en-fr  The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Chapter IV. Medium
Au garde-fou de la goélette.


Cette nuit-là, la terre fut en vue après le coucher du soleil, et la goélette jeta l'ancre. Montgomery laissa entendre que c'était sa destination. On était trop loin pour apercevoir des détails ; elle m'apparut alors comme un simple bandeau bleu de faible altitude sur la mer bleu-gris incertaine. Une traînée de fumée presque verticale s'en élevait jusqu'au ciel. Le capitaine n'était pas sur le pont lorsque nous l'aperçûmes. Après qu'il eut passé sa colère sur moi il descendit et je compris qu'il était allé dormir sur le sol de sa cabine. Le second assuma pratiquement le commandement. C'était l'individu décharné et taciturne que nous avions vu au gouvernail. Apparemment, il était en mauvais termes avec Montgomery. Il ne fit aucun cas de nous. Nous dinâmes avec lui dans un silence désagréable, après plusieurs essais infructueux de ma part pour entamer une conversation. Je fus aussi frappé par le fait que les hommes considéraient mon compagnon et ses animaux d'une manière singulièrement hostile. Je trouvai Montgomery très réticent au sujet de ses intentions avec ces animaux et sur sa destination ; et quoique je ressentisse une curiosité croissante pour ces deux questions, je ne le pressai pas.

Nous continuâmes à parler sur le gaillard d'arrière jusqu'à ce que le ciel soit chargé d'étoiles. Mis à part un bruit occasionnel du gaillard d'avant illuminé de jaune et un mouvement des animaux de temps en temps, la nuit était très calme. Le puma se tenait tapi, nous observant avec des yeux brillants, une masse noire dans le coin de sa cage. Montgomery sortit des cigares. Il me parla de Londres sur un ton de réminiscence partiellement douloureuse, posant toutes sortes de questions sur les changements intervenus. Il en parlait comme un homme qui avait adoré sa vie là-bas , et qui en avait brusquement et irrévocablement été exclu. J'ai discuté aussi bien que je le pus de ceci et de cela. Tout ce temps son étrangeté prenait forme dans mon esprit ; et pendant que je parlais j'observais son curieux visage pâle dans la lumière feutrée de la lanterne d'habitacle derrière moi. Puis j'ai scruté la mer d'encre où, dans l'obscurité, se cachait sa petite île.

Il me semblait que cet homme était sorti de nulle part pour me sauver la vie. Demain, il débarquerait et disparaitrait de ma vie. Même si les circonstances avaient été ordinaires, cela m'aurait fait réfléchir un peu ; mais en premier lieu il y avait l'étrangeté de voir un homme instruit vivre sur cet îlot inconnu, associée à celle de la nature extraordinaire de ses bagages. Je me retrouvai à répéter la question du capitaine : que voulait-il faire avec ces animaux ? Pourquoi, aussi, avait-il prétendu qu'ils ne lui appartenaient pas quand je les avais remarqués dans un premier temps ? Puis, encore, il y avait chez son domestique un aspect étrange qui m'avait profondément troublé. Cet état de choses entourait l'homme d'un voile de mystère. Ces circonstances s'emparèrent de mon imagination et j'eus le plus grand mal à tenir ma langue.

Vers minuit notre conversation au sujet de Londres s'épuisa et nous restâmes côte-à-côte penchés sur le bastingage à contempler la mer scintillante et silencieuse, chacun perdu dans ses pensées. L'heure était à l'émotion et j'exprimai ma reconnaissance.

– Si vous permettez, dis-je après un temps, vous m'avez sauvé la vie. – Chance, répondit-il. – Simplement le hasard. – Je préfère remercier le responsable. – Ne remerciez personne. Vous étiez en difficulté et j'avais la réponse ; je vous ai soigné et nourri du mieux que je pouvais comme si j'avais recueilli un spécimen. Je m'ennuyais et je cherchais quelque chose à faire. Si, ce jour-là, j'avais été indifférent ou si votre visage ne m'avait pas plu, et bien, je me demande bien où vous seriez aujourd'hui ! Cela tempéra un peu mon humeur. – En tout cas, commençai-je.

– C'est la chance, vous dis-je, m'interrompit-il, comme toute chose dans la vie d'un l'homme. Seuls les imbéciles ne le voient pas ! Pourquoi suis-je ici maintenant, un paria de la civilisation, au lieu d'être un homme heureux jouissant de tous les plaisirs de Londres ? Simplement parce qu'il y a onze ans, j'ai perdu la tête pendant dix minutes dans une nuit de brouillard. Il se tut. – Oui ? dis-je.

– C'est tout. Nous retombâmes dans le silence. Soudain il se mit à rire. – Il y a quelque chose dans cette nuit étoilée qui nous délie la langue. Je suis un imbécile et cependant j'aimerais vous le dire. – Quoi que vous me disiez, vous pouvez compter sur ma discrétion, s'il s'agit de cela. Il était sur le point de commencer, mais hocha la tête d'un air sceptique.

— Ne me dites pas, dis-je. Ça m'est égal. Après tout, il vaut mieux garder votre secret. Il n'y a rien à gagner sauf un peu de soulagement si je me montre digne de votre confiance. Sinon ... et bien ? Il grogna indécis. Je sentais qu'en le mettant d'humeur à se livrer il se retrouvait, par ma faute, dans une position délicate ; et à vrai dire, je n'étais pas plus curieux que ça d'apprendre ce qui avait pu conduire un jeune étudiant en médecine à quitter Londres. J'ai de l'imagination Je haussai les épaules et tournai les talons. Au-dessus de la rampe de poupe, une silhouette noire et silencieuse observait les étoiles. C'était l'étrange serviteur de Montgomery. Il regarda par-dessus son épaule rapidement lors de mon mouvement, puis détourna les yeux à nouveau.

Cela peut vous paraître insignifiant, peut-être, mais pour moi, ce fut comme un coup brutal. La seule lumière à proximité était une lanterne au gouvernail. Le visage de la créature se tourna un bref instant, émergeant de la pénombre de la poupe vers cette clarté, et je vis que les yeux qui me regardaient brillaient d'une lueur vert pâle. Je ne savais pas alors qu'une lueur rougeâtre, finalement, n'est pas inhabituelle dans les yeux humains. La chose m'apparut comme profondément inhumaine. Cette figure noire aux yeux de feu fit voler en éclats toutes mes pensées et sentiments d'adulte, et pendant un instant les horreurs oubliées de l'enfance refirent surface dans mon esprit. L'effet passa alors comme il était venu. Un visage humain noir et grossier, une silhouette sans signification particulière, suspendue à la lisse en contrejour et je trouvais Montgomery en train de me parler.

— Je crois maintenant que je vais aller me coucher, dit-il. — Si vous en avez assez, lui répondis-je de façon incongrue. Nous descendîmes, et il me souhaita bonne nuit à la porte de ma cabine.

Je fis cette nuit quelques rêves très déplaisants. La lune décroissante s'était levée tard Sa lumière projetait un rayon fantomatique à travers la cabine et créait une forme menaçante sur le bois de ma couchette. Les staghounds s'éveillèrent alors et se mirent à hurler et à aboyer, de sorte que je rêvais par intermittence et dormis peu jusqu'à l'approche de l'aube.
unit 1
AT THE SCHOONER’S RAIL.
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THAT night land was sighted after sundown, and the schooner hove to.
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Montgomery intimated that was his destination.
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An almost vertical streak of smoke went up from it into the sky.
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The captain was not on deck when it was sighted.
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The mate practically assumed the command.
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He was the gaunt, taciturn individual we had seen at the wheel.
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Apparently he was in an evil temper with Montgomery.
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He took not the slightest notice of either of us.
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We remained talking on the quarter deck until the sky was thick with stars.
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Montgomery produced some cigars.
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I gossiped as well as I could of this and that.
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This man, it seemed to me, had come out of Immensity merely to save my life.
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To-morrow he would drop over the side, and vanish again out of my existence.
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I found myself repeating the captain‘s question, What did he want with the beasts?
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Why, too, had he pretended they were not his when I had remarked about them at first?
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These circumstances threw a haze of mystery round the man.
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They laid hold of my imagination, and hampered my tongue.
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It was the atmosphere for sentiment, and I began upon my gratitude.
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I was bored, and wanted something to do.
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“At any rate,” I began.
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Only the asses won’t see it!
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“Yes?” said I.
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“That’s all.” We relapsed into silence.
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Presently he laughed.
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“There’s something in this starlight that loosens one’s tongue.
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“Don’t,” said I.
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“It is all the same to me.
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After all, it is better to keep your secret.
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There’s nothing gained but a little relief if I respect your confidence.
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If I don’t—well?” He grunted undecidedly.
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I have an imagination.
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I shrugged my shoulders and turned away.
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Over the taffrail leant a silent black figure, watching the stars.
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It was Montgomery’s strange attendant.
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It looked over its shoulder quickly with my movement, then looked away again.
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It may seem a little thing to you, perhaps, but it came like a sudden blow to me.
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The only light near us was a lantern at the wheel.
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The thing came to me as stark inhumanity.
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Then the effect passed as it had come.
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We went below, and he wished me good-night at the door of my cabin.
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That night I had some very unpleasant dreams.
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The waning moon rose late.
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Gabrielle • 13975  commented on  unit 52  4 months, 4 weeks ago
Gabrielle • 13975  commented on  unit 32  4 months, 4 weeks ago

AT THE SCHOONER’S RAIL.

THAT night land was sighted after sundown, and the schooner hove to. Montgomery intimated that was his destination. It was too far to see any details; it seemed to me then simply a low-lying patch of dim blue in the uncertain blue-grey sea. An almost vertical streak of smoke went up from it into the sky. The captain was not on deck when it was sighted. After he had vented his wrath on me he had staggered below, and I understand he went to sleep on the floor of his own cabin. The mate practically assumed the command. He was the gaunt, taciturn individual we had seen at the wheel. Apparently he was in an evil temper with Montgomery. He took not the slightest notice of either of us. We dined with him in a sulky silence, after a few ineffectual efforts on my part to talk. It struck me too that the men regarded my companion and his animals in a singularly unfriendly manner. I found Montgomery very reticent about his purpose with these creatures, and about his destination; and though I was sensible of a growing curiosity as to both, I did not press him.

We remained talking on the quarter deck until the sky was thick with stars. Except for an occasional sound in the yellow-lit forecastle and a movement of the animals now and then, the night was very still. The puma lay crouched together, watching us with shining eyes, a black heap in the corner of its cage. Montgomery produced some cigars. He talked to me of London in a tone of half-painful reminiscence, asking all kinds of questions about changes that had taken place. He spoke like a man who had loved his life there, and had been suddenly and irrevocably cut off from it. I gossiped as well as I could of this and that. All the time the strangeness of him was shaping itself in my mind; and as I talked I peered at his odd, pallid face in the dim light of the binnacle lantern behind me. Then I looked out at the darkling sea, where in the dimness his little island was hidden.

This man, it seemed to me, had come out of Immensity merely to save my life. To-morrow he would drop over the side, and vanish again out of my existence. Even had it been under commonplace circumstances, it would have made me a trifle thoughtful; but in the first place was the singularity of an educated man living on this unknown little island, and coupled with that the extraordinary nature of his luggage. I found myself repeating the captain‘s question, What did he want with the beasts? Why, too, had he pretended they were not his when I had remarked about them at first? Then, again, in his personal attendant there was a bizarre quality which had impressed me profoundly. These circumstances threw a haze of mystery round the man. They laid hold of my imagination, and hampered my tongue.

Towards midnight our talk of London died away, and we stood side by side leaning over the bulwarks and staring dreamily over the silent, starlit sea, each pursuing his own thoughts. It was the atmosphere for sentiment, and I began upon my gratitude.

“If I may say it,” said I, after a time, “you have saved my life.”

“Chance,” he answered. “Just chance.”

“I prefer to make my thanks to the accessible agent.”

“Thank no one. You had the need, and I had the knowledge; and I injected and fed you much as I might have collected a specimen. I was bored, and wanted something to do. If I’d been jaded that day, or hadn’t liked your face, well—it’s a curious question where you would have been now!”

This damped my mood a little. “At any rate,” I began.

“It’s chance, I tell you,” he interrupted,—“as everything is in a man’s life. Only the asses won’t see it! Why am I here now, an outcast from civilisation, instead of being a happy man enjoying all the pleasures of London? Simply because eleven years ago—I lost my head for ten minutes on a foggy night.”

He stopped. “Yes?” said I.

“That’s all.”

We relapsed into silence. Presently he laughed. “There’s something in this starlight that loosens one’s tongue. I’m an ass, and yet somehow I would like to tell you.”

“Whatever you tell me, you may rely upon my keeping to myself—if that’s it.”

He was on the point of beginning, and then shook his head, doubtfully.

“Don’t,” said I. “It is all the same to me. After all, it is better to keep your secret. There’s nothing gained but a little relief if I respect your confidence. If I don’t—well?”

He grunted undecidedly. I felt I had him at a disadvantage, had caught him in the mood of indiscretion; and to tell the truth I was not curious to learn what might have driven a young medical student out of London. I have an imagination. I shrugged my shoulders and turned away. Over the taffrail leant a silent black figure, watching the stars. It was Montgomery’s strange attendant. It looked over its shoulder quickly with my movement, then looked away again.

It may seem a little thing to you, perhaps, but it came like a sudden blow to me. The only light near us was a lantern at the wheel. The creature’s face was turned for one brief instant out of the dimness of the stern towards this illumination, and I saw that the eyes that glanced at me shone with a pale-green light. I did not know then that a reddish luminosity, at least, is not uncommon in human eyes. The thing came to me as stark inhumanity. That black figure with its eyes of fire struck down through all my adult thoughts and feelings, and for a moment the forgotten horrors of childhood came back to my mind. Then the effect passed as it had come. An uncouth black figure of a man, a figure of no particular import, hung over the taffrail against the starlight, and I found Montgomery was speaking to me.

“I’m thinking of turning in, then,” said he, “if you’ve had enough of this.”

I answered him incongruously. We went below, and he wished me good-night at the door of my cabin.

That night I had some very unpleasant dreams. The waning moon rose late. Its light struck a ghostly white beam across my cabin, and made an ominous shape on the planking by my bunk. Then the staghounds woke, and began howling and baying; so that I dreamt fitfully, and scarcely slept until the approach of dawn.