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"No doubt that will answer the same purpose, but tell me - weren't these very robes once part of a living creature?"
"Oh, no - no, they are the webs of a certain animal, but they have never been in themselves alive."
"You reduce life to extreme simplicity," remarked Maskull meditatively, "but it is very beautiful."
Climbing back over the hills, they now without further ceremony began their march across the desert.
They walked side by side. Joiwind directed their course straight toward Poolingdred. From the position of the sun, Maskull judged their way to lie due north. The sand was soft and powdery, very tiring to his naked feet. The red glare dazed his eyes, and made him semi - blind. He was hot, parched, and tormented with the craving to drink; his undertone of pain emerged into full consciousness.
"I see my friends nowhere, and it is very queer."
"Yes, it is queer - if it is accidental," said Joiwind, with a peculiar intonation.
"Exactly!" agreed Maskull. "If they had met with a mishap, their bodies would still be there. It begins to look like a piece of bad work to me. They must have gone on, and left me.... Well, I am here, and I must make the best of it, I will trouble no more about them."
"I don't wish to speak ill of anyone," said Joiwind, "but my instinct tells me that you are better away from those men. They did not come here for your sake, but for their own."
They walked on for a long time. Maskull was beginning to feel faint. She twined her magn lovingly around his waist, and a strong current of confidence and well - being instantly coursed through his veins.
"Thanks, Joiwind! But am I not weakening you?"
"Yes," she replied, with a quick, thrilling glance. "But not much - and it gives me great happiness."
Presently they met a fantastic little creature, the size of a new - born lamb, waltzing along on three legs. Each leg in turn moved to the front, and so the little monstrosity proceeded by means of a series of complete rotations. It was vividly coloured, as though it had been dipped into pots of bright blue and yellow paint. It looked up with small, shining eyes, as they passed.
Joiwind nodded and smiled to it. "That's a personal friend of mine, Maskull. Whenever I come this way, I see it. It's always waltzing, and always in a hurry, but it never seems to get anywhere."
"It seems to me that life is so self - sufficient here that there is no need for anyone to get anywhere. What I don't quite understand is how you manage to pass your days without ennui."
"That's a strange word. It means, does it not, craving for excitement?"
"Something of the kind," said Maskull.
"That must be a disease brought on by rich food."
"But are you never dull?"
"How could we be? Our blood is quick and light and free, our flesh is clean and unclogged, inside and out .... Before long I hope you will understand what sort of question you have asked."
Farther on they encountered a strange phenomenon. In the heart of the desert a fountain rose perpendicularly fifty feet into the air, with a cool and pleasant hissing sound. It differed, however, from a fountain in this respect - that the water of which it was composed did not return to the ground but was absorbed by the atmosphere at the summit. It was in fact a tall, graceful column of dark green fluid, with a capital of coiling and twisting vapours.
When they came closer, Maskull perceived that this water column was the continuation and termination of a flowing brook, which came down from the direction of the mountains. The explanation of the phenomenon was evidently that the water at this spot found chemical affinities in the upper air, and consequently forsook the ground.
"Now let us drink," said Joiwind.
She threw herself unaffectedly at full length on the sand, face downward, by the side of the brook, and Maskull was not long in following her example. She refused to quench her thirst until she had seen him drink. He found the water heavy, but bubbling with gas. He drank copiously. It affected his palate in a new way - with the purity and cleanness of water was combined the exhilaration of a sparkling wine, raising his spirits - but somehow the intoxication brought out his better nature, and not his lower.
"We call it gnawl water'," said Joiwind. "This is not quite pure, as you can see by the colour. At Poolingdred it is crystal clear. But we would be ungrateful if we complained. After this you'll find we'll get along much better."
Maskull now began to realise his environment, as it were for the first time. All his sense organs started to show him beauties and wonders that he had not hitherto suspected. The uniform glaring scarlet of the sands became separated into a score of clearly distinguished shades of red. The sky was similarly split up into different blues. The radiant heat of Branchspell he found to affect every part of his body with unequal intensifies. His ears awakened; the atmosphere was full of murmurs, the sands hummed, even the sun's rays had a sound of their own - a kind of faint Aeolian harp. Subtle, puzzling perfumes assailed his nostrils. His palate lingered over the memory of the gnawl water. All the pores of his skin were tickled and soothed by hitherto unperceived currents of air. His poigns explored actively the inward nature of everything in his immediate vicinity. His magn touched Joiwind, and drew from her person a stream of love and joy. And lastly by means of his breve he exchanged thoughts with her in silence. This mighty sense symphony stirred him to the depths, and throughout the walk of that endless morning he felt no more fatigue.
When it was drawing near to Blodsombre, they approached the sedgy margin of a dark green lake, which lay underneath Poolingdred.
Panawe was sitting on a dark rock, waiting for them.
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A Voyage to Arcturus -by- David Lindsay