Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

shrugged. “I sent him at once.”

Soraya clutched her mother’s hand, feeling the uncon-

trollable trembling that racked her weak body, and

railed mentally against the capriciousness of fate.

“Shall I go for Marouz?” Yana suggested.

“Thank you, but Firdausi was with me at the water-

works, and he has gone already. Not that he’ll be any

help,” Soraya added bitterly.

“You shouldn’t talk so. He’s the wisest man among us

as well as the oldest!” Yana sounded horrified.

“What use is wisdom without practical applications?

He can tell us to be duriful children and loving parents,

and we do our bestand my mother who is the kindest

of women has the quakes.” Soraya put up her hand to

wipe away a tear.

“Sssh! He’s coming now,” Yana murmured, and

turned to bow as Marouz dipped his white-bearded head

under the low lintel.

“Honour and profit upon this house,” the mage said in

a single rapid burst, and limped to a chair which Yana

brought up beside the bed. “Hmmm! Has your mother

drunk unboiled water, Soraya?”

“You think I would let her?” Soraya jumped to her

feet, appalled. “I, who work where I do? What do you

take me for?”

“Soraya, that’s unwise,” Firdausi said softly; he had

come in just behind Marouz, holding Baby Hakim’s

chubby hand.

“I don’t care!” Tears were gathering in Soraya’s eyes

also now. “I don’t care! My mother lies sick to death,

and all he can think of is that she might have drunk un-

boiled water! What has water to do with it, anyway?

My father tended the waterworks before me, and he’d

never have let her do such a thing, and I wouldn’tand

still she has the quakes! What can water possibly have to

do with it?”

Marouz’s face went hard as stone. “We are taught by

the wisdom of the ancients” he began.

“And a fat lot of good it does us!” Soraya blazed. But

on the last word she collapsed to her knees before him,

her shoulders heaving in helpless sobs.

“There, there,” Marouz said, giving her an awkward

pat on top of the head. “These things are sent to try us,

daughter. We do what we can, but we are still far from

understanding all life’s mysteries. When you grow as old

as Iwhich may you do!you’ll have learned patience

with the inescapable.”

“I’m sorry,” Soraya choked out. “But I love my

mother, and she’s done so much for me . . . Is there no

help you can give?”

“Spiritual comfort I would offer, but I know your

mother as a fine, noble-hearted woman in small need of

my advice.” Marouz waggled his flowing beard regret-

fully. “The only counsel I can give is to you. And yon

know what that is, for I’ve suggested it before.”

“I’ve urged it on her also,” Firdausi put in. “And she

won’t listen.”

“Take my mother away from her own home, and send

her who knows where?” Soraya exclaimed. “It seems to

me soso heartless!”

“Now, now, my daughter,” Marouz soothed. “We all

hate necessity, but that’s no use. The Receivers of the

Sick are good men, full of ancient wisdom and kindly in-

tentions. Is it not better to see your mother in safe keep-

ing than lying here quivering her life away on this

narrow hard bed?”

There was silence after that blunt question, until at last

Marouz stirred. “Well, I can do no more than I’ve

done,” he said, and reached for Yana’s arm to get to his

feet. “Make your mind up quickly, Soraya the Re-

ceivers are coming to this area in a few days’ time, I

hear, and they won’t be back for months, at least.”

He hobbled out, and automatically they threw good

wishes after him in the form traditional for very old per-

sons”May good health attend you to your grave.”

Firdausi caught Yana’s eye and she took the hint.

Crossing the dirt floor to retrieve her young brother, she

said in a strained voice, “Well, I have things to see to

next door. I guess you’d like to be alone, anyway.”

The moment she was out of sight, Firdausi put his arm

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Categories: John Brunner