A signet book planet of the apes



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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

We were left to ourselves for the rest of the day. In the evening, after giving us another meal, the gorillas withdrew, putting out the lights. I slept little that night, not because of the discomfort of the cage—the straw litter was thick and afforded an acceptable bed—but I could not stop working out ways and means to enter into communication with the apes. I resolved never to lose my temper again but to seek patiently and ceaselessly every opportunity to display my mental faculties. The two warders with whom I had dealt were probably lowly underlings incapable of interpreting my movements, but there surely existed other apes who were more civilized.



On the following morning I saw that this hope was not unfounded. I had been awake for an hour.







Most of my companions were restlessly pacing up and down their cages in the manner of captive animals. When I realized I was doing likewise, arid had been doing so for some time without noticing it, I was ashamed of myself and forced myself to sit down behind the bars, assuming as human and as pensive an attitude as possible. It was then that the door of the corridor was pushed open and I saw a new figure enter the room accompanied by the two warders. It was a female chimpanzee, and I realized from the way the gorillas kept in the background that she held an important post in the establishment.
The warders must have given her a report about me, for no sooner had she come in than she questioned one of them, who promptly pointed his finger in my direction. Thereupon she came straight over to my cage.
I watched her carefully as she approached. She, too, was dressed in a white smock, cut more elegantly than those worn by the gorillas, gathered in at the waist by a belt and with short sleeves that revealed two agile dangling arms. What struck me most about her was her expression, which was remarkably alert and intelligent. I felt this augured well for our future relationship. She seemed to be quite young in spite of the simian wrinkles that framed her white muzzle. In her hand she carried a leather brief case.
She came to a halt in front of my cage and began to scrutinize me, at the same time taking a notebook out of her brief case.
"Good day to you, madame," I said with a bow.
I had spoken in my gentlest voice. A look of intense surprise came over the she-ape's face, but she maintained her composure and with a gesture of authority silenced the gorillas, who had started sniggering again.
"Madame or mademoiselle," I went on, feeling encouraged, "I am sorry to present myself to you in these conditions and in this state of undress. Believe me, I'm not in the habit "
I was again spouting whatever nonsense came into my head, selecting only words in keeping with the polite tone I had made up my mind to maintain. When I finished speaking, punctuating my speech with the gentlest of smiles, her surprise changed to stupefaction. Her eyes blinked several times and the wrinkles on her forehead grew more pronounced. It was obvious that she was trying desperately to find the solution to a difficult problem. She in turn smiled at me, and I had the impression that she was beginning to suspect a part of the truth.
During this scene the men in their cages watched us, this time without showing the hatred that the sound of my voice usually provoked in them. They showed signs of curiosity. One after another, they stopped their feverish pacing and came and glued their faces against the bars to see us better. Nova looked furious and could not keep still.
The she-ape took a fountain pen from her pocket and inscribed several lines in her notebook. Then, raising her head and again meeting my anxious gaze, she smiled once more. This encouraged me to make another friendly advance. I stretched an arm out through the bars, keeping my hand open. The gorillas gave a start and made as though to come between us. But the she-ape, whose first reaction had been to draw back, recovered herself, stopped them with one word, and, without taking her eyes off me, likewise stretched out her hairy arm, which trembled a little, toward mine. I did not move. She drew nearer still and placed her hand with its excessively long fingers on my wrist. I felt her tremble at this contact. I did my best not to make any movement that might startle her. She felt my hand, stroked my arm, then turned around to her assistants with an air of triumph.
I was breathless with hope, feeling more and more certain that she was beginning to recognize my noble quality. When she spoke haughtily to one of the gorillas, I was insane enough to hope that my cage was about to be thrown open, . with a million apologies. Alas, that was not what happened! The warder fumbled in his pocket and took out a small white object that he handed to his superior. She herself put it in my hand with a charming smile. It was a lump of sugar.
A lump of sugar! I fell from such a height, I suddenly felt so discouraged by the humiliation of this reward, that I almost flung it back in her face. Just in time I remembered my good resolutions and forced myself to remain calm. I took the sugar, bowed, and munched it with as intelligent an air as possible.
Such was my first encounter with Zira. Zira was the she-ape's name, as I presently learned. She was the head of the department to which I had been brought. In spite of my disappointment, her manner gave me some hope and I had a feeling that I would manage to enter



into communication with her. She had a long conversation with the warders and I fancied she was giving them instructions about me. Then she continued on her rounds, inspecting the other occupants of the cages.
She carefully scrutinized each of the newcomers and made a few notes, more succinct than in my case. She never ventured to touch one of them. Had she done so, I believe I should have been jealous. I was beginning to feel proud of being the exceptional subject who alone deserved privileged treatment. When I saw her stop in front of the children and throw some sugar to them as well, I felt definitely vexed, certainly no less vexed than Nova, who, after baring her teeth at the she-ape, had lain down in fury at the bottom of her cage with her back turned on me.



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