I FACED these people, facing my fate in them, single-handed now,—literall_ingle-handed, for I had a broken arm. In my pocket was a revolver with tw_mpty chambers. Among the chips scattered about the beach lay the two axe_hat had been used to chop up the boats. The tide was creeping in behind me.
There was nothing for it but courage. I looked squarely into the faces of th_dvancing monsters. They avoided my eyes, and their quivering nostril_nvestigated the bodies that lay beyond me on the beach. I took half-a-doze_teps, picked up the blood-stained whip that lay beneath the body of the Wolf-
man, and cracked it. They stopped and stared at me.
"Salute!" said I. "Bow down!"
They hesitated. One bent his knees. I repeated my command, with my heart in m_outh, and advanced upon them. One knelt, then the other two.
I turned and walked towards the dead bodies, keeping my face towards the thre_neeling Beast Men, very much as an actor passing up the stage faces th_udience.
"They broke the Law," said I, putting my foot on the Sayer of the Law. "The_ave been slain,—even the Sayer of the Law; even the Other with the Whip.
Great is the Law! Come and see."
"None escape," said one of them, advancing and peering.
"None escape," said I. "Therefore hear and do as I command." They stood up,
looking questioningly at one another.
"Stand there," said I.
I picked up the hatchets and swung them by their heads from the sling of m_rm; turned Montgomery over; picked up his revolver still loaded in tw_hambers, and bending down to rummage, found half-a-dozen cartridges in hi_ocket.
"Take him," said I, standing up again and pointing with the whip; "take him,
and carry him out and cast him into the sea."
They came forward, evidently still afraid of Montgomery, but still more afrai_f my cracking red whip-lash; and after some fumbling and hesitation, som_hip-cracking and shouting, they lifted him gingerly, carried him down to th_each, and went splashing into the dazzling welter of the sea.
"On!" said I, "on! Carry him far."
They went in up to their armpits and stood regarding me.
"Let go," said I; and the body of Montgomery vanished with a splash. Somethin_eemed to tighten across my chest.
"Good!" said I, with a break in my voice; and they came back, hurrying an_earful, to the margin of the water, leaving long wakes of black in th_ilver. At the water's edge they stopped, turning and glaring into the sea a_hough they presently expected Montgomery to arise therefrom and exac_engeance.
"Now these," said I, pointing to the other bodies.
They took care not to approach the place where they had thrown Montgomery int_he water, but instead, carried the four dead Beast People slantingly alon_he beach for perhaps a hundred yards before they waded out and cast the_way.
As I watched them disposing of the mangled remains of M'ling, I heard a ligh_ootfall behind me, and turning quickly saw the big Hyena-swine perhaps _ozen yards away. His head was bent down, his bright eyes were fixed upon me,
his stumpy hands clenched and held close by his side. He stopped in thi_rouching attitude when I turned, his eyes a little averted.
For a moment we stood eye to eye. I dropped the whip and snatched at th_istol in my pocket; for I meant to kill this brute, the most formidable o_ny left now upon the island, at the first excuse. It may seem treacherous,
but so I was resolved. I was far more afraid of him than of any other two o_he Beast Folk. His continued life was I knew a threat against mine.
I was perhaps a dozen seconds collecting myself. Then cried I, "Salute! Bo_own!"
His teeth flashed upon me in a snarl. "Who are you that I should—"
Perhaps a little too spasmodically I drew my revolver, aimed quickly an_ired. I heard him yelp, saw him run sideways and turn, knew I had missed, an_licked back the cock with my thumb for the next shot. But he was alread_unning headlong, jumping from side to side, and I dared not risk anothe_iss. Every now and then he looked back at me over his shoulder. He wen_lanting along the beach, and vanished beneath the driving masses of dens_moke that were still pouring out from the burning enclosure. For some time _tood staring after him. I turned to my three obedient Beast Folk again an_ignalled them to drop the body they still carried. Then I went back to th_lace by the fire where the bodies had fallen and kicked the sand until al_he brown blood-stains were absorbed and hidden.
I dismissed my three serfs with a wave of the hand, and went up the beach int_he thickets. I carried my pistol in my hand, my whip thrust with the hatchet_n the sling of my arm. I was anxious to be alone, to think out the positio_n which I was now placed. A dreadful thing that I was only beginning t_ealise was, that over all this island there was now no safe place where _ould be alone and secure to rest or sleep. I had recovered strength amazingl_ince my landing, but I was still inclined to be nervous and to break dow_nder any great stress. I felt that I ought to cross the island and establis_yself with the Beast People, and make myself secure in their confidence. Bu_y heart failed me. I went back to the beach, and turning eastward past th_urning enclosure, made for a point where a shallow spit of coral sand ran ou_owards the reef. Here I could sit down and think, my back to the sea and m_ace against any surprise. And there I sat, chin on knees, the sun beatin_own upon my head and unspeakable dread in my mind, plotting how I could liv_n against the hour of my rescue (if ever rescue came). I tried to review th_hole situation as calmly as I could, but it was difficult to clear the thin_f emotion.
I began turning over in my mind the reason of Montgomery's despair. "They wil_hange," he said; "they are sure to change." And Moreau, what was it tha_oreau had said? "The stubborn beast-flesh grows day by day back again." The_ came round to the Hyena-swine. I felt sure that if I did not kill tha_rute, he would kill me. The Sayer of the Law was dead: worse luck. They kne_ow that we of the Whips could be killed even as they themselves were killed.
Were they peering at me already out of the green masses of ferns and palm_ver yonder, watching until I came within their spring? Were they plottin_gainst me? What was the Hyena-swine telling them? My imagination was runnin_way with me into a morass of unsubstantial fears.
My thoughts were disturbed by a crying of sea-birds hurrying towards som_lack object that had been stranded by the waves on the beach near th_nclosure. I knew what that object was, but I had not the heart to go back an_rive them off. I began walking along the beach in the opposite direction,
designing to come round the eastward corner of the island and so approach th_avine of the huts, without traversing the possible ambuscades of th_hickets.
Perhaps half a mile along the beach I became aware of one of my three Beas_olk advancing out of the landward bushes towards me. I was now so nervou_ith my own imaginings that I immediately drew my revolver. Even th_ropitiatory gestures of the creature failed to disarm me. He hesitated as h_pproached.
"Go away!" cried I.
There was something very suggestive of a dog in the cringing attitude of th_reature. It retreated a little way, very like a dog being sent home, an_topped, looking at me imploringly with canine brown eyes.
"Go away," said I. "Do not come near me."
"May I not come near you?" it said.
"No; go away," I insisted, and snapped my whip. Then putting my whip in m_eeth, I stooped for a stone, and with that threat drove the creature away.
So in solitude I came round by the ravine of the Beast People, and hidin_mong the weeds and reeds that separated this crevice from the sea I watche_uch of them as appeared, trying to judge from their gestures and appearanc_ow the death of Moreau and Montgomery and the destruction of the House o_ain had affected them. I know now the folly of my cowardice. Had I kept m_ourage up to the level of the dawn, had I not allowed it to ebb away i_olitary thought, I might have grasped the vacant sceptre of Moreau and rule_ver the Beast People. As it was I lost the opportunity, and sank to th_osition of a mere leader among my fellows.
Towards noon certain of them came and squatted basking in the hot sand. Th_mperious voices of hunger and thirst prevailed over my dread. I came out o_he bushes, and, revolver in hand, walked down towards these seated figures.
One, a Wolf-woman, turned her head and stared at me, and then the others. Non_ttempted to rise or salute me. I felt too faint and weary to insist, and _et the moment pass.
"I want food," said I, almost apologetically, and drawing near.
"There is food in the huts," said an Ox-boar-man, drowsily, and looking awa_rom me.
I passed them, and went down into the shadow and odours of the almost deserte_avine. In an empty hut I feasted on some specked and half-decayed fruit; an_hen after I had propped some branches and sticks about the opening, an_laced myself with my face towards it and my hand upon my revolver, th_xhaustion of the last thirty hours claimed its own, and I fell into a ligh_lumber, hoping that the flimsy barricade I had erected would cause sufficien_oise in its removal to save me from surprise.