Maker of Prodigies (Synopsis)

Clark Ashton Smith

One Professor ^Robert^ Camelie, biologist, and soi-disant graduate of the Sorbonne, has been creating animal prodigies in his secluded laboratory and selling them at huge prices to travelling carnivals and circuses. By means of obscure glandular injections and operations, he develops their brains to the point of quasi-human intelligence. This very intelligence, however, makes them conscious of their own state as freaks and anomalies, as far apart from their four-footed fellows as from mankind. Instinctively they hate the professor, who, moreover, treats them with sadistic cruelty during the training that he puts them through. The motive of Carmelle seemes to be money-making, and he refuses to let himself be publicized.

Tale is told by professor's assistant, Allan Gideon, and begins with newspaper items read by Gideon, relating the escape of Jacques, a Senegambian chimpanzee, from the carnival to which Carmelle had sold him. Jacques, the professor's first prodigy, has astounded scientists as well as the public in general by his accomplishments, which include auto-driving and the painting of weird sinister pictures that rival those of certain surrealists. He can do anything with his hands that a human being can do, and has the intellect and knowledge of a professor. A carnival truck disappears at the same time as Jacques, and it is surmised that the great ape has driven away in it under cover of darkness. Great newspaper sensation. Huge reward offered by carnival for recapture of the ape, who, however, seems to have disappeared completely. A few days later, in a remote city, Wells, the Great Dane, another of Carmelle's prodigies, disappears from the circus to which he belongs. Thereafter, at intervals, in widely scattered places, Carmelle's other creations, Conchita, a she-cougar, Ayesha, an Arab mare, Sam, a bald eagle, and Silas, a black boar, also vanish without trace.

Gideon has certain premonitions but keeps them to himself. One stormy winter night, he hears a rumbling car drive up, and someone knocks at the laboratory door. It is Jacques, the chimpanzee, disguised in slicker and goggles, who proceeds to gag Gideon, and bind him securely to a chair. The ape then goes to that part of the laboratory where Carmelle is at work, and overpowers him. Ape then carries Gideon into the room, where Carmelle is lying trussed on the floor with most of his clothing removed. At the same time, all the other missing prodigies emerge from the truck and enter, gathering about the men. Jacques proceeds to open two glass cases, one of which contains a king cobra, the other two huge scorpions, with which Carmelle has been experimenting. The cobra and the scorpions approach Carmelle, but instead of striking him immediately, torture him for many minutes by threatening and pretending to strike his naked body, while the beasts look on like inquisitors. At last the cobra buries its fangs in his forehead, the scorpions sting his torso, and the assembled animals, losing their self-control under a surge of savage instinct, hurl themselves upon him.

Gideon thinks now that his turn has come, for some of the beasts regard him menacingly after they have finished with Carmelle. Jacques, however, seems to restrain them. The great ape then proceeds to bring in box after box of dynamite, which he piles about the room. Opening one of the boxes, he attaches a cap and fuse to one of the sticks. Then, feeling Gideon's pockets delicately, he finds and takes out a match-box. Gideon divines the ape's intentions, and is surprised when Jacques loosens his bonds and points to the open door. Fleeing, he hears the splutter of the lit fuse. None of the animals follow him, and a few moments later the laboratory roars skyward. Fragments, some of them wet and sticky and hairy, rain upon Gideon as he is hurled to the ground by the force of the explosion.

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
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