This one did, he saw, kneeling down and peering inside. A lovely back doorway, rimmed with shimmering blue. It framed a familiar vista, in the foreground of which a familiar green-rosebush stood. Beneath the rosebush Zarathustra sat, wagging his tail.
It was a tight squeeze, but Philip made it. He even managed to get his suitcase through. And just in time too, for hardly had he done so when the doorway began to flicker. Now it was on its way out, and as he watched, it faded into transparency and disappeared.
He crawled from beneath the rosebush and stood up. The day was bright and warm, and the position of the sun indicated early morning or late afternoon. No, not sun--suns. One of them was a brilliant blue-white orb, the other a twinkling point of light.
He set off across the plain in Zarathustra's wake. He had a speech already prepared, and when Judith met him at the gate with wide and wondering eyes, he delivered it without preamble. "Judith," he said, "I am contemptuous of the notion that some things are meant to be and others aren't, and I firmly believe in my own free will; but when your dog stows away in the back seat of my car two times running and makes it impossible for me not to see you again, then there must be something afoot which neither you nor I can do a thing about. Whatever it is, I have given in to it and have transferred your real estate to an agent more trustworthy than myself. I know you haven't known me long, and I know I'm not an accepted member of your group, but maybe somebody will give me a job raking lawns or washing windows or hoeing corn long enough for me to prove that I am not in the least antisocial; and maybe, in time, you yourself will get to know me well enough to realize that while I have a weakness for blondes who look like Grecian goddesses, I have no taste whatever for redheads, brunettes, or Cutty Sark. In any event, I have burned my bridges behind me, and whether I ever become a resident of Pfleugersville or not, I have already become a resident of Sirius XXI."
Judith Darrow was silent for some time. Then, "This morning," she said, "I wanted to ask you to join us, but I couldn't for two reasons. The first was your commitment to sell our houses, the second was my bitterness toward men. You have eliminated the first, and the second seems suddenly inane." She raised her eyes. "Philip, please join us. I want you to."
Zarathustra, whose real name was Siddenon Phenphonderill, left them standing there in each other's arms and trotted down the street and out of town. He covered the ground in easy lopes that belied his three hundred and twenty-five years, and soon he arrived at the Meeting Place. The mayors of the other villages had been awaiting him since early morning and were shifting impatiently on their haunches. When he clambered up on the rostrum they extended their audio-appendages and retractile fingers and accorded him a round of applause. He extended his own "hands" and held them up for silence, then, retracting them again, he seated himself before the little lectern and began his report, the idiomatic translation of which follows forthwith: "Gentlemen, my apologies for my late arrival. I will touch upon the circumstances that were responsible for it presently.
"To get down to the matter uppermost in your minds: Yes, the experiment was a success, and if you will use your psycho-transmutative powers to remodel your villages along the lines my constituents and I remodeled ours and to build enough factories to give your 'masters' that sense of self-sufficiency so essential to their well-being, and if you will 'plant' your disassembled Multiple Mobius-Knot Dynamos in such a way that the resultant fields will be ascribed to accidental causes, you will have no more trouble attracting personnel than we did. Just make sure that your 'masters' quarters are superior to your own, and that you behave like dogs in their presence. And when you fabricate your records concerning your mythical departed masters, see to it that they do not conflict with the records we fabricated concerning ours. It would be desirable indeed if our Sirian-human society could be based on less deceitful grounds than these, but the very human attitude we are exploiting renders this impossible at the moment. I hate to think of the resentment we would incur were we to reveal that, far from being the mere dogs we seem to be, we are capable of mentally transmuting natural resources into virtually anything from a key to a concert hall, and I hate even more to think of the resentment we would incur were we to reveal that, for all our ability in the inanimate field, we have never been able to materialize so much as a single blade of grass in the animate field, and that our reason for coincidentalizing the planet Earth and creating our irresistible little utopias stems not from a need for companionship but from a need for gardeners. However, you will find that all of this can be ironed out eventually through the human children, with whom you will be thrown into daily contact and whom you will find to possess all of their parents' abiding love for us and none of their parents' superior attitude toward us. To a little child, a dog is a companion, not a pet; an equal, not an inferior--and the little children of today will be the grown-ups of tomorrow.
"To return to the circumstances that occasioned my late arrival: I ... I must confess, gentlemen, that I became quite attached to the 'mistress' into whose house I sought entry when we first established our field and who subsequently adopted me when I convinced her real dog that he would find greener pastures elsewhere. So greatly attached did I become, in fact, that when the opportunity of ostracizing her loneliness presented itself, I could not refrain from taking advantage of it. The person to whom she was most suited and who was most suited to her appeared virtually upon her very doorstep; but in her stubbornness and in her pride she aggravated rather than encouraged him, causing him to rebel against the natural attraction he felt toward her. I am happy to report that, by means of a number of subterfuges--the final one of which necessitated the use of our original doorway--I was able to set this matter right, and that these two once-lonely people are about to embark upon a relationship which in their folklore is oftentimes quaintly alluded to by the words, 'They lived happily ever after.'
"And now, gentlemen, the best of luck to you and your constituents, and may you end up with servants as excellent as ours. I hereby declare this meeting adjourned."