The Moon Pool
by A. Merrit
1. THE THROCKMARTIN MYSTERY
I AM breaking a long silence to
clear the name of Dr. David Throckmartin
and to lift the shadow of scandal from that of his wife and of Dr.
Charles Stanton. his assistant. That I have not found the courage to
do so before, all men who are jealous of their scientific reputations
will understand when they have read the facts entrusted to me alone. I
shall first recapitulate what has actually been known of the
Throckmartin expedition to the island of Ponape in the Carolines --
the Throckmartin Mystery, as it is called.
Dr. Throckmartin set forth, you will recall, to make some observations of
Nan-Matal. that extraordinary group of island ruins, remains of a high and
prehistoric civilization, that are clustered along the vast shore of
Ponape. With him went his wife to whom he had been wedded less than half a
year. The daughter of Professor Frazier-Smith, she was as deeply interested
and almost as well informed as he upon these relics of a vanished race that
titanically strew certain islands of the Pacific and form the basis for the
theory of a submerged Pacific continent.
Mrs. Throckmartin, it will be recalled, was much younger, fifteen years at
least. than her husband. Dr. Charles Stanton, who accompanied them as Dr.
Throckmartin's assistant, was about her age. These three and a Swedish
woman, Thora Helversen, who had been Edith Throckmartin's nurse in babyhood
and who was entirely devoted to her, made up the expedition.
Dr. Throckmartin planned to spend a year among the ruins, not only of
Ponape. but of Lele -- the twin centers of that colossal riddle of humanity
whose answer has its roots in immeasurable antiquity; a weird flower of
man-made civilization that blossomed ages before the seeds of Egypt were
sown; of whose arts we know little and of whose science and secret
knowledge of nature nothing.
He carried with him complete equipment for his work and gathered at Ponape
a dozen or so natives for laborers. They went straight to Metalanim harbor
and set up their camp on the island called Uschen-Tau in the group known as
the Nan-Matal. You will remember that these islands are entirely
uninhabited and are shunned by the people on the main island.
Three months later Dr. Throckmartin appeared at Port Mooresby, Papua. He
came on a schooner manned by Solomon Islanders and commanded by a Chinese
half-breed captain. He reported that he was on his way to Melbourne for
additional scientific equipment and whites to help him in his excavations,
saying that the superstition of the natives made their aid negligible. He
went immediately on board the steamer Southern Queen which was sailing that
same morning. Three nights later he disappeared from the Southern Queen and
it was officially reported that he had met death either by being swept
overboard or by casting himself into the sea.
A relief-boat sent with the news to Ponape found the Throckmartin camp on
the island Uschen-Tau and a smaller camp on the island called Nan-Tanach.
All the equipment, clothing, supplies were intact. But of Mrs.
Throckmartin, of Dr. Stanton, or of Thora Helversen they could find not a
The natives who had been employed by the archeologist were questioned.
They said that the ruins were the abode of great spirits --ani -- who
were particularly powerful when the moon was at the full. On these nights
all the islanders were doubly careful to give the ruins wide berth. Upon
being employed, they had demanded leave from the day before full moon until
it was on the wane and this had been granted them by Dr. Throckmartin.
Thrice they had left the expedition alone on these nights. On their third
return they had found the four white people gone and they "knew that the
ani had eaten them." They were afraid and had fled.
That was all.
The Chinese half caste was found and reluctantly testified at last that he
had picked Dr. Throckmartin up from a small boat about fifty miles off
Ponape. The scientist had seemed half mad, but he had given the seaman a
large sum of money to bring him to Port Moresby and to say, if questioned,
that he had boarded the boat at Ponape harbor.
That is all that has been known to anyone of the fate of the Throckmartin
Why, you will ask, do I break silence now; and how, came I in possession of
the facts I am about to set forth?
To the first I answer: I was at the Geographical Club recently and I
overheard two members talking. They mentioned the name of Throckmartin and
I became an eavesdropper. One said:
"Of course what probably happened was that Throckmartin killed them all.
It's a dangerous thing for a man to marry a woman so much younger than
himself and then throw her into the necessarily close company of
exploration with a man as young and as agreeable as Stanton was. The
inevitable happened, no doubt. Throckmartin discovered; avenged himself.
Then followed remorse and suicide."
"Throckmartin didn't seem to be that kind," said the other thoughtfully.
"No, he didn't," agreed the first. "Isn't there another story?" went on
the second speaker. "Something about Mrs. Throckmartin running away with
Stanton and taking the woman, Thora, with her? Somebody told me they had
been recognized in Singapore recently."
"You can take your pick of the two stories," replied the other man. "It's
one or the other I suppose."
It was neither one nor the other of them. I know -- and I will answer now
the second question -- because I was with Throckmartin when he -- vanished.
I know what he told me and I know what my own eyes saw. Incredible,
abnormal, against all the known facts of our science as it was, I testify
to it. And it is my intention, after this is published, to sail to Ponape,
to go to the Nan-Matal and to the islet beneath whose frowning walls dwells
the mystery that Throckmartin sought and found -- and that at the last
sought and found Throckmartin!
I will leave behind me a copy of the map of the islands that he gave me.
Also his sketch of the great courtyard of Nan-Tanach, the location of the
moon door, his indication of the probable location of the moon pool and the
passage to it and his approximation of the position of the shining globes.
If I do not return and there are any with enough belief, scientific
curiosity and courage to follow, these will furnish a plain trail.
I will now proceed straightforwardly with my narrative.
For six months I had been on the d'Entrecasteaux Islands gathering data for
the concluding chapters of my book upon "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 that morning I thought, with home-sick mind, of the long leagues
between me and Melbourne and the longer ones between Melbourne and New
It was one of Papua's yellow mornings, when she shows herself in her most
somber, most baleful mood. The sky was a smoldering ocher. Over the island
brooded a spirit sullen, implacable and alien; filled with the threat of
latent, malefic forces waiting to be unleashed. It seemed an emanation from
the untamed, sinister heart of Papua herself -- sinister even when she
smiles. And now and then, on the wind, came a breath from unexplored
jungles, filled with unfamiliar odors, mysterious, and menacing.
It is on such mornings that Papua speaks to you of her immemorial
ancientness and of her power. I am not unduly imaginative but it is a mood
that makes me shrink -- I mention it because it bears directly upon Dr.
Throckmartin's fate. Nor is the mood Papua's alone. I have felt it in New
Guinea, in Australia, in the Solomons and in the Carolines. But it is in
Papua that it seems most articulate. It is as though she said: "I am the
ancient of days: I have seen the earth in the throes of its shaping; I am
the primeval; I have seen races born and die and, lo, in my breast are
secrets that would blast you by the telling, you pale babes of a puling
age. You and I ought not be in the same world; yet I am and I shall be!
Never will you fathom me and you I hate though I tolerate I tolerate -- but
And then I seem to see a giant paw that reaches from Papua toward the outer
world, stretching and sheathing monstrous claws.
All feel this mood of hers. Her own people have it woven in them, part of
their web and woof; flashing into light unexpectedly like a soul from
another universe; masking itself as swiftly.
I fought against Papua as every white man must on one of her yellow
mornings. And as I fought I saw a tall figure come striding down the pier.
Behind him came a Kapa-Kapa boy 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 at me for a moment and waved his hand. It was
Coincident with my recognition of him there came a shock of surprise that
was definitely -- unpleasant. It was Throckmartin -- but there was
something disturbingly different about him and the man I had known so well
and had bidden farewell less than a year before. He was then, as you know,
just turned forty, lithe, erect, muscular; the face of a student and of a
seeker. His controlling expression was one of enthusiasm, of intellectual
keenness, of -- what shall I say -- expectant search. His ever eagerly
questioning brain had stamped itself upon his face.
I sought in my mind for an explanation of that which I had felt on the
flash of his greeting. Hurrying down to the lower deck I found him with the
purser. As I spoke he turned and held out to me an eager hand -- and then I
saw what the change was that had come over him!
He knew, of course, by my face the uncontrollable shock that my closer look
had given me. His eyes filled and he turned briskly to the purser; then
hurried off to his stateroom, leaving me standing, half dazed. At the
stair he half turned. "Oh, Goodwin," he said. "I'd like to see you later.
Just now -- there's something I must write before we start --"
He went up swiftly.
"'E looks rather queer -- eh?" said the purser. "Know 'im well, sir? Seems
to 'ave given you quite a start, sir."
I made some reply and went slowly to my chair. I tried to analyze what it
was that had disturbed me so; what profound change in Throckmartin that had
so shaken me. Now it came to me. It was as though the man had suffered some
terrific soul searing shock of rapture and horror combined; some soul
cataclysm that in its climax had remolded his face deep from within,
setting on it the seal of wedded joy and fear. As though indeed ecstasy
supernal and terror infernal had once come to him hand in hand, taken
possession of him, looked out of his eyes and, departing, left behind upon
him ineradicably their shadow.
Alternately I looked out over the port and paced about the deck, striving
to read the riddle; to banish it from my mind. And all the time still over
Papua brooded its baleful spirit of ancient evil, unfathomable, not to be
understood; nor had it lifted when the "Southern Queen" lifted anchor and
steamed out into the gulf.
2. DOWN THE MOON PATH
I WATCHED WITH relief the shores
sink down behind us; welcomed the touch of
the free sea wind. We seemed to be drawing away from something malefic;
something that lurked within the island spell I have described, and the
thought crept into my mind, spoke -- whispered rather -- from
I had hoped -- and within the hope was an inexplicable shrinking, an
unexpressed dread -- that I would meet Throckmartin at lunch. He did not
come down and I was sensible of a distinct relief within my disappointment.
All that afternoon I lounged about uneasily but still he kept to his cabin.
Nor did he appear at dinner.
Dusk and night fell swiftly. I was warm and went back to my deckchair. The
"Southern Queen" was rolling to a disquieting swell and I had the place to
Over the heavens was a canopy of cloud, glowing faintly and testifying to
the moon riding behind it. There was much phosphorescence. Now and then,
before the ship and at the sides, arose those strange little swirls of mist
that steam up from the Southern Ocean like the breath of sea monsters,
whirl for a moment and disappear. I lighted a cigarette and tried once more
to banish Throckmartin's face from my mind.
Suddenly the deck door opened and through it came Throckmartin himself. He
paused uncertainly, looked up at the sky with a curiously eager, intent
gaze, hesitated, then closed the door behind him.
"Throckmartin," I called. "Come sit with me. It is Goodwin."
Immediately he made his way to me, sitting beside me with a gasp of relief
that I noted curiously. His hand touched mine and gripped it with
tenseness that hurt. His hand was icelike. I puffed up my cigarette and by
its glow scanned him closely. He was watching a large swirl of the mist
that was passing before the ship. The phosphorescence beneath it illumined
it with a fitful opalescence. I saw fear in his eyes. The swirl passed; he
sighed, his grip relaxed and he sank back.
"Throckmartin," I said, wasting no time in preliminaries. "What's wrong?
Can I help you?"
He was silent.
"Is your wife all right and what are you doing here when I heard you had
gone to the Carolines for a year?" I went on.
I felt his body grow tense again. He did not speak for a moment and then:
"I'm going to Melbourne, Goodwin," he said. "I need a few things -- need
them urgently. And more men -- white men."
His voice was low; preoccupied. It was as though the brain that dictated
the words did so perfunctorily, half impatiently; aloof, watching, strained
to catch the first hint of approach of something dreaded.
"You are making progress then?" I asked. It was a banal question. Put forth
in a blind effort to claim his attention.
"Progress?" he repeated. "Progress ----"
He stopped abruptly; rose from his chair, gazed intently toward the north.
I followed his gaze. Far, far away the moon had broken through the clouds.
Almost on the horizon, you could see the faint luminescence of it upon the
quiet sea. The distant patch of light quivered and shook. The clouds
thickened again and it was gone. The ship raced southward, swiftly.
Throckmartin dropped into his chair. He lighted a cigarette with a hand
that trembled. The flash of the match fell on his face and I noted with a
queer thrill of apprehension that its unfamiliar expression had deepened;
become curiously intensified as though a faint acid had passed over it,
etching its lines faintly deeper.
"It's the full moon tonight, isn't it?" he asked, palpably with studied
"The first night of full moon," I answered. He was silent again. I sat
silent too, waiting for him to make up his mind to speak. He turned to me
as though he had made a sudden resolution.
"Goodwin," he said. "I do need help. If ever man needed it, I do,
Goodwin -- can you imagine yourself in another world. alien. unfamiliar, a
world of terror, whose unknown joy is its greatest terror of all: you all
alone there; a stranger! As such a man would need help, so I need --"
He paused abruptly and arose to his feet stiffly; the cigarette dropped
from his fingers. I saw that the moon had again broken through the clouds,
and this time much nearer. Not a mile away was the patch of light that it
threw upon the waves. Back of it, to the rim of the sea was a lane of
moonlight; it was a gleaming gigantic serpent racing over the rim of the
world straight and surely toward the ship.
Throckmartin gazed at it as though turned to stone. He stiffened to it as a
pointer does to a hidden covey. To me from him pulsed a thrill of terror --
but terror tinged with an unfamiliar, an infernal joy. It came to me and
passed away -- leaving me trembling with its shock of bitter sweet.
He bent forward, all his soul in his eyes. The moon path swept closer,
closer still. It was now less than half a mile away. From it the ship
fled; almost it came to me, as though pursued. Down upon it, swift and
straight, a radiant torrent cleaving the waves, raced the moon stream. And
"Good God!" breathed Throckmartin, and if ever the words were a prayer
and an invocation they were.
And then, for the first time -- I saw -- it!
The moon path, as I have said, stretched to the horizon and was bordered by
darkness. It was as though the clouds above had been parted to form a lane
-- drawn aside like curtains or as the waters of the Red Sea were held
back to let the hosts of Israel through. On each side of the stream was the
black shadow cast by the folds of the high canopies. And straight as a
road between the opaque walls gleamed, shimmered and danced the shining,
racing, rapids of moonlight.
Far, it seemed immeasurably far. along this stream of silver fire I sensed,
rather than saw, something coming. It drew into sight as a deeper glow
within the light. On and on it sped toward us -- an opalescent mistiness
that swept on with the suggestion of some winged creature in darting
flight. Dimly there crept into my mind memory of the Dyak legend of the
winged messenger of Buddha -- the Akla bird whose feathers are woven of
the moon rays, whose heart is a living opal, whose wings in flight echo the
crystal clear music of the white stars -- but whose beak is of frozen flame
and shreds the souls of the unbelievers. Still it sped on, and now there
came to me sweet, insistent tinklings -- like a pizzicati on violins of
glass, crystalline, as purest, clearest glass transformed to sound. And
again the myth of the Akla bird came to me.
But now it was close to the end of the white path; close up to the barrier
of darkness still between the ship and the sparkling head of the Moon
stream. And now it beat up against that barrier as a bird against the
bars of its cage. And I knew that this was no mist born of sea and
air. It whirled with shimmering plumes, with swirls of lacy light, with
spirals of living vapor. It held within it odd, unfamiliar gleams as of
shifting mother-of-pearl. Coruscations and glittering atoms drifted
through it as though it drew them from the rays that bathed it.
Nearer and nearer it came, borne on the sparkling waves, and less and
less grew the protecting wall of shadow between it and us. The
crystalline sounds were louder -- rhythmic as music from another
Now I saw that within the mistiness was a core, a nucleus of intenser
light-veined, opaline, effulgent, intensely alive. And above it,
tangled in the plumes and spirals that throbbed and whirled were seven
Through all the incessant but strangely ordered movement of the -- thing
-- these lights held firm and steady. They were seven -- like seven little
moons. One was of a pearly pink, one of delicate nacreous blue, one of
lambent saffron, one of the emerald you see in the shallow waters of
tropic isles; a deathly white; a ghostly amethyst; and one of
the silver that is seen only when the flying fish leap beneath the
moon. There they shone -- these seven little varicolored orbs within the
opaline mistiness of whatever it was that, poised and expectant, waited to
be drawn to us on the light filled waves.
The tinkling music was louder still. It pierced the ears with a shower of
tiny lances; it made the heart beat jubilantly -- and checked it
dolorously. It closed your throat with a throb of rapture and
gripped it tight like the hand of infinite sorrow!
Came to me now a murmuring cry, stilling the crystal clear notes, it was
articulate -- but as though from something utterly foreign to this
world. The ear took the cry and translated with conscious labor into the
sounds of earth. And even as it compassed, the brain shrank from it
irresistibly and simultaneously it seemed, reached toward it with
"Av-o-lo-ha! Av-o-lo-ha!" So the cry seemed to throb.
The grip of Throckmartin's hand relaxed. He walked stiffly toward the front
of the deck, straight toward the vision, now but a few yards away from the
bow. I ran toward him and gripped him -- and fell back. For now his face
had lost all human semblance. Utter agony and utter ecstasy -- there they
were side by side, not resisting each other; unholy inhuman companions
blending into a look that none of God's creatures should wear -- and deep,
deep as his soul! A devil and a god dwelling harmoniously side by
side! So must Satan, newly fallen. still divine, seeing heaven and
contemplating hell, have looked.
And then -- swiftly the moon path faded! The clouds swept over the sky as
though a hand had drawn them together. Up from the south came a roaring
squall. As the moon vanished what I had seen vanished with it -- blotted
out as an image on a magic lantern; the tinkling ceased abruptly --
leaving a silence like that which follows an abrupt and stupendous
thunder clap. There was nothing about us but silence and blackness!
Through me there passed a great trembling as one who had stood on the very
verge of the gulf wherein the men of the Louisades say lurks the fisher
of the souls of men, and has been plucked back by sheerest chance.
Throckmartin passed an arm around me.
"It is as I thought," he said. In his voice was a new note; of the calm
certainty that has swept aside a waiting terror of the unknown. "Now I
know! Come with me to my cabin, old friend. For now that you too have seen
I can tell you" -- he hesitated -- "what it was you saw," he ended.
As we passed through the door we came face to face with the ship's first
officer. Throckmartin turned quickly, but not soon enough for the mate not
to see and stare with amazement. His eyes turned questioningly to me.
With a strong effort of will Throckmartin composed his face into at
least a semblance of normality. "Are we going to have much of a
storm?" he asked.
"Yes," said the mate. Then the seaman, getting the better of his curiosity,
added, profanely: "We'll probably have it all the way to Melbourne."
Throckmartin straightened as though with a new thought. He gripped the
officer's sleeve eagerly.
"You mean at least cloudy weather -- for" -- he hesitated -- "for the next
three nights, say?"
"And for three more," replied the mate.
"Thank God!" cried Throckmartin, and I think I never heard such relief
and hope as was in his voice.
The sailor stood amazed. "Thank God?" he repeated. "Thank -- what d'ye
But Throckmartin was moving onward to his cabin. I started to follow.
The first officer stopped me. "Your friend," he said, "Is he ill?"
"The sea!" I answered hurriedly. "He's not used to it. I am going to look
I saw doubt and disbelief in the seaman's eyes but I hurried on. For I
knew now that Throckmartin was ill indeed -- but that it was a sickness
neither the ship's doctor nor any other could heal.
3. "DEAD! ALL DEAD!"
THROCKMARTIN WAS sitting
on the side of his berth as I entered. He had
taken off his coat. He was leaning over, face in hands.
"Lock the door," he said quietly, not raising his head. "Close the
port-holes and draw the curtains -- and -- have you an electric flash in
your pocket -- a good, strong one?"
He glanced at the small pocket flash I handed him and clicked it on. "Not
big enough I'm afraid," he said. "And after all" -- he hesitated -- "it's
only a theory."
"What's only a theory?" I asked in astonishment.
"Thinking of it as a weapon against -- what saw," he said, with a wry
"Throckmartin," I cried. "What was it? Did I really see -- that
thing -- there in the moon path? Did I really hear ----"
"This for instance," he interrupted.
Softly he whispered: "Av-o-lo-ha!" With the murmur I seemed to hear
again the crystalline unearthly music; an echo of it, faint, sinister,
"Throckmartin," I said. "What was it? What are you flying from, man?
Where is your wife -- and Stanton?"
"Dead!" he said monotonously. "Dead! All dead!" Then as I recoiled in
horror -- "All dead. Edith, Stanton, Thora -- dead or worse. And Edith in
the moon pool -- with them -- drawn by what you saw on the moon path
-- and that wants me -- and that has put its brand upon me -- and
With a vicious movement he ripped open his shirt.
"Look at this," he said. I gazed. Around his chest, an inch above his
heart, the skin was white as pearl. The whiteness was sharply defined
against the healthy tint of the body. He turned and I saw it ran around
his back. It circled him. The band made a perfect cincture about two
"Burn it!" he said, and offered me his cigarette. I drew back. He
gestured -- peremptorily. I pressed the glowing end of the cigarette into
the ribbon of white flesh. He did not flinch nor was there odor of burning
nor, as I drew the little cylinder away, any mark upon the whiteness.
"Feel it!" he commanded again. I placed my fingers upon the band. It was
cold -- like frozen marble. He handed me a small penknife. "Cut!" he
ordered. This time, my scientific interest fully aroused, I did so
without reluctance. The blade cut into flesh. I waited for the blood to
come. None appeared. I drew out the knife and thrust it in again, fully a
quarter of an inch deep. I might have been cutting paper so far as any
evidence followed that what I was piercing was human skin and muscle.
Another thought came to me and I drew back, revolted.
"Throckmartin," I whispered. "Not leprosy!"
"Nothing so easy," he said. "Look again and find the places you cut."
I looked, as he bade me, and in the white ring there was not a single mark.
Where I had pressed the blade there was no trace. It was as though the
skin had parted to make way for the blade and closed. Throckmartin arose
and drew his shirt about him.
"Two things you have seen," he said. "It -- and its mark -- the seal it
placed on me that gives it, I think, the power to follow me. Seeing, you
must believe my story. Goodwin, I tell you again that my wife is dead --
or worse -- I do not know; the prey of -- what you saw; so, too, is
Stanton; so Thora. How ----" He stopped for a moment. Then continued:
"And I am going to Melbourne for the things to empty its den and its
shrine; for dynamite to destroy it and its lair -- if anything made
on earth will destroy it, and for white men with courage to use them.
Perhaps -- perhaps after you have heard, you will be one of these
men?" He looked at me a bit wistfully. "And now do not interrupt me. I
beg of you, till I am through -- for" -- he smiled wanly -- "the mate
may be wrong. And if he is" -- he arose and paced twice about the room --
"if he is I may not have time to tell you."
"Throckmartin," I answered. "I have no closed mind. Tell me -- and if I can
I will help."
He took my hand and pressed it.
"Goodwin," he began, "if I have seemed to take the death of my wife lightly
-- or rather" -- his face contorted -- "or rather -- if I have seemed to
pass it by as something not of first importance to me -- believe me it is
not so. If the rope is long enough -- if what the mate says is so -- if
there is cloudy weather until the moon begins to wane -- I can conquer --
that I know. But if it does not -- if the dweller in the moon pool gets me
-- then must you or some one avenge my wife -- and me -- and Stanton.
Yet I cannot believe that God would let a thing like that conquer! But
why did He then let it take my Edith? And why does He allow it to exist?
Are there things stronger than God, do you think, Goodwin?"
He turned to me feverishly. I hesitated.
"I do not know just how you define God," I said. "If you mean the will
to know, working through science ----"
He waved me aside impatiently.
"Science," he said. "What is our science against -- that? Or against the
science of whatever cursed, vanished race that made it -- or made the way
for it to enter this world of ours?"
With an effort he regained control of himself.
"Goodwin," he said, "do you know at all of the ruins on the Carolines, the
cyclopean, megolithic cities and harbors of Ponape and Lele, of Kusaie, of
Ruk and Hogolu, and a score of other islets there? Particularly, do you
know of the Nan-Matal and Metalanim?"
"Of the Metalanim I have heard and seen photographs," I said. "They
call it don't they, the Lost Venice of the Pacific?"
"Look at this map," said Throckmartin. He handed me the map. "That,"
he went on, "is Christian's map of Metalanim harbor and the Nan-Matal. Do
you see the rectangles marked Nan-Tanach?"
"Yes," I said.
"There," he said, "under those walls is the moon pool and the seven
gleaming lights that raise the dweller in the pool and the altar and
shrine of the dweller. And there in the moon pool with it lie Edith and
Stanton and Thora."
"The dweller in the moon pool?" I repeated half-incredulously.
"The thing you saw," said Throckmartin solemnly.
A solid sheet of rain swept the ports, and the "Southern Queen" began to
roll on the rising swells. Throckmartin drew another deep breath of
relief, and drawing aside a curtain peered out into the night. Its
blackness seemed to reassure him. At any rate, when he sat again he was
"There are no more wonderful ruins in the world than those of the island
Venice of Metalanim on the east shore of Ponape," he said almost
casually. "They take in some fifty islets and cover with their
intersecting canals and lagoons about twelve square miles. Who built them?
None knows! When were they built? Ages before the memory of present man,
that is sure. Ten thousand, twenty thousand, a hundred thousand years ago
-- the last more likely.
"All these islets, Goodwin. are squared, and their shores are frowning
sea-walls of gigantic basalt blocks hewn and put in place by the hands of
ancient man. Each inner water-front is faced with a terrace of those basalt
blocks which stand out six feet above the shallow canals that meander
between them. On the islets behind these walls are cyclopean and
time-shattered fortresses, palaces, terraces, pyramids; immense
court-yards, strewn with ruins -- and all so old that they seem to wither
the eyes of those who look on them.
"There has been a great subsidence. You can stand out of Metalanim harbor
for three miles and look down upon the tops of similar monolithic
structures and walls twenty feet below you in the water.
"And all about, strung on their canals, are the bulwarked islets with their
enigmatic giant walls peering through the dense growths of mangroves --
dead, deserted for incalculable ages; shunned by those who live near.
"You as a botanist are familiar with the evidence that a vast shadowy
continent existed in the Pacific -- a continent that was not rent asunder
by volcanic forces as was that legendary one of Atlantis in the Eastern
Ocean. My work in Java, in Papua, and in the Ladrones had set my mind upon
this Pacific lost land. Just as the Azores are believed to be the last high
peaks of Atlantis, so evidence came to me steadily that Ponape and Lele and
their basalt bulwarked islets were the last points of the slowly sunken
western land clinging still to the sunlight, and had been the last refuge
and sacred places of the rulers of that race which had lost their
immemorial home under the rising waters of the Pacific.
"I believed that under these ruins I might find the evidence of what I
sought. Time and again I had encountered legends of subterranean networks
beneath the Nan-Matal, of passages running back into the main island
itself; basalt corridors that followed the lines of the shallow canals and
ran under them to islet after islet, linking them in mysterious chains.
"My -- my wife and I had talked before we were married of making this our
great work. After the honeymoon we prepared for the expedition. It was to
be my monument. Stanton was as enthusiastic as ourselves. We sailed, as
you know, last May in fulfilment of our dreams.
"At Ponape we selected, not without difficulty, workmen to help us --
diggers. I had to make extraordinary inducements before I could get
together my force. Their beliefs are gloomy, these Ponapeans. They people
their swamps, their forests, their mountains and shores with malignant
spirits -- ani they call them. And they are afraid -- bitterly afraid of
the isles of ruins and what they think the ruins hide. I do not wonder --
now! For their fear has come down to them, through the ages, from the
people 'before their fathers,' as they call them, who, they say, made these
mighty spirits their slaves and messengers.
"When they were told where they were to go, and how long we expected to
stay, they murmured. Those who, at last, were tempted made what I thought
then merely a superstitious proviso that they were to be allowed to go away
on the three nights of the full moon. If only I had heeded them and gone.
He stopped and again over his face the lines etched deep.
"We passed," he went on, "Into Metalanim harbor. Off to our left -- a mile
away arose a massive quadrangle. Its walls were all of forty feet high and
hundreds of feet on each side. As we passed it our natives grew very
silent; watched it furtively, fearfully. I knew it for the ruins that are
called Nan-Tanach. the 'place of frowning walls.' And at the silence of my
men I recalled what Christian had written of this place; of how he had come
upon its 'ancient platforms and tetragonal enclosures of stonework; its
wonder of tortuous alleyways and labyrinth of shallow canals; grim masses
of stonework peering out from behind verdant screens; cyclopean barricades.
And now, when we had turned into its ghostly shadows, straightaway the
merriment of our guides was hushed and conversation died down to whispers.
For we were close to Nan-Tanach -- the place of lofty walls, the most
remarkable of all the Metalanim ruins." He arose and stood over me.
"Nan-Tanach. Goodwin," he said solemnly -- "a place where merriment is
hushed indeed and words are stifled; Nan-Tanach -- where the moon pool lies
hidden -- lies hidden behind the moon rock, but sends its diabolic soul out
-- even through the prisoning stone." He raised clenched hands. "Oh,
Heaven," he breathed, "grant me that I may blast it from earth!"
He was silent for a little time.
"Of course I wanted to pitch our camp there," he began again quietly, but I
soon gave up that idea. The natives were panic-stricken -- threatened to
turn back. 'No,' they said. 'too great ani there. We go to any other
place -- but not there.' Although, even then, I felt that the secret of the
place was in Nan-Tanach. I found it necessary to give in. The laborers were
essential to the success of the expedition, and I told myself that after a
little time had passed and I had persuaded them that there was nothing
anywhere that could molest them, we would move our tents to it. We finally
picked for our base the islet called Uschen-Tau -- you see it here --" He
pointed to the map. "It was close to the isle of desire, but far enough
away from it to satisfy our men. There was an excellent camping-place there
and a spring of fresh water. It offered, besides, an excellent field for
preliminary work before attacking the larger ruins. We pitched our tents.
and in a couple of days the work was in full swing."
4. THE MOON ROCK
"I DO NOT intend
to tell you now," Throckmartin continued, "the
results of the next two weeks. Goodwin, nor of what we found. Later --
if I am allowed I will lay all that before you. It is sufficient to
say that at the end of those two weeks I had found confirmation of
many of my theories, and we were well under way to solve a mystery of
humanity's youth -- so we thought. But enough. I must hurry on to the
first stirrings of the inexplicable thing that was in store for us.
"The place. for all its decay and desolation, had not infected us with any
touch of morbidity -- that is not Edith, Stanton or myself. My wife was
happy -- never had she been happier. Stanton and she, while engrossed in
the work as much as I, were of the same age, and they frankly enjoyed the
companionship that only youth can give youth. I was glad -- never jealous.
"But Thora was very unhappy. She was a Swede, as you know, and in her
blood ran the beliefs and superstitions of the Northland -- some of
them so strangely akin to those of this far southern land; beliefs of
spirits of mountain and forest and water -- werewolves and beings
malign. From the first she showed a curious sensitivity to what, I
suppose, may be called the 'Influences' of the place. She said it
'smelled' of ghosts and warlocks.
"I laughed at her then -- but now I believe that this sensitivity of what
we call primitive people is perhaps only a clearer perception of the
unknown which we, who deny the unknown, have lost.
"A prey to these fears, Thora always followed my wife about like a shadow;
carried with her always a little sharp hand-ax, and although we twitted her
about the futility of chopping fantoms with such a weapon she would not
"Two weeks slipped by, and at their end the spokesman for our natives came
to us. The next night was the full of the moon, he said. He reminded me of
my promise. They would go back to their village next morning; they would
return after the third night, as at that time the power of the ani would
begin to wane with the moon. They left us sundry charms for our
'protection,' and solemnly cautioned us to keep as far away as
possible from Nan-Tanach during their absence -- although their leader
politely informed us that, no doubt, we were stronger than the
spirits. Half-exasperated, half-amused I watched them go.
"No work could be done without them, of course, so we decided to spend the
days of their absence junketing about the southern islets of the
group. Under the moon the ruins were inexpressibly weird and
beautiful. We marked down several spots for subsequent exploration,
and on the morning of the third day set forth along the east face of
the breakwater for our camp on Uschen-Tau, planning to have everything
in readiness for the return of our men the next day.
"We landed just before dusk, tired and ready for our cots. It was only a
little after ten o'clock when Edith awakened me.
"'Listen!' she said. 'Lean over with your ear close to the ground!' I did
so, and seemed to hear, far, far below, as though coming up from great
distances, a faint chanting. It gathered strength, died down, ended, began,
gathered volume, faded away into silence.
"'It's the waves rolling on rocks somewhere,' I said. 'We're probably over
some ledge of rock that carries the sound.'
"'It's the first time I've heard it,' replied my wife doubtfully. We
listened again. Then through the dim rhythms, deep beneath us, another
sound came. It drifted across the lagoon that lay between us and Nan-
Tanach in little tinkling waves. It was music -- of a sort, I won't
describe the strange effect it had upon me. You've felt it --"
"You mean on the deck?" I asked. Throckmartin nodded.
"I went to the flap of the tent," he continued, "and peered out. As I did
so Stanton lifted his flap and walked out into the moonlight, looking over
to the other islet and listening. I called to him.
"'That's the queerest sound!'" he said. He listened again. 'Crystalline!
Like little notes of translucent glass. Like the bells of crystal on the
sistrums of Isis at Dendarah Temple.' he added half-dreamily. We gazed
intently at the island. Suddenly, on the gigantic sea-wall, moving slowly,
rhythmically, we saw a little group of lights. Stanton laughed.
"'The beggars!' he exclaimed. 'That's why they wanted to get away, is it?
Don't you see, Dave, it's some sort of a festival -- rites of some kind
that they hold during the full moon! That's why they were so eager to have
us keep away, too.'
"I felt a curious sense of relief, although I had not been sensible of any
oppression. The explanation seemed good. It explained the tinkling music
and also the chanting -- worshipers, no doubt, in the ruins -- their voices
carried along passages I now knew honeycombed the whole Nan-Matal.
"'Let's slip over,' suggested Stanton -- but I would not.
"'They're a difficult lot as it is,' I said. 'If we break into one of their
religious ceremonies they'll probably never forgive us. Let's keep out of
any family party where we haven't been invited.'
"'That's so,' agreed Stanton.
"The strange tinkling music, if music it can be called, rose and fell, rose
and fell -- now laden with sorrow, now filled with joy.
"'There's something -- something very unsettling about it,' said Edith at
last soberly. 'I wonder what they make those sounds with. They
frighten me half to death, and, at the same time, they make me feel as
though some enormous rapture was just around the corner.'
"I had noted this effect, too, although I had said nothing of it. And at
the same time there came to me a clear perception that the chanting which
had preceded it had seemed to come from a vast multitude -- thousands more
than the place we were contemplating could possibly have held. Of course, I
thought, this might be due to some acoustic property of the basalt; an
amplification of sound by some gigantic sounding-board of rock; still
"'It's devilish uncanny!' broke in Stanton, answering my thought.
"And as he spoke the flap of Thora's tent was raised and out into the
moonlight strode the old Swede. She was the great Norse type -- tall,
deep-breasted, molded on the old Viking lines. Her sixty years had slipped
from her. She looked like some ancient priestess of Odin." He hesitated.
"She knew," he said slowly, "something more far-seeing than my science had
given her sight. She warned me -- she warned me! Fools and mad that we are
to pass such things by without heed!" He brushed a hand over his eyes.
"She stood there," he went on, "Her eyes were wide, brilliant, staring. She
thrust her head forward toward Nan-Tanach, regarding the moving lights; she
listened. Suddenly she raised her arms and made a curious gesture to the
moon. It was -- an archaic -- movement; she seemed to drag it from remote
antiquity -- yet in it was a strange suggestion of power.
Twice she repeated this gesture and -- the tinkling died away! She turned
"'Go,' she said, and her voice seemed to come from far distances. 'Go from
here -- and quickly! Go while you may. They have called --' She
pointed to the islet. 'They know you are here. They wait.' Her eyes
widened furher. 'It is there,' she wailed. 'It beckons -- the -- the
"She fell at Edith's feet, and as she fell over the lagoon came again the
tinklings, now with a quicker note of jubilance -- almost of triumph.
"We ran to Thora, Stanton and I, and picked her up. Her head rolled and her
face, eyes closed, turned as though drawn full into the moonlight. I felt
in my heart a throb of unfamiliar fear -- for her face had changed again.
Stamped upon it was a look of mingled transport and horror -- alien,
terrifying, strangely revolting. It was" -- he thrust his face close to my
eyes -- "what you see in mine!"
For a dozen heart-beats I stared at him, fascinated --, then he sank back
again into the half-shadow of the berth.
"I managed to hide her face from Edith," he went on. "I thought she had
suffered some sort of a nervous seizure. We carried her into her tent. Once
within the unholy mask dropped from her, and she was again only the kindly,
rugged old woman. I watched her throughout the night. The sounds from
Nan-Tanach continued until about an hour before moon-set. In the morning
Thora awoke, none the worse, apparently. She had had bad dreams, she said.
She could not remember what they were -- except that they had warned her of
danger. She was oddly sullen, and I noted that throughout the morning her
gaze returned again half-fascinatedly, half-wonderingly to the neighboring
"That afternoon the natives returned. They were so exuberant in their
apparent relief to find us well and intact that Stanton's suspicions of
them were confirmed. He slyly told their leader that 'from the noise they
had made on Nan-Tanach the night before they must have thoroughly enjoyed
"I think I never saw such stark terror as the Ponapean manifested at the
remark! Stanton himself was so plainly startled that he tried to pass it
over as a jest. He met poor success! The men seemed panic-stricken, and
for a time I thought they were about to abandon us -- but they did not.
They pitched their camp at the western side of the island out of sight of
Nan-Tanach. I noticed that they built large fires, and whenever I awoke
that night I heard their voices in slow, minor chant -- one of their song
'charms.' I thought drowsily, against evil ani. I heard nothing else; the
place of frowning walls was wrapped in silence -- no lights showed. The
next morning the men were quiet, a little depressed, but as the hours wore
on they regained their spirits, and soon life at the camp was going on just
as it had before.
"You will understand, Goodwin, how the occurrences I have related would
excite the scientific curiosity. We rejected immediately, of course, any
explanation admitting the supernatural. Why not? Except the curiously
disquieting effects of the tinkling music and Thora's behavior there was
nothing to warrant any such fantastic theories -- even if our minds had
been the kind to harbor them.
"We came to the conclusion that there must be a passageway between Ponape
and Nan-Tanach, known to the natives -- and used by them during their
rites. Ceremonies were probably held in great vaults or caverns beneath the
"We decided at last that on the next departure of our laborers we would set
forth immediately to Nan-Tanach. We would investigate during the day, and
at evening my wife and Thora would go back to camp, leaving Stanton and me
to spend the night on the island, observing from some safe hiding-place
what might occur.
"The moon waned, appeared crescent in the west; waxed slowly toward the
full. Before the men left us they literally prayed us to accompany them.
Their importunities only made us more eager to see what it was that,
we were now convinced, they wanted to conceal from us. At least that
was true of Stanton and myself. It was not true of Edith. She was
thoughtful, abstracted -- reluctant. Thora, on the other hand, showed
an unusual restlessness, almost an eagerness to go. Goodwin" -- he
paused -- "Goodwin, I know now that the poison was working in Thora --
and that women have perceptions that we men lack -- forebodings,
sensings. I wish to Heaven I had known it then -- Edith!" he cried
suddenly. "Edith -- come back to me! Forgive me!"
I stretched the decanter out to him. He drank deeply. Soon he had regained
control of himself.
"When the men were out of sight around the turn of the harbor," he went on,
"we took our boat and made straight for Nan-Tanach. Soon its mighty
sea-wall towered above us. We passed through the water-gate with its
gigantic hewn prisms of basalt and landed beside a half-submerged pier. In
front of us stretched a series of giant steps leading into a vast court
strewn with fragments of fallen pillars. In the center of the court, beyond
the shattered pillars, rose another terrace of basalt blocks, concealing, I
knew, still another enclosure.
"And now, Goodwin, for the better understanding of what follows and to
guide you, should I -- not be able -- to accompany you when you go there,
listen carefully to my description of this place: Nan-Tanach is literally
three rectangles. The first rectangle is the sea-wall, built up of
monoliths. Gigantic steps lead up from the landing of the sea-gate through
the entrance to the courtyard.
"This courtyard is surrounded by another, inner basalt wall.
"Within the courtyard is the second enclosure. Its terrace, of the same
basalt as the outer walls, is about twenty feet high. Entrance is gained to
it by many breaches which time has made in its stonework. This is the
inner court, the heart of Nan-Tanach! There lies the great central vault
with which is associated the one name of living being that has come to us
out of the mists of the past. The natives say it was the treasure-house of
Chau-te-leur, a mighty king who reigned long 'before their fathers.' As
Chau is the ancient Ponapean word both for sun and king, the name means
'place of the sun king.'
"And opposite this place of the sun king is the moon rock that hides the
"It Was Stanton who first found what I call the moon rock. We had been
inspecting the inner courtyard, Edith and Thora were getting together our
lunch. I forgot to say that we had previously gone all over the islet and
had found not a trace of living thing. I came out of the vault of
Chau-te-leur to find Stanton before a part of the terrace studying it
"'What do you make of this?' he asked me as I came up, He pointed to the
wall. I followed his finger and saw a slab of stone about fifteen feet high
and ten wide. At first all I noticed was the exquisite nicety with which
its edges joined the blocks about it. Then I realized that its color was
subtly different -- tinged with gray and of a smooth, peculiar -- deadness.
"'Looks more like calcite than basalt,' I said. I touched it and withdrew
my hand quickly, for at the contact every nerve in my arm tingled as though
a shock of frozen electricity had passed through it. It was not cold as we
know cold that I felt. It was a chill force -- the phrase I have used --
frozen electricity -- describes it better than anything else. Stanton
looked at me oddly.
"'So you felt it, too,' he said. 'I was wondering whether I was developing
hallucinations like Thora. Notice, by the way, that the blocks beside it
are quite warm beneath the sun.'
"I felt them and touched the grayish stone again. The same faint shock ran
through my hand -- a tingling chill that had in it a suggestion of
substance, of force. We examined the slab more closely. Its edges were cut
as though by an engraver of jewels. They fitted against the neighboring
blocks in almost a hair-line. Its base, we saw, was slightly curved, and
fitted as closely as top and sides upon the huge stones on which it rested.
And then we noted that these stones had been hollowed to follow the line of
the gray stone's foot. There was a semicircular depression running from one
side of the slab to the other. It was as though the gray rock stood in
the center of a shallow cup -- revealing half, covering half. Something
about this hollow attracted me. I reached down and felt it. Goodwin,
although the balance of the stones that formed it, like all the stones of
the courtyard, were rough and age-worn -- this was as smooth, as even
surfaced as though it just left the hands of the polisher.
"'It's a door!' exclaimed Stanton. 'It swings around in that little cup.
That's what make the hollow so smooth.'
"'Maybe you're right,' I replied. 'But how the devil can we open it?'
"We went over the slab again -- pressing upon its edges, thrusting against
its sides. During one of those efforts I happened to look up -- and cried
out. For a foot above and even each side of the corner of the gray rock's
lintel I had seen a slight convexity, visible only from the angle at which
my gaze struck it. These bosses on the basalt were circular, eighteen
inches in diameter, as we learned later, and at the center extended two
inches only beyond the face of the terrace. Unless one looked directly up
at them while leaning against the moon rock -- for this slab, Goodwin, is
the moon rock -- they were invisible. And none would dare stand there!
"We carried with us a small scaling-ladder, and up this I went. The bosses
were apparently nothing more than chiseled curvatures in the stone. I laid
my hand on the one I was examining, and drew it back so sharply I almost
threw myself from the ladder. In my palm, at the base of my thumb, I had
felt the same shock that I had in touching the slab below. I put my hand
back. The impression came from a spot not more than an inch wide. I went
carefully over the entire convexity, and six times more the chill ran
through my arm. There were, Goodwin, seven circles an inch wide in the
curved place, each of which communicated the precise sensation I have
described. The convexity on the opposite side of the slab gave precisely
the same results. But no amount of touching or of pressing these spots
singly or in any combination gave the slightest promise of motion to the
"'And yet -- they're what open it,' said Stanton positively.
"'Why do you say that?' I asked.
"'I -- don't know,' he answered hesitatingly. 'But something tells me so.
Throck,' he went on half earnestly, half laughingly, 'the purely scientific
part of me is fighting the purely human part of me. The scientific part is
urging me to find some way to get that slab either down or open. The human
part is just as strongly urging me to do nothing of the sort and get away
while I can!'
"He laughed again -- shamefacedly.
"'Which will it be?' he asked -- and I thought that in his tone the human
side of him was ascendant.
"'It will probably stay as it is -- unless we blow it to bits.' I said.
"'I thought of that,' he answered. 'and -- I wouldn't dare,' he added
somberly enough. And even as I had spoken there came to me the same feeling
that he had expressed. It was as though something passed out of the gray
rock that struck my heart as a hand strikes an impious lip. We turned away
-- uneasily, and faced Thora coming through a breach in the terrace.
"'Miss Edith wants you quick,' she began -- and stopped. I saw her eyes go
past me and widen. She was looking at the gray rock. Her body grew suddenly
rigid; she took a few stiff steps forward and ran straight to it. We saw
her cast herself upon its breast, hands and face pressed against it; heard
her scream as though her very soul was being drawn from her -- and watched
her fall at its foot. As we picked her up I saw steal from her face the
look I had observed when I first heard the crystal music of Nan-Tanach --
that unhuman mingling of opposites!"
"WE CARRIED Thora back
down to where Edith was waiting. We told her
what had happened and what we had found. She listened gravely, and as
we finished Thora sighed and opened her eyes.
"'I would like to see the stone,' she said. 'Charles, you stay here with
Thora.' We passed through the outer court silently -- and stood before the
rock. She touched it, drew back her hand as I had; thrust it forward again
resolutely and held it there. She seemed to be listening. Then she turned
"'David,' said my wife, and the wistfulness in her voice hurt me -- 'David,
would you be very very disappointed if we went from here -- without trying
to find out any more about it -- would you?'
"Goodwin, I never wanted anything so much in my life as I wanted to learn
what that rock concealed. You will understand -- the cumulative curiosity
that all the happenings had caused, the certainty that before me was an
entrance to a place that, while known to the natives -- for I still clung
to that theory -- was utterly unknown to any man of my race, that within,
ready for my finding, was the answer to the stupendous riddle of these
islands and a lost chapter in the history of humanity. There before me --
and was I asked to turn away, leaving it unread!
"Nevertheless. I tried to master my desire. and I answered -- 'Edith, not a
bit if you want us to do it.'
"She read my struggle in my eyes. She looked at me searchingly for a moment
and then turned back toward the gray rock. I saw a shiver pass through her.
I felt a tinge of remorse and pity! "'Edith.' I exclaimed. 'we'll go!'
"She looked at me hard. 'Science is a jealous mistress,' she quoted. 'No,
after all it may be just fancy. At any rate, you can't run away. No! But,
Dave, I'm going to stay too!'
"'You are not!' I exclaimed. 'You're going back to the camp with Thora.
Stanton and I will be all right.'
"'I'm going to stay,' she repeated. And there was no changing her decision.
As we neared the others she laid a hand on my arm.
"'Dave,' she said. 'If there should be something -- well -- inexplicable
tonight -- something that seems -- too dangerous -- will you promise to go
back to our own islet tomorrow, or, while we can, and wait until the
"I promised eagerly -- for the desire to stay and see what came with the
night was like a fire within me.
"And would to Heaven I had not waited another moment, Goodwin; would to
Heaven I had gathered them all together then and sailed back on the instant
through the mangroves to Uschen-Tau!
"We found Thora on her feet again and singularly composed. She claimed to
have no more recollection of what had happened after she had spoken to
Stanton and to me in front of the gray rock than she had after the seizure
on Uschen-Tau. She grew sullen under our questioning, precisely as she had
before. But to my astonishment, when she heard of our arrangements for the
night, she betrayed a febrile excitement that had in it something of
"We had picked a place about five hundred feet away from the steps leading
into the outer court.
"We settled down just before dusk to wait for whatever might come. I was
nearest the giant steps; next to me Edith; then Thora, and last Stanton.
Each of us had with us automatic pistols, and all, except Thora, had
"Night fell. After a time the eastern sky began to lighten, and we knew
that the moon was rising; grew lighter still, and the orb peeped over the
sea; swam suddenly into full sight. Edith gripped my hand, for, as though
the full emergence into the heavens had been a signal, we heard begin
beneath us the deep chanting. It came from illimitable depths.
"The moon poured her rays down upon us, and I saw Stanton start. On the
instant I caught the sound that had roused him. It came from the inner
enclosure. It was like a long, soft sighing. It was not human; seemed in
some way -- mechanical. I glanced at Edith and then at Thora. My wife was
intently listening. Thora sat, as she had since we had placed ourselves,
elbows on knees, her hands covering her face.
"And then suddenly from the moonlight flooding us there came to me a great
drowsiness. Sleep seemed to drip from the rays and fall upon my eyes,
closing them -- closing them inexorably. I felt Edith's hand relax in mine,
and under my own heavy lids saw her nodding. I saw Stanton's head fall upon
his breast and his body sway drunkenly. I tried to rise -- to fight against
the profound desire for slumber that pressed in on me.
"And as I fought I saw Thora raise her head as though listening; saw her
rise and turn her face toward the gateway. For a moment she gazed, and my
drugged eyes seemed to perceive within it a deeper, stronger radiance.
Thora looked at us. There was infinite despair in her face -- and
expectancy. I tried again to rise -- and a surge of sleep rushed over me.
Dimly, as I sank within it, I heard a crystalline chiming; raised my lids
once more with a supreme effort, saw Thora, bathed in light, standing at
the top of the stairs, and then -- sleep took me for its very own -- swept
me into the very heart of oblivion!
"Dawn was breaking when I wakened. Recollection rushed back on me and I
thrust a panic-stricken hand out toward Edith; touched her and felt my
heart give a great leap of thankfulness. She stirred, sat up, rubbing dazed
eyes. I glanced toward Stanton. He lay on his side, back toward us, head in
"Edith looked at me laughingly. 'Heavens! what sleep!' she said. Memory
came to her. Her face paled. 'What happened?' she whispered. 'What made us
sleep like that?' She looked over to Stanton, sprang to her feet, ran to
him, shook him. He turned over with a mighty yawn, and I saw relief lighten
her face as it had lightened my heart.
"Stanton raised himself stiffly. He looked at us. 'What's the matter?' he
exclaimed. 'You look as though you've seen ghosts!'
"Edith caught my hands. 'Where's Thora?' she cried. Before I could answer
she ran out into the open calling: 'Thora! Thora!'
"Stanton stared at me. 'Taken!' was all I could say. Together we went to my
wife, now standing beside the great stone steps, looking up fearfully at
the gateway into the terraces. There I told them what I had seen before
sleep had drowned me. And together then we ran up the stairs, through the
court and up to the gray rock.
"The gray rock was closed as it had been the day before, nor was there
trace of its having opened. No trace! Even as I thought this Edith dropped
to her knees before it and reached toward something lying at its foot. It
was a little piece of gray silk. I knew it for part of the kerchief Thora
wore about her hair. Edith took the fragment; hesitated. I saw then that it
had been cut from the kerchief as though by a razor-edge; I saw, too,
that a few threads ran from it -- down toward the base of the slab; ran to
the base of the gray rock and -- under it! The gray rock was a door! And it
had opened and Thora had passed through it!
"I think, Goodwin, that for the next few minutes we all were a little
insane. We beat upon that diabolic entrance with our hands, with stones and
clubs. At last reason came back to us. Stanton set forth for the camp to
bring back blasting powder and tools. While he was gone Edith and I
searched the whole islet for any other clue. We found not a trace of
Thora nor any indication of any living being save ourselves. We went
back to the gateway to find Stanton returned.
"Goodwin, during the next two hours we tried every way in our power to
force entrance through the slab. The rock within effective blasting radius
of the cursed door resisted our drills. We tried explosions at the base of
the slab with charges covered by rock. They made not the slightest
impression on the surface beneath, expending their force, of course, upon
the slighter resistance of their coverings.
"Afternoon found us hopeless, so far as breaking through the rock was
concerned. Night was coming on and before it came we would have to decide
our course of action. I wanted to go to Ponape for help. But Edith objected
that this would take hours and after we had reached there it would be
impossible to persuade our men to return with us that night, if at all.
What then was left? Clearly only one of two choices: to go back to our camp
and wait for our men to return and on their return try to persuade them to
go with us to Nan-Tanach. But this would mean the abandonment of Thora for
at least two days. We could not do it; it would have been too cowardly.
"The other choice was to wait where we were for night to come; to wait for
the rock to open as it had the night before, and to make a sortie through
it for Thora before it could close again. With the sun had come confidence;
at least a shattering of the mephitic mists of superstition with which the
strangeness of the things that had befallen us had clouded for a time our
minds. In that brilliant light there seemed no place for fantoms.
"The evidence that the slab had opened was unmistakable, but might not
Thora simply have found it open through some mechanism, still working
after ages, and dependent for its action upon laws of physics unknown to us
upon the full light of the moon? The assertion of the natives that the
ani had greatest power at this time might be a far-flung reflection of
knowledge which had found ways to use forces contained in moonlight, as we
have found ways to utilize the forces in the sun's rays. If so, Thora was
probably behind the slab, sending out prayers to us for help.
"But how explain the sleep that had descended upon us? Might it not have
been some emanation from plants or gaseous emanations from the island
itself? Such things were far from uncommon, we agreed. In some way, the
period of their greatest activity might coincide with the period of the
moon, but if this were so why had not Thora also slept?
"As dusk fell we looked over our weapons. Edith was an excellent shot with
both rifle and pistol. With the idea that the impulse toward sleep was the
result either of emanations such as I have described or man made, we
constructed rough-and-ready but effective neutralizers, which we placed
over our mouths and nostrils. We had decided that my wife was to remain in
the hollow spot. Stanton would take up a station on the far side of the
stairway and I would place myself opposite him on the side near Edith. The
place I picked out was less than five hundred feet from her, and I could
reassure myself now as to her safety, as I looked down upon the hollow
wherein she crouched. As the phenomena had previously synchronized with the
risings of the moon, we had no reason to think they would occur any earlier
"A faint glow in the sky heralded the moon. I kissed Edith, and Stanton and
I took our places. The moon dawn increased rapidly; the disk swam up, and
in a moment it seemed was shining in full radiance upon ruins and sea.
"As it rose there came as on the night before the curious little sighing
sound from the inner terrace. I saw Stanton straighten up and stare
intently through the gateway, rifle ready. Even at the distance he was from
me, I discerned amazement in his eyes. The moonlight within the gateway
thickened, grew stronger. I watched his amazement grow into sheer wonder.
"'Stanton, what do you see?' I called cautiously. He waved a silencing
hand. I turned my head to look at Edith. A shock ran through me. She
lay upon her side. Her face was turned full toward the moon. She was in
"As I turned again to call to Stanton, my eyes swept the head of the steps
and stopped, fascinated. For the moonlight had thickened more. It seemed
to be -- curdled -- there; and through it ran little gleams and veins of
shimmering white fire. A languor passed through me. It was not the
ineffable drowsiness of the preceding night. It was a sapping of all will
to move. I tore my eyes away and forced them upon Stanton. I tried to call
out to him. I had not the will to make my lips move! I had struggled
against this paralysis and as I did so I felt through me a sharp shock. It
was like a blow. And with it came utter inability to make a single motion.
Goodwin, I could not even move my eyes!
"I saw Stanton leap upon the steps and move toward the gateway. As he did
so the light in the courtyard grew dazzlinly brilliant. Through it rained
tiny tinklings that set the heart to racing with pure joy and stilled it
"And now for the first time I heard that cry 'Av-o-lo-ha! Av-o-lo-ha!'
the cry you heard on deck. It murmured with the strange effect of
a sound only partly in our own space -- as though it were part of a
fuller phrase passing through from another dimension and losing much as
it came; infinitely caressing, infinitely cruel!
"On Stanton's face I saw come the look I dreaded -- and yet knew would
appear; that mingled expression of delight and fear. The two lay side by
side as they had on Thora, but were intensified. He walked on up the
stairs; disappeared beyond the range of my fixed gaze. Again I heard the
murmur -- 'Av-o-lo-ha!' There was triumph in it now and triumph in the
storm of tinklings that swept over it.
"For another heart-beat there was silence. Then a louder burst of sound and
ringing through it Stanton's voice from the courtyard -- a great cry -- a
scream -- filled with ecstasy insupportable and horror unimaginable! And
again there was silence. I strove to burst the invisible bonds that held
me. I could not. Even my eyelids were fixed. Within them my eyes, dry and
"Then, Goodwin -- I first saw the inexplicable! The crystalline music
swelled. Where I sat I could take in the gateway and its basalt portals,
rough and broken, rising to the top of the wall forty feet above,
shattered, ruined portals -- unclimbable. From this gateway an intenser
light began to flow. It grew, it gushed, and into it, into my sight, walked
"Stanton! But -- Goodwin! What a vision!" He ceased. I waited -- waited.
6. INTO THE MOON POOL
said at last. "I can describe him only as a thing
of living light. He radiated light; was filled with light, overflowed with
it. Around him was a shining cloud that whirled through and around him in
radiant swirls, shimmering tentacles, luminescent, coruscating spirals.
"I saw his face. It shone with a rapture too great to be borne by living
men, and was shadowed with insuperable misery. It was as though his face
had been remolded by the hand of God and the hand of Satan, working
together and in harmony. You have seen it on my face. But you have never
seen it in the degree that Stanton bore it. The eyes were wide open and
fixed, as though upon some inward vision of hell and heaven! He walked like
the corpse of a man damned who carried within him an angel of light.
"The music swelled again. I heard again the murmuring -- 'Av-o-lo-ha!'
Stanton turned, facing the ragged side of the portal. And then
I saw that the light that filled and surrounded him had a nucleus, a
core -- something shiftingly human shaped -- that dissolved and changed,
gathered itself, whirled through and beyond him and back again. And as
this shining nucleus passed through him Stanton's whole body pulsed with
light. As the luminescence moved, there moved with it, still and serene
always, seven tiny globes of light like seven little moons.
"So much I saw and then swiftly Stanton seemed to be lifted -- levitated --
up the unscalable wall and to its top. The glow faded from the moonlight,
the tinkling music grew fainter. I tried again to move. The spell still
held me fast. The tears were running down now from my rigid lids and
brought relief to my tortured eyes.
"I have said my gaze was fixed. It was. But from the side, peripherally, it
took in a part of the far wall of the outer enclosure. Ages seemed to pass
and I saw a radiance stealing along it. Soon there came into sight the
figure that was Stanton. Far away he was -- on the gigantic wall. But still
I could see the shining spirals whirling jubilantly around and through him;
felt rather than saw his tranced face beneath the seven lights. A swirl of
crystal notes, and he had passed. And all the time, as though from some
opened well of light, the courtyard gleamed and sent out silver fires that
dimmed the moon-rays, yet seemed strangely to be a part of them.
"Ten times he passed before me so. The luminescence came with the music;
swam for a while along the man-made cliff of basalt and passed away.
Between times eternities rolled and still I crouched there, a helpless
thing of stone with eyes that would not close!
"At last the moon neared the horizon. There came a louder burst of sound;
the second, and last, cry of Stanton, like an echo of the first! Again the
soft sigh from the inner terrace. Then -- utter silence. The light faded;
the moon was setting and with a rush life and power to move returned to me.
I made a leap for the steps, rushed up them. through the gateway and
straight to the gray rock. It was closed -- as I knew it would be. But did
I dream it or did I hear, echoing through it as though from vast distances
a triumphant shouting -- 'Av-o-lo-ha! Av-o-lo-ha!'?
"I remembered Edith. I ran back to her. At my touch she wakened; looked at
me wonderingly; raised herself on a hand.
"'Dave!' she said. 'I slept -- after all.' She saw the despair on my face
and leaped to her feet. 'Dave!' she cried. 'What is it? Where's Charles?'
"I lighted a fire before I spoke. Then I told her. And for the balance of
that night we sat before the flames, arms around each other -- like two
Suddenly Throckmartin held his hands out to me appealingly.
"Goodwin, old friend!" he cried. "Don't look at me as though I were mad.
It's truth, absolute truth. Wait" -- I comforted him as well as I could.
After a little time he took up his story.
"Never," he said, "did man welcome the sun as we did that morning. As soon
as it was light we went back to the courtyard. The basalt walls whereon I
had seen Stanton were black and silent. The terraces were as they had been.
The gray slab was in its place. In the shallow hollow at its base was --
nothing. Nothing -- nothing was there anywhere on the islet of Stanton --
not a trace, not a sign on Nan-Tanach to show that he had ever lived.
"What were we to do? Precisely the same arguments that had kept us there
the night before held good now -- and doubly good. We could not abandon
these two; could not go as long as there was the faintest hope of finding
them -- and yet for love of each other how could we remain? I loved my
wife, Goodwin -- how much I never knew until that day; and she loved me as
"'It takes only one each night,' she said. 'Beloved, let it take me.'
"I wept, Goodwin. We both wept.
"'We will meet it together,' she said. And it was thus at last that we
"That took great courage indeed, Throckmartin," I interrupted. He looked at
"You do believe then?" he exclaimed.
"I believe," I said. He pressed my hand with a grip that nearly crushed it.
"Now," he told me. "I do not fear. If I -- fail, you will prepare and carry
on the work."
I promised. And -- Heaven forgive me -- that was three years ago.
"It did take courage," he went on, again quietly. "More than courage. For
we knew it was renunciation. Each of us in our hearts felt that one of us
would not be there to see the sun rise. And each of us prayed that the
death, if death it was, would not come first to the other.
"We talked it all over carefully, bringing to bear all our power of
analysis and habit of calm, scientific thought. We considered minutely the
time element in the phenomena. Although the deep chanting began at the very
moment of moonrise, fully five minutes had passed between its full lifting
and the strange sighing sound from the inner terrace. I went back in memory
over the happenings of the night before. At least fifteen minutes had
intervened between the first heralding sigh and the intensification of the
moonlight in the courtyard. And this glow grew for at least ten minutes
more before the first burst of the crystal notes.
"The sighing sound -- of what had it reminded me? Of course -- of a door
revolving and swishing softly along its base.
"'Edith" I cried. 'I think I have it! The gray rock opens five minutes
after upon the moonrise. But whoever or whatever it is that comes through
it must wait until the moon has risen higher, or else it must come from a
distance. The thing to do is not to wait for it, but to surprise it before
it passes out the door. We will go into the inner court early. You will
take your rifle and pistol and hide yourself where you can command the
opening -- if the slab does open. The instant it moves I will enter. It's
our best chance, Edith. I think it's our only one.
"My wife demurred strongly. She wanted to go with me. But I convinced
her that it was better for her to stand guard without, prepared to
help me if I were forced from what lay behind the rock again into the
"The day passed too swiftly. In the face of what we feared our love seemed
stronger than ever. Was it the flare of the spark before extinguishment? I
wondered. We prepared and ate a good dinner. We tried to keep our minds
from anything but scientific aspect of the phenomena. We agreed that
whatever it was its cause must be human, and that we must keep that fact in
mind every second. But what kind of men could create such prodigies? We
thrilled at the thought of finding perhaps the remnants of a vanished race,
living perhaps in cities over whose rocky skies the Pacific rolled,
exercising there the lost wisdom of the half-gods of earth's youth.
"At the half-hour before moonrise we two went into the inner courtyard. I
took my place at the side of the gray rock. Edith crouched behind a broken
pillar twenty feet away, slipped her rifle-barrel over it so that it would
cover the opening.
"The minutes crept by. The courtyard was very quiet. The darkness lessened
and through the breaches of the terrace I watched the far sky softly
lighten. With the first pale flush the stillness became intensified. It
deepened -- became unbearably -- expectant. The moon rose, showed the
quarter, the half, then swam up into full sight like a great bubble.
"Its rays fell upon the wall before me and suddenly upon the convexities I
have described seven little circles of light sprang out. They gleamed,
glimmered, grew brighter -- shone. The gigantic slab before me turned as
though on a pivot, sighing softly as it moved.
"For a moment I gasped in amazement. It was like a conjurer's trick. And
the moving slab I noticed was also glowing, becoming opalescent like the
little shining circles above.
"Only for a second I gazed and then with a word to Edith flung myself
through the opening which the slab had uncovered. Before me was a platform
and from the platform steps led downward into a smooth corridor. This
passage was not dark, it glowed with the same faint silverly radiance as
the door. Down it I raced. As I ran, plainer than ever before, I heard the
chanting. The passage turned abruptly, passed parallel to the walls of the
outer courtyard and then once more led abruptly downward. Still I ran, and
as I ran I looked at the watch on my wrist. Less than three minutes had
"The passage ended. Before me was a high vaulted arch. For a moment I
paused. It seemed to open into space; a space filled with lambent,
coruscating, many-colored mist whose brightness grew even as I watched. I
passed through the arch and stopped in sheer awe!
"In front of me was a pool. It was circular, perhaps twenty feet wide.
Around it ran a low, softly curved lip of glimmering silvery stone. Its
water was palest blue. The pool with its silvery rim was like a great blue
eye staring upward.
"Upon it streamed seven shafts of radiance. They poured down upon the blue
eye like cylindrical torrents; they were like shining pillars of light
rising from a sapphire floor.
"One was the tender pink of the pearl; one of the aurora's green; a third a
deathly white; the fourth the blue in mother-of-pearl: a shimmering column
of pale amber: a beam of amethyst: a shaft of molten silver. Such are the
colors of the seven lights that stream upon the moon pool. I drew closer,
awestricken. The shafts did not illumine the depths. They played upon the
surface and seemed there to diffuse, to melt into it. The pool drank them!
"Through the water tiny gleams of phosphorescence began to dart, sparkles
and coruscations of pale incandescence. And far, far below I sensed a
movement, a shifting glow, as of something slowly rising.
"I looked upward, following the radiant pillars to their source. Far above
were seven shining globes, and it was from these that the rays poured. Even
as I watched their brightness grew. They were like seven moons set
high in some caverned heaven. Slowly their splendor increased, and
with it the splendor of the seven beams streaming from them. It came
to me that they were crystals of some unknown kind set in the roof of
the moon pool's vault and that their light was drawn from the moon
shining high above them. They were wonderful, those lights -- and what
must have been the knowledge of those who set them there!
"Brighter and brighter they grew as the moon climbed higher, sending its
full radiance down through them. I tore my gaze away and stared at the
pool. It had grown milky, opalescent. The rays gushing into it seemed to be
filling it; it was alive with sparkling scintillations, glimmerings. And
the luminescence I had seen rising from its depths was larger, nearer!
"A swirl of mist floated up from its surface. It drifted within the embrace
of the rosy beam and hung there for a moment. The beam seemed to embrace
it, sending through it little shining corpuscles, tiny rosy spiralings. The
mist absorbed the rays, was strengthened by it, gained substance. Another
swirl sprang into the amber shaft, clung and fed there, moved swiftly
toward the first and mingled with it. And now other swirls arose, here and
there, too fast to be counted, hung poised in the embrace of the light
streams; flashed and pulsed into each other.
"Thicker and thicker still they arose until the surface of the pool was a
pulsating pillar of opalescent mist; steadily growing stronger; drawing
within it life from the seven beams falling upon it, drawing to it from
below the darting red atoms of the pool. Into its center was passing the
luminescence I had sensed rising from the far depths. And the center
glowed, throbbed -- began to send out questing swirls and tendrils.
"There forming before me was that which had walked with Stanton, which
had taken Thora -- the thing I had come to find!
"With the shock of realization my brain sprang into action. My hand fell to
my pistol and I fired shot after shot into its radiance. The place rang
with the explosions and there came to me a sense of unforgivable
profanation. Devilish as I knew it to be, that chamber of the moon pool
seemed also -- in some way -- holy. As though a god and a demon dwelt
there, inextricably commingled.
"As I shot the pillar wavered; the water grew more disturbed. The mist
swayed and shook; gathered itself again. I slipped a second clip into the
automatic and, another idea coming to me, took careful aim at one of the
globes in the roof. From thence I knew came the force that shaped the
dweller in the pool. From the pouring rays came its strength. If I could
destroy them I could check its forming. I fired again and again. If I hit
the globes I did no damage. The little motes in their beams danced with the
motes in the mist, troubled. That was all.
"Up from the pool like little bells, like bubbles of crystal notes rose the
tinklings. Their notes were higher, had lost their sweetness, were angry,
as it were, with themselves.
"And then out from the inexplicable, hovering over the pool, swept a
shining swirl. It caught me above the heart; wrapped itself around me. I
felt an icy coldness and then there rushed over me a mingled ecstasy and
horror. Every atom of me quivered with delight and at the same time shrank
with despair. There was nothing loathsome in it. But it was as though the
icy soul of evil and the fiery soul of good had stepped together
within me. The pistol dropped from my hand.
"So I stood while the pool gleamed and sparkled; the streams of light grew
more intense and the mist glowed and strengthened. I saw that its shining
core had shape -- but a shape that my eyes and brain could not define. It
was as though a being of another sphere should assume what it might of
human semblance, but was not able to conceal that what human eyes saw was
but a part of it. It was neither man nor woman; it was unearthly and
androgynous. Even as I found its human semblance it changed. And still the
mingled rapture and terror held me. Only in a little corner of my brain
dwelt something untouched; something that held itself apart and watched.
Was it the soul? I have never believed -- and yet --
"Over the head of the misty body there sprang suddenly out seven little
lights. Each was the color of the beam beneath which it rested. I knew now
that the dweller was -- complete!
"And then -- behind me I heard a scream. It was Edith's voice. It came to
me that she had heard the shots and followed me. I felt every faculty
concentrate into a mighty effort. I wrenched myself free from the gripping
tentacle and it swept back. I turned to catch Edith, and as I did so
slipped -- fell. As I dropped I saw the radiant shape above the pool leap
swiftly for me!
"There was the rush past me and as the dweller paused, straight into it
raced Edith, arms outstretched to shield me from it!"
"She threw herself squarely within its diabolic splendor," he whispered.
"She stopped and reeled as though she had encountered solidity. And as she
faltered it wrapped its shining self around her. The crystal tinklings
burst forth jubilantly. The light filled her, ran through and around her as
it had with Stanton, and I saw drop upon her face -- the look. From the
pillar came the murmur -- 'Av-o-lo-ha!' The vault echoed it.
"'Edith!' I cried. 'Edith!' I was in agony. She must have heard me, even
through the -- thing. I saw her try to free herself. Her rush had taken her
to the very verge of the moon pool. She tottered; and in an instant -- she
fell -- with the radiance still holding her, still swirling and winding
around and through her -- into the moon pool! She sank, Goodwin, and with
her went -- the dweller!
"I dragged myself to the brink. Far down I saw a shining, many-colored
nebulous cloud descending; caught a glimpse of Edith's face, disappearing;
her eyes stared up to me filled with supernal ecstasy and horror. And --
"I looked about me stupidly. The seven globes still poured their
radiance upon the pool. It was pale-blue again. Its sparklings and
coruscations were gone. From far below there came a muffled outburst
of triumphant chanting!
"'Edith!' I cried again. 'Edith, come back to me!' And then a darkness fell
upon me. I remember running back through the shimmering corridors and out
into the courtyard. Reason had left me. When it returned I was far out at
sea in our boat wholly estranged from civilization. A day later I was
picked up by the schooner in which I came to Port Moresby.
"I have formed a plan, you must hear it, Goodwin -- He fell upon his berth.
I bent over him. Exhaustion and the relief of telling his story had been
too much for him. He slept like the dead.
7. THE DWELLER COMES
ALL THAT NIGHT I watched
over him. When dawn broke I went to my room to get
a little sleep myself. But my slumber was haunted.
The next day the storm was unabated. Throckmartin came to me at lunch. He
looked better. His strange expression had waned. He had regained much of
his old alertness.
"Come to my cabin," he said. There, he stripped his shirt from him.
"Something is happening," he said. "The mark is smaller." It was as he
"I'm escaping," he whispered jubilantly. "Just let me get to Melbourne
safely, and then we'll see who'll win! For, Goodwin, I'm not at all sure
that Edith is dead -- as we know death -- nor that the others are. There
was something outside experience there -- some great mystery."
And all that day he talked to me of his plans.
"There's a natural explanation, of course," he said. "My theory is that the
moon rock is of some composition sensitive to the action of Moon rays;
somewhat as the metal selenium is to sun rays. There is a powerful quality
in moonlight, as both science and legends can attest. We know of its
effect upon the mentality, the nervous system, even upon certain diseases.
"The moon slab is of some material that reacts to moonlight. The circles
over the top are, without doubt, its operating agency. When the light
strikes them they release the mechanism that opens the slab, just as you
can open doors with sunlight by an ingenious arrangement of selenium-cells.
Apparently it takes the strength of the full moon to do this. We will first
try a concentration of the rays of the nearly full moon upon these circles
to see whether that will open the rock. If it does we will be able to
investigate the pool without interruption from -- from -- what emanates.
"Look, here on the chart are their locations. I have made this in duplicate
for you in the event of something happening to me."
He worked upon the chart a little more.
"Here," he said, "is where I believe the seven great globes to be. They
are probably hidden somewhere in the ruins of the islet called Tau, where
they can catch the first moon rays. I have calculated that when I
entered I went so far this way -- here is the turn; so far this way,
took this other turn and ran down this long, curving corridor to the
hall of the moon pool. That ought to make lights, at least
approximately here." He pointed.
"They are certainly cleverly concealed, but they must be open to the air to
get the light. They should not be too hard to find. They must be found." He
hesitated again. "I suppose it would be safer to destroy them, for it
is clearly through them that the phenomenon of the pool is manifested;
and yet, to destroy so wonderful a thing! Perhaps the better way would
be to have some men up by them, and if it were necessary to protect
those below, to destroy them on signal. Or they might simply be
covered. That would neutralize them. To destroy them --" He hesitated
again. "No, the phenomenon is too important to be destroyed without
fullest investigation." His face clouded again. "But it is not human;
it can't be," he muttered. He turned to me and laughed. "The old
conflict between science and too frail human credulity!" he said.
Again -- "We need half a dozen diving-suits. The pool must be entered and
searched to its depths. That will indeed take courage, yet in the time of
the new moon it should be safe, or perhaps better after the dweller is
destroyed or made safe."
We went over plans, accepted them, rejected them, and still the storm raged
-- and all that day and all that night.
I hurry to the end. That afternoon there came a steady lightening of the
clouds which Throckmartin watched with deep uneasiness. Toward dusk they
broke away suddenly and soon the sky was clear. The stars came
"It will be tonight," Throckmartin said to me. "Goodwin, friend, stand by
me. Tonight it will come, and I must fight."
I could say nothing. About an hour before moonrise we went to his cabin.
We fastened the port-holes tightly and turned on the lights. Throckmartin
had some queer theory that the electric rays would be a bar to his pursuer.
I don't know why. A little later he complained of increasing sleepiness.
"But it's just weariness." he said. "Not at all like that other drowsiness.
It's an hour till moonrise still," he yawned at last. "Wake me up a good
fifteen minutes before."
He lay upon the berth. I sat thinking. I came to myself with a start. What
time was it? I looked at my watch and jumped to the port-hole. It was full
moonlight; the orb had been up for fully half an hour. I strode over to
Throckmartin and shook him by the shoulder.
"Up, quick. man!" I cried. He rose sleepily. His shirt fell open at the
neck and I looked, in amazement, at the white band around his chest. Even
under the electric light it shone softly, as though little flecks of
light were in it.
Throckmartin seemed only half-awake. He looked down at his breast, saw the
glowing cincture. and smiled.
"Oh, yes," he said drowsily, "it's coming -- to take me back to Edith!
Well, I'm glad."
"Throckmartin," I cried. "Wake up! Fight!"
"Fight!" he said. "No use; keep the maps; come after us."
He went to the port and drowsily drew aside the curtain. The moon traced a
broad path of light straight to the ship. Under its rays the band around
his chest gleamed brighter and brighter, shot forth little rays; seemed to
He peered out intently and, suddenly, before I could stop him. threw open
the port. I saw a glimmering presence moving swiftly along the moon path
toward us, skimming over the waters.
And with it raced little crystal tinklings and far off I heard a long-
drawn murmuring cry.
On the instant the lights went out in the cabin, evidently throughout the
ship, for I heard shouting above. I sprang back into a corner and crouched
there. At the port-hole was a radiance: swirls and spirals of living white
cold fire. It poured into the cabin and it was filled with dancing motes of
light, and over the radiant core of it shone seven little lights like tiny
moons. It gathered Throckmartin to it. Light pulsed through and from him.
I saw his skin turn to a translucent, shimmering whiteness like illumined
porcelain. His face became unrecognizable, inhuman with the monstrous twin
expressions. So he stood for a moment. The pillar of light seemed to
hesitate and the seven lights to contemplate me. I shrank further down into
the corner. I saw Throckmartin drawn to the port. The room filled with
murmuring. I fainted.
When I awakened the lights were burning again.
But of Throckmartin there was no trace!
There are some things that we are bound to regret all our lives. I suppose
I was unbalanced by what I had seen. I could not think clearly. But there
came to me the sheer impossibility of telling the ship's officers what
I had seen; what Throckmartin had told me. They would accuse me, I
felt, of his murder. At neither appearance of the phenomenon had any
save our two selves witnessed it. I was certain of this because they
would surely have discussed it. Why none had seen it I do not know.
The next morning when Throckmartin's absence was noted. I merely said that
I had left him early in the evening. It occurred to no one to doubt
me, or to question me further. His strangeness had caused much
comment; all had thought him half-mad. And so it was officially
reported that he had fallen or jumped from the ship during the failure
of the lights, the cause of which was another mystery of that night.
Afterward, the same inhibition held me back from making his and my story
known to my fellow scientists.
But this inhibition is suddenly dead, and I am not sure that its death is
not a summons from Throckmartin.
And now I am going to Nan-Tanach to make amends for my cowardice by seeking
out the dweller. So sure am I that all I have written here is absolutely