Its owner had been dead, the back of her head smashed into red pulp flecked with bits of bone, but her cloak looked warm and thick. It was snowing, and Varamyr had
lost his own cloaks at the Wall. His sleeping pelts and woolen smallclothes, his sheepskin boots and fur-lined gloves, his store of mead and hoarded food, the hanks
of hair he took from the women he bedded, even the golden arm rings Mance had given him, all lost and left behind. I burned and I died and then I ran, half-mad with
pain and terror. The memory still shamed him, but he had not been alone. Others had run as well, hundreds of them, thousands. The battle was lost. The knights had
come, invincible in their steel, killing everyone who stayed to fight. It was run or die.
45 “That’s a good lock you have on the building,” the sheriff announced. “Kept them from opening the door right away.”
“Mighty good thing your daughter happened to look out of her window before she turned in to bed,” remarked the neighbor.
“Yes, indeed it is.”
“I call the best part that you had a pop-gun to pepper them with. I heard one cry out, and from my window I saw that the fellow hiding nearest the barn grabbed toward his face.”
“From that window of yours you must have had a pretty good look at them, even if it was dark,” said the sheriff.
“Did, for an instant. The lad that got nipped seemed like a big boy; tall, stout chap I should say, but the way he sprinted after the gun went off, he
Death was not so easily outrun, however. So when Varamyr came upon the dead woman in the wood, he knelt to strip the cloak from her, and never saw the boy
until he burst from hiding to drive the long bone knife into his side and rip the cloak out
of his clutching fingers. “His mother,” Thistle told him later, after the boy had run off. “It were his mother’s cloak, and when he saw you robbing her …”
sure is agile.”
“Did you hear them
at the hangar?”
Varamyr might have been amongst them if only he’d been stronger. The sea was grey and cold and far away, though, and he knew that he would never live to see it. He
was nine times dead and dying, and this would be his true death. A squirrel-skin cloak, he remembered, he knifed me for a squirrel-skin cloak.
“Don’t go out,” Mrs. Langwell urged as her husband began to don his trousers hastily under his robe.
“It’s quite safe,” he assured her. Before he was ready there came a pounding at the door—alarmed voices shouted, “You people all right, Langwell?”
“That’s Mr. Howard. He’s the sheriff of the county and must have been in the neighborhood.”
“I’ll be right down,” Mrs. Langwell called. Presently the officer of the law was standing in the hall, while she explained what had happened.
“Glad nobody’s hurt, least-wise, none of you folks. I’ll go out and have a look44 around.” There was a business-like gun in his hand and his chin was set firmly.
“I’m coming with you,” Mr. Langwell called from the top of the stairs as he hurried to join the sheriff.
“I’m coming too, Dad.”
“Stay with your mother, please,” he answered, so Roberta obeyed.
“There isn’t a thing you can do out there, Honey,” Mrs. Langwell assured her. “And you might get in the way.”
So the girl had to be content to remain inside, while sounds of people running, sharp questions, brief answers, and the noise of automobiles stopping while the occupants
demanded to know what was the difficulty came to them from outside. Half an hour later Mr. Langwell came back with the sheriff and their nearest neighbor, and
although they were greatly excited, they had discovered nothing more than some footprints of the robbers, and the place where a large car had been parked by the
side of the road, obviously waiting to assist
from the scene
of their mischief.
One day, as they fled, a rider came galloping through the woods on a gaunt white horse, shouting that they all should make for the Milkwater, that the Weeper was
gathering warriors to cross the Bridge of Skulls and take the Shadow Tower. Many followed him; more did not. Later, a dour warrior in fur and amber went from
cookfire to cookfire, urging all the survivors to head north and take refuge in the valley of the Thenns. Why he thought they would be safe there when the Thenns
themselves had fled the place Varamyr never learned, but hundreds followed him. Hundreds more went off with the woods witch who’d had a vision of a fleet of ships
coming to carry the free folk south. “We must seek the sea,” cried Mother Mole, and her followers turned east.
Simultaneously with the sound of peppering bullets came a furious string of oaths. A second figure leaped from the corner of the old building and then the gun spoke
again. This time, amid the hail of small bullets came a muffled cry of pain, subdued curses, and a swift scrambling of two pairs of feet taking their owners helter-skelter
from the vicinity. From a distance came the roar of a motor thrown open quickly somewhere down the road, a clutch released as if by frantic hands, then an automobile in motion, but moving slowly.
“Nipped them,” Dad declared with satisfaction.
“Wish you could have done more than that,” Roberta said without any compunction.
43 “At any rate, they are frightened away. Turn on the lights, Mother, please, and we’ll do some investigating.” Mrs. Langwell pressed the switches which immediately
illuminated the whole house, and the sounds of shouts came from the home of the nearest neighbors. This was taken up by other persons, while someone on a motorcycle
seemed to turn
as if giving
Leagues away, in a one-room hut of mud and straw with a thatched roof and a smoke hole and a floor of hard-packed earth, Varamyr shivered and coughed
and licked his lips. His eyes were red, his lips cracked, his throat dry and parched, but the taste of blood and fat filled his
mouth, even as his swollen belly cried for nourishment. A child’s flesh, he thought, remembering Bump. Human meat. Had
he sunk so low as to hunger after human meat? He could almost hear Haggon
growling at him. “Men may eat the flesh of beasts and beasts the flesh of men, but the man who eats the flesh of man is an abomination.”
Abomination. That had always been Haggon’s favorite word. Abomination, abomination, abomination. To eat of
human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the
worst abomination of all. Haggon was weak, afraid of his own power. He died weeping and alone when I ripped his second life from him. Varamyr had
devoured his heart himself. He taught me much and more, and the last thing I learned from him was the taste of human flesh.
For example, there was the Piscine Deligny, the city’s oldestpool, dating back to 1796, an open-air barge moored to
theQuai d’Orsay and the venue for the swimming events of the1900 Olympics. But none of the times were recognized by theInternational Swimming Federation
because the pool was sixmetres too long. The water in the pool came straight from theSeine, unfiltered and unheated. “It
was cold and dirty,” saidMamaji. “The water, having crossed all of Paris, came in foulenough. Then people at the pool made it utterly disgusting.”
Inconspiratorial whispers, with shocking details to back up hisclaim, he assured us that the French had very low standardsof personal hygiene. “Deligny was bad
enough. Bain Royal,another latrine on the Seine, was worse. At least at
Delignythey scooped out the dead fish.” Nevertheless, an Olympic poolis an Olympic pool, touched by immortal glory. Though it
Mamaji spoke of
a fond smile.
“It was a pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.
Molitor had the best competitive swimming club in Paris. Therewere two pools, an indoor and an outdoor. Both were as bigas small oceans. The indoor
pool always had two lanesreserved for swimmers who wanted to do lengths. The waterwas so clean and clear you could have used it to make yourmorning
coffee. Wooden changing cabins, blue and white,surrounded the pool on two floors. You could look down andsee everyone and everything. The porters who marked yourcabin door with chalk to show that it was occupied
werelimping old men, friendly in an ill-tempered way. No amount ofshouting and tomfoolery ever ruffled them. The showers gushedhot, soothing water.
There was a steam room and an exerciseroom. The outside pool became a skating rink in winter. Therewas a bar, a cafeteria, a large sunning deck, even
two smallbeaches with real sand. Every bit of tile, brass and woodgleamed. It was – it was…”It was the only pool that made Mamaji fall silent, hismemory
skating rink in winter. Therewas a bar, a cafeteria, a large sunning deck, even
two smallbeaches with real sand. Every bit of tile, brass and woodgleamed. It was – it was…”It was the only pool that made Mamaji fall silent, hismemory
making too many lengths to mention.
Mamaji remembered, Father dreamed.
“Er, no, you didn’t. That is, well, you have to be told—”
“Is something wrong, Mr. Trowbridge?” she asked quietly.
“Well, er, yes there is—”
“Anything happened to Mother or—”
“Oh, no, what a blundering ass I am; but, you know, it’s this way, the stock market—well, you’ve heard how it broke a lot of people. We have to—er,
reduce expenses, er, you see—there was a meeting, and some of the pilots have to go—I’m
sorry, hate to
lose you, hate
it like fury, and
so does Wallace.”
I went there with him three times a week throughout mychildhood, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday early morning ritualwith the clockwork regularity of a good front-crawl stroke. Ihave vivid memories of this dignified
old man stripping down tonakedness next to me, his body slowly emerging as he neatlydisposed of each item of clothing, decency being salvaged at thevery
end by a slight turning away and a magnificent pair ofimported athletic bathing trunks. He stood straight and he wasready. It had an epic simplicity.
Swimming instruction, which intime became swimming practice, was gruelling, but there wasthe deep pleasure of doing a stroke with increasing
ease andspeed, over and over, till hypnosis practically, the water turningfrom molten lead to liquid light.
It was on my own, a guilty pleasure, that I returned to thesea, beckoned by the mighty waves that crashed down andreached for me in humble tidal
ripples, gentle lassos thatcaught their willing Indian boy.
My gift to Mamaji one birthday, I must have been thirteenor so, was two full lengths of credible butterfly. I finished sospent I could hardly wave to him.
Beyond the activity of swimming, there was the talk of it. Itwas the talk that Father loved. The more vigorously he resistedactually swimming, the more he fancied it. Swim lore was hisvacation talk from the workaday talk of shlf1314
running a zoo. Waterwithout a hippopotamus was so much more manageable thanwater with one.
Having taken the woman every day for over two weeks, Roberta knew pretty well how high and fast she preferred to travel, so they did not waste any time
on discussions, but shot ahead swiftly. Almost as soon as she was seated, Mrs. Pollzoff got the powerful field glasses out of their case, and as soon as they were over the water, trained them on its smooth surface. The day was clear,shlf1314
the sky blue, and the sea calm, so the task of piloting was not arduous, and Roberta let her mind wander on speculations about her companion. That the woman was wealthy was obvious, but for the first time the girl began to shlf1314
wonder about her interest in things in the ocean. It occurred to her that the woman might be looking for sunken vessels, or something of that nature, but she had never let a word drop regarding what she sought. Then it struck
Roberta that she was a bit mysterious. Although it wasn’t necessary for passengers to
He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never gotthem to go beyond wading up to their knees at the beach andmaking ludicrous round motions with their arms, which, if theywere practising the breast-stroke, made them
look as if theywere walking through a jungle, spreading the tall grass aheadof them, or, if it was the front crawl, as if they were runningdown a hill and flailing their arms so as not to fall. Ravi wasjust as unenthusiastic.
Mamaji had to wait until I came into the picture to find awilling disciple. The day I came of swimming age, which, toMother’s distress, Mamaji claimed was seven, he brought medown to the beach, spread his arms seaward and said,shlf1314
“This ismy gift to you.””And then he nearly drowned you,” claimed Mother.
I remained faithful to my aquatic guru. Under his watchfuleye I lay on the shlf1314
beach and fluttered my legs and scratchedaway at the sand with my hands, turning my head at everystroke to breathe. I must have looked like a child
throwing apeculiar, slow-motion tantrum. In the water, as he held me atthe surface, I tried my best to swim. It was much moredifficult than on land. But Mamaji was patient and encouraging.shlf1314
When he felt that I had progressed sufficiently, we turnedour backs on the laughing and the shouting, the running andthe splashing, the blue-green
waves and the bubbly surf, andheaded for the proper rectan-gularity and the formal flatness(and the paying admission) of the ashram swimming pool.shlf1314
“There is to be a test for the racing machines this evening, Miss Langwell,” the instructor called as he brought the car to a stop close to where the two were
standing. Roberta noticed that the Federal man gave her companion a swift, all-inclusive glance, but since that was the way with Mr. Howe, and he always
looked everybody up and down, she did not think anything about it.shlf1314
“Hope I can watch it,” she replied.shlf1314
“All set, Miss Langwell.” Nike came to a stop a few yards away, so, forgetting everything else, Roberta turned her whole attention to the task at hand.shlf1314
Presently all was ready, and in another moment, Nike was leaping into the air, carrying her pilot and passenger up a steep climb until they were well in the
air, then her nose was leveled and she shot east18 and south,shlf1314
as Mrs. Pollzoff
wished to take.
Within a couple of days I could stand, even make two, threesteps, despite nausea, dizziness and general weakness. Bloodtests revealed that I was
anemic, and that my level of sodiumwas very high and my potassium low. My body retained fluidsand my legs swelled up tremendously. I looked as if I hadbeen grafted with a pair of elephant legs. My urine was adeep, dark yellow
going on to brown. After a week or so, Icould walk just about normally and I could wear shoes if Ididn’t lace them up. My skin healed, though I still have scarson my shoulders and back.
The first time I turned a tap on, its noisy, wasteful,superabundant gush was such a shock that I becameincoherent and my legs collapsed beneath me and I fainted inthe arms of a nurse.
The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada Iused my fingers. The waiter looked at me critically and said,”Fresh off the boat, are you?” I
blanched. My fingers, which asecond before had been taste buds savouring the food a littleahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze.
“A small one. Several governments—ours and a couple of others, are trying to trace down illegal seal fishing; catch the lads who don’t follow the rules.
Contact.” They were off, and Roberta inquired no more about the government work because Phil’s account of it sounded quite as tame as piloting Mrs.
Pollzoff. Presently the Moth dropped out of the sky, landed near the office of the Lurtiss Airplane Company and a bit later the girl sky-pilot presented
herself at the private office of Mr. Trowbridge for whom she worked when she first joined the organization as a secretary. Mr. Wallace, one of the special
instructors, was already there, and when Roberta entered, they both rose to their feet to wish her good morning.
“Anything special?” she asked when greetings were exchanged.
“Only Mrs. Pollzoff. She ought to be here any minute,” Mr. Trowbridge replied.
“Howe is coming in
this morning,” Mr.
16 “Phil told me—”
“I say, Berta, thought you were going to do some work for that Mr. Howe of the Federal Service. Did it fall through?”
“Haven’t heard much more about it, Harv,” Roberta answered her brother, as she poured maple syrup over a serving of piping hot pancakes. Her mother
came in at that moment with a replenished bowl of oatmeal, and she paused with an anxious glance at her young daughter.
“Hope you do not hear anything more about it, dear. I feel that your activities in helping clear up the mystery at Lurtiss Field placed you in any number of
very dangerous situations. Being a pilot is hazardous enough10 without adding to the difficulties by running down air-gangsters of any kind,” she said soberly.
My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religionslowly brought
me back to life. I have kept up what somepeople would consider my strange religious practices. After oneyear of high school, I attended the University of
Toronto andtook a double-major Bachelor’s degree. My majors werereligious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religiousstudies concerned
certain aspects of the cosmogony theory ofIsaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed.
My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid glandof the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because itsdemeanour – calm, quiet and
introspective – did something tosoothe my shattered self.
“Perhaps Mr. Howe has discovered that he does not require your services. In work of that nature very often, when men on the job think they have struck a
hard snag, something comes up suddenly which clears the matter so they do not require outside assistance,” remarked Mr. Langwell, then smiled at his
wife. “As a maker of pancakes, my dear, you draw
first prize. The only
drawback to such a
breakfast is a man’s
I was at the Indian Coffee House, on Nehru Street. It’sone big room with green walls and a high ceiling. Fanswhirl above you to keep the warm, humid air
moving. Theplace is furnished to capacity with identical square tables,each with its complement of four chairs. You sit where youcan, with whoever is at
a table. The coffee is good andthey serve French toast. Conversation is easy to come by.
And so, a spry, bright-eyed elderly man with great shocksof pure white hair was talking to me. I confirmed to himthat Canada was cold and that French
was indeed spokenin parts of it and that I liked India and so on and soforth – the usual light talk between friendly, curious Indiansand foreign backpackers.
He took in my line of work witha widening of the eyes and a nodding of the head. It wastime to go. I had my hand up, trying to catch my waiterseye to get the bill.
Then the elderly man said, “I have a story that willmake you believe in God.”I stopped waving my hand. But I was suspicious. Wasthis a Jehovah’s Witness
knocking at my door? “Does yourstory take place two thousand years ago in a remote cornerof the Roman Empire?” I asked.
“No.”Was he some sort of Muslim evangelist? “Does it takeplace in seventh-century Arabia?””No, no. It starts right here in Pondicherry just a fewyears
back, and it ends, I am delighted to tell you, in thevery country you come from.””And it will make me believe in
Jobs’s objections to the cloning program were not just economic, however. He had an inbred aversion to it. One of his core principles was that hardware
and software should be tightly integrated. He loved to control all aspects of his life, and the only way to do that with computers was to
for the user
from end to end.