The Son Of Tarzan
Edgar Rice Burroughs
To Hulbert Burroughs
The long boat of the Marjorie W. was floating down the broad Ugambi
with ebb tide and current. Her crew were lazily enjoying this respite
from the arduous labor of rowing up stream. Three miles below them lay
the Marjorie W. herself, quite ready to sail so soon as they should
have clambered aboard and swung the long boat to its davits. Presently
the attention of every man was drawn from his dreaming or his gossiping
to the northern bank of the river. There, screaming at them in a
cracked falsetto and with skinny arms outstretched, stood a strange
apparition of a man.
"Wot the 'ell?" ejaculated one of the crew.
"A white man!" muttered the mate, and then: "Man the oars, boys, and
we'll just pull over an' see what he wants."
When they came close to the shore they saw an emaciated creature with
scant white locks tangled and matted. The thin, bent body was naked
but for a loin cloth. Tears were rolling down the sunken pock-marked
cheeks. The man jabbered at them in a strange tongue.
"Rooshun," hazarded the mate. "Savvy English?" he called to the man.
He did, and in that tongue, brokenly and haltingly, as though it had
been many years since he had used it, he begged them to take him with
them away from this awful country. Once on board the Marjorie W. the
stranger told his rescuers a pitiful tale of privation, hardships, and
torture, extending over a period of ten years. How he happened to have
come to Africa he did not tell them, leaving them to assume he had
forgotten the incidents of his life prior to the frightful ordeals that
had wrecked him mentally and physically. He did not even tell them his
true name, and so they knew him only as Michael Sabrov, nor was there
any resemblance between this sorry wreck and the virile, though
unprincipled, Alexis Paulvitch of old.
It had been ten years since the Russian had escaped the fate of his
friend, the arch-fiend Rokoff, and not once, but many times during
those ten years had Paulvitch cursed the fate that had given to
Nicholas Rokoff death and immunity from suffering while it had meted to
him the hideous terrors of an existence infinitely worse than the death
that persistently refused to claim him.
Paulvitch had taken to the jungle when he had seen the beasts of Tarzan
and their savage lord swarm the deck of the Kincaid, and in his terror
lest Tarzan pursue and capture him he had stumbled on deep into the
jungle, only to fall at last into the hands of one of the savage
cannibal tribes that had felt the weight of Rokoff's evil temper and
cruel brutality. Some strange whim of the chief of this tribe saved
Paulvitch from death only to plunge him into a life of misery and
torture. For ten years he had been the butt of the village, beaten and
stoned by the women and children, cut and slashed and disfigured by the
warriors; a victim of often recurring fevers of the most malignant
variety. Yet he did not die. Smallpox laid its hideous clutches upon
him; leaving him unspeakably branded with its repulsive marks. Between
it and the attentions of the tribe the countenance of Alexis Paulvitch
was so altered that his own mother could not have recognized in the
pitiful mask he called his face a single familiar feature. A few
scraggly, yellow-white locks had supplanted the thick, dark hair that
had covered his head. His limbs were bent and twisted, he walked with
a shuffling, unsteady gait, his body doubled forward. His teeth were
gone - knocked out by his savage masters. Even his mentality was but a
sorry mockery of what it once had been.
They took him aboard the Marjorie W., and there they fed and nursed
him. He gained a little in strength; but his appearance never altered
for the better - a human derelict, battered and wrecked, they had found
him; a human derelict, battered and wrecked, he would remain until
death claimed him. Though still in his thirties, Alexis Paulvitch
could easily have passed for eighty. Inscrutable Nature had demanded
of the accomplice a greater penalty than his principal had paid.
In the mind of Alexis Paulvitch there lingered no thoughts of
revenge - only a dull hatred of the man whom he and Rokoff had tried to
break, and failed. There was hatred, too, of the memory of Rokoff, for
Rokoff had led him into the horrors he had undergone. There was hatred
of the police of a score of cities from which he had had to flee.
There was hatred of law, hatred of order, hatred of everything. Every
moment of the man's waking life was filled with morbid thought of
hatred - he had become mentally as he was physically in outward
appearance, the personification of the blighting emotion of Hate. He
had little or nothing to do with the men who had rescued him. He was
too weak to work and too morose for company, and so they quickly left
him alone to his own devices.
The Marjorie W. had been chartered by a syndicate of wealthy
manufacturers, equipped with a laboratory and a staff of scientists,
and sent out to search for some natural product which the manufacturers
who footed the bills had been importing from South America at an
enormous cost. What the product was none on board the Marjorie W. knew
except the scientists, nor is it of any moment to us, other than that
it led the ship to a certain island off the coast of Africa after
Alexis Paulvitch had been taken aboard.
The ship lay at anchor off the coast for several weeks. The monotony
of life aboard her became trying for the crew. They went often ashore,
and finally Paulvitch asked to accompany them - he too was tiring of the
blighting sameness of existence upon the ship.
The island was heavily timbered. Dense jungle ran down almost to the
beach. The scientists were far inland, prosecuting their search for
the valuable commodity that native rumor upon the mainland had led them
to believe might be found here in marketable quantity. The ship's
company fished, hunted, and explored. Paulvitch shuffled up and down
the beach, or lay in the shade of the great trees that skirted it. One
day, as the men were gathered at a little distance inspecting the body
of a panther that had fallen to the gun of one of them who had been
hunting inland, Paulvitch lay sleeping beneath his tree. He was
awakened by the touch of a hand upon his shoulder. With a start he sat
up to see a huge, anthropoid ape squatting at his side, inspecting him
intently. The Russian was thoroughly frightened. He glanced toward
the sailors - they were a couple of hundred yards away. Again the ape
plucked at his shoulder, jabbering plaintively. Paulvitch saw no
menace in the inquiring gaze, or in the attitude of the beast. He got
slowly to his feet. The ape rose at his side.
Half doubled, the man shuffled cautiously away toward the sailors. The
ape moved with him, taking one of his arms. They had come almost to
the little knot of men before they were seen, and by this time
Paulvitch had become assured that the beast meant no harm. The animal
evidently was accustomed to the association of human beings. It
occurred to the Russian that the ape represented a certain considerable
money value, and before they reached the sailors he had decided he
should be the one to profit by it.
When the men looked up and saw the oddly paired couple shuffling toward
them they were filled with amazement, and started on a run toward the
two. The ape showed no sign of fear. Instead he grasped each sailor
by the shoulder and peered long and earnestly into his face. Having
inspected them all he returned to Paulvitch's side, disappointment
written strongly upon his countenance and in his carriage.
The men were delighted with him. They gathered about, asking Paulvitch
many questions, and examining his companion. The Russian told them
that the ape was his - nothing further would he offer - but kept harping
continually upon the same theme, "The ape is mine. The ape is mine."
Tiring of Paulvitch, one of the men essayed a pleasantry. Circling
about behind the ape he prodded the anthropoid in the back with a pin.
Like a flash the beast wheeled upon its tormentor, and, in the briefest
instant of turning, the placid, friendly animal was metamorphosed to a
frenzied demon of rage. The broad grin that had sat upon the sailor's
face as he perpetrated his little joke froze to an expression of
terror. He attempted to dodge the long arms that reached for him; but,
failing, drew a long knife that hung at his belt. With a single wrench
the ape tore the weapon from the man's grasp and flung it to one side,
then his yellow fangs were buried in the sailor's shoulder.
With sticks and knives the man's companions fell upon the beast, while
Paulvitch danced around the cursing, snarling pack mumbling and
screaming pleas and threats. He saw his visions of wealth rapidly
dissipating before the weapons of the sailors.
The ape, however, proved no easy victim to the superior numbers that
seemed fated to overwhelm him. Rising from the sailor who had
precipitated the battle he shook his giant shoulders, freeing himself
from two of the men that were clinging to his back, and with mighty
blows of his open palms felled one after another of his attackers,
leaping hither and thither with the agility of a small monkey.
The fight had been witnessed by the captain and mate who were just
landing from the Marjorie W., and Paulvitch saw these two now running
forward with drawn revolvers while the two sailors who had brought them
ashore trailed at their heels. The ape stood looking about him at the
havoc he had wrought, but whether he was awaiting a renewal of the
attack or was deliberating which of his foes he should exterminate
first Paulvitch could not guess. What he could guess, however, was
that the moment the two officers came within firing distance of the
beast they would put an end to him in short order unless something were
done and done quickly to prevent. The ape had made no move to attack
the Russian but even so the man was none too sure of what might happen
were he to interfere with the savage beast, now thoroughly aroused to
bestial rage, and with the smell of new spilled blood fresh in its
nostrils. For an instant he hesitated, and then again there rose
before him the dreams of affluence which this great anthropoid would
doubtless turn to realities once Paulvitch had landed him safely in
some great metropolis like London.
The captain was shouting to him now to stand aside that he might have a
shot at the animal; but instead Paulvitch shuffled to the ape's side,
and though the man's hair quivered at its roots he mastered his fear
and laid hold of the ape's arm.
"Come!" he commanded, and tugged to pull the beast from among the
sailors, many of whom were now sitting up in wide eyed fright or
crawling away from their conqueror upon hands and knees.
Slowly the ape permitted itself to be led to one side, nor did it show
the slightest indication of a desire to harm the Russian. The captain
came to a halt a few paces from the odd pair.
"Get aside, Sabrov!" he commanded. "I'll put that brute where he won't
chew up any more able seamen."
"It wasn't his fault, captain," pleaded Paulvitch. "Please don't shoot
him. The men started it - they attacked him first. You see, he's
perfectly gentle - and he's mine - he's mine - he's mine! I won't let you
kill him," he concluded, as his half-wrecked mentality pictured anew
the pleasure that money would buy in London - money that he could not
hope to possess without some such windfall as the ape represented.
The captain lowered his weapon. "The men started it, did they?" he
repeated. "How about that?" and he turned toward the sailors who had
by this time picked themselves from the ground, none of them much the
worse for his experience except the fellow who had been the cause of
it, and who would doubtless nurse a sore shoulder for a week or so.
"Simpson done it," said one of the men. "He stuck a pin into the monk
from behind, and the monk got him - which served him bloomin' well
right - an' he got the rest of us, too, for which I can't blame him,
since we all jumped him to once."
The captain looked at Simpson, who sheepishly admitted the truth of the
allegation, then he stepped over to the ape as though to discover for
himself the sort of temper the beast possessed, but it was noticeable
that he kept his revolver cocked and leveled as he did so. However, he
spoke soothingly to the animal who squatted at the Russian's side
looking first at one and then another of the sailors. As the captain
approached him the ape half rose and waddled forward to meet him. Upon
his countenance was the same strange, searching expression that had
marked his scrutiny of each of the sailors he had first encountered.
He came quite close to the officer and laid a paw upon one of the man's
shoulders, studying his face intently for a long moment, then came the
expression of disappointment accompanied by what was almost a human
sigh, as he turned away to peer in the same curious fashion into the
faces of the mate and the two sailors who had arrived with the
officers. In each instance he sighed and passed on, returning at
length to Paulvitch's side, where he squatted down once more;
thereafter evincing little or no interest in any of the other men, and
apparently forgetful of his recent battle with them.
When the party returned aboard the Marjorie W., Paulvitch was
accompanied by the ape, who seemed anxious to follow him. The captain
interposed no obstacles to the arrangement, and so the great anthropoid
was tacitly admitted to membership in the ship's company. Once aboard
he examined each new face minutely, evincing the same disappointment in
each instance that had marked his scrutiny of the others. The officers
and scientists aboard often discussed the beast, but they were unable
to account satisfactorily for the strange ceremony with which he
greeted each new face. Had he been discovered upon the mainland, or
any other place than the almost unknown island that had been his home,
they would have concluded that he had formerly been a pet of man; but
that theory was not tenable in the face of the isolation of his
uninhabited island. He seemed continually to be searching for someone,
and during the first days of the return voyage from the island he was
often discovered nosing about in various parts of the ship; but after
he had seen and examined each face of the ship's company, and explored
every corner of the vessel he lapsed into utter indifference of all
about him. Even the Russian elicited only casual interest when he
brought him food. At other times the ape appeared merely to tolerate
him. He never showed affection for him, or for anyone else upon the
Marjorie W., nor did he at any time evince any indication of the savage
temper that had marked his resentment of the attack of the sailors upon
him at the time that he had come among them.
Most of his time was spent in the eye of the ship scanning the horizon
ahead, as though he were endowed with sufficient reason to know that
the vessel was bound for some port where there would be other human
beings to undergo his searching scrutiny. All in all, Ajax, as he had
been dubbed, was considered the most remarkable and intelligent ape
that any one aboard the Marjorie W. ever had seen. Nor was his
intelligence the only remarkable attribute he owned. His stature and
physique were, for an ape, awe inspiring. That he was old was quite
evident, but if his age had impaired his physical or mental powers in
the slightest it was not apparent.
And so at length the Marjorie W. came to England, and there the
officers and the scientists, filled with compassion for the pitiful
wreck of a man they had rescued from the jungles, furnished Paulvitch
with funds and bid him and his Ajax Godspeed.
Upon the dock and all through the journey to London the Russian had his
hands full with Ajax. Each new face of the thousands that came within
the anthropoid's ken must be carefully scrutinized, much to the horror
of many of his victims; but at last, failing, apparently, to discover
whom he sought, the great ape relapsed into morbid indifference, only
occasionally evincing interest in a passing face.
In London, Paulvitch went directly with his prize to a certain famous
animal trainer. This man was much impressed with Ajax with the result
that he agreed to train him for a lion's share of the profits of
exhibiting him, and in the meantime to provide for the keep of both the
ape and his owner.
And so came Ajax to London, and there was forged another link in the
chain of strange circumstances that were to affect the lives of many
Mr. Harold Moore was a bilious-countenanced, studious young man. He
took himself very seriously, and life, and his work, which latter was
the tutoring of the young son of a British nobleman. He felt that his
charge was not making the progress that his parents had a right to
expect, and he was now conscientiously explaining this fact to the
"It's not that he isn't bright," he was saying; "if that were true I
should have hopes of succeeding, for then I might bring to bear all my
energies in overcoming his obtuseness; but the trouble is that he is
exceptionally intelligent, and learns so quickly that I can find no
fault in the matter of the preparation of his lessons. What concerns
me, however, is the fact that he evidently takes no interest whatever
in the subjects we are studying. He merely accomplishes each lesson as
a task to be rid of as quickly as possible and I am sure that no lesson
ever again enters his mind until the hours of study and recitation once
more arrive. His sole interests seem to be feats of physical prowess
and the reading of everything that he can get hold of relative to
savage beasts and the lives and customs of uncivilized peoples; but
particularly do stories of animals appeal to him. He will sit for
hours together poring over the work of some African explorer, and upon
two occasions I have found him setting up in bed at night reading Carl
Hagenbeck's book on men and beasts."
The boy's mother tapped her foot nervously upon the hearth rug.
"You discourage this, of course?" she ventured.
Mr. Moore shuffled embarrassedly.
"I - ah - essayed to take the book from him," he replied, a slight flush
mounting his sallow cheek; "but - ah - your son is quite muscular for one
"He wouldn't let you take it?" asked the mother.
"He would not," confessed the tutor. "He was perfectly good natured
about it; but he insisted upon pretending that he was a gorilla and
that I was a chimpanzee attempting to steal food from him. He leaped
upon me with the most savage growls I ever heard, lifted me completely
above his head, hurled me upon his bed, and after going through a
pantomime indicative of choking me to death he stood upon my prostrate
form and gave voice to a most fearsome shriek, which he explained was
the victory cry of a bull ape. Then he carried me to the door, shoved
me out into the hall and locked me from his room."
For several minutes neither spoke again. It was the boy's mother who
finally broke the silence.
"It is very necessary, Mr. Moore," she said, "that you do everything in
your power to discourage this tendency in Jack, he - "; but she got no
further. A loud "Whoop!" from the direction of the window brought them
both to their feet. The room was upon the second floor of the house,
and opposite the window to which their attention had been attracted was
a large tree, a branch of which spread to within a few feet of the
sill. Upon this branch now they both discovered the subject of their
recent conversation, a tall, well-built boy, balancing with ease upon
the bending limb and uttering loud shouts of glee as he noted the
terrified expressions upon the faces of his audience.
The mother and tutor both rushed toward the window but before they had
crossed half the room the boy had leaped nimbly to the sill and entered
the apartment with them.
"'The wild man from Borneo has just come to town,'" he sang, dancing a
species of war dance about his terrified mother and scandalized tutor,
and ending up by throwing his arms about the former's neck and kissing
her upon either cheek.
"Oh, Mother," he cried, "there's a wonderful, educated ape being shown
at one of the music halls. Willie Grimsby saw it last night. He says
it can do everything but talk. It rides a bicycle, eats with knife and
fork, counts up to ten, and ever so many other wonderful things, and
can I go and see it too? Oh, please, Mother - please let me."
Patting the boy's cheek affectionately, the mother shook her head
negatively. "No, Jack," she said; "you know I do not approve of such
"I don't see why not, Mother," replied the boy. "All the other fellows
go and they go to the Zoo, too, and you'll never let me do even that.
Anybody'd think I was a girl - or a mollycoddle. Oh, Father," he
exclaimed, as the door opened to admit a tall gray-eyed man. "Oh,
Father, can't I go?"
"Go where, my son?" asked the newcomer.
"He wants to go to a music hall to see a trained ape," said the mother,
looking warningly at her husband.
"Who, Ajax?" questioned the man.
The boy nodded.
"Well, I don't know that I blame you, my son," said the father, "I
wouldn't mind seeing him myself. They say he is very wonderful, and
that for an anthropoid he is unusually large. Let's all go, Jane - what
do you say?" And he turned toward his wife, but that lady only shook
her head in a most positive manner, and turning to Mr. Moore asked him
if it was not time that he and Jack were in the study for the morning
recitations. When the two had left she turned toward her husband.
"John," she said, "something must be done to discourage Jack's tendency
toward anything that may excite the cravings for the savage life which
I fear he has inherited from you. You know from your own experience
how strong is the call of the wild at times. You know that often it
has necessitated a stern struggle on your part to resist the almost
insane desire which occasionally overwhelms you to plunge once again
into the jungle life that claimed you for so many years, and at the
same time you know, better than any other, how frightful a fate it
would be for Jack, were the trail to the savage jungle made either
alluring or easy to him."
"I doubt if there is any danger of his inheriting a taste for jungle
life from me," replied the man, "for I cannot conceive that such a
thing may be transmitted from father to son. And sometimes, Jane, I
think that in your solicitude for his future you go a bit too far in
your restrictive measures. His love for animals - his desire, for
example, to see this trained ape - is only natural in a healthy, normal
boy of his age. Just because he wants to see Ajax is no indication
that he would wish to marry an ape, and even should he, far be it from
you Jane to have the right to cry 'shame!'" and John Clayton, Lord
Greystoke, put an arm about his wife, laughing good-naturedly down into
her upturned face before he bent his head and kissed her. Then, more
seriously, he continued: "You have never told Jack anything concerning
my early life, nor have you permitted me to, and in this I think that
you have made a mistake. Had I been able to tell him of the
experiences of Tarzan of the Apes I could doubtless have taken much of
the glamour and romance from jungle life that naturally surrounds it in
the minds of those who have had no experience of it. He might then
have profited by my experience, but now, should the jungle lust ever
claim him, he will have nothing to guide him but his own impulses, and
I know how powerful these may be in the wrong direction at times."
But Lady Greystoke only shook her head as she had a hundred other times
when the subject had claimed her attention in the past.
"No, John," she insisted, "I shall never give my consent to the
implanting in Jack's mind of any suggestion of the savage life which we
both wish to preserve him from."
It was evening before the subject was again referred to and then it was
raised by Jack himself. He had been sitting, curled in a large chair,
reading, when he suddenly looked up and addressed his father.
"Why," he asked, coming directly to the point, "can't I go and see
"Your mother does not approve," replied his father.
"That is not the question," evaded Lord Greystoke. "It is enough that