I was happy and more, and if an old instructor had appeared and demanded to know the reason for my joy, I would only have laughed at him for needing causes and explanations in so simple a matter. I was alive, and the Outsider who knows very well what sort of creature I am-cared about me in spite of all.
"This is what I have," I told him, and raised my bread and my bottle, displaying them to the low, gray clouds. "I beseech you to share them with me, and I pray that you will not object to me and my animals sharing them with you."
Then I broke the bread in two, laid half of it upon his altar, and poured wine over it, cautioning Oreb not to touch it. After that, I wet a bit with a little wine and gave it to Oreb, ate a bite myself, drank deeply from the bottle and recorked it, and put away what remained of the bread.
He came, and stood behind me on the hilltop.
I have been preparing myself to describe that the whole time I have been writing, and now that the moment has come I am as wordless as my horse.
I knew that he was there, that if I turned, I would see them.
I also knew that it was not permitted me, that it would be an act of disobedience for which I would be forgiven but whose consequences I would suffer.
I would like to leave you with a handful of words on how to read stories, these stories at least.
I urge you not to read one after another, the way I eat potato chips. The simple act of closing this book and putting it away for another day will do a great deal for the story you have just read and even more for the next...
Lastly, let me urge you to treat this and all books with respect. We will all benefit if you do. You cannot judge this book now. You will not even be able to judge it rightly when you have read its last story. Ten (or twenty) years from now you will know it was a good book if you remember any of the tales you are about to read.
Meanwhile, its author begs you to preserve it as a physical object, so that at an appropriate time it can be shared by others. If you have bought it, those others may be friends you have not met or children you have thus far only dreamed of. If you have borrowed it from a library, they are your peers in the community, having the same rights in it as yourself.
"Then there's the cathedral," [said the old woman.] "I suppose you've heard about that?"
"I've heard tell it wasn't what cityfolk call a real one—I know you're from the city by the way you drink your tea—but it's the only cathedral most of us around Saltus ever saw, and pretty too, with all the hanging lamps and the windows in the side made of colored silk. Myself, I don't believe—or rather, I think that if the Pancreator don't care nothing for me, I won't care nothing for him, and why should I? Still, it's a shame what they did, if they did what's told against them. Set fire to it, you know...They just stood back and watched it burn. It went up to the Infinite Meadows of the New Sun, you know."
A man on the opposite side of the alleyway began to pound a drum. When he paused, I said, "I know that certain persons have claimed to have seen it rise into the air."
"Oh, it rose all right. When my grandson-in-law heard about it, he was fairly struck flat for half a day. Then he pasted up a kind of hat out of paper and held it over my stove, and it went up, and then he thought it was nothing that the cathedral rose, no miracle at all. That shows what it is to be a fool—it never came to him that the reason things were made so was so the cathedral would rise just like it did. He can't see the Hand in nature."
You are not likely to believe me when I say that I still remember vividly, almost 50 years later, how strictly I disciplined myself with that book, forcing myself to read no more than a single chapter each evening. The catch, my out, the stratagem by which I escaped the bonds of my own law, was that I could read that chapter as many times as I wished; and that I could also return to the chapter I had read the night before, if I chose. There were evenings on which I reread the entire book up the point — The Council of Elrond, let us say — at which I had forced myself to stop.
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