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Chapter 27 The Giant Again

  • A taxicab drew up before an oldfashioned residence upon the outskirts o_altimore.
  • A man of about forty, well built and with strong, regular features, steppe_ut, and paying the chauffeur dismissed him.
  • A moment later the passenger was entering the library of the old home.
  • "Ah, Mr. Canler!" exclaimed an old man, rising to greet him.
  • "Good evening, my dear Professor," cried the man, extending a cordial hand.
  • "Who admitted you?" asked the professor.
  • "Esmeralda."
  • "Then she will acquaint Jane with the fact that you are here," said the ol_an.
  • "No, Professor," replied Canler, "for I came primarily to see you."
  • "Ah, I am honored," said Professor Porter.
  • "Professor," continued Robert Canler, with great deliberation, as thoug_arefully weighing his words, "I have come this evening to speak with yo_bout Jane."
  • "You know my aspirations, and you have been generous enough to approve m_uit."
  • Professor Archimedes Q. Porter fidgeted in his armchair. The subject alway_ade him uncomfortable. He could not understand why. Canler was a splendi_atch.
  • "But Jane," continued Canler, "I cannot understand her. She puts me off firs_n one ground and then another. I have always the feeling that she breathes _igh of relief every time I bid her good-by."
  • "Tut, tut," said Professor Porter. "Tut, tut, Mr. Canler. Jane is a mos_bedient daughter. She will do precisely as I tell her."
  • "Then I can still count on your support?" asked Canler, a tone of relie_arking his voice.
  • "Certainly, sir; certainly, sir," exclaimed Professor Porter. "How could yo_oubt it?"
  • "There is young Clayton, you know," suggested Canler. "He has been hangin_bout for months. I don't know that Jane cares for him; but beside his titl_hey say he has inherited a very considerable estate from his father, and i_ight not be strange,—if he finally won her, unless—" and Canler paused.
  • "Tut—tut, Mr. Canler; unless—what?"
  • "Unless, you see fit to request that Jane and I be married at once," sai_anler, slowly and distinctly.
  • "I have already suggested to Jane that it would be desirable," said Professo_orter sadly, "for we can no longer afford to keep up this house, and live a_er associations demand."
  • "What was her reply?" asked Canler.
  • "She said she was not ready to marry anyone yet," replied Professor Porter,
  • "and that we could go and live upon the farm in northern Wisconsin which he_other left her.
  • "It is a little more than self-supporting. The tenants have always made _iving from it, and been able to send Jane a trifle beside, each year. She i_lanning on our going up there the first of the week. Philander and Mr.
  • Clayton have already gone to get things in readiness for us."
  • "Clayton has gone there?" exclaimed Canler, visibly chagrined. "Why was I no_old? I would gladly have gone and seen that every comfort was provided."
  • "Jane feels that we are already too much in your debt, Mr. Canler," sai_rofessor Porter.
  • Canler was about to reply, when the sound of footsteps came from the hal_ithout, and Jane entered the room.
  • "Oh, I beg your pardon!" she exclaimed, pausing on the threshold. "I though_ou were alone, papa."
  • "It is only I, Jane," said Canler, who had risen, "won't you come in and joi_he family group? We were just speaking of you."
  • "Thank you," said Jane, entering and taking the chair Canler placed for her.
  • "I only wanted to tell papa that Tobey is coming down from the colleg_omorrow to pack his books. I want you to be sure, papa, to indicate all tha_ou can do without until fall. Please don't carry this entire library t_isconsin, as you would have carried it to Africa, if I had not put my foo_own."
  • "Was Tobey here?" asked Professor Porter.
  • "Yes, I just left him. He and Esmeralda are exchanging religious experience_n the back porch now."
  • "Tut, tut, I must see him at once!" cried the professor. "Excuse me just _oment, children," and the old man hastened from the room.
  • As soon as he was out of earshot Canler turned to Jane.
  • "See here, Jane," he said bluntly. "How long is this thing going on like this?
  • You haven't refused to marry me, but you haven't promised either. I want t_et the license tomorrow, so that we can be married quietly before you leav_or Wisconsin. I don't care for any fuss or feathers, and I'm sure you don'_ither."
  • The girl turned cold, but she held her head bravely.
  • "Your father wishes it, you know," added Canler.
  • "Yes, I know."
  • She spoke scarcely above a whisper.
  • "Do you realize that you are buying me, Mr. Canler?" she said finally, and i_ cold, level voice. "Buying me for a few paltry dollars? Of course you do, Robert Canler, and the hope of just such a contingency was in your mind whe_ou loaned papa the money for that hair-brained escapade, which but for a mos_ysterious circumstance would have been surprisingly successful.
  • "But you, Mr. Canler, would have been the most surprised. You had no idea tha_he venture would succeed. You are too good a businessman for that. And yo_re too good a businessman to loan money for buried treasure seeking, or t_oan money without security—unless you had some special object in view.
  • "You knew that without security you had a greater hold on the honor of th_orters than with it. You knew the one best way to force me to marry you, without seeming to force me.
  • "You have never mentioned the loan. In any other man I should have though_hat the prompting of a magnanimous and noble character. But you are deep, Mr.
  • Robert Canler. I know you better than you think I know you.
  • "I shall certainly marry you if there is no other way, but let us understan_ach other once and for all."
  • While she spoke Robert Canler had alternately flushed and paled, and when sh_eased speaking he arose, and with a cynical smile upon his strong face, said:
  • "You surprise me, Jane. I thought you had more self-control —more pride. O_ourse you are right. I am buying you, and I knew that you knew it, but _hought you would prefer to pretend that it was otherwise. I should hav_hought your self respect and your Porter pride would have shrunk fro_dmitting, even to yourself, that you were a bought woman. But have it you_wn way, dear girl," he added lightly. "I am going to have you, and that i_ll that interests me."
  • Without a word the girl turned and left the room.
  • Jane was not married before she left with her father and Esmeralda for he_ittle Wisconsin farm, and as she coldly bid Robert Canler goodby as her trai_ulled out, he called to her that he would join them in a week or two.
  • At their destination they were met by Clayton and Mr. Philander in a hug_ouring car belonging to the former, and quickly whirled away through th_ense northern woods toward the little farm which the girl had not visite_efore since childhood.
  • The farmhouse, which stood on a little elevation some hundred yards from th_enant house, had undergone a complete transformation during the three week_hat Clayton and Mr. Philander had been there.
  • The former had imported a small army of carpenters and plasterers, plumber_nd painters from a distant city, and what had been but a dilapidated shel_hen they reached it was now a cosy little two-story house filled with ever_odern convenience procurable in so short a time.
  • "Why, Mr. Clayton, what have you done?" cried Jane Porter, her heart sinkin_ithin her as she realized the probable size of the expenditure that had bee_ade.
  • "S-sh," cautioned Clayton. "Don't let your father guess. If you don't tell hi_e will never notice, and I simply couldn't think of him living in th_errible squalor and sordidness which Mr. Philander and I found. It was s_ittle when I would like to do so much, Jane. For his sake, please, neve_ention it."
  • "But you know that we can't repay you," cried the girl. "Why do you want t_ut me under such terrible obligations?"
  • "Don't, Jane," said Clayton sadly. "If it had been just you, believe me, _ouldn't have done it, for I knew from the start that it would only hurt me i_our eyes, but I couldn't think of that dear old man living in the hole w_ound here. Won't you please believe that I did it just for him and give m_hat little crumb of pleasure at least?"
  • "I do believe you, Mr. Clayton," said the girl, "because I know you are bi_nough and generous enough to have done it just for him—and, oh Cecil, I wis_ might repay you as you deserve—as you would wish."
  • "Why can't you, Jane?"
  • "Because I love another."
  • "Canler?"
  • "No."
  • "But you are going to marry him. He told me as much before I left Baltimore."
  • The girl winced.
  • "I do not love him," she said, almost proudly.
  • "Is it because of the money, Jane?"
  • She nodded.
  • "Then am I so much less desirable than Canler? I have money enough, and fa_ore, for every need," he said bitterly.
  • "I do not love you, Cecil," she said, "but I respect you. If I must disgrac_yself by such a bargain with any man, I prefer that it be one I alread_espise. I should loathe the man to whom I sold myself without love, whomsoever he might be. You will be happier," she concluded, "alone—with m_espect and friendship, than with me and my contempt."
  • He did not press the matter further, but if ever a man had murder in his hear_t was William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke, when, a week later, Rober_anler drew up before the farmhouse in his purring six cylinder.
  • A week passed; a tense, uneventful, but uncomfortable week for all the inmate_f the little Wisconsin farmhouse.
  • Canler was insistent that Jane marry him at once.
  • At length she gave in from sheer loathing of the continued and hatefu_mportuning.
  • It was agreed that on the morrow Canler was to drive to town and bring bac_he license and a minister.
  • Clayton had wanted to leave as soon as the plan was announced, but the girl'_ired, hopeless look kept him. He could not desert her.
  • Something might happen yet, he tried to console himself by thinking. And i_is heart, he knew that it would require but a tiny spark to turn his hatre_or Canler into the blood lust of the killer.
  • Early the next morning Canler set out for town.
  • In the east smoke could be seen lying low over the forest, for a fire had bee_aging for a week not far from them, but the wind still lay in the west and n_anger threatened them.
  • About noon Jane started off for a walk. She would not let Clayton accompan_er. She wanted to be alone, she said, and he respected her wishes.
  • In the house Professor Porter and Mr. Philander were immersed in an absorbin_iscussion of some weighty scientific problem. Esmeralda dozed in the kitchen, and Clayton, heavy-eyed after a sleepless night, threw himself down upon th_ouch in the living room and soon dropped into a fitful slumber.
  • To the east the black smoke clouds rose higher into the heavens, suddenly the_ddied, and then commenced to drift rapidly toward the west.
  • On and on they came. The inmates of the tenant house were gone, for it wa_arket day, and none was there to see the rapid approach of the fiery demon.
  • Soon the flames had spanned the road to the south and cut off Canler's return.
  • A little fluctuation of the wind now carried the path of the forest fire t_he north, then blew back and the flames nearly stood still as though held i_eash by some master hand.
  • Suddenly, out of the northeast, a great black car came careening down th_oad.
  • With a jolt it stopped before the cottage, and a black-haired giant leaped ou_o run up onto the porch. Without a pause he rushed into the house. On th_ouch lay Clayton. The man started in surprise, but with a bound was at th_ide of the sleeping man.
  • Shaking him roughly by the shoulder, he cried:
  • "My God, Clayton, are you all mad here? Don't you know you are nearl_urrounded by fire? Where is Miss Porter?"
  • Clayton sprang to his feet. He did not recognize the man, but he understoo_he words and was upon the veranda in a bound.
  • "Scott!" he cried, and then, dashing back into the house, "Jane! Jane! wher_re you?"
  • In an instant Esmeralda, Professor Porter and Mr. Philander had joined the tw_en.
  • "Where is Miss Jane?" cried Clayton, seizing Esmeralda by the shoulders an_haking her roughly.
  • "Oh, Gaberelle, Mister Clayton, she done gone for a walk."
  • "Hasn't she come back yet?" and, without waiting for a reply, Clayton dashe_ut into the yard, followed by the others. "Which way did she go?" cried th_lack-haired giant of Esmeralda.
  • "Down that road," cried the frightened woman, pointing toward the south wher_ mighty wall of roaring flames shut out the view.
  • "Put these people in the other car," shouted the stranger to Clayton. "I sa_ne as I drove up—and get them out of here by the north road.
  • "Leave my car here. If I find Miss Porter we shall need it. If I don't, no on_ill need it. Do as I say," as Clayton hesitated, and then they saw the lith_igure bound away cross the clearing toward the northwest where the fores_till stood, untouched by flame.
  • In each rose the unaccountable feeling that a great responsibility had bee_aised from their shoulders; a kind of implicit confidence in the power of th_tranger to save Jane if she could be saved.
  • "Who was that?" asked Professor Porter.
  • "I do not know," replied Clayton. "He called me by name and he knew Jane, fo_e asked for her. And he called Esmeralda by name."
  • "There was something most startlingly familiar about him," exclaimed Mr.
  • Philander, "And yet, bless me, I know I never saw him before."
  • "Tut, tut!" cried Professor Porter. "Most remarkable! Who could it have been, and why do I feel that Jane is safe, now that he has set out in search o_er?"
  • "I can't tell you, Professor," said Clayton soberly, "but I know I have th_ame uncanny feeling."
  • "But come," he cried, "we must get out of here ourselves, or we shall be shu_ff," and the party hastened toward Clayton's car.
  • When Jane turned to retrace her steps homeward, she was alarmed to note ho_ear the smoke of the forest fire seemed, and as she hastened onward her alar_ecame almost a panic when she perceived that the rushing flames were rapidl_orcing their way between herself and the cottage.
  • At length she was compelled to turn into the dense thicket and attempt t_orce her way to the west in an effort to circle around the flames and reac_he house.
  • In a short time the futility of her attempt became apparent and then her on_ope lay in retracing her steps to the road and flying for her life to th_outh toward the town.
  • The twenty minutes that it took her to regain the road was all that had bee_eeded to cut off her retreat as effectually as her advance had been cut of_efore.
  • A short run down the road brought her to a horrified stand, for there befor_er was another wall of flame. An arm of the main conflagration had shot out _alf mile south of its parent to embrace this tiny strip of road in it_mplacable clutches.
  • Jane knew that it was useless again to attempt to force her way through th_ndergrowth.
  • She had tried it once, and failed. Now she realized that it would be but _atter of minutes ere the whole space between the north and the south would b_ seething mass of billowing flames.
  • Calmly the girl kneeled down in the dust of the roadway and prayed fo_trength to meet her fate bravely, and for the delivery of her father and he_riends from death.
  • Suddenly she heard her name being called aloud through the forest:
  • "Jane! Jane Porter!" It rang strong and clear, but in a strange voice.
  • "Here!" she called in reply. "Here! In the roadway!"
  • Then through the branches of the trees she saw a figure swinging with th_peed of a squirrel.
  • A veering of the wind blew a cloud of smoke about them and she could no longe_ee the man who was speeding toward her, but suddenly she felt a great ar_bout her. Then she was lifted up, and she felt the rushing of the wind an_he occasional brush of a branch as she was borne along.
  • She opened her eyes.
  • Far below her lay the undergrowth and the hard earth.
  • About her was the waving foliage of the forest.
  • From tree to tree swung the giant figure which bore her, and it seemed to Jan_hat she was living over in a dream the experience that had been hers in tha_ar African jungle.
  • Oh, if it were but the same man who had borne her so swiftly through th_angled verdure on that other day! but that was impossible! Yet who else i_ll the world was there with the strength and agility to do what this man wa_ow doing?
  • She stole a sudden glance at the face close to hers, and then she gave _ittle frightened gasp. It was he!
  • "My forest man!" she murmured, "No, I must be delerious!"
  • "Yes, your man, Jane Porter. Your savage, primeval man come out of the jungl_o claim his mate—the woman who ran away from him," he added almost fiercely.
  • "I did not run away," she whispered. "I would only consent to leave when the_ad waited a week for you to return."
  • They had come to a point beyond the fire now, and he had turned back to th_learing.
  • Side by side they were walking toward the cottage. The wind had changed onc_ore and the fire was burning back upon itself—another hour like that and i_ould be burned out.
  • "Why did you not return?" she asked.
  • "I was nursing D'Arnot. He was badly wounded."
  • "Ah, I knew it!" she exclaimed.
  • "They said you had gone to join the blacks—that they were your people."
  • He laughed.
  • "But you did not believe them, Jane?"
  • "No;—what shall I call you?" she asked. "What is your name?"
  • "I was Tarzan of the Apes when you first knew me," he said.
  • "Tarzan of the Apes!" she cried—"and that was your note I answered when _eft?"
  • "Yes, whose did you think it was?"
  • "I did not know; only that it could not be yours, for Tarzan of the Apes ha_ritten in English, and you could not understand a word of any language."
  • Again he laughed.
  • "It is a long story, but it was I who wrote what I could not speak—and no_'Arnot has made matters worse by teaching me to speak French instead o_nglish.
  • "Come," he added, "jump into my car, we must overtake your father, they ar_nly a little way ahead."
  • As they drove along, he said:
  • "Then when you said in your note to Tarzan of the Apes that you love_nother—you might have meant me?"
  • "I might have," she answered, simply.
  • "But in Baltimore—Oh, how I have searched for you—they told me you woul_ossibly be married by now. That a man named Canler had come up here to we_ou. Is that true?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Do you love him?"
  • "No."
  • "Do you love me?"
  • She buried her face in her hands.
  • "I am promised to another. I cannot answer you, Tarzan of the Apes," sh_ried.
  • "You have answered. Now, tell me why you would marry one you do not love."
  • "My father owes him money."
  • Suddenly there came back to Tarzan the memory of the letter he had read—an_he name Robert Canler and the hinted trouble which he had been unable t_nderstand then.
  • He smiled.
  • "If your father had not lost the treasure you would not feel forced to kee_our promise to this man Canler?"
  • "I could ask him to release me."
  • "And if he refused?"
  • "I have given my promise."
  • He was silent for a moment. The car was plunging along the uneven road at _eckless pace, for the fire showed threateningly at their right, and anothe_hange of the wind might sweep it on with raging fury across this one avenu_f escape.
  • Finally they passed the danger point, and Tarzan reduced their speed.
  • "Suppose I should ask him?" ventured Tarzan.
  • "He would scarcely accede to the demand of a stranger," said the girl.
  • "Especially one who wanted me himself."
  • "Terkoz did," said Tarzan, grimly.
  • Jane shuddered and looked fearfully up at the giant figure beside her, for sh_new that he meant the great anthropoid he had killed in her defense.
  • "This is not an African jungle," she said. "You are no longer a savage beast.
  • You are a gentleman, and gentlemen do not kill in cold blood."
  • "I am still a wild beast at heart," he said, in a low voice, as though t_imself.
  • Again they were silent for a time.
  • "Jane," said the man, at length, "if you were free, would you marry me?"
  • She did not reply at once, but he waited patiently.
  • The girl was trying to collect her thoughts.
  • What did she know of this strange creature at her side? What did he know o_imself? Who was he? Who, his parents?
  • Why, his very name echoed his mysterious origin and his savage life.
  • He had no name. Could she be happy with this jungle waif? Could she fin_nything in common with a husband whose life had been spent in the tree top_f an African wilderness, frolicking and fighting with fierce anthropoids; tearing his food from the quivering flank of fresh-killed prey, sinking hi_trong teeth into raw flesh, and tearing away his portion while his mate_rowled and fought about him for their share?
  • Could he ever rise to her social sphere? Could she bear to think of sinking t_is? Would either be happy in such a horrible misalliance?
  • "You do not answer," he said. "Do you shrink from wounding me?"
  • "I do not know what answer to make," said Jane sadly. "I do not know my ow_ind."
  • "You do not love me, then?" he asked, in a level tone.
  • "Do not ask me. You will be happier without me. You were never meant for th_ormal restrictions and conventionalities of society—civilization would becom_rksome to you, and in a little while you would long for the freedom of you_ld life—a life to which I am as totally unfitted as you to mine."
  • "I think I understand you," he replied quietly. "I shall not urge you, for _ould rather see you happy than to be happy myself. I see now that you coul_ot be happy with—an ape."
  • There was just the faintest tinge of bitterness in his voice.
  • "Don't," she remonstrated. "Don't say that. You do not understand."
  • But before she could go on a sudden turn in the road brought them into th_idst of a little hamlet.
  • Before them stood Clayton's car surrounded by the party he had brought fro_he cottage.