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Pastoral Affair   By:

Pastoral Affair by Charles A. Stearns

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PASTORAL AFFAIR

By CHARLES A. STEARNS

Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction February 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: No wonder Stefanik meant to fight to the last he wasn't going to turn his kids over to an old goat like Glinka!]

The seaplane cast its silhouette from aloft upon the blue Arabian Sea, left its white wake across the shallows, and taxied alongside the ancient stone jetty, clawing into the sandy bottom with its small fore and after anchors.

Colonel Glinka stepped out upon the wing, carefully measured the distance to the jetty, and sprang for it, wetting himself up to the seat of his voluminous khaki shorts.

This lonely sandspit, these barren slopes and frowning, ocher cliffs, the oceanic silence around him, broken by the plaintive cries of wheeling Caspian terns that were badly in need of laundering, were not, he thought as he clambered ashore, exactly as one pictures a tropical paradise.

And it helped the desolation of his mood not at all that upon these same arid ridges scores of silent, burnoosed figures watched him as he stood there, allowing the water to drain from his perforated white oxfords and all unaware that his vast pith helmet, curiously heavy malacca cane and formidable fundament cast a centaur's shadow upon the rocks in the later afternoon sun.

Colonel Glinka took a pair of green sun goggles from his pocket and put them on, resolutely hitched up his shorts, assumed the stern yet conciliatory expression of a hedgehog in mating season, and set off up the rocky path.

Ahead of him, the burnoosed ones scrambled nimbly up the slope, looking over their shoulders, intent upon not missing a thing, yet endeavoring to keep their distance. But two there had been who either had not seen him arrive, or did not give a damn, for they suddenly appeared upon the rise before him, racing down toward the sea with very little regard for life or limb.

In the lead, a brown young man in flying green turban and white duck trousers appeared to be losing steadily to his pursuer, who, though swathed from head to food in that featureless native garb of the others, might yet be identified by subtle conformations as a female.

Both of them stopped at once upon sighting Colonel Glinka in the pathway, the female hurriedly retreating to what might be deemed a safer distance, the young man standing as if petrified, with one foot upraised and a sun snarl upon his mottled face, quivering at point.

"Oh, Effendi," he cried at last, "if you are looking for Aden, then you are lost, for Aden is five hundred miles that way. And if you are looking for Cairo "

"I am hardly ever lost," Colonel Glinka said, and, eying the young female, added, "Tell me, what is the name of that rather tasteless game that you are playing?"

"No game, Effendi," the brown young man said. "That one chases me every time I go outside. They are worse than Tuaregs, these people."

"Are you not a native, then?"

"I?" The young man placed a hand of scorn upon his breast. "Hadji Abdul Hakkim ben Salazar? I am Saudi, and a Hadj besides. Say, Joe, have you got an American cigarette?"

"A great deal better than that," Colonel Glinka said, proffering an ornate golden cigarette case. "Try one of these, my boy."

Abdul Hakkim ben Salazar took two, sniffing them suspiciously. "They are very brown," he said.

Less critically, Colonel Glinka lighted one for himself. "You know," he said, "I was rather hoping that you might direct me to the house of a very old friend of mine."

"What handle?"

"I cannot tell you what name he is presently affecting, but he is a small, crooked man with a heavy black beard or, at any rate, he once had such a beard. I know that he is somewhere on this island; therefore it will be useless for you to lie to me... Continue reading book >>




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