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-- Discussion Of Chapter 7

"Phew!" whistled Robert, "it's getting exciting. But, of course, in real life the apes couldn't do it."
"The worst of Neill's stories is that they are always copying other stories", said Betty. "Just a crib from Tarzan of the Apes now."
"Oh yeah?" said I. "Who was he? And was that also a story of you and a new civilisation? I begin to tire of casting pearls."
"Pearls!" said Jean with a chuckle. "Chestnuts I should call them."
"That was a good bit about me flying the bomber", said Bunny. "That made it real life." He paused when I raised my eyebrows. "I could fly a 'plane easily", he continued, "but I think you ought to have made Betty or Gordon crash. They couldn't loop the loop I know."
"We can't ever get back to Summerhill now", said Evelyn, "for we can't mend the helium that broke", and the boys laughed scornfully.
"Helium", explained Gordon, "is a gas. You can only get it in America, so we can never fly in the airship again."
"Unless", I said, "you go to America and bring back some in a petrol tin, Gordon."
"But it was silly to lose it", said Jean. "We're left with the apes, and how can we ever get away again?"
"You might marry one and settle down in Kenya", I suggested.
"Kenya!" said Michael. "Are you quite sure that there are apes in Kenya?"
I was far from sure.
"Of course", I said quickly, "three old Summerhillians went out there."
"That may be", said Michael, "but are you sure there are other apes in Kenya? And do you know what an ape is?"
The conversation was getting too dangerous, so I side-tracked them by telling them an anecdote about a gorilla.
Bill Murray was an unemployed musician. The radio and the dance band had narrowed down the musical world, and Bill was on his beam ends. He went to see an old friend, a business man.
"I'm just about through", said Bill; "no food, no clothes. Can't you give me a job, Alf?"
His friend said sadly that he hadn't a job for him. "But", he said hopefully, "I was lunching with the superintendent of the Zoo yesterday, and he happened to remark that he needed a man. Go and see him and say that I sent you."
So Bill went to the Zoo.
"Yes", said the superintendent, "yes, it is true that I am looking for a man, but it is hardly the job for a man like you."
"I'll do anything", said Bill; "what sort of a job is it?"
"Well", said the superintendent, "it's like this. The gorilla died last week. It was a great favourite with the kiddies, and they are missing it frightfully. My idea was this: if I could get a man to put on the gorilla's skin, and hop about the trees, the kids wouldn't know the difference. But, of course, it isn't a job for a cultured man like you."
"Any job will do for me", said Bill; "I've got to live."
So Bill donned the skin of the gorilla and began to play about the enclosure. The kids threw him buns and nuts, and he tried his best to amuse them. Daily he improved, and soon he could swing from branch to branch. Then one day the superintendent told him that some very distinguished guests were to be visiting the Zoo that day, and would he try his best to amuse the youngsters of the party? So when the guests came, Bill excelled himself. But he was too ambitious: he swung on a branch: it broke... and he dropped into the lion's den. He looked up and saw a huge lion approaching him with the crouch that precedes a spring. Bill cowered in the corner in terror. The lion gradually came nearer and nearer, till Bill was frantic. The lion was now two yards away from him. I paused and looked at him.
"Get to hell out of this", said the lion savagely; "there are enough unemployed musicians here without you."

On to Chapter 8

Discussion of chapter 7 of 'The Last Man Alive' by A. S. Neill. This page is copyrighted.