A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version

Chapter 14. Polecrab
The morning slowly passed. Maskull made some convulsive movements, and opened his
eyes. He sat up, blinking. All was night-like and silent in the forest. The strange light had
gone, the music had ceased, Dreamsinter had vanished. He fingered his beard, clotted
with Tydomin's blood, and fell into a deep muse.
"According to Panawe and Catice, this forest contains wise men. Perhaps Dreamsinter
was one. Perhaps that vision I have just seen was a specimen of his wisdom. It looked
almost like an answer to my question.... I ought not to have asked about myself, but about
Surtur. Then I would have got a different answer. I might have learned something ... I
might have seen him."
He remained quiet and apathetic for a bit.
"But I couldn't face that awful glare," he proceeded. "It was bursting my body. He
warned me, too. And so Surtur does really exist, and my journey stands for something.
But why am I here, and what can I do? Who is Surtur? Where is he to be found?"
Something wild came into his eyes.
"What did Dreamsinter mean by his 'Not you, but Nightspore'? Am I a secondary
character - is he regarded as important; and I as unimportant? Where is Nightspore, and
what is he doing? Am I to wait for his time and pleasure - can I originate nothing?"
He continued sitting up, with straight-extended legs.
"I must make up my mind that this is a strange journey, and that the strangest things will
happen in it. It's no use making plans, for I can't see two steps ahead - everything is
unknown. But one thing's evident: nothing but the wildest audacity will carry me through,
and I must sacrifice everything else to that. And therefore if Surtur shows himself again, I
shall go forward to meet him, even if it means death."
Through the black, quiet aisles of the forest the drum beats came again. The sound was a
long way off and very faint. It was like the last mutterings of thunder after a heavy storm.
Maskull listened, without getting up. The drumming faded into silence, and did not
He smiled queerly, and said aloud, "Thanks, Surtur! I accept the omen."
When he was about to get up, he found that the shrivelled skin that had been his third arm
was flapping disconcertingly with every movement of his body. He made perforations in
it all around, as close to his chest as possible, with the fingernails of both hands; then he
carefully twisted it off. In that world of rapid growth and ungrowth he judged that the
stump would soon disappear. After that, he rose and peered into the darkness.