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Chapter 21 The Reversion of the Beast Folk

  • 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.
  • "I—Master."
  • "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.