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2. "Try Your Luck with Professor Challenger"
I always liked McArdle, the crabbed, old, round-backed, red-headed news editor, and I
rather hoped that he liked me. Of course, Beaumont was the real boss; but he lived in the
rarefied atmosphere of some Olympian height from which he could distinguish nothing
smaller than an international crisis or a split in the Cabinet. Sometimes we saw him
passing in lonely majesty to his inner sanctum, with his eyes staring vaguely and his mind
hovering over the Balkans or the Persian Gulf. He was above and beyond us. But
McArdle was his first lieutenant, and it was he that we knew. The old man nodded as I
entered the room, and he pushed his spectacles far up on his bald forehead.
"Well, Mr. Malone, from all I hear, you seem to be doing very well," said he in his kindly
Scotch accent.
I thanked him.
"The colliery explosion was excellent. So was the Southwark fire. You have the true
descreeptive touch. What did you want to see me about?"
"To ask a favor."
He looked alarmed, and his eyes shunned mine. "Tut, tut! What is it?"
"Do you think, Sir, that you could possibly send me on some mission for the paper? I
would do my best to put it through and get you some good copy."
"What sort of meesion had you in your mind, Mr. Malone?"
"Well, Sir, anything that had adventure and danger in it. I really would do my very best.
The more difficult it was, the better it would suit me."
"You seem very anxious to lose your life."
"To justify my life, Sir."
"Dear me, Mr. Malone, this is very--very exalted. I'm afraid the day for this sort of thing
is rather past. The expense of the `special meesion' business hardly justifies the result,
and, of course, in any case it would only be an experienced man with a name that would
command public confidence who would get such an order. The big blank spaces in the
map are all being filled in, and there's no room for romance anywhere. Wait a bit,
though!" he added, with a sudden smile upon his face. "Talking of the blank spaces of the
map gives me an idea. What about exposing a fraud--a modern Munchausen--and making
him rideeculous? You could show him up as the liar that he is! Eh, man, it would be fine.
How does it appeal to you?"