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On another night he began to tempt me, very subtly. "I see a spark of greatness in you, Humphrey," he said, "and it comes into my heart that you, too, might learn to rule. With Yva, the last of my blood, it is otherwise. She is the child of my age and of a race outworn; too gentle, too much all womanly. The soul that triumphs must shine like steel in the sun, and cut if need be; not merely be beauteous and shed perfume like a lily in the shade. Yet she is very wise and fair," here he looked at me, "perchance of her might come children such as were their forefathers, who again would wield the sceptre of the dominion of the earth."
I made no answer, wondering what he meant exactly and thinking it wisest to be silent.
"You are of the short-lived races," he went on, "yet very much a man, not without intelligence, and by the arts I have I can so strengthen your frame that it will endure the shocks of time for three such lives as yours, or perchance for more, and then--"
Again he paused and went on:
"The Daughter of kings likes you also, perhaps because you resemble--" here he fixed me with his piercing eyes, "a certain kinglet of base blood whom once she also liked, but whom it was my duty to destroy. Well, I must think. I must study this world of yours also and therein you may help me. Perhaps afterwards I will tell you how. Now sleep."
In another moment he was gone, but notwithstanding his powerful command, for a while I could not sleep. I understood that he was offering Yva to me, but upon what terms? That was the question. With her was to go great dominion over the kingdoms of the earth. I could not help remembering that always this has been and still is Satan's favourite bait. To me it did not particularly appeal. I had been ambitious in my time--who is not that is worth his salt? I could have wished to excel in something, literature or art, or whatever it might be, and thus to ensure the memory of my name in the world.
Of course this is a most futile desire, seeing that soon or late every name must fade out of the world like an unfixed photograph which is exposed to the sun. Even if it could endure, as the old demigod, or demidevil, Oro, had pointed out, very shortly, by comparison with Time's unmeasured vastness, the whole solar system will also fade. So of what use is this feeble love of fame and this vain attempt to be remembered that animates us so strongly? Moreover, the idea of enjoying mere temporal as opposed to intellectual power, appealed to me not at all. I am a student of history and I know what has been the lot of kings and the evil that, often enough, they work in their little day.
Also if I needed any further example, there was that of Oro himself. He had outlived the greatness of his House, as a royal family is called, and after some gigantic murder, if his own story was to be believed, indulged in a prolonged sleep. Now he awoke to find himself quite alone in the world, save for a daughter with whom he did not agree or sympathise. In short, he was but a kind of animated mummy inspired by one idea which I felt quite sure would be disappointed, namely, to renew his former greatness. To me he seemed as miserable a figure as one could imagine, brooding and plotting in his illuminated cave, at the end of an extended but misspent life.
Also I wondered what he, or rather his ego, had been doing during all those two hundred and fifty thousand years of sleep. Possibly if Yva's theory, as I understood it, were correct, he had reincarnated as Attila, or Tamerlane, or Napoleon, or even as Chaka the terrible Zulu king. At any rate there he was still in the world, filled with the dread of death, but consumed now as ever by his insatiable and most useless finite ambitions.
Yva, also! Her case was his, but yet how different. In all this long night of Time she had but ripened into one of the sweetest and most gentle women that ever the world bore. She, too, was great in her way, it appeared in her every word and gesture, but where was the ferocity of her father? Where his desire to reach to splendour by treading on a blood-stained road paved with broken human hearts? It did not exist. Her nature was different although her body came of a long line of these power-loving kings. Why this profound difference of the spirit? Like everything else it was a mystery. The two were as far apart as the Poles. Everyone must have hated Oro, from the beginning, however much he feared him, but everyone who came in touch with her must have loved Yva.
Here I may break into my personal narrative to say that this, by their own confession, proved to be true of two such various persons as Bastin and Bickley.
"The truth, which I am sure it would be wrong to hide from you, Arbuthnot," said the former to me one day, "is that during your long illness I fell in love, I suppose that is the right word, with the Glittering Lady. After thinking the matter over also, I conceived that it would be proper to tell her so if only to clear the air and prevent future misunderstandings. As I remarked to her on that occasion, I had hesitated long, as I was not certain how she would fill the place of the wife of the incumbent of an English parish."
"Mothers' Meetings, and the rest," I suggested.
"Exactly so, Arbuthnot. Also there were the views of the Bishop to be considered, who might have objected to the introduction into the diocese of a striking person who so recently had been a heathen, and to one in such strong contrast to my late beloved wife."
"I suppose you didn't consider the late Mrs. Bastin's views on the subject of re-marriage. I remember that they were strong," I remarked rather maliciously.
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard