the underbrush in that direction. She saw that she could wait no longer; already something had startled her quarry. There was a small opening in the foliage between her and the antelope. Like lightning, she drew her bow; the string snapped with a whang and the shaft buried itself deep in the body of the antelope behind its left shoulder. It leaped high into the air and fell dead.
Jane had reason to suspect that something else was stalking the antelope; but she could see nothing of it, and the turn in the trail had resulted in a cross-wind that would carry the scent of the creature away from her.
She knew that it was a risky thing to do; but she was hungry, and she was aware that all her companions were hungry; they must have food, for a cursory examination of the baggage had revealed the fact that besides some sandwiches which had already been eaten, their stock of provisions consisted of a few chocolate bars, six bottles of cognac and two of Cointreau.
Trusting to luck and pinning her faith in her speed, Jane dropped lightly to the trail and ran quickly to the fallen animal.
She worked rapidly, as Tarzan had taught her to work. Slitting its throat to let it bleed, she quickly eviscerated it to reduce the weight; and as she worked, she heard again those stealthy sounds in the underbrush not far distant along the back trail.
Her work completed, she closed the knife and slipped it into her pocket; then she raised the carcass of the little antelope to her shoulder. As she did so, an angry growl shattered the silence of the jungle; and Sheeta, the leopard, stepped into the trail twenty paces from her.
Instantly Jane saw that it would be impossible to escape with her kill, and resentment flared high in her bosom at the thought of relinquishing her prey to the savage cat.
She felt reasonably sure that she could save herself by taking to the trees and leaving the carcass of the antelope to Sheeta, but a sudden anger against the injustice of this contretemps impelled her to stand her ground and caused her to do a very foolish thing.
Dropping the antelope, she strung her bow and pulling it back to the full limit of her strength she drove an arrow straight at the breast of Sheeta.
As it struck, the beast voiced a horrifying scream of pain and rage; then it charged.
To those in the camp, the cry sounded almost human.
“Sapristi! What was that?” cried Alexis.
“Mon Dieu, it was a woman’s scream!” exclaimed Annette.
“Lady Greystoke!” said Brown, horrified.
“Oh, Alexis, Alexis! Annette!” cried the princess; “My smelling salts, quick; I am going to faint.”
Brown seized the puny hand axe and started in the direction of the sound.
“Oh, where are you going?” cried Kitty. “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me.”
“Shut up, you old fool,” snapped Brown. “Lady Greystoke must be in trouble. I am going to find out.”
Tibbs pulled his empty pistol from his pocket. “I’ll go with you, Mr. Brown,” he said; “we can’t let anything happen to Milady.”