Part 1 out of 5
THE LOST WORLD
I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man,
Or the man who's half a boy.
The Lost World
By SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Mr. E. D. Malone desires to state that
both the injunction for restraint and the
libel action have been withdrawn unreservedly
by Professor G. E. Challenger, who, being
satisfied that no criticism or comment in
this book is meant in an offensive spirit,
has guaranteed that he will place no
impediment to its publication and circulation.
I. "THERE ARE HEROISMS ALL ROUND US"
II. "TRY YOUR LUCK WITH PROFESSOR CHALLENGER"
III. "HE IS A PERFECTLY IMPOSSIBLE PERSON"
IV. "IT'S JUST THE VERY BIGGEST THING IN THE WORLD"
VI. "I WAS THE FLAIL OF THE LORD"
VII. "TO-MORROW WE DISAPPEAR INTO THE UNKNOWN"
VIII. "THE OUTLYING PICKETS OF THE NEW WORLD"
IX. "WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN IT?
X. "THE MOST WONDERFUL THINGS HAVE HAPPENED"
XI. "FOR ONCE I WAS THE HERO"
XII. "IT WAS DREADFUL IN THE FOREST"
XIII. "A SIGHT I SHALL NEVER FORGET"
XIV. "THOSE WERE THE REAL CONQUESTS"
XV. "OUR EYES HAVE SEEN GREAT WONDERS"
XVI. "A PROCESSION! A PROCESSION!"
THE LOST WORLD
The Lost World
"There Are Heroisms All Round Us"
Mr. Hungerton, her father, really was the most tactless person
upon earth,--a fluffy, feathery, untidy cockatoo of a man,
perfectly good-natured, but absolutely centered upon his own
silly self. If anything could have driven me from Gladys, it
would have been the thought of such a father-in-law. I am
convinced that he really believed in his heart that I came round
to the Chestnuts three days a week for the pleasure of his
company, and very especially to hear his views upon bimetallism,
a subject upon which he was by way of being an authority.
For an hour or more that evening I listened to his monotonous
chirrup about bad money driving out good, the token value of
silver, the depreciation of the rupee, and the true standards
"Suppose," he cried with feeble violence, "that all the debts in
the world were called up simultaneously, and immediate payment
insisted upon,--what under our present conditions would happen then?"
I gave the self-evident answer that I should be a ruined man,
upon which he jumped from his chair, reproved me for my habitual
levity, which made it impossible for him to discuss any
reasonable subject in my presence, and bounced off out of the
room to dress for a Masonic meeting.
At last I was alone with Gladys, and the moment of Fate had come!
All that evening I had felt like the soldier who awaits the
signal which will send him on a forlorn hope; hope of victory and
fear of repulse alternating in his mind.
She sat with that proud, delicate profile of hers outlined
against the red curtain. How beautiful she was! And yet how
aloof! We had been friends, quite good friends; but never could I
get beyond the same comradeship which I might have established
with one of my fellow-reporters upon the Gazette,--perfectly
frank, perfectly kindly, and perfectly unsexual. My instincts
are all against a woman being too frank and at her ease with me.
It is no compliment to a man. Where the real sex feeling begins,
timidity and distrust are its companions, heritage from old wicked
days when love and violence went often hand in hand. The bent
head, the averted eye, the faltering voice, the wincing figure--
these, and not the unshrinking gaze and frank reply, are the true
signals of passion. Even in my short life I had learned as much as
that--or had inherited it in that race memory which we call instinct.
Gladys was full of every womanly quality. Some judged her to be
cold and hard; but such a thought was treason. That delicately
bronzed skin, almost oriental in its coloring, that raven hair,
the large liquid eyes, the full but exquisite lips,--all the
stigmata of passion were there. But I was sadly conscious that
up to now I had never found the secret of drawing it forth.
However, come what might, I should have done with suspense and
bring matters to a head to-night. She could but refuse me, and
better be a repulsed lover than an accepted brother.
So far my thoughts had carried me, and I was about to break the
long and uneasy silence, when two critical, dark eyes looked
round at me, and the proud head was shaken in smiling reproof.
"I have a presentiment that you are going to propose, Ned. I do
wish you wouldn't; for things are so much nicer as they are."
I drew my chair a little nearer. "Now, how did you know that I
was going to propose?" I asked in genuine wonder.
"Don't women always know? Do you suppose any woman in the world
was ever taken unawares? But--oh, Ned, our friendship has been so
good and so pleasant! What a pity to spoil it! Don't you feel how
splendid it is that a young man and a young woman should be able
to talk face to face as we have talked?"
"I don't know, Gladys. You see, I can talk face to face with--
with the station-master." I can't imagine how that official came
into the matter; but in he trotted, and set us both laughing.
"That does not satisfy me in the least. I want my arms round you,
and your head on my breast, and--oh, Gladys, I want----"
She had sprung from her chair, as she saw signs that I proposed
to demonstrate some of my wants. "You've spoiled everything,
Ned," she said. "It's all so beautiful and natural until this
kind of thing comes in! It is such a pity! Why can't you
"I didn't invent it," I pleaded. "It's nature. It's love."
"Well, perhaps if both love, it may be different. I have never
"But you must--you, with your beauty, with your soul! Oh, Gladys,
you were made for love! You must love!"
"One must wait till it comes."
"But why can't you love me, Gladys? Is it my appearance, or what?"
She did unbend a little. She put forward a hand--such a gracious,
stooping attitude it was--and she pressed back my head. Then she
looked into my upturned face with a very wistful smile.
"No it isn't that," she said at last. "You're not a conceited
boy by nature, and so I can safely tell you it is not that.
She nodded severely.
"What can I do to mend it? Do sit down and talk it over.
No, really, I won't if you'll only sit down!"
She looked at me with a wondering distrust which was much more to
my mind than her whole-hearted confidence. How primitive and
bestial it looks when you put it down in black and white!--and
perhaps after all it is only a feeling peculiar to myself.
Anyhow, she sat down.
"Now tell me what's amiss with me?"
"I'm in love with somebody else," said she.
It was my turn to jump out of my chair.
"It's nobody in particular," she explained, laughing at the
expression of my face: "only an ideal. I've never met the kind
of man I mean."
"Tell me about him. What does he look like?"
"Oh, he might look very much like you."
"How dear of you to say that! Well, what is it that he does that
I don't do? Just say the word,--teetotal, vegetarian, aeronaut,
theosophist, superman. I'll have a try at it, Gladys, if you
will only give me an idea what would please you."
She laughed at the elasticity of my character. "Well, in the
first place, I don't think my ideal would speak like that,"
said she. "He would be a harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt
himself to a silly girl's whim. But, above all, he must be a man
who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and
have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences.
It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had
won; for they would be reflected upon me. Think of Richard Burton!
When I read his wife's life of him I could so understand her love!
And Lady Stanley! Did you ever read the wonderful last chapter
of that book about her husband? These are the sort of men that
a woman could worship with all her soul, and yet be the greater,
not the less, on account of her love, honored by all the world
as the inspirer of noble deeds."
She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm that I nearly brought
down the whole level of the interview. I gripped myself hard,
and went on with the argument.
"We can't all be Stanleys and Burtons," said I; "besides, we
don't get the chance,--at least, I never had the chance. If I
did, I should try to take it."
"But chances are all around you. It is the mark of the kind of
man I mean that he makes his own chances. You can't hold him back.
I've never met him, and yet I seem to know him so well. There are
heroisms all round us waiting to be done. It's for men to do them,
and for women to reserve their love as a reward for such men.
Look at that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon.
It was blowing a gale of wind; but because he was announced to go
he insisted on starting. The wind blew him fifteen hundred miles
in twenty-four hours, and he fell in the middle of Russia. That was
the kind of man I mean. Think of the woman he loved, and how other
women must have envied her! That's what I should like to be,--envied
for my man."
"I'd have done it to please you."
"But you shouldn't do it merely to please me. You should do it
because you can't help yourself, because it's natural to you,
because the man in you is crying out for heroic expression.
Now, when you described the Wigan coal explosion last month,
could you not have gone down and helped those people, in spite
of the choke-damp?"
"You never said so."
"There was nothing worth bucking about."
"I didn't know." She looked at me with rather more interest.
"That was brave of you."
"I had to. If you want to write good copy, you must be where the
"What a prosaic motive! It seems to take all the romance out
of it. But, still, whatever your motive, I am glad that you went
down that mine." She gave me her hand; but with such sweetness
and dignity that I could only stoop and kiss it. "I dare say I
am merely a foolish woman with a young girl's fancies. And yet
it is so real with me, so entirely part of my very self, that I
cannot help acting upon it. If I marry, I do want to marry a
"Why should you not?" I cried. "It is women like you who brace
men up. Give me a chance, and see if I will take it! Besides, as
you say, men ought to MAKE their own chances, and not wait until
they are given. Look at Clive--just a clerk, and he conquered
India! By George! I'll do something in the world yet!"
She laughed at my sudden Irish effervescence. "Why not?" she said.
"You have everything a man could have,--youth, health, strength,
education, energy. I was sorry you spoke. And now I am glad--so
glad--if it wakens these thoughts in you!"
"And if I do----"
Her dear hand rested like warm velvet upon my lips. "Not another
word, Sir! You should have been at the office for evening duty
half an hour ago; only I hadn't the heart to remind you. Some day,
perhaps, when you have won your place in the world, we shall talk
it over again."
And so it was that I found myself that foggy November evening
pursuing the Camberwell tram with my heart glowing within me, and
with the eager determination that not another day should elapse
before I should find some deed which was worthy of my lady.
But who--who in all this wide world could ever have imagined the
incredible shape which that deed was to take, or the strange
steps by which I was led to the doing of it?
And, after all, this opening chapter will seem to the reader to
have nothing to do with my narrative; and yet there would have
been no narrative without it, for it is only when a man goes out
into the world with the thought that there are heroisms all round
him, and with the desire all alive in his heart to follow any
which may come within sight of him, that he breaks away as I did
from the life he knows, and ventures forth into the wonderful mystic
twilight land where lie the great adventures and the great rewards.
Behold me, then, at the office of the Daily Gazette, on the staff
of which I was a most insignificant unit, with the settled
determination that very night, if possible, to find the quest
which should be worthy of my Gladys! Was it hardness, was it
selfishness, that she should ask me to risk my life for her
own glorification? Such thoughts may come to middle age; but
never to ardent three-and-twenty in the fever of his first love.
"Try Your Luck with Professor Challenger"
I always liked McArdle, the crabbed, old, round-backed,
red-headed news editor, and I rather hoped that he liked me.
Of course, Beaumont was the real boss; but he lived in the
rarefied atmosphere of some Olympian height from which he could
distinguish nothing smaller than an international crisis or a
split in the Cabinet. Sometimes we saw him passing in lonely
majesty to his inner sanctum, with his eyes staring vaguely and
his mind hovering over the Balkans or the Persian Gulf. He was
above and beyond us. But McArdle was his first lieutenant, and
it was he that we knew. The old man nodded as I entered the
room, and he pushed his spectacles far up on his bald forehead.
"Well, Mr. Malone, from all I hear, you seem to be doing very
well," said he in his kindly Scotch accent.
I thanked him.
"The colliery explosion was excellent. So was the Southwark fire.
You have the true descreeptive touch. What did you want to see
"To ask a favor."
He looked alarmed, and his eyes shunned mine. "Tut, tut! What is it?"
"Do you think, Sir, that you could possibly send me on some
mission for the paper? I would do my best to put it through and
get you some good copy."
"What sort of meesion had you in your mind, Mr. Malone?"
"Well, Sir, anything that had adventure and danger in it.
I really would do my very best. The more difficult it was, the
better it would suit me."
"You seem very anxious to lose your life."
"To justify my life, Sir."
"Dear me, Mr. Malone, this is very--very exalted. I'm afraid the
day for this sort of thing is rather past. The expense of the
`special meesion' business hardly justifies the result, and, of
course, in any case it would only be an experienced man with a
name that would command public confidence who would get such
an order. The big blank spaces in the map are all being filled in,
and there's no room for romance anywhere. Wait a bit, though!"
he added, with a sudden smile upon his face. "Talking of the
blank spaces of the map gives me an idea. What about exposing a
fraud--a modern Munchausen--and making him rideeculous? You could
show him up as the liar that he is! Eh, man, it would be fine.
How does it appeal to you?"
"Anything--anywhere--I care nothing."
McArdle was plunged in thought for some minutes.
"I wonder whether you could get on friendly--or at least on
talking terms with the fellow," he said, at last. "You seem to
have a sort of genius for establishing relations with
people--seempathy, I suppose, or animal magnetism, or youthful
vitality, or something. I am conscious of it myself."
"You are very good, sir."
"So why should you not try your luck with Professor Challenger,
of Enmore Park?"
I dare say I looked a little startled.
"Challenger!" I cried. "Professor Challenger, the famous zoologist!
Wasn't he the man who broke the skull of Blundell, of the Telegraph?"
The news editor smiled grimly.
"Do you mind? Didn't you say it was adventures you were after?"
"It is all in the way of business, sir," I answered.
"Exactly. I don't suppose he can always be so violent as that.
I'm thinking that Blundell got him at the wrong moment, maybe, or
in the wrong fashion. You may have better luck, or more tact in
handling him. There's something in your line there, I am sure,
and the Gazette should work it."
"I really know nothing about him," said I. I only remember his
name in connection with the police-court proceedings, for
"I have a few notes for your guidance, Mr. Malone. I've had my
eye on the Professor for some little time." He took a paper from
a drawer. "Here is a summary of his record. I give it you briefly:--
"`Challenger, George Edward. Born: Largs, N. B., 1863. Educ.:
Largs Academy; Edinburgh University. British Museum Assistant, 1892.
Assistant-Keeper of Comparative Anthropology Department, 1893.
Resigned after acrimonious correspondence same year. Winner of
Crayston Medal for Zoological Research. Foreign Member of'--well,
quite a lot of things, about two inches of small type--`Societe
Belge, American Academy of Sciences, La Plata, etc., etc.
Ex-President Palaeontological Society. Section H, British
Association'--so on, so on!--`Publications: "Some Observations
Upon a Series of Kalmuck Skulls"; "Outlines of Vertebrate
Evolution"; and numerous papers, including "The underlying
fallacy of Weissmannism," which caused heated discussion at
the Zoological Congress of Vienna. Recreations: Walking,
Alpine climbing. Address: Enmore Park, Kensington, W.'
"There, take it with you. I've nothing more for you to-night."
I pocketed the slip of paper.
"One moment, sir," I said, as I realized that it was a pink bald
head, and not a red face, which was fronting me. "I am not very
clear yet why I am to interview this gentleman. What has he done?"
The face flashed back again.
"Went to South America on a solitary expedeetion two years ago.
Came back last year. Had undoubtedly been to South America, but
refused to say exactly where. Began to tell his adventures in a
vague way, but somebody started to pick holes, and he just shut
up like an oyster. Something wonderful happened--or the man's a
champion liar, which is the more probable supposeetion. Had some
damaged photographs, said to be fakes. Got so touchy that he
assaults anyone who asks questions, and heaves reporters doun
the stairs. In my opinion he's just a homicidal megalomaniac with
a turn for science. That's your man, Mr. Malone. Now, off you
run, and see what you can make of him. You're big enough to look
after yourself. Anyway, you are all safe. Employers' Liability
Act, you know."
A grinning red face turned once more into a pink oval, fringed
with gingery fluff; the interview was at an end.
I walked across to the Savage Club, but instead of turning into
it I leaned upon the railings of Adelphi Terrace and gazed
thoughtfully for a long time at the brown, oily river. I can
always think most sanely and clearly in the open air. I took out
the list of Professor Challenger's exploits, and I read it over
under the electric lamp. Then I had what I can only regard as
an inspiration. As a Pressman, I felt sure from what I had been
told that I could never hope to get into touch with this
cantankerous Professor. But these recriminations, twice
mentioned in his skeleton biography, could only mean that he was
a fanatic in science. Was there not an exposed margin there upon
which he might be accessible? I would try.
I entered the club. It was just after eleven, and the big room
was fairly full, though the rush had not yet set in. I noticed
a tall, thin, angular man seated in an arm-chair by the fire.
He turned as I drew my chair up to him. It was the man of all
others whom I should have chosen--Tarp Henry, of the staff of
Nature, a thin, dry, leathery creature, who was full, to those who
knew him, of kindly humanity. I plunged instantly into my subject.
"What do you know of Professor Challenger?"
"Challenger?" He gathered his brows in scientific disapproval.
"Challenger was the man who came with some cock-and-bull story
from South America."
"Oh, it was rank nonsense about some queer animals he had discovered.
I believe he has retracted since. Anyhow, he has suppressed it all.
He gave an interview to Reuter's, and there was such a howl that he
saw it wouldn't do. It was a discreditable business. There were
one or two folk who were inclined to take him seriously, but he soon
choked them off."
"Well, by his insufferable rudeness and impossible behavior.
There was poor old Wadley, of the Zoological Institute. Wadley sent
a message: `The President of the Zoological Institute presents
his compliments to Professor Challenger, and would take it as a
personal favor if he would do them the honor to come to their
next meeting.' The answer was unprintable."
"You don't say?"
"Well, a bowdlerized version of it would run: `Professor
Challenger presents his compliments to the President of the
Zoological Institute, and would take it as a personal favor if he
would go to the devil.'"
"Yes, I expect that's what old Wadley said. I remember his wail
at the meeting, which began: `In fifty years experience of
scientific intercourse----' It quite broke the old man up."
"Anything more about Challenger?"
"Well, I'm a bacteriologist, you know. I live in a
nine-hundred-diameter microscope. I can hardly claim to take
serious notice of anything that I can see with my naked eye.
I'm a frontiersman from the extreme edge of the Knowable, and I feel
quite out of place when I leave my study and come into touch with
all you great, rough, hulking creatures. I'm too detached to
talk scandal, and yet at scientific conversaziones I HAVE heard
something of Challenger, for he is one of those men whom nobody
can ignore. He's as clever as they make 'em--a full-charged
battery of force and vitality, but a quarrelsome, ill-conditioned
faddist, and unscrupulous at that. He had gone the length of
faking some photographs over the South American business."
"You say he is a faddist. What is his particular fad?"
"He has a thousand, but the latest is something about Weissmann
and Evolution. He had a fearful row about it in Vienna, I believe."
"Can't you tell me the point?"
"Not at the moment, but a translation of the proceedings exists.
We have it filed at the office. Would you care to come?"
"It's just what I want. I have to interview the fellow, and I
need some lead up to him. It's really awfully good of you to
give me a lift. I'll go with you now, if it is not too late."
Half an hour later I was seated in the newspaper office with a
huge tome in front of me, which had been opened at the article
"Weissmann versus Darwin," with the sub heading, "Spirited
Protest at Vienna. Lively Proceedings." My scientific education
having been somewhat neglected, I was unable to follow the whole
argument, but it was evident that the English Professor had
handled his subject in a very aggressive fashion, and had
thoroughly annoyed his Continental colleagues. "Protests,"
"Uproar," and "General appeal to the Chairman" were three of the
first brackets which caught my eye. Most of the matter might
have been written in Chinese for any definite meaning that it
conveyed to my brain.
"I wish you could translate it into English for me," I said,
pathetically, to my help-mate.
"Well, it is a translation."
"Then I'd better try my luck with the original."
"It is certainly rather deep for a layman."
"If I could only get a single good, meaty sentence which seemed
to convey some sort of definite human idea, it would serve my turn.
Ah, yes, this one will do. I seem in a vague way almost to
understand it. I'll copy it out. This shall be my link with
the terrible Professor."
"Nothing else I can do?"
"Well, yes; I propose to write to him. If I could frame the
letter here, and use your address it would give atmosphere."
"We'll have the fellow round here making a row and breaking
"No, no; you'll see the letter--nothing contentious, I assure you."
"Well, that's my chair and desk. You'll find paper there. I'd like
to censor it before it goes."
It took some doing, but I flatter myself that it wasn't such a
bad job when it was finished. I read it aloud to the critical
bacteriologist with some pride in my handiwork.
"DEAR PROFESSOR CHALLENGER," it said, "As a humble student of
Nature, I have always taken the most profound interest in your
speculations as to the differences between Darwin and Weissmann.
I have recently had occasion to refresh my memory by re-reading----"
"You infernal liar!" murmured Tarp Henry.
--"by re-reading your masterly address at Vienna. That lucid and
admirable statement seems to be the last word in the matter.
There is one sentence in it, however--namely: `I protest strongly
against the insufferable and entirely dogmatic assertion that
each separate id is a microcosm possessed of an historical
architecture elaborated slowly through the series of generations.'
Have you no desire, in view of later research, to modify
this statement? Do you not think that it is over-accentuated?
With your permission, I would ask the favor of an interview,
as I feel strongly upon the subject, and have certain suggestions
which I could only elaborate in a personal conversation. With your
consent, I trust to have the honor of calling at eleven o'clock
the day after to-morrow (Wednesday) morning.
"I remain, Sir, with assurances of profound respect,
yours very truly,
EDWARD D. MALONE."
"How's that?" I asked, triumphantly.
"Well if your conscience can stand it----"
"It has never failed me yet."
"But what do you mean to do?"
"To get there. Once I am in his room I may see some opening.
I may even go the length of open confession. If he is a sportsman
he will be tickled."
"Tickled, indeed! He's much more likely to do the tickling.
Chain mail, or an American football suit--that's what you'll want.
Well, good-bye. I'll have the answer for you here on Wednesday
morning--if he ever deigns to answer you. He is a violent,
dangerous, cantankerous character, hated by everyone who comes
across him, and the butt of the students, so far as they dare
take a liberty with him. Perhaps it would be best for you if
you never heard from the fellow at all."
"He is a Perfectly Impossible Person"
My friend's fear or hope was not destined to be realized. When I
called on Wednesday there was a letter with the West Kensington
postmark upon it, and my name scrawled across the envelope in a
handwriting which looked like a barbed-wire railing. The contents
were as follows:--
"ENMORE PARK, W.
"SIR,--I have duly received your note, in which you claim to
endorse my views, although I am not aware that they are dependent
upon endorsement either from you or anyone else. You have
ventured to use the word `speculation' with regard to my
statement upon the subject of Darwinism, and I would call your
attention to the fact that such a word in such a connection is
offensive to a degree. The context convinces me, however, that
you have sinned rather through ignorance and tactlessness than
through malice, so I am content to pass the matter by. You quote
an isolated sentence from my lecture, and appear to have some
difficulty in understanding it. I should have thought that only
a sub-human intelligence could have failed to grasp the point,
but if it really needs amplification I shall consent to see you
at the hour named, though visits and visitors of every sort are
exceeding distasteful to me. As to your suggestion that I may
modify my opinion, I would have you know that it is not my habit to
do so after a deliberate expression of my mature views. You will
kindly show the envelope of this letter to my man, Austin, when
you call, as he has to take every precaution to shield me from
the intrusive rascals who call themselves `journalists.'
"GEORGE EDWARD CHALLENGER."
This was the letter that I read aloud to Tarp Henry, who had come
down early to hear the result of my venture. His only remark
was, "There's some new stuff, cuticura or something, which is
better than arnica." Some people have such extraordinary notions
It was nearly half-past ten before I had received my message, but
a taxicab took me round in good time for my appointment. It was
an imposing porticoed house at which we stopped, and the
heavily-curtained windows gave every indication of wealth upon
the part of this formidable Professor. The door was opened by an
odd, swarthy, dried-up person of uncertain age, with a dark pilot
jacket and brown leather gaiters. I found afterwards that he was
the chauffeur, who filled the gaps left by a succession of
fugitive butlers. He looked me up and down with a searching
light blue eye.
"Expected?" he asked.
"Got your letter?"
I produced the envelope.
"Right!" He seemed to be a person of few words. Following him
down the passage I was suddenly interrupted by a small woman, who
stepped out from what proved to be the dining-room door. She was
a bright, vivacious, dark-eyed lady, more French than English in
"One moment," she said. "You can wait, Austin. Step in here, sir.
May I ask if you have met my husband before?"
"No, madam, I have not had the honor."
"Then I apologize to you in advance. I must tell you that he is
a perfectly impossible person--absolutely impossible. If you
are forewarned you will be the more ready to make allowances."
"It is most considerate of you, madam."
"Get quickly out of the room if he seems inclined to be violent.
Don't wait to argue with him. Several people have been injured
through doing that. Afterwards there is a public scandal and it
reflects upon me and all of us. I suppose it wasn't about South
America you wanted to see him?"
I could not lie to a lady.
"Dear me! That is his most dangerous subject. You won't believe
a word he says--I'm sure I don't wonder. But don't tell him so,
for it makes him very violent. Pretend to believe him, and you
may get through all right. Remember he believes it himself.
Of that you may be assured. A more honest man never lived.
Don't wait any longer or he may suspect. If you find him
dangerous--really dangerous--ring the bell and hold him off until
I come. Even at his worst I can usually control him."
With these encouraging words the lady handed me over to the
taciturn Austin, who had waited like a bronze statue of
discretion during our short interview, and I was conducted to the
end of the passage. There was a tap at a door, a bull's bellow
from within, and I was face to face with the Professor.
He sat in a rotating chair behind a broad table, which was
covered with books, maps, and diagrams. As I entered, his seat
spun round to face me. His appearance made me gasp. I was
prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a
personality as this. It was his size which took one's breath
away--his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous,
the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that
his top-hat, had I ever ventured to don it, would have slipped
over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and
beard which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid,
the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue,
spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was
peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over
his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-gray under great black
tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge
spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other
parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two
enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a
bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression
of the notorious Professor Challenger.
"Well?" said he, with a most insolent stare. "What now?"
I must keep up my deception for at least a little time longer,
otherwise here was evidently an end of the interview.
"You were good enough to give me an appointment, sir," said I,
humbly, producing his envelope.
He took my letter from his desk and laid it out before him.
"Oh, you are the young person who cannot understand plain
English, are you? My general conclusions you are good enough
to approve, as I understand?"
"Entirely, sir--entirely!" I was very emphatic.
"Dear me! That strengthens my position very much, does it not?
Your age and appearance make your support doubly valuable. Well, at
least you are better than that herd of swine in Vienna, whose
gregarious grunt is, however, not more offensive than the isolated
effort of the British hog." He glared at me as the present
representative of the beast.
"They seem to have behaved abominably," said I.
"I assure you that I can fight my own battles, and that I have no
possible need of your sympathy. Put me alone, sir, and with my
back to the wall. G. E. C. is happiest then. Well, sir, let us
do what we can to curtail this visit, which can hardly be
agreeable to you, and is inexpressibly irksome to me. You had,
as I have been led to believe, some comments to make upon the
proposition which I advanced in my thesis."
There was a brutal directness about his methods which made
evasion difficult. I must still make play and wait for a
better opening. It had seemed simple enough at a distance.
Oh, my Irish wits, could they not help me now, when I needed
help so sorely? He transfixed me with two sharp, steely eyes.
"Come, come!" he rumbled.
"I am, of course, a mere student," said I, with a fatuous smile,
"hardly more, I might say, than an earnest inquirer. At the same
time, it seemed to me that you were a little severe upon
Weissmann in this matter. Has not the general evidence since
that date tended to--well, to strengthen his position?"
"What evidence?" He spoke with a menacing calm.
"Well, of course, I am aware that there is not any what you might
call DEFINITE evidence. I alluded merely to the trend of modern
thought and the general scientific point of view, if I might so
He leaned forward with great earnestness.
"I suppose you are aware," said he, checking off points upon his
fingers, "that the cranial index is a constant factor?"
"Naturally," said I.
"And that telegony is still sub judice?"
"And that the germ plasm is different from the parthenogenetic egg?"
"Why, surely!" I cried, and gloried in my own audacity.
"But what does that prove?" he asked, in a gentle, persuasive voice.
"Ah, what indeed?" I murmured. "What does it prove?"
"Shall I tell you?" he cooed.
"It proves," he roared, with a sudden blast of fury, "that
you are the damnedest imposter in London--a vile, crawling
journalist, who has no more science than he has decency in
He had sprung to his feet with a mad rage in his eyes. Even at
that moment of tension I found time for amazement at the
discovery that he was quite a short man, his head not higher than
my shoulder--a stunted Hercules whose tremendous vitality had all
run to depth, breadth, and brain.
"Gibberish!" he cried, leaning forward, with his fingers on the
table and his face projecting. "That's what I have been talking
to you, sir--scientific gibberish! Did you think you could match
cunning with me--you with your walnut of a brain? You think you
are omnipotent, you infernal scribblers, don't you? That your
praise can make a man and your blame can break him? We must all
bow to you, and try to get a favorable word, must we? This man
shall have a leg up, and this man shall have a dressing down!
Creeping vermin, I know you! You've got out of your station.
Time was when your ears were clipped. You've lost your sense of
proportion. Swollen gas-bags! I'll keep you in your proper place.
Yes, sir, you haven't got over G. E. C. There's one man who is
still your master. He warned you off, but if you WILL come, by
the Lord you do it at your own risk. Forfeit, my good Mr. Malone,
I claim forfeit! You have played a rather dangerous game, and it
strikes me that you have lost it."
"Look here, sir," said I, backing to the door and opening it;
"you can be as abusive as you like. But there is a limit.
You shall not assault me."
"Shall I not?" He was slowly advancing in a peculiarly menacing
way, but he stopped now and put his big hands into the
side-pockets of a rather boyish short jacket which he wore.
"I have thrown several of you out of the house. You will be the
fourth or fifth. Three pound fifteen each--that is how it averaged.
Expensive, but very necessary. Now, sir, why should you not
follow your brethren? I rather think you must." He resumed his
unpleasant and stealthy advance, pointing his toes as he walked,
like a dancing master.
I could have bolted for the hall door, but it would have been
too ignominious. Besides, a little glow of righteous anger was
springing up within me. I had been hopelessly in the wrong
before, but this man's menaces were putting me in the right.
"I'll trouble you to keep your hands off, sir. I'll not stand it."
"Dear me!" His black moustache lifted and a white fang twinkled
in a sneer. "You won't stand it, eh?"
"Don't be such a fool, Professor!" I cried. "What can you hope for?
I'm fifteen stone, as hard as nails, and play center three-quarter
every Saturday for the London Irish. I'm not the man----"
It was at that moment that he rushed me. It was lucky that I had
opened the door, or we should have gone through it. We did a
Catharine-wheel together down the passage. Somehow we gathered
up a chair upon our way, and bounded on with it towards the street.
My mouth was full of his beard, our arms were locked, our bodies
intertwined, and that infernal chair radiated its legs all round us.
The watchful Austin had thrown open the hall door. We went with
a back somersault down the front steps. I have seen the two Macs
attempt something of the kind at the halls, but it appears to take
some practise to do it without hurting oneself. The chair went
to matchwood at the bottom, and we rolled apart into the gutter.
He sprang to his feet, waving his fists and wheezing like an asthmatic.
"Had enough?" he panted.
"You infernal bully!" I cried, as I gathered myself together.
Then and there we should have tried the thing out, for he was
effervescing with fight, but fortunately I was rescued from an
odious situation. A policeman was beside us, his notebook in
"What's all this? You ought to be ashamed" said the policeman.
It was the most rational remark which I had heard in Enmore Park.
"Well," he insisted, turning to me, "what is it, then?"
"This man attacked me," said I.
"Did you attack him?" asked the policeman.
The Professor breathed hard and said nothing.
"It's not the first time, either," said the policeman, severely,
shaking his head. "You were in trouble last month for the same thing.
You've blackened this young man's eye. Do you give him in charge, sir?"
"No," said I, "I do not."
"What's that?" said the policeman.
"I was to blame myself. I intruded upon him. He gave me fair warning."
The policeman snapped up his notebook.
"Don't let us have any more such goings-on," said he. "Now, then!
Move on, there, move on!" This to a butcher's boy, a maid, and
one or two loafers who had collected. He clumped heavily down
the street, driving this little flock before him. The Professor
looked at me, and there was something humorous at the back of his eyes.
"Come in!" said he. "I've not done with you yet."
The speech had a sinister sound, but I followed him none the less
into the house. The man-servant, Austin, like a wooden image,
closed the door behind us.
"It's Just the very Biggest Thing in the World"
Hardly was it shut when Mrs. Challenger darted out from
the dining-room. The small woman was in a furious temper.
She barred her husband's way like an enraged chicken in front of
a bulldog. It was evident that she had seen my exit, but had not
observed my return.
"You brute, George!" she screamed. "You've hurt that nice young man."
He jerked backwards with his thumb.
"Here he is, safe and sound behind me."
She was confused, but not unduly so.
"I am so sorry, I didn't see you."
"I assure you, madam, that it is all right."
"He has marked your poor face! Oh, George, what a brute you are!
Nothing but scandals from one end of the week to the other.
Everyone hating and making fun of you. You've finished my patience.
This ends it."
"Dirty linen," he rumbled.
"It's not a secret," she cried. "Do you suppose that the whole
street--the whole of London, for that matter---- Get away, Austin,
we don't want you here. Do you suppose they don't all talk about you?
Where is your dignity? You, a man who should have been Regius
Professor at a great University with a thousand students all
revering you. Where is your dignity, George?"
"How about yours, my dear?"
"You try me too much. A ruffian--a common brawling ruffian--
that's what you have become."
"Be good, Jessie."
"A roaring, raging bully!"
"That's done it! Stool of penance!" said he.
To my amazement he stooped, picked her up, and placed her sitting
upon a high pedestal of black marble in the angle of the hall.
It was at least seven feet high, and so thin that she could hardly
balance upon it. A more absurd object than she presented cocked
up there with her face convulsed with anger, her feet dangling,
and her body rigid for fear of an upset, I could not imagine.
"Let me down!" she wailed.
"You brute, George! Let me down this instant!"
"Come into the study, Mr. Malone."
"Really, sir----!" said I, looking at the lady.
"Here's Mr. Malone pleading for you, Jessie.
Say `please,' and down you come."
"Oh, you brute! Please! please!"
"You must behave yourself, dear. Mr. Malone is a Pressman.
He will have it all in his rag to-morrow, and sell an extra
dozen among our neighbors. `Strange story of high life'--you
felt fairly high on that pedestal, did you not? Then a sub-title,
`Glimpse of a singular menage.' He's a foul feeder, is Mr. Malone,
a carrion eater, like all of his kind--porcus ex grege diaboli--
a swine from the devil's herd. That's it, Malone--what?"
"You are really intolerable!" said I, hotly.
He bellowed with laughter.
"We shall have a coalition presently," he boomed, looking from
his wife to me and puffing out his enormous chest. Then, suddenly
altering his tone, "Excuse this frivolous family badinage, Mr. Malone.
I called you back for some more serious purpose than to mix you
up with our little domestic pleasantries. Run away, little woman,
and don't fret." He placed a huge hand upon each of her shoulders.
"All that you say is perfectly true. I should be a better man if
I did what you advise, but I shouldn't be quite George
Edward Challenger. There are plenty of better men, my dear, but
only one G. E. C. So make the best of him." He suddenly gave her
a resounding kiss, which embarrassed me even more than his violence
had done. "Now, Mr. Malone," he continued, with a great accession
of dignity, "this way, if YOU please."
We re-entered the room which we had left so tumultuously ten
minutes before. The Professor closed the door carefully behind
us, motioned me into an arm-chair, and pushed a cigar-box under
"Real San Juan Colorado," he said. "Excitable people like you
are the better for narcotics. Heavens! don't bite it! Cut--and
cut with reverence! Now lean back, and listen attentively to
whatever I may care to say to you. If any remark should occur to
you, you can reserve it for some more opportune time.
"First of all, as to your return to my house after your most
justifiable expulsion"--he protruded his beard, and stared at me
as one who challenges and invites contradiction--"after, as I
say, your well-merited expulsion. The reason lay in your answer
to that most officious policeman, in which I seemed to discern
some glimmering of good feeling upon your part--more, at any
rate, than I am accustomed to associate with your profession.
In admitting that the fault of the incident lay with you, you gave
some evidence of a certain mental detachment and breadth of view
which attracted my favorable notice. The sub-species of the
human race to which you unfortunately belong has always been
below my mental horizon. Your words brought you suddenly above it.
You swam up into my serious notice. For this reason I asked you
to return with me, as I was minded to make your further acquaintance.
You will kindly deposit your ash in the small Japanese tray on the
bamboo table which stands at your left elbow."
All this he boomed forth like a professor addressing his class.
He had swung round his revolving chair so as to face me, and he
sat all puffed out like an enormous bull-frog, his head laid back
and his eyes half-covered by supercilious lids. Now he suddenly
turned himself sideways, and all I could see of him was tangled
hair with a red, protruding ear. He was scratching about among
the litter of papers upon his desk. He faced me presently with
what looked like a very tattered sketch-book in his hand.
"I am going to talk to you about South America," said he.
"No comments if you please. First of all, I wish you to understand
that nothing I tell you now is to be repeated in any public way
unless you have my express permission. That permission will, in
all human probability, never be given. Is that clear?"
"It is very hard," said I. "Surely a judicious account----"
He replaced the notebook upon the table.
"That ends it," said he. "I wish you a very good morning."
"No, no!" I cried. "I submit to any conditions. So far as I can
see, I have no choice."
"None in the world," said he.
"Well, then, I promise."
"Word of honor?"
"Word of honor."
He looked at me with doubt in his insolent eyes.
"After all, what do I know about your honor?" said he.
"Upon my word, sir," I cried, angrily, "you take very great liberties!
I have never been so insulted in my life."
He seemed more interested than annoyed at my outbreak.
"Round-headed," he muttered. "Brachycephalic, gray-eyed,
black-haired, with suggestion of the negroid. Celtic, I presume?"
"I am an Irishman, sir."
"That, of course, explains it. Let me see; you have given me
your promise that my confidence will be respected? That confidence,
I may say, will be far from complete. But I am prepared to give
you a few indications which will be of interest. In the first
place, you are probably aware that two years ago I made a journey
to South America--one which will be classical in the scientific
history of the world? The object of my journey was to verify some
conclusions of Wallace and of Bates, which could only be done by
observing their reported facts under the same conditions in which
they had themselves noted them. If my expedition had no other
results it would still have been noteworthy, but a curious incident
occurred to me while there which opened up an entirely fresh line
"You are aware--or probably, in this half-educated age, you are
not aware--that the country round some parts of the Amazon is
still only partially explored, and that a great number of
tributaries, some of them entirely uncharted, run into the
main river. It was my business to visit this little-known
back-country and to examine its fauna, which furnished me with
the materials for several chapters for that great and monumental
work upon zoology which will be my life's justification. I was
returning, my work accomplished, when I had occasion to spend a
night at a small Indian village at a point where a certain
tributary--the name and position of which I withhold--opens
into the main river. The natives were Cucama Indians, an amiable
but degraded race, with mental powers hardly superior to the
average Londoner. I had effected some cures among them upon my
way up the river, and had impressed them considerably with my
personality, so that I was not surprised to find myself eagerly
awaited upon my return. I gathered from their signs that someone
had urgent need of my medical services, and I followed the chief
to one of his huts. When I entered I found that the sufferer to
whose aid I had been summoned had that instant expired. He was,
to my surprise, no Indian, but a white man; indeed, I may say a
very white man, for he was flaxen-haired and had some
characteristics of an albino. He was clad in rags, was very
emaciated, and bore every trace of prolonged hardship. So far as
I could understand the account of the natives, he was a complete
stranger to them, and had come upon their village through the
woods alone and in the last stage of exhaustion.
"The man's knapsack lay beside the couch, and I examined the contents.
His name was written upon a tab within it--Maple White, Lake
Avenue, Detroit, Michigan. It is a name to which I am prepared
always to lift my hat. It is not too much to say that it will
rank level with my own when the final credit of this business
comes to be apportioned.
"From the contents of the knapsack it was evident that this man
had been an artist and poet in search of effects. There were
scraps of verse. I do not profess to be a judge of such things,
but they appeared to me to be singularly wanting in merit.
There were also some rather commonplace pictures of river scenery,
a paint-box, a box of colored chalks, some brushes, that curved
bone which lies upon my inkstand, a volume of Baxter's `Moths and
Butterflies,' a cheap revolver, and a few cartridges. Of personal
equipment he either had none or he had lost it in his journey.
Such were the total effects of this strange American Bohemian.
"I was turning away from him when I observed that something
projected from the front of his ragged jacket. It was this
sketch-book, which was as dilapidated then as you see it now.
Indeed, I can assure you that a first folio of Shakespeare could
not be treated with greater reverence than this relic has been
since it came into my possession. I hand it to you now, and I
ask you to take it page by page and to examine the contents."
He helped himself to a cigar and leaned back with a fiercely
critical pair of eyes, taking note of the effect which this
document would produce.
I had opened the volume with some expectation of a revelation,
though of what nature I could not imagine. The first page was
disappointing, however, as it contained nothing but the picture
of a very fat man in a pea-jacket, with the legend, "Jimmy Colver
on the Mail-boat," written beneath it. There followed several pages
which were filled with small sketches of Indians and their ways.
Then came a picture of a cheerful and corpulent ecclesiastic in
a shovel hat, sitting opposite a very thin European, and the
inscription: "Lunch with Fra Cristofero at Rosario." Studies of
women and babies accounted for several more pages, and then there
was an unbroken series of animal drawings with such explanations
as "Manatee upon Sandbank," "Turtles and Their Eggs," "Black Ajouti
under a Miriti Palm"--the matter disclosing some sort of pig-like
animal; and finally came a double page of studies of long-snouted
and very unpleasant saurians. I could make nothing of it, and said
so to the Professor.
"Surely these are only crocodiles?"
"Alligators! Alligators! There is hardly such a thing as a true
crocodile in South America. The distinction between them----"
"I meant that I could see nothing unusual--nothing to justify
what you have said."
He smiled serenely.
"Try the next page," said he.
I was still unable to sympathize. It was a full-page sketch of a
landscape roughly tinted in color--the kind of painting which an
open-air artist takes as a guide to a future more elaborate effort.
There was a pale-green foreground of feathery vegetation, which
sloped upwards and ended in a line of cliffs dark red in color, and
curiously ribbed like some basaltic formations which I have seen.
They extended in an unbroken wall right across the background.
At one point was an isolated pyramidal rock, crowned by a great
tree, which appeared to be separated by a cleft from the main crag.
Behind it all, a blue tropical sky. A thin green line of vegetation
fringed the summit of the ruddy cliff.
"Well?" he asked.
"It is no doubt a curious formation," said I "but I am not
geologist enough to say that it is wonderful."
"Wonderful!" he repeated. "It is unique. It is incredible. No one
on earth has ever dreamed of such a possibility. Now the next."
I turned it over, and gave an exclamation of surprise. There was
a full-page picture of the most extraordinary creature that I had
ever seen. It was the wild dream of an opium smoker, a vision
of delirium. The head was like that of a fowl, the body that of
a bloated lizard, the trailing tail was furnished with upward-
turned spikes, and the curved back was edged with a high serrated
fringe, which looked like a dozen cocks' wattles placed behind
each other. In front of this creature was an absurd mannikin,
or dwarf, in human form, who stood staring at it.
"Well, what do you think of that?" cried the Professor, rubbing
his hands with an air of triumph.
"It is monstrous--grotesque."
"But what made him draw such an animal?"
"Trade gin, I should think."
"Oh, that's the best explanation you can give, is it?"
"Well, sir, what is yours?"
"The obvious one that the creature exists. That is actually
sketched from the life."
I should have laughed only that I had a vision of our doing
another Catharine-wheel down the passage.
"No doubt," said I, "no doubt," as one humors an imbecile.
"I confess, however," I added, "that this tiny human figure
puzzles me. If it were an Indian we could set it down as
evidence of some pigmy race in America, but it appears to be
a European in a sun-hat."
The Professor snorted like an angry buffalo. "You really touch
the limit," said he. "You enlarge my view of the possible.
Cerebral paresis! Mental inertia! Wonderful!"
He was too absurd to make me angry. Indeed, it was a waste of
energy, for if you were going to be angry with this man you would
be angry all the time. I contented myself with smiling wearily.
"It struck me that the man was small," said I.
"Look here!" he cried, leaning forward and dabbing a great hairy
sausage of a finger on to the picture. "You see that plant
behind the animal; I suppose you thought it was a dandelion or a
Brussels sprout--what? Well, it is a vegetable ivory palm, and
they run to about fifty or sixty feet. Don't you see that the man
is put in for a purpose? He couldn't really have stood in front of
that brute and lived to draw it. He sketched himself in to give a
scale of heights. He was, we will say, over five feet high.
The tree is ten times bigger, which is what one would expect."
"Good heavens!" I cried. "Then you think the beast was---- Why,
Charing Cross station would hardly make a kennel for such a brute!"
"Apart from exaggeration, he is certainly a well-grown specimen,"
said the Professor, complacently.
"But," I cried, "surely the whole experience of the human race is
not to be set aside on account of a single sketch"--I had turned
over the leaves and ascertained that there was nothing more in
the book--"a single sketch by a wandering American artist who may
have done it under hashish, or in the delirium of fever, or
simply in order to gratify a freakish imagination. You can't, as
a man of science, defend such a position as that."
For answer the Professor took a book down from a shelf.
"This is an excellent monograph by my gifted friend, Ray Lankester!"
said he. "There is an illustration here which would interest you.
Ah, yes, here it is! The inscription beneath it runs: `Probable
appearance in life of the Jurassic Dinosaur Stegosaurus. The hind
leg alone is twice as tall as a full-grown man.' Well, what do you
make of that?"
He handed me the open book. I started as I looked at the picture.
In this reconstructed animal of a dead world there was certainly
a very great resemblance to the sketch of the unknown artist.
"That is certainly remarkable," said I.
"But you won't admit that it is final?"
"Surely it might be a coincidence, or this American may have seen
a picture of the kind and carried it in his memory. It would be
likely to recur to a man in a delirium."
"Very good," said the Professor, indulgently; "we leave it at that.
I will now ask you to look at this bone." He handed over the one
which he had already described as part of the dead man's possessions.
It was about six inches long, and thicker than my thumb, with some
indications of dried cartilage at one end of it.
"To what known creature does that bone belong?" asked the Professor.
I examined it with care and tried to recall some half-
"It might be a very thick human collar-bone," I said.
My companion waved his hand in contemptuous deprecation.
"The human collar-bone is curved. This is straight. There is a
groove upon its surface showing that a great tendon played across
it, which could not be the case with a clavicle."
"Then I must confess that I don't know what it is."
"You need not be ashamed to expose your ignorance, for I don't
suppose the whole South Kensington staff could give a name to it."
He took a little bone the size of a bean out of a pill-box.
"So far as I am a judge this human bone is the analogue of the
one which you hold in your hand. That will give you some idea of
the size of the creature. You will observe from the cartilage that
this is no fossil specimen, but recent. What do you say to that?"
"Surely in an elephant----"
He winced as if in pain.
"Don't! Don't talk of elephants in South America. Even in these
days of Board schools----"
"Well, I interrupted, "any large South American animal--a tapir,
"You may take it, young man, that I am versed in the elements of
my business. This is not a conceivable bone either of a tapir or
of any other creature known to zoology. It belongs to a very
large, a very strong, and, by all analogy, a very fierce animal
which exists upon the face of the earth, but has not yet come
under the notice of science. You are still unconvinced?"
"I am at least deeply interested."
"Then your case is not hopeless. I feel that there is reason
lurking in you somewhere, so we will patiently grope round for it.
We will now leave the dead American and proceed with my narrative.
You can imagine that I could hardly come away from the Amazon
without probing deeper into the matter. There were indications
as to the direction from which the dead traveler had come.
Indian legends would alone have been my guide, for I found that
rumors of a strange land were common among all the riverine tribes.
You have heard, no doubt, of Curupuri?"
"Curupuri is the spirit of the woods, something terrible,
something malevolent, something to be avoided. None can describe
its shape or nature, but it is a word of terror along the Amazon.
Now all tribes agree as to the direction in which Curupuri lives.
It was the same direction from which the American had come.
Something terrible lay that way. It was my business to find out
what it was."
"What did you do?" My flippancy was all gone. This massive man
compelled one's attention and respect.
"I overcame the extreme reluctance of the natives--a reluctance
which extends even to talk upon the subject--and by judicious
persuasion and gifts, aided, I will admit, by some threats of
coercion, I got two of them to act as guides. After many
adventures which I need not describe, and after traveling a
distance which I will not mention, in a direction which I
withhold, we came at last to a tract of country which has
never been described, nor, indeed, visited save by my
unfortunate predecessor. Would you kindly look at this?"
He handed me a photograph--half-plate size.
"The unsatisfactory appearance of it is due to the fact," said he,
"that on descending the river the boat was upset and the case which
contained the undeveloped films was broken, with disastrous results.
Nearly all of them were totally ruined--an irreparable loss.
This is one of the few which partially escaped. This explanation
of deficiencies or abnormalities you will kindly accept. There was
talk of faking. I am not in a mood to argue such a point."
The photograph was certainly very off-colored. An unkind critic
might easily have misinterpreted that dim surface. It was a dull
gray landscape, and as I gradually deciphered the details of it I
realized that it represented a long and enormously high line of
cliffs exactly like an immense cataract seen in the distance,
with a sloping, tree-clad plain in the foreground.
"I believe it is the same place as the painted picture," said I.
"It is the same place," the Professor answered. "I found traces
of the fellow's camp. Now look at this."
It was a nearer view of the same scene, though the photograph was
extremely defective. I could distinctly see the isolated,
tree-crowned pinnacle of rock which was detached from the crag.
"I have no doubt of it at all," said I.
"Well, that is something gained," said he. "We progress, do we not?
Now, will you please look at the top of that rocky pinnacle?
Do you observe something there?"
"An enormous tree."
"But on the tree?"
"A large bird," said I.
He handed me a lens.
"Yes," I said, peering through it, "a large bird stands on the tree.
It appears to have a considerable beak. I should say it was a pelican."
"I cannot congratulate you upon your eyesight," said the Professor.
"It is not a pelican, nor, indeed, is it a bird. It may interest
you to know that I succeeded in shooting that particular specimen.
It was the only absolute proof of my experiences which I was able
to bring away with me."
"You have it, then?" Here at last was tangible corroboration.
"I had it. It was unfortunately lost with so much else in the
same boat accident which ruined my photographs. I clutched at it
as it disappeared in the swirl of the rapids, and part of its
wing was left in my hand. I was insensible when washed ashore,
but the miserable remnant of my superb specimen was still intact;
I now lay it before you."
From a drawer he produced what seemed to me to be the upper
portion of the wing of a large bat. It was at least two feet in
length, a curved bone, with a membranous veil beneath it.
"A monstrous bat!" I suggested.
"Nothing of the sort," said the Professor, severely. "Living, as
I do, in an educated and scientific atmosphere, I could not have
conceived that the first principles of zoology were so little known.
Is it possible that you do not know the elementary fact in
comparative anatomy, that the wing of a bird is really the
forearm, while the wing of a bat consists of three elongated
fingers with membranes between? Now, in this case, the bone is
certainly not the forearm, and you can see for yourself that this
is a single membrane hanging upon a single bone, and therefore
that it cannot belong to a bat. But if it is neither bird nor
bat, what is it?"
My small stock of knowledge was exhausted.
"I really do not know," said I.
He opened the standard work to which he had already referred me.
"Here," said he, pointing to the picture of an extraordinary
flying monster, "is an excellent reproduction of the dimorphodon,
or pterodactyl, a flying reptile of the Jurassic period. On the
next page is a diagram of the mechanism of its wing. Kindly compare
it with the specimen in your hand."
A wave of amazement passed over me as I looked. I was convinced.
There could be no getting away from it. The cumulative proof
was overwhelming. The sketch, the photographs, the narrative, and
now the actual specimen--the evidence was complete. I said so--I
said so warmly, for I felt that the Professor was an ill-used man.
He leaned back in his chair with drooping eyelids and a tolerant
smile, basking in this sudden gleam of sunshine.
"It's just the very biggest thing that I ever heard of!" said I,
though it was my journalistic rather than my scientific
enthusiasm that was roused. "It is colossal. You are a Columbus
of science who has discovered a lost world. I'm awfully sorry if
I seemed to doubt you. It was all so unthinkable. But I
understand evidence when I see it, and this should be good enough
The Professor purred with satisfaction.
"And then, sir, what did you do next?"
"It was the wet season, Mr. Malone, and my stores were exhausted.
I explored some portion of this huge cliff, but I was unable to
find any way to scale it. The pyramidal rock upon which I saw
and shot the pterodactyl was more accessible. Being something of
a cragsman, I did manage to get half way to the top of that.
From that height I had a better idea of the plateau upon the top
of the crags. It appeared to be very large; neither to east nor
to west could I see any end to the vista of green-capped cliffs.
Below, it is a swampy, jungly region, full of snakes, insects,
and fever. It is a natural protection to this singular country."
"Did you see any other trace of life?"
"No, sir, I did not; but during the week that we lay encamped at
the base of the cliff we heard some very strange noises from above."
"But the creature that the American drew? How do you account
"We can only suppose that he must have made his way to the summit
and seen it there. We know, therefore, that there is a way up.
We know equally that it must be a very difficult one, otherwise the
creatures would have come down and overrun the surrounding country.
Surely that is clear?"
"But how did they come to be there?"
"I do not think that the problem is a very obscure one," said the
Professor; "there can only be one explanation. South America is,
as you may have heard, a granite continent. At this single point
in the interior there has been, in some far distant age, a great,
sudden volcanic upheaval. These cliffs, I may remark, are
basaltic, and therefore plutonic. An area, as large perhaps as
Sussex, has been lifted up en bloc with all its living contents,
and cut off by perpendicular precipices of a hardness which
defies erosion from all the rest of the continent. What is
the result? Why, the ordinary laws of Nature are suspended.
The various checks which influence the struggle for existence in
the world at large are all neutralized or altered. Creatures survive
which would otherwise disappear. You will observe that both the
pterodactyl and the stegosaurus are Jurassic, and therefore of a
great age in the order of life. They have been artificially
conserved by those strange accidental conditions."
"But surely your evidence is conclusive. You have only to lay it
before the proper authorities."
"So in my simplicity, I had imagined," said the Professor, bitterly.
"I can only tell you that it was not so, that I was met at every
turn by incredulity, born partly of stupidity and partly of jealousy.
It is not my nature, sir, to cringe to any man, or to seek to prove
a fact if my word has been doubted. After the first I have not
condescended to show such corroborative proofs as I possess.
The subject became hateful to me--I would not speak of it.
When men like yourself, who represent the foolish curiosity
of the public, came to disturb my privacy I was unable to meet
them with dignified reserve. By nature I am, I admit, somewhat
fiery, and under provocation I am inclined to be violent. I fear
you may have remarked it."
I nursed my eye and was silent.
"My wife has frequently remonstrated with me upon the subject,
and yet I fancy that any man of honor would feel the same.
To-night, however, I propose to give an extreme example of the
control of the will over the emotions. I invite you to be
present at the exhibition." He handed me a card from his desk.
"You will perceive that Mr. Percival Waldron, a naturalist of
some popular repute, is announced to lecture at eight-thirty at
the Zoological Institute's Hall upon `The Record of the Ages.'
I have been specially invited to be present upon the platform, and
to move a vote of thanks to the lecturer. While doing so, I
shall make it my business, with infinite tact and delicacy, to
throw out a few remarks which may arouse the interest of the
audience and cause some of them to desire to go more deeply into
the matter. Nothing contentious, you understand, but only an
indication that there are greater deeps beyond. I shall hold
myself strongly in leash, and see whether by this self-restraint
I attain a more favorable result."
"And I may come?" I asked eagerly.
"Why, surely," he answered, cordially. He had an enormously
massive genial manner, which was almost as overpowering as
his violence. His smile of benevolence was a wonderful thing,
when his cheeks would suddenly bunch into two red apples, between
his half-closed eyes and his great black beard. "By all means, come.
It will be a comfort to me to know that I have one ally in the
hall, however inefficient and ignorant of the subject he may be.
I fancy there will be a large audience, for Waldron, though an
absolute charlatan, has a considerable popular following. Now, Mr.
Malone, I have given you rather more of my time than I had intended.
The individual must not monopolize what is meant for the world.
I shall be pleased to see you at the lecture to-night. In the
meantime, you will understand that no public use is to be made
of any of the material that I have given you."
"But Mr. McArdle--my news editor, you know--will want to know
what I have done."
"Tell him what you like. You can say, among other things, that
if he sends anyone else to intrude upon me I shall call upon him
with a riding-whip. But I leave it to you that nothing of all
this appears in print. Very good. Then the Zoological
Institute's Hall at eight-thirty to-night." I had a last
impression of red cheeks, blue rippling beard, and intolerant
eyes, as he waved me out of the room.
What with the physical shocks incidental to my first interview
with Professor Challenger and the mental ones which accompanied
the second, I was a somewhat demoralized journalist by the time I
found myself in Enmore Park once more. In my aching head the one
thought was throbbing that there really was truth in this man's
story, that it was of tremendous consequence, and that it would
work up into inconceivable copy for the Gazette when I could
obtain permission to use it. A taxicab was waiting at the end of
the road, so I sprang into it and drove down to the office.
McArdle was at his post as usual.
"Well," he cried, expectantly, "what may it run to? I'm thinking,
young man, you have been in the wars. Don't tell me that he
"We had a little difference at first."
"What a man it is! What did you do?"
"Well, he became more reasonable and we had a chat. But I got
nothing out of him--nothing for publication."
"I'm not so sure about that. You got a black eye out of him,
and that's for publication. We can't have this reign of terror,
Mr. Malone. We must bring the man to his bearings. I'll have a
leaderette on him to-morrow that will raise a blister. Just give
me the material and I will engage to brand the fellow for ever.
Professor Munchausen--how's that for an inset headline? Sir John
Mandeville redivivus--Cagliostro--all the imposters and bullies
in history. I'll show him up for the fraud he is."
"I wouldn't do that, sir."
"Because he is not a fraud at all."
"What!" roared McArdle. "You don't mean to say you really
believe this stuff of his about mammoths and mastodons and great
"Well, I don't know about that. I don't think he makes any
claims of that kind. But I do believe he has got something new."
"Then for Heaven's sake, man, write it up!"
"I'm longing to, but all I know he gave me in confidence and on
condition that I didn't." I condensed into a few sentences the
Professor's narrative. "That's how it stands."
McArdle looked deeply incredulous.
"Well, Mr. Malone," he said at last, "about this scientific
meeting to-night; there can be no privacy about that, anyhow.
I don't suppose any paper will want to report it, for Waldron has
been reported already a dozen times, and no one is aware that
Challenger will speak. We may get a scoop, if we are lucky.
You'll be there in any case, so you'll just give us a pretty
full report. I'll keep space up to midnight."
My day was a busy one, and I had an early dinner at the Savage
Club with Tarp Henry, to whom I gave some account of my adventures.
He listened with a sceptical smile on his gaunt face, and roared
with laughter on hearing that the Professor had convinced me.
"My dear chap, things don't happen like that in real life.
People don't stumble upon enormous discoveries and then lose
their evidence. Leave that to the novelists. The fellow is as
full of tricks as the monkey-house at the Zoo. It's all bosh."
"But the American poet?"
"He never existed."
"I saw his sketch-book."
"You think he drew that animal?"
"Of course he did. Who else?"
"Well, then, the photographs?"
"There was nothing in the photographs. By your own admission you
only saw a bird."
"That's what HE says. He put the pterodactyl into your head."
"Well, then, the bones?"
"First one out of an Irish stew. Second one vamped up for
the occasion. If you are clever and know your business you
can fake a bone as easily as you can a photograph."
I began to feel uneasy. Perhaps, after all, I had been premature
in my acquiescence. Then I had a sudden happy thought.
"Will you come to the meeting?" I asked.
Tarp Henry looked thoughtful.
"He is not a popular person, the genial Challenger," said he.
"A lot of people have accounts to settle with him. I should say he
is about the best-hated man in London. If the medical students
turn out there will be no end of a rag. I don't want to get into
"You might at least do him the justice to hear him state his own case."
"Well, perhaps it's only fair. All right. I'm your man for
When we arrived at the hall we found a much greater concourse
than I had expected. A line of electric broughams discharged
their little cargoes of white-bearded professors, while the dark
stream of humbler pedestrians, who crowded through the arched
door-way, showed that the audience would be popular as well
as scientific. Indeed, it became evident to us as soon as we had
taken our seats that a youthful and even boyish spirit was abroad
in the gallery and the back portions of the hall. Looking behind
me, I could see rows of faces of the familiar medical student type.
Apparently the great hospitals had each sent down their contingent.
The behavior of the audience at present was good-humored,
but mischievous. Scraps of popular songs were chorused with
an enthusiasm which was a strange prelude to a scientific lecture,
and there was already a tendency to personal chaff which promised
a jovial evening to others, however embarrassing it might be to
the recipients of these dubious honors.
Thus, when old Doctor Meldrum, with his well-known curly-brimmed
opera-hat, appeared upon the platform, there was such a universal
query of "Where DID you get that tile?" that he hurriedly removed
it, and concealed it furtively under his chair. When gouty
Professor Wadley limped down to his seat there were general
affectionate inquiries from all parts of the hall as to the exact
state of his poor toe, which caused him obvious embarrassment.
The greatest demonstration of all, however, was at the entrance
of my new acquaintance, Professor Challenger, when he passed down to
take his place at the extreme end of the front row of the platform.
Such a yell of welcome broke forth when his black beard first
protruded round the corner that I began to suspect Tarp Henry
was right in his surmise, and that this assemblage was there not
merely for the sake of the lecture, but because it had got rumored
abroad that the famous Professor would take part in the proceedings.
There was some sympathetic laughter on his entrance among the
front benches of well-dressed spectators, as though the
demonstration of the students in this instance was not unwelcome
to them. That greeting was, indeed, a frightful outburst of
sound, the uproar of the carnivora cage when the step of the
bucket-bearing keeper is heard in the distance. There was an
offensive tone in it, perhaps, and yet in the main it struck me
as mere riotous outcry, the noisy reception of one who amused and
interested them, rather than of one they disliked or despised.
Challenger smiled with weary and tolerant contempt, as a kindly
man would meet the yapping of a litter of puppies. He sat slowly
down, blew out his chest, passed his hand caressingly down his
beard, and looked with drooping eyelids and supercilious eyes at
the crowded hall before him. The uproar of his advent had not
yet died away when Professor Ronald Murray, the chairman, and Mr.
Waldron, the lecturer, threaded their way to the front, and the
Professor Murray will, I am sure, excuse me if I say that he has
the common fault of most Englishmen of being inaudible. Why on
earth people who have something to say which is worth hearing
should not take the slight trouble to learn how to make it heard
is one of the strange mysteries of modern life. Their methods
are as reasonable as to try to pour some precious stuff from the
spring to the reservoir through a non-conducting pipe, which
could by the least effort be opened. Professor Murray made
several profound remarks to his white tie and to the water-carafe
upon the table, with a humorous, twinkling aside to the silver
candlestick upon his right. Then he sat down, and Mr. Waldron,
the famous popular lecturer, rose amid a general murmur of applause.
He was a stern, gaunt man, with a harsh voice, and an aggressive
manner, but he had the merit of knowing how to assimilate the
ideas of other men, and to pass them on in a way which was
intelligible and even interesting to the lay public, with a
happy knack of being funny about the most unlikely objects,
so that the precession of the Equinox or the formation of a
vertebrate became a highly humorous process as treated by him.
It was a bird's-eye view of creation, as interpreted by science,
which, in language always clear and sometimes picturesque, he
unfolded before us. He told us of the globe, a huge mass of
flaming gas, flaring through the heavens. Then he pictured the
solidification, the cooling, the wrinkling which formed the
mountains, the steam which turned to water, the slow preparation
of the stage upon which was to be played the inexplicable drama
of life. On the origin of life itself he was discreetly vague.
That the germs of it could hardly have survived the original
roasting was, he declared, fairly certain. Therefore it had
come later. Had it built itself out of the cooling, inorganic
elements of the globe? Very likely. Had the germs of it arrived
from outside upon a meteor? It was hardly conceivable. On the
whole, the wisest man was the least dogmatic upon the point.
We could not--or at least we had not succeeded up to date in
making organic life in our laboratories out of inorganic materials.
The gulf between the dead and the living was something which our
chemistry could not as yet bridge. But there was a higher and
subtler chemistry of Nature, which, working with great forces
over long epochs, might well produce results which were impossible
for us. There the matter must be left.
This brought the lecturer to the great ladder of animal life,
beginning low down in molluscs and feeble sea creatures, then up
rung by rung through reptiles and fishes, till at last we came to
a kangaroo-rat, a creature which brought forth its young alive,
the direct ancestor of all mammals, and presumably, therefore, of
everyone in the audience. ("No, no," from a sceptical student in
the back row.) If the young gentleman in the red tie who cried
"No, no," and who presumably claimed to have been hatched out of
an egg, would wait upon him after the lecture, he would be glad
to see such a curiosity. (Laughter.) It was strange to think that
the climax of all the age-long process of Nature had been the creation
of that gentleman in the red tie. But had the process stopped?
Was this gentleman to be taken as the final type--the be-all and
end-all of development? He hoped that he would not hurt the
feelings of the gentleman in the red tie if he maintained that,
whatever virtues that gentleman might possess in private life,
still the vast processes of the universe were not fully justified
if they were to end entirely in his production. Evolution was
not a spent force, but one still working, and even greater
achievements were in store.
Having thus, amid a general titter, played very prettily with his
interrupter, the lecturer went back to his picture of the past,
the drying of the seas, the emergence of the sand-bank, the
sluggish, viscous life which lay upon their margins, the
overcrowded lagoons, the tendency of the sea creatures to take
refuge upon the mud-flats, the abundance of food awaiting them,
their consequent enormous growth. "Hence, ladies and gentlemen,"
he added, "that frightful brood of saurians which still affright
our eyes when seen in the Wealden or in the Solenhofen slates,
but which were fortunately extinct long before the first
appearance of mankind upon this planet."
"Question!" boomed a voice from the platform.
Mr. Waldron was a strict disciplinarian with a gift of acid
humor, as exemplified upon the gentleman with the red tie, which
made it perilous to interrupt him. But this interjection
appeared to him so absurd that he was at a loss how to deal
with it. So looks the Shakespearean who is confronted by a
rancid Baconian, or the astronomer who is assailed by a flat-
earth fanatic. He paused for a moment, and then, raising his
voice, repeated slowly the words: "Which were extinct before
the coming of man."
"Question!" boomed the voice once more.
Waldron looked with amazement along the line of professors upon
the platform until his eyes fell upon the figure of Challenger,
who leaned back in his chair with closed eyes and an amused
expression, as if he were smiling in his sleep.
"I see!" said Waldron, with a shrug. "It is my friend Professor
Challenger," and amid laughter he renewed his lecture as if this
was a final explanation and no more need be said.
But the incident was far from being closed. Whatever path the
lecturer took amid the wilds of the past seemed invariably to
lead him to some assertion as to extinct or prehistoric life
which instantly brought the same bulls' bellow from the Professor.
The audience began to anticipate it and to roar with delight when
it came. The packed benches of students joined in, and every
time Challenger's beard opened, before any sound could come forth,
there was a yell of "Question!" from a hundred voices, and an
answering counter cry of "Order!" and "Shame!" from as many more.
Waldron, though a hardened lecturer and a strong man, became rattled.
He hesitated, stammered, repeated himself, got snarled in a long
sentence, and finally turned furiously upon the cause of his troubles.
"This is really intolerable!" he cried, glaring across the platform.
"I must ask you, Professor Challenger, to cease these ignorant and
There was a hush over the hall, the students rigid with delight
at seeing the high gods on Olympus quarrelling among themselves.
Challenger levered his bulky figure slowly out of his chair.
"I must in turn ask you, Mr. Waldron," he said, "to cease to make
assertions which are not in strict accordance with scientific fact."
The words unloosed a tempest. "Shame! Shame!" "Give him a
hearing!" "Put him out!" "Shove him off the platform!" "Fair
play!" emerged from a general roar of amusement or execration.
The chairman was on his feet flapping both his hands and
bleating excitedly. "Professor Challenger--personal--views--
later," were the solid peaks above his clouds of inaudible mutter.
The interrupter bowed, smiled, stroked his beard, and relapsed
into his chair. Waldron, very flushed and warlike, continued
his observations. Now and then, as he made an assertion, he shot
a venomous glance at his opponent, who seemed to be slumbering
deeply, with the same broad, happy smile upon his face.
At last the lecture came to an end--I am inclined to think
that it was a premature one, as the peroration was hurried
and disconnected. The thread of the argument had been rudely
broken, and the audience was restless and expectant. Waldron sat
down, and, after a chirrup from the chairman, Professor Challenger
rose and advanced to the edge of the platform. In the interests
of my paper I took down his speech verbatim.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, amid a sustained interruption
from the back. "I beg pardon--Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children--I
must apologize, I had inadvertently omitted a considerable
section of this audience" (tumult, during which the Professor
stood with one hand raised and his enormous head nodding
sympathetically, as if he were bestowing a pontifical blessing
upon the crowd), "I have been selected to move a vote of thanks
to Mr. Waldron for the very picturesque and imaginative address
to which we have just listened. There are points in it with
which I disagree, and it has been my duty to indicate them as
they arose, but, none the less, Mr. Waldron has accomplished his
object well, that object being to give a simple and interesting
account of what he conceives to have been the history of our planet.
Popular lectures are the easiest to listen to, but Mr. Waldron"
(here he beamed and blinked at the lecturer) "will excuse me when
I say that they are necessarily both superficial and misleading,
since they have to be graded to the comprehension of an
ignorant audience." (Ironical cheering.) "Popular lecturers
are in their nature parasitic." (Angry gesture of protest from
Mr. Waldron.) "They exploit for fame or cash the work which has
been done by their indigent and unknown brethren. One smallest
new fact obtained in the laboratory, one brick built into the
temple of science, far outweighs any second-hand exposition which
passes an idle hour, but can leave no useful result behind it.
I put forward this obvious reflection, not out of any desire to
disparage Mr. Waldron in particular, but that you may not lose
your sense of proportion and mistake the acolyte for the high priest."
(At this point Mr. Waldron whispered to the chairman, who half rose
and said something severely to his water-carafe.) "But enough
of this!" (Loud and prolonged cheers.) "Let me pass to some
subject of wider interest. What is the particular point upon
which I, as an original investigator, have challenged our
lecturer's accuracy? It is upon the permanence of certain types
of animal life upon the earth. I do not speak upon this subject
as an amateur, nor, I may add, as a popular lecturer, but I speak
as one whose scientific conscience compels him to adhere closely
to facts, when I say that Mr. Waldron is very wrong in supposing
that because he has never himself seen a so-called prehistoric
animal, therefore these creatures no longer exist. They are
indeed, as he has said, our ancestors, but they are, if I may use
the expression, our contemporary ancestors, who can still be
found with all their hideous and formidable characteristics if
one has but the energy and hardihood to seek their haunts.
Creatures which were supposed to be Jurassic, monsters who would
hunt down and devour our largest and fiercest mammals, still exist."
(Cries of "Bosh!" "Prove it!" "How do YOU know?" "Question!")
"How do I know, you ask me? I know because I have visited their
secret haunts. I know because I have seen some of them."
(Applause, uproar, and a voice, "Liar!") "Am I a liar?"
(General hearty and noisy assent.) "Did I hear someone say that I
was a liar? Will the person who called me a liar kindly stand up
that I may know him?" (A voice, "Here he is, sir!" and an
inoffensive little person in spectacles, struggling violently,
was held up among a group of students.) "Did you venture to call
me a liar?" ("No, sir, no!" shouted the accused, and disappeared
like a jack-in-the-box.) "If any person in this hall dares to
doubt my veracity, I shall be glad to have a few words with him
after the lecture." ("Liar!") "Who said that?" (Again the
inoffensive one plunging desperately, was elevated high into the air.)