Visions Of The Past
From: When The World Shook
She led us to the back of the statue and pointed to each of us where
we should remain. Then she took her place at right angles to us, as a
showman might do, and for a while stood immovable. Watching her face,
once more I saw it, and indeed all her body, informed with that strange
air of power, and noted that her eyes flashed and that her hair grew
even more brilliant than was common, as though some abnormal strength
were flowing through it and her. Presently she spoke, saying:
"I shall show you first our people in the day of their glory. Look in
front of you."
We looked and by degrees the vast space of the apse before us became
alive with forms. At first these were vague and shadowy, not to be
separated or distinguished. Then they became so real that until he was
reproved by a kick, Tommy growled at them and threatened to break out
into one of his peals of barking.
A wonderful scene appeared. There was a palace of white marble and in
front of it a great courtyard upon which the sun beat vividly. At the
foot of the steps of the palace, beneath a silken awning, sat a king
enthroned, a crown upon his head and wearing glorious robes. In his hand
was a jewelled sceptre. He was a noble-looking man of middle age and
about him were gathered the glittering officers of his court. Fair women
fanned him and to right and left, but a little behind, sat other fair
and jewelled women who, I suppose, were his wives or daughters.
"One of the Kings of the Children of Wisdom new-crowned, receives the
homage of the world," said Yva.
As she spoke there appeared, walking in front of the throne one by one,
other kings, for all were crowned and bore sceptres. At the foot of the
throne each of them kneeled and kissed the foot of him who sat thereon,
as he did so laying down his sceptre which at a sign he lifted again and
passed away. Of these kings there must have been quite fifty, men of all
colours and of various types, white men, black men, yellow men, red men.
Then came their ministers bearing gifts, apparently of gold and jewels,
which were piled on trays in front of the throne. I remember noting an
incident. An old fellow with a lame leg stumbled and upset his tray,
so that the contents rolled hither and thither. His attempts to recover
them were ludicrous and caused the monarch on the throne to relax from
his dignity and smile. I mention this to show that what we witnessed was
no set scene but apparently a living piece of the past. Had it been so
the absurdity of the bedizened old man tumbling down in the midst of the
gorgeous pageant would certainly have been omitted.
No, it must be life, real life, something that had happened, and the
same may be said of what followed. For instance, there was what we call
a review. Infantry marched, some of them armed with swords and spears,
though these I took to be an ornamental bodyguard, and others with tubes
like savage blowpipes of which I could not guess the use. There were no
cannon, but carriages came by loaded with bags that had spouts to
them. Probably these were charged with poisonous gases. There were some
cavalry also, mounted on a different stamp of horse from ours, thicker
set and nearer the ground, but with arched necks and fiery eyes and, I
should say, very strong. These again, I take it, were ornamental. Then
came other men upon a long machine, slung in pairs in armoured sacks,
out of which only their heads and arms projected. This machine, which
resembled an elongated bicycle, went by at a tremendous rate, though
whence its motive power came did not appear. It carried twenty pairs
of men, each of whom held in his hand some small but doubtless deadly
weapon, that in appearance resembled an orange. Other similar machines
which followed carried from forty to a hundred pairs of men.
The marvel of the piece, however, were the aircraft. These came by in
great numbers. Sometimes they flew in flocks like wild geese, sometimes
singly, sometimes in line and sometimes in ordered squadrons, with
outpost and officer ships and an exact distance kept between craft and
craft. None of them seemed to be very large or to carry more than
four or five men, but they were extraordinarily swift and as agile as
swallows. Moreover they flew as birds do by beating their wings, but
again we could not guess whence came their motive power.
The review vanished, and next appeared a scene of festivity in a huge,
illuminated hall. The Great King sat upon a dais and behind him was that
statue of Fate, or one very similar to it, beneath which we stood. Below
him in the hall were the feasters seated at long tables, clad in the
various costumes of their countries. He rose and, turning, knelt before
the statue of Fate. Indeed he prostrated himself thrice in prayer. Then
taking his seat again, he lifted a cup of wine and pledged that vast
company. They drank back to him and prostrated themselves before him as
he had done before the image of Fate. Only I noted that certain men clad
in sacerdotal garments not at all unlike those which are worn in the
Greek Church to-day, remained standing.
Now all this exhibition of terrestrial pomp faded. The next scene was
simple, that of the death-bed of this same king--we knew him by his
wizened features. There he lay, terribly old and dying. Physicians,
women, courtiers, all were there watching the end. The tableau vanished
and in place of it appeared that of the youthful successor amidst
cheering crowds, with joy breaking through the clouds of simulated grief
upon his face. It vanished also.
"Thus did great king succeed great king for ages upon ages," said Yva.
"There were eighty of them and the average of their reigns was 700
years. They ruled the earth as it was in those days. They gathered up
learning, they wielded power, their wealth was boundless. They nurtured
the arts, they discovered secrets. They had intercourse with the stars;
they were as gods. But like the gods they grew jealous. They and their
councillors became a race apart who alone had the secret of long life.
The rest of the world and the commonplace people about them suffered and
died. They of the Household of Wisdom lived on in pomp for generations
till the earth was mad with envy of them.
"Fewer and fewer grew the divine race of the Sons of Wisdom since
children are not given to the aged and to those of an ancient, outworn
blood. Then the World said:
"'They are great but they are not many; let us make an end of them by
numbers and take their place and power and drink of their Life-water,
that they will not give to us. If myriads of us perish by their arts,
what does it matter, since we are countless?' So the World made war upon
the Sons of Wisdom. See!"
Again a picture formed. The sky was full of aircraft which rained down
fire like flashes of lightning upon cities beneath. From these cities
leapt up other fires that destroyed the swift-travelling things above,
so that they fell in numbers like gnats burned by a lamp. Still more
and more of them came till the cities crumbled away and the flashes that
darted from them ceased to rush upwards. The Sons of Wisdom were driven
from the face of the earth.
Again the scene changed. Now it showed this subterranean hall in which
we stood. There was pomp here, yet it was but a shadow of that which
had been in the earlier days upon the face of the earth. Courtiers moved
about the palace and there were people in the radiant streets and the
houses, for most of them were occupied, but rarely did the vision show
children coming through their gates.
Of a sudden this scene shifted. Now we saw that same hall in which we
had visited Oro not an hour before. There he sat, yes, Oro himself,
upon the dais beneath the overhanging marble shell. Round him were some
ancient councillors. In the body of the hall on either side of the
dais were men in military array, guards without doubt though their only
weapon was a black rod not unlike a ruler, if indeed it were a weapon
and not a badge of office.
Yva, whose face had suddenly grown strange and fixed, began to detail
to us what was passing in this scene, in a curious monotone such as a
person might use who was repeating something learned by heart. This was
the substance of what she said:
"The case of the Sons of Wisdom is desperate. But few of them are left.
Like other men they need food which is hard to come by, since the foe
holds the upper earth and that which their doctors can make here in the
Shades does not satisfy them, even though they drink the Life-water.
They die and die. There comes an embassy from the High King of the
confederated Nations to talk of terms of peace. See, it enters."
As she spoke, up the hall advanced the embassy. At the head of it walked
a young man, tall, dark, handsome and commanding, whose aspect seemed in
some way to be familiar to me. He was richly clothed in a purple cloak
and wore upon his head a golden circlet that suggested royal rank.
Those who followed him were mostly old men who had the astute faces
of diplomatists, but a few seemed to be generals. Yva continued in her
"Comes the son of the King of the confederated Nations, the Prince who
will be king. He bows before the Lord Oro. He says 'Great and Ancient
Monarch of the divine blood, Heaven-born One, your strait, and that of
those who remain to you, is sore. Yet on behalf of the Nations I am sent
to offer terms of peace, but this I may only do in the presence of your
child who is your heiress and the Queen-to-be of the Sons of Wisdom.'"
Here, in the picture, Oro waved his hand and from behind the marble
shell appeared Yva herself, gloriously apparelled, wearing royal
ornaments and with her train held by waiting ladies. She bowed to the
Prince and his company and they bowed back to her. More, we saw a glance
of recognition pass between her and the Prince.
Now the real Yva by our side pointed to the shadow Yva of the vision or
the picture, whichever it might be called, a strange thing to see her
do, and went on:
"The daughter of the Lord Oro comes. The Prince of the Nations salutes
her. He says that the great war has endured for hundreds of years
between the Children of Wisdom fighting for absolute rule and the common
people of the earth fighting for liberty. In that war many millions of
the Sons of the Nations had perished, brought to their death by fearful
arts, by wizardries and by plagues sown among them by the Sons of
Wisdom. Yet they were winning, for the glorious cities of the Sons of
Wisdom were destroyed and those who remained of them were driven to
dwell in the caves of the earth where with all their strength and magic
they could not increase, but faded like flowers in the dark.
"The Lord Oro asks what are the terms of peace proposed by the Nations.
The Prince answers that they are these: That the Sons of Wisdom shall
teach all their wisdom to the wise men among the Nations. That they
shall give them to drink of the Life-water, so that their length of days
also may be increased. That they shall cease to destroy them by sickness
and their mastery of the forces which are hid in the womb of the world.
If they will do these things, then the Nations on their part will cease
from war, will rebuild the cities they have destroyed by means of their
flying ships that rain down death, and will agree that the Lord Oro and
his seed shall rule them for ever as the King of kings.
"The Lord Oro asks if that be all. The Prince answers that it is not
all. He says that when he dwelt a hostage at the court of the Sons of
Wisdom he and the divine Lady, the daughter of the Lord Oro, and his
only living child, learned to love each other. He demands, and the
Nations demand, that she shall be given to him to wife, that in a day to
come he may rule with her and their children after them.
"See!" went on Yva in her chanting, dreamy voice, "the Lord Oro asks his
daughter if this be true. She says," here the real Yva at my side turned
and looked me straight in the eyes, "that it is true; that she loves the
Prince of the Nations and that if she lives a million years she will wed
no other man, since she who is her father's slave in all else is
still the mistress of herself, as has ever been the right of her royal
"See again! The Lord Oro, the divine King, the Ancient, grows wroth. He
says that it is enough and more than enough that the Barbarians
should ask to eat of the bread of hidden learning and to drink of the
Life-water of the Sons of Wisdom, gifts that were given to them of old
by Heaven whence they sprang in the beginning. But that one of them,
however highly placed, should dare to ask to mix his blood with that of
the divine Lady, the Heiress, the Queen of the Earth to be, and claim to
share her imperial throne that had been held by her pure race from age
to age, was an insult that could only be purged by death. Sooner would
he give his daughter in marriage to an ape than to a child of the
Barbarians who had worked on them so many woes and striven to break the
golden fetters of their rule.
"Look again!" continued Yva. "The Lord Oro, the divine, grows angrier
still" (which in truth he did, for never did I see such dreadful rage
as that which the picture revealed in him). "He warns, he threatens.
He says that hitherto out of gentle love and pity he has held his
hand; that he has strength at his command which will slay them, not by
millions in slow war, but by tens of millions at one blow; that will
blot them and their peoples from the face of earth and that will cause
the deep seas to roll where now their pleasant lands are fruitful in the
sun. They shrink before his fury; behold, their knees tremble because
they know that he has this power. He mocks them, does the Lord Oro.
He asks for their submission here and now, and that in the name of
the Nations they should take the great oath which may not be broken,
swearing to cease from war upon the Sons of Wisdom and to obey them
in all things to the ends of the earth. Some of the ambassadors would
yield. They look about them like wild things that are trapped. But
madness takes the Prince. He cries that the oath of an ape is of no
account, but that he will tear up the Children of Wisdom as an ape tears
leaves, and afterwards take the divine Lady to be his wife.
"Look on the Lord Oro!" continued the living Yva, "his wrath leaves him.
He grows cold and smiles. His daughter throws herself upon her knees and
pleads with him. He thrusts her away. She would spring to the side of
the Prince; he commands his councillors to hold her. She cries to the
Prince that she loves him and him only, and that in a day to come him
she will wed and no other. He thanks her, saying that as it is with her,
so it is with him, and that because of his love he fears nothing. She
swoons. The Lord Oro motions with his hand to the guard. They lift their
death-rods. Fire leaps from them. The Prince and his companions, all
save those who were afraid and would have sworn the oath, twist and
writhe. They turn black; they die. The Lord Oro commands those who are
left to enter their flying ships and bear to the Nations of the Earth
tidings of what befalls those who dare to defy and insult him; to warn
them also to eat and drink and be merry while they may, since for their
wickedness they are about to perish."
The scene faded and there followed another which really I cannot
describe. It represented some vast underground place and what appeared
to be a huge mountain of iron clothed in light, literally a thing
like an alp, rocking and spinning down a declivity, which farther on
separated into two branches because of a huge razor-edge precipice that
rose between. There in the middle of this vast space with the dazzling
mountain whirling towards him, stood Oro encased in some transparent
armour, as though to keep off heat, and with him his daughter who under
his direction was handling something in the rock behind her. Then there
was a blinding flash and everything vanished. All of this picture
passed so swiftly that we could not grasp its details; only a general
"The Lord Oro, using the strength that is in the world whereof he alone
has the secret, changes the world's balance causing that which was land
to become sea and that which was sea to become land," said Yva in her
chanting, unnatural voice.
Another scene of stupendous and changing awfulness. Countries were
sinking, cities crashing down, volcanoes were spouting fire; the end of
the earth seemed to be at hand. We could see human beings running to and
fro in thousands like ants. Then in huge waves hundreds and hundreds of
feet high, the ocean flowed in and all was troubled, yeasty sea.
"Oro carries out his threat to destroy the Nations who had rebelled
against him," said Yva. "Much of the world sinks beneath the waves, but
in place of it other lands arise above the waves, to be inhabited by the
seed of those who remain living in those portions of the Earth that the
This horrible vision passed and was succeeded by one more, that of Oro
standing in the sepulchre of the cave by the side of the crystal coffin
which contained what appeared to be the body of his daughter. He gazed
at her, then drank some potion and laid himself down in the companion
coffin, that in which we had found him.
All vanished away and Yva, appearing to wake from some kind of trance,
smiled, and in her natural voice asked if we had seen enough.
"Quite," I answered in a tone that caused her to say:
"I wonder what you have seen, Humphrey. Myself I do not know, since it
is through me that you see at all and when you see I am in you who see."
"Indeed," I replied. "Well, I will tell you about it later."
"Thank you so much," exclaimed Bastin, recovering suddenly from his
amazement. "I have heard a great deal of these moving-picture shows
which are becoming so popular, but have always avoided attending them
because their influence on the young is supposed to be doubtful, and a
priest must set a good example to his congregation. Now I see that they
can have a distinct educational value, even if it is presented in the
form of romance."
"How is it done?" asked Bickley, almost fiercely.
"I do not altogether know," she answered. "This I do know, however, that
everything which has happened on this world can be seen from moment to
moment at some point in the depths of space, for thither the sun's light
takes it. There, too, it can be caught and thence in an instant returned
to earth again, to be reflected in the mirror of the present by those
who know how that mirror should be held. Ask me no more; one so wise as
you, O Bickley, can solve such problems for himself."
"If you don't mind, Lady Yva," said Bastin, "I think I should like to
get out of this place, interesting as it is. I have food to cook up
above and lots of things to attend to, especially as I understand I am
to come back here tomorrow. Would you mind showing me the way to that
lift or moving staircase?"
"Come," she said, smiling.
So we went past the image of Fate, out of the temple, down the vast and
lonely streets so unnaturally illuminated, to the place where we had
first found ourselves on arrival in the depths. There we stood.
A moment later and we were whirling up as we had whirled down. I suppose
that Yva came with us though I never saw her do so, and the odd thing
was that when we arrived in the sepulchre, she seemed already to be
standing there waiting to direct us.
"Really," remarked Bastin, "this is exactly like Maskelyne and Cook. Did
you ever see their performance, Bickley? If so, it must have given you
lots to explain for quite a long while."
"Jugglery never appealed to me, whether in London or in Orofena,"
replied Bickley in a sour voice as he extracted from his pocket an end
of candle to which he set light.
"What is jugglery?" asked Bastin, and they departed arguing, leaving me
alone with Yva in the sepulchre.
"What have I seen?" I asked her.
"I do not know, Humphrey. Everyone sees different things, but perhaps
something of the truth."
"I hope not, Yva, for amongst other things I seemed to see you swear
yourself to a man for ever."
"Yes, and this I did. What of it?"
"Only that it might be hard for another man."
"Yes, for another man it might be hard. You were once married, were you
not, Humphrey, to a wife who died?"
"Yes, I was married."
"And did you not swear to that wife that you would never look in love
upon another woman?"
"I did," I answered in a shamed voice. "But how do you know? I never
told you so."
"Oh! I know you and therefore guessed."
"Well, what of it, Yva?"
"Nothing, except that you must find your wife before you love again, and
before I love again I must find him whom I wish to be my husband."
"How can that happen," I asked, "when both are dead?"
"How did all that you have seen to-day in Nyo happen?" she replied,
laughing softly. "Perhaps you are very blind, Humphrey, or perhaps we
both are blind. If so, mayhap light will come to us. Meanwhile do not
be sad. Tomorrow I will meet you and you shall teach me--your English
tongue, Humphrey, and other things."
"Then let it be in the sunlight, Yva. I do not love those darksome halls
of Nyo that glow like something dead."
"It is fitting, for are they not dead?" she answered, with a little
laugh. "So be it. Bastin shall teach my father down below, since sun and
shade are the same to him who only thinks of his religion, and you shall
teach me up above."
"I am not so certain about Bastin and of what he thinks," I said
doubtfully. "Also will the Lord Oro permit you to come?"
"Yes, for in such matters I rule myself. Also," she added meaningly,
"he remembers my oath that I will wed no man--save one who is dead.
Now farewell a while and bid Bastin be here when the sun is three hours
high, not before or after."
Then I left her.
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