Arthur Conan Doyle Fullscreen The Lost World (1912)


"One must wait till it comes."

"But why can't you love me, Gladys?

Is it my appearance, or what?"

She did unbend a little.

She put forward a hand—such a gracious, stooping attitude it was—and she pressed back my head.

Then she looked into my upturned face with a very wistful smile.

"No it isn't that," she said at last.

"You're not a conceited boy by nature, and so I can safely tell you it is not that.

It's deeper."

"My character?"

She nodded severely.

"What can I do to mend it?

Do sit down and talk it over.

No, really, I won't if you'll only sit down!"

She looked at me with a wondering distrust which was much more to my mind than her whole-hearted confidence.

How primitive and bestial it looks when you put it down in black and white!—and perhaps after all it is only a feeling peculiar to myself.

Anyhow, she sat down.

"Now tell me what's amiss with me?"

"I'm in love with somebody else," said she.

It was my turn to jump out of my chair.

"It's nobody in particular," she explained, laughing at the expression of my face: "only an ideal.

I've never met the kind of man I mean."

"Tell me about him.

What does he look like?"

"Oh, he might look very much like you."

"How dear of you to say that!

Well, what is it that he does that I don't do?

Just say the word,—teetotal, vegetarian, aeronaut, theosophist, superman.

I'll have a try at it, Gladys, if you will only give me an idea what would please you."

She laughed at the elasticity of my character.

"Well, in the first place, I don't think my ideal would speak like that," said she.

"He would be a harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt himself to a silly girl's whim.

But, above all, he must be a man who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences.

It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had won; for they would be reflected upon me.

Think of Richard Burton!

When I read his wife's life of him I could so understand her love!

And Lady Stanley!

Did you ever read the wonderful last chapter of that book about her husband?

These are the sort of men that a woman could worship with all her soul, and yet be the greater, not the less, on account of her love, honored by all the world as the inspirer of noble deeds."

She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm that I nearly brought down the whole level of the interview. I gripped myself hard, and went on with the argument.

"We can't all be Stanleys and Burtons," said I; "besides, we don't get the chance,—at least, I never had the chance.

If I did, I should try to take it."

"But chances are all around you.

It is the mark of the kind of man I mean that he makes his own chances.

You can't hold him back.

I've never met him, and yet I seem to know him so well.

There are heroisms all round us waiting to be done.

It's for men to do them, and for women to reserve their love as a reward for such men.

Look at that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon.

It was blowing a gale of wind; but because he was announced to go he insisted on starting.