The Lost World
We slowly and cautiously set forth into the unknown. After a few hundred yards of thick forest, we entered a region where the stream widened out and formed a considerable bog. High reeds grew thickly before us, with tree-ferns scattered amongst them, all of them swaying in a brisk wind. Suddenly Lord John, who was walking first, halted.
“Look at this!” said he. “This must be the trail of the father of all birds!”
An enormous three-toed track was imprinted in the soft mud before us.
“I’ll stake my good name,” said Lord John, “that the track is a fresh one. See, here is the mark of a little one too!”
“But what of this?” cried Professor Summerlee, triumphantly, pointing to what looked like the huge print of a five-fingered human hand appearing among the three-toed marks. “Not a bird.” “A beast?”
“No; a reptile – a dinosaur! Nothing else could have left such a track.”
Summerlee’s words died away into a whisper, and we all stood in motionless amazement. Following the tracks, we passed through a screen of brushwood and trees. Beyond was an open glade, and in this were five of the most extraordinary creatures that I have ever seen. Crouching down among the bushes, we observed them at our leisure.
There were, as I say, five of them, two adults and three young ones. In size they were enormous. Even the babies were as big as elephants, while the two large ones were far beyond all creatures I have ever seen. They had slate-coloured skin, which was scaled like a lizard’s and shimmered where the sun shone upon it. All five were sitting up, balancing themselves upon their broad, powerful tails and their huge three-toed hind feet, while with their small five-fingered front feet they pulled down the branches upon which they browsed. I can only bring their appearance home to you by saying that they looked like gigantic kangaroos with skins like black crocodiles.
I do not know how long we stayed gazing at this marvellous spectacle. From time to time the little ones played round their parents in unwieldy gambols, bounding into the air and falling with dull thuds upon the earth. The strength of the parents seemed to be limitless, for one of them, having some difficulty in reaching a bunch of foliage, put his forelegs round the trunk of the tree and tore it down as if it had been a sapling. Then it slowly lurched off through the wood, followed by its mate and its three enormous infants. We saw the glistening grey gleam of their skins between the tree-trunks, and their heads high above the brushwood. Then they vanished from our sight.
I looked at my comrades. The two professors were in silent ecstasy.
“What will they say in England of this?” Professor Summerlee cried at last.
“They will say that you are a liar,” said Professor Challenger, “exactly as you and others said of me.”
“In the face of photographs?”
“Faked, Summerlee! Clumsily faked!”
“Who’s to blame them? For this will seem a dream to ourselves in a month or two,” said Lord John. “What were they?”
“Iguanodons,” said Summerlee. “England was once alive with them when there was plenty of good lush green-stuff to keep them going.”
“I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but this place makes me feel very uneasy…” said Lord John.
I had the same feeling of mystery and danger around us. In the gloom of the trees there seemed a constant menace and as we looked up into their shady foliage, vague terrors crept into one’s heart. The iguanodons we had seen were lumbering, inoffensive brutes which were unlikely to hurt anyone, but what other creatures might there not be – ready to pounce upon us from their lair among the rocks or brushwood?