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"I tell you what I'll do," he said. "The stage won't be no good to me until Powder Keg amounts to somethin' . . . I'll bet a coach and team against what's on the table, draw and show down."His offer was a sufficient warning of his strength. However, I still liked my aces. A pair of them pack a lot of power in a two-handed game, and I had the feeling that my luck had not run out . . .I counted my aces as casually as pounding pulses would permit. "Can you beat 'em?"His face showed me he could not . . . "How about loanin' me your pony?"
The blue-painted wizard appeared and spoke to Finnian."You let a man die today because you couldn't be bothered!""It wasn't my business.""You think nothing in life is your business!" the wizard howled. "But I'll make it so tings will be!"Finnian waited alert, ready to kill if the wizard voiced a curse, but he only looked hard and said: "From now on, as long as you stay in my land, you will aid any man or woman in need of help."That didn't sound so bad . . . until Finnian discovered the whole realm needed help!
Yesterday I was delirious, and the day before that, or several before that. Tonight, though, I seem to be aware of everything I've ever known . . . . It's dark, double dark because of the mist that August steams from the Colorado. Yet I can see almost very place I've ever been . . .All the men I liked are having drinks with me or yarning around campfires scattered from the Appalachians to the Pacific Coast. All the enemies I've fought are visible beyond the muxxles of guns or the points of knives . . . All of the women I've wigwamed with, including the two who demanded the law's blessing, are either smiling or showing they wished they never met me . . . But I could never really belong to civilization, for once I hand helped to create it, I yearned for a place on which it hadn't laid an ordering hand.
She gave him a look that made him feel warm all over. "How would you like to make a survey of the Road for me? All I need is a clear, objective report based on first-hand observation. All the others I commissioned never lived long enough to give me one.""What was the matter with them, except being dead?" the professor asked nervously."They got tangled up because they didn't know how to look at things. I don't know why I never thought of turning the job over to a scientist before.""That's a mistake voters make, too" he allowed modestly, then loosened his collar. "Er, when do you want me to start?""Right away wouldn't be to soon.""Oh! I couldn't miss my one-thirty class," he hedged."You won't," she assured him. "That is unless you get drowned in space, chewed up on land or sea, mobbed, or worse." She ran a hand reassuringly though his hair."Just do, for my sake, be careful, pet."Resistance was useless. She was Venus. He was the merest of mortals. Ten minutes later, in spite of all his best efforts, he found himself being borne off through the sky in a chariot drawn by four eagles!
"I half expected to run across my opponent as I escaped, but as it turned out I met no one at all in my stealthy trip to get my saddlebags from my room and my equally secretive visit to the stable. My horse was against being saddle at such an hour, but my grim firmness made short work of his rebellion. A drizzle abetted the dank chill of the hours as I rode forth . . . Next time I met that one, I swore to myself, things would be different."
A. Clarence Shandon was just an MBA from Wisconsin before a shipwreck transported him to the shores of the fantastic Commonwealth of Letters. He journeys through history and myth, meeting unforgettable names from Circe to Robin Hood along the way. But the journey changes him from the studious, conceited academic to a legend in his own right: Silverlock.
"What would I do in Mississippi?" I asked."What you want to and can." He sat down again and turned toward me. "It's all open. There's a state to be made, and there's a free hand for the fashioner. Half the available land hasn't been claimed now, and there's a new treaty afoot that'll send the Chocktaws west of the river to give the state a vast new territory." He clenched a hand. "That country must and will be settled, and it's better that it be done by Southerners."
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