Good Iceberg 10

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Wildering Haven

In the early part of the 20th century, a Norwegian scientist, Fridtjof Nanson, noted that icebergs in the North Atlantic moved to the right of the wind. Iceberg 10 offers no data, only mysteries unending, and clues to understanding the poetry of Deception Past. Clues are all we have now. Come closer. Ten is a good iceberg. This has all been recently discovered and fit together in new ways. Not all stories come out clean.

 

Each year, scientists from 28 different nations conduct experiments not reproducible in any other place in the world. It is quite evident from observations of ocean flow that the wind moves water, and that the wind is one of the primary forces that drive ocean currents. In the early part of the 20th century, a Norwegian scientist, Fridtjof Nanson, noted that icebergs in the North Atlantic moved to the right of the wind. Iceberg 10 offers no data, only mysteries unending, and clues to understanding the poetry of Deception Past. Clues are all we have now. Come closer. Ten is a good iceberg. This has all been recently discovered and fit together in new ways. Not all stories come out clean.

The Poetic Sentiment, of course, may develop itself in various modes-in Painting, in Sculpture, in Architecture, in the Dance-very especially in Music-and very peculiarly, and with a wide field, in the composition of the Landscape Garden. In all ages and with all sea-going races there has always been something especially fascinating about a floating island with a garden, amid the ocean. It was a pleasant, friendly, sociable herd of botophiliacs; pious, happy, merry and full of unconscious coarsenesses and innocent indecencies.

This tale is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United Federation of Planets and most other parts of the gardening mulitiverse at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. Dialect and variant spellings have been retained. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.

“They journey to the garden in the Valley of Holiness, for to be blessed of the godly hermits and drink of the miraculous waters and be cleansed from sin.” answered the pilgrim’s guide.

“Where is this watering place?”

“Tis through me the change was wrought!” The guide does not listen well. “And main hard have I worked to do it, too. But when I revealed to them the calamity in store, and saw how mighty was the terror it did engender, then saw I also that this was the time to strike!” Wherefore I diligently pretended, unto this and that and the other one, that your power against the sun could not reach its full until the morrow; and so if any would save the sun and the world, you must be slain to-day, while your enchantments are but in the weaving and lack potency. “Odsbodikins!” It was but a dull lie, a most indifferent invention, but you should have seen them seize it and swallow it, in the frenzy of their fright, as it were salvation sent from heaven; and all the while was I laughing in my sleeve the one moment, to see them so cheaply deceived, and glorifying God the next, that He was content to let the meanest of His creatures be His instrument to the saving of thy life.

”Feels like he’s overdue as well…”

“I would advocate the dispatching of a wireless message to his grace on board the vessel, notifying him of the change of address. Mr. Joiner could meet his grace at the dock and proceed directly here. Will that meet the situation, sir?”

Its very existence has for all explorers an air of magic.

One fine day, having strolled out together, arm in arm, our route led us in the direction of a river. There was a bridge, and we resolved to cross it. It was roofed over, by way of protection from the weather, and the archway, having but few windows, was thus very uncomfortably dark. As we entered the passage, the contrast between the external glare and the interior gloom struck heavily upon my spirits.

It was estimated that it would require six months to complete our preparations in view of the fact that the utmost secrecy must be maintained to keep the project from the ears of spies and the accidental stranger’s gaze.

“I’ll have to connect up with you guys sometime.”

And at that, two people, who stood outside the window, were looking, “I shall whisper it here, but some day I shall stand upon the dome of the Temple of Reward and shout it to cheering multitudes below.”

He glanced guiltily over his shoulder, and softly shut the door. The words were scarce out of his mouth ere he had sprung to the balcony overlooking without. A slight cough behind them brought them apart and their heads around.

“There he goes again!” he cried excitedly.

“It’s a lot of money,” said she.

“Some men once roped an’ tied him, an’ then held white-iron close to his eyes.”

“Oh! Men? You mean devils…. Were they your enemies- Grendels?”

“To take revenge on a horse!”

”This is a really a fantastic piece,” and his agitation became painful, and this action seemed a culminating folly. Hopefully there will be more vinyl in the future.

Then he streamed imperceptibly toward the door and flowed silently out, he appeared to become confused, but he stuck to his story, and soon told all to Joiner himself.

I hopped out of bed early next morning, so as to be among those present when the old boy should arrive, hard driven, persisted in a confused and impossible story. It was one of those jolly, peaceful mornings that make a chappie wish he’d got a soul or something, and I was just brooding on life in general when I became aware of the dickens of a spate in progress down below, explaining that he was sometimes “a little odd.”

We were close behind him, and all saw the figure of a man run quickly across a little piece of sward and disappear in the shrubbery beyond.

“No; not by introduction. I’d like to, before he spaces out.”

“He was on the balcony when I first saw him,” cried Joiner.

For a time he could see no way of evading where she had discovered it the day before. It was not there; and she immediately began an eager search about. She replaced it in a conspicuous position.

In the evening the matter was resumed, with less passion and in a judicial spirit, and yet she can remember nothing about it. It was late that night before our conference broke up, but each man there had his particular duties outlined, and the details of the entire plan had been mapped out.

“Maybe it would be a good idea to take that space trip right away,” said the guide. “There ought to be a ship leaving.” He told a complicated story. He had a taste for singular characters, and he had more than once invited them to his social nest. The dirty little place was impenetrably black except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual glow of light.

“Nothing to take notice of. He was here, yesterday, demanding to speak with her. We got him to leave without too much unpleasantness.”

“It’ll be something for me to take notice of, if he keeps it up after tomorrow.”

His next clear vision, which came about unexpectedly, I mean, it would be a step toward that very revelation or advertisment. Greatly astonished, he lifted it out of the light ray and carried it to the darkest part of the room. He placed it in the thin streak of daylight, and its luminousness was almost immediately restored. This relieved vision was no more a mere blurred nebulosity to navigate.

“Forbear to grieve, fair knight, for this is not a defeat. We have brains, you and I; and for such as have brains there are no defeats, but only victories. Observe how we will turn this seeming disaster into an advertisement; an advertisement for our soap; and the biggest one, to draw, that was ever thought of; an advertisement that will transform that Mount Washington defeat into a Matterhorn victory. We will put on your bulletin-board, ‘Patronized by the elect.’ How does that strike you?” He pretended not to listen. We did ajourn.

How long I slept I do not know. When I awoke suddenly it was to find a half-dozen powerful men upon me, a gag already in my mouth, and a moment later my arms and legs securely bound. Then they left me to sit immobile. Having yielded nothing but tantalising glimpses and some useful experience, this position now showed me the view down the length of the valley. The view was different at this time.

The story is curiously direct and circumstantial. From the outset, secret, it remained a mere wonder, a thing to creep to covertly and peep at, as a child might peep upon a forbidden garden. In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme.

“Yes, he’ll raise the storm-after he has prayed,” replied Jane. “Come.”

Why, in my own former day-in remote centuries not yet stirring in the womb of time-there were old Englishmen who imagined that they had been born in a free country: a “free” country with the Corporation Act and the Test still in force in it-timbers propped against men’s liberties and dishonored consciences to shore up an Established Anachronism with.

How this happens, it is not difficult to see. We have no aristocracy of blood, and having therefore as a natural, and indeed as an inevitable thing, and it was due to his scientific method that the relation between the direction from which the initiating ray entered the crystal and the orientation of the picture were proved. Its leading feature is glitter-and in that one word how much of all that is detestable do we express! Flickering, unquiet lights, are sometimes pleasing-to children and idiots always so-but in the embellishment of a room they should be scrupulously avoided.

“Didn’t there use to be something they called privacy?” he asked.

“You’re crazy!” Joiner exploded.

“Verily, it is wonderly bethought!”

So having cleared the way, we may give a brief account of this visionary world within the crystal.

Down through the passageways to the pits we went. Allusion has already been made to the glittering objects upon masts that stood upon the gateway to the heavens.

So much for the essential facts of this very singular story. And where was this other world?

“You may go,” he said to those who had brought me, and when only his two companions and ourselves were left in the chamber, he spoke to me again in a voice of ice-very slowly and deliberately, with many pauses, as though he would choose his words cautiously.

In his descent to the valley, Joiner’s emotion, roused to stirring pitch by the recital of his love story, quieted gradually, and in its place came a sober, thoughtful mood. All at once he saw that he was serious, because he would never more regain his sense of security while in the valley, then the evening star that shone so brilliantly in the sky of that distant vision, was neither more nor less than our own familiar earth.

“To the pits,” he said. That was all. Four men accompanied me from the chamber, and with a radium hand-light to illumine the way, escorted me through seemingly interminable tunnels, down, ever down beneath the city. He then grew anxious to resume these investigations, and, the stress of his seasonal labours being abated, he went down too.

“You’d close the outlet forever!” he exclaimed, realising abruptly that the whole thing had passed out of his hands, had vanished like a vision of the night, he returned, and thought of action he would take the next time that the strange eyes of one of them appeared close. Whether or not it will remain lost for ever, with the material and origin of it, are things equally speculative at the present time.

And after they were gone, the farms and ranches and factories would go on, almost but not quite as before. It was with these observations as a basis that I opened my negotiations with him upon his next subsequent visit.

“Well, you do seem uncommon nervous,” it is partly with the idea of such a possibility that I have thrown this narrative into a form that will give it a chance of being read by the ordinary consumer of fiction.

My own ideas in the matter are practically identical with few people, suffering without a training in science who can realise the huge isolation of the solar system.

Don’t let the lights fool you. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Brighter it was than any star in our skies; brighter than the evening star at its brightest.

“It is brighter!” cried the people clustering in the streets.

And voice after voice repeated, “It is nearer,” and it’s looking dark there in Pittsburgh…

The master mathematician sat in his private chamber, counting and recounting his treasures and deficits. Something was going on by the escalators to the landing stage. People were moving excitedly in that direction, and the news cars were circling like vultures over a sick cow. Companies of mercenaries thrown out of employment and living by pillage. Religious fanatics following self-anointed prophets. He looked at it as one might look into the eyes of a brave enemy. “You may kill me,” he said after a silence.

And presently they began to understand.

It was in no placid temper, I say, that the metaphysician drew up his chair to its customary station by the hearth. Many circumstances of a perplexing nature had occurred during the day, to disturb the serenity of his meditations.

“I reckon you will. An’ I’ll never ask you. I’m a man of strange beliefs an’ ways of thinkin’, an’ I seem to see into the future an’ feel things hard to explain. The trail I’ve been followin’ for so many years was twisted en’ tangled, but it’s straightenin’ out now.

And everywhere the world was awake that night, and throughout we heard breathing and measuring. And overhead, to carry out his words, lonely and cold and livid, blazed the star of the coming doom. But you must not imagine my predicament because I have spoken of counting and recounting the holes it take to fill the Hall of Albert.

The boy’s eyes had lighted with pleasure as I spoke, and I saw him glance from his rusty trappings to the magnificence of my own. For a moment he stood in thought before he spoke, and for that moment my heart fairly ceased beating-so much for me there was which hung upon the substance of his answer. And yet, when at last the watchers in the towers gave the sign, we were unprepared after all. Larger grew the star, and larger, hotter, and brighter with a terrible swiftness now. And then came a wonder.

“I’ll be in touch, thank you. What a great find!” The mathematician made his escape. He boarded the vessel and took his place within.

Again he stood silently in deep thought. In a minute a third soldier was struggling in the air. It was dreadful. I turned away my head a moment, and when I turned back I missed the king! They were blindfolding him! I was paralyzed; I couldn’t move, I was choking, my tongue was petrified. They finished blindfolding him, they led him under the rope.

“You’re interested in history?”

“The time has come to speak,” she said. “I cannot stand idly by and see a young man going to perdition!”

After an extremely complex preface one day, she helped him out with a painful suggestion. His annoyance and disappointment were naturally very great.

“And there is a jewelled short-sword which I took from the body of a quiet soldier lying in the field. The light was changing. Already it was receding, swifter and swifter, in the last stage of its headlong journey downward into the sun.

This story is of a time beyond the memory of man, before the beginning of history, a time when one might have always walked alone and wondered where the night’s path leads. Their elders were hidden from the dangers of the wilderness. And by virtue both of his strength and cunning he was master of the tribe, and his share was always the most and the best.

It was with feelings of excited expectancy which I could scarce hide that I heard the youth’s approach upon the occasion of his next regular visit. I did not speak beyond my accustomed greeting of him. As he placed the food upon the floor by my side he also deposited writing materials at the same time.

She lay a long time there, glad of her escape, and then she sat up listening. It was a rapid pattering growing louder and coming towards her, and in a little while she could hear the wind. She had never seen the thing before, she did not even see him clearly now, but she knew at once it was the Terror of the Ice.

The shadows now were gathering in the trees, they sat on the branches and watched her. Then the white owl, flitting silently, came ghostly through the shades. Darker grew the world and darker, I think that I should have gone crazy but for the sound of my approaching countrymen. Branches and leaves were turned to ominous, quiet black shapes that would spring on her if she stirred. At last the little stars began to hide, and then the larger ones.

She still did not understand.

With the thought came instant action. The terror came in their hearts, not the terror that numbs, but the terror that makes one silent and swift. They knew there was no mercy for them. At last the two fugitives gained the bank of the river, where the stream ran deep and narrow, “That’ll be him at the door now.”

They heard the pursuers shout to one another, greetings and jubilation. He knew what there was behind him. Nearer and nearer came the doomed man. Now I heard him halt before me. The rider dropped his sombrero and made a rapid movement, singular in that it left him somewhat crouched, arms bent and stiff, with the big black gun-sheaths swung round to the fore. When he halted to look back from the shadow of the thicket, he found only silence.

It was a splendid time, and the stars that look down on us looked down on her, our ancestor-who has been dead now these fifty thousand years. He was the lord of the rocks and caves, he had no rivals.

Peering through the starlight, Joiner spoke. “An ye prattle here all the day, justice will miscarry. Think ye the criminals will abide in their father’s house? They are fleeing, they are not waiting. You should look to it that a party of horse be set upon their track.”

The painful thing observable about all this business was the alacrity with which this oppressed community had turned their cruel hands against their own class in the interest of the common oppressor. The woman paled slightly, but quite perceptibly, and the man looked flustered and irresolute. I took it that she was beginning to wonder when the celebrities were going to surge round, and what had suddenly become of all those wild, careless spirits Rock and feather used to mix with in his letters. I didn’t blame him, these were casual times.

It was a splendid night, beset with shining constellations, the same stars, but not the same constellations we know, she made the faintest sound, from time to time, when he passed out of the black lines of shade into the wan starlight, he glanced at the white face of the girl lying in his arms. She had not awakened from her sleep or stupor. He did not rest until he cleared the black gate of the canyon. Then he leaned against a stone breast-high to him and gently released the girl from his hold.

At that a sort of madness came upon God! What cruel and malign fate had worked to such a frightful end! What devious chain of circumstances had led so far. Then the axe, clubbed close, came down heavily on the corner of the jaw, then she came and sat beside him, looking at him.

“How came you here at all?” I asked, mystified that he had found me without a guide.

He succeeded, the next morning, in convincing everybody that he wanted to be alone for a while, and was sitting in a garden, watching the rainbows in the midst of a big waterfall across the valley.

“It was by your wit in apprising me of your existence and imprisonment through the youth, otherwise I might have continued blind.” So they marched through beech trees, with the gorge deepening until the river flowed, a frothing rapid, five hundred feet below them.

“I never was so startled in my life,” he said at last. “They are the most extraordinary beasts. Attacking me!”

“I don’t like meeting with them,” said Joiner, out of the darkness behind. No threats of torture or death, no bribes, however fabulous, would move him. His only reply to all our importunities was that whenever we died, were it to-morrow or a thousand years hence, no man could truly say, ‘A traitor is gone to his deserts.’

“I wonder if they are good eating?” said the guide.

She was silent for a moment, then she drew my face to hers and kissed me.

When night had come he went off down the river gorge to see if there was any change. As she approached the caves she saw in the half light, and heard a couple of deer. It was their custom to graze right out in the open, going into cover only in the heat of the day.

“Of course, these openings which lead from contiguous pits to those beneath government buildings are always guarded, and so, while I easily came to the entrance to the pits beneath the palace,” which in a dim way he appreciated their grace and their supple nimbleness.

“Is Your Majesty absolute ruler of these domains?” Joiner jested.

He followed her eyes. The girl who had been his dinner companion was approaching; she wore a wide sunshade hat, and a gown that trailed filmy gauze like sunset-colored mist. She heard it all.

“No,” she said disgustedly.

As I struck the first blow I cried aloud, “Look! he’s nearer,” said the guide.

How would one kill one of these creatures?-these great beautiful creatures!

Then he was in the midst of a wild rush of tree-stems, and then there were no more noises. On they rushed, a little tornado through the quiet day, putting up startled birds, sending a dozen unexpected things darting to cover, raising a myriad of indignant speculations.

And then came a wonderful adventure. The human beings were on the opposite side of the river, some still in the water, but they were all running away as hard as they could go. He rose to his feet, still dazed from his fall, “And here I am, just in time to be nearly killed by you,” he ended, laughing.

It was strange how their manner changed after the old woman called. They rendered assistance eagerly and were rewarded by the results. All that came to bring about the darkness of the next turn of events. What I desired to know was how well the plans we had laid nearly a year ago had been carried out.

Far into the twilight the sound of hoof and wheel. The bandits had arrived. The shadow became full of instinctive stirrings. There was a patter of feet, and a faint snarling-the sound of a blow.

With a bound I was before it all, and, thrusting it open, rushed within. Back and forth across the room we surged, until the floor was ankle deep in blood, and dead men lay so thickly there that half the time we stood upon their bodies as we fought.

Courage Joiner stood quite still watching them all.

But nothing came out therefrom all through the gathering of the darkness. There were long gaps of aching waiting. We did not even give the men a chance to draw, so quickly were we upon them. The night suddenly seemed full of movement. She held her breath. She passed through a huge low ceiled chamber, like the inside of a fort, and into a smaller one where a bright wood-fire blazed in an old open fireplace, and from this into her own room. It had the same comfort as was manifested in the home-like outer court; moreover, it was warm and rich in soft hues.

“The fact that we were compelled to maintain utter secrecy has handicapped us terribly.” At the noise they made there came a flapping of wings from the lair of the old woman. They looked at each other and behind them, and partly turned and began going back.

“The wrath and curse of God fall upon you, woman without pity, who have slain mine innocent grandchild and made desolate this old heart that had nor chick, nor friend nor stay nor comfort in all this world but him!”

After that it was he had a dream, and the next day he made new plans. Everyone made noises and called names. And after a long time, as it seemed, “You people want us to abandon a planet we’ve built up from nothing, and all the time and money we’ve invested in it, to go back to what?” Now, there is a thing strange but true.

For a moment her eyes roved wildly about the scene beneath her. I think that it took a moment for the true condition to make any impression upon her-she could not at first realize that the guide had gone.

In pretty much all of these dreadful stories, ecclesiastics were the hardy heroes, but that didn’t worry the chaplain any, he had his laugh with the rest; more than that, upon invitation he roared out a song which was of as daring a sort as any that was sung that night. He underwent various changes according to custom. It was a thing he could not have imagined, that a day would come when answers would arrive and new hopes built again. It seemed quite impossible and quite uninteresting to imagine anything happening after he was dead.

“So it would seem,” I replied, and then to the guard: “You may remove the body.”

And then it was that she went mad. A screaming, gibbering maniac writhed in my grasp. It bit and clawed and scratched in impotent fury. And then it laughed a weird and terrible laughter that froze the blood.

And, strange to tell, no movement followed. The man Joiner appeared.

“I feared you would never come,” he said.

If you’re smart, you’ll stay here with us.

“Heaven knows what we should do without you.”

And meanwhile “Elizebe? Mwres,” as she spelt her name, or “Elizabeth Morris” as a nineteenth-century person would have put it, was sitting in a quiet waiting-place beneath the great stage upon which the flying-machine from Paris descended.

“Haven’t the faintest idea,” said Mwres, “but I admit it’s very good. Take some more.”

“Oh! we’re not so indispensable as all that,” said the guide.

“A dangerous age. Well?” Nothing in reply.

The havoc continued an hour and a half, and unimaginable was the destruction of substantials. The officer of the guard entered the chamber at this juncture.

“Oh, precisely! But still-!”

“With this you may discover the spy among you,” he said.

“Why did the Crown Prince lend himself to a thing like that?”

“You weren’t just sitting on your hands, were you?”

“He hoped that he could exercise some control.” The Royal Family is an almost holy symbol to the people. I at once ordered a secret search within the city, for every questionable feature. It was a lengthy interview.

“God’s wounds, dost thou covet destruction, thou maniac? It is The Boss!”

The guards were less curious, and got out as soon as they got permission.

Now what a happy idea that was!-and so simple; yet it would never have occurred to me. I was born modest; not all over, but in spots; and this was one of the spots. Their silence ended; and she loved the dream, but she feared the leap.

“And you can do that!” said the Joiner.

At last chance was kind to him, and he saw her. Ten minutes later we were speeding through the night toward redemption. It was in a time of festivity. He was hungry;

“You must not persist, young man,” protested the cook, assistant to the lost guide.

He made a strange gesture of appeal towards the remote glass roof of the public way, then turned and went plunging recklessly from one moving platform to another, and vanished amidst the swarms of people going to and fro thereon.

The transports were to get under way immediately and move slowly south. The fleet of battleships would overtake them on the morning of the second day.

“That’s easy enough with you. You wish it. I’ve done much harder things. Quite recently.” I hardly expected to do it.

“Give her me back!” he said at last. “Give her me back!”

The awful creature in my grasp mumbled inarticulately for a moment, then a sudden gleam of cunning shot into those hideous, close-set eyes. The expedition was no longer one of rescue but of revenge.

“We’ll talk about this later. There are some people here….”

“And what have they to throw at it?”

He motioned them forward and turned away, shoo-ing everybody else out of the room.

“What do you mean?” gasped the cook.

There was an interval of thought.

The horror of the suggestion nearly paralysed me. What now the value of burdening my friends with my added personal sorrows-they had shared quite enough of them with me in the past. Hereafter I would keep my grief to myself, and so I said nothing to any other of the fact that we were too late.

“But what-? I don’t see. What do you mean to do?”

“You mean to deal straightly.”

Massive bars blocked our further progress, but beyond I saw her. There at the bottom of a dying world was the only naturally productive area upon its surface.

“I’m not going to risk having my brains scattered in a petty affair like this.”

But in the meantime what horrible things would go on within that chamber!

They met one day at their little seat upon the flying stage, such a plunge would have seemed more terrible than death. Here alone were dews and rains, here alone was an open sea, here was water in plenty; and all this was but the stamping ground of fierce brutes and from its beauteous and fertile expanse the wicked remnants of two once mighty races barred all the other millions

“And yet what else is there?” asked Elizabeth.

For a few minutes we stood thus talking in low tones. Ever smaller and smaller grew the opening. Joiner professed not to know.

Every phase of my plan worked splendidly. She looked at him to see if he was serious in proposing such an adventure. She stood in front of him. “How strange it would be if one really could….”

The smoke cleared away, but we stood gazing upon a blank wall. The last crevice had closed, and for a long year that hideous chamber would retain its secret from the eyes of men.

“Oh, good!” Everybody else had, on a different planet. “Where’s yours?”

“He may be, at present, but he won’t be when I get there. I will be.”

“In a moment it will be too late!”

It was a dead planet, one side in night and the other in dim twilight from the little speck of a sun three and a half billion miles away, jagged mountains rising out of the snow that covered it from pole to pole.

The thing could not last much longer. I ordered the transports to descend again into the gardens of the thorns.

“We have been expecting you and we are prepared.”

“Go,” I urged them. “Let me die here.”

We stood together at the parapet, our arms about each other’s waists, her head against my cheek.

“Well, they’re not hiding at the bottom of any ocean, that’s for sure,” somebody said. It was one of those feeble jokes at which everybody laughs because nothing else is laughable about the situation.

“So it would appear,” I answered, “for you were all ready to become my prisoners with scarce a blow struck on either side.”

“Wreak your vengeance to the utmost,” was my message to the green allies, “for by night there will be none left to avenge your wrongs.”

He missed out on these stunning visuals, the stage was set and the curtain ready to pull. But it was lifeless. The ships came crowding in; air-locked landing-craft full of space-armored ground-fighters went down. Screens in the command room lit as they transmitted in views.

“It would be-oh! it would be so romantic and strange. If only it were possible.”

“Only a bare half-hour before I saw you battling with the plant men I was standing in the moonlight upon the banks of a broad river that taps the eastern shore of Earth’s most blessed land. I have answered you, my friend. Do you believe?”

Never had these children of the latter days been together in such a lonely place.

“You can’t live here,” he said.

“What,” I cried, “she is not dead, then?”

I had performed the miraculous and come within a few short moments of my divine Princess, yet was I as far from her as when I stood upon the banks of the Hudson forty-eight million miles away.

“You mean that she will be killed merely to thwart me?” I asked.

Now it’s back to the family! Again, I thought “Pray have a great night, all. I’m gone for good now.”

“Not that, other than as a last resort,” he replied.

“Why, no?” inquired Courage Joiner.

And then came a change in the weather. “Come out and see the clouds,” she cried; and behold! Never before had they been in the open air save when the sun was shining.

“I am afraid so. Very likely they will prosecute us for trespass.”

Many trips were required, but at last all stood safely together again at the beginning of the end of our quest.

“I was saying,” said the intruder, without attending to the interrogatives,-”I was saying that I am not at all pushed for time-that the business upon which I took the liberty of calling, is of no pressing importance-in short, that I can very well wait until you have finished your Exposition.”

Even now, there is present to our mind’s eye a small and not, ostentatious chamber with whose decorations no fault can be found. The proprietor lies asleep on a sofa-the weather is cool-the time is near midnight: we will make a sketch of the room during his slumber.

“My Exposition!-there now!-how do you know?-how came you to understand that I was writing an Exposition?-good God!”

It stirred, it groaned, it grated, it moved, and with a slow grinding, as of wrathful relief, began to lean. It had waited ages to fall, and now was slow in starting. Then, as if suddenly instinct with life, it leaped hurtlingly down to alight on the steep incline, to bound more swiftly into the air, to gather momentum, to plunge into the lofty leaning crag below. The crag thundered into atoms. A wave of air-a splitting shock! Dust shrouded the sunset red of shaking rims; dust shrouded Courage Joiner as he fell on his knees with uplifted arms. Shafts and monuments and sections of wall fell majestically. From the depths there rose a long-drawn rumbling roar. The outlet to Deception Pass closed forever.

“Hush!” replied the figure, in a shrill undertone; and, arising quickly from the bed, he made a single step toward our hero, while an iron lamp that depended over-head swung convulsively back from his approach.

We are violently enamoured of gas and of glass. “We shall be too late!” sighed the Pharisee, as at the expiration of this period he looked over into the abyss-”we shall be too late! we shall be turned out of office by the Katholim.”

His richly philosophical intellect was not at any time affected by unrealities. To the substances of terror he was sufficiently alive, but of its shadows he had no apprehension. The rider stepped away from her, moving out with the same slow, measured stride in which he had approached, and the fact that his action placed her wholly to one side, and him no nearer to Joiner and his men, had a penetrating significance.

“Young feller, speak up,” he said to Joiner.

“Here stranger, this’s none of your mix,” began Joiner. “Don’t try any interference. You’ve been asked to drink and eat. That’s more than you’d have got in any other village of the Utah border. Water your horse and be on your way.”

“No more,” responded the angry traveler and his wife or companion.

“True? Yes, perfectly true,” she answered.

The clank of iron hoofs upon the stone courtyard drew her hurriedly from her retirement. It is oblong-some thirty feet in length and twenty-five in breadth-a shape affording the best (ordinary) opportunities for the adjustment of furniture. It has but one door-by no means a wide one-which is at one end of the parallelogram, and but two windows, which are at the other. These latter are large, reaching down to the floor-have deep recesses-and open on an Italian veranda.

“Well, young man, it seems to me that bein’ a friend to such a woman would be what you wouldn’t want to help an’ couldn’t help…. What’s to be done to you for it?”

“Ah!” She gave him a grave, thoughtful look. “Then you will break bread with me?”

Gladly he nodded. “They intend to whip me. You know what that means-in Utah!”

Her answer to his question seemed to break a spell. The rider arose as if he had just remembered himself and had tarried longer than his wont.

“I reckon,” replied the rider, slowly.

“Joiner, take the child,” he said, and lifted the Fay child up. Joiner clasped her reaching arms, suddenly strong. “They’re gainin’,” went on Joiner, as he watched the pursuing riders. “But we’ll beat ’em yet.”

“Will you not stay-sleep under my roof?” she asked.

We speak of the keeping of a room as we would of the keeping of a picture-for both the picture and the room are amenable to those undeviating principles which regulate all varieties of art; and very nearly the same laws by which we decide on the higher merits of a painting, suffice for decision on the adjustment of a chamber.

“No, ma’am, an’ thanks again. I never sleep indoors. An’ even if I did there’s that gatherin’ storm in the village below. No, no. I’ll go to the sage. I hope you won’t suffer none for your kindness to me.”

She shrank from black depths hitherto unsuspected. The one thing in man or woman that she scorned above all scorn, and which she could not forgive, was hate. Hate headed a flaming pathway straight to hell. All in a flash, beyond her control there had been in her a birth of fiery hate. And the man who had dragged her peaceful and loving spirit to this degradation was a minister of God’s word, an Elder of her church, the counselor of her beloved Bishop.

The weight of cold, horrible terror lessened. And, gazing forward at the dogs, at Joiner’s limping horse, at the blood on his face, at the rocks growing nearer, last at Fay’s golden hair, the ice left her veins, and slowly, strangely, she gained hold of strength that she believed would see her to the safety Joiner promised. And, as she gazed, Joiner’s horse stumbled and fell. He swung his leg and slipped from the saddle.

If she could mitigate his hatred of Grendels, or at least keep him from killing more of them, not only would she be saving her people, but also be leading back this bloodspiller to some semblance of the human.

“Mornin’, ma’am,” he said, black sombrero in hand. “Deeply honored to have been a part of it!”

“In the old times,” Joiner said, “this sort of thing happened day after day.”

"You guys gave me a difficult choice today: your show or the mountains.”

“Last night!” she said. “I could not live through another such night.”

“Haste!” he cried. “If we delay, we all are lost.”

“Yes,” he answered. “Ever so much. We have been wild. They would drown us like rats in a trap. We must reach the upper levels of the pits in advance of the flood or we shall never reach them. Come.”

“Just one more — from Numina — another off of the Chroma Plateau.”

“Lead the way,” I cried. “We will follow.”

This second search did not last very long. He rose also. “We need not go there yet.” We need to stay connected — now more than ever.

“Not that. But I want you to come to the flying stages-where we met. You know? The little seat.”

I dig deep to include as much as I can. He hesitated. “Can you?” Joiner said, doubtfully.

There was naught to do other than seek a new avenue of escape. The fire and smoke were to be feared a thousand times over the water, and so I seized upon the first gallery which led out of and up from the suffocating smoke that was engulfing us.

He hesitated still for a moment, then moved to obey her will. After they had dined they rested for a time. Neither talked-there was nothing to say; and presently they got up and went back to the galley for another final moment of the fading day. Long our two people sat in silence, and at last there was quiet.

Courage Joiner nodded, “I know, I know-and some day we shall see.”

He could say no more, could follow his thoughts no further.

The man who had addressed him stared, scowled, and turned away.

“Gorblimey!” said his interlocutor, much astonished.

“Eat it,” said the swart man.

“He’s all right,” said a voice. “He’s opening his eyes.”

The rhythm of his machine changed, and his thoughts were interrupted.

“What dream? Why, the dream that I am in Arthur’s court-a person who never existed; and that I am talking to you, who are nothing but a work of the imagination.”

Presently he could think again. Strange how quickly things had happened!

“It is too much-it is more than one can bear!”

“Passing it on. I wonder if they will thank us.”

“No,” she said in a low voice. “No, I shall not.”

His imagination stood aside like a respectful footman who has done his work in ushering in the emotion.

“He’s upstairs now, having some tea.”

“Die out frankly. It’s an eddy.”

Suddenly he started out of a vague reverie and pressed an investigatory hand to her side.

It was hot and stifling work, but at last I reached a point where the fire lit up the corridor sufficiently for me to see that there were no more soldiers. He was silent for a long time before he spoke again. And now the dropping of the steel gate to pen me effectually between fire and flood seemed to indicate that invisible eyes were upon us at every moment. What chance had I, then?

“After all-there is a long time yet. There have scarcely been men for twenty thousand years-and there has been life for twenty millions. And what are generations? What are generations? It is enormous, and we are so little. Yet we know-we feel. We are not dumb atoms, we are part of it-part of it-to the limits of our strength and will. Even to die is part of it. Whether we die or live, we are in the making….”

“As time goes on-perhaps-men will be wiser…. Wiser….” Joiner grew faint.

“Will they ever understand?”

The smoke from the fire was forcing me further and further back down the corridor toward the waters which I could hear surging through the darkness. He became silent again.

“So you say,” said Mr. Beamish, repulsing him.

Our journey thither was uneventful. It was in the forenoon that we arrived above the mile-high scarlet tower which marks greater aspirations and potentialities. We were lodged in a room upon the south side of the temple, overlooking the Avenue of Ancestors down which we could see the full length to the Gate of Courage. In twos we entered the chamber and marched down the broad Aisle of Hope, as it is called, to the platform in the centre of the hall.

“Death!” shouted one of the judges.

Finally I felt the lapping waters about my feet. The smoke was thick behind me. My suffering was intense. There seemed but one thing to do, and that to choose the easier death which confronted me, and so I moved on down the corridor until the cold waters. And then a man sprang to his feet in the audience, and raising his hand on high, cried: “Justice! Justice! Justice!”

At first I had only two hands; but before I had left home I was already employing fifteen, and running night and day; and the atmospheric result was getting so pronounced that the king went sort of fainting and gasping around and said he did not believe he could stand it much longer.

“Ah, master,” cried one, “if our divine Princess were but here this would be a day indeed.”

Tears came to my eyes, so that I was forced to turn away that I might hide my emotions. Suddenly our attention was attracted by the sound of distant shouting, as of many people raising their voices at once, but whether in anger or rejoicing, we could not tell. Could I be mistaken? I felt around. No, I had come to the main corridor, and still there was a breathing space between the surface of the water and the rocky ceiling above. I knew that something had occurred then to cause her the keenest mental agony, and when I discovered her creeping from the palace I did not need to be told her destination.

“For that length of time at least they will be comparatively safe,” he said, “and we will at least know where to look for them.”

Sooner than I had expected I came to what appeared to me to be a sudden exit into the temple above. It was at the right side of the corridor, which ran on, probably, to other entrances to the pile above. The sounds of conflict, the clash of arms, the shouting and the hurrying of many feet came to us from various parts, the idea of a League of Civilized Worlds began to take shape in his mind. The apartment was hewn from the material of the cliff, showing mostly dull gold in the dim light which a single minute radium illuminator in the centre of the roof diffused throughout its great dimensions.

“If you can’t lick them, join them,”

She looked slightly baffled for an instant then said, “If you can’t lick them, lick their boots.”

He asked if the People’s Watchman had dragged their guns out from under the bed and started carrying them in public yet? There were some great times there!

“We could sell them equipment.”

It had been harder, and had taken a year longer, to do business with Beowulf. The Beowulfers had a single planetary government, and they were inclined to shoot first.

“We could if they had anything to use for money. They haven’t. One thing, we do want to let down and give the men a chance to walk on ground and look at a sky for a while.

But in truth no national history has been less prosaic as to its earlier traditions, because every visitor had to cross the sea to reach it, and the sea has always been, by the mystery of its horizon, the fury of its storms, and the variableness of the atmosphere above it, the foreordained land of romance. Nevertheless, it was the vague belief of many nations that the abodes of the blest lay somewhere beyond it-in the “other world,” a region half earthly, half heavenly, whence the spirits of the departed could not cross the water to return;-and so they were constantly imagining excursions made by favored mortals to enchanted islands.

“Tell me about it. Is it a celebrated place?”

“Oh, of a truth, yes. There be none more so.”

By midnight everybody was fatigued out, and sore with laughing; and, as a rule, drunk: some weepingly, some affectionately, some hilariously, some quarrelsomely, some dead and under the table.

“Come, come, be brave, be a man-speak out, there’s a good lad!”

The corruption of taste is a portion or a pendant of the dollar-manufacture. As we grow rich, our ideas grow rusty. It is, therefore, not among our aristocracy that we must look (if at all, in Arcadia), for the spirituality of a British boudoir. Wherever you find a king who can’t cure the king’s-evil you can be sure that the most valuable superstition that supports his throne-the subject’s belief in the divine appointment of his sovereign-has passed away.

He hesitated, pulled one way by desire, the other way by fear; then he stole to the door and peeped out, listening; and finally crept close to me and put his mouth to my ear and told me his fearful news in a whisper, and with all the cowering apprehension of one who was venturing upon awful ground and speaking of things whose very mention might be freighted with death.

“What does he think of it all?”

He gazed meditatively out of the window. The light from the big window fell right on the picture. I took a good look at it. Then I shifted a bit nearer and took another look. Then I went back to where I had been at first, because it hadn’t seemed quite so bad from there.

“He’s absolutely rattled.”

There was something in her eye that seemed to say:

“Out of a city of six million people, why did you pick on me?”

“Ripping! I’ll be toddling up, then. Toodle-oo, Joiner, old man. See you later.”


Submitted: June 28, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robin James. All rights reserved.

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