Oro And Arbuthnot Travel By Night
From: When The World Shook
As time went on, Oro began to visit me more and more frequently, till at
last scarcely a night went by that he did not appear mysteriously in my
sleeping-place. The odd thing was that neither Bickley nor Bastin seemed
to be aware of these nocturnal calls. Indeed, when I mentioned them on
one or two occasions, they stared at me and said it was strange that he
should have come and gone as they saw nothing of him.
On my speaking again of the matter, Bickley at once turned the
conversation, from which I gathered that he believed me to be suffering
from delusions consequent on my illness, or perhaps to have taken
to dreaming. This was not wonderful since, as I learned afterwards,
Bickley, after he was sure that I was asleep, made a practice of tying
a thread across my doorway and of ascertaining at the dawn that it
remained unbroken. But Oro was not to be caught in that way. I suppose,
as it was impossible for him to pass through the latticework of the open
side of the house, that he undid the thread and fastened it again when
he left; at least, that was Bastin's explanation, or, rather, one of
them. Another was that he crawled beneath it, but this I could not
believe. I am quite certain that during all his prolonged existence Oro
At any rate, he came, or seemed to come, and pumped me--I can use no
other word--most energetically as to existing conditions in the
world, especially those of the civilised countries, their methods of
government, their social state, the physical characteristics of the
various races, their religions, the exact degrees of civilisation that
they had developed, their attainments in art, science and literature,
their martial capacities, their laws, and I know not what besides.
I told him all I could, but did not in the least seem to satisfy his
perennial thirst for information.
"I should prefer to judge for myself," he said at last. "Why are you so
anxious to learn about all these nations, Oro?" I asked, exhausted.
"Because the knowledge I gather may affect my plans for the future," he
"I am told, Oro, that your people acquired the power of transporting
themselves from place to place."
"It is true that the lords of the Sons of Wisdom had such power, and
that I have it still, O Humphrey."
"Then why do you not go to look with your own eyes?" I suggested.
"Because I should need a guide; one who could explain much in a short
time," he said, contemplating me with his burning glance until I began
to feel uncomfortable.
To change the subject I asked him whether he had any further information
about the war, which he had told me was raging in Europe.
He answered: "Not much; only that it was going on with varying success,
and would continue to do so until the nations involved therein were
exhausted," or so he believed. The war did not seem greatly to interest
Oro. It was, he remarked, but a small affair compared to those which he
had known in the old days. Then he departed, and I went to sleep.
Next night he appeared again, and, after talking a little on different
subjects, remarked quietly that he had been thinking over what I had
said as to his visiting the modern world, and intended to act upon the
"When?" I asked.
"Now," he said. "I am going to visit this England of yours and the town
you call London, and you will accompany me."
"It is not possible!" I exclaimed. "We have no ship."
"We can travel without a ship," said Oro.
I grew alarmed, and suggested that Bastin or Bickley would be a much
better companion than I should in my present weak state.
"An empty-headed man, or one who always doubts and argues, would be
useless," he replied sharply. "You shall come and you only."
I expostulated; I tried to get up and fly--which, indeed, I did do, in
But Oro fixed his eyes upon me and slowly waved his thin hand to and fro
above my head.
My senses reeled. Then came a great darkness.
They returned again. Now I was standing in an icy, reeking fog, which I
knew could belong to one place only--London, in December, and at my side
"Is this the climate of your wonderful city?" he asked, or seemed to
ask, in an aggrieved tone.
I replied that it was, for about three months in the year, and began to
look about me.
Soon I found my bearings. In front of me were great piles of buildings,
looking dim and mysterious in the fog, in which I recognised the Houses
of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, for both could be seen from where
we stood in front of the Westminster Bridge Station. I explained their
identity to Oro.
"Good," he said. "Let us enter your Place of Talk."
"But I am not a member, and we have no passes for the Strangers'
Gallery," I expostulated.
"We shall not need any," he replied contemptuously. "Lead on."
Thus adjured, I crossed the road, Oro following me. Looking round, to
my horror I saw him right in the path of a motor-bus which seemed to go
"There's an end to Oro," thought I to myself. "Well, at any rate, I have
Next instant he was at my side quite undisturbed by the incident of the
bus. We came to a policeman at the door and I hesitated, expecting to
be challenged. But the policeman seemed absolutely indifferent to our
presence, even when Oro marched past him in his flowing robes. So
I followed with a like success. Then I understood that we must be
We passed to the lobby, where members were hurrying to and fro, and
constituents and pressmen were gathered, and so on into the House. Oro
walked up its floor and took his stand by the table, in front of the
Speaker. I followed him, none saying us No.
As it chanced there was what is called a scene in progress--I think it
was over Irish matters; the details are of no account. Members shouted,
Ministers prevaricated and grew angry, the Speaker intervened. On the
whole, it was rather a degrading spectacle. I stood, or seemed to
stand, and watched it all. Oro, in his sweeping robes, which looked
so incongruous in that place, stepped, or seemed to step, up to the
principal personages of the Government and Opposition, whom I indicated
to him, and inspected them one by one, as a naturalist might examine
strange insects. Then, returning to me, he said:
"Come away; I have seen and heard enough. Who would have thought that
this nation of yours was struggling for its life in war?"
We passed out of the House and somehow came to Trafalgar Square. A
meeting was in progress there, convened, apparently, to advocate the
rights of Labour, also those of women, also to protest against things
in general, especially the threat of Conscription in the service of the
Here the noise was tremendous, and, the fog having lifted somewhat, we
could see everything. Speakers bawled from the base of Nelson's column.
Their supporters cheered, their adversaries rushed at them, and in one
or two instances succeeded in pulling them down. A woman climbed up
and began to scream out something which could only be heard by a few
reporters gathered round her. I thought her an unpleasant-looking
person, and evidently her remarks were not palatable to the majority of
her auditors. There was a rush, and she was dragged from the base of one
of Landseer's lions on which she stood. Her skirt was half rent off
her and her bodice split down the back. Finally, she was conveyed
away, kicking, biting, and scratching, by a number of police. It was a
disgusting sight, and tumult ensued.
"Let us go," said Oro. "Your officers of order are good; the rest is not
Later we found ourselves opposite to the doors of a famous restaurant
where a magnificent and gigantic commissionaire helped ladies from
motor-cars, receiving in return money from the men who attended on them.
We entered; it was the hour of dinner. The place sparkled with gems,
and the naked backs of the women gleamed in the electric light. Course
followed upon course; champagne flowed, a fine band played, everything
was costly; everything was, in a sense, repellent.
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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.
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 horses.
"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
"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 himself.
"Perhaps. So indeed I have always held, but after much study I cannot
understand the manner of its working. Fate is enough for me."
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 flashed.
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 astonishment.
"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
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 by.
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,
"Humphrey, this night we will visit that mighty American nation, of
which you have told me so much, and the other Neutral Countries."
[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
Over New Zealand, which he found beautiful, he shook his head for the
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
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
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.
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