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Chapter Twenty Five. Silence Restored.
At first sight of the brute, notwithstanding its strangely monstrous appearance, Henry had really mistaken it for a man; but a moment’s reflection convinced him that he was looking upon an ape instead of a man, and one of such gigantic size as to make him certain it must be the animal spoken of by Saloo under the various appellations of mias rombi, ourang-outang, and red gorilla. Saloo’s remarks concerning this ape, and his emphatic warnings, were not at all pleasant to be now recalled. Though brave as a young lion, he looked upon the shaggy monster with fear and trembling. Far less for himself than for his sister; who, being nearer to it, was, of course, in greater peril of an attack. This, indeed, seemed imminent, and his first thought was to rush to the spot and discharge his musket into the monster’s face. He was restrained only by seeing that Helen, moved by an instinct of self-preservation, had made an effort to save herself by gliding round the trunk of the tree, and seeking concealment on its opposite side. At the same time she had prudently ceased her cries; and as the animal did not show any intention of following her, but rather seemed inclined to keep toward the edge of the lake, the boy bethought him that his best course would be not to discharge his musket until the ape should make some hostile demonstration.

Saloo had told them that the brute is not always disposed to commence the attack upon man. If left alone, it will go its own way, except during certain seasons, when the females are fearful for their young offspring. Then they will assail every intruder that comes near, whether man or animal. But when wounded or enraged they will not only act on the defensive, but attack their enemies in the most spiteful and implacable manner.

Remembering these things, and hoping the huge creature might take a peaceful departure from the place, Henry, who had already held his musket at the level, lowered its muzzle, at the same time dropping upon his knees among some tall grass, which, in this attitude, tolerably well concealed him.

He soon saw that he had acted wisely. The hairy monster seemed altogether to ignore the presence of his sister and himself; and as if neither were within a thousand miles of the spot, kept on its course toward the margin of the water. Fortunately for Henry, it went quite another way, which, widening diagonally, did not bring the creature at all near him. It was evidently directing its course toward some liliaceous plants with large succulent stems, which formed a patch or bed, standing in the water, but close to the brink of the lake.

In all probability there was not enough fruit in the neighbourhood to satisfy the hirsute gentleman now passing before their eyes; or else he had a fancy to vary his diet by making a meal upon simple vegetables. He soon reached the patch of tall water-plants; waded in nearly knee-deep; and then with arms, each of which had the sweep of a mower’s scythe, drew in their heads toward him, and with a mouth wide as that of a hippopotamus, cropped off the succulent shoots and flower-stems, and munched them like an ox in the act of chewing its cud.

Seeing the huge hairy creature thus peaceably disposed, and hoping it would for some time continue in this harmless disposition, Henry rose from his kneeling attitude, and glided silently, but swiftly, toward the tree. Joining his sister Helen, he flung his arms around her as he rose erect, and kissed her to chase away the effects of the terrible fright she had sustained.


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