"I have a few notes for your guidance, Mr. Malone.
I've had my eye on the Professor for some little time."
He took a paper from a drawer.
"Here is a summary of his record. I give it you briefly:—
"'Challenger, George Edward.
Born: Largs, N.
Educ.: Largs Academy; Edinburgh University.
British Museum Assistant, 1892.
Assistant-Keeper of Comparative Anthropology Department, 1893. Resigned after acrimonious correspondence same year.
Winner of Crayston Medal for Zoological Research.
Foreign Member of'—well, quite a lot of things, about two inches of small type—'Societe Belge, American Academy of Sciences, La Plata, etc., etc. Ex-President Palaeontological Society. Section H, British Association'—so on, so on!—'Publications:
"Some Observations Upon a Series of Kalmuck Skulls";
"Outlines of Vertebrate Evolution"; and numerous papers, including
"The underlying fallacy of Weissmannism," which caused heated discussion at the Zoological Congress of Vienna.
Recreations: Walking, Alpine climbing.
Address: Enmore Park, Kensington, W.'
"There, take it with you.
I've nothing more for you to-night."
I pocketed the slip of paper. "One moment, sir," I said, as I realized that it was a pink bald head, and not a red face, which was fronting me.
"I am not very clear yet why I am to interview this gentleman.
What has he done?"
The face flashed back again.
"Went to South America on a solitary expedeetion 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 somebody started to pick holes, and he just shut up like an oyster.
Something wonderful happened—or the man's a champion liar, which is the more probable supposeetion.
Had some damaged photographs, said to be fakes.
Got so touchy that he assaults anyone who asks questions, and heaves reporters down the stairs.
In my opinion he's just a homicidal megalomaniac with a turn for science.
That's your man, Mr. Malone.
Now, off you run, and see what you can make of him.
You're big enough to look after yourself.
Anyway, you are all safe. Employers' Liability Act, you know."
A grinning red face turned once more into a pink oval, fringed with gingery fluff; the interview was at an end.
I walked across to the Savage Club, but instead of turning into it I leaned upon the railings of Adelphi Terrace and gazed thoughtfully for a long time at the brown, oily river.
I can always think most sanely and clearly in the open air.
I took out the list of Professor Challenger's exploits, and I read it over under the electric lamp.
Then I had what I can only regard as an inspiration.
As a Pressman, I felt sure from what I had been told that I could never hope to get into touch with this cantankerous Professor.
But these recriminations, twice mentioned in his skeleton biography, could only mean that he was a fanatic in science.
Was there not an exposed margin there upon which he might be accessible?
I would try.
I entered the club.
It was just after eleven, and the big room was fairly full, though the rush had not yet set in.
I noticed a tall, thin, angular man seated in an arm-chair by the fire.
He turned as I drew my chair up to him.
It was the man of all others whom I should have chosen—Tarp Henry, of the staff of Nature, a thin, dry, leathery creature, who was full, to those who knew him, of kindly humanity.
I plunged instantly into my subject.