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The dark goddess


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Title:TheDarkGoddess
Author:RichardSharpeShaver
ReleaseDate:June12,2010[EBook#32784]
Language:English

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TheDarkGoddess



ByRichardS.Shaver
[TranscriberNote:ThisetextwasproducedfromImaginationStoriesofScience
and Fantasy February 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
thattheU.S.copyrightonthispublicationwasrenewed.]

Deepwithinhercavernsthegreatmer-womanlongedfordeathtoendherloneliness.Butthencamea
voyagerfromspace—aman—alsolonely....

Theblack-emeraldwaterswirledandbrokeinmanysilvergleamings.Fromthe
misty center of the pool rose a vast but beautiful head. The long dripping hair
wasnothair,buthadaripplinglifeofitsown.Thegreatlonelyeyesandwide
scarlet mouth were far more lovely than any human's. The gleaming green
shoulders and shapely long arms ended in graceful webbed fingers. The red
tipped breasts were proud, naked mounts where beauty lived forever. The
pillaringwaist—thestrong-archedhipsthatdidnotdivideintolegsbutintotwo
greatserpentinedrivers—endedinthewidetailfinsofafish.
The dark sea-scented lapping green water was circled by tiers of marble seats,
where many human people sat, their eyes upon the throne-seat into which the
tremendousfemalefigurevaultedinonepowerfulthrustfromthewater,asatall
waveuncurlseffortlesslyuponagoldenbeach.
Thepeoplebowedtheirheadsandwaitedforherwords,andshesatforalong
time looking on them sadly and somehow conveying that they had long
disappointed her. When her voice came, a great bell of meaning in the seacavern,thehumansbegantoweep,fortheyknewnowintheirheartstheyhad
failedher.
"Mypeople,whenthefirstofyoucamehereIwelcomedyou.Iwasglad,forI
hadbeenlongalone.Ineverknewmyownorigin,myownrace,andthewisdom
thatIlearnedhereinthesecavernsIwasgladtogivetotheyoungandignorant
voyagersthatfirstcame.
"Anageago,beforeanyofyousawlife,theworkbegan.Today,thishomeof


oursisthefruitoflonglabor,ofgenerationsofmen.Wedonotliketogiveup
ourhome,builttohouseourgenius,toprovideeverlastingprotectionagainstthe
unstableelements."
Her people, of several shapes and sizes, sourcing from an amalgam of many
humanracesofdivergentstrainsfromseveralnear-forgottenplanets,allsighed
together,like alittlewindofsadness. Andsomethingaboutthatresignationof
theirsseemedtoangerthegreatgreenmer-woman'seyes,buthervoicedidnot
reflect that anger. All about them, below and above and on and on around the
ancient bedrock of the dark planet, tier on tier and level on level, their cavern


citystretched,amyriadhomesforamyriadindividuals.
"Today we face a contingency long foreseen. One which we hoped time itself
would change, through some new force changing the motions of those bodies
whichcircleaheadofusinspace.Itwasforetoldthatintimethisplanetinits
free course through space would be attracted to one or the other of two great
suns which it will pass—or encounter. It is most probable that our planet will
findanorbitaboutoneofthosesunsahead.
"Today that fate is no longer a prediction from an astronomer peering into far
space. It is a fact we face within short weeks, not in some far future time.
Alreadythesurfaceiceismelting,seasformingabove.Alreadythosewhoused
to travel on the surface on their duties and observations have been affected by
thepowerfulradiationsofthosesuns.Thoseradiationswhenwearecaughtand
heldclosewillshortenthelifespantoahundredthofwhatitisnow.Youmust
go,andgonow.Youmustseekoutanewhomeinthedarknessofspacewhere
nosunshinestocutyourlivesshort."
Alowsobbrokefromthealmostsilentpeople;thenanother.Foryearstheyhad
knownthiswouldoccur,butnowtherewasnotimeleft.Itwashardtothinkof
leaving their ancient home. A low and youthful voice asked, a clear ringing
voice:
"And what of you, Alfreya? How can you accompany us? There has been no
ship built to hold the water you must have, no ship great enough to hold your
weightorliftit.Whatwillyoudo?"
Her laughwassomehow oneofvast relief,ofhumor ofsomemysterious kind
theycouldnotfathom,oflonelinessgladoncemoretobealone."Iremain.This
ismyhome,andifmyknowledgeisnotgreatenoughtofightoffthedeaththe
new sun brings then I will welcome death. It could be, dear people, that I am


wearyoflife."
Thepeoplecouldnothearherinwardthought—"andofotherlives,too..."—but
perhapstheyfeltitintheirhearts.
Thegiganticmer-creaturedovethen,fromherthroneintothegreen-darkwater,
andleftherpeopletotheirowndevices.Theysawhernomore.

Theevacuationunderway,thegreatshipslancedupward,oneafteranother.One
every three seconds, for a month of earth time. And deep in the water of her
subterraneanabode,itseemedtoonegreatheartthatwitheachblastofsoundas
anothergreatshiplifted,someweightliftedfromherheart.
The people of the Dark Goddess leaving their ancient home were very
numerous, and very sad. But few of them thought twice of their ancient
benefactress who had welcomed their ancestors, taught them, started them
abuildingintherocktheirvastcavernhomes.Ifshewishedtoremainanddie,
thatwasheraffair.Shewasnothuman.Shewasonlyabitofancienthistorythat
hadsomehowremainedalive.
Allofthepeopleofthedarkplanetoficewereincludedinthatmigration.Not
oneremainedtofacedeathwiththeirancientGoddess.Thedarkplanetmoved
on into its new orbit, empty of life. Empty, that is, except for one dark lonely
heart.Themer-creaturewastoovastofbodyforanyshiptohold.Besides,she
breathedwater—andshedidnotwanttogo.Thatwasverystrange.Verystrange
indeed.Ofallthatmyriadofdepartingvoyagers,notoneunderstoodwhytheir
DarkGoddessdidnotwishtogoalong.Whichperhapsexplainsthemystery.

Anagepassed.Orwasitbutafewyears,ahundredorso?Themer-womandid
not count the years. The once free planet now circled the angry red sun as a
humblecaptive.Onitsnowwarmsurfacesoilformedandplantsgrew.Treesand
animals began to move about, grow larger. It was a new wild jungle planet,
untouchedbyorganizedintelligenceofanykind.
Deep down in the dim caverns, in her deepest lair, the mistress of an age of


magicslept,andwaked,andsleptagain.Andwhatshethoughtabout,andwhat
she waited for, and what she did with the endless time on her hands, were
mysteries.Mysteries,attimes,eventoherself.Butherheartwassometimesvery
light, and glad to be alone, and at other times, very sad, and very sure that
mankind itself was not what she would wish it to be. In searching her heart,
Alfreyaknewshewasverywellridofallthatclutterinthecavernsoverhead.

Fromtheouterdarknessofspacecameatinyshape,speedingonandontoward
thissunandcaptiveplanet.Itwasgoingfromnowheretonowhereataterrific
rate.
Therearemanyshapesadriftinspace,bitsofrock,celestialdebrisawashinthe
infinite oceans of ether. But this shape was not a rock. It was of metal, and
withinitwasamannamedPeterMcCarthy.
Hewasaveryhungryman,andaverythirstyman,andwhenthegreatredsun
reachedoutandpulledhisshiptoitself,Peteinhisfueldepletedcraftgavesilent
thanksthatatlasttheendhadcome.
Thiswouldbeaquickcleandeathintheflames,andPeteturnedhisbackonthe
sun andwaited.Butwhenheheardtheairscreamingabout hishull, heturned
backtothebowviewpanesagain.
"Well, I'll be damned!" cried Peter McCarthy. For a huge green planet had
pushed itself between him and the sun, and he did not like that at all. "It's
another of cruel Fate's devices to lengthen my torments!" said Peter, and wept
salttearsofweakness.
But his hands responded automatically. They thrust to the controls in front of
himandfiredthelongunusedjets.Abitoffuelhadcollectedinthebottomof
histanks,andthejetsblastedout,theshiplifted,helditselfuprightonapillarof
sudden flame. Pete let it sink, swiftly but gently, so that it fell hissing into the
rollinggreenseaswithoutsmashingtobits.
It sank down through the green waters like a stone, and McCarthy fell weakly
acrossthecontrols,anddidnotmoveafingertochangeherdownwardcourse.
Intruth,hehopedtheshipwouldnevercomeupagain.Hewassickandtiredof
fightingagainstdeath.


Hourspassed,andheslept,dreamingvaguelittledreamsofeatinganddrinking
andflirtingwiththegirlsinthestreetsofPortFreedom.Nolightcamethrough
the single hemisphere of transparence in front of his nose, and he finally
switchedonthesearch-beamontheship'snose.
"Stuckinthemud,Ihope,jadethatsheis,andgoodforher,makingmedielike
this,"Petemuttered,hatingeventhecrackedcrazysoundofhisownvoice.
But the bowlight shafted ahead in brilliant clarity, piercing no ocean depths or
oozeormud-flats,butglancingovertheracingripplesofaflowingriver.Above
the river surface the rocks came down, so low Pete could hear them touch the
hull,scrape,grindfree,astheirtouchsentthecraftdeeperinthehurryingwater.
"HolyoldHarry,"growledMcCarthy,rubbingathisslackenedfeatures."Shefell
rightthroughthebottomoftheseaintosomesubterraneanflow...."Heyawned,
and stretched a little, and cursed again. "Sure, I couldn't expect her to do
anythingelse,withmyluckaboardher.Thereweretreesandsunlight,andwater
... ah, water ... up there, somewhere. I saw them, falling in, I did. Do I land
where I can get anything like water? Hell no! I crash right on down into this
hole!"Helaughedaweakbitterlaugh.Thenheleanedbackandbegantosing
throughcrackedandbleedinglips:
"There'saholeinthebottomofthesea;
There'sarockinaholeinthebottomofthesea;
There'sacrabonarockintheholeinthebottom...."
Andhebegantosnore,havingfallenasleep.

Somehourslater,PeterMcCarthyawoke,littlerefreshedbecauseoftheraging
thirstwithinhim.Withterrificefforthegottohisfeet,notingthattheshipwas
nolongermoving.
Thebowlightwasstillburning,butitshowedonlyablackwallofsmoothrock
ahead.Heswitcheditoff,turningontheinsidelights.Hestaggeredandcursed
hisweakness,buthemadeittotheairlock.Withfeeblehandshetuggedthelittle
wheelaroundthatpulledbackthebigbarsonthelockdoor.
"I'llgetthisoverwith,somehow.I'lljustjumpintothedamnedblackwaterand


drinkthedamnriverdry...."
Thebigouterlockdoorswungopen,andhestraightened,halfexpectingarush
oficywaterabouthisfeet.Butinsteadawarmandslightlyfragrantairdrifted
silentlyin,touchedhistangledhairwithidleandsomehowplayfulfingers.
"Still teasing me, you dirty old tramp!" growled the lean McCarthy, to whom
deathhadbecomeapersonalenemy,afigurehehadbothpursuedandfledfrom
across a vast and empty space. A nemesis he could not escape, and a fiend he
couldnotquitecatch.
He tugged loose a hand flash from the bracket by the lock, and staggered out
uponthesmoothrockflooragainstwhichtheshiphadcometorest.Hesnapped
onthelight,andthenhestoodgapingstupidlyattherockwallsindisbelief.
Therewerecarvings,deepcutreliefsofutterbeauty,twiningvineleaves,little
figureshalf-humanpeepingfromtheleaves,lovelyfemalebodiesastheflowers,
incrediblylovelyfemaleheadsinclustersasthefruit.
"I've come to the Halls of Bacchus himself! Sure, I must be dead already. No
wonder I can't manage to die! But if that ain't the vine itself, I've never been
drunk!"Petewashalfdelirious,halfinthedarknessofutterdespair.ButhisIrish
heartwhisperedtohim,"Wherethere'sthevinethere'swine,"andhetotteredoff
weaklyintothedarkinsearchofit.
Somewhere afar off he heard a faint mysterious laugh, strangely feminine,
strangelyfriendly.Hestopped,foraheadofhimwasapproachingastrangefaint
light.Closeritcame,stalkingtowardhimfearfully,andtoanyoneelseitwould
haveseemedlikeananimatedclothingstoredummywithouttheclothes.Butthe
figurewasfeminine,anditboreonitsshoulderatallovalvase-likevessel.
Pete straightened, and awe swept over him. In a low voice he heard himself
quoting—
"Cametowardmethroughtheduskanangel-shape,
Bearingonhershoulderavessel...
Andbidmetasteofit.'Twasthegrape!"
McCarthy'stonguetwistedstrangelyinhismouthwithadesirouslifeofitsown.
Theglowingangel-shapebent,andheldthevesseltohislips,andhedranklong
and deep. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, and looked into the


angel'sglowingeyes.
As he looked the shape changed, subtly, adapting itself to his approval like a
dreammight,andMcCarthywhisperedinanawedvoice:
"Sure, lady, it is the grape right enough! Now tell me, are you the same angel
whogavedrinktoOmar?Orwassheyoursister,maybe?"
Theglowingshape,growingsecondbysecondmoresweetlycurvedtohiseye,
unsmilinglyreplacedthevesselonhershoulder.Hervoicewasadistantmelody
thoughherfacewasrightbeforehiseyes:
"Iambutamessenger,dearwelcomestranger.Ibidyouconsidertheseancient
hallsyourhome.Whenyouarewellandstrong,therewillbemanythingstotalk
of,forIhavebeenlongalone.Mineeyesaregladwiththesightofyou."
McCarthytouchedthenakedangel'sshoulder,andwassurprisedtofindithard
assteel.Theglowingbeingdidnotseemsurprised,andherarmwentabouthis
shoulders,supportinghimeasily.Afteraminuteofthisslowprogress,shebent
andpickedMcCarthyupinherarmsasifhewereababe.McCarthymurmured,
"Sureangel,bethisHeavenorHellI'mdamnedgladtogethere."

Thevoyagerlayunconsciousformanydays.Whileheslept,dozensoftheweird
"angels"hoveredoverhimandwhattheypoureddownhisthroatandwhatthey
injectedintohisveinsheneverknew.Butwhenatlastheawakenedhefeltlike
themanhehadbeentwentyyearsbefore,younginheartandwithaboundless
happinessofwell-beingsurgingupinhimlikeagreatspringofOmar'swine.
Sowaking,hesprangtohisfeetashehadusedtodointhemorning,unableto
waittolearnwhatnewandcuriousthingthedaywouldbearforhim.Helooked
abouthimwitheyesthatcouldnotbelieve,andhewasalongtimeremembering
howhehadgothereorwherehewas.Andwhenhedid,itwastowonderwhy
hehadbeensosunkindespairandsoreadytoacceptdeath.
Oneofthetallglowingshapescameandbowedlowbeforehim,andMcCarthy
sawforaninstantshewasnotalivingwomanatall,noranyangeleither!
"Whyyou'rearobotkindofthing!"criedPete,recoilinginsuddendistrust,for
therewassomethingrevoltingtohimaboutametalmachinemasqueradingasa


humanform.
The glowing woman-shape straightened proudly, and her long fiery eyes
narrowedalittle,andhervoicelikedistanttinklingmagicmurmuredsoftly,"Are
yousoverysureIamnotalive,manfromafar?"
McCarthykeptlookingather,andshechangedbeforehisveryeyes,andatlast
hiswitsawoke,sothathesaidgallantly,"Sureandyou'reasbeautifulawoman
aseverIsawinmylife!I'mowingyoumylife,andI'dbethelastwouldwantto
hurtyourfeelings.NobodycouldbesorrierforthemistakethanIam."
Nowwhatevershewas,hecouldnolongertellherfromalivingwomanofgreat
beauty, for she had changed before his eyes from a metallic monstrosity of
glowingterrortoasoftlycurvedbeautythatwouldhavegracedthestageofany
musicalshow,andhervoicewasfartoogoodforanyshowthatPetehadever
listenedto.Asshemovedclosertohim,herweirdlylovelyvoicewhispered,"So
myarmsarehardassteel,manfromspace?"andputherarmsaroundhim,and
theyweresoftandfirmandfinearmstofeelindeed.
PeterMcCarthy,insuddenwonder,kissedtheglowingweirdlipsofthelovely
thing,andthetastewasdifferentbutfarmorelovelythananywoman'slipshad
everbeenbefore.
"NowmayGodstrikeme,butImustbelosingmywits,"sworeMcCarthy,"butI
hadthoughtyouweremadeofsteelforsure!"
Somewhereafartherecameamusicoflaughter;hecouldnotexactlyhearitbut
hefelt it,asiftheverywallswereamusedwith him.It wasapowerfullaugh,
with an undertinkling to it, like a distant bell beneath water, struck by a little
stonesothatitgaveoutbothstrongsoundsandlittlesounds....Averybeautiful
laughbutverystrangetohear.
WiththesoundofthatlaughteranawecametoMcCarthy;hefeltthetouchof
someterrificmagic,andhegaveuptryingtounderstandwhatwashappeningto
him.
"Thisisastrangeplace,"hemuttered,rubbinghischin."Astrangeplaceindeed.
Could ye tell me, Miss Angel, what place this is and how I can expect to get
alonghereandwhyyou'resogoodtoapoorwandererlikemyself?"
Theangel-shape—whichsecondbysecondwasgettingtobemoreandmorethe
shapeofultimatebeautytohiseye,asifshewaslearningthewayofitbetterand


betterrightoutofhismind,asifshewastakingfromhisownthinkingthecolors
and the shapes and form and spirit that would please him most—gave a laugh
thatwasverylikethestrangegreattinklingsoundfromnowhere.Hervoicewas
like sparkling water falling on suspended crystals that rang musically, and she
lookedintohiseyesoutofherownfierystrangeeyesofterriblebeauty.
"Thisisthebestofallpossibleplacesyoucouldhavecometo,andyourhostis
thebestofallpossiblehostsandwhatmoredoyouneedtoknowtoday,Peter
McCarthy?"
Foraninstantashadowpassedoverthestrangeglowingeyesoftheangel-shape,
asifsherememberedsomethingshedidnotwanttoremember,andheasked:
"Whatisthatshadowoftrouble,ifthisissogoodaplaceforme?"
Sheansweredhimquicklyastheshadowpassedfromhereyes:"Thatshadowis
thefuture,whichwilleventuallygetintoeventhisstrongholdandenditall.But
untilthatdaycomes,whyyouatleastcanmakemerry.AndIwillhelpyou...."

Sotimepassed.Thevisitorwasveryhappy,livinginaparadiseofwonderand
sensationandlovesuchasnomanofeartheverhadbefore.
ThedaysofMcCarthy'sdreamingbecamemany.Therewerealwaysabouthim
severalofthelovelyglowingwoman-shapes.Theirformsweresoftandseemed
tobecomealmosttooperfectlywhathemostwishedtheywouldbecome,even
ashelookedandhismindtriedtofindimperfection,hefoundonlyperfection.It
was opposite from earth-style love, where one ignores imperfections to think
about the better parts and points of the loved one ... where love is a slow
schoolinginseeingonlythefinestfacetsofone'schosen.Here,hecouldfindno
imperfections to ignore, and he had only to imagine some perfection to see it
beforehim.
McCarthy could not consciously know that the heavenly looks of these lovely
things was magic, but he had his suspicions, and was always turning around
quicklytocatchoneofthemoffguardandlookinglikesomethingotherthanthe
featured actress in an extravagant and too-undressed musical comedy. But he
neversucceeded,andalwayswhenheturnedquicklyheheardthefarfainttinkle
of bell-like laughter, and that tinkle was somehow not a tinkle, but a deep


melodiouschimesofarawaythatitwasbrokenintosmallersoundbytheecho.
"Somebodygets abigkick outofme,"grinnedMcCarthy,andforgotaboutit.
They waited on him hand and foot; every whim that came into his mind they
gratifiedassoonasitwasborn.Foodofthemostexotickindwassetbeforehim
wheneverhewashungry.Whenhewantedlove,theygavehimfromaboundless
store; though not love such as he knew about. It was instead an ecstacy of an
intenseandvibrantkind,anoverwhelmingflamethathoveredalwaysaboutthe
sweetlyglowingbodiesofthem,aflamethatwasnotanythingbuttheessenceof
alldesires,distilledandintensifiedbysomestrongbutsubtlemagic.
But after a while it was his sleeping that McCarthy liked the most. For then
dreams came visibly into his chambers, and before his mind's eye waved
immensephantasmagorialadventures.Whenoneoftheseadventurescaughthis
fancy it picked him up like a womanish whirlwind of strangely soft dark arms
andhebecameforthetimeofhissleepaGod,towhomallthingswerepossible
andeachtiniestpartofthesedreamswaslikeaflowerofunearthlyandutterly
exquisitebeauty.
It was nearly a year by McCarthy's careless reckoning before he determined
whatwastrueandwhatwasmerepleasantfantasyinhislife.
Thatwasablackday.
Heawoketofindhischambersempty.Noglowingheavenlyshapestowashhim
and dress him and caress him. No sweet laughter in his ears, and no light
anywherebutwhathemadewithhisalmostdepletedhandflash.

Likeamanbereftofreasonherushedawaythroughtheendlessvaultedcavern
halls, seeking, seeking his loved playmates, his glowing angel-shapes. And his
heart seemed about to burst in his breast with the terrible sense of loss, like a
manwhohasjustlosthisfamily...andwhothinkshewillfindthemaliveifhe
runsfastenough.
After an endless time of running and walking and panting his hand flash went
dark in his hand and he flung it away. He went on like a madman, blind,
caroming off the carved stone walls and on and on until at last he sank to the
floorinexhaustion.


Lying there, in despair as dark as the utter darkness of the caverns, his eyes
begantonoteafteratimeasoftglowspreadingoutbeforehim.Stilllongerhe
lay,looking,andhiseyesbegantoseethatitwaswaterglowing,ripplingsoftly
awaybeforehiseyes.Theglowstrengthenedlittlebylittle,untilhecouldmake
outavastthrone-likechairafarabovetheglowingwater.
ForastilllongertimeMcCarthydidnotbelievehiseyes,foronthethronewasa
mightyfemalefigureofdarkgreenflesh.
Herlongdrippinghairwasnothair,butwrithedsoftlyaboutherbeautifulhead
withalifeofitsown.Thegreateyesandwidescarletmouthwerenotexactly
human, but they were very attractive and kind and somehow lonely with a
weightofwisdom.Thegleamingshouldersandtremendouslongarmsendedin
wide-webbed fingers. The red tipped breasts, the pillaring waist, the proud
arched hips that did not divide into legs but into two great serpentine drivers
finnedandscaledlikethetailsofbeautifulfish...weretoMcCarthyafterallhis
dreamsbutfigmentsofhisoverworkedimagination.
PeterMcCarthylaysilentlylookingonthisnewphantasm,wonderingifhewere
stillsane,andindeed,ifhewerestillalive,orifthiswereperhapsaplaceinto
whichasoulwanderedafterdeath—wherenothingwasasamanexpecteditto
be.Andinthemidstofhiswonderingthegreatlovelysea-woman'sheadturned.
Her eyes sought him out and that unearthly music of her voice murmured—a
soundlikethesurfbreakingonringingrocksfaroff.
"Youhadtoknowthetruthsometime,PeterMcCarthy."
Pete struggled to his feet and found his strength flowing back. And being the
kind of man he was he plunged into the dark pool of cool water and swam
towardthegreatthrone.Itwasmuchfartherthanitseemed,andwhenatlasthe
gottherehefoundthethronewasastallasanofficebuildinginthegreatcities
ofearth,andthelovelymer-woman'sbodyasmightyasaTitanofearth'smisty
dawn. Big she was, and just as beautiful close up as from the far shore of her
pool.
McCarthysatonthefirststepofthethrone,atherwidefinthatwasnotafootat
all,andlookedupintoherlovelytragiceyes,hisheartpoundinginhisbreast.
"Sure,sea-mother,Iknownow!Youaretheonlylivingcreatureinallthesevast
halls, and all the lovely things you have been doing to entertain me you do
becauseyouarelonely.Hasitbeenfuntoplaywithmelikeatoy,sorceress?"


Oneofthegreatfinnedhandsofherfannedtheairinagestureofnegation."Not
too much fun, McCarthy. But interesting, for I have never met a man of your
race,sochild-likeandsimpleandsoeasilymadetobelieveinmymagic.And
haveyounotenjoyedthisyearwithme?"
"Itisnotthat,sorceress.Itisthatmyheartissnaredhere,likeanapeinacage
andwillneveragainbefree.Whatkindoflifecanpleasemenow?Afterthislife
youhaveshownme,howcanIeverwanttobreathecommonairagain?"
Herlaughwaslikemusicunderwater,likebellsringinginthedeepsofthesea.
Her hand touched him lightly, and the touch was like lightning from heaven
strikinghimwitheternallove.Andthethunderofthatlightningpealedthrough
all his being, thunder on thunder of vast meaning, and there was nothing from
hisdreamstocomparewiththebeautyandthewonderofthesimpletouchofher
hand.
McCarthyturnedhisfaceuptothevastwoman-shapeabovehim,thewonderof
hertouchshiningfromhiseyes,sothatshelaughedagainasshesawtheeffect
uponhim.
"Iftherehadbeenmorelikeyouamongmypeople,Iwouldnotbeherealone,"
she murmured, like distant sorrowful music above him, her voice that was so
much more than a voice. "But my people were sated with wonder and tired of
loveandwearywithhavingtoomuch.TheywentoffandleftmebecauseIsaidI
wantedtoremain—todie.Andmyheartwassad,butsomethinginmewasvery
gladtobealone.NowIamgladthatyouarehere!ButIamafraidthatthereis
nowayyoucanleavenow."
McCarthystretchedoutatthefootofherthrone,agrinonhissquareIrishface.
"So, I can't get away again! Now that's the sorriest word I've heard for years.
SureI'mtheunluckiestmortalthateverwasborn."
Thedarkgoddesslaughedagain,andtherewassomethingofasweetchildinthe
bell-tones of her laugh, that died away in soft and softer echoes in the endless
darkaboutthem.
... Something of a shy child, who had never been loved, and found the idea
infinitely amusing. Her voice became softer and more beautiful still, and
McCarthywasendlesslyhappytohearthatlaugh,foritsaidsomuchstronger


than any words could—"You are welcome here, you sad Irishman." And her
voicesaid,"Anddoyouwantyourangel-shapesandtheirwinebackagain,ordo
youwantsomeotherthingImightcreateforyououtoftheseforgottenenergy
converters?"
McCarthy grinned contentedly, and rubbed his roughened face against the
smoothcalfofherlegbesidehim."D'yethinkIshouldshave,goddess?"
The great beautiful face bent over and examined his Irish countenance, the
ruggedfeaturesandtwinklingblueeyesandtheredheartycheeksofhim."Why,
man-child,youarequitegood-lookingasyouare!"
"Andasforthemangelsandtheirwine,"addedMcCarthy,"don'tyouknowone
lookatyouisworthathousandangels?Can'tyouseeinmymindandknow...I
forget,ye'vebeendoingthatforonesolidyear.Sure,yougreenangelyou,why
shouldamanwantanyothershapeorsoundorwinethanyourself?"

Soitwasthatsomeyearslateragreatshipburstupfromtheseasofthelonely
planetandontheterrificwingsofamysteriouspowershotsilentlyawayintothe
tracklessvoid.Andatthehelmwasared-cheekedIrishmanandtherestofthe
vastshipwasfilledwithwaterandthegoddessherself.Allofit,thatis,except
thepartwherethethreelittleMcCarthyscameoutofthewatertoplaywiththeir
dadeveryday.

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