I woke early after a restless night. I turned over three or four times in my bed and rubbed my eyes before fully recovering consciousness, still unaccustomed to the civilized I life I had been leading for a month, feeling anxious every morning at not hearing the straw creak and not feeling Nova's warmth against me.
I eventually came to my senses. I was living in one of the most comfortable apartments in the institute. The apes had proved extremely generous. I had a bedroom, a bathroom, clothes, books, a television set. I read all the papers, I was free, I could go out, walk about the streets, attend any entertainment. My presence in a public place still provoked considerable interest, but the emotion of the first few days had started to die down.
Cornelius was now the scientific head of the institute. Zaius had been dismissed—he had been given another post, however, and a new decoration—and Zira's fianc6 installed in his place. This had resulted in a reorganization of the personnel, a general promotion of the chimpanzee element, and renewed activity in every department Zira had become the new director's assistant.
As for me, I took part in the scientist's research work, no longer as a guinea pig but as a collaborator. However, it was only with great difficulty and after much hesitation on the part of the Grand Council that Cornelius had been granted this favor. The authorities still appeared reluctant to admit my nature and origin.
I dressed quickly, left my room, and walked over to the wing of the institute where I had once been a prisoner: the department under Zira, who was still directing it in addition to her new duties. With Cornelius' permission ; I had embarked there on a systematic study of the men.
Here I am in the room with the cages, walking along the corridor in front of the bars like one of the masters of this planet. Shall I admit that I come here frequently, more frequently than my duties demand? There are times when I feel burdened by constantly simian surroundings, and here I find a sort of refuge.
The captives are well acquainted with me now and recognize my authority. Do they see any difference between me, Zira, and the warders who bring them their food? I should like to think so, but I doubt it. For the last month, despite my patience and efforts, I, too, have been unsuccessful in making them achieve any higher level of performance than that of well-trained animals. A secret intuition tells me, however, that their potentialities are enormous.
I should like to teach them to talk. This is my great ambition. I have not succeeded, I admit. It is only with the utmost difficulty that some of them manage to repeat a monosyllabic sound or two, which certain chimpanzees on Earth can do. It is not much, but I am persevering. What encourages me is the new persistence with which their eyes try to meet mine, eyes which for some time have seemed to be gradually changing in expression. I fancy I can see in them a spark of curiosity, associated with a superior mentality, breaking through the animal mindlessness.
I move slowly around the room, stopping in front of each of the captives. I speak to them; I speak to them gently, patiently. They are now accustomed to this unusual behavior on my part. They seem to listen. I go on for several minutes, then stop speaking in whole sentences and pronounce a few simple words, repeating them over and over again, hoping for an echo. One of them clumsily articulates a syllable, but this is as far as he will go today. The subject soon gets tired, abandons the superhuman task, and lies down on the floor as though after some exhausting effort. I sigh and pass on to the next one. I finally come to the cage in which Nova is at present vegetating in solitary sadness. Sadness—this at least is what I, with my Earthman's conceit, wish to believe, and I struggle to detect this emotion on her beautiful but inexpressive features. Zira has not given her another mate, and I am grateful for that
I often think of Nova. I cannot forget the hours I spent in her company. But I have never again entered her cage; human self-respect forbids me. Is she not an animal? I now live in the highest scientific circles; how could I let myself indulge hi such a relationship? I blush at the thought of our former intimacy. Since I have changed camps I have even forbidden myself to show her more affection than I show to her fellows.
Nevertheless I cannot help noting that she is an exceptional subject and I am glad of that. With her I obtain better results than with the others. She presses up against the bars as soon as she sees me, and her mouth twists into a grimace that could almost pass as a smile. Even before I have opened my mouth she tries to pronounce the three or four syllables she has learned. Her diligence is evident. Is she naturally more gifted than the others? Or has contact with me polished her and given her a capacity to benefit more from my lessons? I like to think, with a certain complacency, that this is the case.
I say her name, then my own, pointing my finger alternately at her and myself. She imitates the gesture. But I see her expression change suddenly and she bares her teeth as I hear a gentle chuckle behind me.
It is Zira, who laughs not unkindly at my efforts; her presence always rouses the girl to anger. Zira is accompanied by Cornelius, who is interested in my efforts and often comes to see the results for himself. Today he has come to see me for another reason. He looks rather excited.
"Would you like to go on a little trip with me, Ulysse?"
"Quite a long one; almost to the antipodes. Some archeolo-gists have discovered some extremely curious ruins out there, if the reports reaching us are to be believed. An orangutan is directing the excavations and he can scarcely be relied upon to interpret the vestiges correctly. There's something strange about them that fascinates me and that may afford decisive material for my research. The Academy is sending me out there on an official mission and I think your presence would be most useful."
I do not see how I can help him, but I welcome this opportunity to see further aspects of Soror. He takes me to his office to give me more details.
I am delighted by this diversion, which is an excuse for not completing my rounds; for there is one more prisoner for me to see—Professor Antelle. He is still in the same state, which makes his release impossible. Thanks to me, however, he is now on his own, isolated in a fairly comfortable cell. It is a painful duty for me to visit him. He replies to none of my earnest requests and still behaves like a perfect animal.