The thoughts which came to him were startlingly primitive, direct and sometimes meaningless to him.
Go easy, baby! Swing it! Sure, we're in the groove now, but you never can tell! I'll buy you an orchid, honey! Not roses, just one orchid--black like your hair! Ever see a black orchid, hon? They're rare and they're expensive!
Oh, darl, darl, hold me closer! The music goes round and round! It will always be like that with us, honey! Don't ever be a square! That's all I ask! Don't ever be a square! Cuddle up to me, let yourself go! When you're dancing with one girl you should never look at another! Don't you know that, Johnny!
Sure I know it, Doll! But did I ever claim I wasn't human?
Darl, doll, doll baby! Look all you want to! But if you ever dare-- Moonson found himself relaxing a little. Dancing in all ages was closely allied to love-making, but it was pursued here with a careless rapture which he found creatively stimulating. People came here not only to dance but to eat, and the thoughts of the dancers implied that there was nothing stylized about a tavern. The ritual was a completely natural one.
In Egyptian bas-reliefs you saw the opposite in dancing. Every movement rigidly prescribed, arms held rigid and sharply bent at the elbows. Slow movements rather than lively ones, a bowing and a scraping with bowls of fruit extended in gift offerings at every turn.
There was obviously no enthroned authority here, no bejeweled king to pacify when emotions ran wild, but complete freedom to embrace joy with corybantic abandonment.
A tall man in ill-fitting black clothes approached Moonson's table, interrupting his reflections with thoughts that seemed designed to disturb and distract him out of sheer perversity. So even here there were flies in every ointment, and no dream of perfection could remain unchallenged.
He sat unmoving, absorbing the man's thoughts.
What does he think this is, a bath house? Mike says it's okay to serve them if they come in from the beach just as they are. But just one quick beer, no more. This late in the season you'd think they'd have the decency to get dressed!
The sepulchrally-dressed man gave the table a brush with a cloth he carried, then thrust his head forward like an ill-tempered scavenger bird.
"Can't serve you anything but beer. Boss's orders. Okay?"
Moonson nodded and the man went away.
Then he turned to watching the girl. She was frightened. She sat all alone, plucking nervously at the red-and-white checkered tablecloth. She sat with her back to the light, bunching the cloth up into little folds, then smoothing it out again.
She'd ground out lipstick-smudged cigarettes until the ash tray was spilling over.
Moonson began to watch the fear in her mind ...
Her fear grew when she thought that Mike wasn't gone for good. The phone call wouldn't take long and he'd be coming back any minute now. And Mike wouldn't be satisfied until she was broken into little bits. Yes, Mike wanted to see her on her knees, begging him to kill her!
Kill me, but don't hurt Joe! It wasn't his fault! He's just a kid--he's not twenty yet, Mike!
That would be a lie but Mike had no way of knowing that Joe would be twenty-two on his next birthday, although he looked eighteen at most. There was no pity in Mike but would his pride let him hot-rod an eighteen-year-old?
Mike won't care! Mike will kill him anyway! Joe couldn't help falling in love with me, but Mike won't care what Joe could help! Mike was never young himself, never a sweet kid like Joe!
Mike killed a man when he was fourteen years old! He spent seven years in a reformatory and the kids there were never young. Joe will be just one of those kids to Mike ...
Her fear kept growing.
You couldn't fight men like Mike. Mike was strong in too many different ways. When you ran a tavern with an upstairs room for special customers you had to be tough, strong. You sat in an office and when people came to you begging for favors you just laughed. Ten grand isn't hay, buddy! My wheels aren't rigged. If you think they are get out. It's your funeral.
It's your funeral, Mike would say, laughing until tears came into his eyes.
You couldn't fight that kind of strength. Mike could push his knuckles hard into the faces of people who owed him money, and he'd never even be arrested.
Mike could take money crisp and new out of his wallet, spread it out like a fan, say to any girl crazy enough to give him a second glance: "I'm interested in you, honey! Get rid of him and come over to my table!"
He could say worse things to girls too decent and self-respecting to look at him at all.
You could be so cold and hard nothing could ever hurt you. You could be Mike Galante ...
How could she have loved such a man? And dragged Joe into it, a good kid who had made only one really bad mistake in his life--the mistake of asking her to marry him.
She shivered with a chill of self-loathing and turned her eyes hesitantly toward the big man in bathing trunks who sat alone by the door.
For a moment she met the big man's eyes and her fears seemed to fade away! She stared at him ... sunburned almost black. Muscles like a lifeguard. All alone and not on the make. When he returned her stare his eyes sparkled with friendly interest, but no suggestive, flirtatious intent.
He was too rugged to be really handsome, she thought, but he wouldn't have to start digging in his wallet to get a girl to change tables, either.
Guiltily she remembered Joe, now it could only be Joe.
Then she saw Joe enter the room. He was deathly pale and he was coming straight toward her between the tables. Without pausing to weigh his chances of staying alive he passed a man and a woman who relished Mike's company enough to make them eager to act ugly for a daily handout. They did not look up at Joe as he passed but the man's lips curled in a sneer and the woman whispered something that appeared to fan the flames of her companion's malice.
Mike had friends--friends who would never rat on him while their police records remained in Mike's safe and they could count on him for protection.
She started to rise, to go to Joe and warn him that Mike would be coming back. But despair flooded her and the impulse died. The way Joe felt about her was a thing too big to stop ...
Joe saw her slim against the light, and his thoughts were like the sea surge, wild, unruly.
Maybe Mike will get me. Maybe I'll be dead by this time tomorrow. Maybe I'm crazy to love her the way I do ...
Her hair against the light, a tumbled mass of spun gold.
Always a woman bothering me for as long as I can remember. Molly, Anne, Janice ... Some were good for me and some were bad.
You see a woman on the street walking ahead of you, hips swaying, and you think: I don't even know her name but I'd like to crush her in my arms!
I guess every guy feels like that about every pretty woman he sees. Even about some that aren't so pretty. But then you get to know and like a woman, and you don't feel that way so much. You respect her and you don't let yourself feel that way.
Then something happens. You love her so much it's like the first time again but with a whole lot added. You love her so much you'd die to make her happy.
Joe was shaking when he slipped into the chair left vacant by Mike and reached out for both her hands.
"I'm taking you away tonight," he said. "You're coming with me."
Joe was scared, she knew. But he didn't want her to know. His hands were like ice and his fear blended with her own fear as their hands met.
"He'll kill you, Joe! You've got to forget me!" she sobbed.
"I'm not afraid of him. I'm stronger than you think. He won't dare come at me with a gun, not here before all these people. If he comes at me with his fists I'll hook a solid left to his jaw that will stretch him out cold!"
She knew he wasn't deceiving himself. Joe didn't want to die any more than she did.
The Man from Time had an impulse to get up, walk over to the two frightened children and comfort them with a reassuring smile. He sat watching, feeling their fear beating in tumultuous waves into his brain. Fear in the minds of a boy and a girl because they desperately wanted one another!
He looked steadily at them and his eyes spoke to them ...
Life is greater than you know. If you could travel in Time, and see how great is man's courage--if you could see all of his triumphs over despair and grief and pain--you would know that there is nothing to fear! Nothing at all!
Joe rose from the table, suddenly calm, quiet.
"Come on," he said quietly. "We're getting out of here right now. My car's outside and if Mike tries to stop us I'll fix him!"
The boy and the girl walked toward the door together, a young and extremely pretty girl and a boy grown suddenly to the full stature of a man.
Rather regretfully Moonson watched them go. As they reached the door the girl turned and smiled and the boy paused too--and they both smiled suddenly at the man in the bathing trunks.
Then they were gone.
Moonson got up as they disappeared, left the tavern.
It was dark when he reached the cabin. He was dog-tired, and when he saw the seated man through the lighted window a great longing for companionship came upon him.
He forgot that he couldn't talk to the man, forgot the language difficulty completely. But before this insurmountable element occurred to him he was inside the cabin.
Once there he saw that the problem solved itself--the man was a writer and he had been drinking steadily for hours. So the man did all of the talking, not wanting or waiting for an answer.
A youngish, handsome man he was, with graying temples and keenly observant eyes. The instant he saw Moonson he started to talk.
"Welcome, stranger," he said. "Been taking a dip in the ocean, eh? Can't say I'd enjoy it, this late in the season!"
Moonson was afraid at first that his silence might discourage the writer, but he did not know writers ...
"It's good to have someone to talk to," the writer went on. "I've been sitting here all day trying to write. I'll tell you something you may not know--you can go to the finest hotels, and you can open case after case of the finest wine, and you still can't get started sometimes."
The writer's face seemed suddenly to age. Fear came into his eyes and he raised the bottle to his lips, faced away from his guest as he drank as if ashamed of what he must do to escape despair every time he faced his fear.
He was trying to write himself back into fame. His greatest moment had come years before when his golden pen had glorified a generation of madcaps.
For one deathless moment his genius had carried him to the heights, and a white blaze of publicity had given him a halo of glory. Later had come lean and bitter years until finally his reputation dwindled like a gutted candle in a wintry room at midnight.
He could still write but now fear and remorse walked with him and would give him no peace. He was cruelly afraid most of the time.
Moonson listened to the writer's thoughts in heart-stricken silence--thoughts so tragic they seemed out of keeping with the natural and beautiful rhythms of his speech. He had never imagined that a sensitive and imaginative man--an artist--could be so completely abandoned by the society his genius had helped to enrich.
Back and forth the writer paced, baring his inmost thoughts ... His wife was desperately ill and the future looked completely black. How could he summon the strength of will to go on, let alone to write?
He said fiercely, "It's all right for you to talk--"
He stopped, seeming to realize for the first time that the big man sitting in an easy chair by the window had made no attempt to speak.
It seemed incredible, but the big man had listened in complete silence, and with such quiet assurance that his silence had taken on an eloquence that inspired absolute trust.
He had always known there were a few people like that in the world, people whose sympathy and understanding you could take for granted. There was a fearlessness in such people which made them stand out from the crowd, stone-markers in a desert waste to lend assurance to a tired wayfarer by its sturdy permanence, its sun-mirroring strength.
There were a few people like that in the world but you sometimes went a lifetime without meeting one. The big man sat there smiling at him, calmly exuding the serenity of one who has seen life from its tangled, inaccessible roots outward and testifies from experience that the entire growth is sound.
The writer stopped pacing suddenly and drew himself erect. As he stared into the big man's eyes his fears seemed to fade away. Confidence returned to him like the surge of the sea in great shining waves of creativeness.
He knew suddenly that he could lose himself in his work again, could tap the bright resonant bell of his genius until its golden voice rang out through eternity. He had another great book in him and it would get written now. It would get written ...
"You've helped me!" he almost shouted. "You've helped me more than you know. I can't tell you how grateful I am to you. You don't know what it means to be so paralyzed with fright that you can't write at all!"
The Man from Time was silent but his eyes shone curiously.
The writer turned to a bookcase and removed a volume in a faded cover that had once been bright with rainbow colors. He sat down and wrote an inscription on the flyleaf.
Then he rose and handed the book to his visitor with a slight bow. He was smiling now.
"This was my first-born!" he said.
The Man from Time looked at the title first ... THIS SIDE OF PARADISE.
Then he opened the book and read what the author had written on the flyleaf: With warm gratefulness for a courage which brought back the sun.
F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Moonson bowed his thanks, turned and left the cabin.
Morning found him walking across fresh meadowlands with the dew glistening on his bare head and broad, straight shoulders.
They'd never find him, he told himself hopelessly. They'd never find him because Time was too vast to pinpoint one man in such a vast waste of years. The towering crests of each age might be visible but there could be no returning to one tiny insignificant spot in the mighty ocean of Time.
As he walked his eyes searched for the field and the winding road he'd followed into town. Only yesterday this road had seemed to beckon and he had followed, eager to explore an age so primitive that mental communication from mind to mind had not yet replaced human speech.
Now he knew that the speech faculty which mankind had long outgrown would never cease to act as a barrier between himself and the men and women of this era of the past. Without it he could not hope to find complete understanding and sympathy here.
He was still alone and soon winter would come and the sky grow cold and empty ...
The Time machine materialized so suddenly before him that for an instant his mind refused to accept it as more than a torturing illusion conjured up by the turbulence of his thoughts. All at once it towered in his path, bright and shining, and he moved forward over the dew-drenched grass until he was brought up short by a joy so overwhelming that it seemed to him that his heart must burst.
Rutella emerged from the machine with a gay little laugh, as if his stunned expression was the most amusing in the world.
"Hold still and let me kiss you, darling," her mind said to his.
She stood in the dew-bright grass on tiptoe, her sleek dark hair falling to her shoulders, an extraordinarily pretty girl to be the wife of a man so tormented.
"You found me!" his thoughts exulted. "You came back alone and searched until you found me!"