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"It's no use standing here," said Tydomin. "Nothing can be done. you must come with me."
"Come with you? Where to?"
"To Disscourn. There's a burning lake on the far side of it. He always wished to be cast there after death. We can do that after Blodsombre - in the meantime we must take him home."
"You're a callous, heartless woman. Why should he be buried when that poor girl must remain unburied?"
"You know that's out of the question," replied Tydomin quietly.
Maskull's eyes roamed about agitatedly, apparently seeing nothing.
"We must do something," she continued. "I shall go. you can't wish to stay here alone?"
"No, I couldn't stay here - and why should I want to? You want me to carry the corpse?"
"He can't carry himself, and you murdered him. Perhaps it will ease your mind to carry it."
"Ease my mind?" said Maskull, rather stupidly.
"There's only one relief for remorse, and that's voluntary pain."
"And have you no remorse?" he asked, fixing her with a heavy eye.
"These crimes are yours, Maskull," she said in a low but incisive voice.
They walked over to Crimtyphon's body, and Maskull hoisted it on to his shoulders. It weighed heavier than he had thought. Tydomin did not offer to assist him to adjust the ghastly burden.
She crossed the isthmus, followed by Maskull. Their path lay through sunshine and shadow. Branchspell was blazing in a cloudless sky, the heat was insufferable - streams of sweat coursed down his face, and the corpse seemed to grow heavier and heavier. Tydomin always walked in front of him. His eyes were fastened in an unseeing stare on her white, womanish calves; he looked neither to right nor left. His features grew sullen. At the end of ten minutes he suddenly allowed his burden to slip off his shoulders on to the ground, where it lay sprawled every which way. He called out to Tydomin.
She quickly looked around.
"Come here. It has just occurred to me" - he laughed - "why should I be carrying this corpse - and why should I be following you at all? What surprises me is, why this has never struck me before."
She at once came back to him. "I suppose you're tried, Maskull. Let us sit down. Perhaps you have come a long way this morning?"
"Oh, it's not tiredness, but a sudden gleam of sense. Do you know of any reason why I should be acting as your porter?" He laughed again, but nevertheless sat down on the ground beside her.
Tydomin neither looked at him nor answered. Her head was half bent, so as to face the northern sky, where the Alppain light was still glowing. Maskull followed her gaze, and also watched the glow for a moment or two in silence.
"Why don't you speak?" he asked at last.
"What does that light suggest to you, Maskull?"
"I'm not speaking of that light."
"Doesn't it suggest anything at all?"
"Perhaps it doesn't. What does it matter?"
Maskull grew sullen again. "Sacrifice of what? What do you mean?"
Hasn't it entered your head yet," said Tydomin, looking straight in front of her, and speaking in her delicate, hard manner, "that this adventure of yours will scarcely come to an end until you have made some sort of sacrifice?"
He returned no answer, and she said nothing more. In a few minutes' time Maskull got up of his own accord, and irreverently, and almost angrily, threw Crimtyphon's corpse over his shoulder again.
"How far do we have to go?" he asked in a surly tone.
"An hour's walk."
"Still, this isn't the sacrifice I mean," said Tydomin quietly, as she went on in front.
Almost immediately they reached more difficult ground. They had to pass from peak to peak, as from island to island. In some cases they were able to stride or jump across, but in others they had to make use of rude bridges of fallen timber. It appeared to be a frequented path. Underneath were the black, impenetrable abysses - on the surface were the glaring sunshine, the gay, painted rocks, the chaotic tangle of strange plants. There were countless reptiles and insects. The latter were thicker built than those of Earth - consequently still more disgusting, and some of them were of enormous size. One monstrous insect, as large as a horse, stood right in the centre of their path without budging. It was armour-plated, had jaws like scimitars, and underneath its body was a forest of legs. Tydomin gave one malignant look at it, and sent it crashing into the gulf.
'What have I to offer, except my life?" Maskull suddenly broke out. "And what good is that? It won't bring that poor girl back into the world."
"Sacrifice is not for utility. It's a penalty which we pay."
"I know that."
"The point is whether you can go on enjoying life, after what has happened."
She waited for Maskull to come even with her.
"Perhaps you imagine I'm not man enough - you imagine that because I allowed poor Oceaxe to die for me - "
"She did die for you," said Tydomin, in a quiet, emphatic voice.
"That would be a second blunder of yours," returned Maskull, just as firmly. "I was not in love with Oceaxe, and I'm not in love with life."
"Your life is not required."
"Then I don't understand what you want, or what you are speaking about."
"It's not for me to ask a sacrifice from you, Maskull. That would be compliance on your part, but not sacrifice. You must wait until you feel there's nothing else for you to do."
"It's all very mysterious."
The conversation was abruptly cut short by a prolonged and frightful crashing, roaring sound, coming from a short distance ahead. It was accompanied by a violent oscillation of the ground on which they stood. They looked up, startled, just in time to witness the final disappearance of a huge mass of forest land, not two hundred yards in front of them. Several acres of trees. plants, rocks, and soil, with all its teeming animal life, vanished before their eyes, like a magic story. The new chasm was cut, as if by a knife. Beyond its farther edge the Alppain glow burned blue just over the horizon.
"Now we shall have to make a detour," said Tydomin, halting.
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A Voyage to Arcturus -by- David LindsayBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.