IN this way I became one among the Beast People in the Island of Docto_oreau. When I awoke, it was dark about me. My arm ached in its bandages. _at up, wondering at first where I might be. I heard coarse voices talkin_utside. Then I saw that my barricade had gone, and that the opening of th_ut stood clear. My revolver was still in my hand.
I heard something breathing, saw something crouched together close beside me.
I held my breath, trying to see what it was. It began to move slowly, interminably. Then something soft and warm and moist passed across my hand.
All my muscles contracted. I snatched my hand away. A cry of alarm began an_as stifled in my throat. Then I just realised what had happened sufficientl_o stay my fingers on the revolver.
"Who is that?" I said in a hoarse whisper, the revolver still pointed.
"Who are you?"
"They say there is no Master now. But I know, I know. I carried the bodie_nto the sea, O Walker in the Sea! the bodies of those you slew. I am you_lave, Master."
"Are you the one I met on the beach?" I asked.
"The same, Master."
The Thing was evidently faithful enough, for it might have fallen upon me as _lept. "It is well," I said, extending my hand for another licking kiss. _egan to realise what its presence meant, and the tide of my courage flowed.
"Where are the others?" I asked.
"They are mad; they are fools," said the Dog-man. "Even now they talk togethe_eyond there. They say, 'The Master is dead. The Other with the Whip is dead.
That Other who walked in the Sea is as we are. We have no Master, no Whips, n_ouse of Pain, any more. There is an end. We love the Law, and will keep it; but there is no Pain, no Master, no Whips for ever again.' So they say. But _now, Master, I know."
I felt in the darkness, and patted the Dog-man's head. "It is well," I sai_gain.
"Presently you will slay them all," said the Dog-man.
"Presently," I answered, "I will slay them all,—after certain days and certai_hings have come to pass. Every one of them save those you spare, every one o_hem shall be slain."
"What the Master wishes to kill, the Master kills," said the Dog-man with _ertain satisfaction in his voice.
"And that their sins may grow," I said, "let them live in their folly unti_heir time is ripe. Let them not know that I am the Master."
"The Master's will is sweet," said the Dog-man, with the ready tact of hi_anine blood.
"But one has sinned," said I. "Him I will kill, whenever I may meet him. Whe_ say to you, 'That is he,' see that you fall upon him. And now I will go t_he men and women who are assembled together."
For a moment the opening of the hut was blackened by the exit of the Dog-man.
Then I followed and stood up, almost in the exact spot where I had been when _ad heard Moreau and his staghound pursuing me. But now it was night, and al_he miasmatic ravine about me was black; and beyond, instead of a green, sunlit slope, I saw a red fire, before which hunched, grotesque figures move_o and fro. Farther were the thick trees, a bank of darkness, fringed abov_ith the black lace of the upper branches. The moon was just riding up on th_dge of the ravine, and like a bar across its face drove the spire of vapou_hat was for ever streaming from the fumaroles of the island.
"Walk by me," said I, nerving myself; and side by side we walked down th_arrow way, taking little heed of the dim Things that peered at us out of th_uts.
None about the fire attempted to salute me. Most of them disregarded me, ostentatiously. I looked round for the Hyena-swine, but he was not there.
Altogether, perhaps twenty of the Beast Folk squatted, staring into the fir_r talking to one another.
"He is dead, he is dead! the Master is dead!" said the voice of the Ape-man t_he right of me. "The House of Pain—there is no House of Pain!"
"He is not dead," said I, in a loud voice. "Even now he watches us!"
This startled them. Twenty pairs of eyes regarded me.
"The House of Pain is gone," said I. "It will come again. The Master yo_annot see; yet even now he listens among you."
"True, true!" said the Dog-man.
They were staggered at my assurance. An animal may be ferocious and cunnin_nough, but it takes a real man to tell a lie.
"The Man with the Bandaged Arm speaks a strange thing," said one of the Beas_olk.
"I tell you it is so," I said. "The Master and the House of Pain will com_gain. Woe be to him who breaks the Law!"
They looked curiously at one another. With an affectation of indifference _egan to chop idly at the ground in front of me with my hatchet. They looked, I noticed, at the deep cuts I made in the turf.
Then the Satyr raised a doubt. I answered him. Then one of the dappled thing_bjected, and an animated discussion sprang up round the fire. Every moment _egan to feel more convinced of my present security. I talked now without th_atching in my breath, due to the intensity of my excitement, that ha_roubled me at first. In the course of about an hour I had really convince_everal of the Beast Folk of the truth of my assertions, and talked most o_he others into a dubious state. I kept a sharp eye for my enemy the Hyena- swine, but he never appeared. Every now and then a suspicious movement woul_tartle me, but my confidence grew rapidly. Then as the moon crept down fro_he zenith, one by one the listeners began to yawn (showing the oddest teet_n the light of the sinking fire), and first one and then another retire_owards the dens in the ravine; and I, dreading the silence and darkness, wen_ith them, knowing I was safer with several of them than with one alone.
In this manner began the longer part of my sojourn upon this Island of Docto_oreau. But from that night until the end came, there was but one thin_appened to tell save a series of innumerable small unpleasant details and th_retting of an incessant uneasiness. So that I prefer to make no chronicle fo_hat gap of time, to tell only one cardinal incident of the ten months I spen_s an intimate of these half-humanised brutes. There is much that sticks in m_emory that I could write,—things that I would cheerfully give my right han_o forget; but they do not help the telling of the story.
In the retrospect it is strange to remember how soon I fell in with thes_onsters' ways, and gained my confidence again. I had my quarrels with them o_ourse, and could show some of their teeth-marks still; but they soon gained _holesome respect for my trick of throwing stones and for the bite of m_atchet. And my Saint-Bernard-man's loyalty was of infinite service to me. _ound their simple scale of honour was based mainly on the capacity fo_nflicting trenchant wounds. Indeed, I may say—without vanity, I hope—that _eld something like pre-eminence among them. One or two, whom in a rare acces_f high spirits I had scarred rather badly, bore me a grudge; but it vente_tself chiefly behind my back, and at a safe distance from my missiles, i_rimaces.
The Hyena-swine avoided me, and I was always on the alert for him. M_nseparable Dog-man hated and dreaded him intensely. I really believe that wa_t the root of the brute's attachment to me. It was soon evident to me tha_he former monster had tasted blood, and gone the way of the Leopard-man. H_ormed a lair somewhere in the forest, and became solitary. Once I tried t_nduce the Beast Folk to hunt him, but I lacked the authority to make them co- operate for one end. Again and again I tried to approach his den and come upo_im unaware; but always he was too acute for me, and saw or winded me and go_way. He too made every forest pathway dangerous to me and my ally with hi_urking ambuscades. The Dog-man scarcely dared to leave my side.
In the first month or so the Beast Folk, compared with their latter condition, were human enough, and for one or two besides my canine friend I eve_onceived a friendly tolerance. The little pink sloth-creature displayed a_dd affection for me, and took to following me about. The Monkey-man bored me, however; he assumed, on the strength of his five digits, that he was my equal, and was for ever jabbering at me,—jabbering the most arrant nonsense. On_hing about him entertained me a little: he had a fantastic trick of coinin_ew words. He had an idea, I believe, that to gabble about names that mean_othing was the proper use of speech. He called it "Big Thinks" to distinguis_t from "Little Thinks," the sane every-day interests of life. If ever I mad_ remark he did not understand, he would praise it very much, ask me to say i_gain, learn it by heart, and go off repeating it, with a word wrong here o_here, to all the milder of the Beast People. He thought nothing of what wa_lain and comprehensible. I invented some very curious "Big Thinks" for hi_special use. I think now that he was the silliest creature I ever met; he ha_eveloped in the most wonderful way the distinctive silliness of man withou_osing one jot of the natural folly of a monkey.
This, I say, was in the earlier weeks of my solitude among these brutes.
During that time they respected the usage established by the Law, and behave_ith general decorum. Once I found another rabbit torn to pieces,—by th_yena-swine, I am assured,—but that was all. It was about May when I firs_istinctly perceived a growing difference in their speech and carriage, _rowing coarseness of articulation, a growing disinclination to talk. M_onkey-man's jabber multiplied in volume but grew less and les_omprehensible, more and more simian. Some of the others seemed altogethe_lipping their hold upon speech, though they still understood what I said t_hem at that time. (Can you imagine language, once clear-cut and exact, softening and guttering, losing shape and import, becoming mere lumps of soun_gain?) And they walked erect with an increasing difficulty. Though the_vidently felt ashamed of themselves, every now and then I would come upon on_r another running on toes and finger-tips, and quite unable to recover th_ertical attitude. They held things more clumsily; drinking by suction, feeding by gnawing, grew commoner every day. I realised more keenly than eve_hat Moreau had told me about the "stubborn beast-flesh." They were reverting, and reverting very rapidly.
Some of them—the pioneers in this, I noticed with some surprise, were al_emales—began to disregard the injunction of decency, deliberately for th_ost part. Others even attempted public outrages upon the institution o_onogamy. The tradition of the Law was clearly losing its force. I canno_ursue this disagreeable subject.
My Dog-man imperceptibly slipped back to the dog again; day by day he becam_umb, quadrupedal, hairy. I scarcely noticed the transition from the companio_n my right hand to the lurching dog at my side.
As the carelessness and disorganisation increased from day to day, the lane o_welling places, at no time very sweet, became so loathsome that I left it, and going across the island made myself a hovel of boughs amid the black ruin_f Moreau's enclosure. Some memory of pain, I found, still made that place th_afest from the Beast Folk.
It would be impossible to detail every step of the lapsing of thes_onsters,—to tell how, day by day, the human semblance left them; how the_ave up bandagings and wrappings, abandoned at last every stitch of clothing; how the hair began to spread over the exposed limbs; how their foreheads fel_way and their faces projected; how the quasi-human intimacy I had permitte_yself with some of them in the first month of my loneliness became _huddering horror to recall.
The change was slow and inevitable. For them and for me it came without an_efinite shock. I still went among them in safety, because no jolt in th_ownward glide had released the increasing charge of explosive animalism tha_usted the human day by day. But I began to fear that soon now that shock mus_ome. My Saint-Bernard-brute followed me to the enclosure every night, and hi_igilance enabled me to sleep at times in something like peace. The littl_ink sloth-thing became shy and left me, to crawl back to its natural lif_nce more among the tree-branches. We were in just the state of equilibriu_hat would remain in one of those "Happy Family" cages which animal-tamer_xhibit, if the tamer were to leave it for ever.
Of course these creatures did not decline into such beasts as the reader ha_een in zoological gardens,—into ordinary bears, wolves, tigers, oxen, swine, and apes. There was still something strange about each; in each Moreau ha_lended this animal with that. One perhaps was ursine chiefly, another felin_hiefly, another bovine chiefly; but each was tainted with other creatures,—_ind of generalised animalism appearing through the specific dispositions. An_he dwindling shreds of the humanity still startled me every now and then,—_omentary recrudescence of speech perhaps, an unexpected dexterity of th_ore-feet, a pitiful attempt to walk erect.
I too must have undergone strange changes. My clothes hung about me as yello_ags, through whose rents showed the tanned skin. My hair grew long, an_ecame matted together. I am told that even now my eyes have a strang_rightness, a swift alertness of movement.
At first I spent the daylight hours on the southward beach watching for _hip, hoping and praying for a ship. I counted on the "Ipecacuanha" returnin_s the year wore on; but she never came. Five times I saw sails, and thric_moke; but nothing ever touched the island. I always had a bonfire ready, bu_o doubt the volcanic reputation of the island was taken to account for that.
It was only about September or October that I began to think of making a raft.
By that time my arm had healed, and both my hands were at my service again. A_irst, I found my helplessness appalling. I had never done any carpentry o_uch-like work in my life, and I spent day after day in experimental choppin_nd binding among the trees. I had no ropes, and could hit on nothin_herewith to make ropes; none of the abundant creepers seemed limber or stron_nough, and with all my litter of scientific education I could not devise an_ay of making them so. I spent more than a fortnight grubbing among the blac_uins of the enclosure and on the beach where the boats had been burnt, looking for nails and other stray pieces of metal that might prove of service.
Now and then some Beast-creature would watch me, and go leaping off when _alled to it. There came a season of thunder-storms and heavy rain, whic_reatly retarded my work; but at last the raft was completed.
I was delighted with it. But with a certain lack of practical sense which ha_lways been my bane, I had made it a mile or more from the sea; and before _ad dragged it down to the beach the thing had fallen to pieces. Perhaps it i_s well that I was saved from launching it; but at the time my misery at m_ailure was so acute that for some days I simply moped on the beach, an_tared at the water and thought of death.
I did not, however, mean to die, and an incident occurred that warned m_nmistakably of the folly of letting the days pass so,—for each fresh day wa_raught with increasing danger from the Beast People.
I was lying in the shade of the enclosure wall, staring out to sea, when I wa_tartled by something cold touching the skin of my heel, and starting roun_ound the little pink sloth-creature blinking into my face. He had long sinc_ost speech and active movement, and the lank hair of the little brute gre_hicker every day and his stumpy claws more askew. He made a moaning nois_hen he saw he had attracted my attention, went a little way towards th_ushes and looked back at me.
At first I did not understand, but presently it occurred to me that he wishe_e to follow him; and this I did at last,—slowly, for the day was hot. When w_eached the trees he clambered into them, for he could travel better amon_heir swinging creepers than on the ground. And suddenly in a trampled space _ame upon a ghastly group. My Saint-Bernard-creature lay on the ground, dead; and near his body crouched the Hyena-swine, gripping the quivering flesh wit_ts misshapen claws, gnawing at it, and snarling with delight. As _pproached, the monster lifted its glaring eyes to mine, its lips wen_rembling back from its red-stained teeth, and it growled menacingly. It wa_ot afraid and not ashamed; the last vestige of the human taint had vanished.
I advanced a step farther, stopped, and pulled out my revolver. At last I ha_im face to face.
The brute made no sign of retreat; but its ears went back, its hair bristled, and its body crouched together. I aimed between the eyes and fired. As I di_o, the Thing rose straight at me in a leap, and I was knocked over like _inepin. It clutched at me with its crippled hand, and struck me in the face.
Its spring carried it over me. I fell under the hind part of its body; bu_uckily I had hit as I meant, and it had died even as it leapt. I crawled ou_rom under its unclean weight and stood up trembling, staring at its quiverin_ody. That danger at least was over; but this, I knew was only the first o_he series of relapses that must come.
I burnt both of the bodies on a pyre of brushwood; but after that I saw tha_nless I left the island my death was only a question of time. The Beas_eople by that time had, with one or two exceptions, left the ravine and mad_hemselves lairs according to their taste among the thickets of the island.
Few prowled by day, most of them slept, and the island might have seeme_eserted to a new-comer; but at night the air was hideous with their calls an_owling. I had half a mind to make a massacre of them; to build traps, o_ight them with my knife. Had I possessed sufficient cartridges, I should no_ave hesitated to begin the killing. There could now be scarcely a score lef_f the dangerous carnivores; the braver of these were already dead. After th_eath of this poor dog of mine, my last friend, I too adopted to some exten_he practice of slumbering in the daytime in order to be on my guard at night.
I rebuilt my den in the walls of the enclosure, with such a narrow openin_hat anything attempting to enter must necessarily make a considerable noise.
The creatures had lost the art of fire too, and recovered their fear of it. _urned once more, almost passionately now, to hammering together stakes an_ranches to form a raft for my escape.
I found a thousand difficulties. I am an extremely unhandy man (my schoolin_as over before the days of Slojd); but most of the requirements of a raft _et at last in some clumsy, circuitous way or other, and this time I took car_f the strength. The only insurmountable obstacle was that I had no vessel t_ontain the water I should need if I floated forth upon these untravelle_eas. I would have even tried pottery, but the island contained no clay. _sed to go moping about the island trying with all my might to solve this on_ast difficulty. Sometimes I would give way to wild outbursts of rage, an_ack and splinter some unlucky tree in my intolerable vexation. But I coul_hink of nothing.
And then came a day, a wonderful day, which I spent in ecstasy. I saw a sai_o the southwest, a small sail like that of a little schooner; and forthwith _it a great pile of brushwood, and stood by it in the heat of it, and the hea_f the midday sun, watching. All day I watched that sail, eating or drinkin_othing, so that my head reeled; and the Beasts came and glared at me, an_eemed to wonder, and went away. It was still distant when night came an_wallowed it up; and all night I toiled to keep my blaze bright and high, an_he eyes of the Beasts shone out of the darkness, marvelling. In the dawn th_ail was nearer, and I saw it was the dirty lug-sail of a small boat. But i_ailed strangely. My eyes were weary with watching, and I peered and could no_elieve them. Two men were in the boat, sitting low down,—one by the bows, th_ther at the rudder. The head was not kept to the wind; it yawed and fel_way.
As the day grew brighter, I began waving the last rag of my jacket to them; but they did not notice me, and sat still, facing each other. I went to th_owest point of the low headland, and gesticulated and shouted. There was n_esponse, and the boat kept on her aimless course, making slowly, very slowly, for the bay. Suddenly a great white bird flew up out of the boat, and neithe_f the men stirred nor noticed it; it circled round, and then came sweepin_verhead with its strong wings outspread.
Then I stopped shouting, and sat down on the headland and rested my chin on m_ands and stared. Slowly, slowly, the boat drove past towards the west. _ould have swum out to it, but something—a cold, vague fear—kept me back. I_he afternoon the tide stranded the boat, and left it a hundred yards or so t_he westward of the ruins of the enclosure. The men in it were dead, had bee_ead so long that they fell to pieces when I tilted the boat on its side an_ragged them out. One had a shock of red hair, like the captain of the
"Ipecacuanha," and a dirty white cap lay in the bottom of the boat.
As I stood beside the boat, three of the Beasts came slinking out of th_ushes and sniffing towards me. One of my spasms of disgust came upon me. _hrust the little boat down the beach and clambered on board her. Two of th_rutes were Wolf-beasts, and came forward with quivering nostrils an_littering eyes; the third was the horrible nondescript of bear and bull. Whe_ saw them approaching those wretched remains, heard them snarling at on_nother and caught the gleam of their teeth, a frantic horror succeeded m_epulsion. I turned my back upon them, struck the lug and began paddling ou_o sea. I could not bring myself to look behind me.
I lay, however, between the reef and the island that night, and the nex_orning went round to the stream and filled the empty keg aboard with water.
Then, with such patience as I could command, I collected a quantity of fruit, and waylaid and killed two rabbits with my last three cartridges. While I wa_oing this I left the boat moored to an inward projection of the reef, fo_ear of the Beast People.