Friday, 17 February 2017

Chapter 11 “The more I think about it, the more nonsensical it seems!”

The Strand

Edmund Molloy, a journalist with the Daily Courier, has committed the newspaper to back an expedition to South America to look for dinosaurs on a lost plateau.  Having had an artistic encounter with three lady friends of fellow expedition member Lord James Hoxton, he has returned to the wife of the expedition leader, Professor Challenor, with whom he is having a torrid affair in a hotel in King's Cross.

“Of course the Amazon is a perilous region,” said Edith, an hour and a half later, as we lay naked on top of the sheets, warmed from our hot bath. The maid had lit the fire while we were having dinner. “But at least George has been to the region and has cognisance of where most of the perils lurk!” 

“And we will have Lord Hoxton with us, who is also familiar with the the place and brings great expertise at dealing with dangerous animals!” We were lying head to tail. I was on my back and she was lying next to me on her side, her head level with my hip. She was gently massaging my erect member as we conversed. We had already performed soixante-neuf upon each other, after our bath and now she was using her skillful fingers to revive my interest once more. 

“You obviously believe in George’s dinosaur story!” she said, pulling my foreskin over my knob again. 

“Do you not?” I asked, stroking her thigh. The golden hairs on it were catching the light from the fire; the only illumination we had in the room. 

 “I know that George believes and his Glossopteris sample is real. It is unknown today and may well be a relative of an extinct species but the survival of a plant in a remote place and the survival of prehistoric creatures are two very different things!” 

“Well, we will find out!” I said, stroking her bottom. She wriggled, invitingly. I could smell her musky scent. It was a scent I wished I could bottle. I had told her as much. ‘Eau de Cunt, Edmund?’ She had asked, laughing, in her delightfully dirty way. As I went about my business in London I had taken to wondering how other resepctable looking ladies consucted themselves when in private. Did they also delight in torrid sexual activity and swear, unapologetically, like East End dockers? Or was Edith unique in her uninhibited behaviour? But then there was Agnes, lasciviously gamahuching me and swallowing my essence like a music hall trollop. Even Mrs Somersby was happy to speak of the most intimate activities. And as for Lady Caroline and her daughters. Well, really! I turned my head and kissed Edith’s soft fluff. Her smell was almost overpowering. 

“I am just worried that if George is proved wrong he will be a total laughing stock and his career will be over!” said Edith, stroking my ballocks. 

“Surely, if he just proves the Glosso-what-is-it is real then that will be enough?” I said. 

“Perhaps if it had been the quiet, scientific expedition he had envisaged originally. Now, however, I am afraid that your newspaper’s involvement will mean that it is dinosaurs or nothing. The more I think about it the more nonsensical it seems. Without George here, bouncing around enthusiastically it all seems completely unlikely. Reality sets in, Edmund!” I was personally very glad that the Professor was not bouncing around there or I would have been bounced out of the window in very short order. 

“Professor Challenor, may be an arrogant, pompous, insensitive, self-centred, insufferable bully,” I said, carefully, “but he is not an idiot. He must well know that his reputation rests on this expedition. He has undoubtedly studied the issue extremely carefully!” 

“You are right, of course. He has been researching this for nearly a year! Thank you, Edmund! I feel better! Now let us perform soixante-neuf once more. This time I will go underneath!” This presented a rather different experience than when I was the lower partner. The angle at which I gamahuched Edith was different with me paying more attention to her swollen bud, rather than her entrance. I was also, given the gentle guidance of Edith’s hands on my bottom, more active in thrusting into her mouth. She massaged my anus with one finger and caressed my ballocks with her other hand as I gently thrust in and out of her mouth. I was careful, as I did not want to choke her. She was very mobile beneath me and I had to keep her thighs forcefully parted with my hands, resting my chest on her belly. I think that I preferred the other variation where the woman is on top. Still, it was an interesting experiment. Neither of us spent in that position and instead Edith wriggled out from beneath me and pushed me onto my back so she could straddle me once more. This time she did not sit upon me like a horse but lay full length atop me, her soft breasts pressing delightfully on my chest and causing me to spend by the gyrations of her active hips alone, as I lay there, almost inert. Her toy. Her plaything. Her instrument of pleasure. I wondered how long it would be until she tired of me and moved on to another. Perhaps Britten. Would we have any more opportunities anyway before the expedition left for Brazil? For now, I was happy with thecurrent state of affairs, as I lay in post coital companionship, the covers pulled up over us. My now soft manhood was still retained in her velvet sheath as she kissed my collarbone. I started to feel drowsy and soon fell asleep, still lodged inside her. 

The next morning Edith was in an athletic mood; knees up to her shoulders, hands gripping the brass bedstead over her head and hips thrusting back against me, enthusiastically, as I pounded into her. 

“Fucking! Fucking!” she cried as she reached her climax, just after I had pumped my essence inside her once more. She held her position and then gradually relaxed; placing her legs back flat on the bed and releasing her grip on the bedstead rails. She kissed me. “I really do think it is my new favourite word. If Lady Caroline can use it, so can I!” 

“Perhaps you should try it on the Professor. It may invigorate him!” I laughed, still shocked, but rather excited, to hear it being uttered by such a woman. 

“Dear George and how was Liverpool? I am quite desperate for you to give me a good fucking! Yes! I will try it!” she laughed. “You are pleasingly realistic about our situation. No petty jealousies are evident!” 

“You are the Professor’s,” I said. “I am only here to provide services he is unable or unwilling to undertake. Rather in the manner of a dance instructor, perhaps!” 

“A precise analogy, Edmund," she said patting my bottom. "Now roll off me as I need to piss!”  I got dressed, paid the hotel bill and left Edith to have breakfast alone. We had had one last passionate kiss before I left the room. “Back to best behaviour for a while, sadly!” she said, stroking my behind. I left, burdened with my overnight bag, gun case and portfolio and decided I had best drop them off at home. I deceided to spend some of the Courier’s money on a taxicab. As I placed my portfolio on the back seat, next to me, I realised that I had not taken any payment for the drawings I had done for Hoxton. However, that session had been so enjoyably bizarre I did not regret it. Well, perhaps the money would have been nice. I did have the three ‘cunt portraits’, as Lady Caroline called them. Well, in fact there were four, as Emily insisted on me doing another of her where she had three fingers inserted into her livid, red entrance. 

 Today was the day of the meeting of all the members to discuss the expedition but first I had to type up my account of my interview with Edna Somersby and deliver it to the Courier. After going home for a wash and a change of clothes I headed off to Fleet Street and the office and set to on the typewriter. McCandless was not there this morning but a telegram awaited me from Challenor in Liverpool. ‘Meeting today. My house. 7.00pm.’ I worked in the office all day and wrote up a few minor (very minor) news items for the next day’s edition. I also added some pages to my private journal, while the memories were as fresh in my mind as Edith’s intimate scent was to my nose. My real work would come this evening, when I returned to the Challenor’s house and what a strange experience that would be, if Edith was in evidence.  I headed out into the bustle of Fleet Street and the Strand decided to walk to the Challenor's house.  How would I react to Edith;s presence if she was there this evening.  I knew that I must not react at all or disaster could ensue.  My place on the expedition, my job and my teeth, all at risk.  I strode towards the Strand my stomach in knots.

Mason the butler let me into the Challenor’s residence with an inevitable sneer and showed me into a room I had not previously entered, which was obviously the dining room. The mahogany table was covered in maps, schedules and other bits of paper. On the far wall was a large painting of a pair of those ridiculous looking birds I was to become so familiar with in the coming months; toucans.  Lord Hoxton and Professor Somersby were already there, discussing tents. 

“What ho, Molloy!” said Hoxton. “Enjoyable evening, yesterday?” 

“Very much, thank you!” I said. 

“Got that stuff I promised you! Forgot yesterday!” he said patting his breast pocket where he kept his wallet. 

 “Oh, thank you!” I said. It should be eighty guineas; over three months salary! 

“Miss Blanc is here!” announced Mason, holding the door open for the lady as she swept into the dining room. 

“Good evening, gentlemen,” she said, shaking hands with us all in a very masculine way. She was from North America, I supposed. She was dressed in a simple moss green, buttoned short-sleeved dress over a white blouse. She looked business like rather than glamorous, as she had at the museum. She removed her gloves and matching green hat and Mason took them from her. She sat on one of the Hepplewhite chairs around the table, which I pulled out for her. “Thank you, Mr Molloy. And where have we got to?” 

“All the travel arrangements have been made, Miss Blanc,” said Challenor. “We leave on the Booth line ship SS Hildebrand from Liverpool to Manaós two weeks today! There is a question as to first or second class accommodation.” 

 “I don’t travel, second class, Professor Challenor,” she said. My first thought was how this would impact on the Courier’s proportion of the expenses. 

 “I was going to go first class myself anyway,” said Hoxton. “It’s a long voyage and the Hildebrand is a fabulous vessel. We don’t just have to cross the Atlantic we travel a thousand miles up the Amazon itself on top!” 

 “On the liner itself?” I asked. “Can the ship negotiate the river that far upstream?” I tried to imagine a liner in the Thames. 

“The Amazon is a vast river, Mr Molloy,” said Hoxton. “However, up near Manaós sometimes the banks are only fifty yards from the ship, although we will be there in the rainy season so the river will be wider. Still it is impressive being up on deck so close to the jungle!” 

“First class it is then!" said Challenor.  "Edith!” he cried at the top of his voice, making Professor Somersby visibly jump. “Edith!” he shouted again. The door opened and Mrs Challenor entered. 

“Good evening, everyone,” she said. “I am so sorry for the pounding your eardrums have just taken. I actually have very good hearing, which is something George does not seem to appreciate at all!” 

“Mrs Challenor, good evening. We have not been properly introduced. I am Lord James Hoxton.” She offered her hand and Hoxton leant down and kissed it, which was a bit familiar, I thought. She greeted Marguerite Blanc with a rather continental kiss on the cheek. 

“You are a very brave woman, Mademoiselle Blanc!” 

“Oh I don’t think the Amazon will be so bad!” she said, smiling. “And it’s Marguerite.” 

“The Amazon, no, but months on end with my husband? That is an altogether different and more alarming prospect!” Somersby laughed and Challenor glared at him. 

“Hello again Leon,” Edith said, giving him a kiss too. “Give my regards to Edna and the children!” 

“I will indeed,” said Somersby, clasping her hand. 

“Mr Molloy!" she nodded at me but did not approach me, I was glad to see.  "I hope you are recovered from your fall down our steps!” she said. 

“I am perfectly fit, thank you, Mrs Challenor!” I replied, desperately trying not to blush or react in way that might raise the suspicions of her terrifying husband. 

 “He deserved it. Coming into this house under false pretences like a wolf in sheep’s clothing!” said Challenor. 

“Now now, George! You are all in this together. Like a team."  Challenor harrumphed. "Now why did you bellow for me just now? Mason is bringing some cold meats and pie and a bottle or two of Burgundy...” 

“It’s not the damn food, woman. I need someone to take notes!” said Challenor. 

“Professor Challenor,” said Marguerite. “I appreciate that I am a guest in your house but I would prefer to hear you speak rather more civilly and respectfully to your lovely and charming wife!” 

“What?” said Challenor. “Why?” He looked genuinely baffled. 

“Miss Blanc,” said Somersby. “I think that you will soon learn that Professor Challenor finds it quite impossible to address anyone in a civil and respectful way! It would be like asking a lion to refrain from eating meat!” 

“I’m happy to take notes!” I said. “I can do Pitman’s.” 

“You are a man, Mr Molloy, albeit the lowest sort, being both Irish and a journalist,” said Challenor. “Note taking is a woman’s job! Thinking is a man’s job!” 

Marguerite stood up at this point with a dangerous looking flash in her eyes. “Professor Challenor, I have never heard such nonsense! For someone who is so dismissive of the ability of women you seem quite happy to take a woman’s money for your expedition. Perhaps this woman has now decided that it should not go to support such an intolerable man, with apologies to you, Mrs Challenor!” 

“Indeed, we all wonder how poor Edith puts up with the fellow,” said Somersby. “She must be a perfect saint!” 

“Thank you for your intervention, Marguerite,” said Edith. “However, if George does make unreasonable demands on me I jolly well tell him! Just because he tries to bully me doesn’t mean that I am bullied! I am very happy to take notes.” 

“Right! Good! Far too many damn suffragettes these days!” grumbled Challenor. “Fetch some paper!” he said to Edith. 

Please, Edith, can you fetch some paper,” said Marguerite. 

“You, madam, are going to be more annoying than the riverine insects!” said Challenor. 

“I do hope so!” said Marguerite. Edith found some blank paper on the table and sat, pencil poised. 

“Point of action number one,” barked Challenor. 

“George, we are all sat around quite a small table,” said Somersby. “It really isn’t necessary to roar at the top of your voice!” 

“Humph! Point one. Immediately book first class tickets for all expedition members on Booth lines SS Hildebrand,” said Challenor. “Point two! Book a hotel in Liverpool for myself for the five nights before our departure so that I can supervise loading and also avoid the damned fuss that will no doubt be stirred up by your newspaper in London, Molloy! Unfortunately, the Midland Adelphi has been demolished, Edith, as I discovered, having foolishly not booked, and its replacement is not complete, so I will have to stay at the North Western again!” 

“It’s not exactly a flea pit, Challenor!” said Hoxton. "Stayed there meself.  Very attentive maids!" Marguerite shook her head.

 “Would that be a room for two, George?” asked Edith. 

 “No, of course not! Why on earth should it be?” replied Challenor, scowling. “Oh! I see! Do not think that you will accompany me, Edith. You are to stay here and organise things from London!” 

“Of course, George,” she nodded and glanced at me. 

As the evening continued, we put together a long list of items we would need. Hoxton had, much to my surprise, as he always seemed so indolent, already listed much of what we should need. He had said that the expedition was so well known suppliers were even offering large discounts in exchange for being mentioned in the Courier’s articles. I noted down the key names. Mason brought in supper and the wine and I noticed that Marguerite ate heartily and drank heavily with seemingly no deleterious effect on her whatsoever. 

“How many local porters will we need?” asked Marguerite. 

 “The trick in Amazonia is to have as few people in your party as possible. How many did you have Challenor?” asked Hoxton. 

“Just myself, my guide Bumbo, who I have written to so I may avail myself of his excellent services once more, and a couple of local bearers!” replied Challenor, helping himself to a thick slice of ham. 

“Exactly. When I went I had one guide, a gun bearer and four porters. The smaller the group the less likely you are to attract the attention of hostile Indians. A great group of people will cause a right hullaballoo!” said Hoxton. “So we travel light! Hunt and fish for food. No large tents, just a few light canopies to help keep the rain off. It will rain. Constantly. Every day! We would be better travelling in September!” 

 “How ghastly! It sounds like Lancashire!” said Somersby. 

 “Or Ireland!” laughed Challenor. 

“I don’t think my newspaper would be in favour of waiting until September!” I said. 

“Well really!” boomed Challenor. “We simply must ensure that the newspaper’s editor’s views are paramount. Forget everyone else! But I cannot wait! The cat is out of the bag, ladies and gentlemen and others may try to race us to our objective. Undesirables! Americans, I am afraid to say, Miss Blanc. The French, God help us! Or Germans, even worse!” 

“I am Canadian, Professor, not American,” said Marguerite, patiently, as Hoxton poured her another glass of Macon and winked at her. 

 “Of course, although, practically, there is no difference!” he said. 

“There sure is but I have to say that I completely agree with Professor Challenor. We need to be on our way as quickly as possible!” she said. Challenor nodded at her. 

“Thank you Miss Blanc. It will take us at least three weeks journey from the main river to reach the village where I met your uncle!” said Challenor. “And the plateau is some way beyond that. Perhaps another two weeks! The terrain is difficult. We will need machetes!” 

“Well that is good, the rainy season should be ending by the time we get to the plateau,” said Hoxton. 

“And where exactly is the plateau?” asked Somersby, spreading a large map of South America upon the table. 

“Ah, I am afraid that for the reasons I mentioned I am not willing to say, precisely, at this point!” said Challenor. “Germans!” 

“This is ridiculous, George! Are you one of these people who thinks that the Germans are our enemies! What if we were to run into trouble? How can we be rescued if no one knows where we are?” asked Somersby. 

“Perhaps you would rather stay at home, Leon?” replied Challenor, smiling, which was never an agreeable sight. 

“Our exact location does not matter. As soon as you enter the deep, dark jungles of Amazonia you are lost to the world!” said Hoxton. “Have you been to the maze at Hampton Court, Professor Somersby?” Somersby nodded. “The Amazon rainforest is a maze the size of Europe with no clear entrance, exit or simple solution! You can get quite lost moving twenty feet from your camp! It is full of poisonous insects and snakes, electric eels which can knock you unconscious, piranha fish which can strip the flesh from your bones, jaguars and cannibals! Even the plant life is a trial, with thorns that can penetrate even the thickest conventional clothes. I have arranged lightweight gabardine clothing by Burberry, which will give us some protection. You, Miss Blanc, will have to consent to wearing trousers tucked into boots, rather than skirts. You will be surprised at the nasty creatures trying to get underneath your skirts.” 

“Thank you, Lord Hoxton but I have a lot of experience of dealing with nasty creatures trying to get underneath my skirts!” she replied, winking at Edith. Edith grinned. 

Having discussed clothing and boots for some time, with Edith adding items to Challenor’s, list of actions, Edith stood up and said: “I think perhaps we need a natural break at this point while Gibson clears the detritus!” She indicated the plates and glasses and rang the bell. 

“Not the glasses!” said Marguerite. 

“Well said, Miss Blanc!” said Hoxton. 

“You can call me Marguerite, James. Although, given your reputation, that familiarity is not an invitation to explore under my skirts!” 

“I had never thought of such a thing!” grinned Hoxton. 

“Lord Hoxton,” replied Marguerite, “when I first met you at Professor Challenor’s lecture I could feel your eyes undressing me, even as you took my hand. By the time you released it you had got me down to my corset and stockings, I would venture!” 

“Perhaps, Lord Hoxton was admiring your lovely dress!” I said. "He appreciates a fashionable woman."

“So I believe. You, Mr Molloy, were even worse!  I could feel you going straight to my birthday suit without any contemplation of my underthings whatsoever!”  Needless to say I blushed. I admit that given my heightened sexual awareness I was imagining what every attractive woman I saw looked like naked. 

 “Mr Molloy was an art student. He has a great deal of experience of naked women. I am sure he just saw you as a potential drawing exercise!” said Edith 

“Yes, I would bet that one works once in a while with some poor girls!” said Marguerite. 

“Perhaps they enjoy having their figures immortalised by Mr Molloy! He has recently completed some drawings of some lady friends of mine and they were delighted with them!” said Hoxton. 

“Oh Lordy! Really? Well, I think I do not want to explore that subject or the circumstances any more, thank you!” said Marguerite.

Fortunately, Mason entered at this point with the maid and they began to clear up, which saw everyone stand up and move into the hall. 

 “Facilities are down the hallway past the stairs, gentlemen!” said Challenor. 

“You can come with me Marguerite, if you need to refresh yourself!” said Edith and the two women disappeared upstairs. Hoxton and I waited in the hallway, looking at Challenor’s fossil display case. 

“About now, perhaps, Marguerite will have her drawers around her ankles. She will be sitting down on the seat. She will push and the force of her stream will force her pink lips apart...” said Hoxton. 

“Don’t!” I said, grinning. “That is a distracting thought. Of course it could be Edi...Mrs Challenor!” 

“Is there something going on between you two?” he whispered. 

“Not at all. We got on quite well during my interview of her. That is all.” I replied wondering if I could control my blush reflex by sheer force of will. 

“It’s just that I keep catching little glances between the two of you. And don’t think I didn’t notice you slipping away together at the Museum, either!” he said. 

“I confess that we have made an arrangement for me to draw her portrait; as a surprise present for her husband!” Britten once told me that a successful lie should always be told with utter conviction and should include as many elements of truth as possible, to give it veracity. 

“What sort of drawing? I keep looking at the back of Mrs Challenor’s head and thinking of that lovely nude you showed me with the superb arsehole! Her hairstyle is very similar as far as I can recall!” said Hoxton, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. 

 “That is another person entirely!” I said thinking that that side of Edith’s personality almost was another person than what we were seeing today. 

“Hmm! If you say so!” he said, looking unconvinced. 

“Well, apart from anything else, she is old enough to be my mother. In fact she is six months older than my mother!” My mother was just sixteen when I was born, which had been something of a family scandal. 

“Doesn’t matter as long as their cunnies are still juicy. Last month in Paris I had a French woman who claimed to be thirty-eight but turned out to be fifty-seven. She looked very good naked and everything was still very much in working order!” said Hoxton. 

“Well, I have little experience,” I said. 

“Lady Caroline, for example, is forty-three. You’ve seen her naked. Would you guess that?” 

“Not from her body, I admit. Maybe a few lines around her eyes give it away a little!” I replied, recalling her superbly lush form. 

“Well I tend to roger them from behind so I don’t see their faces!” laughed Hoxton. 

“Oh, I like to see their faces. I like to watch them as they come!” I said, without thinking, 

“Good for you Molloy!” he said, slapping me on the back with even more force than McCandless employed, “I’ll bet your innocent Irishman guise works wonders on the girls but really you are a proper man beneath it all!” 

“And what are you two gentlemen discussing, hidden under the stairs?” asked Edith, who we had just heard descending above our heads. 

“The beauty and elegance of women of a certain age, Mrs Challenor!” said Hoxton. “That the older woman offers so much more than the inexperience of a girl!” Edith looked at me quizzically and Hoxton said “Hah!” loudly. Fortunately, at that point Somersby reappeared and Hoxton disappeared down towards the ground floor facilities. 

“Were you talking about me?” hissed Edith. 

“Only indirectly. Hoxton suspects something so I told him that we had made a secret arrangement to do a drawing of you as a surprise present for the Professor’s birthday!” I said. “We really do need to be careful!” 

“That was quick thinking! So, George is going to Liverpool for five days before you all leave and I am remaining behind until the last minute. We can have five days and five nights of fucking!” she whispered. 

“Shhh!” I said, glancing around anxiously. “Fucking, sucking, fingering, and licking!” she said and giggled. I heard someone walk across the tiles of the hall and stepped out into the open, fortunately it was Hoxton. 

“Still fascinated by the exhibit under the stairs, eh, Molloy?” he said, as Edith stepped out too. 

“An immediate cessation of speculation as regards perceived but mistaken situations would be appreciated, Lord Hoxton!” said Edith, quietly. 

“The last thing I would want to do, Mrs Challenor, is cause such a beauty any distress or anxiety!” he replied, taking her hand and kissing it. 

“Why are you kissing my wife’s hand again, Hoxton?” asked Challenor, descending the stairs like a tumbling barrel. 

“Because, frankly, I am overcome by her grace and beauty!” he answered grinning. 

“Grace and beauty? What? Edith? What?” He looked genuinely baffled that someone would compliment his wife. 

“Have a mind or someone may steal her away from you, Professor!” said Hoxton. I tried to catch his eye to shut him up. 

“But she is next to useless! Who would want her? She is too old for a man to proudly show off on his arm, she is unable to breed and is far too shrewish! Any man taking her on would have to permanently stuff his ears to stop hearing the incessant, inane chatter! Fortunately, I have learnt to ignore it as I ignore the buzzing of insects or the rumble of traffic. Blank them out, eh, Hoxton? Blank them out!” Challenor strode off, back into the dining room. Edith stood there seething. Hoxton looked at us both and smiled. 

 “All power to you, I say!” he turned and followed the Professor. 

“I so wanted to say something there!” I whispered to Edith. “But I did not want to draw attention to myself!  I am sorry I did not defend you!” 

“You did the right thing! Just when I am proud to be his wife he says something awful about me. That comment about being unable to breed was very cruel! It is something I regret every day of my life!” I looked at her and saw a sparkling tear running down one elegant cheek. 

“I want to embrace you and I cannot!” I hissed. 

“I know you do and knowing that gives me much comfort!” she smiled, wanly. I stood there feeling utterly useless, as I watched Edith struggle to compose herself. 

“Edith you look upset. Has this man upset you?” said Marguerite, descending the stairs. 

“Not Mr Molloy. No. My husband was just... I’m sorry!” More tears came and she pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and bustled towards the rear of the house. I watched her go and desperately wanted to follow her. 

 “He is a toton, not to appreciate such a woman!” said Marguerite. 

“Perhaps you might see if she is alright?” I suggested. 

“Indeed I will, Mr Molloy. How thoughtful of you!” she patted my upper arm and set off to follow Edith. I returned to the dining room to find the others going through the list once more. 

“Where are the damn women?” asked Challenor. 

“I think you may have upset your wife, Professor,” I said, rather boldly. 

“How? Useless fragile creatures! They are fighting for the vote and yet they don’t have the backbone of a jellyfish. Women will never be equal to men. Their job is to breed and if they cannot even do that what possible use do they have?” he replied. 

“That is very harsh, Professor Challenor. It is not a woman’s fault, if she is unable to have children!” I said. 

“It is not the fault of an artillery shell if it fails to explode but it is just as useless!” he said.

“It takes two to produce children,” said Somerby, unexpectedly joining in. “Have you had yourself checked, George? Perhaps the faulty artillery might be yours, so to speak! Firing blanks, perhaps?” 

“What impertinence!” said Challenor and I was worried he might strike Somersby, so I edged forward slightly. While I was glad of Somersby’s intervention I had a sudden panic that perhaps Edith was not barren after all, in which case... I dare not think about it. 

"Yes, of course I had the test and no I do not fire blanks, as you so crassly put it!” said Challenor.  Really!"  I inwardly relaxed. 

 “Calm down, gentlemen!” interjected Hoxton. “This subject does not advance our preparations one jot and I remind you all that we have less than two weeks until the Hildebrand sails. There is still much to do. Now, what scientific instruments might you need, bearing in mind what I said about keeping things lightweight?” The discussion continued and the ladies rejoined us about a quarter of an hour later. Challenor didn’t acknowledge his wife when they returned but she resumed taking notes. “One thing,” said Hoxton, after a while. “Where should we have everything delivered to? Food, clothing, tents etc. Here?” 

“I do not want the house cluttered any more than it already is,” said Edith. “We have quite enough of George’s rubbish here as it is!” 

“Rubbish, woman?” he barked. 

“Rubbish, George. In every room in the house!” 

“Specimens! Books! Papers! Fossils! Relics! Not rubbish!” he glared at her. 

“Whatever they are, this house is full. I would imagine that you will want your supplies accessible for cataloguing at least. Somewhere else will have to be found!” said Edith. Challenor glared but said nothing.

 “I have an idea,” said Somersby. 

“Perhaps for the first time,” laughed Challenor.

Chapter notes on this episode can be found here.


  1. "Still lodged inside her!" Heh, heh! Great ep.this! Not so long to the next one o9r I lose track!

  2. Excellent! For some reason I love scenes where people are preparing for either an expedition or a battle.

    I don't recall Challenor's model, Doyle's Prof. Challenger, being quite so harsh with his wife; though it's been a while since I read the novel.

    1. He did bodily pick her up and put her on a shelf when she spoke to much!