Saturday, 29 November 2014
CAPTAIN JUSTICE in Unexplored
A serial; part 12 of 12 of The Castaways; from The Modern Boy magazine, Sept. 22, 1934, No. 346 Vol. 14.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle for Stillwoods.Blogspot.Com, November 2014.
Besieged by Cannibals!
CRAA-AA-ACK!! Brr-rannngg! Across the sun-dappled waters of
N’Gako, the desolate inland sea on the
wild border of the French South-East Cameroons, in Africa,
rippled the crackle of rifle-fire. The sharp report of a quick-firing gun
followed, and a shrill cheer went up.
Jets of flame flickered along both canvas-covered rails of the French river-patrol launch as the sturdy white vessel zigzagged across the centre of the lake, and her whistling bullets tore into the horde of black canoes that circled around her.
Before the echoes died, back from the squat gorilla-like savages in the canoes zipped answering volleys of arrows, and the circle closed in a little tighter. The launch, for all her defiant thunder, was trapped— hopelessly snared on the great lake!
Aboard her were Captain Justice, the Gentleman Adventurer, and his four comrades—Professor Flaznagel, Dr. O’Mally, Len Connor, and Midge.
Cast away in unexplored
Africa by Xavier Kuponos, Justice’s
bitter enemy, they had fallen in with a race of unknown Giants. Later, with an
escort of those huge natives, they had set out on the road back to
civilisation—to be attacked by black cannibals just as they had sighted the
French launch and clambered aboard.
Already one of the boat’s two white officers and many of the crew were out of the fight, killed or wounded by the deadly shafts. And the black cannibals, fearless as they were fiendish, were gradually hemming the ship in.
“But they haven't got us yet! Screech away, you coal-black sons of mud, and share this amongst you!”
Crack! Midge, the red-haired, ever-chirpy junior member of Captain Justice’s band, uttered a piping cheer as he cuddled down to his rifle and let drive at the steersman of the nearest canoe. The brawny painted cannibal dropped his paddle and collapsed, clutching convulsively at his right arm. A howl of fury from his fellows drew yet another whoop from the snub-nosed marksman.
“Hark at the dicky-birds singing!” he scoffed, winking at the bunch of French askaris—native soldiers—who crouched against the rail beside him. Big, tough, ebony-hued fellows they were, clad in soiled white drill. And they grinned back at Midge wholeheartedly—not because there was anything to grin at, but because it was their nature to do so when a “white boss” winked and spoke to them.
“Birdie him sing fine, little baas!” chuckled one, in broken English, yanking back his rifle-bolt. Midge noticed that two of the askaris, after vainly exploring the loops of their bandoliers, retired from the rail to squat stolidly in the shelter of the deckhouse, with their empty rifles across their knees.
“H’m!” grunted Midge. “Not so good! Bullets running short.”
He squeezed trigger again, then started as the vicious smack of the quickfirer stung his eardrums once more. But that was the last shell! As Midge glanced for’ard, he saw the gun crew leaving the useless weapon, crawling aft in search of a rifle or revolver apiece.
“No, not nearly so blinkin’ good!” Midge wagged his fiery head pensively. “Now that pea-shooter’s packed up the bloomin’ party will get rough, and—Hallo! Sufferin' snakes, if it isn’t Patty O’Mally! What-cheer, sawbones! Polished off all the wounded below?"
The grin returned to his cheeky freckled face as out of the deckhouse lumbered stout, bald-headed Dr. O’Mally, Justice’s Irish second-in-command.
Ignoring Midge’s sarcastic reference to his medical skill, the doctor snorted, picked up a bucket, and emptied the contents all over himself, the water steaming as it ran down his bare shoulders and chest.
“Brr-rr! Faith, I needed that! ’Tis like an oven down in the sickbay!" he grunted, casting bloodshot eyes over the lake. Now that the dreaded quickfirer was silent, the black cannibals were closing in faster. Their canoes skimmed the water in dense flotillas, war-bows twanged, and arrows whined through the air like angry mosquitoes.
“Bedad, ’tis a plaguey tight spot we’re in, right enough!” O’Mally muttered. “How long’ve we been at it now, ye rusty-haired tintack?”
“Close on five hours, I reckon, Irish! Though it seems like five years!" Midge, screwing up his eyes against the glare, looked long and anxiously at the dazzling sky.
“Have you heard anything more from Len about the Flying Cloud?” he asked quietly. “I know he’s in touch with her by wireless—and, moanin’ moggies, what a slice of jam it was to hear that she was still searching for us in
East Africa! But, gummy, if the old airship doesn’t get here soon,
we stand a lively chance of handing in our dinner-pails! The rifle ammunition’s
running short, and the quickfirer’s declared her innings closed!”
“We haven’t fought our way out of all those jungles an’ mountains just to be eaten by a pack o’ cannibals!" retorted O’Mally. “Gimme that rifle!”
With the light of battle in his eyes, O’Mally snatched Midge’s weapon, wincing as the hot barrel burned his hand.
A high-prowed, thirty-foot canoe, packed with yelling archers, shot past within a hundred yards of the launch. But before the arrows could fly O’Mally fired. There was a screech as the steersman went overboard—then another as the canoe yawed, charging full-tilt into a second war vessel. Both turned over and sank, to the sound of hoarse cheering from the launch.
“Cigars or nuts, doc!” jeered Midge. “Who did you aim at?”
“The beggar I got, ye saucy shrimp!” O’Mally growled, slipping a fresh cartridge into the breech.
“Let me have another before I—Hallo, here’s Justice, safe and sound!”
Captain Justice was looking grim and war-worn. He had volunteered to take charge of the askari riflemen for’ard, after Lieutenant la Salle had been wounded, and since then his comrades had seen little of him.
Now he came hurrying towards them, threading his way calmly through the jabbering black soldiers. He wore a battered pith helmet canted jauntily over one ear, while from the corner of his lips jutted the stump of a cigar, the fifth he had borrowed from Lieutenant de Vissac, the commander of the launch. Quickly he ducked down into cover between Midge and O’Mally, and slapped the Irishman on the shoulder.
“Good shooting, doc! Keep your head down, Midge, you imp!” he jerked. “How’s Lieutenant la Salle, O’Mally?”
“Bad! He’ll fight no more for some months to come, poor lad!” the doctor grunted. “I’ve given him and the rest of the serious casualties a dose of morphine to keep ’em peaceful, but I'll be goin’ down again in a moment. ’Tis a real hot corner we’re in, Justice!”
“Ay! And, by James, it’ll get hotter yet!” was the ominous reply. “We’re down to the last of our ammunition for’ard.”
“Weepin’ willows! So are we, skipper!” exclaimed Midge.
Captain Justice shrugged, and shot a glance over the canvas at the serried lines of canoes, still circling round and creeping closer.
“The yelling scum! By Jove, it looks as though the whole infernal tribe has rallied from every part of the hinterland. We certainly sailed into a trap! Thank heavens the launch was here, or we’d have been scuppered hours ago! But if the Flying Cloud doesn’t arrive soon—”
He shrugged again, his teeth biting deeper into the cigar.
“She’ll come!” repeated O’Mally sturdily. “Where’s Flaznagel?”
“Down in the engine-room, rigging up steam-pipes in ease these swabs get close enough to board us. I suggested it, and De Vissac agreed!” said Justice. “Poor beggar! He’s a brave youngster, but he doesn’t know which way to turn now to save his ship. As the first French commander to penetrate into this howling wilderness, he’s done us a mighty good turn, but—Hallo, that’s him calling me now!”
A Fatal Mistake!
GIVING Midge a last warning to keep under cover, Justice rose in response to a hail from the bridge. As he stole away with head and shoulders bowed low, Len Connor dashed out of the tiny house that served as the wireless cabin, and caught him by the arm.
Len’s face, body, and limbs were streaming with perspiration. His lips and tongue were parched, his eyes glazed with weariness. For the interior of that cabin was reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta, and Len had been stewing in there since the action started. Without ceremony he twisted his leader round, shouting to make himself heard above the mad din of battle.
“Captain! The Flying Cloud!” he cried; and Justice’s lips tightened as he listened to the rest of the young wireless operator’s message concerning the great airship. He nodded coolly, however, snapped an order that sent Len lurching back into the cabin, and carried on.
Up on the low bridge, beneath an arrow-riddled awning, Lieutenant de Vissac, the tall, angular commander, drooped limply over the wheel, glaring out across the shimmering waters at his frenzied attackers. As Justice sprang up the ladder and saluted him, the young Frenchman surveyed him for a moment with haggard eyes.
“It grows hot!” he muttered, licking his lips. “Captain, have you no news? You assured me that your famous airship was hastening to our aid, but——”
Justice eyed him narrowly. The young officer, he could see, was becoming distinctly rattled.
“When we first got in touch with the Flying Cloud, lieutenant,” he said quietly, “she was farther off than you gave us to understand. Seventeen hundred miles, in fact. And it took time to get hold of her.”
“Ye-es, captain. Our wireless, I know, is not good, and M’sieur Connor, he has done marvels! But—”
Then Captain Justice smiled—a smile that suddenly stiffened De Vissac’s backbone and sent renewed hope surging through his heart.
“Mr. Connor is still doing marvels,” Justice drawled. “Lieutenant, I have the honour to inform you that the Flying Cloud will be here in under the hour!”
But if Justice expected De Vissac to share in what was undoubtedly a triumph of wireless telegraphy and terrific flying-speed, he was disappointed.
“An hour, you say—an hour?” Lieutenant de Vissac’s shoulders sagged again. So far from encouraging him, the news seemed to come as the final blow to his hopes.
“An hour!” he repeated thickly. “But, captain, we cannot possibly last an hour! We have no shells, and but a few rounds of ammunition left! Regard these black cannibals! See how they creep in on us! Ignorant dogs that they are, they are beginning to realise that we are helpless now! An hour—bah! Why not a thousand hours? It will be all the same!”
“Rot!” Captain Justice dropped his formal politeness and descended to some good, plain Navy talk. “By, James, that’s no way for a sailor to talk!” he snapped aggressively. “Listen, De Vissac! My comrades and I have managed to survive all these months in the wilderness, and no cannibal rats are going to trample on us now! Besides, I didn’t say an hour. I said under the hour! And, by James, sir, we’ll hold these beggars off until then, and wring their black necks afterwards!
“Now, look, lieutenant,” he continued persuasively. “Don’t worry! Pull yourself together! I’m an older man than you, and I’ve been in tighter corners. Save your ammunition by ordering your men to cease volley firing. Tell ’em to snipe the cannibal steersmen instead. And, meanwhile, keep the launch zigzagging as she is!”
“What you say about saving bullets is right, captain—I will give the order!” snapped De Vissac, and he did so. “But for me—bah, I am sick of the zigzag, and I am sick of waiting! If we have few bullets, we still have one 'big' weapon—the launch itself! I will put on all speed and ram these vile canoes to—what you say?—to blazes!”
Justice snatched the cigar from his mouth.
"Do nothing of the kind, man!” he cried sharply. “Don’t you sec that by continually altering course and swerving you’re keeping these demons guessing—as well as giving them a shifting target to aim at?”
Justice made a vehement gesture. “In any case,” he went on rapidly, “your vessel isn’t powerful enough to ram through all the canoes out there. All you’ll do is to ram two or three, perhaps, and get your bows all cluttered up with wreckage. Then the rest of the swabs will board us while you’re trying to barge your way clear! You might as well shove the launch’s nose into the nearest bank and be done with it !”
All this twisting and dodging irked Lieutenant de Vissac sorely. It was as acid to his pride to be harried and hunted by a pack of cannibals, and he had stood it long enough. Drawing himself erect, the angry and worried officer looked Justice squarely in the eye.
"Captain Justice, I am a French officer—not a cur to be hounded by black cannibals!" he said shortly. "My tactics are my own responsibility. I would remind you that I am the commander of this vessel!”
“I see!” Justice forced himself to swallow the snub, realising De Vissac’s desperate state of mind. Nevertheless, he did not expose himself to another by continuing the fruitless argument.
“Quite true, lieutenant. I beg your pardon!” he said evenly, and saluted. “Very well, then! If you need me, I’ll be among the men for’ard.
“Brave young idiot!” he murmured to himself as, next instant, he went hot-foot down the ladder. “Pray Heaven the Flying Cloud gets here on time! We’re in for it now!” Amidships, lying flat on the deck, huddled old N’Urru and a score of his fellow Giants—all that remained of the escort that had guided Justice & Co. out of the vast, unexplored mountain-country. Dazed and deafened by hours of incessant firing, the tawny-skinned goliaths lay motionless, gripping their terrible, three-pronged spears and glaring savagely at the foe.
But their dark brown eyes softened as Justice clapped N’Urru on the shoulder and flicked the veteran's glittering trident.
"Cheer up, boys! You're going to get a chance to use these soon!" he said. And though the Giants did not understand his words, Justice’s expression was enough.
INSTANTLY their handsome faces lighted up with the joy of battle. And as their deep war-cry thundered across the waters the French launch gathered speed. Lieutenant de Vissac’s ramming operations had commenced!
“Gummy!” grunted Midge, as the launch trembled to the violent throb of the engine and swung round sharply on the nearest flotilla of canoes. “What’s this game?”
Risking arrows at every stride, the reckless youngster ran forward to where Captain Justice knelt among the askaris.
“Skipper,” he panted, “what’s the stunt now? Surely De Vissac isn’t going to try to ram these slippery beauties? Has he gone scats?” Justice turned his head.
“That’s no way to talk about your commander,” he said curtly. “As for you, my son, get below out of it! We’re in for some work—too warm for a hop-o’-my-thumb like you!”
“Oh!” Midge screwed up his freckled face. “Oh yeah?” he murmured. And, aware that Justice was watching him, he ducked down into the deckhouse—and out the other side!
"N'Urru, old cockalorum," he said severely, as he wriggled in cautiously among the wondering Giants, "we're going to ram some canoes—if we can catch ’em! And when we’ve rammed a few and can’t move for wreckage, we’re goin’ to have umpteen billion big black beggars piling over the rails to chop us into small bits. Ain’t life grand? Wow, hold your hat on! Here we go!”
Suddenly there sounded a raucous blare from the siren. The launch swerved again as De Vissac spun the wheel, and, with sparks flying from its single funnel, it bore down swiftly on the enemy. The foremost canoe swung aside in the nick of time, and a dozen spears came whizzing over among the askaris along the starboard rail. But the next three canoes were unlucky!
Crash! At headlong speed the French vessel smashed into the first—smashed into it and over it. Havoc and confusion followed.
Into the air whirled splinters and fragments of riven planking, while yells of rage and alarm rang out from the other blacks. But the launch quivered. From stem to stern it shuddered under the grinding impact, recovering just in time to catch the second canoe.
In vain the third strove to escape. The gunboat, lurching on, rammed its prow half-way through the doomed craft—and then stuck fast!
With the partially sundered canoe dragging under her bow, her screws and rudder fouled by drifting wreckage, the launch stopped dead. She began to roll and toss uneasily, like some snared creature struggling to win free but lacking the strength to do so.
Again the siren bawled; bells clanged, and water churned under the stern. But before the frantic De Vissac could back out of the mess, the cannibals rallied.
One bloodcurdling yell of glee shrieked across the lake. The blacks had sized up the situation in the blink of an eye. Their elusive prey was caught in a trap of her own making! Like sharks swarming to the kill, the canoes skimmed through the water, converging upon her from all quarters.
“And that’s that!”
Captain Justice, his heard bristling, cigar jammed in the corner of his mouth, cocked a cold eye up at the bridge.
"Stand to it now, my braves!” he roared in French to the askaris around him, and scarcely had he spoken when the leading canoes bumped alongside.
For a nightmare second Justice had a glimpse of rolling eyeballs and hideous painted faces upturned to his. Then the fight for the launch began!
COVERED by a shower of arrows, over the rail poured the black cannibals, to be met and flung back by a bristling hedge of bayonets. Shots cracked viciously. Steel clashed against copper and iron, men grappled with each other and went down, fighting like furies.
But more and more canoes were racing to the attack. More and more frenzied warriors slashed and hacked their way aboard as fast as their friends were hurled off.
At the first onset, Midge had been brushed aside as N’Urru and the Giants sprang up and surged to the rail. Breathlessly the boy scrambled to his feet, but was promptly flattened again as Dr. O'Mally erupted into the open and went careering down the sloping deck, brandishing a ten-inch spanner.
By this time the launch was rocking and tilting over dangerously as the number of invaders increased. And suddenly the askaris in the stern broke under the pressure, reeling back before the invaders.
Back they were forced, fighting with the courage of despair. The yelling and shouting rose higher. For a few dread moments the fate of the launch trembled in the balance. Then high above the din rose O’Mally’s wild Irish whoop.
Simultaneously, he, with N’Urru and his herculean figliting-men, charged down into the stern, sweeping the triumphant raiders overside again in one glorious irresistible rush. At the same time, Captain Justice and his party launched a rousing counterattack that cleared the foredeck.
Thus, for a brief space, the hard-pressed defenders won a breather for themselves. And during that respite, Professor Flaznagel took a hand in the game.
Coolly, almost disdainfully, the lanky old scientist emerged from the engine-room, dragging a length of flexible steel tubing behind him. His hand went swiftly to the brass nozzle on the tubing, and the next instant:
“Hurrah! Attaboy, Flapwoggle! How d'ye like your eggs boiled, blackies!” shrilled Midge, as with a hissing roar, a jet of scalding white steam shot out from Flaznagel’s tubing, straight on the target. In a flash, a mob of determined raiders clambering over the port rail seemed to vanish into thin air before the deadly blast.
“Oh, good man, professor!”
Captain Justice, gripping a revolver by the barrel, came sliding down the slippery deck, ducking as a spear whizzed overhead.
“Keep the hose playing, Flaznagel!” he jerked, grabbing the disobedient Midge by the arm. “That’s our best weapon now as long as the steam lasts! De Vissac—Oh, great Scott!”
Justice, shooting a glance aloft, stiffened. Then, dragging Midge along helter-skelter, he tore up on to the bridge. Lieutenant de Vissac lay there slumped beside the wheel, with a javelin buried in his thigh.
“No, no! Leave it—do not trouble about me!” gasped the wounded commander, as Justice bent over him. “It is not serious—yet! I am paid out for being a fool!” A spasm of pain contorted his face. “You were correct, captain,” he whispered. “It is the finish, yes?”
“It will be—when the Flying Cloud gets here!” gritted Justice. “Try to take it easy, De Vissac! By James, we’ve still got a kick or two left! Shall I take charge?”
“I thank you!” The Frenchman grasped his hand feebly. Then, in response to a sharp question, he shook his head. “No, there is no chance of breaking clear now. We have no steam left! Your friend, he is using it all —very fast. I think it will not last—A-ah!”
His voice broke in a groan of dismay as Professor Flaznagel’s “weapon” suddenly gave vent to a gurgling splutter. The steam petered out in curling wisps.
Fiercely the cannibal warriors rallied, rushing the port rail again as Flaznagel beat a hasty retreat. De Vissac sighed and collapsed. Captain Justice, commander of a French river-patrol in action, drew a deep, rasping breath.
“Backs to the wall now!” he muttered; and whirled, with hands cupped to his mouth. “O’Mally! Get your fellows back to the deckhouse! Make a stand there! Midge, you stay here—do what you can for the lieutenant. If you poke your red head into danger again, my lad, I’ll smack it!” And Justice was down the bridge-ladder in one flying leap, running on to rally his own squad on the foredeck.
As the captain sped past, Len, wildly excited, suddenly darted out of the wireless cabin, a message trembling on his lips. But justice neither saw nor heard him. A spear plunked into the deck between the youngster’s legs, tripping him headlong. And before he could recover from the heavy toss, Justice was up for’ard, plunging into the thick of the scrimmage again.
And a terrible scrimmage it was—a roaring, raging melee, with no quarter asked or given.
SAFE now from burning lead or blistering steam, the blacks came swarming in from all sides, skipping across the banked canoes, hurling themselves at the rolling launch. They poured over the stem and over the bows. Others scrambled over both rails, agile as tigers and as ferocious.
It was the final onslaught, with the maddened attackers gaining ground every minute. Even Justice had to admit to himself that the end was now in sight!
Weary defenders, outnumbered and outweighted, could withstand the savage assaults no longer. And still there was no sign of the Flying Cloud. With bayonet and rifle-butt Justice fought like a demon on the foredeck, while O’Mally more than held his own among the fighting-men aft. But in spite of gallant leadership, askaris and Giants gradually began to falter. Slowly but surely both squads were being pressed backwards, and hemmed in, when—
Br-ooo-ooom! In the moment of victory, defeat swept down upon the blacks in a terrifying, overwhelming wave of sound!
Out of a clear sky, something fell—something long, sleek, and slender, something that landed squarely among a huge raft of canoes, banked gunwale to gunwale. Then it burst, and seemed to rock the whole universe with its devastating thunder!
All fighting aboard the launch ceased, because hardly a man there, black, brown, or white, remained on his feet within the next few seconds of terror.
The terrific explosion, appalling as it was unexpected, smote them like a giant fist. Just for an instant, cannibals and native soldiers froze in attitudes of suspended animation, then men of both sides went down in heaps as the launch heaved and rolled in the wash of leaping billows.
Away to starboard, a mighty pillar of water and debris was rising high into the air, dissolving in seething foam and spray.
“The Flying Cloud!” Midge yelled—a yell that nearly cracked his throat—as he looked overhead.
Len, who had received his last signal from the dirigible some ten minutes back, grinned weakly, clutched at his aching head, and slumped to the deck again with a thud.
From the cannibals arose the low, gurgling wail of men rendered witless by ghastly fear. The battle was forgotten! With eyes bulging and limbs shaking as with palsy, the stupefied savages gazed aloft at the great shining monster that had materialised so uncannily out of nowhere, and dropped a bomb on their canoes.
Silvery-blue, the beautiful airship hung motionless against the gleaming sky, the strangest, most dreadful sight they ever had beheld. Then majestically it sank lower under spinning helicopters. A staccato rattle of machine-guns spraying the outlying canoes shattered the stillness.
“The Flying Cloud! She's here! Come on! One last drive!”
Tossing up his rifle, Justice let out a hoarse shout as he charged. And though his askaris were scarcely less bewildered than the foe, they followed him instinctively, venting their joy in delirious howls. But there was no need to drive the blacks away now. Their brute courage had snapped.
Faster than ever they had come aboard, the fear-crazed cannibals fled, hurtling over the rails, diving into the swirling waters, or fighting each other like rats in a mad scramble for the boats. The weapons of the defenders, aided by a few more machine-gun bursts from above, sped them on their frantic way. The launch was saved. The surface of
became dotted with
hard-driven canoes, black bobbing heads, and floating wreckage. Lake
AND then, at the height of the confusion, the Flying Cloud came to rest two hundred feet above the launch, casting a protective shadow over the stricken boat. Meanwhile, Captain Justice & Co. had gathered on the bridge, worn out, dishevelled, dripping with perspiration.
Justice had sustained an ugly cut across one cheekbone and another down his forearm; O’Mally’s brawny left arm hung limp as the result of a knobkerry stroke; and Flaznagel was almost overcome by heat and excitement.
But no one cared. It was good to feast their eyes on their splendid airship again after all these months of separation, good to see the familiar observation-cage dropping steadily down from the open hatch. And suddenly, as Justice’s own standard, the big black flag with its white “J,” broke out from the after-deck railing, the five castaways lifted their husky voices in a cheer.
“Sufferin’ cats!” exclaimed the exultant Midge. "Is she a sight for sore eyes, or isn’t she? I’d sooner look at her than at a ten-course banquet—and goodness knows I could chew O’Mally’s right leg this minute.”
“Good boys—good boys! I knew they’d get here!” said Justice, deeply moved. Then, remembering that he was in command of the launch, the celebrated adventurer pulled himself together.
Beckoning to a grinning askari sergeant in tattered uniform, Justice ordered the man to collect a squad and bring the wounded aft.
“More work for you, I’m afraid, doc—more work for us all as soon as we get hold of some first-aid kit!” he growled, and turned to see how N’Urru and the Giants were getting on. A surprise awaited him.
For N’Urru and company had seen enough and heard enough of white men’s fighting methods. They were on their way back home!
Of the thirty giant natives who had started out into the wilderness only fourteen were left, and already these had collared one of the abandoned canoes. Fifty yards from the launch they stopped paddling in answer to Justice’s hail, and old N’Urru rose from the stern, lifting his arm high in a last salute. Then broad backs gleamed again as they swung to and fro in the sunshine. Without pause for rest, without any more delay whatever, fourteen Giant heroes were off on the long journey back to their secret land.
“And may the saints protect ’em all the way!” muttered O’Mally, in a tremulous voice. “ ’Tis some marvellous tales they’ll have to tell Chief Buktu and the rest of the boys when they get back home. What men they are, Justice. And, faith, what friends they’ve been to us!”
Justice nodded sombrely.
“The best ever!” he cried—and wheeled hastily as a well-known voice greeted him from above:
With a slight jar, the Flying Cloud’s observation-cage, swaying at the end of a cable, landed on the afterdeck, the door slid open, and John Rigg, attended by Aircraftman Baker, sprang out. His eyes widened at sight of the five torn and gory scarecrows limping eagerly towards him, and then he, too, ran forward with both hands outstretched. Followed a tumultuous spell of cheers, laughter, numbing handclasps, and back-slappings; while Midge literally hurled himself upon Baker’s massive bosom.
“What, the old Tiny!” he carolled, pounding his staring friend in the ribs. “How are you, you poor weak invalid?”
Aircraftman Baker, burliest and toughest of all the Flying Cloud’s crew, did not answer. He could not. Humbly he reached out for Midge’s hand.
“You, you big ape!” squawked the diminutive youngster as the tremendous palm engulfed his and nearly pulped it. Then Aircraftman Baker found his tongue in a wholehearted roar that floated up to the Flying Cloud—a roar that told the anxious men there that Captain Justice & Co. were safe.
Squaring the Account!
TWO hours later the castaways were not only safe, but comfortably seated in the sunny dining-saloon of the Flying Cloud, their wounds dressed, and pangs of hunger appeased. Warm baths and cold showers, good food, and freshly laundered linen had worked wonders already. It was a grand reunion.
Once again Captain Justice was his old spruce self, immaculate in white drill, his beard trimmed to a dapper point, and one of his own special cigars perfuming the air. Only the deep hollows under his eyes and the strip of plaster across his cheek bore witness to recent harrowing experiences.
A smile of content crinkled his keen brown face as he surveyed the crowd of silent men who had forgathered in the saloon to listen to his brief but enthralling story.
“And that’s how it went, my lads,” Justice said, after a short pause. “It was a bad time for us all—and I wouldn’t go through it again for untold gold! But I want to say here and now that the professor, Dr. O’Mally, Connor, and that red-haired scallawag yonder with his mouth full of pineapple stuck it out like heroes. And, as you’ve seen, we’ve managed to pull through in the end, thanks to the Giants—”
“And you!” Dr. O’Mally interrupted suddenly. The portly Irishman rose and solemnly lifted his glass.
“Gentlemen, before we go further, ’tis meself has the honour to propose a toast!” he cried. “A toast to Captain Justice—the only man who could go empty-handed into a howlin’ wilderness and come out to lead his own bunch o’ wild fighting men to victory! Come on, ye spalpeens!”
“Captain Justice!” was the shout that rang joyously through the saloon when the doctor finished.
A deep flush of pleasure dyed the captain’s cheeks as he raised his own glass in acknowledgement.
“Thank you, men—and thank you for the way you rushed to our aid,” he said quietly. “But now to work! First, how are the wounded, O’Mally?”
“Och, fair to middling,” replied the doctor, preparing for another visit to the sick-bay. “
La Salle’s still sleeping, and De Vissac’s suffering
chiefly from loss of blood and exhaustion. But never fear! Begorrah, I’m
looking after them all right!”
“Right, carry on, doctor,” said Justice. “Now, Mr. Rigg, I want you to send a squad below and put that Frenchman into trim once more. We’ll have to stand by, too, until she and her crew are safe. Connor has wirelessed the news to French headquarters, so I expect they’ll rush an air-squadron out to relieve us. In any case,” he added dryly, “I doubt if we’ll have any more trouble from those black villains now!”
“Very good, sir!” John Rigg stood up. As he did so, a subtle change came over his face, as though some icy wind had stiffened the muscles.
“Talking of villains, captain,” he burst out fiercely, “what about this Greek villain, Xavier Kuponos—the cur who dumped you five into the wilds without a weapon between you? What are we going to do about him? Isn’t the brute to pay for all this?”
“Most decidedly he will pay!” Professor Flaznagel declared emphatically, amid a chorus of growls and threats. “The miscreant not only kidnapped and exposed me to a great deal of inconvenience and danger, but, confound him, he has seriously interfered with my work! Justice, I insist that this rascal be punished without delay!”
Captain Justice inspected the glowing tip of his cigar. It was a full minute before he replied.
“We shall attend to the matter,” he drawled then, “just as soon as we have discovered the gentleman’s whereabouts. In due course, my friends, Monsieur Xavier Kuponos is going to wish with all his heart that he had never been born.”
ON a starlit night, three weeks after the battle of
N’Gako, Xavier Kuponos sat in camp
near the headwaters of a little lost river in the depths of Abyssinia.
He was smoking his after supper cigarette, musing on life, and finding it good.
Outlawed from all the “white” countries in
Africa, the Greek
slaver and gun-runner nevertheless felt that he was sitting pretty—very pretty
indeed. He had with him at this moment three score of his heftiest Ethiopian
raiders, and a large mule-train of smuggled arms and ammunition—American
weapons that would fetch their weight in gold nuggets when delivered to a
certain troublesome brigand-chief on the morrow.
Last, but not least, he had squared accounts with the only man who had ever laid him by the heels—Captain Justice!
Not once during the past three months had the wily Greek heard so much as a rumour concerning the fate of Captain Justice & Co. As far as Xavier Kuponos knew, the jungle had swallowed his enemies without trace. He was safe from Captain Justice—safe from suspicion, too.
“Which is very good, I think,” decided Xavier Kuponos, baring his teeth in a slow smile as he rolled another cigarette. He was still smiling when an airship’s observation-cage dropped out of the night and landed neatly in the circle of watch-fires.
Kuponos’ Ethiopian ruffians were bold men. But they were not nearly bold enough to stand up to the sudden warning rattle of machine-guns from the skies, or the soundless arrival of that weird object in their midst. One petrified stare they took at the cage, then took to their heels. By the time Xavier Kuponos recovered from his own stupor of surprise, he found himself all alone save for a trim, dapper man in white.
This intruder, as the paralysed Greek presently observed, wore a torpedo-shaped beard cocked at a truculent angle, and a most unpleasant smile. Kuponos scarcely noticed the revolver that was gripped firmly in a strong brown hand. His eyes, glassy with fear, were riveted to the intruder’s hawk-like face.
“Justice—Captain Justice!” he choked.
“Back from the jungle, Kuponos!” came the level voice in reply, and Xavier Kuponos saw red. Blindly he sprang to his feet and rushed at the man he feared and hated worse than anyone in
Captain Justice took one quick pace forward and hit him.
When next he regained his senses, the most notorious outlaw south of
Suez was a prisoner on board the Flying
Cloud. With bleary eyes half-open, Kuponos gazed around—to find four other “ghosts”
regarding him impassively. He groaned, and Captain Justice himself stepped
forward to offer him a glass of water.
“Oh, you—you hound!” Kuponos gasped, his olive-lined face convulsed. “Justice! All of you—alive! You fiends, you can’t be human! How—how—”
“How did we trace you?” Justice said coolly. “That wasn’t difficult, my friend. You left a pretty wide trail for men who can hunt, and I’ve had plenty of hunters at work. As to how we escaped the death you sent us to, that’s a different matter. It’s a long story, Kuponos, and I don’t propose to repeat it again.
“Well, Kuponos, your game is up! You sent my friends and me into a villainous hole, and now it’s your turn. Professor Flaznagel here has need of as much molybdenum for his work as he can obtain, and we own one of the loneliest quarries in
South America. You’re going there—to stay—and to work. If
you value your skin, you’ll not attempt to escape!”
Xavier Kuponos panted. There were flecks of foam on his lips as he screeched:
“Hang you, you can’t do it! Take me back to
me over to the police! I demand a fair trial!”
“You’ve had it! Kuponos, you were tried and sentenced three months ago!” Justice cut in icily. "And thank your lucky stars we did not decide to pay you back in your own coin and maroon you, foodless and weaponless, in the jungle.
“As it is, you’ll be in no danger and sure of your food so long as you work. And my men will see to that!” he added grimly. He strode to the telephone as Xavier Kuponos broke down and wept.
“Main-deck, there! Quartermaster? Steady on your course. Full speed for
the captain ordered. Then he turned, took a last glance at the prisoner, and
swept his satisfied comrades from the cabin. Justice Island
The African venture was finished at last. With effortless power, the Flying Cloud increased her speed, soaring across the
And in due course, in the sultry climate of South America, Monsieur Xavier Kuponos did wish, with all his heart, first that he had never tackled Captain Justice & Co., secondly that he had never been born! For Xavier Kuponos had to work—hard, very hard—in those lonely quarries!
A NEW SERIES of CAPTAIN JUSTICE stories starts in Next Saturday's GREAT FREE GIFT issue of MODERN BOY—uncanny and gloriously thrilling!!!
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.