Arthur Conan Doyle Fullscreen The Lost World (1912)


He had the short body, the big shoulders, the round chest, no neck, a great ruddy frill of a beard, the tufted eyebrows, the 'What do you want, damn you!' look about the eyes, and the whole catalogue.

When the ape-man stood by Challenger and put his paw on his shoulder, the thing was complete.

Summerlee was a bit hysterical, and he laughed till he cried.

The ape-men laughed too—or at least they put up the devil of a cacklin'—and they set to work to drag us off through the forest.

They wouldn't touch the guns and things—thought them dangerous, I expect—but they carried away all our loose food.

Summerlee and I got some rough handlin' on the way—there's my skin and my clothes to prove it—for they took us a bee-line through the brambles, and their own hides are like leather.

But Challenger was all right.

Four of them carried him shoulder high, and he went like a Roman emperor.

What's that?"

It was a strange clicking noise in the distance not unlike castanets.

"There they go!" said my companion, slipping cartridges into the second double barrelled "Express."

"Load them all up, young fellah my lad, for we're not going to be taken alive, and don't you think it!

That's the row they make when they are excited.

By George! they'll have something to excite them if they put us up.

The 'Last Stand of the Grays' won't be in it.

'With their rifles grasped in their stiffened hands, mid a ring of the dead and dyin',' as some fathead sings. Can you hear them now?"

"Very far away."

"That little lot will do no good, but I expect their search parties are all over the wood.

Well, I was telling you my tale of woe.

They got us soon to this town of theirs—about a thousand huts of branches and leaves in a great grove of trees near the edge of the cliff.

It's three or four miles from here.

The filthy beasts fingered me all over, and I feel as if I should never be clean again.

They tied us up—the fellow who handled me could tie like a bosun—and there we lay with our toes up, beneath a tree, while a great brute stood guard over us with a club in his hand.

When I say 'we' I mean Summerlee and myself.

Old Challenger was up a tree, eatin' pines and havin' the time of his life.

I'm bound to say that he managed to get some fruit to us, and with his own hands he loosened our bonds.

If you'd seen him sitting up in that tree hob-nobbin' with his twin brother—and singin' in that rollin' bass of his,

'Ring out, wild bells,' cause music of any kind seemed to put 'em in a good humor, you'd have smiled; but we weren't in much mood for laughin', as you can guess.

They were inclined, within limits, to let him do what he liked, but they drew the line pretty sharply at us.

It was a mighty consolation to us all to know that you were runnin' loose and had the archives in your keepin'.

"Well, now, young fellah, I'll tell you what will surprise you.

You say you saw signs of men, and fires, traps, and the like.

Well, we have seen the natives themselves.

Poor devils they were, down-faced little chaps, and had enough to make them so.

It seems that the humans hold one side of this plateau—over yonder, where you saw the caves—and the ape-men hold this side, and there is bloody war between them all the time.

That's the situation, so far as I could follow it.

Well, yesterday the ape-men got hold of a dozen of the humans and brought them in as prisoners.

You never heard such a jabberin' and shriekin' in your life.

The men were little red fellows, and had been bitten and clawed so that they could hardly walk.

The ape-men put two of them to death there and then—fairly pulled the arm off one of them—it was perfectly beastly.

Plucky little chaps they are, and hardly gave a squeak.

But it turned us absolutely sick.

Summerlee fainted, and even Challenger had as much as he could stand.

I think they have cleared, don't you?"

We listened intently, but nothing save the calling of the birds broke the deep peace of the forest.

Lord Roxton went on with his story.

"I think you have had the escape of your life, young fellah my lad.

It was catchin' those Indians that put you clean out of their heads, else they would have been back to the camp for you as sure as fate and gathered you in.

Of course, as you said, they have been watchin' us from the beginnin' out of that tree, and they knew perfectly well that we were one short.

However, they could think only of this new haul; so it was I, and not a bunch of apes, that dropped in on you in the morning.