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Chapter 5 The Plot That Failed

  • For a month Tarzan was a regular and very welcome devotee at the shrine of th_eautiful Countess de Coude. Often he met other members of the select littl_oterie that dropped in for tea of an afternoon. More often Olga found device_hat would give her an hour of Tarzan alone.
  • For a time she had been frightened by what Nikolas had insinuated. She had no_hought of this big, young man as anything more than friend, but with th_uggestion implanted by the evil words of her brother she had grown t_peculate much upon the strange force which seemed to attract her toward th_ray-eyed stranger. She did not wish to love him, nor did she wish his love.
  • She was much younger than her husband, and without having realized it she ha_een craving the haven of a friendship with one nearer her own age. Twenty i_hy in exchanging confidences with forty. Tarzan was but two years her senior.
  • He could understand her, she felt. Then he was clean and honorable an_hivalrous. She was not afraid of him. That she could trust him she had fel_nstinctively from the first.
  • From a distance Rokoff had watched this growing intimacy with malicious glee.
  • Ever since he had learned that Tarzan knew that he was a Russian spy there ha_een added to his hatred for the ape-man a great fear that he would expos_im. He was but waiting now until the moment was propitious for a maste_troke. He wanted to rid himself forever of Tarzan, and at the same time rea_n ample revenge for the humiliations and defeats that he had suffered at hi_ands.
  • Tarzan was nearer to contentment than he had been since the peace an_ranquility of his jungle had been broken in upon by the advent of th_arooned Porter party. He enjoyed the pleasant social intercourse with Olga'_riends, while the friendship which had sprung up between the fair countes_nd himself was a source of never-ending delight. It broke in upon an_ispersed his gloomy thoughts, and served as a balm to his lacerated heart.
  • Sometimes D'Arnot accompanied him on his visits to the De Coude home, for h_ad long known both Olga and the count. Occasionally De Coude dropped in, bu_he multitudinous affairs of his official position and the never-endin_emands of politics kept him from home usually until late at night.
  • Rokoff spied upon Tarzan almost constantly, waiting for the time that h_hould call at the De Coude palace at night, but in this he was doomed t_isappointment. On several occasions Tarzan accompanied the countess to he_ome after the opera, but he invariably left her at the entrance—much to th_isgust of the lady's devoted brother.
  • Finding that it seemed impossible to trap Tarzan through any voluntary act o_is own, Rokoff and Paulvitch put their heads together to hatch a plan tha_ould trap the ape-man in all the circumstantial evidence of a compromisin_osition.
  • For days they watched the papers as well as the movements of De Coude an_arzan. At length they were rewarded. A morning paper made brief mention of _moker that was to be given on the following evening by the German minister.
  • De Coude's name was among those of the invited guests. If he attended thi_eant that he would be absent from his home until after midnight.
  • On the night of the banquet Paulvitch waited at the curb before the residenc_f the German minister, where he could scan the face of each guest tha_rrived. He had not long to wait before De Coude descended from his car an_assed him. That was enough. Paulvitch hastened back to his quarters, wher_okoff awaited him. There they waited until after eleven, then Paulvitch too_own the receiver of their telephone. He called a number.
  • "The apartments of Lieutenant D'Arnot?" he asked, when he had obtained hi_onnection.
  • "A message for Monsieur Tarzan, if he will be so kind as to step to th_elephone."
  • For a minute there was silence.
  • "Monsieur Tarzan?"
  • "Ah, yes, monsieur, this is Francois—in the service of the Countess de Coude.
  • Possibly monsieur does poor Francois the honor to recall him—yes?
  • "Yes, monsieur. I have a message, an urgent message from the countess. Sh_sks that you hasten to her at once—she is in trouble, monsieur.
  • "No, monsieur, poor Francois does not know. Shall I tell madame that monsieu_ill be here shortly?
  • "Thank you, monsieur. The good God will bless you."
  • Paulvitch hung up the receiver and turned to grin at Rokoff.
  • "It will take him thirty minutes to get there. If you reach the Germa_inister's in fifteen, De Coude should arrive at his home in about forty-fiv_inutes. It all depends upon whether the fool will remain fifteen minute_fter he finds that a trick has been played upon him; but unless I am mistake_lga will be loath to let him go in so short a time as that. Here is the not_or De Coude. Hasten!"
  • Paulvitch lost no time in reaching the German minister's. At the door h_anded the note to a footman. "This is for the Count de Coude. It is ver_rgent. You must see that it is placed in his hands at once," and he dropped _iece of silver into the willing hand of the servant. Then he returned to hi_uarters.
  • A moment later De Coude was apologizing to his host as he tore open th_nvelope. What he read left his face white and his hand trembling.
  • MONSIEUR LE COUNT DE COUDE:
  • One who wishes to save the honor of your name takes this means to
  • warn you that the sanctity of your home is this minute in jeopardy.
  • A certain man who for months has been a constant visitor there
  • during your absence is now with your wife. If you go at once to
  • your countess' boudoir you will find them together.
  • A FRIEND.
  • Twenty minutes after Paulvitch had called Tarzan, Rokoff obtained a connectio_ith Olga's private line. Her maid answered the telephone which was in th_ountess' boudoir.
  • "But madame has retired," said the maid, in answer to Rokoff's request t_peak with her.
  • "This is a very urgent message for the countess' ears alone," replied Rokoff.
  • "Tell her that she must arise and slip something about her and come to th_elephone. I shall call up again in five minutes." Then he hung up hi_eceiver. A moment later Paulvitch entered.
  • "The count has the message?" asked Rokoff.
  • "He should be on his way to his home by now," replied Paulvitch.
  • "Good! My lady will be sitting in her boudoir, very much in negligee, abou_ow. In a minute the faithful Jacques will escort Monsieur Tarzan into he_resence without announcing him. It will take a few minutes for explanations.
  • Olga will look very alluring in the filmy creation that is her night-dress, and the clinging robe which but half conceals the charms that the former doe_ot conceal at all. Olga will be surprised, but not displeased.
  • "If there is a drop of red blood in the man the count will break in upon _ery pretty love scene in about fifteen minutes from now. I think we hav_lanned marvelously, my dear Alexis. Let us go out and drink to the very goo_ealth of Monsieur Tarzan in some of old Plancon's unparalleled absinth; no_orgetting that the Count de Coude is one of the best swordsmen in Paris, an_y far the best shot in all France."
  • When Tarzan reached Olga's, Jacques was awaiting him at the entrance.
  • "This way, Monsieur," he said, and led the way up the broad, marble staircase.
  • In another moment he had opened a door, and, drawing aside a heavy curtain, obsequiously bowed Tarzan into a dimly lighted apartment. Then Jacque_anished.
  • Across the room from him Tarzan saw Olga seated before a little desk on whic_tood her telephone. She was tapping impatiently upon the polished surface o_he desk. She had not heard him enter.
  • "Olga," he said, "what is wrong?"
  • She turned toward him with a little cry of alarm.
  • "Jean!" she cried. "What are you doing here? Who admitted you? What does i_ean?"
  • Tarzan was thunderstruck, but in an instant he realized a part of the truth.
  • "Then you did not send for me, Olga?"
  • "Send for you at this time of night? MON DIEU! Jean, do you think that I a_uite mad?"
  • "Francois telephoned me to come at once; that you were in trouble and wante_e."
  • "Francois? Who in the world is Francois?"
  • "He said that he was in your service. He spoke as though I should recall th_act."
  • "There is no one by that name in my employ. Some one has played a joke upo_ou, Jean," and Olga laughed.
  • "I fear that it may be a most sinister `joke,' Olga," he replied. "There i_ore back of it than humor."
  • "What do you mean? You do not think that—"
  • "Where is the count?" he interrupted.
  • "At the German ambassador's."
  • "This is another move by your estimable brother. Tomorrow the count will hea_f it. He will question the servants. Everything will point to—to what Rokof_ishes the count to think."
  • "The scoundrel!" cried Olga. She had arisen, and come close to Tarzan, wher_he stood looking up into his face. She was very frightened. In her eyes wa_n expression that the hunter sees in those of a poor, terrifie_oe—puzzled—questioning. She trembled, and to steady herself raised her hand_o his broad shoulders. "What shall we do, Jean?" she whispered. "It i_errible. Tomorrow all Paris will read of it—he will see to that."
  • Her look, her attitude, her words were eloquent of the age-old appeal o_efenseless woman to her natural protector—man. Tarzan took one of the war_ittle hands that lay on his breast in his own strong one. The act was quit_nvoluntary, and almost equally so was the instinct of protection that threw _heltering arm around the girl's shoulders.
  • The result was electrical. Never before had he been so close to her. I_tartled guilt they looked suddenly into each other's eyes, and where Olga d_oude should have been strong she was weak, for she crept closer into th_an's arms, and clasped her own about his neck. And Tarzan of the Apes? H_ook the panting figure into his mighty arms, and covered the hot lips wit_isses.
  • Raoul de Coude made hurried excuses to his host after he had read the not_anded him by the ambassador's butler. Never afterward could he recall th_ature of the excuses he made. Everything was quite a blur to him up to th_ime that he stood on the threshold of his own home. Then he became very cool, moving quietly and with caution. For some inexplicable reason Jacques had th_oor open before he was halfway to the steps. It did not strike him at th_ime as being unusual, though afterward he remarked it.
  • Very softly he tiptoed up the stairs and along the gallery to the door of hi_ife's boudoir. In his hand was a heavy walking stick—in his heart, murder.
  • Olga was the first to see him. With a horrified shriek she tore herself fro_arzan's arms, and the ape-man turned just in time to ward with his arm _errific blow that De Coude had aimed at his head. Once, twice, three time_he heavy stick fell with lightning rapidity, and each blow aided in th_ransition of the ape-man back to the primordial.
  • With the low, guttural snarl of the bull ape he sprang for the Frenchman. Th_reat stick was torn from his grasp and broken in two as though it had bee_atchwood, to be flung aside as the now infuriated beast charged for hi_dversary's throat. Olga de Coude stood a horrified spectator of the terribl_cene which ensued during the next brief moment, then she sprang to wher_arzan was murdering her husband—choking the life from him—shaking him as _errier might shake a rat.
  • Frantically she tore at his great hands. "Mother of God!" she cried. "You ar_illing him, you are killing him! Oh, Jean, you are killing my husband!"
  • Tarzan was deaf with rage. Suddenly he hurled the body to the floor, and, placing his foot upon the upturned breast, raised his head. Then through th_alace of the Count de Coude rang the awesome challenge of the bull ape tha_as made a kill. From cellar to attic the horrid sound searched out th_ervants, and left them blanched and trembling. The woman in the room sank t_er knees beside the body of her husband, and prayed.
  • Slowly the red mist faded from before Tarzan's eyes. Things began to tak_orm—he was regaining the perspective of civilized man. His eyes fell upon th_igure of the kneeling woman. "Olga," he whispered. She looked up, expectin_o see the maniacal light of murder in the eyes above her. Instead she sa_orrow and contrition.
  • "Oh, Jean!" she cried. "See what you have done. He was my husband. I love_im, and you have killed him."
  • Very gently Tarzan raised the limp form of the Count de Coude and bore it to _ouch. Then he put his ear to the man's breast.
  • "Some brandy, Olga," he said.
  • She brought it, and together they forced it between his lips. Presently _aint gasp came from the white lips. The head turned, and De Coude groaned.
  • "He will not die," said Tarzan. "Thank God!"
  • "Why did you do it, Jean?" she asked.
  • "I do not know. He struck me, and I went mad. I have seen the apes of my trib_o the same thing. I have never told you my story, Olga. It would have bee_etter had you known it—this might not have happened. I never saw my father.
  • The only mother I knew was a ferocious she-ape. Until I was fifteen I ha_ever seen a human being. I was twenty before I saw a white man. A little mor_han a year ago I was a naked beast of prey in an African jungle.
  • "Do not judge me too harshly. Two years is too short a time in which t_ttempt to work the change in an individual that it has taken countless age_o accomplish in the white race."
  • "I do not judge at all, Jean. The fault is mine. You must go now—he must no_ind you here when he regains consciousness. Good-by."
  • It was a sorrowful Tarzan who walked with bowed head from the palace of th_ount de Coude.
  • Once outside his thoughts took definite shape, to the end that twenty minute_ater he entered a police station not far from the Rue Maule. Here he soo_ound one of the officers with whom he had had the encounter several week_revious. The policeman was genuinely glad to see again the man who had s_oughly handled him. After a moment of conversation Tarzan asked if he ha_ver heard of Nikolas Rokoff or Alexis Paulvitch.
  • "Very often, indeed, monsieur. Each has a police record, and while there i_othing charged against them now, we make it a point to know pretty well wher_hey may be found should the occasion demand. It is only the same precautio_hat we take with every known criminal. Why does monsieur ask?"
  • "They are known to me," replied Tarzan. "I wish to see Monsieur Rokoff on _ittle matter of business. If you can direct me to his lodgings I shal_ppreciate it."
  • A few minutes later he bade the policeman adieu, and, with a slip of paper i_is pocket bearing a certain address in a semirespectable quarter, he walke_riskly toward the nearest taxi stand.
  • Rokoff and Paulvitch had returned to their rooms, and were sitting talkin_ver the probable outcome of the evening's events. They had telephoned to th_ffices of two of the morning papers from which they momentarily expecte_epresentatives to hear the first report of the scandal that was to sti_ocial Paris on the morrow.
  • A heavy step sounded on the stairway. "Ah, but these newspaper men ar_rompt," exclaimed Rokoff, and as a knock fell upon the door of their room:
  • "Enter, monsieur."
  • The smile of welcome froze upon the Russian's face as he looked into the hard, gray eyes of his visitor.
  • "Name of a name!" he shouted, springing to his feet, "What brings you here!"
  • "Sit down!" said Tarzan, so low that the men could barely catch the words, bu_n a tone that brought Rokoff to his chair, and kept Paulvitch in his.
  • "You know what has brought me here," he continued, in the same low tone. "I_hould be to kill you, but because you are Olga de Coude's brother I shall no_o that—now.
  • "I shall give you a chance for your lives. Paulvitch does not count much—he i_erely a stupid, foolish little tool, and so I shall not kill him so long as _ermit you to live. Before I leave you two alive in this room you will hav_one two things. The first will be to write a full confession of you_onnection with tonight's plot—and sign it.
  • "The second will be to promise me upon pain of death that you will permit n_ord of this affair to get into the newspapers. If you do not do both, neithe_f you will be alive when I pass next through that doorway. Do yo_nderstand?" And, without waiting for a reply: "Make haste; there is in_efore you, and paper and a pen."
  • Rokoff assumed a truculent air, attempting by bravado to show how little h_eared Tarzan's threats. An instant later he felt the ape-man's steel finger_t his throat, and Paulvitch, who attempted to dodge them and reach the door, was lifted completely off the floor, and hurled senseless into a corner. Whe_okoff commenced to blacken about the face Tarzan released his hold and shove_he fellow back into his chair. After a moment of coughing Rokoff sat sullenl_laring at the man standing opposite him. Presently Paulvitch came to himself, and limped painfully back to his chair at Tarzan's command.
  • "Now write," said the ape-man. "If it is necessary to handle you again I shal_ot be so lenient."
  • Rokoff picked up a pen and commenced to write.
  • "See that you omit no detail, and that you mention every name," cautione_arzan.
  • Presently there was a knock at the door. "Enter," said Tarzan.
  • A dapper young man came in. "I am from the MATIN," he announced. "I understan_hat Monsieur Rokoff has a story for me."
  • "Then you are mistaken, monsieur," replied Tarzan. "You have no story fo_ublication, have you, my dear Nikolas."
  • Rokoff looked up from his writing with an ugly scowl upon his face.
  • "No," he growled, "I have no story for publication—now."
  • "Nor ever, my dear Nikolas," and the reporter did not see the nasty light i_he ape-man's eye; but Nikolas Rokoff did.
  • "Nor ever," he repeated hastily.
  • "It is too bad that monsieur has been troubled," said Tarzan, turning to th_ewspaper man. "I bid monsieur good evening," and he bowed the dapper youn_an out of the room, and closed the door in his face.
  • An hour later Tarzan, with a rather bulky manuscript in his coat pocket, turned at the door leading from Rokoff's room.
  • "Were I you I should leave France," he said, "for sooner or later I shall fin_n excuse to kill you that will not in any way compromise your sister."