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Oro Speaks And Bastin Argues







From: When The World Shook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where is England?" asked Yva.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To see new countries," I said.

"Because the cyclone brought us," said Bickley.

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

It was on this last reply that she fixed.

"What does your religion teach?" she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here Bickley snorted and exclaimed:

"Nine hundred moons, he means."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She answered my question by another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Even cause the Deluge," jeered Bickley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Next: The Under-world

Previous: Two Hundred And Fifty Thousand Years!



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