The Girl in the Golden Atom
by Ray Cummings
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Proceed to part 8
part 7 of 9
Chapter VI: Strategy and Kisses
“IT WAS the morning of my third day in the castle,” began the Chemist again, “that I was taken by Lylda before the king. We found him seated alone in a little anteroom, overlooking a large courtyard, which we could see was crowded with an expectant, waiting throng. I must explain to you now, that I was considered b Lylda somewhat in the light of a Messiah, come to save her nation from the destruction that threatened it.
“She believed me a supernatural being, which, indeed, if you come to think of it, gentlemen, is exactly what I was. I tried to tell her something of myself and the world I had come from, but the difficulties of language and her smiling insistence and faith in her own conception of me, soon caused me to desist. Thereafter I let her have her own way, and did not attempt any explanation again for some time.
“For several weeks before Lylda found me sleeping by the river’s edge, she had made almost a daily pilgrimage to that vicinity. A maidenly premonition, a feeling that had first come to her several years before, told her of my coming, and her father’s knowledge and scientific beliefs had led her to the outer surface of the world as the direction in which to look. A curious circumstance, gentlemen, lies in the fact that Lylda clearly remembered the occasion when this first premonition came to her. And in the telling, she described graphically the scene in the cave, where I saw her through the microscope.” The Chemist paused an instant and then resumed.
“When we entered the presence of the king, he greeted me quietly, and made me sit by his side, while Lylda knelt on the floor at our feet. The king impressed me as a man about fifty years of age. He was smooth-shaven, with black, wavy hair, reaching his shoulders. He was dressed in the usual tunic, the upper part of his body covered by a quite similar garment, ornamented with a variety of metal objects. His feet were protected with a sort of buskin; at his side hung a crude-looking metal spear.
“The conversation that followed my entrance, lasted perhaps fifteen minutes. Lylda interpreted for us as well as she could, though I must confess we were all three at times completely at a loss. But Lylda’s bright, intelligent little face, and the resourcefulness of her gestures, always managed somehow to convey her meaning. The charm and grace of her manner, all during the talk, her winsomeness, and the almost spiritual kindness and tenderness that characterized her, made me feel that she embodied all those qualities with which we of this earth idealize our own womanhood.
“I found myself falling steadily under the spell of her beauty, until — well, gentlemen, it’s childish for me to enlarge upon this side of my adventure, you know; but Lylda means everything to me now, and I’m going back for her just as soon as I possibly can.”
“Bully for you!” cried the Very Young Man. “Why didn’t you bring her with you this time?”
“Let him tell it his own way,” remonstrated the Doctor. The Very Young Man subsided with a sigh.
“During our talk,” resumed the Chemist, “I learned from the king that Lylda had promised him my assistance in overcoming the enemies that threatened his country. He smilingly told me that our charming little interpreter had assured him I would be able to do this. Lylda’s blushing face, as she conveyed this meaning to me, was so thoroughly captivating, that before I knew it, and quite without meaning to, I pulled her up towards me and kissed her.
“The king was more surprised by far than Lylda, at this extraordinary behavior. Obviously neither of them had understood what a kiss meant, although Lylda, by her manner evidently comprehended pretty thoroughly.
“I told them then, as simply as possible to enable Lylda to get my meaning, that I could, and would gladly aid in their war. I explained then, that I had the power to change my stature, and could make myself grow very large or very small in a short space of time.
“This, as Lylda evidently told it to him, seemed quite beyond the king’s understanding. He comprehended finally, or at least he agreed to believe my statement.
“This led to the consideration of practical questions of how I was to proceed in their war. I had not considered any details before, but now they appeared of the utmost simplicity. All I had to do was to make myself a hundred or two hundred feet high, walk out to the battlelines, and scatter the opposing army like a set of small boys’ playthings.”
“What a quaint idea!” said the Banker. “A modern ‘Gulliver’.”
The Chemist did not heed this interruption.
“Then like three children we plunged into a discussion of exactly bow I was to perform these wonders, the king laughing heartily as we pictured the attack on my tiny enemies.
“He then asked me how I expected to accomplish this change of size, and I very briefly told him of our larger world, and the manner in which I had come from it into his. Then I showed the drugs that I still carried carefully strapped to me. This seemed definitely to convince the king of my sincerity. He rose abruptly to his feet, and strode through a doorway on to a small balcony overlooking the courtyard below.
“As he stepped out into the view of the people, a great cheer arose. He waited quietly for them to stop, and then raised his hand and began speaking. Lylda and I stood hand in hand in the shadow of the doorway, out of sight of the crowd, but with it and the entire courtyard plainly in our view.
“It was a quadrangular enclosure, formed by the four sides of the palace, perhaps three hundred feet across, packed solidly now with people of both sexes, the gleaming whiteness of the upper parts of their bodies, and their upturned faces, making a striking picture.
“For perhaps ten minutes the king spoke steadily, save when he was interrupted by applause. Then he stopped abruptly and, turning, pulled Lylda and me out upon the balcony. The enthusiasm of the crowd doubled at our appearance. I was pushed forward to the balcony rail, where I bowed to the cheering throng.
“Just after I left the king’s balcony, I met Lylda’s father. He was a kindly-faced old gentleman, and took a great interest in me and my story. He it was who told me about the physical conformation of his world, and he seemed to comprehend my explanation of mine.
“That night it rained — a heavy, torrential downpour, such as we have in the tropics. Lylda and I had been talking for some time, and, I must confess, I had been making love to her ardently. i broached now the principal object of my entrance into her world, and, with an eloquence I did not believe I possessed, I pictured the wonders of our own great earth above, begging her to come back with me and live out her life with mine.
“Much of what I said, she probably did not understand, but the main facts were intelligible without question. She listened quietly. When I had finished, and waited for her decision, she reached slowly out and clutched my shoulders, awkwardly making as if to kiss me. In an instant she was in my arms, with a low, happy little cry.
A Modern Gulliver
THE clattering fall of rain brought us to ourselves. Rising to her feet, Lylda pulled me over to the window-opening, and together we stood and looked out into the night. The scene before us was beautiful, with a weirdness almost impossible to describe. It was as bright as I had ever seen this world, for even though heavy clouds hung overhead, the light from the stars was never more than a negligible quantity.
“We were facing the lake — a shining expanse of silver radiation, its surface shifting and crawling, as though a great undulating blanket of silver mist lay upon it. And coming down to meet it from the sky were innumerable lines of silver — a vast curtain of silver cords that broke apart into great strings of pearls when I followed their downward course.
“And then, as I turned to Lylda, I was struck with the extraordinary weirdness of her beauty as never before. The reflected light from the rain had something the quality of our moonlight. Shining on Lylda’s body, it tremendously enhanced the iridescence of her skin. And her face, upturned to mine, bore an expression of radiant happiness and peace such as I had never seen before on a woman’s countenances)
The Chemist paused, his voice dying away into silence as he sat lost in thought. Then he pulled himself together with a start. “It was a sight, gentlemen, the memory of which I shall cherish all my life.
“The next day was that set for my entrance into the war. Lylda and I had talked nearly all night, and had decided that she was to return with me to my world. By morning the rain had stopped, and we sat together in the window-opening, silenced with the thrill of the wonderful new joy that had come into our hearts.
“The country before us, under the cloudless, starry sky, stretched gray-blue and beautiful into the quivering obscurity of the distance. At our feet lay the city, just awakening into life. Beyond, over the rolling meadows and fields, wound the road that led out to the battle-front, and coming back over it now, we could see an endless line of vehicles. These, as they passed through the street beneath our window, I found were loaded with soldiers, wounded and dying. I shuddered at the sight of one cart in particular, and Lylda pressed close to me, pleading with her eyes for my help for her stricken people.
“My exit from the castle was made quite a ceremony. A band of music and a guard of several hundred soldiers ushered me forth, walking beside the king, with Lylda a few paces behind. As we passed through the streets of ,the city, heading for the open country beyond, we were cheered continually by the people who thronged the, streets and crowded upon the housetops to watch us pass.
“Outside Arite I was taken perhaps a mile, where a wide stretch of country gave me the necessary space for my growth. We were standing upon a slight hill, below which, in a vast semicircle, fully a hundred thousand people were watching.
“And now, for the first time, fear overcame me. realized my situation — saw myself in a detached sort of way — a stranger in this extraordinary world, and only the power of my drug to raise me out of it. This drug you must remember, I had not as yet taken. Suppose it were not to act? Or were to act wrongly?
“I glanced around. The king stood before me, quietly waiting my pleasure. Then I turned to Lylda. One glance at her proud, happy little face, and my fear left me as suddenly as it had come. I took her in my arms and kissed her, there before that multitude. Then I set her down, and signified to the king I was ready.
Copyright © 1919 by Ray Cummings