فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Professor Challenger

Later I received a letter from Professor Challenger.

Dear Sir,

I received your letter. You can come to my house. However, I am a great scientist and I do not need your good opinion of me. Show this letter to my servant when you arrive. I do not want any of those horrible journalists in my house.

Yours faithfully,

George Edward Challenger Professor Challenger

The next day I went to his house. A servant opened the door.

‘Is Professor Challenger expecting you?’ he asked.

‘Yes, he is,’ I answered.

‘Have you got the letter?’ he continued.

I showed the letter to his servant and walked in. A small woman stopped me. She looked more French than English to me. ‘Do you already know my husband?’ she asked ‘No, I don’t,’ I answered.

‘Well, then I must apologise for him now. He’s a perfectly impossible person. Do not argue with him. He can be dangerous. Do you want to talk about South America?’

‘Yes, madam,’ I answered, because I could not lie to a lady.

‘Oh, that’s a very dangerous subject! Just say that you agree with him. Call me if he seems dangerous. I can usually control him.’

The servant then led me into Professor Challenger’s study. I was surprised when I saw him. He had a very large head and a big black beard. His chest and arms were enormous.

‘Well?’ he said.

‘I am the student who wanted to ask you some questions about Weismann and Darwin,’ I said. ‘Perhaps, your opinion of Weismann was too critical,’ I continued. ‘And recent experiments show that maybe he’s right.’

‘Well,’ he said seriously, ‘you know that the cranial index is a constant factor?’

‘Naturally,’ I answered, but I did not understand anything.

‘And that germ plasm is different from the parthenogenetic egg?’

‘Oh yes,’ I cried and I was surprised at my courage.

‘But what does this show?’ he concluded.

‘I don’t know. What does this show?’

‘It shows,’ he said in a loud voice, ‘that you’re one of those horrible journalists and that you’re not a young scientist! I talked nonsense to you: my words had no real meaning!’

He stood up, and I was surprised because he was extremely short. He began to walk in my direction.

‘You mustn’t attack me,’ I said.

‘But I will,’ he answered. He attacked me and in a second we went quickly out of the front door into the street.

Fortunately, just then a policeman arrived and said, ‘What’s happening?’

‘This man attacked me,’ I said.

‘Do you want me to arrest him?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I replied, ‘I was wrong too.’

The policeman walked away.

The Professor looked at me and smiled a little.

‘Come in,’ he said, ‘I want to tell you something more.’

We entered his house again. Mrs Challenger was extremely angry.

‘You’re terrible! You’re not a famous professor at a great university because you always attack people!’ she shouted. The Professor grabbed his wife and put her on top of a pillar.

‘Put me down!’ she shouted.

‘Say please,’ he answered.

‘No, put me down, now!’ she continued.

‘No, say please,’ he said again.

‘Please! Please! Please!’ she shouted.

Then the Professor took her down and gave her a big kiss.

After this the Professor and I returned to his study.

‘I’m going to talk to you about South America,’ he said. ‘Two years ago I went on a journey to South America. I went to the Amazon to check some observations of the scientists Wallace and Bates. During my stay in the Amazon I became a friend of the Cucama Indians. They told me that there was a sick man that needed help. But before I arrived the man died. I was surprised, however, when I saw him. He was a white man, not an Indian. His name was Maple White and he was from the United States. He was an artist. Here are some of his pictures.

I looked at them. Some were of the Indians, and others were of different animals like turtles and alligators.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘these don’t seem very unusual.’

‘Look at the next one,’ he said.

It was a picture of a cliff with a thin, high tower of rock in front of it.

‘I don’t know anything about rocks,’ I said.

‘Well, try the next picture then,’ he said.

The next one was of a man next to a huge and very strange lizard.

‘Why did he draw this?’ the Professor asked.

‘I don’t know. Perhaps he drank too much gin,’ I answered.

‘Or perhaps he really saw this creature,’ he said.

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want to fight with him again.

‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘the Indians took me to the cliffs in Maple White’s drawings. I took some photographs. Most of them got wet during my journey home. Here is one that you can still see. Look!’

I looked carefully at the photograph. It was not in very good condition.

‘What do you see?’ he asked.

‘I see the same cliffs and the rock tower of the drawing,’ I answered.

‘Yes, of course. But what do you see on the top of the rock tower?’

‘I can see a tree.’

‘And on top of the tree?’

‘A large bird.’

‘It’s not a bird at all,’ he concluded, ‘and I shot it.’

He then pulled a wing out of a drawer.

‘Is that the wing of a gigantic bat?’ I asked.

‘No,’ he answered, ‘it’s the wing of a pterodactyl. Look at this book.’

He then showed me an illustration in a book that compared the wings of birds, bats and pterodactyls.

‘This is incredible!’ I cried because now I really believed him. ‘How is it possible?’

‘It seems that a volcanic action pushed up a huge area of rock millions of years ago. This area was protected and so the animals on this plateau continued to live. They never changed, and they’re still there today.’

‘Why don’t you tell other scientists about your discoveries?’

‘I told them about them but they laughed,’ he said. ‘Tonight there’s going to be a lecture at the Zoological Institute Hall on “The Record of the Ages” by Mr Waldron. I’ll be there. Come and you’ll see the reaction of other scientists to my discoveries.’

I promised to come, and left Professor Challenger.

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