'Of course such a thing could not happen here and now. But there was a time when and a place where such a thing may have happened. Indeed, in my time, a traveller or two have got pretty soundly disbelieved for reporting what they saw, -- the last of an expiring race, which had strayed over the natural verge of its history, coming to life in some neglected swamp, itself a remnant of the slime of Chaos.'
'I never heard you talk like that before, uncle,' said Harry. 'If you go on like that, you'll land me in a swamp, I'm afraid.'
'I wasn't talking to you at all, Harry. Kate challenged me to find a place for kelpies, and such like, in the theories she does me the honour of supposing I cultivate.'
'Then you think, uncle, that all these stories are only legends which, if you could follow them up, would lead you back to some one of the awful monsters that have since quite disappeared from the earth.'
'It is possible those stories may be such legends; but that was not what I intended to lead you to. I gave you that only as something like what I am going to say now. What if, -- mind, I only suggest it, -- what if the direful creatures, whose report lingers in these tales, should have an origin far older still? What if they were the remnants of a vanishing period of the earth's history long antecedent to the birth of mastodon and iguanodon; a stage, namely, when the world, as we call it, had not yet become quite visible, was not yet so far finished as to part from the invisible world that was its mother, and which, on its part, had not then become quite invisible -- was only almost such; and when, as a credible consequence, strange shapes of those now invisible regions, Gorgons and Chim?ras dire, might be expected to gloom out occasionally from the awful Fauna of an ever-generating world upon that one which was being born of it. Hence, the life-periods of a world being long and slow, some of these huge, unformed bulks of half-created matter might, somehow, like the megatherium of later times, -- a baby creation to them, -- roll at age-long intervals, clothed in a mighty terror of shapelessness into the half-recognition of human beings, whose consternation at the uncertain vision were barrier enough to prevent all further knowledge of its substance.'
'I begin to have some notion of your meaning, uncle,' said Kate.
'But then,' said Janet, 'all that must be over by this time. That world has been invisible now for many years.'
'Ever since you were born, I suppose, Janet. The changes of a world are not to be measured by the changes of its generations.'
'Oh, but, uncle, there can't be any such things. You know that as well as I do.'
'Yes, just as well, and no better.'
'There can't be any ghosts now. Nobody believes such things.'