“Lords of ourselves! Why, for ought I know, at this very moment Oro watches us in his thought and laughs. Only in death, Humphrey, shall we pass beyond his reach and become lords of ourselves.”
“It is monstrous!” I cried. “There is the boat, let us fly away.”
“What boat can bear us out of stretch of the arm of the old god of my people, Fate, whereof Oro is the high priest? Nay, here we must wait our doom.”
“Doom,” I said—“doom? What then is about to happen?”
“A terrible thing, as I think, Humphrey. Or, rather, it will not happen.”
“Why not, if it must?”
“Beloved,” she whispered, “Bastin has expounded to me a new faith whereof the master-word is Sacrifice. The terrible thing will not happen because of sacrifice! Ask me no more.”
She mused a while, seated there in the moonlight upon the ancient altar of sacrifice, the veil she wore falling about her face and making her mysterious. Then she threw it back, showing her lovely eyes and glittering hair, and laughed.
“We have still an earthly hour,” she said; “therefore let us forget the far, dead past and the eternities to come and be joyful in that hour. Now throw your arms about me and I will tell you strange stories of lost days, and you shall look into my eyes and learn wisdom, and you shall kiss my lips and taste of bliss— you, who were and are and shall be—you, the beloved of Yva from the beginning to the end of Time.”
I think that both Bastin and Bickley, by instinct as it were, knew what had passed between Yva and myself and that she had promised herself to me. They showed this by the way in which they avoided any mention of her name. Also they began to talk of their own plans for the future as matters in which I had no part. Thus I heard them discussing the possibility of escape from the island whereof suddenly they seemed to have grown weary, and whether by any means two men (two, not three) could manage to sail and steer the lifeboat that remained upon the wreck. In short, as in all such cases, the woman had come between; also the pressure of a common loss caused them to forget their differences and to draw closer together. I who had succeeded where they both had failed, was, they seemed to think, out of their lives, so much that our ancient intimacy had ended.
This attitude hurt me, perhaps because in many respects the situation was awkward. They had, it is true, taken their failures extremely well, still the fact remained that both of them had fallen in love with the wonderful creature, woman and yet more than woman, who had bound herself to me. How then could we go on living together, I in prospective possession of the object that all had desired, and they without the pale?
Moreover, they were jealous in another and quite a different fashion because they both loved me in their own ways and were convinced that I who had hitherto loved them, henceforward should have no affection left to spare, since surely this Glittering Lady, this marvel of wisdom and physical perfections would take it all. Of course they were in error, since even if I could have been so base and selfish, this was no conduct that Yva would have wished or even suffered. Still that was their thought.