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Chapter 20 Alone with the Beast Folk

  • 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.