en-es  The Island of Doctor Moreau. Ch 15.
La isla del doctor Moreau de H. G. Wells Cap. 15


Con respecto a la gente bestia


ME DESPERTÉ temprano. La explicación de Moreau destacaba en mi mente, clara y definida, desde el momento de mi despertar. Salí de la hamaca y fui a la puerta para asegurarme de que la llave estaba girada. Después verifiqué el soporte de la ventana y lo encontré firmemente fijado. Que estas criaturas semejantes al hombre eran en verdad sólo monstruos bestiales, meras parodias grotescas de los hombres, me llenaron de una vaga incertidumbre de sus posibilidades que era mucho peor que cualquier miedo definido.

Vinieron unos golpecitos en la puerta, y oí la pastosa forma de hablar de M'ling. Metí uno de los revólveres en el bolsillo (manteniéndo una mano sobre él) y le abrí la puerta.

"Buenos días, señor," dijo, trayendo consigo un conejo mal cocinado además del desayuno de hierbas usual. Montgomery le siguió. Su ojo errante vio la posición de mi brazo y él exhibió una sonrisa torcida.

El puma estaba descansando ese día para curarse; pero Moreau, que era particularmente solitario en sus costumbres, no nos acompañó. Yo hablé con Montgomery para aclarar mis ideas sobre la manera en que vivía la gente bestia. En particular, quería urgentemente saber cómo se impedía que estos monstruos inhumanos atacaran a Moreau y Montgomery, y que no se atacaran el uno al otro. Me explicó que la relativa seguridad de Moreau y de él se debía a la capacidad mental limitada de estos monstruos. A pesar de su inteligencia aumentada y la tendencia a despertarse sus instintos animales, tenían unas ideas fijas en sus mentes, implantadas por Moreau, que absolutamente confinaban sus imaginaciones. En realidad estaban hipnotizados; les había dicho que ciertas cosas eran imposibles, y que otras no se debían hacer; estas prohibiciones estaban entretejidas en su estructura mental más allá de cualquier posibilidad de desobedecer o discutir.

Ciertos asuntos, sin embargo, en los que el primitivo instinto estaba en conflicto con la conveniencia de Moreau, estaban en una condición menos estable. Una serie de premisas llamadas la Ley (ya las había escuchado recitar) batallaban en sus mentes con los anhelos profundamente arraigados y siempre rebeldes de su naturaleza animal. Esta ley que siempre estaban repitiendo, encontré que siempre era violada. Tanto Montgomery como Moreau demostraban particular interés en impedir que los hombres bestia conocieran el sabor de sangre, porque temían las obvias sugerencias de eso. Montgomery me dijo que la ley, especialmente entre la gente bestia felina, se debilitaba curiosamente al anochecer; que entonces el componente animal se volvía más fuerte, que un espíritu de aventura surgía dentro de ellos en el crepúsculo, cuando se atreverían a cosas que parecían ni imaginar de día. Fue debido a eso que me acechó el hombre leopardo el noche de mi llegada. Pero durante estos primeros días de mi estancia, rompieron la ley solo furtivamente y después del anochecer; a la luz del día había una atmósfera general de respeto por sus múltiples prohibiciones.

Y aquí tal vez pueda dar algunos datos generales sobre la isla y la gente bestia. La isla, que tenía un contorno irregular y se extendía sobre el ancho mar, tenía un área total, supongo, de siete u ocho millas cuadradas. Era de origen volcánico, y ahora estaba bordeada por arrecifes de coral en tres lados; algunas fumarolas hacia el Norte y una fuente termal eran los únicos vestigios de las fuerzas que la originaron hacía mucho tiempo. De vez en cuando se sentía un leve temblor de tierra, y a veces las volutas de humo en ascenso eran agitadas por ráfagas de vapor; pero eso era todo. La población de la isla, me informó Montgomery, ahora contaba más de sesenta de estas extrañas creaciones del arte de Moreau, sin contar las monstruosidades más pequeñas, que vivían en la maleza y carecían de forma humana. En total, había hecho casi ciento veinte; pero muchas habían muerto, y otras -como la cosa sin pies que se retorcía de la que me había contado- habían tenido finales violentos. Como respuesta a mi pregunta, Montgomery dijo que de verdad tenían crías, pero generalmente se morían. Cuando vivían, Moreau los elegía y les daba la forma humana. No había evidencia de la herencia de sus características humanas adquiridas. Las hembras eran menos numerosas que los machos, y sujetas a mucha persecución furtiva a pesar de la monogamia impuesta por la ley.

Para mí sería imposible describir en detalle a esta gente bestia; mis ojos nunca tuvieron entrenamiento en eso, y lamentablemente no puedo bosquejar. Lo más llamativo, tal vez, en su aspecto general era la desproporción entre las piernas de estas criaturas y la longitud de sus cuerpos; y, sin embargo... tan relativa es nuestra idea de la gracia... mis ojos se acostumbraron a sus formas, y al final incluso caí en la convicción de que mis largos muslos eran desgarbados. Otro punto fue la inclinación de la cabeza hacia adelante y la curvatura torpe e inhumana de la columna vertebral. Incluso el hombre mono carecía de esa curva sinuosa hacia dentro de la espalda que hace tan elegante la figura humana. La mayoría tenía los hombros torpemente encogidos, y sus cortos antebrazos colgaban débilmente a los lados. Solo algunos eran obviamente peludos, por lo menos hasta el fin de mi estancia en la isla.

La segunda deformidad más evidente era la de las caras, casi todas prognatas, con orejas malformadas, narices grandes y protuberantes, cabello hirsuto o erizado y frequentemente ojos mal ubicados o de colores raros. Ninguno podía reír, aunque el hombre mono tenía una risita nerviosa Más allá de estas características generales, las cabezas tenían poco en común, cada una conservaba las cualidades de su especie particular: las características humanas deformaban pero no cubrían el leopardo, el buey o la cerda, u otro animal o animales de los cuales se moldeó la criatura. Las voces, también, eran tremendamente variadas. Las manos eran siempre malformadas; y aunque algunas me sorprendieron por su inesperado aspecto humano, casi todas tenían un numero reducido de dedos, uñas mal hechas y carecían de sensibilidad táctil.

Los dos hombres animal más formidables eran mi hombre leopardo y una criatura hecha de hiena y cerdo. Más grandes que estos eran las tres criaturas toro que atracaron el bote. Luego tenemos el hombre de pelo plateado, que era también el Pregonero de la Ley, M'ling, y una criatura de simio y cabra semejante a un sátiro. Había tres hombres cerdo y una mujer cerda, una criatura de yegua y rinoceronte, y varios animales hembras más, cuyos origenes no determiné. Había varias criaturas lobo, un oso-toro y un hombre san bernardo. Ya he descrito el hombre mono, y había una vieja mujer hecha de zorra y oso, particularmente odiosa y apestosa, y a quien destesté desde el principio. Decían que ella era devota apasionada de la ley. De las criaturas más pequeñas había ciertos jóvenes moteados y mi pequeña criatura perezoso. Pero suficiente de este catálogo.

Al principio, experimenté un escalofrío de horror por los brutos y sentí muy intensamente que aún eran bestias; pero, insensiblemente, me acostumbré un poco a la idea de ellos y, además, me afectó la actitud de Montgomery hacia ellos. Había estado con ellos tanto tiempo que había llegado a considerarlos seres humanos casi normales. Sus días en Londres le parecían un pasado glorioso e imposible. Solo una vez al año o algo así iba a Arica para tratar con el agente de Moreau, un comerciante de animales de allí. Difícilmente encontró al mejor tipo de humanidad en ese pueblo marinero de mestizos españoles. Los hombres que iban a bordo, me dijo le parecían al principio tan extraños como me parecieron los hombres bestia: demasiado largos en la pierna, planos en la cara, prominentes en la frente, sospechosos, peligrosos y fríos de corazón. De hecho, a él no le gustaban los hombres: su corazón se había vuelto amigable, pensó, porque me había salvado la vida. Pensé aún entonces que tenía una secreta ternura para algunos de estos brutos transformados, una simpatía viciosa por algunos de sus modales, pero que intentaba ocultarlo de mí al principio.

M'ling, el hombre de cara negra, asistente de Montgomery, el primero de la gente bestia que había encontrado, no vivía con los otros al otro lado de la isla, sino en una caseta detrás del recinto. La criatura era apenas tan inteligente como el hombre mono pero mucho más dócil y la más humana de toda la gente bestia y Montgomery lo había entrenado para preparar comida y, de hecho, para cumplir con todas las tareas domésticas triviales que se ordenaran. Era un trofeo complejo de la horrible habilidad de Moreau: un oso, contaminado con perro y buey, y una de sus criaturas más elaboradas. Trataba a Montgomery con una extraña ternura y devoción. A veces le prestaba atención, lo acariciaba, le daba nombres algo burlones y graciosos y así lo hacía bailotear con inenarrable placer; a veces lo maltrataba, especialmente después de haber tomado whisky: lo pateaba, golpeaba, le arrojaba piedras o fósforos encendidos. Pero lo tratara bien o mal, nada deseaba tanto como estar cerca de él.

Digo que me habitué a la gente bestia, que mil cosas que me habían parecido antinaturales y repulsivas rápidamente se volvieron naturales y normales para mí. Supongo que todo lo que existe toma su color del tono promedio de nuestro entorno. Montgomery y Moreau eran demasiado extraños y personales para mantener bien definidas mis impresiones generales de la humanidad. Veía a una de las torpes criaturas bovinas que trabajaba con el bote, caminando pesadamente por la maleza, y me preguntaba, esforzándome para recordar, cuán diferente era de un campesino humano al caminar penosamente a casa desde sus trabajos rutinarios; o me encontraba con la mujer zorro-oso, cuya cara vulpina y astuta era extrañamente humana en su ingenio calculador, e incluso imaginaba que la había encontrado antes en algún camino municipal.

Sin embargo, de vez en cuando me hacía experimentar una sensación súbita de que allí estaba la bestia, sin lugar a dudas. Un hombre feo, que parecía a un hombre salvaje con joroba, en cuclillas en la puerta de una de las chozas, estiraba los brazos y bostezaba, mostrando de manera alarmante y repentina, incisivos con filos de tijeras y caninos como sables, afilados y brillantes como navajas. O en algún estrecho sendero, echando un vistazo con osadía transitoria a los ojos de una ágil figura hembra envuelta en blanco, de repente veía (con un estremecimiento de repulsión) que tenía pupilas en forma de hendidura, o mirando hacia abajo, darme cuenta de la uña curva con que sostenía la manta sin forma en torno a ella. Es una cosa curiosa, por cierto, para la cual no tengo explicación, que estas extrañas criaturas-- las hembras quiero decir-- en los primeros días de mi estancia, tenían una sensibilidad instintiva de su propia torpeza repugnante y mostraban, por lo tanto, un respeto muy humano por el decoro y la decencia de la ropa amplia.
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The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells.
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Ch 15..
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CONCERNING THE BEAST FOLK.
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I WOKE early.
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Moreau’s explanation stood before my mind, clear and definite, from the moment of my awakening.
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I got out of the hammock and went to the door to assure myself that the key was turned.
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Then I tried the window-bar, and found it firmly fixed.
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A tapping came at the door, and I heard the glutinous accents of M’ling speaking.
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I pocketed one of the revolvers (keeping one hand upon it), and opened to him.
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Montgomery followed him.
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His roving eye caught the position of my arm and he smiled askew.
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I talked with Montgomery to clear my ideas of the way in which the Beast Folk lived.
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This Law they were ever repeating, I found, and ever breaking.
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To that I owed my stalking by the Leopard-man, on the night of my arrival.
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And here perhaps I may give a few general facts about the island and the Beast People.
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When they lived, Moreau took them and stamped the human form upon them.
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There was no evidence of the inheritance of their acquired human characteristics.
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Most had their shoulders hunched clumsily, and their short forearms hung weakly at their sides.
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Few of them were conspicuously hairy, at least until the end of my time upon the island.
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None could laugh, though the Ape-man had a chattering titter.
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The voices, too, varied exceedingly.
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The two most formidable Animal Men were my Leopard-man and a creature made of hyena and swine.
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Larger than these were the three bull-creatures who pulled in the boat.
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There were several wolf-creatures, a bear-bull, and a Saint-Bernard-man.
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She was said to be a passionate votary of the Law.
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Smaller creatures were certain dappled youths and my little sloth-creature.
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But enough of this catalogue.
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He had been with them so long that he had come to regard them as almost normal human beings.
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His London days seemed a glorious, impossible past to him.
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He hardly met the finest type of mankind in that seafaring village of Spanish mongrels.
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In fact, he did not like men: his heart had warmed to me, he thought, because he had saved my life.
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It treated Montgomery with a strange tenderness and devotion.
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But whether he treated it well or ill, it loved nothing so much as to be near him.
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I suppose everything in existence takes its colour from the average hue of our surroundings.
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Yet every now and then the beast would flash out upon me beyond doubt or denial.
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The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Ch 15..

CONCERNING THE BEAST FOLK.

I WOKE early. Moreau’s explanation stood before my mind, clear and definite, from the moment of my awakening. I got out of the hammock and went to the door to assure myself that the key was turned. Then I tried the window-bar, and found it firmly fixed. That these man-like creatures were in truth only bestial monsters, mere grotesque travesties of men, filled me with a vague uncertainty of their possibilities which was far worse than any definite fear.

A tapping came at the door, and I heard the glutinous accents of M’ling speaking. I pocketed one of the revolvers (keeping one hand upon it), and opened to him.

“Good-morning, sair,” he said, bringing in, in addition to the customary herb-breakfast, an ill-cooked rabbit. Montgomery followed him. His roving eye caught the position of my arm and he smiled askew.

The puma was resting to heal that day; but Moreau, who was singularly solitary in his habits, did not join us. I talked with Montgomery to clear my ideas of the way in which the Beast Folk lived. In particular, I was urgent to know how these inhuman monsters were kept from falling upon Moreau and Montgomery and from rending one another. He explained to me that the comparative safety of Moreau and himself was due to the limited mental scope of these monsters. In spite of their increased intelligence and the tendency of their animal instincts to reawaken, they had certain fixed ideas implanted by Moreau in their minds, which absolutely bounded their imaginations. They were really hypnotised; had been told that certain things were impossible, and that certain things were not to be done, and these prohibitions were woven into the texture of their minds beyond any possibility of disobedience or dispute.

Certain matters, however, in which old instinct was at war with Moreau’s convenience, were in a less stable condition. A series of propositions called the Law (I had already heard them recited) battled in their minds with the deep-seated, ever-rebellious cravings of their animal natures. This Law they were ever repeating, I found, and ever breaking. Both Montgomery and Moreau displayed particular solicitude to keep them ignorant of the taste of blood; they feared the inevitable suggestions of that flavour. Montgomery told me that the Law, especially among the feline Beast People, became oddly weakened about nightfall; that then the animal was at its strongest; that a spirit of adventure sprang up in them at the dusk, when they would dare things they never seemed to dream about by day. To that I owed my stalking by the Leopard-man, on the night of my arrival. But during these earlier days of my stay they broke the Law only furtively and after dark; in the daylight there was a general atmosphere of respect for its multifarious prohibitions.

And here perhaps I may give a few general facts about the island and the Beast People. The island, which was of irregular outline and lay low upon the wide sea, had a total area, I suppose, of seven or eight square miles.[1] It was volcanic in origin, and was now fringed on three sides by coral reefs; some fumaroles to the northward, and a hot spring, were the only vestiges of the forces that had long since originated it. Now and then a faint quiver of earthquake would be sensible, and sometimes the ascent of the spire of smoke would be rendered tumultuous by gusts of steam; but that was all. The population of the island, Montgomery informed me, now numbered rather more than sixty of these strange creations of Moreau’s art, not counting the smaller monstrosities which lived in the undergrowth and were without human form. Altogether he had made nearly a hundred and twenty; but many had died, and others—like the writhing Footless Thing of which he had told me—had come by violent ends. In answer to my question, Montgomery said that they actually bore offspring, but that these generally died. When they lived, Moreau took them and stamped the human form upon them. There was no evidence of the inheritance of their acquired human characteristics. The females were less numerous than the males, and liable to much furtive persecution in spite of the monogamy the Law enjoined.

It would be impossible for me to describe these Beast People in detail; my eye has had no training in details, and unhappily I cannot sketch. Most striking, perhaps, in their general appearance was the disproportion between the legs of these creatures and the length of their bodies; and yet—so relative is our idea of grace—my eye became habituated to their forms, and at last I even fell in with their persuasion that my own long thighs were ungainly. Another point was the forward carriage of the head, and the clumsy and inhuman curvature of the spine. Even the Ape-man lacked that inward sinuous curve of the back which makes the human figure so graceful. Most had their shoulders hunched clumsily, and their short forearms hung weakly at their sides. Few of them were conspicuously hairy, at least until the end of my time upon the island.

The next most obvious deformity was in their faces, almost all of which were prognathous, malformed about the ears, with large and protuberant noses, very furry or very bristly hair, and often strangely-coloured or strangely-placed eyes. None could laugh, though the Ape-man had a chattering titter. Beyond these general characters their heads had little in common; each preserved the quality of its particular species: the human mark distorted but did not hide the leopard, the ox, or the sow, or other animal or animals, from which the creature had been moulded. The voices, too, varied exceedingly. The hands were always malformed; and though some surprised me by their unexpected human appearance, almost all were deficient in the number of the digits, clumsy about the finger-nails, and lacking any tactile sensibility.

The two most formidable Animal Men were my Leopard-man and a creature made of hyena and swine. Larger than these were the three bull-creatures who pulled in the boat. Then came the silvery-hairy-man, who was also the Sayer of the Law, M’ling, and a satyr-like creature of ape and goat. There were three Swine-men and a Swine-woman, a mare-rhinoceros-creature, and several other females whose sources I did not ascertain. There were several wolf-creatures, a bear-bull, and a Saint-Bernard-man. I have already described the Ape-man, and there was a particularly hateful (and evil-smelling) old woman made of vixen and bear, whom I hated from the beginning. She was said to be a passionate votary of the Law. Smaller creatures were certain dappled youths and my little sloth-creature. But enough of this catalogue.

At first I had a shivering horror of the brutes, felt all too keenly that they were still brutes; but insensibly I became a little habituated to the idea of them, and moreover I was affected by Montgomery‘s attitude towards them. He had been with them so long that he had come to regard them as almost normal human beings. His London days seemed a glorious, impossible past to him. Only once in a year or so did he go to Arica to deal with Moreau’s agent, a trader in animals there. He hardly met the finest type of mankind in that seafaring village of Spanish mongrels. The men aboard-ship, he told me, seemed at first just as strange to him as the Beast Men seemed to me,—unnaturally long in the leg, flat in the face, prominent in the forehead, suspicious, dangerous, and cold-hearted. In fact, he did not like men: his heart had warmed to me, he thought, because he had saved my life. I fancied even then that he had a sneaking kindness for some of these metamorphosed brutes, a vicious sympathy with some of their ways, but that he attempted to veil it from me at first.

M’ling, the black-faced man, Montgomery‘s attendant, the first of the Beast Folk I had encountered, did not live with the others across the island, but in a small kennel at the back of the enclosure. The creature was scarcely so intelligent as the Ape-man, but far more docile, and the most human-looking of all the Beast Folk; and Montgomery had trained it to prepare food, and indeed to discharge all the trivial domestic offices that were required. It was a complex trophy of Moreau’s horrible skill,—a bear, tainted with dog and ox, and one of the most elaborately made of all his creatures. It treated Montgomery with a strange tenderness and devotion. Sometimes he would notice it, pat it, call it half-mocking, half-jocular names, and so make it caper with extraordinary delight; sometimes he would ill-treat it, especially after he had been at the whiskey, kicking it, beating it, pelting it with stones or lighted fusees. But whether he treated it well or ill, it loved nothing so much as to be near him.

I say I became habituated to the Beast People, that a thousand things which had seemed unnatural and repulsive speedily became natural and ordinary to me. I suppose everything in existence takes its colour from the average hue of our surroundings. Montgomery and Moreau were too peculiar and individual to keep my general impressions of humanity well defined. I would see one of the clumsy bovine-creatures who worked the launch, treading heavily through the undergrowth, and find myself asking, trying hard to recall, how he differed from some really human yokel trudging home from his mechanical labours; or I would meet the Fox-bear woman‘s vulpine, shifty face, strangely human in its speculative cunning, and even imagine I had met it before in some city byway.

Yet every now and then the beast would flash out upon me beyond doubt or denial. An ugly-looking man, a hunch-backed human savage to all appearance, squatting in the aperture of one of the dens, would stretch his arms and yawn, showing with startling suddenness scissor-edged incisors and sabre-like canines, keen and brilliant as knives. Or in some narrow pathway, glancing with a transitory daring into the eyes of some lithe, white-swathed female figure, I would suddenly see (with a spasmodic revulsion) that she had slit-like pupils, or glancing down note the curving nail with which she held her shapeless wrap about her. It is a curious thing, by the bye, for which I am quite unable to account, that these weird creatures—the females, I mean—had in the earlier days of my stay an instinctive sense of their own repulsive clumsiness, and displayed in consequence a more than human regard for the decency and decorum of extensive costume.