A Voyage to Arcturus HTML version

"But talking shortens the road."
Maskull turned to go.
Joiwind pulled him around toward her softly. "You won't think badly of other women on
my account?"
"You are a blessed spirit," answered he.
She trod quietly to the inner extremity of the cave and stood there thinking. Panawe and
Maskull emerged into the open air. Halfway down the cliff face a little spring was
encountered. Its water was colourless, transparent, but gaseous. As soon as Maskull had
satisfied his thirst he felt himself different. His surroundings were so real to him in their
vividness and colour, so unreal in their phantom - like mystery, that he scrambled
downhill like one in a winter's dream.
When they reached the plain he saw in front of them an interminable forest of tall trees,
the shapes of which were extraordinarily foreign looking. The leaves were crystalline
and, looking upward, it was as if he were gazing through a roof of glass. The moment
they got underneath the trees the light rays of the sun continued to come through - white,
savage, and blazing - but they were gelded of heat. Then it was not hard to imagine that
they were wandering through cool, bright elfin glades.
Through the forest, beginning at their very feet an avenue, perfectly straight and not very
wide, went forward as far as the eye could see.
Maskull wanted to talk to his travelling companion, but was somehow unable to find
words. Panawe glanced at him with an inscrutable smile - stern, yet enchanting and half
feminine. He then broke the silence, but, strangely enough, Maskull could not make out
whether he was singing or speaking. From his lips issued a slow musical recitative,
exactly like a bewitching adagio from a low toned stringed instrument - but there was a
difference. Instead of the repetition and variation of one or two short themes, as in music,
Panawe's theme was prolonged - it never came to an end, but rather resembled a
conversation in rhythm and melody. And, at the same time, it was no recitative, for it was
not declamatory. It was a long, quiet stream of lovely emotion.
Maskull listened entranced, yet agitated. The song, if it might be termed song, seemed to
be always just on the point of becoming clear and intelligible - not with the intelligibility
of words, but in the way one sympathises with another's moods and feelings; and Maskull
felt that something important was about to be uttered, which would explain all that had
gone before. But it was invariably postponed, he never understood - and yet somehow he
did understand.
Late in the afternoon they came to a clearing, and there Panawe ceased his recitative. He
slowed his pace and stopped, in the fashion of a man who wishes to convey that he
intends to go no farther.