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That night we slept well and without fear, being quite certain that after their previous experience the Orofenans would make no further attempts upon us. Indeed our only anxiety was for Tommy, whom we could not find when the time came to give him his supper. Bastin, however, seemed to remember having seen him following the Glittering Lady into the cave. This, of course, was possible, as certainly he had taken an enormous fancy to her and sat himself down as close to her as he could on every occasion. He even seemed to like the ancient Oro, and was not afraid to jump up and plant his dirty paws upon that terrific person's gorgeous robe. Moreover Oro liked him, for several times I observed him pat the dog upon the head; as I think I have said, the only human touch that I had perceived about him. So we gave up searching and calling in the hope that he was safe with our supernatural friends.
The next morning quite early the Lady Yva appeared alone; no, not alone, for with her came our lost Tommy looking extremely spry and well at ease. The faithless little wretch just greeted us in a casual fashion and then went and sat by Yva. In fact when the awkward Bastin managed to stumble over the end of her dress Tommy growled at him and showed his teeth. Moreover the do was changed. He was blessed with a shiny black coat, but now this coat sparkled in the sunlight, like the Lady Yva's hair.
"The Glittering Lady is all very well, but I'm not sure that I care for a glittering dog. It doesn't look quite natural," said Bastin, contemplating him.
"Why does Tommy shine, Lady?" I asked.
"Because I washed him in certain waters that we have, so that now he looks beautiful and smells sweet," she answered, laughing.
It was true, the dog did smell sweet, which I may add had not always been the case with him, especially when there were dead fish about. Also he appeared to have been fed, for he turned up his nose at the bits we had saved for his breakfast.
"He has drunk of the Life-water," explained Yva, "and will want no food for two days."
Bickley pricked up his ears at this statement and looked incredulous.
"You do not believe, O Bickley," she said, studying him gravely. "Indeed, you believe nothing. You think my father and I tell you many lies. Bastin there, he believes all. Humphrey? He is not sure; he thinks to himself, I will wait and find out whether or ho these funny people cheat me."
Bickley coloured and made some remark about things which were contrary to experience, also that Tommy in a general way was rather a greedy little dog.
"You, too, like to eat, Bickley" (this was true, he had an excellent appetite), "but when you have drunk the Life-water you will care much less."
"I am glad to hear it," interrupted Bastin, "for Bickley wants a lot of cooking done, and I find it tedious."
"You eat also, Lady," said Bickley.
"Yes, I eat sometimes because I like it, but I can go weeks and not eat, when I have the Life-water. Just now, after so long a sleep, I am hungry. Please give me some of that fruit. No, not the flesh, flesh I hate."
We handed it to her. She took two plantains, peeled and ate them with extraordinary grace. Indeed she reminded me, I do not know why, of some lovely butterfly drawing its food from a flower.
While she ate she observed us closely; nothing seemed to escape the quick glances of those beautiful eyes. Presently she said:
"What, O Humphrey, is that with which you fasten your neckdress?" and she pointed to the little gold statue of Osiris that I used as a pin.
I told her that it was a statuette of a god named Osiris and very, very ancient, probably quite five thousand years old, a statement at which she smiled a little; also that it came from Egypt.
"Ah!" she answered, "is it so? I asked because we have figures that are very like to that one, and they also hold in their hands a staff surmounted by a loop. They are figures of Sleep's brother--Death."
"So is this," I said. "Among the Egyptians Osiris was the god of Death."
She nodded and replied that doubtless the symbol had come down to them.
"One day you shall take me to see this land which you call so very old. Or I will take you, which would be quicker," she added.
We all bowed and said we should be delighted. Even Bastin appeared anxious to revisit Egypt in such company, though when he was there it seemed to bore him. But what she meant about taking us I could not guess. Nor had we time to ask her, for she went on, watching our faces as she spoke.
"The Lord Oro sends you a message, Strangers. He asks whether it is your wish to see where we dwell. He adds that you are not to come if you do not desire, or if you fear danger."
We all answered that there was nothing we should like better, but Bastin added that he had already seen the tomb.
"Do you think, Bastin, that we live in a tomb because we slept there for a while, awaiting the advent of you wanderers at the appointed hour?"
"I don't see where else it could be, unless it is further down that cave," said Bastin. "The top of the mountain would not be convenient as a residence."
"It has not been convenient for many an age, for reasons that I will show you. Think now, before you come. You have naught to fear from us, and I believe that no harm will happen to you. But you will see many strange things that will anger Bickley because he cannot understand them, and perhaps will weary Bastin because his heart turns from what is wondrous and ancient. Only Humphrey will rejoice in them because the doors of his soul are open and he longs--what do you long for, Humphrey?"
"That which I have lost and fear I shall never find again," I answered boldly.
"I know that you have lost many things--last night, for instance, you lost Tommy, and when he slept with me he told me much about you and--others."
"This is ridiculous," broke in Bastin. "Can a dog talk?"
"Everything can talk, if you understand its language, Bastin. But keep a good heart, Humphrey, for the bold seeker finds in the end. Oh! foolish man, do you not understand that all is yours if you have but the soul to conceive and the will to grasp? All, all, below, between, above! Even I know that, I who have so much to learn."
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard