The Lost World
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first place, I don't think my ideal would speak like that,"
said she. "He would be a harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt
himself to a silly girl's whim. But, above all, he must be a man
who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and
have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences.
It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had
won; for they would be reflected upon me. Think of Richard Burton!
When I read his wife's life of him I could so understand her love!
And Lady Stanley! Did you ever read the wonderful last chapter
of that book about her husband? These are the sort of men that
a woman could worship with all her soul, and yet be the greater,
not the less, on account of her love, honored by all the world
as the inspirer of noble deeds."
She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm that I nearly brought
down the whole level of the interview. I gripped myself hard,
and went on with the argument.
"We can't all be Stanleys and Burtons," said I; "besides, we
don't get the chance,--at least, I never had the chance. If I
did, I should try to take it."
"But chances are all around you. It is the mark of the kind of
man I mean that he makes his own chances. You can't hold him back.
I've never met him, and yet I seem to know him so well. There are
heroisms all round us waiting to be done. It's for men to do them,
and for women to reserve their love as a reward for such men.
Look at that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon.
It was blowing a gale of wind; but because he was announced to go
he insisted on starting. The wind blew him fifteen hundred miles
in twenty-four hours, and he fell in the middle of Russia. That was
the kind of man I mean. Think of the woman he loved, and how other
women must have envied her! That's what I should like to be,--envied
for my man."
"I'd have done it to please you."
"But you shouldn't do it merely to please me. You should do it
because you can't help yourself, because it's natural to you,
because the man in you is crying out for heroic expression.
Now, when you described the Wigan coal explosion last month,
could you not have gone down and helped those people, in spite
of the choke-damp?"
"You never said so."
"There was nothing worth bucking about."
"I didn't know." She looked at me with rather more interest.
"That was brave of you."
"I had to. If you want to write good copy, you must be where the
"What a prosaic motive! It seems to take all the romance out
of it. But, still, whatever your motive, I am glad that you went
down that mine." She gave me her hand; but with such sweetness
and dignity that I could only stoop and kiss it. "I dare say I
am merely a foolish woman with a young girl's fancies. And yet
it is so real with me, so entirely part of my very self, that I
cannot help acting upon it. If I marry, I do want to marry a
"Why should you not?" I cried. "It is women like you who brace
men up. Give me a chance, and see if I will take it! Besides, as
you say, men ought to MAKE their own chances, and not wait until
they are given. Look at Clive--just a clerk, and he conquered
India! By George! I'll do something in the world yet!"
She laughed at my sudden Irish effervescence. "Why not?" she said.
"You have everything a man could have,--youth, health, strength,
education, energy. I was sorry you spoke. And now I am glad--so
glad--if it wakens these thoughts in you!"
"And if I do----"
Her dear hand rested like warm velvet upon my lips. "Not another
word, Sir! You should have been at the office for evening duty
half an hour ago; only I hadn't the heart to remind you. Some day,
perhaps, when you have won your place in the world, we shall talk
it over again."
And so it was that I found myself that foggy November evening
pursuing the Camberwell tram with my heart glowing within me, and
with the eager determination that not another day should elapse
before I should find some deed which was worthy of my lady.
But who--who in all this wide world could ever have imagined the
incredible shape which that deed was to take, or the strange
steps by which I was led to the doing of it?
And, after all, this opening chapter will seem to the reader to
have nothing to do with my narrative; and yet there would have
been no narrative without it, for it is only when a man goes out
into the world with the thought that there are heroisms all round
him, and with the desire all alive in his heart to follow any
which may come within sight of him, that he breaks away as I did
from the life he knows, and ventures forth into the wonderful mystic
twilight land where lie the great adventures and the great rewards.
Behold me, then, at the office of the Daily Gazette, on the staff
of which I was a most insignificant unit, with the settled
determination that very night, if possible, to find the quest
which should be worthy of my Gladys! Was it hardness, was it
selfishness, that she should ask me to risk my life for her
own glorification? Such thoughts may come to middle age; but
never to ardent three-and-twenty in the fever of his first love.
"Try Your Luck with Professor Challenger"
I always liked McArdle, the crabbed, old, round-backed,
red-headed news editor, and I rather hoped that he liked me.
Of course, Beaumont was the real boss; but he lived in the
rarefied atmosphere of some Olympian height from which he could
distinguish nothing smaller than an international crisis or a
split in the Cabinet. Sometimes we saw him passing in lonely
majesty to his inner sanctum, with his eyes staring vaguely and
his mind hovering over the Balkans or the Persian Gulf. He was
above and beyond us. But McArdle was his first lieutenant, and
it was he that we knew. The old man nodded as I entered the
room, and he pushed his spectacles far up on his bald forehead.
"Well, Mr. Malone, from all I hear, you seem to be doing very
well," said he in his kindly Scotch accent.
I thanked him.
"The colliery explosion was excellent. So was the Southwark fire.
You have the true descreeptive touch. What did you want to see
"To ask a favor."
He looked alarmed, and his eyes shunned mine. "Tut, tut! What is it?"
"Do you think, Sir, that you could possibly send me on some
mission for the paper? I would do my best to put it through and
get you some good copy."
"What sort of meesion had you in your mind, Mr. Malone?"
"Well, Sir, anything that had adventure and danger in it.
I really would do my very best. The more difficult it was, the
better it would suit me."
"You seem very anxious to lose your life."
"To justify my life, Sir."
"Dear me, Mr. Malone, this is very--very exalted. I'm afraid the
day for this sort of thing is rather past. The expense of the
`special meesion' business hardly justifies the result, and, of
course, in any case it would only be an experienced man with a
name that would command public confidence who would get such
an order. The big blank spaces in the map are all being filled in,
and there's no room for romance anywhere. Wait a bit, though!"
he added, with a sudden smile upon his face. "Talking of the
blank spaces of the map gives me an idea. What about exposing a
fraud--a modern Munchausen--and making him rideeculous? You could
show him up as the liar that he is! Eh, man, it would be fine.
How does it appeal to you?"
"Anything--anywhere--I care nothing."
McArdle was plunged in thought for some minutes.
"I wonder whether you could get on friendly--or at least on
talking terms with the fellow," he said, at last. "You seem to
have a sort of genius for establishing relations with
people--seempathy, I suppose, or animal magnetism, or youthful
vitality, or something. I am conscious of it myself."
"You are very good, sir."
"So why should you not try your luck with Professor Challenger,
of Enmore Park?"
I dare say I looked a little startled.
"Challenger!" I cried. "Professor Challenger, the famous zoologist!
Wasn't he the man who broke the skull of Blundell, of the Telegraph?"
The news editor smiled grimly.
"Do you mind? Didn't you say it was adventures you were after?"
"It is all in the way of business, sir," I answered.
"Exactly. I don't suppose he can always be so violent as that.
I'm thinking that Blundell got him at the wrong moment, maybe, or
in the wrong fashion. You may have better luck, or more tact in
handling him. There's something in your line there, I am sure,
and the Gazette should work it."
"I really know nothing about him," said I. I only remember his
name in connection with the police-court proceedings, for