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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XXVIII. A ROYAL INVALID.
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CHAPTER XXVIII. A ROYAL INVALID.
The king of the apes was a voluntary prisoner for a second time.

On gaining the building he shut the door in the faces of his anxious and suspicious subjects and betook himself once more to the second-story room, from the windows of which he had previously waged battle against the apes.

This apartment, like all others in the house, had been remodeled, and, thanks to the energy of his subjects, was in a better condition to withstand a siege than when he first entered it. During all his labor he had kept ever in mind the thought that at some future time it might be necessary to have a place of refuge, and to this end he restored the rooms to their original condition and location, thus giving him, as before, free range from the kitchen to what had been Captain Seaworth’s office.

It is true the doors were no stronger than before, and should the apes select either one of them as a distinct point of attack, it might soon be battered down. Against such an event he could take no precautions, but trusted that, should another battle ensue, the missiles would be thrown with the same[224] absence of studied aim as had been previously displayed.

Arriving in this corner apartment, Philip threw himself in Captain Seaworth’s chair disheartened and almost weary of life, even though he was trying to devise some plan for prolonging it.

Without having recourse to a mirror, he knew exactly how large was the rent in his predecessor’s skin and the difficulties he would have in repairing it. Had it been possible to present himself boldly before his subjects he might have searched in the other houses of the village and probably found needles and thread to repair the damage; but now that he could show no more than his face, such an opportunity for benefiting himself was out of the question.

Mechanically he looked about him, although every article in the room was familiar, and perhaps he had opened the desk for at least the twentieth time, when his eyes fell upon a piece of string.

It was what he most needed, and with it the rent made by “envious fortune” might possibly be repaired.

Taking off the hide carefully and with considerable difficulty, he found that it had been split from just below the jointure of the tail to a distance of fully twelve inches straight up the back, and of course in that particular place his body would serve to make the opening greater.

It was necessary to close it as nearly as possible, and with a splinter of wood as an awl with which[225] to puncture the hide, he finally succeeded in lacing it up like a shoe.

The job was anything rather than satisfactory. The nearest-sighted ape on the island would have perceived at once that there was something the matter with the king’s back, and so familiar were Philip’s subjects with their monarch, there could be no question about their immediately investigating the cause of his singular appearance. Once curiosity was aroused in this direction the secret must be exposed within a very few moments, and he knew that his life would be spared only so long as he succeeded in keeping the apes at a proper distance.

One can readily imagine his condition of mind when he put on, probably for the last time, the dress of skin which had brought him such questionable honors and might now prove to be the immediate cause of his death. He could well say “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” when only the face should be seen by the subjects.

Goliah’s suspicions were undoubtedly aroused, and beyond a question he would be the first, under the guise of excessive loyalty, to discover why the military review had been brought to such an abrupt termination. Therefore Philip understood that unless he could remain in a sitting posture during the balance of his reign, discovery of his false character was certain, and also that under no circumstances must his followers be allowed to approach him.

The entire night was passed in these gloomy reflections,[226] and when the first gray light of dawn appeared in the sky the chattering of apes under his window told Philip that his followers had come to learn the cause of his sudden indisposition.

That they would remain until he showed himself was absolutely positive, and without opening the door he stepped from the window to the balcony as a great howl of joy went up from the assembled throng. They danced and cut capers as if imploring the king to come down, and at the risk of disarranging his very tender hide he was obliged to show them many a royal caper before their anxious solicitude could be stilled in the slightest degree.

Even after he had executed these dangerous maneuvers, for fully half an hour did they refuse to be satisfied, and he had good reason to deplore what probably no other king ever did—the intense affection of his subjects.

Now and then some very zealous monkey clambered up on the balcony to make sure the monarch was not deceiving them as to the state of his health, but at a gesture from him the animal would leap back among the crowd; and when Philip felt certain the lacing of his hide could no longer withstand the strain he retreated into the room, taking good care to close the window behind him.

That this voluntary imprisonment could not be continued many days he understood before another hour passed. The number of those who were eager to ascertain the exact condition of their monarch’s health increased each moment, and in the absence of[227] a court physician who could issue regular bulletins regarding the patient it was necessary Philip should show himself on the balcony several times during the afternoon, otherwise the building might have been attacked again.

As a matter of course, he was forced on every occasion to go through the apish capers which were supposed to display affection for his subjects, and each time a warning rip from behind told that his gestures of love must be moderated, otherwise his hide and his reign would soon be at an end.

During this alternate appearance and disappearance Goliah remained seated among the feathery branches of a palm which grew directly in front of the building, and one could almost fancy he was taking notes, so carefully did he watch every movement of the king, or so eagerly did he peer around when his majesty retreated.

It was hardly to be supposed that the huge baboon would exert himself to prolong a reign which had begun with his own discomfiture, and on his last appearance Philip realized that to again leave the building would be to give Goliah an opportunity of pursuing his investigations to a successful termination.

To repel an attack was no longer possible. During the last battle the ammunition had been so far exhausted that not more than twenty cartridges and one not very serviceable weapon was left. Therefore from force of arms Philip could expect nothing.

[228]

That evening the animal-trainer who was playing the part of king in Apeland made one more attempt to restore the symbol of his royalty to its former condition. With infinite care he laced and relaced the rent until he flattered himself it was nearly as well concealed as if done by the most skillful tailor, and putting it on again, decided that he might trust himself even in the presence of Goliah.

His mind was so nearly at ease that he ate a hearty supper from the store of provisions in the kitchen pantry and laid himself down to rest, believing he had secured a yet longer lease to the throne of apedom.

Alas for the vanity of human hopes! Immediately on falling asleep he dreamed he was once more standing before his army, saluting them with mighty leaps and wonderful contortions of body. He awakened to find himself sprawling on the floor, with the hide of his predecessor slit from the jointure of the tail entirely to the neck!

His struggles in dreamland had precipitated the catastrophe. There was not string enough in the building to repair this last rent, even had he been sufficiently skillful to thread it into the partially decayed hide.

To appear in public on the balcony was no longer possible, and he was a king only while he could remain hidden from view. When the least intelligent of his subjects got a glimpse of him his crown was lost, never more to be recovered, and Goliah would reign in his stead—Goliah, from whom he[229] might expect the most cruel reprisals for the temporary loss of power.

Philip was so certain a cruel fate awaited him that he immediately began to barricade the suite of apartments as thoroughly as possible under the circumstances, and before another morning dawned every movable article of furniture was piled against the doors in the hope that the final moment might be delayed a short time.

Then, retreating to the kitchen, he awaited the inevitable.

From this retired spot he could hear the chattering and howling of his subjects as they assembled once more to make inquiries concerning his health, and he knew beyond a peradventure that not many hours would elapse before they began to force their way into the building.


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