He would be obliged if Professor Challenger would give the latitude and the longitude of the country in which prehistoric animals were to be found.
Professor Challenger replied that he reserved such information for good reasons of his own, but would be prepared to give it with proper precautions to a committee chosen from the audience.
Would Mr. Summerlee serve on such a committee and test his story in person?
"Yes, I will." (Great cheering.)
"Then I guarantee that I will place in your hands such material as will enable you to find your way.
It is only right, however, since Mr. Summerlee goes to check my statement that I should have one or more with him who may check his.
I will not disguise from you that there are difficulties and dangers.
Mr. Summerlee will need a younger colleague.
May I ask for volunteers?"
It is thus that the great crisis of a man's life springs out at him.
Could I have imagined when I entered that hall that I was about to pledge myself to a wilder adventure than had ever come to me in my dreams?
But Gladys—was it not the very opportunity of which she spoke?
Gladys would have told me to go.
I had sprung to my feet.
I was speaking, and yet I had prepared no words.
Tarp Henry, my companion, was plucking at my skirts and I heard him whispering,
"Sit down, Malone!
Don't make a public ass of yourself."
At the same time I was aware that a tall, thin man, with dark gingery hair, a few seats in front of me, was also upon his feet.
He glared back at me with hard angry eyes, but I refused to give way.
"I will go, Mr. Chairman," I kept repeating over and over again.
"Name! Name!" cried the audience.
"My name is Edward Dunn Malone.
I am the reporter of the Daily Gazette.
I claim to be an absolutely unprejudiced witness."
"What is YOUR name, sir?" the chairman asked of my tall rival.
"I am Lord John Roxton.
I have already been up the Amazon, I know all the ground, and have special qualifications for this investigation."
"Lord John Roxton's reputation as a sportsman and a traveler is, of course, world-famous," said the chairman; "at the same time it would certainly be as well to have a member of the Press upon such an expedition."
"Then I move," said Professor Challenger, "that both these gentlemen be elected, as representatives of this meeting, to accompany Professor Summerlee upon his journey to investigate and to report upon the truth of my statements."
And so, amid shouting and cheering, our fate was decided, and I found myself borne away in the human current which swirled towards the door, with my mind half stunned by the vast new project which had risen so suddenly before it.
As I emerged from the hall I was conscious for a moment of a rush of laughing students—down the pavement, and of an arm wielding a heavy umbrella, which rose and fell in the midst of them.
Then, amid a mixture of groans and cheers, Professor Challenger's electric brougham slid from the curb, and I found myself walking under the silvery lights of Regent Street, full of thoughts of Gladys and of wonder as to my future.
Suddenly there was a touch at my elbow.
I turned, and found myself looking into the humorous, masterful eyes of the tall, thin man who had volunteered to be my companion on this strange quest.
"Mr. Malone, I understand," said he.
"We are to be companions—what?
My rooms are just over the road, in the Albany.
Perhaps you would have the kindness to spare me half an hour, for there are one or two things that I badly want to say to you."
CHAPTER VI "I was the Flail of the Lord"
Lord John Roxton and I turned down Vigo Street together and through the dingy portals of the famous aristocratic rookery.
At the end of a long drab passage my new acquaintance pushed open a door and turned on an electric switch.
A number of lamps shining through tinted shades bathed the whole great room before us in a ruddy radiance.
Standing in the doorway and glancing round me, I had a general impression of extraordinary comfort and elegance combined with an atmosphere of masculine virility.
Everywhere there were mingled the luxury of the wealthy man of taste and the careless untidiness of the bachelor.
Rich furs and strange iridescent mats from some Oriental bazaar were scattered upon the floor.
Pictures and prints which even my unpractised eyes could recognize as being of great price and rarity hung thick upon the walls.
Sketches of boxers, of ballet-girls, and of racehorses alternated with a sensuous Fragonard, a martial Girardet, and a dreamy Turner.