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The Return







From: The Fire People

There is but little more to add. With the death of Tao and the changing of
the law concerning the virgins' wings, my mission on Mercury was over. But
I did not think of that then, for with the war ended, my position as
virtual ruler of the Light Country still held Mercer and me occupied with
a multiplicity of details. It was a month or more after our return from
the Twilight Country that Miela reminded me of father and my duty to him.
"You have forgotten, my husband. But I have not. Your world--it calls you
now. You must go back."

Go back home--to father and dear little Beth! I had not realized how much
I had wanted it.

"What you have done for our nation--for our girls--can never be repaid,
Alan. And you can do more in later years, perhaps. But now your father
needs you--and we must think of him."

I cast aside every consideration of what changes would first have to be
made here on Mercury, and decided in that moment to go.

"But you must go with me, Miela," I said, and then, as I thought of
something else, I added gently: "You will, won't you, little wife? For you
know I cannot leave you now."

She smiled her tender little smile.

"'Whither thou goest, I will go,' my husband," she quoted softly, "'for
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.'"

We were ready to start at the time of the next inferior conjunction of
Mercury with the earth. At our combined pleading, and with the permission
of his associates, Fuero was persuaded to take command of the nation
during my absence; and I felt I was leaving affairs in able hands.

Lua refused to accompany us; but she urged Anina to go, and the little
girl was ready enough to take advantage of her mother's permission.

Though he said nothing, I shall never forget Mercer's face as this
decision was made.

The vehicle in which Miela had made her former trip was still lying in the
valley where we had left it. We went away privately, only Lua and Fuero
accompanying us out of the city.

Lua parted with her two daughters quietly. Her emotions at seeing them go
she concealed under that sweet, gentle reserve which was characteristic of
her always.

"Promise me you will be careful of her, Alan," she said softly as she
kissed me at parting.

* * * * *

We landed in the Chilean Andes, with that patient statue of the Christ to
welcome us back to earth. The Trans-Andean Railroad runs near it, and we
soon were in the city of Buenos Aires. The two girls, with wings shrouded
in their long cloaks, walked about its crowded streets with a wonderment
I can only vaguely imagine. We had only what little money I had taken with
me to Mercury. I interviewed a prominent banker of the city, told him in
confidence who I was, and from him obtained necessary funds.

We cabled father then, and he answered at once that he would come down and
join us. We waited for him down there, and in another month he was with
us--dear old gentleman, leaning over the steamer rail, trying to hold back
the tears of joy that sprang into his eyes at sight of me. Little Beth was
with him, too, smart and stylish as ever, and good old Bob Trevor, whom
she shyly presented as her husband.

The beach at Mar del Plata, near Buenos Aires, is one of the most
beautiful spots in South America; and on a clear moonlit night, with the
Southern Cross overhead, it displays the starry heavens as few other
places can on this earth.

On such a night in February, 1942, Mercer and Anina sat together on the
sand, apart from the gay throng that crowded the pavilion below them. The
girl was dressed all in white, with a long black cape covering her wings.
Her beautiful blond hair was piled on her head in huge soft coils, and
over it she had thrown a filmy, sky-blue mantilla that shone with a soft
luster in the moonlight and seemed reflected in the blue of her eyes.

Mercer in white flannels sat beside her, cross-legged on the white sand,
with a newly purchased Hawaiian guitar across his lap. From the band stand
in the pavilion down the beach faint strains of music floated up to them.
The moon silvered the water before them; a soft, gentle breeze of summer
caressed their cheeks; the myriad stars glittered overhead like brilliant
gems scattered on the turquoise velvet of the sky.

Anina, chin cupped in her hand, sat staring at the wonderful heavens that
all her life before had been withheld from her sight. She sighed
tremulously.

"I want to say this is a night," Mercer declared, breaking a long silence.

"It's--it's beautiful," she answered softly. "Those millions of
worlds--like mine, perhaps--or like this one of yours." She turned to him.
"Ollie, which of them is my world?"

"You can't see it now, Anina. It's too close to the sun."

Again she sighed. "I'm sorry for that. It would seem closer, perhaps, if
we could see it."

"You're not sorry you came, Anina? You don't want to go back now?"

"Not now, Ollie." She smiled into his earnest, pleading eyes. "For those I
love are here as well as there. I have Miela and Alan--and--"

"And?" Mercer leaned forward eagerly.

"And Miela's little son--that darling little baby. We must go back soon
and see Miela. She will be wondering where we are."

Mercer sat back. "Oh," he said. "Yes, we must."

The band in the pavilion stopped its music. Mercer slid his little steel
cross-piece over the guitar strings and began to play the haunting, crying
music of the islands, the music of moonlight and love. After a moment he
stopped abruptly.

"Anina, that little song you sang in the boat that day--you remember--the
day we went to the Water City? Sing it again, Anina."

She sang it through softly, just as she had in the boat, to its last
ending little half-sob.

Mercer laid his guitar on the sand beside him.

"You said that music talks to you, Anina--though sometimes you--you don't
understand just what it tries to say. I feel it that way, too--only--only
to-night--now--I think I do understand."

His voice was very soft and earnest and just a trifle husky.

"You said that it was a love-song, Anina, and it was sad because love is
sad. Do you--think love is always sad?" He put out his hand awkwardly and
touched hers.

"Do you, Anina?" he whispered.

Her little figure swayed toward him. She half turned, and in her shining
eyes he saw the light that needs no words to make its meaning clear.

The timidity that so often before had restrained him was swept away; he
took her abruptly into his arms, kissing her hair, her eyes, her lips.

"Love isn't--always very sad, is it, Anina?"

Her arms held him close.

"I--I don't know," she breathed against his shoulder. "But it's--it's
very--wonderful."





Next: Victory

Previous: The End Of Tao



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