"Yah, yah, yah!" yelled a pretty young woman, and she showed Constant what she had probably never showed any other man. She showed him that her two upper front teeth were false. She let those two front teeth fall out of place. She shrieked like a witch.
A boy climbed on the hood, blocking the chauffeur's view. He ripped off the windshield wipers, threw them to the crowd. It took the limousine three-quarters of an hour to reach a fringe of the crowd. And on the fringe were not the lunatics but the nearly sane.
Only on the fringe did the shouts become coherent.
"Tell us!" shouted a man, and he was merely fed up- not enraged.
"We've got a right!" shouted a woman. She showed her two fine children to Constant.
Another woman told Constant what it was the crowd felt it had a right to. "We've got a right to know what's going on!" she cried.
The riot, then, was an exercise in science and theology- a seeking after clues by the living as to what life was all about.
The chauffeur, seeing at last a clear road before him, pressed the accelerator to the floor. The limousine zoomed away.
A huge billboard flashed by. let's take a friend to the church of our choice on sunday! it said.
Cheers In The Wirehouse "Sometimes I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token, though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic."
- Winston Niles Rumfoord The limousine zoomed north out of Newport, turned down a gravel road, kept a rendezvous with a helicopter that was waiting in a pasture.
The purpose of Malachi Constant's switch from the limousine to the helicopter was to prevent anyone's following him, to prevent anyone's discovering who the bearded and bespectacled visitor to the Rumfoord estate had been.
No one knew where Constant was.
Neither the chauffeur nor the pilot knew the true ident.i.ty of their pa.s.senger. Constant was Mr. Jonah K. Rowley to both.
"Mist' Rowley, suh-?" said the chauffeur, as Constant stepped out of the limousine.
"Yes?" said Constant.
"Wasn't you scared, suh?" said the chauffeur.
"Scared?" said Constant, sincerely puzzled by the question. "Of what?"
"Of what?" said the chauffeur incredulously. "Why, of all them crazy people who liked to lynch us."
Constant smiled and shook his head. Not once in the midst of the violence had he expected to be hurt. "It hardly helps to panic, do you think?" he said. In his own words he recognized Rumfoord's phrasing- even a little of Rumfoord's aristocratic yodel.
"Man- you must have some kind of guardian angel- lets you keep cool as a cuc.u.mber, no matter what," said the chauffeur admiringly.
This comment interested Constant, for it described well his att.i.tude in the midst of the mob. He took the comment at first as an a.n.a.logy- as a poetic description of his mood. A man who had a guardian angel would certainly have felt just as Constant had- "Yes, suh!" said the chauffeur. "Sumpin' sure must be lookin' out for you! you!"
Then it hit Constant: This was exactly the case This was exactly the case.
Until that moment of truth, Constant had looked upon his Newport adventure as one more drug-induced hallucination- as one more peyotl party- vivid, novel, entertaining, and of no consequence whatsoever.
The little door had been a dreamy touch... the dry fountain another... and the huge painting of the all white touch-me-not little girl with the all white pony... and the chimneylike room under the spiral staircase... and the photograph of the three sirens on t.i.tan... and Rumfoord's prophecies... and the discomfiture of Beatrice Rumfoord at the top of the stairs...
Malachi Constant broke into a cold sweat. His knees threatened to buckle and his eyelids came unhinged. He was finally understanding that every bit of it had been real! He had been calm in the midst of the mob because he knew he wasn't going to die on Earth.
Something was looking out for him, all right.
And whatever it was, it was saving his skin for- Constant quaked as he counted on his fingers the points of interest on the itinerary Rumfoord had promised him.
Then Earth again.
Since the itinerary ended on t.i.tan, presumably that was where Malachi Constant was going to die. He was going to die die there! there!
What had Rumfoord been so cheerful about?
Constant shuffled over to the helicopter, rocked the great, ramshackle bird as he climbed inside.
"You Rowley?" said the pilot.
"That's right," said Constant.
"Unusual first name you got, Mr. Rowley," said the pilot.
"Beg your pardon?" said Constant nauseously. He was looking through the plastic dome of the c.o.c.kpit cover- looking up into the evening sky. He was wondering if there could possibly be eyes up there, eyes that could seeeverything he did. And if there were eyes up there, and they wanted him to do certain things, go certain places- how could they make him?
Oh G.o.d- but it looked thin and cold up there!
"I said you've got an unusual first name," said the pilot.
"What name's that?" said Constant, who had forgotten the foolish first name he had chosen for his disguise.
"Jonah," said the pilot.
Fifty-nine days later, Winston Niles Rumfoord and his loyal dog Kazak materialized again. A lot had happened since their last visit.
For one thing, Malachi Constant had sold out all his holdings in Galactic s.p.a.cecraft, the corporation that had the custody of the great rocket ship called The Whale The Whale. He had done this to destroy every connection between himself and the only known means of getting to Mars. He had put the proceeds of the sale into MoonMist Tobacco.
For another thing, Beatrice Rumfoord had liquidated her diversified portfolio of securities, and had put the proceeds into shares of Galactic s.p.a.cecraft, intending thereby to get a leather-lunged voice in whatever was done with The Whale The Whale.
For another thing, Malachi Constant had taken to writing Beatrice Rumfoord offensive letters, in order to keep her away- in order to make himself absolutely and permanently intolerable to her. To see one of these letters was to see them all. The most recent one went like this, written on stationery of Magnum Opus, Inc., thecorporation whose sole purpose was to manage the financial affairs of Malachi Constant.
h.e.l.lo from sunny California, s.p.a.ce Baby! Gee, I am sure looking forward to jazzing a high-cla.s.s dame like you under the twin moons of Mars. You're the only kind of dame I never had, and I'll bet your kind is the greatest. Love and kisses for a starter. Mal.
For another thing, Beatrice had bought a capsule of cyanide- more deadly, surely, than Cleopatra's asp. It was Beatrice's intention to swallow it if ever she had to share so much as the same time zone with Malachi Constant.
For another thing, the stock market had crashed, wiping out Beatrice Rumfoord, among others. She had bought Galactic s.p.a.cecraft shares at prices ranging from 151 to 169. The stock had fallen to 6 in ten trading sessions, and now lay there, trembling fractional points. Since Beatrice had bought on margin as well as for cash, she had lost everything, including her Newport home. She had nothing left but her clothes, her good name, and her finishing school education.
For another thing, Malachi Constant had thrown a party two days after returning to Hollywood- and only now, fifty-six days later, was it petering out.
For another thing, a genuinely bearded young man named Martin Koradubian had identified himself as the bearded stranger who had been invited into the Rumfoord estate to see a materialization. He was a repairer of solar watches in Boston, and a charming liar.
A magazine had bought his story for three thousand dollars.
Sitting in Skip's Museum under the spiral staircase, Winston Niles Rumfoord read Koradubian's magazine story with delight and admiration. Koradubian claimed in his story that Rumfoord had told him about the year Ten Million A.D.
In the year Ten Million, according to Koradubian, there would be a tremendous house-cleaning. All records relating to the period between the death of Christ and the year One Million A.D. would be hauled to dumps and burned. This would be done, said Koradubian, because museums and archives would be crowding the living right off the earth.
The million-year period to which the burned junk related would be summed up in history books in one sentence, according to Koradubian: Following the death of Jesus Christ, there was a period of readjustment that lasted for approximately one million years Following the death of Jesus Christ, there was a period of readjustment that lasted for approximately one million years.
Winston Niles Rumfoord laughed and laid Koradubian's article aside. Rumfoord loved nothing more than a thumping good fraud. "Ten Million A.D.-" he said out loud, "a great year for fireworks and parades and world's fairs. A merry time for cracking open cornerstones and digging up time capsules."
Rumfoord wasn't talking to himself. There was someone else in Skip's Museum with him.
The other person was his wife Beatrice.
Beatrice was sitting in the facing wing chair. She had come downstairs to ask her husband's help in a time of great need.
Rumfoord blandly changed the subject.
Beatrice, already ghostly in a white peignoir, turned the color of lead.
"What an optimistic animal man is!" said Rumfoord rosily. "Imagine expecting the species to last for ten million more years- as though people were as well-designed as turtles!" He shrugged. "Well- who knows- maybe human beings will last that long, just on the basis of pure cussedness. What's your guess?"
"What?" said Beatrice.
"Guess how long the human race will be around," said Rumfoord.
From between Beatrice's clenched teeth came a frail, keen, sustained note so high as to be almost above the range of the human ear. The sound bore the same ghastly promise as the whistle of fins on a falling bomb.
Then the explosion came. Beatrice capsized her chair, attacked the skeleton, threw it crashing into a corner. She cleaned off the shelves of Skip's Museum, bouncing specimens off the walls, trampling them on the floor.
Rumfoord was flabbergasted. "Good G.o.d-" he said, "what made you do that?"
"Don't you know everything?" said Beatrice hysterically. "Does anybody have to tell you anything? Just read my mind!"
Rumfoord put his palms to his temples, his eyes wide. "Static- all I get is static," he said.
"What else would would there be but static!" said Beatrice. "I'm going to be thrown right out in the street, without even the price of a meal- and my husband laughs and wants me to play guessing games!" there be but static!" said Beatrice. "I'm going to be thrown right out in the street, without even the price of a meal- and my husband laughs and wants me to play guessing games!"
"It wasn't any ordinary ordinary guessing game," said Rumfoord. "It was about how long the human race was going to last. I thought that might sort of give you more perspective about your own problems." guessing game," said Rumfoord. "It was about how long the human race was going to last. I thought that might sort of give you more perspective about your own problems."
"The h.e.l.l with the human race!" said Beatrice.
"You're a member of it, you know," said Rumfoord.
"Then I'd like to put in for a transfer to the chimpanzees!" said Beatrice. "No chimpanzee husband would stand by while his wife lost all her coconuts. No chimpanzee husband would try to make his wife into a s.p.a.ce wh.o.r.e for Malachi Constant of Hollywood, California!"
Having said this ghastly thing, Beatrice subsided some. She wagged her head tiredly. "How long is is the human race going to be around, Master?" the human race going to be around, Master?"
"I don't know," said Rumfoord.
"I thought you knew everything," said Beatrice. "Just take a look at the future."
"I look at the future," said Rumfoord, "and I find that I shall not be in the Solar System when the human race dies out. So the end is as much a mystery to me as to you."
In Hollywood, California, the chimes of the blue telephone in the rhinestone phone booth by Malachi Constant's swimming pool were ringing.
It is always pitiful when any human being falls into a condition hardly more respectable than that of an animal. How much more pitiful it is when the person who falls has had all the advantages!
Malachi Constant lay in the wide gutter of his kidney-shaped swimming pool, sleeping the sleep of a drunkard.There was a quarter of an inch of warm water in the gutter. Constant was fully dressed in blue-green evening shorts and a dinner jacket of gold brocade. His clothes were soaked.
He was all alone.
The pool had once been covered uniformly by an undulating blanket of gardenias. But a persistent morning breeze had moved the blooms to one end of the pool, as though folding a blanket to the foot of a bed. In folding back the blanket, the breeze revealed a pool bottom paved with broken gla.s.s, cherries, twists of lemon peel, peyotl b.u.t.tons, slices of orange, stuffed olives, sour onions, a television set, a hypodermic syringe, and the ruins of a white grand piano. Cigar b.u.t.ts and cigarette b.u.t.ts, some of them marijuana, littered the surface.
The swimming pool looked less like a facility for sport than like a punchbowl in h.e.l.l.
One of Constant's arms dangled in the pool itself. From the wrist underwater came the glint of his solar watch. The watch had stopped.
The telephone's chimes persisted.
Constant mumbled but did not move.
The chimes stopped. Then, after twenty seconds, the chimes began again.
Constant groaned, sat up, groaned.
From the inside of the house came a brisk, efficient sound, high heels on a tile floor. A ravishing, bra.s.sy blond woman crossed from the house to the phone booth, giving Constant a look of haughty contempt.
She was chewing gum.
"Yah?" she said into the telephone. "Oh- it's you again. Yah- he's awake. Hey!" she yelled at Constant. She had a voice like a grackle. "Hey, s.p.a.ce cadet!" she yelled.
"Hm?" said Constant.
"The guy who's president of that company you own wants to talk to you."
"Which company?" said Constant.
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