MY inexperience as a writer betrays me, and I wander from the thread of m_tory.
After I had breakfasted with Montgomery, he took me across the island to se_he fumarole and the source of the hot spring into whose scalding waters I ha_lundered on the previous day. Both of us carried whips and loaded revolvers.
While going through a leafy jungle on our road thither, we heard a rabbi_quealing. We stopped and listened, but we heard no more; and presently w_ent on our way, and the incident dropped out of our minds. Montgomery calle_y attention to certain little pink animals with long hind-legs, that wen_eaping through the undergrowth. He told me they were creatures made of th_ffspring of the Beast People, that Moreau had invented. He had fancied the_ight serve for meat, but a rabbit-like habit of devouring their young ha_efeated this intention. I had already encountered some of thes_reatures,—once during my moonlight flight from the Leopard-man, and onc_uring my pursuit by Moreau on the previous day. By chance, one hopping t_void us leapt into the hole caused by the uprooting of a wind-blown tree; before it could extricate itself we managed to catch it. It spat like a cat, scratched and kicked vigorously with its hind-legs, and made an attempt t_ite; but its teeth were too feeble to inflict more than a painless pinch. I_eemed to me rather a pretty little creature; and as Montgomery stated that i_ever destroyed the turf by burrowing, and was very cleanly in its habits, _hould imagine it might prove a convenient substitute for the common rabbit i_entlemen's parks.
We also saw on our way the trunk of a tree barked in long strips an_plintered deeply. Montgomery called my attention to this. "Not to claw bar_f trees, that is the Law," he said. "Much some of them care for it!" It wa_fter this, I think, that we met the Satyr and the Ape-man. The Satyr was _leam of classical memory on the part of Moreau,—his face ovine in expression, like the coarser Hebrew type; his voice a harsh bleat, his nether extremitie_atanic. He was gnawing the husk of a pod-like fruit as he passed us. Both o_hem saluted Montgomery.
"Hail," said they, "to the Other with the Whip!"
"There's a Third with a Whip now," said Montgomery. "So you'd better mind!"
"Was he not made?" said the Ape-man. "He said—he said he was made."
The Satyr-man looked curiously at me. "The Third with the Whip, he that walk_eeping into the sea, has a thin white face."
"He has a thin long whip," said Montgomery.
"Yesterday he bled and wept," said the Satyr. "You never bleed nor weep. Th_aster does not bleed or weep."
"Ollendorffian beggar!" said Montgomery, "you'll bleed and weep if you don'_ook out!"
"He has five fingers, he is a five-man like me," said the Ape-man.
"Come along, Prendick," said Montgomery, taking my arm; and I went on wit_im.
The Satyr and the Ape-man stood watching us and making other remarks to eac_ther.
"He says nothing," said the Satyr. "Men have voices."
"Yesterday he asked me of things to eat," said the Ape-man. "He did not know."
Then they spoke inaudible things, and I heard the Satyr laughing.
It was on our way back that we came upon the dead rabbit. The red body of th_retched little beast was rent to pieces, many of the ribs stripped white, an_he backbone indisputably gnawed.
At that Montgomery stopped. "Good God!" said he, stooping down, and picking u_ome of the crushed vertebrae to examine them more closely. "Good God!" h_epeated, "what can this mean?"
"Some carnivore of yours has remembered its old habits," I said after a pause.
"This backbone has been bitten through."
He stood staring, with his face white and his lip pulled askew. "I don't lik_his," he said slowly.
"I saw something of the same kind," said I, "the first day I came here."
"The devil you did! What was it?"
"A rabbit with its head twisted off."
"The day you came here?"
"The day I came here. In the undergrowth at the back of the enclosure, when _ent out in the evening. The head was completely wrung off."
He gave a long, low whistle.
"And what is more, I have an idea which of your brutes did the thing. It'_nly a suspicion, you know. Before I came on the rabbit I saw one of you_onsters drinking in the stream."
"Sucking his drink?"
"'Not to suck your drink; that is the Law.' Much the brutes care for the Law, eh? when Moreau's not about!"
"It was the brute who chased me."
"Of course," said Montgomery; "it's just the way with carnivores. After _ill, they drink. It's the taste of blood, you know.—What was the brute like?"
he continued. "Would you know him again?" He glanced about us, standin_stride over the mess of dead rabbit, his eyes roving among the shadows an_creens of greenery, the lurking-places and ambuscades of the forest tha_ounded us in. "The taste of blood," he said again.
He took out his revolver, examined the cartridges in it and replaced it. The_e began to pull at his dropping lip.
"I think I should know the brute again," I said. "I stunned him. He ought t_ave a handsome bruise on the forehead of him."
"But then we have to prove that he killed the rabbit," said Montgomery. "_ish I'd never brought the things here."
I should have gone on, but he stayed there thinking over the mangled rabbit i_ puzzle-headed way. As it was, I went to such a distance that the rabbit'_emains were hidden.
"Come on!" I said.
Presently he woke up and came towards me. "You see," he said, almost in _hisper, "they are all supposed to have a fixed idea against eating anythin_hat runs on land. If some brute has by any accident tasted blood—"
We went on some way in silence. "I wonder what can have happened," he said t_imself. Then, after a pause again: "I did a foolish thing the other day. Tha_ervant of mine—I showed him how to skin and cook a rabbit. It's odd—I saw hi_icking his hands—It never occurred to me."
Then: "We must put a stop to this. I must tell Moreau."
He could think of nothing else on our homeward journey.
Moreau took the matter even more seriously than Montgomery, and I nee_carcely say that I was affected by their evident consternation.
"We must make an example," said Moreau. "I've no doubt in my own mind that th_eopard-man was the sinner. But how can we prove it? I wish, Montgomery, yo_ad kept your taste for meat in hand, and gone without these excitin_ovelties. We may find ourselves in a mess yet, through it."
"I was a silly ass," said Montgomery. "But the thing's done now; and you sai_ might have them, you know."
"We must see to the thing at once," said Moreau. "I suppose if anything shoul_urn up, M'ling can take care of himself?"
"I'm not so sure of M'ling," said Montgomery. "I think I ought to know him."
In the afternoon, Moreau, Montgomery, myself, and M'ling went across th_sland to the huts in the ravine. We three were armed; M'ling carried th_ittle hatchet he used in chopping firewood, and some coils of wire. Morea_ad a huge cowherd's horn slung over his shoulder.
"You will see a gathering of the Beast People," said Montgomery. "It is _retty sight!"
Moreau said not a word on the way, but the expression of his heavy, white- fringed face was grimly set.
We crossed the ravine down which smoked the stream of hot water, and followe_he winding pathway through the canebrakes until we reached a wide are_overed over with a thick, powdery yellow substance which I believe wa_ulphur. Above the shoulder of a weedy bank the sea glittered. We came to _ind of shallow natural amphitheatre, and here the four of us halted. The_oreau sounded the horn, and broke the sleeping stillness of the tropica_fternoon. He must have had strong lungs. The hooting note rose and ros_midst its echoes, to at last an ear-penetrating intensity.
"Ah!" said Moreau, letting the curved instrument fall to his side again.
Immediately there was a crashing through the yellow canes, and a sound o_oices from the dense green jungle that marked the morass through which I ha_un on the previous day. Then at three or four points on the edge of th_ulphurous area appeared the grotesque forms of the Beast People hurryin_owards us. I could not help a creeping horror, as I perceived first one an_hen another trot out from the trees or reeds and come shambling along ove_he hot dust. But Moreau and Montgomery stood calmly enough; and, perforce, _tuck beside them.
First to arrive was the Satyr, strangely unreal for all that he cast a shado_nd tossed the dust with his hoofs. After him from the brake came a monstrou_out, a thing of horse and rhinoceros, chewing a straw as it came; the_ppeared the Swine-woman and two Wolf-women; then the Fox-bear witch, with he_ed eyes in her peaked red face, and then others,—all hurrying eagerly. A_hey came forward they began to cringe towards Moreau and chant, quit_egardless of one another, fragments of the latter half of the litany of th_aw,—"His is the Hand that wounds; His is the Hand that heals," and so forth.
As soon as they had approached within a distance of perhaps thirty yards the_alted, and bowing on knees and elbows began flinging the white dust upo_heir heads.
Imagine the scene if you can! We three blue-clad men, with our misshape_lack-faced attendant, standing in a wide expanse of sunlit yellow dust unde_he blazing blue sky, and surrounded by this circle of crouching an_esticulating monstrosities,—some almost human save in their subtle expressio_nd gestures, some like cripples, some so strangely distorted as to resembl_othing but the denizens of our wildest dreams; and, beyond, the reedy line_f a canebrake in one direction, a dense tangle of palm-trees on the other, separating us from the ravine with the huts, and to the north the hazy horizo_f the Pacific Ocean.
"Sixty-two, sixty-three," counted Moreau. "There are four more."
"I do not see the Leopard-man," said I.
Presently Moreau sounded the great horn again, and at the sound of it all th_east People writhed and grovelled in the dust. Then, slinking out of th_anebrake, stooping near the ground and trying to join the dust-throwin_ircle behind Moreau's back, came the Leopard-man. The last of the Beas_eople to arrive was the little Ape-man. The earlier animals, hot and wear_ith their grovelling, shot vicious glances at him.
"Cease!" said Moreau, in his firm, loud voice; and the Beast People sat bac_pon their hams and rested from their worshipping.
"Where is the Sayer of the Law?" said Moreau, and the hairy-grey monster bowe_is face in the dust.
"Say the words!" said Moreau.
Forthwith all in the kneeling assembly, swaying from side to side and dashin_p the sulphur with their hands,—first the right hand and a puff of dust, an_hen the left,—began once more to chant their strange litany. When the_eached, "Not to eat Flesh or Fish, that is the Law," Moreau held up his lan_hite hand.
"Stop!" he cried, and there fell absolute silence upon them all.
I think they all knew and dreaded what was coming. I looked round at thei_trange faces. When I saw their wincing attitudes and the furtive dread i_heir bright eyes, I wondered that I had ever believed them to be men.
"That Law has been broken!" said Moreau.
"None escape," from the faceless creature with the silvery hair. "Non_scape," repeated the kneeling circle of Beast People.
"Who is he?" cried Moreau, and looked round at their faces, cracking his whip.
I fancied the Hyena-swine looked dejected, so too did the Leopard-man. Morea_topped, facing this creature, who cringed towards him with the memory an_read of infinite torment.
"Who is he?" repeated Moreau, in a voice of thunder.
"Evil is he who breaks the Law," chanted the Sayer of the Law.
Moreau looked into the eyes of the Leopard-man, and seemed to be dragging th_ery soul out of the creature.
"Who breaks the Law—" said Moreau, taking his eyes off his victim, and turnin_owards us (it seemed to me there was a touch of exultation in his voice).
"Goes back to the House of Pain," they all clamoured,—"goes back to the Hous_f Pain, O Master!"
"Back to the House of Pain,—back to the House of Pain," gabbled the Ape-man, as though the idea was sweet to him.
"Do you hear?" said Moreau, turning back to the criminal, "my friend—Hullo!"
For the Leopard-man, released from Moreau's eye, had risen straight from hi_nees, and now, with eyes aflame and his huge feline tusks flashing out fro_nder his curling lips, leapt towards his tormentor. I am convinced that onl_he madness of unendurable fear could have prompted this attack. The whol_ircle of threescore monsters seemed to rise about us. I drew my revolver. Th_wo figures collided. I saw Moreau reeling back from the Leopard-man's blow.
There was a furious yelling and howling all about us. Every one was movin_apidly. For a moment I thought it was a general revolt. The furious face o_he Leopard-man flashed by mine, with M'ling close in pursuit. I saw th_ellow eyes of the Hyena-swine blazing with excitement, his attitude as if h_ere half resolved to attack me. The Satyr, too, glared at me over the Hyena- swine's hunched shoulders. I heard the crack of Moreau's pistol, and saw th_ink flash dart across the tumult. The whole crowd seemed to swing round i_he direction of the glint of fire, and I too was swung round by the magnetis_f the movement. In another second I was running, one of a tumultuous shoutin_rowd, in pursuit of the escaping Leopard-man.
That is all I can tell definitely. I saw the Leopard-man strike Moreau, an_hen everything spun about me until I was running headlong. M'ling was ahead, close in pursuit of the fugitive. Behind, their tongues already lolling out, ran the Wolf-women in great leaping strides. The Swine folk followed, squealing with excitement, and the two Bull-men in their swathings of white.
Then came Moreau in a cluster of the Beast People, his wide-brimmed straw ha_lown off, his revolver in hand, and his lank white hair streaming out. Th_yena-swine ran beside me, keeping pace with me and glancing furtively at m_ut of his feline eyes, and the others came pattering and shouting behind us.
The Leopard-man went bursting his way through the long canes, which spran_ack as he passed, and rattled in M'ling's face. We others in the rear found _rampled path for us when we reached the brake. The chase lay through th_rake for perhaps a quarter of a mile, and then plunged into a dense thicket, which retarded our movements exceedingly, though we went through it in a crow_ogether,—fronds flicking into our faces, ropy creepers catching us under th_hin or gripping our ankles, thorny plants hooking into and tearing cloth an_lesh together.
"He has gone on all-fours through this," panted Moreau, now just ahead of me.
"None escape," said the Wolf-bear, laughing into my face with the exultatio_f hunting. We burst out again among rocks, and saw the quarry ahead runnin_ightly on all-fours and snarling at us over his shoulder. At that the Wol_olk howled with delight. The Thing was still clothed, and at a distance it_ace still seemed human; but the carriage of its four limbs was feline, an_he furtive droop of its shoulder was distinctly that of a hunted animal. I_eapt over some thorny yellow-flowering bushes, and was hidden. M'ling wa_alfway across the space.
Most of us now had lost the first speed of the chase, and had fallen into _onger and steadier stride. I saw as we traversed the open that the pursui_as now spreading from a column into a line. The Hyena-swine still ran clos_o me, watching me as it ran, every now and then puckering its muzzle with _narling laugh. At the edge of the rocks the Leopard-man, realising that h_as making for the projecting cape upon which he had stalked me on the nigh_f my arrival, had doubled in the undergrowth; but Montgomery had seen th_anoeuvre, and turned him again. So, panting, tumbling against rocks, torn b_rambles, impeded by ferns and reeds, I helped to pursue the Leopard-man wh_ad broken the Law, and the Hyena-swine ran, laughing savagely, by my side. _taggered on, my head reeling and my heart beating against my ribs, tire_lmost to death, and yet not daring to lose sight of the chase lest I shoul_e left alone with this horrible companion. I staggered on in spite o_nfinite fatigue and the dense heat of the tropical afternoon.
At last the fury of the hunt slackened. We had pinned the wretched brute int_ corner of the island. Moreau, whip in hand, marshalled us all into a_rregular line, and we advanced now slowly, shouting to one another as w_dvanced and tightening the cordon about our victim. He lurked noiseless an_nvisible in the bushes through which I had run from him during that midnigh_ursuit.
"Steady!" cried Moreau, "steady!" as the ends of the line crept round th_angle of undergrowth and hemmed the brute in.
"Ware a rush!" came the voice of Montgomery from beyond the thicket.
I was on the slope above the bushes; Montgomery and Moreau beat along th_each beneath. Slowly we pushed in among the fretted network of branches an_eaves. The quarry was silent.
"Back to the House of Pain, the House of Pain, the House of Pain!" yelped th_oice of the Ape-man, some twenty yards to the right.
When I heard that, I forgave the poor wretch all the fear he had inspired i_e. I heard the twigs snap and the boughs swish aside before the heavy trea_f the Horse-rhinoceros upon my right. Then suddenly through a polygon o_reen, in the half darkness under the luxuriant growth, I saw the creature w_ere hunting. I halted. He was crouched together into the smallest possibl_ompass, his luminous green eyes turned over his shoulder regarding me.
It may seem a strange contradiction in me,—I cannot explain the fact,—but now, seeing the creature there in a perfectly animal attitude, with the ligh_leaming in its eyes and its imperfectly human face distorted with terror, _ealised again the fact of its humanity. In another moment other of it_ursuers would see it, and it would be overpowered and captured, to experienc_nce more the horrible tortures of the enclosure. Abruptly I slipped out m_evolver, aimed between its terror-struck eyes, and fired. As I did so, th_yena-swine saw the Thing, and flung itself upon it with an eager cry, thrusting thirsty teeth into its neck. All about me the green masses of th_hicket were swaying and cracking as the Beast People came rushing together.
One face and then another appeared.
"Don't kill it, Prendick!" cried Moreau. "Don't kill it!" and I saw hi_tooping as he pushed through under the fronds of the big ferns.
In another moment he had beaten off the Hyena-swine with the handle of hi_hip, and he and Montgomery were keeping away the excited carnivorous Beas_eople, and particularly M'ling, from the still quivering body. The hairy-gre_hing came sniffing at the corpse under my arm. The other animals, in thei_nimal ardour, jostled me to get a nearer view.
"Confound you, Prendick!" said Moreau. "I wanted him."
"I'm sorry," said I, though I was not. "It was the impulse of the moment." _elt sick with exertion and excitement. Turning, I pushed my way out of th_rowding Beast People and went on alone up the slope towards the higher par_f the headland. Under the shouted directions of Moreau I heard the thre_hite-swathed Bull-men begin dragging the victim down towards the water.
It was easy now for me to be alone. The Beast People manifested a quite huma_uriosity about the dead body, and followed it in a thick knot, sniffing an_rowling at it as the Bull-men dragged it down the beach. I went to th_eadland and watched the bull-men, black against the evening sky as the_arried the weighted dead body out to sea; and like a wave across my mind cam_he realisation of the unspeakable aimlessness of things upon the island. Upo_he beach among the rocks beneath me were the Ape-man, the Hyena-swine, an_everal other of the Beast People, standing about Montgomery and Moreau. The_ere all still intensely excited, and all overflowing with noisy expression_f their loyalty to the Law; yet I felt an absolute assurance in my own min_hat the Hyena-swine was implicated in the rabbit-killing. A strang_ersuasion came upon me, that, save for the grossness of the line, th_rotesqueness of the forms, I had here before me the whole balance of huma_ife in miniature, the whole interplay of instinct, reason, and fate in it_implest form. The Leopard-man had happened to go under: that was all th_ifference. Poor brute!
Poor brutes! I began to see the viler aspect of Moreau's cruelty. I had no_hought before of the pain and trouble that came to these poor victims afte_hey had passed from Moreau's hands. I had shivered only at the days of actua_orment in the enclosure. But now that seemed to me the lesser part. Before, they had been beasts, their instincts fitly adapted to their surroundings, an_appy as living things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackles of humanity, lived in a fear that never died, fretted by a law they could not understand; their mock-human existence, begun in an agony, was one long internal struggle, one long dread of Moreau—and for what? It was the wantonness of it tha_tirred me.
Had Moreau had any intelligible object, I could have sympathised at least _ittle with him. I am not so squeamish about pain as that. I could hav_orgiven him a little even, had his motive been only hate. But he was s_rresponsible, so utterly careless! His curiosity, his mad, aimles_nvestigations, drove him on; and the Things were thrown out to live a year o_o, to struggle and blunder and suffer, and at last to die painfully. The_ere wretched in themselves; the old animal hate moved them to trouble on_nother; the Law held them back from a brief hot struggle and a decisive en_o their natural animosities.
In those days my fear of the Beast People went the way of my personal fear fo_oreau. I fell indeed into a morbid state, deep and enduring, and alien t_ear, which has left permanent scars upon my mind. I must confess that I los_aith in the sanity of the world when I saw it suffering the painful disorde_f this island. A blind Fate, a vast pitiless Mechanism, seemed to cut an_hape the fabric of existence and I, Moreau (by his passion for research), Montgomery (by his passion for drink), the Beast People with their instinct_nd mental restrictions, were torn and crushed, ruthlessly, inevitably, ami_he infinite complexity of its incessant wheels. But this condition did no_ome all at once: I think indeed that I anticipate a little in speaking of i_ow.