It is sweet to live. Love atones for every loss; in its joys all else is forgotten. Ineffable music of the heart, thy divine melody fill the soul with an ecstasy of infinite happiness! What illustrious historians have celebrated the heroes of the world’s progress, the glories of war, the conquests of mind and of spirit! Yet after so many centuries of labor and struggle, there remained only two palpitating hearts, the kisses of two lovers. All had perished except love; and love, the supreme sentiment, endured, shining like an inextinguishable beacon over the immense ocean of the vanished ages.
Death! They did not dream of it. Did they not suffice for each other? What if the cold froze their very marrow? Did they not possess in their hearts a warmth which defied the cold of nature? Did not the sun still shine gloriously, and was not the final doom of the world yet far distant? Omegar bent every energy to the maintenance of the marvellous system which had been devised for the automatic extraction by chemical processes of the nutritive principles of the air, water and plants, and in this he seemed to be successful. So in other days, after the fall of the Roman empire, the barbarians had been seen to utilize during centuries the aqueducts, baths and thermal springs, all the creations of the civilization of the Cæsars, and to draw from a vanished industry the sources of their own strength.
But one day, wonderful as it was, this system gave out. The subterranean waters themselves ceased to flow. The soil was frozen to a great depth. The rays of the sun still warmed the air within the glass-covered dwellings, but no plant could live longer; the supply of water was exhausted.
The combined efforts of science and industry were impotent to give to the atmosphere the nutritive qualities possessed by those of other worlds, and the human organism constantly clamored for the regenerating principles which, as we have seen, had been derived from the air, water and plants. These sources were now exhausted.
This last human pair struggled against these insurmountable obstacles, and recognized the uselessness of farther contest, yet they were not resigned to death. Before knowing each other they had awaited it fearlessly. Now each wished to defend the other, the beloved one, against pitiless destiny. The very idea of seeing Omegar lying inanimate beside her, filled Eva with such anguish that she could not bear the thought. And he, too, vainly longed to carry away his well beloved from a world doomed to decay, to fly with her to that brilliant Jupiter which awaited them, and not to abandon to the earth the body he adored.
He thought that, perhaps, there still existed, somewhere upon the earth, a spot which had retained a little of that life-giving water without which existence was impossible; and, although already they were both almost without strength, he formed the supreme resolution of setting out to seek for it. The electric aeronef was still in working order. Forsaking the city which was now only a tomb, the two last survivors of a vanished humanity abandoned these inhospitable regions and set out to seek some unknown oasis.
The ancient kingdoms of the world passed under their feet. They saw the remains of great cities, made illustrious by the splendors of civilization, lying in ruins along the equator. The silence of death covered them all. Omegar recognized the ancient city which he had recently left, but he knew that there, also the supreme source of life was lacking, and they did not stop. They traversed thus, in their solitary air-ship, the regions which had witnessed the last stages of the life of humanity; but death, and silence, and the frozen desert was everywhere. No more fields, no more vegetation; the watercourses were visible as on a map, and it was evident that along their banks life had been prolonged; but they were now dried up forever. And when, at times, some motionless lake was distinguished in the lower level, it was like a lake of stone; for even at the equator the sun was powerless to melt the eternal ice. A kind of bear, with long fur, was still to be seen wandering over the frozen earth, seeking in the crevices of the rocks its scanty vegetable food. From time to time, also, they descried a kind of penguin and sea-cows walking upon the ice, and large, gray polar birds in awkward flight, or alighting mournfully.
Nowhere was the sought-for oasis found. The earth was indeed dead.
Night came. Not a cloud obscured the sky. A warmer current from the south had carried them over what was formerly Africa, now a frozen waste. The mechanism of the aeronef had ceased to work. Exhausted by cold rather than by hunger, they threw themselves upon the bear-skins in the bottom of the car.
Perceiving a ruin, they alighted. It was an immense quadrangular base, revealing traces of an enormous stone stairway. It was still possible to recognize one of the ancient Egyptian pyramids which, in the middle of the desert, survived the civilization which it represented. With all Egypt, Nubia and Abyssinia, it had sunk below the level of the sea, and had afterwards emerged into the light and been restored in the heart of a new capital by a new civilization, more brilliant than that of Thebes and of Memphis, and finally had been again abandoned to the desert. It was the only remaining monument of the earlier life of humanity, and owed its stability to its geometric form.
“Let us rest here,” said Eva, “since we are doomed to die. Who, indeed, has escaped death? Let me die in peace in your arms.”
They sought a corner of the ruin and sat down beside each other, face to face with the silent desert. The young girl cowered upon the ground, pressing her husband in her arms, still striving with all her might against the penetrating cold. He drew her to his heart, and warmed her with his kisses.
“I love you, and I am dying,” she said. “But, no, we will not die. See that star, which calls us!”
At the same moment they heard behind them a slight noise, issuing from the ancient tomb of Cheops, a noise like that the wind makes in the leaves. Shuddering, they turned, together, in the direction whence the sound came. A white shadow, which seemed to be self-luminous, for the night was already dark and there was no moon, glided rather than walked toward them, and stopped before their astonished eyes.
“Fear nothing,” it said. “I come to seek you. No, you shall not die. No one has ever died. Time flows into eternity; eternity remains.
“I was Cheops, King of Egypt, and I reigned over this country in the early days of the world. As a slave, I have since expiated my crimes in many existences, and when at length my soul deserved immortality I lived upon Neptune, Ganymede, Rhea, Titan, Saturn, Mars, and other worlds as yet unknown to you. Jupiter is now my home. In the days of humanity’s greatness, Jupiter was not habitable for intelligent beings. It was passing through the necessary stages of preparation. Now this immense world is the heir to all human achievement. Worlds succeed each other in time as in space. All is eternal, and merges into the divine. Confide in me, and follow me.”
And as the old Pharaoh was still speaking, they felt a delicious fluid penetrate their souls, as sometimes the ear is filled with an exquisite melody. A sense of calm and transcendent happiness flowed in their veins. Never, in any dream, in any ecstasy, had they ever experienced such joy.
Eva pressed Omegar in her arms. “I love you,” she repeated. Her voice was only a breath. He touched his lips to her already cold mouth, and heard them murmur: “How I could have loved!”
Jupiter was shining majestically above them, and in the glorious light of his rays their sight grew dim and their eyes gently closed.
The spectre rose into space and vanished. And one to whom it is given to see, not with the bodily eyes, which perceive only material vibrations, but with the eyes of the soul, which perceive psychical vibrations, might have seen two small flames shining side by side, united by a common attraction, and rising, together with the phantom, into the heavens.