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As time went on, Oro began to visit me more and more frequently, till at last scarcely a night went by that he did not appear mysteriously in my sleeping-place. The odd thing was that neither Bickley nor Bastin seemed to be aware of these nocturnal calls. Indeed, when I mentioned them on one or two occasions, they stared at me and said it was strange that he should have come and gone as they saw nothing of him.
On my speaking again of the matter, Bickley at once turned the conversation, from which I gathered that he believed me to be suffering from delusions consequent on my illness, or perhaps to have taken to dreaming. This was not wonderful since, as I learned afterwards, Bickley, after he was sure that I was asleep, made a practice of tying a thread across my doorway and of ascertaining at the dawn that it remained unbroken. But Oro was not to be caught in that way. I suppose, as it was impossible for him to pass through the latticework of the open side of the house, that he undid the thread and fastened it again when he left; at least, that was Bastin's explanation, or, rather, one of them. Another was that he crawled beneath it, but this I could not believe. I am quite certain that during all his prolonged existence Oro never crawled.
At any rate, he came, or seemed to come, and pumped me--I can use no other word--most energetically as to existing conditions in the world, especially those of the civilised countries, their methods of government, their social state, the physical characteristics of the various races, their religions, the exact degrees of civilisation that they had developed, their attainments in art, science and literature, their martial capacities, their laws, and I know not what besides.
I told him all I could, but did not in the least seem to satisfy his perennial thirst for information.
"I should prefer to judge for myself," he said at last. "Why are you so anxious to learn about all these nations, Oro?" I asked, exhausted.
"Because the knowledge I gather may affect my plans for the future," he replied darkly.
"I am told, Oro, that your people acquired the power of transporting themselves from place to place."
"It is true that the lords of the Sons of Wisdom had such power, and that I have it still, O Humphrey."
"Then why do you not go to look with your own eyes?" I suggested.
"Because I should need a guide; one who could explain much in a short time," he said, contemplating me with his burning glance until I began to feel uncomfortable.
To change the subject I asked him whether he had any further information about the war, which he had told me was raging in Europe.
He answered: "Not much; only that it was going on with varying success, and would continue to do so until the nations involved therein were exhausted," or so he believed. The war did not seem greatly to interest Oro. It was, he remarked, but a small affair compared to those which he had known in the old days. Then he departed, and I went to sleep.
Next night he appeared again, and, after talking a little on different subjects, remarked quietly that he had been thinking over what I had said as to his visiting the modern world, and intended to act upon the suggestion.
"When?" I asked.
"Now," he said. "I am going to visit this England of yours and the town you call London, and you will accompany me."
"It is not possible!" I exclaimed. "We have no ship."
"We can travel without a ship," said Oro.
I grew alarmed, and suggested that Bastin or Bickley would be a much better companion than I should in my resent weak state.
"An empty-headed man, or one who always doubts and argues, would be useless," he replied sharply. "You shall come and you only."
I expostulated; I tried to get up and fly--which, indeed, I did do, in another sense.
But Oro fixed his eyes upon me and slowly waved his thin hand to and fro above my head.
My senses reeled. Then came a great darkness.
They returned again. Now I was standing in an icy, reeking fog, which I knew could belong to one place only--London, in December, and at my side was Oro.
"Is this the climate of your wonderful city?" he asked, or seemed to ask, in an aggrieved tone.
I replied that it was, for about three months in the year, and began to look about me.
Soon I found my bearings. In front of me were great piles of buildings, looking dim and mysterious in the fog, in which I recognised the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, for both could be seen from where we stood in front of the Westminster Bridge Station. I explained their identity to Oro.
"Good," he said. "Let us enter your Place of Talk."
"But I am not a member, and we have no passes for the Strangers' Gallery," I expostulated.
"We shall not need any," he replied contemptuously. "Lead on."
Thus adjured, I crossed the road, Oro following me. Looking round, to my horror I saw him right in the path of a motor-bus which seemed to go over him.
"There's an end to Oro," thought I to myself. "Well, at any rate, I have got home."
Next instant he was at my side quite undisturbed by the incident of the bus. We came to a policeman at the door and I hesitated, expecting to be challenged. But the policeman seemed absolutely indifferent to our presence, even when Oro marched past him in his flowing robes. So I followed with a like success. Then I understood that we must be invisible.
We passed to the lobby, where members were hurrying to and fro, and constituents and pressmen were gathered, and so on into the House. Oro walked up its floor and took his stand by the table, in front of the Speaker. I followed him, none saying us No.
As it chanced there was what is called a scene in progress--I think it was over Irish matters; the details are of no account. Members shouted, Ministers prevaricated and grew angry, the Speaker intervened. On the whole, it was rather a degrading spectacle. I stood, or seemed to stand, and watched it all. Oro, in his sweeping robes, which looked so incongruous in that place, stepped, or seemed to step, up to the principal personages of the Government and Opposition, whom I indicated to him, and inspected them one by one, as a naturalist might examine strange insects. Then, returning to me, he said:
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When the World Shook -by- H. Rider Haggard