Книга The Land Of Mist. Содержание - 3. In Which Professor Challenger Gives His Opinion
«Very,» said Enid.
«We have, I am sure, been very interested in what our friend has told us,» said the chairman. «Mr. Miromar is in hearty sympathy with our movement even though he cannot be said actually to belong to it. I am sure he is always welcome upon our platforms. As to his prophecy, it seems to me the world has had enough trouble without our anticipating any more. If it is as our friend says, we can't do much to mend the matter. We can only go about our daily jobs, do them as well as we can, and await the event in full confidence of help from above. If it's the Day of Judgment to-morrow,» he added, smiling, «I mean to look after my provision store at Hammersmith to-day. We shall now continue with the service.»
There was a vigorous appeal for money and a great deal about the building-fund from the young secretary. «It's a shame to think that there are more left in the street than in the building on a Sunday night. We all give our services. No one takes a penny. Mrs. Debbs is here for her bare expenses. But we want another thousand pounds before we can start. There is one brother here who mortgaged his house to help us. That's the spirit that wins. Now let us see what you can do for us to-night.»
A dozen soup-plates circulated, and a hymn was sung to the accompaniment of much chinking of coin. Enid and Malone conversed in undertones.
«Professor Summerlee died, you know, at Naples last year.»
«Yes, I remember him well.»
«And 'old C' was, of course, your father.»
«It was really remarkable.»
«Poor old Summerlee. He thought survival was an absurdity. And here he is – or here he seems to be.»
The soup-plates returned – it was mostly brown soup, unhappily, and they were deposited on the table where the eager eye of the secretary appraised their value. Then the little shaggy man from Australia gave a benediction in the same simple fashion as the opening prayer. It needed no Apostolic succession or laying-on of hands to make one feel that his words were from a human heart and might well go straight to a Divine one. Then the audience rose and sang their final farewell hymn – a hymn with a haunting tune and a sad, sweet refrain of «God keep you safely till we meet once more.» Enid was surprised to feel the tears running down her cheeks. These earnest, simple folks with their direct methods had wrought upon her more than all the gorgeous service and rolling music of the cathedral.
Mr. Bolsover, the stout president, was in the waiting-room and so was Mrs. Debbs.
«Well, I expect you are going to let us have it,» he laughed. «We are used to it Mr. Malone. We don't mind. But you will see the turn some day. These articles may rise up in judgement.»
«I will treat it fairly, I assure you.»
«Well, we ask no more.» The medium was leaning with her elbow on the mantel piece, austere and aloof.
«I am afraid you are tired,» said Enid.
«No, young lady, I am never tired in doing the work of the spirit people. They see to that.»
«May I ask,» Malone ventured, «whether you ever knew Professor Summerlee?»
The medium shook her head. «No, sir, no. They always think I know them. I know none of them. They come and I describe them.»
«How do you get the message?»
«Clairaudient. I hear it. I hear them all the time. The poor things all want to come through and they pluck at me and pull me and pester me on the platform. 'Me next – me – me'! That's what I hear. I do my best, but I can't handle them all.»
«Can you tell me anything of that prophetic person?» asked Malone of the chairman. Mr. Bolsover shrugged his shoulders with a deprecating smile.
«He is an Independent. We see him now and again as a sort of comet passing across us. By the way, it comes back to me that he prophesied the war. I'm a practical man myself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. We get plenty in ready cash without any bills for the future. Well, good night! Treat us as well as you can.»
«Good night,» said Enid.
«Good night,» said Mrs. Debbs. «By the way, young lady, you are a medium yourself. Good night!»
And so they found themselves in the street once more inhaling long draughts of the night air. It was sweet after that crowded hall. A minute later they were in the rush of the Edgware Road and Malone had hailed a cab to carry them back to Victoria Gardens.
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.