Edith, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, rose to her feet. She caught a glance from Burton and turned at once to her fiance.
“Am I to be taken for a ride this evening?” she asked.
“A little later on, by all means, my dear Edith,” Mr. Bomford declared. “A little later on, certainly. Your father has kindly invited me to stay and dine. It will give me very much pleasure. Perhaps we could go for a short distance in—say three-quarters of an hour’s time?”
Edith went slowly back to the house. Burton watched her disappear. The professor and Mr. Bomford drew their chairs a little closer. The professor cleared his throat.
“Mr. Burton,” he began, “Mr. Bomford and I have a proposition to lay before you. May I beg for your undivided attention?”
Burton withdrew his eyes from the French window through which Edith had vanished.
“I am quite at your service,” he answered quietly. “Please let me hear exactly what it is that you have to say.”
The professor cleared his throat.
“In the first place, Mr. Burton,” he said, “I feel that I owe you an apology. I have taken a great liberty. Mr. Bomford here is one of my oldest and most intimate friends. I have spoken to him of the manuscript you brought me to translate. I have told him your story.”
Mr. Bomford scratched his side whiskers and nodded patronizingly.
“It is a very remarkable story,” he declared, “a very remarkable story indeed. I can assure you, Mr.—Mr. Burton, that I never listened to anything so amazing. If any one else except my old friend here had told me of it, I should have laughed. I should have dismissed the whole thing at once as incredible and preposterous. Even now, I must admit that I find it almost impossible to accept the story in its entirety.”
Burton looked him coldly in the eyes. Mr. Bomford did not please him.
“The story is perfectly true,” he said. “There is not the slightest necessity for you to believe it—in fact, so far as I am concerned, it does not matter in the least whether you do or not.”
“Mr. Burton,” the professor interposed, “I beg that you will not misunderstand Mr. Bomford. His is not a militant disbelief, it is simply a case of suspended judgment. In the meantime, assuming the truth of what you have told us—and I for one, you must remember, Mr. Burton, have every faith in your story—assuming its truth, Mr. Bomford has made a most interesting proposition.”
Burton, with half-closed eyes, was listening to the singing of a thrush and watching the sunshine creep through the dark foliage of the cedar trees. He was only slightly interested.
“A proposition?” he murmured.
“Precisely,” Mr. Cowper assented. “We have an appeal to make to you, an appeal on behalf of science, an appeal on behalf of your fellow-creatures, an appeal on behalf of yourself. Your amazing experience is one which should be analyzed and given to the world.”