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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/119

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109
FOUR-HANDED SINNERS.

could form anything like a clear conception of its own wants. ... Untutored barbarians," he adds, "are apt to indulge in similar methods of self-assertion, and, in settling a controversy, prefer menacing gestures to rational explanations."

That tendency, however, is not confined to infants and savages. The black-faced Cynocephalus maurus (the "Cutch baboon" of the New York pet-dealers) resents the slightest misunderstanding of his desires, and, after reaching out for a glittering toy, can not be placated by an offered tidbit, but slams down his fist with the dogmatic emphasis of a colored revival-preacher. In his controversies with his cage-mate (a female spaniel) my pet Cutch will lay hold of the dog's tail and enforce his theories with a peremptory pull that never fails to provoke a rough-and-tumble fight; but, long after the dog has relapsed into sullen silence, her antagonist will shake the cage with resounding blows, and every now and then steal a look at the by-standers, to invite their attention to his "best method of dealing with heretics."

Egotism has been defined as the "stout stem of which altruism is the tender flower," and our Darwinian relatives can claim a healthy share of that moral substratum. Faust-Recht, the law of the strong hand, is the recognized code of every monkey community. Without the slightest pretext of preliminary explanations the president of a simian syndicate will snatch away the shares of the weaker stockholders and ignore the shrieks of his victims with the eupeptic equanimity of a retired railway nabob. The mere sight of alien property is apt to excite the covetousness of a privileged four-hander. My pig-tail monkey (Macacus nemestrinus) can not see a dog gnaw a bone without plotting the appropriation of the unknown dainty, and, even after a series of vain attempts to utilize his booty, will guard his prize in the vague hope of discovering the secret of its value. He sleeps in a tub, but has failed to adopt the cynic tenet of attaining happiness by a reduction of his desires; and whenever he succeeds in pulling the staple of his chain, his barrel gets stuffed with an accumulation of miscellaneous plunder, including such objects of rather limited utility as kite-tails, empty bottles, ice-hooks, feathers, and potsherds. He is fond of taking an inventory of his property by spreading his collection on an open porch, but at such moments regards every intruder with nervous suspicion, and at the approach of a street Arab makes a determined rush to obviate a possible depreciation of his stock.

The acquisitive energy of a monkey-swarm must be witnessed to be credited. In the banana-gardens of the tierra caliente a Mexican capuchin monkey will exhaust his business opportunities with the dispatch of a Cincinnati bank-cashier; but, in his attempt to reach the Canadian side of the hedge with a good arm-