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Bastin Discovers A Resemblance







From: When The World Shook

There is little more to tell.

Shortly after our return Bickley, like a patriotic Englishman,
volunteered for service at the front and departed in the uniform of the
R.A.M.C. Before he left he took the opportunity of explaining to Bastin
how much better it was in such a national emergency as existed, to
belong to a profession in which a man could do something to help the
bodies of his countrymen that had been broken in the common cause, than
to one like his in which it was only possible to pelt them with vain
words.

"You think that, do you, Bickley?" answered Bastin. "Well, I hold that
it is better to heal souls than bodies, because, as even you will have
learned out there in Orofena, they last so much longer."

"I am not certain that I learned anything of the sort," said Bickley,
"or even that Oro was more than an ordinary old man. He said that he
had lived a thousand years, but what was there to prove this except his
word, which is worth nothing?"

"There was the Lady Yva's word also, which is worth a great deal,
Bickley."

"Yes, but she may have meant a thousand moons. Further, as according
to her own showing she was still quite young, how could she know her
father's age?"

"Quite so, Bickley. But all she actually said was that she was of the
same age as one of our women of twenty-seven, which may have meant two
hundred and seventy for all I know. However, putting that aside you
will admit that they had both slept for two hundred and fifty thousand
years."

"I admit that they slept, Bastin, because I helped to awaken them, but
for how long there is nothing to show, except those star maps which are
probably quite inaccurate."

"They are not inaccurate," I broke in, "for I have had them checked by
leading astronomers who say that they show a marvelous knowledge of the
heavens as these were two hundred and fifty thousand years ago, and are
today."

Here I should state that those two metal maps and the ring which I gave
to Yva and found again after the catastrophe, were absolutely the only
things connected with her or with Oro that we brought away with us.
The former I would never part with, feeling their value as evidence.
Therefore, when we descended to the city Nyo and the depths beneath,
I took them with me wrapped in cloth in my pocket. Thus they were
preserved. Everything else went when the Rock of Offerings and the cave
mouth sank beneath the waters of the lake.

This may have happened either in the earth tremor, which no doubt
was caused by the advance of the terrific world-balance, or when the
electric power, though diffused and turned by Yva's insulated body,
struck the great gyroscope's travelling foot with sufficient strength,
not to shift it indeed on to the right-hand path as Oro had designed,
but still to cause it to stagger and even perhaps to halt for the
fraction of a second. Even this pause may have been enough to cause
convulsions of the earth above; indeed, I gathered from Marama and other
Orofenans that such convulsions had occurred on and around the island
at what must have corresponded with that moment of the loosing of the
force.

This loss of our belongings in the house of the Rock of Offerings was
the more grievous because among them were some Kodak photographs which
I had taken, including portraits of Oro and one of Yva that was really
excellent, to say nothing of pictures of the mouth of the cave and of
the ruins and crater lake above. How bitterly I regret that I did not
keep these photographs in my pocket with the map-plates.

"Even if the star-maps are correct, still it proves nothing," said
Bickley, "since possibly Oro's astronomical skill might have enabled
him to draw that of the sky at any period, though I allow this is
impossible."

"I doubt his taking so much trouble merely to deceive three wanderers
who lacked the knowledge even to check them," I said. "But all this
misses the point, Bickley. However long they had slept, that man and
woman did arise from seeming death. They did dwell in those marvelous
caves with their evidences of departed civilisations, and they did show
us that fearful, world-wandering gyroscope. These things we saw."

"I admit that we saw them, Arbuthnot, and I admit that they are one and
all beyond human comprehension. To that extent I am converted, and, I
may add, humbled," said Bickley.

"So you ought to be," exclaimed Bastin, "seeing that you always swore
that there was nothing in the world that is not capable of a perfectly
natural explanation."

"Of which all these things may be capable, Bastin, if only we held the
key."

"Very well, Bickley, but how do you explain what the Lady Yva did? I may
tell you now what she commanded me to conceal at the time, namely, that
she became a Christian; so much so that by her own will, I baptised and
confirmed her on the very morning of her sacrifice. Doubtless it was
this that changed her heart so much that she became willing, of course
without my knowledge, to leave everything she cared for," here he looked
hard at me, "and lay down her life to save the world, half of which she
believed was about to be drowned by Oro. Now, considering her history
and upbringing, I call this a spiritual marvel, much greater than any
you now admit, and one you can't explain, Bickley."

"No, I cannot explain, or, at any rate, I will not try," he answered,
also staring hard at me. "Whatever she believed, or did not believe, and
whatever would or would not have happened, she was a great and wonderful
woman whose memory I worship."

"Quite so, Bickley, and now perhaps you see my point, that what you
describe as mere vain words may also be helpful to mankind; more so,
indeed, than your surgical instruments and pills."

"You couldn't convert Oro, anyway," exclaimed Bickley, with irritation.

"No, Bickley; but then I have always understood that the devil is beyond
conversion because he is beyond repentance. You see, I think that if
that old scoundrel was not the devil himself, at any rate he was a
bit of him, and, if I am right, I am not ashamed to have failed in his
case."

"Even Oro was not utterly bad, Bastin," I said, reflecting on certain
traits of mercy that he had shown, or that I dreamed him to have shown
in the course of our mysterious midnight journeys to various parts of
the earth. Also I remembered that he had loved Tommy and for his sake
had spared our lives. Lastly, I do not altogether wonder that he came to
certain hasty conclusions as to the value of our modern civilisations.

"I am very glad to hear it, Humphrey, since while there is a spark left
the whole fire may burn up again, and I believe that to the Divine mercy
there are no limits, though Oro will have a long road to travel before
he finds it. And now I have something to say. It has troubled me very
much that I was obliged to leave those Orofenans wandering in a kind of
religious twilight."

"You couldn't help that," said Bickley, "seeing that if you had stopped,
by now you would have been wandering in religious light."

"Still, I am not sure that I ought not to have stopped. I seem to have
deserted a field that was open to me. However, it can't be helped, since
it is certain that we could never find that island again, even if Oro
has not sunk it beneath the sea, as he is quite capable of doing, to
cover his tracks, so to speak. So I mean to do my best in another field
by way of atonement."

"You are not going to become a missionary?" I said.

"No, but with the consent of the Bishop, who, I think, believes that my
locum got on better in the parish than I do, as no doubt was the case,
I, too, have volunteered for the Front, and been accepted as a chaplain
of the 201st Division."

"Why, that's mine!" said Bickley.

"Is it? I am very glad, since now we shall be able to pursue our
pleasant arguments and to do our best to open each other's minds."

"You fellows are more fortunate than I am," I remarked. "I also
volunteered, but they wouldn't take me, even as a Tommy, although I
misstated my age. They told me, or at least a specialist whom I saw did
afterwards, that the blow I got on the head from that sorcerer's boy--"

"I know, I know!" broke in Bickley almost roughly. "Of course, things
might go wrong at any time. But with care you may live to old age."

"I am sorry to hear it," I said with a sigh, "at least I think I am.
Meanwhile, fortunately there is much that I can do at home; indeed a
course of action has been suggested to me by an old friend who is now in
authority."


Once more Bickley and Bastin in their war-stained uniforms were dining
at my table and on the very night of their return from the Front, which
was unexpected. Indeed Tommy nearly died of joy on hearing their voices
in the hall. They, who played a worthy part in the great struggle,
had much to tell me, and naturally their more recent experiences had
overlaid to some extent those which we shared in the mysterious island
of Orofena. Indeed we did not speak of these until, just as they were
going away, Bastin paused beneath a very beautiful portrait of my late
wife, the work of an artist famous for his power of bringing out the
inner character, or what some might call the soul, of the sitter. He
stared at it for a while in his short-sighted way, then said: "Do you
know, Arbuthnot, it has sometimes occurred to me, and never more than
at this moment, that although they were different in height and so on,
there was a really curious physical resemblance between your late wife
and the Lady Yva."

"Yes," I answered. "I think so too."

Bickley also examined the portrait very carefully, and as he did so I
saw him start. Then he turned away, saying nothing.

Such is the summary of all that has been important in my life. It is, I
admit, an odd story and one which suggests problems that I cannot solve.
Bastin deals with such things by that acceptance which is the privilege
and hall-mark of faith; Bickley disposes, or used to dispose, of them by
a blank denial which carries no conviction, and least of all to himself.

What is life to most of us who, like Bickley, think ourselves learned?
A round, short but still with time and to spare wherein to be dull and
lonesome; a fateful treadmill to which we were condemned we know not
how, but apparently through the casual passions of those who went before
us and are now forgotten, causing us, as the Bible says, to be born in
sin; up which we walk wearily we know not why, seeming never to make
progress; off which we fall outworn we know not when or whither.

Such upon the surface it appears to be, nor in fact does our ascertained
knowledge, as Bickley would sum it up, take us much further. No prophet
has yet arisen who attempted to define either the origin or the reasons
of life. Even the very Greatest of them Himself is quite silent on this
matter. We are tempted to wonder why. Is it because life as expressed in
the higher of human beings, is, or will be too vast, too multiform and
too glorious for any definition which we could understand? Is it
because in the end it will involve for some, if not for all, majesty on
unfathomed majesty, and glory upon unimaginable glory such as at present
far outpass the limits of our thought?

The experiences which I have recorded in these pages awake in my heart a
hope that this may be so. Bastin is wont, like many others, to talk in
a light fashion of Eternity without in the least comprehending what he
means by that gigantic term. It is not too much to say that Eternity,
something without beginning and without end, and involving, it
would appear, an everlasting changelessness, is a state beyond
human comprehension. As a matter of fact we mortals do not think in
constellations, so to speak, or in aeons, but by the measures of our own
small earth and of our few days thereon. We cannot really conceive of
an existence stretching over even one thousand years, such as that
which Oro claimed and the Bible accords to a certain early race of men,
omitting of course his two thousand five hundred centuries of sleep. And
yet what is this but one grain in the hourglass of time, one day in the
lost record of our earth, of its sisters the planets and its father the
sun, to say nothing of the universes beyond?

It is because I have come in touch with a prolonged though perfectly
finite existence of the sort, that I try to pass on the reflections
which the fact of it awoke in me. There are other reflections connected
with Yva and the marvel of her love and its various manifestations
which arise also. But these I keep to myself. They concern the wonder of
woman's heart, which is a microcosm of the hopes and fears and desires
and despairs of this humanity of ours whereof from age to age she is the
mother.

HUMPHREY ARBUTHNOT.




NOTE By J. R. Bickley, M.R.C.S.


Within about six months of the date on which he wrote the last words
of this history of our joint adventures, my dear friend, Humphrey
Arbuthnot, died suddenly, as I had foreseen that probably he would do,
from the results of the injury he received in the island of Orofena.

He left me the sole executor to his will, under which he divided his
property into three parts. One third he bequeathed to me, one third
(which is strictly tied up) to Bastin, and one third to be devoted,
under my direction, to the advancement of Science.

His end appears to have been instantaneous, resulting from an effusion
of blood upon the brain. When I was summoned I found him lying dead by
the writing desk in his library at Fulcombe Priory. He had been writing
at the desk, for on it was a piece of paper on which appear these words:
"I have seen her. I--" There the writing ends, not stating whom he
thought he had seen in the moments of mental disturbance or delusion
which preceded his decease.

Save for certain verbal corrections, I publish this manuscript without
comment as the will directs, only adding that it sets out our mutual
experiences very faithfully, though Arbuthnot's deductions from them are
not always my own.

I would say also that I am contemplating another visit to the South Sea
Islands, where I wish to make some further investigations. I dare
say, however, that these will be barren of results, as the fountain of
Life-water is buried for ever, nor, as I think, will any human being
stand again in the Hades-like halls of Nyo. It is probable also that it
would prove impossible to rediscover the island of Orofena, if indeed
that volcanic land still remains above the waters of the deep.

Now that he is a very wealthy man, Bastin talks of accompanying me for
purposes quite different from my own, but on the whole I hope he will
abandon this idea. I may add that when he learned of his unexpected
inheritance he talked much of the "deceitfulness of riches," but that he
has not as yet taken any steps to escape their golden snare. Indeed he
now converses of his added "opportunities of usefulness," I gather in
connection with missionary enterprise.


J. R. BICKLEY.


P.S.--I forgot to state that the spaniel Tommy died within three days of
his owner. The poor little beast was present in the room at the time
of Arbuthnot's passing away, and when found seemed to be suffering from
shock. From that moment Tommy refused food and finally was discovered
quite dead and lying by the body on Marama's feather cloak, which
Arbuthnot often used as a dressing-gown. As Bastin raised some religious
objections, I arranged without his knowledge that the dog's ashes should
rest not far from those of the master and mistress whom it loved so
well.





Next: A Scientist Rises

Previous: Tommy



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