Episode 4 Larra and the Lost World - Chapter 2 Burroughs

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    The Adventures of Larra Court

    Episode 4
    Larra and the Lost World
    Chapter 2 Burroughs

    Larra spent a few more days in London allowing her friends to enjoy the great city. Then she and her entourage traveled to Liverpool where they boarded the Queen Mary.

    The trip across the ocean was uneventful and relatively quick. The giant ocean liner cruised across the ocean without incident. This was another novel experience for Larra and her companions. None of them had ever traveled on such a large and luxurious ship before. “It is like a floating village,” exclaimed Jia Li.

    Floating village or not, within six days they were in New York. Here Larra and her party split up. For the American, Katie, this was a homecoming. Her parents had their home in upstate New York, and she headed off to visit them for the first time in several years. Amy, Sarah, and the children stayed in the giant city. They would enjoy taking in the sights of the bustling metropolis while Larra was away. Larra and Jia Li boarded a train for California.

    The vastness of the United States amazed her. She had, of course, been in large countries before, but they had not been on the same magnitude. China and Africa had been rather primitive regions, largely undeveloped, but the United States was clearly an advanced nation. The train rolled past neat farms and well-organized towns and villages, and every now and then a huge city paraded past the windows. It was very much like England, but on a huge scale. And as the train proceeded farther west, the terrain became less well settled and wilder and more desolate. She traveled across vast plains, over great rivers, and through regions of wild desert. The vista was ever changing. Eventually, the train reached California. Larra and Jia Li rode it almost all the way to the coast, finally getting off in the town of San Fernando. There, Larra hired a car for the last part of her trip.

    It took her less than an hour to drive from the train station to the ranch. She and Jia Li did not seem to be expected, but when she stepped from the car what appeared to be a Chinese houseboy ran out to greet her. He stopped short when he saw Jia Li and spoke to her in Chinese. A look of confusion spread over the Manchu girl’s face and she shook her head. Larra recognized the problem. The houseboy was speaking Cantonese, but Jia Li spoke Mandarin. It was not possible for them to understand each other.

    Larra addressed the houseboy in English. “Is Mister Burroughs home?” She spoke English as much for the sake of Jia Li as for herself. Up until a year ago, Jia Li had spoken not a single word of English, but with patient tutelage she was now gaining some mastery of the language.

    Larra’s question snapped the houseboy’s attention back to her. Larra could understand the houseboy’s fascination with Jia Li. The young Chinese woman was incredibly beautiful. She was tall for her race, standing about five foot eight inches. Her statuesque physique was accentuated by her waist length black hair and her smoldering dark eyes. But now, the houseboy focused on Larra’s commanding presence. The tall dark-haired woman repeated her question. “Mr. Burroughs, is he home? Please tell him Miss Court and her companion are here.” Immediately the houseboy darted back inside the large ranchhouse.

    Within thirty seconds he had returned. “Please to go in,” he said.

    Larra and Jia Li entered the house, not knowing quite what to expect. Inside a balding man Larra estimated to be in his late fifties or early sixties met them. He extended his hand. “Please forgive me for not meeting you,” he said. “It would have been quite easy for me to have sent a car to pick you up at the station.”

    Larra accepted the handshake. Turning slightly, she introduced Jia Li. “No apology is necessary. We thought it best to come as quickly as possible considering the urgency of the situation. This is my companion Jia Li. She is young, but has spent much of her life fighting against the forces of fascism in Asia.”

    Jia Li darkened. It was her equivalent of a blush. “Pleased to meet you,” she said in her best English.

    Burroughs seemed a little bit overwhelmed by the presence of so much female beauty. “Please come into my study,” he invited. “Ho, bring some refreshments for our guests,” he said to the houseboy.

    Larra and Jia Li entered a large comfortable book-lined room. Larra recognized many of the titles as being written by their host. She had spent much of the trip in the Queen Mary and the train reading some of them.

    Burroughs waved them to a couch. Both women sat down, and Burroughs took a seat across from them in a comfortable-looking armchair. “I wish my wife was here to greet you as well, but she left for Los Angeles just this morning on a shopping expedition. I don’t expect her back until tomorrow.”

    “That is unfortunate,” said Larra, making small talk. “It would have been nice to meet her.” At this point Ho entered the room carrying a tray of cold drinks. It looked like lemonade to Larra.

    “Would you prefer something stronger?” asked Burroughs.

    “No, thank you,” replied Larra, “I rarely drink. But now if I may broach the subject, perhaps we should get down to business. Your letter to Anthony Eden seemed to indicate that time was of the essence.”

    “Yes, you are right,” replied Burroughs. “The matter is urgent.”

    “Please go over the details for me.”

    Larra listened patiently for the next half hour while Burroughs went over his story. Although her face did not indicate it, she found much of what the American said hard to believe. She heard him through to the end, however, before challenging him on it.

    “What you are trying to tell me is that much of what you have written in your works of fiction is actually based on fact. It is a most amazing tale if any of it is true.”

    “Nevertheless,” replied Burroughs, “much of it is true. When I began writing my tales of Africa I thought it best to disguise them as a work of pure fiction. As a resulted, I invented many things. As an intelligent and well-informed young woman of the twentieth century, you are probably aware of the fact that there is no species of great apes in Africa. There are baboons, chimpanzees, and gorillas. I invented the great apes by combining the latter two species. I also disguised the location, having most of the events occur on the west coast of the continent, rather than in the interior. I wanted to be sure that if anyone read my books, they would find them too far fetched and too fantastic to be taken seriously.”

    “But why do such a thing?” inquired Larra. “Most authors do the opposite. They try to get people to believe things that are not true. How do I know that you are not doing that now?”

    “I have some evidence that what I have told you is true. In the past week this information was sent to me.” Burroughs held up a letter and a newspaper clipping. She took them from him.

    “As you can see from the news item,” Burroughs continued, “the Third Reich has sent an expedition to study the flora and fauna of the equatorial region of Africa. That news item was sent to me by one of my contacts in Berlin. The letter with it confirms what I have been saying.”

    Larra studied the letter and the newspaper clipping. “I am not aware of the accuracy of your sources. This could be nothing but nonsense.”

    Burroughs held out another letter. “This is from Mr. Eden. He also has operatives in Berlin. It was brought to me by special courier so as not to go through the mail.”

    Larra scanned the letter. It was very similar to the one she had received from the British foreign Office. “It does appear to confirm what you say,” she said, sipping thoughtfully at her lemonade. “The Nazis seem to be launching a large and well-financed expedition into the heart of Africa.”

    Burroughs shifted in his chair. “So you believe me?”

    “I don’t know what to believe. Your novels are quite fantastic works of fiction, full of inaccuracies, and yet you claim that they are based on fact. You are expecting me to believe that somewhere in Africa there is some sort of ape-man who has discovered extraordinary African kingdoms that do not appear on any map. And that the Nazis have learned of these, and are in the process of sending an expedition into the heart of Africa to exploit them.”

    “Well, said Burroughs, “He is not exactly an apeman. But he does live in harmony with nature and has discovered places that are almost beyond belief. If the Germans get into these unknown lands they will gain much that will be of use to them in their quest for world domination. More importantly, they will destroy a part of Africa that should remain unknown to the rest of the world for as long as possible in order to prevent its desecration.”

    “And it is to be my job to find this mythical ape man?” said Larra, pronouncing apeman like it was two words. “And then prevent the Nazis from carrying out their aims?”

    “Not precisely. If you locate the apeman, the British government will send in all the help you need. You have been chosen because you can go to Africa in the guise of an archeologist. Sending in the British army prematurely, would create an international incident, especially as the area threatened is not part of the British Empire. It might seem like an invasion.”

    Larra did not speak. She seemed to be mulling over his arguments.

    “While we dither,” Burroughs said, “the Germans are on the move. Do you think that Mr. Eden is given to flights of fancy? Please believe that what I say is true.”

    “Very well,” she said finally, I will take what you have told me at face value. How do I find this ape-man?”

    Burroughs gave a great sigh of relief. “I have maps and diaries of my own secret journey into the heart of Africa, taken many years ago. You may make copies of any of the information that you need. It should allow you to find what you seek.”

    He walked over to a large oak desk and opened a drawer. From it he took a pile of papers and notebooks about a foot high. “There is plenty of room in the house. You may stay here while you study this material.”

    Larra smiled mischievously. “You are not afraid that Mrs. Burroughs will be upset when she finds out that you have been entertaining two very attractive females in her absence?”

    Burroughs laughed. “I wish that I was young enough to give her something to be suspicious of.” His eyes twinkled.
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