This action of his appeared to awake memories or forebodings in the minds of his congregation. Perhaps some ancient prophecy was concerned—I do not know. At any rate, one of the priests shouted something, whereon everybody began to talk at once. Then, stooping down, they threw water from the lake over themselves and rubbed its sand and mud into their hair, all the while making genuflexions toward the mountain in the middle, after which they turned and departed.
“Don’t you think we had better go back?” asked Bastin. “Evidently my words have touched them and their minds are melting beneath the light of Truth.”
“Oh! by all means,” replied Bickley with sarcasm; “for then their spears will touch us, and our bodies will soon be melting above the fires of that pit.”
“Perhaps you are right,” said Bastin; “at least, I admit that you have made matters very difficult by your unjustifiable homicide of that priest who I do not think meant to injure you seriously, and really was not at all a bad fellow, though opinionated in some ways. Also, I do not suppose that anybody is expected, as it were, to run his head into the martyr’s crown. When it settles there of itself it is another matter.”
“Like a butterfly!” exclaimed the enraged Bickley.
“Yes, if you like to put it that way, though the simile seems a very poor one; like a sunbeam would be better.”
Here Bickley gave way with his paddle so vigorously that the canoe was as nearly as possible upset into the lake.
In due course we reached the flat Rock of Offerings, which proved to be quite as wide as a double croquet lawn and much longer.
“What are those?” I asked, pointing to certain knobs on the edge of the rock at a spot where a curved projecting point made a little harbour.
Bickley examined them, and answered:
“I should say that they are the remains of stone mooring-posts worn down by many thousands of years of weather. Yes, look, there is the cut of the cables upon the base of that one, and very big cables they must have been.”
We stared at one another—that is, Bickley and I did, for Bastin was still engaged in contemplating the blackened head of the god which he had overthrown.
The Island in the Lake
We made the canoe fast and landed on the great rock, to perceive that it was really a peninsula. That is to say, it was joined to the main land of the lake island by a broad roadway quite fifty yards across, which appeared to end in the mouth of the cave. On this causeway we noted a very remarkable thing, namely, two grooves separated by an exact distance of nine feet which ran into the mouth of the cave and vanished there.
“Explain!” said Bickley.
“Paths,” I said, “worn by countless feet walking on them for thousands of years.”
“You should cultivate the art of observation, Arbuthnot. What do you say, Bastin?”