In the bar of The George, what should he find, as the Topick of vehement Conversation, but Bradley again. "I don't care how much glory he's brought England, he'll still have to pay for his Pints in here."
"Not likely now, is it? Poor Bugger."
"Howbeit,— he was in, don't forget, with Macclesfield and that gang, that stole the Eleven Days right off the Calendar. God may wait, for the living God's a Beast of Prey, Who waits, and may wait for years.. .yet at last, when least expected, He springs."
"Thank you, Rev,— now when do I get to sell Ale in your Chapel? Sunday be all right?"
"Nay, attend him,— the Battle-fields we know, situated in Earth's three Dimensions, have also their counterparts in Time,— and if the Popish gain advantage in Time's Reckoning, they may easily carry the Day."
"Why, that they've had, the Day and the Night as well, since 'fifty-two, when we were all taken over onto Roman Whore's Time, and lost eleven days' worth of our own."
Mason pretends to examine his shoe-buckle, trying not to sigh too heavily. Of the many Classics of Idiocy, this Idiocy of the Eleven Days has join'd the select handful that may never be escap'd. Some have held this Grudge for ten years,— not so long, as Grudges go. Now that misfor¬tune has overtaken Bradley's life, do they feel aveng'd at last? He listens to the weary Hymn once more, as he has from his father, at this moment but walking-miles distant, still asleep, soon to wake—
"So what the D——l is yerr dear Friend Dr. Bradley up t', he and his
Protectors? Stealing eleven Days? Can that be done?" It seem'd his Father had really been asking.
"No, Pa,— by Act of Parliament, September second next shall be call'd, as ever, September second,— but the day after will be known as 'September fourteenth,' and then all will go on consecutive, as before."
"But,— 'twill really be September third."
"The third by the Old Style, aye. But ev'ryone will be using the New."
"Then what of the days between? Macclesfield takes them away, and declares they never were?" With a baffled Truculence in his Phiz that made Mason equally as anxious to comfort the distress it too clearly sig-nal'd, as to avoid the shouting it too often promis'd.
"We can call Days whatever we like. Give them names,— Georgeday, Charlesday,— or Numbers, so long as ev'ryone's clear what they're to be call'd."
"Aye Son, but,— what's become of the Eleven Days? and do you even know? you're telling me they're just.. .gone?" Would he not give this up? The shins of both men began to prickle with unmediated memories of violent collisions between Leather and Bone.
"Cheer ye, Pa, for there's a bright side,— we'll arrive instantly at the fourteenth, gaining eleven days that we didn't have to live through, nor be mark'd by, nor age at all in the course of,— we'll be eleven days younger than we would've been."
"Are you daft? Won't it make my next Birthday be here that much sooner? That's eleven Days older, idiot,— older."
"No," said Mason. "Or...wait a moment,—
"I've people asking me, what Macclesfield will do with the days he is stealing, and why is Dr. Bradley helping him, and I tell them, my son will know. And I did hope you'd know."
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking." He now began to quiz himself insomniac with this, wond'ring if his father had struggl'd thus with Mason's own ear¬lier questions about the World. He invested Precious Sleep in the Ques¬tion, and saw not a Farthing's Dividend.
Mr. Swivett, approaching a facial lividity that would alarm a Physi¬cian, were one present, now proclaims, "Not only did they insult the God-given structure of the Year, they also put us on Catholic Time. French Time. We've been fighting France all our Lives, all our Fathers' Lives, France is the Enemy eternal,— why be rul'd by their Calendar?"
"Because their Philosophers and ours," explains Mr. Hailstone, "are all in League, with those in other States of Europe, and the Jesuits too, among them possessing Machines, Powders, Rays, Elixirs and such, none less than remarkable,— one, now and then, so daunting that even the Agents of Kings must stay their Hands."
"Time, ye see," says the Landlord, "is the money of Science, isn't it. The Philosophers need a Time, common to all, as Traders do a common Coinage."
"Suggesting as well an Interest, in those Events which would occur in several Parts of the Globe at the same Instant."
"Like in the Book of Revelations?"
"Like the Transit of Venus, eh Mr. Mason?"
"Yahh!" Mason jumping in surprise. "Thankee, Sir, I never heard that one before."
"Mr. Mason," appeals Mr. Swivett, "you work'd beside Dr. Bradley, at Greenwich,— did the Doctor never bring the matter up? Weren't you personally curious?"
The George is clearly the wrong place to be tonight,— no easier than at Bradley's Bed-Side,— so remains he stunn'd at having been sent away, and with such unspeakable Coldness. Yet the spirited expedition into the Deserts of Idiocy Mr. Swivett now proposes, may be just the way for Mason to evade for a bit the whole subject of Bradley's dying without ever resolving what yet lies between them. A Gleam more malicious than merry creeps into his eyes. "Years before my time, tho' of course one was bound to hear things...," producing his Pipe, pouring Claret into his Cup, and reclining in his Chair. "Aye, the infamous conspiracy 'gainst th' Eleven Days,— hum,— kept sequester'd, as they say, by the younger Macclesfield,— intern'd not as to space, but rather.. .Time."
'Twas in that Schizochronick year of '52, that Macclesfield became President of the Royal Society, continuing so for twelve more Years, till his unfortunate passing. Among the Mobility, the Post was seen as a
shameless political reward from the Walpole-Gang, for his Theft of the People's Time, and certain proof of his guilt.
"My Father required but four years as Earl of Macclesfield to bring the Name down," he complain'd to Bradley, around the time the Bill was in Committee, "descending thro' Impeachment, thro' Confinement in the Tower, into a kind of popular Attainder,— for the People are now all too ready to believe me a Thief as well. Would that I might restore to them their Days, and be done! Throw them open the Gates of Shirburn Castle, lay on the Barrels of Ale, and Sides of Beef, appear upon a Battlement with mystickal Machines, solemnly set back two hundred sixty-four Hours the hands of the Castle Clock, and declare again the Day its ancient Numbering, to general Huzzahs,— alas, with all that, who in G-d's Name among them could want eleven more Days? of what? the fur¬ther chance that something else dreadful will happen, in a Life of already unbearable misfortune?"
"Yet we are mortal," whisper'd Bradley. "Would you spit, my Lord, truly, upon eleven more Days?" He laugh'd carefully. His eyes, ordinar¬ily protuberant, were lately shadow'd and cowl'd. Macclesfield regarded his Employee,— for they were master and servant in this as in all else,— briefly, before resuming.
"My people are from Leek, in Staffordshire. For a while, during the summer, the sun sets behind one edge of Cloud Hill, reappears upon the other side, and sets again. I grew up knowing the Sun might set twice,— what are eleven missing days to me?"
Bradley, distracted, forgot to laugh at this pretty Excursion. "What happen'd when you discover'd the rest of the World accustom'd to seeing it set but once, Milord?"
Macclesfield star'd vacantly, his face gone in the Instant to its own Commission'd Portrait,— a response to unwelcome speech perfected by the Class to which he yet aspir'd. Bradley might never have spoken.
Below them the lamps were coming on in the Taverns, the wind was shaking the Plantations of bare Trees, the River ceasing to reflect, as it began to absorb, the last light of the Day. They were out in Greenwich Park, walking near Lord Chesterfield's House,— the Autumn was well advanced, the trees gone to Pen-Strokes and Shadows in crippl'd Plexity, bath'd in the declining light. A keen Wind flow'd about them. Down the
Hill-side, light in colors of the Hearth was transmitted by window-panes more and less optickally true. Hounds bark'd in the Forest.
Bradley was fifty-nine that year, Macclesfield four years younger, calling him James this, James that. The older man was in perpetual bad health, did not hunt, ride, nor even fish, had married foolishly, had been entirely purchas'd long ago, Aberration, Nutation, Star Catalogue, and all, tho' he'd denied it successfully to himself.... "Ev'ryone lies, James, each appropriate to his place in the Chain.... We who rule must tell great Lies, whilst ye lower down need only lie a little bit. This is yet another thankless sacrifice we make for you, so that you may not have to feel as much Remorse as we do,— as we must. Part of noblesse oblige, as you might say.. .is it so strange that the son of a lawyer who bought and then destroy'd in shame a once-honorable Title, should seek refuge in star¬gazing? They betray us not, nor ever do they lie,— they are pure Mathe-sis. Unless they be Moons or Planets, possessing Diameter, each exists as but a dimensionless Point,— a simple pair of Numbers, Right Ascen¬sion and Declination....Numbers that you Men of Science are actually
paid, out of the Purses of Kings, to find."
"Fret not, Milord," replied Bradley, as if he were being paid to soothe the Patron, "— among Brother Lenses, all are welcome."
"Can you warrant me, that you did just now not insult me, James?"
Bradley imagin'd he caught a certain playfulness of Tone, but was unsure how much to wager upon that. "I have listen'd to my Lord insult himself for this last Hour,— why should I wish to join in, especially con¬sidering the respect I hold him in?"
"As a Lensman only, of course."
"You make it difficult."
They trudg'd thro' fallen Oak Leaves that sail'd and stirr'd about their Calves. They smell'd Chimney-Smoke. Blasted Autumn, invader of old Bones.
"Here," Mason explains to a small Audience at The George, "purely, as who might say, dangerously, was Time that must be denied its freedom to elapse. As if, for as long as The Days lay frozen, Mortality itself might present no claims. The Folk for miles around could sense a Presence,— something altogether too frightening for any of the regular servants at Shirburn Castle to go near. Macclesfield had to hire Strangers from far, far to the east."
His Lordship, as Mason relates, requir'd a People who liv'd in quite another relation to Time,— one that did not, like our own, hold at its heart the terror of Time's passage,— far more preferably, Indifference to it, pure and transparent as possible. The Verbs of their language no more possessing tenses, than their Nouns Case-Endings,— for these People remain'd as careless of Sequences in Time as disengaged from Subjects, Objects, Possession, or indeed anything which might among Englishmen require a Preposition.
"As to Gender,— well, Dear me but that's something else again entirely, isn't it, aye and damme if it isn't— Howbeit,— thro' the good Offices of an Hungarian Intermediary,—
Protest from all in the Company.
"Hey? Genders? Very well,— of Genders they have three,— Male, Female, and the Third Sex no one talks about,— Dead. What, then, you may be curious to know, are the emotional relations between Male and Dead, Female and Dead, Dead and Dead? Eh? Just so. What of love tri¬angles? Do they automatically become Quadrilaterals? With Death no longer in as simple a way parting us, no longer the Barrier nor Sanction that it was, what becomes of Marriage Vows,— how must we redefine Being Faithful... ?" By which he means (so the Revd, who was there in but a representational sense, ghostly as an imperfect narrative to be told in futurity, would have guess'd) that Rebekah's visits at St. Helena, if sexual, were profoundly like nothing he knew,— whilst she assum'd that he well understood her obligations among the Dead, and would respond ever as she wish'd. Yet how would he? being allow'd no access to any of those mil¬lion'd dramas among the Dead. They were like the Stars to him,— unable to project himself among their enigmatic Gatherings, he could but observe thro' a mediating Instrument. The many-Lens'd Rebekah.
"Thro' the Efforts of Count Paradicsom, in any Case, a Band of these Aliens the Size of a Regiment, were presently arriv'd in Gloucestershire.
Bless us. Nothing like it since the Druids. They march'd in through the Castle gates playing upon enormous Chimes of Crystal Antimony, and trumpets fashion'd from the Bones of ancient Species found lying upon the great unbroken Plain where they dwell, their Music proceeding, not straight-ahead like an English marching-tune, but rather wandering unpredictably, with no clear beginning, nor end."
"A sturdy sort of Armor head to toe, woven of the low Desert Shrubs of their Land."
"Ah, military chaps,— imposing, as you'd say?"
"Asiatick Pygmies," Mason says, "actually. Yet despite their stature, any Mob would have thought twice about challenging their right to colo¬nize th' Eleven Days.
"Their Commission, that is, their Charter if you like, directed them to inhabit the Days, yet not to allow the Time to elapse. They were expected to set up Households, Farms, Villages, Mills,— an entire Plantation in Time."
"And say, do they live there yet? or, rather, 'then'? and have any of the days elaps'd, despite these enigmatick Gaolers?"
"Now and then, a traveler's report.... Geographickally, they're by now diffus'd ev'rywhere obedient to the New-Style Act,— some to America, some out to India,— vacant India! return'd unto wild Dogs and Ser¬pents... the breeze off the Hoogli, blowing past the empty door-way of a certain...Black Hole?— and wherever they are, temporally, eleven days to the Tick behind us. Tis all an Eden there, Lads, and only they inhabit it, they and their Generations. 'Tis their great Saga,— the Pygmies' Dis¬covery of Great Britain. Arriv'd they cannot say how, nor care, they sleep in our beds, live in our Rooms, eat from our Dishes what we have left in the Larders, finish our Bottles, play with our Cards and upon our Instru¬ments, squat upon our Necessaries,— the more curious of them ever pursuing us, as might Historians of Times not yet come, by way of the clues to our lives that they find in Objects we have surrender'd to the Day, or been willing to leave behind at its End,— to them a mystery Nation, relentlessly being 'British,' a vast Hive of Ghosts not quite van-ish'd into Futurity...."
"Aye and recall," Mason's Phiz but precariously earnest, "where you were, eleven days ago,— saw you anyone really foreign about? Very short, perhaps? Even...Oriental in Aspect?"
"Well,— well yes, now that you,— " recalls Mr. Hailstone, "right out in Parliament-Street, it was, a strange little fellow, head shaved ev'ry-where, red damask robes with gold embellishments, what could in the right circs be call'd a fashionable Hat, a sort of squat Obelisk,— and as cryptickally inscrib'd. Not that I paid all that much Attention, of course, tho' a good number of Citizens, themselves by way of Brims and Cock¬ades displaying Headgear Messages a-plenty, were loitering about, try¬ing to decipher this Stranger's Hat.. .the odd thing was, he didn't pay any of us the least heed. Imagine. Stroud Macaronis pok'd at him with their Sticks, Irish servants pass'd Leprechaun remarks, respectable Matrons of the town ventur'd to chuck him under the Chin. All reported a sur¬prizing transparency, some a many-color'd Twinkling about the Fringes of his Figure."
"Of course,— for you saw him as he was, in the relative Vacuum of his Plantation,— whilst he, for his Part, believ'd you all to be prankish Ghosts he must not acknowledge, fearing who knows what mental harm. You haunted each other."
"Thus, from the Cargo of Days, having broken Eleven, precious, untranspir'd, for his Masters to use as they will, having withal conspir'd to deliver our Land unto these strange alien Pygmies, stands Bradley tonight, before the Lord's Assizes, his Soul in the gravest Peril, let us pray," and Revd Cromorne proceeds to what we in the Trade call Drop the Transom, voice falling to a whisper, Eyelids fluttering over Eyeballs of increas'd Albedo, Do excuse me, I'm talking to God here, be with ye as soon as we're done,—
Is Mason going to get angry and into a fight? Will he stand and announce, "This is none of God's judgment,— to be offended as gravely by Calendar Reform as by Mortal Sin, requires a meanness of spirit quite out of the reach of any known Deity,— tho' well within the resources of Stroud, it seems." And walk out thro' their stunn'd ranks to the Embrace of the Night, and never enter the place again? No.— He buys ev'ryone another Pint, instead, and resigns himself to seeking out his Family tomorrow,— tho' sure Agents of Melancholy, they sooner or later feel regretful for it, whilst Regret is just the sort of Sentiment that regular life at The George depends on having no part of. The Landlord is kind and forthright, the Ale as good as any in Britain, the Defenestration of the Clothiers in '56 has inscrib'd the place forever in Legend, and Good Eggs far outnumber Bad Hats,— yet so dismal have these late Hours in it been for Mason, as to make him actually look forward to meeting his Relations again.