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"No idea at all what I'm to do. There are jobs, you know, where it isessential that one should not know too much beforehand . . . thingsone might have to say which one couldn't say effectively if one hadprepared them. As to conditions, well, I don't know much. It will bewarm: I'm to go naked. Our astronomers don't know anything about thesurface of Perelandra at all. The outer layer of her atmosphere is toothick. The main problem, apparently, is whether she revolves on her ownaxis or not, and at what speed. There are two schools of thought.There's a man called Schiaparelli who thinks she revolves once onherself in the same time it takes her to go once round Arbol--I mean, theSun. The other people think she revolves on her own axis once in everytwenty-three hours. That's one of the things I shall find out."
Words are slow. You must not lose sight of the fact that his whole lifeon Venus up till now had lasted less than five minutes. He was not inthe least tired, and not yet seriously alarmed as to his power ofsurviving in such a world. He had confidence in those who had sent himthere, and for the meantime the coolness of the water and the freedom ofhis limbs were still a novelty and a delight; but more than all thesewas something else at which I have already hinted and which can hardlybe put into words--the strange sense of excessive pleasure which seemedsomehow to be communicated to him through all his senses at once. I usethe word "excessive" because Ransom himself could only describe it bysaying that for his first few days on Perelandra he was haunted, not bya feeling of guilt, but by surprise that he had no such feeling. Therewas an exuberance or prodigality of sweetness about the mere act ofliving which our race finds it difficult not to associate with forbiddenand extravagant actions. Yet it is a violent world too. Hardly had helost sight of the floating object when his eyes were stabbed by anunendurable light. A grading, blue-to-violet illumination made thegolden sky seem dark by comparison and in a moment of time revealed moreof the new planet than he had yet seen. He saw the waste of waves spreadillimitably before him, and far, far away, at the very end of the world,against the sky, a single smooth column of ghastly green standing up,the one thing fixed and vertical in this universe of shifting slopes.Then the rich twilight rushed back (now seeming almost darkness) and heheard thunder. But it has a different timbre from terrestrial thunder,more resonance, and even, when distant, a kind of tinkling. It is thelaugh, rather than the roar, of heaven. Another flash followed, andanother, and then the storm was all about him. Enormous purple cloudscame driving between him and the golden sky, and with no preliminarydrops a rain such as he had never experienced began to fall. There wereno lines in it; the water above him seemed only less continuous than thesea, and he found it difficult to breathe. The flashes were incessant.In between them, when he looked in any direction except that of theclouds, he saw a completely changed world. It was like being at thecentre of a rainbow, or in a cloud of multi-coloured steam. The waterwhich now filled the air was turning sea and sky into a bedlam offlaming and writhing transparencies. He was dazzled and now for thefirst time a little frightened. In the flashes he saw, as before, onlythe endless sea and the still green column at the end of the world. Noland anywhere--not the suggestion of a shore from one horizon to theother.
The thunder was ear-splitting and it was difficult to get enough air.All sorts of things seemed to be coming down in the rain--living thingsapparently. They looked like preternaturally airy and gracefulfrogs--sublimated frogs--and had the colour of dragon-flies, but he was inno plight to make careful observations. He was beginning to feel thefirst symptoms of exhaustion and was completely confused by the riot ofcolours in the atmosphere. How long this state of affairs lasted hecould not say, but the next thing that he remembers noticing with anyaccuracy was that the swell was decreasing. He got the impression ofbeing near the end of a range of water-mountains and looking down intolower country. For a long time he never reached this lower country; whathad seemed, by comparison with the seas which he had met on his firstarrival, to be calm water, always turned out to be only slightly smallerwaves when he rushed down into them. There seemed to be a good many ofthe big floating objects about. And these, again, from some distancelooked like an archipelago, but always, as he drew nearer and found theroughness of the water they were riding, they became more like a fleet.But in the end there was no doubt that the swell was subsiding. The rainstopped. The waves were merely of Atlantic height. The rainbow coloursgrew fainter and more transparent and the golden sky first showedtimidly through them and then established itself again from horizon tohorizon. The waves grew smaller still. He began to breathe freely. Buthe was now really tired, and beginning to find leisure to be afraid.
The other island became visible again. He had been right about theanimals. They surrounded her ten or twenty deep, all facing her, most ofthem motionless, but some of them finding their places, as at aceremony, with delicate noiseless movements. The birds were in longlines and more of them seemed to be alighting on the island every momentand joining these lines. From a wood of bubble-trees behind her half adozen creatures like very short-legged and elongated pigs--the dachshundsof the pig world--were waddling up to join the assembly. Tiny frog-likebeasts, like those he had seen falling in the rain, kept leaping abouther, sometimes higher than her head, sometimes alighting on hershoulders; their colours were so vivid that at first he mistook them forkingfishers. Amidst all this she stood looking at him; her feettogether, her arms hanging at her sides, her stare level and unafraid,communicating nothing. Ransom determined to speak, using the Old Solartongue. "I am from another world," he began and then stopped. The GreenLady had done something for which he was quite unprepared. She raisedher arm and pointed at him: not as in menace, but as though inviting theother creatures to behold him. At the same moment her face changedagain, and for a second he thought she was going to cry. Instead sheburst into laughter--peal upon peal of laughter till her whole body shookwith it, till she bent almost double, with her hands resting on herknees, still laughing and repeatedly pointing at him. The animals, likeour own dogs in similar circumstances, dimly understood that there wasmerriment afoot; all manner of gambolling, wing-clapping, snorting, andstanding upon hind legs began to be displayed. And still the Green Ladylaughed till yet again the wave divided them and she was out of sight.
Ransom could have danced with impatience. Already it was visibly darkerand there was no doubt now that the distance between the islands wasincreasing. Just as he was about to speak again a wave rose between themand once more she was out of sight; and as that wave hung above him,shining purple in the light of the sunset, he noticed how dark the skybeyond it had become. It was already through a kind of twilight that helooked down from the next ridge upon the other island far below him. Heflung himself into the water. For some seconds he found a difficulty ingetting clear of the shore. Then he seemed to succeed and struck out.Almost at once he found himself back again among the red weeds andbladders. A moment or two of violent struggling followed and then he wasfree--and swimming steadily--and then, almost without warning, swimming intotal darkness. He swam on, but despair of finding the other land, oreven of saving his life, now gripped him. The perpetual change of thegreat swell abolished all sense of direction. It could only be by chancethat he would land anywhere. Indeed, he judged from the time he hadalready been in the water that he must have been swimming along thespace between the islands instead of across it. He tried to alter hiscourse; then doubted the wisdom of this, tried to return to his originalcourse, and became so confused that he could not be sure he had doneeither. He kept on telling himself that he must keep his head. He wasbeginning to be tired. He gave up all attempts to guide himself.Suddenly, a long time after, he felt vegetation sliding past him. Hegripped and pulled. Delicious smells of fruit and flowers came to himout of the darkness. He pulled harder still on his aching arms. Finallyhe found himself, safe and panting, on the dry, sweet-scented,undulating surface of an island.
"We shall ride," said the Lady. Then she knelt down on the shore--andsuch grace was in all her movements that it was a wonder to see herkneel--and gave three low calls all on the same note. At first no resultwas visible. But soon Ransom saw broken water coming rapidly towardsthem. A moment later and the sea beside the island was a mass of thelarge silver fishes: spouting, curling their bodies, pressing upon oneanother to get nearer, and the nearest ones nosing the land. They hadnot only the colour but the smoothness of silver. The biggest were aboutnine feet long and all were thick-set and powerful-looking. They werevery unlike any terrestrial species, for the base of the head wasnoticeably wider than the foremost part of the trunk. But then the trunkitself grew thicker again towards the tail. Without this tailward bulgethey would have looked like giant tadpoles. As it was, they suggestedrather pot-bellied and narrow-chested old men with very big heads. TheLady seemed to take a long time in selecting two of them. But the momentshe had done so the others all fell back for a few yards and the twosuccessful candidates wheeled round and lay still with their tails tothe shore, gently moving their fins. "Now, Piebald, like this," shesaid, and seated herself astride the narrow part of the right-hand fish.Ransom followed her example. The great head in front of him servedinstead of shoulders so that there was no danger of sliding off. Hewatched his hostess. She gave her fish a slight kick with her heels. Hedid the same to his. A moment later they were gliding out to sea atabout six miles an hour. The air over the water was cooler and thebreeze lifted his hair. In a world where he had as yet only swum andwalked, the fish's progress gave the impression of quite an exhilaratingspeed. He glanced back and saw the feathery and billowy mass of theislands receding and the sky growing larger and more emphaticallygolden. Ahead, the fantastically shaped and coloured mountain dominatedhis whole field of vision. He noticed with interest that the wholeschool of rejected fish were still with them--some following, but themajority gambolling in wide extended wings to left and right.