I shall not give a detailed account of the scenes that took place in the cages during the weeks that followed. As I had guessed, the apes had taken it into their heads to study the amorous behavior of humans, and they tackled this task in their usual methodical manner, noting the slightest developments, struggling to provoke relationships, making use of their pikes now and then to correct a recalcitrant subject's conduct.
I had begun to make a few observations myself, hoping to include them in the account I intended publishing on my eventual return to Earth, but I soon grew tired of this, finding nothing very intriguing to note—nothing, that is, apart from the strange manner in which each man courted his woman before approaching her. He indulged in a display similar in every way to that executed by certain birds: a sort of slow, hesitant dance consisting of steps forward, backward, and sideways. He moved thus in an ever-decreasing circle, a circle whose center was occupied by the woman, who merely pivoted around without shifting from her position. I witnessed with interest several of these displays, the essential ritual of which was always the same, the details varying only occasionally. As for the copulation that concluded these preliminaries, even though I was slightly astonished when I first witnessed it, I soon ended up by paying no more attention to it than the rest of the captives. The only surprising element in these displays was the scientific ardor with which the apes followed them, never omitting to make copious notes on the procedure.
It was a different matter when, noticing I did not indulge in these frolics—I had sworn that nothing would induce me to make such an exhibition of myself—the gorillas took it into their heads to compel me by force and t
obelabor me with their pikes—me, Ulysse Merou, a man created in the image of God! I resisted them energetically. These brutes persisted and I don't know what would have become of me had it not been for the arrival of Zira, to whom they reported my lack of cooperation.
She pondered for a long time; then, looking at me with her fine intelligent eyes, came up and started stroking the back of my neck, meanwhile addressing me in terms that I assumed to signify something like this:
"Poor little man," she seemed to be saying. "How odd you are! No one of your species has ever behaved like this before. Look at the others all around you. Do what you have been asked to do and you will be rewarded."
She took a lump of sugar out of her pocket and offered it to me. I was in despair. So she too regarded me as an animal, perhaps a slightly more intelligent one than the others. I shook my head furiously and went and lay down ha a corner of the cage, far from Nova, who gazed at me in incomprehension.
That would doubtless have been the end of the business had not Zaius reappeared at that moment, looking more overbearing than ever. He had come to see the outcome of his experiments and as usual he inquired first about me. Zira was obliged to tell him of my recalcitrance. He seemed extremely displeased, paced up and down for a minute or two with his hands behind his back, then gave some decisive orders. Zoram and Zanam opened my cage, took Nova away from me, and brought back instead an elderly matron. That idiot Zaius, steeped in scientific method, was determined to try the same experiment with a different subject.
Worse was to come, however, and I did not even think of my own sad fate. In anguish I watched my friend Nova being bundled off and was horrified to see her put into the cage directly opposite, delivered to a man with hefty shoulders, a sort of hairy-chested colossus, who started dancing around her, embarking with frenzied ardor on the curious love display I have already described.
As soon as I saw what this brute was up to, I forgot my good resolutions. I lost my head and once again behaved like a madman. As a matter of fact, I was literally mad with rage. I screamed and yelled like the men of Soror, showing my fury as they did by hurling myself against the bars, biting them, foaming at the mouth, grinding my teeth, behaving in short in a thoroughly bestial fashion.
And the most surprising thing about this outburst waits unexpected outcome. Seeing me behave like this, Zaius smiled. It was the first mark of benevolence he had bestowed on me. He had finally detected in me human behavior and found himself on familiar ground. His theory was vindicated. This put him in such a good mood that he even consented, at a remark from Zira, to cancel his orders and give me one last chance. The dreadful old matron was led away and Nova was restored to me before the hefty brute had touched her. The group of monkeys then stood back and all three watched me closely from a distance.
What more can I say? These emotions had broken down my resistance. I felt I would never be able to bear the sight of my nymph at the mercy of another man. I resigned myself like a coward to the victory of the orangutan, who was now smiling with pleasure at his astuteness. Hesitantly I attempted a step of the dance.
Yes, I, one of the kings of creation, started circling around my beauty—I, the ultimate achievement of millennial evolution, in front of this collection of apes eagerly watching me, in front of an old orangutan dictating notes to his secretary, in front of a female chimpanzee smiling with self-satisfaction, in front of a couple of chuckling gorillas —I, a man, excusing myself on the grounds of exceptional cosmic circumstances, and persuading myself for the moment that there are more things on the planets and in the heavens than have ever been dreamed of in human philosophy, I, Ulysse Merou, embarked like a peacock around the gorgeous Nova on the love display.