WHEN I came to myself again Landry was bending over me. I felt very sore and stiff; I seemed to be tied up all over.
"Thank God!" she said when my eyes met hers. "I thought I should be left alone!"
"Alone?" I queried feebly; trying to remember what had happened, but failing miserably.
"Yes, alone. I thought you were dead. Don't you talk— it might kill you to talk too much. Lie quite still. I'll talk to you; that'll be a deal after the silence."
She shivered; and I lay back, dimly remembering what had happened. It came to me all of a sudden presently; I started up full of the terror of those final moments.
A great grey world was all around us. It was full here and there of little stone figures, people and houses. I knew now what these meant, and I sank back with a shudder, closing my eyes. I felt very faint. I was weak, so weak that as I tried to think I dozed off into a sleep, puzzling over an elusive memory, a picture, a vision, I knew not what.
Where had I seen the picture before— had I ever seen it? A world all grey, grey for endless miles, flat, cold, and still, and a man and a woman alone in the stillness— they two, alone in the world? Was it a picture of Eden? Was Dornton right; from Adam and Eve through all their million descendants down to the man and the woman alone in the greyness, was it all but a single thought of the Universe? Was it repeated again and again, throughout the endless ages as the planets rolled around the sun, to be borne with him along the unknown path in space, to live and die and live again, the atom, the man and the Universe, none of more moment than the other?— Was this the secret of the Worlds? All this and more than this, greater secrets, wilder fancies— was it all a delirium born in the greyness?
It was night when I awoke again. It was pitchy dark; no moon or stars spangled the sky — it was horribly dark.
"Landry," I cried. "Landry."
"Yes," she answered. "I'm here— close to you."
I put my hand out, and touched her. I could not see, but I felt that her arms were naked, her flesh cold as the stone around. I was warm and comfortable; her clothes were laid over me. I told her to take them away; but she would not.
"You might die," she said with a shiver, "and then what of me?"
"And what of me if you died from exposure?" I asked.
We were still selfish; but selfishness had a different meaning now. I thought of this a little as we crouched together and watched through the weary night for the dawn that seemed never to be coming. More than once we asked each other, trembling, whether there would be any dawning; whether the sun itself had died as the stars seemed to have done? And even if it had not, what hope had we of life?
At last, after an eternity of waiting, Landry gave a cry of joy : a cold light was flooding the gloom. It grew brighter and warmer, then the sun himself blazed up over the endless grey; and we knew what made the world's first peoples worship the sun as a god.
I could see Landry's face now. She was very blue with the cold, her lips were quivering, her teeth chattering.
"Can't be helped," she said, answering my protest before I could speak it. "Eve can't get along without Adam to slave for her."
It was not the most sentimental way to put it;— but I understood. Nor was there much room for sentiment in this world of grey stone; the future was no less dreary than the endless plain around.
"Landry," said I, " we are all alone, and the world is very lonely. There is little or nothing to hope for, but we have each other. We are different people to what we were a day or two ago. We will live for each other, dear, till we die."
She made no answer. But she put her hand gently into mine, and we sat together in the warm sunlight.
The sun brought us hope, as we sat there famished and miserable. Away across the grey reaches we made out a building, that, partly by intuition and partly from its shape, we recognized as Mirzarbeau's laboratory. It, like us, had survived by virtue of the green discs.
Landry started off towards it over the stone, hoping to find food there. It seemed an endless journey as I watched her slowly growing smaller and smaller in the distance, all the while full of an awful dread lest she should slip and break a limb, and the two of us be left to die, helpless and separated.
She came back at last, very tired and footsore, but bringing foods and surgical appliances, both of which she had found in the laboratory. And so we had our first meal.
"I wonder," said Landry as she came back with some water from a tiny brooklet that sparkled in the sun— a brooklet that once had been the Thames— " I wonder whether Adam and Eve started really on just such lines as these? I'm more dead beat than ever I've been in my life, and yet I've a notion things might be a deal worse. There's a sight of worries left behind. There's no more fuss, or bother, or convention. No right or wrong; no yesterday and no to-morrow. We'll be just like animals with nothing to think about; and God did not curse animals when he made them that. It's the other things brought the curse."
With Landry's help I managed to crawl over to the laboratory the next day. We found many things that we should hardly have looked for : Mirzarbeau had, perhaps, anticipated what had come to pass, with the difference that the arrangements had been made for himself. Plenty of food was stored away, enough for a year or more; there was a library of books, and Landry, searching about while I rested, found a book of notes that is proving invaluable to us— it gives particulars how most easily to dig through and get rid of the world's stone coating. It is simple enough, so simple that we should never have guessed it. No wonderful instrument is required— only a little grease drawn along the geometrical lines of cleavage! With this knowledge, and some books on farming, and some seeds that we found, all reason to dread the future passed away.
We never worry about the future, we have each other and the Present, and we make the most of that. We are absolutely happy, happy as God meant the world to be; as it was before Satan entered Paradise. Landry laughs at times when she tells me that her terror of being left alone made her nurse me till my wound was better. I laugh back and kiss her— worrying about motives and introspection passed away with the rest of the world.
Sometimes as I rest during my labours in the garden which I have dug in what was once Hyde Park— and I have to rest pretty frequently, since constant manual labour takes a deal of learning; — sometimes as my eye wanders over the miles of greyness that wall us in on every side, I wonder whether people are left in some other part of the world; whether ships still float on the sea; whether all but we two died. I am never likely to know— none are likely to come here. I do not long for them; our little colony does very well as it is. For we are not without religion, and we can discern that the devil is no fancied angel of darkness, but a very real power indeed— Civilization. We do not want the serpent in our Eden.
I have come to the end of my history. I am sorry it is finished; the occupation has been a pleasanter one than I had anticipated. Those for whom it is written have never known any other world than the grey stone one that surrounds them. I hear them now; they are playing with the little stone dolls that are everywhere about. It is not quite a nice idea, but one cannot destroy a million. And the children never guess what their dolls once were.