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 VIII: Struggle for Mastery
It was Apeman who charged. Pity for Apeman welled up in Bentley. That was his own body which Apeman was so illy using. His own poor bruised and bleeding body, which Apeman had all but slain by forcing it far beyond human endurance. It must be saved, in spite of Apeman.
But there was something first to do. Bentley bent over Ellen, caught her under his arm, and returned to the trees, with Apeman chattering angrily and futilely behind him. Bentley found a crotch in the tree where he could place Ellen, made sure that she was safely propped there and that no snakes were near, and hurried back to the contest with Apeman which could not be avoided.
He did not fear the battle he knew he must fight. He hurried back because Apeman might realize himself beaten and escape into the jungle. In his weakened condition he could not travel far and would be easy prey for any prowling leopard, easy prey for the crawling things whose fangs held sure death. Or would the cunning of Apeman, denizen of the jungle, warn him against any such? His ape brain would warn him, but would his human strength avail in case of necessity, in case of attack by another ape, or a four-footed carnivore?
Bentley hurried back because Apeman must be saved, somehow, even against his will. Apeman hated Manape with a deadly hatred. Yet to subdue the travesty of a human being, Manape must take care that he did not destroy his own casement of humanity. Any moment now and a great cat might charge from the shadows and destroy Apeman.
Apeman, snarling, beating his puny chest with his puny hands, was waiting for Manape his enemy.
Manape found himself thinking of the line: "'O wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursilves as ithers see us,'" and adding some thoughts of his own.
"If that were actually 'I' down there, my chance of preserving the life of myself, and that of Ellen against the rigors of the jungle, would be absolutely nil. How helpless we humans are in primitive surroundings! The tiniest serpent may slay us. The jungle cats destroy us with ease, if we be not equipped with artificial weapons which our better brains have created. As Manape, Barter's trained ape, I am better fitted to protect Ellen than if I were Bentley—the Bentley of the Bengal Queen. Yet she will cower away from me when she wakens."
Now Bentley was down, and Apeman was charging. He charged at a staggering run. He stepped on a thorn, hesitated, and whimpered. But he possessed unusual courage, for he still came on. Apeman knew the law of the jungle, that the weakest must die. Death was to be his portion if he could not withstand the assaults of Manape, and he came to meet his fate with high brute courage.
Apeman was close in. His hands were swinging, fists closed, in a strange travesty of a fighting man. Apeman was snarling. He groped for the throat of Manape with his human teeth—which sank home in the tough hide of Manape, hurting him as little as though Apeman were toothless.
"As Bentley I would have no chance at all against a great ape," said Bentley to himself.
How could he take the pugnacity out of Apeman without destroying him? If he struck him he might strike too hard and slay Apeman—which was the equivalent of slaying himself. So Manape extended his mighty hands, caught Apeman under the armpits and held him up, feet swinging free. Yet Apeman still struggled, gnashed his teeth, and beat himself on the chest.
How utterly futile! As futile as Bentley in his own casement would have been against a great ape! Apeman might destroy himself through his very rage. How could Bentley render the travesty unconscious and yet make sure that Apeman did not die?
If he struck he might strike too hard and slay.
What should he do?
A low coughing sound came from somewhere close by. From the deeps of his consciousness Bentley knew that sound. He clutched Apeman in his right arm, swung back to the tree and up among the branches. He was just in time. The tawny form of a great cat passed beneath, missing him by inches.
But while he had saved himself and Apeman, he had been clumsy. He had struck the head of Apeman against the bole of the tree, and Apeman hung limp in his arm. Bentley, fear such as he had never before known gripping him, pressed his huge ear to Apeman's heart. It was beating steadily and strongly. With a great inner sigh of relief he climbed to safety in the tree, bearing Apeman with him.
He reached the crotch where Ellen rested, and disposed Apeman nearby, his own gross body between them. He even dared to gather Ellen closer against him for warmth. His left hand held tightly the wrist of the unconscious Apeman, so that he should not fall and become prey of the night denizens of the jungle.
So, the two who seemed to be human—Apeman and Ellen, passed from unconsciousness into natural sleep, while Bentley-Manape remained motionless between them, afraid to close his eyes lest something even more terrible than hitherto experienced might transpire. But his ears caught every sound of the jungle, and his sensitive ape's nostrils brought him every scent—which his man's mind strove to analyze, reaching back and back into the dim and misty past for identification of odors that were new, or that were really old, yet which had been lost to man since they had left forever the simian homes of their ancestors and their senses had become more highly specialized.
The questions which turned over and over in Bentley's mind were these:
How shall I tell Ellen the truth? Will she believe it?
What is the rest of Barter's experiment? How shall I proceed from this moment on? How shall I procure food for Ellen? What food will Apeman choose for my body to assimilate?
And jungle night drew on. Once Ellen shivered and pressed closer to Manape as she slept.
What would morning bring to this strange trio?
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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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