I was utterly exhausted. The events of the last two days had broken me physically and plunged my mind into such confusion that I had been incapable until now of bewailing the loss of my comrades or even of picturing concretely all that was involved for me in the pillaging of our launch.
It was with relief that I welcomed the half-light, then isolation in the almost total darkness that followed, for the dusk was very swift and we drove all through the night. I racked my brains to discover some sense in the events I had witnessed. I needed this intellectual exercise to escape from the despair that haunted me, to prove to myself that I was a man, I mean a man from Earth, a reasoning creature who made it a habit to discover a logical explanation for the apparently miraculous whims of nature, and not a beast hunted down by highly developed apes.
I reviewed all that I had observed, often without being aware of it. A general overall impression prevailed: these apes, male and female, gorillas and chimpanzees, were not in any way ridiculous. I have already mentioned that they had never struck me as being animals in disguise, like the tame monkeys exhibited in our circuses. On Earth a hat on the head of a she-monkey was a hilarious sight to some people, to me a painful one. Not so here. Both head and hat were in keeping, and there was nothing at all unnatural about any of their gestures. The she-ape sipping a drink through a straw looked like a lady. I also remember having seen one of the hunters take a pipe out of his pocket, fill it methodically, and light it. Well, nothing about this act had shocked my sensibilities, so natural were his movements. I had had to think about it before recognizing it as a paradox. I pondered over this at great length and, for the first time since my capture, I deplored the disappearance of Professor Antelle. In his wisdom and knowledge he would doubtless have been able to find an explanation for these paradoxes. What had become of him? I was certain he was not among the victims that had been shot. Was he among the captives? It was not impossible; I had not seen them all. I dared not hope that he had succeeded in preserving his liberty.
With my feeble resources I tried to piece together an hypothesis, but it was not very satisfactory. Could the inhabitants of this planet, the civilized beings whose towns we had seen, could they have succeeded hi training apes so as to instill more or less rational behavior in them—this, after patient selection and efforts lasting several generations? After all, on Earth there are chimpanzees who manage to perform astonishing tricks. The very fact that they had a language was perhaps not so outlandish as I had thought. I now remembered a discussion I had had on this subject with a specialist. He had told me there were learned scientists who spent a large part of their time trying to teach primates to talk.
They claimed that there was nothing in the conformation of these animals to prevent it. Until then all their efforts had been in vain, but they were persevering, maintaining that the only obstacle was the fact that monkeys were unwilling to talk. Perhaps one day they had proved willing on the planet Soror? This enabled these hypothetical inhabitants to use them for certain rough work, like the hunt during which I had been captured*
I clung desperately to this explanation, recoiling in horror at the thought of another, simpler one, so essential for my safety did it seem that there should exist on this planet properly rational creatures, that is, men, men like myself, to whom I could reveal myself.
Men! Of what race, then, were the beings whom the apes had killed and captured? Some sort of backward tribe? If that were the case, how cruel the masters of this planet were to tolerate and perhaps decree such massacres!
I was distracted from these thoughts by a figure creeping toward me. It was Nova. Around me, all the prisoners were lying in groups on the floor boards. After a moment's hesitation she snuggled up against me, as on the previous night. Once again I vainly tried to discern in her eyes the gleam by which this gesture of hers might have been construed as an act of friendliness. She turned her head away and presently closed her eyes. In spite of this I felt reassured by her mere presence and eventually fell asleep beside her, trying not to think of the morrow.