The Red Ape of Pontianak
A weirdly dramatic tale of a creature that came out of the jungle to teach terror and courage to conquering man
JAMES FRANCIS DWYER
ON MY NINTH birthday my grandfather, Tobias Dane, a quiet, soft-spoken man in the seventies, took me to the Zoological Park. There accompanied us a little friend, a girl two years younger than I, who lived next door to my father’s house. Her name was Marjorie Grant. That same evening, as we sat at dinner, my father looked at my grandfather in a strange questioning manner and said: “Did it happen?”
My grandfather glanced in my direction, waited for a few seconds, then answered in an undertone. “It did.”
That was all. A question and an answer. My father and grandfather continued with their meal. My mother looked from one to the other, then lowered her eyes over her plate.
When I went up to bed the question put by my father and the murmured answer of my grandfather were in my small head. There was something mysterious about the query and the response. What happening did my father refer to? It must have been something that occurred during the outing.
Then, as I climbed into bed, the knowledge came with startling suddenness. The question and answer concerned me. I had been taken to the Zoological Park for a purpose. For a test.
Perspiring and uncomfortable, I reviewed the scene where that test took place. My grandfather, holding my right hand, had led me suddenly before the cage of a great ape, a fearsome-looking fellow who had just been acquired by the park authorities.
For an instant the sight of the brute numbed every fibre in my body, then I let out a scream of fear, broke from the clutch of my grandfather and rushed at full speed toward the park exit.
My grandfather and Marjorie Grant pursued and overtook me. They tried by every means in their power to soothe my fears, but I refused to return to the house of the primates, and, after we had spent a little time viewing the birds, we came home. I knew, as I lay in bed, ashamed of my cowardice before the cage of the ape, that it was the possibility of such a happening that had made my father remark “Did it happen?” and the fact that it had occurred brought the whispered response of “It did” from my grandfather.
I lay awake till the dawn, puzzling my head over the matter. It seemed to me that I had shown a fear that was slightly indecent. A fear that filled me with shame.
Slowly, very slowly, during the years that followed, there came to me the knowledge that my cowardice on that spring day in the Zoological Park had something to do with our family history. Something to do with the Danes. I realized by the time that I was fourteen that my grandfather and father were afraid of apes and monkeys. 1 had seen my grandfather turn into a side street to avoid the monkey on a street organ; my father had suddenly left a music hall because an ape appeared in a juggling act. Primates stirred a terror that was deep-rooted. I sought the cause.
This story came to me, bit by bit. as the years rolled by. It concerns my great-grandfather. Captain Ezra Dane, one of those courageous clipper-ship captains who carried the flag into the ports of the Orient in the fine romantic days when our home ports traded with “China cross the bay,” bringing home cargoes of tea, silks and spices. Days when waterfront gossip was of Pagoda Anchorage, Java Head, Anjer Point, and the little tea houses along the Chu-Kiang. Golden days.
Captain Ezra Dane, at the age of twenty-five, was in command of the clipper Dancing Polly. A fast ship was the Dancing Polly. Homeward bound from Canton in September, 1847, she equalled the record of the famous Sea Witch. From the log of the clipper, from a big black notebook belonging to Captain Ezra Dane, and from the talk of my grandfather, I have gathered the extraordinary facts that I relate here.
' I 'HE Dancing Polly sailed from Canton on March 7, A 1848. There had been a difference of opinion between Captain Dane and the well-known Canton merchant, Houqua, in whose honor A. A. Low & Brothers named their fast vessel the Houqua. The log reads: “March 7. Poor cargo. Trouble with shipments. Sailed with worst mob of scupper-rats ever shipped.”
On this voyage a big blustering man named Lawrence Blount was chief mate. Mr. Blount figures largely in the strange incidents that occurred. The entries in the log and the black notebook paint him in dark colors. He was a bully and a coward.
On account of the trouble with the Chinese merchant Houqua. the captain of the Dancing Polly, acting entirely on his own initiative, decided to call at Pontianak. the chief town in Western Borneo, a ix)rt that was rarely visited by vessels in the China trade. It was a strange resolve on the part of the captain and from it sprang a queer series of happenings.
Captain Dane found something more than cargo at Pontianak. He found there the daughter of a Nova Scotia ship captain, a girl of nineteen years, who had been praying hopefully for seven weeks that a ship would roll into the harbor. Her father’s vessel, Highbury Ho, had struck a reef in the Tambelan Islands, and the girl and two seamen were the only survivors.
The girl, whose name was Faith Lockyear, asked a passage on the Dancing Polly, and she wept with joy when the captain said the pleasure would be his. The two sailors were sent to the foc’s’le. It seemed from the girl’s story that a local rajah had shown more than an ordinary interest in her unfortunate position. The fellow had annoyed her greatly, so the arrival of the clipper was, to her, a direct answer to her prayers.
Captain Dane, after listening to the girl’s narrative, thought a word from a stalwart sea captain might improve the manners of the rajah in the event of another white woman being tossed upon his shores. In smart blue coat, flow'ered silk vest, and tight trousers strapped beneath his boots, the captain api>eared at the palace and was shown into the presence of the lovesick native.
Captain Dane couldn’t speak the local tongue, and the rajah knew no English, but that didn't faze the visitor. He had managed to get his views across to sailors of all nationalities, and with words and gestures he endeavored to let the flirtatious native know what would happen to him if he annoyed another w'hite girl with his attentions.
The rajah w'as impressed. I le thought to soothe Captain Dane with a present, and, on the morning the Dancing Polly sailed, this present came aboard. It was a mias, the big orang-utan of Borneo, a fearsome brute of enormous strength. The beast was brought on to the ship bound so securely with ropes of bamboo fibre that only his wicked little eyes were visible. An iron collar had been rivetted to his neck, and to this collar was attached a chain of heavy links with an enormous detachable staple at the loose end.
The court chamberlain of the rajah suggested by signs that the staple should be driven into the deck midway between the main and mizzen masts while the orang was still swathed in his bandages, then the master knots could be untied and the animal left to free himself by his own struggles.
Captain Ezra Dane, having little cargo, thought the beast might bring a good sum at home, so he accepted the big hairy devil that had a chest on him like a beer barrel. He accepted also the half ton of green mangosteens and durians that the rajah sent to feed the brute on the voyage. The carpenter was called, and “Chips” drove the staple through the deck planks and into the supporting beams beneath. Drove it deep with mighty blows of a heavy mallet.
While the orang lay helpless the carpenter knocked together a hutch for the beast, and this too he fastened to the deck, close to the staple; then, everything being in order, the native who carried the beast aboard untied the master knots of the bandages and sprang to safety.
The orang was an hour fighting himself clear of the yards of fibre rope that encircled him, but when he was completely free he surprised the gaping crew of the Dancing Polly that watched him at a safe distance. Carefully gathering up his bandages he kneaded them into a monster ball, and, picking out the carpenter who had driven the staple into the deck, he hurled the mass at his head. Hurled it with such force and accuracy that Chips was knocked backward into the scuppers and was picked up with a broken arm. The log reads:
“March 29. Sailed from Pontianak. Taking Miss Faith Lockyear and two sailors of the Highbury Ho. Also big monkey. Miss Lockyear christened monk Barabbas. Carpenter broke right arm.”
ON THE first day out from Pontianak there arose a discussion in the foe’s’le concerning courage. A huge Swedish sailor, recovering from a bout writh the native liquor, made a wager of two dollars that he would walk up to the mias and clip him under the ear. Half fuddled, the sailor staggered along the deck to where the orang was chained, his friends trailing him and urging him on. Barabbas, at the moment, was lex king astern, hoping to catch a last glimpse of Borneo, and the Swede was able to hif him a smart crack on the side of the head before the animal was aware of his approach.
The Swede, having delivered the punch, backstepped quickly, but the orang was lightning. A long muscular arm clutched the ankle of the retreating sailor, swung him off his feet and hurled him against a water butt twelve feet away. The Swede had two dollars and four broken ribs Barabbas was earning a reputation.
Mr. Blount, the first officer, annoyed with this happening, ordered the sailmaker to draw a danger circle with red paint on the deck immediately outside the reach of the orang’s paws. The sailmaker brought the pot of paint and a brush, but he was nervous when Barabbas strained on the chain in an effort to catch him.
Mr. Blount was annoyed at the sailmaker’s evident fear. Miss Faith Lockyear was on the deck at the moment, and the mate, wishing to show the young woman what a fearless fellow he was, snatched the pot of paint and the brush from the trembling hands of the sailmaker and started to define the danger area with a broad streak of color.
Barabbas was interested. By a great effort he managed to touch the red line with the tips of his fingers. He brought the wet fingers to his nostrils, decided that the iiaint was uneatable, then started to wipe it off on the holystoned Ixiards of the Dancing Polly.
Now when Mr. Blount permitted himself to deface the white boards with a red line he had gone as far as any selfrcsjx'cting officer could go in the matter of deck disfigurement. so the antics of the orang. who was again dipping his fingers in the paint and playing noughts and crosses with himself on the planks, upset the officer. More so as the sailors, amused at the brute’s antics, guffawed loudly.
Mr. Blount lost his temper and also his judgment of distance. He reached forward and whacked the knuckles of Barabbas with the big paint brush, and, once again, the mias showed the extraordinary swiftness that characterizes his species. He tore the brush from the hand of Mr. Blount and flung it with force at the officer’s head.
In all the strange happenings that took place aboard the Dancing Polly from the moment she left the harbor of Pontianak to the end, one notes that frightening hair line that separates comedy and tragedy. The paint-charged bristles of the thrown brush struck Mr. Blount between the eyes, half blinding and wholly exasperating him. He thought he heard the silvery laugh of Faith Lockyear mingling with the wild guffaws of the sailors, and he lost his head. Having nothing at hand but the pot of paint, and, in his momentary blindness unable to find another missile, he flung the can and its contents at the orang.
There was, and this is recorded in the log, half a gallon of paint in the pot. The can struck Barabbas on the shoulder, making a crimson patch that resembled the Imperial Japanese pennant. The brute, barking angrily, seized the pot and flung it back at the mate. The deck looked like the floor of an abattoir.
Captain Ezra Dane, hearing the uproar, rushed from his cabin. He stepped inadvertently in the stream of paint and slipped to the deck, mussing up his uniform considerably. A very angry captain as he climbed to his feet.
Mr. Blount, crazed with pain, admitted that he had thrown the paint at the chained orang. Angrily he demanded the destruction of the beast.
Captain Dane refused. Mr. Blount, face smeared with paint, became insolent. He made a menacing gesture and the captain knocked him down. Later that morning the first officer was suspended and sent to the foc’s’le. The second mate, Mr. Field, took his place; the boatswain replaced the second. The web of interlaced comedy and tragedy was spinning briskly aboard the Dancing Polly.
The crew made ineffective attempts to clean the deck. Barabbas, chattering and dancing, grabbed at the swabs when they were pushed within his reach. His wicked little eyes followed Blount whenever the ex-mate appeared on deck. Barabbas had an account with Blount.
THE Dancing Polly struck a gale and fled before it through the Karimata Strait into the Java Sea. Stripped of all canvas, she ran before the howling seas that roared like watery pie shovels beneath her keel and tossed her to the low-hanging clouds. The log reads:
“March 31. Blowing great guns. Lost man overboard. Name, John Hutchins. Smashed mizzen topgallantmast. Blount, late mate, making trouble. Headed deputation asking that monkey be destroyed. Request refused. Miss Lockyear indisposed. Seems more terrified than seasick.”
On April 2 the gale increased in violence. Another sailor was washed overboard. Great waves lifted themselves like cowled monsters and flopped on the deck of the clipper. They crashed upon the hutch of the orang, and the beast barked with fear and anger.
It was on the afternoon of this day that Mr. Field, the acting first officer, saw something that startled him. An enormous wave came inboard and smashed the hutch of the mias. The beast was sucked along with the débris to the full length of his chain, then, tearing himself free of the splintered boards, he clawed himself along the chain to the point where the big staple had been driven deep into plank and deck beam.
Continued on page 29
Continued from page 15—Starts on page 14
Mr. Field stared wide-eyed at the orang. Barabbas, squatting on his stem, took a short grip on the chain, threw himself backward till his ugly mug was turned to the angry heavens, then started to pull.
The mate, clinging to the ixx>p rail, grinned at what he thought the stupidity of the brute, but his grin fled quickly. The immense iron staple started to move under the strain put upon the chain. Driven ten inches deep into the planking by great blows from a mallet, it now answered to the enormous strength of the orang !
Mr. Field shouted a warning to a sailor and called for the captain. Barabbas, one eye on a big wave that was riding down on the ship, pulled harder. The wave hit the orang and rolled him over, but he didn’t stop hauling.
Another and bigger wave was thundering down. He barked defiance. This damnable sea that was new to him and which gave him nothing to bite or hug, couldn’t conquer him without a light. He, a full-grown Simia satyrus with hair eighteen inches long hanging from his shoulders, would show the pop-eyed sailormen what he could do. Putting out all his reserve of strength, he pulled. The staple came out with a jerk as the big wave smashed down on the clipper!
The orang foiled its watery clutch. Grasping the loose chain and the iron staple, he sprang for the mainmast. Cursing the storm in mias lingo, he dashed up the pole.
Captain Dane was on deck now ; he and a number of frightened sailors. They clung to whatever they could get their hands on and stared upward. The lower maintopsail had been split by the wind, and now Barabbas grabbed at its flopping fragments. He tore them away without an effort, snapped a rope as if it was a piece of string, then, wrapping the lengths of sailcloth about his enormous chest, he slipped the cord around himself to hold the canvas in place.
Big red devil a-squattin’ in the crosstrees,
Big chain clanging as the clipper rolls,
Big seas grabbing at the sailors’ bodies,
Old Nick grabbing at the sailors’ souls.
MR. BLOUNT made himself noticeable just then. Out in front of the terrified sailors. Rebellious, mutinous, crazed with hate of the beast that had brought about his suspension. Screaming for the death of Barabbas.
Blount shook a fist at the orang and shouted curses; the orang shook a fist at Blount and barked remarks that didn’t sound complimentary. The Dancing Polly fled like a mad thing before the wolf-like combers that pursued her.
The night came down, Barabbas still in the crosstrees, the chain banging and clanging against the mast. In the murk the sailors peered at him. The torn sail around his great chest, one paw shading his little wicked eyes as he looked ahead, seeking an island in the heaving waters. Unreal, nightmarish, terrifying.
The sailors couldn’t sleep. They chattered of the great strength of the mias. Dragging a ten-inch staple out of hardwood planking ! Was he a beast or a devil? They recounted strange happenings on other voyages. One told how a queer monster had boarded a sailing ship becalmed off Valparaiso; another whispered of a homed woman that had swam for a whole day before a doomed packet of the Black Ball Line. The Dancing Polly drove through the night, a sea chariot for the great orang-utan. Captain Dane had ordered Miss Lockyear to barricade her door. Armed with a musket, he kept a patrol near by.
Daybreak showed Barabbas still peering ahead. Huge, bulky, swinging with the swaying mast. To the sailors he wasn’t an animal. The stories whispered in the stuffy foc’s’le had converted him into a demon. They cursed him in many tongues. He had reached into the dark places of their minds and had stirred up horrors.
Blount led another deputation demanding the death of the beast. When the paintbrush struck the forehead of Blount the stiff bristles had pierced the skin, so that he. like the orang, carried a flaming memento of the combat. The sight of this fiery patch in the bit of chipped mirror in the foc’s’le infuriated the ex-mate.
Captain Dane, because of his dislike for Blount, again refused the request. The captain thought that a rope could be reeved through the last link of the dangling chain, and by that means the beast could be hauled down from his perch and secured. A huge West Indian negro, thrilled by the bait of twenty dollars, agreed to shin up the mast and thread a rope through the big link to which the staple had previously been attached.
It looked easy. The end of the chain was seven feet below the crosstrees where the orang squatted. And Barabbas, so the watchers thought, was paying no heed to the climbing negro. The beast was peering ahead, hoping to see an island rise out of the welter of water.
The negro came level with the end of the chain. He paused, untied the length of rope that he had wound around his waist, and made a movement to nan the end of it through the link.
THAT WAS the last conscious movement of the negro. The orang jerked the chain from the outstretched hand of the climber, then, leaning down, he flicked the heavy links as a boy would flick a whip, bringing the length of the dangling chain with a quick snap against the skull of the West Indian. The man crashed to the deck. He was dead when they got him to his bunk in the foc’s’le. Barabbas, paw shading his shaggy brows, was peering through the showers of spume that sprang from the driving forefoot of the clipper . . .
It would seem from the logbook and the account written later by Captain Dane that the crew got out of hand after the death of the negro. The ease with which the orang had killed him—the manifestation of enormous strength shown in the quick flip of the heavy chain—brought a raw and grisly fear upon the sailors. A fear that smashed discipline to pieces and transformed the scupper-rats into loudmouthed mutineers. Mr. Field, the acting first officer, was attacked by Blount, the captain came to his rescue and again knocked the ex-mate down.
About noon on that eventful day Captain Dane decided that the orang must die. There was no method by which he could be recaptured, and the ship could not be handled while he was free.
There were, from all accounts, a number of muskets on board the Dancing Polly, but there was unfortunately a shortage of ammunition brought about through a brush with a pirate junk off Kai-pong Island when the clipper was running for Canton. Captain Dane chose the boatswain, a man named Prowse, as the executioner, and to Prowse he gave a musket and all the remaining ammunition.
Prowse took up a position in the shrouds; the crew, silent now, watched his preparations. Barabbas was still peering ahead, apparently taking no interest in the proceedings on deck.
Prowse took careful aim and fired. The orang made a quick slap at his hindquarters where the bullet had seared the skin. A puzzled frown on his face led the sailors to believe that the brute thought he had been stung by a new breed of mosquito.
The crew guffawed in chorus, and their laughter made Barabbas think that he was the victim of a trick. He peered downward and noted Boatswain Prowse loading hurriedly.
Barrabas watched Prowse ramming home the charge. He noted that all eyes were focused on the boatswain, and his alert monkey brain told him that it was from the black barrel of the musket there had come the thing that had nipped his hindquarter.
The paw of the orang reached into the mass of cordage beside him. There he had planted the heavy staple which he had torn from the deck. As Prowse took aim the orang hurled the heavy staple with tremendous force at the marksman.
The staple struck Prowse in the neck. He flung up his hands and dropped backward into the sea, carrying with him all the ammunition that remained on the ship. The musket, falling to the deck, exploded, and the ball wounded a sailor in the ankle. Barabbas danced a little jig, then returned to his business of watching for land.
CAPTAIN EZRA DANE had courage. He realized that the orang would wreck his ship by terrorizing the crew. As there was no ammunition left, the captain armed himself with a Malay parong and started after Barabbas.
Barabbas was willing to mix it. He smashed a tackle-block with his powerful hands, and hurled a splintered half at the head of the captain. Luckily his aim was not as deadly as when he threw the staple. The block hit the captain a slanting blow on the temple, and he and the parong fell to the deck. He was unconscious and was carried to his cabin.
Blount, delighted with the failure of the captain, screamed mutinous words to the frightened sailors. The orang thought that the ex-mate was urging the crew to a joint attack. He hurled the other half of the tackle-block at the orator. It caught Blount on the ear, dropping him as if he had been shot. For a few hours he lost all interest in the mad happenings on board the Dancing Polly.
Barabbas was pleased with his success as a cockshy artist. With his powerful hands he tore at the rigging, messing it up in a frightful manner. Whenever he managed to loosen a block he hurled it with gusto at the head of any sailor whose face was distasteful to him. He barked and chattered, and the jangling of his length of chain rose above the wild whooping of the winds that drove the stripped clipper across the Java Sea. The Dancing Polly was a near approach to bedlam.
A young Mexican sailor put forward a suggestion. He thought he might lasso Barabbas. He was urged to make the attempt.
The Mexican put a noose in a rope and braved the heaving deck to make a cast. The loop fell short. He made another throw, and now Barabbas entered into the spirit of the thing. The orang thought it a game.
Barabbas snatched the noose as it whirled over him, jerked the rope from the hands of the thrower, then with devilish speed coiled it in real cowboy fashion and made a cast at the sailor who started to run for the foc Vie.
The Mexican screamed as the loop slipped over his right arm which he had flung up to guard his head. Barabbas hurriedly hauled in the slack. The sailor was lifted off his feet by the quick pull of the powerful arms, but a big Swede had the presence of mind to hack with his sheath knife at the rope before the Mexican was out of reach.
Whimpering with terror, the lasso throw er fled to the foc Vie and flung himself into his bunk. The orang made a new loop in the rope and ran up and down the mainyard looking for victims. The incident was the necessary straw that the legions of terror put upon the courage of the crew. They barricaded themselves in their quarters; Captain Dane. Mr. Field, and a big Yarmouth man who clung to the wheel were the only three visible. The night came down with Barabbas making casts at any object that caught his eye. The Dancing Polly was a thing that the wind gods kicked through space.
AT SIX BELLS the following morning ■T\. the clipper struck a reef on the coast of Java, midway between Cape Indramajoe and Cheribon. The captain, thinking he was driving for Sunda Strait, had been carried out of his track and taken 500 miles to the eastward.
The shock threw the crew out of their bunks. They charged out on deck, and in the darkness they fought to get to the one boat that had not been battered to splinters by the pounding seas. They were madmen now’, their nerves shot to pieces by the incidents of the preceding days, topped off by the night that they had spent barricaded against the deviltry of the red ape.
A dozen men led by Blount piled into the boat and pushed away from the clipper. As the rest of the crew stood screaming and howling to each other, an enormous body hurled itself from the rigging, sending them sprawling. For an instant they saw a black mass ixiised on the rail, then the thing sprang in the direction of the boat. Out of the darkness came a terrifying yell from the throats of the dozen fleeing from the wreck. Barabbas had landed among them !
It would seem from the notes in the log that a certain sanity came to the rest of the crew with the departure of the orang. The entry of Captain Dane made on the morning following reads:
“April 3: Ship struck reef, evidently north coast of Java. Twelve men seized boat. At daylight, finding we w-ere half a mile off shore, built a raft and landed. Nine men, Mr. Field, Miss Ixickyear and myself. Ship fast going to pieces. Now proceeding along coast in a westerly direction.”
Captain Dane believed that he was close to Sunda Strait, and he hoped that he might signal some clipper driving down in the direction of Java Head. He cheered the crew by informing them of his belief, and with Miss Lockyear at his side he led the ship’s company forward. The sailors, free from the terror of the red api:, laughed and sang. They had brought a quantity of provisions from the wreck, there was fruit growing wild, and plenty of fresh water. They were like schoolboys on a holiday during that first day. The Dancing Polly wasn’t their ship, so the loss didn’t trouble them.
When night came down they built a huge fire of brushwood. They sat around it singing songs, and it was while they were roaring “We’ll kill Paddy Doyle for his boots” that the terror returned.
From a mangrove swamp emerged a running man who headed straight for the bonfire. He stumbled as he approached it, tripped over a sailor on the outside of the circle and fell headlong at the feet of Captain Dane. It was Blount, the exmate. Mouth open, eyes wide, he lay gasping, the firelight showing the red patch on his forehead where Barabbas had swatted him with the paintbrush.
A sailor passed a pannikin of rum, Blount grasped it and gulped it down. Then, with his face turned to the gloom beyond the firelight, he stammered out his story.
Barabbas, when he sprang into the boat, had collided with two sailors and knocked them senseless. The ten others, including Blount, had jumped overboard, and of these, five had reached the shore. The apeterror was upon them and they had fled along the beach without waiting to find out what would happen to those left on the Dancing Polly. When morning came they made a discovery. They were followed. Followed by Barabbas ! They caught glimpses of the brute slipping from one mangrove clump to another, and the faster they fled the faster the orang loped after them.
“They—they thought he was after me!” screamed Blount. “They thought he hated me. They wouldn’t let me run with them. The swines kicked me out!”
He paused and peered out at the darkness. “They they were right.” he gasped. “I tried to sneak back to the ship, but he— but he must have found out that I had turned. He must have. Just before I sighted your (ire I —I heard him. He’s after me. He wants to kill me !”
A silence followed the shouted words of the ex-mate. A choking silence as the men turned from the fire and looked at the surrounding jungle. Then out of the night came the snapping of branches and the short barking noise made by the red ape. Blount was right. Barabbas was on his heels . . .
rT'IIE BLACK notebook here supersedes the log as a source of information. Perhaps Captain Ezra Dane, while desirous of keeping an exact account of the journey along the coast, did not wish to put into the official record his own private thoughts and his conversation with Faith Lockyear. The black notebook is a repository of his reflections and his conversations with the girl.
Blount brought back the unholy terror that the crew had shaken off when they came ashore from the wreck. Brought it back tenfold. On that first night when he had crashed into the group around the tire, no one slept. Blount crouched within the circle, closest to the blaze, and his wild yelps of fear when a branch snapped in the jungle prevented the others from getting any repose.
Angry and red-eyed from want of sleep, the company moved forward when morning came, the terrified Blount walking in the centre of the group. Thrusting their way through the stretches of mangroves that reached back from the low-lying shore, they caught the fear that oozed out from the ex-mate. His starts and alarms put their nerves on edge. They cursed softly and communed among themselves.
The black notebook records the upshot of the muttered talks between the sailors. The entry runs:
“April 6 (third day ashore). The men want to run Blount out of camp. He has upset them with his fear of the ape. Miss Lockyear and I protested. Mr. Field agrees with the men. No one can sleep. The Mexican, Cabrera, tried to knife Blount.
April 7. Difficult to keep Blount in camp. Miss Ixickyear made an appeal to the men. No doubt about the ape following us. Three of the men caught glimpses of him during the day. Not sure of the beast’s hatred of Blount, but find it strange that he left the other sailors to follow Blount back to our camp.”
The notebook contains more pleasant details. Here and there is a little entry that tells how a close friendship had sprung up between Captain Ezra Dane and Faith Lockyear. Possibly the fact that they stood together in combating the men who wished to run Blount out of camp increased the respect that they had for each other. Certain it is that the girl had formed a very high opinion of Ezra Dane, and that opinion gave him courage to combat the angry sailors. It is strange that in the queer atmosphere of terror and alarm that love blossomed. Here is the tell-tale entry:
“April 9. No sign of habitation Mistaken about nearness to Sunda Strait Faith and I have separated from the men. They are marching half a mile ahead of us; we walk with Blount. At night we camp apart. Faith and I take turns in keeping up the fire. Blount hardly sleeps at all. Faith tries to comfort the poor devil. God bless her! She thinks I am brave, and I am afraid to upset her belief. The monk is still with us. I have no weapon except the parong that I brought from the Polly."
Walking with Blount between them! Guarding him at night ! “She thinks I am brave,” writes Captain Ezra, “and I am afraid to upset her belief.” Faith Lockyear wasn’t afraid. The grisly fear that had clutched the sailors could not find a footing in her heart because an admiration that had blossomed into love would not give it a place. Beside her marched a man who, so she believed, possessed the courage to fight fifty apes.
The little entries that follow show how the mutual admiration grew. Blount and Barabbas are pushed from the pages. The captain writes:
“If we get out of this I am going to ask a question. I am afraid that I will mention her name in my sleep and that she will hear me. It is wrong of me to write this, but I am pleased that the Polly was wrecked. What other happening could have given me the privilege to walk with her day after day in this blessed wilderness? . . . Today we
walked hand in hand. Her little hand was so small. So very small ...”
Hand in hand. Along the wild coast of Java. A mile in front of them the sailors singing “Reuben Ranzo” to keep up their courage. Close to them the ex-mate shambling along, indifferent to the lovers, thinking only of the terror that pursued him.
And now we come to the last entry in the black notebook. A dramatic entry. No words lost. A fitting paragraph to round off a strange voyage. Here it is:
“April 12. Faith waked me. Blount was screaming. Something that I couldn’t tell what was dragging him from the fire. I was cold with fear, but Faith thrust the parong into my hand. 1 struck . . .
At daylight Mr. Field came running back to tell us that there was a village ahead. When he saw the ape he shouted to the men. Blount is quite himself again . . . Faith kissed me after I had made the thrust at the thing.”
NOW, after I had copied this entry from the notebook of my great-grandfather, telling how a lady who later became my great-grandmother had inspired him with courage, my thoughts went back to that day when I visited the Zoological Park with my little neighbor, Marjorie Grant. Sixteen years had passed since that eventful afternoon when I had been made aware of the fear that clutched me. That queer pre-natal fear.
It was a spring day, soft and beautiful. A little thrilled with a resolve that came to me. I put on my hat, walked out of the house and mounted the steps to the Grant home that adjoined that of my father. Marjorie answered the bell.
“I wonder,” I stammered. “I wonder if vou would go with me to the Zoological Park?”
Perhaps there was something in my manner that startled her. for she studied me for a minute before she answered.
“Why, yes,” she murmured. “If you wait one moment I will be ready.”
We rode uptown on a street car that sang the song of the Zinganis that can only be heard by lovers, and, thinking of two others who had walked hand in hand along a tropic shore in the long, long ago. I found the little hand of Marjorie and held it tightly. To myself I whispered the words that Captain Ezra Dane had written in the notebook. “Her little hand was so small. So very small ...”
We reached the gates of the park, and I directed our steps toward the primate house. We were silent as we approached it. Perhaps she remembered how I had fled from the place sixteen years before.
When we entered the building I saw a little crowd around the special cage that I had visualized. I had read of the occupant of that cage. He had just arrived from Borneo. He was supposed to be the finest specimen of the Simia satyrus that had ever been shipped from the Malay.
Again I sought the little hand of Marjorie as the whiplash of a long-seated terror struck at me. She knew. Marjorie knew! Her fingers clutched mine. They sent strength into my body, courage into my heart . . .
He was spreadeagled against the bars. Huge, hairy, frightening. He looked out over the heads of those close to the cage. Looked at me. For an instant I had a desire to run, but the fingers of Marjorie held me. Her wonderful fingers. They fought the fear, the terrible, sickening fear that was upon me.
I nerved myself to look at the brute. Clinging to her hand I stared at him, and slowly, ever so slowly, the fear ebbed away. It was as if something dark and dreadful had been lifted from my mind; that the fingers I held had, like the fingers of Faith Lockyear who pushed the parong into the hand of Captain Dane, killed the dreadful cowardice that had crouched for years within my body.
“Marjorie,” I whispered, “let us walk to some quiet spot in the park. I—I wish ...” I paused, then the words that my great-grandfather had written in the black notebook slipped from my tongue: “If we get out of this,” I said, “I am going to ask a question.”