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The Moon Pool

Chapter 20. The Tempting Of Larry
WE PAUSED before thick curtains, through which came the faint murmur of many
voices. They parted; out came two-ushers, I suppose, they were--in cuirasses and kilts
that reminded me somewhat of chain-mail--the first armour of any kind here that I had
seen. They held open the folds.
The chamber, on whose threshold we stood, was far larger than either anteroom or hall of
audience. Not less than three hundred feet long and half that in depth, from end to end of
it ran two huge semi-circular tables, paralleling each other, divided by a wide aisle, and
heaped with flowers, with fruits, with viands unknown to me, and glittering with crystal
flagons, beakers, goblets of as many hues as the blooms. On the gay-cushioned couches
that flanked the tables, lounging luxuriously, were scores of the fair-haired ruling class
and there rose a little buzz of admiration, oddly mixed with a half-startled amaze, as their
gaze fell upon O'Keefe in all his silvery magnificence. Everywhere the light-giving
globes sent their roseate radiance.
The cuirassed dwarfs led us through the aisle. Within the arc of the inner half--circle was
another glittering board, an oval. But of those seated there, facing us--I had eyes for only
one--Yolara! She swayed up to greet O'Keefe--and she was like one of those white lily
maids, whose beauty Hoang-Ku, the sage, says made the Gobi first a paradise, and whose
lusts later the burned-out desert that it is. She held out hands to Larry, and on her face
was passion--unashamed, unhiding.
She was Circe--but Circe conquered. Webs of filmiest white clung to the rose-leaf body.
Twisted through the cornsilk hair a threaded circlet of pale sapphires shone; but they
were pale beside Yolara's eyes. O'Keefe bent, kissed her hands, something more than
mere admiration flaming from him. She saw--and, smiling, drew him down beside her.
It came to me that of all, only these two, Yolara and O'Keefe, were in white--and I
wondered; then with a tightening of nerves ceased to wonder as there entered--Lugur! He
was all in scarlet, and as he strode forward a silence fell a tense, strained silence.
His gaze turned upon Yolara, rested upon O'Keefe, and instantly his face grew--dreadful-
-there is no other word than that for it. Marakinoff leaned forward from the centre of the
table, near whose end I sat, touched and whispered to him swiftly. With appalling effort
the red dwarf controlled himself; he saluted the priestess ironically, I thought; took his
place at the further end of the oval. And now I noted that the figures between were the
seven of that Council of which the Shining One's priestess and Voice were the heads. The
tension relaxed, but did not pass--as though a storm-cloud should turn away, but still lurk,
My gaze ran back. This end of the room was draped with the exquisitely coloured,
graceful curtains looped with gorgeous garlands. Between curtains and table, where sat
Larry and the nine, a circular platform, perhaps ten yards in diameter, raised itself a few