A signet book planet of the apes



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CHAPTER TWENTY

It was a red-letter day for me. Yielding to my entreaties, Zira had agreed to take me out of the Institute for Advanced Biological Study—that was the name of the establishment—and show me around the town.


She had consented to this only after much hesitation. It had taken me some time to convince her finally of my origin. Until then, though admitting the evidence while in my company, she would later begin doubting again. I tried to put myself in her place. She could only be profoundly shocked by my description of the men and above all of the apes on our Earth. She subsequently told me that for a long time she had preferred to regard me as a sorcerer or a charlatan rather than accept my statements. Yet, confronted with the facts and the evidence I accumulated, she eventually had complete confidence in me and even began to work out a plan to enable me to recover my liberty, which was not easy, as she explained to me that day. Meanwhile she came to fetch me at the beginning of the afternoon to go on our outing.
I felt my heart thumping at the thought of being in the open air again. My enthusiasm was slightly curbed when I saw she was going to keep me on a lead. The gorillas took me out of the cage, banged the door shut in Nova's face, and put around my neck a leather collar to which a strong chain was fixed. Zira took the other end and led me off, while a heart-rending whine from Nova stirred my compassion. But when I showed her a little pity and gave her a friendly wave, Zira looked angry and tugged me forward by the neck. Since she was now convinced I had an ape's mind, my intimacy with the young girl vexed and shocked her.
Her bad temper evaporated when we were alone together in the dark, deserted corridor.
"I don't suppose," she laughed, "that men on Earth are used to being held on a lead like this by apes?"
I assured her they were not at all used to it. She apologized, explaining that even though there were a few tame men who could be taken out like this without causing a scene, it was more normal if I was tied up. Subsequently, if I proved harmless, she might possibly be able to relieve me of my fetters.
And partly forgetting my true condition, as she still often did, she began advising me about my behavior, which humiliated me deeply.
"Above all, do be careful not to turn on passers-by or bare your teeth or scratch a trustful child who might come up and pet you. I didn't want to muzzle you, but . . ."
She stopped short and burst out laughing.
"Forgive me, forgive me!" she cried. "I keep forgetting you have a mind like an ape."
She gave me a friendly tap on the shoulder by way of apology. Her high spirits dissolved my mounting resentment. I liked to hear her laugh. Nova's inability to manifest her joy in this way sometimes made me sigh. I shared the she-ape's gaiety. In the half-light of the corridor I could no longer see her face except for the tip of her white muzzle. She had put on a smart coat and skirt to go out and a scarf that concealed her ears. For a moment I forgot her simian condition and took her arm. She found my gesture quite natural and did not object. We walked along for a bit like this, side by side. At the end of the corridor, lit by a window in the side wall, she quickly withdrew her arm and pushed me away. Reverting to a more serious mood, she tugged on my chain.
"You mustn't behave like this," she said, looking slightly distressed. "In the first place, I'm engaged and—"
"You're engaged!"
The incongruity of her remark about my gesture of familiarity struck her at the same time as it did me. She corrected herself, blushing at the muzzle. "I mean, no one must suspect your nature for the moment. It's in your own interests, I assure you."
I took her advice and allowed myself to be led along quietly. We left the building. The porter of the institute, a big gorilla clad in a uniform, let us out, observing me with curiosity after having saluted Zira. On the sidewalk I staggered slightly, giddy from the exercise and dazzled by the glare of Betelgeuse after more than three months' captivity. I inhaled the warm air deeply; at the same time, I felt embarrassed to be walking around naked. I had grown used to this in my cage, but here I felt grotesque and indecent under the eyes of the apes passing by, who kept staring at me. Zira had categorically refused to let me wear clothes, maintaining that I would have looked even more ridiculous dressed up, like one of those tame men who are exhibited at fairs. She was no doubt right. In fact, if the passers-by turned around to stare at me, it was not because I was naked but simply because I was a man, a species that in the streets roused the same sort of curiosity as would a chimpanzee in a French city. The adults merely grinned and continued on their way, but some young apes began to gather around me in great glee. Zira quickly led me off toward her car, motioned me into the back seat, sat down herself behind the steering wheel, and drove me slowly along the streets.
The town—the capital of an important simian region—I had barely glimpsed on my arrival, and I now had to resign myself to seeing it peopled by ape pedestrians, ape motorists, ape shopkeepers, ape businessmen, and apes in uniform whose job was to maintain law and order. Apart from this, it did not make a great impression on me. The houses were similar to ours; the roads, which were fairly dirty, looked like our roads. The traffic was less heavy than at home. What struck me most of all was the way the pedestrians crossed the street. There were no marked crossings, only overhead passages consisting of a metal frame to which they clung with all four hands. They all wore fine leather gloves that did not interfere with their prehension.
When she had driven around sufficiently to give me a general picture of the town, Zira stopped her car in front of a tall gate through which I could see .banks of flowers.
"The park," she said. "We can go for a little stroll. I should have liked to show you some other things—our museums, for instance, which are outstanding—but that's not possible yet."
I assured her that I should be delighted to stretch my legs.
"And besides," she went on, "we'll be left in peace here.
There are not many people about and it's time for us to have a serious conversation."



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