A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version
"Hush! They come."
He was looking toward the upper forest. The now familiar drum rhythm was heard - this
time accompanied by the tramp of marching feet.
Maskull saw, marching through the trees and heading toward them, three men in single
file separated from one another by only a yard or so. They were travelling down hill at a
swift pace, and looked neither to left nor right. They were naked. Their figures were
shining against the black background of the forest with a pale, supernatural light - green
and ghostly. When they were abreast of him, about twenty feet off, he perceived who
they were. The first man was himself - Maskull. The second was Krag. The third man
was Nightspore. Their faces were grim and set.
The source of the drumming was out of sight. The sound appeared to come from some
point in front of them. Maskull and Dreamsinter put themselves in motion, to keep up
with the swiftly moving marchers. At the same time a low, faint music began.
Its rhythm stepped with the drum beats, but, unlike the latter, it did not seem to proceed
from any particular quarter of the forest. It resembled the subjective music heard in
dreams, which accompanies the dreamer everywhere, as a sort of natural atmosphere,
rendering all his experiences emotional. it seemed to issue from an unearthly orchestra,
and was strongly troubled, pathetic and tragic. Maskull marched, and listened; and as he
listened, it grew louder and stormier. But the pulse of the drum interpenetrated all the
other sounds, like the quiet beating of reality.
His emotion deepened. He could not have said if minutes or hours were passing. The
spectral procession marched on, a little way ahead, on a path parallel with his own and
Dreamsinter's. The music pulsated violently. Krag lifted his arm, and displayed a long,
murderous-looking knife. He sprang forward and, raising it over the phantom Maskull's
back, stabbed him twice, leaving the knife in the wound the second time. Maskull threw
up his arms, and fell down dead. Krag leaped into the forest and vanished from sight.
Nightspore marched on alone, stern and unmoved.
The music rose to crescendo. The whole dim, gigantic forest was roaring with sound. The
tones came from all sides, from above, from the ground under their feet. It was so grandly
passionate that Maskull felt his soul loosening from its bodily envelope.
He continued to follow Nightspore. A strange brightness began to glow in front of them.
It was not daylight, but a radiance such as he had never seen before, and such as he could
not have imagined to be possible. Nightspore moved straight toward it. Maskull felt his
chest bursting. The light flashed higher. The awful harmonies of the music followed hard
one upon another, like the waves of a wild, magic ocean.. .. His body was incapable of
enduring such shocks, and all of a sudden he tumbled over in a faint that resembled death.