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When the World Shook

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"Ten times ten thousand, one hundred thousand."

Bickley became silent.

"Twice one hundred thousand and half a hundred thousand, two
hundred and fifty thousand years. That was the space of time
which the lord Oro, my father, set for our sleep. Whether it has
been fulfilled he will know presently when he has read the book
of the stars and made comparison of it with what he wrote before
we laid us down to rest," and she pointed to the metal plates
which the Ancient was studying.

Bickley walked away, making sounds as though he were going to
be ill and looking so absurd in his indignation that I nearly
laughed. The Lady Yva actually did laugh, and very musical was
that laugh.

"He does not believe," she said. "He is so clever he knows
everything. But two hundred and fifty thousand years ago we
should have thought him quite stupid. Then we could read the
stars and calculate their movements for ever."

"So can we," I answered, rather nettled.

"I am glad, O Humphrey, since you will be able to show my
father if in one of them he is wrong."

Secretly I hoped that this task would not be laid on me.
Indeed, I thought it well to change the subject for the
edification of Bickley who had recovered and was drawn back by
his eager curiosity. Just then, too, Bastin joined us, happy in
his regained boots.

"You tell us, Lady Yva," I said, "that you slept, or should
have slept for two hundred and fifty thousand years." Here Bastin
opened his eyes. "If that was so, where was your mind all this

"If by my mind you mean spirit, O Humphrey, I have to answer
that at present I do not know for certain. I think, however, that
it dwelt elsewhere, perhaps in other bodies on the earth, or some
different earth. At least, I know that my heart is very full of
memories which as yet I cannot unroll and read."

"Great heavens, this is madness!" said Bickley.

"In the great heavens," she answered slowly, "there are many
things which you, poor man, would think to be madness, but yet
are truth and perfect wisdom. These things, or some of them, soon
I shall hope to show you."

"Do if you can," said Bickley.

"Why not?" interrupted Bastin. "I think the lady's remarks
quite reasonable. It seems to me highly improbable if really she
has slept for two hundred and fifty thousand years, which, of
course, I can't decide, that an immortal spirit would be allowed
to remain idle for so long. That would be wallowing in a bed of
idleness and shirking its duty which is to do its work. Also, as
she tells you, Bickley, you are not half so clever as you think
you are in your silly scepticism, and I have no doubt that there
are many things in other worlds which would expose your
ignorance, if only you could see them."

At this moment Oro turned and called his daughter. She went at
once, saying:

"Come, strangers, and you shall learn."

So we followed her.

"Daughter," he said, speaking in Orofenan, I think that we
might understand, "ask these strangers to bring one of those
lamps of theirs that by the light of it I may study these

"Perhaps this may serve," said Bickley, suddenly producing an
electric torch from his pocket and flashing it into his face. It
was his form of repartee for all he had suffered at the hands of
this incomprehensible pair. Let me say at once that it was
singularly successful. Perhaps the wisdom of the ages in which
Oro flourished had overlooked so small a matter as electric
torches, or perhaps he did not expect to meet with them in these
degenerate days. At any rate for the first and last time in my
intercourse with him I saw the god, or lord--the native word
bears either meaning--Oro genuinely astonished. He started and
stepped back, and for a moment or two seemed a little frightened.
Then muttering something as to the cleverness of this
light-producing instrument, he motioned to his daughter to take
it from Bickley and hold it in a certain position. She obeyed,
and in its illumination he began to study the engraved plates,
holding one of them in either hand.

After a while he gave me one of the plates to hold, and with
his disengaged hand pointed successively to the constellation of
Orion, to the stars Castor, Pollux, Aldebaran, Rigel, the
Pleiades, Sirius and others which with my very limited knowledge
I could not recognise offhand. Then on the plate which I held, he
showed us those same stars and constellations, checking them one
by one.

Then he remarked very quietly that all was in order, and
handing the plate he held to Yva, said:

"The calculations made so long ago are correct, nor have the
stars varied in their proper motions during what is after all but
an hour of time. If you, Stranger, who, I understand, are named
Humphrey, should be, as I gather, a heaven-master, naturally you
will ask me how I could fix an exact date by the stars without an
error of, let us say, from five to ten thousand years. I answer
you that by the proper motion of the stars alone it would have
been difficult. Therefore I remember that in order to be exact, I
calculated the future conjunctions of those two planets," and he
pointed to Saturn and Jupiter. "Finding that one of these
occurred near yonder star," and he indicated the bright orb,
Spica, "at a certain time, I determined that then I would awake.
Behold! There are the stars as I engraved them from my
foreknowledge, upon this chart, and there those two great planets
hang in conjunction. Daughter Yva, my wisdom has not failed me.
This world of ours has travelled round the sun neither less nor
more than two hundred and fifty thousand times since we laid
ourselves down to sleep. It is written here, and yonder," and he
pointed, first to the engraved plates and then to the vast
expanse of the starlit heavens.

Awe fell on me; I think that even Bickley and Bastin were awed,
at any rate for the moment. It was a terrible thing to look on a
being, to all appearance more or less human, who alleged that he
had been asleep for two hundred and fifty thousand years, and
proceeded to prove it by certain ancient star charts. Of course
at the time I could not check those charts, lacking the necessary
knowledge, but I have done so since and found that they are quite
accurate. However this made no difference, since the
circumstances and something in his manner convinced me that he
spoke the absolute truth.

He and his daughter had been asleep for two hundred and fifty
thousand years. Oh! Heavens, for two hundred and fifty thousand

Chapter XIII

Oro Speaks and Bastin Argues

The reader of what I have written, should there ever be such a
person, may find the record marvelous, and therefore rashly
conclude that because it is beyond experience, it could not be.
It is not a wise deduction, as I think Bickley would admit today,
because without doubt many things are which surpass our extremely
limited experience. However, those who draw the veil from the
Unknown and reveal the New, must expect incredulity, and accept
it without grumbling. Was that not the fate, for instance, of
those who in the Middle Ages, a few hundred years ago,
discovered, or rather rediscovered the mighty movements of those
constellations which served Oro for an almanac?

But the point I want to make is that if the sceptic plays a
Bickleyan part as regards what has been written, it seems
probable that his attitude will be accentuated as regards that
which it still remains for me to write. If so, I cannot help it,
and must decline entirely to water down or doctor facts and thus
pander to his prejudice and ignorance. For my part I cannot
attempt to explain these occurrences; I only know that they
happened and that I set down what I saw, heard and felt, neither
more nor less.

Immediately after Oro had triumphantly vindicated his stellar
calculations he turned and departed into the cave, followed by
his daughter, waving to us to remain where we were. As she passed
us, however, the Glittering Lady whispered--this time to Bastin--
that he would see them again in a few hours, adding:

"We have much to learn and I hope that then you who, I
understand, are a priest, will begin to teach us of your religion
and other matters."

Bastin was so astonished that he could make no reply, but when
they had gone he said:

"Which of you told her that I was a priest?"

We shook our heads for neither of us could remember having done

"Well, I did not," continued Bastin, "since at present I have
found no opportunity of saying a word in season. So I suppose she
must have gathered it from my attire, though as a matter of fact
I haven't been wearing a collar, and those men who wanted to cook
me, pulled off my white tie and I didn't think it worth while
dirtying a clean one."

"If," said Bickley, "you imagine that you look like the
minister of any religion ancient or modern in a grubby flannel
shirt, a battered sun-helmet, a torn green and white umbrella and
a pair of ragged duck trousers, you are mistaken, Bastin, that is

"I admit that the costume is not appropriate, Bickley, but how
otherwise could she have learned the truth?"

"These people seem to have ways of learning a good many things.
But in your case, Bastin, the cause is clear enough. You have
been walking about with the head of that idol and always keep it
close to you. No doubt they believe that you are a priest of the
worship of the god of the Grove--Baal, you know, or something of
that sort."

When he heard this Bastin's face became a perfect picture.
Never before did I see it so full of horror struggling with

"I must undeceive them without a moment's delay," he said, and
was starting for the cave when we caught his arms and held him.

"Better wait till they come back, old fellow," I said,
laughing. "If you disobey that Lord Oro you may meet with another
experience in the sacrifice line."

"Perhaps you are right, Arbuthnot. I will occupy the interval
in preparing a suitable address."

"Much better occupy it in preparing breakfast," said Bickley.
"I have always noticed that you are at your best extempore."

In the end he did prepare breakfast though in a distrait
fashion; indeed I found him beginning to make tea in the
frying-pan. Bastin felt that his opportunity had arrived, and was
making ready to rise to the occasion.

Also we felt, all three of us, that we were extremely shabby-
looking objects, and though none of us said so, each did his best
to improve his personal appearance. First of all Bickley cut
Bastin's and my hair, after which I did him the same service.
Then Bickley who was normally clean shaven, set to work to remove
a beard of about a week's growth, and I who wore one of the
pointed variety, trimmed up mine as best I could with the help of
a hand-glass. Bastin, too, performed on his which was of the
square and rather ragged type, wisely rejecting Bickley's advice
to shave it off altogether, offered, I felt convinced, because he
felt that the result on Bastin would be too hideous for words.
After this we cut our nails, cleaned our teeth and bathed; I even
caught Bickley applying hair tonic from his dressing case in
secret, behind a projecting rock, and borrowed some myself. He
gave it me on condition that I did not mention its existence to
Bastin who, he remarked, would certainly use the lot and make
himself smell horrible.

Next we found clean ducks among our store of spare clothes, for
the Orofenans had brought these with our other possessions, and
put them on, even adding silk cumberbunds and neckties. My tie I
fastened with a pin that I had obtained in Egypt. It was a tiny
gold statuette of very fine and early workmanship, of the god
Osiris, wearing the crown of the Upper Land with the uraeus
crest, and holding in his hands, which projected from the mummy
wrappings, the emblems of the crook, the scourge and the crux
ansata, or Sign of Life.

Bastin, for his part, arrayed himself in full clerical costume,
black coat and trousers, white tie and stick-up clergyman's
collar which, as he remarked, made him feel extremely hot in that
climate, and were unsuitable to domestic duties, such as
washing-up. I offered to hold his coat while he did this office
and told him he looked very nice indeed.

"Beautiful!" remarked Bickley, "but why don't you put on your
surplice and biretta?" (Being very High-Church Bastin did wear a
biretta on festival Sundays at home.) "There would be no mistake
about you then."

"I do not think it would be suitable," replied Bastin whose
sense of humour was undeveloped. "There is no service to be
performed at present and no church, though perhaps that cave--"
and he stopped.

When we had finished these vain adornments and Bastin had put
away the things and tidied up, we sat down, rather at a loose
end. We should have liked to walk but refrained from doing so for
fear lest we might dirty our clean clothes. So we just sat and
thought. At least Bickley thought, and so did I for a while until
I gave it up. What was the use of thinking, seeing that we were
face to face with circumstances which baffled reason and beggared
all recorded human experience? What Bastin did I am sure I do not
know, but I think from the expression of his countenance that he
was engaged in composing sermons for the benefit of Oro and the
Glittering Lady.

One diversion we did have. About eleven o'clock a canoe came
from the main island laden with provisions and paddled by Marama
and two of his people. We seized our weapons, remembering our
experiences of the night, but Marama waved a bough in token of
peace. So, carrying our revolvers, we went to the rock edge to
meet him. He crept ashore and, chief though he was, prostrated
himself upon his face before us, which told me that he had heard
of the fate of the sorcerers. His apologies were abject. He
explained that he had no part in the outrage of the attack, and
besought us to intercede on behalf of him and his people with the
awakened god of the Mountain whom he looked for with a terrified

We consoled him as well as we could, and told him that he had
best be gone before the god of the Mountain appeared, and perhaps
treated him as he had done the sorcerers. In his name, however,
we commanded Marama to bring materials and build us a proper
house upon the rock, also to be sure to keep up a regular and
ample supply of provisions. If he did these things, and anything
else we might from time to time command, we said that perhaps his
life and those of his people would be spared. This, however,
after the evil behaviour of some of them of course we could not

Marama departed so thoroughly frightened that he even forgot to
make any inquiries as to who this god of the Mountain might be,
or where he came from, or whither he was going. Of course, the
place had been sacred among his people from the beginning,
whenever that may have been, but that its sacredness should
materialise into an active god who brought sorcerers of the
highest reputation to a most unpleasant end, just because they
wished to translate their preaching into practice, was another
matter. It was not to be explained even by the fact of which he
himself had informed me, that during the dreadful storm of some
months before, the cave mouth which previously was not visible on
the volcano, had suddenly been lifted up above the level of the
Rock of Offerings, although, of course, all religious and
instructed persons would have expected something peculiar to
happen after this event.

Such I knew were his thoughts, but, as I have said, he was too
frightened and too hurried to express them in questions that I
should have found it extremely difficult to answer. As it was he
departed quite uncertain as to whether one of us was not the real
"god of the Mountain," who had power to bring hideous death upon
his molesters. After all, what had he to go on to the contrary,
except the word of three priests who were so terrified that they
could give no coherent account of what had happened? Of these
events, it was true, there was evidence in the twisted carcass of
their lamented high sorcerer, and, for the matter of that, of
certain corpses which he had seen, that lay in shallow water at
the bottom of the lake. Beyond all was vague, and in his heart I
am sure that Marama believed that Bastin was the real "god of the
Mountain." Naturally, he would desire to work vengeance on those
who tried to sacrifice and eat him. Moreover, had he not
destroyed the image of the god of the Grove and borne away its
head whence he had sucked magic and power?

Thus argued Marama, disbelieving the tale of the frightened
sorcerers, for he admitted as much to me in after days.

Marama departed in a great hurry, fearing lest the "god of the
Mountain," or Bastin, whose new and splendid garb he regarded
with much suspicion, might develop some evil energy against him.
Then we went back to our camp, leaving the industrious Bastin,
animated by a suggestion from Bickley that the fruit and food
might spoil if left in the sun, to carry it into the shade of the
cave. Owing to the terrors of the Orofenans the supply was so
large that to do this he must make no fewer than seven journeys,
which he did with great good will since Bastin loved physical
exercise. The result on his clerical garments, however, was
disastrous. His white tie went awry, squashed fruit and roast pig
gravy ran down his waistcoat and trousers, and his high collar
melted into limp crinkles in the moisture engendered by the
tropical heat. Only his long coat escaped, since that Bickley
kindly carried for him.

It was just as he arrived with the seventh load in this
extremely dishevelled condition that Oro and his daughter emerged
from the cave. Indeed Bastin, who, being shortsighted, always
wore spectacles that, owing to his heated state were covered with
mist, not seeing that dignitary, dumped down the last basket on
to his toes, exclaiming:

"There, you lazy beggar, I told you I would bring it all, and I

In fact he thought he was addressing Bickley and playing off on
him a troglodytic practical joke.

Oro, however, who at his age did not appreciate jokes, resented
it and was about to do something unpleasant when with
extraordinary tact his daughter remarked:

"Bastin the priest makes you offerings. Thank him, O Lord my

So Oro thanked him, not too cordially for evidently he still
had feeling in his toes, and once more Bastin escaped. Becoming
aware of his error, he began to apologise profusely in English,
while the lady Yva studied him carefully.

"Is that the costume of the priests of your religion, O
Bastin?" she asked, surveying his dishevelled form. "If so, you
were better without it."

Then Bastin retired to straighten his tie, and grabbing his
coat from Bickley, who handed it to him with a malicious smile,
forced his perspiring arms into it in a peculiarly awkward and
elephantine fashion.

Meanwhile Bickley and I produced two camp chairs which we had
made ready, and on these the wondrous pair seated themselves side
by side.

"We have come to learn," said Oro. "Teach!"

"Not so, Father," interrupted Yva, who, I noted, was clothed in
yet a third costume, though whence these came I could not
imagine. "First I would ask a question. Whence are you,
Strangers, and how came you here?"

"We are from the country called England and a great storm
shipwrecked us here; that, I think, which raised the mouth of the
cave above the level of this rock," I answered.

"The time appointed having come when it should be raised," said
Oro as though to himself.

"Where is England?" asked Yva.

Now among the books we had with us was a pocket atlas, quite a
good one of its sort. By way of answer I opened it at the map of
the world and showed her England. Also I showed, to within a
thousand miles or so, that spot on the earth's surface where we
spoke together.

The sight of this atlas excited the pair greatly. They had not
the slightest difficulty in understanding everything about it and
the shape of the world with its division into hemispheres seemed
to be quite familiar to them. What appeared chiefly to interest
them, and especially Oro, were the relative areas and positions
of land and sea.

"Of this, Strangers," he said, pointing to the map, "I shall
have much to say to you when I have studied the pictures of your
book and compared them with others of my own."

"So he has got maps," said Bickley in English, "as well as star
charts. I wonder where he keeps them."

"With his clothes, I expect," suggested Bastin.

Meanwhile Oro had hidden the atlas in his ample robe and
motioned to his daughter to proceed.

"Why do you come here from England so far away?" the Lady Yva
asked, a question to which each of us had an answer.

"To see new countries," I said.

"Because the cyclone brought us," said Bickley.

"To convert the heathen to my own Christian religion," said
Bastin, which was not strictly true.

It was on this. last reply that she fixed.

"What does your religion teach?" she asked.

"It teaches that those who accept it and obey its commands will
live again after death for ever in a better world where is
neither sorrow nor sin," he answered.

When he heard this saying I saw Oro start as though struck by a
new thought and look at Bastin with a curious intentness.

"Who are the heathen?" Yva asked again after a pause, for she
also seemed to be impressed.

"All who do not agree with Bastin's spiritual views," answered

"Those who, whether from lack of instruction or from hardness
of heart, do not follow the true faith. For instance, I suppose
that your father and you are heathen," replied Bastin stoutly.

This seemed to astonish them, but presently Yva caught his
meaning and smiled, while Oro said:

"Of this great matter of faith we will talk later. It is an old
question in the world."

"Why," went on Yva, "if you wished to travel so far did you
come in a ship that so easily is wrecked? Why did you not journey
through the air, or better still, pass through space, leaving
your bodies asleep, as, being instructed, doubtless you can do?"

"As regards your first question," I answered, "there are no
aircraft known that can make so long a journey."

"And as regards the second," broke in Bickley, "we did not do
so because it is impossible for men to transfer themselves to
other places through space either with or without their bodies.".

At this information the Glittering Lady lifted her arched
eyebrows and smiled a little, while Oro said:

"I perceive that the new world has advanced but a little way on
the road of knowledge."

Fearing that Bastin was about to commence an argument, I began
to ask questions in my turn.

"Lord Oro and Lady Yva," I said, "we have told you something of
ourselves and will tell you more when you desire it. But pardon
us if first we pray you to tell us what we burn to know. Who are
you? Of what race and country? And how came it that we found you
sleeping yonder?"

"If it be your pleasure, answer, my Father," said Yva.

Oro thought a moment, then replied in a calm voice:

"I am a king who once ruled most of the world as it was in my
day, though it is true that much of it rebelled against me, my
councillors and servants. Therefore I destroyed the world as it
was then, save only certain portions whence life might spread to
the new countries that I raised up. Having done this I put myself
and my daughter to sleep for a space of two hundred and fifty
thousand years, that there might be time for fresh civilisations
to arise. Now I begin to think that I did not allot a sufficiency
of ages, since I perceive from what you tell me, that the
learning of the new races is as yet but small."

Bickley and I looked at each other and were silent. Mentally we
had collapsed. Who could begin to discuss statements built upon
such a foundation of gigantic and paralysing falsehoods?

Well, Bastin could for one. With no more surprise in his voice
than if he were talking about last night's dinner, he said:

"There must be a mistake somewhere, or perhaps I misunderstand
you. It is obvious that you, being a man, could not have
destroyed the world. That could only be done by the Power which
made it and you."

I trembled for the results of Bastin's methods of setting out
the truth. To my astonishment, however, Oro replied:

"You speak wisely, Priest, but the Power you name may use
instruments to accomplish its decrees. I am such an instrument."

"Quite so," said Bastin, "just like anybody else. You have more
knowledge of the truth than I thought. But pray, how did you
destroy the world?"

"Using my wisdom to direct the forces that are at work in the
heart of this great globe, I drowned it with a deluge, causing
one part to sink and another to rise, also changes of climate
which completed the work."

"That's quite right," exclaimed Bastin delightedly. "We know
all about the Deluge, only you are not mentioned in connection
with the matter. A man, Noah, had to do with it when he was six
hundred years old."

"Six hundred?" said Oro. "That is not very old. I myself had
seen more than a thousand years when I lay down to sleep."

"A thousand!" remarked Bastin, mildly interested. "That is
unusual, though some of these mighty men of renown we know lived
over nine hundred."

Here Bickley snorted and exclaimed:

"Nine hundred moons," he means.

"I did not know Noah," went on Oro. "Perhaps he lived after my
time and caused some other local deluge. Is there anything else
you wish to ask me before I leave you that I may study this map

"Yes," said Bastin. "Why were you allowed to drown your world?"

"Because it was evil, Priest, and disobeyed me and the Power I

"Oh! thank you," said Bastin, "that fits in exactly. It was
just the same in Noah's time."

"I pray that it is not just the same now," said Oro, rising.
"To-morrow we will return, or if I do not who have much that I
must do, the lady my daughter will return and speak with you

He departed into the cave, Yva following at a little distance.

I accompanied her as far as the mouth of the cave, as did
Tommy, who all this time had been sitting contentedly upon the
hem of her gorgeous robe, quite careless of its immemorial age,
if it was immemorial and not woven yesterday, a point on which I
had no information.

"Lady Yva," I said, "did I rightly understand the Lord Oro to
say that he was a thousand years old?"

"Yes, O Humphrey, and really he is more, or so I think."

"Then are you a thousand years old also?" I asked, aghast.

"No, no," she replied, shaking her head, "I am young, quite
young, for I do not count my time of sleep."

"Certainly you look it," I said. "But what, Lady Yva, do you
mean by young?"

She answered my question by another.

"What age are your women when they are as I am?"

"None of our women were ever quite like you, Lady Yva. Yet, say
from twenty-five to thirty years of age."

"Ah! I have been counting and now I remember. When my father
sent me to sleep I was twenty-seven years old. No, I will not
deceive you, I was twenty-seven years and three moons." Then,
saying something to the effect that she would return, she
departed, laughing a little in a mischievous way, and, although I
did not observe this till afterwards, Tommy departed with her.

When I repeated what she had said to Bastin and Bickley, who
were standing at a distance straining their ears and somewhat
aggrieved, the former remarked:

"If she is twenty-seven her father must have married late in
life, though of course it may have been a long while before he
had children."

Then Bickley, who had been suppressing himself all this while,
went off like a bomb.

"Do you tell us, Bastin," he asked, "that you believe one word
of all this ghastly rubbish? I mean as to that antique charlatan
being a thousand years old and having caused the Flood and the

"If you ask me, Bickley, I see no particular reason to doubt it
at present. A person who can go to sleep in a glass coffin kept
warm by a pocketful of radium together with very accurate maps of
the constellations at the time he wakes up, can, I imagine, do
most things."

"Even cause the Deluge," jeered Bickley.

"I don't know about the Deluge, but perhaps he may have been
permitted to cause a deluge. Why not? You can't look at things
from far enough off, Bickley. And if something seems big to you,
you conclude that therefore it is impossible. The same Power
which gives you skill to succeed in an operation, that hitherto
was held impracticable, as I know you have done once or twice,
may have given that old fellow power to cause a deluge. You
should measure the universe and its possibilities by worlds and
not by acres, Bickley."

"And believe, I suppose, that a man can live a thousand years,
whereas we know well that he cannot live more than about a

"You don't know anything of the sort, Bickley. All you know is
that over the brief period of history with which we are
acquainted, say ten thousand years at most, men have only lived
to about a hundred. But the very rocks which you are so fond of
talking about, tell us that even this planet is millions upon
millions of years of age. Who knows then but that at some time in
its history, men did not live for a thousand years, and that lost
civilisations did not exist of which this Oro and his daughter
may be two survivors?"

"There is no proof of anything of the sort," said Bickley.

"I don't know about proof, as you understand it, though I have
read in Plato of a continent called Atlantis that was submerged,
according to the story of old Egyptian priests. But personally I
have every proof, for it is all written down in the Bible at
which you turn tip your nose, and I am very glad that I have been
lucky enough to come across this unexpected confirmation of the
story. Not that it matters much, since I should have learned all
about it when it pleases Providence to remove me to a better
world, which in our circumstances may happen any day. Now I must
change my clothes before I see to the cooking and other things."

"I am bound to admit," said Bickley, looking after him, "that
old Bastin is not so stupid as he seems. From his point of view
the arguments he advances are quite logical. Moreover I think he
is right when he says that we look at things through the wrong
end of the telescope. After all the universe is very big and who
knows what may happen there? Who knows even what may have
happened on this little earth during the aeons of its existence,
whenever its balance chanced to shift, as the Ice Ages show us it
has often done? Still I believe that old Oro to be a Prince of

"That remains to be proved," I answered cautiously. "All I know
is that he is a wonderfully learned person of most remarkable
appearance, and that his daughter is the loveliest creature I
ever saw."

"There I agree," said Bickley decidedly, "and as brilliant as
she is lovely. If she belongs to a past civilisation, it is a
pity that it ever became extinct. Now let's go and have a nap.
Bastin will call us when supper is ready."

Chapter XIV

The Under-world

That night we slept well and without fear, being quite certain
that after their previous experience the Orofenans would make no
further attempts upon us. Indeed our only anxiety was for Tommy,
whom we could not find when the time came to give him his supper.
Bastin, however, seemed to remember having seen him following the
Glittering Lady into the cave. This, of course, was possible, as
certainly he had taken an enormous fancy to her and sat himself
down as close to her as he could on every occasion. He even
seemed to like the ancient Oro, and was not afraid to jump up and
plant his dirty paws upon that terrific person's gorgeous robe.
Moreover Oro liked him, for several times I observed him pat the
dog upon the head; as I think I have said, the only human touch
that I had perceived about him. So we gave up searching and
calling in the hope that he was safe with our supernatural

The next morning quite early the Lady Yva appeared alone; no,
not alone, for with her came our lost Tommy looking extremely
spry and well at ease. The faithless little wretch just greeted
us in a casual fashion and then went and sat by Yva. In fact when
the awkward Bastin managed to stumble over the end of her dress
Tommy growled at him and showed his teeth. Moreover the do was
changed. He was blessed with a shiny black coat, but now this
coat sparkled in the sunlight, like the Lady Yva's hair.

"The Glittering Lady is all very well, but I'm not sure that I
care for a glittering dog. It doesn't look quite natural," said
Bastin, contemplating him.

"Why does Tommy shine, Lady?" I asked.

"Because I washed him in certain waters that we have, so that
now he looks beautiful and smells sweet," she answered, laughing.

It was true, the dog did smell sweet, which I may add had not
always been the case with him, especially when there were dead
fish about. Also he appeared to have been fed, for he turned up
his nose at the bits we had saved for his breakfast.

"He has drunk of the Life-water," explained Yva, "and will want
no food for two days."

Bickley pricked up his ears at this statement and looked

"You do not believe, O Bickley," she said, studying him
gravely. "Indeed, you believe nothing. You think my father and I
tell you many lies. Bastin there, he believes all. Humphrey? He
is not sure; he thinks to himself, I will wait and find out
whether or ho these funny people cheat me."

Bickley coloured and made some remark about things which were
contrary to experience, also that Tommy in a general way was
rather a greedy little dog.

"You, too, like to eat, Bickley" (this was true, he had an
excellent appetite), "but when you have drunk the Life-water you
will care much less."

"I am glad to hear it," interrupted Bastin, "for Bickley wants
a lot of cooking done, and I find it tedious."

"You eat also, Lady," said Bickley.

"Yes, I eat sometimes because I like it, but I can go weeks and
not eat, when I have the Life-water. Just now, after so long a
sleep, I am hungry. Please give me some of that fruit. No, not
the flesh, flesh I hate."

We handed it to her. She took two plantains, peeled and ate
them with extraordinary grace. Indeed she reminded me, I do not
know why, of some lovely butterfly drawing its food from a

While she ate she observed us closely; nothing seemed to escape
the quick glances of those beautiful eyes. Presently she said:

"What, O Humphrey, is that with which you fasten your
neckdress?" and she pointed to the little gold statue of Osiris
that I used as a pin.

I told her that it was a statuette of a god named Osiris and
very, very ancient, probably quite five thousand years old, a
statement at which she smiled a little; also that it came from

"Ah!" she answered, "is it so? I asked because we have figures
that are very like to that one, and they also hold in their hands
a staff surmounted by a loop. They are figures of Sleep's

"So is this," I said. "Among the Egyptians Osiris was the god
of Death."

She nodded and replied that doubtless the symbol had come down
to them.

"One day you shall take me to see this land which you call so
very old. Or I will take you, which would be quicker," she added.

We all bowed and said we should be delighted. Even Bastin
appeared anxious to revisit Egypt in such company, though when he
was there it seemed to bore him. But what she meant about taking
us I could not guess. Nor had we time to ask her, for she went
on, watching our faces as she spoke.

"The Lord Oro sends you a message, Strangers. He asks whether
it is your wish to see where we dwell. He adds that you are not
to come if you do not desire, or if you fear danger."

We all answered that there was nothing we should like better,
but Bastin added that he had already seen the tomb.

"Do you think, Bastin, that we live in a tomb because we slept
there for a while, awaiting the advent of you wanderers at the
appointed hour?"

"I don't see where else it could be, unless it is further down
that cave," said Bastin. "The top of the mountain would not be
convenient as a residence."

"It has not been convenient for many an age, for reasons that I
will show you. Think now, before you come. You have naught to
fear from us, and I believe that no harm will happen to you. But
you will see many strange things that will anger Bickley because
he cannot understand them, and perhaps will weary Bastin because
his heart turns from what is wondrous and ancient. Only Humphrey
will rejoice in them because the doors of his soul are open and
he longs--what do you long for, Humphrey?"

"That which I have lost and fear I shall never find again," I
answered boldly.

"I know that you have lost many things--last night, for
instance, you lost Tommy, and when he slept with me he told me
much about you and--others."

"This is ridiculous," broke in Bastin. "Can a dog talk?"

"Everything can talk, if you understand its language, Bastin.
But keep a good heart, Humphrey, for the bold seeker finds in the
end. Oh! foolish man, do you not understand that all is yours if
you have but the soul to conceive and the will to grasp? All,
all, below, between, above! Even I know that, I who have so much
to learn."

So she spoke and became suddenly magnificent. Her face which
had been but that of a super-lovely woman, took on grandeur. Her
bosom swelled; her presence radiated some subtle power, much as
her hair radiated light.

In a moment it was gone and she was smiling and jesting.

"Will you come, Strangers, where Tommy was not afraid to go,
down to the Under-world? Or will you stay here in the sun?
Perhaps you will do better to stay here in the sun, for the
Under-world has terrors for weak hearts that were born but
yesterday, and feeble feet may stumble in the dark."

"I shall take my electric torch," said Bastin with decision,
"and I advise you fellows to do the same. I always hated cellars,
and the catacombs at Rome are worse, though full of sacred

Then we started, Tommy frisking on ahead in a most provoking
way as though he were bored by a visit to a strange house and
going home, and Yva gliding forward with a smile upon her face
that was half mystic and half mischievous. We passed the remains
of the machines, and Bickley asked her what they were.

"Carriages in which once we travelled through the skies, until
we found a better way, and that the uninstructed used till the
end," she answered carelessly, leaving me wondering what on earth
she meant.

We came to the statue and the sepulchre beneath without
trouble, for the glint of her hair, and I may add of Tommy's
back, were quite sufficient to guide us through the gloom. The
crystal coffins were still there, for Bastin flashed his torch
and we saw them, but the boxes of radium had gone.

"Let that light die," she said to Bastin. "Humphrey, give me
your right hand and give your left to Bickley. Let Bastin cling
to him and fear nothing."

We passed to the end of the tomb and stood against what
appeared to be a rock wall, all close together, as she directed.

"Fear nothing," she said again, but next second I was never
more full of fear in my life, for we were whirling downwards at a
speed that would have made an American elevator attendant turn

"Don't choke me," I heard Bickley say to Bastin, and the
latter's murmured reply of:

"I never could bear these moving staircases and tubelifts. They
always make me feel sick."

I admit that for my part I also felt rather sick and clung
tightly to the hand of the Glittering Lady. She, however, placed
her other hand upon my shoulder, saying in a low voice:

"Did I not tell you to have no fear?"

Then I felt comforted, for somehow I knew that it was not her
desire to harm and much less to destroy me. Also Tommy was seated
quite at his ease with his head resting against my leg, and his
absence of alarm was reassuring. The only stoic of the party was
Bickley. I have no doubt that he was quite as frightened as we
were, but rather than show it he would have died.

"I presume this machinery is pneumatic," he began when suddenly
and without shock, we arrived at the end of our journey. How far
we had fallen I am sure I do not know, but I should judge from
the awful speed at which we travelled, that it must have been
several thousand feet, probably four or five.

"Everything seems steady now," remarked Bastin, "so I suppose
this luggage lift has stopped. The odd thing is that I can't see
anything of it. There ought to be a shaft, but we seem to be
standing on a level floor."

"The odd thing is," said Bickley, "that we can see at all.
Where the devil does the light come from thousands of feet

"I don't know," answered Bastin, "unless there is natural gas
here, as I am told there is at a town called Medicine Hat in

"Natural gas be blowed," said Bickley. "It is more like
moonlight magnified ten times."

So it was. The whole place was filled with a soft radiance,
equal to that of the sun at noon, but gentler and without heat.

"Where does it come from?" I whispered to Yva.

"Oh!" she replied, as I thought evasively. "It is the light of
the Under-world which we know how to use. The earth is full of
light, which is not wonderful, is it, seeing that its heart is
fire? Now look about you."

I looked and leant on her harder than ever, since amazement
made me weak. We were in some vast place whereof the roof seemed
almost as far off as the sky at night. At least all that I could
make out was a dim and distant arch which might have been one of
cloud. For the rest, in every direction stretched vastness,
illuminated far as the eye could reach by the soft light of which
I have spoken, that is, probably for several miles. But this
vastness was not empty. On the contrary it was occupied by a
great city. There were streets much wider than Piccadilly, all
bordered by houses, though these, I observed, were roofless, very
fine houses, some of them, built of white stone or marble. There
were roadways and pavements worn by the passage of feet. There,
farther on, were market-places or public squares, and there,
lastly, was a huge central enclosure one or two hundred acres in
extent, which was filled with majestic buildings that looked like
palaces, or town-halls; and, in the midst of them all, a vast
temple with courts and a central dome. For here, notwithstanding
the lack of necessity, its builders seemed to have adhered to the
Over-world tradition, and had roofed their fane.

And now came the terror. All of this enormous city was dead.
Had it stood upon the moon it could not have been more dead. None
paced its streets; none looked from its window-places. None
trafficked in its markets, none worshipped in its temple. Swept,
garnished, lighted, practically untouched by the hand of Time,
here where no rains fell and no winds blew, it was yet a howling
wilderness. For what wilderness is there to equal that which once
has been the busy haunt of men? Let those who have stood among
the buried cities of Central Asia, or of Anarajapura in Ceylon,
or even amid the ruins of Salamis on the coast of Cyprus, answer
the question. But here was something infinitely more awful. A
huge human haunt in the bowels of the earth utterly devoid of
human beings, and yet as perfect as on the day when these ceased
to be.

"I do not care for underground localities," remarked Bastin,
his gruff voice echoing strangely in that terrible silence, "but
it does seem a pity that all these fine buildings should be
wasted. I suppose their inhabitants left them in search of fresh

"Why did they leave them?" I asked of Yva.

"Because death took them," she answered solemnly. "Even those
who live a thousand years die at last, and if they have no
children, with them dies the race."

"Then were you the last of your people?" I asked.

"Inquire of my father," she replied, and led the way through
the massive arch of a great building.

It led into a walled courtyard in the centre of which was a
plain cupola of marble with a gate of some pale metal that
looked like platinum mixed with gold. This gate stood open.
Within it was the statue of a woman beautifully executed in white
marble and set in a niche of some black stone. The figure was
draped as though to conceal the shape, and the face was stern and
majestic rather than beautiful. The eyes of the statue were
cunningly made of some enamel which gave them a strange and
lifelike appearance. They stared upwards as though looking away
from the earth and its concerns. The arms were outstretched. In
the right hand was a cup of black marble, in the left a similar
cup of white marble. From each of these cups trickled a thin
stream of sparkling water, which two streams met and mingled at a
distance of about three feet beneath the cups. Then they fell
into a metal basin which, although it must have been quite a foot
thick, was cut right through by their constant impact, and
apparently vanished down some pipe beneath. Out of this metal
basin Tommy, who gambolled into the place ahead of us, began to
drink in a greedy and demonstrative fashion.

"The Life-water?" I said, looking at our guide.

She nodded and asked in her turn:

"What is the statue and what does it signify, Humphrey?"

I hesitated, but Bastin answered:

"Just a rather ugly woman who hid up her figure because it was
bad. Probably she was a relation of the artist who wished to have
her likeness done and sat for nothing."

"The goddess of Health," suggested Bickley. "Her proportions
are perfect; a robust, a thoroughly normal woman."

"Now, Humphrey," said Yva.

I stared at the work and had not an idea. Then it flashed on me
with such suddenness and certainity that I am convinced the
answer to the riddle was passed to me from her and did not
originate in my own mind.

"It seems quite easy," I said in a superior tone. "The figure
symbolises Life and is draped because we only see the face of
Life, the rest is hidden. The arms are bare because Life is real
and active. One cup is black and one is white because Life brings
both good and evil gifts; that is why the streams mingle, to be
lost beneath in the darkness of death. The features are stern and
even terrifying rather than lovely, because such is the aspect of
Life. The eyes look upward and far away from present things,
because the real life is not here."

"Of course one may say anything," said Bastin, "but I don't
understand all that."

"Imagination goes a long way," broke in Bickley, who was vexed
that he had not thought of this interpretation himself. But Yva

"I begin to think that you are quite clever, Humphrey. I wonder
whence the truth came to you, for such is the meaning of the
figure and the cups. Had I told it to you myself, it could not
have been better said," and she glanced at me out of the corners
of her eyes. "Now, Strangers, will you drink? Once that gate was
guarded, and only at a great price or as a great reward were
certain of the Highest Blood given the freedom of this fountain
which might touch no common lips. Indeed it was one of the causes
of our last war, for all the world which was, desired this water
which now is lapped by a stranger's hound."

"I suppose there is nothing medicinal in it?" said Bastin.
"Once when I was very thirsty, I made a mistake and drank three
tumblers of something of the sort in the dark, thinking that it
was Apollinaris, and I don't want to do it again."

"Just the sort of thing you would do," said Bickley. "But, Lady
Yva, what are the properties of this water?"

"It is very health-giving," she answered, "and if drunk
continually, not less than once each thirty days, it wards off
sickness, lessens hunger and postpones death for many, many
years. That is why those of the High Blood endured so long and
became the rulers of the world, and that, as I have said, is the
greatest of the reasons why the peoples who dwelt in the ancient
outer countries and never wished to die, made war upon them, to
win this secret fountain. Have no fear, O Bastin, for see, I will
pledge you in this water."

Then she lifted a strange-looking, shallow, metal cup whereof
the handles were formed of twisted serpents, that lay in the
basin, filled it from the trickling stream, bowed to us and
drank. But as she drank I noted with a thrill of joy that her
eyes were fixed on mine as though it were me she pledged and me
alone. Again she filled the cup with the sparkling water, for it
did sparkle, like that French liqueur in which are mingled little
flakes of gold, and handed it to me.

I bowed to her and drank. I suppose the fluid was water, but to
me it tasted more like strong champagne, dashed with Chateau
Yquem. It was delicious. More, its effects were distinctly
peculiar. Something quick and subtle ran through my veins;
something that for a few moments seemed to burn away the
obscureness which blurs our thought. I began to understand
several problems that had puzzled me, and then lost their
explanations in the midst of light, inner light, I mean.
Moreover, of a sudden it seemed to me as though a window had been
opened in the heart of that Glittering Lady who stood beside me.
At least I knew that it was full of wonderful knowledge,
wonderful memories and wonderful hopes, and that in the latter
two of these I had some part; what part I could not tell. Also I
knew that my heart was open to her and that she saw in it
something which caused her to marvel and to sigh.

In a few seconds, thirty perhaps, all this was gone. Nothing
remained except that I felt extremely strong and well, happier,
too, than I had been for years. Mutely I asked her for more of
the water, but she shook her head and, taking the cup from me,
filled it again and gave it to Bickley, who drank. He flushed,
seemed to lose the self-control which was his very strong
characteristic, and said in a rather thick voice:

"Curious! but I do not think at this moment there is any
operation that has ever been attempted which I could not tackle
single-handed and with success."

Then he was silent, and Bastin's turn came. He drank rather
noisily, after his fashion, and began:

"My dear young lady, I think the time has come when I should
expound to you--" Here he broke off and commenced singing very
badly, for his voice was somewhat raucous:

From Greenland's icy mountains,

From India's coral strand,

Where Afric's sunny fountains

Roll down their golden sand.

Ceasing from melody, he added:

"I determined that I would drink nothing intoxicating while I
was on this island that I might be a shining light in a dark
place, and now I fear that quite unwittingly I have broken what I
look upon as a promise."

Then he, too, grew silent.

"Come," said Yva, "my father, the Lord Oro, awaits you."

We crossed the court of the Water of Life and mounted steps
that led to a wide and impressive portico, Tommy frisking ahead
of us in a most excited way for a dog of his experience.
Evidently the water had produced its effect upon him as well as
upon his masters. This portico was in a solemn style of
architecture which I cannot describe, because it differed from
any other that I know. It was not Egyptian and not Greek,
although its solidity reminded me of the former, and the beauty
and grace of some of the columns, of the latter. The profuseness
and rather grotesque character of the carvings suggested the
ruins of Mexico and Yucatan, and the enormous size of the blocks
of stone, those of Peru and Baalbec. In short, all the known
forms of ancient architecture might have found their inspiration
here, and the general effect was tremendous.

"The palace of the King," said Yva, "whereof we approach the
great hall."

We entered through mighty metal doors, one of which stood ajar,
into a vestibule which from certain indications I gathered had
once been a guard, or perhaps an assembly-room. It was about
forty feet deep by a hundred wide. Thence she led us through a
smaller door into the hall itself. It was a vast place without
columns, for there was no roof to support. The walls of marble or
limestone were sculptured like those of Egyptian temples,
apparently with battle scenes, though of this I am not sure for I
did not go near to them. Except for a broad avenue along the
middle, up which we walked, the area was filled with marble
benches that would, I presume, have accommodated several thousand
people. But they were empty--empty, and oh! the loneliness of it

Far away at the head of the hall was a dais enclosed, and, as
it were, roofed in by a towering structure that mingled grace and
majesty to a wonderful degree. It was modelled on the pattern of
a huge shell. The base of the shell was the platform; behind were
the ribs, and above, the overhanging lip of the shell. On this
platform was a throne of silvery metal. It was supported on the
arched coils of snakes, whereof the tails formed the back and the
heads the arms of the throne.

On this throne, arrayed in gorgeous robes, sat the Lord Oro,
his white beard flowing over them, and a jewelled cap upon his
head. In front of him was a low table on which lay graven sheets
of metal, and among them a large ball of crystal.

There he sat, solemn and silent in the midst of this awful
solitude, looking in very truth like a god, as we conceive such a
being to appear. Small as he was in that huge expanse of
buildings, he seemed yet to dominate it, in a sense to fill the
emptiness which was accentuated by his presence. I know that the
sight of him filled me with true fear which it had never done in
the light of day, not even when he arose from his crystal coffin.
Now for the first time I felt as though I were really in the
presence of a Being Supernatural. Doubtless the surroundings
heightened this impression. What were these mighty edifices in
the bowels of the world? When came this wondrous, all-pervading
and translucent light, whereof we could see no origin? Whither
had vanished those who had reared and inhabited them? How did it
happen that of them all, this man, if he were a man; and this
lovely woman at my side, who, if I might trust my senses and
instincts, was certainly a woman, alone survived of their
departed multitudes?

The thing was crushing. I looked at Bickley for encouragement,
but got none, for he only shook his head. Even Bastin, now that
the first effects of the Life-water had departed, seemed
overwhelmed, and muttered something about the halls of Hades.

Only the little dog Tommy remained quite cheerful. He trotted
down the hall, jumped on to the dais and sat himself comfortably
at the feet of its occupant.

"I greet you," Oro said in his slow, resonant voice. "Daughter,
lead these strangers to me; I would speak with them."

Chapter XV

Oro in His House

We climbed on to the dais by some marble steps, and sat
ourselves down in four curious chairs of metal that were more or
less copied from that which served Oro as a throne; at least the
arms ended in graven heads of snakes. These chairs were so
comfortable that I concluded the seats were fixed on springs,
also we noticed that they were beautifully polished.

"I wonder how they keep everything so clean," said Bastin as we
mounted the dais. "In this big place it must take a lot of
housemaids, though I don't see any. But perhaps there is no dust

I shrugged my shoulders while we seated ourselves, the Lady Yva
and I on Oro's right, Bickley and Bastin on his left, as he
indicated by pointing with his finger.

"What say you of this city?" Oro asked after a while of me.

"We do not know what to say," I replied. "It amazes us. In our
world there is nothing like to it."

"Perchance there will be in the future when the nations grow
more skilled in the arts of war," said Oro darkly.

"Be pleased, Lord Oro," I went on, "if it is your will, to tell
us why the people who built this place chose to live in the
bowels of the earth instead of upon its surface."

"They did not choose; it was forced upon them," was the answer.
"This is a city of refuge that they occupied in time of war, not
because they hated the sun. In time of peace and before the
Barbarians dared to attack them, they dwelt in the city Pani
which signifies Above. You may have noted some of its remaining
ruins on the mount and throughout the island. The rest of them
are now beneath the sea. But when trouble came and the foe rained
fire on them from the air, they retreated to this town, Nyo,
which signifies Beneath."

"And then?"

"And then they died. The Water of Life may prolong life, but it
cannot make women bear children. That they will only do beneath
the blue of heaven, not deep in the belly of the world where
Nature never designed that they should dwell. How would the
voices of children sound in such halls as these? Tell me, you,
Bickley, who are a physician."

"I cannot. I cannot imagine children in such a place, and if
born here they would die," said Bickley.

Oro nodded.

"They did die, and if they went above to Pani they were
murdered. So soon the habit of birth was lost and the Sons of
Wisdom perished one by one. Yes, they who ruled the world and by
tens of thousands of years of toil had gathered into their bosoms
all the secrets of the world, perished, till only a few, and
among them I and this daughter of mine, were left."

"And then?"

"Then, Humphrey, having power so to do, I did what long I had
threatened, and unchained the forces that work at the world's
heart, and destroyed them who were my enemies and evil, so that
they perished by millions, and with them all their works.
Afterwards we slept, leaving the others, our subjects who had not
the secret of this Sleep, to die, as doubtless they did in the
course of Nature or by the hand of the foe. The rest you know."

"Can such a thing happen again?" asked Bickley in a voice that
did not hide his disbelief.

"Why do you question me, Bickley, you who believe nothing of
what I tell you, and therefore make wrath? Still I will say this,
that what I caused to happen I can cause once more--only once, I
think--as perchance you shall learn before all is done. Now,
since you do not believe, I will tell you no more of our
mysteries, no, not whence this light comes nor what are the
properties of the Water of Life, both of which you long to know,
nor how to preserve the vital spark of Being in the grave of
dreamless sleep, like a live jewel in a casket of dead stone, nor
aught else. As to these matters, Daughter, I bid you also to be
silent, since Bickley mocks at us. Yes, with all this around him,
he who saw us rise from the coffins, still mocks at us in his
heart. Therefore let him, this little man of a little day, when
his few years are done go to the tomb in ignorance, and his
companions with him, they who might have been as wise as I am."

Thus Oro spoke in a voice of icy rage, his deep eyes glowing
like coals. Hearing him I cursed Bickley in my heart for I was
sure that once spoken, his decree was like to that of the Medes
and Persians and could not be altered. Bickley, however, was not
in the least dismayed. Indeed he argued the point. He told Oro
straight out that he would not believe in the impossible until it
had been shown to him to be possible, and that the law of Nature
never had been and never could be violated. It was no answer, he
said, to show him wonders without explaining their cause, since
all that he seemed to see might be but mental illusions produced
he knew not how.

Oro listened patiently, then answered:

"Good. So be it, they are illusions. I am an illusion; those
savages who died upon the rock will tell you so. This fair woman
before you is an illusion; Humphrey, I am sure, knows it as you
will also before you have done with her. These halls are
illusions. Live on in your illusions, O little man of science,
who because you see the face of things, think that you know the
body and the heart, and can read the soul at work within. You are
a worthy child of tens of thousands of your breed who were before
you and are now forgotten."

Bickley looked up to answer, then changed his mind and was
silent, thinking further argument dangerous, and Oro went on:

"Now I differ from you, Bickley, in this way. I who have more
wisdom in my finger-point than you with all the physicians of
your world added to you, have in your brains and bodies, yet
desire to learn from those who can give me knowledge. I
understand from your words to my daughter that you, Bastin, teach
a faith that is new to me, and that this faith tells of life
eternal for the children of earth. Is it so?"

"It is," said Bastin eagerly. "I will set out--"

Oro cut him short with a wave of the hand.

"Not now in the presence of Bickley who doubtless disbelieves
your faith, as he does all else, holding it with justice or
without, to be but another illusion. Yet you shall teach me and
on it I will form my own judgment."

"I shall be delighted," said Bastin. Then a doubt struck him,
and he added: "But why do you wish to learn? Not that you may
make a mock of my religion, is it?"

"I mock at no man's belief, because I think that what men
believe is true--for them. I will tell you why I wish to hear of
yours, since I never hide the truth. I who am so wise and old,
yet must die; though that time may be far away, still I must die,
for such is the lot of man born of woman. And I do not desire to
die. Therefore I shall rejoice to learn of any faith that
promises to the children of earth a life eternal beyond the
earth. Tomorrow you shall begin to teach me. Now leave me,
Strangers, for I have much to do," and he waved his hand towards
the table.

We rose and bowed, wondering what he could have to do down in
this luminous hole, he who had been for so many thousands of
years out of touch with the world. It occurred to me, however,
that during this long period he might have got in touch with
other worlds, indeed he looked like it.

"Wait," he said, "I have something to tell you. I have been
studying this book of writings, or world pictures," and he
pointed to my atlas which, as I now observed for the first time,
was also lying upon the table. "It interests me much. Your
country is small, very small. When I caused it to be raised up I
think that it was larger, but since then that seas have flowed

Here Bickley groaned aloud.

"This one is much greater," went on Oro, casting a glance at
Bickley that must have penetrated him like a searchlight. Then he
opened the map of Europe and with his finger indicated Germany
and Austria-Hungary. "I know nothing of the peoples of these
lands," he added, "but as you belong to one of them and are my
guests, I trust that yours may succeed in the war."

"What way?" we asked with one voice.

"Since Bickley is so clever, surely he should know better than
an illusion such as I. All I can tell you is that I have learned
that there is war between this country and that," and he pointed
to Great Britain and to Germany upon the map; "also between

"It is quite possible," I said, remembering many things. "But
how do you know?"

"If I told you, Humphrey, Bickley would not believe, so I will
not tell. Perhaps I saw it in that crystal, as did the
necromancers of the early world. Or perhaps the crystal serves
some different purpose and I saw it otherwise--with my soul. At
least what I say is true."

"Then who will win?" asked Bastin.

"I cannot read the future, Preacher. If I could, should I ask
you to expound to me your religion which probably is of no more
worth than a score of others I have studied, just because it
tells of the future? If I could read the future I should be a god
instead of only an earth-lord."

"Your daughter called you a god and you said that you knew we
were coming to wake you up, which is reading the future,"
answered Bastin.

"Every father is a god to his daughter, or should be; also in
my day millions named me a god because I saw further and struck
harder than they could. As for the rest, it came to me in a
vision. Oh! Bickley, if you were wiser than you think you are,
you would know that all things to come are born elsewhere and
travel hither like the light from stars. Sometimes they come
faster before their day into a single mind, and that is what men
call prophecy. But this is a gift which cannot be commanded, even
by me. Also I did not know that you would come. I knew only that
we should awaken and by the help of men, for if none had been
present at that destined hour we must have died for lack of
warmth and sustenance."

"I deny your hypothesis in toto," exclaimed Bickley, but nobody
paid any attention to him.

"My father," said Yva, rising and bowing before him with her
swan-like grace, "I have noted your commands. But do you permit
that I show the temple to these strangers, also something of our

"Yes, yes," he said. "It will save much talk in a savage tongue
that is difficult to me. But bring them here no more without my
command, save Bastin only. When the sun is four hours high in the
upper world, let him come tomorrow to teach me, and afterwards if
so I desire. Or if he wills, he can sleep here."

"I think I would rather not," said Bastin hurriedly. "I make no
pretense to being particular, but this place does not appeal to
me as a bedroom. There are degrees in the pleasures of solitude
and, in short, I will not disturb your privacy at night."

Oro waved his hand and we departed down that awful and most
dreary hall.

"I hope you will spend a pleasant time here, Bastin," I said,
looking back from the doorway at its cold, illuminated vastness.

"I don't expect to," he answered, "but duty is duty, and if I
can drag that old sinner back from the pit that awaits him, it
will be worth doing. Only I have my doubts about him. To me he
seems to bear a strong family resemblance to Beelzebub, and he's
a bad companion week in and week out."

We went through the portico, Yva leading us, and passed the
fountain of Life-water, of which she cautioned us to drink no
more at present, and to prevent him from doing so, dragged Tommy
past it by his collar. Bickley, however, lingered under the
pretence of making a further examination of the statue. As I had
seen him emptying into his pocket the contents of a corked bottle
of quinine tabloids which he always carried with him, I guessed
very well that his object was to procure a sample of this water
for future analysis. Of course I said nothing, and Yva and Bastin
took no note of what he was doing.

When we were clear of the palace, of which we had only seen one
hall, we walked across an open space made unutterably dreary by
the absence of any vegetation or other sign of life, towards a
huge building of glorious proportions that was constructed of
black stone or marble. It is impossible for me to give any idea
of the frightful solemnity of this doomed edifice, for as I think
I have said, it alone had a roof, standing there in the midst of
that brilliant, unvarying and most unnatural illumination which
came from nowhere and yet was everywhere. Thus, when one lifted a
foot, there it was between the sole of the boot and the floor, or
to express it better, the boot threw no shadow. I think this
absence of shadows was perhaps the most terrifying circumstance
connected with that universal and pervading light. Through it we
walked on to the temple. We passed three courts, pillared all of
them, and came to the building which was larger than St. Paul's
in London. We entered through huge doors which still stood open,
and presently found ourselves beneath the towering dome. There
were no windows, why should there be in a place that was full of
light? There was no ornamentation, there was nothing except black
walls. And yet the general effect was magnificent in its majestic

"In this place," said Yva, and her sweet voice went whispering
round the walls and the arching dome, "were buried the Kings of
the Sons of Wisdom. They lie beneath, each in his sepulchre. Its
entrance is yonder," and she pointed to what seemed to be a
chapel on the right. "Would you wish to see them?"

"Somehow I don't care to," said Bastin. "The place is dreary
enough as it is without the company of a lot of dead kings."

"I should like to dissect one of them, but I suppose that would
not be allowed," said Bickley.

"No," she answered. "I think that the Lord Oro would not wish
you to cut up his forefathers."

"When you and he went to sleep, why did you not choose the
family vault?" asked Bastin.

"Would you have found us there?" she queried by way of answer.
Then, understanding that the invitation was refused by general
consent, though personally I should have liked to accept it, and
have never ceased regretting that I did not, she moved towards a
colossal object which stood beneath the centre of the dome.

On a stepped base, not very different from that in the cave but
much larger, sat a figure, draped in a cloak on which was graved
a number of stars, doubtless to symbolise the heavens. The
fastening of the cloak was shaped like the crescent moon, and the
foot-stool on which rested the figure's feet was fashioned to
suggest the orb of the sun. This was of gold or some such metal,
the only spot of brightness in all that temple. It was impossible
to say whether the figure were male or female, for the cloak
falling in long, straight folds hid its outlines. Nor did the
head tell us, for the hair also was hidden beneath the mantle and
the face might have been that of either man or woman. It was
terrible in its solemnity and calm, and its expression was as
remote and mystic as that of Buddha. only more stern. Also
without doubt it was blind; it was impossible to mistake the
sightlessness of those staring orbs. Across the knees lay a naked
sword and beneath the cloak the arms were hidden. In its complete
simplicity the thing was marvelous.

On either side upon the pedestal knelt a figure of the size of
life. One was an old and withered man with death stamped upon his
face; the other was a beautiful, naked woman, her hands clasped
in the attitude of prayer and with vague terror written on her
vivid features.

Such was this glorious group of which the meaning could not be
mistaken. It was Fate throned upon the sun, wearing the
constellations as his garment, armed with the sword of Destiny
and worshipped by Life and Death. This interpretation I set out
to the others.

Yva knelt before the statue for a little while, bowing her head
in prayer, and really I felt inclined to follow her example,
though in the end I compromised, as did Bickley, by taking off my
hat, which, like the others, I still wore from force of habit,
though in this place none were needed. Only Bastin remained

"Behold the god of my people," said Yva. "Have you no reverence
for it, O Bastin?"

"Not much," he answered, "except as a work of art. You see I
worship Fate's Master. I might add that your god doesn't seem to
have done much for you, Lady Yva, as out of all your greatness
there's nothing left but two people and a lot of old walls and

At first she was inclined to be angry, for I saw her start.
Then her mood changed, and she said with a sigh:

"Fate's Master! Where does He dwell?"

"Here amongst other places," said Bastin. "I'll soon explain
that to you."

"I thank you," she replied gravely. "But why have you not
explained it to Bickley?" Then waving her hand to show that she
wished for no answer, she went on:

"Friends, would you wish to learn something of the history of
my people?"

"Very much," said the irrepressible Bastin, "but I would rather
the lecture took place in the open air."

"That is not possible," she answered. "It must be here and now,
or not at all. Come, stand by me. Be silent and do not move. I am
about to set loose forces that are dangerous if disturbed."

Chapter XVI

Visions of the Past

She led us to the back of the statue and pointed to each of us
where we should remain. Then she took her place at right angles
to us, as a showman might do, and for a while stood immovable.
Watching her face, once more I saw it, and indeed all her body,
informed with that strange air of power, and noted that her eyes
flashed and that her hair grew even more brilliant than was
common, as though some abnormal strength were flowing through it
and her. Presently she spoke, saying:

"I shall show you first our people in the day of their glory.
Look in front of you."

We looked and by degrees the vast space of the apse before us
became alive with forms. At first these were vague and shadowy,
not to be separated or distinguished. Then they became so real
that until he was reproved by a kick, Tommy growled at them and
threatened to break out into one of his peals of barking.

A wonderful scene appeared. There was a palace of white marble
and in front of it a great courtyard upon which the sun beat
vividly. At the foot of the steps of the palace, beneath a silken
awning, sat a king enthroned, a crown upon his head and wearing
glorious robes. In his hand was a jewelled sceptre. He was a
noble-looking man of middle age and about him were gathered the
glittering officers of his court. Fair women fanned him and to
right and left, but a little behind, sat other fair and jewelled
women who, I suppose, were his wives or daughters.

"One of the Kings of the Children of Wisdom new-crowned,
receives the homage of the world," said Yva.

As she spoke there appeared, walking in front of the throne one
by one, other kings, for all were crowned and bore sceptres. At
the foot of the throne each of them kneeled and kissed the foot
of him who sat thereon, as he did so laying down his sceptre
which at a sign he lifted again and passed away. Of these kings
there must have been quite fifty, men of all colours and of
various types, white men, black men, yellow men, red men.

Then came their ministers bearing gifts, apparently of gold and
jewels, which were piled on trays in front of the throne. I
remember noting an incident. An old fellow with a lame leg
stumbled and upset his tray, so that the contents rolled hither
and thither. His attempts to recover them were ludicrous and
caused the monarch on the throne to relax from his dignity and
smile. I mention this to show that what we witnessed was no set
scene but apparently a living piece of the past. Had it been so
the absurdity of the bedizened old man tumbling down in the midst
of the gorgeous pageant would certainly have been omitted.

No, it must be life, real life, something that had happened,
and the same may be said of what followed. For instance, there
was what we call a review. Infantry marched, some of them armed
with swords and spears, though these I took to be an ornamental
bodyguard, and others with tubes like savage blowpipes of which I
could not guess the use. There were no cannon, but carriages came
by loaded with bags that had spouts to them. Probably these were
charged with poisonous gases. There were some cavalry also,
mounted on a different stamp of horse from ours, thicker set and
nearer the ground, but with arched necks and fiery eyes and, I
should say, very strong. These again, I take it, were ornamental.
Then came other men upon a long machine, slung in pairs in
armoured sacks, out of which only their heads and arms projected.
This machine, which resembled an elongated bicycle, went by at a
tremendous rate, though whence its motive power came did not
appear. It carried twenty pairs of men, each of whom held in his
hand some small but doubtless deadly weapon, that in appearance
resembled an orange. Other similar machines which followed
carried from forty to a hundred pairs of men.

The marvel of the piece, however, were the aircraft. These came
by in great numbers. Sometimes they flew in flocks like wild
geese, sometimes singly, sometimes in line and sometimes in
ordered squadrons, with outpost and officer ships and an exact
distance kept between craft and craft. None of them seemed to be
very large or to carry more than four or five men, but they were
extraordinarily swift and as agile as swallows. Moreover they
flew as birds do by beating their wings, but again we could not
guess whence came their motive power.

The review vanished, and next appeared a scene of festivity in
a huge, illuminated hall. The Great King sat upon a dais and
behind him was that statue of Fate, or one very similar to it,
beneath which we stood. Below him in the hall were the feasters
seated at long tables, clad in the various costumes of their
countries. He rose and, turning, knelt before the statue of Fate.
Indeed he prostrated himself thrice in prayer. Then taking his
seat again, he lifted a cup of wine and pledged that vast
company. They drank back to him and prostrated themselves before
him as he had done before the image of Fate. Only I noted that
certain men clad in sacerdotal garments not at all unlike those
which are worn in the Greek Church to-day, remained standing.

Now all this exhibition of terrestrial pomp faded. The next
scene was simple, that of the death-bed of this same king--we
knew him by his wizened features. There he lay, terribly old and
dying. Physicians, women, courtiers, all were there watching the
end. The tableau vanished and in place of it appeared that of the
youthful successor amidst cheering crowds, with joy breaking
through the clouds of simulated grief upon his face. It vanished

"Thus did great king succeed great king for ages upon ages,"
said Yva. "There were eighty of them and the average of their
reigns was 700 years. They ruled the earth as it was in those
days. They gathered up learning, they wielded power, their wealth
was boundless. They nurtured the arts, they discovered secrets.
They had intercourse with the stars; they were as gods. But like
the gods they grew jealous. They and their councillors became a
race apart who alone had the secret of long life. The rest of the
world and the commonplace people about them suffered and died.
They of the Household of Wisdom lived on in pomp for generations
till the earth was mad with envy of them.

"Fever and fewer grew the divine race of the Sons of Wisdom
since children are not given to the aged and to those of an
ancient, outworn blood. Then the World said:

"'They are great but they are not many; let us make an end of
them by numbers and take their place and power and drink of their
Life-water, that they will not give to us. If myriads of us
perish by their arts, what does it matter, since we are
countless?' So the World made war upon the Sons of Wisdom. See!"

Again a picture formed. The sky was full of aircraft which
rained down fire like flashes of lightning upon cities beneath.
From these cities leapt up other fires that destroyed the swift-
travelling things above, so that they fell in numbers like gnats
burned by a lamp. Still more and more of them came till the
cities crumbled away and the flashes that darted from them ceased
to rush upwards. The Sons of Wisdom were driven from the face of
the earth.

Again the scene changed. Now it showed this subterranean hall
in which we stood. There was pomp here, yet it was but a shadow
of that which had been in the earlier days upon the face of the
earth. Courtiers moved about the palace and there were people in
the radiant streets and the houses, for most of them were
occupied, but rarely did the vision show children coming through
their gates.

Of a sudden this scene shifted. Now we saw that same hall in
which we had visited Oro not an hour before. There he sat, yes,
Oro himself, upon the dais beneath the overhanging marble shell.
Round him were some ancient councillors. In the body of the hall
on either side of the dais were men in military array, guards
without doubt though their only weapon was a black rod not unlike
a ruler, if indeed it were a weapon and not a badge of office.

Yva, whose face had suddenly grown strange and fixed, began to
detail to us what was passing in this scene, in a curious
monotone such as a person might use who was repeating something
learned by heart. This was the substance of what she said:

"The case of the Sons of Wisdom is desperate. But few of them
are left. Like other men they need food which is hard to come by,
since the foe holds the upper earth and that which their doctors
can make here in the Shades does not satisfy them, even though
they drink the Life-water. They die and die. There comes an
embassy from the High King of the confederated Nations to talk of
terms of peace. See, it enters."

As she spoke, up the hall advanced the embassy. At the head of
it walked a young man, tall, dark, handsome and commanding, whose
aspect seemed in some way to be familiar to me. He was richly
clothed in a purple cloak and wore upon his head a golden circlet
that suggested royal rank. Those who followed him were mostly old
men who had the astute faces of diplomatists, but a few seemed to
be generals. Yva continued in her monotonous voice:

"Comes the son of the King of the confederated Nations, the
Prince who will be king. He bows before the Lord Oro. He says
'Great and Ancient Monarch of the divine blood, Heaven-born One,
your strait, and that of those who remain to you, is sore. Yet on
behalf of the Nations I am sent to offer terms of peace, but this
I may only do in the presence of your child who is your heiress
and the Queen-to-be of the Sons of Wisdom.'"

Here, in the picture, Oro waved his hand and from behind the
marble shell appeared Yva herself, gloriously apparelled, wearing
royal ornaments and with her train held by waiting ladies. She
bowed to the Prince and his company and they bowed back to her.
More, we saw a glance of recognition pass between her and the

Now the real Yva by our side pointed to the shadow Yva of the
vision or the picture, whichever it might be called, a strange
thing to see her do, and went on:

"The daughter of the Lord Oro comes. The Prince of the Nations
salutes her. He says that the great war has endured for hundreds
of years between the Children of Wisdom fighting for absolute
rule and the common people of the earth fighting for liberty. In
that war many millions of the Sons of the Nations had perished,
brought to their death by fearful arts, by wizardries and by
plagues sown among them by the Sons of Wisdom. Yet they were
winning, for the glorious cities of the Sons of Wisdom were
destroyed and those who remained of them were driven to dwell in
the caves of the earth where with all their strength and magic
they could not increase, but faded like flowers in the dark.

"The Lord Oro asks what are the terms of peace proposed by the
Nations. The Prince answers that they are these: That the Sons of
Wisdom shall teach all their wisdom to the wise men among the
Nations. That they shall give them to drink of the Life-water, so
that their length of days also may be increased. That they shall
cease to destroy them by sickness and their mastery of the forces
which are hid in the womb of the world. If they will do these
things, then the Nations on their part will cease from war, will
rebuild the cities they have destroyed by means of their flying
ships that rain down death, and will agree that the Lord Oro and
his seed shall rule them for ever as the King of kings.

"The Lord Oro asks if that be all. The Prince answers that it
is not all. He says that when he dwelt a hostage at the court of
the Sons of Wisdom he and the divine Lady, the daughter of the
Lord Oro, and his only living child, learned to love each other.
He demands, and the Nations demand, that she shall be given to
him to wife, that in a day to come he may rule with her and their
children after them.

"See!" went on Yva in her chanting, dreamy voice, "the Lord Oro
asks his daughter if this be true. She says," here the real Yva
at my side turned and looked me straight in the eyes, "that it is
true; that she loves the Prince of the Nations and that if she
lives a million years she will wed no other man, since she who is
her father's slave in all else is still the mistress of herself,
as has ever been the right of her royal mothers.

"See again! The Lord Oro, the divine King, the Ancient, grows
wroth. He says that it is enough and more than enough that the
Barbarians should ask to eat of the bread of hidden learning and
to drink of the Life-water of the Sons of Wisdom, gifts that were
given to them of old by Heaven whence they sprang in the
beginning. But that one of them, however highly placed, should
dare to ask to mix his blood with that of the divine Lady, the
Heiress, the Queen of the Earth to be, and claim to share her
imperial throne that had been held by her pure race from age to
age, was an insult that could only be purged by death. Sooner
would he give his daughter in marriage to an ape than to a child
of the Barbarians who had worked on them so many woes and striven
to break the golden fetters of their rule.

"Look again!" continued Yva. "The Lord Oro, the divine, grows
angrier still" (which in truth he did, for never did I see such
dreadful rage as that which the picture revealed in him). "He
warns, he threatens. He says that hitherto out of gentle love and
pity he has held his hand; that he has strength at his command
which will slay them, not by millions in slow war, but by tens
of millions at one blow; that will blot them and their peoples
from the face of earth and that will cause the deep seas to roll
where now their pleasant lands are fruitful in the sun. They
shrink before his fury; behold, their knees tremble because they
know that he has this power. He mocks them, does the Lord Oro. He
asks for their submission here and now, and that in the name of
the Nations they should take the great oath which may not be
broken, swearing to cease from war upon the Sons of Wisdom and to
obey them in all things to the ends of the earth. Some of the
ambassadors would yield. They look about them like wild things
that are trapped. But madness takes the Prince. He cries that the
oath of an ape is of no account, but that he will tear up the
Children of Wisdom as an ape tears leaves, and afterwards take
the divine Lady to be his wife.

"Look on the Lord Oro!" continued the living Yva, "his wrath
leaves him. He grows cold and smiles. His daughter throws herself
upon her knees and pleads with him. He thrusts her away. She
would spring to the side of the Prince; he commands his
councillors to hold her. She cries to the Prince that she loves
him and him only, and that in a day to come him she will wed and
no other. He thanks her, saying that as it is with her, so it is
with him, and that because of his love he fears nothing. She
swoons. The Lord Oro motions with his hand to the guard. They
lift their death-rods. Fire leaps from them. The Prince and his
companions, all save those who were afraid and would have sworn
the oath, twist and writhe. They turn black; they die. The Lord
Oro commands those who are left to enter their flying ships and
bear to the Nations of the Earth tidings of what befalls those
who dare to defy and insult him; to warn them also to eat and
drink and be merry while they may, since for their wickedness
they are about to perish."

The scene faded and there followed another which really I
cannot describe. It represented some vast underground place and
what appeared to be a huge mountain of iron clothed in light,
literally a thing like an alp, rocking and spinning down a
declivity, which farther on separated into two branches because
of a huge razor-edge precipice that rose between. There in the
middle of this vast space with the dazzling mountain whirling
towards him, stood Oro encased in some transparent armour, as
though to keep off heat, and with him his daughter who under his
direction was handling something in the rock behind her. Then
there was a blinding flash and everything vanished. All of this
picture passed so swiftly that we could not grasp its details;
only a general impression remained.

"The Lord Oro, using the strength that is in the world whereof
he alone has the secret, changes the world's balance causing that
which was land to become sea and that which was sea to become
land," said Yva in her chanting, unnatural voice.

Another scene of stupendous and changing awfulness. Countries
were sinking, cities crashing down, volcanoes were spouting fire;
the end of the earth seemed to be at hand. We could see human
beings running to and fro in thousands like ants. Then in huge
waves hundreds and hundreds of feet high, the ocean flowed in and
all was troubled, yeasty sea.

"Oro carries out his threat to destroy the Nations who had
rebelled against him," said Yva. "Much of the world sinks beneath
the waves, but in place of it other lands arise above the waves,
to be inhabited by the seed of those who remain living in those
portions of the Earth that the deluge spared."

This horrible vision passed and was succeeded by one more, that
of Oro standing in the sepulchre of the cave by the side of the
crystal coffin which contained what appeared to be the body of
his daughter. He gazed at her, then drank some potion and laid
himself down in the companion coffin, that in which we had found

All vanished away and Yva, appearing to wake from some kind of
trance, smiled, and in her natural voice asked if we had seen

"Quite," I answered in a tone that caused her to say:

"I wonder what you have seen, Humphrey. Myself I do not know,
since it is through me that you see at all and when you see I am
in you who see."

"Indeed," I replied. "Well, I will tell you about it later."

"Thank you so much," exclaimed Bastin, recovering suddenly from
his amazement. "I have heard a great deal of these moving-picture
shows which are becoming so popular, but have always avoided
attending them because their influence on the young is supposed
to be doubtful, and a priest must set a good example to his
congregation. Now I see that they can have a distinct educational
value, even if it is presented in the form of romance."

"How is it done?" asked Bickley, almost fiercely.

"I do not altogether know," she answered. "This I do know,
however, that everything which has happened on this world can be
seen from moment to moment at some point in the depths of space,
for thither the sun's light takes it. There, too, it can be
caught and thence in an instant returned to earth again, to be
reflected in the mirror of the present by those who know how that
mirror should be held. Ask me no more; one so wise as you, O
Bickley, can solve such problems for himself."

"If you don't mind, Lady Yva," said Bastin, "I think I should
like to get out of this place, interesting as it is. I have food
to cook up above and lots of things to attend to, especially as I
understand I am to come back here tomorrow. Would you mind
showing me the way to that lift or moving staircase?"

"Come," she said, smiling.

So we went past the image of Fate, out of the temple, down the
vast and lonely streets so unnaturally illuminated, to the place
where we had first found ourselves on arrival in the depths.
There we stood.

A moment later and we were whirling up as we had whirled down.
I suppose that Yva came with us though I never saw her do so, and
the odd thing was that when we arrived in the sepulchre, she
seemed already to be standing there waiting to direct us.

"Really," remarked Bastin, "this is exactly like Maskelyne and
Cook. Did you ever see their performance, Bickley? If so, it must
have given you lots to explain for quite a long while."

"Jugglery never appealed to me, whether in London or in
Orofena," replied Bickley in a sour voice as he extracted from
his pocket an end of candle to which he set light.

"What is jugglery?" asked Bastin, and they departed arguing,
leaving me alone with Yva in the sepulchre.

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