Sunday, December 6, 2015

Moreau XVIII: The Finding of Moreau

As chapter XVIII, "The Finding of Moreau" opens, Montgomery is ready to drown himself in brandy, but Prendick won't let him. He insists they have to go out and find out what happened to Moreau. Prendick overrides Montgomery's feeble protests, and after a quick meal, the two men and M'ling go out.

We learn for the first time that it was Prendick's left arm that was broken when the puma freed herself. One can picture how it happened. Prendick would have been staring out at the sea holding his cigarette in his right hand. He hears the sound of the puma pulling her chain out of the wall and knocking down Moreau, he turns and sees her running toward the entrance. He raises his left arm, because even as startled as he is, he won't risk any damage to his precious cigarette. The puma knocks him down, breaking his left arm, and runs off. Presumably, Prendick's care for his cigarette comes to naught in the end, and he drops it at this point as the force of the puma's blow sends him rolling over and over in the sand.

Prendick ignores whatever pain he is suffering in his left arm, which was broken by the puma only hours before, and leads the others out of the compound, carrying a pistol in his good hand. M'ling had lost his hatchet earlier in the day when he was grappling with the uplifted swine, and he doesn't bother replacing it. As Prendick observes, "Teeth were his weapons, when it came to fighting." Montgomery carries the other pistol, but he does not have it at the ready -- he simply follows the others with his hands in his pockets.

M'ling leads the group through the jungle, "his shoulder hunched, his strange black head moving with quick starts as he peered first on this side of the way and then on that." Montgomery follows him, still half-sozzled, and Prendick brings up the rear, revolver in hand. After making their way for some time, M'ling suddenly stops, and Montgomery almost runs into him.

Half a dozen uplifted animals emerge from the jungle, led by the Speaker of the Law, a gray-haired uplift whose animal origins Prendick never mentions. The uplifts are in shock, and they reveal to Prendick's group that Moreau is dead. The next question the uplifts have for Montgomery is whether there is still a Law.

Prendick, thinking fast, steps in front of Montogmery and says:
“Children of the Law, he is not dead!” M'ling turned his sharp eyes on me. “He has changed his shape; he has changed his body,” I went on. “For a time you will not see him. He is—there,” I pointed upward, “where he can watch you. You cannot see him, but he can see you. Fear the Law!”

I looked at them squarely. They flinched.
Having re-asserted control over the uplifts,  Prendick inquires about the puma, and learns that she is also dead. He orders the uplifts to lead them to Moreau's body, and the group sets out.

During their journey, they are interrupted by a disturbance:
Then came a yelling, a crashing among the branches, and a little pink homunculus rushed by us shrieking. Immediately after appeared a monster in headlong pursuit, blood-bedabbled, who was amongst us almost before he could stop his career. The grey Thing leapt aside. M'ling, with a snarl, flew at it, and was struck aside. Montgomery fired and missed, bowed his head, threw up his arm, and turned to run. I fired, and the Thing still came on; fired again, point-blank, into its ugly face. I saw its features vanish in a flash: its face was driven in. Yet it passed me, gripped Montgomery, and holding him, fell headlong beside him and pulled him sprawling upon itself in its death-agony.

I found myself alone with M'ling, the dead brute, and the prostrate man. Montgomery raised himself slowly and stared in a muddled way at the shattered Beast Man beside him. It more than half sobered him. He scrambled to his feet. Then I saw the grey Thing returning cautiously through the trees.

“See,” said I, pointing to the dead brute, “is the Law not alive? This came of breaking the Law.”

He peered at the body. “He sends the Fire that kills,” said he, in his deep voice, repeating part of the Ritual. The others gathered round and stared for a space.
When the party reaches the site of Moreau's final battle with the puma, it is clear that both are indeed dead. Moreau shot the puma in the shoulder, but the puma was able to  brain Moreau with its chain. The puma is half-devoured.

The uplifts assist Prendick in carrying Moreau's body back to the compound. They all leave, and M'ling leaves with them. Prendick locks the gate, then he and Montgomery go into Moreau's laboratory, where they "put an end to all we found living there."

This chapter ends with Prendick and Montgomery in a precarious position. Moreau is dead, and their control over the uplifts is on shaky ground. Prendick is able to salvage the situation for the time being by spinning a tale of Moreau's spirit keeping watch over the island, and by killing one uplift who is breaking the Law (and incidentally keeping an uplifted sloth from being killed and eaten). However, the situation is clearly unstable. How long will the uplifts allow themselves to be cowed by an invisible Moreau, when they clearly saw Moreau dead?

Moreau's death also marks a change in Prendick's fortunes. Montgomery is incapable of dealing with the sudden crisis. It is Prendick who insists on going out to learn Moreau's fate, and it is Prendick whose quick thinking prevents the collapse of the Law that keeps the uplifts docile. With Moreau gone and Montgomery sinking into an alcoholic stupor, Prendick is now the de facto leader of the island's bizarre society. To see how he deals with his perilous situation, tune in for chapter XIX, "Montgomery's Bank Holiday".

1 comment:

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