H.G. Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau
from Chapter The Twelfth : The Sayers of 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 of the place was darkened by two more heads. My hand tightened on my stick. The thing inthe 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 puzzeled. "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 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, and beat their hands upon their knees, and I followed their example. I could have imagined I was already dead and in another world. The dark hut, these grotesque dim figures, just flecked here and there in 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 Flesh or Fish ;that is the Law. Are we not men ? "
" Not to claw 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 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 brute men was upon me, but deep down within me laughter and disgust struggled together. We ran through a long list of prohibitions, and disgust struggled together. We ran through a long list of prohibitions, and 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 of Moreau, after animalising these men, had infected their dwarf 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 th sky."

. . .

Back Home