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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XX. CAPTAIN SEAWORTH’S JOURNAL.
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The dry details of the log-book did not interest Philip save as they showed him that the Reynard arrived at the island after a reasonably prosperous voyage, with the colonists and crew in the best of health.

He read of the exploration of the island, where mention was made of the extinct volcano which he had already seen, and learned that the village was on the southernmost of the Toukang-Basi group.

Then, in rapid succession, he noted the author’s remarks relative to certain portions of the land which it was proposed to cultivate, ran his eye carelessly over the meteorological observations, and passed quickly on to those pages where mention was made of the settlement, referring to which Captain Sea worth wrote:

The portable houses prove to be a most admirable invention. In fifteen days we have unloaded and set up every building, and not one joist has been wrongly measured or marked. In that short space of time we built an entire village resembling those to be found in Sumatra, and are as comfortably situated as the most captious colonist could desire.

The Reynard has been brought around to the[161] eastern shore, where we have found a small bay with water enough to float a line-of-battle ship, and the banks of which are so densely wooded that it is impossible to see a hundred yards in either direction. But for the fact that we are in the very center of a nest of Malay pirates, I should have no hesitation whatever about leaving her at moorings in charge of the boatswain. As it is, however, I am obliged to keep half the crew quartered on board, which reduces my working force very materially.

If this colony does not succeed it will unquestionably be because of the ever-increasing audacity of the pirates who infest the seas in this part of the world. Their power increases year by year, and their flotillas have become fleets. The proas and junks are armed like frigates, and as sailors and fighting-men their crews are the most energetic of any nation; therefore it is that to guard against these marauders is the most important of all our duties, and better the work of planting should progress slowly than that we run the risk of having the fruits of our labor destroyed through neglect of precaution.

The soil of the island is evidently very fertile. Flowers and fruits are abundant, and the thickest positively swarm with game. Save for the apes, which are as thick here as grasshoppers in a country field, this would be a garden spot indeed. But the apes destroy the charm of the place, since one must be constantly on watch against them, and they increase like flies. Unless some means can be devised to exterminate them we shall be forced to guard our plantations by night as well as by day, and therefore I have many serious misgivings as to whether the venture which has been so admirably planned will prove successful. To defend ourselves against the pirates from the ocean, and to save our crops from[162] apes, we need at least two hundred more men; and whether I shall be justified in making the additional outlay, after it was decided that there were to be no further expenditures, is the question which disturbs me greatly.

To guard against these monkey-robbers, who pull up our plants from sheer love of mischief, a high, barbed-wire fence would answer every purpose; but, unfortunately, it would cost more for such material than the additional force required, because it must be sent out in a ship from New York. My first officer counsels that we visit Lombok, Batavia, or Samarang, for the purpose of procuring natives, and his opinion I should incline to were it not for the fact that I am afraid to withdraw the entire ship’s crew from the island lest the colonists be overcome either by pirates or apes, the latter being quite as formidable as the former.

Here followed many notes regarding the labor already performed or projected; and continuing after the banana plantation had been started, Captain Seaworth wrote:

Our house life is charming. The colonists are enjoying the best of health, in houses surrounded with palm-trees; and as for our own quarters, I never had anything to compare with these, not even in Madras, in point of comfort and elegance. We want for nothing, and our amusements are numerous. Once each week we give a ball in the drawing-room of the main building, and on Saturday mornings we hold an informal court on the open lawn to decide as to the business and government of our charming island.

Again I am constrained to speak of our pests,[163] the apes. So numerous are they, in fact, that one is almost certain, in discharging a gun at hazard, to bring down an animal; and their ferocity exceeds anything of which I have ever read. Those we brought from the establishment of Garland & Co. are civilized beings compared with the tribe we find here. It is a source of many jokes that we should have taken the trouble to bring so far pets which could be captured in such numbers. Instead of buying apes, we could ship a full cargo and never know they had left the island.

Again, the journal was continued with notes which would interest the stockholders of the enterprise more than they did Philip, and he passed hastily over them until he found the following:

I have been trying to teach the gigantic baboon, Goliah, to follow me in the semi-weekly hunts we make for apes. Although hundreds are killed on each occasion the numbers do not seem to diminish, and we have decided to make hunters, if possible, of the apes we brought with us. Goliah, especially, would be invaluable could he be trained to prey upon those of his kind who so disturb us. Thus far, however, we have met with only partial success.

During our excursion yesterday, while in the center of a large wood of mimosas, where I had wandered with the baboon, I suddenly saw advancing toward me with a club, which he carried like a drum-major’s cane, a gigantic mandrill, black as a negro, and followed by a regiment of apes.

Goliah, generally so fierce and courageous, trembled with terror as he beheld this enormous animal. He recognized in him a conqueror, and consequently one to be feared. For the first time[164] since owning him he crouched by my side like a frightened dog imploring protection, at the same time gnashing his teeth and beating his breast as he glanced furtively toward the gigantic beast who confronted him. This was the opportunity for which I had sought. If my baboon would fight the mandrill and come off victorious it might be possible the lesson had been learned, and I raised my rifle with the intention of wounding the brute, in order to make it more certain Goliah would vanquish him.

Before I could discharge the weapon, however, the gigantic stranger leaped upon Goliah regardless of my presence, and the struggle between the two animals was terrific. Unquestionably my baboon would speedily have been killed, for in a few seconds he received most terrible punishment, and I was forced to fire at the risk of hitting the wrong one. Fortunately my aim was perfect, and the colossal mandrill fell dead.

Never have I seen any animal display so much joy as did Goliah when his enemy expired. He would first shower blows upon the body, and then fawn on me with the most extravagant demonstrations of pleasure and thankfulness. With each buffet of the carcass his courage seemed to return, and I flatter myself that after a few more lessons he will understand his mission is the slaughter of these long-tailed pests.

The apes who accompanied the mandrill dispersed immediately after his fall without offering any violence, but from the threatening demonstrations made to Goliah it seemed as if they were vowing vengeance; and he must have understood something of the kind, for despite his returning courage he hugged closer to my side, trembling violently all the while. Could they have gotten hold of him at that moment, the largest baboon ever owned by[165] Garland & Co. would soon have been food for the ants.

I shall have this enormous mandrill skinned, and dry his hide and bones, in order to present them to the Museum at Central Park on my return home.

“Then this is the story of the skeleton I found hanging on the mimosas when I was first cast ashore here,” Philip said to himself. “He must have hung it there that the ants might devour the flesh. But how much different would have been my position had the captain or the mandrill killed Goliah! I think I should most heartily enjoy seeing the bones of that vicious baboon hanging side by side with those among the mimosas.”

This portion of the journal was concluded with two paragraphs, both of which were particularly interesting to Philip, and he read as follows:

From what I have heard of the habits of these peculiar animals, coupled with my own observations, I am of the opinion that the mandrill which I killed was the chief or leader of all the apes on the island, and am greatly in hopes the death of this beast may prevent many of their predatory excursions.

On returning from this hunt I placed my rifle in the concealed armory, because I do not wish the baboons to get the idea that I use anything but the weapons provided by nature, for it might make them timid in the hunt which I am determined they shall indulge in before many weeks more.


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