“There was nothing worth boasting of.”
“I didn’t know.” She looked at me with more interest. “That was brave of you.”
“I had to. If you want to write a good article, you must be where the things are.”
“What a prosaic motive! It seems to take all the romance out of it. But, still, I am glad that you went down that mine. I dare say I am a foolish woman with a young girl’s dreams. And yet it is so real with me, that I cannot help it. If I marry, I do want to marry a famous man!”
“Why should you not?” I cried. “Give me a chance, and see if I will take it! I’ll do something in the world!”
She laughed at my sudden Irish excitement.
“Why not?” she said. “You have everything a man could have… youth, health, strength, education, energy. Now I am glad if it wakens these thoughts in you!”
“And if I…”
Her dear hand rested upon my lips.
“Not another word, Sir! You should have been at the office for evening duty half an hour ago. Some day, perhaps, when you have won your place in the world, we shall talk it over again.”
And so I left her with my heart glowing within me and with the eager determination to find some deed which was worthy of my lady. But who… who in all this world could ever have imagined this incredible deed I was about to take? Was it hardness, was it selfishness, that Gladys should ask me to risk my life for her own glorification? Such thoughts may come in middle age but never when you are twenty three and in the fever of your first love.
Try Your Luck With Professor Challenger
I always liked McArdle, the crabbed,[8 - crabbed – ворчливый] old, red-headed news editor, and I hoped that he liked me. Of course, Beaumont was the real boss but he was above and beyond us – we saw him very seldom. And McArdle was his first lieutenant. The old man nodded as I entered the room.
“Well, Mr. Malone, you seem to be doing very well,” he said in his kindly Scottish accent.
I thanked him.
“The article about explosion was excellent. So why did you want to see me?”
“To ask a favour[9 - to ask a favour – попросить об услуге]… Do you think, Sir, that you could possibly send me on some mission? I would do my best[10 - to do one’s best – делать всё возможное] to get you some good copy.[11 - copy – материал для статьи]”
“What sort of mission, Mr. Malone?”
“Well, Sir, anything that had adventure and danger in it. The more difficult it was, the better it would suit me.”
“You seem very anxious to lose your life.”
“To justify my life, Sir.”
“Dear me, Mr. Malone, I’m afraid the day for this sort of thing is rather past. There’s no room for romance… Wait a bit, though!” he added, with a sudden smile. “What about exposing a fraud… a modern Munchausen[12 - Munchausen – Мюнхгаузен (литературный персонаж)]… and making him ridiculous? You could show him as the liar that he is! How does it sound to you?”
“Anything… anywhere… I don’t care.”
McArdle was plunged in thought for some minutes.
“You seem to have, I suppose, animal magnetism, or youthful energy, or something… So why should you not try your luck with Professor Challenger?”
I looked a little startled.
“Challenger!” I cried. “Professor Challenger, the famous zoologist! The man who broke the skull of Blundell, of the Telegraph!”
The news editor smiled grimly.
“Do you mind? Didn’t you say it was adventures you wanted?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered.
“I don’t suppose he can always be so violent as that. You may have better luck, or more tact in handling him.”
“I really know nothing about him,” I said. “I only remember his name in connection with the police-court proceedings, for striking Blundell. I am not very clear yet why I am to interview this gentleman. What else has he done?”
“He went to South America on a expedition two years ago. Came back last year. Had undoubtedly been to South America, but refused to say exactly where. Began to tell his adventures in a vague way but then just shut up like an oyster. Something wonderful happened… or the man’s a great liar. Had some damaged photographs, said to be fakes. Now he attacks anyone who asks questions and kicks reporters downstairs.[13 - to kick smb downstairs – спускать кого-либо с лестницы] In my opinion he’s just a maniac with a turn for science. That’s your man, Mr. Malone. Now, go. We’ll see what you can do. You’re big enough to look after yourself.”
I left the office and entered the Savage Club and found the very man I needed. Tarp Henry, of the staff of Nature, a thin, dry, leathery creature, who was full of kindly humanity.
“What do you know of Professor Challenger?” I asked him at once.
“Challenger? He was the man who came with some story from South America.”
“Oh, it was nonsense about some animals he had discovered. I believe he has retracted[14 - to retract – отказываться от своих слов] since. He gave an interview to Reuter’s, and there was such a howl that he saw it wouldn’t do. There were one or two men who were inclined to take him seriously, but he soon removed them.”
“Well, by his rudeness and impossible behaviour. There was poor old Wadley, of the Zoological Institute. Wadley sent a message: ‘The President of the Zoological Institute presents his compliments to Professor Challenger, and would take it as a personal favour if he would do them the honour to come to their next meeting.’ The answer was unprintable.”
“Good Lord! Anything more about Challenger?”
“Well, he’s a fanatic.”
“In what particular sphere?”
“There are lots of examples, but the latest is something about Weissmann and Evolution. He had a fearful row about it in Vienna, I believe. There is a translation of the proceedings at our office. Would you like to have a look?”
“It’s just what I need! I have to interview the fellow. I’ll go with you now, if it is not too late.”
Half an hour later I was seated in the newspaper office with a huge tome in front of me, reading the article “Weissmann versus Darwin.” I couldn’t make out a word as if it were written in Chinese, but it was evident that the English Professor had spoken in a very aggressive way, and had thoroughly annoyed his Continental colleagues.
“I wish you could translate it into English for me,” I said, pathetically, to my friend.
“Well, it is a translation.”
“All I need is a single good sentence which conveys some sort of definite human idea. Ah, yes, this one will do. I even seem to understand it. I’ll copy it out. This shall be my link with the terrible Professor.”