"ENMORE PARK, W.
"SIR,—I have duly received your note, in which you claim to endorse my views, although I am not aware that they are dependent upon endorsement either from you or anyone else.
You have ventured to use the word 'speculation' with regard to my statement upon the subject of Darwinism, and I would call your attention to the fact that such a word in such a connection is offensive to a degree.
The context convinces me, however, that you have sinned rather through ignorance and tactlessness than through malice, so I am content to pass the matter by.
You quote an isolated sentence from my lecture, and appear to have some difficulty in understanding it.
I should have thought that only a sub-human intelligence could have failed to grasp the point, but if it really needs amplification I shall consent to see you at the hour named, though visits and visitors of every sort are exceeding distasteful to me.
As to your suggestion that I may modify my opinion, I would have you know that it is not my habit to do so after a deliberate expression of my mature views.
You will kindly show the envelope of this letter to my man, Austin, when you call, as he has to take every precaution to shield me from the intrusive rascals who call themselves 'journalists.'
"Yours faithfully, "GEORGE EDWARD CHALLENGER."
This was the letter that I read aloud to Tarp Henry, who had come down early to hear the result of my venture.
His only remark was,
"There's some new stuff, cuticura or something, which is better than arnica."
Some people have such extraordinary notions of humor.
It was nearly half-past ten before I had received my message, but a taxicab took me round in good time for my appointment.
It was an imposing porticoed house at which we stopped, and the heavily-curtained windows gave every indication of wealth upon the part of this formidable Professor.
The door was opened by an odd, swarthy, dried-up person of uncertain age, with a dark pilot jacket and brown leather gaiters.
I found afterwards that he was the chauffeur, who filled the gaps left by a succession of fugitive butlers.
He looked me up and down with a searching light blue eye.
"Expected?" he asked.
"Got your letter?"
I produced the envelope.
He seemed to be a person of few words.
Following him down the passage I was suddenly interrupted by a small woman, who stepped out from what proved to be the dining-room door.
She was a bright, vivacious, dark-eyed lady, more French than English in her type.
"One moment," she said.
"You can wait, Austin.
Step in here, sir.
May I ask if you have met my husband before?"
"No, madam, I have not had the honor."
"Then I apologize to you in advance.
I must tell you that he is a perfectly impossible person—absolutely impossible.
If you are forewarned you will be the more ready to make allowances."
"It is most considerate of you, madam."
"Get quickly out of the room if he seems inclined to be violent.
Don't wait to argue with him.
Several people have been injured through doing that.
Afterwards there is a public scandal and it reflects upon me and all of us.
I suppose it wasn't about South America you wanted to see him?"
I could not lie to a lady.
That is his most dangerous subject.
You won't believe a word he says—I'm sure I don't wonder.
But don't tell him so, for it makes him very violent.
Pretend to believe him, and you may get through all right.
Remember he believes it himself.
Of that you may be assured.
A more honest man never lived.
Don't wait any longer or he may suspect. If you find him dangerous—really dangerous—ring the bell and hold him off until I come.