A Monkey's Home
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
I WAS a very happy little fellow when I lived with my mother in the wilds of South America. I used to find no end of amusement playing with my little neighbor monkeys among the branches of the trees, or swinging on the vines that grew in luxurious abundance in our forest home. It was great fun to watch the wild animals prowling through the underbrush, knowing that they could not catch us, no matter how they might try. We were especially fond of tormenting the jaguars, or American tigers, for they are our sworn enemies.
I used to enjoy the nuts, berries, and fruit that grew in our forest home. It was so nice to be able to gather our own fruit, and to have it perfectly fresh whenever we wanted it.
There were hundreds of little monkeys like myself, and all as full of life as it is natural for young monkeys to be. But I was going to tell you my own story instead of that of the other monkeys.
I loved my mother dearly; no human child ever loved their mother more. She was always anxious about me whenever I was out of her sight, and used to box my ears very often, but I dare say that I deserved it.
Mother often warned me against being too venturesome, particularly against meddling with any kind of a trap, and, above all things, she warned me to skip into the thickest branches of the tree whenever I saw a man with a gun.
I remember seeing a mother monkey shot; that was the way the wicked hunter secured the baby monkey, which the mother held in her arms. This seemed to be a favourite way for hunters to catch baby monkeys, for a mother monkey would never part with her baby so long as she had strength enough to hold it. Sometimes the baby was shot, too, which was doubly sad.
The cruel shooting affair made my mother more sad and anxious about me. It made me serious, too, for fully half an hour; then I forgot all about it and was as full of pranks as ever. It is not in the nature of a monkey to grieve over the troubles of others; at least, for only a short time.
After witnessing the killing of that mother monkey, and the capture of her little son, my mother repeated her warnings all over again, and for the time being I was greatly impressed.
We monkeys are peculiar animals, as you would readily believe if you were the owner of one of us. We are always' glad that we are living, and nothing but cruel treatment can sadden our hearts for any length of time. So, as I have said, I forgot all about the tragedy, and began to cut up capers, as was my usual habit.
The morning following the shooting affair, I was in the highest spirits. I began the day by pinching my mother's nose and biting her tail, whereupon she boxed my ears, and I yelled. My crying was of short duration, however; my spirits bubbled over, and I was up and at it once more.
I was old enough to pick up my own breakfast; instinct teaches us what is good to eat and what is not, and early, that particular morning I scrambled down from my bed of leaves among the thick foliage of the tree where my mother and I always slept. I very soon found a breakfast which suited me exactly. I ate it, then sat on one of the lower branches, thinking what I should do next, when I heard the crackling of twigs in the underbrush.
I leaned over the branch and saw a huge jaguar prowling about beneath me. I knew perfectly well that he was looking for his breakfast, and would have greatly relished a tender little fellow like me, but I had no idea of letting him eat me, yet I could not resist having a little fun with him.
I kept very quiet. I did not wish him to discover me, at least not at that moment. I waited until the beast was directly under the branch where I was sitting; he had not seen me. Slowly he made his way through the under-brush, sniffing the air occasionally, when suddenly I swung myself down, being careful to take a firm hold with my tail, then I pulled the jaguar's ear, and was back on my branch in a twinkling, while the animal uttered a howl of rage. To think a nice little monkey had been so near him, and he must still hunt for his breakfast!
My mother, who had seen my performance, called me to her, and gave me such a lecture as I had never heard before. I was impressed again for about five minutes, and then scrambled dawn the tree-trunk. As if I would allow any one of those beasts to eat me! What could mother be thinking of !
Delighted with my morning's prank, I left my mother crying and scolding in the tree-top, while I danced about on the stout branches as I made my descent, regardless of mother's crying, scolding, or her warnings of any kind.
Dear, dear mother ! how little I thought when I left her in our tree-top home that morning, how very little I thought that I would never come back to her again.
I made faces at her as I scrambled down the tree; I boxed the ears of a little playmate as I passed him; I pulled my grandfather's tail, and nearly upset him as he sat munching his breakfast. In my scurry to get away, I came very near sprawling headlong the remainder of the way, and, to my horror, the jaguar whose ear I had pulled was crouching beneath the tree.
I came within an ace of being eaten alive. As I came sprawling down the tree-trunk, the jaguar opened his mouth and stood ready to receive me, but just then I struck one of the lower branches, which I grasped, while I regained my footing, and I decided at once that I had business in some other part of the tree. So, instead of being eaten alive, I made grimaces at my would-be devourer, and ran up the tree laughing and chattering, while I congratulated myself on my miraculous escape.
Away I went from one tree to another, chattering glee-fully as I pulled down birds' nests, rummaging in holes in the tree-trunks, and having a delightful time as I went on my way. Once, I must have poked my fingers too far in a tree hole, for something bit me. After that I was glad to keep my fingers and my nose out of such places, and decided to amuse myself by eating fruit and berries instead of meddling with what did not belong to me.
When I had been rambling about for some time, I came to, a clearing in the woods, the existence of which I had never known before. It was hot there, the sun poured down with a vengeance, but I was determined to explore this clearing, and see all there was to see.
Presently I came upon a queer-looking box. I had never seen anything like it, so I began to examine it. One of a monkey's strongest characteristics is his curiosity.
On making my examination, I found some pieces of cocoanut, and in one corner there was a pile of sugar. I did not know at the time what it was, but have learned since, as I have learned everything else, by keeping my eyes and ears open.
Without dreaming of danger, I crawled into that box, and picked up a piece of the cocoanut. It is not often that we monkeys find our cocoanuts broken for us, so I was greatly pleased at what I found. I tasted the sugar and found that it was good, then I sat down to enjoy myself.
The box was not very large, but it was cool, and I be.
began licking the sugar from the floor. Suddenly my head struck against something that dangled from the top of the box. I heard a click, the door shut with a snap, and I was a prisoner.
I remembered my mother's warning when it was too late. I tried my best to open the trap, but it held me firmly. I cried and screamed at the top of my lungs, but I was too far away from my tree-top home for my mother to hear me. Then a hunter came and took me away, far, far away from my native home, and I thought my heart would surely break.