3. In Which Professor Challenger Gives His Opinion
ENID had stepped into the cab and Malone was following when his name was called and a man came running down the street. He was tall, middle-aged, handsome and well-dressed, with the clean-shaven, self- confident face of the successful surgeon.
"Hullo, Malone! Stop!"
"Why, it's Atkinson! Enid, let me introduce you. This is Mr. Atkinson of St. Mary's about whom I spoke to your father. Can we give you a lift? We are going towards Victoria."
"Capital!" The surgeon followed them into the cab. "I was amazed to see you at a Spiritualist meeting."
"We were only there professionally. Miss Challenger and I are both on the Press."
"Oh, really! The Daily Gazette, I suppose, as before. Well, you will have one more subscriber, for I shall want to see what you made of to-night's show."
"You'll have to wait till next Sunday. It is one of a series."
"Oh, I say, I can't wait as long as that. What did you make of it?"
"I really don't know. I shall have to read my notes carefully to-morrow and think it over, and compare impressions with my colleague here. She has the intuition, you see, which goes for so much in religious matters."
"And what is your intuition, Miss Challenger?"
"Good -- oh yes, good! But, dear me, what an extraordinary mixture!"
"Yes, indeed. I have been several times and it always leaves the same mixed impression upon my own mind. Some of it is ludicrous, and some of it might be dishonest, and yet again some of it is clearly wonderful."
"But you are not on the Press. Why were you there?"
"Because I am deeply interested. You see, I am a student of psychic matters and have been for some years am not a convinced one but I am sympathetic, and I have sufficient sense of proportion to realize that while I seem to be sitting in judgment upon the subject it may in truth be the subject which is sitting in judgment upon me."
Malone nodded appreciation.
"It is enormous. You will realize that as you get to close grips with it. It is half a dozen great subjects in one. And it is all in the hands of these good humble folk who, in the face of every discouragement and personal loss, have carried it on for more than seventy years. It is really very like the rise of Christianity. It was run by slaves and underlings until it gradually extended upwards. There were three hundred years between Caesar's slave and Caesar getting the light. "
"But the preacher!" cried Enid in protest.
Mr. Atkinson laughed.
"You mean our friend from Atlantis. What a terrible bore the fellow was! I confess I don't know what to make of performances like that. Self-deception, I think, and the temporary emergence of some fresh strand of personality which dramatizes itself in this way. The only thing I am quite sure of is that it is not really an inhabitant of Atlantis who arrives from his long voyage with this awful cargo of platitudes. Well, here we are!"
"I have to deliver this young lady safe and sound to her father," said Malone. "Look here, Atkinson, don't leave us. The Professor would really like to see you."
"What at this hour! Why, he would throw me down the stairs."
"You've been hearing stories," said Enid. "Really it is not so bad as that. Some people annoy him, but I am sure you are not one of them. Won't you chance it?"
"With that encouragement, certainly." And the three walked down the bright outer corridor to the lift. Challenger, clad now in a brilliant blue dressing-gown, was eagerly awaiting them. He eyed Atkinson as a fighting bulldog eyes some canine stranger. The inspection seemed to satisfy him, however, for he growled that he was glad to meet him.
"I've heard of your name, sir, and of your rising reputation. Your resection of the cord last year made some stir, I understand. But have you been down among the lunatics also?"
"Well, if you call them so," said Atkinson with a laugh.
"Good Heavens, what else could I call them? I remember now that my young friend here " (Challenger had a way of alluding to Malone as if he were a promising boy of ten) "told me you were studying the subject." He roared with offensive laughter.