I didn’t usually work this way. Most of the time I sat in my office, behind my large wooden desk, in my comfortable chair, while my clients sat across the desk from me, squirming on the thin pads on the hard wooden chairs I provided. But, today I had been summoned to meet with Lord Burton, in his office. Now I was the one sitting, and squirming in a hard wooden chair. Lord Burton sat across from me, and his 2 sons stood, one on each side of him.
Frank Burton was an imposing man. He was tall, and for a man was fairly good looking. His only apparent flaw was the strong spectacles that he wore perched on his nose. These glasses had funny lenses. The lenses made his eyes look small and piggish, and they made the sides of his face shrink into the lenses. And when I glanced into the lenses I could see the reflections of the room in the lenses were upside down. His 2 sons were also tall, and as good-looking as their father, and wore exactly the same type of glasses.
“You are saying, Lord Burton, that there has been a rumor of a young white male living with the apes in the rain forests of the Congo?” I asked.
“There have been reported sightings of a white male in that area, yes.” Lord Burton replied.
“Why would you think that this could be your nephew?” I asked.
“I think nothing of the sorts. However that is the area that my brother’s ship was supposedly wrecked, and I owe it to my family to determine if there is any possibility that my brother or his child survived. My son Eric is next in line to inherit the title of Lord Burton after my passing, and while I have used the title since my brothers presumed death, I have not formalized anything. So, for Eric’s sake I would like to dispel any rumors.” Lord Burton answered.
“Tell me Lord Burton, does poor eyesight run on your side of the family?” I asked.
“Why, yes it does. All of the males, including my brother John are quite shortsighted, and require strong-lensed spectacles from an early age. Why do you ask?” Lord Burton said.
“Well, if this does happen to be your nephew, he will likely be quite shortsighted as well. I can’t conceive you, or either of your sons being able to survive in a jungle environment without your eyeglasses.” I replied.
“No, you are quite right. I can see nothing without my spectacles. It is very probable that this is not my nephew. However, I must ask you to check this out for me.” Lord Burton replied.
We hammered out the details of my expedition. I left Lord Burton’s mansion with a sizable deposit check, and a promise to do my best to find out what happened to his brother John, and his pregnant wife Lucille, who had left Southampton on May 17, 1913, and had never been heard from again. Wreckage from their ship had been found off the coast of Africa, and they had been presumed dead. No one had found a trace of them, despite Lord Burton spending tons of money on a couple of prior expeditions. If, and it was a mighty big if, this was his nephew that was living with the apes the boy would be 19 years old. And. since the males of the family seemed predisposed to having extremely poor uncorrected vision, I could not see how any offspring would have good eyesight.
It took a while to hire a ship, and to provision it. I had a team of experienced men, all ex army from the war with Germany. Finally we were able to set sail on April 27th, 1932.
It would have been easier for me perhaps to fly to a point closer to our destination, but I needed to spend some time with my men to try to learn more about them, and to develop a rapport with them. Sergeant Dow Jones was the man I had picked to be my second in command, and together we gave the 15 men we had with us a thorough briefing. So, really the time we spent on the ship was quite beneficial.
Our Captain had been in the merchant marine during the war, and was quite well versed in these waters. Finally we reached the general area where John Burton’s ship had gone down, and Captain Scott got us as close to the shore as he possibly could. We lowered the boats, and our supplies, and proceeded to bring everything to shore. Soon everything was landed, and after ensuring himself that we were as safe as possible, Captain Scott took his leave, to continue on his voyage to India. He would be returning in a little over a month, and I anticipated that we would be ready to return to England with him.
The following days were spent searching through the rainforest along the coastline of the Congo, to see if we could find any evidence of human habitation. On the sixth day we came across the remnants of a crude shack, overgrown with vines and other vegetation. My men hacked through the vegetation, and finally we were able to get inside. On a crude bed, just off the floor laid a skeleton, its bones picked clean of flesh. Not having any medical training I wasn’t positive, but I thought the bones were that of a man, and not a lady. The interior of the cabin had stayed surprisingly dry, and there were some leather bound journals. As I investigated closely I discovered that these journals were in fact diaries. We gathered all that we could, and returned to our own campsite, as it was rapidly approaching twilight.
That evening I sat in my tent, reading the journals by candlelight. The diaries were indeed those of John Burton.
June 16, 1913. A terrible storm befell us, and after 2 days and 2 nights our ship was cast upon the rocks of this shore. The captain, and most of the crew perished, but 2 of the men helped Lady Lucille and I to row safely to this godforsaken shoreline. In the confusion and the haste to get us to shore I sadly must report the loss of my glasses, without which I am unable to see a thing.
June 17, 1913. The day has dawned bright and calm. There is no sign of the terrible storm that left us stranded here. Lucille has reported that our sailors have been able to construct a crude cover from the sun, and we are going to go there immediately. I am writing this with my one eye closed, and my face only inches from the page, as that is the only way I can see anything without my glasses. I fear we shall die here, and our unborn child will never see the shores of England. Oh how I wish I had never embarked on this careless journey to Australia.
June 18, 1913. I cannot believe my good fortune. One of our trunks washed ashore, and in it was my spare pair of spectacles. I can see again.
There were a number of entries for the next 3 months. They described how Lord Burton and the men constructed the shack we had found, along with another shack for the 2 men. It described also how they had hunted and fished for their food.
Sept. 15, 1913. I have a son. Lucille gave birth to a healthy baby boy during the night. None of us knew what to do, but we managed to fumble our way through the birth, and the crying of my son is music to my ears.
From reading the entries in the diary I discovered that Lady Burton had lived for about 3 more months after the birth of her son. The food they were eating was probably the reason for her death, although from the description of her illness I suspect that she might have had malaria. She had been buried behind the cabin, a decent distance into the forest. Dow Jones and I went to see if we could find the grave, and after much searching and chopping with our machetes we did find the hand carved cross that John Burton had described in his diary as marking the place of his wife’s burial. This was enough proof for us that the corpse in the cabin had been that of Lord Burton.
Dow Jones and I mustered the men, and we dug a grave for the bones of Lord John Burton. We had a Church of England prayer book with us, so we said the service for the dead over the grave of the Lord Burton as we laid him to rest beside his wife. I had not discussed with the present Lord Burton what we should do if we found evidence of his brother’s death, but I assumed that the dairies, along with our sworn testimony would suffice as proof of death.
We also searched for, and found the remains of the shack that had been built for the 2 sailors. Inside we found 2 skeletal remains, so we presumed that these men had perished from the same cause that John Burton had. We dug 2 more graves, and buried the men as well.
Now we had another task. We had to discover if the son of John Burton lived, for he was the rightful Lord Burton, and no passing of the title could occur as long as he was still presumed to be alive. That evening after I returned to my tent, I resumed my reading of John Burton’s diaries. From my reading I gleaned that after the passing of his wife John Burton had somehow managed to train one of the female apes to provide milk to her son. Apparently this female ape had lost her baby, and was full of milk. Since John was alone in the jungle with the apes he had been forced to form some sort of a bond with them, and it appeared that he had managed to do this quite well.
We went off into the forest in search of the tribe of apes. We found traces of them, but we didn’t seem to be able to find any of them. Every night I returned to my tent and read more of John’s epic story. It had been a harsh life in the jungle. Much time had been spent in search of food, and while the men would have considered killing and eating the meat from one of the apes, John Burton felt that the apes were their salvation, so he wouldn’t allow the 2 men to kill any of them. The apes roamed the camp, and were quite friendly, bringing them bananas and coconuts to eat. They did manage to catch some fish, but it was obvious from John’s writings that their diet was lacking proper nourishment. When the baby, who John had named Charles, was about 2 years old John and the 2 men had come down with a very severe form of diarrhea. The diaries ended there, so I thought that the diarrhea had probably caused the death of the 3 of them. There was no mention of what happened to 2-year-old Charles, so I was fairly convinced that Charles was the white child seen in the company of the herd of apes.
We had 2 more weeks before our ship returned to take us back to England. We had to find Charles Burton in this time frame. So, our search intensified. We went further afeild, camping at night, and traveling to any area that appeared to be inhabited by apes. On our third day I came across an area of obsidian rock. Obsidian is a smoky rock that appears to be glass. But what interested me was that it looked as if someone had been carefully smashing these rocks. I found what looked to be a number of rocks that appeared to have been crafted as lenses. From what I could gather, the rock had been split, and if the split surface was concave, whoever had broken the rock appeared to spend considerable time polishing the concave surface with a stone and wet sand. Then it appeared that after the lens had been shaped the person polished the lens with finer sand, finishing it off by polishing it with the fur from a leopard. A number of the partially finished lenses had broken, so I could see what the person was doing, and the progress that they were making. I wondered if this could be Charles Burton, attempting to make lenses to correct his myopia. It was a very crude way of doing it, but any lens would be helpful to a person with the Burton myopia. And, I had noticed at the time, but hadn’t thought much about it, that John Burton’s skeleton had no glasses around it.
We found the area that the apes seemed to be habituating on the 4th day. Dow Jones showed the men how to construct traps to catch the apes, and we made camp well away from the area that the apes seemed to be. My plan was a simple one. I felt if we captured any one of the tribe of apes, Charles Burton would have enough human cunning to attempt to release the caged ape, and then we would spring a trap on him.
It took almost a week, but we managed to trap 5 of the apes. We locked the cage, and posted guards at a sufficient distance to enable us to remain hidden from anyone trying to release the apes, but we were close enough we would be able to overpower the individual. Now we were on a deadline, as our transport back to England would be arriving in just a few days.
It took another 2 nights before our quarry was captured. I suspect that he would have escaped, but the thick gold wire framed glasses he had been wearing were grabbed from his face by one of my men, and with the loss of his glasses the future Lord Charles Burton was reduced to a trembling individual with a blank expression on his face.
Fortunately his glasses had not broken, and once he was carefully bound so that he could not escape, I returned them to him, and let him watch as we released the 5 apes we had captured. I had assumed that Lord Burton had taught his son to speak English, but the number of years that Charles had spent with the apes had left him speaking only in grunts. It wasn’t until we led him back to where we were going to wait for the arrival of the ship that I heard the first word of English from him. As we approached the overgrown shack where we had found the body of Lord Burton, I heard Charles speak, softly, but very plain.
“Daddy?” Charles asked.
I lead Charles to where we had buried Lord Burton next to his wife, and I pointed at his grave.
“Daddy.” I said.
“Mommy.” Charles said as he pointed at the other grave.
Just then one of my men spotted the ship that was coming for us. Good thing we had completed our mission, because our provisions were almost gone. We loaded up what we could, and we rowed out to meet the ship.
Our return voyage to England was uneventful, however when we returned to Southampton we were met by mobs of reporters. Someone in the employment of the Burton family had let the news slip to the media. John Burton’s brother, and his 2 cousins were waiting for us, in a long black Rolls Royce limousine. During the voyage I had managed to show Charles that we had no intention of hurting him, and eventually we were able to allow him to wander the ship on his own. His vocabulary in English was extremely limited, although he seemed to be very intelligent, so I wasn’t worried about his ability to learn. In fact he had learned the names for many of the things on the ship quite easily, although when he was in his cabin in the evening I could hear him speaking to himself in soft grunts, which I presumed to be the language of the apes.
The acting Lord Burton was quite interested in our ability to prove that this man was indeed the rightful Lord Burton. I suspected that he had been hoping for proof that his son Eric could legitimately inherit the title, but he didn’t show it, and accepted our proof without question. They wanted to take Charles with them, but Charles didn’t want to go, unless I went along. So Lord Burton engaged me to help Charles adapt to society.
I had noticed that Charles appeared to be, at age 20, even more shortsighted than his father had been. I could tell that his vision was lacking, because he kept screwing up his eyes to attempt to see things. This was a little surprising to me, because I had always been of the beliefs that performing a lot of near point work increased myopia, but Charles had yet to learn to read. Obviously the Burton myopia was of a type that was natural.
A visit to Moorefield’s proved that my observations were correct. New glasses were obtained for the boy, with a stronger prescription. Lord Charles Burton now had –16D of myopia, with a slight correction for astigmatism. This was in line with his 2 cousins, and it appeared that the Burton myopia increased slightly with every future generation.
After about 6 months of staying in Lord Charles’s company I felt that my services were no longer needed, so I advised his uncle Frank that I was no longer required, and that the tutors and other servants had developed a rapport with Charles.
So, I went back to my work as a private investigator. From time to time I ran across articles in the newspapers about Lord Charles Burton. Apparently he was doing quite well as the head of Burton Enterprises. And, I was quite interested when I saw the notice of the impending wedding of Lord Charles Burton, and Jane Smith in the Times. His bride to be was a gorgeous looking girl, but the intriguing part was that she wore glasses that appeared to be as strong or stronger than the glasses Lord Charles wore. Their offspring were definitely going to be very myopic.
A couple of weeks later I received a real shock. In my morning post was a gilt edged invitation to the forthcoming nuptials of Lord Charles Burton, and Ms. Jane Smith. I had not realized that Charles hadn’t forgotten about me. I attended the wedding, and it was a fabulous ceremony. The King and Queen were in attendance, along with every member of the British nobility. I had not realized that Jane Smith’s father was a very wealthy man in his own right, so Charles was not marrying beneath his social class.
I heard little more about the Burtons after the wedding. I did see notices in the news that Lady Jane had given birth to 3 children, and I knew that the oldest was a girl, followed by a boy, with a second daughter. I suppose Charles might have been inclined to look me up, if the Second World War hadn’t reared its ugly head. I know the Burton family retreated from the city to one of their holdings in the North Country, as did most of their peers.
In the spring of 1946 London was undergoing massive reconstruction. I had been fortunate, and neither my home, nor my office had been damaged. I was sitting behind my old wooden desk doing paperwork, when I heard footfalls on the stairs. The door opened, and a tall, good-looking man wearing extremely strong glasses peered into the room. His gaze through the thick lenses landed on me.
“Edward, may I come in?” Charles asked.
“My dear Charles, of course you may. Enter, and have a seat. What do I owe the pleasure of your visit to?” I asked.
“As you well know I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the apes. I need to go back and make sure they are all right. I have heard that some of the native people are hunting them, and others are cutting down the rainforests. I am purchasing a large area of the rainforest to use as a nature preserve for the apes. Would you be interested in mounting another expedition?” Charles asked.
“Will you be going along?” I asked.
“Of course. I want to take Lady Jane and my 3 children along as well. They need to visit the graves of my parents, and they need to see where I lived when I grew up among the apes.” Charles replied.
“Well, then I suppose I must help you arrange it. When would you like to leave?” I asked.
“As soon as it is possible. One of our ships is available to take us around May 1st.” Charles said.
“Leave it to me and I will set it up. How long do you want to stay in Africa?” I asked.
“About 2 months should be long enough.” Charles replied.
So I set up another expedition. There was a lot of military surplus left from the Yanks being here in England, so I was able to equip the expedition quite well. And because there were many former soldiers available, it was simple to hire my men.
We set sail on May 2cnd, and within 4 days we were off the coast of Africa. I had taken note of the compass readings on the first expedition, so it was a relatively simple task to put ashore in almost the same location. It was an interesting four days. I was seated with the Burton family, and I was enthralled by the light dancing from the front of the lenses of the strong glasses that every member of the Burton family wore to see any further afield than the tip of their nose. And as an added bonus the widow Smith, Jane Burton’s mother had come along. It appeared that Rose Smith had been the one to pass her severe myopia on to her daughter, because the glasses that Rose wore were similar in appearance to the ones Jane wore. I was willing to bet that in these 6 pairs of eyes there was close to 100 diopters of correction looking at me every day while we ate, as even 12 year old Jennifer, 10 year old John, and 8 year old Celia all wore glasses that appeared to range from –12D to –15D.
The widow Smith was a little older than I was, but she was a fine looking lady. She had a tight, trim behind, a nice pair of firm looking breasts, and she didn’t have an ounce of fat on her. I was surprised that a woman of her class had accompanied her daughter and her grandchildren willingly, because she had no expectations of finding a 5 star hotel in the rainforest. We did have extremely good tents and other equipment, but this wasn’t going to be a 2-month picnic.
Once we landed, using a landing craft that we had obtained from Navy Surplus, we set up camp. The men, being all well versed in military ways had us comfortable in no time. Charles had already gone off into the woods by himself, and I know that Lady Jane was a little worried when he didn’t return that night. But he did come back the following day, accompanied by a group of apes. He obviously hadn’t forgotten how to communicate with them, because he was grunting and squealing right along with them. He was able to introduce us to the ape that had been his surrogate mother.
One afternoon Charles and I were together in the area where I had found the obsidian rock, and the smashed, partially finished lenses. Charles described to me how he had discovered a piece of rock one day that had broken away, and when he held it up to his very myopic eyes he was amazed that he could actually see objects clearly that were more than a foot or so away from him. He then experimented, by breaking off chunks of the glassy type rock. Using a paste made from sand and banana mash he was able to smear this on a round rock, and by patiently working his rough paste into the piece of glass he was able to crudely make a lens. Once he had the glass sanded roughly to shape he then made another paste out of fine pumice. Then the final polishing was done by placing a piece of elephant hide on the rock and he was able to polish the lens, probably not to optical quality, but sufficiently so that he could see through it. Then Charles showed me how he took a straight stick, and using elephant hide he fashioned a pocket for each lens. He then lashed sticks to the top of the frame so they would sit over his ears, and lashed the sticks behind his head. This was so crude that it was almost laughable, but somehow this severely nearsighted child had done what he had to do to survive. When we captured Charles he had been wearing his father’s old glasses for a few years. So, I assumed that the crude fashioning of his early lenses had probably caused him to wear glasses that were too strong for him. And then I figured that he had switched to his father’s old glasses as soon as he possibly could force his eyes to see through the better quality lenses, so by wearing these strong lenses he had again likely increased his myopia.
Charles spent a lot of time during the 2 months we were there with the apes. His children were bored of course, but the rest of us were able to keep busy. We were surveying the boundaries of the land that Charles wished to purchase for his sanctuary. Finally we were finished, and we were just waiting for the return of the ship.
I had become very friendly with Rose Smith, although I was certain that once we returned to London I would never see her again. One evening I had retired to my tent to read when I heard someone fumbling with the flaps. The flaps opened and Rose stepped in.
“Rose, is there something wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t think there is with me, but I am curious as to you?” Rose asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked dumbfounded.
“We have been together for almost 2 months. I think I am a reasonably attractive lady, and you are a good-looking man Major. But you haven’t even attempted to make a move on me.” Rose said.
“Rose, I think you are beautiful, but you are above my station in life. I would have loved to make a move, but I felt it would spoil my relationship with your son in law.” I replied.
“I am just a commoner like you are Major, and so was my husband before he made his money, and was elected to the House. Now will you make a move?” Rose asked.
Well, with an offer like that, who could refuse? We spent that night together, and also the following 2 nights. The only quirk that Rose seemed to have was that she wanted to leave her glasses on while we were making love. I had some idea of how shortsighted she was, but hadn’t realized that she couldn’t see my face clearly from a distance of a foot or more. But I didn’t mind. I was thrilled to stare into her eyes through the thick biconcave lenses she wore.
Once we returned to England I was sure that Rose would leave my life. But, she didn’t. Before long there was another wedding to attend. But this time it was my own. Thank goodness for Lord Burton, and the Apes.
Hopefully this parody will be accepted, and I won’t receive any disapproval for using a book of fiction as my basis for this tale.