The Moon Pool
Chapter 3: The Moon Rock
“I do not intend to tell you now,” Throckmartin continued, “the results of the next two weeks, 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 for many of my theories.
“The place, for all its decay and desolation, had not infected us with any touch of morbidity--that is not Edith, Stanton, or myself. 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--
“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 in the morning; they would return after the third night, when the moon had begun to wane. They left us sundry charms for our ‘protection, ‘ and solemnly cautioned us to keep as far away as possible from Nan-Tauach during their absence. 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. 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 that 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-Tauach 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 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.’
“The explanation seemed good. I felt a curious sense of relief, although I had not been sensible of any oppression.
“‘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 rose and fell, rose and fell--
“‘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 were just around the corner.’
“‘It’s devilish uncanny!’ broke in Stanton.
“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, moulded on the old Viking lines. Her sixty years had slipped from her. She looked like some ancient priestess of Odin.
“She stood there, her eyes wide, brilliant, staring. She thrust her head forward toward Nan-Tauach, 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 tinklings died away! She turned to us.
“‘Go!’ she said, and her voice seemed to come from far distances. ‘Go from here--and quickly! Go while you may. It has called--’ She pointed to the islet. ‘It knows you are here. It waits!’ she wailed. ‘It beckons--the--the--”
“She fell at Edith’s feet, and over the lagoon came again the tinklings, now with a quicker note of jubilance--almost of triumph.
“We watched beside her throughout the night. The sounds from Nan-Tauach 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 throughout the morning her gaze returned again and again half-fascinatedly, half-wonderingly to the neighbouring isle.
“That afternoon the natives returned. And that night on Nan-Tauach the silence was unbroken nor were there lights nor sign of life.
“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.
“Our--symptoms let me call them--could all very easily be accounted for. It is unquestionable that the vibrations created by certain musical instruments have definite and sometimes extraordinary effect upon the nervous system. We accepted this as the explanation of the reactions we had experienced, hearing the unfamiliar sounds. Thora’s nervousness, her superstitious apprehensions, had wrought her up to a condition of semi-somnambulistic hysteria. Science could readily explain her part in the night’s scene.
“We came to the conclusion that there must be a passage-way between Ponape and Nan-Tauach known to the natives--and used by them during their rites. We decided that on the next departure of our labourers we would set forth immediately to Nan-Tauach. 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.
“When the men were out of sight around the turn of the harbour, we took our boat and made straight for Nan-Tauach. 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 centre of the court, beyond the shattered pillars, rose another terrace of basalt blocks, concealing, I knew, still another enclosure.
“And now, Walter, for the better understanding of what follows--and--and--” he hesitated. “Should you decide later to return with me or, if I am taken, to--to--follow us--listen carefully to my description of this place: Nan-Tauach is literally three rectangles. The first rectangle is the sea-wall, built up of monoliths--hewn and squared, twenty feet wide at the top. To get to the gateway in the sea-wall you pass along the canal marked on the map between Nan-Tauach and the islet named Tau. The entrance to the canal is bidden by dense thickets of mangroves; once through these the way is clear. The steps lead up from the landing of the sea-gate through the entrance to the courtyard.