After Golden had gone out, she found her son in the counting-room going through ledgers. She looked at the pages. Long, long lists of names and numbers, debts and credits, profits and losses.

“Di,” she said, and he looked up. His face was still round and a bit peachy, though the bones were heavier and the eyes were melancholy.

“I didn’t mean to hurt Father’s feelings,” he said.

“If he wants a party, he’ll have it,” she said. Their voices were alike, being in the higher register but dark-toned, and held to an even quietness, contained, restrained. She perched on a stool beside his at the high desk.

“I can’t,” he said, and stopped, and went on, “I really don’t want to have any dancing.”

“He’s matchmaking,” Tuly said, dry, fond.

“I don’t care about that.”

“I know you don’t.”

“The problem is…”

“The problem is the music,” his mother said at last.

He nodded.

“My son, there is no reason,” she said, suddenly passionate, “there is no reason why you should give up everything you love!”

He took her hand and kissed it as they sat side by side.

“Things don’t mix,” he said. “They ought to, but they don’t. I found that out. When I left the wizard, I thought I could be everything. You know—do magic, play music, be Father’s son, love Rose…. It doesn’t work that way. Things don’t mix.”

“They do, they do,” Tuly said. “Everything is hooked together, tangled up!”

“Maybe things are, for women. But I…I can’t be double-hearted.”

“Double-hearted? You? You gave up wizardry because you knew that if you didn’t, you’d betray it.”

He took the word with a visible shock, but did not deny it.

“But why did you give up music?”

“I have to have a single heart. I can’t play the harp while I’m bargaining with a mule-breeder. I can’t sing ballads while I’m figuring what we have to pay the pickers to keep ‘em from hiring out to Lowbough!” His voice shook a little now, a vibrato, and his eyes were not sad, but angry.

“So you put a spell on yourself,” she said, “just as that wizard put one on you. A spell to keep you safe. To keep you with the mule-breeders, and the nut-pickers, and these.” She struck the ledger full of lists of names and figures, a flicking, dismissive tap. “A spell of silence,” she said.

After a long time the young man said, “What else can I do?”

“I don’t know, my dear. I do want you to be safe. I do love to see your father happy and proud of you. But I can’t bear to see you unhappy, without pride! I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. Maybe for a man it’s only one thing ever. But I miss hearing you sing.”

She was in tears. They hugged, and she stroked his thick, shining hair and apologized for being cruel, and he hugged her again and said she was the kindest mother in the world, and so she went off. But as she left she turned back a moment and said, “Let him have the party, Di. Let yourself have it.”

“I will,” he said, to comfort her.

GOLDEN ordered the beer and food and fireworks, but Diamond saw to hiring the musicians.

“Of course I’ll bring my band,” Tarry said, “fat chance I’d miss it! You’ll have every tootler in the west of the world here for one of your dad’s parties.”

“You can tell ‘em you’re the band that’s getting paid.”

“Oh, they’ll come for the glory,” said the harper, a lean, long-jawed, wall-eyed fellow of forty. “Maybe you’ll have a go with us yourself, then? You had a hand for it, before you took to making money. And the voice not bad, if you’d worked on it.”

“I doubt it,” Diamond said.

“That girl you liked, witch’s Rose, she’s tuning about with Labby, I hear. No doubt they’ll come by.”

“I’ll see you then,” said Diamond, looking big and handsome and indifferent, and walked off.

“Too high and mighty these days to stop and talk,” said Tarry, “though I taught him all he knows of harping. But what’s that to a rich man?”

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Categories: Ursula K. Le Guin