IN the forest of the table-land a mile back from the ocean old Kerchak the Ape was on a rampage of rage among his
The younger and lighter members of his tribe scampered to the higher branches of the great trees to escape his
wrath; risking their lives upon branches that scarce supported their weight rather than face old Kerchak in
one of his fits of uncontrolled anger.
The other males scattered in all directions, but not before the infuriated brute had felt the vertebra of one
snap between his great, foaming jaws.
A luckless young female slipped from an insecure hold upon a high branch and came crashing to the ground
almost at Kerchak's feet.
With a wild scream he was upon her, tearing a great piece from her side with his mighty teeth, and striking
her viciously upon her head and shoulders with a broken tree limb until her skull was crushed to a jelly.
And then he spied Kala, who, returning from a search for food with her young babe, was ignorant of the state
of the mighty male's temper
 until suddenly the shrill warnings of her fellows caused her to scamper madly for safety.
But Kerchak was close upon her, so close that he had almost grasped her ankle had she not made a furious leap
far into space from one tree to another—a perilous chance which apes seldom if ever take, unless so
closely pursued by danger that there is no alternative.
She made the leap successfully, but as she grasped the limb of the further tree the sudden jar loosened the
hold of the tiny babe where it clung frantically to her neck, and she saw the little thing hurled, turning and
twisting, to the ground thirty feet below.
With a low cry of dismay Kala rushed headlong to its side, thoughtless now of the danger from Kerchak; but
when she gathered the wee, mangled form to her bosom life had left it.
With low moans, she sat cuddling the body to her; nor did Kerchak attempt to molest her. With the death of
the babe his fit of demoniacal rage passed as suddenly as it had seized him.
Kerchak was a huge king ape, weighing perhaps three hundred and fifty pounds. His forehead was extremely low
and receding, his eyes bloodshot, small and close set to his coarse, flat nose; his ears large and thin, but
smaller than most of his kind.
His awful temper and his mighty strength made him supreme among the little tribe into
 which he had been born some twenty years before.
Now that he was in his prime, there was no simian in all the mighty forest through which he roved that dared
contest his right to rule, nor did the other and larger animals molest him.
Old Tantor, the elephant, alone of all the wild savage life, feared him not—and he alone did Kerchak
fear. When Tantor trumpeted, the great ape scurried with his fellows high among the trees of the second
The tribe of anthropoids over which Kerchak ruled with an iron hand and bared fangs, numbered some six or
eight families, each family consisting of an adult male with his females and their young, numbering in all
some sixty or seventy apes.
Kala was the youngest mate of a male called Tublat, meaning broken nose, and the child she had seen dashed to
death was her first; for she was but nine or ten years old.
Notwithstanding her youth, she was large and powerful—a splendid, clean-limbed animal, with a round,
high forehead, which denoted more intelligence than most of her kind possessed. So, also, she had a great
capacity for mother love and mother sorrow.
But she was still an ape, a huge, fierce, terrible beast of a species closely allied to the gorilla, yet more
intelligent; which, with the strength of their cousin, made her kind the most fear
 some of those awe-inspiring progenitors of man.
When the tribe saw that Kerchak's rage had ceased they came slowly down from their arboreal retreats and
pursued again the various occupations which he had interrupted.
The young played and frolicked about among the trees and bushes. Some of the adults lay prone upon the soft
mat of dead and decaying vegetation which covered the ground, while others turned over pieces of fallen
branches and clods of earth in search of the small bugs and reptiles which formed a part of their food.
Others, again, searched the surrounding trees for fruit, nuts, small birds, and eggs.
They had passed an hour or so thus when Kerchak called them together, and, with a word of command to them to
follow him, set off toward the sea.
They traveled for the most part upon the ground, where it was open, following the path of the great elephants
whose comings and goings break the only roads through those tangled mazes of bush, vine, creeper, and tree.
When they walked it was with a rolling, awkward motion, placing the knuckles of their closed hands upon the
ground and swinging their ungainly bodies forward.
But when the way was through the lower trees they moved more swiftly, swinging from branch to branch with the
agility of their smaller cousins, the monkeys. And all the way Kala
 carried her little dead baby hugged closely to her breast.
It was shortly after noon when they reached a ridge overlooking the beach where below them lay the tiny
cottage which was Kerchak's goal.
He had seen many of his kind go to their deaths before the loud noise made by the little black stick in the
hands of the strange white ape who lived in that wonderful lair, and Kerchak had made up his brute mind to own
that death-dealing contrivance, and to explore the interior of the mysterious den.
He wanted, very, very much, to feel his teeth sink into the neck of the queer animal that he had learned to
hate and fear, and because of this, he came often with his tribe to reconnoiter, waiting for a time when the
white ape should be off his guard.
Of late they had quit attacking, or even showing themselves; for every time they had done so in the past the
little stick had roared out its terrible message of death to some member of the tribe.
Today there was no sign of the man about, and from where they watched they could see that the cabin door was
open. Slowly, cautiously, and noiselessly they crept through the jungle toward the little cabin.
There were no growls, no fierce screams of rage—the little black stick had taught them to come quietly
lest they awaken it.
 On, on they came until Kerchak himself slunk stealthily to the very door and peered within. Behind him were
two males, and then Kala, closely straining the little dead form to her breast.
Inside the den they saw the strange white ape lying half across a table, his head buried in his arms; and on
the bed lay a figure covered by a sailcloth, while from a tiny rustic cradle came the plaintive wailing of a
Noiselessly Kerchak entered, crouching for the charge; and then John Clayton rose with a sudden start and
The sight that met his eyes must have frozen him with horror, for there, within the door, stood three great
bull apes, while behind them crowded many more; how many he never knew, for his revolvers were hanging on the
far wall beside his rifle, and Kerchak was charging.
When the king ape released the limp form which had been John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, he turned his attention
toward the little cradle; but Kala was there before him, and when he would have grasped the child she snatched
it herself, and before he could intercept her she had bolted through the door and taken refuge in a high tree.
As she took up the little live baby of Alice Clayton she dropped the dead body of her own into the empty
cradle; for the wail of the living had answered the call of universal motherhood
 within her wild breast which the dead could not still.
High up among the branches of a mighty tree she hugged the shrieking infant to her bosom, and soon the
instinct that was as dominant in this fierce female as it had been in the breast of his tender and beautiful
mother—the instinct of mother love—reached out to the tiny man-child's half-formed understanding,
and he became quiet.
Then hunger closed the gap between them, and the son of an English lord and an English lady nursed at the
breast of Kala, the great ape.
In the meantime the beasts within the cabin were warily examining the contents of this strange lair.
Once satisfied that Clayton was dead, Kerchak turned his attention to the thing which lay upon the bed,
covered by a piece of sailcloth.
Gingerly he lifted one corner of the shroud, but when he saw the body of the woman beneath he tore the cloth
roughly from her form and seized the still, white throat in his huge, hairy hands.
A moment he let his fingers sink deep into the cold flesh, and then, realizing that she was already dead, he
turned from her, to examine the contents of the room; nor did he again molest the body of either Lady Alice or
The rifle hanging upon the wall caught his first attention; it was for this strange, death-
 dealing thunder-stick that he had yearned for months; but now that it was within his grasp he scarcely had the
temerity to seize it.
Cautiously he approached the thing, ready to flee precipitately should it speak in its deep roaring tones, as
he had heard it speak before, the last words to those of his kind who, through ignorance or rashness, had
attacked the wonderful white ape that had borne it.
Deep in the beast's intelligence was something which assured him that the thunder-stick was only dangerous
when in the hands of one who could manipulate it, but yet it was several minutes ere he could bring himself to
Instead, he walked back and forth along the floor before it, turning his head so that never once did his eyes
leave the object of his desire.
Using his long arms as a man uses crutches, and rolling his huge carcass from side to side with each stride,
the great king ape paced to and fro, uttering deep growls, occasionally punctuated with the ear-piercing
scream, than which there is no more terrifying noise in all the jungle.
Presently he halted before the rifle. Slowly he raised a huge hand until it almost touched the shining
barrel, only to withdraw it once more and continue his hurried pacing.
It was as though the great brute by this show of fearlessness, and through the medium of his wild voice, was
endeavoring to bolster up his
 courage to the point which would permit him to take the rifle in his hand.
Again he stopped, and this time succeeded in forcing his reluctant hand to the cold steel, only to snatch it
away almost immediately and resume his restless beat.
Time after time this strange ceremony was repeated, but on each occasion with increased confidence, until,
finally, the rifle was torn from its hook and lay in the grasp of the great brute.
Finding that it harmed him not, Kerchak began to examine it closely. He felt of it from end to end, peered
down the black depths of the muzzle, fingered the sights, the breech, the stock, and finally the trigger.
During all these operations the apes who had entered sat huddled near the door watching their chief, while
those outside strained and crowded to catch a glimpse of what transpired within.
Suddenly Kerchak's finger closed upon the trigger. There was a deafening roar in the little room and the apes
at and beyond the door fell over one another in their wild anxiety to escape.
Kerchak was equally frightened, so frightened, in fact, that he quite forgot to throw aside the author of that
fearful noise, but bolted for the door with it tightly clutched in one hand.
As he passed through the opening, the front sight of the rifle caught upon the edge of the
in-  swung door with sufficient force to close it tightly after the fleeing ape.
When Kerchak came to a halt a short distance from the cabin and discovered that he still held the rifle, he
dropped it as he might have dropped a red hot iron, nor did he again attempt to recover it—the noise was
too much for his brute nerves; but he was now quite convinced that the terrible stick was quite harmless by
itself if left alone.
It was an hour before the apes could again bring themselves to approach the cabin to continue their
investigations, and when they finally did so, they found to their chagrin that the door was closed and so
securely fastened that they could not force it.
The cleverly constructed latch which Clayton had made for the door had sprung as Kerchak passed out; nor could
the apes find means of ingress through the heavily barred windows.
After roaming about the vicinity for a short time, they started back for the deeper forests and the higher
land from whence they had come.
Kala had not once come to earth with her little adopted babe, but now Kerchak called to her to descend with
the rest, and as there was no note of anger in his voice she dropped lightly from branch to branch and joined
the others on their homeward march.
Those of the apes who attempted to examine Kala's strange baby were repulsed with bared
 fangs and low menacing growls, accompanied by words of warning from Kala.
When they assured her that they meant the child no harm she permitted them to come close, but would not allow
them to touch her charge.
It was as though she knew that her baby was frail and delicate and feared lest the rough hands of her fellows
might injure the little thing.
Another thing she did, and which made traveling an onerous trial for her. Remembering the death of her own
little one, she clung desperately to the new babe, with one hand, whenever they were upon the march.
The other young rode upon their mothers' backs; their little arms tightly clasping the hairy necks before
them, while their legs were locked beneath their mothers' armpits.
Not so with Kala; she held the small form of the little Lord Greystoke tightly to her breast, where the dainty
hands clutched the long black hair which covered that portion of her body. She had seen one child fall from
her back to a terrible death, and she would take no further chances with this.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics