'In spite of the destruction of so many invaluable negatives, there still remains in our collection a certain number of corroborative photographs showing the conditions of life upon the plateau.
Did they accuse them of having forged these photographs?' (A voice,
'Yes,' and considerable interruption which ended in several men being put out of the hall.)
'The negatives were open to the inspection of experts.
But what other evidence had they?
Under the conditions of their escape it was naturally impossible to bring a large amount of baggage, but they had rescued Professor Summerlee's collections of butterflies and beetles, containing many new species.
Was this not evidence?' (Several voices, 'No.')
'Who said no?'
"DR. ILLINGWORTH (rising):
'Our point is that such a collection might have been made in other places than a prehistoric plateau.' (Applause.)
'No doubt, sir, we have to bow to your scientific authority, although I must admit that the name is unfamiliar.
Passing, then, both the photographs and the entomological collection, I come to the varied and accurate information which we bring with us upon points which have never before been elucidated.
For example, upon the domestic habits of the pterodactyl—'(A voice: 'Bosh,' and uproar)—'I say, that upon the domestic habits of the pterodactyl we can throw a flood of light.
I can exhibit to you from my portfolio a picture of that creature taken from life which would convince you——'
'No picture could convince us of anything.'
'You would require to see the thing itself?'
'And you would accept that?'
"DR. ILLINGWORTH (laughing):
'Beyond a doubt.'
"It was at this point that the sensation of the evening arose—a sensation so dramatic that it can never have been paralleled in the history of scientific gatherings.
Professor Challenger raised his hand in the air as a signal, and at once our colleague, Mr. E.
Malone, was observed to rise and to make his way to the back of the platform.
An instant later he re-appeared in company of a gigantic negro, the two of them bearing between them a large square packing-case.
It was evidently of great weight, and was slowly carried forward and placed in front of the Professor's chair.
All sound had hushed in the audience and everyone was absorbed in the spectacle before them.
Professor Challenger drew off the top of the case, which formed a sliding lid. Peering down into the box he snapped his fingers several times and was heard from the Press seat to say,
'Come, then, pretty, pretty!' in a coaxing voice.
An instant later, with a scratching, rattling sound, a most horrible and loathsome creature appeared from below and perched itself upon the side of the case.
Even the unexpected fall of the Duke of Durham into the orchestra, which occurred at this moment, could not distract the petrified attention of the vast audience.
The face of the creature was like the wildest gargoyle that the imagination of a mad medieval builder could have conceived. It was malicious, horrible, with two small red eyes as bright as points of burning coal.
Its long, savage mouth, which was held half-open, was full of a double row of shark-like teeth.
Its shoulders were humped, and round them were draped what appeared to be a faded gray shawl.
It was the devil of our childhood in person.
There was a turmoil in the audience—someone screamed, two ladies in the front row fell senseless from their chairs, and there was a general movement upon the platform to follow their chairman into the orchestra.
For a moment there was danger of a general panic.
Professor Challenger threw up his hands to still the commotion, but the movement alarmed the creature beside him.
Its strange shawl suddenly unfurled, spread, and fluttered as a pair of leathery wings.
Its owner grabbed at its legs, but too late to hold it.
It had sprung from the perch and was circling slowly round the Queen's Hall with a dry, leathery flapping of its ten-foot wings, while a putrid and insidious odor pervaded the room.
The cries of the people in the galleries, who were alarmed at the near approach of those glowing eyes and that murderous beak, excited the creature to a frenzy.
Faster and faster it flew, beating against walls and chandeliers in a blind frenzy of alarm.
For heaven's sake shut that window!' roared the Professor from the platform, dancing and wringing his hands in an agony of apprehension.