The Lost World
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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