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Chapter 4

  • The killing of the friendless old Russian, Michael Sabrov, by his grea_rained ape, was a matter for newspaper comment for a few days. Lord Greystok_ead of it, and while taking special precautions not to permit his name t_ecome connected with the affair, kept himself well posted as to the polic_earch for the anthropoid. As was true of the general public, his chie_nterest in the matter centered about the mysterious disappearance of th_layer. Or at least this was true until he learned, several days subsequent t_he tragedy, that his son Jack had not reported at the public school en rout_or which they had seen him safely ensconced in a railway carriage. Even the_he father did not connect the disappearance of his son with the myster_urrounding the whereabouts of the ape. Nor was it until a month later tha_areful investigation revealed the fact that the boy had left the train befor_t pulled out of the station at London, and the cab driver had been found wh_ad driven him to the address of the old Russian, that Tarzan of the Ape_ealized that Akut had in some way been connected with the disappearance o_he boy.
  • Beyond the moment that the cab driver had deposited his fare beside the cur_n front of the house in which the Russian had been quartered there was n_lue. No one had seen either the boy or the ape from that instant—at least n_ne who still lived. The proprietor of the house identified the picture of th_ad as that of one who had been a frequent visitor in the room of the old man.
  • Aside from this he knew nothing. And there, at the door of a grimy, ol_uilding in the slums of London, the searchers came to a blank wall—baffled.
  • The day following the death of Alexis Paulvitch a youth accompanying hi_nvalid grandmother, boarded a steamer at Dover. The old lady was heavil_eiled, and so weakened by age and sickness that she had to be wheeled aboar_he vessel in an invalid chair.
  • The boy would permit none but himself to wheel her, and with his own hand_ssisted her from the chair to the interior of their stateroom—and that wa_he last that was seen of the old lady by the ship's company until the pai_isembarked. The boy even insisted upon doing the work of their cabin steward,
  • since, as he explained, his grandmother was suffering from a nervou_isposition that made the presence of strangers extremely distasteful to her.
  • Outside the cabin—and none there was aboard who knew what he did in th_abin—the lad was just as any other healthy, normal English boy might hav_een. He mingled with his fellow passengers, became a prime favorite with th_fficers, and struck up numerous friendships among the common sailors. He wa_enerous and unaffected, yet carried an air of dignity and strength o_haracter that inspired his many new friends with admiration as well a_ffection for him.
  • Among the passengers there was an American named Condon, a noted blackleg an_rook who was "wanted" in a half dozen of the larger cities of the Unite_tates. He had paid little attention to the boy until on one occasion he ha_een him accidentally display a roll of bank notes. From then on Condo_ultivated the youthful Briton. He learned, easily, that the boy was travelin_lone with his invalid grandmother, and that their destination was a smal_ort on the west coast of Africa, a little below the equator; that their nam_as Billings, and that they had no friends in the little settlement for whic_hey were bound. Upon the point of their purpose in visiting the place Condo_ound the boy reticent, and so he did not push the matter—he had learned al_hat he cared to know as it was.
  • Several times Condon attempted to draw the lad into a card game; but hi_ictim was not interested, and the black looks of several of the other me_assengers decided the American to find other means of transferring the boy'_ank roll to his own pocket.
  • At last came the day that the steamer dropped anchor in the lee of a woode_romontory where a score or more of sheet-iron shacks making an unsightly blo_pon the fair face of nature proclaimed the fact that civilization had set it_eel. Straggling upon the outskirts were the thatched huts of natives,
  • picturesque in their primeval savagery, harmonizing with the background o_ropical jungle and accentuating the squalid hideousness of the white man'_ioneer architecture.
  • The boy, leaning over the rail, was looking far beyond the man-made town dee_nto the God-made jungle. A little shiver of anticipation tingled his spine,
  • and then, quite without volition, he found himself gazing into the loving eye_f his mother and the strong face of the father which mirrored, beneath it_asculine strength, a love no less than the mother's eyes proclaimed. He fel_imself weakening in his resolve. Nearby one of the ship's officers wa_houting orders to a flotilla of native boats that was approaching to lighte_he consignment of the steamer's cargo destined for this tiny post.
  • "When does the next steamer for England touch here?" the boy asked.
  • "The Emanuel ought to be along most any time now," replied the officer. "_iggered we'd find her here," and he went on with his bellowing remarks to th_usty horde drawing close to the steamer's side.
  • The task of lowering the boy's grandmother over the side to a waiting cano_as rather difficult. The lad insisted on being always at her side, and whe_t last she was safely ensconced in the bottom of the craft that was to bea_hem shoreward her grandson dropped catlike after her. So interested was he i_eeing her comfortably disposed that he failed to notice the little packag_hat had worked from his pocket as he assisted in lowering the sling tha_ontained the old woman over the steamer's side, nor did he notice it even a_t slipped out entirely and dropped into the sea.
  • Scarcely had the boat containing the boy and the old woman started for th_hore than Condon hailed a canoe upon the other side of the ship, and afte_argaining with its owner finally lowered his baggage and himself aboard. Onc_shore he kept out of sight of the two-story atrocity that bore the legend
  • "Hotel" to lure unsuspecting wayfarers to its multitudinous discomforts. I_as quite dark before he ventured to enter and arrange for accommodations.
  • In a back room upon the second floor the lad was explaining, not withou_onsiderable difficulty, to his grandmother that he had decided to return t_ngland upon the next steamer. He was endeavoring to make it plain to the ol_ady that she might remain in Africa if she wished but that for his part hi_onscience demanded that he return to his father and mother, who doubtles_ere even now suffering untold sorrow because of his absence; from which i_ay be assumed that his parents had not been acquainted with the plans that h_nd the old lady had made for their adventure into African wilds.
  • Having come to a decision the lad felt a sense of relief from the worry tha_ad haunted him for many sleepless nights. When he closed his eyes in sleep i_as to dream of a happy reunion with those at home. And as he dreamed, Fate,
  • cruel and inexorable, crept stealthily upon him through the dark corridor o_he squalid building in which he slept—Fate in the form of the American crook,
  • Condon.
  • Cautiously the man approached the door of the lad's room. There he crouche_istening until assured by the regular breathing of those within that bot_lept. Quietly he inserted a slim, skeleton key in the lock of the door. Wit_eft fingers, long accustomed to the silent manipulation of the bars and bolt_hat guarded other men's property, Condon turned the key and the kno_imultaneously. Gentle pressure upon the door swung it slowly inward upon it_inges. The man entered the room, closing the door behind him. The moon wa_emporarily overcast by heavy clouds. The interior of the apartment wa_hrouded in gloom. Condon groped his way toward the bed. In the far corner o_he room something moved—moved with a silent stealthiness which transcende_ven the trained silence of the burglar. Condon heard nothing. His attentio_as riveted upon the bed in which he thought to find a young boy and hi_elpless, invalid grandmother.
  • The American sought only the bank roll. If he could possess himself of thi_ithout detection, well and good; but were he to meet resistance he wa_repared for that too. The lad's clothes lay across a chair beside the bed.
  • The American's fingers felt swiftly through them—the pockets contained no rol_f crisp, new notes. Doubtless they were beneath the pillows of the bed. H_tepped closer toward the sleeper; his hand was already half way beneath th_illow when the thick cloud that had obscured the moon rolled aside and th_oom was flooded with light. At the same instant the boy opened his eyes an_ooked straight into those of Condon. The man was suddenly conscious that th_oy was alone in the bed. Then he clutched for his victim's throat. As the la_ose to meet him Condon heard a low growl at his back, then he felt his wrist_eized by the boy, and realized that beneath those tapering, white finger_layed muscles of steel.
  • He felt other hands at his throat, rough hairy hands that reached over hi_houlders from behind. He cast a terrified glance backward, and the hairs o_is head stiffened at the sight his eyes revealed, for grasping him from th_ear was a huge, man-like ape. The bared fighting fangs of the anthropoid wer_lose to his throat. The lad pinioned his wrists. Neither uttered a sound.
  • Where was the grandmother? Condon's eyes swept the room in a single all-
  • inclusive glance. His eyes bulged in horror at the realization of the trut_hich that glance revealed. In the power of what creatures of hideous myster_ad he placed himself! Frantically he fought to beat off the lad that he migh_urn upon the fearsome thing at his back. Freeing one hand he struck a savag_low at the lad's face. His act seemed to unloose a thousand devils in th_airy creature clinging to his throat. Condon heard a low and savage snarl. I_as the last thing that the American ever heard in this life. Then he wa_ragged backward upon the floor, a heavy body fell upon him, powerful teet_astened themselves in his jugular, his head whirled in the sudden blacknes_hich rims eternity—a moment later the ape rose from his prostrate form; bu_ondon did not know—he was quite dead.
  • The lad, horrified, sprang from the bed to lean over the body of the man. H_new that Akut had killed in his defense, as he had killed Michael Sabrov; bu_ere, in savage Africa, far from home and friends what would they do to hi_nd his faithful ape? The lad knew that the penalty of murder was death. H_ven knew that an accomplice might suffer the death penalty with th_rincipal. Who was there who would plead for them? All would be against them.
  • It was little more than a half-civilized community, and the chances were tha_hey would drag Akut and him forth in the morning and hang them both to th_earest tree—he had read of such things being done in America, and Africa wa_orse even and wilder than the great West of his mother's native land. Yes,
  • they would both be hanged in the morning!
  • Was there no escape? He thought in silence for a few moments, and then, wit_n exclamation of relief, he struck his palms together and turned toward hi_lothing upon the chair. Money would do anything! Money would save him an_kut! He felt for the bank roll in the pocket in which he had been accustome_o carry it. It was not there! Slowly at first and at last frantically h_earched through the remaining pockets of his clothing. Then he dropped upo_is hands and knees and examined the floor. Lighting the lamp he moved the be_o one side and, inch by inch, he felt over the entire floor. Beside the bod_f Condon he hesitated, but at last he nerved himself to touch it. Rolling i_ver he sought beneath it for the money. Nor was it there. He guessed tha_ondon had entered their room to rob; but he did not believe that the man ha_ad time to possess himself of the money; however, as it was nowhere else, i_ust be upon the body of the dead man. Again and again he went over the room,
  • only to return each time to the corpse; but no where could he find the money.
  • He was half-frantic with despair. What were they to do? In the morning the_ould be discovered and killed. For all his inherited size and strength h_as, after all, only a little boy— a frightened, homesick little boy—reasonin_aultily from the meager experience of childhood. He could think of but _ingle glaring fact—they had killed a fellow man, and they were among savag_trangers, thirsting for the blood of the first victim whom fate cast int_heir clutches. This much he had gleaned from penny-dreadfuls.
  • And they must have money!
  • Again he approached the corpse. This time resolutely. The ape squatted in _orner watching his young companion. The youth commenced to remove th_merican's clothing piece by piece, and, piece by piece, he examined eac_arment minutely. Even to the shoes he searched with painstaking care, an_hen the last article had been removed and scrutinized he dropped back upo_he bed with dilated eyes that saw nothing in the present— only a grim tablea_f the future in which two forms swung silently from the limb of a great tree.
  • How long he sat thus he did not know; but finally he was aroused by a nois_oming from the floor below. Springing quickly to his feet he blew out th_amp, and crossing the floor silently locked the door. Then he turned towar_he ape, his mind made up.
  • Last evening he had been determined to start for home at the firs_pportunity, to beg the forgiveness of his parents for this mad adventure. No_e knew that he might never return to them. The blood of a fellow man was upo_is hands—in his morbid reflections he had long since ceased to attribute th_eath of Condon to the ape. The hysteria of panic had fastened the guilt upo_imself. With money he might have bought justice; but penniless!—ah, what hop_ould there be for strangers without money here?
  • But what had become of the money? He tried to recall when last he had seen it.
  • He could not, nor, could he, would he have been able to account for it_isappearance, for he had been entirely unconscious of the falling of th_ittle package from his pocket into the sea as he clambered over the ship'_ide into the waiting canoe that bore him to shore.
  • Now he turned toward Akut. "Come!" he said, in the language of the great apes.
  • Forgetful of the fact that he wore only a thin pajama suit he led the way t_he open window. Thrusting his head out he listened attentively. A single tre_rew a few feet from the window. Nimbly the lad sprang to its bole, clingin_at-like for an instant before he clambered quietly to the ground below. Clos_ehind him came the great ape. Two hundred yards away a spur of the jungle ra_lose to the straggling town. Toward this the lad led the way. None saw them,
  • and a moment later the jungle swallowed them, and John Clayton, future Lor_reystoke, passed from the eyes and the knowledge of men.
  • It was late the following morning that a native houseman knocked upon the doo_f the room that had been assigned to Mrs. Billings and her grandson.
  • Receiving no response he inserted his pass key in the lock, only to discove_hat another key was already there, but from the inside. He reported the fac_o Herr Skopf, the proprietor, who at once made his way to the second floo_here he, too, pounded vigorously upon the door. Receiving no reply he bent t_he key hole in an attempt to look through into the room beyond. In so doing,
  • being portly, he lost his balance, which necessitated putting a palm to th_loor to maintain his equilibrium. As he did so he felt something soft an_hick and wet beneath his fingers. He raised his open palm before his eyes i_he dim light of the corridor and peered at it. Then he gave a little shudder,
  • for even in the semi-darkness he saw a dark red stain upon his hand. Leapin_o his feet he hurled his shoulder against the door. Herr Skopf is a heav_an—or at least he was then—I have not seen him for several years. The frai_oor collapsed beneath his weight, and Herr Skopf stumbled precipitately int_he room beyond.
  • Before him lay the greatest mystery of his life. Upon the floor at his fee_as the dead body of a strange man. The neck was broken and the jugula_evered as by the fangs of a wild beast. The body was entirely naked, th_lothing being strewn about the corpse. The old lady and her grandson wer_one. The window was open. They must have disappeared through the window fo_he door had been locked from the inside.
  • But how could the boy have carried his invalid grandmother from a second stor_indow to the ground? It was preposterous. Again Herr Skopf searched the smal_oom. He noticed that the bed was pulled well away from the wall—why? H_ooked beneath it again for the third or fourth time. The two were gone, an_et his judgment told him that the old lady could not have gone withou_orters to carry her down as they had carried her up the previous day.
  • Further search deepened the mystery. All the clothing of the two was still i_he room—if they had gone then they must have gone naked or in their nigh_lothes. Herr Skopf shook his head; then he scratched it. He was baffled. H_ad never heard of Sherlock Holmes or he would have lost no time in invokin_he aid of that celebrated sleuth, for here was a real mystery: An ol_oman—an invalid who had to be carried from the ship to her room in th_otel—and a handsome lad, her grandson, had entered a room on the second floo_f his hostelry the day before. They had had their evening meal served i_heir room—that was the last that had been seen of them. At nine the followin_orning the corpse of a strange man had been the sole occupant of that room.
  • No boat had left the harbor in the meantime—there was not a railroad withi_undreds of miles—there was no other white settlement that the two could reac_nder several days of arduous marching accompanied by a well-equipped safari.
  • They had simply vanished into thin air, for the native he had sent to inspec_he ground beneath the open window had just returned to report that there wa_o sign of a footstep there, and what sort of creatures were they who coul_ave dropped that distance to the soft turf without leaving spoor? Herr Skop_huddered. Yes, it was a great mystery—there was something uncanny about th_hole thing—he hated to think about it, and he dreaded the coming of night.
  • It was a great mystery to Herr Skopf—and, doubtless, still is.