|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Astera-kesphoros; The Star of Healing|
Astera-kesphoros: The Star of Healing. By MARY HANNAY FOOTT.
In another week Ken was able to run about with the Star children, and Fran asked the young man who spoke the Earth-speech, and who seemed from the
first to have made himself their special friend and guide, whether they should be able to leave again, In a little while, for their own planet. The young man told her, however, that it would be better to stay for some time longer, as though Ken was very well in the Star atmosphere he would not be at all the same boy in the air of Earth, which was mingled, he told her, with many poisonous vapours and gases. After wards he asked her whether she felt dull fn the Star, and was longing to get back to her own world. Fran replied that she was not at all dull; that so pleasant a world was Asterakesphoros, and so kind were Its people and their children no one could feel dull there; but that she had left the Earth without telling her sister Mollie, the mother of little Ken, and was anxious to let her know that they were safe, and that Ken was recovering. Another thing which made her uneasy, she explained, was having to be idle whilst she remained in the Star. She had to work very hard at her calling, that of an artist lace maker, in order to help to maintain Mollie and Ken and herself, as they had very little money, except what she earned. Mollie, too, worked very hard, as she took care of the house, did all the cooking and other work, and made and mended the clothes. The Grand-Duchess Nancie; she added, had given her an order for a bridal veil, and she could not help wishing she were able to go on with it, not only because of the money she was to have for it, which would be very useful, but also because she liked working at it. The young man listened with much interest to what she had to say, and when she had done he ques tioned her as to where her lacework and the designs she had made to weave it by were to be found. Fran told him they were all together in a flat bamboo basket, hung from the ridge-pole of a tent in the first open space to the north west in the timber surrounding the ob servatory clearing on Mountain Crown, a hill-top in such-and-such a district of the kingdom of so-and-so. To Fran's surprise the young man in formed her that he knew both the king dom and the district well, and the obser vatory clearing best of all. The tent likewise he was acquainted with, so far as the outside of it went, but to the inside and to the bamboo basket he was still a stranger. Then he reminded her that on the morning of her arrival he had called her by her name. "So you did," replied Fran, "but amid so many surprises It did not seem to me strange. Afterwards I wondered how you came to know me." "To tell the truth," said the young man. smiling, "I am Eric Brightstone's grandfather." "You!" exclaimed Fran, laughing. "You! I thought you were about the same age as I am." "I have the advantage of you, for all that," said the young man, "the disad vantage—as it would be if we were liv ing on my old planet—of some ninety years. Even here I am five years your elder. By Star-count, that Is to say, l am four-and-twenty. By Earth-count, I was a hundred and nine last birth day." "You really do not look either of your ages," said Fran. "Nobody would take you to be more than twenty." "I was fifty when I came here," said
the young man (as we will call him still), "so I had to go back to twenty-five the very day I arrived. We always go back, in this world, every quarter of a cen tury once we reach the age of five-and twenty." "How can you go back?" Inquired Fran. "Surely you must still be the age you really are." "No," replied the young man, "I am happy to say that we must not." "If you talk in that way," said Fran, laughing, "I shall begin to fancy we are two people in one of those horrid stories where the author leads one on, and on, and on, getting one to take ln one unbelievable thing after another, and then just as one is revelling in the tangle, and the time has come to explain, he snatches one back to real life by the hair of the head, saying coolly, 'It was a dream'." "Dear me!" exclaimed the young man. "I had forgotten that there were such stories. How I used to hate them, too! But, seriously, It is quite true that in this star one is not one's real age. as you understand it, after flve-and- twenty. Let me try to explain by means of a homely illustration drawn from your own domestic life. You make jam tartlets as a rule every Wednesday and Saturday?" "Yes," said Fran. "How do you know?" "I watch you." said the young man through the kitchen window. "You are a thrifty little body, and when you have cut up your pastry, say two dozen scraps of tartlets, you put about half a tea spoonful of jam into every one." "It is no disgrace to be poor," said Fran, blushing, and with tears in her eyes. "We have to have two dozen tartlets so as to look enough, and I keep putting more and more jam as long as it will go round." "Just so," said the young man."A tartlet is no less than a tartlet even when you can spare only the half-tea spoonful apiece all round. And a tart let is no more than a tartlet when you are able to divide a whole pot of jam amongst the two dozen and the very full ones boil over and burn. In the same way when we have given twelve months apiece all round to five-and-twenty years we start afresh at the first year and spoon another twelve months into it. And so on with the whole lot. When we have gone round with the second twelve months apiece we go back again to the first year, and fill it a little fuller with a third twelve months. Now do you see how it is?" "It sounds right," said Fran. "Do you feel as young as you call your selves?" "Oh, yes," replied the young man, "and not only do we feel so, but we really are. Our hair and teeth, if they have at all faded or become worn, are renewed, wrinkles disappear, our eye- sight brightens up; in fact, fresh stocks are opened in every department." "And all this while," said Fran, "people have thought you were dead." "I was as good as dead." said the young man, "when I got here. I was standing on the parapet of the Observa tory tower, watching the crystal stair sweep into view. I had spent some days and nights in making calculations and in watching for the coming of the stair, and had been too much absorbed in it all to eat or drink much. When the stair appeared just beneath me I got giddy and fell over upon it. People thought I had fallen into one of the ravines, and I know that both my son and my grandson have had every pos sible search made for my remains." "But you visit the Earth, you say," said Fran. "Yes," rejoined the young man, "but the first breath I drew here would have been my last had I fallen on earth, and so I am counted as born on this star, and it is my home world. Now I will go and fetch you your lace." With these concluding words the young man disappeared from view. In
a day or two be returned, bringing with him the flat bamboo basket containing Fran's lace-work, and by the time little Ken was quite well again the bridal veil was finished, all but the corner, which was to have as its central design the armorial bearings of the King's bride.
CHAPTER XII. One starry night Fran and little Ken once more swung off from solid ground into the realms of space, borne with immeasurable swiftness upon the crys tal stair. They had bade farewell to all the kind star-people but one, the young man of a hundred-and-nlne, who had come with them as their travelling companion back to Earth. The lens which Eric Brlghtstone had lent to Fran was fixed in Its head-piece as before in front of her eyes, so that she beheld with clear vision the ways they threaded as they went, the worlds they passed on either hand upon their way, and at last the silver disc of the beautiful and beloved Earthstar. As she gazed she felt a light touch on her hand, and she turned her head. She saw the young man standing as before by her side, Ken in his arms, and the bamboo basket at his feet. The hand with which he had touched her was re turning to Its place by Ken's sturdy little figure, and Fran noticed with a shivery thrill that there was visible through its substance first the stair upon which they stood and then the dark serge of the tunic Ken wore. "You will lose sight of me shortly, Fran," said the young man, "for I am invisible in the Earth atmosphere, but I shall not be gone. I will stay with you until you are safe at home." "Oh, don't—don't fade away," Fran entreated, "they would all so love to see you." "Ah, if I might only have them see me and love me," said the young man, "only for a moment, I would rather have that moment than my ever-new life on the Star of Exile." "The Star of Exile?" said Fran in a tremulous voice, but there was no reply. She wiped away her tears, and when she looked again she and Ken were alone. Another moment and, she could never tell how It happened, she was standing on the flat rock on Mountain Crown, Mollie kneeling at her feet clasping Ken In her arms and by her side the King. How long they might have all stayed thus in the joy of meeting with never a word among the four will never be known, for in a twinkling a brown man who stood sentry nearby sent in his own tongue a far-penetrating message to the woods beyond, and ere its echo died the Burmese emerged from the shadows bearing their palanquin. Fran and her sister were placed within it and Ken was borne In the arms of the King. When they reached the Observatory the whole house arose to bid them wel come. The first to greet Fran and em brace her was the Grand-Duchess Nancie, who had made one of the group of watchers from the hour she heard the story of Fran's brave venture to save the life her sister had entrusted to her care. The next to come was Erica's mother, now sadly frail and faint. At sight of her Fran grew paler then flushed. "You shall be well!" she exclaimed, "you shall be well!—you gave up your chance of life for little Ken, but I have something here"—so saying she thrust her hand into the bodice of her gown and brought from it two sprays of crimson leaves. One she placed in the hand of Erica's mother and one, kneel ing at his feet, she offered to the King. "They are leaves from a Tree that grows on Earth no more," she said. "They will not last an hour. While they live inhale the fragrance. It Is life; life. But it Is life only to those whose suffering comes of sacrifice." The King raised Fran to her feet with his right hand, and with his left he took the leaves of the world's Lost Tree. . . . . . . . . . . One day the Grand-Duchess Nancie came to Mollle's house and asked for Fran. When Fran came the Grand Duchess opened her gold-embroidered hand-bag and brought out of It the bridal veil that Fran had made for her a month before. "Finish the corner for me at once," she said, "the King has chosen his bride." Fran turned pale, but she bowed and said gently— "Yes, madam. What are the Prin cess's armorial bearings?" "The bride is not a princess," said the Grand-Duchess, in a scornful tone, yet with a kindly smile. "Now that the King's ear that the lion bit off has grown again and his crown stays on straight I get notes every day in the week from parents and guardians of princesses who think their mission In life is to be Queen of this realm. But I am glad to say they are only wasting their postage-stamps. "There, my dear," she added, throw ing the veil over Fran's head. "Work a star and a spray of the leaves of life in the unfinished corner and wear the veil as my wedding gift. "Adieu, dearest. Here comes the King." (The End.)