/usr/local/apache/htdocs/lib/public_html/book/INOFANT/CARD/alvin4_engl.txt Библиотека на Meta.Ua Alvin Journeyman
<META>
Интернет
Реестр
Новости
Рефераты
Товары
Библиотека
Библиотека
Попробуй новую версию Библиотеки!
http://testlib.meta.ua/
Онлайн переводчик
поменять

Орсон Скотт Кард. Alvin journeyman



Origin: http://lavka.cityonline.ru/ocard2.htm Ў http://lavka.cityonline.ru/ocard2.htm

ALVIN JOURNEYMAN
The Tales of Alvin Maker, Part 4
by Orson Scott Card

(c) 1995 by Orson Scott Card

v1.1 (Jan-24-1999)
If you find and correct errors in the text, please update the version
number by 0.1 and redistribute.




Contents

1: I Thought I Was Done

2: Hypocrites

3: Watchers

4: Quest

5: Twist

6: True Love

7: Booking Passage

8: Leavetaking

9: Cooper

10: Welcome Home

11: Jail

12: Lawyers

13: Maneuvers

14: Witnesses

15: Love

16: Truth

17: Decisions

18: Journeys

19: Philadelphia




Chapter 1 -- I thought I Was Done

I thought I was done writing about Alvin Smith. People kept telling me
I wasn't, but I knew why. It's because they'd all heard Taleswapper and the
way he tells stories. When he's done, it's all tied up neat in a package and
you pretty much know what things meant and why they happened. Not that he
spells it all out, mind you. But you just have this feeling that it all
makes sense.

Well I ain't Taleswapper, which some of you might already have guessed,
seeing how we don't look much alike, and I don't plan on becoming
Taleswapper anytime soon, or anything much like him, not cause I don't
reckon him to be a fine fellow, worthy of folks emulating him, but mainly
because I don't see things the way he sees them. Things don't all make sense
to me. They just happen, and sometimes you can extract a bit of sense from
some calamity and sometimes the happiest day is just pure nonsense. There's
no predicting it and there's sure no making it happen. Worst messes I ever
saw folks get into was when they was trying to make things go in a sensible
way.

So I set down what I knew of the earliest beginnings of Alvin's life
right up till he made him the golden plow as his journeyman project, and I
told how he went back to Vigor and set to teaching folks how to be Makers
and how things already wasn't right with his brother Calvin and I thought I
was done, because anybody who cares was there from then onto see for
themselves or you know somebody who was. I told you the truth of how Alvin
came to kill a man, so as to put to rest all the vicious rumors told about
it. I told you how he came to break the runaway slave laws and I told you
how Peggy Larner's mama came to die and believe me, that was pretty much the
end of the story as far as I could see it.

But the ending didn't make sense of it, I reckon, and folks have been
pestering me more and more about the early days and didn't I know more I
could tell? Well sure I know. And I got nothing against telling it. But I
hope you don't think that when I'm done telling all I know it'll finally be
clear to everybody what everything that's happened was all about, because I
don't know myself. Truth is, the story ain't over yet, and I hope it never
will be, so the most I can hope to do is set down the way it looks to this
one fellow at this exact moment, and I can't even promise you that tomorrow
I won't come to understand it much better than anything I'm writing now.

My knack ain't storytelling. Truth is, Taleswapper's knack ain't
storytelling either, and he'd be the first to tell you that. He collects
stories, all right, and the ones he gathers are important so you listen
because the tale itself matters. But you know he don't do nothing much with
his voice, and he don't roll his eyes and use them big gestures like the
real orators use. His voice ain't strong enough to fill a good-size cabin,
let alone a tent. No, the telling ain't his knack. He's a painter if
anything, or maybe a woodcarver or a printer or whatever he can use to tell
or show the story but he's no genius at any of them.

Fact is if you ask Taleswapper what his knack is, he'll tell you he
don't have none. He ain't lying-- nobody can ever lay that charge at
Taleswapper's door. No, he just set his heart on one knack when he was a
boy, and all his life that seemed to him the only knack worth having and
since he never got it (he thinks) why then he must not have no knack at all.
And don't pretend you don't know what knack-- it was he wanted, because he
practically slaps you in the face with it whenever he talks for long. He
wanted the knack of prophecy. That's why he's always been so powerful
jealous of Peggy Larner, because she's a torch and from childhood on she saw
all the possible futures of people's lives, and while that's not the same
thing as knowing the future-- the way things will actually happen instead of
how they might happen-- it's pretty close. Close enough that I think
Taleswapper would have been happy for five minutes of being a torch.
Probably would have grinned himself to death within a week if such a thing
happened.

When Taleswapper says he's got no knack, though, I'll tell you, he's
wrong. Like a lot of folks, he has a knack and doesn't even know it because
that's the way knacks work-- it just feels as natural as can be to the
person who's got it, as easy as breathing, so you don't think that could
possibly be your unusual power because heck, that's easy. You don't know
it's a knack till other people around you get all astonished about it or
upset or excited or whatever feelings your knack seems to provoke in folks.


Then you go, "Boy howdy, other folks can't do this! I got me a knack!" and
from then on there's no putting up with you till you finally settle down and
get back to normal life and stop bragging about how you can do this fool
thing that you used to never be excited about back when you still had sense.

Some folks never know they got them a knack, though, because nobody
else ever notices it either, and Taleswapper's that way. I didn't notice it
till I started trying to collect all my memories and everything anybody ever
told me about Alvin Maker's life. Pictures of him working that hammer in the
forge every chance he got in case we ever forgot that he had an honest
trade, hard come by with his own sweat, and didn't just dance through life
like a quadrille with Dame Fortune as his loving partner-- as if we ever
thought Dame Fortune did anything more than flirt with him, and likely as
not if he ever got close to her he'd find out she had the pox anyway;
Fortune has a way of being on the side of the Unmaker, when folks start
relying on her to save them. But I'm getting off the subject, which I had to
read back to the beginning of this paragraph to see what in hell I was
talking about (and I can hear you pricklehearted prudes saying, What's he
doing putting down curses on paper, hasn't he no sense of decent language?
to which I say, When I curse, it don't harm nobody and it makes my language
more colorful and heaven knows I can use the color, and I can assure you
I've studied cussing from the best and I know how to make my language a
whole lot more colorful than it is right now, but I already tone myself down
so you don't have apoplexy reading my words. I wouldn't want to spend half
my life just going to the funerals of people who had a stroke from reading
my book, so instead of criticizing me for the nasty words that creep into my
writing why don't you praise me for the really ugly stuff that I virtuously
chose to leave out? It's all how you choose to look at it, I think, and if
you have time to rail on about my language, then you don't have enough to do
and I'll be glad to put you in touch with folks who need more hands to help
with productive labor), so anyway I looked back to the beginning of this
paragraph again to see what the hell I was talking about and my point is
that when I gathered all these stories together, I noticed that Taleswapper
seems to keep showing up in the oddest places at exactly the moment when
something important was about to happen, so that he ended up being a witness
or even a participant in a remarkable number of events.

Now, let me ask you plain, my friends. If a man seems to know, down in
his bones, when something important's about to happen, and where, and enough
in advance that he can get his body over there to be a witness of it before
it even starts, now ain't that prophecy? I mean why was it William Blake
ever left England and came to America if it wasn't because he knew that the
world was about to be torn open to give birth to a Maker again after all
these generations? Just cause he didn't know it out in the open didn't mean
that he wasn't a prophet. He thought he had to be a prophet with his mouth,
but I say he's a prophet in his bones. Which is why he just happened to be
wandering back to the town of Vigor Church, to Alvin's father's mill, for no
reason he was aware of, at exactly the day and hour that Alvin's little
brother Calvin Miller decided to run off and go study trouble in faraway
places. Taleswapper had no idea what was going to happen, but folks, I tell
you, he was there, and anybody who tells you Taleswapper's got no knack,
including Taleswapper himself, is a blame fool. Of course I mean that in the
nicest possible way, as Horace Guester would tell you.

So as I pick up my tale again that's the day I choose to start with,
mostly because I can tell you from experience that nothing interesting
happened during those long months when Alvin was still trying to teach a
bunch of plain folks how to be a Maker like him instead of... well, all in
time. Let's just say that while some of you are bound to criticize me for
not telling all of Alvin's lessons about Makering and every single boring
moment of every class he held trying to teach fish to hop, I can promise you
that leaving out those days from my tale is an act of charity.

There's a lot of people and a lot of confusion in the story, too, and I
can't help that, because if I made it all clear and simple that would be a
lie. It was a mess and there was a lot of different people involved and
also, to tell you the truth, there's a lot of things that happened that I
didn't know about then and still don't know much about now. I'd like to say
that I'm telling you all the important parts of the story, telling about all
the important people, but I know perfectly well that there might be
important parts that I just don't know about, and important people that I
didn't realize were important. There's stuff that nobody knows, and stuff
that them as knows ain't telling, or them as knows don't know they know. And
even as I try to explain things as I understand them I'm still going to
leave things out without meaning to, or tell you things twice that you
already know, or contradict something that you know to be a fact, and all I
can say is, I ain't no Taleswapper, and if you want to know the deepest
truth, get him to unseal that back two-thirds of his little book and read
you what he's got in there and I bet, for all he claims to be no prophet, I
bet you'll hear things as will curl your hair, or uncurl it, depending.

There's one mystery, though, that I plain don't know the answer to,
even though everything depends on it. Maybe if I tell you enough you'll
figure it out for yourself. But what I don't understand is why Calvin went
the way, he did. He was a sweet boy, they all say it. He and Alvin were
close as boys can be, I mean they fought but there was never malice in it
and Cally grew up knowing Al would die for him. So what was it made jealousy
start to gnaw at Calvin's heart and turn him away from his own brother and
want to undo all his work? I heard a lot of the tale I'm about to tell you
from Cally's own mouth, but you can be sure he never sat down and explained
to me or anybody why he changed. Oh, he told plenty of folks why he hated
Alvin, but there's no ring of truth in what he says about that, since he
always accuses his brother of doing whatever his audience hates the most. To
Puritans he says he came to hate Alvin because he saw him trucking with the
devil. To Kingsmen he says he hated Alvin because he saw how his brother
went so far as to murder a man just to keep him from recovering his own
property, a runaway slave baby named Arthur Stuart (and don't that set them
Royalists' teeth on edge, to think of a half-Black boy having the same name
as the King!). Calvin always has a tale that justifies himself in the eyes
of strangers, but never a word of explanation does he ever have to those of
us who know the truth about Alvin Maker.

I just know this: When I first set eyes on Calvin, in Vigor Church
during that year when Alvin tried to teach Makering, that year before he
left, I'll tell you, folks, Calvin was already gone. In his heart every word
that Alvin said was like poison. If Alvin paid no attention to him, Calvin
felt neglected and said so. Then if Alvin did pay attention to him, Calvin
got surly and sullen and claimed Alvin wouldn't leave him alone. There was
no pleasing him.

But to say he was "contrary" don't explain a thing. It's just a name
for the way he was acting, not an answer to the question of why he acted
that way. I have my own guesses, but they're just guesses and no more, not
even what they call "educated guesses" because there's no such thing as
education so good it makes one man's guess any better than another's. Either
you know or you don't, and I don't know.

I don't know why people who got what they need to be happy don't just
go ahead and be happy. I don't know why lonely people keep shoving away
everybody as tries to befriend them. I don't know why people blame weak and
harmless folks for their troubles while they leave their real enemy alone to
get away with all his harm. And I sure don't know why I bother to go to the
trouble to write all this down when I know you still won't be satisfied.

Let me tell you one little thing about Calvin. I saw him one day taking
class with Alvin, and for once he was paying attention, real close
attention, heeding every word that came from his brother's lips. And I
thought: He's finally come around. He finally realized that if he really
wants to be a seventh son of a seventh son, if he really wants to be a
Maker, he has to learn from Alvin how it's done.

And then the class ended, and I sat there watching Calvin as everybody
else went on out to get back to their chores, until only me and Calvin was
left in the room, and Calvin actually talks to me-- mostly he ignored me
like I wasn't there-- he talks to me and in a few seconds I realize what
he's doing. He's imitating Alvin. Not Alvin's regular voice, but Alvin's
schoolteachery voice. You all remember when he got that way-- I remember he
learned that flowery fancy talk when he was studying with Miss Larner,
before she came out of disguise and he realized she was the same Peggy
Guester who kept his birth caul and protected him through his growing-up
years. The big five-dollar words she learned in Dekane or from them books
she read. Alvin wanted to sound refined like her, or sometimes he wanted to,
anyway, and so he'd learn them words and use them and talk so fine you'd
have thought he learned English from an expert instead of just growing up
with it like the rest of us. But he couldn't keep it up. He'd hear himself
talking so high-toned and he'd just suddenly laugh or make some joke and
then he'd go back to talking like folks. And there was Calvin talking that
same high-toned way, only he didn't laugh. He just did all his imitating and
when he was done, he looked at me and said, "Was that right?"

As if I'd know!

And I says back to him, "Calvin, sounding like an educated man don't
make you educated," and he says back to me, "I'd rather be ignorant and
sound educated than be educated and sound ignorant," and I said, "Why?" and
he says to me, "Because if you sound educated then nobody ever tests you to
find out, but if you sound ignorant they never stop."

Here's my point. Well, maybe it's not the point I started out to make,
but I long since lost track of that. So here's the point I want to make now:
I know more about what happened during Alvin's year of wandering than
anybody else on God's green Earth. But I also am aware of how many questions
I still can't answer. So I reckon I'm the one as knows but seems ignorant.
Which kind are you?

If you already figure you know this story, for heaven's sake stop
reading now and save yourself some trouble. And if you're going to criticize
me for not finishing the whole thing and tying it up in a bow for you, why,
do us both a favor and write your own damn book, only have the decency to
call it a romance instead of a history, because history's got no bows on it,
only frayed ends of ribbons and knots that can't be untied. It ain't a
pretty package but then it's not your birthday that I know of, so I'm under
no obligation to give you a gift.



Chapter 2 -- Hypocrites

Calvin was about fed up. Just this close to walking up to Alvin and...
and something. Punching him in the nose, maybe, only he'd tried that afore
and Alvin just caught him by the wrist and gripped him with those damn
blacksmith muscles and he says, "Calvin, you know I could always throw you,
do we have to do this now?" Alvin could always do everything better, or if
he couldn't then it must not be worth doing. Folks gathered around and
listened to Alvin's babbling like it all made sense. Folks watched every
move he made like he was a dancing bear. Only time they noticed Calvin was
to ask him if he would kindly step aside so they could see Alvin a little
better.

Step aside? Yep, I reckon I can step aside. I can step right out the
door and out into the hot sun and right out onto the path going up the hill
to the tree line. And what's to stop me from keeping right on? What's to
stop me from walking on to the edge of the world and then jumping right off?

But Calvin didn't keep walking. He leaned against a big old maple and
then hunkered down in the grass and looked out over Father's land. The
house. The barn. The chicken coops. The pigpen. The millhouse.

Did the wheel ever turn in Father's mill anymore? The water passed
useless through the chase, the wheel leaned forward but never moved, and so
the stones inside were still, too. Might as well have left the huge
millstone in the mountain, as to bring it down here to stand useless while
big brother Alvin filled these poor people's minds with hopeless hopes.
Alvin was grinding them up as surely as if he put their heads between the
stones. Grinding them up, turning them to flour which Alvin himself would
bake into bread and eat up for supper. He may have prenticed as a blacksmith
all those years in Hatrack River, but here in Vigor Church he was a baker of
brains.

Thinking of Alvin eating everybody's ground-up heads made Calvin feel
nasty in a delicious kind of way. It made him laugh. He stretched his long
thin legs out into the meadow grass and lay back against the trunk of the
maple. A bug was scampering along the skin of his leg, up under his
trousers, but he didn't bother to reach down and pull it out, or even to
shake his leg to get it off. Instead, he got his doodlebug going, like a
spare pair of eyes, like an extra set of fingers, looking for the tiny rapid
flutter of the bug's useless stupid life and when he found it he gave it a
little pinch, or really more like a squint, a tiny twitch of the muscles
around his eyes, but that was all it took, just that little pinch and then
the bug wasn't moving no more. Some days, little bug, it just don't pay to
get up in the morning.

"That must be some funny story," said a voice.

Calvin fairly jumped out of his skin. How did somebody come on him
unawares? Still, he didn't let himself show he'd been surprised. His heart
might be beating fast inside his chest, but he still waited a minute before
even turning around to look, and then he made sure to look about as
uninterested as a fellow can look without being dead.

A bald fellow, old and in buckskins. Calvin knew him, of course. A far
traveler and sometime visitor named Taleswapper. Another one who thought the
world began with God and ended with Alvin. Calvin looked him up and down.
The buckskins were about as old as the man. "Did you get them clothes off a
ninety-year-old deer, or did your daddy and grandpa wear them all their
lives to get them so worn out like that?"

"I've worn these clothes so long," said the old man, "that I sometimes
send them on errands when I'm too busy to go, and nobody can tell the
difference."

"I think I know you," said Calvin. "You're that old Taleswapper
fellow."

"So I am," said the old man. "And you're Calvin, old Miller's youngest
boy."

Calvin waited.

And here it came: "Alvin's little brother."

Calvin folded himself sitting down and then unfolded himself standing.
He liked how tall he was. He liked looking down at the old man's bald head.
"You know, old man, if we had another just like you, we could put your
smooth pink heads together and you'd look like a baby's butt."

"Don't like being called Alvin's little brother, eb?" asked
Taleswappeir.

"You know where to go for your free meal," said Calvin. He started to
walk away into the meadow. Having no destination in mind, of course, his
walking pretty soon petered out, and he paused a moment, looking around,
wishing there was something he wanted to do.

The old man was right behind him. Damn but the old boy was quiet!
Calvin had to remember to keep a watch out for people. Alvin did it without
thinking, dammit, and Calvin could do it too if he could just remember to
remember.

"Heard you chuckling," said Taleswapper. "When I first walked up behind
you."

"Well, then, I guess you ain't deaf yet."

"Saw you watching the millhouse and heard you chuckling and I thought,
What does this boy see so funny in a mill whose wheel don't turn?"

Calvin turned to face him. "You were born in England, weren't you?"

"I was."

"And you lived in Philadelphia awhile, right? Met old Ben Franklin
there, right?"

"What a memory you have."

"Then how come you talk like a frontiersman? You know and I know that
it's supposed to be 'a mill whose wheel doesn't turn,' but here you are
talking bad grammar as if you never went to school but I know you did. And
how come you don't talk like other Englishmen?"

"Keen ear, keen eye," said Taleswapper. "A sharp one for details. Dull
on the big picture, but sharp on details. I notice you talk worse than you
know how, too."

Calvin ignored the insult. He wasn't going to let this old coot
distract him with tricks. "I said how come you talk like a frontiersman?"

"Spend a lot of time on the frontier."

"I spend a lot of time in the chicken coop but that don't make me
cluck."

Taleswapper grinned. "What do you think, boy?"

"I think you try to sound like the people you're telling your lies to,
so they'll trust you, they'll think you're one of them. But you're not one
of us, you're not one of anybody. You're a spy, stealing the hopes and
dreams and wishes and memories and imaginings of everybody and leaving them
nothing but lies in exchange."

Taleswapper seemed amused. "If I'm such a criminal, why ain't I rich?"

"Not a criminal," said Calvin.

"I'm relieved to be acquitted."

"Just a hypocrite."

Taleswapper's eyes narrowed.

"A hypocrite," Calvin said again. "Pretending to be what you're not. So
other people will trust you, but they're trusting in a bunch of pretenses."

"That's an interesting idea, there, Calvin," said Taleswapper. "Where
do you draw the line between a humble man who knows his own weaknesses but
tries to act out virtues he hasn't quite mastered yet, and a proud man who
pretends to have those virtues without the slightest intention of acquiring
them?"

"Listen to the frontiersman now," said Calvin scornfully. "I knew you
could shed that folksy talk the minute you wanted to."

"Yes, I can do that," said Taleswapper. "Just as I can speak French to
a Frenchman and Spanish to a Spaniard and four kinds of Red talk depending
on which tribe I'm with. But you, Calvin, do you speak Scorn and Mockery to
everyone? Or just to your betters?"

It took Calvin a moment to realize that he had been put down, hard and
low. "I could kill you without using my hands," he said.

"Harder than you think," said Taleswapper. "Killing a man, that is. Why
not ask your brother Alvin about it? He's done it the once, for just cause,
whereas you think of killing a man because he tweaks your nose. And then you
wonder why I call myself your better."

"You just want to put me down because I named you for what you are.
Hypocrite. Like all the others."

"All the others?"

Calvin nodded grimly.

"Everyone is a hypocrite except Calvin Miller?"

"Calvin Maker," said Calvin. Even as he said it, he knew it was a
mistake; he had never told anyone the name by which he thought of himself,
and now he had blurted it out, a boast, a brag, a demand, to this most
unsympathetic of listeners. This man who was most likely, of all men, to
repeat Calvin's secret dream to others.

"Well, now it seems to be unanimous," said Taleswapper. "We're all
pretending to be something that we're not."

"I am a Maker!" Calvin insisted, raising his voice, even though he knew
he was making himself seem even weaker and more vulnerable. He just couldn't
stop himself from talking to this slimy old man. "I've got all the knack for
it that Alvin ever had, if anyone would bother to notice!"

"Made any millstones lately, without tools?" asked Taleswapper.

"I can make stones in a fence fit together like as if they growed that
way out of the ground!"

"Healed any wounds?"

"I killed a bug crawling on my leg just a moment ago without so much as
laying a hand on it."

"Interesting. I ask of healing and you answer with killing. Doesn't
sound like a Maker to me."

"You said yourself that Alvin killed a man!"

"With his hands, not with his knack. A man who had just murdered an
innocent woman who died to protect her son from captivity. The bug-- was it
going to harm you or anyone?"

"Yes, there you are, Alvin is always righteous and wonderful, while
Calvin can't do nothing right! But Alvin hisself told me the story of how he
caused a bunch of roaches to get theirselfs kilt when he was a boy and--"

"And you learned nothing from his story, except that you have the power
to torment insects."

"He gets to do what he wants and then talks about how he's learned
better now, but if I do the same things then I'm not worthy! I can't be
taught any of his secrets because I'm not ready for them only I am ready for
them, I'm just not ready to let Alvin decide how I'll use the knack I was
born with. Who tells him what to do?"

"The inner light of virtue," said Taleswapper, "for lack of a clearer
name."

"Well what about my inner light?"

"I imagine that your parents ask themselves this very question, and
often."

"Why can't I be allowed to figure things out on my own like Alvin did?"

"But of course you are being allowed to do exactly that," said
Taleswapper.

"No I'm not! He sits there trying to explain to those boneheaded
no-knack followers of his how to get inside other things and learn what they
are and how they're shaped inside and then ask them to take on new forms, as
if that's a thing that folks can learn--"

"But they do learn it, don't they?"

"If you call an inch a year moving, then I guess you can call that
learning," said Calvin. "But me, the one who actually understands everything
he says, the one who could actually put it all to use, he won't even let me
in the room. If I stay there he just tells stories and makes jokes and won't
teach a thing until I leave, and why? I'm his best pupil, ain't I? I learn
it all, I soak it in fast and I can use it on the instant, but he won't
teach me! He calls them others 'apprentice Makers' but me he won't even take
on for a single lesson, all because I don't bow down and worship whenever he
starts talking about how a Maker can never use his power to destroy, but
only to build, or he loses it, which is nonsense, since a man's knack is his
knack and--"

"It seems to me," said Taleswapper, his voice sharp enough to cut
through Calvin's raging, "that you are a singularly unteachable young man.
You ask Alvin to teach you, and he tries to do it, but then you refuse to
listen because you know what's nonsense and what matters, you know that a
man doesn't have to make in order to be a Maker, you already know so much
I'm surprised you still wait around here, wishing for Alvin to teach you
things that you plainly have no desire to know."

"I want him to teach me how to get into the small of things!" cried
Calvin. "I want him to teach me how to change people the way he changed
Arthur Stuart so the Finders couldn't Find him anymore! I want him to teach
me how to get inside bones and blood vessels, how to turn iron to gold! I
want me a golden plow like his and he won't teach me how!"

"And it has never occurred to you," said Taleswapper, "that when he
speaks of using the power of Making only to build things up, never to tear
them down, he mighf be teaching you precisely the thing you are asking? Oh,
Calvin, I'm so sorry to see that your mama did have one stupid child after
all."

Calvin felt the rage explode inside himself, and before he knew what he
was doing he knocked the old man down and straddled his hips, pounding on
his frail old ribs and belly. It took many blows before he realized that the
old man wasn't fighting back. Have I killed him? Calvin wondered. What will
I do if he's dead? They'll have me for murder, then. They won't understand
how he provoked me, begging for a beating. It's not like I planned to kill
him.

Calvin put his fingers to Taleswapper's throat, feeling for a pulse. It
was there, feeble, but it probably was always feeble, given how old the
fellow was.

"Didn't quite kill me, eh?" whispered Taleswapper.

"Didn't feel like it," said Calvin.

"How many men will you have to beat up before everyone agrees that
you're a Maker?"

Calvin wanted to hit him again. Didn't this old man learn anything?

"You know, if you hurt people enough, eventually they'll all call you
whatever you want. Maker. King. Captain. Boss. Master. Holy One. Pick your
title, you can beat people into calling you that. But you don't change
yourself a bit. All you do is change the meanings of those words, so they
all mean the same thing: Bully."

Calvin, hot with shame, got up and stood over him. He restrained
himself from kicking the old man until his head was jelly. "You've got a
knack for words," he said.

"True words in particular," said Taleswapper.

"Lies, from all I can see," said Calvin.

"A liar sees lies," said Taleswapper. "Even when they aren't there.
Just as a hypocrite sees hypocrites whenever he runs across good people.
Can't stand to think that anyone might really be what you only pretend to
be."

"You did say one true thing," said Calvin. "About its making no sense
me waiting around here for Alvin to teach me what he plainly means to keep
secret. I should've realized that Alvin wasn't never going to teach me
anything, because he's afraid if people see me doing all the things he can
do, he won't be king of the hill anymore. I have to find it out on my own,
just like he did."

"You have to find it out by learning the same things he did," said
Taleswapper. "Alone or as his pupil, though, I don't think you're capable of
learning those things."

"You're wrong," said Calvin. "I'll prove it to you."

"By learning to master your own will and use your power only to build
things, only to help others?"

"By going out into the world and learning everything and coming back
and showing Alvin who's got the real Maker's knack and who's just
pretending."

Taleswapper propped himself up on one elbow. "But Calvin, your actions
here today have made the answer to that question as plain as day."

Calvin wanted to kick him in his face. Silence that mouth. Break that
shiny pate and watch the brains spill out into the meadow grass.

Instead he turned away and took a few steps toward the woods. He had a
destination this time. East Civilization. The cities, the lands where people
lived together cheek by jowl. Among them there would be those who could
teach him. Or, failing that, those he could experiment with until he learned
all that Alvin knew, and more. Calvin was wrong to have stayed here so long.
Foolish to have kept hoping that he'd ever get any love or help from Alvin.
I worshipped him, that was my mistake, thought Calvin. It took this
boneheaded old fool to show me the kind of contempt that people have for me.
Always comparing me to Alvin, perfect Alvin, Alvin the Maker, Alvin the
virtuous son.

Alvin the hypocrite. He does with his power just what I want to do--
only he's so subtle about it that people don't even realize he's controlling
them. Tell us what to do, Alvin! Teach us how to Make, Alvin! Does Alvin
ever say, It's not your knack, you poor fool, I can't teach you how to do
this any more than I can teach a fish to walk? No. He pretends to teach
them, helps them get a few pathetic illusory successes so they stay with
him, his obedient servants, his disciples.

Well, I'm not one of them. I'm my own man, smarter than he is, and more
powerful, too, if I can just learn what I need to learn. After all, Alvin
was only a seventh son for a couple of moments after he was born, until our
oldest brother Vigor died. But I have been a seventh son my whole life, and
still am one today. Before long I'm bound to surpass Alvin. I'm the real
Maker. The real thing. Not a hypocrite. Not a pretender.

"When you see Alvin, tell him not to follow me. He won't see I me again
until I'm ready for him to square off against me, Maker against Maker."

"There can never be a battle of Maker against Maker," said Taleswapper.

"Oh?"

"Because if there's a battle," said Taleswapper, "it's because one of
them, at least, is not a Maker at all, but rather its opposite."

Calvin laughed. "That old wives' tale? About some supposed Unmaker?
Alvin tells the stories, but it's all a bunch of hogwash to make him look
like more of a hero."

"I'm not surprised that you don't believe in the Unmaker," said
Taleswapper. "The first lie the Unmaker always tells is that he doesn't
exist. And his true servants always believe him, even as they carry out his
work in the world."

"So I'm the Unmaker's servant?" asked Calvin.

"Of course," said Taleswapper. "I have the bruises on my body now to
prove it."

"Those bruises prove you're a weak man with a big mouth."

"Alvin would have healed me and strengthened me," said Taleswapper.
"That's what Makers do."

Calvin couldn't take any more of this. He kicked the man right in the
face. He could feel Taleswapper's nose break under the ball of his foot;
then the old man flopped back into the grass and lay there still. Calvin
didn't even bother to check his pulse. If he was dead, so be it. The world
would be a better place without his lies and rudeness.

Not until he was well into the woods, about five minutes later, did the
enormity of what he had done flow over him. Killed a man! I might have
killed a man, and left him to die!

I should have healed him before I left. The way Alvin healed people.
Then he would have know that I'm truly a Maker, because I healed him. How
could I have missed such an opportunity to show what I can do?

At once he turned and raced back through the forest, dodging the roots,
skittering down a bank he had so eagerly climbed only moments before. But
when, panting, he emerged into the meadow, the old man wasn't there, though
bits of blood still clung to the grass and pooled where his head had lain.
Not dead, then. He got up and walked, so he can't be dead.

What a fool I was, thought Calvin. Of course I didn't kill him. I'm a
Maker. Makers don't destroy things, they build them. Isn't that what Alvin
always tells me? So if I'm a Maker, nothing I do can possibly be
destructive.

For a moment he almost headed down the hill toward the millhouse. Let
Taleswapper accuse him in front of everybody. Calvin would simply deny it
and let them work out how to deal with the problem. Of course they'd all
believe Taleswapper. But Calvin only needed to say, "That's his knack, to
make people believe his lies. Why else would you trust in this stranger
instead of Alvin Miller's youngest boy, when you all know I don't go around
beating people up?" It was a delicious scene to contemplate, with Father and
Mother and Alvin all frozen into inaction.

But a better scene was this: Calvin free in the city. Calvin out of his
brother's shadow.

Best of all, they couldn't even get up a group of men to follow him.
For here in the town, of Vigor Church, the adults were all bound by
Tenskwa-Tawa's curse, so that any stranger they met, they had to tell him
the story of how they slaughtered the innocent Reds at Tippy-Canoe. If they
didn't tell the story, their hands and arms would become covered with
dripping blood, mute testimony of their crime. Because of that they didn't
venture out into the world where they might run into strangers. Alvin
himself might come looking for him, but no one else except those who had
been too young to take part in the massacre would be able to join with him.
Oh, yes, their brother-in-law Armor, he wasn't under the curse. And maybe
Measure wasn't really under the curse, because he took it on himself, even
though he wasn't part of the battle. So maybe he could leave. But that still
wouldn't be much of a search party.

And why would they bother to search for him anyway? Alvin thought
Calvin was a nothing. Not worth teaching. So how could he be worth
following?

My freedom was always just a few steps away, thought Calvin. All it
took was my realizing that Alvin was never going to accept me as his true
friend and brother. Taleswapper showed me that. I should thank him.

Hey, I already gave him all the thanks he deserved.

Calvin chuckled. Then he turned and headed back into the forest. He
tried to move as silently as Alvin always did, moving through the forest-- a
trick Al had learned from the wild Reds back before they either gave across
the Mizzipy into the empty country of the west. But despite all his efforts,
Calvin always ended up making noise and breaking branches.

For all I know, Calvin told himself, Alvin makes just as much noise,
and simply uses his knack to make us think he's quiet. Because if everybody
thinks you're silent, you are silent, right? Makes no difference at all.

Wouldn't it be just like that hypocrite Alvin to have us all thinking
he's in such harmony with the greenwood when he's really just as clumsy as
everyone else! At least I'm not ashamed to make an honest noise.

With that reassuring thought, Calvin plunged on into the underbrush,
breaking off branches and disturbing falled leaves with every step.



Chapter 3 -- Watchers

While Calvin was a-setting out on his journey to wherever, trying not
to think about Alvin with every step, there was someone else already on a
journey, also wishing she could stop thinking about Alvin. That's about
where the semblance ends, though. Because this was Peggy Larner, who knew
Alvin better and loved Alvin more than any living soul. She was riding in a
coach along a country road in Appalachee, and she was at least as unhappy as
Calvin ever was. Difference was, she blamed her woes on nary a soul but her
own self.

In the days after her mother was murdered, Peggy Larner figured that
she would stay in Hatrack River for the rest of her life, helping her father
tend his roadhouse. She was done with the great matters of the world. She
had set her hand to meddling in them, and the result had been that she
didn't tend to her own backyard and so she faded to see her mother's death
looming. Preventable, easily, it was so dependent upon merest chance; a
simple word of warning and her mother and father would have known the Slave
Finders were coming back that night and how many of them there were, and how
armed, and through what door coming. But Peggy had been watching the great
matters of the world, had been minding her foolish love for the young
journeyman smith named Alvin who had learned to make a plow of living gold
and then asked her to marry him and go with him through the world to do
battle with the Unmaker, and all the while the Unmaker was destroying her
own life through the back door, with a shotgun blast that shredded her
mother's flesh and gave Peggy the most terrible of burdens to carry all her
life. What kind of child does not watch out to save her own mother's life?

She could not marry Alvin. That would be like rewarding herself for her
own selfishness. She would stay and help her father in his work.

And yet she couldn't do even that, not for long. When her father looked
at her-- or rather, when he wouldn't look at her-- she felt his grief stab
to her heart. He knew she could have prevented it. And though it was his
great effort not to reproach her with it, she didn't need to hear his words
to know what was in his heart. No, nor did she need to use her knack to see
his heart's desire, his bitter memories. She knew without looking, because
she knew him deep, as children know parents.

There came a day, then, when she could bear it no longer. She had left
home once before, as a girl, with a note left behind. This time she left
with more courage, facing her father and telling him that she couldn't stay.

"Have I lost my daughter then, as well as my wife?"

"Your daughter you have as well as ever," said Peggy. "But the woman
who could have prevented your wife's death, and failed to do it-- that woman
can't live here anymore."

"Have I said anything? Have I by word or deed--"

"It's your knack to make folks feel welcome under your roof, Father,
and you've done your best with me. But there's no knack can take away the
terrible burden charged to my soul. There's no love or kindness you can show
toward me that will hide-- from me-- what you suffer at the very sight of
me."

Father knew he couldn't deceive his daughter any longer, her being a
torch and all. "I'll miss you with all my heart," he said.

"And I'll miss you, Father," she answered. With a kiss, with a brief
embrace, she took her leave. Once again she rode in Whitley Physicker's
carriage to Dekane. There she visited with a family that had done her much
kindness, once upon a time.

She didn't stay long, though, and soon she took the coach down to
Franklin, the capital of Appalachee. She knew no one there, but she soon
would-- no heart could remain closed to her, and she quickly found those
people who hated the institution of slavery as much as she did. Her mother
had died for taking a half-black boy into her home, into her family as her
own son, even though by law he belonged to some white man down in
Appalachee.

The boy, Arthur Stuart, was still free, living with Alvin in the town
of Vigor Church. But the institution of slavery, which had killed both the
boy's birth mother and his adoptive mother,that lived on, too. There was no
hope of changing it in the King's lands to the south and fast, but
Appalachee was the nation that had won its freedom by the sacrifice of
George Washington and under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. It was a
land of high ideals. Surely she could have some influence here, to root out
the evil of slavery from this land. It was in Appalachee that Arthur Stuart
had been conceived by a cruel master's rape of his helpless slave. It was in
Appalachee, then, that Peggy would quietly but deftly maneuver to help those
who hated slavery and hinder those who would perpetuate it.

She traveled in disguise, of course. Not that anyone here would know
her, but she didn't like being called by the name of Peggy Guester, for that
was also her mother's name. Instead she passed as Miss Larner, gifted
teacher of French, Latin, and music, and in that guise she went about
tutoring, here a few weeks, there a few weeks. It was master classes that
she taught, teaching the schoolmasters in various towns and villages.

Though her public lessons were conscientiously taught, what concerned
her most was seeking out the heartfires of those who loathed slavery, or
those who, not daring to admit their loathing, were at least uncomfortable
and apologetic about the slaves they owned. The ones who were careful to be
gentle, the ones who secretly allowed their slaves to learn to read and
write and cipher. These good-hearted ones she dared to encourage. She called
upon them and said words that might turn them toward the paths of life,
however few and faint they were, in which they gained courage and spoke out
against the evil of slavery.

In this way, she was still helping her father in his work. For hadn't
old Horace Guester risked his life for many years, helping runaway slaves
make it across the Hio and on north into French territory, where they would
be no longer slaves, where Finders could not go? She could not live with her
father, she could not remove any part of his burden of grief, but she could
carry on his work, and might in the end make his work unnecessary, for it
would have been accomplished, not a slave at a time, but all the slaves of
Appalachee at once.

Would I then be worthy to return and face him? Would I be redeemed?
Would Mother's death mean something then, instead of being the worthless
result of my carelessness?

Here was the hardest part of her discipline: She refused to let any
thought of Alvin Smith distract her. Once he had been the whole focus of her
life, for she was present at his birth, peeled the birth caul from his face,
and for years thereafter used the power of the dried-up caul to protect him
against all the attacks of the Unmaker. Then, when he became a man and grew
into his own powers enough that he could mostly protect himself, he was
still the center of her heart, for she came to love the man he was becoming.
She had come home to Hatrack River then, in disguise for the first time as
Miss Larner, and there she gave him and Arthur Stuart the kind of book
learning that they both hungered for. And all the time she was teaching him,
she was hiding behind the hexes that hid her true face and name, hiding and
watching him like a spy, like a hunter, like a lover who dared not be seen.

It was in that disguise that he fell in love with her, too. It was all
a lie, a lie I told him, a lie I told myself.

So now she would not search for his bright heartfire, though she knew
she could find it in an instant, no matter how far away he was. She had
other work in her life. She had other things to achieve or to undo.

Here was the best part of her new life: Everyone who knew anything
about slavery knew that it was wrong. The ignorant children growing up in
slave country, or people who had never kept slaves or seen them kept or even
known a Black man or woman-- they might fancy that there was nothing wrong
with it. But those who knew, they all understood that it was evil.

Many of them, of course, simply told themselves lies or made excuses or
flat-out embraced the evil with both arms-- anything to keep their way of
life, to keep their wealth and leisure, their prestige, their honor. But
more were made miserable by the wealth that came from the labor and
suffering of the blacks that had been stolen from their native land and
brought against their will to this dark continent of America. It was these
whose hearts Peggy reached for, especially the strong ones, the ones who
might have the courage to make a difference.

And her labors were not in vain. When she left a place, people were
talking-- no, to be honest they were quarreling-- over things that before
had never been openly questioned. To be sure, there was suffering. Some of
those whose courage she had helped awaken were tarred and feathered, or
beaten, or their houses and barns burnt. But the excesses of the
slavemasters served only to expose to others the necessity of taking action,
of winning their freedom from a system that was destroying them all.

She was on this errand today. A hired carriage had come to fetch her to
a town called Baker's Fork, and she was well on the way, already hot and
tired and dusty, as summer travelers always were, when all of a sudden she
felt curious to see what was up a certain road.

Now, Peggy wasn't one to be curious in any ordinary way. Having had,
since childhood, the knack of knowing people's inmost secrets, she had
learned young to shy away from simple curiosity. Well she knew that there
were some things folks were better off not knowing. As a child she would
have given much not to know what the children her age thought of her, the
fear they had of her, the loathing because of her strangeness, because of
the hushed way their parents talked of her. Oh, she would have been glad not
to know the secrets of the men and women around her. Curiosity was its own
punishment, when you were sure of finding the answer to your question.

So the very fact that she felt curious about, of all things, rutted
track in the low hills of northern Appalachee-- that was the most curious
thing of all. And so, instead of trying to follow the track, she looked
inside her own heartfire to see what lay down that road. But every path she
saw in which she called to the carriage driver and bade him turn around and
follow the track, every one of those paths led to a blank, a place where
what might happen there could not be known.

It was a strange thing for her, not to know at all what the outcome
might be. Uncertainty she was used to, for there were many paths that the
flow of time could follow. But not to have a glimmer, that was new indeed.
New and-- she had to admit-- attractive.

She tried to warn herself off, to tell herself that if she couldn't
see, it must be the Unmaker blocking her, there must be some terrible fate
down that road.

But it didn't feel like the Unmaker. It felt right to follow the track.
It felt necessary, though she tingled a bit with the danger of it. Is this
how other people feel all the time? she wondered. Knowing nothing, the
future all a blank, able to rely only on feelings like this? Is this
tingling what George Washington felt just before he surrendered his army to
the rebels of Appalachee and then turned himself over to the king he had
betrayed?

Surely not, for old George was certain enough of the outcome. Maybe
it's what Patrick Henry felt when he cried out, Give me liberty or give me
death, having no notion which of the two, if either, he might win. To act
without knowing...

"Turn around!" she called.

The driver didn't hear her over the clattering of the horses' hooves,
the rattling and creaking of the carriage.

She thumped on the roof of the carriage with her umbrella. "Turn
around!"

The driver pulled the horses to a stop. He slid open the tiny door that
allowed words to pass between driver and passengers. "What, ma'am?"

"Turn around."

"I ain't took no wrong turn, ma'am."

"I know that. I want to follow that track we just passed."

"That just leads on up to Chapman Valley."

"Excellent. Then take me to Chapman Valley."

"But it's the school board in Baker's Fork what hired me to bring you."

"We're going to stop the night anyway. Why not Chapman Valley?"

"They got no inn."

"Nevertheless, either turn the carriage around or wait here while I
walk up that track."

The door slid shut-- perhaps more abruptly than necessary-- and the
carriage took a wide turn out into the meadow. It had been dry these past
few days, so the turn went smoothly, and soon they were going up the track
that had made her so curious.

The valley, when she saw it, was pretty, though there was nothing
remarkable about its prettiness. Except for the rough woods at the crests of
the surrounding hills, the whole valley was tamed, the trees all in the
place where they were planted, the houses all built up to fit the
ever-larger families that lived there. Perhaps the walls were more crisply
painted, and perhaps a whiter white than other places-- or perhaps that was
just what happened to Peggy's perceptions, because she was looking
especially sharp to see what had piqued her curiosity. Perhaps the orchard
trees were older than usual, more gnarled, as if this place had been settled
long ago, the earliest of tht Appalachee settlements. But what of that?
Everything in America was newish; there was bound to be someone in this town
who still remembered its founding. Nothing west of the first range of
mountains was any older than the lifespan of the oldest citizen.

As always, she was aware of the heartfires of the people dwelling here,
like sparks of light that she could see even in the brightest part of noon,
through all walls, behind all hills, in all attics or basements where they
might be. They were the ordinary folk of any town, perhaps a bit more
content than others, but not immune to the suffering of life, the petty
resentments, the griefs and envies. Why had she come here?

They came to a house with no one home. She rapped on the roof of the
carriage again. The horses were whoaed to a stop, and the little door
opened. "Wait here," she said.

She had no idea why this house, the empty one, drew her curiosity.
Perhaps it was the way it had obviously grown up around a tiny log cabin,
growing first prosperous, then grand, and finally nothing more than large,
as aesthetics gave way to the need for more room, more room. How, in such a
large and well-tended place, could there be no one home?

Then she realized that she heard singing coming from the house. And
laughter from the yard. Singing and laughter, and yet not a heartfire to be
seen. There had never been such a strange thing in all her life. Was this a
haint house? Did the restless dead dwell here, unable to let go of life? But
who ever heard of a haint that laughed? Or sang such a cheery song?

And there, running around the house, was a boy not more than six, being
chased by three older girls. Not one with a heartfire. But from the dirt on
the boy's face and the rage in the eyes of the red-faced girls, these could
not be the spirits of the dead.

"Hallo, there!" cried Peggy, waving.

The boy, startled, looked at her. That pause was his undoing, for the
girls caught up to him and fell to pummeling him with much enthusiasm; his
answer was to holler with equal vigor, cursing them roundly. Peggy didn't
know them, but had little doubt that the boy, in the fashion of all boys,
had done some miserable mischief which outraged the girls-- his sisters? She
also had little doubt that the girls, despite the inevitable protests of
innocence, had no doubt provoked him before, but in subtle, verbal ways so
that he could never point to a bruise and get his mother on his side. Such
was the endless war between male and female children. Stranger or not,
however, Peggy could not allow the violence of the girls to get out of hand,
and it seemed they were not disposed to go lightly in their determined
battering of the bellowing lad. They were pursuing the beating, not as a
holiday, but as if it were their bread-and-butter labor, with an overseer
who would examine their handiwork later and say, "I'd say the boy was well
beaten. You get your day's pay, all right!"

"Let up now," she said, striding across the goat-cropped yard.

They ignored her until she was on them and had two of the girls by the
collars. Even then, they kept swinging with their fists, not a few of the
blows landing on Peggy herself, while the third girl took no pause. Peggy
had no choice but to give the two girls she had hold of a stern push,
sending them sprawling in the grass, while she dragged the third girl off
the boy.

As she had feared, the boy hadn't done well under the girls' blows. His
nose was bleeding, and he got up only slowly; when the girl Peggy was
holding lunged at him, he scurried on all fours to evade her.

"Shame on you," said Peggy. "Whatever he did, it wasn't worth this!"

"He killed my squirrel!" cried the girl she held.

"But how can you have had a squirrel?" asked Peggy. "It would be cruel
of you to pen one up."

"She was never penned," said the girl. "She was my friend. I fed her
and these others saw it-- she came to me and I kept her alive through the
hard winter. He knew it! He was jealous that the squirrel came to me, and so
he killed it."

"It was a squirrel!" the boy shouted hoarsely and rather weakly, but it
was clear he meant it to be a shout. "How should I know it was yours?"

"Then you shouldn't have killed any," said another of the girls. "Not
till you were sure."

"Whatever he did to the squirrels," said Peggy, "even if he was
malicious, it was wrong of you and unchristian to knock him down and hurt
him so."

The boy looked at her now. "Are you the judge?" he asked.

"Judge? I think not!" said Peggy with a laugh.

"But you can't be the Maker, that one's a boy. I think you're a judge."
The boy looked even more certain. "Aunt Becca said the judge was coming, and
then the Maker, so you can't be the Maker because the judge ain't come yet,
but you could be the judge because the judge comes first."

Peggy knew that other folks often took the words of children to be
nonsense, if they didn't understand them immediately. But Peggy knew that
the words of children were always related to their view of the world, and
made their own sense if you only knew how to hear them. Someone had told
them-- Aunt Becca, it was-- that a judge and a Maker were coming. There was
only one Maker that Peggy knew of. Was Alvin coming here? What was this
place, that the children knew of Makers, and had no heartfires?

"I thought your house was standing empty," said Peggy, "but I see that
it is not."

For indeed there now stood a woman in the doorway, leaning against the
jamb, watching them placidly as she slowly stirred a bowl with a wooden
spoon.

"Mama!" cried the girl that Peggy still held. "She has me and won't let
go!"

"It's true!" cried Peggy at once. "And I still won't let go, till I'm
sure she won't murder the boy here!"

"He killed my squirrel, Mama!" cried the girl.

The woman said nothing, just stirred.

"Perhaps, children," said Peggy, "we should go talk to this lady in the
doorway, instead of shouting like river rats."

"Mother doesn't like you," said one of the girls. "I can tell."

"That's a shame," said Peggy. "Because I like her."

"Do not," said the girl. "You don't know her, and if you did you still
wouldn't like her because nobody does."

"What a terrible thing to say about your mother," said Peggy.

"I don't have to like her," said the girl. "I love her."

"Then take me to this woman that you love but don't like," said Peggy,
"and let me reach my own conclusions about her."

As they approached the door, Peggy began to think that the girls might
be right. The woman certainly didn't look welcoming. But for that matter,
she didn't look hostile, either. Her face was empty of emotion. She just
stirred the bowl.

"My name is Peggy Larner." The woman ignored her outstretched hand.
"I'm sorry if I shouldn't have intervened, but as you can see the boy was
taking some serious injury."

"Just my nose is bloody, is all," said the boy. But his limp suggested
other less visible pains.

"Come inside," said the woman.

Peggy had no idea whether the woman was speaking just to the children,
or was including her in the invitation. If it could be called an invitation,
so blandly she spoke it, not looking up from the bowl she stirred. The woman
turned away, disappearing inside the house. The children followed. So,
finally, did Peggy. No one stopped her or seemed to think her action
strange. It was this that first made her wonder if perhaps she had fallen
asleep in the carriage and this was some strange dream, in which
unaccountable unnatural things happen which nevertheless excite no comment
in the land of dreams, where there is no custom to be violated. Where I am
now is not real. Outside waits the carriage and the team of four horses, not
to mention the driver, as real and mundane a fellow as ever belched in the
coachman's seat. But in here, I have stepped into a place beyond nature.
There are no heartfires here.

The children disappeared, stomping somewhere through the wood-floored
house, and at least one of them went up or down a flight of stairs; it had
to be a child, there was so much vigor in the step. But there were no sounds
that told Peggy where to go, or what purpose was being served by her coming
here. Was there no order here? Nothing that her presence disrupted? Would no
one but the children ever notice her at all?

She wanted to go back outside, return to the carriage, but now, as she
turned around, she couldn't remember what door she had come through, or even
which way was north. The windows were curtained, and whatever door she had
come through, she couldn't see it now.

It was an odd place, for there was cloth everywhere, folded neatly and
stacked on all the furniture, on the floors, on the stairs, as if someone
had just bought enough to make a thousand dresses with and the tailors and
seamstresses were yet to arrive. Then she realized that the piles were of
one continuous cloth, flowing off the top of one stack into the bottom of
the next. How could there be a cloth so long? Why would anyone make it,
instead of cutting it and sending it out to get something made from it?

Why indeed. How foolish of her not to realize it at once. She knew this
place. She hadn't visited it herself, but she had seen it through Alvin's
heartfire years ago.

He was still in Ta-Kumsaw's thrall in those days. The Red warrior took
Alvin with him and brought him into his legend, so that those who now spoke
of Alvin Smith the Finder-killer, or Alvin Smith and the golden plow, had
once spoken of the same boy, little knowing it, when they spoke of the evil
"Boy Renegado," the white boy who went with Ta-Kumsaw in all his travels in
the last year before his defeat at Fort Detroit. It was in that guise that
Alvin came here, and walked down this hall, yes, turning right here, yes,
tracking the folded cloth into the oldest part of the house, the original
cabin, into the slanting light that seems to have no source, as if it merely
seeped in through the chinks between the logs. And here, if I open this
door, I will find the woman with the loom. This is the place of weaving.

Aunt Becca. Of course she knew the name. Becca, the weaver who held the
threads of all the lives in the White man's lands in North America.

The woman at the loom looked up. "I didn't want you here," she said
softly.

"Nor did I plan to come," said Peggy. "The truth is, I had forgotten
you. You slipped my mind."

"I'm supposed to slip your mind. I slip all minds."

"Except one or two?"

~"My husband remembers me."

"Ta-Kumsaw? He isn't dead, then?"

Becca snorted. "My husband's name is Isaac."

That was Ta-Kumsaw's White name. "Don't quibble with me," said Peggy.
"Something called me here. If it wasn't you, who was it?"

"My untalented sister. The one who breaks threads whenever she touches
the loom."

Aunt Becca, the children had called the weaver. "Is your sister the
mother of the children I met?"

"The murderous little boy who kills squirrels for sport? His brutal
sisters? I think of them as the four horses of the apocalypse. The boy is
war. The sisters are still sorting themselves out among the other forces of
destruction."

"You speak metaphorically, I hope," said Peggy.

"I hope not," said Becca. "Metaphors have a way of holding the most
truth in the least space." .

"Why would your sister have brought me here? She didn't seem to know me
at the door."

"You're the judge," said Becca. "I found a purple thread of justice in
the loom, and it was you. I didn't want you here, but I knew that you'd
come, because I knew my sister would have you here."

"Why? I'm no judge. I'm guilty myself."

"You see? Your judgment includes everyone. Even those who are invisible
to you."

"Invisible?" But she knew before asking what it was that Becca meant.

"Your vision, your torching, as you quaintly call it-- you see where
people are in the many paths of their lives. But I am not on the path of
time. Nor is my sister. We don't belong anywhere in your prophecies or in
the memories of those who know us. Only in the present moment are we here."

"Yet I remember your first word long enough to make sense of the whole
sentence," said Peggy.

"Ah," said Becca. "The judge insists on correctness of speech.
Boundaries are not so clear, Margaret Larner. You remember perfectly now;
but what will you remember in a week from now? What you forget of me, you'll
forget so completely that you won't remember that you once knew it. Then my
statement will be true, but you'll forget that I said it."

"I think not."

Becca smiled.

"Show me the thread," said Peggy.

"We don't do that."

"What harm can it do? I've already seen all the possible paths of my
life."

"But you haven't seen which one you'll choose," said Becca.

"And you have?"

"At this moment, no," said Becca. "But in the moment that contains all
moments, yes. I've seen the course of your life. That isn't why you came,
though. Not to find out something as stupid as whether you'll marry the boy
you've nurtured all these years. You will or you won't. What is that to me?"

"I don't know," said Peggy. "I wonder why you exist at all. You change
nothing. You merely see. You weave, but the threads are out of your control.
You are meaningless."

"So you say," said Becca.

"And yet you have a life, or had one. You loved Ta-Kumsaw-- or Isaac,
whatever name you use. So loving some boy, marrying him, that didn't always
seem stupid to you."

"So you say," said Becca.

"Or do you include yourself in that? Do you call yourself stupid in
having loved and married? You can't pretend to be inhuman when you loved and
lost a man."

"Lost?" she asked. "I see him every day."

"He comes here? To Appalachee?"

Becca hooted. "I think not!"

"How many threads broke under your hand with that pass of the
shuttlecock?" asked Peggy.

"Too many," said Becca. "And not enough."

"Did you break them? Or did they simply happen to break?"

"The thread grew thin. The life wore out. Or it was cut. It isn't the
thread that cuts the life, it's the death that cuts the thread."

"So you keep a record, is that it? The weaving causes nothing, but
simply records it all."

Becca smiled thinly. "Passive, useless creatures that we are, but we
must weave."

Peggy didn't believe her, but there was no use in arguing. "Why did you
bring me here?"

"I told you. I didn't."

"Why did she bring me here?"

"To judge."

"What is it that I'm supposed to judge?"

Becca passed the shuttlecock from her right hand to her left. The loom
slammed forward, then dropped back. She passed the shuttlecock from her left
hand to her right. Again, the frame slammed forward, weaving the threads
tight.

This is a dream, thought Peggy. And not a very pleasant one. Why can't
I ever wake up to escape from some foolish useless dream?

"Personally," said Becca, "I think you've already made your judgment.
It's only my sister thinks that you deserve a second chance. She's very
romantic. She thinks that you deserve some happiness. My own feeling is that
human happiness is a very random thing, and bestows itself willy-nilly, and
there's not much deserving about the matter."

"So it's myself that I'm supposed to judge?"

Becca laughed.

One of the girls stuck her head into the room. "Mother says it's nasty
and uncompassionate when you laugh during the weaving," she said.

"Nanner nanner," said Becca.

The girl laughed lightly, and Becca did too.

"Mother mixed up something really vile for your supper. With
dumplings."

"Vileness with dumplings," said Becca. "Do sup with me."

"Let the judge do that," said the girl. "She really is a bossy one.
Telling us about right and wrong." With that the girl disappeared.

Becca clucked for a moment. "The children are so full of themselves.
Still very impressed with the idea that they aren't part of the normal
world. You must forgive them for being arrogant and cruel. They couldn't
have hurt their brother much, because they haven't the strength to strike a
blow that will really harm him."

"He bled," said Peggy. "He limped."

"But the squirrel died," said Becca.

"You keep no threads for squirrels."

"I keep no threads for them. But that doesn't mean their threads aren't
woven."

"Oh, tell me flat out. Don't waste my time with mysteries."

"I haven't been," said Becca. "No mysteries. I've told you everything
that's useful. Anything else I told you might affect your judgment, and so I
won't do it. I let my sister have her way, bringing you here, but I'm
certainly not going to bend your life any more than that. You can leave
whenever you want-- that's a choice, and a judgment, and I'll be content
with it."

"Will I?"

"Come back in thirty years and tell me."

"Will I be--"

"If you're still alive then." Becca grinned. "Do you think I'm so
clumsy as to let slip your real span of years? I don't even know it. I
haven't cared enough to look."

Two girls came in with a plate and a bowl and a cup on a tray. They set
it on a small table near the loom. The plate was covered with a
strange-smelling food. Peggy recognized nothing about it. Nor was there
anything that she might have called a dumpling.

"I don't like it when people watch me eat," said Becca.

But Peggy was feeling very angry now, with all the elusiveness of
Becca's conversation, and so she did not leave as courtesy demanded.

"Stay, then," said Becca.

The girls began to feed her. Becca did nothing to seek out the food.
She kept up the perfect rhythm of her weaving, just as she had done
throughout their conversation. The girls deftly maneuvered spoon or fork or
cup to find their Aunt Becca's mouth, and then with a quick slurp or bite or
sip she had the food. Not a drop or crumb was spilled on the cloth.

It could not always be like this, thought Peggy. She married Ta-Kumsaw.
She bore a daughter to him, the daughter that went west to weave a loom
among the Reds beyond the Mizzipy. Surely those things were not done with
the shuttlecock flying back and forth, the loom slamming dowd to tamp the
threads. It was deception. Or else it involved things Peggy was not going to
understand however she tried.

She turned and left the room. The hall ended in a narrow stair. Sitting
on the top step was, she assumed, the boy-- she could see only his bare feet
and trouser legs. "How's the nose?" she asked.

"Still hurts," said the boy. He scootched forward and dropped down a
couple of steps by bouncing on his bottom.

"But not too bad," she said. "Healing fast."

"They was only girls," he said scornfully.

"You didn't think such scorn of them when they were pounding on you,"
she said.

"But you didn't hear me callin' uncle, did you? You didn't hear no
uncle from me."

"No," said Peggy. "No uncle from you."

"I got me an uncle, though. Big Red man. Ike."

"I know of him."

"He comes most every day."

Peggy wanted to demand information from him. How does Ta-Kumsaw get
here? Doesn't he live west of the Mizzipy? Or is he dead, and comes only in
the spirit?

"Comes through the west door," said the boy. "We don't use that one.
Just him. It's the door to my cousin Wieza's cabin."

"Her father calls her Mana-Tawa, I think."

The boy hooted. "Just giving her a Red name don't mean he can hold on
to her. She don't belong to him."

"Whom does she belong to?"

"To the loom," he said.

"And you?" asked Peggy. "Do you belong to the loom?"

He shook his head. But he looked sad.

Peggy said it as she realized it: "You want to, don't you."

"She ain't going to have no more daughters. She don't stop weaving for
him anymore. So she can't go. She'll just be there, forever."

"And nephews can't take her place?"

"Nieces can, but my sisters ain't worth pigslime, in my opinion, which
happens to be correck."

"Correct," said Peggy. "There's a t on the end."

"Correckut," the boy said. "But what I think is they ought to spell the
words the way folks say 'em, stead of making us say 'em the way they're
spelt."

Peggy had to laugh. "You have a point. But you can't just start
spelling words any which way. Because you don't say them the same os someone
from, say, Boston. And so pretty soon you and he would be spelling things so
differently that you couldn't read each other's letters or books."

"Don't want to read his damn old books," said the boy. "I don't even
know no boys in Boston."

"Do you have a name?"

"Not for you to know," said the boy. "You think I'm stupid? You're so
thick with hexes you think I'm going to give you power over my name?"

"The hexes are to hide me from others."

"What do you have to hide for? Ain't nobody looking for you."

The words struck her hard. Nobody looking for her. Well, there it was.
Once she had hidden so she could return to her own house without her family
knowing her. Whom was she hiding from now?

"Perhaps I'm hiding from myself. Perhaps I don't want to be what I'm
supposed to be. Or perhaps I don't want to keep living the life I already
started to live."

"Perhaps you don't know squat about it," he said.

"Perhaps."

"Oh, don't be so mysterious, you silly old lady."

Silly she might accept, but old? "I'm not that many years older than
you."

"When people say perhaps it's cause they're lying: Either they don't
believe the thing they're saying, or they do believe it only they don't want
to admit they do."

"You're a very wise young man."

"And the real liars change the subject the minute the truth comes up."

Peggy regarded him steadily. "You were waiting for me, weren't you?"

"I knew what Aunt Becca would do. She don't tell nobody nothin'."

"And you're going to tell me?"

"Not me! That's trouble too deep for me to get into." He smiled. "But
you did stop the three witches from making soup of me. So I got you thinking
in the right direction, if you've got the brains to see it." With that he
jumped up and she listened as his feet slapped up the stairs and he was
gone.

The choice was for Peggy to be happy. Becca said that, or said that her
sister said it-- though it was hard to imagine that blank-faced woman caring
a whit whether anybody was happy or not. And now the boy got her talking
about why she was hiding behind hexes, and said that he had guided her. The
choice she was being offered was obvious enough now. She had buried herself
in her father's work of breaking the back of slavery, and had stopped
looking out for Alvin. They wanted her to look back again. They wanted her
to reach out for him.

She stormed back into the cabin. "I won't do it," she said. "Caring for
that boy is what killed my mother."

"Excuse me but I think a shotgun is what did for her," said Becca.

"A shotgun I could have prevented."

"So you say," said Becca.

"Yes, I say so."

"Your mother's thread broke when she decided to pick up a shotgun and
do some killing of her own rather than trust to Alvin. Her boy Arthur was
safe. She didn't need to kill, but when she chose to do that, she chose to
die. Do you think you could have changed her mind about that?"

"Don't expect me to accept easy answers."

"No, I expect you to make all the answers as hard as possible. But
sometimes it's the easy answers that are true."

"So it's back to the old days? Watching Alvin? Am I supposed to fall in
love with him? Marry him? Watch him die?"

"I don't much care either way. My sister thinks you'll be happier with
him than without him, and he's dead either way, in the long run, but then
aren't we all? Most women that aren't killed by having babies live to be
widows. What of that?"

What of that? Just because she could foresee so many ways for Alvin to
die didn't mean that she should avoid loving him. She knew that, rationally.
But fear wasn't rational.

"You spend your whole life grieving for those that haven't died yet,"
said Becca. "What a waste of an interesting knack."

"Interesting?"

"You could have had the knack of making shoe leather supple. Just see
how happy that would've made you."

Peggy tried to imagine herself as a cobbler and had to laugh. "I
suppose that I'd rather know than not know, mostly."

"Exactly. Knowing hurts sometimes, especially when you can't do
anything to change it."

But there was something furtive in her, the way she said that. "Can't
do anything to change it my left eye!" said Peggy.

"Don't use curses you don't understand," said Becca.

"You do make changes. You don't think the loom is immutable, not one
bit."

"It's dangerous to change. The consequences are unpredictable."

"You saw Ta-Kumsaw dead at Detroit. So you picked up Alvin's thread and
you--"

"What do you know about the loom!" cried Becca. "What do you know about
watching the threads flow under your hands and seeing all the grief and pain
and suffering and thinking! It doesn't matter, they're God's cattle and he
can herd them how he likes only then you find the one you love more than
life and God has him slaughtered by the treachery of the French and the
hatred of the English and for nothing, his whole life meaningless and lost
and nothing changed by it except a few legends and songs, and here I am,
still loving him, a widow forever because he's gone! So yes, I found the one
who could save him. I knew if they met, they'd love each other and save each
other."

"But what you did caused the massacre at Tippy-Canoe," said Peggy. "The
people of Vigor Church thought Alvin had been kidnapped and tortured to
death, so they slaughtered Tenskwa-Tawa's people in vengeance. Now they have
a curse on them, all because you--"

"Because Harrison took advantage of their rage. Do you think there
wouldn't have been a massacre anyway?"

"But the blood wouldn't have been on the same hands, would it?"

Becca wept, and her tears fell onto the cloth.

"Shouldn't you dry those tears?" asked Peggy.

"If tears could mar this cloth, there'd be no cloth left."

"So you of all people know the cost of meddling with the course of
others' lives."

"And you of all people know the cost of failing to meddle when the time
was right." Becca raised her head and continued her work. "I saved him, and
that was my goal. Those who died would have died anyway."

"Yet here I am because your sister wants me to look after Alvin."

"Here you are because we only see the threads and then half-guess as to
what they mean and who they are. We know the young Maker's thread-- there's
no way to miss it in this cloth. Besides, I moved it once, I twined it with
my Isaac's thread. Do you think I could lose track of it after that? I'll
show you, if you promise not to look beyond the inch of cloth I show."

"I promise not to look. But I can't help what I chance to see."

"Chance to see this, then."

Peggy looked at the cloth, knowing that the sight of it was rarely
given to those not of the loom. Alvin's thread was obvious, shimmering
light, with all colors in it; but it was no thicker than any other, and it
looked frail, easily snapped by careless handling. "You dared to move this
one?"

"It returned of itself to its own place," said Becca. "I only borrowed
it for a while. And he saved his brother Measure. Eight-face Mound opened up
for him. I tell you there are forces at work in his life far stronger than
my power to move the threads."

"More powerful than me, too."

"You are one of the forces. Not all of them, not the greatest of them,
but you are one. Look. See how the threads cross him. His brothers and
sisters, I think. He is closely entwined with his family. And see how these
threads are brightening, taking on more hues. He's teaching them to be
Makers."

Peggy hadn't known that. "Isn't that dangerous?"

"He can't do his work alone," said Becca. "So he teaches others to help
him in it. He's more successful at it than he knows."

"This one," said Peggy, pointing to the brightest of the other threads.
It veered off widely, wandering through the cloth far from the rest of the
family.

"His brother. Also a seventh son of a seventh son," said Becca. "Though
the eighth, if you count the one who died."

"But the seventh of those alive when he was born," said Peggy. "Yes,
there's power in him."

"Look," said Becca. "See how he was at the beginning. Every bit as
bright as Alvin's. There was near as much in him then as in Alvin. And no
more forces working against him than Alvin overcame. Fewer, really, because
by the time he came into his own you and Alvin between you had the Unmaker
at bay. At least, all the killing tricks. But the Unmaker found another way
to undo the boy. Hate and envy. If you love Alvin, Peggy, find his younger
brother's heartfire. Somehow he must be brought back before it's too late."

"Why? I don't know anything about Calvin, except his name and Alvin's
hopes for him."

"Because the way the threads are going now, when his rejoins Alvin's,
Alvin's comes to an end."

"He kills him?"

"How should I know? We learn what we can learn, but the threads say
little except by their movement through the cloth. You will know. That's why
she called you. Not just for your own happiness, but because... as she said,
because I owe it to the Maker. I used him once to save my love. Didn't I owe
you the same chance? That's what she said. But we knew that if I showed you
this at first, before you chose, you would help him out of duty. For the
grand cause, not for love of him."

"But I hadn't decided to watch him again."

"So you say," said Becca.

"You're very smug," said Peggy, "for a woman who has made such a botch
of things herself."

"I inherited a botch," said Becca. "One day my mother, who crossed the
ocean and brought us here, one day she took her hands from the loom and
walked away. My sister and I came in with her supper and found her gone. We
were both married, but I had borne a child for my husband, and in those days
my sister had none. So I took the loom, and she went to her husband. And all
the time, I was furious at my mother for going away like that. Fleeing her
duty." Becca stroked the threads, gently, even gingerly. "Now I think I
understand. The price of holding all these lives in our hands is that we
scarcely have a life ourselves. My mother wasn't good at this, because her
heart wasn't in it. Mine is, and if I made a mistake to save my husband's
life, perhaps you can judge me more kindly knowing that I had already given
up my life with my husband in order to fill my mother's place."

"I didn't mean to condemn you," said Peggy, abashed.

"Nor did I mean to justify myself to you," said Becca. "And yet you did
condemn me, and I did justify myself. I hold my mother's thread here. I know
where she is. But I'll never know, really, why she did what she did. Or what
might have happened if she stayed." Becca looked up at Peggy. "I don't know
much, but what I know, I know. Alvin must go out into the world. He must
leave his family-- let them learn Making on their own now, as he did. He
must rejoin Calvin before the boy has been completely turned by the Unmaker.
Otherwise, Calvin may be not only his death, but also the undoing of all the
Maker's works."

"I have an easy answer," said Peggy. "I'll find Calvin and make sure he
never comes home."

"You think you have the power to control a Maker's life?"

"Calvin is no Maker. How could he be? Think what Alvin had to do, to
come into his own."

"Nevertheless, you never had the power to stand against Alvin, even
when he was a child. And he was kind at heart. I think Calvin isn't governed
by the same sense of decency."

"So I can't stand against him," said Peggy. "Nor can I send Alvin out
on errands. He's not mine to command."

"Isn't he?" asked Becca.

Peggy buried her face in her hands. "I don't want him to love me. I
don't want to love him. I want to continue my struggle against slavery here
in Appalachee."

"Oh, yes. Using your knack to meddle with the cloth, aren't you?" said
Becca. "Do you know where it leads?"

"To liberty for the slaves, I hope."

"Perhaps," she said. "But the sure thing is this: It leads to war."

Peggy looked up grimly. "I see warsigns down all the paths. Before I
started doing this, I saw those signs." Grieving mothers. The terror of
battle in young men's lives.

"It begins as a civil war in Appalachee, but it ends as a war between
the King on the one side and the United States on the other. Brutal, bloody,
cruel..."

"Are you saying I should stop? That I should let these monsters
continue to rule over the Blacks they kidnapped and all their children
forever?"

"Not at all," said Becca. "The war comes because of a million different
choices. Your actions push things that way, but you aren't the only cause.
Do you understand? If war is the only way to free the slaves, then isn't the
war worth all the suffering? Are lives wasted, when they end for such a
cause?"

"I can't judge this sort of thing," said Peggy.

"But that's not true," said Becca. "Only you are fit to judge, because
only you see the outcomes that might result. By the time I see things
they've become inevitable."

"If they're inevitable, then why are you bothering to tell me to try to
change them?"

"Almost inevitable. Again, I spoke imprecisely. I can't meddle with the
threads on a grand scale. I can't foresee the consequences of change. But a
single thread-- sometimes I can move it without undoing the whole fabric. I
didn't know a way to move Calvin that would make a difference. But I could
move you. I could bring the judge here, the one who sees with the blindfold
over her eyes. So I've done that."

"I thought you said your sister did it."

"Well, she's the one who decided it must be done. But only I could
touch the thread."

"I think you spend a lot of your time lying and concealing things."

"Quite possibly."

"Like the fact that the western door leads into Ta-Kumsaw's land west
of the Mizzipy."

"I never lied about that, or concealed it either."

"And the eastern door, where does that lead?"

"It opens in my auntle's house in Winchester, back in England. See? I
conceal nothing."

"You have but one daughter," said Peggy, "and she's already got a loom
of her own. Who will take your place here?"

"None of your business," said Becca.

"Nothing is none of my business now," said Peggy. "Not after you picked
up my thread and moved it here."

"I don't know who will take my place. Maybe I'll be here forever. I'm
not my mother. I won't quit and force this on an unwilling soul."

"When it comes time to choose, look at the boy," said Peggy. "He's
wiser than you think."

"A boy's hands on the loom?" Becca's face bore an expression that
suggested she had just tasted something awful.

"Before any talent for weaving," said Peggy, "doesn't the weaver have
to care about the threads coming into the cloth? He may have killed a
squirrel, but I don't think he loves death."

Becca regarded her steadily. "You take too much upon yourself."

"As you said. I'm a Judge."

"You'll do it, then?"

"What, watch Alvin? Yes. Though I know I'll have a broken heart six
times over before I bury him, yes, I'll turn my eyes back to that boy."

"That man."

"That Maker," said Peggy.

"And the other?"

"I'll meddle if I can find a way."

Becca nodded. "Good." She nodded again. "We're done, now. The doors
will lead you out of the house."

That was all the good-bye that Peggy got. But what Becca said was true.
Where once Peggy couldn't see a way out, now every corridor led to a door
standing open, with the daylight outside. She didn't want to go through the
doors back into her own world, though. She wanted to pass through the doors
in the old cabin. The east door, into England. The west door, into Red
country. Or the south door-- where did it lead?

Nevertheless, it was this time and place where she belonged. There was
a carriage waiting for her, and work to do, stirring up war by encouraging
compassion for the slaves. She could live with that, yes, as Becca had said.
Didn't Jesus himself say that he came to bring, not peace, but war? Turning
brother against brother? If that's what it takes to remove the stain of
slavery from this land, then so be it. I speak only of peaceful change-- if
others choose to kill or die rather than let the slaves go free, that is
their choice, and I didn't cause it.

Just as I didn't cause my mother to take up the gun and kill the Finder
who was, after all, only obeying the law, unjust as the law might be. He
wouldn't have found Arthur Stuart, hidden as he was in my house, his very
smell changed by Alvin's Making, and his presence hidden behind all the
hexes Alvin had put there. I didn't kill her. And even if I could have
prevented what she did, it wouldn't have changed who she was. She was the
woman who would make such a choice as that. That was the woman I loved, her
fierce angry courage along with everything else. I am not guilty of her
death. The man who shot her was. And she was the one, not I, who placed her
in harm's way.

Peggy strode out into the sunlight feeling invigorated, light of step.
The air tasted sweet to her. The place with no heartfires had rekindled her
own.

She got back into the carriage and it took her without further
distractions to an inn well north of Chapman Valley. She spent the night
there, and then the next day rode on to Baker's Fork. Once there, she held
her master classes, teaching schoolmasters and gifted students, and in
between conversing with this man or that woman about slavery, making
comments, scorning those who mistreated slaves, declaring that as long as
anyone had such power over other men and women, there would be mistreatment,
and the only cure for it was for all men and women to be free. They nodded.
They agreed. She spoke of the courage it would take, how the slaves
themselves bore the lash and had lost all; how much would White men and
women suffer in order to free them? What did Christ suffer, for the sake of
others? It was a strong and measured performance that she gave. She did not
retreat from it one bit, even though she knew now that it would lead to war.
Wars have been fought for foolish causes. Let there be one, at last, in a
good cause, if the enemies of decency refuse to soften their hearts.

Amid all the teaching and all the persuasion, she did find time, a
scrap of an hour to herself, sitting at the writing desk in one old
plantation widow's home. It was the very desk where, moments before, the
woman had manumitted all her slaves and hired them on as free workingmen and
workingwomen. Peggy saw in her heartfire when the choice was made that she
would end up with her barns burnt and her fields spoiled. But she would lead
these newfreed Blacks northward, despite all harassment and danger. Her
courage would become legendary, a spark that would inspire other brave
hearts. Peggy knew that in the end, the woman would not miss her fine house
and lovely lands. And someday twenty thousand Black daughters would be given
the woman's name. Why am I named Jane? they would ask their mothers. And the
answer would come: Because once there was a woman by that name who freed her
slaves and protected them all the way north, and then hired and looked after
them until they learned the ways of free men and women and could stand on
their own. It is a name of great honor. No one would know of the
schoolteacher who came one day and gave open words to the secret longings of
Jane's heart.

At that writing desk, Peggy took the time to write a letter and address
it. Vigor Church, in the state of Wobbish. It would get to him, of course.
As she sealed it, as she handed it over to the postal rider, she looked at
long last toward the heartfire that she knew best, knew even better than her
own. In it she saw the familiar possibilities, the dire consequences. But
they were different now, because of the letter. Different... but better? She
couldn't guess. She wasn't judge enough to know. Right and wrong were easy
for her. But good and bad, better and worse, those were still too tricky.
They kept sliding past each other strangely and changing before her eyes.
Perhaps there was no judge who could know that; or if there was, he wasn't
talking much about it.

The messenger took the letter and carried it north, where in another
town he handed it to a rider who paid him what he thought the letter might
be worth on delivery, minus half. The second rider took it on north, in his
meandering route, and finally he stood in a store in the town of Vigor
Church, where he asked about a man named Alvin Smith.

"I'm his brother-in-law," said the storekeeper. "Armor-of-God Weaver.
I'll pay you for the letter. You don't want to go any farther into the town,
or up there, either. You don't want to listen to the tale those people have
to tell."

The tone of his voice convinced the rider. "Five dollars, then," he
said.

"I'll wager you only paid the rider who gave it to you a single dollar,
thinking the most you could get from me was two. But I'll pay you the five,
if you still ask for it, because I'm willing to be cheated by a man who can
live with himself after doing it. It's you that'll pay most, in the end."

"Two dollars, then," said the rider. "You didn't have to get personal
about it."

Armor-of-God took out three silver dollars and laid them in the man's
hand. "Thank you for honest riding, friend," he said. "You're always welcome
here. Stay for dinner with us."

"No," the man said. "I'll be on my way."

As soon as he was gone, Armor-of-God laughed and told his wife, "He
only paid fifty cents for that letter, I'll wager. So he still thinks he
cheated me."

"You need to be more careful with our money, Armor," she answered.

"Two dollars to cause a man a little spiritual torment that perhaps
could change his life for the better? Cheap enough bargain, I'd say. What is
a soul worth to God? Two dollars, do you think?"

"I shudder to think what some men's souls will be marked down to when
God decides to close the shop," said his wife. "I'll take the letter up to
Mother's house. I'm going there today anyway."

"Measure's boy Simon comes down for the mail," said Armor-of-God.

She glared at him. "I wasn't going to read it."

"I didn't say you were." But still he didn't hand her the letter.
Instead he laid it on the counter, waiting for Measure's oldest boy to come
and fetch it up the hill to the house where Alvin was teaching people to be
Makers. Armor-of-God still wasn't happy about it. It seemed unreligious to
him, improper, against the Bible. And yet he knew Alvin was a good boy,
grown to be a good man, and whatever powers of witchery he had, he didn't
use them to do harm. Could it be truly against God and religion for him to
have such powers, if he used them in a Christian way? After all, God created
the world and all things in it. If God didn't want there to be Makers, he
didn't have to create any of them. So what Alvin was doing must be in line
with the will of God.

Sometimes Armor-of-God felt perfectly at peace with Alvin's doings. And
sometimes he th ought that only a devil-blinded fool would think even for a
moment that God was happy with any sort of witchery. But those were all just
thoughts. When it came to action, Armor-of-God had made his decision. He was
with Alvin, and against whoever opposed him. If he was damned for it, so be
it. Sometimes you just had to follow your heart. And sometimes you just had
to make up your mind and stick with it, come hell or high water.

And nobody was going to mess with Alvin's letter from Peggy Larner.
Especially not Armor-of-God's wife, who was a good deal too clever with
hexery herself.

***

Far away in another place, Peggy saw the changes in the heartfires and
knew the letter was now in Alvin's family. It would do its work. The world
would change. The threads in Becca's loom would move. It is unbearable to
watch without meddling, thought Peggy. And then it is unbearable to watch
what my meddling causes.


Chapter 4 -- Quest

Even before Miss Larner's letter came, Alvin was feeling antsy. Things
just wasn't going the way he planned. After months of trying to turn his
family and neighbors into Makers, it was looking like a job for six
lifetimes, and try as he might, Alvin couldn't figure out how he was going
to have more than one lifetime to work with.

Not that the teaching was a failure-- he couldn't call it an outright
bust, not yet, considering that some of them really were learning how to do
some small Makings. It's just that Making wasn't their knack. Alvin had
figured out that there wasn't no knack that another person couldn't learn,
given time and training and wit enough and plain old stick-to-it-iveness.
But what he hadn't taken into account was that Making was like a whole bunch
of knacks, and while some of them could grasp this or that little bit of it,
there was hardly any who seemed to show a sign of grasping the whole of it.
Measure sometimes showed a glimmer. More than a glimmer, really. He could
probably be a Maker himself if only he didn't keep getting distracted. But
the others-- there was no way they were going to be anything like what Alvin
was. So if there was no hope of success, what was the point of trying?

Whenever he got to feeling discouraged like that, though, he'd just
tell himself to shut his mouth and stick to his work. You don't get to be a
Maker by changing your plan every few minutes. Who can follow you then? You
stick to it. Even when Calvin, the only natural born Maker among them, even
when he refused to learn anything and finally took himself off to do who
knows what sort of mischief in the wide world, even then you don't give up
and go off in search of him because, as Measure pointed out to the men who
wanted to get up a search party, "You can't force a man to be a Maker,
because forcing folks to do things is to Unmake them."

Even when Alvin's own father said, "Al, I marvel at what you can do,
but it's enough for me that you can do it. My part was done when you were
born, it seems to me. Ain't no man alive but what he isn't proud to have his
son pass him up, which you done handily, and I don't aim to get back into
the race." Even then, Alvin determined grimly to go on teaching, while his
father went back to the mill and began to clean it up and get it ready to
grind again.

"I can't figure out," said Father, "if my milling is Making or
Unmaking. The stones grind the grain and break it apart into dust, so that's
Unmaking. But the dust is flour, and you can use it to make bread and cake
that the maize or wheat can't be made into, so milling might be just a step
along the road to Making. Can you answer me that, Alvin? Is grinding flour
Making or Unmaking?"

Well, Alvin could answer it glib enough, that it was Making for sure,
but it kept nagging at him, that question. I set out to make Makers out of
these people, my family, my neighbors. But am I really just grinding them up
and Unmaking them? Before I started trying to teach them, they were all
content with their own knacks or even their own lack of a knack, when you
come down to it. Now they're frustrated and they feel like failures and why?
Is it Making to turn people into something that they weren't born to be? To
be a Maker is good-- I know it, because I am one. But does that mean it's
the only good thing to be?

He asked Taleswapper about it, of course. After all, Taleswapper didn't
show up for no reason, even if the old coot had no notion what the reason
was himself. Maybe he was there to give Alvin some answers. So one day when
the two of them were chopping wood out back, he asked, and Taleswapper
answered like he always did, with a story.

"I heard a tale once about how a man who was building a wall as fast as
he could, but somebody else was tearing it down faster than he could build
it up. And he wondered how he could keep the wall from being torn down
completely, let alone ever finish it. And the answer was easy: You can't
build it alone."

"I remember that tale," said Alvin. "That tale is why I'm here, trying
to teach these folks Making."

"I just wonder," said Taleswapper, "if you might be able to stretch
that story, or maybe twist it a little and wring a bit more useful truth out
of it."

"Wring away," said Alvin. "We'll find out whether the story is a wet
cloth or a chicken's neck when you're done wringing."

"Well maybe what you need isn't a bunch of other stonemasons, cutting
the stone and mixing the mortar and plumbing the wall and all those jobs.
Maybe what you need is just a lot of cutters, and a lot of mortar mixers,
and a lot of surveyors, and so on. Not everybody has to be a Maker. In fact,
maybe all you need is just the one Maker."

The truth of what Taleswapper was saying was obvious; it had already
occurred to Alvin many times, in other guises. What took him by surprise was
how tears suddenly came to his own eyes, and he said softly, "Why does that
make me so desperate sad, my friend?"

"Because you're a good man," said Taleswapper. "An evil man would
delight to find out that he was the only one who could rule over a great
many people working in a common cause."

"More than anything I don't want to be alone anymore," said Alvin.
"I've been alone. Almost my whole time as a prentice in Hatrack River, I
felt like there was nobody to take my part."

"But you were never alone the whole time," said Taleswapper.

"If you mean Miss Larner looking out for me--"

"Peggy is who I meant. I can't see why you still call her by that false
name."

"That's the name of the woman I fell in love with," said Alvin. "But
she knows my heart. She knows I killed that man and I didn't have to."

"The man who murdered her mother? I don't think she holds it against
you."

"She knows what kind of man I am and she doesn't love me, that's what,"
said Alvin. "So I am alone, the minute I leave this place. And besides,
leaving here is like lining up all these people and slapping their faces and
saying, You failed so I'm gone."

At that Taleswapper just laughed. "That is plain foolishness and you
know it. Truth is you've already taught them everything, and now it's just a
matter of practice. They don't need you here anymore."

"But nobody needs me anywhere else," said Alvin.

Taleswapper laughed again.

"Stop laughing and tell me what's funny."

"A joke you have to explain isn't going to be funny anyway," said
Taleswapper, "so there ain't no point in explaining it."

"You're no help," said Alvin, burying the head of his axe in the
chopping stump.

"I'm a great help," said Taleswapper. "You just don't want to be helped
yet."

"Yes I do! I just don't need riddles, I need answers!"

"You need somebody to tell you what to do? That's a surprise. Still an
apprentice then, after all? Want to turn your life over to somebody else?
For how long, another seven years?"

"I may not be a prentice anymore," said Alvin, "but that don't mean I'm
a master. I'm just a journeyman."

"Then hire on somewhere," said Taleswapper. "You've still got things to
learn."

"I know," said Alvin, "But I don't know where to go to learn it.
There's that crystal city I saw in the twister with Tenskwa Tawa. I don't
know how to build it. I don't know where to build it. I don't even know why
to build it, except that it ought to exist and I ought to make it exist."

"There you are," said Taleswapper. "Like I said, you've already taught
everybody here everything you know, twice over. All you're doing now is
helping them practice-- and cheating now and then by helping them, don't
think I haven't noticed."

"When I use my knack to help them, I tell them I helped," said Alvin,
blushing.

"And then they feel like failures anyway, figuring that your help was
all that made anything happen, and nothing of their own doing. Alvin, I
think I am giving you your answer. You've done what you can here. Leave
Measure to help them, and the others who've learned a bit of it here and
there. Let them work things out on their own, the way you did. Then you go
out into the world and learn more of the things you need to know."

Alvin nodded, but in his heart he still refused to believe it. "I just
can't see what good it is to go out to try to learn when you know as well as
I do there's not another Maker in the world right now, unless you count
Calvin which I don't. Who am I going to learn from? Where am I going to go?"

"So you're saying that there's no use in just wandering around, seeing
what happens and learning as you can?"

Taleswapper's face was so wry as he said this that Alvin knew at once
there was a double meaning. "Just because you learn that way doesn't mean I
can. You're just collecting stories, and there's stories everywhere."

"There's Making almost everywhere, too," said Taleswapper. "And where
there isn't Making, there's still old made things being torn down, and you
can learn from them, too."

"I can't go," said Alvin. "I can't go."

"Which is to say, you're afraid."

Alvin nodded.

"You're afraid you'll kill again."

"I don't think so. I know I won't. Probably."

"You're afraid you'll fall in love again."

Alvin hooted derisively.

"You're afraid you'll be alone out there."

"How could I be alone?" he asked. "I'd have my golden plow with me."

"That's another thing," said Taleswapper. "That living plow. What did
you make it for, if you keep it in darkness all the time and never use it?"

"It's gold," said Alvin. "People want to steal it. Many a man would
kill for that much gold."

"Many a man would kill for that much tin, for that matter," said
Taleswapper. "But you remember what happened to the man who was given a
talent of gold, and buried it in the earth."

"Taleswapper, you're plumb full of wisdom today."

"Brimming over," said Taleswapper. "It's my worst fault, splashing
wisdom all over other people. But most of the time it dries up real fast and
doesn't leave a stain."

Alvin grimaced at him. "Taleswapper, I'm not ready to leave home yet."

"Maybe folks have to leave home before they're ready, or they never get
ready at all."

"Was that a paradox, Taleswapper? Miss Larner taught me about paradox."

"She's a fine teacher and she knows all about it."

"All I know about paradox is that if you don't shovel it out of the
stable, the barn gets to stinking real bad and fills up with flies."

Taleswapper laughed at that, and Alvin joined in laughing, and that was
the end of the serious part of the conversation.

Only it clung to Alvin, the whole thing, knowing that Taleswapper
thought he should leave home, and him not having a clue where he would go if
he did leave, and not being willing to admit failure, either. All kinds of
reasons for staying. Most important reason of all was simply being home.
He'd spent half his childhood away from his family, and it was good to sit
down at his mother's table every day. Good to see his father standing at the
mill. Hear his father's voice, his brothers' voices, his sisters' voices
laughing and quarreling and telling and asking, his mother's voice, his
mother's sharp sweet voice, all of them covering his days and nights like a
blanket, keeping him warm, all of them saying to him, You're safe here,
you're known here, we're your people, we won't turn on you. Alvin had never
heard him a symphony in his life, or even more than two fiddles and a banjo
at the same time, but he knew that no orchestra could ever make a music more
beautiful than the voices of his family moving in and out of their houses
and barns and the millhouse and the shops in town, threads of music binding
him to this place so that even though he knew Taleswapper was right and he
ought to leave, he couldn't bring himself to go.

How did Calvin ever do it? How did Calvin leave this music behind him?

Then Miss Larner's letter came.

Measure's boy Simon brought it, him being five now and old enough to
run down to Armor-of-God's store to pick up the post. He could do his
letters now, too, so he didn't just give the letter over to his grandma or
grandpa, he took it right to Alvin himself and announced at the top of his
lungs, "It's from a woman! She's called Miss Larner and she makes real purty
letters!"

"Pretty letters," Alvin corrected him.

Simon wasn't to be fooled. "Oh, Uncle Al, you're the only person around
here as says it like that! I'd be plumb silly to fall for a joke like that!"

Alvin pried up the sealing wax and unfolded the letter. He knew her
handwriting from the many hours he had tried to imitate it, studying with
her back in Hatrack River. His hand was never as smooth, could never flow
the way hers did. Nor was he as eloquent. Words weren't his gift, or at
least not the formal, elegant words Miss Larner-Peggy-used in writing.

Dear Alvin,

You've overstayed in Vigor Church. Calvin's a great danger to you, and
you must go find him and reconcile with him; if you wait for him to come
back to you, he will bring the end of your life with him.

I can almost hear you answer me: I ain't afraid to see my life end. (I
know you still say ain't, just to spite me.) Go or stay, that's up to you.
But I can tell you this. Either you will go now, of your own free will, or
you will go soon anyway, but not freely. You're a journeyman smith-- you
will have your journey.

Perhaps in your travels we shall encounter each other. It would please
me to see you again.

Sincerely,

Peggy

Alvin had no idea what to make of this letter. First she bosses him
around like a schoolboy. Then she talks teasingly about how he still says
ain't. Then she as much as asks him to come to her, but in such a cold way
as to chill him to the bone-- "It would please me to see you again" indeed!
Who did she think she was, the Queen? And she signed the letter "sincerely"
as if she was a stranger, and not the woman that he loved, and that once
said she loved him. What was she playing at, this woman who could see so
many futures? What was she trying to get him to do? It was plain there was
more going on than she was saying in her letter. She thought she was so
wise, since she knew more about the future than other folks, but the fact
was that she could make mistakes like anybody else and he didn't want her
telling him what to do, he wanted her to tell him what she knew and let him
make up his own mind.

One thing was certain. He wasn't going to drop everything and take off
in search of Calvin. No doubt she knew exactly where he was and she hadn't
bothered to tell him. What was that supposed to accomplish? Why should he go
off searching for Calvin when she could send him a letter and tell him, not
where Calvin was right now, but where Calvin would be by the time Alvin
caught up with him? Only a fool takes off on foot trying to follow the
flight of a wild goose.

I know I've got to leave here sometime. But I'm not going to leave in
order to chase down Calvin. And I'm not going to leave because the woman I
almost married sends me a bossy letter that doesn't even hint that she still
loves me, if she ever really did. If Peggy was so sure that he'd go soon
anyway, because he had to, well, then he might as well just wait around and
see what it was that would make him go.




Chapter 5 -- Twist

America was too small a country for Calvin. He knew that now. It was
all too new. The powers of a land took time to ripen. The Reds, they knew
the land, but they were gone. And the Whites and Blacks who lived here now,
they had only shallow powers, knacks and hexes, spells and dreams. Nothing
like the ancient music that Alvin had talked about. The greensong of the
living forest. Besides, the Reds were gone, so whatever it was they knew, it
must have been weak. Failure was proof enough of that.

Even before Calvin knew in his mind where he was headed, his feet knew.
East. Sometimes a bit north, sometimes a bit south, but always east. At
first he thought he was just going to Dekane, but when he got there he just
worked for a day or two to get a bit of coin and some bread in his belly,
and then he was off over the mountains, following the new railroad into
Irrakwa, where he could sneer a little at men and women who were Red in body
but White in dress and speech and soul. More work, more coin, more practice
at using his Making here and there. Pranks, mostly, because he didn't dare
use his knack out In the open where folks would take notice and spread word
of him. Just little favors for houses where they treated him good, like
driving all the mice and roaches off their property. And a little bit of
getting even with those who turned him away. Sending a rat to die in a well.
Causing a leak in the roof over a flour barrel. That one was hard, making
the wood swell and then shrink. But he could work with the water. The water
lent itself to his use better than any other element.

Turned out that Irrakwa wasn't where his feet were taking him, either.
He worked his way across Irrakwa to New Holland, where the farmers all spoke
Dutch, and then down the Hudson to New Amsterdam.

He thought when he came to the great city on the tip of Manhattan
Island that this might be the place he was looking for. Biggest city in the
U.S.A. And it wasn't hardly Dutch anymore. Everybody spoke English for
business, and on top of that Calvin counted a dozen languages before he
stopped caring how many. Not to mention strange accents of English from
places like York and Glasgow and Monmouth. Surely all the lores of the world
were gathered here. Surely he could find teachers.

So he stayed for days, for a week. He tried the college farther up the
island, but they wanted him to study intellectual things instead of the lore
of power, and soon enough Calvin figured out that none of them high-toned
professors knew anything useful anyhow.They treated him like he was crazy.
One old coot with a white goat-beard spent half an hour trying to convince
Calvin to let the man study him, like as if he was some strange specimen of
bug. Calvin only stayed for the whole half hour so he'd have time to loosen
all the bindings of all the books on the man's shelves. Let him wonderabout
Calvin's kind of madness as the pages of every book he picked up fell out
and scattered on the floor.

If the professors weren't worth nothing, the street wasn't much better.
Oh, he heard about loremasters and wizards and such. Gypsies bragged on some
cursemonger. Irishmen knew of a priest who had special ways. Frenchmen and
Spaniards heard of witches or child-saints or whatever. One Portugee told of
a free Black woman who could make your enemy's crotch turn as smooth and
blank as an armpit-- which, according to the story, was how she got her
freedom, after doing that to her master's firstborn son and threatening to
do it next to him. But every one of them kept retreating out of sight. He'd
find out who knew the loremaster, and then go to that person and find out
that he only knew somebody else who knew the powerful one, and so on and so
on, like constables searching through the night for a fugitive who kept
slipping away into alleys.

In the meantime, though, Calvin learned to live in a city and he liked
it. He liked the way that you could disappear right out in the open. Nobody
knew you. Nobody expected anything from you. You were what you wore. When he
arrived he dressed like a rube from the country, and so people expected him
to be stupid and awkward and, what the hell, he was. But in a few days he
realized how his clothes gave him away and he bought some city garb from a
used-garment house. That was when people started being willing to talk to
him. And he learned to change his speech a little, too. Talk faster, get rid
of some of the drawl. Shake off the country twang. He knew he gave himself a
way with every word he said, but he was getting better. People didn't ask
him to repeat himself as much. And by the end of the week, he was no more
out of place than any of the other immigrants. That was as good as it got--
it wasn't as if anybody was actually from New Amsterdam. Except maybe for
some old Dutch landlords hiding in their mansions up-island.

Rumors of wisdom, but no wisdom to be had in this town. Well, what did
he expect? Anybody who really knew the powers of the old world would hardly
have to board some miserable boat and sail west at risk of life and limb in
order to come live in some sinkhole of a slum in New Amsterdam. No, the
people of Europe who understood power were still in Europe-- because they
were running things there, and didn't have no reason to leave.

And who was the most powerful one of all? Why, the man whose victories
had caused all these people of the dozen languages to flock to American
shores. The man who drove the aristocrats out of France, and then conquered
Spain and the Holy Roman Empire and Italy and Austria and then for some
reason stopped at the Russian border and the English Channel, declared peace
and held on, iron-fisted but, as they said, tenderhearted, so that pretty
soon nobody in Italy or Austria or the low countries or anywhere, really,
was wishing for their old rulers to come back. That was the man who
understood power. That was the man who was fit to teach Calvin what he
needed to know.

Only trouble was, why would a man so powerful ever agree to speak to a
poor farmboy from Wobbish?, And how was that poor farmboy ever going to find
passage across the ocean? If only Alvin had bothered to teach him how to
turn iron into gold. Now that would be useful, Imagine a whole steam
locomotive turned io solid gold. Fire up the engine and the whole damn thing
would melt down-- but it would melt down into pools of gold. Just put in a
dipper and draw it out and there was passage to France, and not in no
steerage, neither. First-class passage, and a fine hotel in Paris. Fine
clothes, too, so that when he walked into the American embassy the flunkies
would bow and scrape and take him straight to the ambassador and the
ambassador would take him straight to the imperial palace where he would be
presented to Napoleon himself and Napoleon would say, Why should I meet with
you, an ordinary citizen of a second-rate country in the wild lands of the
west? And Calvin would take three dipperfuls of gold out of his pockets and
set them heavily in Napoleon's hands and say, How much of this do you want?
I know how to make more. And Napoleon would say, I have all the taxes of
Europe to buy me gold. What do I need with your pathetic handfuls? And
Calvin would say, Now you have a bit more gold than you had before. Look at
your buttons, sir. And Napoleon would look at the brass buttons on his coat
and they would be gold, too, and he would say, What do you want from me,
sir? That's right, he'd call Calvin "sir," and Calvin would say, All I want
is for you to teach me the ways of power.

Only if Calvin knew how to turn iron or brass into gold, he sure as
hell wouldn't need no help from Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of Earth or
whatever fool title the man had given himself in his latest promotion. It
was one of those circular dilemmas that he always kept running into. If he
had enough power to attract Napoleon's attention, he wouldn't need Napoleon.
And, because he needed Napoleon, there was no chance that any of his
underlings would let Calvin come anywhere near him.

Calvin wasn't stupid. He wasn't no rube, whatever the city people
thought. He knew that powerful men didn't let just anybody come in and chat.

But I do have some powers, thought Calvin. I do have some powers, and I
can wangle a way, once I get across the pond. That's what the sophisticated
people called the Atlantic Ocean-- the pond. Once I get across the pond.
Might have to learn French, but they say Napoleon speaks English, too, from
his days as a general, in Canada. One way or another, I'll get to see him
and he'll take me on as his apprentice. Not apprenticed like to take over
his empire after him, but instead to do the same thing in America. Bring the
Crown Colonies and New England and the United States all under one flag. And
Canada, too. And Florida. And then maybe he'd turn his eyes across the
Mizzipy and see how good a job old Tenskwa-Tawa would do at holding back a
Maker who wanted to cross and conquer Red country.

All dreams. All stupid foolish dreams of a boy sleeping in a cheap
boardinghouse and doing lousy odd jobs to earn a few cents a day. Calvin
knew that, but he also knew that if he couldn't turn a knack like his into
money and power he didn't deserve nothing better than those lousy beds and
wormy meals and backbreaking jobs.

One thing, though. Folks on the street were getting used to the idea
that Calvin was searching for something, and finally the old woman he bought
apples from-- the one who'd given him an apple his first day there when he
was out of money, since she was a country girl herself, she said; the one
who from that day to this found no more worms or flies in her fruit-- she
said to him, "Well I hope you've talked to the Bloody Man, he knows stuff."

"Bloody Man?"

"You know, the one as tells horrible stories or when he can't find
nobody new to tell it to, his hands are dripping with blood, Everybody knows
the Bloody Man. He come here because the curse on him is, he has to find new
people every day to tell his story to, and where you going to find a good
supply of new people all the time?"

Of course Calvin knew by now exactly who she was talking about.
"Harrison is here?"

"You know him?"

"Know of him. He called hisself-- himself-- governer of Wobbish for a
while. Slaughtered Tenskwa-Tawa's people at Tippy-Canoe."

"That's the one. Dreadful story. Thank heaven I only had to hear it the
once. But there's some kind of power in the fact that his hands get all
bloody. I mean, that's strange, ain't it? All them other folks you hear
about, you never actually see them do nothing, if you know what I mean. But
you can see the blood. That's power, I reckon."

"Reckon so." Again he corrected himself. "I think so."

"Might as well say, 'I imagine so,' if you're trying to get all
highfalutin."

"Just don't want to sound country, that's all."

"Then you'd better learn French. All the high-tone folks do. Here we
are in a Dutch city,where everybody speaks English, and they go into their
toney restaurants and order their food in French! What did the French ever
have to do with New Amsterdam? You want to eat in French, you go to Canada,
that's what I say!"

He listened to her diatribe until he could finally get free-- which
meant when she finally got a customer-- and then he set out to find
Harrison. White Murderer Harrison. Calvin knew all about the curse on him,
from the stories told by his own father and neighbors, and he'd sometimes
imagined Harrison walking country roads from town to town, folks throwing
him out before he could come in and start telling his awful tale. It never
occurred to him that Harrison would come to the city, but it made sense,
once you thought about it. Bloody Man.

He found him in an alleyway behind a restaurant where he got fed every
night by a manager who didn't want him accosting his customers. "It's a
stiff punishment," said the manager. "I had a landlord in Kilkenny who
believed in that kind of justice. Punishments that went on forever.
Permanent shame. I think it's wrong. I don't care much what the man did. Let
him without sin among you, and all that. So he eats back of my restaurant.
Long as he doesn't hurt trade."

"Aren't you the generous one," said Calvin.

"You got a mouth on you, boy. In fact I am generous, and open-minded,
too, and just because I know it and take credit for it doesn't make it any
less true. So you can take your little winking sort of wit and leave my
establishment if you're going to eat my food and then sit in judgment on
me."

"I haven't eaten your food."

"But you will," said the man, "because, as I said, I am generous, and
you look hungry. Now get back to the kitchen and you can tell the cook to
give you something for yourself and something for Bloody Man out in the
alley. If you come with his food, he'll talk to you, right enough. He'll
probably tell you his story, for that matter."

"I know his story."

"Everybody might know a story, but it's never the same story they know.
Now get away from my door, you look like a street rat."

Calvin looked down at his clothes and realized, yes, he had bought
clothing to blend in, but what he blended in with was the street not the
city. He'd have to do something about that before he went to Paris. Have to
become, if not a gentleman, then at least a tradesman. Not a street rat.

He didn't like people who called themselves generous, but the fact was
the food in the kitchen was good. The cook didn't give him no scraps or
scrapings. He got food that was decent and there was plenty. How did this
manager stay in business, being so generous to the poor? No doubt he was
cheating his boss. He could afford to be generous, since he didn't have to
pay for it himself. Most virtues were like that. People could take pride in
how virtuous they were, but the fact was that as soon as virtue got
expensive or inconvenient, it was amazing how fast it gave way to practical
concerns.

The man's generosity got him this much: no roaches or mice in his
kitchen.

Out in the alleyway, Bloody Man was sipping from a wine bottle. He saw
Calvin and his eyes went hungry. Calvin laughed. "I hear you've got a story
to tell."

"They still sending boys like you to find me, as a prank?"

"No prank. I know your story, mostly. Just wanted to meet you my own
self, I guess."

Harrison offered him the wine bottle. "Best thing about this place," he
said. "Besides that they don't run me off in the first place. When somebody
opens a bottle of wine and doesn't finish it at the table, the manager
refuses to pour from that bottle to anyone else. So it comes out into the
alley."

"The big surprise," said Calvin, "is that there ain't ten dozen other
hungry drunks here."

Harrison laughed. "They used to. But they got sick of hearing me tell
my story and now I have the alley to myself. That's how I like it."

But Calvin could hear it in his voice that it was a lie. He didn't like
it that way. He was hungry for company.

"Might as well start telling me the story. Between bites, if you want,"
said Calvin.

Harrison started eating. Calvin could see a remnant of table manners.
Once he had been a civilized man.

Between bites, Harrison told the tale. All of it: How he had some Reds
from south of the Hio come and kidnap two White boys in order to blame it on
Tenskwa-Tawa, the so-called Red Prophet. Only the boys were rescued somehow
and fell in with the Prophet's brother, Ta-Kumsaw. But that didn't matter
because Harrison still used the kidnapping to rile up the White folks in the
northern part of Wobbish, the ones as lived nearest to the Prophet's village
at Tippy-Canoe. So Harrison was able to raise an army to go wipe out
Prophetstown. And then at the last minute, who shows up but one of the
kidnapped boys. Well, Harrison sees nothing for it but to have the boy
killed, and everything seems to be working. The Reds just stand there,
letting the musketfire and the grapeshot mow them down until nine out of ten
of them was dead, the whole meadow a sheet of blood flowing down into the
Tippy-Canoe, only it was too much for those White men-- they *called*
themselves men-- because they all stopped shooting before the job was done,
and then up comes that boy who was supposed to be dead and he wasn't even
injured, and he tells the truth to everybody and then the Red Prophet puts a
curse on all of them there and the worst curse on Harrison, including that
he has to tell a new person every day and...

"You're telling it all wrong," said Calvin.

Harrison looked at him angrily. "You think after all these years I
don't know how to tell the tale? If I tell it any other way, I get blood on
my hands and believe me, it looks bad. People throw up when they see me.
Looks like I stuck my hands in a corpse up to my elbows."

"Telling it your way has you living in an alley, eating from charity
and drinking leftover wine," said Calvin.

Harrison squinted at him. "Who are you?"

"The boy you tried to kill is my brother Measure. The other boy you had
them kidnap is my brother Alvin."

"And you came to gloat?"

"Do I look like I'm gloating? No, I left home because I got sick of
their righteousness, knowing everything and not having respect for nobody
else."

Harrison winked. "I never liked people like that."

"You want to hear how you ought to tell your tale?"

"I'm listening."

"The Reds were at war with the Whites. They weren't using the land but
they didn't want White farmers to use it, either. They just couldn't share
even though there was plenty of room. Tenskwa-Tawa claimed to he peaceful,
but you knew that he was gathering all those thousands of Reds together in
order to be Ta-Kumsaw's army. You had to do something to rile up the Whites
there to put a stop to this menace. So yes, you had two boys kidnapped, but
you never gave orders for anybody to be killed--"

"If I say that the blood just leaps onto my hands on the spot--"

"I'm sure you've thought of all the possible lies, but hear me out,"
said Calvin.

"Go on."

"You didn't order anybody killed. That was just lies your enemies told
about you. Lies originating with Alvin Miller Junior, now called Alvin
Smith. After all, Alvin was the Boy Renegado, the White boy who went
everywhere with Ta-Kumsaw for a year. He was Ta-Kumsaw's friend-- we'll use
the word friend because we're in decent company-- so of course he lied about
you. It was your battle at Tippy-Canoe that broke the back of Ta-Kumsaw's
plans. If you hadn't struck then and there, Ta-Kumsaw would have been
victorious later at Fort Detroit, and Ta-Kumsaw would have driven all the
civilized folks out of the land west of the Appalachees and Red armies would
be descending on the cities of the east, raiding out of the mountains and
why, thanks to you and your courage at Tippy-Canoe, the Reds have been
driven west of the Mizzipy. You opened up all the western lands to safe
colonization."

"My hands would be dripping before I said all that."

"So what? Hold them up and say, 'Look what the Red Witch Tenskwa-Tawa
did to punish me. He covered my hands with blood. But I'm glad to pay that
price. The blood on my hands is the reason why White men are building
civilization right to the shores of the Mizzipy. The blood on my hands is
the reason why people in the east can sleep easy at night, without so much
as a thought about Reds coming and raping and killing the way those savages
always did.'"

Harrison chuckled. "Every word you've said is the profoundest bull
hockey, my boy, I hope you know that."

"You just need to decide whether you're going to let Tenskwa-Tawa have
the final victory over you."

"Why are you telling me this? What's in it for you?"

"I don't know. I came looking for you thinking you might know something
of power, but when I heard you tell that weaselly weakling tale I knew that
you didn't know nothing that a man could use. In fact, I knew more than you.
So, seeing how I was going to ask you to share, it seemed only fair to share
right back."

"How kind of you." His sarcasm was inescapable.

"I don't think so. I just picture the look on my brother Alvin's face
when you tell everbody he was the Boy Renegado. You say that, and nobody'll
believe him if he testifies against you. In fact, he'll have to hide
himself, when you think of all the terrible things folks believe about the
Boy Renegado. How he was the cruelest Red of them all, killing and torturing
so even the Shaw-Nee puked."

"I remember those tales."

"You hold up those bloody hands, my friend, and then make them mean
what you want them to mean."

Harrison shook his head. "I can't live with the blood."

"So you have a conscience, eh?"

Harrison laughed. "The blood gets in my food. It stains my clothes. It
makes people sick."

"If I were you, I'd eat with gloves on and I'd wear dark clothes."

Harrison was through eating. So was Calvin.

"So you want me to do this to hurt your brother."

"Not hurt him. Just keep him silent and out of sight. You've spent,
what, eight years living like a dog. Now it's his turn."

"There's no going back," said Harrison. "Once I tell lies, I'll have
bloody hands till the day I die."

Calvin shrugged. "Harrison, you're a liar and a murderer, but you love
power more than life. Unfortunately you're piss-poor at getting it and
keeping it. Ta-Kumsaw and Alvin and Tenskwa-Tawa played you for a sucker.
I'm telling you how to undo what they done to you. How to set yourself free.
I don't give a rat's front teeth whether you do what I said or not." He got
up to go.

Harrison half-rose and clutched at Calvin's pantlegs. "Someone told me
that Alvin, he's a Maker. That he has real power."

"No he doesn't," said Calvin. "Not for you to worry about. Because, you
see, my friend, he can only use his power for good, never to harm nobody."

"Not even me?"

"Maybe he'll make an exception for you." Calvin grinned wickedly. "I
know I would."

Harrison withdrew his hands from Calvin's clothing. "Don't look at me
like that, you little weasel."

"Like what?" asked Calvin.

"Like I'm scum. Don't you judge me."

"Can you tell me a single good reason why not?"

"Because whatever else I did, boy, I never betrayed my own brother."

Now it was Calvin's turn to look into the face of contempt. He spat on
the ground near Harnison's knees. "Eat pus and die," he said.

"Was that a curse?" asked Harrison jeeringly as Calvin walked away. "Or
merely a friendly warning?"

Calvin didn't answer him. He was already thinking of other things. How
to raise the money to get passage east, for one thing. First class. He was
going to go first class. Maybe what he needed to do was see if his knack
extended to causing money to fall out of some shopkeeper's moneybag as he
carried his earnings to the bank. If he did it right, no one would see. He
wouldn't get caught. And even if someone saw the money fall out and him pick
it up, they could only accuse him of finding dropped money, since he never
laid a hand on the bag. That would work. It would be easy enough. So easy
that it was stupid that Alvin had never done it before. The family could
have used the money. There were some hard years. But Alvin was too selfish
ever to think of anybody but himself, or anything but his stupid plan of
trying to teach Making to people with no knack for it.

First-class passage to England, and from there across the channel to
France. New clothes. It wouldn't take much to get that kind of money. A lot
of money changed hands in New Amsterdam, and there was nothing to stop some
of it from falling onto the street at Calvin's feet. God had given him the
power, and that meant that it must be the will of God for him to do it.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if Harrison actually took Calvin's advice?




Chapter 6 -- True Love

Amy Sump didn't care what her friends or anybody said. What she felt
for Alvin Maker was love. Real love. True, deep, abiding love that would
withstand the test of time.

If only he would pay any attention to her openly, so others could see
it. Instead all he ever did was give her those glances that made her heart
flutter so within her. She worried sometimes that maybe it was just his
Makerness, his knack or whatever it was. Worried that he was somehow
reaching inside her chest and making her heart turn over and her whole body
quiver. But no, that wasn't the sort of thing that Makers did. In fact maybe
he didn't even know about her love for him. Maybe his glances were really
searching looks, hoping to see in her face some sign of her love. That was
why she no longer tried to hide her maidenly blushes when her heart beat so
fast and her face felt all hot and tingly. Let him see how his gaze
transforms me into a quivering mass of devoted worshipfulness.

How Amy longed to go to the teaching sessions where Alvin worked with a
dozen or so grownups at once, telling them how a Maker had to see the world.
How she would love to hear his voice for hours on end. Then she would
discover the true knack within her, and both she and her beloved Alvin would
rejoice to discover that she was secretly a Maker herself, so that the two
of them together would be able to remake the world and fight off the evil
nasty Unmaker together. Then they would have a dozen babies, all of them
Makers twice over, and the love of Alvin and Amy Maker would be sung for a
thousand generations throughout the whole world, or at least America, which
was pretty much the same thing as far as Amy cared.

But Amy's parents wouldn't let her go. "How could Alvin possibly
concentrate on teaching anybody anything with you making cow-eyes at him the
whole time?" her mother said, the heartless old hag. Not as cruel as her
father, though, telling her, "Get some control over yourself, girl! Or I'm
going to have to get you some love diapers to keep you from embarrassing
yourself in public. Love diapers, do you understand me?" Oh, she understood
him, the nasty man. Him of the cranks and pulleys, pipes and cables. Him of
pumps and engines and machinery, who had no understanding of the human
heart. "The heart's just a pump itself, my girl," he said, which showed him
to be a deeply totally impossibly eternally abysmally ignorant machine of a
man his own self but said nothing about the truth of the universe. It was
her beloved Alvin who understood that all things were alive and had
feelings-- all things except her father's hideous dead machines, chugging
away like walking corpses. A steam-powered lumbermill! Using fire and water
to cut wood! What an abomination before the Lord! When she and Alvin were
married, she'd get Alvin to stop her father from making any more machines
that roared and hissed and chugged and gave off the heat of hell. Alvin
would keep her in a sylvan wonderland where the birds were friends and the
bugs didn't bite and they could swim naked together in clear pools of water
and he would swim to her in real life instead of just in her dreams and he
would reach out and embrace her and their naked bodies would touch undefthe
water and their flesh would meet and join and...

"No such thing," said her friend Ramona.

Amy felt herself grow hot with anger. Who was Ramona to decide what was
real and what wasn't? Couldn't Amy tell her dreams to somebody without
having to keep saying it was just a dream instead of pretending that it was
real, that his arms had been around her? Didn't she remember it as clearly--
no, far more clearly-- than anything that had ever happened to her in real
life?

"Did so happen. In the moonlight."

"When!" said Ramona, her voice dripping with contempt.

"Three nights ago. When Alvin said he was going out into the woods to
be alone. He was really going to be with me."

"Well where is there a pool of clear water like that? Nothing like that
around here, just rivers and streams, and you know Alvin never goes into the
Hatrack to swim or nothing."

"Don't you know anything?" said Amy, trying to match her best friend's
disdain. "Haven't you heard of the greensong? How Alvin learned from them
old Reds how to run through the forest like the wind, silent and not even so
much as bending a branch? He can run a hundred miles in an hour, faster than
any railroad train. It wasn't any kind of pool around here, it was so far
away that it would take anybody from Vigor Church three days to get there on
a good horse!"

"Now I know you're just lying," said Ramona.

"He can do that any day," insisted Amy hotly.

"He can, but you can't. You screech when you brush up into a spiderweb,
you dunce."

"I'm not a dunce I'm the best student in the school you're the dunce,"
said Amy all in a breath-- it was an epigram she had often used before. "I
held Alvin's hand is what, and he carried me along, and then when I got
tired he picked me up in those blacksmith's arms of his and carried me."

"And then I'm sure he really took off all his clothes and you took off
all of yours, like you was a couple of weasels or something."

"Muskrats. Otters. Creatures of water. It wasn't nakedness, it was
naturalness, the freeness of two kindred souls who have no secrets from each
other."

"Well, what a bunch of beautifulness," said Ramona. "Only I think if it
really happened it would be disgustingness and revoltingness, him coming up
and hugging you in your complete and utter starkersness."

Amy knew that Ramona was making fun of her but she wasn't sure why
making up words like disgustingness made the idiotic girl laugh and almost
fall off the tree branch where they were sitting.

"You have no appreciation of beauty."

"You have no appreciation of truth," said Ramona. "Or should I say, of
'truthfulness.'"

"You calling me a liar?" said Amy, giving her a little push.

"Hey!" cried Ramona. "No fair! I'm farther out on the branch so there's
nothing for me to grab onto."

Amy pushed her again, harder, and Ramona wobbled, her eyes growing wide
as she clutched at the branch.

"Stop it you little liar!" cried Ramona. "I'll tell what lies you've
been saying."

"They aren't lies," said Amy. "I remember it as clearly as... as
clearly as the sunlight over the fields of green corn."

"As clearly as the grunting of the hogs in my father's sty," said
Ramona, in a voice that matched Amy's for dreaminess.

"Of course true love would be beyond your ability to imagine."

"Yes, my imaginingness is the epitaph of feebleness."

"Epitome, not epitaph," Amy said.

"Oh, if only I could have your sublimeness of correctness, your
wiseness."

"Stop nessing all the time."

"You stop."

"I don't do that."

"Do so."

"Do not."

"Eat worms," said Ramona.

"On brain salad," said Amy. And now that they were back to familiar
playful argument, they both broke into laughter and talked about other
things for a while.

And if things had stayed that way, maybe nothing would have happened.
But on the way back home in the gathering dusk, Ramona asked one last time,
"Amy, telling truth, cross your heart, friend to friend, swear to heaven,
remember forever, tell me that you didn't really actually with your own
flesh and blood go swimming naked with Alvin Smith--"

"Alvin Maker."

"Tell me it was a dream."

Almost Amy laughed and said, Of course it was a dream, you silly girl.

But in Ramona's eyes she saw something: wide-eyed wonder at the idea
that such things were possible, and that someone Ramona actually knew might
have done something so wicked and wonderful. Amy didn't want to see that
look of awe change to a look of knowing triumph. And so she said what she
knew she shouldn't say. "I wish it was a dream, I honestly do, Ramona.
Because when I think back on it I long for him all the more and I wonder
when he'll dare to speak to my father and tell him that he wants me for his
wife. A man who's done a thing like that with a girl-- he's got to marry
her, doesn't he?"

There. She had said it. The most secret wonderful dream of her heart.
Said it right out.

"You've got to tell your papa," said Ramona. "He'll see to it Alvin
marries you."

"I don't want him to be forced," said Amy. "That's silly. A man like
Alvin can only be enticed into marriage, not pushed into it."

"Everybody thinks you're all goo-goo over Alvin and he doesn't even see
you," said Ramona. "But if he's going off with you a swimming starkers in
some faraway pond that only he can get to, well, I don't think that's right.
I honestly don't."

"Well, I don't care what you think," said Amy. "It is right and if you
tell I'll cut off all your hair and tat it into a doily and burn it."

Ramona burst out laughing. "Tat it into a doily? What kind of power
does that have?"

"A six-sided doily," said Amy portentously.

"Oh, I'm trembling. Made out of my own hair, too. Silly, you can't do
things like that, that's what Black witches do, make things out of hair and
burn them or whatever."

As if that was an argument. Alvin did Red magic; why couldn't Amy learn
to do Black magic, when her Makering knack was finally unlocked? But there
was no use arguing about that sort of thing with Ramona. Ramona thought she
knew better than anybody. It was a marvel that Amy even bothered to keep her
as a best friend.

"I'm going to tell," said Ramona. "Unless you tell me right now that
it's all a lie."

"If you tell I'll kill you," said Amy.

"Tell me it's a lie, then."

Tears sprang unbidden to Amy's eyes. It was not a lie. It was a dream.
A true dream, of true love, a dream that came from the paths of secretness
within her own and Alvin's hearts. He dreamed the same dream at the same
time, she knew it, and he felt her flesh against his as surely as she felt
his against hers. That made it true, didn't it? If a man and a woman both
remembered the realness of each other's bodies pressing against each other,
then how was that anything but a true experience? "I love Alvin too much to
lie about such a thing. Cut my tongue out if any part of it is false!"

Ramona gasped. "I never believed you till now."

"But you tell no one," said Amy. Her heart swelled with satisfaction
over her victory. Ramona finally believed her. "Swear."

"I swear," said Ramona.

"Show me your fingers!" cried Amy.

Ramona brought her hands out from behind her. The fingers weren't
crossed, but that didn't prove they weren't crossed a few moments ago.

"Swear again now," said Amy. "When I can see your hands."

"I swear," said Ramona, rolling her eyes.

"It's our beautiful secret," said Amy, turning and walking away.

"Ours and Alvin's," said Ramona, uncrossing her ankles and following
her.




Chapter 7 -- Booking Passage

It didn't take Calvin too long to figure out that it was going to take
a powerful long time to earn enough money to buy passage to Europe as a
gentleman. A long time and a lot of work. Neither idea sounded attractive.

He couldn't turn iron into gold, but there was plenty of things he
could do, and he thought about them long and hard. He wasn't sure, but he
didn't reckon them banks could keep him out of their vaults for long if he
got to working on what all was holding them together. Still, there was a
chance of being caught, and that would be the ruination of all his dreams.
He thought of putting out his shingle as a Maker, but that would bring a
kind of fame and attention that wouldn't stand in his favor later, not to
mention all the accusations of charlatanry that would be bound to come. He
was already hearing rumors of Alvin-- or rather, of some prentice smith out
west who turned an iron plow into gold. Half those who told the tale did it
with rolled eyes, as if to say, I'm sure some western farmboy has a Maker's
knack, that's likely, yes!

Sometimes Calvin wished it was a different knack he had. For instance,
he could do with a torch's knack about now. Seeing the future-- why, he
could see which property to buy, or which ship to invest in! But even then
he'd have to have a partner to put up the money, since he had nothing now.
And hanging around New Amsterdam getting rich wasn't what he wanted. He
wanted to learn Makering, or whatever it was that Napoleon could teach him.
Having set his sights so high, the petty businessmen of Manhattan were
hardly the partners he wanted.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying went.

If he couldn't easily get the money for his first-class voyage, why not
go direct to the source of all voyages? So it was that he found himself
walking the wharfs of Manhattan, along the Hudson and the East River. It was
entertaining in its own right, the long, sleek sailing ships, the clunky,
smoky steamers, the stevedores shouting and grunting and sweating, the
cranes swinging, the ropes and pulleys and nets, the stink of fish and the
bawling of the gulls. Who would have guessed, when he was a boy rowdying in
a millhouse in Vigor Church, that one day he would be here on the edge of
the land, drinking in the liquorous scents and sounds and sights of the life
of the sea.

Calvin wasn't one to get lost in reverie and contemplation, though. He
had his eye out for the right ship, and from time to time stopped to ask a
stevedore of a loading ship what the destination might be. Those as were
bound for Africa or Haiti or the Orient were no use to him, but them with
European destinations got a thorough looking-over. Until at last he found
the right one, a bright and tall-masted English ship with a captain of some
breeding who didn't seem to raise his voice at all, though all the men did
his will, working hard and working smart under his eye. Everything was
clean, and the cargo included trunks and parcels carefully loaded up the
ramp instead of being tossed around carelesslike.

Naturally, the captain wouldn't think of talking to a boy Calvin's age,
wearing Calvin's clothes. But it wasn't hard for Calvin to think of a plan
to get the captain's attention.

He walked up to one of the stevedores and said, "Scuse me, sir, but
there's a sharp leak a-going near the back of the boat, on the further
side."

The stevedore looked at him oddly. "I'm not a sailor."

"Neither am I, but I think the captain'll thank them as warns him of
the problem."

"How can you see it, if it's under the water?"

"Got a knack for leaks," said Calvin. "I'd hurry and tell him, if I
were you."

Saying it was a knack was enough for the stevedore, him being an
American, even if he was a Dutchman by his accent. The captain, of course,
wouldn't care diddly about knacks, being an Englishman, which under the
Protectorate had a law against knacks. Not against having them, just against
believing they existed or attempting to use them. But the captain was no
fool, and he'd send somebody to check, knack or no knack.

Which is how it happened. The stevedore talking to his foreman; the
foreman to some ship's officer; each time there was a lot of pointing at
Calvin and staring at him as he nonchalantly whistled and looked down at the
waterline of the ship. To Calvin's disappointment, the officer didn't go to
the captain, but instead sent a sailor downstairg into the dark cellar of
the ship. Calvin had to provide something for him to see, so now he sent out
his doodlebug and got into the wood, right where he'd said the leak was. It
was a simple thing to let the planks get just a Jittle loose and out of
position under the waterline, which sent a goodly stream of water spurting
into the cellar of the ship. Just for the fun of it, when he figured the
sailor must be down there looking at it, Calvin opened and closed the gap,
so the leak was sometimes a fine spray, sometimes a gush of water, and
sometimes just a trickle. Like blood seeping from a wound with an
intermittent tourniquet. Bet he never saw no leak like that before, thought
Calvin.

Sure enough, in a few minutes the sailor was back, acting all agitated,
and now the officer barked orders to several seamen, then went straight to
the captain. This time, though, there wasn't no finger-pointing. The officer
wasn't going to give Calvin none of the credit for finding the leak. That
really got Calvin's goat, and for a minute he thought of sinking the boat
then and there. But that wouldn't do him no good. Time enough to put that
greedy ambitious officer in his place.

When the captain went below, Calvin put on a fine show for him. Instead
of causing one leak to spurt and pulse, Calvin shifted the leak from one
place to another-- a gush here, a gush there. By now it had to be obvious
that there wasn't nothing natural about that leak. There was a good deal of
stirring on the deck, and a lot of sailors started rushing below. Then, to
Calvin's delight, a fair number started rushing back onto the deck and onto
the gangplank, heading for dryland where there wasn't no strange powers
causing leaks in the boat.

Finally the captain came on deck, and this time the officer wasn't
taking all the credit for himself. He pointed to the foreman, who pointed to
the stevedore, and pretty soon they were all pointing at Calvin.

Now, of course, Calvin could stop fiddling with the leak. He stopped it
cold. But he wasn't done. As the captain headed for the gangplank, Calvin
sent his bug to seek out all the nearby rats that he could sense lurking
under the wharf and among the crates and barrels and on the other ships. By
the time the captain got halfway down the gangplank, a couple of dozen rats
were racing up the very same bridge, heading for the ship. The captain tried
in vain to shoo them back, but Calvin had filled them with courage and grim
determination to reach the deck-- food, food, Calvin was promising them--
and they merely dodged and went on. Dozens more were streaming across the
planking of the pier, and the captain was fairly dancing to avoid tripping
on rats and falling on his face. On deck, sailors with mops and bowling pins
were striking at the rats, trying to knock or sweep them off into the sea.

Then, as suddenly as he had launched the rats, Calvin sent them a new
message: Get off this ship. Fire, fire. Leaks. Drowning. Fear.

Squealing and scurrying, all the rats that he had sent aboard came
rushing back down the gangplank and all the lines and cables connecting the
ship to the shore. And all the rats that had already been aboard, lurking in
the cargo hold and in the dark wet cellar and in the hidden caves in the
joints and beams of the ship, they also gushed up out of the hatches and
portholes like water bubbling out of a new spring. The captain stopped cold
to watch them leave. Finally, when all the rat traffic had disappeared into
their hiding places on the wharf and the other ships, the captain turned
toward Calvin and strode to him. Through it all the man had never lost his
dignity-- even while dancing to avoid the rats. My kind of man, thought
Calvin. I must watch him to learn how gentlemen behave.

"How did you know there was a leak on my ship?" asked the captain.

"You're an Englishman," said Calvin. "You don't believe in what I can
see and do."

"Nevertheless, I believe in what I can see, and there was nothing
natural about that leak."

"I'd say them rats might have been doing it. Good thing for you they
all left your ship."

"Rats and leaks," said the captain. "What do you want, boy?"

"I want to be called a man, sir," said Calvin. "Not a boy."

"Why do you wish harm to me and my ship? Has someone of my crew done
you an offense?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Calvin. "I reckon you're
not such a fool as to blame the one as told you you had a leak."

"I'm also not such a fool as to think you knew of anything you didn't
have the power to cause or cure at will. Were the rats your doing as well?"

I was as surprised as you were by their behavior," said Calvin. "Didn't
seem natural, all them rats rushing onto a sinking ship. But then they
seemed to come to their senses and leave again. Every single rat, I daresay.
Now, that would be an interesting voyage, wouldn't it-- to cross the ocean
without any loss of your food supply to the nibbling of rats."

"What do you want from me?" asked the captain.

"I stopped to do you a favor, with no thought of benefit to my own
self," said Calvin, trying to sound like an educated Englishman and knowing
from the expression on the captain's face that he was failing pathetically.
"But it happens that I am in need of first-class passage to Europe."

The captain smiled thinly. "Why in the world would you want to book
passage on a leaking ship?"

"But sir," said Calvin, "I've got a sort of knack for spotting leaks.
And I can promise you that if I were aboard your ship, during the whole
voyage there'd be not a single leak, even in the stoutest storm." Calvin had
no idea whether he could keep a ship tight during all the stresses of a
storm at sea, but odds were that he'd never have to find out, either.

"Correct me if I'm wrong," said the captain, "but am I to guess that if
I take you on my ship, first class, without your paying a farthing, I'll
find no problem with leaks and not a rat on my ship? While if I refuse, I'll
find my ship at the bottom of the harbor?"

"That would be a rare disaster," said Calvin. "How could such a
well-made ship possibly sink faster than your boys could pump?"

"I saw how the leak moved from place to place. I saw how strangely the
rats behaved. I may not believe in your American knacks, but I know when I'm
in the presence of unaccountable power."

Calvin felt pride flush through his body like ale.

Suddenly he felt the barrel of a pistol just under his breastbone. He
looked down to see that the captain had somehow come up with a weapon.

"What's to stop me from blowing a hole in your belly?" asked the
captain.

"The likelihood of your dancing on the end of an American rope," said
Calvin. "There ain't no law against knacks here, sir, and saying that
somebody was doing witchery ain't cause enough to kill him the way it is in
England."

"But it's to England you're going," said the captain. "What's to stop
me from taking you on my ship, then having you arrested the moment you step
ashore?"

"Nothing," said Calvin. "You could do that. You could even kill me in
my sleep during the voyage and cast my body overboard into the sea, telling
all the others that you had to dispose of the body of a plague victim as
quickly as possible. You think I'm a fool, not to think of that stuff?"

"So go away and leave me and my ship alone."

"If you killed me, what would keep the planks from pulling free of the
beams of your boat? What would stop your boat from turning into scraps of
lumber bobbing on the water?"

The captain eyed him curiously.

"First-class passage is ludicrous for you. The other first-class
passengers would snub you at once, and no doubt they'd assume I'd brought
you aboard as my catamite. It would ruin my career anyway, to permit an
uncouth, unlettered ruffian like you to sail among my gentle passengers. To
put it plainly, young master, you may have power over rats and planks, but
you have none over rich men and women."

"Teach me," said Calvin.

"There aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week."

"Teach me," said Calvin again.

"You come here threatening me with destruction of my ship by the evil
powers of Satan, and then dare to ask me to teach you to be a gentleman?"

"If you believed my powers were from the devil," said Calvin, "then why
didn't you once say a prayer to ward me off?"

The captain glared at him for a moment, then smiled, grimly but not
without genuine mirth. "Touche," he said.

"Whatever the devil that means," said Calvin.

"It's a fencing term," said the captain.

"I must've put up ten miles of fences in my life," said Calvin. "Post
and rail, stone, wire, and, picket, every kind, and I never heard of no
tooshay."

The captain's smile broadened. "There is something attractive in your
challenge. You may have some interesting... what do you call them... knacks?
But you're still a poor boy from the farm. I've taken many a peasant lad and
turned him into a first-rate seaman. But I've never taken a boy who wasn't a
gentleman born and turned him into something that could pass for civilized."

"Consider me the challenge of your life."

"Oh, believe me, I already do. I haven't altogether decided not to kill
you, of course. But it seems to me that since you mean to cause me trouble
anyway, why not accept the challenge and see if I can work a miracle just as
inexplicable and impossible as any of the nasty pranks you've played an me
this morning?"

"First class, not steerage," Calvin insisted.

The captain shook his head. "Neither one. You'll travel as my cabin
boy. Or rather, my cabin boy's boy. Rafe is a good three years younger than
you, I imagine, but he knows from birth all that you are so desperate to
learn. With you to help him, perhaps he'll have enough free time to teach
you. And I'll oversee you both. On several conditions, though."

Calvin didn't see as how the captain was in much of a position to set
conditions, but he listened civil-like all the same.

"No matter what powers you have, survival at sea depends on instant and
perfect obedience from everyone on board the ship. Obedience to me. You know
nothing of the sea and I gather you don't care about learning seamanship,
either. So you will do nothing that interferes with my authority. And you
will obey me yourself. That means that when I say piss, you don't even look
for a pot, you just whip it out and pee."

"In front of others, I'll do a fine show of obedience, unless you
command me to kill myself or some such foolishness."

"I'm not a fool," said the captain,

"All right, I'll do like you say."

"And you'll keep your mouth shut until you learn-- in private-- to talk
in some way approximating gentlemanly speech. Right now if you open your
mouth you confess your low origins and you will embarrass yourself and me in
front of my crew and the other officers and passengers."

"I know how to keep my mouth shut when I need to."

"And when you reach England, our deal is done and you leave no curse on
my ship."

"Now you've asked too much," said Calvin. "What I need is your
introduction to other high-class people. And passage to France."

"To France! Aren't you aware that England is at war with France?"

"You have been ever since Napoleon conquered Austria and Spain. What's
that to me?"

"In other words, reaching England doesn't mean I'll be rid of you."

"That's right," said Calvin.

"So why don't I just kill myself now and spare myself all this
adventure before you send me to an early grave?"

"Because them as is my friends will prosper in this world and there
ain't nothing much bad that can happen to them."

"And all I have to do is maintain my status as your friend, is that
it?"

Calvin nodded.

"But someday, isn't it going to occur to you that if the only reason
I'm kind to you is out of terror that you'll destroy my ship, I'm not really
your friend at all?"

Calvin smiled. "That just means you'll have to try extra hard to
convince me that you really mean it."

The officer who had first heard Calvin's message now approached the
captain diffidently. "Captain Fitzroy," he said. "The leaking seems to have
stopped, sir."

"I know," said the captain.

"Thank you sir," said the officer.

"Get everyone back to work, Benson," said the captain.


"Some of the American stevedores and sailors won't get back on that
ship no matter what we say, sir."

"Pay them off and hire others," said the captain. "That will be all,
Benson."

"Yes sir." Benson turned around and headed back toward the gangplank.

Calvin, in the meantime, had heard the air of crisp command in Captain
Fitzroy's voice and wondered how a man could learn to use his voice like a
sharp hot knife, slicing through other men's will like warm butter.

"I would say you've already caused me more trouble than you're worth,"
said Captain Fitzroy. "And I personally doubt that you have it in you to
learn to be a gentleman, though heaven knows there are plenty that have the
title who are every bit as ignorant and boorish as you. But I will accept
your coercive agreement, in part because I find you fascinating as well as
despicable."

"I don't know what all them words mean, Captain Fitzroy, but I know
this-- Taleswapper once told us how when kings have bastards, the babies get
the last name 'Fitzroy.' So no matter what I am, your name says you're a son
of a bitch."

"In my case, the great-great-grandson of a bitch. The second Charles
sowed his wild oats. My great-great-grandmother, a noted actress of
semi-noble origins, entered into a liaison with him and managed to get her
child recognized as royal before the parliament deprived him of his head. My
family has had its ups and downs since the end of the monarchy, and there
have been Lords Protector who thought that our association with the royal
family made us dangerous. But we managed to survive and even, in recent
years, prosper. Unfortunately, I'm the younger son of a younger son, so I
had the choice of the church or the army or the sea. Until meeting you, I
did not regret my choice. Do you have a name, my young extortionist?"

"Calvin," he said.

"And are you of such a benighted family that you have but the one name
to spend as your patrimony?"

"Maker," said Calvin. "Calvin Maker."

"How deliciously vague. Maker. A general term that can be construed in
many ways while promising no particular skill. A Calvin of all trades. And
master of none?"

"Master of rats," said Calvin, smiling. "And leaks."

"As we have seen," said Captain Fitzroy. "I will have your name
enrolled as part of the ship's company. Have your gear aboard by nightfall."

"If you have someone follow me to kill me, your ship--"

"Will dissolve into sawdust, yes, the threat has already been made,"
said Fitzroy. "Now you only have to worry about how much I actually care for
my ship."

With that, Fitzroy turned his back on Calvin and headed up the
gangplank. Calvin almost made him slip and take a pratfall, just to pierce
that dignity. But there was a limit, he knew, to how far he could push this
man. Especially since Calvin hadn't the slightest idea how to carry out his
threat to make the ship fall apart if they killed him. Either he could make
the ship leak or stop leaking, but either way he had to be there and alive
to do it. If Fitzroy ever realized that his worst threats were pure bluff,
how long would he let Calvin live?

Get used to it, Calvin, he told himself. Plenty of people have wanted
Alvin dead, too, but he got through it all. We Makers must have some kind of
protection, it's as simple as that. All of nature is looking out for us, to
keep us safe. Fitzroy won't kill me because I can't be killed.

I hope.



Chapter 8 -- Leavetaking

For some reason Alvin's classroom of grownup women just wasn't going
well today. They were distracted, it seemed like, and Goody Sump was
downright hostile. It finally came to a head when Alvin started working with
their herb boxes. He was trying to help them find their way into the
greensong, the first faintest melody, by getting their sage or sorrel or
thyme, whatever herb they chose, to grow one specially long branch. This was
something Alvin reckoned to be fairly easy, but once you mastered it, you
could pretty much get into harmony with any plant. However, only a couple of
the women had had much success, and Goody Sump was not one of them, Maybe
that was how come she was so testy-- her laurel wasn't even thriving, let
alone showing lopsided growth on one branch.

"The plants don't make the same music they did back when the Reds were
tending the woods," Alvin said. He was going to go on and explain how they
could do, in a small way, what the Reds did large, but he didn't get a
chance, because that was the moment Goody Sump chose to erupt.

She leapt from her chair, strode over to the herb table, and brought
her fist right down on top of her own laurel, capsizing the pot and
spattering potting soil and laurel leaves all over the table and her own
dress. "If you think them Reds was so much better why don't you just go live
with them and carry off their daughters to secret randy views!"

Alvin was so stunned by her unprovoked rage, so perplexed by her
inscrutable words, that he just looked at her gapemouthed as she pulled what
was left of her laurel out of what was left of the soil, pulled off a
handful of leaves, and threw them in his face, then turned and stalked out
of the room.

As soon as she was gone, Alvin tried to make a joke out of it. "I
reckon there's some folks as don't take natural to agriculture." But hardly
anybody laughed.

"You got to overlook her behavior, Al," said Sylvy Godshadow. "A
mother's got to believe her own daughter, even if everybody else knows she's
spinning moonbeams."

Since Goody Sump had five daughters, and Alvin had heard nothing
significant about any of them lately, this information wasn't much help. "Is
Goody Sump having some trouble at home?" he asked.

The women all looked around at each other, but not a one would meet his
eyes.

"Well, it looks to me like everybody here knows somewhat as hasn't yet
found its way to my ears," said Alvin. "Anybody mind explaining?"

"We're not gossips," said Sylvy Godshadow. "I'm surprised you'd think
to accuse us." With that, she stood up and started for the door.

"But I didn't call nobody a gossip," said Alvin.

"Alvin, I think before you criticize others, you'd comb the lice out of
your own hair," said Nana Pease. And she was up and off, too.

"Well, what are the rest of you waiting for?" said Alvin. "If you all
wanted a day off of class, you only had to ask. It's a sure thing I'm done
for the day."

Before he could even get started sweeping up the spilt soil, the other
ladies had all flounced out.

Alvin tried to console himself by muttering things he'd heard his own
father mutter now and then over the years-- things like "Women" and "Can't
do nothing to please 'em" and "Might as well shoot yourself first thing in
the morning." But none of that helped, because this wasn't just some normal
display of temper. These were levelheaded ladies, every one of them, and
here they were up in arms overplain nothing, which wasn't natural.

It wasn't till afternoon that Alvin realized something serious was
wrong. A couple of months ago, Alvin had asked Clevy Sump, Goody Sump's
husband, to teach them all how to make a simple one-valve suction pump. It
was part of Alvin's idea to teach folks that making is making, and everybody
ought to know everything they can possibly learn. Alvin was teaching them
hidden powers of Making, but they ought to be learning how to make with
their hands as well. Secretly Alvin also hoped that when they saw how tricky
and careful it was to make fine machinery like Clevy Sump did, they'd
realize that what Alvin Was teaching wasn't much harder if it was harder at
all. And it was working well enough.

Except that today, after the noon bread and cheese, he went on out to
the mill to find the men gathered around the wreckage of the pumps they'd
been making. Every one of them was broke in pieces. And since the fittings
were all metal, it must have took some serious work to break it all up.
"Who'd do a thing like this?" Alvin asked. "There's a lot of hate goes into
something like this." And thinking of hate, it made Alvin wonder if maybe
Calvin hadn't come back secretly after all.

"There's no mystery who done it," said Winter Godshadow. "I reckon we
ain't got us a pump-making teacher no more."

"Yep," said Taleswapper. "This looks like a specially thorough way of
telling us, 'Class dismissed.'"

Some of the men chuckled. But Alvin could see that he wasn't the only
one angry at the destruction. After all, these pumps were nearly completed,
and all these men had put serious work into making them. They counted on
them at their own houses. For many of them, it meant the end of drawing
water, and Winter Godshadow in particular had got him a plan to pipe the
water right into the kitchen, so his wife wouldn't even have to go outdoors
to fetch it. Now their work was undone, and some of them weren't taking
kindly to it.

"Let me talk to Clevy Sump about this," said Alvin. "I can't hardly
believe it was him, but if it was, whatever's the problem I bet it can be
set to rights. I don't want none of you getting angry at him before he's had
his say."

"We ain't angry at Clevy," said Nils Torson, a burly Swede. His
heavy-lidded gaze made it clear who he was angry at.

"Me?" said Alvin. "You think I done this?" Then, as if he could hear
Miss Larner's voice in his ear, he corrected himself. "Did this?"

Murmurs from several of the men assented to the proposition.

"Are you crazy? Why would I go to all this trouble? I'm not an Unmaker,
boys, you know that, but if I was, don't you think I could tear up these
pumps a lot more thoroughly without taking half so much trouble?"

Taleswapper cleared his throat. "Perhaps you and I ought to talk alone
about this, Alvin."

"They're accusing me of wrecking all their hard work and it ain't so!"
said Alvin.

"Ain't nobody accusin' nobody of nothin'," said Winter Godshadow. "God
follows all. God sees all deeds."

Usually when Winter got into his God-talking moods, the others would
sort of back off and pretend to be busy paring their nails or something. But
not this time-- this time they were nodding and murmuring their agreement.

"Like I said, Alvin, let's you and me have a word. In fact, I think we
ought to go on up to the house and talk to your father and mother."

"Talk to me right here," said Alvin. "I'm not some little boy to be
taken out behind the woodshed and given a licking in private. If I stand
accused of something that everybody knows about except me--"

"We ain't accusing," said Nils. "We're pondering."

"Pondering," echoed a couple of the others.

"Tell me here and now what you're pondering," said Alvin. "Because
whatever I'm accused of, if it's true I want to make it right, and if it's
false I want to set it straight."

They looked at each other back and forth, until finally Alvin turned to
Taleswapper. "You tell me."

"I only repeat tales that I believe to be true," said Taleswapper. "And
this one I believe to be a flat-out lie told by a dreamy-hearted girl."

"Girl? What girl?" and then, putting together Goody Sump's behavior and
what Clevy Sump had done to the pumps, and remembering the dreamy expression
in one girl's eyes when she sat there in the children's class paying no
intelligent attention to a thing that Alvin said, he jumped to a certain
conclusion and whispered her name. "Amy."

To Alvin's consternation, some of the men took the fact that he came up
with her name as proof that Amy was telling the truth about whatever it was
she had said. "See?" they murmured. "See?"

"I'm done with this," said Nils. "I'm done. I'm a farmer. Corn and
hogs, that's my knack if I have me any." When he left, several other men
went with him.

Alvin turned to the others. "I don't know what I'm accused of, but I
can promise you this, I've done nothing wrong. In the meantime, it's plain
there's no use in holding class today, so let's all go home. I reckon
there's a way to salvage every one of these pumps, so your work isn't lost.
We'll get back to it tomorrow."

As they left, some of the men touched Alvin's shoulder or punched his
arm to show their support. But some of the support was of a kind he didn't
much like. "Can't hardly blame you, pretty little calf-eyed thing like
that." "Women is always reading more into things than a man means."

Finally Alvin was alone with Taleswapper.

"Don't look at me," said Taleswapper. "Let's go on up to the house and
see if your father's heard the stories yet."

When they got there, it was like a family council was already in
session. Measure, Armor-of-God, and Father and Mother were all gathered
around the kitchen table. Arthur Stuart was kneading dough-- small as he
was, he was good with bread and liked doing it, so Mother had finally given
in and admitted that a woman could still be mistress of her own house even
if somebody else made the bread.

"Glad you're here, Al," said Measure. "You'd think a piece of silliness
like this would just get laughed out of town. I mean, these folks should
know you."

"Why should they?" asked Mother. "He's been gone most of the past seven
years. When he left he was a scrub-size boy who'd just spent a year running
around the countryside with a Red warrior. When he come back he was full of
power and majesty and scared the pellets out of all the bunny-hearts around
here. What do they know of his character?"

"Would somebody please tell me what this is about?" Alvin said.

"You mean they haven't?" asked Father. "They were powerful quick to
tell your mother and Measure and Armor-of-God."

Taleswapper chuckled. "Of course they didn't tell Alvin. Those who
believe the tale assume he already knows. And those who don't believe it are
plain ashamed that anyone could say such silly slander."

Measure sighed. "Amy Sump told her friend Ramona, and Ramona told her
mama, and her mama went straight to Goody Sump, and she went straight to her
husband, and he like to went crazy because he can't conceive that every male
creature larger than a mouse isn't hottin' up after his nubian daughter."

"Nubile," Alvin corrected him.

"Yeah yeah," said Measure. "I know, you're the one who reads the books,
and now's sure the time to correct my grammar."

"Nubians are Black Africans," said Alvin. "And Amy ain't no Black near
as I can figure."

"This might be a good time to shut up and listen," said Measure.

"Yes sir," said Alvin.

"If only you had left when that torch girl sent you that warning," said
Mother. "It's a plain fool who stays inside a burning house because he wants
to see the color of the flames."

"What's Amy saying about me?" asked Alvin.

"Pure nonsense," said Father. "About you running off in the Red way, a
hundred miles in a night through the woods, taking her to a secret lake
where you swum nekkid and other such indecencies."

"With Amy?" asked Alvin, incredulous.

"Meaning that you'd do it with someone else?" asked Measure.

"I'd do such a thing with nobody," said Alvin. "Ain't decent, and
besides, there ain't enough unbroken living forest these days to get a
hundred miles in a night. I can't make half so good a speed through fields
and farms. The greensong gets noisy and busted up and I get too tired trying
to hear it and why is anybody believing such silliness?"

"Because they think you can do anything," said Measure.

"And because a good number of these men have noticed Amy filling out of
late," said Armor-of-God, "and they know that if they had the power, and if
Amy was as moony toward them as she plainly is toward you, they'd have her
naked in a lake in two seconds flat."

"You're too cynical about human nature," said Taleswapper. "Most of
these fellows are the wishing kind. But they know Alvin is a doer, not just
a wisher."

"I hardly noticed her except to think she was sure slow to learn,
considering how tight she seemed to pay attention," said Alvin.

"To you she was paying attention. Not to what you said or taught," said
Measure.

"Well it ain't so. I didn't do anything to her or with her, and..."

"And even if you did it would be plain disaster if you married her,"
said Mother.

"Married her!" cried Alvin.

"Well of course, if it was true, you'd have to marry her," said Father.

"But it ain't true."

"You got any witnesses of that?" asked Measure.

"Witnesses of what? How can I have witnesses that it didn't happen?
Everybody's my witness-- everybody didn't see any such thing."

"But she says it happened," said Measure. "And you're the only other
one who knows whether she's lying or not. So either she's a plain liar and
you're innocently accused, or she's a brokenhearted lied-to seduced girl and
you're the cad who got the use of her and now won't do the decent thing, and
nobody can prove either way."

"So you don't even believe me?"

"Of course we believe you," said Father. "Do you think we're insane?
But our believing you ain't any kind of evidence. Measure's been reading
law, and he explained it to us."

"Law?" asked Alvin.

"Well, afore you come home from Hatrack River, anyway. And, now and
then since. I reckon somebody in the family ought to know something about
the law."

"But you mean you think this might come to court?"

"Might," said Measure. "That's what the Sumps were saying. Get them a
lawyer from Carthage City instead of one of the frontier lawyers as has a
shingle out here in Vigor Church. Lots of publicity."

"But they can't convict me of anything!"

"Breach of promise. Indecent liberties with a child. All depends on how
many jurors think that where there's smoke, there's fire."

"Indecent liberties with a..."

"That one's a hanging offense, all right," said Measure. "But I hear
that's the charge that Clevy wants to bring."

"Doesn't matter if they convict you or not," said Taleswapper.

"Matters to me," said Mother.

"Either way, the tale will spread. Alvin the so-called Maker, taking
advantage of young girls. You can't let this go to trial," said Taleswapper.

Alvin saw at once how such rumors, such publicity as a trial would
bring, it would bring down his work, make it impossible to attract others to
come and learn Making at Vigor Church.

Not that he was doing much good teaching Making anyway.

"Miss Larner," murmured Alvin.

"Yep," said Taleswapper. "She warned you. Leave now freely, or leave
later because you have to."

"Why should he he driven from his own home just because a horny lying
little..." Mother's voice trailed off.

Alvin sat in the ensuing silence, recognizing his foolishness. "I spose
I'm a plain fool for not heeding Miss Larner." And then, stiffening his
back, he closed his eyes, and said, "There's another way. So I don't have to
leave at all."

"What's that?" asked Measure.

"I could marry her."

"No!" cried Mother and Father at once.

"Why not just sign a confession?" asked Armor-of-God.

"You can't marry her," said Measure.

"It's what she wants," said Alvin. "You can bet she'd say yes, and her
father and mother would have to agree to it."

"Agree to it-- and then despise you ever after," said Father.

"Doesn't matter about his reputation or what people think of him or
anything, compared to this," said Measure. "Waking up every morning and
seeing Amy Sump in bed next to you, and knowing the only reason she's there
is because she slandered you-- tell me what kind of home you'll make, the
two of you, for your babies?"

Alvin thought about that for a moment and nodded. "I guess marriage
ain't much of a solution. More like starting a whole new set of problems."

"Ah, good," said Father. "I was afraid we'd raised us a fool."

"So I sneak off like a thief, and everybody reckons Amy was telling the
truth and I ran off."

"Not likely," said Measure. "We'll let it be known that you left
because your work is too important to be distracted by this nonsense. You'll
be back when Amy starts telling the truth, and in the meantime, you'll be
studying up on... whatever. Learning something."

"Learning how to build the Crystal City," murmured Taleswapper.

They all looked at him.

"You don't know how, do you, Alvin?" asked Taleswapper. "While you're
busy trying to make Makers out of these people, you don't even know yourself
what the Crystal City really is, or how to make it."

Alvin nodded. "That's right."

"So... it isn't even a lie," said Taleswapper. "You do have much to
learn, and you're overdue to learn it. Why, you're even grateful to Amy for
showing you that you've been hanging around here far too long. Measure's
been learning right good. He's far enough ahead of the others that he can go
on teaching in your absence. And him being a married man, no schoolgirl's
going to get some foolish notion about him."

"I don't know," said Measure. "I'm pretty cute."

"You have my bags packed yet, Taleswapper?" asked Alvin.

"Ain't as if you need much luggage," said Taleswapper. "You're going to
be traveling small and fast. I reckon there's only one burden that will
weigh you down much. A certain farm implement."

"I couldn't leave it here?" asked Alvin.

"Not safe," said Taleswapper. "Not safe for your family, to have the
rumor get about that the Maker is gone but he left the golden plow behind."

"Not safe for him to have the rumor say he took it with him," said
Mother.

"Nobody on this planet is safer than Alvin, if he wants to be," said
Measure.

"So I just pick up the plow, put it in a gunnysack, and head on out?"
asked Alvin.

"That's about the best plan," said Armor-of-God. "Though I bet your ma
will insist on you taking some salt pork with you, and a change of clothes."

"And me."

They all turned to the source of the small piping voice.

"He's taking me with him," said Arthur Stuart.

"You'd only slow him down, boy," said Father. "You got a good heart,
but short legs."

"He ain't in no hurry," said Arthur, "specially figuring as he don't
know where he's going."

"The point is you'd be in the way," said Armor-of-God. "He'd always
have to be thinking of you, trying to keep you out of harm's way. There's
plenty of places in this land where a free half-Black boy is going to get
folks' dander up, and that won't be much help to Alvin either."

"You're talking like you think you got a choice," said Arthur. "But if
Alvin goes, I go, and that's it. You can lock me in a closet, but someday
I'll get out and then I'll follow him and find him or die trying."

They all looked at him in consternation. Arthur Stuart had been near
silent since coming to Vigor after his adopted mother was murdered back in
Hatrack River. Silent but hardworking, cooperative, obedient. This was a
complete surprise, this attitude from him.

"And besides," said Arthur Stuart, "while Alvin's busy looking after
the whole world, I'll be there to look after him."

"I think the boy should go," said Measure. "The Unmaker plainly ain't
done with Alvin yet. He needs somebody to watch his back. I think Arthur's
got it in him."

And that was pretty much it. Nobody could size up a fellow like Measure
could.

Alvin walked to the hearth and pried up four stones. Nobody would have
guessed that anything was hid under them, because until he raised the stones
there wasn't so much as a crack in the mortar. He didn't dig in the earth
under the stones; the plow was buried eight feet deep, and shoveling would
have taken all day, not to mention the dismantling of the entire hearth. No,
he just held out his hands and called to the plow, and willed the earth to
float it up to him. A moment later, the plow bobbed to the surface of the
soil like a cork on a still pond. Alvin could hear a couple of sharp breaths
behind him-- it still got to folks, even his own family, when he showed his
knack so openly. Also, the gold had such a luster to it. As if, even in the
pitch black of the darkest moonless stormy night, that plow would still be
visible, the gold burning its way even through your closed eyelids to
imprint its shining life straight onto your eyes, straight into your brain.
The plow trembled under Alvin's hand.

"We got us a journey to take," Alvin murmured to the warm gold. "And
maybe along the way we'll figure out what I made you for."

An hour later, Alvin stood at the back door of the house. Not that it
took him an hour to pack-- he'd spent most of the time down at the mill,
fixing the pumps. Nor had he spent any of the time on farewells. They hadn't
even sent word to any of the family that he was going, because word would
get out and the last thing Alvin needed was for folks to be lying in wait
for him when he headed into the forest. Mother and Father and Measure and
Armor would have to carry his words of love and Godblessyou to his brothers
and sisters and nieces and nephews.

Alvin hitched the bag with the plow and his change of clothes in it
over his shoulder. Arthur Stuart took his other hand. Alvin scanned the
hexes he'd laid in place around the house and made sure they were still
perfect in their sixness, undisturbed by wind or meddling. All was in order.
It was the only thing he could do for his family in his absence, was to keep
wardings about to fend off danger.

"Don't you worry about Amy, either," said Measure. "Soon as you're
gone, she'll notice some other strapping boy and pretty soon the dreams and
stories will be about him and folks'll realize that you never done nothing
wrong."

"Hope you're right," said Alvin. "Because I don't intend to stay away
for long."

Those words hung in the silence for a moment, because they all knew it
was quite possible that this time Alvin might be gone for good. Might never
come home. It was a dangerous world, and the Unmaker had plainly gone to
some trouble to get Alvin out of here and onto the road.

He kissed and hugged all around, taking care not to let the heavy plow
smack into anybody. And then he was off for the woods behind the house,
sauntering so as to give anyone watching him the impression that this was
just a casual errand he was on, and not some life-changing escape. Arthur
Stuart had ahold of his left hand again. And to Alvin's surprise,
Taleswapper fell into step right beside him.

"You coming with me, then?" asked Alvin.

"Not far," said Taleswapper. "Just to talk a minute."

"Glad to have you," said Alvin.

"I just wondered if you've given any thought to finding Peggy Larner,"
said Taleswapper.

"Not even for a second," said Alvin.

"What, are you mad at her? Hell, boy, if you'd just listened to her..."

"You think I don't know that? You think I haven't been thinking of that
this whole time?"

"I'm just saying that you two was on the verge of marrying back there
in Hatrack River, and you could do with a good wife, and she's the best
you'll ever find."

"Since when do you meddle?" asked Alvin. "I thought you just collected
stories. I didn't think you made them happen."

"I was afraid you'd be angry at her like this."

"I'm not angry at her. I'm angry at myself."

"Alvin, you think I don't know a lie when I hear it?"

"All right, I am angry. She knew, right? Well, why didn't she just tell
me? Amy Sump is going to tell lies about you and force you to leave, so get
out now before her childish imaginings ruin everything."

"Because if she said that, you wouldn't have left, would you, Alvin?
You would have stayed, figuring you could make everything work out fine with
Amy. Why, you would have taken her aside and told her not to love you,
right? And then when she started talking about you, there'd be witnesses who
remembered how she stayed after class one day and was alone with you, and
then you would be in trouble because even more people would believe her
story and--"

"Taleswapper, I wish you sometime would learn the knack of shutting
up!"

"Sorry," said Taleswapper. "I just don't have any gift for that. I just
blather on, annoying people. The fact is that Peggy told you as much as she
could without making things worse."

"That's right. In her judgment, she decided how much I was entitled to
know, and that's all she told me. And then you have the gall to tell me I
should go marry her?"

"I'm not following your logic here, Al," said Taleswapper.

"What kind of marriage is it, when my wife knows everything but she
never tells me enough to make up my own mind! Instead she always makes up my
mind for me. Or tells me exactly what she needs to tell me in order to get
me to do what she thinks I ought to do."

"But you didn't do what she said you ought to do. You stuck around."

"So that's the life you want for me? Either to obey my wife in
everything, or wish I had!"

Taleswapper shrugged. "I'm still not getting your objection."

"It's this simple: A grownup man doesn't want to be married to his
mother. He wants to make his own decisions."

"I'm sure you're right," said Taleswapper. "And who's this grownup man
you're talking about?"

Alvin refused to be baited. "I hope someday it's me. But it'll never be
me if I tie myself to a torch. I owe much to Miss Larner. And I owe even
more to the girl she was before she became a teacher, the girl who watched
over me and saved my life again and again. No wonder I loved her. But
marrying her would have been the worst mistake of my life. It would have
made me weak. Dependent. My knack might have remained in my hands, but it
would be entirely at her service, and that's no way for a man to live."

"A grownup man, you mean."

"Mock me all you want, Taleswapper. I notice you got no wife."

"I must be a grownup, then," said Taleswapper. But now there was an
edge to his voice, and after gazing at Alvin for just another moment, he
turned and walked back the way they'd come together.

"I never seen Taleswapper mad like that before," said Arthur Stuart.

"He doesn't like it when folks throw his own advice back in his face,"
said Alvin.

Arthur Stuart said nothing. Just waited.

"All right, let's go."

At once Arthur turned and started walking.

"Well, wait for me," said Alvin.

"Why?" said Arthur Stuart. "You don't know where we're going, either."

"Reckon not, but I'm bigger, so I get to choose which nowhere we head
for."

Arthur laughed a little. "I bet there's not a single direction you can
choose where there isn't somebody standing in your road, somewhere. Even if
it's halfway around the world."

"I don't know about that," said Alvin. "But I know for sure that no
matter which way we go, eventually we'll run into the ocean. Can you swim?"

"Not an ocean's worth I can't."

"So what good are you, then?" said Alvin. "I was counting on you to tow
me across."

Hand in hand they plunged deeper into the woods. And even though Alvin
didn't know where he was going, he did know this: The greensong might be
weak and jumbled these days, but it was still there, and he couldn't help
but fall into it and start moving in perfect harmony with the greenwood. The
twigs leaned out of his way; the leaves were soft under his feet, and soon
he was soundless, leaving no trail behind him and making no disturbance as
he went.

That night they camped on the shore of Lake Mizogan. If you could call
it camping, since they made no fire and built no shelter. They broke out of
the woods late in the afternoon and stood there on the shore. Alvin
remembered being at this lake-- not quite this spot, but not far off
either-- when Tenskwa-Tawa had called a whirlwind and cut his feet and
walked out on the bloody water, taking Alvin with him, drawing him up into
the whirlwind and showing him visions. It was then that Alvin first saw the
Crystal City and knew that he would build it someday, or rather rebuild it,
since it had existed once before, or maybe more than once. But the storm was
gone, a distant memory; Tenskwa-Tawa and his people were gone, too, most of
them dead and the rest of them in the west. Now it was just a lake.

Once Alvin would have been afraid of the water, for it was water that
the Unmaker had used to try to kill him, over and over, when he was a child.
But that was before Alvin grew into his knack and became a true Maker that
night in the forge, turning iron into gold. The Unmaker couldn't touch him
through water anymore. No, the Unmaker's tool would be more subtle now. It
would be people. People like Amy Sump, weak-willed or greedy or dreamy or
lazy, but all of them easily used. It was people who held danger for him
now. Water was safe enough, for them as could swim, and that was Alvin.

"How about a dip in the water?" Alvin asked.

Arthur shrugged. It was when they dipped together in the water of the
Hio that the last traces of Arthur's old self got washed away. But there'd
be none of that now. They just stripped down and swam in the lake as the sun
set, then lay down in the grass to dry off, the moonlight making the water
shine, a breeze making the humid air cool enough for sleeping. In the whole
journey they hadn't said a word till they got to the shore of the lake, just
moved in perfect harmony through the wood; even now as they swam, they still
said nothing, and hardly splashed they were so much in harmony with
everything, with each other. So it startled Alvin when Arthur spoke to him,
lying there in the dark.

"This is what Amy dreamed of, ain't it?"

Alvin thought of that for a moment. Then he got up and put on his
clothes. "I reckon we're dry now," he said.

"You think maybe she had a true dream? Only it wasn't her, it was me?"

"I didn't do no hugging or unnatural things when we was naked in the
water," said Alvin.

Arthur laughed. "Ain't nothin' unnatural about what she dreamed of."

"It wasn't no true dream."

Arthur got up and put his clothes on, too. "I heard the greensong this
time, Alvin. Three times I let go of your hand, and I still heard it for the
longest time before it started fading and I had to catch your hand or get
left behind."

Alvin nodded as if that was what he expected. But it wasn't. In all his
teaching of the folks of Vigor Church, he hadn't even tried to teach Arthur
Stuart much, sending him instead to the schoolhouse to learn reading and
ciphering. But it was Arthur who might well be his best student after all.

"You going to become a Maker?" asked Alvin.

Arthur shook his head. "Not me," he said. "Just going to be your
friend."

Alvin didn't say aloud the thought of his heart: To be my friend, you
might just have to be a Maker. He didn't have to say it. Arthur already
understood.

The wind rose a little in the night, and far away, out over the lake,
lightning brightened the underside of distant clouds. Arthur breathed softly
in his sleep; Alvin could hear him in the stillness, louder than the Whisper
of distant thunder. It should have made him feel lonely, but it didn't. The
breaths in the darkness beside him could have been Ta-Kumsaw on their long
journey so many years ago, when Alvin had been called the Boy Renegado and
the fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance. Or it might have been
his brother Calvin when as boys they shared a room; Alvin remembered him as
a baby in a cradle, then in a crib, the child's eyes looking up to him as if
he were God, as if he knew something no other human knew. Well, I did know
it, but I lost Calvin anyway. And I saved Ta-Kumsaw's life, but couldn't do
a thing to save his cause, and he is lost to me also, across the river in
the fog of the Red west.

And the breathing could have been a wife, instead of just a dream of a
wife. Alvin tried to imagine Amy Sump there in the darkness, and even though
Measure was right that it would have been a miserable marriage, the fact was
that her face was pretty, and in this moment of solitary wakefulness Alvin
could imagine that her young body was sweet and warm to the touch, her kiss
eager and full of life and hope.

Quickly he shrugged off that image. Amy was not for him, and even to
imagine her like that felt akin to some kind of awful crime. He could never
marry someone who worshipped him. Because his wife would not be married to
the Maker named Alvin; his wife would be married to the man.

It was Peggy Larner he thought of then. He imagined leaning up on one
elbow and looking at her when the low distant lightning cast a brush of
light across her face. Her hair loose and tousled in the grass. Her ladylike
hands no longer controlled and graceful with studied gestures, but now
casually flung out in sleep. To his surprise tears came to his eyes. In a
moment he realized why: She was as impossible for him as Amy, not because
she would worship him, but because she was more committed to his cause than
he was. She loved, not the Maker, and certainly not the man, but rather the
Making and the thing made. To marry her would be a kind of surrender to
fate, for she was the one who saw futures that might arise out of all
possible present choices, and if he married her he would be no man at all,
not because she would mean to unman him, but because he himself would hot be
so stupid as not to follow her advice. Freely he would follow her, and thus
freely lose his freedom.

No, it was Arthur lying there beside him, this strange boy who loved
Alvin beyond all reason and yet demanded nothing from him; this boy who had
lost a part of himself in order to be free, and had replaced it with a part
of Alvin.

The parallel was suddenly obvious to Alvin, and for a moment he was
ashamed. I did to Arthur just what I fear that Peggy Larner might do to me.
I took away a part of him and replaced it with myself. Only he was so young
and his danger so great that I didn't ask him or explain, nor could he have
understood me if I tried. He had no choice. I still have one.

Would I be as content as Arthur, if once I gave myself to Peggy?

Perhaps someday, Alvin thought. But not now. I'm not ready yet to give
myself to someone, to surrender my will. The way Arthur has to me. The way
parents do to their children, giving their lives over to the needs of
helpless selfish little ones. The road is open before me, all roads, all
possibilities. From this grassy bed beside Lake Mizogan I can go anywhere,
find all that is findable, do all that is doable, make all that can be made.
Why should I build a fence around myself? Leash myself to one tree? Not even
a horse, not even a dog was loyal enough to do such a mad thing to itself.

From infancy on his knack had captured him. Whether as a child in his
family, as Ta-Kumsaw's traveling companion, as a prentice smith, or as a
teacher of would-be Makers, he had been hobbled by his knack. But not now.

The lightning flashed again, farther off this time. There would be no
rain here tonight. And tomorrow he would get up and go south, or north, or
west, or east, as the idea struck him, seeking whatever goal seemed
desirable. He had left home to get away, not to go toward anything. There
was no greater freedom than that.



Chapter 9 -- Cooper

Peggy Larner kept watch on both of those bright heartfires: Alvin as he
wandered through America, Calvin as he made his way to England and prepared
for his audience with Napoleon. There was little change in the possible
futures that she saw, for neither man's plan was one whit altered.

Alvin's plan, of course, was no plan at all. He and Arthur Stuart,
traveling afoot, made their way westward from Mizogan, past the growing town
of Chicago and on until the dense fogs of the Mizzipy turned them back.
Alvin had entertained a vague hope that he, at least, would be permitted to
pass to the Mizzipy and beyond, but if such a thing would ever be possible,
it certainly was not possible now. So he went north all the way to High
Water Lake, where he boarded one of the new steamboats that was carrying
iron ore to Irrakwa, where it would be loaded on trains and carried the rest
of the way to the coal country of Suskwahenny and Pennsylvania, to feed into
the new steel mills. "Is that Making?" asked Arthur Stuart, when Alvin
explained the process to him. "Turning iron into steel?"

"It's a sort of Making," said Alvin, "where earth is forced by fire.
But the cost is high, and the iron aches when it's been transformed like
that. I've seen some of the steel they've made. It's in the rails. It's in
the locomotives. The metal screams all the time, a soft sound, very high,
but I can hear it."

"Does that mean it's evil, to use steel?" asked Arthur Stuart.

"No," said Alvin. "But we should only use it when it's worth the cost
of such suffering. Maybe someday we'll find a better way to bring the iron
up to strength. I am a smith. I won't deny the forgefire or refuse the
hammer and the anvil. Nor will I say that the foundries of Dekane are
somehow worse than my small forge. I've been inside the flame. I know that
the iron can live in it too, and come out unhurt."

"Maybe that's what we're wandering for," said Arthur Stuart. "For you
to go to the foundries and help them make steel more kindly."

"Maybe," said Alvin, and they rode the train to Dekane and Alvin
applied for work in a foundry and learned by watching and doing all the
things there was to know about the making of steel, and in the end he said,
"I found a way, but it takes a Maker to do it, or pretty close." And there
it was: If Alvin was to change the world, it required him to do what he had
already half-failed at doing back in Vigor Church, which was to make more
Makers. They left the steeltowns and went on east and as Peggy watched
Alvin's heartfire she saw no change, no change, no change...

And then one day, of a sudden, for no reason she could see in Alvin's
life, a thousand new roads opened up and down every one of them was a man
that she had never seen before. A man who called himself Verily Cooper and
spoke like a booklearned Englishman and walked beside Alvin every step of
his life for years. Down that path the golden plow was fixed with a perfect
handle and leapt to life under human hands. Down that path the Crystal City
rose skyward and the fog at the Mizzipy shore cleared for a few miles and
Red folk stood on the western shore and gladly greeted White folk come on
coracles and rafts to trade with them and speak to them and learn from them.

But where did this Verily Cooper come from, and why had he now so
suddenly appeared in Alvin's life?

Only later in the day did it occur to Peggy that it was none of Alvin's
doing that brought this man to him, but rather someone else. She looked to
Calvin's heartfire-- so far away she had to look deep through the ground to
see him in England, around the curve of the Earth-- and there she saw that
it was he who had made the change, and by the simplest of choices. He took
the time to charm a Member of Parliament who invited him to tea, and even
though Calvin knew that this man had nothing for him, on a whim, the merest
chance, he decided he would go. That decision transformed Calvin's own
futures only slightly. Nothing much was changed, except this: Down almost
every road, Calvin spent an hour at the tea sitting beside a young barrister
named Verily Cooper, who listened avidly to all that Calvin had to say.

Was it possible, then, that Calvin was part of Alvin's making after
all? He went to England with the undoing of all of Alvin's works in his
heart; and yet, by whim, by chance-- if there was such a thing as chance--
he would have an encounter that would almost surely bring Verily Cooper to
America. To Alvin Smith. To the golden plow, the Crystal City, the opening
of the Mizzipy fog.

***

Arise Cooper was an honest hardworking Christian. He lived his life as
close to purity as he could, given the finite limits of the human mind.
Every commandment he learned of, he obeyed; every imperfection he could
imagine, he purged from his soul. He kept a detailed journal every day,
tracking the doings of the Lord in his life.

For instance, on the day his second son was born, he wrote: "Today
Satan made me angry at a man who insisted on measuring the three kegs I made
him, sure that I had given him short measure. But the Spirit of God kindled
forgiveness within my heart, for I realized that a man might become
suspicious because he had been so often cheated by devilish men. Thus I saw
that the Lord had trusted me to teach this man that not all men will cheat
him, and I bore his insult with patience. Sure enough, as Jesus taught, when
I answered vileness with kindness the stranger did part from my coopery as
my friend instead of my enemy, and with a wiser eye about the workings of
the Lord among men. Oh how great thou art, my beloved God, to turn my sinful
heart into a tool to serve thy purposes in this world! At nightfall entered
into the world my second son, whom I name Verily, Verily, I Say Unto You,
Except Ye Become As A Little Child Ye Shall In No Wise Enter Into The
Kingdom Of Heaven."

If anyone thought the name a bit excessive, they said nothing to Arise
Cooper, whose own name was also a bit of scripture: Arise And Come Forth.
Nor did the child's mother, whose own name was the shortest verse in
scripture: He Wept. They all knew that the baby's whole name would almost
never be used. Instead he was known as Verily, and as he grew up the name
would often be shortened to Very.

It was not the name that was Verily Cooper's heaviest burden. No, there
was something much darker that cast its shadow upon the boy very early in
his life.

Arise's wife, Wept, came to him one day when Verily was only two years
old. She was agitated. "Arise, I saw the boy playing with scraps today,
building a tower of them."

Arise cast his mind through all the evil that one might do with wood
scraps from the cooper's trade and could think of only one. "Was it a
representation of the tower of Babel?"

Wept looked puzzled. "It might be, or might not. What would I know of
that, since the boy speaks not a word yet?"

"What, then?" asked Arise, impatient now because she had not got
straight to the point. No, no, he was impatient because he had guessed wrong
and now was a bit ashamed of himself. It was a sin to try to put the blame
on her for ill feelings of his own causing. In his heart he prayed for
forgiveness even as she went on.

"Arise, he built high with the scraps, but they fell over, again and
again. I saw him and thought, The Lord of heaven teaches our little one that
the works of man are all futility, and only the works of God can last. But
then he gets on his face this look of grim determination, and now he studies
each scrap of wood as he builds with it, laying it in place all
careful-like. He builds and he builds and he builds, until the last scrap is
higher than his own head, and still it stands."

Arise was uncertain what she meant by this, or why it troubled her.

"Come, husband, and see the working of our baby's hand."

Arise followed her into the kitchen. No one else was there, though this
was the busiest cooking time of the day. Arise could see why they had all
fled. For the pile of scrap wood rose higher than reason or balance should
have allowed. The blocks lay every which way, balanced perfectly no matter
how odd or precarious the fit with the blocks above and below.

"Knock it down at once," said Arise.

"Do you think that didn't occur to me?" asked Wept. She flung out her
arm and dashed the tower to the ground. It fell, but all in one motion, and
even lying on the ground the blocks remained attached to each other as
surely as if they were glued.

"He must have been playing with the mucilage," said Axise, but he knew
even as he said it that it wasn't so.

He knelt beside the supine tower and tried to separate a block from the
end. He couldn't pry it away. He picked up the whole tower and dashed it
across his knee. It bruised him but did not break. Finally, by standing on
the middle of it and lifting one end with all his strength, he broke the
tower, but it took as much force as if he were breaking a sturdy plank. And
when he examined the tom ends, he saw that the tower had broken in the
middle of a block, and not at the joint between them.

He looked at his wife, and knew what he should say to her. He should
tell her that it was obvious her son had been possessed by Satan, to such a
point that the lad was now fully empowered with extraordinary witchery. When
such a word was said, there would be no choice but to take the boy to the
magistrate, who would administer the witch tests. The boy, being too young
and speechless to confess or recant, would burn as the court's sentence, if
he did not drown during the trial.

Arise had never questioned the rightness of the laws that kept England
pure of witchery and the other dark doings of Satan. No more would they
exile witches to America-- the only result of that old policy had been a
nation possessed by the Devil. The scripture was clear, and there was no
room for mercy: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

And yet Arise did not say to his wife the words that would force them
to give their baby to the magistrate for discipline. For the first time in
his life, Arise Cooper, knowing the truth, did not act upon it.

"I say we burn this odd-shaped board," said Arise. "And forbid the
child to play with blocks. Watch him close, and teach him to live each
moment in close obedience to the laws of God. Until he has learned, let no
other woman look after him out of your presence."

He looked his wife in the eye, and Wept looked back at him. At first
her eyes were wide with surprise at his words; then surprise gave way to
relief, and then to determination. "I will watch him so close that Satan
will have no opportunity to whisper in his ear," she said."

"We can afford to have a cook to supervise the work of the serving
girls from now on," said Arise. "The raising of this most difficult son is
in our hands. We will save him from the Devil. No other work is more
important than this."

Thus it was that Verily Cooper's upbringing became difficult and
interesting. He was beaten more than any other child in the family, for his
own good, for Arise well knew that Satan had made an inroad in the child's
heart at an early age. Thus all signs,of rebellion, disrespect, and sin must
be driven out vigorously.

If little Verily was resentful of the special discipline he received
compared to his older brother and his younger sisters, he said nothing of
it-- perhaps because complaint always resulted in swift blows from a birch
rod. He learned to live with such punishment and even, after a little while,
to take some pride in it, for the other children looked at him in awe,
seeing how much beating he took without so much as crying-- and for offenses
which, in them, would have brought no more than a sharp look from their
parents.

Verily was quick to learn. The birch rod taught him which of his
actions were merely the normal mischief of a growing boy, and which were
regarded as signs that Satan was laboring mightily for possession of his
soul. When the neighborhood boys were building a snow fort, for instance, if
he built sloppily and carelessly like they did, there was no punishment. But
when he took special care to make the blocks fit smoothly and seamlessly
together, he got such a caning that his buttocks bled. Likewise, when he
helped his father in the shop, he learned thait if he joined the staves of a
barrel loosely, as other men did it, barely holding them together inside the
hoops, relying on the liquid the barrel would eventually hold to swell the
wood and make the joints truly airtight, then it was all right. But if he
chose the wood carefully and concentrated to fit them so the wood joined
perfectly, and the barrel held air as tight as a pig's bladder, his father
beat him with the sizing tool and drove him from the shop.

By the time he was ten, Verily no longer went openly into his father's
shop, and it seemed that his father didn't mind having him stay away. Yet
still it galled him to see the work that the shop turned out without his
help, for Verily could sense the roughness, the looseness of the fit between
the staves of the kegs and the barrels and the butts. It grated on him. It
made him tingle between the shoulder blades just to think of it, until he
could hardly stand it. He took to rising in the middle of the night and
going into the shop and rebuilding the worst of the barrels. No one guessed
what he had done, for he left no scraps behind. All he did was unhoop the
barrel, refit the staves, and draw the hoops back on, moretightly than
before.

The result was, first, that Arise Cooper got a name for making the best
barrels in the midlands; second, that Verily was often sleepy and
lazy-seeming during the day, which led to more beatings, though nothing like
as severe as the ones he got when he really concentrated on making things
fit together; and third, that Verily leamed to live with constant deception,
hiding what he was and what he saw and what he felt and what he did from
everyone around him. It was only natural that he should be drawn to the
study of law.

Lazy as Verily sometimes seemed, he had a sharp mind with his studies.
Arise and Wept both saw it, and instead of contenting themselves with the
local taxpaid teacher, they sent him to an academy that was normally only
for the sons of squires and rich men. The taunting and mockery that Verily
endured from the other boys because of his rough accent and homely clothing
was hardly noticeable to Very-- such poundings as the boys inflicted on him
were nothing compared to the beatings he was inured to, and any abuse that
didn't cause physical pain didn't even enter Very's consciousness. All he
cared about was that at school he didn't have to live in fear all the time,
and the teachers loved it when he studied carefully and saw how ideas fit
together. What he could only do in secret with his hands, he could do openly
with his mind.

And it wasn't just ideas. He began to learn that if he concentrated on
the boys around him, really listening to them, watching how they acted, he
could see them as clearly as he saw bits of wood, seeing exactly where and
how each boy might fit well with each other boy. Just a word here and there,
just an idea tossed into the right mind at the tight time, and he made the
boys of his dormitory into a cohesive band of loving friends. As much as
they were willing, that is. Some were filled with deep rage that made it so
that the better they fit, the more surly and suspicious they became. Verily
couldn't help that. He couldn't change a boy's heart-- he could only help
him find where his natural inclinations would make him fit most comfortably
with the others.

No one saw it, though-- no one saw that it was Verily who made these
boys into the tightest group of friends that had ever passed through this
school. The masters saw that they were friends, but they also saw that
Verily was the one misfit who never quite belonged. They could not have
imagined that he was the cause of the others' extraordinary closeness. And
that was fine with Very. He suspected that if they knew what he was doing,
it would be like being home with Father again, only now it wouldn't be birch
rods.

For in his studies, particularly in religion class, Verily finally came
to understand what the beatings were all about. Witchery. Verily Cooper had
been born a witch. No wonder his father looked haunted all the time. Arise
Cooper had suffered a witch to live, and those canings, far from being an
act of rage or hatred, were really designed to help Verily learn to disguise
the evil born in him so that no one would ever know that Arise and Wept
Cooper had concealed a witchchild in their own home.

But I'm not a witch, Verily finally told himself. Satan never came to
me. And what I do causes no harm. How can it be against God to make barrels
tight, or help boys find the best chance of friendship between them? How
have I ever used my powers except to help others? Was that not what Christ
taught? To be the servant of all?

By the time Verily was sixteen, a sturdy and rather good-looking young
man of some education and impeccable manners, he had become a thoroughgoing
skeptic. If the dogmas about witchery could be so hopelessly wrong, how
could any of the teachings of the ministers be relied upon? It left Verily
Cooper at loose ends, intellectually speaking, for all his teachers spoke as
if religion were the cornerstone of all other learning, and yet all of
Very's actual studies led him to the conclusion that sciences founded upon
religion were uncertain at best, utterly bogus at worst.

Yet he breathed no word of these conclusions. You could be burned as an
atheist just as fast as you could be burned as a witch. And besides, he
wasn't sure he didn't believe in anything. He just didn't believe in what
the ministers said.

If the preachers had no idea of what was good or evil, where could he
turn to learn about right and wrong? He tried reading philosophy at
Manchester, but found that except for Newton, the best the philosophers had
to offer was a vast sea of opinion with a few blocks of truth floating here
and there like wreckage from a sunken ship. And Newton and the scientists
who followed him had no soul. By deciding that they would study only that
which could be verified under controlled conditions, they had merely limited
their field of endeavor. Most truth lay outside the neat confines of
science; and even within those boundaries, Verily Cooper, with his keen eye
for things which did not fit, soon found that while the pretense of
impartiality was universal, the fact of it was very rare. Most scientists,
like most philosophers and most theologians, were captives of received
opinion. To swim against the tide was beyond their powers, and sa truth
remained scattered, unassembled, waterlogged.

At least lawyers knew they were dealing with tradition, not truth; with
consensus, not objective reality. And a man who understood how things fit
together might make a real contribution. Might save a few people from
injustice. Might even, in some far distant year, strike a blow or two
against the witchery laws and spare those few dozen souls a year so
incautious as to be caught manipulating reality in unapproved ways.

As for Arise and Wept, they were deeply gratified when their son Verily
left home expressing no interest in the family business. Their oldest child,
Mocky (full name: He Will Not Be Mocked Cooper) was a skilled barrelmaker
and popular both inside and outside the family. He would inherit everything.
Verily would go to London and Arise and Wept would no longer be responsible
for him. Verily even gave them a quit-claim against the family estate,
though they hadn't asked for it. When Arise accepted the document,
twenty-one-year-old Verily took the birch rod from where it hung on the
wall, broke it over his knee, and fed it into the kitchen fire. There was no
further discussion of the matter. All understood: What Verily chose to do
with his powers was his own business now.

Verily's talents were immediately noticed. He was invited to join
several law firms, and finally chose the one that gave him the greatest
independence to choose his own clients. His reputation soared as he won case
after case; but what impressed the lawyers who truly understood these things
was not the number of victories, but rather the even larger number of cases
that were settled justly without even going to trial. By the time Verily
turned twenty-five, it was becoming a custom several times a month for both
parties in hotly contested lawsuits to come to Verily and beg him to be
their arbiter, completely sidestepping the courts: such was his reputation
as a wise and just man. Some whispered that in due course he would become a
great force in politics. Some dared to wish that such a man might someday be
Lord Protector, if that office were only filled by election, like the
presidency of the United States.

The United States of America-- that motley, multilingual, mongrel,
mossbacked republic that had somehow, kingless and causeless, arisen by
accident between the Crown Lands and New England. America, where men wearing
buckskin were said to walk the halls of Congress along with Reds, Dutchmen,
Swedes, and other semi-civilized specimens who would have been ejected from
Parliament before they could speak a word aloud. More and more Verily Cooper
turned his eyes to that country; more and more he yearned to live in a place
where his gift for making things fit together could be used to the fullest.
Where he could join things together with his hands, not just with his mind
and with his words. Where, in short, he could live without deception.

Maybe in such a land, where men did not have to lie about who they were
in order to be granted the right to live, maybe in such a land he could find
his way to some kind of truth, some kind of understanding about what the
universe was for. And, failing that, at Icast Verily could be free there.

The trouble was, it was English law that Verily had studied, and it was
English clients who were on the way to making him a rich man. What if he
married? What if he had children? What kind of life would he make for them
in America, amid the forest primeval? How could he ask a wife to leave
civilization and go to Philadelphia?

And he wanted a wife. He wanted to raise children. He wanted to prove
that goodness wasn't beaten into children, that fear was not the fount from
which virtue flowed. He wanted to be able to gather his family in his arms
and know that not one of them dreaded the sight of him, or felt the need to
lie to him in order to have his love.

So he dreamed of America but stayed in London, searching in high
society to find the right woman to make a family with. By now his homely
manners had been replaced by university fashion and finally with courtliness
that made him welcome in the finest houses. His wit, never biting, always
deep, made him a popular guest in the great salons of London, and if he was
never invited to the same dinners or parties as the leading theologians of
the day, it was not because he was thought to be an atheist, but rather
because there were no theologians regarded as his equal in conversation. One
had to place Verily Cooper with at least one who could hold his own with
him-- everyone knew that Very was far too kindhearted to destroy fools for
public entertainment. He simply fell silent when surrounded by those of
dimmer wit; it was a shameful thing for a host when word spread that Verily
Cooper had been silent all night long.

Verily Cooper was twenty-six years old when he found himself at a party
with a remarkable young American named Calvin Miller.

Verily noticed him at once, because he didn't fit, but it wasn't
because of his Americanness. In fact, Verily could see at once that Calvin
had done a good job of acquiring a veneer of manners that kept him from the
most egregious faux pas that bedevilled most Americans who attempted to make
their way in London. The boy was going on about his effort to learn French,
joking about how abominably untalented he was at languages; but Verily saw
(as did many others) that this was all pretense. When Calvin spoke French
each phrase came out with splendid accents, and if his vocabulary was
lacking, his grammar was not.

A lady near Verily murmured to him, "If he's bad at languages, I
shudder to imagine what he's good at."

Lying, that's what he's good at, thought Verily. But he kept his mouth
shut, because how could he possibly know that Calvin's every word was false,
except because he knew that nothing fit when Calvin was speaking? The boy
was fascinating if only because he seemed to lie when there was no possible
benefit from lying; he lied for the sheer joy of it.

Was this what America produced? The land that in Verily's fantasies was
a place of truth, and this was what was spawned there? Maybe the ministers
were not wholly wrong about those with hidden powers-or "knacks," as the
Americans quaintly called them.

"Mr. Miller," said Wrily. "I wonder, since you're an American, if you
have any personal knowledge of knacks."

The room fell silent. To speak of such things-- it was only slightly
less crude than to speak of personal hygiene. And when it was rising young
barrister Verily Cooper doing the asking...

"I beg your pardon?" asked Calvin.

"Knacks," said Verily. "Hidden powers. I know that they're legal in
America, and yet Americans profess to be Christian. Therefore I'm curious
about how such things are rationalized, when here they are considered to be
proof of one's enslavement to Satan and worthy of a sentence of death."

"I'm no philosopher, sir," said Calvin.

Verily knew better. He could tell that Calvin was suddenly more guarded
than ever. Verily's guess had been right. This Calvin Miller was lying
because he had much to hide. "All the better," said Verily. "Then there's a
chance that your answer will make sense to a man as ignorant of such matters
as I am."

"I wish you'd let me speak of other things," said Calvin. "I think we
might offend this company."

"Surely you don't imagine you were invited here for any reason other
than your Americanness," said Verily. "So why do you resist talking about
the most obvious oddity of the American people?"

There was a buzz of comment. Who had ever seen Verily be openly rude
like this?

Verily knew what he was doing, however. He hadn't interviewed a
thousand witnesses without learning how to elicit truth even from the most
flagrant habitual liar. Calvin Miller was a man who felt shame sharply. That
was why he lied-- to hide himself from anything that would shame him. If
provoked, however, he would respond with heat, and the lies and calculation
would give way to bits of honesty now and then. In short, Calvin Miller had
a dander, and it was up.

"Oddity?" asked Calvin. "Perhaps the odd thing is not having knacks,
but rather denying that they exist or blaming them on Satan."

Now the buzz was louder. Calvin, by speaking honestly, had shocked and
offended his pious listeners more than Verily's rudeness had. Yet this was a
cosmopolitan crowd, and there were no ministers present. No one left the
room; all watched, all listened with fascination.

"Take that as your premise, then," said Verily. "Explain to me and this
company how these occult knacks came into the world, if not caused by the
influence of the Devil. Surely you won't have us believe that we Englishmen
burn people to death for having powers given to them by God?"

Calvin shook his head. "I see that you want merely to provoke me, sir,
into speaking in ways, that are against the law here."

"Not so," said Verily. "There are three dozen witnesses in this salon
right now who would testify that far from initiating this conversation, you
were dragged into it. Furthermore, I am not asking you to preach to us. I'm
merely asking you to tell us, as scientists, what Americans believe. It is
no more a crime to tell about American beliefs concerning knacks than it is
to report on Muslim harems and Hindu widow-burning. And this is a company of
people who are eager to learn. If I'm wrong, please, let me be corrected."

No one spoke up to correct him. They were, in fact, dying to hear what
the young American would say.

"I'd say there's no consensus about it," said Calvin. "I'd say that no
one knows what to think. They just use the knacks that they have. Some say
it's against God. Some say God made the world, knacks included, and it all
depends on whether the knacks are used for righteousness or not. I've heard
a lot of different opinions."

"But what is the wisest opinion that you've heard?" insisted Verily.

He could feel it the moment Calvin decided on his answer: It was a kind
of surrender. Calvin had been flailing around, but now he had given in to
the inevitable. He was going to tell, if not the truth, then at least a true
reporting of somebody else's truth.

"One fellow says that knacks come because of a natural affinity between
a person and some aspect of the world around him. It's not from God or
Satan, he says. It's just part of the random variation in the world. This
fellow says that a knack is really a matter of winning the trust of some
part of reality. He reckons that the Reds, who don't believe in knacks, have
found the truth behind it all. A White man gets it in his head he has a
knack, and from then on all he works on is honing that particular talent.
But if, like the Reds, he saw knacks as just an aspect of the way all things
are connected together, then he wouldn't concentrate on just one talent.
He'd keep working on all of them. So in this fellow's view, knacks are just
the result of too much work on one thing, and not enough work on all the
rest. Like a hodsman who carries bricks only on his right shoulder. His
body's going to get twisted. You have to study it all, learn it all. Every
knack is within our power to acquire it, I reckon, if only we..."

His voice trailed off.

When Calvin spoke again, it was in the crisp, clear, educated-sounding
way he must have learned since reaching England. Only then did Verily and
the others realize that his accent had changed during that long speech. He
had shed the thin coating of Englishness and shown the American.

"Who is this man who taught you all this lore?" asked Verily.

"Does it matter? What does such a rough man know of nature?" Calvin
spoke mockingly; but he was lying again, Verily knew it.

"This 'rough man,' as you call him. I suspect he says a great deal more
than the mere snippet you've given us today."

"Oh, you can't stop him from talking, he's so full of his own voice."
The bitterness in Calvin's tone was a powerful message to Verily: This is
sincere. Calvin resents whoever this frontier philosopher is, resents him
deeply. "But I'm not about to bore this company with the ravings of a
frontier lunatic."

"But you don't think he's a lunatic, do you, Mr. Miller?" said Verily.

A momentary pause. Think of your answer quickly, Calvin Miller. Find a
way to deceive me, if you can.

"I can't say, sir," said Calvin. "I don't think he knows half as much
as he lets on, but I wouldn't dare call my own brother a liar."

There was a sudden loud eruption of buzzing. Calvin Miller had a
brother who philosophized about knacks and said they weren't from the Devil.

More important to Verily was the fact that Calvin's words obviously
didn't fit in with the world he actually believed in. Lies, lies. Calvin
obviously believed that his brother was very wise indeed; that he probably
knew more than Calvin was willing to admit.

At this moment, without realizing it himself, Verily Cooper made the
decision to go to America. Whoever Calvin's brother was, he knew something
that Verily wanted desperately to learn. For there was a ring of truth in
this man's ideas. Maybe if Verily could only meet him and talk to him, he
could make Verily's own knack clear to him. Could tell him why he had such a
talent and why it persisted even though his father tried to beat it out bf
him.

"What's your brother's name?" asked Verily.

"Does that matter?" asked Calvin, a faint sneer in his voice. "Planning
a visit to the backwoods soon?"

"Is that where you're from? The backwoods?" asked Verily.

Calvin immediately backtracked. "Actually, no, I was exaggerating. My
father was a miller."

"How did the poor man die?" asked Verily.

"He's not dead," said Calvin.

"But you spoke of him in the past tense. As if he were no longer a
miller."

"He still runs a mill," said Calvin.

"You still haven't told me your brother's name."

"Same as my father's. Alvin."

"Alvin Miller?" asked Verily.

"Used to be. But in America we still change our names with our
professions. He's a journeyman smith now. Alvin Smith."

"And you remain Calvin Miller because..."

"Because I haven't chosen my life's work yet."

"You hope to discover it in France?"

Calvin leapt to his feet as if his most terrible secret had just been
exposed. "I have to get home."

Verily also rose to his feet. "My friend, I fear my curiosity has made
you feel uncomfortable. I will stop my questioning at once, and apologize to
this whole company for having broached such difficult subjects tonight. I
hope you will all excuse my insatiable curiosity."

Verily was at once reassured by many voices that it had been most
interesting and no one was angry with or offended by anyone. The
conversation broke into many smaller chats.

In a few moments, Verily managed to maneuver himself close to the young
American. "Your brother, Alvin Smith," he said. "Tell me where I can find
him."

"In America," said Calvin; and because the conversation was private, he
did not conceal his contempt.

"Only slightly better than telling me to search for him on Earth," said
Verily. "Obviously you resent him. I have no desire to trouble you by asking
you to tell me any more of his ideas. It will cost you nothing to tell me
where he lives so I can search him out myself."

"You'd make a voyage across the ocean to meet with a boy who talks like
a country bumpkin in order to learn what he thinks about knacks?"

"Whether I make such a voyage or merely write him a letter is no
concern of yours," said Verily. "In the future I'm bound to be asked to
defend people accused of witchery. Your brother may have the arguments that
will allow me to save a client's life. Such ideas can't be found here in
England because it would be the ruin of a man's career to explore too
assiduously into the works of Satan."

"So why aren't you afraid of ruining your own career?" said Calvin.

"Because whatever he knows, it's true enough to make a liar like you
run halfway around the world to get away from the truth."

Calvin's expression grew ugly with hate. "How dare you speak to me like
that! I could..."

So Verily had guessed right, about the way Calvin fit into his own
family back home. "The name of the town, and you and I will never have to
speak again."

Calvin paused for a moment, weighing the decision. "I take you at your
word, Mr. Rising Young Barrister Esquire. The town is Vigor Church, in
Wobbish Territory. Near the mouth of Tippy-Canoe Creek. Go find my brother
if you can. Learn from him-- if you can. Then you can spend the rest of your
life wondering if maybe you wouldn't have been better off trying to learn
from me."

Verily laughed softly. "I don't think so, Calvin Miller. I already know
how to lie, and alas, that's the only knack you have that you've practiced
enough to be truly accomplished at it."

"In another time I would have shot you dead for that remark."

"But this is an age that loves liars," said Verily. "That's why there
are so many of us, acting out lives of pretense. I don't know what you're
hoping to find in France, but I can promise you, it will be worthless to you
in the long run, if your whole life up to that moment is a lie."

"Now you're a prophet? Now you can see into a man's heart?" Calvin
sneered and backed away. "We had a deal. I told you where my brother lives.
Now stay away from me." Calvin Miller left the party, and, moments later, so
did Verily Cooper. It was quite a scandal, Verily's acting so rudely in
front of the whole company like that. Was it quite safe to invite him to
dinners and parties anymore?

Within a week that question ceased to matter. Verily Cooper was gone:
resigned from his law firm, his bank accounts closed, his apartment rented.
He sent a brief letter to his parents, telling them only that he was going
to America to interview a fellow about a case he was working on. He didn't
add that it was the most important case of his life: his trial of himself as
a witch. Nor did he tell them when, if ever, he meant to return to England.
He was sailing west, and would then take whatever conveyance there was, even
if it was his own feet on a rough path, to meet this fellow Alvin Smith, who
said the first sensible thing about knacks that Verily had ever heard.

On the very day that Verily Cooper set sail from Liverpool, Calvin
Miller stepped onto the Calais ferry. From that moment on, Calvin spoke
nothing but Freneh, determined to be fluent before he met Napoleon. He
wouldn't think of Verily Cooper again for several years. He had bigger fish
to fry. What did he care about what some London lawyer thought of him?



Chapter 10 -- Welcome Home

Left to himself, Alvin likely wouldn't have come back to Hatrack River.
Sure, it was his birthplace, but since his folks moved on before he was even
sitting up by himself he didn't have no memories of the way it was then. He
knew that the oldest settlers in that place were Horace Guester and
Makepeace Smith and old Vanderwoort, the Dutch trader, so when he was born
the roadhouse and the smithy and the general store must have been there
already. But he couldn't conjure up no pictures in his memory of such a
little place.

The Hatrack River he knew was the village of his prenticeship, with a
town square and a church with a preacher and Whitley Physicker to tend the
sick and even a post office and enough folks with enough children that they
got them up a subscription and hired them a schoolteacher. Which meant it
was a real town by then, only what difference did that make to Alvin? He was
stuck there from the age of eleven, bound over to a greedy master who
squeezed the last ounce of work out of "his" boy while teaching him as
little as possible, as late as possible. There was scarce any money, and
neither time to get any pleasure from it nor pleasures to be bought if you
had the time.

Even so, miserable as his prenticeship was, he might have looked back
on Hatrack River with some fondness. There was Makepeace's shrewish wife
Gertie, who nevertheless was a fine cook and had a spot of kindness for the
boy now and then. There was Horace and Old Peg Guester, who remembered his
birth and made him feel welcome whenever he had a moment to visit with them
or do some odd job to help them out. And as Alvin got him a name for making
perfect hexes and doing better ironwork than his master, there was plenty of
visits from all the other folks in town, asking for this, asking for that,
and all sort of pretending they didn't know Alvin was the true master in
that smithy. Wouldn't want to rile up old Makepeace, cause then he'd take it
out on the boy, wouldn't he? But he was a good one with his hands, that boy
Alvin.

So Alvin might have made him some happy memories of the place, the way
folks always finds a way to dip into their own past and draw out wistful
moments, even if those very moments was lonely or painful or downright
hellish to live through at the time.

For Alvin, though, all those childish and youthish memories was
swallowed up in the way it ended. Right at the happiest time, when he was
falling in love with Miss Larner while trying to pick up some decent book
learning, them Slave Finders came for little Arthur Stuart and everything
went ugly. They even forced Alvin to make the manacles that Arthur would
wear back into slavery. Then Alvin and Horace Guester took their life in
their hands and went to fetch back the boy, and Alvin changed Arthur Stuart
deep inside and washed away his old self in the Hio, so the Finders could
never match him up with the bits of hair and flesh in their cachet. So even
then, it might have still been hopeful, a good memory of a bad time that
turned out fine.

Then that last night, standing in the smithy with Miss Larner, Alvin
told her he loved her and asked her to marry him and she might have said
yes, she had a look in her eyes that said yes, he thought. But at that very
moment Old Peg Guester killed one Finder and got herself killed by the
other. Only then did Alvin find out that Miss Larner was really Little
Peggy, Peg's and Horace's long-lost daughter, the torch girl who saved
Alvin's life when he was a little baby. What a thing to find out about the
woman you love, in the exact moment that you're losing her forever.

But he wasn't really thinking of losing Miss Larner then. All he could
think of was Old Peg, gruff and sharp-tongued and loving old Peg, shot dead
by a Slave Finder, and never mind that she shot one of them first, they was
in her house without leave, trespassing, and even if the law gave them the
right to be there, it was an evil law and they was evil to make their living
by it and it didn't none of it matter then, anyway, because Alvin was so
angry he wasn't thinking straight. Alvin found the one as killed Old Peg and
snapped his neck with one hand, and then he beat his head against the ground
until the skull inside the skin was all broke up like a pot in a meal sack.

When Alvin's fury died, when the white-hot rage was gone, when deep
justice stopped demanding the death of the killer of Old Peg, all that was
left was the broken body in his arms, the blood on his apron, the memory of
murder. Never mind that nobody in Hatrack River would ever call him a killer
for what he done that night. In his own heart he knew that he had Unmade his
own Making. For that moment he had been the Unmaker's tool.

That dark memory was why none of the other memories could ever turn
light in Alvin's heart. And that's why Alvin probably wouldn't never have
come back to Hatrack River, left to himself.

But he wasn't left to himself, was he? He had Arthur Stuart with him,
and to that little boy the town of Hatrack River was nothing but pure golden
childhood. It was setting and watching Alvin work in the smithy, or even
pumping the bellows sometimes. It was listening to the redbird song and
knowing the words. It was hearing all the gossip in the town and saying it
back all clever so the grownups clapped their hands and laughed. It was
being the champion speller of the whole town even though for some reason
they wouldn't let him into the school proper. And yes, sure, the woman he
called Mother got herself killed, but Arthur didn't see that with his own
eyes, and anyway, he had to go back, didn't he? Old Peg his adopted mother
who killed a man to save him and died her own self, she lay buried on a hill
behind the roadhouse. And in a grave on the same hill lay Arthur's true
mother, a little Black slavegirl who used her secret African powers to make
wings for herself so she could fly with the baby in her arms, she could fly
all the way north to where her baby would be safe, even though she herself
died from the journey. How could Arthur Stuart not return to that place?

Don't go thinking that Arthur Stuart ever asked Alvin to go there. That
wasn't the way Arthur thought about things. He was going along with Alvin,
not telling Alvin where to go. It was just that when they talked, Arthur
kept going on about this or that memory from Hatrack River until Alvin
reached his own conclusion. Alvin reckoned that it would make Arthur Stuart
happy to go back to Hatrack River, and then it never crossed Alvin's mind
that his own sadness might outweigh Arthur's happiness. He just up and left
Irrakwa, where they happened to be that week in late August of 1820. Up and
left that land of railroads and factories, coal and steel, barges and
carriages and men on horseback going back and forth on urgent errands. Left
that busy place and came through quiet woods and across whispering streams,
down deer paths and along rutted roads until the land started looking
familiar and Arthur Stuart said, "I've been here. I know this place." And
then, in wonder: "You brung me home, Alvin."

They came from the northeast, passing the place where the railroad spur
was fixing to pass near Hatrack River and cross Hio into Appalachee. They
came across the covered bridge over the Hatrack that Alvin's own father and
brothers built, like a monument to their dead oldest brother Vigor, who got
mashed by a tree carried on a storm flood while he was crossing the river.
They came into town on the same road his family used. And, just like Alvin's
family, they passed the smithy and heard the ringing of hammer on iron on
anvil.

"Ain't that the smithy?" asked Arthur Stuart. "Let's go see Makepeace
and Gertie!"

"I don't think so," said Alvin. "In the first place, Gertie's dead."

"Oh, that's right," said the boy. "Blew out a blood vein screaming at
Makepeace, didn't she?"

"How'd you hear that?" asked Alvin. "You don't miss much gossip, do
you, boy?"

"I can't help what people talk about when I'm right there," said Arthur
Stuart. And then, back to his original idea: "I reckon it wouldn't be proper
anyway, to visit Makepeace before seeing Papa."

Alvin didn't tell him that Horace Guester hated it when Arthur called
him Papa. Folks got the wrong impression, like maybe Horace himself was the
White half of that mixup boy, which wasn't so at all but folks will talk.
When Arthur got older, Alvin would explain to him that he ought to not call
Horace Papa anymore. For now, though, Horace was a man and a man would have
to bear the innocent offense of a well-meaning boy.

The roadhouse was twice as big as before. Horace had built on a new
wing that doubled the front, with the porch continuing all along it. But
that wasn't hardly the only difference-- the whole thing was faced with
clapboards now, whitewashed and pretty as you could imagine against the deep
green of the forest that still snuck as close to the house as it dared.

"Well, Horace done prettied up the place," said Alvin.

"It don't look like itself no more," said Arthur Stuart.

"Anymore," Alvin corrected him.

"If you can say 'done prettied up' then I can say 'no more,'" said
Arthur Stuart. "Miss Larner ain't here to correct us no more anyhow."

"That should be 'no more nohow,'" said Alvin, and they both laughed as
they walked up onto the porch.

The door opened and a somewhat stout middle-aged woman stepped through
it, almost running into them. She carried a basket under one arm and an
umbrella under the other, though there wasn't a sign of rain.

"Excuse me," said Alvin. He saw that she was hedged about with hexes
and charms. Not many years ago, he would have been fooled by them like any
other man (though he would always have seen where the charms were and how
the hexes worked). But he had learned to see past hexes of illusion, and
that's what these were. These days, seeing the truth came so natural to him
that it took real effort to see the illusion. He made the effort, and was
vaguely saddened to see that she was almost a caricature of feminine beauty.
Couldn't she have been more creative, more interesting than this? He judged
at once that the real middle-aged woman, somewhat thick-waisted and hair
salted with grey, was the more attractive of the two images. And it was a
sure thing she was the more interesting.

She saw him staring at her, but no doubt she assumed it was her beauty
that had him awed. She must have been used to men staring at her-- it seemed
to amuse her. She stared right back at him, but not looking for beauty in
him, that was for sure.

"You were born here," she said, "but I've never see you before." Then
she looked at Arthur Stuart. "But you were born away south."

Arthur nodded, made mute by shyness and by the overwhelming force of
her declaration. She spoke as if her words were not only true, but
superseded all other truth that had ever been thought of.

"He was born in Appalachee, Missus..." In vain Alvin waited for her
reply. Then he realized that he was supposed to assume, seeing her young
beautiful false image, that she was a Miss rather than a Missus.

"You're bound for Carthage City," said the woman, speaking to Alvin
again, and rather coldly.

"I don't think so," said Alvin. "Nothing for me there."

"Not yet, not yet," she said. "But I know you now. You must be Alvin,
that prentice boy old Makepeace is always going on about."

"I'm a journeyman, ma'am. If Makepeace isn't saying that part, I wonder
how much of what he says is true."

She smiled, but her eyes weren't smiling. They were calculating. "Aha.
I think there's the makings of a good story in that. Just needs a bit of
stirring."

At once Alvin regretted having said so much to her. Why had he spoken
up so boldly, anyway? He wasn't a one to babble on to strangers, especially
when he was more or less calling another fellow a liar. He didn't want
trouble with Makepeace, but now it looked pretty sure he was going to get it
anyway. "I wish you'd tell me who you are, ma'am."

It wasn't her voice that answered. Horace Guester was in the doorway
now. "She's the postmistress of Hatrack River, on account of her uncle's
brother-in-law being the congressman from some district in Susquahenny and
he had some pull with the president. We're all hoping to find a candidate in
the election this fall who'll promise to throw her out so we can vote for
him for president. Failing that, we're going to have to up and hang her one
of these days."

The postmistress got a sort of half-smile on her face. "And to think
Horace Guester's knack is to make folks feel welcome!"

"What would the charge be, in the hanging?" asked Alvin.

"Criminal gossip," said Horace Guester. "Rumor aforethought. Sniping
with malice. Backbiting with intent to kill. Of course I mean all that in
the nicest possible way."

"I do no such thing," said the postmistress. "And my name, since Horace
hasn't deigned to utter it yet, is Vilate Franker. My grandmother wasn't
much of a speller, so she named my mother Violet but spelled it Vilate, and
when my mother grew up she was so ashamed of grandmama's illiteracy that she
changed the pronunciation to rhyme with 'plate.' However, I am not ashamed
of my grandmother, so I pronounce it 'Violet,' as in the delicate flower."

"To rhyme," said Horace, "with Pilate, as in Pontius the handwasher."

"You sure talk a lot, ma'am," said Arthur Stuart. He spoke in all
innocence, simply observing the facts as he saw them, but Horace hooted and
Vilate blushed and then, to Alvin's shock, clicked with her tongue and
opened her mouth wide, letting her upper row of teeth drop down onto the
lower ones. False teeth! And such a horrible image-- but neither Arthur nor
Horace seemed to see what she had done. Behind her wall of illusion, she
apparently thought she could get away with all kinds of ugly contemptuous
gestures. Well, Alvin wasn't going to disabuse her. Yet.

"Forgive the boy," said Alvin. "He hasn't learned when's the right time
to speak his mind."

"He's right," she said. "Why shouldn't he say so?" But she dropped her
teeth at the boy again. "I find it irresistible to tell stories," she went
on. "Even when I know my listeners don't care to hear them. It's my worst
vice. But there are worse ones-- and I thank the good Lord I don't have
those."

"Oh, I like stories, too," said Arthur Stuart. "Can I come listen to
you talk some more?"

"Any time you like, my boy. Do you have a name?"

"Arthur Stuart."

It was Vilate's turn to hoot with laughter. "Any relation to the
esteemed king down in Camelot?"

"I was named after him," he said, "but far as I know we ain't no kin."

Horace spoke up again. "Vilate, you won yourself a convert cause the
poor boy's got no guile and less sense, but kindly stand aside of this door
and let me welcome in this man who was born in my house and this boy who
grew up in it."

"There's obviously parts of this story that I haven't heard yet," said
Vilate, "but don't trouble yourself on my account. I'm sure I'll get a much
fuller version from others than I would ever get from you. Good day, Horace!
Good day, Alvin! Good day, my young kingling. Do come see me, but don't
bring me any of Horace's cider, it's sure to be poisoned if he knows it's
for me!" With that she bustled off the porch and out onto the hard-packed
dirt of the road. Alvin saw the illusions dazzle and shimmer as she went.
The hexes weren't quite so perfect from the rear. He wondered if others ever
saw through her when she was going away.

Horace watched her grimly as she walked up the road. "We pretend that
we're only pretending to hate each other, but in fact we really do. The
woman's evil, and I mean that serious. She has this knack of knowing where
something or somebody's from and where they're bound to end up, but she uses
that to piece together the nastiest sort of gossip and I swear she reads
other people's mail."

"Oh, I don't know," said Alvin.

"That's right, my boy, you ain't been here for the past year and you
don't know. A lot of changes since you left."

"Well, let me in, Mr. Guester, so I can set down and maybe eat some of
today's stew and have a drink of something-- even poisoned cider sounds good
about now."

Horace laughed and embraced Alvin. "Have you been gone so long you
forgot my name is Horace? Come in, come in. And you too, young Arthur
Stuart. You're always welcome here."

To Alvin's relief, Arthur Stuart said nothing at all, and so naturally
among the things he didn't say was "papa."

They followed him inside and from then on till they laid down for naps
in the best bedroom, they were in Horace's hospitable care. He fed them,
gave them hot water for washing their hands and feet and faces, took their
dirty clothes for laundering, stuffed more food in them, and then personally
tucked them into bed after making them watch him put clean sheets on the bed
"Just so you know I still keep my dear Peg's high standards of cleanliness
even if I am just an old widower living alone."

The mention of his late wife wag all it took, though, to bring memory
flooding back. Tears came into Arthur Stuart's eyes. Horace at once began to
apologize, but Alvin stilled him with a smile and a gesture. "He'll be all
right," he said. "It's coming home, and her not here. Those are good tears
and right to shed them."

Arthur reached out and patted Horace's hand. "I'll be all right, Papa,"
he said.

Alvin looked at Horace's face and was relieved to see that instead of
annoyance, his eyes showed a kind of rueful gladness at hearing the name of
Papa. Maybe he was thinking of the one person who had the true right to call
him that, his daughter Peggy, who had come home in disguise and was too soon
gone, and who knew if he'd ever see her again. Or maybe he was thinking of
the one who taught Arthur Stuart to call him Papa, the dear wife whose body
lay in the hilltop plot behind the roadhouse, the woman who was always
faithful to him even though he never deserved her goodness, being (as only
he in all the world believed) a man of evil.

Soon Horace backed on out of the room and closed the door, and Arthur
Stuart quietly cried himself to sleep in Alvin's arms. Alvin lay there,
wanting to doze, too, for a little while. It was good to be home, or as near
to home as Alvin could figure in these days when he wondered what home even
was. Carthage City was where he was bound to end up, eh? Why would he go
there to live? Or would he only go there to die? What did this Vilate
Franker actually know, anyway? He lay there, sleepless, wondering about her,
wondering if she could really be as evil as Horace Guester said. Alvin had
met true evil in his life, but he still persisted in thinking it was awful
rare, and the word was bandied about too much by those who didn't understand
what real badness was.

What he could not let himself think of was the only other woman he had
known who fenced herself around with hexes. Rather than remember Miss
Larner, who was really little Peggy, he finally drifted into sleep.

***

What an interesting boy, thought Vilate as she walked away from the
roadhouse. Not at all like the shifty little weasel I expected after the
things Makepeace Smith has said. But then, nobody trusts shifty little
weasels well enough to be betrayed by them-it's strong, fine-looking men as
tricks folks into thinking they're as open-hearted as they are open-faced.
So maybe every word Makepeace said was true. Maybe Alvin did steal some
precious hoard of gold that he found while digging a well. Maybe Alvin did
fill up the well where the gold was found and dig another a few yards off,
hoping nobody'd notice. Maybe he did shape it like a plow and pretend that
he had turned iron into gold so he could run off with Makepeace's treasure
trove. What's that to me? thought Vilate. It wasn't my gold, and never could
be, as long as Makepeace had it. But if it happens to be a golden plow that
Alvin has in that bag he carries over his shoulder, why, then it might end
up being anybody's gold.

Anybody strong enough might take it away by brute force, for instance.
Anybody cruel enough might kill Alvin and take it from the corpse. Anybody
sneaky enough could take it out of Alvin's room as he slept. Anybody rich
enough could hire lawyers to prove something against Alvin in court and take
it away by force of law. All kinds of ways to get that plow, if you want it
bad enough.

But Vilate would never stoop to coercion. She wouldn't even want that
golden plow, if it existed, unless Alvin gave it to her of his own free
will. As a gift. A love-gift, perhaps. Or... well, she'd settle for a guilt
gift, if it came to that. He looked like a man of honor, but the way he was
staring at her... well, she knew that look. The man was smitten. The man was
hers, if she wanted him.

Play this right, Vilate, she told herself. Set the stage. Make him come
after you. Let no one say you set your cap for him.

Her best friend was waiting for her in the kitchen shed back of the
post office when she got there. "So what do you think of that Alvin?" she
asked, before Vilate evert had time to greet her.

"Trust you to get the news before I can tell you myself." Vilate set to
work stoking up the fine cast-iron stove with a bread oven in it that made
her the envy of the women in Hatrack River.

"Five people saw you on the roadhouse porch greeting him, Vilate, and
the word reached me before your foot touched the street, I'm sure."

"Then those are idle people, I'd say, and the devil has them."

"No doubt you'd know-- I'm sure the devil gives you a new list every
time he makes another recruit."

"Of course he does. Why, everyone knows the devil lives right here in
my fancy oven." Vilate cackled with glee.

"So..." said her best friend impatiently. "What do you think of him?"

"I don't think he's that much," said Vilate. "Workingman's arms, of
course, and tanned like any low-class boy. His talk is rather coarse and
country-like. I wonder if he can even read."

"Oh, he can read all right. Teacher lady taught him when he lived
here."

"Oh, yes, the fabled Miss Larner who was so clever she got her prize
student to win a spelling bee, which caused the slave finders to get wind of
a half-Black boy and ended up killing Horace Guester's wife, Miss Larner's
own mother. A most unnatural woman."

"You do find a way to make the story sound right ugly," said her
friend.

"Is there a pretty version of it?"

"A sweet love story. Teacher tries to transform the life of a
half-Black boy and his rough-hewn friend, a prentice smith. She falls in
love with the smith boy, and turns the half-Black lad into a champion
speller. Then the forces of evil take notice--"

"Or God decides to strike down her pride!"

"I do think you're jealous of her, Vilate. I do think that."

"Jealous?"

"Because she won the heart of Alvin Smith, and maybe she still owns
it."

"Far as I can tell, his heart's still beating in his own chest."

"And is the gold still shining in his croker sack?"

"You talk sweet about Miss Larner, but you alway's assume I have the
worst motives." Vilate had the stove going nicely now, and put on a teapot
to boil as she began cutting string beans and dropping them in a pan of
Water.

"Because I know you so well, Vilate."

"You think you know me, but I'm full of surprises."

"Don't you drop your teeth at me, you despicable creature."

"They dropped by themselves," said Vilate. "I never do it on purpose."

"You're such a liar."

"But I'm a beautiful liar, don't you think?" She flashed her best smile
at her friend.

"I don't understand what men see in women anyway," her friend answered.
"Hexes or no hexes, as long as a woman has her clothes on a man can't see
what he's interested in anyhow."

"I don't know about all men," said Vilate. "I think some men love me
for my character."

"A character of sterling silver, no doubt-- never mind a little
tarnish, you can wipe that off with a little polish."

"And some men love me for my wit and charm."

"Yes, I'm sure they do-- if they've been living in a cave for forty
years and haven't seen a civilized woman in all that time."

"You can tease me all you want, but I know you're jealous of me,
because Alvin Smith is already falling in love with me, the poor hopeless
boy, while he'll never give a look at you, not a single look. Eat your heart
out, dear."

Her best friend just sat there with a grumpy face. Vilate had really
hit home with that last one. The teapot sang. As always, Vilate set out two
teacups. But, as always, her best friend sniffed the tea but never drank it.
Well, so what? Vilate never failed in her courtesy, and that's what
mattered.

"Makepeace is going to take him to court."

"Ha," said Vilate. "You heard that already, too?"

"Oh, no. I don't know if Makepeace Smith even knows his old prentice is
back in town-- though you can bet that if the word reached me that fast, it
got to him in half the time! I just know that Makepeace has been bragging so
much on how Alvin robbed him that if he don't serve papers on the boy,
everybody's going to know it was just empty talk. So he's got to bring the
boy to trial, don't you see?"

Vilate smiled a little smile to herself.

"Already planning what you're going to bring to him in jail?" asked her
friend.

"Or something," said Vilate.

***

Alvin woke from his nap to find Arthur Stuart gone and the room
half-dark. The traveling must have taken more out of him than he thought, to
make him sleep the afternoon away.

A knock on the door. "Open up, now, Alvin," said Horace. "The sheriff's
just doing his job, he tells me, but there's no way out of it."

So it must have been a knock on the door that woke him in the first
place. Alvin swung his legs off the bed and took the single step that got
him to the door. "It wasn't barred," he said as he opened it. "You only had
to give it a push."

Sheriff Po Doggly looked downright sheepish. "Oh, it's just Makepeace
Smith, Alvin. Everybody knows he's talking through his hat, but he's gone
and got a warrant on you, to charge you with stealing his treasure trove."

"Treasure?" asked Alvin. "I never heard of no treasure."

"Claims you dug up the gold digging a well for him, and moved the well
so nobody'd know--"

"I moved the well cause I struck solid stone," said Alvin. "If I found
gold, why would that make me move the well? That don't even make sense."

"And that's what you'll say in court, and the jury will believe you
just fine," said Sheriff Doggly. "Everybody knows Makepeace is just talking
through his hat."

Alvin sighed. He'd heard the rumors flying hither and yon about the
golden plow and how it was stolen from a blacksmith that Alvin prenticed
with, but he never thought Makepeace would have the face to take it to
court, where he'd be proved a liar for sure. "I give you my word I won't
leave town till this is settled," said Alvin. "But I've got Arthur Stuart to
look after, and it'd be right inconvenient if you locked me up."

"Vell, now, that's fine," said Doggly. "The warrant says you have a
choice. Either you surrender the plow to me for safekeeping till the trial,
or you sit in jail with the plow."

"So the plow is the only bail I can pay, is that it?" asked Alvin.

"Reckon that's the long and short of it."

"Horace, I reckon you'll have to look after the boy," said Alvin to the
innkeeper. "I didn't bring him here to put him back in your charge, but you
can see I got small choice."

"Well, you could put the plow in Po's keeping," said Horace. "Not that
I mind keeping the boy."

"No offense, Sheriff, but you wouldn't keep the plow safe a single
night," said Alvin, smiling wanly.

"Reckon I could do just fine," said Po, looking a mite offended. "I
mean, even if I lock you up, you don't think I'd let you keep the plow in
the cell with you, do you?"

"Reckon you will," said Alvin mildly.

"Reckon not," said Po.

"Reckon you think you could keep it safe," said Alvin. "But what you
don't know is how to keep folks safe from the plow."

"So you admit you have it."

"It was my journeypiece," said Alvin. "There are witnesses of that.
This whole charge is nonsense, and you and everybody else knows it. But
what'll the charge be if I give you this plow and somebody opens the sack
and gets struck blind? What's the charge then?"

"Blind?" asked Po Doggly, glancing at Horace, as if his old friend the
innkeeper could tell him whether he was having his leg pulled.

"You think you can tell your boys not to look in the sack, and that's
going to be enough?" said Alvin. "You think they won't just try to take a
peek?"

"Blind, eh?" said Po.

Alvin picked up the sack from where it had lain beside him on the bed.
"And who's going to carry the plow, Po?"

Sheriff Doggly reached out to take it, but no sooner had his hands
closed around the sack than he felt the hard metal inside shift and dance
under his hands, sliding away from him. "Stop doing that, Alvin!" he
demanded.

"I'm just holding the top of the sack," said Alvin. "What shelf you
going to keep this on?"

"Oh, shut up, boy," said Doggly. "I'll let you keep it in the cell. But
if you plonk somebody over the head with that thing and make an escape, I'll
find you and the charge won't be no silly tale from Makepeace Smith, I
promise you."

Alvin shook his head and smiled.

Horace laughed out loud. "Po, if Al wanted to escape from your jail, he
wouldn't have to do no head plonking."

"I'm just telling you, Al," said the sheriff. "Don't push your luck
with me. There's a outstanding extradition order from Appalachee about
standing trial for the death of a certain dead Slave Finder."

Suddenly Horace's genial manner changed, and in a quick movement he had
the sheriff pressed into the doorjamb so tight it looked like it might make
a permanent difference in his posture. "Po," said Horace, "you been my
dearest friend for many a year. We done in the dark of night what would get
us kilt for doing in daylight, and trusted each other's life through it all.
If you ever bring a charge or even try to extradite this boy for killing the
Slave Finder who killed my Margaret in my own house, I will do a little
justice on you with my own two hands."

Po Doggly squinted and looked the innkeeper in the eye. "Is that a
threat, Horace? You want me to break my oath of office for you?"

"How can it be a threat?" said Horace. "You know I meant it in the
nicest possible way."

"Just come along to jail, Alvin," said Doggly. "I reckon if the town
ladies don't have meals for you, Horace here will bring you roadhouse stew
every night."

"I keep the plow?" asked Alvin.

"I ain't coming near that thing," said the sheriff. "If it's a plow. If
it's gold." Doggly gestured him to pass through the door and come into the
hall. Alvin complied. The sheriff followed him down the narrow hall to the
common room, where about two dozen people were standing around waiting to
see what the sheriff had been after. "Alvin, nice to see you," several of
them greeted him. They looked kind of embarrassed, seeing how Alvin was in
custody.

"Not much of a welcome, is it?" said Ruthie Baker, her face grim. "I
swear, that Makepeace Smith has bit himself a tough piece of gristle with
this mischief."

"Just bring me some of them snickerdoodles in jail," said Alvin. "I
been hankering for them the whole way here."

"You can bet the ladies'll be quarreling all day about who's to feed
you," said Ruth. "I just wish dear old Peg had been here to greet you." And
she burst into quick, sentimental tears. "Oh, I wish I didn't cry so easy!"

Alvin gave her a quick hug, then looked at the sheriff. "She ain't
passing me no file to saw the bars with," he said. "So is it all right if
I..."

"Oh, shut up, Alvin," said Sheriff Doggly. "Why the hell did you even
come back here?"

At that moment the door swung open and Makepeace Smith himself strode
in. "There he is! The thief has been apprehended at last! Sheriff, make him
give me my plow!"

Po Doggly looked him in the eye. Makepeace was a big man, with massive
arms and legs like tree trunks, but when the sheriff faced him Makepeace
wilted like a flower. "Makepeace, you get out of my way right now."

"I want my plow!" Makepeace insisted-- but he backed out the door.

"It ain't your plow till the court says it's your plow, if it ever
does," said the sheriff.

Horace Guester chimed in. "It ain't your plow till you show you know
how to make one just like it."

But Alvin himself said nothing to Makepeace. He just walked on out of
the roadhouse, pausing in the doorway only to tell Horace, "You let Arthur
Stuart visit me all he wants, you hear?"

"He'll want to sleep right in the cell with you, Alvin, you know that!"

Alvin laughed. "I bet he can fit right through the bars, he's so
skinny."

"I made those bars!" Makepeace Smith shouted. "And they're too close
together for anyone to fit through!"

Ruth Baker shouted back, just as loudly. "Well, if you made those bars,
little Arthur can no doubt bend them out of the way!"

"Come on now, folks," Sheriff Doggly said. "I'm just making a little
arrest here, so stand clear and let me bring the prisoner on through. While
you, Makepeace, are exactly three words away from being arrested your own
self for obstructing justice and disturbing the peace."

"Arrest me!" cried Makepeace.

"Now you're just one word away," said Sheriff Doggly. "Come on, any
word will do. Say it. Let me lock you up, Makepeace. You know I'm dying to."

Makepeace knew he was. He clamped his mouth shut and took a few steps
away from the roadhouse porch. But then he turned to watch, and let himself
smile as he saw Alvin getting led away down the street toward the
courthouse, and the jail out back.


Chapter 11 -- Jail

Calvin's French was awful-- but that was hardly his worry. Talking he
had done in England, and plenty of it, until he learned to imitate the
cultured accents of a refined gentleman. But here in Paris, talking was
useless-- harmful, even. One did not become a figure of myth and rumor by
chatting. That's one thing Calvin had learned from Alvin, all right, even
though Alvin never meant to teach it. Alvin never tooted his own horn. So
every Tom, Dick, and Sally tooted it for him. And the quieter he got, the
more they bragged about him. That was what Calvin did from the moment he
arrived in Paris, kept his silence as he went about healing people.

He had been working on healing-- like Taleswapper said, that was a
knack people would appreciate a lot more than a knack for killing bugs. No
way could Calvin do the subtle things that Alvin talked about, seeing the
tiny creatures that spread disease, understanding the workings of the little
bits of life out of which human bodies were built. But there were things
within Calvin's grasp. Gross things, like bringing the edges of open wounds
together and getting the skin to scar over-- Calvin didn't rightly
understand how he did it, but he could sort of squinch it together in his
mind and the scarstuff would grow.

Getting skin to split, too, letting the nasty fluids spew out-- that
was impressive indeed, especially when Calvin did it with beggars on the
city streets. Of course, a lot of the beggars had phony wounds. Calvin could
hardly heal those, and he wouldn't make himself many friends by making the
painted scars slide off beggars' faces. But the real ones-- he could help
some of them, and when he did, he was careful to make sure plenty of people
could see exactly what happened. Could see the healing, but could not hear
him brag or boast, or even promise in advance what would happen. He would
make a great show of it, standing in front of the beggar, ignoring the open
hand or the proffered cup, looking down instead at the wound, the sore, the
swelling. Finally the beggar would fall silent, and so would the onlookers,
their attention at last riveted on the spot that Calvin so intently watched.
By then, of course, Calvin had the wound clearly in mind, had explored it
with his doodling bug, had thought through what he was going to do. So in
that exact moment of silence he reached out with his bug and gave the new
shape to the skin. The flesh opened or the wound closed, whatever was
needed.

The onlookers gasped, then murmured, then chattered. And just when
someone was about to engage him in conversation, Calvin turned and walked
away, shaking his head and refusing to speak.

The silence was far more powerful than any explanation. Rumors of him
spread quickly, he knew, for in the cafe where he supped (but did no
healing) he heard people speaking of the mysterious silent healer, who went
about doing good as Jesus did.

What Calvin hoped would not get spread about was the fact. that he
wasn't exactly healing people, except by chance. Alvin could get into the
deep hidden secrets of the body and do real healing, but Calvin couldn't see
that small. So the wound might drain and close, but if there was a deep
infection it would come right back. Still, some of them might be healed, for
all he knew. Not that it would really help them-- how would they beg,
without a wound? If they were smart, they'd get away from him before he
could take away the coin they used to buy compassion. But no, the ones with
real injury wanted to be healed more than they wanted to eat. Pain and
suffering did that to people. They could be wise and careful when they felt
fine. Add a little pain to the mix, though, and all they wanted was whatever
would make the pain go away.

It took a surprisingly long time before one of the Emperor's secret
police came to see him. Oh, a gendarme or two had witnessed what he did, but
since he touched no one and said nothing, they also did nothing, said
nothing to him. And soldiers-- they were beginning to seek him out, since so
many veterans had injuries from their days in service, and half the cripples
Calvin helped had old companions from the battle lines they went to see, to
show the healing miracle that Calvin had brought them. But no one with the
furtive wariness of the secret police was ever in the crowd, not for three
long weeks-- weeks in which Calvin had to keep moving his operation from one
part of the city to another, lest someone he had already healed come back to
him for a second treatment. What good would all this effort do if the rumor
began to get about that the ones he healed didn't stay healed?

Then at last a man came-- a middle-sized man of bourgeois clothing and
modest demeanor, but Calvin saw the tension, the watchfulness-- and, most
important, the brace of pistols hidden in the pockets of his coat. This one
would report to the Emperor. So Calvin made quite sure that the secret
policeman was in a good position to see all that transpired when he healed a
beggar. Nor did it hurt that even before the silence fell and he did the
healing, everyone was murmuring things like, "Is he the one? I heard he
healed that one-legged beggar near Montmartre," though of course Calvin had
never even attempted to heal someone with a missing limb. Even Alvin might
not be able to do something as spectacular as that. But it didn't hurt that
such a rumor was about. Anything to get him into the presence of the
Emperor, for everyone knew that he suffered agonies from the gout. Pain in
the legs-- he will bring me to him to end the pain in his iegs. For the
pain, he'll teach me all he knows. Anything to remove the pain.

The healing ended. Calvin walked away, as usual. To his surprise,
however, the secret policeman left by quite another route. Shouldn't he
follow me? Whisper to me that the Emperor needs me? Would I come and serve
the Emperor? Oh, but I'm not sure I can be of help. I do what I can, but
many wounds are stubborn and refuse to be fully healed, Oh, that's right,
Calvin meant to promise nothing. Let his deeds speak for themselves. He
would make the Emperor's leg feel better for a while-- he was sure he could
do that-- but no one would ever be able to say that Calvin Miller had
promised that the healing would be permanent, or even that there would be
any kind of healing at all.

But he had no chance to say these things, for the secret policeman went
another way.

That evening, as he waited for his supper at the cafe, four gendarmes
came into the cafe, laughing as if they had just come off duty. Two went
toward the kitchen-- apparently they knew someone there-- while the other
two jostled, clumsy and laughing, among the tables. Calvin smiled a moment
and then looked out the window.

The laughing stopped. Harsh hands seized his arms and lifted him out of
his chair. All four gendarmes were around him now, not laughing at all. They
bound his wrists together and hobbled his legs. Then they half-dragged him
from the cafe.

It was astonishing. It was impossible. This had to be a response to the
report of the secret policeman. But why would they arrest him? What law had
he broken? Was it simply that he spoke English? Surely they understood the
difference between an Englishman and an American. The English were still at
war with France, or something like war, anyway, but the Americans were
neutral, more or less. How dare they?

For a moment, painfully hobbling along with the gendarmes at the
too-brisk pace they set for him, Calvin toyed with the idea of using his
Makering power to loose the bonds and stand free of them. But they were all
armed, and Calvin had no desire to tempt them to use their weapons against
an escaping prisoner.

Nor did he waste effort, after the first few minutes, trying to
persuade them that some terrible mistake was underway. What was the point?
They knew who he was; someone had told them to arrest him; what did they
care whether it was a mistake or not? It wasn't their mistake.

Half an hour later, he found himself stripped and thrown into a
miserable stinking cell in the Bastille.

"Welcome to the Land of the Guillotine!" croaked someone farther up the
corridor. "Welcome, 0 pilgrim, to the Shrine of the Holy Blade!"

"Shut up!" cried another man.

"They sliced through another man's neck today, the one who was in the
cell you're in now, new boy! That's what happens to Englishmen here in
Paris, once somebody decides that you're a spy."

"But I'm not English!" Calvin cried out.

This was greeted with gales of laughter.

***

Peggy set down her pen in weariness, closed her eyes in disgust. Wasn't
there some kind of plan here? The One who sent Alvin into the world, who
protected him and prepared him for the great work of building the Crystal
City, didn't that One have some kind of plan? Or was there no plan? No,
there had to be some meaning in the fact that this very day, in Paris,
Calvin was locked up in prison, just as Alvin was in prison in Hatrack
River. The Bastille, of course, was a far cry from a second-story room in
the back of the courthouse, but jail was jail-- they were both locked in,
for no good reason, and with no idea of how it would all come out.

But Peggy knew. She saw all the paths. And, finally, she closed up her
pen, put away the papers she had been writing on, And got up to tell her
hosts that she would have to leave earlier than she expected. "I'm needed
elsewhere, I think."

***

Bonaparte's nephew was a weasel who thought he was an ermine. Well, let
him have his delusion. If men didn't have delusions, Bonaparte wouldn't be
Emperor of Europe and Lawgiver of Mankind. Their delusions were his truth;
their hungers were his heart's desire. Whatever they wanted to believe about
themselves, Bonaparte helped them believe it, in exchange for control over
their lives.

Little Napoleon, the lad called himself. Half of Bonaparte's nephews
had been named Napoleon, in an effort to curry favor, but only this one had
the effrontery to use the name in court. Bonaparte wasn't quite sure if this
meant that Little Napoleon was bolder than the others, or simply too stupid
to realize how dangerous it was to dare to use the Emperor's own name, as if
to assert one's claim to succeed him. Seeing him now, marching in here like
a mechanical soldier-- as if he had some secret military accomplishment that
no one knew about but which entitled him to strut about playing the
general-- Bonaparte wanted to laugh in his face and expose in front of all
the world Little Napoleon's dreams of sitting on the throne, ruling the
world, surpassing his uncle's accomplishments. Bonaparte wanted to look him
in the eye and say, "You couldn't even fill my pisspot, you vainglorious
mountebank."

Instead he said, "What good wind blows you here, my little Napoleon?"

"Your gout," said the lad.

Oh, no. Another cure. Cures found by fools usually did more harm than
good. But the gout was a curse, and... let's see what he has.

"An Englishman," said Little Napoleon. "Or, to speak more accurately,
an American. My spies have watched him--"

"Your spies? These are different spies from the spies I pay?"

"The spies you assigned to me for supervision, Uncle."

"Ah, those spies. They do still remember they work for me, don't they?"

"Remember it so well that instead of simply following orders and
watching for enemies, they have also watched for someone who might help
you."

"Englishmen in Europe are all spies. Someday after some notable
achievement when I'm very very popular I will round them all up and
guillotine them. Monsieur Guillotin-- now that was a useful fellow. Has he
invented anything else lately?"

"He's working on a steam-powered wagon, Uncle."

"They already exist. We vall them locomotives, and we're laying track
all over Europe."

"Ah, but he is working on one that doesn't have to run on rails."

"Why not a steam-powered balloon? I can't understand why that has never
worked. The engine would propel the craft, and the steam, instead of being
wastefully discharged into the atmosphere, would fill the balloon and keep
the craft aloft."

"I believe the problem, Uncle, is that if you carry enough fuel to
travel more than twenty or thirty feet, the whole thing weighs too much to
get off the ground."

~That's why inventors exist, isn't it? To solve problems like that. Any
fool could come up with the basic idea-- I came up with it, didn't I? And
when it comes to such matters I'm plainly a fool, as most men are."
Bonaparte had long since learned that such modest remarks always got
repeated by onlookers in the court and did much to endear him to the people.
"It's Monsieur Guillotin's job to... well, never mind, the machine that
bears his name is enough of a contribution to mankind. Swift, sure, and
painless executions-- a boon to the unworthiest of humans. A very Christian
invention, showing kindness to the least of Jesus' brethren." The priests
would repeat that one, and from the pulpit, too.

"About this Calvin Miller," said Little Napoleon.

"And my gout."

"I've seen him drain a swollen limb just by standing on the street
staring at a beggar's pussing wound."

"A pussing wound isn't the gout."

"The beggar had his trousers ripped open to show the wound, and this
American stood there looking for all the world as if he were dozing off, and
then suddenly the skin erupted with pus and all of it drained out, and then
the wound closed without a single stitch. Neither he nor any man touched the
leg. It was quite a demonstration of remarkable healing powers."

"You saw this yourself?"

"With my own eyes. But only the once. I can hardly go about secretly,
Uncle. I look too much like your esteemed self."

No doubt Little Napoleon imagined that this was flattery. Instead it
sent a faint wave of nausea through Bonaparte. But he let nothing show in
his face.

"You now have this healer under arrest?"

"Of course; waiting for your pleasure."

"Let him sweat."

Little Napoleon cocked his head a moment, studying Bonaparte, probably
trying to figure out what plan his uncle had for the healer, and why he
didn't want to see him right away. The one thing he would never think of,
Bonaparte was quite sure, was the truth: that Bonaparte hadn't the faintest
idea what to do about a healer who actually had power. It made him uneasy
thinking about it. And he remembered the young white boy who had come with
the Red general, Ta-Kumsaw, to visit him in Fort Detroit. Could this
American be the same one?

Why should he even make such a connection? And why would that boy in
Detroit matter, after all these years? Bonaparte was uncertain about what it
all mean, but it felt to him as if forces were at work, as if this American
in the Bastille were someone of great importance to him. Or perhaps not to
him. To someone, anyway.

Bonaparte's leg throbbed. Another episode of gout was starting. "Go
away now," he said to Little Napoleon.

"Do you want information from the American?" asked Little Napoleon.

"No," said Bonaparte. "Leave him alone. And while you're at it, leave
me alone, too."

***

Alvin had a steady stream of visitors in the courthouse jail. It seemed
like they all had the same idea. They'd sidle right up to the bars, beckon
him close, and whisper (as if the deputy didn't know right well what they
was talking about), "Don't you have some way to slip on out of here, Alvin?"

What, they believed he hadn't thought of it? Such a simple matter, to
soften the stone and pull one of the bars out. Or, for that matter, he could
make the metal of a bar flow away from the stone it was embedded in. Or
dissolve the bar entirely. Or push against the stone and press on through,
walking through the wall into freedom. Such things would be easy enough for
Alvin. As a child he had played with stone and found softness and weakness
in it; as a prentice blacksmith, he had come to understand iron from the
heart out. Hadn't he crawled into the forgefire and turned an iron plowshare
to living gold?

Now, locked in this prison, he thought of leaving, thought of it all
the time. Thought of hightailing it off into the woods, with or without
Arthur Stuart-- the boy was happy here, so why take him away? Thought of the
sun on his back, the wind in his face, the greensong of the forest now so
faint to him through stone and iron that he could hardly hear it.

But he told himself what he told those friendly folk who meant so well.
"I need to be shut of this whole affair before I go off. So I mean to stand
trial here, get myself acquitted, and then go on without fear of somebody
tracking me down and telling the same lies too me again."

And then they always did the same thing. Having failed to persuade him
to escape, they'd eye his knapsack and whisper, "Is it in there?" And the
boldest of them would say what they were all wishing. "Can I see it?"

His answer was always the same. He'd ask about the weather. "Think it's
a hard winter coming on?" Some picked up slower than others, but after a
while they all realized he wasn't going to answer a blame thing about the
golden plow or the contents of his knapsack, not a word one way or the
other. Then they'd make some chat or take up his used dishes, them as
brought food, but it never took long and soon they was on their way out of
the courthouse to tell their friends and family that Alvin was looking sad
kind of but he still wasn't saying a thing about that gold plow that
Makepeace claimed was his own gold treasure stolen by the boy back in his
prentice days.

One day Sheriff Doggly brought in a fellow that Alvin recognized, sort
of, but couldn't remember why or who. "That's the one," said the stranger.
"Got no respect for any man's knack except his own." Then Alvin recollected
well enough-- it was the dowser who picked the spot for Alvin to dig a well
for Makepeace Smith. The spot where Alvin dug right down to a sheet of thick
hard rock, without finding a drop of water first. No doubt Makepeace meant
to use him as a witness that Alvin's well wasn't in the spot the dowser
chose. Well, that was true enough, no disputing it. The dowser fellow wasn't
going to testify to anything that Alvin wouldn't have admitted freely his
own self. So let them plot their plots. Alvin had the truth with him, and
that was bound to be enough, with twelve jurors of Hatrack River folk.

The visits that really cheered him were Arthur's. Two or three times a
day, the boy would blow in from the square like a leaf getting tucked into
an open door by a gust of wind. "You just got to meet that feller John
Binder," he'd say. "Ropemaker. Some folks is joking how if they decide to
hang you, he'll be the one as makes the rope, but he just shuts 'em right
up, you should hear him, Alvin. 'No rope of mine is going to hang no Maker,'
he says. So even though you never met him I count him as a friend. But I
tell you, they say his ropes never unravel, never even fray, no matter where
you cut em. Ain't that some knack?"

And later in the same day, he'd be on about someone else. "I was out
looking for Alfreda Matthews, Sophie's cousin, she's the one lives in that
shack down by the river, only the river's a long windy thing and I couldn't
find her and in fact it was getting on toward dark and I couldn't rightly
find myself, and then here I am face to face with this Captain Alexander,
he's a ship's captain only who knows what he's doing so far from the sea?
But he lives around here doing tinkering and odd fixing, and Vilate Franker
says he must have done some terrible crime to have to hide from the sea, or
maybe there was some great sea beast that swallowed up his ship and left
only him alive and now he daresn't go back to sea for fear the beast-- she
calls it La Vaya Than, which Goody Trader says is Spanish for 'Ain't this a
damn lie,' do you know Goody Trader?"

"Met her," says Alvin. "She brung me some horehound drops. Nastiest
candy I ever ate, but I reckon for them as loves horebound they were good
enough. Strange lady. Squatted right outside the door here pondering for the
longest time until she finally gets up and says 'Humf, you're the first man
I ever met what didn't need nothing and here you are in jail."

"They say that's her knack, knowing what a body needs even when he
don't know himself," said Arthur. "Though I will say that Vilate Franker
says that Goody Trader is a humbug just like the alligator boy in the freak
show in Dekane, which you wouldn't take me to see cause you said if he was
real, it was cruel to gawk at him, and--"

"I remember what I said, Arthur Stuart. You don't have to gossip to me
about me."

"Anyway, what was I talking about?"

"Lost in the woods looking for old drunken Freda."

"And I bumped into that sea captain, anyway, and he looks me in the eye
and he says, 'Follow me,' and I go after him about ten paces and he sets me
right in the middle of a deer track and he says, 'You just go along this way
and when you reach the river again, you go upstream about three rods.' And
you know what? I did what he said and you know what?"

"You found Freda."

"Alfreda Matthews, and she was stone drunk of course but I splashed her
face with some water and I done what you said folks ought to do, I emptied
her jug out and boy howdy, she was spitting mad, I like to had to out-dance
the devil just to keep from getting hit by them rocks she threw!"

"Poor lady," said Alvin. "But it won't do no good as long as there's
folks to give her another jug.

"Can't you do like, you did with that Red Prophet?"

Alvin looked at him sharp. "What do you think you know about that?"

"Just what your own mama told me back in Vigor Church, about how you
took a drunken one-eyed Red and made a prophet out of him."

Alvin shook his head. "No sir, she got it wrong. He was a prophet all
along. And he wasn't a drunk the way Freda's a drunk. He took the likker
into him to drown out the terrible black noise of death. That's what I
fixed, and then he didn't need that likker no more. But Freda-- there's
something else in her that hungers for it, and I don't understand it yet."

"I told her to come to you though, so I reckon you oughta know and
that's why I told you, she's a-coming to get healed."

Alvin shook his head.

"Did I do wrong?"

"No, you done right," said Alvin. "But there's nothing I can do for her
beyond what she oughta do for herself. She knows the likker's eating her up,
stealing her life away from her. But I'll talk to her and help her if I
can."

"They say she can tell you when rain's coming. If she's sober."

"Then how would anybody know she has such a knack?" asked Alvin.

Arthur just laughed and laughed. "I reckon she must have been sober
once, anyway. And it was raining!"

When Arthur Stuart left, Alvin pondered the tales he told. Some of
Arthur's chat was just gossip. There was some powerful gossips in Hatrack
River these days, and the way Alvin figured it, the two biggest gossips was
Vilate Franker, who Alvin had met and knew she was living inside a bunch of
lying hexes, and Goody Trader, who he didn't really know yet except for what
he gleaned from her visit. Her real name was either Chastity or Charity--
Vilate said it was Chastity, but other folks said the other. She went by
Goody, short for Goodwife, seeing how she'd been married three times and
kept all them husbands happy till they croaked, accidental every time,
though again Vilate managed to give Arthur the impression that they wasn't
truly accidental. Them two women was at war all the time, that much was
plain-- hardly a word one said as wasn't contradicted flat out by the other.
Now, neither one of these ladies invented gossip, nor was it so that Hatrack
River didn't have rumors and tales before the two of them moved here. But it
was plain that Arthur was visiting both of them every day, and both of them
was filling him full of tales until Alvin could hardly make sense of it, and
it was a sure thing that Arthur didn't really understand the half of what
he'd been told.

Alvin knew for himself that Vilate was deceptive and spiteful. But
Goody might be just the same or worse, only she was better at it so Alvin
couldn't see it so plain. Hard to tell. And that business with Goody Trader
saying Alvin didn't need nothing-- well, what was that?

But behind all the gossip and quarreling, there was something else that
struck Alvin as pretty strange. Mighty knacks was thick underfoot in Hatrack
River. Most towns might have somebody with something of a knack that you
might notice. Most knacks, though, was pretty plain. A knack for soup. A
knack for noticing animal tracks. Useful, but nothing to write a letter to
your daddy about. A lot of folks had no idea what their own knack was,
because it was so easy for them and not all that remarkable in the eyes of
other folks. But here in Hatrack River, the knacks was downright
astonishing. This sea captain who could help you find your way even when you
didn't know you was lost. And Freda-- Alvin pooh-poohed it to Arthur Stuart,
but there was folks in town as swore she didn't just predict rain, if you
sobered her up in a dry season she could bring it. And Melyn, a Welsh girl
who can harp and sing so you forget everything while she's doing it, forget
it all and just sit there with a stupid smile on your face because you're so
happy-- she came and played for Alvin and he could feel how the sound that
flowed from her could reach inside him like a doodlebug scooting through the
earth, reach inside and find all the knots and loosen them up and just make
him feel good.

It was power like he'd been trying to teach the folks back in Vigor,
only they could hardly understand it, could hardly get but a glimmer of it
now and then, and here it was so thick on the ground you could rake it up
like leaves. Maggie who helped out in Goody Trader's store, she could ride
any horse no matter how wild, plenty of witnesses of that. And one who
scared Alvin a little, a girl named Dorcas Bee who could draw portraits of
folks that not only looked like their outward face, but also showed
everything that was inside them-- Alvin didn't know what to make of her, and
even with his eyes he couldn't rightly understand how she did it.

Any one of these folks would be remarkable in whatever town they lived
in, no matter if it was as big as New Amsterdam or Philadelphia. Yet here
they were living in the middle of nowhere, Hatrack River of all places,
swelling the numbers of the town but yet nobody seemed to find it remarkable
at all that so many knacks was gathered here.

There's a reason for it, Alvin thought. Got to be a reason for it. And
I have to know it, because there's going to be a jury of these knacky folks,
and they're going to decide whether Makepeace Smith is a plain liar, or I
am. Only this town is full of lies, since the things Vilate Franker says and
the things Goody Trader says can't all be true at the same time. Full of
lies and, yes, miseries. Alvin could feel that there was something of the
Unmaker going on, but couldn't lay hands on it or find who it was. Hard to
find the Unmaker when the Unmaker didn't want to be found. Especially hard
from a jail cell, where all you got was rumor and brief visits.

Well, they wasn't all brief. Vilate Franker herself came and stayed
sometimes half an hour at a time, even though there wasn't no place to sit
down. Alvin couldn't figure what she wanted. She didn't gossip with him,
rightly speaking-- all of her gossip Alvin got secondhand from Arthur
Stuart. No, Vilate came to him to talk about philosophy and poetry and such,
things that no man or woman had talked to him about since Miss Larner. Alvin
wondered if maybe Vilate was trying to charm him, but since he couldn't see
the beauty-image from her hexes, he didn't rightly know. She sure wasn't
pretty to him. But the more she talked, the more he liked her company, till
he found himself looking forward to her coming every day. More than anybody
except Arthur Stuart, truth be known, and as they talked, Alvin would lie
down on the cot in the cell and he'd close his eyes and then. he didn't have
to see either her unprettiness or her hexery, he could just hear the words
and think the ideas and see the visions that she conjured in him. She'd say
poetry and the words had music inside him. She'd talk of Plato and Alvin
understood and it made him feel wise in a way that the adulation of folks
back in Vigor Church never did.

Was this some knack of hers? Alvin didn't know, just plain couldn't
tell. He only knew that it was only during her visits that he could
completely forget that he was in jail. And it dawned on him, after a week or
so, that he might just be falling in love. That the feelings that he had
only ever had toward Miss Larner were getting waked up, just a little, by
Vilate Franker. Now wouldn't that beat all? Miss Larner had been pretty and
young, using knacks to make herself look plain and middle-aged. Now here was
a woman plain and middle-aged using knacks that made other folks think she
was pretty and young. How opposite could you be? But in both cases, it was
the mature woman without obvious beauties that he delighted in.

And yet, even as he wondered if he was falling in love with Vilate,
every now and then, in his lonely hours especially after dark, he would
think of another face entirely. A young girl back in Vigor, the girl whose
lies had driven him from home in the first place, the girl who claimed he
had done forbidden things with her. He found himself thinking of those
forbidden things, and there was a place in his heart where he wished he had
done them. If he had, of course he would have married her. In fact, he would
have married her before doing them, because that was right and the law and
Alvin wasn't no kind of man to do wrong by a woman or break no law if he
could help it. But in his imaginings in the dark there wasn't no law nor
right and wrong neither, he just woke up sweating from a dream in which the
girl wasn't no liar after all, and then he was plain ashamed of himself, and
couldn't figure out what was wrong with him, to be falling in love with a
woman of words and ideas and experience during the day, but then to be hot
with passion for a stupid lying girl who just happened to be pretty and
flat-out in love with him once upon a time back home.

I am an evil man, thought Alvin at times like that. Evil and
unconstant. No better than them faithless fellows who can't leave women
alone no matter what. I am the kind of man that I have long despised.

Only even that wasn't true, and Alvin knew it. Because he hadn't done a
blamed thing wrong. Hadn't done anything. Had only imagined it. Imagined...
and enjoyed. Was that enough to make him evil? "As a man thinketh in his
heart, so is he," said the scripture. Alvin remembered it because his mother
quoted it all the time till his father barked back at her, "That's just your
way of saying that all men are devils!" and Alvin wondered if it was true--
if all men had evil in their hearts, and those men as were good, maybe they
were simply the ones who controlled theirselves so well they could act
contrary to their heart's desire. But if that were so, then no man was good,
not one.

And didn't the Holy Book say that, too? No man good, not one. Not me,
neither. Maybe me least of all.

And that was his life in that jail in Hatrack River. Darker and darker
thoughts about his own worthiness, falling in love with two women at once,
caught up in the gossip of a town where the Unmaker was surely at work, and
where knacks abounded.

***

Calvin was pretty good with stone-- he always did all right with that.
Well, not always. He wasn't born finding the natural weaknesses of stone.
But after Alvin went off to be a prentice to a smith, Calvin started trying
to do what he saw or heard of his big brother doing. In those days he was
still hoping to show Alvin how good he was at Makering when he got back, to
hear his brother say to him, "Calvin, why, you're most as good as I am!"
Which Alvin never said, nor even close to it. But it was true, at least
about stone. Stone was easy, really, not like flesh and bone. Calvin could
find his way into the stone, part it, shift it.

Which is what he started doing right away with the Bastille, of course.
He didn't know why the secret police had put him inside those walls, clammy
and cold. It wasn't a dungeon, not like in those stories, where the prisoner
never sees any light except when A guard comes down with a torch, so he can
go blind without knowing it. There was light enough, and a chair to sit on
and a bed to lie on and a chamber pot that got emptied every day, once he
figured out he was supposed to leave it by the door.

It was still a prison, though.

It took Calvin about five minutes to figure out that he could pretty
much dissolve the whole locking mechanism, but he remembered just in time
that getting out of his cell wasn't exactly the same thing as getting out of
the Bastille. He couldn't make himself invisible, and Maker or not, a musket
ball would knock him down or maim him or kill him like any other man.

He'd have to find another way out. And that meant going right through
the wall, right through stone. Trouble was, he didn't have any idea whether
he was forty feet up or twenty feet under the street level. Or if the wall
at the back of his cell opened on the outside or into an inner courtyard.
Who might see if a gap appeared in the wall? He couldn't just remove a
stone-- he had to remove it in once piece, so he could put it back after if
he had to.

He waited till night, then began working on a stone block right near
floor level. It was heavy, and he didn't know of any way to make it lighter.
Nor was there some subtle way to make stone move across stone. Finally he
just softened the stone, plunged his fingers into it, then let it harden
around his fingers, so he had a grip right in the middle of the stone block.
Now, as he pulled on it, he made a thin layer of the stone turn liquid on
the bottom and sides, so it was easier to pull it out, once he got it
moving. It also made it silent as rock slid across rock. Except for the loud
thud as the back of the stone dropped out of the hole and fell the few
inches to the floor.

A breeze came through the cell, making it all the cooler. He slid the
stone out of the way and then lay down and thrust his head and shoulders
into the gap.

He was maybe twelve feet above the ground and directly over the head of
a group of a dozen soldiers marching from somewhere to somewhere.
Fortunately, they didn't look up. But that didn't keep Calvin's heart from
beating halfway out of his chest. Once they were past, though, he figured he
could go feet-first through the hole and drop safely down to the ground and
just walk away into the streets of Paris. Let them wonder how he got a stone
out of the wall. That'd teach them to lock up folks who heal beggars.

He was all set to go, his feet already going into the hole, when it
suddenly dawned on him that escaping was about as dumb a thing as he could
do. Wasn't he here to see the Emperor? If he became a fugitive, that wasn't
going to be too helpful. Bonaparte had powers that even Alvin didn't know
about. Calvin had to learn them, if he could. The smart thing to do was sit
tight here and see if somehow, someone in the chain of command might realize
that a fellow who could heal beggars might be able to help with Bonaparte's
famous gout.

So he got his back into it and hefted the stone back up into the gap
and shoved it into place. He left the finger holes in it-- it was dark at
the back of the cell and besides, maybe if they noticed those holes in the
stone they'd have more respect for his powers.

Or maybe not. How could he know? Everything was out of his control now.
He hated that. But if you want to get something, you got to put yourself in
the way of getting it.

Now that he wasn't trying to escape-- but knew that he could if he
wanted to-- Calvin spent the days and nights lying on his cot or pacing his
cell. Calvin wasn't good at being alone. He'd learned that on his trek
through the woods after leaving Vigor. Alvin might be happy running along
like a Red, but Calvin soon abandoned the forest tracks and got him on a
road and hitched a ride on a farmer's wagon and then another and another,
making friends and talking for company the whole way.

Now here he was stuck again, and even if the guards had been willing to
talk to him, he didn't know the language. It hadn't bothered him that much
when he was free to walk the streets of Paris and feel himself surrounded by
the bustle of busy city life. Here, though, his inability to so much as ask
a guard what day it was it made him feel crippled.

Finally he began to amuse himself with mischief. It was no trouble at
all to get his doodle bug inside the lock mechanism and ruin the guard's key
by softening it when he inserted it. When the guard took the key back out,
it had no teeth and the door was still locked. Angry, the guard stalked off
to get another key. This time Calvin let him open the door without a
problem-- but what was it that made the first key lose its teeth?

And it wasn't just his own lock. He began to search far and wide with
his doodlebug until he located the other occupied cells. He played games
with their locks, too, including fusing a couple of them shut so no key
could open them, and ruining a couple of others so they couldn't be locked
at all. The shouting, the stomping, the running, it kept Calvin greatly
entertained, especially as he imagined what the guards must be thinking.
Ghosts? Spies? Who could be doing these strange things with the locks in the
Bastille?

He also learned a few things. Back in Vigor, whenever he sat down for
long he'd either get impatient and get up and move again, or he'd start
thinking about Alvin and get all angry. Either way, he didn't spend all that
much time testing the limits of his powers, not since Alvin came home. Now,
though, he found that he could send his doodle bug right far, and into
places that he'd never seen with his own eyes. He began to get used to
moving his bug through the stone, feeling the different textures of it,
sensing the wooden frames to the heavy doors, the metal hinges and locks.
Damn, but he was good at this!

And he explored his own body with that doodlebug, and the bodies of the
other prisoners, trying to find what it was that Alvin saw, trying to see
deep. He experimented a little on the other prisoners' bodies, too, making
changes in their legs the way he'd have to change Bonaparte's leg. Not that
any of them had gout, of course-- that was a rich man's disease, and nobody
in prison was rich, even if they had money on the outside. Still, he could
get a mental chart of what a more-or-less healthy leg looked like, on the
inside. Get some idea of what he needed to do to get the Emperor's leg back
in good shape.

Truth to tell, though, he didn't understand much more about legs after
a week of this than he did at the beginning.

A week. A week and a half. Every day, more and more often, he'd walk to
the wall, squat down, and put his fingers into those finger holes. He'd pull
the stone a little bit, or maybe sometimes more, and once or twice all the
way out of the wall, wanting to slide through the hole and walk away to
freedom. Always, after a little thought, he put it back. But it took more
thought every day. And the longing to be gone got stronger and stronger.

It was a blame fool plan anyway, like all his plans, when you came
right down to it. Calvin was a fool to think they'd let some unknown
American boy have access to the Emperor.

He had the stone out of the wall for what he thought might well be the
last time, when he heard the steps in the corridor. Nobody ever came along
here this late at night! No time to get the stone back in place, either.
So... was it go, or stay? They'd see the stone out of the wall no matter
what he did. So did he want to face the consequences, which might include
seeing the Emperor, but might just as easy mean facing the guillotine; or
did he duck through the hole and get out into the street before they got the
door open?

Little Napoleon grumbled to himself. All these days, the Emperor could
have asked about the American healer any time. But no, it had to be in the
middle of the night, it had to be tonight, when Little Napoleon had reserved
the best box for the opening of a new opera by some Italian,
what's-his-name. He wanted to tell the Emperor that tonight was not
convenient, he should find another toady to do his bidding. But then the
Emperor smiled at him and suggested that he had others who could do such a
menial job, and he shouldn't waste his nephew's time on such unimportant
matters... and what could Little Napoleon do? He couldn't let the Emperor
realize that he could be replaced by some flunky. No, he insisted. No,
Uncle, I'll go myself, it'll be my pleasure.

"I just hope he can do what you promised," Bonaparte said.

The bastard was playing with him, that was the truth. He knew as well
as Little Napoleon did that there was no promise of anything, just a report.
But if it pleased the Emperor to make his nephew sweat with fear that maybe
he'd be made a fool of, well, Emperors were allowed to toy with other
people's feelings.

The guard made a great noise about marching down the stone corridor and
fumbling a long time with the keys.

"What, fool, are you giving the prisoner time to stop digging his
tunnel and hide the evidence?"

"There be no tunnels from this floor, my lord," the turnkey said.

"I know that, fool. But what's all the fumble with the keys?"

"Most of them are new, my lord, and I don't recognize which one opens
which door, not as easy as I used to."

"Then get the old keys and don't waste my time!"

"The old keys been stripped, or the locks was broken, my lord. It's
been crazy, you wouldn't believe it."

"I don't believe it," said Little Napoleon grumpily. But he did,
really-- he had heard something about some sabotage or some kind of rare
lock rust or something in the Bastille.

The key finally slid into the lock, and the door creaked open. The
turnkey stepped in and shone his lantern about, to make sure the prisoner
was in his place and not poised to jump him and take the keys. No, this one,
the American boy, he was sitting far from the door, leaning against the
opposite wall.

Sitting on what? The turnkey took a step or two closer, held the
lantern higher.

"Mon dieu," murmured Little Napoleon.

The American was sitting on a large stone block from the wall, with a
gap that led right out to the street. No man could have lifted such a block
out of the wall with his bare hands-- how could he even get hold of it? But
having moved it somehow, what did this American fool do but sit down and
wait! Why didn't he escape?

The American grinned at him, then stood up, still smiling, still
looking at Little Napoleon-- and then plunged his hands into the stone right
up to his elbows, as easy as if the stone had been a water basin.

The turnkey screeched and ran for the door.

The American pulled his hands back out of the stone-- except that one
of them was in a fist now. He held out the stone to Little Napoleon, who
took it, hefted it. It was stone, as hard as ever-- but it was shaped with
the print of the inside of a man's palms and fingers. Somehow this fellow
could reach into solid rock and grab a lump of stone as if it were clay.

Little Napoleon reached into his memory and pulled out some English
from his days in school. "What are your name?" he asked.

"Calvin Maker," said the American.

"Speak you the French?"

"Not a word," said Calvin Maker.

"Go avec me," said Little Napoleon. "Avec..."

"With," said the boy helpfully. "Go with you."

"Oui. Yes."

The Emperor had finally asked for the boy. But now Little Napoleon had
serious misgivings. There was nothing about the healing of beggars to
suggest the boy might have power over solid stone. What if this Calvin Maker
did something to embarrass him? What if-- it was beyond imagining, but he
had to imagine it-- what if he killed Uncle Napoleon?

But the Emperor had asked for him. There was no undoing that. What was
he going to do, go tell Uncle that the boy he'd brought to heal his gout
just might decide to plunge his hands into the floor and pull up a lump of
marble and brain him with it? That would be political suicide. He'd be
living on Corsica tending sheep in no time. If he didn't get to watch the
world tumble head over heels as his head rolled down into the basket from
the guillotine.

"Go go go," said Little Napoleon. "Wiss me."

The turnkey was huddled in a far corner of the corridor. Little
Napoleon aimed a kick in his direction. The man was so far gone that he
didn't even dodge. The kick landed squarely, and with a whimper the turnkey
rolled over like a cabbage.

The American boy laughed out loud. Little Napoleon didn't like his
laugh. He toyed with the idea of drawing his knife and killing the boy on
the spot. But the explanation to the Emperor would be dangerous. "So you
tried for weeks to get me to see him, and he was an assassin all along?" No,
whatever happened, the American would see the Emperor.

Calvin Maker would see Napoleon Bonaparte... while Little Napoleon
would see if God would Answer a most fervent prayer.



Chapter 12 -- Lawyers

"You know the miller's boy, Alvin, is in jail up in Hatrack River." The
stranger leaned on the counter and smiled.

"I reckon we heard about it," said Armor-of-God Weaver.

"I'm here to help get the truth about Alvin, so the jury can make the
right judgment up in Hatrack. They don't know Alvin as well as folks around
here are bound to. I just need to get some affidavits about his character."
The stranger smiled again.

Armor-of-God nodded. "I reckon this is the place for affidavits, if the
truth about Alvin is what you're after."

"That I am. I take it you know the young man yourself?"

"Well enough." Armor-of-God figured if he was going to find out what
this fellow was doing, it was best not to say he was married to Alvin's
sister. "But I reckon, you don't know what you're getting into up here,
friend. You'll get more than the affidavits you're after."

"Oh, I've heard tell about the massacre at Tippy-Canoe, and the curse
that folks here are under. I'm a lawyer. I'm used to hearing grim stories
from people I'm defending."

"Defending, eh?" asked Armor. "You a lawyer as defends people, is that
it?"

"That's what I'm best known for, in my home in Carthage City."

Armor nodded again. He might live in Carthage City now, but his accent
said New England. And he might try some folksy talk, but it was a lawyer's
version of it, to put folks off guard. This man could talk like the Bible if
he wanted to. He could talk like Milton. But Armor didn't let on that he
didn't trust the man. Not yet. "So when folks here tell you how they
slaughtered Reds what never done nobody no harm, you can hear that without
batting an eye, is that it?"

"I can't guarantee I won't do any eye-batting, Mr. Weaver. But I'll
listen, and when it's done, I'll get on with the business that brought me
here."

Now it's time. "And what business is that?" asked Armor.

The man blinked. Already batting an eye, thought Armor. That was right
quick.

"I told you, Mr. Weaver. Getting affidavits about Alvin the miller's
son."

"In order to tell people in Hatrack River about his true character, I
remember. The thing is, out of the last eight years, Alvin spent seven in
Hatrack, and only one here in Vigor Church. We knowed him as a child, you
bet, but lately I'd say it's the people of Hatrack River as knows him best.
So the way I see it, you're here to get a picture of Alvin that folks in
Hatrack don't know. And the only reason for that is because you need to
change their point of view about the boy. And since I know for a fact that
Alvin is respected in Hatrack, you can only be here to try to dig up some
dirt on the boy in order to do him harm. Have I just about got it? Friend?"

The lawyer's sudden lack of a cheerful smile was all the confirmation
Armor needed. "Dirt is the farthest thing from my mind, Mr. Weaver. I come
here with an open mind."

"An open mind, and free talk about how you defend people and all so as
to make folks think you're on Alvin's side, instead of being hired to do
your best to destroy folks' good opinion of him. So I reckon the fact that
you're here means that Alvin's friends better get somebody else to go around
collecting affidavits in his favor, since you won't be satisfied until you
dig up some lies."

The man stiffened and stepped back. "I see that you're rather a
partisan about the matter. I hope you can tell me what I said to give
offense."

"Why, the only offense you gave was thinking that because I'm not a
lawyer I must be dumb as a dog's butt."

"Well, no matter what conclusion you have reached, I assure you that as
an officer of the court I seek nothing more than the simple truth."

"Officer of the court, is it? Well, I happen to know that all lawyers
is called officers of the court. Even when they're hired by a private party
to do mischief, because you sure as God lives wasn't hired by the county
attorney down in Hatrack, because he would've give you a letter of
introduction and you wouldn't have tried none of these pussyfooting
prevaricating misrepresenting shenanigans."

The stranger put his hat back on his head and pushed it down right
firm. Armor suppressed the impulse to reach out and push it down still
firmer. As the stranger reached the door, Armor called out one last
question. "Do you have a name, so we can inquire with the state bar
association about any outstanding actions against you?"

The lawyer turned and smiled, even broader than when he was trying to
fool Armor. "My name is Daniel Webster, Mr. Weaver, and my client is truth
and justice."

"Truth and justice must pay a damn sight better in New England than it
does out here," said Armor. "You are from New England, aren't you?"

"I was born there, and raised there, but saw no future for myself in
that benighted backward place. So I came to the United States, where the
laws are founded on the rights of man instead of the dynastic claims of
monarchs or the worn-out theology of Puritans."

"Ah. So nobody's paying you?"

"I didn't say that, Mr. Weaver."

"Who's paying you, then? Ain't the county, and it ain't the state. And
it sure can't be Makepeace Smith, since he's got him hardly four bits to rub
together."

"I'm representing a consortium of concerned citizens of Carthage City,
who are determined to see that justice prevails even in the benighted
backwaters of the state of Hio."

"A consortium. That anything like a public house? Or a brothel?"

"How amusing."

"Name me a name, Mr. Webster. I happen to be mayor of this town, such
as it is, and you're here practicing law, after a fashion, and I think I
have a right to know who's sending lawyers up here to collect lies about our
respected citizens."

"Do you own a gun of any kind, Mr. Weaver?"

"I do, friend."

"Then why should I reveal the names of my clients to an armed and angry
man of a town that is so proud of being a nest of murderers that they brag
out the whole story to any unfortunate visitor who happens by? Also, mayors
have no right to inquire about anything from an attorney about his relations
with his clients. Good day, Mr. Weaver."

Armor watched the Webster fellow out the door, then put on his hat,
called out to his oldest boy to leave off soapmaking and watch the store,
and took off at a jog up and over the hill to his in-laws' house. His wife
would be there, since she was the best of the women at doing Alvin's Makery
stuff and so was in much demand as a teacher and a fashioner of-- much as
Armor hated it-- hexes. The family needed to know what was going on, that
Alvin had enemies from the capital who were spending money on a lawyer to
come dig up dirt about the boy. There was no way around it now-- they had to
get them a lawyer for Alvin, somehow. And not no country cousin, either. It
had to be a city lawyer who knew all the same tricks as this Webster fellow.
Armor vaguely remembered having heard of this man somewhere. He was spoke of
with awe in some circles, and having talked to him and heard his golden
voice and his quick answers and the way he made a lie sound like the natural
truth even to someone who knew it was deception, well, Armor knew it would
take some finding to get them a lawyer who could best him. And finding was
going to be complicated by another problem-- paying.

***

Calvin had no idea what he was supposed to do upon meeting the Emperor.
The man's title was a throwback to ancient Rome, to Persia, to Babylon. But
there he sat in a straight-back chair instead of a throne, his leg up on a
cushioned bench; and instead of courtiers there were only secretaries, each
scribbling away on a writing desk until an order or letter or edict was
finished, then leaping to his feet and rushing from the room as the next
secretary began to scribble furiously as Bonaparte dictated in a continuous
stream of biting, lilting, almost Italian-sounding French.

As the dictation proceeded, Calvin, with guards on either side of him
(as if that could stop him from making the floor collapse under the Emperor
if he felt like it), watched silently. Of course they did not invite him to
sit down; even Little Napoleon, the Emperor's nephew, remained standing.
Only the secretaries could sit, it seemed, for it was hard to imagine how
they could write without a lap.

At first Calvin simply took in the surroundings; then he studied the
face of the Emperor, as if that slightly pained expression contained some
secret which, if only examined long enough, would yield the secrets of the
sphinx. But soon Calvin attention drifted to the leg. It was the gout that
he had to cure, if he was to make any headway. And Calvin had no idea what
caused the gout or even how to figure it out. That was Alvin's province.

For a moment it occurred to Calvin that maybe he ought to beg
permission to write to his brother so he could get Alvin over here to cure
the Emperor and win Calvin's freedom. But he immediately despised himself
for the cowardly thought. Am I a Maker or not? And if a Maker, then Alvin's
equal. And if Alvin's equal, why should I summon him to bail me out of a
situation which, for all I know right now, might need no bailing?

He sent his doodling bug into Napoleon's leg.

It wasn't the sort of swelling that Calvin was used to in the festering
sores of beggars. He didn't understand what the fluids were-- not pus, that
was certain-- and he dared not simply make them flow back into the blood,
for fear that they might be poisons that would kill the very man he came to
learn from.

Besides, was it really in Calvin's best interests to cure this man? Not
that he knew how to do it-- but he wasn't sure he really ought to try. What
he needed was not the momentary gratitude of a cured man, but the continuing
dependence of a sufferer who needed Calvin's ministration for relief.
Temporary relief.

And this was something Calvin did understand, to a point. He had
learned long ago how to find the nerves in a dog or squirrel and give them a
sort of tweak, an invisible pinch. Sometimes it set the animal to squealing
and screeching till Calvin almost died from laughing. Other times the
creature didn't show pain, but limped along as if that pinched limb didn't
even exist. One time a perfectly healthy dog dragged around its hindquarters
till its belly and legs were rubbed raw in the dirt and Father was all set
to shoot the poor thing to put it out of its misery. Calvin took mercy on
the beast then and unpinched the nerve so it could walk again, but after
that it never did walk right, it sort of sidled, though whether that was
from the pinch Calvin gave it or from the damaged caused by dragging its
butt through the dirt for most of a week Calvin had no way to guess.

What mattered was that pinching of the nerve, to remove all feeling.
Bonaparte might limp, but it would take away the pain. Relief, not a cure.

Which nerve? It wasn't like Calvin had them all charted out. That sort
of methodical thinking was Alvin's game. In England, Calvin had realized
that this was one of the crucial differences between him and his brother.
There was a new word a fellow just coined at Cambridge for people who were
ploddingly methodical like Alvin: scientist. While Calvin, with dash and
flair and verve and, above all, the spirit of improvisation, he was an
artist. Trouble was, when it came to getting at the nerves in Bonaparte's
leg, Calvin couldn't very well experiment. He didn't think a strong
friendship would develop between the Emperor and him if it began with the
Emperor squealing and screeching like a tortured squirrel.

He pondered that for a while until, watching a secretary rise up and
rush from the room, it occurred to him that Bonaparte's weren't the only
legs around. Now that it mattered that Calvin find out exactly which nerve
did what, and that his pinch deadened pain instead of provoking it, he had
to play the scientist and test many legs until he got it right.

He started with the secretary who was next in line, a shortish fellow
(smaller even than the Emperor, who was a man of scant stature) who fidgeted
a little in his chair. Uncomfortable? Calvin asked him silently. Then let's
see if we can find you some relief He sent his bug into the man's right leg,
found the most obvious nerve, and pinched.

Not a wince, not a grimace. Calvin was annoyed. He pinched harder.
Nothing.

Then the current secretary jumped to his feet and rushed from the room.
It was now the turn of the short fellow Calvin had pinched. The man tried to
shift his body in his chair, to adjust the position of the lapdesk, but to
Calvin's delight a look of astonishment came over the man's face, followed
by a blush as hebad to reach down and move his right leg with his hands. So.
That large nerve-- or was it a bundle of very fine nerves? --had nothing to
do with feeling. Instead they seemed to control movement. Interesting.

The fellow wrote in silence, but Calvin knew that all he was really
thinking about was what would happen when he had to jump up and run from the
room. Sure enough, when the edict ended-- it was about the granting of a
special tax exemption to certain vintners in southern France because of a
bad harvest-- the man leapt up, spun around, and sprawled on the floor, his
right leg tangled with his left like the fishing lines of children.

Every eye turned to the poor fellow, but not a word was spoken. Calvin
watched with amusement as he got up on his hands and his left knee, while
the right leg hung useless. The knee bent well enough, of course, and the
man got it under his body so it looked like it might work, but twice he
tried to put weight on it and twice he fell again.

Bonaparte, looking annoyed, finally spoke to him. "Are you a secretary,
sir, or a clown?"

"My leg, sir," said the miserable clerk. "My right leg seems not to
work just now."

Bonaparte turned sharply to the guards detaining Calvin. "Help him out
of here. And fetch someone to clean up the spilled ink."

The guards hauled the man to his feet and started to move him toward
the door. Now it was time for Little Napoleon to Assert himself. "Take his
desk, fools," said the Emperor's nephew. "And the inkwell, and the quill,
and the edict, if it isn't spoiled."

"And how will they do all that?" asked Bonaparte testily. "Seeing they
have to hold up this one-legged beggar?" Then he looked expectantly at
Little Napoleon's face.

It took a moment for Little Napoleon to realize what the Emperor wanted
of him, and an even longer moment for him to swallow his pride enough to do
it. "Why, of course, Uncle," he said, with careful mildness. "I shall gladly
pick it up myself, sir."

Calvin suppressed a smile as the proud man who had arrested him, now
knelt down and gathered up papers, lapdesk, quill, and inkwell, carefully
avoiding getting a single drop of ink on himself. By now the secretary
Calvin had pinched was out of the room. He thought of sending out his bug to
find the man and unpinch the nerve, but he wasn't sure where he had gone,
and anyway, what did it matter? It was just a secretary.

When Little Napoleon was gone, Bonaparte resumed dictating, but now his
delivery was not rapid and biting. Rather he halted, corrected himself now
and then, and sometimes lapsed into silence for a time, as the secretary sat
with pen poised. At such moments Calvin would cause the ink on the quill to
flow to the tip and drop off suddenly onto the paper-- ah, the flurry of
bloitting! And of course this only served to distract the Emperor all the
more.

There remained, however, the matter of legs. Calvin explored each
secretary in turn, finding other nerves to pinch, ever so slightly. He left
the nerves of movement alone now; it was the nerves of pain that he was
finding now, charting his progress by the widened eyes, flushed faces, and
occasional gasps of the unfortunate secretaries. Bonaparte was not unaware
of their discomfort-- it distracted him all the more. Finally, when a man
gasped at a particularly sharp pinch-- Calvin's touch was not always precise
with such slender things as nerves-- Bonaparte turned himself in his chair,
wincing at the pain in his own leg, and said, as best Calvin could
understand his French, "Do you mock me with these pains and moans? I sit
here in agony, making no sound, while you, with no more pain than that of
sitting too long to take letters, moan and gasp and wince and sigh until I
can only imagine I am trapped with a choir of hyenas!"

At that moment Calvin finally got it right, giving just the right
amount of pressure to a secretary's pain nerve that all feeling vanished,
and instead of the man wincing, his face relaxed in relief. That's it,
thought Calvin. That's how it's done.

He almost sent his bug right into Bonaparte's leg to do that same
little twist and make the Emperor's pain go away. Fortunately he was
distracted by the opening of the door. It was a scullery maid with a bucket
and rags to clean up the ink from the marble floor. Bonaparte glared at her,
and she almost dropped her things and fled, except that he at once softened
his expression, "My rage is at my pain, girl," he said to her. "Come in and
do your work, no one minds."

With that she gathered her courage, scurried to the drying ink, set
down the bucket with a clank and a slosh, and set to work scrubbing.

By now Calvin had come to his senses. What good would it do to take
away Bonaparte's pain if the Emperor didn't know that it was Calvin doing
it? Instead he practiced the soothing twist of the nerves on all the
secretaries, to their undoubted relief, and as he did he began to sense a
sort of current, a humming, a vibration on the nerves that were actually
carrying pain at the instant he twisted them, so that he could get even more
precise, taking away not all the feeling in a leg, but just the pain itself.
Finally he got to the scullery maid, to the pain she always felt in her
knees as she knelt on hard cold floors to do her, work. So sudden was the
relief, and so sharp and constant had been the pain, that she cried aloud,
and again Bonaparte glared at the interruption.

"Oh sir," she said, "forgive me, but I suddenly felt no pain in my
knees."

"Lucky you," said Bonaparte. "Along with this miracle, do you also find
that you see no ink on the floor?"

She looked down. "Sir, with all my scrubbing, I can't get up the whole
stain. I'm afraid it's gone down into the stone, sir."

Calvin at once sent his doodling bug into the surface of the marble and
discovered that the ink had, indeed, penetrated beyond the reach of her
scrubbing. Now was the chance to have Bonaparte notice him, not as a
prisoner-- even his guards were gone-- but as a man of power. "Perhaps I can
help," he said.

Bonaparte looked at him as if seeing him for the first time, though
Calvin was quite aware that the Emperor had sized him up several times over
the past half-hour. Bonaparte spoke to him in accented English. "Was it for
scullery work you came to Paris, my dear American friend?"

"I came to serve you, sir," said Calvin. "Whether with a stained floor
or a pained leg, I care not."

"Let's see you with floors first," said Bonaparte. "Give him the rags
and bucket, girl."

"I don't need them," said Calvin. "I've already done it. Have her scrub
again, and this time the stain will come right up."

Bonaparte glowered at the idea of serving as interpreter for an
American prisoner and a scullery maid, but his curiosity got the better of
his dignity and he gave the girl the order to scrub again. This time the ink
came right up, and the stone was clean again. It had been child's play for
Calvin, but the awe in the girl's face was the best possible advertisement
for his wondrous power. "Sir," she said, "I had only to pass the rag over
the stain and it was gone!"

The secretaries were eyeing Calvin carefully now-- they weren't fools,
and they clearly suspected him of causing both their discomfort and their
relief, though some of them were pinching the legs to try to restore feeling
after Calvin's first, clumsier attempts at numbing pain. Now Calvin went
back into their legs, restored feeling, and then gave the more delicate
twist that removed pain. They watched him warily, as Bonaparte looked back
and forth between his clerks and his prisoner.

"I see you have been busy playing little jokes on my secretaries."

Without an answer, Calvin reached into the Emperor's leg and, for just
a moment, removed all pain. But only for a moment; he soon let it come back.

Bonaparte's face darkened. "What kind of man are you, to take away my
pain for a moment and then send it back to me?"

"Forgive me, sir," said Calvin. "It's easy to cure the pain I caused
myself, in your men. Or even the pain from hours of kneeling, scrubbing
floors. But the gout-- that's hard, sir, and I know of no cure, nor of any
relief that lasts more than a little while."

"Longer than five seconds, though-- I'll wager you know how to do
that."

"I can try."

"You're the clever one," said Bonaparte. "But I know a lie. You can
take away the pain and yet you choose not to. How dare you hold me hostage
to my pain?"

Calvin answered in mild tones, though he knew he took his life in his
hands to say such a bold thing in any tone: "Sir, you have held my whole
body prisoner this whole time, when I was free before. I come here and find
you already a prisoner of pain, and you complain to me that I do not set you
free?"

The secretaries gasped again, but not in pain this time. Even the
scullery maid was shocked-- so much so that she knocked her bucket over,
spilling soapy, inky water over half the floor.

Calvin quickly made the water evaporate from the floor, then made the
residue of ink turn to fine, invisible dust.

The scullery maid went screaming from the room.

The secretaries, too, were on their feet. Bonaparte turned to them. "If
I hear any rumor of this, you will all go to the Bastille. Find the girl and
silence her-- by persuasion or imprisonment, she deserves no torture. Now
leave me alone with this extortionist, while I find out what he wants to get
from me."

They left the room. As they were going, Little Napoleon and the guards
returned, but Bonaparte sent them away as well, to his nephew's
ill-concealed fury.

"All right, we're alone," said Bonaparte. "What do you want?"

"I want to heal your pain."

"Then heal it and have done."

Calvin took the challenge, twisted the nerves just right, and saw
Bonaparte's face soften, losing the perpetual wince. "Such a gift as that,"
murmured the Emperor, "and you spend it cleaning floors and taking stones
from prison walls."

"It won't last," said Calvin.

"You mean you choose not to make it last," said Bonaparte.

Calvin took the unusual step of telling the plain truth, sensing that
Bonaparte would know if anything he said was a lie. "It's not a cure. The
gout is still there. I don't understand the gout and I can't cure it. I can
take away the pain."

"But not for long."

Truthfully, Calvin answered, "I don't know how long."

"And for what payment?" asked Bonaparte. "Come on, boy, I know you want
something. Everyone does."

"But you're Napoleon Bonaparte," said Calvin. "I thought you knew what
every man wanted."

"God doesn't whisper it in my ear, if that's what you think. And yes, I
know what you want but I have no idea why you've come to me for it. You're
hungry to be the greatestman on Earth. I've met men with ambition like yours
before-- and women, too. Unfortunately I can't easily bend such ambition
into subservience to my interests. Generally I have to kill them, because
they're a danger to me."

Those words went like a knife through Calvin's heart.

"But you're different," said Bonaparte. "You mean me no harm. In fact,
I'm just a tool to you. A means of gaining advantage. You don't want my
kingdom. I rule all of Europe, northern Africa, and much of the ancient
East, and yet you want me only to tutor you in preparation for a much
greater game. What game, on God's green Earth, might that be?"

Calvin never meant to tell him, but the words came blurting out. "I
have a brother, an older brother, who has a thousand times my power." The
words galled him, burned his throat as he said them.

"And a thousand times your virtue, too, I think," said Bonaparte. But
those words had no sting for Calvin. Virtue, as Alvin defined it, was waste
and weakness. Calvin was proud to have little of it.

"Why hasn't your brother challenged me?" asked Bonaparte. "Why hasn't
he shown his face to me in all these years?"

"He's not ambitious," said Calvin.

"That is a lie," said Bonaparte, "even though in your ignorance you
believe it. There is no such thing as a living human being without ambition.
St. Paul said it best: Faith, ambition, and love, the three driving forces
of human life."

"I believe it was hope," said Calvin. "Hope and charity."

"Hope is the sweet weak sister of ambition. Hope is ambition wishing to
be liked."

Calvin smiled. "That's what I've come for," he said.

"Not to heal my gout."

"To ease your pain, as you ease my ignorance."

"With powers like yours, what do you need with my small
world-conquering gifts?" Bonaparte's irony was plain and painful.

"My powers are nothing compared to my brother's, and he is the only
teacher I can learn them from. So I need other powers that he doesn't have."

"Mine."

"Yes."

"Then how do I know that you won't turn on me and try to take my
empire?"

"If I wanted it I could have it now," said Calvin.

"It's one thing to terrify people with displays of power," said
Bonaparte. "But terror only gets you obedience when you're there. I have the
power to hold men obedient to me even when my back is turned, even when
there's no chance I'd ever catch them in wrongdoing. They love me, they
serve me with their whole hearts. Even if you sent every building in Paris
crashing to the street, it wouldn't win the people's loyalty."

"That's why I'm here, because I know that."

"Because you want to win the loyalty of your brother's friends," said
Bonaparte. "You want them to spurn your brother and put you in his place."

"Call me Cain if you want, but yes," said Calvin. "Yes."

"I can teach you that," said Bonaparte. "But no pain. And no little
games with the pain, either. If the pain comes back, I'll have you killed."

"You can't even hold me in a prison if I don't want to stay there."

"When I decide to kill you, boy, you won't even see it coming."

Calvin believed him.

"Tell me, boy--"

"Calvin."

"Boy, don't interrupt me, don't correct me." Bonaparte smiled sweetly.
"Tell me, Calvin, weren't you afraid that I would win your loyalty and put
your gifts to use in my service?"

"As you said," Calvin answered, "your powers have scant effect on
people with ambition as great as your own. It's only really the goodness in
people that you turn against them to control them. Their generosity. Isn't
that right?"

"In a sense, though it's much more complicated than that. But yes."

Calvin smiled broadly. "Well, then, you see? I knew I was immune."

Bonaparte frowned. "Are you so sure of that? So proud to be a man
utterly devoid of generosity?"

Calvin's smile faded just a little. "Old Boney, the terror of Europe,
the toppler of empires-- Old Boney is shocked at my lack of compassion?"

"Yes," said Bonaparte. "I never thought I'd see the like. A man I'll
never have power over... and yet I will let you stay with me, for the sake
of my leg, and I'll teach you all that can be taught. For the sake of my
leg."

Calvin laughed and nodded. "Then you've got a deal."

Only later, as he was being shown to a luxurious apartment in the
palace did it occur to Calvin to wonder if, perhaps, Bonaparte's admission
that Calvin could not be controlled might not be just a ploy; if, perhaps,
Bonaparte already had control over Calvin but, like all the Emperor's other
tools, Calvin continued to think that he was free.

No, he told himself. Even if it's true, what good will it do me to
think about it? The deed's done or it's not done, and either way I'm still
myself and still have Alvin to deal with. A thousand times more powerful
than me! A thousand times more virtuous! We'll see about that when the time
comes, when I take your friends away from you, Alvin, the way you stole my
birthright from me, you thieving Esau, you pit-digging Reuben, you jealous
taunting Ishmael. God will give me my birthright, and has given me Bonaparte
to teach me how to accomplish something with it.

***

Alvin didn't realize he was doing it. Daytimes he thought he was
bearing his imprisonment right well, putting on a cheerful face for his
visitors, singing now and then-- harmonizing with the jailors when they knew
the song and joined in. It was a jaunty sort of imprisonment, and everyone
was saying that it was a shame for Alvin to be all cooped up, but wasn't he
taking it like a soldier?

In his sleep, though, his hatred for the jail walls, for the sameness
and lifelessness of the place, it came out in another kind of song, an
inward music that harmonized with the greensong that once had tilled this
part of the world. It was the music of the trees and the lesser plants, of
the insects and spiders, of the furred and finny creatures that dwelt in the
leaves, on the ground, in the earth, or in the cold streams and unstoppable
rivers. And Alvin's inner voice was tuned to it, knew all the melodies, and
instead of harmonizing with jailors his heart sang with free creatures.

And they heard his song that went unheard by human ears. In the
tattered remnants of the ancient woods, in the new growth where a few
abandoned fields were four or ten years fallow, they heard him, the last few
bison, the still deer, the hunting cats and the sociable coyotes and the
timber wolves. The birds above all heard him, and they came first, in twos,
in tens, in flocks of hundreds, visiting the town and singing with his music
for a while, daybirds coming in the nighttime, until the town was wakened by
the din of so many songs all at once. They came and sang an hour and left
again, but the memory of their song lingered.

First the birds, and then the song of coyotes, the howl of wolves, not
so near as to be terrifying, but near enough to fill the untuned hearts of
most folks with a kind of dread, and they woke with nightsweats. Raccoon
prints were all over, and yet there was no tearing or thievery, and no more
than the usual number of chickens were taken, though foxfeet had trodden on
every henhouse roof. Squirrels a-gathering their nuts ran fearlessly through
the town to leave small offerings outside the courthouse. Fish leapt in the
Hatrack and in other nearby streams, a silver dance in the sparkling moonlit
water, the drops like stars falling back into the stream.

Through it Alvin slept, and most folks also slept, so only gradually
did the word spread that the natural world was all a-flutter, and then only
a few began to link it with Alvin being in jail. Logical folks said there
couldn't be no connection. Dr. Whitley Physicker boldly said, when asked
(and sometimes when no one asked at all), "I'm the first to say it's wrong
to have that boy locked up. But that doesn't imply that the swarming of
harmless unstinging bees through the town last night meant anything at all
except that perhaps this will be a hardish winter. Or perhaps a mild one.
I'm not a great reader of bees. But it's nothing to do with Alvin in jail
because nature hardly concerns itself with the legal disputes of human
beings!"

True enough, but, as a lawyer might say, irrelevant. It wasn't Alvin in
jail that disturbed nature, it was Alvin singing in his dreams that drew
them. And those few in town who could hear some faint echo of his song--
ones like John Binder, for instance, and Captain Harriman, who had heard
such silent stirrings all their lives-- why, they didn't wake up to the
birdsong and the coyotes yipping and the wolves howling and the patter of
squirrel feet on shingles. Those things just fit into their own dreams, for
to them it all belonged, it all fit, and Alvin's song and the natural
greensong of the world spoke peace to them deep in their hearts. They heard
the rumors but didn't understand the fuss. And if Drunken Freda drank a
little less and slept a little better, who would notice it besides herself?

***

Verily Cooper came to Vigor Church the hard way, but then everybody
did. What with the town's reputation for making travelers listen to a hard
dark story, it's no wonder nobody put a stagecoach route there. The railroad
wasn't out that far west yet, but even if it was, it wasn't likely there'd
be a Vigor Station or even a spur. The town that Armor-of-God Weaver once
expected to be the gateway to the west was now a permanent backwater.

So it was railroad-- shaky and stinky, but fast and cheap-- to Dekane,
and stagecoach from there. By sheerest chance, Verily's route took him right
through the town of Hatrack River, where the man he was coming to meet,
Calvin's brother Alvin, was locked up. But this was the express coach and it
didn't stop in Hatrack for a leisurely meal at Horace Guester's roadhouse,
where no doubt Verily would have heard talk that stopped his journey right
there. Instead he rode on to Carthage City, changed to a slow coach heading
northwest into Wobbish, and then got out at a sleepy little ferry town and
bought him a horse and a saddle and a pack mule for his luggage, which
wasn't all that much but more than he wanted to have on the horse he was
riding. From there it was a simple matter of riding north all day, stopping
at a farmhouse at night, and riding another day until, late in the
afternoon, just as the sun was setting, he came to Armor's general store,
where lamps were lit and Verily hoped he might find a night's lodging.

"I'm sorry," said the man at the door. "We don't take in lodgers-- not
much call for them in this town. The miller's family up the road takes in
such lodgers as we get, but... well, friend, you might as well come in.
Because most of the miller's family is right here in my store, and besides,
there's a tale they have to tell you before you or they can go to bed
tonight."

"I've been told of it," said Verily Cooper, "and I'm not afraid to hear
it."

"So you came here on purpose?"

"With those signs on the road, warning travelers away?" Verily stepped
through the doorway. "I have a horse and a mule to attend to."

His words were heard by the people gathered on stools and chairs and
leaning on the store counter. Immediately two young men with identical faces
swung themselves over the counter. "I've got the horse," said one.

"Which gives me the mule-- and his baggage, no doubt.

"And I've got the saddle," said the first. "I think it comes out even.
"

Verily Cooper stuck out his hand in the forthright American manner he
had already learned. "I'm Verily Cooper," he said.

"Wastenot Miller," said one of the boys.

"And I'm Wantnot," said the other.

"Puritans, from the naming of you," said Verily.

"Not on a bet," said a thick-bodied middle-aged man who was sitting on
a stool in the corner. "Naming babies for virtues ain't no monopoly of
religious fanatics from New England."

For the first time Verily felt suspicion in the air, and he realized
that they had to be wondering who he was and what his business was here.
"There's not more than one miller in town, is there?" he asked.

"Only me," said the thickset man.

"Then you must be Alvin Miller, Senior," said Verily, striding up to
him and thrusting out his hand.

The miller took it warily. "You've got me pegged, young feller, but all
I know about you is that you come here late in the day, nobody knew you was
coming, and you talk like a highfalutin Englishman with a lot of education.
Had us a preacher here for a while who talked like you. Not anymore though."
And from the tone of his voice, Verily gathered that the parting hadn't been
a pleasant one.

"My name is Verily Cooper," he said. "My father's trade is
barrelmaking, and I learned the trade as a boy. But you're right, I did get
an education and I'm now a barrister."

The miller looked puzzled. "Barrelmaker to barrister," he said. "I got
to say I don't rightly know the difference."

The man who greeted him at the door helped out. "A barrister is an
English lawyer."

The dry tone of his voice and the way everyone stiffened up told Verily
that they had something against lawyers here. "Please, I assure you, I left
that profession behind when I left England. I doubt that I'd be allowed to
practice law here in the United States, at least not without some kind of
examination. I didn't come here for that, anyway."

The miller's wife-- or so Verily guessed from her age, for she wasn't
sitting by the man-- spoke up, and with a good deal less hostility in her
voice than her husband had had. "A man comes from England especially to come
to the town in America that lives every day in shame. I admit I'm curious,
lawyer or no lawyer. What is your business here?"

"Well, I met a son of yours, I think. And what he told me--"

It was almost comic, the way they all suddenly leaned forward. "You saw
Calvin?"

"The very one," said Verily. "An interesting young man." They reserved
comment.

Well, if there was one thing Verily had learned as a lawyer, it was
that he didn't have to fill every silence with his own speech. He couldn't
be sure of this family's attitude toward Calvin-- after all, Calvin was such
an accomplished liar he must have practiced the art here at home before
trying to use it to make his way in the world. So he might be hated. Or he
might be loved and yearned for. Verily didn't want to make a mistake.

Finally, predictably, it was Calvin's mother who spoke up. "You saw my
boy? Where was he? How was he?"

"I met him in London. He has the language and bearing of quite a clever
young man. Seems to be in good health, too."

They nodded, and Verily saw that they seemed to be relieved. So they
did love him, and had feared for him.

A tall, lanky man of about Verily's age stretched out his long legs and
leaned back on his stool. "I'm pretty near certain that you didn't come all
this way just to tell us Calvin was a-doing fine, Mr. Cooper."

"No, indeed not. It was something Calvin said." Verily looked around at
them again, this large family that was at once welcoming and suspicious of a
stranger, at once concerned and wary about a missing son. "He spoke of a
brother of his." At this Verily looked at the lanky one who had just spoken.
"A son with talents that exceeded Calvin's own."

The lanky one hooted and several others chuckled. "Don't go telling us
no stories!" he said. "Calvin wouldn't never speak of Alvin that way!"

So the lanky one wasn't Alvin Junior after all. "Well, let's just say
that I read between the lines, so to speak. You know that in England, the
use of hidden powers and arcane arts is severely punished. So we Englishmen
remain quite ignorant of such matters. I gathered, however, that if there
was one person in the world who could teach me how to understand such
things, it might well be Calvin's brother Alvin."

They all agreed with that, nodding, some even smiling.

But the father remained suspicious. "And why would an English lawyer be
looking to learn more about such things?"

Verily, to his own surprise, was at a loss for words. All his thought
had been about finding Alvin the miller's son-- but of course they would
have to know why he cared so much about hidden powers. What could he say?
All his life he had been forced to hide his gift, his curse; now he found he
couldn't just blurt it out, or even hint.

Instead, he strode to the counter and picked up a couple of large
wooden spools of thread that were standing there, presumably so that
customers could reel off the length of thread they wanted and wind it onto a
smaller spool. He put the ends of the spools together, and then found the
perfect fit for them, so that no man could pull them apart.

He handed the joined spools to the miller. At once the man tried to
pull them apart, but he didn't seem surprised when he failed, He looked at
his wife and smiled. "Lookit that," he said. "A lawyer who knows how to do
something useful. That's a miracle."

The spools got passed around, mostly in silence, until they got to the
lanky young man leaning back on his stool. Without a moment's reflection, he
pulled the spools apart and set them on the counter. "Spools ain't no damn
good stuck together like that," he said.

Verily was stunned. "You are the one," he said. "You are Alvin."

"No, sir," said the young man. "My name is Measure, but I've been
learning somewhat of my brother's skill. That's his main work these days, is
teaching folks how to do the same Makering stuff that he does, and I reckon
I'm learning it about as good as anybody. But you-- I know he'd want to meet
you."

"Yes," said Verily, making no effort to hide his enthusiasm. "Yes,
that's what I've come for. To learn from him-- so I'm glad to hear that he
wants to teach."

Measure grinned. "Well, he wants to teach, and you want to learn. But I
got a feeling you two are going to have to do each other a different kind of
service before that can happen."

Verily was not surprised. Of course there would be some kind of price,
or perhaps a test of loyalty or trustworthiness. "I'll do whatever it takes
to have a Maker teach me what my gift is for and how to use it well."

Mrs. Miller nodded. "I think you just might do," she said. "I think
perhaps God brought you here. "

Her husband snorted.

"It would be enough if he brought you to teach my husband manners, but
I fear that may be beyond even the powers of a benevolent God," she said.

"I hate it when you talk like old Reverend Thrower," said the miller
grumpily.

"I know you do, dear," said his wife. "Mr. Cooper, suppose you did need
to practice law, not in Wobbish, but in the state of Hio. How long would it
take you to prepare to take the test?"

"I don't know," he said. "It depends on how far American legal practice
has diverged from English common law and equity. Perhaps only a few days.
Perhaps much longer. But I assure you, I didn't come here to practice law,
but rather to study higher laws."

"You want to know why you found us all down here at Armor's store?"
asked the miller. "We were having a meeting, to try to figure out how to
raise the money to hire us a lawyer. We knew we needed a good one, a
first-rate one, but we also knew that some rich and secret group in Carthage
had already hired them the best lawyers in Hio to work against us. So the
question was, who could we hire, and how in the world could we pay him? My
wife thinks God brung you, but my own opinion is that you brung your own
self, or in another way of looking at it, my boy Alvin brung you. But who
knows, I always say. You're here. You're a lawyer. And you want something
from Alvin."

"Are you proposing an exchange of services?" asked Verily.

"Not really," Measure interrupted, rising from his stool. Verily had
always thought of himself as rather a tall man, but this young farmer fairly
towered over him. "Alvin would teach you for free, if you want to learn. The
thing is, you pretty much got to do us that legal service before Alvin can
take you on as a pupil. That's just the way it is. "

Verily was baffled. Either it was barter or it wasn't.

The storekeeper spoke up from behind him, laughing. "We're all talking
at each other every whichaway. Mr. Cooper, the legal service we need from
you is to defend Alvin Junior at his trial. He's in jail over in Hatrack
River, charged with stealing a man's gold and my guess is they're going to
pile on a whole bunch of other charges, too. They're out to put that boy in
prison for a long time, if not hang him, and you coming along here just
now-- well, you got to see that it looks mighty fortunate to us."

"In jail," Verily said.

"In Hatrack River," said Armor.

"I just rode through there not a week ago."

"Well, you passed by the courthouse where they got him locked up."

"Yes, I'll do it. When is the trial?"

"Oh, pretty much whenever you want. The judge there is a friend of
Alvin's, as are most of the townfolk, or most of them as amount to much,
anyway. They can't just let him go, much as they'd like to. But they'll
delay the trial as long as you need to get admitted to the bar."

Verily nodded. "Yes, I'll do it. But... I'm puzzled. You have no idea
whether I'm a good lawyer or not."

Measure hooted with laughter. "Come on, friend, you think we're blind?
Look at your clothes! You're rich, and you didn't get that way from
barrelmaking."

"Besides," said Armor, "you have that English accent, those gentlemanly
airs. The jury in Hatrack River will mostly be on Alvin's side. Everything
you say is going to sound powerful clever to them."

"You're saying that I don't actually have to be very good. I just have
to be English, an attorney-at-law, alive, and present in the courtroom."

"Pretty much, yep," said Armor.

"Then you have an attorney. Or rather, your son does. If he wants me,
that is."

"He wants to get out of jail and have his name cleared," said Measure
solemnly. "And he wants to teach folks how to be Makers. I think you'll fit
right in with what he wants."

"Come here!" The command came from Mrs. Miller, and Verily obediently
walked to her. She reached out and took his right hand and held it in both
of hers. "Mr. Verily Cooper," she said, "will you be a true friend to my
son?"

He realized that it was an oath she was asking for, an oath with his
whole heart in it. "Yes, ma'am. I will be his true friend."

It wasn't quite silence that followed his promise. There was the sound
of breaths long pent being released. Verily had never been the answer to
anyone's heartfelt wish before. It was rather exhilarating. And a bit
terrifying, too.

Wastenot and Wantnot came back in. "Horse and mule are unloaded, fed,
watered, and stabled."

"Thank you," said Verily.

The twins looked around. "What's everybody grinning for?"

"We got us a lawyer for Alvin," said Measure.

Wastenot and Wantnot grinned, too. "Well, heck, then let's go home to
bed!"

"No," said the miller. "One more item of business we got to do."

At once the cheerful mood faded.

"Have a seat, Mr. Cooper," said the miller. "We have a tale to tell
you. A sad one, and it ends with all the men of this town, except Armor
here, and Measure-- it ends with all of us in shame."

Verily sat down to listen.


Chapter 13 -- Maneuvers

Vilate brought him another pie. "I couldn't finish the last one," Alvin
said. "You think my stomach is a bottomless pit?"

"A man of your size and strength needs something to keep the meat on
his bones," said Vilate. "And I haven't figured out yet how to make half a
pie."

Alvin chuckled. But as she slid the pie under the iron-barred door of
the cell, Alvin noticed that she had some new hexes on her, not to mention a
come-hither and a beseeching. Most hexes he recognized right off-- he'd made
a few of them in his own time, for protection or warding, and even for
concealment and mildness of heart, which made for a deeper kind of safety
but were much harder to make. What Vilate had today, though, was beyond
Alvin's ken. And since they probably wouldn't work on him, or not too well,
he couldn't rightly tell what they'd be for. Nor could he ask her.

Some kind of concealment, maybe. It seemed related to an overlook-me
hex, which was always very subtle and usually worked only in one direction.

Alvin bent down, picked up the pie, and set it on the small table
they'd allowed him.

"Alvin," she said softly.

"Yes?" he answered.

"Sh."

He looked up, wondering what the secrecy was about.

"I don't want to be heard," she said. She glanced toward the half-open
door leading to the sheriff's office, where the guard, was no doubt
eavesdropping. She beckoned to Alvin. What went through his mind then made
him a little shy. Was she perhaps thinking some of the same romantic
thoughts about him that he had thought about her on some of these lonely
nights? Maybe she knew somehow that he alone could see past her false charms
of beauty and liked her for who she really was. Maybe she thought of him as
someone she could come to love, as he had wondered sometimes about her,
seeing as how his first love w as lost to him.

He came closer. "Alvin, do you want to escape from here?" she
whispered. She leaned her forehead on the bars. Her face was so close. Was
she, in some shy way, offering a kiss?

He reached down and touched her chin, lifted her facd. Did she want him
to kiss her? He smiled ruefully. "Vilate, if I wanted to escape, I--"

He didn't get to finish his sentence, didn't get to say, I reckon I
could walk on out of here any old day. Because at that moment the deputy
swung the door open and looked into the jail. He immediately got a frantic
look on his face, and scanned right past them as if he didn't see them at
all. "How in the hell!" he cried, then rushed from the jail. Alvin heard his
feet pounding down the hall as he called out, "Sheriff! Sheriff Doggly!"

Alvin looked down at Vilate. "What was that all about?" he asked,

Vilate dropped her teeth at him, then smiled. "How should I know,
Alvin? But I reckon this is a dangerous time to be talking about what I come
to talk about." She picked up her skirts and rushed from the jail.

Alvin had no idea what her visit had been about, but he knew this much:
Whatever her new hexes did, they were involved with the deputy and what he
saw when he came in. And since there was a come-hither and a beseeching,
Vilate might well have been the reason the deputy came into the room in the
first place, and the reason he panicked so fast and rushed out without
investigating any further.

She dropped the upper plate of her teeth to show contempt for me,
thought Alvin. Just like she did to Horace, her enemy. Somehow I've become
her enemy.

He looked at the pie sitting on the cot. He picked it up and slid it
back under the door.

Five minutes later, the deputy came back with the sheriff and the
county attorney. "What the hell was this all about!" Sheriff Doggly
demanded. "There he is, just like always! Billy Hunter, you been drinking?"

"I swear there wasn't a soul here," said the deputy. "I saw Vilate
Franker go in with a pie--"

"Sheriff, what's he talking about?" said Alvin. "I saw him come in here
not five minutes ago and start yelling and running down the hall. It scared
poor Vilate so she took on out of here like she had a bear after her."

"He was not here, I'd swear to that before God and all the angels!"
said Billy Hunter.

"I was right here by the door," said Alvin.

"Maybe he was bending over to get the pie and you didn't see him," said
the sheriff.

"No sir," said Alvin, unwilling to lie. "I was standing right up.
There's the pie-- you can have it if you want, I told Miz Vilate that I
didn't finish the last one."

"I don't want none of your pie," said Billy. "Whatever you did, you
made me look like a plain fool."

"It don't take no help from Alvin to make you look that way," said
Slieriff Doggly. Marty Laws, the county attorney, hooted at the joke. Marty
had a way of laughing at just the right time to make everything worse.

Billy glared at Alvin.

"Now, Alvin, we got to put you on your parole," said Marty. "You can't
just go taking jaunts out of the jail whenever you feel like it."

"So you do believe me," said the deputy.

Marty Laws rolled his eyes.

"I don't believe nobody," said Sheriff Doggly. "And Alvin ain't taking
no jaunts, are you, Alvin?"

"No sir," said Alvin. "I have not stirred from this cell."

None of them bothered to pretend that Alvin couldn't have escaped
whenever he wanted.

"You calling me a liar?" asked Billy.

"I'm calling you mistaken," said Alvin. "I'm thinking maybe somebody
fooled you into thinking what you thought and seeing what you saw."

"Somebody's fooling somebody," said Billy Hunter.

They left. Alvin sat on the cot and watched as an ant canvassed the
floor of the jail, looking for something to eat. There's a pie right there,
just a little that way... and sure enough, the ant turned, heeding Alvin's
advice though of course the words themselves were just too hard a thing to
fit into an ant's tiny mind. No, the ant just got the message of food and a
direction, and in a minute or two it was up the pie dish and walking around
on the crust. Then it headed out to find its friends and bring them for
lunch. Might as well somebody get some good out of that pie.

Vilate's hexes were for concealment, all right, and they were aimed at
the door. She had got him to stand close so that he'd be included in her
strong overlook-me, so Billy Hunter had looked and couldn't see that anybody
was there.

But why? What possible good could she accomplish from such a bit of
tomfoolery as that?

Underneath all his puzzlement, though, Alvin was mad. Not so much at
Vilate as he was mad at himself for being such a plain fool. Getting all
moony-eyed about a woman with false teeth and vanity hexes, for pete's sake!
Liking her even when he knew she was a plain gossip and suspected that half
the tales she told him weren't true.

And the worst thing was, when he saw Peggy again-- if he saw Peggy
again-- she'd know just how stupid he was, failing for a woman that he knew
was all tricks and lies.

Well, Peggy, when I fell in love with you you were all tricks and lies,
too, you know. Remember that when you're thinking I'm the biggest fool as
ever lived.

The door opened and Billy Hunter came back in, stalked over to the cell
door, and picked up the pie. "No sense this going to waste even if you are a
liar," said Billy.

"As I said, Billy, you're welcome to it. Though I sort of half-promised
it to an ant a minute ago."

Billy glared at him, no doubt thinking that Alvin was making fun of him
instead of telling the plain truth. Well, Alvin was, kind of. Making fun out
of the situation, anyway. He'd have to talk this over with Arthur Stuart
when the boy came back, see if he had any idea what Vilate might have meant
by this charade.

The ant came back, leading a line of her sisters. All they found was a
couple of crumbs of crust. But those were something, weren't they? Alvin
watched as they struggled to maneuver the big chunks of pastry. To help them
out, he sent his doodlebug to break the pieces into smaller loads. The ants
made short work of them then, carrying out the crumbs in a line. A feast in
the anthill tonight, no doubt.

His stomach growled. Truth to tell, he could have used that pie, and
might not have left much behind, neither. But he wasn't eating nothing that
came from Vilate Franker, never again. That woman wasn't to be trusted.

Dropped her teeth at me, he thought. Hates me. Why?

***

There was no way around it. Even with the best possible luck in
choosing a jury, even with this new English fellow as Alvin's lawyer, Little
Peggy saw no better than a three-in-four chance of him being acquitted, and
that wasn't good enough odds. She would have to go to him. She would have to
be available to testify. Even with all the newcomers in Hatrack, one thing
was certain: If Peggy the torch said a thing was true, she would be
believed. The people of Hatrack knew that she saw the truth, and they also
knew-- sometimes to their discomfiture-- that she never said what wasn't
true, though they were grateful enough that she didn't tell every truth she
knew.

Only Peggy herself could count how many terrible or shameful or
mournful secrets she had left unmentioned. But that was neither here nor
there. She was used to carrying other people's secrets around inside her,
used to it from the earliest time of her life, when she had to face her
father's dark secret of adultery.

Since then she had learned not to judge. She had even come to love
Mistress Modesty, the woman with whom her father, old Horace Guester, had
been unfaithful. Mistress Modesty was like another mother to her, giving
her, not the life of the body, but the life of the mind, the life of
mannered society, the life of grace and beauty that Peggy valued perhaps too
highly.

Perhaps too highly, because there wasn't going to be too much of grace
and beauty in Alvin's future, and like it or not, Peggy was tied to that
future.

What a lie I tell myself, she thought. "Like it or not" indeed. If I
chose to, I could walk away from Alvin and not care whether he stayed in
jail or got himself drowned in the Hio or whatnot. I'm tied to Alvin Smith
because I love him, and I love what he can be, and I want to be part of all
that he will do. Even the hard parts. Even the ungraceful, unmannered,
stupid parts of it.

So she headed for Hatrack River, one stage at a time.

On a certain day she passed through the town of Wheelwright in northern
Appalachee. It was on the Hio, not far upriver from where the Hatrack flowed
into it. Close enough to home that she might have hired a wagon and taken
the last ferry, trusting that the moonlight and her ability as a torch would
get her home safely. Might have, except that she stopped for dinner at a
restaurant she had visited before, where the food was fresh, the flavors
good, and the company reputable-- a welcome change in all three categories,
after long days on the road.

While she was eating, she heard some kind of tumult outside-- a band
playing, rather badly but with considerable enthusiasm; people shouting and
cheering. "A parade?" she asked her waiter.

"You know the presidential election's only a few weeks off," said the
waiter.

She knew, but had scarcely paid attention. Somebody was running against
somebody else for some office or other in every town she passed through, but
it hardly mattered, compared to the matter of stopping slavery, not to
mention her concerns about Alvin. It made no difference to her, up to now,
who won these elections. In Appalachee, as in the other slave states, there
wasn't a soul dared to run openly as an anti-slavery candidate-- that would
be a ticket for a free suit of tar and feathers and a rail ride out of town,
if not worse, for those as loved slavery were violent at heart, and those as
hated it were mostly timid, and wouldn't stand together. Yet.

"Some sort of stump speech?" she asked.

"I reckon it's old Tippy-Canoe," said the waiter.

She blanched, knowing at once whom the man referred to. "Harrison?"

"Reckon he'll carry Wheelwright. But not farther south, where the
Cberriky tribe is right numerous. They figure him to be the man to try to
take away their rights. Won't amount to much in Irrakwa, neither, that being
Red country. But, see, White folks isn't too happy about how the Irrakwa
control the railroads and the Cherriky got them toll roads through the
mountains."

"They'd vote for a murderer, out of nothing more than envy?"

The waiter smiled thinly. "There's them as says just because a Red
witch feller put a spell on Tippy-Canoe don't mean he did nothing wrong.
Reds get mad over any old thing."

"Slaughtering thousands of innocent women and children-- silly of them
to take offense."

The waiter shrugged. "I can't afford to have strong opinions on
politics, ma'am."

But she saw that he did have strong opinions, and they were not the
same as hers.

Paying for the meal-- and leaving two bits on the table for the waiter,
for she saw no reason to punish a man in his livelihood because of his
political views-- she made haste outside to see the fuss. A few rods up the
street, a wagon had been made over into a sort of temporary rostrum, decked
out with the red, white, and blue bunting of the flag of the United States.
Not a trace of the red and green colors of the old flag of independent
Appalachee, before it joined the Union. Of course not. Those had been the
Cherriky colors-- red for the Red people, green for the forest. Patrick
Henry and Thomas Jefierson had adopted them as the colors of a free
Appalachee; it was for that flag that George Washington died. But now,
though other politicians still invoked the old loyalties, Harrison could
hardly want to bring to mind the alliance between Red and White that won
freedom for Appalachee from the King at Camelot. Not with those bloody
hands.

Hands that even now dripped blood as they gripped the podium. Peggy,
standing on the wooden sidewalk across the street, looked over the heads of
the cheering crowd to watch William Henry Hanison's face. She looked in his
eyes first, as any woman might study any man, to see his character. Quickly
enough, though, she looked deeper, into the heartfire, seeing the futures
that stretched out before him. He had no secrets from her.

She saw that every path led to victory in the election. And not just a
slight victory. His leading opponent, a hapless lawyer named Andrew Jackson
from Tennizy, would be crushed and humiliated-- and then suffer in the
ignominious position of vice-president into which the leading loser in each
election was always forced. A cruel system, Peggy had always thought, the
political equivalent of putting a man in the stocks for four years. It was
significant that both candidates were from the new states in the west; even
more significant that both were from territories that permitted slavery.
Things were taking a dark turn indeed. And darker yet were the things she
saw in Harrison's mind, the plans he and his political cronies meant to
carry out.

Their most extravagant ideas had little hope of success-- only a few
paths in Harrison's heartfire led to the union with the Crown Lands that he
hoped for; he would never be a duke; what a pathetic dream, she thought. But
he would certainly succeed in the political destruction of the Reds in
Irrakwa and Cherriky, because the Whites, especially in the west, were ready
for it, ready to break the power of a people that Harrison dared to speak of
as savages. "God didn't bring the Christian race to this land in order to
share it with heathens and barbarians!" cried Tippy-Canoe, and the people
cheered.

Harrison would also succeed in spreading slavery beyond its present
locale, permitting slave owners to bring slaves to property in the free
states and continue to own them and force them to serve on such property--
as long as the slave owner continued to own any amount of land in a slave
state and cast his vote there. It was precisely to achieve this end that
most of Harrison's backers were behind him. It was the matter of Reds that
would sweep Tippy-Canoe into office, but once there, it was the matter of
slavery that would give him his power base in Congress.

This was unbearable. Yet she bore it, watching on into the afternoon as
he ranted and exhorted, periodically lifting his bloody hands skyward to
remind the crowd. "I have tasted the treacherous wrath of the secret powers
of the Red man, and I'll tell you, if this is all they can do, well, that's
good, because it ain't much! Sure, I can't keep a shirt clean" --and they
laughed at that, over and over, each variation on the tedious details of
life with bloody hands-- "and ain't a soul willing to lend me a hankie"
--laughter again-- "but they can't stop me from telling you the plain truth,
and they can't stop a Christian people from electing the one man proven to
be willing to stand up against the Red traitors, the barbarians who dress
like White men but secretly plan to own everything the way they own the
railroads and the mountain toll roads and..."

And on and on. Confounded nonsense, all of it, but the crowd only grew
as the afternoon passed, and by dark, when Harrison finally climbed down
from his pulpit, he was carried away on the shoulders of his supporters to
be watered with beer and stuffed with some sort of rough food, whatever
would make the crowd think of him as one of them, while Peggy Larner stood
gripping the rail on the sidewalk, seeing down every path that this man was
the undoing of all her work, that this man would be the cause of the death
and suffering of countless more Reds than had already died or suffered at
his hands.

If she had had a musket in her hands at that moment, she might have
gone after him and put a ball through his heart.

But the murderous rage passed quickly and shamefully. I am not a one
who kills, she thought. I am one who frees the slave if I can, not one who
murders the master.

There had to be a way to stop him.

Alvin would know. She had to get to Hatrack River all the more
urgently, not just to help with Alvin's trial, but to get his help in
stopping Harrison. Perhaps if he went to Becca's house and used the doorways
in her ancient cabin to let him visit with Tenskwa-Tawa-- surely the Red
Prophet would do something to make his curse against White Murdfrer Harrison
more effective. Though she didn't see such an outcome down any of the paths
in Alvin's heartfire, she never knew when some act of hers or of someone
else's might open up new paths that led to better hopes.

It was too late that day, though. She would have to spend the night in
Wheelwright and finish her journey to Hatrack River the next day.

***

"I come to you, sir, with the good wishes of your family," said the
stranger.

"I confess I didn't catch your name,". said Alvin, unfolding himself
from his cot. "It's pretty late in the evening."

"Verily Cooper," said the stranger. "Forgive my late arrival. I thought
it better that we speak tonight, since the first matter of your defense
before the court is in the morning."

"I know the judge is finally going to start choosing him a jury."

"Yes, that's important, of course. But under the, advice of an outside
lawyer, a Mr. Daniel Webster, the county attorney has introduced some
unpleasant motions. As, for instance, a motion requiring that the contested
property be placed under the control of the court."

"The judge won't go for that," said Alvin. "He knows that the second
this plow is out of my hands, some rough boys from the river, not to mention
a few greedier souls from town, will move heaven and earth to get their
hands on it. The thing's made of gold-- that's all they know and care about
it. But who are you, Mr. Cooper, and what does all this have to do with
you?"

"I'm your attorney, Mr. Smith, if you'll have me." He handed Alvin a
letter.

Alvin recognized Armor-of-God's handwriting at once, and the signatures
of his parents and his brothers and sisters. They all signed, affirming that
they found Mr. Cooper to be a man of good character and assuring him that
someone was paying a high-powered lawyer from New England named Daniel
Webster to sneak around and collect lies from anyone as had a grievance
against him in Vigor Church. "But I've done no harm to anyone there," said
Alvin, "and why would they lie?"

"Mr. Smith, I have to--"

"Call me Alvin, would you? 'Mr. Smith' always sounds to me like my old
master Makepeace, the fellow whose lies got me into this fix."

"Alvin, said Cooper again. "And you must call me Verily."

"Whatever."

"Alvin, it has been my experience that the better a man you are, the
more folks there are who resent you for it, and find occasion to get angry
at you no matter how kindly meant your deeds may be."

"Well then, I'm safe enough, not being such a remarkable good man."

Cooper smiled. "I know your brother Calvin," he said.

Alvin raised an eyebrow. "I'd like to say that any friend of Calvin's
is a friend of mine, but I can't."

"Calvin's hatred of you is, I believe, one of the best recommendations
of your character that I could think of. It's because of his account of you
that I came to meet you. I met him in London, you see, and determined then
and there to close my legal practice and come to America and see the man who
can teach me who and what I am, and what it's for."

With that, Cooper bent down and took up Alvin's Testament, the book
that lay open on the floor beside his cot. He closed it, then handed it back
to Alvin.

Alvin tried to thumb it open, but the pages were fused shut as tight as
if the book were one solid block of wood with a leather cover.

Verily took it back from him for only a moment, then returned it yet
again. This time the book fell open to the exact page that Alvin had been
reading. "I could have died for that in England," said Verily. "It was the
wisdom of my parents and my own ability to learn to hide these powers that
kept me alive all these years. But I have to know what it is. I have to know
why God lets some folks have such powers. And what to do with them. And who
you are."

Alvin ray back on his cot. "Don't this beat all," he said. "You crossed
an ocean to meet me?"

"I had no idea at the time that I might be of service to you. In fact,
I must say that it occurs to me that perhaps some providential hand led me
to the study of law instead of following my father's trade as a cooper.
Perhaps it was known that one day you would face. the silver tongue of
Daniel Webster."

"You got you a tongue of gold, then, Verily?" asked Alvin.

"I hold things together," said Verily. "It's my... knack, as you
Americans call it. That is what the law does. I use the law to hold things
together. I see how things fit."

"This Webster fellow-- he's going to use the law to try to tear things
apart."

"Like you and the plow."

"And me and my neighbors," said Alvin.

"Then you understand the dilemma," said Verily. "Up till now you've
been known as a man of generosity and kindness to all. But you have a plow
made of gold that you won't let anyone see. You have fantastic wealth which
you share with no one. This is a wedge that Webster will attempt to use to
split you from your community like a rail from a log."

"When gold comes into it," said Alvin, "folks start to finding out just
how much love and loyalty is worth to them, in cash money."

"And it's rather shameful, don't you think, how cheap the price can be
sometimes." Verily smiled ruefully.

"What's your price?"

"When you get free of this place, you let me go with you, to learn from
you, to watch you, to be part of all you do."

"You don't even know me, and you're proposing marriage."

Verily laughed. "I suppose it sounds like that, doesn't it."

"Without none of the benefits, neither," said Alvin. "I'm right
comfortable taking Arthur Stuart along with me, because he knows when to
keep silent, but I don't know if I can take having a fellow who wants to
pick my brains tagging along with me every waking minute."

"I'm a lawyer, so my trade is talk, but I promise you that if I didn't
know when and how to keep silence, I'd never have lived to adulthood in
England."

"I can't give you no promises," said Alvin. "So I reckon you ain't my
attorney after all, since I can't make your fee."

"There's one promise you can make me," said Verily. "To give me an
honest chance."

Alvin studied the man's face and decided he liked the look of him,
though he wished as more than once before that he had Peggy's knack of
seeing inside a fellow's mind instead of just being able to check out the
health of his organs.

"Yes, I reckon I can make that promise, Verily Cooper," said Alvin. "An
honest chance you'll have, and if that's fee enough for you, then you're my
attorney."

"Then the deed is done. And now I'll let you go back to sleep,
excepting only for one question."

"Ask it."

"This plow-- how vital is it to you that the plow remain in your hands,
and no one else's?"

"If the court demands that I give it up, I'll buck this jail and live
in hiding the rest of my days before I'll let any other hand touch the
plow."

"Let's be precise. Is it the possession of it that matters, or the very
seeing and touching of it?"

"I don't get your question."

"What if someone else could see and touch it in your presence?"

"What good would that do?"

"Webster will argue that the court has the right and duty to determine
that the plow exists and that it's truly made of gold, in order to make just
compensation possible, if the court should determine that you need to pay
Mr. Makepeace Smith the cash value of the plow."

Alvin hooted. "It never crossed my mind, in all this time in jail, that
maybe I could buy old Makepeace off."

"I don't think you can," said Verily. "I think it's the plow he wants,
and the victory, not the money."

"True enough, though I reckon if the money's all he can get..."

"So tell me, as long as the plow is in your possession..."

"I guess it depends on who's doing the looking and the touching."

"If you're there, nobody can steal it, am I right?" asked Verily.

"Reckon that's true," said Alvin.

"So how free a hand do I have?"

"Makepeace can't be the one to touch it," said Alvin. "Not out of any
meanness on my part, but here's the thing: The plow's alive."

Verily raised an eyebrow.

"It don't breathe and it don't eat or nothing like that," said Alvin.
"But the plow is alive under a man's hand. Depending on the man. But for
Makepeace to touch the plow while he's living in the midst of a black lie--
I don't know what would happen to him. I don't know if it'd be safe for him
ever to touch metal again. I don't know what the hammer and anvil would do
to him, if his hands touched the plow with his heart so black."

Verily leaned his face against the bars, closed his eyes.

"Are you unwell?" asked Alvin.

"Sick with the thrill of at last staring knowledge in the face," said
Verily. "Sick with it. Faint with it."

"Well, don't puke on the floor, I'll have to smell it all night." Then
Alvin grinned.

"I was thinking more of fainting," said Verily. "Not Makepeace, or
anyone else who's living in a... black lie. Makes me wonder about my
opponent, Mr. Daniel Webster."

"Don't know him," said Alvin. "Might be an honest man, for all I know.
A lying man might have an honest attorney, don't you think?"

"He might," said Verily. "But such a combination would only work to
destroy the lying man in the end."

"Well hell, Verily, a lying man destroys himself in the end every time
anyway."

"Do you know that? I mean, the way you know the plow is alive?" asked
Verily.

"I reckon not," said Alvin. "But I have to believe it's true, or how
could I trust anybody?"

"I think you're right, in the long run," said Verily. "In the long run,
a lie ties itself in knots and eventually people come to see that it's a
lie. But the long run is very, very long. Longer than life. You could be
long dead before the lie dies, Alvin."

"You warning me of something in particular?" asked Alvin.

"I don't think so," said Verily. "The words just sounded like something
I had to say and you had to hear."

"You said them. I heard them." Alvin grinned. "Good night, Verily
Cooper."

"Good night, Alvin Smith."

***

Peggy Larner got to the ferry bright and early in the morning, wearing
her urgency like a tight corset so she could hardly breathe. White Murderer
Harrison was going to be president of the United States. She had to talk to
Alvin, and this river, this Hio, was standing in her way.

But the ferry was on the other side of the river, which made perfect
sense, since the farmers on the other side would need to have it earliest,
to bring their goods to market. So she had to wait, urgency or not. She
could see the ferry already being poled along, tied to a metal ring that
slid along the cable that crossed the river some forty feet overhead. Only
that frail connection kept the whole thing from being washed downriver, and
she imagined that when the river was in flood they didn't run the ferry at
all some days, since even if the cable were strong enough, and the ring, and
the rope, there'd be no trees strong enough to tie the ends to without fear
of one or the other of them pulling out of the ground. Water was not to be
tamed by cables, rings, or ropes, any more than dams or bridges, hulls or
rafts, pipes or gutters, roofs or windows or walls or doors. If she had
learned anything in her early years of looking out for Alvin, it was the
untrustworthiness of water, the sneakiness of it.

There was the river to be crossed, though, and she would cross it.

As so many others had crossed. She thought of how many times her father
had snuck down to the river and taken a boat across to rescue some runaway
slave and bring him north to safety. She thought of how many slaves had come
without help to this water, and, not knowing how to swim, had either
despaired and waited for the Finders or the dogs to get them, or struck out
anyway, breasting the water until their feet found no purchase on the bottom
mud and they were swept away. The bodies of such were always found on some
downriver bank or bar or snag, made white by the water, bloated and horrible
in death; but the spirit, ah, the spirit was free, for the owner who thought
he owned the woman or the man, that owner had lost his property, for his
property would not be owned whatever it might cost. So the water killed,
yes, but just reaching this river meant freedom of one kind or another to
those who had the courage or the rage to take it.

Harrison, though, would take away all meaning from this river. If his
laws came to be, the slave who crossed would still be a slave no matter
what; only the slave who died would be free.

One of the ferrymen, the one poling on this side, he looked familiar to
her. She had met him before, though he'd not been missing an ear then, nor
had he any kind of scar on his face. Now a gash marked him with a faint
white line, a little puckering and twisting at the eyebrow and the lip. It
had been a wicked fight. Once no one had been able to lay a hand of harm on
this rough man, and in the sure knowledge of that he had been a bully. But
someone took that lifelong hex away from him. Alvin had fought this man,
fought him in defense of Peggy herself, and when the fight was, done, this
river rat had been undone. But not completely, and he was alive still,
wasn't he?

"Mike Fink," she said softly when he stepped ashore.

He looked sharp at her. "Do I know you, ma'am?"

Of course he didn't. When they met before, not two years ago, she was
covered in hexes that made her look many years older. "I don't expect you to
remember me," she said. "You must take many thousands of people a year
across the river."

He helped her hoist her traveling bags onto the ferry. "You'll want to
sit in the middle of the raft, ma'am." She sat down on the bench that ran
the middle of the raft. He stood near her, waiting, while another couple of
people sauntered over to the ferry-- locals, obviously, since they had no
luggage.

"A ferryman now," she said.

He looked at her.

"When I knew you, Mike Fink, you were a full-fledged river rat."

He smiled wanly. "You was that lady," he said. "Hexed up six ways to
Tuesday."

She looked at him sharply. "You saw through them?"

"No ma'am. But I could feel them. You watched me fight that Hatrack
River boy."

"I did."

"He took away my mother's hex," said Mike.

"I know."

"I reckon you know damn near everything."

She looked at him again. "You seem to be abundant in knowledge
yourself, sir."

"You're Peggy the torch, of Hatrack River town. And the boy as whupped
me and stole my hex, he's in jail in Hatrack now, for stealing gold off'n
his master when he was a prentice smith."

"And I suppose that pleases you?" asked Peggy.

Mike Fink shook his head. "No ma'am."

And in truth, as she looked into his heartfire, she saw no future in
which he harmed Alvin.

"Why are you still here? Not ten miles from Hatrack Mouth, where he
shamed you?"

"Where he made a man of me," said Mike.

She was startled then, for sure. "That's how you think of it?"

"My mother wanted to keep me safe. Tattooed a hex right into my butt.
But what she never thought of was, what kind of man does it make a fellow,
to never get hurt no matter what harm he causes to others? I've killed
folks, some bad, but some not so bad. I've bit off ears and noses and broken
limbs, too, and all the time I was doing it, I never cared a damn, begging
your pardon, ma'am. Because nothing ever hurt me. Never touched me."

"And since Alvin took away your hex, you've stopped hurting people?"

"Hell no!" Mike Fink said, then roared with laughter. "Why, you sure
don't know a thing about the river, do you! No, every last man I ever beat
in a fight had to come find me, soon as word spread that a smith boy whupped
me and made me howl! I had to fight every rattlesnake and weasel, every rat
and pile of pigshit on the river all over again. You see this scar on my
face? You see where my hair hangs straight one side of my head? That's two
fights I damn near lost. But I won the rest! Didn't I, Holly!"

The other ferryman looked over. "I wasn't listening to your brag, you
pitiful scab-eating squirrel-fart," he said mildly.

"I told this lady I won every fight, every last one of them."

"That's right enough," said Holly. "Course, mostly you just shot them
dead when they made as if to fight you."

"Lies like that will get you sent to hell."

"Already got me a room picked out there," said Holly, "and you to empty
my chamberpot twice't a day."

"Only so's you can lick it out after!" hooted Mike Fink.

Peggy felt repulsed by their crudity, of course; but she also felt the
spirit of camaraderie behind their banter. "What I don't understand, Mr.
Fink, is why you never sought vengeance against the boy who beat you."

"He wasn't no boy," said Fink. "He was a man. I reckon he was probably
born a man. I was the boy. A bully boy. He knew pain, and I didn't. He was
fighting for right, and I wasn't. I think about him all the time, ma'am. Him
and you. The way you looked at me, like I was a crusty toad on a clean
bedsheet. I hear tell he's a Maker."

She nodded.

"So why's he letting them hold him in jail?"

She looked at him quizzically.

"Oh, come now, ma'am. A fellow as can wipe the tattoo off my butt
without touching it, he can't be kept in no natural jail."

True enough. "I imagine he believes himself to be innocent, and
therefore he wants to stand trial to prove it and clear his name."

"Well he's a damn fool, then, and I hope you'll tell him when you see
him."

"And why will I give him this remarkable message?"

Fink grinned. "Because I know something he don't know. I know that
there's a feller lives in Carthage City who wants Alvin dead. He plans to
get Alvin exerdited to Kenituck."

"Extradited?"

"That means one state tells another to give them up a prisoner."

"I know what it means," said Peggy.

"Then what was you asking, ma'am?"

"Go on with your story."

"Only when they take Alvin in chains, with guards awake and watching
him day and night, they'll never take him to Kenituck for no trial. I know
some of the boys they hired to take him. They know that on some signal,
they're to walk away and leave him alone in chains."

"Why haven't you told the authorities?"

"I'm telling you, ma'am," said Mike Fink, grinning. "And I already told
myself and Holly."

"Chains won't hold him," said Peggy.

"You reckon not?" said Mike. "There was some reason that boy took the
tattoo off my butt. If hexes had no power over him, I reckon he never
would've had to clean mine off, do you think? So if he needed to get rid of
my hex, then I reckon them as understands hexes right good might be able to
make chains that'd hold him long enough for somebody to come with a shotgun
and blow his head off."

But she had seen nothing of the kind in his future.

"Course it'll never happen," said Mike Fink.

"Why not?" she asked.

"Cause I owe that boy my life. My life as a man, anyway, a man worth
looking at in the mirror, though I ain't half so pretty as I was before he
dealt with me. I had a grip on that boy in my arms, ma'am. I meant to kill
him, and he knowed it. But he didn't kill me. More to the point, ma'am, he
broke both my legs in that fight. But then he took pity on me. He had mercy.
He must've knowed I wouldn't live out the night with broke legs. I had too
many enemies, right there among my friends. So he laid hands on my legs and
he fixed them. Fixed my legs, so the bones was stronger than before. What
kind of man does that to a man as tried to kill him not a minute before?"

"A good man."

"Well, many a good man might wish to, but only one good man had the
power," said Mike. "And if he had the power to do that, he had the power to
kill me without touching me. He had the power to do whatever he damn well
pleased, begging your pardon. But he had mercy on me, ma'am."

That was true-- the only surprise to Peggy was that Mike Fink
understood it.

"I aim to pay the debt. As long as I'm alive, ma'am, ain't no harm
coming to Alvin Smith."

"And that's why you're here," she said.

"Came here with Holly as soon as I found out what was getting plotted
up."

"But why here?"

Mike Fink laughed. "The portmaster at Hatrack Mouth knows me real good,
and he don't trust me, I wonder why. How long you reckon it'd be afore the
Hatrack County sheriff was on my back like a sweaty shirt?"

"I suppose that also explains why you haven't made yourself known to
Alvin directly."

"What's he going to think when he sees me, but that I've come to get
even? No, I'm watching, I'm biding my time, I ain't showing my hand to the
law nor to Alvin neither."

"But you're telling me."

"Because you'd know it anyway, soon enough."

She shook her head. "I know this: There's no path in your future that
has you rescuing Alvin from thugs."

His face grew serious. "But I got to, ma'am."

"Why?"

"Because a good man pays his debts."

"Alvin won't think you're in his debt, sir."

"Don't matter to me what he thinks about it, I feel the debt so the
debt's going to be paid."

"It's not just debt, is it?"

Mike Fink laughed. "Time to push this raft away and get it over to the
north shore, don't you think?" He hooted twice, high, as if he were some
kind of steam whistle, and Holly hooted back and laughed. They set their
poles against the floating dock and pushed away. Then, smooth as if they
were dancers, he and Holly poled them across the river, so smoothly and
deftly that the line that tied them to the cable never even went taut.

Peggy said nothing to him as he worked. She watched instead, watched
the muscles of his arms and back rippling under the skin, watched the slow
and graceful up-and-down of his legs as he danced with the river. There was
beauty in it, in him. It also made her think of Alvin at the forge, Alvin at
the anvil, his arms shining with sweat in the firelight, the sparks glinting
from the metal as he pounded, the muscles of his forearms rippling as he
bent and shaped the iron. Alvin could have done all his work without raising
a hand, by the use of his knack. But there was a joy in the labor, a joy
from making with his own hands. She had never experienced that-- her life,
her labors, all were done with her mind and whatever words she could think
of to say. Her life was all about knowing and teaching. Alvin's life was all
about feeling and making. He had more in common with this one-eared
scar-faced river rat than he had with her. This dance of the human body in
contest with the river, it was a kind of wrestling, and Alvin loved to
wrestle. Crude as Fink was, he was Alvin's natural friend, surely.

They reached the other shore, bumping squarely against the floating
dock, and the shoreman lashed the upstream comer of the raft to the wharf.
The men with no luggage jumped ashore at once. Mike Fink laid down his pole
and, sweat still dripping down his arms and from his nose and grizzled
beard, he made as if to pick up her bags.

She laid a hand on his arm to stop him. "Mr. Fink," she said. "You mean
to be Alvin's friend."

"I had in mind more along the lines of being his champion, ma'am," he
said softly.

"But I think what you really want is to be his friend."

Mike Fink said nothing.

"You're afraid that he'll turn you away, if you try to be his friend in
the open. I tell you, sir, that he'll not turn you away. He'll take you for
what you are."

Mike shook his head. "Don't want him to take me for that."

"Yes you do, because what you are is a man who means to be good, and
undo the bad he's done, and that's as good as any man ever gets."

Mike shook his head more emphatically, making drops of sweat fly a
little; she didn't mind the ones that struck on her skin. They had been made
by honest work, and by Alvin's friend.

"Meet him face to face, Mr. Fink. Be his friend instead of his rescuer.
He needs friends more. I tell you, and you know that I know it: Alvin will
have few true friends in his life. If you mean to be true to him, and never
betray him, so he can trust you always, then I can promise you he may have a
few friends he loves as much, but none he loves more than you."

Mike Fink knelt down and turned his face away toward the river. She
could see from the glinting that his eyes were awash with tears. "Ma'am," he
said, "that's not what I was daring to hope for."

"Then you need more courage, my friend," she said. "You need to dare to
hope for what is good, instead of settling for what is merely good enough."
She stood up. "Alvin has no need of your violence. But your honor-- that he
can use." She lifted both her bags herself.

At once he leapt to his feet. "Please ma'am, let me."

She smiled at him. "I saw you take such joy from wrestling with the
river just now. It made me want to do a little physical work myself. Will
you let me?"

He rolled his eyes. "Ma'am, in all the tales of you I've heard around
here, I never heard you was crazy."

"You have something to add to the legend, then," she said, winking. She
stepped onto the floating dock, bags in hand. They were heavy, and she
almost regretted turning down his help.

"I heard all you said," Mike told her, coming up behind her. "But
please don't shame me by letting me be seen empty-handed while a fine lady
carried her own luggage."

Gratefully she turned and handed the bags to him. "Thank you," she
said. "I think some things must be built up to."

He grinned. "Maybe I'll build up to going to see Alvin, face to face."

She looked into his heartfire. "I'm sure of it, Mr. Fink."

As Fink put her bags into the carriage in which the men who had crossed
with them impatiently waited for her, she wondered: I just changed the
course of events. I brought Mike Fink closer than he would ever have come on
his own. Have I done something that will save Alvin in the end? Have I given
him the friend that will confound his enemies?

She found Alvin's heartfire almost without trying. And no, there was no
change, no change, except for a day when Mike Fink would go away from a
prison cell in tears, knowing that Alvin would surely die if he wasn't
there, but knowing also that Alvin refused to have him, refused to let him
stand guard.

But it was not the jail in Hatrack River. And it was not anytime soon.
Even if she hadn't changed the future much, she'd changed it a little.
There'd be other changes, too. Eventually one of them would make the
difference. One of them would turn Alvin away from the darkness that would
engulf the end of his life.

"God be with you, ma'am," said Mike Fink.

"Call me Miss Larner, please," said Peggy. "I'm not married."

"So far, anyway," he said.

***

Even though he hardly slept the night before, Verily was too keyed up
to be sleepy as he entered the courtroom. He had met Alvin Smith, after all
these weeks of anticipation, and it was worth it. Not because Alvin had
overawed him with wisdom-- time endugh to learn from him later. No, the
great and pleasant surprise was that he liked the man. He might be a bit
rough-hewn, more American and more countrified than Calvin. What of that? He
had a glint of humor in his eyes, and he seemed so direct, so open...

And I am his attorney.

The American courtroom was almost casual, compared to the English ones
in which Verily had always litigated up to now. The judge had no wig, for
one thing, and his robe was a little threadbare. There could hardly be any
majesty of law here; and yet law was law, and justice was not utterly
unconnected to it, not if the judge was honest, and there was no reason to
think he wouldn't be.

He called the court into session and asked for motions. Marty Laws rose
quickly. "Motion to have the golden plow removed from the prisoner and
placed into the custody of the court. It doesn't make any sense for the very
item in question to remain in the possession of the prisoner when..."

"Didn't ask for arguments," said the judge. "I asked for motions. Any
others?"

"If it please the court, I move for dismissal of all charges against my
client," said Verily.

"Speak up, young man, I couldn't hear a word you said."

Verily repeated himself, more loudly.

"Well, wouldn't that be nice," said the judge.

"When the court is ready for argument, I'll be glad to explain why."

"Explain now, please," said the judge, looking just a little annoyed.

Verily didn't understand what he had done wrong, but he complied. "The
point at issue is a plow that all agree is made of solid gold. Makepeace
Smith has not a scintilla of evidence that he was ever in possession of such
a quantity of gold, and therefore he has no standing to bring a complaint."

Marty Laws pounced at once. "Your Honor, that's what this whole trial
is designed to prove, and as for evidence, I don't know what a scintilla is,
unless it has something to do with The Odyssey--"

"Amusing reference," said the judge, "and quite flattering to me, I'm
sure, but please sit back down on your chairybdis until I ask for rebuttal,
which I won't have to ask for because the motion to dismiss is denied. Any
other motions?"

"I've got one, your honor," said Marty. "A motion to postpone the
matter of extradition until after--"

"Extradition!" cried the judge. "Now what sort of nonsense is this!"

"It was discovered that there was an outstanding warrant of extradition
naming the prisoner, demanding that he be sent to Kenituck to stand trial
for the murder of a Slave Finder in the act of performing his lawful duty."

This was all news to Verily. Or was it? The family had told him some of
the tale-- how Alvin had changed a half-Black boy so the Finders could no
longer identify him, but in their search for the boy they got into the
roadhouse where his adopted parents lived, and there the boy's mother had
killed one of the Finders, and the other had killed her, and then Alvin had
come up and killed the one that killed her, but not until after the Finder
had shot him, so it was obviously self-defense.

"How can he be tried for this?" asked Verily. "The determination of
Pauley Wiseman, who was sheriff at the time, was that it was self-defense."

Marty turned to the man sitting, up to now silently, beside him. The
man arose slowly. "My learned friend from England is unaware of local law,
Your Honor. Do you mind if I help him out?"

"Go ahead, Mr. Webster," said the judge.

So... the judge had already had dealings with Mr. Webster, thought
Verily. Maybe that meant he was already biased; but which way?

"Mr. --Cooper, am I right? --Mr. Cooper, when Kenituck, Tennizy, and
Appalachee were admitted to the union of American states, the Fugitive Slave
Treaty became the Fugitive Slave Law. Under that law, when a Slave Finder
engaged in his lawful duty in one of the free states is interfered with, the
defendant is tried in the state where the owner of the slave being pursued
has his legal residence. At the time of the crime, that state was
Appalachee, but the owner of the slave in question, Mr. Cavil Planter, has
relocated in Kenituck, and so that is where by law Mr. Smith will have to be
extradited to stand trial. If it is found there that he acted in
self-defense, he will of course be set free. Our petition to the court is to
set aside the matter of extradition until after the conclusion of this
trial. I'm sure you'll agree that this is in the best interests of your
client."

So it seemed, on the surface. But Verily was no fool-- if it was in the
best interest of Alvin Smith, Daniel Webster would not be so keen on it, The
most obvious motive was to influence the jury. If people in Hatrack, who
mostly liked Alvin, came to believe that by convicting him of stealing
Makepeace's plow they might keep him from being extradited to a state where
he would surely be hanged, they might convict him for his own good.

"Your Honor, my client would like to oppose this motion and demand an
immediate hearing on the matter of extradition, so it may be cleared up
before he stands trial on the charges here."

"I don't like that idea," said the judge. "If we have the hearing and
approve the extradition, then this trial takes second place and off he goes
to Kenituck."

Marty Laws whispered to Verily, "Don't be daft, boy! I'm the one as
pushed Webster into agreeing to this, it's crazy to send him to Kenituck."

For a moment Verily wavered. But by now he had some understanding of
how Webster and Laws fit together. Laws might believe that he had persuaded
Webster to put off the extradition, but Verily was pretty sure the reality
went the other way. Webster wanted extradition postponed. Therefore Verily
didn't.

"I'm quite aware of that," said Verily, a statement that had become
true not five seconds before. "Nevertheless, we wish an immediate hearing on
the matter of extradition. I believe that is my client's right. We don't
wish the jury to be aware of a matter of extradition hanging over him."

"But we don't want the defendant leaving the state while still in
possession of Makepeace Smith's gold!" cried Webster.

"We don't know whose gold it is yet," said the judge. "This is all
pretty darn confusing, I must say. Sounds to me like the prosecution is
pleading the defense's cause, and vice-versa. But on general principles I'm
inclined to give the capital charge precedence over a matter of larceny. So
the extradition hearing will be-- how long do you boys need?"

"We could be ready in this afternoon," said Marty.

"No you can't," said Verily. "Because you have to obtain evidence that
at present is almost certainly in Kenituck."

"Evidence!" Marty looked genuinely puzzled. "Of what? All the witnesses
of Alvin's killing that Finder fellow live right here in town."

"The crime for which extradition is mandatory is not killing a Finder,
plain and simple. It's interfering with a Finder who is in pursuit of his
lawful duty. So you must not only prove that my client killed the Finder--
you must prove the Finder was in lawful pursuit of a particular slave." The
thread that Verily was holding to was what the Miller family back in Vigor
had told him about Alvin changing the half-Black boy so the Finders couldn't
Find him anymore.

Marty Laws leaned close to Daniel Webster and they conferred for a
moment. "I believe we'll have to bring us a Slave Finder over the river from
Wheelwright," said Laws, "and fetch the cachet. Only that's in Carthage
City, so... by horse and then by train... day after tomorrow?"

"That works for me," said the judge.

"If it please the court," said Webster.

"Nothing has pleased me much so far today," said the judge. "But go
ahead, Mr. Webster."

"Since there is some considerable history of people hiding the slave in
question, we'd like him taken into custody immediately. I believe the boy is
in this courtroom right now." He turned and looked straight at Arthur
Stuart.

"On the contrary," said Verily Cooper. "I believe the boy Mr. Webster
is indicating is the adopted son of Mr. Horace Guester, the owner of the
roadhouse in which I have taken lodging, and therefore he has presumptive
rights as a citizen of the state of Hio, which decrees that he is presumed
to be a free man until and unless it is proven otherwise."

"Hell's bells, Mr. Cooper," said Marty Laws, "we all know the Finders
picked the boy out and took him back across the river in chains."

"It is my client's position that they did so in error, and a panel of
impartial Finders will be unable, using only the cachet, to pick the boy out
from a group of other boys if his race is concealed from them. We propose
this as the first matter for the court to demonstrate. If the panel of
Finders cannot pick out the boy, then the Finders who died in this town were
not pursuing their lawful business, and therefore Kenituck.has no
jurisdiction because the Fugitive Slave Law does not apply."

"You're from England and you don't know diddly about what these Finders
can do," said Marty, quite upset now. "Are you trying to get Arthur Stuart
sent off in chains? And Alvin hanged?"

"Mr. Laws," said the judge, "you are the state's attorney in this
matter, not Mr. Smith's or Mr. Stuart's."

"For crying out loud," said Marty.

"And if the Fugitive Slave Law does not apply, then I submit to the
court that Alvin Smith has already been determined by the sheriff and
attorney of Hatrack County to have acted in self-defense, and therefore to
bring charges now would put him in double jeopardy, which is forbidden by--"

"I know exactly who and what forbids double jeopardy," said the judge,
now getting a little edgy with Verily.

What am I doing wrong? Verily wondered.

"All right, since it's Mr. Smith's neck that's on the line, I'll deny
the prosecution's motion and grant the defense motion to set up a blind test
of a panel of Finders. Let's add another day-- we'll meet on Friday to see
if they can identify Arthur Stuart. As for putting Arthur in custody, I'll
ask the boy's adopted father-- is old Horace in the court today?"

Horace stood up. "Here I am, sir," he said.

"You going to make my life difficult by hiding this boy, so I have to
lock you up for the rest of your natural life for contempt of court? Or are
you going to keep him in plain sight and bring him to court for that test?"

"I'll bring him," said Horace. "He ain't going nowheres as long as
Alvin's in jail, anyhow."

"Don't get cute with me, Horace, I'm just warning you," said the judge.

"Got no intention of being cute, dammit," murmured Horace as he sat
back down.

"Don't curse in my courtroom, either, Mr. Guester, and don't insult me
by assuming that my grey hair means I'm deaf." The judge rapped with his
gavel. "Well, that does it for motions and--"

"Your Honor," said Verily.

"That's me," said the judge. "What, you got another motion?"

"I do," said Verily.

"There's the matter of arguments on the motion to produce the plow,"
offered Marty Laws helpfully.

"Dammit," muttered the judge.

"I heard that, judge!" cried Horace Guester.

"Bailiff, put Mr. Guester outside," said the judge.

They all waited while Horace Guester got up and hurried out of the
courtroom.

"What's your new motion, Mr. Cooper?"

"I respectfully request to know the position of Mr. Webster in this
courtroom. He seems not to be an official of the county of Hatrack or the
state of Hio."

"Ain't you co-counsel or some other fool thing?" asked the judge of
Daniel Webster.

"I am," said Webster.

"Well, there you have it."

"Begging your pardon, Your Honor, but it seems plain to me that Mr.
Webster's fees are not being paid by the county. I respectfully request to
know who is paying him, or if he is acting out of the goodness of his
heart."

The judge leaned on his desk and cocked his headto look at Daniel
Webster. "Now that you mention it, I do recall never seeing you represent
anybody as wasn't either very rich or very famous, Mr. Webster. I'd like to
know myself who's paying you."

"I'm here volunteering my services," said Webster.

"So if I put you under oath and ask you to tell me if your time and
expenses here are or are not being paid by someone other than your own self,
you would say that you are receiving no payment? Under oath?"

Webster smiled faintly. "I'm on retainer, and so my expenses are paid,
but not for this case specifically."

"Let me ask it another way. If you don't want the bailiff to put you
out with Mr. Guester, tell me who's paying you."

"I am on retainer with the Property Rights Crusade, located at 44
Harrison Street in the city of Carthage in the state of Wobbish." Webster
smiled thinly.

"Does that answer your respectful request, Mr. Cooper?" the judge
asked.

"It does, Your Honor."

"Then I'll declare this--"

"Your Honor!" cried Marty Laws. "The matter of possession of the plow."

"All right, Mr. Laws," said the judge. "Time for brief arguments."

"It's absurd for the defendant to remain in possession of the property
in question, that's all," said Marty.

"Since the defendant himself is in the custody of the county jail,"
said Verily Cooper, "and the plow is in his possession, then, like his
clothing and his pen and ink and paper and everything else in his
possession, the plow is obviously in the custody of the county jail as well.
The state's motion is moot."

"How do we know that the defendant even has the plow?" asked Marty
Laws. "Nobody's seen it."

"That's a point," said the judge, looking at Verily.

"Because of special properties of the plow," said Verily, "the
defendant feels it unwise to let it out of his sight. Nevertheless, if the
state wishes to designate three officers of the court to see it..."

"Let's keep it simple," said the judge. "Mr. Laws, Mr. Cooper, and I
will go see this plow today, as soon as we finish here."

Verily noticed with pleasure that Daniel Webster flushed with anger as
he realized he was not going to be treated as an equal and invited along.
Webster tugged at Laws' coat and then whispered in his ear.

"Um, Your Honor," said Laws.

"What message are you delivering for Mr. Webster?" asked the judge.

"We can't exactly call me, you, and Mr. Cooper as witnesses, us being,
um, what we are," said Laws.

"I thought the point of, this was to make sure the plow existed," said
the judge. "If you and me and Mr. Cooper see it, then I think we can fairly
well assure everybody it exists."

"But in the trial, we'll want people other than the defendant and Mr.
Makepeace Smith to be able to testify about the plow."

"Plenty of time for worrying about that later. I'm sure we can get a
few witnesses to see it by then, too. How many do you want?"

Another whispered conference. "Eight will do fine," said Laws.

"You and Mr. Cooper get together in the next while and decide which
eight people you'll settle on as witnesses. In the meantime, the three of us
will go visit Mr. Alvin Smith in prison and get an eyeful of this marvelous
legendary mythical golden plow that has-- how did you put it, Mr. Cooper?"

"Special properties," said Verily.

"You Englishmen have such a fine way with words."

Once again, Verily could sense some kind of nastiness directed toward
him from the judge. As before, he had no idea what he had done to provoke
it.

Still, the judge's inexplicable annoyance aside, things had gone rather
well.

Unless, of course, the Millers had been all wrong and the Slave Finders
could identify Arthur Stuart as the wanted runaway. Then there'd be
problems. But... the nicest thing about this case was that if Verily
performed quite badly, making it certain that Alvin would be hanged or
Arthur Stuart returned to slavery, Alvin, being a Maker, could always just
take the boy and go away; and not a soul could stop them if Alvin didn't
want to be stopped, or find them if Alvin didn't want to be found.

Still, Verily had no intention of doing badly. He intended to win
spectacularly. He intended to clear Alvin's name of all charges so the Maker
would be free to teach him all that he wanted to know. And another, deeper
motive, one which he did not try to hide from himself though he would never
have admitted it to another: He wanted the Maker to respect him. He wanted
Alvin Smith to look him in the eye and say, "Well done, friend."

That would be good. Verily Cooper wanted that good thing.



Chapter 14 -- Witnesses

All the time of waiting hadn't been so bad, really. Nothing was
happening in the jail, but Alvin didn't mind being alone and doing nothing.
It gave him thinking time. And thinking time was making time, he reckoned.
Not like he used to do as a boy, making bug baskets out of pulled-up grass
to keep the Unmaker back. But making things in his head. Trying to remember
the Crystal City as he saw it in the waterspout with Tenskwa-Tawa. Trying to
figure how such a place was made. Can't teach folks how to make it if I
don't know what it is myself.

Outside the jail he knew that the Unmaker was moving in the world,
tearing down a little here, knocking over a little there, setting a wedge in
every tiny crack it found. And there were always people searching for the
Unmaker, for some awful destructive power outside themselves. Poor fools,
they always thought that Destruction was merely destruction, they were using
it and when they were done with it, they'd set to building. But you don't
build on a foundation of destruction. That's the dark secret of the Unmaker,
Alvin thought. Once he sets you to tearing down, it's hard to get back to
building, hard to get your own self back. The digger wears out the ground
and the spade. And once you let yourself be a tool in the Unmaker's hand,
he'll wear you out, he'll tear you down, he'll dull you and hole you and all
the time you'll be thinking you're so sharp and fine and bright and whole,
and you never know till he lets go of you, lets you drop and fall. What's
that clatter? Why, that was me. That was me, sounding like a wore-out tool.
What you leaving me for? I still got use left in me!

But you don't, not when the Unmaker's got you.

What Alvin figured out was that when you're Making, you don't use
people like tools. You don't wear them out to achieve your purpose. You wear
yourself out helping them achieve theirs. You wear yourself out teaching and
guiding, persuading and listening to advice and letting folks persuade you,
when it happens they're right. So instead of one ruler and a bunch of
wore-out tools, you got a whole city of Makers, all of them free
fellow-citizens, hard workers every one...

Except for one little problem. Alvin couldn't teach Making. Oh, he
could get people to sort of set their minds right and their work would be
enhanced a little. And a few people, like Measure, mostly, and his sister
Eleanor, they learned a thing or two, they caught a glimmer. But most was in
the dark.

And then there comes a one like this lawyer from England, this Verily
Cooper, and he was just born knowing how to do in a second what Measure
could only do after a whole day's struggle. Sealing a book shut like it was
a single block of wood and cloth, and then opening it again with no harm to
any of the pages and the letters still stuck on the surfaces. That was some
Making.

What did he have to teach Verily? He was born knowing. And how could he
hope to teach those as wasn't born knowing? And anyway how could he teach
anything when he didn't know how to make the crystal out of which the city
would be made?

You can't build a city of glass; it'll break, it can't hold weight. You
can't build out of ice, either, because it ain't clear enough and what about
summer? Diamonds, they're strong enough, but a city made of diamond, even if
he could find or make so much of it-- no way would they be allowed to use
such rich stuff for building, there'd be folks to tear it down in no time,
each one stealing a bit of wall to make hisself rich, and pretty soon the
whole thing would be like a Swiss cheese, more hole than wall.

Oh, Alvin could spin himself through these thoughts and wonderings,
through memories and words of books he read when Miss Larner-- when Peggy--
was teaching him. He could keep his mind occupied in solitude and not mind
it a bit, though he also sure didn't mind when Arthur Stuart came to talk to
him about goings on.

Today, though, things were happening. Verily Cooper would be fending
off motions for this and that, and even if he was a good lawyer, he was from
England and he didn't know the ways here, he could make mistakes, but there
wasn't a blame thing Alvin could do about it even if he did. He just had to
put his trust in other folks and Alvin hated that.

"Everyone hates it," said a voice, a so-familiar voice, a dreamed-of,
longed-for voice with which he had had many a debate in his memory, many a
quarrel in his imagination; a voice that he dreamed of whispering gently to
him in the night and in the morning.

"Peggy," he whispered. He opened his eyes.

There she was, looking just as she would if he had conjured her up,
only she was real, he hadn't done no conjuring.

He remembered his manners and stood up. "Miss Larner," he said. "It was
kind of you to come and visit me."

"Not so much kind as necessary," she said, her tone businesslike.

Businesslike. He sighed inwardly.

She looked around for a chair.

He picked up the stool that stood inside the cell and impulsively,
thoughtlessly handed it right through the bars to her.

He hardly even noticed how he made the bits of iron bar and the strands
of woodstuff move apart to let each other through; only when he saw Peggy's
wide, wide eyes did he realize that of course she'd never seen anybody pass
wood and iron right through each other like that.

"Sorry," he said. "I've never done that before, I mean without warning
or nothing."

She took the stool. "It was very thoughtful of you," she said. "To
provide me with a stool."

He sat down on his cot. It creaked under him. If he hadn't toughened up
the material, it would have given way under his weight days ago. He was a
big man and he used furniture kind of rough; he didn't mind if it complained
out loud now and then.

"They're doing pretrial motions in court today, I understand."

"I watched part of it. Your lawyer is excellent. Verily Cooper?"

"I think he and I ought to be friends," Alvin said. He watched for her
reaction.

She nodded, smiled thinly. "Do you really want me to tell you what I
know about the possible courses your friendship might take?"

Alvin sighed. "I do, and I don't, and you know it."

"I'll tell you that I'm glad he's here. Without him you'd have no
chance of getting through this trial."

"So now I'll win?"

"Winning isn't everything, Alvin."

"But losing is nothing."

"If you lost the case but kept your life and your life's work, then
losing would be better than winning, and dying for it, don't you think?"

"I'm not on trial for my life!"

"Yes you are," said Peggy. "Whenever the law gets its hands on you,
those who use the law to their own advantage will also turn it against you.
Don't put your trust in the laws of men, Alvin. They were designed by strong
men to improve their power over weaker ones."

"That's not fair, Miss Larner," said Alvin. "Ben Franklin and them
others as made the first laws--"

"They meant well. But the reality for you is that whenever you put
yourself in jail, Alvin, your life is in grave danger every moment."

"You came to tell me that? You know I can walk out of here whenever I
want."

"I came so I could tell you when to walk away, if the need comes."

"I want my name cleared of Makepeace's lies."

"I also came to help with that," she said. "I'm going to testify."

Alvin thought of that night when Goody Guester died, Peggy's mother,
though he hadn't known that Miss Larner was really Peggy Guester until she
knelt weeping over her mother's ruined body. Right till the moment they
heard the first gunshot, he and Peggy had been on the verge of declaring
their love for each other and deciding to marry. And then her mother killed
the Finder, and the other Finder killed her, and Alvin got there way too
late to heal her from the shotgun blast, and all he could do was kill the
man that shot her, kill him with his bare hands, and what did that do? What
good did that do? What kind of Making was that?

"I don't want you to testify," he said.

"I wasn't looking forward to it myself," she said. "I won't do it if
it's not needed. But you have to tell Verily Cooper what and who I am, and
tell him that when he's all done with his other witnesses, he's to look to
me, and if I nod, he's to call me as a witness, no arguments. Do you
understand me? I'll know better than either of you whether my testimony is
necessary or not."

Alvin heard what she said and knew he'd go along, but there was a part
of him that was seething with anger even though he didn't know why-- he'd
been longing to see her for more than a year now, and suddenly she was here
and all he wanted to do was yell at her.

Well, he didn't yell. But he did speak up in a voice that sounded less
than kind. "Is that what you come back for? To tell poor stupid Alvin and
his poor stupid lawyer what to do?"

She looked sharp at him. "I met an old friend of yours at the ferry."

For a moment his heart leapt within him. "Ta-Kumsaw?" he whispered.

"Goodness no," she said. "He's out west past the Mizzipy for all I
know. I was referring to a fellow who once had a tattoo on an unmentionable
part of his body, a Mr. Mike Fink."

Alvin rolled his eyes. "I guess the Unmaker's assembling all my enemies
in one place."

"On the contrary," said Peggy. "I think he's no enemy. I think he's a
friend. He swears he means only to protect you, and I believe him."

He knew she meant him to take that as proof that the man could be
trusted, but he was feeling stubborn and said nothing.

"He came to the Wheelwright ferry in order to be close enough to keep
an eye on you. There's a conspiracy to get you extradited to Kenituck under
the Fugitive Slave Law."

"Po Doggly told me he wasn't going to pay no mind to that."

"Well, Daniel Webster is here precisely to see to it that whether you
win or lose here, you get taken to Kenituck to stand trial."

"I won't go," said Alvin. "They'd never let me get to trial."

"No, they never would. That's what Mike Fink came to watch out for."

"Why is he on my side? I took away his hex of protection. It was a
strong one. Near perfect."

"And he's suffered a few scars and lost an ear since then. But he's
also learned compassion. He values the exchange. And you healed his legs.
You left him with a fighting chance."

Alvin thought about that. "Well, you never know, do you. I thought of
him as a stone killer."

"I think that a good person can sometimes do wrong out of ignorance or
weakness or wrong thinking, but when hard times come, the goodness wins out
after all. And a bad person can often seem good and trustworthy for a long
time, but when hard times come, the evil in him gets revealed."

"So maybe we're just waiting for hard enough times to come in order to
find out just how bad I am."

She smiled thinly. "Modesty is a virtue, but I know you too well to
think for a minute you believe you're a bad man."

"I don't think much about whether I'm good or bad. I think a lot about
whether I'm going to be worth a damn or not. Right now I reckon myself to be
worth about six bits."

"Alvin," she said, "you never used to swear in front of me."

He felt the rebuke but he rather liked the feeling of annoying her.
"It's just the bad in me coming out."

"You're very angry with me."

"Yes, well, you know all, you see all."

"I've been busy, Alvin. You've been doing your life's work, and I've
been doing mine."

"Once upon a time I hoped it might be the same work," said Alvin.

"It will never be the same work. Though our labors may complement each
other. I will never be a Maker. I only see what is there to be seen. While
you imagine what might be made, and then make it. Mine is by far the lesser
gift, and mostly useless to you."

"That's the purest nonsense I ever heard."

"I don't speak nonsense," she said sharply. "If you don't think my
words sound true, then think again until you understand them."

He imagined her as he used to see her, the severe-looking teacher lady
at least ten years older than Peggy really was; she still knew how to use
her voice like a rap acrossihe knuckles. "It ain't useless to me to know
what's coming in the future."

"But I don't know what's coming. I only know what might come. What
seems likely to come. There are so many paths the future might take. Most
people stumble blindly along, plunging into this or that path that I see in
their heartfire, heading for disaster or delight. Few have your power,
Alvin, to open up a new path that did not exist. There was no future in
which I saw you push that stool through the bars of the cell. And yet it was
an almost inevitable act on your part. A simple expression of the
impulsiveness of a young man. I see in people's heartfires the futures that
are possible for them in the natural course of events. But you can set aside
the laws of nature, and so you can't be properly accounted for. Sometimes I
can see clearly; but there are deep gaps, dark and wide."

He got up from the cot and came to the bars, held them, knelt down in
front of her. "Tell me how I find out how to make the Crystal City."

"I don't know how you do it. But I've seen a thousand futures in which
you do."

"Tell me where I look then, in order to learn!"

"I don't know. Whatever it is, it doesn't follow the laws of nature. Or
at least I think that's why I can't see it."

"Vilate Franker says my life ends in Carthage City," said Alvin.

She stiffened. "How does she know such a thing9"

"She knows where things come from and where they'll end up."

"Don't go to Carthage City. Never go there."

"So she's right."

"Never go there," she whispered. "Please."

"I got no plans for it," he said. But inside his heart he thought: he
cares for me after all. She still cares for me.

He might have said something about it, or she might have talked a bit
more tenderly and less businesslike. Might have, but then the door opened
and in trooped the sheriff and the judge, and Marty Laws and Verily Cooper.

"Scuse us," said Sheriff Doggly. "But we got us a courtroom thing to do
here."

"I'm at your service, gentlemen," said Alvin, rising at once to his
feet. Peggy also rose, then stooped to move the stool out of the way of the
door.

The sheriff looked at the stool.

"It was so kind of you to allow Alvin's stool to be placed outside the
bars for me," said Peggy.

Po Doggly looked at her. He hadn't given any such order, but he decided
not to argue the point. Alvin was Alvin.

"Explain things to your client," said the judge to Verily Cooper.

"As we discussed last night," said Verily, "we'll need to have various
witnesses view the plow. The three of us will be enough to ascertain that
the plow exists, that it appears to be made of gold, and..."

"That's all right," said Alvin.

"And we've agreed that after the jury is empaneled, we'll select eight
more witnesses who can testify to the existence and nature of the plow in
open court."

"As long as the plow stays in here with me," said Alvin. He glanced
toward Sheriff Doggly.

"The sheriff already knows," said the judge, "that he is not one of the
designated witnesses."

"Blame it all, Your Honor!" said Doggly. "It sets in here for weeks in
my jail and I can't even see it?"

"I don't mind if he stays," said Alvin.

"I do," said the judge. "It's better if he doesn't regale his deputies
with tales of how big and how gold the thing is. I know we can trust Mr.
Doggly. But why exacerbate the temptation that must already afflict at least
some of his deputies?"

Alvin laughed.

"What's so funny, Mr. Smith?" asked the judge.

"How everybody's all pretending they know what in hell the word
exacerbate means." They all joined him in laughter.

When it died down, Sheriff Doggly was still in the room. "I'm waiting
to escort the lady out," he said.

Alvin rolled his eyes. "She saw the plow on the night that it was
made."

"Nevertheless," said the judge, "three witnesses on this official
occasion. You can show it to every visitor in the jail if you want to, but
on this occasion, we have agreed to three, and three it is."

Peggy smiled at the judge. "You are a man of extraordinary integrity,
sir," she said. "I'm glad to know you're presiding at this trial."

When she was gone and the sheriff had closed the door to the jail, the
judge looked at Alvin. "That was Peggy Guester? The torch girl?"

Alvin nodded.

"She grew up prettier than I ever expected," said the judge. "I just
wish I knew whether she was being sarcastic."

"I don't think so," said Alvin. "But you're right, she has a way of
saying even nice things as if she's only barely holding back from telling a
bunch of stuff that ain't so nice."

"Whoever marries that one," said the judge, "he better have a thick
skin."

"Or a stout stick," said Marty Laws, and then he laughed. But he
laughed alone, and soon fell silent, vaguely embarrassed, uncertain why his
joke had fallen so flat.

Alvin reached under the cot and slid out the burlap bag that held the
plow. He pulled back the mouth of the sack, so the plow sat exposed,
surrounded by burlap, shining golden in the light from the high windows.

"I'll be damned," said Marty Laws. "It really is a plow, and it really
is gold."

"Looks gold," said the judge. "I think if we're to be honest witnesses,
we have to touch it."

Alvin smiled. "I ain't stopping you."

The judge sighed and turned to the county attorney. "We forgot to get
the sheriff to open the cell door."

"I'll fetch him," said Marty.

"Please cover the plow, Mr. Smith," said the judge.

"Don't bother," said Alvin. He reached over and opened the cell door.
The latch didn't even so much as make a sound; nor did the hinges squeak.
The door just opened, silent and smooth.

The judge looked down at the latch and lock. "Is this broken?" he
asked.

"Don't worry," said Alvin. "It's working fine. Come on in and touch the
plow, if you want."

Now that the door was open, they hung back. Finally Verily Cooper
stepped in, the judge after him. But Marty held back. "There's something
about that plow," he said.

"Nothing to be worried about," said Alvin.

"You're just bothered because the door opened so easy," said the judge.
"Come on in, Mr. Laws."

"Look," said Marty. "It's trembling."

"Like I told you," said Alvin, "it's alive."

Verily knelt down and reached out a hand toward the plow. With no one
touching it yet, the plow slid toward him, dragging the burlap with it.

Marty yelped and turned his back, pressing his face into the wall
opposite the cell door.

"You can't be much of a witness with your back turned," said the judge.

The plow slid to Verily. He laid his hand on the top of it. It slowly
turned under his hand, turned and turned, around and around, smooth as an
ice skater.

"It is alive," he said.

"After a fashion," said Alvin. "But it's got a mind of its own, so to
speak. I mean, it's not like I've tamed it or nothing."

"Can I pick it up?" asked Verily.

"I don't know," said Alvin. "Nobody but me has ever tried."

"It would be useful," said the judge, "if we could heft it to see if it
weighs like gold, or if it's some other, lighter alloy."

"It's the purest gold you'll ever see in your life," said Alvin, "but
heft it if you can."

Verily squatted, got his hands under the plow, and lifted. He grunted
at the weight of it, but it stayed in his hands as he lifted it. Still,
there was some struggle with it. "It wants to turn," said Verily.

"It's a plow," said Alvin. "It reckon it wants to find good soil,"

"You wouldn't actually plow with this, would you?" said the judge.

"I can't think why else I made it, if it ain't for plowing. I mean, if
I was making a bowl I got the shape wrong, don't you think?"

"Can you hand it to me?" asked the judge.

"Of course," said Verily. He stepped close to the judge and held the
plow as the older man wrapped his hands around it. Then Verily let go.

At once the plow began to buck in the judge's hands. Before the judge
could drop it, Alvin reached out and rested his right hand on the plow's
face. Immediately it went still.

"Why didn't it do that with Mr. Cooper?" asked the judge, his voice
trembling a little.

"I reckon it knows Verily Cooper is my attorney," said Alvin, grinning.

"While I am impartial," s aid the judge. "Perhaps Mr. Laws is correct
not to handle it."

"But he has to," said Verily. "He's the most important one to see it.
He has to assure Mr. Webster and Makepeace Smith that it's the real plow,
the gold plow, and that it's safe here in the jailhouse."

The judge handed the plow to Alvin, then left the cell and put his hand
on Marty Laws' shoulder. "Come now, Mr. Laws, I've handled it, and even if
it bucks a bit, it won't harm you."

Laws shook his head.

"Marty," said Alvin. "I don't know what you're afraid of, but I promise
you that the plow won't hurt you, and you won't hurt it."

Marty turned sideways. "It was so bright," he said. "It hurt my eyes."

"Just a glint of sunlight," said the judge.

"No sir," said Marty. "No, your honor, It was bright. It was bright
from way down deep inside itself. It shone right into me. I could feel it."

The judge looked at Alvin.

"I don't know," said Alvin. "It's not like I've been showing it to
folks."

"I know what he means," said Verily. "I didn't see it as light. But I
felt it as warmth. When the bag fell open, the whole place felt warmer. But
there's no harm in it, Mr. Laws. Please-- I'll hold it with you."

"As will I," said the judge.

Alvin held the plow out to them.

Marty slowly turned so he could watch, his head partly averted, as the
other two witnesses got their hands on and under the plow. Only then did he
sidle forward and gingerly lay his fingertips on and under the golden
plowshare. He was sweating something awful, and Alvin felt plain sorry for
him, but couldn't begin to understand what the man was going through. The
plow had always felt comfortable and friendly-like to him. What did it mean
to Marty?

When the thing didn't hurt him, Marty gained confidence, and shifted
his hands to get some of the weight of the plow. Still his eyes were
squinted and he looked sidelong, as if to protect one eye in case the other
one was suddenly blinded. "I can hold it alone, I guess," he said.

"Let Mr. Smith keep his hand on it, so it doesn't buck," said the
judge.

Alvin left his hand, but the others took their hands away, and Marty
held the plow alone.

"I reckon it weighs like gold," said Marty.

Alvin reached under the plow and got hold of it. "I got it now, Marty,"
he said.

Marty let go-- reluctantly, it seemed to Alvin.

"Anyway, I reckon you can see why I don't just let anyone have a grab
at it," said Alvin.

"I'd hate to think what shape I'd be in if I dropped it on my toe,"
said the judge.

"Oh, it lands easy," said Alvin.

"It really is alive," said Verily softly.

"You're a bold fellow," said the judge to Alvin. "Your attorney was
quite adamant about having a hearing on the extradition matter before we
even empanel a jury about the larceny business."

Alvin looked at Verily. "I reckon my attorney knows what he's doing."

"I told them," said Verily, "that my defense would be that the finder
was not engaged in lawful business, since by the cachet they carried, Arthur
Stuart could not possibly be identified."

Alvin knew that this was more a question than a statement. "They walked
right by Arthur Stuart that night," said Alvin.

"We are going to bring a group of Slave Finders from Wheelwright to see
if they can pick Arthur Stuart from a group of boys about his age," said
Verily. "Their faces and hands will be hidden, of course."

"Make sure," said Alvin, "to get a couple of Mock Berry's boys in the
group, along with whatever White boys you settle on. I reckon those as
spends their whole lives looking for Black folks might have some ways of
spotting which is which, even if they got gloves on and bags over their
heads."

"Mock Berry?" asked the judge.

"He's a Black fellow," explained Marty. "Free Black, mind you. Him and
Anga his wife, they've got a passle of young folks in a cabin in the woods
not far from the roadhouse."

"Well, that's a good idea, to have some Black boys in the mix," said
the judge. "And maybe I'll see to a few others things to make things stay
fair." He reached out to the plow, which Alvin still held in his hands.
"Mind if I touch it one more time?"

He did; the plow trembled under his hand.

"If the jury should decide that this is truly Makepeace Smith's gold,"
said the judge, "I wonder how he's going to get it home?"

"Your Honor," Marty protested.

The judge glared at him. "Don't you even for a moment imagine that I'm
going to be anything but completely fair and impartial in the conduct of
this trial."

Marty shook his head and held out his hands as if to ward off the very
thought of impartiality.

"Besides," said the judge. "You saw what you saw, too. You going to
turn the trial over to Mr. Webster, now that you seen it move and shine and
what not?"

Marty shook his head. "The point at issue is whether Alvin Smith made
the plow with gold that belonged to Makepeace. What the plow is like, its
other properties-- I don't see but what that's completely irrelevant."

"Exactly," said the judge. "All we needed to verify right now is that
it exists, it's gold, and it should remain in Alvin's custody while Alvin
remains in the custody of the sheriff. I think we've determined all three
points to everyone's satisfaction. Right, gentlemen?"

"Right," said Marty.

Verily smiled.

Alvin put the plow back in the burlap bag.

As they left the cell, the judge carefully closed the door until the
latch clicked. Then he tried to open it and couldn't. "Well, I'm glad to see
the jail is secure." He didn't grin when he said it. He didn't have to.

Po Doggly looked beside himself with curiosity as they emerged from the
jail into the outer office. In moments he was inside the jail, looking
through bars at Alvin, hoping to catch a glint of gold.

"Sorry, Sheriff," said Alvin. "All put away."

"You got no sense of sport, Alvin," said Doggly. "You couldn't even
leave the top open a little bit?"

"I won't mind a bit if you're one of the eight," said Alvin. "Let's see
what happens."

"Not a bad idea," said Doggly. "And thank you for not minding. I won't
do that, though. Better to use eight ordinary citizens, instead of a public
official. I'm just curious, you know. Never saw that much gold in all my
life, and I'd like to be able to tell my grandchildren."

"So would I," said Alvin, And then: "Sheriff Doggly, Peggy Larner
wouldn't still be out there, would she?"

"No. Sorry, Al. She's gone. Reckon she went on home to say howdy to her
pa."

"Reckon so," said Alvin. "No matter."

***

Arthur Stuart would never have called himself a spy. He couldn't help
it that he was short. He couldn't help it that his skin was dark and that,
being shy, he tended to stand in shadows and hold very, very still so people
overlooked him quite easily. He wasn't aware that some of the greensong from
his long journeys with Alvin still lingered with him, a melody in the back
of his mind, so that his step was unusually quiet, twigs tended to bend out
of his way, and boards didn't often squeak under his step.

But when it came to his visit to Vilate's house, well, it wasn't no
accident she didn't see him. In fact, he made it a point not to step on the
porch of the post office, so he couldn't very well walk through the front
door and make the bell ring. Nor, when he got around to the back of Vilate
Franker's house, did he knock on her back door or ask her permission before
climbing up on her rain barrel and leaning over to look through her window
into her kitchen, where the teapot simmered on the stove and Vilate sat
drinking tea and carrying on quite a lively conversation with...

With a salamander.

Not a lizard-- even from the window, Arthur Stuart could see there were
no scales. Besides, you didn't have to be some kind of genius to know a
salamander from a lizard at five paces. Arthur Stuart was a boy, and boys
tended to know such things. Moreover, Arthur Stuart had been an unusually
solitary and inquisitive boy, and he had a way with animals, so even if some
other boy might make a mistake, Arthur Stuart never would. It was a
salamander.

Vilate would say something, and then sip her tea, glancing up from the
cup now and then to nod or murmur something. "Mm-hm"; "I know"; "Isn't it
just awful?" --as if the salamander was saying something.

But the salamander didn't say nothing. Didn't even look at her, most of
the time, though truth to tell you never quite knew for sure what a
salamander was looking at, because if one eye was looking there, the other
might be looking here, and how would you know? Still and all, Arthur was
pretty sure it looked right at him. Knew he was there. But didn't seem to
get alarmed or nothing, so Arthur just kept on looking and listening.

"A man shouldn't trifle with a lady's affections," she was saying.
"Once a man goes down that road, the lady has a right to protect herself as
best she can." Another sip. Another nod. "Oh, I know. And the worst of it
is, people are going to think so badly of me. But everyone knows that Alvin
Smith has hidden powers. Of course I couldn't help myself."

Another sip. And then, abruptly, tears streamed out of her eyes.

"Oh, my dear, dear soul, my friend, my beloved trusted friend, how can
I do this? I really do care for the boy. I really do care for him. Why oh
why couldn't he have loved me? Why did he have to spurn me and make me do
this?"

And so it went. Arthur wasn't no dummy. He knew right off that Vilate
Franker was planning some kind of devilment against Alvin, and he sort of
hoped she might mention what it was, though that wasn't too likely, since
all she talked about was how bad she felt and how she hated to do it but it
was a lady's right to defend her honor even though it might involve giving
the appearance of having no honor but that's why it was so good having such
a good, true, wonderful friend.

Ah, the tears that flowed. Ah, the sighs. Ah, the quart of tea she
consumed while Arthur leaned on the sill, watching, listening.

Oddly, though, as soon as the tears were done, her face just went
clean. Not a streak. Not a trace of redness around the eyes. Not a sign that
she had even shed a tear.

The tea eventually took its toll. Vilate slid her chair back and rose
to her feet. Arthur knew where the privy was; he immediately jumped from the
rain barrel and ran around the front of the house before the door even
opened leading out to the back. Then, knowing she couldn't possibly hear the
bell, he opened the post office door, went inside, clambered over the
counter, and made his way into the kitchen from the front of the house.
There was the salamander, licking a bit of tea that had spilled from the
saucer. As Arthur entered, the salamander lifted its head. Then it scurried
back and forth, making a shape on the table. One triangle. Another triangle
crossing it.

A hex.

Arthur moved to the chair where Vilate had been sitting. Standing, his
head was just about at the height her head was at when she was seated. And
as he leaned over her chair, the salamander changed.

No, not really. No, the salamander disappeared. Instead, a woman was
sitting in the chair across from him.

"You're an evil little boy," the woman said with a sad smile.

Arthur hardly even noticed what she said. Because he knew her. It was
Old Peg Guester. The woman he called Mother. The woman who was buried under
a certain stone marker on the hill behind the roadhouse, near his real
mother, the runaway slave girl he never met. Old Peg was there.

But it wasn't Old Peg. It was the salamander.

"And you imagine things, you nasty boy. You make up stories."

Old Peg used to call him her "nasty boy," but it was a tease. It was
when he repeated something someone else had said. She would laugh and call
him nasty boy and give him a hug and tell him not to repeat that remark to
anyone.

But this woman, this pretend Old Peg, she meant it. She thought he was
a nasty boy.

He moved away from the chair. The salamander was back on the table and
Old Peg was gone. Arthur knelt by the table to look at the salamander at eye
level. It stared into his eyes. Arthur stared back.

He used to do this for hours with animals in the forest. When he was
very little, he understood them. He came away with their story in his mind.
Gradually that ability faded. Now he caught only glimmers. But then, he
didn't spend as much time with animals anymore. Maybe if he tried hard
enough...

"Don't forget me, salamander," he whispered. "I want to know your
story. I want to know who taught you how to make them hexes on the table."

He reached out a hand, then slowly let a single finger come to rest on
the salamander's head. It didn't recoil from him; it didn't move even when
his finger made contact. It just looked at him.

"What are you doing indoors?" he whispered. "You don't like it indo
ors. You want to be outside. Near the water. In the mud. In the leaves. With
bugs."

It was the kind of thing Alvin did, murmuring to animals, suggesting
things to them.

"I can take you back to the mud if you want. Come with me, if you want.
Come with me, if you can."

The salamander raised a foreleg, then slowly set it down. One step
closer to Arthur.

And from the salamander he thought he felt a hunger, a desire for food,
but more than that, a desire for... for freedom. The salamander didn't like
being a prisoner.

The door opened.

"Why, Arthur Stuart," said Vilate. "Imagine you coming to visit."

Arthur had sense enough not to jump to his feet as if he was doing
something wrong. "Any letters for Alvin?" he asked.

"Not a one."

Arthur didn't even mention the salamander, which was just as well,
because Vilate never even looked at it. You'd think that if a lady was
caught with a live salamander-- or even a dead one, for that matter-- on her
kitchen table, she'd at least offer some explanation.

"Want some tea?" she asked.

"Can't stay," said Arthur.

"Oh, next time then. Give Alvin my love." Her smile was sweet and
beautiful.

Arthur reached out his hand, right in front of her, and touched the
salamander's back.

She didn't notice. Or at least she gave no sign of noticing.

He moved away, backed out of the room, hopped the counter, and ran out
the front door, hearing the bell ring behind him as he went.

If the salamander was a prisoner, who had captured it? Not Vilate-- the
salamander was making hexes to fool her into seeing somebody there. Though
Arthur was willing to bet that it wasn't Old Peg Guester that Vilate saw.
But the salamander wasn't fooling her out of its own free will, because all
it wanted was to be free to go back to being an ordinary salamander again.

He'd have to tell Alvin about this, that was sure. Vilate was planning
to do something rotten to him, and the salamander that walked out hexes on
the kitchen table, it had something to do with the plot.

How could Vilate be so stupid that she didn't even see me touching her
salamander? Why didn't she get upset when she saw me in the kitchen when she
got back from the privy?

Maybe she wanted me to see the salamander. Or maybe someone else wanted
me to see it.

Wanted me to see Mother.

For a moment, walking along the dusty main street of Hatrack River, he
lost control of himself, almost let himself cry thinking about Mother,
thinking about seeing her sitting across from him. It wasn't real, he told
himself. It was all fakery. Humbug. Hoaxification. Whoever was behind all
this was a liar, and a mean liar at that. Nasty boy indeed. Evil boy. He
wasn't no evil boy. He was a good boy and the real Peg Guester would know
that, she wouldn't say nothing like that to him. The real Peg Guester would
hug him up tight and say, "My good boy, Arthur Stuart, you are my own good
boy."

He walked it off. He walked the tears right out of his eyes, and when
the sad feelings went away, another feeling came in its place. He was plain
mad. Got no right making him see Mama. Got no right. I hate you, whoever you
are, making me see my Mama calling me names like that.

He trotted up the stairs into the courthouse. The only good thing about
Alvin being in jail was that Arthur Stuart always knew where he was.

***

It was hard for Napoleon to believe that he had once come this close to
killing the American boy Calvin. Hard to remember how frightened he had been
to see the boy's power. How for the first few days, Napoleon had watched him
closely, had hardly slept for fear that the boy would do something to him in
the night. Remove his legs, for instance. That would be a cure for the gout!
It only occurred to him because of the number of times he had wished, in the
throes of agony, that in one of his battles a cannonball had severed his
leg. Stumping around on sticks couldn't be worse than this. And the boy
brought such relief. Not a cure... but a cessation of the pain.

In exchange for that, Napoleon was content to let Calvin manipulate
him. He knew who was really in control, and it wasn't an upstart, ignorant
American boy. Who cared if Calvin thought he was clever, doling out a day's
relief from pain in exchange for another lesson on how to govern men? Did he
really imagine Napoleon would teach him anything that would give him the
upper hand? On the contrary, with every hour, every day they spent together,
Napoleon's control over a boy who could have been uncontrollable grew
stronger, deeper. And Calvin had no idea.

They never understood, none of them. They all thought they served
Napoleon out of love and admiration, or out of greed and self-interest, or
out of fear and discretion. Whatever motive drove them, Napoleon fed it, got
control of it. Some were impelled by shame, and some by guilt; some by
ambition, some by lust, some even by their excess of piety-- for when the
occasion demanded, Napoleon could convince some spiritually starved soul
that he was God's chosen servant on Earth. It wasn't hard. None of it was
hard, when you understood other people the way Napoleon did. They gave off
their desires like sweat, like the smell of an athlete after the contest or
a soldier after a battle, like the smell of a woman-- Napoleon didn't even
have to think, he simply said the word, the exact words they needed to hear
to win them to him.

And on those rare occasions when someone was immune to his words, when
they had some sort of protective amulet or hex, each one more clever than
the last-- well, that's what guards were for. That's why there was a
guillotine. The people knew that Napoleon was not a cruel man, that few
indeed were ever punished under his rule. They knew that if a man was sent
to the guillotine, it was because the world would be better off with that
particular mouth detached from those lungs, with those hands unconnected to
that head.

Calvin? Ah, the boy could have been dangerous. The boy had the power to
save himself from the guillotine, to stop the blade from striking his neck.
The boy might have been able to prevent anything that didn't come as a
complete surprise. How would the Emperor have defeated him? Perhaps a little
opium to dull him; he had to sleep sometime. But it didn't matter. No need
to kill after all. Only a little study, a little patience, and Napoleon had
him.

Not as his servant-- no, this American boy was clever, he was watching
for that, he was careful not to allow himself to succumb to any attempt by
Napoleon to turn him into a slave, into one of those servants who looked at
their Emperor with adoring eyes. Now and then Napoleon made a remark, a sort
of feint, so Calvin would think he was fending off the Emperor's best
strokes. But in fact, Napoleon had no need for this boy's loyalty. Just his
healing touch.

This boy was driven by envy. Who would have guessed it? All that innate
power, such gifts from God or Nature or whatever, and the boy was wasting it
all because of envy for his older brother Alvin. Well, he wasn't about to
tell Calvin he had to stop letting those feelings control him! On the
contrary, Napoleon fed them, subtly, with little queries now and then about
how Alvin might have done this or that, or comments about how awful it was
having to put up with younger brothers who simply haven't the ability to
measure up to one's own ability. He knew how this would rankle, how it would
fester in Calvin's soul. A worm, twisting its way through the boy's
judgment, eating tunnels in it. I have you, I have you. Look across the
ocean, your gaze fixed upon your brother; you might have challenged me for
the empire here, for half the world, but instead all you can think about is
some useless fellow in homespun or deerskin or whatever who can make
polished stone with his bare hands and heal the sick.

Heal the sick. That's the one that Napoleon was working on now. He knew
perfectly well that Calvin was deliberately not healing him; he also knew
that if Calvin ever got the idea that Napoleon was really in command, he'd
probably flee and leave him with the gout again. So he had to keep a
delicate balance: Taunt him because his brother could heal and he couldn't;
at the same time, convince him that he'd already learned all the Emperor had
to teach, that it was just a matter of practice now before he was as good at
controlling other men.

If it worked out well, the boy, filled with confidence that he had
squeezed the last drop of knowledge from Napoleon's mind, would finally show
off that he was a match for his brother after all. He would heal the
Emperor, then leave the court at once and sail back to America to challenge
his brother-- to attempt, using Napoleon's teachings, to get control over
him.

Of course, if he got there and nothing he learned from the Emperor
worked-- well, he'd be back for vengeance! But Napoleon really was teaching
him. Enough to play on the weaknesses of weak men, the fears of fearful men,
the ambitions of proud men, the ignorance of stupid men. What Calvin didn't
notice was that Napoleon wasn't teaching him any of the truly difficult
arts: how to turn the virtues of good men against them.

The most hilarious thing was that Calvin was surrounded by the very
best men, the most difficult ones that Napoleon had won over. The Marquis de
La Fayette, for instance-- he was the servant who bathed the boy, just as he
bathed the Emperor. It would never occur to Calvin that Napoleon would keep
his most dangerous enemies near him, oblivious to how he humiliated them. If
Calvin only understood, he would realize that this was real power. Evil men,
weak men, fearful men-- they were so easy to control. It was only when men
of virtue fell under Napoleon's control that he felt at last the confidence
to reach for power, to unseat the king and take his place, to conquer Europe
and impose his peace upon the warring nations.

Calvin never sees that, because he is himself a fearful and ambitious
man, and does not realize that others might be fearless and generous. No
wonder he resents his older brother so much! From what Calvin said of him,
it seemed to Napoleon that Alvin would be a very difficult case indeed, a
very hard one to break. In fact, knowing that Calvin's brother existed was
enough to cause Napoleon to hold off on his plan of building up his armies
in Canada with an eye to conquering the three English-speaking nations of
America. No reason to do anything to make Alvin Smith turn his eyes
eastward. That was a contest Napoleon did not want to embark on.

Instead he would send Calvin home, armed with great skill at
subversion, deception, corruption, and manipulation. He'd have no control
over Alvin, of course, but he would surely be able to deceive him, for
Napoleon well knew that just as evil, weak, and fearful people saw their own
base motives in other people's actions, so also the virtuous tended to
assume the noblest of motives for other people's acts; why else were so many
awful liars so successful at bilking others? If good people weren't so
trusting of bad ones, the human race would have died out long ago-- most
women never would have let most men near them.

Let the brothers battle it out. If anyone can get rid of the threat of
this Alvin Smith, it's his own brother, who can get close to him-- not me,
with all my armies, with all my skill. Let them fight.

But not until my leg is healed.

"My dear Leon, you mustn't drift off with the covers down like that."

It was La Fayette, checking on him before sleep. Napoleon let the
fellow pull his blanket up. It was a coolish night; it was good to have such
tender concern from a loving man of great responsibility, dependability,
creativity. I have in my hands the best of men, and under my thumb the worst
of them. My record is much better than God's. Clearly the old fellow chose
the wrong son to make his only begotten. If I'd been in Jerusalem in the
place of that dullard Jesus, I'd never have been crucified. I would have had
Rome under my control in no time, and the whole world converted to my
doctrine.

Maybe that's what this Alvin was-- God's second try! Well, Napoleon
would help with, the script. Napoleon would send Alvin Smith his Judas.

"You need your sleep, Leon," said La Fayette.

"My mind is so full," said Napoleon.

"Of happy things, I pray."

"Happy indeed."

"No pain in your leg? It's good to have that American boy here, if he
keeps you from that dreadful suffering."

"I know that when I'm in pain I'm so difficult to live with," said
Napoleon.

"Not at all, never. Don't even think it. It's a joy to be with you."

"Do you ever miss it, my Marquis? The armies, the power? Government,
politics, intrigues?"

"Oh, Leon! How could I miss it? I have it all through you. I watch what
you do and I marvel. I never could have done so well. I'm at school with you
every day; you are the superb master."

"Am I?"

"The master. The master of all is my dear Leon. How truly they named
your house in Corsica, my dear. Buona Parte. Good parts. You are truly the
lion of good parts."

"How sweet of you to say so, my Marquis. Good night."

"God bless you."

The candle retreated from the room, and moonlight returned its dim
light through the curtains.

I know you're studying me, Calvin. Sending your doodling bug, as you so
quaintly call it, into my legs, to find the cause of the gout. Figure it
out. Be as smart as your brother about this one thing, so I can finally get
rid of you and the pain both.

***

Verily had known debased men in his life; he had been offered large
sums of money to defend one now and then, but his conscience was not for
sale. He remembered one of them who, thinking that his minions had not been
clear about just how much money he was offering, came to see Verily in
person. When he finally realized that Verily was not simply holding out for
a higher price, he looked quite hurt. "Really, Mr. Cooper, why isn't my
money as good as anyone else's?"

"It isn't your money, sir," said Verily.

"What, then? What is your objection?"

"I keep imagining: What if, through some gross miscarriage of justice,
I won?"

Livid, the man hurled vile threats at him and left. Verily never knew
whether it was this man or another who sent an assassin after him-- a
pathetic attempt, knifework in the dark. Verily saw the blade and the
assassin's vicious smile-- obviously the fellow had chosen a profession that
allowed him to satisfy his own predilections-- and caused the blade to drop
off the knife and shatter at the man's feet. The man couldn't have looked
more crestfallen if Verily had made a eunuch of him.

Debased men, but they all had something in common: they showed a keen
regard for virtue, and tried to dress themselves in that costume. Hypocrisy,
for all its bad reputation, at least showed a decent respect for goodness.

These Slave Finders, however, were not noble enough to be hypocrites.
Not having risen above the level of reptiles and sharks, they showed no
awareness of their own despicableness, and thus made no attempt to hide what
they were. One was almost tempted to admire their brazenness, until one
remembered what callous disregard for decency they must have in order to
spend their lives, in exchange for mere money, chasing down the most
helpless of their fellow-beings and returning them to lives of bondage,
punishment, and despair.

Verily was pleased that Daniel Webster seemed to be almost as repulsed
by these men as he was. Fastidiously the New England lawyer disdained to
shake their hands, managing to be busy with his papers as each one arrived.
Nor did he even bother to learn their names; having once ascertained that
the entire group contracted for was properly assembled, he then addressed
them only as a group, and without quite looking any of them in the eye. If
they noticed his aloofness, they made no remark and showed no resentment.
Perhaps this is how they were always treated. Perhaps those who hired them
always did so with distaste, washing their hands after passing them the
cachet of the slave they were to hunt down, washing again after giving them
their Finder's fee. Didn't they understand that it is the murderer who is
filthy, and not the knife?

It was ten-thirty in the morning before the Finders, seated at a single
long table before the judge's bench, were satisfied that they had got the
information they needed from the cachet belonging to a certain Cavil Planter
of Oily Spring, Kenituck. The judge had the deposition, carefully taken by
Mr. Webster at Mr. Planter's home in Carthage City, Wobbish. Planter had
attempted to assert that the cachet was a collection of nail and hair
clippings and a bit of dried skin taken from one Arthur Stuart of Hatrack
River; but Webster insisted that he state the exact legal situation, which
was that the items in the cachet were taken from an unnamed baby born on his
farm in Appalachee to a slave woman belonging to Mr. Planter at the time,
who had shortly afterward escaped-- with, as Planter insisted on adding, the
help of the devil, who gave her the power to fly, or so it was rumored among
the ignorant and superstitious slaves.

The Finders were ready; the boys were led in, one at a time, and lined
up in a row in front of them. All the boys were dressed in ordinary
clothing, and all were more or less of a size. Their hands were covered, not
with gloves, but with burlap bags tied above their elbows; a finer sacking
material also covered their heads with loose-fitting hoods. No scrap of skin
was visible; care had even been taken to make sure there was no gap between
the buttons of their shirts. And just in case, a large placard with a number
on it hung from each boy's neck, completely covering his shirtfront.

Verily watched carefully. Was there some difference between the Black
sons of Mock Berry and the White boys? Something about their walk, their
stance? Indeed, there were differences among the boys-- this one's pose of
insouciance, that one's nervous fidgeting-- but Verily could not tell which
were White and which were Black. Certainly he could not tell which one was
Arthur Stuart, the boy who was not fully of either race. This did not mean,
however, that the Finders did not know or could not guess.

Alvin assured him, though, that their knack would be useless to them,
since Arthur Stuart was no longer a fair match for the cachet.

And Alvin was right. The Finders looked puzzled when the last boy was
brought in and the judge said, "Well, which of them matches the cachet?"
Clearly they had expected to know instantly which of them was their prey.
Instead, they began to murmur.

"No conference," said the judge. "Each of you must reach his conclusion
independently, write down the number of the boy you think matches the
cachet, and have done with it."

"Are you sure someone hasn't held out the boy in question?" asked one
Slave Finder.

"What you are asking me," said the judge, "is if I am either corrupt or
a fool. Would you care to specify which accusation you are inquiring about?"
After that the Finders puzzled in silence.

"Gentlemen," said the judge-- and was his tone somewhat dry when he
called them that? "You have had three minutes. I was told your
identification would be instant. Please write and have done."

They wrote. They signed their papers. They handed them to the judge.

"Please, return to your seats while I tabulate the results," said the
judge.

Verily had to admire the way the judge showed no expression as he
sorted through the papers. But it also frustrated him. Would there be no
hint of the outcome?

"I'm disappointed," said the judge. "I had expected that the
much-vaunted powers and the famous integrity of the Slave Finders would give
me unanimous results. I had expected that you would either unanimously point
the finger at one boy, or unanimously declare that the boy could not be one
of this group. Instead, I find quite a range of answers. Three of you did
declare under penalty of perjury that none of these boys matched the cachet.
But four of you have named various boys-- again, under penalty of perjury.
Specifically, the four of you named three different boys. The only two who
seemed to be in agreement both happened to be seated together, at my far
right. Since you are the only two who agree in accusing one of the boys, I
think we'll check your assertion first. Bailiff, please remove the hood from
the head of boy number five."

The bailiff did as he was asked. The boy was Black, but he was not
Arthur Stuart.

"You two-- are you certain, do you swear before God, that this is the
boy who matches the cachet? Remember please that it is your license to
practice your profession in the state of Wobbish that hangs in the balance,
for if you are found to be unreliable or dishonest, you will never be
permitted to bring a slave back across the river again."

What they also knew, however, was that if they now backed down, they
would be liable for charges of perjury. And the boy was Black.

"No sir, I am certain this is the boy," said one. The other nodded
emphatically.

"Now, let's look at the other two boys that were named. Take the hoods
from numbers one and two."

One of them was Black, the other White.

The Finder who named a White boy covered his face with his hands.
"Again, knowing that your license is at stake, are you both prepared to
swear that the boy you named is an exact match?"

The Finder who named the White boy began to stammer, "I don't know, I
just don't, I was sure, I thought it was..."

"The answer is simple-- do you continue to swear that this boy is an
exact match, or did you lie under oath when you named him?"

The Finders who had sworn that the cachet matched no one were smiling
now-- they knew, obviously, that the others had lied, and were enjoying
their torment.

"I did not lie," said the Finder who named the White boy.

"Neither did I," said the other defiantly. "And I still think I'm
right. I don't know how these other boys could get it so wrong."

"But you-- you don't think you're right, do you? You don't think some
miracle turned that slave baby White, do you?"

"No, sir. I must be... mistaken."

"Give me your license. Right now."

The miserable Finder stood up and handed the judge a leather case. The
judge took from the case a piece of paper with an official seal on it. He
wrote in the margin and then on the back; then he signed it and crimped it
with his own seal. "There you go," he said to the Finder. "You understand
that if you're ever caught attempting to practice the profession of Slave
Finding in the state of Hio, you will be arrested and tried and, when
convicted, you will face at least ten years in prison?"

"I understand," said the humiliated man.

"And you are also aware that Hio maintains a reciprocity arrangement
with the states of Huron, Suskwahenny, Irrakwa, Pennsylvania, and New
Sweden? So that the same or similar penalties will apply to you there if you
attempt to practice this profession?"

"I understand," he said again.

"Thank you for your help," said the judge. "You should only be grateful
that you were incompetent, for if I had cause to suspect you of perjury, it
would have been prison and the lash, I assure you, for if I thought that you
had willfully named this boy falsely, I would have no mercy on you. You may
go."

The others obviously got the message. As the unfortunate man fled the
courtroom, the other three who had named one boy or another steeled
themselves for what was to come.

"Sheriff Doggly," said the judge, "would you kindly inform us of the
identity of these two boys who stand identified by three of our panel of
Finders?"

"Sure, Your Honor," said Doggly. "These two is Mock Berry's boys, James
and John. Peter's near growed and Andrew and Zebedee was too small."

"You're sure of their identity?"

"They've lived here in Hatrack all their lives."

"Any chance that either of them is, in fact, the child of a runaway
slave?"

"No chance. For one thing, the dates are all wrong. They're both way
too old-- the Berry boys is always short for their age, kind of
late-blooming roses if you know what I mean, then they just shoot up like
spring grass, cause Peter's about the tallest fellow around here. But these
boys, they was already clever little tykes well known around town before
ever the slave that cachet belongs to was born."

The judge turned to the Finders. "Well, now. I wonder how it happens
that you appointed for slavery these two freeborn Black children."

One of them spoke up immediately. "Your Honor, I will protest this
whole procedure. We were not brought here to be placed on trial ourselves,
we were brought here to practice our profession and--"

The gavel slammed down on the desk. "You were brought here to practice
your profession, that is true. Your profession requires that when you make
an identification, it must be assumed by all courts of law to be both honest
and accurate. Whenever you practice your profession, here or in the field,
your license is on the line, and you know it. Now, tell me at once, did you
lie when you identified these boys, or were you merely mistaken?"

"What if we was just guessing?" one of them asked. Verily almost
laughed out loud.

"Guessing, in this context, would be lying, since you were swearing
that the boy you named was a match for the cachet, and if you had to guess,
then he was not a match. Did you guess?"

The man thought about it for a moment. "No sir, I didn't lie. I was
just plain wrong I reckon."

Another man tried a different tack. "How do we know this sheriff isn't
lying?"

"Because," said the judge, "I already met all these boys, and their
parents, and saw their birth records in the county archive. Any more
questions before you decide whether you'll lose your license or be bound
over for trial as perjurers?"

The two remaining Finders quickly agreed that they had been mistaken.
Everyone waited while the judge signed and sealed the limitation on their
licenses. "You gentlemen may also go."

They went.

Verily rose to his feet. "Your Honor, may I request that these young
men who were not identified be allowed to remove their hoods? I fear that
they may be growing quite uncomfortable."

"By all means. Bailiff, it's certainly time."

The hoods came off. The boys all looked relieved. Arthur Stuart was
grinning.

To the three remaining Finders, the judge said, "You are under oath. Do
you swear that none of these boys matches the cachet belonging to Mr. Cavil
Planter?"

They all swore to it.

"I commend you for having the honesty to admit to not finding a match,
when others were clearly tempted to find a match no matter what. I find your
profession loathsome, but at least the three of you practice it honestly and
with reasonable competence."

"Thank you, Your Honor," said one of them; the others, however, seemed
to know they had just been insulted.

"Since this proceeding is a legal hearing under the Fugitive Slave Law,
I don't have to have your signatures on anything, but I'd prefer it if you'd
stay long enough to sign your names to an affirmation that specifically
states that this young man, the mixup boy named Arthur Stuart, is definitely
not a match with the cachet. Can you sign such a statement under oath before
God?"

They could. They did. They were dismissed.

"Mr. Webster, I can't think what in the world you'd have to say, but
since you represent Mr. Cavil Planter in this matter, I must ask you for any
statement you'd like to make on this matter before I issue my finding."

Webster rose slowly to his feet. Verily wondered what the man could
have the audacity to say, in the face of such evidence-- what whining,
sniveling complaint or protest he might utter.

"Your Honor," said Webster, "it is obvious to me that my client is the
victim of fraud. Not today, your honor, for these proceedings have clearly
been honest. No, the fraud was more than a year ago, when two Finders,
hoping to collect a fee they had not earned, named this boy as Mr. Planter's
property and proceeded to commit murder and get themselves killed in the
effort to enslave a free boy. My client, believing them to be honest,
naturally proceeded to secure the redress to which he would have been
entitled by law; but now, I can assure you that as soon as my client learns
that he was put upon most sorely by those Finders, he will be as horrified
as I am by how close he came to enslaving a free child and, what is worse,
extraditing for prosecution the young man named Alvin Smith, who it now
seems was acting in proper self-defense when he killed the second of those
malicious, lying, fraudulent men pretending to be Finders." Webster sat back
down.

It was a pretty speech. Webster's voice was lovely to hear. The man
should go into politics, Verily thought. His voice would be a noble addition
to the halls of Congress in Philadelphia.

"You pretty much summed up my summing up," said the judge. "It is the
finding of this court that Arthur Stuart is not the property of Mr. Cavil
Planter, and therefore the Finders who were trying to take him back to
Appalachee were not acting lawfully, and therefore the interference Margaret
Guester and Alvin Smith offered them was legal and appropriate under the
circumstances. I declare Alvin Smith to be absolved of all responsibility,
criminal or civil, in the deaths of these Finders, and I declare Margaret
Guester to be posthumously absolved in like manner. Under the terms of the
Fugitive Slave Law, there may be no further attempt by anyone under any
circumstances to bring Arthur Stuart into slavery regardless of any
additional evidence-- this action is final. Likewise there may be no further
attempt to try Alvin Smith on any charges arising out of the illegal
expedition undertaken by those fraudulent Finders, including their death.
This action, likewise, is final."

Verily loved hearing those words, for all that language insisting that
such actions were final had been placed in the law for the purpose of
blocking any effort on the part of anti-slavery forces to interfere with the
recapture of a slave or the punishment of those who helped a runaway. This
time, at least, that finality would work against the proponents of slavery.
Hoist on their own petard.

The bailiff took the burlap bags off the boys' hands. The judge, the
sheriff, Verily, and Marty Laws all shook the boys' hands and gave them--
except Arthur, of course-- the two bits they were entitled to for their
service to the court. Arthur got something more precious. Arthur got a copy
of the judge's decision making it illegal for him to be accosted by anyone
searching for runaway slaves.

Webster shook Verily's hand, quite warmly. "I'm glad things worked out
this way," he said. "As you know, in our profession we are sometimes called
upon to represent clients in actions that we wish they would not pursue."

Verily held his silence-- he supposed that for most lawyers this was
probably true.

"I'm glad that my presence here will not result in anyone entering a
life of slavery, or of your client being extradited under false charges."

Verily couldn't leave that statement alone. "And you would have been
sad to see him extradited, if this hearing had turned out otherwise?"

"Oh, not at all," said Webster. "If the Finders had identified young
Mr. Stuart, then justice would have demanded that your client be tried in
Kenituck for murder."

"Justice?" Verily didn't try to keep the contempt from his voice.

"The law is justice, my friend," said Webster. "I know of no other
measure available to us as mortal men. God has a better justice than ours,
but until angels sit upon the bench, the justice of law is the best justice
we can have, and I, for one, am glad we have it."

If Verily had been tempted to feel even a glimmer of guilt over the
fact that Arthur Stuart really was Cavil Planter's slave, by law, and that,
again by law, Alvin Smith really should have been extradited, there was no
chance of it now. Webster's narrow view of justice was just as truly
satisfied by this outcome as Verily's much broader perspective. By God's
justice, Arthur should be free and Alvin held to no penalty, and so the
outcome had been just. But Webster's justice was as well served, for the
letter of the law required the matching of the cachet to the slave, and if
it so happened that Arthur Stuart had been changed somehow by a certain
Maker so the cachet no longer matched-- well, the law made no provision for
exceptions, and so, as Webster had said, the law being satisfied, justice
must also have been done.

"I'm grateful to know your mind upon the matter," said Verily. "I look
forward to discovering, in my client's trial for larceny, precisely what
your commitment to justice is."

"And so you shall," said Webster. "The gold belongs to Makepeace Smith,
not his former apprentice. So when justice is done, Makepeace Smith will
have his gold."

Verily smiled at him. "It shall be a contest, then, Mr. Webster."

"When two giants meet in battle," said Webster, "one giant will fall."

"And loud shall be the noise thereof," said Verily.

Webster took only a moment to realize that Verily was teasing him about
his golden-voiced oratory; and when he did, instead of being insulted, he
threw back his head and laughed, warmly, loudly, cheerfully. "I like you,
Mr. Cooper! I shall enjoy all that lies ahead of us!"

Verily let him have the last word. But in his own mind, he answered,
Not all, Mr. Webster. You shall not enjoy it all.

***

No one planned a meeting, but they arrived at Alvin's cell that evening
almost at the same, time, as if someone had summoned them. Verily Cooper had
come to discuss what would happen during the selection of the jury and
perhaps gloat a little over the easy victory in the hearing that morning; he
was joined by Armor-of-God Weaver, who brought letters from family and
wellwishers in Vigor Church; Arthur Stuart of course was there, as he was
most evenings; Horace Guester had brought a bowl of roadhouse stew and a jug
of the fresh cider-- Alvin wouldn't take the cider that had turned, it
dulled his mind; and no sooner were they all assembled in and around the
open cell than the outer door opened and the deputy showed in Peggy Larner
and a man that none but Alvin recognized.

"Mike Fink, as I live and breathe," said Alvin.

"And you're that smithy boy who bent my legs and broke my nose." Mike
Fink smiled, but there was pain in the smile, and no one was sure but what
there might not be a quarrel here.

"I see some scars and marks on you, Mr. Fink," said Alvin, "but I
reckon from the fact you're standing here before us that those are marks of
fights you won."

"Won fair and square, and hard fought," said Fink. "But I killed no man
as didn't require me to, on account of trying to stick a knife in me and
there being no other way to stop them."

"What brings you here, Mr. Fink?" asked Alvin.

"I owe you," said Fink.

"Not that I know of," said Alvin.

"I owe you and I mean to repay."

Still his words were ambiguous, and Arthur Stuart noticed how Papa
Horace and Armor-of-God braced themselves to take on the powerful body of
the riverman, if need arose.

It was Peggy Larner who made it clear. "Mr. Fink has come to give us
information about a plot against Alvin's life. And to offer himself as a
bodyguard, to make sure no harm comes to you."

"I'm glad to know you wanted to give me warning," said Alvin. "Come on
in and sit down. You can share the floor with me, or sit on my cot-- it's
stronger than it looks."

"Don't have much to tell. I think Miss Larner already told you what I
learned before, about a plot to kill you as they took you back for trial in
Kenituck. Well, the men I know-- if you can rightly call them men-- haven't
been fired from the plan. In fact what I heard this very afternoon was to
pay no nevermind to how the extradition was squished--"

"Quashed," offered Verily Cooper helpfully.

"Mashed," said Fink. "Whatever. They got to pay no heed to it, because
they'll still be needed. The plan is for you not to leave the town of
Hatrack River alive."

"And what about Arthur Stuart?" asked Alvin.

"Not a word about no mixup, boy," said Fink. "The way I see it, they
don't give a damn about the boy, he's just an excuse for them to get you
kilt."

"Please watch..." Alvin began, mildly enough, but Mike Fink didn't need
to hear him finish saying "your language with the lady."

"Beg your pardon, Miss Larner," he said.

"Don't that beat all," said Alvin admiringly. "He's already beginning
to sound like one of your students." But was there a bite in his tone?

There was certainly a bite in Peggy's answer. "I'd rather hear him
swear than hear you say 'don't' for 'doesn't.'"

Alvin leaned close to Mike Fink to explain, though he never took his
eyes from Peggy's face. "You see, Miss Larner knows all the words, and she
knows just where they ought to be."

Arthur Stuart could see the fury in her face, but she held her tongue.
It was some kind of fight going on between the two of them; but what was it
about? Miss Larner had always corrected their grammar, ever since she
tutored Alvin and Arthur together when she was the schoolteacher in Hatrack
River.

What puzzled Arthur Stuart all the more was the way the older men-- not
Verily, but Horace and Armor-of-God and even Mike Fink-- sort of glanced
around at each other and half-smiled like they all understood exactly what
was going on between Alvin and Peggy, understood it better than those two
did their own selves.

Mike Fink spoke up again. "Getting back to matters of life and death
instead of grammar..."

At which point Horace murmured under his breath, "And lovers' spats."

"I'm sorry to say I can't learn no more of their plans than that," said
Fink. "It's not like we're dear friends or nothing-- more like they'd be as
happy to stab me in the back as pee on my boots, depending on whether their
knife or their... whatever... was in their hands." He glanced again at Peggy
Larner and blushed. Blushed! That grizzled face, scarred and bent by battle,
that missing ear, but still the blood rushed into his face like a schoolboy
rebuked by his schoolmarm.

But before the blush could even fade, Alvin had his hand on Fink's arm
and pulled him down to sit beside him on the floor, and Alvin threw an easy
arm over his shoulder. "You and me, Mike, we just can't remember how to talk
fine in front of some folks and plain in front of others. But I'll help you
if you'll help me."

And there, in one easy moment, Alvin had put Mike Fink back to rights.
There was just a kind of plain sincerity in Alvin's way of speaking that
even when you knew he was trying to make you feel better, you didn't mind.
You knew he cared about you, cared enough to try to make you feel better,
and so you did feel better.

Thinking of Alvin making folks feel better made Arthur Stuart remember
something that Alvin did to make him feel better. "Why don't you sing that
song, Alvin?"

Now it was Alvin's turn to blush in embarrassment. "You know I ain't no
singer, Arthur. Just because I sung it to you..."

"He made up a song," said Arthur Stuart. "About being locked up in
here. We sung it together yesterday."

Mike Fink nodded. "Seems like a Maker got to keep making something."

"I got nothing to do but think and sing," said Alvin. "You sing it,
Arthur Stuart, not me. You've got a good singing voice."

"I'll sing it if you want," said Arthur. "But it's your song. You made
it up, words and tune."

"You sing it," said Alvin. "I don't even know if I'd remember all the
words."

Arthur Stuart dutifully stood up and started to sing, in his piping
voice:

I meant to be a journeyman, To wander on the earth. As quick as any
fellow can, I left the country of my birth, It's fair to say I ran.

Arthur Stuart looked over at Alvin. "You got to sing the chorus with
me, anyway."

So together they sang the rollicking refrain:

At daybreak I'll be risin', For never will my feet be still, I'm bound
for the horizon-- oh! I'm bound for the horizon.

Then Arthur went back to the verse, but now Alvin joined him in a kind
of tenor harmony, their voices blending sweetly to each other.

Till I was dragged from bed, And locked inside a little cell. My
journeys then were in my head, On all the roads of hell.

With the next verse, though, when Arthur began it, Alvin didn't join
in, he just looked confused.

Alone with my imagining, I dreamt the darkest dream--

"Wait a minute, Arthur Stuart," said Alvin. "That verse isn't really
part of this song."

"Well, it fits, and you sung it to this tune your own self."

"But it's a nonsense dream, it don't mean a thing."

"I like it," said Arthur. "Can't I sing it?"

Alvin waved him to go ahead, but he still looked embarrassed.

Alone with my imagining, I dreamt the darkest dream, Of tiny men, a
spider's sting, And in a land of smoke and steam, An evil golden ring.

"What does that mean?" asked Armor-of-God.

"I don't know," said Alvin. "I wonder if sometimes I don't accidentally
end up with somebody else's dream. Maybe that was a dream that belonged to
somebody of ancient days, or maybe somebody who ain't even been born yet.
Just a spare dream and I chanced to snag on it during my sleep."

Verily Cooper said, "When I was a boy, I wondered if the strange people
in my dreams might not be just as real as me, and I was in their dreams
sometimes too."

"Then let's just hope they don't wake up at a inconvenient moment,"
said Mike Fink dryly.

Arthur Stuart went on with the last verse.

The accusations all were lies, And few believed the tale, So I was
patient, calm and wise. But legs grow weak inside a jail, And something in
you dies.

"This song may be the saddest one I ever heard," said Horace Guester.
"Don't you ever have a cheerful thought in here?"

"The chorus is pretty sprightly," said Arthur Stuart.

"I had cheerful thoughts today," said Alvin, "thinking of four Slave
Finders losing their license to carry off free men and put them into bondage
in the south. And now I'm cheerful again, knowing that the strongest man I
ever fought is now going to be my bodyguard. Though the sheriff may not take
kindly to it, Mr. Fink, since he thinks I'm safe enough as long as I'm in
the care of him and his boys."

"And you are safe," said Peggy. "Even those deputies that don't like
you would never raise a hand against you or allow you to be less than safe."

"There's no danger, then?" asked Horace Guester.

"Grave danger," said Peggy. "But not from the deputies, and most
particularly not till the trail is over, and Alvin prepares to leave. That's
when we'll need more than a bodyguard to die along with Alvin. We'll need
subterfuge to get him out of town in one piece."

"Who says I'll die?" asked Fink.

Peggy smiled thinly. "Against any five men I think you two would do
well."

"So there'll be more than five?" asked Alvin.

"There may be," said Peggy. "Nothing is clear right now. Things are in
flux. The danger is real, though. The plot's in place and men have been
paid. You know when money's involved, even assassins feel obliged to fulfill
their contracts."

"But for the nonce," said Verily Cooper, "we're not to worry about our
safety, or Alvin's?"

"Prudence is all that's needed," said Peggy.

"I don't know why we're putting our trust in knackery," said
Armor-of-God. "Our Savior is guard enough for us all."

"Our Savior will resurrect us," said Peggy, "but I haven't noticed that
Christians end up any less dead at the end of life than heathens."

"Well, one thing's sure," said Horace Guester. "if it wasn't for
knackery Alvin wouldn't be in this blamed fix."

"Did you like the song?" asked Alvin. "I mean, I thought Arthur sung it
real good. Real well. Very well." Each correction won a bit more of a smile
from Miss Larner.

"Sang it very well," said Peggy. "But each version of the sentence was
better than the one before!"

"I got another verse," said Alvin. "It's not really part of the song,
on account of it isn't true yet, but do you want to hear it?"

"You got to sing it alone, I don't know another verse," said Arthur
Stuart.

Alvin sang:

I trusted justice not to fail. The jury did me proud. Tomorrow I will
hit the trail, And sing my hiking song so loud, It's like to start a gale!

They all laughed, and allowed as how they hoped he could soon sing it
for real. By the time the meeting ended, they'd decided that Armor-of-God,
with Mike Fink to watch his back and keep him safe, would head for Carthage
City and learn all he could about the men who were paying Daniel Webster's
salary and see for sure if they were the same ones paying the river rats and
other scoundrels to lie in wait to take Alvin's life. Other than that,
everything was in Verily Cooper's hands. And to hear him tell it, it was up
to the witnesses and the jury. Twelve good men and true.

***

There was a long line at the county clerk's office as Peggy came in for
the first day of Alvin's trial. "Early voters," Marty Laws explained. "Folks
that worry maybe the weather will keep them from casting their ballot
election day. This Tippy-Canoe campaign has folks pretty riled up."

"Do you think they're voting for or against?"

"I'm not sure," said Marty. "You're the one who'd know, aren't you?".

Peggy didn't answer. Yes, she would know, if she cared to look. But she
feared what she'd see.

"It's Po Doggly who knows about politics around here best. He says that
if it was all up or down on the whole Red business, Tippy-Canoe wouldn't get
him a vote. But he's also been playing on the western pride thing. How
Tippy-Canoe is from our side of the Appalachee Mountains. Which don't make
much sense to me, seeing as how Old Hickory-- Andy Jackson-- he's every bit
as western as Harrison. I think folks worry about how Andy Jackson, being
from Tennizy, he's probably too much for slavery. Folks around here don't
want to vote in somebody who'll make the slavery thing any worse than it
is."

Peggy smiled thinly. "I wish they knew Mr. Harrison's real position on
slavery."

Marty cocked an eyebrow. "You know something I don't know?"

"I know that Harrison is the candidate that those who wish to expand
slavery into the northern states will want to support."

"Ain't a soul here who wants to see that happen."

"Then they shouldn't vote for Harrison-- if he becomes president, it
will happen."

Marty stared long and hard at her. "Do you know this the way most folks
know their political opinions, or do you know it as... as..."

"I know it," said Peggy. "I don't say that of mere opinions."

Marty nodded and looked off into space. "Well damn. Wouldn't you know
it."

"You have a habit of betting on the wrong horse lately," said Peggy.

"You can say that again," said Marty. "I kept telling Makepeace for
years that there wasn't a case against Alvin and I wasn't going to get him
extradited from Wobbish. But then he showed up here, and what could I do? I
had Makepeace, and he had him a witness besides himself. And you never know
what juries are going to do. I think it's a bad business."

"Then why don't you move to dismiss the charges?" asked Peggy.

Marty glowered. "I can't do, that, Miss Peggy, for the plain good
reason that there is a case to be made. I hope this English lawyer Alvin's
folks found for him can win him free. But I'm not going to roll over and
play dead. What you got to understand, Miss Peggy, is I like most of the
people in this county, and most of the time the folks I got to prosecute,
they're people that I like. I don't prosecute them because I don't like
them. I prosecute them because they done wrong, and the people of Hatrack
County elected me to set things right. So I hope Alvin gets off, but if he
does, it won't be because I failed to fulfill my responsibilities."

"I was there on the night the plow was made. Why don't you call me as a
witness?"

"Did you see it made?" asked Marty.

"No. It was already finished when I saw it."

"Then what exactly are you a witness of?"

Peggy didn't answer.

"You want to get on that stand because you're a torch, and the people
of Hatrack know you're a torch, and if you say Makepeace is lying, they'll
believe you. But here's the thing I worry about, Miss Peggy. I know you and
Alvin was once sweet for each other, and maybe still are. So how do I know
that if you get on the stand, you won't commit some grievous sin against the
God of truth in order to win the freedom of this boy?"

Peggy flushed with anger. "You know because you know my oath is as good
as anyone's and better than most."

"If you get on the stand, Miss Peggy, I will rebut you by bringing up
witnesses to say you lived in Hatrack for many months in complete disguise,
lying to everyone that whole time about who you were. Covered with hexes,
pretending to be a middle-aged spinster schoolteacher when the whole time
you were seeing the smith's prentice boy under the guise of tutoring him. I
know you had your reasons for doing all those things. I know there was a
reason why on the night the plow was supposedly made, the same night your
motherwas killed, you and Alvin were seen running from the smithy together,
only Alvin was stark naked. Do you get my drift, Miss Peggy?"

"You're advising me not to testify."

"I'm telling you that while some folks will believe you, others will be
sure you're just helping Alvin as his co-conspirator. My job is to make sure
every possible doubt of your testimony is introduced."

"So you are Alvin's enemy, and the enemy of truth." Peggy hurled the
words, meaning them to bite.

"Accuse me all you like," said Marty, "but my job is to make the case
that Alvin stole that gold. I don't think your testimony, based entirely on
your unverifiable claim as a torch that Makepeace is a liar, should be
allowed to stand unchallenged. If it did stand that way, then every
half-baked dreamspeaker and soothsayer in the country would be able to say
whatever he pleased and juries would believe them, and then what would
happen to justice in America?"

"Let me understand you," said Peggy. "You plan to discredit me, destroy
my reputation, and convict Alvin, all for the sake of justice in America?"

"As I said," Marty repeated, "I hope your lawyer can do as good a job
defending Alvin as I'm going to do prosecuting him. I hope he can find as
much damning evidence against my witnesses as Mr. Webster and I have found
concerning Alvin. Because, frankly, I don't like my witnesses much, and I
think Makepeace is a greedy lying bastard who should go to jail himself for
pedury but I can't prove it."

"How can you live with yourself, then, working in the service of evil
when you know so clearly what is goodT'

"It's also good for the public prosecutorto prosecute, instead of
setting himself up as judge."

Peggy nodded gravely. "As so often is the case, there is no clear
choice that has all the good on its side, opposed to one that is nothing but
bad."

"That's the truth, Peggy. That's God's honest truth."

"You advise me not to testify."

"Nothing of the kind. I just warned you of the price you'd pay for
testifying."

"It's unethical for us to have had this conversation, isn't it?"

"A little bit," said Marty. "But your pa and I go back a long way."

"He'd never forgive you if you discredited me."

"I know, Miss Peggy. And that would break my heart." He nodded his
good-bye, touching his forehead as if to tip the hat he wasn't wearing
indoors. "Good day to you."

Peggy followed him into the courtroom.

That first morning was spent questioning the eight witnesses who had
been shown the golden plow. First was Merlin Wheeler, who rolled in on his
wheelchair. Peggy knew that Alvin had offered once, years ago, to heal him
so he could walk again. But Merlin just looked him in the eye and said, "I
lost the use of my legs to the same men who killed my wife and child. If you
can bring them back, then we'll see about my legs." Alvin didn't understand
then, and truth to tell, Peggy didn't really understand now. How did it help
his wife and children for Merlin to go around in a wheelchair all the time?
But then, maybe it helped Merlin himself. Maybe it was like wearing widow's
weeds. A public symbol of how he was crippled by the loss of those he loved
best. Anyway, he made a sturdy witness, mostly because people knew he had a
knack for seeing what was fair and right, making him a sort of informal
judge, though it wasn't all that common for both parties in a dispute to
agree to get him to arbitrate for him. One or the other of them, it seemed,
always felt it somehow inconvenient to have the case decided by a man who
was truly evenhanded and fair. Anyway, the jury was bound to listen when
Wheeler said, "I ain't saying the plow's bewitched cause I don't know how it
got to be the way it is. I'm just saying that it appears to be gold, it
hefts like gold, and it moves without no hand touching it."

Wheeler set the tone for all the others. Albert Wimsey was a clockmaker
with a knack for fine metalwork, who fled to America when his business
rivals accused him of using witchery in making his clocks-- when he said the
plow was gold, he spoke with authority, and the jury would entertain no
further doubt about the metal it was made of. Jan Knickerbacker was a
glassmaker who was said to have an eye to see things more clearly than most
folks. Ma Bartlett was a frail old lady who once was a schoolteacher but now
lived in the old cabin in the woods that Po Doggly built when he first
settled in the area; she got a small pension from somewhere and mostly spent
her days under an oak tree by Hatrack River, catching catfish and letting
them go. People went to her to find out if they could trust other folks, and
she was always right, which made it so many a budding romance got nipped in
the bud, until folks sort of shied away from asking certain questions of
her.

Billy Sweet made candy, a young and gullible young fellow that nobody
took all that seriously, but you couldn't help but like him no matter how
foolish the things he said and did. Naomi Lerner made a little money
tutoring, but her knack was ignorance, not teaching-- she could spot
ignorance a mile away, but wasn't much good at alleviating it. Joreboam
Hemelett was a gunsmith, and he must have had a touch of fire knackery
because it was well known that no matter how damp a day it might be, the
powder in a Hemelett gun always ignited. And Goody Trader-- whose first name
was rumored to be either Chastity or Charity, both names used ironically by
those who didn't like her-- kept a general store on the new end of Main
Street, where she was well known to stock her shelves, not just with the
things folks wanted, but also with the things they needed without knowing
it.

All through their testimony, about hefting the plow, about how it
moved, or hummed, or trembled, or warmed their hands, the jurors' eyes were
drawn again and again to the burlap sack under Alvin's chair. He never
touched it or did anything to call, attention to it, but his body moved as
if the plow inside the sack were the fulcrum of his balance. They wanted to
see for themselves. But they knew, from Alvin's posture, that they would not
see it. That these eight had seen for them. It would have to be enough.

The eight witnesses were well known to the people in town, all of them
trusted (though Billy Sweet was only trusted this far, seeing as how he was
so trusting himself that any liar could get him to believe any fool thing)
and all of them well enough liked, apart from the normal quarrels of
small-town life. Peggy knew them all, better than they knew each other, of
course, but perhaps it was that very knowledge of them that blinded her to a
thing that only Arthur Stuart seemed to notice.

Arthur was sitting beside her in the courtroom, watching the testimony,
wide-eyed. It was only when all eight of the witnesses were done testifying
that he leaned up to Peggy and whispered, "Sure are a lot of folks with
sharp knacks here in Hatrack, aren't there?"

Peggy grew up around here, and for all that a lot of folks had moved in
after she left, she always felt that she pretty much knew everybody. But was
that so? She had run off the first time just before Alvin got to Hatrack to
start his prenticeship with Makepeace Smith, and in the more than eight
years since then, she had only spent that single year in Hatrack-- less than
a year, really-- when she was in disguise. During those eight years a lot of
people had moved in. More, in fact, by twice, than had lived here at the
time she left. She had scanned their heartfires, routinely, because she
wanted to get a sense of who lived in this place.

But she hadn't realized until Arthur's whispered remark that of the
newcomers, an unusual number had quite remarkable knacks. It wasn't that the
eight witnesses were different from the rest of the town. Knacks were thick
on the ground here, much more so than any other place that Peggy had
visited.

Why? What brought them here?

The answer was easy and obvious-- so obvious that Peggy doubted it at
once. Could they really have been drawn here because Alvin was here? It was
in Hatrack that the prentice learned to hone his knack until it became an
all-encompassing power of powers. It was here that Alvin made the living
plow. Was there something about his Making that drew them? Something that
kindled a fire inside them and set their feet to wandering until they came
to rest in this place, where Making was in the air?

Or was it more than that? Was there Someone perhaps guiding them, so it
wasn't just the makery in Hatrack that drew them, but rather the same One
who had brought Alvin to this town? Did it mean there was purpose behind it
all, some master plan? Oh, Peggy longed to believe that, for it would mean
she was not responsible for making things turn out all right. If God is
tending to things here, then I can put away my broom and set aside my needle
and thread, I have neither cleaning nor stitchery to do. I can simply be
about my business.

One way or the other, though, it was plain that Hatrack River was more
than just the town where Alvin happened to be in jail right now. It was a
place where people of hidden powers congregated in goodly numbers. Just as
Verily Cooper had crossed the sea to meet Alvin, perhaps unwittingly all
these others had also crossed sea or mountains or vast reaches of prairie
and forest to find the place where the Maker Made his golden plow. And now
these eight had handled the plow, had seen it move, knew it was alive. What
did it mean to them?

For Peggy, to wonder was to find out: She looked at their heartfires
and found something startling. On past examination, none of them had shown
paths in their future that were closely tied to Alvin's. But now she found
that their lives were bound up in his. All of them showed many paths into
the future that led to a crystal city by the banks of a river.

For the first time, the Crystal City of Alvin's vision in the tornado
was showing up in someone else's future.

She almost fainted from the relief of it. It wasn't just a formless
dream in Alvin's heart, with no path guiding her as to how he would get
there. It could be a reality, and if it was, all of these eight souls would
be a part of it.

Why? Just because they had touched the living plow? Was that what the
thing was? A tool to turn people into citizens of the Crystal City?

No, not that. No, it would hardly be the free place Alvin dreamed of,
if folks were forced to be citizens because of touching some powerful
object. Rather the plow opened up a door in their lives so they could enter
into the future they most longed for. A place, a time where their knacks
could be brought to full fruition, where they could be part of something
larger than any of them were capable of creating on their own.

She had to tell Alvin. Had to let him know that after all that trying
in Vigor Church to teach those of feeble knack how to do what they could not
really do, or not easily, here in his true birthplace his citizens were
already assembling, those who had the natural gifts and inclinations that
would make them co-Makers with him.

Another thought struck her, and she began to look into the heartfires
of the jurors. Another group of citizens, randomly chosen-- and again, while
not all had spectacular knacks, they were all people whose knacks defined
them, people who might well have been searching for what their gifts might
mean, what they were for. People who, consciously or not, might well have
found themselves gravitating toward the place where a Maker had been born. A
place where iron was turned to gold, where a mixup boy had been changed so a
cachet no longer named him as a slave. A place where people with knacks and
talents and dreams might find purpose, might build something together, might
become Makers.

Did they know how much they needed Alvin? How much their hopes and
dreams depended on him? Of course not. They were jurors, trying to stay
impartial. Trying to judge according to the law. And that was good. That was
a kind of Making, too-- keeping to the law even when it hurt your heart to
do it. Maintaining good order in the community. If they showed favoritism to
one person just because they admired him or needed him or liked him or even
loved him, that would be the undoing of justice, and if justice were ever
undone, were ever openly disdained, then that would be the end of good
order. To corrupt justice was the Unmaker's trick. Verily Cooper would have
to prove his case, or at least disprove Makepeace Smith's assertions; he
would have to make it possible for the jury to acquit.

But if they did acquit, then the paths that opened in their heartfire
were like the paths of the witnesses: They would be with Alvin one day,
building great towers of shimmering crystal rising into the sky, catching
light and turning it into truth the way it had happened when Tenskwa-Tawa
took Alvin up into the waterspout.

Should I tell Alvin that his fellow-Makers are here around him in this
courtroom? Would it help his work or make him overconfident to know?

To tell or not to tell, the endless question that Peggy wrestled with.
Next to that one, Hamlet's little quandary was downright silly.
Contemplations of suicide were always the Unmaker's work. But truth-telling
and truth-hiding-- it could go either way. The consequences were
unpredictable.

Of course, for ordinary people consequences were always unpredictable.
Only torches like Peggy were burdened by having such a clear idea of the
possibilities. And there weren't many torches like Peggy.

***

Makepeace wasn't a very good witness in his own cause. Surly and
nervous-- not a winning combination, Verily knew. But that was why Laws and
Webster had put him on first, so that his negative impression would be
forgotten after the testimony of more likable-- and believable-- witnesses.

The best thing Verily could do, in this case, was to let Makepeace have
his say-- as memorably as possible, as negatively as possible. So he made no
objection when Makepeace peppered his account with slurs on Alvin's
character. "He was always the laziest prentice I ever had." "I never could
get the boy to do nothing without standing over him and yelling in his ear."
"He was a slow learner, everybody knowed that." "He ate like a pig even on
days when he didn't lift a finger." The onslaught of slander was so
relentless that everyone was getting uncomfortable with it-- even Marty
Laws, who was starting to glance at Verily to see why he wasn't raising any
objections. But why should Verily object, when the jurors were shifting in
their seats and looking away from Makepeace with every new attack on Alvin?
They all knew these were lies. There probably wasn't a one of them that
hadn't come to the smithy hoping that Alvin rather than his master would do
the work. Alvin's skill was famous-- Verily had learned that from
overhearing casual conversation in the roadhouse at evening meals-- so all
Makepeace was doing was damaging his own credibility.

Poor Marty was trapped, however. He couldn't very well cut short
Makepeace Smith's testimony, since it was the foundation of his whole case.
So the questioning went on, and the answering, and the slander.

"He made a plow out of plain iron. I saw it, and so did Pauley Wiseman
who was sheriff then, and Arthur Stuart, and the two dead Finders. It was
setting on the workbench when they come by to get me to make manacles for
the boy. But I wouldn't make no manacles, no sir! That's not decent work for
a smith, to make the chains to take a free boy into slavery! So what do you
know but Alvin himself, who said he was such a friend to Arthur Stuart, he
up and says he'll make the manacles. That's the kind of boy he was and is
today-- no loyalty, no decency at all!"

Alvin leaned over to Verily and whispered in his ear. "I know it's
wicked of me, Verily, but I want so bad to give old Makepeace a bad case of
rectal itch."

Verily almost laughed out loud.

The judge shot him a glare, but it wasn't about his near laughter. "Mr.
Cooper, aren't you going to object to any of these extraneous comments upon
your client's character?"

Verily rose slowly to his feet. "Your Honor, I am sure the jury will
know exactly how seriously to take all of Mr. Makepeace Smith's testimony.
I'm perfectly content for them to remember both his malice and his
inaccuracy."

"Well, maybe that's how it's done in England, but I will instruct the
jury to ignore Mr. Smith's malice, since there's no way to know whether his
malice came as a result of the events he has recounted, or predated them.
Furthermore, I will instruct Mr. Smith to make no more aspersions on the
defendant's character, since those are matters of opinion and not of fact.
Did you understand me, Makepeace?"

Makepeace looked confused. "I reckon so."

"Continue, Mr. Laws."

Marty sighed and went on. "So you saw the iron plow, and Alvin made the
manacles. What then?"

"I told him to use the manacles as his journeyman piece. I thought it
would be fitting for a traitorous scoundrel to go through his whole life
knowing that the manacles he made for his friend were the--"

The judge interrupted, again glaring at Verily. "Makepeace, it's words
like 'traitorous scoundrel' that's going to get you declared in contempt of
court. Do you understand me now?"

"I been calling a spade a spade all my life, Your Honor!" Makepeace
declared.

"At this moment you're digging a very deep hole with it," said the
judge, "and I'm the man to bury you if you don't watch your tongue!"

Cowed, Makepeace put on a very solemn look and faced forward. "I
apologize, Your Honor, for daring to live up to my oath to speak the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the--"

The gavel came down.

"Nor will I allow sarcasm directed at this bench, Mr. Smith. Continue,
Mr. Laws."

And so it went, till Makepeace had finished with his tale. It truly was
a weak and whining little complaint. First there was an iron plow, made of
the very iron Makepeace had provided for the journeyman piece. Then there
was a plow made of solid gold. Makepeace could only think of two
possibilities. First, that Alvin had somehow used some sort of hexery to
change the iron into gold, in which case it was made from the iron Makepeace
had given him and, according to time-honored tradition and the terms of
Alvin's prentice papers, the plow belonged to Makepeace. Or it was a
different plow, not made from Makepeace's iron, in which case where did
Alvin get such gold? The only time Alvin had ever done enough digging to
bring up buried treasure like that was when he was digging a well for
Makepeace, which he dug in the wrong place. Makepeace was betting Alvin had
dug in the right place first, found the gold, and then hid it by digging in
another spot for the actual well. And if the gold was found on Makepeace's
land, well, it was Makepeace's gold that way, too.

Verily's cross-examination was brief. It consisted of two questions.

"Did you see Alvin take gold or anything like gold out of the ground?"

Angry, Makepeace, started to make excuses, but Verily waited until the
judge had directed him to answer the question yes or no.

"No."

"Did you see the iron plow transformed into a golden plow?"

"Well so what if I didn't, the fact is there ain't no iron plow so
where is it then?"

Again, the judge told him to answer the question yes or no.

"No," said Makepeace.

"No more questions for this witness," said Verily.

As Makepeace got up and left the witness box, Verily turned to the
judge. "Your Honor, the defense moves for immediate dismissal of all
charges, inasmuch as the testimony of this witness is not sufficient to
establish probable cause."

The judge rolled his eyes. "I hope I'm not going to have to listen to
motions like that after every witness."

"Just the pathetic ones, Your Honor," said Verily.

"Your point is made. Your motion is denied. Mr. Laws, your next
witness?"

"I would like to have called Makepeace's wife, Gertie, but she passed
away more than a year ago. Instead, with the court's permission, I will call
the woman who was doing kitchen help for her the day the golden plow was
first... evidenced. Anga Berry."

The judge looked at Verily. "This will make her testimony hearsay,
after a fashion. Do you have any objection, Mr. Cooper?"

Alvin had already assured Verily that nothing Anga could say would do
him any possible harm. "No objection, Your Honor."

***

Alvin listened as Anga Berry testified. She didn't really witness to
anything except that Gertie told her about Makepeace's accusations the very
next morning, so the charge wasn't one he dreamed up later. On
cross-examination, Verily was kind to her, only asking her whether Gertie
Smith had said anything to lead Anga to believe she thought Alvin was as bad
a boy as Makepeace said.

Marty rose to his feet. "Hearsay, Your Honor."

Impatiently the judge replied, "Well, Marty, we know it's hearsay. It
was for hearsay that you called her in the first place!"

Abashed, Marty Laws sat back down.

"She never said nothing about his smithery or nothing," said Anga. "But
I know Gertie set quite a store by the boy. Always helped her out, toted
water for her whenever she asked-- that's the worst job-- and he was good
with the children and just... always helping. She never said a bad word
about him, and I reckon she had a high opinion of his goodness."

"Did Gertie ever tell you he was a liar or deceiver?" asked Verily.

"Oh, no, unless you count hiding some job he was doing till it was
done, so as to surprise her. If that's deception, then he done that a couple
of times."

And that was it. Alvin was relieved to know that Gertie hadn't been
unkind to him behind his back, that even after her death she was a friend to
him. What surprised Alvin was how glum Verily was when he sat down at the
table next to him. Marty was busy calling his next witness, a fellow named
Hank Dowser whose tale Alvin could easily guess-- this was a man who did
have malice and it wouldn't be pleasant to hear him. Still, he hadn't seen
anything either, and in fact the well-digging had nothing to do with the
plow so what did it matter? Why did Verily look so unhappy?

Alvin asked him.

"Because there was no reason for Laws to call that woman. She worked
against his case and he had to know that in advance."

"So why did he call her?"

"Because he wanted to lay the groundwork for something. And since she
didn't say anything new during his examination of her, it must have been
during the cross-examination that the new groundwork was laid."

"All you asked Anga was wheiher Gertie had the same low opinion of me
that her husband had."

Verily thought for a moment. "No. I also asked her if you had ever
deceived Gertie. Oh, I'm such a fool. If only I could recall those words
from my lips!"

"What's wrong with that?" asked Alvin

"He must have some witness that calls you a deceiver, a witness who is
otherwise irrelevant to this case."

In the meantime, the dowser, in a state of high dudgeon, was speaking
of how uppity Makepeace's prentice was, how he dared to tell a dowser how to
dowse. "He's got no respect for any man's knack but his own!"

Verily spoke up. "Your Honor, I object. The witness is not competent to
testify concerning my client's respect or lack of it toward other people's
knacks in general."

The objection was sustained. Hank Dowser was a quicker learner than
Makepeace; there was no more problem with him. He quickly established that
the prentice had obviously dug the well in a different place from the place
where Hank had declare water could be found.

Verily had only one question for him. "Was there water in the place
where he dug the well?"

"That's not the question!" declared Hank Dowser.

"I'm sorry to have to tell you, Mr. Dowser, that I am the one
authorized by this court to ask questions at this time, and I tell you that
it is the question that I would like you to answer. At this time."

"What was the question?"

"Did my client's well reach water?"

"It reached a kind of water. But compared to the pure water I found,
I'm sure that what he got was a sludgy, scummy, foul-tasting brew."

"Do I take it that your answer is yes?"

"Yes."

And that was that.

For his next witness, Marty called a name that sent a shiver down
Alvin's spine. "Amy Sump."

A very attractive girl arose from the back of the courtroom and walked
down the aisle.

"Who is she?" asked Verily.

"A girl from Vigor with a very active imagination."

"About what?"

"About how she and I did what a man has no business doing with a girl
so young."

"Did you?"

Alvin was annoyed by the question. "Never. She just started telling
stories and it grew from there."

"Grew?"

"That's why I took off from Vigor Church, to give her lies a chance to
settle down and die out."

"So she started telling stories about you and youfled?"

"What does it have to do with the plow and Makepeace Smith?"

Verity grimaced. "A certain matter of whether you deceive people or
not. Marty Laws roped me in."

Marty was explaining to the judge that, because he had had no chance to
talk with this witness himself beforehand, his illustrious co-counsel would
conduct the examination. "The girl is young and fragile, and they have
established a rapport."

Verily thought that the idea of Webster and Amy having rapport wasn't
very promising when it came to getting honest testimony from her, but he had
to tread carefully. She was a child, and a girl child at that. He couldn't
seem to be hostile or fearful of her before she spoke, and in
cross-examination he'd have to proceed delicately lest he seem to be a
bully. Unlike Makepeace Smith and Hank, Dowser, who were obviously angry and
malicious, Amy Sump was absolutely believable. She spoke shyly and
reluctantly. "I don't want to get Alvin in no trouble, sir," she said.

"And why not?" asked Daniel Webster.

Her answer came in a whisper. "Because I still love him."

"You... you still love him?" Oh, Webster was a fine actor, worthy of
the boards in Drury Lane. "But how can you-- why do you still love him?"

"Because I am with child," she whispered.

A buzzing arose through the courtroom.

Again, Webster feigned grieved surprise. "You are with... Are you
married, Miss Sump?"

She shook her head. Glistening tears flew from her eyes onto her lap.

"Yet you are with child. The child of some man who didn't even have the
decency to make an honest woman of you. Whose child, Miss Sump?"

This was already out of control. Verily leapt to his feet. "Your Honor,
I object on the grounds that this can have no conceivable connection with--"

"It goes to the issue of deception, Your Honor!" cried Daniel Webster.
"It goes to the issue of a man who will say whatever it takes to get his
way, and then absconds without so much as a farewell, having taken away that
which is most precious from the very one who trusted him!"

The judge smacked down his gavel. "Mr. Webster, that was such a fine
summing up that I'm inclined to charge the jury and end the trial.
Unfortunately this is not the end of the trial and I'd appreciate it if
you'd refrain from jumping up on a stump and making a speech when it ain't
speechifying time."

"I was responding to my worthy opponent's objection."

"Well, you see, Daniel, that's where you made your mistake. Because his
objection was addressed to me, me being the judge here, and I didn't really
need your help at that moment. But I'm grateful to know that your help is
right there, ready for me, if ever I do need it."

Webster answered the sarcasm with a cheerful smile. What did he care?
His point was already made.

"The objection is overruled, Mr. Cooper," said the judge. "Who is the
father of your child, Miss Sump?"

She burst into tears-- still on cue, despite the interruption. "Alvin,"
she said, sobbing. Then she looked up and gazed soulfully across the court
into Alvin's eyes. "Oh, Al, it ain't too late! Come back and make a wife of
me! I love you so!"




Chapter 15 -- Love

Verily Cooper, doing his best to hide his astonishment, turned
languidly to, look at Alvin. Then he raised an eyebrow.

Alvin looked vaguely sad. "It's true she's pregnant," he whispered.
"But it ain't true I'm the father."

"Why didn't you tell me if you knew?" Verily whispered.

"I didn't know till she said it. Then I looked and yes, there's a baby
growing in her womb. About the size of a nib. No more than three weeks
along."

Verily nodded. Alvin had been in jail for the past month, and traveling
far from Vigor Church for several months before that. The question was
whether he could get the girl to admit under cross-examination that she was
barely a month along in her pregnancy.

In the meantime, Daniel Webster had gone on, eliciting from Amy a lurid
account of Alvin's seduction of her. No doubt about it, the girl told a
convincing story, complete with all kinds of details that made it sound
true. It seemed to Verily that the girl wasn't lying, or if she was, she
believed her own lies. For a few moments he had doubts about Alvin. Could he
have done this? The girl was pretty and desirable, and from the way she
talked, she was certainly willing. Just because Alvin was a Maker didn't
mean he wasn't a man all the same.

He quickly shook off such thoughts. Alvin Smith was a man with
self-control, that was the truth. And he had honor. If he really did such
things with this child, he'd certainly marry her and not leave her to face
the consequences alone.

It was a measure of how dangerous the girl's testimony was, if she
could get Alvin's own attorney to doubt him.

"And then he left you," said Daniel Webster.

Verily thought of objecting, but figured there was no point.

"It was my own fault, I know," said Amy, breaking down again into
pathetic tears. "I shouldn't have told my best friend Ramona about Alvin and
me, because she mouthed it around to everybody and they didn't understand
about our true love and so of course my Alvin had to leave because he has
great works to do in the world, he can't be tied down to Vigor Church just
now. I didn't want to come here and testify! I want him to be free to do
whatever he needs to do! And if my baby grows up without a pa, at least I
can tell my child that she comes of noble blood, with Makery as her
heritage!"

Oh, that was a nice touch, making her the suffering saint who is
content that "her" Alvin is a lying seducing deceiving abandoning
bastard-making cradle-robber, because she loves him so.

It was time for cross-examination. This had to proceed delicately
indeed. Verily couldn't give a single hint that he believed her; at the same
time, he didn't dare to be seen to attack her, because the jury's sympathy
was all with the girl right now. The seeds of doubt had to be planted
gently.

"I'm sorry you had to come all the way down here. It must be a hard
journey for a young lady in your delicate condition."

"Oh, I'm doing all right. I just puke once in the morning and then I'm
fine for the rest of the day."

The jury laughed. A friendly, sympathetic, believing laugh. Heaven help
me, thought Verily.

"How long have you known you were going to have a baby?"

"A long time," she said.

Verily raised an eyebrow. "Now, that's a pretty vague answer. But
before you hear my next question, I just want you to remember that we can
bring your mother and father down here if need be, to establish the exact
time this pregnancy began."

"Well I didn't tell them till just a few days ago," said Amy. "But I've
been pregnant for--"

Verily raised his hand to silence her, and shook his head. "Be careful,
Miss Sump. If you think for just a minute, you'll realize that your mother
certainly knows and your father probably knows that you couldn't possibly
have been pregnant for more than a few weeks."

Amy looked at him in a puzzled way for a long moment. Then dawning
realization came across her face. She finally realized:, Her mother would
know, from washing rags, when she last menstruated. And it wasn't months and
months ago.

"Like I was going to say all along, I got pregnant in the last month.
Sometime in the last month."

"And you're sure that Alvin is the father?"

She nodded. But she was no fool. Verily knew she was doing the math in
her head. She obviously had counted on being able to lie and say she'd been
pregnant for months, since before Alvin left Vigor; when the baby was born
she could say it had taken so long because it was a Maker's child, or some
such nonsense. But now she had to have a better lie.

Or else she'd been planning this lie all along. That, too, was
possible.

"Of course he is," she said. "He comes to me in the night even now.
He's really excited about the baby."

"What do you, mean by 'even now'?" asked Verily. "You know that he's in
jail."

"Oh, posh," said Amy. "What's a jail to a man like him?"

Once again, Verily realized that he'd been playing into Webster's
hands. Everybody knew Alvin had hidden powers. They knew he worked in stone
and iron. They knew he could get out of that jail whenever he wanted.

"Your Honor," said Verily, "I reserve the right to recall this witness
for further cross-examination."

"I object," said Daniel Webster. "If he recalls Miss Sump then she's
his witness, it won't be cross-examination, and she's not a hostile
witness."

"I need to lay the groundwork for further questioning," said Verily.

"Lay all you want," said the judge. "You'll have some leeway, but it
won't be cross. The witness may step down, but don't leave Hatrack River,
please."

Webster stood again. "Your Honor, I have a few questions on redirect."

"Oh, of course. Miss Sump, I beg your pardon. Please remain seated and
remember you're still under oath."

Webster leaned back in his chair. "Miss Sump, you say that Alvin comes
to you in the night. How does he do that?"

"He slips out of his cell and right through the walls of the jail and
then he runs like a Red man, all caught up in... in... Redsong, so he
reaches Vigor Church in a single hour and he ain't even tired. No, he is not
tired!" She giggled.

Redsong. Verily had had enough conversation with Alvin by now to know
that it was greensong, and if he'd really had any intimacy with this girl
she'd know that. She was remembering things she'd heard from his lessons
months and months ago in Vigor Church, when she went to class with people
trying to learn to be Makers. That's all this was-- the imaginings of a
young girl combined with scraps of things she learned about Alvin. But it
might take the golden plow away from him, and perhaps more important, it
might send him to jail and destroy his reputation forever. This was not an
innocent fib, and for all her pretense at loving Alvin, she knew exactly
what she was doing to him.

"Does he come to you every night?"

"Oh, he can't do that. Just a couple of times a week."

Webster was done with her, but now Verily had a couple more questions.
"Miss Sump, where does Alvin visit you?"

"In Vigor Church."

"You're only a girl, Miss Sump, and you live with your parents.
Presumably you are supervised by them. So my question is quite specific--
where are you when Alvin visits you?"

She was momentarily flustered. "Different places."

"Your parents let you go about unchaperoned?"

"No, I mean-- we always start out at home. Late at night. Everybody's
asleep."

"Do you have a room of your own?"

"Well, no. My sisters sleep in the same room with me."

"So where do you meet Alvin?"

"In the woods."

"So you deceive your parents and sneak into the woods at night?"

The word deceive was a red flag to her. "I don't deceive nobody!" she
said, with some heat.

"So they know you're going to the woods alone to meet Alvin."

"No. I mean-- I know they'd stop me, and it's true love between us, so
I don't sneak out, because Papa bars the door and he'd hear me so I-- at the
county fair I was able to slip away and--"

"The county fair was in broad daylight, not at night," said Verily,
hoping he was right.

"Argumentative!" shouted Webster. But his interruption served not to
help the girl but fluster her more.

"If this happens a couple of times a week, Miss Sump, you surely don't
depend on the county fair to provide you with opportunities, do you?" asked
Verily.

"No, that was just the once, just the one time. The other times..."

Verily waited, refusing to ease her path by filling her long silence
with words. Let the jury see her making things up as she went along.

"He comes into my room, all silent. Right through the walls. And then
he takes me out the same way, silent, through the walls. And then we run
with the Redsong to the place where he gives me his love by moonlight."

"It must be an amazing experience," said Verily. "For have your lover
appear at your bedside and raise you up and carry you through the walls and
take you silently across miles and miles in an instant to an idyllic spot
where you have passionate embraces by moonlight. You're in your
nightclothes. Doesn't it get cold?"

"Sometimes, but he can make the air warm around me."

"And what about moonless nights? How do you see?"

"He... makes it light. We can always see."

"A lover who can do the most miraculous things. It sounds quite
romantic, wouldn't you say?"

"Yes, it is, very very romantic," said Amy.

"Like a dream," said Verily.

"Yes, like a dream."

"I object!" cried Webster. "The witness is a child and doesn't realize
the way the defense attorney can misconstrue her innocent simile!"

Amy was quite confused now.

"What did I say?" she asked.

"Let me ask it very clearly," said Verily Cooper. "Miss Sump, isn't it
possible that your memories of Alvin come from a dream? That you dreamed all
this, being in love with a strong and fascinating young man who was too old
even to notice you?"

Now she understood why Webster had objected, and she got a cold look in
her eye. She knows, thought Verily. She knows she's lying, she's not
deceived, she knows exactly what she's doing and hates me for tripping her
up, even a little. "My baby ain't no dream, sir," she said. "I never heard
of no dream as gives a girl a baby."

"No, I've never heard of such a dream, either," said Verily. "Oh, by
the way, how long ago was the county fair?"

"Three weeks ago," she said.

"You went with your family?"

Webster interrupted, demanding to know the relevance.

"She gave the county fair as a specific instance of meeting Alvin,"
explained Verily, when the judge asked. The judge told him to proceed. "Miss
Sump," said Verily, "tell me how you got off by yourself to meet Alvin at
the fair. Had you already arranged to meet him there?"

"No, it was-- he just showed up there."

"In broad daylight. And no one recognized him?"

"Nobody saw him but me. That's a fact. That's-- it's a thing he can
do."

"Yes, we're beginning to realize that when it comes to spending time
with you, Alvin Smith can and will do the most amazing, miraculous things,"
said Verily.

Webster objected, Verily apologized, and they went on. But Verily
suspected that he was on a good track here. The way Amy made her story so
believable was by adding detail. When it came to the events that didn't
happen, the details were all dreamy and beautiful-- but she wasn't just
making them up, it was clear she had really had such dreams, or at least
daydreams. She was speaking from memory.

But there must be another memory in her mind-- the memory of her time
with the man who was the true father of the child she carried. And Verily's
hunch was that her mention of the county fair, which didn't fit in at all
with the pattern she had established for her nighttime assignations with
Alvin, was tied in with that real encounter. If he could get her drawing on
memory with this one...

"So only you could see him. I imagine that you went off with him? May I
ask you where?"

"Under the flap of the freak show tent. Behind the fat lady."

"Behind the fat lady," said Verily. "A private place. But... why there?
Why didn't Alvin whisk you away into the forest? To some secluded meadow by
a crystal stream? I can't imagine it was very comfortable for you-- in the
straw, perhaps, or on the hard ground, in the dark."

"That's just the way Alvin wanted it," she said. "I don't know why."

"And how long did you spend there behind the fat lady?"

"About five minutes."

Verily raised an eyebrow. "Why so hasty?" Then, before Webster could
object, he plunged into his next question. "So Alvin escaped from the
Hatrack County jail in broad daylight, journeyed all the way to Vigor Church
on the far side of the state of Wobbish from here, in order to spend five
minutes with you behind the fat lady?"

Webster spoke up again. "How can this young girl be expected to know
the defendant's motivations for whatever bizarre acts he performs?"

"Was that an objection?" asked the judge.

"It doesn't matter," said Verily. "I'm through with her for now." And
this time he let a little contempt into his voice. Let the jury see that he
no longer had any regard for this girl. He hadn't destroyed her testimony,
but he had laid the groundwork for doubt.

It was three in the afternoon. The judge adjourned them for the day.

Alvin and Verily had supper in his cell that night, conferring over
what was likely to happen the next day, and what had to happen in order to
acquit him. "They actually haven't proved anything about Makepeace," said
Verily. "All they're doing is proving you're a liar in general, and then
hoping the jury will think this removes all reasonable doubt about you and
the plow. The worst thing is that every step of the way, Webster and Laws
have played me like a harp. They set me up, I introduced an idea they were
hoping I'd bring up in my cross-examifiation, and presto! There's the
groundwork for the next irrelevant, character-damaging witness."

"So they know the legal tricks in American courts better than you do,"
said Alvin. "You know the law. You know how things fit together."

"Don't you see, Alvin? Webster doesn't care whether you're convicted or
not-- what he loves is the stories the newspapers are writing about this
trial. Besmirching your reputation. You'll never recover from that."

"I don't know about never," said Alvin.

"Stories like this don't disappear. Even if we manage to find the man
who impregnated her--"

"I know who it was," said Alvin.

"What? How could you--"

"Matt Thatcher. He's a couple of years younger than me, but all us boys
knew him in Vigor. He was always a rapscallion of the first stripe, and when
I was back there this past year he was always full of brag about how no girl
could resist him. Every now and then some fellow'd have to beat him up cause
of something he said about the fellow's sister. But after last year's county
fair, he was talking about how he drove his tent spike into five different
girls, in the freak show tent behind the fat lady."

"But that was more than a year ago."

"A boy like Matt Thatcher don't got much imagination, Verily. If he
found himself a spot that worked once, he'll be back there. For what it's
worth, though, he never did name any of the girls he supposedly got last
year, so we all figured he just found the spot and wished he could get
himself some girl to go with him there. I just figure that this year he
finally succeeded."

Verily leaned back on his stool, sipping his mug of warm cider. "The
thing that puzzles me is, Webster must have found Amy Sump when he visited
in Vigor Church long before I got there. Before the county fair, too. She
must not have been pregnant when he found her."

Alvin smiled and nodded. "I can just imagine him telling Amy's parents,
'Well it's a good thing she's not with child. Though if she were, I dare say
Alvin's wandering days would be over.' And she listens and goes and gets
herself pregnant with the most willing but stupid boy in the county."

Verily laughed. "You imitate his voice quite well, sir!"

"Oh, I'm nothing at imitations. I wish you could have heard Arthur
Stuart back in the old days. Before..."

"Before?"

"Before I changed him so the Finders couldn't identify him."

"So you didn't just subvert their cachet. You changed the boy himself."

"I made him just a little bit less Arthur and a little bit more Alvin.
I'm not glad of it. I miss the way he could make hisself sound like anybody.
Even a redbird. He used to sing right back to the redbird."

"Can't you change him back? Now that he has the official court
decision, he can never be hauled into court again."

"Change him back? I don't know. It was hard enough changing him the
first time. And I don't think I remember well enough how he used to be."

"The cachet has the way he used to be, doesn't it?"

"But I don't have the cachet."

"Interesting problem. Arthur doesn't seem to mind the change, though,
does he?"

"Arthur's a sweet boy, but what he doesn't mind now he might well come
to mind later, when he's old enough to know what I done to him." Alvin was
drumming on his empty dish now. Clearly his mind kept going back to the
trial. "I got to tell you, it's only going to get worse tomorrow, Verily."

"How so?"

"I didn't understand it till now, till what Amy said about me sneaking
out of jail and all. But now I know what the plan is. Vilate Franker came in
here covered with hexes, maneuvered me close enough to her that the same hex
worked on me, too-- an overlook-me, and a right good one. Then in comes
Billy Hunter, one of the deputies, and when he looks in the cell, he doesn't
see anybody at all. He, runs off and gets the sheriff, and when he comes
back, Vilate's gone but here I am, and I tell them I been nowhere, but Billy
Hunter knows what he saw-- or didn't see-- and they're going to bring him
into court, and Vilate too. Vilate too."

"So they'll have a witness to corroborate that you have indeed left
your cell during your incarceration here."

"And Vilate's likely to say anything. She's a notorious gossip. Goody
Trader plain hates her, and so does Horace Guester. She also thinks of
herself as quite a beauty, though those particular hexes don't work on me no
more. Anyway Arthur Stuart saw her..."

"I was here when Arthur told you about her. About the salamander."

"That ain't no regular salamander, Verily. That's the Unmaker. I've met
it before. Used to come on me more directlike. A shimmering in the air, and
there it was. Trying to take me over, rule me. But I wouldn't have it, I'd
make something-- a bug basket-- and he'd go away. Nowadays I'd be more
likely to make up some silly rhyme or song and commit it to memory to drive
him back. But here's the thing-- the Unmaker has a way of being different
things to different people. There was a minister in Vigor Church, Reverend
Philadelphia Thrower; he saw the Unmaker as an angel, only it was a kind of
terrible angel, and one time-- well, it doesn't matter. Armor-of-God saw it,
not me. With Vilate the Unmaker's got that salamander doing some kind of
hexery that makes Vilate see... somebody. Somebody who talks to her and
tells her things. Only that somebody is really speaking the words of the
Unmaker. You know what Arthur Stuart saw. Old Peg Guester, the woman who was
the only mother he knew. The Unmaker appears as somebody you can trust,
somebody who fulfills your most heartfelt dream, but in the process he
perverts everything so that without quite realizing it, you start destroying
everything and everybody around you. This whole thing, you don't have to
look toward Webster to find the conspiracy. The Unmaker is all the
connection they need. Putting together Amy Sump and Vilate Franker and
Makepeace Smith and Daniel Webster and... not one of them thinks he's doing
something all that awful. Amy probably thinks she really loves me. Maybe so
does Vilate. Makepeace has probably talked himself into believing the plow
really belongs to him. Daniel Webster probably believes I really am a
scoundrel. But..."

"But the Unmaker makes everything work together to undo you."

Alvin nodded.

"Alvin, that makes no sense," said Verily. "If the Unmaker's really out
to Unmake everything, then how can he put together such an elaborate plan?
That's a kind of Making, too, isn't it?"

Alvin lay back on the cot and whistled for a moment. "That's right," he
said.

"The Unmaker sometimes Makes things, then?"

"No," said Alvin. "No, the Unmaker can't Make nothing. Can't. He just
takes what's already there in twists and bends and breaks it. So I was
wrong. The Unmaker's working on all these people, but if it's all fitting
together into a plan, then somebody's planning it. Some person."

Verily chuckled. "I think we already have the answer," he said. "Your
speculation about Daniel Webster. He discovers Amy Sump as he searches in
Vigor Church for any kind of dirt about you. She wasn't part of any plan,
just a girl who started pretending that her daydreams were true. But then he
puts into her head the idea of getting pregnant and the idea of testifying
against you to clip your wings and force you to come home. She works out the
rest herself, her own plan-- the Unmaker doesn't have to teach her anything.
Then Daniel Webster comes here to Hatrack and of course he meets the town
gossip as he searches for dirt about you here. Vilate Franker barely knows
you, but she does know everybody else's story, and they converse many times.
He happens to let slip how Amy Sump's story will just sound like the
imaginings of a dreamy but randy young girl unless they can get some kind of
evidence that you actually do leave your cell. And then Vilate comes up with
her own plan and the Unmaker just sits back and encourages her."

"So the plan is all coming from Daniel Webster, only he doesn't even
know it," said Alvin. "He wishes for something, and then it just happens to
come true."

"Don't give him too much credit for integrity," said Verily. "I suspect
this is a method he's been using for a long time, wishing for some key piece
of evidence, and then trusting in his client or one of his client's friends
to come up with the testimony that he needs. He never quite soils his hands,
but the effect is the same. Yet nothing can ever be proven--"

The outer door opened, and Po Doggly came in with Peggy Larner. "Sorry
to interrupt your supper and confabulation, gendemen," said the sheriff,
"but something's come up. You got you a visitor with special circumstances,
he's come a long way but he can only come in and see you after dark and I'm
the only guard as can let him in, on account of he already sat me down and
told me a tale."

Alvin turned to Verily. "That means it's someone from home. Someone
besides Armor-of-God. Someone who's under the curse."

"He shouldn't be under it," said Peggy. "If it weren't for his grand
gesture of including himself in a curse he didn't personally deserve."

"Measure," said Alvin. To Verily he explained, "My older brother."

"He's coming," said the sheriff. "Arthur Stuart's leading him in with
his hat low and his eyes down so he won't see anybody who doesn't already
know the story. Doesn't want to spend all night telling folks about the
massacre at Tippy-Canoe. So the doors will be open here, but I'll still be
outside, watching. Not that I think you'd try to escape, Alvin."

"You mean you don't think I've been making twice-a-week trips to Vigor
Church?"

"For that girl? I don't think so." With that, Doggly walked out,
leaving the outer door open.

Peggy came on in and joined Alvin and Verily inside Alvin's cell.
Verily stood up to offer her his stool, but with a gesture she declined to
sit.

"Howdy, Peggy," said Alvin.

"I'm fine, Alvin. And you?"

"You know I never did any of those things she said," he told her.

"Alvin," she said, "I know that you did find her attractive. She saw
that you paid her a little special attention. She began to dream and wish."

"So you're saying it's my fault after all?"

"It's her fault that dreams turned into lies. It's your fault that she
had hopeless dreams like that in the first place."

"Well why don't I just shoot myself before I ever look at a woman with
desire? It always seems to turn out pretty lousy when I do."

She looked as if he slapped her. As usual, Verily felt a keen sense of
being left out of half of what went on in Alvin's life. Why should it bother
him so much? He wasn't here, and they were under no obligation to explain.
Still, it was embarrassing. He got up. "Please, I'll step outside so you can
have this conversation alone."

"No need," said Peggy. "I'm sure Arthur is almost here with Measure by
now."

"She doesn't want to talk to me," said Alvin to Verily. "She'll try to
get me acquitted because she wants to see the Crystal City get built, only
she can't offer me a lick of help in trying to figure out how to build it,
seeing as how I don't know and she seems to know everything. But just cause
she wants me acquitted doesn't mean she actually likes me or thinks I'm
worth spending time with."

"I don't like being in the middle of this," said Verily.

"You're not," said Peggy. "There's no 'this' to be in the middle of."

"There never was no 'this,' either, was there?" asked Alvin.

Verily was quite sure he had never heard a man sound so miserable.

Peggy took a moment to answer. "I'm not-- there was and is a-- it
hasn't a thing to do with you, Alvin."

"What doesn't have a thing to do with me? My still being crazy in love
with you after a whole year with only one letter from you, and that one as
cold as you please, like I was some kind of scoundrel you still had to do
business with or something? Is that the thing that doesn't have anything to
do with me? I asked you to marry me once. I understand that things have been
pretty bleak since then, your mother getting killed and all, that was
terrible, and I didn't press you, but I did write to you, I did think about
you all the time, and--"

"And I thought of you, Alvin."

"Yes, well, you're a torch, so you know I'm thinking about you, or you
do if you care to look, but what do I know when there's no sign from you?
What do I know except what you tell me? Except what I see in your face? I
know I looked in your face that night in the smithy, I looked in your eyes
and I thought I saw love there, I thought I saw you saying yes to me. Did I
make that up? Is that the 'this' that there isn't one of?"

Verily was thoroughly miserable, being forced to be a witness of this
scene. He had tried to make his escape before; now it was clear they didn't
want him to go. If only he knew how to disappear. How to sink through the
floor.

It was Arthur who saved him. Arthur, with Measure in tow; and, just as
the sheriff had said, Measure had his hat so low and his head bent so far
down that he really did need Arthur Stuart to lead him by the hand. "We're
here," said Arthur. "You can look up now."

Measure looked up. "Al," he said.

"Measure!" Alvin cried. It took about one stride each, with those two
long-legged men, for them to be in each other's embrace. "I've missed you
like my own soul," said Alvin.

"I've missed you too, you ugly scrawny jailbird," said Measure. And in
that moment, Verily felt such a pang of jealousy that he thought his heart
would break. He was ashamed of the feeling as soon as he was aware of it,
but there it was: He was jealous of that closeness between brothers. Jealous
because he knew that he would never be that close to Alvin Smith. He would
always be shut out, and it hurt so deeply that for a moment, he thought he
couldn't breathe.

And then he did breathe, and blocked that feeling away in another part
of himself where he didn't have to stare it in the face.

In a few minutes the greetings were over, and they were down to
business. "We found out Amy was gone and it didn't take no genius to figure
out where she went. Oh, at first the rumor was she got pregnant at the
county fair and was sent off to have the baby somewhere, but we all
remembered the tales she told about Alvin and Father and I went to her pa
and got it out of him right quick, that she was off to testify in Hatrack.
He didn't like it much, but they're paying them and he needs the money and
his daughter swears it's true but you could tell looking at him that he
don't believe her lies either. And in fact as we were leaving he says, When
I find out who it was got my daughter pregnant I'm going to kill him. And Pa
says, No you ain't. And Mr. Sump he says, I am so because I'm a merciful
man, and killing him's kinder than making him marry Amy."

They all laughed at that, but in the end they knew it wasn't exactly
funny.

"Anyhow, Eleanor says, Amy's best friend is that mouse of a girl Ramona
and I'm going to get the truth out of her."

Alvin turned to Verily. "Eleanor's our sister, Armor-of-God's wife."

Another reminder, that he wasn't inside this circle. But also a
reminder that Alvin thought of him and wanted to include him.

"So Eleanor gets Ramona and sets her down inside that hex you made for
her in the shop, Alvin, the one that makes liars get so nervous, only I
don't know as how it was really needed. Eleanor says to her, Who's the
father of Amy's baby, and Ramona says, How should I know? only it's a plain
lie, and finally when Eleanor won't let up, Ramona says, Last time I told
the truth it only caused Alvin Maker to have to run away cause of Amy's
lies, but she swore it was true, she swore it and so I believed her but now
she's saying it was Alvin got her pregnant and I know that's not true cause
she got into the freak show tent with--"

Alvin held up his hand. "Matt Thatcher?"

"Of course," said Measure. "Why we didn't just castrate him along with
the pigs I don't know."

"She saw them or is it hearsay?" asked Verily.

"Saw them and stood guard where they went under the tent and heard Amy
cry out once and heard Matt panting and then it was done and she asked Amy
what it was like and Amy looked positively stricken and says to her, It's
awful and it hurts. Ramona's got no doubt Amy was a virgin up till then, so
all the other stories is lies."

"She's not competent to testify about Amy's virginity," said Verily,
"but she'd still be a help. It would take care of the pregnancy and make it
plain that Amy is something of a liar. Reasonable doubt. How long will it
take to get her down here?"

"She's here," said Peggy. "I got her to the roadhouse and Horace
Guester's feeding her."

"I want to talk to her tonight," said Verily. "This is good. This is
something. And until now, we had nothing."

"They have nothing," said Peggy. "And yet..."

"And yet they'd convict me if they voted right now, wouldn't they?"
Alvin asked.

Peggy nodded. "I thought they knew you better."

"This is all so extraneous to Makepeace's assertions," said Verily.
"None of this would have been permitted in an English court."

"Next time somebody tries to get me arrested for larceny and a crazy
girl claims to be pregnant by me, I'll arrange to have it tried in London,"
said Alvin, grinning.

"Good idea," said Verily. "Besides, we have a much higher grade of
crazy girls in England."

"I'm going to testify," said Peggy.

"I don't think so," said Alvin.

"You aren't a witness of anything," said Verily.

"You saw how the rules go in this court," said Peggy. "You can work me
in."

"It won't help," said Verily. "They'll chalk it up to your being in
love with Alvin."

Alvin sighed and lay back on his cot.

"No they won't," said Peggy. "They know me."

"They know Alvin, too," said Verily.

"Don't mean to contradict you, sir," said Arthur Stuart, "but everybody
knows Miss Larner here is a torch, and everybody knows that before she tells
a lie, you can boil an egg in a pan of snow."

"If I testify, he won't be convicted," said Peggy.

"No," said Alvin. "They'll drag you through the mud. Webster doesn't
care about convicting me, you know that. He only wants to destroy me and
everybody near me, because that's what the people who hired him want."

"We don't even know who they are," said Verily.

"I don't know their names, but I know who they are and what they want.
To you it looks as though Amy's testimony is a sidetrack, but it's Amy's
testimony they wanted. And if they could get testimony about me and Peggy in
the smithy on the night the plow was made--"

"I'm not afraid of their calumnies," said Peggy.

"It ain't calumnies I'm talking about, it's the plain truth," said
Alvin. "I was naked, we was alone in the smithy. Can't help what conclusions
folks draw from that, and so I won't have you getting on the stand and all
that story coming out in the papers in Carthage and Dekane and heaven knows
where else. We'll do it another way."

"Ramona will be a help," said Verily.

"Not Ramona either," said Alvin. "It does no good to have one friend
betray another for my sake."

The others were flabbergasted.

"You got to be joking!" cried Measure. "After I brought her all the way
here? And she wants to testify."

"I'm sure she does," said Alvin. "But after the papers are through
hacking at Amy, how will Ramona feel then? She'll always remember that she
betrayed a friend: That's a hard one. It'll hurt her. Won't it, Peggy?"

"Oh, you actually want my advice about something?"

"I want the truth. Fve been telling the truth, and so have you, so just
say it."

"Yes," said Peggy. "It would hurt Ramona greatly to testify against
Amy."

"So we won't do it," said Alvin. "Nor do I want to see Vilate
humiliated by having her hexes removed. She sets a store by being taken for
beautiful."

"Alvin," said Verily, "I know you're a good man and wiser than me, but
surely you can see that you can't let courtesy to a few individuals destroy
all that you were put here on this earth to do!"

The others agreed.

Alvin looked as miserable as Verily had ever seen a man look, and
Verily had seen men condemned to hang or burn. "Then you don't understand,"
he said. "It's true that sometimes people have to suffer to make something
good come to be. But when I have it in my power to save them from suffering
it, and bear it myself, well then that's part of what I do. That's part of
Making. If I have it in my power, then I bear it. Don't you see?"

"No," said Peggy. "You don't have it in your power."

"Is that the honest torch talking? Or my friend?"

She hesitated only a moment. "Your friend. This passage in your
heartfire is dark to me."

"I figured it was. And I think the reason is because I got to do some
Making. I got to do something that's never been done before, to Make
something new. If I do it, then I can go on. If I don't, then I go to jail
and my path through life takes another course."

"Would you go to jail?" asked Arthur Stuart. "Would you really stay in
prison for years and years?"

Alvin shrugged. "There are hexes I can't undo. I think if I was
convicted, they'd see to it that I was bound about like that. But even if I
could get away, what would it matter? I couldn't do my work here in America.
And I don't know that my work could be done anywhere else. If there's any
reason to my life at all, then there's a reason I was born here and not in
England or Russia or China or something. Here's where my work's to be done."

"So you're saying that I can't use the two best witnesses to defend
you?" asked Verily.

"My best witness is the truth. Somebody's going to speak it, that's for
sure. But it won't be Miss Larner, and it won't be Ramona."

Peggy leaned down and looked Alvin in the eye, their faces not six
inches apart. "Alvin Smith, you wretched boy, I gave my childhood to you, to
keep you safe from the Unmaker, and now you tell me I have to stand by and
watch you throw all that sacrifice away?"

"I already asked you for the whole rest of your life," said Alvin.
"What do I want with your ruin? You lost your childhood for me. You lost
your mother for me. Don't lose any more. I would have taken everything, yes,
and given you everything too, but I won't take less because I can't give
less. You'll take nothing from me, so I'll take nothing from you. If that
don't make sense to you then you ain't as smart as you let on, Miss Larner."

"Why don't those two just get married and make babies?" said Arthur
Stuart. "Pa said that."

Her face stony, Peggy turned away from them. "It has to be on your
terms, doesn't it, Alvin. Everything on your terms."

"My terms?" said Alvin. "It wasn't my terms to say these things to you
in front of others, though at least it's my friends and not strangers who
have to hear them. I love you, Miss Larner. I love you, Margaret. I don't
want you in that courtroom, I want you in my arms, in my life, in all my
dreams and works for all time to come."

Peggy clung to the bars of the jail, her face averted from the others.

Arthur Stuart walked around to the outside of the cell and looked
guilelessly up into her face. "Why don't you just marry him instead of
crying like that? Don't you love him? You're real pretty and he's a
good-looking man. You'd have damn cute babies. Pa said that."

"Hush, Arthur Stuart," said Measure.

Peggy slid down until she was kneeling, and then she reached through
the bars and took Arthur Stuart's hands. "I can't, Arthur Stuart," she said.
"My mother died because I loved Alvin, don't you see? Whenever I think of
being with him, it just makes me feel sick and... guilty... and angry
and..."

"My mama's dead too, you know," said Arthur Stuart. "My Black mama and
my White mama both. They both died to dave me from slavery. I think about
that all the time, how if I'd never been born they'd both still be alive."

Peggy shook her head. "I know you think of that, Arthur, but you
mustn't. They want you to be happy."

"I know," said Arthur Stuart. "I ain't as smart as you, but I know
that. So I do my best to be happy. I'm happy most of the time, too. Why
can't you do that?"

Alvin whispered an echo to his words. "Why can't you do that,
Margaret?"

Peggy raised her chin, looked around her. "What am I doing here on the
floor like this?" She got to her feet. "Since you won't take my help, Alvin
Smith, then I've got work to do. There's a war in the future, a war over
slavery, and a million boys will die, in America and the Crown Colonies and
even New England before it's done. My work is to make sure those boys don't
die in vain, to make sure that when it's over the slaves are free. That's
what my mother died for, to free one slave. I'm not going to pick just one,
I'm going to save them all if I can." She looked fiercely at the men who
watched her, wide-eyed. "I've made my last sacrifice for Alvin Smith-- he
doesn't need my help anymore."

With those words she strode to the outer door.

"I do so," murmured Alvin, but she didn't hear him, and then she wag
gone.

"If that don't beat all," said Measure. "I ask you, Alvin, why didn't
you just fall in love with a thunderstorm? Why don't you just go propose to
a blizzard?"

"I already did," said Alvin.

Verily walked to the door of the cell. "I'm going to interview Ramona
tonight in case you change your mind, Alvin," he said.

"I won't," said Alvin.

"I'm quite sure, but other than that there's nothing else I can do." He
debated saying the next words, but decided that he might as well. What did
he have to lose? Alvin was going to go to prison. And Verily's journey to
America was going to turn out to have been in vain. "I must say thalt I
think you and Miss Larner are a perfect match. The two of you together must
have more than seventy percent of the world's entire store of stupid
bullheadedness."

It was Verily's turn to head for the outer door. Behind him as he left,
he heard Alvin say to Measure and Arthur: "That's my lawyer." He wasn't sure
if Alvin spoke in pride or mockery. Either way, it only added to his
despair.

***

Billy Hunter's testimony was pretty damaging. It was plain that he
liked Alvin well enough and had no desire to make him look bad. But he
couldn't change what he saw and had to tell the truth-- he'd looked into the
jail and them was nowhere Alvin and Vilate could have hidden.

Verily's cross-examination consisted merely of ascertaining that when
Vilate entered the cell, Alvin was definitely there, and that the pie she
left behind tasted right good. "Alvin didn't want it?" asked Verily.

"No sir. He said... he said he sort of promised it to an ant."

Some laughter.

"But he let you have it anyway," said Verily.

"I guess so, yes."

"Well, I think that shows that Alvin is unreliable indeed, if he can't
keep his word to an ant!"

There were some chuckles at Verily's attempt at humor, but that did
nothing to ameliorate the fact that the prosecution had cut into Alvin's
credibility, and rather deeply at that.

It was Vilate's turn then. Marty Laws laid the groundwork, and then
came to the key point. "When Mr. Hunter looked into the jail and failed to
see you and Alvin, where were you?"

Vilate made a great show of being reluctant to tell. He was relieved to
see, however, that she wasn't quite the actress Amy Sump had been, perhaps
because Amy half-believed her own fantasies, while Vilate... well, this was
no schoolgirl, and these were no fantasies of love. "I should never have let
him talk me into it, but... I've been alone too long."

"Just answer the question, please," asked Laws.

"He took me through the wall of the jail. We passed through the wall. I
held his hand."

"And where did you go?"

"Fast as the wind we went-- I felt as though we were flying. For a time
I ran beside him, taking strength from his hand as he held mine and led me
along; but then it became too much for me, and I, fainting, could not go on.
He sensed this in that way of his and gathered me into his arms. I was quite
swept away."

"Where did you go?"

"To a place where I've never been."

There were some titters at that, which seemed to fluster her a little.
Apparently she was not aware of her own double entendre-- or perhaps she was
a better actress than Verily thought.

"By a lake, Not a large one, I suppose-- I could see the far shore.
Waterbirds were skimming the lake, but on the grassy bank where we...
reclined... we were the only living things. This beautiful young man and I.
He was so full of promises and talk of love and..."

"Can we say he took advantage of you?" asked Marty.

"Your Honor, he's leading the witness."

"He did not take advantage of me," Vilate said. "I was a willing
participant in all that happened. The fact that I regret it now does not
change the fact that he did not force me in any way. Of course, if I had
known then how he had said the same things, done the same things with that
girl from Vigor Church..."

"Your Honor, she has no pergonal knowledge of--"

"Sustained," said the judge. "Please limit your responses to the
questions asked."

Verily had to admire her skill. She managed to sound as if she were
defending Alvin rather than trying to destroy him. As if she loved him.





Chapter 16 -- Truth

When it came Verily's turn to question Vilate, he sat for a moment
contemplating her. She was the picture of complacent confidence, with her
head just slightly cocked to the left, as if she were somewhat-- but not
very-- curious to hear what he would ask of her.

"Miss Franker, I wonder if you can tell me-- when you passed through
the wall from the jail, how did you get up to ground level?"

She looked momentarily confused, "Oh, is the jail below ground? Well, I
suppose when we went through the wall, we-- no, of course we didn't. The
jail is on the second floor of the courthouse, and it's about a ten-foot
drop to the ground. That was mean of you, to try to trick me."

"My question still stands," said Verily. "That must have been quite a
drop, coming through the wall into nothing."

"We handled it gently. We... floated to the ground. It was part of the
remarkable experience. If I had known you wanted so much detail, I'd have
said so from the start."

"So Alvin... floats."

"He is a remarkable young man."

"I imagine so," said Verily. "In fact, one of his extraordinary talents
is the ability to see through hexes of illusion. Did you know that?"

"No, I... no." She looked puzzled.

"For instance, he sees through the hex you use to keep people from
seeing that little trick you play with your false teeth. Did you know that?"

"Trick!" She was mortified. "False teeth! What a terrible thing to
say!"

"Do you or do you not have false teeth?"

Marty Laws was on his feet. "Your Honor, I can't see what relevancy
false teeth have to the case at hand."

"Mr. Cooper, it does seem a little extraneous," said the judge.

"Your Honor has allowed the prosecution to cast far afield in trying to
impugn the veracity of my client. I think the defense is entitled to the
same latitude in impugning the veracity of those who claim my client is a
deceiver."

"False teeth is a bit personal, don't you think?" asked the judge.

"And accusing my client of seducing her isn't?" asked Verily.

The judge smiled. "Objection overruled. I think the prosecution opened
the door wide enough for such questions."

Verily turned back to Vilate. "Do you have false teeth, Miss Franker?"

"I do not!" she said.

"You're under oath," said Verily. "For instance, didn't you waggle your
upper plate at Alvin when you said that he was a beautiful young man?"

"How can I waggle an upper plate that I do not have?" she said.

"Since that is your testimony, Miss Franker, would you be willing to
appear -in court without those four amulets you're wearing, and without the
shawl with the hexes sewn in?"

"I don't have to sit here and..."

Alvin leaned over and tugged at Verily's coattail. Verily wanted to
ignore him, because he knew that Alvin was going to forbid him to pursue
this line any further. But there was no way he could pretend that he didn't
notice a movement so broad that the whole court saw it. He turned back to
Alvin, ignoring Vilate's remonstrances, and let Alvin whisper in his ear.

"Verily, you know I didn't want--"

"My duty is to defend you as best I--"

"Verily, ask her about the salamander in her handbag. Get it out in the
open if you can."

Verily was surprised; "A salamander? But what good will that do?"

"Just get it out in the open," said Alvin. "On a table in the open. It
won't run away. Even with the Unmaker possessing it, salamanders are still
stupid. You'll see."

Verily turned back to face the witness. "Miss Franker, will you kindly
show us the lizard in your handbag?"

Alvin tugged on his coat again. Mouth to ear, he whispered,

"Salamanders ain't lizards. They're amphibians, not reptiles."

"Your pardon, Miss Franker. Not a lizard. An amphibian. A salamander."

"I have no such--"

"Your Honor, please warn the witness about the consequences of lying
under--"

"If there's such a creature in my handbag, I don't have any idea who
put it there or how it got there," said Vilate.

"Then you won't object if the bailiff looks in your bag and removes any
amphibious creatures he might find?"

Overcoming her uncertainty, Vilate replied, "No, not at all."

"Your Honor, who is on trial here?" asked Marty Laws.

"I believe the issue is truthfulness," said the judge, "and I find this
exercise fascinating. We've watched you come up with scandal. Now I'll be
interested to see an amphibian."

The bailiff rummaged through the handbag, then suddenly hooted and
jumped back. "Excuse me, Your Honor, it's up my sleeve!" he said, trying to
maintain his composure as he wriggled and danced around.

With a flamboyant gesture, Verily swept his papers off the defense
table and pulled it out into the middle of the courtroom. "When you retrieve
the little fellow," he said, "set him here, please."

Alvin leaned back on his chair, his legs extended, his ankles crossed,
looking for all the world like a politician who just won an election. Under
his chair, the plow lay still inside its sack.

Alone of all the people in the court, Vilate paid no attention whatever
to the salamander. She simply sat as if in a trance; but no, that wasn't it.
No, she sat as if she were at a soiree where something slightly rude was
being said, and she was pretending to take no notice of it.

Verily had no idea what would come of this business with the
salamander, but since Alvin wouldn't let him try any other avenue to
discredit Vilate or Amy, he'd have to make it do.

***

Alvin had been watching Vilate during her testimony-- watching close,
not just with his eyes, but with his inner sight, seeing the way the
material world worked together. One of the first things he marked was the
way Vilate cocked her head just a little before answering. As if she were
listening. So he sent out his doodlebug and let it rest in the air, feeling
for any tremors of sound. Sure enough, there were some, but in a pattern
Alvin had never seen before. Usually, sound spread out from its source like
waves from a rock cast into a pond, in every direction, bouncing and
reverberating, but also fading and growing weaker with distance. This sound,
however, was channeled. How was it done?

For a while he was in danger of becoming so engrossed in the scientific
question that he might well forget that he was on trial here and this was
the most dangerous but possibly the weakest witness against him.
Fortunately, he caught on to what was happening very quickly. The sound was
coming from two sources, very close together, moving in parallel. As the
sound waves crossed each other, they interfered with each other, turning the
sound into mere turbulence in the air. When Alvin listened closely, he could
hear the faint hiss of the chaotic noise. But in the direction where the
sound waves were perfectly parallel, they not only didn't interfere with
each other, but rather seemed to increase the power of the sound. The result
was that for someone sitting exactly in Vilate's position, even the faintest
whisper would be audible; but for anyone anywhere else in the courtroom,
there would be no sound at all.

Alvin found this curious indeed. He hadn't known that the Unmaker
actually used sound to talk to his minions. He had supposed that somehow the
Unmaker spoke directly into their minds. Instead, the Unmaker spoke from two
sound sources, close together. Then Alvin had to smile. The old saying was
true: The liar spoke out of both sides of his mouth.

Looking with his doodlebug into Vilate's handbag, Alvin soon found the
source of the sound. The salamander was perched on the top of her
belongings, and the sound was coming from its mouth-- though salamanders had
no mechanism for producing a human voice. If only he could hear what the
salamander was saying.

Well, if he wasn't mistaken, that could be arranged. But first he
needed to get the salamander out into the open, where the whole court could
see where its speech was coming from. That was when he began to pay
attention to the proceedings again-- only to discover, to his alarm, that
Verily was about to defy him and try to take away Vilate's beautiful
disguise. He reached out and tugged on Verily's coat, and whispered a rebuke
that was as mild as he could make it. Then he told him to get the salamander
out of the bag.

Now, with the salamander in a panic, trapped in the bailiff's dark
sleeve, it took Alvin a few moments to get his doodlebug inside the creature
and start to help it calm down-- to slow the heartbeat, to speak peace to
it. Of course he could feel no resistance from the Unmaker. That was no
surprise to Alvin. The Unmaker was always driven back by his Making. But he
could sense the Unmaker, lurking, shimmering in the background, in the
corners of the court, waiting to come back into the salamander so it could
speak to Vilate again.

It was a good sign, the fact that the Unmaker needed the help of a
creature in order to speak to Vilate. It suggested that she was not wholly
consumed by the lust for power or Unmaking, so that the Unmaker could not
speak to her directly.

Alvin didn't really know that much about the Unmaker, but with years in
which to speculate and reason about it, he had come to a few conclusions. He
didn't really think of the Unmaker as a person anymore, though sometimes he
still called it "him" in his own thoughts. Alvin had always seen the Unmaker
as a shimmering of air, as something that retreated toward his peripheral
vision; he believed now that this was the true nature of the Unmaker. As
long as a person was engaged in Making, the Unmaker was held at bay; and, in
fact, most people weren't particularly attractive to it. It was drawn only
to the most extraordinary of Makers-- and the most prideful destroyers (or
destructively proud; Alvin wasn't sure if it made a difference). It was
drawn to Alvin in the effort to undo him and all his works. It was drawn to
others, though, like, Philadelphia Thrower and, apparently, Vilate Franker,
because they provided the hands, the lips, the eyes that would allow the
Unmaker to do its work.

What Alvin guessed, but could not know, was that the people to whom the
Unmaker appeared most clearly had a kind of power over it. That the Unmaker,
having been drawn into relations with them, could not suddenly free itself.
Instead, it acted out the role that its human ally had prepared for it.
Reverend Thrower needed an angelic visitor that was ripe with wrath-- so
that was what the Unmaker became for him. Vilate needed something else. But
the Unmaker could not withhold itself from her. It could not sense that
there was danger in being exposed, unless Vilate sensed that danger herself.
And since Vilate was unable to be rational enough to know there even was a
salamander-s- omething Alvin had learned from Arthur Stuart's report-- there
was a good chance that the Unmaker could be led to expose itself to the
whole courtroom, as long as Alvin worked carefully and took Vilate by
surprise.

So he watched as the bailiff finally took the calm-- well, calmer,
anyway-- salamander from the collar of his shirt, whither it had fled, and
set it gently on the table. Gradually Alvin withdrew his doodlebug from the
creature, so that the Unmaker could come back into possession of it. Would
it come?

Would it speak again to Vilate, as Alvin hoped?

It did. It would.

The column of sound arose again.

Everyone could see the salamander's mouth opening and closing, but of
course they heard nothing and so it looked like the random movements of an
animal.

"Do you see the salamander?" asked Verily.

Vilate looked quizzical. "I don't understand the question."

"On this table in front of you. Do you see the salamander?"

Vilate smiled wanly. "I think you're trying to play with me now, Mr.
Cooper."

A whisper arose in the courtroom.

"What I'm trying to do," said Verily, "is determine just how reliable
an observer you are."

Daniel Webster spoke up. "Your Honor, how do we know there isn't some
trick going on that the defense is playing? We already know that the
defendant has remarkable hidden powers."

"Have patience, Mr. Webster," said the judge. "Time enough for rebuttal
on redirect."

In the meantime, Alvin had been playing with the double column of sound
coming from the salamander and leading straight to Vilate. He tried to find
some way to bend it, but of course could not, since sound must travel in a
straight line-- or at least to bend it was beyond Alvin's power and
knowledge.

What he could do, though, was set up a counterturbulence right at the
source of one of the columns of sound, leaving the
other to be perfectly audible, since there would be no interference
from the column Alvin had blocked. The sound would still be faint, however;
Alvin had no way of knowing whether it could be heard well enough for people
to understand it. Only one way to find out.

Besides, this might be the new thing he had to Make in order to get
past the dark place in his heartfire where Peggy couldn't see.

He blocked one of the columns of sound.

***

Verily was saying, "Miss Franker, since everyone in the court but you
is able to see this salamander--"

Suddenly, a voice from an unexpected source became audible, apparently
in midsentence. Verily fell silent and listened.

It was a woman's voice, cheery and encouraging. "You just sit tight,
Vilate, this English buffoon is no match for you. You don't have to tell him
a single thing unless you want to. That Alvin Smith had his chance to be
your friend, and he turned you down, so now you'll show him a thing or two
about a woman scorned. He had no idea of your cleverness, you sly thing."

"Who is that!" demanded the judge.

Vilate looked at him, registering nothing more than faint puzzlement.
"Are you asking me?" she said.

"I am!" the judge replied.

"But I don't understand. Who is what?"

The woman's voice said, "Something's wrong but you just stay calm,
don't admit a thing. Blame it on Alvin, whatever it is."

Vilate took a deep breath. "Is Alvin casting some kind of spell that
affects everyone but me?" she asked.

The judge answered sharply. "Someone just said, 'Blame it on Alvin,
whatever it is.' Who was it that said that?"

"Ah! Ah! Ah!" cried the woman's voice-- which was obviously coming from
the salamander's mouth. "Ah! How could he hear me? I talk only to you! I'm
your best friend, Vilate, nobody else's! They're trying to trick you! Don't
admit a thing!"

"I... don't know what you mean," said Vilate. "I don't know what you're
hearing."

"The woman who just said, 'Don't admit a thing,'" said Verily. "Who is
that? Who is this woman who says she's your best friend and no one else's?"

"Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!" cried the salamander.

"My best friend?" asked Vilate. Suddenly her face was a mask of
terror-- except for her mouth, which still wore a pretty grin. Sweat beaded
on her forehead. On impulse, Verily strode to her and took hold of her
shawl. "Please, Miss Franker, you seem overwarm. Let me hold your shawl for
you."

Vilate was so confused she didn't realize what he was doing until it
was done. The moment the shawl came from her shoulders, the smile on her
mouth disappeared. In fact, the face that everyone knew so well was gone,
replaced by the face of a middle-aged woman, somewhit wrinkled and sunburnt;
and most remarkable of all, her mouth was wide open and inside it, the upper
plate of her false teeth were clicking up and down, as if she were raising
and lowering it with her tongue.

The buzz in the courtroom became a roar.

"Verily, dammit," said Alvin. "I told you not to--"

"Sorry," said Verily. "I see you need that shawl, Miss Franker."
Quickly he replaced it.

Aware now of what he had done to her, she snatched the shawl close to
her. The clicking false teeth were imme diately replaced by the same lovely
smile she had worn before, and her face was again thin and young.

"I believe we have some idea of the reliability of this witness," said
Verily.

The salamander cried out, "They're winning, you foolish ninny! They
trapped you! They tricked you, you silly twit!"

Vilate's face lost its composure. She looked frightened. "How can you
talk like that to me," she whispered.

Vilate wasn't the only one who looked frightened. The judge himself had
shrunk back into the far corner of his space behind the bench. Marty Laws
was sitting on the back of his chair, his shoes on the seat.

"To whom are you speaking?" asked the judge.

Vilate turned her face away from judge and salamander both. "My
friend," she said. "My best friend, I thought." Then she turned to the
judge. "All these years, no one else has ever heard her voice. But you hear
her now, don't you?"

"I do," said the judge.

"You're telling them too much!" cried the salamander. Was its voice
changing?

"Can you see her?" asked Vilate, her voice thin and quavering. "Do you
see how beautiful she is? She taught me how to be beautiful, too."

"Shut up!" cried the salamander. "Tell them nothing, you bitch!"

Yes, the voice was definitely lower in pitch now, thick in the throat,
rasping.

"I can't see her, no," said the judge.

"She's not my friend, though, is she," said Vilate. "Not really."

"I'll rip your throat out, you..." The salamander let fly with a string
of expletives that made them all gasp.

Vilate pointed at the salamander. "She made me do it! She told me to
tell those lies about Alvin! But now I see she's really hateful! And not
beautiful at all! She's not beautiful, she's ugly as a... as a newt!"

"Salamander," said the judge helpfully.

"I hate you!" Vilate cried at the salamander. "Get away from me! I
don't want to see you ever again!"

The salamander seemed poised to move-- but not away from her. It looked
more as if it meant to spring from the table, leap the distance between it
and Vilate, and attack her as its hideous voice had threatened.

Alvin was searching carefully through the salamander's body, trying to
find where and how the Unmaker had control of it. But however it was done,
it left no physical evidence that Alvin could see. He realized, though, that
it didn't matter. There were ways to get a person free of another person's
control-- an off-my-back hex. Couldn't it work for the salamander, if it was
perfectly done? Alvin marked out in his mind the exact spots on the table
where the hex would need to be marked, the order of the markings, the number
of loops that would have to be run linking point to point.

Then he sent his doodlebug into that part of the salamander's brain
where such sense as it had resided. Freedom, he whispered there, in the way
he had that'animals could understand. Not words, but feelings. Images. The
salamander seeking after food, mating, scampering over mud, through leaves
and grass, into cool mossy stone crevices. Free to do that instead of living
in a dry handbag. The salamander longed for it.

Just do this, said Alvin silently into the salamander's mind. And he
showed it the loops to make to get to the first mark.

The salamander had been poised to leap from the table. But instead it
ran the looping pattern, touched one toe on the exact point; Alvin made it
so the toe penetrated the wood just enough to make a mark, though no human
eye could have seen it, the mark was so subtle. Scamper, loop, mark, and
mark again. Six tiny prickings of the table's surface, and then a bound into
the middle of the hex.

And the Unmaker was gone.

The salamander raced in a mad pattern, too fast to follow clearly; ran,
then stopped stockstill in the middle of the table.

And then, suddenly, the intelligence seemed to go out of its movements.
It no longer looked at Vilate. No longer looked at anyone in particular. It
nosed across the table. Not certain yet whether the spell that bound the
creature was done or not, no one moved toward it. It ran down the table leg,
then scurried straight toward Alvin. It nosed the sack under his chair that
contained the plow. It ran inside the sack.

Consternation broke out in the courtroom. "What's happening!" cried
Marty Laws. "Why did it go in that sack!"

"Because it was spawned in that sack!" cried Webster. "You can see now
that Alvin Smith was the source of all this mischief! I have seen the face
of the devil and he sits cocky as you please in yonder chair!"

The judge banged with his gavel.

"He's not the devil," said Vilate. "The devil wears a much more lovely
face than that." Then she burst into tears.

"Your honor," said Webster, "the defendant and his lawyer have turned
this court into a circus!"

"Not until after you turned it into a cesspool of scandalous lies and
filthy innuendoes!" Verily roared back at him.

And as he roared, the spectators burst into applause.

The judge banged the gavel again. "Silence! Come to order, or I'll have
the bailiff clear the court! Do you hear me?"

And, after a time, silence again reigned.

Alvin bent over and reached into the sack. He took out the limp body of
the salamander.

"Is it dead?" asked the judge.

"No, sir," said Alvin. "She's just asleep. She's very, very tired.
She's been rode hard, so to speak. Rode hard and given nothing to eat. It
ain't evidence of nothing now, Your Honor. Can I give her to my friend
Arthur Stuart to take care of till she has her strength back?"

"Does the prosecution have any objection?"

"No, Your Honor," said Marty Laws.

At the same time, Daniel Webster rose to his feet. "This salamander
never was evidence of anything. It's obvious that it was introduced by the
defendant and his lawyer and was always under their command. Now they've
taken possession of an honest woman and broken her! Look at her!"

And there sat beautiful Vilate Franker, tears streaming down her smooth
and beautiful cheeks.

"An honest woman?" she said softly. "You know as well as I do how you
hinted to me about how you needed corroboration for that Amy Sump girl, how
if you just had some way of proving that Alvin did indeed leave the jail,
then she would be believed and no one would believe Alvin. Oh, you sighed
and pretended that you weren't suggesting anything to me, but I knew and you
knew, and so I learned the hexes from my friend and we did it, and now there
you sit, lying again."

"Your Honor," said Webster, "the witness is clearly distraught. I can
assure you she has misconstrued the brief conversation we had at supper in
the roadhouse."

"I'm sure she has, Mr. Webster," said the judge.

"I have not misconstrued it," said Vilate, furious, whirling on the
judge.

"And I'm sure you have not," said the judge. "I'm sure you're both
completely correct."

"Your Honor," said Daniel Webster, "with all due respect, I don't see-"

"No, you don't see!" cried Vilate, standing up in the witness box. "You
claim to see an honest woman here? I'll show you an honest woman!"

She peeled her shawl off her shoulders. At once the illusion of beauty
about her face disappeared. Then she reached down and pulled the amulets out
of her bodice and lifted their chains from around her neck. Her body changed
before their eyes: Now she was not svelte and tall, but of middle height and
a somewhat thickened middle-aged body. There was a stoop to her shoulders,
and her hair was more white than gold. "This is an honest woman," she said.
Then she sank down into her seat and wept into her hands.

"Your Honor," said Verily, "I believe I have no more questions for this
witness."

"Neither does the prosecution," said Marty Laws.

"That's not so!" cried Webster.

"Mr. Webster," said Marty Laws quietly, "you are discharged from your
position as co-counsel. The testimony of the witnesses you brought me now
seems inappropriate to use in court, and I think it would be prudent of you
to retire from this courtroom without delay."

A few people clapped, but a glare from the judge quieted them.

Webster began stuffing papers into his briefcase. "If you are alleging
that I behaved unethically to any degree--"

"Nobody's alleging anything, Mr. Webster," said the judge, "except that
you have no further relationship with the county attorney of Hatrack County,
and therefore it's appropriate for you to step to the other side of the
railing and, in my humble opinion, to the other side of the courtroom door."

Webster rose to his full height, tucked his bag under his arm, and
without another word strode down the aisle and out of the courtroom.

On his way out, he passed a middle-aged woman with brown-and-grey hair
who was moving with some serious intent toward the judge's bench. No, toward
the witness stand, where she stepped into the box, put her arm around Vilate
Franker's shoulders, and helped the weeping woman rise to her feet. "Come
now, Vilate, you did very bravely, you did fine, we're right proud of you."

"Goody Trader," Vilate murmured, "I'm so ashamed."

"Nonsense," said Goody Trader. "We all want to be beautiful and truth
to tell, I think you still are. Just-- mature, that's all."

The spectators I watched in silence as Goody Trader led her

erstwhile rival from the courtroom.

"Your Honor," said Verily Cooper, "I think it should be clear to
everyone that it is time to return to the real issue before the court: We
have been distracted by extraneous witnesses, but the fact of the matter is
that it all comes down to Makepeace Smith and Hank Dowser on one side, and
Alvin Smith on the other. Their word against his. Unless the prosecution has
more witnesses to call, I'd like to begin my defense by letting Alvin give
his word, so the jury can judge between them at last."

"Well said, Mr. Cooper," said Marty Laws. "That's the real issue, and
I'm sorry I ever moved away from it. The prosecution rests, and I think we'd
all like to hear from the defendant. I'm glad he's going to speak for
himself, even though the constitution of the United States allows him to
decline to testify without prejudice."

"A fine sentiment," said the judge. "Mr. Smith, please rise and take
the oath."

Alvin bent over, scooped up the sack with the plow in it, and hoisted
it over his shoulder as easy as if it was a loaf of bread or a bag of
feathers. He walked to the bailiff, put one hand on the Bible and raised the
other, sack and all. "I do solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God," he said.

"Alvin," said Verily, "just tell us all how this plow came to be."

Alvin nodded. "I took the iron my master gave me-- Makepeace, he was my
master in those days-- and I melted it to the right hotness. I'd already
made my plow mold, so I poured it in and let it cool enough to strike off
the mold, and then I shaped and hammered and scraped all the imperfections
out of it, till near as I could tell it had the shape of a plow as perfect
as I could do it."

"Did you use any of your knack for Making as you did it?" asked Verily.

"No sir," said Alvin. "That wouldn't be fair. I wanted to earn the
right to be a journeyman smith. I did use my doodlebug to inspect the plow,
but I made no changes except with my tools and my two hands."

Many of the spectators nodded. They knew something of this matter, of
wanting to do something with their hands, without the use of the
extraordinary knacks that were so common in this town these days.

"And when it was done, what did you have?"

"A plow," said Alvin. "Pure iron, well shaped and well tempered. A good
journeyman piece."

"Whose property was that plow?" asked Verily. "I ask you not as an
expert on law, but rather as the apprentice you were at the time you
finished it. Was it your plow?"

"It was mine because I made it, and his because it was his iron. It's
custom to let the journeyman keep his piece, but I knew it was Makepeace's
right to keep it if he wanted."

"And then you apparently decided to change the iron."

Alvin nodded.

"Can you explain to the court your reasoning on the matter?"

"I don't know that it could be called reasoning, rightly. It wasn't
rational, as Miss Larner would have defined it. I just knew what I wanted it
to be, really. This had nothing to do with going from prentice to journeyman
smith. More like going from prentice to journeyman Maker, and I had no
master to judge my work, or if I do, he's not yet made hisself known to me."

"So you determined to turn the plow into gold."

Alvin waved off the idea with one hand. "Oh, now, that wouldn't be
hard. I've known how to change one metal to another for a long time-- it's
easier with metals, the way the bits line up and all. Hard to change air,
but easy to change metal."

"You're saying you could have turned iron to gold at any time?" asked
Verily. "Why didn't you?"

"I reckon there's about the right amount of gold in the world, and the
right amount of iron. A man doesn't need to make hammers and saws, axes and
plowshares out of gold-- he needs iron for that. Gold is for things that
need a soft metal."

"But gold would have made you rich," said Verily,

Alvin shook his head. "Gold would have made me famous. Gold would have
surrounded me with thieves. And it wouldn't have got me one step closer to
learning how to be a proper Maker."

"You expect us to believe that you have no interest in gold?"

"No sir. I need money as much as the next fellow. At that time I was
hoping to get married, and I hardly had a penny to my name, which isn't much
in the way of prospects. But for most folks gold stands for their hard
labor, and I don't see how I should have gold that didn't come from my hard
labor, too. It wouldn't be fair, and if it's out of balance like that, then
it ain't good Making, if you see my point."

"And yet you did transform the plow into gold, didn't you?"

"Only as a step along the way," said Alvin.

"Along the way to what?"

"Well, you know. To what the witnesses all said they seen. This plow
ain't common gold. It moves. It acts. It's alive."

"And that's what you intended?"

"The fire of life. Not just the fire of the forge."

"How did you do it?"

"It's hard to explain to them as don't have the sight of a doodlebug to
get inside things. I didn't create life inside it that was already there.
The bits of gold wanted to hold the shape I'd given them, that plow shape,
so they fought against the melting of the fire, but they didn't have the
strength. They didn't know their own strength. And I couldn't teach them,
either. And then all of a sudden I thought to put my own hands into the fire
and show the gold how to be alive, the way I was alive."

"Put your hands into the fire?" asked Verily.

Alvin nodded. "It hurt something fierce, I'll tell you."

"But you're unscarred," said Verily.

"It was hot, but don't you see, it was a Maker's fire, and finally I
understood what I must have known all along, that a Maker is part of what he
Makes. I had to be in the fire along with the gold, to show it how to live,
to help it find its own heartfire. If I knew exactly how it works I could do
a better job of teaching folks. Heaven knows I've tried but ain't nobody
learned it aright yet, though a couple or so is getting there, step by step.
Anyway, the plow came to life in the fire."

"So now the plow was as we have seen it-- or rather, as we have heard
it described here."

"Yes," said Alvin. "Living gold."

"And in your opinion, whom does that gold belong to?"

Alvin looked around at Makepeace, then at Marty Laws, then at the
judge. "It belongs to itself. It ain't no slave."

Marty Laws rose to his feet. "Surely the witness isn't asserting the
equal citizenship of golden plows."

"No. sir," said Alvin. "I am not. It has its own purpose in being, but
I don't think jury duty or voting for president has much to do with it."

"But you're saying it doesn't belong to Makepeace Smith and it doesn't
belong to you either," said Verily.

"Neither one of us."

"Then why are you so reluctant to yield possession of it to your former
master?" asked Verily.

"Because he means to melt it down. He said as much that very next
morning. Of course, when I told him he couldn't do that, he called me thief
and insisted that the plow belonged to him. He said a ourneyman piece
belongs to the master unless he gives it to the journeyman and, I think he
said, 'I sure as hell don't!' Then he called me thief."

"And wasn't he right? Weren't you a thief?"

"No sir," said Alvin. "I admit that the iron he gave me was gone, and
I'd be glad to give that iron back to him, fivefold or tenfold, if that's
what the law requires of me. Not that I stole it from him, mind you, but
because it no longer existed. At the time, of course, I was angry at him
because I was ready to be a journeyman years before, but he held me to all
the years of the contract anyway, pretending all the time that he didn't
know I was already the better smith--"

Among the spectators, Makepeace leapt to his feet and shouted, "A
contract is a contract!"

The judge banged the gavel.

"I kept the contract, too," said Alvin. "I worked the full term, even
though I was kept as a servant, there wasn't a thing he could teach me after
the first year or so. So I figured at the time that I had more than earned
the price of the iron that was lost. Now, though, I reckon that was just an
angry boy talking. I can see that Makepeace was within his rights, and I'll
be glad to give him the price of the iron, or even make him another iron
plow in place of the one that's gone."

"But you won't give him the actual plow you made."

"If he gave me gold to make a plow, I'd give him back as much gold as
he gave me. But he gave me iron. And even if he had a right to that amount
of gold, he doesn't have the right to this gold, because if it fell into his
hands, he'd destroy it, and such a thing as this shouldn't be destroyed,
specially not by them as has no power to make it again. Besides, all his
talk of thief was before he saw the plow move."

"He saw it move?" asked Verily.

"Yes sir. And then he said to me, 'Get on out of here. Take that thing
and go away. I never want to see your face around here again.' As near as I
can recall them, those were his exact words, and if he says otherwise then
God will witness against him at the last day, and he knows it."

Verily nodded. "So we have your view on it," he said. "Now, as to Hank
Dowser, what about the matter of digging somewhere other than the place he
said?"

"I knew it wasn't a good place," said Alvin, "But I dug where he said,
right down till I reached solid stone."

"Without hitting water?" asked Verily.

"That's right. So then I went to where I knew I should have dug in the
first place, and I put the well there. And it's drawing pure water even
today, I hear tell."

"So Mr. Dowser was simply wrong."

"He wasn't wrong that there was water there," said Alvin. "He just
didn't know that there was a shelf of rock and the water flowed under it.
Bone dry above. That's why it was a natural meadow-- no trees grew there,
then or now, except some scrubby ones with shallow roots."

"Thank you very much," said Verily. Then, to Marty Laws: "Your
witness."

Marty Laws leaned forward on his table and rested his chin on his
hands. "Well, I can't say as how I have much to ask. We've got Makepeace's
version of things, and we've got your version. I might as well ask you, is
there any chance that you didn't actually turn iron into gold? Any chance
that you found the gold in that first hole you dug, and then shaped it into
a plow?"

"No chance of that, sir," said Alvin.

"So you didn't hide that old iron plow away in order to enhance your
reputation as a Maker?"

"I never looked for no reputation as a Maker, sir," said Alvin. "And as
for the iron, it ain't iron anymore."

Makepeace nodded. "That's all the questions I've got."

The judge looked back at Verily, "Anything more from you?"

"Just one question," said Verily. "Alvin, you heard the things Amy Sump
said about you and her and the baby she's carrying. Any truth to that?"

Alvin shook his head. "I never left the jail cell. It's true that I
left Vigor Church at least partly because of the stories she was putting out
about me. They were false stories, but I needed to leave anyway, and I hoped
that with me gone, she'd forget about dreaming me into her life and fall in
love with some fellow her own age. I never laid a hand on her. I'm under
oath and I swear it before God. I'm sorry she's having trouble, and I hope
the baby she's carrying turns out fine and strong and makes a good son for
her."

"It's a boy?" asked Verily.

"Oh yes," said Alvin. "A boy. But not my son."

"Now we're finished," said Verily.

It was time for final statements, but the judge didn't give the word to
begin. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for a long moment.
"Folks, this has been a strange trial, and it's taken some sorry turns along
the way. But right now there's only a few points at issue. If Makepeace
Smith and Hank Dowser are right, and the gold was found not made, then I
think it's fair to say the plow is flat out Makepeace's property."

"Damn straight!" cried Makepeace.

"Bailiff, take Makepeace Smith into custody please," said the judge.
"He's spending the night in jail for contempt of court, and before he can
say another word I'll inform him that every word he says will add another
night to his sentence."

Makepeace nearly burst, but he didn't say another word as the bailiff
led him from the courtroom.

"The other possibility is that Alvin made the gold out of iron, as he
says, and that the gold is something called 'living gold,' and therefore the
plow belongs to itself. Well, I can't say the law allows any room for farm
implements to be self-owning entities, but I will say that since Makepeace
gave Alvin a certain weight of iron, then if Alvin made that iron disappear,
he owes Makepeace the same weight of iron back again, or the monetary
equivalent in legal tender. This is how it seems to me at this moment,
though I know the jury may see other possibilities that escape me. The
trouble is that right now I don't know how the jury can possibly make a fair
decision. How can they forget all the business about Alvin maybe or maybe
not having scandalous liaisons? A part of me says I ought to declare a
mistrial, but then another part of me says, that wouldn't be right, to make
this town go through yet another round of this trial. So here's what I
propose to do. There's one fact in all of this that we can actually test. We
can go out to the smithy and have Hank Dowser show us the spot where he
called for the well to be dug. Then we can dig down and see if we find
either the remnants of some treasure chest-- and water-- or a shelf of
stone, the way Alvin said, and not a drop of water. It seems to me then
we'll at least know something, whereas at the present moment we don't know
much at all, except that Vilate Franker, God bless her, has false teeth."

Neither the defense nor the prosecution had any objections.

"Then let's convene this court at Makepeace's smithy at ten in the
morning. No, not tomorrow-- that's Friday, election day. I see no way around
it, we'll have to do it Monday morning. Another weekend in jail, I'm afraid,
Alvin."

"Your Honor," said Verily Cooper. "There's only the one jail in this
town, and with Makepeace Smith forced to share a cell in the same room with
my client--"

"All right," said the judge. "Sheriff, you can release Makepeace when
you get Alvin back over there."

"Thank you, Your Honor," said Verily.

"We're adjourned till ten on Monday." The gavel struck and the
spectacle ended for the day.



Chapter 17 -- Decisions

Because Calvin used to keep to himself so much in Vigor Church, he
always thought of himself as a solitary sort of fellow. Everybody in Vigor
who wasn't besotted with Alvin turned out to be pretty much of an idiot,
when it came down to it. What did Calvin want with pranks like luring skunks
under porches or pushing over outhouses? Alvin had him cut out of anything
that mattered, and any other friends he might have had didn't amount to
much.

In New Amsterdam and London, Calvin was even more alone, being
concentrated as he was on the single-minded goal of getting to Napoleon. It
was the same on the streets of Paris, when, he was going around trying to
get a reputation as a healer. And once he got the Emperor's attention, it
was all study and work.

For a while. Because after a few weeks it became pretty clear that
Napoleon was going to stretch out his teaching as long and slow as possible.
Why should he do otherwise? As soon as Calvin was satisfied that he had
learned enough, he'd leave and then Napoleon would be the victim of gout.
Calvin toyed with the idea of putting on some pressure by increasing
Napoleon's pain, and with that in mind he went and found the place in the
Emperor's brain where pain was registered. He had some idea of using his
doodling bug to poke directly into that place of pure agony, and then see if
Napoleon didn't suddenly remember to teach Calvin a few things that he'd
overlooked till now.

That was fine for daydreaming, but Calvin wasn't no fool. He could do
that agony trick once, and get one day's worth of teaching, but then before
he next fell asleep, he'd better be long gone from Paris, from France, and
from anywhere on God's green Earth where Napoleon's agents might find him.
No, he couldn't force Napoleon. He had to stay and put up with the
excruciatingly slow pace of the lessons, the sheer repetitiveness. In the
meantime, he observed carefully, trying to see what it was Napoleon was
doing that Calvin didn't understand. He never saw a thing that made sense.

What was left for him, then, but to try out the things Napoleon had
taught him about manipulating other people, and see if he could figure out
more by pure experimentation? That was what finally, brought him into
contact with other people-- the desire to learn how to control them.

Trouble was, the only people around were the staff, and they were all
busy. What's worse, they were also under Napoleon's direct control, and it
wouldn't do to let the Emperor see that somebody else was trying to win
control of his toadies. He might get the wrong idea. He might think Calvin
was trying to undermine his power, which wasn't true-- Calvin didn't care a
hoot about taking Napoleon's place. What was a mere Emperor when there was a
Maker in the world?

Two Makers, that is. Two.

Who could Calvin try out his new-learned powers on? After a little
wandering around the palace and the government buildings, he began to
realize that there was another class of person altogether. Idle and
frustrated, they were Calvin's natural subjects: the sons of Napoleon's
clerks and courtiers.

They all had roughly the same biography: As their fathers rose to
positions of influence, they got sent away to steadily better boarding
schools, then emerged at sixteen or seventeen with education, ambition, and
no social prestige whatsoever, which meant that most doors were closed to
them except to follow in their fathers' footsteps and become completely
dependent upon the Emperor. For some of them, this was perfectly all right;
Calvin left those hardworking, contented souls alone.

The ones he found interesting were the desultory law students, the
enthusiastically untalented poets and dramatists, the gossiping seducers
looking around for women rich enough to be desirable and stupid enough to be
taken in by such pretenders. Calvin's French improved greatly the more he
conversed with them, and even as he followed Napoleon's lessons and learned
to find what vices drove these young men, so he could flatter and exploit
and control them, he also discovered that he enjoyed their company. Even the
fools among them were entertaining, with their lassitude and cynicism, and
now and then he found some truly clever and fascinating companions.

Those were the most difficult to win control of, and Calvin told
himself that it was the challenge rather than the pleasure of their company
that kept him coming back to them again and again. One of them most of all:
Honor . A skinny, short man with prematurely rotten teeth, he was a year
older than Calvin's brother Alvin. Honor was without manners; Calvin soon
learned that it wasn't because he didn't know how to behave, but rather
because he wished to shock people, to show his contempt for their stale
forms, and most of all because he wished to command their attention, and
being faintly repulsive all the time had the desired effect. He might start
with their contempt or disgust, but within fifteen minutes he always had
them laughing at his wit, nodding at his insights, their eyes shining with
the dazzlement of his conversation.

Calvin even allowed himself to think that Honor had some of the same
gift Napoleon had been born with, that by studying him Calvin might learn a
few of the secrets the Emperor still withheld.

At first Honor ignored Calvin, not in particular but in the general
way that he ignored everyone who had nothing to offer him. Then he must have
heard from someone that Calvin saw the Emperor every day, that in fact the
Emperor used him as his personal healer. At once Calvin became acceptable,
so much so that Honor began inviting him along on his nighttime jaunts.

"I am studying Paris," said Honor . "No, let me correct myself-- I am
studying humankind, and Paris has a large enough sampling of that species to
keep me occupied for many years. I study all people who depart from the
norm, for their very abnormalities teach me about human nature: If the
actions of this man surprise me, it is because I must have learned, over the
years, to expect men to behave in a different way. Thus I learn not only the
oddity of the one, but also the normality of the many."

"And how am I odd?" asked Calvin.

"You are odd because you actually listen to my ideas instead of my wit.
You are an eager student of genius, and I half suspect that you may have
genius yourself."

"Genius?" asked Calvin.

"The extraordinary spirit that makes great men great. It is perfect
piety that turns men into saints or angels, but what about men who are
indifferently pious but perfectly intelligent or wise or perceptive? What do
they become? Geniuses. Patron saints of the mind, of the eye, of the mind's
eye! I intend, when I die, to have my name invoked by those who pray for
wisdom. Let the saints have the prayers of those who need miracles." He
cocked his head and looked up at Calvin. "You're too tall to be honest. Tall
men always tell lies, since they assume short men like me will never see
clearly enough to contradict them."

"Can't help being tall," said Calvin.

"Such a lie," said Honord. "You wanted to be tall when you were young,
just as I wanted to be closer to the earth, where my eye could see the
details large men miss. Though I do hope to be fat someday, since fatness
would mean I had more than enough to eat, and that, my dear Yankee, would be
a delicious change. It's a commonplace idea that geniuses are never
understood and therefore never become popular or make money from their
brilliance. I think this is pure foolishness. A true genius will not only be
smarter than everyone else, but will be so clever that he'll know how to
appeal to the masses without compromising his brilliance. Hence: I write
novels."

Calvin almost laughed. "Those silly stories women read!"

"The very ones. Fainting heiresses. Dullard husbands. Dangerous lovers.
Earthquakes, revolutions, fires, and interfering aunts. I write under
several noms de plume, but my secret is that even as I master the art of
being popular and therefore rich, I am also using the novel to explore the
true state of humankind in this vast experimental tank known as Paris, this
hive with an imperial queen who surrounds himself with drones like my poor
stingless unflying father, the seventh secretary of the morning rotation--
you gave him a hotfoot once, you miserable prankster, he wept that night at
the humiliation of it and I vowed to kill you someday, though I think I
probably won't-- I have never kept a promise yet."

"When do you write? You're here all the time." Calvin gestured to
include the environs of the government buildings.

"How would you know, when you aren't here all the time? By night I pass
back and forth between the grand salons of the cream of society and the
finest brothels ever created by the scum of the earth. And in the mornings,
when you're taking emperor lessons from M. Bonaparte, I hole up in my
miserable poet's garret-- where my mother's housekeeper brings me fresh
bread every day, so don't weep for me yet, not until I get syphilis or
tuberculosis-- and I write furiously, filling page after page with
scintillating prose. I tried my hand at poetry once, a long play, but I
discovered that by imitating Racine, one learns primarily to become as
tedious as Racine, and by studying Moli re, one learns that Moli re was a
lofty genius not to be trifled with by pathetic young imitators."

"I haven't read either of them," said Calvin. In truth he had never
heard of either one and only deduced that they were dramatists from the
context.

"Nor have you read my work, because in fact it is not yet genius, it is
merely journeyman work. In fact I fear sometimes that I have the ambition of
a genius, the eye and ear of a genius, and the talent of a chimneysweep. I
go down into the filthy world, I come up black, I scatter the ashes and
cinders of my research onto white papers, but what have I got? Paper with
black marks all over it." Suddenly he gripped Calvin's shirtfront and pulled
him down until they were eye to eye. "I would cut off my leg to have a
talent like yours. To be able to see inside the body and heal or harm, give
pain or relieve it-- I would cut off both legs." Then he let go of Calvin's
shirt. "Of course, I wouldn't give up my more fragile parts, for that would
be too great a disappointment to my dear Lady de Berny. You will be
discreet, of course, and when you gossip about my affair with her you will
never admit you heard about it from me."

"Are you really jealous of me?" asked Calvin.

"Only when I am in my right mind," said Honor , "which is rare enough
that you don't yet interfere with my happiness. You are not yet one of the
major irritations of my life. My mother, now-- I spent my early childhood
pining for some show of love from her, some gentle touch of affection, and
instead was always greeted with coldness and reproof. Nothing I did pleased
her. I thought, for many years, that it was because I was a bad son. Then,
suddenly, I realized that it was because she was a bad mother! It wasn't me
she hated, it was my father. So one year when I was away at school, she took
a lover-- and she chose well, he is a very fine man whom I respect greatly--
and got herself impregnated and gave birth to a monster."

"Deformed?" asked Calvin, curious.

"Only morally. Otherwise he is quite attractive, and my mother dotes on
him. Every time I see her fawning on him, praising him, laughing at his
clever little antics, I long to do as Joseph's brothers did and put him in a
pit, only I would never be softhearted enough to pull him out and sell him
into mere slavery. He will also probably be tall and she will see to it he
has full access to her fortune, unlike myself, who am forced to live on the
pittance my father can give me, the advances I can extort from my
publishers, and the generous impulses of the women for whom I am the god of
love. After careful contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that Cain,
like Prometheus, was one of the great benefactors of humankind, for which of
course he must be endlessly tortured by God, or at least given a very ugly
pimple in his forehead. For it was Cain who taught us that some brothers
simply cannot be endured, and the only solution is to kill them or have them
killed. Being a man of lazy disposition, I lean toward the latter course.
Also one cannot wear fine clothes in prison, and after one is guillotined
for murder, one's collars never stay on properly; they're always sliding off
to one side or the other. So I'll either hire it done or see to it he gets
employed in some miserable clerical post in a far-off colony. I have in mind
Reunion in the Indian Ocean; my only objection is that its dot on the globe
is large enough that Henry may not be able to see the entire circumference
of his island home at once. I want him to feel himself in prison every
waking moment. I suppose that is uncharitable of me."

Uncharitable? Calvin laughed in delight, and regaled Honor in turn
with tales of his own horrible brother. "Well, then," said Honor , "you must
destroy him, of course. What are you doing here in Paris, with a great
project like that in hand!"

"I'm learning from Napoleon how to rule over men. So that when my
brother builds his Crystal City, I can take it away from him."

"Take it away! Such shallow aims," said Honor . "What good is taking it
away?"

"Because he built it," said Calvin, "or he will build it, and then
he'll have to see me rule over all that he built."

"You think this because you are a nasty person by nature, Calvin, and
you don't understand nice people. To you, the end of existence is to control
things, and so you will never build anything, but rather will try to take
control of what is already in existence. Your brother, though, is by nature
a Maker, as you explain it; therefore he cares nothing about who rules, but
only about what exists. So if you take away the rule of the Crystal City--
when he builds it-- you have accomplished nothing, for he will still rejoice
that the thing exists at all, regardless of who rules it. No, there is
nothing else for you to do but let the city rise to its peak-- and then tear
it down into such a useless heap of rubble that it can never rise again."

Calvin was troubled. He had never thought this way, and it didn't feel
good to him. "Honor , you're joking, I'm sure. You make things-- your
novels, at least."

"And if you hated me, you wouldn't just take away my royalties-- my
creditors do that already, thank you very much. No, you would take my very
books, steal the copyright, and then revise them and revise them until
nothing of truth or beauty or, more to the point, my genius remained in
them, and then you would continue to publish them under my name, causing me
to be shamed with every copy sold. People would read and say, 'Honor de
Balzac, such a fool!' That is how you would destroy me."

"I'm not a character in one of your novels."

"More's the pity. You would speak more interesting dialogue I you
were."

"So you think I'm wasting my time here?"

"I think you're about to waste your time. Napoleon is no fool. He's
never going to give you tools powerful enough to challenge his own. So
leave!"

"How can I leave, when he depends on me to keep his gout from hurting?
I'd never make it to the border."

"Then heal the gout the way you used to heal those poor beggars-- that
was a cruel thing for you to do, by the way, a miserable selfish thing, for
how did you think they were going to feed their children without some
suppurating wound to excite pity in passersby and eke out a few sous from
them? Those of us who were aware of your one-man messianic mission had to go
about after you, cutting off the legs of your victims so they'd be able to
continue to earn their livelihood."

Calvin was appalled. "How could you do such a thing!"

Honor roared with laughter. "I'm joking, you poor literal-minded
American simpleton!"

"I can't heal the gout," said Calvin, coming back to the subject that
interested him: his own future.

"Why not?"

"I've been trying to figure out how diseases are caused. Injuries are
easy. Infections are, too. If you concentrate, anyway. Diseases have taken
me weeks. They seem to be caused by tiny creatures, so small I can't see
them individually, only en masse. Those I can destroy easily enough, and
cure the disease, or at least knock it back a little and give the body a
chance to defeat it on its own. But not all diseases are caused by those
tiny beasts. Gout baffles me completely. I have no idea what causes it, and
therefore I can't cure it."

Honord shook his oversized head. "Calvin, you have such native talents,
but they have been bestowed unworthily upon you. When I say you must heal
Napoleon, of course I don't care whether you actually cure the gout. It
isn't the gout that bothers him. It's the pain of the gout. And you already
cure that every day! So cure it once and for all, thank Napoleon kindly for
his lessons, and get out of France as quickly as possible! Have done with
it! Get back about your life's work! I'll tell you what-- I'll even pay your
passage to America. No, I'll do more. I'll come with you to America, and add
the study of that astonishingly crude and vigorous people to my vast store
of knowledge about humankind. With your talent and my genius, what is there
we couldn't accomplish?"

"Nothing," said Calvin happily. He was especially happy because not
five minutes before, Calvin had decided that he wanted Honor to accompany
him to America, and so by the tiniest of gestures, by certain looks and
signs that Honor was never aware of, he caused the young novelist to like
him, to be excited by the work that Calvin had to do, and to want so much to
be a part of it that he would come home to America with him. Best of all,
Calvin had brought it off so skillfully that Honor obviously had no idea
that he had been manipulated into it.

In the meantime, Honor 's idea of curing Napoleon's pain once and for
all appealed to him. That place in the brain where pain resided still waited
for him. Only instead of stimulating it, all he had to do was cauterize it.
It would not only cure Napoleon's gout, but would also cure all other pains,
he might feel in the future.

So, having thought of it, having decided to do it, that night Calvin
acted. And in the morning, when he presented himself to the Emperor, he saw
at once that the Emperor knew what he had done.

"I cut myself this morning, sharpening a pen," said Napoleon. "I only
knew it when I saw the blood. I felt no pain at all."

"Excellent," said Calvin. "I finally found the way to end your pain
from gout once and for all. It involved cutting off all pain for the rest of
your life, but it's hard to imagine you'd mind."

Napoleon looked away. "It was hard for Midas to imagine that he would
not want everything he touched to turn to gold. I might have bled to death
because I felt no pain."

"Are you rebuking me?" said Calvin. "I give you a gift that millions of
people pray for-- to live a life without pain-- and you're rebuking me?
You're the Emperor-- assign a servant to watch you day and night in order to
make sure you don't unwittingly bleed to death."

"This is permanent?" asked Napoleon.

"I can't cure the gout-- the disease is too subtle for me. I never
pretended to be perfect. But the pain I could cure, and so I did. I cured it
now and forever. If I did wrong, I'll restore the pain to you as best I can.
It won't be a pleasant operation, but I think I can get the balance back to
about what it was before. Intermittent, wasn't it? A month of gout, and then
a week without it, and then another month?"

"You've grown saucy."

"No sir, I merely speak French better, so my native sauciness can
emerge more clearly."

"What's to stop me from throwing you out, then? Or having you killed,
now that I don't need you anymore?"

"Nothing has ever stopped you from doing those things," said,Calvin.
"But you don't needlessly kill people, and as for throwing me out-- well,
why go to the trouble? I'm ready to leave. I'm homesick for America. My
family is there."

Napoleon nodded. "I see. You decided to leave, and then finally cured
my pain."

"My beloved Emperor, you wrong me," said Calvin. "I found I could cure
you, and then decided to leave."

"I still have much to teach you."

"And I have much to learn. But I fear I'm not clever enough to learn
from you-- the last several weeks you have taught me and taught me, and yet
I keep feeling as if I have learned nothing new. I'm simply not a clever
enough pupil to master your lessons. Why should I stay?"

Napoleon smiled. "Well done. Very well done. If I weren't Napoleon, you
would have won me over completely. In fact, I would probably be paying your
passage to America."

"I was hoping you would, anyway, in gratitude for a painfree life."

"Emperors can't afford to have petty emotions like gratitude. If I pay
your passage it's not because I'm grateful to you, it's because I think my
purpose will be better served with you gone and alive than with you, say,
here and alive or, perhaps, here and dead, or the most difficult
possibility, gone and dead." Napoleon smiled.

Calvin smiled back. They understood each other, the Emperor and the
young Maker. They had used each other and now were done with each other and
would cast each other aside-- but with style.

"I'll take the train to the coast this very day, begging your consent,
sir."

"My consent! You have more than my consent! My servants have already
packed your bags and they are doubtless at the station as we speak."
Napoleon grinned, touched his forelock in an imaginary salute, and then
watched as Calvin rushed from the room.

Calvin the American Maker and Honor Balzac the annoyingly ambitious
young writer, both gone from the country in the same day. And the pain of
the gout now gone from him.

I'll have to be careful getting into the bath. I might scald myself to
death without knowing it. I'll have to get someone else to climb into the
water before me. I think I know just the young servant girl who should do
it. I'll have to have her scrubbed first, so she doesn't foul the water for
me. It will be interesting to see how much of the pleasure of the bath came
from the slight pain of hot water. And was pain a part of sexual pleasure?
It would be infuriating if the boy had interfered with that. Napoleon would
have to have him hunted down and killed, if the boy had ruined that sport
for him.

***

It didn't take long for the ballots to be counted in Hatrack River-- by
nine PM Friday, the elections clerk announced a decisive victory countywide
for Tippy-Canoe, old Red Hand Harrison. Some had been drinking all through
the election day; now the likker began to flow in earnest. Being a county
seat, Hatrack drew plenty of farmers from the hinterland and smaller
villages, for whom Hatrack was the nearest metropolis, having near a
thousand people now; it was swollen to twice that number by ten in the
evening. As word came in from each of the neighboring counties and from some
across river that Tippy-Canoe was winning there, too, guns were shot off and
so were mouths, which led to fisticuffs and a lot of traffic into and out of
the jail.

Po Doggly came in about ten-thirty and asked Alvin if he'd mind too
much being put on his own parole to go spend the night in the roadhouse--
Horace Guester was standing bail for him, and did he give his solemn oath
etcetera etcetera because the jail was needed to hold drunken brawlers ten
to a cell. Alvin took the oath and Horace and Verily escorted him through
back lots to the roadhouse. There was plenty of drinking and dancing
downstairs in the common room of the roadhouse, but not the kind of
rowdiness that prevailed at rougher places and out in the open, where wagons
filled with likker were doing quite a business. Horace's party, as always,
was for locals of the more civilized variety. Still, it wouldn't do no good
for Alvin to show his face there and get rumors going, especially since
there was bound to be some in the crowds infesting Hatrack River as wasn't
particular friends of Alvin's-- and a few that was particular friends of
Makepeace's. Not to mention them as was always a particular friend of any
amount of gold that might be obtained by stealth or violence. It was up the
back stairs for Alvin, and even then he stooped and had his face covered and
said nary a word the whole jaunt.

Up in Horace's own bedroom, where Arthur Stuart and Measure already had
cots, Alvin paced the room, touching the walls, the soft bed, the window as
if he had never seen such things before. "Even cooped up in here," said
Alvin, "it's better than a cell. I hope never to be back in such a place
again."

"Don't know how you've stood it this far," said Horace. "I'd go plain
bonkers in a week."

"Who's to say he didn't?" said Measure.

Alvin laughed and agreed with him. "I was crazy not to let Verily go
with his plans-- I know that," said Alvin.

"No, no," said Verily. "You were right, you came through in your own
defense."

"But what if I hadn't figured out how to let the salamander's voice be
heard? I've been thinking about that ever since yesterday. What if I hadn't
done it? They was all talking like I could do anything, like I could fly or
do miracles on the moon just by thinking about it. I wish I could. Sometimes
I wish I could. It's still nip and tuck with the jury, ain't it, Verily?"

Verily agreed that it was. But they all knew that he wasn't likely to
get convicted of anything now-- assuming, of course, that the shelf of rock
was still there in the spot Hank Dowser marked for a well. The real damage
was to his good name. The real damage was to the Crystal City, which now
would be harder to build because of all them stories going around about how
Alvin Smith seduced young girls and old women and walked through walls to
get to them. Never mind that the story had turned out to be lies and
foolishness-- there was always folks stupid enough to say, "Where there's
smoke there's fire," when the saying should have been, "Where there's
scandalous lies there's always malicious believers and spreaders-around,
regardless of evidence."

The whooping and hollering in the street, with youngsters or drunken
oldsters riding their horses at a breakneck speed up and down until Sheriff
Doggly or some deputy could either stop the horse or shoot it, that
guaranteed no sleep for anyone, not early, anyway. So they were all still
awake, even Arthur Stuart, when two more men came into the common room of
the roadhouse, looking wore out and dirty from hard travel. They waited at
the counter, nursing a mug of cider each, till Horace came downstairs to
check on things and recognized them at once. "Come on up, he's here, he's
upstairs," whispered Horace, and the three of them was up the stairs in a
trice.

"Armor," said Alvin, greeting him with a brotherly hug. "Mike." And
Mike Fink got him a hug as well. "You picked a good night to return."

"We picked a damn good night," said Fink. "We was afraid we might be
too late. The plan was to take you out of the jail and hang you as part of
the election night festivities. Glad the sheriff thought ahead."

"He just needed the space for drunk and disorderly," said Alvin. "I
don't think he had any inkling about no plot."

"There's twenty boys here," said Fink. "Twenty at least, all of them
well paid and likkered up. I hope well enough paid that they're really
likkered up so they'll just fall down, puke, and,go to sleep, and then slink
off home to Carthage in the morning."

"I doubt it," said Measure. "I been caught up in plots against Alvin
before. Somebody once pretty much took me apart."

Fink looked at him again. "You wasn't so tall then," he said. "I was
plain ashamed of what I done to you," he said. "It was the worst thing I
ever done."

"I didn't die," said Measure.

"Not for lack of trying on my part," said Fink.

Verily was baffled. "You mean this man tried to kill you, Measure?"

"Governor Harrison ordered it," said Measure. "And it was years ago.
Before I was married. Before Alvin came here to Hatrack River as a prentice
boy. And if I recall aright, Mike Fink was a little prettier in those days."

"Notin my heart," said Frank. "But I bore you no malice, Measure. And
after Harrison had me do that to you, I left him, I wanted no truck with
him. It don't make up for nothing, but it's the truth, that I'm not a man
who'd let such as him boss me around, not anymore. If I thought you was the
type of man to get even, I wouldn't run, I'd let you do it. But you ain't
that kind of man."

"Like I said," Measure answered, "no harm done. I learned some things
that day, and so did you. Let's have done with that now. You're Alvin's
friend now, and that makes you my friend as long as you're loyal and true."

There were tears in Mike Fink's eyes. "Jesus himself couldn't be more
kind to me, and me less deserving."

Measure held out his hand. Mike took and held it. Just for a second.
Then it was done, and they set it behind them and went on.

"Found out a few things," said Armor-of-God. "But I'm glad Mike was
with me. Not that he had to do any violence, but there was a couple of times
that some fellows didn't take kindly to the questions I was asking."

"I did throw a fellow into a horsetrough," said Fink, "but I didn't
hold him under or nothing so I don't think that counts."

Alvin laughed. "No, I reckon that was just playing around."

"It's some old friends of yours behind all this, Alvin," said
Armor-of-God. "The Property Rights Crusade is mostly Reverend Philadelphia
Thrower and a couple of clerks opening letters and mailing out letters. But
there's some money people behind him, and he's behind other people who need
money."

"Like?" asked Horace.

"Like one of his first and longest and loyalest contributors is a
fellow name of Cavil Planter, who once owned him a farm in Appalachee and
still clings to a certain cachet like it was gold bullion," said
Armor-of-God, with a glance at Arthur Stuart.

Arthur nodded. "You're saying that's the white man as raped my mama to
make me."

"Most likely," said Armor-of-God.

Alvin stared at Arthur Stuart. "How do you know about such things?"

"I hear everything," said Arthur Stuart. "I don't forget none of it.
People said things about that stuff when I was too young to understand it,
but I remembered the words and said them to myself when I was older and
could understand them."

"Damn," said Horace. "How was Old Peg and me supposed to know he'd be
able to figure it out later?"

"You did nothing wrong," said Verily. "You can't help the knacks your
children have. My parents couldn't predict what I'd do, either, though
heaven knows they tried. If Arthur Stuart's knack let him learn things that
were painful to know, then I'd also have to say his inward character was
strong enough to deal with it and let him grow up untroubled by it."

"I ain't troubled by it, that's true," said Arthur Stuart. "But I'll
never call him my pa. He hurt my mama and he wanted to make a slave of me,
and that's no pa." He looked at Horace Guester. "My own Black mama died
trying to get me here, to a real pa and to a ma who'd take her place when
she died."

Horace reached out and patted the boy's hand. Alvin knew how Horace had
never liked having the boy call him his father, but it was plain Horace had
reconciled himself to it. Maybe it was because of what Arthur just said, or
maybe it was because Alvin had taken the boy away for a year and Horace was
realizing now that his life was emptier without this half-Black mixup boy as
his son.

"So this Cavil Planter is one of the money men behind Thrower's little
group," said Verily. "Who else?"

"A lot of names, we didn't get but a few of them but it's prominent
people in Carthage, and all of them from the proslavery faction, either
openly or clandestine," said Armor. "And I'm pretty sure about where most of
the money's going to."

"We know some of it went to pay Daniel Webster," said Alvin.

"But a lot more of it went to help with White Murderer Harrison's
campaign for president," said Armor.

They fell silent, and in the silence more gunshots went off, more
cheering, more galloping of horses and whooping.and hollering. "Tippy-Canoe
just carried him another county," said Horace.

"Maybe he won't do so well back east," said Alvin.

"Who knows?" said Measure. "I can guarantee you he didn't get a single
vote in Vigor Church. But that ain't enough to turn the tide."

"It's out of our hands for now," said Alvin. "Presidents ain't
forever."

"I think what's important here," said Verily, "is that the same people
whose candidate for president just won the election are also out to get you
killed, Alvin."

"I'd think about lying low for a while," said Measure.

"I been lying low," said Alvin. "I had about all the low-lying I can
stand."

"Being in jail so's they know right where you be ain't lying low," said
Mike Fink. "You got to be where they don't think to look for you, or where
if they do find you they can't do nothing to hurt you."

"The first place I can think of that fills those requirements is the
grave," said Alvin, "but I reckon I don't want to go there yet."

There was a soft rap on the door. Horace went to it, whispered, "Who's
there?"

"Peggy," came the answer. He opened the door and she came in. She
looked around at the assembled men and chuckled. "Planning the fate of the
world here?"

Too many of them remembered what happened the last time they met
together for her casual tone to be easily accepted. Only Armor and Fink, who
weren't there in Alvin's cell that night, greeted her with good cheer. They
filled her in on all that had happened, including the fact that Harrison's
election was taken for a sure thing all along the route from Carthage City
to Hatrack.

"You know what I don't think is fair?" said Arthur Stuart. "That old
Red Hand Harrison is walking around with blood dripping off'n him and they
made him president, while Measure here has to stay half-hid and all them
other good folks daresn't leave Vigor Church cause of that curse. It seems
to me like the good folks is still punished and the worsest one got off
scotfree."

"Seems the same to me," said Alvin. "But it ain't my call."

"Maybe it ain't and maybe it is," said Arthur Stuart.

They all looked at him like he was a mess on the floor. "How is it
Alvin's call?" asked Verily.

"That Red chief ain't dead, is he?" said Arthur Stuart. "That Red
prophet what put the curse on, right? Well, him as puts on a curse can take
it off, can't he?"

"Nobody can talk to them wild Reds no more," said Mike Fink. "They
fogged up the river and nobody can get across. There ain't even no trade
with New Orleans no more, damn near broke my heart."

"Maybe nobody can get across the river," said Arthur Stuart. "But Alvin
can."

Alvin shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "I don't think so.
Besides, I don't know if Tenskwa-Tawa's going to see things the same way as
us, Arthur. He might say, The White people of America are bringing
destruction on themselves by choosing White Murderer Harrison to be their
leader. But the people of Vigor Church will be saved from that destruction
because they respected the curse I gave them. So he'll say the curse is
really a blessing."

"If he says that," said Measure, "then he ain't as good a man as I
thought."

"He sees things a different way, that's all," said Alvin. "I'm just
saying you can't be sure what he'll say."

"Then you can't be sure either," said Armor-of-God.

"I'm thinking something, Alvin," said Measure. "Miss Larner here told
me somewhat about how she and Arthur figured out there's a lot of people
with sharp knacks in this place. Maybe drawn here cause you was born here,
or cause you made the plow here. And there's all them people you've been
teaching up in Vigor, folks who maybe don't got so sharp a knack but they
know the things you taught them, they know the way to live. And I also have
my own idea that maybe the curse forced us all to live together there, so we
had to get along no matter what, we had to learn to make peace among
ourselves. If the curse was lifted from the folks of Vigor Church, them as
wanted to could come here and teach them as has the knacks. And teach, them
meantime how to live together in harmony."

"Or folks from here could go there," said Alvin. "Even if the curse
ain't lifted."

Measure shook his head. "There's like a hundred people or more in Vigor
Church who's already trying to follow the Maker way. Nobody here even knows
about it, really. So if you said to the folks in Vigor, please come to
Hatrack, they'd come; but if you said to the folks in Hatrack, please come
to Vigor, they'd laugh."

"But the river's still fogged up," said Mike, Fink, "and the curse is
still on."

"If it comes to that," said Miss Larner, "there might be another way to
talk to Tenskwa-Tawa without crossing the river."

"You got a pigeon knows the way to the Red Prophet's wigwam?" asked
Horace, scoffing.

"I know a weaver," said Miss Larner, "who has a door that opens into
the west, and I know of a man named Isaac who uses that door." She looked at
Alvin, and he nodded.

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Measure, "but if you
think you can talk to Tenskwa-Tawa, then I hope you'll do it. I hope you
will."

"I will for you," said Alvin. "For your sake and the sake of my family
and friends in Vigor Church, I'll ask even though I fear the answer will be
worse than no."

"What could be worse than no?" asked Arthur Stuart.

"I could lose a friend," said Alvin. "But when I weigh that friend
against the people of Vigor and the hope that they might help teach other
folks to be Makers and help build the Crystal City-- then I don't see as how
I've got no choice. I was a child when I went there, though, to that
weaver's house." He was silent for a moment. "Miss Larner knows the way, if
she'll guide me there." It was his turn to look at her, waiting. After a
moment's hesitation, she nodded.

"One way or another, though," said Verity Cooper, "you will leave this
place as soon as the trial's over."

"Win or lose," said Alvin. "Win or lose."

"And if anybody tries to stop him or harm him, they'll have to deal
with me first," said Mike Fink. "I'm going with you, Alvin, wherever you go.
If these people have the president in their pocket, they're going to be all
the more dangerous and you ain't going nowhere without me to watch your
back."

"I wish I was younger," said Armor-of-God. "I wish I was younger."

"I don't want to travel alone," said Alvin. "Rut there's work to be
done here, especially if the curse is lifted. And you have responsibilities,
too, you married men. It's only the single ones, really, who are free to
wander as I'll have to wander. Whatever I find out at the weaver's house,
whatever happens when and if I talk to Tenskwa-Tawa, I still have to learn
how to build the Crystal City."

"Maybe Tenskwa-Tawa can tell you," said Measure.

"If he knows, then he could have told me back when you and I was boys
and in his company," said Alvin.

"I'm unmarried," said Arthur Stuart. "I'm coming with you."

"I reckon so," said Alvin. "And Mike Fink, I'll be glad of your
company, too."

"I'm not married either," said Verily Cooper.

Alvin looked at him oddly. "Verily, you're already a dear friend, but
you're a lawyer, not a woodsman or a wandering tradesman or a river rat or
whatever the rest of us are."

"All the more reason you need me," said Verily. "There'll be laws and
courts, sheriffs and jails and writs wherever you go. Sometimes you'll need
what Mike Fink has to offer. And sometimes you'll need me. You can't deny
me, Alvin Smith. I came all this way to learn from you."

"Measure knows all I know by now. He can teach you as well as I can,
and you can help him."

Verily looked at his feet for a moment. "Measure's learned from you,
and you from him, since you're brothers and have been for a long time. May
it not be taken as an offense, I beg you, if I say that I'd be glad of a
chance to learn from, you directly for a while, Alvin. I mean to belittle no
one else by saying that."

"No offense taken," said Measure. "If you hadn't said it, I would
have."

"These three then to go with me on the long road," said Alvin. "And
Miss Larner to go with me as far as Becca Weaver's house."

"I'll go too," said Armor-of-God. "Not the whole road, but as far as
the weavers. So I can bring back word about what Tenskwa-Tawa says. I hope
you'll forgive my presumption, but I crave the chance to be the one as
brings the good news to Vigor Church, if they're set free."

"And if they're not?"

"Then they need to learn that too, and from me."

"Then our plans are laid, such as they are," said Alvin.

"All except how to get out of Hatrack River alive, with all these thugs
and ruffians about," said Verily Cooper.

"Oh, me and Armor already got that figured out," said Mike Fink. with a
grin. "And we pretty much won't have to beat nobody to a pulp to do it,
neither, if we're lucky."

There was such glee in Mike Fink's face when he said it, though, that
more than one of the others wondered whether Mike really thought it would be
good luck not to have to pulverize somebody. Nor were a few of them
altogether sure that they didn't wish to do a little pulp-beating
themselves, if push came to shove.

Fink and Armor-of-God were about to head downstairs with Horace then,
to freshen up from their journey before he put them to bed in his attic, a
good clean space but one he never rented out, just in case of late-night
sudden visitors like these, when Measure called out, "Mike Fink."

Fink turned around.

"There's a story I got to tell you before I go to sleep tonight," he
said.

Fink looked puzzled for a moment.

"Measure's under the curse," said Armor-of-God. "He's got to tell you
or he'll go to bed with bloody hands."

"I came this close to being under the curse myself," said Fink. "But
you? How did you get under it?"

"He took it on himself," said Miss Larner. "But that doesn't mean the
same rules don't apply."

"But I already know the story."

"That'll make the telling of it easier," said Measure. "But I got to do
it."

"I'll come back up when I've peed and et," said Fink. "Begging your
pardon, ma'am."

There they were, then, looking at each other, Alvin and Peggy-- but
once again with Verily Cooper, Arthur Stuart, and Measure looking on.

"Don't the two of you get tired of playing out your scenes in front of
an audience?"

"There's no scene to play," said Miss Larner.

"Too bad," said Alvin. "I thought this was the part of the play where I
says to you, 'I'm sorry,' and you says to me--"

"I say to you, There is nothing to be sorry for."

"And I say to you, Is so. And you say, Is not. Is so, Is not, Is so,
back and forth till we bust out laughing."

At which she burst out laughing.

"I was right, you didn't need to testify," Alvin said.

Her face went stern at once.

"Hear me out, for Pete's sake, cause you were right too, if it came
right down to it, it wasn't my place to tell you whether or not you could
testify. It's not my decision whether you get to make this sacrifice or that
one, or whether it's worth it. You decide your own sacrifices, and I decide
mine. Instead of me bossing you about it, I should have just asked you to
hold off and see if I could manage without. And you would have said yes.
Wouldn't you."

She looked him in the eye. "Probably not," she said. "But I should
have."

"So maybe we ain't so bullheaded after all."

"The day after-- no, two days later-- that's when we're not so
bullheaded."

"That'll do, if we just stay friends till we soften up a little."

"You're not ready for married life, Alvin," said Miss Larner. "You
still have many leagues to travel, and until you're ready to build the
Crystal City, you have no need of me. I'm not going to sit home and pine for
you, and I'm not going to try to tag along with you when the companions you
need are men like these. Speak to me when your journey's done. See if we
still need each other then."

"So you admit we need each other now."

"I'm not debating with you now, Alvin. I concede no points to you, and
petty contradictions will not be explained or reconciled."

"These men are my witnesses, Margaret. I will love you forever. The
family we make together, that will be our best Making, better than the plow,
better than the Crystal City."

She shook her head. "Be honest with yourself, Alvin. The Crystal City
will stand forever, if you build it right. But our family will be gone in a
few lifetimes."

"So you admit we'll have a family."

She grinned. "You should run for office, Alvin. You'd lose, but the
debates would be entertaining." She was turning toward the door when it
opened without a knock. It was Po Doggly, his eyes wide. He scanned the room
till he saw Alvin. "What are you doing sitting there like that, and not a
gun in the room!"

"I wasn't robbing any of them, and they wasn't robbing me," said Alvin.
"We didn't think to bring guns along."

"There was a break-in at the jail. A man claiming to be Amy Sump's
father riled up the crowd and about thirty men broke into the courthouse and
overpowered Billy Hunter and took away his keys. They hauled every damn
prisoner out of there and started beating on them till they told which one
of them was you. I got there before they killed anybody and I run them off
all right, but they can't get far from town in one night and I don't know
but what somebody's going to tell them where you are so I want you to sleep
with guns tonight."

"Don't worry about it," said Miss Larner. "They won't come here
tonight."

Po looked at her, then at Alvin. "You sure?"

"Don't even post a guard, Po," said Miss Larner. "It will only draw
attention to the roadhouse. The men hired to kill Alvin are all cowards,
really, so they had to get drunk in order to make the attempt. They'll sleep
it off tonight."

"And go away after that?"

"Make sure the trial is well guarded, and after that if Alvin is
acquitted he'll leave Hatrack and your nightmares will be over."

"They broke into my jail," said Doggly. "I don't know who your enemies
are, boy, but if I was you I'd get rid of that golden plow."

"It ain't the plow," said Alvin. "Though some of them probably thinks
it is. But plow or no plow, the ones as want me dead would be sending boys
like those after me."

"And you, really don't want my protection?" asked Doggly.

Both Alvin and Miss Larner agreed that they did not.

When Po made his good-byes and was ready to leave, Miss Larner slipped
her arm through his. "Take me downstairs, please, and on to the room I'm
sharing with my new friend Ramona." She gave not so much as a backward
glance at Alvin.

Measure hooted once after the door was closed. "Alvin, is she testing
you? Just to make sure that you'll never turn wifebeater, no matter what the
provocation?"

"I got a feeling I ain't seen provocation yet." But Alvin was smiling
when he said it, and the others got the idea he didn't mind the idea of
sparring with Miss Larner now and then-- sparring with words, that is, words
and looks and winks and nasty grins.

After the candles were doused and the room was dark and still, with all
of them in bed and wishing to sleep, Alvin murmured: "I wonder what they
meant to do to me."

Nobody asked who he meant; Measure didn't have to. "They meant to kill
you, Alvin. Does it matter what method they used? Hanging. Burning alive. A
dozen musket balls. Do you really care which way you die?"

"I'd like to have a corpse decent-looking enough that the coffin can be
open and my children can bear to look at me and say good-bye to me."

"You're dreaming then," said Measure. "Cause even right now I don't
know how no wife and children could bear to look at you, though I daresay
they'll say good-bye readily enough."

"I expect they were going to hang me," said Alvin. "If you ever see
folks about to hang me, don't waste your time or risk your life trying to
save me. Just come along after they've given up on me so you can get me on
home."

"So you got no fear of the rope," said Measure.

"Nor fear of drowning or suffocation," said Alvin. "Nor falling. I can
fix up breaks and make the rocks soft under me. But fire, now. Fire and
beheading and too many bullets, those can take me right off. I could use
some help if you see them going at me like that."

"I'll try to remember that," said Measure.

***

Monday morning behind the smithy, everyone was gathered by ten o'clock;
but from dawn onward, heavily armed deputies were on guard all around the
site. The judge arranged things so the whole jury could see, as well as
Marty Laws, Verily Cooper, Alvin Smith, Makepeace Smith, and Hank Dowser.
"This court is now in session," said the judge loudly. "Now, Hank Dowser,
you show us the exact place you marked."

Verily Cooper spoke up. "How do we know he'll mark the same place?"

"Cause I'll dowse it again," said Hank Dowser, "and the same spot will
still be best."

Alvin spoke up then. "There's water everywhere here. There's not a
place you can pick where there won't be water if you just go far enough
down."

Hank Dowser whirled on him and glared. "There it is! He's got no
respect for any man's knack except his own! You think I don't know there's
water most everywhere? The question is, is the water pure? Is it close to
the surface? That's what I find-- the easy dig, the clean water. And I'll
tell you, by the use of hickory and willow wands, that the water is purest
here, and closest to the surface here, and so I mark this spot, as I would
have more'n a year ago! Tell me, Alvin Journeyman, if you're so clever, is
this or is it not the same spot I marked, exactly?"

"It is," said Alvin, sounding a little abashed. "And I didn't mean to
imply that you weren't a real dowser, sir."

"You didn't exactly mean not to imply it either, though, did you!"

"I'm sorry," said Alvin. "The water is purest here, and closest to the
surface, and you truly found it twice the same, the exact spot."

The judge intervened. "So after this unconventional courtroom exchange,
which seems appropriate to this unconventional courtroom, you both agree
that this is the spot where Alvin says he dug the first well and found
nothing but solid impenetrable stone, and where it is Makepeace's contention
that there was no such stone, but rather a buried treasure which Alvin stole
and converted to his own use while telling a tale of turning iron into
gold."

"For all we know he hid my iron underground here!" cried Makepeace.

The judge sighed. "Makepeace, please, don't make me send you to jail
again."

"Sorry," muttered Makepeace.

The judge beckoned to the team of workingmen he'd arranged to come do
the digging. Paying them would come out of the county budget, but with four
diggers it couldn't take long to prove one or the other right.

They dug and dug, the dirt flying. But it was a dryish dirt, a little
moist from the last rain which was only a week ago, but no hint of a watery
layer. And then: chink.

"The treasure box!" cried Makepeace.

A few moments later, after scraping and prying, the foreman of the
diggers called out, "Solid stone, your honor! Far as we can reach. Not no
boulder, neither-- feels like bedrock if'n I ever saw it."

Hank Dowser's face went scarlet. He muscled his way to the hole and
slid down the steep side. With his own handkerchief he brushed away the soil
from the stone. After a few minutes of examination, he stood up. "Your
Honor, I apologize to Mr. Smith, as graciously, I hope, as he just
apologized to me a moment ago. Not only is this bedrock-- which I did not
see, for I have never found such a sheet of water under solid stone like
this-- but also I can see old scrape marks against the stone, proving to me
that the prentice boy did dig in this spot, just as he said he did, and
reached stone, just as he said he did."

"That don't prove he didn't find gold along the way!" cried Makepeace.

"Summations to the jury!" the judge called out.

"In every particular that we could test," said Verily Cooper, "Alvin
Smith has proven himself to be truthful and reliable. And all the county has
to assail him is the unproven and unprovable speculations of a man whose
primary motive seems to be to get his hands upon gold. There are no
witnesses but Alvin himself of how the gold came to be shaped like a plow,
or the plow came to be made of gold. But we have eight witnesses, not to
mention His Honor, myself, and my respected colleague, not to mention Alvin
himself, all swearing to you that this plow is not just gold, but also
alive. What possible property interest can Makepeace Smith have in an object
which clearly belongs to itself and only keeps company with Alvin Smith for
its own protection? You have more than a reasonable doubt-- you have a
certainty that my client is an honest man who has committed no crime, and
that the plow should stay with him."

It was Marty Laws' turn then. He looked like he'd had sour milk for
breakfast. "You've heard the witnesses, you've seen the evidence, you're all
wise men and you can figure this out just fine without my help," said Laws.
"May God bless your deliberations."

"Is that your summing up?" demanded Makepeace. "Is that how you
administer justice in this county? I'll support your opponent in the next
local election, Marty Laws! I swear you haven't heard the end of this!"

"Sheriff, kindly arrest Mr. Makepeace Smith again, three days this
time, contempt of court and I'll consider a charge of attempted interference
with the course of justice by offering a threat to a sitting judge in order
to influence the outcome of a case."

"You're all ganging up against me! All of you are in this together!
What did he do, Your Honor, bribe you? Offer to share some of that gold with
you?"

"Quickly, Sheriff Doggly," said the judge, "before I get angry with the
man."

When Makepeace's shouting had died down enough to proceed, the judge
asked the jury, "Do we need to traipse on back to the courtroom for hours of
deliberation? Or should we just stand back and let you work things out right
here?"

The foreman whispered to his fellow jurors; they whispered back. "We
have a unanimous verdict, Your Honor."

"What say you, etcetera etcetera?"

"Not guilty of all charges," said the foreman.

"We're done. I commend both attorneys for fine work in a difficult
case. And to the jury, my commendation for cutting through the horse pucky
and seeing the truth. Good citizens all. This court stands adjourned until
the next time somebody brings a blame fool charge against an innocent man,
at least that's what I'm betting on." The judge looked around at the people,
who were still standing there. "Alvin, you're free to go," he said. "Let's
all go home."

***

Of course they didn't all go; nor, strictly speaking, was Alvin free.
Right now, surrounded by a crowd and with a dozen deputies on guard, he was
safe enough. But as he gripped the sack with the plow inside, he could
almost feel the covetings of other men directed toward that plow, that warm
and trembling gold.

He wasn't thinking of that, however. He was looking over at Margaret
Larner, whose arm was around young Ramona's waist. Someone was speaking to
Alvin-it was Verily Cooper, he realized, congratulating him or something,
but Verily would understand. Alvin put a hand on Verily's shoulder, to let
him know that he was a good friend even though Alvin was about to walk away
from him. And Alvin headed on over to Miss Larner and Ramona.

At the last moment he got shy, and though he had his eyes on Margaret
all the way through the crowd, it was Ramona he spoke to when he got there.
"Miss Ramona, it was brave of you to come forward, and honest too." He shook
her hand.

Ramona beamed, but she was also alittle upset and nervous. "That whole
thing with Amy was my fault I think. She was telling me those tales about
you, and I was doubting her, which only made her insist more and more. And
she stuck to it so much that for a while I believed maybe it was true and
that's when I told my folks and that's what started all the rumors going,
but then when she went with Thatch under the freak show tent and she comes
out pregnant but babbling about how it was you got her that way, well, I had
my chance then to set things straight, didn't I? And then I didn't get to
testify!"

"But you told my friends," said Alvin, "so the people who matter most
to me know the truth, and in the meantime you didn't have to hurt your
friend Amy." In the back of his mind, though, Alvin couldn't shake the
bitter certainty that there would always be some who believed her charges,
just as he was sure that she would never recant. She would go on telling
those lies about him, and some folks at least would go on believing them,
and so he would be known for a cad or worse no matter how clean he lived his
life. But that was spilled milk.

Ramona was shaking her head. "I don't reckon she'll be my friend no
more."

"But you're her friend whether she likes it or not. So much of a friend
that you'd even hurt her rather than let her hurt someone else. That's
something, in my book."

At that moment, Mike Fink and Armor-of-God came up to him. "Sing us
that song you thought up in jail, Alvin!"

At once several others clamored for the song-- it was that kind of
festive occasion.

"If Alvin won't sing it, Arthur Stuart knows it!" somebody said, and
then there was Arthur tugging at his arm and Alvin joined in singing with
him. Most of the jury was still there to hear the last verse:

I trusted justice not to fail. The jury did me proud. Tomorrow I will
hit the trail, And sing my hiking song so loud, It's like to start a gale!

Everybody laughed and clapped. Even Miss Larner smiled, and as Alvin
looked at her he knew that this was the moment, now or never. "I got another
verse that I never sung to anybody before, but I want to sing it now," he
said. They all hushed up again to hear:

Now swiftly from this place I'll fly, And underneath my boots, A
thousand lands will pass me by, Until we choose to put down roots, My lady
love and I.

He looked at Margaret with all the meaning he could put in his face,
and everybody hooted and clapped. "I love you, Margaret Larner," he said. "I
asked you before, but I'll say it again now. We're about to journey together
for a ways, and I can't think of a good reason why it can't be our honeymoon
journey. Let me be your husband, Margaret. Everything good that's in me
belongs to you, if you'll have me."

She looked flustered. "You're embarrassing me, Alvin," she murmured.

Alvin leaned close and spoke into her ear. "I know we got separate work
to do, once we leave the weavers house. I know we got long journeys apart."

She held his face between her hands. "You don't know what you might
meet on that road. What woman you might meet and love better than me."

Alvin felt a stab of dread. Was this something she had seen with her
torchy knack? Or merely the worry any woman might feel? Well, it was his
future, wasn't it? And even if she saw the possibility of him loving
somebody else, that didn't mean he had to let it come true.

He wrapped his long arms around her waist and drew her close, and spoke
softly. "You see things in the future that I can't see. Let me ask you like
an ordinary man, and you answer me like a woman that knows only the past and
the present. Let my promise to you now keep watch over the future."

She was about to raise another objection, when he kissed her lightly on
the lips. "If you're my wife, then whatever there is in the future, I can
bear it, and I'll do my best to help you bear it too. The judge is right
here. Let me begin my life of new freedom with you."

For a moment, her eyes looked heavy and sad, as if she saw some awful
pain and suffering in his future. Or was it in her own?

Then she shook it off as if it was just the shadow of a cloud passing
over her and now the sun was back. Or as if she had decided to live a
certain life, no matter what the cost of it, and now would no longer dread
what couldn't be helped. She smiled, and tears ran down her cheeks. "You
don't know what you're doing, Alvin, but I'm proud and glad to have your
love, and I'll be your wife."

Alvin turned to face the others, and in a loud voice he cried, "She
said yes! Judge! Somebody stop the judge from leaving! He's got him one more
job to do!" While Peggy went off to find her father and drag him back so he
could give her away properly, Verily Cooper fetched the judge.

On the way over to where Alvin waited, the judge put a kindly arm
across Verily's back. "My lad, you have a keen mind, a lawyer's mind, and I
approve of that. But there's something about you that sets a fellow's teeth
on edge."


"If I knew what it was, sir, you may be sure that I'd stop."

"Took me a while to figure it out. And I don't know what you can do
about it. What makes folks mad at you right from the start is you sound so
damnably English and educated and fine."

Verily grinned, then answered in the vernacular accent he had grown up
with, the one he had spent so many years trying to lose. "You mean, sir,
that if I talks like a common feller, I'll be more likable?"

The judge whooped with laughter. "That's what I mean, lad, though I
don't know as how that accent is much better!"

And with that they reached the spot where the wedding party was
assembled. Horace stood beside his daughter, and Arthur Stuart was there as
Alvin's best man.

The judge turned to Sheriff Doggly. "Do the banns, my good sir."

Po Doggly at once cried out, "Is there a body here so foolish as to
claim there's any impediment to the marriage of this pair of good and godly
citizens?" He turned to the judge. "Not a soul as I can see, Judge."

So Alvin and Peggy were married, Horace Guester on one side, Arthur
Stuart on the other, all standing there in the open on the grounds of the
smithy where Alvin had served his prenticehood. Just up the hill was the
springhouse where Peggy had lived in disguise as a schoolteacher; the very
springhouse where twenty-two years before, as a five-year-old girl, she had
seen the heartfires of a family struggling across the Hatrack River in
flood, and in the womb of the mother of that family there was a baby with a
heartfire so bright it dazzled her, the like of which she'd never seen
before or since. She ran then, ran down this hill, ran to this smithy, got
Makepeace Smith and the other men gathered there to race to the river and
save the family. All of it began here, within sight of this place. And now
she was married to him. Married to the boy whose heartfire shone like the
brightest star in her memory, and in all her life since then.

There was dancing that night at Horace's roadhouse, you can bet, and
Alvin had to sing his song five more times, and the last verse thrice each
time through. And that night he carried his Margaret-- his now, and he was
hers-- in those strong blacksmith's arms up the stairs to the room where
Margaret herself had been conceived twenty-eight years before. He was
awkward and they both were shy and it didn't help that half the town was
charivareeing outside the roadhouse halfway till dawn, but they were man and
wife, made one flesh as they had so long been one heart even though she had
tried to deny it and he had tried to live without her. Never mind that she
had seen his grave in her mind, and herself and their children standing by
it, weeping. That scene was possible in every wedding night; and at least
there would be children; at least there would be a loving widow to grieve
him; at least there would be memory of this night, instead of regretful
loneliness. And in the morning, when they awoke, they were not quite so shy,
not quite so awkward, and he said such things to her as made her feel more
beautiful than anyone who had ever lived before, and more beloved, and I
don't know who would dare to say that in that moment it wasn't the pure
truth.





Chapter 18 -- Journeys

Two days later they were ready to light out. They made no secret about
the carriage Armor-of-God hired in Wheelwright, ready to take them off the
ferry as soon as they crossed the Hio. That would be enough to decoy the
stupid ones. As for the clever ones, well, Mike Fink had his own plan, and
even Margaret allowed as how it might well work.

Friends came to the roadhouse all that evening to bid goodbye. Alvin
and Peggy and Arthur were well known to them all; Armor-of-God had a few
friends here, from business traveling; and Verily had made some new friends,
having been the spokesman for the winning side in a highly emotional trial.
If Mike Fink had local friends, they weren't the sort to show up in Horace
Guester's roadhouse; as Mike confided to Verily Cooper, his friends were
most of them the very men Alvin's enemies had hired to kill him and take the
plow once he got out on the road tomorrow.

When the last soul had left, Horace embraced his daughter and his new
son-in-law and the adopted son he had helped to raise, shook hands with
Verily, Armor, and Mike, and then went about as he always did, dousing the
candles, putting the night log on the fire, checking to make sure all was
secure. As he did, Measure helped the travelers, make their way, lightly
burdened, quietly down the stairs and out the back, finding the path with
only the faintest sliver of moon. Even at that, they walked at first toward
the privy, so that anyone casually glancing wouldn't think a thing amiss,
unless they noticed the satchel or bag each one carried. Meantime, Measure
kept watch, in case someone else was thinking to snatch Alvin that night
while he was relieving himself. He kept watch even though Peggy Larner-- or
was it Goody Smith now? --assured him that not a soul was watching the back
of the house.

"All my teaching is in your hands now, Measure," Alvin whispered as he
was about to step off the back porch into the night. "I leave you behind
this time again, but you know that we set out on the real journey together
as true companions, and always will be to the end."

Measure heard him, and wondered if Peggy maybe whispered to him
something she had seen in his heartfire, that Measure worried lest Alvin
forget how much Measure loved him and wanted to be on this journey by his
side. But no, Alvin didn't need Peggy to tell him he had a brother who was
more loyal than life and more sure than death. Alvin kissed his brother's
cheek and was gone, the last to go.

They met up again in the woods behind the privy. Alvin went about among
them, calming them with soft words, touching them, and each time he touched
them they could hear it just a little clearer, a kind of soft humming, or
was it the soughing of the wind, or the call of a far-off bird too faint to
hear, or perhaps a distant coyote mumbling in its sleep, or the soft scurry
of squirrel feet on a tree on the next rise? It was a kind of music, and
finally it didn't matter what it was that produced the sound, they fell into
the rhythm of it, all holding each other's hands, and at the head of the
line, Alvin. They moved swift and sure, keeping step to the music, sliding
easily among the trees, making few sounds, saying nothing, marveling at how
they could have walked past these woods before and never guessed that such a
clear and well-marked path was here, except when they looked back, there was
no path, only the underbrush closed off again, for the path was made by
Alvin's progress in the midst of the greensong, and behind his party the
forest relaxed back into its ordinary shape.

They came to the river, where Po Doggly waited, watching over two
boats. "Mind you," he whispered, "I'm not sheriff tonight. I'm only doing
what Horace and I done so many times in the past, long before I had me a
badge-- helping folks as ought to be free get safe across the river." Po and
Alvin rowed one of them and Mike and Verily the other, for though he was
unaccustomed to such labor, no wooden oar would ever leave a blister on
Verily's hands. Silently they moved out across the Hio. Only when they got
to the middle did anyone speak. Peggy, controlling the tiller, whispered to
Alvin, "Can we talk a little now?"

"Soft and low," said Alvin. "And no laughing."

How had he known she was about to laugh? "We passed a dozen of them as
we walked through the woods, all of them asleep, waiting for first light.
But there's none on the opposite shore, except the heartfire we're looking
for."

Alvin nodded, and gave a thumbs up to the men in the other boat.

They skirted the shore on the Appalachee side for about a quarter mile
before coming to the landing site they looked for. Once it had been a
putting-in place for flatboats, before the Red fog on the Mizzipy and the
new railroad lines slowed and then stopped most of the flatboat traffic. Now
an elderly couple lived there mostly from fishing and an orchard that still
produced, poorly, but enough for their needs.

Dr. Whitley Physicker was waiting in the front yard of that house with
his carriage and four saddled horses; he had insisted on buying or lending
them himself, and refused any thought of reimbursement. He also paid the old
folks who lived there for the annoyance of having visitors arrive so late at
night.

He had a man with him-- Arthur Stuart recognized him at once and called
him by name. John Binder smiled shyly and shook hands all around, as did
Whitley Physicker. "I'm not much for rowing, at my age," Dr. Physicker
explained. "So John, being as trustworthy a man as ever there was, agreed to
come along, asking no questions. I suppose all the questions he didn't ask
are answered now."

Binder smiled and chuckled. "Reckon so, all but one. I heard about how
you was teaching folks about Makery away out there in Vigor Church, and I
hoped you might teach some of it here. Now you're going."

Alvin reassured him. "My brother is holed up in the roadhouse. Nobody's
to know he's there, but if you go to Horace Guester and tell him I sent you,
he'll let you go up and talk to Measure. There's a hard tale he'll have to
tell you--"

"I know about the curse."

"Well good," said Alvin. "Cause once that's done, he can teach you just
what I was teaching in Vigor Church."

Po Doggly and John Binder pushed the boats off the shore before the
others were even mounted on their horses or properly seated in the carriage;
Whitley Physicker waved from Binder's boat. Alvin shook hands with the old
couple, who had got up from their beds to see them off. Then he climbed up
into the front seat of the carriage with Margaret; Verily and Arthur sat
behind. Armor and Mike rode two of the horses; Verily's horse and the horse
that Alvin and Arthur would ride together were tied to the back of the
carriage.

As they were about to leave, Mike brought his horse-- stamping and
fuming, since Mike was a sturdy load and not much of a horseman-- beside the
carriage and said to Alvin, "Well this plan worked too well! I was looking
forward to scaring some poor thug half to death before the night was
through!"

Peggy leaned over from the other side of the front seat and said,
"You'll get your wish about a mile up the road. There's two fellows there
who saw Dr. Physicker's carriage come here this afternoon and wondered what
he was doing with four horses tied behind. They're just keeping watch on the
road, but even if they don't stop us, they'll give the alarm and then we'll
be chased instead of getting away clean."

"Don't kill them, Mike," said Alvin.

"I won't unless they make me," said Mike. "Don't worry, I ain't loose
with other folks' lives no more." He rode to Armor, gave him the reins, and
said, "Here, bring this girl along with you. I do better on my feet for this
kind of work." Then he dismounted and took off running.

Near as I can gather from Mike Fink's tale of the event-- and you got
to understand that a fellow who wants his story to be truthful has to allow
for a lot of brag before deciding what's true in a tale of Mike Fink's
heroic exploits-- those two smarter-than-normal thugs was dozing while
sitting with their backs to opposite sides of the same stump when all of a
sudden they both felt their arms pretty near wrenched right out of their
sockets and then they were dragged around, grabbed by the collars, and
smacked together so hard their noses bled and they saw stars.

"You're lucky I took me a vow of nonviolence," said Mike Fink, "or
you'd be suffering some pain right now."

Since they were already suffering something pretty excruciating, they
didn't want to find out what this night-wandering fellow thought of as pain.
Instead, they obeyed him and held very still as he tied their hands to a
couple of lengths of rope, so that the one man's right hand was tied on one
end of a rope that held the other man's left, with about two feet of rope
between them; and the same with their other two hands. Then Fink made them
kneel, picked up a huge log, and laid it down across the two lengths of rope
that joined them. What he could lift alone they couldn't lift together. They
just knelt there as if they were praying to the log, their hands too far
apart even to dream of untying their bonds.

"Next time you want gold," said Fink, "you ought to get yourself a pick
and shovel and dig for it, stead of lying in wait in the night for some
innocent fellow to come by and get himself robbed and killed."

"We wasn't going to rob nobody," burbled one of the men.

"It's a sure thing you wasn't," said Fink, "cause any man ever wants to
get at Alvin Smith has to go through me, and I make a better wall than
window, I'll tell you that right now."

Then he jogged back to the road, waved to the others, and waited for
them to come alongside so he could mount his horse. In a couple of minutes
it was done, and they rode briskly south along a lacework of roads that
would completely bypass Wheelwright-- including the fancy carriage waiting
all day empty by the river, until Horace Guester crossed over, got in the
carriage, and used it to shop for groceries in the big-city market that was
Wheelwright's pride and joy. That's when the ruffians knew they had been
fooled. Oh, some of them lit out in search of Alvin's group, but they had a
whole day's head start, or nearly so, and not a one of them found anything
except a couple of men kneeling before a log with their butts in the air.

***

All the way to the coast, Calvin expected to be accosted by Napoleon's
troops, the carriage blown to bits with grapeshot or set afire or some other
grisly end. Why he expected Napoleon to be ungrateful he didn't know.
Perhaps it was simply a feeling of general unease. Here he was, not yet
twenty years old, and already he had moved through the salons of London and
Paris, had spent hours alone discussing a thousand different things with the
most powerful man in the world, had learned as many of the secrets of that
powerful man as he was likely ever to tell, spoke French if not fluently
then competently, and through it all had remained aloof, untouched, his
life's dream unchanged. He was a Maker, far more so than Alvin, who remained
at the rough frontier of a crude upstart country that couldn't properly call
itself a nation; who had Alvin known, except other homespun types like
himself? Yet Calvin felt vaguely afraid at the thought of going back to
America. Something was trying to stop him. Something didn't want him to go.

"It is nerves," said Honor . "You will face your brother. You know now
that he is a provincial clown, but still he remains your nemesis, the stick
against which you must measure yourself. Also you are traveling with me, and
you are constantly aware of the need to make a good impression."

"And why would I need to impress you, Honor ?"

"Because I am going to write you into a story someday, my friend.
Remember that the ultimate power is mine. You may decide what you will do in
this life, up to the point. But I will decide what others think of you, and
not just now but long after you're dead."

"If anyone still reads your novels," said Calvin.

"You don't understand, my dear bumpkin. Whether they read my novels or
not, my judgment of your life will stand. These things take on a life of
their own. No one remembers the original source, or cares either."

"So people will only remember what you say about me-- and you they
won't remember at all."

Honord chuckled. "Oh, I don't know about that, Calvin. I intend to be
memorable. But then, do I care whether I'm remembered? I think not. I have
lived without the affection of my own mother; why should I crave the
affection of strangers not yet born?"

"It's not whether you're remembered," said Calvin. "It's whether you
changed the world."

"And the first change I will make is: They must remember me!" Honor 's
voice was so loud that the coachman slid open the panel and inquired whether
they wanted something from him. "More speed," cried Honor , "and softer
bumps. Oh, and when the horses relieve themselves: Less odor."

The coachman growled and closed the panel shut.

"Don't you intend to change the world?" asked Calvin.

"Change it? A paltry project, smacking of weak ambition and much
self-contempt. Your brother wants to build a city. You want to tear it down
before his eyes. I am the one with vision, Calvin. I intend to create a
world. A world more fascinating, engrossing, spellbinding, intricate,
beautiful, and real than this world."

"You're going to outdo God?"

"He spent far too much time on geology and botany. For him, Adam was an
afterthought-- oh, by the way, is man found upon the Earth? I shall not make
that mistake. I will concentrate on people, and slip the science into the
cracks."

"The difference is that your people will all be confined to tiny black
marks on paper," said Calvin.

"My people will be more real than these shallow creatures God has made!
I, too, will make them in my own image-- only taller-- and mine will have
more palpable reality, more inner life, more connection to the living world
around them than these mud-covered peasants or the calculating courtiers of
the palace or the swaggering soldiers and bragging businessmen who keep
Paris under their thumbs."

"Instead of worrying about the emperor stopping us, perhaps I should
worry about lightning striking us," said Calvin.

It was meant as a joke, but Honor did not smile. "Calvin, if God was
going to strike you dead for anything, you'd already be dead by now. I don't
pretend to know whether God exists, but I'll tell you this-- the old man is
doddering now! The old fellow talks rough but it's all a memory. He hasn't
the stuff anymore! He can't stop us! Oh, maybe he can write us out of his
will, but we'll make our own fortune and let the old boy stand back lest he
be splashed when we hurtle by!"

"Do you ever have even a moment of self-doubt?"

"None," said Honor . "I live in the constant certainty of failure, and
the constant certainty of genius. It is a species of madness, but greatness
is not possible without it. Your problem, Calvin, is that you never really
question yourself about anything. However you feel, that's the right way to
feel, and so you feel that way and everything else better get out of your
way. Whereas I endeavor to change my feelings because my feelings are always
wrong. For instance, when approaching a woman you lust after, the foolish
man acts out his feelings and clutches at an inviting breast or makes some
fell invitation that gets him slapped and keeps him from the best parties
for the rest of the year. But the wise man looks the woman in the eye and
serenades her about her astonishing beauty and her great wisdom and his own
inadequacy to explain to her how much she deserves her place in the exact
center of the universe. No woman can resist this, Calvin, or if she can,
she's not worth having."

The carriage came to a stop.

Honor flung open the door. "Smell the air!"

"Rotting fish," said Calvin.

"The coast! I wonder if I shall throw up, and if I do, whether the sea
air will have affected the color and consistency of my vomitus."

Calvin ignored his deliberately crude banter as he reached up for their
bags. He well know that Honor was only crude when he didn't much respect
his company; when with aristocrats, Honor never uttered anything but bon
mots and epigrams. For the young novelist to speak that way to Calvin was a
sign, not so much of intimacy, but of disrespect.

When they found an appropriate ship bound for Canada, Calvin showed the
captain the letter Napoleon had given him. Contrary to his worst fears,
after seeing a production of a newly revised and prettied-up script of
Hamlet in London, the letter did not instruct the captain to kill Calvin and
Honor at once-- though there was no guarantee that the fellow didn't have
orders to strangle them and pitch them into the sea when they were out of
sight of land.

Why am I so afraid?

"So the Emperor's treasurer will reimburse me for all expenses out of
the treasury when I come back?"

"That's the plan," said Honor . "But here, my friend, I know how
ungenerous these imperial officials can be. Take this."

He handed the captain a sheaf of franc notes. Calvin was astonished.
"All these weeks you've pretended to be poor and up to your ears in debt."

"I am poor! I am in debt. If I didn't owe money, why would ever steel
myself to write? No, I simply borrowed the price of my passage from my
mother and my father-- they never talk, so they'll never find out-- and from
two of my publishers, promising each of them a completely exclusive book
about my travels in America."

"You borrowed to pay our passage, knowing all along that the Emperor
would pay it?"

"A man has to have spending money, or he's not a man," said Honor . "I
have a wad of it, with which I have every intention of being generous with
you, so I hope you won't condemn my methods."

"You're not terribly honest, are you?" said Calvin, half appalled, half
admiring.

"You shock me, you hurt me, you offend me, I challenge you to a duel
and then take sick with pneumonia so that I can't meet you, but I urge you
to go ahead without me. Keep in mind that because I had that money, the
captain will now invite us into his cabin for dinner every night of the
voyage. And in answer to your question, I am perfectly honest when I am
creating something, but otherwise words are mere tools designed to extract
what I need from the pockets or bank accounts of those who currently but
temporarily possess it. Calvin, you've been too long among the Puritans. And
I have been too long among the Hypocrites."

***

It was Peggy who found the turnoff to Chapman Valley, found it easily
though there was no sign and she was coming this time from the other
direction. She and Alvin left the others with the carriage under the
now-leafless oak out in front of the weavers' house. For Peggy, coming to
this place now was both thrilling and embarrassing. What would they think of
the way things had turned out since they set her on this present road?

Then, just as she raised her hand to knock on the door, she remembered
something.

"Alvin," she said. "It slipped my mind, but something Becca said when I
was here a few months ago."

"If it slipped your mind, then it was supposed to slip your mind."

"You and Calvin. You need to reclaim Calvin, find him and reclaim him
before he turns completely against the work you're doing."

Alvin shook his head. "Becca doesn't know everything."

"And what does that mean?"

"What makes you think Calvin wasn't already the enemy of our work
before he was born?"

"That's not possible," said Peggy. "Babies are born innocent and pure."

"Or steeped in original sin? Those are the choices? I can't believe
that you of all people believe either idea, you who put your hands on the
womb and see the futures in the baby's heartfire. The child is already
himself then, the good and bad, ready to step into the world and make of
himself whatever he wants most to be."

She squinted at ffim. "Why is it that when we're alone, talking of
something serious, you don't sound so much the country bumpkin?"

"Because maybe I learned everything you taught me, only I also learned
that I don't want to lose touch with the common people," said Alvin.
"They're the ones who are going to build the city with me. Their language is
my native language-- why should I forget it, just because I learned another?
How many educated folks do you think are going to come away from their fine
homes and educated friends and roll up their sleeves to make something with
their own hands?"

"I don't want to knock on this door," said Peggy. "My life changes when
I come into this place."

"You don't have to knock," said Alvin. He reached out and turned the
knob. The door opened.

When he made as if to step inside, Peggy took his arm. "Alvin, you
can't just walk in here!"

"If the door wasn't locked, then I can walk in," said Alvin. "Don't you
understand what this place is? This is the place where things are as they
must be. Not like the world out there, the world you see in the heartfires,
the world of things that can be. And not like the world inside my head, the
world as it might be. And not like the world as it was first conceived in
the mind of God, which is the world as it should be."

She watched him step over the threshold. There was no alarm in the
house, nor even a sound of life. She followed him. Young as he was, this man
she had watched over from his infancy, this man whose heart she knew more
intimately than her own, he could still surprise her by what he did of a
sudden without thought, because he simply knew it was right and had to be
this way.

The endless cloth still lay folded in piles, linked each to each,
winding over furniture, through halls, up and down stairs. They stepped over
the spans and reaches of it. "No dust," said Peggy. "I didn't notice that
the first time. There's no dust on the cloth."

"Good housekeepers here?" asked Alvin.

"They dust all this cloth?"

"Or maybe there's simply no passage of time within the cloth. Always
and forever it exists in that one present moment in which the shuttlecock
flew from side to side."

As he said these words, they began to hear the shuttlecock. Someone
must have opened a door.

"Becca?" called Peggy.

They followed the sound through the house to the ancient cabin at the
house's heart, where an open door led into the room with the loom. But to
Peggy's surprise, it wasn't Becca seated there. It was the boy. Her nephew,
the one who had dreamed of this. With practiced skill he drove the
shuttlecock back and forth.

"Is Becca..." Peggy couldn't bring herself to ask about the weaver's
death.

"Naw," said the boy. "We changed the rules a little here. No more
pointless sacrifice. You done that, you know. Came here as a judge-- well,
your judgment was heeded. I take my shift for a while, and she can go out a
little."

"So is it you we talk to now?" asked Alvin.

"Depends on what you want. I don't know nothing about nothing, so if
you want answers, I don't think I'm it."

"I want to use the door that leads to Ta-Kumsaw."

"Who?" the boy asked.

"Your uncle Isaac,".said Peggy.

"Oh, sure." He nodded with his head. "It's that one."

Alvin strode toward it.

"You ever used one of these doors before?" asked the boy.

"No," said Alvin.

"Well then ain't you the stupid one, heading right for it like it was
some ordinary door."

"What's different? I know it leads to the Red lands. I know it leads to
the house where Ta-Kumsaw's daughter weaves the lives of the Reds of the
west."

"Here's the tricky part. When you pass through the door, you can't have
no part of yourself touching anything here but air. You can't brush up
against the doodamb. You can't let a foot linger on the floor. It's not a
step through the door, it's a leap."

"And what happens if some part of me does touch?"'

"Then that part of this place drags you down just a little, slows you,
lowers you, and so instead of you passing through the door in one smooth
motion, you go through in a couple of pieces. Ain't nobody can put you
together after that, Mr. Maker."

Peggy was appalled. "I never realized it was so dangerous."

"Breathing's dangerous too," said the boy, "if'n you breathe in
something to make you sick." He grinned. "I saw you two get all twined up
together here. Congratulations."

"Thanks," said Alvin.

"So what do they call you now, judge woman?" the boy asked Peggy.
"Goody Smith?"

"Most still call me Peggy Larner. Only they say Miz Larner now, and not
Miss."

"I call her Margaret," said Alvin.

"I reckon you'll really be married when she starts to think of herself
by the name you call her, instead of the name her parents called her by." He
winked at Peggy. "Thanks for getting me my job. My sisters are glad, too,
they had nightmares, I'll tell you. There ain't no love of the loom in
them." He turned back to Alvin. "So are you going or what?"

At that moment the door flew open and a tied-up bundle flew through it.

"Uh-oh," said the boy. "Best turn your back. Becca's coming through,
and she travels stark nekkid, seeing as how women's clothing can't fit
through that door without touching."

Alvin turned his back, and so did Peggy, though unlike Alvin she
cheated and allowed herself to watch anyway. It was not Becca who caine
through the door first, however. It was Ta-Kumsaw, a man Peggy had never
met, though she had seen him often enough in Alvin's heartfire. He was not
naked, but rather clothed in buckskins that clung tightly to his body. He
saw them standing there and grunted. "Boy Renegado comes back to see the
most dangerous Red man who ever lived."

"Howdy, Ta-Kumsaw," said Alvin.

"Hi, Isaac," said the boy. "I warned him about the door like you said."

"Good boy," said Ta-Kumsaw. He turned his back on them then, just in
time for Becca to leap through the door wearing only thin and clinging
underwear. He gathered her at once into his arms. Then together they untied
the bundle and unfolded it into a dress, which she drew down over her head.
"All right," said Ta-Kurnsaw. "She's dressed enough for a White woman now."

Alvin turned around and greeted her. There were handshakes, and even a
hug between women. They talked about what had happened in Hatrack River over
the past few months, and then Alvin explained his errand.

Ta-Kumsaw showed no emotion. "I don't know what my brother will say. He
keeps his own counsel."

"Does he rule there in the west?" asked Alvin.

"Rule? That's not how we do things. There are many tribes, and in each
tribe many wise men. My brother is one of the greatest of them, everyone
agrees to that. But he doesn't make law just by deciding what it should be.
We don't do anything as foolish as you do, electing one president and
concentrating too much power in his hands. It was good enough when good men
held the office, but always when you create an office that a man can lay
hands on, an evil man will someday lay hands on it."

"Which is going to happen on New Year's day when Harrison--"

Ta-Kumsaw glowered. "Never say that name, that unbearable name."

"Not saying it won't make him go away,"

"It will keep his evil out of this house," said Ta-Kurnsaw. "Away from
the people I love."

In the meantime, Becca had finished dressing. She came to the boy and
bumped him with her hip. "Move over, stubbyfingers. That's my loom you're
tangling."

"Tightest weave ever," the boy retorted. "People will always know which
spots I wove."

Becca settled onto the chair and then began to make the shuttlecock
dance. The whole music of the loom changed, the rhythm of it, the song. "You
came for a purpose, Maker? The door's still open for you. Do what you came
to do."

For the first time Peggy really looked at the door, trying to see what
lay beyond it; and what lay beyond was nothing. Not blackness, but not
daylight either. Just... nothing. Her eyes couldn't look at it; her gaze
kept shifting away.

"Alvin," she said. "Are you sure you want to--"

He kissed her. "I love it when you worry about me."

She smiled and kissed him back. As he took off his cap and his boots,
and his long coat that might flap against the doodamb, he couldn't see how
she reached into the small box she kept in a pocket of her skirt; how she
held the last scrap of his birth caul between her fingers and then watched
his heartfire, ready to spring into action the moment he needed her, to use
his power to heal him even if he, in some dire extremity, could not or dared
not or would not use it himself.

He ran for the door, leapt toward it left-foot-first, his right foot
leaving the ground before any part of him broke the plane of the door. He
sailed through with his head ducked down; he missed the top of the door by
an inch.

"I don't like it when people leap through all spread out like that,"
said Ta-Kumsaw. "Better to spring from both feet at once, and curl up into a
ball as you go."

"You athletic men can do that," said Becca. "But I can't see myself
hitting the floor like that and rolling. Besides, you leap half the time
yourself."

"I'm not as tall as Alvin," said Ta-Kumsaw. He turned to Peggy. "He
grew to be very tall."

But Peggy didn't answer him.

"She's watching his heartfire," said Becca: "Best leave her alone till
he comes back."

Alvin tumbled and fell when he hit the floor on the other side he
sprawled into a pile of cloth and heard the sound of laughter. He got up and
looked around. Another cabin, but a newish one and the girl at the loom was
scarcely older than he was. She was a mixup like Arthur, only half-Red
instead of half-Black, and the combination of Ta-Kumsaw and Becca was
becoming in her.

"Howdy, Alvin," she said. He had expected her voice to sound like
Ta-Kumsaw's and Tenskwa-Tawa's, accented when she spoke in English, but she
spoke like Becca, a bit old-fashioned sounding but like a native speaker of
the tongue.

"Howdy," he said.

"You sure came through like a ton of bricks," she said.

"Made a mess of the piles of cloth here."

"Don't fret," she said. "That's why they're there. Papa always smacks
into them when he comes through like a cannonball."

With that he ran out of conversation, and so did she, so he stood there
watching as she ran her loom.

"Go find Tenskwa-Tawa. He's waiting for you."

Alvin had heard so much about the fog on the Mizzipy that he had
halfway got it into his head that the whole of the western lands was covered
with fog. When he opened the cabin and stepped outside, though, he found
that far from being foggy, the sky was so clear it felt like he could see
clear into heaven in broad daylight. There were high mountains looming to
the east, and he could see them so crisp and clear that he felt as though he
could trace the crevices in the bare granite near the top, or count the
leaves on the oak trees halfway up their craggy flanks. The cabin stood at
the brow of a hill separating two valleys, both of which contained lakes.
The one to the north was huge, the far reaches of it invisible because of
the curve of the Earth, not because of any haze or thickness of the air; the
lake to the south was smaller, but it was even more beautiful, shining like
a blue jewel in the cold sunlight of late autumn.

"The snow is late," said a voice behind him.

Alvin turned. "Shining Man," he said, the name slipping from his lips
before he could think.

"And you are the man who learned how to be a man when he was a boy,"
said Tenskwa-Tawa.

They embraced. The wind whistled around them. When they parted, Alvin
glanced around again. "This is a pretty exposed place to build a cabin," he
said.

"Had to be here," said Tenskwa-Tawa. "The valley to the south is
Timpa-Nogos. Holy ground, where there can be no houses and no wars. The
valley to the north is grazing land, where the deer can be hunted by
families that run out of food in the winter. No houses either. Don't worry.
Inside a weaver's house is always warm." He smiled. "I'm glad to see you."

Alvin wasn't sure if he could remember Tenskwa-Tawa ever smiling
before. "You're happy here?"

"Happy?" Tenskwa-Tawa's face went placid again. "I feel as though I
stand with one foot on this earth and the other foot in the place where my
people wait for me."

"Not all died that day at Tippy-Canoe," said Alvin. "You still have
people here."

"They also stand with one foot in one place, one foot in the other." He
glanced toward a canyon that led up into a gap between the impossibly high
mountains. "They live in a high mountain valley. The snow is late this year,
and they're glad of that, unless it means poor water for next year, and a
poor crop. That's our life now, Alvin Maker. We used to live in a place
where water leapt out of the ground wherever you struck it with a stick."

"But the air is clear. You can see forever."

Tenskwa-Tawa put his fingers to Alvin's lips. "No man sees forever. But
some men see farther. Last winter I rode a tower of water into the sky over
the holy lake Timpa-Nogos. I saw many things. I saw you come here. I heard
the news you told me and the question you asked me."

"And did you hear your answer?"

"First you must make my vision come true," said Tenskwa-Tawa.

So Alvin told him about Harrison being elected president by bragging
about his bloody hands, and how they wondered if Tenskwa-Tawa might release
the people of Vigor Church from their curse, so they could leave their
homes, those as wanted to, and become part of the Crystal City when Alvin
started to build it. "Was that what you heard me ask you?"

"Yes," said Tenskwa-Tawa.

"And what was your answer?"

"I didn't see my answer," said Tenskwa-Tawa. "So I have had all these
months to think of what it was. In all these months, my people who died on
that grassy slope have walked before my eyes in my sleep. I have seen their
blood again and again flow down the grass and turn the Tippy-Canoe Creek
red. I have seen the faces of the children and babies. I knew them all by
name, and I still remember all the names and all the faces. Each one I see
in the dream, I ask them, Do you forgive these White murderers? Do you
understand their rage and will you let me take your blood from their hands?"

Tenskwa-Tawa paused. Alvin. waited, too. One did not rush a shaman as
he told of his dreams.

"Every night I have had this dream until finally last night the last of
them came before me and I asked my question."

Again, a silence. Again, Alvin waited patiently. Not patiently the way
a White man waits, showing his patience by looking around or moving his
fingers or doing something else to mark the passage of time. Alvin waited
with a Red man's patience, as if this moment were to be savored in itself,
as if the suspense of waiting was in itself an experience to be marked and
remembered.

"If even one of them had said, I do not forgive them, do not lift the
curse, then I would not lift the curse," said Tenskwa-Tawa. "if even one
baby had said, I do not forgive them for taking away my days of running like
a deer through the meadows, I would not lift the curse. If even one mother
had said, I do not forgive them for the baby that was in my womb when I
died, who never saw the light of day with its beautiful eyes, I would not
lift the curse. If even one father had said, The anger still runs hot in my
heart, and if you lift the curse I will still have some hatred left
unavenged, then I would not lift the curse."

Tears flowed down Alvin's face, for he knew the answer now, and he
could not imagine himself ever being so good that even in death he could
forgive those who had done such a terrible thing to him and his family.

"I also asked the living," said Tenskwa-Tawa. "Those who lost father
and mother, brother and sister, uncle and aunt, child and friend, teacher
and helper, hunting companion, and wife, and husband. If even one of these
living ones had said, I cannot forgive them yet, Tenskwa-Tawa, I would not
lift the curse."

Then he fell silent one last time. This time the silence lasted and
lasted. The sun had been at noon when Alvin arrived; it was touching the
tops of the mountains to the west when at last Tenskwa-Tawa moved again,
nodding his head. Like Alvin, he, too, had wept, and then had waited long
enough for the tears to dry, and then had wept again, all without changing
the expression on his face, all without moving a muscle of his body as the
two of them sat facing each other in the tall dry autumn grass, in the cold
dry autumn wind. Now he opened his mouth and spoke again. "I have lifted the
curse," he said.

Alvin embraced his old teacher. It was not what a Red man would have
done, but Alvin had acted Red all afternoon, and so Tenskwa-Tawa accepted
the gesture and even returned it. Touched by the Red Prophet's hands, his
cheek against the old man's hair, the old man's face against his shoulder,
Alvin remembered that once he had thought of asking Tenskwa-Tawa to
strengthen the curse on Harrison, to stop him from misusing his bloody
hands. It made him ashamed. If the dead could forgive, should not the
living? Harrison would find his own way through life, and his own path to
death. Judgment would have to come, if it came at all, from someone wiser
than Alvin.

When they arose from the grass, Tenskwa-Tawa looked north toward the
larger lake. "Look, a man is coming."

Alvin saw where he was looking. Not far off, a man was jogging lightly
along a path through the head-high grass. Not running in the Red man's way,
but like a White man, and not a young one. His hatless bald head glinted
momentarily in the sunset.

"That ain't Taleswapper, is itT' asked Alvin.

"The Sho-sho-nay invited him to come and trade stories with them," said
Tenskwa-Tawa.

Instead of asking more questions, Alvin waited with Tenskwa-Tawa until
Taleswapper came up the long steep path. He was out of breath when he
arrived, as might have been expected. But as Alvin sent, his doodlebug
through Taleswapper's body, he was surprised at the old man's excellent
health. They greeted each other warmly, and Alvin told him the news.
Taleswapper smiled at Tenskwa-Tawa. "Your people are better than you thought
they were," he said.

"Or more forgetful," said Tenskwa-Tawa ruefully.

"I'm glad I happened to be here, to hear this news," said Taleswapper.
"If you're going back through the weaver's house, I'd like to go with you."

***

When Alvin and Taleswapper returned to Becca's cabin within the heart
of the weaver's house, it had been dark for two hours. Ta-Kumsaw had gone
outside and invited Peggy's and Alvin's friends to come in and eat with his
family. Becca's sister and her daughters and her son joined them; they ate a
stew of bison meat, Red man's food cooked the White man's way, a compromise
like so much else in this house. Ta-Kumsaw had introduced himself by the
name of Isaac Weaver, and Peggy was careful to call him by no other name.

Alvin and Taleswapper found them all lying on their bedrolls on the
floor of the parlor, except for Peggy, who was sitting on a chair, listening
as Verily Cooper told them tales of his life in England, and all the
subterfuges he had gone through in order to conceal his knack from everyone.
She turned to face the door before her husband and their old friend came
through it; the others also turned, so all eyes were on them. They knew at
once from the joy on Alvin's face what Tenskwa-Tawa's answer had been.

"I want to ride out tonight and tell them," said Armor-of-God. "I want
them to know the good news right now."

"Too dark," said Ta-Kumsaw, who came in from the kitchen where he had
been helping his sister-in-law wash the dishes from supper.

"There's no more rules, now, the curse is lifted free and clear," said
Alvin. "But he asks that we do something all the same. That everyone who
used to be under the curse gather their family together once a year, on the
anniversary of the massacre at Tippy-Canoe, and on that day eat no food, but
instead tell the story as it used to be told to all strangers who came
through Vigor Church. Once a year, our children and our children's children,
forever. He asks that we do that, but there'll be no punishment if we don't.
No punishment except that our children will forget, and when they forget,
there's always the chance that it might happen again."

"I'll tell them that too," said Armor. "They'll all take a vow to do
that, you can be sure, Alvin." He turned to Ta-Kumsaw. "You can tell your
brother that for me when next you see him, that they'll all take that vow."

Ta-Kumsaw grunted. "So much for calling myself Isaac in order to
conceal from you who I really am."

"We've met before," said Armor, "and even if we hadn't, I know a great
leader when I see one, and I knew who it was Alvin came to see."

"You talk too much, Armor-of-God, like all White men," said Ta-Kumsaw.
"But at least what you say isn't always stupid."

Armor nodded and smiled to acknowledge the compliment.

Alvin and Peggy were given a bedroom and a fine bed, which Peggy
suspected was Ta-Kumsaw's and Becca's own. The others slept on the floor in
the parlor-- slept as best they could, which wasn't well, what with all the
excitement and the way Mike Fink snored so loud and the way Armor had to get
up to pee about three times an hour it seemed like, till Peggy heard the
activity, woke Alvin up, and Alvin did something with his doodlebug inside
Armor's body so he didn't feel like his bladder was about to bust all the
time. When morning came the men in the parlor slept a little late, and woke
to the smell of a country breakfast, with biscuits and gravy and slabs of
salted ham fried with potatoes.

Then it was time for parting. Armor-of-God was like an eager horse
himself, stamping and snorting till they finally told him to go on. He
mounted and rode out of Chapman Valley, waving his hat and whooping like
those damn fools on election night the week before.

Alvin's and Peggy's parting was harder. She and Taleswapper would take
Whitley Physicker's carriage and drive, it to the next town of any size,
where she'd hire another carriage and Taleswapper would drive this one north
to Hatrack River to return it to the good doctor. From there Peggy intended
to go to Philadelphia for a while. "I hope that I might turn some hearts
against Harrison's plans, if I'm there where Congress meets. He's only going
to be president, not king, not emperor-- he has to win the consent of
Congress to do anything, and perhaps there's still hope." But Alvin knew
from her voice that she had little hope, that she knew already along what
dark roads Harrison would lead the country.

Alvin felt nearly as bleak about his own prospects. "Tenskwa-Tawa
couldn't tell me a thing about how to make the Crystal City, except to say a
thing I already knew: The Maker is a part of what he Makes."

"So... you will search," said Peggy, "and I will search."

What neither of them said, because both of them knew that they both
knew, was that there was a child growing already in Margaret's womb; a girl.
Each of them could calculate nine months as well as the other.

"Where will you be next August?" asked Alvin.

"Wherever I am, I'll make quite sure you know about it."

"And wherever you are, I'll make quite sure I'm there."

"I think the name should be Becca," said Peggy.

"I was thinking to call her after you. Call her Little Peggy."

Peggy smiled. "Becca Margaret, then?"

Alvin smiled back, and kissed her. "People talk about fools counting
chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them."

He helped her up into the carriage, beside Taleswapper, who already had
the reins in hand. Arthur Stuart led Alvin's horse to him, and as he
mounted, the boy said, "We made up a song about us last night, while you two
was upstairs!"

"A song?" said Alvin. "Let's hear it then."

"We made it up like as if it was you singing it," said Arthur Stuart.
"Come on, you all got to sing! And at the end I made up a chorus all by
myself, I made up the last part alone without no help from nobody."

Alvin reached down and hauled the boy up behind him. Arthur Stuart's
arms went around his middle. "Come on," the boy shouted. "Let's all sing."

As they began the song, Alvin reached down and took hold of the harness
of the carriage's lead horse, starting the parade up the road leading out of
Chapman Valley.

A young man startin' on his own, Must leave his home so fair. Better
not go wand'rin' all alone, Or you might get eaten by a bear!

I'm wise enough to heed that song, But who'll make up my pair? If I
choose my boon companion wrong, Then I might get eaten by a bear!

I'll take a certain mixup lad, He's small, but does his share, And I'll
watch him close, cause I'd be sad, If the boy got eaten by a bear!

I'll take along this barrister, With lofty learned air, And I'll make
of him a forester, So he won't get eaten by a bear!

Behold this noble river rat, With brag so fine and rare! He's as
dangerous as a mountain cat, He will not get eaten by a bear!

Now off we go, where'er we please. We're heroes, so we dare, To defy
mosquitoes, wasps, and fleas, And we won't get eaten by a bear!

They reached the main road and Peggy turned right, heading north, while
the men took their horses south. She waved from the driver's seat, but did
not look back. Alvin stopped to watch her, just for a moment, just for a
lingering moment, as Arthur Stuart behind him shouted, "Now I get to sing
the last part that I made up all by myself! I get to!"

"So sing it," said Alvin. So Arthur Stuart sang.

Grizzly bear, grizzly bear, Run and hide, you sizzly bear! We'll take
away your coat of hair, And roast you in your underwear!

Alvin laughed till tears streamed down his face.




Chapter 19 -- Philadelphia

When Calvin's and Honor 's ship arrived in New Amsterdam, the
newspapers were full of chat about the inauguration, which was only a week
away in Philadelphia. Calvin remembered Harrison's name at once-- how many
times had he listened to the tale of the massacre at Tippy-Canoe? He
remembered meeting the bloody-handed bum on the streets of New Amsterdam,
and told the tale to Honor .

"So you created him."

"I helped him make the best of his limited possibilities," said Calvin.

"No, no," said Honor . "You are too modest. This man created himself as
a monster who killed people for political gain. Then this Red prophet
destroyed him with a curse. Then, from the hopeless ruin of his life, you
turned his path upward again. Calvin, you finally impress me. You have
achieved, in life, that infinite power which is usually reserved to the
novelist."

"The power to use up enormous amounts of paper and ink to no avail?"

"The power to make people's lives take the most illogical turns.
Parents, for instance, have no such power. They can help their children
along, or, more likely, shatter their lives as someone's mother once did
with her casual adultery even as she abandoned her child to the tender
mercies of the boarding school. But such parents have no power then to heal
the child they have injured. Having brought the child low, they cannot raise
the child up. But I can bring a man low, then raise him up, then bring him
low again, all with a stroke of the pen."

"And so can I," said Calvin thoughtfully.

"Well, to a degree," said Honord. "To be honest, however, you did not
bring him low, and now, having raised him up, I doubt you can bring him low
again. The man has been elected president, even if his domain consists
primarily of trees and tree-dwelling beasts."

"There's several million people in the United States," said Calvin.

"It was to them that I referred," said Honor .

The challenge was too much for Calvin to resist. Could he bring down
the president of the United States? How would he do it? This time there
could be no scornful words that would provoke him into self-destruction, as
Calvin's words had helped the man resurrect himself from shameful oblivion.
But then, Calvin had learned to do much more subtle things than mere talk in
the many months since then. It would be a challenge. It was almost a dare.

"Let's go to Philadelphia," said Calvin. "For the inauguration."

Honor was perfectly happy to board the train and go along. He was
amused by the size and newness of the tiny towns that Americans referred to
as "cities," and Calvin constantly had to watch out for him as he practiced
his feeble English with the kind of rough American who was likely to pick up
the little Frenchman and toss him into a river. Honor , armed only with an
ornate cane he had purchased from a fellow-voyager, had fearlessly walked
through the most wretched immigrant districts of New Amsterdam and now of
Philadelphia. "These men aren't characters in novels," said Calvin, more
than once. "If they break your neck, it'll really be broken!"

"Then you'll have to fix me, my talented knackish friend." He said the
word knackish in English, though truth to tell no one would have understood
the word but Calvin himself.

"There's no such word as knackish in the English language," Calvin
said.

"There is now," said Honor , "because I put it there."

As Calvin awaited the inauguration, he considered many possible plans.
Nothing with mere words would do the job. Harrison's election had been so
openly based on lies that it was hard to imagine how anything could now be
revealed about Harrison that would shock or disappoint anyone. When the
people elected a president like this one, who ran a campaign like the one he
ran, it was hard to imagine what kind of scandal might bring him down.

Besides, Calvin's knack was now way beyond words. He wanted to get
inside Harrison's body and do some mischief. He remembered Napoleon and how
he suffered from the gout; he toyed with the idea of giving Harrison some
debilitating condition. Regretfully he concluded that this was beyond his
power, to fine-tune such a thing so that it would cause pain without
killing. No doubt Calvin would have to wait around to watch to make sure
that whatever he did wasn't cured. And besides, pain wouldn't bring Harrison
low any more than gout had stopped Napoleon from fulfilling all his
ambitions.

Pain without killing. Why had he put such a ridiculous limitation on
himself? There was no reason not to kill Harrison. Hadn't the man ordered
the death of Calvin's own brother Measure? Hadn't he slaughtered all those
Reds and caused all of Calvin's family and neighbors to be under a curse for
most of Calvin's life? Nothing brought a man lower than dying. Six feet
under the ground, that was as low as a body ever got.

The day of the inauguration, the first day of the new year, was
bitterly cold, and as Harrison walked through the streets of Philadelphia to
the temporary stand where he would take the oath in front of several
thousand spectators, it began to snow. Proudly he refused even to put on a
hat-- what was cold weather to a man from the west? --and when he reached
the platform to give his speech, Calvin was delighted to see that the now
president's throat was already sore, his chest already somewhat congested.
It was really a simple matter of Calvin to send his doodling bug inside the
chest of White Murderer Harrison and encourage the little animals inside his
lungs to grow, to multiply, to spread throughout his body. Harrison, you're
going to be one very, very sick man.

The speech lasted an hour, and Harrison didn't cut out a single word,
though by the end he was coughing thickly into his handkerchief after every
sentence. "Philadelphia is colder to hell," Honor said in his feeble
English as they finally left the square. "And your President he is one
dammit long talker." Then, in French, Honord asked, "Did I say it right? Did
I swear properly?"

"Like a stevedore," said Calvin. "Like a river rat. I was proud of
you."

"I was proud of you too," said Honor . "You looked so serious, I
thought maybe you were paying attention to his speech. Then I thought, No,
the lad is using his powers. So I hoped you might sever his head as he stood
there and make it roll down splat on his speech. Let him put his hands on
that to take his oath of office."

"That would have been a memorable inauguration," said Calvin.

"But it wouldn't be good for you to take another man's life," said
Honor . "All joking aside, my friend, it isn't good for a man to get a taste
for blood."

"My brother Alvin killed a man," said Calvin. "He killed a man who
needed killing, and nobody said boo to him about it."

"Dangerous for him, but perhaps more dangerous for you," said Honor .
"Because you'are already filled with hate-- I say this not as criticism,
it's one of the things I find most attractive about you-- you are filled
with hate, and so it is dangerous for you to open the faucet of murder. That
is a stream you may not be able to damp."

"Not to worry," said Calvin.

They lingered in Philadelphia for several more weeks, as Harrison's bad
cold turned into pneumonia. He struggled on, being something of a tough old
nut, but in the end he died, scarcely a month after his inauguration, having
never been healthy enough even to name a cabinet.

This being the first time a president of the United States had died in
office, there was some unresolved ambiguity in the Constitution about
whether the vice-president merely acted as president or actually took the
office. Andrew Jackson neatly resolved the issue by walking into Congress
and placing his hand on the Bible they kept there as a reminder of all the
virtues they worked so hard to get the voters to believe they possessed. In
a loud voice he took the oath of office in front of all of them, daring them
to deny him the right to do so. There were jokes about "His Accidency the
President" for a while, but Jackson wasn't a man to be trifled with. All of
Harrison's cronies found themselves with sore backsides from bouncing down
the steps of the George Washington Building where the executive branch of
the government had its offices. Whatever Harrison had planned for America
would never happen now, or at least not in the way that he had planned it.
Jackson was in nobody's pocket but his own.

Calvin and Honor agreed that they had done a great service for the
nation. "Though my part of it was very small," said Honor . "A mere word. A
suggestion." Calvin knew, however, that in his own heart Honor undoubtedly
took credit for the whole thing, or at least for everything beneficial that
resulted from it. That knowledge scarcely bothered Calvin, though. Nothing
really bothered him now, for his power had been confirmed in his own heart.
I brought down a president and no one knew that I did it. Nothing messy or
awkward like Alvin's killing of that Finder with his own bare hands. I
learned more than the honing of my knack on the continent. I acquired
finesse. Alvin will never have that, crude frontiersman that he is and
always will be.

How easy it had been. Easy and free of risk. There was a man who needed
to die, and all it took was a little maneuvering in his lungs and it was
done. Well, that plus a few adjustments as the man lay in his sickbed in the
presidential mansion. It wouldn't do to have his body fight off the
infection and recover, would it? But I never had to touch him, Never even
had to speak to him. Didn't even have to get ink on my fingers, like poor
Honor , whose characters never really breathe despite all his skill, and so
never really die.

Calvin allowed himself, on the last night he and Honor spent in
Philadelphia, to lie in bed imagining Alvin's death. A slow agonizing death
from some miserable disease like lockjaw. I could do that, thought Calvin.

Then he thought, No I couldn't, and went to sleep.
Комментарии
Анонимно
Войти под своим именем


Ник:
Текст сообщения:
Введите код:  

Загрузка...
Поиск:
добавить сайт | реклама на портале | контекстная реклама | контакты Copyright © 1998-2020 <META> Все права защищены