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ERBzine Volume 6023
Greystoke's Guest 
By John "Bridge" Martin

Tarzan Escapes the Giant Vampire Bats
Tarzan and Jane's adventure prior to
Jonathan Van Seward's business visit to Greystoke Manor
was documented in the film Tarzan Escapes

Chapter 1 -- The Llano and the Lions

  There is something about Africa that can make the hair stand up on one's neck, even when there is no danger in sight. In fact, the apparent absence of potential peril can be unnerving simply because of the very likely possibility that ambush predators can easily be concealed with natural camouflage in bushes or tall grasses within feet of the clueless traveler.

  My Jeep was adequate for the primitive road but would not provide permanent protection against a head-butting rhino, the claws of a hungry pride of lions, or the likelihood that a mamba or cobra could probably easily find its way into the front seat through structural orifices beneath the body of my vehicle.

  I stopped to talk with humans when I came upon hunting parties or squalid villages. The natives seemed a bit restless, and fearful for my safety, once they became aware of my intended destination. I remember so well one aged, bent woman emerging from a crude hut and taking a string of colorful beads from around her neck and insisting that I wear it around my own. Annoying thing it was, this necklace, which smelled as if the beads had been rolled from garlic-flavored gnu poo, dangling down onto the steering wheel and sometimes tangling in the chain that held the sterling silver cross I wore. I soon tore the foul beads from me in frustration and cast them out the window.

  In the distance, I could hear the roaring of great cats and the howls of the jackals and hyenas. This was their land, and I was the intruder.

  At last night fell and with it came the cold, more than just the cold of falling temperatures but a strange, foreboding cold that seemed to whisper, "Turn back...turn back while you can." But I pressed on. I had come to do a job and do it I must. The future of many might depend on my success.

  It was difficult to see, one of my headlights having been broken in an encounter with a cape buffalo earlier in the day. But at last I could catch the glow of a subdued light and as I came closer I realized its source was one of the windows of Greystoke Manor.

  I followed the driveway up to the door and shut off the engine. Now it was quiet. It was very, very quiet.  Yes, it was too quiet. In fact, it was way too quiet. I should have been able to at least hear the night hawks or the rustling of leaves and grasses disturbed by the gentle but hostile wind.

  I tried to tread lightly, though I could hear the sound of my own footfalls.

  But now I had no choice but to make noise, for I stood at the great bamboo door of Greystoke Manor and I reached out to push the doorbell which startled me when it gave out with a recorded cry of the bull ape. In spite of my terror, I smiled at that. But the grin was quickly wiped off my face as the door was drawn back slowly, accompanied by the sound of metal hinges rasping on one another.

Chapter 2 -- The Leader of the Locality

The door to Greystoke Manor opened fully, revealing a dark, shapeless void within. Then, I slowly began to make out something resembling a human.

Anon, he flicked on the porch light and the shadows created by the suddenly congregating mosquitoes danced across his face, giving him the momentary appearance of a rotting corpse with wriggling worms snaking their way over his features.

I hesitated. Then, "Lord Greystoke?" I ventured.

"I am Greystoke," he said. And as he spoke a chorus of sounds from predatory cats arose not too far away as if to acknowledge that he had uttered his name. Although I knew the noise would be familiar to him, it gave me the chills, and I could not help but speak: "Lions, tigers, they sound so close."

He looked at me strangely. "There are no Africa," he said.

Then added, "Listen to them. The children of the night. What music they make." He seemed to stare far off, thinking of another place, another time. Then, remembering me, he stepped back and swept an arm in a gesture of invitation.

"Welcome to my house. Enter freely and of your own will," he said, "Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring."

His words sounded both a warning and a ray of hope, as if cautioning me from proceeding further and, like a terms and condition checkbox on an internet website, alerting me to the fact that if I found anything I didn't like it would be my own fault. But at the same time, he seemed to be offering a ray of hope that it would be possible for me to leave, eventually.

We walked down the dark hallway to another door, which opened onto a dimly-lighted library in which he had unfolded and set up a card table which had a stack of sandwiches and a small cold storage box with cans of Mountain Dew on ice. "You must be hungry," said Greystoke, "but you will need, after your journey, to refresh yourself by making your toilet. I trust you will find all you wish. When you are ready, come into this room and have a bite."

I was indeed famished so I hurriedly made my toilet in the room he indicated. I was tempted to take time to shave but the razor looked to be so sharp that I was sure I would cut myself unless I took more time, and it wouldn't do to be bleeding all over the place. So I settled for dabbing some after-shave on my face and patted it dry with a Greystoke crest guest towel.

Returning to the library, I grabbed several sandwiches. I had noticed the top one appeared to have tiny footprints in it and I observed a small monkey watching me from the curtains, so I set that sandwich aside and laid the others on the Greystoke Coat of Arms plate in front of me. I started to fold my hands in prayer to give thanks but my progress was stopped by his steel grip around my wrist. "In this house we do not pray for ... dead food," he warned. I nodded and began biting the sandwich, but muttered a silent prayer anyway. It might be my only defense...but, from what?

He turned away and stared at the flaming logs in the fireplace. "Aren't you going to join me?" I asked. "I have already ... dined," he said.

"Well," I said, "There's more cans of Mountain Dew than I can drink...."

"I never drink ... lime," he said.

I tried another line of conversation. "Is Lady Greystoke around? Is she going to be joining us?"

"Lady Greystoke," he said, "is not with us at the present time. She has gone"

I wondered where she would go shopping this time of night but felt it best not to pursue the matter.

Chapter 3 -- The Legalities from London

I had barely finished my sandwich and taken my last gulp of the juice when Lord Greystoke plopped my briefcase on the table and brought up a chair in which to park his gigantic frame. "And now," he said, "I must see the paperwork you have brought me on the properties I am purchasing in London."

I yawned. "Really, Lord Greystoke. I have been traveling all day and this food has made me sleepy. Perhaps I could wait to show you this information on the morrow when I am more alert."

"I would see them now," he demanded. "Later, you will have plenty of time to...sleep."

He grinned in what he may have thought was a friendly expression but it seemed threatening to me, especially when I noticed his canine teeth seemed infinitesimally longer than his adjacent choppers. They were nothing compared to the kind often worn by my favorite actor, Christopher Lee, but were just long enough to be noticeable. I attributed it to stimulation of the gums if the legends were true that he used his teeth to tear open the throats of attacking animals and rend the raw flesh of freshly slain prey.

And so we spent several hours going over the maps and real estate contracts, to which he added his signature and his seal. He stacked up several bars of solid gold in payment.

From outside, I could hear the distinctive crow of one of the Greystroke roosters and I knew it would be daylight soon. "Now," he said, "you will sleep. Come, I will show you to your room."

He held a candelabra, its fluttering flames creating odd moving shadows on the stairwell as we ascended to a hall festooned with animal pelts. He stopped at a door and turned a key to open a chamber. "Please," he gestured for me to enter before him.

The room was quite charming, belying the otherwise exotic decor of Greystoke Manor. Some century-old volumes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, all in McClurg dust jackets, were on the shelves and there were several Tarzan statues located around the room, including a Jusko model with a discounted price tag. The bed had a Disney Tarzan duvet, and a Disney Tarzan sham covered the ample pillow.

"Sleep well then," said Greystoke. "I have business tomorrow so I shall not see you until evening."

I noticed he still held the key in his hand but instead of offering it to me he turned and swept out of the room quickly, closing the door.

Abruptly, I heard the sound of the key turning in the lock. I rushed to the door and tried it but it would not open. I began to panic. Although I had used the bathroom on my arrival, the sandwiches and drink had made my need to use one again quite urgent. I wasn't sure what I should do. Then, I remembered something about older homes in primitive areas and checked beneath the bed to find a thunder mug. I sat down on it and soon was luxuriating in the feeling of released pressure. However, I now had a new problem -- my deposits in the receptacle stunk up the entire room. I moved to the window, opened it, and looked out. We were on the second floor. I held the pot out the window and turned it, dumping its contents. I knew that dogs would eat just about anything and I thought perhaps some hyenas might venture close to the house.

Then, exhausted, I fell upon the bed and slept dreamlessly.

4. The Lady and the Love Seat

When I awoke, it was night again. I had no idea how long I had slept or what time of night it was. I tried the door, but it was still locked. I moved to the window and looked out and saw a chilling sight. There was Greystoke, inching his way down the wall to a point where he could grab a vine from off a nearby tree. Then, he swung on the vine to make a running landing on the ground below. He dropped the vine and sprinted into the surrounding verdure.

"What manner of man is this?" I thought. I knew he had some wild ways but I had never read anything this bizarre in the books about him that I had thumbed through prior to making my journey here.

This, for some reason, scared me half to death and I determined I had to get out, no matter what. I tore up the Disney Tarzan bedclothes and braided them into a rope, then cinched one end to the window. It reached close enough to the ground below that I knew I could make it. I was pleased to see that we had apparently had visiting hyenas, as my product from earlier was not to be found and there was no danger of my stepping in anything.

I tossed down my overnight bag and then slid down the rope. I reached the bottom safely and grabbed the bag and headed to my Jeep, but then I remembered that my briefcase, the gold bars and real estate contracts were all still on the card table. I could not leave without them.

The front door was not latched. Probably no need to do that in a remote and foreboding place like this. What prowler would venture here after sunset? I went inside and saw what I sought still on the table. As I reached for my satchel I heard a lilting laughter come from behind me and turned to see a blonde woman clad in a sparkling gown worthy of Oscar de la Renta.

"I bet you're Jane," I said. A look of disdain crossed her face. "Oh, sorry," I said. "I mean Lady Greystoke." She smiled. "Much preferred," she said. "You must be the real estate broker."

"Yes," I said. "I am Jonathan Van Seward. But please, just call me Jon.

Your husband and I completed the paperwork the other night and now I am preparing to go on my way."

"Oh, don't go, Jon," she implored, suddenly looking concerned.

"Uh, why not?" I asked. "My work here is done and I have other responsibilities." I was wondering if I should just shove past her and head out the door.

"We get so little company," she pleaded. "And my husband is away so much.

I would desire thee to at least sit by the fire with me a little while"

My heart melted at this simple plea and her eyes seemed to gaze at me with a passion that I could not understand. Oddly, I also felt a bit of an inexplicable dread. But as a moth drawn to a flame, I allowed her to take my hand and lead me to the love seat before the fire.

5. The Look at the Lavalliere

"Your neck is so, so...interesting," Lady Greystoke said, drawing closer.

I didn't know what to say. Women had been known to remark on my Charles Atlas body and my movie star face, but my neck -- with its rather prominent Adam's apple -- had never before seemed to be the object of female attention.

"Yes, rather nice neck," I responded, at once feeling as if I had said something stupid, like a schoolboy. "It, uh, helps me keep my head on straight." Now I felt really embarrassed. Couldn't I think of something more clever to say than that?

She peered at me intently, opened her mouth slightly, and licked her lips.

I reasoned that the dry air of the nearby Savannah, blown to the vicinity of Greystoke Manor by prevailing winds, had probably given her a case of chapped lips, though she hid it well beneath her bright red lipstick. It was then I noticed that she, like Lord Greystoke, had incisors that seemed just a tiny bit longer than is normal. But it was probably just my crazy imagination.

In any case, I was getting pretty uncomfortable with the whole scenario.

This was, after all, Greystoke's wife and here I sat on the couch with her, closer than a man and woman should sit when they belonged to others.

I thought of my mousy little sweetheart back home who waited faithfully for me to return.

Nervously, I began to finger the little cross on the chain around my neck, as I thought of my little Minnie who had bought it for me in Barcelona.

As the light from the fire reflected off the silver cross, Lady Greystoke spotted it and lurched sharply backward. An expression of utter horror and revulsion gnarled her lovely features and she gave out with an ear-numbing screech.

But then her voice grew hard with contempt, and she said, "Where did you get that, you thief?"

I was nonplussed. "But, this is mine," I said. "What do you mean, thief?"

"That was given to me by my father, Professor Porter," she seethed. "And you have tried to leave the house with it." She jumped to her feet and ran to a small ornate casket on an end table and opened it. "See," she said, "It is no longer here." Then her face reddened as she pulled out an identical cross on a chain. "Oh," she stammered. "I'm sorry. I guess you have one just like the one he bought me in Barcelona. Please forgive me."

"Quite understandable," I said, although I had to extract my handkerchief from my pocket and dab at the sweat on my face.

At that moment the door opened and Lord Greystoke himself stepped into the room. "What's going on here?" he asked.

6. The Lord Lays down the Law

Lord Greystoke glared at me. He snarled, "What are you wiping off your face, lipstick? Have you been imposing yourself on my Jane?

"And what's the meaning of this!" he shouted, and I felt queasy as I saw in his hands the remnants of the Disney Tarzan bedding I had shredded for my escape.

Lady Greystoke gasped and began to sob. "That blanket belonged to Korak's baby," she said, a tear streaking down her face, disrupting some of her makeup.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Greystoke. I mean Lord Greystoke," I said. "I felt like a prisoner and I had to get out of that room. But you locked me in."

"Of course," said Greystoke, "but that was for your own security. In spite of my best efforts to keep him out, my house monkey sometimes sneaks into the rooms of guests and steals their stuff. All you had to do was turn the deadbolt latch if you wanted to get out."

I could say nothing. I hadn't even thought to look for a deadbolt. I felt like an utter fool.

"I know you know where the bathroom is," he added. "but my sensitive nostrils alerted me to the fact that you had dumped your waste on Lady Greystoke's petunias and I had to go out and clean it up."

At that, Lady Greystoke's eyes widened and she looked at me with loathing and disgust.

"I, I feel terrible," I said. "I am so sorry, Lord and Lady Greystoke.

Perhaps it was the seductive influence of that vintage lime that got my mind befuddled."

"So, now you're blaming your inappropriate behavior on the wonderful repast which I provided you last night," said Greystoke.

As he spoke, he began to thump his chest and then started ripping off his clothing until finally he stood before me, naked but for his boxer shorts, which appeared to be stained yellow with urine and cluttered with dark spots of unknown origin. Then, I realized it was really a leopard skin loin cloth which he wore beneath his stately fineries instead of underwear.

"Never forget that I am also Lord of the Jungle," Greystoke said. "And as such I put up with no tomfoolery around here."

"Really, Lord Greystoke," I attempted.

"Lord of the Jungle!" he interrupted.

"Uh, yes, sir, Lord of the...uh...Jungle. Yes indeed. All I can do is apologize and assure you that, if you will allow me to depart, I will make haste to see that our transaction is recorded by the Bank of London as soon as I can make it to the telegraph office in Nairobi."

"Ah yes." Greystoke suddenly smiled in a not-too pleasant manner. "We must proceed with our business in spite of everything. When the transaction is official, you must send me a message." He looked meaningfully at his monkey. "My little manu shall accompany you. You can...uh...impale the message on his sharp stick and he will return it to me...eventually."

I looked at the monkey, which was staring at me, its teeth bared as it held one end of a pointed stick in its right hand paw continually slapping his left palm with the other.

Greystoke went on. "I must ship some rather large...boxes. I myself will be traveling with them."

"Don't forget about my boxes, too," Jane reminded him. "Fifty of yours and fifty of mine."

"Of course, my dear," he said, smiling at her. Then, to me, he added, "I look forward to coming to your land. I will miss the jungle creatures to which I am so accustomed, but perhaps the countryside of England will provide me with a more challenging kind of...hunting."

The End

Little Manu Travel Companion

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