The Lost World /

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The Lost World /   ( )

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Chapter 1

There Are Heroisms All Round Us

Mr. Hungerton, her father, was the most tactless person on the earth, a good-natured man, but absolutely centered on himself. If anything could have driven me from Gladys, it would have been the thought of such a father-in-law. I am sure that he really believed that I came round to their house three days a week only for the pleasure of his company.

For an hour or more that evening I listened to his monotonous talk about money exchange and debts.

Imagine, he cried, that all the debts in the world were to be paid at once what would happen then?

I answered that I should be a ruined man. [1] He jumped from his chair, complained that it was impossible for him to discuss any reasonable subject with me, and ran out of the room to dress for a Masonic meeting. [2]

At last I was alone with Gladys, and the moment of Fate had come! All that evening I had felt like the soldier who awaits the signal which will send him on a hope.

She sat against the red curtain. How beautiful she was! And yet how aloof! We had been friends, quite good friends; but never could I get beyond the same friendship which I might have had with one of my fellow-reporters upon the Gazette a frank and kind friendship. My nature is all against a woman who is too frank with me. It is no compliment to a man. Where the real feeling begins, shyness and distrust are its companions. It is heritage from old days when love and violence went often hand in hand. The bent head, the sideward eye, the low voice these, and not the straight gaze and frank reply, are the true signals of passion. Even in my short life I had learned it.

Gladys was full of womanly qualities. Some thought her to be cold and hard; but it was so untrue! That bronzed skin, that raven hair, the large eyes, the full lips all the signs of passion were there. But I was sadly conscious [3] that up to now I had never found the secret how to conquer her. She could refuse me, but better be a refused lover than an accepted brother.

So I was about to break the silence, [4] when two critical, dark eyes looked at me. Gladys shook her head and smiled with reproof. [5]

I have a feeling that you are going to propose, Ned. I wish you wouldnt.

How did you know that I was going to propose? I asked in wonder.

Dont women always know? But Ned, our friendship has been so good and so pleasant! What a pity to spoil it! Dont you think how splendid it is that a young man and a young woman should be able to talk face to face as we have talked?

I dont know, Gladys. You see, I can talk face to face with anyone. So it does not satisfy me. I want my arms round you, and your head on my breast, and oh, Gladys

Youve spoiled everything, Ned, she said. Why cant you control yourself? [6]

I cant. Its nature. Its love.

Well, I have never felt it.

But you must you, with your beauty, with your soul! Oh, Gladys, you were made for love! You must love!

One must wait till it comes.

But why cant you love me, Gladys? Is it my appearance, or what?

No it isnt that, she said with a smile. Its deeper.

My character?

She nodded severely.

What can I do, Gladys? Tell me, whats wrong?

Im in love with somebody else, she said.

I jumped out of my chair.

Its nobody in particular, she explained, laughing at the expression of my face: only an ideal. Ive never met the kind of man I mean.

Tell me about him. What does he look like?

Oh, he might look very much like you.

How dear of you to say that! Well, what is it that he does that I dont do? Just say the word non-drinking, vegetarian, pilot, theosophist, superman. Ill have a try at it, Gladys, if you will tell me what would please you.

She laughed at the flexibility of my character.

Well, in the first place, I dont think my ideal would speak like that, said she. He would be a harder man, not so ready to adapt himself to a girl. But, above all, he must be a man who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great experiences. It is not a man that I should love, but the glories he had won because they would be reflected upon me!

She looked so beautiful in her enthusiasm!

But we dont usually get the chance of great experiences at least, I never had the chance. If I did, I should try to take it.

But chances are all around you. Remember that young Frenchman who went up last week in a balloon. The wind blew him fifteen hundred miles in twenty-four hours, and he fell in the middle of Russia. That was the kind of man I mean. Think of the woman he loved, and how other women must have envied her! Thats what I should like to be envied for my man.

Id have done it to please you.

But you shouldnt do it just to please me. You should do it because you cant help yourself, [7] because its natural to you. Now, when you described the Wigan coal explosion last month, could you not have gone down and helped those people?

I did.

You never said so.

There was nothing worth boasting of.

I didnt know. She looked at me with more interest. That was brave of you.

I had to. If you want to write a good article, you must be where the things are.

What a prosaic motive! It seems to take all the romance out of it. But, still, I am glad that you went down that mine. I dare say I am a foolish woman with a young girls dreams. And yet it is so real with me, that I cannot help it. If I marry, I do want to marry a famous man!

Why should you not? I cried. Give me a chance, and see if I will take it! Ill do something in the world!

She laughed at my sudden Irish excitement.

Why not? she said. You have everything a man could have youth, health, strength, education, energy. Now I am glad if it wakens these thoughts in you!

And if I

Her dear hand rested upon my lips.

Not another word, Sir! You should have been at the office for evening duty half an hour ago. Some day, perhaps, when you have won your place in the world, we shall talk it over again.

And so I left her with my heart glowing within me and with the eager determination to find some deed which was worthy of my lady. But who who in all this world could ever have imagined this incredible deed I was about to take? Was it hardness, was it selfishness, that Gladys should ask me to risk my life for her own glorification? Such thoughts may come in middle age but never when you are twenty three and in the fever of your first love.

Chapter 2

Try Your Luck With Professor Challenger

I always liked McArdle, the crabbed, [8] old, red-headed news editor, and I hoped that he liked me. Of course, Beaumont was the real boss but he was above and beyond us we saw him very seldom. And McArdle was his first lieutenant. The old man nodded as I entered the room.

Well, Mr. Malone, you seem to be doing very well, he said in his kindly Scottish accent.

I thanked him.

The article about explosion was excellent. So why did you want to see me?

To ask a favour [9] Do you think, Sir, that you could possibly send me on some mission? I would do my best [10] to get you some good copy. [11]

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