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Joe took her arm, swung her around, gazed into her startled eyes, her nose an
inch from his.
"Look here, young lady. I'm not trying to assert my virility but I'm not
trotting here and there after you, carrying your bundles like a chauffeur."
He knew it was the wrong word.
"Chauffeur, ha
! Then "
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"If you don't like my company," said Joe, "now's the time to leave."
After a moment she said, "What's your name beside Smith?"
"Call me Joe."
"Joe you're a very remarkable man. Very strange. You puzzle me, Joe."
"If you want to come with me a chauffeur, a mechanic, a civil engineer, a
moss-
planter, a bartender, a tennis instructor, a freight docker, a dozen other
things 
we're going down to the Nineteen Gardens and see if they sell Earth-style
beer."
The Nineteen Gardens occupied a slice through the middle of the construction
nineteen wedge-shaped sections surrounding a central platform which served as
a restaurant.
They found a vacant table and, to Joe's surprise, beer in frosted quart
beakers was set before them without comment.
"If it pleases your Divinity," said Elfane meekly.
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Joe grinned sheepishly. "You don't need to carry it that far. It must be a
Druid trait, an avalanche one way, another way, all the way. Well, what did
you want?"
"Nothing." She turned in her seat, looked out across the gardens. At this
point
Joe realized that willy-nilly, for good or bad, he was wildly enamored.
Margaret?
He sighed. She was far away, a thousand light-years.
He looked across the gardens, nineteen of them, flora of nineteen different
planets, each with its distinctive color timbres black, gray and white of
Kelce
oranges, yellows, hot lime green of Zarjus the soft pastel pink, green, blue
and yellow blossoms which grew on the quiet little planets of Jonapah green in
a hundred rich tones, gay red, sky blue Joe started, half-rose to his feet.
"What's the matter?" asked Elfane.
"That garden there those are Earth plants or I'm a ring-tailed monkey." He
jumped up, went to the rail and she followed. "Geraniums, honeysuckle,
petunias, zinnia, roses, Italian cypress, poplars, weeping willows. And a
lawn.
And hibiscus& " He looked at the descriptive plaque. "Planet Gea. Location
uncertain."
They returned to the table. "You act as if you're homesick," said Elfane in an
injured voice.
Joe smiled. "I am very homesick. Tell me something about Ballenkarch."
She tasted the beer, looked at it in surprise, screwed up her face.
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"Nobody likes beer when they first drink it," said Joe.
"Well I don't know too much about Ballenkarch. Up to a few years ago it was
completely savage. No ships stopped there because the autochthones were
cannibals. Then the present prince united all of the smaller continent into a
nation. It happened overnight. Many people were killed.
"But now there is no more murder and ships can land in comparative safety. The
Prince has decided to industrialize and he's imported much machinery from
Beland, Mangtse, and Grabo across the stream. Little by little he's extending
his rule over the main continent winning over the chiefs, hypnotizing them or
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killing them.
"Now you must understand the Ballenkarts have no religion whatever and we
Druids hope to tie their new industrial power to us through the medium of a
common faith. Then we will no longer depend on Mangtse for manufactured goods.
The Mangs naturally don't care for the idea and so they are& " Her eyes
widened. She reached across, grasped his arm. "Manaolo! Oh Joe, I hope he
doesn't see us."
Joe's mantle of caution ripped. Humility is impossible when the object of your
love is fearing for your safety.
He sat back in his seat, watched Manaolo come striding onto the terrace like a
Demonland hero.. A beige-skinned woman, wearing orange pantaloons, pointed
slippers of blue cloth and a blue cloth cap, hung on his arm. In his other arm
he carried the parcel he had taken off the ship. In the flicker of his dead
eyes he saw
Elfane and Joe, changed his course without expression, sauntered across the
floor, casually drawing a stiletto from his belt.
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"This is it," muttered Joe. "This is it!" He rose to his feet.
Diners, drinkers, scattered. Manaolo stopped a yard distant, the ghost of a
smile on his dark face. He set the parcel on the table, then easily stepped
forward, thrust. It was done with an almost naive simplicity as if he expected
Joe to stand still to be stabbed. Joe threw the beer into his face, hit his
wrist with the beaker and the stiletto tinkled to the ground.
"Now," said Joe, "I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life."
Manaolo lay on the ground. Joe, panting, straddled him. The bandage across his
nose had broken. Blood flowed down his face, down his chin. Manaolo's hand
fell on the stiletto. With a subdued grunt he swung. Joe gripped the arm,
guided it past him into Manaolo's shoulder.
Manaolo grunted once more, plucked the blade loose. Joe seized it away, stuck
it through Manaolo's ear into the wooden floor, pounded it deep with blows of
his fist, jumped to his feet, stood looking down.
Manaolo flopped like a fish, lay still, exhausted. An impassive litter crew
came through the crowd, removed the stiletto, loaded him on the litter, bore
him away.
The beige-skinned woman ran along beside him. Manaolo spoke to her. She
turned, ran to the table, took the parcel, ran back to where the attendants
were loading Manaolo into a wheeled vehicle, placed the parcel on his chest.
Joe sank back into his chair, took Elfane's beer, drank deeply.
"Joe," she whispered. "Are you hurt?"
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"I'm black and blue all over," said Joe. "Manaolo's a rough boy. If you hadn't
been here I would have ducked him. But," he said with a blood-smeared grin, "I
couldn't let you see me ducking my rival."
"Rival?" she looked puzzled. "Rival?"
"For you."
"Oh!" in a colorless tone.
"Now don't say 'I'm the Royal Druid God-almighty Priestess'!"
She looked up startled. "I wasn't thinking of that. I was thinking that
Manaolo never was your rival."
Joe said, "I've got to clean up and get some new clothes. Would you like to
come with me or "
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"No," said Elfane, still in the colorless voice. "I'll stay here awhile. I
want to to think."
Thirty-one hours. The
Belsaurion was due to take off. The passengers trickled back on board to be
checked in by the purser.
Thirty-one and a half hours. "Where's Manaolo?" Elfane asked the purser. "Has
he come aboard?"
"No, Worship."
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