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- The Emancipatrix - 10/21 -
"But it were not nonsense!" insisted Rolla. "This blossom was even as I say: a living thing, as live as a kitten! And as it bloomed, behold, the stick was consumed! In a moment or two the man dropped what was left of it; I stooped--so it seemed--to pick it up; but he stopped me, and set his foot upon the beautiful thing!"
She sighed, and then hurried on. "Saying something further, also reassuring, this angel brought forth another of the strange sticks; and when he had made this one bloom, he touched it to the little pile of leaves. Behold, a greater miracle, Cunora! The blossoms spread to the leaves, and caused them to bloom, too!"
Cunora was eyeing her companion pretty sharply. "Ye must take me for a simple one, to believe such imagining."
Rolla became even more earnest. "Yet it were more than imagining, Cunora; 'twere too vivid and impressive for only that. As for the leaves, the blossoming swiftly spread until it covered every bit of the pile; and I tell thee that the bloom flowed as high as thy hand! Moreover, after a moment or so, the thing faded and died out, just as flowers do at the end of the season; all that was left of the leaves was some black fragments, from which arose a bluish dust, like unto the cloud that ye and I saw in the sky one day.
"Then the stranger smiled again, and said something of which I cannot tell the meaning. Once more he performed the miracle, and this time he contrived to spread the blossom from some leaves to the tip of a large piece of wood which he took from the ground. 'Twas a wonderful sight!
"Nay, hear me further," as Cunora threw herself, with a grunt of impatience, back on her bed; "there is a greater wonder to tell.
"Holding this big blooming stick in one hand, he gave me his other; and it seemed as though I floated through the air by his side. Presently we came to the place where Corrus's herd lay sleeping. The angel smote one of the cows with the flat of his hand, so that it got upon its feet; and straightway the stranger thrust the flowing blossom into its face.
"The cow shrank back, Cunora! 'Twas deadly afraid of that beautiful flower!"
"That is odd," admitted Cunora. She was getting interested.
"Then he took me by the hand again, and we floated once more through the air. In a short time we arrived at the city of the masters. [Footnote: Having no microscopes, the Sanusians could not know that the soldier bees were unsexed females; hence, "masters."] Before I knew it, he had me standing before the door of one of their palaces. I hung back, afraid lest we be discovered and punished; but he smiled again and spake so reassuringly that I fled not, but watched until the end.
"With his finger he tapped lightly on the front of the palace. None of the masters heard him at first; so he tapped harder. Presently one of them appeared, and flew at once before our faces. Had it not been for the stranger's firm grasp I should have fled.
"The master saw that the stranger was the offender, and buzzed angrily. Another moment, and the master would surely have returned to the palace to inform the others; and then the stranger would have been punished with the Head Out punishment. But instead the angel very deliberately moved the blooming stick near unto the master; and behold, it was helpless! Down it fell to the ground, dazed; I could have picked it up, or killed it, without the slightest danger!
"Another master came out, and another, and another; and for each and all the flowing blossom was too much! None would come near it wittingly; and such as the angel approached with it were stricken almost to death.
"When they were all made helpless the angel bade me hold my hand near the bloom; and I was vastly surprised to feel a great warmth. 'Twas like the heat of a stone which has stood all day in the sun, only much greater. Once my finger touched the bloom, and it gave me a sharp pain."
Cunora was studying her friend very closely. "Ye could not have devised this tale, Rolla. 'Tis too unlikely. Is there more of it?"
"A little. The angel once more took me by the hand, and shortly set me down again in this hut. Then he said something which seemed to mean, 'With this magic bloom thou shalt be freed from the masters. They fear it; but ye, and all like ye, do not. Be ye ready to find the blossom when I bid thee.' With that he disappeared, and I awoke.
"Tell me; do I look mad, to thine eyes?" Rolla was beginning to feel a little anxious herself.
Cunora got up and led Rolla to the entrance. The glow of "the Silvery Way" was all the help that the girl's catlike eyesight needed; she seemed reassured.
"Ye look very strange and excited, Rolla, but not mad. Tell me again what thou didst see and hear, that I may compare it with what ye have already told."
Rolla began again; and meanwhile, on the earth, the doctor's companions telepathically congratulated him on his success. He had put the great idea into a fertile mind.
Presently they began to look for other minds. It seemed wise to get the notion into as many Sanusian heads as possible. For some hours this search proceeded; but in the end, after getting in touch with some forty or fifty individuals in as many different parts of the planet, they concluded that they had first hit upon the most advanced specimens that Sanus afforded; the only ones, in fact, whose intellect were strong enough to appreciate the value of what they were told. The investigators were obliged to work with Rolla, Dulnop, and Corrus only; upon these three depended the success of their unprecedented scheme.
Rolla continued to keep watch upon Supreme; and toward morning--that is, morning in that particular part of Sanus--the architect was rewarded by catching the bee in a still drowsy condition. Using the same method Kinney had chosen, Billie succeeded in giving the soldier bee a very vivid idea of fire. And judging by the very human way in which the half- asleep insect tossed about, thrashing her wings and legs and making incoherent sounds, Billie succeeded admirably. The other bees in the hive came crowding around, and Supreme had some difficulty in maintaining her dignity and authority. In the end she confided in the subordinate next in command:
"I have had a terrible dream. One of our slaves, or a woman much like one, assaulted me with a new and fearful weapon." She described it more or less as Rolla had told Cunora. "It was a deadly thing; but how I know this, I cannot say, except that it was exceedingly hot. So long as the woman held it in her hand, I dared not go near her.
"See to it that the others know; and if such a thing actually comes into existence, let me know immediately."
"Very well, Supreme." And the soldier straightway took the tale to another bee. This told, both proceeded to spread the news, bee-fashion; so that the entire hive knew of the terror within a few minutes. Inside an hour every hive in the whole "city" had been informed.
"Give them time now," said the doctor, "and they will tell every bee on the planet. Suppose we want a couple of weeks before doing anything further? The more afraid the bees are in advance, the easier for Rolla and her friends."
Meanwhile Corrus, after a sleepless night with his cattle had driven them hurriedly back to the huts surrounding the "experimental station." Here the herdsman turned his herd over to another man, and then strode over among the huts. Outside one of them--probably Rolla's--he paused and gazed longingly, then gave a deep sigh and went on. Shortly he reached another hut in which he found Dulnop.
"I was just going to seek ye!" exclaimed the younger man. "I have seen a wondrous sight, Corrus!"
Thus the two men came to compare notes, finding that each had learned practically the same thing. Corrus being denied the right to visit any woman save Cunora, Dulnop hurried to Rolla and told her what he and the herdsman had learned. The three testimonies made an unshakable case.
"By the great god Mownoth!" swore Corrus in vast delight when Dulnop had reported. "We have learned a way to make ourselves free! As free as the squirrels!"
"Aye," agreed the younger. "We know the method. But--how shall we secure the means?"
Corrus gave an impatient gesture. "'Twill come in time, Dulnop, just as the dream came! Meanwhile we must tell every one of our kind, so that all shall be ready when the day comes to strike!
"Then"--his voice lost its savagery, and became soft and tender--"then, Dulnop, lad, ye shall have thy Cunora; and as for Rolla and I--"
Corrus turned and walked away, that his friend might not see what was in his eyes.
It was two weeks to a day when the four on the earth, after having seen very little of each other in the meanwhile, got together for the purpose of finishing their "revelation" to the Sanusians.
"Mr. Van Emmon and I," stated Billie coolly, as they put on their bracelets, "have been trying to decide upon the best way of telling them how to obtain fire."
Neither Smith nor the doctor showed that he noticed her "Mr. Van Emmon." Evidently the two were still unreconciled.
"I argue," remarked the geologist, "that the simplest method will be a chemical one. There's lots of ways to produce fire spontaneously, with chemicals; and this woman Rolla could do it easily."
Billie indulged in a small, superior smile. "He forgets that all these chemical methods require PURE chemicals. And you don't find them pure in the natural state. You've got to have fire to reduce them with."
"What's your proposition, then?" from the doctor.
"Optics!" enthusiastically. She produced a large magnifying-glass from her pocket. "All we have to do is to show Dulnop--he's something of a
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