She shuddered visibly. “But the scientists… ?” she said.
“Their reaction is a different matter. The explosion of human knowledge has accelerated to the point where even the most brilliant can’t cope with it any more. Theories have rigidified into dogma just as they did in the Middle Ages. The leading experts feel obligated to protect their creed against the heretics. Right?”
“That certainly fits in Dad’s case,” Kate said, nodding and biting her lip. “But—well, he proved his point! Bagheera’s evidence, if nothing else.”
“He wasn’t an isolated success, was he?”
“Hell, no. But the only one Dad was able to save from being sold to the big circus at Quemadura. It was just getting started then, and people were investing a lot of money in it and—Say, look there!” They were passing a patch of level grass where two young children were lying asleep on a blanket. Beside them was a dog the same type and color as Natty Bumppo but smaller, a bitch. She was gazing levelly at the strangers; one corner of her upper lip was curled to show sharp white teeth, and she was uttering a faint—as it were a questioning—growl.
Now she rose, the hair on her spine erect, and approached them. They stopped dead.
“Hello,” Kate said, with a hint of nervousness. “We’re new here. But we’ve just been to call on Ted, and he and Suzy say we can live in the old Thorgrim house.”
“Kate, you can’t seriously expect a dog to understand a complex—” He broke off, dumbfounded. For the bitch had promptly wagged her tail. Smiling, Kate held out her hand to be smelt. After a moment he copied her.
The dog pondered a while, then nodded in an entirely human fashion, and turned her head to show that on the collar she wore there was a plaque with a few words stamped on it.
“Brynhilde,” Kate read aloud. “And you belong to some people called Josh and Lorna Treves. Well, how do you do, Brynhilde?” Solemn, the dog offered each of them her right paw, then returned to her guard duty. They walked on.
“Now do you believe me?” Kate murmured.
“Yes, damn it, I have to. But how on earth could a bunch of your father’s dogs have found their way here?”
“Like the mayor said, they probably escaped from a research station and went looking for a good home. Several centers had dogs bred by Dad. Say, I wonder how much further it is to Great Circle Course. Can we have come too far? No street names are marked up anywhere.”
“I noticed. That’s of a piece with everything else. Helps to force you back from the abstract set to the reality. Of course it’s something that can only work in a small community, but—well, how many thousands of streets have you passed along without registering anything but the name? I think that’s one of the forces driving people to distraction. One needs solid perceptual food same as one needs solid nutriment; without it, you die of bulk-hunger. There’s an intersection, see?” They hurried the last few paces, and—”
“Oh, Sandy!” Kate’s voice was a gusty sigh. “Sandy, can this possibly be right? It’s not a house, it’s a piece of sculpture! And it’s beautiful!”
After a long and astonished silence he said to the air, “Well, thank you!” And in a fit of exuberance swept her off her feet and carried her over the not-exactly-a-threshold.
THE LOGICALITY OF LIKING “I wonder what made you like Precipice so much,” Freeman muttered.
“I’d have thought it was obvious. The people there have got right what those at Tarnover got completely wrong.”
“To me it sounds like the regular plug-in life-style. You arrive, you take on a house that’s spare and waiting, you—”
“No, no, no!” In a crescendo. “The first thing we found when we walked in was a note from the former occupier, Lars Thorgrim, explaining that he and his family had had to move away because his wife had developed a disease needing regular radiation therapy so they had to live closer to a big hospital. Otherwise they’d never have moved because they’d been so happy in the house, and they hoped that the next people to use it would feel the same. And both their children sent love and kisses. That’s not the plug-in life-style, whose basis consists in leaving behind nothing of yourself when you move on.”
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