His Finish

IT was in Paris, in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, and we stood in the crowd that surrounded the monkey house on three sides. The time was early autumn, and the first cool days had come.

The monkeys were huddled together on the high crossbars, looking languidly over the heads of the spectators. Gradually we became aware that, in spite of their torpor, a silent drama was being enacted among them. An old she-monkey, large, strong, and ferocious, was stealing up on the tiniest monkey in the cage, and the little monkey was paralyzed with fear.

Suddenly the old one made a sweep with her long hairy arm, and, galvanized, the little monkey fled along the bar on hands and feet, reached the wire netting enclosing the cage, and dashed to the floor. Before he reached the gravel, the old monkey was at his heels, and with a squeak of terror he fled across to the other end of the cage, scrambled up the netting, and turned to look behind. Like relentless fate, the old monkey was on his trail.

With a leap of desperation the little monkey caught one of the rings suspended from the ceiling, and, swinging from ring to ring, again reached the opposite end, barely in time to elude the long sinewy arm.

Back and forth, up and down, from one end of the large cage to the other, the little monkey flew, and the sinister chase grew fast and furious. Groups of huddled monkeys were dashed hither and yon, as the two bounded through them, the little monkey now sobbing from weariness and terror.

The crowd, tense with excitement, was pressed against the very sides of the cage, and at this moment the old monkey paused to catch her breath. She stood erect on the floor, her arms above her head, holding on to the wire netting. As she faced the crowd, with her entire front exposed, the temptation to murder her was irresistible, and a fat Frenchman, shouting ‘Méchante!’ jabbed the point of his umbrella into her stomach.

The old monkey leaped into the air with the yell of a Comanche Indian; then, casting herself on the floor, she grabbed two handfuls of gravel and hurled it through the bars, and pandemonium broke loose. In an instant every monkey had dashed to the floor shrieking, and a hail of gravel poured from the monkey house, while the spectators fell over one another trying to get away.

As instantly as the uproar had begun, it ceased, and in perfect silence the monkeys swung themselves up to the bars and huddled together again. Once more their aged careworn faces looked out indifferently above the crowd.

‘At any rate the Little One is saved!’ someone cried, and we cautiously approached the cage again.

Saved, indeed! With added fury the old monkey renewed the chase, and as the pace of the young one grew slower, and his efforts to escape became feebler, the inevitable end was in sight. Chattering with terror, the little creature came on all fours across the floor, and, with a final effort, started to climb the wire in front. With a bound the old monkey was beneath him; she reached up, and, catching his long tail, looped it around her hand and jerked him to the floor.

The entire crowd gasped.

The old monkey seated herself and the little one hard, spread her legs apart, and, leaning forward, seized him by the shoulders and jerked him to her. There was no fight left in him. He had caved in, and his head drooped forward on his little breast.

The old monkey, with a triumphant grin that showed every tooth in her jaws, turned her head slowly and surveyed the entire crowd; then, getting down to business, she leaned forward, parted the hair on the little monkey’s back, and began a close and earnest search.

A shout of hysterical relief went up from the crowd.

It was only then that we noticed that it was not only getting dark but raining, and with one accord we left the monkey house and hastened toward the entrance gates.