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Its owner had been dead, the back of her head

Its owner had been dead, the back of her head smashed into red pulp flecked with bits of bone, but her cloak looked warm and thick. It was snowing, and Varamyr had

lost his own cloaks at the Wall. His sleeping pelts and woolen smallclothes, his sheepskin boots and fur-lined gloves, his store of mead and hoarded food, the hanks

of hair he took from the women he bedded, even the golden arm rings Mance had given him, all lost and left behind. I burned and I died and then I ran, half-mad with

pain and terror. The memory still shamed him, but he had not been alone. Others had run as well, hundreds of them, thousands. The battle was lost. The knights had

come, invincible in their steel, killing everyone who stayed to fight. It was run or die.

45 “That’s a good lock you have on the building,” the sheriff announced. “Kept them from opening the door right away.”

“Mighty good thing your daughter happened to look out of her window before she turned in to bed,” remarked the neighbor.

“Yes, indeed it is.”

“I call the best part that you had a pop-gun to pepper them with. I heard one cry out, and from my window I saw that the fellow hiding nearest the barn grabbed toward his face.”

“From that window of yours you must have had a pretty good look at them, even if it was dark,” said the sheriff.

“Did, for an instant. The lad that got nipped seemed like a big boy; tall, stout chap I should say, but the way he sprinted after the gun went off, he

Death was not so easily outrun, however. So when Varamyr came upon the dead woman in the wood, he knelt to strip the cloak from her, and never saw the boy

until he burst from hiding to drive the long bone knife into his side and rip the cloak out

of his clutching fingers. “His mother,” Thistle told him later, after the boy had run off. “It were his mother’s cloak, and when he saw you robbing her …”

 

sure is agile.”

“Did you hear them

at the hangar?”

Roberta asked.

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Varamyr might have been amongst them if only

Varamyr might have been amongst them if only he’d been stronger. The sea was grey and cold and far away, though, and he knew that he would never live to see it. He

 

 

was nine times dead and dying, and this would be his true death. A squirrel-skin cloak, he remembered, he knifed me for a squirrel-skin cloak.

“Don’t go out,” Mrs. Langwell urged as her husband began to don his trousers hastily under his robe.

“It’s quite safe,” he assured her. Before he was ready there came a pounding at the door—alarmed voices shouted, “You people all right, Langwell?”

“That’s Mr. Howard. He’s the sheriff of the county and must have been in the neighborhood.”

“I’ll be right down,” Mrs. Langwell called. Presently the officer of the law was standing in the hall, while she explained what had happened.

“Glad nobody’s hurt, least-wise, none of you folks. I’ll go out and have a look44 around.” There was a business-like gun in his hand and his chin was set firmly.

“I’m coming with you,” Mr. Langwell called from the top of the stairs as he hurried to join the sheriff.

“I’m coming too, Dad.”

“Stay with your mother, please,” he answered, so Roberta obeyed.

“There isn’t a thing you can do out there, Honey,” Mrs. Langwell assured her. “And you might get in the way.”

So the girl had to be content to remain inside, while sounds of people running, sharp questions, brief answers, and the noise of automobiles stopping while the occupants

demanded to know what was the difficulty came to them from outside. Half an hour later Mr. Langwell came back with the sheriff and their nearest neighbor, and

although they were greatly excited, they had discovered nothing more than some footprints of the robbers, and the place where a large car had been parked by the

side of the road, obviously waiting to assist

the thieve

in their

from the scene

of their mischief.

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One day, as they fled, a rider came galloping

One day, as they fled, a rider came galloping through the woods on a gaunt white horse, shouting that they all should make for the Milkwater, that the Weeper was

gathering warriors to cross the Bridge of Skulls and take the Shadow Tower. Many followed him; more did not. Later, a dour warrior in fur and amber went from

cookfire to cookfire, urging all the survivors to head north and take refuge in the valley of the Thenns. Why he thought they would be safe there when the Thenns

themselves had fled the place Varamyr never learned, but hundreds followed him. Hundreds more went off with the woods witch who’d had a vision of a fleet of ships

coming to carry the free folk south. “We must seek the sea,” cried Mother Mole, and her followers turned east.

Simultaneously with the sound of peppering bullets came a furious string of oaths. A second figure leaped from the corner of the old building and then the gun spoke

again. This time, amid the hail of small bullets came a muffled cry of pain, subdued curses, and a swift scrambling of two pairs of feet taking their owners helter-skelter

from the vicinity. From a distance came the roar of a motor thrown open quickly somewhere down the road, a clutch released as if by frantic hands, then an automobile in motion, but moving slowly.

“Nipped them,” Dad declared with satisfaction.

“Wish you could have done more than that,” Roberta said without any compunction.

43 “At any rate, they are frightened away. Turn on the lights, Mother, please, and we’ll do some investigating.” Mrs. Langwell pressed the switches which immediately

illuminated the whole house, and the sounds of shouts came from the home of the nearest neighbors. This was taken up by other persons, while someone on a motorcycle

seemed to turn

as if giving

chase after

the robbers.

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Leagues away, in a one-room hut of mud and straw

Leagues away, in a one-room hut of mud and straw with a thatched roof and a smoke hole and a floor of hard-packed earth, Varamyr shivered and coughed

and licked his lips. His eyes were red, his lips cracked, his throat dry and parched, but the taste of blood and fat filled his

mouth, even as his swollen belly cried for nourishment. A child’s flesh, he thought, remembering Bump. Human meat. Had

he sunk so low as to hunger after human meat? He could almost hear Haggon

growling at him. “Men may eat the flesh of beasts and beasts the flesh of men, but the man who eats the flesh of man is an abomination.”

Abomination. That had always been Haggon’s favorite word. Abomination, abomination, abomination. To eat of

human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the

worst abomination of all. Haggon was weak, afraid of his own power. He died weeping and alone when I ripped his second life from him. Varamyr had

devoured his heart himself. He taught me much and more, and the last thing I learned from him was the taste of human flesh.

For example, there was the Piscine Deligny, the city’s oldestpool, dating back to 1796, an open-air barge moored to

theQuai d’Orsay and the venue for the swimming events of the1900 Olympics. But none of the times were recognized by theInternational Swimming Federation

because the pool was sixmetres too long. The water in the pool came straight from theSeine, unfiltered and unheated. “It

was cold and dirty,” saidMamaji. “The water, having crossed all of Paris, came in foulenough. Then people at the pool made it utterly disgusting.”

Inconspiratorial whispers, with shocking details to back up hisclaim, he assured us that the French had very low standardsof personal hygiene. “Deligny was bad

enough. Bain Royal,another latrine on the Seine, was worse. At least at

Delignythey scooped out the dead fish.” Nevertheless, an Olympic poolis an Olympic pool, touched by immortal glory. Though it

 

wasa cesspool,

Mamaji spoke of

Deligny with

a fond smile.

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Then the pack was on them.His one-eyed brother

Then the pack was on them.

His one-eyed brother knocked the tooth-thrower back into a snowdrift and tore his throat out as he struggled. His sister

slipped behind the other male and took him from the rear. That left the female and her pup for him.

She had a tooth too, a little one made of bone, but she dropped it when the warg’s jaws closed around her leg. As she fell,

she wrapped both arms around her noisy pup. Underneath her furs the female was just skin and bones, but her dugs were

full of milk. The sweetest meat was on the pup. The wolf saved the choicest parts for his brother. All around the

carcasses, the frozen snow turned pink and red as the pack filled its bellies.

It was on my own, a guilty pleasure, that I returned to thesea, beckoned by the mighty waves that crashed down

andreached for me in humble tidal ripples, gentle lassos thatcaught their willing Indian boy.

My gift to Mamaji one birthday, I must have been thirteenor so, was two full lengths of credible butterfly. I finished sospent I could hardly wave to him.

Beyond the activity of swimming, there was the talk of it. Itwas the talk that Father loved. The more vigorously he

resistedactually swimming, the more he fancied it. Swim lore was hisvacation talk from the workaday talk of running a zoo.

Waterwithout a hippopotamus was so much more manageable thanwater with one.

Mamaji studied in Paris for two years, thanks to the colonialadministration. He had the time of his life. This was in

theearly 1930s, when the French were still trying to makePondicherry as Gallic as the British were trying to make

therest of India Britannic. I don’t recall exactly what Mamajistudied. Something commercial, I suppose. He was a

greatstoryteller, but forget about his studies or the Eiffel Tower orthe Louvre or the cafés of the Champs-Elysées. All his storieshad to do

 

with swimming

pools and

swimming

competitions.

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A man alone was a feeble thing. Big andstrong,

A man alone was a feeble thing. Big and strong, with good sharp eyes, but dull of ear and deaf to smells. Deer and elk and even hares were faster, bears and boars

fiercer in a fight. But men in packs were dangerous. As the wolves closed on the prey, the warg heard the wailing of a pup, the crust of last night’s snow breaking under clumsy man-paws,

the rattle of hardskins and the long grey claws men carried.

Swords, a voice inside him whispered, spears.

The trees had grown icy teeth, snarling down from the bare brown branches. One Eye ripped through the

undergrowth, spraying snow. His packmates followed. Up a hill and down the slope beyond, until the wood opened before them and the men were there.

One was female. The fur-wrapped bundle she clutched was her pup. Leave her for last, the voice whispered, the males are the danger. They were roaring at each

other as men did, but the warg could smell their terror. One had a wooden tooth as tall as he was. He flung it, but his hand was shaking and the tooth sailed high.

I went there with him three times a week throughout mychildhood, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday early morning

ritualwith the clockwork regularity of a good front-crawl stroke. Ihave vivid memories of this dignified old man

stripping down tonakedness next to me, his body slowly emerging as he

neatlydisposed of each item of clothing, decency being salvaged at thevery end by a slight turning away and a magnificent

pair ofimported athletic bathing trunks. He stood straight and he wasready. It had an epic simplicity. Swimming

instruction, which intime became swimming practice, was gruelling, but there wasthe deep pleasure of doing a

stroke with increasing ease andspeed, over and over, till hypnosis practically,

the water

turningfrom

molten lead to

liquid light.

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“It was a pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.

“It was a pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.
Molitor had the best competitive swimming club in Paris. Therewere two pools, an indoor and an outdoor. Both were as bigas small oceans. The indoor

pool always had two lanesreserved for swimmers who wanted to do lengths. The waterwas so clean and clear you could have used it to make yourmorning

coffee. Wooden changing cabins, blue and white,surrounded the pool on two floors. You could look down andsee everyone and everything. The porters who marked yourcabin door with chalk to show that it was occupied

werelimping old men, friendly in an ill-tempered way. No amount ofshouting and tomfoolery ever ruffled them. The showers gushedhot, soothing water.

There was a steam room and an exerciseroom. The outside pool became a skating rink in winter. Therewas a bar, a cafeteria, a large sunning deck, even

two smallbeaches with real sand. Every bit of tile, brass and woodgleamed. It was – it was…”It was the only pool that made Mamaji fall silent, hismemory

 

skating rink in winter. Therewas a bar, a cafeteria, a large sunning deck, even

two smallbeaches with real sand. Every bit of tile, brass and woodgleamed. It was – it was…”It was the only pool that made Mamaji fall silent, hismemory

making too many lengths to mention.
Mamaji remembered, Father dreamed.

“Er, no, you didn’t. That is, well, you have to be told—”

“Is something wrong, Mr. Trowbridge?” she asked quietly.

“Well, er, yes there is—”

“Anything happened to Mother or—”

“Oh, no, what a blundering ass I am; but, you know, it’s this way, the stock market—well, you’ve heard how it broke a lot of people. We have to—er,

reduce expenses, er, you see—there was a meeting, and some of the pilots have to go—I’m

sorry, hate to

lose you, hate

it like fury, and

so does Wallace.”

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I went there with him three times a week throughout mychildhood,

I went there with him three times a week throughout mychildhood, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday early morning ritualwith the clockwork regularity of a good front-crawl stroke. Ihave vivid memories of this dignified

old man stripping down tonakedness next to me, his body slowly emerging as he neatlydisposed of each item of clothing, decency being salvaged at thevery

end by a slight turning away and a magnificent pair ofimported athletic bathing trunks. He stood straight and he wasready. It had an epic simplicity.

Swimming instruction, which intime became swimming practice, was gruelling, but there wasthe deep pleasure of doing a stroke with increasing

ease andspeed, over and over, till hypnosis practically, the water turningfrom molten lead to liquid light.

It was on my own, a guilty pleasure, that I returned to thesea, beckoned by the mighty waves that crashed down andreached for me in humble tidal

ripples, gentle lassos thatcaught their willing Indian boy.
My gift to Mamaji one birthday, I must have been thirteenor so, was two full lengths of credible butterfly. I finished sospent I could hardly wave to him.

Beyond the activity of swimming, there was the talk of it. Itwas the talk that Father loved. The more vigorously he resistedactually swimming, the more he fancied it. Swim lore was hisvacation talk from the workaday talk of shlf1314

running a zoo. Waterwithout a hippopotamus was so much more manageable thanwater with one.

Having taken the woman every day for over two weeks, Roberta knew pretty well how high and fast she preferred to travel, so they did not waste any time

on discussions, but shot ahead swiftly. Almost as soon as she was seated, Mrs. Pollzoff got the powerful field glasses out of their case, and as soon as they were over the water, trained them on its smooth surface. The day was clear,shlf1314

the sky blue, and the sea calm, so the task of piloting was not arduous, and Roberta let her mind wander on speculations about her companion. That the woman was wealthy was obvious, but for the first time the girl began to shlf1314

wonder about her interest in things in the ocean. It occurred to her that the woman might be looking for sunken vessels, or something of that nature, but she had never let a word drop regarding what she sought. Then it struck

Roberta that she was a bit mysterious. Although it wasn’t necessary for passengers to

explain their

businesses

or hobbies,

still when

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He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never gotthem

He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never gotthem to go beyond wading up to their knees at the beach andmaking ludicrous round motions with their arms, which, if theywere practising the breast-stroke, made them

look as if theywere walking through a jungle, spreading the tall grass aheadof them, or, if it was the front crawl, as if they were runningdown a hill and flailing their arms so as not to fall. Ravi wasjust as unenthusiastic.

Mamaji had to wait until I came into the picture to find awilling disciple. The day I came of swimming age, which, toMother’s distress, Mamaji claimed was seven, he brought medown to the beach, spread his arms seaward and said,shlf1314

“This ismy gift to you.””And then he nearly drowned you,” claimed Mother.
I remained faithful to my aquatic guru. Under his watchfuleye I lay on the shlf1314

beach and fluttered my legs and scratchedaway at the sand with my hands, turning my head at everystroke to breathe. I must have looked like a child

throwing apeculiar, slow-motion tantrum. In the water, as he held me atthe surface, I tried my best to swim. It was much moredifficult than on land. But Mamaji was patient and encouraging.shlf1314

When he felt that I had progressed sufficiently, we turnedour backs on the laughing and the shouting, the running andthe splashing, the blue-green

waves and the bubbly surf, andheaded for the proper rectan-gularity and the formal flatness(and the paying admission) of the ashram swimming pool.shlf1314

“There is to be a test for the racing machines this evening, Miss Langwell,” the instructor called as he brought the car to a stop close to where the two were

standing. Roberta noticed that the Federal man gave her companion a swift, all-inclusive glance, but since that was the way with Mr. Howe, and he always

looked everybody up and down, she did not think anything about it.shlf1314

“Hope I can watch it,” she replied.shlf1314

“All set, Miss Langwell.” Nike came to a stop a few yards away, so, forgetting everything else, Roberta turned her whole attention to the task at hand.shlf1314

Presently all was ready, and in another moment, Nike was leaping into the air, carrying her pilot and passenger up a steep climb until they were well in the

air, then her nose was leveled and she shot east18 and south,shlf1314

as Mrs. Pollzoff

designated the

direction she

wished to take.

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I was named after a swimming pool. Quite peculiarconsidering my

I was named after a swimming pool. Quite peculiarconsidering my parents never took to water. One of myfather’s earliest business contacts was Francis Adirubasamy. Hebecame a good friend of the family. I called him

Mamaji,mama being the Tamil word for uncle and ji being a suffixused in India to indicate respect and affection. When he was ayoung man, long before I was born, Mamaji was a championcompetitive swimmer, the champion of all

South India. Helooked the part his whole life. My brother Ravi once told methat when Mamaji was born he didn’t want to give up onbreathing water

and so the doctor, to save his life, had to takehim by the feet and swing him above his head round andround.

“It did the trick!” said Ravi, wildly spinning his hand abovehis head. “He coughed out water and started breathing air, butit forced all his flesh and

blood to his upper body. That’s whyhis chest is so thick and his legs are so skinny.”I believed him. (Ravi was a merciless teaser. The first timehe called

Mamaji “Mr. Fish” to my face I left a banana peel inhis bed.) Even in his sixties, when he was a little stooped anda lifetime of counter-obstetric gravity had

begun to nudge hisflesh downwards, Mamaji swam thirty lengths every morning atthe pool of the Aurobindo Ashram.

“She will not find my work dull, but it will be cold, for it may take her to the Bering Sea,” Mr. Howe informed them. “I expect to be ready for her soon.”

“It sounds no end exciting,” Roberta said and her eyes sparkled. A job that would take her to the Bering Sea appeared to have endless possibilities and she was keenly interested. Just then the phone rang and Mr. Trowbridge answered it.

“Your passenger has arrived,” he told Roberta.shlf1314

“I’ll go right down.”shlf1314

“See you later,” Mr. Howe called after her as she hurried away. Ten minutes later Nike,17 her own prize plane, was taxied to the edge of the field, where Roberta and her passenger, a tall, slender woman, whose flying costume,shlf1314

however, gave her huge proportions, waited. The machine came up just as Mr. Wallace and Mr. Howe, in the

company’s carrying

automobile started

for the further

end of the field.

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