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The Return of Tarzan

The Return of Tarzan

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Affair on the Liner

  • "Magnifique!" ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath.
  • "Eh?" questioned the count, turning toward his young wife. "What is it that i_agnificent?" and the count bent his eyes in various directions in quest o_he object of her admiration.
  • "Oh, nothing at all, my dear," replied the countess, a slight flus_omentarily coloring her already pink cheek. "I was but recalling wit_dmiration those stupendous skyscrapers, as they call them, of New York," an_he fair countess settled herself more comfortably in her steamer chair, an_esumed the magazine which "nothing at all" had caused her to let fall upo_er lap.
  • Her husband again buried himself in his book, but not without a mil_onderment that three days out from New York his countess should suddenly hav_ealized an admiration for the very buildings she had but recentl_haracterized as horrid.
  • Presently the count put down his book. "It is very tiresome, Olga," he said.
  • "I think that I shall hunt up some others who may be equally bored, and see i_e cannot find enough for a game of cards."
  • "You are not very gallant, my husband," replied the young woman, smiling, "bu_s I am equally bored I can forgive you. Go and play at your tiresome ol_ards, then, if you will."
  • When he had gone she let her eyes wander slyly to the figure of a tall youn_an stretched lazily in a chair not far distant.
  • "MAGNIFIQUE!" she breathed once more.
  • The Countess Olga de Coude was twenty. Her husband forty. She was a ver_aithful and loyal wife, but as she had had nothing whatever to do with th_election of a husband, it is not at all unlikely that she was not wildly an_assionately in love with the one that fate and her titled Russian father ha_elected for her. However, simply because she was surprised into a tin_xclamation of approval at sight of a splendid young stranger it must not b_nferred therefrom that her thoughts were in any way disloyal to her spouse.
  • She merely admired, as she might have admired a particularly fine specimen o_ny species. Furthermore, the young man was unquestionably good to look at.
  • As her furtive glance rested upon his profile he rose to leave the deck. Th_ountess de Coude beckoned to a passing steward. "Who is that gentleman?" sh_sked.
  • "He is booked, madam, as Monsieur Tarzan, of Africa," replied the steward.
  • "Rather a large estate," thought the girl, but now her interest was stil_urther aroused.
  • As Tarzan walked slowly toward the smoking-room he came unexpectedly upon tw_en whispering excitedly just without. He would have vouchsafed them not eve_ passing thought but for the strangely guilty glance that one of them shot i_is direction. They reminded Tarzan of melodramatic villains he had seen a_he theaters in Paris. Both were very dark, and this, in connection with th_hrugs and stealthy glances that accompanied their palpable intriguing, len_till greater force to the similarity.
  • Tarzan entered the smoking-room, and sought a chair a little apart from th_thers who were there. He felt in no mood for conversation, and as he sippe_is absinth he let his mind run rather sorrowfully over the past few weeks o_is life. Time and again he had wondered if he had acted wisely in renouncin_is birthright to a man to whom he owed nothing. It is true that he like_layton, but—ah, but that was not the question. It was not for William Ceci_layton, Lord Greystoke, that he had denied his birth. It was for the woma_hom both he and Clayton had loved, and whom a strange freak of fate had give_o Clayton instead of to him.
  • That she loved him made the thing doubly difficult to bear, yet he knew tha_e could have done nothing less than he did do that night within the littl_ailway station in the far Wisconsin woods. To him her happiness was the firs_onsideration of all, and his brief experience with civilization and civilize_en had taught him that without money and position life to most of them wa_nendurable.
  • Jane Porter had been born to both, and had Tarzan taken them away from he_uture husband it would doubtless have plunged her into a life of misery an_orture. That she would have spurned Clayton once he had been stripped of bot_is title and his estates never for once occurred to Tarzan, for he credite_o others the same honest loyalty that was so inherent a quality in himself.
  • Nor, in this instance, had he erred. Could any one thing have further boun_ane Porter to her promise to Clayton it would have been in the nature of som_uch misfortune as this overtaking him.
  • Tarzan's thoughts drifted from the past to the future. He tried to loo_orward with pleasurable sensations to his return to the jungle of his birt_nd boyhood; the cruel, fierce jungle in which he had spent twenty of hi_wenty-two years. But who or what of all the myriad jungle life would there b_o welcome his return? Not one. Only Tantor, the elephant, could he cal_riend. The others would hunt him or flee from him as had been their way i_he past.
  • Not even the apes of his own tribe would extend the hand of fellowship to him.
  • If civilization had done nothing else for Tarzan of the Apes, it had to som_xtent taught him to crave the society of his own kind, and to feel wit_enuine pleasure the congenial warmth of companionship. And in the same rati_ad it made any other life distasteful to him. It was difficult to imagine _orld without a friend—without a living thing who spoke the new tongues whic_arzan had learned to love so well. And so it was that Tarzan looked wit_ittle relish upon the future he had mapped out for himself.
  • As he sat musing over his cigarette his eyes fell upon a mirror before him, and in it he saw reflected a table at which four men sat at cards. Presentl_ne of them rose to leave, and then another approached, and Tarzan could se_hat he courteously offered to fill the vacant chair, that the game might no_e interrupted. He was the smaller of the two whom Tarzan had seen whisperin_ust outside the smoking-room.
  • It was this fact that aroused a faint spark of interest in Tarzan, and so a_e speculated upon the future he watched in the mirror the reflection of th_layers at the table behind him. Aside from the man who had but just entere_he game Tarzan knew the name of but one of the other players. It was he wh_at opposite the new player, Count Raoul de Coude, whom at over-attentiv_teward had pointed out as one of the celebrities of the passage, describin_im as a man high in the official family of the French minister of war.
  • Suddenly Tarzan's attention was riveted upon the picture in the glass. Th_ther swarthy plotter had entered, and was standing behind the count's chair.
  • Tarzan saw him turn and glance furtively about the room, but his eyes did no_est for a sufficient time upon the mirror to note the reflection of Tarzan'_atchful eyes. Stealthily the man withdrew something from his pocket. Tarza_ould not discern what the object was, for the man's hand covered it.
  • Slowly the hand approached the count, and then, very deftly, the thing tha_as in it was transferred to the count's pocket. The man remained standin_here he could watch the Frenchman's cards. Tarzan was puzzled, but he was al_ttention now, nor did he permit another detail of the incident to escape him.
  • The play went on for some ten minutes after this, until the count won _onsiderable wager from him who had last joined the game, and then Tarzan sa_he fellow back of the count's chair nod his head to his confederate.
  • Instantly the player arose and pointed a finger at the count.
  • "Had I known that monsieur was a professional card sharp I had not been s_eady to be drawn into the game," he said.
  • Instantly the count and the two other players were upon their feet.
  • De Coude's face went white.
  • "What do you mean, sir?" he cried. "Do you know to whom you speak?"
  • "I know that I speak, for the last time, to one who cheats at cards," replie_he fellow.
  • The count leaned across the table, and struck the man full in the mouth wit_is open palm, and then the others closed in between them.
  • "There is some mistake, sir," cried one of the other players. "Why, this i_ount de Coude, of France." "If I am mistaken," said the accuser, "I shal_ladly apologize; but before I do so first let monsieur le count explain th_xtra cards which I saw him drop into his side pocket."
  • And then the man whom Tarzan had seen drop them there turned to sneak from th_oom, but to his annoyance he found the exit barred by a tall, gray-eye_tranger.
  • "Pardon," said the man brusquely, attempting to pass to one side.
  • "Wait," said Tarzan.
  • "But why, monsieur?" exclaimed the other petulantly. "Permit me to pass, monsieur."
  • "Wait," said Tarzan. "I think that there is a matter in here that you ma_oubtless be able to explain."
  • The fellow had lost his temper by this time, and with a low oath seized Tarza_o push him to one side. The ape-man but smiled as he twisted the big fello_bout and, grasping him by the collar of his coat, escorted him back to th_able, struggling, cursing, and striking in futile remonstrance. It wa_ikolas Rokoff's first experience with the muscles that had brought thei_avage owner victorious through encounters with Numa, the lion, and Terkoz, the great bull ape.
  • The man who had accused De Coude, and the two others who had been playing, stood looking expectantly at the count. Several other passengers had draw_oward the scene of the altercation, and all awaited the denouement.
  • "The fellow is crazy," said the count. "Gentlemen, I implore that one of yo_earch me."
  • "The accusation is ridiculous." This from one of the players.
  • "You have but to slip your hand in the count's coat pocket and you will se_hat the accusation is quite serious," insisted the accuser. And then, as th_thers still hesitated to do so: "Come, I shall do it myself if no othe_ill," and he stepped forward toward the count.
  • "No, monsieur," said De Coude. "I will submit to a search only at the hands o_ gentleman."
  • "It is unnecessary to search the count. The cards are in his pocket. I mysel_aw them placed there."
  • All turned in surprise toward this new speaker, to behold a very well-buil_oung man urging a resisting captive toward them by the scruff of his neck.
  • "It is a conspiracy," cried De Coude angrily. "There are no cards in my coat,"
  • and with that he ran his hand into his pocket. As he did so tense silenc_eigned in the little group. The count went dead white, and then very slowl_e withdrew his hand, and in it were three cards.
  • He looked at them in mute and horrified surprise, and slowly the red o_ortification suffused his face. Expressions of pity and contempt tinged th_eatures of those who looked on at the death of a man's honor.
  • "It is a conspiracy, monsieur." It was the gray-eyed stranger who spoke.
  • "Gentlemen," he continued, "monsieur le count did not know that those card_ere in his pocket. They were placed there without his knowledge as he sat a_lay. From where I sat in that chair yonder I saw the reflection of it all i_he mirror before me. This person whom I just intercepted in an effort t_scape placed the cards in the count's pocket."
  • De Coude had glanced from Tarzan to the man in his grasp.
  • "MON DIEU, Nikolas!" he cried. "You?"
  • Then he turned to his accuser, and eyed him intently for a moment.
  • "And you, monsieur, I did not recognize you without your beard. It quit_isguises you, Paulvitch. I see it all now. It is quite clear, gentlemen."
  • "What shall we do with them, monsieur?" asked Tarzan. "Turn them over to th_aptain?"
  • "No, my friend," said the count hastily. "It is a personal matter, and I be_hat you will let it drop. It is sufficient that I have been exonerated fro_he charge. The less we have to do with such fellows, the better. But, monsieur, how can I thank you for the great kindness you have done me? Permi_e to offer you my card, and should the time come when I may serve you, remember that I am yours to command."
  • Tarzan had released Rokoff, who, with his confederate, Paulvitch, had hastene_rom the smoking-room. Just as he was leaving, Rokoff turned to Tarzan.
  • "Monsieur will have ample opportunity to regret his interference in th_ffairs of others."
  • Tarzan smiled, and then, bowing to the count, handed him his own card.
  • The count read:
  • M. JEAN C. TARZAN
  • "Monsieur Tarzan," he said, "may indeed wish that he had never
  • befriended me, for I can assure him that he has won the enmity of
  • two of the most unmitigated scoundrels in all Europe. Avoid them,
  • monsieur, by all means."
  • "I have had more awe-inspiring enemies, my dear count," replied
  • Tarzan with a quiet smile, "yet I am still alive and unworried. I
  • think that neither of these two will ever find the means to harm
  • me."
  • "Let us hope not, monsieur," said De Coude; "but yet it will do no
  • harm to be on the alert, and to know that you have made at least
  • one enemy today who never forgets and never forgives, and in
  • whose malignant brain there are always hatching new atrocities to
  • perpetrate upon those who have thwarted or offended him. To say
  • that Nikolas Rokoff is a devil would be to place a wanton affront
  • upon his satanic majesty."
  • That night as Tarzan entered his cabin he found a folded note upon the floo_hat had evidently been pushed beneath the door. He opened it and read:
  • M. TARZAN:
  • Doubtless you did not realize the gravity of your offense, or
  • you would not have done the thing you did today. I am willing to
  • believe that you acted in ignorance and without any intention to
  • offend a stranger. For this reason I shall gladly permit you to
  • offer an apology, and on receiving your assurances that you will
  • not again interfere in affairs that do not concern you, I shall
  • drop the matter.
  • Otherwise—but I am sure that you will see the wisdom of
  • adopting the course I suggest.
  • Very respectfully,
  • NIKOLAS ROKOFF.
  • Tarzan permitted a grim smile to play about his lips for a moment, then h_romptly dropped the matter from his mind, and went to bed.
  • In a nearby cabin the Countess de Coude was speaking to her husband.
  • "Why so grave, my dear Raoul?" she asked. "You have been as glum as could b_ll evening. What worries you?"
  • "Olga, Nikolas is on board. Did you know it?"
  • "Nikolas!" she exclaimed. "But it is impossible, Raoul. It cannot be. Nikola_s under arrest in Germany."
  • "So I thought myself until I saw him today—him and that other arch scoundrel, Paulvitch. Olga, I cannot endure his persecution much longer. No, not even fo_ou. Sooner or later I shall turn him over to the authorities. In fact, I a_alf minded to explain all to the captain before we land. On a French liner i_ere an easy matter, Olga, permanently to settle this Nemesis of ours."
  • "Oh, no, Raoul!" cried the countess, sinking to her knees before him as he sa_ith bowed head upon a divan. "Do not do that. Remember your promise to me.
  • Tell me, Raoul, that you will not do that. Do not even threaten him, Raoul."
  • De Coude took his wife's hands in his, and gazed upon her pale and trouble_ountenance for some time before he spoke, as though he would wrest from thos_eautiful eyes the real reason which prompted her to shield this man.
  • "Let it be as you wish, Olga," he said at length. "I cannot understand. He ha_orfeited all claim upon your love, loyalty, or respect. He is a menace t_our life and honor, and the life and honor of your husband. I trust you ma_ever regret championing him."
  • "I do not champion him, Raoul," she interrupted vehemently. "I believe that _ate him as much as you do, but—Oh, Raoul, blood is thicker than water."
  • "I should today have liked to sample the consistency of his," growled De Coud_rimly. "The two deliberately attempted to besmirch my honor, Olga," and the_e told her of all that had happened in the smoking-room. "Had it not been fo_his utter stranger, they had succeeded, for who would have accepted m_nsupported word against the damning evidence of those cards hidden on m_erson? I had almost begun to doubt myself when this Monsieur Tarzan dragge_our precious Nikolas before us, and explained the whole cowardl_ransaction."
  • "Monsieur Tarzan?" asked the countess, in evident surprise.
  • "Yes. Do you know him, Olga?"
  • "I have seen him. A steward pointed him out to me."
  • "I did not know that he was a celebrity," said the count.
  • Olga de Coude changed the subject. She discovered suddenly that she might fin_t difficult to explain just why the steward had pointed out the handsom_onsieur Tarzan to her. Perhaps she flushed the least little bit, for was no_he count, her husband, gazing at her with a strangely quizzical expression.
  • "Ah," she thought, "a guilty conscience is a most suspicious thing."