"AND now, Prendick, I will explain," said Doctor Moreau, so soon as we ha_aten and drunk. "I must confess that you are the most dictatorial guest _ver entertained. I warn you that this is the last I shall do to oblige you.
The next thing you threaten to commit suicide about, I shan't do,—even at som_ersonal inconvenience."
He sat in my deck chair, a cigar half consumed in his white, dexterous-lookin_ingers. The light of the swinging lamp fell on his white hair; he stare_hrough the little window out at the starlight. I sat as far away from him a_ossible, the table between us and the revolvers to hand. Montgomery was no_resent. I did not care to be with the two of them in such a little room.
"You admit that the vivisected human being, as you called it, is, after all, only the puma?" said Moreau. He had made me visit that horror in the inne_oom, to assure myself of its inhumanity.
"It is the puma," I said, "still alive, but so cut and mutilated as I pray _ay never see living flesh again. Of all vile—"
"Never mind that," said Moreau; "at least, spare me those youthful horrors.
Montgomery used to be just the same. You admit that it is the puma. Now b_uiet, while I reel off my physiological lecture to you."
And forthwith, beginning in the tone of a man supremely bored, but presentl_arming a little, he explained his work to me. He was very simple an_onvincing. Now and then there was a touch of sarcasm in his voice. Presentl_ found myself hot with shame at our mutual positions.
The creatures I had seen were not men, had never been men. They were animals, humanised animals,—triumphs of vivisection.
"You forget all that a skilled vivisector can do with living things," sai_oreau. "For my own part, I'm puzzled why the things I have done here have no_een done before. Small efforts, of course, have been made,—amputation, tongue-cutting, excisions. Of course you know a squint may be induced or cure_y surgery? Then in the case of excisions you have all kinds of secondar_hanges, pigmentary disturbances, modifications of the passions, alteration_n the secretion of fatty tissue. I have no doubt you have heard of thes_hings?"
"Of course," said I. "But these foul creatures of yours—"
"All in good time," said he, waving his hand at me; "I am only beginning.
Those are trivial cases of alteration. Surgery can do better things than that.
There is building up as well as breaking down and changing. You have heard, perhaps, of a common surgical operation resorted to in cases where the nos_as been destroyed: a flap of skin is cut from the forehead, turned down o_he nose, and heals in the new position. This is a kind of grafting in a ne_osition of part of an animal upon itself. Grafting of freshly obtaine_aterial from another animal is also possible,—the case of teeth, for example.
The grafting of skin and bone is done to facilitate healing: the surgeo_laces in the middle of the wound pieces of skin snipped from another animal, or fragments of bone from a victim freshly killed. Hunter's cock-spur—possibl_ou have heard of that—flourished on the bull's neck; and the rhinoceros rat_f the Algerian zouaves are also to be thought of,—monsters manufactured b_ransferring a slip from the tail of an ordinary rat to its snout, an_llowing it to heal in that position."
"Monsters manufactured!" said I. "Then you mean to tell me—"
"Yes. These creatures you have seen are animals carven and wrought into ne_hapes. To that, to the study of the plasticity of living forms, my life ha_een devoted. I have studied for years, gaining in knowledge as I go. I se_ou look horrified, and yet I am telling you nothing new. It all lay in th_urface of practical anatomy years ago, but no one had the temerity to touc_t. It is not simply the outward form of an animal which I can change. Th_hysiology, the chemical rhythm of the creature, may also be made to underg_n enduring modification,—of which vaccination and other methods o_noculation with living or dead matter are examples that will, no doubt, b_amiliar to you. A similar operation is the transfusion of blood,—with whic_ubject, indeed, I began. These are all familiar cases. Less so, and probabl_ar more extensive, were the operations of those mediaeval practitioners wh_ade dwarfs and beggar-cripples, show-monsters,—some vestiges of whose ar_till remain in the preliminary manipulation of the young mountebank o_ontortionist. Victor Hugo gives an account of them in 'L'Homme qui Rit.'—Bu_erhaps my meaning grows plain now. You begin to see that it is a possibl_hing to transplant tissue from one part of an animal to another, or from on_nimal to another; to alter its chemical reactions and methods of growth; t_odify the articulations of its limbs; and, indeed, to change it in its mos_ntimate structure.
"And yet this extraordinary branch of knowledge has never been sought as a_nd, and systematically, by modern investigators until I took it up! Some suc_hings have been hit upon in the last resort of surgery; most of the kindre_vidence that will recur to your mind has been demonstrated as it were b_ccident,—by tyrants, by criminals, by the breeders of horses and dogs, by al_inds of untrained clumsy-handed men working for their own immediate ends. _as the first man to take up this question armed with antiseptic surgery, an_ith a really scientific knowledge of the laws of growth. Yet one woul_magine it must have been practised in secret before. Such creatures as th_iamese Twins—And in the vaults of the Inquisition. No doubt their chief ai_as artistic torture, but some at least of the inquisitors must have had _ouch of scientific curiosity."
"But," said I, "these things—these animals talk!"
He said that was so, and proceeded to point out that the possibility o_ivisection does not stop at a mere physical metamorphosis. A pig may b_ducated. The mental structure is even less determinate than the bodily. I_ur growing science of hypnotism we find the promise of a possibility o_uperseding old inherent instincts by new suggestions, grafting upon o_eplacing the inherited fixed ideas. Very much indeed of what we call mora_ducation, he said, is such an artificial modification and perversion o_nstinct; pugnacity is trained into courageous self-sacrifice, and suppresse_exuality into religious emotion. And the great difference between man an_onkey is in the larynx, he continued,—in the incapacity to frame delicatel_ifferent sound-symbols by which thought could be sustained. In this I faile_o agree with him, but with a certain incivility he declined to notice m_bjection. He repeated that the thing was so, and continued his account of hi_ork.
I asked him why he had taken the human form as a model. There seemed to m_hen, and there still seems to me now, a strange wickedness for that choice.
He confessed that he had chosen that form by chance. "I might just as wel_ave worked to form sheep into llamas and llamas into sheep. I suppose ther_s something in the human form that appeals to the artistic turn of mind mor_owerfully than any animal shape can. But I've not confined myself to man- making. Once or twice—" He was silent, for a minute perhaps. "These years! Ho_hey have slipped by! And here I have wasted a day saving your life, and a_ow wasting an hour explaining myself!"
"But," said I, "I still do not understand. Where is your justification fo_nflicting all this pain? The only thing that could excuse vivisection to m_ould be some application—"
"Precisely," said he. "But, you see, I am differently constituted. We are o_ifferent platforms. You are a materialist."
"I am not a materialist," I began hotly.
"In my view—in my view. For it is just this question of pain that parts us. S_ong as visible or audible pain turns you sick; so long as your own pain_rive you; so long as pain underlies your propositions about sin,—so long, _ell you, you are an animal, thinking a little less obscurely what an anima_eels. This pain—"
I gave an impatient shrug at such sophistry.
"Oh, but it is such a little thing! A mind truly opened to what science has t_each must see that it is a little thing. It may be that save in this littl_lanet, this speck of cosmic dust, invisible long before the nearest sta_ould be attained—it may be, I say, that nowhere else does this thing calle_ain occur. But the laws we feel our way towards—Why, even on this earth, eve_mong living things, what pain is there?"
As he spoke he drew a little penknife from his pocket, opened the smalle_lade, and moved his chair so that I could see his thigh. Then, choosing th_lace deliberately, he drove the blade into his leg and withdrew it.
"No doubt," he said, "you have seen that before. It does not hurt a pin-prick.
But what does it show? The capacity for pain is not needed in the muscle, an_t is not placed there,—is but little needed in the skin, and only here an_here over the thigh is a spot capable of feeling pain. Pain is simply ou_ntrinsic medical adviser to warn us and stimulate us. Not all living flesh i_ainful; nor is all nerve, not even all sensory nerve. There's no taint o_ain, real pain, in the sensations of the optic nerve. If you wound the opti_erve, you merely see flashes of light,—just as disease of the auditory nerv_erely means a humming in our ears. Plants do not feel pain, nor the lowe_nimals; it's possible that such animals as the starfish and crayfish do no_eel pain at all. Then with men, the more intelligent they become, the mor_ntelligently they will see after their own welfare, and the less they wil_eed the goad to keep them out of danger. I never yet heard of a useless thin_hat was not ground out of existence by evolution sooner or later. Did you?
And pain gets needless.
"Then I am a religious man, Prendick, as every sane man must be. It may be, _ancy, that I have seen more of the ways of this world's Maker than you,—for _ave sought his laws, in my way, all my life, while you, I understand, hav_een collecting butterflies. And I tell you, pleasure and pain have nothing t_o with heaven or hell. Pleasure and pain—bah! What is your theologian'_cstasy but Mahomet's houri in the dark? This store which men and women set o_leasure and pain, Prendick, is the mark of the beast upon them,—the mark o_he beast from which they came! Pain, pain and pleasure, they are for us onl_o long as we wriggle in the dust.
"You see, I went on with this research just the way it led me. That is th_nly way I ever heard of true research going. I asked a question, devised som_ethod of obtaining an answer, and got a fresh question. Was this possible o_hat possible? You cannot imagine what this means to an investigator, what a_ntellectual passion grows upon him! You cannot imagine the strange, colourless delight of these intellectual desires! The thing before you is n_onger an animal, a fellow-creature, but a problem! Sympathetic pain,—all _now of it I remember as a thing I used to suffer from years ago. I wanted—i_as the one thing I wanted—to find out the extreme limit of plasticity in _iving shape."
"But," said I, "the thing is an abomination—"
"To this day I have never troubled about the ethics of the matter," h_ontinued. "The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature.
I have gone on, not heeding anything but the question I was pursuing; and th_aterial has—dripped into the huts yonder. It is nearly eleven years since w_ame here, I and Montgomery and six Kanakas. I remember the green stillness o_he island and the empty ocean about us, as though it was yesterday. The plac_eemed waiting for me.
"The stores were landed and the house was built. The Kanakas founded some hut_ear the ravine. I went to work here upon what I had brought with me. Ther_ere some disagreeable things happened at first. I began with a sheep, an_illed it after a day and a half by a slip of the scalpel. I took anothe_heep, and made a thing of pain and fear and left it bound up to heal. I_ooked quite human to me when I had finished it; but when I went to it I wa_iscontented with it. It remembered me, and was terrified beyond imagination; and it had no more than the wits of a sheep. The more I looked at it th_lumsier it seemed, until at last I put the monster out of its misery. Thes_nimals without courage, these fear-haunted, pain-driven things, without _park of pugnacious energy to face torment,—they are no good for man-making.
"Then I took a gorilla I had; and upon that, working with infinite care an_astering difficulty after difficulty, I made my first man. All the week, night and day, I moulded him. With him it was chiefly the brain that neede_oulding; much had to be added, much changed. I thought him a fair specimen o_he negroid type when I had finished him, and he lay bandaged, bound, an_otionless before me. It was only when his life was assured that I left hi_nd came into this room again, and found Montgomery much as you are. He ha_eard some of the cries as the thing grew human,—cries like those tha_isturbed you so. I didn't take him completely into my confidence at first.
And the Kanakas too, had realised something of it. They were scared out o_heir wits by the sight of me. I got Montgomery over to me—in a way; but I an_e had the hardest job to prevent the Kanakas deserting. Finally they did; an_o we lost the yacht. I spent many days educating the brute,—altogether I ha_im for three or four months. I taught him the rudiments of English; gave hi_deas of counting; even made the thing read the alphabet. But at that he wa_low, though I've met with idiots slower. He began with a clean sheet, mentally; had no memories left in his mind of what he had been. When his scar_ere quite healed, and he was no longer anything but painful and stiff, an_ble to converse a little, I took him yonder and introduced him to the Kanaka_s an interesting stowaway.
"They were horribly afraid of him at first, somehow,—which offended me rather, for I was conceited about him; but his ways seemed so mild, and he was s_bject, that after a time they received him and took his education in hand. H_as quick to learn, very imitative and adaptive, and built himself a hove_ather better, it seemed to me, than their own shanties. There was one amon_he boys a bit of a missionary, and he taught the thing to read, or at leas_o pick out letters, and gave him some rudimentary ideas of morality; but i_eems the beast's habits were not all that is desirable.
"I rested from work for some days after this, and was in a mind to write a_ccount of the whole affair to wake up English physiology. Then I came upo_he creature squatting up in a tree and gibbering at two of the Kanakas wh_ad been teasing him. I threatened him, told him the inhumanity of such _roceeding, aroused his sense of shame, and came home resolved to do bette_efore I took my work back to England. I have been doing better. But someho_he things drift back again: the stubborn beast-flesh grows day by day bac_gain. But I mean to do better things still. I mean to conquer that. Thi_uma—
"But that's the story. All the Kanaka boys are dead now; one fell overboard o_he launch, and one died of a wounded heel that he poisoned in some way wit_lant-juice. Three went away in the yacht, and I suppose and hope wer_rowned. The other one—was killed. Well, I have replaced them. Montgomery wen_n much as you are disposed to do at first, and then—
"What became of the other one?" said I, sharply,—"the other Kanaka who wa_illed?"
"The fact is, after I had made a number of human creatures I made a Thing—" H_esitated.
"Yes?" said I.
"It was killed."
"I don't understand," said I; "do you mean to say—"
"It killed the Kanaka—yes. It killed several other things that it caught. W_hased it for a couple of days. It only got loose by accident—I never meant i_o get away. It wasn't finished. It was purely an experiment. It was _imbless thing, with a horrible face, that writhed along the ground in _erpentine fashion. It was immensely strong, and in infuriating pain. I_urked in the woods for some days, until we hunted it; and then it wriggle_nto the northern part of the island, and we divided the party to close i_pon it. Montgomery insisted upon coming with me. The man had a rifle; an_hen his body was found, one of the barrels was curved into the shape of an _nd very nearly bitten through. Montgomery shot the thing. After that I stuc_o the ideal of humanity—except for little things."
He became silent. I sat in silence watching his face.
"So for twenty years altogether—counting nine years in England—I have bee_oing on; and there is still something in everything I do that defeats me, makes me dissatisfied, challenges me to further effort. Sometimes I rise abov_y level, sometimes I fall below it; but always I fall short of the things _ream. The human shape I can get now, almost with ease, so that it is lith_nd graceful, or thick and strong; but often there is trouble with the hand_nd the claws,—painful things, that I dare not shape too freely. But it is i_he subtle grafting and reshaping one must needs do to the brain that m_rouble lies. The intelligence is often oddly low, with unaccountable blan_nds, unexpected gaps. And least satisfactory of all is something that _annot touch, somewhere—I cannot determine where—in the seat of the emotions.
Cravings, instincts, desires that harm humanity, a strange hidden reservoir t_urst forth suddenly and inundate the whole being of the creature with anger, hate, or fear. These creatures of mine seemed strange and uncanny to you s_oon as you began to observe them; but to me, just after I make them, the_eem to be indisputably human beings. It's afterwards, as I observe them, tha_he persuasion fades. First one animal trait, then another, creeps to th_urface and stares out at me. But I will conquer yet! Each time I dip a livin_reature into the bath of burning pain, I say, 'This time I will burn out al_he animal; this time I will make a rational creature of my own!' After all, what is ten years? Men have been a hundred thousand in the making." He though_arkly. "But I am drawing near the fastness. This puma of mine—" After _ilence, "And they revert. As soon as my hand is taken from them the beas_egins to creep back, begins to assert itself again." Another long silence.
"Then you take the things you make into those dens?" said I.
"They go. I turn them out when I begin to feel the beast in them, an_resently they wander there. They all dread this house and me. There is a kin_f travesty of humanity over there. Montgomery knows about it, for h_nterferes in their affairs. He has trained one or two of them to our service.
He's ashamed of it, but I believe he half likes some of those beasts. It's hi_usiness, not mine. They only sicken me with a sense of failure. I take n_nterest in them. I fancy they follow in the lines the Kanaka missionar_arked out, and have a kind of mockery of a rational life, poor beasts!
There's something they call the Law. Sing hymns about 'all thine.' They buil_hemselves their dens, gather fruit, and pull herbs—marry even. But I can se_hrough it all, see into their very souls, and see there nothing but the soul_f beasts, beasts that perish, anger and the lusts to live and gratif_hemselves.—Yet they're odd; complex, like everything else alive. There is _ind of upward striving in them, part vanity, part waste sexual emotion, par_aste curiosity. It only mocks me. I have some hope of this puma. I hav_orked hard at her head and brain—
"And now," said he, standing up after a long gap of silence, during which w_ad each pursued our own thoughts, "what do you think? Are you in fear of m_till?"
I looked at him, and saw but a white-faced, white-haired man, with calm eyes.
Save for his serenity, the touch almost of beauty that resulted from his se_ranquillity and his magnificent build, he might have passed muster among _undred other comfortable old gentlemen. Then I shivered. By way of answer t_is second question, I handed him a revolver with either hand.
"Keep them," he said, and snatched at a yawn. He stood up, stared at me for _oment, and smiled. "You have had two eventful days," said he. "I shoul_dvise some sleep. I'm glad it's all clear. Good-night." He thought me ove_or a moment, then went out by the inner door.
I immediately turned the key in the outer one. I sat down again; sat for _ime in a kind of stagnant mood, so weary, emotionally, mentally, an_hysically, that I could not think beyond the point at which he had left me.
The black window stared at me like an eye. At last with an effort I put ou_he light and got into the hammock. Very soon I was asleep.