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Blind Man's Lantern   By: (1928-)

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Transcriber's note.

This etext was produced from Analog December 1962. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Blind Man's Lantern

by

Allen Kim Lang

Successful colonies among the stars require interstellar ships but they require, also, a very special kind of man. A kind you might not think to look for....

Illustrated by Schelling

[Illustration]

Walking home in the dark from an evening spent in mischief, a young man spied coming toward him down the road a person with a lamp. When the wayfarers drew abreast, the play boy saw that the other traveler was the Blind Man from his village. "Blind Man," the youngster shouted across the road, "what a fool you be! Why, old No Eyes, do you bear a lantern, you whose midnight is no darker than his noonday?" The Blind Man lifted his lamp. "It is not as a light for myself that I carry this, Boy," he said, "it is to warn off you fools with eyes."

Hausa proverb

The Captain shook hands with the black hatted Amishman while the woman stood aside, not concerning herself with men's business. "It's been a pleasure to have you and Fraa Stoltzfoos aboard, Aaron," the Captain said. "Ship's stores are yours, my friend; if there's anything you need, take it and welcome. You're a long way from the corner grocery."

"My Martha and I have all that's needful," Aaron Stoltzfoos said. "We have our plow, our seed, our land. Captain, please tell your men, who treated us strangers as honored guests, we thank them from our hearts. We'll not soon forget their kindness."

"I'll tell them," the Captain promised. Stoltzfoos hoisted himself to the wagon seat and reached a hand down to boost his wife up beside him. Martha Stoltzfoos sat, blushing a bit for having displayed an accidental inch of black stocking before the ship's officers. She smoothed down her black skirts and apron, patted the candle snuffer Kapp into place over her prayer covering, and tucked the wool cape around her arms and shoulders. The world outside, her husband said, was a cold one.

Now in the Stoltzfoos wagon was the final lot of homestead goods with which these two Amishers would battle the world of Murna. There was the plow and bags of seed, two crates of nervous chickens; a huge, round tabletop; an alcohol burning laboratory incubator, bottles of agar powder, and a pressure cooker that could can vegetables as readily as it could autoclave culture media. There was a microscope designed to work by lamplight, as the worldly vanity of electric light would ill suit an Old Order bacteriologist like Martha Stoltzfoos. Walled in by all this gear was another passenger due to debark on Murna, snuffling and grunting with impatience. " Sei schtill , Wutzchen," Stoltzfoos crooned. "You'll be in your home pen soon enough."

The Captain raised his hand. The Engineer punched a button to tongue the landing ramp out to Murnan earth. Cold air rammed in from the outside winter. The four horses stomped their hoofs on the floor plates, their breath spikes of steam. Wutzchen squealed dismay as the chill hit his nose.

"We're reddi far geh , Captain," Stoltzfoos said. "My woman and I invite you and your men to feast at our table when you're back in these parts, five years hence. We'll stuff you fat as sausages with onion soup and Pannhaas, Knepp and Ebbelkuche, shoo fly pie and scharifer cider, if the folk here grow apples fit for squeezing."

"You'll have to set up planks outdoors to feed the lot I'll be bringing, Aaron," the Captain said. "Come five years' springtime, when I bring your Amish neighbors out, I'll not forget to have in my pockets a toot of candy for the little Stoltzes I'll expect to see underfoot." Martha, whose English was rusty, blushed none the less... Continue reading book >>




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