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The Ideal   By: (1902-1935)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from A Martian Odyssey and Others published in 1949. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.


"This," said the Franciscan, "is my Automaton, who at the proper time will speak, answer whatsoever question I may ask, and reveal all secret knowledge to me." He smiled as he laid his hand affectionately on the iron skull that topped the pedestal.

The youth gazed open mouthed, first at the head and then at the Friar. "But it's iron!" he whispered. "The head is iron, good father."

"Iron without, skill within, my son," said Roger Bacon. "It will speak, at the proper time and in its own manner, for so have I made it. A clever man can twist the devil's arts to God's ends, thereby cheating the fiend Sst! There sounds vespers! Plena gratia, ave Virgo "

But it did not speak. Long hours, long weeks, the doctor mirabilis watched his creation, but iron lips were silent and the iron eyes dull, and no voice but the great man's own sounded in his monkish cell, nor was there ever an answer to all the questions that he asked until one day when he sat surveying his work, composing a letter to Duns Scotus in distant Cologne one day

"Time is!" said the image, and smiled benignly.

The Friar looked up. "Time is, indeed," he echoed. "Time it is that you give utterance, and to some assertion less obvious than that time is. For of course time is, else there were nothing at all. Without time "

"Time was!" rumbled the image, still smiling, but sternly at the statue of Draco.

"Indeed time was," said the Monk. "Time was, is, and will be, for time is that medium in which events occur. Matter exists in space, but events "

The image smiled no longer. "Time is past!" it roared in tones deep as the cathedral bell outside, and burst into ten thousand pieces .

"There," said old Haskel van Manderpootz, shutting the book, "is my classical authority in this experiment. This story, overlaid as it is with mediƦval myth and legend, proves that Roger Bacon himself attempted the experiment and failed." He shook a long finger at me. "Yet do not get the impression, Dixon, that Friar Bacon was not a great man. He was extremely great, in fact; he lighted the torch that his namesake Francis Bacon took up four centuries later, and that now van Manderpootz rekindles."

I stared in silence.

"Indeed," resumed the Professor, "Roger Bacon might almost be called a thirteenth century van Manderpootz, or van Manderpootz a twenty first century Roger Bacon. His Opus Majus , Opus Minus , and Opus Tertium "

"What," I interrupted impatiently, "has all this to do with that?" I indicated the clumsy metal robot standing in the corner of the laboratory.

"Don't interrupt!" snapped van Manderpootz. "I'll "

At this point I fell out of my chair. The mass of metal had ejaculated something like " A a gh rasp " and had lunged a single pace toward the window, arms upraised. "What the devil!" I sputtered as the thing dropped its arms and returned stolidly to its place.

"A car must have passed in the alley," said van Manderpootz indifferently. "Now as I was saying, Roger Bacon "

I ceased to listen. When van Manderpootz is determined to finish a statement, interruptions are worse than futile. As an ex student of his, I know. So I permitted my thoughts to drift to certain personal problems of my own, particularly Tips Alva, who was the most pressing problem of the moment. Yes, I mean Tips Alva the 'vision dancer, the little blonde imp who entertains on the Yerba Mate hour for that Brazilian company. Chorus girls, dancers, and television stars are a weakness of mine; maybe it indicates that there's a latent artistic soul in me. Maybe.

I'm Dixon Wells, you know, scion of the N. J. Wells Corporation, Engineers Extraordinary... Continue reading book >>

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