There were several incongruous features, some of them horrifying, in the scene that unfolded itself before my eyes, but my attention was at first exclusively drawn to a figure standing motionless thirty paces away and peering in my direction.
I almost shouted out loud in amazement, Yes, in spite of my terror, in spite of the tragedy of my own position – I was caught between the beaters and the guns – stupefaction stifled all other sentiment when I saw this creature on the look-out, lying in wait for the game. For it was a monkey, a large-sized gorilla. It was in vain I told myself that I was losing my reason; I could entertain not the slightest doubt as to his species. But an encounter with a gorilla on the planet Soror did not constitute the essential outlandishness of the event. This for me lay in the fact that the ape in question was correctly dressed, like a man of our own world, and above all in the easy manner in which he wore his clothes. This natural aspect was what struck me first of all. No sooner had I seen the animal than I realized that he was not in any way disguised. The state in which I saw him was normal, as normal to him as nakedness was to Nova and her companions.
He was dressed as you and I are; I mean as you and I would be if we were taking part in one of those drives organized by us for ambassadors or other distinguished persons at official shooting parties. His dark brown jacket seemed to be made by the best Paris tailor and revealed underneath a check shirt of the kind our sportsmen wear. His breeches, flaring out slightly above his calves, terminated in a pair of leggings. There the resemblance ended: instead of boots he wore big black gloves.
It was a gorilla, I tell you! From his shirt collar emerged a hideous head, shaped at the top like a sugar loaf and covered in black hair, a flattened nose and jutting jaws. There he stood, leaning slightly forward, in the posture of a hunter on the look-out, grasping a rifle in his long hands. He was facing me, on the other side of a large gap cut out of the jungle perpendicularly to the direction of the drive.
All of a sudden he stiffened. He had noticed, as I had, a faint sound in the bushes a little to my right. He turned round and at the same time raised his weapon, ready to put it to his shoulder. From my perch I could see the furrow left in the undergrowth by one of the fugitives who was running blindly straight ahead. I almost shouted out to warn him, so obvious was the ape’s intention. But I had neither the time nor the strength; already the man was racing like a mountain goat across the open ground. The shot rang out while he was still half way across the field of fire. He gave a leap in the air, collapsed in a heap on the ground and after a few convulsions lay motionless.
But it was only a little later that I noticed the victim’s death agony, my attention still being focused on the gorilla. I had followed the change in his expression from the moment he was alerted by the noise, and had registered a number of surprising factors: first of all, the cruelty of the hunter stalking his prey and the feverish pleasure he derives from this pastime; but above all the human character of his expression – in this animal’s eyes there was a spark of understanding which I had sought in vain among the men of Soror.