I now observed among the woods of the, very ancient stone buildings, which, at one time, must have been occupied by a people possessing a high state of civilization. They were in ruins, and overgrown by flowering shrubs and creepers, but were apparently still used as habitations for it was to one of these houses I was presently conducted. Here I was invited to rest and refresh myself with some delicious fruit that was set before me, the like of which I do not remember having tasted before.
Sylvia Cervantes now joined me, and in the witchery of her presence I forgot my perilous plight, and gave myself up to the luxury and enjoyment of the moment.
From Sylvia I learnt the history of my capture, and why she had come to entice me away with her.
Having inquired my name, which I gave her, Sylvia continued as follows:—
“You must know, then, Peter,” she said, “that we are ruled here by custom which may not be changed. The wise-ones who live on the mountain tops tell us what to do, and we do it without question. The wise-ones are not as others are. They see what others cannot see, and they know many things that others cannot even guess at, so when the wise-ones told me your ship was on the other side of the Great Barren Island, and that I was to take my canoe and bring you here, I could not help but obey.”
“How is it possible,” I asked, “that mortal eyes can see so far?”
“The eyes of the wise-ones are not as mortal eyes,” replied Sylvia, gravely. “Rest now, and to-morrow you shall hear what is required of you.”
I was so affected by the calamity which had overtaken me that I lacked the disposition to question Sylvia more closely on the matter. It was plain I was a captive, and helpless to avert my fate, whatever it might be. As well then accept the inevitable, and make the most of the passing hour. I did not value life, since Anna’s death, at a pin’s ransom. If, therefore, the end of all things for me in this world was at hand, let it come. I would welcome it without regret.
Sylvia now told me as much as she knew about the island to which I had been brought, and of its people.
In ages gone by, she said, when the stone houses were new, and a flourishing city stood in the valley, a disagreement had arisen between the king and queen, who held equal sway over the two islands, of such a nature that the breach became impossible to be healed. Instead of going to war with each other, and thus sacrificing the lives of many of their respective followers in battle, who had no part in their quarrel, an agreement was come to whereby the king withdrew himself to the western island, leaving the queen in undisputed possession in the east. The king took to him all the men in both islands, giving up to the queen the women, to become her subjects. Since then the Male and Female Islands had been managed as separate communities. There was no king or queen now, the people of both