|Home > C.S.Lewis > Cosmic > Perelandra (Page 11)|
|Perelandra(Cosmic #2) by C.S.Lewis|
"I have seen no eldila in your world,' he said. "Eldila?" she repeated as if it were a new name to her. "Yes. Eldila," said Ransom, "the great and ancient servants of Maleldil. The creatures that neither breed nor breathe. Whose bodies are made of light. Whom we can hardly see. Who ought to be obeyed."
She mused for a moment and then spoke. "Sweetly and gently this time Maleldil makes me older. He shows the all the natures of these blessed creatures. But there is no obeying them soot, not in this world. That is all the old order, Piebald, the far side of the wave that has rolled past us and will not come again. That very ancient world to which you journeyed was put under the eldila. In your own world also they ruled once: but not since our Beloved became a Man. In your world they linger still. But in our world, which is the first of worlds to wake after the great change, they have no power. There is nothing now between us and Him. They have grown less and we have increased. And now Maleldil puts it into my mind that this is their glory and their joy. They received us - us things of the low worlds, who breed and breathe - as weak and small beasts whom their lightest touch could destroy; and their glory was to cherish us and make us older till we were older than they - till they could fall at our feet. It is a joy we shall not have. However I teach the beasts they will never be better than I. But it is a joy beyond all. Not that it is better joy than ours. Every joy is beyond all others. The fruit we are eating is always the best fruit of all."
"There have been eldila who did not think it a joy," said Ransom.
"You spoke yesterday, Lady, of clinging to the old good instead of taking the good that came."
"Yes - for a few heart-beats."
"There was an eldil who clung longer who has been clinging since before the worlds were made."
"But the old good would cease to be a good at all if he did that."
"Yes. It has ceased. And still he clings."
She stared at him in wonder and was about to speak, but he interrupted her.
"There is not time to explain," he said.
"No time? What has happened to the time?" she asked.
"Listen," he said. "That thing down here has come through Deep Heaven from my world. There is a man in it: perhaps many men - ."
"Look," she said, "it is turning into two - one big and one small."
Ransom saw that a small black object had detached itself from the space-ship and was beginning to move uncertainly away from it. It puzzled him for a moment. Then it dawned on him that Weston - if it was Weston -
probe watery surface he had to expect on Venus anti some kind of collapsible boat. But could it be th
, reckoned with tides or storms and did not foresee
be impossible for him ever to recover the space-
s not like Weston to cut off his own retreat. And he certainly did not wish Weston's retreat to be cut off. A Weston who could not, even if he chose, return to Earth, was an insoluble problem. Anyway, what could he, Ransom do without support from the eldila? He began to smart under a sense of injustice. What was the good of sending him - a mere scholar - to cope with a situation of this sort? Any pugilist, or, better still, any man who could make good tommy-gun, would have been more to the purpose
they could find this King whom the Green Woman talking about ....
But while these thoughts were passing through his
became aware of a dim murmuring or growling sour
had gradually been encroaching on the silence for son
"Look," said the Lady suddenly, and pointed to the islands. Their surface was no longer level. At the sa
meat he realised that the noise was that of waves: s
not as yet, but definitely beginning to foam on the rocky headlands of the Fixed Island.
"The sea is rising," said the Lad
, must go down and leave this land at once. Soon. th
l will be too great-and I must not be here by night."
"Not that way," shouted Ransom. "Not where you will
the man from my world."
"Why?" said the Lady. "I am Lady and Mother of this world. If the King is not here, who else should meet the stranger?"
"I will meet him."
"It is not your world, Piebald," she replied.
"You do not understand," said Ransom. "This man - he is a friend of that eldil of whom I told you - one of those who cling to the wrong good."
"Then I must explain it to him," said the Lady. "Let us go and make him older," and with that she slung herself the rocky edge of the plateau and began descending the mossy slope. Ransom took longer to manage the rocks; but once feet were again on the turf he began running as fast as he could. The Lady cried out in surprise as he flashed past her but he took no notice. He could now see clearly which bay the little boat was making for and his attention was fully occupied in directing his course and making sure of his feet. There was only one man in the boat. Down and down the long slope he raced. Now he was in a fold: now in a winding valley which momentarily cut off the sight of the sea. Now at last he was in the cove itself. He glanced back and saw to his dismay that the Lady had also been running and was only a few yards behind, He glanced forward again. There were waves, though not yet very large ones, breaking on the pebbly beach. A man in shirt and shorts and a pith helmet was ankle-deep in the water, wading ashore and pulling after him a little canvas punt. It was certainly Weston, though his face had something about it which seemed subtly unfamiliar. It seemed to Ransom o' vital importance to prevent a meeting between Weston and the Lady. He had seen Weston murder an inhabitant of Ma1acandra. He turned back, stretching out both arms to bar her way and shouting "Go back !" She was too near. For a second she was almost in his arms. Then she stood back from him; panting from the race, surprised, her mouth opened to spec But at that moment he heard Weston's voice, from behind him; saying in English, "May I ask you, Dr Ransom, what is the meaning of this?"
IN all the circumstances it would have been reasonable to expect that Weston would be much more taken aback at Ransom's presence than Ransom could be at his. But if he were, he showed no sign of it, and Ransom could hardly help admiring the massive egoism which enabled this man in the very moment of his arrival on an unknown world to stand there unmoved in all his authoritative vulgarity, his arms akimbo, his face scowling, and his feet planted as solidly on that unearthly soil as if he had been standing with his back to the fire in his own study. Then, with a shock, he noticed that Weston was speaking to the Lady in the Old Solar language with perfect fluency. On Malacandra, partly from incapacity, and much more from his contempt for the inhabitants, he had never acquired more than a smattering of it. Here was an inexplicable and disquieting novelty. Ransom felt that his only advantage had been taken from him. He felt that he was now in the presence of the incalculable. If the scales had been suddenly weighted in this one respect, what might come next?
He awoke from his abstraction to find that Weston anti the Lady had been conversing fluently, but without mutual understanding. "It is no use," she was saying. "You anti I are not old enough to speak together, it seems. The sea in rising; let us go back to the islands. Will he come with us, Piebald?"
"Where are the two fishes?" said Ransom.
"They will be waiting in the next bay," said the Lady. "Quick, then," said Ransom to her; and then, in answer t( her look: "No, he will not come." She did not, presumably understand his urgency, but her eye was on the sea and he understood her own reason for haste. She had already begin to ascend the side of the valley, with - Ransom following her when Weston shouted, "No, you don't." Ransom turned any found himself covered by a revolver. The sudden heat whirl swept over his body was the only sign by which he knew that he was frightened. His head remained clear.
"Are you going to begin in this world also by murdering one of its inhabitants?" he asked.
"What are you saying?" asked the Lady, pausing and looking back at the two men with a puzzled, tranquil face.
"Stay where you are, Ransom," said the Professor. "That native can go where she likes; the sooner the better." Ransom was about to implore her to make good her escape when he realised that no imploring was needed. He had irrationally supposed that she would understand the situation; but apparently she saw nothing more than two strangers talking about something which she did not at the moment understand - What, and her own necessity of leaving the Fixed Land at once.
"You and he do not come with me, Piebald?" she asked. "No," said Ransom, without turning round. "It may be that you and I shall not meet soon again. Greet the King for me if you find him and speak of me always to Maleldil. I stay here."
"We shall meet when Maleldil pleases," she answered, "or if not, some greater good will happen to us instead." Then he heard her footsteps behind him for a few seconds, and then he heard them no more and knew he was alone with Weston. "You allowed yourself to use the word Murder just now, Dr Ransom," said the Professor, "in reference to an accident that' occurred when we were in Malacandra. In any case, the creature killed was not a human being. Allow me to tell you that I consider the seduction of a native girl as an almost equally unfortunate way of introducing civilisation to a new planet."
"Seduction?" said Ransom. "Oh, I see. You thought I was making love to her."
"When I find a na**d civilised man embracing a na**d savage woman in a solitary place, that is the name I give to it"
"I wasn't embracing her," said Ransom dully, for the whole business of defending himself on this score seemed at that moment a mere weariness of the spirit. "And no one wears clothes here. But what does it matter? Get on with the job that brings you to Perelandra."
"You ask me to believe that you have been living here with that woman under these conditions in a state of sexless innocence?"
"Oh, sexless !" said Ransom disgustedly. "All right, if you like. It's about as good a description of living in Perelandra as it would be to say that a man had forgotten water because Niagara Falls didn't immediately give him the idea of making it into cups of tea. But you're right enough if you mean that I have had no more thought of desiring her than - than .. Comparisons failed him and his voice died. Then he began again: "But don't say I'm asking you to believe it, or to believe anything. I am asking you nothing but to begin and end as soon as possible whatever butcheries and robberies you have come to do."
Weston eyed him for a moment with a curious expression then, unexpectedly, he returned his revolver to its holster. "Ransom," he said, "you do me a great injustice."
For several seconds there was silence between them. Long breakers with white woolpacks of foam on them were now rolling into the cove exactly as on Earth.
"Yes," said Weston at last, "and I will begin with a frank admission. You may make what capital of it you please. I shall not be deterred. I deliberately say that I was, in some respects, mistaken - seriously mistaken - in my conception of the whole interplanetary problem when I went to Malacandra."
Partly from the relaxation which followed the disappearance of the pistol, and partly from the elaborate air of magnanimity with which the great scientist spoke, Ransom felt very much inclined to laugh. But it occurred to him that this was possibly the first occasion in his whole life in which Weston had ever acknowledged himself in the wrong, and that even the false dawn of humility, which is still ninety-nine per cent of arrogance, ought not to be rebuffed - or not by him.
"Well, that's very handsome," he said. "How do you mean?"
"I'll tell you presently," said Weston. "In the meantime I must get my things ashore." Between them they beached the punt, and began carrying Weston's primus-stove and tins and tent and other packages to a spot about two hundred yards inland. Ransom, who knew all the paraphernalia to be needless, made no objection, and in about a quarter of an hour something like an encampment had been established in a mossy place under some blue-trunked silver-leaved trees beside a rivulet. Both men sat down and Ransom listened at first with interest, then with amazement, and finally with incredulity. Weston cleared his throat, threw out his chest, and assumed his lecturing manner. Throughout the conversation that followed, Ransom was filled with a sense of crazy irrelevance. Here were two human beings, thrown together in an alien world under conditions of inconceivable strangeness; the one separated from his space-ship, the other newly released from the threat of instant death. Was it sane - was it imaginable - that they should find themselves at once engaged in a philosophical argument which might just as well have occurred in a Cambridge combination room? Yet that, apparently, was what Weston insisted upon. He showed no interest in the fate of his space-ship; he even seemed to feel no curiosity about Ransom's presence on Venus. Could it be that he had travelled more than thirty million miles of space in search of conversation? But as he went on talking, Ransom felt himself more and more in the presence of a monomaniac. Like an actor who cannot think of anything but his celebrity, or a lover who can think of nothing but his mistress, tense, tedious, and unescapable, the scientist pursued his fixed idea.
"The tragedy of my life," he said, "and indeed of the modern intellectual world in general, is the rigid specialisation of knowledge entailed by the growing complexity of what is known. It is my own share in that tragedy that an early devotion to physics has prevented me from paying any proper attention to Biology until I reached the fifties. To do myself justice, I should make it clear that the false humanist ideal of knowledge as an end in itself never appealed to me. I always wanted to know in order to achieve utility. At first, that utility naturally appeared to me in a personal form - I wanted scholarships, an income, and that generally recognised position in the world without which a man has no leverage. When those were attained, I began to look farther: to the utility of the human race!"