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"Only what?" I asked anxiously.
"To be honest, Arbuthnot, I don't think that there will be real good luck for any one of us over this woman--not in the ordinary sense, I mean. The whole business is too strange and superhuman. Is she quite a woman, and could she really marry a man as others do?"
"It is curious that you should talk like that," I said uneasily. "I thought that you had made up your mind that the whole business was either illusion or trickery--I mean, the odd side of it."
"If it is illusion, Arbuthnot, then a man cannot marry an illusion. And if it is trickery, then he will certainly be tricked. But, supposing that I am wrong, what then?"
"You mean, supposing things are as they seem to be?"
"Yes. In that event, Arbuthnot, I am sure that something will occur to prevent your being united to a woman who lived thousands of years ago. I am sorry to say it, but Fate will intervene. Remember, it is the god of her people that I suppose she worships, and, I may add, to which the whole world bows."
At his words a kind of chill fell upon me. I think he saw or divined it, for after a few remarks upon some indifferent matter, he turned and went away.
Shortly after this Yva came to sit with me. She studied me for a while and I studied her. I had reason to do so, for I observed that of late her dress had become much more modern, and on the present occasion this struck me forcibly. I do not know exactly in what the change, or changes, consisted, because I am not skilled in such matters and can only judge of a woman's garments by their general effect. At any rate, the gorgeous sweeping robes were gone, and though her attire still looked foreign and somewhat oriental, with a touch of barbaric splendour about it-- it was simpler than it had been and showed more of her figure, which was delicate, yet gracious.
"You have changed your robes, Lady," I said. "Yes, Humphrey. Bastin gave me pictures of those your women wear." (On further investigation I found that this referred to an old copy of the Queen newspaper, which, somehow or other, had been brought with the books from the ship.) "I have tried to copy them a little," she added doubtfully.
"How do you do it? Where do you get the material?" I asked.
"Oh!" she answered with an airy wave of her hand, "I make it-- it is there."
"I don't understand," I said, but she only smiled radiantly, offering no further explanation. Then, before I could pursue the subject, she asked me suddenly:
"What has Bickley been saying to you about me?" I fenced, answering: "I don't know. Bastin and Bickley talk of little else. You seem to have been a great deal with them while I was ill."
"Yes, a great deal. They are the nearest to you who were so sick. Is it not so?"
"I don't know," I answered again. "In my illness it seemed to me that you were the nearest."
"About Bastin's words I can guess," she went on. "But I ask again--what has Bickley been saying to you about me? Of the first part, let it be; tell me the rest."
I intended to evade her question, but she fixed those violet, compelling eyes upon me and I was obliged to answer.
"I believe you know as well as I do," I said; "but if you will have it, it was that you are not as other human women are, and that he who would treat you as such, must suffer; that was the gist of it."
"Some might be content to suffer for such as I," she answered with quiet sweetness. "Even Bastin and Bickley may be content to suffer in their own little ways."
"You know that is not what I meant," I interrupted angrily, for I felt that she was throwing reflections on me.
"No; you meant that you agreed with Bickley that I am not quite a woman, as you know women."
I was silent, for her words were true.
Then she blazed out into one of her flashes of splendour, like something that takes fire on an instant; like the faint and distant star which flames into sudden glory before the watcher's telescope.
"It is true that I am not as your women are--your poor, pale women, the shadows of an hour with night behind them and before. Because I am humble and patient, do you therefore suppose that I am not great? Man from the little country across the sea, I lived when the world was young, and gathered up the ancient wisdom of a greater race than yours, and when the world is old I think that I still shall live, though not in this shape or here, with all that wisdom's essence burning in my breast, and with all beauty in my eyes. Bickley does not believe although he worships. You only half believe and do not worship, because memory holds you back, and I myself do not understand. I only know though knowing so much, still I seek roads to learning, even the humble road called Bastin, that yet may lead my feet to the gate of an immortal city."
"Nor do I understand how all this can be, Yva," I said feebly, for she dazzled and overwhelmed me with her blaze of power.
"No, you do not understand. How can you, when even I cannot? Thus for two hundred and fifty thousand years I slept, and they went by as a lightning flash. One moment my father gave me the draught and I laid me down, the next I awoke with you bending over me, or so it seemed. Yet where was I through all those centuries when for me time had ceased? Tell me, Humphrey, did you dream at all while you were ill? I ask because down in that lonely cavern where I sleep a strange dream came to me one night. It was of a journey which, as I thought, you and I seemed to make together, past suns and universes to a very distant earth. It meant nothing, Humphrey. If you and I chanced to have dreamed the same thing, it was only because my dream travelled to you. It is most common, or used to be. Humphrey, Bickley is quite right, I am not altogether as your women are, and I can bring no happiness to any man, or at the least, to one who cannot wait. Therefore, perhaps you would do well to think less of me, as I have counselled Bastin and Bickley."
Then again she gazed at me with her wonderful, great eyes, and, shaking her glittering head a little, smiled and went.
But oh! that smile drew my heart after her.
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard