3:21 pm - Tuesday March 19, 4441

Aepyornis Island-by H.G.Wells-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name: Aepyronis Island

Written by: H.G.Wells

Category: Fiction, Short Stories, Short Novel

Page 1:


The man with the scarred face leant over the table and looked at my bundle.

‘Orchids?’ he asked.

‘A few,’ I said.

‘Cypripediums,’ he said.

‘Chiefly,’ said I.

‘Anything new? I thought not. I did these islands twenty-five–twenty-seven years ago. If you find anything new here–well, it’s brand new. I didn’t leave much.’

‘I’m not a collector,’ said I.

‘I was young then,’ he went on. ‘Lord! how I used to fly round.’ He seemed to take my measure. ‘I was in the East Indies two years and in Brazil seven. Then I went to Madagascar.’

‘I know a few explorers by name,’ I said, anticipating a yarn. ‘Whom did you collect for?’

‘Dawsons. I wonder if you’ve heard the name of Butcher ever?’

‘Butcher–Butcher?’ The name seemed vaguely present in my memory; then I recalled Butcher v. Dawson. ‘Why!’ said I, ‘you are the man who sued them for four years’ salary–got cast away on a desert island…’

‘Your servant,’ said the man with the scar, bowing. ‘Funny case, wasn’t it? Here was me, making a little fortune on that island, doing nothing for it neither, and them quite unable to give me notice. It often used to amuse me thinking over it while I was there. I did calculations of it–big–all over the blessed atoll in ornamental figuring.’

‘How did it happen?’ said I. ‘I don’t rightly remember the case.’

‘Well…you’ve heard of the Aepyornis?’

‘Rather. Andrews was telling me of a new species he was working on only a month or so ago. Just before I sailed. They’ve got a thigh-bone, it seems, nearly a yard long. Monster the thing must have been!’

‘I believe you,’ said the man with the scar. ‘It was a monster. Sindbad’s roc was just a legend of ’em. But when did they find these bones?’

‘Three or four years ago–’91, I fancy. Why?’

‘Why? because I found them–Lord!–it’s nearly twenty years ago. If Dawsons’ hadn’t been silly about that salary they might have made a perfect ring in ’em…. I couldn’t help the infernal boat going adrift.’

He paused. ‘I suppose it’s the same place. A kind of swamp about ninety miles north of Antananarivo. Do you happen to know? You have to go to it along the coast by boats. You don’t happen to remember, perhaps?’

‘I don’t. I fancy Andrews said something about a swamp.’

‘It must be the same. It’s on the east coast. And somehow there’s something in the water that keeps things from decaying. Like creosote it smells. It reminded me of Trinidad. Did they get any more eggs? Some of the eggs I found were a foot and a half long. The swamp goes circling round, you know, and cuts off this bit. It’s mostly salt, too. Well…. What a time I had of it! I found the things quite by accident. We went for eggs, me and two native chaps, in one of those rum canoes all tied together, and found the bones at the same time. We had a tent and provisions for four days, and we pitched on one of the firmer places. To think of it brings that old tarry smell back even now. It’s funny work. You go probing into the mud with iron rods, you know. Usually the egg gets smashed. I wonder how long it is since these Aepyornises really lived. The missionaries say the natives have legends about when they were alive, but I never heard any such stories myself. But certainly those eggs we got were as fresh as if they had been new laid. Fresh! Carrying them down to the boat one of my n—– chaps dropped one on a rock and it smashed. How I lammed into the beggar! But sweet it was, as if it was new laid, not even smelly, and its mother dead these four hundred years, perhaps. Said a centipede had bit him. However, I’m getting off the straight with the story. It had taken us all day to dig into the slush and gets these eggs out unbroken, and we were all covered with beastly black mud, and naturally I was cross. As far as I knew they were the only eggs that have ever been got out not even cracked. I went afterwards to see the ones at the Natural History Museum in London; all of them were cracked and just stuck together like a mosaic, and bits missing. Mine were perfect, and I meant to blow them when I got back. Naturally I was annoyed at the silly duffer dropping three hours’ work just on account of a centipede. I hit him about rather.’

The man with the scar took out a clay pipe. I placed my pouch before him. He filled up absent-mindedly.

‘How about the others? Did you get those home? I don’t remember—‘

‘That’s the queer part of the story. I had three others. Perfectly fresh eggs. Well, we put ’em in the boat, and then I went up to the tent to make some coffee, leaving my two heathens down on the beach–the one fooling about with his sting and the other helping him. It never occurred to me that the beggar would take advantage of the peculiar position I was in to pick a quarrel. But I suppose the centipede poison and the kicking I had given him had upset the one–he was always a cantankerous sort–and he persuaded the other.

‘I remember I was sitting and smoking and boiling up the water over a spirit-lamp business I used to take on these expeditions. Incidentally I was admiring the swamp under the sunset. All black and blood-red it was, in streaks–a beautiful sight. And up beyond the land rose grey and hazy to the hills, and the sky behind them was red, like a furnace mouth. And fifty yards behind the back of me was these blessed heathen–quite regardless of the tranquil air of things–plotting to cut off with the boat and leave me all alone with three days’ provisions and a canvas tent, and nothing to drink whatsoever beyond a little keg of water. I heard a kind of yelp behind me, and there they were in this canoe affair–it wasn’t properly a boat–and, perhaps, twenty yards from land. I realized what was up in a moment. My gun was in the tent, and, besides, I had no bullets–only duck shot. They knew that. But I had a little revolver in my pocket, and I pulled that out as I ran down to the beach.

‘ “Come back!” says I, flourishing it.

‘They jabbered something at me, and the man that broke the egg jeered. I aimed at the other–because he was unwounded and had the paddle, and I missed. They laughed. However, I wasn’t beat. I knew I had to keep cool, and I tried him again and made him jump with the whang of it. He didn’t laugh that time. The third time I got his head, and over he went, and the paddle with him. It was a precious lucky shot for a revolver. I reckon it was fifty yards. He went right under. I don’t know if he was shot, or simply stunned and drowned. The I began to shout to the other chap to come back, but he huddled up in the canoe and refused to answer. So I fired out my revolver at him and never got near him.

‘I felt a precious fool, I can tell you. There I was on this rotten black beach, flat swamp all behind me, and the flat sea, cold after the sun set, and just this black canoe drifting steadily out to sea. I tell you I damned Dawsons’ and Jamrach’s and Museums and all the rest of it just to rights. I bawled to this n—– to come back, until my voice went up into a scream.

Filed in: Fiction, Short Novel, Short Stories

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