|1907 ed.||1911 ed.|
Before a tall, narrow mirror, she began to uncoil her ample squirrel pelerine and take off her huge and unique mushroom- cap-shaped chestnut plush hat. She then collapsed on a corner of the chesterfield, her feet stretched out towards the radiator. But Julienne was coming in, exclaiming:
"Mr. Murlich, your cousin, has arrived!"
"You apologized on my behalf? You told him I very much regretted not being able to make it to the train station, because I had that urgent errand?"
"Poor man! I'm going to go and greet him. So, has Lucy done the honour with the back guest house? He wasn't late? Did his trunk arrive with him?"
"His trunk! Why it was an entire shipment! Several trunks, suitcases, packages. And then, they are two."
"How's that . . . two?" replied Miss Forest surprised. "Is someone with him?"
"Why yes, another fellow."
"Why! What's he like, fat, tall, short, slim, blond or brown-haired?"
"Well, you know, Lucy and I barely glanced at them."
"That's intriguing, I must say. Another fellow? Well, whatever, we'll see about that later."
Alix quickly raised her hand:
"Do tell, Julienne, while I think about it! But with whom could my cousin Wolfram-Pierre Murlich possibly have arrived, confirmed loner that he is? You know, I had, on the way, a spark of genius? for the Balsamore dress . . . all in mushrooms, my dear!"
The forewoman nodded, winding around her index finger a thread taken from her sleeve.
"Eh? in a marvellous orange, crinkled silk boleti. Is that some idea? And you add a black velour belt painted in the same pattern. Can't you picture it? I have it in my mind's eye, I could sketch it for you."
Finally, Julienne answered:
"But Bertha Balsamore will never accept such a thing, she simply won't hear of anything with mushrooms, and certainly not in something she'd be wearing on stage!"
"Ah!" replied the seamstress with a defiant cock of the head, she'll be forced to wear them! Perhaps I just started this fashion for nothing? Myself, I think such a bodice would make an impression! But here we are chatting; I was forgetting my dear traveller! I'll see you later; my idea, think about it!
She took up her pelerine, and in the same motion both of the tall young women turned their back on one another, the one to reenter the workroom, whose door in opening had allowed a laugh to filter out, the other to go down into the garden. But as Alix went out, already enveloped in the brisk cold of this January morning, she spied her cousin Murlich, approaching a few steps away.
He had changed little over the years: losing a little weight, his features becoming somewhat coarser, but still full of good humour, his skin tanned through his travels. A small, prim and proper man, with a greying beard and blue-tinted glasses. He walked straight upright, looking modest in his dark clothing and his soft felt hat. When they were one before the other, Alix bent over to kiss him on the cheeks. Happily, they held hands for a short moment. Murlich exclaimed:
"You know, I barely recognize you. What a fine young woman you are now! To think it's been almost eleven years since last I came! You were still in short skirts."
They made their way to the drawing room.
"Ah! good cousin, how was your trip?" asked Alix. "Let us sit down, why, you must be exhausted, get rid of your muffler . . . there!"
"I had an excellent trip. I left Bƒle last night, slept in Belfort, where I had a meeting with someone. This morning I got back on the train at six o'clock, and at eight o'clock I was in Paris, not a minute late."
"You'll excuse me, won't you?" replied Alix. "Imagine, this very morning I get a frantic call from a client, asking me to come to her home."
"I know, I know, Alix dearie, it's not important at all. With a car there was no problem. But in France you have very fast trains: two hours from Belfort here, that's some pace. At home in Switzerland the electric trains are still so slow, so slow compared to yours!"
"And how's your health, cousin?"
"Good. At fifty-eight one can't complain."
"You're looking younger! And your eyes? You had written me that they bothered you?"
"Pretty much cured, thankfully. Only there's these nasty fevers, still a few fits now and then, still . . . But you haven't told me about yourself: what have you been up to, what happening in your life? How you've changed!"
With a well intentioned if scrutinizing look from behind his glasses, his mouth hiding, under a pendulous mustache, an indulgent smile tinged with irony, the scientist looked at Alix. Her rapid movements drew rustles from the silky material of her skirt, where citrine-hued agarics lent vague spots of pale yellow to the greyish material. Her full twenty-six years had not altered the gaiety of her thin mobile face, irregular but not ungraceful in its features. Her artistry was revealed by a slip of brown hair which fell across her flat brow, shading her eyes. Certainly, the transparence of her ears indicated an anæmic condition, but by a constant biting, which had now developed into a tic, her lips kept a healthy redness.
Alix spoke very quickly, always seeming hurried, fevered, like someone who is late. She recounted, in short choppy quips her current life, how she had rented this house with a garden, to better accommodate her sewing business. It was necessary. The population's nexus of elegance was there, right in the middle of Auteuil, far from the noisy financial, legislative and judicial districts. The industrialized city pushed back, day by day, the inhabited regions, changing Paris into twenty-storey row-houses, modelled on an expansion of the design of old barracks. Ah! it was such a shame, this need for uniformity, this decline in good taste which extended to all things, in an unhealthy obsession with practicality, and which was even felt in the world of fashion. The lovers of beauty in dress were now few. People now preferred to buy clothing meeting a common standard, in bulk, from National Store outlets, supplied by a hundred garment trade businesses. For the independents who sought to bring greater dignity to their craft, the fight was getting to be difficult: but, she couldn't complain, she was successful in her chosen field, her profits had risen as well as her notoriety: she launched new lines and had orders. To maintain her individuality and make money, was this not the true achievement of the modern way? She was quickly becoming famous in the designer community. Just yesterday the magazine Art and Fashion had devoted an entire article to her, in the future, with her mushroom-themed innovations, her name would completely dominate the industry. For, while those jealous of her could well jeer, it was quite a find, this decorative use in fashion design of a long ignored element of the terrestrial flora.
"Why, cousin, you who are a naturalist, is it not your opinion that a number of cryptogams can rival in freshness, vivacity of hue, and elegance of form with the flowers? So then, why not?
Murlich, smiling faintly with indulgent nods of his head, one by one examined the young girl, the mushroom-hat tossed on the armchair, the double-panes of the door and windows, through which were drawn the shivering lace of the bare trees. And while Alix spoke, he remembering the frivolous, carefree girl she had been until the day when conflicts between her parents had initiated her to the miseries of life. Very young when she thus lost her mother, a woman who thenceforth no longer existed in her life, she had been raised by her father, whose keen wit, open mind, sensitivity and taste for independence she now possessed. So when M. Forest had died, Alix, at twenty years of age, had been equipped to live independently.
"But," exclaimed the young woman, sinking her fists into the cushions of her large couch, "here I am boring you with my stories and not talking about more interesting subjects! You know I was completely engrossed! I read your presentation to the Zurich Congress; it was incredible! How did you manage to attain such a remarkable result?"
"Simply with patience. My observations at the Bƒle Zoological Gardens had led me to suspect that simians of certain species, apes especially, possessed a number of vocalizations, sounds thanks to which they could understand one another. But in captivity these animals' behaviours were somewhat altered, so it would have been difficult to observe them as thoroughly as would have been necessary. It is then, as you know, that I went to study the language of the simians on-site, in their own haunts. Ah! I worked for ten years all over the place, in the Sudan, in Madagascar, in Sumatra; everywhere I went I was able to ascertain that the great apes are indeed endowed with a true language, more or less developed according to the family. But it is in Borneo where I had the greatest success, with a tribe of Wurmb's pongos. There, I observed, from the steel cage which served to isolate me from my hosts' activities, a very high level of civilization."
"Of civilization?" interrupted Alix.
"Yes, of civilization, and a complete language which, after many patient efforts, I managed to learn more or less. Besides, you know all about this. We can speak of it at greater length, later."
"Professor Murlich," whispered the young woman sincerely, "I really admire you."
The scientist, softly nodded his head:
"I'm not particularly remarkable, child, I simply satisfied, along with my taste for travel, an old wish to clear up the matter of these over-neglected creatures, which the great Hetking, a century ago, called our future sons."
"And your first presentation, have you fixed a date for it?"
"In a fortnight, roughly; there's a number of people I have to see, and besides, I'd like my friend to have time to get over the excitement of the trip."
"The ape I have raised; he is here."
"You have brought him here? Ah! so he's the second traveller," exclaimed Alix. "I thought you were to send him directly to the Museum?"
"That was indeed my intention, but truly it would be difficult to separate myself from him. I thought he wouldn't inconvenience anyone in the guest house you reserved for me, so I brought him with me. Nonetheless, if this will disturb you . . . "
"But no, but no, you did well to do so, you will show him to me, won't you? Is he wicked?"
"On the contrary, very docile and not cumbersome, well-behaved, a perfect gentleman. He can even speak. He must be brushing off my clothes. Well show him Paris, this young man."
"This young . . . "
"A boy! Barely thirteen. I had him very young. Even, the hunters hired to capture him for me, in a stupid act of cruelty killed the mother who sought to protect him."
"Oh! poor creature!"
"Perhaps you saw a photograph of this, some six months ago, when I brought him back from Borneo, where I had educated him."
"Yes, I think so, in some Swiss journal. What's his name again?"
"It's pongo, meaning in English: son of the doves (He smiled.). Gui-lu-liou, it's a bit like a cooing."
"Most curious! and you speak with him."
"And he almost as well with me (He smiled again). You'll see, he's not even missing the power of speech, I tell you."
And, as if following a chain of thought, Murlich added more softly:
"This creature has every characteristic of man, but is only a beast to us!"
There was a moment of silence; Alix remained motionless and thoughtful. From the workshop on the right, far away laughter covered the whirring of a sewing machine; outdoors, in a light fog, a streetcar passing the corner of Lateral Blvd., ran its bell. The sparrows flew off twittering from the grillwork which bordered the sidewalk. For an instant, Murlich and the young woman, in the close warmth of the drawing room, dwelt dreamily on what they had just now evoked. But Alix refolded her legs which she had spread out on the carpet, and rose nervously.
"What if we were to go and see him, huh?"
"As you wish, child, but it is awfully messy where I am, I brought a great deal of luggage."
"You'll have time to fix all that. I'll tell the chambermaid. Mind the cold, cover yourself!"
They went out into the garden. It was large and open. The tasteful two storey house though recent, smiled beneath its green and blue crockery trimmings. Ivy embraced the base of the house and the limbs of the virginal vine clung to the verandah's iron and copper bannister, and thickly overgrew the clear-paned windows. At this hour a chilly sun appeared, extending its thin veils of gold between the naked branches of the chestnut and lacquer trees, warming everything to the lukewarm temperature of one's breath. The guest house was in the back, behind the house, on the other side of the entrance gate, with its back to Lakeshore Rd. This street took its name from the fact that it skirted the remains of a lake which had been dug in the middle of some rather extensive woods. These had stretched as far as the city, but were now carved up and surrounded, thus forming the rich districts of Auteuil, Boulogne, and Neuilly. Only a square portion had remained, of which the lake, filled in little by little, was part.
"Have you looked through your windows which face the street? asked Alix. "You have a lovely view: trees everywhere. Only at this time of year, they are seldom very green."
They arrived, the door of the guesthouse was open, the sound of trunks being dragged, of chairs being moved about inside, reached them before they even came close.
"Listen to him," whispered Murlich, "he's cleaning up, he doesn't waste any time!"
Alix felt vaguely worried. She needed the scientist's perpetual smile to comfort her.
"Will you then present him to me?"
"Why certainly, and he will thank you himself for the warm reception you have given him."
"I'm not altogether reassured. Go in first, eh! No, hold on, call him out here, I'd like that better."
"Gulluliou!" Murlich called out loudly in a strange guttural voice.
The noise on the first floor stopped. Something heavy made the stairs creak. A dark, wide, hunched over form entered the frame of the entrance hall, then emerged onto the threshold.
"Here he is," said Murlich.
A little bit taller than his master when standing, Gulluliou had placed on his head, adorned with long black hairs, a red cotton bonnet. His tawny brown hairless face, bore two prominent and constantly blinking eyes, as if they feared the light. The nose was flat, the muzzle slightly projecting. The ears partly disappeared beneath his hair, but could be imagined to be small and stuck closely to the skull. A goatee framed these rather dazed and sad, but not overly bestial features. His neck was protected against the chilliness by a muffler, and a greatcoat covered his robust and gangling body. His long arms, in large apothecary's sleeves, hung like pendulums. Beneath a worn pair of pants one discovered feet shod in boots whose loose laces interfered with his bowed pins.
The ape remained motionless, examining the stranger.
In the numbing air, his short breaths rose in little clouds of steam. He coughed. A sparrow's chirping on the roof, worried him and drew away his eyes.
"Gulluliou," enunciated Murlich in pongo, "t'r tirru Kneuh'r!" Turning, he translated under his breath: "Say hello to the lady!"
A wave crossed the animal's face, it was unclear whether his shivering arose from the cold or from his will being severely tested. His eyes seemed to grow, a ray of light fleetingly across them. A breath filled his lungs. His arms moved. His right hand gripped the bonnet which he removed from his head. In an extraordinary voice, both soft and rough at the same time, trembling with puerility, the ape spoke:
" Tirru, Kneuh'r!" he answered (Good day, Madam!)
Miss Forest was sitting on a very low hassock her long legs crossed under her dressing-gown. Nearby, in a bin, a pile of little yellow rectangles shone with a raw brightness, in the winter garden's tinted light. In a regular motion, the young woman's hand dove into the bin, drew forth one of the pieces of crinkled silk, and with a needle tied it loosely in a delicate conch shape, and tossed the mushroom thus generated into another bin. All that could be heard was Alix's breath, as she concentrated on this fairy's work. Occasionally, too, the sound of a drop of water striking the bottom of a rocky basin off in some dim corner.
Outside, the street noise from beyond the garden was smothered by pallid softness of new fallen snow.
Lucy, the chambermaid, half opened the door:
"Mr. Maximin asks if Madam will see him?"
"Why certainly, have him come in here, Lucy," answered without moving.
With a familiar gait, Maximin came in, approached the young woman, and, having shaken her hand, sat down in front of her, tossing his hat, gloves and velour cape onto a piece of furniture.
"Well, my dear poet, what's new?" asked Miss Forest.
Maximin shrugged his shoulders:
"Ah! I came to see you because I was bored, I don't know what to do with myself. I've been like this since this morning. It's really bugging me!"
"I bet you've been rehearsing?"
"You said it. And Balsamore was horrible! I could have beaten her! When such women get it into their heads that they don't want to perform, well, you know!"
In a gesture which pulverized an empty space, he completed his sentence, adding:
"It would take very little for me to take her out of the role!"
Alix stopped sewing for a moment, and glanced over at Maximin:
"Take her out of the role, are you mad? It wouldn't have been worth the two months of work!"
She tried to find some comforting words. Could he have come up with any better actress to play the role of the Nature- sprite? As if good actresses grew on trees! This one at least, notwithstanding her bad temper, was talented and experienced, she had performed a great deal abroad, in the most favourable of countries. And one shouldn't, in an act of desperation, excise a vital part of a theatre troop recruited with great difficulty. Have some patience until the première, afterwards things will go along by themselves!
"I know, I know," muttered Maximin, "and it is this thought which sustains me; without that! . . .;" Blond with blue-grey eyes, and a scraggly beard dropping down from a face creased by worries, the musician-poet Maximin appeared far older than his thirty years. His thin hands told of his aristocratic origins. They were constantly in motion, white birds delineating in the air his many and impalpable dreams. He suffered and rejoiced in any number of mysterious things, but his refined intelligence drove him rather to suffer from it. He had published misunderstood books, and music that no one, except a few dilettantes, had heard. He would say, laughing with a melancholy air that he did not belong in his century, that he should have been born many years before, at some rather vague time when men could still form some attachment to images of the unreal. His temperament shifted back and forth like all nervous types; resigned one moment and wild at another, but his anger never went beyond a lovely gesture or a delightful bit of verse. While he wasn't arrogant, he liked himself well enough to indulge in joys which only he could appreciate. He had few friends, of which Alix had long been one. They held each other in esteem. The young woman found in him a counterbalance to those contemporaries of his which she despised. She found in him a poet, a choice wit, a male presence, an attractive charm.
In a minute of silence, Maximin watched the seamstress' nimble fingers. One by one, the little orange funnels continued to rain down in carpet of watered silk.
Alix smiled, waiting for him to speak:
"Stupid me," he said, "isn't that Balsamore's costume you're making there? The one you were telling me about?"
"This is it. Do you think it will be nice?"
"Such marvellous style. And so natural. Let's hope she'll want to wear it!"
"She'll want to. She can't refuse such a costume. Here, look at the sketch!"
On a table with wrought-iron morning-glory-inspired legs, she looked for the sketch amongst a pile of others.
"Can you see her on stage, your Nature-sprite? In the third act, appearing before the man in this smashing tunic, made from the forest most humble plants? Why now, I've thought of something, why couldn't she be holding, like a parasol, a huge mushroom?"
"Ah! no, no, not a Mushroom-sprite!" muttered the poet, without further commenting on Alix's strange mania.
He added, dreamily:
"The third act, I've reworked a lot of it since last I saw you. You'd have to attend one of the rehearsals. It's that damned Bertha who made me change half of her lines. But now I think I've gotten a good grasp on it, that act of mine! I've got it pinned down."
Maximin, as was his habit, was getting fired up.
"Ah! you'll see. On stage perhaps you'll like it! You understand, I mostly wanted to make a statement with this play drama or fantasy, whatever one wishes to see in it a work which carries a punch. And if I composed the music for the Third Act, it was so as to attain the full emotional range I am capable of. Because, this time, someone is going to have to back down, the public, or me. With all these essays and books, I have not been focussed enough. True art is expressed in the theatre. We no longer have theatre, literature, poetry; our era is one of speculation on scientific matters, not matters of ideals. Do you believe in a humanity with no ideals? They make me laugh!"
Alix had stopped sewing, and listened. The artist was now getting carried away, caught in a whirlwind of his thoughts, thinking loud, his hands aflutter:
"People today know the value of money, but not that of a dream. They have forgotten their origins, lost in the origins of Greek and Roman art. The United States of Europe don't want to hear that amongst their distant forefathers was the man who carved the Victory of Samothrace, or wrote El Cid. A starry- eyed rhymer is ill-suited to today's world, one can agree to this, but . . . "
His voice which had lashed out, softened in hopeful pity:
"But I'm confident, the scientific era has been going on for a while, why should they not make room at their table for poets, scholars of another world? You well know, darling, you well know, I have been working on this production of my Triumph of Man for years. Alas! I don't know if I will be able to waken among us what may remain of a taste for fantasy, for art, for what extends beyond mere existence. I'm not entirely self- confident, I'm not sure if I've managed to create my work as I conceived it, but it will finally be produced! Produced, produced on stage, with scenery, as poets were two hundred years ago! And the orchestra I have gathered with great difficulty will play my music, and perhaps then will they listen to me!"
Joy radiated so intensely from him that the young woman, as widely open to emotions as her independent sense of taste allowed, didn't dare express her thoughts, or speak of her fears. Was not this play, specially designed to represent the Triumph of Man, a risky business for the poet, as well as the producer who covered the initial costs? How would it be received, what fate would be reserved to the bold whose attempts she applauded? People were no longer accustomed to theatre, art was dead, entirely forgotten, something reserved for a few aficionados and the archæologists.
But with her flighty thought, Alix gave herself up once more to her admiration of Maximin, to wishing him success.
"Your play," she said, "it unified in its three acts, it will have an impact!"
Upon a gesture which suggested his fevered enthusiasm had already dropped, he nonetheless still enjoyed reviewing his favourite thoughts. Maximin replied:
"Yes, perhaps, I do feel that this great fantasy- play, with its first act in which Man first appears, burdened by the weight of his errors and atavistic superstitions that is the past. In a second act, having freed himself, he falls under another yoke, that of icy, methodical reason it is the present which I have wished to convey. Finally, its third act the future which I have dreamed of as one of the most complete artistic expression, through music, poetry and staging, where Man, guided by the Nature-sprite and the Prince of Dreams, rediscovers his true voice, and joins with the Woman to redeem the world through love. Yes, I do believe that within this narrow frame I have packed in sufficient good things, along with some things of beauty. Ah! I can't wait for it to all be over! If on opening night, with free admissions of course, we succeed, our cause is won."
Alix, struck her knee nervously with her fist:
"And we will succeed! First of all, Balsamore will be stunning in her role. All the others as well. You have quite a cast! And the d‚cors! The old-growth forest in the last act gives such an illusion of depth and breadth. It's marvellous!"
Maximin approved with a gesture.
The young woman had returned to her work; watered silk mushrooms dropped anew into the bin. Upon the warm pallid silence of the winter garden, all that could be heard were the soft sounds of Alix's hand pulling through the needle, and quickly wrapping the mushroom stems in silk thread. And, on occasion, the delayed drop of the water striking a stone in the basin.
Lucy came in, bringing a tray of tea which she placed on a corner of the table.
Alix served the poet:
"Would you like some cactus liquor with it?"
"Why, certainly. It brings on lovely dreams. I like it."
"Oh! me too!" reinforced the young woman.
They enjoy the warm drink to which a few drops of the liquor had been added. Two clouds billowing forth from the blue stoneware cups humidifying the air.
"An opium cigarette?" Alix suggested.
Maximin shook his head:
"No thanks, not today, I'm too nervous. Balsamore's to blame for it all."
They stopped talking. The blond man watched his friend, who, bending over, picked up the pile of orange corollas, letting them drop in a silky rain. For a moment Alix's eyes met the poet's, and both felt an unexpressed awkwardness: Alix sensed that Maximin would again broach the subject she had forbidden him to raise with her. He loved her, had he told her one day; she had no doubt. She too, a mere woman, would not have been loath to love him too. If such a thing had been possible in her case, it certainly would have been the artist she would have chosen. But she could not, steeped, nay, conquered by too great a sense of independence, to even accept the concept of love, of a mutual fettering. She wished to be contented to enjoy all the pleasures of live, without for a single moment infringing upon her liberties in any manner. In a fear of committing an assault upon her solitary soul's fate, she refused to give of herself to anyone. They no longer spoke of such things between them.
To say something and break the awkwardness which weighed upon them, Maximin expressed a sudden thought:
"But your cousin, professor Murlich, has arrived, has he not?"
"Yes, the day before yesterday."
"I saw that in my newspaper."
"What, is it already known?"
"All Paris must know."
"If you wish, I shall present you to the professor."
"Why, sure. Will he stay here long with his famous student?"
"Two or three months. Classes at Bƒle University take up again in April, I believe. Will you attend the seminar at the Museum? It should be quite curious."
"Perhaps, but when all is said and done, is this ape all that interesting?"
Shaking her head, Alix replied:
"Oh! far more than any men! I'm sure you'll be terribly interested in him. Today my cousin is presenting him to some of his colleagues."
"I'll attend his presentation," declared Maximin.
They were silent, Maximin, in front of Alix, savouring the charms of the resulting silence.
In the greenish transparency of the air in which the stems of the hothouse plants stood, the tea continued to steam from the cups. They entirely gave themselves up to the sleepy hold of the cactus liquor. The bell for the entrance gate which opened into the garden barely disturbed them. Through the double-paned windows they saw Murlich, followed by Gulluliou in similar attire, passing obliquely across the crackling gravel of the path, through the cold fog.
It was a brief view. Silence once again fell upon the verandah, interrupted only by the intermittent lip-like sound of the drops of water falling to the bottom of the rock-lined basin
It was ten o'clock. With few interruptions the crowd's interest had been maintained. There were even some signs of approbation, some applause, when, to begin his presentation, Murlich went over the story of his many travels, his attempts among many different species of apes, and how, having arrived in Borneo, he came to spend time among the pongos, as well as how he managed to study these dangerous animals.
The orator described (the crowd stirred) the large iron cage, a sort of forest home, linked to nearby buildings by telephone, fax, and wireless, equipped with recorders that preserved the most delicate nuances of intonation in the pongos' voices. Thus had he managed, after some trial and error, and using tame animals, to surreptitiously observe the behaviour and language of the tribe amongst which he had forced himself to live. After a few months, the apes were sufficiently familiar with him that he could go out, wander freely, and speak with them!
After these preliminaries, Murlich had finally had Gulluliou brought before the crowd, dressed in an impeccable dress-coat, from which the shirt front burst forth in an icy white. The ape, light beam pointer in hand, covering and baring himself in turn, saluted the audience. He stood very firmly on his legs, his body comfortable, but with the same worried batting of the eyelids, the same sorrow locking his lips in a look of resignation. He then sat down near the chair, where he was seen to serve himself a drink, to pour out some tea, and sugar, and savour it in a seemingly distracted and aristocratic gesture, as some long ago prince might have. Especially, he managed to answer with some flexibility, precision and intelligence all the questions which Murlich and his many assistants asked him. These experiments which irrefutably demonstrated the reality of an ape language caused a great sensation, even a certain commotion: the proof of an intelligence superior to that previously assumed to exist among the apes did not go without somewhat disconcerting some people. Nonetheless, the facts were clear. And the crowd, amongst whom a few had translated their disapproval by repeated exclamations of hush!, had applauded each of Gulluliou responses.
It was now under a growing nervous tension that Murlich, in his calm voice which firmly accentuated each word, continued his presentation.
"You yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, have seen for yourself, without any doubt, that the Wurmb's pongos, which seem to indeed be the apes most closely related to us, have the capacity to express their feelings in a series of articulate sounds, a true language. This simple fact, now established, is monumental given all the sorts of information that can now be derived from it."
"First of all, a question poses itself, that of the animal's physical conformation. We indeed know, as I mentioned earlier, that at some point in time not far removed from our own, science believed apes to be incapable of speech, in the exact sense of the word. And, given the particular layout of their vocal organs, particularly the small area afforded to the tongue, science had been correct, at least at that time. Certain anatomical specimens in our collections, some eighty to one hundred years old, attest that these animals which interest us were indeed not so constituted, or were poorly constituted to make use of speech. However, we have just seen them today capable of speech!"
"Well then, gentlemen, what one must conclude from this is the following: this species has undergone in a progressive manner, for at least two centuries, a series of physical modifications; or rather, these modifications have been occurring for many generations, but it is only recently that we have been able to take note of the level of development towards which the species was heading."
"One must assume that the slow transformation of the encephalon, a little more developed, a little richer in convolutions at each new stage, led to a rise in psychic activity, a need to translate and exchange increasingly numerous and complex ideas. The transformations of the vocal organs and buccal cavity followed, allowing for the use of speech. I remind you at this moment of Nirdhoffer's scholarly studies on the progressive reduction in prognathism among the chimpanzees; a further element in support of our thesis."
"Thus, a brain capable of reasoned thought, a physical conformation compatible with the requirements of language, a reduction in the facial angle: these simians prove that among the apes an undeniable evolution is occurring towards a higher state."
At these words, a prolonged movement was heard in the assembly. But Murlich, paying them no heed, continued:
"However, gentlemen, notwithstanding the fact these apes have managed to express their thoughts by way of a language, which is the highest mode of expression, one might have some doubts as to whether this was an irrefutable symptom of the superior state of which I spoke before. By objecting, for example, that Gulluliou and his fellows simply react in a hard and fast manner to emotional stimuli, which they then translate in a variety of ways, all purely instinctive. The anthropoids would then only possess a subconscious, sufficient to allow them to designate certain objects or sensations by onomatopoia, through cries, even by articulate sounds, but all this in a mechanical manner, the way a drop of water always makes the same sound when falling in the same place, as gears of a winch do at any given moment. One could go on with further examples."
"Certainly, such a theory has little to support it, to say no more. It has nonetheless found some defenders. A new wave of restlessness moved the audience. In his ever calm voice, Murlich continued:
"However, gentlemen, independently of the question of language, other important factors concur to establish the apes' progress, and, in this regard, I believe that I have personally acquired definitive evidence. The pongos' behaviour, which I studied from close up and followed very closely over many months, convinced me that these animals, if their strictly physical makeup had improved in the direction of becoming human, so had their intelligence and social skills. I'm willing to agree, gentlemen, that the mud and branch huts built by the pongos may have been designed in imitation of homes they may have seen, although their huts were built deep in the forest, far from any population centres. I'll even admit, if you like, that these animals have borrowed from man the habit of surrounding their hips with a skirt of woven leaves, and of protecting the sole of their feet by attaching strips of bark to them. But how can one not attribute a spontaneous origin to the fact that at sunrise, the entire tribe gathers on some high ground and sings in a monotonous voice a kind of hymn to the sun? where would they have seen this?"
Some significant snickers had greeted Murlich's last words. He continued, interrupted every now and then by a strong restlessness:
"Let us not laugh, gentlemen. On the contrary it behoves us not to neglect such a strange occurrence, which is uniquely troubling if one remembers that humanity went through a long period during which it devoted itself to these same superstitious practices, which nowadays seem ridiculous: worshipping first the elements, then imaginary beings to which they erected temples."
"Gentlemen, understand: I'm not saying that a similar tendency is an element of progress, I am simply drawing a parallel between it and the period of our history I have just discussed."
"Furthermore, the accession of these apes to a civilization, yes, to a civilization which while perhaps embryonic remains nonetheless real, is a purely natural and logical phenomenon. It is nothing else but a startling confirmation of the law enunciated as early as 2055 by the immortal Hetking. A law unfortunately little known today. Hetking, gentlemen, included, as you know, all of Nature in a vast cycle, or better yet to a great ladder upon the rungs of which species climb, pushing off others in an infinitely slow process. This occurs in such a manner that when one of them has reached the top and stayed there awhile, it begins to drop, as the next one takes its place."
Hetking's Law stands as a sort of counterpart and complement to that which was postulated by the illustrious Darwin, when he established the basis of his "natural selection." I will only call up in passing the great gifts of knowledge contributed to us by Darwin. If he only glimpsed part of the truth, he must still be considered one of our great scientific precursors."
"First, against all dogmas, against all the prejudices to which his era was subject, he dared establish, on a solid unshakeable footing, the simian origins of man. Man had arisen on Earth after millions of years during which the species evolved, from the primitive Monera which had become algae, Infusoria, worms, fish, batrachians, reptiles, up to an ancient lemur, with a tail, then into a tailless simian with a human anatomy. Then came the Pithecanthropus, the apeman, not yet endowed with an articulate language, but penultimate link of a chain which has the cell at one end, and our civilization at the other. Finally, came man."
"Gentlemen, Darwin went no further. He was certain that man constituted the final form of animal life having reached its full physical and intellectual development. But, along with those of his era, he believed that this human, once obtained, created a barrier and taking on the attributes of a species, it stood up against the field of evolution."
"One had had to wait a long time for Hetking to come along and, on the contrary, state that the evolution of orders, families and genera did not stop there, but rather that it was eternal. Certainly, the human model represented achievable perfection, but this is no longer the domain of a single species. It will be that of all species in succession. It is towards this achievement that all of Nature strives, dies, and is reborn in all its aspects, it its infinitely diversified stirrings. It is to possess this ultimate rank, humanity, that all the forces of the universe are in motion. In this admirable conception of man, extended to all complex organisms, and no longer limited to a privileged category, do you not see the solution to any number of problems which those of the past had vainly and confusedly examined?"
"To the endless vibration of matter agglomerated into organisms, to their slow transformations, Hetking assigns a goal, a raison d'ˆtre. He defined the ideals of a Nature ever striving for the best."
"Why such constant battles, mutual rendings, swallowing up of the weaker by the stronger, this great war between the infinitely little and the huge, the bacillus and the giant, ongoing from the very beginning? Our philosophies remained ignorant before this mystery, and could only supply mumbled answers."
"Hetking explains everything. Thanks to him we know and now our knowledge of the facts proves it to us, that every species, in rising on the ladder of creation, carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction; that that which allowed its progression, then causes it to backslide. Turned against itself, the Darwinian law will ensure that, for the eternal cycle of Nature to perpetuate itself forever, it will one day yield its superior status."
"Well gentlemen, we are atop the ladder. "
Here, the audience shuddered in a new swell of discontent.
"Our individual and social development has reached its summit. We can rightly be prideful of having both subjugated other animals, and the forces of Nature. But perhaps, in the near future, might we not be pushed off by this fateful law?"
At this moment the crowd's restlessness became so great that the rest of his sentence was lost beneath a muddled hubbub. Maximin and Alix, situated in the first rows of the crowd had already flashed questioning glances on one another. Maximm said softly.
"If he continues along those lines, it will turn out badly. Those idiots don't understand. He hurts their pride, an unpardonable crime!"
"Poor man, he is nonetheless extraordinary, don't you think?"
"As a man, I will gladly accept his theory, as I believe Nature holds a number of surprises in store for the narrow and conventional science of today. As a poet I can only deplore the fact that an unlimited future cannot be afforded to our race. It is true that the works of man shall not perish if they are worthy of survival!"
Alix, she too enveloped by the tense atmosphere, said in shrugging her shoulders:
"They a claim a monopoly over civilization, and scream like wild beasts!" However, Murlich had managed to overcome the rumour. He now displayed Gulluliou, who, sitting at his table with a worried and resigned look, turned his head slowly.
"Look at this simian, gentlemen, you have heard him speak, I can attest that he is possessed of more than a simple automatist, that he obeys true feelings, that he knows how to coordinate them, that he is even capable, with the help of his memory, to distinguish between doing good and evil, once he has been told once. We are thus in the presence of a true sense of morals, inferior 'tis true, but which nonetheless indicates in this species a huge step along the road to progress."
"I could, ladies and gentlemen, cite a number of facts in support of this intellectual improvement, on the heels of a physical improvement; and now, with respect to the psychological phenomenon of the association of ideas, there comes to mind one detail which proves that this phenomenon occurs just as well in Gulluliou's brain as in that of a man. For the two weeks since he has been in Paris, on several occasions Gulluliou has been struck with amazement at the many spectacles the capital has to offer its visitors, but nothing perhaps had a greater effect than a view of the Seine, furrowed by thousands of electric ships crossing one another in every direction. Then, to designate this sight, do you know, gentlemen, what word he came up with, what word he created? Here it is in pongo: Ourang pfluitt, which means bird-tree. Indeed, all the boats are trees to him. He has assimilated, by a strange association of ideas. The boats which go about on our rivers with the tree trunks he saw carried by those of his country of origin, and to add to this designation an element of speed, he found nothing better than to add the word, bird. Is it not strange that such an animal have been capable of so reconstituting, if not in its entirety, at least in his conception, a meaningful expression which used to be used, in the age of steam, for certain boats, a term I found in a description of the Paris of old: the fly-boats?"
As the crowd's restlessness continued to build, the naturalist understood the need to shorten his presentation:
"There, I believe, gentlemen, is a detail which sufficiently supports my thesis. Gulluliou, in being capable of coordinating his thoughts with their representation, has taken a step towards humanity."
In many regards he is human or quasi-human (Each of his words was met by an uproar): by his general appearance, his language, his habits, even by qualities of the heart (Snide shouts.) Yes, gentlemen, Gulluliou, a true child since he is barely thirteen years old, and notwithstanding the precocious development of his body, Gulluliou possesses, along with his faults, all the qualities of the heart of a child: A great innocence, a propensity to confide in those who are familiar to him, to give himself up to them to protect him from the least danger, a sensitivy rendering him compassionate to any sadness, a compass he show in stopping all his games and remaining silent (new snide comments) This may seem surprising, but nothing, gentlemen, is more true. Besides, this tendency to altruism, to getting along with others, to an even temper and mild behaviour are if one can judge from the examples I have witnessed firsthand among the pongo, a racial trait. The pongo tribes, families and households live in perfect harmony, protect each other in any circumstance, and are concerned with the fate of their offspring."
"I would mention in this regard my student's capture, taken when he was very young, some ten years ago. The hunters had, notwithstanding my explicit instructions, riddled with bullets his mother, who had tried to protect him. I then, gentlemen, witnessed this: the poor beast, seeing me a few steps from the spot where she had fallen, tore the infant you see here from her breast, and held it out to me with a supplicating look, as if to entrust him to me. And at the very moment she was dying, this mother, shedding human tears, found the strength to proffer on several occasions, the word: Allok, meaning in her language, the child."
At these words, spoken in voice quavering with emotion, a more accentuated rumour ran through the crowd; there was some discrete applause. But immediately, from a corner of the hall, a low catcall, and more laughter rose; clearly his detractors were located there.
The uproar became generalized and Murlich was unable to hold back a cry of impatience.
"Gentlemen," he cried out, "in a century of intelligence and truth, nothing which relates to a soul's expression, even that of a beast, should never be scoffed at!"
This sentence, into which the speaker had put all the emphasis he was capable of, the word "soul" applied to a simian creature, released a storm. The race was rising, claiming privilege against those who dared to claim these same privileges for animals. The crowd would not have it, could not understand. The crowd was standing, angry brows moved about in waves. Bespectacled gentlemen, whose huge heads stood atop an atrophied body --; scholars in disarray --; shrugged their shoulders, motioning as if to leave. Others argued with great animation, their lanky arms flailing about like marionette limbs. Over these controversies salvos were exchanged. The gang of loud-mouths continued to kick up a shindy. Murlich, at the podium, waited, trying to calm his student, whom was beginning to lose his nerve under the mounting hubbub.
A few minutes, under the blue haze of the huge central lighting fixture, the hall was abuzz with voices shouting out impassioned comments. Finally, a relative calm fell. An old man, perched on a bench indicated that he wished to speak:
"Ladies and gentlemen," this undoubtedly illustrious individual coughed out, "I would ask the honourable speaker . . . I would ask him that he present us with an immediate, conclusive proof of the intellectual development of these apes. A proof other than that of language, of course. Then we shall be convinced."
"Bravo, bravo!" voices shouted out.
"I accept, gentlemen," Murlich answered from where he stood, but what proof do you wish?"
In the middle of the hall, a man rose, holding a roll of paper his wife, who sat beside him, had just handed him. With a foreign accent, he stated:
"This is a copy of the Schweiziger-Revue, where I saw the photographs . . . ; (his wife prompted him), . . . ; Gulluliou's capture, with the death of the she-ape. Show it to the child, see if he recognizes the scene."
An enthusiastic response. The idea was accepted by all. The magazine was passed from hand to hand to the podium where Murlich, who had understood, cried out:
"But, what you ask of me is so cruel! To show this poor animal the scene of his mother's murder! O! ladies, gentlemen, you cannot wish such a thing. Find something else!"
New sneers denigrated such scruples. A young lady with very short curly hair spoke up in a sharp voice:
"Go ahead, there's no danger that he would understand!"
Near the speaker, friendly voices advised him:
"Do it, to convince them!"
Clapping burst out loudly from within the crowd, encouraging Murlich. He took the picture. The crowd was silent, their attentions directed towards the group made up of the man and simian, one standing, the other still sitting, his face worried, his eyes blinking. Great dark shadows on the rear wall spread in gigantic silhouettes.
Murlich was seen to emotionlessly hand over the magazine to Gulluliou took it two-fisted. Murlich signalled him to look at it.
Close by, the crowd remained quiet; an involuntary dread tightened around their chests, made their heads throb in the heated atmosphere. From where they were, Alix et Maximin felt they were witnessing some dark crime.
Gulluliou looked at the picture; suddenly he let go of it, raised his head, turned two or three times from right to left. His features were drawn, a hundred creases lined them. Then, his features relaxed, he joined his hands together and before all the lights this grotesque and pitiful child in the pillory of his collar, gave out a little moan.
The crowd shifted uncomfortably. Gulluliou brought his hands to his face, which he suddenly hid. The crowd stifled a sigh. Between the simian's black fingers, one could see something sparkle. In the profound silence which ensued, the crowd remained motionless, breathless with emotion.
The ape had recognized and remembered. The little ape cried.
Gulluliou, sitting lazily, one arm hanging, bent out the other to Dr. Darembert, who, feeling for a pulse, nodded his head and asked Murlich:
"Has he been coughing long?
"Doctor . . ."
"Why, yes . . . he's running a temperature." He leaned over onto a chest taken with a fit of wheezing. "Some obstruction on the right."
"Doctor," said Murlich, "I began to notice his coughing some eight days ago; but I didn't think it would last."
"Where does it hurt?" he asked Gulluliou, in pongo.
The ape, whose fever-glossed eyes awoke, showed his back. The doctor nodded once more:
"One has to beware of winter weather with such creatures. It might only be a bad cold on the lungs. I'll write you out a prescription, downstairs. But, as you know, one must be very careful!"
"Don't worry, doctor."
"Have him lay down right away, he should amuse himself sitting up, with the temperature he's running. And, let him sweat, give him steaming hot herb-tea."
Murlich had repeated the doctor's instructions to Gulluliou. When he told him to lay down, the animal weakly shook its head:
"Triouou (In a moment)," he whispered.
"No, it's now! Let's go, hurry up, we are waiting to see you laying down before we leave."
Gulluliou signalled his dissent. His hoarse coughing resumed.
"Why do you not wish to?" asked Murlich.
Gulluliou did not answer, but looked over at the doctor.
"Would you believe it," said Murlich, "he's shy to do so it your presence! He does not want to undress before you!"
"Well, I'll be, my dear professor," answered the other, who like many of his contemporaries did not lack in exclusivism, and had only recently recognized Gulluliou's remarkable intelligence, "you don't really expect me to think that your ape, however highly evolved he may be, could exhibit such a strong sense of modesty!"
"Well, see for yourself!"
Gulluliou had risen from his chair in a skilful motion and was spreading out his nightgown. Then, when everything was ready, he came back and sat down, looked at the two men once again, as if to say: "What, you're still here. Can't you see I'm going to go to bed, so leave!"
"Well then, so be it, let's leave him alone, if that's what he wants!" declared the doctor with a sceptical smile.
He extended his hand to the ape, who bent over to shake it. They left the room and went downstairs.
Munich gloated over his triumph in silence; every day brought a new confirmation of what he had attested to the week before in the museum's amphitheatre: Gulluliou was becoming more and more civilised, more and more a human being. He had once again, in the presence of a critical witness, shown proof of his the delicacy of his feelings.
Ah! admittedly, he could not yet, with his rudimentary vocabulary, translate into words all that went on in his humble soul, but that which his voice was unable to express, his eyes did. Murlich had learned to read these eyes, constantly hidden by the blinking of his eyelids, but whose dark waters were stirred by inner eddies. Murlich had taken on the fascinating task of unravelling the tangled skein of Gulluliou's soul. In watching the blossoming of this ape when exposed to humans, he was filled with the pride of a partial creator. Like an artist, he loved his creation, dreamed of its coming completion, already seeing it upright, complete and perfect. This was why, in the week during which the ape had been coughing, Murlich had become more and more worried; and, fearing finally that it might be the start of a serious affliction, he had asked Dalembert, the noted chest specialist, whom he knew, for a consultation.
"Well then, doctor," he asked in the small sitting room, "You have hopes that it will not be serious?"
"Ah ! one never knows, you know. If it were a man I was dealing with, I would say yes. I'll give him a shot of serum."
"Yes, and I would swear by it. But this is not the case; would he suffer such a shot? Furthermore, would the toxin work in such an creature?"
"But, doctor, tell me frankly, do you think he has tuberculosis then?"
The other, the corners of his mouth lowered in a pout which augured poorly, answered:
"Hmm, for now it is not sufficiently progressed to make a determination, but I think it can be nipped in the bud, if one takes great care. I reiterate, beware the winter weather! When the animal shall be capable of going out, cover him as warmly as possible."
"He wears a fur coat."
"Good. Besides, I will see him again before that. And, especially, be sure to overfeed him. He eats meat, does he not?"
"Very little, doctor."
"He must eat some. And every two hours a granule of hydrated albumin. As for the rest, follow these instructions to the letter."
He had just written out the prescription, and handed it to Murlich.
"So," the latter insisted, "you don't think it necessary to give Gulluliou a serum injection? Even if he doesn't need it, I can't see that it can do any harm. It would reassure me."
The doctor, bantering, smiled with his shaven mouth:
"It's understood, I'll bring my bag tomorrow; you are a dad, and you are concerned for your child's health!"
Murlich was very serious when he replied: "Why yes," in his soft, deep and friendly voice. "What do you expect? Given all of my values I have imparted to him, I see more in him than merely a vulgar beast; he is a kind of son to me. Besides, he is so affectionate and so innocent: a true child!"
Above them, muffled by the floor and carpet, Gulluliou's coughing could be heard.
The doctor, notwithstanding his poorly hidden scepticism had remained thoughtful before Murlich's spontaneous and heartfelt declaration:
"Come on," he said, "go up and see how he's doing. I'll see you tomorrow. I'll give him the injection, don't you worry, we'll get him through!"
Munich, once alone, returned to his student's room. He saw him stretched out in the narrow bed, only his eyes peeking out. The ape was not sleeping. He watched Murlich come in and make his way over to him, standing at his bedside.
Neither Gulluliou nor Murlich moved, they considered each other in silence, in their mysterious and unfathomable affection for one another, seemingly reading in each other's eyes, as if they sensed the futility of speech in understanding each other.
Gulluliou remained almost a week in bed; the fevers had been difficult to overcome, all of Dr. Darembert's know-how had been required to stop this bout of bronchitis in its early stages. Plaintive and shivering during this period, he had been nursed like a human being by Murlich and Alix. When the naturalist had to go out for errands or other necessities, the young woman remained at the patient's bedside, encouraging him to drink herbal infusions and potions with a sisterly hand. What struck one with the animal was the resignation with which he suffered. Finally the cough quieted down, and he was less tired by the weight on his chest.
Darembert believed that the injection, given as soon as the first symptoms had manifested themselves, had been able to stop its progression. He allowed Gulluliou to get up. The ape spent a few days on a sofa, in a large quilted dressing-gown, near the window which opened on the garden's bare trees. A succession of picture books went through the convalescent's distracted fingers. His greatest joy was a doll, which Alix, his devoted friend, brought him one afternoon. On the pongo's long dark hand the doll swung, stiff and pink. He named it Minnili, after the name of a little bird from his home, thus named for its call. For hours on end, the Son of the Doves rocked Minnili, with all the paternal tenderness in his simian soul.
Visits distracted him from his days of boredom in the half- light of late January. Since the seminar at the Museum, the public's about face had made the ape almost famous, an acrimonious discussion of his case and of Murlich's doctrine had been carried out in the newspapers. The excitement born that night had propagated itself, the supporters now equalled the detractors, and all that had been needed for the animal to acquire the right to claim itself human was a few tears. Murlich brought his friends to the pavilion in Auteuil. Maximin, who had come to know the naturalist had also wished to meet Gulluliou. The poet saw in Murlich a capacity for speculation which bore a dreamlike quality, and which he felt comfortable with: they became friends. But Maximin was more and more overwhelmed with his play's rehearsals, which were not going altogether well, and by all the negotiations to rent a hall in which to present it. He was only able to visit the convalescent once, promising that he would attend the premiere of The Triumph of Man, announced for the 10th of February. Gulluliou had a week to wait.
The ape spoke little during these dolent days. He did not like to play under the light of the lamps, and as soon as the twilight came, wan and snowy or under worsening rain, he let Minnili sleep in a chair, got awkwardly into his dressing-gown, hunched over like a little old man, his arms hanging to the carpet. At night, Murlich and Alix remained with him a little while, He was content to watch them, but each in a different manner: with a dull but confident calm in the case of his master, and with a stranger, more piercing look in the case of the young woman.
Once, having remained alone, she had become uneasy about this look, about these wild, haunting, yet good-natured eyes which stared at her. But it was over in a flash; Gulluliou, like someone who made an effort to control themselves, had taken up his doll again, cajoled it between his chest and his bent arm, singing in his guttural voice an old tune which his mother had no doubt taught him long ago:
Minnili, Minnili, the littleIn the corner the great palm leaf shifted heavily back and forth above the heat duct, as if still animated in the manner it had been in its native climes. Gulluliou watched it distractedly for a moment, put the doll down again, drew his long body up from the sofa, to go to bed.
Bird hops about the branches,
And tick tick goes his little tail
With his little wing that beats . . .;
Little friend, sing me again
Maximin left the edge of the fore-stage from whence he had watched all of the first act of The Triumph of Man; he turned to his friends, who extend their hands to compliment him.
Alix Forest was there, almost pretty under the lively glow of the stage-light, the very delicate skin of her pale neck emerging from the neck of her russet brown dress, where huge white umbels recalled the young woman's strange obsession. On her hat, covered in dead leaves of the same colour as her dress, a scattering of tiny mushrooms rose in a flexible tuft. With her perky yet refined smile, she immediately expressed her joy over the lovely verses, whose strong harmony still stirred them. Murlich, who was there too, in the back, silent, applauded discretely, as it behoves a man of science who is not entirely indifferent to poetry. At the back of the box, Gulluliou, motionless, watched, searching for answers in Murlich's demeanour with hesitant eyes. Suddenly he understood the meaning of Murlich's actions, his palms were struck together, timidly at first, then in a mischievously rough and childish manner.
But Casot-Dorlys the critic, tilted his flushed face, and allowed a glowing review to pass his thick lips.
"Admirable," my dear friend, "and so well played this act of yours."
Maximin survey the crowd at length, and shook his head:
"Let's hope it fills up, there's empty seats!"
"But people are still coming in," said the critic with a burr. "Don't worry, you'll have a full house for the climax! Ah! Maximin, the Arts owe you such a beautiful, such a great night! Soon you shall triumph!"
"It's already a success!"
The poet's nervous hands were shaking.
"The battle is not yet won, there should be more people. I'll go see at the ticket office. Besides, the people need only come in. Albani was good, was he not. He was made for the role."
"Oh! remarkable," added Casot-Dorlys. "His voice is warm and sonorous, just the voice for your verse! Does Basamore play in the second act?"
"Yes, a short appearance," answered Alix in lieu of Maximin who was temporarily distracted, "but it's mostly in the third act that she gives it everything. And you'll see the wonderful set!"
In the hubbub which rose towards the great light fixture, the critic said excitedly:
"It will be a triumph I tell you!"
Casot-Dorlys, a big man of some forty years of age, radiated good-natured joviality and sincerity. His strong uncanny taste for art had tied him to Maximin, with whom he shared the hope of waking the minds of his contemporaries. The admiration he professed for the poet, was entirely reciprocal. For if Casot-Dorlys, hands on his hips and features alight proclaimed Maximin's genius amongst the groups, Maximin was not without making a great deal of Casot-Dorlys' critical sense. He was, in a different manner than Alix, another person in which he confided.
Taking up his hat, the poet said, in a very fevered state:
"I must at least go over there for a little while. Will you comme along, Casot?"
"Yes, yes, certainly. Pardon me, miss, duty before everything! We're off to get the troops warmed up!"
Maximin turned towards Alix and Murlich:
"At the next intermission, we'll go backstage together, shall we not?"
The two friends slipped into the hallway where the main hall sent the overflow of its conversations. The attendance included middle-class people and the author's invited guests, for whom this evening had long been a matter of passionate discussion, and amongst whose families bourgeois values had not yet entirely stamped out other feelings. As well, there were random spectators, people who had been passing on the street, craftsmen and employees, those whom the lighted marquis had attracted, and who had come in, having nothing better to do and because it was free. The latter, in a stunned silence, wandered about like fish out of water. They had not been the ones applauding before, those had been the tuxedo crowd. But the general public, they alone would make the play a success, if they understood it. Maximin knew that his verses must wake sleeping embers within them, or the play would be a failure.
They moved along, their passage interrupted here and there by friends and acquaintances. Very loudly, Casot-Dorlys praised the play left and right, so all around would hear. He flashed victorious smiles, waved his short arms about as he spoke, in rapid fire sentences, of the wonders of the acts to come.
"You'll see, you'll see, yes a factory set. O! truly gripping! My dear Maximin, allow me to present you to an admirer."
The poet moved on quickly, thanking and greeting people. For a moment, his friend stopped to exchange a few words with a colleague, Gribory, a critic as slim and jaundiced as Casot was round and pink. Maximin went on without him, he was in a hurry to reach the ticket office, to have one foot on the sidewalk, to see if people were coming in, if the hall was filling. He need not have gone so far, a press of arrivals pushed him back; he returned reassured. People we coming in the large door, which led directly into the hall, bright with its fresh gold ornamentation and red balconies.
As he wondered whether he would have time to go on stage and watch over the installation of the set, he once again ran into Casot Dorlys, who had just left off with his colleague.
"Well then," the playwright asked, "what did Gribory have to say about me?"
"O! with that chap, one never knows with him if it's fish, flesh, nor fowl. He has no opinion, he wants to see the whole play before pronouncing himself."
"He's right," admitted Maximin.
Casot, with his usual sanguine enthusiasm, burst out:
"Why, yes, he is right. But he's never been one to allow himself to admit to being carried away over anything!"
Maximin dismissed it with a gesture; one would see tomorrow.
Around them people moved about hurriedly, the intermission was finishing. They returned to the front of the stage, where, from a distance, Alix was showing Murlich, in the boxes and on the floor, the marvellous impact of the style she was launching. Here and there mushrooms were sprouting up from the fabric of skirts and bodices, hairdos heavily decorated with their various hues. The young woman, beneath Gulluliou's fixed stare, named off her client to Murlich who smiled archly.
Before a now full house, the curtain released a burst of fresh air from the stage, where, representing present times, stood a great glassed-in hall. Machines shook it with their silent motions. Man was there, creator of these machines, through which his muscles were spared all work, all physical exertion. Busying himself solely in the planning of other machines for other tasks, immersed in his cold mathematics, which nonetheless led to a solution to his problems, he remained unfulfilled, unconscious from the get-go as to what was missing. Finally he saw clearly, and cried out his need for an ideal:
. . . What to do now? I have seen everything,In a white a blue light which filled the rear of the set and presages a new dawn, the Nature-goddess, played by Berthe Balsamore, showed herself for a moment, announcing the anticipated redemption. The curtain fell on the upward motion and smile of this lovely woman, whose blonde hair shed a sunny cheerfulness over the stage. It was so well received, this time, as to augur success. The applause continued, woke long dormant echos in the hall. Maximin, waiting in the wings, thrilling to every verse, to every movement of his characters, felt that all the awkwardness with which the night had begun was dissolving away, was evaporation under the breath of his poetry. The fever which had held sway over him for days rose under a certainty of success.
None of the ancient civilisations' secrets are beyond my grasp,
I have discovered the key to their bygone mysteries
O! Earth, my science could recreate thee!
Yet, the greatest enigma resides within me,
Ah! to know all, to compute everything!
What then, when I reached the bottom of this abyss?
My heart will be no less oppressed,
My brow no less beating itself against the walls of my prison.
Where reason, my blind jailer, would hold me.
But to escape, the birds have their two wings,
The torrent drops alone from the eternal peaks,
The forest can rustle beneath the caresses of the wind,
And I, how shall I be free?
The Nature-sprite's voice,
He had immediately signalled to his friends to meet him backstage. Casot-Dorlys was ecstatic. Alix, still shaken by the strong feelings evoked in her, joined her congratulations to those of Murlich, who declared, with kind affability:
"I see, dear sir, that we share the same vision of man's triumph; you leave the best part to Nature!"
Maximin was content to smile. The critic spoke:
"But Nature is a great crucible in which the most complex of elements are assembled. The scientist can frequently lend a hand to the poet!"
"You in particular, Mr. Murlich!" said Maximin, nodding his head towards the ape.
Gulluliou had bundled himself up in his fur coat. Since his bout of bronchitis greater precautions had been taken to avoid a relapse, which the doctors foresaw would be very dangerous. There were few moments when Murlich was not concerned about the ape's state of help. He must constantly be on guard to avoid possible ill-advised situations, and to attend to everything. That very night, it was by way of an exception that he had consented to allowing him out. It took the long anticipated opening of Maximin's work for the naturalist to relent somewhat on his strict rules.
Gulluliou had never been so happy; all he saw was new, the lights, the hubbub, the colourful hall, the curtain exposing another equally large space where people came to speak and talk to one another at length, with gestures by which we could almost understand, even without the words, to build in his imagination a complete story adapted to his understanding of the play. At last, the curtain went down, the hall was suddenly lit up again, people were getting to their feet and clapping their hands together: awestruck moments, a succession of scenes which had Gulluliou's eyes and mind aflutter!
As the group of friends made their way through the corridors, the crowd, in a sympathetic curiosity, recognized the ape and his master. Murlich, not without some personal sense of irony, remarked to himself how little separated jeers from praises, the whistles from the bravos, that the two were too similar, to little separated on, for the distinct to be of any significance. Maximin, praised from all sides, thought of Murlich: the first victory to the scientist, the second to the poet. But was Murlich not a poet of the sciences?
They reached, many opened doors later, the greenroom; Maximin immediately met Albani, imposing and powerful in his neutral colours, an ageless and timeless personification of Man.
"It's all right, it's all right, isn't it?" asked the actor."
"Yes, yes, I think so, the last act carried it."
The actor and author stood before each other, both very excited. As those who accompanied the poet were nearby, Maximin only shook hands with those actors who were present, apologizing:
"I will see you all later, I must see Balsamore. Is she up there?"
"Yes, yes, in her dressing room."
"Come," said Maximin.
They slipped into a hallway that gave onto a staircase; they went up one floor. The dresser obsequiously welcomed the author and his entourage. This was the floor for the leads, the stars: emanating from the doors of three or four large and rather sumptuous dressing rooms the weak smell of grease paint and oils saturated the air. The party was a rather strange one: Maximin and Casot-Dorlys, Alix, Murlich and his ape, proceeding in that order.
At a turn, they spied, through a wide-open steel door, the stage drowned in the twilight of a night ship, with the props upright, like sails filled by the air draughts, and its entangled ropes shooting up to the flies. The quick peek dissolved; Berthe Balsamore, in a mischievous voice, greeted them from the depths of her dressing room, where she was painting her eyes in black before a mirror.
"Do come in, dear!" she yelled out to Maximin.
But, she saw that he was not alone, she turned to them pleasantly, her shadow brush in hand.
"Oh! I'm so sorry!"
"It's an invasion," said the poet, "I have brought along some friends."
"How marvellous to see you! Do come in and sit down. Good evening, Miss Forest, be a dear and move that out of the chair. Good evening, Casot!
Murlich, very much disoriented by her indifferent attitude, and Gulluliou whose uneasiness overcame his joy, were both presented.
"You know, pet," the actress declared, "I've never played Paris before, but I can tell you for sure, it's a hit! Although you owe me a great deal. I fed Albani one of his lines, didn't you even notice?
"Why, no," answered Maximin, a bit embarrassed, in front of Alix, at the familiarity of her tone.
But little was Miss Forest listening, she saw but one thing; Balsamore's gown, the precious gown now complete, flamboyant with all its silky-orangey mushrooms. And from thence emerged, like the pistil of an enormous tropical flower, the actress' heavy shoulders, and her golden locks.
"Do admire me, Miss Alix," Balsamore said upon noticing the girl's gaze. "Are you pleased? It's better than the first try, eh? We did well to make those alterations, otherwise I wouldn't have worn it!"
But Murlich was in turn tested. He tried, before the opulent and scantily clad thirty-year-old actress, to maintain an air of amused reserve, though the strange room, both washroom and small drawing-room, overflowing with a jumble of fancy dresses, slips, negligees, of drawings and photographs, of vials and pots, was somewhat disconcerting compared to the cold and ordered layout of the laboratory. For Gulluliou, whom one had rid of his coat, he lowered his head a bit, like a child intimidated by a stranger.
His serious features, with the creases of a man of a certain age, his full beard, amused Berthe to no end. When Murlich stated that the ape was thirteen years old, she wished at all cost to take his hand, to make him get up, to see him walk, his legs somewhat relaxed in his black pants, his feet dragging in polished boots.
"Why, Maximin, you ought to write something about him," she exclaimed. "Here is a form of humanity which you hadn't considered!"
"Mr. Murlich is considering it in our stead!" the poet declared, thinking absent-mindedly of vague objects his hands were manipulating in the air.
Casot looked at the naturalist.
"There it is indeed, the triumph of man, your generosity extends it all the way to the ape! Is it not right to say that she speaks the truth? Is it not so, Gulluliou?"
"Yes," answered Gulluliou.
It was the only French word he knew as yet, and he would interject it all over the place, when he heard his name spoken. Sometimes it turned out well.
But the actress, who with the help of her dresser, had finished lacing over her bare ankles with pink sandal-ties, begged Murlich to speak to his student in her presence. Just then, Maximin, whose worry had reached a fever pitch at the approach of the third curtain-rise, interrupted them.
"I think it's time we leave, the intermission must be over."
"Well, see you later my pets. Mr. Murlich, will you allow me to go and visit the young man? Truly, I would have liked to hear him talk . . . see you later! (Her voice was marked with a certain tenseness as she addressed herself to Maximin.) If the crowd isn't asleep, I won't be afraid, but must have their help!"
The poet said, with a chill.
"I will applaud when you come on stage . . . Good luck!"
"And you too, old fellow."
As the others were already in the hallway, Berthe stopped on the threshold of her dressing room, a finger raised:
"The prelude has begun," she said.
A nasal warning followed a slamming of doors, the murmur of voices arguing, some laughs: "On stage for the third act! On stage for the third!" Meanwhile, between the walls, rising from the inner staircase, spreading through the building, a distant harmony arose, coming closer and closer, like some mysterious fluid. And Maximin was taken by the powerful emotion that the music which he recognized as his own, was now being heard by a large crowd of people. He drew along his friends behind him, heading for the hall. They quickly passed the great metal door, open on the darkened stage, where the set was now installed, waiting only to be given life by the lights.
Above them, on every floor the same warning rang out: "On stage for the third act! On stage for the third!"
They returned to their places in the fore-stage, overlooking the orchestra; the room was listening attentively, under the growing sway of the first bars of the music. Maximin, breathless, listened.
It was the entire scope of the drama which he wished to reflect with the magic and richness of the orchestra. The previous two acts were recalled, Man rising little by little from a darkness of ignorance and blunder towards greater truth. A plaintive confusion, sketched out by the deep notes of the double- basses and 'cellos, then taken up in muted tones by the violins and violas, which allowed slow, monotonous notes to drag out. Battles were undertaken, light striving by fits and starts to bring day, tearing asunder the moaning veil of the human night, the flutes high-pitched modulations weaving their lacework on the primitive canvas. These fused in to sudden interrupted bursts. Slowly, arduously, the battle continued; the moaning of violins was followed by a syncopation sustained by the quicker tempo of the violas. The storm rumbled with its magnificent and powerful strength, striated with flashes of incendiary high notes. Suddenly there arose, after a moment's silence, the mysterious oboes' melody. These indicated a dawn motif, soon propagated by English horns, veiled by the bold clarinettes. And this major theme thus constituted, the whole orchestra took it up in successive tones, ringing in a sort of deliverance. Upon the trill of the stringed instruments, the brass instruments emerged, building their ascending sound in pomp and circumstance.
The whole crowd let out the breath they had so far held; Maximin felt his face grazed by a wing whose touch made him weak- kneed, sensing himself at the pinnacle of artistic happiness, he realized that the crowd had been subjugated. He had to retire in the back, near Alix. He felt the young woman's hand searching for his, squeezing it. In the fore-stage, everyone was speechless as the curtain rose.
Casot-Dorlys shifted his stance with a sigh, Murlich half closed his eyes, keep a secret watch over Gulluliou, whose attitudes continually piqued his scientific curiosity. He had watched him all through the prelude, worried how the novelty of orchestral music would affect this strange creature, and amused himself in transposing his sensibilities onto the animal, and in representing to himself its varied impressions. Gulluliou, at the first chords of the violins, had had a quizzical look, his head shifting in a silent query to his master. But, the phenomenon persisting, he had shifted his attention back to the orchestra, particularly entranced by the movement of the bows and those of the conductor. A confused awakening of the senses. A man who moves his arms about, like the puppet made to walk by pulling on its strings . . . It makes noise, very loud noise . . . Men who move their arms about make a very loud noise, which lasts a long time . . .; Oh! how they move about their arms, and how the sound goes on for a very long time, so long that one's ears ring and one's stomach is queasy, and one cannot breathe . . . ; As if there were a great typhoon in the guava trees: one hears the wind whistle in the branches, and . . .; Minnili, the little bird has sung! . . .; Minilli, Minnili, why does he sing through the big storm? Master is not afraid . . . . The men who move about their arms and those who blow . . .; Master is looking at me . . . ; The noise, the ears, the heart; the noise, the ears, the heart. The heart stops, the noise gets louder, the machine rises, and now it is light again! . . . ; But, but . . .; Mother! . . .; Minnili! Far . . .;far . . .;the clouds, the sun!
In a raucous, stifled cry, Gulluliou and stood up, his chest heaving, wide-eyed, his hand extended. For, on the stage, he rediscovered all the elements of his forest, alive with waving palms, virginal in its tangles lianas dropping from the trees like twisted serpents. The entire tropical forest, vast and deep! And this was sufficient to immediately bring back to the ape's dark soul the aromas of his youth, so many scattered memories, nearly forgotten, and which returned! And as it was so close, he wanted to go there, to run there once again; Gulluliou wished to go into his forest. Standing with the black suit tight about his hunched over waist, his neck in the carcan of a detachable collar, he forgot his human condition, his laquer of citizenry and sought to leap forward and reach the stage.
But it was over in a flash, Murlich had risen too, had guessed what was coming and prevented it. With a few words whispered in his firm but tender voice, which the animal could never resist, he calmed him down. The others had barely had time to notice. It happened when the crowd was silent, taking in the verses which Balsamore, who had just come on stage in her stunning robe, was reciting to them at the top of her lungs.
The act went on, under the sumptuous rhythm of the poet's stanzas. The crowd, their artistic sensibilities now brought to the desired state of exaltation, were so vibrant with sincerity that Maximin himself was surprised. This night, begun under the cloud of doubt and nerves, was ending in a rush of triumph. Besides, Maximin had trouble hearing the rest of his play; listening to the prelude had overwhelmed him; he had relived one by one too many powerful feelings, a crushing sense of fatigue was mixed with his sense of victory.
He had retired with Alix, behind their friends, in a small sitting-room where the lights were dimmed, and not saying anything to one another, they waited, listening vacantly. The act was finishing; already a portion of the crowd had risen to acclaim Maximin. Calot and Murlich, when the curtain fell, se leaned over to applaud with the electrified crowd.
They were unable to see Maximin, who, after long gazing at the young woman, and taking hold of her wrist, sought to possess himself of her mouth. In the burst of glory which arose, no one knew what was occurring at the back of the fore-stage. The poet was using the energy left him in this gesture of conquest.
But Alix had disengaged herself suddenly, the blond beard had grazed her cheek. Very pale and chopping her words, she said in a very soft voice:
"It is unconscionable to thus defile such a moment! Leave me alone!
And she saw Gulluliou, who, half turned, watched her with the same strange, fixed gaze which she had already noticed on a number of occasions. It was tinged with sadness, and fathomless resignation . . .; Alix was moved by it, and feared that she had understood the expression in those haunting eyes. In her mind she linked Gulluliou's silence with the poet's boldness. She was shaken by a sudden start, that of the free and virginal woman. She wished to lash out at the one who had thought that her independence would succumb to the night's excitements. Pointing out the animal to Maximin, she added:
"That monkey is laughing at you!"
Maximin hunched his shoulders, his lips tightened like fists. In the hall, the cheering continued, the curtain had risen on three occasions, the clapping and ovations were crushed beneath the ceiling, where the great candelabrum was shaking. Casot ran towards the playwright:
Do come, they're asking for you, they want to see you."
The poet, stiff from his unsuccessful passionate outburst, moved to the edge of the fore-stage, so that their outpouring could finally confirm his fame.
He could make out, in a haze, to his right, the footlights behind which all the actors stood; in front of him, to the left, hands clapping and mouths open. Such was glory. He felt both it grandeur and its fragility. Tomorrow his name would be in all the newspapers, his work played, published, interpreted. It would have its supporters and its detractors, one Casot-Dorlys would place him on a pedestal, a Gribory would no doubt vent the bile of his kidney condition upon him. But at last the task was accomplished, this evening perhaps marked a stage in the evolution of the art. A stage . . .perhaps . . .he didn't know, he couldn't think, he could barely distinguish between the jeers and the applause.
He held before his eyes the vision of Gulluliou spying out his erstwhile actions, and very precise in his ears were Alix's cruel words:
"That monkey is laughing at you!"
Gulluliou grew in mind twice as fast as in body. Given his experience with men, the happiness of his youth had almost completely left him, without him however becoming silent or morose. But he bore a certain nonchalant gravity, quite frequent among the blacks. His health remained fragile; a long hunched over body, sometimes shaken by a worrisome weak dry cough. The doctor had warned Murlich that the anti tuberculin serum he had injected some time before, would not take effect, should it be needed, for at least a month or more. Murlich then waited, not without some apprehension, limiting his student's activities as much as possible, not allowing him any overly tiring walks, or any exaggerated efforts. And his overfeeding continued: twice a day Gulluliou took a dose of protoplasmic extract, some Darembert granules, raw eggs which he swallowed with delight, and raw meat, which greatly disgusted him. However, clearly the climate did not favour his development. In order to distract him and allow him to endure the winter season, he was told at great length of the coming of spring, of the house in Bƒle where they would soon return, where he had his own room filled with souvenirs of his homeland and of his early childhood. Gulluliou listened, indeed answered, and then his gaze would always shift towards Alix, with the meek steadiness which had already so often struck her. But now the young woman could not help but associate this strange gaze upon her, with her memories of the night Maximin had infringed upon their agreement regarding matters of love. She remembered the suspicions she had fleetingly entertained; was it not in such a manner that, long ago, the poet had himself, during a long awkward silence between them, looked upon her? She shrugged her shoulders at such a parallel: a simple coincidence, something which particularly drew Gulluliou's eyes to her, an overly showy colour, the sparkle of a piece of jewelry.
March arrived with its downpours, great gusts of wind shook the trees in the garden, the privet and laurel bushes, and notwithstanding the double doors ran through the house and pavilion. Alix one day received the visit of Maximin. They had not seen each other since the showing of The Triumph of Man, the poet was now famous, but Alix had long shown herself intractable with respect to forgiving her old friend his indiscretion. However, after a heartbroken plea for forgiveness, she consented to see him again. Truly, he was missing from her sensible and methodical virginal existence.
He came one day, as had been his habit before, sit on the verandah near the young woman. They spoke together of literature, of follow-ups to the play, of the poets other projects: Gulluliou never came up. It seemed to both Maximin and Alix that the other was fearful of this event being evoking. Such a feeling seemed ridiculous to both of them, as they carefully hid this from each other. Yet it was on this very day that Gulluliou was to show himself to be a true man, in such a miserable manner, that Alix would remain touched forever.
As Maximin was leaving, on the threshold of the outer hall, in the half-light of a bulb enclosed in a violet-streaked ceiling fixture, beneath a raised piece of tapestry she suddenly caught sight of the ape. He was still and silent. He was allowed to wander through the different rooms, and having heard a noise, he had simply come to have a look. Once the visitor had left, Alix considered scolding Gulluliou for his indiscretion, and searched for the right words, when he, with a sad look, pointed at the door. Using two of the words of his meagre French vocabulary, he said:
"Come. . . he come!"
This reproach, this almost human intonation. An idea flashed through the young girl's mind, confirming what she suspected. Gulluliou, this thirteen-year-old creature, formidable and immature . . . this Gulluliou was in love with her . . .; Contempt, anger, and a sort of mad gaiety came over her all at once. To be loved by an ape as she was already by the poet, was it not the most terrifying of fantasies? Loved by Gulluliou! How ridiculous, Gulluliou jealous! . . .; This was too unexpected, too extraordinary, too unnatural!
But, after a period of silence, the animal's voice rose again. He was closer to her, gazing at her with an imploring look, hands together, stating:
"You good . . . you beautiful!"
He drew closer still:
"You good . . . you beautiful!"
Alix backed away, touched by fear.
Was he going to touch her? Such a fear overtook. A certain sudden lucidity showed her the danger. She was in a corner; to reach the door she must cross Gulluliou. She did not dare. She would have called out for help, but her throat tightened in silent anticipation, for she saw the beast rising in the ape's eyes, saw the flame of the brute's wild instincts rise little by little in its eyes.
So this was what he had been planning for so long, what had sucked the life from his body, what made his eyes glow in an unquenchable fever. This was indeed love! How monstrous, to be loved by an ape!
The house was empty, the workroom deserted, Murlich busy in the garden pavilion.
"You beautiful, you good, you beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!"
These few words, mixed with words in pongo, Gulluliou repeated them in a low, muffled voice. But the huskiness of his voice betrayed the call of ancestral voices at the very source of his race wishing to be reborn. He approached her, but she backed up. In her terror she could no longer find the buzzer on the wall which would have summoned someone. She ended up being backed into a corner.
The ape came to her. He proffered awkwardly delivered, incomprehensible words. Their tone became fiercer, his teeth at times grinding between jaws now more preeminent than was usual. Beneath his loose clothing, arms and legs were tensing as if to leap.
Alix felt the animals short strong breaths on her face. There rose from him an odour of musk.
Then, the following happened: Gulluliou put his arm around Alix's waist and drew her to him, unable to escape this belt of nerves and sinews. The hideous mouth, the wet-lipped snout, pressed upon the woman's lips. Slowly he pushed her to the floor, petrified, incapable of the least defensive gesture. When she was stretched out, he bent over her, a moving shadow, mingling in the half-light with the soft, thick carpet.
But at that point, she seemed to pull herself together, had a sudden burst of energy, found the strength to grab his wrists, she so weak before this unbridled beast.
The filthy kiss nauseated her, but the more she fought, the more she realized she was lost, that she could no longer prevent anything. The ape had growled and had again overpowered her. She closed her eyes, her hand before her, her legs bent under her. A last ditch effort before the rape . . .;
She waited . . . .
When, suddenly the great black, hairy, snaking arms which embraced her, unknotted themselves. She felt herself free, was standing up in an instant, looking around. Gulluliou was in front of her, his head lowered, his limbs shaking. Something mysterious was going on inside him. He seemed bewildered, his eyes vacillating like candles under an invisible draught.
Then, abruptly, he moaned softly and fell at the girl's feet like a broken puppet which collapses to the floor. His chest was torn with deep coughing, sobs gurgled in his throat. He cries, his body shaking.
"Alix, Alix, you good, you beautiful!" He was no longer anything but a pathetic rag of a thing, miserable, ridiculous, a heap of collapsed flesh from which arose the anguish of love.
The man was victorious over the ape.
"Not only has the serum not worked," he said, "but the condition I had told you to expect has declared itself. It's that bad cold he's had for two months that has caused all of this. I had nonetheless thought him out of its grip.
The Son-of-the-doves was again taken with a stubborn dry cough, which shook his long bouts of dozing in the recesses of his chair. He was placed before the window of his room, the windows closed but the curtains raised, and from there he watched the progressive development of spring on the budding trees.
Towards the end of March, Alix proposed one day, in order to offer him some little distraction to Gulluliou, and get him out from the four walls of the house, where he was fretting with boredom, to attend a sitting of the House where they were to discuss the famous Sahara railroad scandal. Murlich nearly jumped out of his skin at the mere though of bringing an invalid to such a place? Why even perfectly healthy people caught the flu there! And how would Gulluliou survive that, the poor wretch? It was crazy to think of such a thing!
"But," replied the young woman, "what tells you, dear cousin, that dear Dr. Darembert, as famous as he might be, is not wrong about him at present.. . . And besides, whether on not Gulluliou is consumptive, don't you think it better anyways that he have a gay and varied life, rather than be locked up here? Gulluliou is still solid on his feet, he eats very well; it's not because he coughs a bit that you're going to keep him imprisoned. On the contrary, it is because he is sad that I ask you to entertain him. Yes, he's bored, this animal is dying of boredom and nothing else . . . ;that's what's giving him a fever!"
She added, to convince the hesitant Murlich, that Gulluliou, carefully bundled up would risk nothing in seeking such entertainment. He could be driven there in a car, and be brought back in the same manner. The galleries at the Legislative Palace were spacious and easy to access, the room heated, the air purified by an excellent ventilation system. And such a sitting of the Legislative Palace was something he had never experienced. Had Murlich even been there before?
The scientist had to admit that he hadn't.
"So you see," Alix concluded, there are a number of good reasons! We'll have good seats. Vandrax who is speaker of the House promised me so."
Murlich finally agreed to try it. Besides, the doctor, whom they consulted the next day, while recommending the greatest precautions be taken for the trip, had no formal objection to such an outing.
"However, at the slightest sign of him getting overly excitement (Darembert lightly struck the top of his left hand with his right) to bed But," he said to Alix," but it is a hazardous treatment you are starting there, I would not allow it were he a man!
The young woman knew that neither Darembert nor Murlich agreed with her, but what Gulluliou suffered the most from, in her opinion, was solitude and silence. Alone might she not see what the doctors were blind to? Her anger at the events during which the pongo had so brutally confessed his passion, but which she had kept to herself, had turned to pity. Only the physical disgust of the kiss received from those black lips now remained. Her heart forgave him. Since then, Gulluliou had been nothing but docile, and most even-tempered. If truly he loved, if this love implanted in the creature's troubled consciousness was indeed akin to human love, how acutely then must the near-man be suffering.
And Alix dreamed of bringing him back to health by exposing him to a variety of sights and sounds, whereby his youth would allow him to recover.
April 8th, at four o'clock, the great debate over the Sahara Railroad scandal was going full swing.
Erected on the same site as the former building, destroyed in the revolution of 2074, the Legislative Palace was huge. The council-chamber could hold, besides the twelve hundred members, some two thousand spectators. The members' seats stacked in tiers and arranged in a semicircle at the back, along with the speaker's platform, and a visitors' gallery all around, the chamber's layout and dimensions reminded one of the amphitheatres of antiquity.
When Murlich, Gulluliou, Alix and Vandrax's secretary, who served as chaperone, arrived, the speaker, in vibrant tones and with gestures typical of a short sanguine southerner, already held the floor. His beard shaking, index finger extended, threatening in turn the ceiling, the right, the middle, the left, he straightened up his stocky frame, rolled his r's, and gave himself entirely to the fight.
"Citizens, the time for procrastinating is over . . . this country demands you step forward and act. The House must prove that a commonality of perspective exists between it and democracy, that they can count on one another. I would ask the minister what guarantees of security he would now make to European businesses operating in our African provinces, given how illusory his former guarantees were . . .; I ask him if a bunch of swindlers and cheats will, with complete impunity, be allowed to line their coffers with the European Union's capital
Cheers and applause drowned out the orator's voice. The centrists and the right were the ones thus applaud him. But a rumble of barking cries, curses and whistling rose. At the back of the great narrowing of the chamber the six hundred leftist members were on their feet, and with their outcries, the pounding of their fists on the desks, they tried to stop Vandrax from proceeding.
The interruptions criss-crossed: "Cheats yourself! talk about swindlers! enough! Those are fighting words! Liar!" while the five hundred members of the opposing party continued their applause. Finally, Vandrax, his arm extended, turning to face his adversaries, reopened his mouth and bellowed on slowly:
"Your anger, citizens, shall not overcome my stamina! You will hear me out anyway, whether you wish to or not. This debate, which in vain you have, by means fair and foul, tried to delay is of too immediate an importance for us to drop it again before getting to the bottom of it . . . ; I said that the swindlers and cheats . . . ;"
The thunderous rumbling, which had only let up slightly, rose as loud as ever, accompanied by the other party's opposing vociferations. The already stormy session, promised to go rather poorly. In the gallery, Murlich whispered to Miss Forest:
"This is outrageous. And they call this debate!"
"Oh!" smiles the young woman, "this is nothing, they're only getting started. You'll see later!"
And she added, in response to the scientist's surprised look:
"They come to blows in almost every session. What can you do, that's politics! You know, politics are the backbone of the European nations, but France if the country within the Union where it is best loved. Three quarters of the population seem to live for nothing else; every year and entire month is devoted to legislative elections. A month of genuine civil war, where all the passions are reborn with redoubled strength . . . especially since the women have the vote. Supposedly there was a time when they didn't vote, when they were not allowed to involve themselves in such things."
"Certainly," replied Murlich with approval, it's not long since they have enjoyed the same civil rights as men. It's only been for twenty-odd years in Switzerland."
"Anyway, I never vote myself. It's like those women who run for office, do you think it's natural for them to do so? That's ridiculous! if only you saw them these poor female members when they are all gathered in one room. One might take them for parrots at the Museum of Natural History: what a cacophony!"
"Indeed," worried Murlich, "how come none of them seem to be here? I only see men."
"They must be in some Committee session," continued the young woman, "they'll arrive soon. They are a hundred or so, a small proportion of all the members, but they stick together! . . . ; Yes, don't you think all those people would be better off staying comfortably at home, placing their interests into the hands of a few only? We are a strange people, we believe ourselves to be happy because we read daily, in five hundred different political gazettes, that there's been more fisticuffs in the House."
"You are," said Murlich, "a people with a taste for ferment and independence; and sometimes good things come of it. One mustn't forget, child, that your country was the one to spread the social net which exists today. It was one of the earliest republics, it helped in the formation of all the others, advocated their unification, and finally, has always set the example in terms of progress and emancipation. It's natural that you be enthralled by politics, for it runs in your veins, it courses with your blood. You have been the vanguard of modern civilisation, and have remained in that role. It is almost in spite of yourselves that you have gathered the ideas, spread them, knock them about!"
"Especially that we knock them about. You, cousin, look upon our race as an external observer who sees an overall picture, but from close up it's another story."
Murlich, pointing to the hemicycle, addressed Vandrax's secretary, who was following the debate raised by his employer with obvious interest, asking him:
"So there are still three great schools of thought, as there were in former times? And what are their respective points of view?"
"Why, sir," the young man answered, "it's difficult to figure out!"
"However," Murlich insisted, "under former regimes, one could easily distinguish their platforms, based on their party affiliation. Thus, under the 3rd French Republic, so rich in parliamentary highlights, history tells us that the Commons were divided into three parties, whose political platforms were well defined."
"Oh!" the other answered, "we have none like that. A party's platform changes every day, according to the question being debated. Today, for this Sahara business there are those who support the Minister and those who support Vandrax. Tomorrow it will be something different. You do understand that there are no longer republicans and monarchists, nor . . . ;"
Murlich, smiling, interrupted:
"Obviously such labels would no longer be meaningful, given the agreement which exists on the form of government."
"Consequently," Alix said, "you see that it is when the least reason exists for politicking, that the greatest politicking goes on. Our members' ancestors had very different issues to deal with, issues which no longer exist: cults, war, the navy. They were only 500 to do this. Ours only busy themselves with internal matters, twelve hundred of them are at it, and they still find a way of fighting amongst themselves."
"The Frenchman's belligerent intensity," the naturalist concluded, "finds its natural outlet in parliamentary sessions. It's logical."
His attention was diverted by Gulluliou, shaken by violent coughing. He immediately gave him a cough drop, anxiously patting him on the back. The ape panted, somewhat dazzled by the daylight that came through the windows, and by the restless multitude before him.
They returned their attention to what was happening at the front of the amphitheatre. Vandrax was still at the podium, he stood courageously, his voice fighting to overcome the crowd's powerful rumble, and the rhythmic sound of the desks. A thick haze, was hanging over the assembly, inciting the hot heads, of which one was searching the nooks and crannies of the room. The orator shouted out:
"I ask the honest parties in the Commons to sanction this nation's judgment by their verdict. Will the Minister of Labour, then dare to come to this podium to once again attempt to deflect public opinion? He'll not be able to do it! Light will be shed on everything. My supporters and I are ready to sustain the debate. The government's servile accomplices cannot quash our cry of alarm."
Again, the whistles and insults rained down on Vandrax. For an hour now, he had been fighting the storms which rumbled on either side, and had only been able to develop a tiny portion of his question. Suddenly, he flew into a rage, shook his fist at the left, screaming:
"Ah! you crooks, you will not let me speak, but I will speak nonetheless!"
This was the signal, from every side the ink-bottles arced across the room. The entire assembly was on their feet in a tumultuous and chaotic state. The tiers of seats, from top to bottom, were awash in invectives, and the members threw at each other anything which came to hand. Meanwhile, at the podium, twisting in every direction, alternately straightening up or leaning over, he bellowed:
"Bunch of scoundrels! You fear my words. And you who hold the title of Minister of Labour, Perrette, dirty thief and speculator!"
"Thief yourself," fumed Perrette leaping from his majority seat onto the orator, seizing him by the throat.
For a moment, the two men fought to see who would throw the other from the podium. Above them, the president was content to remain in cover and to frequently set off the great horn nearby, which had replaced the old bell. But already each group within the Commons was flying to the support of their champion: the right to Vandrax, the left to Perrette.
"Ah! now they're getting to the point!" Alix exclaimed as she looked towards Murlich. "Huh? what do you think of that?"
In the deafening din, among the bursts of shouting, and the bellowing of the horn, the dumbfounded scientist replied: "This is unheard of! unheard of!"
Vandrax's secretary had long since slipped over the gallery's bannister, to go down through the tiered seating, to the middle of the arena. He made the thumbs-down sign beside his master. The mˆl‚e was now generalized, people no longer fought in defence of Perrette or Vandrax, but for themselves, to allay their personal grudges, and express their distaste for one another. Isolated duels were increasing in frequency, with many such conscientious pairs beating on each other between the benches, with only their legs and arms sticking out.
Beneath the impassible bust of the Republic, the president overlooked the proceedings, scoring the blows as if it were a vote. Finally, when a last blast on the horn had no effect, he quickly took off his hat, his suit, pulled up his sleeves: he was an athlete. Bulging like knotted ropes, his strong muscles ended with his huge fists which hung down beside him. He climbed down with an escort of bailiffs, and began to clear a path, leaving a trail of broken noses and black eyes. Behind him, his phalange of bailiffs cleared the way, picked up the wounded and directed them to the adjoining infirmary. This happened quickly, only the front ranks on either side suffered much, the others disengaging themselves quickly. Perrette had to be taken off, Vandrax having broken three teeth from his dentures. The president of the council, against whom many of the people's representatives had obstinately continued to fight, had his clothes torn to rags. As for the furniture, its fragments littered the floor. Thus had bomb fragments, in the age of wars, been strewn over the battle field.
But both sides of a double door had opened on one side of the chamber. A muddled group entered the chamber and opened their session. Their uniform clothing, pressed short pants showing their black stockinged legs, portfolios tucked under their arms, gave the House's feminist contingent the look of a bunch of aging school. Ignoring the recent blows exchanged around them, as if nothing in the world was easier, they spread out over the tiers, they held forth and argued, adding their shrill voices to the more virile hubbub of the dwindling battle.
Everything seemed to finally be calming down. The president, back in his seat, solemnly put his suit back on, waiting only for a sign that relative calm had returned to the assembly, to reopen the proceedings, when a terrible, unbelievably raucous cry rang out. The great amphitheatre's walls seemed to multiply and allow this inhuman cry to persist.
And Gulluliou appeared halfway between the gallery and the rostrum, standing on an empty chair. For a moment he paused, hesitant, then with lightning speed he tore the clothes from his torso, tossing them into the stunned crowd. Covered only by his pants, he leapt, clearing several rows of seats. He roared out his cry again, and leapt again.
However, he had been recognized; terrified voices exclaimed: "Gulluliou! The pongo, Gulluliou!" And they fled.
Back there, in the gallery, others were shouting. Murlich and d'Alix, drawn to their feet in bewilderment at the ape's sudden frenzy, at this bout of madness. No one had seen him run off; suddenly beside himself, excited by the spectacle of the fight occurring before him, he must have taken advantage of a moment's inattention.
All was lost in the hubbub which pervaded the room. Gulluliou sprang forward again, reached the rostrum, which had been evacuated in the blink of an eye, and found himself, thrusting out his chest adorned with reddish-brown hair, swinging his long arms, thrusting forward his muzzle which a joyful laugh split from ear to ear, in the very spot Vandrax had lately been so eloquent. There was an epic moment; the entire assembly, men and women alike, were standing, shaking in fear before this furious beast. They waited to see what Gulluliou would do; the general hubbub had been followed by a heavy, anxious silence.
They saw the ape fill the water glass that stood nearby, and drink, though not without a thousand contortions. Then he stood still for a brief moment in order to take up a pose, and in a guttural and piercing voice, he shouted: "Ceeteezens!" He struck the desk with his fist, leaned out, then back: "Ceeteezens!"
A single word, remembered because of its frequent use, punctuated every gesture . . . ; "Ceeteezens!" . . . ; Finally he picked up steam, roaring out his name amidst a great guffaw of laughter, as if he wished to present it as a victory banner to those who watched him: Gul . . . lul . . . iou!"
But suddenly the parody took on another form. The nervous shock the creature had received, and the fact that he had stripped himself of his clothes, mimicking the president removing his suit to go down on the floor, could imply nothing less than a sub-latent thought of fighting. The speech represented nothing but the preliminaries. Gulluliou rocked forward, extending his fists towards his imaginary enemies, creating a stampede in the assembly. In one motion he swept the podium clean: ink-pot, paper, pens, glass, water jug . . . everything went flying. This notwithstanding, with the look of a warrior marching to the most holy of crusades, he leapt to the floor, moving forward with the appearance of a wrestler. Woe to him who stood in his way; Gulluliou, wishing to play his role to perfection, would have floored him with a friendly slap!
But the place had emptied out, the exits were closed, the gallery evacuated, only a few members, on the upper tiers, still jostling one another, trying to quickly find a way out, and a few bailiffs trying to put together the semblance of a barricade.
In the distance, through the walls, a cadenced noise of troops could be heard; a detachment of the Civic Guard was arriving.
Meanwhile, on the battleground, someone was coming down towards the dog: Murlich. A fixed gaze coming from behind his blue-tinted glasses, speaking only the name Son-of-Doves, the scientist went to his student, striving amidst his personal turmoil, to keep the necessary tone of authority in his voice. They were in front of one another. The pongo, naked to the waist, arms hanging, legs bent, ready to bolt again, turned his head for a moment, and made as if to escape. Murlich felt as if he was losing him, that the soul which had stolen from this body was lost to him forever.
But a clear voice had just arisen, and in turn called out: "Gulluliou!" The ape looked across to the gallery at the back and recognized Alix. His eyes flickered, fixed in a melancholy glow. To the brute's instinct, quasi-human intelligence succeeded.
Tamed, Gulluliou allowed Murlich to put his hand on his shoulder, and seeing that he was undressed, crossed his arms to cover his chest. He reverted to a man once more; his halting, wheezing breath betraying his weariness. A bout of hoarse coughing took hold of him.
The same night, Gulluliou spat up blood; he was consumed with fever. Immediately upon his return to Auteuil, the doctor had been called. When Darembert arrived, already aware of the events through the afternoon's newspapers, he shrugged his shoulders, like a churlish man who has been disturbed for no good reason.
"What the blazes do you expect me to do?" he said. "You amuse yourself allowing him to kill himself, and then you come looking for me!"
Nonetheless, he remained at the patient's bedside; no one slept in the house that night, each in turn sitting up for a portion of the night. Everything was a mess, the elder Mulich's strong constitution was shaken by this unexpected turn of events. His clear-sightedness made it impossible for him not to be anxious. Alix, disconsolate, blamed herself for bringing on this situation; but the scientist did not begrudge her this, his experience having taught him to bow before the whims of destiny.
Darembert was truly perplexed as to what to do to treat such a condition. His science applied to a man would undoubtedly have effected a miraculous result. But in the case of an ape, notwithstanding medicine's already advanced understanding of the anthropoidal physiology, it was difficult to be confident of oneself. Darembert, gruff by frank, did not conceal his doubts and fears.
"We are virtually colleagues, are we not? I can tell you anything. Well then! we're going through a bad bout, a very bad bout. I would have kept him alive, I don't know how long, if he hadn't acted so irresponsibly! Hadn't I made my recommendations clear in any number of ways: the greatest prudence was required, and no excitement! That crazy adventure in the commons was the straw that broke the camel's back. We are, my dear professor, before a body which had been completely sapped --; do you understand? --; by a sickness that was only progressing very slowly, suddenly flared up under the shock!"
Murlich bowed his head:
"It is destiny," he muttered.
Upon these words, the doctor, who had just sat down to write out the recipe for a potion, looked at Murlich and shrugged his shoulders heavily.
"You believe in destiny!" he said, a tinge of disdain in his voice, "That would be the last thing I would believe in. I believe in man. Man creates his own destiny. You're rather more of an ideologue, are you not, doctor?"
"What can you do, it's one of my weaknesses," confessed Murlich with a somewhat flippant composure. My scientific experience and speculations do not preclude me from believing that there may exist forces which eclipse human will. Take, for example, what the great Hetking called the supra-vital vortex, except that where Hetking's theories only apply to the evolution of the races, I would extend the influence of the supra- vital vortex to a sequence of events; I give it a subjective significance."
"While I will submit myself to your authority in such matters, I do not agree with you. I believe that in our era we must throw off all moral constraints, as we have shed all our material ones, and the day will come when man will be able to be on an even footing with Nature. We can produce rain, hail, storms on demand, so what would stop our children from altering the course of our seasons, and thus, at their whim, modify the balance of forces which has so far dictated our climatological and, consequently, our societal conditions throughout the world. They shall be masters not only of physical phenomena, but also of their own destinies. This is why we needn't worry ourselves regarding their fate, for, after us, they will know how to rejuvenate the Earth, such that it will last forever, with no unforeseen circumstances!"
"You believe this, doctor?" interrupted Murlich, fastening his penetrating eyes on him, through his tinted glasses. Well then, I'll further surprise you."
He went over to some book-filled shelves at the back of the room, and showed Darembert a small pamphlet.
"By telling you that I have made this the cornerstone of my life." And he read the title on the greyish cover: A Christian's Revelation.
"A Christian's!" the doctor blurted out in a low voice "Is this something modern? Are there still Christians around?"
Oh! Christians, I'm sure there's still some around, just like there must still be some devotees of all the religions which have existed. I'm not acquainted with any myself . . .as for this pamphlet, it is roughly a century old. I had it from my father's library, it has always been in my family. It is most curious, this account of an ecstatic state which the author, who goes by the name of Florian, Catholic abbot, presents."
Yes, a pamphlet! There were tons of them in that era."
"Wait . . . in this ecstatic trance, God appeared to him, to announce the coming of a deluge comparable to that which had devastated the Earth in the earliest Antiquity. Of course, this in of itself is not so extraordinary, but what is, is that with regards to a coming deluge, the visionary in question agrees with Hetking: and the American scientist only expressed this opinion many years after the probable publication date of this pamphlet."
"So what then?" asked Darembert, "is this why you admire it so much?"
"Primarily for that reason . . . because the idea set forth corresponds closely to my conception of our planet's future, and especially because of the philosophical pleasures its reading has afforded me. Yes, I admit, I sometimes like to unwind from my work by wandering into a less materialistic field. This is where we butt heads, doctor, is it not?"
The doctor objected:
"My dear professor, you have just now cited Hetking . . . ; You have named, if you'll allow me to point out, one of the greatest of materialists . . . For you to have adopted his doctrine of the supra-vital vortex would seem to preclude any such metaphysical leanings in your views. Have we not heard you, at the Museum of Natural History no less, declare the religious practices of yesteryear . . . ;"
"Oh! I'm not talking about the rites themselves, I would be the first to proclaim their vanity. History has shown us that the exterior manifestations of a cult of divinity have always been inversely related to freedom of thought. Truly, a God who forces you to remain under his yoke, rather than drawing you to him with love, must be rejected. However, were I to tell you that I did not aspire towards a certain spiritual ideal greater than the current state of humanity, I would be lying. Would you reproach me espousing Hetking and his law, rather than pure materialism? Did our ancient cosmogonies offered no more grandiose a view than that presented us by species after species, linked one to another, through endlessly mutating matter! . . .; How do you see this leading irrevocably to atheism?"
"But," said Darembert, "Hetking's theory, an extension of Darwin's, closes the cycle of organic evolution. Now Darwin, showing the links which united all species since the Earth began, established not only the analogous nature of their physical constitutions, but also that of their emotional makeups. In so doing he demolished his era's fortress of dogmatism: the belief in the immortality of the soul. He proved that there reigns, over any emotional baggage any animal, including man, might have, the so-called "universal law of the conservation of matter and energy."
"Every Biblical fable demolished, the mystical theories of Plato, of Christ, of Mohammad --; all sapped. This is what Darwin did, and especially what Hetking, who extended his work, did . . . ; So you see, my dear professor, that from there to pure rationalism . . .;"
Murlich shook his head:
"Rationalism, yes, a word that well describes an era of reasoning taken to extremes. Ah! reason, we've got plenty of that, so much so that the tree has dried up to its very core from keep its branches bent to earth. Well then (He raised his brow, and the light played upon the lens of his glasses), I say that, far from driving me from the concept of a conscious finality having directed all the different transformations of Nature leading to our creation, Hetking's system forces me to such a conclusion! . . . Do you think our morals would be hindered by it?"
But Darembert, visibly annoyed, grumbled:
"How about we talk about our patient instead?"
Sadness immediately returned to Murlich's features, who, as was his custom, had lost himself for a moment, contributing all of his scientific earnestness to the discussion!
"You're right!" he said, his voice suddenly tinged with fear.
"Now," Darembert added, "you needn't give in to despair! I still have a few tricks up my sleeve! Let's deal with the fever first, that's what mainly worried me, as it brings on delirium."
And he prescribed, based on a new method which he had just inaugurated at his clinic at the National Homeless Shelter, febrifugal injections, coupled with the administration of a sedative. At the same time, an intravenously-administered physiologically-adapted serum would sustain the patient.
"I will come every day," he concluded. Besides, I'll contact two colleagues for a consult. The days I am unable to come myself, I'll send one of my assistants."
"Thank you, thank you doctor," Murlich repeated, shaking Darembert's hand. The latter, crossly, but not spitefully, added:
"No need to thanks me, the case interests me. And besides, even were it only for you!
Minnili, Minnili, the little
Bird, hops about the branches
That night, Alix was keeping watch over Gulluliou . . . ; The suite was quiet, wrapping in a sleepy calm the damp room, stagnant with the smell of stale medications. It was nine o'clock. Alix was waiting for Murlich to come and relieve her of her guard duty for a part of the night. Sitting near the bed, she daydreamed in the subdued glow of a veiled light. Gulluliou had had a bad bout of delirium, he had now just fallen asleep, short-winded, his emaciated body stretched out under the covers.
The young woman dreamed of vague things. In one corner the great palm leaf fluttered under invisible currents.
Suddenly, Gulluliou awoke and rose up on his elbow. With his disease-sunken eyes he stared at Alix. He remained this way for a moment. In the shadowy half-light, a worrisome fire rose in the depth of this stare: Alix recognized the same little flame of stifled brutality, coming to the surface. She had seen it once before, this shifty flame, and again she was afraid. For, had she had any doubt of Gulluliou's enamoured state, the ill-intentioned glow was back, reminding her.
In the white nightshirt, the white of the sheets and pillow, in all the white of this child's bed, the grey sunken- eyed face with its pouting lips took on an expression of hate. Man and beast, still fighting it out behind those shifting pupils.
The ape stirred. Words slipped from his mouth.
"Alix, you beautiful!"
She got up. He heart beat in womanly apprehension. Alone with Gulluliou, just like the other time! She forced herself to speak, softly:
"Come on Gulluliou, get some sleep!
"No . . . ; you beautiful!"
"Are you thirsty? Do you want something to drink?
"No, Alix . . . Love you!"
He drew himself up more. He was sitting now. He repeated: "Love you!" grinding his teeth. His face became haggard, as on the brink of a bout of fever-induced delirium. The beast was winning, a burst of energy was rising from the darkness of his primitive soul, from the vast forests of his native land, from the sap spurting from the torn vegetation.
He took one of his black legs out from under the sheets.
Alix did not want to cry out. She feared that such a cry would only further irritate the beast, and precipitate that which threatened her. No, she would defend herself if it came to that! Her virginity became tinged with virile courage.
A Malayan dagger was hanging on the wall, near the window.
"Love you, Alix, love you!
Gulluliou had gotten down out of bed, standing, his arms extended, tottering for a few seconds. Then, he began to move towards her. Hideous, pityful and terrifying, emaciated and hairy, his head wavering atop his bony frame, his coat the brown of an empty gourd. He kept going; he was now in the middle of the room, uttering the same words, with the same monomaniacal insistence:
"You beautiful, Alix! Love you! Love you! You beautiful."
Sometimes his voice took on a coaxing tone, at times full of sweet nothings, then it would screech, like a tight rope on a rusted pulley. His red eyelids blinked, drool hung in thin threads from the long hairs on his chin; with his fingers, he drew things out in air in crooked motions. From time to time, his chest was hammered by deeps coughs.
Previously screened from her by his nightshirt, what the light revealed for but a moment was so monstrous, so clearly detailed, that Alix no longer hesitated. She took a step, and extended her hand to the knife.
Gulluliou, wild with lust was going to reach her. With his own dark, frantic virginity he leapt forward to conquer this womanly virginity. In such a manner would his brothers, deep in a jungle awash in the vigour of the tropical flora, consummate their matings.
In disgust and terror, the memory of the creature's kiss kept coming back to her like a hiccough; had she not wiped it from her mouth as she had wiped it from her memory! Were those lips, those horrid lips of a wild beast, of a disease-riddled creature, once again going to assault hers, to drink afresh from the fruit she had kept from any further outrage?
It was a beast after all, and since the beast was not laying down his weapons, why spare him?
She drew the knife from its sheath and held it tightly in her hand.
But suddenly, before she moved any further, Gulluliou stopped and staggered, his hands searching across his chest. His joints collapsing he dropped into an arm chair behind him. He was taken by a fit, blood issuing from his mouth stood out in beads, staining his clothes. He moaned in pain.
Before this blood and this collapse, Alix was unable to hold back a cry, a single cry, issuing from her tight throat. And moved only by pity, she stayed the patient's collapse, forgetting both the danger she had been exposed to and her anger.
Quick steps in the stairs, voices in the hallway. The door opened, Murlich appeared, along with Darembert, who was coming for his nightly visit:
"What's going on? Did you call?"
Pale, she has risen to feet: any resentment she had harboured once again stricken from her proud and independent character. She indicated Gulluliou, collapsed, exhausted, plaintively moaning:
"Doctor . . . a bout of delirium. He wanted to get up and I was unable to stop him . . . ; I only had time to stop him from going any further . . . ; He went and collapsed there, in that armchair But I was afraid, that's why I screamed!
"I understand, I understand," replied the doctor. "Damn, such accidents are awfully annoying! . . . ; He has a serious case of hæmoptysis . . . ; We'll put him back to bed. Will you help me, Mr.Murlich? . . . ; I hope it won't be too serious."
They put Gulluliou back in bed.
Alix had remained stock still, inside the ring of shadows cast by the light shade. He heart was still aflutter, striking the bars of her chest like a mad prisoner. She had not let go of the dagger.
Then, unassumingly, she hung it back on the wall, without a word to anyone
Finally the ape regained consciousness. He could recognize those around his narrow bed: Darembert holding his wrist took his pulse, peering at the thermometer he drew from beneath the patient's armpit; Murlich, a sad smile on his face, his beard iridescent, his glasses reflecting the virginal d‚cor; Alix, who had immediately hastened to his side at the news that he was going through a lucid interval. The Le patient saw the three familiar figures. His eyes, which were half closed in the daylight, fluttered with quiet happiness, the words he sought were translated into a little gurgle in his throat. He was too weak. On the doctor's instructions, the nurse who watched over him had had him drink something, a spoonful of a thirst-quenching wine. The patient coughed; they wiped his mouth.
His temples were hollow, the flattening of his skull making his ears stick out, his sunken cheeks emphasizing his jaw:
"My little Gullu," Murlich said in pongo as he leaned over him, "can you recognize your master?
The ape's thick lips, raised at the corners for an instant, sank under their own weight, and, buried in the pillow, his head moved in an affirmative sign, while he continued to gurgle in a weak attempt to speak.
Alix, in turn approached, her thin features tense with emotion, assuring herself of his consciousness fitful wakefulness.
Alas! Angry at herself, judging herself irrational and stupid, powerless before this near-human creature. She felt confused: why was it that she could be so cold and self-assertive towards men, yet freely forgive the vagaries of an ape? She did not know, and preferred not to look too deeply into the question, for each time she returned to it, it was with heartfelt pity for the poor, mysterious Gulluliou. Far from hating him, she shared in a vague manner in his suffering.
But Lucie, the chambermaid, knocked softly at the door, announcing that someone was still waiting downstairs to see Gulluliou: a journalist who wished to be invited in. Darembert shrugged his shoulders: "shall they never leave the poor beast alone?" It had gone on this way since the notorious events at the Legislature, since it became known that Gulluliou was bedridden. The newspapers constantly sent out reporters to get the latest news. Even the general public showed up, and were ruthlessly tossed out. The door had remained strictly closed; Murlich no longer went out; helplessly watching the rapid, cruel collapse of so many years of work, of his greatest hopes, of the one who was the greatest recipient of his affections. However, the situation was not desperate yet, but had Darembert himself not voiced his fears? Such an expert's lack of certainty became almost a death warrant.
It was the end of April. The spring was rising up everywhere in its pale greenery, gracile as fine gauze stretched over the trees. Countless buds had burst forth in the Auteuil gardens at the sun's first caress. In front of the house the chestnuts were already covered in young leaves, in advance of the laburnum and birches, which were barely speckled with emerald. But this palette of greens extended to the shrubs along the grillwork of the fence, to the privet, whose previous year's foliage darkly speckled the otherwise pale green of the new growth, and to the laurels and euonymus splaying out like mirrors the varnished leaves which winter had been unable to wither. Inside the curves of the sandy walkways the lawn was refreshing the soil with it fresh blanket. A border of irises, near the porch, displayed the speckled purple of its calyces. At the back of the garden, against Murlich's pavilion, a bed of pink hyacinths was beginning to flower, already giving off their lovely aroma. Along with these, a few tufts of violets and a bed of fire-red primrose accounted for the few flowers that were out yet.
Gulluliou fully regained his lucidity. In his bed he appeared as intelligent and familiar as before, but his gestures and the rare things he would say were tinged with melancholy. From his long body all nervous energy was gone; as thin as they were, his arms seemed heavy, only rising very slowly, his awkward- fingered hands emerging brown and limp from his white sleeves. Gulluliou would from time to time take some sugared wine, some egg yolks, some milk. He altogether refused any meat. He was given a number of toys, small musical instruments, cardboard animals, dolls. He would amuse himself for a few moments, soon stopping to cough. His cough came in starts, very weakly, but repeatedly, and one sensed that they tore apart this worn out machine.
This went on for eight days. Darembert multiplied his visits, using all the resources in his arsenal to maintain in place the life-force which sought, at every moment, to desert Gulluliou. Meanwhile, the house remained gloomy, drowning in an atmosphere of expectancy and sadness. Murlich and Alix felt the vague hope they had so long entertained, vanish with every hour the decline in the poor creature's condition progressed. Besides, the doctor, one morning himself anticipated Murlich's questions:
"Yes indeed! It's clear to me that it's over." said Darembert. "I was right, back in the month of January, the first time you called me, to warn you of the climate. They all wind up this way these poor creatures! They need to be in the Tropics."
"But," the naturalist objected, drawn, in spite of himself, to reply by his habit for controversy, "others have managed to make monkeys from Borneo and Africa survive in our cold latitudes. I've witnesses some cases. If Gulluliou dies, it is fate, it is not through any lack of vigilance on my part. Certainly it would be no exaggeration, in one way or the other, to say that being overly protective would have been to preclude any chance the poor little one would have had to acclimatize. But perhaps he was too young, yes perhaps I should have waited. Ah! we learn from everything, regardless of one's age!"
And Murlich, his head bowed, led the doctor through the pavilion's narrow hall, accompanied him across the spring garden, awash in golden sunlight, where the sparrows noisily chirped their happiness at the awakening of the light.
A half-daylight penetrated through poorly closed drapes, and the night-light still burned. Gulluliou had sat up in bed, his head held high, and, smiling he held the scientists' hands in his own. When Alix entered, he turned towards her with a deep shudder, and looked at her without saying a word. The young woman drew closer, her eyes questioning Murlich, who with a despairing nod of his head confirmed the worst. The nurse returned, and put out the night-light.
Gulluliou shifted his legs, his eyes on the window, and said in pongo:
"I want to see the daylight . . . the sun shining!"
Murlich signalled that they open the drapes. Light flooded the room, bathing its white knick-knack-laden walls, the great palm leaf, balanced over the heating duct, continuing its endless, silent, rhythmic movement. Gulluliou surveyed all of this, his eyes dazzled for a moment. His hands painfully tore at his chest, he issued a soft plaintive moan, then whispered:
"I want to breathe the wind coming through the trees."
"Look," said Munich, "how beautiful the trees are. Can you see the leaves?"
"No . . . ; I want to see the leaves . . . I want to get up, I am strong!"
"Get up! Oh! you mustn't my little Gullu, as you well know the doctor has forbidden it!"
But the ape shook his head, rising on his two fists, trying to get his long legs out from the covers, where a last bit of energy was manifest. And since anything which might now upset him would likely be worse than the thing itself, Murlich cautiously offered no further resistance. Overcome with pity, they watched Gulluliou, risen to his feet, totter. The expression on his face showed no weakness, but rather a great happiness.
He moved like a drunkard, as they covered him with a dressing-gown, the view of the trees from the bay-window still hidden by the tulle drapes, which the nurse moved aside. Through the windows the view was awash with foliage, treetops. From among the large leaves of a nearby chestnut branch emerged fluffy pink and white cones about to flower. A long wisteria branch waved in the breeze, following the same rocking motion as the palm leaf in the corner of the room. Gulluliou dropped back into the archaic which had been pushed up behind him, remaining still a moment, his eyes wide. The coo-coo clock tolling the half-hour in the entrance hall downstairs surprised him a little. His teeth jutting out, he smiled weakly and said:
Then, suddenly, he cried out unexpectedly:
Alix had sat down beside him. The ape drew his eyes from the garden to look at her, and it was the same worrisome some look from the depths of his eyes, both piercing and soft, a look the young woman knew to be a silent avowal of his love. She was troubled, so overcome with sadness before this creature's dying moments, that she had to hold back her tears. The fierce independence she had cultivated would come to this: crying over the death of an ape. Memories unconsciously came back to her, flashing past but distinct, of what had transpired in the theatre- box, the night of The Triumph of Man, when Maximin had undoubtedly elicited by the leaven of jealousy the love which already smoldered in Gulluliou. Then came, brutal, the attempts at savage passion, this bestial aberration which the mysterious conquering superiority of man over beast had overcome. O! what influence, what effluvia could measure the distance, often imperceptible between the two species, attesting, regardless of physical makeup, to the dominance of one over the other? Perhaps Gulluliou was dying of having guessed, in his animal consciousness, of this yet unsurmountable barrier.
Murlich, having left for a moment, reentered with the chambermaid who was bringing in a small tray, upon which Gulluliou, his vision still clear, recognized some bananas. He smiled again, more cheerfully, and extended his hand. The plate held between his knees, which were bent into an acute angle beneath his dressing-gown, he ate slowly, peeling the yellow fruit in a long-accustomed manner. The ape's cadenced and laboured breathing, while he enjoyed this small pleasure, was all that broke the silence. He had offered bananas to his two friends, who had declined. He ate them all up, with an appetite which belied his worn out body. He even drank a full glass of muscat, and began to repeat in pongo, with an increasing firmness which lit up the eyes in his ashen face:
"I am strong now, I am strong. Look Alix! Look, master!"
He was strong! With a nod of his head, Murlich now considered the decline of this individual on the threshold of adolescence, whose strength had no doubt exceeded that of an adult man, but who, now weaker than an old man, was in his death throes. For science would not be deceived, this seeming recovery was only a portent of an impending death, as if the grim reaper wished to first intoxicate those whom he would soon favour with the kiss of eternal sleep!
Nine o'clock tolled; Murlich knew the doctor would not be long in arriving, that he would arrive in time, although, clear signs of collapse were already apparent. The ape no longer spoke, but watched Alix et Munich. This life's end within the rebirth of spring was attended with a tragic yet gentle wait.
For a moment, Gulluliou's gurgling breath came with greater difficulty, and a series of coughs made him wince. He put his hand to his hollow chest, a pink froth rose to his lips, which the nurse immediately wiped away with a handkerchief. Murlich took the dying creature's arm, felt for a pulse: a frightful temperature; a man with such a fever would have long ago passed out. The battle Gulluliou's mortal frame kept up against the fatal incursion was no less than superhuman.
Almost another hour passed; the room was plunged into le silence. Curled up in the back of his armchair, the ape continued to die, visibly weakening. He frequently closed his eyelids for prolonged periods of time, as if asleep, his life seemingly reduced to his wheezy breathing. From time to time, they made him swallow a spoonful of medicine or tonic. Alix, moving about noiselessly, prepared the medicine, and helped the nurse make up the bed a bit. Finally Darembert's arrival was announced; Murlich hurried down to meet him:
"Ah! doctor, we've been waiting for you!"
Darembert, frowning, asked:
"He is worse?"
Quickly the naturalist brought him up to date. As he spoke, the other shuffled his rough shoulders, knitted his wide brow and clean-shaven face. It was over. There was no doubt about it.
"Nothing remains," said Darembert, "but to try to prolong what little time he has."
"Prolong it? Whatever for?" replied Murlich. "It's over, isn't it? Why then maintain a delusion from which we can only suffer when it will have disappeared? No, no, doctor, no more serums, they would only create an artificial state. Gulluliou is no more. He has played his role; nothing will be lost. Nothing is ever lost (He daydreamed aloud, his voice quavering). Ah! How I would have enjoyed taking him all the way. I had an impact on this life of his."
In spite of his usual scepticism, Darembert was overcome, blurting out an avowal of his hidden admiration:
"Dear professor, your contributions to science are such that your name will be remembered amongst the foremost of your time. You have been able to convince many of your adversaries. Indeed, Hetking's theory, I myself long denied it! Anyhow!"
The two scientists looked upon each other in the full light of this bright morning. One glance had ended their revelatory exchange. Murlich had proved experimentally the great theory which assigned humanity a new destiny, less prideful, and more in keeping with the laws of Nature.
In the few moments of silence afforded them, Murlich and Darembert, --; the latter now shaken in his beliefs --; could, with their ability to quickly reason things out, foresee all the implications of the mysteries hidden by the mere idea of Gulluliou, the near-human. The circle was widening. Based on the humanity of the present, they conceived of that of the future, that of faraway times. When would the human race begin slipping, when would it be replaced by another?
And until then, through what phases would it pass, what modifications would it endure? Would it indeed, after a universal cataclysm, renew itself for another period of time, as the great American evolutionist had predicted? Would the new Deluge announced by Hetking, and, before him by friar Florian, ever take place? These questions were thrown together in a confused manner in these minds accustomed to quick and bold conclusions.
Murlich headed for the stairs, telling the doctor:
"Let's get up there quick, so you can see him."
But on one of the garden's gravel paths a footsteps were heard, then a pause. The entrance hall was tinged with the light filtering through the green and blue-tinted glass panels of the door which open on the vestibule. Maximin could be seen through the door. He entered:
"The ladies in the workroom have informed me," he said to the naturalist, after having acknowledged Darembert, "that Miss Alix, is here at your patient's bedside."
"Yes," answered Murlich, "he is much worse, very very much worse! It truly is the end! Would you like to come up with us?"
The poet hesitated, wondering if he should go in the room and show himself before the dying creature. Between him and Alix, whom he had seen once or twice since the ape's relapse, the creature had rarely come up in conversation: Maximin would ask of the patient's condition, in which he interested himself for appearance's sake, if not entirely sincerely, and she would invariably answer evasively.
"Perhaps seeing me, who am not entirely on familiar terms with her lately, would impress her? Ah! the poor creature, I did not think him in so serious a state. Well, I'll come with you, and stay off in the wings should it be necessary."
The doctor and Maximin followed Murlich, who had already reached the first floor and was signalling them to walk on their tiptoes. They entered Gulluliou's room.
Ten o'clock tolled downstairs, it had been roughly two hours since the ape had risen from his bed. Alix, seeing the poet, approached him; Maximin silently sensed the need for an excuse, mumbling something about the scientist having led him there, and that he would only stay a moment. Already the young woman had joined the doctor, who was taking Gulluliou's temperature. The pongo had just fallen into a faint; a few drops of ether between the lips had revived him. Darembert, shrugging his shoulders, spoke softly to his assistants.
"Nothing, nothing we can do. Leave him here, he will pass any moment now, just like a lamp which is suddenly extinguished when the current fails. The most rapidly progressing case I've ever seen!"
Gulluliou had just opened his eyes, had drawn a long breath, his throat gurgling. Then with a jerking cough he spat out a large clot of blood.
Blood came forth from his nostrils, his temples and eyes even more hollowed out; a spoonful of muscat poured into his mouth was rejected. He began to mouth a series of unrelated syllables: Alix listened. Rhythmically, Gulluliou shook his right hand, weighed down on the arm of the chair. He spluttered out almost imperceptibly:
Minnili, Minni . . .; li!The young woman understood: on the ape's knees she laid the doll. Gulluliou took the fragile toy which in his weakened hands seemed as weighted down. With his despondent eyes he gazed upon Minnini. Evocative of his distant childhood, was the little forest-bird not still singing in the mind of this exile from foreign race? Minnili, Minni . . . li! There was in the clear morning light which accompanied the death of this brother of a lower order, human beings who stood in silence, in the grip of a great sadness: Alix holding back her tears, Murlich his hand squeezing that of Son-of-Doves, Darembert seeking a miracle, Maximin, stirred to the very depths of his poet- philosopher's compassion.
For a moment, having moved closer to Gulluliou, Maximin saw the ape's eyes shift up, missing him, moving towards Alix's and locking on them for a time, before closing under the shock of the bright light. For a brief second the same shudder united these three individuals born of a common fibre. Alix and Maximin were filled with pity for one another, and for the one on the brink of death, who left them with the sadness of having loved.
Time crawled by, Gulluliou had been still. Darembert, taking on full responsibility, had tried vainly tried injections of caffeine and serum. The dying creature continued to weaken, burning up with fever, from time to time spitting up chunks of his lungs. The doctor took his temperature:
"Forty-two-five" he whispered to a frightened Murlich.
Around eleven-thirty, Maximin felt it better to leave, knowing himself to be an outsider, and of no help in this prolonged deathwatch.
Gulluliou began to struggle against his impending death: he was perfectly conscious, for his eyes remained fixed, with an expression de suffering and affection, now on Murlich and now on Alix. His hands clamped down in irregular convulsions along the arm of the chair. The hæmoptysis worsened, became a near constant retching up of blood. It was horrible; the ape's powerful death-rattle throat was impeded from emerging from his throat a frothy gurgling. Twice more, he passed out, they thought it was over. Darembert had to check if his heart was still beating.
The naturalist tried to encourage Alix to leave, to avoid witnessing such a death, but she insisted on staying.
"No, no, I beg you, leave me stay until the end, it's the least you can do, dear cousin, to allow me to be near you in this time!"
Highly agitated, she smothered her short sobs by biting into her handkerchief. Ah! what a horrible thing to see a soul perish; an inferior one perhaps, but one which loved you . . . Loved! Gulluliou loved her! But why then was she now crying? No! impossible, monstrous, mad! No, she could not love Gulluliou
Yet nonetheless, she cried.
So as to no longer see, she turned, her forehead against a window, looking at the sun-drenched garden.
At last, when the familiar old coo-coo in the entrance hall tolled noon, Murlich, Darembert and the nurse saw Gulluliou, who had been passed out for a time, open his eyes. He looked straight ahead of him. His face, somewhat contracted, relaxed, his features taking on a human-like resignation, and through the gurgling of a clot behind his teeth, a barely audible voice came forth from between his slightly parted lips. He whispered:
"Alix, Alix . . ."
"Boorli, Boorli ! (The trees, the trees!)"
Frozen in place, he nonetheless seemed to stretch himself out towards some unknown point which only his pupils could perceive, his mouth only stirring weakly, while his entire huge body had collapsed, as if folded back into the chair. But Murlich, tapping Alix on the arm, told her to open the window. Light flooded into the brightly-painted room, the freshness of clean air, the rustling of the birds superimposed on the patient's death rattles. And Gulluliou, his face in an almost idealised smile, plumbed the spring sky -- up there -- with his troubled gaze. For a few moments he seemed to listen to the garden's thousands voices, repeating the soft and faraway song of Minnili, the little bird of the guava tress.
Then, a hiccough rose in his throat, he stopped moving, his suffering ended.
Darembert bent over, and raising his head, deeply moved, mumbled:
He held Murlich and Alix's hands.
His eyes full of tears, Murlich said, simply and truthfully:
"My poor child!"
And the man bemoaned the death of the one who had allowed him a glimpse at the mystery of the future: Gulluliou was gone, he was back in his land of warm humid light, where things were more beautiful, where his race would continue to ascend.
Before the mortal remains of this strange soul, human beings cried.
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All other Original Work ©1996-2007 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.