The Poison Belt
The chamber which was destined to be the scene of our unforgettable experience was a
charmingly feminine sitting-room, some fourteen or sixteen feet square. At the end of it,
divided by a curtain of red velvet, was a small apartment which formed the Professor's
dressing-room. This in turn opened into a large bedroom. The curtain was still hanging,
but the boudoir and dressing-room could be taken as one chamber for the purposes of our
experiment. One door and the window frame had been plastered round with varnished
paper so as to be practically sealed. Above the other door, which opened on to the
landing, there hung a fanlight which could be drawn by a cord when some ventilation
became absolutely necessary. A large shrub in a tub stood in each corner.
"How to get rid of our excessive carbon dioxide without unduly wasting our oxygen is a
delicate and vital question," said Challenger, looking round him after the five iron tubes
had been laid side by side against the wall. "With longer time for preparation I could have
brought the whole concentrated force of my intelligence to bear more fully upon the
problem, but as it is we must do what we can. The shrubs will be of some small service.
Two of the oxygen tubes are ready to be turned on at an instant's notice, so that we cannot
be taken unawares. At the same time, it would be well not to go far from the room, as the
crisis may be a sudden and urgent one."
There was a broad, low window opening out upon a balcony. The view beyond was the
same as that which we had already admired from the study. Looking out, I could see no
sign of disorder anywhere. There was a road curving down the side of the hill, under my
very eyes. A cab from the station, one of those prehistoric survivals which are only to be
found in our country villages, was toiling slowly up the hill. Lower down was a nurse girl
wheeling a perambulator and leading a second child by the hand. The blue reeks of
smoke from the cottages gave the whole widespread landscape an air of settled order and
homely comfort. Nowhere in the blue heaven or on the sunlit earth was there any
foreshadowing of a catastrophe. The harvesters were back in the fields once more and the
golfers, in pairs and fours, were still streaming round the links. There was so strange a
turmoil within my own head, and such a jangling of my overstrung nerves, that the
indifference of those people was amazing.
"Those fellows don't seem to feel any ill effects," said I, pointing down at the links.
"Have you played golf?" asked Lord John.
"No, I have not."
"Well, young fellah, when you do you'll learn that once fairly out on a round, it would
take the crack of doom to stop a true golfer. Halloa! There's that telephone-bell again."
From time to time during and after lunch the high, insistent ring had summoned the
Professor. He gave us the news as it came through to him in a few curt sentences. Such