I should be a better man if I did what you advise, but I shouldn't be quite George Edward Challenger.
There are plenty of better men, my dear, but only one G. E. C.
So make the best of him."
He suddenly gave her a resounding kiss, which embarrassed me even more than his violence had done.
"Now, Mr. Malone," he continued, with a great accession of dignity, "this way, if YOU please."
We re-entered the room which we had left so tumultuously ten minutes before.
The Professor closed the door carefully behind us, motioned me into an arm-chair, and pushed a cigar-box under my nose.
"Real San Juan Colorado," he said.
"Excitable people like you are the better for narcotics.
Heavens! don't bite it!
Cut—and cut with reverence!
Now lean back, and listen attentively to whatever I may care to say to you.
If any remark should occur to you, you can reserve it for some more opportune time.
"First of all, as to your return to my house after your most justifiable expulsion"—he protruded his beard, and stared at me as one who challenges and invites contradiction—"after, as I say, your well-merited expulsion.
The reason lay in your answer to that most officious policeman, in which I seemed to discern some glimmering of good feeling upon your part—more, at any rate, than I am accustomed to associate with your profession.
In admitting that the fault of the incident lay with you, you gave some evidence of a certain mental detachment and breadth of view which attracted my favorable notice.
The sub-species of the human race to which you unfortunately belong has always been below my mental horizon.
Your words brought you suddenly above it.
You swam up into my serious notice.
For this reason I asked you to return with me, as I was minded to make your further acquaintance.
You will kindly deposit your ash in the small Japanese tray on the bamboo table which stands at your left elbow."
All this he boomed forth like a professor addressing his class.
He had swung round his revolving chair so as to face me, and he sat all puffed out like an enormous bull-frog, his head laid back and his eyes half-covered by supercilious lids. Now he suddenly turned himself sideways, and all I could see of him was tangled hair with a red, protruding ear. He was scratching about among the litter of papers upon his desk. He faced me presently with what looked like a very tattered sketch-book in his hand.
"I am going to talk to you about South America," said he.
"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 express permission.
That permission will, in all human probability, never be given.
Is that clear?"
"It is very hard," said I.
"Surely a judicious account——"
He replaced the notebook upon the table.
"That ends it," said he.
"I wish you a very good morning."
I cried. "I submit to any conditions.
So far as I can see, I have no choice."
"None in the world," said he.
"Well, then, I promise."
"Word of honor?"
"Word of honor."
He looked at me with doubt in his insolent eyes.
"After all, what do I know about your honor?" said he.
"Upon my word, sir," I cried, angrily, "you take very great liberties!
I have never been so insulted in my life."
He seemed more interested than annoyed at my outbreak.
"Round-headed," he muttered.
"Brachycephalic, gray-eyed, black-haired, with suggestion of the negroid.
Celtic, I presume?"
"I am an Irishman, sir."