فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

On the Beach

I held my stick tightly and looked around. There was a narrow space between the rocks. I ran towards it.

‘Hold him!’ shouted Moreau.

The animal-people moved towards me. I pushed into one man’s shoulder and he fell against one of his friends. I used my stick on a third as he tried to catch my legs. Then I ran as fast as I could, up between the rocks and into the forest.

I could hear cries of ‘Catch him! Hold him!’ behind me. But luckily the animal-man nearest me was too wide for the narrow space between the rocks, and the others could not get past him for a minute or two. I went deeper into the forest, cutting my legs on the plants. Soon they were following me, crying like hungry and excited animals.

I ran and ran. They were getting closer. Finally, shaking with fear, I turned sharply to the right. The noises of my followers grew quieter as they continued straight on. For a short time I was safe.

But I knew now that the animal-people were as dangerous as Moreau and Montgomery. I could not ask them for protection. I decided to go back to the house. Maybe I could find a gun or knife there. It was my only hope.

I walked along the beach, leaving behind me a thin line of blood from my leg. Suddenly, far in front of me, Moreau, Montgomery and the dogs came out of the trees, with the animal-people close behind them. As they came towards me, I had no more hope of life. But I could still choose something better than the pain of Moreau’s laboratory. I walked straight into the sea.

When I was thirty metres out, the water was still only at my waist. From the beach, Montgomery shouted, ‘What are you doing, man?’

‘I’m going to kill myself,’ I said.

Montgomery looked at Moreau. ‘Why?’ Moreau asked.

‘Because it’s better to be dead than one of your experiments.’

‘I told you,’ Montgomery said to Moreau.

‘Why do you think that you’ll be one of my experiments?’ asked Moreau.

‘I saw him… in your laboratory. And those animal-people. They-‘

‘Stop!’ said Moreau. The animal-men were listening to us from the tree-line.

‘I won’t stop!’ I cried. ‘Those poor people. They were men. But you’ve changed them. You’ve turned them into animals… monsters!’

Montgomery looked very worried. ‘Stop that, Prendick! Please, man, stop!’

The animal-people looked at me strangely. They moved closer to hear me better.

‘Listen to me for a minute,’ said Moreau. ‘But in Latin. I hope you learnt it at school.’ He started speaking to me in Latin. My Latin was not very good, but his meaning was clear. These animal- people were not men, he explained. They were ordinary animals until he changed them in his laboratory.

‘I don’t believe you,’ I replied in English. ‘They talk. They build houses. They use tools. Animals can’t do these things.’

‘Come back to the house and I’ll explain,’ he called.

‘No, I’m staying here.’

‘The sea here is full of dangerous fish. They’ll eat you if you go much further.’

‘That’s fine,’ I answered. ‘Better than your laboratory.’

‘Wait a minute,’ he said. He took a gun out of his pocket and put it down on the sand. ‘Montgomery will do the same.’ he said. ‘We’ll go up to the top of the beach. Then you can get the guns.’

‘I won’t,’ I answered. ‘You’ve probably got a third gun somewhere.’

‘Think sensibly, Prendick. We didn’t want to have you on this island. Why not, if we needed you for our experiments?’

‘Why did you tell the animal-people to catch me?’ I asked.

‘This island is dangerous. We wanted to bring you back to the house. It’s safer there.’

I was silent, thinking. Was it possible that his words were true?

‘But I saw,’ I said, ‘in the laboratory…’

‘That was the puma!’ cried Montgomery. ‘Listen, Prendick, this is crazy. Come out of the water, pick up the guns and talk.’

I was still afraid of Moreau, but Montgomery seemed an ordinary, honest kind of man. I decided to believe their story.

‘Go up the beach, with your hands above your heads,’ I said.

‘We can’t do that,’ said Montgomery, moving his eyes towards the animal-people. ‘They mustn’t see their masters in a position of weakness.’

‘Well, OK. But go back as far as the trees.’

When Moreau and Montgomery were at the tree-line, I picked up the guns and joined them under the trees.

‘That’s better,’ said Moreau in an unfriendly voice. ‘I’ve lost a day’s work because of you.’ Without another word, he and Montgomery turned and walked back towards the house.

The animal-people watched me silently. Were they ordinary animals in the past? Perhaps. But in that minute they had the look of small children. Small children who were trying to think.

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