Mudcat Café message #213095 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #20395   Message #213095
Posted By: Peter T.
17-Apr-00 - 11:00 AM
Thread Name: TAVERN STEAMBOAT Albert Hansell - Part 4
Subject: RE: TAVERN STEAMBOAT Albert Hansell - Part 4
"For this relief much thanks, Commander," replied Cassius de Mornay, "Even I had despaired of extricating myself from that closing curtain." He waved at the panorama of space. "It was a jocund day that first you and I exchanged burning phrases from the god of my idolatry in that rustic tavern -- or is it taverns?

"Taverns, and theatres, and the theatre of war, de Mornay," mused Commander Leej, "in the dark backward and abysm of time." He cradled his glass. "We have not much time, even in this space between time, de Mornay. I need to know what you have learned."

De Mornay spoke, as usual, somewhat overlong, but as concisely as he possibly could under constraint of time, approximately as he had during the unrolling of the Salic Law speech from Henry V on the occasion in Sacramento when he happened to notice that a backdrop was ablaze. He told Commander Leej almost all, leaving out only one detail -- the fact that the Great Red Heron, in his arrogance, had allowed the seemingly doomed de Mornay to discover his identity. He knew, as Commander Leej did not, that the fate of a much loved woman rested on the concealment, till the proper moment, of that information.

"Well, de Mornay, you have certainly gummed up some of their works. I had no idea that Stonewall Delacroix and the Mojo Woman were so critical to this enterprise. And the Trader -- what fools we were. So it comes down to Miss Fontaine and Miss Montesquieu, as we always assumed it would. Of course you missed the clue in the Stephen Foster song, but even the Heron's Inheronation was unable to connect that thread." They drank deeply again. De Mornay smiled briefly, and said:

"But enough, Commander, enough. We must, must we not, return to the deck of the Albert Hansell aboard this vessel, named I am sure, after some heroic figure of a future time?"

A dark look came over the shining face of the Commander of the League of the Mudcat Fleet. "Well, de Mornay, it is somewhat awkward for me to say this, but I am afraid that is impossible. It is more than awkward. I am afraid that, in that period, how can I soften this blow, you are in fact, dead. That was the price we, you, had to pay to break the momentary, but almost fatal hold of the Heron on that thread of history. You cannot go there again. It, and everyone there, is closed to you now."

To his credit, de Mornay said nothing. And to his, Commander Leej also sat quietly.

After a few moments, de Mornay turned his head towards the vast tapestry of stars which suddenly began to shimmer in his sight, though they were in deep space. He sat for a few seconds more, and inexplicably his thoughts went back to that terrible night in Ford's Theatre, when, long after the hideous excitement had passed, the theatre, tainted and scuffed, was finally emptied of everyone for the nightime. He and Catspaugh had walked out onto the empty stage, looked out at the empty house, and stood silently for a time. Then Catspaugh had said, solemnly, I can't be in one of these again. I have done with the theatre even before I really got started. I think I am going west, going back to Ohio, back to the river." And he had gone. And de Mornay was left alone in that theatre. In the theatre. But it had been wonderful after. The great nation, coming to life again, flush from living drama, true heroics, and thirsting for the life of the theatre. The places he had seen; the sounds, the grand life, the tumbles in tiny dressing rooms, the glittering tours of distant lands. And the mornings in the new towns, the excitement of bringing excitement....Gone the pomp and circumstance of all those lost imagined empires; gone all those bright mornings and (and here a new thought came to him) -- gone the bright eyes of --

And without making a further movement, without any theatricality, tears began to run down the old actor's face, and he made no move to wipe them away.