The Return of TarzanEdgar Rice Burroughs / Fantasy
Produced by Judith Boss. HTML version by Al Haines.
The Return Of Tarzan
Edgar Rice Burroughs
I The Affair on the Liner II Forging Bonds of Hate and ----? III What Happened in the Rue Maule IV The Countess Explains V The Plot That Failed VI A Duel VII The Dancing Girl of Sidi Aissa VIII The Fight in the Desert IX Numa El Adrea X Through the Valley of the Shadow XI John Caldwell, London XII Ships That Pass XIII The Wreck of the Lady Alice XIV Back to the Primitive XV From Ape to Savage XVI The Ivory Raiders XVII The White Chief of the Waziri XVIII The Lottery of Death XIX The City of Gold XX La XXI The Castaways XXII The Treasure Vaults of Opar XXIII The Fifty Frightful Men XXIV How Tarzan Came Again to Opar XXV Through the Forest Primeval XXVI The Passing of the Ape-Man
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 itthat is magnificent? and the count bent his eyes in various directionsin quest of the object of her admiration.
Oh, nothing at all, my dear, replied the countess, a slight flushmomentarily coloring her already pink cheek. I was but recalling withadmiration those stupendous skyscrapers, as they call them, of NewYork, and the fair countess settled herself more comfortably in hersteamer chair, and resumed the magazine which nothing at all hadcaused her to let fall upon her lap.
Her husband again buried himself in his book, but not without a mildwonderment that three days out from New York his countess shouldsuddenly have realized an admiration for the very buildings she had butrecently characterized as horrid.
Presently the count put down his book. It is very tiresome, Olga, hesaid. I think that I shall hunt up some others who may be equallybored, and see if we cannot find enough for a game of cards.
You are not very gallant, my husband, replied the young woman,smiling, but as I am equally bored I can forgive you. Go and play atyour tiresome old cards, then, if you will.
When he had gone she let her eyes wander slyly to the figure of a tallyoung man 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 avery faithful and loyal wife, but as she had had nothing whatever to dowith the selection of a husband, it is not at all unlikely that she wasnot wildly and passionately in love with the one that fate and hertitled Russian father had selected for her. However, simply becauseshe was surprised into a tiny exclamation of approval at sight of asplendid young stranger it must not be inferred therefrom that herthoughts were in any way disloyal to her spouse. She merely admired,as she might have admired a particularly fine specimen of any species.Furthermore, the young man was unquestionably good to look at.
As her furtive glance rested upon his profile he rose to leave thedeck. The Countess de Coude beckoned to a passing steward. Who isthat gentleman? she asked.
He is booked, madam, as Monsieur Tarzan, of Africa, replied thesteward.
Rather a large estate, thought the girl, but now her interest wasstill further aroused.
As Tarzan walked slowly toward the smoking-room he came unexpectedlyupon two men whispering excitedly just without. He would havevouchsafed them not even a passing thought but for the strangely guiltyglance that one of them shot in his direction. They reminded Tarzan ofmelodramatic villains he had seen at the theaters in Paris. Both werevery dark, and this, in connection with the shrugs and stealthy glancesthat accompanied their palpable intriguing, lent still greater force tothe similarity.
Tarzan entered the smoking-room, and sought a chair a little apart fromthe others who were there. He felt in no mood for conversation, and ashe sipped his absinth he let his mind run rather sorrowfully over thepast few weeks of his life. Time and again he had wondered if he hadacted wisely in renouncing his birthright to a man to whom he owednothing. It is true that he liked Clayton, but--ah, but that was notthe question. It was not for William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke,that he had denied his birth. It was for the woman whom both he andClayton had loved, and whom a strange freak of fate had given toClayton instead of to him.
That she loved him made the thing doubly difficult to bear, yet he knewthat he could have done nothing less than he did do that night withinthe little railway station in the far Wisconsin woods. To him herhappiness was the first consideration of all, and his brief experiencewith civilization and civilized men had taught him that without moneyand position life to most of them was unendurable.
Jane Porter had been born to both, and had Tarzan taken them away fromher future husband it would doubtless have plunged her into a life ofmisery and torture. That she would have spurned Clayton once he hadbeen stripped of both his title and his estates never for once occurredto Tarzan, for he credited to others the same honest loyalty that wasso inherent a quality in himself. Nor, in this instance, had he erred.Could any one thing have further bound Jane Porter to her promise toClayton it would have been in the nature of some such misfortune asthis overtaking him.
Tarzan's thoughts drifted from the past to the future. He tried tolook forward with pleasurable sensations to his return to the jungle ofhis birth and boyhood; the cruel, fierce jungle in which he had spenttwenty of his twenty-two years. But who or what of all the myriadjungle life would there be to welcome his return? Not one. OnlyTantor, the elephant, could he call friend. The others would hunt himor flee from him as had been their way in the past.
Not even the apes of his own tribe would extend the hand of fellowshipto him.
If civilization had done nothing else for Tarzan of the Apes, it had tosome extent taught him to crave the society of his own kind, and tofeel with genuine pleasure the congenial warmth of companionship. Andin the same ratio had it made any other life distasteful to him. Itwas difficult to imagine a world without a friend--without a livingthing who spoke the new tongues which Tarzan had learned to love sowell. And so it was that Tarzan looked with little relish upon thefuture he had mapped out for himself.
As he sat musing over his cigarette his eyes fell upon a mirror beforehim, and in it he saw reflected a table at which four men sat at cards.Presently one of them rose to leave, and then another approached, andTarzan could see that he courteously offered to fill the vacant chair,that the game might not be interrupted. He was the smaller of the twowhom Tarzan had seen whispering just outside the smoking-room.
It was this fact that aroused a faint spark of interest in Tarzan, andso as he speculated upon the future he watched in the mirror thereflection of the players at the table behind him. Aside from the manwho had but just entered the game Tarzan knew the name of but one ofthe other players. It was he who sat opposite the new player, CountRaoul de Coude, whom an over-attentive steward had pointed out as oneof the celebrities of the passage, describing him as a man high in theofficial family of the French minister of war.
Suddenly Tarzan's attention was riveted upon the picture in the glass.The other swarthy plotter had entered, and was standing behind thecount's chair. Tarzan saw him turn and glance furtively about theroom, but his eyes did not rest for a sufficient time upon the mirrorto note the reflection of Tarzan's watchful eyes. Stealthily the manwithdrew something from his pocket. Tarzan could not discern what theobject was, for the man's hand covered it.
Slowly the hand approached the count, and then, very deftly, the thingthat was in it was transferred to the count's pocket. The man remainedstanding where he could watch the Frenchman's cards. Tarzan waspuzzled, but he was all attention now, nor did he permit another detailof the incident to escape him.
The play went on for some ten minutes after this, until the count won aconsiderable wager from him who had last joined the game, and thenTarzan saw the fellow back of the count's chair nod his head to hisconfederate. Instantly the player arose and pointed a finger at thecount.
Had I known that monsieur was a professional card sharp I had not beenso ready 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,replied the fellow.
The count leaned across the table, and struck the man full in the mouthwith his open palm, and then the others closed in between them.
There is some mistake, sir, cried one of the other players. Why,this is Count de Coude, of France. If I am mistaken, said theaccuser, I shall gladly apologize; but before I do so first letmonsieur le count explain the extra cards which I saw him drop into hisside pocket.
And then the man whom Tarzan had seen drop them there turned to sneakfrom the room, but to his annoyance he found the exit barred by a tall,gray-eyed stranger.
Pardon, said the man brusquely, attempting to pass to one side.
Wait, said Tarzan.
But why, monsieur? exclaimed the other petulantly. Permit me topass, monsieur.
Wait, said Tarzan. I think that there is a matter in here that youmay doubtless be able to explain.
The fellow had lost his temper by this time, and with a low oath seizedTarzan to push him to one side. The ape-man but smiled as he twistedthe big fellow about and, grasping him by the collar of his coat,escorted him back to the table, struggling, cursing, and striking infutile remonstrance. It was Nikolas Rokoff's first experience with themuscles that had brought their savage owner victorious throughencounters with Numa, the lion, and Terkoz, the great bull ape.
The man who had accused De Coude, and the two others who had beenplaying, stood looking expectantly at the count. Several otherpassengers had drawn toward the scene of the altercation, and allawaited the denouement.
The fellow is crazy, said the count. Gentlemen, I implore that oneof you search 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 willsee that the accusation is quite serious, insisted the accuser. Andthen, as the others still hesitated to do so: Come, I shall do itmyself if no other will, and he stepped forward toward the count.
No, monsieur, said De Coude. I will submit to a search only at thehands of a gentleman.
It is unnecessary to search the count. The cards are in his pocket.I myself saw them placed there.
All turned in surprise toward this new speaker, to behold a verywell-built young man urging a resisting captive toward them by thescruff of his neck.
It is a conspiracy, cried De Coude angrily. There are no cards inmy coat, and with that he ran his hand into his pocket. As he did sotense silence reigned in the little group. The count went dead white,and then very slowly he withdrew his hand, and in it were three cards.
He looked at them in mute and horrified surprise, and slowly the red ofmortification suffused his face. Expressions of pity and contempttinged the features of those who looked on at the death of a man'shonor.
It is a conspiracy, monsieur. It was the gray-eyed stranger whospoke. Gentlemen, he continued, monsieur le count did not know thatthose cards were in his pocket. They were placed there without hisknowledge as he sat at play. From where I sat in that chair yonder Isaw the reflection of it all in the mirror before me. This person whomI just intercepted in an effort to escape placed the cards in thecount'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. Itquite disguises you, Paulvitch. I see it all now. It is quite clear,gentlemen.
What shall we do with them, monsieur? asked Tarzan. Turn them overto the captain?
No, my friend, said the count hastily. It is a personal matter, andI beg that you will let it drop. It is sufficient that I have beenexonerated from the charge. The less we have to do with such fellows,the better. But, monsieur, how can I thank you for the great kindnessyou have done me? Permit me to offer you my card, and should the timecome when I may serve you, remember that I am yours to command.
Tarzan had released Rokoff, who, with his confederate, Paulvitch, hadhastened from the smoking-room. Just as he was leaving, Rokoff turnedto Tarzan. Monsieur will have ample opportunity to regret hisinterference in the affairs 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 neverbefriended me, for I can assure him that he has won the enmity of twoof the most unmitigated scoundrels in all Europe. Avoid them,monsieur, by all means.
I have had more awe-inspiring enemies, my dear count, replied Tarzanwith a quiet smile, yet I am still alive and unworried. I think thatneither 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 harmto be on the alert, and to know that you have made at least one enemytoday who never forgets and never forgives, and in whose malignantbrain there are always hatching new atrocities to perpetrate upon thosewho have thwarted or offended him. To say that Nikolas Rokoff is adevil would be to place a wanton affront upon his satanic majesty.
That night as Tarzan entered his cabin he found a folded note upon thefloor that had evidently been pushed beneath the door. He opened itand read:
Doubtless you did not realize the gravity of your offense, or you wouldnot have done the thing you did today. I am willing to believe thatyou acted in ignorance and without any intention to offend a stranger.For this reason I shall gladly permit you to offer an apology, and onreceiving your assurances that you will not again interfere in affairsthat do not concern you, I shall drop the matter.
Otherwise--but I am sure that you will see the wisdom of adopting thecourse I suggest.
Very respectfully, NIKOLAS ROKOFF.
Tarzan permitted a grim smile to play about his lips for a moment, thenhe promptly 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 ascould be all evening. What worries you?
Olga, Nikolas is on board. Did you know it?
Nikolas! she exclaimed. But it is impossible, Raoul. It cannot be.Nikolas is under arrest in Germany.
So I thought myself until I saw him today--him and that other archscoundrel, Paulvitch. Olga, I cannot endure his persecution muchlonger. No, not even for you. Sooner or later I shall turn him overto the authorities. In fact, I am half minded to explain all to thecaptain before we land. On a French liner it were an easy matter,Olga, permanently to settle this Nemesis of ours.
Oh, no, Raoul! cried the countess, sinking to her knees before him ashe sat with bowed head upon a divan. Do not do that. Remember yourpromise to me. Tell me, Raoul, that you will not do that. Do not eventhreaten him, Raoul.
De Coude took his wife's hands in his, and gazed upon her pale andtroubled countenance for some time before he spoke, as though he wouldwrest from those beautiful eyes the real reason which prompted her toshield this man.
Let it be as you wish, Olga, he said at length. I cannotunderstand. He has forfeited all claim upon your love, loyalty, orrespect. He is a menace to your life and honor, and the life and honorof your husband. I trust you may never regret championing him.
I do not champion him, Raoul, she interrupted vehemently. I believethat I hate him as much as you do, but--Oh, Raoul, blood is thickerthan water.
I should today have liked to sample the consistency of his, growledDe Coude grimly. The two deliberately attempted to besmirch my honor,Olga, and then he told her of all that had happened in thesmoking-room. Had it not been for this utter stranger, they hadsucceeded, for who would have accepted my unsupported word against thedamning evidence of those cards hidden on my person? I had almostbegun to doubt myself when this Monsieur Tarzan dragged your preciousNikolas before us, and explained the whole cowardly transaction.
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 shemight find it difficult to explain just why the steward had pointed outthe handsome Monsieur Tarzan to her. Perhaps she flushed the leastlittle bit, for was not the count, her husband, gazing at her with astrangely quizzical expression. Ah, she thought, a guiltyconscience is a most suspicious thing.