Malone was still the same athletic Irishman who had once won his international cap at Rugby, but life had toned him down also, and made him a more subdued and thoughtful man. He had put away a good deal when last his football-boots had been packed away for good. His muscles may have wilted and his joints stiffened, but his mind was deeper and more active. The boy was dead and the man was born. In person he had altered little, but his moustache was heavier, his back a little rounded, and some lines of thought were tracing themselves upon his brow. Post-war conditions and new world problems had left their mark. For the rest he had made his name in journalism and even to a small degree in literature. He was still a bachelor, though there were some who thought that his hold on that condition was precarious and that Miss Enid Challenger's little white fingers could disengage it. Certainly they were very good chums.
It was a Sunday evening in October, and the lights were just beginning to twinkle out through the fog which had shrouded London from early morning. Professor Challenger's flat at Victoria West Gardens was upon the third floor, and the mist lay thick upon the windows, while the low hum of the attenuated Sunday traffic rose up from an invisible highway beneath, which was outlined only by scattered patches of dull radiance. Professor Challenger sat with his thick, bandy legs outstretched to the fire, and his hands thrust deeply into trouser pockets. His dress had a little of the eccentricity of genius, for he wore a loose-collared shirt, a large knotted maroon-coloured silk tie, and a black velvet smoking-jacket, which, with his flowing beard, gave him the appearance of an elderly and Bohemian artist. On one side of him ready for an excursion, with bowl hat, short-skirted dress of black, and all the other fashionable devices with which women contrive to deform the beauties of nature, there sat his daughter, while Malone, hat in hand, waited by the window.
"I think we should get off, Enid. It is nearly seven," said he.
They were writing joint articles upon the religious denominations of London, and on each Sunday evening they sallied out together to sample some new one and get copy for the next week's issue of the Gazette.
"It's not till eight, Ted. We have lots of time."
"Sit down, sir! Sit down!" boomed Challenger, tugging at his beard as was his habit if his temper was rising. "there is nothing annoys me more than having anyone standing behind me. A relic of atavism and the fear of a dagger, but still persistent. That's right. For heaven's sake put your hat down! You have a perpetual air of catching a train."
"That's the journalistic life," said Malone. "If we don't catch the perpetual train we get left. Even Enid is beginning to understand that. But still, as you say, there is time enough."
"How far have you got?" asked Challenger.
Enid consulted a business-like little reporter's notebook. "We have done seven. There was Westminster Abbey for the Church in its most picturesque form, and Saint Agatha for the High Church, and Tudor Place for the Low. Then there was the Westminster Cathedral for Catholics, Endell Street for Presbyterians, and Gloucester Square for Unitarians. But to-night we are trying to introduce some variety. We are doing the Spiritualists."
Challenger snorted like an angry buffalo.
"Next week the lunatic asylums, I presume," said he. "You don't mean to tell me, Malone, that these ghost people have got churches of their own."
"I've been looking into that," said Malone. "I always look up cold facts and figures before I tackle a job. They have over four hundred registered churches in Great Britain."
Challenger's snorts now sounded like a whole herd of buffaloes.
"There seems to me to be absolutely no limit to the inanity and credulity of the human race. Homo Sapiens! Homo idioticus! Who do they pray to -- the ghosts?"
"Well, that's what we want to find out. We should get some copy out of them. I need not say that I share your view entirely, but I've seen something of Atkinson of St.