Little Fuzzy – Day 22 of 77

“You know, what impressed me most in the taped account was the incident of the damnthing,” said Ruth Ortheris. “Any animal associating with man will try to attract attention if something’s wrong, but I never heard of one, not even a Freyan kholph or a Terran chimpanzee, that would use descriptive pantomime. Little Fuzzy was actually making a symbolic representation, by abstracting the distinguishing characteristic of the damnthing.”

“Think that stiff-arm gesture and bark might have been intended to represent a rifle?” Gerd van Riebeek asked. “He’d seen you shooting before, hadn’t he?”

“I don’t think it was anything else. He was telling me, ‘Big nasty damnthing outside; shoot it like you did the harpy.’ And if he hadn’t run past me and pointed back, that damnthing would have killed me.”

Jimenez, hesitantly, said, “I know I’m speaking from ignorance. You’re the Fuzzy expert. But isn’t it possible that you’re overanthropomorphizing? Endowing them with your own characteristics and mental traits?”

“Juan, I’m not going to answer that right now. I don’t think I’ll answer at all. You wait till you’ve been around these Fuzzies a little longer, and then ask it again, only ask yourself.”

“So you see, Ernst, that’s the problem.”

Leonard Kellogg laid the words like a paperweight on the other words he had been saying, and waited. Ernst Mallin sat motionless, his elbows on the desk and his chin in his hands. A little pair of wrinkles, like parentheses, appeared at the corners of his mouth.

“Yes. I’m not a lawyer, of course, but….”

“It’s not a legal question. It’s a question for a psychologist.”

That left it back with Ernst Mallin, and he knew it.

“I’d have to see them myself before I could express an opinion. You have that tape of Holloway’s with you?” When Kellogg nodded, Mallin continued: “Did either of them make any actual, overt claim of sapience?”

He answered it as he had when Victor Grego had asked the same question, adding:

“The account consists almost entirely of Holloway’s uncorroborated statements concerning things to which he claims to have been the sole witness.”

“Ah.” Mallin permitted himself a tight little smile. “And he’s not a qualified observer. Neither, for that matter, is Rainsford. Regardless of his position as a xeno-naturalist, he is complete layman in the psychosciences. He’s just taken this other man’s statements uncritically. As for what he claims to have observed for himself, how do we know he isn’t including a lot of erroneous inferences with his descriptive statements?”

“How do we know he’s not perpetrating a deliberate hoax?”

“But, Leonard, that’s a pretty serious accusation.”

“It’s happened before. That fellow who carved a Late Upland Martian inscription in that cave in Kenya, for instance. Or Hellermann’s claim to have cross-bred Terran mice with Thoran tilbras. Or the Piltdown Man, back in the first century Pre-Atomic?”

Mallin nodded. “None of us like to think of a thing like that, but, as you say, it’s happened. You know, this man Rainsford is just the type to do something like that, too. Fundamentally an individualistic egoist; badly adjusted personality type. Say he wants to make some sensational discovery which will assure him the position in the scientific world to which he believes himself entitled. He finds this lonely old prospector, into whose isolated camp some little animals have strayed. The old man has made pets of them, taught them a few tricks, finally so projected his own personality onto them that he has convinced himself that they are people like himself. This is Rainsford’s great opportunity; he will present himself as the discoverer of a new sapient race and bring the whole learned world to his feet.” Mallin smiled again. “Yes, Leonard, it is altogether possible.”

“Then it’s our plain duty to stop this thing before it develops into another major scientific scandal like Hellermann’s hybrids.”

“First we must go over this tape recording and see what we have on our hands. Then we must make a thorough, unbiased study of these animals, and show Rainsford and his accomplice that they cannot hope to foist these ridiculous claims on the scientific world with impunity. If we can’t convince them privately, there’ll be nothing to do but expose them publicly.”

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