“Shall I not?” He was slowly approaching in a menacing way, “I have thrown several of journalists out of the house. You will be the fourth or fifth. Why should you not follow them?”
I could have rushed for the hall door, but it would have been too disgraceful. Besides, a little glow of righteous anger was springing up within me.
“Keep your hands off, sir. I’ll not stand it.[20 - I’ll not stand it! – Я этого не потерплю!]”
“Dear me!” he cried smiling.
“Don’t be such a fool, Professor!” I cried. “What can you hope for? I’m not the man…”
It was at that moment that he attacked me. It was lucky that I had opened the door, or we should have gone through it. We did a Catharine-wheel[21 - to do a Catharine-wheel – перекувырнуться «колесом»] together down the passage. My mouth was full of his beard, our arms were locked, our bodies intertwined. The watchful Austin had thrown open the hall door. We went down the front steps and rolled apart into the gutter. He sprang to his feet, waving his fists.
“Had enough?” he panted.
“You infernal bully!” I cried, as I gathered myself together.
At that moment a policeman appeared beside us, his notebook in his hand.
“What’s all this? You ought to be ashamed” said the policeman. “Well,” he insisted, turning to me, “what is it, then?”
“This man attacked me,” I said.
“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. “You were in trouble last month for the same thing. Do you give him in charge,[22 - Do you give him in charge? – Вы предъявляете ему обвинение?] sir?”
“No,” said I, “I do not. It was my fault. He gave me fair warning.”
The policeman closed his notebook.
“Don’t let us have any more such goings-on,” he said and left.
The Professor looked at me, and there was something humorous in his eyes.
“Come in!” said he. “I’ve not done with you yet.”
I followed him into the house. The man-servant, Austin, closed the door behind us.
It’s Just The Very Biggest Thing In The World
Hardly was it shut when Mrs. Challenger ran out of the dining-room. The small woman was furious.
“You brute, George!” she screamed. “You’ve hurt that nice young man.”
“Here he is, safe and sound.[23 - safe and sound – цел и невредим]”
“Nothing but scandals every week! Everyone hating and making fun of you. You’ve finished my patience. You, a man who should have been Regius Professor at a great University with a thousand students all respecting you. Where is your dignity, George? A ruffian… that’s what you have become!”
“Be good, Jessie.”
“A roaring bully!”
Challenger bellowed with laughter. Suddenly his tone altered.
“Excuse us, Mr. Malone. I called you back for some more serious purpose than to mix you up with our little domestic problems.” He suddenly gave his wife a kiss, which embarrassed me. “Now, Mr. Malone,” he continued, “this way, if you please.”
We re-entered the room which we had left so rapidly ten minutes before. The Professor closed the door carefully behind us, pointed at the arm-chair, and pushed a cigar-box under my nose.
“Now listen attentively. The reason why I brought you home again is in your answer to that policeman. It was not the answer I am accustomed to associate with your profession.”
He said it like a professor addressing his class.
“I am going to talk to you about South America,” he said and took a sketch-book out of his table. “No comments if you please. First of all, I wish you to understand that nothing I tell you now is to be repeated in any public way unless you have my permission. And that permission will probably never be given. Is that clear?”
“It is very hard… Your behaviour…”
“Then I wish you a very good morning.”
“No, no!” I cried. “So far as I can see, I have no choice.”
“Word of honour?”
“Word of honour.”
He looked at me with doubt in his eyes.
“What do I know about your honour?” said he.
“Upon my word, sir,” I cried, angrily, “I have never been so insulted in my life.”
He seemed more interested than annoyed.
“Round-headed,” he muttered. “Brachycephalic, gray-eyed, black-haired, with suggestion of the negroid. Celtic, I suppose?”
“I am an Irishman, sir.”
“That, of course, explains it. Well, you promised. You are probably aware that two years ago I made a journey to South America. You are aware… or probably, in this half-educated age, you are not aware… that the country round some parts of the Amazon is still only partially explored. It was my business to visit these little-known places and to examine their fauna. And I did a great job which will be my life’s justification. I was returning, my work accomplished, when I had occasion to spend a night at a small Indian village. The natives were Cucama Indians, an amiable but degraded race, with mental powers hardly superior to the average Londoner. I had cured some of their people, and had impressed them a lot, so that I was not surprised to find myself eagerly awaited upon my return. I understood from their gestures that someone needed my medical services. When I entered the hut I found that the sufferer had already died. He was, to my surprise, no Indian, but a white man. So far as I could understand the account of the natives, he was a complete stranger to them, and had come upon their village through the woods alone being very exhausted.”
“The man’s bag lay beside the couch, and I examined the contents. His name was written upon a tab within it… Maple White, Lake Avenue, Detroit, Michigan. Now I can say that I owe this man a lot.”
“This man had been an artist. There were some simple pictures of river scenery, a paint-box, a box of coloured chalks, some brushes, that curved bone which lies upon my inkstand, a cheap revolver, and a few cartridges. Some personal equipment he had lost in his journey. Then I noticed a sketch-book. This sketch-book. I hand it to you now, and I ask you to take it page by page and to examine the contents.”
I had opened it. The first page was disappointing, however, as it contained nothing but the picture of a very fat man, “Jimmy Colver on the Mail-boat,” written beneath it. There followed several pages which were filled with small sketches of Indians. Studies of women and babies accounted for several more pages, and then there was an unbroken series of animal drawings.