The Island of Doctor Moreau HTML version
The Strange Face
WE left the cabin and found a man at the companion obstructing our way. He was
standing on the ladder with his back to us, peering over the combing of the hatchway. He
was, I could see, a misshapen man, short, broad, and clumsy, with a crooked back, a hairy
neck, and a head sunk between his shoulders. He was dressed in dark-blue serge, and had
peculiarly thick, coarse, black hair. I heard the unseen dogs growl furiously, and
forthwith he ducked back,-- coming into contact with the hand I put out to fend him off
from myself. He turned with animal swiftness.
In some indefinable way the black face thus flashed upon me shocked me profoundly. It
was a singularly deformed one. The facial part projected, forming something dimly
suggestive of a muzzle, and the huge half-open mouth showed as big white teeth as I had
ever seen in a human mouth. His eyes were blood-shot at the edges, with scarcely a rim
of white round the hazel pupils. There was a curious glow of excitement in his face.
"Confound you!" said Montgomery. "Why the devil don't you get out of the way?"
The black-faced man started aside without a word. I went on up the companion, staring at
him instinctively as I did so. Montgomery stayed at the foot for a moment. "You have no
business here, you know," he said in a deliberate tone. "Your place is forward."
The black-faced man cowered. "They--won't have me forward." He spoke slowly, with a
queer, hoarse quality in his voice.
"Won't have you forward!" said Montgomery, in a menacing voice. "But I tell you to go!"
He was on the brink of saying something further, then looked up at me suddenly and
followed me up the ladder.
I had paused half way through the hatchway, looking back, still astonished beyond
measure at the grotesque ugliness of this black-faced creature. I had never beheld such a
repulsive and extraordinary face before, and yet--if the contradiction is credible--I
experienced at the same time an odd feeling that in some way I had already encountered
exactly the features and gestures that now amazed me. Afterwards it occurred to me that
probably I had seen him as I was lifted aboard; and yet that scarcely satisfied my
suspicion of a previous acquaintance. Yet how one could have set eyes on so singular a
face and yet have forgotten the precise occasion, passed my imagination.
Montgomery's movement to follow me released my attention, and I turned and looked
about me at the flush deck of the little schooner. I was already half prepared by the
sounds I had heard for what I saw. Certainly I never beheld a deck so dirty. It was littered
with scraps of carrot, shreds of green stuff, and indescribable filth. Fastened by chains to
the mainmast were a number of grisly staghounds, who now began leaping and barking at
me, and by the mizzen a huge puma was cramped in a little iron cage far too small even