what is life to most of us who, like bickley, think ourselves learned? a round, short but still with time and to spare wherein to be dull and lonesome; a fateful treadmill to which we were condemned we know not how, but apparently through the casual passions of those who went before us and are now forgotten, causing us, as the bible says, to be born in sin; up which we walk wearily we know not why, seeming never to make progress; off which we fall outworn we know not when or whither.
such upon the surface it appears to be, nor in fact does our ascertained knowledge, as bickley would sum it up, take us much further. no prophet has yet arisen who attempted to define either the origin or the reasons of life. even the very greatest of them himself is quite silent on this matter. we are tempted to wonder why. is it because life as expressed in the higher of human beings, is, or will be too vast, too multiform, and too glorious for any definition which we could understand? is it because in the end it will involve for some, if not for all, majesty on unfathomed majesty, and glory upon unimaginable glory such as at present far outpass the limits of our thought?
the experiences which i have recorded in these pages awake in my heart a hope that this may be so. bastin is wont, like many others, to talk in a light fashion of eternity without in the least comprehending what he means by that gigantic term. it is not too much to say that eternity, something without beginning and without end, and involving, it would appear, an everlasting changelessness, is a state beyond human comprehension. as a matter of fact we mortals do not think in constellations, so to speak, or in aeons, but by the measures of our own small earth and of our few days thereon. we cannot really conceive of an existence stretching over even one thousand years, such as that which oro claimed and the bible accords to a certain early race of men, omitting of course his two thousand five hundred centuries of sleep. and yet what is this but one grain in the hourglass of time, one day in the lost record of our earth, of its sisters the planets and its father the sun, to say nothing of the universes beyond?
it is because i have come in touch with a prolonged though perfectly finite existence of the sort, that i try to pass on the reflections which the fact of it awoke in me. there are other reflections connected with yva and the marvel of her love and its various manifestations which arise also. but these i keep to myself. they concern the wonder of woman's heart, which is a microcosm of the hopes and fears and desires and despairs of this humanity of ours whereof from age to age she is the mother.
note by j. r. bickley, m.r.c.s.
within about six months of the date on which he wrote the last words of this history of our joint adventures, my dear friend, humphrey arbuthnot, died suddenly, as i had foreseen that probably he would do, from the results of the injury he received in the island of orofena.
he left me the sole executor to his will, under which he divided his property into three parts. one third he bequeathed to me, one third (which is strictly tied up) to bastin, and one third to be devoted, under my direction, to the advancement of science.
his end appears to have been instantaneous, resulting from an effusion of blood upon the brain. when i was summoned i found him lying dead by the writing desk in his library at fulcombe priory. he had been writing at the desk, for on it was a piece of paper on which appear these words: "i have seen her. i--" there the writing ends, not stating whom he thought he had seen in the moments of mental disturbance or delusion which preceded his decease.