Chapter XXVI. The Last of Josiah Crabtree
 

All listened intently to the story Dick had to tell, and he had not yet finished when Dick Chester presented himself, having been attracted to the vicinity by the roars of the lion and the various pistol and gun shots.

"This Crabtree must certainly be as bad as you represent," he said. "I will have a talk with him when I get back to our camp."

"It won't be necessary for you to talk to him," answered Dick grimly. "If you'll allow me, I'll do the talking."

"All right," grinned the Yale student. "Do, as you please. We are a getting tired of him."

Chester and Cujo descended into the hollow to examine the lion. There was a bullet in his right foreleg which Chester proved had come from his rifle. "He must be the beast Frank Rand and I fired at from across the lake. Probably he had his home in the hollow and limped over to it during the night."

"In that case you are entitled to your fair share of the meat -- if you wish any," said Randolph Rover with a smile. "But I think the pelt goes to Tom, for he fired the shot that was really fatal." And that skin did go to Tom, and lies on his parlor floor at home today.

"Several of the students from Yale had been out on a long tour the afternoon before, in the direction, of the mountain, and they had reported meeting several natives who had seen King Susko. He was reported to have but half a dozen of his tribe with him, including a fellow known as Poison Eye.

"That's a bad enough title for anybody," said Sam with a shudder. "I suppose his job is to poison their enemies if they can't overcome them in regular battle."

"Um tell de thruf," put in Cujo. "Once de Mimi tribe fight King Susko, and whip him. Den Susko send Poison Eye to de Mimi camp. Next day all drink-water get bad, an' men, women, an' children die off like um flies."

"That's cheerful information," said Tom.

"And why didn't they slay the poisoner?"

"Eberybody 'fraid to touch him - 'fraid he be poisoned."

"I'd run my chances -- providing I had a knife or a club," muttered Tom.

"Or a pistol," finished Sam. "Such rascals are not fit to live."

Dick, as can readily be imagined, was hungry, and before the party started back for the lake, the youth was provided with some food which Aleck had very thoughtfully carried with him.

It was learned that the two parties were encamped not far apart, and Dick Chester said he would bring his friends to, see them before the noon hour was passed.

"I don't believe be will bring Josiah Crabtree," said Tom. "I reckon Crabtree will take good care to keep out of sight."

Tom was right. When Chester came over with his friends he said that the former teacher of Putnam Hall was missing, having left word that he was going around the lake to look for a certain species of flower which so far they had been unable to add to their specimens.

"But he will have to come back," said the Vale student. "He has no outfit with which to go it alone."

He was right. Crabtree put in an appearance just before the sun set over the jungle to the westward. He presented a most woebegone appearance, having fallen into a muddy swamp on his face.

"I -- I met with an -- an unfortunate accident," he said to Chester. "I fell into the - ahem -- mud, and it was only with great difficulty that I managed to - er -- to extricate myself."

"Josiah Crabtree, you didn't expect to see me here, did you?" said Dick sternly, as he stepped forward. And then the others of his party also came out from where they had been hiding in the brush.

The former teacher of Putnam Hall started as if confronted by a ghost.

"Why - er -- where did you come from, Rover?" he faltered.

"You know well enough where I came from, Josiah Crabtree," cried Dick wrathfully. "You dropped me into the hollow for dead, didn't you!"

"Why, I - er - that - is --" stammered Crabtree; but could actually go no further.

"Don't waste words on him, Dick," put in Tom. "Give him the thrashing he deserves."

"Thrashing!" gasped Crabtree.

"Yes, thrashing," replied Dick. "If we were in America I would have you locked up. But out here we must take the law into our own hands. I am going to thrash you to the very best of my ability, and after that, if I meet you again I'll --I'll -"

"Dun shoot him on sight," suggested Aleck.

"You shall not touch me!" said the former teacher with a shiver. "Chester - Rand - will you not aid me against this - er -- savage young brute?"

"Don't you call Dick a brute," put in Sam.

"If there is any brute here it is you, and everyone in our party will back up what I say."

"Mr. Crabtree, I have nothing to say in this matter," said Dick Chester. "It would seem that your attack on Rover was a most atrocious one, and out here you will have to take what punishment comes."

"But you will help me, won't you, Rand?" pleaded the former teacher, nervously.

"No, I shall stand by Chester," answered Rand.

"And will you, too, see me humiliated?" asked Crabtree, turning to the other Yale students. "I, the head of your expedition into equatorial Africa!"

"Mr. Crabtree, we may as well come to an understanding," said one of the students, a heavyset young man named Sanders. "We hired you to do certain work for us, and we paid you well for that work. Since we left America you have found fault with nearly everything, and in a good many instances which I need not recall just now you have not done as you agreed. You are not the learned scientist you represented yourself to be -- instead, if we are to believe our newly made friends here, you are a pretender, a big sham, and a brute in the bargain. This being so, we intend to dispense with your services from this day forth. We will pay you what is coming to you, give you your share of our outfit, and then you can go your way and we will go ours. We absolutely want nothing more to do with you."

This long speech on Sanders' part was delivered amid a deathlike silence. As the student went on, Josiah Crabtree bit his lip until the blood came. Once his baneful eyes fairly flashed fire at Sanders and then at Dick Rover, but then they fell to the ground.

"And so you - ahem -- throw me off," he said, drawing a long breath. "Very well. But I demand all that is coming to me."

"You shall have every cent."

"And a complete outfit, so that I can make my way back to the coast."

"All that is coming to you -- no more and no less," said Sanders firmly.

"But he shan't go without that thrashing!" cried Dick, and catching up a long whip he had had Cujo cut for him he leaped upon Josiah Crabtree and brought down the lash with stinging effect across the former teacher's face, leaving a livid mark that Crabtree was doomed to wear to the day of his death. "There you are! And there is another for the way you treated Stanhope, and another for what you did to Dora, and one for Tom, and another for Sam, and another --"

"Oh! oh! let up! The boy will kill me!" shrieked Crabtree, trying to run away. "Don't -- I will be cut to pieces! Don't! don't!" And as the lash came down over his head, neck, and shoulders, he danced madly around in pain. At last he broke for cover and disappeared, not to show himself again until morning, when he called Chester to him, asked for and received, what was coming to him, and departed, vowing vengeance on the Rovers and all of the others.

"He will remember you for that, Dick," said Sam, when the affair was over. "He will be your enemy for life."

"Let him be -- I am not afraid of him," responded the elder brother.