CHAPTER I: THERE ARE LIMITS TO BALAOO'S PATIENCE
When Balaoo appeared on the edge of the forest, the autumn sun, which was setting behind the little village of Saint-Martin-des-Bois, sent its last rays shooting down upon him. And Balaoo, dazzled, immediately went back under wood, to wait until it was quite dark, for he would have done anything rather than face a member of the Human Race in his tattered overcoat and his torn trousers.
Not to mention that he had lost his hat. This careless attire and the job which he had just pulled off at Riom led him to avoid the high-road and to look askance upon the passers-by. He sat down quietly in the middle of a thicket and leant against the trunk of a beech to put on his boots, which he usually took off when he was going through the forest and sure of not meeting any of the Race.
The fact was that he had been taught never to attract attention either by his get-up or by his wild-man's gestures. Since he had had explained to him what a pithecanthrope  was, he accentuated the gentleness and shyness of his manners, for he wished on no account to be confused with a member of the monkey race, who are so rude and ill-bred. It was quite bad enough to be taken, because of his almond eyes, his slightly flattened nose and his face with the broad flat surfaces, for a native of Hal-Nan, whom Dr. Coriolis, who had been French consul at Batavia, had brought back from his travels and taken into his service as his gardener.
So Balaoo put on his boots. As he found some difficulty in forcing in his hind-hands — for Balaoo could say what he liked: pithecanthrope though he was, he had more of the monkey than the man about him, since he had four hands, which is the obvious characteristic of the quadrumana — he heaved slight sighs, in other words, he gave forth growls which the inhabitants of Saint-Martin-des-Bois had more than once taken for the premonitory sounds of a storm.
Moreover, it was one of his favourite amusements to imitate the thunder with his reverberating, rolling voice, when far away from men, to frighten them. He distinctly remembered seeing his father and mother filling the whole family — his little brothers, his little sisters, his old aunt and him, Balaoo — with unspeakable delight by striking their chests, down yonder, in the heart of the Forest of Bandong, not so very far from the bamboo villages built hanging over the swamps. They thumped their chests like mensingers about to raise their voice; and they brought forth the thunder. Oh, it was quick work! Hidden behind the mangroves, they at once saw the bravest members of the Human Race, even the very Dyaks, who are armed with bows and arrows, run like water-rats in search of a shelter, of a well-fortified kampong, behind which they heard them call upon Patti Palang Kaing, the king of the animals, himself. What fun they had in those days! Balaoo had his boots on. He reflected that, now, when he mimicked the voice of the thunder, he was scolded on returning home. And there was cause for it, no doubt; for, after all, he ran the risk that, one fine day, it would be discovered that the thunder was he! And his master had told him flatly that he would not answer for the consequences. The members of the Human Race, if they found Balaoo out, would treat him like a gorilla or a common gibbon. He would be popped into a cage. . . and a good job too! He had better bear that in mind.
What he had in mind at the moment was the stroke of work which he had done at Riom. And, when, by the last glimmer of daylight, he saw two gendarmes pass along the road, the short hairs on the top of his head stood up and began to move swiftly to and fro, an unmistakable sign of terror. . . or of rage.
He considered that the gendarmes did not go away quick enough. He was late: he had been away two days. He wished himself home again. What would his master and Mlle. Madeleine say? He could hear their reproaches now: they had had to look for him, to call after him in the forest. All the same, before he went in, he must go and tell Zoé of the stroke of work which he had done at Riom.
The road was free. He crossed it at a bound and ran across the fields to the cabin of the Three Brothers Vautrin.
It stood midway between the forest and the village, all by itself, on the roadside, with a screen of poplars behind it. It consisted of but one floor, covered with a thatched roof, from which rose a single chimney sending its smoke straight up into the peaceful evening. There was no light at the window. When he opened the door, a figure sitting huddled in the chimney-corner asked:
"It's I, Noël."
Balaoo's voice was both dull and guttural, rasping out the syllables low down in the throat. Bottles and bottles of syrup had been used up in the effort to "humanize" that voice. It was a little painful, a little startling, but not unpleasant to listen to. And, even with that voice, as he possessed the genius of mimicry, he managed to imitate a number of other voices and to excite sympathy for an incurable sore throat. When he tried to soften it, when speaking to young ladies, it produced a queer piping sound which roused laughter; and he hated that. He went about saying that he owed that curious lack of control over his vocal organs to the excessive use of betel in his youth; but, of course, he had given up chewing since he entered the service of his kind master, Dr. Coriolis!
"It's I, Noël."
The figure in the chimney-corner rose and another dark figure, in a recess in the wall, sat up on end. Mother Vautrin, the old paralyzed woman, and little Zoé looked at him with questioning eyes.
Zoé struck a match. Balaoo knocked it out of her hand and put his foot on the burning wood. He said there were gendarmes on the road and he did not want to be seen in the cabin. The old mother moaned in her dark corner; and the breath rattled in her throat, for she was very ill; but the first words uttered by Balaoo gave her relief:
"They will be here, in a cart, at eleven o'clock tonight. . . . Have everything ready. . . ."
Zoé was on her knees, kissing the pithecanthrope's boots:
"Have you saved them, Noël? .. . Have you seen them? . . . Are they coming, all three of them?"
And she named them, to make sure that not one would be missing: "Siméon? Élie? Hubert?"
"Yes, Siméon, Élie and Hubert!"
"You've done it, Noël, you've done it?"
She continued to drag herself at his feet, but he pushed her away with his heel. The girl irritated him: when brothers were at liberty, she was always complaining about being beaten; and, now that she heard that they had been rescued from prison, she was licking his boots for joy.
"Quick!" he said. "Let me get back. What will they say to me at home?"
The child burst into tears:
"Mlle. Madeleine has been looking for you all day. She went all over the forest calling out, 'Balaoo! . . . Balaoo! . . . Balaoo! . . ."
"Oh, bad luck!" said Balaoo, giving himself a great blow, on the chest, which resounded like a gong.
And he left without even taking leave of the old woman, so great was his hurry to get away.
Once outside, he sniffed the air. It no longer smelt of gendarmes. He went through the vineyard, by a path which he knew well, from taking it a hundred times when he had leapt his master's wall to fetch the Vautrins and go with them in search of adventures or to have "a rare old spree" in the forest. And he at once reached the back of the Coriolis estate, by the little door opening on the woods. He carefully sniffed the path leading to the station, but it did not smell of railway-passengers. Then, trembling, he gave a tug at the bell. It tinkled so loudly that Balaoo almost fainted.
Footsteps creaked upon the dead leaves on the other side of the wall. Balaoo fell on his knees upon the stone threshold. The door opened and Balaoo at once felt a hand seize him by the ear.
"You rascal!" said an angry young female voice. "I'll make you pay for this! . . . Two days and two nights out of doors. . . and in such a plight! . . . A nice thing! . . . I could cry, to look at you! . . . I have cried, Balaoo, I have cried! . . . Oh, don't you go crying, you; don't you begin! You'll bring the whole village round you! . . . You young scamp, you!. . . All your clothes in rags! . . . Your new trousers! . . . our Paris overcoat! . . . You've been climbing the trees, sir, you've been larking in the moonlight! . . . And you've upset papa most terribly! . . ."
Dragged by the ear, docile, repentant, snivelling and with his heart throbbing loudly with remorse, Balaoo let the girl lead him to his quarters. But, on reaching the end of the kitchen-garden, where he was supposed to work with M. Coriolis, in he greatest mystery, at the different transformations of the bread-plant, and opening the door of his room, he found himself in the presence of Coriolis himself. He at once made a movement as though to return to the friendly forest at a bound.
Coriolis' face was colder, deader than marble.
Balaoo knew that expression. He dreaded nothing on earth so much as the sight of it. He would have preferred beatings and even the whippings with which he was tamed in his early youth to the silent reproach of those fixed eyes, of the haughty and contemptuous mask assumed by one of the Human Race who had obviously made a mistake in thinking that there was anything to be made out of a mere pithecanthrope.
And Coriolis' lips — if they moved at all, for there were days when they remained closed as though human speech would be disgraced by conversing with a pithecanthrope — Coriolis' lips were perhaps about to ask him, in front of Mlle. Madeleine — oh, the shame of it! — how his friends were, the great wild-boar of the Crau-mort and the wildsow, his good lady, and the little wild boars, their children; and had he brought a message from the family of wolves that lived on the table-rock of Madon? Oh, horror! He who used to visit the brothers Vautrin, before they went to prison! And who was treated by them as an equal, as one of the same race! And even that he must not say, of course, because his master had remarked to him, one day, after meeting him on the road with his three chums, that he would rather have seen him in the company of hyenas, and jackals! So that he no longer knew where he was! After all, they belonged to the Human Race, they did! . . .'
Coriolis moved his lips:
Balaoo did not obey.
But Balaoo did as though he had not heard. He knew that his overcoat was nothing more than a rag and that the seat of his trousers was hanging down behind. He could never display such a sight before Mlle. Madeleine.
Coriolis took a step towards Balaoo, who began to tremble in every limb. Madeleine interposed with her gentle voice, with her gentle face of entreaty. She had understood Balaoo's shame. She wanted to spare him the disgrace. His eyes filled with tears. Oh, he loved her, he loved her, he loved her! Goodness, how he loved her! . . .
But the doctor commanded:
"I want him to turn around!"
Then the soft voice said:
"Turn round, Balaoo dear!"
Ah! "Balaoo dear!" She could do what she pleased with him, when she dropped his man-name and called him by that which his father and mother had bestowed upon him in the Forest of Bandong: Balaoo! . . .
Balaoo dug his toe-nails into the soles of his boots and turned round.
Then a laugh which he had never heard before echoed through the room.
He spun round furiously. There stood a man whom he recognized at once from meeting him sometimes in the village street. He was the friend of the man who limped and whom he, Balaoo, could not stand at any price, the friend of that M. Bombarda whom he smacked in the face whenever the opportunity offered. He was the friend also of the gendarmes who had taken the Three Brothers to prison. Had he come to take Balaoo to prison too? What was he doing here? . . .
It was the first time that Balaoo had had the honour of having a stranger brought to see him! It was the first time that he was receiving a guest under his roof, that people condescended to introduce one of the Race to him in his own apartments! By Patti Palang Kaing, his king, his god, the man had laughed at the condition of the pithecanthrope's trousers! But Balaoo spun round so quickly and so furiously that the man's laughter broke off in the middle and the man himself, terror-stricken, rushed to take refuge behind the table.
"Don't be afraid, monsieur," said Coriolis. "He's not dangerous. He wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"A fly!" growled Balaoo, within himself. "A fly indeed! Better ask Camus, the tailor in the Cours National, who was always making fun of me, better ask him if I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"Come here, Noël," said Coriolis.
And, as Balaoo came forward, quivering with anger, Coriolis, with his grand white beard, resuming his kinder manner, gave the pithecanthrope a friendly little tap on his raging cheek. Balaoo drew in his dog-teeth and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. It was high time. Another minute and the stranger would have taken him for a brute.
The visitor said:
"It's extraordinary! I have seen monkeys at the music-hall, but anything to equal this. . . never! "
Balaoo clenched his fists to his mouth to prevent the thunder that swelled his chest from bursting.
"Never use that word in his presence."
"Oh, does he understand as much as that?"
"You need not ask if he understands: look at the face he's pulling!"
"Yes, he frightens me," declared the visitor, stepping back in alarm.
"Once again, you have nothing to be afraid of. You have vexed him by using that word, but he wouldn't hurt a fly. . . ."
"Oh, he understands anything!" continued Coriolis.
"And you say that he speaks?"
"He speaks better French than our peasants. Speak, Balaoo, say something." Balaoo, seeing himself treated, in front of one of the Race, like an interesting animal at a fair, turned his poor face, wrung with shame and despair, to her who always, at his worst trials, had been his supreme consolation and who sometimes, when his brain relapsed into animal darkness, had proved herself his saving star.
Madeleine, seeing his anguish, gave him a smile and uttered these words:
"Book of etiquette, paragraph ten."
The pithecanthrope at once turned to the visitor:
"I have not had the honour of being introduced to you, monsieur," he said, in a roar that made the house shake again.
"Oh!" exclaimed the visitor. "Oh! Ah! Ah!..."
And he opened, the wide eyes of one who is ready to rush away in fright.
But Coriolis was not satisfied:
"Politely," he said. "Politely. In your gentlest voice."
"Come, Balaoo, in your gentlest voice," insisted Madeleine, in her own gentle voice.
And Balaoo repeated the sentence — "I have not had the honour of being introduced to you, monsieur" — in the piping voice that made all the young ladies laugh, excepting Madeleine.
"But it's marvellous," shouted the other member of the Race. "It's marvellous, marvellous! . . . I can't believe it! . . . He can't be a pithecanthrope! . . ."
"He's not one any longer," Coriolis assented. "He's a man."
At these words, Balaoo raised a proud and triumphant forehead.
Coriolis proceeded to make the introductions in the terms prescribed in the book of etiquette:
"I have the honour to introduce to you M. Noël, my valued assistant in my work on the bread-plant." And, turning to Balaoo, "This, my dear friend, is M. Herment de Meyrentin, the examining-magistrate, who is very anxious to make your acquaintance. Pray sit down, gentlemen."
The "gentlemen" sat down.
"You know what a magistrate is, my dear Noël?" asked Coriolis, with an important air.
"A magistrate," replied Balaoo, with an air of equal importance, "is a man who sends thieves to prison."
"And what is a thief?" M. de Meyrentin ventured to ask.
"A thief," said Balaoo, imperturbably. "is a man who takes things without paying for them."
And he closed his eyes to escape the visitor's curious scrutiny:
"That magistrate's a great bore," he thought. "Is he never going?"
"May I give you some tea?" said Madeleine, in her musical voice.
Tea! Balaoo, utterly dazed, opened his eyes again. Madeleine handed him a cup and he stirred the sugar in the fragrant brew with the tip of his silver-gilt spoon. Only, just before drinking, believing that no one was looking at him, he swiftly dipped his hand into the liquid and sucked his fingers, pithecanthrope-fashion. That was a thing he could not resist.
Coriolis and M. de Meyrentin, who were carrying on an eager conversation between themselves, did not notice the ill-bred action; but Madeleine saw it all and silently scolded Balaoo with a threatening forefinger. Balaoo glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and gave a sly grin. Then, when Coriolis looked at him again, he drank like a man and put his cup down prettily on the tray.
Next, Balaoo crossed his legs, swung one foot with a careless grace, threw himself back in his chair with a smirk and sat smiling fatously. Suddenly, M. Herment de Meyrentin stooped, took Balaoo's right hand and examined it attentively:
"But these are not the hands of a . . ."
Coriolis cut him short:
"Hush," he said. "I warned you not to use that word . . . and I have already told you of the work to which I have devoted myself for the last ten years. You can do anything with electrolytic, depilatory creams and a little patience. Look at his face: wouldn't you say he was a Chinese or a Japanese, just a trifle sunburnt? Who would ever take him for a quadrumane? You can use that word: he does not understand it."
"A quadrumane? A quadrumane?" repeated Herment de Meyrentin, rather irritably. "I've seen only two hands so far. . . ."
"Balaoo, take off your boots."
Balaoo thought that his ears must have deceived him. But no, Coriolis repeated the hideous command. Take off his boots! He, who has always been forbidden to show his shoe-hands! And who had been brought up to loathe and abominate his lower extremities! And who had never revealed this mystery except before the brothers Vautrin, in the depths of the forest, on days when he had gone hunting without leave and taught them to build invisible little huts in the trees! . . .
No, then, no, he would not take off his boots! The disgrace was too great, when all was said! And he stood up, with his hands in his pockets, whistling a tune, as though he had forgotten all about it. To his surprise, the others said nothing. They watched him as he walked, for Balaoo was walking up and down, with a thoughtful brow, as we sometimes do when we have something that preoccupies our mind. He forgot that he had no seat to his trousers. A scrap of conversation between his two visitors reminded him of it:
"You see, he has no appendage like that which we see in the lower quadrumana: no tail and no callosities. Note also that the bones of the ischium, which forms the solid framework of the surface on which the body rests when sitting, are less developed than in the quadrumana endowed with ischial callosities and are shaped more like those of a man. Lastly, he walks, as a rule, slowly and circumspectly; and I have taught him to give up his habit of waddling. . . ."
Just then, in his annoyance, Balaoo began to waddle from side to side.
"You'd better waddle!" cried Coriolis, angrily. "I'll send you waddling in the streets of the village; and the school-children will laugh at you, Balaoo!"
Balaoo thought to himself:
"Ask Camus and Lombard, who were found hanged, why I put them to waddle at the end of a rope!"  But Balaoo's trials were not over. After taking off Balaoo's boots himself, Coriolis took his shoe-hands in his own, human hands. Balaoo turned away his head so as not to witness a sight that, disgusted him. But he could not help hearing.
"You see," said Coriolis, "that the great toe of the foot, which is smaller than in a man, makes up for this by being much more flexible."
"I hope he's not going to ticklee me!" thought Balaoo.
M. Herment de Meyrentin nearly swooned with delight, when he saw, at last, the feet of the man who walked upside down.
"I see! I see!" he cried. "It's incredible: a quadrumane, a quadrumane that talks! . . . Oh, it's simply incredible!"
"All animals talk," said Coriolis, "but the quadrumane, which is one of the higher animals, possesses a greater variety of distinct sounds than the other beasts to express desire, pleasure, hunger, thirst, terror and so on: very distinct sounds and invariably the same. These utterances, therefore, from a language. In my pithecanthrope, which is the chief of the quadrumana, the one most nearly related to man, I have discovered as many as forty distinct sounds."
"And you went on the principle that, if an animal can pronounce forty sounds, it can pronounce every sound?"
"Open your mouth, Balaoo," said Coriolis.
Balaoo, who was ready to die of shame, had no time to protest. Coriolis, after holding his shoe-hands, was now holding his two jaws, without any antiseptic preliminaries, and working them on their coronoid processes as though he were setting a wolf trap. Balaoo foamed at the mouth; and his large, round, gentle eyes shed tears as they contemplated Madeleine, who was sadly watching the operation. Even so the sufferer who is having a tooth extracted gazes mournfully and gloomily at the staunch friend who had accompanied him to the dentist's.
"He has magnificent teeth," said M. de Meyrentin.
"Never mind the teeth, my dear sir," said Coriolis, impatiently "Just look at that pharynx! I have always said and I have always written, 'Every faculty, functional and anatomical, moral, intellectual and instinctive,' depends upon the structure; and, as the structure tends to vary, it is capable of improvement.' "
"He doesn't see that he's spitting in my mouth!" thought Balaoo.
"You have perfected the pharynx," said M. de Meyrentin, "altered the back of the throat, worked at the vocal cords; and that was enough, you say, to enable you to turn a monk. . . a quadrumane, I mean, into a man?"
"Why not?" said Coriolis, letting go the jaw for a moment. "It is not difficult to show that no absolute structural line of demarcation, wider than that between the animals which immediately succeed us in the scale, can be drawn between the animal world and ourselves."
"All the same, my dear sir, there is an immense gulf between the monk. . . the animal, I mean, and man."
"No one is more strongly convinced than I am," answered Coriolis, continuing to quote the late Professor Huxley, "of the vastness of the gulf between civilized man and the brutes. No one is less disposed to think lightly of the present dignity or despairingly of the future hopes of the only consciously intelligent denizens of this world; but, even from this intellectual and moral point of view, I contend that, by modifying the structure, it is possible to fill up the gulf."
"What you say fills me with admiration and, at the same time, with terror."
Within himself, the magistrate thought:
"It's you who will be filled with terror, presently, when I tell you what your advanced theories have brought you to!"
For M. de Meyrentin, the cousin of the great Meyrentin of the Institute, had remained an idealist and an anti-Darwinian, like the pride of the family.
"Nonsense!" said Coriolis, aloud. "What is it that makes man what he is? Is it not the faculty of speech? Language enables him to note his experiences; language increases the scientific assets of the generations that follow one upon the other. It is thanks to language that man is able to link together more closely his fellow-creatures distributed over the face of the globe. It is language that distinguishes man from the rest of the animal world. This functional difference is immense and the consequences are extraordinary. And yet all this can depend on the very slightest alteration in the conditions of the back of the throat. For, what is this gift of speech? I am speaking at this moment; but, if you change in the least degree the proportion of the combined forces at present in action in the two nerves that control the muscles of my glottis, I become dumb at once. The voice is produced only so long as the vocal cords are parallel; they are parallel only so long as certain muscles contract in a similar fashion; and this, in its turn, depends upon the equal action of the two nerves of which I have just spoken. The least change in the structure of these nerves and even in the part from which they spring, the least alteration even in the blood-vessels involved, or, again, in the muscles which the blood reaches, might make us dumb. A race of dumb men, deprived of all power of communicating with those who can speak, would be a race of brutes."
"Just so, just so," said the magistrate.
"It goes without saying," continued Coriolis. "Don't scratch yourself, Balaoo!"
Balaoo, who hought himself unobserved, was covered with shame.
"Well, what I have done is the opposite of one aiming at producing dumbness: I have aimed at increasing the scope of an organ which was already capable of emitting certain sounds of speech. I have held all those nerves, all those muscles, all those arteries in my forceps, for the greater glory of my demonstration."
Balaoo, who had been under an anæsthetic during the operations, listened to all this with a very casual interest.
"And I have succeeded in producing the necessary parallel position of a quadrumane's vocal cords. Open your mouth, Balaoo."
Balaoo opened a terrible wide mouth, which Coriolis at once turned back under the lamp, and asked himself when on earth this awful torture was coming to an end.
"Look, my dear sir, look. . . there. . . you can still see the scars. . . ."
"It's astounding, it's astounding! . . . And he now talks like a man. . . . But has he also retained the power of emitting the animal sounds which he used to?"
"Yes, but it takes him a greater effort than it did. Speak as you used to, Balaoo."
Balaoo, by way of revenge and of joking, began to speak as he used to in the old days, but as he used to when he was angry, that is to say, when his voice could be heard for a mile around:
"Goek! Goek! Goek! . . . Ha! Ha! Ha! Hâââ! . . . Hâââ! . . . Hâââ! . . . Goek! Goek! . . ."
The magistrate, Coriolis and Madeleine put their fingers to their ears and made violent signs to Balaoo that that was enough. He ceased; but Coriolis explained what he wanted:
"Talk as you used to, but not so loud. We can't hear ourselves speak."
Thereupon Balaoo "talked" as he used to, but mezzo voce, while Coriolis expatiated on the virtues of the pithecanthrope's throat:
"You see," he said, to Meyrentin, "how the capacious membranous pouch, situated beneath the throat and communicating with the vocal organ, with the laryngeal ventricle, swells. Look at it: it swells and swells and swells! The louder he speaks and shouts, the more it swells; and then it resumes its normal shape when he stops."
"Goek! Goek! Goek!" said Balaoo, more and more embarassed by the singularly persistent gaze of the man who sent thieves to prison.
"And what does 'Goek' mean?" asked M. de Meyrentin.
"It means, 'Go away,' " said Balaoo, who was not without a sense of humour.
"Why," observed M. de Meyrentin, "it's almost like the German 'Geh weg!'"
Balaoo did not know German and declined to pursue the subject; and M. de Meyrentin stayed on.
Balaoo heaved a sigh: he had never suffered so much in all his life. A hand took his tenderly. Oh, Madeleine! And Balaoo's heart began to thump inside his breast. Ah! M. de Meyrentin was getting up. Did he mean to go, this time? . . . Did he? . . . Yes, yes, at last! . . . He offered Coriolis "all his congratulations" . . . like an ass, like an ass! . . . He seemed to be fairly laughing at Balaoo and to be planning something which Balaoo couldn't make out: one must always be careful with those people who send thieves to prison. . . . And it was foolish in any case, of M. Herment de Meyrentin to appear to make little of Balaoo, for this business might turn out badly too!
The magistrate said, with icy deliberation:
"All my congratulations, my dear sir. You have made a man-child. What with science and your scalpel, you equal the Creator!"
Coriolis thought that he was exaggerating and told him as much. M. de Meyrentin confessed that he was exaggerating. With an insolent glance at Balaoo:
"Yes," he granted, "it's true. The Creator made them handsomer."
He uttered this in front of Madeleine. Balaoo, at first, choked. His astonishment paralyzed him, stupefied him. Coriolis, seeing the pain which his visitor had given to his pupil, to the child of his creating, tried to speak a word of comfort:
"Yes, the Creator has made handsomer men," he said, "but none gentler, better, more loving, or more faithful. This one has amply rewarded his old master for all the trouble which he gave him at first; for I admit that it was difficult, during the early years, to make him forget his games in the Forest of Bandong. But now he is absolutely, as I contend and am prepared to prove, a member of the human race."
At this speech, which ought to have touched him, M. Herment de Meyrentin grinned like a fool and, pointing to the torn overcoat and trousers, said:
"Humph! He still indulges in a little prank at times!"
Balaoo could have wept, but he controlled his tears in the presence of a stranger. And kind Dr. Coriolis gave the magistrate his answer:
"I have known men's children who were not more than seventeen years old and whose parents would have been thankful if they had spent their time climbing the trees after apples and tearing the seats of their trousers in the process. It is not for me to advise you, my dear sir, to consult the records of the criminal courts. You know as well as I do how some men's children employ themselves at seventeen, with knife in hand!"
"The master's right," thought Balaoo. "I have never struck anyone with a knife. That's all very well for men-children, who have no strength in their hands."
"In your part of the country, M. Coriolis," said the magistrate, in a tone of voice that made Balaoo look asquint, "people don't use the knife in committing murder. They strangle their victim. Their fingers are all they want."
Balaoo blinked his eyes and thought:
"What made him say that, I wonder?"
Corlolis, pointing to Balaoo's hand, observed:
"There's a hand that wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"You insist upon that fly of yours," thought Balaoo, timidly, with lowered eyes, for he was an admirable dissembler, "but I, who wouldn't hurt a fly, would not at all mind strangling this distinguished visitor!"
M. Herment de Meyrentin, remembering that his illustrious cousin in the Academy had always combated the Darwinian theory with rather antiquated arguments about the impossibility of indefinite reproduction among mixed species, refused to leave without a Parthian shot to give Coriolis something to think about. What right had the imprudent doctor to let loose the evil instincts of the Forest of Bandong upon civilized human society? Well, he would be punished for it before supper by the arrest of his pithecanthrope, whom M. de Meyrentin fully intended to come back and fetch with his posse of gendarmes. And, in his finest, throatiest voice, themagistrate let fly:
"I congratulate you, my dear sir. All you now have to do is" — here de Meyrentin's features widened into an infamous smile — "to get him married. He will soon have attained the legal age. I hope that you are already thinking of the young lady whom he will lead to the altar. Mlle. Madeleine will be bridesm. . . ."
M. Herment de Meyrentin was unable to finish either his smile or his sentence, for he felt round his throat the grip of two clutches contracting with a force that was positively alarming to a member of the Human Race who still hoped to spend many a year upon this earth, uttering foolish and unseemly words. He gurgled, he struggled, he choked! Balaoo squeezed and squeezed.
Coriolis and Madeleine uttered yells of terror and hung on to Balaoo to make him let go. Coriolis seized a poker and rained blows with it upon Balaoo. The blows sounded as though they were striking a drum; but Balaoo felt nothing. Madeleine wept and sobbed and prayed and raved; but Balaoo heard nothing. He squeezed!
And he did not stop squeezing until M. Herment de Meyrentin stopped struggling. That would teach the gentleman to think that Balaoo, who wouldn't hurt a fly, was not handsome and to make fun of him in front of marriageable girls! A nice thing the gentleman had done for himself: he was dead!
Dead was M. le Juge d'Instruction Herment de Meyrentin, first cousin of the illustrious Professor Herbert de Meyrentin, member of the Institute, secretary of the moral and political science section! A whole family cast into mourning! A most distinguished family! That was all that remained of that mighty exemplar of human power, an examining-magistrate! A rag, a doll broken over a pithecanthrope's arm!
Balaoo flung that offal to the ground. He was astounded to see kind Dr. Coriolis glue his ear to the thing's chest. There were some people who didn't mind what they touched! But where was his little sister Madeleine? Balaoo looked round for her and discovered her standing flat against the wall, with her mouth wide open and her eyes glittering with fright.
"It's clear to me," thought the pithecanthrope, "that I've made a blunder here. They don't look a bit pleased!"
Coriolis rose to his feet as pale as death:
"Wretch!" he raved. "What have you done? You have murdered your guest!"
"Tut!" thought Balaoo. "Why do they get into such a state? What worries them is the corpse, I can see that! And I expect they are afraid of the commissary of police, who always arrives when you hurt a member of the Human Race. For instance, you can murder my friend Huon, the great old bachelor wild-boar, who was nicely killed with a stab in the heart in the presence of everybody, and nobody to say a word against it, or my friend Dhol; the big old lusty wolf, whom they riddled with bullets because he ate a six-months' baby that hadn't yet learnt to say 'Papa' and 'Mamma,' but you've no right to strangle one of the Human Race, just like that, with your hands. It's the law. All right! All right! I'll take away the corpse; and no one will be any the wiser. I'll hang this one too: that will be a good trick!" So thinking, Balaoo took M. Herment de Meyrentin's big, flabby body by the hind legs and dragged it to the door. Coriolis tried to stop him, but Balaoo shouted, "Goek! Goek!" in so loud a voice that Coriolis soon saw there was nothing to be done with the pithecanthrope at such a moment. Balaoo was all on edge, excited, glorying in his terrible work. He wouldn't hurt a fly; but, for all that, Dr. Coriolis realized that it would be unadvisable to part him from his prey, which the pithecanthrope was dragging behind him with a pride as conscious as that of a Roman general carrying the spolia opima in his triumph. Oh, what a lofty brow was Balaoo's and how well fitted to wear the laurelcrown! There is a Roman general in every monkey! . . . And bang! One good kick with his shoe-hand to the door; and it opened wide to let the procession through.
Madeleine was powerless to stir a limb and Coriolis was still shaking like a poltroon when Balaoo, with his burden, solemnly made his way under the branches of the neighbouring forest.
- From the Greek pithekos, ape, and anthropos, man: an animal half way between a monkey and a man and marking as it were the transition between the former and the latter. Scientists, including Gabriel de Mortillet in the first place, have discovered in the tertiary strata the traces and the fossilized remains of these intelligent animals, as well as the proofs of their intelligence. Others, relying on traveller's tales, declare that this species of ape still exists and that a few specimens can be found in the depths of the forests of Java. Dr. Coriolis is not the only one who has hunted for them there. — AUTHOR'S NOTE.
- This was a terrible thing for Balaoo. who did not know that Camus and Lombard were lame and who believed that they made fun of him by imitating his waddle as they walked along the street, which was his reason for hanging them! — AUTHOR'S NOTE.