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Chapter 3 He is a Perfectly Impossible Person

  • My friend's fear or hope was not destined to be realized. When I called o_ednesday there was a letter with the West Kensington postmark upon it, and m_ame scrawled across the envelope in a handwriting which looked like a barbed- wire railing. The contents were as follows:—
  • "Enmore Park, W.
  • "Sir,—I have duly received your note, in which you claim to endorse my views, although I am not aware that they are dependent upon endorsement either fro_ou or anyone else. You have ventured to use the word 'speculation' wit_egard to my statement upon the subject of Darwinism, and I would call you_ttention to the fact that such a word in such a connection is offensive to _egree. The context convinces me, however, that you have sinned rather throug_gnorance and tactlessness than through malice, so I am content to pass th_atter by. You quote an isolated sentence from my lecture, and appear to hav_ome difficulty in understanding it. I should have thought that only a sub- human intelligence could have failed to grasp the point, but if it reall_eeds amplification I shall consent to see you at the hour named, thoug_isits and visitors of every sort are exceeding distasteful to me. As to you_uggestion that I may modify my opinion, I would have you know that it is no_y habit to do so after a deliberate expression of my mature views. You wil_indly show the envelope of this letter to my man, Austin, when you call, a_e has to take every precaution to shield me from the intrusive rascals wh_all themselves 'journalists.'
  • ? ? ? "Yours faithfully,
  • ? ? ? "George Edward Challenger."
  • This was the letter that I read aloud to Tarp Henry, who had come down earl_o hear the result of my venture. His only remark was, "There's some ne_tuff, cuticura or something, which is better than arnica." Some people hav_uch extraordinary notions of humor.
  • It was nearly half-past ten before I had received my message, but a taxica_ook me round in good time for my appointment. It was an imposing porticoe_ouse at which we stopped, and the heavily-curtained windows gave ever_ndication of wealth upon the part of this formidable Professor. The door wa_pened by an odd, swarthy, dried-up person of uncertain age, with a dark pilo_acket and brown leather gaiters. I found afterwards that he was th_hauffeur, who filled the gaps left by a succession of fugitive butlers. H_ooked me up and down with a searching light blue eye.
  • "Expected?" he asked.
  • "An appointment."
  • "Got your letter?"
  • I produced the envelope.
  • "Right!" He seemed to be a person of few words. Following him down the passag_ was suddenly interrupted by a small woman, who stepped out from what prove_o be the dining-room door. She was a bright, vivacious, dark-eyed lady, mor_rench than English in her type.
  • "One moment," she said. "You can wait, Austin. Step in here, sir. May I ask i_ou have met my husband before?"
  • "No, madam, I have not had the honor."
  • "Then I apologize to you in advance. I must tell you that he is a perfectl_mpossible person—absolutely impossible. If you are forewarned you will be th_ore ready to make allowances."
  • "It is most considerate of you, madam."
  • "Get quickly out of the room if he seems inclined to be violent. Don't wait t_rgue with him. Several people have been injured through doing that.
  • Afterwards there is a public scandal and it reflects upon me and all of us. _uppose it wasn't about South America you wanted to see him?"
  • I could not lie to a lady.
  • "Dear me! That is his most dangerous subject. You won't believe a word h_ays—I'm sure I don't wonder. But don't tell him so, for it makes him ver_iolent. Pretend to believe him, and you may get through all right. Remembe_e believes it himself. Of that you may be assured. A more honest man neve_ived. Don't wait any longer or he may suspect. If you find hi_angerous—really dangerous—ring the bell and hold him off until I come. Eve_t his worst I can usually control him."
  • With these encouraging words the lady handed me over to the taciturn Austin, who had waited like a bronze statue of discretion during our short interview, and I was conducted to the end of the passage. There was a tap at a door, _ull's bellow from within, and I was face to face with the Professor.
  • He sat in a rotating chair behind a broad table, which was covered with books, maps, and diagrams. As I entered, his seat spun round to face me. Hi_ppearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for s_verpowering a personality as this. It was his size which took one's breat_way—his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest _ave ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top-hat, had I eve_entured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on m_houlders. He had the face and beard which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. Th_yes were blue-gray under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, an_ery masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were th_ther parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hand_overed with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voic_ade up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger.
  • "Well?" said he, with a most insolent stare. "What now?"
  • I must keep up my deception for at least a little time longer, otherwise her_as evidently an end of the interview.
  • "You were good enough to give me an appointment, sir," said I, humbly, producing his envelope.
  • He took my letter from his desk and laid it out before him.
  • "Oh, you are the young person who cannot understand plain English, are you? M_eneral conclusions you are good enough to approve, as I understand?"
  • "Entirely, sir—entirely!" I was very emphatic.
  • "Dear me! That strengthens my position very much, does it not? Your age an_ppearance make your support doubly valuable. Well, at least you are bette_han that herd of swine in Vienna, whose gregarious grunt is, however, no_ore offensive than the isolated effort of the British hog." He glared at m_s the present representative of the beast.
  • "They seem to have behaved abominably," said I.
  • "I assure you that I can fight my own battles, and that I have no possibl_eed of your sympathy. Put me alone, sir, and with my back to the wall. G. E.
  • C. is happiest then. Well, sir, let us do what we can to curtail this visit, which can hardly be agreeable to you, and is inexpressibly irksome to me. Yo_ad, as I have been led to believe, some comments to make upon the propositio_hich I advanced in my thesis."
  • There was a brutal directness about his methods which made evasion difficult.
  • I must still make play and wait for a better opening. It had seemed simpl_nough at a distance. Oh, my Irish wits, could they not help me now, when _eeded help so sorely? He transfixed me with two sharp, steely eyes. "Come, come!" he rumbled.
  • "I am, of course, a mere student," said I, with a fatuous smile, "hardly more, I might say, than an earnest inquirer. At the same time, it seemed to me tha_ou were a little severe upon Weissmann in this matter. Has not the genera_vidence since that date tended to—well, to strengthen his position?"
  • "What evidence?" He spoke with a menacing calm.
  • "Well, of course, I am aware that there is not any what you might cal_efinite evidence. I alluded merely to the trend of modern thought and th_eneral scientific point of view, if I might so express it."
  • He leaned forward with great earnestness.
  • "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?"
  • "Undoubtedly."
  • "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.
  • "Pray do."
  • "It proves," he roared, with a sudden blast of fury, "that you are th_amnedest imposter in London—a vile, crawling journalist, who has no mor_cience than he has decency in his composition!"
  • He had sprung to his feet with a mad rage in his eyes. Even at that moment o_ension I found time for amazement at the discovery that he was quite a shor_an, his head not higher than my shoulder—a stunted Hercules whose tremendou_itality had all run to depth, breadth, and brain.
  • "Gibberish!" he cried, leaning forward, with his fingers on the table and hi_ace projecting. "That's what I have been talking to you, sir—scientifi_ibberish! Did you think you could match cunning with me—you with your walnu_f 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 bo_o you, and try to get a favorable word, must we? This man shall have a le_p, 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'v_ost your sense of proportion. Swollen gas-bags! I'll keep you in your prope_lace. Yes, sir, you haven't got over G. E. C. There's one man who is stil_our master. He warned you off, but if you will come, by the Lord you do it a_our own risk. Forfeit, my good Mr. Malone, I claim forfeit! You have played _ather 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 a_busive 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 h_topped now and put his big hands into the side-pockets of a rather boyis_hort 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 i_veraged. Expensive, but very necessary. Now, sir, why should you not follo_our brethren? I rather think you must." He resumed his unpleasant an_tealthy 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 ha_een hopelessly in the wrong before, but this man's menaces were putting me i_he 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'_ifteen stone, as hard as nails, and play center three-quarter every Saturda_or the London Irish. I'm not the man——"
  • It was at that moment that he rushed me. It was lucky that I had opened th_oor, or we should have gone through it. We did a Catharine-wheel togethe_own the passage. Somehow we gathered up a chair upon our way, and bounded o_ith it towards the street. My mouth was full of his beard, our arms wer_ocked, our bodies intertwined, and that infernal chair radiated its legs al_ound us. The watchful Austin had thrown open the hall door. We went with _ack somersault down the front steps. I have seen the two Macs attemp_omething of the kind at the halls, but it appears to take some practise to d_t without hurting oneself. The chair went to matchwood at the bottom, and w_olled apart into the gutter. He sprang to his feet, waving his fists an_heezing 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 effervescin_ith fight, but fortunately I was rescued from an odious situation. _oliceman was beside us, his notebook in his hand.
  • "What's all this? You ought to be ashamed," said the policeman. It was th_ost 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 hi_ead. "You were in trouble last month for the same thing. You've blackene_his young man's eye. Do you give him in charge, sir?"
  • I relented.
  • "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 wh_ad collected. He clumped heavily down the street, driving this little floc_efore him. The Professor looked at me, and there was something humorous a_he 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 th_ouse. The man-servant, Austin, like a wooden image, closed the door behin_s.