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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 357 pages of information about When the World Shook; being an account of the great adventure of Bastin, Bickley and Arbuthnot.

“You must ask Bastin,” I said humbly.  “I cannot dare to teach of such matters.”

“No, but you can and do believe, and that helps me, Humphrey, who am in tune with you.  Yes, it helps me much more than do Bastin and his new religion, because such is woman’s way.  Now, I think Bickley will soon return, so let us talk of other matters.  Tell me of the history of your people, Humphrey, that my father says are now at war.”

Chapter XVIII

The Accident

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?

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