The story begins 10 years after the conclusion of the previous vel, which places it about 1923. Tarzan (John Clayton) would be about 34 and his son, Jack, around 11. During the past decade, Alexis Paulvitch, who had escaped Tarzan at the end of the last vel, has lived a hideous life of abuse and disease among tribal people in Africa. Now he is discovered by a European ship and taken aboard. In the months that followed, Paulvitch encounters the ape, Akut, (whom Tarzan had befriended in that previous story) at one of the ship's stops. Because of Akut's interactions with Tarzan, he was unafraid of white men, and Paulvitch, unaware of the previous relationship, saw an opportunity to make some money. He took Akut to London and began displaying him publicly.