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'I was sure it was; and if you feel it too, it must be so. But are you quite certain that I look as well and handsome as when you first saw me? because, in the mirror, I seemed to be pale and dull.'
'The mirror must be wrong, then,' said Callia; for I can see you with my own eyes, and of course I should know if there were any difference.'
'Well,' said Calladon, 'I suppose it is time we had our breakfast.' The breakfast was there, but it was neither so good nor so plentiful as before; and Calladon and Callia felt comparatively little appetite. This displeased them; and they began to ask each other how they should contrive to amuse themselves during the day. They proposed many things, but afterwards rejected them, either because they had done them yesterday, or because they did not find them any longer attractive.
'This is rather a small room, after all, for two people to pass their lives in,' remarked Calladon at last.
'Especially when there are two other larger ones outside,' added
'It would be good fun to explore them, wouldn't it?' said Calladon.
'Why shouldn't we do it?' asked Callia.
'It makes me feel quite lively again to think of it,' exclaimed Calladon, springing to his feet. Only,' he added, that is one of the things the Master told us not to do.'
'Oh, I don't believe the Master would mind,' said Callia. 'Besides, how should he ever know anything about it? He has gone away.'
Of course, too, it is our own affair,' observed Calladon. If any karm comes of it, it will be to ourselves, and not to him.'
'I am not afraid,' said Callia. Are you?'
'Not in the least. By the way, though, I am not sure that I know the way out of Abra. There doesn't seem to be any door.'
I think I can find the way, if that is all,' returned Callia. don't know how I happened to think of it—but since we have been talking about going, it has seemed to me that if we were to push against that little carved knob in the wall, it would open a passage into the room outside. Shall we try it?'
'Yes,' said Calladon; it can do no harm to see whether you are right, at all events.' So they went to the knob, and Calladon gave it a push.
Not that way; you should push it sideways; see-like this,' said Callia; and she shoved it a little towards the right. Sure enough, a part of the alabaster wall slid back, so that the children were able to look into the room beyond.
'It seems rather dark; don't you think so?' remarked Calladon, drawing back after a moment.
'We must take a lamp along with us,' said Callia. That lamp
that burns in the centre of the room will be no use to us. be able to see anything without a lamp of our own.'
'Well, I suppose we must,' said Calladon. "Now I think of it, though, that was another of the things the Master said we ought not to do.'
'What did he say would happen to us if we did do it?' 'I don't remember his saying anything.'
Of course he didn't! because nothing will happen, except that we shall know more than we could know by staying here. He was only trying whether he could frighten you.'
You shall see that I am not so easily frightened,' said Calladon. 'I am a man now, and able to take care of myself. Come, let us light a lamp of our own and go. I will show you the way.' 'Here is a lamp,' said Callia. "I just found it on this little shelf in the corner, though I had not seen it there before. But how shall we light it?"
'We must light it from the great lamp; there is no other way.' But then it will be the light of that great lamp that will guide us, after all.'
'No,' said Calladon, because the part of the flame that we take away will become our own, and would keep on burning even if the great lamp were to go out.'
They lit the lamp accordingly. As they did so, the air around them grew colder than before, and a gust of strangely melancholy music sighed through the room. From the crystal ball in the roof overhead there came a red reflection, as of some terrible fire burning in the world without; and then a white flash, as if an angel's sword had suddenly been thrust down into the room. Now the sword seemed to be brandished about the great lamp, its point against the children, who shrank back in fear towards the alabaster wall. Still the sword threatened them; and there was a violent rush of icy wind, which forced them to the opening leading to the outer chamber. For a moment they tried to struggle against it, and not to be driven from the alabaster room in which they had lived so happily; but the blast grew stronger, and the sword came nearer; and at last Callia cried out:
'Let us go, Calladon, or our light will be lost!'
Come, then!' said he; and hand in hand they staggered through the opening, which closed behind them with a hollow sound. Then there was silence. Save for the wavering flame of their little lamp they were in darkness.
What have you done, Callia?' said Calladon.
'It is your doing as much as mine,' she answered.
Well, I sup
pose we must make the best of it. At any rate, it is not so cold here as it was in the other room.'
No, and there is not that terrible light, to dazzle our eyes. And
that sword-we are safe from that!'
'I think, upon the whole, we are better off where we are; and I
am glad we came,' said Callia. It is more mysterious here, and I like mystery. If you can see everything around you merely by opening your eyes, it is stupid. Here we have the excitement of going about and not knowing what we may find.'
'It is strange it should be so dark!' remarked Calladon. On which side of us is the alabaster wall? No light comes through either side; and yet, when we were in Abra, it seemed to shine through and illuminate both the outer rooms.'
The great lamp must have gone out; all lamps go out after a while, I suppose,' replied Callia. 'But that is no harm; when we go back we can light it again from our own. It does not seem so dark here as it was at first.'
'I can see better, too!' exclaimed Calladon. Our lamp seems. to be getting brighter. By and by, perhaps, it will be as bright as the great lamp was.'
'Meanwhile,' said Callia, 'let us begin our explorations."
Holding the lamp before them, they advanced together curiously through the gloom; but, as Calladon had said, their lamp seemed continually to grow brighter, or else their eyes became more accus-tomed to the darkness, so that presently they were able to see their way with little difficulty. The walls of the room they were in were sombre and rich; there were carved panels and cornices of metal or stone, encrusted here and there with what appeared to be precious stones, gleaming with a dusky red lustre. There was gold, too, here and there but not bright and resplendent, like the gold of Abra, but dull and tarnished, so that it might almost have been mistaken for rusty brass. As they went along, the black smoke from their candle rose in the air, and collected in clouds beneath the heavy groined roof, until it hung above them like a murky canopy. From this canopy a stifling odour descended, and was diffused about the room; but, strange to say, the children seemed to breathe it with pleasure, and to grow stronger and livelier under its influence. length they came to a great heap of some dark substance, piled up in
an obscure corner.
'What is this?' said Calladon, stirring it with his foot.
Callia stooped down and took up a piece of it in her hand. 'It shines,' she said. "It must be something valuable. Hold the lamp nearer.'
'It is certainly some kind of jewel,' said Calladon, after they had examined it. Perhaps it is a ruby, or a black diamond. Such things are very precious.'
'We had better take what we can get, then,' said Callia; 'we shall not find anything like this in Abra-of that I am sure. How foolish you were, Calladon, never to have thought of coming in here before. It is ten times better than the other place!'
I will fill my pockets now, at all events,' replied Calladon, and make up for lost time. What a heap of them! and how heavy they are! I'm afraid we shan't be able to carry them all.'
'I can hold a great many in my apron,' said Callia; take them to some safe place, and then come back for more. der whom they belong to?'
"They belong to us, since we have found them,' returned Calladon; ' and if anyone says they are his, we can say it is not true. Who has more right here than we?'
'I don't see why we should go back at all,' observed Callia. 'I feel much more comfortable and happy in this pleasant light and smoke than I did in that glaring white Abra, with its cold air and its tiresome music. Suppose we make our home here?'
'I was going to propose the same thing,' answered Calladon. 'And I have been thinking, Callia, that perhaps this is the real Abra, that we are in now. For what can be better than what we like best?' As Callia was about to reply, they heard a flapping sound in the air above their heads; and looking up, they saw a hideous great bird, -or perhaps it was a bat-with black wings outstretched, fiery eyes, and a long hooked beak, that it kept opening and shutting with a snap. At this sight the children were much terrified, and started to run away; but the horrid bird followed them in the air, swooping downwards every now and then, and pecking at them with its beak, or trying to tear them with its ugly claws. At length, however, they managed to conceal themselves behind a buttress in the wall; and the bird flapped by, and left them.
and we can I won
'It will not do to stay here,' said Calladon, as soon as he had caught his breath. That creature probably owns the jewels, and we should never be safe from him. And I have lost ever so many of the stones while Here Calladon broke off suddenly, and uttered a cry. What is the matter?' asked Callia. Is the creature here
But Calladon was staring at the mirror, which still hung round Callia's neck, and he looked as if he had seen a ghost.
'Tell me, Callia,' he said; was before?'
tell me, quick! Am I the same as I
'Just the same, except that thing.'
you look very much scared at some
Calladon gave a shudder. Then the glass tells what is false,' said he. It makes me seem like a hideous little deformed dwarf, with a hump on my back, and one shoulder higher than the other, and a hateful face all covered with sores and bruises. If I look like that, I must be more horrible than anything we are likely to see here.'
'The mirror tells lies, that is all,' replied Callia, scornfully. If
I were you, I would not look in it again. I can tell you all you need to know about yourself. But I think we had better attend to getting away from here now. There seems to be a hole through the wall just where we are standing. It must lead into the next room.'
'Let us creep through then,' said Calladon. That flying creature will not be likely to follow us there; and as well as I can see, it looks more comfortable there than here. At all events, it is further from Abra, and that is reason enough for going.'
Mind that the lamp doesn't go out, then,' said Callia, ‘and come along!'
They crawled through the opening (which was, in reality, one of the five windows of Cada) and found themselves standing in something soft and slippery, like mud. The walls were covered with damp mould an inch thick; spotted toadstools grew in the crevices of the stones, and festoons of decaying weeds hung from the roof. There was a low crackling sound in the air, like the noise of burning wood, and hot puffs of steamy vapour were wafted into the children's faces, smelling like the inside of a pig-sty. Strange to say, however, neither Calladon nor Callia appeared to find this odour disagreeable, but quite the contrary; and they went onwards with evident gratification.
"The more I think about it, Callia,' said Calladon, 'the surer I am that this must be the real Abra. Could anything be more delightful than this thick air, that you can see as well as breathe; and this floor, all soft and sticky-not hard and dry like the other; and these beautiful walls, covered with that curious green stuff; and then the toadstools and the weeds? What a lucky thing that we thought of coming!'
'And how much wiser we are than we were before!' added Callia. 'When I was in that dreadful white place, I used to feel as if I knew almost nothing, and as if the great lamp were the only light in the world. But now that we have a light of our own, it is easy to see that we know almost everything, and by the time we have explored this place, there will be nothing we do not know.'
'This mud must be very valuable,' said Calladon, after a while; 'for I never saw anything like it before. Don't you think it would be a good thing if we were to smear ourselves all over with it, and then hang some of those lovely weeds round our necks?'
Callia was delighted with this idea, and the two forthwith sat themselves down in the softest mud-heap they could find, and began to cover themselves with mud very diligently. After this had gone on for some time, however, Callia suddenly gave a shriek.
'What is the matter?' asked Calladon.
'The snake! the snake!' cried Callia. It is winding itself all round me!'
'And round me too!' screamed Calladon. "Oh, what shall we do!'
In fact, the mud with which they had covered themselves had