From: A Voyage To Arcturus
Maskull found that his new organs had no independent function of their
own, but only intensified and altered his other senses. When he used his
eyes, ears, or nostrils, the same objects presented themselves to him,
but his judgment concerning them was different. Previously all external
things had existed for him; now he existed for them. According to
whether they served his purpose or were in harmony with his nature, or
otherwise, they had been pleasant or painful. Now these words "pleasure"
and "pain" simply had no meaning.
The other two watched him, while he was making himself acquainted with
his new mental outlook. He smiled at them.
"You were quite right, Tydomin," he said, in a bold, cheerful voice. "We
have been fools. So near the light all the time, and we never guessed
it. Always buried in the past or future--systematically ignoring the
present--and now it turns out that apart from the present we have no
life at all."
"Thank Spadevil for it," she answered, more loudly than usual.
Maskull looked at the man's dark, concrete form. "Spadevil, now I mean
to follow you to the end. I can do nothing less."
The severe face showed no sign of gratification--not a muscle relaxed.
"Watch that you don't lose your gift," he said gruffly.
Tydomin spoke. "You promised that I should enter Sant with you."
"Attach yourself to the truth, not to me. For I may die before you, but
the truth will accompany you to your death. However, now let us journey
together, all three of us."
The words had not left his mouth before he put his face against the
fine, driving snow, and pressed onward toward his destination. He walked
with a long stride; Tydomin was obliged to half run in order to keep up
with him. The three travelled abreast; Spadevil in the middle. The fog
was so dense that it was impossible to see a hundred yards ahead. The
ground was covered by the green snow. The wind blew in gusts from the
Sant highlands and was piercingly cold.
"Spadevil, are you a man, or more than a man?" asked Maskull.
"He that is not more than a man is nothing."
"Where have you now come from?"
"From brooding, Maskull. Out of no other mother can truth be born. I
have brooded, and rejected; and I have brooded again. Now, after many
months' absence from Sant, the truth at last shines forth for me in its
simple splendour, like an upturned diamond."
"I see its shining," said Maskull. "But how much does it owe to ancient
"Knowledge has its seasons. The blossom was to Hator, the fruit is to
me. Hator also was a brooder--but now his followers do not brood. In
Sant all is icy selfishness, a living death. They hate pleasure, and
this hatred is the greatest pleasure to them."
"But in what way have they fallen off from Hator's doctrines?"
"For him, in his sullen purity of nature, all the world was a snare,
a limed twig. Knowing that pleasure was everywhere, a fierce, mocking
enemy, crouching and waiting at every corner of the road of life, in
order to kill with its sweet sting the naked grandeur of the soul, he
shielded himself behind pain. This also his followers do, but they
do not do it for the sake of the soul, but for the sake of vanity and
"What is the Trifork?"
"The stem, Maskull, is hatred of pleasure. The first fork is
disentanglement from the sweetness of the world. The second fork is
power over those who still writhe in the nets of illusion. The third
fork is the healthy glow of one who steps into ice-cold water."
"From what land did Hator come?"
"It is not said. He lived in Ifdawn for a while. There are many legends
told of him while there."
"We have a long way to go," said Tydomin. "Relate some of these legends,
The snow had ceased, the day brightened, Branchspell reappeared like a
phantom sun, but bitter blasts of wind still swept over the plain.
"In those days," said Spadevil, "there existed in Ifdawn a mountain
island separated by wide spaces from the land around it. A handsome
girl, who knew sorcery, caused a bridge to be constructed across which
men and women might pass to it. Having by a false tale drawn Hator on to
this rock, she pushed at the bridge with her foot until it tumbled into
the depths below. 'You and I, Hator, are now together, and there is no
means of separating. I wish to see how long the famous frost man can
withstand the breath, smiles and perfume of a girl.' Hator said no word,
either then or all that day. He stood till sunset like a tree trunk, and
thought of other things. Then the girl grew passionate, and shook
her curls. She rose from where she was sitting she looked at him, and
touched his arm; but he did not see her. She looked at him, so that all
the soul was in her eyes; and then she fell down dead. Hator awoke from
his thoughts, and saw her lying, still warm, at his feet, a corpse. He
passed to the mainland; but how, it is not related."
Tydomin shuddered. "You too have met your wicked woman, Spadevil; but
your method is a nobler one."
"Don't pity other women," said Spadevil, "but love the right. Hator also
once conversed with Shaping."
"With the Maker of the World?" said Maskull thoughtfully.
"With the Maker of Pleasure. It is told how Shaping defended his world,
and tried to force Hator to acknowledge loveliness and joy. But Hator,
answering all his marvellous speeches in a few concise, iron words,
showed how this joy and beauty was but another name for the bestiality
of souls wallowing in luxury and sloth. Shaping smiled, and said, 'How
comes it that your wisdom is greater than that of the Master of wisdom?'
Hator said, 'My wisdom does not come from you, nor from your world,
but from that other world, which you, Shaping, have vainly tried to
imitate.' Shaping replied, 'What, then, do you do in my world?' Hator
said, 'I am here falsely, and therefore I am subject to your false
pleasures. But I wrap myself in pain--not because it is good, but
because I wish to keep myself as far from you as possible. For pain
is not yours, neither does it belong to the other world, but it is the
shadow cast by your false pleasures.' Shaping then said, 'What is this
faraway other world of which you say "This is so--this is not so?" How
happens it that you alone of all my creatures have knowledge of it?' But
Hator spat at his feet, and said, 'You lie, Shaping. All have knowledge
of it. You, with your pretty toys, alone obscure it from our view.'
Shaping asked, 'What, then, am I?' Hator answered, 'You are the dreamer
of impossible dreams.' And then the story goes that Shaping departed,
ill pleased with what had been said."
"What other world did Hator refer to?" asked Maskull.
"One where grandeur reigns, Maskull, just as pleasure reigns here."
"Whether grandeur or pleasure, it makes no difference," said Maskull.
"The individual spirit that lives and wishes to live is mean and
"Guard you your pride!" returned Spadevil. "Do not make law for the
universe and for all time, but for yourself and for this small, false
life of yours."
"In what shape did death come to that hard, unconquerable man?" asked
"He lived to be old, but went upright and free-limbed to his last hour.
When he saw that death could not be staved off longer he determined to
destroy himself. He gathered his friends around him; not from vanity,
but that they might see to what lengths the human soul can go in its
perpetual warfare with the voluptuous body. Standing erect, without
support, he died by withholding his breath."
A silence followed, which lasted for perhaps an hour. Their minds
refused to acknowledge the icy winds, but the current of their thoughts
When Branchspell, however, shone out again, though with subdued power,
Maskull's curiosity rose once more. "Your fellow countrymen, then,
Spadevil, are sick with self-love?"
"The men of other countries," said Spadevil, "are the slaves of pleasure
and desire, knowing it. But the men of my country are the slaves of
pleasure and desire, not knowing it."
"And yet that proud pleasure, which rejoices in self-torture, has
something noble in it."
"He who studies himself at all is ignoble. Only by despising soul as
well as body can a man enter into true life."
"On what grounds do they reject women?"
"Inasmuch as a woman has ideal love, and cannot live for herself. Love
for another is pleasure for the loved one, and therefore injurious to
"A forest of false ideas is waiting for your axe," said Maskull. "But
will they allow it?"
"Spadevil knows, Maskull," said Tydomin, "that be it today or be it
tomorrow, love can't be kept out of a land, even by the disciples of
"Beware of love--beware of emotion!" exclaimed Spadevil. "Love is but
pleasure once removed. Think not of pleasing others, but of serving
"Forgive me, Spadevil, if I am still feminine."
"Right has no sex. So long, Tydomin, as you remember that you are a
woman, so long you will not enter into divine apathy of soul."
"But where there are no women, there are no children," said Maskull.
"How came there to be all these generations of Hator men?"
"Life breeds passion, passion breeds suffering, suffering breeds the
yearning for relief from suffering. Men throng to Sant from all parts,
in order to have the scars of their souls healed."
"In place of hatred of pleasure, which all can understand, what simple
formula do you offer?"
"Iron obedience to duty," answered Spadevil.
"And if they ask 'How far is this consistent with hatred of pleasure?'
what will your pronouncement be?"
"I do not answer them, but I answer you, Maskull, who ask the question.
Hatred is passion, and all passion springs from the dark fires of
self. Do not hate pleasure at all, but pass it by on one side, calm and
"What is the criterion of pleasure? How can we always recognise it, in
order to avoid it?"
"Rigidly follow duty, and such questions will not arise."
Later in the afternoon, Tydomin timidly placed her fingers on Spadevil's
"Fearful doubts are in my mind," she said. "This expedition to Sant may
turn out badly. I have seen a vision of you, Spadevil, and myself lying
dead and covered in blood, but Maskull was not there."
"We may drop the torch, but it will not be extinguished, and others will
"Show me a sign that you are not as other men--so that I may know that
our blood will not be wasted."
Spadevil regarded her sternly. "I am not a magician. I don't persuade
the senses, but the soul. Does your duty call you to Sant, Tydomin? Then
go there. Does it not call you to Sant? Then go no farther. Is not this
simple? What signs are necessary?"
"Did I not see you dispel those spouts of lightning? No common man could
have done that."
"Who knows what any man can do? This man can do one thing, that man can
do another. But what all men can do is their duty; and to open their
eyes to this, I must go to Sant, and if necessary lay down my life. Will
you not still accompany me?"
"Yes," said Tydomin, "I will follow you to the end. It is all the more
essential, because I keep on displeasing you with my remarks, and that
means I have not yet learned my lesson properly."
"Do not be humble, for humility is only self-judgment, and while we are
thinking of self, we must be neglecting some action we could be planning
or shaping in our mind."
Tydomin continued to be uneasy and preoccupied.
"Why was Maskull not in the picture?" she asked.
"You dwell on this foreboding because you imagine it is tragical. There
is nothing tragical in death, Tydomin, nor in life. There is only right
and wrong. What arises from right or wrong action does not matter. We
are not gods, constructing a world, but simple men and women, doing our
immediate duty. We may die in Sant--so you have seen it; but the truth
will go on living."
"Spadevil, why do you choose Sant to start your work in?" asked Maskull.
"These men with fixed ideas seem to me the least likely of any to follow
a new light."
"Where a bad tree thrives, a good tree will flourish. But where no tree
at all can be found, nothing will grow."
"I understand you," said Maskull. "Here perhaps we are going to
martyrdom, but elsewhere we should resemble men preaching to cattle."
Shortly before sunset they arrived at the extremity of the upland
plain, above which towered the black cliffs of the Sant Levels. A dizzy,
artificially constructed staircase, of more than a thousand steps of
varying depth, twisting and forking in order to conform to the angles of
the precipices, led to the world overhead. In the place where they
stood they were sheltered from the cutting winds. Branchspell, radiantly
shining at last, but on the point of sinking, filled the cloudy sky with
violent, lurid colors, some of the combinations of which were new to
Maskull. The circle of the horizon was so gigantic, that had he been
suddenly carried back to Earth, he would by comparison have fancied
himself to be moving beneath the dome of some little, closed-in
cathedral. He realised that he was on a foreign planet. But he was not
stirred or uplifted by the knowledge; he was conscious only of moral
ideas. Looking backward, he saw the plain, which for several miles
past had been without vegetation, stretching back away to Disscourn.
So regular had been the ascent, and so great was the distance, that the
huge pyramid looked nothing more than a slight swelling on the face of
Spadevil stopped, and gazed over the landscape in silence. In the
evening sunlight his form looked more dense, dark, and real than ever
before. His features were set hard in grimness.
He turned around to his companions. "What is the greatest wonder, in all
this wonderful scene?" he demanded.
"Acquaint us," said Maskull.
"All that you see is born from pleasure, and moves on, from pleasure to
pleasure. Nowhere is right to be found. It is Shaping's world."
"There is another wonder," said Tydomin, and she pointed her finger
toward the sky overhead.
A small cloud, so low down that it was perhaps not more than five
hundred feet above them, was sailing along in front of the dark wall
of cliff. It was in the exact shape of an open human hand, with
downward-pointing fingers. It was stained crimson by the sun; and one
or two tiny cloudlets beneath the fingers looked like falling drops of
"Who can doubt now that our death is close at hand?" said Tydomin. "I
have been close to death twice today. The first time I was ready, but
now I am more ready, for I shall die side by side with the man who has
given me my first happiness."
"Do not think of death, but of right persistence," replied Spadevil. "I
am not here to tremble before Shaping's portents; but to snatch men from
He at once proceeded to lead the way up the staircase. Tydomin gazed
upward after him for a moment, with an odd, worshiping light in her
eyes. Then she followed him, the second of the party. Maskull climbed
last. He was travel stained, unkempt, and very tired; but his soul was
at peace. As they steadily ascended the almost perpendicular stairs, the
sun got higher in the sky. Its light dyed their bodies a ruddy gold.
They gained the top. There they found rolling in front of them, as far
as the eye could see, a barren desert of white sand, broken here and
there by large, jagged masses of black rock. Tracts of the sand were
reddened by the sinking sun. The vast expanse of sky was filled by
evil-shaped clouds and wild colors. The freezing wind, flurrying across
the desert, drove the fine particles of sand painfully against their
"Where now do you take us?" asked Maskull.
"He who guards the old wisdom of Sant must give up that wisdom to
me, that I may change it. What he says, others will say. I go to find
"And where will you seek him, in this bare country?"
Spadevil struck off toward the north unhesitatingly.
"It is not so far," he said. "It is his custom to be in that part where
Sant overhangs the Wombflash Forest. Perhaps he will be there, but I
Maskull glanced toward Tydomin. Her sunken cheeks, and the dark circles
beneath her eyes told of her extreme weariness.
"The woman is tired, Spadevil," he said.
She smiled, "It's but another step into the land of death. I can manage
it. Give me your arm, Maskull."
He put his arm around her waist, and supported her along that way.
"The sun is now sinking," said Maskull. "Will we get there before dark?"
"Fear nothing, Maskull and Tydomin; this pain is eating up the evil in
your nature. The road you are walking cannot remain unwalked. We shall
arrive before dark."
The sun then disappeared behind the far-distant ridges that formed the
western boundary of the Ifdawn Marest. The sky blazed up into more vivid
colors. The wind grew colder.
They passed some pools of colourless gnawl water, round the banks of
which were planted fruit trees. Maskull ate some of the fruit. It was
hard, bitter, and astringent; he could not get rid of the taste, but
he felt braced and invigorated by the downward-flowing juices. No other
trees or shrubs were to be seen anywhere. No animals appeared, no birds
or insects. It was a desolate land.
A mile or two passed, when they again approached the edge of the
plateau. Far down, beneath their feet, the great Wombflash Forest began.
But daylight had vanished there; Maskull's eyes rested only on a vague
darkness. He faintly heard what sounded like the distant sighing of
In the rapidly darkening twilight, they came abruptly on a man. He was
standing in a pool, on one leg. A pile of boulders had hidden him from
their view. The water came as far up as his calf. A trifork, similar to
the one Maskull had seen on Disscourn, but smaller, had been stuck in
the mud close by his hand.
They stopped by the side of the pond, and waited. Immediately he became
aware of their presence, the man set down his other leg, and waded out
of the water toward them, picking up his trifork in doing so.
"This is not Maulger, but Catice," said Spadevil.
"Maulger is dead," said Catice, speaking the same tongue as Spadevil,
but with an even harsher accent, so that the tympanum of Maskull's ear
was affected painfully.
The latter saw before him a bowed, powerful individual, advanced in
years. He wore nothing but a scanty loincloth. His trunk was long
and heavy, but his legs were rather short. His face was beardless,
lemon-coloured, and anxious-looking. It was disfigured by a number of
longitudinal ruts, a quarter of an inch deep, the cavities of which
seemed clogged with ancient dirt. The hair of his head was black and
sparse. Instead of the twin membranous organs of Spadevil, he possessed
but one; and this was in the centre of his brow.
Spadevil's dark, solid person stood out from the rest like a reality
"Has the trifork passed to you?" he demanded.
"Yes. Why have you brought this woman to Sant?"
"I have brought another thing to Sant. I have brought the new faith."
Catice stood motionless, and looked troubled. "State it."
"Shall I speak with many words, or few words?"
"If you wish to say what is not, many words will not suffice. If you
wish to say what is, a few words will be enough."
"To hate pleasure brings pride with it. Pride is a pleasure. To kill
pleasure, we must attach ourselves to duty. While the mind is planning
right action, it has no time to think of pleasure."
"Is that the whole?" asked Catice.
"The truth is simple, even for the simplest man."
"Do you destroy Hator, and all his generations, with a single word?"
"I destroy nature, and set up law."
A long silence followed.
"My probe is double," said Spadevil. "Suffer me to double yours, and you
will see as I see."
"Come you here, you big man!" said Catice to Maskull. Maskull advanced a
"Do you follow Spadevil in his new faith?"
"As far as death," exclaimed Maskull.
Catice picked up a flint. "With this stone I strike out one of your
two probes. When you have but one, you will see with me, and you will
recollect with Spadevil. Choose you then the superior faith, and I shall
obey your choice."
"Endure this little pain, Maskull, for the sake of future men," said
"The pain is nothing," replied Maskull, "but I fear the result."
"Permit me, although I am only a woman, to take his place, Catice," said
Tydomin, stretching out her hand.
He struck at it violently with the flint, and gashed it from wrist to
thumb; the pale carmine blood spouted up. "What brings this kiss-lover
to Sant?" he said. "How does she presume to make the rules of life for
the sons of Hator?"
She bit her lip, and stepped back. "Well then, Maskull, accept! I
certainly should not have played false to Spadevil; but you hardly can."
"If he bids me, I must do it," said Maskull. "But who knows what will
come of it?"
Spadevil spoke. "Of all the descendants of Hator, Catice is the most
wholehearted and sincere. He will trample my truth underfoot, thinking
me a demon sent by Shaping, to destroy the work of this land. But a seed
will escape, and my blood and yours, Tydomin, will wash it. Then men
will know that my destroying evil is their greatest good. But none here
will live to see that."
Maskull now went quite close to Catice, and offered his head. Catice
raised his hand, and after holding the flint poised for a moment,
brought it down with adroitness and force upon the left-hand probe.
Maskull cried out with the pain. The blood streamed down, and the
function of the organ was destroyed.
There was a pause, while he walked to and fro, trying to staunch the
"What now do you feel, Maskull? What do you see?" inquired Tydomin
He stopped, and stared hard at her. "I now see straight," he said
"What does that mean?"
He continued to wipe the blood from his forehead. He looked troubled.
"Henceforward, as long as I live, I shall fight with my nature, and
refuse to feel pleasure. And I advise you to do the same."
Spadevil gazed at him sternly. "Do you renounce my teaching?"
Maskull, however, returned the gaze without dismay. Spadevil's
image-like clearness of form had departed for him; his frowning face he
knew to be the deceptive portico of a weak and confused intellect.
"It is false."
"Is it false to sacrifice oneself for another?" demanded Tydomin.
"I can't argue as yet," said Maskull. "At this moment the world with
its sweetness seems to me a sort of charnel house. I feel a loathing for
everything in it, including myself. I know no more."
"Is there no duty?" asked Spadevil, in a harsh tone.
"It appears to me but a cloak under which we share the pleasure of other
Tydomin pulled at Spadevil's arm. "Maskull has betrayed you, as he has
so many others. Let us go."
He stood fast. "You have changed quickly, Maskull."
Maskull, without answering him, turned to Catice. "Why do men go on
living in this soft, shameful world, when they can kill themselves?"
"Pain is the native air of Surtur's children. To what other air do you
wish to escape?"
"Surtur's children? Is not Surtur Shaping?"
"It is the greatest of lies. It is Shaping's masterpiece."
"Answer, Maskull!" said Spadevil. "Do you repudiate right action?"
"Leave me alone. Go back! I am not thinking of you, and your ideas. I
wish you no harm."
The darkness came on fast. There was another prolonged silence.
Catice threw away the flint, and picked up his staff. "The woman must
return home," he said.
"She was persuaded here, and did not come freely. You, Spadevil, must
die--backslider as you are!"
Tydomin said quietly, "He has no power to enforce this. Are you going to
allow the truth to fall to the ground, Spadevil?"
"It will not perish by my death, but by my efforts to escape from death.
Catice, I accept your judgment."
Tydomin smiled. "For my part, I am too tired to walk farther today, so I
shall die with him."
Catice said to Maskull, "Prove your sincerity. Kill this man and his
mistress, according to the laws of Hator."
"I can't do that. I have travelled in friendship with them."
"You denied duty; and now you must do your duty," said Spadevil, calmly
stroking his beard. "Whatever law you accept, You must obey, without
turning to right or left. Your law commands that we must be stoned; and
it will soon be dark."
"Have you not even this amount of manhood?" exclaimed Tydomin.
Maskull moved heavily. "Be my witness, Catice, that the thing was forced
"Hator is looking on, and approving," replied Catice.
Maskull then went apart to the pile of boulders scattered by the side
of the pool. He glanced about him, and selected two large fragments of
rock, the heaviest that he thought he could carry. With these in his
arms, he staggered back.
He dropped them on the ground, and stood, recovering his breath. When
he could speak again, he said, "I have a bad heart for the business. Is
there no alternative? Sleep here tonight, Spadevil, and in the morning
go back to where you have come from. No one shall harm you."
Spadevil's ironic smile was lost in the gloom.
"Shall I brood again, Maskull, for still another year, and after that
come back to Sant with other truths? Come, waste no time, but choose the
heavier stone for me, for I am stronger than Tydomin."
Maskull lifted one of the rocks, and stepped out four full paces.
Spadevil confronted him, erect, and waited tranquilly.
The huge stone hurtled through the air. Its flight looked like a dark
shadow. It struck Spadevil full in the face, crushing his features, and
breaking his neck. He died instantaneously.
Tydomin looked away from the fallen man.
"Be very quick, Maskull, and don't let me keep him waiting."
He panted, and raised the second stone. She placed herself in front of
Spadevil's body, and stood there, unsmiling and cold.
The blow caught her between breast and chin, and she fell. Maskull went
to her, and, kneeling on the ground, half-raised her in his arms. There
she breathed out her last sighs.
After that, he laid her down again, and rested heavily on his hands,
while he peered into the dead face. The transition from its heroic,
spiritual expression to the vulgar and grinning mask of Crystalman came
like a flash; but he saw it.
He stood up in the darkness, and pulled Catice toward him.
"Is that the true likeness of Shaping?"
"It is Shaping stripped of illusion."
"How comes this horrible world to exist?"
Catice did not answer.
"Who is Surtur?"
"You will get nearer to him tomorrow; but not here."
"I am wading through too much blood," said Maskull. "Nothing good can
come of it."
"Do not fear change and destruction; but laughter and joy."
"Tell me, Catice. If I had elected to follow Spadevil, would you really
have accepted his faith?"
"He was a great-souled man," replied Catice. "I see that the pride of
our men is only another sprouting-out of pleasure. Tomorrow I too shall
leave Sant, to reflect on all this."
Maskull shuddered. "Then these two deaths were not a necessity, but a
"His part was played and henceforward the woman would have dragged down
his ideas, with her soft love and loyalty. Regret nothing, stranger, but
go away at once out of the land."
"Tonight? Where shall I go?"
"To Wombflash, where you will meet the deepest minds. I will put you on
He linked his arm in Maskull's, and they walked away into the night.
For a mile or more they skirted the edge of the precipice. The wind was
searching, and drove grit into their faces. Through the rifts of the
clouds, stars, faint and brilliant, appeared. Maskull saw no familiar
constellations. He wondered if the sun of earth was visible, and if so
which one it was.
They came to the head of a rough staircase, leading down the cliffside.
It resembled the one by which he had come up; but this descended to the
"That is your path," said Catice, "and I shall not come any farther."
Maskull detained him. "Say just this, before we part company--why does
pleasure appear so shameful to us?"
"Because in feeling pleasure, we forget our home."
"And that is--"
"Muspel," answered Catice.
Having made this reply, he disengaged himself, and, turning his back,
disappeared into the darkness.
Maskull stumbled down the staircase as best he could. He was tired,
but contemptuous of his pains. His uninjured probe began to discharge
matter. He lowered himself from step to step during what seemed an
interminable time. The rustling and sighing of the trees grew louder as
he approached the bottom; the air became still and warm.
He at last reached level ground. Still attempting to proceed, he began
to trip over roots, and to collide with tree trunks. After this had
happened a few times, he determined to go no farther that night. He
heaped together some dry leaves for a pillow, and immediately flung
himself down to sleep. Deep and heavy unconsciousness seized him almost
Next: The Wombflash Forest
Previous: On Disscourn