As the trainer, with raised lash, hesitated an instant at the entrance to th_ox where the boy and the ape confronted him, a tall broad-shouldered ma_ushed past him and entered. As his eyes fell upon the newcomer a slight flus_ounted the boy's cheeks. "Father!" he exclaimed.
The ape gave one look at the English lord, and then leaped toward him, callin_ut in excited jabbering. The man, his eyes going wide in astonishment, stopped as though turned to stone.
"Akut!" he cried.
The boy looked, bewildered, from the ape to his father, and from his father t_he ape. The trainer's jaw dropped as he listened to what followed, for fro_he lips of the Englishman flowed the gutturals of an ape that were answere_n kind by the huge anthropoid that now clung to him.
And from the wings a hideously bent and disfigured old man watched the tablea_n the box, his pock-marked features working spasmodically in varyin_xpressions that might have marked every sensation in the gamut from pleasur_o terror.
"Long have I looked for you, Tarzan," said Akut. "Now that I have found you _hall come to your jungle and live there always."
The man stroked the beast's head. Through his mind there was running rapidly _rain of recollection that carried him far into the depths of the primeva_frican forest where this huge, man-like beast had fought shoulder to shoulde_ith him years before. He saw the black Mugambi wielding his deadly knob- stick, and beside them, with bared fangs and bristling whiskers, Sheeta th_errible; and pressing close behind the savage and the savage panther, th_ideous apes of Akut. The man sighed. Strong within him surged the jungle lus_hat he had thought dead. Ah! if he could go back even for a brief month o_t, to feel again the brush of leafy branches against his naked hide; to smel_he musty rot of dead vegetation—frankincense and myrrh to the jungle born; t_ense the noiseless coming of the great carnivora upon his trail; to hunt an_o be hunted; to kill! The picture was alluring. And then came anothe_icture—a sweet-faced woman, still young and beautiful; friends; a home; _on. He shrugged his giant shoulders.
"It cannot be, Akut," he said; "but if you would return, I shall see that i_s done. You could not be happy here—I may not be happy there."
The trainer stepped forward. The ape bared his fangs, growling.
"Go with him, Akut," said Tarzan of the Apes. "I will come and see yo_omorrow."
The beast moved sullenly to the trainer's side. The latter, at John Clayton'_equest, told where they might be found. Tarzan turned toward his son.
"Come!" he said, and the two left the theater. Neither spoke for severa_inutes after they had entered the limousine. It was the boy who broke th_ilence.
"The ape knew you," he said, "and you spoke together in the ape's tongue. Ho_id the ape know you, and how did you learn his language?"
And then, briefly and for the first time, Tarzan of the Apes told his son o_is early life—of the birth in the jungle, of the death of his parents, and o_ow Kala, the great she ape had suckled and raised him from infancy almost t_anhood. He told him, too, of the dangers and the horrors of the jungle; o_he great beasts that stalked one by day and by night; of the periods o_rought, and of the cataclysmic rains; of hunger; of cold; of intense heat; o_akedness and fear and suffering. He told him of all those things that see_ost horrible to the creature of civilization in the hope that the knowledg_f them might expunge from the lad's mind any inherent desire for the jungle.
Yet they were the very things that made the memory of the jungle what it wa_o Tarzan—that made up the composite jungle life he loved. And in the tellin_e forgot one thing—the principal thing—that the boy at his side, listenin_ith eager ears, was the son of Tarzan of the Apes.
After the boy had been tucked away in bed—and without the threatene_unishment—John Clayton told his wife of the events of the evening, and tha_e had at last acquainted the boy with the facts of his jungle life. Th_other, who had long foreseen that her son must some time know of thos_rightful years during which his father had roamed the jungle, a naked, savag_east of prey, only shook her head, hoping against hope that the lure she kne_as still strong in the father's breast had not been transmitted to his son.
Tarzan visited Akut the following day, but though Jack begged to be allowed t_ccompany him he was refused. This time Tarzan saw the pock-marked old owne_f the ape, whom he did not recognize as the wily Paulvitch of former days.
Tarzan, influenced by Akut's pleadings, broached the question of the ape'_urchase; but Paulvitch would not name any price, saying that he woul_onsider the matter.
When Tarzan returned home Jack was all excitement to hear the details of hi_isit, and finally suggested that his father buy the ape and bring it home.
Lady Greystoke was horrified at the suggestion. The boy was insistent. Tarza_xplained that he had wished to purchase Akut and return him to his jungl_ome, and to this the mother assented. Jack asked to be allowed to visit th_pe, but again he was met with flat refusal. He had the address, however, which the trainer had given his father, and two days later he found th_pportunity to elude his new tutor—who had replaced the terrified Mr.
Moore—and after a considerable search through a section of London which he ha_ever before visited, he found the smelly little quarters of the pock-marke_ld man. The old fellow himself replied to his knocking, and when he state_hat he had come to see Ajax, opened the door and admitted him to the littl_oom which he and the great ape occupied. In former years Paulvitch had been _astidious scoundrel; but ten years of hideous life among the cannibals o_frica had eradicated the last vestige of niceness from his habits. Hi_pparel was wrinkled and soiled. His hands were unwashed, his few stragglin_ocks uncombed. His room was a jumble of filthy disorder. As the boy entere_e saw the great ape squatting upon the bed, the coverlets of which were _angled wad of filthy blankets and ill-smelling quilts. At sight of the yout_he ape leaped to the floor and shuffled forward. The man, not recognizing hi_isitor and fearing that the ape meant mischief, stepped between them, ordering the ape back to the bed.
"He will not hurt me," cried the boy. "We are friends, and before, he was m_ather's friend. They knew one another in the jungle. My father is Lor_reystoke. He does not know that I have come here. My mother forbid my coming; but I wished to see Ajax, and I will pay you if you will let me come her_ften and see him."
At the mention of the boy's identity Paulvitch's eyes narrowed. Since he ha_irst seen Tarzan again from the wings of the theater there had been formin_n his deadened brain the beginnings of a desire for revenge. It is _haracteristic of the weak and criminal to attribute to others the misfortune_hat are the result of their own wickedness, and so now it was that Alexi_aulvitch was slowly recalling the events of his past life and as he did s_aying at the door of the man whom he and Rokoff had so assiduously attempte_o ruin and murder all the misfortunes that had befallen him in the failure o_heir various schemes against their intended victim.
He saw at first no way in which he could, with safety to himself, wrea_engeance upon Tarzan through the medium of Tarzan's son; but that grea_ossibilities for revenge lay in the boy was apparent to him, and so h_etermined to cultivate the lad in the hope that fate would play into hi_ands in some way in the future. He told the boy all that he knew of hi_ather's past life in the jungle and when he found that the boy had been kep_n ignorance of all these things for so many years, and that he had bee_orbidden visiting the zoological gardens; that he had had to bind and gag hi_utor to find an opportunity to come to the music hall and see Ajax, h_uessed immediately the nature of the great fear that lay in the hearts of th_oy's parents— that he might crave the jungle as his father had craved it.
And so Paulvitch encouraged the boy to come and see him often, and always h_layed upon the lad's craving for tales of the savage world with whic_aulvitch was all too familiar. He left him alone with Akut much, and it wa_ot long until he was surprised to learn that the boy could make the grea_east understand him—that he had actually learned many of the words of th_rimitive language of the anthropoids.
During this period Tarzan came several times to visit Paulvitch. He seeme_nxious to purchase Ajax, and at last he told the man frankly that he wa_rompted not only by a desire upon his part to return the beast to the libert_f his native jungle; but also because his wife feared that in some way he_on might learn the whereabouts of the ape and through his attachment for th_east become imbued with the roving instinct which, as Tarzan explained t_aulvitch, had so influenced his own life.
The Russian could scarce repress a smile as he listened to Lord Greystoke'_ords, since scarce a half hour had passed since the time the future Lor_reystoke had been sitting upon the disordered bed jabbering away to Ajax wit_ll the fluency of a born ape.
It was during this interview that a plan occurred to Paulvitch, and as _esult of it he agreed to accept a certain fabulous sum for the ape, and upo_eceipt of the money to deliver the beast to a vessel that was sailing sout_rom Dover for Africa two days later. He had a double purpose in acceptin_layton's offer. Primarily, the money consideration influenced him strongly, as the ape was no longer a source of revenue to him, having consistentl_efused to perform upon the stage after having discovered Tarzan. It was a_hough the beast had suffered himself to be brought from his jungle home an_xhibited before thousands of curious spectators for the sole purpose o_earching out his long lost friend and master, and, having found him, considered further mingling with the common herd of humans unnecessary.
However that may be, the fact remained that no amount of persuasion coul_nfluence him even to show himself upon the music hall stage, and upon th_ingle occasion that the trainer attempted force the results were such tha_he unfortunate man considered himself lucky to have escaped with his life.
All that saved him was the accidental presence of Jack Clayton, who had bee_ermitted to visit the animal in the dressing room reserved for him at th_usic hall, and had immediately interfered when he saw that the savage beas_eant serious mischief.
And after the money consideration, strong in the heart of the Russian was th_esire for revenge, which had been growing with constant brooding over th_ailures and miseries of his life, which he attributed to Tarzan; the latest, and by no means the least, of which was Ajax's refusal to longer earn mone_or him. The ape's refusal he traced directly to Tarzan, finally convincin_imself that the ape man had instructed the great anthropoid to refuse to g_pon the stage.
Paulvitch's naturally malign disposition was aggravated by the weakening an_arping of his mental and physical faculties through torture and privation.
From cold, calculating, highly intelligent perversity it had deteriorated int_he indiscriminating, dangerous menace of the mentally defective. His plan, however, was sufficiently cunning to at least cast a doubt upon the assertio_hat his mentality was wandering. It assured him first of the competence whic_ord Greystoke had promised to pay him for the deportation of the ape, an_hen of revenge upon his benefactor through the son he idolized. That part o_is scheme was crude and brutal—it lacked the refinement of torture that ha_arked the master strokes of the Paulvitch of old, when he had worked wit_hat virtuoso of villainy, Nikolas Rokoff—but it at least assured Paulvitch o_mmunity from responsibility, placing that upon the ape, who would thus als_e punished for his refusal longer to support the Russian.
Everything played with fiendish unanimity into Paulvitch's hands. As chanc_ould have it, Tarzan's son overheard his father relating to the boy's mothe_he steps he was taking to return Akut safely to his jungle home, and havin_verheard he begged them to bring the ape home that he might have him for _lay-fellow. Tarzan would not have been averse to this plan; but Lad_reystoke was horrified at the very thought of it. Jack pleaded with hi_other; but all unavailingly. She was obdurate, and at last the lad appeare_o acquiesce in his mother's decision that the ape must be returned to Afric_nd the boy to school, from which he had been absent on vacation.
He did not attempt to visit Paulvitch's room again that day, but instea_usied himself in other ways. He had always been well supplied with money, s_hat when necessity demanded he had no difficulty in collecting severa_undred pounds. Some of this money he invested in various strange purchase_hich he managed to smuggle into the house, undetected, when he returned lat_n the afternoon.
The next morning, after giving his father time to precede him and conclude hi_usiness with Paulvitch, the lad hastened to the Russian's room. Knowin_othing of the man's true character the boy dared not take him fully into hi_onfidence for fear that the old fellow would not only refuse to aid him, bu_ould report the whole affair to his father. Instead, he simply aske_ermission to take Ajax to Dover. He explained that it would relieve the ol_an of a tiresome journey, as well as placing a number of pounds in hi_ocket, for the lad purposed paying the Russian well.
"You see," he went on, "there will be no danger of detection since I a_upposed to be leaving on an afternoon train for school. Instead I will com_ere after they have left me on board the train. Then I can take Ajax t_over, you see, and arrive at school only a day late. No one will be th_iser, no harm will be done, and I shall have had an extra day with Aja_efore I lose him forever."
The plan fitted perfectly with that which Paulvitch had in mind. Had he know_hat further the boy contemplated he would doubtless have entirely abandone_is own scheme of revenge and aided the boy whole heartedly in th_onsummation of the lad's, which would have been better for Paulvitch, coul_e have but read the future but a few short hours ahead.
That afternoon Lord and Lady Greystoke bid their son good-bye and saw hi_afely settled in a first-class compartment of the railway carriage that woul_et him down at school in a few hours. No sooner had they left him, however, than he gathered his bags together, descended from the compartment and sough_ cab stand outside the station. Here he engaged a cabby to take him to th_ussian's address. It was dusk when he arrived. He found Paulvitch awaitin_im. The man was pacing the floor nervously. The ape was tied with a stou_ord to the bed. It was the first time that Jack had ever seen Ajax thu_ecured. He looked questioningly at Paulvitch. The man, mumbling, explaine_hat he believed the animal had guessed that he was to be sent away and h_eared he would attempt to escape.
Paulvitch carried another piece of cord in his hand. There was a noose in on_nd of it which he was continually playing with. He walked back and forth, u_nd down the room. His pock-marked features were working horribly as he talke_ilent to himself. The boy had never seen him thus—it made him uneasy. At las_aulvitch stopped on the opposite side of the room, far from the ape.
"Come here," he said to the lad. "I will show you how to secure the ape shoul_e show signs of rebellion during the trip."
The lad laughed. "It will not be necessary," he replied. "Ajax will d_hatever I tell him to do."
The old man stamped his foot angrily. "Come here, as I tell you," he repeated.
"If you do not do as I say you shall not accompany the ape to Dover—I wil_ake no chances upon his escaping."
Still smiling, the lad crossed the room and stood before the Russ.
"Turn around, with your back toward me," directed the latter, "that I may sho_ou how to bind him quickly."
The boy did as he was bid, placing his hands behind him when Paulvitch tol_im to do so. Instantly the old man slipped the running noose over one of th_ad's wrists, took a couple of half hitches about his other wrist, and knotte_he cord.
The moment that the boy was secured the attitude of the man changed. With a_ngry oath he wheeled his prisoner about, tripped him and hurled him violentl_o the floor, leaping upon his breast as he fell. From the bed the ape growle_nd struggled with his bonds. The boy did not cry out—a trait inherited fro_is savage sire whom long years in the jungle following the death of hi_oster mother, Kala the great ape, had taught that there was none to come t_he succor of the fallen.
Paulvitch's fingers sought the lad's throat. He grinned down horribly into th_ace of his victim.
"Your father ruined me," he mumbled. "This will pay him. He will think tha_he ape did it. I will tell him that the ape did it. That I left him alone fo_ few minutes, and that you sneaked in and the ape killed you. I will thro_our body upon the bed after I have choked the life from you, and when I brin_our father he will see the ape squatting over it," and the twisted fien_ackled in gloating laughter. His fingers closed upon the boy's throat.
Behind them the growling of the maddened beast reverberated against the wall_f the little room. The boy paled, but no other sign of fear or panic showe_pon his countenance. He was the son of Tarzan. The fingers tightened thei_rip upon his throat. It was with difficulty that he breathed, gaspingly. Th_pe lunged against the stout cord that held him. Turning, he wrapped the cor_bout his hands, as a man might have done, and surged heavily backward. Th_reat muscles stood out beneath his shaggy hide. There was a rending as o_plintered wood—the cord held, but a portion of the footboard of the bed cam_way.
At the sound Paulvitch looked up. His hideous face went white with terror—th_pe was free.
With a single bound the creature was upon him. The man shrieked. The brut_renched him from the body of the boy. Great fingers sunk into the man'_lesh. Yellow fangs gaped close to his throat—he struggled, futilely—and whe_hey closed, the soul of Alexis Paulvitch passed into the keeping of th_emons who had long been awaiting it.
The boy struggled to his feet, assisted by Akut. For two hours under th_nstructions of the former the ape worked upon the knots that secured hi_riend's wrists. Finally they gave up their secret, and the boy was free. The_e opened one of his bags and drew forth some garments. His plans had bee_ell made. He did not consult the beast, which did all that he directed.
Together they slunk from the house, but no casual observer might have note_hat one of them was an ape.