Originally published in Authentic Science Fiction Monthly, March 1953.
Copyright (c) 1953, 1981 by Charles Harness. Reprinted by permission of the author and the author's agents, the Virginia Kidd Agency, Inc.
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Her ballet slippers made a soft slapping sound, moody, mournful, as Anna van Tuyl stepped into the annex of her psychiatrical consulting room and walked toward the tall mirror.
Within seconds she would know whether she was ugly.
As she had done half a thousand times in the past two years, the young woman faced the great glass squarely, brought her arms up gracefully and rose upon her tip-toes. And there resemblance to past hours ceased. She did not proceed to an uneasy study of her face and figure. She could not. For her eyes, as though acting with a wisdom and volition of their own, had closed tightly.
Anna van Tuyl was too much the professional psychiatrist not to recognize that her subconscious mind had shrieked its warning. Eyes still shut, and breathing in great gasps, she dropped from her toes as if to turn and leap away. Then gradually she straightened. She must force herself to go through with it. She might not be able to bring herself here, in this mood of candid receptiveness, twice in one lifetime. It must be now.
She trembled in brief, silent premonition, then quietly raised her eyelids.
Somber eyes looked out at her, a little darker than yesterday: pools ploughed around by furrows that today gouged a little deeperthe result of months of squinting up from the position into which her spinal deformity had thrust her neck and shoulders. The pale lips were pressed together just a little tighter in their defense against unpredictable pain. The cheeks seemed bloodless, having been bleached finally and completely by the Unfinished Dream that haunted her sleep, wherein a nightingale fluttered about a white rose.
As if in brooding confirmation, she brought up simultaneously the pearl-translucent fingers of both hands to the upper borders of her forehead, and there pushed back the incongruous masses of newly-gray hair from two tumorous bulgeslike incipient horns. As she did this she made a quarter turn, exposing to the mirror the humped grotesquerie of her back.
Then, by degrees, like some netherworld Narcissus, she began to sink under the bizarre enchantment of that misshapen image. She could retain no real awareness that this creature was she. That profile, as if seen through witch-opened eyes, might have been that of some enormous toad, and this flickering metaphor paralyzed her first and only forlorn attempt at identification.
In a vague way, she realized that she had discovered what she had set out to discover. She was ugly. She was even very ugly.
The change must have been gradual, too slow to say of any one day: Yesterday I was not ugly. But even eyes that hungered for deception could no longer deny the cumulative evidence.
So slowand yet so fast. It seemed only yesterday that had found her face down on Matthew Bell's examination table, biting savagely at a little pillow as his gnarled fingertips probed grimly at her upper thoracic vertebrae.
Well, then, she was ugly. But she'd not give in to self-pity. To hell with what she looked like! To hell with mirrors!
On sudden impulse she seized her balancing tripod with both hands, closed her eyes, and swung.
The tinkling of falling mirror glass had hardly ceased when a harsh and gravelly voice hailed her from her office. "Bravo!"
She dropped the practice tripod and whirled, aghast. "Matt!"
"Just thought it was time to come in. But if you want to bawl a little, I'll go back out and wait. No?" Without looking directly at her face or pausing for a reply, he tossed a packet on the table. "There it is. Honey, if I could write a ballet score like your Nightingale and the Rose, I wouldn't care if my spine was knotted in a figure eight."
"You're crazy," she muttered stonily, unwilling to admit that she was both pleased and curious. "You don't know what it means to have once been able to pirouette, to balance en arabesque. And anyway"she looked at him from the comer of her eyes"how could anyone tell whether the score's good? There's no Finale as yet. It isn't finished."
"Neither is the Mona Lisa, Kublai Khan, or a certain symphony by Schubert."
"But this is different. A plotted ballet requires an integrated sequence of events leading up to a climaxto a Finale. I haven't figured out the ending. Did you notice I left a thirty-eight-beat hiatus just before the Nightingale dies? I still need a death song for her. She's entitled to die with a flourish." She couldn't tell him about The Dreamthat she always awoke just before that death song began.
"No matter. You'll get it eventually. The story's straight out of Oscar Wilde, isn't it? As I recall, the student needs a red rose as admission to the dance, but his garden contains only white roses. A foolish, if sympathetic, nightingale thrusts her heart against a thorn on a white rose stem, and the resultant ill-advised transfusion produces a red rose...and a dead nightingale. Isn't that about all there is to it?"
"Almost. But I still need the nightingale's death song. That's the whole point of the ballet. In a plotted ballet, every chord has to be fitted to the immediate action, blended with it, so that it supplements it, explains it, unifies it, and carries the action toward the climax. That death song will make the difference between a good score and a superior one. Don't smile. I think some of my individual scores are rather good, though of course I've never heard them except on my own piano. But without a proper climax, they'll remain unintegrated. They're all variants of some elusive dominating leitmotivsome really marvelous theme I haven't the greatness of soul to grasp. I know it's something profound and poignant, like the liebestod theme in Tristan. It probably states a fundamental musical truth, but I don't think I'll ever find it. The nightingale dies with her secret."
She paused, opened her lips as though to continue, and then fell moodily silent again. She wanted to go on talking, to lose herself in volubility. But now the reaction of her struggle with the mirror was setting in, and she was suddenly very tired. Had she ever wanted to cry? Now she thought only of sleep. But a furtive glance at her wristwatch told her it was barely ten o'clock.
The man's craggy eyebrows dropped in an imperceptible frown, faint, yet craftily alert. "Anna, the man who read your Rose score wants to talk to you about staging it for the Rose Festivalyou know, the annual affair in the Via Rosa."
"Ian unknownwrite a Festival ballet?" She added with dry incredulity: "The Ballet Committee is in complete agreement with your friend, of course?"
"He is the Committee."
"What did you say his name was?"
She peered up at him suspiciously. "I can play games, too. If he's so anxious to use my music, why doesn't he come to see me?"
"He isn't that anxious."
"Oh, a big shot, eh?"
"Not exactly. It's just that he's fundamentally indifferent toward the things that fundamentally interest him. Anyway, he's got a complex about the Via Rosaloves the district and hates to leave it, even for a few hours."
She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Will you believe it, I've never been there. That's the rose-walled district where the ars-gratia-artis professionals live, isn't it? Sort of a plutocratic Rive Gauche?"
The man exhaled in expansive affection. "That's the Via, all right. A six-hundred pound chunk of Carrara marble in every garret, resting most likely on the grand piano. Poppa chips furiously away with an occasional glance at his model, who is momma, posed au natural."
Anna watched his eyes grow dreamy as he continued. "Momma is a little restless, having suddenly recalled that the baby's bottle and that can of caviar should have come out of the atomic warmer at some nebulous period in the past. Daughter sits before the piano keyboard, surreptitiously switching from Czerny to a torrid little number she's going to try on the trap-drummer in Dorran's Via orchestra. Beneath the piano are the baby and mongrel pup. Despite their tender age, this thing is already in their blood. Or at least, their stomachs, for they have just finished an hors d'oeuvre of marble chips and now amiably share the pièce de résistance, a battered but rewarding tube of Van Dyke brown."
Anna listened to this with widening eyes. Finally she gave a short amazed laugh. "Matt Bell, you really love that life, don't you?"
He smiled. "In some ways the creative life is pretty carefree. I'm just a psychiatrist specializing in psycho-genetics. I don't know an arpeggio from a dry point etching, but I like to be around people that do." He bent forward earnestly. "These artiststhese golden peoplethey're the coming force in society. And you're one of them, Anna, whether you know it or like it. You and your kind are going to inherit the earthonly you'd better hurry if you don't want Martha Jacques and her National Security scientists to get it first. So the battle lines converge in Renaissance II. Art versus Science. Who dies? Who lives?" He looked thoughtful, lonely. He might have been pursuing an introspective monologue in the solitude of his own chambers.
"This Mrs. Jacques," said Anna. "What's she like? You asked me to see her tomorrow about her husband, you know."
"Darn good-looking woman. The most valuable mind in history, some say. And if she really works out something concrete from her Sciomnia equation, I guess there won't be any doubt about it. And that's what makes her potentially the most dangerous human being alive: National Security is fully aware of her value, and they'll coddle her tiniest whimat least until she pulls something tangible out of Sciomnia. Her main whim for the past few years has been her errant husband, Mr. Ruy Jacques."
"Do you think she really loves him?"
"Just between me and you, she hates his guts. So naturally she doesn't want any other woman to get him. She has him watched, of course. The Security Bureau cooperate with alacrity, because they don't want foreign agents to approach her through him. There have been ugly rumors of assassinated models...But I'm digressing." He cocked a quizzical eye at her. "Permit me to repeat the invitation of your unknown admirer. Like you, he's another true child of the new Renaissance. The two of you should find much in commonmore than you can now guess. I'm very serious about this, Anna. Seek him out immediatelytonightnow. There aren't any mirrors in the Via."
"Honey," he growled, "to a man my age you aren't ugly. And this man's the same. If a woman is pretty, he paints her and forgets her. But if she's some kind of an artist, he talks to her, and he can get rather endless sometimes. If it's any help to your self-assurance, he's about the homeliest creature on the face of the earth. You'll look like de Milo alongside him."
The woman laughed shortly. "I can't get mad at you, can I? Is he married?"
"Sort of." His eyes twinkled. "But don't let that concern you. He's a perfect scoundrel."
"Suppose I decide to look him up. Do I simply run up and down the Via paging all homely friends of Dr. Matthew Bell?"
"Not quite. If I were you I'd start at the entrancewhere they have all those queer side-shows and one-man exhibitions. Go on past the vendress of love philters and work down the street until you find a man in a white suit with polka dots."
"How perfectly odd! And then what? How can I introduce myself to a man whose name I don't know? Oh, Matt, this is so silly, so childish..."
He shook his head in slow denial. "You aren't going to think about names when you see him. And your name won't mean a thing to him, anyway. You'll be lucky if you aren't 'hey you' by midnight. But it isn't going to matter."
"It isn't too clear why you don't offer to escort me." She studied him calculatingly. "And I think you're withholding his name because you know I wouldn't go if you revealed it."
He merely chuckled.
She lashed out: "Damn you, get me a cab."
"I've had one waiting half an hour."
"Tell ya what the professor's gonna do, ladies and gentlemen. He's gonna defend not just one paradox. Not just two. Not just a dozen. No, ladies and gentlemen, the professor's gonna defend seventeen, and all in the space of one short hour, without repeating himself, and including a brand-new one he has just thought up today: 'Music owes its meaning to its ambiguity.' Remember, folks, an axiom is just a paradox the professor's already got hold of. The cost of this dazzling display...don't crowd there, mister..."
Anna felt a relaxing warmth flowing over her mind, washing at the encrusted strain of the past hour. She smiled and elbowed her way through the throng and on down the street, where a garishly lighted sign, bat-wing doors, and a forlorn cluster of waiting women announced the next attraction:
"FOR MEN ONLY. Daring blindfold exhibitions and variety entertainments continuously."
Inside, a loudspeaker was blaring: "Thus we have seen how to compose the ideal end-game problem in chess. And now, gentlemen, for the small consideration of an additional quarter..."
But Anna's attention was now occupied by a harsh cawing from across the street.
"Love philters! Works on male or female! Any age! Never fails!"
She laughed aloud. Good old Matt! He had foreseen what these glaring multifaceted nonsensical stimuli would do for her. Love philters! Just what she needed!
The vendress of love philters was of ancient vintage, perhaps seventy-five years old. Above cheeks of wrinkled leather her eyes glittered speculatively. And how weirdly she was clothed! Her bedraggled dress was a shrieking purple. And under that dress was another of the same hue, though perhaps a little faded. And under that, still another.
"That's why they call me Violet," cackled the old woman, catching Anna's stare. "Better come over and let me mix you one."
But Anna shook her head and passed on, eyes shining. Fifteen minutes later, as she neared the central Via area, her receptive reverie was interrupted by the outburst of music ahead.
Good! Watching the street dancers for half an hour would provide a highly pleasant climax to her escapade. Apparently there wasn't going to be any man in a polka dot suit. Matt was going to be disappointed, but it certainly wasn't her fault she hadn't found him.
There was something oddly familiar about that music.
She quickened her pace, and then, as recognition came, she began to run as fast as her crouching back would permit. This was her musicthe prelude to Act III of her ballet!
She burst through the mass of spectators lining the dance square. The music stopped. She stared out into the scattered dancers, and what she saw staggered the twisted frame of her slight body. She fought to get air through her vacuously-wide mouth.
In one unearthly instant, a rift had threaded its way through the dancer-packed square, and a pasty white face, altogether spectral, had looked down that open rift into hers. A face over a body that was enveloped in a strange flowing gown of shimmering white. She thought he had also been wearing a white academic mortar-board, but the swarming dancers closed in again before she could be sure.
She fought an unreasoning impulse to run.
Then, as quickly as it had come, logic reasserted itself; the shock was over. Odd costumes were no rarity on the Via. There was no cause for alarm.
She was breathing almost normally when the music died away and someone began a harsh harangue over the public address system. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is our rare good fortune to have with us tonight the genius who composed the music you have been enjoying."
A sudden burst of laughter greeted this, seeming to originate in the direction of the orchestra, and was counter-pointed by an uncomplimentary blare from one of the horns.
"Your mockery is misplaced, my friends. It just so happens that this genius is not I, but another. And since she has thus far had no opportunity to join in the revelry, your inimitable friend, as The Student, will take her hand, as The Nightingale, in the final pas de deux from Act III. That should delight her, yes?"
The address system clicked off amid clapping and a buzz of excited voices, punctuated by occasional shouts.
She must escape! She must get away!
Anna pressed back into the crowd. There was no longer any question about finding a man in a polka dot suit. That creature in white certainly wasn't he. Though how could he have recognized her?
She hesitated. Perhaps he had a message from the other one, if there really was one with polka dots.
No, she'd better go. This was turning out to be more of a nightmare than a lark.
She peeked back from behind the safety of a woman's sleeve, and after a moment located the man in white.
His pasty-white face with its searching eyes was much closer. But what had happened to his white cap and gown? Now, they weren't white at all! What optical fantasy was this? She rubbed her eyes and looked again.
The cap and gown seemed to be made up of green and purple polka dots on a white background! So he was her man!
She could see him now as the couples spread out before him, exchanging words she couldn't hear, but which seemed to carry an irresistible laugh response.
Very well, she'd wait.
Now that everything was cleared up and she was safe again behind her armor of objectivity, she studied him with growing curiosity. Since that first time, she had never again got a good look at him. Someone always seemed to get in the way. It was almost, she thought, as though he was working his way out toward her, taking every advantage of human cover, like a hunter closing in on wary quarry, until it was too late...
He stood before her.
There were harsh clanging sounds as his eyes locked with hers. Under that feral scrutiny the woman maintained her mental balance by the narrowest margin.
The Nightingale, for love of The Student, makes a Red Rose. An odious liquid was burning in her throat, but she couldn't swallow.
Gradually she forced herself into awareness of a twisted sardonic mouth framed between aquiline nose and jutting chin. The face, plastered as it was by white powder, had revealed no distinguishing features beyond its unusual size. Much of the brow was obscured by the many tassels dangling over the front of his travestied mortar-board cap. Perhaps the most striking thing about the man was not his face, but his body. It was evident that he had some physical deformity, to outward appearances not unlike her own. She knew intuitively that he was not a true hunchback. His chest and shoulders were excessively broad, and he seemed, like her, to carry a mass of superfluous tissue on his upper thoracic vertebrae. She surmised that the scapulae would be completely obscured.
His mouth twisted in subtle mockery. "Bell said you'd come." He bowed and held out his right hand.
"It is very difficult for me to dance," she pleaded in a low hurried voice. "I'd humiliate us both."
"I'm no better at this than you, and probably worse. But I'd never give up dancing merely because someone might think I look awkward. Come, we'll use the simplest steps."
There was something harsh and resonant in his voice that reminded her of Matt Bell. Only...Bell's voice had never set her stomach churning.
He held out his other hand.
Behind him the dancers had retreated to the edge of the square, leaving the center empty, and the first beats of her music from the orchestra pavilion floated to her with ecstatic clarity.
Just the two of them, out there...before a thousand eyes...
Subconsciously she followed the music. There was her cuethe signal for the Nightingale to fly to her fatal assignation with the white rose.
She must reach out both perspiring hands to this stranger, must blend her deformed body into his equally misshapen one. She must, because he was The Student, and she was The Nightingale.
She moved toward him silently and took his hands.
As she danced, the harsh-lit street and faces seemed gradually to vanish. Even The Student faded into the barely perceptible distance, and she gave herself up to The Unfinished Dream.
She dreamed that she danced alone in the moonlight, that she fluttered in solitary circles in the moonlight, fascinated and appalled by the thing she must do to create a Red Rose. She dreamed that she sang a strange and magic song, a wondrous series of chords, the song she had so long sought. Pain buoyed her on excruciating wings, then flung her heavily to earth. The Red Rose was made, and she was dead.
She groaned and struggled to sit up.
Eyes glinted at her out of pasty whiteness. "That was quite a pasonly more de seul than de deux," said The Student.
She looked about in uneasy wonder.
They were sitting together on a marble bench before a fountain. Behind them was a curved walk bounded by a high wall covered with climbing green, dotted here and there with white.
She put her hand to her forehead. "Where are we?"
"This is White Rose Park."
"How did I get here?"
"You danced in on your own two feet through the archway yonder."
"I don't remember..."
"I thought perhaps you were trying to lend a bit of realism to the part. But you're early."
"What do you mean?"
"There are only white roses growing in here, and even they won't be in full bloom for another month. In late June they'll be a real spectacle. You mean you didn't know about this little park?"
"No. I've never even been in the Via before. And yet..."
"And yet what?"
She hadn't been able to tell anyonenot even Matt Bellwhat she was now going to tell this man, an utter stranger, her companion of an hour. He had to be told because, somehow, he too was caught up in the dream ballet.
She began haltingly. "Perhaps I do know about this place. Perhaps someone told me about it, and the information got buried in my subconscious mind until I wanted a white rose. There's really something behind my ballet that Dr. Bell didn't tell you. He couldn't, because I'm the only one who knows. The Rose music comes from my dreams. Only, a better word is nightmares. Every night the score starts from the beginning. In the dream, I dance. Every night, for months and months, there was a little more music, a little more dancing. I tried to get it out of my head, but I couldn't. I started writing it down, the music and the choreography."
The man's unsmiling eyes were fixed on her face in deep absorption.
Thus encouraged, she continued. "For the past several nights I have dreamed almost the complete ballet, right up to the death of the nightingale. I suppose I identify myself so completely with the nightingale that I subconsciously censor her song as she presses her breast against the thorn on the white rose. That's where I always awakened, or at least, always did before tonight. But I think I heard the music tonight. It's a series of chords...thirty-eight chords, I believe. The first nineteen were frightful, but the second nineteen were marvelous. Everything was too real to wake up. The Student, The Nightingale, The White Roses."
But now the man threw back his head and laughed raucously. "You ought to see a psychiatrist!"
Anna bowed her head humbly.
"Oh, don't take it too hard," he said. "My wife's even after me to see a psychiatrist."
"Really?" Anna was suddenly alert. "What seems to be wrong with you? I mean, what does she object to?"
"In general, my laziness. In particular, it seems I've forgotten how to read and write." He gave her widening eyes a sidelong look. "I'm a perfect parasite, too. Haven't done any real work in months. What would you call it if you couldn't work until you had the final measures of the Rose, and you kept waiting, and nothing happened?"
He was glumly silent.
Anna asked, hesitantly, yet with a growing certainty. "This thing you're waiting for...might it have anything to do with the ballet? Or to phrase it from your point of view, do you think the completion of my ballet may help answer your problem?"
"Might. Couldn't say."
She continued quietly. "You're going to have to face it eventually, you know. Your psychiatrist is going to ask you. How will you answer?"
"I won't. I'll tell him to go to the devil."
"How can you be so sure he's a he?"
"Oh? Well, if he's a she, she might be willing to pose al fresco an hour or so. The model shortage is quite grave you know, with all of the little dears trying to be painters."
"But if she doesn't have a good figure?"
"Well, maybe her face has some interesting possibilities. It's a rare woman who's a total physical loss."
Anna's voice was very low. "But what if all of her were very ugly? What if your proposed psychiatrist were me, Mr. Ruy Jacques?"
His great dark eyes blinked, then his lips pursed and exploded into insane laughter. He stood up suddenly. "Come, my dear, whatever your name is, and let the blind lead the blind."
"Anna van Tuyl," she told him, smiling.
She took his arm. Together they strolled around the arc of the walk toward the entrance arch.
She was filled with a strange contentment.
Over the green-crested wall at her left, day was about to break, and from the Via came the sound of groups of diehard revelers, breaking up and drifting away, like specters at cock-crow. The cheerful clatter of milk bottles got mixed up in it somehow.
They paused at the archway while the man kicked at the seat of the pants of a specter whom dawn had returned to slumber beneath the arch. The sleeper cursed and stumbled to his feet in bleary indignation.
"Excuse us, Willie," said Anna's companion, motioning for her to step through.
She did, and the creature of the night at once dropped into his former sprawl.
Anna cleared her throat. "Where now?"
"At this point I must cease to be a gentleman. I'm returning to the studio for some sleep, and you can't come. For, if your physical energy is inexhaustible, mine is not." He raised a hand as her startled mouth dropped open. "Please, dear Anna, don't insist. Some other night, perhaps."
"Tut tut." He turned a little and kicked again at the sleeping man. "I'm not an utter cad, you know. I would never abandon a weak, frail, unprotected woman in the Via."
She was too amazed now even to splutter.
Ruy Jacques reached down and pulled the drunk up against the wall of the arch, where he held him firmly. "Dr. Anna van Tuyl, may I present Willie the Cork."
The Cork grinned at her in unfocused somnolence.
"Most people call him the Cork because, that's what seals in the bottle's contents," said Jacques. "I call him the Cork because he's always bobbing up. He looks like a bum, but that's just because he's a good actor. He's really a Security man tailing me at my wife's request, and he'd only be too delighted for a little further conversation with you. A cheery good morning to you both!"
A milk truck wheeled around the corner. Jacques leaped for its running board, and he was gone before the psychiatrist could voice the protest boiling up in her.
A gurgling sigh at her feet drew her eyes down momentarily. The Cork was apparently bobbing once more on his own private alcoholic ocean.
Anna snorted in mingled disgust and amusement, then hailed a cab. As she slammed the door, she took one last look at Willie. Not until the cab rounded the corner and cut off his muffled snores did she realize that people usually don't snore with their eyes half-opened and looking at you, especially with eyes no longer blurred with sleep, but hard and glinting.
Twelve hours later, in another cab and in a different part of the city, Anna peered absently out at the stream of traffic. Her mind was on the coming conference with Martha Jacques. Only twelve hours ago Mrs. Jacques had been just a bit of necessary case history. Twelve hours ago Anna hadn't really cared whether Mrs. Jacques followed Bell's recommendation and gave her the case. Now it was all different. She wanted the case, and she was going to get it.
Ruy Jacqueshow many hours awaited her with this amazing scoundrel, this virtuoso of liberalnay, loosearts, who held locked within his remarkable mind the missing pieces of their joint jigsaw puzzle of The Rose?
That jeering, mocking facewhat would it look like without makeup? Very ugly, she hoped. Beside his, her own face wasn't too bad.
Onlyhe was married, and she was en route at this moment to discuss preliminary matters with his wife, who, even if she no longer loved him, at least had prior rights to him. There were considerations of professional ethics even in thinking about him. Not that she could ever fall in love with him or any other patient. Particularly with one who had treated her so cavalierly. Willie the Cork, indeed!
As she waited in the cold silence of the great ante-chamber adjoining the office of Martha Jacques, Anna sensed that she was being watched. She was quite certain that by now she'd been photographed, x-rayed for hidden weapons, and her fingerprints taken from her professional card. In colossal central police files a thousand miles away, a bored clerk would be leafing through her dossier for the benefit of Colonel Grade's visigraph in the office beyond.
In a moment
"Dr. van Tuyl to see Mrs. Jacques. Please enter door B-3," said the tinny voice of the intercom.
She followed a guard to the door, which he opened for her.
This room was smaller. At the far end a woman, a very lovely woman, whom she took to be Martha Jacques, sat peering in deep abstraction at something on the desk before her. Beside the desk, and slightly to the rear, a moustached man in plain clothes stood, reconnoitering Anna with hawk-like eyes. The description fitted what Anna had heard of Colonel Grade, Chief of the National Security Bureau.
Grade stepped forward and introduced himself curtly, then presented Anna to Mrs. Jacques.
And then the psychiatrist found her eyes fastened to a sheet of paper on Mrs. Jacques' desk. And as she stared, she felt a sharp dagger of ice sinking into her spine, and she grew slowly aware of a background of brooding whispers in her mind, heart-constricting in their suggestions of mental disintegration.
For the thing drawn on the paper, in red ink, wasalthough warped, incomplete, and misshapenunmistakably a rose.
"Mrs. Jacques!" cried Grade.
Martha Jacques must have divined simultaneously Anna's great interest in the paper. With an apologetic murmur she turned it face down. "Security regulations, you know. I'm really supposed to keep it locked up in the presence of visitors." Even a murmur could not hide the harsh metallic quality of her voice.
So that was why the famous Sciomnia formula was sometimes called the "Jacques Rosette": when traced in an ever-expanding wavering red spiral in polar coordinates, it was...a Red Rose.
The explanation brought at once a feeling of relief and a sinister deepening of the sense of doom that had overshadowed her for months. So you, too, she thought wonderingly, seek The Rose. Your artist-husband is wretched for want of it, and now you. But do you seek the same rose? Is the rose of the scientist the true rose, and Ruy Jacques' the false? What is the rose? Will I ever know?
Grade broke in. "Your brilliant reputation is deceptive, Dr. van Tuyl. From Dr. Bell's description, we had pictured you as an older woman."
"Yes," said Martha Jacques, studying her curiously. "We really had in mind an older woman, one less likely to...to"
"To involve your husband emotionally?"
"Exactly," said Grade. "Mrs. Jacques must have her mind completely free from distractions. However"he turned to the woman scientist"it is my studied opinion that we need not anticipate difficulty from Dr. van Tuyl on that account."
Anna felt her throat and cheeks going hot as Mrs. Jacques nodded in damning agreement: "I think you're right, Colonel."
"Of course," said Grade, "Mr. Jacques may not accept her."
"That remains to be seen," said Martha Jacques. "He might tolerate a fellow artist." To Anna: "Dr. Bell tells us that you compose music, or something like that?"
"Something like that," nodded Anna. She wasn't worried. It was a question of waiting. This woman's murderous jealousy, though it might some day destroy her, at the moment concerned her not a whit.
Colonel Grade said: "Mrs. Jacques has probably warned you that her husband is somewhat eccentric; he may be somewhat difficult to deal with at times. On this account, the Security Bureau is prepared to triple your fee, if we find you acceptable."
Anna nodded gravely. Ruy Jacques and money, too!
"For most of your consultations you'll have to track him down," said Martha Jacques. "He'll never come to you. But considering what we're prepared to pay, this inconvenience should be immaterial."
Anna thought briefly of that fantastic creature who had singled her out of a thousand faces. "That will be satisfactory. And now, Mrs. Jacques, for my preliminary orientation, suppose you describe some of the more striking behaviorisms that you've noted in your husband."
"Certainly. Dr. Bell, I presume, has already told you that Ruy has lost the ability to read and write. Ordinarily that's indicative of advanced dementia praecox, isn't it? However, I think Mr. Jacques' case presents a more complicated picture, and my own guess is schizophrenia rather than dementia. The dominant and most frequently observed psyche is a megalomanic phase, during which he tends to harangue his listeners on various odd subjects. We've picked up some of these speeches on a hidden recorder and made a Zipf analysis of the word-frequencies."
Anna's brows creased dubiously. "A Zipf count is pretty mechanical."
"But scientific, undeniably scientific. I have made a careful study of the method, and can speak authoritatively. Back in the forties, Zipf of Harvard proved that in a representative sample of English, the interval separating the repetition of the same word was inversely proportional to its frequency. He provided a mathematical formula for something previously known only qualitatively: that a too-soon repetition of the same or similar sound is distracting and grating to the cultured mind. If we must say the same thing in the next paragraph, we avoid repetition with an appropriate synonym. But not the schizophrenic. His disease disrupts his higher centers of association, and certain discriminating neural networks are no longer available for his writing and speech. He has no compunction against immediate and continuous tonal repetition."
"A rose is a rose is a rose..." murmured Anna.
"Eh? How did you know what this transcription was about? Oh, you were just quoting Gertrude Stein? Well, I've read about her, and she proves my point. She admitted that she wrote under autohypnosis, which we'd call a light case of schizo. But she could be normal, too. My husband never is. He goes on like this all the time. This was transcribed from one of his monologues. Just listen:
" 'Behold, Willie, through yonder window the symbol of your mistress's defeat: The Rose! The rose, my dear Willie, grows not in murky air. The smoky metropolis of yester-year drove it to the country. But now, with the unsullied skyline of your atomic age, the red rose returns. How mysterious, Willie, that the rose continues to offer herself to us dull, plodding humans. We see nothing in her but a pretty flower. Her regretful thorns forever declare our inept clumsiness, and her lack of honey chides our gross sensuality. Ah, Willie, let us become as birds! For only the winged can eat the fruit of the rose and spread her pollen...' "
Mrs. Jacques looked up at Anna. "Did you keep count? He used the word 'rose' no less than five times, when once or twice was sufficient. He certainly had no lack of mellifluous synonyms at his disposal, such as 'red flower', 'thorned plant', and so on. And instead of saying 'the red rose returns' he should have said something like 'it comes back'."
"And lose the triple alliteration?" said Anna, smiling. "No, Mrs. Jacques, I'd re-examine that diagnosis very critically. Everyone who talks like a poet isn't necessarily insane."
A tiny bell began to jangle on a massive metal door the right-hand wall.
"A message for me," growled Grade. "Let it wait."
"We don't mind," said Anna, "if you want to have it sent in."
"It isn't that. That's my private door, and I'm the only one who knows the combination. But I told them not to interrupt us, unless it dealt with this specific interview."
Anna thought of the eyes of Willie the Cork, hard and glistening. Suddenly she knew that Ruy Jacques had not been joking about the identity of the man. Was the Cork's report just now getting on her dossier? Mrs. Jacques wasn't going to like it. Suppose they turned her down. Would she dare seek out Ruy Jacques under the noses of Grade's trigger men?
"Damn that fool," muttered Grade. "I left strict orders about being disturbed. Excuse me."
He strode angrily toward the door. After a few seconds of dial manipulation, he turned the handle and pulled it inward. A hand thrust something metallic at him. Anna caught whispers. She fought down a feeling of suffocation as Grade opened the cassette and read the message.
The Security officer walked leisurely back toward them. He stroked his moustache coolly, handed the bit of paper to Martha Jacques, then clasped his hands behind his back. For a moment he looked like a glowering bronze statue. "Dr. van Tuyl, you didn't tell us that you were already acquainted with Mr. Jacques. Why?"
"You didn't ask me."
Martha Jacques said harshly: "That answer is hardly satisfactory. How long have you known Mr. Jacques? I want to get to the bottom of this."
"I met him last night for the first time in the Via Rosa. We danced. That's all. The whole thing was purest coincidence."
"You are his lover," accused Martha Jacques.
Anna colored. "You flatter me, Mrs. Jacques.
Grade coughed. "She's right, Mrs. Jacques. I see no sex-based espionage."
"Then maybe it's even subtler," said Martha Jacques. "These platonic females are still worse, because they sail under false colors. She's after Ruy, I tell you."
"I assure you," said Anna, "that your reaction comes as a complete surprise to me. Naturally, I shall withdraw from the case at once."
"But it doesn't end with that," said Grade curtly. "The national safety may depend on Mrs. Jacques' peace of mind during the coming weeks. I must ascertain your relation with Mr. Jacques. And I must warn you that if a compromising situation exists, the consequences will be most unpleasant." He picked up the telephone. "Grade. Get me the O.D."
Anna's palms were uncomfortably wet and sticky. She wanted to wipe them on the sides of her dress, but then decided it would be better to conceal all signs of nervousness.
Grade barked into the mouthpiece. "Hello! That you, Packard? Send me"
Suddenly the room vibrated with the shattering impact of massive metal on metal.
The three whirled toward the sound.
A stooped, loudly dressed figure was walking away from the great and inviolate door of Colonel Grade, drinking in with sardonic amusement the stuporous faces turned to him. It was evident he had just slammed the door behind him with all his strength.
Insistent squeakings from the teleset stirred Grade into a feeble response. "Never mind...it's Mr. Jacques..."
The swart ugliness of that face verged on the sublime. Anna observed for the first time the two horn-like protuberances on his forehead, which the man made no effort to conceal. His black woolen beret was cocked jauntily over one horn; the other, the visible one, bulged even more than Anna's horns, and to her fascinated eyes he appeared as some Greek satyr; Silenus with an eternal hangover, or Pan wearying of fruitless pursuit of fleeting nymphs. It was the face of a cynical post-gaol Wilde, of a Rimbaud, of a Goya turning his brush in saturnine glee from Spanish grandees to the horror-world of Ensayos.
Like a phantom voice, Matthew Bell's cryptic prediction seemed to float into her ears again: "...much in common...more than you guess "
There was so little time to think. Ruy Jacques must have recognized her frontal deformities even while that tassellated mortar-board of his Student costume had prevented her from seeing his. He must have identified her as a less advanced case of his own disease. Had he foreseen the turn of events here? Was he here to protect the only person on earth who might help him? That wasn't like him. He just wasn't the sensible type. She got the uneasy impression that he was here solely for his own amusementsimply to make fools of the three of them.
Grade began to sputter. "Now see here, Mr. Jacques. It's impossible to get in through that door. It's my private entrance. I changed the combination myself only this morning." The moustache bristled indignantly. "I must ask the meaning of this."
"Pray do, Colonel, pray do."
"Well, then, what is the meaning of this?"
"None, Colonel. Have you no faith in your own syllogisms? No one can open your private door but you. Q.E.D. No one did. I'm not really here. No smiles? Tsk tsk! Paragraph 6, p. 840 of the Manual of Permissible Military Humor officially recognizes the paradox."
"There's no such publication" stormed Grade.
But Jacques brushed him aside. He seemed now to notice Anna for the first time, and bowed with exaggerated punctilio. "My profound apologies, madame. You were standing so still, so quiet, that I mistook you for a rose bush." He beamed at each in turn. "Now isn't this delightful? I feel like a literary lion. It's the first time in my life that my admirers ever met for the express purpose of discussing my work."
How could he know that we were discussing his "composition," wondered Anna. And how did he open the door?
"If you'd eavesdropped long enough," said Martha Jacques, "you'd have learned we weren't admiring your 'prose poem'. In fact, I think it's pure nonsense."
No, thought Anna, he couldn't have eavesdropped, because we didn't talk about his speech after Grade opened the door. There's something herein this roomthat tells him.
"You don't even think it's poetry?" repeated Jacques, wide-eyed. "Martha, coming from one with your scientificaIly developed poetical sense, this is utterly damning."
"There are certain well recognized approaches to the appreciation of poetry," said Martha Jacques doggedly. "You ought to have the autoscanner read you some books on the aesthetic laws of language. It's all there."
The artist blinked in great innocence. "What's all there?"
"Scientific rules for analyzing poetry. Take the mood of a poem. You can very easily learn whether it's gay or somber just by comparing the proportion of low-pitched vowelsu and o, that isto the high-pitched vowelsa, e and i."
"Well, what do you know about that!" He turned a wondering face to Anna. "And she's right! Come to think of it, in Milton's L'Allegro, most of the vowels are high-pitched, while in his Il Penseroso, they're mostly low-pitched. Folks, I believe we've finally found a yardstick for genuine poetry. No longer must we flounder in poetastical soup. Now let's see." He rubbed his chin in blank-faced thoughtfulness. "Do you know, for years I've considered Swinburne's lines mourning Charles Baudelaire to be the distillate of sadness. But that, of course, was before I had heard of Martha's scientific approach, and had to rely solely on my unsophisticated, untrained, uninformed feelings. How stupid I was! For the thing is crammed with high-pitched vowels, and long e dominates: 'thee", 'sea', 'weave', 'eve', 'heat', 'sweet', 'feet'..." He struck his brow as if in sudden comprehension. "Why, it's gay! I must set it to a snappy polka!"
"Drivel," sniffed Martha Jacques. "Science"
"is simply a parasitical, adjectival, and useless occupation devoted to the quantitative restatement of Art," finished the smiling Jacques. "Science is functionally sterile; it creates nothing; it says nothing new. The scientist can never be more than a humble camp-follower of the artist. There exists no scientific truism that hasn't been anticipated by creative art. The examples are endless. Uccello worked out mathematically the laws of perspective in the fifteenth century; but Kallicrates applied the same laws two thousand years before in designing the columns of the Parthenon. The Curies thought they invented the idea of 'half-life'of a thing vanishing in proportion to its residue. The Egyptians tuned their lyre-strings to dampen according to the same formula. Napier thought he invented logarithmsentirely overlooking the fact that the Roman brass workers flared their trumpets to follow a logarithmic curve."
"You're deliberately selecting isolated examples," retorted Martha Jacques.
"Then suppose you name a few so-called scientific discoveries," replied the man. "I'll prove they were scooped by an artist, every time."
"I certainly shall. How about Boyle's gas law? I suppose you'll say Praxiteles knew all along that gas pressure runs inversely proportional to its volume at a given temperature?"
"I expected something more sophisticated. That one's too easy. Boyle's gas law, Hooke's law of springs, Galileo's law of pendulums, and a host of similar hogwash simply state that compression, kinetic energy, or whatever name you give it, is inversely proportional to its reduced dimensions, and is proportional to the amount of its displacement in the total system. Or, as the artist says, impact results from, and is proportional to, displacement of an object within its milieu. Could the final couplet of a Shakespearean sonnet enthrall us if our minds hadn't been conditioned, held in check, and compressed in suspense by the preceding fourteen lines? Note how cleverly Donne's famous poem builds up to its crash line, 'It tolls for thee!' By blood, sweat, and genius, the Elizabethans lowered the entropy of their creations in precisely the same manner, and with precisely the same result, as when Boyle compressed his gases. And the method was long old when they were young. It was old when the Ming artists were painting the barest suggestions of landscapes on the disproportionate backgrounds of their vases. The Shah Jahan was aware of it when he designed the long eye-restraining reflecting pool before the Taj Mahal. The Greek tragedians knew it. Sophocles' Oedipus is still unparalleled in its suspensive pacing toward climax. Solomon's imported Chaldean architects knew the effect to be gained by spacing the Holy of Holies at a distance from the temple pylae, and the Cro-Magnard magicians with malice aforethought painted their marvellous animal scenes only in the most inaccessible crannies of their limestone caves."
Martha Jacques smiled coldly. "Drivel, drivel, drivel. But never mind. One of these days soon I'll produce evidence you'll be forced to admit art can't touch."
"If you're talking about Sciomnia, there's real nonsense for you," countered Jacques amiably. "Really, Martha, it's a frightful waste of time to reconcile biological theory with the unified field theory of Einstein, which itself merely reconciles the relativity and quantum theories, a futile gesture in the first place. Before Einstein announced his unified theory in 1949, the professors handled the problem very neatly. They taught the quantum theory on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the relativity theory on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On the Sabbath they rested in front of their television sets. What's the good of Sciomnia, anyway?"
"It's the final summation of all physical and biological knowledge," retorted Martha Jacques. "And as such, Sciomnia represents the highest possible aim of human endeavor. Man's goal in life is to understand his environment, to analyze it to the last iotato know what he controls. The first person to understand Sciomnia may well rule not only this planet, but the whole galaxynot that he'd want to, but he could. That person may not be mebut will certainly be a scientist, and not an irresponsible artist."
"But, Martha," protested Jacques. "Where did you pick up such a weird philosophy? The highest aim of man is not to analyze, but to synthesizeto create. If you ever solve all of the nineteen sub-equations of Sciomnia, you'll be at a dead end. There'll be nothing left to analyze. As Dr. Bell the psychogeneticist says, overspecialization, be it mental, as in the human scientist, or dental, as in the saber-tooth tiger, is just a synonym for extinction. But if we continue to create, we shall eventually discover how to transcend"
Grade coughed, and Martha Jacques cut in tersely: "Never mind what Dr. Bell says. Ruy, have you ever seen this woman before?"
"The rose bush? Hmm." He stepped over to Anna and looked squarely down at her face. She flushed and looked away. He circled her in slow, critical appraisal, like a prospective buyer in a slave market of ancient Baghdad. "Hmm," he repeated doubtfully.
Anna breathed faster; her cheeks were the hue of beets. But she couldn't work up any sense of indignity. On the contrary, there was something illogically delicious about being visually pawed and handled by this strange leering creature.
Then she jerked visibly. What hypnotic insanity was this? This man held her life in the palm of his hand. If he acknowledged her, the vindictive creature who passed as his wife would crush her professionally. If he denied her, they'd know he was lying to save herand the consequences might prove even less pleasant. And what difference would her ruin make to him? She had sensed at once his monumental selfishness. And even if that conceit, that gorgeous self-love urged him to preserve her for her hypothetical value in finishing up the Rose score, she didn't see how he was going to manage it.
"Do you recognize her, Mr. Jacques," demanded Grade.
"I do," came the solemn reply.
Martha Jacques smiled thinly. "Who is she?"
"Miss Ethel Twinkham, my old spelling teacher. How are you, Miss Twinkham? What brings you out of retirement?"
"I'm not Miss Twinkham," said Anna dryly. "My name is Anna van Tuyl. For your information, we met last night in the Via Rosa."
"Oh! Of course!" He laughed happily. "I seem to remember now, quite indistinctly. And I want to apologize, Miss Twinkham. My behavior was execrable, I suppose. Anyway, if you will just leave the bill for damages with Mrs. Jacques, her lawyer will take care of everything. You can even throw in ten per cent, for mental anguish."
Anna felt like clapping her hands in glee. The whole Security office was no match for this fiend.
"You're getting last night mixed up with the night before," snapped Martha Jacques. "You met Miss van Tuyl last night. You were with her several hours. Don't lie about it."
Again Ruy Jacques peered earnestly into Anna's face. He finally shook his head. "Last night? Well, I can't deny it. Guess you'll have to pay up, Martha. Her face is familiar, but I just can't remember what I did to make her mad. The bucket of paint and the slumming dowager was last week, wasn't it?"
Anna smiled. "You didn't injure me. We simply danced together on the square, that's all. I'm here at Mrs. Jacques' request." From the corner of her eye she watched Martha Jacques and the colonel exchange questioning glances, as if to say, "Perhaps there is really nothing between them."
But the scientist was not completely satisfied. She turned her eyes on her husband. "It's a strange coincidence that you should come just at this time. Exactly why are you here, if not to becloud the issue of this woman and your future psychiatrical treatment? Why don't you answer? What is the matter with you?"
For Ruy Jacques stood there, swaying like a stricken satyr, his eyes coals of pain in a face of anguish flames. He contorted backward once, as though attempting to placate furious fangs tearing at the hump on his back.
Anna leaped to catch him as he collapsed.
He lay cupped in her lap moaning voicelessly. Something in his hump, which lay against her left breast, seethed and raged like a genie locked in a bottle.
"Colonel Grade," said the psychiatrist quietly, "you will order an ambulance. I must analyze this pain syndrome at the clinic immediately."
Ruy Jacques was hers.
"Thanks awfully for coming, Matt," said Anna warmly.
"Glad to, honey." He looked down at the prone figure on the clinic cot. "How's our friend?"
"Still unconscious, and under general analgesic. I called you in because I want to air some ideas about this man that scare me when I think about them alone."
The psychogeneticist adjusted his spectacles with elaborate casualness. "Really? Then you think you've found what's wrong with him? Why he can't read or write?"
"Does it have to be something wrong?"
"What else would you call it? A...gift?"
She studied him narrowly. "I mightand you mightif he got something in return for his loss. That would depend on whether there was a net gain, wouldn't it? And don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Let's get it out in the open. You've known the Jacquesesboth of themfor years. You had me put on his case because you think he and I might find in the mind and body of the other a mutual solution to our identical aberrations. Well?"
Bell tapped imperturbably at his cigar. "As you say, the question is, whether he got enough in returnenough to compensate for his lost skills."
She gave him a baffled look. "All right, then, I'll do the talking. Ruy Jacques opened Grade's private door, when Grade alone knew the combination. And when he got in the room with us, he knew what we had been talking about. It was just as though it had all been written out for him, somehow. You'd have thought the lock combination had been pasted on the door, and that he'd looked over a transcript of our conversation."
"Only, he can't read," observed Bell.
"You mean, he can't read...writing?"
"What else is there?"
"Possibly some sort of thought residuum...in things. Perhaps some message in the metal of Grade's door, and in certain objects in the room." She watched him closely. "I see you aren't surprised. You've known this all along."
"I admit nothing. You, on the other hand, must admit that your theory of thought-reading is superficially fantastic."
"So would writing beto a Neanderthal cave dweller. But tell me, Matt, where do our thoughts go after we think them? What is the extra-cranial fate of those feeble, intricate electric oscillations we pick up on the encephalograph? We know they can and do penetrate the skull, that they can pass through bone, like radio waves. Do they go on out into the universe forever? Or do dense substances like Grade's door eventually absorb them all? Do they set up their wispy patterns in metals, which then begin to vibrate in sympathy, like piano wires responding to a noise?"
Bell drew heavily on his cigar. "Seriously, I don't know. But I will say this: your theory is not inconsistent with certain psychogenetic predictions."
"Eventual telemusical communication of all thought. The encephalograph, you know, looks oddly like a musical sound track. Oh, we can't expect to convert overnight to communication of pure thought by pure music. Naturally, crude transitional forms will intervene. But any type of direct idea transmission that involves the sending and receiving of rhythm and modulation as such is a cut higher than communication in a verbal medium, and may be a rudimentary step upward toward true musical communion, just as dawn man presaged true words with allusive, onomatopoeic monosyllables."
"There's your answer, then," said Anna. "Why should Ruy Jacques trouble to read, when every bit of metal around him is an open book?" She continued speculatively, "You might look at it this way. Our ancestors forgot how to swing through the trees when they learned how to walk erect. Their history is recapitulated in our very young. Almost immediately after birth, a human infant can hang by his hands, ape-like. And then, after a week or so, he forgets what no human infant ever really needed to know. So now Ruy forgets how to read. A great pity. Perhaps. But if the world were peopled with Ruys, they wouldn't need to know how, for after the first few years of infancy, they'd learn to use their metal-empathic sense. They might even say, 'It's all very nice to be able to read and write and swing about in trees when you're quite young, but after all, one matures'."
She pressed a button on the desk slide viewer that sat on a table by the artist's bed. "This is a radiographic slide of Ruy's cerebral hemispheres as viewed from above, probably old stuff to you. It shows that the 'horns' are not mere localized growths in the prefrontal area, but extend as slender tracts around the respective hemispheric peripheries to the visuo-sensory area of the occipital lobes, where they turn and enter the cerebral interior, there to merge in an enlarged ball-like juncture at a point over the cerebellum where the pineal 'eye' is ordinarily found."
"But the pineal is completely missing in the slide," demurred Bell.
"That's the question," countered Anna. "Is the pineal absentor, are the 'horns' actually the pineal, enormously enlarged and bifurcated? I'm convinced that the latter is the fact. For reasons presently unknown to me, this heretofore small, obscure lobe has grown, bifurcated, and forced its destructive dual limbs not only through the soft cerebral tissue concerned with the ability to read, but also has gone on to skirt half the cerebral circumference to the forehead, where even the hard frontal bone of the skull has softened under its pressure." She looked at Bell closely. "I infer that it's just a question of time before I, too, forget how to read and write."
Bell's eyes drifted evasively to the immobile face of the unconscious artist. "But the number of neurons in a given mammalian brain remains constant after birth," he said. "These cells can throw out numerous dendrites and create increasingly complex neural patterns as the subject grows older, but he can't grow any more of the primary neurons."
"I know. That's the trouble. Ruy can't grow more brain, but he has." She touched her own 'horns' wonderingly. "And I guess I have, too. What?"
Following Bell's glance, she bent over to inspect the artist's face, and started as from a physical blow.
Eyes like anguished talons were clutching hers.
His lips moved, and a harsh whisper swirled about her ears like a desolate wind: "...The Nightingale...in death...greater beauty unbearable...but watch...THE ROSE!"
White-faced, Anna staggered backwards through the door.
Bell's hurried footsteps were just behind her as she burst into her office and collapsed on the consultation couch. Her eyes were shut tight, but over her labored breathing she heard the psychogeneticist sit down and leisurely light another cigar.
Finally she opened her eyes. "Even you found out something that time. There's no use asking me what he meant."
"Isn't there? Who will dance the part of The Student on opening night?"
"Ruy. Only, he will really do little beyond provide support to the prima ballerina, The Nightingale, that is, at the beginning and end of the ballet."
"And who plays The Nightingale?"
"Ruy hired a professionalLa Tanid."
Bell blew a careless cloud of smoke toward the ceiling. "Are you sure you aren't going to take the part?"
"The role is strenuous in the extreme. For me, it would be a physical impossibility."
"What do you meannow?"
He looked at her sharply. "You know very well what I mean. You know it so well your whole body is quivering. Your ballet premiere is four weeks offbut you know and I know that Ruy has already seen it. Interesting." He tapped coolly at his cigar. "Almost as interesting as your belief he saw you playing the part of The Nightingale."
Anna clenched her fists. This must be faced rationally. She inhaled deeply, and slowly let her breath out. "How can even he see things that haven't happened yet?"
"I don't know for sure. But I can guess, and so could you if you'd calm down a bit. We do know that the pineal is a residuum of the single eye that our very remote sea-going ancestors had in the center of their fishy foreheads. Suppose this fossil eye, now buried deep in the normal brain, were reactivated. What would we be able to see with it? Nothing spatial, nothing dependent on light stimuli. But let us approach the problem inductively. I shut one eye. The other can fix Anna van Tuyl in a depthless visual plane. But with two eyes I can follow you stereoscopically, as you move about in space. Thus, adding an eye adds a dimension. With the pineal as a third eye I should be able to follow you through time. So Ruy's awakened pineal should permit him at least a hazy glimpse of the future."
"What a marvelousand terrible gift."
"But not without precedent," said Bell. "I suspect that a more or less reactivated pineal lies behind every case of clairvoyance collected in the annals of para-psychology. And I can think of at least one historical instance in which the pineal has actually tried to penetrate the forehead, though evidently only in monolobate form. All Buddhist statues carry a mark on the forehead symbolic of an 'inner eye'. From what we know now, Buddha's 'inner eye' was something more than symbolic."
"Granted. But a time-sensitive pineal still doesn't explain the pain in Ruy's hump. Nor the hump itself, for that matter."
"What," said Bell, "makes you think the hump is anything more than what it seemsa spinal disease characterized by a growth of laminated tissue?"
"It's not that simple, and you know it. You're familiar with 'phantom limb' cases, such as where the amputee retains an illusion of sensation or pain in the amputated hand or foot?"
She continued: "But you know, of course, that amputation isn't an absolute prerequisite to a 'phantom'. A child born armless may experience phantom limb sensations for years. Suppose such a child were thrust into some improbable armless society, and their psychiatrists tried to cast his sensory pattern into their own mold. How could the child explain to them the miracle of arms, hands, fingersthings of which he had occasional sensory intimations, but had never seen, and could hardly imagine? Ruy's case is analogous. He is four-limbed and presumably springs from normal stock. Hence the phantom sensations in his hump point toward a potential organa foreshadowing of the future, rather than toward memories of a limb once possessed. To use a brutish example, Ruy is like the tadpole rather than the snake. The snake had his legs briefly, during the evolutionary recapitulation of his embryo. The tadpole has yet to shed his tail and develop legs. But one might assume that each has some faint phantom sensoria of legs."
Bell appeared to consider this. "That still doesn't account for Ruy's pain. I wouldn't think the process of growing a tail would be painful for a tadpole, nor a phantom limb for Ruyif it's inherent in his physical structure. But be that as it may, from all indications he is still going to be in considerable pain when that narcotic wears off. What are you going to do for him then? Section the ganglia leading to his hump?"
"Certainly not. Then he would never be able to grow that extra organ. Anyhow, even in normal phantom limb cases, cutting nerve tissue doesn't help. Excision of neuromas from limb stumps brings only temporary reliefand may actually aggravate a case of hyperaesthesia. No, phantom pain sensations are central rather than peripheral. However, as a temporary analgesic, I shall try a two per cent solution of novocaine near the proper thoracic ganglia." She looked at her watch. "We'd better be getting back to him."
Anna withdrew the syringe needle from the man's side and rubbed the last puncture with an alcoholic swab.
"How do you feel, Ruy?" asked Bell.
The woman stooped beside the sterile linens and looked at the face of the prone man. "He doesn't," she said uneasily. "He's out cold again."
"Really?" Bell bent over beside her and reached for the man's pulse. "But it was only two per cent novocaine. Most remarkable."
"I'll order a counter-stimulant," said Anna nervously. "I don't like this."
"Oh, come, girl. Relax. Pulse and respiration normal. In fact, I think you're nearer collapse than he. This is very interesting..." His voice trailed off in musing surmise. "Look, Anna, there's nothing to keep both of us here. He's in no danger whatever. I've got to run along. I'm sure you can attend to him."
I know, she thought. You want me to be alone with him.
She acknowledged his suggestion with a reluctant nod of her head, and the door closed behind his chuckle.
For some moments thereafter she studied in deep abstraction the regular rise and fall of the man's chest.
So Ruy Jacques had set another medical precedent. He'd received a local anaesthetic that should have done nothing more than desensitize the deformed growth in his back for an hour or two. But here he lay, in apparent coma, just as though under a general cerebral anaesthetic.
Her frown deepened.
X-ray plates had showed his dorsal growth simply as a compacted mass of cartilaginous laminated tissue (the same as hers) penetrated here and there by neural ganglia. In deadening those ganglia she should have accomplished nothing more than local anaesthetization of that tissue mass, in the same manner that one anaesthetizes an arm or leg by deadening the appropriate spinal ganglion. But the actual result was not local, but general. It was as though one had administered a mild local to the radial nerve of the forearm to deaden pain in the hand, but had instead anaesthetized the cerebrum.
And that, of course, was utterly senseless, completely incredible, because anaesthesia works from the higher neural centers down, not vice versa. Deadening a certain area of the parietal lobe could kill sensation in the radial nerve and the hand, but a hypo in the radial nerve wouldn't knock out the parietal lobe of the cerebrum, because the parietal organization was neurally superior. Analogously, anaesthetizing Ruy Jacques' hump shouldn't have deadened his entire cerebrum, because certainly his cerebrum was to be presumed neurally superior to that dorsal malformation.
To be presumed...
But with Ruy Jacques, presumptions wereinvalid.
So that was what Bell had wanted her to discover. Like some sinister reptile of the Mesozoic, Ruy Jacques had two neural organizations, one in his skull and one on his back, the latter being superior to, and in some degree controlling, the one in his skull, just as the cerebral cortex in human beings and other higher animals assists and screens the work of the less intricate cerebellum, and just as the cerebellum governs the still more primitive medulla oblongata in the lower vertebrata, such as in frogs and fishes. In anaesthetizing his hump, she had disrupted communications in his highest centers of consciousness, and in anaesthetizing the higher, dorsal center she had apparently simultaneously deactivated his "normal" brain.
As full realization came, she grew aware of a curious numbness in her thighs, and of faint overtones of mingled terror and awe in the giddy throbbing in her forehead. Slowly, she sank into the bedside chair.
For as this man was, so must she become. The day lay ahead when her pineal growths must stretch to the point of disrupting the grey matter in her occipital lobes, and destroy her ability to read. And the time must come, too, when her dorsal growth would inflame her whole body with its anguished writhing, as it had done his, and try with probable equal futility to burst its bonds.
And all of this must comesoon; before her ballet premiere, certainly. The enigmatic skein of the future would be unravelled to her evolving intellect even as it now was to Ruy Jacques'. She could find all the answers she sought...Dream's end...the Nightingale's death song...The Rose. And she would find them whether she wanted to or not.
She groaned uneasily.
At the sound, the man's eyelids seemed to tremble; his breathing slowed momentarily, then became faster.
She considered this in perplexity. He was unconscious, certainly; yet he made definite responses to aural stimuli. Possibly she had anaesthetized neither member of the hypothetical brain-pair, but had merely cut, temporarily, their lines of intercommunication, just as one might temporarily disorganize the brain of a laboratory animal by anaesthetizing the pons Varolii linking the two cranial hemispheres.
Of one thing she was sure: Ruy Jacques, unconscious, and temporarily mentally disintegrate, was not going to conform to the behavior long standardized for other unconscious and disintegrate mammals. Always one step beyond what she ever expected. Beyond man. Beyond genius.
She arose quietly and tiptoed the short distance to the bed.
When her lips were a few inches from the artist's right ear, she said softly: "What is your name?"
The prone figure stirred uneasily. His eyelids fluttered, but did not open. His wine-colored lips parted, then shut, then opened again. His reply was a harsh, barely intelligible whisper: "Zhak."
"What are you doing?"
"A red rose?"
"There are many red roses."
Again his somnolent, metallic whisper: "No, there is but one."
She suddenly realized that her own voice was becoming tense, shrill. She forced it back into a lower pitch. "Think of that rose. Can you see it?"
She cried: "What is the rose?"
It seemed that the narrow walls of the room would clamor forever their outraged metallic modesty, if something hadn't frightened away their pain. Ruy Jacques opened his eyes and struggled to rise on one elbow.
On his sweating forehead was a deep frown. But his eyes were apparently focused on nothing in particular, and despite his seemingly purposive motor reaction, she knew that actually her question had but thrown him deeper into his strange spell.
Swaying a little on the dubious support of his right elbow, he muttered: "You are not the rose...not yet...not yet..."
She gazed at him in shocked stupor as his eyes closed slowly and he slumped back on the sheet. For a long moment, there was no sound in the room but his deep and rhythmic breathing.
Without turning from her glum perusal of the clinic grounds framed in her window, Anna threw the statement over her shoulder as Bell entered the office. "Your friend Jacques refuses to return for a check-up. I haven't seen him since he walked out a week ago."
"Is that fatal?"
She turned blood-shot eyes on him. "Not to Ruy."
The man's expression twinkled. "He's your patient, isn't he? It's your duty to make a house call."
"I certainly shall. I was going to call him on the visor to make an appointment."
"He doesn't have a visor. Everybody just walks in. There's something doing in his studio nearly every night. If you're bashful, I'll be glad to take you."
"No thanks. I'll go aloneearly."
Bell chuckled. "I'll see you tonight."
Number 98 was a sad, ramshackled, four-story, plaster-front affair, evidently thrown up during the materials shortage of the late forties.
Anna took a deep breath, ignored the unsteadiness of her knees, and climbed the half dozen steps of the front stoop.
There seemed to be no exterior bell. Perhaps it was inside. She pushed the door in and the waning evening light followed her into the hall. From somewhere came a frantic barking, which was immediately silenced.
Anna peered uneasily up the rickety stairs, then whirled as a door opened behind her.
A fuzzy canine muzzle thrust itself out of the crack in the doorway and growled cautiously. And in the same crack, farther up, a dark wrinkled face looked out at her suspiciously. "Whaddaya want?"
Anna retreated half a step. "Does he bite?"
"Who, Mozart? Nah, he couldn't dent a banana," the creature added with anile irrelevance. "Ruy gave him to me because Mozart's dog followed him to the grave."
"Then this is where Mr. Jacques lives?"
"Sure, fourth floor, but you're early." The door opened wider. "Say, haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
Recognition was simultaneous. It was that animated stack of purple dresses, the ancient vendress of love philters.
"Come in, dearie," purred the old one, "and I'll mix you up something special."
"Never mind," said Anna hurriedly. "I've got to see Mr. Jacques." She turned and ran toward the stairway.
A horrid floating cackle whipped and goaded her flight, until she stumbled out on the final landing and set up an insensate skirling on the first door she came to.
From within an irritated voice called: "Aren't you getting a little tired of that? Why don't you come in and rest your knuckles?"
"Oh." She felt faintly foolish. "It's meAnna van Tuyl."
"Shall I take the door off its hinges, doctor?"
Anna turned the knob and stepped inside.
Ruy Jacques stood with his back to her, palette in hand, facing an easel bathed in the slanting shafts of the setting sun. He was apparently blocking in a caricature of a nude model lying, face averted, on a couch beyond the easel.
Anna felt a sharp pang of disappointment. She'd wanted him to herself a little while. Her glance flicked about the studio.
Framed canvases obscured by dust were stacked willy-nilly about the walls of the big room. Here and there were bits of statuary. Behind a nearby screen, the disarray of a cot peeped out at her. Beyond the screen was a wire-phono. In the opposite wall was a door that evidently opened into the model's dressing alcove. In the opposite corner stood a battered electronic piano, which she recognized as the Fourier audiosynthesizer type.
She gave an involuntary gasp as the figure of a man suddenly separated from the piano and bowed to her.
So the lovely model with the invisible face must beMartha Jacques.
There was no possibility of mistake, for now the model had turned her face a little, and acknowledged Anna's faltering stare with complacent mockery.
Of all evenings, why did Martha Jacques have to pick this one?
The artist faced the easel again. His harsh jeer floated back to the psychiatrist: "Behold the perfect female body!"
Perhaps it was the way he said this that saved her. She had a fleeting suspicion that he had recognized her disappointment, had anticipated the depths of her gathering despair, and had deliberately shaken her back into reality.
In a few words he had borne upon her the idea that his enormous complex mind contained neither love nor hate, even for his wife, and that while he found in her a physical perfection suitable for transference to canvas or marble, that nevertheless he writhed in a secret torment over this very perfection, as though in essence the woman's physical beauty simply stated a lack he could not name, and might never know.
With a wary, futile motion he lay aside his brushes and palette. "Yes, Martha is perfect, physically and mentally, and knows it." He laughed brutally. "What she doesn't know, is that frozen beauty admits of no plastic play of meaning. There's nothing behind perfection, because it has no meaning but itself."
There was a clamor on the stairs. "Hah!" cried Jacques. "More early-comers. The word must have got around that Martha brought the liquor. School's out, Mart. Better hop into the alcove and get dressed."
Matthew Bell was among the early arrivals. His face lighted up when he saw Anna, then clouded when he picked out Grade and Martha Jacques.
Anna noticed that his mouth was twitching worriedly as he motioned to her.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothingyet. But I wouldn't have let you come if I'd known they'd be here. Has Martha given you any trouble?"
"No. Why should she? I'm here ostensibly to observe Ruy in my professional capacity."
"You don't believe that, and if you get careless, she won't either. So watch your step with Ruy while Martha's around. And even when she's not around. Too many eyes hereSecurity menGrade's crew. Just don't let Ruy involve you in anything that might attract attention. So much for that. Been here long?"
"I was the first guestexcept for her and Grade."
"Hmm. I should have escorted you. Even though you're his psychiatrist, this sort of thing sets her to thinking.
"I can't see the harm of coming here alone. It isn't as though Ruy were going to try to make love to me in front of all these people."
"That's exactly what it is as though!" He shook his head and looked about him. "Believe me, I know him better than you. The man is insane...unpredictable."
Anna felt a tingle of anticipation...or was it of apprehension? "I'll be careful," she said.
"Then come on. If I can get Martha and Ruy into one of their eternal Science-versus-Art arguments, I believe they'll forget about you."
"I repeat," said Bell, "we are watching the germination of another Renaissance. The signs are unmistakable, and should be of great interest to practicing sociologists and policemen." He turned from the little group beginning to gather about him and beamed artlessly at the passing face of Colonel Grade.
Grade paused. "And just what are the signs of a renaissance?" he demanded.
"Mainly climatic change and enormously increased leisure, Colonel. Either alone can make a big differencecombined, the result is multiplicative rather than additive."
Anna watched Bell's eyes rove the room and join with those of Martha Jacques, as he continued: "Take temperature. In seven thousand B.C. homo sapiens, even in the Mediterranean area, was a shivering nomad; fifteen or twenty centuries later a climatic upheaval had turned Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Yangste valley into garden spots, and the first civilizations were born. Another warm period extending over several centuries and ending about twelve hundred A.D. launched the Italian Renaissance and the great Ottoman culture, before the temperature started falling again. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, the mean temperature of New York City has been increasing at the rate of about one-tenth of a degree per year. In another century, palm trees will be commonplace on Fifth Avenue." He broke off and bowed benignantly. "Hello, Mrs. Jacques. I was just mentioning that in past renaissances, mild climates and bounteous crops gave man leisure to think, and to create."
When the woman shrugged her shoulders and made a gesture as though to walk on, Bell continued hurriedly: "Yes, those renaissances gave us the Parthenon, The Last Supper, the Taj Mahal. Then, the artist was supreme. But this time it might not happen that way, because we face a simultaneous technologic and climatic optimum. Atomic energy has virtually abolished labor as such, but without the international leavening of common art that united the first Egyptian, Sumerian, Chinese and Greek cities. Without pausing to consolidate his gains, the scientist rushes on to greater things, to Sciomnia, and to a Sciomnic power source"he exchanged a sidelong look with the woman scientist"a machine which, we are informed, may overnight fling man toward the nearer stars. When that day comes, the artist is through...unless..."
"Unless what?" asked Martha Jacques coldly.
"Unless this Renaissance, sharpened and intensified as it has been by its double maxima of climate and science, is able to force a response comparable to that of the Aurignacean Renaissance of twenty-five thousand B.C., to wit, the flowering of the Cro-Magnon, the first of the modern men. Wouldn't it be ironic if our greatest scientist solved Sciomnia, only to come a cropper at the hands of what may prove to be one of the first primitive specimens of homo superiorher husband?"
Anna watched with interest as the psychogeneticist smiled engagingly at Martha Jacques' frowning face, while at the same time he looked beyond her to catch the eye of Ruy Jacques, who was plinking in apparent aimlessness at the keyboard of the Fourier piano.
Martha Jacques said curtly: "I'm afraid, Dr. Bell, that I can't get too excited about your Renaissance. When you come right down to it, local humanity, whether dominated by art or science, is nothing but a temporary surface scum on a primitive backwoods planet."
Bell nodded blandly. "To most scientists Earth is admittedly commonplace. Psychogeneticists, on the other hand, consider this planet and its people one of the wonders of the universe."
"Really?" asked Grade. "And just what have we got here that they don't have on Betelgeuse?"
"Three things," replied Bell. "OneEarth's atmosphere has enough carbon dioxide to grow the forest-spawning grounds of man's primate ancestors, thereby ensuring an unspecialized, quasi-erect, manually-activated species capable of indefinite psychophysical development. It might take the saurian life of a desert planet another billion years to evolve an equal physical and mental structure. Twothat same atmosphere had a surface pressure of 760 mm of mercury and a mean temperature of about 25 degrees Centigradeexcellent conditions for the transmission of sound, speech, and song; and those early men took to it like a duck to water. Compare the difficulty of communication by direct touching of antennae, as the arthropodic pseudo-homindal citizens of certain airless worlds must do. Threethe solar spectrum within its very short frequency range of 760 to 390 millimicrons offers seven colors of remarkable variety and contrast, which our ancestors quickly made their own. From the beginning, they could see that they moved in multichrome beauty. Consider the ultra-sophisticate dwelling in a dying sun systemand pity him for he can see only red and a little infra red."
"If that's the only difference," snorted Grade, "I'd say you psychogeneticists were getting worked up over nothing!"
Bell smiled past him at the approaching figure of Ruy Jacques. "You may be right, of course, Colonel, but I think you're missing the point. To the psychogeneticist it appears that terrestrial environment is promoting the evolution of a most extraordinary beinga type of homo whose energies beyond the barest necessities are devoted to strange, unproductive activities. And to what end? We don't knowyet. But we can guess. Give a psychogeneticist Eohippus and the grassy plains, and he'd predict the modem horse. Give him archeopteryx and a dense atmosphere, and he could imagine the swan. Give him h. sapiens and a two-day work week, or better yet, Ruy Jacques and a no-day work week, and what will he predict?"
"The poorhouse?" asked Jacques, sorrowfully.
Bell laughed. "Not quite. An evolutionary spurt, rather. As sapiens turns more and more into his abstract world of the arts, music in particular, the psychogeneticist foresees increased communication in terms of music. This might require certain cerebral realignments in sapiens, and perhaps the development of special membranous neural organswhich in turn might lead to completely new mental and physical abilities, and the conquest of new dimensionsjust as the human tongue eventually developed from a tasting organ into a means of long distance vocal communication."
"Not even in Ruy's Science/Art diatribes," said Mrs. Jacques, "have I heard greater nonsense. If this planet is to have any future worthy of the name, you can be sure it will be through the leadership of her scientists."
"I wouldn't be too sure," countered Bell. "The artist's place in society has advanced tremendously in the past half-century. And I mean the minor artistwho is identified simply by his profession and not by any exceptional reputation. In our own time we have seen the financier forced to extend social equality to the scientist. And today the palette and musical sketch pad are gradually toppling the test tube and the cyclotron from their pedestals. In the first Renaissance the merchant and soldier inherited the ruins of church and feudal empire; in this one we peer through the crumbling walls of capitalism and nationalism and see the artist...or the scientist...ready to emerge as the cream of society. The question is, which one?"
"For the sake of law and order," declared Colonel Grade, "it must be the scientist, working in the defense of his country. Think of the military insecurity of an art-dominated society. If"
Ruy Jacques broke in: "There is only one point on which I must disagree with you." He turned a disarming smile on his wife. "I really don't see how the scientist fits into the picture at all. Do you, Martha? For the artist is already supreme. He dominates the scientist, and if he likes, he is perfectly able to draw upon his more sensitive intuition for those various restatements of artistic principles that the scientists are forever trying to fob off on a decreasingly gullible public under the guise of novel scientific laws. I say that the artist is aware of those "new" laws long before the scientist, and has the option of presenting them to the public in a pleasing art form or as a dry, abstruse equation. He may, like da Vinci, express his discovery of a beautiful curve in the form of a breath-taking spiral staircase in a chateau at Blois, or, like Dürer he may analyze the curve mathematically and announce its logarithmic formula. In either event he anticipates Descartes, who was the first mathematician to rediscover the logarithmic spiral."
The woman laughed grimly. "All right. You're an artist. Just what scientific law have you discovered?"
"I have discovered," answered the artist with calm pride, "what will go down in history as 'Jacques' Law of Stellar Radiation'."
Anna and Bell exchanged glances. The older man's look of relief said plainly: "The battle is joined; they'll forget you."
Martha Jacques peered at the artist suspiciously. Anna could see that the woman was genuinely curious but caught between her desire to crush, to damn any such amateurish "discovery" and her fear that she was being led into a trap. Anna herself, after studying the exaggerated innocence of the man's wide, unblinking eyes knew immediately that he was subtly enticing the woman out on the rotten limb of her own dry perfection.
In near-hypnosis Anna watched the man draw a sheet of paper from his pocket. She marveled at the superb blend of diffidence and braggadocio with which he unfolded it and handed it to the woman scientist.
"Since I can't write, I had one of the fellows write it down for me, but I think he got it right," he explained. "As you see, it boils down to seven prime equations."
Anna watched a puzzled frown steal over the woman's brow. "But each of these equations expands into hundreds more, especially the seventh, which is the longest of them all." The frown deepened. "Very interesting. Already I see hints of the Russell diagram..."
The man started. "What! H. N. Russell, who classified stars into spectral classes? You mean he scooped me?"
"Only if your work is accurate, which I doubt."
The artist stammered: "But"
"And here," she continued in crisp condemnation, "is nothing more than a restatement of the law of light-pencil wavering, which explains why stars twinkle and planets don't, and which has been known for two hundred years."
Ruy Jacques' face lengthened lugubriously.
The woman smiled grimly and pointed. "These parameters are just a poor approximation of the Bethe law of nuclear fission in starsold since the thirties."
The man stared at the scathing finger. "Old...?"
"I fear so. But still not bad for an amateur. If you kept at this sort of thing all your life, you might eventually develop something novel. But this is a mere hodge-podge, a rehash of material any real scientist learned in his teens."
"But, Martha," pleaded the artist, "surely it isn't all old?"
"I can't say with certainty, of course," returned the woman with malice-edged pleasure, "until I examine every sub-equation. I can only say that, fundamentally, scientists long ago anticipated the artist, represented by the great Ruy Jacques. In the aggregate, your amazing Law of Stellar Radiation has been know for two hundred years or more."
Even as the man stood there, as though momentarily stunned by the enormity of his defeat, Anna began to pity his wife.
The artist shrugged his shoulders wistfully. "Science versus Art. So the artist has given his all, and lost. Jacques' Law must sing its swan song, then be forever forgotten." He lifted a resigned face toward the scientist. "Would you, my dear, administer the coup de grace by setting up the proper coordinates in the Fourier audiosynthesizer?"
Anna wanted to lift a warning hand, cry out to the man that he was going too far, that the humiliation he was preparing for his wife was unnecessary, unjust, and would but thicken the wall of hatred that cemented their antipodal souls together.
But it was too late. Martha Jacques was already walking toward the Fourier piano, and within seconds had set up the polar-defined data and had flipped the toggle switch. The psychiatrist found her mind and tongue to be literally paralyzed by the swift movement of this unwitting drama, which was now toppling over the brink of its tragicomic climax.
A deep silence fell over the room.
Anna caught an impression of avid faces, most of whomJacques' most intimate friendswould understand the nature of his little playlet and would rub salt into the abraded wound he was delivering his wife.
Then in the space of three seconds, it was over.
The Fourier-piano had synthesized the seven equations, six short, one long, into their tonal equivalents, and it was over.
Dorran, the orchestra leader, broke the uneasy stillness that followed. "I say, Ruy old chap," he blurted, "just what is the difference in 'Jacques' Law of Stellar Radiation' and 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'?"
Anna, in mingled amusement and sympathy, watched the face of Martha Jacques slowly turn crimson.
The artist replied in amazement. "Why, now that you mention it, there does seem to be a little resemblance."
"It's a dead ringer!" cried a voice.
"'Twinkle, twinkle' is an old continental folk tune," volunteered another. "I once traced it from Haydn's 'Surprise Symphony' back to the fourteenth century."
"Oh, but that's quite impossible," protested Jacques. "Martha has just stated that science discovered it first, only two hundred years ago."
The woman's voice dripped aqua regia. "You planned this deliberately, just to humiliate me in front of these...these clowns."
"Martha, I assure you...!"
"I'm warning you for the last time, Ruy. If you ever again humiliate me, I'll probably kill you!"
Jacques backed away in mock alarm until he was swallowed up in a swirl of laughter.
The group broke up, leaving the two women alone. Suddenly aware of Martha Jacques' bitter scrutiny, Anna flushed and turned toward her.
Martha Jacques said: "Why can't you make him come to his senses? I'm paying you enough."
Anna gave her a slow wry smile. "Then I'll need your help. And you aren't helping when you deprecate his sense of valuesodd though they may seem to you."
"But Art is really so foolish! Science"
Anna laughed shortly. "You see? Do you wonder he avoids you?"
"What would you do?"
"I?" Anna swallowed dryly.
Martha Jacques was watching her with narrowed eyes. "Yes, you. If you wanted him?"
Anna hesitated, breathing uneasily. Then gradually her eyes widened, became dreamy and full, like moons rising over the edge of some unknown, exotic land. Her lips opened with a nerveless fatalism. She didn't care what she said:
"I'd forget that I want, above all things, to be beautiful. I would think only of him. I'd wonder what he's thinking, and I'd forsake my mental integrity and try to think as he thinks. I'd learn to see through his eyes, and to hear through his ears. I'd sing over his successes, and hold my tongue when he failed. When he's moody and depressed, I wouldn't probe or insist that-I-could-help-you-if-you'd-only-let-me. Then"
Martha Jacques snorted. "In short, you'd be nothing but a selfless shadow, devoid of personality or any mind or individuality of your own. That might be all right for one of your type. But for a scientist, the very thought is ridiculous!"
The psychiatrist lifted her shoulders delicately. "I agree. It is ridiculous. What sane woman at the peak of her profession would suddenly toss up her career to mergeyou'd say "submerge"her identity, her very existence, with that of an utterly alien male mentality?"
"What woman, indeed?"
Anna mused to herself, and did not answer. Finally she said: "And yet, that's the price; take it or leave it, they say. What's a girl to do?"
"Stick up for her rights!" declared Martha Jacques spiritedly.
"All hail to unrewarding perseverance!" Ruy Jacques was back, swaying slightly. He pointed his half-filled glass toward the ceiling and shouted: "Friends! A toast! Let us drink to the two charter members of the Knights of the Crimson Grail." He bowed in saturnine mockery to his glowering wife. "To Martha! May she soon solve the Jacques Rosette and blast humanity into the heavens!"
Simultaneously he drank and held up a hand to silence the sudden spate of jeers and laughter. Then, turning toward the now apprehensive psychiatrist, he essayed a second bow of such sweeping grandiosity that his glass was upset. As he straightened, however, he calmly traded glasses with her. "To my old schoolteacher, Dr. van Tuyl. A nightingale whose secret ambition is to become as beautiful as a red red rose. May Allah grant her prayers." He blinked at her beatifically in the sudden silence. "What was that comment, doctor?"
"I said you were a drunken idiot," replied Anna. "But let it pass." She was panting, her head whirling. She raised her voice to the growing cluster of faces. "Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you the third seeker of the grail! A truly great artist. Ruy Jacques, a child of the coming epoch, whose sole aim is not aimlessness, as he would like you to think, but a certain marvelous rose. Her curling petals shall be of subtle texture, yet firm withal, and brilliant red. It is this rose that he must find, to save his mind and body, and to put a soul in him."
"She's right!" cried the artist in dark glee. "To Ruy Jacques, then! Join in, everybody. The party's on Martha!"
He downed his glass, then turned a suddenly grave face to his audience. "But it's really such a pity in Anna's case, isn't it? Because her cure is so simple."
The psychiatrist listened; her head was throbbing dizzily.
"As any competent psychiatrist could tell her," continued the artist mercilessly, "she has identified herself with the nightingale in her ballet. The nightingale isn't much to look at. On top it's a dirty brown; at bottom, you might say it's a drab gray. But ah! The soul of this plain little bird! Look into my soul, she pleads. Hold me in your strong arms, look into my soul, and think me as lovely as a red rose."
Even before he put his wine glass down on the table, Anna knew what was coming. She didn't need to watch the stiffening cheeks and flaring nostrils of Martha Jacques, nor the sudden flash of fear in Bell's eyes, to know what was going to happen next.
He held out his arms to her, his swart satyr-face nearly impassive save for its eternal suggestion of sardonic mockery.
"You're right," she whispered, half to him, half to some other part of her, listening, watching. "I do want you to hold me in your arms and think me beautiful. But you can't, because you don't love me. It won't work. Not here. Here, I'll prove it."
As from miles and centuries away, she heard Grade's horrified gurgle.
But her trance held. She entered the embrace of Ruy Jacques, and held her face up to his as much as her spine would permit, and closed her eyes.
He kissed her quickly on the forehead and released her. "There! Cured!"
She stood back and surveyed him thoughtfully. "I wanted you to see for yourself, that nothing can be beautiful to youat least not until you learn to regard someone else as highly as you do Ruy Jacques."
Bell had drawn close. His face was wet, gray. He whispered: "Are you two insane? Couldn't you save this sort of thing for a less crowded occasion?"
But Anna was rolling rudderless in a fatalistic calm. "I had to show him something. Here. Now. He might never have tried it if he hadn't had an audience. Can you take me home now?"
"Worst thing possible," replied Bell agitatedly. "That'd just confirm Martha's suspicions." He looked around nervously. "She's gone. Don't know whether that's good or bad. But Grade's watching us. Ruy, if you've got the faintest intimations of decency, you'll wander over to that group of ladies and kiss a few of them. May throw Martha off the scent. Anna, you stay here. Keep talking. Try to toss it off as an amusing incident." He gave a short strained laugh. "Otherwise you're going to wind up as the First Martyr in the Cause of Art."
"I beg your pardon, Dr. van Tuyl."
It was Grade. His voice was brutally cold, and the syllables were clipped from his lips with a spine-tingling finality.
"Yes, Colonel?" said Anna nervously.
"The Security Bureau would like to ask you a few questions."
Grade turned and stared icily at Bell. "It is preferred that the interrogation be conducted in private. It should not take long. If the lady would kindly step into the model's dressing room, my assistant will take over from there."
"Dr. van Tuyl was just leaving," said Bell huskily. "Did you have a coat, Anna?"
With a smooth unobtrusive motion Grade unsnapped the guard on his hip holster. "If Dr. van Tuyl leaves the dressing room within ten minutes, alone, she may depart from the studio in any manner she pleases."
Anna watched her friend's face become even paler. He wet his lips, then whispered. "I think you'd better go, Anna. Be careful."
The room was small and nearly bare. Its sole furnishings were an ancient calendar, a clothes tree, a few stacks of dusty books, a table (bare save for a roll of canvas patching tape) and three chairs.
In one of the chairs, across the table, sat Martha Jacques.
She seemed almost to smile at Anna; but the amused curl of her beautiful lips was totally belied by her eyes, which pulsed hate with the paralyzing force of physical blows.
In the other chair sat Willie the Cork, almost unrecognizable in his groomed neatness.
The psychiatrist brought her hand to her throat as though to restore her voice, and at the movement, she saw from the corner of her eye that Willie, in a lightning motion, had simultaneously thrust his hand into his coat pocket, invisible below the table. She slowly understood that he held a gun on her.
The man was the first to speak, and his voice was so crisp and incisive that she doubted her first intuitive recognition. "Obviously, I shall kill you if you attempt any unwise action. So please sit down, Dr. van Tuyl. Let us put our cards on the table."
It was too incredible, too unreal, to arouse any immediate sense of fear. In numb amazement, she pulled out the chair and sat down.
"As you may have suspected for some time," continued the man curtly, "I am a Security agent."
Anna found her voice. "I know only that I am being forcibly detained. What do you want?"
"Information, doctor. What government do you represent?
The man fairly purred. "Don't you realize, doctor, that as soon as you cease to answer responsively, I shall kill you?"
Anna van Tuyl looked from the man to the woman. She thought of circling hawks, and felt the intimations of terror. What could she have done to attract such wrathful attention? She didn't know. But then, they couldn't be sure about her, either. This man didn't want to kill her until he found out more. And by that time, surely he'd see that it was all a mistake.
She said: "Either I am a psychiatrist attending a special case, or I am not. I am in no position to prove the positive. Yet, by syllogistic law, you must accept it as a possibility until you prove the negative. Therefore, until you have given me an opportunity to explain or disprove any evidence to the contrary, you can never be certain in your own mind that I am other than what I claim to be."
The man smiled, almost genially. "Well put, doctor. I hope they've been paying you what you are worth." He bent forward suddenly. "Why are you trying to make Ruy Jacques fall in love with you?"
She stared back with widening eyes. "What did you say?"
"Why are you trying to make Ruy Jacques fall in love with you?"
She could meet his eyes squarely enough, but her voice was now very faint: "I didn't understand you at first. You said...that I'm trying to make him fall in love with me." She pondered this for a long wondering moment, as though the idea were utterly new. "And I guess...it's true."
The man looked blank, then smiled with sudden appreciation. "You are clever. Certainly, you're the first to try that line. Though I don't know what you expect to gain with your false candor."
"False? Didn't you mean it yourself? No, I see you didn't. But Mrs. Jacques does. And she hates me for it. But I'm just part of the bigger hate she keeps for him. Even her Sciomnia equation is just part of that hate. She isn't working on a biophysical weapon just because she's a patriot, but more to spite him, to show him that her science is superior to"
Martha Jacques' hand lashed viciously across the little table and struck Anna in the mouth.
The man merely murmured: "Please control yourself a bit longer, Mrs. Jacques. Interruptions from outside would be most inconvenient at this point." His humorless eyes returned to Anna. "One evening a week ago, when Mr. Jacques was under your care at the clinic, you left stylus and paper with him."
Anna nodded. "I wanted him to attempt automatic writing."
"What is 'automatic writing'?"
"Simply writing done while the conscious mind is absorbed in a completely extraneous activity, such as music. Mr. Jacques was to focus his attention on certain music composed by me while holding stylus and paper in his lap. If his recent inability to read and write was caused by some psychic block, it was quite possible that his subconscious mind might bypass the block, and he would writejust as one 'doodles' unconsciously when talking over the visor."
He thrust a sheet of paper at her. "Can you identify this?"
What was he driving at? She examined the sheet hesitantly. "It's just a blank sheet from my private monogrammed stationery. Where did you get it?"
"From the pad you left with Mr. Jacques."
"We also found another sheet from the same pad under Mr. Jacques' bed. It had some interesting writing on it."
"But Mr. Jacques personally reported nil results."
"He was probably right."
"But you said he wrote something?" she insisted; momentarily her personal danger faded before her professional interest.
"I didn't say he wrote anything."
"Wasn't it written with that same stylus?"
"It was. But I don't think he wrote it. It wasn't in his handwriting."
"That's often the case in automatic writing. The script is modified according to the personality of the dissociated subconscious unit. The alteration is sometimes so great as to be unrecognizable as the handwriting of the subject."
He peered at her keenly. "This script was perfectly recognizable, Dr. van Tuyl. I'm afraid you've made a grave blunder. Now, shall I tell you in whose handwriting?"
She listened to her own whisper: "Mine?"
"What does it say?"
"You know very well."
"But I don't." Her underclothing was sticking to her body with a damp clammy feeling. "At least you ought to give me a chance to explain it. May I see it?"
He regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, then reached into his pocket sheaf. "Here's an electrostat. The paper, texture, ink, everything, is a perfect copy of your original."
She studied the sheet with a puzzled frown. There were a few lines of scribblings in purple. But it wasn't in her handwriting. In fact, it wasn't even handwritingjust a mass of illegible scrawls!
Anna felt a thrill of fear. She stammered: "What are you trying to do?"
"You don't deny you wrote it?,
"Of course I deny it." She could no longer control the quaver in her voice. Her lips were leaden masses, her tongue a stone slab. "It'sunrecognizable..."
The Cork floated with sinister patience. "In the upper left hand comer is your monogram: "A.v.T.", the same as on the first sheet. You will admit that, at least?"
For the first time, Anna really examined the presumed trio of initials enclosed in the familiar ellipse. The ellipse was there. But the print within it wasgibberish. She seized again at the first sheetthe blank one. The feel of the paper, even the smell, stamped it as genuine. It had been hers. But the monogram! "Oh no!" she whispered.
Her panic-stricken eyes flailed about the room. The calendar...same picture of the same cow...but the rest...! A stack of books in the corner...titled in gold leaf...gathering dust for months...the label on the roll of patching tape on the same...even the watch on her wrist.
Gibberish. She could no longer read. She had forgotten how. Her ironic gods had chosen this critical moment to blind her with their brilliant bounty.
Then take it! And play for time!
She wet trembling lips. "I'm unable to read. My reading glasses are in my bag, outside." She returned the script. "If you'd read it, I might recognize the contents."
The man said: "I thought you might try this, just to get my eyes off you. If you don't mind, I'll quote from memory:
" 'what a queer climax for the Dream! Yet, inevitable. Art versus Science decrees that one of us must destroy the Sciomniac weapon; but that could wait until we become more numerous. So, what I do is for him alone, and his future depends on appreciating it. Thus, Science bows to Art, but even Art isn't all. The Student must know the one greater thing when he sees the Nightingale dead, for only then will he recognize...' "
"Is that all?" asked Anna.
"Nothing about a...rose?"
"No. What is 'rose' a code word for?"
Death? mused Anna. Was the rose a cryptolalic synonym for the grave? She closed her eyes and shivered. Were those really her thoughts, impressed into the mind and wrist of Ruy Jacques from some grandstand seat at her own ballet three weeks hence? But after all, why was it so impossible? Coleridge claimed Kublai Khan had been dictated to him through automatic writing. And that English mystic, William Blake, freely acknowledged being the frequent amanuensis for an unseen personality. And there were numerous other cases. So, from some unseen time and place, the mind of Anna van Tuyl had been attuned to that of Ruy Jacques, and his mind had momentarily forgotten that both of them could no longer write, and had recorded a strange reverie.
It was then that she noticed thewhispers.
Nonot whispersnot exactly. More like rippling vibrations, mingling, rising, falling. Her heart beats quickened when she realized that their eerie pattern was soundless. It was as though something in her mind was suddenly vibrating en rapport with a subetheric world. Messages were beating at her for which she had no tongue or ear; they were beyond soundbeyond knowledge, and they swarmed dizzily around her from all directions. From the ring she wore. From the bronze buttons of her jacket. From the vertical steam piping in the corner. From the metal reflector of the ceiling light.
And the strongest and most meaningful of all showered steadily from the invisible weapon The Cork grasped in his coat pocket. Just as surely as though she had seen it done, she knew that the weapon had killed in the past. And not just once. She found herself attempting to unravel those thought residues of death-oncetwicethree times...beyond which they faded away into steady, undecipherable time-muted violence.
And now that gun began to scream: "Kill! Kill! Kill!"
She passed her palm over her forehead. Her whole face was cold and wet. She swallowed noisily.
Ruy Jacques sat before the metal illuminator near his easel, apparently absorbed in the profound contemplation of his goatish features, and oblivious to the mounting gaiety about him. In reality, he was almost completely lost in a soundless, sardonic glee over the triangular death-struggle that was nearing its climax beyond the inner wall of his studio, and which was magnified in his remarkable mind to an incredible degree by the paraboloid mirror of the illuminator.
Bell's low urgent voice began hacking at him again. "Her blood will be on your head. All you need to do is to go in there. Your wife wouldn't permit any shooting with you around."
The artist twitched his misshapen shoulders irritably.
" Maybe. But why should I risk my skin for a silly little nightingale?"
"Can it be that your growth beyond sapiens has served simply to sharpen your objectivity, to accentuate your inherent egregious want of identity with even the best of your fellow creatures? Is the indifference that has driven Martha nearly insane in a bare decade now too ingrained to respond to the first known female of your own unique breed?" Bell sighed heavily. "You don't have to answer. The very senselessness of her impending murder amuses you. Your nightingale is about to be impaled on her thornfor nothingas always. Your sole regret at the moment is that you can't twit her with the assurance that you will study her corpse diligently to find there the rose you seek."
"Such unfeeling heartlessness," said Jacques in regretful agreement, "is only to be expected in one of Martha's blunderings. I mean The Cork, of course. Doesn't he realize that Anna hasn't finished the score of her ballet? Evidently has no musical sense at all. I'll bet he was even turned down for the policemen's charity quarter. You're right, as usual, doc. We must punish such philistinism." He tugged at his chin, then rose from the folding stool.
"What are you going to do?" demanded the other sharply.
The artist weaved toward the phono cabinet. "Play a certain selection from Tchaikovsky's Sixth. If Anna's half the girl you think, she and Peter Ilyitch will soon have Mart eating out of their hands."
Bell watching him in anxious, yet half-trusting frustration as the other selected a spool from his library of electronic recordings and inserted it into the playback sprocket. In mounting mystification, he saw Jacques turn up the volume control as far as it would go.
Murder, a one-act play directed by Mrs. Jacques, thought Anna. With sound effects by Mr. Jacques, But the facts didn't fit. It was unthinkable that Ruy would do anything to accommodate his wife. If anything, he would try to thwart Martha. But what was his purpose in starting off in the finale of the first movement of the Sixth? Was there some message there that he was trying to get across to her?
There was. She had it. She was going to live. If
"In a moment," she told The Cork in a tight voice, "you are going to snap off the safety catch of your pistol, revise slightly your estimated line of fire, and squeeze the trigger. Ordinarily you could accomplish all three acts in almost instantaneous sequence. At the present moment, if I tried to turn the table over on you, you could put a bullet in my head before I could get well started. But in another sixty seconds you will no longer have that advantage, because your motor nervous system will be laboring under the, superimposed pattern of the extraordinary Second Movement of the symphony that we now hear from the studio."
The Cork started to smile; then he frowned faintly. "What do you mean?"
"All motor acts are carried out in simple rhythmic patterns. We walk in the two-four time of the march. We waltz, use a pickaxe, and manually grasp or replace objects in three-four rhythm."
"This nonsense is purely a play for time," interjected Martha Jacques. "Kill her."
"It is a fact," continued Anna hurriedly. (Would that Second Movement never begin?) "A decade ago, when there were still a few factories using hand-assembly methods, the workmen speeded their work by breaking down the task into these same elemental rhythms, aided by appropriate music." (There! It was beginning! The immortal genius of that suicidal Russian was reaching across a century to save her!) "It so happens that the music you are hearing now is the Second Movement that I mentioned, and it's neither two-four nor three-four but five-four, an oriental rhythm that gives difficulty even to skilled occidental musicians and dancers. Subconsciously you are going to try to break it down into the only rhythms to which your motor nervous system is attuned. But you can't. Nor can any occidental, even a professional dancer, unless he has had special training"her voice wobbled slightly"in Delcrozian eurhythmics."
She crashed into the table.
Even though she had known that this must happen, her success was so complete, so overwhelming, that it momentarily appalled her.
Martha Jacques and The Cork had moved with anxious, rapid jerks, like puppets in a nightmare. But their rhythm was all wrong. With their ingrained four-time motor responses strangely modulated by a five-time pattern, the result was inevitably the arithmetical composite of the two: a neural beat, which could activate muscle tissue only when the two rhythms were in phase.
The Cork had hardly begun his frantic, spasmodic squeeze of the trigger when the careening table knocked him backward to the floor, stunned, beside Martha Jacques. It required but an instant for Anna to scurry around and extract the pistol from his numbed fist.
Then she pointed the trembling gun in the general direction of the carnage she had wrought and fought an urge to collapse against the wall.
She waited for the room to stop spinning, for the white, glass-eyed face of Martha Jacques to come into focus against the fuzzy background of the cheap paint-daubed rug. And then the eyes of the woman scientist flickered and closed.
With a wary glance at the weapon muzzle, The Cork gingerly pulled a leg from beneath the table edge: "You have the gun," he said softly. "You can't object if I assist Mrs. Jacques?"
"I do object," said Anna faintly. "She's merely unconscious...feels nothing. I want her to stay that way for a few minutes. If you approach her or make any unnecessary noise, I will probably kill you. Soboth of you must stay here until Grade investigates. I know you have a pair of handcuffs. I'll give you ten seconds to lock yourself to that steam pipe in the cornerhands behind you, please."
She retrieved the roll of adhesive patching tape from the floor and fixed several strips across the agent's lips, following with a few swift loops around the ankles to prevent him stamping his feet.
A moment later, her face a damp mask, she closed the door leisurely behind her and stood there, breathing deeply and searching the room for Grade.
He was standing by the studio entrance, staring at her fixedly. When she favored him with a glassy smile, he simply shrugged his shoulders and began walking slowly toward her.
In growing panic her eyes darted about the room. Bell and Ruy Jacques were leaning over the phono, apparently deeply absorbed in the racing clangor of the music. She saw Bell nod a covert signal in her direction, but without looking directly at her. She tried not to seem hurried as she strolled over to join them. She knew that Grade was now walking toward them and was but a few steps away when Bell lifted his head and smiled.
"Everything all right?" said the psychogeneticist loudly.
She replied clearly: "Fine. Mrs. Jacques and a Security man just wanted to ask some questions." She drew in closer. Her lips framed a question to Bell: "Can Grade hear?"
Bell's lips formed a soft, nervous guttural: "No. He's moving off toward the dressing room door. If what I suspect happened behind that door is true, you have about ten seconds to get out of here. And then you've got to hide." He turned abruptly to the artist. "Ruy, you've got to take her down into the Via. Right nowimmediately. Watch your opportunity and lose her when no one is looking. It shouldn't be too hard in that mob."
Jacques shook his head doubtfully. "Martha isn't going to like this. You know how strict she is on etiquette. I think there's a very firm statement in Emily Post that the host should never, never, never walk out on his guests before locking up the liquor and silverware. Oh, well, if you insist."
"Tell ya what the professor's gonna do, ladies and gentlemen. He's gonna defend not just one paradox. Not just two. But seventeen! In the space of one short hour, and without repeating himself, and including one he just thought up five minutes ago: 'Security is dangerous.' "
Ruy frowned, then whispered to Anna: "That was for us. He means Security men are circulating. Let's move on. Next door. They won't look for a woman there."
Already he was pulling her away toward the chess parlor. They both ducked under the For Men Only sign (which she could no longer read), pushed through the bat-wing doors, and walked unobtrusively down between the wall and a row of players. One man looked up briefly out of the corner of his eye as they passed.
The woman paused uneasily. She had sensed the nervousness of the barker even before Ruy, and now still fainter impressions were beginning to ripple over the straining surface of her mind. They were coming from that chess player: from the coins in his pocket; from the lead weights of his chess pieces; and especially from the weapon concealed somewhere on him. The resonant histories of the chess pieces and coins she ignored. They held the encephalographic residua of too many minds. The invisible gun was clearer. There was something abrupt and violent, alternating with a more subtle, restrained rhythm. She put her hand to her throat as she considered one interpretation: Killbut wait. Obviously, he'd dare not fire with Ruy so close.
"Rather warm here, too," murmured the artist. "Out we go."
As they stepped out into the street again, she looked behind her and saw that the man's chair was empty.
She held the artist's hand and pushed and jabbed after him, deeper into the revelling sea of humanity.
She ought to be thinking of ways to hide, of ways to use her new sensory gift. But another, more imperative train of thought continually clamored at her, until finally she yielded to a gloomy brooding.
Well, it was true. She wanted to be loved, and she wanted Ruy to love her. And he knew it. Every bit of metal on her shrieked her need for his love.
Butwas she ready to love him? No! How could she love a man who lived only to paint that mysterious, unpaintable scene of the nightingale's death, and who loved only himself? He was fascinating, but what sensible woman would wreck her career for such unilateral fascination? Perhaps Martha Jacques was right, after all.
"So you got him, after all!"
Anna whirled toward the crazy crackle, nearly jerking her hand from Ruy's grasp.
The vendress of love-philters stood leaning against the front center pole of her tent, grinning toothily at Anna.
While the young woman stared dazedly at her, Jacques spoke up crisply: "Any strange men been around, Violet?"
"Why, Ruy," she replied archly, "I think you're jealous. What kind of men?"
"Not the kind that haul you off to the alcoholic ward on Saturday nights. Not city dicks. Security menquietseem slow, but really fastsee everybodyeverything."
"Oh, them. Three went down the street two minutes ahead of you."
He rubbed his chin. "That's not so good. They'll start at that end of the Via and work up toward us until they meet the patrol behind us."
"Like grains of wheat between the millstones," cackled the crone. "I knew you'd turn to crime, sooner or later, Ruy. You were the only tenant I had who paid the rent regular."
"Mart's lawyer did that."
"Just the same, it looked mighty suspicious. You want to try the alley behind the tent?"
"Where does it lead?"
"Cuts back into the Via, at White Rose Park."
Anna started. "White rose?"
"We were there that first night," said Jacques. "You remember itbig rose-walled cul-de-sac. Fountain. Pretty, but not for us, not now. Has only one entrance. We'll have to try something else."
The psychiatrist said hesitantly: "No, wait."
For some moments she had been struck by the sinister contrast in this second descent into the Via and the irresponsible gaiety of that first night. The street, the booths, the laughter seemed the same, but really weren't. It was like a familiar musical score, subtly altered by some demoniac hand, raised into some harsh and fatalistic minor key. It was like the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet: all the bright promises of the first movement were here, but repetition had transfigured them into frightful premonitions.
She shivered. That second movement, that echo of destiny, was sweeping through her in ever faster tempo, as though impatient to consummate its assignation with her. Come safety, come death, she must yield to the pattern of repetition.
Her voice had a dreamlike quality: "Take me again to the White Rose Park."
"What! Talk sense! Out here in the open, you may have a chance."
"But I must go there. Please, Ruy. I think it's something about a white rose. Don't look at me as though I were crazy. Of course I'm crazy. If you don't want to take me, I'll go alone. But I'm going."
His hard eyes studied her in speculative silence; then he looked away. As the stillness grew, his face mirrored his deepening introspection. "At that, the possibilities are intriguing. Martha's stooges are sure to look in on you. But will they be able to see you? Is the hand that wields the pistol equally skilled with the brush and palette? Unlikely. Art and Science again. Pointilist school versus police school. A good one on Marthaif it works. Anna's dress is green. Complement of green is purple. Violet's dress should do it."
"My dress?" cried the old woman. "What are you up to, Ruy?"
"Nothing, luscious. I just want you to take off one of your dresses. The outer one will do."
"Sir!" Violet began to sputter in barely audible gasps.
Anna had watched all this in vague detachment, accepting it as one of the man's daily insanities. She had no idea what he wanted with a dirty old purple dress, but she thought she knew how she could get it for him, while simultaneously introducing another repetitive theme into this second movement of her hypothetical symphony.
She said: "He's willing to make you a fair trade, Violet."
The spluttering stopped. The old woman eyed them both suspiciously. "Meaning what?"
"He'll drink one of your love potions."
The leathery lips parted in amazement. "I'm agreeable, if he is, but I know he isn't. Why, that scamp doesn't love any creature in the whole world, except maybe himself."
"And yet he's ready to make a pledge to his beloved," said Anna.
The artist squirmed. "I like you, Anna, but I won't be trapped. Anyway, it's all nonsense. What's a glass of acidified water between friends?"
"The pledge isn't to me, Ruy. It's to a Red Rose."
He peered at her curiously. "Oh? Well, if it will please you....All right, Violet, but off with that dress before you pour up."
Why, wondered Anna, do I keep thinking his declaration of love to a red rose is my death sentence? It's moving too fast. Who, whatis The Red Rose? The Nightingale dies in making the white rose red. So sheor Ican't be The Red Rose. Anyway, The Nightingale is ugly, and The Rose is beautiful. And why must The Student have a Red Rose? How will it admit him to his mysterious dance?
"Ah , Madame De Medici is back." Jacques took the glass and purple bundle the old woman put on the table. "What are the proper words?" he asked Anna.
"Whatever you want to say."
His eyes, suddenly grave, looked into hers. He said quietly; "If ever The Red Rose presents herself to me, I shall love her forever."
Anna trembled as he upended the glass.
A little later they slipped into the Park of the White Roses. The buds were just beginning to open, and thousands of white floreate eyes blinked at them in the harsh artificial light. As before, the enclosure was empty, and silent, save for the chattering splashing of its single fountain.
Anna abandoned a disconnected attempt to analyze the urge that had brought her here a second time. It's all too fatalistic, she thought, too involved. If I've entrapped myself, I can't feel bitter about it. "Just think," she murmured aloud, "in less than ten minutes it will all be over, one way or the other."
"Really? But where's my red rose?"
How could she even consider loving this jeering beast? She said coldly: "I think you'd better go. It may be rather messy in here soon." She thought of how her body would look, sprawling, misshapen, uglier than ever. She couldn't let him see her that way.
"Oh, we've plenty of time. No red rose, eh? Hmm. It seems to me, Anna, that you're composing yourself for death prematurely. There really is that little matter of the rose to be taken care of first, you know. As The Student, I must insist on my rights."
What made him be this way? "Ruy, please..." Her voice was trembling, and she was suddenly very near to tears.
"There, dear, don't apologize. Even the best of us are thoughtless at times. Though I must admit, I never expected such lack of consideration, such poor manners, in you. But then, at heart, you aren't really an artist. You've no appreciation of form." He began to untie the bundled purple dress, and his voice took on the argumentative dogmatism of a platform lecturer. "The perfection of form, of technique, is the highest achievement possible to the artist. When he subordinates form to subject matter, he degenerates eventually into a boot-lick, a scientist, or, worst of all, a Man with a Message. Here, catch!" He tossed the gaudy garment at Anna, who accepted it in rebellious wonder.
Critically, the artist eyed the nauseating contrast of the purple and green dresses, glanced momentarily toward the semi-circle of white-budded wall beyond, and then continued: "There's nothing like a school-within-a-school to squeeze dry the dregs of form. And whatever their faults, the pointilists of the impressionist movement could depict color with magnificent depth of chroma. Their palettes held only the spectral colors, and they never mixed them. Do you know why the Seines of Seurat are so brilliant and luminous? It's because the water is made of dots of pure green, blue, red and yellow, alternating with white in the proper proportion." He motioned with his hand, and she followed as he walked slowly on around the semi-circular gravel path. "What a pity Martha isn't here to observe our little experiment in tricolor stimulus. Yes, the scientific psychologists finally gave arithmetical vent to what the pointilists knew long before themthat a mass of points of any three spectral colorsor of one color and its complementary colorcan be made to give any imaginable hue simply by varying their relative proportion."
Anna thought back to that first night of the street dancers. So that was why his green and purple polka dot academic gown had first seemed white!
At his gesture, she stopped and stood with her humped back barely touching the mass of scented buds. The arched entrance was a scant hundred yards to her right. Out in the Via, an ominous silence seemed to be gathering. The Security men were probably roping off the area, certain of their quarry. In a minute or two, perhaps sooner, they would be at the archway, guns drawn.
She inhaled deeply and wet her lips.
The man smiled. "You hope I know what I'm doing, don't you? So do I."
"I think I understand your theory," said Anna, "but I don't think it has much chance of working."
"Tush, child." He studied the vigorous play of the fountain speculatively. "The pigment should never harangue the artist. You're forgetting that there isn't really such a color as white. The pointilists knew how to stimulate white with alternating dots of primary colors long before the scientists learned to spin the same colors on a disc. And those old masters could even make white from just two colors: a primary and its complementary color. Your green dress is our primary; Violet's purple dress is its complementary. Funny, mix 'em as pigments into a homogeneous mass, and you get brown. But daub 'em on the canvas side by side, stand back the right distance, and they blend into white. All you have to do is hold Vi's dress at arm's length, at your side, with a strip of rosebuds and green leaves looking out between, and you'll have that white rose you came here in search of."
She demurred: "But the angle of visual interruption won't be small enough to blend the colors into white, even if the police don't come any nearer than the archway. The eye sees two objects as one only when the visual angle between the two is less than sixty seconds of arc."
"That old canard doesn't apply too strictly to colors. The artist relies more on the suggestibility of the mind rather than on the mechanical limitations of the retina. Admittedly, if our lean-jawed friends stared in your direction for more than a fraction of a second, they'd see you not as a whitish blur, but as a woman in green holding out a mass of something purple. But they aren't going to give your section of the park more than a passing glance." He pointed past the fountain toward the opposite horn of the semi-circular path. "I'm going to stand over there, and the instant someone sticks his head in through the archway, I'm going to start walking. Now, as every artist knows, normal people in western cultures absorb pictures from left to right, because they're levo-dextro readers. So our agent's first glance will be toward you, and then his attention will be momentarily distracted by the fountain in the center. And before he can get back to you, I'll start walking, and his eyes will have to come on to me. His attentive transition, of course, must be sweeping and imperative, yet so smooth, so subtle, that he will suspect no control. Something like Alexander's painting, Lady on a Couch, where the converging stripes of the lady's robe carry the eye forcibly from the lower left margin to her face at the upper right."
Anna glanced nervously toward the garden entrance, then whispered entreatingly. "Then you'd better go. You've got to be beyond the fountain when they look in."
He sniffed. "All right, I know when I'm not wanted. That's the gratitude I get for making you into a rose."
"I don't care a tinker's damn for a white rose. Scat!"
He laughed, then turned and started on around the path.
As Anna followed the graceful stride of his long legs, her face began to writhe in alternate bitterness and admiration. She groaned softly. "Youfiend! You gorgeous, egotistical, insufferable unattainable FIEND! You aren't elated because you're saving my life; I am just a blotch of pigment in your latest masterpiece. I hate you!"
He was past the fountain now, and nearing the position he had earlier indicated.
She could see that he was looking toward the archway. She was afraid to look there.
Now he must stop and wait for his audience.
Only he didn't. His steps actually hastened.
The woman trembled, closed her eyes, and froze into a paralytic stupor through which the crunch of the man's sandals filtered as from a great distance, muffled, mocking.
And then, from the direction of the archway, came the quiet scraping of more footsteps.
In the next split second she would know life or death.
But even now, even as she was sounding the iciest depths of her terror, her lips were moving with the clear insight of imminent death. "No, I don't hate you. I love you, Ruy. I have loved you from the first."
At that instant a blue-hot ball of pain began crawling slowly up within her body, along her spine, and then outward between her shoulder blades, into her spinal hump. The intensity of that pain forced her slowly to her knees and pulled her head back in an invitation to scream.
But no sound came from her convulsing throat.
It was unendurable, and she was fainting.
The sound of footsteps died away down the Via. At least Ruy's ruse had worked.
And as the mounting anguish spread over her back, she understood that all sound had vanished with those retreating footsteps, forever, because she could no longer hear, nor use her vocal chords. She had forgotten how, but she didn't care.
For her hump had split open, and something had flopped clumsily out of it, and she was drifting gently outward into blackness.
The glum face of Ruy Jacques peered out through the studio window into the night-awakening Via.
Before I met you, he brooded, loneliness was a magic, ecstatic blade drawn across my heart strings; it healed the severed strands with every beat, and I had all that I wanted save what I had to havethe Red Rose. My search for that Rose alone matters! I must believe this. I must not swerve, even for the memory of you, Anna, the first of my own kind I have ever met. I must not wonder if they killed you, nor even care. They must have killed you...It's been three weeks.
Now I can see the Rose again. Onward into loneliness.
He sensed the nearness of familiar metal behind him. "Hello, Martha," he said, without turning. "Just get here?"
"Yes. How's the party going?" Her voice seemed carefully expressionless.
"Fair. You'll know more when you get the liquor bill."
"Your ballet opens tonight, doesn't it?" Still that studied tonelessness.
"You know damn well it doesn't." His voice held no rancor. "La Tanid took your bribe and left for Mexico. It's just as well. I can't abide a prima ballerina who'd rather eat than dance." He frowned slightly. Every bit of metal on the woman was singing in secret elation. She was thinking of a great triumphsomething far beyond her petty victory in wrecking his opening night. His searching mind caught hints of something intricate, but integrated, completedand deadly. Nineteen equations. The Jacques Rosette. Sciomnia.
"So you've finished your toy," he murmured. "You've got what you wanted, and you think you've destroyed what I wanted."
Her reply was harsh, suspicious. "How did you know, when not even Grade is sure? Yes, my weapon is finished. I can hold in one hand a thing that can obliterate your whole Via in an instant. A city, even a continent would take but a little longer. Science versus Art! Bah! This concrete embodiment of biophysics is the answer to your puerile Renaissanceyour precious feather-bed world of music and painting! You and your kind are helpless when I and my kind choose to act. In the final analysis Science means forcethe ability to control the minds and bodies of men."
The shimmering surface of his mind was now catching the faintest wisps of strange, extraneous impressions, vague and disturbing, and which did not seem to originate from metal within the room. In fact, he could not be sure they originated from metal at all.
He turned to face her. "How can Science control all men when it can't even control individualsAnna van Tuyl, for example?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "You're only partly right. They failed to find her, but her escape was pure accident. In any event, she no longer represents any danger to me or to the political group that I control. Security has actually dropped her from their shoot-on-sight docket."
He cocked his head slightly and seemed to listen. "You haven't, I gather."
"You flatter her. She was never more than a pawn in our little game of Science versus Art. Now that she's off the board, and I've announced checkmate against you, I can't see that she matters."
"So Science announces checkmate? Isn't that a bit premature? Suppose Anna shows up again, with or without the conclusion of her ballet score? Suppose we find another prima? What's to keep us from holding The Nightingale and the Rose tonight, as scheduled?"
"Nothing," replied Martha Jacques coolly. "Nothing at all, except that Anna van Tuyl has probably joined your former prima at the South Pole by this time, and anyway, a new ballerina couldn't learn the score in the space of two hours, even if you found one. If this wishful thinking comforts you, why, pile it on!"
Very slowly Jacques put his wine glass on the nearby table. He washed his mind clear with a shake of his satyrish head, and strained every sense into receptivity. Something was being etched against that slurred background of laughter and clinking glassware. Then he sensedor heardsomething that brought tiny beads of sweat to his forehead and made him tremble.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded the woman.
As quickly as it had come, the chill was gone.
Without replying, he strode quickly into the center of the studio.
"Fellow revellers!" he cried. "Let us prepare to double, nay, re-double our merriment!" With sardonic satisfaction he watched the troubled silence spread away from him, faster and faster, like ripples around a plague spot.
When the stillness was complete, he lowered his head, stretched out his hand as if in horrible warning, and spoke in the tense spectral whisper of Poe's Roderick Usher:
"Madmen! I tell you that she now stands without the door!"
Heads turned; eyes bulged toward the entrance.
There, the door knob was turning slowly.
The door swung in, and left a cloaked figure framed in the doorway.
The artist started. He had been certain that this must be Anna.
It must be Anna, yet it could not be. The once frail, cruelly bent body now stood superbly erect beneath the shelter of the cloak. There was no hint of spinal deformity in this woman, and there were no marring lines of pain about her faintly smiling mouth and eyes, which were fixed on his. In one graceful motion her hands reached up beneath the cloak and set it back on her shoulders. Then after an almost instantaneous demi-plie, she floated twice, like some fragile flower dancing in a summer breeze, and stood before him sur les pointes, with her cape billowing and fluttering behind her in mute encore.
Jacques looked down into eyes that were dark fires. But her continued silence was beginning to disturb and irritate him. He responded to it almost by reflex, refusing to admit to himself his sudden enormous happiness: "A woman without a tongue! By the gods! Her sting is drawn!" He shook her by the shoulders, roughly, as though to punish this fault in her that had drawn the familiar acid to his mouth.
Her arms moved up, cross-fashioned, and her hands covered his. She smiled, and a harp-arpeggio seemed to wing across his mind, and the tones rearranged themselves into words, like images on water suddenly smooth:
"Hello again, darling. Thanks for being glad to see me."
Something in him collapsed. His arms dropped and he turned his head away. "It's no good, Anna. Why'd you come back? Everything's falling apart. Even our ballet. Martha bought out our prima."
Again that lilting cascade of tones in his brain: "I know, dear, but it doesn't matter. I'll sub beautifully for La Tanid. I know the part perfectly. And I know the Nightingale's death song, too."
"Hah!" he laughed harshly, annoyed at his exhibition of discouragement and her ready sympathy. He stretched his right leg into a mocking pointe tendue. "Marvelous! You have the exact amount of drab clumsiness that we need in a Nightingale. And as for the death song, why of course you and you alone know how that ugly little bird feels when"his eyes were fixed on her mouth in sudden, startled suspicion, and he finished the rest of the sentence inattentively, with no real awareness of its meaning"when she dies on the thorn."
As he waited, the melody formed, vanished, and reformed and resolved into the strangest thing he had ever known: "What you are thinking is true. My lips do not move. I cannot talk. I've forgotten how, just as we both forgot how to read and write. But even the plainest nightingale can sing, and make the white rose red."
This was Anna transfigured. Three weeks ago he had turned his back and left a diffident disciple to an uncertain fate. Confronting him now was this dark angel bearing on her face the luminous stamp of death. In some manner that he might never learn, the gods had touched her heart and body, and she had borne them straightway to him.
He stood, musing in alternate wonder and scorn. The old urge to jeer at her suddenly rose in his gorge. His lips contorted, then gradually relaxed, as an indescribable elation began to grow within him.
He could thwart Martha yet!
He leaped to the table and shouted: "Your attention, friends! In case you didn't get all this, we've found a ballerina! The curtain rises tonight on our premiere performance, as scheduled!"
Over the clapping and cheering, Dorran, the orchestra conductor, shouted: "Did I understand that Dr. van Tuyl has finished the Nightingale's death song? We'll have to omit that tonight, won't we? No chance to rehearse..."
Jacques looked down at Anna for a moment. His eyes were very thoughtful when he replied: "She says it won't be omitted. What I mean is, keep that thirty-eight rest sequence in the death scene. Yes, do that, and we shall see...what we shall see "
"Thirty-eight rests as presently scored, then?"
"Yes. All right, boys and girls. Let's be on our way. Anna and I will follow shortly."
Now it was a mild evening in late June, in the time of the full blooming of the roses, and the Via floated in a heady, irresistible tide of attar. It got into the tongues of the children and lifted their laughter and shouts an octave. It stained the palettes of the artists along the sidewalks, so that, despite the bluish glare of the artificial lights, they could paint only in delicate crimsons, pinks, yellows and whites. The petalled current swirled through the side-shows and eternally new exhibits and gave them a veneer of perfection; it eddied through the canvas flap of the vendress of love philters and erased twenty years from her face. It brushed a scented message across the responsive mouths of innumerable pairs of lovers, blinding them to the appreciative gaze of those who stopped to watch them.
And the lovely dead petals kept fluttering through the introspective mind of Ruy Jacques, clutching and whispering. He brushed their skittering dance aside and considered the situation with growing apprehension. In her recurrent Dreams, he thought, Anna had always awakened just as The Nightingale began her death song. But now she knew the death song. So she knew the Dream's end. Well, it must not be so bad, or she wouldn't have returned. Nothing was going to happen, not really. He shot the question at her: There was no danger any more, was there? Surely the ballet would be a superb success? She'd be enrolled with the immortals.
Her reply was grave, yet it seemed to amuse her. It gave him a little trouble; there were no words for its exact meaning. It was something like: "Immortality begins with death."
He glanced at her face uneasily. "Are you looking for trouble?"
"Everything will go smoothly."
After all, he thought, she believes she has looked into the future and has seen what will happen.
"The Nightingale will not fail The Student," she added with a queer smile. "You'll get your Red Rose."
"You can be plainer than that," he muttered. "Secrets...secrets...Why all this you're-too-young-to-know business?"
But she laughed in his mind, and the enchantment of that laughter took his breath away. Finally he said: "I admit I don't know what you're talking about. But if you're about to get involved in anything on my account, forget it. I won't have it."
"Each does the thing that makes him happy. The Student will never be happy until he finds the Rose that will admit him to his Dance. The Nightingale will never be happy until the Student holds her in his arms and thinks her as lovely as a Red Rose. I think we may both get what we want."
He growled: "You haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about."
"Yes I have, especially right now. For ten years I've urged people not to inhibit their healthy inclinations. At the moment I don't have any inhibitions at all. It's a wonderful feeling. I've never been so happy, I think. For the first and last time in my life, I'm going to kiss you."
Her hand tugged at his sleeve. As he looked down into that enchanted face, he knew that this night was hers, that she was privileged in all things, and that whatever she willed must yield to her.
They had stopped at the temporarily-erected stage-door. She rose sur les pointes, took his face in her palms, and like a hummingbird drinking her first nectar, kissed him on the mouth.
A moment later she led him into the dressing-room corridor.
He stifled a confused impulse to wipe the back of his hand across his lips. "Well...well, just remember to take it easy. Don't try to be spectacular. The artificial wings won't take it. Canvas stretched on duralite and piano wire calls for adagio. A fast pirouette, and they're ripped off. Besides, you're out of practice. Control your enthusiasm in Act I, or you'll collapse in Act II. Now, run on to your dressing room. Cue in five minutes!"
There is a faint, yet distinct anatomical difference in the foot of the man and that of the woman, which keeps him earthbound, while permitting her, after long and arduous training, to soar sur les pointes. Owing to the great and varied beauty of the arabesques open to the ballerina poised on her extended toes, the male danseur at one time existed solely as a shadowy porteur, and was needed only to supply unobtrusive support and assistance in the exquisite enchainements of the ballerina. Iron muscles in leg and torso are vital in the danseur, who must help maintain the illusion that his whirling partner is made of fairy gossamer, seeking to wing skyward from his restraining arms.
All this flashed through the incredulous mind of Ruy Jacques as he whirled in a double fouette and followed from the corner of his eye the gray figure of Anna van Tuyl, as, wings and arms aflutter, she pirouetted in the second enchainement of Act I, away from him and toward the maître de ballet.
It was all well enough to give the illusion of flying, of alighting apparently weightless, in his armsthat was what the audience loved. But that it could ever really happenthat was simply impossible. Stage wingsthings of grey canvas and duralite framescouldn't subtract a hundred pounds from one hundred and twenty.
And yet...it had seemed to him that she had actually flown.
He tried to pierce her mindto extract the truth from the bits of metal about her. In a gust of fury he dug at the metal outline of those remarkable wings.
In the space of seconds his forehead was drenched in cold sweat, and his hands were trembling. Only the fall of the curtain on the first act saved him as he stumbled through his exit entrechat.
What had Matt Bell said? "To communicate in his new language of music, one may expect our man of the future to develop specialized membranous organs, which, of course, like the tongue, will have dual functional uses, possibly leading to the conquest of time as the tongue has conquered space."
Those wings were not wire and metal, but flesh and blood.
He was so absorbed in his ratiocination that he failed to become aware of an acutely unpleasant metal radiation behind him until it was almost upon him. It was an intricate conglomeration of matter, mostly metal, resting perhaps a dozen feet behind his back, showering the lethal presence of his wife.
He turned with nonchalant grace to face the first tangible spawn of the Sciomnia formula.
It was simply a black metal box with a few dials and buttons. The scientist held it lightly in her lap as she sat at the side of the table.
His eyes passed slowly from it to her face, and he knew that in a matter of minutes Anna van Tuyland all Via Rosa beyond herwould be soot floating in the night wind.
Martha Jacques' face was sublime with hate. "Sit down," she said quietly.
He felt the blood leaving his cheeks. Yet he grinned with a fair show of geniality as he dropped into the chair. "Certainly. I've got to kill time somehow until the end of Act III."
She pressed a button on the box surface.
His volition vanished. His muscles were locked, immobile. He could not breathe.
Just as he was convinced that she planned to suffocate him, her finger made another swift motion toward the box, and he sucked in a great gulp of air. His eyes could move a little, but his larynx was still paralyzed.
Then the moments began to pass, endlessly, it seemed to him.
The table at which they sat was on the right wing of the stage. The woman sat facing into the stage, while his back was to it. She followed the preparations of the troupe for Act II with moody, silent eyes, he was straining ears and metal-emphatic sense.
Only when he heard the curtain sweeping across the street-stage to open the second act did the woman speak.
"She is beautiful. And so graceful with those piano-wire wings, just as if they were part of her. I don't wonder she's the first woman who ever really interested you. Not that you really love her. You'll never love anyone."
From the depths of his paralysis he studied the etched bitterness of the face across the table. His lips were parched, and his throat a desert.
She thrust a sheet of paper at him, and her lip curled. "Are you still looking for that rose? Search no further, my ignorant friend. There it isSciomnia, complete, with its nineteen sub-equations."
The lines of unreadable symbols dug like nineteen relentless harpoons ever deeper into his twisting, racing mind.
The woman's face grimaced in fleeting despair. "Your own wife solves Sciomnia and you condescend to keep her company until you go on again at the end of Act III. I wish I had a sense of humor. All I knew was to paralyze your spinal column. Oh, don't worry. It's purely temporary. I just didn't want you to warn her. And I know what torture it is for you not to be able to talk." She bent over and turned a knurled knob on the side of the black steel box. "There, at least you can whisper. You'll be completely free after the weapon fires."
His lips moved in a rapid slur. "Let us bargain, Martha. Don't kill her. I swear never to see her again."
She laughed, almost gaily.
He pressed on. "But you have all you really want. Total fame, total power, total knowledge, the body perfect. What can her death and the destruction of the Via give you?"
"Martha, for the sake of all humanity to come, don't do this thing! I know something about Anna van Tuyl that perhaps even Bell doesn'tsomething she has concealed very adroitly. That girl is the most precious creature on earth!"
"It's precisely because of that opinionwhich I do not necessarily sharethat I shall include her in my general destruction of the Via." Her mouth slashed at him: "Oh, but it's wonderful to see you squirm. For the first time in your miserable thirty years of life you really want something. You've got to crawl down from that ivory tower of indifference and actually plead with me, whom you've never even taken the trouble to despise. You and your damned art. Let's see it save her now!"
The man closed his eyes and breathed deeply. In one rapid, complex surmise, he visualized an enchainement of postures, a pas de deux to be played with his wife as an unwitting partner. Like a skilled chess player, he had analyzed various variations of her probable responses to his gambit, and he had every expectation of a successful climax. And therein lay his hesitation, for success meant his own death.
Yes, he could not eradicate the idea from his mind. Even at this moment he believed himself intrigued more by the novel, if macabre, possibilities inherent in the theme rather than its superficial altruism. While seeming to lead Martha through an artistic approach to the murder of Anna and the Via, he could, in a startling, off key climax, force her to kill him instead. It amused him enormously to think that afterward, she would try to reduce the little comedy to charts and graph paper in an effort to discover how she had been hypnotized.
It was the first time in his life that he had courted physical injury. The emotional sequence was new, a little heady. He could do it; he need only be careful about his timing.
After hurling her challenge at him, the woman had again turned morose eyes downstage, and was apparently absorbed in a grudging admiration of the second act. But that couldn't last long. The curtain on Act II would be her signal.
And there it was, followed by a muffled roar of applause. He must stall her through most of Act III, and then...
He said quickly: "We still have a couple of minutes before the last act begins, where The Nightingale dies on the thorn. There's no hurry. You ought to take time to do this thing properly. Even the best assassinations are not purely a matter of science. I'll wager you never read de Quincey's little essay on murder as a fine art. No? You see, you're a neophyte, and could do with a few tips from an old hand. You must keep in mind your objects: to destroy both the Via and Anna. But mere killing won't be enough. You've got to make me suffer too. Suppose you shoot Anna when she comes on at the beginning of Act III. Only fair. The difficulty is that Anna and the others will never know what hit them. You don't give them the opportunity to bow to you as their conqueror."
He regarded her animatedly. "You see, can't you, my dear, that some extraordinarily difficult problems in composition are involved?"
She glared at him, and seemed about to speak.
He continued hastily: "Not that I'm trying to dissuade you. You have the basic concept, and despite your lack of experience, I don't think you'll find the problem of technique insuperable. Your prelude was rather well done: freezing me in situ, as it were, to state your theme simply and without adornment, followed immediately by variations of dynamic and suggestive portent. The finale is already implicit; yet it is kept at a disciplined arm's length while the necessary structure is formed to support it and develop its stern message."
She listened intently to him, and her eyes were narrow. The expression on her face said: "Talk all you like. This time, you won't win."
Somewhere beyond the flimsy building-board stage wing he heard Dorran's musicians tuning up for Act III.
His dark features seemed to grow even more earnest, but his voice contained a perceptible burble. "So you've blocked in the introduction and the climax. A beginning and an end. The real problem comes now: how much, and what kindof a middle? Most beginning murderesses would simply give up in frustrated bafflement. A few would shoot the moment Anna floats into the white rose garden. In my opinion, however, considering the wealth of material inherent in your composition, such abbreviation would be inexcusably primitive and garishif not actually vulgar."
Martha Jacques blinked, as though trying to break through some indescribable spell that was being woven about her. Then she laughed shortly. "Go on. I wouldn't miss this for anything. Just when should I destroy the Via?"
The artist sighed. "You see? Your only concern is the result. You completely ignore the manner of its accomplishment. Really, Mart, I should think you'd show more insight into your first attempt at serious art. Now please don't misunderstand me, dear. I have the warmest regard for your spontaneity and enthusiasm: to be sure, they're quite indispensable when dealing with hackneyed themes, but headlong eagerness is not a substitute for method, or for art. We must search out and exploit subsidiary themes, intertwine them in subtle counterpoint with the major motifs. The most obvious minor theme is the ballet itself. That ballet is the loveliest thing I've ever seen or heard. Nevertheless, you can give it a power, a dimension, that even Anna wouldn't suspect possible, simply by blending it contrapuntally into your own work. It's all a matter of firing at the proper instant." He smiled engagingly. "I see that you're beginning to appreciate the potentialities of such unwitting collaboration."
The woman studied him through heavy-lidded eyes. She said slowly: "You are a great artistand a loathsome beast."
He smiled still more amiably. "Kindly restrict your appraisals to your fields of competence. You haven't, as yet, sufficient background to evaluate me as an artist. But let us return to your composition. Thematically, it's rather pleasing. The form, pacing, and orchestration are irreproachable. It is adequate. And its very adequacy condemns it. One detects a certain amount of diffident imitation and over-attention to technique common to artists working in a new medium. The overcautious sparks of genius aren't setting us aflame. The artist isn't getting enough of his own personality into the work. And the remedy is as simple as the diagnosis: the artist must penetrate his work, wrap it around him, give it the distilled, unique essence of his heart and mind, so that it will blaze up and reveal his soul, even through the veil of unidiomatic technique."
He listened a moment to the music outside. "As Anna wrote her musical score, a hiatus of thirty-eight rests precedes the moment the nightingale drops dying from the thorn. At the start of that silence, you could start to run off your nineteen sub-equations in your little tin box, audio-Fourier style. You might even route the equations into the loudspeaker system, if our gadget is capable of remote control."
For a long time she appraised him calculatingly. "I finally think I understand you. You hoped to unnerve me with your savage, over-accentuated satire, and make me change my mind. So you aren't a beast, and even though I see through you, you're even a greater artist than I at first imagined."
He watched as the woman made a number of adjustments on the control panel of the black box. When she looked up again, her lips were drawn into hard purple ridges.
She said: "But it would be too great a pity to let such art go to waste, especially when supplied by the author of 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'. And you will indulge an amateur musician's vanity if I play my first Fourier composition fortissimo."
He answered her smile with a fleeting one of his own. "An artist should never apologize for self-admiration. But watch your cueing. Anna should be clasping the white rose thorn to her breast in thirty seconds, and that will be your signal to fill in the first half of the thirty-eight rest hiatus. Can you see her?"
The woman did not answer, but he knew that her eyes were following the ballet on the invisible stage and Dorran's baton, beyond, with fevered intensity.
The music glided to a halt.
"Now!" hissed Jacques.
She flicked a switch of the box.
They listened, frozen, as the multi-throated public address system blared into life up and down the two miles of the Via Rosa.
The sound of Sciomnia was chill, metallic, like the cruel crackle of ice heard suddenly in the intimate warmth of an enchanted garden, and it seemed to chatter derisively, well aware of the magic that it shattered.
As it clattered and skirled up its harsh tonal staircase, it seemed to shriek: "Fools! Leave this childish nonsense and follow me! I am Science! I AM ALL!"
And, Ruy Jacques, watching the face of the prophetess of the God of Knowledge, was for the first time in his life aware of the possibility of utter defeat.
As he stared in mounting horror, her eyes rolled slightly upward, as though buoyed by some irresistible inner flame, which the pale translucent cheeks let through.
But as suddenly as they had come, the nineteen chords were over, and then, as though to accentuate the finality of that mocking manifesto, a ghastly aural afterimage of silence began building up around his world.
For a near eternity it seemed to him that he and this woman were alone in the world, that, like some wicked witch, she had, through her cacophonic creation, immutably frozen the thousands of invisible watchers beyond the thin walls of the stage wings.
It was a strange, yet simple thing that broke the appalling silence and restored sanity, confidence, and the will to resist to the man: from somewhere far away, a child whimpered.
Breathing as deeply as his near paralysis would permit, the artist murmured: "Now, Martha, in a moment I think you will hear why I suggested your Fourier broadcast. I fear Science has been had once mo"
He never finished, and her eyes, which were crystallizing into question marks, never fired their barbs.
A towering tidal wave of tone was engulfing the Via, apparently of no human source and from no human instrument.
Even he, who had suspected in some small degree what was coming, now found his paralysis once more complete. Like the woman scientist opposite him, he could only sit in motionless awe, with eyes glazing, jaw dropping, and tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth.
He knew that the heart strings of Anna van Tuyl were one with this mighty sea of song, and that it took its ecstatic timbre from the reverberating volutes of that god-like mind.
And as the magnificent chords poured out in exquisite consonantal sequence, now with a sudden reedy delicacy, now with the radiant gladness of cymbals, he knew that his plan must succeed.
For, chord for chord, tone for tone, and measure for measure, the Nightingale was repeating in her death song the nineteen chords of Martha Jacques' Sciomnia equations.
Only now those chords were transfigured, as though some Parnassian composer were compassionately correcting and magically transmuting the work of a dull pupil.
The melody spiraled heavenward on wings. It demanded no allegiance; it hurled no pronunciamento. It held a message, but one almost too glorious to be grasped. It was steeped in boundless aspiration, but it was at peace with man and his universe. It sparkled humility, and in its abnegation there was grandeur. Its very incompleteness served to hint at its boundlessness.
And then it, too, was over. The death song was done.
Yes, thought Ruy Jacques, it is the Sciomnia, rewritten, recast, and breathed through the blazing soul of a goddess. And when Martha realizes this, when she sees how I tricked her into broadcasting her trifling, inconsequential effort, she is going to fire her weaponat me.
He watched the woman's face go livid, her mouth work in speechless hate.
"You knew!" she screamed. "You did it to humiliate me!"
Jacques began to laugh. It was a nearly silent laughter, rhythmic with mounting ridicule, pitiless in its mockery.
But his abdomen was convulsing in rigid helplessness, and tears began to stream down his cheeks.
"I warned you once before!" yelled the woman. Her hand darted toward the black box and turned its long axis toward the man.
Like a period punctuating the rambling, aimless sentence of his life, a ball of blue light burst from a cylindrical hole in the side of the box.
His laughter stopped suddenly. He looked from the box to the woman with growing amazement. He could bend his neck. His paralysis was gone.
She stared back, equally startled. She gasped: "Something went wrong! You should be dead!"
The artist didn't linger to argue.
In his mind was the increasingly urgent call of Anna van Tuyl.
Dorran waved back the awed mass of spectators as Jacques knelt and transferred the faerie body from Bell's arms into his own.
"I'll carry you to your dressing room," he whispered. "I might have known you'd over-exert yourself."
Her eyes opened in the general direction of his face; in his mind came the tinkling of bells: "No.. . don't move me."
He looked up at Bell. "I think she's hurt! Take a look here!" He ran his hands over the seething surface of the wing folded along her side and breast: It was fevered fire.
"I can do nothing," replied the latter in a low voice. "She will tell you that I can do nothing."
"Anna!" cried Jacques. "What's wrong? What happened?"
Her musical reply formed in his mind. "Happened? Sciomnia was quite a thorn. Too much energy for one mind to disperse. Need two...three. Three could dematerialize weapon itself. Use wave formula of matter. Tell the others!
" Others? What are you talking about?" His thoughts whirled incoherently.
"Others like us. Coming soon. Bakine, dancing in streets of Leningrad. In Mexico City...the poetess Orteza. Many...this generation. The Golden People. Matt Bell guessed. Look!"
An image took fleeting form in his mind. First it was music, and then it was pure thought, and then it was a crisp strange air in his throat and the twang of something marvelous in his mouth. Then it was gone. "What was that?" he gasped.
"The Zhak symposium, seated at wine one April evening in the year 2437. Probability world. May...not occur. Did you recognize yourself?"
"Twenty-four thirty-seven?" His mind was fumbling.
"Yes. Couldn't you differentiate your individual mental contour from the whole? I thought you might. The group was still somewhat immature in the twenty-hundreds. By the fourteenth millennium..."
His head reeled under the impact of something titanic.
"...your associated mental mass...creating a star of the M spectral class...galaxy now two-thirds terrestrialized..."
In his arms her wings stirred uneasily; all unconsciously he stroked the hot membranous surface and rubbed the marvelous bony framework with his fingers. "But, Anna," he stammered, "I do not understand how this can be."
Her mind murmured in his. "Listen carefully, Ruy. Your pain...when your wings tried to open and couldn't...you needed certain psychoglandular stimulus. When you learn how to"here a phrase he could not translate"afterwards, they open..."
"When I learnwhat?" he demanded. "What did you say I had to know, to open my wings?"
"One thing. The one thing...must have...to see The Rose."
"Roseroserose!" he cried in near exasperation. "All right, then, my dutiful Nightingale, how long must I wait for you to make this remarkable Red Rose? I ask you, where is it?"
"Please...not just yet...in your arms just a little longer...while we finish ballet. Forget yourself, Ruy. Unless...leave prison...own heart...never find The Rose. Wings never unfold...remain a mortal. Science. .. isn't all. Art isn't...one thing greater...Ruy! I can't prolong..."
He looked up wildly at Bell.
The psychogeneticist turned his eyes away heavily. "Don't you understand? She has been dying ever since she absorbed that Sciomniac blast."
A faint murmur reached the artist's mind. "So you couldn't learn...poor Ruy...poor Nightingale..."
As he stared stuporously, her dun-colored wings began to shudder like leaves in an October wind.
From the depths of his shock he watched the fluttering of the wings give way to a sudden convulsive straining of her legs and thighs. It surged upward through her blanching body, through her abdomen and chest, pushing her blood before it and out into her wings, which now appeared more purple than gray.
To the old woman standing at his side, Bell observed quietly: "Even homo superior has his death struggle..."
The vendress of love philters nodded with anile sadness. "And she knew the answer...lost...lost..."
And still the blood came, making the wing membranes thick and taut.
"Anna!" shrieked Ruy Jacques. "You can't die. I won't let you! I love you! I love you!"
He had no expectation that she could still sense the images in his mind, nor even that she was still alive.
But suddenly, like stars shining their brief brilliance through a rift in storm clouds, her lips parted in a gay smile. Her eyes opened and seemed to bathe him in an intimate flow of light. It was during this momentary illumination, just before the lips solidified into their final enigmatic mask, that he thought he heard, as from a great distance, the opening measures of Weber's Invitation to the Dance.
At this moment the conviction formed in his numbed understanding that her loveliness was now supernal, that greater beauty could not be conceived or endured.
But even as he gazed in stricken wonder, the blood-gorged wings curled slowly up and out, enfolding the ivory breast and shoulders in blinding scarlet, like the petals of some magnificent rose.