Author(s)Don Mark Lemon, (1867-1961): Pulp writer published in All-Story Magazine, The Black Cat, Weird Tales, Wonder Stories.
Link to Tarzan of the ApesStory of a family curse of the Simian genre. Praised by H.P. Lovecraft in a 1932 letter to R.H. Barlow.
Used: Don Mark Lemon. 1992. 'The Gorilla' p. 1-11, In: The Moshassuck Review. No. 80, Ken Faig (ed.) Glenview, IL: Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association.
Thanks to Doug Anderson for a copy.
Original : Don Mark Lemon. 1905. 'The Gorilla' The All- Story Magazine 3(2): October 1905.
Modifications to the text
None, but did not see original
My father came of noble blood and was honored and loved by sincere friends, so that when the panic of 1870 came and his life and fortune were made a sacrifice to a dishonorable partner, whose speculations and embezzlements had undermined the credit of his firm, I, Genevieve Holland, an only child and daughter, found myself not without the loving condolence of friends or their sincere offers of aid.
A STORY that achieves its
best results only when read
in the silence of the night.
But my spirit was too proud and sensitive to allow me to live upon the charity of friends, so I decided to seek employment and support myself.
When I had made known this decision, many offers of employment were extended to me, and in the end I accepted the position of governess to the children of Lord Burk.
I found Lord Burk the bravest and gentlest of men, and his three little motherless daughters, with their sweet and unspoiled ways, a delight to instruct. Perhaps I might have continued in my employment, in love with my work and respected for my labor, had not something occurred, so strange, so terrible, that I fled from the home of his lordship in dismay, and have never returned to it but in hideous dreams from which I awake sick and trembling.
Lord Burk had been a widower for five years --- his wife having died shortly after the birth of his youngest child --- and while Lord Burk must have honored and cherished his wife, I guessed that his relationship with her had been more of the head than of the heart since it remained for Lady Beatrice --- the daughter of a noble neighbor --- to arouse his lordship to a passion of love the depth of which I have seldom witnessed; and surely no man who once has truly loved a woman could learn to love another with the ardor that Lord Burk experienced for Lady Beatrice.
With as sincere truth and perhaps with equal passion, Lady Beatrice returned the love of my noble patron, and nothing occurred tending to delay their marriage --- his lordship and her ladyship were affianced --- until it was discovered, but only darkly hinted of at the time, that his lordship was stricken with anemia, and unless his blood could again be made to form the red corpuscles he would die.
Lord Burk postponed the day of his marriage and placed himself under the care of his physicians, hoping to recover, but conscious that he was mortal.
Lady Beatrice continued to receive the addresses of her lover, persuaded that he had postponed the day of their marriage merely because his younger brother, Lord Robert, was absent in Europe. But when it was made known to her that his lordship was believed to be slowly dying, Lady Beatrice begged that their marriage be consummated, that she might nurse her lover back to health.
She was most pressing in her suit, offering that some of her own blood be transmitted into the veins of his lordship, for the only cure of the disease with which Lord Burk suffered is, I believe, the transmission of healthy blood into the veins of the sufferer.
But my noble patron loved Lady Beatrice too well and was of too generous a spirit to permit his fianc‚e to be drawn deeper into the shadow of his misfortune, so he refused the offer of blood from her veins and sought to dissolve their engagement.
Subsequently, however, transmission of blood was made from the arm of a paid subject --- a young man-servant --- into the veins of Lord .Burk; but the latter derived no benefit from the operation.
Indeed, he suddenly grew so much worse that a proposed second attempt at transmission was given over and his lordship, pale and weak, took to his bed, thinking to die.
Now, when Lord Burk had given up all hope, there arrived at the Park a gentleman to whom his lordship had previously written of the unhappy state of his health.
This gentleman was Doctor Hale, an American physician who had made the human blood a profound study, and who had journeyed all the way from the States to offer Lord Burk his services.
With Doctor Hale I was instantly and entirely pleased, and his hand in the terrible tragedy that followed his presence at the Park was only the hand of one endeavoring to do all good, but frustrated by a demoniac law of nature, against which this kindly man took no precaution, for of this law the world was then ignorant.
Doctor West --- a young physician, ingenuous and engaging --- accompanied Doctor Hale as aid, and with these two gentleman came also what at first I took to be a negro servant, but which, to my astonishment and horror one evening as I came suddenly and alone into the presence of the creature, proved to be a large gorilla, dressed as a man and with something akin to human intelligence in its face.
As the gorilla confronted me, it grinned and actually lifted its hat from its head and made a bow. I am certain that I showed the utmost astonishment and consternation at this act upon the part of the brute creature, for suddenly I saw Doctor West --- the young assistant of Doctor Hale --- standing a few feet away with a smile upon his lips.
"Do not be alarmed," he said, stepping forward and placing his hand upon the shoulder of the gorilla. "He's the best fellow in the world when once you know him. A little eccentric, but kind to a fault."
Evidently Doctor West had grown so familiar with the gorilla that he overlooked the fact that its presence might greatly alarm a stranger.
I gave another look at the face of his remarkable servant, and retired.
A few moments later, as I was passing along the hall on my way to the nursery, I met Doctor Hale. He stopped me and asked if I had seen his servant. Perhaps he guessed by my alarmed manner that I had.
I replied in the affirmative, and added that I was making a hasty retreat from the creature.
"No, no," he assured me, "you need not be alarmed. My servant is entirely harmless. The destructive faculty has been removed from his brain, and he grows more gentle every day."
"Do you not find the creature a strange servant?" I asked.
"He has long been a pet in my family," Doctor Hale replied, "and upon his rebelling against staying at home I permitted him to accompany me.
"Tell your little charges not to be frightened at his presence --- he will not harm them. In fact, Miss Holland, I have a little boy at home who will be miserable until my servant returns --- so closely does he attach himself to children."
"If others have learned to like him, no doubt we can," I replied.
"But tell me, sir, will his lordship recover?"
"Yes, Miss Holland," he smiled, "I believe we can make his lordship a well man again. But we must be patient; we must be patient."
I returned to my pupils and told them not to be alarmed should they meet with the gorilla servant, praying inwardly they would not. Then I comforted them with the hope that their father would soon be well and strong.
Doctor Hale and his assistant spent their third day at the Park in the sick-chamber of Lord Burk. They were, I believe, performing some kind of surgical operation upon their patient, and the surgical instruments had been carried into his lordship's chamber by the strange creature that Doctor Hale called his servant.
On the seventh day word was sent me to bring my three little charges into the presence of their father. We found Lord Burk sitting up in an easy chair, a bright glow of color in his cheeks and a healthy, animated light in his eyes.
He received his daughters with playful effusion, and all were overjoyed at the great change for the better that had been so wonderfully and mysteriously brought about.
When I quit his lordship's chamber with his children, I was accompanied by Doctor Hale, who had promised to show his gorilla to the children. At first my charges were very fearful of this creature, but when its master had made it bow to each of them in turn and perform several dexterous tricks, they recovered from their alarm and got the creature some cake, of which it was passionately fond, and in the end regarded the brute as a kind of big, good-natured human servant.
But I was suspicious of the gorilla and silently vowed that I would have nothing further to do with it myself and if possible prevent my pupils, for I saw it regard Doctor Hale covertly and there was just such a demoniac look in its eye and face as if it were a human being of low order and had been unwillingly subdued by its master's superior intellect, and waited with infinite cunning for the time when it should find that superior being in its power.
Then it would take such terrible retaliation as only the brain behind its brute brow could conceive.
The next day Lady Beatrice was permitted to visit her lover, and their meeting must have been very tender and hopeful indeed, she no longer fearing for his lordship's life, and he experiencing from his recovered health, a second youth, as it were, or feeling almost of immortality.
So rapid was the recovery of Lord Burk that only a few days elapsed between the hour he quit his chamber and the hour he led Lady Beatrice to the altar, to return with her as his wife to the Park, where they had decided to spend their honeymoon.
No sooner had Lord and Lady Burk entered the Park as man and wife than began that series of hideous events that made life a nightmare and from the horrors of which I never shall recover. As I write these lines, I almost believe that I can hear the stealthy and padded footfalls of that terrible gorilla servant now loudly, as if the creature were advancing upon me, now softly, as if it were stealing away to conceal itself where none could discover.
It was Doctor Hale's last day at the Park, and he, with Lord and Lady Burk and Lord Robert, had come to the nursery where I was reading to my pupils. As I put down the lesson-book, the door opened and upon the threshold stood the gorilla.
No longer was it clothed as a human being, for, possessed of some demoniac spirit, or in a fit of rage, it had torn the clothing from its limbs, and now it faced us, its hair standing from its body, its chest --- upon which it was pounding with one hairy paw ---; swollen with fury, and its eyes sucked deep into its head.
For a moment it stood regarding us with infinite hatred, and seemed more like some enraged and hideous spider suddenly grown to the size of a gorilla than a brute creature of human form.
Then it took a step forward upon Doctor Hale, lifting its padded paw softly; then another step forward, its body bent until its long, hairy arms dragged along the floor.
Too alarmed, too horrified to cry out or move, we awaited the advance; when suddenly I heard a peculiar sound and looked toward Lord Burk.
His eyes were sunk into his head; his body was bent until his hands almost touched the floor; and he was advancing softly, step by step, upon the gorilla. But there was a smile upon his lips!
Suddenly the gorilla caught sight of Lord Burk in his inhuman attitude, and, as the brute did so, it paused, its body was shaken as with a sudden chill, and, like a dog about to be punished, its eyes began to shift in its head, but were drawn back to his lordship's face as by a spoken command.
Had Lord Burk been driven by fright to imitate the actions of the brute? Or did he propose to battle with the hairy monster, and was he imitating its actions in the hope that by so doing he would intimidate the gorilla?
We scarcely breathed, as softly and stealthily he advanced upon the brute, the smile still upon his lips and his fingers slowly turning inward toward his palms.
Suddenly there came a terrible cry, and my eyes twisted in my head from fright so that for the moment I could not see.
When I recovered my vision, I looked and saw his lordship standing over the prostrate gorilla, with one foot planted upon its shoulder.
He had conquered the thing, and a moment later Doctor Hale led the frightened and subdued creature back to its room in the turret and locked it in.
Conceive our astonishment at the courage displayed by Lord Burk, who so lately seemed lying at the point of death, and who at the time of his brave deed must have been far from physically strong.
Indeed, Doctor Hale was so amazed by the act of his patient that for all the remainder of the day he scarcely took his eye from the face of his lordship, and seemed to be studying and weighing his every action, look, and mood.
All that night I heard Doctor Hale walk the floor of his room, and repeat over and over to himself, "My God! My God! What have I done?"
The next morning the gorilla failed to appear when its door was unlocked, and, upon search being made, the creature was found stiff and cold beneath its bed.
It had come to its death we knew not how, but guessed either through fright or injury it had received at the hands of Lord Burk. Or it may have been poisoned during the night by one who never confessed.
As Doctor Hale and his assistant were prepared to leave England that morning, they could not delay to see the creature buried, so left the body with his lordship, who, after some considerable delay, had it interred in a far corner of his estate.
Two days after the interment of the gorilla's body I had occasion to go up to the turret floor of the Hall and pass near the room where Doctor Hale's strange servant had slept and died --- a large, bare room, without exit or entrance other than one heavy oaken door. A room built for what purpose I do not know, but a dungeon in every respect.
Alice, my youngest charge, had stolen away to the turret the day before and left one of her books there, and I was searching the east hall for this book when suddenly I heard a sound that brought me to a standstill and almost stopped the beating of my heart.
Distinctly I heard the soft, padded footfalls of the dead gorilla.
The creature was coming down a narrow north side-hall, as yet unseen by me, but every moment advancing nearer to me.
My body grew cold as death, then light as air, and I felt almost as if my soul had left the flesh and that I was standing there, a spirit, as step by step the dead thing approached.
Soon it reached the end of the hall, and another step would bring it into my presence, when it stopped --- stopped suddenly --- and all was deathly still.
A minute passed, and I stood peering at the corner around which the dead thing would appear. Then another minute passed. Had the gorilla softly, noiselessly retreated, or was it standing just at the turn of the hall --- waiting, listening?
I felt my body grow lighter still, and in another moment I would have fainted from horror had I not heard the full, near footfalls of Lord Burk. He was approaching me --- brave, strong, reliant; but approaching from down the hall where stood the gorilla!
Would he and the dead thing meet face to face? I listened. Swiftly his lordship advanced; he approached the corner where I believed the dead gorilla was still standing; he reached the corner; he hesitated; then he turned that dreadful angle and came into my sight alone, unchallenged, but with a ghastly smile upon his lips.
On recovering from the swoon that I had fallen into at the approach of his lordship, I found myself in the nursery and Lady Beatrice herself chafing my hands. She was very sympathetic, but did not know --- nor did she ask --- why I had fainted.
I thanked her for her kindness, and, rising, assured her that I was myself again. Whereupon she left me to my own thoughts.
Had I merely imagined the circumstances that had so upset me? Was not the gorilla dead and buried? How, then, could I have heard it in the turret? Had there been two gorillas brought by Doctor Hale from the States?
Had the dead gorilla's body encompassed a human soul, and had that soul returned to haunt the Park? I resolved these questions, and many more.
Then came the question: Had Lord Burk seen or heard the dead gorilla as he came down the hall of the turret?
This I would learn when again we met. But no! His lordship greeted me cordially, sympathetically, and then retired to his library.
If he knew aught, he kept that knowledge profoundly secret, and feeling that it would be presumptuous to question him, I returned to my duties, not assured that I had imagined the presence of the gorilla in the turret, but hoping that I had.
Thursday following my painful experience, Alice --- my youngest pupil --- came into the nursery and said that while she was playing in the forbidden turret she had seen the gorilla ---; she seemed not to realize that this creature had died --- and that she had run after the "hairy thing"; but that it had fled into the blind stone room, shutting itself in, and would not admit her though she had knocked and kicked at the door.
Then the turret was haunted; I had not merely imagined it. Haunted by some horrible, mysterious presence.
I immediately informed Lord Burk of the matter --- of what I had experienced and what his little daughter had seen.
His lordship looked at me searchingly, strangely, fearfully, and at once had the turret searched, then the roof of the Hall, and later all the lower floors, delegating four men servants to the task. But not the slightest trace was found of the terrible presence that had so alarmed me.
About dark the search was given up, and all retired to rest. It must have been after eleven o'clock when I was suddenly awakened by piteous cries proceeding from the hallway. I sprang from my bed and listened at the door, too fearful to venture forth.
It was Lady Burk calling for help, and a moment later young Lord Robert was at her side, asking what had so alarmed her. She made no reply, but fell back unconscious. Soon the entire household was aroused and I was called to attend upon her ladyship.
As I came into the room where the frightened woman lay, Lord Burk, with a long cloak hastily thrown about him, was bending over her.
Immediately upon her ladyship recovering she was questioned as to the cause of her fright. Clasping her husband's hands, she whispered that she had awakened in the dark and seen the dead, unclothed gorilla standing by her bed, staring into her face.
Lord Burk bent over her ladyship to comfort her, when she again swooned, and not until dawn did she revive. Then she was found to be dangerously ill.
Again the Hall was searched, even the walls being sounded and in some places pried into, but no trace was discovered of the frightful, mysterious presence.
As a last resort, the grave of the gorilla was opened, and there, undisturbed, lay the body of the brute creature, fast decaying.
For two days Lady Burk lay almost at the point of death, and during that time nothing more was heard or seen of the demoniac presence --- whether ghost or flesh and blood, none could say.
Then, upon a Sunday afternoon --- an hour after Lord Burk had quit the Hall to ride over to the estate of Lady Beatrice's father, for he needed some respite from attending upon her ladyship --- the gorilla was heard in the turret pounding upon its breast with its hairy paw, and immediately four armed servants, led by young Lord Robert, hurried in pursuit of the thing.
It stood with its back toward them at the far end of a dark hallway, and as they raised a cry to frighten the creature it fled along the hall to the blind stone room and locked itself in by sliding the bolts on the inside of the door.
Enraged by the misfortune that the brute had brought about, Lord Robert slid the heavy bolts on the outside of the oaken door, and vowed that the creature should be confined until it had perished of hunger and thirst.
This was an awful doom to pronounce even upon a brute creature, but no one blamed Lord Robert for not releasing the gorilla to be shot. Before it could be dispatched it might itself kill a human being.
No sooner was the creature trapped than Lord Robert mounted his horse and hastened to inform his brother of the fact.
In an hour he returned. His face was very grave, and I soon learned that Lord Burk had never reached the estate of his father-in-law, but that his lordship's horse had been found near the river which divided his estate from the estate of Lady Beatrice's father, and that the horse was riderless.
A searching party was immediately sent out, and the footprints of Lord Burk were discovered leading from where his horse had been tethered down to the river's edge. There they ended.
For a time it was feared that his lordship had drowned himself in a fit of grief, or that he had been drowned accidentally, but this fear was dispelled when footprints tallying with those found near his lordship's horse were discovered about a mile down the river upon the opposite bank.
Evidently Lord Burk swam down the river --- either to break his trail or else suffering a temporary aberration --- and thence had journeyed on due south.
These footprints were tracked for about half a mile, where they ended abruptly in the hard ground. At that point it was learned that a well-dressed gentleman had been seen shortly before journeying southeast, and by the report of farmers and others this party was followed through the evening and night, though, strange to say, he was now reported as an old man, now as a man of middle age.
Morning came, but though still followed, Lord Burk was not overtaken. Then the trail was broken, lost, recovered, again broken and lost, and when next recovered the old man and the middle-aged man were in each other's company. Finally the trail vanished in the center of a large open field, and not again recovered. What the searchers had been following seemed suddenly to have disappeared into thin air.
Lord Robert returned to the Park --- for an hour he tried to comfort Lady Burk --- then again went in search of his brother. Report after report came in, now hopeful, now hopeless; and when the third day had passed all England was searching for the missing peer.
At the Hall, in the blind room of the turret, the miserable creature was slowly famishing, and when we heard its infrequent, distant, and piteous cries we set our faces and asked what news had come of Lord Burk.
Upon the sixth day, what was believed to be the drowned body of Lord Burk was recovered at the mouth of the river running by his lordship's estate.
When this news was brought to Lady Beatrice, she arose in her bed, called me to her side, and demanded that she be taken to the blind room in the turret, and that the creature that had caused her husband's death, if not dead, should be shot in her presence.
I was appalled at this wild command, and pleaded with her ladyship; but crazed with grief and fever, she demanded my obedience, and her physicians, fearing to cross her mood, and hoping that the satisfaction of her vengeance would purge her mind, acquiesced.
Surrounded by five armed men, I led Lady Burk to the turret, and the bolts on the outside of the blind stone room were shot back and the oaken door forced open. No sound of any life within had reached our ears, so that when the door was opened with a crash we were scarcely fearful, persuaded that the creature we sought had already perished of hunger and thirst.
A great flood of sunlight poured into the room, in the center of which, upon the stone floor, with its face hidden against its breast, crouched the gorilla.
There was no clothing upon its body; and its hairy skin hung loose and bare about its frame, the effects of starvation.
Then men shouted, but the thing did not move. Again they shouted; still the creature remained as motionless and silent as if dead.
At the command of Lady Beatrice one of the men cocked his revolver and, deliberately leveling it at the creature, pulled the trigger.
And the bullet crashed through the base of the crouching figure's bowed head.
There was a sob --- a human sob --- and feebly the thing lifted up its head and looked toward us.
And the face was that of Lord Burk!
The man who discovered the drowned body which was believed to be the body of Lord Burk was heavily rewarded by Lord Robert, who publicly proclaimed the body to be that of his brother, the missing peer; but this body was secretly removed from the vault of the Burks, and in its place was put the thing that had been found in the blind stone room of the turret.
Three days later Lady Beatrice was placed by the side of her husband.
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