Walking aimlessly, Prendick wanders through the forest until he finds a stream. Crouching on the edge, on all fours like an animal, is another man, fully-clothed but with the same “grotesque ugliness” of the men on the beach. The man has his head lowered to the stream and is sucking water with his lips to drink, also like an animal. The man sees Prendick and, looking guilty, slinks off through the undergrowth.
The man’s shame at being seen drinking like an animal juxtaposes his animal behavior with his human emotional response. This serves to further introduce the theme of human versus animal nature, suggesting that they may be in some way interrelated, both present in the same body.
Prendick is disturbed by the sight and unsure of what to make of it, but wanders onward. Shortly, he comes upon a rabbit’s body with the head freshly torn off. There is blood, but no signs of struggle, as if the creature was quickly snatched up off the ground. Prendick’s dread intensifies.
The dead rabbit foreshadows the upcoming violence of the Beast Folk, both when Prendick is chased and further ahead in the story when the Beast Folk’s society breaks down and they revert to aggressive, feral animals.
Prendick continues his venture and, unseen, spies three more people through the brush. They are nearly naked, with oddly colored skin and distinctively swine-like features: chinless, fleshy faces with thin bristly hair. Though human, they look more bestial than anything Prendick has ever seen. The three are engaged in some sort of ritual, speaking unintelligibly and drooling, evidently excited. They begin jumping up and down and then one of them slips, catching itself briefly on all fours. Though momentary, the action confirms the animalism of the people to Prendick. He does not know what to make of such beastly-yet-human forms, but is horrified at the possibilities they imply.
Each person that Prendick sees appears more bestial than the last, like a house of horrors gradually increasing in intensity. In the mind of the reader, this progression serves to shift the perception of people Prendick sees on the island from human, though brutishly ugly, to more and more animalistic. This effectively develops both the horror of the story—especially since the reader is kept in the dark—and the thematic tension between the human and animal nature of the story’s characters.
Prendick turns to leave, since he is terrified and the sun is beginning to set. As he is walking, he becomes aware of a creature following him. Peering into the undergrowth, he spies the beastly man he had seen drinking at the stream. The creature disappears, but as Prendick continues his journey back to his room, he becomes aware that the creature is still stalking him. Prendick decides that his best chance is to escape the forest and make for the beach, since there will be less cover for his pursuer. He picks up a stone, making his way through the trees, and runs for the shore. Prendick’s hunter gives chase, initially bounding on all fours. When the creature is close behind him, Prendick turns and strikes it in the head with the stone.
Prendick’s striking of the beastly man with the stone is obviously in self-defense, yet is still significant in that it is the first of several times he will resort to violence throughout the story, despite the fact that he seems to often detest it when practiced by other people. This is an early indication that Prendick, despite his upright character, will come to view morality as circumstantial rather than universal and that the impulse to survive will justify all manner of behavior he may otherwise be opposed to.
With the beastly man lying motionless in the sand, Prendick runs for the house and the safety of his room. Even the Puma’s cries seem a relief from what he has just experienced. As he nears the building, Prendick can hear a voice calling out to him.
The Puma’s cries being a source of relief demonstrates the way that perception can change with circumstance. This is a sub-theme that will be developed over the course of the story and play directly into Prendick’s moral re-positioning in his fight to survive.