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CHAPTER XI. AN ODD VILLAGE.
Philip Garland’s surprise at seeing this vast assembly of apes conducting themselves so thoroughly after the manner of human beings was indeed great; but to recognize in the leader of the party an article of merchandise which he had sold to Captain Seaworth was absolutely bewildering.

How had Goliah reached this particular island? Had he taught these companions of his to imitate man, or were they his instructors? In either case, how did it happen that among these animals there should be such a collection of weapons and clothing?

These questions Philip asked himself without being able to make any reply. He was in that mental condition when one’s will has no control over the body, and half-unconsciously he followed the procession as it left the open-air court-room, although in his mind there was a very-well-defined idea that by so doing he exposed himself to the most extreme danger.

In his stupefaction—perhaps fascination would be the better word—he advanced cautiously as if by instinct, keeping well in the rear of the party, gliding from tree-trunk to tree-trunk, and halting within[83] the cover of the foliage whenever any of the apes showed an inclination to loiter.

It was during one of these forced halts, and while obliged to remain concealed a longer time than usual, that quite by accident he chanced to glance through the thicket on his right, thereby increasing surprise to the very verge of bewilderment.

He saw there, at a distance of thirty or forty yards from where he stood, a collection of small huts built in the fashion of hamlets such as one sees in Java. Around these loitered a number of apes, some few partially dressed in garments of European manufacture, and the remainder clad only as nature intended they should be; but nowhere could he perceive a human being.

It was not possible that this monkey-tribe had built these neat dwellings, which were ornamented with paint, lighted by glass windows, and protected from the sun’s fervent rays by awnings; but yet, where were the builders? Where the rightful inhabitants?

While standing in mute astonishment, with his eyes fixed upon the tiny village, the procession from the court had passed out of sight into the thicket unheeded by him, who had no thought save that of solving the strange riddle.

While only partially screened by the foliage Philip was startled, almost alarmed, by a light touch on his arm, and wheeling around suddenly, he saw another of the animals sold by him to Captain Seaworth.

[84]

This was the chimpanzee Sweet Alice, and that she recognized him there could be no mistake. Looking up into his face, while at the same time plucking at the sleeve of his coat and pointing toward the village, she gave him to understand, almost as well as could have been done by words, her desire to have him follow.

Had Philip been in a less complete state of bewilderment he would have hesitated before entering the little town, where, undoubtedly, his arrival would be communicated to the huge baboon and he find himself a prisoner once more. But in his present frame of mind nothing seemed more natural than to accede to the chimpanzee’s mute request, and he motioned her to lead the way.

Instead of going directly toward the buildings she moved off at right-angles with them, looking cautiously from side to side as if to let him understand that their advance should be concealed as far as possible, and he followed her every movement.

During fifteen minutes the stealthy march was continued, interrupted now and then as the chimpanzee stopped to listen or crept nearer to the edge of the clearing to reconnoiter, and in all this time they had seen but one other member of the tribe. He was evidently a laborer, and failed to see the stranger because of his occupation, which consisted of splitting logs with his fingers and an ax. He handled the tool very awkwardly, but yet with a certain air which caused Philip to believe man had been his teacher.

[85]

On emerging from the thicket the traveler discovered that they had arrived at the outskirts of the village in the rear of the houses, opposite the point where he first caught a glimpse of the settlement. Here was a row of iron-barred cages, all but one of which were empty, and toward this particular prison the chimpanzee advanced, beckoning her companion to follow.

Hesitatingly he did so, and looking through the bars saw the other animal he had sold to Captain Seaworth—Ben Bolt!

The sight of this captive gave Philip a solution to the riddle, and he uttered a low exclamation of surprise that he had not sooner guessed it.

There could no longer be any question but that he was on the island where the corporation, whose agent Captain Seaworth was, had started their colony.

Upon examining the iron cages more closely he saw that they were the same taken from his establishment when the animals were purchased, and in them had been confined the gigantic Goliah. But how had he escaped? Where was the captain and those who had been brought out as colonists?

It was hardly possible the tribe of monkeys could have vanquished the entire party, and not probable Goliah had been released until the human beings were disposed of in some way. Was this seeming capture of the village the sequel to a story of which he had seen the first chapter in the skeleton among the mimosas?

[86]

Philip had solved one problem only to find himself confronted by another yet more perplexing and painful. He was on the very island where his friends had landed, and yet no signs of them could be seen save in the clothing, the cottages, and the behavior of the apes.

These thoughts passed through the shipwrecked youth’s mind very rapidly. Only for a few moments did he stand undecided before the cage which confined Ben Bolt, and then he drew the bars, allowing the unhappy captive to go free.

Instantly the chimpanzee was released he rushed toward Philip, fawning around him several minutes, and then turned to Alice, whom he greeted with every evidence of affection. During fully five minutes these two animals capered like dogs who evince joy at a master’s return. Then Alice suddenly raised her head as if in fear, lowering it again as the hair on her neck stood erect like that of an angry cat’s, while she motioned with one paw toward the forest, and with the other thrust Ben Bolt back into the cage, expressing by every gesture her desire that the door should be fastened again.

So much intelligence had these chimpanzees displayed while in his establishment that the animal-trainer felt no hesitation about following the mute instructions; and the bars were hardly replaced when hoarse, guttural cries in the distance told that Goliah was approaching.

To remain there longer would undoubtedly be to find himself in the power of his former chattel. In[87] such case, what revenge might not the gigantic baboon take? If the chimpanzees remembered him so well, Goliah’s memory would hardly be less retentive, and the floggings so often administered might be repaid with compound interest.

It seemed that Alice understood this as well as did Philip, for on her face were the liveliest expressions of terror, and she plucked at his coat-sleeve trying to draw him away, while pointing toward the forest from whence came the hoarse cries.

There was no longer any time for hesitation, and trusting himself implicitly to the guidance of the chimpanzee, Philip followed, the two passing the rear of the cages just as the baboon went by in front to visit the prisoner.

Not an ape was to be seen on the principal street of the village, and as they walked past the buildings Philip had an opportunity of examining their condition.

What at a distance appeared to be a collection of neat cottages proved, on closer inspection, to be hardly more than ruins. The windows of the houses were broken, the frames splintered, and the greater portion wrenched entirely out of their casings. From the second stories, hanging on long poles, were torn uniforms, cravats, boots, belts, hats, empty bottles, trousers, towels, rags of all colors, shirts, and even a few flags. The paint was defaced, the fences were torn down, and everywhere on the ground were scattered bones, fragments of glass and crockery, and tins which once contained canned meats or vegetables.[88] In several places where crops had been growing could now be seen only dried stalks. The chicken-coops, which were attached to nearly every dwelling, had been wrecked, and the feathers scattered here and there told the fate of their occupants.

It was a scene of pillage and waste such as would have shamed the hangers-on of any army, however demoralized; and Philip, now hardly more than a fugitive, thought with dismay of those who had probably met their death while trying to found this colony. Never since the shipwreck had he been so thoroughly dispirited, and but for the constant tugging of the chimpanzee at his garments he might have lingered until it would be no longer possible to escape. She literally pulled him along through the tiny village until the seclusion of the thicket was gained, when her movements became more leisurely, and he understood that there was no longer any necessity for such rapid flight.

Probably because the chimpanzee believed they were safe for the time being from Goliah, and that her companion did not require such careful watching, she took the lead, proceeding through the jungle about an eighth of a mile to a large banana-grove, where she began to search for fruit.

Here, as at the village, were the same evidences of wanton destruction. The long leaves of the plants were torn and trampled, bunches of half-eaten fruit lay decaying upon the ground, and that which had cost no slight amount of both time and money was almost entirely destroyed.

[89]

After some search the chimpanzee succeeded in finding two clusters of the rich, yellow fruit, and motioning Philip to pluck them, she pointed toward the east, as if intimating the direction in which they must travel.

By this time the shipwrecked youth recognized the wisdom of his guide’s advice, and staggering under the heavy load of fruit, he followed close behind as she left the cultivated ground to re-enter the jungle.

This detour had evidently been made for the purpose of providing him with food in such place of refuge as she was probably about to lead him; and at that moment the animal-trainer had a higher appreciation of the intelligence of the monkey-tribe than ever before.

At a short distance from the banana plantation the chimpanzee stopped in front of a palm-grove bearing smooth, shining fruit of a golden-orange color, which was very attractive in appearance, and Philip began to gather such as hung within his reach from the smaller trees, when, much to his surprise, Alice made the most violent demonstrations of rage. She held the delicious-looking apples to her mouth for an instant, and then, dashing them to the ground, screamed and chattered volubly. It was several seconds before the fugitive understood this pantomime; but when she repeated it two or three times he gained an inkling of her meaning.

Without question this beautiful fruit was poisonous, and she had called his attention to the fact that[90] he might not at any future time eat what was so tempting in appearance but deadly in its properties.

A ten minutes’ walk from this spot led them to a natural grotto in the rocks, the floor of which was covered with thick moss and the thousand vegetable productions to be found in Malaysia.

Here her gestures were as expressive as words, and Philip understood that she was cautioning him to remain in hiding—probably until her return. She pointed first to the fruit, secondly to the grotto, and then back in the direction from which they had come, taking her departure only when he nodded his head in token of willingness to obey the mute injunction.


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