en-es  The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells/Chapter 12
Capítulo XII

LOS PREGONEROS DE LA LEY.


ENTONCES algo frío tocó mi mano. Me sobresalté violentamente, y vi cerca de mí algo de un tono rosado oscuro, que se parecía más a un niño desollado que a cualquier otra cosa en el mundo. La criatura tenía exactamente las características apacibles pero repulsivas de un perezoso, la misma frente baja y gestos lentos.

Cuando pasó el primer impacto del cambio de luz, vi a mi alrededor más claramente. La pequeña criatura parecida a un perezoso estaba parada y mirándome. Mi conductor había desaparecido. El lugar era un estrecho pasaje entre altos muros de lava, una grieta en la roca nudosa, y a ambos lados serpenteaban montones de especies marinas, palmeras y los juncos apoyados contra la roca formaban densas e impenetrablemente oscuras guaridas. El tortuoso camino que subía por el barranco entre ellos apenas medía tres yardas de ancho, y estaba desdibujado por trozos de pulpa de fruta en descomposición y otros desperdicios, lo que explicaba el desagradable hedor del lugar.

La pequeña criatura rosada con aspecto a perezoso seguía aún parpadeando cuando mi hombre-mono reapareció en la abertura de la guarida más cercana y me hizo señas para que entrara. Mientras lo hacía, un monstruo encorvado se escabulló de uno de los lugares, más arriba en esta calle extraña, y con una silueta sin rasgos distintivos se paró contra el verde brillante de fondo, mirándome. Dudé, indeciso de si salir corriendo por donde había venido; y luego, decidido a seguir con la aventura, agarré por el centro mi bastón con clavo y me metí en el pequeño y maloliente cobertizo detrás de mi conductor.

Era un espacio semicircular, con la forma de la mitad de una colmena; y contra la pared rocosa que formaba el lado interno había una pila de diversas frutas, nueces de cacao, entre otras. Algunas burdas vasijas de lava y madera estaban alrededor del piso y una sobre un taburete tosco. No había fuego. En el rincón más oscuro de la cabaña estaba sentada una masa oscura informe que gruñó "¡Eh!" cuando entré, y mi hombre-mono se quedó parado a la luz tenue de la puerta de entrada y me tendió un trozo de una nuez de cacao cuando me arrastré a la otra esquina y me puse en cuclillas. La tomé y comencé a roerla, lo más serenamente posible, a pesar de una cierta inquietud y la proximidad casi intolerable de la guarida. La pequeña criatura rosada parecida a un perezoso estaba de pie en la abertura de la cabaña, y algo más, con una cara incolora y ojos brillantes, miraba por encima del hombro.

"¡Eh!", salió de la masa misteriosa al otro lado. "Es un hombre". "Es un hombre", balbuceó mi conductor, "un hombre, un hombre, un hombre de cinco, como yo". "¡Cállate!", dijo la voz desde la oscuridad, y gruñó. Mordí mi nuez de cacao en medio de un silencio impresionante.

Escudriñé la oscuridad, pero no pude distinguir nada.

"Es un hombre", repitió la voz. "¿Viene a vivir con nosotros?". Era una voz pesada, con algo dentro... una especie de matiz sibilante... que me parecíó peculiar, pero el acento británico era extrañamente bueno.

El hombre-mono me miraba como si esperara algo. Comprendí que la pausa era interrogativa. "Viene a vivir con ustedes", dije.

"Es un hombre. Debe aprender la ley". Ahora comencé a distinguir una oscuridad más profunda dentro de la oscuridad, el vago contorno de una figura encogida. Luego me di cuenta de que la abertura del lugar era oscurecida por dos negras cabezas más. Apreté mi bastón con la mano.

La cosa en la oscuridad repitió con aún más fuerza, "Digan las palabras". Yo había perdido su último comentario. "No ir gateando, eso es la ley", repitió en un tipo de salmodia.

Yo estaba perplejo.

"Digan las palabras", dijo el hombre-mono, repitiéndose, y las figuras en la puerta se hicieron eco, con una amenaza en el tono de sus voces.

Comprendí que tenía que repetir esta fórmula loca; y entonces comenzó la ceremonia más demencial. La voz en la oscuridad comenzó a recitar una letanía demente, renglón por renglón, y yo y los demás la repetíamos. Mientras lo hacían, se balanceaban de un lado a otro de la manera más extraña y golpeaban las manos sobre las rodillas; y seguí su ejemplo. Pude haber imaginado que ya estaba muerto y en otro mundo. Esa cabaña oscura, estas figuras grotescas y borrosas, solo salpicadas aquí y allá por un destello de luz, y todas ellas balanceándose al unísono y cantando: "No ir a cuatro patas; esa es la ley ¿No somos hombres?

No chupar la bebida. ¿No somos hombres?

"No comer pescado o carne; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres?

"No arañar la corteza de los árboles; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres?

"No cazar a otros hombres; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres?". Y así por el estilo, desde la prohibición de estas acciones estúpidas, hasta la prohibición de lo que yo pensaba entonces eran las cosas más enloquecidas, más imposibles y más indecentes que se podrían imaginar. Un tipo de fervor rítmico nos conmovió a todos; balbuceamos y nos balanceamos más y más rápidamente, repitiendo esta asombrosa ley. Superficialmente, el contagio de estos brutos se había adueñado de mí, pero en el fondo de mi ser, la risa y la repugnancia se peleaban. Atravesamos un larga lista de prohibiciones, y luego el canto se convirtió en una fórmula nueva.


"La suya es la casa de dolor.

"La suya es la mano que construye.

"La suya es la mano que lastima.

"La suya es la mano que cura". Y así por el estilo durante otra larga serie, que para mí, en su mayoría, eran galimatías incomprensibles sobre él, quienquiera que fuera. Me podría haber imaginado que era un sueño, pero nunca antes había oído una salmodia en un sueño.

"El suyo es el rayo", cantamos. "El suyo es el profundo mar salado". Me vino a la mente una fantasía horrible de que Moreau, después de animalizar a estos hombres, había infectado sus cerebros enanos con una especie de deificación de sí mismo. Sin embargo, estaba muy consciente de dientes blancos y fuertes garras alrededor de mí para detener mi canto por tal motivo.


"Suyas son las estrellas del cielo". Por fin, esa canción terminó. Vi el rostro del hombre mono brillante de sudor; y como mis ojos ya estaban acostumbrados a la oscuridad, vi con más claridad el personaje en la esquina desde donde provenía la voz. Era del tamaño de un hombre, pero parecía cubierto con un cabello gris opaco casi como un skye terrier. ¿Qué era? ¿Qué eran todos ellos? Si se imaginara rodeado de todos los más horribles lisiados y maniáticos que se pueda concebir, podría comprender un poco mis sentimientos con estas grotescas caricaturas de humanidad a mi alrededor.

"Es un hombre de cinco, un hombre de cinco, un hombre de cinco... como yo", dijo el hombre mono.

Extendí las manos. La criatura gris de la esquina se inclinó hacia delante.

"No correr a cuatro patas; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres? ", dijo.

Extendió una garra extrañamente deformada y me agarró los dedos. La cosa era casi como la pata de un ciervo convertida en garras. Pude haber gritado con sorpresa y dolor. Su rostro se adelantó y miró mis uñas, se adelantó a la luz de la abertura de la cabaña; y vi con un estremecimiento de disgusto que no era como la cara de ningún hombre ni bestia, sino un simple mechón de pelo gris, con tres arcos oscuros para marcar los ojos y la boca.

"Tiene uñas pequeñas", dijo esta criatura espeluznante desde su barba peluda. "Está bien". Me soltó la mano, e instintivamente agarré mi palo.

"Come raíces y hierbas; es Su voluntad", dijo el hombre mono.

"Soy el pregonero de la ley", dijo la figura gris. "Aquí vienen todos los que son nuevos para aprender la ley". Me quedo en la oscuridad y digo la ley". "Así es", dijo una de las bestias en la puerta.

Duros son los castigos a los que no obedecen la ley. Ninguno escapa". "Ninguno escapa", dijo la gente bestia, mirándose furtivamente entre si.

"Ninguno, ninguno", dijo el hombre-mono,... "ninguno escapa. ¡Miren! Hice algo equivocado alguna vez. Parloteaba, balbuceaba, no hablaba más. Nadie me entendía. Estoy quemado, marcado en la mano. Él es grande. Él es bueno!". "Ninguno escapa", dijo la criatura gris en la esquina.

"Ninguno escapa", dijo la gente bestia, mirándose de reojo.

"Para todos el deseo es malo", dijo la criatura gris, el pregonero de la ley. "Lo que deseará no sabemos; pero lo sabremos. Algunos quieren perseguir cosas que andan, acechar y escabullirse y esperar y abalanzarse; matar y morder, morder profundamente con placer, chupando la sangre. Esto es malo. "No perseguir a otros hombres; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres? No comer carne ni pescado; esa es la ley. ¿No somos hombres?'". "Ninguno escapa", dijo un bruto veteado parado en la puerta.

"Para todos el deseo es malo", dijo la criatura gris, el pregonero de la ley. Algunos quieren arrancar con dientes y manos hasta las raices de las cosas, husmeando en la tierra. Es malo". " Ninguno escapa", dijeron los hombres en la puerta.

"Algunos van arañando árboles; algunos van rayando las tumbas de los muertos; algunos van luchando con frentes, pies o garras; algún mordisco repentino, sin motivo aparente; algunos aman la inmundicia". "Ninguno escapa", dijo el hombre-mono, rascándose la pantorrilla.

"Ninguno escapa", dijo la pequeña criatura rosada parecida a un perezoso.

"El castigo es intenso y seguro. Por lo tanto, aprende la ley. Di las palabras". Y de manera descontrolada, comenzó de nuevo la extraña letanía de la ley, y de nuevo yo y todas estas criaturas comenzamos a cantar y a balancearnos. Me daba vueltas la cabeza con este parloteo y el hedor a cerrado del lugar; pero continué, confiando en encontrar en breve alguna posibilidad de un nuevo acontecimiento.

"No ir en cuatro patas; esa es la ley. No somos hombres?". Estábamos haciendo tanto ruido que no reparé en un tumulto afuera, hasta que alguien, que creo era uno de los dos hombres cerdo que había visto, metió su cabeza por sobre la pequeña criatura rosada parecida a un perezoso y gritó algo con excitación, algo que no capté. Las bestias en la puerta se desvanecieron descontroladamente; mi hombre mono salió corriendo; la criatura que se había quedado en la oscuridad lo siguió (solo observé que era grande y torpe, y cubierta de pelo plateado), y me quedé a solas. Entonces, antes de llegar a la abertura, oí el aullido de un perro de caza.

Un momento después yo estaba parado fuera de la choza, con el palo en la mano, todos los musculos temblando. Ante de mí estaban las defectuosas espaldas de tal vez una veintena de estas personas bestia, sus cabezas deformadas medio escondidas por los omóplatos. Estaban gesticulando emocionados. Otros rostros semianimales miraban furiosa e inquisitivamente fuera de las chozas. Mirando en la dirección a la que lo hacían, a través de la bruma debajo de los árboles, más allá del final del pasillo de las madrigueras, vi venir la figura oscura y la horrible cara blanca de Moreau. Estaba sujetando al galgo que saltaba y detrás de él venía Montgomery, revólver en mano.

Por un momento, me quedé horrorizado. Me volví y vi el pasillo detrás de mí bloqueado por otro bruto pesado, con una enorme cara gris y pequeños ojos centelleantes, avanzando hacia mí. Miré alrededor y vi a mi derecha y media docena de yardas frente a mí un estrecho espacio en la pared de roca a través del cual un rayo de luz se inclinaba por las sombras.

"¡Alto!", gritó Moreau mientras yo avanzaba hacia esto, y luego, "¡Agárrenlo!". Ante eso, primero una cara se volvió hacia mí y luego las demás. Sus mentes bestiales eran lentas, felizmente. Estrellé mi hombro en un torpe monstruo que se volvía para ver a qué se refería Moreau y lo arrojé adelante hacia otro. Sentí sus manos volando, tratando de aferrarse a mí, sin lograr retenerme. La pequeña criatura perezosa rosada se precipitó sobre mí, y corté su fea cara con el clavo de mi palo, y en un minuto estaba trepando fuera del barranco por un sendero lateral empinado, una especie de chimenea inclinada. Escuché un aullido detrás de mí, y gritos de "¡Atrápenlo!", "¡Agárrenlo!" y la criatura de rostro gris apareció detrás de mí y metió su enorme mole en la grieta. "¡Vamos! ¡adelante!", gritaban. Trepé por la estrecha hendidura de la roca y salí al azufre en el lado oeste de la aldea de los hombres bestia.

Esa grieta me resultó de muy buena suerte, porque la estrecha chimenea, inclinada oblicuamente para arriba, debíó haber impedido a los perseguidores más cercanos. Corrí por el espacio abierto y descendí una ladera empinada a través de un monte de árboles dispersos, y llegué a un trecho bajo de altas cañas, a través de las cuales me abrí paso en una maleza oscura y abundante que era negra y húmeda bajo los pies. Cuando me sumergí en las cañas, mis perseguidores más aventajados salían de la brecha. Me abrí camino a través de esta maleza durante algunos minutos. El aire detrás de mí y a mi alrededor pronto estuvo lleno de gritos amenazadores. Oí el tumulto de mis perseguidores en la brecha que subía la pendiente, luego el crujido de las cañas y, de vez en cuando, el crujido de una rama. Algunas de las criaturas rugían como animales de presa excitados. El sabueso ladraba a la izquierda. Oí a Moreau y Montgomery gritando en la misma dirección. Giré bruscamente hacia la derecha. Incluso entonces me pareció escuchar que Montgomery me gritaba que corriera por mi vida.

En ese momento el suelo se volvió rico y esponjoso bajo mis pies; pero estaba desesperado y caí de cabeza en él, avancé con dificultad metido hasta las rodillas, y así llegué a un camino sinuoso entre altas cañas. El ruido de mis perseguidores pasó a mi izquierda. En un lugar, tres animales extraños, rosados ​​y saltarines, del tamaño de gatos, se paralizaron ante mis pasos. Este sendero corrió colina arriba, cruzó otro espacio abierto cubierto de incrustaciones blancas, y se sumergió otra vez en un cañaveral. Luego, de repente, se volvió paralelo al borde de una brecha de paredes empinadas, que llegó sin previo aviso, como el desnivel de un parque inglés... y se volvió con una brusquedad repentina. Yo seguía corriendo con todas mis fuerzas, y nunca lo vi descender hasta que estuve volando de cabeza en el aire.

Caí en los antebrazos y la cabeza, entre espinas, y me levanté con una oreja rota y la cara sangrienta. Había caído en un barranco escarpado, rocoso y con espinas, lleno de una neblina borrosa que flotaba a mi alrededor en volutas, y con un estrecho arroyo desde el cual esta neblina descendía serpenteando por el centro. Me quedé asombrado con esta fina niebla bajo el pleno resplandor de la luz del día; pero entonces no tuve tiempo para pararme a pensar. Me volví a la derecha, río abajo, esperando llegar al mar en esa dirección, y así tener el camino abierto para ahogarme. Solo más tarde descubrí que en mi caída había soltado mi bastón con clavo.

En ese momento el barranco se hizo más estrecho por una corta distancia y, descuidadamente, me metí en la corriente. Salí de nuevo muy rápido, porque el agua estaba casi hirviendo. También noté que había una delgada espuma sulfurosa flotando sobre su agua revuelta. Casi de inmediato llegó una curva en el barranco y el horizonte azul borroso. El mar más cercano estaba reflejando el sol desde una miríada de facetas. Vi mi muerte delante de mí; pero tenía calor y estaba jadeando, con la sangre caliente rezumando en la cara y corriendo agradablemente por las venas. Además, sentía más que un toque de exultación por haber escapado de mis perseguidores. En ese momento aún no tuve la voluntad de ahogarme. Miré atrás por donde había venido.

Escuché. Salvo por el zumbido de los mosquitos y el chirrido de unos pequeños insectos que saltaban entre las espinas, el aire estaba absolutamente silencioso. Luego vino el ladrido de un perro, muy débil, y parloteo y balbuceo, el chasquido de un azote, y voces. Se volvieron más fuertes y luego más débiles otra vez. Los sonidos retrocedieron río arriba y se disiparon. Por un rato había terminado la persecución; pero ya sabía qué poca esperanza había de que me ayudara la gente bestia.
unit 1
Chapter XII.
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THE SAYERS OF THE LAW.
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THEN something cold touched my hand.
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As the first shock of the change of light passed, I saw about me more distinctly.
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The little sloth-like creature was standing and staring at me.
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My conductor had vanished.
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Some rough vessels of lava and wood stood about the floor, and one on a rough stool.
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There was no fire.
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“Hey!” came out of the lump of mystery opposite.
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I gnawed my cocoa-nut amid an impressive stillness.
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I peered hard into the blackness, but could distinguish nothing.
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“It is a man,” the voice repeated.
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The Ape-man looked at me as though he expected something.
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I perceived the pause was interrogative.
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“He comes to live with you,” I said.
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“It is a man.
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Then I noticed the opening of the place was darkened by two more black heads.
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My hand tightened on my stick.
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The thing in the dark repeated in a louder tone, “Say the words.” I had missed its last remark.
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“Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law,” it repeated in a kind of sing-song.
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I was puzzled.
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I realised that I had to repeat this idiotic formula; and then began the insanest ceremony.
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The voice in the dark began intoning a mad litany, line by line, and I and the rest to repeat it.
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I could have imagined I was already dead and in another world.
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Are we not Men?
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“Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law.
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Are we not Men?
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“Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law.
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Are we not Men?
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“Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law.
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Are we not Men?
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“Not to chase other Men; that is the Law.
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We ran through a long list of prohibitions, and then the chant swung round to a new formula.
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“His is the House of Pain.
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“His is the Hand that makes.
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“His is the Hand that wounds.
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I could have fancied it was a dream, but never before have I heard chanting in a dream.
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“His is the lightning flash,” we sang.
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“His are the stars in the sky.” At last that song ended.
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What was it?
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What were they all?
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“He is a five-man, a five-man, a five-man—like me,” said the Ape-man.
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I held out my hands.
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The grey creature in the corner leant forward.
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“Not to run on all-fours; that is the Law.
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Are we not Men?” he said.
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He put out a strangely distorted talon and gripped my fingers.
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The thing was almost like the hoof of a deer produced into claws.
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I could have yelled with surprise and pain.
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“He has little nails,” said this grisly creature in his hairy beard.
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“It is well.” He threw my hand down, and instinctively I gripped my stick.
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“Eat roots and herbs; it is His will,” said the Ape-man.
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“I am the Sayer of the Law,” said the grey figure.
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“Here come all that be new to learn the Law.
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“Evil are the punishments of those who break the Law.
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None escape.” “None escape,” said the Beast Folk, glancing furtively at one another.
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“None, none,” said the Ape-man,—“none escape.
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See!
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I did a little thing, a wrong thing, once.
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I jabbered, jabbered, stopped talking.
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None could understand.
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I am burnt, branded in the hand.
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He is great.
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He is good!” “None escape,” said the grey creature in the corner.
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“None escape,” said the Beast People, looking askance at one another.
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“For every one the want that is bad,” said the grey Sayer of the Law.
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“What you will want we do not know; we shall know.
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It is bad.
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‘Not to chase other Men; that is the Law.
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Are we not Men?
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unit 100
Not to eat Flesh or Fish; that is the Law.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 101
Are we not Men?’” “None escape,” said a dappled brute standing in the doorway.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 102
“For every one the want is bad,” said the grey Sayer of the Law.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 103
“Some want to go tearing with teeth and hands into the roots of things, snuffing into the earth.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 104
It is bad.” “None escape,” said the men in the door.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 106
“None escape,” said the little pink sloth-creature.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 107
“Punishment is sharp and sure.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 108
Therefore learn the Law.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 111
“Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 114
Then before I reached the aperture I heard the yelp of a staghound.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 117
They were gesticulating excitedly.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 118
Other half-animal faces glared interrogation out of the hovels.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 120
He was holding the leaping staghound back, and close behind him came Montgomery revolver in hand.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 121
For a moment I stood horror-struck.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 125
Their bestial minds were happily slow.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 127
I felt his hands fly round, clutching at me and missing me.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 130
“Go on!
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 131
go on!” they howled.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 135
As I plunged into the reeds, my foremost pursuers emerged from the gap.
1 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 136
I broke my way through this undergrowth for some minutes.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 137
The air behind me and about me was soon full of threatening cries.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 139
Some of the creatures roared like excited beasts of prey.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 140
The staghound yelped to the left.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 141
I heard Moreau and Montgomery shouting in the same direction.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 142
I turned sharply to the right.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 143
It seemed to me even then that I heard Montgomery shouting for me to run for my life.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 145
The noise of my pursuers passed away to my left.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 146
unit 150
I fell on my forearms and head, among thorns, and rose with a torn ear and bleeding face.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 154
It was only later I found that I had dropped my nailed stick in my fall.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 155
Presently the ravine grew narrower for a space, and carelessly I stepped into the stream.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 156
I jumped out again pretty quickly, for the water was almost boiling.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 157
I noticed too there was a thin sulphurous scum drifting upon its coiling water.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 158
Almost immediately came a turn in the ravine, and the indistinct blue horizon.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 159
The nearer sea was flashing the sun from a myriad facets.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 161
I felt more than a touch of exultation too, at having distanced my pursuers.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 162
It was not in me then to go out and drown myself yet.
2 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 163
I stared back the way I had come.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 164
I listened.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 166
unit 167
They grew louder, then fainter again.
3 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 168
The noise receded up the stream and faded away.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
unit 169
For a while the chase was over; but I knew now how much hope of help for me lay in the Beast People.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 months, 2 weeks ago
soybeba • 2079  commented on  unit 160  2 months, 3 weeks ago
soybeba • 2079  translated  unit 130  2 months, 3 weeks ago
soybeba • 2079  commented on  unit 87  2 months, 3 weeks ago
soybeba • 2079  translated  unit 65  2 months, 4 weeks ago
soybeba • 2079  commented on  unit 37  2 months, 4 weeks ago

Chapter XII.

THE SAYERS OF THE LAW.

THEN something cold touched my hand. I started violently, and saw close to me a dim pinkish thing, looking more like a flayed child than anything else in the world. The creature had exactly the mild but repulsive features of a sloth, the same low forehead and slow gestures.

As the first shock of the change of light passed, I saw about me more distinctly. The little sloth-like creature was standing and staring at me. My conductor had vanished. The place was a narrow passage between high walls of lava, a crack in the knotted rock, and on either side interwoven heaps of sea-mat, palm-fans, and reeds leaning against the rock formed rough and impenetrably dark dens. The winding way up the ravine between these was scarcely three yards wide, and was disfigured by lumps of decaying fruit-pulp and other refuse, which accounted for the disagreeable stench of the place.

The little pink sloth-creature was still blinking at me when my Ape-man reappeared at the aperture of the nearest of these dens, and beckoned me in. As he did so, a slouching monster wriggled out of one of the places, further up this strange street, and stood up in featureless silhouette against the bright green beyond, staring at me. I hesitated, having half a mind to bolt the way I had come; and then, determined to go through with the adventure, I gripped my nailed stick about the middle and crawled into the little evil-smelling lean-to after my conductor.

It was a semi-circular space, shaped like the half of a bee-hive; and against the rocky wall that formed the inner side of it was a pile of variegated fruits, cocoa-nuts among others. Some rough vessels of lava and wood stood about the floor, and one on a rough stool. There was no fire. In the darkest corner of the hut sat a shapeless mass of darkness that grunted “Hey!” as I came in, and my Ape-man stood in the dim light of the doorway and held out a split cocoa-nut to me as I crawled into the other corner and squatted down. I took it, and began gnawing it, as serenely as possible, in spite of a certain trepidation and the nearly intolerable closeness of the den. The little pink sloth-creature stood in the aperture of the hut, and something else with a drab face and bright eyes came staring over its shoulder.

“Hey!” came out of the lump of mystery opposite. “It is a man.”

“It is a man,” gabbled my conductor,—“a man, a man, a five-man, like me.”

“Shut up!” said the voice from the dark, and grunted. I gnawed my cocoa-nut amid an impressive stillness.

I peered hard into the blackness, but could distinguish nothing.

“It is a man,” the voice repeated. “He comes to live with us?”

It was a thick voice, with something in it—a kind of whistling overtone—that struck me as peculiar; but the English accent was strangely good.

The Ape-man looked at me as though he expected something. I perceived the pause was interrogative. “He comes to live with you,” I said.

“It is a man. He must learn the Law.”

I began to distinguish now a deeper blackness in the black, a vague outline of a hunched-up figure. Then I noticed the opening of the place was darkened by two more black heads. My hand tightened on my stick.

The thing in the dark repeated in a louder tone, “Say the words.” I had missed its last remark. “Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law,” it repeated in a kind of sing-song.

I was puzzled.

“Say the words,” said the Ape-man, repeating, and the figures in the doorway echoed this, with a threat in the tone of their voices.

I realised that I had to repeat this idiotic formula; and then began the insanest ceremony. The voice in the dark began intoning a mad litany, line by line, and I and the rest to repeat it. As they did so, they swayed from side to side in the oddest way, and beat their hands upon their knees; and I followed their example. I could have imagined I was already dead and in another world. That dark hut, these grotesque dim figures, just flecked here and there by a glimmer of light, and all of them swaying in unison and chanting,

“Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men?

“Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

And so from the prohibition of these acts of folly, on to the prohibition of what I thought then were the maddest, most impossible, and most indecent things one could well imagine. A kind of rhythmic fervour fell on all of us; we gabbled and swayed faster and faster, repeating this amazing Law. Superficially the contagion of these brutes was upon me, but deep down within me the laughter and disgust struggled together. We ran through a long list of prohibitions, and then the chant swung round to a new formula.

“His is the House of Pain.

“His is the Hand that makes.

“His is the Hand that wounds.

“His is the Hand that heals.”

And so on for another long series, mostly quite incomprehensible gibberish to me about Him, whoever he might be. I could have fancied it was a dream, but never before have I heard chanting in a dream.

“His is the lightning flash,” we sang. “His is the deep, salt sea.”

A horrible fancy came into my head that Moreau, after animalising these men, had infected their dwarfed brains with a kind of deification of himself. However, I was too keenly aware of white teeth and strong claws about me to stop my chanting on that account.

“His are the stars in the sky.”

At last that song ended. I saw the Ape-man‘s face shining with perspiration; and my eyes being now accustomed to the darkness, I saw more distinctly the figure in the corner from which the voice came. It was the size of a man, but it seemed covered with a dull grey hair almost like a [[w: Skye terrier|Skye-terrier}}. What was it? What were they all? Imagine yourself surrounded by all the most horrible cripples and maniacs it is possible to conceive, and you may understand a little of my feelings with these grotesque caricatures of humanity about me.

“He is a five-man, a five-man, a five-man—like me,” said the Ape-man.

I held out my hands. The grey creature in the corner leant forward.

“Not to run on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?” he said.

He put out a strangely distorted talon and gripped my fingers. The thing was almost like the hoof of a deer produced into claws. I could have yelled with surprise and pain. His face came forward and peered at my nails, came forward into the light of the opening of the hut; and I saw with a quivering disgust that it was like the face of neither man nor beast, but a mere shock of grey hair, with three shadowy over-archings to mark the eyes and mouth.

“He has little nails,” said this grisly creature in his hairy beard. “It is well.”

He threw my hand down, and instinctively I gripped my stick.

“Eat roots and herbs; it is His will,” said the Ape-man.

“I am the Sayer of the Law,” said the grey figure. “Here come all that be new to learn the Law. I sit in the darkness and say the Law.”

“It is even so,” said one of the beasts in the doorway.

“Evil are the punishments of those who break the Law. None escape.”

“None escape,” said the Beast Folk, glancing furtively at one another.

“None, none,” said the Ape-man,—“none escape. See! I did a little thing, a wrong thing, once. I jabbered, jabbered, stopped talking. None could understand. I am burnt, branded in the hand. He is great. He is good!”

“None escape,” said the grey creature in the corner.

“None escape,” said the Beast People, looking askance at one another.

“For every one the want that is bad,” said the grey Sayer of the Law. “What you will want we do not know; we shall know. Some want to follow things that move, to watch and slink and wait and spring; to kill and bite, bite deep and rich, sucking the blood. It is bad. ‘Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Flesh or Fish; that is the Law. Are we not Men?’”

“None escape,” said a dappled brute standing in the doorway.

“For every one the want is bad,” said the grey Sayer of the Law. “Some want to go tearing with teeth and hands into the roots of things, snuffing into the earth. It is bad.”

“None escape,” said the men in the door.

“Some go clawing trees; some go scratching at the graves of the dead; some go fighting with foreheads or feet or claws; some bite suddenly, none giving occasion; some love uncleanness.”

“None escape,” said the Ape-man, scratching his calf.

“None escape,” said the little pink sloth-creature.

“Punishment is sharp and sure. Therefore learn the Law. Say the words.”

And incontinently he began again the strange litany of the Law, and again I and all these creatures began singing and swaying. My head reeled with this jabbering and the close stench of the place; but I kept on, trusting to find presently some chance of a new development.

“Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

We were making such a noise that I noticed nothing of a tumult outside, until some one, who I think was one of the two Swine Men I had seen, thrust his head over the little pink sloth-creature and shouted something excitedly, something that I did not catch. Incontinently those at the opening of the hut vanished; my Ape-man rushed out; the thing that had sat in the dark followed him (I only observed that it was big and clumsy, and covered with silvery hair), and I was left alone. Then before I reached the aperture I heard the yelp of a staghound.

In another moment I was standing outside the hovel, my chair-rail in my hand, every muscle of me quivering. Before me were the clumsy backs of perhaps a score of these Beast People, their misshapen heads half hidden by their shoulder-blades. They were gesticulating excitedly. Other half-animal faces glared interrogation out of the hovels. Looking in the direction in which they faced, I saw coming through the haze under the trees beyond the end of the passage of dens the dark figure and awful white face of Moreau. He was holding the leaping staghound back, and close behind him came Montgomery revolver in hand.

For a moment I stood horror-struck. I turned and saw the passage behind me blocked by another heavy brute, with a huge grey face and twinkling little eyes, advancing towards me. I looked round and saw to the right of me and a half-dozen yards in front of me a narrow gap in the wall of rock through which a ray of light slanted into the shadows.

“Stop!” cried Moreau as I strode towards this, and then, “Hold him!”

At that, first one face turned towards me and then others. Their bestial minds were happily slow. I dashed my shoulder into a clumsy monster who was turning to see what Moreau meant, and flung him forward into another. I felt his hands fly round, clutching at me and missing me. The little pink sloth-creature dashed at me, and I gashed down its ugly face with the nail in my stick, and in another minute was scrambling up a steep side pathway, a kind of sloping chimney, out of the ravine. I heard a howl behind me, and cries of “Catch him!” “Hold him!” and the grey-faced creature appeared behind me and jammed his huge bulk into the cleft. “Go on! go on!” they howled. I clambered up the narrow cleft in the rock and came out upon the sulphur on the westward side of the village of the Beast Men.

That gap was altogether fortunate for me, for the narrow chimney, slanting obliquely upward, must have impeded the nearer pursuers. I ran over the white space and down a steep slope, through a scattered growth of trees, and came to a low-lying stretch of tall reeds, through which I pushed into a dark, thick undergrowth that was black and succulent under foot. As I plunged into the reeds, my foremost pursuers emerged from the gap. I broke my way through this undergrowth for some minutes. The air behind me and about me was soon full of threatening cries. I heard the tumult of my pursuers in the gap up the slope, then the crashing of the reeds, and every now and then the crackling crash of a branch. Some of the creatures roared like excited beasts of prey. The staghound yelped to the left. I heard Moreau and Montgomery shouting in the same direction. I turned sharply to the right. It seemed to me even then that I heard Montgomery shouting for me to run for my life.

Presently the ground gave rich and oozy under my feet; but I was desperate and went headlong into it, struggled through knee-deep, and so came to a winding path among tall canes. The noise of my pursuers passed away to my left. In one place three strange, pink, hopping animals, about the size of cats, bolted before my footsteps. This pathway ran up hill, across another open space covered with white incrustation, and plunged into a canebrake again. Then suddenly it turned parallel with the edge of a steep-walled gap, which came without warning, like the ha-ha of an English park,—turned with an unexpected abruptness. I was still running with all my might, and I never saw this drop until I was flying headlong through the air.

I fell on my forearms and head, among thorns, and rose with a torn ear and bleeding face. I had fallen into a precipitous ravine, rocky and thorny, full of a hazy mist which drifted about me in wisps, and with a narrow streamlet from which this mist came meandering down the centre. I was astonished at this thin fog in the full blaze of daylight; but I had no time to stand wondering then. I turned to my right, down-stream, hoping to come to the sea in that direction, and so have my way open to drown myself. It was only later I found that I had dropped my nailed stick in my fall.

Presently the ravine grew narrower for a space, and carelessly I stepped into the stream. I jumped out again pretty quickly, for the water was almost boiling. I noticed too there was a thin sulphurous scum drifting upon its coiling water. Almost immediately came a turn in the ravine, and the indistinct blue horizon. The nearer sea was flashing the sun from a myriad facets. I saw my death before me; but I was hot and panting, with the warm blood oozing out on my face and running pleasantly through my veins. I felt more than a touch of exultation too, at having distanced my pursuers. It was not in me then to go out and drown myself yet. I stared back the way I had come.

I listened. Save for the hum of the gnats and the chirp of some small insects that hopped among the thorns, the air was absolutely still. Then came the yelp of a dog, very faint, and a chattering and gibbering, the snap of a whip, and voices. They grew louder, then fainter again. The noise receded up the stream and faded away. For a while the chase was over; but I knew now how much hope of help for me lay in the Beast People.