Joe the Chimpanzee by Anonymous

When in England I was very much interested in the monkeys at the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, London. There were hundreds of all kinds and sizes, from the gigantic orang-outang to tiny creatures not much bigger than a large rat.

These monkeys had a spacious glass house, heated by steam; and as a tropical temperature was always maintained, tall palms and luxurious vines grew so vigorously within its walls that I have no doubt the quaint inmates supposed themselves in their native haunts.

They chattered and scolded each other, wildly chased stray little dogs and kittens, and really seemed to know so much that I half believed an old keeper, who told me the only reason they did not talk, was because they could make themselves well enough understood without.

Many funny stories I heard of their sagacity. One I recall of a nurse who shook a naughty little boy in the presence of some of the mother monkeys, whereupon all the old monkeys began shaking all the young ones until it seemed as if their poor little heads would drop off.

But, interested in all the singular inhabitants of the house, I grew attached to Joe, the young chimpanzee who had been brought a baby from the coast of Guinea the winter before. He had a little room on the sunny side of the monkey house, with a stove, table, chairs and a couple of beds arranged like the berths in the state room of an ocean steamer. Besides he had a man all to himself, to wait upon him; and it was no wonder the other monkeys were jealous of his superior quarters and the deference paid him; for while Joe was not handsome he was worth more money than all the others put together.

He was worth this great sum because he belonged to the most intelligent and interesting species of the monkey family, and only one or two of his kinsfolk had ever been seen in Europe, while the only one the Zoological Society had ever owned, had died of lung fever before he had inhabited his comfortable quarters many months.

Joe was about as tall as an average boy of eight or ten years. He wore a thick cloth roundabout, and a low flat trencher cap such as the Oxford students delight in.

One day I walked to the door of his room and knocked. The keeper said "Come in," and as I did so Joe walked erect over the floor to me, pulled off his cap with his left hand, and put out his right to shake mine. When I said "It is a fine morning," he bowed briskly; but when I added, "Are you pretty well, Joe?" he shook his head and looked very sober. The keeper explained: "Joe had a cold, and that made him very low spirited."

Joe was listening attentively; and when the man finished, he shivered and drew up the collar of his jacket round his hairy throat, as if to confirm the statement.

I gave him an apple, which he looked at a moment, then opened the door of the oven of his stove, and put it in out of sight. Seeming to understand that the fire was low, he pulled a basket from under the lower berth and took some bits of wood from it to the stove. Then the keeper handed him a match, and he lighted a fire as cleverly as any Yankee boy I ever saw.

"Show the lady how you read The Times, Joe," said the keeper.

Joe drew up a chair, tilted it back a little, spread his legs apart, opened the sheet, turned it until he found the page he wanted, then settled himself into the exact position of the comfortable English gentleman who supposes The Times is printed for his exclusive use. It was impossible to help laughing, and the sly twinkle in his narrow eye assured us Joe himself knew how funny it was.

Quite a crowd had gathered at the open door of his room, and as he noticed it, he put his hand in his pocket drew out the one eye-glass Englishman so particularly affect, and put it to his eye looking as weakly wise as Lord Dundreary himself. After a little he grew tired of so many spectators, left his chair and quietly shut the door in their faces.

Looking about as if he would do something more for our amusement, he remembered his apple in the stove oven. Running there he took hold of the door, but suddenly drew back, for it was hot. He laughed a little at his discomfiture which he took in good part, stood thinking a moment, then used his pocket-handkerchief as deftly as a dainty lady would to accomplish his purpose. But if the door was hot, the apple, Joe logically reasoned, must be hotter; so he ventured not to touch it before opening his knife. Wondering what he was going to do, I found him sticking the blade into the apple and bringing it out in triumph. The keeper gave him a plate, and after letting the apple cool a little he offered it to us. We courteously declined, but the servant tasted, explaining that Joe did not like to eat anything alone. Then Joe followed, but did not like the flavor, and being asked if it was sour, he nodded. We were told that he, in common with the other monkeys, liked oranges and bananas better than any other fruits.

Yet he kept tasting a little of the apple from a spoon while the keeper told us how the sailors who hoped to capture his mother only succeeded in bringing him off alive after they had killed her. They had hard work to keep him alive on board ship, but found a warm nook for him by the galley fire. He was in fair health when they landed, so they obtained the large price offered by the Zoological Gardens; but in spite of the most devoted care, he seemed to languish in his new home.

"Do you love me, Joe?" the man ended his story with. Joe nodded, smiled, and put his head lovingly on the other's shoulder.

As we left that day, Joe took his hat, cane, and heavy wrap, and escorted us to the great door of the monkey house, shaking our hands as we bade him good-bye.

Another time when I called he was taking tea, using milk and sugar and handling cup and saucer as if he had been familiar with them from his earliest days. He motioned us to take chairs. We did so and he jumped up, found cups for us, and then passed a plate of biscuits, laughing with glee as we took one. I have taken tea with many curious individuals, but never expect to be so honored again as to be invited by a chimpanzee.

Noticing his hand was feverish, I found his pulse was 130. I said "What is the matter of him?"

"Consumption is what kills all of them," the man answered, low, just as if talking before a human invalid.

From that day Joe failed rapidly, and one morning under the head of "Great Loss," The Times announced that he died at midnight.

I went down at once to see the keeper whose grief I knew would be keen.

He told me how for days, Joe could only be persuaded to take food by seeing him eat and hearing him praise it, how he made him sleep in his berth by his side, and when death came, held his hand through all the last struggle.

The man's voice was actually choked with sobs as he said, "It don't seem right, indeed it don't, not to have a funeral for him! He ought to have had it."

I never heard Joe had any funeral, but I did hear that he was stuffed, and looks more like a big boy than when he was alive.