Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931: Manape the Mighty – Chapter III

Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931: Manape the Mighty - Chapter III
Astounding Stories of Super-Science June 1931, by Astounding Stories is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Manape the Mighty – Chapter III: A Night of Horror

CHAPTER III. A Night of Horror

The meal consisted of various fruits, some meat which Bentley could not identify, and wild honey which was delicious. The bread tasted queer but was distinctly edible. The castaways ate ravenously, but even as he ate Bentley noticed that Ellen's face was chalky pale, and that in spite of a distinct effort of will she simply had to look at intervals toward the great beast in the cage.
Caleb Barter sat with his back to the animal. Bentley sat at the left of the old scientist, Ellen Estabrook at his right. The great beast was quiet now, but he squatted within his prison and his red-rimmed eyes swerved from one person to the other in the room with a peculiar intentness.
"I'd swear that beast can almost read our thoughts!" ejaculated Bentley at last, after he had somewhat sated his appetite.
Barter smiled with those too-red lips of his.
"He can—almost. You'd be surprised to know how nearly human the great apes are, and how nearly human this particular one is. Ah!"
"What do you mean, this particular one?" asked Bentley curiously. "He doesn't look any different to me from the others I've seen except that he is far and away the largest."
"I don't see why you should be so curious," said Barter testily. "It's none of your business you know—yet."
"What do you mean?" demanded Bentley, nettled by Barter's tone.
"Lee, hush," said Ellen. "Professor Barter is not on trial for any crime."
Bentley looked at her in hurt surprise, inclined to be angry with her for the tone she was taking, but he saw such a look of appeal in her eyes that he choked back the words that rushed to his lips for utterance. He was decidedly on edge, more, he felt, than he should have been despite what they had gone through. When their eyes met he saw her glance quickly toward the ape, and noted a frown of worry between her brows.
Bentley glanced at the ape. The brute now was staring at the girl in a way that made Bentley's flesh crawl. It was preposterous of course, but he had the feeling, something which seemed to flow out of that mighty cage like some evil emanation from a dank tarn, that the ape knew the girl's sex—and that he desired her! It was horrible in the extreme to contemplate, yet Bentley knew when he glanced swiftly at the girl that she had sensed the same thing and was fighting to keep the natural horror she felt at such a ghastly thought from being noticeable. It was absurd. The ape was a prisoner. But….
"Professor Barter," said Bentley, "you're accustomed to being with this brute, but it isn't so nice for us, especially for Miss Estabrook."
Barter now frowned angrily.
"My dear Bentley," he said with that odd testiness which he had assumed toward Bentley before, "I refuse to have any interference with my experiment. This is part of it."
"You mean—" began Bentley.
"I mean that I'm training that ape—I call him Manape—to behave like human beings. How better can he learn than by watching our behavior?"
"Just the same," said Bentley, "I don't like it."
"It's all right, Lee," said Ellen quickly. "I don't mind."
But Bentley knew that it wasn't all right, and that she did mind, terribly.
Barter finished eating. Bentley had noticed that despite the long years he had been a virtual hermit, Barter ate as fastidiously as he probably had done when he had lived among his own kind. He pushed back his chair with a swift movement.
Instantly the roaring of Manape rang through the room. The great brute rose to his full height and grasped the bars of his cage, shaking them with savage fury. He glared at his master and bestial rage glittered from his red-rimmed eyes. He was a horrible sight. Ellen Estabrook, with no apology, stepped around the table and crouched wide-eyed in the arm of Lee Bentley.
"Lee," she said, "I'm terribly afraid. I almost wish we had trusted ourselves in the jungle."
"I'll look out for you," he whispered, as Barter turned his attention to the great ape.
But Bentley was watching the animal. So was Barter. The eyes of the scientist were shining like coals of fire. For the moment he appeared to have forgotten his guests.
"It is a success!" he cried. "As far as it goes, I mean!"
What did Barter mean? Seeking some answer to the enigma, Bentley studied the ape anew. Now he was positive of another thing: Manape was scarcely concerned with Barter, whom he appeared to hate with an utterly satanic hatred. His beady eyes were staring at Bentley instead!
"The brute is jealous of me!" thought Bentley. "Good God, what does it mean, anyway?"
Barter turned back to them and all at once became the genial host.
"Shall we return to the other room?" he asked politely.
It was a relief to the castaways to put that awful room behind them. Barter closed and barred the door with deliberate slowness.
Why had this old man shut himself away from civilization like this? How long had he held this great ape in captivity? What was the purpose of it? What experiment was he performing? What part of it had the castaways been witnessing that they had not recognized? Bentley, recalling the distinct impression that the ape had stared at Ellen almost with the eyes of a lustful man, and had even appeared to be jealous of him because the girl had gone into his arms—Bentley felt a shiver of revulsion course through him as it struck him now how human the regard and the jealousy of the creature had been!
He felt like clutching at the girl and racing with her into the hazards of the jungle. But he remembered the anthropoids out there, and Barter's peculiar domination of the brutes.
Barter was now watching the two with interest, studying them in turn speculatively, unmindful of the impertinence of his studious regard and silence.
"I have it!" he said. "Will you two be good enough to excuse me? You will need rest, I am sure. I am going away for a little time, but I shall return shortly after dark. Make yourselves at home. But remember—don't enter that room!"
"You need not worry," said Bentley grimly. "I sincerely hope we take our next meal in some other room."
Barter laughed and passed out of the door without a backward glance.
From the jungle immediately afterward came the drumming of the great apes, and now and again the laughter of Barter—high-pitched at first, but dying away as Barter apparently moved off into the jungle.
"Ellen," said Bentley quickly, "I don't know what's going on here, but I'm sure it's something sinister and awful. Let's take a look at our rooms. If there isn't a door between them which can be left open, then you'll have to spend the night in my room while I remain awake on guard."
"I was thinking of the same thing, Lee," she whispered. "This place gives me the horrors. Barter's association with the apes is a terrible thing."
Hand in hand they stepped to the door Barter had designated as that of Ellen Estabrook's. Bentley opened it cautiously, heaving a sigh of relief to find it empty. He scarcely knew what he had expected. There was a connecting door between the two rooms, open, and they peered into the chamber Bentley was to occupy.
Back they came to her room, to stand before a window which gave onto a shadowed little clearing in the rear of the cabin.
"Look!" whispered Ellen.
There was a single mound of earth, with a white cross set over it, on which was the single word: Mangor.
It might have been a word in some native dialect. It might have been some native's name. It might have been anything, but, whatever it was, it added to the sinister atmosphere which seemed to hang like an evil mist over the home of Caleb Barter.
"That settles it, Ellen," he said. "You'll spend the night in my room."
Ellen retired in Bentley's room, closing the door which led to the adjoining room, and Bentley walked back and forth in the reception room, waiting for Barter to return. When darkness fell he lighted the lamps he had previously located. Their odor caused him to guess that the fuel they used was some sort of animal fat. In the strange glow from the lamps, his shadow on the walls, as he walked to and fro, was grotesque, terrible—and at times a grim reminder of the great apes. It caused him to consider how, after all, human beings were akin to gorillas and chimpanzees. Somehow, now, it was a horrible thought.
The night wore on and Bentley's stride became faster. Now and again he peered into the girl's room. She was sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion and he did not waken her. Bentley felt it was near midnight when Barter returned, his return heralded by a strange commotion in the clearing, and the frightful drumming of the great apes—or at least one great ape. Bentley shuddered as the animal behind the locked door answered the drumming challenge with a drumming thunder of his own.
Barter came in, and Bentley accosted him at once.
"See here, Barter," he began. "I don't like it here. There's something strange going on in this clearing. Miss Estabrook and I wish to leave immediately in the morning! And that grave behind the cabin, who or what is it?"
Barter studied the almost trembling Bentley for all of a minute.
"That grave?" he said at last, with silken softness. "It's the grave of a jungle savage. He died in the interest of science. As for you, you'll leave here when I bid you, and not before, understand? I've a guardian outside that would tear both of you limb from limb."
But Bentley caught and held fast to certain words the scientist had spoken.
"The savage died in the interest of science?" he said. "What do you mean?"
Barter smiled his red-lipped smile.
"I took the savage and Manape, who wasn't called Manape then, and administered an anesthetic of my own invention. You've heard that I was a master of trephining? No matter if you haven't heard, the whole world will know soon! While the native and the ape were under anesthesia I transferred their brains. I put the black man's brain in the skull pan of the ape, and the ape's brain in that of the savage. The ape lived—and he is Manape. The savage, with the ape's brain, died, and I buried him in that grave you asked about!"
With a cry of horror Bentley turned and fled from Barter as though the man had been His Satanic Majesty himself. He entered the room with Ellen and barred the door behind him. He likewise barred the door which led to that other room. Now in total darkness it was all he could do from clambering on the bed where Ellen slept, and begging her to touch him—anything—if only to prove to him that there still were sane creatures left in a mad world.
Outside Barter laughed.
"Oh, Bentley," he called after a long interval of silence, "do you like the odor of violets? Goodnight, and pleasant dreams!"
What had Barter meant?
Again assuring himself that the connecting door could not be opened if anything or anybody tried to enter that way, Bentley flung himself down before the door which gave on the reception room. He had no intention of sleeping. But in spite of himself he dozed off, though he fought against sleep with all his will.
Strange, but as he gradually slipped away into unconsciousness he was cognizant of the odor of violets—like invisible tentacles which reached through the very door and wrapped themselves gently about him.
His last conscious thought was of Manape, the ape with the brain of a jungle savage. But in spite of the vague feeling of horror he could not fight off the desire for sleep.
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Various. 2010. Astounding Stories of Super-Science, June 1931. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/31893/31893-h/31893-h.htm#Manape_the_Mighty
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