Summerlee was sitting up and stuffing some tobacco into his old briar. "We've got to see them safe," said he.
"You've pulled us all out of the jaws of death.
My word! it was a good bit of work!"
"Admirable!" cried Challenger.
Not only we as individuals, but European science collectively, owe you a deep debt of gratitude for what you have done.
I do not hesitate to say that the disappearance of Professor Summerlee and myself would have left an appreciable gap in modern zoological history.
Our young friend here and you have done most excellently well."
He beamed at us with the old paternal smile, but European science would have been somewhat amazed could they have seen their chosen child, the hope of the future, with his tangled, unkempt head, his bare chest, and his tattered clothes.
He had one of the meat-tins between his knees, and sat with a large piece of cold Australian mutton between his fingers.
The Indian looked up at him, and then, with a little yelp, cringed to the ground and clung to Lord John's leg.
"Don't you be scared, my bonnie boy," said Lord John, patting the matted head in front of him.
"He can't stick your appearance, Challenger; and, by George!
I don't wonder.
All right, little chap, he's only a human, just the same as the rest of us."
"Really, sir!" cried the Professor.
"Well, it's lucky for you, Challenger, that you ARE a little out of the ordinary.
If you hadn't been so like the king——"
"Upon my word, Lord John, you allow yourself great latitude."
"Well, it's a fact."
"I beg, sir, that you will change the subject.
Your remarks are irrelevant and unintelligible.
The question before us is what are we to do with these Indians?
The obvious thing is to escort them home, if we knew where their home was."
"There is no difficulty about that," said I.
"They live in the caves on the other side of the central lake."
"Our young friend here knows where they live.
I gather that it is some distance."
"A good twenty miles," said I.
Summerlee gave a groan.
"I, for one, could never get there.
Surely I hear those brutes still howling upon our track."
As he spoke, from the dark recesses of the woods we heard far away the jabbering cry of the ape-men.
The Indians once more set up a feeble wail of fear.
"We must move, and move quick!" said Lord John.
"You help Summerlee, young fellah.
These Indians will carry stores.
Now, then, come along before they can see us."
In less than half-an-hour we had reached our brushwood retreat and concealed ourselves.
All day we heard the excited calling of the ape-men in the direction of our old camp, but none of them came our way, and the tired fugitives, red and white, had a long, deep sleep.
I was dozing myself in the evening when someone plucked my sleeve, and I found Challenger kneeling beside me.
"You keep a diary of these events, and you expect eventually to publish it, Mr. Malone," said he, with solemnity.
"I am only here as a Press reporter," I answered.
You may have heard some rather fatuous remarks of Lord John Roxton's which seemed to imply that there was some—some resemblance——"
"Yes, I heard them."
"I need not say that any publicity given to such an idea—any levity in your narrative of what occurred—would be exceedingly offensive to me."
"I will keep well within the truth."
"Lord John's observations are frequently exceedingly fanciful, and he is capable of attributing the most absurd reasons to the respect which is always shown by the most undeveloped races to dignity and character.
You follow my meaning?"