Here comes Part Five of my serialization of The Island of Dr Moreau, H G Wells' tale of a man of science playing God on the fringe of the map. In tonight's episode, Prendick begins to discern that the island's natives might not be as native as he'd thought:
Suddenly upon the bank of the stream appeared something—at first I could not distinguish what it was. It bowed its round head to the water, and began to drink. Then I saw it was a man, going on all-fours like a beast. He was clothed in bluish cloth, and was of a copper-coloured hue, with black hair. It seemed that grotesque ugliness was an invariable character of these islanders. I could hear the suck of the water at his lips as he drank.
I leant forward to see him better, and a piece of lava, detached by my hand, went pattering down the slope. He looked up guiltily, and his eyes met mine. Forthwith he scrambled to his feet, and stood wiping his clumsy hand across his mouth and regarding me. His legs were scarcely half the length of his body. So, staring one another out of countenance, we remained for perhaps the space of a minute. Then, stopping to look back once or twice, he slunk off among the bushes to the right of me, and I heard the swish of the fronds grow faint in the distance and die away...
The man I had just seen had been clothed in bluish cloth, had not been naked as a savage would have been; and I tried to persuade myself from that fact that he was after all probably a peaceful character, that the dull ferocity of his countenance belied him.
Yet I was greatly disturbed at the apparition... Why should a man go on all-fours and drink with his lips?
Why indeed? The idea of a man-like beast was still relatively new in the 1890s: It was only thirty years since the anthropologist Paul de Chaillu (that's him at top right) had become the first outside explorer in Africa to confirm the existence of gorillas.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Five of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes of The Island of Dr Moreau can be found here, and previous Tales for Our Time here. Our sadly timely Easter presentation of Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris was, I'm happy to say, very well received. Elizabeth Bakoss, a First Month Founding Member from Florida, writes:
Words fail me. I was very moved by your reading and the wonderful bells. Simply, thank you!
Much appreciated, Elizabeth. You can't have Notre-Dame without the bells.
If you'd like to join Elizabeth in The Mark Steyn Club, we'd love to have you: please see here. And, if you've a chum who enjoys classic fiction, we've introduced a special Mark Steyn Gift Membership: you'll find more details here. Oh, and we also do video poetry - and an annual Mark Steyn Club Cruise following last year's sold-out inaugural voyage.
See you on camera a little later tonight, on the radio in Toronto with John Oakley on Wednesday afternoon, and tomorrow evening for Part Six of The Island of Dr Moreau.