THE FLOWER TEMPLE
It was half-past eight by my watch when I woke on the
morning following our arrival at Milosis, having slept almost exactly
twelve hours, and I must say that I did indeed feel better. Ah, what a
blessed thing is sleep! and what a difference twelve hours of it or so
makes to us after days and nights of toil and danger. It is like going to
bed one man and getting up another.
I sat up upon my silken couch -- never had I slept upon
such a bed before -- and the first thing that I saw was Good's eyeglass
fixed on me from the recesses of his silken couch. There was nothing else
of him to be seen except his eyeglass, but I knew from the look of it that
he was awake, and waiting till I woke up to begin.
'I say, Quatermain,' he commenced sure enough, 'did you
observe her skin? It is as smooth as the back of an ivory hairbrush.'
'Now look here, Good,' I remonstrated, when there came a
sound at the curtain, which, on being drawn, admitted a functionary, who
signified by signs that he was there to lead us to the bath. We gladly
consented, and were conducted to a delightful marble chamber, with a pool
of running crystal water in the centre of it, into which we gaily plunged.
When we had bathed, we returned to our apartment and dressed, and then went
into the central room where we had supped on the previous evening, to find
a morning meal already prepared for us, and a capital meal it was, though I
should be puzzled to describe the dishes. After breakfast we lounged round
and admired the tapestries and carpets and some pieces of statuary that
were placed about, wondering the while what was going to happen next.
Indeed, by this time our minds were in such a state of complete
bewilderment that we were, as a matter of fact, ready for anything that
might arrive. As for our sense of astonishment, it was pretty well
obliterated. Whilst we were still thus engaged, our friend the captain of
the guard presented himself, and with many obeisances signified that we
were to follow him, which we did, not without doubts and heart-searchings
-- for we guessed that the time had come when we should have to settle the
bill for those confounded hippopotami with our cold-eyed friend Agon, the
High Priest. However, there was no help for it, and personally I took
great comfort in the promise of the protection of the sister Queens,
knowing that if ladies have a will they can generally find a way; so off we
started as though we liked it. A minute's walk through a passage and an
outer court brought us to the great double gates of the palace that open on
to the wide highway which runs uphill through the heart of Milosis to the
Temple of the Sun a mile away, and thence down the slope on the farther
side of the temple to the outer wall of the city.
These gates are very large and massive, and an
extraordinarily beautiful work in metal. Between them -- for one set is
placed at the entrance to an interior, and one at that of the exterior wall
-- is a fosse, forty-five feet in width. This fosse is filled with water
and spanned by a drawbridge, which when lifted makes the palace nearly
impregnable to anything except siege guns. As we came, one half of the
wide gates were flung open, and we passed over the drawbridge and presently
stood gazing up one of the most imposing, if not the most imposing,
roadways in the world. It is a hundred feet from curb to curb, and on
either side, not cramped and crowded together, as is our European fashion,
but each standing in its own grounds, and built equidistant from and in
similar style to the rest, are a series of splendid, single-storied
mansions, all of red granite. These are the town houses of the nobles of
the Court, and stretch away in unbroken lines for a mile or more till the
eye is arrested by the glorious vision of the Temple of the Sun that crowns
the hill and heads the roadway.
As we stood gazing at this splendid sight, of which more
anon, there suddenly dashed up to the gateway four chariots, each drawn by
two white horses. These chariots are two-wheeled, and made of wood. They
are fitted with a stout pole, the weight of which is supported by leathern
girths that form a portion of the harness. The wheels are made with four
spokes only, are tired with iron, and quite innocent of springs. In the
front of the chariot, and immediately over the pole, is a small seat for
the driver, railed round to prevent him from being jolted off. Inside the
machine itself are three low seats, one at each side, and one with the back
to the horses, opposite to which is the door. The whole vehicle is lightly
and yet strongly made, and, owing to the grace of the curves, though
primitive, not half so ugly as might be expected.
But if the chariots left something to be desired, the
horses did not. They were simply splendid, not very large but strongly
built, and well ribbed up, with small heads, remarkably large and round
hoofs, and a great look of speed and blood. I have often wondered whence
this breed, which presents many distinct characteristics, came, but like
that of its owners, it history is obscure. Like the people the horses have
always been there. The first and last of these chariots were occupied by
guards, but the centre two were empty, except for the driver, and to these
we were conducted. Alphonse and I got into the first, and Sir Henry, Good,
and Umslopogaas into the one behind, and then suddenly off we went. And we
did go! Among the Zu-Vendi it is not usual to trot horses either riding or
driving, especially when the journey to be made is a short one -- they go
at full gallop. As soon as we were seated the driver called out, the
horses sprang forward, and we were whirled away at a speed sufficient to
take one's breath, and which, till I got accustomed to it, kept me in
momentary fear of an upset. As for the wretched Alphonse, he clung with a
despairing face to the side of what he called this 'devil of a fiacre',
thinking that every moment was his last. Presently it occurred to him to
ask where we were going, and I told him that, as far as I could ascertain,
we were going to be sacrificed by burning. You should have seen his face
as he grasped the side of the vehicle and cried out in his terror.
But the wild-looking charioteer only leant forward over
his flying steeds and shouted; and the air, as it went singing past, bore
away the sound of Alphonse's lamentations.
And now before us, in all its marvellous splendour and
dazzling loveliness, shone out the Temple of the Sun -- the peculiar pride
of the Zu-Vendi, to whom it was what Solomon's, or rather Herod's, Temple
was to the Jews. The wealth, and skill, and labour of generations had been
given to the building of this wonderful place, which had been only finally
completed within the last fifty years. Nothing was spared that the country
could produce, and the result was indeed worthy of the effort, not so much
on account of its size -- for there are larger fanes in the world -- as
because of its perfect proportions, the richness and beauty of its
materials, and the wonderful workmanship. The building (that stands by
itself on a space of some eight acres of garden ground on the hilltop,
around which are the dwelling-places of the priests) is built in the shape
of a sunflower, with a dome-covered central hall, from which radiate twelve
petal-shaped courts, each dedicated to one of the twelve months, and
serving as the repositories of statues reared in memory of the illustrious
dead. The width of the circle beneath the dome is three hundred feet, the
height of the dome is four hundred feet, and the length of the rays is one
hundred and fifty feet, and the height of their roofs three hundred feet,
so that they run into the central dome exactly as the petals of the
sunflower run into the great raised heart. Thus the exact measurement from
the centre of the central altar to the extreme point of any one of the
rounded rays would be three hundred feet (the width of the circle itself),
or a total of six hundred feet from the rounded extremity of one ray or
petal to the extremity of the opposite one. 14
The building itself is of pure and polished white
marble, which shows out in marvellous contrast to the red granite of the
frowning city, on whose brow it glistens indeed like an imperial diadem
upon the forehead of a dusky queen. The outer surface of the dome and of
the twelve petal courts is covered entirely with thin sheets of beaten
gold; and from the extreme point of the roof of each of these petals a
glorious golden form with a trumpet in its hand and widespread wings is
figured in the very act of soaring into space. I really must leave whoever
reads this to imagine the surpassing beauty of these golden roofs flashing
when the sun strikes -- flashing like a thousand fires aflame on a mountain
of polished marble -- so fiercely that the reflection can be clearly seen
from the great peaks of the range a hundred miles away.
It is a marvellous sight -- this golden flower upborne
upon the cool white marble walls, and I doubt if the world can show such
another. What makes the whole effect even more gorgeous is that a belt of
a hundred and fifty feet around the marble wall of the temple is planted
with an indigenous species of sunflower, which were at the time when we
first saw them a sheet of golden bloom.
The main entrance to this wonderful place is between the
two northernmost of the rays or petal courts, and is protected first by the
usual bronze gates, and then by doors made of solid marble, beautifully
carved with allegorical subjects and overlaid with gold. When these are
passed there is only the thickness of the wall, which is, however,
twenty-five feet (for the Zu-Vendi build for all time), and another slight
wall also of white marble, introduced in order to avoid causing a visible
gap in the inner skin of the wall, and you stand in the circular hall under
the great dome. Advancing to the central altar you look upon as beautiful
a sight as the imagination of man can conceive. You are in the middle of
the holy place, and above you the great white marble dome (for the inner
skin, like the outer, is of polished marble throughout) arches away in
graceful curves something like that of St Paul's in London, only at a
slighter angle, and from the funnel-like opening at the exact apex a bright
beam of light pours down upon the golden altar. At the east and the west
are other altars, and other beams of light stab the sacred twilight to the
heart. In every direction, 'white, mystic, wonderful', open out the
ray-like courts, each pierced through by a single arrow of light that
serves to illumine its lofty silence and dimly to reveal the monuments of
Overcome at so awe-inspiring a sight, the vast
loveliness of which thrills the nerves like a glance from beauty's eyes,
you turn to the central golden altar, in the midst of which, though you
cannot see it now, there burns a pale but steady flame crowned with curls
of faint blue smoke. It is of marble overlaid with pure gold, in shape
round like the sun, four feet in height, and thirty-six in circumference.
Here also, hinged to the foundations of the altar, are twelve petals of
beaten gold. All night and, except at one hour, all day also, these petals
are closed over the altar itself exactly as the petals of a water-lily
close over the yellow crown in stormy weather; but when the sun at midday
pierces through the funnel in the dome and lights upon the golden flower,
the petals open and reveal the hidden mystery, only to close again when the
ray has passed.
Nor is this all. Standing in semicircles at equal
distances from each other on the north and south of the sacred place are
ten golden angels, or female winged forms, exquisitely shaped and draped.
These figures, which are slightly larger than life-size, stand with bent
heads in an attitude of adoration, their faces shadowed by their wings, and
are most imposing and of exceeding beauty.
There is but one thing further which calls for
description in this altar, which is, that to the east the flooring in front
of it is not of pure white marble, as elsewhere throughout the building,
but of solid brass, and this is also the case in front of the other two
The eastern and western altars, which are semicircular
in shape, and placed against the wall of the building, are much less
imposing, and are not enfolded in golden petals. They are, however, also
of gold, the sacred fire burns on each, and a golden-winged figure stands
on either side of them. Two great golden rays run up the wall behind them,
but where the third or middle one should be is an opening in the wall, wide
on the outside, but narrow within, like a loophole turned inwards. Through
the eastern loophole stream the first beams of the rising sun, and strike
right across the circle, touching the folded petals of the great gold
flower as they pass till they impinge upon the western altar. In the same
way at night the last rays of the sinking sun rest for a while on the
eastern altar before they die away into darkness. It is the promise of the
dawn to the evening and the evening to the dawn.
With the exception of those three altars and the winged
figures about them, the whole space beneath the vast white dome is utterly
empty and devoid of ornamentation -- a circumstance that to my fancy adds
greatly to its splendour.
Such is a brief description of this wonderful and lovely
building, to the glories of which, to my mind so much enhanced by their
complete simplicity, I only wish I had the power to do justice. But I
cannot, so it is useless talking more about it. But when I compare this
great work of genius to some of the tawdry buildings and tinsel
ornamentation produced in these latter days by European ecclesiastical
architects, I feel that even highly civilized art might learn something
from the Zu-Vendi masterpieces. I can only say that the exclamation which
sprang to my lips as soon as my eyes first became accustomed to the dim
light of that glorious building, and its white and curving beauties,
perfect and thrilling as those of a naked goddess, grew upon me one by one,
was, 'Well! a dog would feel religious here.' It is vulgarly put, but
perhaps it conveys my meaning more clearly than any polished utterance.
At the temple gates our party was received by a guard of
soldiers, who appeared to be under the orders of a priest; and by them we
were conducted into one of the ray or 'petal' courts, as the priests call
them, and there left for at least half-an-hour. Here we conferred together,
and realizing that we stood in great danger of our lives, determined, if
any attempt should be made upon us, to sell them as dearly as we could --
Umslopogaas announcing his fixed intention of committing sacrilege on the
person of Agon, the High Priest, by splitting his head with Inkosi-kaas.
From where we stood we could perceive that an immense multitude were
pouring into the temple, evidently in expectation of some unusual event,
and I could not help fearing that we had to do with it. And here I may
explain that every day, when the sunlight falls upon the central altar, and
the trumpets sound, a burnt sacrifice is offered to the Sun, consisting
generally of the carcase of a sheep or ox, or sometimes of fruit or corn.
This event comes off about midday; of course, not always exactly at that
hour, but as Zu-Vendis is situated not far from the Line, although -- being
so high above the sea it is very temperate -- midday and the falling of the
sunlight on the altar were generally simultaneous. Today the sacrifice was
to take place at about eight minutes past twelve.
Just at twelve o'clock a priest appeared, and made a
sign, and the officer of the guard signified to us that we were expected to
advance, which we did with the best grace that we could muster, all except
Alphonse, whose irrepressible teeth instantly began to chatter. In a few
seconds we were out of the court and looking at a vast sea of human faces
stretching away to the farthest limits of the great circle, all straining
to catch a glimpse of the mysterious strangers who had committed sacrilege;
the first strangers, mind you, who, to the knowledge of the multitude, had
ever set foot in Zu-Vendis since such time that the memory of man runneth
not to the contrary.
As we appeared there was a murmur through the vast crowd
that went echoing away up the great dome, and we saw a visible blush of
excitement grow on the thousands of faces, like a pink light on a stretch
of pale cloud, and a very curious effect it was. On we passed down a lane
cut through the heart of the human mass, till presently we stood upon the
brazen patch of flooring to the east of the central altar, and immediately
facing it. For some thirty feet around the golden-winged figures the space
was roped off, and the multitudes stood outside the ropes. Within were a
circle of white-robed gold-cinctured priests holding long golden trumpets
in their hands, and immediately in front of us was our friend Agon, the
High Priest, with his curious cap upon his head. His was the only covered
head in that vast assemblage. We took our stand upon the brazen space,
little knowing what was prepared for us beneath, but I noticed a curious
hissing sound proceeding apparently from the floor for which I could not
account. Then came a pause, and I looked around to see if there was any
sign of the two Queens, Nyleptha and Sorais, but they were not there. To
the right of us, however, was a bare space that I guessed was reserved for
We waited, and presently a far-off trumpet blew,
apparently high up in the dome. Then came another murmur from the
multitude, and up a long lane, leading to the open space to our right, we
saw the two Queens walking side by side. Behind them were some nobles of
the Court, among whom I recognized the great lord Nasta, and behind them
again a body of about fifty guards. These last I was very glad to see.
Presently they had all arrived and taken their stand, the two Queens in the
front, the nobles to the right and left, and the guards in a double
semicircle behind them.
Then came another silence, and Nyleptha looked up and
caught my eye; it seemed to me that there was meaning in her glance, and I
watched it narrowly. From my eye it travelled down to the brazen flooring,
on the outer edge of which we stood. Then followed a slight and almost
imperceptible sidelong movement of the head. I did not understand it, and
it was repeated. Then I guessed that she meant us to move back off the
brazen floor. One more glance and I was sure of it -- there was danger in
standing on the floor. Sir Henry was placed on one side of me, Umslopogaas
on the other. Keeping my eyes fixed straight before me, I whispered to
them, first in Zulu and then in English, to draw slowly back inch by inch
till half their feet were resting on the marble flooring where the brass
ceased. Sir Henry whispered on to Good and Alphonse, and slowly, very very
slowly, we shifted backwards; so slowly that nobody, except Nyleptha and
Sorais, who saw everything seemed to notice the movement. Then I glanced
again at Nyleptha, and saw that, by an almost imperceptible nod, she
indicated approval. All the while Agon's eyes were fixed upon the altar
before him apparently in an ecstasy of contemplation, and mine were fixed
upon the small of his back in another sort of ecstasy. Suddenly he flung
up his long arm, and in a solemn and resounding voice commenced a chant, of
which for convenience' sake I append a rough, a very rough,
translation here, though, of course, I did not then comprehend its meaning.
It was an invocation to the Sun, and ran somewhat as follows: --
There is silence upon the face of the Earth and the
waters thereof! Yea, the silence doth brood on the waters like a nesting
bird; The silence sleepeth also upon the bosom of the profound darkness,
Only high up in the great spaces star doth speak unto star, The Earth is
faint with longing and wet with the tears of her desire; The star-girdled
night doth embrace her, but she is not comforted. She lies enshrouded in
mists like a corpse in the grave-clothes, And stretches her pale hands to
Lo! away in the farthest East there is the shadow of a
light; The Earth seeth and lifts herself. She looks out from beneath the
hollow of her hand. Then thy great angels fly forth from the Holy Place, oh
Sun, They shoot their fiery swords into the darkness and shrivel it up.
They climb the heavens and cast down the pale stars from their thrones;
Yea, they hurl the changeful stars back into the womb of the night; They
cause the moon to become wan as the face of a dying man, And behold! Thy
glory comes, oh Sun!
Oh, Thou beautiful one, Thou drapest thyself in fire.
The wide heavens are thy pathway: thou rollest o'er them as a chariot. The
Earth is thy bride. Thou dost embrace her and she brings forth children;
Yea, Thou favourest her, and she yields her increase. Thou art the All
Father and the giver of life, oh Sun. The young children stretch out their
hands and grow in thy brightness; The old men creep forth and seeing
remember their strength. Only the dead forget Thee, oh Sun!
When Thou art wroth then Thou dost hide Thy face; Thou
drawest around Thee a thick curtain of shadows. Then the Earth grows cold
and the Heavens are dismayed; They tremble, and the sound thereof is the
sound of thunder: They weep, and their tears are outpoured in the rain;
They sigh, and the wild winds are the voice of their sighing. The flowers
die, the fruitful fields languish and turn pale; The old men and the little
children go unto their appointed place When Thou withdrawest thy light, oh
Say, what art Thou, oh Thou matchless Splendour -- Who
set Thee on high, oh Thou flaming Terror? When didst Thou begin, and when
is the day of Thy ending? Thou art the raiment of the living Spirit.
None did place Thee on high, for Thou was
the Beginning. Thou shalt not be ended when thy children are forgotten;
Nay, Thou shalt never end, for thy hours are eternal. Thou sittest on high
within thy golden house and measurest out the centuries. Oh Father of Life!
oh dark-dispelling Sun!
He ceased this solemn chant, which, though it seems a
poor enough thing after going through my mill, is really beautiful and
impressive in the original; and then, after a moment's pause, he glanced up
towards the funnel-sloped opening in the dome and added --
Oh Sun, descend upon thine Altar!
As he spoke a wonderful and a beautiful thing happened.
Down from on high flashed a splendid living ray of light, cleaving the
twilight like a sword of fire. Full upon the closed petals it fell and ran
shimmering down their golden sides, and then the glorious flower opened as
though beneath the bright influence. Slowly it opened, and as the great
petals fell wide and revealed the golden altar on which the fire ever
burns, the priests blew a blast upon the trumpets, and from all the people
there rose a shout of praise that beat against the domed roof and came
echoing down the marble walls. And now the flower altar was open, and the
sunlight fell full upon the tongue of sacred flame and beat it down, so
that it wavered, sank, and vanished into the hollow recesses whence it
rose. As it vanished, the mellow notes of the trumpets rolled out once
more. Again the old priest flung up his hands and called aloud --
We sacrifice to thee, oh Sun!
Once more I caught Nyleptha's eye; it was fixed upon the
'Look out,' I said, aloud; and as I said it, I saw Agon
bend forward and touch something on the altar. As he did so, the great
white sea of faces around us turned red and then white again, and a deep
breath went up like a universal sigh. Nyleptha leant forward, and with an
involuntary movement covered her eyes with her hand. Sorais turned and
whispered to the officer of the royal bodyguard, and then with a rending
sound the whole of the brazen flooring slid from before our feet, and there
in its place was suddenly revealed a smooth marble shaft terminating in a
most awful raging furnace beneath the altar, big enough and hot enough to
heat the iron stern-post of a man-of-war.
With a cry of terror we sprang backwards, all except the
wretched Alphonse, who was paralysed with fear, and would have fallen into
the fiery furnace which had been prepared for us, had not Sir Henry caught
him in his strong hand as he was vanishing and dragged him back.
Instantly there arose the most fearful hubbub, and we
four got back to back, Alphonse dodging frantically round our little circle
in his attempts to take shelter under our legs. We all had our revolvers
on -- for though we had been politely disarmed of our guns on leaving the
palace, of course these people did not know what a revolver was.
Umslopogaas, too, had his axe, of which no effort had been made to deprive
him, and now he whirled it round his head and sent his piercing Zulu
war-shout echoing up the marble walls in fine defiant fashion. Next
second, the priests, baffled of their prey, had drawn swords from beneath
their white robes and were leaping on us like hounds upon a stag at bay. I
saw that, dangerous as action might be, we must act or be lost, so as the
first man came bounding along -- and a great tall fellow he was -- I sent a
heavy revolver ball through him, and down he fell at the mouth of the
shaft, and slid, shrieking frantically, into the fiery gulf that had been
prepared for us.
Whether it was his cries, or the, to them, awful sound
and effect of the pistol shot, or what, I know not, but the other priests
halted, paralysed and dismayed, and before they could come on again Sorais
had called out something, and we, together with the two Queens and most of
the courtiers, were being surrounded with a wall of armed men. In a moment
it was done, and still the priests hesitated, and the people hung in the
balance like a herd of startled buck as it were, making no sign one way or
The last yell of the burning priest had died away, the
fire had finished him, and a great silence fell upon the place.
Then the High Priest Agon turned, and his face was as
the face of a devil. 'Let the sacrifice be sacrificed,' he cried to the
Queens. 'Has not sacrilege enough been done by these strangers, and would
ye, as Queens, throw the cloak of your majesty over evildoers? Are not the
creatures sacred to the Sun dead? And is not a priest of the Sun also
dead, but now slain by the magic of these strangers, who come as the winds
out of heaven, whence we know not, and who are what we know not? Beware,
oh Queens, how ye tamper with the great majesty of the God, even before His
high altar! There is a Power that is more than your power; there is a
Justice that is higher than your justice. Beware how ye lift an impious
hand against it! Let the sacrifice be sacrificed, oh Queens.'
Then Sorais made answer in her deep quiet tones, that
always seemed to me to have a suspicion of mockery about them, however
serious the theme: 'Oh, Agon, thou hast spoken according to thy desire, and
thou hast spoken truth. But it is thou who wouldst lift an impious hand
against the justice of thy God. Bethink thee the midday sacrifice is
accomplished; the Sun hath claimed his priest as a sacrifice.'
This was a novel idea, and the people applauded it.
'Bethink thee what are these men? They are strangers
found floating on the bosom of a lake. Who brought them here? How came
they here? How know you that they also are not servants of the Sun? Is
this the hospitality that ye would have our nation show to those whom
chance brings to them, to throw them to the flames? Shame on you! Shame on
you! What is hospitality? To receive the stranger and show him favour.
To bind up his wounds, and find a pillow for his head, and food for him to
eat. But thy pillow is the fiery furnace, and thy food the hot savour of
the flame. Shame on thee, I say!'
She paused a little to watch the effect of her speech
upon the multitude, and seeing that it was favourable, changed her tone
from one of remonstrance to one of command.
'Ho! place there,' she cried; 'place, I say; make way
for the Queens, and those whom the Queens cover with their "kaf"
'And if I refuse, oh Queen?' said Agon between his
'Then will I cut a path with my guards,' was the proud
answer; 'ay, even in the presence of thy sanctuary, and through the bodies
of thy priests.'
Agon turned livid with baffled fury. He glanced at the
people as though meditating an appeal to them, but saw clearly that their
sympathies were all the other way. The Zu-Vendi are a very curious and
sociable people, and great as was their sense of the enormity that we had
committed in shooting the sacred hippopotami, they did not like the idea of
the only real live strangers they had seen or heard of being consigned to a
fiery furnace, thereby putting an end for ever to their chance of
extracting knowledge and information from, and gossiping about us. Agon
saw this and hesitated, and then for the first time Nyleptha spoke in her
soft sweet voice.
'Bethink thee, Agon,' she said, 'as my sister Queen has
said, these men may also be servants of the Sun. For themselves they
cannot speak, for their tongues are tied. Let the matter be adjourned till
such time as they have learnt our language. Who can be condemned without a
hearing? When these men can plead for themselves, then it will be time to
put them to the proof.'
Here was a clever loophole of escape, and the vindictive
old priest took it, little as he liked it.
'So be it, oh Queens,' he said. 'Let the men go in
peace, and when they have learnt our tongue then let them speak. And I,
even I, will make humble supplication at the altar lest pestilence fall on
the land by cause of the sacrilege.'
These words were received with a murmur of applause, and
in another minute we were marching out of the temple surrounded by the
But it was not till long afterwards that we learnt the
exact substance of what had passed, and how hardly our lives had been wrung
out of the cruel grip of the Zu-Vendi priesthood, in the face of which even
the Queens were practically powerless. Had it not been for their strenuous
efforts to protect us we should have been slain even before we set foot in
the Temple of the Sun. The attempt to drop us bodily into the fiery pit as
an offering was a last artifice to attain this end when several others
quite unsuspected by us had already failed.