A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version
Chapter 3. Starkness
A couple of days later, at two o'clock in the afternoon, Maskull and Nightspore arrived at
Starkness Observatory, having covered the seven miles from Haillar Station on foot. The
road, very wild and lonely, ran for the greater part of the way near the edge of rather lofty
cliffs, within sight of the North Sea. The sun shone, but a brisk cast wind was blowing
and the air was salt and cold. The dark green waves were flecked with white. Through out
the walk, they were accompanied by the plaintive, beautiful crying of the gulls.
The observatory presented itself to their eyes as a self-contained little community,
without neighbours, and perched on the extreme end of the land. There were three
buildings: a small, stone - built dwelling house, a low workshop, and, about two hundred
yards farther north, a square tower of granite masonry, seventy feet in height.
The house and the shop were separated by an open yard, littered with waste. A single
stone wall surrounded both, except on the side facing the sea, where the house itself
formed a continuation of the cliff. No one appeared. The windows were all closed, and
Maskull could have sworn that the whole establishment was shut up and deserted.
He passed through the open gate, followed by Nightspore, and knocked vigorously at the
front door. The knocker was thick with dust and had obviously not been used for a long
time. He put his ear to the door, but could hear no movements inside the house. He then
tried the handle; the door was looked.
They walked around the house, looking for another entrance, but there was only the one
"This isn't promising," growled Maskull "There's no one here... .. Now you try the shed,
while I go over to that tower."
Nightspore, who had not spoken half a dozen words since leaving the train, complied in
silence, and started off across the yard. Maskull passed out of the gate again. When he
arrived at the foot of the tower, which stood some way back from the cliff, he found the
door heavily padlocked. Gazing up, he saw six windows, one above the other at equal
distances, all on the cast face - that is, overlooking the sea. Realising that no satisfaction
was to be gained here, he came away again, still more irritated than before. When' he
rejoined his friend, Nightspore reported that the workshop was also locked.
"Did we, or did we not, receive an invitation?" demanded Maskull energetically.
"The house is empty," replied Nightspore, biting his nails. "Better break a window."
"I certainly don't mean to camp out till Krag condescends to come."