The Island of Doctor Moreau HTML version
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."