The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Way Back, by Sam Moskowitz
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Title: The Way Back
Author: Sam Moskowitz
Release Date: March 14, 2021 [eBook #64818]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at



The Story of a Vagabond of Space Who
Found Himself in the Far Galaxies.

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Comet January 41.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Michel Drawers crumpled the enormous star-map in his big hairy arms and let it drop from listless fingers. It floated slowly to the ground, scarcely claimed by the infinitesimal gravity of the tiny sky-rock.

Hopelessly he gazed aloft, searching, with an air of finality the immense sweep of the cosmos for some familiar sign—a well known constellation, perhaps, that might be utilized as a sign post of space.

Unrewarded, he eased himself off a hard, metallic projection he had been seated upon and turned back toward his petite little star-ship—appropriately and affectionately known as "Star-Struck."

He had to face cold, inevitable reality. He was lost—lost amid the stark immensity of unfamiliar worlds. Ahead of him lay a long and hopeless search. He must sweep across the void from zone to zone. Exploring the most colossal work of all nature for some clue that might solve this puzzle and show him the way back—the way back home.

And he smirked as he thought of applying the term "home" to Tellus. A home was something only successful people could boast of in this day and age. Misfit youth could not expect such comfort. Himself, and thousands like him, unable to fit into the scheme of civilization currently preponderant upon Earth must take the only course open to them. Must be vanguards of a new frontier—the greatest frontier.

Sick with nostalgia and ineffable longing, they must brave the dangers, the rigors of outer space—blast trillions of miles past the solar system on a metal steed that laughed at the limited speeds of light. That roared and romped past universe after island universe. And always the delicate Roxitometer clicked along—searching with tireless, machine-like efficiency for traces of Roxite on the many worlds passed.

Roxite? That was the fuel that made these star-ships possible. The substance whose elemental atoms could be split with tremendous fury to release an inconceivable flood of power—controlled power—controlled by the comparatively tiny Roxite engines which curbed these terrible energies and directed them into the proper channels of usefulness.

Centuries ago men had searched for gold. Now gold was merely another metal. Today, men searched for Roxite—a few ounces of which commanded fabulous prices from the great interplanetary corporations on Earth.

And as gold had eluded the best efforts of most men in past years, so Roxite eluded all but the luckiest prospectors today. There was plenty of Roxite in the universe. But most of it was buried deep within the cores of tremendous suns. Suns that had a surface temperature that made the hottest things on Earth seem like a bitter arctic blast by comparison.

The thing that counted on Earth these days was brains. Everyone had ample opportunity to develop what brain power they had. The finest schools and universities boasting the most advanced and elaborately presented programs of education ever known were free to the multitudes. But of what value was an ultra fine education when everyone else had one, too? It still settled back to basic ingenuity and natural inborn intelligence when it came to the man who got ahead and the man who stayed behind.

Five hundred years ago, possessing his present knowledge he might have been one of the world's greatest men. Today he was just one of millions of others, all of whom could do the same things he could—and some of them could do better.

What an incomparable paradox he presented. Physically he was more than a match for ninety-nine per cent of all Earth men. His great height and weight, his brutal strength—those thick hairy arms of his could crush the average man in a few minutes. Gigantic muscles didn't count any more. Of what use sixteen inch biceps when the frailest child could operate the buttons necessary to perform most of the menial duties of life?

Men like him were pushed by invisible, relentless pressures into the only thing open for them. To operate one of these tiny star-ships and comb the universe for more Roxite—to keep the interplanetary liners blasting.

Roxite. He had found some. Enough to keep his ship operating as it plunged past millions of starry universes. But not enough to bring back to Earth and collect any sizeable sum.

But he couldn't stand this life any longer. The inexpressible loneliness of space. Inconceivable light years from the world that bore him. Six years alone in such vastness was too much for any man.

Six years of heartrending disappointments as he searched tirelessly for the precious Roxite—and found only a little.

But this was the end. He was going to make a last desperate attempt to find his way back. Back to a cold, hostile, unfriendly civilization that might, out of charity, provide some lowly position for him—let him work enough to stay alive.

Still, that was better than this. At least he could look up into the blue ceiling of the sky. Tread over green carpeted fields. Eat real, substantial, solid food and see other people.

Yes, of a poor choice that alternative was the best.

But here he was bitter again. Deluging himself with waves of self-pity. The fault was not entirely with Earth and the way of life on Earth. He was equally to blame. He was a throw-back. A throw-back to the days when men pushed back new frontiers, blazed new trails for civilization to follow. When brawn had been the equal, if not the superior of brains. But this was a new world. It was built for the many, not the few. Simply because there was a few thousand of misfits among a population of millions was no creditable reason for revamping an entire way of life to the satisfaction of a minor group of disgruntled men. No, progress was relentless, inevitable. The old must bow before the new, and the world must fight on toward its distant dream of tomorrow.

Funny how a man could become so completely lost. But he had plenty of time to look for the right avenue back to his world. Plenty of time, patience, fuel and food. And he would find it—though it take him the rest of his life.

So Michel Drawers roared away from a tiny, lonely little rock in a strange distant universe, and, with his seemingly inexhaustible patience explored the sky ways for the section of the milky way in which his solar system might be located.

And as the months passed his homesickness grew and grew and reached unbearable proportions. A subconscious chant repeated itself and reiterated in pounding rhythms within his brain. He must find a way back, a way back, a way back, a way back, a way back. God! he couldn't stand this any longer. Where was the way back? Merciful heavens, how much more of this torture could he endure without going mad? And the distant pin-points of light mocked him with cold ferocity. Gloated with aloof disdain. Laughed at his fruitless efforts to escape their mighty trap.

But the soul of the frontiersman, the conqueror, burnt on. Michel Drawers did not go mad. He simply went on and on and on. Searching, seeking the way back.

Then, when it seemed that interminable eons had fled past he was awakened from a sleeping period by the piercing, raucous scream of the Roxitometer, pleading to him to arise and investigate its latest discoveries before they flashed past and it was too late.

In a mad lunge he pulled the space bar all the way back. The forward tubes blasted violently—the ship drew to a theoretical stop. Poised motionless amidst the splendor of a trillion stars.

Working frantically Michel Drawers made the proper connections. He might find a valuable deposit of Roxite yet. Perhaps there would be something to take back to Earth after all. Perhaps all was not yet hopeless. He might still be rich when he got back—if he got back.

The powerful little rockets streamed blazing glory again and the little silvery projectile was drawn by the magic of the Roxitometer, down the path of Roxite radiations to some still unknown world from where it emanated.

And gradually Drawers began to realize that they were heading for a beautiful little globe more than sixty million miles from a medium sized sun. And he prepared to enter the atmosphere of this world—and let the powers of the Roxitometer lead him to the location of the Roxite deposit. He muttered a silent prayer that it might not be located too deeply in the bowels of the planet.

Now he was holding tight as the "Star-Struck" streamed through the atmosphere of the planet. The landscape began to lay itself out before him. He could make out soft blue forests of alien vegetation—golden streams of unknown liquids. At two thousand feet he halted the ship's descent. Momentarily he allowed it to float above the terrain of this strange world. Drinking in its wonders with curious eyes.

He had been drawn to many worlds before by the insistent clangings of the Roxitometer—but never had he witnessed a world of such unutterable beauty and color. Barely a discordant note in the entire scheme of things. Even the winds blew softly, gently, against the hull of his ship. Prompted by an unfathomable urge he tested the atmosphere of the planet. Oxygen and Nitrogen proved present in appreciable quantities—but there was also another—and unknown gas of undetermined qualities.

He wondered if it were breathable. It had been so long, so very long since he had known anything other than the metallic smell of synthetic air. With gladness he would trade half of his possessions for a few great lungfulls of pure, fresh, untainted air.

Then it was that Michel Drawers performed a suicidical act. He opened the inner and outer locks of his ship simultaneously and allowed the atmosphere of this unfamiliar world to pour in and mingle with that of the ship. He breathed in deeply, heavily. Lungful after lungful. Nothing happened. The new air had a certain, pleasant perfumed quality—perhaps a characteristic of the new gas. If it were fatally poisonous, at least it was not immediately so.

Forgotten were thoughts of Roxite and riches. Forgotten was his heartbreaking longing for Earth. Only one instinct possessed him. A desire to set foot upon real soil again. To tread agilely forward—to breath in natural air—to view natural, though alien sights. To see streams of liquids bubble past.

He settled the "Star-Struck" with unprecedented clumsiness down upon the surface of the world—saved from a bad shock by the light gravitational pull of the planet.

Then, with the demeanor of a school-boy released for summer vacation, his huge frame trod lightly from the ship, and he ambled grotesquely amidst an almost fragile world.

With ecstatic delight he plucked brilliant, sweet smelling blossoms; plunged his face recklessly into the golden liquid that tumbled in miniature falls down a short sloping hill; marveled at the coolness, the exhilaration of it—and in the midst of this madness the idea struck him that this gleaming liquid was the aqua pura of this world. It took the place of water, in fact it seemed to have every attribute of water except for its golden color, and the few drops that had trickled between his lips left a pure, clean, sweet taste that could be described only by comparing it to the palate of a man, three days on the desert without a drink, suddenly being presented with a tall, cool glass of water.

It was becoming more and more noticeable that the color motive of this world was not so much green as it was golden.

And he wandered on. Far, far from the ship he strayed. As if possessed by a strange, uncontrollable mania he laughed and cried by turns. Sometimes he ran, sometimes he walked. Often he leaped incredible distances into the air—floating softly down—his two hundred and fifteen pound bulk landing with only the slightest jar.

And as suddenly as this crazy thing had come upon him it passed. He stood stock sober; the awful realization of the inconceivable risks he had run swelling his brain like a painful hangover.

That he was alive and apparently in good health was a miracle. The worlds where a native of Earth might cavort with reckless abandon and utter disregard for existing conditions were few and far between. Swift doom often descended upon those who made light of other worldly conditions.

Now he saw in every brilliant blossom a lurking death of hideous proportions. He examined their expansive golden-yellow blossoms with critical care. Many of the plants were predominantly blue. Blue and gold. Here flowers with tall, slender, graceful stalks moved gracefully to and fro in the soft breeze. There, gigantic blue plants towered far above his head, with stalks the thickness of trunks and blossoms the circumference of a water-wheel but, throughout, the idea of fragility persisted. And with it a gnawing doubt as to their innocent nature. It seemed more and more that the strange gas that permeated the air had its source here in those blossoms which grew in such abundance, with groves the thickness of forests, and a multiplicity that replaced trees, on this world at least.

He stumbled on, his hand wiping again and again at his face as if to scrape away a golden liquid which was no longer there.

He even breathed with fearful deliberateness—wracking his brain for all he knew and had heard of the effects and varieties of fatal gases.

But the luck of the gods was with him. No untoward symptoms appeared and as he made his way back to the ship his fears began to dissipate one by one and a new sense of reasonableness replace them.

Into the clearing he trod—and then recoiled with amazement. Before him stood a human figure! A small man, perfectly, beautifully proportioned, radiating a golden aureole and crowned by curly, yellow locks of hair. He seemed fragile, incredibly delicate, yet he bore himself with buoyant ease, a result of the lighter gravitational pull of the planet, and in his eyes sparkled whirling motes of color that lent to him an air of unimpeachable intelligence.

Michel Drawers advanced slowly toward the man. His towering bulk looming massively with strikingly primitive and brutal aspect in comparison to the statuesque lines and angelic beauty of this native son.

"Who? Who are you?" Michel Drawers questioned, his loud, rough voice almost artificial in an obvious attempt at impossible gentleness.

The aura of golden light seemed to thicken about the form of the little man.

Softly, Drawers thought he heard:

"I, strange one, am Persum, dweller in the city of Saeve. In all my years I have never known a man like you. From whence do you come?"

Drawers was rigid, surprise-struck. He had heard or thought he heard words as clear, as plain as words could be—yet he had seen no lips move, knew that no sound, other than his own voice had pierced the air.

"Telepathy," he uttered in awe. "Mental telepathy."

"Telepathy? Telepathy?" an unspoken voice returned. "We have no such word in our language. What is its meaning?"

"To communicate without sound—by thought."

A look of comprehension dawned upon the golden man's features.

"Ah, yes. Here, in my city, all men speak by thought—that is the purpose of this radiance which surrounds me—to help pick up and to transmit thoughts. Apparently your race is not so gifted. I wondered why you writhed your lips peculiarly when you questioned me! Your brain must be a very powerful one indeed to transmit thoughts without any natural aid."

Drawers laughed inwardly at the unexpected compliment. Men had often told him that he possessed a marvelous physique, but no one had ever attempted to hint that his brain was other than passably mediocre, even poor. And here, the most intelligent little man he had ever met—not over five feet tall—a man with the power to transmit thoughts telepathically—an achievement that practically no earthman could boast, had told him that he was unusually gifted in a mental sort of a way. It was funny, ironic.

Suddenly Drawers became almost timid in the presence of this superb little creature. There was almost a god-like quality about him. An innate goodness, kindness, that could be taken for granted.

"Would you care to partake of our hospitality?" came an inviting thought.

The invitation brought a gasp of amazement to Michel Drawers' lips, and also a trace of suspicion.

This little man before him, who, common sense said must be feeling uneasy, to put it mildly, in the presence of a stranger of hitherto unknown size and undetermined strength—someone who was as different in make-up and physique from his as night is from day—still had been able to suppress his fears sufficiently to extend a cordial invitation.

"Oh—I can stay on the ship," Drawers replied, his mind sparring for additional time to clear its confusion.

"My people would be very interested in meeting you," the golden man replied.

Still, Drawers hung back with obvious reluctance. This man was small, but it wasn't size that counted, as experience had taught him—it was brains—and this alien had those in super abundance. How was he to know the creature's motives? Perhaps they might overcome him with some strange ray, and use him for some diabolical experiment.

Even as the thoughts surged through his mind, a trace of a smile seemed to flicker across the golden man's features.

As if he had read his thoughts the golden man challenged.

"Certainly you are not afraid to accompany me? I should be the one to fear, not you. One of those great arms that hang at your side could overpower me in an instant. You have nothing to fear."

Mental argument was an achievement Michel Drawers had never been particularly adept in. He found his fears being chided, and his own subconscious mind seemed to tell him there was no danger, still—

Michel stepped slowly forward to accompany the golden man, his hands tapping his hips for the butts of his low-voltage guns and finding only the empty holsters. He had left them in the ship!

Without further thought the golden man turned and strode gracefully from the clearing. Michel Drawers lumbered self-consciously along behind, tripping occasionally over vine-like foliage—and with the light of curiosity growing ever brighter within him.

Through thick growths of blue plants they trailed. Across chuckling stream's of bubbling, brilliant liquids; through fields thick with yellow blossoms, and overhead a golden sun hung resplendent in the sky as if to match the make-up of the planet.

Drawers' attention was suddenly distracted by one of the most unusual plants he had yet seen. This one was golden as were the others but had long, regular veins of blue running like a well formed design up the outside of the blossom. Instinctively he sniffed at it. As he did so he felt his new found companion plucking at his sleeve. He paid no notice, preferring to again smell the beautiful blossom. The fragrance affected him like a heady, aromatic perfume. Entirely different from any scent he had ever known before.

Persum finally distracted his attention by mental urging.

"Come away, that plant is deadly. I cannot understand why you have not been already overcome."

Drawers turned back to Persum in curiosity. "This plant deadly? Why it has a delightful fragrance. The most pleasing I've ever smelled."

It was obvious that Persum was disconcerted.

"I do not understand it. A small whiff of the odor exuded by that plant is enough to render any of my race unconscious. A few minutes under its influence often brings death. You are the first man I have ever known who has been able to inhale its gases without succumbing. This is most curious. I must inform others of my race."

They walked on, Persum shaking his head in bewilderment.

Drawers began to realize that this plant, although affecting him only to the extent that a pleasant perfume affects an individual, could be deadly to the golden people. From Persum's description of its effects it acted almost like an anesthetic—a few breaths induced temporary unconsciousness, but if released to its influence for more then a few minutes it resulted in death.

Abruptly a lovely city of golden towers and soaring minarets appeared resplendently before them—a city of incarnate beauty and craftsmanship—a city that might have been designed by a master draftsman—with an eye to blending harmoniously to the surrounding color scheme.

Drawers stopped for a moment to take in the wonder of it.

"You like it?" Persum queried.

"It's great!" Drawers rumbled enthusiastically.

"We take delight in the development of our cities," Persum continued. "There are seven cities, all constructed along the lines of this one. These seven cities contain the total populations of our people; about one hundred thousand people to a city. They are built with great care. The smaller buildings form the general limits of the city, and then we construct the buildings taller toward the center of the city. They are all unlike in structure for we try to give each and every one a distinct artistic touch. We do not believe in building row after monotonous row of dwellings that are of value for efficiency alone. The human pride and joy in beauty amply compensates us for any loss in efficiency."

Drawers did not reply. He was gazing in astonishment at the long curved walks that stretched between the taller buildings. Some of them must have been two hundred feet from the ground, with no noticeable railing for safety, and they were hardly more than three feet in width. Dozens of the golden people at this very moment could be seen moving leisurely across these shaky bridges, seeming to take no notice of the great chasm that yawned beneath. Even as Drawers watched, one of the golden people lost his balance, weaved erratically about for a moment, then started to fall.

Drawers closed his eyes to shut out the horror of the scene. Then he slowly opened them and gaped with astonishment to see a little golden man floating casually down to the ground, and alighting with scarcely a jar. Then he understood! The gravitational pull of this world was not very exacting. Few falls could be fatal here. The golden people had little to fear on that score.

Then a gigantic wall of auspicious strength and thickness bordering the city caught Drawers' eye. It seemed to inject a discordant note.

Questioningly Drawers turned to the golden man and asked. "What is the reason for that enormous wall?"

A sad, haunted look entered the expressive eyes of the little man. For a moment he did not answer, then replied.

"Perhaps, in your land you have no Griffs."

"Griffs? What are Griffs?"

As they walked the little man explained.

"Long ago, there were no violent forms of life on this planet. There were no cities with thick walls about them, and the people of our race lived luxuriously, cradled in the gentle arms of nature. Our home was wherever we happened to be at the time. Art and knowledge flourished and our people were content. Then, one day, an earthquake of violent proportions rocked the land. Great rifts were torn in the ground. And from subterranean caverns, of which we had no knowledge, emerged terrible monsters who lived on flesh and preyed upon my people unceasingly.

"We have never had strife of any kind on this world. Weapons have always been unknown. There was no way we knew to fight back. In desperation we built great walls around the cities to keep these great monsters away. Only when the sun is at its height do we dare emerge and gather food or wander through the forests we love so much. Sun hurts the Griffs' eyes and they prefer to do their hunting at night or on cloudy days.

"Gradually the Griffs have been dying out for lack of food. They are carnivorous and have systematically eliminated most of the lower animal life from our world. My race, except for occasional mishaps have been virtually beyond their reach. There are only a few of them left now, but they prowl perpetually about the walls of the city searching for an opportunity to enter and wreak havoc, or to catch some one of my race as they pass a particularly gloomy spot in the forest."

Michel Drawers thought over what the little man had said. He thought too of the sub-atomic blast used for blasting aside obstacles in search of Roxite. It would not be the first time it had been used as a weapon—a most terrible weapon of destruction.

However, for the moment he deemed it best not to mention this to Persum, as the little man so quaintly named himself. Perhaps these Griffs were not so easily destroyed. And then again to destroy them might be a fatal error. He remembered how in ages past men had wantonly destroyed the once-numerous mountain lions in reckless numbers, and then had the wild deer, which had been the mountain lion's natural prey, multiply so that they left no grass for the cattle who should have benefited through the death of the mountain lions.

Then, too there was the problem of Australia, where an apparently innocuous rodent, the rabbit, had multiplied into a national menace, once there was no natural enemy to check them. He must learn more.

They stopped before a great golden gate. Persum lifted a small reed to his lips and blew. From it there issued a long, sweet, piercing whistle. Slowly the gates rolled smoothly open, fitting right into the thick walls beside them.

Without hesitation Persum walked through the opening. Michel Drawers held back for a moment, blinded by a chance ray of sun-light that bounced off the gleaming sides of one of the buildings.

Then, he too entered, and the gates, as if by their own volition, closed behind him.

He was in another world now. Gone was all harshness and crudity. Here there was only beauty and color and gold. Buildings in peerless symmetry dug their way through the low hanging clouds to unknown heights. Spell-binding displays of coruscating lights played in rhythms through curious designs of crystals. Later Drawers learned that this corresponded to music—by sight instead of ear.

Self-consciously he ambled along the spotless streets behind Persum—streets which seemed to be paved with pure gold. He tried not to notice the open stares given him by the city's inhabitants. He realized that they did not mean to be impolite. It was simply that a man of his bulk was unique in this civilization.

More and more as they proceeded he began to take cognizance of the complete absence of transportation of any sort. Everyone here walked. Of course, the slighter gravitational pull made walking considerably less strenuous, but still, that didn't account for the various groups of golden men he had passed, laboriously pulling great blocks of stone by man-power alone—when a small wheeled vehicle, or even one beast of burden would have lightened the load immeasurably.

He stopped in utter perplexity though, when he saw a group of golden men attempting to lift an enormous stone block into place by the sheer strength of their bodies. They seemed totally ignorant of the enormous saving in strength and labor that might have been enacted by the building of a simple pulley arrangement.

It was becoming increasingly evident that this race's knowledge of even the most fundamental laws of mechanics was practically nil.

But as if in compensation, he noted too, that these people seemed to get along with each other without the slightest friction. Nothing seemed sufficient to arouse anger. He wondered if they were incapable of the emotion.

The people moved about the streets tending entirely to their own business. There were no doors to any of the dwellings—simply arched openings. Numerous valuable objects such as painstakingly carved chairs, and richly sculptured busts, were present in front of many of the homes. Yet they remained untouched.

Nowhere, so far, had he seen even one person who might have passed as a peace officer. The golden people seemed to need no enforcement to maintain the effective carrying out of whatever laws they were governed by. Each and every one of them seemed to take it for granted that he must do what was required as a duty to himself as well as to the community and that's all there was to it.

Persum had stopped in front of a grand edifice of such beauty and brilliance that it faded into insignificance the surrounding buildings, fine as they were.

He followed Persum into the building. Through upward sloping halls that wound around and around up into the vitals of the building and served in lieu of stairways, and into a glistening hall of gold and crystal. The hall was partially filled with others of the golden people.

Drawers watched in bewilderment as Persum approached the group of little people—apparently officials of the city—and without opening his lips informed them of all that had transpired.

And now others of Persum's strange race came forward to greet him. Drawers marveled at the perfection of these golden people. At the unsurpassed, delicate beauty and construction of their forms; the charm and adorableness of their women. Here indeed was a tiny race of perfection, soul-satisfying to the extreme.

One of the welcoming party bowed low before him.

"We are pleased to have this opportunity to show you our hospitality," the man said. "My name is Garanjor, humble Raciv of my people."

Drawers gulped impulsively. The highest official of the land was out to greet him. Him, a nobody from Earth who had landed here by accident, in search of Roxite. Perhaps this was some form of a joke? He scrutinized the faces about him. All were serious to the extreme. An air of serenity seemed to pervade. Drawers drew from his brain all he remembered of the proper etiquette for such occasions. Six years in a space-ship—it was easy to forget.

"I am honored," was all he could think of.

Nervously he juggled a small meter, for the determining of the purity of Roxite, in his hands.

One of the golden people took note of the instrument, and turned to the others with an unmistakable air of excitement. In an instant the entire assembly was crowded about him examining the meter with feverish interest.

One asked: "This metal—have you any more of it?"

"Why that's nothing very much," Drawers replied. "That's only common iron. The ground is filthy with this back on Earth. Why do you ask?"

Persum mentally replied to the question.

"Here, in this city, Ronir, which is what you call Iron is the rarest of all metals. We use it only in the construction of vital instruments and tools. All other uses, because of its extreme scarcity, are forbidden."

"Well, you can have all I have on the ship, if you want it," Drawers offered generously. "It's nothing more than trimmings on the inside of the ship. Iron and steel haven't been of much value since the invention of much superior alloys which have an infinitely greater resistance to heat and cold."

"We would be glad to give you anything you request for this metal," the Raciv offered. "There have been numerous occasions when the possession of a little larger supply of Ronir might have relieved much suffering."

"In that case, why don't you just consider it my contribution to the advancement of science and let it go at that?"

"I'm afraid you do not understand," Persum clarified. "Our race will not accept anything of this sort without first arranging a fair exchange."

Michel Drawers realized that he must be careful not to offend these people due to his ignorance of their laws. He made an admirable stab at diplomacy.

"Suppose you give me something that you believe would be a fair exchange."

The golden people drew away a moment and conversed telepathically among themselves.

Then the Raciv walked toward Drawers. There was a resigned expression upon his features. He threw back his shoulders and looked Drawers straight in the eye.

"I am prepared to turn my leadership over to you in exchange!" came his startling thoughts. The other golden people looked solemn.

Drawers drew back aghast. Just how precious were these small amounts of iron that he had offered these people, if they were willing to entrust him with their entire government in return.

Persum must have read his thoughts for he again explained.

"At the base of the skull of every new born babe of our race there lies a dormant gland. What use this gland once had we do not know. Through thousands of years of disuse it has atrophied, and the slightest mental exertion causes its inflammation. In almost every case the pressure exerted upon the brain by this swollen gland has resulted in death.

"At one time hundreds died daily from this dread malady. We tried to operate, but our metals were all too soft to be sharpened to a keen edge, and used for operation. Eventually we discovered Ronir. Minute deposits of this invaluable metal came to light at various times. We melted the crude ore and fashioned it into the vital instruments we needed. Now we operate upon a baby immediately after birth and remove this gland so that it cannot do any harm. The operation is a comparatively simple one. We have mastered various balms that will heal the incision within a few hours. However, we have been unable to discover new deposits of this valuable metal for many centuries now—due, largely to the menace of the Griffs.

"The instruments we fashioned many centuries ago are almost all worn out. It is estimated that if a new supply of Ronir is not obtained soon, within the next generation or so, our tools will be useless, and then—"

The inference was obvious. Michel Drawers realized that he was in a mighty uncomfortable position. For once his brain found a suitable solution.

He faced the Raciv. "I accept your Racivship with thanks."

The Raciv handed Michel Drawers an elongated prism of crystal, through which played curious designs of ever-changing color.

"Please accept this as a sign of your position," Garanjor asked.

Drawers received the colorful prism, then quickly stated, "As Raciv, I do not feel capable of performing the duties required of me in this new capacity. For that reason I hereby return the great honor entrusted to me to its original possessor."

Quickly he handed the prism back to Garanjor.

There was a murmur of thought. Apparently the golden people were deeply moved by this noble gesture.

Michel Drawers gave them no time to reconsider. He emptied his pockets of all the iron and steel objects he carried. There was the meter, a steel measuring rule, and several handy implements he happened to have with him.

While divesting himself of these objects he took opportunity to examine the golden people more carefully.

The men were attired only in what seemed to be a glorified pair of trunks—although a few of them wore a crepe-like cloak. Their entire bodies were of a deep golden hue as was their hair. The pronounced aura about each of them, he decided, must be due to the peculiar, unknown gas in the atmosphere. In some way it must affect the radiations thrown off by the body and make them visible to the naked eye.

The women were beautiful, that's all there was to it. They had all the same characteristics of the men. Their dress was a satiny, tight-fitting garment that reminded one, more than anything else, of a bathing suit done over for evening wear. Their hair was arranged in such a manner as to give the impression of additional height.

Both men and women were approximately the same height—about five feet—but built entirely in proportion.

Further observations were interrupted. The people about him suddenly assumed masks of great concern. One little man left the party. Through one of the windows he could be seen dashing off in the direction of the great wall. Drawers stood puzzled.

Persum turned to him.

"Some of our people have just sent a message of distress. They have been accosted by several Griffs and are in serious danger. We don't know what we can do, though," he ended hopelessly.

"Where is all this taking place?" Drawers inquired with an unsuccessful attempt to appear calm.

Persum gestured for him to follow.

Back to the gate they swiftly retraced their steps. The gates were slightly ajar. A hundred yards over to the right Drawers could see two of the golden people—one a woman, perched precariously in the branches of a gigantic fern.

At the base of the fern were two tremendous beasts. Each must have been at least eight feet long. They stood on four bony legs—their bodies big and broad and shaggy as a grizzly bear, which animal they resembled more than anything else, excepting for their incongruously thin legs and grotesquely large mouths. Mouths almost two thirds the size of an alligator and fiercely reinforced by large, yellow fangs.

The beasts were tearing away at the foot of the fern. It began to shake and shiver and lean heavily to one side. It was obvious that inevitably they would weaken the trunk so that it would give way and drop the two little people to a hideous death below.

Drawers thought fast. Who was he anyway? Virtually an outcast from Earth. Unwanted and unnecessary. Here, for the first time in his life, someone had treated him as though he were a leader. They pretended, at least, that he was an honored guest. His bulkiness, his crudeness had been discreetly overlooked. Possibly, if he tried, he could distract the attention of those man-eating beasts long enough for the golden people to run to safety behind the walls of the city. He would try. It would be his token of thanks for all their kindness.

Without a word of his intentions he swiftly pushed himself through the opening in the gate. His earthly muscles covered prodigious distances at each stride across the terrain of this lighter planet. He shouted once, a sort of half-hearted battle cry. The beasts wheeled about at the sound and snarled viciously.

Drawers slowed up. He was within ten yards of them now. For an instant he sparred for position. Then he flung himself forward at the nearest of the two creatures with all of his earthly speed and bulk. He crashed head on, and surprisingly enough, the animal fell back on its haunches with a sort of dazed expression.

Drawers' powerful arms arched about the creature's neck. His tremendous biceps bulged. Slowly, terribly, he tightened his grip. Applied more and more pressure.

The second Griff had been running around and around in circles. It seemed undecided, whether to attack or await the outcome of this struggle.

The Griff beneath him panted in agony. Madly it thrashed about, flinging him from side to side, but he held on like grim death. Bending its neck back, back. And suddenly, when it seemed that his strength was ebbing and that this creature would never give in, he was rewarded by a loud snap, and the beast's head hung grotesquely from his hands.

The beast reared violently, but Michel clung to its back. Only one idea obsessed him—to bend, break—

He let go and the entire body slumped limply to the ground.

Again he sparred with the other animal, but this one beat him to the attack, catapulting itself straight through the air at him. Drawers side-stepped the charge, and then his right fist descended with crushing force alongside of the Griff's ribs. There was a cracking noise as its ribs stove in like papier-mache.

It was squealing terrifiedly, and now Drawers knew his own power and illimitable strength. These Griffs, big and brutal, were hardly a match for him. Born to resist a gravity of more than twice that of his planet his bones were heavier, more compact. His muscles harder, his speed dazzling.

Again and again he came to grips with the Griff. Once its bestial fangs closed upon his shoulders and he just about tore away, his skin ripped and bleeding. His own breath was coming in great choking gasps, and his legs seemed to sag from the effort, but around and around the Griff he danced, his fists smashing a crescendo pitch of hate and power and destruction. And at every blow he could feel something give. Could hear the wind go whistling out of the weakening Griff. Could sense its great, untamed strength dissipating ounce by ounce.

Then he closed in for the kill. In a fever of fury he crashed his two big fists in bludgeoning hate to the Griff's head. It tottered to the ground—dazed. He leaped upon its back and grabbed for its head. Instinctively it eluded him and almost threw him from his perch. He grabbed a fistful of fur and retained his position. In a fit of inspiration, he began pounding sledge-hammer blows on the thing's back. His arms worked in a sort of savage rhythm, descending and rising in a blur of speed and power. And as he pounded away it seemed that this thing would never die; things were growing hazy ... he was tired, oh, so tired ... he was barely conscious of striking and from far, far in the distance his blows echoed back a tirade of destruction.

"What are you beating at, friend?" came a distant voice.

Drawers stopped suddenly.

"There is nothing but a mass of bleeding pulp beneath you."

Drawers started to get off the Griff's back. He staggered erratically. The world began to turn around and round, around and round.

Someone was leading him. He followed blindly. The next he knew he was lying back amid a mass of billowy perfumed cushions. Someone was forcing a sweet, golden liquid between his lips. He drank greedily, some of the liquid spilling down his shirt. He wiped his lips with his hand and settled back, relaxed.

Through half-closed eyelids he peered out at the small golden people. Then, in a tired, happy sort of a voice, rumbled, "I guess those two weren't hurt."

Persum, good old Persum, was standing there. Two radiant beings stood beside him.

"They are very grateful," stated Persum by proxy. "They wish to thank you personally."

"Aw, 'twas nothing."

"Nothing!" came an excited thought wave. "Nothing to kill single-handed and weaponless two of the most terrifying beasts this planet has ever known? Nothing to risk your life to save two alien people whom you did not even know? You are a hero! A great hero! And we are deeply grateful to you."

Now the woman came timidly toward him. Drawers breathed heavily with appreciation. A thing of exquisite, unutterable delight. A living poem of brilliance and charm. The most adorable, fascinating, of all the golden people he had met so far.

She barely topped the five foot mark. She was dressed in a little bathing-suit-like affair that had two bright stripes running up the front, and two small points extending down from the hips. Her eyes were flaked with tiny gold motes of color and seemed filled to overflowing with tender compassion.

Michel Drawers couldn't help noticing the feminine, unassumed grace of her movements, the smooth, round contours of her face, her soft, perfectly proportioned curves. The glory-sheen of her hair that was arched up a few inches at the brow, and then allowed to fall in glistening strands down and around her shoulders.

Here were beauty and goodness incarnate.

Without further consideration Drawers knew he was falling hopelessly in love. Knew it in the maddening fashion that only a man who yearns for the admittedly impossible can know.

"Thank you," she was thinking. And then, "Oh, how can I ever thank you enough? You were so brave, so fine, so strong, so daring."

"Ah—it was nothing. I mean—" Drawers knew he was speaking tripe. Common everyday, ordinary tripe, but he couldn't think in the presence of this dazzling little creature. All his senses, except his pounding heartbeat, seemed locked in a state of suspended animation.

Then he was tired—more tired than he thought anyone could ever be. He tried to sustain himself, but his words lisped off, and nature demanded that he rest. He fell back upon the radiant pillows, asleep before his head had indented its form upon their softness.

So he couldn't have seen, as Persum did, the soft, lingering caress that the golden girl bestowed upon his brow before she hastily retired from the room.

The ensuing days were happy ones for Michel Drawers. He was entertained royally by the elite of the golden people. The dazzling little woman he had rescued, along with Persum, were always at his side, acting as a sort of self-appointed escort service. They showed him their great city, strangely devoid of any mechanical devices or any utilization of natural laws.

He was introduced to the nation's leading thinkers who expounded learnedly upon almost incomprehensible theories. He was shown the ideal, simple, quiet life led by most of the populace and noted without being told the general tone of happiness, good will, and the utter lack of crime of any sort.

The complete and utter lack of sensible equipment convinced him more than ever that he should and could repay in some ways the unusual kindness bestowed upon him.

It was heart warming to watch the jubilation upon the faces of the workers as he arranged a simple pulley for them, and showed them how their lifting could be done with comparative ease. He shuddered to think of the work that must have gone into building some of those high, glistening towers, with the utilization of only crude man-power.

He watched the eyes of the scientific men pop with incredulity as he showed them the principle of the wheel. They were chagrined that they could have overlooked so simple a principle, but Drawers knew that the discovery of the wheel on Earth had been nothing but a lucky accident. If man had not discovered it by accident, it might never have been known at all. Then, too, he began to understand the utter lack of mechanical equipment. The wheel was one of the fundamental and most vital of parts in all moving machinery. Without the wheel, it would be difficult to construct a usable pulley, or a feasible vehicle.

There was another thing he accomplished. He constructed the first wagon these people had ever seen. They viewed it with insatiable curiosity.

But the sight of the golden men happily pulling their loads through the streets on wagons irked him. These people were not made for hard physical tabor. It took a heavy toll. He questioned Persum as to the absence of beasts of burden.

Persum thought a moment and then said, "There has never been anything but very small animals on our planet as far as we know. Nothing we might use for beasts of burden. Anyway," he concluded, "why should the animals perform our tasks for us? Why place any poor beast in bondage?"

"And why not?" asked Drawers. "It would be poetic justice to place the Griffs in bondage and force them to pull your wagons for you."

"The Griffs!" thought Persum with a note of astonishment. "Surely you are joking. Who could subdue those savage beasts so that they would labor peaceably? And even then, who would care to drive them and tend to them? It would be sheer suicide."

Drawers ignored the last statement. "Have you some strong rope that I might use?" he asked. "Some tough vegetable fiber—perhaps the material you use for pulling those blocks through the street."

"Why certainly," Persum replied. "You are welcome to all you need."

"Thank you," said Drawers. "I have a crazy sort of an idea."

That evening Michel paced back and forth in the small, luxuriously furnished apartment the little people had provided for him. It had three square sides and one open. There were apertures for light, but no glass or any other material in them. Neither was there anything other than a drape to serve as a door.

The temperature on this world was ideal. It stayed perpetually between seventy and eighty-five, hardly ever varying above or below these figures as rated on the Fahrenheit scale. Therefore there was no necessity of window panes to keep out the cold. Even without a door there was infinitely more privacy in these apartments than any man had ever known on Earth. The golden men never entered without first telepathizing their intentions in advance. Nor did anyone ever gaze into another's apartment or home. These people strictly maintained the ideal that a man's home is his castle.

His mind was surging with many thoughts. These Griffs, if he remembered correctly, though fiercely armed, had showed definite evidences of cowardice. He remembered the way they squealed when hurt. Their furious attempts to escape when soundly beaten. There was a possibility they could be trained. By force, if need be, but surely it would not hurt to try.

Then, too, those strange blossoms that acted as an anesthetic upon the golden people—perhaps they might act similarly upon the Griffs? It was a theory worth investigating.

The next morning he left the city, a long coil of hemplike rope around his arm. He found a group of the flowers he was looking for after a brief search, and quickly snapped a number of the largest blossoms at the stems. Their odor lent charm to the beauty of the scenery he passed. It struck him that these flowers were the very personification of the adage "one man's meat is another man's poison."

As though they knew he was searching for them, the Griffs seemed to elude him. The day wore on and the sun began to set and still he had found no Griffs. He began to wonder if the people of the golden city would be worried as to his whereabouts.

But as the long fingers of evening began to stretch gray paths across the sky, he was startled out of his thoughts by a fierce squealing. He turned rapidly, and there, emerging from an almost unnoticed cavelike formation was a red-eyed Griff, its teeth gnashing angrily.

Quickly Drawers formed the rope into a lasso. He gave it a few quick turns around his head and let fly at the Griff. The noose settled around the charging animal's neck. With a flick of his wrist Drawers tightened the noose, then, utilizing all of his strength, pulled the rope with a jerk to the right. The Griff choked and stumbled momentarily. In a twinkling of an eye Drawers was drowning the beast with the blossoms from the flowers he was carrying. The animal began to cough. It made an attempt to rise, and then settled back. It was panting now. Now its eyelids were closing and its breathing becoming harder and harder.

Drawers kicked the creature in the ribs. It did not respond.

Drawers removed the blossoms from the animal's nostrils. Then he took his rope and securely tied up its great jaws. With the happy whistle of a boy released from school, he made his way back to the city of Saeve, dragging the great beast behind him.

He almost laughed aloud as he saw the perplexity of the guards at the gate of the wall. They seemed uncertain whether to run as fast as they could or maintain their posts in shivering fright. At all costs they refused to allow Drawers to drag the beast into the city.

After some persuasion Drawers got them to contact Persum and arrange to have a wagon delivered outside the city.

During the interim the Griff began to revive. Finally it staggered weakly to its feet, a sick look in its eyes. At the sight of Drawers it bristled menacingly.

Drawers nonchalantly gave the animal a powerful kick in the ribs that sent it crashing to the ground.

It gained its feet again, and fumed with rage at its inability to use its well-tied jaws.

But Drawers did not let this bit of temperament deter him. He whacked the creature across the back with his fist. It sank to the ground again. A look of fear began to enter its eyes.

Within the next fifteen minutes Michel Drawers gave the animal the beating of his life. When he was through he untied the fastenings from around the creature's jaws, and waited, his fist held menacingly. The golden guards watching from the gate were stricken by the tenseness of the situation. For a moment the Griff looked at Drawers—then it cringed before him!

During the next week, thousands crammed the streets to watch a fierce-looking Griff, generation-old enemy of their race, proceeding docilely along the streets of the city, pulling enormous quantities of stone and other supplies with no sign of rebellion. Its once terrible teeth had been blunted and replaced by flat-headed golden caps. A little golden man sat unafraid upon its back directing it with deft prods of his feet. Man had again displayed his superiority over other forms of life.

Everywhere Michel Drawers went he was hailed with enthusiasm by the golden people. They gave elaborate balls in his honor—and watched with fascination as he disposed of helping after helping of the multiple types of tasty vegetables and exotic-flavored fruits which formed the bulk of their diet.

But in all truth Michel Drawers paid much more attention to the fascinating little golden woman who seemed perpetually at his side. "Trajores," she said was her name. And he escorted her proudly to the numerous balls and dinners; performed her every whim with celerity.

He remembered the look of joy on her face when he presented her with a simple bracelet, inset with colorful crystals that he had shaped for her with his own hands out of the malleable gold that could be found in such abundance.

He remembered, too, how all the other women crowded about her, examining the new creation, the first of its type in the city of Saeve, and how the next day, hammers rang merrily as self-appointed goldsmiths catered to the whims of the eternal feminine and its desire to emulate any new style or fashion.

Thus, unwittingly, Drawers had made Trajores the first stylist in the world of the golden people. And it pleased him to watch her thrill with pride as she watched the other women, and even some of the men, imitate the first necklace he had made for her, out of a few colored crystals and a wirelike string of gold.

He took advantage of every opportunity to be near her, accompanying her on long walks through the forest when the sun was high in the sky; satisfying her curiosity as to the manners and ways of life on Earth.

He enjoyed those hours in her presence and was thankful for the opportunity—but his long unfamiliarity with women often caused him to ask Persum to accompany him, and the three would stride merrily through the forest, exchanging views on various subjects.

To his astonishment, Michel Drawers awoke one day to find that a faint but undeniable glow came from his body. The strange gas in the atmosphere was beginning to affect the radiations of his body, too! Other unusual incidents lately had been the sudden regrowth of teeth long since pulled, the disappearance of several warts from his fingers. The gas, whatever it was, had beneficial effects.

But he did not comprehend the full effect of his change until one day while walking with Persum and Trajores he sensed Trajores thinking. "Were there any other girls that you left on Earth before you came here?"

"No," he replied. "I'm afraid that I never was very popular with the ladies."

A look of amazement crossed Trajores' features.

"You read my thoughts!" she accused. "I had not directed the question mentally toward you!"

Then she turned and ran back toward the city.

Michel Drawers gazed after her in perplexity, then turned with a puzzled frown to Persum.

Persum shook his head in the manner of a man who thinks, "Well, here's something else that's got to be attended to."

"It is against our custom to attempt to read the thoughts of another person," he explained. "If we did, no one would have any privacy. But I will explain to Trajores your ignorance of our laws and extend an apology by proxy. I'm sure she will forgive you. She was momentarily embarrassed. Her thoughts were of a somewhat personal nature."

But Michel Drawers hardly listened. It was incredible but true that in some manner the golden emanations that now radiated from his body enabled his mind to read thoughts!

As the days progressed, Michel Drawers became more and more impressed by the utopian way in which this society of golden people was maintained. No man was assigned any work. It was up to the individual to make himself as useful as he possibly could whenever his services were required. His leisure time was left to himself.

Drawers had seen how these golden people had volunteered for heavy physical labor even before his introduction of the labor-saving pulley wheel, wagon and beast of burden, and the manner in which they had performed, without complaining, this toilsome labor. He had seen how other men were willing to spend hours over hot forges shaping trinkets for the gratification of any women who happened to ask for them.

These people seemed to sense when their services were required and were always willing to do what was desired.

The women seemed willing to perform almost any of the regular household duties of cooking, sweeping, remodeling and washing at any time. It seemed to make little difference if they had to assume the extra burden of cooking and washing and cleaning for any of the golden men who were still unmarried or were so unfortunate as to have suffered the loss of their mates. They performed these tasks cheerfully, as their contribution to the welfare of the community.

All essentials were provided free, as were available luxuries. All worked under an eminently successful cooperative plan that did away with all of the ills of complicated economic systems.

The Raciv was really nothing more than a coordinator of the various scientists and constructors, helping to lay out the plans for the proper performance of their experiments and buildings, coping with any problem that might arise.

This race had many bewildering aspects. Drawers had listened, only half comprehending, to their learned men outline a gigantic theory of the universe and its reason for being, a theory that seemed flawlessly logical to his untrained mind. He had watched the golden men take over the manufacture of wheels, wagons, pulleys and trinkets he had introduced and improve upon them at a great rate. He had seen daring members of this delicate golden race emulate his action in capturing a Griff with astounding preciseness. Their adaptability, their gift of learning and improving upon new ideas seemed infinite. But their inability to grasp and utilize the simplest ideas on their own initiative was confounding. There was some quality lacking in their make-up that seemed to prohibit this. Why this was so he did not know. Perhaps it was the result of thousands of centuries of living easily in the forests, working and creating in the mind alone, that, through the ages had made the creative urge in them dormant. It was the only logical explanation to be found.

But once set upon the proper path that long dead ability might, by degrees, begin to restore itself, and then there would be no limit to the greatness this simple civilization might attain.

He had gotten probably his greatest kick in introducing amusements for the children. For two weeks he had labored, with several of the golden men assigned to him, in one of the larger working rooms in the city. By the end of that time he had constructed the very first Merry-Go-Round this world had ever known!

It was crude compared to what the amusement parks now had on Earth, but to these people it was an object of fabulous wonder.

He had simply constructed a large wheel, attached a few hand supports to it and mounted it on one of the wagons. The Merry-Go-Round was turned by a crude but effective crank, and this unique, whirling, breathless motion proved a source of infinite delight to the children of the city. The Merry-Go-Round was constantly on the go, and dozens of golden men crowded about, examining its manufacture, and returning home and plotting their own.

The most unusual aspect of this innovation was that the older people took to it as well as did the youngsters. The Merry-Go-Round and later the swing became a regular household addition.

These simple pleasure devices became the national amusements. It was becoming a common thing to have an open square one day, and the next find it clogged with a vast array of swings and Merry-Go-Rounds, with the golden people, young and old, partaking wholeheartedly in this new pleasure.

If it had been left to the children to judge, these new amusements were the finest things he had introduced so far; and Michel Drawers could not help realizing how limited these people's pleasures had been in the past.

It was a great day, too, when he escorted the Raciv and several of the more important men of state back to the "Star-Struck." They entered the ship and the lock closed behind them. Then with a blast of rockets the ship had rifled its way through the clouds.

The Raciv and his officials had gazed in wonder through the ports as the ship rose thousands of feet into the air. Strangely enough they displayed no visible signs of fear (possibly the fact that there was little danger in falling on this world obviated that fear) but nevertheless the novelty of the experience did not escape them.

One of the little men directed his course. They were riding a wave of telepathic radiations, as spaceships follow a radio beam into port. And the occasion was destined to be a memorable one—one of great consequence. For the first time in centuries the peoples of two cities were to meet one another!

Contact between the cities had always been maintained thanks to the development of long range telepathy. Thus they were similar in culture, development and habits, but inter-city relations had been impossible due to the long distance between cities and the dread danger of being devoured by Griffs en route.

It was soul-inspiring to witness the embraces, the thoughts of tearful thankfulness, as the golden people saw their first opportunity in hundreds of years to be reunited in fact as well as spirit.

The second city's greatest sculptor, the finest the city of Malopa had ever known, fashioned a golden image of Michel Drawers, which was placed in one of the largest squares. The ensuing weeks were ones of great celebration.

Drawers would never forget the looks on the faces of the returning party as they rocketed back to Saeve. He knew they would never forget what he had done for them; that they envisaged a greater world of tomorrow, where the seven cities were united in a common bond of understanding and continued progress.

Even the original object of his voyage, the obtaining of Roxite, was consummated. One morning, accompanied by many of the nation's leading scientists, he strode to his star-ship, patted it affectionately and then withdrew the great atom blaster. A few minutes of calculating with the Roxitometer and he located the exact position of the deposit of Roxite.

The little people watched in awe as he held the powerful blast firmly in his two capable hands and guided its probings down into the bowels of the planet. After many hours of prodigious labor he had drawn enough Roxite from the cavity to sustain him comfortably for the rest of his natural life back on Earth.

He thought often of Earth now. For though this planet was very beautiful, a peculiar sort of a homesickness plagued him, and he longed more and more to return and view again the world of his birth.

He was strolling through one of the gorgeous forest paths with Trajores one day when the urge to confide in her finally beat down his barrier of timidity. He stopped her with a touch of his hand and told her.

"I have been very happy here with your people."

"I am so glad," she replied mentally.

That made what he wanted to say extremely difficult. His throat suddenly congested, though he knew that it was only a nervous muscular reaction.

"Trajores," he said, gruffly, sadly, "I've been thinking of returning to my own planet, Earth. I have enough Roxite to insure a reasonable status of existence. I wish I might stay longer...."

Trajores stood immobile. She seemed to be thinking. Strangely enough a queer battle of emotions mirrored itself in her delicate features. Drawers felt vaguely uncomfortable alone with her. He wondered where Persum had wandered to. He had started out, as usual, with them, but somehow had drifted away, leaving him alone with Trajores.

"Michel Drawers," came an urgent thought.

Drawers riveted his attention upon the radiant woman.

"I wish you would stay here with me always. I know you would be very happy. I, I," two great golden tears rolled down her well-molded cheeks, and impulsively she flung herself into his big arms, and for the first time since his arrival he heard one of these little people give vent to a sound. It was a sob—and it came from Trajores.

Drawers stood puzzled. Instinctively he scratched his rough skull.

"Why. Why?" seemed all he could say.

"Why, you fool," came a probing voice, "don't you realize she loves you!"

Persum was standing a few feet away, his features rigid in stern sincerity.

"Love, me? Me, Michel Drawers? Why, I am not handsome. I am ugly. I am not beautiful like your race. I am big and rough and hairy. How can she love a man like me? I could not even communicate by mental telepathy before I came here. I am just a man from another civilization, away because there was no place for me. How can she love me?"

There was mute appeal in Drawers' voice. He didn't know that he was crying like a child. He didn't know that he had unconsciously fallen to his knees. He didn't know anything except that Persum had said that this beautiful, adorable, heavenly little creature loved him. Him, Michel Drawers, a big, clumsy oaf, without even a proper knowledge of manners or psychology.

And as from the distance—clear as a bell—lovely as the strummings of a harpsichord it came to him.

"Michel Drawers, I love you for what you are. For your innate goodness of soul. For your humble deserving modesty. For your mighty strength. I love you for your bigness, for your naturalness and for something else—some indefinable spark that has made our lives as one, that has caused you to search me out across the inconceivable immensity of a thousand universes. That is all I know, and one other thing. I can never leave you. If you go, I go with you."

If you can imagine the emotions of a man unjustly sentenced and finally released from prison after six years of hell; if you can imagine what it would mean to have each of your faults become instead an additional virtue. If you can imagine the joy of having all of your fondest dreams come true—then, and only then, may you comprehend for one fleeting instant, the pounding chaos, the indescribable joy, the interminable relief that permeated Michel Drawers' being at that moment.

Those two hairy arms that had pounded the most savage and horrible beasts this world had ever known into bleeding pulp slipped tenderly, reverently about the exquisite form of Trajores. And as Persum slipped discreetly away, lips closed upon lips in the manner of lovers immemorial. And the gods of fate laughed at the importance two nothings in the mighty scheme of things attached to an equally undefinable nothing called love.

Now Michel Drawers lived in perpetual delirium. A delirium of unreasoning delight. He readied his "Star-Struck" for a voyage into space and a renewal of his search to find the way back—the way back with everything worthwhile to take with him.

And he barely acknowledged the farewells of a fine people, so intense was his desire to leave.

There was a sort of solemn rigidity in their farewell attitude. A brooding, soft, strange sorrow, and they seemed to wonder, too, to wish as well, thoughts they dared not express. To see their great dream for the reuniting of the cities come crashing down; to view their momentary gains as a hollow mockery in the years to come.

All this Michel Drawers did not notice. He waved one big arm and with the other pulled back the starting lever. His great frame pressed back in agony at the terrible acceleration of the takeoff. And then he was free—free again of binding gravitation; free to search the space-ways with the woman he loved beside him; free to return to a world that had discarded him, to be again a respected citizen.

And then he saw Trajores, her lovely form inert, a trickle of golden blood issuing from her mouth, and he was overcome with remorse at his own thoughtlessness. With fear and trepidation he raised her head and pressed a vial of revivifying liquid to her lips. She sighed softly and mustered a feeble smile.

"It is all right," she appeared to murmur. "Go on."

Michel Drawers stepped back to the controls. There was an air of resolute determination about him. His enormous fingers manipulated the proper switches with unbelievable skill and speed. The petite little "Star-Struck" swerved on her course and turned in a semicircle that encompassed millions of miles.

Michel Drawers' mind was comprehending things he had never fully realized before. Trajores must never be taken to Earth. She must be returned to her own world with its kinder gravitation and its lovable golden people. To take her to Earth would be to doom her to a life of indescribable suffering.

And, too, what would he be on Earth? They would grant him permission to marry, to settle down and live his life a useless cog in society, simply because he had been fortunate enough to return with a large supply of the precious Roxite, not because of what he, himself, was or had been.

But with the golden people he was not simply a useless hulk of a man. He was Michel Drawers, the man who had introduced the most startling innovations the golden people had known in thousands of years! A man who could hold his head high and look another person squarely in the face. The only man who might rid the planet of the dread Griffs and restore a beleaguered people to their rightful heritage.

Back in the golden city of Saeve no thought of his mental inferiority was entertained. All treated him with respect. It was a world where for the first time in his life he had found some measure of happiness, and possibly there might also be contentment.

The shimmering world began to take form beneath them.

Trajores moved and thought, "Michel, that is not the way back."

And Michel Drawers smiled within himself and answered joyously.

"Yes, Trajores, that is the way back—the only way for you and me."

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