Now 'tis very late, Dawn is the next event to consider, candles have been allow'd to burn all the way out, no one has uncork'd a Bottle in some while, Tenebras slumbers beneath the Canopy of the Chinese Sofa, whilst her Cousins, sprawl'd in Chairs, are intermittently awake and listening. All seems to them interrupted by Enigmata, blown thro' as by Winds it is generally better not to be out in. "What I cannot quite see to the end of," confesses Euphrenia, "is Mason's Return to America,— abruptly,— as if, unable to desert his Family again, what choice has he, this time, but to present them with the sudden voyage by sea, and carry them all to Philadelphia. Yet, what could have brought him here again?"
"Or else,— What frighten'd him away from Gloucestershire?"
"Plague? There was ever Plague. The weight of Rebekah's Ghost? How, if she were content to have him in Sapperton? Unless—
"She came at last to wish him gone? Even at the Price of knowing they would never be buried together,— as he must also have known,— yet at the end she could not abide him as he had come to be, and so she turn'd terrible, as she had ever been a shadow's Edge away from doing anyway. The fear,— the Resolve? Poor Mason. He gather'd them all with the force of his Belief,—
"Poh. 'Twas madness."
"You have look'd upon madness, have you, young 'Thelmer?”
"Any Saturday night down at the Hospital, Sir, a Spanish Dollar to the Warder purchases you more entertainment than your Ribs may bear, my Guarantee upon it."
"What! Bedlam in America! Mind yourself, lad."
When the Hook of Night is well set, and when all the Children are at last irretrievably detain'd within their Dreams, slowly into the Room begin to walk the Black servants, the Indian poor, the Irish runaways, the Chinese Sailors, the overflow'd from the mad Hospital, all uncho-sen Philadelphia,— as if something outside, beyond the cold Wind, had driven them to this extreme of seeking refuge. They bring their Scars, their Pox-pitted Cheeks, their Burdens and Losses, their fever¬ish Eyes, their proud fellowship in a Mobility that is to be, whose shape none inside this House may know. Lomax wakes, sweating, from a poi-son'd Dream. Euphrenia has ascended the back Stairs, as the former Zab Cherrycoke those in front, to Slumber. Ethelmer and DePugh, Brae and the Twins, have all vanish'd back into the Innocence of Unconsciousness now. Ives is off at his Midnight Junto,— only Mr. LeSpark and the Revd remain. The Room continues to fill up, the Dawn not to arrive.
And if it all were nought but Madmen's Sleep?
The Years we all believ'd were real and deep
As Lives, as Sorrows, bearing us each one
Blindly along our Line's relentless Run
"Who was that," Lomax LeSpark in a stuporously low-level Panick. "I know that Voice...."
"He's in here!" his brother Wade marvels. Blurry as a bat in this candle-stump flicker, "• - Damme. How's he do it? He's suppos'd to be either in Chains, or out upon the Roads. Not in this House."
"Have a Cup, Tim," the Revd offering his Brother-in-Law's best Ser-cial. "Ever fancied the opening Lines to Book One, m'self—"
"You mean," the Poet nodding in thanks, At Penn's Ascension of the Delaware, Savages from the banks covertly stare, As at the Advent of some puissant Prince, Before whom, Chaos reign'd, and Order since—"
Proceeding, then, to recite the Pennsylvaniad, sotto Voce as he wan¬ders the Room, among the others, the untold others—
"Will you be leaving before Christmas, Wicks?"
"What do I say? Your Servant, Sir."
"I meant, that I should welcome your Company, as your Mediation, in visiting with Mr. Mason's widow and Children, if they are yet in Town,
tho' I am d——'d if I can see how to do it much before Epiphany, there
being an Alarm Clock even next my Chamber-Pot, these Days."
"Thanks to the American Society, they are here, and car'd for. I have heard that Mrs. Mason will return to England with the younger Children, whilst William and Doctor Isaac will remain."
"Then I should like to meet them, in particular. Perhaps I may find a way to help."
"Brother, you have Moments."
"Aye,— we call 'em Philadelphia Minutes."
On entering Mason's Rooms at The George Tavern, Franklin is greeted by an Odor he knows and would rather not have found. He resists the impulse to take out his Watch, ever Comforter and Scripture to him. He hears Children, gather'd somewhere in their own Rectangle invisible. Mary stands before a window looking upon an Alley-way. "What a des¬perate Night it's been. I don't know if he really wants to see you, or if it's more of his Illness. He sleeps now, but he's dreaming and talking, so I expect he'll be with us soon."
"I receiv'd his Letter— Having this year been much vex'd...this godawful disintegration of Power...'twas only now,— but forgive me, Mrs. Mason,— I whine."
She sinks with a sidewise contraction of her body onto a Couch design'd more to encourage the Illusions of Youth, than to console the Certainties of Age. Outside rackets the Traffic of Second Street.
"Please excuse me if I do not immediately sit,— at eighty, it requires some advance work,— so, my Sympathies must precede me."
She manages for him a Smile, whose muscular Cost he can feel in his own Face. He leans upon his Cane. "We met in times easily as dark as these,— we transacted honorably some items of Philosophick Busi¬ness,— I put him up for Fellow in our American Society, tho' his desires were ever fix'd upon the Royal. He wanted them so to want him as a Member. We were but colonials, amusing enough in our way,— and of course he was touch'd,— yet, Philadelphia is not London."
"Upon Rebekah's Tomb-Stone he has put 'F.A.S.' after his own Name. So it means much to him. I expect you are surpriz'd, at,"— gesturing behind her as a wife might at her house, half apologizing, half welcom¬ing,— "yet 'twas over-night." One moment they were at their own Table, in from cotes and stone walls and mud lanes,— the Loaf steaming, the Dishes going 'round,— the next, they were all in some kind of great loud Waggon, bound for Southampton. Money they'd had sav'd...
"I ask'd him why, ev'ry day, till I saw it was making him worse. 'We must go to America,'— that was nearly all he'd say. He has a way of saying 'America,' in his Father's Voice. Rrr. 'We all must go togetherrr.' Is it for leaving William and Doctor Isaac behind, all those years ago? I would gladly have remain'd in England with the Children, but at my age, Sir, it is a terrible choice. To find, and sweep from the last Corners of Sapperton and Stroud,— from Bisley!— some pitiful little heap of Mercy, or to remain with him and his Madness, which grows ever less hopeful, in our utter dependence upon the Board of Longitude. Praise Heaven, a fine Choice."
"Surely the Royal Society,—
"Alas. Tho' he has friends there,— the Reverend Maskelyne has been truly gentle with Charles, has remain'd by him ever,— Charles believes inflexibly that the Society could not forgive him the Letters he wrote them from Plymouth, so long ago now,— that too many resented him for speak¬ing up then, for daring, from his lower Station, to suggest another Plan."
To speak of the final seven years, between Dixon's death and Mason's, is to speculate, to uncertain avail. Obituaries mention a long descent, "suf- fering, for several years, melancholy aberrations of mind." His illness at the end was never stipulated. Yet 'tis possible, after all, down here, to die of Melancholy.
He had return'd to his earthly Father, yet never reconcil'd,— in his Will, Charles forgave Mason the price of the Loaf he'd taken ev'ry Day for his Table, and that was all. Mason had married again, and become the father of five more boys and a girl, yet he never put Rebekah to Earth...tho' she herself, to appearance, might at last sigh, relax, and move on,— one would think,— with Old Mopery come to rest where he'd started out from. It is the way journeymen became masters, and the ingenuous wise,— it is a musickal piece returning to its Tonick Home. Nothing more would be expected of him now, than some quiet Coda.
His efforts at refining the Longitude tables of Mayer avoided any risk of looking into the real Sky,— as if, against his father's wishes having once studied the Stars, now, too late, he were renouncing them,— tho' he got out under the Heavens ev'ry now and then, sometimes alone, usually with children along, for whom he adjusted Oculars and Screws, and peer'd only rarely, gingerly, Star-ward.
As Rebekah withdrew into Silence eventually complete, Mason's Melancholy deepen'd. If she was no longer to be found in Sapperton,— if he insisted that her Silence be Rejection, and not Contentment,— that may have help'd push him away, back to America,— whatever it was, his despair by then was greater than Mary had ever seen, or could account for. "I thought I knew him a little,— Children all over the place, Charlie bent over his logarithms all night, a new Stomach Onset arriving with each Post,—
Doctor Isaac had had his Father back for ten years, yet still he relied upon Willy to help him along, as his older Brother had ever done, com¬ing to accept it as naturally as the Day. "He will never speak of her," Willy said once. "Nor will Aunt Hester, much."
"They ought to, you know? It isn't fair. It's as if they're asham'd of her for something. Grandfather, when he is displeas'd with me, says that I—
"I heard him. He should never have said that."
"And he said I was nam'd after the Doctor who lost her. That Dad hated me that much, he wanted it always on me, like a notch upon a Pig's Ear.”
"Grandfather is a sour and beggarly old fool. You are nam'd for New¬ton, whom Dad admires greatly."
Neither has ever denied the other his direct gaze. "Who told you 'twas Newton?" Doc keeps on, finely quivering, resolute.
"On your Oath, Will."
"I did. Mindful as ever, she went on, as, 'The name may've come up. Who knows? Your Father talks unendingly, but I can't recall much of anything he's said,— So now, I really shall have to take your sworn Word, Willy. And hope you do understand, how serious this is."
"How,— should I ever lie to you? 'Tis I,— remember me? the taller one?"
Without considering, Doc reaches up, for the Hand that is not there,— finding his brother's shoulder instead, which will have to do.
When news reach'd Mason that Dixon had died, he went about for the rest of the Day as if himself stricken. "I'd meant to see him this Sum¬mer," he repeated over and over. At last, "I must go up there."
"I'll come with you," offer'd Doctor Isaac.
"The Boy works for his Bread," the elder Mason growl'd, "— he's not a Man of Science,— leave him be."
"Hire a Weaver for a Se'nnight,— there are plenty of them to choose from. I'll pay ye back any sum it loses ye."
"With what? Stardust?"
Presently, curses ringing in their Ears, Mason and his son were out upon the North Road together, bundl'd against the Cold, stopping in at ev'ry Tavern upon the Way. Mason, for some reason, found himself unable to stop looking at Doc, recalling that the Lad had never been out of these Hills, nor even down to Oxford. Out on the Road like this, he seem'd sud¬denly no longer a Child. They stopt overnight in Birmingham, and again in York, they ate and drank with Waggoners and Fugitives and commer¬cial travelers.
As they lie side by side in bed, Mason finds he cannot refrain from telling his Son bedtime stories about Dixon.
"He was ever seeking to feel something he'd hitherto not felt. In Philadelphia he was fascinated by Dr. Franklin's Leyden Jar, as with the Doctor's curious History, cheerfully admitted to, of self-electrocution thereby, on more Occasions than he can now remember...."
"Here's the Lumina of the Lab," leading the Surveyors among Globes of Glass, Insulators of Porcelain, a Miniature Forge, a Magnetizing Sta¬tion, Gear-trains of Lignum Vitae, and Engine out of which protrudes a great Crank, Bench-tops strewn with Lenses, Lamps, Alembicks, Retorts, Condensers, Coils,— at length to a squatly inelegant wide-mouth'd Vessel, in a dark corner of the Work-room. "Three-inch Sparks from this Contrivance are routine. And when ye hook a Line of 'em up,s in Cascade? Well. Many's the time I've found myself out upon the Pave¬ment, no memory of Removal from where I'd been, and a Hole in the Brick Wall between, about my Size and Shape. Here now, just take hold of this Terminal,—
Mason, aghast of course, and not about to touch any Terminal, with¬draws, upon the Pretext of Business with Dr. Franklin's Assistant, a gnomelike Stranger nam'd Ingvarr, whose unsettling Grin and reluctance to speak provoke from Mason increasingly desperate Monologue,— whilst for his part, Dixon is eagerly hastening to handle all the Apparatus he can find, that might have Electrick Fluid running thro' it.
"EEHH aye, thah' was a good one! And here, whah's this, with the three great Springs coomin' out?"
"Ah. Yes, two go into the Ears, thus,— and the other, with this Y-Adapter, into your...Nostrils, there we are! Now, then!"
"Master! Master!" Ingvarr scuttling near.
"Not now, Ingvarr.. .unless of course you'd like to assist in a lit¬tle.. .Spark-length Calibration?"
"Aiyee! No, Master!"
"There now Ingvarr, 'tis but a couple of Toes,— callus'd quite well I see, more than enough to withstand the 'lecktrick Tension...try not to squirm, there's a good fellow,—
"Fine with me, as Howard says to Howard, only please try not to kick that Switch to the main Battery, lest Mr. Dixon,— oh, dear.— Ingvarr. What did I just say?”
So forcefully that his Queue-Tie breaks with a loud Snap, Dixon's Hair springs erect, each Strand a right Line pointing outward along a perfect Radius from the Center of his Head. What might be call'd a Smile, is yet asymmetrick, and a-drool. His Eyeballs, upon inspection, are seen to rotate in opposite Senses, and at differing Speeds. Releasing Ingvarr, who makes himself scarce, Franklin opens the Switch at last, and Dixon staggers to a Settee. "Sir," the Doctor in some concern, "I trust you've not been inconvenienc'd unduly?"
"Suppose I us'd Tin-Foil," Dixon, upon his back, replies, "— instead of Silver,— how many of these Jars should I need, to...reproduce that Effect?"
Next morning, at Breakfast, Doc is curious to know, "Did you ever cast his Horoscope?"
"Quite early on, tho' I never told him. His natal Moon, in Aquarius...? and in Leo, the sign of his Birth, he's bless'd with a Stellium, of Mercury, Venus, and Mars,— Mars being also conjunct his Sun,— tho' both are regrettably squar'd Jupiter and Saturn. His Bread, that is, ever by the sweat of his brow...so did it prove to be,— yet Vis Martis enough, and more, for the Journey He may've done my Horo on the sly, for all I know. Rum thing not to know of someone, isn't it? But he knew how to cast a Chart, and had the current Year's Ephemeris by Memory Damme, he knew his Astronomy,— tho' I teas'd him with it now and then....
"Meant to bring you to see him one day. He'd heard enough about you...."
"You spoke of me?"
"You, Willy, the Babies. We talk'd about our Children. He had two Girls, young Women I should say,—
"Arrh.. .and you were hoping...?"
"Who? What? D'you take me for a Village Busybody such as your Aunt Hettie?"
"Two Sons," explains Doc, "Two Daughters. And a Father wishing, as Fathers do, to be a Grand-Father."
"Sure of that?”
"Mason-Dixon Grand-Babies." He risks casting at his Father a direct look of provocation, that Mason finds he may no more flinch from, than answer to. For the next Hours, then, neither speaks more than he must,— at ease, for the first time together, with the Silence of the Day. 'Twas what Dixon ever wish'd from him,— to proceed quietly.
"I thought if ever I did this," Doc tells his father later, out upon the Road, " 'twould be alone. And headed the other way,— to London."
"You're like me. At your Age, I couldn't wait to be out of the Vale."
"Why'd you ever come back?"
"You were here, and Will.. .and your Mother...."
Doc flashes him a thoughtful look. "You never speak of her." Here they are, fallen upon the Drum-head of the Day.
" 'Tis twenty years. Perhaps I've pass'd beyond the need to."
"But then— "
Mason sees the struggle the Lad is having between going on, and keeping silence. "Of course. We must speak of her. Whatever you wish to know of her. I shall try."
"It doesn't have to be right away."
Snow is nearly upon them, and night soon to descend. Shelter has not so far presented itself. At the last of the Day-light, providentially, at the Edge of York, they smell wood-smoke with a sensible Fat Component, and fol¬low their Noses to The Merry Ghosts, which is in fact a Haunted Inn, as the apple trees planted too close to it testify, growing directly away from the Structure, as far as their roots will permit, often at quite unstable Angles.
"Not promising," mutters Mason.
As they step into the busy Saloon, all, to the wiping of Mouths, falls dead silent. Faces gather'd in a Circle about a Dark-Lanthorn and a Heap of stolen Purses, look up in varying degrees of annoyance. A gigantick and misanthropick Tapster comes out of the Shadows. "Private Party tonight, Gents."
"Where's the next Inn?" Mason is about to inquire, when Doc speaks up,— "Here then, Coves, 'tis Mason and Mason, High Tobers of Green¬wich, rambling Bearward, and Zoot Cheroot sez me early-and-late, or 'tis be-wary of the Frigidary, for the Gloak that quiddles.— Oh and Pints for all, that's if we may...?"
' 'We'?" inquires Mason. The Tapster withdraws, the Bitter flows, those staring resume Business. Mason and Doc find a Corner where they may pretend themselves confederates upon the Toby, plotting Deeds dark enough to allow them to be left in Peace.
' 'Tis a Ring," explains Doc. "They're dividing up the Day's Spoils. Later we'll see the night Brigade come on."
"How do you know all this?"
"Read about it in Ghastly Fop. 'Tis a Weekly, now, did you know?"
"The Coach brings it to Stroud."
'Round the Footpads' table perplexity rules. "What did he say?" asks the Brum Kiddy. "Is that London Canting?"
"Clozay le Gob," he is advis'd. "You're too young, yet."
"But what's it mean?" the Kiddy persists.
"Here's what you do, Kid,— just go over there and ask 'em what they said."
Mason and Mason get an identifiable Joint for Supper, and the best room upstairs to sleep in. "They'll murder us in our sleep, suggests Mason.
"We're not going to sleep." By and large Doc is correct. The Traffick in front, as back in the Courtyard, of The Merry Ghosts is prodigious and unceasing. Confidences at best dangerous to hear are scream'd heed¬lessly back and forth all night.
"I thought it was suppos'd to be haunted," Mason objects. "How can anyone tell, in this Tohu-Vabohu?"
"Unless..." Doc looks out the Window. Among all the roarings, whis¬tles, wheel-rumbling, and low Song, there is not a Visible Soul below. The snow is falling now. Mason sits by the window waiting for traces of these outspoken Spirits to show up against the white Descent. At some point, invisible across the room, Doctor Isaac will ask, quietly, evenly, "When did you meet? How young were you?"
At Bishop they learn'd that Dixon had been buried in back of the Quaker Meeting-House in Staindrop. Doctor Isaac stay'd with his Father, step for
step. At the grave, which by Quaker custom was unmark'd, Mason beseech'd what dismally little he knew of God, to help Dixon through. The grass was long and beaded with earlier rain. A Cat emerg'd from it and star'd for a long time, appearing to know them.
"Dad?" Doc had taken his arm. For an instant, unexpectedly, Mason saw the little Boy who, having worried about Storms at Sea, as Beasts in the Forest, came running each time to make sure his father had return'd safely,— whose gift of ministering to others Mason was never able to see, let alone accept, in his blind grieving, his queasiness of Soul before a life and a death, his refusal to touch the Baby, tho' 'twas not possible to blame him The Boy he had gone to the other side of the Globe to avoid was looking at him now with nothing in his face but concern for his Father.
"Oh, Son." He shook his Head. He didn't continue.
"It's your Mate," Doctor Isaac assur'd him, "It's what happens when your Mate dies."
Solitude grew upon him, despite his nominal return to the social Web-work. Neighbors near and far, including owners of textile mills he would once never have spat upon, believing him vers'd in ev'ry Philosophick Art, kept bringing him repair jobs. The work-shed grew clutter'd with shafts and weft-forks, pirn winders and pistons, silk-reels and boiler gauges. Scents of Lavender, wild Roses, and Kitchen-Smoke pass'd in and out with Bees and Wasps, thro' the unmortar'd walls, pierc'd ev'rywhere with bright openings to the sunlit Garden outside, and the abiding Day. Mason might be found sitting at a Pine Table, bow'd over a curious Mirror. The beings who visited had names, and Titles, and signs of Recognition. Often they would approach through Number, Logarithms, the manipulation of Num¬bers and Letters, emerging as it were from among the symbols—
His principal income in those years came from pen-and-paper Work, laborious, pre-mechanickal, his only Instrument a set of Logarithmick Tables,— reducing and perfecting Mayer's solar and lunar Data. These form'd the basis of the Nautical Almanac, which Maskelyne edited, and in whose Introduction the A.R. was generous in acknowledging Mason's work. Mason came to believe that thro' Taurean persistence he had refin'd the values to well within an error that entitl'd him to the £5,000
Prize offer'd by the Board of Longitude. But "Enemies" succeeded in reducing it to an offer of £750, which he refus'd, upon Principle, tho' Mary at the news withdrew in Dismay.
Did he now include among his Enemies Maskelyne?
The A.R. had shar'd with Mason his delight over the new Planet,— he had taken it for a Comet,— wishing Mr. Herschel joy of his great Accomplishment. Suddenly the family of Planets had a new member, tho' previously observ'd by Bradley, Halley, Flamsteed, Le Monnier, the Chinese, the Arabs, everyone it seem'd, yet attended to by none of them. 'Twas impossible to find an Astronomer in the Kingdom who was not wandering about in that epoch beaming like a Booby over the unforeseen enlargement of his realm of study. Yet to Mason was it Pur¬gatory,— some antepenultimate blow. What fore-inklings of the dark Forces of Over-Throw that assaulted his own Mind came visiting?— small stinging Presences darting in from the periphery of his senses to whisper, to bite, to inject Venoms...Beings from the new Planet. Infest¬ing— Mason has seen in the Glass, unexpectedly, something beyond simple reflection,— outside of the world,— a procession of luminous Phantoms, carrying bowls, bones, incense, drums, their Attention directed to nothing he may imagine, belonging to unknown purposes, flowing by thick as Eels, pauselessly, for how long before or after his interception, he could never know. There may be found, within the mal¬odorous Grotto of the Selves, a conscious Denial of all that Reason holds true. Something that knows, unarguably as it knows Flesh is sooner or later Meat, that there are Beings who are not wise, or spiritually advanced, or indeed capable of Human kindness, but ever and implaca¬bly cruel, hiding, haunting, waiting,— known only to the blood-scented deserts of the Night,— and any who see them out of Disguise are instantly pursued,— and none escape, however long and fruitful be the years till the Shadow creeps 'cross the Sill-plate, its Advent how mute. Spheres of Darkness, Darkness impure,— Plexities of Honor and Sin we may never clearly sight, for when we venture near they fall silent, Murdering must be silent, by Potions and Spells, by summonings from beyond the Horizons, of Spirits who dwell a little over the Line between the Day and its annihi¬lation, between the number'd and the unimagin'd,— between common safety and Ruin ever solitary....
The Royal Society by then had divided into "Men of Science," such as Maskelyne and Mr. Hutton, and "Macaronis," such as Henry Cavendish and Mr. Joseph Banks, a Dispute culminating for Maskelyne, with his own set of Enemies, at the Instant he found his name absent from the List of Royal Society Council Members for 1783-84, and had an Excursion into Vertigo unsought. At this Cusp of vulnerability, Mason, with the Exquisiteness of a Picador, launch'd his Dart.
At The Mitre, of all Places, amid pipe-fumes and the muffl'd ring of pewter upon oak, they ended up waving half-eaten Chops in lieu of pointed Fingers. From an innocent discussion of the Great Meteor of the Summer previous, they abruptly surrender'd to Earthly Spite.
"If they are Souls falling to Earth," becoming incarnate, then 'tis of Moment, which Point of the Zodiack they appear to radiate from."
"Like most of them that night, this had its Radiant in Perseus. If that's any help to you."
Mason mimicking the preacherly rise and fall, "Perseus, home to most baleful Algol, the Ghoul-Star,— when upon its Meridian, directly above New-York, the American Sodom,— the Star that others nam'd Lilith,— or Satan's, or Medusa's, Head...would the Soul I seek, emerge and fall from a region so attainted? Never. You know that very well. You little Viper. What have you ever lost?"
Even Mun, who loved a brisk Punch-up as well as the next truculent Sot, now chose rather to pull his Brother away, first to another Table, and presently out the Door and on to another Tavern altogether. "You'll not dismiss me again," cried Mason. "I fail'd to see Hatred for what it was,— believing you but a long-winded Fool, ever attempting to buy my regard with Gifts in your power,—
"I may have priz'd your good opinion," Maskelyne in that meek Tone Mason knew promis'd a Stab unannounc'd.
Striking instead, "Why should it matter to you? Certainly not out of Respect for the better Astronomer,—
" 'Twas plain Recompense, no more than that. Schiehallion, which you rejected,— Day-Labor for the B. of L., without which your Family should have starv'd,— all in my humble Gratitude, for being allow'd, once, to approach Bradley,—
"Better we'd starv'd,— for you came closer than you ought,— the worse for him."
"An Usurper? Is that what you make of me? Must I now be slain? Can you never get beyond it?"
"No need to slay a Man who isn't There."
Maskelyne understood that Mason meant, not There upon the Royal Society Council. His parsonical Scowl dropp'd from forehead to Eyes, as we clench our Faces sometimes, against Sentiment. No records survive, however, of when Nevil Maskelyne did, or did not, weep. What he did do now, was turn away from Mason, and for the first time, and the last time, not turn back to face him. The last Mason saw of him was the back of his Wig. The next year, after several dramatick Votes and Skirmishes, tho' not all that many Stick-enhanc'd Injuries, ev'ryone in the Royal Soc. ended most frightful Chums, and Maskelyne was back on the Council, remaining so thereafter, Year upon Year, till his Passing.
Mason struggles to wake. He arises, glides to the Door, and emerges from an ordinary Modern House, in one of the plainest cities on Earth, to find ascending before him one single dark extended Petroglyph,— a Town-enclos'd Hill-side, upon which lie the all-but-undamag'd remains of an ancient City, late Roman or early Italian temples and public buildings, in taupes and browns, Lombardy Poplars of a Green very dark— There is writing on some of the Structures, but Mason cannot read it. Does not yet know it is writing. Perhaps when Night has fallen, he will be able to look up, to question the Sky.
"I think he's waking." She is up and a-bustle, the children secreting themselves in corners, older ones shepherding younger ones to nearby rooms. Mary beckons Franklin in.
Mason is gone gray, metallic whiskers sprout from his Face, even his eyelashes are grizzl'd. Franklin is surpriz'd to find that Mason has lost his Squint, that as the years have pass'd, his Face has been able some¬how to enter the Ease of a Symmetry it must ever have sought, once he abandon'd the Night Sky, and took refuge indoors from the Day.
"I trust you will soon be out of this Bed, Sir."
"Whilst I'm of use," Mason says, "they shan't seek my dissolution, not in the thick of this Dispute over the Bradley Obs so-call'd, these being, many of them, my own. No one wants to repeat what went on between Newton and Flamsteed. Excepting perhaps one of Kabbalistick Turn, who believes those Arrays of Numerals to be the magical Text that will deliver him to Immortality. Or suspects that Bradley found something, something as important as the Aberration, but more ominous,— some¬thing France may not have, or not right away, and Jesuits must not learn of, ever,— something so useful and deadly, that rather than publish his suspicions, or even reduce the data any further, Bradley simply left them as an exercise for anyone strongly enough interested. And what could that be? What Phantom Shape, implicit in the Figures?"
"Ah, you old Quizzer," Franklin tries to beam, Mason continuing to regard him, not pleading, but as if it didn't matter much what Franklin thinks.
' 'Tis a Construction," Mason weakly, "a great single Engine, the size of a Continent. I have all the proofs you may require. Not all the Con¬nexions are made yet, that's why some of it is still invisible. Day by day the Pioneers and Surveyors go on, more points are being tied in, and soon becoming visible, as above, new Stars are recorded and named and plac'd in Almanacks—"
"You've found it, have ye? This certainly isn't that Curious Design with the trilling Cost that you sent me along with your Letter."
"Sir, you have encounter'd Deists before, and know that our Bible is Nature, wherein the Pentateuch, is the Sky. I have found there, written ev'ry Night, in Astral Gematria, Messages of Great Urgency to our Time, and to your Continent, Sir."
"Now to be your own as well, may an old Continental hope, Sir."
Mary looks in. "Well, young Mary," Mason's eyes elsewhere, unclaimable, "it turn'd out to be simple after all. Didn't it."
"You're safe, Charlie," she whispers. "You're safe." She prays.
Mary would return to England with the younger Children,— William and Dr. Isaac, Rebekah's Sons, would stay, and be Americans. Would stay,and ensign their Father into his Death. Mr. Shippen, Revd Peters, Mr. Ewing, all Commissioners of the Line twenty years earlier, now will prove, each in his Way, their Salvation upon this Shore.
"Since I was ten," said Doc, "I wanted you to take me and Willy to America. I kept hoping, ev'ry Birthday, this would be the year. I knew next time you'd take us."
"We can get jobs," said William, "save enough to go out where you were,—
"Marry and go out where you were," said Doc.
"The Stars are so close you won't need a Telescope."
"The Fish jump into your Arms. The Indians know Magick."
"We'll go there. We'll live there."
"We'll fish there. And you too.”