The Moon Pool HTML version
Chapter 1. The Thing On The Moon Path
FOR two months I had been on the d'Entrecasteaux Islands gathering data for the
concluding chapters of my book upon the flora of the volcanic islands of the South
Pacific. The day before I had reached Port Moresby and had seen my specimens safely
stored on board the Southern Queen. As I sat on the upper deck I thought, with homesick
mind, of the long leagues between me and Melbourne, and the longer ones between
Melbourne and New York.
It was one of Papua's yellow mornings when she shows herself in her sombrest, most
baleful mood. The sky was smouldering ochre. Over the island brooded a spirit sullen,
alien, implacable, filled with the threat of latent, malefic forces waiting to be unleashed.
It seemed an emanation out of the untamed, sinister heart of Papua herself--sinister even
when she smiles. And now and then, on the wind, came a breath from virgin jungles,
laden with unfamiliar odours, mysterious and menacing.
It is on such mornings that Papua whispers to you of her immemorial ancientness and of
her power. And, as every white man must, I fought against her spell. While I struggled I
saw a tall figure striding down the pier; a Kapa-Kapa boy followed swinging a new
valise. There was something familiar about the tall man. As he reached the gangplank he
looked up straight into my eyes, stared for a moment, then waved his hand.
And now I knew him. It was Dr. David Throckmartin-"Throck" he was to me always, one
of my oldest friends and, as well, a mind of the first water whose power and
achievements were for me a constant inspiration as they were, I know, for scores other.
Coincidentally with my recognition came a shock of surprise, definitely--unpleasant. It
was Throckmartin--but about him was something disturbingly unlike the man I had
known long so well and to whom and to whose little party I had bidden farewell less than
a month before I myself had sailed for these seas. He had married only a few weeks
before, Edith, the daughter of Professor William Frazier, younger by at least a decade
than he but at one with him in his ideals and as much in love, if it were possible, as
Throckmartin. By virtue of her father's training a wonderful assistant, by virtue of her
own sweet, sound heart a--I use the word in its olden sense--lover. With his equally
youthful associate Dr. Charles Stanton and a Swedish woman, Thora Halversen, who had
been Edith Throckmartin's nurse from babyhood, they had set forth for the Nan-Matal,
that extraordinary group of island ruins clustered along the eastern shore of Ponape in the
I knew that he had planned to spend at least a year among these ruins, not only of Ponape
but of Lele--twin centres of a colossal riddle of humanity, a weird flower of civilization
that blossomed ages before the seeds of Egypt were sown; of whose arts we know little
enough and of whose science nothing. He had carried with him unusually complete