Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE FOLLOWING EVENING, Sagra and I had dinner with Grunge and Gimmel Gora, and during the course of the evening I mentioned Horthal Wend and remarked that I had found him most intelligent and friendly.

“I guess that he is intelligent enough,” said Grunge, “but I find him a little too pleasant; that, to me, is an indication of sentimentality and softness, neither of which have any place in Kapar manhood. However, he stands very well with the Pom Da, and is, therefore, a safe man to know and cultivate, for our beloved Pom Da is never wrong in his estimate of men—in fact, he is never wrong in anything.”

I could not help but think that if sentiment and intelligence had no place in Kapar manhood, Grunge was an ideal Kapar.

Grunge’s use of the word beloved might seem to belie my statement that he was without sentiment, but it was really only the fawning expression of a sycophant and connoted more of fear than love.

I was constantly mentally comparing Kapars with the Unisans. Here in Kapara all is suspicion and fear—fear of unseen malign forces that are all powerful; fear of your next door neighbor; fear of your servants; fear of your best friend, and suspicion of all.

All during the evening, Sagra had seemed distrait. Grunge, on the contrary, was quite talkative and almost affable. He directed most of his conversation and elephantine wit at Sagra and was correspondingly disagreeable and sarcastic when he spoke to Gimmel Gora.

He was meticulously polite to me, which was unusual; as Grunge was seldom if ever polite to anyone of whom he was not afraid. “We have much to be thankful for in the wonderful friendship that has developed between us,” he said to me; “it seems as though I had known you always, Korvan Don. It is not often in his life that two men meet who may mutually trust each other on short acquaintance.”

“You are quite right,” I said, “but I think one learns to know almost instinctively who may be trusted and who may not.” I wondered what he was driving at, and I did not have to wait long to discover.

“You have been in Kapara for some time, now,” he continued, “and I suppose that some of your experiences could not have been entirely pleasant; for instance the prison camp and the prison beneath the Zabo headquarters.”

“Well, of course, freedom is always to be preferred to confinement,” I replied; “but I have sense enough to realize that every precaution must be taken in a nation at war, and I admire the Kapars for their efficiency in this respect. While I did not enjoy being confined, I have no complaint to make, as I was well-treated.” If one may instinctively recognize a trust-worthy friend, one may also instinctively recognize an unscrupulous enemy; and this I felt Grunge to be, for I was confident that he was attempting to cajole me into making some criticism that would incriminate me in the eyes of the Zabo.

He looked a little crestfallen, but he said, “I am glad to hear you say that. Just between friends, tell me in confidence what you thought of Gurrul.”

“A highly intelligent man, well fitted for the post he occupies,” I replied. “Although he must have to contend with all types of criminals, scoundrels, and traitors, he appears to me to be fair and just, without being soft or sentimental.” I was learning to talk like a Kapar and to lie like one too.

As Sagra and I walked home that night, I asked her what had been troubling her, for she had not seemed herself at all.

“I am worried and frightened,” she replied; “Grunge has been making advances to me, and Gimmel Gora knows it. I am afraid of both of them, for I believe that both are agents of the Zabo.”

“Neither one of us has anything to fear,” I said. “Aren’t we both good Kapars?”

“I sometimes wonder if you are,” she said.

“At first I may have been a little critical,” I said, “but that was before I understood the strength and beauty of their system. Now I am as good a Kapar as there is.” From this speech it might be assumed that I was suspicious of Morga Sagra, and the assumption would be wholly correct. I was suspicious of Morga Sagra, of Grunge, of Gimmel Gora, of Lotar Canl, my man—in fact, of everybody. In this respect, at least, I had become a good Kapar.

When I got home that night, I found that my quarters had been thoroughly ransacked. The contents of every drawer was scattered about on the floor; my rugs had been torn up, and my mattress cut open.

While I was viewing the havoc, Lotar Canl came, home. He looked around the place, and then, with the faintest of smiles on his lips he said, “Burglars. I hope that they got nothing of value, sir.”

Most of my gold and jewels are deposited in a safe place; but in addition to that which I carry on my person, I had left a handful of gold in one of the drawers in my desk, and this I found scattered on the floor—all of it.

“Well,” I said, “they overlooked this gold, and there was nothing else in the apartment anybody would wish.”

“They must have been frightened away before they could gather this up,” said Lotar Canl.

The little game that he and I were playing was almost laughable for neither of us dared suggest the truth—that the apartment had been searched by the police.

“I am glad,” he said, “that you had nothing of value here other than this gold.”

When I met Sagra the next day, I said nothing about the matter to her, for I had learned that no matter how often one’s home is “burglarized” or even if his grandmother is taken at mid-night and beheaded, he does not mention the occurrence to anyone; but Sagra was less reticent. She told me that she was being constantly watched; that her room had been searched three times, and that she was terrified. “I have a secret enemy,” she said, “who is leaving no stone unturned to get me destroyed.”

“Have you any idea who it is?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “I think I know.”

“Gimmel Gora?”

She nodded, and then she whispered, “And you must be careful of Grunge. He thinks that you are my man, and he would like to get rid of you.”

There had never been any suggestion of any sentimental relationship between Morga Sagra and me. She had used me in order to get to Kapara; and because we had been two strangers in a strange land, we had been constantly thrown together since. I know that she enjoyed my company, and I still found her witty and entertaining when she was not entirely preoccupied with the terror which now obsessed her. If ever a just retribution were being meted to a person, this was the instance. I was confident that Morga Sagra would have given her soul to have been back in Unis; and to her terror was added hopelessness, for she knew that she could never return.

That evening we went to call on Horthal Wend and his woman, Haka Gera. She was a heavy-minded, rather stupid woman, but evidently a good house-keeper and probably a good manager, which I judged Horthal Wend needed, for he was evidently easy-going and careless.

We talked about art, literature, music, the weather, and the wonders of Kapar ideology—about the only safe subject for discussion in Kapara; and even then we had to be careful. If one should by mistake express appreciation of some work of art or musical composition by a person in bad odor with the heads of the state or with the Zabo, that was treason.

During the evening, their fourteen year old son, Horthal Gyl, joined us. He was a precocious child, and I do not like precocious children. He was a loud-mouthed little egotist who knew it all, and he kept projecting himself into the conversation until he practically monopolized it.

Horthal Wend was evidently very proud of him and very fond of him; but once when he made a gesture as though to caress the lad, the boy struck his hand away.

“None of that!” he growled at his father; “such maudlin sentimentality is not for Kapar men. I am ashamed of you.”

“Now, now,” said his mother gently; “it is not wrong for your father to love you.”

“I do not wish him to love me,” snapped the boy. “I only wish that he should admire me and be proud of me because I am hard. I do not want him or anyone to be as ashamed of me as I am of him because of his sentimentality and softness.”

Horthal Wend tried to smile as he shook his head. “You see, he is a good Kapar,” he said; and, I thought, a little sadly.

“I see,” I said.

The boy shot me a quick suspicious look. Evidently I had not kept my innermost feelings out of those two words.

We left shortly after this and as we walked home, I was conscious of a feeling of great depression. I think it was caused by the attitude of that son to his father. “Horthal Gyl will grow up to be a fine example of the Kapar gentlemen,” I said.

“I would rather not discuss him,” replied Sagra.

Beyond the Farthest Star - Contents    |     Seven

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