Angenot, M. and N. Khouri. 1981. An International Bibliography of Prehistoric Fiction. Science-Fiction Studies 8(1):38-53. (see here
|Chapter I.||The Meeting|
|Chapter II.||Making Acquaintance|
|Chapter III.||A Dwelling Place|
|Chapter IV.||Life in the Woods|
|Chapter V.||Further Life and Reflections|
|Chapter VI.||His Origin and Prospects|
|Chapter VII.||The Death of Sue|
Evolution is an irregular process. It does not necessarily mean progress in our sense of the word but adaptation to environment, so it may go up, down, or merely sideways, simply different. In the gorilla environment has developed size, muscle and ferocity rather than intelligence, resulting in a dangerous wild beast. In our "Ape Man" it has been checked. Other surrounding races of the same sort have progressed faster than he has and, coming into collision with him, have by their superior weapons, intelligence, and other advantages, killed or hunted him out till accident pressed the few remnants of his race into the locality where I found him: a sort of animal paradise, where, with a warm climate, an ample sufficiency of the kinds of food to which he has been accustomed, freed (so far) from his demi-human foes and little beset by any others, he found himself in pretty fair accord with his environments and so was not forced into any higher phase; and there, reduced to a single family at last, with no prospect of further increase, he was doomed to speedy extinction like the iguanadons and mastodons of past ages; and I, on my return home, would be able to show not a vestige of proof of my ever having met him; not a flint weapon, not a broken potsherd; and if I could it would be no proof of my adventures. People would say these were mere relics of some savage human tribe. So the less I said the better. I will put my adventures into this little book and leave it at that, to be believed or disbelieved as might be.
I was, while in Para, to make myself well acquainted with the appearance of the various species of rubber trees, with their habits and habitats (so far as known), to lay in at once the chief requisites for my journey -- such things as I might not be able to get at Manoa -- and learn as much as possible of the lingoa-geral, which was much more spoken in those regions than correct Portuguese, and trust to getting the usual food supplies and minor requirements at an Indian settlement higher up the river.
Behold me, then, arrived at Manoa, provided with the most suitable kind of boat for my explorations, carefully securing every kind of article that, with the best advice, seemed absolutely necessary and nothing that was not necessary, for my boat space was limited.
I had secured three assistants -- Pedro, a half-caste Portuguese, with a not very prepossessing countenance, but fairly recommended, and two Indian river men, well up in forest lore and well used to the wilds.
I had taken care to learn what tributaries seemed to have been most explored, what sort of people had done the exploring and how far they had gone.
There had been little to tempt the merchants or the company promoters into those wild regions, and the naturalists had kept mainly to the neighborhood of the chief rivers. Moreover, the further back one got into the rising ground up the tributaries, the more the rapids that would be encountered, and that would check the exploration. . Altogether there seemed a vast, practically unexplored region, promising to the rubber hunter.
So on a certain day our little party of four set forth from Manoa, keeping well in shore to avoid the full current of the stream, but well enough out to avoid the frequent caving in of the banks, for one such fall on our little craft would have obliterated us all.
We went somewhere about a hundred miles and then turned up one of the large affluents that seemed by all accounts to have been not much explored. There was a favorable breeze that helped us along, a slow current that did little to check us, and we got along finely. But the river was immensely broad and we could only inspect one bank, so I crossed over, selecting the left bank, and I carefully scrutinised the kind of country (and especially the vegetation) through my binoculars. So far there was no appearance of the rubber tree.
There is no twilight in these regions, but as it was bright starlight, I thought I might as well push on by night as well as by day, so long as there seemed no marked change in the country or the vegetation; but if the night was dark or the country seemed to require daylight scrutiny, we moored to a tree and camped for the night, when, of course, we had our fishing lines out and generally caught some fish, which helped to eke out our provisions. Still, our provision supply was necessarily limited, as our boat was small; and presently my crew began to suggest that it was getting time to return. However, as we should have the stream in our favor all the way back and I had done practically no exploring yet, I decided that we should go on for at least one day more. My crew acquiesced silently but rather sulkily, and we went on after one more night's rest. And soon on the next day we came to a fork in the stream, and I at once noticed a difference in the color of the two streams -- that from the East was discolored, that from the West was clear and was also slower. This indicated that the Eastern stream came from rising ground, and it meant rapids not far off. That from the West had clearly come a long distance through flat country, so I chose that stream. It was a much narrower stream, too, than the other, though still a good big river, but yet narrow enough for me to be able to scrutinise both banks fairly well through my binoculars; and before noon I distinctly made out a rubber tree, and not long after another and then another. We pulled in at once to the shore.
My men were now openly grumbling and muttering that it was high time to turn back instead of actually beginning my exploration. But to turn back now just as the goal was in sight was out of the question.
We tied up, and leaving the crew to take care of the boats and catch some fish if possible, I started off after a night's rest to explore the country. The ground was fairly open and easy travelling for a short distance and I was travelling light for I had to go far in a short time. It was my last chance and would take a whole day. I took a light axe stuck in my belt behind, my sheath knife, pocket knife, my pocket compass, a few fishing lines and a small coil of brass wire, some cakes of chocolate, for all these were light to carry and none but the light axe at all heavy, and I cut a strong supple cane to carry in my hand, for experience has long shown me that this is the most effective weapon against venomous snakes (the most dangerous enemy I was likely to meet). But before starting I sat down for a minute, looked over what I was taking and considered had I got everything really necessary, for this was the first time I was venturing into the wilds really alone, and there was no knowing what might happen before I got back. A falling bough, a twist of the ankle, a snake, any accident might happen, and my men would have no suspicion of it till darkness fell and I had not appeared.
Discarding everything that I did not absolutely need, I thought of my purse, which I certainly should not need. I opened it and glanced at the contents -- a little gold, some silver, some notes, and all in a rather heavy purse. I rolled these in a coat and tossed it into a corner, telling Pedro, who was standing by, to look after all these things. Then at the last minute I thought it would be really better in every way to take one of the Indian lads with me. I might want him. I might have something heavy to bring back, and there was always the possibility of a disabling accident in a lonely wilderness, and it would be safer at any rate to have someone either to assist me or to hurry off for help. So I gathered my goods together while Assi, my Indian boy, exchanged a few parting words with his companions and then we were off.
But we had not been gone half an hour when Assi tripped over a liana and was down with a twisted ankle, helpless. What was to be done? I could not possibly leave my work at the last moment undone. I took off my kerchief and hurriedly helped Assi to twist it round the injured ankle, telling him to hobble back if he could or wait for my return to help him. Then off I went.
But the travelling grew rapidly worse, the undergrowth increased -- here and there the jungle was almost impenetrable and the rubber trees, never plentiful, became still scarcer; also the day was passing and I had to get back with, perhaps, a wounded boy to help. So, very reluctantly, I turned back. I had, of course, blazed my trail as I went, wherever it seemed necessary, so had no difficulty in judging my way back.
When I got to the spot where I had left Assi he was gone, but had left his billy can behind him. I was glad to see this for it showed he could get along somehow, so I should not be much delayed with him. I got back the whole way without overtaking him, but when I reached the river he was not visible and the boat was gone! I was perplexed, but as yet only perplexed. The tie had not snapped. It had been regularly untied. The boat must have been released purposely. Why? I shouted but no answer came. I ran along the bank but though I could see down the stream a long way, there was no appearance of the boat. I began to feel uneasy. However, I set a few lines and sat down to make the best of things till some explanation appeared. But I sat on and on until far into the night, getting more and more anxious, till at last very late I fell asleep.
When I awoke in the morning I was still alone. Then it began to dawn upon me that I was deliberately abandoned, foully left to die alone in that desolate wilderness, where probably no white man had ever been and where no man of any sort was likely to come again for many years.
Little incidents cropped up to confirm my suspicions -- the mutinous disposition of the men, their anxiety to start home at once, their fears that I, finding rubber, would want to stay on longer. Above all I remembered that Pedro had seen my money supply and where I had left it, that there was gold in it and notes; he did not know how much and probably exaggerated the amount. There were also all my goods to divide amongst them, and how easy it would be to account for my disappearance! -- a snake bite, an alligator, anyone of a hundred accidents, all quite likely to happen.
Then, again, I was a stranger. There was no one specially interested in me to push enquiry about me. It was all simple -- so very simple, and I had absolutely nothing left but what I stood up in. My gun, binoculars, provisions, everything gone except the few simple tools I had taken with me. My situation was desperate.
Well, I must get away from here into some better surroundings. But as I looked about to see if there was anything left of my possessions that might be of any use to me, my eye was caught by a flutter of white on a tree. It proved to be a scrap of paper with the single word "Adios" scrawled across it, and pinned by a thorn into the bark. Whether it was meant as the parting derisive taunt of an enemy or the half-remorseful warning of a traitor removing all doubts as to my position, and setting the plain facts before me, I could not tell. But strange to say, instead of throwing me into despair, it cleared my brain and strengthened my nerve, for I am a man of action more than of sentiment, and to find myself in a corner sharpens my wits and braces my energies.
The first clear fact was that I had to face the situation somehow and get out of this place. How was I to live meanwhile? Game I knew to be scarce in these dense forests; it was the flora, not the fauna, that was luxuriant. What few animals there were would be up the trees like the monkeys, off on the wing like the birds, into the water like the tapirs and capybara, or into the dense thickets like other game, on the first hint of danger; and I had no gun to shoot with or hunting weapon of any kind.
The most numerous and most active creatures were the birds and monkeys; the ant bear was rare; the puma was, like the lion elsewhere, a beast of the plains or the open woods and hills, not of the thick forest; his place was taken by the jaguar, whose colour and spots, corresponding with the dappled play of lights and shades through the foliage, make him inconspicuous. At any rate he rarely attacked man, unless he found him asleep or disabled. The python, too, rarely attacked man, and the alligator kept to the water; so that I had little to fear from wild beasts. Venemous snakes were the chief danger, and there was no very great danger from them so long as I did not travel noiselessly and so come upon them unawares, for a snake will always rather get out of your way than fight you if he can. Besides, a good stout flexible cane is the safest weapon to deal with them. You cannot hit flat with a bludgeon but a flexible cane accommodates itself to the blow, and a snake's back is easily broken. As to water that was always available. Clothing of any sort was hardly wanted in the tropics, and as to shelter at night I must coil myself in a thicket or the fork of a tree and take my chance.
My only hope of not living miserably like a beast and gradually sinking to the level of a beast, lay in the hope of my finding some tribe of Indians and trusting myself to their hospitality and help, and being passed on from one tribe to another towards civilisation. True, they might kill me instead, but then I should only die suddenly and I believe painlessly from a poisoned dart from an ambushed blowpipe, or fall in open battle honorably and there be an end of it.
It takes some time to state all these cogitations, but it took much less time to think them; they all passed through my brain in a rapid, wordless flash almost, and I finished them out on the way as I started on my return track along yesterday's march.
As I said, the scrub grew speedily thicker as I proceeded, till it became impossible to force my way through, but some reeds and rushes, with fewer bushes, appeared to the left, so I made that way; the bushes grew thinner and the reeds longer as I went, till I found I was getting into a swamp. Presently there was a rustle in the reeds ahead. I poked my cane forward and a snake wriggled out; a few swift blows with my cane disabled him and I then cut off his head, and went on with my next meal provided. I kept as near as possible to the dividing line, so far as there was any, between the scrub and the swamp.
The tangled forest was now quite impenetrable, and I saw by the great sweep of thickening reeds that a vast swamp lay out there. At one place the swamp and the jungle ran thickly close up together, and I paused a minute to recover my breath before pushing through between them.
Then I heard the sound of a breaking branch. There was no wind to account for it, and it sounded like a gradual tear, as if some animal was doing it. I pushed quietly through and found that just beyond the soil changed and the vegetation with it. The scrub thinned out rapidly, the ground sloped up, the trees grew fewer and shorter, and again I heard that breaking, tearing sound. Working towards it as well as I could locate it, I saw I was nearing an opening in the woods; and then a form appeared. Quietly I crept up, and peering from behind a bush could make out clearly what it was.
The creatures arms seemed longer than a man's and its legs shorter, and it stood less upright than a man; moreover, the upright attitude did not seem altogether its natural attitude. I had the idea that if it was suddenly startled by danger, it would drop on all fours and so scamper quadrupedally to its natural refuge, the tree. But what struck me most of all was the shape of its foot; the anthropoid ape's big toe is really an opposable, grasping thumb, never a true big toe, in alignment with its other toes making a true walking foot. It must have taken long ages in evolution for the ape's hind hand (so to speak) to completely change its character to the pedestrian foot; so that, if this was the "missing link," as I suspected it to be, it had travelled a long way from the true ape towards the human being. For its hind hand was more than half way towards the human foot, showing that it was fast losing (in a geological sense) its arboreal habits; for a creature with a true foot could have nothing like the necessary arboreal agility. This creature's hind thumb (so to speak) had half shifted its position and character; it was making towards the toe, but still had enough grasping power to make him much more nimble than a man among the branches. All these points and more I carefully noted as I kept quiet, for I wanted to know as much as possible about this singular being from whom I hoped to learn so much as to making a living, before I showed myself.
The two chief points I had noticed and which gave me most hope were that his facial angle was much more human than an ape's, indicating more intelligence, and that he habitually used a tool -- the hooked stick. So I moved cautiously forward. The slight sound of my movement caught his ear immediately, and he turned swiftly. I stopped at once, and with a smiling face and courteous words waved my hands in friendly greeting. He (I will no longer call him It) regarded me with astonishment. I was so apparently harmless and anxious to be friendly that it never occurred to him either to assume an attitude of defence or to run away. I was so like him in some respects, yet so different in details.
As he evidently knew nothing about clothes, my clothes, of course, appeared to him to be part of my natural body -- curious excrescences. I did not offer to approach nearer, but continued to make friendly gestures, which he received suspiciously. After a minute or two, I took a step nearer, whereupon he raised his stick threateningly. It was not much of a weapon, so that did not trouble me. I took one step more, appealingly, when he struck at me. I made another quick step, snatched the stick out of his hand and gave him a sharp cut across the arm with it, then threw it aside and renewed my conciliatory gestures. This showed him two things -- that I was quite able to take care of myself and would stand no nonsense, but also that I really wanted to be friends with him. He looked offended and inclined to be spiteful, but did nothing, only croaked; whereupon another figure, the female, rather smaller, with longer hair on her head and no whiskers, stepped out of the bushes hesitatingly and took her place behind him; and almost simultaneously two other beings, a boy and a girl (if I may call them so) stole out and stood behind them both. I saluted them all, smilingly, but received no response.
Then an idea occurred to me. I took out one of my papers of chocolate from my bosom (the only receptacle I had, as I had no coat), and I showed them the gaudy paper covering. This astonished them greatly, as I appeared to have produced it from my inside. Then I thought that though it was part of my very slender store of provisions, I could not use it for a better purpose; so I tore off a corner, broke off a small piece of the contents, showed it to them and then ate it. I then broke off a rather larger piece, showed it to them and threw it towards the children, who seemed about 12 and 10 years of age respectively, the boy eldest. The girl, with the natural curiosity of her sex, moved first, picked up the chocolate, smelt it, put her tongue to it, tasted it and finally ate it; liked it, and looked as if some more would be agreeable. I gave her another piece, then thought I had given them about enough of me for one lesson; so turned quietly aside and began gathering the nuts, taking apparently no further notice of them, but watching them carefully from the corner of my eye.
Left to themselves, they seemed not to know what to do. There seemed no reason either to attack me or to run away, so after staring at me a little longer, they began to disperse and resume their occupations. I seemed solely occupied with the nuts while they moved away, and I wandered about apparently aimlessly, but always managing to keep sufficiently near them to note everything they did. Luckily they had not eaten their fill yet, so food was their chief object, and this seemed, so far as I saw, to be much what the monkeys fed on -- chiefly vegetable --; nuts, fruit, tender shoots, but also small animal food -- snakes and lizards and such like, grubs and insects -- all of which they ate raw, which was not promising as a forecast of what my diet would have to be.
I noticed carefully not only what they ate, but where they looked for it and how they got it. I had not had nearly enough to eat myself by this time, though they seemed soon satisfied, and I had yet my snake that I had killed and that would have to be cooked before I could eat it. But I did not want to light a fire till dark, as the blaze would be more striking in the dark, and I was curious to see how they would take it.
But as sunset approached the whole party had gradually worked round to an open space, on the edge of which stood one great tree, with pretty open forest all round, where the ape people seemed to settle down finally. Seeing this, I began to gather up some sticks, the ape people regarding me curiously not understanding my purpose. Turning my back to them I produced my match box and struck a light, and in a few seconds had a bright little blaze; then I laid on more sticks.
Intense amazement was produced. Evidently they had never seen fire. What was this strange appearance that danced and sparkled and seemed alive? They drew a little nearer, anxiously watching. After some minutes, when there was a good bed of hot coals, I raked them out, coiled up my snake, laid it in the glowing coals and covered it up with them; then sat down while it cooked. After a little I made another and larger fire against a log and then went to collect more wood for it. By the time I thought my snake was about done I pulled it out and commenced my evening meal, for I was very hungry by this time.
The ape people were now gathered about my second fire, exhibiting intense curiosity while I watched them. It may seem strange that a people so nearly human should never have seen or ever heard of fire, as surely a stroke of lightning, or fermentation of decaying matter, must in the long years have started forest fires. But when we remember that this was humid Brazil, a country of everlasting green growth, where lightning storms were rare, and that this was a race without speech and therefore without traditions, or even knowledge of what might have happened even in the preceding generation, it will be intelligible enough.
Presently one of them touched the flame with his finger, and started back with a cry. Not only was this strange appearance alive and jumping about, but it was vicious, too. It bit! So there was fear as well as astonishment in their faces, and they retreated a pace or two, especially as it gave out heat all round as well as light. But I sauntered up and gave the fire a careless kick. Evidently I, at any rate, was not afraid of it. Anyhow, they continued to sit round this new, strange, interesting phenomenon, till the fire died down.
The night thickened and they sauntered up to the great tree, ascended it, and disappeared among the branches.
While food-hunting or sitting by the fire they had often made little guttural noises that might be construed as remarks; but these never elicited anything like a connected reply, and they had often called each other's attention by gestures that brought out corresponding actions. But there was never anything like real language, real conversation.
However, I knew too little about them as yet to draw any sound conclusions about them; but time and patience would, no doubt, reveal plenty more. For the present I merely renewed the sinking fire, collected some more fuel for the night (for I was determined never to let that fire go out once it was lighted, matches being so precious), and then I. lay down behind the log, trusting to the fire to scare away any prowling wild beasts and sure that the sunrise, with its sudden blaze of light, would wake me up in the morning as soon as the ape people. So I went pretty comfortably to sleep. I woke once or twice in the night and mended the fire. So ended my first day with my new companions.
As I expected, sunrise woke all up together, and I was attending to the fire when the ape people descended from their roost. They came at once to the fire, glancing inquisitively at me, but soon sauntered off into the woods to seek their daily food, dispersing in a fresh direction to-day, for I soon found that they never took the same route two days running.
I had the remains of my snake for a snatch breakfast then sauntered after my companions, taking with me all my few worldly goods, my axe and my fish-hooks in their leather pouch, my roll of brass wire, etc., for I had no place in which to leave them, and might want them at any moment. Within half an hour we came to a broad stream, about twenty yards wide, clear and shallow so that one could see clearly that there were no alligators or gymnoti or other foes about, and waded across in water, not up to our waist in the deepest part. Here I stripped and had a good, much needed bath; then digging a worm or two out of the moist bank baited and set two of my lines and moved off. The cracking of branches and other sounds soon told me of the direction in which the others had gone. I gathered some nuts, the same sort as yesterday, and picked some berries. These were not very nice; wild fruits seldom are. It takes generations of careful selection and cultivation to produce our fine dessert fruits; still all were eatable, some few really good, and I supposed would help to nourish me as they did the ape people. But I touched no kind of native fruits till I had seen the others or the birds or monkeys eat them, for fear of poison.
Coming up with the rest, I found the two old people trying to get some grubs out of the cracks in an old, rotting log. Here was my first chance to-day to show my value. Peering about I found a sound hard branch, and cutting it into short lengths made and roughly sharpened three good wooden wedges; then with the back of my axe I drove one of them into the crack, widening it; then pushing another wedge beyond it, I widened the crack further, and so on, bursting open the log and revealing a whole colony of grubs. A greedy shout brought the whole family up to the feast and they began gorging themselves. I supposed I should have, sometime or other, to come down to a live grub diet, but I was in no hurry to begin it unnecessarily, so I left, the whole prize to the rest of them.
A little further on I noticed a decaying log of no great size, so turning round I ought out a stout sapling, and cutting it down and trimming it, converted it into a handspike with which I rolled the log over, revealing various insects, which the family pounced upon and which I left to them.
Here, then, I had found for them two new tools, the wedges and the handspike, and had shown them how to use them. Clearly, I was a great discoverer, almost a magician, and therein showed that they appreciated the fact.
Later, I found the girl using a stick to grub up a yam-like root, which she pounced on. She did not offer me any of it. Indeed, I soon found that she never offered me anything, it was not her nature; she was a mean, selfish, capricious little thing, and I never became fond of her. But I looked about and soon found more of the same roots, dug them up with a piece of wood, put some away in the breast of my shirt and gave the others to the party.
What with these roots, the nuts I had gathered and perhaps a fish on my lines, I thought I should have enough for a meal, such as it was; so I left the others and turned back. I had no fears of their deserting me. I was becoming too valuable an ally and no trouble or danger to them.
I found on my lines one fish, as I had hoped, so coiling my lines up I went "home," rounded up my fire, then raked out the ashes, and burying the yams, the fish and the nuts all together waited till they were cooked, more or less, and had my breakfast.
I was no smoker, luckily for me, as I had no tobacco or substitute of any kind, so after a short rest I thought I would explore the big tree during its occupants' absence, and see what sort of a roost they had. I was nothing like so nimble among the branches as my friends, but I got up all right and soon found the parent nest, so to speak, where the father and mother roosted. It was a, rough nest of branches, lined with grass, in a big fork about 30 feet up, the sticks projecting well over the sides, making it pretty safe from the jaguar, for they were, no doubt, light sleepers and would soon hear him if he started climbing up the trees, and looking out to meet him, one on each side, could smash his paws with their clubs, or poke him in the eyes with a long sharp stick, before he could reach them. One such attempt, if he made it, would be enough for the jaguar; he would not try to storm the nest again.
The two younger apes had been in similar but more roughly-constructed nests a little higher up.
There were no other trees within reach by which an enemy could come round and get at them from above; the barrier of the parents would have to be passed before the offspring could be reached, so they were quite safe.
Having found out all about the parental domicile I came down, and my work for the rest of the day was clear. I wanted a bag, or portable receptacle, to carry my goods about in and put in any provisions or other valuables I might collect.
Near the stream I spoke of, was a bed of large rushes like New Zealand flax, about five feet long and, perhaps, four inches broad. I had only to cut a good bundle of these, split them up, cut out the gummy interior and plait the material into baskets; I did so. It gave me light and interesting occupation for the whole afternoon, and before nightfall I had two good baskets or bags ready made, and materials ready for two more. By nightfall the family had returned and we "went to bed" as usual. But never did I lose sight of the fire. This I carefully attended to, and whenever firewood easy of reach was becoming scarce I shifted my fireplace and couch, for it was much easier to carry the fireplace to the wood than the wood to the fireplace. But I must train some of the others, if possible, to share this duty with me.
I had deeply disliked spending my nights on the bare ground behind a log and beside a fire, and was quite determined not to sleep up a tree in a sort of bird's nest, and knowing that the rains would come some day and were probably not far off. I wanted a roof over my head and walls around me, and as I knew well how to make a bark hut, this should not be difficult.
I had only to mark out the tops, bottom and sides of the sheets wanted from a big tree, loosen the sheets from the tree, spread them flat on the ground with weights on them to dry flat, and there was everything wanted but the skeleton of the hut. For this some upright poles let into the ground for the supports, poles for wall plates and rafters, with stout canes across for battens and then fix the slabs of bark up, tied securely with pliable bark or thongs, and a moveable sheet of bark for the door. There was no window needed, for I only wanted my shelter at night, in the dark, or perhaps on a rainy day; and I would leave a triangular open space at the top of each gable, which would not only give about all the light I wanted but also, through the current of air passing along from one opening to other, carry off most of the smoke if I wanted a fire. The hut would also serve as storehouse for my roots, nuts, baskets and miscellaneous small stores.
So, with Joe to help me, I set to work at my house in all my hours of spare time. I had fixed a good site, near the parental tree on one side, near the water on another, and pretty clear of all danger of falling trees or heavy boughs.
But I had to make it perfectly clear to the family that this hut which I had built was mine and there was no admittance for them, for Joe was in intense delight when he saw the result of my work and all the family wanted to come in. I had to make this quite clear to Dad by very peremptory strong measures, but the rule was inflexibly established, for not only would these semi-brute companions be an intolerable nuisance in a hundred ways and occupy most valuable space, but like all such primitive beings they had parasites, which alone would be fatal to their admission.
But as for Joe it was different; he would really be some sort of companion, besides being of much real use. But I should first have to cut off all his hair, sweep and scrub his head twice daily with a broom (having no toothcomb) until he was perfectly free from all nits, and as to having his head shaved he did not see why, in spite of my explanatory gestures, and was dead against it. But I made him understand that unless he submitted to this there was an inexorable fiat of no admittance to him. So he finally consented. But I also had to make him understand that he was not only to get perfectly clean but to keep clean, and would have to bathe in the river every day or nearly. So behold us two finally settled in our house. It took two or three weeks to do it, but it was done.
Assured of a pretty comfortable and safe dwelling my conditions were enormously improved, and that, of course, was always my first aim; but my second was always to improve those of my family, and I was constantly considering how I could do that.
I had noticed, of course, that where one species of animals branched off into new and improved conditions it was always through some modification of their structure or habits, one leading to the other. Flight, for instance, covering so wide an area began with the flying fish, whose chief aim in life (next to getting in food which was all around it in the water) was to escape from pursuing foes, and a quick, long leap out of the water was their most immediate needs. Those fish then that had the longest, strongest pectoral fins could make the longest leaps, and natural selection would preserve those that had that advantage, always selecting the longest and strongest fins, and so improving the breed in that respect. But that advantage was strictly limited in degree. The thing required was a powerful leap, or flight, that would take it out of reach of the enemy. It would never give the power of sustained flight, because the fish was essentially and emphatically a fish not a bird; its habitat, its food, its breathing apparatus were and must always be in the water, and to soar into the air would but make it the easy prey of the sea birds. Later on the pterodactyl, however it originated, was not a fish, but essentially a bird, flying mainly over the land, not the water.
Now, there was nothing in the structure or habits of the ape to suggest any improvement in its construction by any degree of flight. So improvement in that direction was barred. Then there was the storage of food, dependent mainly on habit not structure; and the first appearance of it was the squirrel that stored up nuts, and that suggested nothing further, for the squirrel's nest was a hole in a tree, and that provided shelter and storage room incidentally.
Then came the bee, also in a hollow tree; but the food it stored was honey, a liquid, and that needed a receptacle, viz., comb, to contain the honey. We do not see how the power to make comb originated, but we do see that a cup, or receptacle of some sort, was the next need. There are many as yet unfilled gaps in the process of evolution, but we are in slow process of filling them in one by one. Then there is the ant, and the ants, some of them, have a whole system of city architecture in their hill; rooms for the eggs, for the larvæ, for the pupæ, for the adults, with galleries and passages between.
There seemed no opening for my family in development of flight, nor for storage of food, for in this region of perpetual spring there was no threat of scarcity at any time. But in one direction there was a clear opening; in their roosts. If I could suggest to them a way of securing a dwelling on the ground, that would save them the trouble of climbing a tree every night, that would give them a perfect shelter from the torrential rains and a wall around them against foes; that would be an improvement indeed , , , in short a bark hut like mine.
But this would require things that they had not as yet, viz., a sharp tool to mark out and divide the bark slabs on the tree (they could then easily separate and remove the slabs); then sense enough to lay the bark slabs flat, the rest would be easy; they would be like children with a pack of cards, they could build a house almost spontaneously.
But as there was no tool except my axe, which I would not trust in their hands, and as they certainly would not mark the slabs off decently, I resolved to help them if they were willing to learn, and when they saw how comfortable my house was, they really seemed as if they would like to learn; so I collected them all together and calling their attention to the careful way in which I made the cuts, I marked out the slabs. Then I set them to loosen the bark, an operation which would require care and which they would have to learn if they meant to have a hut.
They were careless and clumsy about it, as I expected, and damaged the sheets considerably; still they got them off somehow. Then, all working together, we laid them flat, weighted them down and left them to dry. A week or two later we set the dried sheets up. I made no attempt to build such an elaborate hut as mine. We set the sheets up like an A, leant other slabs up, back and front, and that was good enough for them. If they wanted it larger and better they would know how to do it, if they had any sense at all. If they had not, they could never have a house at all. Then it was a shelter at any rate, and the three curled into it and seemed pleased.
Half of every day at least was spent in the mere search for necessary food, poor food at that; but most toilers' life is that. And nearly every day we took a different route, and no two routes alike. The soils, the scenery, the plants and animals, even the food was always more or less different. And we found other useful things different besides food, and to me, at any rate, who knew something of the different hidden natures and resources of the plants, suggestive of great possibilities to those who knew how to develop and use them. There were rubber trees, vanilla bushes, splendid timber's, essences, and products of all sorts; but they needed the chemist, the manufacturer, the skilful mechanic to put these resources to use; and the products, even if we could secure them, would not be of interest or use to the ape men.
And every now and then there was a bit of a thrill, an adventure.
For instance, one day, when Joe and I were a little distance apart from the rest (he clung to my companionship more and more and followed me about like a dog) Joe suddenly stopped, and looking eagerly in a particular direction and pointing, said nay, which was the nearest approach to words that he could make to "snake," which he had picked up from me. I looked intently but could see no snake; but he only repeated more insistently nay, pointed more eagerly, and even approached a step or two, fearfully. Then suddenly I saw what he meant, one of what I took to be a liana hanging from a bough seemed to make a slight movement, and I saw it was a monstrous anaconda, a great boa constrictor, hanging over the path motionless and await for prey. Instantly I saw what to do, for possibilities of this kind had several times occurred to me and I had reckoned on what to do. Seizing Joe by the arms and pressing down I said, "wait and watch," and hurried back "home," which was not far off. Joe did not understand what I said, but he saw clearly enough what I wanted and stayed watching. Arrived at home I seized a long pole, one of the things we had been using, and which I had left at home in case it should be wanted again, and collectmg a quantity of dried grass and dead leaves I tied these in and out with a bit of my brass wire round the end of the pole and hurried back, calling urgently to the family to hasten and help.
Arrived, where I left Joe on the watch, I saw the boa hanging as before, apparently lifeless, but I knew it was not.
Approaching as closely as we dared, I struck a match and lighted the mop end, which blazed up instantly. I thrust the pole end blazing into the monster's face. Like a flash it flew back to the overhanging bough, but I met it there. Wherever the brute moved the blaze was thrust into its face; it dropped to the ground writhing. Shouting to the family, who had assembled, to help with their sticks, they, and I with my blazing torch, attacked the brute. It turned with gaping jaws upon me but the blaze was instantly thrust into them and it turned back writhing, abandoning all attempts to fight and only trying to wriggle away. But blows were raining upon it; its back was broken in a dozen places and it was now only a squirming mass, utterly helpless. I cropped off its head, and seizing the dead but still muscular writhing brute by the tail we dragged it home, the whole family dancing a sort of war dance as they went.
Arrived at home I would not allow them to mutilate the carcase, but first disembowelled it, then took off the skin, cutting it into long strips about three inches wide, twisting these strips like a horse-hide rope, then I fastened one end of each by a. peg driven into the green bark of the tree and twined them round and round the trees to dry into ropes. I then carefully dissected out the long strong sinews and stretched and fastened them out too, leaving the flesh, a good two or three days food supply, for the general use. The family began to gorge upon the meat, raw as it was, while I proceeded to cook my supply in the ashes as usual. All this was excitement enough for one day.
We were quite a happy family together, or at any rate a united one, and both sides were profiting by the union; they by their long forest experience, sharp eyes and arboreal agility, finding me food supplies which I should never have found for myself and without which I should have died, and I, with my superior intelligence and my few but most effective tools, giving them untold help in their life.
The study of their lives and the teachings of them afforded me unending interest and I found I was actually doing them permanent good, opening their eyes to endless possibilities and actually developing their intelligence all round. For I had soon discovered that every creature with any sort of intelligence at all had much more intelligence in posse than in esse; that is, that one new idea starts another, that a fresh hint once fairly taken in expands, and that just as a dog soon learns how to herd sheep, and not only learns but loves it, and as an elephant knows how to stack timber and do many sagacious things, so these ape men with their even superior intelligence, low as it was, could learn much, if taught, and profit by the learning, though the dog and the elephant might not be actually any the better from their own point of view, by what they learned.
All evolution is progressive. We are all moving somewhere, up towards improvement or down to destruction like the Jurassian reptiles. Often there seems a pause, occasionally a long one as with the scorpion, which has remained much the same from remote ages.
There are times when a creature has reached such a stage of adaptation to an unchanging environment that nothing occurs to stimulate further change, no alteration in its foes, its food supplies, or its surroundings; and there remains only the competition of its own species to keep it up to the mark.
Imaginary accounts of the ape man, of the missing link almost always represent him as a compound of the ape and the tiger, an increasingly intelligent but always ferocious being, and often, no doubt, that would be a correct description, but not always. It would depend upon his environment.
For ages these people found themselves in a warm, luxuriant tropical forest, requiring no clothes and little shelter, but from the rains. With a food supply of a sort, easily obtained and varying of course with the seasons, but always more or less sufficient, entailing sometimes short commons but never anything like a Siberian winter or an Australian drought, when all live animals had either migrated or were in winter slumber or had perished, and all the vegetation was either dormant or dried up, and where they would be face to face with starvation but for a previously collected and stored up food supply, they were pretty well adapted to their surroundings.
If we look across the visible field of evolution to where signs of the lost link should appear, if anywhere; that is, where the most highly developed, man-like creatures exist amongst the anthropoid apes, the process of evolution seems to have been more along the lines that led to my ape family. For there are only three known species of anthropoid apes , , , the gorilla, the orang-outang, and the chimpanzee. And the only trace of the tiger-like disposition is with the gorilla, who has little of the man about him but the shape. In all other respects he has developed only into a more powerful and savage brute than into a man. His environment has made him so. He has only the leopard for a possible antagonist, but the leopard though smaller than the jaguar is much more fierce and aggressive. But there is always man, the African savage, to contend with, and to meet his strength, courage and ferocity are needed. Otherwise, intelligence is not greatly needed. His food is all about him, such as he needs, and he is monarch of the woods.
The orang-outang is a powerful and dangerous beast to tackle, but be never seeks to meddle with anyone so long as the other one does not meddle with him. He is apparently not much more intelligent than the gorilla.
The most intelligent of all is the chimpanzee, and he has been taught to dress himself, eat with a knife and fork, and behave himself a good deal like a man in many ways: but though ready to defend himself if attacked, as almost every animal must be, there seems to be no natural ferocity about him, and I believe it would not require very much teaching to develop him very rapidly; he is almost in the condition in which I found my "family." He can be affectionate, too, like Joe.
Another example. One day we had come back to our rendezvous early, had had good luck and were in good humor. I was plaiting some leaves to make a kilt, for my clothes were worn all to rags, when the mood seized me and I began to sing. I had a good voice, though I had not used it for long. It was a rollicking air, with well marked time, and I warmed into it. Glancing up after the second verse, I suddenly noticed that the whole family were up and were regarding me intently. I jumped up and began capering a wild, impromptu sort of hornpipe. Instantly the whole family were up and capering about me in grotesque imitation. I broke into wild laughter but capered on, more wildly than ever. So for over twenty minutes we all waltzed round in wild excitement till I fell exhausted, and all dropped to earth simultaneously. Now these folk had evidently never heard music in their time, yet they had kept perfect time throughout. I remembered an old colonist had told me that in early days he had been travelling with a party of whites, accompanied by some Tasmanian blacks, when they had struck up a song. The blacks had listened attentively till the close of the first verse; then all had struck up the same air, without the words, with perfect accuracy, yet they, too, had never heard music. Here then, as with my apes, was one faculty, time at any rate, absolutely latent, yet started into life at the first note. Often since then my family, in their afternoon rest, had said to me, Ting, ting (Sing, sing), and I had acquiesced, when in the mood, to their great delight.
But, in the course of evolution, they were in a specially transitional stage in one respect. They had clearly emerged from the purely brute stage and yet were not thoroughly into the human. For example, take fire. Accounts say that when an apropomorphous ape comes across a traveller's abandoned, but still alight, fire, if the weather be at all cold it will sit by it and warm itself. But it never occurs to it that it is the fuel that feeds the fire; it never occurs to it to round up the embers or put more wood on; it simply sits by until the fire dies down and then it goes on. But our ape people, when the surprise and awe of this living, bright, warmth affording yet biting phenomenon had subsided, very quickly learned that it was the fuel that fed it, and that it had to be fed if it was to be kept up. They did not know the trick of the matches, for I had never let them actually see me strike the light. They had only seen the fire break out, apparently at my command. And they had soon learned that chips of sticks, logs, woody material of some sort was the only fuel that they knew of that would feed it. So they fed it up ? if at the moment they wanted it, but not otherwise. They would never think of putting on a big supply so that it would still be alight when they came back. Still less could they realise the necessity of keeping the fire always alight, of never letting it go out; for, as I said, they knew nothing about the matches.
My little store of matches was so absolutely precious, so irreplaceable, that I treasured everyone of them. I had to use a fresh one every now and then, but never if I could help it. And Joe was the only one that could ever be trusted to see to the fire, and even then he had to be reminded of it and told to go and see to it. I had in the night, or at any time, to point in the direction of the £re and say "Fie," which was the nearest approach he could make to the word fire.
It was much the same with the wedges. They quickly saw how it was that the wedges split up the log, but they would never think of taking the wedges on to the next log, unless the next log was close by. Nor would they put them carefully by when done with, to be found again at once when next wanted. Everything, if used, was used for immediate needs only, and then dropped. And so it is with nearly all the brute creation, even when artificially trained.
It has always been a mystery to me how the birds began to make nests; for a nest is made not only for the future but for an unknown use. The bird, especially, at any rate, the young bird, making its first nest does not ? cannot ? know why it is making it. It cannot know that it is to hold future eggs; it cannot know that there are any eggs coming, nor that the eggs will hatch into chicks, nor that the chicks will have to be mothered and fed; and that the solitary caged bird that will never have a mate, and will need no nest, makes a nest all the same if it has the chance, and can find the materials; but it makes it all the same, apparently from blind instinct.
We had constantly, off and on, seen monkeys and birds up above and around us in the high trees, and they would be welcome food; but how to get at them? The birds flew off, and the monkeys scrambled out of reach at our approach. But occasionally they had to come down lower. For the fruit trees, as distinguished from the nut trees, were generally of no great height, so the fruit-eating creatures had, to get the fruit, to come within reach of the throwing stick with which the ape people were pretty expert, so the fruit-eaters got knocked over now and then. But they were generally pretty wide awake and were off at our approach. How could we get at them better?
I had thought, of course, of the bow and arrow, and there was good suitable timber that, like the yew, would make good bows, and there were long, strong reeds that, sharpened, would make good arrows, but where to find cords fine enough and strong enough for bow strings, and how fix on the feathers properly to the arrows, without which the arrows would not fly straight, and where to find points to the arrows that would penetrate any but the softest hides, with barbs, without which the arrows, when in, could be pulled out by the monkeys, or would drop or work out, and the wounded animals would crawl into a fork or hang by their hands or tails when dead, without falling?
Above all, bows and arrows were no use unless you could shoot straight, and to learn to do that effectively would take long practice, that is, the ape people would have to train themselves by long practice to do something in the future; which I knew they would never do. And for myself, it seemed hardly worth the long trial and the repeated failures of experiment to learn to do a thing that I alone could profit by; I, who had so much to do as it was; not only, like the rest, in feeding myself, in making, collecting, and storing secondary requisites, and, above all, in teaching and developing the others. So I abandoned that idea.
Then there was the sling, that was much easier to make; a bit of hide for the pouch to hold the missile and some twisted strips of hide for the strings. But then, again, in this alluvial forest land there were no stones to sling nor any substitute, that I could think of; and, again, sling stones would only strike, not stick in. Above all, slinging, like archery, would have to be learned by long practice, and they would never practice. So I gave that up too.
Then there was the trap, but what bait could I use for the trap, when good bait, fruit, etc., was all round? I could think of no contrivance.
But one chance did come. One day Joe pointed out to me a well-worn track; following it up, I saw in a muddy spot the imprint of a foot and recognised it as that of a tapir. Now a tapir is a good big beast, the biggest, probably, in the Brazilian forest, and it would mean a pretty big food supply so long as it kept fresh, and the ape people were not over particular on that score. Could I manage to get this beast somehow?
Presently I thought of a dead fall. I knew the tapir generally follows one particular track to and from the river, and that he is a pig-headed brute; if he finds an obstacle in his track, he will suppose it has fallen across naturally and will charge against it to remove it by the dead force of his blow.
I followed the course of his track for some distance till I came to a heavy, stout young tree; I cleared away some of the scrub so that the tree would fall full and clear of any substantial impediment, and then I felled it so that it would fall straight and full across the track. When it fell, just as I had calculated to make it fall, it would break the beast's back. My next step was to raise the butt and prop it up with a stick resting on a chip, so that it would not get forced into the ground by the falling weight but slip off easily with a slight push. The next thing was to raise the butt to get the support under it. And now was the difficulty; I could not do this all by myself. I should have to get help, and how to make the ape people understand and do what I wanted?
I got the stick and the chip for it to rest on all right, but then I had to make Joe understand that he was to set the stick all right under the butt when I lifted it. But I found I could not lift the butt all by myself; I should have to get the family to help me, and then to make Joe understand how to slip the support under the butt when the butt was raised; and twice Joe fixed it too much on one side and the whole thing came down and had to be done all over again.
When a power ceases to be necessary it begins to shrivel up and eventually to disappear. So the cave fish has lost its eyes, the condor its scent, the ostrich its power of flight, and the immature swimming young of the whelk has fastened itself as a stationary shellfish fast to a rock.
The more varied and variable a creature's members are the more does their power of expression by gesture increase. The dog's tail is a simple enough feature, but even that has several expressions. It stands straight up when it means to fight, it wags to express pleasure, it tucks it between its hind legs to express fear. But the ape's flexible hands and fingers give a power of expression in pointing, grasping, clenching, and numberless ways as to give a whole unspoken dictionary.
For all that, I felt terribly the need of spoken language between myself and the family, especially with Joe. Even in such a simple matter as fixing the dead fall for the tapir, I had the greatest difficulty in getting them to understand what I wanted them to do to lift the heavy log up, to fix the support underneath, and to fix it so nicely that it would hold the log up effectively till it was pushed aside and thus let the whole weight fall at once. Twice he let the whole affair fall, through not balancing the weight properly on the support.
I have said that the ape people had no spoken language. This, as a practical statement, is true, but in mathematical exactness it is untrue. Dogs, for instance, may be said to exchange ideas by vocal sounds, but there seems no good reason to assume that this impart of ideas is deliberately intentional. The dog utters several sounds that convey distinct ideas; there is the growl of defiance, the bark of welcome, the hunting bay, the whine of distress; and the rest of the pack have learned by experience to know what these several sounds indicated. But does the dog that utter these sounds INTEND to indicate them? Is it not rather that the sound is merely the instinctive outburst of its own feelings, just as the varying expressions on a man's face indicate his feelings, and other people have found out what they indicate. Indeed, so far, as a man's facial movements indicate his feelings, they come quite involuntarily, and often indicates what he wishes to conceal. And when he tries to make his face express something quite different from what he feels, he rarely deceives a skilled observer. It requires a natural gift, as well as long practice, to become a good actor. And the dog rarely tries to "act," though I have known occasional cases.
The dog's apparent "talk" then is not intentional talk at all, but merely the instinctive response to internal mental stimuli. But our apes uttered sounds more clearly, deliberately intended to convey particular ideas.
The "words" were very few, I suppose hardly over thirty altogether. And they were meant to convey those ideas only which there was urgent necessity to convey, such as FOOD (the opportunity or desire to eat), WATER (the opportunity or desire to drink), HELP (I am in a difficulty), HURT (I am injured or sick and cannot help myself), HASTE (hurry up), and so on. They were almost always simple substitutions or words that could be conveyed by a substitution. And they were always as short as possible, as the apes' vocal chords could not express more than about half the sounds in our alphabet; they could not distinguish between b and p, f and v, s and z, or any two sounds that were nearly alike, and they could not run several consonants together without vowels between them. By no possibility could they pronounce anything faintly approaching one word ? "strength." Indeed most human language cannot pronounce particular sounds common in the other language. A Chinaman cannot pronounce R, a Japanese L, an Arab P, few but the English th, and so on.
A county magistrate told me he had a Chinaman come to him with a complaint but could not understand what the Chinaman had to complain of, because the complaint was that someone had "jumped his ground" (his gold claim), and the nearest approach the Chinaman could make to the word GROUND was KOWLONG.
So you will see that the difficulties of speech to our apes were pretty great. Moreover, their lives were so simple, their wants so few, their gestures so expressive, that really spoken words were hardly needed. Indeed, the few words they had were hardly required. Food or hunger were easily expressed by gestures, so was water or thirst. A cry would call for help whatever the cause was. So what was surprising was not that their language was so brief but that they had any at all. For Nature never supplies a fresh gift except to absolute necessity. Once a species has got so well adapted to its environment as to be able to hold its own fairly well, it remains stationary until some fresh danger threatens, some food supply falls short, or some great change of environment occurs that threatens extinction unless some modification of the species' powers begins to fit it to the new conditions.
One of the first new words I wanted them to learn was COME, meaning to come to me, or go from me, or proceed in any direction as I might point. Another was ALL TOGETHER, meaning that they were to exert all their strength at the same moment; and in a particular way (as to secure a balance) which was much more difficult. But every word had to be a simple monosyllable, or next thing to it, with vowels between the consonants, and almost always with accompanying gesture.
I had named the father, mother, brother, and sister ? Dad, Mum, Joe, and Sue, and they quickly learned their names and looked up when addressed, as a dog will; and as a dog quickly learns some other commands, as fetch, carry, guard, so did they, though they rather responded to the words than actually used them.
Such communications were not of very much use with Dad, because, though not really old (he was, I suppose, barely fifty), yet, from his simple, monotonous life he had become so set in his ways, habits, and simple ideas that he was hard to change. Moreover, he did not like to be told to do things.
Mum was better; she was really glad to learn new things, as far as she could, and liked to please. She had also wifely sympathies, and even seemed inclined to be motherly. For even when I had run a splinter into my arm she seemed to show some anxiety on seeing the blood flow, came up and examined the wound, and tried to help to bind it up with a rag torn from my shirt; though she did it rather clumsily, still she really helped, or tried to.
As for Sue, she was, as I have said, of little use. She was capricious, selfish, and apt to be sullen.
But Joe was quite different. He had regularly attached himself to me like a dog, was devoted to my wishes, and would earnestly do, or try to do, anything I wanted.
But the scarcity of these did not matter, for in the hot Brazilian climate one does not hanker for solid meat, though they occasionally partook of it when it came in, but more for an occasional change of diet than from a general preference for that kind of food.
So they were in general thoroughly well supplied, except in the rainy season when the waters were up, the rain pouring, and the getting about was difficult. They had not discovered the famous South American poison, the curari, with which the Indian tips his blowpipe arrows, and without which the blowpipe would be of little use, so they had not come to the blowpipe.
I had pretty often heard the roar of the jaguar and had seen his tracks, but never actually met the beast himself; which was scarcely to be wondered at as he is a nocturnal animal and we were never about at nights. Indeed; even in Africa, one may live for years in a lion country without ever seeing a lion, though one may hear them at night all about.
Our territory was not only well supplied with necessaries but was extensive enough for all purposes. It covered, excluding the impenetrable thickets and impassable swamps, an area of about eight miles long and four or so broad, quite big enough to wander about in and find varieties. And our people, too, had no fanciful prejudices, as we have, to limit their diet. We cannot, or, at any rate, do not, accept the Frenchman's horseflesh, the German's raw brawn, the Scotchman's haggis, the insides of all animals and the meadow plants of various kinds with which the foreigner will make a decent salad. I myself have tried to get over my prejudices, knowing them to be mere prejudices, against various kinds of food. I have tasted snake, kangaroo rat, platypus and shark, but though I felt there was really nothing objectionable in the flavor, still my stomach rose against the food, and I would never, or, at any rate, did never, attempt to make a meal off them though; no doubt, if driven by hunger, I could do so, and quite likely get to enjoy them. But our people had no prejudices of any sort, they ate and enjoyed whatever was eatable without indulging in any fancies about it; so they not only ate but enjoyed their grubs, just as much as we enjoy our bread and vegetables. And I was slowly, very slowly, getting to be something like them in this respect.
So we all lived together and got on together, mutually helpful; I acquiring from them gradually their forest lore, their knowledge of what was good for them and where to find it, and they profiting largely by my few but superior tools and my much greater intelligence. Besides, I was actually adding, or in the way of adding, to their total stock of supplies. For I seldom missed the chance of collecting useful seeds or shifting young, suitable plants to fairly open sites, cutting away the surrounding creepers and weeds, and generally looking after them when I passed, to see that they were thriving. In times to come they would find, if they survived, many more useful plants growing about and within their reach than there were originally.
When I had got to know their territory and its resources, I used to speculate whence they came and their probable destiny. And I guessed that they were the last remnants of a race that had been superseded by more progressive varieties of the same species; that other families of the original "missing link" having got better tools and weapons, and developing slightly higher intelligence, had driven out these inferior specimens, just as the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans had driven out the original Britons into barren Cornwall and mountainous Wales, and these, hunted out, had wandered somehow into this territory, which proved to be well able to maintain them but not stimulating enough to further develop them, and into which the more progressive "missing links" could hardly follow them, and, at any rate, were not driven or were tempted to try. For I remembered through what obstacles I myself had come to get here, and by what lucky chance I had managed to get through. I remembered the tangled thicket that had turned me aside this way and that, the cane-brake between which and the great swamp on one side and the thicket on the other I had just managed to squeeze; and remembering, too, how, after I had explored the territory and realised its boundaries, how it was bounded by the thickets here, by the swamp there, by the deep river on another side, and by a rising barren plain on the south, where there was no apparent life but a few small lizards, and here and there a few very small flying birds, where there was nothing to live upon, and nothing to attract, I could see that none were likely to follow, and settled finally on this too easy tract there had been nothing to stimulate further development; no wild beasts worth mentioning to contend with, no human or semi-human foes to resist, no dangers of any sort to meet, no difficulty in procuring food, there was nothing else to stimulate further progress.
So they had not only risen no higher, but had possibly even sunk lower. As the cave fish has lost its eyesight in the dark, as the condor has lost its scent up in the air, where no scents could reach it, and as the primitive swimming whelk has fastened itself to a rock and sunk into a mere stationary shell fish when it found that the sea would bring it its food without its having to take the trouble to seek for it. So these ape people had, perhaps, sunk into what they were, a safe, comfortable, easy-going, deteriorating race. Anyhow, they had originated somewhere. Why not here? And while the surrounding tribes had progressed they had not.
They had actually ceased to be a "missing link," for they had joined on to nothing. They, like the giant saurians and such like of ancient days, that had not, developed into anything but had simply died out, through lack of food, too sudden change of environment, or most likely of all, been quietly crowded out of existence by smaller, apparently inferior but more generally fit creatures, as the rabbit in Australia has crowded, and eventually would certainly have crowded out the sheep but for man's incessant war against it.
In short, these were a dying, not a developing, race. So their numbers had died down till only a single family was left (for in all the territory I saw no trace of any others of them). Perhaps they originated there, I did not know; but there they were, the last of their race. They would die off one by one till the last survivor remained, and he, if no special accident happened to him, would gradually age, become feeble, less able to find sustenance, become too weak to climb his tree, and finally lie down to die. He would not suffer much, for he had no keen sensibility, and he would have no superstitions to haunt him as to his future and no regrets as to his past. He would simply flicker out, like a candle. And when, or if, in long later years other people should wander into his territory they would find no trace of him, no flint knives, no pottery, no ruins, no bones even. For bones always rapidly and mysteriously disappear, except in the rare eases when the creatures die in a cave or their remains get washed into a silt bed, get covered up and gradually fossilised. Even of the so recently lost Tasmanian race not a bone has ever been discovered, though they inhabited only some parts, well-known parts, of the island, and we know pretty well how and whereabouts the last of them died.
And so it is with nearly all the lower animals. There are a few, like the white ants and the caterpillars, whose whole life seems to be a continued process of converting woody fibre into ant or fruit into caterpillar. But barring these mere masticating machines, all the lower orders of Creation have more than half their lives available for play, for lounging, or for poking about. With man it is, or should be, even more so. With his superior intelligence, tools, and productive power he should in general be able to get his "daily bread" even quicker, and so have even more spare time for play ? or for self-improvement. But man in the early days generally had wild beasts or human foes to guard against, which required arms, acquired skill in their use, fortifications and so on; and on top of all his very intelligence led him into superstitions. For directly he began to inquire into why such and such disasters, sickness, accidents, death occurred, the only explanation then available seemed to be the malicious action of beings with wills like himself, but invisible, which he called spirits, or incorporated in certain objects which he called fetishes, hence certain practices arose to propitiate these spirits or fetishes, and hence gradually arose the whole superstructure of idolatory. Benevolent beings of this sort he rarely worshipped, as these being well intentioned already, needed no propitiation. Later on, good spirits, whose aid might be invoked, were added to the superstition.
But my people had no idea of any supernatural beings, good or bad, or of any life, past or future, only of their present animal existence. So they had no religion? No; nor morals. They had not got into the higher plane where these things come in. By which they missed pleasures on one side, pains on the other.
My people had generally half the day available for enjoyment. On one such occasion I was lying half asleep in the warm air under the shady trees when I heard a crack, followed by lamentation. I rushed to the spot indicated, arriving last, and found the family assembled, Mum weeping bitterly over the motionless body of Sue lying in her arms, Joe crying silently, he hardly knew why, except that something had gone wrong somehow, and Dad standing by in gloomy silence.
I saw at once by the way Sue's head hung that she was dead, that her neck was broken and that death was instantaneous. It, seems that she and her mother had been up in a tree exploring for arboreal treasures when Sue saw a young bird, out of the nest but not yet able to fly, and she had pursued it up the branch and then caught sight of the nest, further up still, with something alive in it. Eagerly following up, too eagerly, she had gone too far up, and the branch she was on breaking she had fallen some fifty feet, alighting on her shoulders.
Now, as we know, I had no particular personal affection for Sue, still we had not been strangers. She had often come to me calling my attention to this thing, asking for that thing, and dumbly soliciting my help in many ways, and I had always readily given it when I could. We had all, too, been members of the same family in a way, so I felt a touch of regret for her loss as well as of sympathy with the family. So I stood by silently till Mum's cries died away and she laid the body down. Then I waited a few minutes to see what they would all do; how dispose of the body.
What had they done on previous occasions of death? Where were the remains of their predecessors? They could not have buried them for they had no tools, would not have thought of it, and there were no graves. They could not have burnt them for they had no fire; could not have hoisted them on Towers of Silence for the vultures, like the Parsees, nor stick them in a tree like some savages, for there were no such remains, as I could see. If they left them on the ground, the worm cests, the growing jungle, and the rotting vegetation would soon obliterate all signs. At any rate, what did the local apes do with their dead bodies? Probably they did the same; left them where they fell.
At any rate, I knew what I was going to do. Mum, when her sobs had died down, laid the corpse on the ground. After a short interval I patted Mum gently on the head, stroked her sympathetically a time or two, then picked up the body and strode towards the densest part of the thicket where they never went, for I knew of a tall tree that had forked and shot up in two stems. At this junction the stem had cracked and the rain had got in and the timber had rotted downwards. I laid her down, then climbed into the tree, dug out the rotten wood as far down as I could with a stick, then signed for the body to be handed to me. They obeyed in silence; then I tucked the body feet downwards into the opening, doubling up the lower limbs so that it rested there up to the waist; then I stuck a bough on each side lest by any chance it might topple over and fall out. Then, as some sort of a ceremony seemed desirable, I made the sign of the cross over it, descended and walked slowly home, leaving the rest of the family gazing at the tree.
There might be poignant regret amongst her relatives for a short time but it would soon pass. Their sensibilities were dull, their memories short, they had no traditions. Joe could not know what death meant, for his predecessors had passed away, probably before be was born or in his infancy, and he would remember nothing about it. All he would know was that his sister had gone ? somewhere ? and he would see her no more. For the old couples' real grief, if there was any, would subside, memory grow dull, and all would go on much the same as before, except that there would be one less of them. She, who of the family died soonest would probably last the longest, so far as her remains were concerned, because these would remain protected in the tree. For the rest, what would become of them when they died? Who knows! That night we all retired to our dwellings and slept, I suppose, as usual.
Still, I must make a try somehow, and take my chance, all the odds being against me.
As I had no boat, no tools, or materials to make one and no skill in boat building, the only resource was a raft to float down stream. But as the weight of myself and such goods and stores as I could collect would certainly sink the top of the raft below water level, and as I could not think of attempting a long journey, of perhaps months, constantly immersed in water, my raft would have to be in double or triple tiers high.
I had to plan out my project in every minute detail before I began to work on it. First I should want at least six, probably more, foundation logs of light specific gravity, the heaviest on the outside. I should have to fill in with other logs, as large as I could manage to deal with, and fill up the gaps between these. The logs would have to be twelve to twenty feet long, making a raft eight to ten feet wide, and all the logs firmly lashed together with flexible bark or wide thongs. Also poles laid across; then, if necessary, a double layer of them, all also firmly lashed to each other and to the logs above and below them, then a thick layer of strong reeds for a floor, a bamboo mast, a sail of plaited flax leaves and a roof over me to keep off the rain. This would have to be of light poles set up in a triangle and thatched with palm leaves; also a paddle, or two in case one should break or got lost; not that I hoped to paddle my way on (the raft would have simply to drift with the stream), but I must have some control over the drift, to keep myself far enough from the banks to prevent getting stranded, and get near enough to the bank to prevent getting lost in the great open stream, which, once I reached the great river, would be miles wide, possibly quite out of sight of land on either side. Yet the more I got out into the strength of the current the faster I would go. So I had much to consider and arrange for. Then there was the food supply. There was nothing of this kind that I could think of to take that would keep for any time except nuts and roots, and I would have to eat these raw for there was no taking a supply of fuel, and to land occasionally to gat it would be extremely difficult and dangerous with my unmanageable raft and clumsy paddle, in short it would not be worth attempting. Moreover, I could not hope to catch fish as I went along, for I had only four hooks left, with short lines attached (as I had trusted when I started to attach the necessary lengths as I went on), and these hooks were only of a certain size and might easily be too small, or more likely too large, for the fish I met, and they might easily be broken off by reeds or floating timber, or get snapped off by larger fish or by turtles. Still I would set them and have them trailing on the chance, not expecting much from them.
Well, this was about all I could think of. There was much to do and little time to do it in, and there were signs that the rains were not very far off;
So I had to work feverishly, Joe helping me, and both of us making the utmost use of every spare moment and every scrap of daylight. Indeed we worked harder than our strength permitted, properly speaking, so that before we were ready to start I was half worn out.
And with all our haste and all our carefulness we made mistakes, and had accidents and delays. We had found a huge dead tree near our shipping place, uprooted by some great tempest long ago but still perfectly sound. The butt, even if divided into lengths, would have been far too heavy for us to shift; but we had marked it off into lengths and burnt it into those lengths, starting two fires, and every now and then seeing to them and keeping them going, while we worked all about collecting our other requirements and lighter timbers.
Burning a tree into lengths is easy enough when you know how. The fires, at their regular intervals, are lighted and kept going. It takes a day or two to get well into the wood, but once the timber is well warmed through and the fire has evidently began to get a hold of it, the rest is easy. You have but to throw a big bough across it, rounding up the ends as they fall apart, and the work goes on merrily. But when we had with much labor, chiefly Joe and I, got the parts burnt through, we found that with all our efforts we could not move the biggest logs an inch, so all that part of the work was lost. One good log, when we had got it into the water, drifted off before we could get it properly moored so that was lost too. Other accidents had occurred, and the rains had began before we were ready; so we had to work in the rain, which was not very hard as yet, and the fires wanted more constant and careful attendance, and we were getting pretty well worn out. And all the time what troubled me was what was to become of Joe when I left. The others would not much matter. They were too steeped in the life of the woods, too absolutely ignorant of the great outside world, too stolid, incautious and indifferent to suffer anything worse than a faint regret and a dim loss of my assistance when I left. But Joe was as devoted to me as a faithful dog, and his whole life was merely as my assistant in my wonderful doings. Yet, if I took him with me and we both survived the long, mysterious and dangerous journey, what was to become of him at the end? No one among the Brazilians would care to be bothered with the maintenance of this strange, only half human being with undeveloped intelligence and no spoken language. So I could not abandon him at Para. And to take him on with me home would be no better. For I was not a rich man, I had to earn my living, and who would employ me with this creature attached to me? And out of the forest, tied to a lodging, with no employment, it seemed hopeless. So, deeply as I regretted it, I had to leave him behind, and had to let him understand before I left that it had to be, though he would never understand why.
At last the time came when all was ready. There was no use trying to make the family understand matters, no use for special adieus, and even Joe would not fully understand that I was actually going to pass away from them for ever. So the stores being all shipped, a careful look round to see that I was leaving nothing behind, and with a parting pat on the head and all affectionate and not too doleful smile to Joe, I pushed off.
Well, my tale is well nigh told, and the less I speak of that last dreadful journey, the better. Floating down with the stream it took me over two days to reach the tributary in which I had been deserted, but far from the actual spot. It took me over a week drifting on, day and night, down the tributary till I got into the broad Amazon, a sea of water with not even the dim line of the opposite bank visible. And all the time here was I, on a small raft, with insufficient, diminishing and unpalatable stores, naked but for my kilt of leaves, with almost incessant and increasing rain, alone and half despairing, and what with the insufficient food, the rain, the exposure, the loneliness and low spirits, I felt myself growing daily weaker, my senses becoming dulled and my wits going. I became unconscious. The next thing I knew was that I was in a canoe with two Indians and a half-breed.
I learned, but not until long after, that this was a small party of forest Indians who, though they rarely had any intercourse with the whites, yet knew enough about them to visit them once a year or so with what marketable stores, skins, and so on, they could collect to buy the few European goods, arrow tips, axes, knives and so on that had become indispensable to them. These, noticing a strange craft far out on the wide waters, apparently untenanted, yet with an unmistakable human made hut upon it, had, impelled by curiosity, made for it and found me lying unconscious and with almost exhausted stores, stretched under the now leaking, imperfect shelter. To leave me so at all would have been to leave me to certain death, which even these savages did not like to do, and as I was an apparently civilised white man it might pay them and would cost them little to take me on to the nearest settlement, where they might receive a decent reward for their care and trouble. So they did so, delivering me to the chief Portuguese resident, who, guessing who I was and remembering the circumstances under which I had been there before, gave the Indians a reward that satisfied them, and after taking care of me for a week or so and partly re-covering me, passed me on with a bill for my expenses. And so in due time I reached Para, where the Rubber Company's agent at once took full charge of me, and on the first opportunity shipped me back to England.
The Rubber Company, recognising at once that I was their accredited agent and had a clear call on them for all my expenses, and for all I had suffered, especially as I had actually discovered the rubber country I had been sent to find, met their obligations well and paid me off.
I absolutely refused to go out again to the scene of my discoveries and adventures, but gave them a sufficiently clear account of the route and the locality so that they could carry the enterprise on if they chose. But they did not choose. The place was too far off, the communications too difficult, the rubber trees hardly numerous enough for further prospecting, so they closed the deal.
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