Part 5 out of 7
"What have I seen?" I asked her.
"I do not know, Humphrey. Everyone sees different things, but
perhaps something of the truth."
"I hope not, Yva, for amongst other things I seemed to see you
swear yourself to a man for ever."
"Yes, and this I did. What of it?"
"Only that it might be hard for another man."
"Yes, for another man it might be hard. You were once married,
were you not, Humphrey, to a wife who died?"
"Yes, I was married."
"And did you not swear to that wife that you would never look
in love upon another woman?"
"I did," I answered in a shamed voice. "But how do you know? I
never told you so."
"Oh! I know you and therefore guessed."
"Well, what of it, Yva?"
"Nothing, except that you must find your wife before you love
again, and before I love again I must find him whom I wish to be
"How can that happen," I asked, "when both are dead?"
"How did all that you have seen to-day in Nyo happen?" she
replied, laughing softly. "Perhaps you are very blind, Humphrey,
or perhaps we both are blind. If so, mayhap light will come to
us. Meanwhile do not be sad. Tomorrow I will meet you and you
shall teach me--your English tongue, Humphrey, and other things."
"Then let it be in the sunlight, Yva. I do not love those
darksome halls of Nyo that glow like something dead."
"It is fitting, for are they not dead?" she answered, with a
little laugh. "So be it. Bastin shall teach my father down below,
since sun and shade are the same to him who only thinks of his
religion, and you shall teach me up above."
"I am not so certain about Bastin and of what he thinks," I
said doubtfully. "Also will the Lord Oro permit you to come?"
"Yes, for in such matters I rule myself. Also," she added
meaningly, "he remembers my oath that I will wed no man--save one
who is dead. Now farewell a while and bid Bastin be here when the
sun is three hours high, not before or after."
Then I left her.
When I reached the rock I was pleased to find Marama and about
twenty of his people engaged in erecting the house that we had
ordered them to build for our accommodation. Indeed, it was
nearly finished, since house-building in Orofena is a simple
business. The framework of poles let into palm trunks, since they
could not be driven into the rock, had been put together on the
further shore and towed over bodily by canoes. The overhanging
rock formed one side of the house; the ends were of palm leaves
tied to the poles, and the roof was of the same material. The
other side was left open for the present, which in that equable
and balmy clime was no disadvantage. The whole edifice was about
thirty feet long by fifteen deep and divided into two portions,
one for sleeping and one for living, by a palm leaf partition.
Really, it was quite a comfortable abode, cool and rainproof,
especially after Bastin had built his hut in which to cook.
Marama and his people were very humble in their demeanour and
implored us to visit them on the main island. I answered that
perhaps we would later on, as we wished to procure certain things
from the wreck. Also, he requested Bastin to continue his
ministrations as the latter greatly desired to do. But to this
proposal I would not allow him to give any direct answer at the
moment. Indeed, I dared not do so until I was sure of Oro's
Towards evening they departed in their canoes, leaving behind
them the usual ample store of provisions.
We cooked our meal as usual, only to discover that what Yva had
said about the Life-water was quite true, since we had but little
appetite for solid food, though this returned upon the following
day. The same thing happened upon every occasion after drinking
of that water which certainly was a most invigorating fluid.
Never for years had any of us felt so well as it caused us to do.
So we lit our pipes and talked about our experiences though of
these, indeed, we scarcely knew what to say. Bastin accepted them
as something out of the common, of course, but as facts which
admitted of no discussion. After all, he said, the Old Testament
told much the same story of people called the Sons of God who
lived very long lives and ran after the daughters of men whom
they should have left alone, and thus became the progenitors of a
remarkable race. Of this race, he presumed that Oro and his
daughter were survivors, especially as they spoke of their family
as "Heaven born." How they came to survive was more than he could
understand and really scarcely worth bothering over, since there
It was the same about the Deluge, continued Bastin, although
naturally Oro spoke falsely, or, at any rate, grossly
exaggerated, when he declared that he had caused this
catastrophe, unless indeed he was talking about a totally
different deluge, though even then he could not have brought it
about. It was curious, however, that the people drowned were said
to have been wicked, and Oro had the same opinion about those
whom he claimed to have drowned, though for the matter of that,
he could not conceive anyone more wicked than Oro himself. On his
own showing he was a most revengeful person and one who declined
to agree to a quite suitable alliance, apparently desired by both
parties, merely because it offended his family pride. No, on
reflection he might be unjust to Oro in this particular, since he
never told that story; it was only shown in some pictures which
very likely were just made up to astonish us. Meanwhile, it was
his business to preach to this old sinner down in that hole, and
he confessed honestly that he did not like the job. Still, it
must be done, so with our leave he would go apart and seek
inspiration, which at present seemed to be quite lacking.
Thus declaimed Bastin and departed.
"Don't you tell your opinion about the Deluge or he may cause
another just to show that you are wrong," called Bickley after
"I can't help that," answered Bastin. "Certainly I shall not
hide the truth to save Oro's feelings, if he has got any. If he
revenges himself upon us in any way, we must just put up with it
like other martyrs."
"I haven't the slightest ambition to be a martyr," said
"No," shouted Bastin from a little distance, "I am quite aware
of that, as you have often said so before. Therefore, if you
become one, I am sorry to say that I do not see how you can
expect any benefit. You would only be like a man who puts a
sovereign into the offertory bag in mistake for a shilling. The
extra nineteen shillings will do him no good at all, since in his
heart he regrets the error and wishes that he could have them
Then he departed, leaving me laughing. But Bickley did not
"Arbuthnot," he said, "I have come to the conclusion that I
have gone quite mad. I beg you if I should show signs of
homicidal mania, which I feel developing in me where Bastin is
concerned, or of other abnormal violence, that you will take
whatever steps you consider necessary, even to putting me out of
the way if that is imperative."
"What do you mean?" I asked. "You seem sane enough."
"Sane, when I believe that I have seen and experienced a great
number of things which I know it to be quite impossible that I
should have seen or experienced. The only explanation is that I
am suffering from delusions."
"Then is Bastin suffering from delusions, too?"
"Certainly, but that is nothing new in his case."
"I don't agree with you, Bickley--about Bastin, I mean. I am by
no means certain that he is not the wisest of the three of us. He
has a faith and he sticks to it, as millions have done before
him, and that is better than making spiritual experiments, as I
am sorry to say I do, or rejecting things because one cannot
understand them, as you do, which is only a form of intellectual
"I won't argue the matter, Arbuthnot; it is of no use. I repeat
that I am mad, and Bastin is mad."
"How about me? I also saw and experienced these things. Am I
"You ought to be, Arbuthnot. If it isn't enough to drive a man
mad when he sees himself exactly reproduced in an utterly
impossible moving-picture show exhibited by an utterly impossible
young woman in an utterly impossible underground city, then I
don't know what is.
"What do you mean?" I asked, starting.
"Mean? Well, if you didn't notice it, there's hope for you."
"All that envoy scene. There, as I thought, appeared Yva. Do
you admit that?"
"Of course; there could be no mistake on that point."
"Very well. Then according to my version there came a man,
still young, dressed in outlandish clothes, who made propositions
of peace and wanted to marry Yva, who wanted to marry him. Is
"Well, and didn't you recognise the man?"
"No; I only noticed that he was a fine-looking fellow whose
appearance reminded me of someone."
"I suppose it must be true," mused Bickley, "that we do not
"So the old Greek thought, since he urged that this should be
our special study. 'Know thyself,' you remember."
"I meant physically, not intellectually. Arbuthnot, do you mean
to tell me that you did not recognise your own double in that
man? Shave off your beard and put on his clothes and no one could
distinguish you apart."
I sprang up, dropping my pipe.
"Now you mention it," I said slowly, "I suppose there was a
resemblance. I didn't look at him very much; I was studying the
simulacrum of Yva. Also, you know it is some time since--I mean,
there are no pier-glasses in Orofena."
"The man was you," went on Bickley with conviction. "If I were
superstitious I should think it a queer sort of omen. But as I am
not, I know that I must be mad."
"Why? After all, an ancient man and a modern man might resemble
"There are degrees in resemblance," said Bickley with one of
his contemptuous snorts. "It won't do, Humphrey, my boy," he
added. "I can only think of one possible explanation--outside of
the obvious one of madness."
"What is that?"
"The Glittering Lady produced what Bastin called that
cinematograph show in some way or other, did she not? She said
that in order to do this she loosed some hidden forces. I suggest
that she did nothing of the sort."
"Then whence did the pictures come and why?"
"From her own brain, in order to impress us with a cock-and-
bull, fairy-book story. If this were so she would quite naturally
fill the role of the lover of the piece with the last man who had
happened to impress her. Hence the resemblance."
"You presuppose a great deal, Bickley, including supernatural
cunning and unexampled hypnotic influence. I don't know, first,
why she should be so anxious to add another impression to the
many we have received in this place; and, secondly, if she was,
how she managed to mesmerise three average but totally different
men into seeing the same things. My explanation is that you were
deceived as to the likeness, which, mind you, I did not
recognise; nor, apparently, did Bastin."
"Bastin never recognises anything. But if you are in doubt, ask
Yva herself. She ought to know. Now I'm off to try to analyse
that confounded Life-water, which I suspect is of the ordinary
spring variety, lightened up with natural carbonic acid gas and
possibly not uninfluenced by radium. The trouble is that here I
can only apply some very elementary tests."
So he went also, in an opposite direction to Bastin, and I was
left alone with Tommy, who annoyed me much by attempting
continually to wander off into the cave, whence I must recall
him. I suppose that my experiences of the day, reviewed beneath
the sweet influences of the wonderful tropical night, affected
me. At any rate, that mystical side of my nature, to which I
think I alluded at the beginning of this record, sprang into
active and, in a sense, unholy life. The normal vanished, the
abnormal took possession, and that is unholy to most of us
creatures of habit and tradition, at any rate, if we are British.
I lost my footing on the world; my spirit began to wander in
strange places; of course, always supposing that we have a
spirit, which Bickley would deny.
I gave up reason; I surrendered myself to unreason; it is a not
unpleasant process, occasionally. Supposing now that all we see
and accept is but the merest fragment of the truth, or perhaps
only a refraction thereof? Supposing that we do live again and
again, and that our animating principle, whatever it might be,
does inhabit various bodies, which, naturally enough, it would
shape to its own taste and likeness? Would that taste and
likeness vary so very much over, let us say, a million years or
so, which, after all, is but an hour, or a minute, in the aeons
On this hypothesis, which is so wild that one begins to suspect
that it may be true, was it impossible that I and that murdered
man of the far past were in fact identical? If the woman were the
same, preserved across the gulf in some unknown fashion, why
should not her lover be the same? What did I say--her lover? Was
I her lover? No, I was the lover of one who had died--my lost
wife. Well, if I had died and lived again, why should not--why
should not that Sleeper--have lived again during her long sleep?
Through all those years the spirit must have had some home, and,
if so, in what shapes did it live? There were points,
similarities, which rushed in upon me--oh! it was ridiculous.
Bickley was right. We were all mad!
There was another thing. Oro had declared that we were at war
with Germany. If this were so, how could he know it? Such
knowledge would presume powers of telepathy or vision beyond
those given to man. I could not believe that he possessed these;
as Bickley said, it would be past experience. Yet it was most
strange that he who was uninformed as to our national history and
dangers, should have hit upon a country with which we might well
have been plunged into sudden struggle. Here again I was
bewildered and overcome. My brain rocked. I would seek sleep, and
in it escape, or at any rate rest from all these mysteries.
On the following morning we despatched Bastin to keep his
rendezvous in the sepulchre at the proper time. Had we not done
so I felt sure that he would have forgotten it, for on this
occasion he was for once an unwilling missioner. He tried to
persuade one of us to come with him--even Bickley would have been
welcome; but we both declared that we could not dream of
interfering in such a professional matter; also that our presence
was forbidden, and would certainly distract the attention of his
"What you mean," said the gloomy Bastin, "is that you intend to
enjoy yourselves up here in the female companionship of the
Glittering Lady whilst I sit thousands of feet underground
attempting to lighten the darkness of a violent old sinner whom I
suspect of being in league with Satan."
"With whom you should be proud to break a lance," said Bickley.
"So I am, in the daylight. For instance, when he uses your
mouth to advance his arguments. Bickley, but this is another
matter. However, if I do not appear again you will know that I
died in a good cause, and, I hope, try to recover my remains and
give them decent burial. Also, you might inform the Bishop of how
I came to my end, this is, if you ever get an opportunity, which
is more than doubtful."
"Hurry up, Bastin, hurry up!" said the unfeeling Bickley, "or
you will be late for your appointment and put your would-be
neophyte into a bad temper."
Then Bastin went, carrying under his arm a large Bible printed
in the language of the South Sea Islands.
A little while later Yva appeared, arrayed in her wondrous
robes which, being a man, it is quite impossible for me to
describe. She saw us looking at these, and, after greeting us
both, also Tommy, who was enraptured at her coming, asked us how
the ladies of our country attired themselves.
We tried to explain, with no striking success.
"You are as stupid about such matters as were the men of the
Old World," she said, shaking her head and laughing. "I thought
that you had with you pictures of ladies you have known which
would show me."
Now, in fact, I had in a pocket-book a photograph of my wife in
evening-dress, also a miniature of her head and bust painted on
ivory, a beautiful piece of work done by a master hand, which I
always wore. These, after a moment's hesitation, I produced and
showed to her, Bickley having gone away for a little while to see
about something connected with his attempted analysis of the
Life-water. She examined them with great eagerness, and as she
did so I noted that her face grew tender and troubled.
"This was your wife," she said as one who states what she knows
to be a fact. I nodded, and she went on:
"She was sweet and beautiful as a flower, but not so tall as I
am, I think."
"No," I answered, "she lacked height; given that she would have
been a lovely woman."
"I am glad you think that women should be tall," she said,
glancing at her shadow. "The eyes were such as mine, were they
not--in colour, I mean?"
"Yes, very like yours, only yours are larger."
"That is a beautiful way of wearing the hair. Would you be
angry if I tried it? I weary of this old fashion."
"Why should I be angry?" I asked.
At this moment Bickley reappeared and she began to talk of the
details of the dress, saying that it showed more of the neck than
had been the custom among the women of her people, but was very
"That is because we are still barbarians," said Bickley; "at
least, our women are, and therefore rely upon primitive methods
of attraction, like the savages yonder."
She smiled, and, after a last, long glance, gave me back the
photograph and the miniature, saying as she delivered the latter:
"I rejoice to see that you are faithful, Humphrey, and wear
this picture on your heart, as well as in it."
"Then you must be a very remarkable woman," said Bickley.
"Never before did I hear one of your sex rejoice because a man
was faithful to somebody else."
"Has Bickley been disappointed in his love-heart, that he is so
angry to us women?" asked Yva innocently of me. Then, without
waiting for an answer, she inquired of him whether he had been
successful in his analysis of the Life-water.
"How do you know what I was doing with the Life-water? Did
Bastin tell you?" exclaimed Bickley.
"Bastin told me nothing, except that he was afraid of the
descent to Nyo; that he hated Nyo when he reached it, as indeed I
do, and that he thought that my father, the Lord Oro, was a devil
or evil spirit from some Under-world which he called hell."
"Bastin has an open heart and an open mouth," said Bickley,
"for which I respect him. Follow his example if you will, Lady
Yva, and tell us who and what is the Lord Oro, and who and what
"Have we not done so already? If not, I will repeat. The Lord
Oro and I are two who have lived on from the old time when the
world was different, and yet, I think, the same. He is a man and
not a god, and I am a woman. His powers are great because of his
knowledge, which he has gathered from his forefathers and in a
life of a thousand years before he went to sleep. He can do
things you cannot do. Thus, he can pass through space and take
others with him, and return again. He can learn what is happening
in far-off parts of the world, as he did when he told you of the
war in which your country is concerned. He has terrible powers;
for instance, he can kill, as he killed those savages. Also, he
knows the secrets of the earth, and, if it pleases him, can
change its turning so that earthquakes happen and sea becomes
land, and land sea, and the places that were hot grow cold, and
those that were cold grow hot."
"All of which things have happened many time in the history of
the globe," said Bickley, "without the help of the Lord Oro."
"Others had knowledge before my father, and others doubtless
will have knowledge after him. Even I, Yva, have some knowledge,
and knowledge is strength."
"Yes," I interposed, "but such powers as you attribute to your
father are not given to man."
"You mean to man as you know him, man like Bickley, who thinks
that he has learned everything that was ever learned. But it is
not so. Hundreds of thousands of years ago men knew more than it
seems they do today, ten times more, as they lived ten times
longer, or so you tell me."
"Men?" I said.
"Yes, men, not gods or spirits, as the uninstructed nations
supposed them to be. My father is a man subject to the hopes and
terrors of man. He desires power which is ambition, and when the
world refused his rule, he destroyed that part of it which
rebelled, which is revenge. Moreover, above all things he dreads
death, which is fear. That is why he suspended life in himself
and me for two hundred and fifty thousand years, as his knowledge
gave him strength to do, because death was near and he thought
that sleep was better than death."
"Why should he dread to die," asked Bickley, "seeing that sleep
and death are the same?"
"Because his knowledge tells him that Sleep and Death are not
the same, as you, in your foolishness, believe, for there Bastin
is wiser than you. Because for all his wisdom he remains ignorant
of what happens to man when the Light of Life is blown out by the
breath of Fate. That is why he fears to die and why he talks with
Bastin the Preacher, who says he has the secret of the future."
"And do you fear to die?" I asked.
"No, Humphrey," she answered gently. "Because I think that
there is no death, and, having done no wrong, I dread no evil. I
had dreams while I was asleep, O Humphrey, and it seemed to me
Here she ceased and glanced at where she knew the miniature was
hanging upon my breast.
"Now," she continued, after a little pause, "tell me of your
world, of its history, of its languages, of what happens there,
for I long to know."
So then and there, assisted by Bickley, I began the education
of the Lady Yva. I do not suppose that there was ever a more apt
pupil in the whole earth. To begin with, she was better
acquainted with every subject on which I touched than I was
myself; all she lacked was information as to its modern aspect.
Her knowledge ended two hundred and fifty thousand years ago, at
which date, however, it would seem that civilisation had already
touched a higher water-mark than it has ever since attained.
Thus, this vanished people understood astronomy, natural
magnetism, the force of gravity, steam, also electricity to some
subtle use of which, I gathered, the lighting of their
underground city was to be attributed. They had mastered
architecture and the arts, as their buildings and statues showed;
they could fly through the air better than we have learned to do
within the last few years.
More, they, or some of them, had learned the use of the Fourth
Dimension, that is their most instructed individuals, could move
through opposing things, as well as over them, up into them and
across them. This power these possessed in a two-fold form. I
mean, that they could either disintegrate their bodies at one
spot and cause them to integrate again at another, or they could
project what the old Egyptians called the Ka or Double, and
modern Theosophists name the Astral Shape, to any distance.
Moreover, this Double, or Astral Shape, while itself invisible,
still, so to speak, had the use of its senses. It could see, it
could hear, and it could remember, and, on returning to the body,
it could avail itself of the experience thus acquired.
Thus, at least, said Yva, while Bickley contemplated her with a
cold and unbelieving eye. She even went further and alleged that
in certain instances, individuals of her extinct race had been
able to pass through the ether and to visit other worlds in the
depths of space.
"Have you ever done that?" asked Bickley.
"Once or twice I dreamed that I did," she replied quietly.
"We can all dream," he answered.
As it was my lot to make acquaintance with this strange and
uncanny power at a later date, I will say no more of it now.
Telepathy, she declared, was also a developed gift among the
Sons of Wisdom; indeed, they seem to have used it as we use
wireless messages. Only, in their case, the sending and receiving
stations were skilled and susceptible human beings who went on
duty for so many hours at a time. Thus intelligence was
transmitted with accuracy and despatch. Those who had this
faculty were, she said, also very apt at reading the minds of
others and therefore not easy to deceive.
"Is that how you know that I had been trying to analyse your
Life-water?" asked Bickley.
"Yes," she answered, with her unvarying smile. "At the moment I
spoke thereof you were wondering whether my father would be angry
if he knew that you had taken the water in a little flask." She
studied him for a moment, then added: "Now you are wondering,
first, whether I did not see you take the water from the fountain
and guess the purpose, and, secondly, whether perhaps Bastin did
not tell me what you were doing with it when we met in the
"Look here," said the exasperated Bickley, "I admit that
telepathy and thought-reading are possible to a certain limited
extent. But supposing that you possess those powers, as I think
in English, and you do not know English, how can you interpret
what is passing in my mind?"
"Perhaps you have been teaching me English all this while
without knowing it, Bickley. In any case, it matters little,
seeing that what I read is the thought, not the language with
which it is clothed. The thought comes from your mind to mine--
that is, if I wish it, which is not often--and I interpret it in
my own or other tongues."
"I am glad to hear it is not often, Lady Yva, since thoughts
are generally considered private."
"Yes, and therefore I will read yours no more. Why should I,
when they are so full of disbelief of all I tell you, and
sometimes of other things about myself which I do not seek to
"No wonder that, according to the story in the pictures, those
Nations, whom you named Barbarians, made an end of your people,
"You are mistaken, Bickley; the Lord Oro made an end of the
Nations, though against my prayer," she added with a sigh
Then Bickley departed in a rage, and did not appear again for
"He is angry," she said, looking after him; "nor do I wonder.
It is hard for the very clever like Bickley, who think that they
have mastered all things, to find that after all they are quite
ignorant. I am sorry for him, and I like him very much."
"Then you would be sorry for me also, Lady Yva?"
"Why?" she asked with a dazzling smile, "when your heart is
athirst for knowledge, gaping for it like a fledgling's mouth for
food, and, as it chances, though I am not very wise, I can
satisfy something of your soul-hunger."
"Not very wise!" I repeated.
"No, Humphrey. I think that Bastin, who in many ways is so
stupid, has more true wisdom than I have, because he can believe
and accept without question. After all, the wisdom of my people
is all of the universe and its wonders. What you think magic is
not magic; it is only gathered knowledge and the finding out of
secrets. Bickley will tell you the same, although as yet he does
not believe that the mind of man can stretch so far."
"You mean that your wisdom has in it nothing of the spirit?"
"Yes, Humphrey, that is what I mean. I do not even know if
there is such a thing as spirit. Our god was Fate; Bastin's god
is a spirit, and I think yours also."
"Therefore, I wish you and Bastin to teach me of your god, as
does Oro, my father. I want--oh! so much, Humphrey, to learn
whether we live after death."
"You!" I exclaimed. "You who, according to the story, have
slept for two hundred and fifty thousand years! You, who have,
unless I mistake, hinted that during that sleep you may have
lived in other shapes! Do you doubt whether we can live after
"Yes. Sleep induced by secret arts is not death, and during
that sleep the I within might wander and inhabit other shapes,
because it is forbidden to be idle. Moreover, what seems to be
death may not be death, only another form of sleep from which the
I awakes again upon the world. But at last comes the real death,
when the I is extinguished to the world. That much I know,
because my people learned it."
"You mean, you know that men and women may live again and again
upon the world?"
"Yes, Humphrey, I do. For in the world there is only a certain
store of life which in many forms travels on and on, till the lot
of each I is fulfilled. Then comes the real death, and after
"You must ask Bastin," I said humbly. "I cannot dare to teach
of such matters."
"No, but you can and do believe, and that helps me, Humphrey,
who am in tune with you. Yes, it helps me much more than do
Bastin and his new religion, because such is woman's way. Now, I
think Bickley will soon return, so let us talk of other matters.
Tell me of the history of your people, Humphrey, that my father
says are now at war."
Bickley did return, having recovered his temper, since after
all it was impossible for anyone to remain angry with the Lady
Yva for long, and we spent a very happy time together. We
instructed and she was the humble pupil.
How swift and nimble was her intelligence! In that one morning
she learned all our alphabet and how to write our letters. It
appeared that among her people, at any rate in their later
periods, the only form of writing that was used was a highly
concentrated shorthand which saved labour. They had no journals,
since news which arrived telepathically or by some form of
wireless was proclaimed to those who cared to listen, and on it
all formed their own judgments. In the same way poems and even
romances were repeated, as in Homer's day or in the time of the
Norse sagas, by word of mouth. None of their secret knowledge was
written down. Like the ritual of Freemasonry it was considered
Moreover, when men lived for hundreds of years this was not so
necessary, especially as their great fear was lest it should fall
into the hands of the outside nations, whom they called
Barbarians. For, be it remembered, these Sons of Wisdom were
always a very small people who ruled by the weight of their
intelligence and the strength of their accumulated lore. Indeed,
they could scarcely be called a people; rather were they a few
families, all of them more or less connected with the original
ruling Dynasty which considered itself half divine. These
families were waited upon by a multitude of servants or slaves
drawn from the subject nations, for the most part skilled in one
art or another, or perhaps, remarkable for their personal beauty.
Still they remained outside the pale.
The Sons of Wisdom did not intermarry with them or teach them
their learning, or even allow them to drink of their Life-water.
They ruled them as men rule dogs, treating them with kindness,
but no more, and as many dogs run their course and die in the
lifetime of one master, so did many of these slaves in that of
one of the Sons of Wisdom. Therefore, the slaves came to regard
their lords not as men, but gods. They lived but three score
years and ten like the rest of us, and went their way, they,
whose great-great-grandfathers had served the same master and
whose great-great-great-grandchildren would still serve him. What
should we think of a lord who we knew was already adult in the
time of William the Conqueror, and who remained still vigorous
and all-powerful in that of George V? One, moreover, who
commanded almost infinite knowledge to which we were denied the
key? We might tremble before him and look upon him as half-
divine, but should we not long to kill him and possess his
knowledge and thereby prolong our own existence to his wondrous
Such, said Yva, was the case with their slaves and the peoples
from whence these sprang. They grew mad with jealous hate, till
at length came the end we knew.
Thus we talked on for hours till the time came for us to eat.
As before Yva partook of fruit and we of such meats as we had at
hand. These, we noticed, disgusted her, because, as she
explained, the Children of Wisdom, unless driven thereto by
necessity, touched no flesh, but lived on the fruits of the earth
and wine alone. Only the slaves and the Barbarians ate flesh. In
these views Bickley for once agreed with her, that is, except as
regards the wine, for in theory, if not in practice--he was a
"I will bring you more of the Life-water," she said, "and then
you will grow to hate these dead things, as I do. And now
farewell. My father calls me. I hear him though you do not. To-
morrow I cannot come, but the day after I will come and bring you
the Life-water. Nay, accompany me not, but as I see he wishes it,
let Tommy go with me. I will care for him, and he is a friend in
all that lonely place."
So she went, and with her Tommy, rejoicing.
"Ungrateful little devil!" said Bickley. "Here we've fed and
petted him from puppyhood, or at least you have, and yet he skips
off with the first stranger. I never saw him behave like that to
any woman, except your poor wife."
"I know," I answered. "I cannot understand it. Hullo! here
Bastin it was, dishevelled and looking much the worse for wear,
also minus his Bible in the native tongue.
"Well, how have you been getting on?" said Bickley.
"I should like some tea, also anything there is to eat."
We supplied him with these necessaries, and after a while he
said slowly and solemnly:
"I cannot help thinking of a childish story which Bickley told
or invented one night at your house at home. I remember he had an
argument with my wife, which he said put him in mind of it, I am
sure I don't know why. It was about a monkey and a parrot that
were left together under a sofa for a long while, where they were
so quiet that everybody forgot them. Then the parrot came out
with only one feather left in its tail and none at all on its
body, saying, 'I've had no end of a time!' after which it dropped
down and died. Do you know, I feel just like that parrot, only I
don't mean to die, and I think I gave the monkey quite as good as
he gave me!"
"What happened?" I asked, intensely interested.
"Oh! the Glittering Lady took me into that palace hall where
Oro was sitting like a spider in a web, and left me there. I got
to work at once. He was much interested in the Old Testament
stories and said there were points of truth about them, although
they had evidently come down to the modern writer--he called him
a modern writer--in a legendary form. I thought his remarks
impertinent and with difficulty refrained from saying so. Leaving
the story of the Deluge and all that, I spoke of other matters,
telling him of eternal life and Heaven and Hell, of which the
poor benighted man had never heard. I pointed out especially that
unless he repented, his life, by all accounts, had been so
wicked, that he was certainly destined to the latter place."
"What did he say to that?" I asked.
"Do you know, I think it frightened him, if one could imagine
Oro being frightened. At any rate he remarked that the truth or
falsity of what I said was an urgent matter for him, as he could
not expect to live more than a few hundred years longer, though
perhaps he might prolong the period by another spell of sleep.
Then he asked me why I thought him so wicked. I replied because
he himself said that he had drowned millions of people, which
showed an evil heart and intention even if it were not a fact. He
thought a long while and asked what could be done in the
circumstances. I replied that repentance and reparation were the
only courses open to him."
"Reparation!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, reparation was what I said, though I think I made a
mistake there, as you will see. As nearly as I can remember, he
answered that he was beginning to repent, as from all he had
learned from us, he gathered that the races which had arisen as a
consequence of his action, were worse than those which he had
destroyed. As regards reparation, what he had done once he could
do again. He would think the matter over seriously, and see if it
were possible and advisable to raise those parts of the world
which had been sunk, and sink those which had been raised. If so,
he thought that would make very handsome amends to the departed
nations and set him quite right with any superior Power, if such
a thing existed. What are you laughing at, Bickley? I don't think
it a laughing matter, since such remarks do not seem to me to
indicate any real change in Oro's heart, which is what I was
trying to effect."
Bickley, who was convulsed with merriment, wiped his eyes and
"You dear old donkey, don't you see what you have done, or
rather would have done if there were a word of truth in all this
ridiculous story about a deluge? You would be in the way of
making your precious pupil, who certainly is the most masterly
old liar in the world, repeat his offence and send Europe to the
bottom of the sea."
"That did occur to me, but it doesn't much matter as I am quite
certain that such a thing would never be allowed. Of course there
was a real deluge once, but Oro had no more to do with it than I
had. Don't you agree, Arbuthnot?"
"I think so," I answered cautiously, "but really in this place
I am beginning to lose count of what is or is not possible. Also,
of course, there may have been many deluges; indeed the history
of the world shows that this was so; it is written in its
geological strata. What was the end of it?"
"The end was that he took the South Sea Bible and, after I had
explained a little about our letters, seemed to be able to read
it at once. I suppose he was acquainted with the art of printing
in his youth. At any rate he said that he would study it, I don't
know how, unless he can read, and that in two days' time he would
let me know what he thought about the matter of my religion. Then
he told me to go. I said that I did not know the way and was
afraid of losing myself. Thereupon he waved his hand, and I
really can't say what happened."
"Did you levitate up here," asked Bickley, "like the late
lamented Mr. Home at the spiritualistic seances?"
"No, I did not exactly levitate, but something or someone
seemed to get a hold of me, and I was just rushed along in a most
tumultuous fashion. The next thing I knew was that I was standing
at the door of that sepulchre, though I have no recollection of
going up in the lift, or whatever it is. I believe those beastly
caves are full of ghosts, or devils, and the worst of it is that
they have kept my solar-tope, which I put on this morning
forgetting that it would be useless there."
"The Lady Yva's Fourth Dimension in action," I suggested, "only
it wouldn't work on solar-topes."
"I don't know what you are talking about," said Bastin, "but if
my hat had to be left, why not my boots and other garments?
Please stop your nonsense and pass the tea. Thank goodness I
haven't got to go down there tomorrow, as he seems to have had
enough of me for the present, so I vote we all pay a visit to the
ship. It will be a very pleasant change. I couldn't stand two
days running with that old fiend, and his ghosts or devils in the
Next morning accordingly, fearing no harm from the Orofenans,
we took the canoe and rowed to the main island. Marama had
evidently seen us coming, for he and a number of his people met
us with every demonstration of delight, and escorted us to the
ship. Here we found things just as we had left them, for there
had been no attempt at theft or other mischief.
While we were in the cabin a fit of moral weakness seemed to
overcome Bickley, the first and I may add the last from which I
ever saw him suffer.
"Do you know," he said, addressing us, "I think that we should
do well to try to get out of this place. Eliminating a great deal
of the marvelous with which we seem to have come in touch here,
it is still obvious that we find ourselves in very peculiar and
unhealthy surroundings. I mean mentally unhealthy, indeed I think
that if we stay here much longer we shall probably go off our
heads. Now that boat on the deck remains sound and seaworthy. Why
should not we provision her and take our chance? We know more or
less which way to steer."
Bastin and I looked at each other. It was he who spoke first.
"Wouldn't it be rather a risky job in an open boat?" he asked.
"However, that doesn't matter much because I don't take any
account of risks, knowing that I am of more value than a sparrow
and that the hairs of my head are all numbered."
"They might be numbered under water as well as above it,"
muttered Bickley, "and I feel sure that on your own showing, you
would be as valuable dead as alive."
"What I seem to feel," went on Bastin, "is that I have work to
my hand here. Also, the locum tenens at Fulcombe no doubt runs
the parish as well as I could. Indeed I consider him a better man
for the place than I am. That old Oro is a tough proposition, but
I do not despair of him yet, and besides him there is the
Glittering Lady, a most open-minded person, whom I have not yet
had any real opportunity of approaching in a spiritual sense.
Then there are all these natives who cannot learn without a
teacher. So on the whole I think I would rather stay where I am
until Providence points out some other path."
"I am of the same opinion, if for somewhat different reasons,"
I said. "I do not suppose that it has often been the fortune of
men to come in touch with such things as we have found upon this
island. They may be illusions, but at least they are very
interesting illusions. One might live ten lifetimes and find
nothing else of the sort. Therefore I should like to see the end
of the dream."
Bickley reflected a little, then said:
"On the whole I agree with you. Only my brain totters and I am
terribly afraid of madness. I cannot believe what I seem to hear
and see, and that way madness lies. It is better to die than to
"You'll do that anyway when your time comes, Bickley, I mean
decease, of course," interrupted Bastin. "And who knows, perhaps
all this is an opportunity given by Providence to open your eyes,
which, I must say, are singularly blind. You think you know
everything there is to learn, but the fact is that like the rest
of us, you know nothing at all, and good man though you are,
obstinately refuse to admit the truth and to seek support
elsewhere. For my part I believe that you are afraid of falling
in love with that Glittering Lady and of being convinced by her
that you are wrong in your most unsatisfactory conclusions."
"I am out-voted anyway," said Bickley, "and for the rest,
Bastin, look after yourself and leave me alone. I will add that
on the whole I think you are both right, and that it is wisest
for us to stop where we are, for after all we can only die once."
"I am not so sure, Bickley. There is a thing called the second
death, which is what is troubling that old scoundrel, Oro. Now I
will go and look for those books."
So the idea of flight was abandoned, although I admit that even
to myself it had attractions. For I felt that I was being wrapped
in a net of mysteries from which I saw no escape. Yes, and of
more than mysteries; I who had sworn that I would never look upon
another woman, was learning to love this sweet and wondrous Yva,
and of that what could be the end?
We collected all we had come to seek, and started homewards
escorted by Marama and his people, including a number of young
women who danced before us in a light array of flowers.
Passing our old house, we came to the grove where the idol Oro
had stood and Bastin was so nearly sacrificed. There was another
idol there now which he wished to examine, but in the end did not
as the natives so obviously objected. Indeed Marama told me that
notwithstanding the mysterious death of the sorcerers on the Rock
of Offerings, there was still a strong party in the island who
would be glad to do us a mischief if any further affront were
offered to their hereditary god.
He questioned us also tentatively about the apparition, for
such he conceived it to be, which had appeared upon the rock and
killed the sorcerers, and I answered him as I thought wisest,
telling him that a terrible Power was afoot in the land, which he
would do well to obey.
"Yes," he said; "the God of the Mountain of whom the tradition
has come down to us from our forefathers. He is awake again; he
sees, he hears and we are afraid. Plead with him for us, O
As he spoke we were passing through a little patch of thick
bush. Suddenly from out of this bush, I saw a lad appear. He wore
a mask upon his face, but from his shape could not have been more
than thirteen or fourteen years of age. In his hand was a wooden
club. He ran forward, stopped, and with a yell of hate hurled it,
I think at Bastin, but it hit me. At any rate I felt a shock and
remembered no more.
Dreams. Dreams. Endless dreams! What were they all about? I do
not know. It seemed to me that through them continually I saw the
stately figure of old Oro contemplating me gravely, as though he
were making up his mind about something in which I must play a
part. Then there was another figure, that of the gracious but
imperial Yva, who from time to time, as I thought, leant over me
and whispered in my ear words of rest and comfort. Nor was this
all, since her shape had a way of changing suddenly into that of
my lost wife who would speak with her voice. Or perhaps my wife
would speak with Yva's voice. To my disordered sense it was as
though they were one personality, having two shapes, either of
which could be assumed at will. It was most strange and yet to me
most blessed, since in the living I seemed to have found the
dead, and in the dead the living. More, I took journeys, or
rather some unknown part of me seemed to do so. One of these I
remember, for its majestic character stamped itself upon my mind
in such a fashion that all the waters of delirium could not wash
it out nor all its winds blow away that memory.
I was travelling through space with Yva a thousand times faster
than light can flash. We passed sun after sun. They drew near,
they grew into enormous, flaming Glories round which circled
world upon world. They became small, dwindled to points of light
We found footing upon some far land and passed a marvelous
white city wherein were buildings with domes of crystal and
alabaster, in the latter of which were set windows made of great
jewels; sapphires or rubies they seemed to me. We went on up a
lovely valley. To the left were hills, down which tumbled
waterfalls; to the right was a river broad and deep that seemed
to overflow its banks as does the Nile. Behind were high
mountains on the slopes of which grew forests of glorious trees,
some of them aflame with bloom, while far away up their crests
stood colossal golden statues set wide apart. They looked like
guardian angels watching that city and that vale. The land was
lit with a light such as that of the moon, only intensified and
of many colours. Indeed looking up, I saw that above us floated
three moons, each of them bigger than our own at the full, and
gathered that here it was night.
We came to a house set amid scented gardens and having in front
of it terraces of flowers. It seemed not unlike my own house at
home, but I took little note of it, because of a woman who sat
upon the verandah, if I may call it so. She was clad in garments
of white silk fastened about her middle with a jewelled girdle.
On her neck also was a collar of jewels. I forget the colour;
indeed this seemed to change continually as the light from the
different moons struck when she moved, but I think its prevailing
tinge was blue. In her arms this woman nursed a beauteous,
sleeping child, singing happily as she rocked it to and fro. Yva
went towards the woman who looked up at her step and uttered a
little cry. Then for the first time I saw the woman's face. It
was that of my dead wife!
As I followed in my dream, a little cloud of mist seemed to
cover both my wife and Yva, and when I reached the place Yva was
gone. Only my wife remained, she and the child. There she stood,
solemn and sweet. While I drew near she laid down the child upon
the cushioned seat from which she had risen. She stretched out
her arms and flung them about me. She embraced me and I embraced
her in a rapture of reunion. Then turning she lifted up the
child, it was a girl, for me to kiss.
"See your daughter," she said, "and behold all that I am making
ready for you where we shall dwell in a day to come."
I grew confused.
"Yva," I said. "Where is Yva who brought me here? Did she go
into the house?"
"Yes," she answered happily. "Yva went into the house. Look
I looked and it was Yva's face that was pressed against my own,
and Yva's eyes that gazed into mine. Only she was garbed as my
wife had been, and on her bosom hung the changeful necklace.
"You may not stay," she whispered, and lo! it was my wife that
spoke, not Yva.
"Tell me what it means?" I implored.
"I cannot," she answered. "There are mysteries that you may not
know as yet. Love Yva if you will and I shall not be jealous, for
in loving Yva you love me. You cannot understand? Then know this,
that the spirit has many shapes, and yet is the same spirit--
sometimes. Now I who am far, yet near, bid you farewell a while."
Then all passed in a flash and the dream ended.
Such was the only one of those visions which I can recall.
I seemed to wake up as from a long and tumultuous sleep. The
first thing I saw was the palm roof of our house upon the rock. I
knew it was our house, for just above me was a palm leaf of which
I had myself tied the stalk to the framework with a bit of
coloured ribbon i had I had chanced to find in my pocket. It came
originally from the programme card of a dance that I had attended
at Honolulu and I had kept it because I thought it might be
useful. Finally I used it to secure that loose leaf. I stared at
the ribbon which brought back a flood of memories, and as I was
thus engaged I heard voices talking, and listened--Bickley's
voice, and the Lady Yva's.
"Yes," Bickley was saying, "he will do well now, but he went
near, very near."
"I knew he would not die," she answered, "because my father
"There are two sorts of deaths," replied Bickley, "that of the
body and that of the mind. I was afraid that even if he lived,
his reason would go, but from certain indications I do not think
that will happen now. He will get quite well again--though--" and
"I am very glad to hear you say so," chimed in Bastin. "For
weeks I thought that I should have to read the Burial Service
over poor Arbuthnot. Indeed I was much puzzled as to the best
place to bury him. Finally I found a very suitable spot round the
corner there, where it isn't rock, in which one can't dig and the
soil is not liable to be flooded. In fact I went so far as to
clear away the bush and to mark out the grave with its foot to
the east. In this climate one can't delay, you know."
Weak as I was, I smiled. This practical proceeding was so
exactly like Bastin.
"Well, you wasted your labour," exclaimed Bickley.
"Yes, I am glad to say I did. But I don't think it was your
operations and the rest that cured him, Bickley, although you
take all the credit. I believe it was the Life-water that the
Lady Yva made him drink and the stuff that Oro sent which we gave
him when you weren't looking."
"Then I hope that in the future you will not interfere with my
cases," said the indignant Bickley, and either the voices passed
away or I went to sleep.
When I woke up again it was to find the Lady Yva seated at my
side watching me.
"Forgive me, Humphrey, because I here; others gone out
walking," she said slowly in English.
"Who taught you my language?" I asked, astonished. "Bastin and
Bickley, while you ill, they teach; they teach me much. Man just
same now as he was hundred thousand years ago," she added
enigmatically. "All think one woman beautiful when no other woman
"Indeed," I replied, wondering to what proceedings on the part
of Bastin and Bickley she alluded. Could that self-centred pair--
oh! it was impossible.
"How long have I been ill?" I asked to escape the subject which
I felt to be uncomfortable.
She lifted her beautiful eyes in search of words and began to
count upon her fingers.
"Two moon, one half moon, yes, ten week, counting Sabbath," she
"Ten weeks!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Humphrey, ten whole weeks and three days you first bad,
then mad. Oh!" she went on, breaking into the Orofenan tongue
which she spoke so perfectly, although it was not her own. That
language of hers I never learned, but I know she thought in it
and only translated into Orofenan, because of the great
difficulty which she had in rendering her high and refined ideas
into its simpler metaphor, and the strange words which often she
introduced. "Oh! you have been very ill, friend of my heart. At
times I thought that you were going to die, and wept and wept.
Bickley thinks that he saved you and he is very clever. But he
could not have saved you; that wanted more knowledge than any of
your people have; only I pray you, do not tell him so because it
would hurt his pride."
"What was the matter with me then, Yva?"
"All was the matter. First, the weapon which that youth threw--
he was the son of the sorcerer whom my father destroyed--crushed
in the bone of your head. He is dead for his crime and may he be
accursed for ever," she added in the only outbreak of rage and
vindictiveness in which I ever saw her indulge.
"One must make excuses for him; his father had been killed," I
"Yes, that is what Bastin tells me, and it is true. Still, for
that young man I can make no excuse; it was cowardly and wicked.
Well, Bickley performed what he calls operation, and the Lord
Oro, he came up from his house and helped him, because Bastin is
no good in such things. Then he can only turn away his head and
pray. I, too, helped, holding hot water and linen and jar of the
stuff that made you feel like nothing, although the sight made me
feel more sick than anything since I saw one I loved killed, oh,
long, long ago."
"Was the operation successful?" I asked, for I did not dare to
begin to thank her.
"Yes, that clever man, Bickley, lifted the bone which had been
crushed in. Only then something broke in your head and you began
to bleed here," and she touched what I believe is called the
temporal artery. "The vein had been crushed by the blow, and gave
way. Bickley worked and worked, and just in time he tied it up
before you died. Oh! then I felt as though I loved Bickley,
though afterwards Bastin said that I ought to have loved him,
since it was not Bickley who stopped the bleeding, but his
"Perhaps it was both," I suggested.
"Perhaps, Humphrey, at least you were saved. Then came another
trouble. You took fever. Bickley said that it was because a
certain gnat had bitten you when you went down to the ship, and
my father, the Lord Oro, told me that this was right. At the
least you grew very weak and lost your mind, and it seemed as
though you must die. Then, Humphrey, I went to the Lord Oro and
kneeled before him and prayed you life, for I knew that he could
cure you if he would, though Bickley's skill was at an end.
"'Daughter,' he said to me, 'not once but again and again you
have set up your will against mine in the past. Why then should I
trouble myself to grant this desire of yours in the present, and
save a man who is nothing to me?'
"I rose to my feet and answered, 'I do not know, my Father, yet
I am certain that for your own sake it will be well to do so. I
am sure that of everything even you must give an account at last,
great though you be, and who knows, perhaps one life which you
have saved may turn the balance in your favour.'
"'Surely the priest Bastin has been talking to you,' he said.
"'He has,' I answered, 'and not he alone. Many voices have been
talking to me.'"
"What did you mean by that?" I asked.
"It matters nothing what I meant, Humphrey. Be still and listen
to my story. My father thought a while and answered:
"'I am jealous of this stranger. What is he but a short-lived
half-barbarian such as we knew in the old days? And yet already
you think more of him than you do of me, your father, the divine
Oro who has lived a thousand years. At first I helped that
physician to save him, but now I think I wish him dead.'
"'If you let this man die, my Father,' I answered, 'then we
part. Remember that I also have of the wisdom of our people, and
can use it if I will.'
"'Then save him yourself,' he said.
"'Perhaps I shall, my Father,' I answered, 'but if so it will
not be here. I say that if so we part and you shall be left to
rule in your majesty alone.'
"Now this frightened the Lord Oro, for he has the weakness that
he hates to be alone.
"'If I do what you will, do you swear never to leave me, Yva?'
he asked. 'Know that if you will not swear, the man dies.'
"'I swear,' I answered--for your sake, Humphrey--though I did
not love the oath.
"Then he gave me a certain medicine to mix with the Life-water,
and when you were almost gone that medicine cured you, though
Bickley does not know it, as nothing else could have done. Now I
have told you the truth, for your own ear only, Humphrey."
"Yva," I asked, "why did you do all this for me?"
"Humphrey, I do not know," she answered, "but I think because I
must. Now sleep a while."
The Proposals of Bastin and Bickley
So far as my body was concerned I grew well with great
rapidity, though it was long before I got back my strength. Thus
I could not walk far or endure any sustained exertion. With my
mind it was otherwise. I can not explain what had happened to it;
indeed I do not know, but in a sense it seemed to have become
detached and to have assumed a kind of personality of its own. At
times it felt as though it were no longer an inhabitant of the
body, but rather its more or less independent partner. I was
perfectly clear-headed and of insanity I experienced no symptoms.
Yet my mind, I use that term from lack of a better, was not
entirely under my control. For one thing, at night it appeared to
wander far away, though whither it went and what it saw there I
could never remember.
I record this because possibly it explains certain mysterious
events, if they were events and not dreams, which shortly I must
set out. I spoke to Bickley about the matter. He put it by
lightly, saying that it was only a result of my long and most
severe illness and that I should steady down in time, especially
if we could escape from that island and its unnatural atmosphere.
Yet as he spoke he glanced at me shrewdly with his quick eyes,
and when he turned to go away I heard him mutter something to
himself about "unholy influences" and "that confounded old Oro."
The words were spoken to himself and quite beneath his breath,
and of course not meant to reach me. But one of the curious
concomitants of my state was that all my senses, and especially
my hearing, had become most abnormally acute. A whisper far away
was now to me like a loud remark made in a room.
Bickley's reflection, for I can scarcely call it more, set me
thinking. Yva had said that Oro sent me medicine which was
administered to me without Bickley's knowledge, and as she
believed, saved my life, or certainly my reason. What was in it?
I wondered. Then there was that Life-water which Yva brought and
insisted upon my drinking every day. Undoubtedly it was a
marvelous tonic and did me good. But it had other effects also.
Thus, as she said would be the case, after a course of it I
conceived the greatest dislike, which I may add has never
entirely left me, of any form of meat, also of alcohol. All I
seemed to want was this water with fruit, or such native
vegetables as there were. Bickley disapproved and made me eat
fish occasionally, but even this revolted me, and since I gained
steadily in weight, as we found out by a simple contrivance, and
remained healthy in every other way, soon he allowed me to choose
my own diet.
About this time Oro began to pay me frequent visits. He always
came at night, and what is more I knew when he was coming,
although he never gave me warning. Here I should explain that
during my illness Bastin, who was so ingenious in such matters,
had built another hut in which he and Bickley slept, of course
when they were not watching me, leaving our old bed-chamber to
Well, I would wake up and be aware that Oro was coming. Then he
appeared in a silent and mysterious way, as though he had
materialised in the room, for I never saw him pass the doorway.
In the moonlight, or the starlight, which flowed through the
entrance and the side of the hut that was only enclosed with
latticework, I perceived him seat himself upon a certain stool,
looking like a most majestic ghost with his flowing robes, long
white beard, hooked nose and hawk eyes. In the day-time he much
resembled the late General Booth whom I had often seen, except
for certain added qualities of height and classic beauty of
countenance. At night, however, he resembled no one but himself,
indeed there was something mighty and godlike in his appearance,
something that made one feel that he was not as are other men.
For a while he would sit and look at me. Then he began to speak
in a low, vibrant voice. What did he speak of? Well, many
matters. It was as though he were unburdening that hoary soul of
his because it could no longer endure the grandeur of its own
loneliness. Amongst sundry secret things, he told me of the past
history of this world of ours, and of the mighty civilisations
which for uncounted ages he and his forefathers had ruled by the
strength of their will and knowledge, of the dwindling of their
race and of the final destruction of its enemies, although I
noticed that now he no longer said that this was his work alone.
One night I asked him if he did not miss all such pomp and power.
Then suddenly he broke out, and for the first time I really
learned what ambition can be when it utterly possesses the soul
"Are you mad," he asked, "that you suppose that I, Oro, the
King of kings, can be content to dwell solitary in a great cave
with none but the shadows of the dead to serve me? Nay, I must
rule again and be even greater than before, or else I too will
die. Better to face the future, even if it means oblivion, than
to remain thus a relic of a glorious past, still living and yet
dead, like that statue of the great god Fate which you saw in the
temple of my worship."
"Bastin does not think that the future means oblivion," I
"I know it. I have studied his faith and find it too humble for
my taste, also too new. Shall I, Oro, creep a suppliant before
any Power, and confess what Bastin is pleased to call my sins?
Nay, I who am great will be the equal of all greatness, or
He paused a while, then went on:
"Bastin speaks of 'eternity.' Where and what then is this
eternity which if it has no end can have had no beginning? I know
the secret of the suns and their attendant worlds, and they are
no more eternal than the insect which glitters for an hour. Out
of shapeless, rushing gases they gathered to live their day, and
into gases at last they dissolve again with all they bore."
"Yes," I answered, "but they reform into new worlds."
"That have no part with the old. This world, too, will melt,
departing to whence it came, as your sacred writings say, and
what then of those who dwelt and dwell thereon? No, Man of
today, give me Time in which I rule and keep your dreams of an
Eternity that is not, and in which you must still crawl and
serve, even if it were. Yet, if I might, I confess it, I would
live on for ever, but as Master not as Slave."
On another night he began to tempt me, very subtly. "I see a
spark of greatness in you, Humphrey," he said, "and it comes into
my heart that you, too, might learn to rule. With Yva, the last
of my blood, it is otherwise. She is the child of my age and of a
race outworn; too gentle, too much all womanly. The soul that
triumphs must shine like steel in the sun, and cut if need be;
not merely be beauteous and shed perfume like a lily in the
shade. Yet she is very wise and fair," here he looked at me,
"perchance of her might come children such as were their
forefathers, who again would wield the sceptre of the dominion of
I made no answer, wondering what he meant exactly and thinking
it wisest to be silent.
"You are of the short-lived races," he went on, "yet very much
a man, not without intelligence, and by the arts I have I can so
strengthen your frame that it will endure the shocks of time for
three such lives as yours, or perchance for more, and then--"
Again he paused and went on:
"The Daughter of kings likes you also, perhaps because you
resemble--" here he fixed me with his piercing eyes, "a certain
kinglet of base blood whom once she also liked, but whom it was
my duty to destroy. Well, I must think. I must study this world
of yours also and therein you may help me. Perhaps afterwards I
will tell you how. Now sleep."
In another moment he was gone, but notwithstanding his powerful
command, for a while I could not sleep. I understood that he was
offering Yva to me, but upon what terms? That was the question.
With her was to go great dominion over the kingdoms of the earth.
I could not help remembering that always this has been and still
is Satan's favourite bait. To me it did not particularly appeal.
I had been ambitious in my time--who is not that is worth his
salt? I could have wished to excel in something, literature or
art, or whatever it might be, and thus to ensure the memory of my
name in the world.
Of course this is a most futile desire, seeing that soon or
late every name must fade out of the world like an unfixed
photograph which is exposed to the sun. Even if it could endure,
as the old demigod, or demidevil, Oro, had pointed out, very
shortly, by comparison with Time's unmeasured vastness, the whole
solar system will also fade. So of what use is this feeble love
of fame and this vain attempt to be remembered that animates us
so strongly? Moreover, the idea of enjoying mere temporal as
opposed to intellectual power, appealed to me not at all. I am a
student of history and I know what has been the lot of kings and
the evil that, often enough, they work in their little day.
Also if I needed any further example, there was that of Oro
himself. He had outlived the greatness of his House, as a royal
family is called, and after some gigantic murder, if his own
story was to be believed, indulged in a prolonged sleep. Now he
awoke to find himself quite alone in the world, save for a
daughter with whom he did not agree or sympathise. In short, he
was but a kind of animated mummy inspired by one idea which I
felt quite sure would be disappointed, namely, to renew his
former greatness. To me he seemed as miserable a figure as one
could imagine, brooding and plotting in his illuminated cave, at
the end of an extended but misspent life.
Also I wondered what he, or rather his ego, had been doing
during all those two hundred and fifty thousand years of sleep.
Possibly if Yva's theory, as I understood it, were correct, he
had reincarnated as Attila, or Tamerlane, or Napoleon, or even as
Chaka the terrible Zulu king. At any rate there he was still in
the world, filled with the dread of death, but consumed now as
ever by his insatiable and most useless finite ambitions.
Yva, also! Her case was his, but yet how different. In all this
long night of Time she had but ripened into one of the sweetest
and most gentle women that ever the world bore. She, too, was
great in her way, it appeared in her every word and gesture, but
where was the ferocity of her father? Where his desire to reach
to splendour by treading on a blood-stained road paved with
broken human hearts? It did not exist. Her nature was different
although her body came of a long line of these power-loving
kings. Why this profound difference of the spirit? Like
everything else it was a mystery. The two were as far apart as
the Poles. Everyone must have hated Oro, from the beginning,
however much he feared him, but everyone who came in touch with
her must have loved Yva.
Here I may break into my personal narrative to say that this,
by their own confession, proved to be true of two such various
persons as Bastin and Bickley.
"The truth, which I am sure it would be wrong to hide from you,
Arbuthnot," said the former to me one day, "is that during your
long illness I fell in love, I suppose that is the right word,
with the Glittering Lady. After thinking the matter over also, I
conceived that it would be proper to tell her so if only to clear
the air and prevent future misunderstandings. As I remarked to
her on that occasion, I had hesitated long, as I was not certain
how she would fill the place of the wife of the incumbent of an
"Mothers' Meetings, and the rest," I suggested.
"Exactly so, Arbuthnot. Also there were the views of the Bishop
to be considered, who might have objected to the introduction
into the diocese of a striking person who so recently had been a
heathen, and to one in such strong contrast to my late beloved
"I suppose you didn't consider the late Mrs. Bastin's views on
the subject of re-marriage. I remember that they were strong," I
remarked rather maliciously.
"No, I did not think it necessary, since the Scriptural
instructions on the matter are very clear, and in another world
no doubt all jealousies, even Sarah's, will be obliterated. Upon
that point my conscience was quite easy. So when I found that,
unlike her parent, the Lady Yva was much inclined to accept the
principles of the faith in which it is my privilege to instruct
her, I thought it proper to say to her that if ultimately she
made up her mind to do so--of course this was a sine qua non--I
should be much honoured, and as a man, not as a priest, it would
make me most happy if she would take me as a husband. Of course I
explained to her that I considered, under the circumstances, I
could quite lawfully perform the marriage ceremony myself with
you and Bickley as witnesses, even should Oro refuse to give her
away. Also I told her that although after her varied experiences
in the past, life at Fulcombe, if we could ever get there, might
be a little monotonous, still it would not be entirely devoid of
"You mean Christmas decorations and that sort of thing?"
"Yes, and choir treats and entertaining Deputations and
attending other Church activities."
"Well, and what did she say, Bastin?"
"Oh! she was most kind and flattering. Indeed that hour will
always remain the pleasantest of my life. I don't know how it
happened, but when it was over I felt quite delighted that she
had refused me. Indeed on second thoughts, I am not certain but
that I shall be much happier in the capacities of a brother and
teacher which she asked me to fill, than I should have been as
her husband. To tell you the truth, Arbuthnot, there are moments
when I am not sure whether I entirely understand the Lady Yva. It
was rather like proposing to one's guardian angel."
"Yes," I said, "that's about it, old fellow. 'Guardian Angel'
is not a bad name for her."
Afterwards I received the confidence of Bickley.
"Look here, Arbuthnot," he said. "I want to own up to
something. I think I ought to, because of certain things I have
observed, in order to prevent possible future misunderstandings."
"What's that?" I asked innocently.
"Only this. As you know, I have always been a confirmed
bachelor on principle. Women introduce too many complications
into life, and although it involves some sacrifice, on the whole,
I have thought it best to do without them and leave the carrying
on of the world to others."
"Well, what of it? Your views are not singular, Bickley."
"Only this. While you were ill the sweetness of that Lady Yva
and her wonderful qualities as a nurse overcame me. I went to
pieces all of a sudden. I saw in her a realisation of every ideal
I had ever entertained of perfect womanhood. So to speak, my
resolves of a lifetime melted like wax in the sun.
Notwithstanding her queer history and the marvels with which she
is mixed up, I wished to marry her. No doubt her physical
loveliness was at the bottom of it, but, however that may be,
there it was."
"She is beautiful," I commented; "though I daresay older than
"That is a point on which I made no inquiries, and I should
advise you, when your turn comes, as no doubt it will, to follow
my example. You know, Arbuthnot," he mused, "however lovely a
woman may be, it would put one off if suddenly she announced that
she was--let us say--a hundred and fifty years old."
"Yes," I admitted, "for nobody wants to marry the contemporary
of his great-grandmother. However, she gave her age as twenty-
seven years and three moons."
"And doubtless for once did not tell the truth. But, as she
does not look more than twenty-five, I think that we may all
agree to let it stand at that, namely, twenty-seven, plus an
indefinite period of sleep. At any rate, she is a sweet and most
gracious woman, apparently in the bloom of youth, and, to cut it
short, I fell in love with her."
"Like Bastin," I said.
"Bastin!" exclaimed Bickley indignantly. "You don't mean to say
that clerical oaf presumed--well, well, after all, I suppose that
he is a man, so one mustn't be hard on him. But who could have
thought that he would run so cunning, even when he knew my
sentiments towards the lady? I hope she told him her mind."
"The point is, what did she tell you, Bickley?"
"Me? Oh, she was perfectly charming! It really was a pleasure
to be refused by her, she puts one so thoroughly at one's ease."
(Here, remembering Bastin and his story, I turned away my face to
hide a smile.) "She said--what did she say exactly? Such a lot
that it is difficult to remember. Oh! that she was not thinking
of marriage. Also, that she had not yet recovered from some
recent love affair which left her heart sore, since the time of
her sleep did not count. Also, that her father would never
consent, and that the mere idea of such a thing would excite his
animosity against all of us."
"Is that all?" I asked.
"Not quite. She added that she felt wonderfully flattered and
extremely honoured by what I had been so good as to say to her.
She hoped, however, that I should never repeat it or even allude
to the matter again, as her dearest wish was to be able to look
upon me as her most intimate friend to whom she could always come
for sympathy and counsel."
"What happened then?"
"Nothing, of course, except that I promised everything that she
wished, and mean to stick to it, too. Naturally, I was very sore
and upset, but I am getting over it, having always practised
"I am sorry for you, old fellow."
"Are you?" he asked suspiciously. "Then perhaps you have tried
your luck, too?"
His face fell a little at this denial, and he answered:
"Well, it would have been scarcely decent if you had, seeing
how lately you were married. But then, so was that artful Bastin.
Perhaps you will get over it--recent marriage, I mean--as he
has." He hesitated a while, then went on: "Of course you will,
old fellow; I know it, and, what is more, I seem to know that
when your turn comes you will get a different answer. If so, it
will keep her in the family as it were--and good luck to you.
"Only what?" I asked anxiously.
"To be honest, Arbuthnot, I don't think that there will be real
good luck for any one of us over this woman--not in the ordinary
sense, I mean. The whole business is too strange and superhuman.
Is she quite a woman, and could she really marry a man as others
"It is curious that you should talk like that," I said
uneasily. "I thought that you had made up your mind that the
whole business was either illusion or trickery--I mean, the odd
side of it."
"If it is illusion, Arbuthnot, then a man cannot marry an
illusion. And if it is trickery, then he will certainly be
tricked. But, supposing that I am wrong, what then?"
"You mean, supposing things are as they seem to be?"
"Yes. In that event, Arbuthnot, I am sure that something will
occur to prevent your being united to a woman who lived thousands
of years ago. I am sorry to say it, but Fate will intervene.
Remember, it is the god of her people that I suppose she
worships, and, I may add, to which the whole world bows."
At his words a kind of chill fell upon me. I think he saw or
divined it, for after a few remarks upon some indifferent matter,
he turned and went away.
Shortly after this Yva came to sit with me. She studied me for
a while and I studied her. I had reason to do so, for I observed
that of late her dress had become much more modern, and on the
present occasion this struck me forcibly. I do not know exactly
in what the change, or changes, consisted, because I am not
skilled in such matters and can only judge of a woman's garments
by their general effect. At any rate, the gorgeous sweeping robes
were gone, and though her attire still looked foreign and
somewhat oriental, with a touch of barbaric splendour about it--
it was simpler than it had been and showed more of her figure,
which was delicate, yet gracious.
"You have changed your robes, Lady," I said. "Yes, Humphrey.
Bastin gave me pictures of those your women wear." (On further
investigation I found that this referred to an old copy of the
Queen newspaper, which, somehow or other, had been brought with
the books from the ship.) "I have tried to copy them a little,"
she added doubtfully.
"How do you do it? Where do you get the material?" I asked.
"Oh!" she answered with an airy wave of her hand, "I make it--
it is there."
"I don't understand," I said, but she only smiled radiantly,
offering no further explanation. Then, before I could pursue the
subject, she asked me suddenly:
"What has Bickley been saying to you about me?" I fenced,
answering: "I don't know. Bastin and Bickley talk of little else.
You seem to have been a great deal with them while I was ill."
"Yes, a great deal. They are the nearest to you who were so
sick. Is it not so?"
"I don't know," I answered again. "In my illness it seemed to
me that you were the nearest."
"About Bastin's words I can guess," she went on. "But I ask
again--what has Bickley been saying to you about me? Of the first
part, let it be; tell me the rest."
I intended to evade her question, but she fixed those violet,
compelling eyes upon me and I was obliged to answer.
"I believe you know as well as I do," I said; "but if you will
have it, it was that you are not as other human women are, and
that he who would treat you as such, must suffer; that was the
gist of it."
"Some might be content to suffer for such as I," she answered
with quiet sweetness. "Even Bastin and Bickley may be content to
suffer in their own little ways."
"You know that is not what I meant," I interrupted angrily, for
I felt that she was throwing reflections on me.
"No; you meant that you agreed with Bickley that I am not quite
a woman, as you know women."
I was silent, for her words were true.
Then she blazed out into one of her flashes of splendour, like
something that takes fire on an instant; like the faint and
distant star which flames into sudden glory before the watcher's
"It is true that I am not as your women are--your poor, pale
women, the shadows of an hour with night behind them and before.
Because I am humble and patient, do you therefore suppose that I
am not great? Man from the little country across the sea, I lived
when the world was young, and gathered up the ancient wisdom of a
greater race than yours, and when the world is old I think that I
still shall live, though not in this shape or here, with all that
wisdom's essence burning in my breast, and with all beauty in my
eyes. Bickley does not believe although he worships. You only
half believe and do not worship, because memory holds you back,
and I myself do not understand. I only know though knowing so
much, still I seek roads to learning, even the humble road called
Bastin, that yet may lead my feet to the gate of an immortal
"Nor do I understand how all this can be, Yva," I said feebly,
for she dazzled and overwhelmed me with her blaze of power.
"No, you do not understand. How can you, when even I cannot?
Thus for two hundred and fifty thousand years I slept, and they
went by as a lightning flash. One moment my father gave me the
draught and I laid me down, the next I awoke with you bending
over me, or so it seemed. Yet where was I through all those
centuries when for me time had ceased? Tell me, Humphrey, did you
dream at all while you were ill? I ask because down in that
lonely cavern where I sleep a strange dream came to me one night.
It was of a journey which, as I thought, you and I seemed to make
together, past suns and universes to a very distant earth. It
meant nothing, Humphrey. If you and I chanced to have dreamed the
same thing, it was only because my dream travelled to you. It is
most common, or used to be. Humphrey, Bickley is quite right, I
am not altogether as your women are, and I can bring no happiness
to any man, or at the least, to one who cannot wait. Therefore,
perhaps you would do well to think less of me, as I have
counselled Bastin and Bickley."
Then again she gazed at me with her wonderful, great eyes, and,
shaking her glittering head a little, smiled and went.
But oh! that smile drew my heart after her.
Oro and Arbuthnot Travel by Night
As time went on, Oro began to visit me more and more
frequently, till at last scarcely a night went by that he did not
appear mysteriously in my sleeping-place. The odd thing was that
neither Bickley nor Bastin seemed to be aware of these nocturnal
calls. Indeed, when I mentioned them on one or two occasions,
they stared at me and said it was strange that he should have
come and gone as they saw nothing of him.
On my speaking again of the matter, Bickley at once turned the
conversation, from which I gathered that he believed me to be
suffering from delusions consequent on my illness, or perhaps to
have taken to dreaming. This was not wonderful since, as I
learned afterwards, Bickley, after he was sure that I was asleep,
made a practice of tying a thread across my doorway and of
ascertaining at the dawn that it remained unbroken. But Oro was
not to be caught in that way. I suppose, as it was impossible for
him to pass through the latticework of the open side of the
house, that he undid the thread and fastened it again when he
left; at least, that was Bastin's explanation, or, rather, one of
them. Another was that he crawled beneath it, but this I could
not believe. I am quite certain that during all his prolonged
existence Oro never crawled.
At any rate, he came, or seemed to come, and pumped me--I can
use no other word--most energetically as to existing conditions
in the world, especially those of the civilised countries, their
methods of government, their social state, the physical
characteristics of the various races, their religions, the exact
degrees of civilisation that they had developed, their
attainments in art, science and literature, their martial
capacities, their laws, and I know not what besides.
I told him all I could, but did not in the least seem to
satisfy his perennial thirst for information.
"I should prefer to judge for myself," he said at last. "Why
are you so anxious to learn about all these nations, Oro?" I
"Because the knowledge I gather may affect my plans for the
future," he replied darkly.
"I am told, Oro, that your people acquired the power of
transporting themselves from place to place."
"It is true that the lords of the Sons of Wisdom had such
power, and that I have it still, O Humphrey."
"Then why do you not go to look with your own eyes?" I
"Because I should need a guide; one who could explain much in a
short time," he said, contemplating me with his burning glance
until I began to feel uncomfortable.
To change the subject I asked him whether he had any further
information about the war, which he had told me was raging in
He answered: "Not much; only that it was going on with varying
success, and would continue to do so until the nations involved
therein were exhausted," or so he believed. The war did not seem
greatly to interest Oro. It was, he remarked, but a small affair
compared to those which he had known in the old days. Then he
departed, and I went to sleep.
Next night he appeared again, and, after talking a little on
different subjects, remarked quietly that he had been thinking
over what I had said as to his visiting the modern world, and
intended to act upon the suggestion.
"When?" I asked.
"Now," he said. "I am going to visit this England of yours and
the town you call London, and you will accompany me."
"It is not possible!" I exclaimed. "We have no ship."
"We can travel without a ship," said Oro.
I grew alarmed, and suggested that Bastin or Bickley would be a
much better companion than I should in my resent weak state.
"An empty-headed man, or one who always doubts and argues,
would be useless," he replied sharply. "You shall come and you
I expostulated; I tried to get up and fly--which, indeed, I did
do, in another sense.
But Oro fixed his eyes upon me and slowly waved his thin hand
to and fro above my head.
My senses reeled. Then came a great darkness.
They returned again. Now I was standing in an icy, reeking fog,
which I knew could belong to one place only--London, in December,
and at my side was Oro.
"Is this the climate of your wonderful city?" he asked, or
seemed to ask, in an aggrieved tone.
I replied that it was, for about three months in the year, and
began to look about me.
Soon I found my bearings. In front of me were great piles of
buildings, looking dim and mysterious in the fog, in which I
recognised the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, for
both could be seen from where we stood in front of the
Westminster Bridge Station. I explained their identity to Oro.
"Good," he said. "Let us enter your Place of Talk."
"But I am not a member, and we have no passes for the
Strangers' Gallery," I expostulated.
"We shall not need any," he replied contemptuously. "Lead on."
Thus adjured, I crossed the road, Oro following me. Looking
round, to my horror I saw him right in the path of a motor-bus
which seemed to go over him.
"There's an end to Oro," thought I to myself. "Well, at any
rate, I have got home."
Next instant he was at my side quite undisturbed by the
incident of the bus. We came to a policeman at the door and I
hesitated, expecting to be challenged. But the policeman seemed
absolutely indifferent to our presence, even when Oro marched
past him in his flowing robes. So I followed with a like success.
Then I understood that we must be invisible.
We passed to the lobby, where members were hurrying to and fro,
and constituents and pressmen were gathered, and so on into the
House. Oro walked up its floor and took his stand by the table,
in front of the Speaker. I followed him, none saying us No.
As it chanced there was what is called a scene in progress--I
think it was over Irish matters; the details are of no account.
Members shouted, Ministers prevaricated and grew angry, the
Speaker intervened. On the whole, it was rather a degrading
spectacle. I stood, or seemed to stand, and watched it all. Oro,
in his sweeping robes, which looked so incongruous in that place,
stepped, or seemed to step, up to the principal personages of the
Government and Opposition, whom I indicated to him, and inspected
them one by one, as a naturalist might examine strange insects.
Then, returning to me, he said:
"Come away; I have seen and heard enough. Who would have
thought that this nation of yours was struggling for its life in
We passed out of the House and somehow came to Trafalgar
Square. A meeting was in progress there, convened, apparently, to
advocate the rights of Labour, also those of women, also to
protest against things in general, especially the threat of
Conscription in the service of the country.
Here the noise was tremendous, and, the fog having lifted
somewhat, we could see everything. Speakers bawled from the base
of Nelson's column. Their supporters cheered, their adversaries
rushed at them, and in one or two instances succeeded in pulling
them down. A woman climbed up and began to scream out something
which could only be heard by a few reporters gathered round her.
I thought her an unpleasant-looking person, and evidently her
remarks were not palatable to the majority of her auditors. There
was a rush, and she was dragged from the base of one of
Landseer's lions on which she stood. Her skirt was half rent off
her and her bodice split down the back. Finally, she was conveyed
away, kicking, biting, and scratching, by a number of police. It
was a disgusting sight, and tumult ensued.
"Let us go," said Oro. "Your officers of order are good; the
rest is not good."
Later we found ourselves opposite to the doors of a famous
restaurant where a magnificent and gigantic commissionaire helped
ladies from motor-cars, receiving in return money from the men
who attended on them. We entered; it was the hour of dinner. The
place sparkled with gems, and the naked backs of the women
gleamed in the electric light. Course followed upon course;
champagne flowed, a fine band played, everything was costly;
everything was, in a sense, repellent.