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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XXI. A HAPPY DISCOVERY.
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The last paragraph which Philip read caused him to leap from his chair in very excess of joy, since through it he learned that concealed somewhere in the building—probably very near where he sat—was a collection of weapons. If only so much as one rifle could be found, he would be reasonably certain of holding his besiegers at bay, at least until the provisions were exhausted.

Heeding not the volume, which had fallen to the floor, he made a hasty circuit of the room, opening closet after closet until all but one had been examined, and in this last he found that for which he sought. Captain Seaworth had referred to it as “the armory,” but it must have been his own private sporting weapons, for there were three fine fowling-pieces, two rifles, and a large quantity of cartridges made up for every kind of game.

To buckle on one of the ammunition-belts, fill it with ball-cartridges and seize a rifle from the hooks was but the work of a moment, after which Philip felt that at last he was in a condition to cope with a hundred such as Goliah.

It was hardly possible to exterminate all the apes on the island from the windows of the building, but[167] he could certainly slay the most vicious, and having done so, would in a certain measure be free to move around.

Philip now understood that Goliah had taken the place of the mandrill whom Captain Seaworth killed, and was exercising the rights of leader over them—an office which they probably respected because he approached so nearly in size to their late chief. With Goliah and his counselors dead, however, Philip’s position would be far more safe, if not comfortable, and using the two chimpanzees as guard, it might be possible to roam about the island at will. Then he could gather yet more gold from the subterranean stream, and stow it away preparatory to removal as soon as any vessel might visit that shore, unless, indeed, the pirates spoken of in the journal should first make their appearance.

Now that he felt reasonably secure from the apes he began to fear those marauders of the sea about whom he had read, and he could readily fancy that to them was due the absence of the colonists. The pirates had most likely made a raid upon the island, and killed or carried off as prisoners those who were trying to establish the plantation.

Although this seemed the true and only reasonable explanation as to why Captain Seaworth and his party had disappeared, it was certainly strange and beyond Philip’s power to imagine why a more thorough sack of the buildings had not taken place. That the pirates should leave all this property—for so far as he had seen the houses were filled with a[168] plentiful supply of movable goods—seemed incomprehensible; but he was not disposed to waste much time in these useless speculations. It was as if he wished to enjoy the sense of security given by the weapons, and advancing to the window he gazed through the loop-holes into the street.

The besiegers were still in the same places and the same attitudes of hostility, but they had increased in numbers. From this point of vantage he counted among the foliage and crouching behind the trunks of the trees more than a hundred animals, all watching the closed windows with the greatest intentness, and evidently waiting for an opportunity to begin the attack.

Philip laughed to himself as he saw the vindictive faces of the apes, and thought what a surprise he had in store for them, or how useless would be their attempts to drive him out. But he failed to realize what they could do in case of an attack, or how fierce might be the battle. The knowledge that he had plenty of ammunition caused him to look upon these brute enemies with a certain disdain which was destined to be changed to one of fear before many days passed.

Leaving his position at the window he took the journal from the floor and laid it on the table, but without any intention of reading it. He would have plenty of time in which to pursue the investigation, and was resolved now to enjoy himself after his own fashion. Besides, he was weary with sitting still so long, and hungry. A further perusal[169] of the document which might reveal to him the cause of the colonists’ absence could be had at any time, and there would undoubtedly be many dull hours to while away; consequently he was in no haste to finish the captain’s story.

A spiral staircase from the library led to the rooms below, and he went into the kitchen intending there to have a hearty meal, for it would be foolish not to enjoy that with which he was so generously provided.

There was an ample store of candles, and he lighted half a dozen in order to give the semblance of a feast to his lonely repast.

Since his stay was indefinite and might be prolonged even into months, he resolved to be methodical in his manner of living. Therefore, as the first step in this direction, he set about arranging the table with as much care as if he was to entertain a party of epicures.

Even at this moment, when he fancied his wants were so generously provided for, came the knowledge that he would be denied water. During his previous repast he congratulated himself that there was plenty of wine, and thought this the most pleasant method of assuaging thirst; but now he was of a different opinion. Although having been deprived of nature’s beverage so short a time, he would have bartered a case of the finest champagne in Captain Seaworth’s collection for a single pint of such water as he had found in the grotto. But this it was impossible to obtain, and during the elaborate meal he[170] fancied how refreshing would be coffee or tea rather than the rare vintages with which he was plentifully supplied.

In the preparation of this meal he had an opportunity of taking account of the stores on hand, and, as nearly as could be judged, there was sufficient to last him at least three months; therefore fear of starvation was not among his troubles.

A hearty meal was conducive to sleep, and being thoroughly the master of his own time, Philip ascended the narrow staircase to the captain’s bed-chamber, where, for the first time since the gale which wrecked the Swallow sprung up, he was able to undress and retire in a Christian-like fashion.

The unwonted luxury of a soft bed, clean sheets and pillows, were well calculated to keep him within the borders of dreamland many hours, and when he awakened the morning sun was just peeping in through the crevices of the blind in the shutter.

With the awakening came the further and perhaps even greater desire for water. He was denied even the pleasure of washing his face unless with wine, and contented himself as best he could by using a dry towel, after which he descended once more to the kitchen, where he made anything rather than a hearty meal of canned dainties. He was beginning to tire of delicacies, and remembered with regret the coarse food from which he had turned with disgust while on board the Swallow.

It is strange in what a channel one’s fancies sometimes run. Here was Philip, virtually a prisoner[171] on an island inhabited by apes who would rend him limb from limb should he venture out of doors, and yet he was longing ardently for a commonplace plate of hash, and a cup of the weakest coffee that was ever set before the patrons of a cheap boarding-house would have tasted at that moment like nectar. However, neither the hash nor the coffee was to be had for the wishing, and he ascended once more to the library.

Another view of the surroundings was anything rather than reassuring. The apes were there, with numbers still further increased, occupying the same points of vantage as when he had seen them the day previous, and now each had in front of him, or in a crotch of a tree where he was located, a little pile of heavy stones stacked up with as much care as if they had been cartridges, and Philip was soon to learn that they would be almost as effective as the heaviest charged shell in his collection.

His first thought on noting these missiles was that they were intended for him as soon as he made his appearance out of doors. He failed to comprehend how the apes might use them; but all too soon did he understand.

For a moment he stood undetermined whether to give his assailants a taste of powder and ball at once, believing a lesson might be beneficial; but the thought of the unfinished journal restrained him.

“I have plenty of time in which to show what can be done with fire-arms,” he said to himself, “and it won’t interfere with the effectiveness of the dose if I wait until the hours begin to drag. Beside, it is to Goliah that the first instruction must be given, and then that little ape who made me stand on my head shall be the next to receive one of the captain’s bullets.”

Thus it was that a desire for revenge had come into Philip’s mind with the first assurance of his own safety, as it often comes to the minds of others. We arrogate to ourselves the right to teach, and cloak under it a vengeance oftentimes as childish as the besieged animal-trainer’s may seem.


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