"Alas, monsieur, in spite of our fine courtesies, the conception of justice by one race must always seem outlandish to another!" It was on the terrace of Sir Henry Marquis' villa at Cannes. The members of the little party were in conversat... Read more of The Man In The Green Hat at Mystery Stories.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Tommy







From: When The World Shook

I lay still a while, on my back as I had fallen, and beneath the
shield-like defence which Yva had given to me. Notwithstanding the
fire-resisting, metalised stuff of which it was made, I noted that
it was twisted and almost burnt through. Doubtless the stored-up
electricity or earth magnetism, or whatever it may have been that had
leapt out of that hole, being diffused by the resistance with which it
was met, had grazed me with its outer edge, and had it not been for the
shield and cloak, I also should have been burned up. I wished, oh! how
I wished that it had been so. Then, by now all must have finished and
I should have known the truth as to what awaits us beyond the change:
sleep, or dreams, or perchance the fullest life. Also I should not have
learned alone.

Lying there thus, idly, as though in a half-sleep, I felt Tommy licking
my face, and throwing my arm about the poor little frightened beast, I
watched the great world-balance as it retreated on its eternal journey.
At one time its vast projecting rim had overshadowed us and almost
seemed to touch the cliff of rock against which we leant. I remember
that the effect of that shining arch a thousand feet or so above our
heads was wonderful. It reminded me of a canopy of blackest thunder
clouds supported upon a framework of wheeling rainbows, while beneath
it all the children of the devil shouted together in joy. I noted this
effect only a few seconds before Yva spoke to me and leapt into the path
of the flash.

Now, however, it was far away, a mere flaming wheel that became
gradually smaller, and its Satanic voices were growing faint. As I have
said, I watched its disappearance idly, reflecting that I should never
look upon its like again; also that it was something well worth going
forth to see. Then I became aware that the humming, howling din had
decreased sufficiently to enable me to hear human voices without effort.
Bastin was addressing Bickley--like myself they were both upon the
ground.

"Her translation, as you may have noticed, Bickley, if you were not too
frightened, was really very remarkable. No doubt it will have reminded
you, as it did me, of that of Elijah. She had exactly the appearance of
a person going up to Heaven in a vehicle of fire. The destination was
certainly the same, and even the cloak she wore added a familiar touch
and increased the similarity."

"At any rate it did not fall upon you," answered Bickley with something
like a sob, in a voice of mingled awe and exasperation. "For goodness'
sake! Bastin, stop your Biblical parallels and let us adore, yes, let us
adore the divinest creature that the earth has borne!"

Never have I loved Bickley more than when I heard him utter those words.

"'Divinest' is a large term, Bickley, and one to which I hesitate to
subscribe, remembering as I do certain of the prophets and the Early
Fathers with all their faults, not of course to mention the Apostles.
But--" here he paused, for suddenly all three of us became aware of Oro.

He also has been thrown to the ground by the strength of the prisoned
forces which he gathered and loosed upon their unholy errand, but, as
I rejoiced to observe, had suffered from them much more than ourselves.
Doubtless this was owing to the fact that he had sprung forward in
a last wild effort to save his daughter, or to prevent her from
interfering with his experiment, I know not which. As a result his right
cheek was much scorched, his right arm was withered and helpless, and
his magnificent beard was half burnt off him. Further, very evidently he
was suffering from severe shock, for he rocked upon his feet and shook
like an aspen leaf. All this, however, did not interfere with the
liveliness of his grief and rage.

There he stood, a towering shape, like a lightning-smitten statue, and
cursed us, especially Bastin.

"My daughter has gone!" he cried, "burned up by the fiery power that is
my servant. Nothing remains of her but dust, and, Priest, this is your
doing. You poisoned her heart with your childish doctrines of mercy and
sacrifice, and the rest, so that she threw herself into the path of the
flash to save some miserable races that she had never even known."

He paused exhausted, whereon Bastin answered him with spirit:

"Yes, Oro, she being a holy woman, has gone where you will never follow
her. Also it is your own fault since you should have listened to her
entreaties instead of boxing her ears like the brute you are."

"My daughter is gone," went on Oro, recovering his strength, "and my
great designs are ruined. Yet only for a while," he added, "for the
world-balance will return again, if not till long after your life-spans
are done."

"If you don't doctor yourself, Lord Oro," said Bickley, also rising,
"I may tell you as one who understands such things, that most likely it
will be after your life-span is done also. Although their effect may be
delayed, severe shocks from burns and over-excitement are apt to prove
fatal to the aged."

Oro snarled at him; no other word describes it.

"And there are other things, Physician," he said, "which are apt to
prove fatal to the young. At least now you will no longer deny my
power."

"I am not so sure," answered Bickley, "since it seems that there is a
greater Power, namely that of a woman's love and sacrifice."

"And a greater still," interrupted Bastin, "Which put those ideas into
her head."

"As for you, Humphrey," went on Oro, "I rejoice to think that you at
least have lost two things that man desires above all other things--the
woman you sought and the future kingship of the world."

I stood up and faced him.

"The first I have gained, although how, you do not understand, Oro,"
I answered. "And of the second, seeing that it would have come through
you, on your conditions, I am indeed glad to be rid. I wish no power
that springs from murder, and no gifts from one who answered his
daughter's prayer with blows."

For a moment he seemed remorseful.

"She vexed me with her foolishness," he said. Then his rage blazed up
again:

"And it was you who taught it to her," he went on. "You are guilty, all
three of you, and therefore I am left with none to serve me in my age;
therefore also my mighty schemes are overthrown."

"Also, Oro, if you speak truth, therefore half the world is saved," I
added quietly, "and one has left it of whom it was unworthy."

"You think that these civilisations of yours, as you are pleased to call
them, are saved, do you?" he sneered. "Yet, even if Bickley were right
and I should die and become powerless, I tell you that they are already
damned. I have studied them in your books and seen them with my eyes,
and I say that they are rotten before ever they are ripe, and that their
end shall be the end of the Sons of Wisdom, to die for lack of increase.
That is why I would have saved the East, because in it alone there is
increase, and thence alone can rise the great last race of man which I
would have given to your children for an heritage. Moreover, think not
that you Westerners have done with wars. I tell you that they are but
begun and that the sword shall eat you up, and what the sword spares
class shall snatch from class in the struggle for supremacy and ease."

Thus he spoke with extraordinary and concentrated bitterness that I
confess would have frightened me, had I been capable of fear, which at
the moment I was not. Who is afraid when he has lost all?

Nor was Bastin alarmed, if for other reasons.

"I think it right to tell you, Oro," he said, "that the only future you
need trouble about is your own. God Almighty will look after the western
civilisations in whatever way He may think best, as you may remember He
did just now. Only I am sure you won't be here to see how it is done."

Again fury blazed in Oro's eyes.

"At least I will look after you, you half-bred dogs, who yap out
ill-omened prophecies of death into my face. Since the three of you
loved my daughter whom you brought to her doom, and were by her beloved,
if differently, I think it best that you should follow on her road.
How? That is the question? Shall I leave you to starve in these great
caves?--Nay, look not towards the road of escape which doubtless she
pointed out to you, for, as Humphrey knows, I can travel swiftly and I
will make sure that you find it blocked. Or shall I--" and he glanced
upwards at the great globes of wandering fire, as though he purposed to
summon them to be our death, as doubtless he could have done.

"I do not care what you do," I answered wearily. "Only I would beg you
to strike quickly. Yet for my friends I am sorry, since it was I who led
them on this quest, and for you, too, Tommy," I added, looking at the
poor little hound. "You were foolish, Tommy," I went on, "when you
scented out that old tyrant in his coffin, at least for our own sake."

Indeed the dog was terribly scared. He whined continually and from time
to time ran a little way and then returned to us, suggesting that we
should go from this horror-haunted spot. Lastly, as though he understood
that it was Oro who kept us there, he went to him and jumping up, licked
his hand in a beseeching fashion.

The super-man looked at the dog and as he looked the rage went out of
his face and was replaced by something resembling pity.

"I do not wish the beast to die," he muttered to himself in low
reflective tones, as though he thought aloud, "for of them all it alone
liked and did not fear me. I might take it with me but still it would
perish of grief in the loneliness of the caves. Moreover, she loved it
whom I shall see no more; yes, Yva--" as he spoke the name his voice
broke a little. "Yet if I suffer them to escape they will tell my story
to the world and make me a laughingstock. Well, if they do, what does it
matter? None of those Western fools would believe it; thinking that they
knew all; like Bickley they would mock and say that they were mad, or
liars."

Again Tommy licked his hand, but more confidently, as though instinct
told him something of what was passing in Oro's mind. I watched with
an idle wonder, marvelling whether it were possible that this merciless
being would after all spare us for the sake of the dog.

So, strange to say, it came about, for suddenly Oro looked up and said:

"Get you gone, and quickly, before my mood changes. The hound has saved
you. For its sake I give you your lives, who otherwise should certainly
have died. She who has gone pointed out to you, I doubt not, a road that
runs to the upper air. I think that it is still open. Indeed," he added,
closing his eyes for a moment, "I see that it is still open, if long
and difficult. Follow it, and should you win through, take your boat and
sail away as swiftly as you can. Whether you die or live I care nothing,
but my hands will be clean of your blood, although yours are stained
with Yva's. Begone! and my curse go with you."

Without waiting for further words we went to fetch our lanterns,
water-bottles and bag of food which we had laid down at a little
distance. As we approached them I looked up and saw Oro standing some
way off. The light from one of the blue globes of fire which passed
close above his head, shone upon him and made him ghastly. Moreover, it
seemed to me as though approaching death had written its name upon his
malevolent countenance.

I turned my head away, for about his aspect in those sinister
surroundings there was something horrible, something menacing and
repellent to man and of him I wished to see no more. Nor indeed did I,
for when I glanced in that direction again Oro was gone. I suppose that
he had retreated into the shadows where no light played.


We gathered up our gear, and while the others were relighting the
lanterns, I walked a few paces forward to the spot where Yva had been
dissolved in the devouring fire. Something caught my eye upon the rocky
floor. I picked it up. It was the ring, or rather the remains of the
ring that I had given her on that night when we declared our love amidst
the ruins by the crater lake. She had never worn it on her hand but for
her own reasons, as she told me, suspended it upon her breast beneath
her robe. It was an ancient ring that I had bought in Egypt, fashioned
of gold in which was set a very hard basalt or other black stone. On
this was engraved the ank or looped cross, which was the Egyptian symbol
of Life, and round it a snake, the symbol of Eternity. The gold was for
the most part melted, but the stone, being so hard and protected by the
shield and asbestos cloak, for such I suppose it was, had resisted the
fury of the flash. Only now it was white instead of black, like a burnt
onyx that had known the funeral pyre. Indeed, perhaps it was an onyx. I
kissed it and hid it away, for it seemed to me to convey a greeting and
with it a promise.

Then we started, a very sad and dejected trio. Leaving with a shudder
that vast place where the blue lights played eternally, we came to the
shaft up and down which the travelling stone pursued its endless path,
and saw it arrive and depart again.

"I wonder he did not send us that way," said Bickley, pointing to it.

"I am sure I am very glad it never occurred to him," answered Bastin,
"for I am certain that we could not have made the journey again without
our guide, Yva."

I looked at him and he ceased. Somehow I could not bear, as yet, to hear
her beloved name spoken by other lips.

Then we entered the passage that she pointed out to us, and began a most
terrible journey which, so far as we could judge, for we lost any exact
count of time, took us about sixty hours. The road, it is true, was
smooth and unblocked, but the ascent was fearfully steep and slippery;
so much so that often we were obliged to pull each other up it and lie
down to rest.

Had it not been for those large, felt-covered bottles of Life-water,
I am sure we should never have won through. But this marvelous elixir,
drunk a little at a time, always re-invigorated us and gave us strength
to push on. Also we had some food, and fortunately our spare oil held
out, for the darkness in that tunnel was complete. Tommy became so
exhausted that at length we must carry him by turns. He would have died
had it not been for the water; indeed I thought that he was going to
die.

After our last rest and a short sleep, however, he seemed to begin to
recover, and generally there was something in his manner which suggested
to us that he knew himself to be not far from the surface of the earth
towards which we had crawled upwards for thousands upon thousands of
feet, fortunately without meeting with any zone of heat which was not
bearable.

We were right, for when we had staggered forward a little further,
suddenly Tommy ran ahead of us and vanished. Then we heard him barking
but where we could not see, since the tunnel appeared to take a turn
and continue, but this time on a downward course, while the sound of the
barks came from our right. We searched with the lanterns which were
now beginning to die and found a little hole almost filled with fallen
pieces of rock. We scooped these away with our hands, making an aperture
large enough to creep through. A few more yards and we saw light, the
blessed light of the moon, and in it stood Tommy barking hoarsely. Next
we heard the sound of the sea. We struggled on desperately and presently
pushed our way through bushes and vegetation on to a steep declivity.
Down this we rolled and scrambled, to find ourselves at last lying upon
a sandy beach, whilst above us the full moon shone in the heavens.

Here, with a prayer of thankfulness, we flung ourselves down and slept.

If it had not been for Tommy and we had gone further along the tunnel,
which I have little doubt stretched on beneath the sea, where, I wonder,
should we have slept that night?

When we woke the sun was shining high in the heavens. Evidently there
had been rain towards the dawn, though as we were lying beneath the
shelter of some broad-leaved tree, from it we had suffered little
inconvenience. Oh! how beautiful, after our sojourn in those unholy
caves, were the sun and the sea and the sweet air and the raindrops
hanging on the leaves.

We did not wake of ourselves; indeed if we had been left alone I am
sure that we should have slept the clock round, for we were terribly
exhausted. What woke us was the chatter of a crowd of Orofenans who were
gathered at a distance from the tree and engaged in staring at us in a
frightened way, also the barks of Tommy who objected to their intrusion.
Among the people I recognised our old friend the chief Marama by his
feather cloak, and sitting up, beckoned to him to approach. After a good
deal of hesitation he came, walking delicately like Agag, and stopping
from time to time to study us, as though he were not sure that we were
real.

"What frightens you, Marama?" I asked him.

"You frighten us, O Friend-from-the-Sea. Whence did you and the Healer
and the Bellower come and why do your faces look like those of ghosts
and why is the little black beast so large-eyed and so thin? Over
the lake we know you did not come, for we have watched day and night;
moreover there is no canoe upon the shore. Also it would not have been
possible."

"Why not?" I asked idly.

"Come and see," he answered.

Rising stiffly we emerged from beneath the tree and perceived that we
were at the foot of the cliff against which the remains of the yacht had
been borne by the great tempest. Indeed there it was within a couple of
hundred yards of us.

Following Marama we climbed the sloping path which ran up the cliff
and ascended a knoll whence we could see the lake and the cone of the
volcano in its centre. At least we used to be able to see this cone, but
now, at any rate with the naked eye, we could make out nothing, except a
small brown spot in the midst of the waters of the lake.

"The mountain which rose up many feet in that storm which brought you to
Orofena, Friend-from-the-Sea, has now sunk till only the very top of it
is to be seen," said Marama solemnly. "Even the Rock of Offerings has
vanished beneath the water, and with it the house that we built for
you."

"Yes," I said, affecting no surprise. "But when did that happen?"

"Five nights ago the world shook, Friend-from-the-Sea, and when the sun
rose we saw that the mouth of the cave which appeared on the day of your
coming, had vanished, and that the holy mountain itself had sunk deep,
so that now only the crest of it is left above the water."

"Such things happen," I replied carelessly.

"Yes, Friend-from-the-Sea. Like many other marvels they happen where you
and your companions are. Therefore we beg you who can arise out of the
earth like spirits, to leave us at once before our island and all of us
who dwell thereon are drowned beneath the ocean. Leave us before we kill
you, if indeed you be men, or die at your hands if, as we think, you be
evil spirits who can throw up mountains and drag them down, and create
gods that slay, and move about in the bowels of the world."

"That is our intention, for our business here is done," I answered
calmly. "Come now and help us to depart. But first bring us food. Bring
it in plenty, for we must victual our boat."

Marama bowed and issued the necessary orders. Indeed food sufficient for
our immediate needs was already there as an offering, and of it we ate
with thankfulness.

Then we boarded the ship and examined the lifeboat. Thanks to our
precautions it was still in very fair order and only needed some little
caulking which we did with grass fibre and pitch from the stores. After
this with the help of the Orofenans who worked hard in their desperate
desire to be rid of us, we drew the boat into the sea, and provisioned
her with stores from the ship, and with an ample supply of water.
Everything being ready at last, we waited for the evening wind which
always blew off shore, to start. As it was not due for half an hour or
more, I walked back to the tree under which we had slept and tried to
find the hole whence we had emerged from the tunnel on to the face of
the cliff.

My hurried search proved useless. The declivity of the cliff was covered
with tropical growth, and the heavy rain had washed away every trace of
our descent, and very likely filled the hole itself with earth. At any
rate, of it I could discover nothing. Then as the breeze began to blow
I returned to the boat and here bade adieu to Marama, who gave me his
feather cloak as a farewell gift.

"Good-bye, Friend-from-the-Sea," he said to me. "We are glad to have
seen you and thank you for many things. But we do not wish to see you
any more."

"Good-bye, Marama," I answered. "What you say, we echo. At least you
have now no great lump upon your neck and we have rid you of your
wizards. But beware of the god Oro who dwells in the mountain, for if
you anger him he will sink your island beneath the sea."

"And remember all that I have taught you," shouted Bastin.

Marama shivered, though whether at the mention of the god Oro, of whose
powers the Orofenans had so painful a recollection, or at the result of
Bastin's teachings, I do not know. And that was the last we shall ever
see of each other in this world.

The island faded behind us and, sore at heart because of all that we had
found and lost again, for three days we sailed northward with a fair
and steady wind. On the fourth evening by an extraordinary stroke of
fortune, we fell in with an American tramp steamer, trading from the
South Sea Islands to San Francisco. To the captain, who treated us very
kindly, we said simply that we were a party of Englishmen whose yacht
had been wrecked on a small island several hundreds of miles away, of
which we knew neither the name, if it had one, nor the position.

This story was accepted without question, for such things often happen
in those latitudes, and in due course we were landed at San Francisco,
where we made certain depositions before the British Consul as to the
loss of the yacht Star of the South. Then we crossed America, having
obtained funds by cable, and sailed for England in a steamer flying the
flag of the United States.

Of the great war which made this desirable I do not speak since it
has nothing, or rather little, to do with this history. In the end
we arrived safely at Liverpool, and thence travelled to our homes in
Devonshire.


Thus ended the history of our dealings with Oro, the super-man who began
his life more than two hundred and fifty thousand years ago, and with
his daughter, Yva, whom Bastin still often calls the Glittering Lady.





Next: Bastin Discovers A Resemblance

Previous: Sacrifice



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