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The husband got up to meet his wife and their guest. He was clothed in white. He had a beardless face, with breve and poigns. His skin, on face and body alike, was so white, fresh, and soft, that it scarcely looked skin at all - it rather resembled a new kind of pure, snowy flesh, extending right down to his bones. It had nothing in common with the artificially whitened skin of an over-civilised woman. Its whiteness and delicacy aroused no voluptuous thoughts; it was obviously the manifestation of a cold and almost cruel chastity of nature. His hair, which fell to the nape of his neck, also was white; but again, from vigour, not decay. His eyes were black, quiet and fathomless. He was still a young man, but so stern were his features that he had the appearance of a lawgiver, and this in spite of their great beauty and harmony.
His magn and Joiwind's intertwined for a single moment and Maskull saw his face soften with love, while she looked exultant. She put him in her husband's arms with gentle force, and stood back, gazing and smiling. Maskull felt rather embarrassed at being embraced by a man, but submitted to it; a sense of cool, pleasant languor passed through him in the act.
"The stranger is red - blooded, then?"
He was startled by Panawe's speaking in English, and the voice too was extraordinary. It was absolutely tranquil, but its tranquillity seemed in a curious fashion to be an illusion, proceeding from a rapidity of thoughts and feelings so great that their motion could not be detected. How this could be, he did not know.
"How do you come to speak in a tongue you have never heard before?" demanded Maskull.
"Thought is a rich, complex thing. I can't say if I am really speaking your tongue by instinct, or if you yourself are translating my thoughts into your tongue as I utter them."
"Already you see that Panawe is wiser than I am," said Joiwind gaily.
"What is your name?" asked the husband.
"That name must have a meaning - but again, thought is a strange thing. I connect that name with something - but with what?"
"Try to discover," said Joiwind.
"Has there been a man in your world who stole something from the Maker of the, universe, in order to ennoble his fellow creatures?"
"There is such a myth, The hero's name was Prometheus."
"Well, you seem to be identified in my mind with that action - but what it all means I can't say, Maskull."
"Accept it as a good omen, for Panawe never lies, and never speaks thoughtlessly."
"There must be some confusion. These are heights beyond me," said Maskull calmly, but looking rather contemplative.
"Where do you come from?"
"From the planet of a distant sun, called Earth."
"I was tired of vulgarity," returned Maskull laconically. He intentionally avoided mentioning his fellow voyagers, in order that Krag's name should not come to light.
"That's an honourable motive," said Panawe. "And what's more, it may be true, though you spoke it as a prevarication."
"As far as it goes, it's quite true," said Maskull, staring at him with annoyance and surprise.
The swampy lake extended for about half a mile from where they were standing to the lower buttresses of the mountain. Feathery purple reeds showed themselves here and there through the shallows. The water was dark green. Maskull did not see how they were going to cross it.
Joiwind caught his arm. "Perhaps you don't know that the lake will bear us?"
Panawe walked onto the water; it was so heavy that it carried his weight. Joiwind followed with Maskull. He instantly started to slip about - nevertheless the motion was amusing, and he learned so fast, by watching and imitating Panawe, that he was soon able to balance himself without assistance. After that he found the sport excellent.
For the same reason that women excel in dancing, Joiwind's half falls and recoveries were far more graceful and sure than those of either of the men. Her slight, draped form - dipping, bending, rising, swaying, twisting, upon the surface of the dark water - this was a picture Maskull could not keep his eyes away from.
The lake grew deeper. The gnawl water became green - black. The crags, gullies, and precipices of the shore could now be distinguished in detail. A waterfall was visible, descending several hundred feet. The surface of the lake grew disturbed - so much so that Maskull had difficulty in keeping his balance. He therefore threw himself down and started swimming on the face of the water. Joiwind turned her head, and laughed so joyously that all her teeth flashed in the sunlight.
They landed in a few more minutes on a promontory of black rock. The water on Maskull's garment and body evaporated very quickly. He gazed upward at the towering mountain, but at that moment some strange movements on the part of Panawe attracted his attention. His face was working convulsively, and he began to stagger about. Then he put his hand to his mouth and took from it what looked like a bright - coloured pebble. He looked at it carefully for some seconds. Joiwind also looked, over his shoulder, with quickly changing colors. After this inspection, Panawe let the object - whatever it was - fall to the ground, and took no more interest in it.
"May I look?" asked Maskull; and, without waiting for permission, he picked it up. It was a delicately beautiful egg - shaped crystal of pale green.
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A Voyage to Arcturus -by- David Lindsay