|Back||1 2 3 4 5||Next|
"What is your name, and your husband's name?"
"Mine is Joiwind - my husband's is Panawe. We live a very long way from here; still, it came to us both last night that you were lying here insensible. We almost quarrelled about which of us should come to you, but in the end I won." Here she laughed. "I won, because I am the stronger - hearted of the two; he is the purer in perception."
"Thanks, Joiwind!" said Maskull simply.
The colors chased each other rapidly beneath her skin. "Oh, why do you say that? What pleasure is greater than loving-kindness? I rejoiced at the opportunity.... But now we must exchange blood."
"What is this?" he demanded, rather puzzled.
"It must be so. Your blood is far too thick and heavy for our world. Until you have an infusion of mine, you will never get up."
Maskull flushed. "I feel like a complete ignoramus here.... Won't it hurt you?"
"If your blood pains you, I suppose it will pain me. But we will share the pain."
"This is a new kind of hospitality to me," he muttered.
"Wouldn't you do the same for me?" asked Joiwind, half smiling, half agitated.
"I can't answer for any of my actions in this world. I scarcely know where I am.... Why, yes - of course I would, Joiwind."
While they were talking it had become full day. The mists had rolled away from the ground, and only the upper atmosphere remained fog - charged. The desert of scarlet sand stretched in all directions, except one, where there was a sort of little oasis - some low hills, clothed sparsely with little purple trees from base to summit. It was about a quarter of a mile distant.
Joiwind had brought with her a small flint knife. Without any trace of nervousness, she made a careful, deep incision on her upper arm. Maskull expostulated.
"Really, this part of it is nothing," she said, laughing. "And if it were - a sacrifice that is no sacrifice - what merit is there in that? ... Come now - your arm!"
The blood was streaming down her arm. It was not red blood, but a milky, opalescent fluid.
"Not that one!" said Maskull, shrinking. "I have already been cut there." He submitted the other, and his blood poured forth.
Joiwind delicately and skilfully placed the mouths of the two wounds together, and then kept her arm pressed tightly against Maskull's for a long time. He felt a stream of pleasure entering his body through the incision. His old lightness and vigour began to return to him. After about five minutes a duel of kindness started between them; he wanted to remove his arm, and she to continue. At last he had his way, but it was none too soon - she stood there pale and dispirited.
She looked at him with a more serious expression than before, as if strange depths had opened up before her eyes. "What is your name?"
"Where have you come from, with this awful blood?"
"From a world called Earth.... The blood is clearly unsuitable for this world, Joiwind, but after all, that was only to be expected. I am sorry I let you have your way."
"Oh, don't say that! There was nothing else to be done. We must all help one another. Yet, somehow - forgive me - I feel polluted."
"And well you may, for it's a fearful thing for a girl to accept in her own veins the blood of a strange man from a strange planet. If I had not been so dazed and weak I would never have allowed it."
"But I would have insisted. Are we not all brothers and sisters? Why did you come here, Maskull?"
He was conscious of a slight degree of embarrassment. "Will you think it foolish if I say I hardly know? - I came with those two men. Perhaps I was attracted by curiosity, or perhaps it was the love of adventure."
"Perhaps," said Joiwind. "I wonder .. . These friends of yours must be terrible men. Why did they come?"
"That I can tell you. They came to follow Surtur."
Her face grew troubled. "I don't understand it. One of them at least must be a bad man, and yet if he is following Surtur - or Shaping, as he is called here - he can't be really bad."
"What do you know of Surtur?" asked Maskull in astonishment.
Joiwind remained silent for a time, studying his face. His brain moved restlessly, as though it were being probed from outside. "I see.... and yet I don't see," she said at last. "It is very difficult.... Your God is a dreadful Being - bodyless, unfriendly, invisible. Here we don't worship a God like that. Tell me, has any man set eyes on your God?"
"What does all this mean, Joiwind? Why speak of God?"
"I want to know."
"In ancient times, when the earth was young and grand, a few holy men are reputed to have walked and spoken with God, but those days are past."
"Our world is still young," said Joiwind. "Shaping goes among us and converses with us. He is real and active - a friend and lover. Shaping made us, and he loves his work."
"Have you met him?" demanded Maskull, hardly believing his ears.
"No. I have done nothing to deserve it yet. Some day I may have an opportunity to sacrifice myself, and then I may be rewarded by meeting and talking with Shaping."
"I have certainly come to another world. But why do you say he is the same as Surtur?"
"Yes, he is the same. We women call him Shaping, and so do most men, but a few name him Surtur."
Maskull bit his nail. "Have you ever heard of Crystalman?"
"That is Shaping once again. You see, he has many names - which shows how much he occupies our minds. Crystalman is a name of affection."
"It's odd," said Maskull. "I came here with quite different ideas about Crystalman."
Joiwind shook her hair. "In that grove of trees over there stands a desert shrine of his. Let us go and pray there, and then we'll go on our way to Poolingdred. That is my home. It's a long way off, and we must get there before Blodsombre."
"Now, what is Blodsombre?"
"For about four hours in the middle of the day Branchspell's rays are so hot that no one can endure them. We call it Blodsombre."
"Is Branchspell another name for Arcturus?"
Joiwind threw off her seriousness and laughed. "Naturally we don't take our names from you, Maskull. I don't think our names are very poetic, but they follow nature."
|Back||1 2 3 4 5||Next|
A Voyage to Arcturus -by- David Lindsay