He pointed as to a manger. The medical Searcher looked, expecting a mother, crib, and holy babe by the way Wetherby gestured and cried:

“There she be!”

“Is it female, then?”

“Come to think, she is!”

And there in the candlelight was Wetherby’s mechanical pride.

Dr. Goff coughed, to hide his chagrin.

“That, sir, is but a metal frame!”

“But what a frame to hold velocities! Ha!”

And the old man, young with fevers, rushed to seize a largish wheel which he transported to fit to the front part of the frame. Then he fetched yet another circular object to fit into the frame’s rear.

“Well?” he cried.

“I see two wheels, half a cart, and no horse!”

“We will shoot all horses!” exclaimed Wetherby. “My invention, by the tens of thousands, will shy off all horses and banish manures. Do you know, each day in London a thousand tons of horse clods must be cleared, fertilizer wasted, not spread on neighbor fields but dumped as sludge down-Thames. God, how I talk!”

“But, sir, continue. Those look to be spinning wheels, borrowed from nearby farms?”

“They are, but spliced and strengthened with metal to sustain” – Wetherby touched himself – “one hundred twenty pounds. And here’s the saddle for that weight.” Whereupon he fitted a saddle mid-frame. “And here the stirrups and ribbon to run the back wheel.” So saying, he affixed a longish leather ribbon to one stirrup’s rotary and tightened it on a spool at the rear.

“Do you begin to perceive, Doctor?”

“I am stranded in ignorance, sir.

“Well, then, be alert, for I now enthrone myself.”

And the old man, light as a chimpanzee, slung himself in place on a leather seat mid-frame between the silent spinning wheels.

“I still see no horse, sir.”

“I am the horse, Doctor. I am the horse a-gallop!”

And the old man thrust his feet in the stirrups to chum them up, around, and down; up, around, and down; as the rear wheels, provoked, did likewise, up, down, around, with a lovely hum, fastened in place on the platform planks.

“Aha.” The doctor’s face brightened. “This is a device to manufacture electrical power? Something from Benjamin Franklin’s storm-lightning notebooks?!”

“Gods, no. It could make lightnings, yes! But this, sir, not seeming one, is a horse, and I its night rider! So!”

And Wetherby pumped and wheezed, wheezed and pumped, and the rear wheels, locked in place, spun faster, faster, with a siren whine.

“All very well,” snorted the good doctor, “but the horse, if it is, and the rider, if you are, seem to be going nowhere! What will you call your machine?”

“I have had many nights and years to think.” Wetherby pumped and wheezed. “The Velocitor, perhaps.” Pumpwheeze. “Or the Precipitor, but no, that sounds as if I might be thrown from my ‘horse.’ The Galvanizer, yes? Or why not-“ Wheeze-pump. “The Landstride or Diminisher, for-“ Wheeze-pump. “It does diminish time and distance. Doctor, you know Latin, eh? So, feet to wheel, wheel run by feet name it!”

“The Elijah, your given name, sir, the Elijah.”

“But he saw a wheel way in the middle of the air and it was a wheel in a wheel, is that not so?”

“When last I was in church, yes. And you are grounded, that is plain to see. Why not Velocipede, then? Having to do with speed and the applied toe and ankle?”

“Close-on, Dr. Goff, close-on. Why do you stare so fixedly?”

“It comes to mind that great times call forth great inventions. The inventor is child to his year and day. This is not a great time for such as you and yours. Did this century call you forth as its mightiest of all men of genius?”

Old Wetherby let his machine coast for a moment and smiled.

“No, I and my Tilda here, I call her Tilda, will instead be the gravity that calls forth the century. We will influence the year, the decade, and the millennium!”

“It is hard for me to believe,” said the medical gentleman, “that you will build a road from your sill to the city on which to glide your not-inconsiderable dream.”

“Nay, Doctor, the reverse is true. The city, and the world when they know me1 and this will run a concourse here to deliver me to fame.”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray