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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Norman John
 

«Outlaw of Gor», John Norman

A NOTE ON THE MANUSCRIPT

My friend, Harrison Smith, a young lawyer of the city, has recently given me a second manuscript, purportedly by the individual Tarl Cabot. It was his desire that I bring this second document, as I did the first, to the attention of a publisher. This time, however, because of the numerous claims and inquiries generated by the first manuscript Tarnsman of Gor (pertaining to various matters ranging from further alleged documentation for the existence of the Counter-Earth to disputes concerning the authorship of the manuscript), I have prevailed upon Smith to write something in the way of a preface to this second account, making clear his own role in these matters and telling us a bit more about Tarl Cabot, whom I have never had the good fortune to meet in person.

John Norman

Chapter One: THE STATEMENT OF HARRISON SMITH

I first met Tarl Cabot at a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire, where we had both accepted first year teaching appointments. He was an instructor in English history and I, intending to work for some three years to save money toward law school, had accepted an appointment as an instructor in physical education, a field which, to my annoyance, Cabot never convinced himself belonged in the curriculum of an educational institution.

We hiked a good deal, talked and fenced, and, I hoped, had become friends. I liked the young, gentle Englishman. He was quiet and pleasant, though sometimes he seemed remote, or lonely, somehow unwilling to break through that protective shield of formality behind which the educated Englishman, at heart perhaps as sentimental and hot-blooded as any man, attempts to conceal his feelings.

Young Cabot was rather tall, a good-sized man, well-built, with an animal ease in his walk that perhaps bespoke the docks of Bristol, his native city, rather than the cloisters of Oxford, at one of whose colleges he had obtained his later education. His eyes were clear, and blue, direct and honest. He was fairly complected. His hair, lamentably perhaps, though some of us loved him for it, was red, but not merely red — it was rather a tangled, blazing affront to the properties of the well-groomed academician. I doubt that he owned a comb, and I would be willing to swear that he would not have used one if he had. All in all, Tarl Cabot seemed to us a young, quiet, courteous Oxford gentleman, except for that hair. And then we weren't sure.

To my consternation and that of the college, Cabot disappeared shortly after the conclusion of the first semester. I am sure that this was not of his own intention. Cabot is a man who honours his commitments. At the end of the semester, Cabot, like the rest of us, was weary of the academic routine, and was seeking some diversion. He decided to go camping — by himself — in the nearby White Mountains, which were very beautiful then, in the white, brittle splendour of a New Hampshire February. I loaned him some of my camping gear and drove him into the mountains, dropping him off beside the highway. He asked me, and I am certain he was serious, to meet him at the same place in three days. I returned at the determined time, but he failed to keep the rendezvous. I waited several hours, and then returned at the same time the next day. Still he did not appear. Accordingly, then alarmed, I notified the authorities, and, by afternoon, a large-scale search was underway.

Eventually we found what we supposed to be the ashes of his fire, near a large flat rock some nine hours' climb from the highway. Our search, otherwise, was fruitless. Yet, several months later, I understand that Tarl Cabot stumbled out of these same mountains, alive and well, but apparently under the stress of some emotional shock which had culminated in amnesia — at least for that period during which he had been missing.

He never returned to teach at the college, to the relief of several of my elder colleagues who now confessed that they thought that young Cabot had never really fitted in. Shortly thereafter I determined that I did not fit in either, and left the college. I did receive a cheque from Cabot to cover the cost of my camping equipment, which he had apparently lost. It was a thoughtful gesture but I wish instead that he had stopped to see me. I would have seized his hand and forced him to speak to me, to tell me what had happened.

Somehow, unlike my colleagues at the school, I had found the amnesia account too simple. It was not an adequate explanation; it couldn" t be. How had he lived for those months, where had he been, what had he done? It was almost seven years after I had known Tarl Cabot at the college when I saw him on the streets of Manhattan. By that time I had long ago saved the money I needed for law school and had not taught for three years. Indeed, I was then completing my studies at the school of law associated with one of New York "s best known private universities.

He had changed very little, if at all. I rushed over to him and without thinking seized him by the shoulder. What happened next seemed almost too unbelievable to comprehend. He spun like a tiger with a sudden cry of rage in some strange tongue and I found myself seized in hands like steel and with great force hurled helplessly across his knee, my spine an inch from being splintered like kindling wood.

In an instant he released me, apologising profusely even before recognising me. In horror I realised that what he had done had been as much a reflex as the blinking of an eye or the jerking of a knee under a physician" s hammer. It was the reflex of an animal whose instinct it is to destroy before it can be destroyed, or of a human being who has been tooled into such an animal, a human being who has been conditioned to kill swiftly, savagely, or be killed in the same fashion. I was covered with sweat. I knew that I had been an instant from death. Was this the gentle Cabot I had known? " Harrison!" he cried. "Harrison Smith!" He lifted me easily to my feet, his words rapid and stumbling, trying to reassure me. "I" m sorry," he kept saying, "Forgive me! Forgive me, Old Man!"

We looked at one another.

He thrust out his hand impulsively, apologetically. I took it and we shook hands. I" m afraid my grip was a bit weak, and that my hand shook a little. "I" m really frightfully sorry," he said.

There was a knot of people who had gathered, standing a safe distance away on the sidewalk.

He smiled, the ingenuous boyish smile I remembered from New Hampshire. "Would you like a drink?" he asked.

I smiled too. "I could use one," I said.

In a small bar in midtown Manhattan, little more than a doorway and a corridor, Tarl Cabot and I renewed our friendship. We talked of dozens of things, but neither of us mentioned his abrupt response to my greeting, nor did we speak of those mysterious months in which he had disappeared in the mountains of New Hampshire.


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