Certainly, with his athletic proportions, which had run a little to seed but were still notable, and with his virile voice and strong if homely face, he gave no impression of instability.

"We are all labelled with some stigma by our opponents" said he. "I wonder what yours will be."

"We must not sail under false colours, Mr. Mailey," said Enid. "We are not yet among the believers."

"Quite right. You should take your time over it. It is infinitely the most important thing in the world, so it is worth taking time over. I took many years myself. Folk can be blamed for neglecting it, but no one can be blamed for being cautious in examination. Now I am all out for it, as you are aware, because I know it is true. There is such a difference between believing and knowing. I lecture a good deal. But I never want to convert my audience. I don't believe in sudden conversions. They are shallow, superficial things. All I want is to put the thing before the people as clearly as I can. I just tell them the truth and why we know it is the truth. Then my job is done. They can take it or leave it. If they are wise they will explore along the paths that I indicate. If they are unwise they miss their chance. I don't want to press them or to proselytize. It's their affair, not mine."

"Well, that seems a reasonable view," said Enid, who was attracted by the frank manner of their new acquaintance. They were standing now in the full flood of light cast by Bolsover's big plate-glass window. She had a good look at him, his broad forehead, his curious grey eyes, thoughtful and yet eager, his straw-coloured beard which indicated the outline of an aggressive chin. He was solidity personified -- the very opposite of the fanatic whom she had imagined. His name had been a good deal in the papers lately as a protagonist in the long battle, and she remembered that it had never been mentioned without an answering snort from her father.

"I wonder," she said to Malone, "what would happen if Mr. Mailey were locked up in a room with Dad!"

Malone laughed. "There used to be a schoolboy question as to what would occur if an irresistible force were to strike an invincible obstacle."

"Oh, you are the daughter of Professor Challenger," said Mailey with interest. "He is a big figure in the scientific world. What a grand world it would be if it would only realize its own limitations."

"I don't quite follow you."

"It is this scientific world which is at the bottom of much of our materialism. It has helped us in comfort -- if comfort is any use to us. Otherwise it has usually been a curse to us, for it has called itself progress and given us a false impression that we are making progress, whereas we are really drifting very steadily backwards."

"Really, I can't quite agree with you there, Mr. Mailey," said Malone, who was getting restive under what seemed to him dogmatic assertion. "Look at wireless. Look at the S.O.S. call at sea. Is that not a benefit to mankind?"

"Oh, it works out all right sometimes. I value my electric reading-lamp, and that is a product of science. It gives us, as I said before, comfort and occasionally safety."

"Why, then, do you depreciate it?"

"Because it obscures the vital thing -- the object of life. We were not put into this planet in order that we should go fifty miles an hour in a motor-car, or cross the Atlantic in an airship, or send messages either with or without wires. These are the mere trimmings and fringes of life. But these men of science have so riveted our attention on these fringes that we forget the central object."

"I don't follow you."

"It is not how fast you go that matters, it is the object of your journey. It is not how you send a message, it is what the value of the message may be. At every stage this so-called progress may be a curse, and yet as long as we use the word we confuse it with real progress and imagine that we are doing that for which God sent us into the world."

"Which is?"

"To prepare ourselves for the next phase of life. There is mental preparation and spiritual preparation, and we are neglecting both.

The Land of Mist Page 19

Arthur Conan Doyle

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