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Read Short Stories by Robert A. Heinlein Vol 2 Part 72

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Read WebNovel Short Stories by Robert A. Heinlein Vol 2 Part 72

‘Then I see no alternative but to follow his advice. He’s our last hope.

A forlorn one, perhaps, but our only one.’

Stevens brightened a little. ‘I could talk to Doc Grimes about it. He knows more about Waldo than anyone else.’

‘You have to consult him anyway, don’t you? Very well -do so.’

Grimes listened to the story without comment. When Stevens had concluded he said, ‘Waldo must be referring to the symptoms I have observed with respect to short-wave exposure. That’s easy; you can have the proofs of the monograph

I’ve been preparing. It’ll tell you all about it.’

The information did not rea.s.sure Stevens; it helped to confirm his suspicion that Waldo had lost his grip. But he said nothing.

Grimes continued, ‘As for the other, Jim, I can’t visualize Waldo losing his mind that way.’

‘He never did seem very stable to me.’

‘I know what you mean. But his paranoid streak is no more like what Rambeau succ.u.mbed to than chickenpox is like mumps. Matter of fact, one psychosis protects against the other. But I’ll go see.’

‘You will? Good!’

‘Can’t go today. Got a broken leg and some children’s colds that’ll bear watching. Been some polio around. Ought to be able to make it the end of the week though.’

‘Doc, why don’t you give up GP work? It must be deadly.’

‘Used to think so when I was younger. But about forty years ago I quit treating diseases and started treating people. Since then I’ve enjoyed it.’

Waldo indulged in an orgy of reading, gulping the treatises on magic and related subjects as fast as he could. He had never been interested in such subjects before; now, in reading about them with the point of view that there might be – and even probably was – something to be learned, he found them intensely interesting.

There were frequent references to another world; sometimes it was called the Other World, sometimes the Little World. Read with the conviction that the term referred to an actual, material, different continuum, he could see that many of the pract.i.tioners of the forbidden arts had held the same literal viewpoint. They gave directions for using this other world; sometimes the directions were fanciful, sometimes they were baldly practical.

It was fairly evident that at least 90 per cent of all magic, probably more, was balderdash and sheer mystification. The mystification extended even to the pract.i.tioners, he felt; they lacked the scientific method; they employed a single-valued logic as faulty as the two-valued logic of the obsolete

Spencer determinism; there was no suggestion of modern extensional, many-valued logic.

Nevertheless, the laws of contiguity, of sympathy, and of homeopathy had a sort of twisted rightness to them when considered in relation to the concept of another, different, but accessible, world.

A man who had some access to a different s.p.a.ce might well believe in a logic in which a thing could be, not be, , or be anything with equal ease.

Despite the nonsense and confusion which characterized the treatments of magic which dated back to the period when the art was in common practice, the record of accomplishment of the art was impressive.

There was curare and digitalis, and quinine, hypnotism, and telepathy.

There was the hydraulic engineering of the Egyptian priests. Chemistry itself was derived from alchemy; for that matter, most modern science owed its’ origins to the magicians. Science had stripped off the surplusage, run it through the wringer of two-valued logic, and placed the knowledge in a form in which anyone could use it.

Unfortunately, that part of magic which refused to conform to the neat categories of the nineteenth-century methodologists was lopped off and left out of the body of science. It fell into disrepute, was forgotten save as fable and superst.i.tion.

Waldo began to think of the arcane arts as aborted sciences, abandoned before they had been clarified.

And yet the manifestations of the sort of uncertainty which had characterized some aspects of magic and which he now attributed to hypothetical additional continua had occurred frequently, even in modern times. The evidence was overwhelming to anyone who approached it with an open mind:

Poltergeisten, stones falling from the sky, apportation. ‘bewitched’ persons – or, as he Thought of them, persons who for some undetermined reason were loci of uncertainty – ‘haunted’ houses, strange fires of the sort that would have once been attributed to salamanders. There were hundreds of such cases, carefully recorded and well vouched for, but ignored by orthodox science as being impossible. They were impossible, by known law, but considered from the standpoint of a coextensive additional continuum, they became entirely credible.

He cautioned himself not to consider his tentative hypothesis of the

Other World as proved; nevertheless, it was an adequate hypothesis even if it should develop that it did not apply to some of the cases of strange events.

The Other s.p.a.ce might have different physical laws – no reason why it should not.

Nevertheless, he decided to proceed on the a.s.sumption that it was much like the s.p.a.ce he knew.

The Other World might even be inhabited. That was an intriguing thought! In which case anything could happen through ‘magic’.

Anything!

Time to stop speculating and get down to a little solid research.

He had previously regretfully given up trying to apply the formulas of the medieval magicians. It appeared that they never wrote down all of a procedure; some essential – so the reports ran and so his experience confirmed – was handed down verbally from master to student.

His experience with Schneider confirmed this; there were things, att.i.tudes, which must needs be taught directly.

He regretfully set out to learn what he must una.s.sisted.

‘Gosh, Uncle Gus, i’m glad to see you!’

‘Decided I’d better look in on you. You haven’t phoned me in weeks.’

‘That’s true, but I’ve been working awfully hard, Uncle Gus.’

‘Too hard, maybe. Mustn’t overdo it. Lemme see your tongue.~

‘I’m OK.’ But Waldo stuck out his tongue just the same; Grimes looked at it and felt his pulse.

‘You seem to be ticking all right. Learning anything?’

‘Quite a lot. I’ve about got the matter of the deKalbs whipped.’

‘That’s good. The message you sent Stevens seemed to indicate that you had found some hookup that could be used on my pet problem too.~

‘In a way, yes; but around from the other end. It begins to seem as if it was your problem which created Stevens’s problem.’

‘Huh?’

‘I mean it. The symptoms caused by ultra short-wave radiation may have had a lot to do with the erratic behaviour of the deKalbs.’

‘How?’

‘I don’t know myself. But I’ve rigged up a working hypothesis and I’m checking it.’

———-

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