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"You seem to have made the best of your time, old fellow," said Bickley in rather a sour voice.
"I never knew people begin to call each other by their Christian names so soon," added Bastin, looking at me with a suspicious eye.
"I know no other," I said.
"Perhaps not, but at any rate you have another, though you don't seem to have told it to her. Anyway, I am glad they are gone, for I was getting tired of being ordered by everybody to carry about wood and water for them. Also I am terribly hungry as I can't eat before it is light. They have taken most of the best fruit to which I was looking forward, but thank goodness they do not seem to care for pork."
"So am I," said Bickley, who really looked exhausted. "Get the food, there's a good fellow. We'll talk afterwards."
When we had eaten, somewhat silently, I asked Bickley what he made of the business; also whither he thought the sleepers had gone.
"I think I can answer the last question," interrupted Bastin. "I expect it is to a place well known to students of the Bible which even Bickley mentions sometimes when he is angry. At any rate, they seem to be very fond of heat, for they wouldn't part from it even in their coffins, and you will admit that they are not quite natural, although that Glittering Lady is so attractive as regards her exterior."
Bickley waved these remarks aside and addressed himself to me.
"I don't know what to think of it," he said; "but as the experience is not natural and everything in the Universe, so far as we know it, has a natural explanation, I am inclined to the belief that we are suffering from hallucinations, which in their way are also quite natural. It does not seem possible that two people can really have been asleep for an unknown length of time enclosed in vessels of glass or crystal, kept warm by radium or some such substance, and then emerge from them comparatively strong and well. It is contrary to natural law."
"How about microbes?" I asked. "They are said to last practically for ever, and they are living things. So in their case your natural law breaks down."
"That is true," he answered. "Some microbes in a sealed tube and under certain conditions do appear to possess indefinite powers of life. Also radium has an indefinite life, but that is a mineral. Only these people are not microbes nor are they minerals. Also, experience tells us that they could not have lived for more than a few months at the outside in such circumstances as we seemed to find them."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"I suggest that we did not really find them at all; that we have all been dreaming. You know that there are certain gases which produce illusions, laughing gas is one of them, and that these gases are sometimes met with in caves. Now there were very peculiar odours in that place under the statue, which may have worked upon our imaginations in some such way. Otherwise we are up against a miracle, and, as you know, I do not believe in miracles."
"I do," said Bastin calmly. "You'll find all about it in the Bible if you will only take the trouble to read. Why do you talk such rubbish about gases?"
"Because only gas, or something of the sort, could have made us imagine them."
"Nonsense, Bickley! Those people were here right enough. Didn't they eat our fruit and drink the water I brought them without ever saying thank you? Only, they are not human. They are evil spirits, and for my part I don't want to see any more of them, though I have no doubt Arbuthnot does, as that Glittering Lady threw her arms round his neck when she woke up, and already he is calling her by her Christian name, if the word Christian can be used in connection with her. The old fellow had the impudence to tell us that he was a god, and it is remarkable that he should have called himself Oro, seeing that the devil they worship on the island is also called Oro and the place itself is named Orofena."
"As to where they have gone," continued Bickley, taking no notice of Bastin, "I really don't know. My expectation is, however, that when we go to look tomorrow morning--and I suggest that we should not do so before then in order that we may give our minds time to clear--we shall find that sepulchre place quite empty, even perhaps without the crystal coffins we have imagined to stand there."
"Perhaps we shall find that there isn't a cave at all and that we are not sitting on a flat rock outside of it," suggested Bastin with heavy sarcasm, adding, "You are clever in your way, Bickley, but you can talk more rubbish than any man I ever knew."
"They told us they would come back tonight or tomorrow," I said. "If they do, what will you say then, Bickley?"
"I will wait till they come to answer that question. Now let us go for a walk and try to change our thoughts. We are all over-strained and scarcely know what we are saying."
"One more question," I said as we rose to start. "Did Tommy suffer from hallucinations as well as ourselves?"
"Why not?" answered Bickley. "He is an animal just as we are, or perhaps we thought we saw Tommy do the things he did."
"When you found that basket of fruit, Bastin, which the natives brought over in the canoe, was there a bough covered with red flowers lying on the top of it?"
"Yes, Arbuthnot, one bough only; I threw it down on the rock as it got in the way when I was carrying the basket."
"Which flowering bough we all thought we saw the Sleeper Oro carry away after Tommy had brought it to him."
"Yes; he made me pick it up and give it to him," said Bastin.
"Well, if we did not see this it should still be lying on the rock, as there has been no wind and there are no animals here to carry it away. You will admit that, Bickley?"
"Then if it has gone you will admit also that the presumption is that we saw what we thought we did see?"
"I do not know how that conclusion can be avoided, at any rate so far as the incident of the bough is concerned," replied Bickley with caution.
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider HaggardBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.