Le Roman di Geppetto
set down by Carlo Collodi
Once upon a time there was a toymaker named Geppetto who was alone and childless, and knew himself to be growing old. His greatest joy was making toys for children, especially puppets that they could bring to life with strings and rods. He loved to watch the puppets dance, and he was a very skilled artificer.
Geppetto had also, however, learned through secret practice the art of witchcraft, condemned by the church and the law. At night, when no-one could see, he would take puppets that had no strings and make them dance and play together without using his hands, as if they were his children. He loved children and wished for a child of his own, but he had to content himself with the puppets and the children who came to his shop.
As he grew older, the toymaker yearned to have a child and his puppets no longer satisfied him. Even as he practiced his witchcraft he prayed to God to bring him a child of his own, and when God did not answer he decided to carve a perfect little boy for himself. He worked on it for weeks, and then months, while the children stopped coming to the toy shop that was always closed. He worked until his hands bled.
One night, finally, he decided that his little pine nut, his Pinocchio, was finished. That night he put his little boy on the table and brought it to life with his witchcraft. Pinocchio danced and laughed all through the night. He called Geppetto "father" and loved him, for he knew no-one else.
He had spent so much of his love and blood and life on his little boy that when he brought him to life he found that Pinocchio would not cease to move when he wished it, and as morning dawned he knew he would be found out and punished for practicing witchcraft. So he locked Pinocchio in a trunk in his bedroom and opened his shop for the first time in months. But seeing all the little children in his shop, he wished to play with Pinocchio again. That night he took him out of the trunk, and Pinocchio laughed as before and still called Geppetto "father".
Days passed, and each day Pinocchio was put away in the trunk and let out only at night to play with his father. But one day Geppetto, in his hurry to put away his son and open his shop, left the trunk unlocked and Pinocchio climbed out. He was so amazed by the sunlight through his father's window that he wanted to climb up and touch it, and then to climb out and dance in it, and then to see all the sights the world had to offer.
But he did not know the ways of men, having only ever known Geppetto, and soon he was caught. When a priest asked where he came from, he answered, "My father is Geppetto!"
When the priest heard that the toymaker had brought a puppet to life, he went to the village square at once and showed the boy to all who wished to look. It was decided that the little wooden boy must be destroyed and Geppetto punished.
Thus, before all the children left their school to go to the toymaker's shop, Geppetto discovered a fire burning in his wood shop, and the cause of the fire was his son, who could not feel pain and still laughed and called out to his father to see how the pretty flame danced. He would not leave his son's side and they were burned together.
After their death, no building could be erected on the site of his shop. Anything built there burned to the ground.
After the Revelations of William LaRoche, this parable was rediscovered and has become a staple element of Creationist teaching. It is considered one of the most romantic and tragic stories in Creationist mythology, and has been immortalized in thousands of retellings in literature, art, and stage drama, particularly as a puppet play in America.
The people emptied out onto the street like jewels spilling on velvet, which was a terrible metaphor that Ellis regretted as soon as it crossed his mind. Nevertheless, he leaned against the window in the passage outside the balcony of the theatre and watched, enjoying the view. Carriages clattered and horses shook their harnesses, snorting steam impatiently into the air. The world was rich and full of interesting things, and Ellis was content to perch here and observe, for now. Crowds didn't agree with him, so he had stayed above while the Archchancellor took Jack and Clare to the bar below to buy them a cocoa and settle them down before the trip home.
He left the window and walked across the passage to lean over the rail and watch the bar, where stragglers were huddling around hot drinks and snacks. He found the others easily enough; Jack was gesturing excitedly to the Archchancellor and Clare was already trying to Create the little dancing puppets the theatre troupe had used in a number of their acts. They were very clever, the puppets that didn't need hands or strings to move. A few theatregoers had gathered around to watch her attempts, which were only partially successful -- the puppet was very clearly real, at least for the moment, but it flopped about bonelessly.
He had known when he came to America that he would be choosing someone young for the task he had in mind; only the young would have the flexibility of imagination to achieve it. But the children below him, excited and laughing after seeing a play, were so very young and so very inexperienced in the world outside of Boston. He wasn't even asking so much of them; just their genius. But he knew the demands that a real challenge could put on a brilliant mind, and his task frightened him.
Jack was clever, educated, and incredibly frustrated by the lack of imagination that surrounded him, which was perfect. He needed Clare to balance him, that much was obvious, but Ellis was fond of the witty young woman as well. In every other way Jack was ideal; if he needed Clare, that was a need easily filled. So now was the time to act, without allowing his appreciation of their innocence to get in the way.
He circled the balcony and strolled casually down the stairs, arriving at the bar just in time for Clare to collapse her puppet and let it fade away into nothing.
"I'm not sure they enjoyed it -- what do you think?" he asked the Archchancellor, who laughed. "Did you like the Pinocchio panto, Miss Fields?"
"I always cry when Geppetto dies," she said. "It's nice they don't do it last, or it'd be too sad. Jack cried too, though."
"Everyone cries when Geppetto dies," Jack replied imperturbably. "Mr. Graveworthy wrote a book about that, didn't you?"
Ellis smiled. "I may have done. I thought that book was banned in Americ -- ahh," he said, as Jack and Clare exchanged a guilty look.
"It was still sold here; we don't tolerate small-mindedness in Massachusetts," the Archchancellor said. Jack gave him a peculiar look, and Ellis smiled.
"I'm glad," he said. "And also rather tired. Are you staying in town, Archchancellor?"
"No; the school needs me. And I think I must shepherd this one back to Cambridge," he added, tilting his head at Jack.
"It's a long cold ride back; I was about to offer to take Miss Fields back to her lodgings, and shelter Mr. Baker at my hotel for the evening. I'll be traveling to Cambridge tomorrow at any rate; I could bring him back in the morning, if you care to meet us at the gate."
The Archchancellor looked relieved, which Graveworthy had counted on; he would probably fall asleep on the train back. He steered them out into the night and helped the Archchancellor hail a cab in the now-empty street.
"Are your lodgings far?" he asked Clare, who smiled and shook her head. "Shall we walk or ride?"
She laid a hand on Jack's shoulder and rocked him gently. He glanced at her with a question on his face.
"I'll go on my own," she said. "You want to be Dutch uncle, and you'll get rid of me sooner or later. Be good, Baker," she added, kissing Jack on the cheek.
"Look after yourself, Fields," he replied, matching her amused look. "I'll write to you tomorrow."
Both men stood in the cold, their breath freezing in the air as they watched Clare until she turned a corner and disappeared into the dark.
"Do you worry about her?" Ellis asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
"Clare? You have met her, haven't you?" Jack asked, turning to walk north up Washington Street. "She can look after herself. Let's go down to the waterfront! I'm going to make the most of every single minute I'm out of Harvard."
"Like your friend, Mr. Wirth."
Jack laughed. "Well, not exactly. I want to go back eventually, and he doesn't. The Archchancellor was right -- Jacob wasn't built to be an engineer. Which was never more evident than tonight."
"Clare said he didn't like your inventions."
"He didn't understand them, that's all."
"The technical side?" Ellis asked.
"No...no, he knows how to build an engine, and he'd understand the schematics if I drew them out. He doesn't get why he should change the way things are." Jack shrugged.
"But you do," Ellis said, stepping carefully around a heap of manure slowly freezing in the street.
"If you can make things more efficient, why wouldn't you?"
"Oh, I don't know. There's nothing quite like a hand-cooked meal. Perhaps Mr. Wirth feels the way about food that you do about machines. Creating for the sake of creating."
"I don't Create -- "
"Not that kind of Creation, Mr. Baker," Ellis said carefully. "Maybe...building. Making something new out of something real. That's what you do, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Jack led him through an alley, turning east towards the water. Ellis looked around him in bemusement. It reminded him of his youth, darting through narrow streets in London, taking the shortest, dirtiest route to his goal.
"Clare told me that you could have gone to the Trade School for Creation," he observed.
"Sure, maybe. I can hardly do anything anymore, though. Can't even start fires," Jack said, leaving the alley and dodging around a cart standing in the road. "I'm not interested in things that don't last. At the end of the day, everything you make..." he turned and spread his fingers, forming an imaginary cloud, "...goes up in smoke."
"How would you like the opportunity to build something nobody's ever built before, something that would last forever?" Ellis asked, lingering under a gaslight. Jack, ten or twelve steps ahead, stopped as if something had struck him between the shoulders. He was silent, so Ellis continued. "Something that would last forever, not just in reality but in books. History books, textbooks, engineering manuals. Something students would build models of, hundreds of years from now."
Jack's left hand moved, as if he were reaching for a handrail that wasn't there. He turned around, tilting his head, and Ellis came forward.
"How would you like to shake the dust of Harvard off your heels and work for me, Jack?" he asked, moving in close. "How'd you like to build something that really matters?"
"What do you want?" Jack said. Outside of the pool of light thrown by the gas lanterns, his face was streaked with shadow. His dark blue eyes glittered.
"I want you to build me a flying machine," Ellis said, pushing his advantage. Jack licked his lips. "I want you to come to England with me and build a Leonardo Engine. Or a new kind of engine. Something that flies, something that even your teachers haven't dreamed was possible. I need to fly across an ocean, and I want you to build the machine that will do it."
He could see the fire light itself in Jack's soul -- he'd felt it himself, the first time a story dug its claws in and wouldn't let go until he'd written it. It was almost breathtaking, watching a young man find his purpose in a dark street at half past midnight. Jack's mouth worked slightly, and his nostrils flared; when he spoke again, it was exactly what Ellis knew he would say.
"I can't leave Clare," he said. "I shouldn't leave school."
"You don't have to leave Clare," Ellis answered. "There's room for her as well. In fact, I'd prefer it. As for school...well, young Wirth left because he had a passion your school couldn't satisfy. You can always transfer to Cambridge, in England, if you like. But we both know you've outgrown Harvard."
"No -- " Jack hesitated. "There's all kinds of things I don't know..."
"Facts, things you can get from books. If you want to be a ride-along mechanic, you'll need a diploma, but you have the knowledge already. I'm asking you to travel the world, here, now, with me." He smiled gently, a smile calculated to reassure. "You don't have to decide tonight. Come, you wanted to walk along the waterfront. My hotel is north of here; we'll reach it eventually."
"I -- " Jack looked around, a little wildly. "Maybe I should go back to Harvard. If I run I can still make the last train."
"There's a room waiting for you," Ellis said. "Come, Jack. Let me tell you a little about my Cambridge, and if that doesn't put you to sleep nothing will."
Jack hesitated, but a warm bed and a good night's sleep heavily outweighed a run for the train and a night on the ground outside the Archchancellor's gate. He turned and followed like a stray puppy, up the waterfront walk to where the lights of Ellis's hotel still burned brightly.
As with most of the population of Boston and Cambridge, Jack drank beer for preference over milk or juice; for one thing, it was cheaper, and cleaner than most of the water. Unlike his fellow students, however, he rarely had more than one before switching to tea, and never drank hard liquor. Still, that morning he woke with a decidedly hung-over sensation, starting with the fact that he wasn't waking in his own bed.
He pushed himself up on his elbows and looked around, taking in the sterile facelessness of a hotel room, the sun breaking through the window, and the rising sounds of people starting their morning in the street below. He stumbled to the washbasin in the corner and unbuttoned his shirt, easing it down over his shoulders before bending over the basin to dump the entire jug of water over his head. It was just warm enough and, despite the fact that it smelled like flowers, it was pure bliss.
He washed his hands and arms, feeling dizzy and fogged. He'd been out late and eaten rich food and seen a show, which was too much stimulation -- that was why he felt so awful...
The memory of the walk from the theatre to the hotel hit him so hard that he nearly fell over. He grabbed the basin stand, his hair still dripping into the bowl.
Graveworthy had stood under a gaslight and said something to make Jack stop in his tracks, and then this famous man had walked forward until he filled Jack's vision and talked about seeing the world and building things that would last forever and flying machines and the other Cambridge, the one across an enormous ocean in England. Jack tried to breathe deeply.
There was a knock on the door, a welcome distraction, and for a few minutes he was busy dressing properly and accepting a delivery of breakfast from the cookshop below. He found he was ravenous, and the food smelled delicious; most mornings at Harvard they got oatmeal, eggs if they were lucky.
Even as he ate, though, he found himself doodling on the hotel stationery: squares and triangles, plain and orderly. It was soothing, the way geometry didn't change. Ninety degrees was an infallible fact, not like the uncertainty of Jacob dropping out of Harvard to be a cook or Graveworthy asking him, Jack Baker, to leave Harvard and take Clare with him to England.
A flying machine. A machine that flew through the air. The unattainable goal; better and smarter men than he had tried and failed.
He found himself adding fanciful little wings to one of the boxes he'd drawn. They were much too small; wings that size would never support a box that large. The drag on the corners of the box alone would pull the whole thing down. It should be shaped more like a train, a big cylinder. Hadn't the Leonardo designs looked vaguely circular? It'd been at least a year since they'd done the unit on historical engineering, and longer still since he'd read about the flying machines as a kid. Jack thought he recalled that the actual Leonardo Engine was more of a straight up-and-down proposition, and the forward-motion flight machine didn't have any real machinery at all. More built for gliding, like birds on thermals. So if you fixed two of the engines to the glider, one to go up and one to go forward...
An image filled his head of what would happen if you had two engines pushing in two different directions. The imaginary man in his head, clinging to an imaginary wood glider frame, screamed hilariously as the engines sent him corkscrewing through the air in a series of tremendous backflips. Jack began to laugh.
"That's an encouraging sound," said Ellis Graveworthy's voice, and Jack started in his chair. The other man, impeccably dressed and looking cheerful, stood in the doorway with his hand on the knob.
"I heard you were awake, so I thought I'd come see if you wished to visit Haymarket before we go back to Cambridge," he said.
"Oh! Sure," Jack answered, rolling up the sheet of paper and shoving it in his pocket. While he'd been daydreaming about imaginary acrobats, his hands had been crafting a more appropriate shape and structure for the engine, and he didn't want to lose track of his thoughts.
"I thought you might like some fresh food," Graveworthy remarked, as they descended the staircase. "Haymarket is a wonderful experience, even if you're not looking to buy anything."
"I used to go there as a kid. I love it," Jack replied, passing through the front door of the hotel and out into the chilly, sunny morning.
"Why shouldn't you? You're the sort of man to enjoy stimulation, in whatever form," Graveworthy said, as they crossed the street and made their way south, to where a row of temporary market stalls swayed a little in the wind. "Have you given any more thought to my proposal, by the way? You seemed a little overwhelmed last night."
"I -- it's a long way to go. Why can't I build what you need here?"
"That's a good question requiring an honest answer, but unfortunately unless I have your agreement I can't give you one. Suffice it to say that the placement is wrong, and that if you did build here we would be required to transport it at any rate. Easier to take you to England, really."
"What's it going to be used for?"
Graveworthy looked amused. "I suspected you would go straight for the questions I can't answer. Let me tell you what I can, shall I?"
Jack nodded, lingering at the edge of the market, just behind a fishmonger's stall. The smell was overwhelming, but Graveworthy seemed to want privacy.
"I need a contraption that can carry two men, no less, over a long distance in a short amount of time using air flight. There must be no stops to take on more fuel, so fuel should factor into your weight calculations. It must be able to land smoothly and leave the ground with no additional assistance from below. And it cannot rely on Creationists to support any element of it."
"And you can't tell me where this contraption will carry them or why?" Jack asked.
"Is it necessary, in order to design it?"
"There's just a lot to take into account, that's all," Jack answered, leaving the shelter of the fishmonger's stall and ambling down the crowded market-stall path. "And not just in construction, I mean. There's Clare to think about."
"As I said, I encourage you to invite her. I believe she's a necessity to your process."
"Well, yeah, I can invite her, but that's no guarantee she'll want to go. She has school too, you know." Jack picked up a late-fall apple, passed payment across to the woman minding the stall, and bit into it. "Then I need to know whether or not I can come back to Harvard when it's done, and what happens if I can't build it for you, and where we'll live in England. You have to do these things properly," he said seriously, and was not entirely pleased by the amusement lingering on Graveworthy's face.
"All things will be done properly, I assure you," Graveworthy replied. "Neither of you have classes today or tomorrow; you could meet her tomorrow after the Rites and discuss it. I'll carry a message if you like; I'll be speaking to her soon, unless you'd prefer I wait."
Jack pursed his lips. "Mm...no. You're better at convincing people."
Graveworthy's laughter echoed down the crowded street, startling a flock of birds feasting on castoff from the nearby bakery.
On Sunday, Clare caught the first train leaving Boston after the Rites and ate a hasty sandwich en route, arriving in Cambridge early in the afternoon. Jack wasn't expecting her, but the ride was pleasant, and the time to collect her thoughts was welcome. Graveworthy had spoken to her before Temple that morning, and she needed to see Jack and talk to him. Leaving Harvard was insanity, and leaving it for some mysterious commission in another country was almost suicidal. They weren't kin, but he was still all the family she had, and she was all he'd had since his parents died; someone needed to look out for him.
Graveworthy had asked her to come with them, all the way across an ocean she hadn't seen the far side of since she was three. And if she didn't go, Jack would be alone there, just as she would be in Boston.
So, she would simply have to convince him not to go. She was confident that Jack wouldn't leave if she told him she wouldn't follow.
She arrived at the gates just as a handful of students were leaving, and she smiled and waved at the porter as she passed through. The others turned to stare at her, fascinated as always by her brightly colored clothing amid the dull cloaks of the Engineers.
Jack's windows were dark, but there wasn't anywhere else he was likely to be; it was too late for lunch, and his duties as the Head of his year didn't usually interfere with his Sunday afternoon.
She let herself into the building and then tried the knob of his door, finding it unlocked as usual. Inside it was dim and smelled musty, as if he hadn't opened the windows recently. The tang of burning metal lurked in the air. Past the candy machine near the door, she could see Jack's bed (empty) and his desk (occupied) and the spilled ink that had run down one table leg onto the floor.
Jack was asleep, head down on his arms, one hand having knocked over an inkbottle at some point. His fingers were stained with it, and they twitched slightly when she lifted one of the pages that was soaking up the ink, setting it aside.
She lifted another page, careful not to let it rustle, and carried it to the window, studying the pencil-sketches on it. After so long with Jack she could recognize a steam engine in her sleep, and she followed the gears and levers to a doubled-up pair of wooden --
Were those wings?
Wings, yes, and up in the corner, a torn-out page from a book attached to the page with glue, something that looked like a flying sled. She glanced back at where Jack slept peacefully on the desktop; there was a pile of books next to one elbow with titles like The Elusive Engine and Leonardo da Vinci: Life and Work.
An entire pile of papers was soaking up the spilled ink, some with pen sketches, some with pencil. And, now that her eyes had adjusted a little, she could see a small wooden model made of balsa and cotton, clutched loosely in Jack's other hand. He snorted and it tumbled out of his fingers to the floor, sailing down slowly.
She bent to pick it up, studying it, then launched it through the air. It soared upwards for a moment, did a complete loop in the air, and landed on his bed. There was a tiny platform on it labeled "steam engine" in blotty ink.
She sat down, the paper still held in her hand. Jack must have been up late working; he never slept during the day unless he'd been pulling an all-nighter. Which meant he had a new fascination that was excluding all others. He had built the little toy with such care, even knowing that it would be destroyed and rebuilt a dozen times before he found a way to make it work.
It hurt her sometimes, watching Jack face off against the world and the laws of nature. Her brilliant, much-loved Jack should have everything he wanted. He was better than a brother, from what she'd seen of sisters and brothers, and they'd looked after each other as children.
Jack had always wanted to see the world.
She picked up the little flying toy from his bed, set it on the desk out of reach of any sleepy flailing arms, righted the empty inkpot, and spread the rest of the paperwork out to dry. She found a blank scrap and a greasy pencil, and wrote him a quick note.
Send me a message and tell me when we leave for Great Britain. I'll need time to pack.
She set the note where he'd see it when he woke up, then stroked his head gently before she left, easing the door shut behind her. The hallway was quiet. Most of the students were either gated out for a Sunday afternoon, sleeping, or working on projects for the following day's classes.
As she walked down the hallway a young man passed her, apparently lost in his own world. He didn't look at her, which startled her; the students always turned to stare, even having seen Clare more frequently than other outsiders. Instead she turned to look at him after he'd passed, and saw him knocking on Jack's door.
"He's asleep," she called, and the young man glanced up at her, startled. "He's sleeping," she repeated. "He should be awake this evening if you need something."
He turned the doorknob, which opened obediently.
"I just have to leave something for him," he said. "Thanks."
She started back towards him before she realized she was doing it. He hadn't stopped to look at her -- and his shoes were wrong, and his student's cloak was also wrong, somehow, but these details didn't surface in her mind until she'd laid a hand on his arm.
"Please don't bother him," she said with a smile. Her other hand, behind her back, curled close to Create. The idea of a knife crossed her mind, but there were other weapons just as powerful that didn't do so much damage. It formed in her hand, damp and fragrant, already beginning to cause a burning sensation against her skin.
"It's okay, he knows me," he said, shrugging her hand off. She grasped the back of his not-quite-a-student's-cloak between the shoulders.
"I said, don't bother him," she answered, tugging slightly. He was bigger and stronger, but he wasn't expecting the dainty young woman in the bright dress to pull quite so hard, and he stumbled backwards. His hand whipped out to slap her away, but she ducked under it and flung her other hand up into his face.
It worked beyond her wildest dreams; a bright cloud of wet red pepper burst in his eyes and he screamed more loudly than she'd ever heard anyone scream. There was a thunk from inside as Jack awoke, but Clare was busy punching the man in the stomach, just like Jack's father had taught her. He was still screaming as he fell to the floor.
Jack burst through the doorway, tripped over the curled man, and fell to the ground. He flipped on his back and looked up at her, eyes wide.
"Muh?" he asked.
"Get a porter," she said, kicking the man for good measure. His whole body jerked, and a knife fell out of his sleeve. Both of them stared at it, even as the man's hand groped for the blade. Jack, sliding his hips along the floor, sent it skittering down the hallway with a flick of his boot. Heads were beginning to pop out of doors up and down the corridor.
"Someone get a porter," Clare yelled. The man on the floor twitched but didn't try to get up. A few students moved hesitantly towards the door. "He attacked me!"
"Looks like it didn't last long," a student nearer to Jack's room said. "You all right, miss?"
"Yeah," Clare said, wiping the peppery mixture off her hand with a handkerchief. "All right, Jack?"
"Yes?" Jack said uncertainly, pushing his way up the wall. "What happened?"
"He was trying to get into your room. He's not a student," she added, as Jack and another student turned the sobbing, shaking man over.
"Doesn't look familiar to me," Jack said. A crowd began to gather, and he looked up at them in annoyance. "Back to your rooms. Keep your doors locked and your mouths shut. Go!" he shouted, when they hesitated. Doors slammed up and down the hall.
"I came to see you," Clare said breathlessly. "But you were asleep so I left a note and went to go and he was here and he didn't look right, so I threw some peppers in his face -- "
"You Created?" Jack asked sharply. Clare blinked, then remembered -- it was Sunday.
"It's okay if you're fighting for your life," she retorted. "I hardly think that's the issue here! You could have been killed!"
"So could you," he replied. "Why didn't you just scream?"
"Didn't have to," she answered. "I took care of it."
Jack stood and stepped over the man, who had stopped shaking but was curled in a ball and moaning every few seconds. Clare found herself wrapped in his arms, face pressed to his shoulder. He was trembling.
"Glad you're okay," he said in her ear. "Thanks."
Clare thought it was rather embarrassing, Jack hugging her just because she'd punched someone, but he seemed to need it.
The hallway door opened and a porter burst through, followed by a cadre of students. Jack released her, turning to wave them over. Even as he did so, the man at their feet relaxed and stopped moaning, slumping face-down onto the wooden floor.
"Peppers disappeared," she whispered.
"I don't think he wants a second round," Jack whispered back. "Porter! Over here! Trespasser on campus. Probably a thief," he added, prodding the man with his shoe. "He had a kni -- "
He stopped as something clanked inside the man's cloak. Very carefully, he knelt on the man's shoulders and, ignoring his protests, flipped the cloak up.
Underneath, in a holster cinched tight around the man's waist, was a large western-style revolver.
The Archchancellor's office was not entirely unfamiliar to Jack; he'd been called here before in his time at Harvard, most notably to be informed that he was going to be Head of his year. Still, it always made him feel as if he had done, or was doing, or would do, something wrong.
He sat next to Clare in one of several padded chairs in the room, awaiting the Archchancellor's arrival. She looked less composed than she had when she was kicking the hell out of a man with a gun.
"Obviously you did the right thing," he said, trying to be helpful. "You said he tried to slap you."
"He could have shot you," she replied.
"He could have shot you. In fact it's a lot more likely he would have. I didn't throw wet peppers in his face," he pointed out.
"Don't tell anyone, okay?" she asked.
"Who would I tell? Besides, you said so yourself, you're allowed to Create if your life's in danger. Good show too. Please, consider yourself allowed to Create if my life's in danger," he added. She rolled her eyes at him.
"The Edicts clearly state that Creation on a Sunday is an offence to humility and to the Creator of us all," she said. "But human life is more sacred than human law. When there is the power to preserve life, the Edicts are as dust in the mouths of the Fathers," she quoted.
"Then you're in the clear. I'm sure the Archchancellor just wants us to tell us what's going on," Jack said. A door slammed in the outer office, and both of them turned their eyes forward just as the Archchancellor entered. When Graveworthy entered after him, however, both of them gaped. He had his left arm in a sling, and there was a bandage on the left side of his throat. The leather holster from the man's belt dangled from his right hand. The revolver was still in it.
"Resourceful infants," he said ruefully, when he saw them staring. "You came out better than I did."
"What's going on?" Clare demanded, as a third man entered the room -- the Headmaster of her own school. The Archchancellor glanced at Graveworthy, who leaned against the large wooden desk and regarded them solemnly.
"I'm afraid I've been leading you down a path more dangerous than I believed," Graveworthy said, bowing his head. "And, at this point, the choice to leave the country is no longer yours."
He laid the holster on the desk gently. "There are men in this country, and in other countries, who have done their utmost to impede the progress of the project I've asked Jack to undertake. In Wyoming, they killed a man and nearly killed me, but I thought that in Boston I was protected. Clearly, I was wrong," he added, flexing the fingers of his left hand in the sling.
"But it's just a machine," Jack said. He was having a hard time believing he'd said that, but he was an engineer, not a monster. "Nobody cares about machines except engineers."
"You'd be surprised how very much some people care about machines," Graveworthy said. "You are no longer safe, neither one of you, because of this."
"What happened to you?" Jack asked.
"Ducked too slow," Graveworthy answered, his voice faster, more clipped and intent than Jack was accustomed to.
"What Mr. Graveworthy is attempting to tell you, in his own poet's way," the Head said, startling Clare, "is that the pair of you have involuntarily been branded agents of a foreign government, the government of the British Empire, because Mr. Graveworthy is an agent of that government. His commission for you, Mr. Baker, is for a machine that will enable him to complete a mission for the Empire that powerful factions in Europe and some even here in America would prefer to thwart."
"I'm an American citizen," Jack said, confused.
"Working on a top-secret project for an agent of Her Majesty's service," the Headmaster said. "And while Boston is more civilized than the west, it is not yet so civilized that men don't kill each other when they think their country is under threat."
"You're a spy?" Clare asked. Graveworthy smiled faintly.
"Not in the sense you're thinking of. I travel as a writer; occasionally in my travels I do Her Majesty some small service, for which I am vastly underpaid," he said. The Head snorted. "One of those services was to locate and recruit an engineer who could facilitate a journey I have yet to make. You are my recruit, Mr. Baker, and it would appear that you have not gone unnoticed."
Jack couldn't think of what to say, so he stayed silent. Clare, however, had words enough for both of them.
"He could have been killed!" she said furiously, forgetting the Head and Archchancellor, going directly for Graveworthy. "If I hadn't been there he would have been! Because you couldn't fuck yourself to protect him!"
"Language, Miss Fields," the Head murmured.
"No, it's all right," Graveworthy replied. "She's correct, of course. In a city, I don't take the same precautions I would anywhere else. I forgot I wasn't in England, where no foreign agent would dare something so openly violent against a mere associate. Quite right, Miss Fields, but your anger does not help the situation we now find ourselves in."
The Head laid a packet on the desk next to Graveworthy's hip. "Tickets and false passports. You depart for Penzance tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I will escort Miss Fields back to Boston and -- "
"Excuse me," Jack heard himself say. "We never agreed to go to England. I mean," he corrected, swallowing, "I considered it, but not tomorrow morning, and not after someone came to my room with a gun."
"Remaining in America endangers you. You will be protected in England," the Head said. Jack looked at his Archchancellor, but the head of Harvard was silent, fading into the background passively.
"You thought we were protected in Boston," Clare pointed out. Graveworthy sighed.
"And I am sorry, Miss Fields, and you are entirely right not to trust me -- but the result will be the same. If you stay here you will be killed."
Clare opened her mouth again, but Jack reached out and touched her arm. She glanced at him and fell quiet.
"Can you just...tell them not to kill us?" he asked. "Clare, at any rate. I'll come with you, that's fine, but if they know Clare's not a part of it, they can't possibly have any reason to hurt her."
"To get to you? Why wouldn't they? They don't put a value on life, not the way you would -- the way I would," Graveworthy replied.
"And what if I quit?" Jack asked.
"You're still privy to government secrets. Having agreed to work with me, you could be killed; having quit the project, you would undoubtedly be tortured for the knowledge you possess."
"But I don't know anything!"
"You're a spy too," Clare said suddenly, looking at the Head. "You knew about this."
Jack followed her gaze. The Head met it without flinching.
"As with Mr. Graveworthy, I travel in social circles which occasionally allow me to perform services -- for the government of America," he said. "I agreed to supervise Mr. Graveworthy's search for -- well, for Mr. Baker."
Jack leaned forward, rubbing his face with his hands. "So we have to go."
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Graveworthy replied.
"I need to go back to my room, then," Jack continued. "I have to pack and store up the machines. They'll rust or jam if they're not stored right. And I need my notes and tools -- "
"Jack!" Clare said. "They're strong-arming you!"
"Us," Jack answered. "Both of us. But I'd rather not be shot. Come on, Clare -- I wanted to go, and we'll see the world. Parts of it, anyhow. Come with me."
He saw her look distrustfully at the Head, and the glare she gave Graveworthy was pure vitriol. She was angry, but not stupid, and he could see that she knew she had no choice.
"You had better take me back to Boston, then," she said. "I need to pack too."