Compromise, by Lord Dunsany
They built their gorgeous home, their city of glory, above the lair
of the earthquake. They built it of marble and gold in the shining
youth of the world. There they feasted and fought and called their
city immortal, and danced and sang songs to the gods. None heeded
the earthquake in all those joyous streets. And down in the deeps
of the earth, on the black feet of the abyss, they that would conquer
Man mumbled long in the darkness, mumbled and goaded the
earthquake to try his strength with that city, to go forth blithely at
night and to gnaw its pillars like bones. And down in those grimy
deeps the earthquake answered them, and would not do their
pleasure and would not stir from thence, for who knew who they
were who danced all day where he rumbled, and what if the lords
of that city that had no fear of his anger were haply even the gods!
And the centuries plodded by, on and on round the world, and one
day they that had danced, they that had sung in that city, remembered
the lair of the earthquake in the deeps down under their feet, and made
plans one with another and sought to avert the danger, sought to
appease the earthquake and turn his anger away.
They sent down singing girls, and priests with oats and wine, they
sent down garlands and propitious berries, down by dark steps to
the black depths of the earth, they sent peacocks newly slain, and
boys with burning spices, and their thin white sacred cats with collars
of pearls all newly drawn from sea, they sent huge diamonds down in
coffers of teak, and ointment and strange oriental dyes, arrows and
armor and the rings of their queen.
"Oho," said the earthquake in the coolth of the earth, "so they are
not the gods."