The Lost World
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"No," said she, "I am Gladys Potts. Let me introduce you to
How absurd life is! I found myself mechanically bowing and
shaking hands with a little ginger-haired man who was coiled up
in the deep arm-chair which had once been sacred to my own use.
We bobbed and grinned in front of each other.
"Father lets us stay here. We are getting our house ready,"
"Oh, yes," said I.
"You didn't get my letter at Para, then?"
"No, I got no letter."
"Oh, what a pity! It would have made all clear."
"It is quite clear," said I.
"I've told William all about you," said she. "We have no secrets.
I am so sorry about it. But it couldn't have been so very deep,
could it, if you could go off to the other end of the world and
leave me here alone. You're not crabby, are you?"
"No, no, not at all. I think I'll go."
"Have some refreshment," said the little man, and he added, in a
confidential way, "It's always like this, ain't it? And must be
unless you had polygamy, only the other way round; you understand."
He laughed like an idiot, while I made for the door.
I was through it, when a sudden fantastic impulse came upon me,
and I went back to my successful rival, who looked nervously at
the electric push.
"Will you answer a question?" I asked.
"Well, within reason," said he.
"How did you do it? Have you searched for hidden treasure, or
discovered a pole, or done time on a pirate, or flown the
Channel, or what? Where is the glamour of romance? How did you
He stared at me with a hopeless expression upon his vacuous,
good-natured, scrubby little face.
"Don't you think all this is a little too personal?" he said.
"Well, just one question," I cried. "What are you? What is
"I am a solicitor's clerk," said he. "Second man at Johnson and
Merivale's, 41 Chancery Lane."
"Good-night!" said I, and vanished, like all disconsolate and
broken-hearted heroes, into the darkness, with grief and rage
and laughter all simmering within me like a boiling pot.
One more little scene, and I have done. Last night we all supped
at Lord John Roxton's rooms, and sitting together afterwards we
smoked in good comradeship and talked our adventures over. It was
strange under these altered surroundings to see the old, well-known
faces and figures. There was Challenger, with his smile of
condescension, his drooping eyelids, his intolerant eyes, his
aggressive beard, his huge chest, swelling and puffing as he laid
down the law to Summerlee. And Summerlee, too, there he was with
his short briar between his thin moustache and his gray goat's-
beard, his worn face protruded in eager debate as he queried all
Challenger's propositions. Finally, there was our host, with his
rugged, eagle face, and his cold, blue, glacier eyes with always
a shimmer of devilment and of humor down in the depths of them.
Such is the last picture of them that I have carried away.
It was after supper, in his own sanctum--the room of the pink
radiance and the innumerable trophies--that Lord John Roxton had
something to say to us. From a cupboard he had brought an old
cigar-box, and this he laid before him on the table.
"There's one thing," said he, "that maybe I should have spoken
about before this, but I wanted to know a little more clearly
where I was. No use to raise hopes and let them down again.
But it's facts, not hopes, with us now. You may remember that day
we found the pterodactyl rookery in the swamp--what? Well, somethin'
in the lie of the land took my notice. Perhaps it has escaped you,
so I will tell you. It was a volcanic vent full of blue clay."
The Professors nodded.
"Well, now, in the whole world I've only had to do with one place
that was a volcanic vent of blue clay. That was the great De
Beers Diamond Mine of Kimberley--what? So you see I got diamonds
into my head. I rigged up a contraption to hold off those
stinking beasts, and I spent a happy day there with a spud.
This is what I got."
He opened his cigar-box, and tilting it over he poured about
twenty or thirty rough stones, varying from the size of beans to
that of chestnuts, on the table.
"Perhaps you think I should have told you then. Well, so I
should, only I know there are a lot of traps for the unwary, and
that stones may be of any size and yet of little value where
color and consistency are clean off. Therefore, I brought them
back, and on the first day at home I took one round to Spink's,
and asked him to have it roughly cut and valued."
He took a pill-box from his pocket, and spilled out of it a
beautiful glittering diamond, one of the finest stones that I
have ever seen.
"There's the result," said he. "He prices the lot at a minimum
of two hundred thousand pounds. Of course it is fair shares
between us. I won't hear of anythin' else. Well, Challenger,
what will you do with your fifty thousand?"
"If you really persist in your generous view," said the
Professor, "I should found a private museum, which has long been
one of my dreams."
"And you, Summerlee?"
"I would retire from teaching, and so find time for my final
classification of the chalk fossils."
"I'll use my own," said Lord John Roxton, "in fitting a
well-formed expedition and having another look at the dear
old plateau. As to you, young fellah, you, of course, will
spend yours in gettin' married."
"Not just yet," said I, with a rueful smile. "I think, if you
will have me, that I would rather go with you."
Lord Roxton said nothing, but a brown hand was stretched out to
me across the table.