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Chapter 2 The Tide of Death

  • As we crossed the hall the telephone-bell rang, and we were the involuntar_uditors of Professor Challenger's end of the ensuing dialogue. I say "we,"
  • but no one within a hundred yards could have failed to hear the booming o_hat monstrous voice, which reverberated through the house. His answer_ingered in my mind.
  • "Yes, yes, of course, it is I… . Yes, certainly, the Professor Challenger, th_amous Professor, who else?… Of course, every word of it, otherwise I shoul_ot have written it… . I shouldn't be surprised… . There is every indicatio_f it… . Within a day or so at the furthest… . Well, I can't help that, ca_?… Very unpleasant, no doubt, but I rather fancy it will affect mor_mportant people than you. There is no use whining about it… . No, I couldn'_ossibly. You must take your chance… . That's enough, sir. Nonsense! I hav_omething more important to do than to listen to such twaddle."
  • He shut off with a crash and led us upstairs into a large airy apartment whic_ormed his study. On the great mahogany desk seven or eight unopened telegram_ere lying.
  • "Really," he said as he gathered them up, "I begin to think that it would sav_y correspondents' money if I were to adopt a telegraphic address. Possibly
  • 'Noah, Rotherfield,' would be the most appropriate."
  • As usual when he made an obscure joke, he leaned against the desk and bellowe_n a paroxysm of laughter, his hands shaking so that he could hardly open th_nvelopes.
  • "Noah! Noah!" he gasped, with a face of beetroot, while Lord John and I smile_n sympathy and Summerlee, like a dyspeptic goat, wagged his head in sardoni_isagreement. Finally Challenger, still rumbling and exploding, began to ope_is telegrams. The three of us stood in the bow window and occupied ourselve_n admiring the magnificent view.
  • It was certainly worth looking at. The road in its gentle curves had reall_rought us to a considerable elevation—seven hundred feet, as we afterward_iscovered. Challenger's house was on the very edge of the hill, and from it_outhern face, in which was the study window, one looked across the vas_tretch of the weald to where the gentle curves of the South Downs formed a_ndulating horizon. In a cleft of the hills a haze of smoke marked th_osition of Lewes. Immediately at our feet there lay a rolling plain o_eather, with the long, vivid green stretches of the Crowborough golf course, all dotted with the players. A little to the south, through an opening in th_oods, we could see a section of the main line from London to Brighton. In th_mmediate foreground, under our very noses, was a small enclosed yard, i_hich stood the car which had brought us from the station.
  • An ejaculation from Challenger caused us to turn. He had read his telegram_nd had arranged them in a little methodical pile upon his desk. His broad, rugged face, or as much of it as was visible over the matted beard, was stil_eeply flushed, and he seemed to be under the influence of some stron_xcitement.
  • "Well, gentlemen," he said, in a voice as if he was addressing a publi_eeting, "this is indeed an interesting reunion, and it takes place unde_xtraordinary—I may say unprecedented—circumstances. May I ask if you hav_bserved anything upon your journey from town?"
  • "The only thing which I observed," said Summerlee with a sour smile, "was tha_ur young friend here has not improved in his manners during the years tha_ave passed. I am sorry to state that I have had to seriously complain of hi_onduct in the train, and I should be wanting in frankness if I did not sa_hat it has left a most unpleasant impression in my mind."
  • "Well, well, we all get a bit prosy sometimes," said Lord John. "The youn_ellah meant no real harm. After all, he's an International, so if he take_alf an hour to describe a game of football he has more right to do it tha_ost folk."
  • "Half an hour to describe a game!" I cried indignantly. "Why, it was you tha_ook half an hour with some long-winded story about a buffalo. Professo_ummerlee will be my witness."
  • "I can hardly judge which of you was the most utterly wearisome," sai_ummerlee. "I declare to you, Challenger, that I never wish to hear o_ootball or of buffaloes so long as I live."
  • "I have never said one word to-day about football," I protested.
  • Lord John gave a shrill whistle, and Summerlee shook his head sadly.
  • "So early in the day too," said he. "It is indeed deplorable. As I sat ther_n sad but thoughtful silence—"
  • "In silence!" cried Lord John. "Why, you were doin' a music-hall turn o_mitations all the way—more like a runaway gramophone than a man."
  • Summerlee drew himself up in bitter protest.
  • "You are pleased to be facetious, Lord John," said he with a face of vinegar.
  • "Why, dash it all, this is clear madness," cried Lord John. "Each of us seem_o know what the others did and none of us knows what he did himself. Let'_ut it all together from the first. We got into a first-class smoker, that'_lear, ain't it? Then we began to quarrel over friend Challenger's letter i_he Times."
  • "Oh, you did, did you?" rumbled our host, his eyelids beginning to droop.
  • "You said, Summerlee, that there was no possible truth in his contention."
  • "Dear me!" said Challenger, puffing out his chest and stroking his beard. "N_ossible truth! I seem to have heard the words before. And may I ask with wha_rguments the great and famous Professor Summerlee proceeded to demolish th_umble individual who had ventured to express an opinion upon a matter o_cientific possibility? Perhaps before he exterminates that unfortunat_onentity he will condescend to give some reasons for the adverse views whic_e has formed."
  • He bowed and shrugged and spread open his hands as he spoke with his elaborat_nd elephantine sarcasm.
  • "The reason was simple enough," said the dogged Summerlee. "I contended tha_f the ether surrounding the earth was so toxic in one quarter that i_roduced dangerous symptoms, it was hardly likely that we three in the railwa_arriage should be entirely unaffected."
  • The explanation only brought uproarious merriment from Challenger. He laughe_ntil everything in the room seemed to rattle and quiver.
  • "Our worthy Summerlee is, not for the first time, somewhat out of touch wit_he facts of the situation," said he at last, mopping his heated brow. "Now, gentlemen, I cannot make my point better than by detailing to you what I hav_yself done this morning. You will the more easily condone any menta_bberation upon your own part when you realize that even I have had moment_hen my balance has been disturbed. We have had for some years in thi_ousehold a housekeeper—one Sarah, with whose second name I have neve_ttempted to burden my memory. She is a woman of a severe and forbiddin_spect, prim and demure in her bearing, very impassive in her nature, an_ever known within our experience to show signs of any emotion. As I sat alon_t my breakfast—Mrs. Challenger is in the habit of keeping her room of _orning—it suddenly entered my head that it would be entertaining an_nstructive to see whether I could find any limits to this woman'_nperturbability. I devised a simple but effective experiment. Having upset _mall vase of flowers which stood in the centre of the cloth, I rang the bel_nd slipped under the table. She entered and, seeing the room empty, imagine_hat I had withdrawn to the study. As I had expected, she approached an_eaned over the table to replace the vase. I had a vision of a cotton stockin_nd an elastic-sided boot. Protruding my head, I sank my teeth into the cal_f her leg. The experiment was successful beyond belief. For some moments sh_tood paralyzed, staring down at my head. Then with a shriek she tore hersel_ree and rushed from the room. I pursued her with some thoughts of a_xplanation, but she flew down the drive, and some minutes afterwards I wa_ble to pick her out with my field-glasses traveling very rapidly in a south- westerly direction. I tell you the anecdote for what it is worth. I drop i_nto your brains and await its germination. Is it illuminative? Has i_onveyed anything to your minds? What do you think of it, Lord John?"
  • Lord John shook his head gravely.
  • "You'll be gettin' into serious trouble some of these days if you don't put _rake on," said he.
  • "Perhaps you have some observation to make, Summerlee?"
  • "You should drop all work instantly, Challenger, and take three months in _erman watering-place," said he.
  • "Profound! Profound!" cried Challenger. "Now, my young friend, is it possibl_hat wisdom may come from you where your seniors have so signally failed?"
  • And it did. I say it with all modesty, but it did. Of course, it all seem_bvious enough to you who know what occurred, but it was not so very clea_hen everything was new. But it came on me suddenly with the full force o_bsolute conviction.
  • "Poison!" I cried.
  • Then, even as I said the word, my mind flashed back over the whole morning'_xperiences, past Lord John with his buffalo, past my own hysterical tears, past the outrageous conduct of Professor Summerlee, to the queer happenings i_ondon, the row in the park, the driving of the chauffeur, the quarrel at th_xygen warehouse. Everything fitted suddenly into its place.
  • "Of course," I cried again. "It is poison. We are all poisoned."
  • "Exactly," said Challenger, rubbing his hands, "we are all poisoned. Ou_lanet has swum into the poison belt of ether, and is now flying deeper int_t at the rate of some millions of miles a minute. Our young friend ha_xpressed the cause of all our troubles and perplexities in a single word,
  • 'poison.'"
  • We looked at each other in amazed silence. No comment seemed to meet th_ituation.
  • "There is a mental inhibition by which such symptoms can be checked an_ontrolled," said Challenger. "I cannot expect to find it developed in all o_ou to the same point which it has reached in me, for I suppose that th_trength of our different mental processes bears some proportion to eac_ther. But no doubt it is appreciable even in our young friend here. After th_ittle outburst of high spirits which so alarmed my domestic I sat down an_easoned with myself. I put it to myself that I had never before felt impelle_o bite any of my household. The impulse had then been an abnormal one. In a_nstant I perceived the truth. My pulse upon examination was ten beats abov_he usual, and my reflexes were increased. I called upon my higher and sane_elf, the real G. E. C., seated serene and impregnable behind all mer_olecular disturbance. I summoned him, I say, to watch the foolish menta_ricks which the poison would play. I found that I was indeed the master. _ould recognize and control a disordered mind. It was a remarkable exhibitio_f the victory of mind over matter, for it was a victory over that particula_orm of matter which is most intimately connected with mind. I might almos_ay that mind was at fault and that personality controlled it. Thus, when m_ife came downstairs and I was impelled to slip behind the door and alarm he_y some wild cry as she entered, I was able to stifle the impulse and to gree_er with dignity and restraint. An overpowering desire to quack like a duc_as met and mastered in the same fashion.
  • Later, when I descended to order the car and found Austin bending over i_bsorbed in repairs, I controlled my open hand even after I had lifted it an_efrained from giving him an experience which would possibly have caused hi_o follow in the steps of the housekeeper. On the contrary, I touched him o_he shoulder and ordered the car to be at the door in time to meet your train.
  • At the present instant I am most forcibly tempted to take Professor Summerle_y that silly old beard of his and to shake his head violently backwards an_orwards. And yet, as you see, I am perfectly restrained. Let me commend m_xample to you."
  • "I'll look out for that buffalo," said Lord John.
  • "And I for the football match."
  • "It may be that you are right, Challenger," said Summerlee in a chastene_oice. "I am willing to admit that my turn of mind is critical rather tha_onstructive and that I am not a ready convert to any new theory, especiall_hen it happens to be so unusual and fantastic as this one. However, as I cas_y mind back over the events of the morning, and as I reconsider the fatuou_onduct of my companions, I find it easy to believe that some poison of a_xciting kind was responsible for their symptoms."
  • Challenger slapped his colleague good-humouredly upon the shoulder. "W_rogress," said he. "Decidedly we progress."
  • "And pray, sir," asked Summerlee humbly, "what is your opinion as to th_resent outlook?"
  • "With your permission I will say a few words upon that subject." He seate_imself upon his desk, his short, stumpy legs swinging in front of him. "W_re assisting at a tremendous and awful function. It is, in my opinion, th_nd of the world."
  • The end of the world! Our eyes turned to the great bow-window and we looke_ut at the summer beauty of the country-side, the long slopes of heather, th_reat country-houses, the cozy farms, the pleasure-seekers upon the links.
  • The end of the world! One had often heard the words, but the idea that the_ould ever have an immediate practical significance, that it should not be a_ome vague date, but now, to-day, that was a tremendous, a staggering thought.
  • We were all struck solemn and waited in silence for Challenger to continue.
  • His overpowering presence and appearance lent such force to the solemnity o_is words that for a moment all the crudities and absurdities of the ma_anished, and he loomed before us as something majestic and beyond the rang_f ordinary humanity. Then to me, at least, there came back the cheerin_ecollection of how twice since we had entered the room he had roared wit_aughter. Surely, I thought, there are limits to mental detachment. The crisi_annot be so great or so pressing after all.
  • 'You will conceive a bunch of grapes," said he, "which are covered by som_nfinitesimal but noxious bacillus. The gardener passes it through _isinfecting medium. It may be that he desires his grapes to be cleaner. I_ay be that he needs space to breed some fresh bacillus less noxious than th_ast. He dips it into the poison and they are gone. Our Gardener is, in m_pinion, about to dip the solar system, and the human bacillus, the littl_ortal vibrio which twisted and wriggled upon the outer rind of the earth, will in an instant be sterilized out of existence."
  • Again there was silence. It was broken by the high trill of the telephone- bell.
  • "There is one of our bacilli squeaking for help," said he with a grim smile.
  • "They are beginning to realize that their continued existence is not reall_ne of the necessities of the universe."
  • He was gone from the room for a minute or two. I remember that none of u_poke in his absence. The situation seemed beyond all words or comments.
  • "The medical officer of health for Brighton," said he when he returned. "Th_ymptoms are for some reason developing more rapidly upon the sea level. Ou_even hundred feet of elevation give us an advantage. Folk seem to hav_earned that I am the first authority upon the question. No doubt it come_rom my letter in the Times. That was the mayor of a provincial town with who_ talked when we first arrived. You may have heard me upon the telephone. H_eemed to put an entirely inflated value upon his own life. I helped him t_eadjust his ideas."
  • Summerlee had risen and was standing by the window. His thin, bony hands wer_rembling with his emotion.
  • "Challenger," said he earnestly, "this thing is too serious for mere futil_rgument. Do not suppose that I desire to irritate you by any question I ma_sk. But I put it to you whether there may not be some fallacy in you_nformation or in your reasoning. There is the sun shining as brightly as eve_n the blue sky. There are the heather and the flowers and the birds. Ther_re the folk enjoying themselves upon the golf-links and the laborers yonde_utting the corn. You tell us that they and we may be upon the very brink o_estruction—that this sunlit day may be that day of doom which the human rac_as so long awaited. So far as we know, you found this tremendous judgmen_pon what? Upon some abnormal lines in a spectrum—upon rumours fro_umatra—upon some curious personal excitement which we have discerned in eac_ther. This latter symptom is not so marked but that you and we could, by _eliberate effort, control it. You need not stand on ceremony with us, Challenger. We have all faced death together before now. Speak out, and let u_now exactly where we stand, and what, in your opinion, are our prospects fo_ur future."
  • It was a brave, good speech, a speech from that stanch and strong spirit whic_ay behind all the acidities and angularities of the old zoologist. Lord Joh_ose and shook him by the hand.
  • "My sentiment to a tick," said he. "Now, Challenger, it's up to you to tell u_here we are. We ain't nervous folk, as you know well; but when it comes t_akin' a week-end visit and finding you've run full butt into the Day o_udgment, it wants a bit of explainin'. What's the danger, and how much of i_s there, and what are we goin' to do to meet it?"
  • He stood, tall and strong, in the sunshine at the window, with his brown han_pon the shoulder of Summerlee. I was lying back in an armchair, a_xtinguished cigarette between my lips, in that sort of half-dazed state i_hich impressions become exceedingly distinct. It may have been a new phase o_he poisoning, but the delirious promptings had all passed away and wer_ucceeded by an exceedingly languid and, at the same time, perceptive state o_ind. I was a spectator. It did not seem to be any personal concern of mine.
  • But here were three strong men at a great crisis, and it was fascinating t_bserve them. Challenger bent his heavy brows and stroked his beard before h_nswered. One could see that he was very carefully weighing his words.
  • "What was the last news when you left London?" he asked.
  • "I was at the Gazette office about ten," said I. "There was a Reuter just com_n from Singapore to the effect that the sickness seemed to be universal i_umatra and that the lighthouses had not been lit in consequence."
  • "Events have been moving somewhat rapidly since then," said Challenger, picking up his pile of telegrams. "I am in close touch both with th_uthorities and with the press, so that news is converging upon me from al_arts. There is, in fact, a general and very insistent demand that I shoul_ome to London; but I see no good end to be served. From the accounts th_oisonous effect begins with mental excitement; the rioting in Paris thi_orning is said to have been very violent, and the Welsh colliers are in _tate of uproar. So far as the evidence to hand can be trusted, thi_timulative stage, which varies much in races and in individuals, is succeede_y a certain exaltation and mental lucidity—I seem to discern some signs of i_n our young friend here—which, after an appreciable interval, turns to coma, deepening rapidly into death. I fancy, so far as my toxicology carries me, that there are some vegetable nerve poisons—"
  • "Datura," suggested Summerlee.
  • "Excellent!" cried Challenger. "It would make for scientific precision if w_amed our toxic agent. Let it be daturon. To you, my dear Summerlee, belong_he honour—posthumous, alas, but none the less unique—of having given a nam_o the universal destroyer, the Great Gardener's disinfectant. The symptoms o_aturon, then, may be taken to be such as I indicate. That it will involve th_hole world and that no life can possibly remain behind seems to me to b_ertain, since ether is a universal medium. Up to now it has been capriciou_n the places which it has attacked, but the difference is only a matter of _ew hours, and it is like an advancing tide which covers one strip of sand an_hen another, running hither and thither in irregular streams, until at las_t has submerged it all. There are laws at work in connection with the actio_nd distribution of daturon which would have been of deep interest had th_ime at our disposal permitted us to study them. So far as I can trac_hem"—here he glanced over his telegrams—"the less developed races have bee_he first to respond to its influence. There are deplorable accounts fro_frica, and the Australian aborigines appear to have been alread_xterminated. The Northern races have as yet shown greater resisting powe_han the Southern. This, you see, is dated from Marseilles at nine-forty-fiv_his morning. I give it to you verbatim:—
  • "'All night delirious excitement throughout Provence. Tumult of vine grower_t Nimes. Socialistic upheaval at Toulon. Sudden illness attended by com_ttacked population this morning. PESTE FOUDROYANTE. Great numbers of dead i_he streets. Paralysis of business and universal chaos.'
  • "An hour later came the following, from the same source:—
  • "'We are threatened with utter extermination. Cathedrals and churches full t_verflowing. The dead outnumber the living. It is inconceivable and horrible.
  • Decease seems to be painless, but swift and inevitable.' "There is a simila_elegram from Paris, where the development is not yet as acute. India an_ersia appear to be utterly wiped out. The Slavonic population of Austria i_own, while the Teutonic has hardly been affected. Speaking generally, th_wellers upon the plains and upon the seashore seem, so far as my limite_nformation goes, to have felt the effects more rapidly than those inland o_n the heights. Even a little elevation makes a considerable difference, an_erhaps if there be a survivor of the human race, he will again be found upo_he summit of some Ararat. Even our own little hill may presently prove to b_ temporary island amid a sea of disaster. But at the present rate of advanc_ few short hours will submerge us all."
  • Lord John Roxton wiped his brow.
  • "What beats me," said he, "is how you could sit there laughin' with that stac_f telegrams under your hand. I've seen death as often as most folk, bu_niversal death—it's awful!"
  • "As to the laughter," said Challenger, "you will bear in mind that, lik_ourselves, I have not been exempt from the stimulating cerebral effects o_he etheric poison. But as to the horror with which universal death appears t_nspire you, I would put it to you that it is somewhat exaggerated. If yo_ere sent to sea alone in an open boat to some unknown destination, your hear_ight well sink within you. The isolation, the uncertainty, would oppress you.
  • But if your voyage were made in a goodly ship, which bore within it all you_elations and your friends, you would feel that, however uncertain you_estination might still remain, you would at least have one common an_imultaneous experience which would hold you to the end in the same clos_ommunion. A lonely death may be terrible, but a universal one, as painless a_his would appear to be, is not, in my judgment, a matter for apprehension.
  • Indeed, I could sympathize with the person who took the view that the horro_ay in the idea of surviving when all that is learned, famous, and exalted ha_assed away."
  • "What, then, do you propose to do?" asked Summerlee, who had for once nodde_is assent to the reasoning of his brother scientist.
  • "To take our lunch," said Challenger as the boom of a gong sounded through th_ouse. "We have a cook whose omelettes are only excelled by her cutlets. W_an but trust that no cosmic disturbance has dulled her excellent abilities.
  • My Scharzberger of '96 must also be rescued, so far as our earnest and unite_fforts can do it, from what would be a deplorable waste of a great vintage."
  • He levered his great bulk off the desk, upon which he had sat while h_nnounced the doom of the planet. "Come," said he. "If there is little tim_eft, there is the more need that we should spend it in sober and reasonabl_njoyment."
  • And, indeed, it proved to be a very merry meal. It is true that we could no_orget our awful situation. The full solemnity of the event loomed ever at th_ack of our minds and tempered our thoughts. But surely it is the soul whic_as never faced death which shies strongly from it at the end. To each of u_en it had, for one great epoch in our lives, been a familiar presence. As t_he lady, she leaned upon the strong guidance of her mighty husband and wa_ell content to go whither his path might lead. The future was our fate. Th_resent was our own. We passed it in goodly comradeship and gentle merriment.
  • Our minds were, as I have said, singularly lucid. Even I struck sparks a_imes. As to Challenger, he was wonderful! Never have I so realized th_lemental greatness of the man, the sweep and power of his understanding.
  • Summerlee drew him on with his chorus of subacid criticism, while Lord Joh_nd I laughed at the contest and the lady, her hand upon his sleeve, controlled the bellowings of the philosopher. Life, death, fate, the destin_f man—these were the stupendous subjects of that memorable hour, made vita_y the fact that as the meal progressed strange, sudden exaltations in my min_nd tinglings in my limbs proclaimed that the invisible tide of death wa_lowly and gently rising around us. Once I saw Lord John put his hand suddenl_o his eyes, and once Summerlee dropped back for an instant in his chair. Eac_reath we breathed was charged with strange forces. And yet our minds wer_appy and at ease. Presently Austin laid the cigarettes upon the table and wa_bout to withdraw.
  • "Austin!" said his master.
  • "Yes, sir?"
  • "I thank you for your faithful service." A smile stole over the servant'_narled face.
  • "I've done my duty, sir."
  • "I'm expecting the end of the world to-day, Austin."
  • "Yes, sir. What time, sir?"
  • "I can't say, Austin. Before evening."
  • "Very good, sir."
  • The taciturn Austin saluted and withdrew. Challenger lit a cigarette, and, drawing his chair closer to his wife's, he took her hand in his.
  • "You know how matters stand, dear," said he. "I have explained it also to ou_riends here. You're not afraid are you?"
  • "It won't be painful, George?"
  • "No more than laughing-gas at the dentist's. Every time you have had it yo_ave practically died."
  • "But that is a pleasant sensation."
  • "So may death be. The worn-out bodily machine can't record its impression, bu_e know the mental pleasure which lies in a dream or a trance. Nature ma_uild a beautiful door and hang it with many a gauzy and shimmering curtain t_ake an entrance to the new life for our wondering souls. In all my probing_f the actual, I have always found wisdom and kindness at the core; and i_ver the frightened mortal needs tenderness, it is surely as he makes th_assage perilous from life to life. No, Summerlee, I will have none of you_aterialism, for I, at least, am too great a thing to end in mere physica_onstituents, a packet of salts and three bucketfuls of water. Here—here"—an_e beat his great head with his huge, hairy fist—"there is something whic_ses matter, but is not of it—something which might destroy death, but whic_eath can never destroy."
  • "Talkin' of death," said Lord John. "I'm a Christian of sorts, but it seems t_e there was somethin' mighty natural in those ancestors of ours who wer_uried with their axes and bows and arrows and the like, same as if they wer_ivin' on just the same as they used to. I don't know," he added, lookin_ound the table in a shamefaced way, "that I wouldn't feel more homely mysel_f I was put away with my old .450 Express and the fowlin'-piece, the shorte_ne with the rubbered stock, and a clip or two of cartridges—just a fool'_ancy, of course, but there it is. How does it strike you, Herr Professor?"
  • "Well," said Summerlee, "since you ask my opinion, it strikes me as a_ndefensible throwback to the Stone Age or before it. I'm of the twentiet_entury myself, and would wish to die like a reasonable civilized man. I don'_now that I am more afraid of death than the rest of you, for I am an oldis_an, and, come what may, I can't have very much longer to live; but it is al_gainst my nature to sit waiting without a struggle like a sheep for th_utcher. Is it quite certain, Challenger, that there is nothing we can do?"
  • "To save us—nothing," said Challenger. "To prolong our lives a few hours an_hus to see the evolution of this mighty tragedy before we are actuall_nvolved in it—that may prove to be within my powers. I have taken certai_teps—"
  • "The oxygen?"
  • "Exactly. The oxygen."
  • "But what can oxygen effect in the face of a poisoning of the ether? There i_ot a greater difference in quality between a brick-bat and a gas than ther_s between oxygen and ether. They are different planes of matter. They canno_mpinge upon one another. Come, Challenger, you could not defend such _roposition."
  • "My good Summerlee, this etheric poison is most certainly influenced b_aterial agents. We see it in the methods and distribution of the outbreak. W_hould not a priori have expected it, but it is undoubtedly a fact. Hence I a_trongly of opinion that a gas like oxygen, which increases the vitality an_he resisting power of the body, would be extremely likely to delay the actio_f what you have so happily named the daturon. It may be that I am mistaken, but I have every confidence in the correctness of my reasoning."
  • "Well," said Lord John, "if we've got to sit suckin' at those tubes like s_any babies with their bottles, I'm not takin' any."
  • "There will be no need for that," Challenger answered. "We have mad_rrangements—it is to my wife that you chiefly owe it—that her boudoir shal_e made as airtight as is practicable. With matting and varnished paper."
  • "Good heavens, Challenger, you don't suppose you can keep out ether wit_arnished paper?"
  • "Really, my worthy friend, you are a trifle perverse in missing the point. I_s not to keep out the ether that we have gone to such trouble. It is to kee_n the oxygen. I trust that if we can ensure an atmosphere hyper-oxygenated t_ certain point, we may be able to retain our senses. I had two tubes of th_as and you have brought me three more. It is not much, but it is something."
  • "How long will they last?"
  • "I have not an idea. We will not turn them on until our symptoms becom_nbearable. Then we shall dole the gas out as it is urgently needed. It ma_ive us some hours, possibly even some days, on which we may look out upon _lasted world. Our own fate is delayed to that extent, and we will have th_ery singular experience, we five, of being, in all probability, the absolut_ear guard of the human race upon its march into the unknown. Perhaps you wil_e kind enough now to give me a hand with the cylinders. It seems to me tha_he atmosphere already grows somewhat more oppressive."