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Bickley did return, having recovered his temper, since after all it was impossible for anyone to remain angry with the Lady Yva for long, and we spent a very happy time together. We instructed and she was the humble pupil.
How swift and nimble was her intelligence! In that one morning she learned all our alphabet and how to write our letters. It appeared that among her people, at any rate in their later periods, the only form of writing that was used was a highly concentrated shorthand which saved labour. They had no journals, since news which arrived telepathically or by some form of wireless was proclaimed to those who cared to listen, and on it all formed their own judgments. In the same way poems and even romances were repeated, as in Homer's day or in the time of the Norse sagas, by word of mouth. None of their secret knowledge was written down. Like the ritual of Freemasonry it was considered too sacred.
Moreover, when men lived for hundreds of years this was not so necessary, especially as their great fear was lest it should fall into the hands of the outside nations, whom they called Barbarians. For, be it remembered, these Sons of Wisdom were always a very small people who ruled by the weight of their intelligence and the strength of their accumulated lore. Indeed, they could scarcely be called a people; rather were they a few families, all of them more or less connected with the original ruling Dynasty which considered itself half divine. These families were waited upon by a multitude of servants or slaves drawn from the subject nations, for the most part skilled in one art or another, or perhaps, remarkable for their personal beauty. Still they remained outside the pale.
The Sons of Wisdom did not intermarry with them or teach them their learning, or even allow them to drink of their Life-water. They ruled them as men rule dogs, treating them with kindness, but no more, and as many dogs run their course and die in the lifetime of one master, so did many of these slaves in that of one of the Sons of Wisdom. Therefore, the slaves came to regard their lords not as men, but gods. They lived but three score years and ten like the rest of us, and went their way, they, whose great-great-grandfathers had served the same master and whose great-great-great-grandchildren would still serve him. What should we think of a lord who we knew was already adult in the time of William the Conqueror, and who remained still vigorous and all-powerful in that of George V? One, moreover, who commanded almost infinite knowledge to which we were denied the key? We might tremble before him and look upon him as half- divine, but should we not long to kill him and possess his knowledge and thereby prolong our own existence to his wondrous measure?
Such, said Yva, was the case with their slaves and the peoples from whence these sprang. They grew mad with jealous hate, till at length came the end we knew.
Thus we talked on for hours till the time came for us to eat. As before Yva partook of fruit and we of such meats as we had at hand. These, we noticed, disgusted her, because, as she explained, the Children of Wisdom, unless driven thereto by necessity, touched no flesh, but lived on the fruits of the earth and wine alone. Only the slaves and the Barbarians ate flesh. In these views Bickley for once agreed with her, that is, except as regards the wine, for in theory, if not in practice--he was a vegetarian.
"I will bring you more of the Life-water," she said, "and then you will grow to hate these dead things, as I do. And now farewell. My father calls me. I hear him though you do not. To- morrow I cannot come, but the day after I will come and bring you the Life-water. Nay, accompany me not, but as I see he wishes it, let Tommy go with me. I will care for him, and he is a friend in all that lonely place."
So she went, and with her Tommy, rejoicing.
"Ungrateful little devil!" said Bickley. "Here we've fed and petted him from puppyhood, or at least you have, and yet he skips off with the first stranger. I never saw him behave like that to any woman, except your poor wife."
"I know," I answered. "I cannot understand it. Hullo! here comes Bastin."
Bastin it was, dishevelled and looking much the worse for wear, also minus his Bible in the native tongue.
"Well, how have you been getting on?" said Bickley.
"I should like some tea, also anything there is to eat."
We supplied him with these necessaries, and after a while he said slowly and solemnly:
"I cannot help thinking of a childish story which Bickley told or invented one night at your house at home. I remember he had an argument with my wife, which he said put him in mind of it, I am sure I don't know why. It was about a monkey and a parrot that were left together under a sofa for a long while, where they were so quiet that everybody forgot them. Then the parrot came out with only one feather left in its tail and none at all on its body, saying, 'I've had no end of a time!' after which it dropped down and died. Do you know, I feel just like that parrot, only I don't mean to die, and I think I gave the monkey quite as good as he gave me!"
"What happened?" I asked, intensely interested.
"Oh! the Glittering Lady took me into that palace hall where Oro was sitting like a spider in a web, and left me there. I got to work at once. He was much interested in the Old Testament stories and said there were points of truth about them, although they had evidently come down to the modern writer--he called him a modern writer--in a legendary form. I thought his remarks impertinent and with difficulty refrained from saying so. Leaving the story of the Deluge and all that, I spoke of other matters, telling him of eternal life and Heaven and Hell, of which the poor benighted man had never heard. I pointed out especially that unless he repented, his life, by all accounts, had been so wicked, that he was certainly destined to the latter place."
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard