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We were seated around the cane table, on which lay a sealed envelope. Inscribed on it, in the jagged handwriting of Professor Challenger, were the words: —

“Instructions to Lord John Roxton and party. To be opened at Manaos on July 15th, at 12 o'clock precisely.”

Lord John had placed his watch on the table beside him.

“We have seven more minutes,” he said. “The old dear is very precise.”

Professor Summerlee gave an acid smile as he picked up the envelope in his gaunt hand.

“What can it possibly matter whether we open it now or in seven minutes?” he said. “It is all part and parcel of the same system of quackery and nonsense, for which I regret to say that the writer is notorious.”

“Oh, come, we must play the game accordin' to rules,” Lord John said. “It's old man Challenger's show and we are here by his good will, so it would be rotten bad form if we didn't follow his instructions to the letter.”

“A pretty business it is!” cried the Professor, bitterly. “It struck me as preposterous in London, but I'm bound to say that it seems even more so on closer acquaintance. I don't know what is inside this envelope, but, unless it is something pretty definite, I shall be much tempted to take the next down-river boat and catch the Bolivia at Para. After all, I have some more responsible work in the world than to run about disproving the assertions of a lunatic. Now, Roxton, surely it is time.”

Excerpt from “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with illustration by J.C. Coll, digitally redrawn by Ayal Pinkus

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