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"Indeed," I replied, wondering to what proceedings on the part of Bastin and Bickley she alluded. Could that self-centred pair-- oh! it was impossible.
"How long have I been ill?" I asked to escape the subject which I felt to be uncomfortable.
She lifted her beautiful eyes in search of words and began to count upon her fingers.
"Two moon, one half moon, yes, ten week, counting Sabbath," she answered triumphantly.
"Ten weeks!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, Humphrey, ten whole weeks and three days you first bad, then mad. Oh!" she went on, breaking into the Orofenan tongue which she spoke so perfectly, although it was not her own. That language of hers I never learned, but I know she thought in it and only translated into Orofenan, because of the great difficulty which she had in rendering her high and refined ideas into its simpler metaphor, and the strange words which often she introduced. "Oh! you have been very ill, friend of my heart. At times I thought that you were going to die, and wept and wept. Bickley thinks that he saved you and he is very clever. But he could not have saved you; that wanted more knowledge than any of your people have; only I pray you, do not tell him so because it would hurt his pride."
"What was the matter with me then, Yva?"
"All was the matter. First, the weapon which that youth threw-- he was the son of the sorcerer whom my father destroyed--crushed in the bone of your head. He is dead for his crime and may he be accursed for ever," she added in the only outbreak of rage and vindictiveness in which I ever saw her indulge.
"One must make excuses for him; his father had been killed," I said.
"Yes, that is what Bastin tells me, and it is true. Still, for that young man I can make no excuse; it was cowardly and wicked. Well, Bickley performed what he calls operation, and the Lord Oro, he came up from his house and helped him, because Bastin is no good in such things. Then he can only turn away his head and pray. I, too, helped, holding hot water and linen and jar of the stuff that made you feel like nothing, although the sight made me feel more sick than anything since I saw one I loved killed, oh, long, long ago."
"Was the operation successful?" I asked, for I did not dare to begin to thank her.
"Yes, that clever man, Bickley, lifted the bone which had been crushed in. Only then something broke in your head and you began to bleed here," and she touched what I believe is called the temporal artery. "The vein had been crushed by the blow, and gave way. Bickley worked and worked, and just in time he tied it up before you died. Oh! then I felt as though I loved Bickley, though afterwards Bastin said that I ought to have loved him, since it was not Bickley who stopped the bleeding, but his prayer."
"Perhaps it was both," I suggested.
"Perhaps, Humphrey, at least you were saved. Then came another trouble. You took fever. Bickley said that it was because a certain gnat had bitten you when you went down to the ship, and my father, the Lord Oro, told me that this was right. At the least you grew very weak and lost your mind, and it seemed as though you must die. Then, Humphrey, I went to the Lord Oro and kneeled before him and prayed you life, for I knew that he could cure you if he would, though Bickley's skill was at an end.
"'Daughter,' he said to me, 'not once but again and again you have set up your will against mine in the past. Why then should I trouble myself to grant this desire of yours in the present, and save a man who is nothing to me?'
"I rose to my feet and answered, 'I do not know, my Father, yet I am certain that for your own sake it will be well to do so. I am sure that of everything even you must give an account at last, great though you be, and who knows, perhaps one life which you have saved may turn the balance in your favour.'
"'Surely the priest Bastin has been talking to you,' he said.
"'He has,' I answered, 'and not he alone. Many voices have been talking to me.'"
"What did you mean by that?" I asked.
"It matters nothing what I meant, Humphrey. Be still and listen to my story. My father thought a while and answered:
"'I am jealous of this stranger. What is he but a short-lived half-barbarian such as we knew in the old days? And yet already you think more of him than you do of me, your father, the divine Oro who has lived a thousand years. At first I helped that physician to save him, but now I think I wish him dead.'
"'If you let this man die, my Father,' I answered, 'then we part. Remember that I also have of the wisdom of our people, and can use it if I will.'
"'Then save him yourself,' he said.
"'Perhaps I shall, my Father,' I answered, 'but if so it will not be here. I say that if so we part and you shall be left to rule in your majesty alone.'
"Now this frightened the Lord Oro, for he has the weakness that he hates to be alone.
"'If I do what you will, do you swear never to leave me, Yva?' he asked. 'Know that if you will not swear, the man dies.'
"'I swear,' I answered--for your sake, Humphrey--though I did not love the oath.
"Then he gave me a certain medicine to mix with the Life-water, and when you were almost gone that medicine cured you, though Bickley does not know it, as nothing else could have done. Now I have told you the truth, for your own ear only, Humphrey."
"Yva," I asked, "why did you do all this for me?"
"Humphrey, I do not know," she answered, "but I think because I must. Now sleep a while."
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard