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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.
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard