小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER V. ASHORE.
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
When Philip Garland again fully realized his situation he could hear, above the roar of distant thunder, a continuous rumbling noise. Although never having traveled on the sea very much, he understood that this dull booming was caused by the surf, and he thought that the supreme moment had come.

Then he heard a deafening crash, from what cause he knew not. It was as if a violent blow had been delivered full upon his head, and consciousness again deserted him.

On opening his eyes it seemed as though he had been awakened from a profound sleep. The sun beamed down from a blue, cloudless sky. He raised himself and saw the ocean at his feet, but it was as placid as a lake.

He was lying on the wet beach, hardly three feet from where the waves were rippling over the sand with a musical murmur, which afforded a vivid contrast to their wild shrieking of the previous night.

Looking around on every hand, not a vessel, boat or human face was to be seen. He was alone, so far as could be told from his limited range of vision, upon an uninhabited island.


The ill-fortune which began with the destruction of his establishment by Magog had surely spent itself in thus throwing him upon this tiny speck of land on the vast ocean, where, if any one should come, it would most likely be those more implacable than the elements.

Philip knew, through books and from conversations with the captain of the Swallow, that since passing through the Straits of Sunda they were in the immediate vicinity of pirates from Sooloo or Magindinao.

Even the less warlike natives of the Archipelago were to be feared, for he remembered at this moment better than ever before the writings of an old traveler, who says:

The inhabitants of these islands exceed every other people in cruelty. They regard killing a man as a mere jest; nor is there any punishment allotted for such a deed. If any one purchases a new sword and wishes to try it, he will thrust it into the breast of the first person he meets. The passers-by examine the wound, and praise the skill of him who inflicted it if he thrust in the weapon direct.

In this particular portion of the sea, where Philip had every reason to suppose he was, the pirates have literally paralyzed trading on the water.

Every year these scourges of the Archipelago wander in one direction or another, rendezvousing on some uninhabited island, carrying devastation to all the small settlements around, robbing, destroying, or taking captive every one they meet. Their long,[37] well-manned proas escape from the pursuit of sailing vessels by pulling away right in the wind’s-eye; and the warning smoke of a steamer generally enables them to hide in some shallow bay, narrow river, or forest-covered inlet until the danger is past.

Even while the Swallow was at Batavia information had been received from Banda to the effect that the pirates were in the vicinity with a fleet of fifteen proas, attacking and destroying the villages, and carrying away women and children as slaves. Men they seldom or never hold as prisoners. The thrust of a knife or a blow on the head with the butt of a musket serves to rid them of a troublesome captive.

Two days before the wreck the Swallow spoke a proa which had been attacked forty-eight hours previous. Three of the crew escaped in their small-boat and hid in the jungle of a neighboring island, while the pirates killed the remainder and plundered the vessel.

These men reported the force as numbering sixteen large war-boats, and the only blow struck by the traders in their own defence was when the fleet set sail, leaving a prize-crew of three on the dismantled proa. The captain, driven to desperation by his loss, swam off from the shore armed only with his parang, or long knife, and coming upon them unawares made a furious attack, killing one and wounding the others mortally.

Knowing all this, it is not to be wondered at that[38] Philip was filled with dismay on finding himself alone upon an inhospitable shore.

One does not willingly submit to the embrace of death, however, and before resigning himself to what now seemed the inevitable he resolved to make a last effort for life.

With this purpose in view he started toward the interior, but after traveling a few moments his legs refused to obey his will.

The exhaustion caused by the previous night’s exposure and the intense heat so far prostrated him that he fell half-fainting at the foot of a palm-tree, whose cool and refreshing shade served to revive him so far that in a short time he closed his eyes.

When he awoke the sun was low in the heavens. He must have slept fully eight hours.

His limbs were yet weary, and his eyes heavy from the profound sleep. In order to dissipate the lethargy which hung over him he arose to his feet, walking rapidly forward.

Suddenly from the thicket directly in front of him he heard what sounded very like a human voice crying “Wawk, wawk, wawk!”

This was so nearly a command in his own language that Philip ran forward eagerly, fancying for the moment that he was about to see a white man, when the whirring of wings and a quick passage of gorgeous plumage against the dark green foliage told he had made the acquaintance for the first time of a great Bird-of-Paradise, which is to be found only in this portion of the world.


It was a large male, radiant in all the brilliant plumage which renders its skin such a valuable article of merchandise. The wings and tail were of a rich dark brown, the breast a deep violet, and the head and neck of a delicate yellow, the feathers being so short and close set as to resemble velvet. The lower part of the eyes was a vivid green, while the back and feet were pale blue.

The two middle feathers of the tail were what gave a striking appearance to this winged beauty. They were nearly a yard long, the extreme ends curving into a complete circle.

Never before had Philip seen even the skin of one of these rare birds, and forgetting all his troubles, he watched its flight in mute admiration.

It was to be his good fortune, while in this wretched condition of both body and mind, to see what few except the natives of the Archipelago have ever had the pleasure of witnessing-a party of feathered dancers all clad in the same gorgeous plumage as the one he had just startled.

Pushing forward softly among the foliage to catch one more glimpse of those curling orange feathers, he saw a dozen or twenty full-plumaged males on a stout limb, raising and dropping their wings, stretching their necks, and vibrating their delicately-tinted coats as if really engaged in some species of terpsichorean festivities, while now and then they darted from branch to branch until it appeared that the entire tree was filled with waving plumes.

It is at such a time as this that the bird-hunter[40] secures his richest prizes, and with comparative ease.

When the Malays find a tree which the birds have fixed upon as their dancing-place, a little shelter of palm leaves is built near the trunk among the branches, and in it before daylight the hunter hides himself, armed with a bow and several arrows which terminate in a rough knob. At the foot of the tree another hunter is concealed. When the dance has begun the native above shoots his blunt arrow with such force as to stun the bird, who is secured and killed by the one on the ground without its plumage being injured by a drop of blood. The others pay no attention to this sudden disappearance of their companion, and the slaughter is continued until the greater number of the birds are slain.

Philip gazed at this rare and beautiful sight nearly a quarter of an hour, and then, as if suddenly remembering his own necessities, he pushed forward once more among the matted and tangled underbrush.

Before twenty yards had been traversed the glimpse of a moving object among the trees caused him to utter a cry of joy. He had seen that which bore close resemblance to a human form, and quite naturally he believed it to be some inhabitant of the island.

Running at full speed, urged to put forth every effort by the belief that he would soon find aid, food and shelter, no inconsiderable distance was traversed during the next ten minutes. To his most[41] intense surprise, however, he failed to see again this figure which had so raised hope, or even to discover in what direction it fled.

Disheartened, and fancying his eyes had deceived him, he continued to make his way forward; but not with the same energy as before. He became like one who toils without hope of a happy conclusion to the labor.

Courage revived again however when, on emerging from the thicket of palms through which he had been making his way to a more open portion of the forest, the same figure stood revealed to view.

Philip now watched with the utmost attention, and was surprised at the wonderful celerity of the stranger’s movements. He disappeared and then appeared again, passing from one point to another much more rapidly than any person could have run, and in many ways gave such evidence of fear that the shipwrecked young man advanced yet more boldly.

Upon arriving at the place where the supposed native had last been seen, Philip was startled, almost frightened, as the object of his search suddenly descended from the top of a tree at his very feet.

It was an ape!

With one bound the animal mounted the tree again, then leaped down, and finally placed himself immediately in Philip’s path, as if to prevent him from proceeding.

One trained as Philip Garland had been could feel[42] but little fear of such an animal. He broke a branch from the nearest tree, and raising it with a threatening gesture stepped forward.

This movement aroused the animal to anger. He retreated a few steps, uttering loud, shrill cries, which were evidently intended as signals to his companions in the vicinity; and, as a result, troop upon troop of apes came from every side through the openings in the forest. They were of all colors and sizes, and clambered up the trees, ran along the branches like squirrels, or, taking a stand about the stranger, threatened him with their glances and gestures as they uttered hissing cries, or gnashed their teeth with such a deafening noise that the traveler grew positively bewildered.

Better than any one else did Philip understand the vicious nature of these animals when gathered in such numbers, and he knew full well that to save his life retreat was necessary.

This thought came too late, however. On every side were closely-packed ranks of apes, some of whom appeared to be as strong as gorillas, and the first movement toward escape might be the signal for his death.

Philip had in his pocket a small revolver, placed there during the mutiny on the Swallow; but of what avail would it be to kill five of his adversaries when they could be numbered by hundreds, and had hemmed him in so closely?

An attempt at flight would be as foolhardy as any effort toward intimidation. The only course which[43] could be pursued with the slightest chance of success was to remain silent and motionless.

With one hand inside the breast of his coat, clutching the weapon he was resolved to use only when death seemed inevitable, he stood immovable as the animals crowded nearer.

At this juncture the outer circle of apes began to chatter, as if they were discussing some new aspect of the affair which had presented itself, and a moment later the entire party suddenly began to leap to and fro, making the most hostile demonstrations.

The branch which Philip had broken from the tree was lying on the ground directly at his feet, and with a quick movement one of the animals seized it. Before he had time to place himself in a position of defense, or even to draw his weapon, the ape showered blow after blow on his arms, legs, face and head in such rapid succession that he could not avoid them.

It was difficult to remain passive under such a castigation, and also very humiliating, for one whose business had been the training of monkeys, to receive punishment from members of the same tribe he had so often flogged; but under the circumstances there was no alternative.

At the first blow the apes gave way, much as a party of men might who form a ring for two pugilists, and from their points of vantage evinced the most profound delight. A crowd of boys could hardly have shown more pleasure at the flogging of[44] some obnoxious pedagogue and Philip’s anger almost blinded his prudence.

During fully ten minutes the punishment, was continued without intermission, and it might have resulted fatally to the unfortunate animal-trader if he had not bethought himself of past experiences, when he was master and apes were forced to receive his blows.

Around his neck he wore a blue silk handkerchief after the fashion of sailors, and this he untied quickly, throwing it among the crowd of spectators, knowing full well that any bright color will attract apes more readily than food or noise.

In an instant the decorous assemblage had resolved themselves into a shrieking, howling mob. They rushed toward the one who had been so fortunate as to secure the prize, each trying in turn to seize it, chattering and screaming until the din was absolutely deafening. He who had played the part of castigator followed the example of the others, and from a friendly contest it soon became a veritable fight, during which there was but little question that the object of their desires would be torn into shreds.

This was Philip’s opportunity. Not one of the combatants was paying the slightest attention to him, and after stealing softly through the foliage until the apes were shut out from view, he ran toward the interior of the island at full speed.

It must not be supposed that Philip’s flight through the thicket was attended with no more[45] inconvenience than would be the case in an American forest. Almost every shrub and tree was infested with small black ants, and as the fugitive brushed past they loosened their hold on the foliage to literally take possession of his body.

Before running a hundred yards his face and neck were covered, and he could feel them on every inch of his skin, as they bit with a sharpness which seemed like the prick of a huge needle.

In addition to these pests, which were very painful, there was a species of blue-bottle fly, so numerous that the buzzing sounded like the humming of bees; and when they alighted on Philip’s body it was with difficulty he brushed them off, for their legs seemed to contain deposits of glue, which held them firmly in place until sometimes it was necessary to actually dismember them.

His skin soon became a mass of blotches, for the poison of the insects caused the wounds to swell like boils, and it was no longer possible to distinguish his features.


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533