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´╗┐Title: Forsyte's Retreat
Author: Marks, Winston K., 1915-1979
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Forsyte's Retreat" ***

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                        FORSYTE'S RETREAT

                        By Winston Marks

                   Illustration by Kelly Freas

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science
Fiction May 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: _Sextus Rollo Forsyte had his trouble with the bottle, but
nothing out of a bottle ever produced such a hotel as the Mahoney-Plaza:
only 260 rooms ... only two guests to a room ... but accommodating 5200
guests--all at the same time!... Floor please?_]


At last he was second in line. He squared his shoulders and pulled at
the lower edges of his black double-breasted suitcoat to erase the
travel wrinkles. The applicant ahead of him exploded the words, "Nuts!
I'll leave town first. I just _came_ from the Phony-Plaza. You can take
that squirrel-cage and--"

"Next!" the employment agent called sadly. Sextus Rollo Forsyte moved up
and sat in the oak chair before the oak desk and faced the oak-featured
man with the jobs.

"Forsyte is the name," Sextus reminded. The man riffled through the
application cards.

"Yes. Indeed. Lucky you came back. I have a fine position for you, Mr.
Forsyte. Right in your line." He held out a blue slip. "The general
manager's position is open at the Mahoney-Plaza. Six hundred a month,
board and room. Now if you will...."

Sextus staggered from the employment office stunned.

He could handle the job, all right. As he'd said on the application
form, in his forty years he had managed half a dozen large hotels. But
they were handing him this plum without comment on his failure to fill
in the spaces marked: COMPLETE REFERENCES (names and addresses).

He shrugged. They did a lot of things different in California. The most
he had hoped for was a waiter's job or maybe a short order cook in a fry
joint. But if they wanted to ignore the hotel associations' black list,
he wouldn't argue.

Sextus Forsyte craved anonymity with the passion that most men seek fame
and glory. Beneath his suave, mature exterior beat the shrinking heart
of a perennial hermit whose delight was an adventure book and a bottle
of whiskey.

His recent employer had not objected to his fondness for reading nor
solitude, but his appetite for liquor had revealed itself in a series of
unfortunate crises which plague the life of any hotel executive.

Yes, Sextus Forsyte had sought his solitude in that remotest of all
places, the large city hotel. His career of smiling at strange faces,
welcoming famous people and snapping crisp commands to assistant
managers had provided the near-perfect isolation from normal society. To
the transient eye he was the poised, gregarious greeter. Actually he
lived in a deep well of introversion. Of course, this was no affair of
the succession of boards of directors who had uttered the harsh charges
of "dipsomania" and fired him. But then boards of directors are never
notable for their sympathy or understanding.

And finally word got around the eastern seaboard about Sextus. "A
competent man, yes. Drinks on the job. Wouldn't have him as a busboy."

Worse than the mere prospect of unemployment was the notoriety. Coldly
sober, Sextus had fled panic-stricken to the west coast, vaguely
determined to become a beach-comber or an oyster-fisherman or whatever
they did out there.

He stared now at the blue slip and turned in to a florist shop. He broke
his last five-dollar bill to buy a pink carnation for his buttonhole
then headed down the sunny walk to the hotel. It was a fine December
morning in the little beach town, such as only Florida and California
can advertise. He breathed the salt air and turned an appreciative ear
to the gentle wash of the Pacific surf. He felt so good he might even
take a little breakfast before his first drink of whiskey of the day.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the bus depot he traded his baggage checks for two old, but fine
leather, two-suiters. Then he taxied the remaining two blocks to the
Mahoney-Plaza.

He paused at the entrance, stepped from under the marquis and looked up
mystified. The frontage indicated a rather small hostelry to pay such
munificent salary to its general manager. Only five stories high, it was
squeezed in by low office buildings on either side like an ancient,
narrow-chested old man.

He handed his bags to a bell-hop and stepped into a spacious lobby. It
was decorated with fine furniture, thick carpets and throngs of
expensively undressed people.

The boy put his bags down before a remarkably long room-desk manned by
three white-suited clerks, but Sextus touched his arm. "Just take them
up to the manager's suite, please." The boy eyed him from carnation to
dusty shoes.

"Right off a park bench. It figures, though." He got a key from the desk
clerk, picked up the bags again and they started for the elevator
alcove.

Sextus' practiced eye vacuumed details from the lobby, the well-swept
carpets, freshly emptied sand-jars and the modern elevators. The place
seemed well-ordered and enjoying convention-magnitude business.

He started into the first elevator, but the operator warned, "To Wing
'A' only!" with such a question in his voice that Sextus looked back for
his bellman. That person, a sandy-haired stripling of some
five-feet-four, was trying to wave him on with his head.

"Not that one," he said impatiently. "Over here. Wing 'H'." Then Sextus
noticed there were five elevators on either side of the alcove. Each was
plainly marked with a letter, running from "A" through "J". This was a
new wrinkle. Elevators were a mode of strictly vertical transportation,
meaning, as a safe generality, that they travelled in parallel routes.
Why, then, differentiate for separate wings when they were all grouped
together in the first place?

And, incidentally, why _ten_ elevators for a 200 or so room hotel,
anyway?

They rode to the fourth floor in one-level leaps, stopping to unload
several guests on each floor. The upper floor hall was of modest length,
running fore and aft of the long, narrow building, as he had first sized
it up. Where were all the _wings_--the wings with the separate
elevators?

The boy let him into the light, airy apartment, dropped his bags in the
middle of the floor and started out abruptly. Sextus called him back.

"Yeah, what'll it be--Chief?" His voice was derisive.

"How many rooms do we have here, fellow?"

"Twenny-six hunnerd and all full for the season, so if you'll just leggo
of me--"

"Don't you enjoy your work here?"

"I detest it. Go ahead, fire me, chum. I'm lookin' for an excuse to
clear out."

"Very well, you have one. Check out with the captain." Sextus couldn't
tolerate discourteous familiarity. Friendly familiarity was bad enough,
but the "chum" did it.

The boy banged the door behind him.

Sextus opened his bag. From it he extracted a fifth of whiskey which he
took to the tiled bathroom. He stripped the cellophane from a drinking
glass, poured it half-full of the amber liquor and drained it.

He was in the shower when the phone rang. He dripped to the night stand
with the patience of one who has soaked many a rug and discovered that
they don't stain. "Forsyte here!" he answered.

"The new manager? Well, this is Jackson, bell-captain. Whadda you mean
canning Jerry? I'm down to twelve skippers and you start out by firing
one of my fastest boys!"

"The boy was sarcastic and insolent. Take it up with the service
manager. Anyway, how many bellmen do you need to run this cracker-box?
Twelve is about eight too many."

There was a brief silence, then: "In the first place _I am_ your service
manager, or all you got at the present. In the second damned place, you
tell me where I can lay my hands on ten more boys before you go canning
any more. I'm rehiring Jerry as of now!" He banged the receiver in
Sextus' ear.

Unperturbed, Sextus finished his shower, dressed in a lighter weight
suit and picked up the phone. The house switchboard apparently was
jammed. It took a full minute to get an operator. "Forsyte here. Your
new manager, that is. Instruct all department heads to be in my office
in seven minutes. General conference."

       *       *       *       *       *

Another short nip at the bottle served nicely to quiet a small hunger
pang. He went in search of his office. He found it on the mezzanine,
suitably lavish, clean and well-furnished.

He adjusted the fragrant carnation on his lapel in the large wall
mirror, not entirely displeased with what it reflected. Except for the
suitcase wrinkles in his morning coat, he should pass inspection. His
thinning hair, square jaw and wide-set eyes radiated a quiet dignity.
The slight pink of his cheeks and nose was a bit more prominent than he
liked. He should have had some breakfast.

The phone rang and he let it. He was not yet ready to assume his duties.
But as time passed and none of his staff appeared, the ring became more
significant. He gave in.

"Forsyte here!"

"Sorry, Mr. Forsyte," it was the operator, "but none of your staff can
join you just now. They send their regrets."

"Regrets?" Sextus said icily. "Did you explain who called this meeting,
young lady?"

Her voice dropped the synthetic sweetness and became a throaty rasp.
"Look, Buster, we're short-handed enough without you should call
meetings at eleven A. M. Plug the hole in your head. It's suckin' air."
He broke the connection. The place was busy, he'd grant, but this was
rank insubordination. His whole staff! Everyone seemed keyed to the
_boingg!_ point.

He decided to mull it over breakfast. The spacious, well-appointed
coffee-shop served his juice gelid and his coffee hot, his egg tender
and his toast crisp. The bit of tension vanished as he ate with relish.
He signed the check with his tight, little introverted signature.

Now for a quick inspection tour to see just how rough things really
were. He told the boy on the service elevator, "To the bottom." His
stomach writhed as the cage plummeted four floors below the street
level. The kitchens, laundry, warehouse, baggage-room, switchboard room,
ice-plant and personnel spaces sprawled through an acre of underground
levels. They boiled with sweating men and dishevelled women engaged in
the intricate business of housing, feeding, clothing, liquoring and
catering to a small city under one roof. Then he remembered how small
the quarters were upstairs.

How could they _house_ enough guests to justify all this?

Returning to his office he called the employment bureau. "Mr. Crowson?
Forsyte here! I'm at the hotel."

"Oh dear, what's wrong now?"

"You didn't tell me to whom I should report. This, ah, is my first
experience with employment agencies. Usually there is a board of
directors."

"Is that all?" Crowson sighed audibly. "You are in full charge, I assure
you. Our little interview was quite satisfactory. I have certified you
to your bookkeeping department, and you may draw upon your salary after
a week. Anything else?"

"Where may I reach the owner or the chairman in an emergency?"

"The owner is a Dr. Bradford who is in Hanford, Washington. Top secret
government work. He may not be contacted until he returns. Sorry, that's
all I can tell you. Getting on all right, Mr. Forsyte?" he asked with
obvious reluctance.

Sextus cut off. Two lights on the intercom were blinking at him. One
call was from the kitchen. The first chef had just heaved a cleaver at
the steward, and the head salad girl was in hysterics.

Sextus said he'd be right down. The second call was from the chief
house-detective. He had caught a bell-hop peddling marijuana to the
waitresses. What was the manager's new policy? Sextus told him to hold
the boy in the locker room for him. Then one of the room clerks rang to
say that Gary Gable, the movie star, was raising hell in the lobby
because he couldn't get the bridal suite and demanded to see the
manager.

Sextus smiled. These things were the routine of running a large hotel.
He stopped at the bar for a quick one and then started for the kitchen.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day passed pleasantly enough, and he looked forward to retiring to
his quiet rooms upstairs. He thought to get some intelligent answers
from his assistant manager when he walked in promptly at five P. M., but
he turned out to be a university student from Southern Cal, working days
on his master's degree in business administration and nights at the
hotel. No wonder he hadn't been promoted. Not that he wasn't
bright--just not experienced.

Sextus formally offered his hand and introduced himself. The lad said,
"I'm Horace Smith the phone is ringing excuse me." He snatched the phone
with a harried look.

Somehow the phone never stopped ringing. Sextus gave up and retired to
dress for dinner. He finished his fifth of whiskey and descended to the
hotel's swank Oceania Room, where he made himself known to the maitre
d'hotel. That frenzied little moustachioed person sniffed Sextus' breath
and seated him behind a potted palm.

Discreetly avoiding the wine list, Sextus dined well, noting several
movie stars and other vip's in the crowded dining room. He couldn't
escape the illusion that he was dining at the Ambassador or the Waldorf
Astoria--instead of in a five-story rat-trap. Where did they all come
from?

As he awaited the elevator, he was approached by the bell-captain. "Mr.
Forsyte?" Sextus nodded stiffly. "Here's an envelope Mr. Patterson left
for you. He was the last G. M. Incidentally, sorry I was a little rough
on the phone, but you can see our situation here. Understaffed and
overcrowded. It gets thick, real thick, brother."

Sextus felt his belly muscles tighten. "Confusion is never improved by
discourtesy or insubordination," he said coldly.

At that moment a bellman rushed up to the rebuffed captain who was
regarding Sextus with a restrained loathing. "The guy in C332 keeps
screaming for his beer, but the service elevator to 'C' vector keeps
dumping me off in 'F'."

The captain said, "Try riding to fourth on 'C' and then walk down a deck
and come out through the linen room."

"Can't I just ride up the guest elevator, Jack?"

The captain stared at Sextus. "Our Mr. Forsyte wouldn't approve. Now,
move!"

He turned to Sextus and said acidly, "Just one of our little extra
problems." He moved off with a disgusted shake of his carefully barbered
head.

The nature of the bell-captain's special problem sounded interesting,
but the details confused Sextus. _Ride to four on "C", walk down to
three and out by the linen closet._ Sounded like three-dimensional
chess.

His cage arrived and he returned to his suite. He removed his shoes,
stripped to the waist and sank gratefully into the soft bed, nestling
the last bottle of his suitcase reserve in the crook of his bare arm.

He considered the sealed envelope marked: TO MY SUCCESSOR. URGENT
MATTERS.

First he opened a fresh bottle and then the envelope. He flipped through
the papers. There were some tax reports ready for signature, two union
contracts up for renegotiation and an estimate on re-doing 520 rooms in
vectors "B" and "F". Vectors? Did they mean "Wings"?

The last paper was a personal letter, apparently addressed to him.
Before he could begin it the phone at his bedside jangled. Operator
said, "Would you take this, please, Mr. Forsyte? I dispatched a house
man, but the guest is hysterical."

Without awaiting his permission she cut in the woman. "Hello, manager?
There's a man in my bed!"

"What is your room number, madame?" Sextus asked with drowsy detachment.

"I'm in H-408," she said, and on the "8" her voice ran up the scale in a
quivering crescendo that launched Sextus briskly from his bed. H-408 was
his floor and his wing, luckily. He tore out of the suite and down the
hall without shirt or shoes.

The door stood ajar, and he pushed it open. In the middle of the floor,
still gabbling into the phone, stood a lumpy, pallid woman about his own
age, naked except for a pillow which she hugged fiercely to her navel.
Her bleached hair was a frayed bird's-nest.

In bed, decently clad in a pair of blue and white striped pajamas, was a
rather distinguished, gray-haired gentleman of about fifty, leaning on
one elbow and watching the woman with an expression of mild astonishment
and interest. To Sextus' practiced eye, the man was guilty of nothing.

The house detective arrived at that moment, but Sextus dismissed him
with a wave of his hand. He went in alone.

"I'm the manager, madam," he assured her. He noted that despite her
excited wails, her eyes drooped half shut. A bottle of sleeping pills on
the table was uncapped.

"Thizz man, thizz man, thizz man!" she kept repeating and pointing her
elbow at the bed. The man in question raised his eyebrows and shook his
head.

"Damndest sensation I ever felt," he said. "I'm Johnathan P. Turner,
attorney. Before I tell you my story, please check with the desk and
verify that I was assigned this room."

Sextus took the phone from the woman's pudgy hand which darted to rescue
the sagging pillow. The room-clerk reported that Mr. J. P. Turner was
registered to room 408, but in "J" vector, not "H".

Sextus' eyes swept the room. It was an unexplainable mess. Two sets of
luggage were jumbled on and around the baggage rack at the foot of the
bed. Rinsed out nylons hung from the shower rod, but a man's shaving kit
occupied the shelf over the lavatory. Despairing of ever arriving at a
sensible explanation, Sextus went to work.

Although hampered somewhat without his shirt, coat and tie, Sextus
managed to get Turner and his belongings transferred peaceably to
another room and the woman quieted down in bed with another sleeping
pill.

Then Turner was allowed to tell his story. "I had turned in early and
was lying there on my back reading the paper when suddenly I got the
most messy feeling all through me. It was like--oh, hell, I can't say
it. Anyhow, in just about a second, something went _thub!_--and there
she was in bed with me--naked!" he added with a shiver.

Sextus grasped at a straw. "How many did you have to drink this evening,
Mr. Turner?"

The attorney squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, quite a few, maybe, but not
enough to--"

Sextus shrugged one shoulder and turned to leave. "Understand, we don't
blame you a bit, sir. You know how these middle-aged women can carry on
when they get out on the town. You must have dozed off before she
slipped in."

"But my door was locked! I think," he added uncertainly.

"We won't breathe a word of it, Mr. Turner. Rest well!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sextus padded silently back to his room in his stocking feet and took a
long pull at the whiskey. Funny thing, this. People often got into the
wrong hotel beds, but rarely with such impalpable excuses. He sighed and
picked up the letter from his predecessor again. It read:

     Welcome to the Phony-Plaza. (That name again.) You will be the
     fifth manager in 30 days. If you need the job as much as I
     thought I did you will probably ignore my advice, but here
     goes, anyway: RESIGN! BAIL OUT! SKIDOO! (The man was emphatic.)
     I can't tell you where they've got the 2600 rooms in this
     haunted ant-hill, but believe me, they are there, and you'll be
     sorry if you hang around long enough to prove it.

     _My_ predecessor left a garbled note about some _hyperspace_
     system that the owner, Dr. Bradford, has figured out. Actually,
     there are only 260 rooms, as you've probably surmised. But this
     Bradford, who is a nuclear physicist, by the way, has installed
     some sort of field generator in each elevator shaft that gives
     entry to these rooms at _ten different locations in time_. Room
     500, for instance, in Vector A is 10 years from Vector B. So
     when you run to capacity with, say, two people to the room, you
     have 5200 guests in 260 rooms! They all live by the same
     calendar, but in their rooms they are actually centuries apart.
     How do you like those apples?

     It's all quite neat and economical, what with the cost per
     front foot of this beach area zoned for business, and you'll
     find a dandy profit on the books, but start worrying, fellow!
     Things are beginning to happen. The maintenance engineer, who,
     incidentally, is quitting, too, says that the equipment in the
     shafts is wearing out, and the fields are pulsating or decaying
     or some damned thing. And we can't contact Dr. Bradford, who
     took the service manual with him.

     Maybe you are more experienced in this hotel business than I
     am, but I couldn't stand the gaff. One more mess like I barely
     managed to clean up this week and someone's going to the pokey.
     It won't be me.

     Good luck, if you insist on staying, but I warned you.

     (signed) Thornton K. Patterson

     P.S. The fire-marshall is on our necks because the windows are
     all sealed, but for God's sake, DON'T UNSEAL THEM!

       *       *       *       *       *

Sextus tossed the fantastic communication aside in disgust, but his mind
began to unreel a picture of the confusion he had witnessed down in the
service quarters: Bellboys and room-service waiters fighting for service
elevators; chambermaids trundling their little carts on the dead run;
the overworked laundry staff, laboring in a veritable sweatshop of
steamy chaos, swamped in a billowing backlog of sheets and towels. It
all pointed to a large hotel operation.

If so, where were the rooms? Refusing to argue further with himself, he
got undressed. Hyperspace or not, the people apparently were there, and
it was his job to serve them. He got a bucket of ice from room-service,
mixed an ice and whiskey highball and retreated into his private little
world between crisp sheets and the pages of a twenty-five-cent mystery
novel.

Arising early, he was girded for the summons from Miss Genevieve Hafner
in room H-408. He went to her room. Fully dressed and in the daylight
she was still a hollow-eyed mess. The only visible improvement was in
the bleached bird's-nest, now a prim, rolled circle on her unlovely
pate.

"What amends," she demanded, "do you intend to make for my terrible
experience last night? Is that horrid creature in jail?"

"Experience? Jail?" Sextus asked innocent-eyed. He asked that she tell
him about it. Exasperated, she went over the details. When she finished
he patted her hand and pointed to the sleeping pills. "You should see
your doctor."

"But my doctor _prescribed_ those pills," she whimpered, looking down
shyly at the hand which Sextus held gingerly. "They never made me
dream--before."

He bent and kissed the revolting hand. "You are much too lovely a lady
to have escaped from such a predicament as you describe without
suffering--shall we say, a more romantic--fate?"

Miss Hafner blushed at the thought and wavered between outrage and
ecstasy for a dangerous moment. With time-tested genius, Sextus withdrew
quietly and left her to her thoughts.

He _must_ get in touch with Dr. Bradford, atom business or not. This
place could blow sky-high any minute.

He slipped the key into his own door and entered his suite. He took two
brisk strides into his bedroom, tripped over a lady's overnight case and
sprawled into his unmade bed. Even as he landed he realized it had an
occupant, a gorgeous, strangely familiar blonde creature, touselled and
asleep hugging her pillow with a creamy arm. A crash from the bathroom
brought his head bouncing off the silken coverlet even as the girl
awakened with a scream and tangled them both with the bed clothes.

Gary Gable charged from the bathroom, face dripping and a tuft of lather
under each ear. "What in the Goddam hell--" He leaped for Sextus with
his internationally famous shoulders knotted into bunches of muscular
menace.

"I'm the hotel manager," Sextus blurted loudly. For once his
self-assurance wavered under fire. Even to himself his words explained
nothing.

Meanwhile, Gable tripped over one of Sextus' heavy suitcases and joined
the pair in bed. Another male voice issued from the bathroom, and as
they all thrashed about, Sextus became aware that a second female had
somehow appeared between Gable and his brand new bride. They came up
together, face to face, the beautiful, sleepy blonde and the very
wide-awake, queenly brunette. Now a pot-bellied little man in shorts and
undershirt emerged from the bathroom, his mouth a gaping hole in a fully
lathered face.

Sextus wriggled free, made for the door and off down the hall. To his
horror, the automatic signal light on the vector "H" elevator was
flickering and fading. The whole H-vector must be collapsing. He dashed
for the stairwell and then reconsidered. He moved to the end of the hall
which overlooked the low roof of the adjacent building. He tried the
window and remembered that it was sealed. Back in the alcove he seized
one of the sand jars and headed back for the window. A growing tide of
commotion swelled from behind almost every door now. Grunts, screams and
wrestling sounds came over the transoms.

He dashed the sand jar through the window, chipped off the jagged edges
with his heel and climbed out. It was a twenty-foot drop to security,
and he made it without hesitation. What could a man hope to do with a
mess like--

Spang! His feet struck, not with a crunch on gravelled tar, but into a
springy fabric that sagged under his 180 pounds, tossed him six feet in
the air, caught him on the rebound and then juggled him down with
diminishing bounces.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were waiting for him, as he regained his feet on the quivering
surface of a spring-loaded, canvas trampoline. The bright, mid-morning
sun blinded him for an instant, but their voices assailed his ears in a
mighty roar of approval as he squinted under his hand and peered around
him.

"Attaboy, Sexy," a shrill female voice piped. The roof-top was jammed
with a pressing throng of--nearly naked people. In the cleared
semi-circle about him a cordon of male bodies-beautiful restrained the
mob behind a rope from which a long streamer hung with letters reading:

     "WELCOME, SEXTUS, TO 2153 A. D."

Reaching over the edge of the canvas platform with outstretched hand was
a single, willowy, sun-baked oldster in a purple loin-cloth. His hair
and beard were a dazzling white, and his face was wreathed in a silly
smile, the kind officials always wear when presenting the keys to the
city.

He shuffled his white kid sandals and spoke with an accent: "Welcome to
2153, Sextus Rollo Forsyte! California salutes you!"

Somewhere down on the street a raucous brass band broke into the _Stars
and Stripes Forever_ that quickly medlied into _California, Here We
Come_!

Sextus shrank back against the wall and felt ancient bricks crumble into
dust against his hands. The magnitude of his disaster crushed in upon
shrinking soul, and as his nimble imagination grasped the stunning
significance every molecule of his being vibrated with horror. _He had
been warned not to open a window._

"You have fulfilled the legend," the old man sang joyously. "You are a
famous man." How famous, Sextus was forced to acknowledge as a
television boom snaked over the heads of the crowd trailing a wisp of
cable and cast its baleful, glassy eye full into his face.

"Two hundred years to the day, as my great-great-grandfather predicted.
I am Clark Bradford, direct descendent of--"

Sextus stared wildly up at the open window. He bounced once
experimentally. It was a fine trampoline, and he flipped a foot off the
surface. Next bounce he flexed his knees a little and gained another
foot. Now he doubled up purposefully.

The one-man-delegate in purple frowned. "Stop that. We are here to
welcome you and start the celebration at the Hollywood Bowl and--Stop
that, I say!" Now he sensed Sextus' incredible intent. "Officer, help
out here, please!"

A bulgy, bronzed fellow clad mainly in an immaculately white brassard
left the rope barrier and joined Bradford.

The Elder screamed, "You can't go back, Forsyte! Don't you understand?
You disappeared two centuries ago when the vector field collapsed. You
can't go back! You can't! This is your destiny!"

Sextus' heels soared five feet above the canvas and gained precious
altitude with each spring, but it was a precarious business the higher
he went. One slip and he'd glance off at a tangent and be captured by
those reaching, grasping obscene hands in the crowd. The thought almost
unseated his reason.

The police officer asked Bradford, "What would happen if he did go
back?" Then he added, "Ain't he got a right to?"

Bradford shuffled nervously. "I don't quite know. We never considered
such a--my God! Stop, man, stop. You'll change the whole course of
history! Stop him!"

The barelegged minion tried, but as he climbed up on the edge of the
trampoline Sextus bounced and kicked out with accuracy and
determination. The policeman sprawled back clutching air, and the crowd
roared.

One more bounce and a half twist, now. Sextus soared up, up, and his
hands touched the sill.

With the agility of desperation he clawed up and through the paneless
window.

"You don't know what you are doing," the old man screeched. "Stay here
and you'll be famous. If you go back it is to oblivion. Oblivion! Very,
well, _go_ back! _Go_ back, you--you nonentity!"

"You bet," Sextus panted to himself and tumbled onto the carpeted fourth
floor hallway of the Mahoney-Plaza hotel.

[Illustration]

Instantly, another voice, but without accent, accosted him shrilly from
down the hall. "You, there. You mister manager." Sextus sighed mightily
with relief. It was only Miss Genevieve Hafner holding a pimply-faced,
red-haired youth by the ear.

True, Gary Gable and two hair-pulling, female starlets bore down right
behind her, and rooms along both sides of the corridor were disgorging
eddies of indignant displaced persons.

But these were things he understood. These were just beefs. Somewhat
more involved than usual, but nothing much worse than a full-fledged
convention at mid-night.

He adjusted his mashed carnation, brushed the crumbles of old brick dust
from his morning coat and moved into the fray.

"Now, now, Miss Hafner! _What_ are you up to _this_ time?"





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