The Lost World
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 Next page
"I suppose you are aware," said he, checking off points upon his
fingers, "that the cranial index is a constant factor?"
"Naturally," said I.
"And that telegony is still sub judice?"
"And that the germ plasm is different from the parthenogenetic egg?"
"Why, surely!" I cried, and gloried in my own audacity.
"But what does that prove?" he asked, in a gentle, persuasive voice.
"Ah, what indeed?" I murmured. "What does it prove?"
"Shall I tell you?" he cooed.
"It proves," he roared, with a sudden blast of fury, "that
you are the damnedest imposter in London--a vile, crawling
journalist, who has no more science than he has decency in
He had sprung to his feet with a mad rage in his eyes. Even at
that moment of tension I found time for amazement at the
discovery that he was quite a short man, his head not higher than
my shoulder--a stunted Hercules whose tremendous vitality had all
run to depth, breadth, and brain.
"Gibberish!" he cried, leaning forward, with his fingers on the
table and his face projecting. "That's what I have been talking
to you, sir--scientific gibberish! Did you think you could match
cunning with me--you with your walnut of a brain? You think you
are omnipotent, you infernal scribblers, don't you? That your
praise can make a man and your blame can break him? We must all
bow to you, and try to get a favorable word, must we? This man
shall have a leg up, and this man shall have a dressing down!
Creeping vermin, I know you! You've got out of your station.
Time was when your ears were clipped. You've lost your sense of
proportion. Swollen gas-bags! I'll keep you in your proper place.
Yes, sir, you haven't got over G. E. C. There's one man who is
still your master. He warned you off, but if you WILL come, by
the Lord you do it at your own risk. Forfeit, my good Mr. Malone,
I claim forfeit! You have played a rather dangerous game, and it
strikes me that you have lost it."
"Look here, sir," said I, backing to the door and opening it;
"you can be as abusive as you like. But there is a limit.
You shall not assault me."
"Shall I not?" He was slowly advancing in a peculiarly menacing
way, but he stopped now and put his big hands into the
side-pockets of a rather boyish short jacket which he wore.
"I have thrown several of you out of the house. You will be the
fourth or fifth. Three pound fifteen each--that is how it averaged.
Expensive, but very necessary. Now, sir, why should you not
follow your brethren? I rather think you must." He resumed his
unpleasant and stealthy advance, pointing his toes as he walked,
like a dancing master.
I could have bolted for the hall door, but it would have been
too ignominious. Besides, a little glow of righteous anger was
springing up within me. I had been hopelessly in the wrong
before, but this man's menaces were putting me in the right.
"I'll trouble you to keep your hands off, sir. I'll not stand it."
"Dear me!" His black moustache lifted and a white fang twinkled
in a sneer. "You won't stand it, eh?"
"Don't be such a fool, Professor!" I cried. "What can you hope for?
I'm fifteen stone, as hard as nails, and play center three-quarter
every Saturday for the London Irish. I'm not the man----"
It was at that moment that he rushed me. It was lucky that I had
opened the door, or we should have gone through it. We did a
Catharine-wheel together down the passage. Somehow we gathered
up a chair upon our way, and bounded on with it towards the street.
My mouth was full of his beard, our arms were locked, our bodies
intertwined, and that infernal chair radiated its legs all round us.
The watchful Austin had thrown open the hall door. We went with
a back somersault down the front steps. I have seen the two Macs
attempt something of the kind at the halls, but it appears to take
some practise to do it without hurting oneself. The chair went
to matchwood at the bottom, and we rolled apart into the gutter.
He sprang to his feet, waving his fists and wheezing like an asthmatic.
"Had enough?" he panted.
"You infernal bully!" I cried, as I gathered myself together.
Then and there we should have tried the thing out, for he was
effervescing with fight, but fortunately I was rescued from an
odious situation. A policeman was beside us, his notebook in
"What's all this? You ought to be ashamed" said the policeman.
It was the most rational remark which I had heard in Enmore Park.
"Well," he insisted, turning to me, "what is it, then?"
"This man attacked me," said I.
"Did you attack him?" asked the policeman.
The Professor breathed hard and said nothing.
"It's not the first time, either," said the policeman, severely,
shaking his head. "You were in trouble last month for the same thing.
You've blackened this young man's eye. Do you give him in charge, sir?"
"No," said I, "I do not."
"What's that?" said the policeman.
"I was to blame myself. I intruded upon him. He gave me fair warning."
The policeman snapped up his notebook.
"Don't let us have any more such goings-on," said he. "Now, then!
Move on, there, move on!" This to a butcher's boy, a maid, and
one or two loafers who had collected. He clumped heavily down
the street, driving this little flock before him. The Professor
looked at me, and there was something humorous at the back of his eyes.
"Come in!" said he. "I've not done with you yet."
The speech had a sinister sound, but I followed him none the less
into the house. The man-servant, Austin, like a wooden image,
closed the door behind us.
"It's Just the very Biggest Thing in the World"
Hardly was it shut when Mrs. Challenger darted out from
the dining-room. The small woman was in a furious temper.
She barred her husband's way like an enraged chicken in front of
a bulldog. It was evident that she had seen my exit, but had not
observed my return.
"You brute, George!" she screamed. "You've hurt that nice young man."
He jerked backwards with his thumb.
"Here he is, safe and sound behind me."
She was confused, but not unduly so.
"I am so sorry, I didn't see you."
"I assure you, madam, that it is all right."
"He has marked your poor face! Oh, George, what a brute you are!
Nothing but scandals from one end of the week to the other.
Everyone hating and making fun of you. You've finished my patience.
This ends it."
"Dirty linen," he rumbled.
"It's not a secret," she cried. "Do you suppose that the whole
street--the whole of London, for that matter---- Get away, Austin,
we don't want you here. Do you suppose they don't all talk about you?
Where is your dignity? You, a man who should have been Regius
Professor at a great University with a thousand students all
revering you. Where is your dignity, George?"
"How about yours, my dear?"
"You try me too much. A ruffian--a common brawling ruffian--
that's what you have become."
"Be good, Jessie."
"A roaring, raging bully!"
"That's done it! Stool of penance!" said he.
To my amazement he stooped, picked her up, and placed her sitting
upon a high pedestal of black marble in the angle of the hall.
It was at least seven feet high, and so thin that she could hardly
balance upon it. A more absurd object than she presented cocked
up there with her face convulsed with anger, her feet dangling,
and her body rigid for fear of an upset, I could not imagine.
"Let me down!" she wailed.
"You brute, George! Let me down this instant!"
"Come into the study, Mr. Malone."
"Really, sir----!" said I, looking at the lady.
"Here's Mr. Malone pleading for you, Jessie.