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,
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.