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The Indulgence of Negu Mah   By: (1909-1969)

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Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Comet, July, 1941. Extensive research did not reveal any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

[Illustration: In silence Negu Mah and Sliss stood silent gazing at the moon drenched field. ]

The Indulgence of Negu Mah


In his garden, Negu Mah, the Callisto uranium merchant, sat sipping a platinum mug of molkai with his guest, Sliss the Venusian.

Nanlo, his wife, pushing before her the small serving cart with its platinum molkai decanter, paused for an instant as she entered the shell of pure vitrite which covered the garden, giving it the illusion of out of doorness.

Negu Mah sat at his ease, his broad, merry, half Oriental face good humored, his features given a ruddy tinge by the light of rising Jupiter, the edge of whose sphere was beginning to dominate the horizon. Sliss, the intelligent amphibian, squatted across from him in the portable tub of water which he carried with him whenever absent from the swamps of his native Venus.

The amphibian's popping eyes turned toward her, the wide frog face split in a smile of appreciation as Nanlo approached. She refilled their mugs deftly and withdrew. But before she reentered the house she could not resist hesitating to glance toward rising Jupiter and the slim shaft of the rocketship silhouetted now against its surface.

The ship was the cargo rocket Vulcan, newest and swiftest of Negu Mah's freighter fleet. Fully fueled and provisioned, storage space jammed with refrigerated foods that in space the cold of the encompassing void would keep perfectly for generations were it necessary, she would take off in the morning from the close by landing port for Jupiter's other satellites, then go on to the Saturnian system, returning finally with full holds of uranium for Negu Mah's refineries on Callisto.

She was a beautiful craft, the Vulcan, and one man could manage her, though her normal crew was seven. She had cost a great sum. But Negu Mah was wealthy.

Nanlo's face, sylph like in its beauty, hardened. Negu Mah was wealthy indeed. Had he not bought her, and had she not cost him more, much more, than the Vulcan?

But no, it was not quite accurate to say that Negu Mah had bought her. However, since time immemorial beautiful daughters had been, if not sold, yet urged into marriages to wealthy men for the benefit of their impoverished families. And though science had made great strides, conquering the realms of the telescope and invading those below the level of the microscope, finding cures for almost every disease the flesh of man was heir to, there was one ailment it had not yet conquered poverty.

Nanlo's father had been a rocket port attendant. Once he had been a pilot, but a crash had crippled him for life. Thereafter, his wages had been quite insufficient to sustain him, his brood of half a dozen children, and their hard working mother.

But Nanlo, growing up, had developed into a mature beauty that rivaled the exotic loveliness of the wild orchids of Io. And in debarking at the rocket port on a business trip to earth, because hurricanes had forced him to land far south of New York, Negu Mah had seen her.

Thereafter But that is a story as ancient as history too.

It was a truth Nanlo conveniently overlooked now that she had not been unwilling to be Negu Mah's bride. It was true she had driven a sharp bargain with him her father's debts paid, and sufficient more to ease her parents' life and educate her brothers and sisters. Plus a marriage settlement for herself, and a sum in escrow in the Earth Union bank, should she ever divorce him for cruelty or mistreatment. But that had been only innate shrewdness. She would still have married him had he refused her demands for her family. For his wealth fascinated her, and the prospect of being a virtual queen, even of a distant outpost colony such as that on Callisto, appealed to her.

And she had thought that she was taking little risk, for if she were dissatisfied, the law these days was very lenient toward unhappy marital relationships... Continue reading book >>

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