An unwonted nervousness seemed suddenly to seize him. "Malone, stay with me!"
The door closed and the three were left together.
"What is the message?"
"It is about a powder."
"A grey powder?"
"The message that men want me to say is: 'You did not kill us'."
"Ask them then -- ask them -- how did they die?" His voice was broken and his great frame was quivering with his emotion.
"They die disease."
"New -- new . . . What that? . . . Pneumonia."
Challenger sank back in his chair with an immense sigh of relief. "My God!" he cried, wiping his brow. Then:
"Call in the others, Malone."
They had waited on the landing and now streamed into the room. Challenger had risen to meet them. His first words were to Tom Linden. He spoke like a shaken man whose pride for the instant was broken.
"As to you, sir, I do not presume to judge you. A thing has occurred to me which is so strange, and also so certain, since my own trained senses have attested it, that I am not prepared to deny any explanation which has been offered of your previous conduct. I beg to withdraw any injurious expressions I may have used."
Tom Linden was a true Christian in his character. His forgiveness was instant and sincere.
"I cannot doubt that my daughter has some strange power which bears out much which you, Mr. Mailey, have told me. I was justified in my scientific scepticism, but you have to-day offered me some incontrovertible evidence."
"We all go through the same experience, Professor. We doubt, and then in turn we are doubted."
"I can hardly conceive that my word will be doubted upon such a point," said Challenger, with dignity. "I can truly say that I have had information to-night which no living person upon this earth was in a position to give. So much is beyond all question."
"The young lady is better," said Mrs. Linden.
Enid was sitting up and staring round her with bewildered eyes.
"What has happened, Father? I seem to have been asleep."
"All right, dear. We will talk of that later. Come home with me now. I have much to think over. Perhaps you will come back with us, Malone. I feel that I owe you some explanation."
. When Professor Challenger reached his flat, he gave Austin orders that he was on no account to be disturbed, and he led the way into his library, where he sat in his big armchair with Malone upon his left and his daughter upon his right. He had stretched out his great paw and enclosed Enid's small hand.
"My dear," he said, after a long silence, "I cannot doubt that you are possessed of a strange power, for it has been shown to me to-night with a fullness and a clearness which is final. Since you have it I cannot deny that others may have it also, and the general idea of mediumship has entered within my conceptions of what is possible. I will not discuss the question, for my thoughts are still confused upon the subject, and I will need to thrash the thing out with you, young Malone, and with your friends, before I can get a more definite idea. I will only say that my mind has received a shock, and that a new avenue of knowledge seems to have opened up before me."
"We shall be proud indeed," said Malone, "if we can help you."
Challenger gave a wry smile.
"Yes, I have no doubt that a headline in your paper, 'Conversion of Professor Challenger' would be a triumph. I warn you that I have not got so far."
"We certainly would do nothing premature and your opinions may remain entirely private."
"I have never lacked the moral courage to proclaim my opinions when they are formed, but the time has not yet come. However, I have received two messages to-night, and I can only ascribe to them an extra-corporeal origin. I take it for granted, Enid, that you were indeed insensible."
"I assure you, Father, that I knew nothing."
"Quite so. You have always been incapable of deceit. First there came a message from your mother. She assured me that she had indeed produced those sounds which I heard and of which I have told you.