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Meanwhile, you were going to walk in the circle today, weren't you? You might
as well go ahead and do that. You won't mind if I interrupt your walking if I
feel I need to talk to you before you stop of your own accord?" "Of course
not," said Hal. "Anything I get mentally occupied with there, I can always get
back into at a later time." "Good. "
Hal went out, picking up the utensils of Amid's lunch as he went. These
reminded him that he, himself, had not yet eaten today. When he got to the
nearest of the dormitory kitchens, he found it, now in the early afternoon,
almost empty. He ate a
quick lunch and went on, out to the circle. There were only two people waiting
there, a thin, tall, elderly man named Dans, with dark brown eyes that always
seemed to give him a stare, and a small, athletic young woman with blond hair,
known as Trekka. "I think duty took you out of your normal turn, Friend," said
Dans. "Trekka's first, but would you care to go before me?" "Before me, as
well, Friend," said Trekka.
Hal grinned at them. "No, you don't," said Hal. "I can get put in your debt
like that once, but I'm too clever to be caught twice. I'll follow Dans. "
As it turned out, however, several of those currently walking were very close
to the point where they wanted to stop. Hal and the other two were all walking
the circle within five minutes of his arrival.
As always, when he began this, Hal shed his concern with daily matters as he
would drop a winter cloak after stepping into a building's warmth. There was
nothing special about the circle to facilitate this, or even anything
metaphysical about it, since he had been able to do it since childhood. It was
no more than the extent to which anyone lets go of their pattern of directed
thoughts, when he or she slips off into daydreams.
But on this occasion, the urgency of the possible coming search by the troops
and its attendant problems may have lingered a little in his consciousness and
directed the otherwise free flight of his mind; for he found it once more
occupied with the passage from Cletus Grahame's work on tactics and strategy
Gordon R. Dickson
that he had called up from memory in his reconnaissance below. Once more he
felt tugging at him the feeling that there was more to the passage than he had
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read off the printed page in his memory.
Now, freed by the movement and voices of the circle to go seeking, he traced
down the source of that feeling. He was a boy again, the boy Donal, back on
Dorsai. There, in the big, shelf-walled library of Graemehouse, filled with
old-fashioned books of printed and bound paper, there had been a number of
large boxes on one shelf which had held the original manuscript of Cletus's
writings. As the boy Donal, once he had mastered reading, which he had done so
early that he could not remember when he had first started to read, anything
written was to be gobbled wholesale.
Those had been the days when he could so lose himself in reading that he could
be called to dinner by someone literally standing at his side, and not hear
the voice of whoever it was.
During that period of his life he had ended up reading, along with everything
else that was there to be read in Graemehouse, the manuscript version of
Cletus's work. It had been handwritten on the grayish-white. locally made
Dorsai paper; and here and there, there had been corrections and additions
made in the lines. In particular, in certain spots whole passages had been
crossed out. Notes had not been made by Cletus on the manuscript, usually,
when such a passage was deleted; and Hal had often played with trying to
figure out why his great great-grandfather had decided not to include it. In
the case of the neatly exed out section of the remarks on terrain, the note in
the margin had said--of utility only for a minority of readers. "
Of utility only to a minority? Why? Hal had puzzled over that reason, set down
in the time-faded, pale blue ink of Cletus's round handwriting. He remembered
going into the office which had been Cletus's to begin with, and that of the
head of the family ever since, and sitting down in the hard, adult-sized,
wooden swivel chair at the desk there, to try if by imitating Cletus as Cletus
had worked, he could divine the meaning of the note.
Why only a minority of readers? As a boy, the phrase had seemed to threaten to
shut Hal out. What if he would be among
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