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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XVI. AN APISH ORGY.
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It required ten minutes of difficult work before Philip could succeed in leaving the room where he had thoughtlessly done so much mischief, and then, with all the drunken apes close at his heels, he ran into the court-yard and threw himself on the bank of the tiny stream, so thoroughly disheartened as to be careless of what further trouble might come.

The scene which was presented under the awning during the next half-hour would have given a disinterested spectator no slight amount of amusement, but in Philip’s eyes it was too painful to admit of even a smile.

The party were seated as near the border of the pond as possible, and to have some idea of the picture the reader should multiply any grossly intoxicated person he has seen by about four hundred; but even then, and with the most vivid imagination, he could hardly do full justice to the spectacle.

They leered at each other, called names in the monkey language, very likely told improbable stories, and argued after the fashion of men. Here and there a party of a dozen were raising their[126] voices in discordant notes, which was not unlike the maudlin singing of human beings. Now and then one would stagger back and forth in a vain attempt to get nearer the pond, while his companions did all in their power to keep him back. Then an ape, catching a glimpse of his own tail, and believing that it belonged to his neighbor, would seize and pull it until he literally overturned himself. If in falling he struck any other member of the party, an incipient riot was started, but not to continue very long, owing to the inebriated condition of all.

Those nearest the prisoner overwhelmed him with rough caresses, which at times threatened to leave him entirely bald, because of the desire to show affection by examining each particular hair on his head. If they had understood the custom and significance of hand-shaking, the animal-trainer’s troubles would have been much greater; but as it was, he had even more in the way of trials than could be borne with any respectable show of equanimity.

Taking the scene as a whole, and knowing exactly how these disagreeable companions had been made more brutish than was natural, it presented such a lesson as Philip must have profited by, for one cannot see even drunken men without realizing the beauties and benefits of temperance.

To move ever so slightly was to find the others doing the same thing, and Philip waited patiently throughout the whole of that long, dreary day, hoping his companions would soon be wrapped in[127] slumber, when he might make his escape to the grotto.

But he waited in vain. At intervals certain members of the party would doze; but there was no moment when more than fifty were in a state even approaching unconsciousness, although the entire troop grew more quiet, if not more sober, when the shadows of night began to gather.

Probably no man ever so desired to escape observation as did Philip, when, just after sunset, he arose cautiously and made his way toward the kitchen in the hope of being able to penetrate that portion of the house, where he might find some degree of privacy. Surely, there should be a small apartment in which he could barricade himself, and it was with this in his mind that he entered the building.

Here, however, the gloom was already filling the room—for night in the tropics comes on very rapidly—rendering some artificial light necessary. With every reason to believe there might be lamps or candles in the cupboard he opened the door once more, closing it very suddenly as the entire body of apes rushed in, ready for any further mischief which might present itself.

Philip stood for an instant with his back to the closet, wondering if it would be safe to make any investigations while his companions were so near, and as he faced the party it was impossible to check his mirth despite all the reasons he had for sorrow.

The monkey-topers, now partially recovered from[128] the effects of the wine, were looking thoroughly demoralized and repentant. Some were holding their paws to their heads as if to check the pain, while others appeared to be suffering most in the region of the stomach. The majority of the party yet walked unsteadily, and at short intervals squads of from ten to twenty would return to the pond in order to quench the unnatural thirst which was causing them to feel very wretched.

Under such a condition of affairs Philip believed that his followers were incapable of any serious mischief, and, holding the cupboard door only partially open, he reached inside for the purpose of providing himself with a light.

Again chance aided, and the apes outwitted him. His hand struck the lid of a box, and, displacing the cover, he found that it was filled with candles, while piled in one corner immediately behind it was a quantity of matches.

Now it became necessary to use both hands, and with one he extracted a candle from the box, while with the other he ignited the wick.

This movement necessarily prevented him from retaining his hold on the cupboard-door, and the half-sobered apes in the rear immediately seized upon the opportunity. Philip’s candle was but just lighted when with a rush they dashed into the closet, and behold! three hundred apes each with a candle and a package of matches, forming a cordon around Philip, and making the air heavy with brimstone as they rubbed the “fire-sticks” on[129] the doors, floor, stove, or more than once on their own hides. As Philip had done so did every ape in the room, and with the most alarming consequences. Now and then one less sober than his companions would ignite a full bunch of matches, much to his alarm and confusion. As a matter of course, such a blunderer immediately threw the blazing bits of wood to the floor, thereby causing the animal-trainer no slight fear, for it was impossible to say when the others might not do the same thing.

It seemed as if this was the culmination of all Philip’s troubles, for to place a match and candle in the hands of a sober ape is to supply the means of a conflagration, and what must be the result when these dangerous things are controlled by intoxicated brutes?

Philip’s first thought was to extinguish his own candle; but even while on the point of doing so it flashed into his mind that by causing the flame to disappear he might seem to have thrown it away, and then would ensue a scene similar to the one with the bottles, making the immediate destruction of the building inevitable.

It was plain that, having thus far committed himself to the necessity of artificial light, he must retain possession of it, and he made great show of holding it carefully in both hands—a movement which was at once imitated by the others, but not so cleverly as would have been the case under other circumstances.

The result of this precaution was that at least one[130] ape out of every three burned his paws, while the other two singed their nearest neighbors until the odor of burning hair was almost stifling.

Now the room resounded with cries of pain, and those who had been burned belabored the party next to them, regardless of whether they had inflicted the injuries or not, until the entire throng were flogging each other with these tiny flames, scattering wicks and tallow in every direction, while the blazing of hair added to the general illumination.

Philip realized that something must be done immediately, and he forced his way out through the drunken crowd to the court-yard, going from there to the sitting-room with the intention of gaining the street.

The door to this last apartment was fastened, however, and in order to push back the bolts he placed his candle on the window-sill.

Before five seconds had elapsed every portion of the room was decorated with lighted candles, and for the time being all danger of a conflagration was averted, while the apes themselves gave evidence of being in some familiar place.

It was probable that Captain Seaworth had given a party, or sanctioned a gathering of his officers and the colonists, when the room had been illuminated after this same fashion, and equally probable that the apes were spectators, at some time in the past, of the scene from the outside.

They exchanged glances with each other, chattered[131] noisily, and gesticulated vigorously, while Philip stood gazing at them in amazement, wondering what new phase of danger he was about to encounter.

An instant later four or five, whose memory was better than their companions’, seized upon the musical instruments which hung on the wall and began striking the strings with both hands and feet, while the others, each with a partner, whirled, leaped and shouted as they went through with the movements of a dance. One couple would dart up and down the room, taking about four strides to cover the entire distance; another set circled around and around within a circumscribed space; and yet more stood bowing and scraping, until, had the scene been presented on the stage of a theater, it would have called forth the most generous applause.

Every detail of a ball-room was here depicted after a certain apish fashion, and the fact that at least half the company wore some portion of clothing lent a decided air of realism to the scene.

The amateur musicians were most industrious, and since their idea of perfect harmony was the greatest possible amount of noise, the result can be imagined. Their facilities for playing were much greater than man’s. For instance, a huge ape who had taken one of the banjos was seated on the floor holding it with his left foot, while the right and both hands were used to strike resounding blows on the strings. The performer on the guitar had pressed into service a small monkey as assistant, and while the[132] latter held the instrument above his head, the musician used hands and tail with which to draw forth wild and discordant strains.

Goliah had left the apartment immediately the dance began, and Philip’s idea was that he had simply gone to station sentinels around the building to prevent his escape; therefore he remained in one corner of the room, hidden as far as possible from the merry-makers, not daring to show the least desire to quit the scene of the festivities.

The remainder of the party did not appear to be at all disturbed by the absence of their leader. They waltzed, polkaed, bowed and promenaded, chatting gaily meanwhile; but after half an hour of this sport the greater number followed the big baboon’s example, until not more than twenty couples were left to go through the motions of keeping time to the discordant braying of the instruments.

If Philip deluded himself with the idea that they were growing tired, and that he would speedily find an opportunity of making his escape, he was mistaken.

In less than a quarter of an hour the outer doors were thrown open with a crash, and the animal-trainer looked up in astonishment to see entering the room what at first glance appeared to be a party of richly-dressed ladies and gentlemen.

There were half a hundred apes wearing muslin, silk and calico dresses; some with shawls, others with bonnets, and not a few carrying gloves in their[133] hands, all attended by male escort clad in a variety of costumes.

It was Goliah who led this brilliant party, and leaning on his arm, but looking terrified, was Sweet Alice, who had evidently been forced by the baboon to take part in the merry-making while her mate remained a prisoner in the cage.

After what Philip had already witnessed there was no trouble in divining where these costumes had come from. The memory of a similar scene, when the colonists had appeared dressed in their best, was probably so vivid in the minds of the apes that the houses of the settlement had been immediately ransacked for a supply of finery.

Had Philip been able to so far disassociate himself from the painful fact that he was a captive, and become once more a student of natural history, he would have received a most interesting lesson regarding the point where instinct ceases and mental effort begins.


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