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8. "The Outlying Pickets Of The New World"
Our friends at home may well rejoice with us, for we are at our goal, and up to a point, at
least, we have shown that the statement of Professor Challenger can be verified. We have
not, it is true, ascended the plateau, but it lies before us, and even Professor Summerlee is
in a more chastened mood. Not that he will for an instant admit that his rival could be
right, but he is less persistent in his incessant objections, and has sunk for the most part
into an observant silence. I must hark back, however, and continue my narrative from
where I dropped it. We are sending home one of our local Indians who is injured, and I
am committing this letter to his charge, with considerable doubts in my mind as to
whether it will ever come to hand.
When I wrote last we were about to leave the Indian village where we had been deposited
by the Esmeralda. I have to begin my report by bad news, for the first serious personal
trouble (I pass over the incessant bickerings between the Professors) occurred this
evening, and might have had a tragic ending. I have spoken of our English-speaking half-
breed, Gomez--a fine worker and a willing fellow, but afflicted, I fancy, with the vice of
curiosity, which is common enough among such men. On the last evening he seems to
have hid himself near the hut in which we were discussing our plans, and, being observed
by our huge negro Zambo, who is as faithful as a dog and has the hatred which all his
race bear to the half-breeds, he was dragged out and carried into our presence. Gomez
whipped out his knife, however, and but for the huge strength of his captor, which
enabled him to disarm him with one hand, he would certainly have stabbed him. The
matter has ended in reprimands, the opponents have been compelled to shake hands, and
there is every hope that all will be well. As to the feuds of the two learned men, they are
continuous and bitter. It must be admitted that Challenger is provocative in the last
degree, but Summerlee has an acid tongue, which makes matters worse. Last night
Challenger said that he never cared to walk on the Thames Embankment and look up the
river, as it was always sad to see one's own eventual goal. He is convinced, of course, that
he is destined for Westminster Abbey. Summerlee rejoined, however, with a sour smile,
by saying that he understood that Millbank Prison had been pulled down. Challenger's
conceit is too colossal to allow him to be really annoyed. He only smiled in his beard and
repeated "Really! Really!" in the pitying tone one would use to a child. Indeed, they are
children both--the one wizened and cantankerous, the other formidable and overbearing,
yet each with a brain which has put him in the front rank of his scientific age. Brain,
character, soul--only as one sees more of life does one understand how distinct is each.
The very next day we did actually make our start upon this remarkable expedition. We
found that all our possessions fitted very easily into the two canoes, and we divided our
personnel, six in each, taking the obvious precaution in the interests of peace of putting
one Professor into each canoe. Personally, I was with Challenger, who was in a beatific
humor, moving about as one in a silent ecstasy and beaming benevolence from every
feature. I have had some experience of him in other moods, however, and shall be the less
surprised when the thunderstorms suddenly come up amidst the sunshine. If it is
impossible to be at your ease, it is equally impossible to be dull in his company, for one is