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When the World Shook

Part 6 out of 7

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"These are the wealthy citizens of a nation engaged in fighting
for its life," remarked Oro to me, stroking his long beard. "It
is interesting, very interesting. Let us go."

We went out and on, passing a public-house crowded with women
who had left their babies in charge of children in the icy
street. It was a day of Intercession for the success of England
in the war. This was placarded everywhere. We entered, or,
rather, Oro did, I following him, one of the churches in the
Strand where an evening service was in progress. The preacher in
the pulpit, a very able man, was holding forth upon the necessity
for national repentance and self-denial; also of prayer. In the
body of the church exactly thirty-two people, most of them
elderly women, were listening to him with an air of placid

"The priest talks well, but his hearers are not many, said Oro.
"Let us go."

We came to the flaunting doors of a great music-hall and passed
through them, though to others this would have been impossible,
for the place was filled from floor to roof. In its promenades
men were drinking and smoking, while gaudy women, painted and
low-robed, leered at them. On the stage girls danced, throwing
their legs above their heads. Then they vanished amidst applause,
and a woman in a yellow robe, who pretended to be tipsy, sang a
horrible and vulgar song full of topical allusions, which was
received with screams of delight by the enormous audience.

"Here the hearers are very many, but those to whom they listen
do not talk well. Let us go," said Oro, and we went.

At a recruiting station we paused a moment to consider posters
supposed to be attractive, the very sight of which sent a thrill
of shame through me. I remember that the inscription under one of
them was: "What will your best girl say?"

"Is that how you gather your soldiers? Later it will be
otherwise," said Oro, and passed on.

We reached Blackfriars and entered a hall at the doors of which
stood women in poke-bonnets, very sweet-faced, earnest-looking
women. Their countenances seemed to strike Oro, and he motioned
me to follow him into the hall. It was quite full of a miserable-
looking congregation of perhaps a thousand people. A man in the
blue and red uniform of the Salvation Army was preaching of duty
to God and country, of self-denial, hope and forgiveness. He
seemed a humble person, but his words were earnest, and love
flowed from him. Some of his miserable congregation wept, others
stared at him open-mouthed, a few, who were very weary, slept. He
called them up to receive pardon, and a number, led by the sweet-
faced women, came and knelt before him. He and others whispered
to them, then seemed to bless them, and they rose with their
faces changed.

"Let us go," said Oro. "I do not understand these rites, but at
last in your great and wonderful city I have seen something that
is pure and noble."

We went out. In the streets there was great excitement. People
ran to and fro pointing upwards. Searchlights, like huge fingers
of flame, stole across the sky; guns boomed. At last, in the
glare of a searchlight, we saw a long and sinister object
floating high above us and gleaming as though it were made of
silver. Flashes came from it followed by terrible booming reports
that grew nearer and nearer. A house collapsed with a crash just
behind us.

"Ah!" said Oro, with a smile. "I know this--it is war, war as
it was when the world was different and yet the same."

As he spoke, a motor-bus rumbled past. Another flash and
explosion. A man, walking with his arms round the waist of a girl
just ahead of us; seemed to be tossed up and to melt. The girl
fell in a heap on the pavement; somehow her head and her feet had
come quite close together and yet she appeared to be sitting
down. The motor-bus burst into fragments and its passengers
hurtled through the air, mere hideous lumps that had been men and
women. The head of one of them came dancing down the pavement
towards us, a cigar still stuck in the corner of its mouth.

"Yes, this is war," said Oro. "It makes me young again to see
it. But does this city of yours understand?"

We watched a while. A crowd gathered. Policemen ran up,
ambulances came. The place was cleared, and all that was left
they carried away. A few minutes later another man passed by with
his arm round the waist of another girl. Another motor-bus
rumbled up, and, avoiding the hole in the roadway, travelled on,
its conductor keeping a keen look-out for fares.

The street was cleared by the police; the airship continued its
course, spawning bombs in the distance, and vanished. The
incident was closed.

"Let us go home," said Oro. "I have seen enough of your great
and wonderful city. I would rest in the quiet of Nyo and think."

The next thing that I remember was the voice of Bastin, saying:

"If you don't mind, Arbuthnot, I wish that you would get up.
The Glittering Lady (he still called her that) is coming here to
have a talk with me which I should prefer to be private. Excuse
me for disturbing you, but you have overslept yourself; indeed, I
think it must be nine o'clock, so far as I can judge by the sun,
for my watch is very erratic now, ever since Bickley tried to
clean it."

"I am sorry, my dear fellow," I said sleepily, "but do you know
I thought I was in London--in fact, I could swear that I have
been there."

"Then," interrupted Bickley, who had followed Bastin into the
hut, giving me that doubtful glance with which I was now
familiar, "I wish to goodness that you had brought back an
evening paper with you."

A night or two later I was again suddenly awakened to feel that
Oro was approaching. He appeared like a ghost in the bright
moonlight, greeted me, and said:

"Tonight, Humphrey, we must make another journey. I would visit
the seat of the war."

"I do not wish to go," I said feebly.

"What you wish does not matter," he replied. "I wish that you
should go, and therefore you must."

"Listen, Oro," I exclaimed. "I do not like this business; it
seems dangerous to me."

"There is no danger if you are obedient, Humphrey."

"I think there is. I do not understand what happens. Do you
make use of what the Lady Yva called the Fourth Dimension, so
that our bodies pass over the seas and through mountains, like
the vibrations of our Wireless, of which I was speaking to you?"

"No, Humphrey. That method is good and easy, but I do not use
it because if I did we should be visible in the places which we
visit, since there all the atoms that make a man would collect
together again and be a man."

"What, then, do you do?" I asked, exasperated.

"Man, Humphrey, is not one; he is many. Thus, amongst other
things he has a Double, which can see and hear, as he can in the
flesh, if it is separated from the flesh."

"The old Egyptians believed that," I said.

"Did they? Doubtless they inherited the knowledge from us, the
Sons of Wisdom. The cup of our learning was so full that, keep it
secret as we would, from time to time some of it overflowed among
the vulgar, and doubtless thus the light of our knowledge still
burns feebly in the world."

I reflected to myself that whatever might be their other
characteristics, the Sons of Wisdom had lost that of modesty, but
I only asked how he used his Double, supposing that it existed.

"Very easily," he answered. "In sleep it can be drawn from the
body and sent upon its mission by one that is its master."

"Then while you were asleep for all those thousands of years
your Double must have made many journeys."

"Perhaps," he replied quietly, "and my spirit also, which is
another part of me that may have dwelt in the bodies of other
men. But unhappily, if so I forget, and that is why I have so
much to learn and must even make use of such poor instruments as
you, Humphrey."

"Then if I sleep and you distil my Double out of me, I suppose
that you sleep too. In that case who distils your Double out of
you, Lord Oro?"

He grew angry and answered:

"Ask no more questions, blind and ignorant as you are. It is
your part not to examine, but to obey. Sleep now," and again he
waved his hand over me.

In an instant, as it seemed, we were standing in a grey old
town that I judged from its appearance must be either in northern
France or Belgium. It was much shattered by bombardment; the
church, for instance, was a ruin; also many of the houses had
been burnt. Now, however, no firing was going on for the town had
been taken. The streets were full of armed men wearing the German
uniform and helmet. We passed down them and were able to see into
the houses. In some of these were German soldiers engaged in
looting and in other things so horrible that even the unmoved Oro
turned away his head.

We came to the market-place. It was crowded with German troops,
also with a great number of the inhabitants of the town, most of
them elderly men and women with children, who had fallen into
their power. The Germans, under the command of officers, were
dragging the men from the arms of their wives and children to one
side, and with rifle-butts beating back the screaming women. Among
the men I noticed two or three priests who were doing their best
to soothe their companions and even giving them absolution in
hurried whispers.

At length the separation was effected, whereon at a hoarse word
of command, a company of soldiers began to fire at the men and
continued doing so until all had fallen. Then petty officers went
among the slaughtered and with pistols blew out the brains of any
who still moved.

"These butchers, you say, are Germans?" asked Oro of me.

"Yes," I answered, sick with horror, for though I was in the
mind and not in the body, I could feel as the mind does. Had I
been in the body also, I should have fainted.

"Then we need not waste time in visiting their country. It is
enough; let us go on."

We passed out into the open land and came to a village. It was
in the occupation of German cavalry. Two of them held a little
girl of nine or ten, one by her body, the other by her right
hand. An officer stood between them with a drawn sword fronting
the terrified child. He was a horrible, coarse-faced man who
looked to me as though he had been drinking.

"I'll teach the young devil to show us the wrong road and let
those French swine escape," he shouted, and struck with the
sword. The girl's right hand fell to the ground.

"War as practised by the Germans!" remarked Oro. Then he
stepped, or seemed to step up to the man and whispered, or seemed
to whisper, in his ear.

I do not know what tongue or what spirit speech he used, or
what he said, but the bloated-faced brute turned pale. Yes, he
drew sick with fear.

"I think there are spirits in this place," he said with a
German oath. "I could have sworn that something told me that I
was going to die. Mount!"

The Uhlans mounted and began to ride away.

"Watch," said Oro.

As he spoke out of a dark cloud appeared an aeroplane. Its
pilot saw the band of Germans beneath and dropped a bomb. The aim
was good, for the missile exploded in the midst of them, causing
a great cloud of dust from which arose the screams of men and

"Come and see," said Oro.

We were there. Out of the cloud of dust appeared one man
galloping furiously. He was a young fellow who, as I noted, had
turned his head away and hidden his eyes with his hand when the
horror was done yonder. All the others were dead except the
officer who had worked the deed. He was still living, but both
his hands and one of his feet had been blown away. Presently he
died, screaming to God for mercy.

We passed on and came to a barn with wide doors that swung a
little in the wind, causing the rusted hinges to scream like a
creature in pain. On each of these doors hung a dead man
crucified. The hat of one of them lay upon the ground, and I knew
from the shape of it that he was a Colonial soldier.

"Did you not tell me," said Oro after surveying them, "that
these Germans are of your Christian faith?"

"Yes; and the Name of God is always on their ruler's lips."

"Ah!" he said, "I am glad that I worship Fate. Bastin the
priest need trouble me no more."

"There is something behind Fate," I said, quoting Bastin

"Perhaps. So indeed I have always held, but after much study I
cannot understand the manner of its working. Fate is enough for

We went on and came to a flat country that was lined with
ditches, all of them full of men, Germans on one side, English
and French upon the other. A terrible bombardment shook the
earth, the shells raining upon the ditches. Presently that from
the English guns ceased and out of the trenches in front of them
thousands of men were vomited, who ran forward through a hail of
fire in which scores and hundreds fell, across an open piece of
ground that was pitted with shell craters. They came to barbed
wire defenses, or what remained of them, cut the wire with
nippers and pulled up the posts. Then through the gaps they
surged in, shouting and hurling hand grenades. They reached the
German trenches, they leapt into them and from those holes arose
a hellish din. Pistols were fired and everywhere bayonets

Behind them rushed a horde of little, dark-skinned men, Indians
who carried great knives in their hands. Those leapt over the
first trench and running on with wild yells, dived into the
second, those who were left of them, and there began hacking with
their knives at the defenders and the soldiers who worked the
spitting maxim guns. In twenty minutes it was over; those lines
of trenches were taken, and once more from either side the guns
began to boom.

"War again," said Oro, "clean, honest war, such as the god I
call Fate decrees for man. I have seen enough. Now I would visit
those whom you call Turks. I understand they have another worship
and perhaps they are nobler than these Christians."

We came to a hilly country which I recognised as Armenia, for
once I travelled there, and stopped on an seashore. Here were the
Turks in thousands. They were engaged in driving before them mobs
of men, women and children in countless numbers. On and on they
drove them till they reached the shore. There they massacred them
with bayonets, with bullets, or by drowning. I remember a
dreadful scene of a poor woman standing up to her waist in the
water. Three children were clinging to her--but I cannot go on,
really I cannot go on. In the end a Turk waded out and bayoneted
her while she strove to protect the last living child with her
poor body whence it sprang.

"These, I understand," said Oro, pointing to the Turkish
soldiers, "worship a prophet who they say is the voice of God."

"Yes," I answered, "and therefore they massacre these who are
Christians because they worship God without a prophet."

"And what do the Christians massacre each other for?"

"Power and the wealth and territories that are power. That is,
the King of the Germans wishes to rule the world, but the other
Nations do not desire his dominion. Therefore they fight for
Liberty and Justice."

"As it was, so it is and shall be," remarked Oro, "only with
this difference. In the old world some were wise, but here--" and
he stopped, his eyes fixed upon the Armenian woman struggling in
her death agony while the murderer drowned her child, then added:
"Let us go."

Our road ran across the sea. On it we saw a ship so large that
it attracted Oro's attention, and for once he expressed

"In my day," he said, "we had no vessels of this greatness in
the world. I wish to look upon it."

We landed on the deck of the ship, or rather the floating
palace, and examined her. She carried many passengers, some
English, some American, and I pointed out to Oro the differences
between the two peoples. These were not, he remarked, very wide
except that the American women wore more jewels, also that some
of the American men, to whom we listened as they conversed, spoke
of the greatness of their country, whereas the Englishmen, if
they said anything concerning it, belittled their country.

Presently, on the surface of the sea at a little distance
appeared something strange, a small and ominous object like a can
on the top of a pole. A voice cried out "Submarine!" and everyone
near rushed to look.

"If those Germans try any of their monkey tricks on us, I guess
the United States will give them hell," said another voice near

Then from the direction of the pole with the tin can on the top
of it, came something which caused a disturbance in the smooth
water and bubbles to rise in its wake.

"A torpedo!" cried some.

"Shut your mouth," said the voice. "Who dare torpedo a vessel
full of the citizens of the United States?"

Next came a booming crash and a flood of upthrown water, in the
wash of which that speaker was carried away into the deep. Then
horror! horror! horror! indescribable, as the mighty vessel went
wallowing to her doom. Boats launched; boats overset; boats
dragged under by her rush through the water which could not be
stayed. Maddened men and women running to and fro, their eyes
starting from their heads, clasping children, fastening lifebelts
over their costly gowns, or appearing from their cabins, their
hands filled with jewels that they sought to save. Orders cried
from high places by stern-faced officers doing their duty to the
last. And a little way off that thin pole with a tin can on the
top of it watching its work.

Then the plunge of the enormous ship into the deep, its huge
screws still whirling in the air and the boom of the bursting
boilers. Lastly everything gone save a few boats floating on the
quiet sea and around them dots that were the heads of struggling
human beings.

"Let us go home," said Oro. "I grow tired of this war of your
Christian peoples. It is no better than that of the barbarian
nations of the early world. Indeed it is worse, since then we
worshipped Fate and but a few of us had wisdom. Now you all claim
wisdom and declare that you worship a God of Mercy."

With these words still ringing in my ears I woke up upon the
Island of Orofena, filled with terror at the horrible
possibilities of nightmare.

What else could it be? There was the brown and ancient cone of
the extinct volcano. There were the tall palms of the main island
and the lake glittering in the sunlight between. There was Bastin
conducting a kind of Sunday school of Orofenans upon the point of
the Rock of Offerings, as now he had obtained the leave of Oro to
do. There was the mouth of the cave, and issuing from it Bickley,
who by help of one of the hurricane lamps had been making an
examination of the buried remains of what he supposed to be
flying machines. Without doubt it was nightmare, and I would say
nothing to them about it for fear of mockery.

Yet two nights later Oro came again and after the usual
preliminaries, said:

"Humphrey, this night we will visit that mighty American
nation, of which you have told me so much, and the other Neutral

[At this point there is a gap in Mr. Arbuthnot's M.S., so Oro's
reflections on the Neutral Nations, if any, remain unrecorded. It

On our homeward way we passed over Australia, making a detour
to do so. Of the cities Oro took no account. He said that they
were too large and too many, but the country interested him so
much that I gathered he must have given great attention to
agriculture at some time in the past. He pointed out to me that
the climate was fine, and the land so fertile that with a proper
system of irrigation and water-storage it could support tens of
millions and feed not only itself but a great part of the
outlying world.

"But where are the people?" he asked. "Outside of those huge
hives," and he indicated the great cities, "I see few of them,
though doubtless some of the men are fighting in this war. Well,
in the days to come this must be remedied."

Over New Zealand, which he found beautiful, he shook his head
for the same reason.

On another night we visited the East. China with its teeming
millions interested him extremely, partly because he declared
these to be the descendants of one of the barbarian nations of
his own day. He made a remark to the effect that this race had
always possessed points and capacities, and that he thought that
with proper government and instruction their Chinese offspring
would be of use in a regenerated world.

For the Japanese and all that they had done in two short
generations, he went so far as to express real admiration, a very
rare thing with Oro, who was by nature critical. I could see that
mentally he put a white mark against their name.

India, too, really moved him. He admired the ancient buildings
at Delhi and Agra, especially the Taj Mahal. This, he declared,
was reminiscent of some of the palaces that stood at Pani, the
capital city of the Sons of Wisdom, before it was destroyed by
the Barbarians.

The English administration of the country also attracted a word
of praise from him, I think because of its rather autocratic
character. Indeed he went so far as to declare that, with certain
modifications, it should be continued in the future, and even to
intimate that he would bear the matter in mind. Democratic forms
of government had no charms for Oro.

Amongst other places, we stopped at Benares and watched the
funeral rites in progress upon the banks of the holy Ganges. The
bearers of the dead brought the body of a woman wrapped in a red
shroud that glittered with tinsel ornaments. Coming forward at a
run and chanting as they ran, they placed it upon the stones for
a little while, then lifted it up again and carried it down the
steps to the edge of the river. Here they took water and poured
it over the corpse, thus performing the rite of the baptism of
death. This done, they placed its feet in the water and left it
looking very small and lonely. Presently appeared a tall,
white-draped woman who took her stand by the body and wailed. It
was the dead one's mother. Again the bearers approached and laid
the corpse upon the flaming pyre.

"These rites are ancient," said Oro. "When I ruled as King of
the World they were practised in this very place. It is pleasant
to me to find something that has survived the changefulness of
Time. Let it continue till the end."

Here I will cease. These experiences that I have recorded are
but samples, for also we visited Russia and other countries.
Perhaps, too, they were not experiences at all, but only dreams
consequent on my state of health. I cannot say for certain,
though much of what I seemed to see fitted in very well indeed
with what I learned in after days, and certainly at the time they
appeared as real as though Oro and I had stood together upon
those various shores.

Chapter XXI

Love's Eternal Altar

Now of all these happenings I said very little to Bastin and
Bickley. The former would not have understood them, and the
latter attributed what I did tell him to mental delusions
following on my illness. To Yva I did speak about them, however,
imploring her to explain their origin and to tell me whether or
not they were but visions of the night.

She listened to me, as I thought not without anxiety, from
which I gathered that she too feared for my mind. It was not so,
however, for she said:

"I am glad, O Humphrey, that your journeyings are done, since
such things are not without danger. He who travels far out of the
body may chance to return there no more."

"But were they journeyings, or dreams?" I asked.

She evaded a direct answer.

"I cannot say. My father has great powers. I do not know them
all. It is possible that they were neither journeyings nor
dreams. Mayhap he used you as the sorcerers in the old days used
the magic glass, and after he had put his spell upon you, read in
your mind that which passes elsewhere."

I understood her to refer to what we call clairvoyance, when
the person entranced reveals secret or distant things to the
entrancer. This is a more or less established phenomenon and much
less marvelous than the actual transportation of the spiritual
self through space. Only I never knew of an instance in which the
seer, on awaking, remembered the things that he had seen, as in
my case. There, however, the matter rested, or rests, for I could
extract nothing more from Yva, who appeared to me to have her
orders on the point.

Nor did Oro ever talk of what I had seemed to see in his
company, although he continued from time to time to visit me at
night. But now our conversation was of other matters. As Bastin
had discovered, by some extraordinary gift he had soon learned
how to read the English language, although he never spoke a
single word in that tongue. Among our reference books that we
brought from the yacht, was a thin paper edition of the
Encyclopedia Britannica, which he borrowed when he discovered
that it contained compressed information about the various
countries of the world, also concerning almost every other
matter. My belief is that within a month or so that marvelous
old man not only read this stupendous work from end to end, but
that he remembered everything of interest which it contained. At
least, he would appear and show the fullest acquaintance with
certain subjects or places, seeking further light from me
concerning them, which very often I was quite unable to give him.

An accident, as it chanced, whereof I need not set out the
details, caused me to discover that his remarkable knowledge was
limited. Thus, at one period, he knew little about any modern
topic which began with a letter later in the alphabet than, let
us say, C. A few days afterwards he was acquainted with those up
to F, or G; and so on till he reached Z, when he appeared to me
to know everything, and returned the book. Now, indeed, he was a
monument of learning, very ancient and very new, and with some
Encyclopedia-garnered facts or deductions of what had happened

Moreover, he took to astronomical research, for more than once
we saw him standing on the rock at night studying the heavens. On
one of these occasions, when he had the two metal plates, of
which I have spoken, in his hands, I ventured to approach and ask
what he did. He replied that he was checking his calculations
that he found to be quite correct, an exact period of two hundred
and fifty thousand years having gone by since he laid himself
down to sleep. Then, by aid of the plates, he pointed out to me
certain alterations that had happened during that period in the
positions of some of the stars.

For instance, he showed me one which, by help of my glasses, I
recognised as Sirius, and remarked that two hundred and fifty
thousand years ago it was further away and much smaller. Now it
was precisely in the place and of the size which he had
predicted, and he pointed to it on his prophetic map. Again he
indicated a star that the night-glass told me was Capella, which,
I suppose, is one of the most brilliant stars in the sky, and
showed me that on the map he had made two hundred and fifty
thousand years ago, it did not exist, as then it was too far
north to appear thereon. Still, he observed, the passage of this
vast period of time had produced but little effect upon the face
of the heavens. To the human eye the majority of the stars had
not moved so very far.

"And yet they travel fast, O Humphrey," he said. "Consider then
how great is their journey between the time they gather and that
day when, worn-out, once more they melt to vaporous gas. You
think me long-lived who compared to them exist but a tiny
fraction of a second, nearly all of which I have been doomed to
pass in sleep. And, Humphrey, I desire to live--I, who have great
plans and would shake the world. But my day draws in; a few brief
centuries and I shall be gone, and--whither, whither?"

"If you lived as long as those stars, the end would be the
same, Oro."

"Yes, but the life of the stars is very long, millions of
millions of years; also, after death, they reform, as other
stars. But shall I reform as another Oro? With all my wisdom, I
do not know. It is known to Fate only--Fate-the master of worlds
and men and the gods they worship--Fate, whom it may please to
spill my gathered knowledge, to be lost in the sands of Time."

"It seems that you are great," I said, "and have lived long and
learned much. Yet the end of it is that your lot is neither worse
nor better than that of us creatures of an hour."

"It is so, Humphrey. Presently you will die, and within a few
centuries I shall die also and be as you are. You believe that
you will live again eternally. It may be so because you do
believe, since Fate allows Faith to shape the future, if only for
a little while. But in me Wisdom has destroyed Faith and
therefore I must die. Even if I sleep again for tens of thousands
of years, what will it help me, seeing that sleep is
unconsciousness and that I shall only wake again to die, since
sleep does not restore to us our youth?"

He ceased, and walked up and down the rock with a troubled
mien. Then he stood in front of me and said in a triumphant

"At least, while I live I will rule, and then let come what may
come. I know that you do not believe, and the first victory of
this new day of mine shall be to make you believe. I have great
powers and you shall see them at work, and afterwards, if things
go right, rule with me for a little while, perhaps, as the first
of my subjects. Hearken now; in one small matter my calculations,
made so long ago, have gone wrong. They showed me that at this
time a day of earthquakes, such as those that again and again
have rocked and split the world, would recur. But now it seems
that there is an error, a tiny error of eleven hundred years,
which must go by before those earthquakes come."

"Are you sure," I suggested humbly, "that there is not also an
error in those star-maps you hold?"

"I am sure, Humphrey. Some day, who knows? You may return to
your world of modern men who, I gather, have knowledge of the
great science of astronomy. Take now these maps with which I have
done, and submit them to the most learned of those men, and let
them tell you whether I was right or wrong in what I wrote upon
this metal two hundred and fifty thousand years ago. Whatever
else is false, at least the stars in their motions can never

Then he handed me the maps and was gone. I have them today, and
if ever this book is published, they will appear with it, that
those who are qualified may judge of them and of the truth or
otherwise of Oro's words.

From that night forward for quite a long time I saw Oro no
more. Nor indeed did any of us, since for some reason of his own
he forbade us to visit the under ground city of Nyo. Oddly
enough, however, he commanded Yva to bring down the spaniel,
Tommy, to be with him from time to time. When I asked her why,
she said it was because he was lonely and desired the dog's
companionship. It seemed to us very strange that this super-man,
who had the wisdom of ten Solomons gathered in one within his
breast, should yet desire the company of a little dog. What then
was the worth of learning and long life, or, indeed, of anything?
Well, Solomon himself asked the question ages since, and could
give no answer save that all is vanity.

I noted about this time that Yva began to grow very sad and
troubled; indeed, looking at her suddenly on two or three
occasions, I saw that her beautiful eyes were aswim with tears.
Also, I noted that always as she grew sadder she became, in a
sense, more human. In the beginning she was, as it were, far
away. One could never forget that she was the child of some alien
race whose eyes had looked upon the world when, by comparison,
humanity was young; at times, indeed, she might have been the
denizen of another planet, strayed to earth. Although she never
flaunted it, one felt that her simplest word hid secret wisdom;
that to her books were open in which we could not read. Moreover,
as I have said, occasionally power flamed out of her, power that
was beyond our ken and understanding.

Yet with all this there was nothing elfish about her, nothing
uncanny. She was always kind, and, as we could feel, innately
good and gentle-hearted, just a woman made half-divine by gifts
and experience that others lack. She did not, even make use of
her wondrous beauty to madden men, as she might well have done
had she been so minded. It is true that both Bastin and Bickley
fell in love with her, but that was only because all with whom
she had to do must love her, and then, when she told them that it
might not be, it was in such a fashion that no soreness was left
behind. They went on loving her, that was all, but as men love
their sisters or their daughters; as we conceive that they may
love in that land where there is no marrying or giving in

But now, in her sadness, she drew ever nearer to us, and
especially to myself, more in tune with our age and thought. In
truth, save for her royal and glittering loveliness in which
there was some quality which proclaimed her of another blood, and
for that reserve of hidden power which at times would look out of
her eyes or break through her words, she might in most ways have
been some singularly gifted and beautiful modern woman.

The time has come when I must speak of my relations with Yva
and of their climax. As may have been guessed, from the first I
began to love her. While the weeks went on that love grew and
grew, until it utterly possessed me, although for a certain
reason connected with one dead, at first I fought against it. Yet
it did not develop quite in the fashion that might have been
expected. There was no blazing up of passion's fire; rather was
there an ever-increasing glow of the holiest affection, till at
last it became a lamp by which I must guide my feet through life
and death. This love of mine seemed not of earth but from the
stars. As yet I had said nothing to her of it because in some way
I felt that she did not wish me to do so, felt also that she was
well aware of all that passed within my heart, and desired, as it
were, to give it time to ripen there. Then one day there came a
change, and though no glance or touch of Yva's told me so, I knew
that the bars were taken down and that I might speak.

It was a night of full moon. All that afternoon she had been
talking to Bastin apart, I suppose about religion, for I saw that
he had some books in his hand from which he was expounding
something to her in his slow, earnest way. Then she came and sat
with us while we took our evening meal. I remember that mine
consisted of some of the Life-water which she had brought with her
and fruit, for, as I think I have said, I had acquired her
dislike to meat, also that she ate some plantains, throwing the
skins for Tommy to fetch and laughing at his play. When it was
over, Bastin and Bickley went away together, whether by chance or
design I do not know, and she said to me suddenly:

"Humphrey, you have often asked me about the city Pani, of
which a little portion of the ruins remains upon this island, the
rest being buried beneath the waters. If you wish I will show you
where our royal palace was before the barbarians destroyed it
with their airships. The moon is very bright, and by it we can

I nodded, for, knowing what she meant, somehow I could not
answer her, and we began the ascent of the hill. She explained to
me the plan of the palace when we reached the ruins, showing me
where her own apartments had been, and the rest. It was very
strange to hear her quietly telling of buildings which had stood
and of things that had happened over two hundred and fifty
thousand years before, much as any modern lady might do of a
house that had been destroyed a month ago by an earthquake or a
Zeppelin bomb, while she described the details of a disaster
which now frightened her no more. I think it was then that for
the first time I really began to believe that in fact Yva had
lived all those aeons since and been as she still appeared.

We passed from the palace to the ruins of the temple, through
what, as she said, had been a pleasure-garden, pointing out where
a certain avenue of rare palms had grown, down which once it was
her habit to walk in the cool of the day. Or, rather, there were
two terraced temples, one dedicated to Fate like that in the
underground city of Nyo, and the other to Love. Of the temple to
Fate she told me her father had been the High Priest, and of the
temple to Love she was the High Priestess.

Then it was that I understood why she had brought me here.

She led the way to a marble block covered with worn-out carvings
and almost buried in the debris. This, she said, was the altar of
offerings. I asked her what offerings, and she replied with a

"Only wine, to signify the spirit of life, and flowers to
symbolise its fragrance," and she laid her finger on a cup-like
depression, still apparent in the marble, into which the wine was

Indeed, I gathered that there was nothing coarse or
bacchanalian about this worship of a prototype of Aphrodite; on
the contrary, that it was more or less spiritual and ethereal. We
sat down on the altar stone. I wondered a little that she should
have done so, but she read my thought, and answered:

"Sometimes we change our faiths, Humphrey, or perhaps they
grow. Also, have I not told you that sacrifices were offered on
this altar?" and she sighed and smiled.

I do not know which was the sweeter, the smile or the sigh.

We looked at the water glimmering in the crater beneath us on
the edge of which we sat. We looked at heaven above in which the
great moon sailed royally. Then we looked into each other's eyes.

"I love you," I said.

"I know it," she answered gently. "You have loved me from the
first, have you not? Even when I lay asleep in the coffin you
began to love me, but until you dreamed a certain dream you would
not admit it."

"Yva, what was the meaning of that dream?"

"I cannot say, Humphrey. But I tell you this. As you will learn
in time, one spirit may be clothed in different garments of the

I did not understand her, but, in some strange way, her words
brought to my mind those that Natalie spoke at the last, and I

"Yva, when my wife lay dying she bade me seek her elsewhere,
for certainly I should find her. Doubtless she meant beyond the
shores of death--or perhaps she also dreamed."

She bent her head, looking at me very strangely.

"Your wife, too, may have had the gift of dreams, Humphrey. As
you dream and I dream, so mayhap she dreamed. Of dreams, then,
let us say no more, since I think that they have served their
purpose, and all three of us understand."

Then I stretched out my arms, and next instant my head lay upon
her perfumed breast. She lifted it and kissed me on the lips,

"With this kiss again I give myself to you. But oh! Humphrey,
do not ask too much of the god of my people, Fate," and she
looked me in the eyes and sighed.

"What do you mean?" I asked, trembling.

"Many, many things. Among them, that happiness is not for
mortals, and remember that though my life began long ago, I am
mortal as you are, and that in eternity time makes no

"And if so, Yva, what then? Do we meet but to part?"

"Who said it? Not I. Humphrey, I tell you this. Nor earth, nor
heaven, nor hell have any bars through which love cannot burst
its way towards reunion and completeness. Only there must be
love, manifested in many shapes and at many times, but ever
striving to its end, which is not of the flesh. Aye, love that
has lost itself, love scorned, love defeated, love that seems
false, love betrayed, love gone astray, love wandering through
the worlds, love asleep and living in its sleep, love awake and
yet sleeping; all love that has in it the germ of life. It
matters not what form love takes. If it be true I tell you that
it will win its way, and in the many that it has seemed to
worship, still find the one, though perchance not here.

At her words a numb fear gripped my heart.

"Not here? Then where?" I said.

"Ask your dead wife, Humphrey. Ask the dumb stars. Ask the God
you worship, for I cannot answer, save in one word--Somewhere!
Man, be not afraid. Do you think that such as you and I can be
lost in the aching abysms of space? I know but little, yet I tell
you that we are its rulers. I tell you that we, too, are gods, if
only we can aspire and believe. For the doubting and timid there
is naught. For those who see with the eyes of the soul and
stretch out their hands to grasp there is all. Even Bastin will
tell you this."

"But," I said, "life is short. Those worlds are far away, and
you are near."

She became wonderful, mysterious.

"Near I am far," she said; "and far I am near, if only this
love of yours is strong enough to follow and to clasp. And,
Humphrey, it needs strength, for here I am afraid that it will
bear little of such fruit as men desire to pluck."

Again terror took hold of me, and I looked at her, for
I did not know what to say or ask.

"Listen," she went on. "Already my father has offered me to you
in marriage, has he not, but at a price which you do not
understand? Believe me, it is one that you should never pay,
since the rule of the world can be too dearly bought by the
slaughter of half the world. And if you would pay it, I cannot."

"But this is madness!" I exclaimed. "Your father has no powers
over our earth."

"I would that I could think so, Humphrey. I tell you that he
has powers and that it is his purpose to use them as he has done
before. You, too, he would use, and me."

"And, if so, Yva, we are lords of ourselves. Let us take each
other while we may. Bastin is a priest."

"Lords of ourselves! Why, for ought I know, at this very moment
Oro watches us in his thought and laughs. Only in death,
Humphrey, shall we pass beyond his reach and become lords of

"It is monstrous!" I cried. "There is the boat, let us fly

"What boat can bear us out of stretch of the arm of the old god
of my people, Fate, whereof Oro is the high priest? Nay, here we
must wait our doom."

"Doom," I said--"doom? What then is about to happen?"

"A terrible thing, as I think, Humphrey. Or, rather, it will
not happen."

"Why not, if it must?"

"Beloved," she whispered, "Bastin has expounded to me a new
faith whereof the master-word is Sacrifice. The terrible thing
will not happen because of sacrifice! Ask me no more."

She mused a while, seated there in the moonlight upon the
ancient altar of sacrifice, the veil she wore falling about her
face and making her mysterious. Then she threw it back, showing
her lovely eyes and glittering hair, and laughed.

"We have still an earthly hour," she said; "therefore let us
forget the far, dead past and the eternities to come and be
joyful in that hour. Now throw your arms about me and I will tell
you strange stories of lost days, and you shall look into my eyes
and learn wisdom, and you shall kiss my lips and taste of bliss--
you, who were and are and shall be--you, the beloved of Yva from
the beginning to the end of Time."

Chapter XXII

The Command

I think that both Bastin and Bickley, by instinct as it were,
knew what had passed between Yva and myself and that she had
promised herself to me. They showed this by the way in which they
avoided any mention of her name. Also they began to talk of their
own plans for the future as matters in which I had no part. Thus
I heard them discussing the possibility of escape from the island
whereof suddenly they seemed to have grown weary, and whether by
any means two men (two, not three) could manage to sail and steer
the lifeboat that remained upon the wreck. In short, as in all
such cases, the woman had come between; also the pressure of a
common loss caused them to forget their differences and to draw
closer together. I who had succeeded where they both had failed,
was, they seemed to think, out of their lives, so much that our
ancient intimacy had ended.

This attitude hurt me, perhaps because in many respects the
situation was awkward. They had, it is true, taken their failures
extremely well, still the fact remained that both of them had
fallen in love with the wonderful creature, woman and yet more
than woman, who had bound herself to me. How then could we go on
living together, I in prospective possession of the object that
all had desired, and they without the pale?

Moreover, they were jealous in another and quite a different
fashion because they both loved me in their own ways and were
convinced that I who had hitherto loved them, henceforward should
have no affection left to spare, since surely this Glittering
Lady, this marvel of wisdom and physical perfections would take
it all. Of course they were in error, since even if I could have
been so base and selfish, this was no conduct that Yva would have
wished or even suffered. Still that was their thought.

Mastering the situation I reflected a little while and then
spoke straight out to them.

"My friends," I said, "as I see that you have guessed, Yva and
I are affianced to each other and love each other perfectly."

"Yes, Arbuthnot," said Bastin, "we saw that in your face, and
in hers as she bade us good night before she went into the cave,
and we congratulate you and wish you every happiness."

"We wish you every happiness, old fellow," chimed in Bickley.
He paused a while, then added, "But to be honest, I am not sure
that I congratulate you."

"Why not, Bickley?"

"Not for the reason that you may suspect, Arbuthnot, I mean not
because you have won where we have lost, as it was only to be
expected that you would do, but on account of something totally
different. I told you a while ago and repetition is useless and
painful. I need only add therefore that since then my conviction
has strengthened and I am sure, sorry as I am to say it, that in
this matter you must prepare for disappointment and calamity.
That woman, if woman she really is, will never be the wife of
mortal man. Now be angry with me if you like, or laugh as you
have the right to do, seeing that like Bastin and yourself, I
also asked her to marry me, but something makes me speak what I
believe to be the truth."

"Like Cassandra," I suggested.

"Yes, like Cassandra who was not a popular person." At first I
was inclined to resent Bickley's words--who would not have been
in the circumstances? Then of a sudden there rushed in upon my
mind the conviction that he spoke the truth. In this world Yva
was not for me or any man. Moreover she knew it, the knowledge
peeped out of every word she spoke in our passionate love scene
by the lake. She was aware, and subconsciously I was aware, that
we were plighting our troth, not for time but for eternity. With
time we had little left to do; not for long would she wear the
ring I gave her on that holy night.

Even Bastin, whose perceptions normally were not acute, felt
that the situation was strained and awkward and broke in with a
curious air of forced satisfaction:

"It's uncommonly lucky for you, old boy, that you happen to
have a clergyman in your party, as I shall be able to marry you
in a respectable fashion. Of course I can't say that the
Glittering Lady is as yet absolutely converted to our faith, but
I am certain that she has absorbed enough of its principles to
justify me in uniting her in Christian wedlock."

"Yes," I answered, "she has absorbed its principles;
she told me as much herself. Sacrifice, for instance,"
and as I spoke the word my eyes filled with tears.

"Sacrifice!" broke in Bickley with an angry snort, for he
needed a vent to his mental disturbance. "Rubbish. Why should
every religion demand sacrifice as savages do? By it alone they
stand condemned."

"Because as I think, sacrifice is the law of life, at least of
all life that is worth the living," I answered sadly enough.
"Anyhow I believe you are right, Bickley, and that Bastin will
not be troubled to marry us."

"You don't mean," broke in Bastin with a horrified air, "that
you propose to dispense--"

"No, Bastin, I don't mean that. What I mean is that it comes
upon me that something will prevent this marriage. Sacrifice,
perhaps, though in what shape I do not know. And now good night.
I am tired."

That night in the chill dead hour before the dawn Oro came
again. I woke up to see him seated by my bed, majestic, and, as
it seemed to me, lambent, though this may have been my

"You take strange liberties with my daughter, Barbarian, or she
takes strange liberties with you, it does not matter which," he
said, regarding me with his calm and terrible eyes.

"Why do you presume to call me Barbarian?" I asked, avoiding
the main issue.

"For this reason, Humphrey. All men are the same. They have the
same organs, the same instincts, the same desires, which in
essence are but two, food and rebirth that Nature commands;
though it is true that millions of years before I was born, as I
have learned from the records of the Sons of Wisdom, it was said
that they were half ape. Yet being the same there is between them
a whole sea of difference, since some have knowledge and others
none, or little. Those who have none or little, among whom you
must be numbered, are Barbarians. Those who have much, among whom
my daughter and I are the sole survivors, are the Instructed."

"There are nearly two thousand millions of living people in
this world," I said, "and you name all of them Barbarians?"

"All, Humphrey, excepting, of course, myself and my daughter
who are not known to be alive. You think that you have learned
much, whereas in truth you are most ignorant. The commonest of
the outer nations, when I destroyed them, knew more than your
wisest know today."

"You are mistaken, Oro; since then we have learned something of
the soul."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "that interests me and perhaps it is true.
Also, if true it is very important, as I have told you before--or
was it Bastin? If a man has a soul, he lives, whereas even we
Sons of Wisdom die, and in Death what is the use of Wisdom?
Because you can believe, you have souls and are therefore,
perhaps, heirs to life, foolish and ignorant as you are today.
Therefore I admit you and Bastin to be my equals, though Bickley,
who like myself believes nothing, is but a common chemist and
doctor of disease."

"Then you bow to Faith, Oro?"

"Yes, and I think that my god Fate also bows to Faith. Perhaps,
indeed, Faith shapes Fate, not Fate. Faith. But whence comes that
faith which even I with all my learning cannot command? Why is it
denied to me and given to you and Bastin?"

"Because as Bastin would tell you, it is a gift, though one
that is never granted to the proud and self-sufficient. Become
humble as a child, Oro, and perchance you too may acquire faith."

"And how shall I become humble?"

"By putting away all dreams of power and its exercise, if such
you have, and in repentance walking quietly to the Gates of
Death," I replied.

"For you, Humphrey, who have little or none of these things,
that may be easy. But for me who have much, if not all, it is
otherwise. You ask me to abandon the certain for the uncertain,
the known for the unknown, and from a half-god communing with the
stars, to become an earthworm crawling in mud and lifting blind
eyes towards the darkness of everlasting night."

"A god who must die is no god, half or whole, Oro; the
earthworm that lives on is greater than he."

"Mayhap. Yet while I endure I will be as a god, so that when
night comes, if come it must, I shall have played my part and
left my mark upon this little world of ours. Have done!" he added
with a burst of impatience. "What will you of my daughter?"

"What man has always willed of woman--herself, body and soul."

"Her soul perchance is yours, if she has one, but her body is
mine to give or withhold. Yet it can be bought at a price," he
added slowly.

"So she told me, Oro."

"I can guess what she told you. Did I not watch you yonder by
the lake when you gave her a ring graved with the signs of Life
and Everlastingness? The question is, will you pay the price?"

"Not so; the question is--what is the price?"

"This; to enter my service and henceforth do my will--without
debate or cavil."

"For what reward, Oro?"

"Yva and the dominion of the earth while you shall live,
neither more nor less."

"And what is your will?"

"That you shall learn in due course. On the second night from
this I command the three of you to wait upon me at sundown in the
buried halls of Nyo. Till then you see no more of Yva, for I do
not trust her. She, too, has powers, though as yet she does not
use them, and perchance she would forget her oaths, and following
some new star of love, for a little while vanish with you out of
my reach. Be in the sepulchre at the hour of sundown on the
second day from this, all three of you, if you would continue to
live upon the earth. Afterwards you shall learn my will and make
your choice between Yva with majesty and her loss with death."

Then suddenly he was gone.

Next morning I told the others what had passed, and we talked
the matter over. The trouble was, of course, that Bickley did not
believe me. He had no faith in my alleged interviews with Oro,
which he set down to delusions of a semi-mesmeric character. This
was not strange, since it appeared that on the previous night he
had watched the door of my sleeping-place until dawn broke, which
it did long after Oro had departed, and he had not seen him
either come or go, although the moon was shining brightly.

When he told me this I could only answer that all the same he
had been there as, if he could speak, Tommy would have been able
to certify. As it chanced the dog was sleeping with me and at the
first sound of the approach of someone, woke up and growled. Then
recognising Oro, he went to him, wagged his tail and curled
himself up at his feet.

Bastin believed my story readily enough, saying that Oro was a
peculiar person who no doubt had ways of coming and going which
we did not understand. His point was, however, that he did not in
the least wish to visit Nyo any more. The wonders of its
underground palaces and temples had no charms for him. Also he
did not think he could do any good by going, since after "sucking
him as dry as an orange" with reference to religious matters
"that old vampire-bat Oro had just thrown him away like the
rind," and, he might add, "seemed no better for the juice he had

"I doubt," continued Bastin, "whether St. Paul himself could
have converted Oro, even if he performed miracles before him.
What is the use of showing miracles to a man who could always
work a bigger one himself?"

In short, Bastin's one idea, and Bickley's also for the matter
of that, was to get away to the main island and thence escape by
means of the boat, or in some other fashion.

I pointed out that Oro had said we must obey at the peril of
our lives; indeed that he had put it even more strongly, using
words to the effect that if we did not he would kill us.

"I'd take the risk," said Bickley, "since I believe that
you dreamt it all, Arbuthnot. However, putting that
aside, there is a natural reason why you should wish to
go, and for my own part, so do I in a way. I want to see
what that old fellow has up his extremely long sleeve, if
there is anything there at all."

"Well, if you ask me, Bickley," I answered, "I believe it is
the destruction of half the earth, or some little matter of that

At this suggestion Bickley only snorted, but Bastin said

"I dare say. He is bad enough even for that. But as I am quite
convinced that it will never be allowed, his intentions do not
trouble me."

I remarked that he seemed to have carried them out once before.

"Oh! you mean the Deluge. Well, no doubt there was a deluge,
but I am sure that Oro had no more to do with it than you or I,
as I think I have said already. Anyhow it is impossible to leave
you to descend into that hole alone. I suggest, therefore, that
we should go into the sepulchre at the time which you believe Oro
appointed, and see what happens. If you are not mistaken, the
Glittering Lady will come there to fetch us, since it is quite
certain that we cannot work the lift or whatever it is, alone. If
you are mistaken we can just go back to bed as usual."

"Yes, that's the best plan," said Bickley, shortly, after which
the conversation came to an end.

All that day and the next I watched and waited in vain for the
coming of Yva, but no Yva appeared. I even went as far as the
sepulchre, but it was as empty as were the two crystal coffins,
and after waiting a while I returned. Although I did not say so
to Bickley, to me it was evident that Oro, as he had said, was
determined to cut off all communication between us.

The second day drew to its close. Our simple preparations were
complete. They consisted mainly in making ready our hurricane
lamps and packing up a little food, enough to keep us for three
or four days if necessary, together with some matches and a good
supply of oil, since, as Bastin put it, he was determined not to
be caught like the foolish virgins in the parable.

"You see," he added, "one never knows when it might please that
old wretch to turn off the incandescent gas or electric light, or
whatever it is he uses to illumine his family catacombs, and then
it would be awkward if we had no oil."

"For the matter of that he might steal our lamps,"
suggested Bickley, "in which case we should be where
Moses was when the light went out."

"I have considered that possibility," answered Bastin, "and
therefore, although it is a dangerous weapon to carry loaded, I
am determined to take my revolver. If necessary I shall consider
myself quite justified in shooting him to save our lives and
those of thousands of others."

At this we both laughed; somehow the idea of Bastin trying to
shoot Oro struck us as intensely ludicrous. Yet that very thing
was to happen.

It was a peculiarly beautiful sunset over the southern seas. To
the west the great flaming orb sank into the ocean, to the east
appeared the silver circle of the full moon. To my excited fancy
they were like scales hanging from the hand of a materialised
spirit of calm. Over the volcano and the lake, over the island
with its palm trees, over the seas beyond, this calm brooded.
Save for a few travelling birds the sky was empty; no cloud
disturbed its peace; the world seemed steeped in innocence and

All these things struck me, as I think they did the others,
because by the action of some simultaneous thought it came to our
minds that very probably we were, looking on them for the last
time. It is all very well to talk of the Unknown and the Infinite
whereof we are assured we are the heirs, but that does not make
it any easier for us to part with the Known and the Finite. The
contemplation of the wonders of Eternity does not conceal the
advantages of actual and existent Time. In short there is no one
of us, from a sainted archbishop down to a sinful suicide, who
does not regret the necessity of farewell to the pleasant light
and the kindly race of men wherewith we are acquainted.

For after all, who can be quite certain of the Beyond? It may
be splendid, but it will probably be strange, and from
strangeness, after a certain age, we shrink. We know that all
things will be different there; that our human relationships will
be utterly changed, that perhaps sex which shapes so many of
them, will vanish to be replaced by something unknown, that
ambitions will lose their hold of us, and that, at the best, the
mere loss of hopes and fears will leave us empty. So at least we
think, who seek not variation but continuance, since the spirit
must differ from the body and that thought alarms our

At least some of us think so; others, like Bickley, write down
the future as a black and endless night, which after all has its
consolations since, as has been wisely suggested, perhaps
oblivion is better than any memories. Others again, like Bastin,
would say of it with the Frenchman, plus ca change, plus c'est la
meme chose. Yet others, like Oro, consider it as a realm of
possibilities, probably unpleasant and perhaps non-existent; just
this and nothing more. Only one thing is certain, that no
creature which has life desires to leap into the fire and from
the dross of doubts, to resolve the gold--or the lead--of

"It is time to be going," said Bastin. "In these skies the sun
seems to tumble down, not to set decently as it does in England,
and if we wait any longer we shall be late for our appointment in
the sepulchre. I am sorry because although I don't often notice
scenery, everything looks rather beautiful this evening. That
star, for instance, I think it is called Venus."

"And therefore one that Arbuthnot should admire," broke in
Bickley, attempting to lighten matters with a joke. "But come on
and let us be rid of this fool's errand. Certainly the world is a
lovely place after all, and for my part I hope that we haven't
seen the last of it," he added with a sigh.

"So do I," said Bastin, "though of course, Faith teaches us
that there are much better ones beyond. It is no use bothering
about what they are like, but I hope that the road to them
doesn't run through the hole that the old reprobate, Oro, calls

A few minutes later we started, each of us carrying his share
of the impedimenta. I think that Tommy was the only really
cheerful member of the party, for he skipped about and barked,
running backwards and forwards into the mouth of the cave, as
though to hurry our movements.

"Really," said Bastin, "it is quite unholy to see an animal
going on in that way when it knows that it is about to descend
into the bowels of the earth. I suppose it must like them."

"Oh! no," commented Bickley, "it only likes what is in them--
like Arbuthnot. Since that little beast came in contact with the
Lady Yva, it has never been happy out of her company."

"I think that is so," said Bastin. "At any rate I have noticed
that it has been moping for the last two days, as it always does
when she is not present. It even seems to like Oro who gives me
the creeps, perhaps because he is her father. Dogs must be very
charitable animals."

By now we were in the cave marching past the wrecks of the
half-buried flying-machines, which Bickley, as he remarked
regretfully, had never found time thoroughly to examine. Indeed,
to do so would have needed more digging than we could do without
proper instruments, since the machines were big and deeply
entombed in dust.

We came to the sepulchre and entered.

"Well," said Bickley, seating himself on the edge of one of the
coffins and holding up his lamp to look about him, "this place
seems fairly empty. No one is keeping the assignation, Arbuthnot,
although the sun is well down."

As he spoke the words Yva stood before us. Whence she came we
did not see, for all our backs were turned at the moment of her
arrival. But there she was, calm, beautiful, radiating light.

Chapter XXIII

In the Temple of Fate

Yva glanced at me, and in her eyes I read tenderness and
solicitude, also something of inquiry. It seemed to me as though
she were wondering what I should do under circumstances that
might, or would, arise, and in some secret fashion of which I was
but half conscious, drawing an answer from my soul. Then she
turned, and, smiling in her dazzling way, said:

"So, Bickley, as usual, you did not believe? Because you did
not see him, therefore the Lord Oro, my father, never spoke with
Humphrey. As though the Lord Oro could not pass you without your
knowledge, or, perchance, send thoughts clothed in his own shape
to work his errand."

"How do you know that I did not believe Arbuthnot's story?"
Bickley asked in a rather cross voice and avoiding the direct
issue. "Do you also send thoughts to work your errands clothed in
your own shape, Lady Yva?"

"Alas! not so, though perhaps I could if I might. It is very
simple, Bickley. Standing here, I heard you say that although the
sun was well down there was no one to meet you as Humphrey had
expected, and from those words and your voice I guessed the

"Your knowledge of the English language is improving fast, Lady
Yva. Also, when I spoke, you were not here."

"At least I was very near, Bickley, and these walls are thinner
than you think," she answered, contemplating what seemed to be
solid rock with eyes that were full of innocence. "Oh! friend,"
she went on suddenly, "I wonder what there is which will cause
you to believe that you do not know all; that there exist many
things beyond the reach of your learning and imagination? Well,
in a day or two, perhaps, even you will admit as much, and
confess it to me--elsewhere," and she sighed.

"I am ready to confess now that much happens which I do not
understand at present, because I have not the key to the trick,"
he replied.

Yva shook her head at him and smiled again. Then she motioned
to all of us to stand close to her, and, stooping, lifted Tommy
in her arms. Next moment that marvel happened which I have
described already, and we were whirling downwards through space,
to find ourselves in a very little time standing safe in the
caves of Nyo, breathless with the swiftness of our descent. How
and on what we descended neither I nor the others ever learned.
It was and must remain one of the unexplained mysteries of our
great experience.

"Whither now, Yva?" I asked, staring about me at the radiant

"The Lord Oro would speak with you, Humphrey. Follow. And I
pray you all do not make him wrath, for his mood is not gentle."

So once more we proceeded down the empty streets of that
underground abode which, except that it was better illuminated,
reminded me of the Greek conception of Hades. We came to the
sacred fountain over which stood the guardian statue of Life,
pouring from the cups she held the waters of Good and Ill that
mingled into one health-giving wine.

"Drink, all of you," she said; "for I think before the sun sets
again upon the earth we shall need strength, every one of us."

So we drank, and she drank herself, and once more felt the
blood go dancing through our veins as though the draught had been
some nectar of the gods. Then, having extinguished the lanterns
which we still carried, for here they were needless, and we
wished to save our oil, we followed her through the great doors
into the vast hall of audience and advanced up it between the
endless, empty seats. At its head, on the dais beneath the
arching shell, sat Oro on his throne. As before, he wore the
jewelled cap and the gorgeous, flowing robes, while the table in
front of him was still strewn with sheets of metal on which he
wrote with a pen, or stylus, that glittered like a diamond or his
own fierce eyes. Then he lifted his head and beckoned to us to
ascend the dais.

"You are here. It is well," he said, which was all his
greeting. Only when Tommy ran up to him he bent down and patted
the dog's head with his long, thin hand, and, as he did so, his
face softened. It was evident to me that Tommy was more welcome
to him than were the rest of us.

There was a long silence while, one by one, he searched us with
his piercing glance. It rested on me, the last of the three of
us, and from me travelled to Yva.

"I wonder why I have sent for you?" he said at length, with a
mirthless laugh. "I think it must be that I may convince Bickley,
the sceptic, that there are powers which he does not understand,
but that I have the strength to move. Also, perhaps, that your
lives may be spared for my own purposes in that which is about to
happen. Hearken! My labours are finished; my calculations are
complete," and he pointed to the sheets of metal before him that
were covered with cabalistic signs. "Tomorrow I am about to do
what once before I did and to plunge half the world in the deeps
of ocean and lift again from the depths that which has been
buried for a quarter of a million years."

"Which half?" asked Bickley.

"That is my secret, Physician, and the answer to it lies
written here in signs you cannot read. Certain countries will
vanish, others will be spared. I say that it is my secret."

"Then, Oro, if you could do what you threaten, you would drown
hundreds of millions of people."

"If I could do! If I could do!" he exclaimed, glaring at
Bickley. "Well, tomorrow you shall see what I can do. Oh! why do
I grow angry with this fool? For the rest, yes, they must drown.
What does it matter? Their end will be swift; some few minutes of
terror, that is all, and in one short century every one of them
would have been dead."

An expression of horror gathered on Bastin's face.

"Do you really mean to murder hundreds of millions of people?"
he asked, in a thick, slow voice.

"I have said that I intend to send them to that heaven or that
hell of which you are so fond of talking, Preacher, somewhat more
quickly than otherwise they would have found their way thither.
They have disappointed me, they have failed; therefore, let them
go and make room for others who will succeed."

"Then you are a greater assassin than any that the world has
bred, or than all of them put together. There is nobody as bad,
even in the Book of Revelation!" shouted Bastin, in a kind of
fury. "Moreover, I am not like Bickley. I know enough of you and
your hellish powers to believe that what you plan, that you can

"I believe it also," sneered Oro. "But how comes it that the
Great One whom you worship does not prevent the deed, if He
exists, and it be evil?"

"He will prevent it!" raved Bastin. "Even now He commands me to
prevent it, and I obey!" Then, drawing the revolver from his
pocket, he pointed it at Oro's breast, adding: "Swear not to
commit this crime, or I will kill you!"

"So the man of peace would become a man of blood," mused Oro,
"and kill that I may not kill for the good of the world? Why,
what is the matter with that toy of yours, Preacher?" and he
pointed to the pistol.

Well might he ask, for as he spoke the revolver flew out of
Bastin's hand. High into the air it flew, and as it went
discharged itself, all the six chambers of it, in rapid
succession, while Bastin stood staring at his arm and hand which
he seemed unable to withdraw.

"Do you still threaten me with that outstretched hand,
Preacher?" mocked Oro.

"I can't move it," said Bastin; "it seems turned to stone."

"Be thankful that you also are not turned to stone. But,
because your courage pleases me, I will spare you, yes, and will
advance you in my New Kingdom. What shall you be? Controller of
Religions, I think, since all the qualities that a high priest
should have are yours--faith, fanaticism and folly."

"It is very strange," said Bastin, "but all of a sudden my arm
and hand are quite well again. I suppose it must have been 'pins
and needles' or something of that sort which made me throw away
the pistol and pull the trigger when I didn't mean to do so."

Then he went to fetch that article which had fallen beyond the
dais, and quite forgot his intention of executing Oro in the
interest of testing its mechanism, which proved to be destroyed.
To his proposed appointment he made no illusion. If he
comprehended what was meant, which I doubt, he took it as a joke.

"Hearken all of you," said Oro, lifting his head suddenly, for
while Bastin recovered the revolver he had been brooding. "The
great thing which I shall do tomorrow must be witnessed by you
because thereby only can you come to understand my powers. Also
yonder where I bring it about in the bowels of the earth, you
will be safer than elsewhere, since when and perhaps before it
happens, the whole world will heave and shake and tremble, and I
know not what may chance, even in these caves. For this reason
also, do not forget to bring the little hound with you, since him
least of all of you would I see come to harm, perhaps because
once, hundreds of generations ago as you reckon time, I had a dog
very like to him. Your mother loved him much, Yva, and when she
died, this dog died also. He lies embalmed with her on her coffin
yonder in the temple, and yesterday I went to look at both of
them. The beasts are wonderfully alike, which shows the
everlastingness of blood."

He paused a while, lost in thought, then continued: "After the
deed is done I'll speak with you and you shall choose, Strangers,
whether you will die your own masters, or live on to serve me.
Now there is one problem that is left to me to solve--whether I
can save a certain land--do not ask which it is, Humphrey, though
I see the question in your eyes--or must let it go with the rest.
I only answer you that I will do my best because you love it. So
farewell for a while, and, Preacher, be advised by me and do not
aim too high again."

"It doesn't matter where I aim," answered Bastin sturdily, "or
whether I hit or miss, since there is something much bigger than
me waiting to deal with you. The countries that you think you are
going to destroy will sleep quite as well tomorrow as they do
tonight, Oro."

"Much better, I think, Preacher, since by then they will have
left sorrow and pain and wickedness and war far behind them."

"Where are we to go?" I asked.

"The Lady Yva will show you," he answered, waving his hand, and
once more bent over his endless calculations.

Yva beckoned to us and we turned and followed her down the
hall. She led us to a street near the gateway of the temple and
thence into one of the houses. There was a portico to it leading
to a court out of which opened rooms somewhat in the Pompeian
fashion. We did not enter the rooms, for at the end of the court
were a metal table and three couches also of metal, on which were
spread rich-looking rugs. Whence these came I do not know and
never asked, but I remember that they were very beautiful and
soft as velvet.

"Here you may sleep," she said, "if sleep you can, and eat of
the food that you have brought with you. Tomorrow early I will
call you when it is time for us to start upon our journey into
the bowels of the earth."

"I don't want to go any deeper than we are," said Bastin

"I think that none of us want to go, Bastin," she answered with
a sigh. "Yet go we must. I pray of you, anger the Lord Oro no
more on this or any other matter. In your folly you tried to kill
him, and as it chanced he bore it well because he loves courage.
But another time he may strike back, and then, Bastin--"

"I am not afraid of him," he answered, "but I do not like
tunnels. Still, perhaps it would be better to accompany you than
to be left in this place alone. Now I will unpack the food."

Yva turned to go.

"I must leave you," she said, "since my father needs my help.
The matter has to do with the Force that he would let loose
tomorrow, and its measurements; also with the preparation of the
robes that we must wear lest it should harm us in its leap."

Something in her eyes told me that she wished me to follow her,
and I did so. Outside the portico where we stood in the desolate,
lighted street, she halted.

"If you are not afraid," she said, "meet me at midnight by the
statue of Fate in the great temple, for I would speak with you,
Humphrey, where, if anywhere, we may be alone."

"I will come, Yva."

"You know the road, and the gates are open, Humphrey."

Then she gave me her hand to kiss and glided away. I returned
to the others and we ate, somewhat sparingly, for we wished to
save our food in case of need, and having drunk of the Life-
water, were not hungry. Also we talked a little, but by common
consent avoided the subject of the morrow and what it might bring

We knew that terrible things were afoot, but lacking any
knowledge of what these might be, thought it useless to discuss
them. Indeed we were too depressed, so much so that even Bastin
and Bickley ceased from arguing. The latter was so overcome by
the exhibition of Oro's powers when he caused the pistol to leap
into the air and discharge itself, that he could not even pluck
up courage to laugh at the failure of Bastin's efforts to do
justice on the old Super-man, or rather to prevent him from
attempting a colossal crime.

At length we lay down on the couches to rest, Bastin remarking
that he wished he could turn off the light, also that he did not
in the least regret having tried to kill Oro. Sleep seemed to
come to the others quickly, but I could only doze, to wake up
from time to time. Of this I was not sorry, since whenever I
dropped off dreams seemed to pursue me. For the most part they
were of my dead wife. She appeared to be trying to console me for
some loss, but the strange thing was that sometimes she spoke
with her own voice and sometimes with Yva's, and sometimes looked
at me with her own eyes and sometimes with those of Yva. I
remember nothing else about these dreams, which were very

After one of them, the most vivid of all, I awoke and looked at
my watch. It was half-past eleven, almost time for me to be
starting. The other two seemed to be fast asleep. Presently I
rose and crept down the court without waking them. Outside the
portico, which by the way was a curious example of the survival
of custom in architecture, since none was needed in that
weatherless place, I turned to the right and followed the wide
street to the temple enclosure. Through the pillared courts I
went, my footsteps, although I walked as softly as I could,
echoing loudly in that intense silence, through the great doors
into the utter solitude of the vast and perfect fane.

Words can not tell the loneliness of that place. It flowed over
me like a sea and seemed to swallow up my being, so that even the
wildest and most dangerous beast would have been welcome as a
companion. I was as terrified as a child that wakes to find
itself deserted in the dark. Also an uncanny sense of terrors to
come oppressed me, till I could have cried aloud if only to hear
the sound of a mortal voice. Yonder was the grim statue of Fate,
the Oracle of the Kings of the Sons of Wisdom, which was believed
to bow its stony head in answer to their prayers. I ran to it,
eager for its terrible shelter, for on either side of it were
figures of human beings. Even their cold marble was company of a
sort, though alas! over all frowned Fate.

Let anyone imagine himself standing alone beneath the dome of
St. Paul's; in the centre of that cathedral brilliant with
mysterious light, and stretched all about it a London that had
been dead and absolutely unpeopled for tens of thousands of
years. If he can do this he will gather some idea of my physical
state. Let him add to his mind-picture a knowledge that on the
following day something was to happen not unlike the end of the
world, as prognosticated by the Book of Revelation and by most
astronomers, and he will have some idea of my mental
perturbations. Add to the mixture a most mystic yet very real
love affair and an assignation before that symbol of the cold
fate which seems to sway the universes down to the tiniest detail
of individual lives, and he may begin to understand what I,
Humphrey Arbuthnot, experienced during my vigil in this sanctuary
of a vanished race.

It seemed long before Yva came, but at last she did come. I
caught sight of her far away beyond the temple gate, flitting
through the unholy brightness of the pillared courts like a white
moth at night and seeming quite as small. She approached; now she
was as a ghost, and then drawing near, changed into a living,
breathing, lovely woman. I opened my arms, and with something
like a sob she sank into them and we kissed as mortals do.

"I could not come more quickly," she said. "The Lord Oro needed
me, and those calculations were long and difficult. Also twice he
must visit the place whither we shall go tomorrow, and that took

"Then it is close at hand?" I said.

"Humphrey, be not foolish. Do you not remember, who have
travelled with him, that Oro can throw his soul afar and bring it
back again laden with knowledge, as the feet of a bee are laden
with golden dust? Well, he went and went again, and I must wait.
And then the robes and shields; they must be prepared by his arts
and mine. Oh! ask not what they are, there is no time to tell,
and it matters nothing. Some folk are wise and some are foolish,
but all which matters is that within them flows the blood of life
and that life breeds love, and that love, as I believe, although
Oro does not, breeds immortality. And if so, what is Time but as
a grain of sand upon the shore?"

"This, Yva; it is ours, who can count on nothing else."

"Oh! Humphrey, if I thought that, no more wretched creature
would breathe tonight upon this great world."

"What do you mean?" I asked, growing fearful, more at her
manner and her look than at her words.

"Nothing, nothing, except that Time is so very short. A kiss, a
touch, a little light and a little darkness, and it is gone. Ask
my father Oro who has lived a thousand years and slept for tens
of thousands, as I have, and he will say the same. It is against
Time that he fights; he who, believing in nothing beyond, will
inherit nothing, as Bastin says; he to whom Time has brought
nothing save a passing, blood-stained greatness, and triumph
ending in darkness and disaster, and hope that will surely suffer
hope's eclipse, and power that must lay down its coronet in

"And what has it brought to you, Yva, beyond a fair body and a
soul of strength?"

"It has brought a spirit, Humphrey. Between them the body and
the soul have bred a spirit, and in the fires of tribulation from
that spirit has been distilled the essence of eternal love. That
is Time's gift to me, and therefore, although still he rules me
here, I mock at Fate," and she waved her hand with a gesture of
defiance at the stern-faced, sexless effigy which sat above us,
the sword across its knees.

"Look! Look!" she went on in a swelling voice of music,
pointing to the statues of the dotard and the beauteous woman.
"They implore Fate, they worship Fate. I do not implore, I do not
worship or ask a sign as even Oro does and as did his
forefathers. I rise above and triumph. As Fate, the god of my
people, sets his foot upon the sun, so I set my foot upon Fate,
and thence, like a swimmer from a rock, leap into the waters of

I looked at her whose presence, as happened from time to time,
had grown majestic beyond that of woman; I studied her deep eyes
which were full of lights, not of this world, and I grew afraid.

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Yva, you talk like one who has
finished with life."

"It passes," she answered quickly. "Life passes like breath
fading from a mirror. So should all talk who breathe beneath the

"Yes, Yva, but if you went and left me still breathing on that
mocking glass--"

"If so, what of it? Will not your breath fade also and join
mine where all vapours go? Or if it were yours that faded and
mine that remained for some few hours, is it not the same? I
think, Humphrey, that already you have seen a beloved breath melt
from the glass of life," she added, looking at me earnestly.

I bowed my head and answered:

"Yes, and therefore I am ashamed."

"Oh! why should you be ashamed, Humphrey, who are not sure but
that two breaths may yet be one breath? How do you know that
there is a difference between them?"

"You drive me mad, Yva. I cannot understand."

"Nor can I altogether, Humphrey. Why should I, seeing that I am
no more than woman, as you are no more than man? I would always
have you remember, Humphrey, that I am no spirit or sorceress,
but just a woman--like her you lost."

I looked at her doubtfully and answered:

"Women do not sleep for two hundred thousand years. Women do
not take dream journeys to the stars. Women do not make the dead
past live again before the watcher's eyes. Their hair does not
glimmer in the dusk nor do their bodies gleam, nor have they such
strength of soul or eyes so wonderful, or loveliness so great."

These words appeared to distress her who, as it seemed to me,
was above all things anxious to prove herself woman and no more.

"All these qualities are nothing, Humphrey," she cried. "As for
the beauty, such as it is, it comes to me with my blood, and with
it the glitter of my hair which is the heritage of those who for
generations have drunk of the Life-water. My mother was lovelier
than I, as was her mother, or so I have heard, since only the
fairest were the wives of the Kings of the Children of Wisdom.
For the rest, such arts as I have spring not from magic, but from
knowledge which your people will acquire in days to come, that
is, if Oro spares them. Surely you above all should know that I
am only woman," she added very slowly and searching my face with
her eyes.

"Why, Yva? During the little while that we have been together I
have seen much which makes me doubt. Even Bickley the sceptic
doubts also."

"I will tell you, though I am not sure that you will believe
me." She glanced about her as though she were frightened lest
someone should overhear her words or read her thoughts. Then she
stretched out her hands and drawing my head towards her, put her
lips to my ear and whispered:

"Because once you saw me die, as women often die--giving life
for life."

"I saw you die?" I gasped.

She nodded, then continued to whisper in my ear, not in her own
voice, but another's:

"Go where you seem called to go, far away. Oh! the wonderful
place in which you will find me, not knowing that you have found
me. Good-bye for a little while; only for a little while, my own,
my own!"

I knew the voice as I knew the words, and knowing, I think that
I should have fallen to the ground, had she not supported me with
her strong arms.

"Who told you?" I stammered. "Was it Bickley or Bastin? They
knew, though neither of them heard those holy words."

"Not Bickley nor Bastin," she answered, shaking her head, "no,
nor you yourself, awake or sleeping, though once, by the lake
yonder, you said to me that when a certain one lay dying, she
bade you seek her elsewhere, for certainly you would find her.
Humphrey, I cannot say who told me those words because I do not
know. I think they are a memory, Humphrey!"

"That would mean that you, Yva, are the same as one who was--
not called Yva."

"The same as one who was called Natalie, Humphrey," she replied
in solemn accents. "One whom you loved and whom you lost."

"Then you think that we live again upon this earth?"

"Again and yet again, until the time comes for us to leave the
earth for ever. Of this, indeed, I am sure, for that knowledge
was part of the secret wisdom of my people."

"But you were not dead. You only slept."

"The sleep was a death-sleep which went by like a flash, yes,
in an instant, or so it seemed. Only the shell of the body
remained preserved by mortal arts, and when the returning spirit
and the light of life were poured into it again, it awoke. But
during this long death-sleep, that spirit may have spoken through
other lips and that light may have shone through other eyes,
though of these I remember nothing."

"Then that dream of our visit to a certain star may be no

"I think no dream, and you, too, have thought as much."

"In a way, yes, Yva. But I could not believe and turned from
what I held to be a phantasy."

"It was natural, Humphrey, that you should not believe.
Hearken! In this temple a while ago I showed you a picture of
myself and of a man who loved me and whom I loved, and of his
death at Oro's hands. Did you note anything about that man?"

"Bickley did," I answered. "Was he right?"

"I think that he was right, since otherwise I should not have
loved you, Humphrey."

"I remember nothing of that man, Yva."

"It is probable that you would not, since you and he are very
far apart, while between you and him flow wide seas of death,
wherein are set islands of life; perhaps many of them. But I
remember much who seem to have left him but a very little while

"When you awoke in your coffin and threw your arms about me,
what did you think, Yva?"

"I thought you were that man, Humphrey."

There was silence between us and in that silence the truth came
home to me. Then there before the effigy of Fate and in the
desolate, glowing temple we plighted anew our troth made holy by
a past. that thus so wonderfully lived again.

Of this consecrated hour I say no more. Let each picture it as
he will. A glory as of heaven fell upon us and in it we dwelt a

"Beloved," she whispered at length in a voice that was choked
as though with tears, "if it chances that we should be separated
again for a little while, you will not grieve over much?"

"Knowing all I should try not to grieve, Yva, seeing that in
truth we never can be parted. But do you mean that I shall die?"

"Being mortal either of us might seem to die, Humphrey," and
she bent her head as though to hide her face. "You know we go
into dangers this day."

"Does Oro really purpose to destroy much of the world and has
he in truth the power, Yva?"

"He does so purpose and most certainly he has the power,
unless--unless some other Power should stay his hand."

"What other power, Yva?"

"Oh! perhaps that which you worship, that which is called Love.
The love of man may avert the massacre of men. I hope so with all
my heart. Hist! Oro comes. I feel, I know that he comes, though
not in search of us who are very far from his thought tonight.
Follow me. Swiftly."

She sped across the temple to where a chapel opened out of it,
which was full of the statues of dead kings, for here was the
entrance to their burial vault. We reached it and hid behind the
base of one of these statues. By standing to our full height,
without being seen we still could see between the feet of the
statue that stood upon a pedestal.

Then Oro came.

Chapter XXIV

The Chariot of the Pit

Oro came and of necessity alone. Yet there was that in his air
as he advanced into the temple, which suggested a monarch
surrounded by the pomp and panoply of a great court. He marched,
his head held high, as though heralds and pursuivants went in
front of him, as though nobles surrounded him and guards or
regiments followed after him. Let it be admitted that he was a
great figure in his gorgeous robes, with his long white beard,
his hawk-like features, his tall shape and his glittering eyes,
which even at that distance I could see. Indeed once or twice I

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