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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XXVII. A SERIOUS ACCIDENT.
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It was only during such times as the work could be pursued that Philip had any relief of mind, despite his kingly dignities. When, by example, he intimated that the labors of the day might cease, his subjects expected him to play the part of ape as heartily as they had enacted the role of laborers, and in order to preserve his life he was forced to comply with these wishes.

Holding a court-martial, for the purpose of trying and sentencing alleged offenders, was the greatest delight of the long-tailed inhabitants, and once each day Philip was obliged to sit in solemn state, surrounded by his lieutenants, while the number of supposed culprits brought before him was always sufficient to furnish the brute dignitaries with the spectacle of a wholesale flogging.

If any of the party were found idle during working-hours they were certain of being brought up for judgment, and this fact probably accounted for the great zeal displayed whenever an example was set before them.

At these mock trials Philip remained silent, since it would have been impossible for his subjects to understand any decision he might render; and Goliah[212] took upon himself the duties of judge, looking up now and then at the king, as if to make certain he was not assuming too much power.

After the judicial session was ended the monkeys would separate, forming bands of two or three hundred, each to go in search of food, and during such excursions Philip oftentimes found an opportunity to gain the kitchen unobserved, thus being able to vary the ordinary bill of fare by some of the dainties which had been so distasteful while he was a prisoner in the building. Never once, however, was he tempted to drink any of the wine. The remembrance of the days when he so ardently wished for water, but was unable to procure it, taught him the strictest temperance principles.

Every morning the apes held what might be called a grand military review, the entire body marching in front of the building occupied by their king. Philip, and those who attached themselves to his person as a sort of body-guard or staff, reviewed the troops with the utmost gravity, after which each ape executed marvelous monkey-maneuvers in the shape of ground and lofty tumbling, in which it was expected the king would take an active part.

It was at the first of these parades that Philip understood what was demanded of a monarch. After the main body of the party had turned somersaults or handsprings all eyes were directed at him, and words were not needed to let him know he should perform the same antics.

This opportunity of allowing the king to display[213] his agility was never lost, and after the first exhibition Philip looked forward with fear and trembling to the moment when he must, before the assembled army, go through such contortions as would have put a professional acrobat to shame.

His method of life, as well as his costume, fitted him to a certain extent for these extraordinary antics, and while he did not succeed in performing them with the skill and agility displayed by his subjects, there were plenty of flatterers near at hand to lavish praise upon him as if he had outdone them all.

And now must be told that which may seem improbable.

Eager for labor, because it brought him relief from close communication with his followers, Philip set systematically at work, not only repairing the buildings, but laying out roads from one side of the island to the other; and this he accomplished with no more assistance than that afforded by the long-tailed inhabitants.

In less than one month the buildings which had been destroyed were rebuilt in the most substantial manner with walls of stone. Two or three additional dwellings were constructed later, and four splendid roads running north, south, east and west, from the village to the sea, were opened.

That which would have taken a small army of laborers many months to accomplish was completed by the apes in a little more than three weeks. It was only necessary for Philip to begin felling trees[214] on the right and left of the four lines representing the routes to be opened through the thicket, when hundreds of pairs of hands were at work pulling up the underbrush, tearing down shrubs, and chopping at the tree-trunks with as many axes as could be found in the store-room.

During this work in the forest Philip had ample opportunity of noting the immense number and variety of spiders and lizards which were to be found on the island.

It was a positive pleasure for him to watch the little jumping spiders, which were of such brilliant hue that they looked like animated gems as they sprang from bough to bough. The web-spinning species were not only very numerous, but caused the greatest annoyance. They stretched their webs from one tree to another at such a height as to come in contact with a man’s chin, and the threads were so strong and glutinous as to require no slight amount of trouble to free one’s self from them. These fellows were fully two inches long, with yellow spots on their brown bodies, which gave them a very disagreeable appearance.

The apes paid little or no attention to these pests; but Philip could never conquer his aversion to the fat-bellied insects, and more than once did he make a long detour rather than run the risk of an encounter.

As for the lizards, it seemed as if every bush was alive with them. They were of all shades—green, gray, brown and black; and even Goliah, who delighted[215] in cruelty, never so much as harmed one of these active little hunters, all of whom were busily engaged catching the flies and mosquitoes, for without such a check to the increase of insect-life the island would speedily have become uninhabitable.

The work was carried steadily forward, however, despite all annoyances, and in three weeks from the time Philip Garland became king of the apes it was possible to sit in the rebuilt tower of the principal dwelling and view the sea from four different points. Therefore, in case a vessel approached the island the king would have such timely notice of her coming that any signal might be made. It would simply be necessary to start a small fire on the beach to have it built to the height of a mountain by the industrious apes.

Only in the hope of relief coming from the sea did Philip succeed in nerving himself to play the part of a brute. If he could have had a companion with whom to converse, his position would have lost many horrors; but to be surrounded by apes was worse than being alone, and, next to the arrival of human beings, perfect solitude was the greatest boon which could have been granted him.

During the labor of road-making Philip noticed that now and then a party of apes would leave the working portion of the army and absent themselves two or three hours, bringing at the end of that time what appeared, both from shape and size, to be hens’ eggs. These were evidently considered a great delicacy by the apes, and the searchers invariably[216] handed one to the king and each of his officers before partaking themselves.

To make any attempt at cooking them would have given the apes the idea of building innumerable small fires, which might soon have consumed all the vegetation on the island, and Philip ate his raw, as did the others. He fancied that some of the colonists’ poultry might have escaped destruction, and so eager was he to learn where this article of food could be found that on seeing a certain number of apes abandon their labors, under Goliah’s direction, he followed. The party went directly to the sea-shore, and there, just above high-water mark, where a turtle would naturally make her nest, were found little piles of sand, in each of which was a single egg.

It was some time before Philip learned that these tiny hills were the nests of a bird known to naturalists as the “Maleo.”

A few days later he saw a glossy black and white bird with helmeted head and elevated tail—not unlike a common fowl, except that the bonnet and the tubercles at the nostrils were longer—scraping the sand into little mounds, and he knew the rare species was before him.

Some months subsequent to this Philip learned that after the maleo thus deposits her eggs she follows the example of the turtle, and pays no further attention to her nest. The sun does the work of maternity, and the young chicks are able to take care of themselves on emerging from the shell.


When all the contemplated work had been finished, Philip was at a loss to know how he should employ the large number of his subjects, in order to free himself as much as possible from their fawning companionship.

He would have built an observatory on the summit of the extinct volcano but for the fact that the supply of plaster had already been used in remodeling the buildings, and it was impossible to quarry rocks of such size that they would be held together by their own weight.

The readiness with which his subjects copied every movement caused him to believe it might be possible in the near future, unaided by human beings, to continue the work already begun on the plantation—provided, of course, he was not molested by the pirates. This idea came into his mind one day when they were near the base of the volcanic mountain, and he saw what at first glance appeared to be a peach-tree.

It was from twenty to thirty feet high, with glossy green leaves, and bearing small, yellowish flowers at the same time that ripe fruit, not unlike a peach in size and color, hung upon its branches.

Up to this moment he had supposed an orange was the only tree which blossomed while the fruit was ripening, and this singular fact showed him the mistake made in believing it to be a peach-tree.

Picking one of these luscious-looking apples, he found it of a tough, fleshy consistency, partially split open, and showing within a dark brown nut covered with crimson mace. It was a nutmeg.


As Philip well knew, the Dutch Government had relinquished its monopoly of the nutmeg trade in these seas, and he speculated, despite the amount of gold stored in the cavern, whether it would not be possible, with the aid of his long-tailed subjects, to make of this fruitful island one vast plantation of nutmegs, which would be a source of wealth greater even than the bed of the stream could produce.

Although king of apes, he had the natural desire of man to increase his possessions, and for a time his fancy painted most gorgeous and alluring pictures of what might be done if the energies of the monkeys could be directed into the proper channel.

It was only when he realized the mischievous propensities of the apes that he decided against this pleasant dream. It was hardly probable he could restrain them from destroying even fruit which was not palatable; and he finally confessed to himself, with a sigh, that however absolute his power, any attempt to change the nature of his subjects would be useless.

During the one day of rest in which he allowed his followers to indulge he had been forced to make such a display of his supposed apish powers as thoroughly exhausted him, and, as the only means of utilizing the superfluous energies of the army, he set about exploring more carefully the island.

As may be supposed, his first step was to examine the little harbor where the pirates had left their sinister warning and in which the Reynard had been anchored. This was done in the hope of discovering[219] something that would show under what circumstances the colonists had embarked.

So far as gaining information was concerned he succeeded; but it was anything rather than satisfactory.

Two buoys floating on the water showed that the anchor had not been weighed. The cables were slipped when the Reynard sailed, and this fact convinced Philip that the pirates had left the bay with all possible speed, believing the apes were reinforcements of men.

This confirmation of his previous theories was a sad blow to the lonely youth, who had secretly hoped he might have arrived at a false conclusion when first studying the matter; but it was not long he mourned because of his friends’ untimely fate, for before that day came to an end he had grave cause for fear concerning his own immediate safety.

It was on his return from the journey to the sea-shore that Philip had an opportunity of seeing how wonderfully Nature provides for the wants of man.

He, accompanied by Goliah and followed by the entire army, marched through the dense thickets, where not one breath from the sea could penetrate to dispel the stifling heat, until the desire for water was almost overpowering. In the hope that the huge baboon might know of a spring near by, Philip gave evidence of intolerable thirst by pointing to his mouth and making gestures as if drinking.

Goliah was equal to the emergency. Walking on a few paces he stopped before a half-vine, half-shrub,[220] which partially clung to the trunk of a tree and bore huge, bulb-like flowers, shaped something after the fashion of a pitcher. At the top was a petal which covered an aperture capable of holding at least half a pint; and tearing this off, the baboon presented to his king a flagon of water which, although slightly warm, was as palatable as if it had just been taken from a spring.

This was Philip’s first introduction to the “pitcher-plant,” and many times afterward did he quench his thirst from these natural reservoirs.

The exploring party returned to the village early in the afternoon. The king, wearied by the long walk, seated himself near the veranda of the royal residence, while Goliah, arrogating to himself the high office of commander-in-chief, called out the troops for a second review.

Philip could not refuse to witness the evolutions nor to take part himself, and his fatigue was so great that he was even more awkward than usual.

While cutting the most solemn caper, which was accepted by the apes as a formal military salute, he heard a slight noise immediately in the rear, and an instant later the loosening of his single garment of skin told what a disaster had befallen him.

The hide was split at that place where it had been most used by its former owner as well as by Philip, and unless it should be possible to regain the dwelling without turning his back to the troops the most disastrous consequences might ensue.

Beads of perspiration stood on Philip’s brow as[221] he retreated to a gigantic bamboo, where it was possible to hide temporarily what the apes might have considered something more than an accident; and during the remainder of the review he stood stiff and upright, while his staff-officers gazed at him in astonishment which was not mute, because of the chattering they indulged in among themselves.

Philip understood that the first breath of suspicion had fallen upon him, and instinctively he looked around for a weapon, knowing that Goliah would not be slow to take advantage of any opportunity to regain the crown.

A stout piece of bamboo, which had been used during the parade in lieu of a sword by one of the officers, lay upon the ground where Philip could reach it without exposing the fracture in his garments, and seizing this he stood on guard, fully determined to defend himself, even to the death, in case his counselors or Goliah should insist on his taking part in the maneuvers. That he would fall a victim to their wrath the instant the deception was made known by the rent was unquestionable; but his kingly dignity might prevent the greater number of his subjects from crowding too near.

In a suspiciously friendly manner Goliah motioned him, when the troops were drawn up for the royal salute, to advance and go through the ridiculous antics which he had formerly executed on such occasions.

Philip placed his hand on his head, and then on his stomach, as if to show that he was suffering from[222] pain. Although the other members of his privy counsel appeared satisfied with such an explanation, the huge baboon displayed the most lively curiosity. He walked entirely around the king and the tree against which the latter leaned, but at a respectful distance, and then, returning, once more invited the monarch to salute the soldiers.

Again was the pantomime repeated, and, understanding this controversy could not long continue, Philip motioned for the troops to resume their march. He was well aware that because of Goliah’s maneuvres very many had grown distrustful; but it was something which could not have been prevented, and his safety lay in reaching the house.

Owing to Goliah’s interference, however, the parade was not dismissed as quickly as under other and more pleasant circumstances. The troops marched and countermarched, directed by the baboon, until it seemed to the king, whose royal robe was shrinking rapidly, that the pageant would never end.

The fifteen minutes which passed after his refusal to salute seemed like so many hours; but the soldiers were finally dismissed, and by a series of the most extraordinary maneuvers Philip succeeded in reaching the veranda of his dwelling hardly more alive than dead, while clustered around him, with anxiety or curiosity written on every face, was a vast throng of apes, foremost among whom stood Goliah, glaring in the most suspicious manner, as if he fully understood the cause of the king’s discomfiture.


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