فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Chapter nine

Moreau’s Work

‘You really are an impossible guest,’ said Moreau after supper. ‘If you try to kill yourself again, I won’t stop you.’

He sat at the table, smoking. I sat as far away from him as possible, with the two guns still in my hands. Montgomery was not there. I did not feel comfortable yet with both of them in this small room with me.

‘So, Prendick,’ said Moreau, ‘I’ve shown you the puma in the laboratory. Do you agree that it’s a puma, not a man?’

‘Yes, it’s a puma. But you’ve done terrible things to it. I hope I never see an animal hurt like that again. You

‘Stop, Prendick, stop. Montgomery spoke like that when he was first here. It’s really very boring. Right, you agree that it’s the puma. Now be quiet so I can give you a lesson in biology.

‘It’s surprising that no one has done my kind of work before. Doctors have been able to change people’s bodies and faces for many years, of course. They can rebuild a destroyed nose with skin from above the eyes. They can take teeth from one person and use them in the mouth of another. And they can even use bits of an animal’s body to mend the body of a man. But until now, no one has tried to change one type of animal into another type of animal.

‘The people on this island were built in my laboratory. Their animal bodies were cut and pushed into new shapes. But the changes to the body were only the start. I shaped their minds too. I changed their blood. They feel differently, think differently. They have even learnt to talk.’

‘But why?!’ I said. ‘Why do you turn them into people, not into sheep, or horses, or…?’ It seemed a dangerous idea to choose the shape of man. Some things should be the business of religion, not science.

‘Oh, I haven’t only made people. Once or twice I’ve…’ He was silent, for a minute perhaps. ‘How quickly the years pass!’

‘But what is the purpose of your experiments? You hurt these animals terribly, but your science has no useful result.’

‘Pain is just a little thing, Prendick. While you worry about pain, you are no better than an animal. Each of my experiments gives the answer to a question, a big question. But it also asks a new question. There is always more to find out.

‘I came here with Montgomery eleven years ago. We had three boys with us from another Pacific island. They built the house for Montgomery and me. For themselves, they built the huts where the animal-people now live.

‘My first experiments here were on sheep, but they weren’t very successful. Sheep are too fearful, too stupid. Then I tried an ape. When my work was finished, this ape looked like a real man. He had no memory of his earlier life. I became his teacher, and after three or four months he could speak quite good English. He wasn’t very clever, but I’ve known stupider men. I introduced him to the three boys. At first they were very afraid of him, but they soon started to like him more. He lived with them and copied their way of life. He built a hut like theirs. They even taught him to read.

‘I was very pleased with my first ape-man. I planned to write a description of the experiment for a science magazine. But one day I visited him and he was making ape noises from the top of a tree. And he was never quite the same after that. The animal in him grew stronger and stronger. I decided to make a more successful animal-person before I told the scientific world about my work.

‘For the last ten years, I have made more and more successful animal-people. The hands and feet are difficult, and none of them can smile. But the main problem is that the animal in them has always grown back. I haven’t told the world about these small successes yet, because I can do better. I will do better. This puma He stopped himself suddenly. ‘And that’s the end of the story. The three boys are all dead now. There are a lot of accidents on this island. But Montgomery is still with me and…’

He stopped. I sat in silence, watching his face.

‘How many are there?’ I asked him finally.

‘More than sixty, I think. I’ve made about one hundred and twenty in total, but many have died. There are a few women and they sometimes have children - but the children always die.’

‘And when you’ve made these monsters, you send them to the huts,’ I said.

‘They choose to go there,’ he explained. ‘Most of them stay away from this place - a weak memory of their pain here, I think. And they follow the rules that the boys taught them. They call it the Law.

‘So what do you think of me now?’ he continued. ‘Are you still afraid of me?’

To answer his question, I gave him back the guns.

‘Keep them,’ he said. He stood up and smiled. ‘I’m glad everything’s clear now. But you’ve had two busy days. You should get some rest. Goodnight.’

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