Gateway to the Classics: Lost in the Jungle by Paul du Chaillu
Lost in the Jungle by  Paul du Chaillu

Baby Gorilla Takes Revenge

Jack will have his own way.—He seized my leg.—He tears my pantaloons.—He growls at me.—He refuses cooked food.—Jack makes his bed.—Jack sleeps with one eye open.—Jack is intractable.

Now let us follow that young gorilla, whom I called Jack.

Jack, to begin with, was the most intractable little beast one possibly could get hold of. Jack was a little villain, a little rogue, very treacherous, and quite untamable. The kinder I was, the worse he seemed to be. We took him with us in the forest till we returned to our village, and then many of the women disappeared.

Jack was smart in his wickedness, and was quite as treacherous as any of the gorillas I had met before. He would not eat any cooked food, and every day I had to send into the forest for berries and nuts. I wish you could have seen his eyes glisten, you would have noticed how treacherous and gloomy they were. Jack was cunning; he would look at me right straight in the face, and when he did that I learned that he meant mischief, and, if close at hand, meant an attack upon me.

Of course, once in the camp, the forked stick had been taken away, and a little chain tied round the neck of Jack; the chain was about six feet long. Then I had a long pole fastened in the ground, and the chain was tied to an iron ring which had been used as a bracelet on the upper arm of a native, by which means he could turn all round without entangling the chain.

One day I had come to offer Jack some tondo (berries) which friend Malaouen had just collected for him (I wanted always to feed Jack myself, to see if I could tame him), and I approached the little fellow to within the distance which I thought the utmost length of his chain would allow him to go. He looked at me straight in the face, and I waited for him to extend his arm to get the nice tondo I was offering him, when, quick as lightning, he threw his body on the ground on one arm and one leg, the chain drawn to its full length, and then, before I knew it, he seized my leg, and with his big toe got hold and fast of my inexpressibles, which were rather old, and a portion of them was soon in his possession. I thought in my fright that a piece of my leg had also been taken away, which I am glad to say was not the case. Still holding the piece of my pantaloons, he retreated to his pole, then gave a howl and started at me again. This time I knew better—I was off. He held the piece of my pantaloons for a long time, it having passed from his big toe into his hand.


Caught by Jack.

Jack looked at times almost cross-eyed, and was as ugly a fellow as any one could wish to see. He was not so strong as friend Joe, the account of which you have read in "Stories of the Gorilla Country," but he was a pretty strong chap, and I should not have liked to be shut up in a room alone with him. Several times I had narrow escapes of a grip from his strong big toe.

When evening came, Jack would collect the dry leaves I had given him, and would go to sleep upon them, and sometimes he did look almost like a child.

How strange that I never saw twin gorillas! The mother gorilla has only one baby gorilla at a time. My men and I have captured a good many of their young ones during the time I lived in the great forest of Equatorial Africa, but I never succeeded in taming one. Some were more fierce or stubborn than others, but all refused food that was cooked; the berries, nuts, and fruits must come from the forest. Though these little brutes were diminutive, and the merest babies in age, they were astonishingly strong, and, as you have yourselves seen in the different accounts I have given you, by no means good tempered. When any thing displeased them they would roar, and bellow, and look wickedly from out their cunning little eyes, and strike the ground with their feet.


Gorilla sleeping.

Jack was not so ugly-looking a fellow as friend Joe, neither was he as strong. Like all the gorillas, his face and skin were entirely black. His little eyes, deep and sunken, seemed to be gray; his nose was more prominent than in the chimpanzee, for gorillas have noses and consequently he comes nearer in appearance than the chimpanzee to the African negro. He had, as we have, eyelashes, and the upper ones were the longest. His mouth was large, and the lips sharply cut. The gorilla has no lips like we have; the dark pigment covers them, and when his mouth is shut no red is seen outside. The ears are small in comparison with the face, and they are smaller than the ears of man. Their ears are much smaller than those of the chimpanzee, and look very much like the ears of man; the chin is short and receding.

The face is very wrinkled; the head is covered with hair much shorter than that on the body, and in the male gorilla the top of the head has a reddish crown of hair.

You see how much the arm of the gorilla is like the arm of man—how short his legs are. The leg is about the same size from the knee to the ankle, the short thigh decreasing slightly. The leg of the gorilla has not the graceful curve found in man, it having no calf.

I want you to examine the hands and feed of a young gorilla. You will be struck at once how short the hand is, and how much it looks like that of a man. The fingers are short, but how thick they are! The nails are very much like ours, and project slightly over the tips of the fingers. See how short the thumb is—how much shorter than the thumb of man; it is hardly half as thick as the forefinger. The thumb is of very little use to a gorilla. The palm of the hand is hard, naked, and callous; the back is hairy to the knuckles, and the short hair grows on the fingers, as in man.

The leg of the gorilla is very short. Look at his foot. Instead of a big toe he has a thumb, and you see, by the wrinkles and transverse indents, that the foot is used as a hand. The third toe is a little longer than the second, and the others follow in the same proportion; and, if you look at your own feet, you will see that the toes of the gorilla and those of man keep the same gradation of length, the middle one being the longest.

Look at the representation of a young gorilla as he sleeps. He certainly looks almost like a baby; but do not believe that the is so fast asleep that you need make a great deal of noise to awake him. No; these little fellows seem to go "to bed" with one eye open, and at the least noise you see their gray eye twinkle, and immediately they sit up, and look round to discover what is the matter, and at once are ready for a fight. As they awake they generally give a howl of defiance.

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