A few days later, while finishing his dinner, Mr Tompkins remembered that it was the night of the professor's lecture on the structure of the atom, which he had promised to attend. But he was so fed up with his father-in-law's interminable expositions that he decided to forget the lecture and spend a comfortable evening at home. However, just as he was getting settled with his book, Maud cut off this avenue of escape by looking at the clock and remarking, gently but firmly, that it was almost time for him to leave. So, half an hour later, he found himself on a hard wooden bench in the university auditorium together with a crowd of eager young students.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ began the professor, looking at them gravely over his spectacles, ‘In my last lecture I promised to give you more details concerning the internal structure of the atom, and to explain how the peculiar features of this structure account for its physical and chemical properties. You know, of course, that atoms are no longer considered as elementary indivisible constituent parts of matter, and that this role has passed now to much smaller particles such as electrons, protons, etc.’