The Hundred Thousand Monkeys
By Sir Alfred Hickman
This is a story that begins on the banks of the Ganges, in India. There are villages on the banks of the Ganges, and in one of them a little boy called Singh lived in a hut with his father and mother. It was his business to make curry for his father and mother while they were busy out of doors.
But one day Singh found it hot and also dull in the hut where he was busy with the curry. The sun was hotter still outside, but when he went to the door and looked out, Singh saw cool shadows under the tree, cooler than the dark of the hut because of the breeze that was lifting the big leaves and letting them flap softly back again. So Singh went and lay in the shadow of the tree.
Presently his father and mother came back hungry for their curry, and when they found that Singh had forgotten all about it, they beat him till he was very sore, and then made curry for themselves.
Singh ran away into the forest.
There were parrots in the forest, green and red and yellow, and they shrieked loudly as they flew from the palm to the banyan tree, and from the acacia to the feathery bamboo. There were snakes, spotted and shiny ones, brown and yellow ones, and black ones, and pale bright green ones, and they hissed and slid away into the tall grass. There were bigger things, too.
Singh heard the bamboos crack and the branches break, and saw the long grass wave where the big beasts were stepping. He also heard them roar. He thought they would probably eat him: but he did not mind, because his body was sore. And then a monkey dropped to the ground in front of him. The monkey had been hanging by one hand from the bough of a tree watching Singh for some time.
"What is the matter with you?" asked the monkey.
"I have been beaten," said Singh.
"No, no, that is not what is the matter with you," said the monkey.
"What is it, then?" said Singh.
"Why, yes. Your beating is over, and your skin is already not so sore as it was. The matter with you is that you want to tell a hundred thousand people about it, and there's no one to listen to you."
"Yes," sobbed Singh, "that is quite true. They are eating curry in the village, and if I try to tell them about it they will only beat me again and make me more sore."
"Come with me," said the monkey, "and you shall tell a hundred thousand people, and they shall weep for your sore body, and you shall feel better."
He caught Singh with his skinny hand, and ran through the undergrowth of the forest. Singh ran with him for a long time. He was too busy dodging branches, and jumping over fallen logs or puddles of mud, to notice how they went; so that he was not very much surprised when the trees came to an end and the forest opened into a white old city lying in marble ruins. There were fallen temples and wonderful broken pavements, and everything shone dead white in the hot, glaring Indian sunshine.
There were no people in the city, but as for monkeys--there seemed to be more than Singh believed there were in all the forests of the world.
"Tell these people," said the monkey who had brought him. And when the other monkeys had crowded up, this monkey looked laughingly at Singh, and went away, and say alone on the marble steps of what had long ago been a temple.
"I have been beaten and my back is sore--" began Singh.
"Aah!" said a hundred thousand serious faced apes, their eyes fixed steadily on his face.
"Because I lay in the sun and neglected the curry while they went working."
"Aah!" said the hundred thousand apes, all looking very much interested.
"My name is Singh, and I am very miserable."
"Aah!" said the apes.
"The people of the village have cast me out with a sore skin and no curry."
"Aah!" said the apes.
"A sore skin and no curry," said Singh again, for he could not think of anything else to say.
"Aah!" said the apes, as if these were only the beginnings of his troubles.
Singh could not think of anything else, and he was very unhappy, because he wanted to complain.
"Aah!" said the apes.
"A sore skin," said Singh miserably.
"Aah!" answered the apes impatiently. He heard some of them say, "Is that all?"
"No curry," he said once more; and then getting up quickly, he looked for the monkey who had brought him.
"Please take me back," he said. "I am not miserable enough for these people."
And the monkey said, "I thought so," and laughed, and took him back. But he was not beaten again. His mother was glad to see him, and gave him hot curry and put him to bed.
Now, that is the best of all ways to be comforted. If ever you feel miserable, go and tell it to a hundred thousand serious-faced monkeys, and you will find that you are not miserable enough.