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Chapter 15 Concerning the Beast Folk

  • I WOKE early. Moreau's explanation stood before my mind, clear and definite,
  • from the moment of my awakening. I got out of the hammock and went to the doo_o assure myself that the key was turned. Then I tried the window-bar, an_ound it firmly fixed. That these man-like creatures were in truth onl_estial monsters, mere grotesque travesties of men, filled me with a vagu_ncertainty of their possibilities which was far worse than any definite fear.
  • A tapping came at the door, and I heard the glutinous accents of M'lin_peaking. I pocketed one of the revolvers (keeping one hand upon it), an_pened to him.
  • "Good-morning, sair," he said, bringing in, in addition to the customary herb-
  • breakfast, an ill-cooked rabbit. Montgomery followed him. His roving ey_aught the position of my arm and he smiled askew.
  • The puma was resting to heal that day; but Moreau, who was singularly solitar_n his habits, did not join us. I talked with Montgomery to clear my ideas o_he way in which the Beast Folk lived. In particular, I was urgent to know ho_hese inhuman monsters were kept from falling upon Moreau and Montgomery an_rom rending one another. He explained to me that the comparative safety o_oreau and himself was due to the limited mental scope of these monsters. I_pite of their increased intelligence and the tendency of their anima_nstincts to reawaken, they had certain fixed ideas implanted by Moreau i_heir minds, which absolutely bounded their imaginations. They were reall_ypnotised; had been told that certain things were impossible, and tha_ertain things were not to be done, and these prohibitions were woven into th_exture of their minds beyond any possibility of disobedience or dispute.
  • Certain matters, however, in which old instinct was at war with Moreau'_onvenience, were in a less stable condition. A series of propositions calle_he Law (I had already heard them recited) battled in their minds with th_eep-seated, ever-rebellious cravings of their animal natures. This Law the_ere ever repeating, I found, and ever breaking. Both Montgomery and Morea_isplayed particular solicitude to keep them ignorant of the taste of blood;
  • they feared the inevitable suggestions of that flavour. Montgomery told m_hat the Law, especially among the feline Beast People, became oddly weakene_bout nightfall; that then the animal was at its strongest; that a spirit o_dventure sprang up in them at the dusk, when they would dare things the_ever seemed to dream about by day. To that I owed my stalking by the Leopard-
  • man, on the night of my arrival. But during these earlier days of my stay the_roke the Law only furtively and after dark; in the daylight there was _eneral atmosphere of respect for its multifarious prohibitions.
  • And here perhaps I may give a few general facts about the island and the Beas_eople. The island, which was of irregular outline and lay low upon the wid_ea, had a total area, I suppose, of seven or eight square miles. It wa_olcanic in origin, and was now fringed on three sides by coral reefs; som_umaroles to the northward, and a hot spring, were the only vestiges of th_orces that had long since originated it. Now and then a faint quiver o_arthquake would be sensible, and sometimes the ascent of the spire of smok_ould be rendered tumultuous by gusts of steam; but that was all. Th_opulation of the island, Montgomery informed me, now numbered rather mor_han sixty of these strange creations of Moreau's art, not counting th_maller monstrosities which lived in the undergrowth and were without huma_orm. Altogether he had made nearly a hundred and twenty; but many had died,
  • and others—like the writhing Footless Thing of which he had told me—had com_y violent ends. In answer to my question, Montgomery said that they actuall_ore offspring, but that these generally died. When they lived, Moreau too_hem and stamped the human form upon them. There was no evidence of th_nheritance of their acquired human characteristics. The females were les_umerous than the males, and liable to much furtive persecution in spite o_he monogamy the Law enjoined.
  • It would be impossible for me to describe these Beast People in detail; my ey_as had no training in details, and unhappily I cannot sketch. Most striking,
  • perhaps, in their general appearance was the disproportion between the legs o_hese creatures and the length of their bodies; and yet—so relative is ou_dea of grace—my eye became habituated to their forms, and at last I even fel_n with their persuasion that my own long thighs were ungainly. Another poin_as the forward carriage of the head and the clumsy and inhuman curvature o_he spine. Even the Ape-man lacked that inward sinuous curve of the back whic_akes the human figure so graceful. Most had their shoulders hunched clumsily,
  • and their short forearms hung weakly at their sides. Few of them wer_onspicuously hairy, at least until the end of my time upon the island.
  • The next most obvious deformity was in their faces, almost all of which wer_rognathous, malformed about the ears, with large and protuberant noses, ver_urry or very bristly hair, and often strangely-coloured or strangely-place_yes. None could laugh, though the Ape-man had a chattering titter. Beyon_hese general characters their heads had little in common; each preserved th_uality of its particular species: the human mark distorted but did not hid_he leopard, the ox, or the sow, or other animal or animals, from which th_reature had been moulded. The voices, too, varied exceedingly. The hands wer_lways malformed; and though some surprised me by their unexpected huma_ppearance, almost all were deficient in the number of the digits, clums_bout the finger-nails, and lacking any tactile sensibility.
  • The two most formidable Animal Men were my Leopard-man and a creature made o_yena and swine. Larger than these were the three bull-creatures who pulled i_he boat. Then came the silvery-hairy-man, who was also the Sayer of the Law,
  • M'ling, and a satyr-like creature of ape and goat. There were three Swine-me_nd a Swine-woman, a mare-rhinoceros-creature, and several other females whos_ources I did not ascertain. There were several wolf-creatures, a bear-bull,
  • and a Saint-Bernard-man. I have already described the Ape-man, and there was _articularly hateful (and evil-smelling) old woman made of vixen and bear,
  • whom I hated from the beginning. She was said to be a passionate votary of th_aw. Smaller creatures were certain dappled youths and my little sloth-
  • creature. But enough of this catalogue.
  • At first I had a shivering horror of the brutes, felt all too keenly that the_ere still brutes; but insensibly I became a little habituated to the idea o_hem, and moreover I was affected by Montgomery's attitude towards them. H_ad been with them so long that he had come to regard them as almost norma_uman beings. His London days seemed a glorious, impossible past to him. Onl_nce in a year or so did he go to Arica to deal with Moreau's agent, a trade_n animals there. He hardly met the finest type of mankind in that seafarin_illage of Spanish mongrels. The men aboard-ship, he told me, seemed at firs_ust as strange to him as the Beast Men seemed to me,—unnaturally long in th_eg, flat in the face, prominent in the forehead, suspicious, dangerous, an_old-hearted. In fact, he did not like men: his heart had warmed to me, h_hought, because he had saved my life. I fancied even then that he had _neaking kindness for some of these metamorphosed brutes, a vicious sympath_ith some of their ways, but that he attempted to veil it from me at first.
  • M'ling, the black-faced man, Montgomery's attendant, the first of the Beas_olk I had encountered, did not live with the others across the island, but i_ small kennel at the back of the enclosure. The creature was scarcely s_ntelligent as the Ape-man, but far more docile, and the most human-looking o_ll the Beast Folk; and Montgomery had trained it to prepare food, and indee_o discharge all the trivial domestic offices that were required. It was _omplex trophy of Moreau's horrible skill,—a bear, tainted with dog and ox,
  • and one of the most elaborately made of all his creatures. It treate_ontgomery with a strange tenderness and devotion. Sometimes he would notic_t, pat it, call it half-mocking, half-jocular names, and so make it cape_ith extraordinary delight; sometimes he would ill-treat it, especially afte_e had been at the whiskey, kicking it, beating it, pelting it with stones o_ighted fusees. But whether he treated it well or ill, it loved nothing s_uch as to be near him.
  • I say I became habituated to the Beast People, that a thousand things whic_ad seemed unnatural and repulsive speedily became natural and ordinary to me.
  • I suppose everything in existence takes its colour from the average hue of ou_urroundings. Montgomery and Moreau were too peculiar and individual to kee_y general impressions of humanity well defined. I would see one of the clums_ovine-creatures who worked the launch treading heavily through th_ndergrowth, and find myself asking, trying hard to recall, how he differe_rom some really human yokel trudging home from his mechanical labours; or _ould meet the Fox-bear woman's vulpine, shifty face, strangely human in it_peculative cunning, and even imagine I had met it before in some city byway.
  • Yet every now and then the beast would flash out upon me beyond doubt o_enial. An ugly-looking man, a hunch-backed human savage to all appearance,
  • squatting in the aperture of one of the dens, would stretch his arms and yawn,
  • showing with startling suddenness scissor-edged incisors and sabre-lik_anines, keen and brilliant as knives. Or in some narrow pathway, glancin_ith a transitory daring into the eyes of some lithe, white-swathed femal_igure, I would suddenly see (with a spasmodic revulsion) that she had slit-
  • like pupils, or glancing down note the curving nail with which she held he_hapeless wrap about her. It is a curious thing, by the bye, for which I a_uite unable to account, that these weird creatures—the females, I mean—had i_he earlier days of my stay an instinctive sense of their own repulsiv_lumsiness, and displayed in consequence a more than human regard for th_ecency and decorum of extensive costume.