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Chapter 14 Doctor Moreau Explains

  • "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.