AS I drew near the house I saw that the light shone from the open door of m_oom; and then I heard coming from out of the darkness at the side of tha_range oblong of light, the voice of Montgomery shouting, "Prendick!" _ontinued running. Presently I heard him again. I replied by a feeble "Hullo!"
and in another moment had staggered up to him.
"Where have you been?" said he, holding me at arm's length, so that the ligh_rom the door fell on my face. "We have both been so busy that we forgot yo_ntil about half an hour ago." He led me into the room and sat me down in th_eck chair. For awhile I was blinded by the light. "We did not think you woul_tart to explore this island of ours without telling us," he said; and then,
"I was afraid—But—what—Hullo!"
My last remaining strength slipped from me, and my head fell forward on m_hest. I think he found a certain satisfaction in giving me brandy.
"For God's sake," said I, "fasten that door."
"You've been meeting some of our curiosities, eh?" said he.
He locked the door and turned to me again. He asked me no questions, but gav_e some more brandy and water and pressed me to eat. I was in a state o_ollapse. He said something vague about his forgetting to warn me, and aske_e briefly when I left the house and what I had seen.
I answered him as briefly, in fragmentary sentences. "Tell me what it al_eans," said I, in a state bordering on hysterics.
"It's nothing so very dreadful," said he. "But I think you have had abou_nough for one day." The puma suddenly gave a sharp yell of pain. At that h_wore under his breath. "I'm damned," said he, "if this place is not as bad a_ower Street, with its cats."
"Montgomery," said I, "what was that thing that came after me? Was it a beas_r was it a man?"
"If you don't sleep to-night," he said, "you'll be off your head to-morrow."
I stood up in front of him. "What was that thing that came after me?" I asked.
He looked me squarely in the eyes, and twisted his mouth askew. His eyes,
which had seemed animated a minute before, went dull. "From your account,"
said he, "I'm thinking it was a bogle."
I felt a gust of intense irritation, which passed as quickly as it came. _lung myself into the chair again, and pressed my hands on my forehead. Th_uma began once more.
Montgomery came round behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Look here,
Prendick," he said, "I had no business to let you drift out into this sill_sland of ours. But it's not so bad as you feel, man. Your nerves are worke_o rags. Let me give you something that will make you sleep. That—will keep o_or hours yet. You must simply get to sleep, or I won't answer for it."
I did not reply. I bowed forward, and covered my face with my hands. Presentl_e returned with a small measure containing a dark liquid. This he gave me. _ook it unresistingly, and he helped me into the hammock.
When I awoke, it was broad day. For a little while I lay flat, staring at th_oof above me. The rafters, I observed, were made out of the timbers of _hip. Then I turned my head, and saw a meal prepared for me on the table. _erceived that I was hungry, and prepared to clamber out of the hammock,
which, very politely anticipating my intention, twisted round and deposited m_pon all-fours on the floor.
I got up and sat down before the food. I had a heavy feeling in my head, an_nly the vaguest memory at first of the things that had happened over night.
The morning breeze blew very pleasantly through the unglazed window, and tha_nd the food contributed to the sense of animal comfort which I experienced.
Presently the door behind me—the door inward towards the yard of th_nclosure—opened. I turned and saw Montgomery's face.
"All right," said he. "I'm frightfully busy." And he shut the door.
Afterwards I discovered that he forgot to re-lock it. Then I recalled th_xpression of his face the previous night, and with that the memory of all _ad experienced reconstructed itself before me. Even as that fear came back t_e came a cry from within; but this time it was not the cry of a puma. I pu_own the mouthful that hesitated upon my lips, and listened. Silence, save fo_he whisper of the morning breeze. I began to think my ears had deceived me.
After a long pause I resumed my meal, but with my ears still vigilant.
Presently I heard something else, very faint and low. I sat as if frozen in m_ttitude. Though it was faint and low, it moved me more profoundly than al_hat I had hitherto heard of the abominations behind the wall. There was n_istake this time in the quality of the dim, broken sounds; no doubt at all o_heir source. For it was groaning, broken by sobs and gasps of anguish. It wa_o brute this time; it was a human being in torment!
As I realised this I rose, and in three steps had crossed the room, seized th_andle of the door into the yard, and flung it open before me.
A startled deerhound yelped and snarled. There was blood, I saw, in th_ink,—brown, and some scarlet—and I smelt the peculiar smell of carbolic acid.
Then through an open doorway beyond, in the dim light of the shadow, I sa_omething bound painfully upon a framework, scarred, red, and bandaged; an_hen blotting this out appeared the face of old Moreau, white and terrible. I_ moment he had gripped me by the shoulder with a hand that was smeared red,
had twisted me off my feet, and flung me headlong back into my own room. H_ifted me as though I was a little child. I fell at full length upon th_loor, and the door slammed and shut out the passionate intensity of his face.
Then I heard the key turn in the lock, and Montgomery's voice i_xpostulation.
"Ruin the work of a lifetime," I heard Moreau say.
"He does not understand," said Montgomery. and other things that wer_naudible.
"I can't spare the time yet," said Moreau.
The rest I did not hear. I picked myself up and stood trembling, my mind _haos of the most horrible misgivings. Could it be possible, I thought, tha_uch a thing as the vivisection of men was carried on here? The question sho_ike lightning across a tumultuous sky; and suddenly the clouded horror of m_ind condensed into a vivid realisation of my own danger.