Dikar put Marilee down on the bed, and Martha Dawson was beside the bed. Her hand took hold of Marilee's wrist and she seemed to be listening for something, and then she smiled and said, "Her pulse is strong." She put her hand on Marilee's forehead, and said, "She has no fever at all."
Dikar didn't know what the words meant, but he knew that Martha Dawson meant that Marilee would be all right, and breath hissed from between his teeth. "Martha," John said. "You'd better go down and make some hot water to wash her with, and bring it up with the iodine and bandages. You ought to have light on down there anyway, or our sweet guardian might start wondering what you're up to."
Martha (the man called her that, Dikar noticed, instead of the longer Martha Dawson) looked queerly at John. "Our guardian won't notice anything," she said. "He's dead. This young man killed him."
"Ah," John nodded. "That means trouble, of course. Well, we can only hope and pray as we've done all along. Go on, my dear."
He moved, and there was darkness again. Dikar heard the boxdoor open and shut. The light came back, and Dikar was peering around the room, so much in it strange to him.
There was the bed on which Marilee lay and a little table in the middle of the room, and a little bench with a back. The wall of the room in which was the door was covered with things Dikar vaguely recalled were named "books." The roof slanted down to the wall opposite this, and this was low except for a narrow space where it was built higher to make space for a window, but the window was covered over with a gay-colored, thick rug so that Dikar couldn't see them.
But it was at the fourth wall at which Dikar stared longest. A narrow table along the full width of this. Under the table were a lot of small black boxes, and on top of it was a jumble of wires and black boards standing up and lying down, and round things marked with little white lines, and a lot of shining things like what hung from the ceiling and made light in the room. In the middle of the wall above the table was something that Dikar recognized.
It was from a thing like it that the Voice in Dikar's dream had come, the Voice that had spoken about the dusk that had come to America, and the tomorrow that might never be. Dikar remembered the name of this thing, and said it aloud.
"A radio," he said.
"Yes," John said. "And now you know that you're in one of the stations of the Secret Net." His hands went wide. "The oldest of them, my friend. Five years I've operated it from here, five long years since I escaped from a concentration camp and in all the five years I have not seen the sun. In those five years I have had from that loud speaker"--he pointed to the thing on the wall that Dikar had recognized--"news of the unearthing of hundreds of our stations, news of the death of hundreds of our co-workers. Time and time again that speaker has brought me word that we were almost ready to rise against the invaders, and time and time again it has brought me word that they had found our leaders and hung them, and that all the work was to be done over again.
"Yes," John said. "This is the oldest of the stations, now that at last Ed Stone's gone, and I am the luckiest of the agents of the Secret Net, but tonight, my friend, I somehow have a feeling that my luck has run out. Perhaps that is only because I am tired and hungry, for Martha dares not bring me food until dark. They do not, I know, suspect that I am here, but they know I am alive, somewhere, and always they keep a sentry, out there in the woods, watching my wife and waiting for me to contact her." He smiled, and his smile was bitter. "That is why they have permitted her so long to live on here, unmolested. But I must hear your story. I thought that the prison camps were now too well guarded for anyone to escape from them. How did you and your wife manage it? What camp do you come from?"
Dikar shook his head. "We come from no camp. I don't even know what you mean by that word, camp."
"You--you don't-! You're American, aren't you?"
"Yes," Dikar said. "We are American." He knew, without just knowing how, that he could talk to this man freely and that it was important that he talk to him. "We come from the Mountain, off there beyond those woods."
And then Dikar went on to tell John about the Bunch, and about how they came to live on the Mountain, and about their life there.
John listened without interrupting, except to ask a low-toned question or two, when Dikar stopped, and soon after Dikar started talking, Martha came in and listened too, while she tended Marilee. Dikar told about his dream, and how he had come down into this far land and seen what went on here, and how he had gone back to the Mountain.
"I knew then that somehow, sometime, I must lead the Bunch down off the Mountain and try to take back this land for America," he came near the end of his story. "But I could not think how we few could do anything against the black and yellow men when you who are so many could do nothin' against them. Perhaps you can tell me, John?"
"Perhaps I can," John said, his eyes shining. "I must think. But you did come down again to us, Dikar." (Dikar had told them his name.) "And without any plans. Why did you do that?"
Dikar told him about Tomball, and what Tomball had done, and how Tomball died.
"There you are," John turned to Martha. "There's the innate depravity of human nature for you. Here are these youngsters who were isolated from the world when the oldest of them was only eight, who grew up together in such an ideal communion as man has not known since Eden, and yet a renegade turns up among them who would sacrifice them all because his personal ambitions were thwarted. Doesn't that make you despair, my dear?"
"No!" Martha answered, her hands still busy with Marilee. "No, John. Because if Dikar's story has in it one black-souled renegade, it also has in it forty who have worked for one another and lived for one another, sweetly and unselfishly, from childhood to young man--and womanhood. Because it has in it courage and loyalty and self-sacrifice and love that was not taught out of books. Despair, John? No. Dikar's story gives me new hope, new courage."
John moved to Martha, where she knelt by Marilee's bedside, and laid his hand on her head. "I'm wrong, Martha. You are wiser than I. Far wiser--" Just then Marilee stirred, and her eyes opened.
"Dikar," she whispered. Then, fright in her voice: "Dikar!"
Dikar leaped to her. "It's all right, Marilee. Everything is all right. We've found fr--"
"Hush," John broke in. "Quiet. Listen." At once the room was throbbing with silence.
Into that silence, well-muffled, came the sound of men's voices, shouts. "The patrol's here," John said low-voiced. "They're looking for the sentry you killed. You'd better get downstairs quick, Martha. They might come to ask you about him."
Martha was on her feet, her face set, her hands trembling. John's arm went around her, and he was holding her close to him. He was saying something Dikar could not quite make out, and then they were apart and Martha was going toward the door, straight, trembling no longer. The light went out, and the door opened and closed.
"Let's take a look outside," Dikar heard John say, and he heard him moving in the darkness. Then there was pale light in the darkness, starlight breaking the blackness of a wall, John's hand blotching it as it held aside that which hung over the window.
Dikar darted across the floor and was pressed against John, looking out.
Just below was the smaller roof Dikar had seen from the woods, and below that, yellow light lay on the ground. Down at the bottom of the hill, bright lights danced in the yellow grass and on the brush and trees at the edge of the woods. Black against these lights were the forms of men, and it was from these men that the shouting came.
"Look," John whispered, "there in the wheat." Dikar saw the black shape of his finder pointing, and looked in the direction the finger pointed.
Where the finger pointed, in the middle of the field, was one man who did not move. The arm held a light, and the light was on his face, and Dikar could see that the face was round and yellow. The mouth of that face was a straight, thin line and the eyes were slanted slits in the yellow skin, and there was a look on the face that made Dikar afraid.
"That's Captain Li Logo," John said. "He's provost for this district. He's shrewd as a fox and cruel as a tiger. It's hard luck that he had to come along with the patrol, on this night of all nights."
Dikar felt Marilee press against him from behind. "Go back to bed, sweet," he said. "You'll hurt yourself more."
"I'm all right, Dikar," Marilee whispered. "I feel fine. And I want to see too."
A louder shout came through the window. "They found the body," John said quietly but, pressed against him, Dikar could feel that now he was trembling.
The lights moved together, clustering at one place just at the edge of the woods. Captain Logo went down to where the lights clustered, and the babble of shouts from there stopped, and all Dikar could hear was a single high-pitched voice.
"I'll open the window," John said, "if you'll let me get at it." Dikar and Marilee moved back a little.
"Are you sure you're feelin' all right?" Dikar whispered under cover of a scraping noise in front of them.
"Sure. The woman gave me something to drink, before I quite woke up, and it's made me all warm inside, and strong again."
Cold wind came in on them, and the sounds from outside were louder, the sound of that single high-pitched voice, but Dikar could not understand what it said. Then there was another shout, hoarse like Jubal's, and a light showed within the edge of the woods, and Captain Logo went in there.
"They've found Tomball," Dikar said. "We'll soon know if we've fooled them."
Logo's high voice stopped the shouting again. The other shapes were separating. They were running back and forth in what John had called wheat, their lights shining on the yellow grass, and on their black faces. They were all dressed in green, like Jubal, and had queer round things on their heads, and they all had long guns like Jubal's.
"There are seven of them," Marilee said. "I counted."
One of the lights stopped, suddenly, and the one that carried it bent low, and straightened again, and as a shout came from him Dikar saw what the light shone on.
"Jeeze!" he grunted. "It's my bow. I forgot all about it. There was one by Tomball, so now they know there was at least one more of us."
Captain Logo came to the black who had found Dikar's bow, and he looked at it, and then he put his band to his mouth, and there was shrill sound from him. The blacks all came running to him, and clustered about him a minute, and then they were all running up the hill toward the house, their long guns in their hands, slanted across the front of them, their lights out.
"That's torn it," John said, low-toned. "They're coming to search the house, and they're certain to find this hideout. My premonition was right. My luck has run out. Well," he said, pushing back from the window. "There's only one thing left to do."
"What?" Dikar asked.
"To let them get inside," came the answer in John's tired voice, "and then push a button on this radio table, a button that will blow the house and everyone in it to pieces. If you kids are afraid to die, you can get out by this window and surrender, but I wouldn't advise it. No," he sighed. "I would not advise you to surrender to them."
"Wait," Dikar said. "Maybe--" He was still looking out and down. They had reached the house, and had stopped in front of it, and Li Logo was saying something to the black men he bossed, was waving his arms around. "Maybe something will happen to save us yet. Maybe they'll go away without searching the house."
"Not Logo," John answered. "Not when he's on the scent of something. But I'll wait as long as I dare."
Down below, the black men were separating. One moved a little away from the house and stood in the field, his gun in his two hands, looking watchfully around him. Two went one way, one another, and disappeared around the corners of the house.
"They're going to watch," Marilee whispered, "on all sides to see that nobody gets away."
An owl hooted, somewhere in the dark. The three blacks left went with Logo under the little roof that stuck out from the front of the house, and there was the sound of knocking from down there. The sound of knocking was in the room! Dikar whirled around.
"It's all right," John said. "I've just turned on the speaker system--something that lets me hear everything that happens downstairs--" He checked as another voice came into the room. It was Martha's voice.
"What shall I do, John?" she asked, very quietly.
"Let them in, dear, as we always planned," John answered her, just as quietly. "And--Martha. I'll meet you--on the Other Side."
"On the Other Side, John dear," Martha's voice came through the knocking.
There was the sound of footsteps going across the floor. There was a rattle, and the sound of knocking stopped, and Dikar heard a door open.
"Good evening, Missee Dawson," he heard Captain Logo's voice, very gentle, very smooth. "So sorry I must bother you, but I wish to come in with my men. You have no objections, of course."
"Of course I have objections, but they won't do me any good, will they?"
"Sorry, no. So very sorry." Feet trampled, many feet. Then, "Well, Missee Dawson. Where is he?"
"'He'? I don't understand."
"You understand quite well. One of my men was murdered, down there in your field, some time today. He got one of the assassins, but there was another. That other is your husband, come home at last. I want him."
"Go ahead and look for him, if you think he's here. Search the house."
"I do not wish to bother. You will call him to surrender."
"I will not."
"I think you will, Missee Dawson," and then there was a scream in Dikar's ears, a scream loud and shrill and very dreadful. "So sorry," Captain Logo hissed. "So very sorry."
: TOMORROW WILL COME.
Dikar heard that from the sill of the window on which he was crouched Marilee's hand was pulling John's hand away from the button on the radio table. "Shut the talkin' thing off." Dikar heard her whisper, as he'd told her to, and while she was telling John the rest of what Dikar had told her to, Dikar dropped to the little roof below. He crouched out there, looking down to where, quite suddenly, quite silently, the black who watched the front of the house had crumpled into the wheat.
"Hooo-" the hoot of an owl came from his lips, and "Hoooo-" came an answer from near the still, black heap in the wheat. What little sound Dikar made jumping from the roof to the ground was covered by Martha's screams inside the house. The yellow light from the house's windows glimmered on the naked brown skin of Henfield, lifting up out of the wheat to meet Dikar.
"There were four outside," Dikar whispered.
"We got 'em all," the answer came. "I took two an' Bengreen an' Danhall each took one." Two other shadowy forms rose out of the wheat beside them. "What next, Dikar?"
Dikar hooted twice, then whispered his plan. "Give me your bonarrer, Danhall," he finished. "I'm a better shot than you." He took them, turned to the open door of the house, where Martha's screams had stopped.
The door was wide and Dikar could see everybody in the room inside. One of the blacks had hold of Martha. The top part of her clothes were torn and a knife in Li Logo's hand was red-tipped, and now Martha's flesh was bleeding, but Martha and Logo and the blacks were looking at the stairs that came down out of the roof of the room, at the gray-haired man who stood halfway down the stairs, hands behind his back, tall and straight and proud.
One of the blacks held Martha and the other two pointed their long guns at John, but it was Logo who spoke to John, what he said coming clear and distinct to Dikar. "Ah, John Dawson," Captain Logo said in that soft, thin voice of his. "I thought your wife's screams would bring you out of your hole."
Once more Dikar hooted, and in the same instant he loosed the arrow, and the twang of his bow was joined by the twang of two other bows in his ears. Inside the house the three blacks crumpled to the floor, an arrow in each of their backs, and John's hand came out from behind his back and the little gun in it flashed fire, and Captain Li Logo was down on top of one of his blacks, but his head was lifted, his eyes looking hate at John.
"So sorry," John Dawson said. "So very sorry, Captain Li Logo," and his little gun flashed fire again, and Li Logo's head fell down, and he was as dead as the men he had bossed for the last time.
The cool, green-smelling dark of the woods closed around the five from the Mountain, and around John Dawson and Martha. The Bunch would have wondered, could they have seen, what strange, heavy loads they were that the Boys and John carried, and they would have wondered at the light without fire that came to life in the hand of Marilee as she followed behind Martha and the men, smoothing out such signs of their passage through the woods as she could.
"Eight rifles, nine revolvers, and all the stuff necessary to rebuild my wireless," John chuckled. "Quite a beginning for what we'll need to bring tomorrow to America, as you put it. But you did a good job with your bows and arrows, you four."
The pallid, gaunt man seemed now to have found a new vitality; he walked with the step of a young man, and the memory of horror no longer lived in his eyes.
"We did only our best," Dikar muttered, looking back uneasily. "Martha said their blacks are good trackers. Is that right, John?"
Thunder blotted out the start of John Dawson's answer, a great clap of thunder from where they'd just come, and back there the sky was lit with red light. And then the sky was black again, and the thunder had ended, and John was chuckling.
"Yes. Dikar," he said. "Their blacks are good trackers, but I doubt very much that they will be tracking us. Now you know why I had you carry all the corpses into the house. It was already mined, as you know, and I set a time-fuse before we left, and all that anyone will ever find back there will be a big, charred hole in the ground and a mass of fragments too small to be identified. It isn't the first station of the Secret Net that has been blown up during a raid, and not the first in which everyone, prisoners and raiders, have perished. That is what they will think happened there, and they will not bother to look for Martha and me, nor will they ever know you and your friends were there."
"Ah," Dikar said, and felt eased. There was yet a long way to go to the Mountain, and there was still all these people and all these things to be gotten to the top of the Drop, and the load on his shoulders was heavy, but when he thought of what they would do with the load, of all the plans John and he would make, the load and his heart were light as the feathers of a bird.
The sun struck brightness through Dikar's eyelids and woke him, and though the night had held very little sleep, he was instantly awake. He flung out his arm to waken Marilee found nothingness--remembered that he had given his place in the bed in his little house to Martha Dawson, was back again, for this night, in the Boys' House.
Dikar leaped from his cot, and all around him the flashing brown bodies of the Boys of the Bunch leaped from theirs, and there were shouts of welcome to him, but Dikar ran out of the house and through the woods toward his little house, and Marilee. He went quietly when he neared the little house, and stood in the doorway peering in, and then his heart bumped his ribs as he saw that only Martha was inside on the bed.
"Where's Marilee?" Dikar demanded. "Where's my Marilee?"
Martha smiled at him. "Come in," she said. "Come in, son, I want to give you a little piece of advice."
Dikar went in, wondering, and squatted on the floor by the bed. Martha's fleshless hand reached out and took his, and she said, very softly, "Listen son. Don't bother your Marilee mornings. And be very gentle with her, very tender."
"I am," he said. "I try always to be."
"I know," Martha answered. "But try harder now. Don't mind it if she is irritable with you, and unreasonable, and angry over trifles."
"What do you mean?" Dikar cried. "What are you talkin' about?"