Part 3 out of 5
He had approached the bridge when Lord John laid his hand upon
"My dear chap," said he, "I really cannot allow it."
"Cannot allow it, sir!" The head went back and the beard forward.
"When it is a matter of science, don't you know, I follow your
lead because you are by way of bein' a man of science. But it's
up to you to follow me when you come into my department."
"Your department, sir?"
"We all have our professions, and soldierin' is mine. We are,
accordin' to my ideas, invadin' a new country, which may or may
not be chock-full of enemies of sorts. To barge blindly into it
for want of a little common sense and patience isn't my notion
The remonstrance was too reasonable to be disregarded.
Challenger tossed his head and shrugged his heavy shoulders.
"Well, sir, what do you propose?"
"For all I know there may be a tribe of cannibals waitin' for
lunch-time among those very bushes," said Lord John, looking
across the bridge. "It's better to learn wisdom before you get
into a cookin'-pot; so we will content ourselves with hopin' that
there is no trouble waitin' for us, and at the same time we will
act as if there were. Malone and I will go down again, therefore,
and we will fetch up the four rifles, together with Gomez and
the other. One man can then go across and the rest will cover
him with guns, until he sees that it is safe for the whole crowd
to come along."
Challenger sat down upon the cut stump and groaned his
impatience; but Summerlee and I were of one mind that Lord John
was our leader when such practical details were in question.
The climb was a more simple thing now that the rope dangled down
the face of the worst part of the ascent. Within an hour we had
brought up the rifles and a shot-gun. The half-breeds had ascended
also, and under Lord John's orders they had carried up a bale of
provisions in case our first exploration should be a long one.
We had each bandoliers of cartridges.
"Now, Challenger, if you really insist upon being the first man
in," said Lord John, when every preparation was complete.
"I am much indebted to you for your gracious permission," said
the angry Professor; for never was a man so intolerant of every
form of authority. "Since you are good enough to allow it, I
shall most certainly take it upon myself to act as pioneer upon
Seating himself with a leg overhanging the abyss on each side,
and his hatchet slung upon his back, Challenger hopped his way
across the trunk and was soon at the other side. He clambered
up and waved his arms in the air.
"At last!" he cried; "at last!"
I gazed anxiously at him, with a vague expectation that some
terrible fate would dart at him from the curtain of green
behind him. But all was quiet, save that a strange, many-
colored bird flew up from under his feet and vanished among
Summerlee was the second. His wiry energy is wonderful in so frail
a frame. He insisted upon having two rifles slung upon his back,
so that both Professors were armed when he had made his transit.
I came next, and tried hard not to look down into the horrible
gulf over which I was passing. Summerlee held out the butt-end
of his rifle, and an instant later I was able to grasp his hand.
As to Lord John, he walked across--actually walked without support!
He must have nerves of iron.
And there we were, the four of us, upon the dreamland, the lost
world, of Maple White. To all of us it seemed the moment of our
supreme triumph. Who could have guessed that it was the prelude
to our supreme disaster? Let me say in a few words how the
crushing blow fell upon us.
We had turned away from the edge, and had penetrated about fifty
yards of close brushwood, when there came a frightful rending
crash from behind us. With one impulse we rushed back the way
that we had come. The bridge was gone!
Far down at the base of the cliff I saw, as I looked over, a
tangled mass of branches and splintered trunk. It was our
beech tree. Had the edge of the platform crumbled and let
it through? For a moment this explanation was in all our minds.
The next, from the farther side of the rocky pinnacle before us
a swarthy face, the face of Gomez the half-breed, was
slowly protruded. Yes, it was Gomez, but no longer the Gomez
of the demure smile and the mask-like expression. Here was a
face with flashing eyes and distorted features, a face convulsed
with hatred and with the mad joy of gratified revenge.
"Lord Roxton!" he shouted. "Lord John Roxton!"
"Well," said our companion, "here I am."
A shriek of laughter came across the abyss.
"Yes, there you are, you English dog, and there you will remain!
I have waited and waited, and now has come my chance. You found
it hard to get up; you will find it harder to get down. You cursed
fools, you are trapped, every one of you!"
We were too astounded to speak. We could only stand there staring
in amazement. A great broken bough upon the grass showed whence
he had gained his leverage to tilt over our bridge. The face had
vanished, but presently it was up again, more frantic than before.
"We nearly killed you with a stone at the cave," he cried; "but
this is better. It is slower and more terrible. Your bones will
whiten up there, and none will know where you lie or come to
cover them. As you lie dying, think of Lopez, whom you shot five
years ago on the Putomayo River. I am his brother, and, come
what will I will die happy now, for his memory has been avenged."
A furious hand was shaken at us, and then all was quiet.
Had the half-breed simply wrought his vengeance and then escaped,
all might have been well with him. It was that foolish,
irresistible Latin impulse to be dramatic which brought his
own downfall. Roxton, the man who had earned himself the name of
the Flail of the Lord through three countries, was not one who
could be safely taunted. The half-breed was descending on the
farther side of the pinnacle; but before he could reach the ground
Lord John had run along the edge of the plateau and gained a point
from which he could see his man. There was a single crack of his
rifle, and, though we saw nothing, we heard the scream and then
the distant thud of the falling body. Roxton came back to us with
a face of granite.
"I have been a blind simpleton," said he, bitterly, "It's my
folly that has brought you all into this trouble. I should have
remembered that these people have long memories for blood-feuds,
and have been more upon my guard."
"What about the other one? It took two of them to lever that tree
over the edge."
"I could have shot him, but I let him go. He may have had no
part in it. Perhaps it would have been better if I had killed
him, for he must, as you say, have lent a hand."
Now that we had the clue to his action, each of us could cast
back and remember some sinister act upon the part of the
half-breed--his constant desire to know our plans, his arrest
outside our tent when he was over-hearing them, the furtive
looks of hatred which from time to time one or other of us
had surprised. We were still discussing it, endeavoring to adjust
our minds to these new conditions, when a singular scene in the
plain below arrested our attention.
A man in white clothes, who could only be the surviving half-
breed, was running as one does run when Death is the pacemaker.
Behind him, only a few yards in his rear, bounded the huge
ebony figure of Zambo, our devoted negro. Even as we looked,
he sprang upon the back of the fugitive and flung his arms
round his neck. They rolled on the ground together. An instant
afterwards Zambo rose, looked at the prostrate man, and then,
waving his hand joyously to us, came running in our direction.
The white figure lay motionless in the middle of the great plain.
Our two traitors had been destroyed, but the mischief that they
had done lived after them. By no possible means could we get back
to the pinnacle. We had been natives of the world; now we were
natives of the plateau. The two things were separate and apart.
There was the plain which led to the canoes. Yonder, beyond the
violet, hazy horizon, was the stream which led back to civilization.
But the link between was missing. No human ingenuity could suggest
a means of bridging the chasm which yawned between ourselves and
our past lives. One instant had altered the whole conditions of
It was at such a moment that I learned the stuff of which my
three comrades were composed. They were grave, it is true, and
thoughtful, but of an invincible serenity. For the moment we
could only sit among the bushes in patience and wait the coming
of Zambo. Presently his honest black face topped the rocks and
his Herculean figure emerged upon the top of the pinnacle.
"What I do now?" he cried. "You tell me and I do it."
It was a question which it was easier to ask than to answer.
One thing only was clear. He was our one trusty link with the
outside world. On no account must he leave us.
"No no!" he cried. "I not leave you. Whatever come, you always
find me here. But no able to keep Indians. Already they say too
much Curupuri live on this place, and they go home. Now you
leave them me no able to keep them."
It was a fact that our Indians had shown in many ways of late
that they were weary of their journey and anxious to return.
We realized that Zambo spoke the truth, and that it would be
impossible for him to keep them.
"Make them wait till to-morrow, Zambo," I shouted; "then I can
send letter back by them."
"Very good, sarr! I promise they wait till to-morrow, said the negro.
"But what I do for you now?"
There was plenty for him to do, and admirably the faithful fellow
did it. First of all, under our directions, he undid the rope
from the tree-stump and threw one end of it across to us. It was
not thicker than a clothes-line, but it was of great strength,
and though we could not make a bridge of it, we might well find
it invaluable if we had any climbing to do. He then fastened his
end of the rope to the package of supplies which had been carried
up, and we were able to drag it across. This gave us the means
of life for at least a week, even if we found nothing else.
Finally he descended and carried up two other packets of mixed
goods--a box of ammunition and a number of other things, all of
which we got across by throwing our rope to him and hauling it back.
It was evening when he at last climbed down, with a final assurance
that he would keep the Indians till next morning.
And so it is that I have spent nearly the whole of this our first
night upon the plateau writing up our experiences by the light of
a single candle-lantern.
We supped and camped at the very edge of the cliff, quenching
our thirst with two bottles of Apollinaris which were in one of
the cases. It is vital to us to find water, but I think even Lord
John himself had had adventures enough for one day, and none of us
felt inclined to make the first push into the unknown. We forbore
to light a fire or to make any unnecessary sound.
To-morrow (or to-day, rather, for it is already dawn as I write)
we shall make our first venture into this strange land. When I
shall be able to write again--or if I ever shall write again--I
know not. Meanwhile, I can see that the Indians are still in
their place, and I am sure that the faithful Zambo will be here
presently to get my letter. I only trust that it will come to hand.
P.S.--The more I think the more desperate does our position seem.
I see no possible hope of our return. If there were a high tree
near the edge of the plateau we might drop a return bridge
across, but there is none within fifty yards. Our united
strength could not carry a trunk which would serve our purpose.
The rope, of course, is far too short that we could descend by it.
No, our position is hopeless--hopeless!
"The most Wonderful Things have Happened"
The most wonderful things have happened and are continually
happening to us. All the paper that I possess consists of five
old note-books and a lot of scraps, and I have only the one
stylographic pencil; but so long as I can move my hand I will
continue to set down our experiences and impressions, for, since
we are the only men of the whole human race to see such things,
it is of enormous importance that I should record them whilst
they are fresh in my memory and before that fate which seems to
be constantly impending does actually overtake us. Whether Zambo
can at last take these letters to the river, or whether I shall
myself in some miraculous way carry them back with me, or,
finally, whether some daring explorer, coming upon our tracks
with the advantage, perhaps, of a perfected monoplane, should
find this bundle of manuscript, in any case I can see that what I
am writing is destined to immortality as a classic of true adventure.
On the morning after our being trapped upon the plateau by
the villainous Gomez we began a new stage in our experiences.
The first incident in it was not such as to give me a very
favorable opinion of the place to which we had wandered. As I
roused myself from a short nap after day had dawned, my eyes fell
upon a most singular appearance upon my own leg. My trouser had
slipped up, exposing a few inches of my skin above my sock.
On this there rested a large, purplish grape. Astonished at the
sight, I leaned forward to pick it off, when, to my horror, it burst
between my finger and thumb, squirting blood in every direction.
My cry of disgust had brought the two professors to my side.
"Most interesting," said Summerlee, bending over my shin.
"An enormous blood-tick, as yet, I believe, unclassified."
"The first-fruits of our labors," said Challenger in his booming,
pedantic fashion. "We cannot do less than call it Ixodes Maloni.
The very small inconvenience of being bitten, my young friend,
cannot, I am sure, weigh with you as against the glorious
privilege of having your name inscribed in the deathless roll
of zoology. Unhappily you have crushed this fine specimen at
the moment of satiation."
"Filthy vermin!" I cried.
Professor Challenger raised his great eyebrows in protest, and
placed a soothing paw upon my shoulder.
"You should cultivate the scientific eye and the detached
scientific mind," said he. "To a man of philosophic temperament
like myself the blood-tick, with its lancet-like proboscis and
its distending stomach, is as beautiful a work of Nature as the
peacock or, for that matter, the aurora borealis. It pains me to
hear you speak of it in so unappreciative a fashion. No doubt,
with due diligence, we can secure some other specimen."
"There can be no doubt of that," said Summerlee, grimly, "for one
has just disappeared behind your shirt-collar."
Challenger sprang into the air bellowing like a bull, and tore
frantically at his coat and shirt to get them off. Summerlee and
I laughed so that we could hardly help him. At last we exposed
that monstrous torso (fifty-four inches, by the tailor's tape).
His body was all matted with black hair, out of which jungle we
picked the wandering tick before it had bitten him. But the
bushes round were full of the horrible pests, and it was clear
that we must shift our camp.
But first of all it was necessary to make our arrangements with
the faithful negro, who appeared presently on the pinnacle with a
number of tins of cocoa and biscuits, which he tossed over to us.
Of the stores which remained below he was ordered to retain as
much as would keep him for two months. The Indians were to have
the remainder as a reward for their services and as payment for
taking our letters back to the Amazon. Some hours later we saw
them in single file far out upon the plain, each with a bundle on
his head, making their way back along the path we had come.
Zambo occupied our little tent at the base of the pinnacle, and
there he remained, our one link with the world below.
And now we had to decide upon our immediate movements. We shifted
our position from among the tick-laden bushes until we came to a
small clearing thickly surrounded by trees upon all sides.
There were some flat slabs of rock in the center, with an
excellent well close by, and there we sat in cleanly comfort
while we made our first plans for the invasion of this new country.
Birds were calling among the foliage--especially one with a
peculiar whooping cry which was new to us--but beyond these
sounds there were no signs of life.
Our first care was to make some sort of list of our own stores,
so that we might know what we had to rely upon. What with the
things we had ourselves brought up and those which Zambo had sent
across on the rope, we were fairly well supplied. Most important
of all, in view of the dangers which might surround us, we had our
four rifles and one thousand three hundred rounds, also a shot-gun,
but not more than a hundred and fifty medium pellet cartridges.
In the matter of provisions we had enough to last for several
weeks, with a sufficiency of tobacco and a few scientific
implements, including a large telescope and a good field-glass.
All these things we collected together in the clearing, and as
a first precaution, we cut down with our hatchet and knives a
number of thorny bushes, which we piled round in a circle some
fifteen yards in diameter. This was to be our headquarters for
the time--our place of refuge against sudden danger and the
guard-house for our stores. Fort Challenger, we called it.
IT was midday before we had made ourselves secure, but the heat
was not oppressive, and the general character of the plateau, both
in its temperature and in its vegetation, was almost temperate.
The beech, the oak, and even the birch were to be found among
the tangle of trees which girt us in. One huge gingko tree,
topping all the others, shot its great limbs and maidenhair
foliage over the fort which we had constructed. In its shade
we continued our discussion, while Lord John, who had quickly
taken command in the hour of action, gave us his views.
"So long as neither man nor beast has seen or heard us, we are
safe," said he. "From the time they know we are here our
troubles begin. There are no signs that they have found us out
as yet. So our game surely is to lie low for a time and spy out
the land. We want to have a good look at our neighbors before we
get on visitin' terms."
"But we must advance," I ventured to remark.
"By all means, sonny my boy! We will advance. But with
common sense. We must never go so far that we can't get back
to our base. Above all, we must never, unless it is life or
death, fire off our guns."
"But YOU fired yesterday," said Summerlee.
"Well, it couldn't be helped. However, the wind was strong and
blew outwards. It is not likely that the sound could have
traveled far into the plateau. By the way, what shall we call
this place? I suppose it is up to us to give it a name?"
There were several suggestions, more or less happy, but
Challenger's was final.
"It can only have one name," said he. "It is called after the
pioneer who discovered it. It is Maple White Land."
Maple White Land it became, and so it is named in that chart
which has become my special task. So it will, I trust, appear
in the atlas of the future.
The peaceful penetration of Maple White Land was the pressing
subject before us. We had the evidence of our own eyes that the
place was inhabited by some unknown creatures, and there was that
of Maple White's sketch-book to show that more dreadful and more
dangerous monsters might still appear. That there might also
prove to be human occupants and that they were of a malevolent
character was suggested by the skeleton impaled upon the bamboos,
which could not have got there had it not been dropped from above.
Our situation, stranded without possibility of escape in such a
land, was clearly full of danger, and our reasons endorsed every
measure of caution which Lord John's experience could suggest.
Yet it was surely impossible that we should halt on the edge of
this world of mystery when our very souls were tingling with
impatience to push forward and to pluck the heart from it.
We therefore blocked the entrance to our zareba by filling it up
with several thorny bushes, and left our camp with the stores
entirely surrounded by this protecting hedge. We then slowly and
cautiously set forth into the unknown, following the course of
the little stream which flowed from our spring, as it should
always serve us as a guide on our return.
Hardly had we started when we came across signs that there were
indeed wonders awaiting us. After a few hundred yards of thick
forest, containing many trees which were quite unknown to me, but
which Summerlee, who was the botanist of the party, recognized as
forms of conifera and of cycadaceous plants which have long
passed away in the world below, we entered a region where the
stream widened out and formed a considerable bog. High reeds of
a peculiar type grew thickly before us, which were pronounced to
be equisetacea, or mare's-tails, with tree-ferns scattered
amongst them, all of them swaying in a brisk wind. Suddenly Lord
John, who was walking first, halted with uplifted hand.
"Look at this!" said he. "By George, this must be the trail of
the father of all birds!"
An enormous three-toed track was imprinted in the soft mud before us.
The creature, whatever it was, had crossed the swamp and had passed
on into the forest. We all stopped to examine that monstrous spoor.
If it were indeed a bird--and what animal could leave such a mark?--
its foot was so much larger than an ostrich's that its height upon
the same scale must be enormous. Lord John looked eagerly round him
and slipped two cartridges into his elephant-gun.
"I'll stake my good name as a shikarree," said he, "that the
track is a fresh one. The creature has not passed ten minutes.
Look how the water is still oozing into that deeper print!
By Jove! See, here is the mark of a little one!"
Sure enough, smaller tracks of the same general form were running
parallel to the large ones.
"But what do you make of this?" cried Professor Summerlee,
triumphantly, pointing to what looked like the huge print of a
five-fingered human hand appearing among the three-toed marks.
"Wealden!" cried Challenger, in an ecstasy. "I've seen them in
the Wealden clay. It is a creature walking erect upon three-toed
feet, and occasionally putting one of its five-fingered forepaws
upon the ground. Not a bird, my dear Roxton--not a bird."
"No; a reptile--a dinosaur. Nothing else could have left such
a track. They puzzled a worthy Sussex doctor some ninety years
ago; but who in the world could have hoped--hoped--to have seen a
sight like that?"
His words died away into a whisper, and we all stood in
motionless amazement. Following the tracks, we had left the
morass and passed through a screen of brushwood and trees.
Beyond was an open glade, and in this were five of the most
extraordinary creatures that I have ever seen. Crouching down
among the bushes, we observed them at our leisure.
There were, as I say, five of them, two being adults and three
young ones. In size they were enormous. Even the babies were as
big as elephants, while the two large ones were far beyond all
creatures I have ever seen. They had slate-colored skin, which
was scaled like a lizard's and shimmered where the sun shone
upon it. All five were sitting up, balancing themselves upon their
broad, powerful tails and their huge three-toed hind-feet, while
with their small five-fingered front-feet they pulled down the
branches upon which they browsed. I do not know that I can bring
their appearance home to you better than by saying that they
looked like monstrous kangaroos, twenty feet in length, and with
skins like black crocodiles.
I do not know how long we stayed motionless gazing at this
marvelous spectacle. A strong wind blew towards us and we were
well concealed, so there was no chance of discovery. From time
to time the little ones played round their parents in unwieldy
gambols, the great beasts bounding into the air and falling with
dull thuds upon the earth. The strength of the parents seemed to
be limitless, for one of them, having some difficulty in reaching
a bunch of foliage which grew upon a considerable-sized tree, put
his fore-legs round the trunk and tore it down as if it had been
a sapling. The action seemed, as I thought, to show not only the
great development of its muscles, but also the small one of its
brain, for the whole weight came crashing down upon the top of
it, and it uttered a series of shrill yelps to show that, big as
it was, there was a limit to what it could endure. The incident
made it think, apparently, that the neighborhood was dangerous,
for it slowly lurched off through the wood, followed by its mate
and its three enormous infants. We saw the shimmering slaty
gleam of their skins between the tree-trunks, and their heads
undulating high above the brush-wood. Then they vanished from
I looked at my comrades. Lord John was standing at gaze with his
finger on the trigger of his elephant-gun, his eager hunter's
soul shining from his fierce eyes. What would he not give for
one such head to place between the two crossed oars above the
mantelpiece in his snuggery at the Albany! And yet his reason
held him in, for all our exploration of the wonders of this
unknown land depended upon our presence being concealed from
its inhabitants. The two professors were in silent ecstasy.
In their excitement they had unconsciously seized each other by
the hand, and stood like two little children in the presence of a
marvel, Challenger's cheeks bunched up into a seraphic smile, and
Summerlee's sardonic face softening for the moment into wonder
"Nunc dimittis!" he cried at last. "What will they say in
England of this?"
"My dear Summerlee, I will tell you with great confidence exactly
what they will say in England," said Challenger. "They will say
that you are an infernal liar and a scientific charlatan, exactly
as you and others said of me."
"In the face of photographs?"
"Faked, Summerlee! Clumsily faked!"
"In the face of specimens?"
"Ah, there we may have them! Malone and his filthy Fleet Street
crew may be all yelping our praises yet. August the twenty-eighth--
the day we saw five live iguanodons in a glade of Maple White Land.
Put it down in your diary, my young friend, and send it to your rag."
"And be ready to get the toe-end of the editorial boot in
return," said Lord John. "Things look a bit different from the
latitude of London, young fellah my lad. There's many a man who
never tells his adventures, for he can't hope to be believed.
Who's to blame them? For this will seem a bit of a dream to
ourselves in a month or two. WHAT did you say they were?"
"Iguanodons," said Summerlee. "You'll find their footmarks all
over the Hastings sands, in Kent, and in Sussex. The South of
England was alive with them when there was plenty of good lush
green-stuff to keep them going. Conditions have changed, and the
beasts died. Here it seems that the conditions have not changed,
and the beasts have lived."
"If ever we get out of this alive, I must have a head with me,"
said Lord John. "Lord, how some of that Somaliland-Uganda crowd
would turn a beautiful pea-green if they saw it! I don't know
what you chaps think, but it strikes me that we are on mighty
thin ice all this time."
I had the same feeling of mystery and danger around us. In the
gloom of the trees there seemed a constant menace and as we
looked up into their shadowy foliage vague terrors crept into
one's heart. It is true that these monstrous creatures which we
had seen were lumbering, inoffensive brutes which were unlikely
to hurt anyone, but in this world of wonders what other survivals
might there not be--what fierce, active horrors ready to pounce
upon us from their lair among the rocks or brushwood? I knew
little of prehistoric life, but I had a clear remembrance of one
book which I had read in which it spoke of creatures who would
live upon our lions and tigers as a cat lives upon mice. What if
these also were to be found in the woods of Maple White Land!
It was destined that on this very morning--our first in the new
country--we were to find out what strange hazards lay around us.
It was a loathsome adventure, and one of which I hate to think.
If, as Lord John said, the glade of the iguanodons will remain
with us as a dream, then surely the swamp of the pterodactyls will
forever be our nightmare. Let me set down exactly what occurred.
We passed very slowly through the woods, partly because Lord
Roxton acted as scout before he would let us advance, and partly
because at every second step one or other of our professors would
fall, with a cry of wonder, before some flower or insect which
presented him with a new type. We may have traveled two or three
miles in all, keeping to the right of the line of the stream,
when we came upon a considerable opening in the trees. A belt
of brushwood led up to a tangle of rocks--the whole plateau was
strewn with boulders. We were walking slowly towards these
rocks, among bushes which reached over our waists, when we became
aware of a strange low gabbling and whistling sound, which filled
the air with a constant clamor and appeared to come from some
spot immediately before us. Lord John held up his hand as a
signal for us to stop, and he made his way swiftly, stooping and
running, to the line of rocks. We saw him peep over them and
give a gesture of amazement. Then he stood staring as if
forgetting us, so utterly entranced was he by what he saw.
Finally he waved us to come on, holding up his hand as a signal
for caution. His whole bearing made me feel that something
wonderful but dangerous lay before us.
Creeping to his side, we looked over the rocks. The place into
which we gazed was a pit, and may, in the early days, have been
one of the smaller volcanic blow-holes of the plateau. It was
bowl-shaped and at the bottom, some hundreds of yards from where
we lay, were pools of green-scummed, stagnant water, fringed
with bullrushes. It was a weird place in itself, but its
occupants made it seem like a scene from the Seven Circles of Dante.
The place was a rookery of pterodactyls. There were hundreds of
them congregated within view. All the bottom area round the
water-edge was alive with their young ones, and with hideous
mothers brooding upon their leathery, yellowish eggs. From this
crawling flapping mass of obscene reptilian life came the
shocking clamor which filled the air and the mephitic, horrible,
musty odor which turned us sick. But above, perched each upon
its own stone, tall, gray, and withered, more like dead and dried
specimens than actual living creatures, sat the horrible males,
absolutely motionless save for the rolling of their red eyes or
an occasional snap of their rat-trap beaks as a dragon-fly went
past them. Their huge, membranous wings were closed by folding
their fore-arms, so that they sat like gigantic old women,
wrapped in hideous web-colored shawls, and with their ferocious
heads protruding above them. Large and small, not less than a
thousand of these filthy creatures lay in the hollow before us.
Our professors would gladly have stayed there all day, so
entranced were they by this opportunity of studying the life of a
prehistoric age. They pointed out the fish and dead birds lying
about among the rocks as proving the nature of the food of these
creatures, and I heard them congratulating each other on having
cleared up the point why the bones of this flying dragon are
found in such great numbers in certain well-defined areas, as in
the Cambridge Green-sand, since it was now seen that, like penguins,
they lived in gregarious fashion.
Finally, however, Challenger, bent upon proving some point which
Summerlee had contested, thrust his head over the rock and nearly
brought destruction upon us all. In an instant the nearest male
gave a shrill, whistling cry, and flapped its twenty-foot span of
leathery wings as it soared up into the air. The females and
young ones huddled together beside the water, while the whole
circle of sentinels rose one after the other and sailed off into
the sky. It was a wonderful sight to see at least a hundred
creatures of such enormous size and hideous appearance all
swooping like swallows with swift, shearing wing-strokes above
us; but soon we realized that it was not one on which we could
afford to linger. At first the great brutes flew round in a huge
ring, as if to make sure what the exact extent of the danger
might be. Then, the flight grew lower and the circle narrower,
until they were whizzing round and round us, the dry, rustling
flap of their huge slate-colored wings filling the air with a
volume of sound that made me think of Hendon aerodrome upon a
"Make for the wood and keep together," cried Lord John, clubbing
his rifle. "The brutes mean mischief."
The moment we attempted to retreat the circle closed in upon us,
until the tips of the wings of those nearest to us nearly touched
our faces. We beat at them with the stocks of our guns, but
there was nothing solid or vulnerable to strike. Then suddenly
out of the whizzing, slate-colored circle a long neck shot out, and
a fierce beak made a thrust at us. Another and another followed.
Summerlee gave a cry and put his hand to his face, from which the
blood was streaming. I felt a prod at the back of my neck, and
turned dizzy with the shock. Challenger fell, and as I stooped
to pick him up I was again struck from behind and dropped on the
top of him. At the same instant I heard the crash of Lord John's
elephant-gun, and, looking up, saw one of the creatures with a
broken wing struggling upon the ground, spitting and gurgling at
us with a wide-opened beak and blood-shot, goggled eyes, like some
devil in a medieval picture. Its comrades had flown higher at the
sudden sound, and were circling above our heads.
"Now," cried Lord John, "now for our lives!"
We staggered through the brushwood, and even as we reached the
trees the harpies were on us again. Summerlee was knocked down,
but we tore him up and rushed among the trunks. Once there we
were safe, for those huge wings had no space for their sweep
beneath the branches. As we limped homewards, sadly mauled and
discomfited, we saw them for a long time flying at a great height
against the deep blue sky above our heads, soaring round and
round, no bigger than wood-pigeons, with their eyes no doubt
still following our progress. At last, however, as we reached
the thicker woods they gave up the chase, and we saw them no more.
A most interesting and convincing experience," said Challenger,
as we halted beside the brook and he bathed a swollen knee.
"We are exceptionally well informed, Summerlee, as to the habits
of the enraged pterodactyl."
Summerlee was wiping the blood from a cut in his forehead, while
I was tying up a nasty stab in the muscle of the neck. Lord John
had the shoulder of his coat torn away, but the creature's teeth
had only grazed the flesh.
"It is worth noting," Challenger continued, "that our young
friend has received an undoubted stab, while Lord John's coat
could only have been torn by a bite. In my own case, I was
beaten about the head by their wings, so we have had a remarkable
exhibition of their various methods of offence."
"It has been touch and go for our lives," said Lord John,
gravely, "and I could not think of a more rotten sort of death
than to be outed by such filthy vermin. I was sorry to fire my
rifle, but, by Jove! there was no great choice."
"We should not be here if you hadn't," said I, with conviction.
"It may do no harm," said he. "Among these woods there must be
many loud cracks from splitting or falling trees which would be
just like the sound of a gun. But now, if you are of my opinion,
we have had thrills enough for one day, and had best get back to
the surgical box at the camp for some carbolic. Who knows what
venom these beasts may have in their hideous jaws?"
But surely no men ever had just such a day since the world began.
Some fresh surprise was ever in store for us. When, following
the course of our brook, we at last reached our glade and saw
the thorny barricade of our camp, we thought that our adventures
were at an end. But we had something more to think of before we
could rest. The gate of Fort Challenger had been untouched, the
walls were unbroken, and yet it had been visited by some strange
and powerful creature in our absence. No foot-mark showed a trace
of its nature, and only the overhanging branch of the enormous
ginko tree suggested how it might have come and gone; but of its
malevolent strength there was ample evidence in the condition of
our stores. They were strewn at random all over the ground, and
one tin of meat had been crushed into pieces so as to extract
the contents. A case of cartridges had been shattered into
matchwood, and one of the brass shells lay shredded into pieces
beside it. Again the feeling of vague horror came upon our
souls, and we gazed round with frightened eyes at the dark
shadows which lay around us, in all of which some fearsome shape
might be lurking. How good it was when we were hailed by the
voice of Zambo, and, going to the edge of the plateau, saw him
sitting grinning at us upon the top of the opposite pinnacle.
"All well, Massa Challenger, all well!" he cried. "Me stay here.
No fear. You always find me when you want."
His honest black face, and the immense view before us, which
carried us half-way back to the affluent of the Amazon, helped us
to remember that we really were upon this earth in the twentieth
century, and had not by some magic been conveyed to some raw
planet in its earliest and wildest state. How difficult it was
to realize that the violet line upon the far horizon was well
advanced to that great river upon which huge steamers ran, and
folk talked of the small affairs of life, while we, marooned
among the creatures of a bygone age, could but gaze towards it
and yearn for all that it meant!
One other memory remains with me of this wonderful day, and with
it I will close this letter. The two professors, their tempers
aggravated no doubt by their injuries, had fallen out as to
whether our assailants were of the genus pterodactylus or
dimorphodon, and high words had ensued. To avoid their wrangling
I moved some little way apart, and was seated smoking upon the
trunk of a fallen tree, when Lord John strolled over in my direction.
"I say, Malone," said he, "do you remember that place where those
"A sort of volcanic pit, was it not?"
"Exactly," said I.
"Did you notice the soil?"
"But round the water--where the reeds were?"
"It was a bluish soil. It looked like clay."
"Exactly. A volcanic tube full of blue clay."
"What of that?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing, nothing," said he, and strolled back to where the
voices of the contending men of science rose in a prolonged duet,
the high, strident note of Summerlee rising and falling to the
sonorous bass of Challenger. I should have thought no more of
Lord John's remark were it not that once again that night I
heard him mutter to himself: "Blue clay--clay in a volcanic tube!"
They were the last words I heard before I dropped into an
"For once I was the Hero"
Lord John Roxton was right when he thought that some specially
toxic quality might lie in the bite of the horrible creatures
which had attacked us. On the morning after our first adventure
upon the plateau, both Summerlee and I were in great pain and
fever, while Challenger's knee was so bruised that he could
hardly limp. We kept to our camp all day, therefore, Lord John
busying himself, with such help as we could give him, in raising
the height and thickness of the thorny walls which were our
only defense. I remember that during the whole long day I was
haunted by the feeling that we were closely observed, though by
whom or whence I could give no guess.
So strong was the impression that I told Professor Challenger of
it, who put it down to the cerebral excitement caused by my fever.
Again and again I glanced round swiftly, with the conviction that
I was about to see something, but only to meet the dark tangle of
our hedge or the solemn and cavernous gloom of the great trees
which arched above our heads. And yet the feeling grew ever
stronger in my own mind that something observant and something
malevolent was at our very elbow. I thought of the Indian
superstition of the Curupuri--the dreadful, lurking spirit of
the woods--and I could have imagined that his terrible presence
haunted those who had invaded his most remote and sacred retreat.
That night (our third in Maple White Land) we had an experience
which left a fearful impression upon our minds, and made us
thankful that Lord John had worked so hard in making our
retreat impregnable. We were all sleeping round our dying fire
when we were aroused--or, rather, I should say, shot out of our
slumbers--by a succession of the most frightful cries and screams
to which I have ever listened. I know no sound to which I could
compare this amazing tumult, which seemed to come from some spot
within a few hundred yards of our camp. It was as ear-splitting
as any whistle of a railway-engine; but whereas the whistle is a
clear, mechanical, sharp-edged sound, this was far deeper in volume
and vibrant with the uttermost strain of agony and horror. We clapped
our hands to our ears to shut out that nerve-shaking appeal. A cold
sweat broke out over my body, and my heart turned sick at the misery
of it. All the woes of tortured life, all its stupendous indictment
of high heaven, its innumerable sorrows, seemed to be centered and
condensed into that one dreadful, agonized cry. And then, under
this high-pitched, ringing sound there was another, more intermittent,
a low, deep-chested laugh, a growling, throaty gurgle of merriment
which formed a grotesque accompaniment to the shriek with which it
was blended. For three or four minutes on end the fearsome duet
continued, while all the foliage rustled with the rising of
startled birds. Then it shut off as suddenly as it began. For a
long time we sat in horrified silence. Then Lord John threw a bundle
of twigs upon the fire, and their red glare lit up the intent faces
of my companions and flickered over the great boughs above our heads.
"What was it?" I whispered.
"We shall know in the morning," said Lord John. "It was close
to us--not farther than the glade."
"We have been privileged to overhear a prehistoric tragedy, the
sort of drama which occurred among the reeds upon the border of
some Jurassic lagoon, when the greater dragon pinned the lesser
among the slime," said Challenger, with more solemnity than I had
ever heard in his voice. "It was surely well for man that he
came late in the order of creation. There were powers abroad in
earlier days which no courage and no mechanism of his could have met.
What could his sling, his throwing-stick, or his arrow avail him
against such forces as have been loose to-night? Even with a
modern rifle it would be all odds on the monster."
"I think I should back my little friend," said Lord John,
caressing his Express. "But the beast would certainly have a
good sporting chance."
Summerlee raised his hand.
"Hush!" he cried. "Surely I hear something?"
From the utter silence there emerged a deep, regular pat-pat.
It was the tread of some animal--the rhythm of soft but heavy pads
placed cautiously upon the ground. It stole slowly round the
camp, and then halted near our gateway. There was a low, sibilant
rise and fall--the breathing of the creature. Only our feeble
hedge separated us from this horror of the night. Each of us
had seized his rifle, and Lord John had pulled out a small bush
to make an embrasure in the hedge.
"By George!" he whispered. "I think I can see it!"
I stooped and peered over his shoulder through the gap. Yes, I
could see it, too. In the deep shadow of the tree there was a
deeper shadow yet, black, inchoate, vague--a crouching form full
of savage vigor and menace. It was no higher than a horse, but
the dim outline suggested vast bulk and strength. That hissing
pant, as regular and full-volumed as the exhaust of an engine,
spoke of a monstrous organism. Once, as it moved, I thought I
saw the glint of two terrible, greenish eyes. There was an
uneasy rustling, as if it were crawling slowly forward.
"I believe it is going to spring!" said I, cocking my rifle.
"Don't fire! Don't fire!" whispered Lord John. "The crash of a
gun in this silent night would be heard for miles. Keep it as a
"If it gets over the hedge we're done," said Summerlee, and his
voice crackled into a nervous laugh as he spoke.
"No, it must not get over," cried Lord John; "but hold your
fire to the last. Perhaps I can make something of the fellow.
I'll chance it, anyhow."
It was as brave an act as ever I saw a man do. He stooped to
the fire, picked up a blazing branch, and slipped in an instant
through a sallyport which he had made in our gateway. The thing
moved forward with a dreadful snarl. Lord John never hesitated,
but, running towards it with a quick, light step, he dashed the
flaming wood into the brute's face. For one moment I had a
vision of a horrible mask like a giant toad's, of a warty,
leprous skin, and of a loose mouth all beslobbered with fresh blood.
The next, there was a crash in the underwood and our dreadful
visitor was gone.
"I thought he wouldn't face the fire," said Lord John, laughing,
as he came back and threw his branch among the faggots.
"You should not have taken such a risk!" we all cried.
"There was nothin' else to be done. If he had got among us we
should have shot each other in tryin' to down him. On the other
hand, if we had fired through the hedge and wounded him he would
soon have been on the top of us--to say nothin' of giving
ourselves away. On the whole, I think that we are jolly well out
of it. What was he, then?"
Our learned men looked at each other with some hesitation.
"Personally, I am unable to classify the creature with any
certainty," said Summerlee, lighting his pipe from the fire.
"In refusing to commit yourself you are but showing a proper
scientific reserve," said Challenger, with massive condescension.
"I am not myself prepared to go farther than to say in general
terms that we have almost certainly been in contact to-night with
some form of carnivorous dinosaur. I have already expressed my
anticipation that something of the sort might exist upon this plateau."
"We have to bear in mind," remarked Summerlee, that there are many
prehistoric forms which have never come down to us. It would be
rash to suppose that we can give a name to all that we are likely
"Exactly. A rough classification may be the best that we can attempt.
To-morrow some further evidence may help us to an identification.
Meantime we can only renew our interrupted slumbers."
"But not without a sentinel," said Lord John, with decision.
"We can't afford to take chances in a country like this.
Two-hour spells in the future, for each of us."
"Then I'll just finish my pipe in starting the first one," said
Professor Summerlee; and from that time onwards we never trusted
ourselves again without a watchman.
In the morning it was not long before we discovered the source
of the hideous uproar which had aroused us in the night.
The iguanodon glade was the scene of a horrible butchery.
From the pools of blood and the enormous lumps of flesh
scattered in every direction over the green sward we imagined
at first that a number of animals had been killed, but on
examining the remains more closely we discovered that all this
carnage came from one of these unwieldy monsters, which had been
literally torn to pieces by some creature not larger, perhaps,
but far more ferocious, than itself.
Our two professors sat in absorbed argument, examining piece
after piece, which showed the marks of savage teeth and of
"Our judgment must still be in abeyance," said Professor
Challenger, with a huge slab of whitish-colored flesh across
his knee. "The indications would be consistent with the presence
of a saber-toothed tiger, such as are still found among the breccia
of our caverns; but the creature actually seen was undoubtedly of
a larger and more reptilian character. Personally, I should
pronounce for allosaurus."
"Or megalosaurus," said Summerlee.
"Exactly. Any one of the larger carnivorous dinosaurs would meet
the case. Among them are to be found all the most terrible types
of animal life that have ever cursed the earth or blessed a museum."
He laughed sonorously at his own conceit, for, though he had little
sense of humor, the crudest pleasantry from his own lips moved him
always to roars of appreciation.
"The less noise the better," said Lord Roxton, curtly. "We don't
know who or what may be near us. If this fellah comes back for
his breakfast and catches us here we won't have so much to laugh at.
By the way, what is this mark upon the iguanodon's hide?"
On the dull, scaly, slate-colored skin somewhere above the
shoulder, there was a singular black circle of some substance
which looked like asphalt. None of us could suggest what it
meant, though Summerlee was of opinion that he had seen
something similar upon one of the young ones two days before.
Challenger said nothing, but looked pompous and puffy, as if he
could if he would, so that finally Lord John asked his opinion direct.
"If your lordship will graciously permit me to open my mouth,
I shall be happy to express my sentiments," said he, with
elaborate sarcasm. I am not in the habit of being taken to task
in the fashion which seems to be customary with your lordship.
I was not aware that it was necessary to ask your permission
before smiling at a harmless pleasantry."
It was not until he had received his apology that our touchy
friend would suffer himself to be appeased. When at last his
ruffled feelings were at ease, he addressed us at some length from
his seat upon a fallen tree, speaking, as his habit was, as if he
were imparting most precious information to a class of a thousand.
"With regard to the marking," said he, "I am inclined to agree
with my friend and colleague, Professor Summerlee, that the
stains are from asphalt. As this plateau is, in its very nature,
highly volcanic, and as asphalt is a substance which one
associates with Plutonic forces, I cannot doubt that it exists in
the free liquid state, and that the creatures may have come in
contact with it. A much more important problem is the question
as to the existence of the carnivorous monster which has left its
traces in this glade. We know roughly that this plateau is not
larger than an average English county. Within this confined
space a certain number of creatures, mostly types which have
passed away in the world below, have lived together for
innumerable years. Now, it is very clear to me that in so long a
period one would have expected that the carnivorous creatures,
multiplying unchecked, would have exhausted their food supply and
have been compelled to either modify their flesh-eating habits
or die of hunger. This we see has not been so. We can only
imagine, therefore, that the balance of Nature is preserved by
some check which limits the numbers of these ferocious creatures.
One of the many interesting problems, therefore, which await our
solution is to discover what that check may be and how it operates.
I venture to trust that we may have some future opportunity for
the closer study of the carnivorous dinosaurs."
"And I venture to trust we may not," I observed.
The Professor only raised his great eyebrows, as the schoolmaster
meets the irrelevant observation of the naughty boy.
"Perhaps Professor Summerlee may have an observation to make," he
said, and the two savants ascended together into some rarefied
scientific atmosphere, where the possibilities of a modification
of the birth-rate were weighed against the decline of the food
supply as a check in the struggle for existence.
That morning we mapped out a small portion of the plateau,
avoiding the swamp of the pterodactyls, and keeping to the east
of our brook instead of to the west. In that direction the
country was still thickly wooded, with so much undergrowth that
our progress was very slow.
I have dwelt up to now upon the terrors of Maple White Land; but
there was another side to the subject, for all that morning we
wandered among lovely flowers--mostly, as I observed, white or
yellow in color, these being, as our professors explained, the
primitive flower-shades. In many places the ground was
absolutely covered with them, and as we walked ankle-deep on that
wonderful yielding carpet, the scent was almost intoxicating in
its sweetness and intensity. The homely English bee buzzed
everywhere around us. Many of the trees under which we passed
had their branches bowed down with fruit, some of which were of
familiar sorts, while other varieties were new. By observing
which of them were pecked by the birds we avoided all danger of
poison and added a delicious variety to our food reserve. In the
jungle which we traversed were numerous hard-trodden paths made
by the wild beasts, and in the more marshy places we saw a
profusion of strange footmarks, including many of the iguanodon.
Once in a grove we observed several of these great creatures
grazing, and Lord John, with his glass, was able to report that
they also were spotted with asphalt, though in a different place
to the one which we had examined in the morning. What this
phenomenon meant we could not imagine.
We saw many small animals, such as porcupines, a scaly ant-eater,
and a wild pig, piebald in color and with long curved tusks.
Once, through a break in the trees, we saw a clear shoulder of
green hill some distance away, and across this a large dun-colored
animal was traveling at a considerable pace. It passed so swiftly
that we were unable to say what it was; but if it were a deer, as
was claimed by Lord John, it must have been as large as those
monstrous Irish elk which are still dug up from time to time in
the bogs of my native land.
Ever since the mysterious visit which had been paid to our camp
we always returned to it with some misgivings. However, on this
occasion we found everything in order.
That evening we had a grand discussion upon our present situation
and future plans, which I must describe at some length, as it led
to a new departure by which we were enabled to gain a more
complete knowledge of Maple White Land than might have come in
many weeks of exploring. It was Summerlee who opened the debate.
All day he had been querulous in manner, and now some remark of
Lord John's as to what we should do on the morrow brought all his
bitterness to a head.
"What we ought to be doing to-day, to-morrow, and all the time,"
said he, "is finding some way out of the trap into which we
have fallen. You are all turning your brains towards getting into
this country. I say that we should be scheming how to get out of it."
"I am surprised, sir," boomed Challenger, stroking his majestic
beard, "that any man of science should commit himself to so
ignoble a sentiment. You are in a land which offers such an
inducement to the ambitious naturalist as none ever has since the
world began, and you suggest leaving it before we have acquired
more than the most superficial knowledge of it or of its contents.
I expected better things of you, Professor Summerlee."
"You must remember," said Summerlee, sourly, "that I have a large
class in London who are at present at the mercy of an extremely
inefficient locum tenens. This makes my situation different from
yours, Professor Challenger, since, so far as I know, you have
never been entrusted with any responsible educational work."
"Quite so," said Challenger. "I have felt it to be a sacrilege
to divert a brain which is capable of the highest original
research to any lesser object. That is why I have sternly set
my face against any proffered scholastic appointment."
"For example?" asked Summerlee, with a sneer; but Lord John
hastened to change the conversation.
"I must say," said he, "that I think it would be a mighty poor
thing to go back to London before I know a great deal more of
this place than I do at present."
"I could never dare to walk into the back office of my paper and
face old McArdle," said I. (You will excuse the frankness of this
report, will you not, sir?) "He'd never forgive me for leaving
such unexhausted copy behind me. Besides, so far as I can see it
is not worth discussing, since we can't get down, even if we wanted."
"Our young friend makes up for many obvious mental lacunae by
some measure of primitive common sense, remarked Challenger.
"The interests of his deplorable profession are immaterial to us;
but, as he observes, we cannot get down in any case, so it is a
waste of energy to discuss it."
"It is a waste of energy to do anything else," growled Summerlee
from behind his pipe. "Let me remind you that we came here upon
a perfectly definite mission, entrusted to us at the meeting of
the Zoological Institute in London. That mission was to test the
truth of Professor Challenger's statements. Those statements,
as I am bound to admit, we are now in a position to endorse.
Our ostensible work is therefore done. As to the detail which
remains to be worked out upon this plateau, it is so enormous
that only a large expedition, with a very special equipment,
could hope to cope with it. Should we attempt to do so ourselves,
the only possible result must be that we shall never return with
the important contribution to science which we have already gained.
Professor Challenger has devised means for getting us on to this
plateau when it appeared to be inaccessible; I think that we should
now call upon him to use the same ingenuity in getting us back to
the world from which we came."
I confess that as Summerlee stated his view it struck me as
altogether reasonable. Even Challenger was affected by the
consideration that his enemies would never stand confuted if the
confirmation of his statements should never reach those who had
"The problem of the descent is at first sight a formidable one,"
said he, "and yet I cannot doubt that the intellect can solve it.
I am prepared to agree with our colleague that a protracted stay
in Maple White Land is at present inadvisable, and that the
question of our return will soon have to be faced. I absolutely
refuse to leave, however, until we have made at least a
superficial examination of this country, and are able to take
back with us something in the nature of a chart."
Professor Summerlee gave a snort of impatience.
"We have spent two long days in exploration," said he, "and we
are no wiser as to the actual geography of the place than when
we started. It is clear that it is all thickly wooded, and it
would take months to penetrate it and to learn the relations of
one part to another. If there were some central peak it would
be different, but it all slopes downwards, so far as we can see.
The farther we go the less likely it is that we will get any
It was at that moment that I had my inspiration. My eyes chanced
to light upon the enormous gnarled trunk of the gingko tree which
cast its huge branches over us. Surely, if its bole exceeded
that of all others, its height must do the same. If the rim of
the plateau was indeed the highest point, then why should this
mighty tree not prove to be a watchtower which commanded the
whole country? Now, ever since I ran wild as a lad in Ireland I
have been a bold and skilled tree-climber. My comrades might be
my masters on the rocks, but I knew that I would be supreme among
those branches. Could I only get my legs on to the lowest of the
giant off-shoots, then it would be strange indeed if I could not
make my way to the top. My comrades were delighted at my idea.
"Our young friend," said Challenger, bunching up the red apples
of his cheeks, "is capable of acrobatic exertions which would be
impossible to a man of a more solid, though possibly of a more
commanding, appearance. I applaud his resolution."
"By George, young fellah, you've put your hand on it!" said Lord
John, clapping me on the back. "How we never came to think of it
before I can't imagine! There's not more than an hour of daylight
left, but if you take your notebook you may be able to get some
rough sketch of the place. If we put these three ammunition
cases under the branch, I will soon hoist you on to it."
He stood on the boxes while I faced the trunk, and was gently
raising me when Challenger sprang forward and gave me such a
thrust with his huge hand that he fairly shot me into the tree.
With both arms clasping the branch, I scrambled hard with my
feet until I had worked, first my body, and then my knees, onto it.
There were three excellent off-shoots, like huge rungs of a
ladder, above my head, and a tangle of convenient branches
beyond, so that I clambered onwards with such speed that I soon
lost sight of the ground and had nothing but foliage beneath me.
Now and then I encountered a check, and once I had to shin up a
creeper for eight or ten feet, but I made excellent progress, and
the booming of Challenger's voice seemed to be a great distance
beneath me. The tree was, however, enormous, and, looking
upwards, I could see no thinning of the leaves above my head.
There was some thick, bush-like clump which seemed to be a
parasite upon a branch up which I was swarming. I leaned my head
round it in order to see what was beyond, and I nearly fell out
of the tree in my surprise and horror at what I saw.
A face was gazing into mine--at the distance of only a foot or two.
The creature that owned it had been crouching behind the parasite,
and had looked round it at the same instant that I did. It was
a human face--or at least it was far more human than any monkey's
that I have ever seen. It was long, whitish, and blotched with
pimples, the nose flattened, and the lower jaw projecting, with
a bristle of coarse whiskers round the chin. The eyes, which
were under thick and heavy brows, were bestial and ferocious,
and as it opened its mouth to snarl what sounded like a curse at
me I observed that it had curved, sharp canine teeth. For an
instant I read hatred and menace in the evil eyes. Then, as quick
as a flash, came an expression of overpowering fear. There was
a crash of broken boughs as it dived wildly down into the tangle
of green. I caught a glimpse of a hairy body like that of a
reddish pig, and then it was gone amid a swirl of leaves and branches.
"What's the matter?" shouted Roxton from below. "Anything wrong
"Did you see it?" I cried, with my arms round the branch and all
my nerves tingling.
"We heard a row, as if your foot had slipped. What was it?"
I was so shocked at the sudden and strange appearance of this
ape-man that I hesitated whether I should not climb down again
and tell my experience to my companions. But I was already so
far up the great tree that it seemed a humiliation to return
without having carried out my mission.
After a long pause, therefore, to recover my breath and my
courage, I continued my ascent. Once I put my weight upon a
rotten branch and swung for a few seconds by my hands, but in the
main it was all easy climbing. Gradually the leaves thinned
around me, and I was aware, from the wind upon my face, that I
had topped all the trees of the forest. I was determined,
however, not to look about me before I had reached the very
highest point, so I scrambled on until I had got so far that the
topmost branch was bending beneath my weight. There I settled
into a convenient fork, and, balancing myself securely, I found
myself looking down at a most wonderful panorama of this strange
country in which we found ourselves.
The sun was just above the western sky-line, and the evening was
a particularly bright and clear one, so that the whole extent of
the plateau was visible beneath me. It was, as seen from this
height, of an oval contour, with a breadth of about thirty miles
and a width of twenty. Its general shape was that of a shallow
funnel, all the sides sloping down to a considerable lake in
the center. This lake may have been ten miles in circumference,
and lay very green and beautiful in the evening light, with a
thick fringe of reeds at its edges, and with its surface broken
by several yellow sandbanks, which gleamed golden in the
mellow sunshine. A number of long dark objects, which were too
large for alligators and too long for canoes, lay upon the edges
of these patches of sand. With my glass I could clearly see that
they were alive, but what their nature might be I could not imagine.
From the side of the plateau on which we were, slopes of
woodland, with occasional glades, stretched down for five or six
miles to the central lake. I could see at my very feet the glade
of the iguanodons, and farther off was a round opening in the
trees which marked the swamp of the pterodactyls. On the side
facing me, however, the plateau presented a very different aspect.
There the basalt cliffs of the outside were reproduced upon the
inside, forming an escarpment about two hundred feet high, with
a woody slope beneath it. Along the base of these red cliffs,
some distance above the ground, I could see a number of dark
holes through the glass, which I conjectured to be the mouths
of caves. At the opening of one of these something white was
shimmering, but I was unable to make out what it was. I sat
charting the country until the sun had set and it was so dark
that I could no longer distinguish details. Then I climbed down
to my companions waiting for me so eagerly at the bottom of the
great tree. For once I was the hero of the expedition. Alone I
had thought of it, and alone I had done it; and here was the
chart which would save us a month's blind groping among
unknown dangers. Each of them shook me solemnly by the hand.
But before they discussed the details of my map I had to tell
them of my encounter with the ape-man among the branches.
"He has been there all the time," said I.
"How do you know that?" asked Lord John.
"Because I have never been without that feeling that something
malevolent was watching us. I mentioned it to you, Professor Challenger."
"Our young friend certainly said something of the kind. He is
also the one among us who is endowed with that Celtic temperament
which would make him sensitive to such impressions."
"The whole theory of telepathy----" began Summerlee, filling his pipe.
"Is too vast to be now discussed," said Challenger, with decision.
"Tell me, now," he added, with the air of a bishop addressing a
Sunday-school, "did you happen to observe whether the creature
could cross its thumb over its palm?"
"Had it a tail?"
"Was the foot prehensile?"
"I do not think it could have made off so fast among the branches
if it could not get a grip with its feet."
"In South America there are, if my memory serves me--you will
check the observation, Professor Summerlee--some thirty-six
species of monkeys, but the anthropoid ape is unknown. It is
clear, however, that he exists in this country, and that he is
not the hairy, gorilla-like variety, which is never seen out of
Africa or the East." (I was inclined to interpolate, as I looked
at him, that I had seen his first cousin in Kensington.) "This is
a whiskered and colorless type, the latter characteristic pointing
to the fact that he spends his days in arboreal seclusion.
The question which we have to face is whether he approaches more
closely to the ape or the man. In the latter case, he may well
approximate to what the vulgar have called the `missing link.'
The solution of this problem is our immediate duty."
"It is nothing of the sort," said Summerlee, abruptly. "Now that,
through the intelligence and activity of Mr. Malone" (I cannot help
quoting the words), "we have got our chart, our one and only
immediate duty is to get ourselves safe and sound out of this
"The flesh-pots of civilization," groaned Challenger.
"The ink-pots of civilization, sir. It is our task to put on
record what we have seen, and to leave the further exploration
to others. You all agreed as much before Mr. Malone got us the chart."
"Well," said Challenger, "I admit that my mind will be more at
ease when I am assured that the result of our expedition has been
conveyed to our friends. How we are to get down from this place
I have not as yet an idea. I have never yet encountered any
problem, however, which my inventive brain was unable to solve,
and I promise you that to-morrow I will turn my attention to the
question of our descent." And so the matter was allowed to rest.
But that evening, by the light of the fire and of a single candle,
the first map of the lost world was elaborated. Every detail
which I had roughly noted from my watch-tower was drawn out in
its relative place. Challenger's pencil hovered over the great
blank which marked the lake.
"What shall we call it?" he asked.
"Why should you not take the chance of perpetuating your own
name?" said Summerlee, with his usual touch of acidity.
"I trust, sir, that my name will have other and more personal
claims upon posterity," said Challenger, severely. "Any ignoramus
can hand down his worthless memory by imposing it upon a mountain
or a river. I need no such monument."
Summerlee, with a twisted smile, was about to make some fresh
assault when Lord John hastened to intervene.
"It's up to you, young fellah, to name the lake," said he.
"You saw it first, and, by George, if you choose to put `Lake
Malone' on it, no one has a better right."
"By all means. Let our young friend give it a name," said Challenger.
"Then, said I, blushing, I dare say, as I said it, "let it be
named Lake Gladys."
"Don't you think the Central Lake would be more descriptive?"
"I should prefer Lake Gladys."
Challenger looked at me sympathetically, and shook his great head
in mock disapproval. "Boys will be boys," said he. "Lake Gladys
let it be."
"It was Dreadful in the Forest"
I have said--or perhaps I have not said, for my memory plays me
sad tricks these days--that I glowed with pride when three such
men as my comrades thanked me for having saved, or at least
greatly helped, the situation. As the youngster of the party,
not merely in years, but in experience, character, knowledge, and
all that goes to make a man, I had been overshadowed from the first.
And now I was coming into my own. I warmed at the thought.
Alas! for the pride which goes before a fall! That little glow
of self-satisfaction, that added measure of self-confidence, were
to lead me on that very night to the most dreadful experience
of my life, ending with a shock which turns my heart sick when I
think of it.
It came about in this way. I had been unduly excited by the
adventure of the tree, and sleep seemed to be impossible.
Summerlee was on guard, sitting hunched over our small fire,
a quaint, angular figure, his rifle across his knees and his
pointed, goat-like beard wagging with each weary nod of his head.
Lord John lay silent, wrapped in the South American poncho which
he wore, while Challenger snored with a roll and rattle which
reverberated through the woods. The full moon was shining
brightly, and the air was crisply cold. What a night for a walk!
And then suddenly came the thought, "Why not?" Suppose I stole
softly away, suppose I made my way down to the central lake,
suppose I was back at breakfast with some record of the place--
would I not in that case be thought an even more worthy associate?
Then, if Summerlee carried the day and some means of escape were
found, we should return to London with first-hand knowledge of
the central mystery of the plateau, to which I alone, of all
men, would have penetrated. I thought of Gladys, with her "There
are heroisms all round us." I seemed to hear her voice as she
said it. I thought also of McArdle. What a three column article
for the paper! What a foundation for a career! A correspondentship
in the next great war might be within my reach. I clutched at a
gun--my pockets were full of cartridges--and, parting the thorn
bushes at the gate of our zareba, quickly slipped out. My last
glance showed me the unconscious Summerlee, most futile of
sentinels, still nodding away like a queer mechanical toy in front
of the smouldering fire.
I had not gone a hundred yards before I deeply repented my rashness.
I may have said somewhere in this chronicle that I am too
imaginative to be a really courageous man, but that I have an
overpowering fear of seeming afraid. This was the power which
now carried me onwards. I simply could not slink back with
nothing done. Even if my comrades should not have missed me, and
should never know of my weakness, there would still remain some
intolerable self-shame in my own soul. And yet I shuddered at
the position in which I found myself, and would have given all I
possessed at that moment to have been honorably free of the
It was dreadful in the forest. The trees grew so thickly and
their foliage spread so widely that I could see nothing of the
moon-light save that here and there the high branches made a
tangled filigree against the starry sky. As the eyes became more
used to the obscurity one learned that there were different
degrees of darkness among the trees--that some were dimly
visible, while between and among them there were coal-black
shadowed patches, like the mouths of caves, from which I shrank
in horror as I passed. I thought of the despairing yell of the
tortured iguanodon--that dreadful cry which had echoed through
the woods. I thought, too, of the glimpse I had in the light of
Lord John's torch of that bloated, warty, blood-slavering muzzle.
Even now I was on its hunting-ground. At any instant it might
spring upon me from the shadows--this nameless and horrible monster.
I stopped, and, picking a cartridge from my pocket, I opened the
breech of my gun. As I touched the lever my heart leaped within me.
It was the shot-gun, not the rifle, which I had taken!
Again the impulse to return swept over me. Here, surely, was a
most excellent reason for my failure--one for which no one would
think the less of me. But again the foolish pride fought against
that very word. I could not--must not--fail. After all, my
rifle would probably have been as useless as a shot-gun against
such dangers as I might meet. If I were to go back to camp to
change my weapon I could hardly expect to enter and to leave
again without being seen. In that case there would be
explanations, and my attempt would no longer be all my own.
After a little hesitation, then, I screwed up my courage and
continued upon my way, my useless gun under my arm.
The darkness of the forest had been alarming, but even worse
was the white, still flood of moonlight in the open glade of
the iguanodons. Hid among the bushes, I looked out at it. None of
the great brutes were in sight. Perhaps the tragedy which had
befallen one of them had driven them from their feeding-ground.
In the misty, silvery night I could see no sign of any living thing.
Taking courage, therefore, I slipped rapidly across it, and among
the jungle on the farther side I picked up once again the brook
which was my guide. It was a cheery companion, gurgling and
chuckling as it ran, like the dear old trout-stream in the West
Country where I have fished at night in my boyhood. So long as
I followed it down I must come to the lake, and so long as I
followed it back I must come to the camp. Often I had to lose
sight of it on account of the tangled brush-wood, but I was always
within earshot of its tinkle and splash.
As one descended the slope the woods became thinner, and bushes,
with occasional high trees, took the place of the forest.
I could make good progress, therefore, and I could see without
being seen. I passed close to the pterodactyl swamp, and as I
did so, with a dry, crisp, leathery rattle of wings, one of
these great creatures--it was twenty feet at least from tip to
tip--rose up from somewhere near me and soared into the air.
As it passed across the face of the moon the light shone clearly
through the membranous wings, and it looked like a flying
skeleton against the white, tropical radiance. I crouched low
among the bushes, for I knew from past experience that with a
single cry the creature could bring a hundred of its loathsome
mates about my ears. It was not until it had settled again that
I dared to steal onwards upon my journey.
The night had been exceedingly still, but as I advanced I became
conscious of a low, rumbling sound, a continuous murmur,
somewhere in front of me. This grew louder as I proceeded, until
at last it was clearly quite close to me. When I stood still
the sound was constant, so that it seemed to come from some
stationary cause. It was like a boiling kettle or the bubbling
of some great pot. Soon I came upon the source of it, for in the
center of a small clearing I found a lake--or a pool, rather,
for it was not larger than the basin of the Trafalgar Square
fountain--of some black, pitch-like stuff, the surface of which
rose and fell in great blisters of bursting gas. The air above
it was shimmering with heat, and the ground round was so hot that
I could hardly bear to lay my hand on it. It was clear that the
great volcanic outburst which had raised this strange plateau so
many years ago had not yet entirely spent its forces. Blackened rocks
and mounds of lava I had already seen everywhere peeping out from
amid the luxuriant vegetation which draped them, but this asphalt
pool in the jungle was the first sign that we had of actual
existing activity on the slopes of the ancient crater. I had no
time to examine it further for I had need to hurry if I were to be
back in camp in the morning.
It was a fearsome walk, and one which will be with me so long as
memory holds. In the great moonlight clearings I slunk along
among the shadows on the margin. In the jungle I crept forward,
stopping with a beating heart whenever I heard, as I often did,
the crash of breaking branches as some wild beast went past.
Now and then great shadows loomed up for an instant and were
gone--great, silent shadows which seemed to prowl upon padded feet.
How often I stopped with the intention of returning, and yet every
time my pride conquered my fear, and sent me on again until my
object should be attained.
At last (my watch showed that it was one in the morning) I saw
the gleam of water amid the openings of the jungle, and ten
minutes later I was among the reeds upon the borders of the
central lake. I was exceedingly dry, so I lay down and took a
long draught of its waters, which were fresh and cold. There was
a broad pathway with many tracks upon it at the spot which I had
found, so that it was clearly one of the drinking-places of
the animals. Close to the water's edge there was a huge isolated
block of lava. Up this I climbed, and, lying on the top, I had
an excellent view in every direction.
The first thing which I saw filled me with amazement. When I
described the view from the summit of the great tree, I said that
on the farther cliff I could see a number of dark spots, which
appeared to be the mouths of caves. Now, as I looked up at the
same cliffs, I saw discs of light in every direction, ruddy,
clearly-defined patches, like the port-holes of a liner in
the darkness. For a moment I thought it was the lava-glow from
some volcanic action; but this could not be so. Any volcanic action
would surely be down in the hollow and not high among the rocks.
What, then, was the alternative? It was wonderful, and yet it
must surely be. These ruddy spots must be the reflection of
fires within the caves--fires which could only be lit by the
hand of man. There were human beings, then, upon the plateau.
How gloriously my expedition was justified! Here was news indeed
for us to bear back with us to London!
For a long time I lay and watched these red, quivering blotches
of light. I suppose they were ten miles off from me, yet even
at that distance one could observe how, from time to time, they
twinkled or were obscured as someone passed before them. What would
I not have given to be able to crawl up to them, to peep in, and
to take back some word to my comrades as to the appearance and
character of the race who lived in so strange a place! It was
out of the question for the moment, and yet surely we could not
leave the plateau until we had some definite knowledge upon the point.
Lake Gladys--my own lake--lay like a sheet of quicksilver before
me, with a reflected moon shining brightly in the center of it.
It was shallow, for in many places I saw low sandbanks protruding
above the water. Everywhere upon the still surface I could see
signs of life, sometimes mere rings and ripples in the water,
sometimes the gleam of a great silver-sided fish in the air,
sometimes the arched, slate-colored back of some passing monster.
Once upon a yellow sandbank I saw a creature like a huge swan,
with a clumsy body and a high, flexible neck, shuffling about
upon the margin. Presently it plunged in, and for some time I
could see the arched neck and darting head undulating over the water.
Then it dived, and I saw it no more.
My attention was soon drawn away from these distant sights and
brought back to what was going on at my very feet. Two creatures
like large armadillos had come down to the drinking-place, and
were squatting at the edge of the water, their long, flexible
tongues like red ribbons shooting in and out as they lapped.
A huge deer, with branching horns, a magnificent creature which
carried itself like a king, came down with its doe and two fawns
and drank beside the armadillos. No such deer exist anywhere
else upon earth, for the moose or elks which I have seen would
hardly have reached its shoulders. Presently it gave a warning
snort, and was off with its family among the reeds, while the
armadillos also scuttled for shelter. A new-comer, a most
monstrous animal, was coming down the path.
For a moment I wondered where I could have seen that ungainly
shape, that arched back with triangular fringes along it, that
strange bird-like head held close to the ground. Then it came
back, to me. It was the stegosaurus--the very creature which
Maple White had preserved in his sketch-book, and which had been
the first object which arrested the attention of Challenger!
There he was--perhaps the very specimen which the American artist
had encountered. The ground shook beneath his tremendous weight,
and his gulpings of water resounded through the still night.
For five minutes he was so close to my rock that by stretching out
my hand I could have touched the hideous waving hackles upon his back.
Then he lumbered away and was lost among the boulders.
Looking at my watch, I saw that it was half-past two o'clock, and
high time, therefore, that I started upon my homeward journey.
There was no difficulty about the direction in which I should
return for all along I had kept the little brook upon my left,
and it opened into the central lake within a stone's-throw of the
boulder upon which I had been lying. I set off, therefore, in
high spirits, for I felt that I had done good work and was
bringing back a fine budget of news for my companions. Foremost of
all, of course, were the sight of the fiery caves and the certainty
that some troglodytic race inhabited them. But besides that I
could speak from experience of the central lake. I could testify
that it was full of strange creatures, and I had seen several
land forms of primeval life which we had not before encountered.
I reflected as I walked that few men in the world could have spent
a stranger night or added more to human knowledge in the course of it.
I was plodding up the slope, turning these thoughts over in my
mind, and had reached a point which may have been half-way to
home, when my mind was brought back to my own position by a
strange noise behind me. It was something between a snore and
a growl, low, deep, and exceedingly menacing. Some strange
creature was evidently near me, but nothing could be seen, so I
hastened more rapidly upon my way. I had traversed half a mile
or so when suddenly the sound was repeated, still behind me, but
louder and more menacing than before. My heart stood still
within me as it flashed across me that the beast, whatever it
was, must surely be after ME. My skin grew cold and my hair
rose at the thought. That these monsters should tear each other
to pieces was a part of the strange struggle for existence,
but that they should turn upon modern man, that they should
deliberately track and hunt down the predominant human, was a
staggering and fearsome thought. I remembered again the
blood-beslobbered face which we had seen in the glare of Lord
John's torch, like some horrible vision from the deepest circle
of Dante's hell. With my knees shaking beneath me, I stood and
glared with starting eyes down the moonlit path which lay behind me.
All was quiet as in a dream landscape. Silver clearings and the
black patches of the bushes--nothing else could I see. Then from
out of the silence, imminent and threatening, there came once more
that low, throaty croaking, far louder and closer than before.
There could no longer be a doubt. Something was on my trail, and
was closing in upon me every minute.
I stood like a man paralyzed, still staring at the ground which I
had traversed. Then suddenly I saw it. There was movement among
the bushes at the far end of the clearing which I had just traversed.
A great dark shadow disengaged itself and hopped out into the clear
moonlight. I say "hopped" advisedly, for the beast moved like a
kangaroo, springing along in an erect position upon its powerful
hind legs, while its front ones were held bent in front of it.
It was of enormous size and power, like an erect elephant, but its
movements, in spite of its bulk, were exceedingly alert. For a
moment, as I saw its shape, I hoped that it was an iguanodon,
which I knew to be harmless, but, ignorant as I was, I soon saw
that this was a very different creature. Instead of the gentle,
deer-shaped head of the great three-toed leaf-eater, this beast
had a broad, squat, toad-like face like that which had alarmed us
in our camp. His ferocious cry and the horrible energy of his
pursuit both assured me that this was surely one of the great
flesh-eating dinosaurs, the most terrible beasts which have ever
walked this earth. As the huge brute loped along it dropped forward
upon its fore-paws and brought its nose to the ground every twenty
yards or so. It was smelling out my trail. Sometimes, for an
instant, it was at fault. Then it would catch it up again and
come bounding swiftly along the path I had taken.
Even now when I think of that nightmare the sweat breaks out upon
my brow. What could I do? My useless fowling-piece was in my hand.
What help could I get from that? I looked desperately round for
some rock or tree, but I was in a bushy jungle with nothing higher
than a sapling within sight, while I knew that the creature behind
me could tear down an ordinary tree as though it were a reed.
My only possible chance lay in flight. I could not move swiftly
over the rough, broken ground, but as I looked round me in despair
I saw a well-marked, hard-beaten path which ran across in front
of me. We had seen several of the sort, the runs of various wild
beasts, during our expeditions. Along this I could perhaps hold
my own, for I was a fast runner, and in excellent condition.
Flinging away my useless gun, I set myself to do such a half-mile
as I have never done before or since. My limbs ached, my chest
heaved, I felt that my throat would burst for want of air, and yet
with that horror behind me I ran and I ran and ran. At last I
paused, hardly able to move. For a moment I thought that I had
thrown him off. The path lay still behind me. And then suddenly,
with a crashing and a rending, a thudding of giant feet and a
panting of monster lungs the beast was upon me once more. He was
at my very heels. I was lost.
Madman that I was to linger so long before I fled! Up to then he
had hunted by scent, and his movement was slow. But he had
actually seen me as I started to run. From then onwards he had
hunted by sight, for the path showed him where I had gone. Now, as
he came round the curve, he was springing in great bounds.
The moonlight shone upon his huge projecting eyes, the row of
enormous teeth in his open mouth, and the gleaming fringe of
claws upon his short, powerful forearms. With a scream of terror
I turned and rushed wildly down the path. Behind me the thick,
gasping breathing of the creature sounded louder and louder.
His heavy footfall was beside me. Every instant I expected to feel
his grip upon my back. And then suddenly there came a crash--I was
falling through space, and everything beyond was darkness and rest.
As I emerged from my unconsciousness--which could not, I think,
have lasted more than a few minutes--I was aware of a most
dreadful and penetrating smell. Putting out my hand in the
darkness I came upon something which felt like a huge lump of
meat, while my other hand closed upon a large bone. Up above me
there was a circle of starlit sky, which showed me that I was
lying at the bottom of a deep pit. Slowly I staggered to my feet
and felt myself all over. I was stiff and sore from head to
foot, but there was no limb which would not move, no joint which
would not bend. As the circumstances of my fall came back into
my confused brain, I looked up in terror, expecting to see that
dreadful head silhouetted against the paling sky. There was no
sign of the monster, however, nor could I hear any sound from above.
I began to walk slowly round, therefore, feeling in every direction
to find out what this strange place could be into which I had been
so opportunely precipitated.
It was, as I have said, a pit, with sharply-sloping walls and a
level bottom about twenty feet across. This bottom was littered
with great gobbets of flesh, most of which was in the last state
of putridity. The atmosphere was poisonous and horrible.
After tripping and stumbling over these lumps of decay, I came
suddenly against something hard, and I found that an upright post
was firmly fixed in the center of the hollow. It was so high that
I could not reach the top of it with my hand, and it appeared to be
covered with grease.
Suddenly I remembered that I had a tin box of wax-vestas in
my pocket. Striking one of them, I was able at last to form some
opinion of this place into which I had fallen. There could be no
question as to its nature. It was a trap--made by the hand of man.
The post in the center, some nine feet long, was sharpened
at the upper end, and was black with the stale blood of the
creatures who had been impaled upon it. The remains scattered
about were fragments of the victims, which had been cut away in
order to clear the stake for the next who might blunder in.
I remembered that Challenger had declared that man could not exist
upon the plateau, since with his feeble weapons he could not hold
his own against the monsters who roamed over it. But now it was
clear enough how it could be done. In their narrow-mouthed caves
the natives, whoever they might be, had refuges into which the
huge saurians could not penetrate, while with their developed
brains they were capable of setting such traps, covered with
branches, across the paths which marked the run of the animals as
would destroy them in spite of all their strength and activity.
Man was always the master.
The sloping wall of the pit was not difficult for an active man
to climb, but I hesitated long before I trusted myself within
reach of the dreadful creature which had so nearly destroyed me.
How did I know that he was not lurking in the nearest clump of
bushes, waiting for my reappearance? I took heart, however, as I
recalled a conversation between Challenger and Summerlee upon the
habits of the great saurians. Both were agreed that the monsters
were practically brainless, that there was no room for reason in
their tiny cranial cavities, and that if they have disappeared
from the rest of the world it was assuredly on account of their
own stupidity, which made it impossible for them to adapt
themselves to changing conditions.
To lie in wait for me now would mean that the creature had
appreciated what had happened to me, and this in turn would argue
some power connecting cause and effect. Surely it was more
likely that a brainless creature, acting solely by vague
predatory instinct, would give up the chase when I disappeared,
and, after a pause of astonishment, would wander away in search
of some other prey? I clambered to the edge of the pit and
looked over. The stars were fading, the sky was whitening, and
the cold wind of morning blew pleasantly upon my face. I could
see or hear nothing of my enemy. Slowly I climbed out and sat for
a while upon the ground, ready to spring back into my refuge if any
danger should appear. Then, reassured by the absolute stillness
and by the growing light, I took my courage in both hands and
stole back along the path which I had come. Some distance down
it I picked up my gun, and shortly afterwards struck the brook
which was my guide. So, with many a frightened backward glance,
I made for home.
And suddenly there came something to remind me of my absent companions.
In the clear, still morning air there sounded far away the sharp,
hard note of a single rifle-shot. I paused and listened, but
there was nothing more. For a moment I was shocked at the thought
that some sudden danger might have befallen them. But then a
simpler and more natural explanation came to my mind. It was now
broad daylight. No doubt my absence had been noticed. They had
imagined, that I was lost in the woods, and had fired this shot
to guide me home. It is true that we had made a strict resolution
against firing, but if it seemed to them that I might be in danger
they would not hesitate. It was for me now to hurry on as fast as
possible, and so to reassure them.
I was weary and spent, so my progress was not so fast as I
wished; but at last I came into regions which I knew. There was
the swamp of the pterodactyls upon my left; there in front of me
was the glade of the iguanodons. Now I was in the last belt of
trees which separated me from Fort Challenger. I raised my voice
in a cheery shout to allay their fears. No answering greeting
came back to me. My heart sank at that ominous stillness.
I quickened my pace into a run. The zareba rose before me, even
as I had left it, but the gate was open. I rushed in. In the cold,
morning light it was a fearful sight which met my eyes. Our effects
were scattered in wild confusion over the ground; my comrades had
disappeared, and close to the smouldering ashes of our fire the
grass was stained crimson with a hideous pool of blood.
I was so stunned by this sudden shock that for a time I must
have nearly lost my reason. I have a vague recollection, as
one remembers a bad dream, of rushing about through the woods
all round the empty camp, calling wildly for my companions.
No answer came back from the silent shadows. The horrible
thought that I might never see them again, that I might find
myself abandoned all alone in that dreadful place, with no
possible way of descending into the world below, that I might
live and die in that nightmare country, drove me to desperation.
I could have torn my hair and beaten my head in my despair.
Only now did I realize how I had learned to lean upon my
companions, upon the serene self-confidence of Challenger,
and upon the masterful, humorous coolness of Lord John Roxton.
Without them I was like a child in the dark, helpless and powerless.
I did not know which way to turn or what I should do first.
After a period, during which I sat in bewilderment, I set myself
to try and discover what sudden misfortune could have befallen
my companions. The whole disordered appearance of the camp
showed that there had been some sort of attack, and the rifle-
shot no doubt marked the time when it had occurred. That there
should have been only one shot showed that it had been all over
in an instant. The rifles still lay upon the ground, and one
of them--Lord John's--had the empty cartridge in the breech.
The blankets of Challenger and of Summerlee beside the fire
suggested that they had been asleep at the time. The cases of
ammunition and of food were scattered about in a wild litter,
together with our unfortunate cameras and plate-carriers, but
none of them were missing. On the other hand, all the exposed
provisions--and I remembered that there were a considerable
quantity of them--were gone. They were animals, then, and not
natives, who had made the inroad, for surely the latter would
have left nothing behind.
But if animals, or some single terrible animal, then what had
become of my comrades? A ferocious beast would surely have
destroyed them and left their remains. It is true that there was
that one hideous pool of blood, which told of violence. Such a
monster as had pursued me during the night could have carried
away a victim as easily as a cat would a mouse. In that case the
others would have followed in pursuit. But then they would
assuredly have taken their rifles with them. The more I tried to
think it out with my confused and weary brain the less could I
find any plausible explanation. I searched round in the forest,
but could see no tracks which could help me to a conclusion.
Once I lost myself, and it was only by good luck, and after an
hour of wandering, that I found the camp once more.
Suddenly a thought came to me and brought some little comfort to
my heart. I was not absolutely alone in the world. Down at the
bottom of the cliff, and within call of me, was waiting the
faithful Zambo. I went to the edge of the plateau and looked over.
Sure enough, he was squatting among his blankets beside his fire
in his little camp. But, to my amazement, a second man was seated
in front of him. For an instant my heart leaped for joy, as I
thought that one of my comrades had made his way safely down.
But a second glance dispelled the hope. The rising sun shone
red upon the man's skin. He was an Indian. I shouted loudly
and waved my handkerchief. Presently Zambo looked up, waved his
hand, and turned to ascend the pinnacle. In a short time he was
standing close to me and listening with deep distress to the story
which I told him.
"Devil got them for sure, Massa Malone," said he. "You got
into the devil's country, sah, and he take you all to himself.
You take advice, Massa Malone, and come down quick, else he get
you as well."
"How can I come down, Zambo?"
"You get creepers from trees, Massa Malone. Throw them over here.
I make fast to this stump, and so you have bridge."
"We have thought of that. There are no creepers here which could
"Send for ropes, Massa Malone."
"Who can I send, and where?"
"Send to Indian villages, sah. Plenty hide rope in Indian village.
Indian down below; send him."
"Who is he?
"One of our Indians. Other ones beat him and take away his pay.
He come back to us. Ready now to take letter, bring rope,--anything."
To take a letter! Why not? Perhaps he might bring help; but
in any case he would ensure that our lives were not spent for
nothing, and that news of all that we had won for Science
should reach our friends at home. I had two completed letters
already waiting. I would spend the day in writing a third, which
would bring my experiences absolutely up to date. The Indian could
bear this back to the world. I ordered Zambo, therefore, to come
again in the evening, and I spent my miserable and lonely day in
recording my own adventures of the night before. I also drew up
a note, to be given to any white merchant or captain of a
steam-boat whom the Indian could find, imploring them to see that
ropes were sent to us, since our lives must depend upon it.
These documents I threw to Zambo in the evening, and also my
purse, which contained three English sovereigns. These were to
be given to the Indian, and he was promised twice as much if he
returned with the ropes.
So now you will understand, my dear Mr. McArdle, how this
communication reaches you, and you will also know the truth, in
case you never hear again from your unfortunate correspondent.
To-night I am too weary and too depressed to make my plans.
To-morrow I must think out some way by which I shall keep in
touch with this camp, and yet search round for any traces of my
"A Sight which I shall Never Forget"
Just as the sun was setting upon that melancholy night I saw the
lonely figure of the Indian upon the vast plain beneath me, and I
watched him, our one faint hope of salvation, until he disappeared
in the rising mists of evening which lay, rose-tinted from the
setting sun, between the far-off river and me.
It was quite dark when I at last turned back to our stricken
camp, and my last vision as I went was the red gleam of Zambo's
fire, the one point of light in the wide world below, as was
his faithful presence in my own shadowed soul. And yet I felt
happier than I had done since this crushing blow had fallen upon
me, for it was good to think that the world should know what we
had done, so that at the worst our names should not perish with
our bodies, but should go down to posterity associated with the
result of our labors.
It was an awesome thing to sleep in that ill-fated camp; and yet
it was even more unnerving to do so in the jungle. One or the
other it must be. Prudence, on the one hand, warned me that I
should remain on guard, but exhausted Nature, on the other,
declared that I should do nothing of the kind. I climbed up on
to a limb of the great gingko tree, but there was no secure perch
on its rounded surface, and I should certainly have fallen off
and broken my neck the moment I began to doze. I got down,
therefore, and pondered over what I should do. Finally, I closed
the door of the zareba, lit three separate fires in a triangle,
and having eaten a hearty supper dropped off into a profound sleep,
from which I had a strange and most welcome awakening. In the
early morning, just as day was breaking, a hand was laid upon
my arm, and starting up, with all my nerves in a tingle and my
hand feeling for a rifle, I gave a cry of joy as in the cold gray
light I saw Lord John Roxton kneeling beside me.
It was he--and yet it was not he. I had left him calm in his