George Griffiths has written many science fiction novels. Each is unique in itself. The Romance of Golden Star is one of those. At the heart of the plot is a story about researchers who go in search of a Lost Inca tribe in Peru.
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PROLOGUE PART I. HIS HIGHNESS THE MUMMY
PROLOGUE PART II. A PHYSIOLOGICAL EXPERIMENT
THE STORY OF VILCAROYA
PROLOGUE PART I. HIS HIGHNESS THE MUMMY
‘Ah, what a thing it would be for us if his Inca Highness were really only asleep, as he looks to be! Just think what he could tell us–how easily he could re-create that lost wonderland of his for us, what riddles he could answer, what lies he could contradict. And then think of all the lost treasures that he could show us the way to. Upon my word, if Mephistopheles were to walk into this room just now, I think I should be tempted to make a bargain with him. Do you know, Djama, I believe I would give half the remainder of my own life, whatever that may be, to learn the secrets that were once locked up in that withered, desiccated brain of his.’
The speaker was one of two men who were standing in a large room, half- study, half-museum, in a big, old-fashioned house in Maida Vale. Wherever the science of archoeology was studied, Professor Martin Lamson was known as the highest living authority on the subject of the antiquities of South America. He had just returned from a year’s relic-hunting in Peru and Bolivia, and was enjoying the luxury of unpacking his treasures with the almost boyish delight which, under such circumstances, comes only to the true enthusiast. His companion was a somewhat slenderly-built man, of medium height, whose clear, olive skin, straight, black hair, and deep blue-black eyes betrayed a not very remote Eastern origin.
Dr Laurens Djama was a physiologist, whose rapidly-acquired fame– he was barely thirty-two–would have been considered sounder by his professional brethren if it had not been, as they thought, impaired by excursions into by-ways of science which were believed to lead him perilously near to the borders of occultism. Five years before he had pulled the professor through a very bad attack of the calentura in Panama, where they met by the merest traveller’s chance, and since then they had been fast friends.
They were standing over a long packing-case, some seven feet in length and two and a-half in breadth, in which lay, at full length, wrapped in grave- clothes that had once been gaily coloured, but which were now faded and grey with the grave-dust, the figure of a man with hands crossed over the breast, dead to all appearances, and yet so gruesomely lifelike that it seemed hard to believe that the broad, muscular chest over which the crossed hands lay was not actually heaving and falling with the breath of life.
The face had been uncovered. It was that of a man still in the early prime of life. The dull brown hair was long and thick, the features somewhat aquiline, and stamped even in death with an almost royal dignity. The skin was of a pale bronze, though darkened by the hues of death. Yet every detail of the face was so perfect and so life-like that, as the professor had said, it seemed to be rather the face of a man in a deep sleep than that of an Inca prince who must have been dead and buried for over three hundred years. The closed eyes, though somewhat sunken in their sockets, were the eyes of sleep rather than of death, and the lids seemed to lie so lightly over them that it looked as though one awakening touch would raise them.
‘It is beyond all question the most perfect specimen of a mummy that I have seen,’ said the doctor, stooping down and drawing his thin, nervous fingers very lightly over the dried skin of the right cheek. ‘On my honour, I simply can’t believe that His Highness, as you call him, ever really went to the other world by any of the orthodox routes. If you could imagine an absolute suspension of all the vital functions induced by the influence of something–some drug or hypnotic process unknown to modern science, brought into action on a human being in the very prime of his vital strength –then, so far as I can see, the results of that influence would be exactly what you see here.’
‘But surely that can’t be anything but a dream. How could it be possible to bring all the vital functions to a dead stop like that, and yet keep them in such a state that it might be possible–for that’s what I suppose you are driving at–to start them into activity again, just as one might wind up a clock that had been stopped for a few weeks and set it going?’
‘My dear fellow, the borderland between life and death is so utterly unknown to the very best of us that there is no telling what frightful possibilities there may be lying hidden under the shadows that hang over it. You know as well as I do that there are perfectly well authenticated instances on record of Hindoo Fakirs who have allowed themselves to be placed in a state of suspended animation and had their tongues turned back into their throats, their mouths and noses covered with clay, and have been buried in graves that have been filled up and had sentries watching day and night over them for as long a period as six weeks, and then have been dug up and restored to perfect health and strength again in a few hours. Now, if life can be suspended for six weeks and then restored to an organism which, from all physiological standpoints, must be regarded as inanimate, why not for six years or six hundred years, for the matter of that? Given once the possibility, which we may assume as proved, of a restoration to life after total suspension of animation, then it only becomes a question of preservation of tissue for more or less indefinite periods. Granted that tissue can be so preserved, then, given the other possibility already proved, andwell, we will talk about the other possibility afterwards. Now, tell me, don’t you, as an archaeologist, see anything peculiar about this Inca prince of yours?’
The professor had been looking keenly at his friend during the delivery of this curious physiological lecture. He seemed as though he were trying to read the thoughts that were chasing each other through his brain behind the impenetrable mask of that smooth, broad forehead of his. He looked into his eyes, but saw nothing there save a cold, steady light that he had often seen before when the doctor was discussing subjects that interested him deeply. As for his face, it was utterly impassive–the face of a dispassionate scientist quietly discussing the possible solution of a problem that had been laid before him. Whether his friend was really driving at some unheard-of and unearthly solution of the problem which he himself had raised, or whether he was merely discussing the possible issue of some abstract question in physiology, he was utterly unable to discover, and so he thought it best to confine himself to the matter in hand, without hazarding any risky guesses that might possibly result in his own confusion. So he answered as quietly as he could:
‘Yes, I must confess that there are two perhaps very important points of difference between this and any other Peruvian mummy that I have ever seen or heard of.’
‘Ah, I thought so,’ said Djama, half closing his eyes and allowing just the ghost of a smile to flit across his lips. ‘I thought I knew enough about archæology and the science of mummies in general to expect you to say that. Now, just for the gratification of my own vanity, I should like to try and anticipate what you are going to say; and if I’m wrong, well, of course, I shall only be too happy to be contradicted.’
‘Very well,’ laughed the professor; ‘say on!’
‘Well, in the first place, I believe I’m right in saying that all Peruvian mummies that have so far been discovered have been found in a sitting posture, with the legs drawn close up to the body by means of bindings and burial-clothes, so that the chin rested between the knees, while the arms were brought round the legs and folded over them. Then, again, these mummies have always been found in an upright position, while you found this one lying down.’
‘Quite so, quite so!’ said the professor. ‘In fact, I may say that no one save myself has ever discovered such a mummy as this among all the thousands that have been taken out of Peruvian burying-places. And now, what is your other point?’
‘Simply this,’ said Djama, kneeling down beside the case, and laying his hands over the abdomen of the recumbent figure. ‘In the case of all mummies, whether Egyptian or Peruvian, it was the invariable practice of the embalmers to take out the intestines and fill the abdominal cavity with preservative herbs and spices. Now, this has not been done in this case. Look here.’
And deftly and swiftly he moved the dusty, half-decayed coverings from the body of the mummy, while the professor looked on half-wondering and half- frightened for the safety of his treasure.
‘That has not been done here. You see the man’s body is as perfect as it was on the day he died–to use a conventional term. Now, am I not right?’
‘Yes, yes; perfectly right,’ answered the professor, who felt himself fast losing his grip of the conversation which had taken so strange a turn. ‘But what has all this got to do with the most unique mummy that ever was brought from South America? Surely, in the name of all that’s sacred, you don’t mean-‘
‘My dear fellow, never mind what I mean for the present,’ replied Djama, with another of his half smiles. ‘If I mean anything at all, the meaning will keep, and if I don’t it doesn’t matter. Now, do you mind telling me exactly how and where you came across this extraordinary specimen of–well, for want of a better term–we will say, Inca embalming?’
‘Yes, willingly,’ said the professor, glad to get back again on to the familiar ground of his own experiences. ‘I found it almost by accident in a little valley about four days’ ride to the westward of Cuzco. I was on my way to Abancay across the Apurimac. My mule had fallen lame, and so I got belated. Night came on, and somehow we got off the track crossing one of the Punas–those elevated tablelands, you know, up among the mountains –and when the mule could go no farther we camped, and the next morning I found myself in an almost circular valley, completely walled in by enormous mountains, save for the narrow, crooked gorge through which we had stumbled by the purest accident. The bottom of this valley was filled by a little lake, and while I was exploring the shores of this I saw, hidden underneath an overhanging ledge of rock, a couple of courses of that wonderful mortarless masonry which the Incas alone seemed to know how to build. I had no sooner seen it than all desire of getting to Abancay or anywhere else had left me. I made my arriero turn the animals loose for the day, and then I sent him back to a village we had passed through the day before to buy more provisions and bring them to me.
‘As soon as he had got out of sight I set to work to get some of the stones out and see what there was behind them. I knew there must be something, for the Incas never wasted labour. It was hard work, for the stones were fitted together as perfectly as the pieces of a Chinese puzzle; but at last I got one out and then the rest was easy. Behind the stones I found a little chamber hollowed out of the rock, perfectly clean and dry, and on the floor of this I found, without any other covering than what you see there, the mummy of His Highness lying on what had once been a bed of soft Vicuna skins, as perfect and as lifelike as though he had only crept in there twelve hours before, and had laid down for a good night’s rest.
‘You may imagine how delighted I was at such a find. I hardly knew how to contain myself until my man came back. I put the stones back into their places as well as I could, and when Patricio returned the next day I had the animals saddled up, and started off in a hurry to Cuzco. There I had this case made, bought two extra mules, brought them to the valley, packed up my mummy, took it back to Cuzco, and from there to the railway terminus at Sicuani and took it down by train to Arequipa, where I left it in safe keeping until I had finished the rest of my exploration. Then I went back, took it down to Mollendo, got it on board the steamer, and here it is.’
‘And you didn’t find any traces of other treasure-places, I suppose, in the valley?’ said Djama, who had listened with the most perfect attention to the professor’s story.
‘No, I didn’t, though I must confess that one side of the cave in which I found this was walled up with the same kind of masonry as there was in front of it; but, to tell you the truth, the Peruvian Government has such insane ideas about treasure-hunting; and the life of a man who is believed to have discovered anything worth stealing is worth so little in the wilder districts of the interior, that I was afraid of losing the treasure I had got, perhaps for the sake of a few little gold ornaments which I might have dug out of the hill, and so I decided to be content with what I’d found.’
H’m!’ said the doctor. ‘Well, you may have been wise under the circumstances; I daresay you were. But we can see about that afterwards. Meanwhile there is something else to be talked about.’
He stopped suddenly, took a quick turn or two up and down the room, with his hands clasped behind him and his eyes fixed on the floor. Then he went to the door, opened it, looked out, shut it and locked it, and then came back again and sat down without a word in his chair, staring steadily at the impassive face of the mummy in the packing–case.
‘Why, what’s the matter, doctor?’ said the professor, a trifle sharply. ‘You don’t suppose I am afraid of anyone coming to steal my treasure, do you?’
‘My dear fellow,’ said Djama, looking him straight in the eyes, and speaking very slowly, as though his mind was doing something else besides shaping the thoughts to which he was giving utterance, ‘I don’t for a moment suppose that there are thieves about, or that, if there were, any burglar with a competent knowledge of his profession would think of stealing your mummy, priceless as it may prove to be. I locked the door because I don’t want to be interrupted. I want to talk to you about a very important matter.’
‘And that is?’
‘Gently, my friend, gently, don’t get excited yet. You will want all your nerves soon, I can assure you. Yes, I am quite serious. You know that in the good old days, when people still believed in His Majesty of Darkness, such a speech as the one you remember making a short time ago was quite enough to call up one of his agents, armed with full powers to make contracts and do all necessary business.’
‘Look here, Laurens, if you go on talking like that, I shall begin to think you have gone out of your mind.’
‘My dear fellow, to be quite candid with you, I don’t care two pins what you think on that subject. I have been called mad too many times for that. Now, suppose, just for argument’s sake, that I were Mephistopheles, and staked my diabolic reputation on the statement that in that thing you possess a possible key to those lost treasures of the Incas, which ten generations of men have hunted for in vain, what kind of a bargain would you be inclined to make with me on the strength of it? Half the rest of your life, I think you said, and as that wouldn’t be very much good to me, suppose we say the half of any treasures we may discover by the help of our silent friend there? Eh? –will that suit you?’
‘Are you really serious, Djama, or are you only dreaming another of these wild scientific dreams of yours?’ exclaimed the professor, taking a couple of quick strides towards him. ‘What connection can there possibly be between a mummy, about four centuries years old, and the lost treasures of the Incas?’
‘This man was an Inca, wasn’t he?’ said the doctor, abruptly, ‘and one of the highest rank, too, from what you have said. He lived just about the time of the Conquest, didn’t he–the time when the priests stripped their temples, and the nobles emptied their palaces of their treasures to save them from the Spaniards? Is it not likely that he would know where, at anyrate, a great part of them was buried? Nay, may he not even have known the localities of the lost mines that the Incas got their hundredweights of gold from, and of the emerald mines which no one has ever been able to find? Why, Lamson, if these dead lips could speak, I believe they could make you and me millionaires in an hour. And why shouldn’t they speak?’
‘Don’t talk like that, Djama, for Heaven’s sake! It is too serious a thing to joke about,’ said the professor, with a half-frightened glance in his set and shining eyes. ‘I should have thought you, of all men, knew enough of the facts of life and death not to talk such nonsense as that.’
‘Nonsense!’ said the physiologist, interrupting him almost angrily; ‘may I not know enough of the facts of life and death, as you call them, to know that that is not nonsense? But there, it’s no use arguing about things like this. Will you allow this mummy of yours to be made the subject of– well, we will say, an experiment in physiology?’
‘What! the finest and most unique huaca that was ever brought to Europe- ‘
‘It would only be made finer still by the experiment, even if it failed. I know what you are going to say, and I will give you my word of honour, and, if you like, I’ll pledge you my professional reputation, that not a hair of its head shall be injured. Let me take it to my laboratory, and I promise you solemnly that in a week you shall have it back, not as it is now, but either the body of your Inca, as perfect as it was the day he died, or-‘
He stopped, and looked hard at his friend, as if wondering what the effects of his next words would be upon him.
‘Or what?’ asked the professor, almost in a whisper.
‘Your Inca prince, roused from his three-hundred-year sleep, and able to answer your questions and guide us to his lost mines and treasure houses.’
‘Are you in earnest, Djama?’ the professor whispered, catching him by the arm and looking round at the mummy as though he half thought that the silent witness in the packing-case might be listening to the words which, if it could have heard, would have had such a terrible significance for it. ‘Do you really mean to say in sober earnest that there is the remotest chance of your science being able to work such a miracle as that?’
‘A chance, yes,’ replied Djama, steadily. ‘It is not a certainty, of course, but I believe it to be possible. Will you let me try?’
‘Yes, you shall try,’ answered the professor in a voice nothing like as steady as his. ‘If any other man but you had even hinted at such a thing, I would have seen him–well, in a lunatic asylum first. But there, I will trust my Inca to you. It seems a fearful thing even to attempt, and yet, after all, if it fails there will be no harm done, and if it succeeds– ah, yes, if it succeeds–it will mean-‘
‘Endless fame for you, my friend, as the recreator of a lost society, and for both of us wealth, perhaps beyond counting. But stop a moment– granted success, how shall we talk with our Inca revenant? Have I not heard you say that the Aymaru dialect of the Quichua tongue is lost as completely as the Inca treasures?’
‘Not quite, though I believe I am now the only white man on earth who understands it.’
‘Good! then let me get to work at once, and in a week–well, in a week we shall see.’
PROLOGUE PART II. A PHYSIOLOGICAL EXPERIMENT
Laurens Djama dined with the professor that night, and the small hours were growing large before they ended the long talk of which their strange bargain, and the still stranger experiment which was to result from it, formed the subject. The next day the packing-case containing the mummy was transferred to Djama’s laboratory, and then for a whole week neither the professor nor any of his friends or acquaintances had either sight or speech of him.
Every caller at his house in Brondesbury Park was politely but firmly denied admittance on professional grounds, and three letters and two telegrams which the professor had sent to him, after being himself denied admittance, remained unanswered.
At last, on the Thursday following the Friday on which the mummy had been sent to the laboratory, the professor received a telegram telling him to come at once to the doctor. Three minutes after he had read it he was in a hansom and on his way to Kilburn, wondering what it was that he was to be brought face to face with during the next half hour.
This time there was no denial. The door opened as he went up the steps, and the servant handed him a note. He tore it open and read,–
‘Come round to the laboratory and make a new acquaintance who will yet be an old one.’
His heart stood still, and he caught his breath sharply as he read the words which told him that the unearthly experiment for which he had furnished the subject had been successful.
The doctor’s laboratory stood apart from the house in the long, narrow garden at the back, and as he approached the door he stopped for a moment, and an almost irresistible impulse to go away and have nothing more to do with the unholy work in hand took possession of him. Then the love of his science and the longing to hear the marvels which could only be heard from the lips that had been silent for centuries overcame his fears, and he went up to the door and knocked softly.
It was opened by a haggard, wild-eyed man, whom he scarcely recognised as his old friend. Djama did not speak; he simply caught hold of the sleeve of his coat with a nervous, trembling grasp, drew him in, shut the door, and led him to a corner of the room where there was a little camp bed, curtained all round with thin, transparent muslin, through which he could see the shape of a man lying under the sheets.
Djama pulled the curtain aside, and said in a hoarse whisper,–
‘Look, it has been hard work, and terrible work, too, but I have succeeded. Do you see, he is breathing!’
The professor stared wide-eyed at the white pillow on which lay the head of what, a week before, had been his mummy. Now it was the head of a living man; the pale bronze of the skin was clear and moist with the dew of life; the lips were no longer brown and dry, but faintly red and slightly parted, and the counterpane, which was pulled close up under the chin, was slowly rising and falling with the regular rhythm of a sleeper’s breathing. He looked from the face of him who had been dead and was alive again to the face of the man whose daring science and perfect skill had wrought the unholy miracle, and then he shrank back from the bedside, pulling Djama with him, and whispering,–
‘Good God, it is even more awful than it is wonderful! How did you do it?’
‘That is my secret,’ whispered Djama, his dry lips shaping themselves into a ghastly smile, ‘and for all the treasures that that man ever saw, I wouldn’t tell it to a living soul, or do such hideous work again. I tell you I have seen life and death fighting together for two days and nights in this room–not, mind you, as they fight on a deathbed, but the other way, and I would rather see a thousand men die than one more come back out of death into life. You see, he is sleeping now. He opened his eyes just before daybreak this morning–that’s nearly ten hours ago–but if I lived ten thousand years I should never forget that one look he gave me before he shut them again. Since then he has slept, and I stood by that bed testing his pulse and his breathing for eight hours before I wired you. Then I knew he would live, and so I sent for you.’
The professor looked at his friend with an involuntary and unconquerable aversion rising in his heart against him; an aversion that was half fear, half horror, and then he remembered that he himself had a share in the fearful work which had been done–a work that could not now be undone without murder.
With another backward look at the bed, he said, in a whisper that was almost a smothered groan,–
‘When will he wake?’
Before Djama could reply, the question was answered by a faint rustle, and a low, long-drawn sigh from the bed. They looked and saw the Inca’s face turned towards them, and two fever-bright eyes shining through the curtains.
‘He is awake already, two hours sooner than I expected,’ said Djama, in a voice that he strove vainly to keep steady. ‘Come, now, you are the only man on earth who can talk to him. Let us see if he has come back to reason as well as to life.’
‘Yes, I will try,’ said the professor, faintly. He took a couple of trembling steps. Then the lights in the room began to dance, the whitewashed walls reeled round him, and he pitched forward and fell unconscious by the side of the bed.
When he came to himself he was lying on the floor of the laboratory, out of sight of the bed, behind a great cupboard, glass-doored and filled with bottles. Djama was kneeling beside him. A strong smell of ammonia dominated the other smells peculiar to a laboratory, and his brow was wet with the spirit that Djama was gently rubbing on it with his hand.
‘What have I been doing?’ he said, as, with the other’s assistance, he got up into a sitting position and looked stupidly about him. ‘It isn’t true, that is it, I really saw–Good God no, it can’t be; it’s too horrible. I must have dreamt it.’
‘Nonsense, my dear fellow, nonsense! I should have thought you would have had better nerves than that. Come, take a nip of this, and pull yourself together. There is nothing so very horrible about it for you. Now, if you had had the actual work to do-‘
‘Then it is true! You really have brought him back to life again? That was him I saw lying on the bed?’ He looked up at Djama as he spoke with a half- inquiring, half-frightened glance. His voice was weak and unsteady, like the voice of a man who has been stunned by some terrible shock, and is still dazed with the fear and wonder of it.
‘Yes, of course it was,’ said Djama; ‘but I can tell you, I should have hesitated before I introduced you so suddenly, if I hadn’t thought that the nerves of an old traveller like you would have been a good deal stronger than they seem to be. It’s a very good job that His Highness was only about half conscious himself when you collapsed, or you might have given him a shock that would have killed him again.’
‘Again?’ said the professor, echoing the last word as he got up slowly to his feet. ‘That sounds queer, doesn’t it, to talk of killing a man again? I am more sorry than I can say that I was weak enough to let my feelings overcome me in such a ridiculous fashion. However, I am all right now. Give me another drain of that brandy of yours, and then let us talk. Is he still awake?’
‘No, he dozed off again almost immediately, and you have been here about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. Do you think you can stand another look at him?’
‘Oh, certainly,’ said the professor, who, as a matter of fact, felt a trifle ashamed of himself and his weakness, and was anxious to do something that would restore his credit. He followed the doctor out into the laboratory again, and stood with him for some moments without speaking by the Inca’s bedside. He was sleeping very quietly, and his breathing seemed to be stronger and deeper than it had been. He had slightly shifted his position, and was lying now half turned on his right side, with his right cheek on the pillow.
‘You see he has moved,’ whispered Djama. ‘That shows that muscular control has been re-established. We shall have him walking about in a day or so. Ah! he is dreaming, and of something pleasant, too. Look at his lips moving into a smile. Poor fellow, just fancy a man dreaming of things that happened three hundred years ago, and waking up to find himself in another world. I’ll be bound he is dreaming about his wife or sweetheart, and we shall have to tell him, or rather you will, that she has been a mummy for three centuries. Look now, his lips are moving; I believe he is going to say something. See if you can hear what it is?’
The professor stooped down and held his ear so close that he could feel on his cheek the gentle fanning of the breath that had been still for three centuries. Then the Inca’s lips moved again, and a soft sighing sound came from them, and in the midst of it he caught the words,–
‘Cori-Coyllur, Nustallipa, Ñusta mi!’
Then there came a long, gentle sigh. The Inca’s lips became still again, shaped into a very sweet and almost womanly smile, as though his vision had passed and left him in a happy, dreamless slumber.
‘What did he say?’ whispered Djama. ‘Were you able to understand it?’
‘Yes,’ said the professor, ‘yes, and you were right about the subject of his dream. Come away, in case we wake him, and I will tell you.’
They went to the other end of the laboratory, and the professor went on, still speaking in a low, half-whisper,–
‘Poor fellow, I am afraid we have incurred a terribly heavy debt to him. What he said meant, “Golden Star, my princess, my darling!” So you see you were right, but poor Golden Star has been dead three hundred years and more –that is, at least, if his Golden Star is the same as the heroine of the tradition.’
‘What tradition?’ asked Djama.
‘It’s too long a story to tell you now, but if she is the same, then our Inca’s name is Vilcaroya, and he is the hero of the strangest story, and, thanks to you, the strangest fate that the wildest romancer could imagine. However, the story must keep, for I wouldn’t spoil it by cutting it short. The principal question now is–what are we going to do with him? We can’t keep him here, of course?’
No, certainly not,’ replied Djama, with knitted brows and faintly smiling lips. ‘His Highness must be cared for in accordance with his rank and our expectations. I shall have him taken into the house and properly nursed.’
‘But what about your sister? You will frighten her to death if you take in a living patient that has been dead for three hundred years.’
‘Not if we manage it properly; there will be no need to tell Ruth the story yet, at anyrate. I’ll tell her that I am going to receive a patient who is suffering from a mysterious disease unknown to medical science. I’ll say I picked him up in the Oriental Home in Whitechapel, and have brought him here to study him, and you and I must smuggle him into the house and put him to bed some time when she is out of the way. Then I’ll instal her as nurse; in fact, she will do that for herself; and as there is no chance of her learning anything from him, we can break the truth to her by degrees, and when His Highness is well enough to travel we’ll all be off to Peru and come back millionaires, if you can only persuade him to tell you the secret of his treasure-houses.’
That night the doctor and the professor took turns in watching by the bedside of their strange patient, whose slumber became lighter and lighter until, towards midnight, he got so restless and apparently uneasy that Djama considered that the time had come to wake him and see if he was able to take any nourishment. So he set the professor to work, warming some chicken broth over a spirit lamp, and mixing a little champagne and soda-water in one glass and brandy and water in another. Meanwhile, he filled a hypodermic syringe with colourless fluid out of a little stoppered bottle, and then turned the sheet down and injected the contents of the syringe under the smooth, bronze skin of the Inca’s shoulder. He moved slightly at the prick of the needle, then he drew two or three deep breaths, and suddenly sat up in bed and stared about him with wide open eyes, full, as they well might be, of inquiring wonder.
The professor, who had turned at the sound of the hurried breathing, saw him as he raised himself, and heard him say in the clear and somewhat high-pitched tone of a dweller among the mountains,–
‘Has the morning dawned again for the Children of the Sun? Am I truly awake, or am I only dreaming that the death-sleep is over? Where is Golden Star, and where am I? Tell me–you who have doubtless brought me back to the life we forsook together–was it last night or how many nights or moons ago?’
The words came slowly at first, like those of a man still on the borderland between sleep and waking; but each one was spoken more clearly and decisively than the one before it, and the last sentence was uttered in the strong, steady tones of a man in full possession of his faculties.
‘Come here, Lamson,’ said Djama, a trifle nervously; ‘bring the soup with you, and some brandy, though I don’t think he needs it. Do you understand what he said?’
‘Yes,’ replied the professor, coming to the bedside with a cup of soup in one hand and a glass of brandy and water in the other. Both hands trembled as he set the cup and the glass down on a little table. He looked at the Inca like a man looking at a re-embodied spirit, and said to him in Quichua,–
I am not he who has brought you back to life, but my friend here, who is a great and skilled physician, and master of the arts of life and death. You are in his house, and safe, for we are friends, and have nursed you back to health and waking life after your long sleep.’
‘But Golden Star,’ said the Inca, interrupting him with a flash of impatience in his eyes. Where is she–my bride who went with me into the shades of death? Have you not brought her, too, back to life?’
The professor stared in silence at the strange speaker of these strange words, which told him so plainly that the old legend of the death-bridal of Vilcaroya-Inca and Golden Star was now no legend at all, but a true story which had come down almost unchanged from generation to generation. Then an infinite pity filled his heart for this lonely wanderer from another age, whose friends and kindred had been dead for centuries, and whose very nation was now only a shadowy name on a half-forgotten page of history.
‘What does he say?’ said Djama, breaking in upon his reverie. ‘I suppose he wants to know where he is, and what has become of that sweetheart of his he was dreaming about?’
‘Yes,’ replied the professor; ‘but you won’t understand properly until I have told you the story. Poor fellow! I suppose we shall have to tell him the ghastly truth. Good Heavens! fancy telling a man that his wife has been dead for three hundred years or more! Look here, Djama, this business can’t stop here, you know. What a fool I was, after all, not to see if there wasn’t another chamber beside the one I found him in! Of course there must be, and I have no doubt she is lying there at this present moment. We shall have to go and find her, and you must restore her as you have done him. Phew! where is it all going to end, I wonder!’
‘And suppose we can’t find her, or suppose I fail, even if I can bring myself to undertake that horrible work all over again?’ said Djama, looking almost fearfully at the Inca, who was still sitting up in the bed glancing mutely from one to the other, as though waiting for an answer to his question. Then, keeping his voice as steady as he could, the professor told him the story of his resuscitation, addressing him by his own name and ending by asking him if he remembered when he and Golden Star had devoted themselves to die together, as the tradition said they had done.
‘Yes, I remember!’ said Vilcaroya, with brightening eyes and faintly flushing cheeks. ‘How could I forget it? It was when the bearded strangers from the north had come and taken the usurper Atahuallpa prisoner in the midst of his conquering host at Cajamarca. It was after the Inca Huascar had been slain by stealth with a traitor’s knife. It was on the night of the feast of Raymi, when our Father the Sun had left the Sacred Fleece unkindled, and when was fulfilled the prophecy that the night should fall over the land of the Children of the Sun. Now, tell me, you who speak the language of my people, how long have I been sleeping?’
Instead of replying directly, he offered the Inca the cup of broth, and asked him first to take the nourishment that he must need so greatly after his long fast, telling him that it was needful to prevent him losing his new-found strength again. When he had eaten and drunk a little, then he would tell him what he could.
He took the broth and a little bread obediently, and while he was eating and drinking, the professor translated what he had said to the doctor. When he had finished, Djama looked at the Inca, sitting there taking food and drink like any other human being, and with evident relish, too, and said,–
‘That happened in 1532–three hundred and sixty-five years ago! It sounds utterly incredible, doesn’t it, and yet there he is, eating and drinking and talking with us just like any other man. I can hardly believe the work of my own hands, and I am beginning to half wish I had never begun it. Just imagine the awful loneliness to which we shall have condemned this poor fellow, supposing we can’t find his Golden Star and restore her to him! Still perhaps you had better tell him the truth at once. I think he can stand it. He has been a long time coming round, but I don’t think there is much the matter with him now.
Then the professor told Vilcaroya theto him, so terrible truth, that of all men in the world he was the most lonely, separated as he was from all that he had known and loved by an impassable gulf of nearly four long centuries–that his well-loved Golden Star was but a memory known to few, a name in a vague tradition; that the resting-place, even of her mummy, was unknown, and that all that the darkest prophecy could have foretold had in very truth fallen upon the land of the Incas and the Children of the Sun.
Vilcaroya heard him to the end in silence; then, raising his hands to his forehead, he bowed his head and said,–
‘It is the will of our Father, foretold by the lips of his priests, but other things were foretold which shall be fulfilled as well as these. Golden Star is not dead; she only sleeps as I did. If I have awakened, why shall not she? I know where she lies–where Anda-Huillac swore to me they would lay her. Come, let us go! I will take you to the place, and you shall restore her to me, warm and living and loving as she was when I kissed her good-bye in the Sanctuary of the Sun, and I will give you treasures of gold and silver and jewels such as you have never dreamed of in exchange for her.’
THE STORY OF VILCAROYA
I. BACK THROUGH THE SHADOWS
As the time passes between dreaming and waking, so for me did the long years pass, flowing like a smooth and silent stream seen from afar, out of the darkness that fell so slowly and so sweetly over my eyes that night when I sank into the death-trance beside Golden Star, my beloved, in the bridal chamber that they made for us in the Temple of the Sun, into the light that shone into them when they opened upon a scene so different, and saw a white, haggard face bending over me, and two black, burning eyes looking into them.
Then I closed them again and slept, and when I woke again there were two faces looking at me, both white and full of fear and wonder, and I saw two beings who seemed very strange to me, such as I had never seen among the Children of the Sun, standing by the couch on which I lay, and one of them fell down as though sore stricken, and I tried to think what this could mean, and, thinking, fell asleep again.
Then I dreamt a long, sweet dream of the days that I now know were far past, when I, Vilcaroya, son of the great Huayna-Capac, lived in the Land of the Four Regions, a prince among princes, a warrior and a child of the Sacred Race, whose blood had flowed unmixed through many generations from the divine fountain of life and light, our Father the Sun. I dreamt of Golden Star, and the days when I loved her in timid silence, for she was the fairest of all our race, and so, as it seemed to me, destined to no less a lot than the motherhood of a long line of Incas, in whom should live and grow to ever greater splendour the glories of the race that owned no earthly origin.
I called her in my dream, but she made no answer. I saw her lying by my side in that well-remembered chamber, with the shadowy forms of the priests standing about us as I had seen them long before; but, alas! she lay still with closed eyes and lips which seemed to have forgotten how sweetly they once could smile. I whispered her name, mingled with many a loving word, into her ear, and still she moved not. I put my arms about her and kissed her, and instantly I shrank back shivering with a fear unspeakable, for the form that should have been so warm and soft and yielding, was chilled and pulseless and rigid, as though some foul magic had changed it into stone, and the lips that should have given me back kiss for kiss were still and cold and senseless.
Then I saw, as it seemed with half-closed eyes, that dear shape of hers being borne away from me, while I, longing to snatch her from the hands of those who were robbing me of her, yet lay helpless on the couch, without strength to move or speak, until all grew dim around me, and I felt myself raised by invisible hands, and borne far away through the darkness– and so my dream melted away into the night of sleep.
Then, yet again, I woke and saw the two strange men that I had seen before, and one came and spoke to me kindly in my own tongue, and called me by my own name, and gave me food and drink, and told me in a few, but to me terrible, words that the dreams I had dreamed were dreams indeed– dreams of a time that was long gone by, of things that had passed away, perchance for ever, and men and women whose names were only memories.
Thus did I come from the evening of one age into the morning of another, falling asleep in the prime of my strength and manhood, and waking again even as I had fallen asleep–though those who had closed my eyes had been dead for many generations, and the name of our ancient race was but a bitter memory to the sons and daughters of my own land amidst the mountains.
Then I went forth into the wondrous new world into which I had awakened, the world which you who read this hold so common, and which I found crowded with wonders so many and marvellous that if it had not been for the loving care of her who guided my first footsteps on my new journey, as she might have guided those of a little child, my re-awakening reason must soon have been quenched in the night of madness.
Many and strange as were the things that happened to me during the first days and months of my awakening, there is little need that I should now write of them at any length. Yet something I must say of them in order that the still stranger things of which I shall have to tell may be the better understood.
And first I must tell of her whose gentle hand led me from weakness to strength, and guided my unwonted footsteps through the mazes of that new wonderland in which I had awakened, and from whose lips I learnt the first words that I spoke of the strong and stately English speech in which I am striving so lamely and imperfectly to write down the story of my new life.
This was Ruth, the sister of Djama, whose smile was the first ray of sunshine that shone into my second life, and whose laugh was so sweet and gladsome, that when it first sounded in my ears, like an echo from the dear dead past, I named her forthwith Cusi-Coyllur, which in English means Joyful Star–after that royal maiden of my own race who loved the handsome rebel Ollantay, and, refusing all others, waited for him in the House of the Virgins of the Sun until he came in triumph to claim her. She came with us to the south, rejecting all contrary counsel and braving the labours of the long, toilsome journey, so that she might be the first woman to welcome Golden Star back into the world of life.
Yet what words can I find in this new speech that I have yet but half learnt to tell fitly of her beauty and sweet graciousness, and of all the magic which made her seem in my eyes like an angel that had come down from the Mansions of the Sun to greet me in a world in which I was a stranger? Better that you who may read what I write should learn to know her for yourself through the sweetness and grace of her own words and deeds, as I shall strive, however unworthily, to tell of them. So, then, let it be.
But there is another of whom I must say something before I go on to tell of my return to my own land–now, alas! mine no longer–and that is Francis Hartness, a captain among the warriors of the English, and a friend of him who was called the professor, because of his learning– he who had helped Djama to bring me back into the world of living men.
He was a man of about thirty years, tall of stature and strong of limb, brief of speech and straight of tongue, with eyes as blue as the skies which shine on Yucay, and hair and beard golden and bright as the rays which flow from the smile of our Father the Sun. Him we met by chance one evening in the square of the town which is called Panama, named, they told me, after that older city, whence the conquerors of my people sailed to ravish the realms of Huayna-Capac. There was peace in his own land and all the neighbouring countries, and so he was journeying to the region which is now called South America, where the descendants of the Spaniards are nearly always fighting among themselves over the spoils of my people, to see what work he could find to keep his sword from rusting.
As he was greatly skilled in that strange, new warfare of flame and thunder and far-smiting bolts, which had but begun to be when our Father the Sun hid his face from the eyes of his children, I took counsel with Joyful Star–who was ever my wisest as well as my most faithful guide in all things–and we together told him my story as we went south, and after that I had asked him if he would help me in the task which I was going to essay, which was nothing less than the taking back of the land of my fathers, and the raising of the children of my people to the ancient glories of that state which I alone of living men remembered. To this, after some shrewd questioning, he consented–for it was a desperate venture, such as his brave heart loved–and when he had given me his hand on it, and promised, after the simple fashion of his nation, to be true to me in peace and war, I told him of the means that I could employ to gain my end, and how I would use that lust of gold which had led to the ruin of my people, so that it should conquer the children of their conquerors and give me back the empire that had been my father’s.
At Panama we took ship again and travelled swiftly and straightly south, driven by that wondrous power which had come into the world to serve men like a tireless giant since I had fallen asleep; and day after day on the southward voyage I walked alone up and down the deck, or stood gazing, rapt in thought, at the desert foreshore along which the steamer was running, and at the great masses of the dark brown barren mountains, as they towered range beyond range till they overtopped the clouds themselves and stood serene and sharply outlined against the blue background of the upper sky.
Behind those mighty, rock-built ramparts lay the well-loved, well- remembered land over which my fathers had ruled in the days of peace, before the stranger and the oppressor had come. On the other side of them I knew that I was now fated to find only the poor fragments of the great cities and stately pleasure-houses that I had known in all their strength and beauty –only the silent and deserted ruins of the mighty fortresses which had guarded the confines of our lost empire, and were the portals through which the Children of the Sun had marched to unvarying conquest.
I thought, too, of the broad, green, level plain of Cajamarca, surrounded by its guardian ramparts of terraced hills; of the long, verdant valley of Cuzco with its hundred towns and villages nestling amidst the foliage which shaded their streets and squares, and looking out over the level fields of the valley and the countless tiers of terraces that rose green and gold with maize, or glowing with flowers, to the summits of the hills; and of that earthly paradise of Yucay, wherein the Gardens of the Sun, the golden shrines of my ancient faith, and the wondrous pleasure-palaces of many generations of Incas had glowed in almost heavenly beauty, embosomed in green and gold and scarlet in the midst of inaccessible mountains which themselves were overtopped by the mighty peaks of eternal snow that I had so often seen glimmering white and ghostly in the moonlight, like guardian spirits round an enchanted realm, on many a night of delicious revelry now far past and lost in the swift flood of the years that had rolled by since then.
It was to the poor remnants of all these glories that I was returning –returning to find, as they had told me, the homes of my ancestors laid waste and the descendants of my people the slaves of strangers. The desolation which it had taken centuries to accomplish would be to me but the swift, magical change of a day and a night and a morning.
Think, you who read, of the dread and the horror of it! I had seen the last day of the stately empire of my fathers the Incas! I had fallen asleep and I had awakened, and now, on the morrow of my sleep, I was coming back to the silent and ghastly ruins which the slow, pitiless work of the years and centuries had left behind it!
But over the gulf of these same centuries the hand of my Father the Sun was swiftly stretched out to help and uphold me, for no sooner did I again tread that soil which had once been sacred to Him, than my fainting heart grew strong with the memory of that ancient prophecy which I had come to fulfil, and of which this new life of mine was of itself a part fulfilment. If one part, and that not the least, had already been made good, then why not the rest?
Far away behind those towering tiers of mountains lay Golden Star in that resting-place to which she had been borne with me, sleeping soundly in the impassive embrace of their mighty arms; and within the safe-keeping of those arms lay, too, that uncounted treasure, that vast legacy which the long-dead leaders of my people had bequeathed to me for the sacred purpose of restoring those glories which all men, save myself, believed to be but a dream of the distant past, that incomparable inheritance of which I was the sole lawful heir on earth, and which I was coming to share with Golden Star when I had once more raised the Rainbow Banner above the restored throne of the divine Manco.
As I thought of all this, the blood that had lain stagnant through the long years of my magical death-sleep began to pulse like living fire through my veins. My new life with all its marvels became glorified into a waking vision of new conquests and re-won empire. The past was a dream both sweet and bitter in its vivid memories, but still a dream that had been dreamt and was done with. The present and the future were realities, golden and glorious with a hope justified by the miracle that had made them possible. I had learnt enough of the new age in which I had awakened to know that the lust of gold which had brought the conqueror and the oppressor into the land of the children of the Sun burnt every whit as fiercely in the hearts of the men who were living now as it had done in theirs, and that lust, as I had told Hartness and the others, should now work for me and for the redemption of my people so that that which had been their ruin should yet prove their salvation.
Thus, through the long sunny days and cool, starlit nights did I, Vilcaroya, last of the Incas, muse and dream until I once more stood in the Land of the Four Regions, hale and strong, and burning with the ardour of my sacred mission, ready to dare and do all things, and to use without ruth or scruple that dread power which would so soon lie within my hands to fulfil my oath and Golden Star’s, and to accomplish the work that I had come through the shadows of death to do.
So I came back to the shores of that well-loved land of mine which, by the reckoning of the new time into which I had come, had been for more than three hundred years the sport and prey of the generations of strangers and oppressors who had followed those first conquerors of the Children of the Sun, whose coming had sounded the hour of doom and ruin through the length and breadth of that glorious land of green plains and verdant valleys, of terraced hills and towering mountains, which had once been our empire and our home.
From the mean coast town of wooden houses where the railway begins we travelled ever upward over great, grey, sloping deserts, and by rugged ravines with steep, broken walls of red earth and ragged rock; through range after range of mountains that were all strange and hateful to me, until we swung round the shoulder of a great crag-crowned mountain, and I saw across a vast plain, into which range after range of lesser hills sloped down, the crystal- white peaks of the snow-mountains towering far beyond the clouds into the blue sky above them.
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