**JACK LONDON**

**A NAGY Hï¿½Z ASSZONYKï¿½JA**

**(THE LITTLE LADY OF THE BIG HOUSE)**

**FORDï¿½TOTTA**

**FEJEZETEK**

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BUDAPEST

AZ ATHENAEUM IROD. ï¿½S
NYOMDAI R.-T. KIADï¿½SA

1923

A mï¿½ elektronikus vï¿½ltozatï¿½ra a Nevezd meg! - ï¿½gy add tovï¿½bb! 4.0 Nemzetkï¿½zi (CC BY-SA 4.0) Creative Commons licenc feltï¿½telei ï¿½rvï¿½nyesek. Tovï¿½bbi informï¿½ciï¿½k: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.hu

Elektronikus vï¿½ltozat:

Budapest :
Magyar Elektronikus Kï¿½nyvtï¿½rï¿½rt Egyesï¿½let, 2015

Kï¿½szï¿½lt az
Internet Szolgï¿½ltatï¿½k Tanï¿½csa tï¿½mogatï¿½sï¿½val.

Kï¿½szï¿½tette az
Orszï¿½gos Szï¿½chï¿½nyi Kï¿½nyvtï¿½r E-kï¿½nyvtï¿½ri Szolgï¿½ltatï¿½sok Osztï¿½lya

ISBN
978-963-417-081-5 (online)

MEK-14581

Sï¿½tï¿½tben ï¿½bredt. Kï¿½nnyen, egyszerï¿½en, mozdulat nï¿½lkï¿½l serkent fel, azt az egy mozdulatot kivï¿½ve, hogy kinyitotta a szemï¿½t ï¿½s tudomï¿½st szerzett a sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½grï¿½l. Mï¿½s embernek szï¿½ksï¿½ge van rï¿½, hogy ilyenkor fogdossa, tapogassa, ï¿½rezze a vilï¿½got maga kï¿½rï¿½l, - ï¿½ a felï¿½bredï¿½se elsï¿½ pillanatï¿½ban tudatos volt, azonnal leszegezte a maga idejï¿½t, helyï¿½t ï¿½s szemï¿½lyï¿½t. Az alvï¿½s eltelt ï¿½rï¿½i utï¿½n minden erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l kezdte el ï¿½jra napjainak megszakï¿½tott tï¿½rtï¿½netï¿½t. Megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy ï¿½ Forrest Dick, nagy fï¿½ldek ura, aki nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½rï¿½val ezelï¿½tt aludt el, miutï¿½n ï¿½lmosan tett egy szï¿½l gyujtï¿½t a »Sï¿½nvï¿½ros« cï¿½mï¿½ kï¿½nyv lapjai kï¿½zï¿½ ï¿½s eloltotta a villamos olvasï¿½lï¿½mpï¿½t.

Kï¿½zelrï¿½l valami ï¿½lmos szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½t hï¿½rgï¿½se ï¿½s bugyborï¿½kolï¿½sa hallatszott be. Messzirï¿½l pedig, olyan messzirï¿½l ï¿½s olyan gyengï¿½n, hogy csak ï¿½les fï¿½l kaphatta el, neszt hallott, amitï¿½l kellemesen elmosolyodott. A King Polo tï¿½voli, teljes torkï¿½ bï¿½gï¿½sï¿½t ismerte fel benne. King Polo volt az ï¿½ kitï¿½ntetett rï¿½vidszarvï¿½ fajbikï¿½ja, amely Sacramento vï¿½rosï¿½ban, a kaliforniai ï¿½llami kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½son hï¿½romszor nyerte el az elsï¿½ dï¿½jat. Ez a mosoly lassan tï¿½nt el Forrest Dick arcï¿½rï¿½l, mert egy percig eltï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt azokon az ï¿½j diadalokon, amiket az idï¿½n a keleti ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½ vidï¿½keken szï¿½nt King Polï¿½nak. Meg akarta mutatni nekik, hogy a Kaliforniï¿½ban szï¿½letett ï¿½s tenyï¿½sztett bika ï¿½llja a versenyt az Iowa ï¿½llamban magon-nï¿½tt bikï¿½k legjavï¿½val, vagy azokkal, amiket tengerentï¿½lrï¿½l, a rï¿½vidszarvï¿½ak ï¿½si hazï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l importï¿½ltak.

Csak mikor mosolya eltï¿½nt, ami eltartott nï¿½hï¿½ny mï¿½sodpercig, nyï¿½lt ki a sï¿½tï¿½tbe ï¿½s megnyomta egy sor gomb kï¿½zï¿½l az elsï¿½t. Hï¿½rom sorban sorakoztak ezek a gombok. A megnyomott gombnak megfelelï¿½ rejtett vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½s, amely a mennyezet alatti nagy gï¿½mbbï¿½l szï¿½rï¿½dï¿½tt le, alvï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½t vilï¿½gï¿½tott meg, melynek hï¿½rom oldalï¿½n finom szï¿½vï¿½sï¿½ rï¿½zhï¿½lï¿½zatbï¿½l volt a fala. Negyedik oldalï¿½t a hï¿½z szilï¿½rd betonfala adta. Ezt a falat fï¿½ldig ï¿½rï¿½ ablakok szakï¿½tottï¿½k meg.

Megnyomta a sor mï¿½sodik gombjï¿½t. Ettï¿½l erï¿½s fï¿½ny vilï¿½gï¿½totta meg a betonfal egy kï¿½lï¿½n rï¿½szï¿½t ï¿½s itt sorban egy faliï¿½rï¿½t, egy baromï¿½tert, egy Celsius-hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s egy Fahrenheit-hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½t. Szinte egyetlen pillantï¿½ssal sï¿½pï¿½rte fel a mï¿½szerek hï¿½radï¿½sï¿½t: idï¿½ nï¿½gy ï¿½ra harminc, lï¿½gnyomï¿½s hï¿½tszï¿½zï¿½tvenhï¿½t, ebben az ï¿½vszakban ï¿½s ebben a tengerfeletti magassï¿½gban normï¿½lis, a hï¿½mï¿½rsï¿½klet Fahrenheit szerint harminchat fok. Mï¿½g egy gombnyomï¿½s az idï¿½, hï¿½ ï¿½s levegï¿½ szerszï¿½mait visszakï¿½ldte a sï¿½tï¿½tbe.

A harmadik gomb az olvasï¿½lï¿½mpï¿½t gyujtotta meg, ami ï¿½gy volt felszerelve, hogy a feje felï¿½l hï¿½tulrï¿½l vilï¿½gï¿½tott ï¿½s nem sï¿½tï¿½tt a szemï¿½be. Az elsï¿½ gomb kioltotta a mennyezet rejtett helyï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½rkezï¿½ fï¿½nyt. Az olvasï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nyrï¿½l elvett egy csomï¿½ korrektï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s ceruzï¿½val a kezï¿½ben, cigarettï¿½val a szï¿½jï¿½ban, korrigï¿½lni kezdett.

Ez a helyisï¿½g nyilvï¿½n olyan ember hï¿½lï¿½helye volt, aki dolgozik. Az alaphangot praktikus volta adta, bï¿½r meglï¿½tszott rajta a kï¿½nyelem is, mï¿½g pedig nem spï¿½rtai. Az ï¿½gyat szï¿½rkï¿½re emailï¿½rozott vasbï¿½l csinï¿½ltï¿½k, hogy egybehangzï¿½ legyen a fallal. Az ï¿½gy vï¿½gï¿½ben kï¿½lï¿½n paplan gyanï¿½nt, szï¿½rke farkasbï¿½rï¿½kbï¿½l valï¿½ bunda fekï¿½dt, a farkak szabadon lï¿½gtak belï¿½le, mint bojtok. A fï¿½ldï¿½n, ahol egy pï¿½r papucs pihent, a vastagszï¿½rï¿½ havasi kecske prï¿½mje terï¿½lt el.

A nagy olvasï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nyon, amelyre szï¿½pen rendben kï¿½nyvek, folyï¿½iratok ï¿½s jegyzï¿½blokkok tornyai voltak halmozva, akadt hely gyujtï¿½nak, cigarettï¿½nak, hamutï¿½lcï¿½nak ï¿½s egy termosznak is. Felfï¿½ggesztett, szabadon lï¿½gï¿½ polcocskï¿½n egy fonogrï¿½f ï¿½llott, hogy diktï¿½lni lehessen rajta. A falon a baromï¿½ter ï¿½s a hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½k tï¿½vï¿½ben kerek farï¿½mï¿½bï¿½l egy nï¿½ arca nevetett elï¿½. A gombsorok ï¿½s egy telefï¿½nkapcsolï¿½-tï¿½bla kï¿½zï¿½tt a nyitott tokbï¿½l hanyagul ï¿½llott ki egy negyvennï¿½gy millimï¿½teres Colt-fegyver agya.

Pontosan hat ï¿½rakor, mikor szï¿½rke vilï¿½gossï¿½g kezdett ï¿½tszï¿½rï¿½dni a drï¿½thï¿½lï¿½n, Forrest Dick, anï¿½lkï¿½l hogy tekintetï¿½t a kefelevonatrï¿½l elfordï¿½totta volna, kinyujtotta a kezï¿½t ï¿½s megnyomott egy gombot a mï¿½sodik sorban. ï¿½t perc mulva egy lï¿½gy-papucsï¿½ kï¿½nai bukkant fel a mennyezetes ï¿½gynï¿½l. Fï¿½nyezett rï¿½ztï¿½lcï¿½t tartott a kezï¿½ben, a tï¿½lcï¿½n csï¿½sze, annak az alja, kis ezï¿½st kï¿½vï¿½skanna ï¿½s hasonlï¿½an aprï¿½ ezï¿½st tejszï¿½nes kanna.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, Hallode! - ï¿½gy kï¿½szï¿½nt Forrest Dick. Ahogy mondta, szeme-szï¿½ja nevetett.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, uram! - felelte Hallode, mikï¿½zben azzal veszï¿½dï¿½tt, hogy az ï¿½llvï¿½nyon helyet csinï¿½ljon a tï¿½lcï¿½nak ï¿½s kitï¿½ltse a kï¿½vï¿½t meg a tejszï¿½nt.

Mikor ezzel kï¿½sz volt, nem vï¿½rt ï¿½j parancsot, hanem meggyï¿½zï¿½dvï¿½n rï¿½la, hogy a gazdï¿½ja fï¿½lkï¿½zzel mï¿½r reggelizik, mig a mï¿½sikkal folytatja a korrigï¿½lï¿½st, Hallode felszedett a fï¿½ldrï¿½l egy rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½, selymes, csipkï¿½s budoï¿½rfï¿½kï¿½tï¿½cskï¿½t ï¿½s kiment. Egï¿½szen nesztelenï¿½l. ï¿½gy oszlott el a nyitott, fï¿½ldig ï¿½rï¿½ ablakon ï¿½t, mint egy ï¿½rnyï¿½k.

Hat ï¿½ra harminckor, percre pontosan, nagyobb tï¿½lcï¿½val tï¿½rt vissza. Forrest Dick fï¿½lrerakta a korrektï¿½rï¿½t, elï¿½vett egy »Kereskedelmi Bï¿½katenyï¿½sztï¿½s« cï¿½mï¿½ kï¿½nyvet ï¿½s nekikï¿½szï¿½lt az evï¿½snek. A reggelije egyszerï¿½ volt, de kiadï¿½s: tï¿½bb kï¿½vï¿½, egy kis fï¿½rt szï¿½lï¿½, kï¿½t lï¿½gy tojï¿½s, ami mï¿½r el volt kï¿½szï¿½tve vajjal a pohï¿½rban ï¿½s mï¿½g bugyborï¿½kolt a forrï¿½sï¿½gtï¿½l, egy szelet sonka, nem tï¿½lfï¿½zve, amirï¿½l tudta, hogy a maga tenyï¿½sztï¿½se ï¿½s pï¿½colï¿½sa.

Ezalatt a nap mï¿½r besï¿½tï¿½tt az ablakon ï¿½s elï¿½ntï¿½tte az ï¿½gyat. Az ablakhï¿½lï¿½n kï¿½vï¿½l egï¿½sz csomï¿½ lï¿½gy vï¿½nszorgott; tï¿½lkorï¿½n keltek ki az idï¿½n ï¿½s az ï¿½jszaka hidege megvette ï¿½ket. Forrest, amint evett, megfigyelte a hï¿½sevï¿½ darazsakat. Ezek szï¿½vï¿½sak, jobban bï¿½rjï¿½k a hideget, mint a mï¿½hek. Folyton ott keringtek ï¿½s megragadtï¿½k az elgï¿½mberedett legyeket. A levegï¿½ sï¿½rga vadï¿½szai, akï¿½rmilyen lï¿½rmï¿½t csapott a repï¿½lï¿½sï¿½k, igen ritkï¿½n hibï¿½ztak, lecsaptak a tehetetlen ï¿½ldozatokra ï¿½s odï¿½bb ï¿½lltak velï¿½k. Mï¿½r az utolsï¿½ lï¿½gy is odavolt, mikor Forrest kihï¿½rpintette az utolsï¿½ korty kï¿½vï¿½t, megjelï¿½lte egy szï¿½l gyujtï¿½val a Kereskedelmi Bï¿½katenyï¿½sztï¿½st ï¿½s elï¿½vette a kefelevonatokat.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb a mezei pacsirta folyï¿½kony, lï¿½gy kiabï¿½lï¿½sa, a nappal elsï¿½ szava, megï¿½llï¿½totta. Megnï¿½zte az ï¿½rï¿½t. Hetet mutatott. Fï¿½lrerakta a korrektï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s egï¿½sz sor beszï¿½lgetï¿½sbe kezdett a kapcsolï¿½tï¿½bla segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½vel, amelyet gyakorlott fogï¿½sokkal kezelt.

- Hallï¿½, Nï¿½zdcsak, - kezdte az elsï¿½ beszï¿½lgetï¿½st - hallï¿½, Thayer ï¿½r ï¿½bren van mï¿½r?... Jï¿½. Ne zavard. Nem hiszem, hogy ï¿½gyban reggelizik, mindenesetre tudd meg... Igen, helyes, aztï¿½n mutasd meg neki, hogy kell bï¿½nni a forrï¿½ csappal. Esetleg nem tudja... Igen, helyes. Gondoskodj mï¿½g egy fiï¿½rï¿½l, amilyen gyorsan el tudod intï¿½zni. Vannak mindig bï¿½ven, mikor kijavul az idï¿½... Persze. Aztï¿½n okosan. Isten ï¿½ldjon.

- Hanley ï¿½r?... Igen, - ez volt egy mï¿½sik kapcsolï¿½n a mï¿½sik beszï¿½lgetï¿½se - hï¿½t gondolkoztam arrï¿½l a tï¿½ltï¿½srï¿½l a vadgesztenyï¿½sen. Szï¿½ksï¿½gem van a kavicsolï¿½s ï¿½s a sziklatï¿½rï¿½s kï¿½ltsï¿½gvetï¿½seire... Igen, ez az. ï¿½gy kï¿½pzelem, hogy a kavics kï¿½bï¿½lenkï¿½nt valami hat-tï¿½z centtel tï¿½bbe fog kerï¿½lni, mint a sziklazï¿½zï¿½s. Ez a legutolsï¿½ dombtetï¿½ kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen eszi a kavicsmunkï¿½t. Dolgozzï¿½k ki az ï¿½rakat... Nem, kï¿½t hï¿½tre kï¿½ptelenek leszï¿½nk... Igen, igen; az ï¿½j gï¿½pekkel, ha szï¿½llï¿½tjï¿½k, a lovak felszabadulnak a szï¿½ntï¿½stï¿½l, de vissza kell menniï¿½k a mustrï¿½lï¿½s miatt... Nem, ezt beszï¿½lje meg Everan ï¿½rral. Isten ï¿½ldja.

A harmadik beszï¿½lgetï¿½s:

- Dawson ï¿½r? Haha! Az ï¿½gyam felett ï¿½ppen most harminchat. Odalenn a fï¿½ldeken biztosan minden csupa fehï¿½r a dï¿½rtï¿½l. De gondolom, az idï¿½n utoljï¿½ra... Igen, megeskï¿½dtek, hogy a gï¿½peket kï¿½t nappal ezelï¿½tt felteszik... Hï¿½vja fel az ï¿½llomï¿½sfï¿½nï¿½kï¿½t... Egyï¿½ttal fogja meg nekem Hanleyt. Elfelejtettem neki megmondani, hogy a patkï¿½nyfogï¿½kat cserï¿½lje ki a mï¿½sodik lï¿½gyfogï¿½-garnitï¿½rï¿½val... Igen, hallï¿½! Vagy szï¿½zat lï¿½ttam szundikï¿½lni ma reggel az ablakomon... Igen... Isten ï¿½ldja.

Ezek utï¿½n Forrest az ï¿½gyï¿½bï¿½l belebï¿½jt a pyjamï¿½jï¿½ba, beledugta a lï¿½bï¿½t a papucsba ï¿½s a szï¿½rnyas ajtï¿½n ï¿½t a fï¿½rdï¿½be sï¿½tï¿½lt. Hallode mindig a nyomï¿½ban. Tï¿½z perc mulva simï¿½ra borotvï¿½lva megint fekï¿½dt az ï¿½gyban, olvasta a bï¿½kï¿½s kï¿½nyvet ï¿½s Hallode, percre pontosan, masszï¿½rozta a lï¿½bszï¿½rait.

Ezek a lï¿½bak egy jï¿½l megtermett, szï¿½zhetvenï¿½t centimï¿½ter magas, nyolcvan kilï¿½s fï¿½rfiember jï¿½formï¿½jï¿½ lï¿½bai voltak. Ezenfelï¿½l beszï¿½lni is tudtak egyetmï¿½st a gazdï¿½jukrï¿½l. A balcombjï¿½n egy arasznyi forradï¿½s ï¿½ktelenkedett. A balbokï¿½jï¿½n, lï¿½ba torkï¿½tï¿½l a sarkï¿½ig, tucatnyi sebhely volt elszï¿½rva, akkorï¿½k, mint egy-egy kisebb tallï¿½r. Mikor Hallode a baltï¿½rdï¿½t egy gondolattal szigorï¿½bban dï¿½fkï¿½dte ï¿½s nyomkodta, Forrestet kis arcfintorokon lehetett rajtakapni. Jobb lï¿½bï¿½lï¿½t nï¿½hï¿½ny sï¿½tï¿½t hegedï¿½s tarkï¿½totta, egy nagy forradï¿½s pedig, ï¿½ppen a tï¿½rde alatt, egï¿½sz komoly lyuk volt a csontban. A tï¿½rde ï¿½s ï¿½gyï¿½ka kï¿½zï¿½tt, kï¿½zï¿½ptï¿½jon egy rï¿½gi, hï¿½rom ujj nagysï¿½gï¿½ seb nyoma lï¿½tszott, amit furcsï¿½n pontoztak ki valami ï¿½ltï¿½sek aprï¿½ forradï¿½sai.

Egy kï¿½vï¿½lrï¿½l ï¿½rkezï¿½ vidï¿½m hang azt idï¿½zte elï¿½, hogy megint gyujtï¿½szï¿½l kerï¿½lt a bï¿½katenyï¿½sztï¿½ kï¿½nyv lapjai kï¿½zï¿½ ï¿½s mialatt Hallode az ï¿½ltï¿½ztetï¿½s egy rï¿½szï¿½t mï¿½g az ï¿½gyban vï¿½gezte el, - harisnyï¿½t ï¿½s cipï¿½t ideï¿½rtve - ura, olykor a kellï¿½ oldalra fordulva, kitekintett a hang irï¿½nyï¿½ban. Lenn az ï¿½ton a koranyï¿½lï¿½ orgonï¿½k hajladozï¿½, lila tï¿½mege kï¿½zï¿½tt egy nagy paripa lï¿½pkedett. Festï¿½i ï¿½ltï¿½zetï¿½ lovaglï¿½ cowboy fogta a kantï¿½rszï¿½rï¿½t s a lï¿½, vï¿½rhenyesen ragyogva a reggeli napon, szabadon rï¿½zva hatalmas nyakï¿½rï¿½l a fehï¿½r habot, dobï¿½lva nemes sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½t, messzire elnï¿½zve, megharsogtatta szerelmi hï¿½vï¿½ szavï¿½nak trombitahangjï¿½t a tavaszi tï¿½jon.

Forrest Dicket egyszerre fogta el az ï¿½rï¿½m ï¿½s az aggodalom. Az ï¿½rï¿½m a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½llat lï¿½ttï¿½n, amely lenn lï¿½pkedett a lila bokrok kï¿½zï¿½tt, ï¿½s az aggodalom, hogy a mï¿½n felkï¿½lthette azt a hï¿½lgyet, aki a kerek farï¿½mï¿½bï¿½l mosolygott a szobï¿½ja falï¿½n. Gyorsan keresztï¿½lpillantott a szï¿½z lï¿½pï¿½s hosszï¿½ udvaron a hï¿½z hosszï¿½, ï¿½rnyï¿½kosan kiugrï¿½ oldalszï¿½rnya felï¿½. A hï¿½lgy hï¿½lï¿½szobï¿½jï¿½nak redï¿½nyei le voltak eresztve. ï¿½s nem mozdultak. A mï¿½n megint nyerï¿½tett egyet ï¿½s megint nem mozdult semmi egyï¿½b az udvaron, mint egy csapat vadkanï¿½ri, amelyek az udvar virï¿½gai ï¿½s cserjï¿½i kï¿½zï¿½l kerekedtek fel, mintha a felkelï¿½ nap valami szï¿½tszï¿½rt aranyzï¿½ld fï¿½nycsomï¿½t ragyogtatott volna a levegï¿½ben.

Vï¿½rt, amï¿½g a mï¿½n az orgonï¿½k kï¿½zt eltï¿½nik elï¿½le. Gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½, jï¿½ csontï¿½, jï¿½ ï¿½llï¿½sï¿½, makulï¿½tlan tenyï¿½szcsikï¿½k ï¿½lma jï¿½rt a fejï¿½ben. Aztï¿½n megfordult, mint ahogy mindig a legkï¿½zelebbi dologhoz szokott fordulni ï¿½s megszï¿½lï¿½totta az inasï¿½t:

- Milyen az ï¿½j legï¿½ny, Hallode! Igï¿½r valamit!

- Elï¿½g jï¿½, azt hiszem, - volt a felelet - fiatal fiï¿½. Minden ï¿½j. Elï¿½g lassï¿½. Nem baj, azï¿½rt ï¿½gyahogy ï¿½gï¿½r valamit.

- Miï¿½rt? Honnan gondolod?

- Ma reggel hï¿½romszor ï¿½t kï¿½ltï¿½ttem. ï¿½gy alszik, mint csecsemï¿½. ï¿½ppen olyan nevetve ï¿½bredt, mint ï¿½r szokta. Az nagyon jï¿½.

- ï¿½n nevetve ï¿½bredek? - kï¿½rdezte Forrest.

- Sok ï¿½ve sokszor kï¿½ltï¿½ttem Urat. Szeme kinyï¿½lik, szeme nevet, szï¿½ja nevet, arc nevet, minden nevet, ï¿½gy ni, gyorsan mingyï¿½rt. Ez jï¿½. Ember, ha ï¿½gy felï¿½bred, sok jï¿½ ï¿½rzï¿½s van neki. Tudok jï¿½l. ï¿½j fiï¿½ is ï¿½gy. Lassacskï¿½n, hamar-hamar, lesz kitï¿½nï¿½ fiï¿½. Bizony. Nevï¿½t Csau-Gem. Mi nevï¿½t itt neki lesz?

Forrest Dick gondolkozott.

- Milyen nevek vannak nï¿½lunk eddig?

- Gyeride, Ejnye, Nï¿½zdcsak, ï¿½s engem vagyok Hallode, - fecsegte a kï¿½nai. - Gyeride mondja: legyen ï¿½j fiï¿½nak nevï¿½t...

Habozott ï¿½s kihï¿½vï¿½ hunyorgï¿½ssal nï¿½zett a gazdï¿½jï¿½ra. Forrest bï¿½lintott.

- Gyeride mondja: legyen ï¿½j fiï¿½nak nevï¿½t Egyefene.

- Ohohï¿½, - nevetett Forrest - Gyeride egy szamï¿½r. Jï¿½ nï¿½v volna, de itt nem felel meg. Az ï¿½rnï¿½ miatt... Mï¿½sik nevet kell kitalï¿½lni.

- Ohohï¿½: azt nagyon jï¿½ nï¿½v.

Forrest indulatszava mï¿½g ott rezgett a tudatï¿½ban. Hamar rï¿½jï¿½tt Hallode ihletï¿½nek eredetï¿½re.

- Nagyon helyes. Az ï¿½j fiï¿½ neve Ohohï¿½.

Hallode lehajtotta a fejï¿½t, gyorsan eltï¿½nt a szï¿½rnyas ajtï¿½n ï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½ppen olyan gyorsan visszatï¿½rt Forrest ï¿½ltï¿½zetï¿½nek tï¿½bbi rï¿½szï¿½vel. Rï¿½segï¿½tette az ingï¿½t ï¿½s blï¿½zï¿½t, nyakkendï¿½t vetett a nyakï¿½ba, hogy ura megkï¿½thesse, aztï¿½n letï¿½rdelt, hogy felgombolja lï¿½bszï¿½rvï¿½dï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s felkapcsolja a sarkantyï¿½jï¿½t. A toalettet nagyon szï¿½les karimï¿½jï¿½ kalap- ï¿½s lovaglï¿½ostor egï¿½szï¿½tette ki. Nyers, fonott bï¿½rbï¿½l valï¿½ indiai ostor. Negyedkilï¿½ ï¿½lmot fontak a nyelï¿½be, amely bï¿½rhurkon lï¿½gott le a csuklï¿½jï¿½rï¿½l.

De Forrest mï¿½g nem volt kï¿½sz. Hallode nï¿½hï¿½ny levelet adott neki azzal, hogy ezeket az elmult ï¿½jjel hoztï¿½k az ï¿½llomï¿½srï¿½l, miutï¿½n Forrest mï¿½r lefekï¿½dt. Felszakï¿½totta valamennyinek a jobb szï¿½lï¿½t ï¿½s egy kivï¿½telï¿½vel gyorsan futotta ï¿½t mindet. Ezzel az eggyel pï¿½r pillanatig foglalkozott, idegesen ï¿½sszehï¿½zva a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½t, aztï¿½n elï¿½vette a fonogrï¿½fot, megnyomta a gombot, amitï¿½l a henger elindult ï¿½s sem szï¿½ra, sem gondolatra egy pillanatnyi tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½st sem vesztegetve gyorsan diktï¿½lta:

- 1914 mï¿½rcius 14-ï¿½n kelt levelï¿½re vï¿½laszolva, ï¿½szinte sajnï¿½lattal veszem a hï¿½rt, hogy telepï¿½n kiï¿½tï¿½tt a sertï¿½svï¿½sz. Hasonlï¿½kï¿½ppen sajnï¿½lom, hogy jï¿½nak lï¿½tja a felelï¿½ssï¿½ggel engem megterhelni. Valamint igazï¿½n sajnï¿½lom, hogy a faj-ï¿½rtï¿½ny, amelyet kï¿½ldï¿½ttï¿½nk, megdï¿½glï¿½tt. ï¿½n csupï¿½n biztosï¿½tani tudom ï¿½nt, hogy mi itt a sertï¿½svï¿½sztï¿½l teljesen mentesek vagyunk ï¿½s nyolc ï¿½ve mindig is mentesek voltunk, kï¿½t keletrï¿½l behurcolt esetet kivï¿½ve, kï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt. Mind a kettï¿½t, ahogy szoktuk, ï¿½rkezï¿½skor elkï¿½lï¿½nï¿½tettï¿½k ï¿½s elpusztï¿½tottuk, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g a ragï¿½ly a mi kondï¿½inkat megfertï¿½zhette volna. Szï¿½ksï¿½gesnek ï¿½rzem azt is kï¿½zï¿½lni ï¿½nnel, hogy beteg szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½nyokï¿½rt sohasem tettem az eladï¿½t felelï¿½ssï¿½. Hanem, a sertï¿½svï¿½sz inkubï¿½ciï¿½s ideje - mint ï¿½n is tudja - kilenc nap lï¿½vï¿½n, megï¿½llapï¿½tottam az ï¿½llatok indï¿½tï¿½si dï¿½tumï¿½t ï¿½s tudtam, hogy mikor felraktï¿½k ï¿½ket, egï¿½szsï¿½gesek voltak. Ellenben jutott ï¿½nnek eszï¿½be, hogy a sertï¿½svï¿½sz terjesztï¿½sï¿½ï¿½rt fï¿½leg a vasutak felelï¿½sek? Hallotta valaha, hogy kifï¿½stï¿½ltek vagy dezinficiï¿½ltak olyan kocsit, amely beteg rakomï¿½nyt szï¿½llï¿½tott? ï¿½llapï¿½tsa meg a dï¿½tumokat; elï¿½szï¿½r a nï¿½lam valï¿½ felrakï¿½s napjï¿½t, mï¿½sodszor azt a napot, mikor ï¿½n az ï¿½rtï¿½nyt ï¿½tvette, harmadszor az elsï¿½ tï¿½netek jelentkezï¿½si napjï¿½t. Mint ahogy ï¿½n mondja, az ï¿½llat pï¿½lyacsuszamlï¿½s kï¿½vetkeztï¿½ben ï¿½t napig volt ï¿½ton. Az elsï¿½ tï¿½netek csak az ï¿½tvï¿½tel utï¿½ni hetedik napon jelentkeztek. Ez az indï¿½tï¿½stï¿½l szï¿½mï¿½tva tizenkï¿½t napot jelent. Nem honorï¿½lhatom az ï¿½n ï¿½llï¿½spontjï¿½t. Nem vagyok felelï¿½s a betegsï¿½gï¿½rt, amely az ï¿½n ï¿½llatï¿½llomï¿½nyï¿½ban elharapï¿½dzott. De hogy kï¿½lï¿½n is mï¿½g egyszer meggyï¿½zï¿½djï¿½k, kï¿½rdezze meg az ï¿½llami ï¿½llatorvost, vajjon az ï¿½n gazdasï¿½gom mentes-e a sertï¿½svï¿½sztï¿½l, vagy sem. Maradtam kivï¿½lï¿½ tisztelettel...

Mikor a szï¿½rnyas ajtï¿½n kijï¿½tt a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l, elï¿½szï¿½r egy kï¿½nyelmes ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½szobï¿½n ment keresztï¿½l, amelynek pï¿½rnï¿½zott ablakai voltak, nagyon sok szekrï¿½nye, hatalmas kandallï¿½ja, s egy fï¿½rdï¿½szoba nyï¿½lt belï¿½le. Aztï¿½n belï¿½pett egy hosszï¿½ irodï¿½ba. Fel volt itt halmozva az ï¿½zlet egï¿½sz arzenï¿½lja: ï¿½rï¿½asztalok, diktafï¿½nok, iratszekrï¿½nyek, kï¿½nyvï¿½llvï¿½nyok, folyï¿½iratok sorai ï¿½s fiï¿½kos falrekeszek, amik galï¿½riï¿½k gyanï¿½nt sorakoztak az alacsony, gerendï¿½s mennyezetig.

Az iroda kï¿½zepï¿½n megnyomott egy gombot ï¿½s egy sor kï¿½nyvekkel rakott polc megfordult a tengelye kï¿½rï¿½l. Ettï¿½l egy kicsiny acï¿½l csigalï¿½pcsï¿½ vï¿½lt lï¿½thatï¿½vï¿½. Forrest vigyï¿½zva lï¿½pkedett le rajta, hogy a sarkantyï¿½ja hozzï¿½ ne ï¿½rjen a kï¿½nyvespolcokhoz, amelyek mï¿½gï¿½tte a helyï¿½kre csukï¿½dtak.

A lï¿½pcsï¿½ aljï¿½n ï¿½jabb gombnyomï¿½sra ï¿½jabb kï¿½nyvespolcok fordultak ki ï¿½s utat nyitottak egy alacsony, hosszï¿½ helyisï¿½gbe, amely padozattï¿½l mennyezetig polcozva volt. Egyenesen az egyik ï¿½llvï¿½nyhoz ment, egyenesen az egyik polcra nyï¿½lt ï¿½s teljes biztossï¿½ggal tette a kezï¿½t a keresett kï¿½nyvre. Egy pillanatig lapozott benne, megtalï¿½lta a helyet, amelyre szï¿½ksï¿½ge volt, ï¿½nmegelï¿½gedï¿½ssel bï¿½lintott ï¿½s visszatette a kï¿½nyvet.

Egy ajtï¿½ a pergolï¿½hoz adott utat. Ennek nï¿½gyszï¿½gï¿½ betonoszlopai voltak. Az oszlopokat vï¿½rï¿½sfenyï¿½ tï¿½mbï¿½k ï¿½s kï¿½zï¿½jï¿½k ï¿½kelt kisebb hasï¿½bok kï¿½tï¿½ttï¿½k ï¿½ssze, amelyek a fakï¿½reg rï¿½t szï¿½nï¿½vel nyers ï¿½s redï¿½s bï¿½rsonyra emlï¿½keztettek.

Miutï¿½n mï¿½r tï¿½bb szï¿½z lï¿½pï¿½snyit bolyongott a betonfalak labirintusï¿½ban, fel kell tenni, hogy nem a legrï¿½videbb utat vï¿½lasztotta kifelï¿½. A vï¿½n, ï¿½riï¿½s tï¿½lgyek alatt, ahol a rï¿½gottoldalï¿½ pï¿½nyvakarï¿½k sora ï¿½s a patï¿½ktï¿½l felkapï¿½lt kavics elï¿½rulta, hogy itt szoktï¿½k kikï¿½tni a lovakat, egy nagyon vilï¿½gos pej, szinte aranysï¿½rgï¿½s kancï¿½t talï¿½lt. Gondosan ï¿½polt tavaszi szï¿½re ï¿½lï¿½nken, ï¿½gï¿½en ragyogott a tavaszi napfï¿½nyben, amely ferdï¿½n ï¿½rintette a fï¿½k lombjï¿½t ï¿½s besï¿½tï¿½tt koronï¿½juk alï¿½. Maga a lï¿½ is eleven ï¿½s ï¿½gï¿½ volt. Termete inkï¿½bb mï¿½nhez hasonlï¿½tott ï¿½s a nyakï¿½n egy fekete sï¿½rï¿½nyfï¿½rt futott alï¿½, amely csalï¿½dfï¿½jï¿½ban a musztï¿½ng nevï¿½, prairien ï¿½lï¿½ vadlovak hosszï¿½ sorï¿½t bizonyï¿½totta.

- Hogy vagy ma reggel, Emberevï¿½? - kï¿½rdezte Forrest, mikor nyakï¿½rï¿½l levette a kantï¿½rt.

A lï¿½ hï¿½tracsapta a legkisebb fï¿½leket, amiket lï¿½ valaha hordott ï¿½s amik telivï¿½rek ï¿½s musztï¿½ng kancï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tti vad, pusztai szerelmekrï¿½l beszï¿½ltek, ï¿½s gonosz fogakkal ï¿½s gonoszul villogï¿½ szemmel harapott a gazdï¿½ja felï¿½. Mikor Forrest a nyeregbe vetette magï¿½t, a lï¿½ farolt ï¿½s ï¿½gaskodni prï¿½bï¿½lt, de farolva ï¿½s ï¿½gaskodni igyekezve a kavicsos ï¿½tra kerï¿½lt. Hiï¿½ba is igyekezett felï¿½gaskodni, ott volt a fejtartï¿½szï¿½j, amely szorosan tartotta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s megmentette a lovas orrï¿½t a csillagvizsgï¿½lï¿½ kanca dï¿½hï¿½dten kapkodï¿½ koponyï¿½jï¿½tï¿½l.

ï¿½gy megszokta mï¿½r ezt a kancï¿½t, hogy nem is figyelt a lï¿½ okvetetlenkedï¿½seire. Gï¿½piesen, a kantï¿½rt egï¿½szen gyengï¿½n ï¿½rintve a lï¿½ ï¿½velt nyakï¿½hoz, sarkantyï¿½csiklandï¿½ssal, tï¿½rdnyomï¿½ssal arra vitte a lovat, amerre akarta.

Mialatt a lï¿½ forgott ï¿½s tï¿½ncolt, a lovas egy pillantï¿½st vetett a nagy hï¿½zra. Nagy volt minden lï¿½tszat szerint, de kï¿½lï¿½nleges karaktere folytï¿½n mï¿½gsem volt akkora, amekkorï¿½nak lï¿½tszott. A frontja mintegy nï¿½gyszï¿½z mï¿½terre nyï¿½lt. De ebbï¿½l a nï¿½gyszï¿½z mï¿½terbï¿½l sokat tettek ki puszta folyosï¿½k, betonfalas, tï¿½glatetejï¿½ korridorok, amik az ï¿½pï¿½let kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ rï¿½szeit fogtï¿½k egy egï¿½szbe. Pergolï¿½k ï¿½s fedett sï¿½tï¿½nyok arï¿½nyosan tartoztak az ï¿½pï¿½lethez, ï¿½s a falak, szegletes kiugrï¿½saikkal ï¿½s bemï¿½lyedï¿½seikkel zï¿½ld gyep ï¿½s virï¿½g tï¿½megï¿½gyï¿½bï¿½l emelkedtek ki.

Spanyol volt a nagy hï¿½z karaktere, de nem az a kaliforniai spanyol tï¿½pus, amelyet eredetileg Mexikï¿½ mutatott be szï¿½z ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt ï¿½s amelyet modern ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½szek fejlesztettek a mostani kaliforniai spanyol ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½mï¿½vï¿½szettï¿½. A spanyol-mï¿½r stï¿½lus hivatalosan mï¿½g leginkï¿½bb fedte a nagy hï¿½zat a maga sajï¿½tos kevertsï¿½gï¿½ben, ï¿½mbï¿½r voltak szakï¿½rtï¿½k, akik ezt a minï¿½sï¿½tï¿½st is hevesen tï¿½madtï¿½k.

Az alapvetï¿½ benyomï¿½s, amit a nagy hï¿½z keltett, ez volt: nagysï¿½g ridegsï¿½g nï¿½lkï¿½l, szï¿½psï¿½g hivalkodï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l. Hosszï¿½ ï¿½s vï¿½zszintes vonalai, amiket csak fï¿½ggï¿½leges vonalak, csak a szigorï¿½an derï¿½kszï¿½gï¿½ kiugrï¿½sok ï¿½s bemï¿½lyedï¿½sek tï¿½rtek meg, olyan tisztï¿½k voltak, mint akï¿½r egy kolostor vonalai. Viszont a tetï¿½zet szabï¿½lytalan vonala megvï¿½dte az egyhangï¿½sï¿½g veszedelmï¿½tï¿½l. Alacsony ï¿½s megosztott tudott lenni anï¿½lkï¿½l, hogy nyomott lett volna; a tornyok, meg a tornyok fï¿½lï¿½ emelkedï¿½ tornyok derï¿½kszï¿½gï¿½ felszï¿½gellï¿½se megadta a magassï¿½g arï¿½nyï¿½t, de nem ostromolta az eget. A nagy hï¿½z a szolidsï¿½g ï¿½rzï¿½sï¿½t keltette. Nem fï¿½lt a fï¿½ldrengï¿½stï¿½l. Ezer ï¿½vre ï¿½pï¿½tettï¿½k. A becsï¿½letes betï¿½nt becsï¿½letes cement kitï¿½nï¿½ stukkï¿½jï¿½val borï¿½tottï¿½k. A szï¿½nnek ez az azonossï¿½ga megint csak egyhangï¿½an hatott volna a szemre, de ezt ellensï¿½lyozta a melegpiros spanyol tï¿½glï¿½bï¿½l rakott sok lï¿½gyan hatï¿½ tetï¿½.

Az egy ï¿½sszefogï¿½ tekintet kï¿½zben, mialatt a kanca engedetlenï¿½l tï¿½ncolt, Forrest Dick szeme vï¿½gigfutvï¿½n a nagy hï¿½z minden rï¿½szï¿½t, egy gyors, aggodalmas pillanatig a szï¿½z lï¿½pï¿½s hosszï¿½ udvarrï¿½szen ï¿½t a nagy kiugrï¿½ rï¿½szre szegezï¿½dï¿½tt, ahol a tornyok felszï¿½kï¿½ csoportja alatt a hï¿½lï¿½szoba-ablakok piros csï¿½kos ernyï¿½i a reggeli napfï¿½nyben elmondtï¿½k neki, hogy az ï¿½rnï¿½ mï¿½g alszik.

Kï¿½rï¿½skï¿½rï¿½l a szemhatï¿½r hï¿½romnegyed rï¿½szï¿½ben alacsonyan hullï¿½mzï¿½, kopasz, kerï¿½tï¿½ses, irtï¿½sos, legelï¿½s dombok emelkedtek, amelyek magasabb dombokba ï¿½s meredekebb, erdï¿½s lejtï¿½kbe olvadtak, hï¿½trï¿½bb pedig mï¿½g meredekebben hatalmas hegylï¿½nc kï¿½vetkezett. A szemhatï¿½r egynegyedï¿½t azonban nem hatï¿½roltï¿½k a hegysï¿½g csï¿½csai ï¿½s vï¿½lgyei. Ez a tï¿½jï¿½k kï¿½nnyedï¿½n lejtve puszta, messzi sï¿½ksï¿½gba veszett el, amely olyan puszta ï¿½s messzi volt, hogy a hidegsï¿½g tiszta, ritka levegï¿½je ellenï¿½re sem lehetett vï¿½giglï¿½tni.

A kanca horkolt alatta. A lovas tï¿½rde ï¿½sszeszorult, mikor egyenes ï¿½tra ï¿½s az egyik oldal felï¿½ kï¿½nyszerï¿½tette. Lent mellette, a kavicsos talajon ritmikus nesszel bandukolva, fehï¿½r, csillogï¿½ selyem ï¿½rja patakzott. Rï¿½gtï¿½n megismerte dï¿½jnyertes angora-kecskenyï¿½jï¿½t, amelyben minden darabnak pedigrï¿½je ï¿½s kï¿½lï¿½n tï¿½rtï¿½nete volt. Kï¿½tszï¿½z darab lehetett ï¿½s Forrest tudta, hogy a gondos kivï¿½logatï¿½s folytï¿½n, amit megparancsolt ï¿½s azï¿½rt is, mert az ï¿½sszel nem nyï¿½rtï¿½k meg ï¿½ket, a leghitvï¿½nyabbjï¿½nak is legalï¿½bb olyan finom az oldalï¿½n csillogï¿½ gyapja, mint akï¿½rmelyik emberi csecsemï¿½ haja ï¿½s legalï¿½bb olyan fehï¿½r, mint akï¿½rmelyik emberi albinï¿½ fejbundï¿½ja, a java ï¿½llatok gyapjï¿½bï¿½l pedig harminc centimï¿½teres kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ szï¿½nï¿½ hajbetï¿½teket fognak festeni a hï¿½lgyek hasznï¿½latï¿½ra ï¿½s lehetetlenï¿½l magas ï¿½ron fogjï¿½k eladni.

A lï¿½tvï¿½ny szï¿½psï¿½ge gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dtette. Az ï¿½t folyï¿½ selyemszalaggï¿½ vï¿½lt, itt-ott sï¿½rga, macskaszerï¿½ szemek voltak benne a drï¿½gakï¿½vek, amelyek rï¿½ ï¿½s nyugtalan lovï¿½ra irï¿½nyozva aggodalmas ï¿½s kï¿½vï¿½ncsi tekintettel haladtak el mellette. Kï¿½t baszk pï¿½sztor volt a sereghajtï¿½. Kï¿½t kurta, tï¿½mzsi, barna ember, szemï¿½k fekete, arcuk ï¿½lï¿½nk, kifejezï¿½sï¿½k szemlï¿½lï¿½dï¿½ ï¿½s bï¿½lcs. Megemeltï¿½k a kalapjukat ï¿½s megbiccentettï¿½k felï¿½je a fejï¿½ket. Forrest felemelte a jobbkezï¿½t, a lovaglï¿½ostor himbï¿½lt rï¿½la a szï¿½jon ï¿½s egyenes mutatï¿½ujjï¿½t fï¿½l-katonï¿½s kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½ssel szï¿½les kalapja karimï¿½jï¿½hoz ï¿½rtette.

A lï¿½ megint tï¿½ncolt ï¿½s ï¿½gaskodott. Megï¿½rintette a kantï¿½rszï¿½rral, megcsiklandozta a sarkantyï¿½val ï¿½s a nï¿½gylï¿½bï¿½ selyem utï¿½n bï¿½mult, amely az utat csillogï¿½ fehï¿½rrel tï¿½ltï¿½tte el. Tudta, hogy miï¿½rt vannak itt. Kï¿½zeledett az ellï¿½s ideje ï¿½s most lehoztï¿½k ï¿½ket a tanyai legelï¿½rï¿½l az itthoni ï¿½lakba ï¿½s karï¿½mokba, hogy a szaporodï¿½s idejï¿½re fï¿½ltï¿½keny gondban ï¿½s bï¿½sï¿½ges tï¿½plï¿½lï¿½kban legyen rï¿½szï¿½k. ï¿½s ahogy nï¿½zte ï¿½ket, ï¿½sszehasonlï¿½tï¿½ fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½ban megjelentek a legjobb tï¿½rï¿½k ï¿½s dï¿½lafrikai gyapjak, amiket valaha lï¿½tott. Az ï¿½ nyï¿½ja bï¿½rta az ï¿½sszehasonlï¿½tï¿½st. Jï¿½l nï¿½zett ki. Nagyon jï¿½l nï¿½zett ki.

Ellovagolt. Kï¿½rï¿½skï¿½rï¿½l a trï¿½gyï¿½zï¿½gï¿½pek berregï¿½sï¿½t hallotta. Odaï¿½t a lassan, enyhï¿½n lejtï¿½ dombokon fogatot lï¿½tott fogat utï¿½n, igen sokat, hï¿½rom lovankï¿½nt egy fogatban, melyeket a maga fajkancï¿½inak tudott, s amelyek oda-vissza hï¿½ztï¿½k a mï¿½lyen szï¿½ntï¿½ ekï¿½t, olyan alaposan ï¿½s morzsoltan vï¿½ltoztatva a domboldalok zï¿½ld talajï¿½t a sï¿½tï¿½tbarna, humusztï¿½l kï¿½vï¿½r anyafï¿½lddï¿½, hogy ez ettï¿½l az alapossï¿½gtï¿½l szinte finoman porhanyï¿½s virï¿½gï¿½ggyï¿½ olvadt. Gabona ï¿½s cukornï¿½d alï¿½ folyt ez a szï¿½ntï¿½s az elevï¿½torok szï¿½mï¿½ra. Mï¿½s domboldalakon, ahogy sorban kï¿½vetkeztek, tï¿½rdig ï¿½llott az ï¿½rpa, mï¿½sok meg a here ï¿½s kanadai borsï¿½ derï¿½k zï¿½ldjï¿½t mutattï¿½k.

Kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte mindenï¿½tt a nagy ï¿½s aprï¿½bb fï¿½ldek a megkï¿½zelï¿½thetï¿½sï¿½g ï¿½s megmunkï¿½lhatï¿½sï¿½g olyan rendszerï¿½vel voltak beosztva, hogy megdobogtattï¿½k volna a legszï¿½rszï¿½lhasogatï¿½bb tï¿½bbtermelï¿½si szakï¿½rtï¿½ szï¿½vï¿½t is. Egyik kerï¿½tï¿½sen sem tï¿½rhetett ï¿½t disznï¿½ vagy bika ï¿½s egyiknek a tetejï¿½t sem verte fel a gaz. Sok sï¿½k darab fï¿½ld lucernï¿½val volt bevetve. Mï¿½sok, amint kï¿½vetkeztek, mï¿½r hoztï¿½k a tavaly ï¿½szi vetï¿½st, vagy kï¿½szï¿½ltek a tavaszira. Mï¿½sutt, kï¿½zel a tenyï¿½sztelepekhez ï¿½s a karï¿½mokhoz, kï¿½vï¿½r francia merinï¿½ ï¿½s Shrop-juhok legelï¿½sztek, vagy fehï¿½r Gargantua-sertï¿½sek henteregtek, amelyek lï¿½ttï¿½n kellemesen megcsillant a pillantï¿½sa, mikor arra mentï¿½ben szemï¿½gyre vette ï¿½ket.

Ahol most ï¿½tlovagolt, azt szinte helysï¿½gnek lehetett volna mondani, de boltok is, szï¿½llï¿½k is hiï¿½nyoztak. A hï¿½zak a tetszetï¿½s, tipikus bungalow-k voltak, egy-egy kert kï¿½zepï¿½n, ahol az erï¿½sebb virï¿½gok, pï¿½ldï¿½ul a rï¿½zsï¿½k, mï¿½r nyï¿½lottak ï¿½s mosolyogtak az elmult fagy fenyegetï¿½sï¿½n. Gyerekek hemzsegtek mindenï¿½tt, jï¿½tszottak, kacagtak a virï¿½gok kï¿½zï¿½tt, vagy anyjuk ï¿½ppen reggelizni hï¿½vta ï¿½ket.

Ezen tï¿½l, valami nyolcszï¿½z mï¿½terre a nagy hï¿½z kï¿½rzetï¿½tï¿½l, egy sor ï¿½zlethelyisï¿½g elï¿½tt haladt el. Megï¿½llt az elsï¿½ elï¿½tt ï¿½s betekintett. Kovï¿½csmester dolgozott ott a tï¿½zï¿½n. Egy mï¿½sik kovï¿½cs, miutï¿½n ï¿½ppen most verte rï¿½ egy ï¿½reg, rettentï¿½ sï¿½lyï¿½ fajkancï¿½nak az elsï¿½ lï¿½bï¿½ra a patkï¿½t, azzal foglalkozott, hogy a lï¿½ patï¿½jï¿½nak a szï¿½lï¿½t egyformï¿½ra rï¿½spolyozza a patkï¿½ szï¿½lï¿½vel. Forrest megnï¿½zte, kï¿½szï¿½nt, ellovagolt ï¿½s pï¿½r lï¿½pï¿½ssel odï¿½bb megï¿½llt, hogy valami jegyzetet ï¿½rjon bele a noteszï¿½ba, amit az oldalzsebï¿½bï¿½l szedett elï¿½.

Ellovagolt mï¿½s boltok, mï¿½helyek mellett: jï¿½ttek sorban festï¿½kesbolt, kerï¿½kgyï¿½rtï¿½, bï¿½dogos, ï¿½cs. Ahogy ide benï¿½zett, egy felemï¿½s, fï¿½lig automobil, fï¿½lig iparkutya masina sietett el az oldalï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½s befordult a fï¿½ï¿½tra, a tizenkï¿½t kilomï¿½ter messzi vasï¿½ti ï¿½llomï¿½s felï¿½. Forrest tudta, hogy ez a reggeli vajaskocsi, amely a kï¿½pï¿½lï¿½hï¿½zbï¿½l szï¿½llï¿½tja a tejgazdasï¿½g aznapi termelï¿½sï¿½t.

A nagy hï¿½z volt a gyujtï¿½pontja a farm-szervezetnek. Egy kilomï¿½teres kï¿½rzetben a kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ gazdasï¿½gi centrumok vettï¿½k kï¿½rï¿½l. Forrest Dick, folyton kï¿½szï¿½ngetve az embereinek, vï¿½gtï¿½ban nyargalt ï¿½t a tejgazdasï¿½gi centrumon. Tengere volt ez az ï¿½pï¿½leteknek raktï¿½rak ï¿½tegeivel ï¿½s kis vagonokkal, amelyek az ember feje fï¿½lï¿½tti sï¿½neken mozogtak ï¿½s automatikusan dï¿½ntï¿½ttï¿½k bele az almot az alattuk vï¿½rakozï¿½ trï¿½gyaszï¿½rï¿½ gï¿½pekbe. Olykor elfoglalt arcï¿½, tanult kinï¿½zï¿½sï¿½ emberek, akik kocsin vagy lï¿½hï¿½ton jï¿½ttek-mentek, megï¿½llï¿½tottï¿½k ï¿½s beszï¿½lgettek vele. Ezek elï¿½ljï¿½rï¿½k voltak, osztï¿½lyok fï¿½nï¿½kei ï¿½s ï¿½ppen olyan rï¿½viden ï¿½s lï¿½nyegesen szï¿½ltak, mint ï¿½. A legutï¿½bbi egy harmadfï¿½ves Palomina-csikï¿½t ï¿½lt meg, amely kecses ï¿½s vad volt, mint egy fï¿½lig betï¿½rt arabs lï¿½. Az ember puszta kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½ssel szï¿½ndï¿½kozott elhaladni, de a gazdï¿½ja megï¿½llï¿½totta.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, Hennessy ï¿½r, - mondta Forrest - mikor lesz kï¿½sz a lï¿½ a felesï¿½gem szï¿½mï¿½ra?

- Szeretnï¿½k mï¿½g egy hetet; - felelte Hennessy - a lï¿½ mï¿½r elï¿½g jï¿½l be van tï¿½rve, ï¿½gy ahogy a nagysï¿½gos asszony akarta, de tï¿½lizgatott ï¿½s ï¿½rzï¿½keny ï¿½s szeretnï¿½k mï¿½g egy hetet, mielï¿½tt kiadnï¿½m a kezembï¿½l.

Forrest beleegyezï¿½en bï¿½lintott ï¿½s Hennessy, aki nem volt mï¿½s, mint az ï¿½llatorvos, folytatta:

- Van kï¿½t kocsis a lucerna kï¿½rï¿½l, akit el akarok kï¿½ldeni.

- Mi baj van velï¿½k?

- Egyik, Hopkins, ï¿½j ember. Kiszolgï¿½lt katona. Lehet, hogy az ï¿½llami ï¿½szvï¿½rekhez ï¿½rt, de telivï¿½rekhez nem ï¿½rt.

Forrest bï¿½lintott.

- A mï¿½sik kï¿½t ï¿½ve dolgozik nï¿½lunk, de most rï¿½kapott az ivï¿½sra ï¿½s nem ï¿½gyel az ï¿½llatokra.

- Ez az a Smith, az az amerikai pofa, a borotvï¿½lt kï¿½pï¿½ ember, aki kancsalï¿½t a balszemï¿½re, nem?

Az ï¿½llatorvos bï¿½lintott.

- Rajtakaptam az italon, - mondta Forrest - elï¿½szï¿½r nagyon hasznï¿½lhatï¿½ ember volt, de az utï¿½bbi idï¿½kben elvesztette a fejï¿½t. Rendben van, kï¿½ldje el. ï¿½s kï¿½ldje vele azt a mï¿½sikat, hogy hï¿½vjï¿½k, Hopkins? Igen, jï¿½ hogy eszembe jut...

ï¿½s itt Forrest elï¿½vette a noteszt, kitï¿½pte belï¿½le a legutï¿½bbi jegyzetet ï¿½s ï¿½sszegyï¿½rte a tenyerï¿½ben.

- ...A kovï¿½csnï¿½l van egy ï¿½j patkolï¿½ kovï¿½csa. Hogy vï¿½lekedik rï¿½la?

- Mï¿½g meg se melegedett nï¿½lunk, nem dï¿½ntï¿½ttem.

- Hï¿½t ezt kï¿½ldje el a mï¿½sik kettï¿½vel egyï¿½tt. Nem ï¿½rti a mestersï¿½gï¿½t. ï¿½ppen az elï¿½bb ï¿½gyeltem meg, mikor ï¿½gy vert fel egy patkï¿½t az ï¿½reg Alden Bessienek, hogy egy fï¿½lujjnyit lereszelt a patï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l.

- Csak nem bolondult meg?

- Kï¿½ldje el.

Forrest a legenyhï¿½bb sarkantyï¿½zï¿½ssal megcsiklandozta harapdï¿½lï¿½ lovï¿½t ï¿½s kï¿½nyszerï¿½tette maga alatt elï¿½re vï¿½gig az ï¿½ton: a lï¿½ farolt, kapkodta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½gaskodni prï¿½bï¿½lt.

Sokat lï¿½tott Forrest, ami tetszett neki. Egyszer hangosan dï¿½rmï¿½gte: »Kï¿½vï¿½r fï¿½ld, kï¿½vï¿½r fï¿½ld.« Viszont kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le dolgok, amiket lï¿½tott, nem tetszettek neki ï¿½s ilyenkor eggyel szaporodtak a notesz jegyzetei. Mikor befejezte a kï¿½rt a nagy hï¿½z kï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s a kï¿½rï¿½n tï¿½l egy kilomï¿½ternyire lovagolt mï¿½g szekï¿½rtï¿½borok ï¿½s gazdasï¿½gi ï¿½pï¿½letek egy kï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½llï¿½ csoportjï¿½hoz, elï¿½rte ï¿½tja cï¿½ljï¿½t, a kï¿½rhï¿½zat. Nem talï¿½lt itt egyebet, mint kï¿½t tï¿½dï¿½vï¿½sz-gyanï¿½s fiatal ï¿½szï¿½t ï¿½s egy nagyszerï¿½ Duroc Jersey-disznï¿½t nagyszerï¿½ ï¿½llapotban. A maga bï¿½ harmadfï¿½l mï¿½zsï¿½jï¿½val, ragyogï¿½ szemï¿½vel, erï¿½teljes mozdulataival, fï¿½nyes sertï¿½jï¿½vel hangosan hirdette magï¿½rï¿½l, hogy semmi baja. De mivel iowai import volt, a gazdasï¿½g szokï¿½sa szerint mï¿½gis alï¿½vetettï¿½k a quarantaine szabï¿½lyos idejï¿½nek. Az egyesï¿½let anyakï¿½nyveiben Burgess Premier volt a neve a pompï¿½s kannak, kora kï¿½t esztendï¿½ ï¿½s Forrest ï¿½tszï¿½z dollï¿½r kï¿½szpï¿½nzt fizetett ï¿½rte.

Kurta galoppban vï¿½gignyargalt a nagy hï¿½z kï¿½rzetï¿½nek egy kï¿½llï¿½ï¿½tjï¿½n ï¿½s elfogta Crellint, a sertï¿½stenyï¿½szet fï¿½nï¿½kï¿½t. ï¿½tperces tanï¿½cskozï¿½sban megï¿½llapï¿½totta Burgess Premier sorsï¿½nak legkï¿½zelebbi nï¿½hï¿½ny hï¿½napjï¿½t, valamint tudomï¿½sul vette, hogy a tenyï¿½szdisznï¿½, Lady Isleton, az ï¿½llamkï¿½zi Kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sok minden anyï¿½inak anyja, Seattletï¿½l San Diegï¿½ig minden kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½s kï¿½kszalagos gyï¿½ztese, minden baj nï¿½lkï¿½l tizenegyet fiadzott. Crellin elmondta, hogy fï¿½lï¿½jszakï¿½t fenn ï¿½lt a disznï¿½val ï¿½s most haza igyekszik fï¿½rdeni ï¿½s reggelizni.

- Hallom, hogy a legnagyobb lï¿½nya letette a vizsgï¿½it ï¿½s a Stanford-egyetemre akar beiratkozni - mondta mï¿½g Forrest ï¿½s visszafogta a zablï¿½t, pedig mï¿½r fï¿½lig-meddig sarkantyï¿½ba kapta a lovat.

Crellin harmincï¿½t ï¿½ves fiatalember lï¿½tï¿½re az ï¿½reg apa ï¿½rettsï¿½gï¿½t mutatta, erï¿½sen rï¿½ volt ï¿½rva az iskolï¿½zottsï¿½g ï¿½s a szabad levegï¿½hï¿½z ï¿½s rendszeres ï¿½lethez szokott fï¿½rfi fiatalsï¿½ga. Bï¿½lintott ï¿½s hogy mennyire ï¿½rtï¿½kelte a gazdï¿½ja ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½sï¿½t, azt azzal mutatta meg, hogy leï¿½gett barnasï¿½ga alatt elpirult egy kicsit.

- Meg kell hï¿½nyni-vetni - tanï¿½csolta Forrest. - Csinï¿½ljon statisztikï¿½t a diï¿½kkisasszonyokrï¿½l, aztï¿½n azokrï¿½l, akik ï¿½polï¿½nï¿½i kurzust vï¿½geznek. Hï¿½ny ilyen ï¿½polï¿½nï¿½ marad meg a pï¿½lyï¿½jï¿½n, viszont hï¿½ny megy fï¿½rjhez az oklevele utï¿½n kï¿½t ï¿½ven belï¿½l ï¿½s aztï¿½n hozzï¿½fog a gyerekdajkï¿½lï¿½shoz.

- Helï¿½n nagyon komolyan el van tï¿½kï¿½lve - bizonykodott Crellin.

- Emlï¿½kszik, mikor kivï¿½tettem a vakbelemet? - kï¿½rdezte Forrest. - Hï¿½t olyan nagyszerï¿½ ï¿½polï¿½nï¿½m volt, hogy no. Csinosabb lï¿½ny mï¿½g nem is jï¿½rt csinosabb lï¿½bakon. ï¿½ppen egy fï¿½lï¿½ve eresztettï¿½k szï¿½rnyra. ï¿½s nï¿½gy hï¿½nap mulva mï¿½r vehettem neki nï¿½szajï¿½ndï¿½kot. Elvette egy autï¿½ï¿½gynï¿½k. Azï¿½ta is folyton szï¿½llodï¿½ban ï¿½l. Sohasem volt azï¿½ta alkalma ï¿½polni, mï¿½g gyereke sincs, akit a kï¿½likï¿½n keresztï¿½lsegï¿½thetne. De hï¿½t... remï¿½nykedik... ï¿½s akï¿½r bevï¿½lnak a remï¿½nyei, akï¿½r nem, annyi biztos, hogy borzasztï¿½an boldog. Na lï¿½ssa, mire valï¿½ volt neki kitanulni az ï¿½polï¿½nï¿½sï¿½get?

Ebben a pillanatban egy trï¿½gyï¿½zï¿½gï¿½p haladt el arra ï¿½s a gyalogos Crellint ï¿½s a lovaglï¿½ Forrestet egyarï¿½nt leszorï¿½totta az ï¿½t szï¿½lï¿½re. Forrest mosolygï¿½ szemmel nï¿½zte meg a rudas lovat, a hatalmas, arï¿½nyos tenyï¿½szkancï¿½t, amelynek kï¿½k szalagjai, meg ï¿½seinek kï¿½k szalagjai, felsorolï¿½s ï¿½s osztï¿½lyozï¿½s cï¿½ljï¿½bï¿½l kï¿½lï¿½n szakï¿½rtï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½ntak volna.

- Nï¿½zze meg Fotherington Princesst, - mondta Forrest, szeretetteljesen intve a lï¿½ felï¿½ - ez az ï¿½llat alapjï¿½ban normï¿½lis nï¿½stï¿½ny. Csak vï¿½letlenï¿½l lett tehervonï¿½ belï¿½le, azzal, hogy az ember a lï¿½fajnak megfelelï¿½ hï¿½zi kivï¿½lasztï¿½s ï¿½tjï¿½n ezernyi esztendï¿½ munkï¿½jï¿½val azzï¿½ fejlesztette. De az, hogy tehervonï¿½ ï¿½llat, csak mï¿½sodrendï¿½ dolog. Elsï¿½sorban nï¿½stï¿½ny. Alapjï¿½ban vï¿½ve a mi emberi nï¿½stï¿½nyeink is elsï¿½sorban szeretnek bennï¿½nket, fï¿½rfiakat, ï¿½s ï¿½zig-vï¿½rig anyai lï¿½nyek. A mai nï¿½k mindenfï¿½le vï¿½lasztï¿½jogi ï¿½s pï¿½lyavï¿½lasztï¿½si hï¿½kusz-pï¿½kuszï¿½nak nincsen ï¿½lettani szankciï¿½ja.

- Lehet, - felelte Crellin - de kï¿½zgazdasï¿½gi szankciï¿½ja van.

- Igaz, - hagyta helyben a gazdï¿½ja, hogy aztï¿½n tovï¿½bb vitï¿½zzon - a mai ipari berendezkedï¿½s nem kedvez a hï¿½zassï¿½gnak ï¿½s kenyï¿½rkeresetre szorï¿½tja a nï¿½ket. De gondolja meg: ipari berendezkedï¿½sek jï¿½nnek ï¿½s eltï¿½nnek. A biolï¿½gia pedig ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½ ï¿½rvï¿½nyes.

- A hï¿½zassï¿½g manap sehogy sem elï¿½gï¿½ti ki a nï¿½ket - vetette ellen a sertï¿½stenyï¿½sztï¿½.

Forrest Dick hitetlenï¿½l nevetett.

- Abba nem megyek bele, - mondta - itt van pï¿½ldï¿½ul a maga felesï¿½ge. Gimnï¿½ziumot vï¿½gzett, diplomï¿½t szerzett. Mit csinï¿½lt vele? Mi lett a diplomï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l? Ha jï¿½l tudom, kï¿½t fiï¿½ ï¿½s hï¿½rom lï¿½ny. ï¿½s ï¿½gy emlï¿½kszem, maga mesï¿½lte, hogy legutolsï¿½ egyetemi ï¿½vï¿½nek mï¿½sodik felï¿½ben mï¿½r a maga menyasszonya volt.

- Ez igaz, - vï¿½laszolta Crellin, kis szemhï¿½nyï¿½ssal ismerve el az ï¿½rvet - de ez tizenï¿½t ï¿½ve tï¿½rtï¿½nt ï¿½s szerelmi dolog volt. Mind a kettï¿½nknek muszï¿½j volt. Ezt el is ismerem. ï¿½ ï¿½riï¿½si terveket dolgozott ki magï¿½nak ï¿½s ï¿½n sem akartam semmi mï¿½s lenni, mint a Gazdï¿½szati Akadï¿½mia dï¿½kï¿½nja. De hï¿½t nem tehettï¿½nk mï¿½skï¿½nt, szerelmesek voltunk. Csakhogy ez tizenï¿½t ï¿½ve tï¿½rtï¿½nt ï¿½s az elmult tizenï¿½t esztendï¿½ sok mindenfï¿½le vï¿½ltozï¿½st okozott a fiatal nï¿½k tï¿½rekvï¿½seiben ï¿½s ï¿½lmaiban.

- Ne higyje. ï¿½n mondom magï¿½nak, Crellin ï¿½r, ez statisztika dolga. Minden egyï¿½b csak mï¿½lï¿½ valami. A nï¿½ mindig nï¿½ marad, mindig ï¿½s ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½. Majd akkor hiszem el, hogy a nï¿½k megvï¿½ltoztak, ha egyszer csak a kislï¿½nyok nem jï¿½tszanak tï¿½bbet a babï¿½jukkal ï¿½s nem kacï¿½rkodnak sajï¿½t magukkal a tï¿½kï¿½rben. De addig a nï¿½ az marad, ami mindig volt: elsï¿½sorban anya, mï¿½sodsorban a fï¿½rfi ï¿½lettï¿½rsa. Ez statisztika. Megfigyeltem a lï¿½nyokat, akik kï¿½pezdï¿½be jï¿½rtak. Hozzï¿½teszem, hogy akik mï¿½g a diplomï¿½juk elï¿½tt fï¿½rjhezmentek, azokat nem is szï¿½mï¿½tom ide. Mï¿½g ï¿½gy is az oklevelesek ï¿½tlag kï¿½t ï¿½vig tanï¿½tanak ï¿½sszesen. ï¿½s ha mï¿½g meggondolja azt is, hogy a csunyï¿½k ï¿½s ï¿½gyetlenek mï¿½r eleve vï¿½nlï¿½nysï¿½gra ï¿½s ï¿½lethossziglani kenyï¿½rkeresetre vannak kï¿½rhoztatva, megï¿½tï¿½lheti, hogy a felesï¿½gï¿½l vehetï¿½k tanï¿½tï¿½skodï¿½si ï¿½tlagideje milyen kicsire szorul ï¿½ssze.

- A nï¿½, ha mindjï¿½rt kislï¿½ny is, mï¿½gis megtalï¿½lja azt az utat, ami eddig csak a fï¿½rfiaknak volt fentartva.

ï¿½gy felelt kissï¿½ bï¿½tortalanul Crellin. Nem volt mï¿½djï¿½ban a gazdï¿½ja statisztikai adatait kï¿½tsï¿½gbevonni, de elhatï¿½rozta, hogy utï¿½nuk szï¿½mol.

- ï¿½gy van, - nevetett Forrest, mikï¿½zben galoppra kï¿½szï¿½tette a lovï¿½t - a maga kislï¿½nya be akar iratkozni a Stanford-kurzusra ï¿½s maga, ï¿½s ï¿½n, ï¿½s minden fï¿½rfi, mï¿½g a vilï¿½g ï¿½ll, rajta leszï¿½nk, hogy elï¿½rje, amit akar.

Crellin mosolygott a bajsza alatt, amint a gazdï¿½ja ellovagolt az ï¿½ton. Mert Crellin olvasta Kiplinget ï¿½s azï¿½rt nevetett, mert ez jutott eszï¿½be: »Hï¿½t a maga gyereke hol van, Forrest ï¿½r?« El is hatï¿½rozta, hogy ezt elmondja a reggeli kï¿½vï¿½ mellett a felesï¿½gï¿½nek.

Forrest Dick mï¿½g egy megï¿½llï¿½t tartott, mielï¿½tt visszatï¿½rt a nagy hï¿½zba. Azt az embert, akit elfogott, Mendenhallnak szï¿½lï¿½totta. Ez a lovï¿½szmestere, valamint legelï¿½szakï¿½rtï¿½je volt, akirï¿½l azt beszï¿½ltï¿½k, hogy az egï¿½sz gazdasï¿½gban nemcsak minden fï¿½szï¿½lat ismer, hanem minden fï¿½szï¿½lnak a hosszï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s korï¿½t is tudja attï¿½l kezdve, hogy a magva csï¿½rï¿½t vetett.

Forrest jelï¿½re Mendenhall megï¿½llï¿½totta a kï¿½t csikï¿½t, amelyeket a kï¿½tfogatï¿½ trï¿½ning-kocsiban hajtott. Forrest azï¿½rt intette megï¿½llï¿½sra, mert messzi a katlan ï¿½szaki szï¿½lï¿½n megpillantotta a nagy, sima dombsort, amint ragyogott a naptï¿½l ï¿½s mï¿½ly zï¿½ld szï¿½nben jï¿½tszott ott, ahol benyï¿½lt a Sacramento-vï¿½lgy nagy, puszta sï¿½kjï¿½ba.

A beszï¿½lgetï¿½sï¿½k gyors volt ï¿½s le volt rï¿½vidï¿½tve olyan kifejezï¿½sekre, amelyeket kï¿½t ember mï¿½r ismer egymï¿½s kï¿½zï¿½tt. Fï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½ltek. Megemlï¿½tettï¿½k a tï¿½li esï¿½zï¿½st ï¿½s megbeszï¿½ltï¿½k a kï¿½sï¿½ tavaszi esï¿½k kilï¿½tï¿½sait. Neveket emlï¿½tettek, mint a Kis Farkas- ï¿½s Los Cuatos-patakok, a Yolo- ï¿½s Miramar-dombok, a Nagy Medence, a Kerek Vï¿½lgy, a San Anselmo ï¿½s Los Bands-dombsorok. Nyï¿½jak ï¿½s csordï¿½k elmult, jelenlegi ï¿½s jï¿½vendï¿½ helyvï¿½ltoztatï¿½sait vitattï¿½k meg ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy, mint a messzi magaslati rï¿½tek szï¿½na-kilï¿½tï¿½sait, vagy az olyan szï¿½na elï¿½nyeit, amit tï¿½lire a messzi tanyï¿½kon hagytak a fensï¿½kokon tetï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½llï¿½sok alatt, ahol nyï¿½jak is teleltek ï¿½s tï¿½plï¿½lkoztak.

A tï¿½lgyek alatt aztï¿½n nem a Forrest dolga volt, hogy az Emberevï¿½t a pï¿½nyvakarï¿½hoz kï¿½sse. Futva jï¿½tt a lovï¿½szfiï¿½, hogy elvegye a kancï¿½t, ï¿½s Forrest, miutï¿½n alig egy szï¿½t szï¿½nt egy Duddy nevï¿½ lï¿½ dolgï¿½ra, csï¿½rgï¿½ sarkantyï¿½val bement a nagy hï¿½zba.

Forrest belï¿½pett a nagy hï¿½z egyik ï¿½pï¿½letrï¿½szï¿½be. Hatalmas, gerendï¿½bï¿½l rï¿½tt, vasveretï¿½ ajtï¿½n ï¿½t nyitott be valami olyan cementpadlï¿½s helyisï¿½gbe, ami egy vï¿½rbï¿½rtï¿½n alatti csarnoknak lï¿½tszott. Minden irï¿½nyba ajtï¿½k nyï¿½ltak. Az egyik mï¿½gï¿½l, ahol egy szakï¿½cs-sapkï¿½s, fehï¿½rkï¿½tï¿½nyes kï¿½nait lehetett lï¿½tni, mï¿½ly dinamï¿½-bï¿½gï¿½s hangzott. Forrest ezï¿½rt az ajtï¿½ï¿½rt tï¿½rt le az egyenes ï¿½tirï¿½nyrï¿½l. Nyitva tartotta az ajtï¿½t, megï¿½llt a kï¿½szï¿½bï¿½n ï¿½s egy hï¿½vï¿½s, elektromos-vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½sï¿½, cementezett szobï¿½ba kukkantott be, ahol ï¿½vegfalï¿½, ï¿½vegpolcos, hosszï¿½ refrigerï¿½tor ï¿½llott, mellette jï¿½gmasina ï¿½s dinamï¿½. A fï¿½ldï¿½n szurtos munkï¿½sruhï¿½ban szurtos emberke kuporgott. A gazda bï¿½lintott felï¿½je.

- Semmi baj, Thompson? - kï¿½rdezte.

- Volt - felelte az hatï¿½rozottan ï¿½s tï¿½mï¿½ren.

Forrest becsukta az ajtï¿½t ï¿½s vï¿½gigment egy alagï¿½thoz hasonlï¿½ folyosï¿½n. Az utat homï¿½lyosan vilï¿½gï¿½tottï¿½k meg azok a szï¿½k, vaspï¿½ntos nyï¿½lï¿½sok, amik a kï¿½zï¿½pkori kastï¿½lyok ï¿½jï¿½sz-nyï¿½lï¿½saihoz hasonlï¿½tottak. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ ajtï¿½n hosszï¿½, alacsony, nyomottmennyezetï¿½ terembe lehetett lï¿½pni; kandallï¿½ ï¿½llt itt, amelyen ï¿½krï¿½t lehetett volna sï¿½tni. Szï¿½nre ï¿½gyazva fï¿½nyesen lï¿½ngolt benne a hatalmas tuskï¿½. Kï¿½t biliï¿½rdasztal, nï¿½hï¿½ny kï¿½rtyaasztal, pihenï¿½ sarok-garnitï¿½rï¿½k ï¿½s egy miniatï¿½r bar adtï¿½k nagyobbï¿½ra a bï¿½torzatot. Kï¿½t fiatalember krï¿½tï¿½zta a dï¿½kï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s fogadta Forrest kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½sï¿½t.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, Naismith ï¿½r, - mondta Forrest trï¿½fï¿½san - anyagot csinï¿½lnak az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si Kï¿½zlï¿½nynek?

Naismith, harmincï¿½ves ifjï¿½, egyï¿½gyï¿½en nevetett a szemï¿½vege alatt ï¿½s a fejï¿½vel a mï¿½sik felï¿½ bï¿½kï¿½tt.

- Wainwright versenyezni akar velem.

- Ami azt jelenti, - nevetett Forrest - hogy Lute ï¿½s Ernestine kisasszonyok mï¿½g az igazak ï¿½lmï¿½t alusszï¿½k.

Az ifjï¿½ Wainwright felborzolï¿½dott annak jelï¿½ï¿½l, hogy erre a provokï¿½lï¿½sra meg fog felelni, de mï¿½g mielï¿½tt a vï¿½laszt kidadogta volna, a hï¿½zigazdï¿½ja elfordult ï¿½s a vï¿½llï¿½n keresztï¿½l Naismithet szï¿½lï¿½totta meg.

- Akar fï¿½ltizenkettï¿½kor velem jï¿½nni? Thayer meg ï¿½n elszaladunk a gï¿½ppel megnï¿½zni a Shropshire-tenyï¿½szetet. Tï¿½z vagon birkï¿½ra van szï¿½ksï¿½ge. Erre az idahoi eladï¿½sra nagyszerï¿½eket fogunk talï¿½lni. Hozza a fï¿½nykï¿½pezï¿½gï¿½pet is. Lï¿½tta ma mï¿½r Thayert?

Wainwright Bert sietett a felvilï¿½gosï¿½tï¿½ssal:

- ï¿½ppen akkor jï¿½tt reggelizni, mikor mi felkeltï¿½nk az asztaltï¿½l.

- Mondjï¿½tok meg neki, ha lï¿½tjï¿½tok, hogy fï¿½ltizenkettï¿½kor legyen kï¿½szen. Te nem vagy meghï¿½va, Bert... merï¿½ gyï¿½ngï¿½dsï¿½gbï¿½l. A lï¿½nyok akkorra mï¿½r biztosan fenn lesznek.

- Ritï¿½t valahogyan vidd magaddal - prï¿½bï¿½lkozott Bert.

- Hogyne, - felelte Forrest az ajtï¿½bï¿½l - nagyon sietï¿½nk. ï¿½s Ritï¿½t semmifï¿½le erï¿½hatalommal nem lehet elvï¿½lasztani Ernestinetï¿½l.

- Csak azt akartam lï¿½tni, - vigyorgott Bert - hogy te meg tudod-e csinï¿½lni.

- Kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s, hogy nï¿½melyik fickï¿½ mennyire nem tudja ï¿½rtï¿½kelni a sajï¿½t nï¿½vï¿½reit. - Itt Forrest egy ï¿½szrevehetï¿½ pillanatig megï¿½llt. - ï¿½n mindig meg voltam gyï¿½zï¿½dve, hogy Rita igazï¿½n kitï¿½nï¿½ testvï¿½r. Mi van vele?

Mielï¿½tt mï¿½g vï¿½laszt kaphatott volna, betette az ajtï¿½t ï¿½s vï¿½gigpengett a sarkantyï¿½ival a szï¿½les betï¿½nfokï¿½ csigalï¿½pcsï¿½ig. Amint felï¿½rt a tetejï¿½re ï¿½s tovï¿½bb indult, tï¿½ncritmusï¿½ zongoraszï¿½t ï¿½s kacagï¿½st hallott: bekukucskï¿½lt egy napsugï¿½rban fï¿½rdï¿½ fehï¿½r nappali szobï¿½ba. A zongorï¿½nï¿½l rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ kimonï¿½ban, hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½kï¿½tï¿½vel fiatal lï¿½ny ï¿½lt, kï¿½t hasonlï¿½an pompï¿½zï¿½ mï¿½sik lï¿½ny pedig, egymï¿½s karjï¿½ban, valami tï¿½ncot parodizï¿½lt, amit tï¿½nciskolï¿½ban sohasem tanulhattak ï¿½s amelyet aligha szï¿½ntak fï¿½rfiszemek lï¿½tvï¿½nyï¿½ul.

A zongorï¿½zï¿½ lï¿½ny ï¿½szrevette Forrestet, intett ï¿½s tovï¿½bb jï¿½tszott. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban a tï¿½ncolï¿½k is megpillantottï¿½k. Rï¿½mï¿½lten felkiï¿½ltottak, kacagva omlottak egymï¿½s karjï¿½ba ï¿½s a muzsika elhallgatott. Pompï¿½s, egï¿½szsï¿½ges fiatal teremtï¿½sek voltak ï¿½s Forrest szeme, mikor nï¿½zte ï¿½ket, ugyanolyan melegsï¿½ggel ragyogott fel, mint mikor Fotherington Princesst nï¿½zte.

Csipkelï¿½dï¿½ szavak repï¿½ltek jobbra-balra, mint ez az emberisï¿½g ifjabb tagjai kï¿½zï¿½tt szokï¿½sos.

- Mï¿½r ï¿½t perce itt vagyok! - bizonykodott Forrest.

A tï¿½ncosnï¿½k, hogy elrejtsï¿½k zavarukat, kï¿½tsï¿½gbevontï¿½k a szavahihetï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s szï¿½mos ismert ï¿½s hï¿½res hazugsï¿½gï¿½t hoztï¿½k fel. A zongorï¿½zï¿½ lï¿½ny, az ï¿½ Ernestine sï¿½gornï¿½je, ezzel szemben ragaszkodott hozzï¿½, hogy Forrest szï¿½nigazat beszï¿½l, hogy ï¿½ azonnal ï¿½szrevette, amint a sï¿½gor belesett ï¿½s ahogy ï¿½ becsï¿½li az idï¿½t, Forrest ï¿½t percnï¿½l sokkal tovï¿½bb leselkedett.

- Mindenesetre, - vï¿½gott bele Forrest a bï¿½beli zï¿½rzavarba - Bert, az ï¿½des ï¿½rtatlansï¿½g, azt hiszi, hogy mï¿½g nem vagytok fenn.

- Nem is vagyunk az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra, - felelte az egyik tï¿½ncosnï¿½, eleven fiatal gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g - de a te szï¿½modra sem. Szedd a sï¿½torfï¿½dat, fiam. Eredj.

- Hallgass ide, Lute, - kezdte Forrest komolyan - ï¿½ppen mert ï¿½n ilyen megtï¿½rt vï¿½n ember vagyok ï¿½s ï¿½ppen mert te tizennyolc ï¿½ves vagy, ï¿½ppen tizennyolc ï¿½s vï¿½letlenï¿½l a felesï¿½gem hï¿½ga, ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt nem kellene adnod a hatalmaskodï¿½t fï¿½lï¿½ttem. Ne felejtsd el, - ï¿½s ezt, akï¿½rmilyen kellemetlen, a Rita kedvï¿½ï¿½rt le kell szegeznem - ne felejtsd el, hogy a legutï¿½bbi tï¿½z esztendï¿½ alatt, tï¿½bbszï¿½r elnï¿½spï¿½ngoltalak, mint ahï¿½nyszor ï¿½ssze mernï¿½d szï¿½molni. Igaz, hogy most mï¿½r nem vagyok olyan fiatal, mint mikor meg szoktalak verni, de, - itt megtapogatta jobbkarjï¿½n az izmot ï¿½s ï¿½gy tett, mintha felgyï¿½rnï¿½ az inge ujjï¿½t - de mï¿½g nem vagyok egï¿½szen oda ï¿½s kï¿½t krajcï¿½rba fogadok...

- Na halljuk! - provokï¿½lta harciasan az ifjï¿½ hï¿½lgy.

- Kï¿½t krajcï¿½rba! - hï¿½rï¿½gte sï¿½tï¿½ten. - Kï¿½t krajcï¿½rba... Kï¿½rlek, ï¿½szinte sajnï¿½lattal ï¿½rtesï¿½telek, hogy a felkï¿½tï¿½d fï¿½lrecsï¿½szott, azonkï¿½vï¿½l alapjï¿½ban vï¿½ve nem is nagyon ï¿½zlï¿½ses kreï¿½ciï¿½. ï¿½lmomban, tengeri betegen, a lï¿½bam ujjï¿½val sokkal szebbet tudnï¿½k csinï¿½lni.

Lute megvetï¿½en megrï¿½zta szï¿½ke fejï¿½t, tï¿½mogatï¿½st kï¿½rve nï¿½zett tï¿½rsaira ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Hï¿½t ï¿½n nem tudom. Emberileg valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½nek lï¿½tszik, hogy hï¿½rman elintï¿½zhetï¿½nk egy ilyen fï¿½rfit a maga vï¿½n ï¿½s szemtelen hï¿½stï¿½megï¿½vel. Mit gondoltok, lï¿½nyok? Csak jï¿½jjï¿½n nekï¿½nk. Egy perccel sincs kevesebb, mint negyven ï¿½ves, azonkï¿½vï¿½l ï¿½tï¿½ï¿½rtï¿½gulï¿½sa van. Igen, ï¿½s nem illik ugyan csalï¿½di titkokat kifecsegni, de Menière-betegsï¿½ge is van neki.

Ernestine, a tizennyolc ï¿½ves kicsi, de zï¿½mï¿½k szï¿½ke, felugrott a zongorï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s csatlakozott kï¿½t tï¿½rsï¿½hoz, akik az ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sbï¿½l pï¿½rnï¿½kat zsï¿½kmï¿½nyoltak. Egymï¿½s oldalï¿½n, mindkï¿½t kezï¿½kben egy-egy vï¿½nkossal ï¿½s egymï¿½stï¿½l egyforma tï¿½volsï¿½gra, a vï¿½nkosok hajigï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ra teljesen felkï¿½szï¿½lve kï¿½zeledtek az ellensï¿½g felï¿½.

Forrest elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½lt az ï¿½tkï¿½zetre, aztï¿½n mint parlamentaire, felemelte a kezï¿½t.

- Gyï¿½va kutya! - kiabï¿½ltï¿½k a lï¿½nyok elï¿½szï¿½r egyï¿½tt, aztï¿½n kï¿½rusban.

ï¿½ hevesen rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Ezï¿½rt is, meg a tï¿½bbi szemtelensï¿½gï¿½rt is mind a hï¿½rman meg fogjï¿½tok kapni a magatokï¿½t. Egy ï¿½let minden igaztalansï¿½ga ragyogï¿½ fï¿½nnyel ï¿½gaskodik most a keblemben. Azonnal vad skandinï¿½v harcos leszek. De elï¿½bb, ï¿½s ezt mint fï¿½ldbirtokos mondom ï¿½s hozzï¿½d fordulok, Lute, teljes tisztelettel: az Isten szerelmï¿½re, mi az a Menière-fï¿½le betegsï¿½g? Megkapjï¿½k azt a juhok is?

- A Menière-fï¿½le betegsï¿½g, - vï¿½laszolta Lute - az... az, ami neked van. ï¿½s a juh az egyetlen ï¿½lï¿½lï¿½ny, amely meg szokta kapni.

Heves csata ï¿½s ï¿½sszevisszasï¿½g kï¿½vetkezett, Forrest egy futballistaszerï¿½ nekiszaladï¿½st csinï¿½lt, amilyen Kaliforniï¿½ban a rugby elterjedï¿½se elï¿½tt jï¿½rta; a lï¿½nyok megtï¿½rtï¿½k arcvonalukat, hogy a tï¿½madï¿½t ï¿½tengedjï¿½k, akkor nekiestek minden oldalrï¿½l ï¿½s pï¿½fï¿½lni kezdtï¿½k a vï¿½nkosokkal. Forrest visszafordult, messze kinyujtotta a karjï¿½t, ujjait, mint megannyi kampï¿½t, begï¿½rbï¿½tette ï¿½s mind a hï¿½rmat elkezdte cibï¿½lni. A csata forgï¿½szï¿½llï¿½ fajult: egy sarkantyï¿½s ember volt a kï¿½zepe, amelybï¿½l vï¿½kony selyemfoszlï¿½nyok, pï¿½rjukvesztett papucsok, fï¿½kï¿½tï¿½k ï¿½s hajtï¿½k rï¿½pkï¿½dtek szerte. A pï¿½rnï¿½k puffogtak, a fï¿½rfi nagyokat nyï¿½gï¿½tt, a lï¿½nyok visï¿½tottak, sikongtak ï¿½s kiabï¿½ltak, az egï¿½sz kï¿½zdï¿½ tï¿½mkelegbï¿½l szï¿½ntelen kacagï¿½s ï¿½s a kï¿½nnyï¿½ szï¿½vetek repedï¿½se ï¿½s szakadï¿½sa hallatszott.

Forrest Dick egyszer csak azon vette magï¿½t ï¿½szre, hogy nï¿½gykï¿½zlï¿½b ï¿½ll a padlï¿½n, az erï¿½teljesen bombï¿½zott vï¿½nkosok fï¿½lig belefojtottï¿½k a szuszt, a feje zï¿½g a csapï¿½soktï¿½l, a kezï¿½ben pedig egy rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ rï¿½zsï¿½kkal diszï¿½tett halvï¿½nykï¿½k ï¿½vet tart, elszakadva ï¿½s alaposan tï¿½nkretï¿½ve.

Az egyik ajtï¿½ban a kï¿½zdelemtï¿½l kipirult arccal ï¿½llott Rita, ï¿½vatosan, mint egy ï¿½zike: futï¿½sra kï¿½szen. A mï¿½sikban ï¿½ppen olyan pirosan ï¿½llott Ernestine a Gracchusok anyjï¿½nak vezï¿½nylï¿½ pï¿½zï¿½ban, kimonï¿½jï¿½nak romjait gondosan maga kï¿½rï¿½ csavarva ï¿½s mellï¿½hez szorï¿½tott karral tartva magï¿½n. Lute a zongora mï¿½gï¿½ szorult ï¿½s vakmerï¿½en futni akart, de Forrest fenyegetï¿½ magatartï¿½sa visszaszorï¿½totta. Forrest ugyanis nï¿½gykï¿½zlï¿½b ï¿½llott, a tenyerï¿½vel hangosan csapkodta a kemï¿½nyfapadlï¿½t, vadul forgatta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½gy ordï¿½tott, mint egy bika.

- ï¿½s mï¿½g vannak, - kiabï¿½lta biztos helyï¿½rï¿½l Ernestine - akik elhiszik azt a vï¿½zï¿½zï¿½nelï¿½tti legendï¿½t, hogy ez a fï¿½rfihoz hasonlï¿½ szerencsï¿½tlen valami, ami itt fetreng a porban, Berkeleyt gyï¿½zelemre vezette hajdan Stanford felett. - A keblei hevesen emelkedtek a kimerï¿½ltsï¿½gtï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½ gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ggel szemlï¿½lte a cseresznyeszï¿½nï¿½ selyem lï¿½ktetï¿½sï¿½t, amint a hasonlï¿½an lihegï¿½ mï¿½sik kï¿½t lï¿½nyra nï¿½zett.

A zongora kisebb fajtï¿½jï¿½ volt: gazdagon aranyozott, kecses fehï¿½r jï¿½szï¿½g, a nappali bï¿½torzatï¿½hoz hangolva. Nem ï¿½llt szorosan a fal mellett ï¿½s ï¿½gy Lute-nak mï¿½djï¿½ban volt kï¿½t oldalra is kiszï¿½kni mï¿½gï¿½le. Forrest felegyenesedett ï¿½s a zongora szï¿½les, sima teteje felett farkasszemet nï¿½zett vele. Mikor fenyegetï¿½ szï¿½ndï¿½kot mutatott, hogy ï¿½tmï¿½szik a zongorï¿½n, Lute borzadva kiï¿½ltott fel:

- De a sarkantyï¿½d, Dick! A sarkantyï¿½d!

- Hï¿½t akkor adj idï¿½t, mig leteszem.

Amint lehajolt, hogy lekapcsolja, Lute megprï¿½bï¿½lt kiszï¿½kni, de Forrest visszaterelte.

- Rendben van, - vicsorï¿½totta a fï¿½rfi - szï¿½lljon a fejedre a kiontott vï¿½r. Ha karcolï¿½s lesz a zongorï¿½n, megmondom Paulï¿½nak, hogy te voltï¿½l.

- Tanuim vannak! - lihegett Lute, vidï¿½m kï¿½k szemï¿½vel az ajtï¿½kban ï¿½llï¿½ ifjï¿½ portï¿½kï¿½k felï¿½ intve.

- Nagyon helyes, drï¿½gï¿½m. ï¿½tjï¿½vï¿½k hozzï¿½d.

Forrest ugrï¿½sra kï¿½szen visszahï¿½zï¿½dott ï¿½s rï¿½terpesztette kï¿½t tenyerï¿½t a zongorï¿½ra. ï¿½lï¿½ helyzetben ï¿½trï¿½pï¿½tette magï¿½t, veszedelmes sarkantyï¿½ja egy teljes arasznyira suhant el a zongora lakkozott fehï¿½r lapja felett. De ugyanekkor Lute lebukott ï¿½s nï¿½gykï¿½zlï¿½b bemï¿½szott a zongora alï¿½. Csakhogy az volt a baj, hogy belevï¿½gta a fejï¿½t. Mielï¿½tt ï¿½sszeszedhette volna magï¿½t, Forrest megkerï¿½lte a zongorï¿½t ï¿½s a lï¿½nyt sarokba szorï¿½totta.

- Gyere ki, - kiï¿½ltozott - gyere ki, kapsz valamit!

- Fegyverszï¿½netet, - rimï¿½nkodott Lute - fegyverszï¿½netet kï¿½rek, nemes lovag! Szerelmesed nevï¿½re, minden bajban lï¿½vï¿½ hï¿½lgyekre kï¿½rlek, adj fegyverszï¿½netet!

- Nem vagyok lovag, - jelentette ki Forrest a legsï¿½tï¿½tebb basszushangon - kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½ges, semmirekellï¿½ ï¿½s tetï¿½tï¿½l-talpig gonosz, emberevï¿½ ï¿½riï¿½s vagyok. A kï¿½kamocsï¿½rban szï¿½lettem. Az apï¿½m emberevï¿½ volt, az anyï¿½m mï¿½g inkï¿½bb. Holt csecsemï¿½k jajveszï¿½klï¿½se volt a bï¿½lcsï¿½dalom, akik mï¿½r elï¿½re elkï¿½rhoztak. A Mill-szeminï¿½riumban nevelkedett leï¿½nyzï¿½k vï¿½re volt egyedï¿½li tï¿½plï¿½lï¿½kom. Kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen szerettem a padlï¿½n ebï¿½delni Mill-szeminï¿½rista lï¿½nyokat ï¿½s zongora tetejï¿½t. Az apï¿½m nemcsak emberevï¿½, hanem kaliforniai lï¿½tolvaj is volt. Az anyï¿½m nemcsak emberevï¿½nï¿½, hanem nevadai kï¿½nyvï¿½gynï¿½k is volt. Hogy elmondjam a legnagyobb szï¿½gyenï¿½t: nï¿½i folyï¿½iratokra is gyï¿½jtï¿½tt elï¿½fizetï¿½ket. ï¿½s ï¿½n mï¿½g az anyï¿½mnï¿½l is borzasztï¿½bb vagyok: ï¿½n ï¿½nborotvï¿½kkal hï¿½zaltam.

- Hï¿½t semmi sem hatja meg ï¿½s csillapï¿½tja le rettentï¿½ kebledet? - szavalt lelkesen Lute, mialatt a szï¿½kï¿½s eshetï¿½sï¿½geit vette szï¿½mba.

- Csak egy dolog, ï¿½ nyomorult nï¿½mber. Csak egyetlen dolog a fï¿½ldï¿½n, a fï¿½ld fï¿½lï¿½tt ï¿½s az ï¿½ramlï¿½ vizek alatt...

Ernestine diadalmasan kiï¿½ltott fel: plï¿½giumon kapta rajta.

- Lï¿½sd Dowson Ernest, hetvenkilencedik oldal, vï¿½kony kï¿½nyv vï¿½kony versikï¿½kkel, amit a Mill-szeminï¿½riumban raboskodï¿½ fiatal nï¿½knek a levessel egyï¿½tt adagolnak.

- Mint ahogy - folytatta Forrest - az imï¿½nt jelentettem ki, mielï¿½tt oly durvï¿½n fï¿½lbeszakï¿½tottak, ezt a rettentï¿½ kebelt csak egy dolog csillapï¿½thatja le teljesen: a »Kislï¿½ny imï¿½ja«. Hallgasd meg jï¿½l a fï¿½leiddel, mï¿½g meg nem eszem valamennyit, akï¿½rhï¿½ny ï¿½s akï¿½rmekkora! Figyelj ide, te haszontalan, csunya, tï¿½mzsi, alacsony ï¿½s rï¿½t nï¿½szemï¿½ly ott a zongora alatt! El tudod szavalni a Kislï¿½ny imï¿½jï¿½t?

A kellï¿½ feleletet az ajtï¿½kban ï¿½llï¿½ ifjï¿½ hï¿½lgyek ï¿½rï¿½mkiï¿½ltï¿½sai akadï¿½lyoztï¿½k meg. Lute a zongora alï¿½l odakiï¿½ltott a belï¿½pï¿½ ifjï¿½ Wainwrightnak:

- Szabadï¿½ts meg, Vitï¿½z! Szabadï¿½ts meg!

- Bocsï¿½sd szabadon a leï¿½nyzï¿½t! - parancsolta Bert.

- Ki vagy te, idegen? - kï¿½rdezte Forrest.

- Gyï¿½rgy kirï¿½ly vagyok, te pï¿½r! Azaz, hogy izï¿½... Szent Gyï¿½rgy vagyok.

- Akkor ï¿½n vagyok a sï¿½rkï¿½ny, - jelentette ki Forrest kellï¿½ hï¿½dolattal - kï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½lj meg ezen a vï¿½n, tiszteletremï¿½ltï¿½ ï¿½s egyetlen nyakamon!

- Vï¿½gd le a fejï¿½t - biztattï¿½k a lï¿½nyok.

- Kï¿½rlek leï¿½nyzï¿½k, bï¿½torodjatok, - biztatta ï¿½ket Bert - ï¿½n csak egy aprï¿½ tï¿½bbsincs vagyok, de a fï¿½lelmet nem ismerem. A sï¿½rkï¿½nynak a torkï¿½n fogok akadni. A torkï¿½n akadok ï¿½s mialatt majd beledï¿½glik, hogy olyan rosszï¿½zï¿½ vagyok ï¿½s annyi bennem a szï¿½lka, azalatt ti menekï¿½ljetek a hegyekbe, mï¿½g a vï¿½lgyek ï¿½ssze nem csapnak fï¿½lï¿½ttetek. Yolï¿½t, Petalumï¿½t ï¿½s Nyugat-Sacramentï¿½t az ï¿½zï¿½n hullï¿½mai ï¿½s sok nagy hal fogja elborï¿½tani.

- Vï¿½gd le a fejï¿½t, - hajtogattï¿½k a lï¿½nyok - hengergesd meg a sajï¿½t vï¿½rï¿½ben ï¿½s sï¿½sd meg!

- Hï¿½velykujjakat a fï¿½ld felï¿½, - nyï¿½gï¿½tt Forrest - vï¿½gem van. Bï¿½zom 1914-ben azoknak a keresztï¿½ny ifjï¿½ lï¿½nyoknak nemes irgalmï¿½ban, akik egy napon szavazï¿½polgï¿½rok lesznek, ha egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban megnï¿½nek valaha ï¿½s nem kï¿½lfï¿½ldiekhez mennek felesï¿½gï¿½l. Tekintsd fejemet levï¿½gottnak, Szent Gyï¿½rgy. Kiadtam a pï¿½rï¿½mat. Tï¿½bb tï¿½rgy nem lï¿½vï¿½n, az ï¿½lï¿½s vï¿½get ï¿½rt.

ï¿½s nyï¿½gve, nyï¿½szï¿½rï¿½gve, realisztikus vonaglï¿½sok ï¿½s rï¿½gï¿½sok kï¿½zepette, nagy sarkantyï¿½pengï¿½ssel lefekï¿½dt a fï¿½ldre ï¿½s kiadta pï¿½rï¿½jï¿½t.

Lute elï¿½mï¿½szott a zongora alï¿½l ï¿½s Rita ï¿½s Ernestine tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban eljï¿½rtï¿½k a hï¿½rpiï¿½k hevenyï¿½szett tï¿½ncï¿½t a hulla felett.

Tï¿½nc kï¿½zben Forrest egyszerre felï¿½lt ï¿½s tiltakozott. Egyszersmind jelentï¿½s ï¿½s titkos intï¿½st vï¿½ltott Lute-tal.

- A hï¿½s! - kiï¿½ltotta - ne felejtsï¿½tek el a hï¿½st! Fonjatok koszorï¿½t a homlokï¿½ra!

ï¿½s Bertet megkoszorï¿½ztï¿½k a vï¿½zï¿½kbï¿½l valï¿½ virï¿½gokkal, amiket ma mï¿½g nem cserï¿½ltek ki frissre. Mikor egy kï¿½teg vizesszï¿½rï¿½ korai tulipï¿½n, amit Lute eleven karja irï¿½nyzott, csatakosan csapï¿½dott a fï¿½le mï¿½gï¿½tt a nyakï¿½ra, futï¿½snak eredt. Az ï¿½ldï¿½zï¿½s lï¿½rmï¿½ja vï¿½gig visszhangzott a hallon ï¿½s a biliï¿½rdszobï¿½hoz vezetï¿½ csigalï¿½pcsï¿½nï¿½l halt el. Forrest ï¿½sszeszedte magï¿½t ï¿½s pengï¿½ sarkantyï¿½val nevetve sietett ï¿½t a nagy hï¿½zon.

Kï¿½t tï¿½glafalï¿½, spanyol tï¿½glï¿½val fedett kï¿½rfolyosï¿½n haladt vï¿½gig, amit elï¿½ntï¿½ttek a korai zï¿½ldek ï¿½s virï¿½gok. Aztï¿½n eljutott a maga ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyï¿½ba, hogy a jï¿½tï¿½ktï¿½l mï¿½g mindig lihegve, az irodï¿½ban megtalï¿½lja a rï¿½ vï¿½rakozï¿½ titkï¿½rt.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, Blake ï¿½r, - kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½tte - sajnï¿½lom, hogy elkï¿½stem.

A karkï¿½tï¿½-ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra pillantott.

- ï¿½ssze-vissza nï¿½gy perc. Nem szabadulhattam hamarï¿½bb.

Kilenctï¿½l tï¿½zig Forest a titkï¿½rjï¿½nak szentelte magï¿½t, elintï¿½zvï¿½n a levelezï¿½sï¿½t, amely tudï¿½s tï¿½rsasï¿½goktï¿½l kezdve az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si ï¿½s fï¿½ldmï¿½velï¿½si szervezet mindenfï¿½le ï¿½gï¿½ig mindenre kiterjedt ï¿½s aminek az elvï¿½gzï¿½sï¿½re az ï¿½tlagos kis ï¿½zletembernek segï¿½tsï¿½g nï¿½lkï¿½l legalï¿½bb ï¿½jfï¿½lig fenn kellett volna ï¿½lnie.

Mert Forrest Dick a kï¿½zï¿½ppontja volt egy szervezetnek, amit maga ï¿½pï¿½tett ï¿½s amire titokban nagyon bï¿½szke volt. Fontos leveleket ï¿½s okmï¿½nyokat kemï¿½ny, nagy kezï¿½vel maga ï¿½rt alï¿½. Minden mï¿½s levï¿½lre bï¿½lyegzï¿½-alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½st nyomott Blake ï¿½r, aki egy ï¿½ra lefolyï¿½sa alatt gyorsï¿½rï¿½ssal papï¿½rra kapta a szï¿½mos levï¿½lre irandï¿½ vï¿½laszt, vagy szï¿½mos mï¿½s levï¿½l vï¿½laszï¿½nak alapvetï¿½ kï¿½rvonalait. Blake ï¿½r magï¿½nvï¿½lemï¿½nye az volt, hogy ï¿½ sokkal tï¿½bb ï¿½rï¿½t dolgozik, mint a gazdï¿½ja, de magï¿½nvï¿½lemï¿½nye volt az is, hogy a gazdï¿½ja valï¿½sï¿½gos csodï¿½ja annak, hogyan kell mï¿½soknak az elvï¿½gzendï¿½ munkï¿½t megmagyarï¿½zni.

Tï¿½z ï¿½rakor, amint az ï¿½ra ï¿½tï¿½tt, Pittmann, a mï¿½helyfelï¿½gyelï¿½ szokott belï¿½pni az irodï¿½ba, ï¿½s Blake levelezï¿½si lï¿½dï¿½kkal, okmï¿½nytï¿½megekkel ï¿½s fonogrï¿½fhengerekkel eltï¿½nt a sajï¿½t irodï¿½jï¿½ba.

Tï¿½ztï¿½l-tizenegyig a felï¿½gyelï¿½k ï¿½s osztï¿½lyvezetï¿½k valï¿½sï¿½gos ï¿½rja ï¿½zï¿½nlï¿½tt ki ï¿½s be. Sima modor ï¿½s idï¿½kï¿½mï¿½lï¿½s dolgï¿½ban mind jï¿½l voltak fegyelmezve. Forrest ï¿½gy tanï¿½totta ï¿½ket, hogy azok a percek, amiket nï¿½la tï¿½ltenek, nem a tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½s percei. Teljesen kï¿½szen kellett lenniï¿½k, mielï¿½tt jelentettek vagy proponï¿½ltak valamit. Bonbright, a segï¿½dtitkï¿½r, tï¿½zkor szokott jï¿½nni, hogy a Blake helyï¿½t ï¿½tvegye ï¿½s szorosan mellette gyorsan repï¿½lï¿½ ceruzï¿½val vetette papï¿½rra a kï¿½rdï¿½sek, feleletek, megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½sok, indï¿½tvï¿½nyok ï¿½s tervek pergï¿½tï¿½zï¿½t. Ezek a kï¿½sï¿½bb ï¿½tï¿½rt ï¿½s tï¿½bb pï¿½ldï¿½nyban legï¿½pelt gyorsï¿½rï¿½-jegyzetek voltak a felï¿½gyelï¿½k ï¿½s osztï¿½lyvezetï¿½k ï¿½llandï¿½ lidï¿½rcnyomï¿½sai, sï¿½t adandï¿½ alkalommal vï¿½gzetï¿½k. Mert elï¿½szï¿½r is Forrestnek figyelemremï¿½ltï¿½ emlï¿½kezï¿½tehetsï¿½ge volt, mï¿½sodszor pedig mindig kï¿½szen ï¿½llott arra, hogy emlï¿½kezï¿½tehetsï¿½ge ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½t a Bonbright jegyzetei rï¿½vï¿½n ellenï¿½rizze.

ï¿½t vagy tï¿½z percnyi beszï¿½lgetï¿½s utï¿½n gyakran jï¿½tt ki tï¿½le izzadtan, fï¿½radtan ï¿½s felkavartan egy-egy munkavezetï¿½. De ez alatt a magasfeszï¿½ltsï¿½gï¿½ ï¿½ra alatt Forrest valamennyi jelentkezï¿½t elintï¿½zte, mesteri virtuï¿½zitï¿½ssal kezelve ï¿½ket ï¿½s kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le mestersï¿½gï¿½k kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le rï¿½szleteit. Nï¿½gy rï¿½pke perc alatt kï¿½zï¿½lte Thompsonnal, a gï¿½pï¿½sszel, hogy a nagy hï¿½z refrigerï¿½torï¿½nak dinamï¿½jï¿½ban hol a hiba, a hibï¿½ï¿½rt Thompsont tette felelï¿½ssï¿½, jegyzetet diktï¿½lt Thompsonnak, idï¿½zve a kï¿½nyvtï¿½r egy kï¿½tetï¿½nek lapszï¿½mï¿½t ï¿½s fejezetï¿½t, amelyet Thompson vegyen ki onnan, megmondta neki, hogy Parkman, a tejgazdasï¿½g igazgatï¿½ja nem volt megelï¿½gedve a fejï¿½gï¿½pek legutï¿½bbi szerelï¿½sï¿½vel, ï¿½s hogy a vï¿½gï¿½hï¿½d hï¿½tï¿½szerkezete a most hasznï¿½latos tï¿½plï¿½lï¿½s mellett nem mï¿½kï¿½dik jï¿½l.

Mindegyik embere szakember volt, de Forrest avatott mestere volt valamennyi szakmï¿½nak. Mintahogy Paulson, a szï¿½ntï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½ panaszkodta titokban Dawsonnak, az aratï¿½gï¿½p-felï¿½gyelï¿½nek:

- Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½ve dolgozom itt ï¿½s egyszer sem lï¿½ttam, hogy hozzï¿½nyï¿½lt volna egy ekï¿½hez, ï¿½s az ï¿½rdï¿½g vigye el, mï¿½gis ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, hogy ï¿½rt hozzï¿½. Ez a tehetsï¿½g. Hï¿½t kï¿½rlek, lï¿½tom egyszer, amint elszï¿½guld egy munka mellett. Csak erre az Emberevï¿½re figyelt, ami folyton a kï¿½zeli temetï¿½sï¿½vel fenyegeti. Hï¿½t mï¿½snap, kï¿½rlek, megmondja csak ï¿½gy mellï¿½kesen egy fï¿½lujjnyi pontossï¿½ggal, milyen mï¿½ly volt a szï¿½ntï¿½s, ï¿½s milyen eke dolgozott!... Vagy vedd azt a szï¿½ntï¿½st a Mï¿½k-rï¿½ten, a Kis Mezï¿½ felett, ott Los Cuatesen. Valahogy nem tudtam rï¿½jï¿½nni a mï¿½djï¿½ra, tudniillik az volt a dolgom, hogy a mï¿½ly keresztszï¿½ntï¿½s mï¿½djï¿½t okoskodjam ki. Hï¿½t ï¿½n azt hittem, hogy majd elcsï¿½szik a dolog. Mikor minden kï¿½sz volt, egyszer csak vï¿½letlenï¿½l arra jï¿½n. Nï¿½zem, nï¿½zem: ï¿½gy lï¿½tszott, hogy ï¿½ nem nï¿½z. No, mï¿½snap dï¿½lelï¿½tt meg is kaptam a magamï¿½t az irodï¿½ban. Nem csï¿½szott el a dolog. Azï¿½ta nem is prï¿½bï¿½lok semmi ilyesfï¿½lï¿½t.

Pont tizenegykor Wardmann, a juhtenyï¿½sztï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½, egy cï¿½dulï¿½ra ï¿½rt rï¿½szletes utasï¿½tï¿½ssal ment el, hogy tizenegy harminckor autï¿½n ï¿½ is menjen Thayerrel, az idahoi ï¿½gynï¿½kkel szï¿½tnï¿½zni a Shropshire-telepen. Wardmannel egyï¿½tt Bonbright is elment feldolgozni a jegyzeteit. Forrest egyedï¿½l maradt az irodï¿½ban. Az elintï¿½zetlen dolgok egyik drï¿½tkosarï¿½bï¿½l - volt ilyen sok ï¿½tï¿½sï¿½vel egymï¿½sra rakva - kivett egy rï¿½piratot, amit a sertï¿½svï¿½szrï¿½l Iowa ï¿½llam adott ki ï¿½s elkezdte tanulmï¿½nyozni.

A szï¿½zhetvenï¿½t centimï¿½ter magas ï¿½s alaposan nyolcvan kilï¿½s Forrest minden volt, csak az nem, ami negyven esztendï¿½t mutatott volna. Nagy szï¿½rke szeme felett kiugrott a csont, pillï¿½ja ï¿½s szemï¿½ldï¿½ke fekete. Szabï¿½lyos homloka fï¿½lï¿½tt vilï¿½gos gesztenyebarna volt a haj. Homloka alatt kiugrottak az arc-csontok, alattuk kis bemï¿½lyedï¿½s lï¿½tszott, ami ezzel a fejformï¿½val mindig egyï¿½tt jï¿½r. ï¿½llkapcsa erï¿½s volt, de nem merev, szï¿½les nyï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ orra sem kevï¿½sbï¿½, sem jobban nem volt egyenes ï¿½s kiï¿½llï¿½ a normï¿½lisnï¿½l, ï¿½lla szï¿½gletes volt, de nem ï¿½les, ï¿½s osztatlan, a szï¿½ja nï¿½ies ï¿½s kellemes, de csak annyira, hogy nem rejtette el azt a hatï¿½rozottsï¿½got, amit kellï¿½ kihï¿½vï¿½s esetï¿½n az ajkai ki tudtak fejezni. Arcbï¿½re sima ï¿½s egï¿½szsï¿½gesen napbarnï¿½tott, de a szemï¿½ldï¿½ke ï¿½s a haja kï¿½zï¿½tt ez a barnasï¿½g helyet adott szï¿½les kalapja hatï¿½sï¿½nak, amelynek pereme nem engedte homlokï¿½hoz a napot.

A szï¿½ja ï¿½s szeme sarkï¿½ban nevetï¿½s ï¿½lï¿½lkodott ï¿½s a szï¿½ja kï¿½rï¿½l is akadtak arcvonï¿½sok, amelyek mintha nevetï¿½sre formï¿½lï¿½dtak volna. De minden vonï¿½s az arcï¿½n, egyï¿½bkï¿½nt bï¿½rmire mutatott, egyforma erï¿½sen a szilï¿½rdsï¿½got, a biztossï¿½got fejezte ki. Forrest Dick mindenben biztos volt. Biztos volt, hogy ha a kezï¿½t az ï¿½rï¿½asztalï¿½n bï¿½rmi utï¿½n kinyujtja, akkor a keze tapogatï¿½s ï¿½s egy hajszï¿½lnyi fï¿½lrenyulï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l elï¿½ri, amit akar; biztos volt, hogy ha az elmï¿½je vï¿½gigszalad a sertï¿½svï¿½szrï¿½pirat fï¿½bb pontjain, a figyelmï¿½t egy pont sem kerï¿½li el; biztos volt, ahogy himbï¿½lta magï¿½t a forgï¿½ irodai karosszï¿½ken, a sarkï¿½tï¿½l a fejebï¿½bjï¿½ig; biztos volt szï¿½vï¿½ben, eszï¿½ben, ï¿½letï¿½ben, munkï¿½jï¿½ban, mindenï¿½ben ï¿½s sajï¿½t magï¿½ban.

Megvolt a jï¿½ oka, hogy biztos legyen. Teste, lelke, ï¿½lete folyï¿½sa elï¿½g prï¿½bï¿½jï¿½t adtï¿½k mï¿½r ennek a szilï¿½rdsï¿½gnak. Gazdag ember fia lï¿½tï¿½re az apja pï¿½nzï¿½t nem hajigï¿½lta ki az ablakon. Vï¿½rosban szï¿½letett ï¿½s nevelkedett, de visszament a falura ï¿½s nem vitte kevesebbre, mint hogy az ï¿½ neve forgott minden farmbirtokos szï¿½jï¿½n, ahol csak farmbirtokosok talï¿½lkoztak ï¿½s elkezdtek beszï¿½lgetni. Hatszï¿½zezer katasztrï¿½lis hold tehermentes fï¿½ld ura volt, olyan fï¿½ldï¿½, amelynek ï¿½rtï¿½ke vï¿½ltakozott holdankï¿½nt ï¿½tszï¿½z dollï¿½rtï¿½l szï¿½zig, aztï¿½n szï¿½z dollï¿½rtï¿½l tï¿½z centig, vagy nï¿½mely helyen nem ï¿½rt hajï¿½tï¿½fï¿½t sem. De ennek a tï¿½bb mint fï¿½lmilliï¿½ hold fï¿½ldnek a beruhï¿½zï¿½sa, alagcsï¿½vezett rï¿½tektï¿½l lecsapolt lï¿½pokig, jï¿½ utaktï¿½l a kiï¿½pï¿½tett csatornï¿½kig, gazdasï¿½gi ï¿½pï¿½letektï¿½l magï¿½ig a nagy hï¿½zig a telek ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½vel szemben elkï¿½pzelhetetlenï¿½l ï¿½riï¿½si ï¿½sszeget tett ki.

Minden nagyarï¿½nyï¿½ volt itt ï¿½s vadonat-modern. Az alkalmazottai, kï¿½pessï¿½gï¿½khï¿½z mï¿½rt fizetï¿½ssel hï¿½zbï¿½rmentesen laktak ï¿½t-tï¿½zezer dollï¿½ros hï¿½zakban, de szï¿½ne-java voltak a szakembereknek, akiket az Atlanti-ï¿½ceï¿½ntï¿½l a Csendes-ï¿½ceï¿½nig az egï¿½sz kontinensrï¿½l lefï¿½lï¿½zï¿½tt magï¿½nak. Ha benzines gï¿½peket rendelt a sï¿½k fï¿½ldek mï¿½velï¿½sï¿½hez, kereken huszonï¿½tï¿½t rendelt. Ha vizet gyï¿½jtï¿½tt a hegyei kï¿½zï¿½tt, szï¿½zmilliï¿½ gallonjï¿½val gyï¿½jtï¿½tte. Ha lecsapolta a mocsarait, nem azon gondolkozott, hogyan szï¿½kï¿½tse az ï¿½rkokat, hanem egyszerï¿½en megvï¿½sï¿½rolta a nagy kotrï¿½gï¿½peket ï¿½s ha a sajï¿½t vizenyï¿½s talajï¿½n mï¿½g ï¿½gy se igen ment a munka, a szomszï¿½dos nagybirtokosokbï¿½l lecsapolï¿½ egyesï¿½leteket ï¿½s szï¿½vetkezeteket alakï¿½tott szï¿½z kilomï¿½ternyire le ï¿½s fel a Sacramento folyï¿½ mentï¿½n.

Volt elï¿½g jï¿½ feje ahoz, hogy ï¿½tlï¿½ssa, milyen szï¿½ksï¿½ges mï¿½s jï¿½ fejeket megvï¿½sï¿½rolni magï¿½nak ï¿½s a folyï¿½ ï¿½r fï¿½lï¿½tt magas ï¿½rat fizetni a legjobbakï¿½rt. ï¿½s elï¿½g jï¿½ feje volt ahoz is, hogy azokbï¿½l a jï¿½ fejekbï¿½l, amiket megvett magï¿½nak, hasznos dolgokat csiholjon ki.

ï¿½s most ï¿½ppen elmult negyvenï¿½ves, a szeme tiszta volt, a szï¿½ve nyugodt, a vï¿½re lï¿½ktetï¿½, az ereje fï¿½rfias; de az ï¿½lete tï¿½rtï¿½nete harmincï¿½ves korï¿½ig hihetetlen zï¿½rzavar ï¿½s bolyongï¿½s kï¿½pï¿½t mutatta. Tizenhï¿½romï¿½ves korï¿½ban megugrott egy milliomos otthonbï¿½l. Irï¿½gylï¿½sremï¿½ltï¿½ egyetemi kitï¿½ntetï¿½seket nyert el, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g betï¿½ltï¿½tte huszonegyedik ï¿½vï¿½t, de ekkor mï¿½r megkï¿½stolta mindennek a savï¿½t-borsï¿½t ï¿½s hideg fejjel, meleg szï¿½vvel, nevetve belement minden kockï¿½zatba, amit kalandjainak vad vilï¿½ga ï¿½gï¿½rt ï¿½s nyujtott, hogy megtanulja elismerni a tï¿½rvï¿½nyek jï¿½zansï¿½gï¿½t.

San Francisco hajdani idejï¿½n a Forrest nï¿½vvel csodï¿½kat lehetett mï¿½velni. A Forrest-hï¿½z a Nob-vï¿½rosrï¿½szben, ahol a Flood-, Mackay-, Crocker-, O'Brien-csalï¿½dok fï¿½szkeltek, a vezetï¿½helyek kï¿½zï¿½ tartozott. Forrest Richï¿½rd, akinek a kï¿½zszï¿½j a »szerencsï¿½s« nevet adta, Dick apja, egyenesen az ï¿½reg Angliï¿½bï¿½l jï¿½tt a Panamï¿½n ï¿½t ï¿½s vakmerï¿½ kereskedï¿½ volt. Otthon gyorsvitorlï¿½sokkal dolgozott ï¿½s hajï¿½gyï¿½rat csinï¿½lt, itt megï¿½rkezï¿½se utï¿½n azonnal partmenti telek-ï¿½rdekeltsï¿½get szerzett, azonnal ï¿½rdekelve volt folyami gï¿½zï¿½sï¿½kben, persze bï¿½nyï¿½kban, kï¿½sï¿½bb pedig a Nevada Comstock kiszï¿½rï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ban ï¿½s a Dï¿½li Pacific ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ben.

Nagyban spekulï¿½lt, nagyban nyert, nagyban vesztett, de mindig tï¿½bbet nyert, mint amennyit vesztett ï¿½s amit az egyik tï¿½telnï¿½l az egyik kezï¿½vel leadott, azt a mï¿½sik tï¿½telnï¿½l a mï¿½sik kezï¿½vel visszahozta. A Comstock-szï¿½rï¿½tï¿½son szerzett nyeresï¿½gï¿½t beleï¿½lte az Eldorado-vidï¿½ken a teljesen alaptalan Gyï¿½gynï¿½rcisz Termesztï¿½ Vï¿½llalatba. A Benicia-vonal csï¿½djï¿½bï¿½l csinï¿½lta a Napa Consolidated cï¿½mï¿½ vï¿½llalatot, amely kï¿½nesï¿½t bï¿½nyï¿½szott ï¿½s ï¿½tezer szï¿½zalï¿½kot hozott neki. Amit a Stocken-hausse ï¿½sszeomlï¿½sa miatt vesztett, azt busï¿½san egyensï¿½lyozta sacramentoi ï¿½s oaklandi fatelepeinek reï¿½lis becslï¿½se.

ï¿½s mindennek a tetejï¿½be Szerencsï¿½s Richard, mikor egy sorozatos baleset alkalmï¿½val mindene elveszett, ï¿½gy hogy San Francisco mï¿½r azon vitï¿½zott, hogy a Nob-negyedi palota mennyiï¿½rt fog elkelni az ï¿½rverï¿½sen, felszerelt bizonyos nevezetï¿½ Del Nelson ï¿½rckeresï¿½ ï¿½gynï¿½kï¿½t ï¿½s elkï¿½ldte Mexikï¿½ba. Tï¿½rtï¿½nelmi tï¿½ny, hogy az emlï¿½tett Del Nelson kvarc-kutatï¿½sï¿½nak az eredmï¿½nye lett a Harvest-bï¿½nyacsoport, amelynek birtokï¿½ba a mesï¿½s ï¿½s kimerï¿½thetetlen Csï¿½rgï¿½kï¿½gyï¿½, Dal, Vï¿½ros, Desdemona, Sï¿½rga Fiï¿½ ï¿½s Kecskebï¿½ka nevï¿½ tï¿½rnï¿½k tartoznak.

Forrest Dick az apja fia volt. A fï¿½ktelen energiï¿½jï¿½ ï¿½s vï¿½llalkozï¿½ kedvï¿½ Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rdot, bï¿½r kï¿½tszer hï¿½zasodott ï¿½s kï¿½tszer maradt ï¿½zvegyen, nem ï¿½ldotta meg gyerekkel az isten. Azonban ï¿½tvennyolcï¿½ves korï¿½ban, 1872-ben, harmadszor is meghï¿½zasodott. A felesï¿½ge 1874-ben meghalt, de itt maradt egy hatkilï¿½s, orditï¿½ kisfiï¿½, hogy a Nob-negyedi palotï¿½ban a dajkï¿½k egï¿½sz serege nevelje fel.

Az ifjï¿½ Dick korï¿½n fejlett gyerek volt. Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rd pedig demokrata. Eredmï¿½ny: az ifjï¿½ Dick magï¿½ntanï¿½tï¿½tï¿½l egy ï¿½v alatt megtanulta, amihez a gimnï¿½ziumban hï¿½rom ï¿½vre lett volna szï¿½ksï¿½ge, a megtakarï¿½tott kï¿½t ï¿½vet pedig azzal tï¿½ltï¿½tte, hogy jï¿½tszott a szabad levegï¿½n. Az is a fiï¿½ kora fejlettsï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½s az apa demokrï¿½ciï¿½jï¿½nak volt az eredmï¿½nye, hogy az utolsï¿½ ï¿½vre beirattï¿½k a nyilvï¿½nos algimnï¿½ziumba. Az apja azï¿½rt kï¿½ldte ide, hogy megtanulja a kï¿½zvetlen demokrata ï¿½rintkezï¿½st a munkï¿½sok, kereskedï¿½k, kocsmï¿½rosok ï¿½s politikusok fiaival ï¿½s lï¿½nyaival.

Az iskola szavalï¿½si vagy helyesï¿½rï¿½si versenyein apja milliï¿½i nem voltak segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½re a Halloran Patsyval valï¿½ vetï¿½lkedï¿½sben, aki szï¿½molï¿½si csoda volt, apja pedig zsï¿½khordï¿½, sem ha Sanguinetti Monï¿½val versenyzett, aki valï¿½sï¿½gos tï¿½nemï¿½ny volt a helyesï¿½rï¿½sban, ï¿½zvegy anyja pedig zï¿½ldsï¿½geskofa. Apja vagyona ï¿½s a Nob-negyedi palota hasonlï¿½kï¿½ppen hajszï¿½lnyit sem voltak segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½re, mikor ledobta a kabï¿½tjï¿½t ï¿½s puszta ï¿½kï¿½llel, a boksz-szabï¿½lyok figyelembe vï¿½tele nï¿½lkï¿½l, hol gyï¿½ztesen, hol legyï¿½zï¿½tten vï¿½gigverekedte Botts Jimmyt, Csojinszky Jeant ï¿½s a tï¿½bbi fickï¿½t, akik kifutottak a vilï¿½gba gyï¿½zni ï¿½s boldogulni, hogy nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½v mulva az ï¿½rdrï¿½gï¿½tï¿½k olyan nemzedï¿½ke legyen belï¿½lï¿½k, amilyet csak a nyers, fï¿½rfierï¿½s, forrongï¿½ ï¿½s ifjï¿½ San Francisco produkï¿½lhatott.

Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rd akkor mï¿½velte a legbï¿½lcsebb dolgot a fiï¿½val, mikor ebbe a demokrata nevelï¿½be adta. A lelke mï¿½lyï¿½n az ifjï¿½ Dick sohasem felejtette el, hogy palotï¿½ban lakik sok inas kï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½s az apja hatalmas ï¿½s tisztelt ember. Viszont megtanulta a sajï¿½t lï¿½bï¿½n jï¿½rï¿½, sajï¿½t ï¿½klï¿½vel kï¿½zdï¿½ demokrï¿½ciï¿½t. Megtanulta, mikor Sanguinetti Mona az osztï¿½lyban helyesï¿½rï¿½sban legyï¿½zte. Megtanulta, mikor Miller Berney az iskolai cross countryban elï¿½be kerï¿½lt ï¿½s elï¿½tte jï¿½tt be.

ï¿½s mikor Hagan Tim a szï¿½zadik egyenes bal-ï¿½kï¿½lcsapï¿½ssal sujtott vï¿½rzï¿½ orrï¿½ra ï¿½s tï¿½pett szï¿½jï¿½ra ï¿½s kï¿½zben folyton jobb-ï¿½kï¿½lcseleket dï¿½fï¿½tt a gyomrï¿½ba, ï¿½ csak szï¿½delgett ï¿½s fï¿½tyï¿½lve ï¿½s zihï¿½lva szedte a lï¿½lekzetet megnyomorï¿½tott ajkai kï¿½zï¿½tt: palota ï¿½s folyï¿½szï¿½mla itt nem sokat segï¿½thetett. Sajï¿½t lï¿½bï¿½n, sajï¿½t kezï¿½vel: vagy ï¿½, vagy Tim. ï¿½gy, vï¿½rben, verejtï¿½kben, a szï¿½v acï¿½lerejï¿½vel tanulta meg az ifjï¿½ Dick, hogyan kell el nem veszteni egy veszendï¿½ kï¿½zdelmet. A verekedï¿½s a legelsï¿½ csapï¿½stï¿½l kezdve nehï¿½z munka volt, de ï¿½ vï¿½gigvï¿½vta, amig csak ki nem tï¿½nt, hogy egyik sem bï¿½r a mï¿½sikkal, pedig ez csak akkor tï¿½nt ki, mikor mï¿½r mind a ketten ï¿½melygï¿½ gyomorral, teljesen kimerï¿½lve nyï¿½ltak el a fï¿½ldï¿½n ï¿½s patakzï¿½ kï¿½nnyek kï¿½zï¿½tt sï¿½rtï¿½k egymï¿½sra dï¿½hï¿½ket ï¿½s megvetï¿½sï¿½ket. De ettï¿½l kezdve jï¿½ pajtï¿½sok lettek ï¿½s ketten uralkodtak az iskolaudvaron.

Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rd ugyanabban a hï¿½napban halt meg, mikor az ifjï¿½ Dick elvï¿½gezte az algimnï¿½ziumot. Dick tizenhï¿½rom ï¿½ves volt, hï¿½sz milliï¿½ dollï¿½r maradt rï¿½ ï¿½s nem volt egyetlen rokona, aki zavarhatta volna. Ura lett a nagy szemï¿½lyzetï¿½ palotï¿½nak, egy gï¿½zjachtnak, sok istï¿½llï¿½nak, azonfelï¿½l lenn a Floridï¿½ban Mento nï¿½bob kolï¿½niï¿½jï¿½ban egy hatalmas nyaralï¿½nak. Csak egy dolog esett terhï¿½re: a gyï¿½mok.

Egy nyï¿½ri dï¿½lutï¿½n a nagy kï¿½nyvtï¿½rszobï¿½ban ï¿½lte vï¿½gig gyï¿½mjainak elsï¿½ ï¿½rtekezletï¿½t. Hï¿½rman voltak, mind a hï¿½rman ï¿½regek, tekintï¿½lyesek, tï¿½rvï¿½nytisztelï¿½k, atyja ï¿½zleti barï¿½tai. Dicknek, mikor azok mindenfï¿½lï¿½t fejtegettek elï¿½tte, az volt a benyomï¿½sa, hogy jï¿½t akarnak ugyan, de nincs velï¿½k semmi kï¿½zï¿½ssï¿½ge. Azt gondolta rï¿½luk, hogy tï¿½lrï¿½gen voltak olyan fiï¿½gyerekek, mint ï¿½. Nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½ is volt, hogy azt az egy bizonyos fiï¿½gyereket, aki irï¿½nt ï¿½gy ï¿½rdeklï¿½dtek, egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ï¿½rtik. Vï¿½gre is Dick a maga mï¿½djï¿½n magï¿½ban ï¿½gy dï¿½ntï¿½tt, hogy a vilï¿½gon ï¿½ az egyetlen alkalmas szemï¿½ly megmondani, hogy mi neki a legjobb.

Crockett ï¿½r hosszabb beszï¿½det tartott. Dick serï¿½ny ï¿½s kellï¿½ figyelemmel hallgatta vï¿½gig, bï¿½lingatva, valahï¿½nyszor a szavak egyenesen rï¿½ vonatkoztak vagy kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l hozzï¿½ voltak intï¿½zve. Davidson ï¿½s Slocum uraknak szintï¿½n megvolt a maguk mondanivalï¿½ja, ï¿½k is hasonlï¿½ figyelemben rï¿½szesï¿½ltek. Dick tï¿½bbek kï¿½zï¿½tt tudomï¿½sul vette, milyen feddhetetlen, egyenes ember volt az apja ï¿½s megtudta a hï¿½rom ï¿½r kï¿½rï¿½ben mï¿½r elï¿½zetesen elhatï¿½rozott programmot, mely ï¿½t hasonlï¿½an feddhetetlen ï¿½s egyenes emberrï¿½ fogja tenni.

Mikor mindezen tï¿½l voltak, Dick vï¿½llalkozott, hogy ï¿½ is szï¿½l egynï¿½hï¿½ny szï¿½t.

- Vï¿½giggondoltam a dolgot, - jelentette ki - mindenekelï¿½tt el fogok menni dolgozni.

- Ez majd azutï¿½n jï¿½n, fiam, - magyarï¿½zta sï¿½mï¿½n Slocum ï¿½r - mikor... mondjuk, mikor kï¿½sz leszel, hogy beiratkozz az egyetemre. Akkor egy esztendei kï¿½lfï¿½ld nagyon jï¿½ dolog lesz... igazï¿½n nagyon jï¿½.

- Persze, - jelentkezett gyorsan Davidson ï¿½r, mert ï¿½szrevette a gyerek szemï¿½ben a bosszï¿½sï¿½g felvillanï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s az ajkain kiï¿½lï¿½ ï¿½ntudatlan erï¿½-kifejezï¿½st - persze addig is vï¿½gezhetsz valami meghatï¿½rozott mennyisï¿½gï¿½ munkï¿½t a vakï¿½ciï¿½id alatt. Gyï¿½mtï¿½rsaim kï¿½tsï¿½gkï¿½vï¿½l helyeselni fogjï¿½k, hogy az ilyen kis munkï¿½lkodï¿½sok - persze a kellï¿½ vezetï¿½s ï¿½s felï¿½gyelet alatt - az iskolai idï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½ beiktatva, csak tanï¿½csosak ï¿½s ï¿½ldï¿½sosak lehetnek.

- Mennyire becsï¿½lik a vagyonomat? - kï¿½rdezte Dick lï¿½tszï¿½lag kï¿½zï¿½mbï¿½sen.

- Hï¿½sz milliï¿½... a legï¿½vatosabb becslï¿½s szerint kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l ennyi - felelte rï¿½gtï¿½n Crockett ï¿½r.

- ï¿½s ha most azt mondanï¿½m, hogy szï¿½z dollï¿½rt akarok? - folytatta Dick.

- Hï¿½t... hm... izï¿½...

Slocum ï¿½r segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½rt pillantott kï¿½rï¿½l.

- Kï¿½nytelenek volnï¿½nk megkï¿½rdezni, - felelte Crockett ï¿½r - hogy mire akarod.

- ï¿½s feltï¿½ve, - mondta Dick egï¿½sz csendesen, de erï¿½sen a szemï¿½be nï¿½zve Crockett ï¿½rnak - feltï¿½ve, hogy nagyon sajnï¿½lom, de egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem mondom meg?

- Akkor nem kapnï¿½d meg - mondta Crockett ï¿½r olyan gyorsan, hogy a modorï¿½ban valami ï¿½lessï¿½g ï¿½s konoksï¿½g jelentkezett.

Dick lassan bï¿½lintott, mintegy tudomï¿½sul vï¿½ve az informï¿½ciï¿½t.

- Hï¿½t persze, ï¿½des fiam, - kezdte buzgï¿½n Slocum ï¿½r - meg fogod ï¿½rteni: tï¿½lsï¿½gosan kicsi vagy mï¿½g ahoz, hogy pï¿½nzt kezelj. Ebben helyetted nekï¿½nk kell dï¿½nteni.

- Vagyis egy fillï¿½rhez sem nyï¿½lhatok a maguk engedelme nï¿½lkï¿½l?

- Egy fillï¿½rhez sem - csapott le Crockett ï¿½r.

Dick elgondolkozva bï¿½lintott ï¿½s halkan mondta:

- Ja ï¿½gy.

- Persze nagyon termï¿½szetesen az csak magï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½rtetï¿½dik, - mondta Davidson ï¿½r - hogy a szemï¿½lyes kiadï¿½saidra lesz egy kis zsebpï¿½nzed. Mondjuk, hetenkï¿½nt egy dollï¿½r. Vagy mondjuk kï¿½t dollï¿½r. Ahogy nï¿½ni fogsz, ez a zsebpï¿½nz is emelkedik. ï¿½s mikor majd huszonegyï¿½ves leszel, kï¿½tsï¿½gkï¿½vï¿½l teljesen kï¿½pes leszel - persze tanï¿½csokkal - magad vinni a dolgaidat.

- ï¿½s amï¿½g nem leszek huszonegyï¿½ves, addig a hï¿½szmilliï¿½m nem jelent nekem szï¿½z dollï¿½rt, amivel azt csinï¿½lom, ami jï¿½l esik? - kï¿½rdezte nagyon tisztessï¿½gtudï¿½an Dick.

Davidson ï¿½r sima szï¿½lamokban kezdett ï¿½rvelni, de Dick szavai elhallgattattï¿½k.

- Ha jï¿½l ï¿½rtettem, akï¿½rmilyen pï¿½nzï¿½gyem van, azt ï¿½gy nï¿½gyï¿½nknek kell megbeszï¿½lni.

A gyï¿½mok gyï¿½lekezete bï¿½lintott.

- Vagyis akï¿½rmiben megï¿½llapodunk, az aztï¿½n ï¿½gy lesz?

A gyï¿½mok gyï¿½lekezete ismï¿½t bï¿½lintott.

- Hï¿½t akkor szeretnï¿½k most rï¿½gtï¿½n szï¿½z dollï¿½rt.

- Minek? - kï¿½rdezte Crockett ï¿½r.

Azt nem mondom meg, - felelte szilï¿½rdan a fiï¿½ - elmegyek dolgozni.

- Ma este fï¿½l kilenckor elmï¿½gy aludni, - viszonozta Crockett ï¿½r - ï¿½s nem kapsz semmifï¿½le szï¿½z dollï¿½rt. Az a hï¿½lgy, akirï¿½l szï¿½ltunk neked, itt lesz hat ï¿½ra elï¿½tt. Az a dolga, hogy mint mondtuk: naprï¿½l-napra, ï¿½rï¿½rï¿½l-ï¿½rï¿½ra gondja legyen rï¿½d. Fï¿½l hï¿½tkor, ahogy szokï¿½s, enni fogsz, ï¿½ veled eszik, aztï¿½n lefektet. Amint mondtuk, ï¿½ az anya helyï¿½t fogja betï¿½lteni nï¿½lad, gondja lesz rï¿½, hogy meg legyen mosva a nyakad, tiszta legyen a fï¿½led...

- ï¿½s hogy szombaton este megfï¿½rï¿½djem - egï¿½szï¿½tette ki helyette Dick alï¿½zatosan.

- ï¿½gy van.

- Mennyit fizetnek... azaz fizetek ennek a hï¿½lgynek a munkï¿½jï¿½ï¿½rt? - kï¿½rdezte Dick a maga meghï¿½kkentï¿½, fï¿½lï¿½nyes modorï¿½val, amely mï¿½r a sajï¿½t modora volt ï¿½s amelyet osztï¿½lytï¿½rsai ï¿½s tanï¿½rai mï¿½r sajï¿½t tapasztalatbï¿½l ismertek.

Crockett ï¿½r elï¿½szï¿½r egy darabig reszelte a torkï¿½t.

- ï¿½n fizetem, nem? - dï¿½fï¿½tt bele Dick. - A hï¿½szmilliï¿½bï¿½l, tetszik tudni.

- Az apja csï¿½pï¿½ssï¿½ge - jegyezte meg oldalfï¿½lt Slocum ï¿½r.

- Summerston nï¿½ni - mondta Crockett ï¿½r - vagy ahogy te nevezed: ez a hï¿½lgy, havonta szï¿½zï¿½tvenet kap, kereken ezernyolcszï¿½zat ï¿½vente.

- Tiszta pï¿½nzpocsï¿½kolï¿½s, - sï¿½hajtott Dick - ï¿½s mï¿½g hozzï¿½ a koszt ï¿½s a lakï¿½s is.

Felï¿½llott. Nem a nemzedï¿½kek szï¿½letett arisztokrï¿½ciï¿½jï¿½val, hanem a Nob-negyedi palotï¿½ban nevelt tizenhï¿½rom ï¿½ves arisztokrata gyanï¿½nt. ï¿½gy ï¿½llt fel, hogy a gyï¿½mok gyï¿½lekezete vele egyï¿½tt kelt fel a bï¿½rszï¿½kekrï¿½l. ï¿½s ï¿½gy ï¿½llt fel, ahogy Lord Fauntleroy nem ï¿½llt fel soha ï¿½letï¿½ben. Mert Dick ravasz fiï¿½ volt. Mï¿½r tudta, hogy az emberi fajnak ezer arca ï¿½s ezer helyzete van. Nem hiï¿½ba szenvedett veresï¿½get helyesï¿½rï¿½sban Sanguinetti Monï¿½tï¿½l. Nem hiï¿½ba verekedte ki Hagan Timtï¿½l a fegyverszï¿½netet, hogy mint vele egyenrangï¿½ uralkodjï¿½k az iskolaudvar gyerekserege felett.

A pedigrï¿½jï¿½ben megvolt a negyvenkilencediki vad aranykalandorsï¿½g. A nevelï¿½se arisztokratï¿½vï¿½ tette, a gimnï¿½zium demokratï¿½vï¿½. A maga koraï¿½rett gyerekes mï¿½djï¿½n mï¿½r ismerte a kasztok ï¿½s tï¿½megek kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t, aztï¿½n meg megvolt a maga akarata ï¿½s teljes szilï¿½rdsï¿½ga. Ez teljesen ï¿½rthetetlen volt annak a hï¿½rom ï¿½reg ï¿½rnak a szï¿½mï¿½ra, akikre gondozï¿½sa ï¿½s sorsa bï¿½zva volt, ï¿½s akik ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen elhatï¿½roztï¿½k, hogy nï¿½velni fogjï¿½k hï¿½sz milliï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s a sajï¿½t maguk alkotta mintakï¿½p szerint csinï¿½lnak embert belï¿½le.

- Kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½m a szï¿½vessï¿½gï¿½ket, - mondta az ifjï¿½ Dick egyszerre mind a hï¿½romnak - remï¿½lem, jï¿½l fogunk boldogulni. A hï¿½szmilliï¿½ termï¿½szetesen az enyï¿½m ï¿½s a bï¿½csik termï¿½szetesen elvï¿½llaltï¿½k, hogy helyettem vigyï¿½znak rï¿½, mert ï¿½n semmit nem ï¿½rtek ï¿½zlethez...

- ï¿½s mi szaporï¿½tani is fogjuk azt neked, fiam, - biztosï¿½totta Slocum ï¿½r - szaporï¿½tani fogjuk biztos, bevï¿½lt mï¿½dokon.

- Csak semmi spekulï¿½ciï¿½! - ï¿½vta ï¿½ket Dick. - A papa vï¿½letlenï¿½l szerencsï¿½s volt. De hallottam, mikor mondta, hogy mï¿½s idï¿½k jï¿½rnak ï¿½s az ember nem nyï¿½lhat mï¿½r olyan alkalmakhoz, amikhez mindenki nyï¿½lt azelï¿½tt.

Ami eddig tï¿½rtï¿½nt, mï¿½g pedig bï¿½ven, abbï¿½l tï¿½vedï¿½s volna azt kï¿½vetkeztetni, hogy az ifjï¿½ Dick kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½ges ï¿½s pï¿½nzsï¿½vï¿½r termï¿½szetï¿½ lett volna. Ellenkezï¿½leg: azok a titkos gondolatok ï¿½s tervek, amelyek ebben a pillanatban foglalkoztattï¿½k, annyira teljesen figyelmen kï¿½vï¿½l hagytï¿½k ï¿½s megvetettï¿½k a hï¿½szmilliï¿½jï¿½t, mint ahogy nem gondol a pï¿½nzzel a hï¿½romï¿½ves zsoldnapon rï¿½szegen kï¿½romkodï¿½ tengerï¿½sz.

- ï¿½n csak egy fiï¿½ vagyok, - folytatta Dick - de mï¿½g nem tetszenek engem jï¿½l ismerni. Lassankï¿½nt majd jobban ï¿½sszeismerkedï¿½nk, ï¿½s most mï¿½g egyszer kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½m...

Megï¿½llt, szï¿½netet tartott, rï¿½viden ï¿½s nagyszerï¿½en meghajtotta magï¿½t, ahogy a Nob-negyedi palotï¿½k lordjai korï¿½n megtanulnak meghajlani, ï¿½s a szï¿½net minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½vel jelezte, hogy a kihallgatï¿½snak vï¿½ge. Az elbocsï¿½tï¿½s szï¿½ndï¿½kï¿½t gyï¿½mjai ï¿½szre is vettï¿½k. Zavartan ï¿½s megï¿½tï¿½dve tï¿½voztak el, hiszen a fiï¿½ apjï¿½nak voltak a tï¿½rsai. Davidson ï¿½s Slocum urak azon a ponton voltak, hogy zavaruk dï¿½hben keressen kitï¿½rï¿½st, mikor a nagy kï¿½lï¿½pcsï¿½n haladtak lefelï¿½ a vï¿½rakozï¿½ kocsihoz. Csak az ï¿½les ï¿½s konok Crockett ï¿½r morogta elragadtatva:

- Adta csirkefogï¿½ja! Adta kis csirkefogï¿½ja!

A kocsi elvitte ï¿½ket a rï¿½gi Pacific Union Klubhoz, ahol egy ï¿½jabb ï¿½rï¿½n ï¿½t alaposan meghï¿½nytï¿½k-vetettï¿½k az ifjï¿½ Forrest Dick jï¿½vï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s megint fogadkoztak, hogy mï¿½ltï¿½k lesznek a bizalomhoz, amelyet Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rd helyezett belï¿½jï¿½k. Az ifjï¿½ Dick pedig gyalogszerrel sietett le a domboldalon, ahol a kocsiforgalomhoz tï¿½lmeredek uccï¿½k kï¿½veit fï¿½ verte fel. Mikor a magaslat mï¿½gï¿½tte maradt, a nï¿½bobok palotï¿½i ï¿½s tï¿½gas telkei ï¿½tmenet nï¿½lkï¿½l a munkï¿½snï¿½p nyomorï¿½sï¿½gos uccï¿½inak ï¿½s favityillï¿½inak adtak helyet. Az 1887-es San Francisco ï¿½ppen olyan ï¿½tmenet nï¿½lkï¿½l halmozta egyï¿½vï¿½ piszkos negyedeit ï¿½s palotacsoportjait, mint Eurï¿½pa rï¿½gi vï¿½rosai. Mint valami kï¿½zï¿½pkori kastï¿½ly, ï¿½gy emelkedett ki a Nob-domb a mindennapi ï¿½let szennyï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s tï¿½megï¿½bï¿½l, amely ott nyomorgott ï¿½s kuporgott alatta.

Az ifjï¿½ Dick azï¿½rt jï¿½tt, hogy megï¿½llapodjï¿½k egy sarki fï¿½szeresbolt elï¿½tt. A hï¿½z mï¿½sodik emeletï¿½t id. Hagan Timothy bï¿½relte, aki havi szï¿½z dollï¿½rral fizetett rendï¿½r lï¿½vï¿½n, ezen az elï¿½kelï¿½ helyen lakhatott, fï¿½lï¿½tte a tï¿½bbieknek, akik nem tï¿½bb mint havi negyven-ï¿½tven dollï¿½rbï¿½l tartottï¿½k el csalï¿½djaikat.

Dick hiï¿½ba fï¿½tyï¿½rï¿½szett fel valamennyi zsalutlan, nyitott ablakra. Ifj. Hagan Tim nem volt otthon. Nem is vesztegette sokï¿½ a fï¿½ttyï¿½ket. ï¿½ppen vï¿½giggondolta azokat a kï¿½zeli helyeket, ahol Tim lehetett, mikor a sarkon befordult maga Tim, kezï¿½ben egy fedï¿½tlen zsï¿½rosbï¿½dï¿½nnel, amely ezï¿½ttal habzï¿½ sï¿½rt tartalmazott. Vigyorogva ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lte ï¿½s Dick hasonlï¿½an neveletlenï¿½l vigyorogva viszonozta az ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½st, mintha kevï¿½ssel elï¿½bb nem is intï¿½zett volna el a legfï¿½ï¿½ribb modorban egy audienciï¿½t a vilï¿½gvï¿½ros hï¿½rom kereskedelmi kirï¿½lyï¿½val. Hï¿½sz szaporodï¿½ milliï¿½jï¿½nak birtoka barï¿½ti hangjï¿½ban a legkisebb vï¿½ltozï¿½st sem okozta ï¿½s egy cseppet sem enyhï¿½tette vigyorgï¿½sï¿½nak vï¿½sottsï¿½gï¿½t.

- Nem is lï¿½ttalak, - jegyezte meg Tim - miï¿½ta az ï¿½reged meghalt.

- Hï¿½t most lï¿½tsz, nem? Te Tim, azï¿½rt jï¿½ttem, mert valami dolgom van veled.

- Vï¿½rj, mï¿½g odaadom a sï¿½rt az ï¿½regnek, - mondta Tim, gyakorlott pillantï¿½st vetve a zsï¿½rosbï¿½dï¿½n tetejï¿½n ï¿½llï¿½ hab ï¿½llapotï¿½ra - kiordï¿½tja a torkï¿½t, ha leï¿½lepedik a hab.

- ï¿½, azt fel lehet rï¿½zni, - biztosï¿½totta Dick - csak egy percre jï¿½ttem. Ma ï¿½jszaka kereket oldok. Akarsz velem jï¿½nni?

Tim aprï¿½, kï¿½k ï¿½r szemï¿½ben ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½s villant fel.

- Hovï¿½? - kï¿½rdezte.

- Nem tudom. Akarsz? Ha akarsz, akkor megbeszï¿½lhetjï¿½k a tï¿½bbit, ha mï¿½r elindultunk. Te jï¿½l kiismered magad. Mit szï¿½lsz hozzï¿½?

- Az ï¿½reg leharapja a fejemet - tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt Tim.

- Mï¿½r eddig is leharapta, - felelte ï¿½rzï¿½ketlenï¿½l az ifjï¿½ Dick - mï¿½gis megvan a fejed. Ha igent mondasz, este kilenckor talï¿½lkozunk a komphï¿½znï¿½l. No? ï¿½n ott leszek.

- ï¿½s ha ï¿½n nem leszek ott? - kï¿½rdezte Tim.

- Akkor ï¿½n ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy elindulok.

Dick menni kï¿½szï¿½lt, csak ï¿½gy futï¿½lag megï¿½llt ï¿½s a vï¿½llï¿½n keresztï¿½l visszaszï¿½lt:

- Gyere velem, jobb lesz.

Tim felrï¿½zta a sï¿½rt ï¿½s szintï¿½n csak ï¿½gy futï¿½lag vï¿½laszolt:

- Rendben van. Ott leszek.

Miutï¿½n Hagan Timtï¿½l elvï¿½lt, az ifjï¿½ Dick egy jï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½t tï¿½ltï¿½tt el egy bizonyos Markovics felkeresï¿½sï¿½vel. Ez iskolatï¿½rsa volt, horvï¿½t fiï¿½, az apja vendï¿½glï¿½t tartott, amely hï¿½res volt arrï¿½l, hogy itt adjï¿½k az egï¿½sz vï¿½rosban a legjobb hï¿½szcentes ebï¿½det. Az ifjï¿½ Markovics kï¿½t dollï¿½rral tartozott az ifjï¿½ Dicknek ï¿½s az ifjï¿½ Dick egy dollï¿½r ï¿½s negyven cent lefizetï¿½sï¿½t a tartozï¿½s teljes kiegyenlï¿½tï¿½se gyanï¿½nt fogadta el.

Habozva ï¿½s hatï¿½rozatlanul vï¿½gigment aztï¿½n a Montgomery-streeten ï¿½s jï¿½idï¿½ig nem tudott vï¿½lasztani a sok zï¿½loghï¿½z kï¿½zï¿½tt, amelyek ezt az uccï¿½t ï¿½kesï¿½tik. Vï¿½gre nekikeseredve besurrant valamelyikbe ï¿½s kapott nyolc dollï¿½rt meg egy cï¿½dulï¿½t az aranyï¿½rï¿½ja helyett, amelyrï¿½l tudta, hogy legkevesebb ï¿½tvenet megï¿½r.

A Nob-negyedi palotï¿½ban fï¿½l hï¿½tkor terï¿½tettek ebï¿½dre. ï¿½ hï¿½romnegyed hï¿½tkor ï¿½rkezett ï¿½s Summerstonenï¿½val talï¿½lkozott. Summerstonenï¿½ testes, ï¿½reg, tï¿½nkrement ï¿½rnï¿½ volt, a nagy Porter-Rickington-csalï¿½d sarja, amely a hetvenes ï¿½vek kï¿½zepï¿½n az egï¿½sz Pacific-partvidï¿½ket megrendï¿½tette gazdasï¿½gi bukï¿½sï¿½val. Testes volta ellenï¿½re valami betegsï¿½gben szenvedett, amit idegrï¿½zkï¿½dtatï¿½snak szeretett nevezni.

- Ez nagyon, nagyon nem lesz jï¿½, Richï¿½rd. Az ebï¿½d itt vï¿½r egy negyedï¿½rï¿½ja mï¿½r ï¿½s te mï¿½g arcodat-kezedet meg se mostad.

- Ne haragudjï¿½k, Summerstone nï¿½ni, - kï¿½rt bocsï¿½natot az ifjï¿½ Dick - ezentï¿½l nem fogom vï¿½rakoztatni. ï¿½s egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem akarom tï¿½bbet megbosszantani.

Mikor a nagy ebï¿½dlï¿½ben ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½ltek kettesben az asztalnï¿½l, Dick azon iparkodott, hogy elï¿½zï¿½kenyen segï¿½tsen az ï¿½reg hï¿½lgynek, akivel szemben, ha mindjï¿½rt fizetett alkalmazottnak tekintette is, mï¿½gis olyasmit ï¿½rzett, amit a hï¿½zigazda ï¿½rez a vendï¿½g irï¿½nt.

- Nagyon kï¿½nyelmesen fogja itt ï¿½rezni magï¿½t, - ï¿½gï¿½rte neki - ha egyszer elhelyezkedett. Jï¿½, ï¿½reg hï¿½z ez. A legtï¿½bb inas ï¿½vek ï¿½ta van itt.

- Csakhogy, Richï¿½rd - mosolygott rï¿½ komolyan Summerstonenï¿½ - itt nem a szolgï¿½ktï¿½l fï¿½gg az ï¿½n ï¿½letem kellemessï¿½ge. Hanem tï¿½led.

- ï¿½n megteszem a magamï¿½t, - mondta nyï¿½jasan - nem ï¿½gy, mint most. Restellem, hogy elkï¿½stem az ebï¿½dtï¿½l. Hosszï¿½ ï¿½veken ï¿½t nem fogja tï¿½bbet tapasztalni, hogy elkï¿½sek. Egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem akarok bosszï¿½sï¿½got okozni. Majd meglï¿½tja. ï¿½ppen olyan lesz, mintha itt se volnï¿½k a hï¿½zban.

Mikor aludni menet jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nt, utolsï¿½ szï¿½ gyanï¿½nt mï¿½g ezt mondta:

Egy dologra figyelmeztetem, nï¿½ni: Ah Singre. ï¿½ a szakï¿½cs. Nagyon rï¿½gen nï¿½lunk van mï¿½r, nem tudom, lehet huszonï¿½t ï¿½ve vagy harminc is, ï¿½ fï¿½zï¿½tt a papï¿½nak mï¿½r akkor, mikor ez a hï¿½z mï¿½g nem is volt felï¿½pï¿½tve ï¿½s ï¿½n mï¿½g meg sem szï¿½lettem. ï¿½ itt kï¿½lï¿½n elbï¿½nï¿½st kap. ï¿½gy megszokta a maga feje utï¿½n menni, hogy kesztyï¿½s kï¿½zzel kell bï¿½nni vele. De akit egyszer megszeret, azï¿½rt a tï¿½zbe megy. ï¿½gy szeret engem. Hï¿½dï¿½tsa meg a rokonszenvï¿½t ï¿½s akkor ï¿½lete vï¿½gï¿½ig jï¿½ helye lesz itt. ï¿½s mï¿½g egyszer komolyan mondom, nem akarok semmi bosszï¿½sï¿½got okozni. Nagyon rendesen fog menni minden, mintha egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem is volnï¿½k itt.

Kilenc ï¿½rakor mï¿½sodpercre pontosan talï¿½lkoztak az ifjï¿½ Dick ï¿½s Hagan Tim a komphï¿½znï¿½l. Dick a legï¿½cskï¿½bb ruhï¿½it vette fel.

- Semmi ï¿½rtelme ï¿½szaknak indulni, - mondta Tim - arrafelï¿½ jï¿½n a tï¿½l ï¿½s az ember didereg ï¿½lmï¿½ban. Akarsz Keletnek? Arra Nevada van ï¿½s a pusztï¿½k.

- Van mï¿½g mï¿½s? - kï¿½rdezte Dick. - Mi volna dï¿½li irï¿½nyban? Indulhatunk Los Angelesnek, Arizonï¿½nak ï¿½s ï¿½j-Mexikï¿½nak... ï¿½ ï¿½s Texasnak...

- Mennyi pï¿½nzed van? - kï¿½rdezte Tim.

- Miï¿½rt?

- Az a fï¿½, hogy hamar eljussunk innen. Ha az elejï¿½n fizetï¿½nk az utazï¿½sï¿½rt, az gyorsabb. ï¿½n csak olyan akï¿½rki vagyok, de te nem. Azok, akik keresni fognak, teleordï¿½tjï¿½k a vilï¿½got. Tï¿½bb detektï¿½vet fognak kikï¿½ldeni, mint ahï¿½nyat ï¿½letedben lï¿½ttï¿½l. Azokat kell kikerï¿½lni, ez a fï¿½.

- Hï¿½t akkor majd kikerï¿½ljï¿½k ï¿½ket. Aprï¿½ ugrï¿½sokban fogjuk csinï¿½lni az utazï¿½st, mï¿½g pedig kï¿½t napig, vigyï¿½zva kï¿½ltï¿½nk, megfizetjï¿½k a jegyet, amï¿½g elï¿½rï¿½nk Tracybe. Ott beszï¿½ntetjï¿½k a fizetï¿½st ï¿½s megyï¿½nk dï¿½lnek.

Ezt a programot gondosan meg is valï¿½sï¿½tottï¿½k. Vï¿½gï¿½l fizetï¿½ utasok gyanï¿½nt mentek ï¿½t Tracyn ï¿½s hat ï¿½rï¿½val kï¿½sï¿½bb az ottani sheriff-helyettes kiadta a rendeletet a vonatok ï¿½tkutatï¿½sï¿½ra. Fï¿½lï¿½s ï¿½vatossï¿½gbï¿½l Dick Tracyn tï¿½l Modestï¿½ig megfizette a jegyeket. Innen kezdve Tim oktatï¿½sa szerint tehervagï¿½nokban, csomagok kï¿½zt, marhakocsikban ingyen utaztak. Dick ujsï¿½gokat vett ï¿½s rï¿½mï¿½tgette Timet, mikor felolvasta neki a Forrest-milliï¿½k ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½sï¿½nek elraboltatï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ sï¿½tï¿½t rï¿½szleteket.

Otthon San Franciscï¿½ban a gyï¿½mok tï¿½rsasï¿½ga harmincezer dollï¿½r jutalmat tï¿½zï¿½tt ki annak, aki gyï¿½moltjuk nyomï¿½ra vezet. ï¿½s Hagan Tim, mikor valami vï¿½ztartï¿½ly mellett a fï¿½ben hevertek ï¿½s ezt elolvasta, ï¿½rï¿½kre a Dick elmï¿½jï¿½be vï¿½ste azt az igazsï¿½got, hogy a meg nem vï¿½sï¿½rolhatï¿½ becsï¿½let nem valamelyik rang vagy tï¿½rsadalmi osztï¿½ly tulajdona ï¿½s elï¿½fordulhat magasan fenn a palotï¿½ban is, meg lenn a fï¿½szerï¿½zlet feletti lakï¿½sban is.

- Tyhï¿½, - mondta Tim csak ï¿½gy bele a vilï¿½gba - mekkorï¿½t ï¿½vï¿½ltene az ï¿½reg, ha elï¿½rulnï¿½lak ezï¿½rt a harmincezerï¿½rt. Szï¿½gyen erre mï¿½g csak gondolni is.

ï¿½s abbï¿½l, hogy Tim ezt ilyen nyiltan megmondta, Dick tudta jï¿½l: nincs rï¿½ mï¿½d, hogy a rendï¿½r fia elï¿½rulja ï¿½t.

Csak hat hï¿½t mulva Arizonï¿½ban hozta fel megint Dick a dolgot.

- Lï¿½tod, Tim, nekem annyi a pï¿½nzem, mint a szemï¿½t. Folyton szaporodik ï¿½s ï¿½n nem kï¿½ltï¿½k el belï¿½le egy centet sem, pedig Summerstonenï¿½ kerek ezernyolcszï¿½zat szed ki belï¿½lem ï¿½vente, hozzï¿½ mï¿½g kosztot ï¿½s kocsit is, ï¿½n pedig itt veled egyï¿½tt ï¿½rï¿½lï¿½k, ha a fï¿½tï¿½hï¿½zakban meg tudjuk kaparï¿½tani a fï¿½tï¿½k csajkï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l a maradï¿½kot. ï¿½s ezalatt a pï¿½nzem megint csak szaporodik. Mennyi hï¿½szmilliï¿½ dollï¿½rnak a tï¿½z percentje?

Hagan Tim a pusztasï¿½g levegï¿½jï¿½nek remegï¿½ hï¿½hullï¿½maiba meredt ï¿½s prï¿½bï¿½lta megoldani a problï¿½mï¿½t. Dick idegesen kï¿½rdezte:

- Mennyi hï¿½szmilliï¿½nak a tizedrï¿½sze?

- Jï¿½? Hï¿½t persze, hogy kï¿½tmilliï¿½.

- Na lï¿½tod. ï¿½t percent, az tï¿½z percentnek a fele. Mennyit kamatoz hï¿½szmilliï¿½ ï¿½t percenttel egy ï¿½v alatt?

Tim habozott.

- A felï¿½t, - kiï¿½ltotta Dick - kï¿½tmilliï¿½nak a felï¿½t! ï¿½gy minden esztendï¿½ben egy milliï¿½val gazdagabb leszek. Itt van, akaszd fel magad, hallgass ide. Majd mikor mï¿½ltï¿½ztatok visszamenni, de csak hosszï¿½ ï¿½vek mulva, akkor majd elintï¿½zzï¿½k ezt a dolgot, te meg ï¿½n. Majd szï¿½lok, hogy mikor ï¿½rjï¿½l az apï¿½dnak. ï¿½ majd odajï¿½n, ahol vï¿½runk, ï¿½sszepakkol engem ï¿½s hazacipel. Akkor felszedi a harmincezret a gyï¿½mjaimtï¿½l, otthagyja a rendï¿½rsï¿½get ï¿½s bizonyosan vendï¿½glï¿½t fog nyitni.

- Harmincezer, az valami iszonyï¿½ rettentï¿½ sok pï¿½nz.

Ez volt Tim sajï¿½t kï¿½nnyed mï¿½dja, hogy kifejezze a hï¿½lï¿½jï¿½t.

- Nekem nem, - szï¿½llï¿½totta le Dick bï¿½kezï¿½sï¿½ge ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½t - hiszen harmincezer a milliï¿½ban harminchï¿½romszor van meg ï¿½s mï¿½g a milliï¿½ is a pï¿½nzemnek csak egy ï¿½vi jï¿½vedelme.

De Hagan Tim sohasem ï¿½rte meg, hogy apjï¿½t vendï¿½glï¿½snek lï¿½ssa. Egy fï¿½kezï¿½, akinek nem volt okosabb dolga, egy vasï¿½ti viadukt hï¿½dfejï¿½nï¿½l kizavarta a kï¿½t gyereket egy ï¿½res vagï¿½nbï¿½l. A viadukt kiszï¿½radt hegyszakadï¿½kot hidalt ï¿½t. Dick lenï¿½zett a huszonï¿½t mï¿½ter mï¿½ly sziklï¿½kra ï¿½s bosszankodott.

- A viadukton van hely. De mi lesz, ha elindul a vonat?

- Nem fog elindulni. Vï¿½gjatok neki gyalog ï¿½s menjetek ï¿½t a tï¿½lsï¿½ felï¿½re, amï¿½g van idï¿½. A mozdony vizet vesz ezen az oldalon. Mindig itt szokott vizet venni.

Csakhogy most az egyszer a mozdony nem vett vizet. A vizsgï¿½lat kï¿½sï¿½bb megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy a mozdonyvezetï¿½ nem talï¿½lt vizet a ciszternï¿½ban, azï¿½rt indult el. Szï¿½val a kï¿½t fiï¿½ nagy ï¿½ggyel-bajjal mï¿½szott le a vagon oldalajtajï¿½n ï¿½s mï¿½g hï¿½sz lï¿½pï¿½st sem tettek meg a szï¿½k ï¿½ton a vonat elï¿½tt, az mï¿½r mozgï¿½sban volt. Az ifjï¿½ Dick, aki mindig gyorsan, ï¿½s biztosan ï¿½rzï¿½kelt ï¿½s alkalmazkodott, abban a pillanatban nï¿½gykï¿½zlï¿½bra ereszkedett. ï¿½gy szilï¿½rd tï¿½maszkodï¿½ talajt kapott, azonkï¿½vï¿½l tï¿½bb helyet is a sï¿½n mellett, mert egy kicsit be is hï¿½zï¿½dott a teherkocsik felhï¿½gï¿½ja alï¿½. Tim nem volt ilyen gyors az ï¿½szrevevï¿½sben ï¿½s elhatï¿½rozï¿½sban, azonkï¿½vï¿½l a fï¿½kezï¿½ ellen is dolgozott benne a kelta dï¿½h. Ahelyett hogy nï¿½gykï¿½zlï¿½bra ereszkedett volna, egyenesen ï¿½llva maradt, mert a fï¿½kezï¿½rï¿½l valï¿½ vï¿½lemï¿½nyï¿½t meg akarta mondani a fï¿½kezï¿½nek, mï¿½g pedig sï¿½lyos, a fï¿½kezï¿½ szï¿½rmazï¿½sï¿½ra vonatkozï¿½ szavakkal.

- Guggolj le! Kuporodj le! - kiï¿½ltott Dick.

De az alkalom mï¿½r elmï¿½lt. A lejtï¿½s pï¿½lyï¿½n a mozdony gyorsan indï¿½totta maga utï¿½n a vasutat. Tim szemkï¿½zt a mozgï¿½ kocsikkal, hï¿½ta mï¿½gï¿½tt a nagy ï¿½rrel, lent a mï¿½lysï¿½ggel, elkezdett volna lekuporodni. De vï¿½llï¿½nak a legelsï¿½ mozdulatï¿½val hozzï¿½ï¿½rt a kocsihoz ï¿½s hajszï¿½l hï¿½jï¿½n elvesztette az egyensï¿½lyï¿½t. Csodï¿½latos mï¿½don mï¿½gis visszanyerte. De felegyenesedett. A vonat egyre gyorsabban mozgott. Lehetetlen volt lehajolni.

Dick tï¿½rdelve ï¿½s kapaszkodva figyelte. A vasï¿½t egï¿½szen nekilendï¿½lt. A kocsik gyorsan haladtak. Tim hideg fejjel, hï¿½ttal a mï¿½lysï¿½gnek, arccal az elsuhanï¿½ kocsiknak, oldalt tartott karokkal egyensï¿½lyozta magï¿½t ï¿½s ingadozott, sehol sem talï¿½lva lï¿½ba szï¿½mï¿½ra egy pontot, amelyen megï¿½llhasson. Minï¿½l gyorsabban ment a vonat, annï¿½l jobban ingadozott, mï¿½g vï¿½gre erï¿½t vett magï¿½n, ï¿½sszeszedte minden erejï¿½t, ï¿½s szilï¿½rdan megï¿½llt.

ï¿½s minden jï¿½l is ment volna most mï¿½r, ha egy kocsi nem lett volna. Dick tudta ezt ï¿½s lï¿½tta a kocsit jï¿½nni. Ez a szï¿½lesebbfajta lï¿½vagï¿½n volt, amely tizenï¿½t centimï¿½terrel szï¿½lesebben ï¿½ll ki a tï¿½bbi kocsik kï¿½zï¿½l. Lï¿½tta, hogy Tim, aki alkalmazkodni akar a helye hirtelen szï¿½kï¿½lï¿½sï¿½hez, mï¿½g elvesz egy fï¿½l talpalatnyit abbï¿½l a szï¿½k kis tï¿½rsï¿½gbï¿½l is, amelyen ingadozott. Lï¿½tta, hogy Tim lassan ï¿½s elszï¿½ntan hajlik hï¿½trafelï¿½, hajlik a legeslegvï¿½gsï¿½ hatï¿½rig ï¿½s mï¿½g mindig nem hajlik ki eleget. A dolgot fizikailag lehetetlen volt kikerï¿½lni. Mï¿½g kï¿½t centimï¿½ter ï¿½s Tim kikerï¿½li a szï¿½les kocsit. Mï¿½g kï¿½t centimï¿½ter ï¿½s a kocsitï¿½l ï¿½rintetlenï¿½l ugyan, de lezuhan. A kocsi ezen a kï¿½t centimï¿½teres szalagon kapta el, meglï¿½kte ï¿½s oldalï¿½nï¿½l fogva megpï¿½rgette. Kï¿½tszer perdï¿½lt kï¿½rï¿½l oldalra ï¿½s kï¿½t ï¿½s fï¿½lszer fordult bukfencet, mï¿½g lenn fejï¿½vel ï¿½s nyakï¿½val a sziklï¿½kra zuhant.

Ahogy lezuhant, tï¿½bbet nem is mozdult. A huszonï¿½tmï¿½teres zuhanï¿½s kitï¿½rte a nyakï¿½t ï¿½s szï¿½tzï¿½zta a koponyï¿½jï¿½t. Az ifjï¿½ Dick itt ismerte meg a halï¿½lt. Nem a civilizï¿½ciï¿½ rendezett, tisztes halï¿½lï¿½t, ahol orvosok, ï¿½polï¿½nï¿½k ï¿½s injekciï¿½k segï¿½tik ï¿½t a megï¿½rettet a sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½gbe ï¿½s ahol ceremï¿½niï¿½k ï¿½s papi segï¿½dletek ï¿½s virï¿½gok ï¿½s temetkezï¿½si vï¿½llalatok fognak ï¿½ssze, hogy kellemes bï¿½csï¿½t ï¿½s tï¿½vozï¿½st adjanak az elmenï¿½ ï¿½rnyï¿½knak, hanem a hirtelen halï¿½lt, a primitï¿½v halï¿½lt, a csï¿½f ï¿½s dï¿½sztelen halï¿½lt, amilyen a marhï¿½ï¿½ a vï¿½gï¿½hï¿½don, vagy a torkondï¿½fï¿½tt kï¿½vï¿½r disznï¿½ï¿½.

Az ifjï¿½ Dick tï¿½bbet is megismert itt: az ï¿½let ï¿½s balsors vï¿½gzetï¿½t, az ember egyetemes ellensï¿½gï¿½t, annak a szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½t, hogy ï¿½szrevegyï¿½nk ï¿½s cselekedjï¿½nk, hogy lï¿½ssunk ï¿½s tudjunk, hogy biztosak ï¿½s gyorsak legyï¿½nk, hogy egy pillanat alatt alkalmazkodjunk az ï¿½letet fentartï¿½ erï¿½k egyensï¿½lyï¿½nak minden pillanatnyi eltolï¿½dï¿½sï¿½hoz. ï¿½s ezenfelï¿½l itt ismerte meg, a mellett a halï¿½lra borzadt ï¿½s ï¿½sszetï¿½rt tetem mellett, amely elï¿½bb a pajtï¿½sa volt, hogy az illï¿½ziï¿½kkal le kell szï¿½molni ï¿½s a valï¿½sï¿½g sohasem hazudik.

ï¿½j-Mexikï¿½ban Dick elvetï¿½dï¿½tt a Csengï¿½bokrï¿½ta-farmra, Roswelltï¿½l ï¿½szakra a Pecos-vï¿½lgyben. Mï¿½g nem volt tizennï¿½gy ï¿½ves, mikor mint a farm ï¿½dvï¿½skï¿½je itt ragadt ï¿½s hamarosan elï¿½g biztosan ï¿½lï¿½ cowboyt csinï¿½ltak belï¿½le a cowboyok, akik hivatalos okmï¿½nyokon hivatalosan ï¿½rtak alï¿½ olyan neveket, mint Vad Lï¿½, Bak Willie, Dï¿½ngï¿½ Mester ï¿½s Magas Zseb.

Itt hat hï¿½nap alatt a karcsï¿½ nï¿½vï¿½sï¿½, szï¿½vï¿½s fiï¿½ alaposan megismerkedett a lï¿½val, a lovas-ï¿½lettel ï¿½s a durva ï¿½s nyers emberekkel, aminek aztï¿½n egï¿½sz ï¿½letï¿½ben alapvetï¿½ hasznï¿½t vette. De tanult egyebet is. Itt volt Chisum John, tulajdonosa a Csengï¿½bokrï¿½tï¿½nak, a Nagyerdï¿½nek ï¿½s mï¿½s nagy ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½ telepeknek egï¿½szen a fekete folyï¿½ig ï¿½s mï¿½g azon tï¿½l is. Chisum John kirï¿½lya volt a marhatenyï¿½sztï¿½snek, aki elï¿½re lï¿½tta a farmer jï¿½vï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s a nyilt marhatelepekrï¿½l ï¿½ttï¿½rt a szï¿½gesdrï¿½tra ï¿½s aki megvett minden szï¿½z holdat, ha a szï¿½z hold vizet adott, aztï¿½n megkapta egy fï¿½lesgombï¿½rt a bï¿½rletï¿½t a szomszï¿½d telepek szï¿½zezer holdjainak, mert ezek ï¿½rtï¿½ktelenek voltak a vï¿½z nï¿½lkï¿½l, amely felett ï¿½ parancsolt. ï¿½s a tï¿½bori tï¿½z ï¿½s a konyhakocsi melletti beszï¿½lgetï¿½sek alatt a havi negyven dollï¿½ros cowboyok kï¿½zï¿½tt, akik nem lï¿½ttï¿½k elï¿½re, amit Chisum John elï¿½re lï¿½tott, Dick pontosan megtanulta, hogyan ï¿½s miï¿½rt lett Chisum John farmkirï¿½ly, mialatt kortï¿½rsainak ezre bï¿½rï¿½rt dolgozott nï¿½la.

Hidegvï¿½rï¿½ azonban nem volt az ifjï¿½ Dick. A vï¿½re forrt. Szenvedï¿½ly, tï¿½z ï¿½s fï¿½rfiassï¿½g lakott benne. Mikor sï¿½rni szeretett volna, hogy hï¿½sz ï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½lt nyeregben, megtanulta, hogy kell ï¿½gyet nem vetni ï¿½zï¿½letei ezer fï¿½jdalmas csikorgï¿½sï¿½ra ï¿½s a nï¿½masï¿½g sztoikus bï¿½szkesï¿½gï¿½vel tartï¿½zkodni az alvï¿½stï¿½l, mï¿½g kemï¿½nyszï¿½jï¿½ paripï¿½jï¿½t be nem tï¿½rte. ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt is megï¿½lte a lovat, amit rï¿½osztottak, ragaszkodott az ï¿½jszakai csorda mellett valï¿½ inspekciï¿½hoz ï¿½s a bizonytalansï¿½g semmi nyomï¿½t nem mutatta, mikor rajta volt a sor, hogy viaszkosvï¿½szon lebernyegï¿½vel csapkodva a marhï¿½kat, megfordï¿½tsa a megbokrosodott csorda rohanï¿½ szï¿½rnyï¿½t. ï¿½rzï¿½ke volt a vakmerï¿½ kockï¿½zathoz. ï¿½s ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½t lelte ebben. De ilyenkor sohasem vï¿½tette el a realitï¿½s irï¿½nt valï¿½ kï¿½teles tiszteletet. Nagyon jï¿½l tudta, hogy az ember vï¿½konyhï¿½jï¿½ alkotmï¿½ny ï¿½s kï¿½nnyen betï¿½ri a koponyï¿½jï¿½t kemï¿½ny sziklï¿½kon vagy sï¿½lyos patï¿½k alatt. ï¿½s ha visszautasï¿½totta azt a lovat, amely gyors munkï¿½ban ï¿½sszezavarta a lï¿½bait ï¿½s megbotlott, nem azï¿½rt tette, mintha fï¿½lt volna, hogy nyakï¿½t fogja tï¿½rni, hanem mert ha mï¿½r arrï¿½l volt szï¿½, hogy kitï¿½rje a nyakï¿½t, akkor, mint ahogy Chisum Johnnak maga mondta, »azï¿½rt a pï¿½nzï¿½rt mï¿½r maga csinï¿½lja meg«.

Mï¿½g a Csengï¿½bokrï¿½ta-idï¿½ben levelet ï¿½rt a gyï¿½mjainak, amit egy chicagï¿½i marhakereskedï¿½ vï¿½llalt magï¿½ra. Mï¿½g akkor is olyan tapintatos volt, hogy a borï¿½tï¿½kra az Ah Sing cï¿½mï¿½t ï¿½rta. ï¿½mbï¿½r elvetette magï¿½tï¿½l a hï¿½szmilliï¿½ja gondjï¿½t, de nem felejtette el. Fï¿½lvï¿½n, hogy a vagyonï¿½t mï¿½g felosztjï¿½k tï¿½voli rokonok kï¿½zï¿½tt, akik esetleg az ï¿½szakkeleti tartomï¿½nyokban ï¿½lhettek, figyelmeztette a gyï¿½mokat, hogy mï¿½g ï¿½l ï¿½s nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½v mulva haza fog menni. Ugyancsak meghagyta nekik, hogy Summerstonenï¿½t a rendes fizetï¿½sï¿½vel tartsï¿½k meg tovï¿½bb.

De a lï¿½ba viszketett. ï¿½gy ï¿½rezte, hogy a fï¿½lesztendï¿½ jï¿½val tï¿½bb, mint amennyit a Csengï¿½bokrï¿½tï¿½nak szentelhetett. Mint egy csavargï¿½gyerek, hï¿½nyï¿½dott-vetï¿½dï¿½tt keresztï¿½l-kasul az egï¿½sz Egyesï¿½lt-ï¿½llamokon ï¿½s megismerkedett az orszï¿½g bï¿½kebï¿½rï¿½ival, rendï¿½rtisztjeivel, csavargï¿½tï¿½rvï¿½nyeivel ï¿½s foghï¿½zaival. Kï¿½zvetlen ismeretsï¿½gbe kerï¿½lt magukkal a csavargï¿½kkal, akik kis munkï¿½ra indultak ï¿½s megismerkedett a kis bï¿½ntettekkel is. Megismerkedett sok minden egyï¿½b kï¿½zï¿½tt farmokkal ï¿½s farmerekkel ï¿½s egyszer New-York ï¿½llamban egy hï¿½tig szedett epret egy hollandi farmernï¿½l, aki az Egyesï¿½lt-ï¿½llamok terï¿½letï¿½n egyik legelsï¿½ silï¿½ alapï¿½tï¿½sï¿½val kï¿½sï¿½rletezett. Amit megtanult, az mind nem a tanulmï¿½nyozï¿½s szellemï¿½ben kerï¿½lt a fejï¿½be. Csak a fiatalos emberi ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½s volt meg benne minden irï¿½nt ï¿½s egyelï¿½re csak az emberi termï¿½szetre ï¿½s a szociï¿½lis feltï¿½telekre vonatkozï¿½ rengeteg adatot szedett fel, ami aztï¿½n a kï¿½sï¿½bbi ï¿½vekben esett jï¿½l neki, mikor kï¿½nyvekkel a kezï¿½ben emï¿½sztette ï¿½s osztï¿½lyozta ï¿½ket.

A kalandjai nem ï¿½rtottak neki. Mikor erdei tanyï¿½kon akasztï¿½favirï¿½gokkal keveredett ï¿½ssze ï¿½s hallgatta erkï¿½lcsi tï¿½teleiket ï¿½s ï¿½letfelfogï¿½sukat, mindez nem mï¿½telyezte meg. Utas volt, a tï¿½bbiek idegenfajï¿½ lï¿½nyek. Biztos lï¿½vï¿½n hï¿½szmilliï¿½jï¿½nak tudatï¿½ban, sem szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½t, sem kï¿½sï¿½rtï¿½sï¿½t nem ï¿½rezte annak, hogy lopjon vagy raboljon. Minden tï¿½rgy, minden hely ï¿½rdekelte, de sohasem talï¿½lt olyan helyet vagy ï¿½llapotot, amely lekï¿½tï¿½tte volna. Lï¿½tni akart, mennï¿½l tï¿½bbet lï¿½tni, aztï¿½n tovï¿½bb menni ï¿½s megint lï¿½tni.

Hï¿½rom ï¿½v leteltï¿½vel, majdnem tizenhat ï¿½ves korï¿½ban, testben edzetten, hatvan kilï¿½ra erï¿½sï¿½dve, ï¿½gy ï¿½tï¿½lte, hogy ideje hazamenni ï¿½s belenï¿½zni a kï¿½nyvekbe. ï¿½gy vï¿½gott neki elsï¿½ nagy utazï¿½sï¿½nak, beï¿½llott inasnak egy rozzant vitorlï¿½sra, amely a Delaware-ï¿½bï¿½ltï¿½l a Hoorn-fokot megkerï¿½lve volt San Franciscï¿½ba menendï¿½. Kemï¿½ny ï¿½t volt, szï¿½znyolcvan napig tartott, de Dick a vï¿½gï¿½n ï¿½t kilï¿½val nehezebb lett tï¿½le.

Summerstonenï¿½ rï¿½mï¿½lten sikoltozott, mikor Dick odalï¿½pett elï¿½je. Be kellett hï¿½vni Ah Singet a konyhï¿½rï¿½l, hogy a fiï¿½ szemï¿½lyazonossï¿½gï¿½t megï¿½llapï¿½tsa. Akkor Summerstonenï¿½ mï¿½sodszor is sikoltozott. Mï¿½g pedig attï¿½l, hogy Dick kezet fogott vele ï¿½s az ï¿½ ï¿½rzï¿½keny bï¿½rï¿½t a kemï¿½ny fogï¿½snï¿½l valï¿½sï¿½ggal reszelte a fiï¿½ kï¿½tï¿½ltï¿½l kï¿½rges tenyere.

Fï¿½lszegsï¿½gï¿½ben szinte zavartnak lï¿½tszott, mikor a sï¿½rgï¿½sen ï¿½sszeharangozott talï¿½lkozï¿½n ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lte a gyï¿½mjait. De azï¿½rt egyenesen rï¿½tï¿½rt a dolog velejï¿½re.

- Hï¿½t ez az, - mondta - nem vagyok szamï¿½r. Tudom, hogy mit akarok ï¿½s amit akarok, azt akarom. Egyedï¿½l ï¿½llok a vilï¿½gon, az ï¿½nï¿½khï¿½z hasonlï¿½ jï¿½barï¿½tokat nem szï¿½mï¿½tva persze, ï¿½s megvan a magam kï¿½lï¿½n felfogï¿½sa a vilï¿½grï¿½l, meg arrï¿½l, amit csinï¿½lni akarok benne. Nem azï¿½rt jï¿½ttem haza, mintha itt akï¿½rki irï¿½nt valami kï¿½telessï¿½get ï¿½reztem volna. Azï¿½rt jï¿½ttem haza, mert itt volt az ideje, mert kï¿½telessï¿½get ï¿½reztem sajï¿½t magam irï¿½nt. Ettï¿½l a hï¿½romï¿½vi vï¿½ndorlï¿½stï¿½l sokkal jobban ï¿½rzem magam ï¿½s most rï¿½kerï¿½lt a sor, hogy folytassam a nevelï¿½semet. Tudniillik az iskolai nevelï¿½semet.

- A Belmont-fï¿½gimnï¿½zium, - ajï¿½nlotta Slocum ï¿½r - az elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½t az egyetemre...

Dick hatï¿½rozottan ingatta fejï¿½t.

- Hï¿½rom ï¿½vet tï¿½ltsek el vele? Az egyetem is annyi. ï¿½n egy ï¿½ven belï¿½l a kaliforniai egyetemre szï¿½ndï¿½kozom jï¿½rni. Ez kemï¿½ny munkï¿½t jelent. De az eszem olyan, mint a sav. Marni fogja a kï¿½nyveket. Fogadok egy magï¿½ntanï¿½tï¿½t, vagy akï¿½r egy fï¿½ltucatot, ï¿½s nekimegyek. Mï¿½g pedig magam akarom ï¿½ket felfogadni. Felfogadni is, elkï¿½ldeni is. De ehhez pï¿½nz kell a kezembe.

- Szï¿½z dollï¿½r havonta - indï¿½tvï¿½nyozta Crockett ï¿½r.

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Hï¿½rom ï¿½vig minden pï¿½nz nï¿½lkï¿½l magam viseltem a gondomat. Azt hiszem, gondomat tudom viselni itt San Franciscï¿½ban is a magam pï¿½nzï¿½bï¿½l valamivel. Az ï¿½zleti ï¿½gyeimet mï¿½g nem akarom magam intï¿½zni, de folyï¿½szï¿½mlï¿½t akarok, tisztessï¿½ges ï¿½sszegï¿½ folyï¿½szï¿½mlï¿½t. ï¿½gy akarom kiadni, ahogy jï¿½nak lï¿½tom, amire jï¿½nak lï¿½tom.

A gyï¿½mok kelletlenï¿½l nï¿½zegettek egymï¿½sra.

- Nevetsï¿½ges, ez lehetetlen, - kezdte Crockett ï¿½r - ï¿½ppen olyan meggondolatlan vagy, mint mikor elmentï¿½l.

- ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, ez mindig ï¿½gy van velem, - sï¿½hajtotta Dick - akkor is a pï¿½nzem miatt volt a baj. Akkor szï¿½z dollï¿½rt akartam.

- Gondolj a helyzetï¿½nkre, Dick, - ï¿½rvelt Davidson ï¿½r - a gyï¿½mjaid vagyunk. Milyen szï¿½nezete volna annak, ha neked, tizenhat ï¿½ves fickï¿½nak, pï¿½nzdolgokban szabad kezet adnï¿½nk?

- Mennyit ï¿½r most a Frï¿½da? - kï¿½rdezte Dick kï¿½zï¿½mbï¿½sen.

- Hï¿½szezret bï¿½rmikor lehet ï¿½rte kapni - felelte Crockett ï¿½r.

- Hï¿½t akkor adjï¿½k el. Tï¿½lnagy nekem ï¿½s ï¿½vrï¿½l-ï¿½vre kevesebbet ï¿½r. ï¿½n egy tï¿½zmï¿½teres jachtot szeretnï¿½k, amit magam el tudjak vezetni, ha kï¿½rï¿½l akarok szaladni az ï¿½bï¿½lben. Az ezernï¿½l is olcsï¿½bb. Adjï¿½k el a Frï¿½dï¿½t ï¿½s az ï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½rjï¿½k a folyï¿½szï¿½mlï¿½mra. Maguk hï¿½rman attï¿½l fï¿½lnek, hogy elpocsï¿½kolom a pï¿½nzemet, ivï¿½sra, lï¿½versenyre adom magam ï¿½s kï¿½ristalï¿½nyokkal jï¿½rom a bolondjï¿½t. Van egy indï¿½tvï¿½nyom, hogy ez ne okozzon gondot: ï¿½rjï¿½k a szï¿½mlï¿½t a nï¿½gyï¿½nk nevï¿½re. Abban a pillanatban, mihelyt egyikï¿½k ï¿½gy talï¿½lja, hogy pocsï¿½kolom a pï¿½nzt, tï¿½rï¿½lhetik az egï¿½sz szï¿½mlï¿½t. Megmondhatom azt is, hogy csak ï¿½gy mellesleg egy kereskedelmi iskolai szakembert akarok idejï¿½ratni, hogy az ï¿½zleti technikï¿½ba beleï¿½ssem az orromat.

Dick nem vï¿½rta a hozzï¿½jï¿½rulï¿½sukat, hanem folytatta, mint aki vï¿½gleg leszegezte a dolgot.

- Mi van lenn Menloban a lovakkal? Bï¿½zzï¿½k csak rï¿½m, majd megnï¿½zem ï¿½ket ï¿½s megmondom, mit csinï¿½lunk. Summerstonenï¿½ itt marad vezetni a hï¿½zat, mert nekem nagyon sok dolgom van, amit mï¿½r kicirkalmaztam magamnak. Igï¿½rem, nem fogjï¿½k megbï¿½nni, hogy a kï¿½zvetlen szemï¿½lyes ï¿½gyeimben szabad kezet adtak nekem. ï¿½s most, ha akarnak hallani egyetmï¿½st a lefolyt hï¿½rom esztendï¿½rï¿½l, elkezdhetem a mesï¿½t.

Forrest Dick igazat mondott, mikor azt mondta a gyï¿½mjainak, hogy az esze olyan, mint a sav ï¿½s marni fogja a kï¿½nyveket. Soha mï¿½g nem neveltek ï¿½gy diï¿½kot, ï¿½s az egï¿½szet ï¿½ maga vezette. De nem tanï¿½cs nï¿½lkï¿½l. Apjï¿½tï¿½l megtanulta azt az ï¿½gyessï¿½get, hogy koponyï¿½kat bï¿½reljen ï¿½s megtanulta a Csengï¿½bokrï¿½tï¿½n Chisum Johntï¿½l is. Rï¿½szoktatta magï¿½t, hogy csendesen ï¿½ljï¿½n ï¿½s az eszï¿½t dolgoztassa, mikor a hajcsï¿½rok tï¿½bori tï¿½z meg a konyhakocsi kï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½lgettek. Most a nevï¿½nek ï¿½s rangjï¿½nak sï¿½lyï¿½val tudott olyan beszï¿½lgetï¿½sek kï¿½rï¿½be jutni, amiket tanï¿½rok, egyetemi tudï¿½sok, gyakorlati ï¿½zletemberek folytattak; ï¿½rï¿½kon ï¿½t hallgatta mit beszï¿½lnek, alig szï¿½lt, ritkï¿½n kï¿½rdezett, csak hallgatta a javï¿½t annak, amit adhattak, megelï¿½gedvï¿½n, hogy ï¿½rï¿½k sorï¿½n ï¿½t egyetlen gondolatot, egyetlen tï¿½nyt kap, olyat, amely segï¿½tett eldï¿½ntenie, milyenszerï¿½ tanulmï¿½nyokra vesse magï¿½t ï¿½s hogyan.

Aztï¿½n jï¿½tt az oktatï¿½k fï¿½lfogadï¿½sa. ï¿½gy mï¿½g sohasem szerzï¿½dtettek, bocsï¿½tottak el, hï¿½vtak ï¿½s kï¿½ldtek tanï¿½tï¿½kat. Nem takarï¿½koskodott. Olyanï¿½rt, akit egy hï¿½napra vagy hï¿½rom hï¿½napra tartott meg, az elsï¿½ nap, vagy az elsï¿½ hï¿½ten egy tucatot kï¿½ldï¿½tt el. Minden felmondï¿½skor kiadott egy teljes havi fizetï¿½st akkor is, ha az illetï¿½ ï¿½sszesen egy ï¿½rï¿½t sem foglalkozott vele. Elegï¿½nsan ï¿½s gavallï¿½rosan csinï¿½lta az ilyesmit, mert megengedhette magï¿½nak, hogy elegï¿½ns ï¿½s gavallï¿½ros legyen.

Mikor fï¿½tï¿½k csajkï¿½inak a maradï¿½kï¿½t ette a barakokban ï¿½s hulladï¿½k-levest, alaposan megtanulta a pï¿½nz ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½t. Azzal a biztos tudattal vette meg a legjobbat, hogy az a legolcsï¿½bb. Hogy beiratkozzï¿½k az egyetemre, ahoz egy esztendei kï¿½zï¿½piskolai fizikï¿½ra ï¿½s egy esztendei kï¿½zï¿½piskolai kï¿½miï¿½ra lett volna szï¿½ksï¿½g. Mikor az algebrï¿½t ï¿½s geometriï¿½t mï¿½r megette, kikereste a kaliforniai egyetem legkitï¿½nï¿½bb fizikus ï¿½s kï¿½mikus tudï¿½sait. Carey professzor elï¿½szï¿½r kinevette.

- Drï¿½ga fiam... - kezdte a mondï¿½kï¿½jï¿½t.

Dick tï¿½relmesen vï¿½gigvï¿½rta, amit beszï¿½lt. Aztï¿½n ï¿½ kezdte ï¿½s az egï¿½szet ï¿½sszefoglalta.

- ï¿½n nem vagyok szamï¿½r, professzor ï¿½r. A gimnazistï¿½k gyerekek. Nem ismerik a vilï¿½got. Nem tudjï¿½k, mit akarnak, vagy mï¿½rt akarjï¿½k, amit tï¿½lcsï¿½rrel tï¿½ltenek belï¿½jï¿½k. ï¿½n ismerem a vilï¿½got. Tudom, hogy mit akarok ï¿½s mï¿½rt akarom. ï¿½k heti kï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½n ï¿½t tanulnak fizikï¿½t kï¿½t iskolai fï¿½lï¿½vig, ami a kï¿½t vakï¿½ciï¿½val egy naptï¿½ri esztendï¿½t tesz ki. ï¿½n a Pacific legelsï¿½ fizikatanï¿½ra. Az iskolaï¿½vnek ï¿½ppen most van vï¿½ge. Azt az egy esztendei fizikï¿½t megkaphatom az ï¿½n szï¿½nidejï¿½nek elsï¿½ hete alatt, ha az idejï¿½nek minden percï¿½t nekem adja. Mit ï¿½r ï¿½nnek ez a hï¿½t?

- Azt ezer dollï¿½rï¿½rt sem kapja meg, - jelentette ki Carey professzor, ï¿½gy gondolvï¿½n, hogy ezzel a kï¿½rdï¿½st el is intï¿½zte.

- ï¿½n tudom, hogy mennyi az ï¿½n fizetï¿½se... - kezdte Dick.

- Mennyi? - kï¿½rdezte ï¿½lesen a professzor.

- Nincs ezer dollï¿½r hetenkï¿½nt, - viszonozta ugyanolyan ï¿½lesen Dick - nincs ï¿½tszï¿½z sem egy hï¿½ten, sï¿½t kï¿½tszï¿½zï¿½tven sem.

Fï¿½lemelte a kezï¿½t, hogy a kï¿½zbeszï¿½lï¿½st megakadï¿½lyozza.

- ï¿½n azt mondta, hogy az idejï¿½bï¿½l egy hetet sem tudok megvenni ezer dollï¿½rï¿½rt. Hï¿½t nem is veszem. Hanem megveszem kï¿½tezerï¿½rt. Istenem, hiszen olyan sok ï¿½vem van...

- ï¿½veket is tudna venni? - kï¿½rdezte hamisan Carey professzor.

- Hogyne. Azï¿½rt vagyok itt. Egy ï¿½vvel megveszek hï¿½rmat ï¿½s az ï¿½n egy hete is egy rï¿½sze ennek.

- Csakhogy ï¿½n mï¿½g nem csaptam bele - nevetett Carey professzor.

- Ha az ï¿½sszeg kevï¿½s, - mondta makacsul Dick - mondja meg azt az ï¿½sszeget, ami megfelel.

ï¿½s Carey professzor megadta magï¿½t. Ugyanï¿½gy Barsdale professzor is, a legkitï¿½nï¿½bb kï¿½mikus.

ï¿½s mï¿½r elvitte magï¿½val hetekig tartï¿½ kacsalesre a matematikai oktatï¿½it a Sacramento ï¿½s a San Joaquin mocsaraiba. Miutï¿½n megbirkï¿½zott a fizikï¿½val ï¿½s kï¿½miï¿½val, kï¿½t tanï¿½rï¿½t, akik tï¿½rtï¿½nelemre ï¿½s irodalomra oktattï¿½k, meghï¿½vta kacsalesre a dï¿½lnyugati Oregonba a Curry County-vadï¿½szterï¿½letre. Ezt az apjï¿½tï¿½l tanulta. Dolgozott, szï¿½rakozott, szabad levegï¿½n ï¿½lt ï¿½s megerï¿½ltetï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l vï¿½gigcsinï¿½lta a kï¿½zï¿½piskolai oktatï¿½s hï¿½rom esztendejï¿½t egy esztendï¿½ alatt. Halï¿½szott, vadï¿½szott, ï¿½szott, tornï¿½szott ï¿½s kï¿½szï¿½lt az egyetemre egyszerre. ï¿½s nem csinï¿½lt ballï¿½pï¿½st. Tudta, hogy azï¿½rt tesz ï¿½gy, mert az apja hï¿½sz milliï¿½ja hatalmat adott neki. A pï¿½nzt eszkï¿½znek nï¿½zte. Sem tï¿½l nem becsï¿½lte, sem le nem nï¿½zte. Arra hasznï¿½lta, hogy megvegye, amit akar.

- A legbï¿½mulatosabb mï¿½dja a pï¿½nzpocsï¿½kolï¿½snak, amit valaha hallottam, - mondta Crockett ï¿½r, mikor Dick folyï¿½szï¿½mlï¿½jï¿½t erre az ï¿½vre felemelte. - Tizenhatezer dollï¿½r ment el tanulï¿½sra, minden tï¿½tel szï¿½mlï¿½zva, beleï¿½rtve a vasï¿½ti kï¿½ltsï¿½get, a borravalï¿½kat, meg a tanï¿½tï¿½inak serï¿½tes patrï¿½njait.

- De a vizsgï¿½it letette - mondta szï¿½nokiasan Slocum ï¿½r.

- Mï¿½g pedig egy ï¿½v alatt, - morogta Davidson ï¿½r. - A lï¿½nyomnak a fia ugyanakkor iratkozott be a Belmontba ï¿½s ha szerencsï¿½je lesz, mï¿½g kï¿½t esztendï¿½be telik, amï¿½g beiratkozhatik az egyetemre.

- Hï¿½t ï¿½n csak annyit mondhatok, - jelentette ki Crockett ï¿½r - hogy ezentï¿½l ez a fiï¿½ akï¿½rmit mond a pï¿½nze dolgï¿½ban, az rendben van.

- Most ï¿½j fï¿½ba vï¿½gom a fejszï¿½met - mondta Dick a gyï¿½mjainak. - Itt vagyok megint ï¿½s a hï¿½tam mï¿½gï¿½tt a tapasztalï¿½s ï¿½vei vannak. Hï¿½t most mï¿½r tudok mindenfï¿½lï¿½t, jï¿½t, rosszat, kicsit, nagyot emberekrï¿½l, asszonyokrï¿½l, ï¿½letrï¿½l, olyasmit is, amiben nï¿½ha magam is kï¿½telkedem, hogy igaz-e. De tudom. Mostantï¿½l kezdve nem fogok rohanni. Amit kellett, behoztam. Most mï¿½r szabï¿½lyosan folytatom. Csak az ï¿½vfolyamok tempï¿½jï¿½hoz kell magamat tartanom ï¿½s huszonegyï¿½ves koromban diplomï¿½m lesz. Mï¿½tï¿½l kezdve kevesebb pï¿½nzre van szï¿½ksï¿½gem a tanulï¿½shoz - tudniillik nincs tï¿½bb magï¿½ntanï¿½tï¿½ - ï¿½s tï¿½bb pï¿½nz kell mulatsï¿½gra.

Davidson ï¿½r gyanakodott.

- Mit ï¿½rtesz mulatsï¿½g alatt?

- ï¿½, futballozni fogok, rendben tartom magam, azonkï¿½vï¿½l ï¿½rdekelnek a benzinmotorok. Meg akarom ï¿½pï¿½teni a vilï¿½g elsï¿½ ï¿½ceï¿½njï¿½rï¿½ benzinjachtjï¿½t.

- Fel fogod magad robbantani - bï¿½kï¿½tlenkedett Crockett ï¿½r. - ï¿½rï¿½lt ï¿½tlet, hogy ezek a hibbantfejï¿½ek egyszerre mind odavannak a benzinï¿½rt.

- Bebiztosï¿½tom magam, - felelte Dick - vagyis kï¿½sï¿½rletezni fogok elï¿½bb, vagyis ehez pï¿½nz kell, vagyis kï¿½rek egy jï¿½ kis folyï¿½szï¿½mlï¿½t, csak ï¿½gy, ahogy szoktuk, mind a nï¿½gyï¿½nk alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ra.

Forrest Dick az egyetemen nem bizonyult csodï¿½nak. Legfeljebb abban volt kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s, hogy az elsï¿½ ï¿½v alatt tï¿½bb ï¿½rï¿½t mulasztott, mint akï¿½rmelyik hallgatï¿½. Nem volt szï¿½ksï¿½ge azokra az ï¿½rï¿½kra, amiket elmulasztott, ï¿½s ezt jï¿½l tudta. Oktatï¿½i, mikor a felvï¿½teli vizsgï¿½kra elkï¿½szï¿½tettï¿½k, szinte az egï¿½sz elsï¿½ egyetemi ï¿½vet ï¿½tvettï¿½k vele. ï¿½gy mellesleg megszervezte a gï¿½lyï¿½k sportcsapatï¿½t, amely gyï¿½ngï¿½cske volt bizony, minden rendï¿½ ï¿½s rangï¿½ iskola megverte, amellyel csak ï¿½sszeakadt.

De viszont ï¿½gy, hogy senki sem lï¿½tta, alaposan dolgozott. Minden tï¿½rgyat szï¿½les ï¿½s mï¿½ly olvasottsï¿½ggal tudott kï¿½sï¿½rni ï¿½s mikor az elsï¿½ nyï¿½ri cirkï¿½lï¿½sokat csinï¿½lta sajï¿½t ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½sï¿½, ï¿½ceï¿½njï¿½rï¿½ benzinjachtjï¿½n, nem jï¿½kedvï¿½ fiatal tï¿½rsasï¿½g ment vele, hanem irodalomtï¿½rtï¿½neti, tï¿½rtï¿½nelmi, jogi ï¿½s bï¿½lcsï¿½szeti professzorok voltak a vendï¿½gei csalï¿½dostul. Az egyetemen sokï¿½ ï¿½gy emlegettï¿½k ezt, mint a »nagyfejï¿½« kirï¿½ndulï¿½st. A professzorok a tï¿½ra utï¿½n rendkï¿½vï¿½l kellemes idï¿½tï¿½ltï¿½srï¿½l adtak szï¿½mot. Dick pedig azzal vï¿½gezte a tï¿½rï¿½t, hogy az egyes tanï¿½rok szakmï¿½iban alaposan tï¿½gult az ismeretkï¿½re ï¿½s tï¿½bbet tanult, mint amennyit egy egyetemi ï¿½v alatt tanulhatott volna az elï¿½adï¿½sokon. ï¿½gy idï¿½t kapott, hogy mï¿½g tï¿½bb ï¿½rï¿½t hagyhasson el ï¿½s tï¿½bbet dolgozhasson a mï¿½helyï¿½ben.

Az egyetemi ï¿½let mulatsï¿½gait sem mulasztotta el. A hallgatï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½ beiratkozott ï¿½zvegyek kacï¿½rkodtak vele, a diï¿½klï¿½nyok beleszerettek, a tï¿½ncban pedig sohasem fï¿½radt el. Mulatsï¿½gokban, nagy sï¿½rï¿½zï¿½sekben mindig rï¿½szt vett ï¿½s a Banjo- ï¿½s Mandolin-Klubbal vï¿½gigjï¿½rta az egï¿½sz Pacific-partvidï¿½ket.

De tï¿½nemï¿½nynek nem lehetett mondani. Semmiben sem volt brilliï¿½ns. Tï¿½bben akadtak, akik jobban banjï¿½ztak ï¿½s mandolinoztak, mint ï¿½. Egï¿½sz tucat fiï¿½ volt, aki jobban tï¿½ncolt nï¿½la. Az egyetemi rugby-csapatban, amelyet mï¿½sodï¿½ves korï¿½ban gyï¿½zelemre vitt, szolid ï¿½s megbï¿½zhatï¿½ jï¿½tï¿½kosnak tartottï¿½k, ennyi volt az egï¿½sz. Nem is az ï¿½ ï¿½rdemï¿½nek lï¿½tszott, hogy olykor felragadja a labdï¿½t ï¿½s vï¿½gigrohan vele a pï¿½lyï¿½n, mialatt a kï¿½k-arany csapat darabokra tï¿½ri sajï¿½t magï¿½t is, a tribï¿½nt is. De a lï¿½lekzetelï¿½llï¿½tï¿½, elkeseredett kï¿½zdelemben, esï¿½ben ï¿½s sï¿½rban, mikor a gï¿½l-arï¿½ny eldï¿½ntetlen volt, mikor a mï¿½sodik fï¿½lidï¿½ lefï¿½jï¿½sa veszedelmesen kï¿½zeledett, Stanford az ï¿½t jardos vonalon ï¿½llott, Berkeleynek pedig mï¿½r kï¿½t downja volt s a labdï¿½ja hï¿½rom jardra ï¿½llott az ellensï¿½ges kaputï¿½l, - akkor a kï¿½k-arany csapat elï¿½ï¿½llott ï¿½s kijelentette, hogy harmadik downjï¿½t odaadja a jï¿½tï¿½kos-vï¿½lasztï¿½sï¿½rt: Forrestet jelï¿½ltï¿½k ki, hogy adja le a jï¿½ ï¿½les lï¿½vï¿½st a kapura.

Sohasem tï¿½nt ki kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sebben semmi tï¿½ren. A kï¿½vï¿½r Everson Charley minden sï¿½rï¿½zï¿½snï¿½l az asztal alï¿½ itta. Jackson Harrison a kalapï¿½csvetï¿½sben mindig hat mï¿½terrel felï¿½lmï¿½lta az ï¿½ rekordjï¿½t. Carruthers lebokszolta. Burge Anson hï¿½rom eset kï¿½zï¿½l kettï¿½ben feltï¿½tlenï¿½l lenyomta a vï¿½llï¿½t a szï¿½nyegre; az igaz, hogy mindig kemï¿½ny munka utï¿½n. Angol fogalmazï¿½sban az ï¿½vfolyam ï¿½tï¿½drï¿½sze tï¿½ltett rajta. Edlin, az orosz zsidï¿½, legyï¿½zte a versenyvitï¿½ban annï¿½l a tï¿½telnï¿½l, hogy a tulajdon rablï¿½s. Schultz ï¿½s Debret egy esztendï¿½vel hagytï¿½k el magas algebrï¿½ban ï¿½s Otszukival, a japï¿½nival, ï¿½ssze sem lehetett vegytan dolgï¿½ban hasonlï¿½tani.

De ha nem tï¿½nt fel semmiben, nem is maradt hï¿½tul semmiben. Nem mutatott felï¿½lmï¿½lhatatlan erï¿½t, nem ï¿½rult el gyengesï¿½get sem. Mint ahogy gyï¿½mjainak mondta, akiket ernyedetlen jï¿½ magaviselete mï¿½r ï¿½lmokba ringatott ï¿½riï¿½si karrierje felï¿½l ï¿½s megkï¿½rdeztï¿½k, hogy mi akar lenni:

- Semmi. Mindenfï¿½le. Nem akarom magam specializï¿½lni. Ezt mï¿½r az apï¿½m eldï¿½ntï¿½tte azzal, hogy rï¿½mhagyta a pï¿½nzï¿½t. Aztï¿½n meg ha akarnï¿½k se tudnï¿½k valamilyen szakember lenni. Ez nincs meg bennem.

Pontosan megmondta, mi az egyï¿½nisï¿½gï¿½nek a kulcsa. Nem volt semmi irï¿½nt kï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½se. ï¿½ volt az a ritka emberpï¿½ldï¿½ny: a normï¿½lis, ï¿½tlagos, egyensï¿½lyozott, ï¿½ltalï¿½nos ember.

Mikor Davidson ï¿½r a gyï¿½mtï¿½rsak jelenlï¿½tï¿½ben kifejezte ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½t, hogy Dick semmi hajlamot nem mutatott a hï¿½mbï¿½l valï¿½ kirï¿½gï¿½sra, miï¿½ta itthon telepedett le, Dick ï¿½gy vï¿½laszolt:

- ï¿½ ï¿½n uralkodni tudok magamon, ha akarok.

- Helyes, - mondta Slocum ï¿½r ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen - az, hogy korï¿½n kitomboltad magad ï¿½s ï¿½nuralmat tanultï¿½l, az a legjobb dolog a vilï¿½gon.

Dick csodï¿½lkozva nï¿½zett rï¿½.

- De kï¿½rem, az a gyerekes kaland nem szï¿½mï¿½t, az nem volt tombolï¿½s. ï¿½n mï¿½g most sem tomboltam ki magam. Csak nï¿½zzï¿½k meg, ha majd elkezdem. Ismerik a Diego Valdezrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ kï¿½ltemï¿½nyt, amit Kipling ï¿½rt? Hadd mondjak el valamit belï¿½le. Hï¿½t kï¿½rem, az a Diego Valdez, mint ï¿½n, szerencsï¿½s ember volt. Olyan hamar lett Spanyolorszï¿½g tengernagya, hogy nem ï¿½rt rï¿½ megfogni az ï¿½rï¿½met, amibe ï¿½ppen hogy belekï¿½stolt mï¿½g. Vidï¿½m, erï¿½s, szemrevalï¿½ ember volt, csak nem ï¿½rt rï¿½ semmire, mert tï¿½lgyorsan haladt. De mindig azt gondolta, azzal a gondolattal ï¿½mï¿½totta magï¿½t, hogy mindig ilyen vidï¿½m ï¿½s erï¿½teljes marad ï¿½s ha majd Spanyolorszï¿½g tengernagya lesz, majd kiï¿½rï¿½li magï¿½t. ï¿½s mindig eszï¿½be jutottak:

... a rï¿½gi

Fickï¿½k ï¿½j tengeren.

Kuszmï¿½t adtunk vadaknak

ï¿½n ï¿½s sok emberem.Ezer mï¿½rfï¿½ldre dï¿½lnek,

ï¿½s harminc ï¿½v elï¿½tt,

Szerettï¿½k - ï¿½ nem Valdezt, -

Engem szerettek ï¿½k!Ha jï¿½ italt talï¿½ltak,

Megosztottuk vigan.

Ki jï¿½ zsï¿½kmï¿½nyt tudott: szï¿½lt,

Hogy tudjuk, merre van,Ha messzi szigetek kï¿½zt

Homokpadok felett

Fï¿½radt, rozzant hajï¿½nkat

Javitni kelletett.Ott ï¿½gett deszkaedzï¿½

Tï¿½zï¿½nk a partfokon.

Ott ï¿½lltak sï¿½traink is:

Vitorlï¿½k rudakon.S ahogy a horgony frissen

A vï¿½z alï¿½ szalad.

Mulatni ï¿½gy futottak

A vidï¿½m tiszturak.Hovï¿½ tettï¿½k le vï¿½rtï¿½nk?

Hol van lï¿½bunk nyoma?

Kiï¿½ e pï¿½lmï¿½s kocsma?

Ez mily szomjnak bora?ï¿½ pusztï¿½ban te kutfï¿½!

ï¿½ sikon folyt kis ï¿½r!

ï¿½ szï¿½tï¿½mlï¿½tt ital te!

ï¿½ titkon falt kenyï¿½r!A vï¿½gyba kï¿½stolt ifju,

A gï¿½rbedt, vï¿½n banya,

A munkï¿½s jï¿½ gazdasszony,

A leendï¿½ anya,A sebzett, kinzott lï¿½lek,

Mely vï¿½rvï¿½n fï¿½j, szegï¿½ny,

Nem vï¿½gyik ï¿½gy nyugalmat,

Mint azt a multat ï¿½n!

*-* ï¿½ hï¿½t ï¿½rtsï¿½k meg, ï¿½rtsï¿½k meg,
hï¿½rom ï¿½regï¿½r, ahogy ï¿½n megï¿½rtettem. Hallgassï¿½k csak, mit mond azutï¿½n:

Hittem: az ï¿½rï¿½m megvï¿½r,

S megtartom a tavaszt,

De ah, e balga hitben

ï¿½n fï¿½lrerï¿½gtam azt.Elï¿½szï¿½r jï¿½tt szerencse,

Most jï¿½ bï¿½nat gazï¿½l:

Vagyok Diego Valdez,

Az admirï¿½lis ï¿½r!

- Hallgassanak rï¿½m, gyï¿½mjaim, - kiï¿½ltotta Dick szenvedï¿½lyesen lï¿½ngolï¿½ arccal - egy pillanatig se felejtsï¿½k el, hogy minden vagyok, csak »sebzett, kï¿½nzott lï¿½lek« nem vagyok. Itt ï¿½llok. Vagyok. ï¿½gek. De tï¿½rtï¿½ztetem magam. Ne higyjï¿½k, hogy meghaltam, mert olyan ï¿½tkozottul derï¿½k, ï¿½rdemes fiï¿½ vagyok az egyetemen. Fiatal vagyok. Eleven vagyok. Vidï¿½m ï¿½s erï¿½s vagyok. De nem csinï¿½lok hibï¿½t. Tï¿½rtï¿½ztetem magam. Nem indulok most csak azï¿½rt, hogy az elsï¿½ fordulï¿½nï¿½l kitï¿½rjek. Most kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½k. Majd lesz nekem idï¿½m. Majd kiï¿½ntï¿½m ï¿½n is az italomat, olyan mohï¿½n fogom inni. ï¿½s a vï¿½gï¿½n nem fogok ï¿½gy panaszkodni, mint Diego Valdez:

Hullï¿½m mï¿½r nem visz arra,

S mely vinne, szï¿½l se jï¿½r,

A rï¿½gi, lï¿½rmï¿½s partra,

ï¿½s nem jï¿½n vissza mï¿½rA pusztï¿½ban a kutfï¿½,

A sikon folyt kis ï¿½r,

A szï¿½tï¿½mlï¿½tt pohï¿½r bor,

A titkon falt kenyï¿½r.

- Hallgassanak ide. Tudjï¿½k, mi az: ï¿½kï¿½llel lecsapni, akire kell, ï¿½kï¿½llel belecsapni az arcï¿½ba, mikor az embernek olyan kedve van, aztï¿½n nyugodtan otthagyni, tudjï¿½k mi ez? Ezt akarom. Szeretni akarok, csï¿½kolï¿½dzni akarok, veszedelmet akarok ï¿½s jï¿½tszani a szï¿½les, jï¿½kedvï¿½, hancï¿½rozï¿½ bolondot. Kockï¿½ztatni akarok, hazï¿½rd ï¿½s vakmerï¿½ akarok lenni. Akarom a »lï¿½rmï¿½s partokat«, mï¿½g pedig mï¿½g fiatal vagyok. De nem mï¿½g tï¿½lfiatal vagyok. ï¿½s amit akarok, az meg is lesz. Addig azonban elintï¿½zem a dolgomat az egyetemen, tï¿½rtï¿½ztetem magam, elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½tem magam, hogy majd mikor nekiszabadulok, minden a lehetï¿½ legjobban ï¿½s legnagyszerï¿½bben fog menni. ï¿½ higyjï¿½k el, nem mindig alszom jï¿½l ï¿½jszaka.

- Hogy ï¿½rted ezt? - kï¿½rdezte Crockett ï¿½r.

- Hï¿½t persze. Ahogy mondom. Mï¿½g nem tomboltam ki magam. De majd figyeljenek, ha elkezdem.

- ï¿½s akkor fogod elkezdeni, ha elvï¿½gezted az egyetemet?

A kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s fiatalember rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Ha elvï¿½geztem az egyetemet, mï¿½g legalï¿½bb egy esztendeig rï¿½szt veszek a gazdï¿½szati fakultï¿½s kiegï¿½szï¿½tï¿½ kurzusï¿½n. Tudja, nekem motoszkï¿½l valami a fejemben: valamilyen farmot akarok szervezni. Csinï¿½lni akarok valami... valami konstruktï¿½v dolgot. Az apï¿½m semmifï¿½le ï¿½rtelemben nem volt konstruktï¿½v. Maguk sem azok. Maguk ï¿½j vilï¿½got teremtettek ï¿½ttï¿½rï¿½ idï¿½kben ï¿½s ï¿½gy zsebeltï¿½k a pï¿½nzt, mint ahogy egy sereg matrï¿½z a szï¿½zen talï¿½lt aranytermï¿½ talaj fï¿½ve alï¿½l rugdossa ki az ï¿½rctï¿½mbï¿½ket...

- Kedves ï¿½csï¿½m, nekem van egy ï¿½s mï¿½s tapasztalatom, ami a kaliforniai farmgazdï¿½lkodï¿½st illeti... - vetette kï¿½zbe sï¿½rtï¿½dï¿½tten Crockett ï¿½r.

- Hogyne volna, de maga nem volt konstruktï¿½v. Maga... ami igaz, az igaz... maga destruktï¿½v volt. Maga affï¿½le aranybï¿½nya-farmer volt. Mit csinï¿½lt? Vett szï¿½zezer holdat a legfinomabb sacramento-vï¿½lgyi fï¿½ldbï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½vrï¿½l-ï¿½vre bï¿½zï¿½t termelt rajta. Vï¿½ltï¿½gazdasï¿½grï¿½l nem is ï¿½lmodott. A szalmï¿½jï¿½t felï¿½gette. A fï¿½ldjï¿½t kiszipolyozta. Egy decimï¿½ter mï¿½lyen szï¿½ntott ï¿½s egy decimï¿½ter mï¿½lyen olyan kemï¿½ny alapot hagyott a felszï¿½n alatt, mint az aszfaltjï¿½rda. Ezt a decimï¿½teres, vï¿½kony rï¿½teget kiszï¿½vta ï¿½s most a vetï¿½magot sem tudja kihozni belï¿½le. Maga rombolt. Ezt csinï¿½lta az apï¿½m is. Ezt csinï¿½ltï¿½k valamennyien. Hï¿½t most ï¿½n fogom az apï¿½m pï¿½nzï¿½t ï¿½s konstruktï¿½v leszek. Veszek ilyen kimerï¿½tett szï¿½ntï¿½fï¿½ldet, amit megkapok vï¿½geladï¿½si ï¿½ron, felszakï¿½tom alatta azt a kemï¿½nyet ï¿½s tï¿½bbet fogok belï¿½le kihozni, mint maguk, mikor elï¿½szï¿½r bevetettï¿½k.

Az elsï¿½ egyetemi ï¿½v vï¿½gï¿½n Crockett ï¿½r megint szï¿½ba hozta azt a tombolï¿½si idï¿½szakot, amit Dick fenyegetï¿½en kilï¿½tï¿½sba helyezett.

- Majd ha a gazdasï¿½gi kurzussal kï¿½sz leszek, - felelte Dick - akkor vï¿½sï¿½rolni fogok, berendezkedem ï¿½s megindï¿½tok egy olyan gazdasï¿½got, hogy az aztï¿½n gazdasï¿½g lesz. Akkor aztï¿½n majd nekikï¿½szï¿½lï¿½k a tombolï¿½snak.

- Mekkora gazdasï¿½ggal fogsz indulni? - kï¿½rdezte Davidson ï¿½r.

- Lehet szï¿½zezer hold, lehet egy milliï¿½. Az attï¿½l fï¿½gg. Hatï¿½ridï¿½s telekspekulï¿½ciï¿½t csinï¿½lok hosszra. Az emberek mï¿½g nem kezdtek el igazï¿½ban Kaliforniï¿½ba jï¿½nni. Anï¿½lkï¿½l, hogy az ujjamat megmozdï¿½tanï¿½m vagy a fï¿½ldhï¿½z hozzï¿½nyï¿½lnï¿½k, az a hold, amit most megvehetek huszonï¿½t dollï¿½rï¿½rt, mï¿½hoz tizenï¿½t ï¿½vre meg fog ï¿½rni szï¿½zhuszonï¿½tï¿½t ï¿½s amit most megvehetek szï¿½zhuszonï¿½tï¿½rt, az meg fog ï¿½rni ezret.

- Kï¿½tszï¿½zezer hold huszonï¿½t dollï¿½rjï¿½val, az ï¿½t milliï¿½ dollï¿½r - emelte fel sï¿½tï¿½ten ï¿½vï¿½ szavï¿½t Crockett ï¿½r.

- ï¿½gy van. ï¿½s szï¿½zhuszonï¿½t dollï¿½rjï¿½val, - felelte Dick nevetve - az huszonï¿½t milliï¿½.

De a gyï¿½mjai sohasem hittï¿½k el azt a tombolï¿½st, amivel fenyegetï¿½dzï¿½tt. ï¿½gy gondoltï¿½k: pocsï¿½kolhatja a pï¿½nzï¿½t ï¿½j rendszerï¿½ gazdï¿½lkodï¿½sokra, de hogy csakugyan megvaduljon, az az ï¿½nmï¿½rsï¿½klet ennyi esztendeje utï¿½n elkï¿½pzelhetetlen.

Dick nem tï¿½lzott dicsï¿½sï¿½ggel fejezte be egyetemi tanulmï¿½nyait. Tizennyolcadik volt a tï¿½rsai kï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½s nem lobbantotta lï¿½ngra az egyetemet. Legnevezetesebb hï¿½stette gyanï¿½nt az a megrï¿½kï¿½nyï¿½dï¿½s ï¿½s visszautasï¿½tï¿½s szerepelt, amivel egypï¿½r csinos lï¿½nykï¿½t ï¿½s a hozzï¿½juk tartozï¿½ mamï¿½kat kezelte. Ezenfelï¿½l mï¿½g azzal tette magï¿½t harmadï¿½ves korï¿½ban nevezetessï¿½, hogy ï¿½ volt a kapitï¿½nya az egyetem csapatï¿½nak, mikor ï¿½t ï¿½v ï¿½ta elï¿½szï¿½r sikerï¿½lt Stanfordot megverni. Ez mï¿½g a dï¿½san fizetett rugby-trï¿½nerek hajdani idejï¿½n tï¿½rtï¿½nt, mikor az egyï¿½ni jï¿½tï¿½knak nagyobb volt a jelentï¿½sï¿½ge. De ï¿½ ï¿½sszjï¿½tï¿½kot vert bele a csapatï¿½ba ï¿½s megtanï¿½totta, hogy az egyï¿½n ï¿½ldozatot is kï¿½teles hozni a csapatï¿½rt. ï¿½gy aztï¿½n az ï¿½vzï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½nnepen egï¿½sz tï¿½meg sokkal kitï¿½nï¿½bb csapat felett a kï¿½k-arany dressz tarthatta meg a diadalmi felvonulï¿½st San Franciscï¿½ban a Market-Streeten.

A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ esztendï¿½ben a gazdï¿½szati fakultï¿½son Dick teljesen a mï¿½helymunkï¿½ra adta magï¿½t ï¿½s nem is jï¿½rt elï¿½adï¿½sra. Igazï¿½ban kï¿½lï¿½n elï¿½adï¿½kat tartott magï¿½nak ï¿½s tekintï¿½lyes vagyont adott ki csak a Kaliforniï¿½ig szï¿½lï¿½ utikï¿½ltsï¿½gekre. Ribot Jacques-ot, aki a gazdasï¿½gi vegytan legnagyobb vilï¿½gtekintï¿½lyï¿½nek hï¿½rï¿½ben ï¿½llt, akit Franciaorszï¿½gbï¿½l ï¿½vi kï¿½tezer dollï¿½rt ï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½llï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l a kaliforniai egyetem ï¿½vi hatezres ajï¿½nlata csï¿½bï¿½tott, akit Kaliforniï¿½bï¿½l a hawaii cukorï¿½ltetvï¿½nyesek tï¿½zezres ajï¿½nlattal csï¿½bï¿½tottak tovï¿½bb, Forrest Dick onnan is elcsï¿½bï¿½totta ï¿½tï¿½ves szerzï¿½dï¿½ssel, ï¿½vi tizenï¿½tezerrel ï¿½s Kalifornia sokkal kellemesebb hï¿½mï¿½rsï¿½kletï¿½ klï¿½mï¿½jï¿½val.

Crockett, Slocum ï¿½s Davidson urak borzadva emeltï¿½k ï¿½gnek a karjukat ï¿½s megï¿½llapï¿½tottï¿½k, hogy ez az a tombolï¿½s, amit Dick elï¿½re megmondott.

De ez csak egyike volt Forrest Dick hasonlï¿½ pocsï¿½kolï¿½sainak. A Szï¿½vetsï¿½ges Kormï¿½nytï¿½l hihetetlen fizetï¿½semelï¿½ssel elcsalta az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si szakï¿½rtï¿½-csillagot, hasonlï¿½ gazsï¿½ggal elrabolta a nebraskai egyetemrï¿½l a tejgazdasï¿½gi tanszï¿½k tanï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s a kaliforniai egyetem gazdï¿½szati dï¿½kï¿½njï¿½nak is beledï¿½fï¿½tt a szï¿½vï¿½be, mikor kisajï¿½tï¿½totta magï¿½nak Nirdenhammer professzort, a gazdasï¿½gi vezetï¿½stan varï¿½zslï¿½mesterï¿½t.

- Nagyon olcsï¿½, nagyon olcsï¿½; - magyarï¿½zta Dick a gyï¿½moknak, - vagy nem szï¿½vesebben nï¿½zik, hogy professzorokba ï¿½lï¿½m a pï¿½nzemet, mintha versenylovakba ï¿½s szï¿½nï¿½sznï¿½kbe ï¿½lnï¿½m? Az a baj magukkal, hogy nem ismerik azt a huncutsï¿½got, hogyan kell agyvelï¿½ket venni. ï¿½n tudom. Ez az ï¿½n specialitï¿½som. Pï¿½nzt fogok csinï¿½lni belï¿½lï¿½k, sï¿½t mi tï¿½bb: ï¿½n meg fogom csinï¿½lni, hogy ahol maguk kiraboltï¿½k a fï¿½ldet ï¿½s nem hagytak helyet egy ï¿½rva fï¿½szï¿½lnak, minden fï¿½ helyï¿½n egy bokor fog teremni.

ï¿½gy lehet megï¿½rteni, hogy a gyï¿½mjai nem hittek a tombolï¿½ssal valï¿½ fenyegetï¿½dzï¿½sï¿½ben, nem hittï¿½k, hogy csï¿½kolï¿½dzni fog, kockï¿½ztatni fog ï¿½s ï¿½klï¿½zï¿½dni fog.

- Mï¿½g egy esztendï¿½ - fenyegette ï¿½ket megint Dick, mikor fï¿½lig beleï¿½sta magï¿½t a gazdasï¿½gi vegytanba, a talaj-analï¿½zisbe, a farm-vezetï¿½s tudomï¿½nyï¿½ba ï¿½s beutazta Kaliforniï¿½t drï¿½gï¿½n fizetett szakï¿½rtï¿½inek testï¿½letï¿½vel. ï¿½s a gyï¿½mok nem vï¿½rhattak egyebet, mint hogy a Forrest-milliï¿½k egy-kettï¿½re elpï¿½rolognak, ha Dick nagykorï¿½ lesz, ï¿½tveszi egï¿½sz vagyona vezetï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s fejjel ugrik bele a maga fï¿½ldmï¿½velï¿½si ï¿½rï¿½letï¿½be.

Uradalmï¿½ra, amely a Sacramentï¿½tï¿½l nyugatra terï¿½lt el a hegysï¿½g lï¿½bï¿½ig, aznap ï¿½rta alï¿½ az adï¿½svï¿½teli szerzï¿½dï¿½st, mikor huszonegyï¿½ves lett.

- Hihetetlen ï¿½r - mondta Crockett ï¿½r.

- Hihetetlenï¿½l olcsï¿½; - mondta Dick - lï¿½tnia kellene a fï¿½ldrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ jelentï¿½seimet. Lï¿½tnia kellene a vï¿½zrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ jelentï¿½seket. ï¿½s hallania kellene a nï¿½tï¿½mat. Hallgassanak csak meg egy nï¿½tï¿½t. Igaz tï¿½rtï¿½net. ï¿½n vagyok az ï¿½nekes is, a nï¿½ta is.

ï¿½s azon a furcsï¿½n tremolï¿½zï¿½ fejhangon, amely az ï¿½szakamerikai indiï¿½nok, eszkimï¿½k ï¿½s mongolok tipikus ï¿½nekhangja, Dick rï¿½kezdte:

Hutim yokim koiodi!

Wihi yanning koiodi!

Lowhi yanning koiodi!

Yoho naini,

Haludom yonai,

Yoho nainim!

- A zenï¿½jï¿½t magam komponï¿½ltam, - ismerte be Dick bocsï¿½natkï¿½rï¿½en - kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l ï¿½gy, ahogy gondoltam, hogy ezt ï¿½nekelni kell. Tudniillik eleven ember ezt nem hallotta mï¿½g ï¿½nekelni soha. A nishinamek a maiduktï¿½l vettï¿½k ï¿½t, azok pedig a kenkauktï¿½l, akik csinï¿½ltï¿½k. De a nishinamek, maiduk ï¿½s kenkauk nincsenek tï¿½bbï¿½. Utolsï¿½ tanyï¿½juk eltï¿½nt. Maguk szï¿½ntottï¿½k agyon ezt az indiï¿½n vidï¿½ket, Crockett ur, a maguk aranybï¿½nyï¿½sz-mï¿½dszerï¿½vel, a maguk zsarolï¿½, szipolyozï¿½ szï¿½ntï¿½si mï¿½djï¿½val. ï¿½n egy bizonyos etnogrï¿½fiai munkï¿½bï¿½l vettem ezt a nï¿½tï¿½t, a Pacific-partvidï¿½ki Fï¿½ldrajzi ï¿½s Fï¿½ldtani Figyelï¿½ harmadik ï¿½vfolyamï¿½bï¿½l. Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, aki az ï¿½gboltozatbï¿½l lett, ï¿½nekelte elï¿½szï¿½r a csillagokhoz ï¿½s a hegyi virï¿½gokhoz a vilï¿½g reggelï¿½n. Most majd elï¿½neklem a maguk nyelvï¿½n.

ï¿½s Dick megint elkezdett ï¿½nekelni, indiï¿½n falsettï¿½val, bï¿½rï¿½be nem fï¿½rï¿½ diadallal ï¿½s fiatalsï¿½ggal, csapkodva a lï¿½baszï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s lï¿½bï¿½val dobogva a taktust:

A makk lehull az ï¿½gbï¿½l!

A vï¿½lgyben elï¿½ltetem a kis tï¿½lgyet!

A vï¿½lgyben elï¿½ltetem a nagy tï¿½lgyet!

ï¿½ltetem a tï¿½lgyet,

A fekete-lombï¿½ tï¿½lgyet,

ï¿½ltetem a tï¿½lgyet!

Forrest Dick neve ijesztï¿½ gyakorisï¿½ggal kezdett megjelenni a lapokban. Egy csapï¿½sra hï¿½res ember lett, mikor - mint elsï¿½ ember Kaliforniï¿½ban - ï¿½tezer dollï¿½rt fizetett egyetlen bikï¿½ï¿½rt. ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si szakembere, akit a Szï¿½vetsï¿½ges ï¿½llamoktï¿½l szedett el, Angliï¿½ban rï¿½licitï¿½lt a Rothschild-tenyï¿½sztelepre ï¿½s megvette Hillcrest Chieftaint, amelyet csakhamar Forrest Elmebaja nï¿½ven emlegettek, mert Dick nem kevesebb, mint ï¿½tezer guineï¿½t fizetett a felsï¿½ges mï¿½nï¿½rt.

- Hadd nevessenek, - mondta Dick volt gyï¿½mjainak, - ï¿½n negyven fajkancï¿½t importï¿½lok. Egy ï¿½ven belï¿½l megkeresem az ï¿½rï¿½nak a felï¿½t. Hillcrest Chieftain sok-sok lï¿½nak lesz az apja ï¿½s nagyapja. ï¿½s a kaliforniaiak verekedni fognak mï¿½g, hogy hï¿½rom-ï¿½tezer dollï¿½rï¿½rt vehessenek ilyen lovat tï¿½lem.

Nagykorï¿½sï¿½gï¿½nak ebben a kezdï¿½ korszakï¿½ban Forrest Dick szï¿½mos ilyen ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½gben volt ludas. De a leghihetetlenebb ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½ge az volt, hogy miutï¿½n eredeti ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½gï¿½be milliï¿½kat vert bele, az egï¿½szet rï¿½bï¿½zta szakembereire, hogy az ï¿½ltala lefektetett fï¿½irï¿½nyelvek alapjï¿½n maguk vezessï¿½k tovï¿½bb a dolgot, szï¿½mlï¿½kat nyitott nekik, nehogy kï¿½tyuba jussanak, jegyet vï¿½ltott egy Tahitiba indulï¿½ szemï¿½lyszï¿½llï¿½tï¿½ briggre ï¿½s elment tombolni.

Gyï¿½mjai olykor kaptak tï¿½le hï¿½radï¿½st. Egyszer gazdï¿½ja ï¿½s kapitï¿½nya volt egy nï¿½gyï¿½rbocos pï¿½ncï¿½los vitorlï¿½snak, amely angol lobogï¿½ alatt szenet szï¿½llï¿½tott Newcastlebï¿½l. Ezt egï¿½sz biztosan tudtï¿½k, mert nï¿½luk jelentkezett a vï¿½telï¿½rï¿½rt az eladï¿½, aztï¿½n olvastï¿½k az ujsï¿½gban Dicknek mint kapitï¿½nynak a nevï¿½t, mikor a hajï¿½ felvette a szerencsï¿½tlenï¿½l jï¿½rt Orion utasait, vï¿½gï¿½l pedig ï¿½k szedtï¿½k fel a biztosï¿½tï¿½si ï¿½sszeget, mikor Dick hajï¿½ja majdnem valamennyi matrï¿½zï¿½val odaveszett a Fidzsi-orkï¿½nban. Dick 1896-ban Klondykeban jï¿½rt, 1897-ben Kamcsatkï¿½ban volt ï¿½s megkapta a skorbutot, aztï¿½n nemsokï¿½ra amerikai zï¿½szlï¿½ alatt a Filippini-szigeteken termett. Egyszer, meg nem foghattï¿½k, hogyan ï¿½s miï¿½rt, tulajdonosa ï¿½s kapitï¿½nya volt egy satnya, portyï¿½zï¿½ gï¿½zï¿½snek, amelyet a Lloyd mï¿½r rï¿½g kiselejtezett ï¿½s most Sziï¿½m ï¿½gisze alatt szaladgï¿½lt.

Idï¿½nkï¿½nt az ï¿½zleti levelezï¿½sï¿½k rï¿½vï¿½n a legkï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½bb tengerek legkï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½bb kikï¿½tï¿½ibï¿½l hallottak rï¿½la hï¿½rt. Egyszer Pacific belï¿½gyminiszteri nyomï¿½sï¿½val kellett hatniok Washingtonra, hogy Dicket kihï¿½zzï¿½k valami oroszorszï¿½gi slamasztikï¿½bï¿½l. Errï¿½l az affï¿½rrï¿½l a napi sajtï¿½ egy sort sem kï¿½zï¿½lt, de azï¿½rt az ï¿½gy titokban Eurï¿½pa minden kï¿½lï¿½gyminisztï¿½riumï¿½t kï¿½jes ï¿½s pikï¿½ns kacagï¿½sra csiklandozta.

Kï¿½zben egyszer-egyszer azt tudtï¿½k meg, hogy sebesï¿½lten fekszik Mafekingben, hogy Guayaquilben sï¿½rgalï¿½z-rohamon ment keresztï¿½l, hogy New-Yorkban vizsgï¿½latot indï¿½tottak ellene a tengeren elkï¿½vetett brutalitï¿½sok miatt. Hï¿½romszor olvastï¿½k a halï¿½la hï¿½rï¿½t a lapok tï¿½viratai kï¿½zï¿½tt: egyszer hï¿½borï¿½ban esett el Mexikï¿½ban, kï¿½tszer pedig kivï¿½geztï¿½k Venezuelï¿½ban. Ilyen oktalan ijedelmek utï¿½n a gyï¿½mok vï¿½gre is meguntï¿½k az ï¿½lhï¿½reket ï¿½s ï¿½gyet sem vetettek rï¿½, hogy egy kï¿½nai sajkï¿½n ï¿½thajï¿½zta a Sï¿½rga-tengert, hogy meghalt beri-beriben, hogy a japï¿½niak Mukdennï¿½l orosz csapatokkal egyï¿½tt elfogtï¿½k ï¿½s most hadifogoly Japï¿½nban.

Egyetlenegyszer mï¿½gis megrï¿½mï¿½ltek. Dick harmincï¿½ves korï¿½ban, mikor igï¿½retï¿½hez hï¿½ven mï¿½r kitombolta magï¿½t, nem egyedï¿½l ï¿½rkezett meg Kaliforniï¿½ba, hanem asszonnyal, akit mï¿½r ï¿½vekkel ezelï¿½tt elvett ï¿½s akiben mindhï¿½rman ismerï¿½st talï¿½ltak. Slocum ï¿½r pï¿½ldï¿½ul nyolcszï¿½zezer dollï¿½rt adott volt le az ï¿½j asszony papï¿½jï¿½nak egï¿½sz vagyonï¿½val a chihuahuai Los Cocos bï¿½nya vï¿½gkatasztrï¿½fï¿½jï¿½nï¿½l, mikor az Egyesï¿½lt-ï¿½llamok kormï¿½nya hivatalosan megszï¿½ntette az ezï¿½stvalutï¿½t. Davidson ï¿½r egy milliï¿½t hï¿½zott volt ki a Last Stakebï¿½l ugyanakkor, mikor az ï¿½j asszony papï¿½ja nyolc milliï¿½t keresett Amador Countyban ezen az elsï¿½lyedt, de napfï¿½nyre ï¿½sott folyï¿½medren; ï¿½s Crockett ï¿½r, akkor mï¿½g fiatal legï¿½ny, az ï¿½tvenes ï¿½vek vï¿½ge felï¿½ az ï¿½j asszony papï¿½jï¿½val egyï¿½tt tï¿½rta a Merced talajï¿½t, nï¿½sznagya volt Stocktonban a papï¿½nak, mikor az meghï¿½zasodott, sokat pï¿½kerezett vele ï¿½s az akkor mï¿½g hadnagyi rangban szolgï¿½lï¿½ Granttal, mikor a Nyugat mï¿½g mindï¿½ssze annyit tudott a fiatal hadnagyrï¿½l, hogy jï¿½l verekszik az indiï¿½nokkal, de nagyon gyengï¿½n jï¿½tszik pï¿½kert.

Forrest Dick tehï¿½t Desten Philip lï¿½nyï¿½t vette el! Itt nem volt szï¿½ksï¿½ges szerencsï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nni. Itt csak bï¿½beszï¿½dï¿½ makacssï¿½ggal lehetett hajtogatni: Dicknek sejtelme sincs rï¿½la, hogy milyen szerencsï¿½s fickï¿½. A gyï¿½mjai minden tombolï¿½st megbocsï¿½tottak neki. Jï¿½vï¿½ tett mindent. Vï¿½gre valahï¿½ra csinï¿½lt valami egï¿½szen okos dolgot. Sï¿½t. Ez mï¿½r a zseni oroszlï¿½nkï¿½rme. Desten Paula! Desten Philip lï¿½nya! A Desten-vï¿½r! A Destenek ï¿½s a Forrestek! Ez elï¿½g. Destennek ï¿½s Forrestnek, akik elvï¿½geztï¿½k a dolgukat ï¿½s elmentek, aranykorbeli hï¿½rom vï¿½n tï¿½rsa egyenesen szigorï¿½ volt Dickhez. ï¿½va figyelmeztettï¿½k ennek a kincsnek pï¿½ldï¿½tlan ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½re, arra a szent kï¿½telessï¿½gre, amelyet ez a frigy rï¿½ reï¿½, a Desten-vï¿½r ï¿½s a Forrest-vï¿½r hagyomï¿½nyaira ï¿½s erï¿½nyeire, mï¿½g vï¿½gre Dick elnevette magï¿½t, ï¿½s azzal a bosszantï¿½ megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½ssal szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe ï¿½ket, hogy ï¿½gy beszï¿½lnek, mint valami embertenyï¿½sztï¿½si bizottsï¿½g, vagy eugenetikai magï¿½ntudï¿½sok. Csakugyan ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy beszï¿½ltek, csak nem gondoltak vele, hogy hogyan fejezik ki magukat.

Mindenesetre mï¿½r a puszta tï¿½ny miatt, hogy egy Deston-lï¿½nyt vett el, egyï¿½rtelmï¿½ helyeslï¿½ssel bï¿½logattak, mikor megmutatta nekik a nagy hï¿½z terveit ï¿½s az ï¿½pï¿½tkezï¿½si kï¿½ltsï¿½gvetï¿½st. Hï¿½la Desten Paulï¿½nak, most az egyszer megegyeztek abban, hogy Dick okosan ï¿½s jï¿½l adja ki a pï¿½nzt. Ami pedig a farmerkedï¿½sï¿½t illette, nem lehetett kï¿½tsï¿½gbevonni, hogy a Harvest-csoport rendï¿½letlenï¿½l jï¿½vedelmez ï¿½s megadja neki a mï¿½dot a bogaraira. Slocum ï¿½r mindazonï¿½ltal megjegyezte:

- Huszonï¿½tezer dollï¿½rt egy igï¿½s csï¿½dï¿½rï¿½rt kifizetni, ez tiszta ï¿½rï¿½let. Igï¿½s lï¿½, az igï¿½s lï¿½. Nem mondom, ha mï¿½g versenylï¿½ volna...

Mialatt Forrest Dick az Iowa ï¿½llam kiadï¿½sï¿½ban megjelent sertï¿½svï¿½szrï¿½piratot tanulmï¿½nyozta, nyitott ablakï¿½n ï¿½t a szï¿½les udvaron keresztï¿½l hangok jï¿½ttek hirdetni, hogy felï¿½bredt az a hï¿½lgy, aki ï¿½gya felett a farï¿½mï¿½bï¿½l mosolyog rï¿½ ï¿½s aki a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½je padlï¿½jï¿½n hagyta volt azt a selymes, csipkï¿½s, szalagos fï¿½kï¿½tï¿½t, amelyet Hallode olyan kï¿½rï¿½ltekintï¿½n szedett fel.

Dick hallotta a hangjï¿½t, mert az asszony, mint a madï¿½r, ï¿½nekelve ï¿½bredt. A trillï¿½ja vï¿½gighaladt az illetï¿½ ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyon ï¿½s ki-kihallszott a nyitott ablakokon ï¿½t. Felhangzott a fedett kertfolyosï¿½n is, ahol Paula szintï¿½n megfordult, hogy veszekedjï¿½k skï¿½t juhï¿½szkutyï¿½jï¿½val ï¿½s ï¿½sszeszidja a kï¿½lyï¿½k-colliet, mert szentsï¿½gtï¿½rï¿½ mï¿½don ï¿½rdeklï¿½dik a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½t medencï¿½jï¿½ben uszkï¿½lï¿½ narancsvï¿½rï¿½s, kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le uszonyï¿½ ï¿½s sokfarkï¿½ japï¿½ni aranyhalak irï¿½nt.

Dick ï¿½rï¿½mmel hallotta, hogy a felesï¿½ge felï¿½bredt. Soha nem halvï¿½nyodï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½me volt ez neki. Ha ï¿½ mï¿½r ï¿½rï¿½k ï¿½ta fenn volt is, mindig ï¿½gy ï¿½rezte, hogy a nagy hï¿½z tulajdonkï¿½ppen nem ï¿½bredt fel addig, mï¿½g Paula reggeli dala fel nem hangzott a tï¿½likertben.

De miutï¿½n az asszony felkelï¿½sï¿½nek ï¿½rï¿½lt egy kicsit, szokï¿½s szerint mingyï¿½rt el is felejtette a munkï¿½ja kï¿½zben. Mikor megint belemerï¿½lt az iowai sertï¿½svï¿½sz-statisztikï¿½ba, Paula kilï¿½pett az ï¿½ntudatï¿½bï¿½l.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, jï¿½kedvï¿½ ï¿½riember! - hallotta kisvï¿½rtatva a neki mindig imï¿½dandï¿½ muzsikï¿½t. Paula repï¿½lt hozzï¿½, reggeli kimonï¿½jï¿½nak ï¿½s fï¿½zetlen derekï¿½nak minden puhasï¿½gï¿½val, karja az ura nyaka kï¿½rï¿½ fonï¿½dott ï¿½s fï¿½lig a karjai kï¿½zï¿½tt felgubbaszkodott a fï¿½rfi egyik tï¿½rdï¿½re. Dick megï¿½lelte ï¿½s ezzel jelezte, hogy tudja az asszony kï¿½zelsï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s lï¿½tï¿½t. De a szeme mï¿½g egy fï¿½l percig ott kalandozott azokon az eredmï¿½nyeken, amiket Kenealy professzor oltï¿½sai ï¿½rtek el Jones Simon farmjï¿½n az iowai Washingtonban.

- Ejnye! Tï¿½lsï¿½gosan jï¿½l megy a dolgod. Nyakig vagy a boldogsï¿½gban. Itt van a te kis asszonykï¿½d, a te drï¿½ga kis holdvilï¿½god ï¿½s mï¿½g nem is mondtad a rendes mondï¿½kï¿½t: jï¿½ reggelt, asszonyka, jï¿½l aludtï¿½l?

Forrest Dick abbahagyta Kenealy professzor oltï¿½sainak statisztikai szï¿½moszlopait, szorosabban megï¿½lelte a felesï¿½gï¿½t, megcsï¿½kolta, de a jobb mutatï¿½ujjï¿½t odatette a kï¿½nyvnek arra a helyï¿½re, ahol olvasott. A szemrehï¿½nyï¿½s azonban mï¿½r kimondta ï¿½s elvette tï¿½le a rendes szavakat ï¿½s most mï¿½r nem kï¿½rdezte, hogyan tï¿½ltï¿½tte az asszonyka az ï¿½jszakï¿½t azï¿½ta, hogy a fï¿½kï¿½tï¿½t ott felejtette a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½ben. Ujjï¿½t beledugva, becsukta a kï¿½nyvet, hogy majd folytathassa az olvasï¿½st ï¿½s a jobb karjï¿½val is ï¿½tfonta a felesï¿½ge derekï¿½t.

- ï¿½, - kiï¿½ltotta az asszony - ï¿½, ï¿½, hallgasd csak!

A fï¿½rj pitypalattyolï¿½sa hallatszott be kï¿½vï¿½lrï¿½l. Paula az ï¿½rï¿½mtï¿½l lelkendezve nï¿½zett az urï¿½ra.

- Kezdï¿½dik a dï¿½rgï¿½s - mondta Dick.

- ï¿½s a tavasz!

- Ez azt jelenti, hogy itt a szï¿½p idï¿½ nekik.

- ï¿½s a szerelem!

- ï¿½s a fï¿½szekrakï¿½s ï¿½s a tojï¿½s; - nevetett Dick - a vilï¿½got nem is lï¿½ttam soha termï¿½kenyebbnek, mint ma reggel. Lady Isleton tizenegy malacot hozott a vilï¿½gra. Az angorakecskï¿½ket is ma reggel hoztï¿½k le az ellï¿½be. Csak lï¿½ttad volna ï¿½ket. A vadkanï¿½rik odakinn ï¿½rï¿½k hosszat tï¿½rsalogtak a hï¿½zassï¿½grï¿½l. Azt hiszem, a szabad szerelem valami apostola modern szerelmi elmï¿½letekkel akarja felzaklatni monogï¿½m mennyorszï¿½gukat. Csudï¿½lom, hogy a nagy vitatkozï¿½suktï¿½l tudtï¿½l aludni. Hallgasd csak! Megint kezdik. Mi ez? Megï¿½llapodtak? Vagy verekesznek?

Vï¿½konyan csicsergï¿½, tï¿½ndï¿½rsipokon szï¿½lï¿½, ï¿½lesen magas ï¿½s izgatottan lï¿½rmï¿½s zenebona hallatszott; Dick ï¿½s Paula gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve figyeltï¿½k. Egyszer csak az ï¿½tï¿½leti trombitaszï¿½ hirtelensï¿½gï¿½vel a kis aranylï¿½ szerelmesek vï¿½konyka kardalï¿½t tï¿½lharsogta valami gargantuai zengï¿½sï¿½ hang, ï¿½ppen olyan szerelmesen vad, zenei ï¿½s szenvedï¿½lyes, de ï¿½riï¿½si, uralkodï¿½ ï¿½s hatalmas erejï¿½.

A fï¿½rfi ï¿½s az asszony sï¿½vï¿½r szemei azonnal kï¿½mlelni kezdtek a szï¿½rnyas ajtï¿½n ï¿½s a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lke hï¿½lï¿½jï¿½n keresztï¿½l az orgonabokrok kï¿½zï¿½tti ï¿½tra ï¿½s lï¿½lekzetï¿½ket visszafojtva vï¿½rtak a nagy csï¿½dï¿½r megjelenï¿½sï¿½re, aki mï¿½r elï¿½re kï¿½ldte szerelmi harsonaszavï¿½t. Mï¿½g nem lï¿½tszott, de megint felharsant. ï¿½s Dick ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Dalolok neked valamit, drï¿½ga holdvilï¿½gom. De ez nem az ï¿½n dalom, hanem Hegyi Fickï¿½ï¿½. Ez az, amit nyerï¿½t. Hallgasd csak! Megint. Tudod, mit mond? »Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon! ï¿½n tï¿½ltï¿½m be a vï¿½lgyeket! Halljanak meg a kancï¿½k ï¿½s remegjenek meg a csendes legelï¿½kï¿½n, mert ï¿½k ismernek engem. A fï¿½ egyre dï¿½sabban ï¿½s dï¿½sabban nï¿½, a fï¿½ld tele van kï¿½vï¿½rsï¿½ggel, a fï¿½k nedvekkel teljesek. Ez a tavasz. A tavasz az enyï¿½m. ï¿½n vagyok a tavasz kirï¿½lysï¿½gï¿½nak a fejedelme. A kancï¿½k emlï¿½keznek a hangomra. Ismernek anyï¿½ik ï¿½ltal mï¿½g a lï¿½tï¿½k elï¿½tti idï¿½bï¿½l. Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem. ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon, ï¿½s a vï¿½lgyek, amelyek a jï¿½vetelem hangjï¿½t visszhangozzï¿½k, az ï¿½n heroldjaim.«

Paula kï¿½zelebb hï¿½zï¿½dott az urï¿½hoz ï¿½s mikor ajka a Dick homlokï¿½t ï¿½rte, ez mï¿½g szorosabban magï¿½hoz vonta. Kettesben nï¿½ztek az orgonaszegï¿½lyes ï¿½tra ï¿½s egyszerre felbukkant a Hegyi Fickï¿½ lï¿½tvï¿½nya, felsï¿½ges ï¿½s hatalmas jelensï¿½g, lehetetlenï¿½l keskeny hï¿½tï¿½n egy szï¿½nyog gyanï¿½nt ï¿½lï¿½ emberrel, szeme vad ï¿½s sï¿½vï¿½r, azzal a kï¿½k csillogï¿½ssal, amely a fajcsï¿½dï¿½rï¿½k szemï¿½t el szokta lepni; szï¿½jï¿½t, amely a nagy izgalom habjï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s harapï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l volt foltos, hol sima tï¿½rdï¿½hez dï¿½rzsï¿½lte tï¿½relmetlensï¿½gï¿½ben, hol ï¿½gnek emelte, hogy kilï¿½kje magï¿½bï¿½l azt a hatalmas hï¿½vï¿½ szï¿½zatot, amelybe belereszketett a levegï¿½.

Szinte visszhang gyanï¿½nt, igen messzirï¿½l, vï¿½konyan, ï¿½desen felelï¿½ nyï¿½hogï¿½s ï¿½rkezett.

- Ez a Fotherington Princess - sï¿½gta Paula halkan.

Hegyi Fickï¿½ megint rï¿½gyujtott a harsonï¿½ra ï¿½s Dick vele:

»Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon!«

ï¿½s ekkor, egy elsurranï¿½ pillanatig Paula a szorosan ï¿½lelï¿½ karok kï¿½zï¿½tt egy kis visszatetszï¿½st ï¿½rzett fï¿½rjï¿½nek a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½llat irï¿½nt valï¿½ csodï¿½lata miatt. De a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban a visszatetszï¿½s eltï¿½nt ï¿½s Paula, mintegy elismerve, hogy mivel tartozik, vidï¿½man kiï¿½ltotta:

- ï¿½s most, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, nagy fï¿½nï¿½k, halljuk a makkot!

Dick fï¿½lig szï¿½rakozottan tekintett rï¿½ a rï¿½piratbï¿½l, amelyet mï¿½r a kezï¿½ben tartott ï¿½s hasonlï¿½ vidï¿½msï¿½ggal ï¿½nekelte:

A makk lehull az ï¿½gbï¿½l!

A vï¿½lgyben elï¿½ltetem a kis tï¿½lgyet!

A vï¿½lgyben elï¿½ltetem a nagy tï¿½lgyet!

ï¿½ltetem a tï¿½lgyet,

A fekete-lombï¿½ tï¿½lgyet,

ï¿½ltetem a tï¿½lgyet.

Az ï¿½nek alatt az asszony nagyon-nagyon szorosan hozzï¿½sï¿½mult, de a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatokban ï¿½rezte, hogy urï¿½nak az a keze, amely a mutatï¿½ujjï¿½val kï¿½nyvjegyzett sertï¿½svï¿½sz-rï¿½piratot tartja, nyugtalanul mozog. ï¿½s elfogta azt az ï¿½nkï¿½nytelen pillantï¿½st is, amely az ï¿½rï¿½asztalon ï¿½llï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½rï¿½l a tizenegy ï¿½ra huszonï¿½tï¿½t leolvasta. Megint megprï¿½bï¿½lta tartï¿½ztatni. De - szintï¿½n ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l - a kedvetlensï¿½g szelï¿½d szavaival.

- Kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s ï¿½s csodï¿½latos Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½ vagy, - mondta csendesen - nï¿½ha meg vagyok gyï¿½zï¿½dve, hogy csakugyan a Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½ vagy, aki ï¿½lteted a makkot ï¿½s dalolod a termelï¿½snek ezt a vad ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½t. Nï¿½ha pedig az ultramodern fï¿½rfinak lï¿½tlak, a kï¿½tlï¿½bï¿½ hï¿½mnemï¿½ emberi lï¿½ny legutolsï¿½, legfrissebb pï¿½ldï¿½nyï¿½nak, aki trï¿½jai hï¿½borï¿½nak tekinti a statisztika megostromlï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s kï¿½sï¿½rleti tubusokkal ï¿½s injekciï¿½kkal felfegyverkezve, gladiï¿½tori bajvï¿½vï¿½sba ereszkedik titokzatos mikroorganizmusokkal. Nï¿½ha mintha szemï¿½veges volnï¿½l ï¿½s kopasz, nï¿½ha pedig...

- ...mintha nem volna jogom ahoz a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ghez, hogy tele legyen egy nï¿½vel az ï¿½lelï¿½sem - fejezte be helyette Dick, mï¿½g szorosabbra ï¿½lelve - hogy egy utï¿½latos tudomï¿½nyos vadï¿½llat vagyok, aki nem ï¿½rdemli meg, hogy ezt a drï¿½ga rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½sï¿½get magï¿½ba lehellje. Hï¿½t hallgass ide, van egy tervem. Nï¿½hï¿½ny nap mulva...

De a terve holtan szï¿½letett, mert a hï¿½tuk mï¿½gï¿½tt tapintatosan figyelmeztetï¿½ torokkï¿½szï¿½rï¿½lï¿½s hallatszott. Ahogy egyszerre odafordultak a fejï¿½kkel, Bonbrightot lï¿½ttï¿½k, a segï¿½dtitkï¿½rt, kezï¿½ben sï¿½rga papï¿½rokra ï¿½rt jegyzetcsomï¿½val.

- Nï¿½gy tï¿½virat, - mondta bocsï¿½natkï¿½rï¿½en - Blake biztosan tudja, hogy kettï¿½ belï¿½le nagyon fontos. Egyik arra a chilei bika-szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½nyra vonatkozik...

ï¿½s Paula, amint lassan elhï¿½zï¿½dott az urï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s a lï¿½bï¿½ra ï¿½llott, ï¿½rezhette, hogyan fordul az el tï¿½le a statisztikai tï¿½blï¿½zatokhoz, fuvarlevelekhez, titkï¿½rokhoz, felï¿½gyelï¿½khï¿½z, igazgatï¿½khoz.

- Ja igen, Paula, - mondta Dick, mikor az asszony ï¿½ppen az ajtï¿½ban eltï¿½nï¿½ben volt - megkereszteltem az ï¿½j inasgyereket. Ohohï¿½ lesz a neve. Mit szï¿½lsz hozzï¿½?

Az asszony feleletï¿½n kezdetben a kiszolgï¿½ltatottsï¿½g lehellete futott keresztï¿½l, de ez eltï¿½nt a mosolygï¿½sban, mikor intette:

- Nagyon kï¿½nnyelmï¿½en bï¿½nsz az inasok nevï¿½vel.

- Pedigrï¿½s ï¿½llomï¿½nnyal soha! - mondta Dick olyan ï¿½nnepï¿½lyessï¿½ggel, amelyet szemï¿½nek ingerkedï¿½ csillogï¿½sa meghazudtolt.

- Nem ï¿½gy gondoltam. ï¿½gy gondolom, hogy a nyelv lehetï¿½sï¿½geit ki fogod merï¿½teni. Nem kellett volna ezekkel az indulatszavakkal kezdeni. Nemsokï¿½ra mï¿½r olyan elnevezï¿½seknï¿½l fogsz tartani, hogy Fenemegegye, ï¿½rdï¿½gvigye, meg Nyavalyï¿½t. Sokkal jobb lett volna, ha azzal kezded, hogy »vï¿½rï¿½s«. Lett volna Vï¿½rï¿½s Bika, Vï¿½rï¿½s Lï¿½, Vï¿½rï¿½s Kutya, Vï¿½rï¿½s Bï¿½ka, Vï¿½rï¿½s Kï¿½poszta... minden, ami vï¿½rï¿½s mï¿½g hï¿½tra van.

Kettï¿½jï¿½k nevetï¿½se egybefolyt, mikor Paula kiment. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban Dick, maga elï¿½tt a tï¿½virattal, mï¿½r fï¿½lig benne volt a szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½ny rï¿½szleteiben: darabja kï¿½tszï¿½zï¿½tven dollï¿½r, ab ï¿½llomï¿½s, hï¿½romszï¿½z lajstromozott egyï¿½ves bika, a chilei marhatenyï¿½sztï¿½ vidï¿½kre. ï¿½s ezalatt ï¿½ntudatlanul, kï¿½sza ï¿½rï¿½mmel hallotta, hogy Paula ï¿½nekel, ahogy megy a tï¿½likerten keresztï¿½l a maga ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyï¿½ba. De azt nem vette ï¿½szre, hogy a hangja egy picikï¿½t, csak ï¿½ppen nagyon picikï¿½t, fï¿½nytelenebb volt, mint rendesen.

Dick ï¿½t perccel kï¿½sï¿½bb, hogy Paula kiment, mï¿½sodpercre pontosan, miutï¿½n a nï¿½gy tï¿½viratot elintï¿½zte, beszï¿½llt az automobilba Thayer, az idahoi ï¿½gynï¿½k ï¿½s Naismith, az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si Kï¿½zlï¿½ny sajï¿½t tudï¿½sï¿½tï¿½ja, tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban. Wardman, a juhtenyï¿½sztï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½, a szekï¿½rkarï¿½mnï¿½l csatlakozott hozzï¿½juk, ahol nï¿½hï¿½ny ezer fiatal Shropshire-kost tereltek ï¿½ssze megtekintï¿½s vï¿½gett.

Nem volt szï¿½ksï¿½g sok beszï¿½dre. Thayer lï¿½thatï¿½an csalï¿½dott is. ï¿½ ï¿½gy gondolta, hogy tï¿½z vagï¿½nra valï¿½ rakomï¿½ny ilyen drï¿½ga ï¿½llatokbï¿½l elï¿½g nagy tï¿½tel ahoz, hogy mï¿½gis tï¿½rgyalgasson egy kicsit az ember.

- Ezek maguk helyett beszï¿½lnek, - mondta Dick ï¿½s elfordult, hogy adatokat diktï¿½ljon Naismithnek a kaliforniai ï¿½s ï¿½szaknyugati Shropshire-tenyï¿½sztï¿½srï¿½l irandï¿½ cikkï¿½hez.

- Nem tanï¿½cslom, hogy a vï¿½logatï¿½ssal bajlï¿½djï¿½k, - mondta Dick tï¿½z perccel kï¿½sï¿½bb Thayernek - az ï¿½tlaguk a legjobb. Egy hï¿½tig is elvï¿½logathatna kï¿½ztï¿½k, mï¿½g a tï¿½z vagï¿½nt darabonkï¿½nt ï¿½sszeszedi, ï¿½s mï¿½gsem kapna jobb ï¿½tlagot, mintha talï¿½lomra nyï¿½l kï¿½zï¿½jï¿½k.

Ez a hideg feltevï¿½se annak, hogy az ï¿½zlet mï¿½r meg is van kï¿½tve, megzavarta Thayert. Biztosan tudta, hogy sohasem lï¿½tott ilyen nagyszerï¿½ minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½ kosokat, bosszï¿½s zavarï¿½ban tehï¿½t megvï¿½ltoztatta a rendelï¿½st hï¿½sz vagï¿½nra.

Mikor visszatï¿½rtek a nagy hï¿½zba ï¿½s megkrï¿½tï¿½ztï¿½k a dï¿½kï¿½jukat, hogy a fï¿½lbeszakï¿½tott karambolt befejezzï¿½k, Thayer igy nyilatkozott Naismithnek:

- Most vagyok elï¿½szï¿½r Forrestï¿½knï¿½l. Ez az ember varï¿½zslï¿½. ï¿½n Keleten vï¿½sï¿½roltam ï¿½s importï¿½ltam. De ezek a Shropshire-ek levettek a lï¿½bamrï¿½l. Vehette ï¿½szre, hogy megduplï¿½ztam a rendelï¿½st. Ezek az idahï¿½i vï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½k odalesznek az ï¿½ruï¿½rt. Nekem csak hat vagï¿½n vï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½sra volt megbï¿½zï¿½som ï¿½s kï¿½t vagï¿½n ï¿½llandï¿½ ï¿½vi rendelï¿½sre belï¿½tï¿½som szerint, de ha minden bevï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½ meg nem duplï¿½zza ezeknek a kosoknak lï¿½ttï¿½ra a mostani rendelï¿½st is, az ï¿½llandï¿½t is, ï¿½s ha a megmaradt ï¿½llatokï¿½rt nem fognak verekedni, akkor ï¿½n nem ï¿½rtek a juhtenyï¿½sztï¿½shez. Ezek kincsek. Ha egyszerre fel nem szï¿½ktetik az egï¿½sz idahï¿½i juhkeresletet... hï¿½t akkor Forrest nem tenyï¿½sztï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½n nem vagyok bevï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½, annyit mondhatok.

Mikor a lunchre hï¿½vï¿½ gongszï¿½ megzendï¿½lt, - nagy koreai bronzgong, amely sohasem szï¿½lalt meg, mï¿½g kï¿½tsï¿½gtelenï¿½l meg nem volt ï¿½llapï¿½tva, hogy Paula mï¿½r fenn van - Dick felkereste a nagy tï¿½likertben az aranyhal-medencï¿½nï¿½l tartï¿½zkodï¿½ fiatalokat. Wainwright Bert nagy munkï¿½ban volt; a hï¿½ga, Rita, aztï¿½n a hï¿½rom nï¿½vï¿½r: Paula, Lute ï¿½s Ernestine tanï¿½csokkal ï¿½s utasï¿½tï¿½sokkal vettï¿½k kï¿½rï¿½l. Azon iparkodott, hogy a merï¿½tï¿½hï¿½lï¿½val elcsï¿½pjen egy kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen pompï¿½s, szinte virï¿½gszerï¿½ halat, amelynek formï¿½ja, szï¿½ne, uszonyainak ï¿½s farkainak sokasï¿½ga arra indï¿½totta Paulï¿½t, hogy kï¿½lï¿½nleges tovï¿½bbtenyï¿½sztï¿½s vï¿½gett a maga sajï¿½t titkos kis tï¿½likertjï¿½nek medencï¿½jï¿½ben kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½tse el.

Nagy izgalom, ï¿½ltalï¿½nos sikongatï¿½s ï¿½s kacagï¿½s kï¿½zepette a vï¿½llalkozï¿½s sikerï¿½lt. A nagy halat betettï¿½k egy kannï¿½ba ï¿½s a vï¿½rakozï¿½ mï¿½kertï¿½sz elvitte.

- Mit tudsz felhozni mentsï¿½gedre? - kezdte Ernestine, mikor Dick bejï¿½tt hozzï¿½juk.

- Semmit, - felelte Dick szomorï¿½an - az egï¿½sz telep le van tarolva. Hï¿½romszï¿½z gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ fiatal bikï¿½m indul holnap Dï¿½l-Amerikï¿½ba, ï¿½s Thayer, akivel tegnap este talï¿½lkoztatok, hï¿½sz vagï¿½n kost visz magï¿½val. Csak annyit mondhatok, hogy a gratulï¿½ciï¿½imat kiterjesztem Idahï¿½ra ï¿½s Chilï¿½re is.

- ï¿½ltess tovï¿½bb makkot - nevetett Paula, ï¿½tkarolva kï¿½t hï¿½gï¿½t. ï¿½s mind a hï¿½rman elï¿½re mosolyogva vï¿½rtï¿½k az elkerï¿½lhetetlen trï¿½fï¿½t.

- Jaj, Dick, - kï¿½rte Lute - ï¿½nekeld el a makk-nï¿½tï¿½t!

Dick ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Van egy jobb. A legtisztï¿½bb gazdasï¿½gi ortodoxia. Halï¿½lra skalpolja Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½t a makk-nï¿½tï¿½jï¿½val egyï¿½tt. Hallgassatok ide. Ezt Keleten ï¿½nekli a kislï¿½ny, mikor a vasï¿½rnapi iskola felï¿½gyelete alatt elï¿½szï¿½r rï¿½ndul ki a szabadba. Az elï¿½adï¿½ hï¿½lgy egï¿½szen fiatal. Kï¿½rek kiejtï¿½sï¿½nek kï¿½lï¿½n figyelmet szentelni.

ï¿½s selypï¿½tve elkezdte ï¿½nekelni:

Azs alanhal ustï¿½l a vizsben,

A vï¿½lï¿½sbed udlï¿½l a fï¿½n.

Tollat s pittelt ti ad netit?Mondd med netem, te tis leï¿½n!

Azs Ul, azs Ul, azs adta!

- Loptad! - mondï¿½ Ernestine, mikor az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos nevetï¿½s elmult.

- Persze. A »Fï¿½ldmï¿½ves ï¿½s ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½«-bï¿½l vettem, az a »Sertï¿½stenyï¿½sztï¿½k Kï¿½zlï¿½nyï¿½«-bï¿½l vette s az a »Nyugatvidï¿½ki ï¿½gyvï¿½di Lapok«-bï¿½l, az pedig a »Kï¿½zvï¿½lemï¿½ny«-bï¿½l. A Kï¿½zvï¿½lemï¿½ny alighanem magï¿½tï¿½l a kislï¿½nytï¿½l vette, vagy inkï¿½bb a tanï¿½tï¿½nï¿½tï¿½l. Meg vagyok gyï¿½zï¿½dve, hogy elï¿½szï¿½r a »Nï¿½ma ï¿½llataink« cï¿½mï¿½ mï¿½ben jelent meg.

A bronzgong mï¿½sodszor is megszï¿½lalt. Paula egyik karjï¿½val Dicket, mï¿½sikkal Ritï¿½t ï¿½lelve ï¿½t, elindult a hï¿½zba. Hï¿½tvï¿½d gyanï¿½nt Wainwright Bert kï¿½vetkezett, aki Lutenak ï¿½s Ernestinenek egy ï¿½j tangï¿½-lï¿½pï¿½st mutatott menetkï¿½zben.

A lï¿½nyok, mikor az ebï¿½dlï¿½be levezetï¿½ lï¿½pcsï¿½ elejï¿½n Thayert ï¿½s Naismith-t talï¿½ltï¿½k, ï¿½sszekeveredtek velï¿½k. Dick Thayerhez csatlakozott:

- Mondok magï¿½nak valamit, Thayer. Mielï¿½tt elbï¿½csï¿½zik, nï¿½zze meg a merinï¿½kat. Igazï¿½n henceghetek velï¿½k, az amerikai juhtenyï¿½sztï¿½knek rï¿½ kell tï¿½rniï¿½k erre a fajtï¿½ra. Persze importï¿½lt ï¿½llomï¿½nnyal kell kezdeni, de ï¿½n csinï¿½ltam egy olyan kaliforniai tenyï¿½sztï¿½si mï¿½dot, amitï¿½l a francia merinï¿½-tenyï¿½sztï¿½k nem fognak tudni aludni. Szï¿½ljon Wardmannek ï¿½s csï¿½pjen ki mintï¿½t kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k. Vigye magï¿½val Naismith-t is kï¿½rï¿½lnï¿½zni. Pï¿½cï¿½zzen ki belï¿½lï¿½k vagy hatot a szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½nyï¿½hoz, hadd nï¿½zzï¿½k meg az idahï¿½i tenyï¿½sztï¿½k.

Vï¿½gtelen kiterjedï¿½sre kï¿½pes asztalhoz ï¿½ltek le egy hosszï¿½, alacsony ebï¿½dlï¿½ben, amely a rï¿½gi Kalifornia mexikï¿½i fï¿½ldbirtokos-nï¿½bobjainak hacienda-ebï¿½dlï¿½i szerint ï¿½pï¿½lt. Padlï¿½ja nagy barna tï¿½glï¿½kbï¿½l volt kirakva, alacsony gerendï¿½s mennyezete ï¿½s falai fehï¿½rre meszelve. A nagy, dï¿½szï¿½tetlen cement-kandallï¿½ dï¿½szpï¿½ldï¿½nya volt az egyszerï¿½sï¿½gnek ï¿½s masszï¿½vsï¿½gnak. A mï¿½ly nyï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ ablakokon lomb ï¿½s virï¿½g bï¿½logatott be. A terem a makulï¿½tlan tisztasï¿½g hï¿½s benyomï¿½sï¿½t keltette.

A falakon, nem zsï¿½foltan, nï¿½hï¿½ny olajfestmï¿½ny lï¿½gott. A legjobb helyen a legjelentï¿½sebb: Martinez Xavï¿½rnek egy bï¿½natos szï¿½rkï¿½ben tartott alkonyati kï¿½pe, a mexikï¿½i paraszt kï¿½tï¿½krï¿½s, gï¿½rbeszarvï¿½ ekï¿½vel, amint egyhangï¿½ barï¿½zdï¿½t szï¿½nt a melanchï¿½likus, vï¿½ghetetlen mexikï¿½i sï¿½k elï¿½terï¿½ben. Akadtak vidï¿½mabb kï¿½pek is a hajdani Kalifornia mexikï¿½i ï¿½letï¿½bï¿½l. Reimersnek egy vï¿½szna: szï¿½rkï¿½leti eukaliptuszok a hï¿½ttï¿½rben napsï¿½tï¿½tte bï¿½rccsï¿½csokkal, Petersnek egy holdas tï¿½ja ï¿½s egy Griffin-kï¿½p, egy tarlï¿½, amelyen tï¿½l sï¿½rgï¿½sbarna ï¿½s bï¿½bor kï¿½dï¿½kben ï¿½szï¿½, erdï¿½s szakadï¿½kokbï¿½l Kalifornia nyï¿½ri dombjai ragyogtak ï¿½s fï¿½nylettek elï¿½.

Amï¿½g Dick ï¿½s a lï¿½nyok hangosan ï¿½s nevetve ingerkedtek egymï¿½ssal, Thayer fï¿½lhangon ï¿½tszï¿½lt Naismithnek:

- Nï¿½zze, van itt cikkanyag magï¿½nak bï¿½sï¿½gesen, ha errï¿½l a nagy hï¿½zrï¿½l kezd ï¿½rni. Lï¿½ttam a szemï¿½lyzet ebï¿½dlï¿½jï¿½t. Minden ï¿½tkezï¿½shez negyven ember ï¿½l le, beleszï¿½mï¿½tva kertï¿½szeket, soffï¿½rï¿½ket ï¿½s kï¿½lsï¿½ cselï¿½dsï¿½get. Tisztï¿½ra egy nagy kifï¿½zï¿½. Vezetï¿½s van itt, rendszer van itt, ï¿½n mondom magï¿½nak. Ez a Hallode nevï¿½ kï¿½nai inas, ez egy csoda. Az egï¿½sz lacikonyhï¿½nak ez a hï¿½zmestere, vagy hï¿½zvezetï¿½je, vagy mit tudom ï¿½n, hogy hï¿½vjï¿½k az ï¿½llï¿½sï¿½t, ï¿½s tudja, olyan simï¿½n futkos, hogy lehetetlen meghallani.

- Maga Forrest az igazi csoda, - bï¿½lintott Naismith - megvan az a tehetsï¿½ge, hogy tehetsï¿½geket szedjen ï¿½ssze. El tudna vezï¿½nyelni egy sereget, egy hadjï¿½ratot, egy kormï¿½nyt, vagy akï¿½r egy cirkuszt, amelynek hï¿½rom manï¿½zse van.

- Az utolsï¿½ igazï¿½n ï¿½rtï¿½kes bï¿½k - helyeselte szï¿½vbï¿½l Thayer.

- Paula, - szï¿½lt ï¿½t Dick a felesï¿½gï¿½nek - ï¿½ppen most kapom a hï¿½rt, hogy Graham holnap reggel ï¿½rkezik. Jï¿½ volna, ha szï¿½lnï¿½l, hogy Hallode az ï¿½rtoronyba szï¿½llï¿½solja el. Az elï¿½g embersï¿½ges szï¿½llï¿½s ï¿½s lehet, hogy Graham bevï¿½ltja fenyegetï¿½sï¿½t: dolgozik a kï¿½nyvï¿½n.

- Graham... Graham... - kutatott Paula hangosan az emlï¿½kezetï¿½ben - ismerem?

- Kï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt egyszer talï¿½lkoztï¿½l vele Santiagï¿½ban, a Vï¿½nusz-kï¿½vï¿½hï¿½zban. Velï¿½nk ebï¿½delt.

- Ja igen, azok kï¿½zï¿½l a tengerï¿½sztisztek kï¿½zï¿½l.

- Nem. A civil. Nem emlï¿½kszel arra a magas, szï¿½ke fiï¿½ra? Egy fï¿½lï¿½rï¿½ig diskurï¿½ltï¿½l vele zenï¿½rï¿½l, mialatt Joyce kapitï¿½ny nekï¿½nk lyukat beszï¿½lt a hasunkba, hogy az Egyesï¿½lt ï¿½llamoknak kï¿½telessï¿½ge volna vasï¿½kï¿½llel becsï¿½letre tanï¿½tani Mexikï¿½t.

- ï¿½ igen, igen. Kezdek emlï¿½kezni. Mï¿½r elï¿½bb egyï¿½tt voltatok valahol... Dï¿½l-Afrikï¿½ban, ï¿½gy-e? Vagy a Filippinï¿½kon?

- ï¿½gy van, az az. Dï¿½l-Afrikï¿½ban. Graham Evan. Dï¿½l-Afrika utï¿½n a Times nevï¿½ futï¿½rgï¿½zï¿½sï¿½n voltunk egyï¿½tt a Sï¿½rga-tengeren. ï¿½s tï¿½zszer is kereszteztï¿½k egymï¿½s ï¿½tjï¿½t, de nem is talï¿½lkoztunk, mï¿½g ï¿½ssze nem jï¿½ttï¿½nk a Vï¿½nusz-kï¿½vï¿½hï¿½zban. Istenem... Bora-Borï¿½bï¿½l kï¿½t nappal elï¿½bb indult keletnek, mint ahogy ï¿½n horgonyt vetettem, mikor az utam nyugat felï¿½ vitt Samoï¿½nak. Apiï¿½bï¿½l elindultam, a zsebemben az amerikai konzultï¿½l neki cï¿½mzett levelekkel - ï¿½ mï¿½snap jï¿½tt meg oda. Hï¿½rom nap miatt kerï¿½ltï¿½k el egymï¿½st Levukï¿½ban, mikor a Vadkacsa vitorlï¿½son utaztam. Suvï¿½bï¿½l mint egy angol cirkï¿½lï¿½ vendï¿½ge ugrott el az orrom elï¿½l. Thurn Everard, a dï¿½li vizek angol fï¿½megbï¿½zottja, szintï¿½n adott egypï¿½r levelet Graham szï¿½mï¿½ra. Nyomï¿½t vesztettem Port-Resolutionnï¿½l, nyomï¿½t vesztettem az ï¿½j-Hebridï¿½kon Vilï¿½nï¿½l. A cirkï¿½lï¿½ csavargott egy kicsit a tengeren. Lavirozva kergettem ki s be a Santa Cruz-szigetek kï¿½zï¿½tt. Ugyanez tï¿½rtï¿½nt a Salamon-szigeteknï¿½l. A cirkï¿½lï¿½ bombï¿½zta Langa-Langï¿½nï¿½l a kannibï¿½lfalvakat, aztï¿½n reggel kifutott. ï¿½n dï¿½lutï¿½n futottam be. A leveleket sohasem tudtam neki odaadni ï¿½s nem is lï¿½ttam aztï¿½n szemtï¿½l szembe, csak kï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt a Vï¿½nusz-kï¿½vï¿½hï¿½zban.

- De hï¿½t ki ï¿½, mi ï¿½? - kï¿½rdezte Paula. - ï¿½s mi az a kï¿½nyv?

- Hï¿½t hogy mingyï¿½rt a vï¿½gï¿½n kezdjem: le van tï¿½rve. Ez az. Letï¿½rt ember. Nem maradt egyebe nï¿½hï¿½ny ezer dollï¿½r ï¿½vi jï¿½vedelemnï¿½l, - ami az apjï¿½rï¿½l maradt, az mind elment. Nem, nem verte el. Hanem nagyon beleereszkedett a dolgokba ï¿½s az a nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½v elï¿½tti »csendes pï¿½nik« kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l tisztï¿½ra pucolta. De nem sï¿½r a pï¿½nze utï¿½n. Jï¿½ anyag. Rï¿½gi amerikai. Yale-fajta. A kï¿½nyv, amin szeretne keresni valamit, arrï¿½l az utazï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l szï¿½l, amit tavaly tett Dï¿½l-Amerikï¿½n keresztï¿½l a nyugati parttï¿½l a keleti partig. Csupa ismeretlen vidï¿½k. A brazï¿½liai kormï¿½ny egy-kettï¿½re megszavazott neki tï¿½zezer dollï¿½r honorï¿½riumot azokï¿½rt a tudï¿½sï¿½tï¿½sokï¿½rt, amiket Brazï¿½lia ismeretlen vidï¿½keirï¿½l hozott. Egï¿½sz ember. Senki sem csalatkozott mï¿½g benne. Ismerheted ezt a tï¿½pust: tiszta, magas, erï¿½s, egyszerï¿½; jï¿½rt mindenï¿½tt, lï¿½tott mindent, rengeteget tud, egyenes, nyï¿½lt, szeme kï¿½zï¿½ nï¿½z az embernek... egy szï¿½val: ember a talpï¿½n.

Ernestine ï¿½sszecsapta a kezï¿½t, kihï¿½vï¿½, hï¿½dï¿½tï¿½, sokatmondï¿½ pillantï¿½st vetett Wainwright Bertre ï¿½s felkiï¿½ltott:

- ï¿½s holnap jï¿½n!

Dick feddï¿½en rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Nem, Ernestine, ez nem az az eset. Mï¿½r akadtak olyan csinos lï¿½nyok, akik meg akartï¿½k fogni Graham Evant. ï¿½s magunk kï¿½zï¿½tt szï¿½lva meg tudtam ï¿½ket ï¿½rteni. Csakhogy ï¿½ szerencsï¿½s tengerï¿½sz, a szï¿½l kedvez neki ï¿½s a hajï¿½ja gyors. A lï¿½nyok sose tudtï¿½k levenni a lï¿½bï¿½rï¿½l, sose tudtï¿½k sarokba szorï¿½tani, sohasem lehetett addig vinni a dolgot, hogy bizonyos faggatï¿½sokra kifï¿½lva rï¿½dadogja az igent ï¿½s a kï¿½bulatbï¿½l arra ï¿½bredjen fel, hogy megkï¿½tï¿½ztï¿½k, rï¿½tï¿½rdeltek, megbï¿½lyegeztï¿½k ï¿½s meghï¿½zasï¿½tottï¿½k. Verd ki a fejedbï¿½l. Maradj az arany fiatalsï¿½gnï¿½l ï¿½s szedd a fiatalsï¿½g aranyalmï¿½it. Szedegesd az aranyalmï¿½t ï¿½s kiabï¿½lj, hogy csak vï¿½letlenï¿½l csï¿½pted el a gyorslï¿½bï¿½ ifjï¿½t. De Graham nem ebbe a vilï¿½gba tartozik. Kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l annyi idï¿½s, mint ï¿½n ï¿½s vï¿½gigcsinï¿½lt egynï¿½hï¿½ny tï¿½ncot, mint jï¿½magam. Jï¿½l tudja, hogyan kell odï¿½bb ï¿½llni. ï¿½t is megtï¿½pte a szï¿½ges drï¿½tkerï¿½tï¿½s, ï¿½ is megï¿½gette a szï¿½jï¿½t, ï¿½t is megtï¿½rte az ï¿½let, mint a lasszï¿½ a lovat, mindig udvarias, de megcsï¿½pni nem lehet. Fiatalokkal nem sokat tï¿½rï¿½dik. Csakugyan meg lehet azzal vï¿½dolni, hogy lï¿½nyok nem vehetik biztosra, de per procura ï¿½n ismerem be helyette, hogy mindï¿½ssze ï¿½reg, sokat prï¿½bï¿½lt ï¿½s nagyon okos.

- Hol az ï¿½n lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½gos legï¿½nykï¿½m? - kiï¿½ltotta Dick, pengï¿½ sarkantyï¿½val dï¿½ngve vï¿½gig a nagy hï¿½zon. Kereste az aprï¿½ asszonyt ï¿½s egy hï¿½res kï¿½p cï¿½mï¿½t kiï¿½ltotta.

Odaï¿½rt ahoz az ajtï¿½hoz, amely a Paula hosszï¿½ szobasorï¿½ba nyilt. A fal faburkolatï¿½ba ï¿½gyazott faajtï¿½ volt ez. De Dick is tudta a rugï¿½ titkï¿½t, nemcsak az asszony. Megnyomta a rugï¿½t ï¿½s az ajtï¿½ kitï¿½rult.

- Hol az ï¿½n lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½gos legï¿½nykï¿½m? - szï¿½lt ï¿½s vï¿½gigment a szobï¿½kon.

Eredmï¿½ny nï¿½lkï¿½l kukkantott be a fï¿½rdï¿½szobï¿½ba, amelynek mï¿½lyï¿½tett rï¿½mai medencï¿½jï¿½be mï¿½rvï¿½nylï¿½pcsï¿½k vezettek le, ugyancsak nem talï¿½lt senkit Paula garderob-szobï¿½jï¿½ban ï¿½s ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½jï¿½ben sem. A rï¿½vid, szï¿½les lï¿½pcsï¿½n odament az ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½s kis heverï¿½jï¿½be, ahol Tower Julietnek szokta hï¿½vni a felesï¿½gï¿½t. Itt valï¿½sï¿½ggal megijesztette a csipkï¿½s, patyolatos, selymes nï¿½i holmi szerteszï¿½t dobï¿½lt rendetlensï¿½ge. Tudta, hogy Paula dobï¿½lta ezt ï¿½gy szï¿½t, mert ï¿½rzï¿½ki ï¿½rï¿½me telt ezeknek a dolgoknak a nï¿½zegetï¿½sï¿½ben. Megint kiï¿½ltani akart, de meg kellett ï¿½llnia a festï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½ny elï¿½tt. A felismerï¿½s ï¿½s elismerï¿½s mosolya jï¿½tszott az arcï¿½n, mikor megpillantotta egy csï¿½nya, csontos, elkï¿½nyeztetett kamaszcsikï¿½ friss skizzï¿½t, amit a ceruza ï¿½ppen akkor vetett papï¿½rra, mikor az ï¿½llat keservesen nyihogott az anyja utï¿½n.

- Hol van az ï¿½n lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½gos legï¿½nykï¿½m? - kiï¿½ltotta be a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½be. De csak egy kï¿½nyeskedï¿½, ijedt szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½, harmincï¿½ves kï¿½nai nï¿½t talï¿½lt ott, aki fï¿½ld alï¿½ bï¿½jï¿½ zavarral mosolygott a szeme kï¿½zï¿½.

Ez a Paula komornï¿½ja volt, a kis Szentatyï¿½m. ï¿½vekkel ezelï¿½tt Dick nevezte ï¿½gy el, mert mindig valami aggï¿½dï¿½ kifejezï¿½ssel hï¿½zta fel a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½t, mintha ï¿½ppen azt akarnï¿½ sï¿½hajtani: »Szent atyï¿½m!« Dick mï¿½g szinte mint gyereket fogadta fel a Paula szolgï¿½latï¿½ba a Sï¿½rga-tenger egy halï¿½szfalujï¿½bï¿½l, ahol ï¿½reg anyja jï¿½ esztendï¿½ben nï¿½gy dollï¿½rt is megkeresett hï¿½lï¿½fonï¿½ssal. Szentatyï¿½m akkor szolgï¿½lta elï¿½szï¿½r Paulï¿½t a Tovï¿½bb nevï¿½ hï¿½romï¿½rbocos szkï¿½neren, mikor Hallode mint kabinosgyerek tett tanusï¿½got ama tehetsï¿½geirï¿½l, amelyek segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½vel ï¿½vek sorï¿½n a nagy hï¿½z fï¿½komornyikjï¿½vï¿½ emelkedett.

- Hol az ï¿½rnï¿½d, Szentatyï¿½m? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

Szentatyï¿½m a szï¿½gyen gï¿½rcsï¿½s megsemmisï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ben gï¿½rbï¿½lt ï¿½ssze. ï¿½s dadogott:

- Talï¿½n a fiatal hï¿½lgyekkel van... nem tudom.

Dick megkï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½lt rajta ï¿½s sarkon fordult.

- Hol az ï¿½n lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½gos legï¿½nykï¿½m? - kiï¿½ltotta, mikor kilï¿½pett a kocsifelhajtï¿½ alï¿½. ï¿½ppen akkor fordult be egy batï¿½r az orgonï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt.

- Akasszanak fel, ha tudom, - felelte a kocsibï¿½l egy vilï¿½gos nyï¿½ri ruhï¿½ba ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½tt magas, szï¿½ke ï¿½r. ï¿½s a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban Forrest Dick ï¿½s Graham Evan egymï¿½s kezï¿½t rï¿½zogattï¿½k.

Hallode ï¿½s Ohohï¿½ becipeltï¿½k a kï¿½zipoggyï¿½szt ï¿½s Dick az ï¿½rtorony-kvï¿½rtï¿½lyba kï¿½sï¿½rte a vendï¿½gï¿½t.

- Meg kell szoknod az ï¿½letmï¿½dunkat, ï¿½regem, - magyarï¿½zta neki - az egï¿½sz telep ï¿½rï¿½ra jï¿½r, mint a karikacsapï¿½s, a szemï¿½lyzet csupa csoda, de mi mindenfï¿½le rendetlensï¿½get megengedï¿½nk magunknak. Ha kï¿½t perccel kï¿½sï¿½bb ï¿½rkezel, nem talï¿½lsz itt senkit, aki ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½ljï¿½n, csak a kï¿½nai inasgyerekeket. ï¿½n ï¿½ppen lovagolni indultam ï¿½s Paula, a felesï¿½gem, eltï¿½nt.

A kï¿½t fï¿½rfi kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l egyforma magasra nï¿½tt; Graham magasabb volt talï¿½n egy ujjnyival a hï¿½zigazdï¿½nï¿½l, de ennek az elï¿½nyï¿½t lerontotta, ha vï¿½lluk szï¿½lessï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s mellï¿½k domborï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t hasonlï¿½totta ï¿½ssze az ember. Graham mï¿½g vilï¿½gosabb szï¿½ke volt, mint Forrest, de szemï¿½k egyformï¿½n szï¿½rke, szemï¿½k fehï¿½rje egyformï¿½n tiszta, arcuk bï¿½re naptï¿½l ï¿½s idï¿½tï¿½l egyformï¿½n bronzbarna. Graham arca kicsit szï¿½lesebb volt, szeme egy kicsit nagyobb, bï¿½r ez lustï¿½bb szemhï¿½jai miatt nem vevï¿½dï¿½tt ï¿½szre. Az orra mintha egy gondolattal egyenesebb ï¿½s erï¿½sebb lett volna, mint a Dickï¿½, ajka egy gondolattal vastagabb, pirosabb ï¿½s ï¿½rzï¿½kibb hajlï¿½sï¿½.

Forrest haja vilï¿½gos gesztenyebarna szï¿½nt mutatott, Graham hajï¿½n meglï¿½thatta a tï¿½zetes figyelem, hogy ez a haj szinte aranyos selymï¿½ lehetett volna, ha a nap fakï¿½ra nem sï¿½ti. Mind a kettï¿½nek kiï¿½tkï¿½zï¿½tt az arccsontja, de Forrest arca a csont alatt erï¿½sebben mï¿½lyedt be. Mind a kettï¿½nek szï¿½les nyï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½rzï¿½keny orra volt, mindkettï¿½jï¿½k nemesen formï¿½lt szï¿½ja ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy tudott lï¿½nyosan ï¿½des ï¿½s tiszta lenni, mint ahogy erï¿½ssï¿½ ï¿½s merevvï¿½ tudott kemï¿½nyedni, egybehangzï¿½an a szegletes, osztatlan ï¿½llal.

De az egy ujjnyival tï¿½bb magassï¿½g ï¿½s az egy ujjnyival kevesebb mellbï¿½sï¿½g olyan testi kï¿½nnyedsï¿½get ï¿½s tartï¿½st adott Graham Evannek, ami Forrestnek hiï¿½nyzott. Ebbï¿½l a szempontbï¿½l kitï¿½nï¿½en illettek egymï¿½s mellï¿½. Graham testi egyï¿½nisï¿½gï¿½ben volt valami vilï¿½gos ï¿½s vidï¿½m, egy nagyon kicsit emlï¿½keztetett valami mesebeli hercegre. Forrest erï¿½sebb ï¿½s fï¿½lelmesebb szervezetnek lï¿½tszott, mï¿½s ï¿½letï¿½re veszedelmesebbnek, sajï¿½t ï¿½letï¿½hez ragaszkodï¿½bbnak.

Forrest beszï¿½dkï¿½zben a karkï¿½tï¿½-ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra pillantott ï¿½s egy futï¿½ pillantï¿½ssal leolvasta rï¿½la az idï¿½t. Egy csï¿½ppet sem hagyta abba, vagy tï¿½vesztette el a beszï¿½d fonalï¿½t, az ï¿½sszefï¿½ggï¿½s gyors biztossï¿½ga mindig az ï¿½vï¿½ volt.

- Tizenegy harminc. Gyere mingyï¿½rt velem, Graham. Tizenkettï¿½ harmincig ï¿½gysem eszï¿½nk. Egy rakomï¿½ny bika elkï¿½ldï¿½sï¿½ben jï¿½rok, hï¿½romszï¿½z ï¿½sszesen, ï¿½tkozottul bï¿½szke vagyok rï¿½juk. Muszï¿½j, hogy megnï¿½zd ï¿½ket. Ne tï¿½rï¿½dj a lovaglï¿½ felszerelï¿½ssel. Ohohï¿½, hozz egy pï¿½r olyan vitorlavï¿½szon-lï¿½bszï¿½rvï¿½dï¿½t. Hallode, szï¿½lj, hogy az Altadenï¿½t nyergeljï¿½k. Milyen nyerget szeretsz, Graham?

- ï¿½ ï¿½regem, akï¿½rmilyet.

- Angolt? Ausztrï¿½liait? Macclellant? Mexikï¿½it?

- Ha nem okoz gondot, akkor Macclellant kï¿½rek.

Lovagoltak az ï¿½t mentï¿½n ï¿½s nï¿½ztï¿½k a hosszï¿½ utazï¿½sra indulï¿½ csordï¿½t, amelynek a vï¿½ge ï¿½ppen most tï¿½nt el a hajtï¿½sban.

- Lï¿½tom, mit csinï¿½lsz, - mondta Graham villogï¿½ szemmel - nagyszabï¿½sï¿½. ï¿½n is voltam egy kicsit a bolondja ezeknek az ï¿½llatoknak fiatal koromban lenn Argentinï¿½ban. Ha ilyen fajjal dolgozhattam volna, nem is tï¿½rtem volna ki a nyakam.

- Csakhogy az mï¿½g a lucerna meg az artï¿½zi kutak elï¿½tti idï¿½kben volt, - ï¿½rvelt helyette Dick - az a kor mï¿½g nem volt ï¿½rett a rï¿½vidszarvï¿½-tenyï¿½sztï¿½sre. Csak a hitvï¿½nyabb fajta gyï¿½zhette a szï¿½razsï¿½got. Az pedig nagyon kitartï¿½ volt, de sï¿½lya nem volt semmi. ï¿½s a fagyasztott hï¿½sra berendezett gï¿½zï¿½sï¿½k mï¿½g nem voltak feltalï¿½lva. Azok csinï¿½ltï¿½k a forradalmat, azok tettï¿½k tï¿½nkre ott a szakmï¿½t.

- Azonfelï¿½l nagyon fiatal voltam, - tette hozzï¿½ Graham - ï¿½mbï¿½r ez nem sokat jelentett. Volt ott egy fiatal nï¿½met, aki egï¿½sz jï¿½l boldogult tizedannyi tï¿½kï¿½vel, mint az enyï¿½m. Sovï¿½ny ï¿½veket, szï¿½raz ï¿½veket, mindent megï¿½szott. Most hat nullï¿½val ï¿½rja a vagyonï¿½t.

Visszafordï¿½tottï¿½k a lovakat a nagy hï¿½z felï¿½. Dick felemelte a karjï¿½t, hogy az ï¿½rï¿½t nï¿½zze.

- Van idï¿½ bï¿½ven. ï¿½rï¿½lï¿½k, hogy lï¿½ttad az egyï¿½veseket. Megvan annak is az oka, hogy az a fiatal nï¿½met kibï¿½jtï¿½lte a dolgot. Muszï¿½j volt neki. Neked viszont megvolt az apï¿½d pï¿½nze, amire tï¿½maszkodtï¿½l. ï¿½n azt kï¿½pzelem, hogy a baj nem ott volt, hogy viszketett a talpad, hanem hogy megengedhetted magadnak, hogy szï¿½t fogadj neki.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb a fejï¿½vel jobbra intett Dick egy lï¿½thatatlan terï¿½let felï¿½ az orgonï¿½kon tï¿½l.

- Ott vannak a halastavak. Majd lesz mï¿½dod rakï¿½sszï¿½mra fogni a pisztrï¿½ngot, a sï¿½gï¿½rt, sï¿½t a harcsï¿½t is. Tudod, uzsorï¿½skodom. Szeretek dolgoztatni. A nyolcï¿½rai munkaidï¿½t tï¿½lem vï¿½dheti, aki akarja, ï¿½n bizony naponta huszonnï¿½gy ï¿½rï¿½ig dolgoztatom a vizet. A medencï¿½k a halfajok termï¿½szete szerint vannak elosztva. A vï¿½z pedig mï¿½r dolgozva ered fenn a hegyekben. Egï¿½sz sor hegyi fennsï¿½k rï¿½tjeit ï¿½ntï¿½zi, mielï¿½tt lezuhan onnan ï¿½s a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pï¿½r meredek kilomï¿½teren kristï¿½lyosra tisztul ï¿½s a hegybï¿½l valï¿½ lerohanï¿½ssal adja a farm motor-erejï¿½nek a felï¿½t ï¿½s az egï¿½sz vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½st. Aztï¿½n megï¿½ntï¿½z nï¿½hï¿½ny alacsonyabb sï¿½ksï¿½got, idefolyik a halastavakba, innen kifut ï¿½s tovï¿½bb ï¿½ntï¿½z pï¿½r kilomï¿½ter lucernï¿½st. Hidd el, hogy ha ekkorï¿½ra el nem ï¿½rnï¿½ a Sacramento vï¿½lgyï¿½t, mï¿½g tï¿½bb ï¿½ntï¿½zï¿½st szipolyoznï¿½k ki ebbï¿½l a kï¿½sz vï¿½zvezetï¿½kbï¿½l.

- Ejnye, te ember - nevetett Graham - mï¿½g kï¿½ltemï¿½nyt fogsz ï¿½rni a vï¿½z csodï¿½irï¿½l. Tï¿½zimï¿½dï¿½kat mï¿½r lï¿½ttam, de te vagy az elsï¿½ eleven vï¿½zimï¿½dï¿½, akihez szerencsï¿½m van. Pedig nem is lakol a Szaharï¿½ban. Te vï¿½zbï¿½ vidï¿½ken lakol ï¿½s - bocsï¿½nat a kifejezï¿½sï¿½rt - ahogy mondtam...

Graham sohasem fejezte be ezt a gondolatot. Jobbfelï¿½l nem messzirï¿½l meglepï¿½ lï¿½rma hallatszott: tisztï¿½n kivehetï¿½ patkï¿½csattogï¿½s valami betonos talajon, aztï¿½n hatalmas loccsanï¿½s, vï¿½gï¿½l kitï¿½rï¿½ nï¿½i sikoltozï¿½s ï¿½s kacagï¿½s. De a vidï¿½m kiabï¿½lï¿½s hamar komolyra fordult s mellette ï¿½riï¿½si csapkodï¿½s ï¿½s erï¿½lkï¿½dï¿½s, mintha valami nagy ï¿½llat fuldokolna. Dick lekapta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½tugratott az orgonabokrokon, Graham az Altadenï¿½val a nyomï¿½ban. Napfï¿½nyben ragyogï¿½ tisztï¿½sra jutottak ï¿½s Graham olyan vï¿½ratlan lï¿½tvï¿½nynak lett rï¿½szese, mint soha ï¿½letï¿½ben.

A fï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½llï¿½ tisztï¿½snak a kï¿½zepï¿½t egy nï¿½gyszï¿½gletï¿½ betonmedence kï¿½pezte. Felsï¿½ vï¿½gï¿½n teljes szï¿½lessï¿½gen lefolyï¿½st kï¿½pezett, egy ujjnyi lassan lecsurgï¿½ vï¿½z fï¿½nylett a peremï¿½n. Minden oldal meredeken ï¿½pï¿½lt, csak az innensï¿½ vï¿½ge nem: ez durvï¿½n rovï¿½tkolt betonjï¿½val menedï¿½kesen vezetett ki a talajra. Kï¿½tsï¿½gbeesï¿½ssï¿½ fokozï¿½dott zavarban ï¿½s pï¿½nikkï¿½ fokozï¿½dott ijedelemben hajlongott itt egy medvebï¿½rnadrï¿½gos cowboy, aki ï¿½rtelmetlenï¿½l ismï¿½telte folyton: ï¿½ istenem, ï¿½ istenem. Az elsï¿½ felï¿½t mindig akkor mondta, mikor felegyenesedett, a mï¿½sik felï¿½t, mikor lehajlott. A tï¿½lsï¿½ oldalon a medence szï¿½lï¿½n, vele szemkï¿½zt, a vï¿½zbe lï¿½gatott lï¿½bakkal hï¿½rom fï¿½rdï¿½ruhï¿½s nimfa rï¿½mï¿½ldï¿½zï¿½tt.

ï¿½s a medencï¿½ben, az egï¿½sz kï¿½p kï¿½zï¿½ppontjï¿½ban egy pej lï¿½ ï¿½gaskodott, vï¿½rhenyes barna bï¿½rsony vagy selyem benyomï¿½sï¿½t keltve. Fï¿½ggï¿½legesen ï¿½llt ki a vï¿½zbï¿½l, igyekezett felfelï¿½ a levegï¿½re, csapkodï¿½ nagy patkï¿½i acï¿½losan, nedvesen csillogtak a napon, a hï¿½tï¿½n pedig csï¿½szott ï¿½s lï¿½gott valaki, akibï¿½l Graham elsï¿½ pillantï¿½sa csak a dicsï¿½ fiatalsï¿½got lï¿½tta. Csak akkor jï¿½tt rï¿½, hogy ez egy lovaglï¿½ nï¿½, mikor a mï¿½n megint elsï¿½lyedt, aztï¿½n erï¿½teljes rï¿½gkapï¿½lï¿½sï¿½val megint kibukkant, - egy nï¿½, olyan fehï¿½r, mint kurta hï¿½selyem fï¿½rdï¿½ruhï¿½ja, amely ï¿½gy simult rï¿½, mint a mï¿½rvï¿½nyba faragott drapï¿½riï¿½k redï¿½i. A hï¿½ta is olyan volt, mint a mï¿½rvï¿½ny, de finom, kecses izmai mozogtak ï¿½s remegtek a selyem alatt, amikor erï¿½lkï¿½dve emelte ki a fejï¿½t a vï¿½z fï¿½lï¿½. Vï¿½kony, gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½ kï¿½t karja a fuldoklï¿½ paripa sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½be fonï¿½dott, kerek, fehï¿½r tï¿½rde lesiklott a lï¿½ feszï¿½lï¿½ vï¿½llizmainak sï¿½kos, selymes pï¿½rnï¿½in. Fehï¿½r lï¿½bujjai belevï¿½jï¿½dtak az ï¿½llat csï¿½szï¿½s oldalï¿½ba, hiï¿½ba keresve valami tï¿½maszkodï¿½ pontot a lï¿½ bordï¿½in.

Graham egy pillanat vagy egy pillanatnak a fele alatt ï¿½tlï¿½tta az egï¿½sz veszedelmes helyzetet, ï¿½tfutott a fejï¿½n, hogy a csodï¿½latos fehï¿½r lï¿½ny nï¿½, ï¿½s ï¿½rezte, hogy ez a nï¿½ kicsi ï¿½s gyenge a veszedelemben, hiï¿½ba kï¿½szkï¿½dik olyan hatalmasan. Azokra a drezdai porcellï¿½nfigurï¿½kra emlï¿½kezett, amelyek lehetetlenï¿½l kicsinyen, ragyogï¿½an ï¿½s furcsï¿½n vannak valami titï¿½ni ï¿½llat ï¿½szï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½ra ï¿½ltetve. A mï¿½n nagysï¿½ga mellett ï¿½gy eltï¿½rpï¿½lt, hogy tï¿½rpï¿½nek vagy a valï¿½sï¿½ggï¿½ vï¿½lt tï¿½ndï¿½rorszï¿½g pici tï¿½ndï¿½rkï¿½jï¿½nek tetszett.

Amint odaszorï¿½totta az ï¿½llï¿½t a lï¿½ hatalmas ï¿½vï¿½ nyakï¿½hoz, aranybarna haja az elmerï¿½lï¿½stï¿½l csapzottan ï¿½szott ï¿½s hullï¿½mzott utï¿½na ï¿½s ï¿½gy tetszett, hogy egï¿½szen belevegyï¿½lt az ï¿½llat fekete sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½be. De a legjobban az arca ragadta meg Grahamot. Fiï¿½arc volt ez ï¿½s asszonyi arc is, komoly ï¿½s gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dtetï¿½ egyszerre, rï¿½ volt ï¿½rva az a kï¿½j, amit a veszedelemben ï¿½rzett. Fehï¿½r nï¿½ arca volt ï¿½s modern, de Graham mï¿½gis egï¿½szen pogï¿½nynak lï¿½tta. Ezzel a nï¿½alakkal ï¿½s ezzel a helyzettel nem lehetett a huszadik szï¿½zadban talï¿½lkozni. Egyenesen a rï¿½gi Gï¿½rï¿½gorszï¿½gbï¿½l jï¿½tt ide. Parrish Maxfield egy csoportozata volt az Ezeregyï¿½jszakï¿½bï¿½l. Az ember azt vï¿½rta volna, hogy a felkavart mï¿½lybï¿½l gï¿½niuszok bukkannak fel vagy az ï¿½gbï¿½l szï¿½rnyas sï¿½rkï¿½nyon lovaglï¿½ aranyhï¿½mes hercegek csapnak le megmenteni a fuldoklï¿½t.

Egy hajszï¿½lon mult, hogy a lï¿½, mikor mindenï¿½ron mï¿½g jobban ki akart jutni a vï¿½zbï¿½l, hanyatt nem zuhant vissza, mert megcsï¿½szott. A gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½llat ï¿½s a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ lovas egyï¿½tt tï¿½ntek el a vï¿½z alatt ï¿½s egy pillanattal kï¿½sï¿½bb egyï¿½tt bukkantak ki megint. A lï¿½ ï¿½llandï¿½an csapkodott a levegï¿½be tï¿½nyï¿½rnagysï¿½gï¿½ patï¿½ival, a lovas ï¿½llandï¿½an kapaszkodott a sï¿½kos, selymes izmokon. Graham borzadva gondolta el, mi tï¿½rtï¿½nhetett volna, ha a lï¿½ hanyatt fordul. A nï¿½gy ï¿½riï¿½si rï¿½gkapï¿½lï¿½ pata akï¿½rmelyikï¿½nek egy vï¿½letlen csapï¿½sa ï¿½rï¿½kre kiolthatta volna a vilï¿½gossï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s ragyogï¿½sï¿½t ennek a pompï¿½s, fehï¿½rtestï¿½, bï¿½tor lelkï¿½ nï¿½nek.

- Fogd meg a homloksï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½t, ï¿½lj a nyakï¿½ra, - kiï¿½ltotta Dick - juss mennï¿½l elï¿½bbre ï¿½s maradj ott, mï¿½g ki nem vergï¿½dik!

A nï¿½ szï¿½t fogadott. Gyors erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ben belenyomta lï¿½ba ujjï¿½t a lï¿½ elsiklï¿½ hï¿½sï¿½ba ï¿½s feljebb kï¿½szkï¿½dve, fï¿½lkezï¿½t belefï¿½rta a nedves sï¿½rï¿½nybe, mï¿½sik szabadon maradt ï¿½s messzire nyï¿½jtott kezï¿½vel a lï¿½ fï¿½le kï¿½zï¿½ kapott ï¿½s megragadta a homlokszï¿½rï¿½t. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban, mikor a lï¿½ az egyensï¿½ly-vï¿½ltozï¿½snak engedelmeskedve nï¿½gy lï¿½bra ï¿½llott, visszacsï¿½szott a lï¿½ vï¿½llï¿½ra. Fï¿½lkï¿½zzel fogta a lï¿½ sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½t, mï¿½sik kezï¿½vel kï¿½szï¿½netï¿½t intett Forrestnek ï¿½s felï¿½je mosolygott ï¿½s, mint Graham megï¿½llapï¿½totta magï¿½ban, mï¿½g arra is maradt lelki nyugalma, hogy ï¿½t Forrest mellett ï¿½szrevegye. ï¿½s azt is megï¿½llapï¿½totta Graham, hogy a nï¿½, mikor odafordï¿½totta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s lengette a karjï¿½t, nemcsak hencegï¿½sbï¿½l tette ezt: tisztï¿½ban volt annak a kï¿½pnek, amit ï¿½gy adott, az esztï¿½tikai ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½vel is, de mozdulata legkivï¿½lt azt a tiszta ï¿½rï¿½met szolgï¿½lta, amivel a hï¿½s ï¿½s vï¿½r ï¿½s ï¿½let ï¿½rï¿½l a vakmerï¿½sï¿½gnek ï¿½s a vï¿½llalkozï¿½snak.

- Ezt nem sok asszony csinï¿½lta volna meg, - mondta Dick nyugodtan, mikor Hegyi Fickï¿½, kï¿½nnyen megtartva vï¿½zszintes helyzetï¿½t, ha mï¿½r kivergï¿½dte magï¿½nak, a medence menedï¿½kes oldalï¿½hoz ï¿½szott ï¿½s felkapaszkodott a rovï¿½tkï¿½s feljï¿½rï¿½n a rï¿½mï¿½lt cowboyhoz.

A cowboy egy lï¿½ncfordï¿½tï¿½ssal egy-kettï¿½re megigazï¿½totta a vezetï¿½ket a lï¿½ szï¿½jï¿½ban. De Paula elï¿½re hajlott, ï¿½rnï¿½i mozdulattal elvette a vezetï¿½st a cowboytï¿½l, odatï¿½ncoltatta Hegyi Fickï¿½t szemkï¿½zt Forresttel ï¿½s szalutï¿½lt.

- Most odï¿½bb lehet ï¿½llni, - mondta - ez nï¿½i osztï¿½ly, fï¿½rfiaknak tilos a belï¿½pï¿½s.

Dick nevetett, bï¿½lintott, kï¿½szï¿½nt ï¿½s az orgonabokrok kï¿½zï¿½tt visszafelï¿½ fordult az ï¿½tra.

- Ki... ki volt ez? - kï¿½rdezte Graham.

- Paula... a felesï¿½gem... a fiï¿½-asszonyka... a soha nagyra nem nï¿½vï¿½ kisgyerek, a legpatyolatosabb kis rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ miegymï¿½s, amit valaha nï¿½nek hï¿½vtak.

- Majd elï¿½llt a lï¿½legzetem, - mondta Graham - gyakran csinï¿½l ilyen elszï¿½nt dolgokat a felesï¿½ged?

- Ezt most csinï¿½lta legelï¿½szï¿½r, - felelte Forrest - ez a lï¿½ a Hegyi Fickï¿½ volt. Paula egyenesen lelovagolt vele a medencï¿½be, leszï¿½nkï¿½zott a lejï¿½rï¿½n a lï¿½ ezer kilï¿½jï¿½val egyï¿½tt.

- ï¿½s kockï¿½ra tette a lï¿½ lï¿½bï¿½t ï¿½s nyakï¿½t, de a magï¿½ï¿½t is.

- A lï¿½ lï¿½ba ï¿½s nyaka harmincï¿½tezer dollï¿½rt ï¿½r, - mosolygott Dick - egy ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½ szï¿½vetkezet ennyit kï¿½nï¿½lt ï¿½rte tavaly, mikor a lï¿½ ï¿½s csikai minden dï¿½jat besï¿½pï¿½rtek. Ami Paulï¿½t illeti, ï¿½ akï¿½r mindennap tï¿½nkretenne egy lovat ezï¿½rt a pï¿½nzï¿½rt, mï¿½g tï¿½nkre nem megyek. De nem teszi. Soha sincsenek balesetei.

- Nem adtam volna a megmenekï¿½lï¿½sï¿½ï¿½rt egy fagarast, ha a lï¿½ hanyattesik.

- De nem esett hanyatt, - felelte nyugodtan Dick - ez mï¿½r a Paula hagyomï¿½nyos szerencsï¿½je. Pï¿½ldï¿½tlanul kemï¿½ny nï¿½. Kï¿½rlek, ï¿½lltam mï¿½r vele ï¿½gyï¿½tï¿½zben ï¿½s mondhatom, szinte csalï¿½dottnak lï¿½ttam, hogy nem csapott bele a golyï¿½ vagy legalï¿½bb nem sebesï¿½lt meg sï¿½lyosan. Nï¿½gy ï¿½teg nyitotta meg rï¿½nk a srapnell-tï¿½zet mï¿½sfï¿½l kilomï¿½terrï¿½l. ï¿½tszï¿½z mï¿½terre volt hozzï¿½nk a legkï¿½zelebbi fedezï¿½k: egy kopasz hegynek a kiugrï¿½sa. ï¿½s komolyan azt ï¿½reztem, hogy igazam van, mikor ï¿½vatossï¿½gra intem. Alig adott igazat. Tï¿½z-tizenkï¿½t ï¿½ves hï¿½zasok vagyunk ï¿½s tudod, nï¿½ha ï¿½gy ï¿½rzem, hogy egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ismerem, senki sem ismeri, ï¿½ maga sem ismeri magï¿½t... mint ahogy magunkfajta ember a tï¿½kï¿½rbe nï¿½z ï¿½s bï¿½mul, hogy ki az ï¿½rdï¿½g ez tulajdonkï¿½ppen. Paulï¿½nak ï¿½s nekem van egy bï¿½vï¿½s mondatunk: ï¿½rdï¿½g bï¿½nja a kiadï¿½st, ha mulatsï¿½got lehet venni! Az aztï¿½n mindegy, hogy az ï¿½ra dollï¿½rban, ï¿½p bï¿½rben vagy ï¿½letben ï¿½rtendï¿½. Mi mï¿½r ï¿½gy szoktuk, a tï¿½bbi szerencse dolga. A szerencse meg is teszi a magï¿½ï¿½t. ï¿½s kï¿½rlek, az ï¿½rï¿½val mï¿½g sohasem csapï¿½dtunk be.

Csak a fï¿½rfiak ï¿½ltek asztalhoz. Mint Forrest magyarï¿½zta, a hï¿½lgyek ottmaradtak a »nï¿½i osztï¿½lyon«.

- Nem hiszem, hogy egy lelket is lï¿½tnï¿½l kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k nï¿½gy ï¿½rï¿½ig. Nï¿½gykor Ernestine, Paula egyik huga, meg fog engem tenniszben semmisï¿½teni. Legalï¿½bb is azzal fenyegetï¿½dzï¿½tt, hogy szentï¿½l megfogadta.

ï¿½s Graham vï¿½gigï¿½lte a lunchï¿½t a fï¿½rfiakkal, rï¿½sztvett az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½srï¿½l ï¿½s fajï¿½llatokrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ tï¿½rsalgï¿½sban, sokat tanult, maga is sajï¿½t tapasztalï¿½sï¿½t hozta fel, de kï¿½ptelen volt eltï¿½voztatni magï¿½tï¿½l a hï¿½ziasszony makacsul kï¿½sï¿½rtï¿½ kï¿½pï¿½t: az ï¿½szï¿½ paripa sï¿½tï¿½t bï¿½rsonyos alapjï¿½n a gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½ ï¿½s finom fehï¿½r jelensï¿½get. Egï¿½sz dï¿½lutï¿½n, mialatt a dï¿½jnyertes merinï¿½kat ï¿½s pompï¿½s berkshireket nï¿½zegettï¿½k, mindig ez a lï¿½tomï¿½s gyï¿½lt ki a szemï¿½ben. Mï¿½g nï¿½gy ï¿½rakor is a tenniszpï¿½lyï¿½n, mikor ï¿½ maga is jï¿½tszott Ernestine-nel, nem egy labdï¿½t elhibï¿½zott, mert a repï¿½lï¿½ labda helyett minduntalan elï¿½be villant egy fehï¿½r mï¿½rvï¿½ny-nï¿½ figurï¿½ja, amely egy nagy lï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½n csï¿½szik ï¿½s kï¿½szkï¿½dik.

Kï¿½lfï¿½ldi volt, de jï¿½l ismerte Kaliforniï¿½t ï¿½s nem lepï¿½dï¿½tt meg, hogy a diner-nï¿½l a fï¿½rdï¿½ruhï¿½s lï¿½nyok mind estï¿½lyi toalettben jelentek meg, a fï¿½rfiak kï¿½zï¿½l azonban egy sem ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½t. ï¿½ maga sem kï¿½vette el azt a hibï¿½t, hogy frakkot vegyen, pedig a nagy hï¿½z nagyszerï¿½ ï¿½letmï¿½djï¿½bï¿½l ez kï¿½vetkezett volna.

Az elsï¿½ ï¿½s mï¿½sodik gong-ï¿½tï¿½s kï¿½zï¿½tt a vendï¿½gek mind betï¿½dultak a hosszï¿½ ebï¿½dlï¿½be. Pontosan a mï¿½sodik gongszï¿½ra belï¿½pett Dick ï¿½s nekiesett a cocktailnek. Graham tï¿½relmetlenï¿½l vï¿½rta annak az asszonynak a megjelenï¿½sï¿½t, aki dï¿½l ï¿½ta nem hagyta bï¿½kï¿½n a fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½t. Minden elkï¿½pzelhetï¿½ csalï¿½dï¿½sra el volt kï¿½szï¿½lve. Elï¿½g atlï¿½tï¿½t lï¿½tott mï¿½r meztelenï¿½l pompï¿½snak, felï¿½ltï¿½zve lomposnak ï¿½s semmitmondï¿½nak. Nem vï¿½rt sokat a fehï¿½r selyem ï¿½szï¿½ruhï¿½s csodï¿½tï¿½l, ha a civilizï¿½lt nï¿½ ruhï¿½jï¿½ba ï¿½ltï¿½zik.

A lï¿½lekzete is elï¿½llt a titkos meghï¿½kkenï¿½stï¿½l, mikor Forrestnï¿½ belï¿½pett. Egy futï¿½ pillantï¿½sra az ï¿½velt ajtï¿½nyï¿½lï¿½sban megï¿½llt az asszony, alakja finoman rajzolï¿½dott a sï¿½tï¿½t hï¿½ttï¿½rbe, a terem vilï¿½gossï¿½ga lï¿½gyan esett rï¿½. Graham ajkai meglepetten nyï¿½ltak szï¿½t ï¿½s nyitva is maradtak, a szeme elbï¿½mult annak a nï¿½nek meglepï¿½ szï¿½psï¿½gï¿½n, akit olyan kicsinek ï¿½s tï¿½ndï¿½rkeszerï¿½nek gondolt. Az asszonyi csï¿½ppsï¿½g, a lï¿½hï¿½ton ï¿½lï¿½ fiï¿½s kislï¿½ny nem volt sehol. Pompï¿½s dï¿½ma volt ez a nï¿½. Mint ahogy csak a kicsi nï¿½k tudnak alkalmilag nagyszerï¿½ek lenni.

Nagyobbnak lï¿½tszott ï¿½s nagyobb is volt, mint amilyennek ï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½lte. ï¿½szï¿½ruhï¿½jï¿½ban ï¿½s mostani toalettjï¿½ben egyformï¿½n finom ï¿½s arï¿½nyos. Ragyogï¿½ aranybarna hajï¿½t magasra tï¿½zte, tiszta, makulï¿½tlan, fehï¿½r arcbï¿½rï¿½n az egï¿½szsï¿½g szï¿½ne pompï¿½zott, kerek ï¿½s telt nyaka hasonlï¿½thatatlan vonalban emelkedett ki egï¿½szsï¿½ges mellï¿½bï¿½l, kï¿½zï¿½pkori ruhï¿½kra emlï¿½keztetï¿½ sï¿½tï¿½tkï¿½k toalettet hordott, bï¿½ szabï¿½sï¿½t, de hozzï¿½simulï¿½ anyagbï¿½l, aranyhï¿½mzï¿½sï¿½ szalagos ujjakkal ï¿½s aranyhï¿½mzï¿½sï¿½ betï¿½tekkel.

ï¿½ltalï¿½nos mosolygï¿½ssal ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lte a tï¿½rsasï¿½got. Graham ï¿½gy talï¿½lta, hogy ebben a mosolygï¿½sban rokonsï¿½g van azzal, amelyet dï¿½lben lï¿½tott, mikor az asszony a lï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½rï¿½l mosolygott oda. ï¿½s nem lehetett ï¿½szre nem venni azt az utï¿½nozhatatlan mï¿½dot, ahogyan tï¿½rdeivel hordta toalettjï¿½nek lehullï¿½ redï¿½it ï¿½s a szï¿½vet lenge sï¿½lyï¿½t, mikor az ajtï¿½bï¿½l elï¿½re jï¿½tt. Graham visszagondolt arra, hogy ezek a tï¿½rdek milyen kï¿½tsï¿½gbeesetten vï¿½jï¿½dtak bele Hegyi Fickï¿½ gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½ izmaiba. ï¿½s azt is megfigyelte, hogy Forrestnï¿½ nem hordott fï¿½zï¿½t ï¿½s nem is volt szï¿½ksï¿½ge rï¿½. Kï¿½t nï¿½t kellett lï¿½tni benne. Az egyiket, a nagy ladyt, a nagy hï¿½z ï¿½rnï¿½jï¿½t. ï¿½s az aranyhï¿½mes, sï¿½tï¿½tkï¿½k toalett mï¿½gï¿½tt a mï¿½sikat, a bï¿½jos lovaglï¿½ szobrocskï¿½t, amelyet Grahammel semmifï¿½le toalett nem tudott elfelejtetni.

Most mï¿½r ott volt az asszony a csoport kï¿½rï¿½ben. Graham a szertartï¿½sos ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½snï¿½l a kezï¿½ben fogta a kezï¿½t. ï¿½s arrï¿½l a hangrï¿½l, amely a nagy hï¿½z ï¿½s az egï¿½sz telep nevï¿½ben istenhozzï¿½dot mondott neki, Graham tudta, hogy ilyen dallamos orgï¿½num csak az ilyen magasan boltozott szï¿½p torokbï¿½l jï¿½het ï¿½s csak az ilyen mellbï¿½l, amely nem nagy asszony mellkasa ugyan, de mï¿½ly ï¿½s domborï¿½.

Az asztalnï¿½l, Forrestnï¿½ mellett a sarkon, meg nem ï¿½llhatta, hogy lopva alaposan szemï¿½gyre ne vegye. Rï¿½szt vett az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos vidï¿½msï¿½gban ï¿½s bolondozï¿½sban, de szeme ï¿½s lelke ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½si kï¿½rï¿½t tï¿½bbnyire a hï¿½ziasszony foglalta el:

Graham mindig bizarr tï¿½rsasï¿½got ï¿½ltetett ï¿½ssze az asztalï¿½hoz. A birkaï¿½gynï¿½k ï¿½s az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si Kï¿½zlï¿½ny tudï¿½sï¿½tï¿½ja mï¿½g itt voltak. Hï¿½rom autï¿½-rakomï¿½ny vendï¿½g, urak, asszonyok, lï¿½nyok, ï¿½sszesen tizennï¿½gyen, ï¿½ppen az elsï¿½ gong-szï¿½ elï¿½tt ï¿½rkeztek meg ï¿½s itt maradtak, hogy holdvilï¿½gnï¿½l menjenek haza. Graham nem tudott emlï¿½kezni a nevï¿½kre, de kivette a beszï¿½lgetï¿½sbï¿½l, hogy egy harminc mï¿½rfï¿½ldnyire fekvï¿½ Wickenberg nevï¿½ vï¿½rosbï¿½l jï¿½ttek ï¿½s a vï¿½roska nagybirtokos ï¿½s bankï¿½r-tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½hoz tartoztak. Tele voltak jï¿½kedvvel ï¿½s kacagï¿½ssal ï¿½s a legï¿½jabb viccek ï¿½s legfrissebb pletykï¿½k a legï¿½jabban divatos tolvajnyelven rï¿½pkï¿½dtek az asztal felett.

- ï¿½gy lï¿½tom, - mondta Graham Paulï¿½nak - hogy ha a maguk hï¿½za tovï¿½bb is ilyen karavï¿½nszerï¿½ly lesz, mint miï¿½ta megï¿½rkeztem, le kell mondanom arrï¿½l, hogy neveket ï¿½s embereket megprï¿½bï¿½ljak jegyezni.

- Nem ï¿½tï¿½lem el ï¿½rte, - nevetett Paula - ezek kï¿½lï¿½nben szomszï¿½dok. Mindig becsï¿½ppennek hozzï¿½nk. Watsonnï¿½, ott Dick mellett, a rï¿½gi fï¿½ldbirtokos-arisztokrï¿½ciï¿½bï¿½l valï¿½. A nagyapja, Wicken, 1846-ban jï¿½tt ï¿½t a Sierrï¿½kon. Rï¿½la neveztï¿½k el Wickenberget. Az a csinos, feketeszemï¿½ kislï¿½ny az ï¿½ leï¿½nya...

ï¿½s mialatt Paula a vendï¿½gekrï¿½l futï¿½ ismertetï¿½st adott neki, ï¿½ alig hallotta a szavakat, annyira el volt foglalva azzal az igyekezettel, hogyan tudna ennek az asszonynak a megoldï¿½sï¿½hoz fï¿½rkï¿½zni. Elsï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½lete az volt, hogy Paula fï¿½vonï¿½sa a termï¿½szetessï¿½g. Tï¿½bb ï¿½zben viszont ï¿½gy dï¿½ntï¿½tt, hogy fï¿½vonï¿½sa inkï¿½bb az ï¿½rï¿½m. De egyik megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½sï¿½val sem volt megelï¿½gedve ï¿½s tudta, hogy mï¿½g nem talï¿½lta meg a nyitjï¿½t. ï¿½s egyszerre eszï¿½be jutott: - bï¿½szkesï¿½g. Ez az! Meglï¿½tta a szemï¿½ben, a feje tartï¿½sï¿½ban, haja gï¿½ndï¿½r csigï¿½iban, ï¿½rzï¿½keny orrcimpï¿½iban, eleven ajkaiban, kerek ï¿½lla sokat elï¿½rulï¿½ vonalï¿½ban ï¿½s vï¿½kony, erï¿½s, kï¿½kerï¿½ kezï¿½ben, amelyrï¿½l elsï¿½ pillanatra meg lehetett lï¿½tni a zongora elï¿½tt eltï¿½ltï¿½tt sok-sok ï¿½rï¿½t. Igen, a bï¿½szkesï¿½g volt ez: minden izmï¿½ban, idegï¿½ben ï¿½s moccanï¿½sï¿½ban, tudatos, ï¿½rzï¿½keny ï¿½s nagyon ï¿½les bï¿½szkesï¿½g. Lehetett ez az asszony jï¿½kedvï¿½ ï¿½s termï¿½szetes, fiï¿½s ï¿½s asszonyos, trï¿½fï¿½s ï¿½s bolondos, de mindig ott bujkï¿½lt benne vibrï¿½lva, feszï¿½lten, bensï¿½sï¿½gesen a bï¿½szkesï¿½ge, az alapanyag, amelybï¿½l lelke kï¿½szï¿½lt. Asszony volt, nyilt, szï¿½kimondï¿½, szembenï¿½zï¿½, meggyï¿½zhetï¿½, gï¿½gtelen, de lekezelni nem lehetett. Olykor Graham gondolatain az acï¿½l benyomï¿½sa futott keresztï¿½l, a vï¿½kony, ï¿½kszerhez hasonlï¿½ acï¿½lï¿½, legfinomabb szavaiban ï¿½s szï¿½fï¿½zï¿½seiben ilyen erï¿½t ï¿½rult el ez a nï¿½. A Graham fejï¿½ben aztï¿½n olyan kï¿½sza benyomï¿½sok is jï¿½rtak, mint az ezï¿½stszï¿½vï¿½sï¿½ fonï¿½l, a finom bï¿½r, a hï¿½tï¿½gï¿½ fonott hajbokrï¿½ta, amilyet a Marquesas-szigeti lï¿½nyok csinï¿½lnak, a tonhal gyï¿½ngykagylï¿½bï¿½l vï¿½sett csalï¿½tke ï¿½s az a szakï¿½llas elefï¿½ntcsonthegy a fï¿½ka-lï¿½ndzsï¿½k vï¿½gï¿½n, amilyet az eszkimï¿½k hasznï¿½lnak.

- Rendben van, Aaron, - hangzott fel Dick csendesï¿½tï¿½ szava az asztal mï¿½sik vï¿½gï¿½n - itt van pï¿½ldï¿½ul valami, amit Brooks Philipp mond, rï¿½gï¿½dj rajta. Brooks azt mondja, hogy senki sem lehet igazï¿½n nagy, aki valamennyire nem ï¿½rzi, hogy az ï¿½lete a fajï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½s amit isten ad neki, azt az emberisï¿½g szï¿½mï¿½ra adja.

- Szï¿½val te a vï¿½gï¿½n hiszed az istent? - nevetett vissza az Aaronnak nevezett ï¿½r. Vï¿½kony, hosszï¿½ arcï¿½, olajbarna ember volt ez, a szeme ragyogï¿½ fekete, a hosszï¿½ szakï¿½lla szintï¿½n.

- Akasszanak fel, ha meg tudom mondani, - felelte Dick - ï¿½n mindenesetre csak kï¿½pletes kifejezï¿½snek hasznï¿½ltam. Nevezhetjï¿½k erkï¿½lcsnek, jï¿½nak, fejlï¿½dï¿½snek, ahogy tetszik.

- Aki nagy akar lenni, annak nem kell intellektuï¿½lisan korrektnek lenni, - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe egy nyugodt, hosszï¿½kï¿½s ï¿½brï¿½zatï¿½ ï¿½r ember, akinek rojtos ï¿½s keshedt volt a kabï¿½tujja - ï¿½ppen azï¿½rt lettek sokan kevï¿½sbï¿½ nagyok, mert nagyon korrektï¿½l ï¿½tï¿½ltï¿½k meg a mindensï¿½get.

- Igazad van, Terrence - helyeselt Dick.

- Meghatï¿½rozï¿½s dolga, - szï¿½lalt meg szelï¿½den egy fï¿½lreismerhetetlen hindu, aki feltï¿½nï¿½en vï¿½kony ï¿½s hosszï¿½kï¿½s ujjaival morzsolgatta a kenyeret - az a kï¿½rdï¿½s, mit nevezï¿½nk nagynak.

- Mondjuk talï¿½n szï¿½psï¿½g? - kï¿½rdezte szerï¿½nyen egy tragikus arcï¿½, ï¿½rzï¿½keny ï¿½s fï¿½lï¿½nk ifjï¿½, akinek rï¿½mesen fï¿½sï¿½lt hosszï¿½ haj ï¿½kesï¿½tette a fejï¿½t.

Ernestine hirtelen felkelt a helyï¿½n, az asztalra tï¿½masztott kï¿½zzel elï¿½re hajlott ï¿½s kitï¿½nï¿½en jï¿½tszotta a feszï¿½lt figyelmet.

- Kezdik mï¿½r, - kiï¿½ltotta _ kezdik mï¿½r! Mingyï¿½rt ezredszer fogjuk hallani, hogyan tisztï¿½zzï¿½k agyon az egï¿½sz vilï¿½gmindensï¿½get. Thï¿½odore, - fordult az ifjï¿½ kï¿½ltï¿½hï¿½z - a start nagyon gyenge volt. Gyerï¿½nk, gyerï¿½nk. Nyergelje meg az ion papï¿½t ï¿½s ion mamï¿½t, hï¿½rom hosszal be fog jï¿½nni.

Kitï¿½rï¿½ kacagï¿½s jutalmazta. A kï¿½ltï¿½ elpirult ï¿½s visszavonult ï¿½rzï¿½kenysï¿½gï¿½nek csigahï¿½zï¿½ba. Ernestine odafordult a feketeszakï¿½llï¿½hoz:

- Aaron, gyerï¿½nk. Thï¿½odore nincsen formï¿½ban. Startoljon maga. Tudja mï¿½r. Na kezdje: Mint Bergson egyrï¿½szt a vï¿½gletekig kifinomodott filozï¿½fiai ï¿½kesszï¿½lï¿½ssal, mï¿½srï¿½szt a legfogï¿½konyabb intellektuï¿½lis ï¿½leslï¿½tï¿½ssal oly kitï¿½nï¿½en jegyzi meg...

Mï¿½g nagyobb kacagï¿½s viharzott vï¿½gig az asztalon ï¿½s tï¿½lharsogta Ernestine befejezï¿½ szavait is, a feketeszakï¿½llï¿½ nevetï¿½ feleletï¿½t is.

- A filozï¿½fusainknak nem jï¿½l megy ma este - szï¿½lt oda lopva Paula Grahamnek.

- Filozï¿½fusok? Ezek nem a wickenbergi tï¿½rsasï¿½ggal jï¿½ttek. Kik-mik ezek? Azt se tudom, hol lakik az isten.

- Ezek... - felelt habozva Paula - ...ezek itt laknak. Erdei madaraknak hï¿½vjï¿½k magukat. Van egy tanyï¿½juk nem messzi innen az erdï¿½ben, ahol semmit nem csinï¿½lnak, csak olvasnak ï¿½s tï¿½rsalognak. Fogadni mernï¿½k, hogy Dick legfrissebb, katalogizï¿½latlan kï¿½nyvei kï¿½zï¿½l ebben a pillanatban legalï¿½bb ï¿½tvenet lehetne nï¿½luk megtalï¿½lni. Szabad bejï¿½rï¿½suk van a kï¿½nyvtï¿½rba. Majd lï¿½tni fogja, hogy mï¿½szkï¿½lnak ki ï¿½s be ï¿½jjel-nappal minden ï¿½rï¿½ban, a hï¿½nuk alatt rengeteg kï¿½nyvvel, tï¿½bbek kï¿½zt a legfrissebb illusztrï¿½lt lapokkal is. Dick azt mondja, hogy nekik kell tulajdonï¿½tani, hogy az egï¿½sz Pacific-partvidï¿½ken a legkimerï¿½tï¿½bb ï¿½s legmodernebb filozï¿½fiai kï¿½nyvtï¿½r az ï¿½vï¿½. Hogy ï¿½gy mondjam, ezek az elï¿½kostolï¿½k, ï¿½k vï¿½logatjï¿½k ki a szï¿½mï¿½ra az ilyesmit. Dicket ez nagyon mulattatja, azonfelï¿½l sok idï¿½t nyer velï¿½k. Tudja, Dick fï¿½lelmes munkaerï¿½.

- Ha jï¿½l ï¿½rtettem, ezek... ezeket Dick tartja, nem? - kï¿½rdezte Graham, mialatt gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ggel nï¿½zett bele azokba a kï¿½k szemekbe, amelyek egyenesen az ï¿½vï¿½be nï¿½ztek.

Mï¿½g az asszony felelt, ï¿½ azzal volt elfoglalva, hogy a hosszï¿½, barna szempillï¿½kban egy alig ï¿½szrevehetï¿½ bronz ï¿½rnyalatot vegyen ï¿½szre, amit talï¿½n a vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½s okozott. ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l feljebb pillantott a finomrajzï¿½, barna szemï¿½ldï¿½kre ï¿½s ott is megtalï¿½lta ezt a bronz ï¿½rnyalatot. Mï¿½g feljebb emelte tekintetï¿½t az asszony magasra tï¿½zï¿½tt hajï¿½ra ï¿½s ott mï¿½g erï¿½sebben ï¿½szrevette azt a bronzos valamit, ami sï¿½tï¿½t aranyhajï¿½rï¿½l csillogott. Az asszony mosolyï¿½nak, szemï¿½nek, fogï¿½nak villï¿½mlï¿½ ragyogï¿½sa, amely gyakran felvillant, megkapta ï¿½s megreszkettette. Ez bizony nem a tartï¿½zkodï¿½ hatï¿½rozatlansï¿½g vï¿½kony mosolya volt. Mikor mosolygott, egï¿½sz lï¿½nye mosolygott, bï¿½sï¿½gesen vidï¿½man; egï¿½sz valï¿½ja ï¿½talakult annak termï¿½szetes kifejezï¿½sï¿½vï¿½, hogy mi ez a nï¿½ belï¿½lrï¿½l, ï¿½s hogy valahol odabenn abban a bï¿½jos fejï¿½ben mi lakhatik.

- Igen, - mondta - ezeknek nem gond a mindennapi vajaskenyï¿½r, amï¿½g csak ï¿½lnek. Dick nagyon gavallï¿½r, sï¿½t talï¿½n erkï¿½lcstelen is, hogy semmittevï¿½sre biztatja az ilyen fajta embereket. Mulatsï¿½gos hely ez, majd meglï¿½tja, ha belejï¿½tt. Ezek olyan ï¿½rï¿½k darabok, olyan jï¿½rulï¿½kok, vagy mik. Mindig itt lesznek velï¿½nk, mï¿½g el nem temetjï¿½k ï¿½ket, vagy ï¿½k el nem temetnek bennï¿½nket. Nï¿½ha egyik-mï¿½sik odï¿½bb ï¿½ll - egy kis idï¿½re. Tudja, mint a macska. Olyankor Dick a szï¿½ szoros ï¿½rtelmï¿½ben fizet, hogy visszakapja ï¿½ket. Az a Terrence ott, Mc Fane Terrence, epikurens anarchista, ha maga is ï¿½rti, hogy ez mit jelent. A lï¿½gynek sem ï¿½rt. Van egy kedvenc macskï¿½ja, tï¿½lem kapta, gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ tiszta perzsa faj. Gondosan ki szokta bolhï¿½zni, de nem bï¿½ntja a bolhï¿½kat, hanem egy bï¿½grï¿½be gyï¿½jti ï¿½s szabadon ereszti ï¿½ket az erdï¿½ben, mikor nagyokat sï¿½tï¿½l, mert nï¿½ha megï¿½nja az emberi tï¿½rsasï¿½got ï¿½s a termï¿½szettel kï¿½zlekedik. Hï¿½t mï¿½g tavaly. Valami bogï¿½r motoszkï¿½lt a fejï¿½ben, mindig az ï¿½bï¿½cï¿½vel volt megakadva. Elindult Egyiptomba, persze egy garas nï¿½lkï¿½l. Az ï¿½bï¿½cï¿½t az eredete helyï¿½n szï¿½ndï¿½kozott levezetni valamibï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½gy akarta megkapni azt a formulï¿½t, ami a kosmost megfejti. Kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l Denverig jutott az apostolok lovï¿½n. Ott valami munkï¿½szavargï¿½sba keveredett a szï¿½lï¿½sszabadsï¿½g vagy valami effï¿½le dolgï¿½ban. Dick kï¿½nytelen volt ï¿½gyvï¿½deket fogadni, pï¿½nzbï¿½ntetï¿½st fizetni ï¿½s mindent a vilï¿½gon elkï¿½vetni, hogy ï¿½psï¿½gben hazahozza. Az a szakï¿½llas ott Hancock Aaron. ï¿½ sem dolgozik, mint Terrence. A dï¿½lrï¿½l valï¿½. Azt mondja, hogy a csalï¿½djï¿½ban sohasem dolgozott senki, ï¿½s hogy mindig akadnak parasztok meg bolondok, akiket nem lehet visszatartani a munkï¿½tï¿½l. Azï¿½rt van szakï¿½lla is. Az ï¿½ felfogï¿½sa szerint borotvï¿½lkozni szï¿½ksï¿½gtelen munka, ennï¿½lfogva erkï¿½lcstelen. Emlï¿½kszem mï¿½g, mikor Melbourneban elï¿½szï¿½r lï¿½ttam. Az ausztrï¿½liai ï¿½serdï¿½kbï¿½l egy napbarnï¿½tott vadember bukkant elï¿½nk. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, eredeti antropolï¿½giai vagy folklorisztikus, vagy milyen kutatï¿½sokat vï¿½gzett. Dick mï¿½r ï¿½vekkel ezelï¿½tt megismerkedett vele Pï¿½rizsban. Megmondta neki, hogy ha valaha visszavetï¿½dik Amerikï¿½ba, ï¿½lelemrï¿½l ï¿½s lakï¿½srï¿½l nem kell gondoskodnia. Hï¿½t most itt van.

- ï¿½s a kï¿½ltï¿½? - kï¿½rdezte Graham, ï¿½rvendve, hogy az asszony most megint beszï¿½lni fog egy darabig ï¿½s ï¿½ tanulmï¿½nyozhatja az arcï¿½n jï¿½tszï¿½ mosoly gyors villanï¿½sait.

- ï¿½, Theo! Malken Thï¿½odore! Mi csak Leï¿½nak hï¿½vjuk. ï¿½ sem akar dolgozni. A csalï¿½dja rï¿½gi kaliforniai csalï¿½d ï¿½s borzasztï¿½ gazdag, de mikor tizenï¿½tï¿½ves volt, a familia kitagadta ï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½ kitagadta a familiï¿½t. Azok azt mondjï¿½k rï¿½la, hogy holdkï¿½ros, ï¿½ meg azt mondja rï¿½luk, hogy szegï¿½ny ï¿½rï¿½ltek. Igazï¿½n figyelemremï¿½ltï¿½ verseket ï¿½r... ha ï¿½r. De inkï¿½bb ï¿½lmodozik ï¿½s ï¿½ldegï¿½l az erdï¿½ben Terrence ï¿½s Aaron tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban. Bevï¿½ndorlï¿½ zsidï¿½k tanï¿½tï¿½sï¿½val foglalkozott San Franciscï¿½ban, mikor Terrence ï¿½s Aaron maguk kï¿½zï¿½ fogadtï¿½k vagy megfogtï¿½k, nem tudom. Mï¿½r kï¿½t ï¿½ve van nï¿½lunk, ï¿½s ï¿½ppen most kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½dik fï¿½lszedni a sï¿½torfï¿½jï¿½t, pedig Dick kï¿½ptelenï¿½l bï¿½kezï¿½en teljesï¿½ti minden kï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ket ï¿½s ï¿½k nem is nagyon fï¿½znek, csak olvasnak ï¿½s beszï¿½lgetnek. Csak akkor esznek jï¿½l, ha lejï¿½nnek hozzï¿½nk, mint ma este.

- ï¿½s az a hindu, az kicsoda?

- Az Hyal Dar. Az ï¿½ vendï¿½gï¿½k. Meghï¿½vtï¿½k hï¿½rman, mint ahogy Aaron hï¿½vta meg annak idejï¿½n Terrencet, ï¿½s aztï¿½n Aaron ï¿½s Terrence meghï¿½vtï¿½k Leï¿½t. Dick azt mondja, hogy nemsokï¿½ra mï¿½g hï¿½rom jï¿½n. Akkor aztï¿½n nï¿½lunk lesz a Madrono erdï¿½ Hï¿½t Bï¿½lcse. A tanyï¿½juk egy olyan madronoerdï¿½ben van. Nagyon szï¿½p hely, egy hegyszorosban, forrï¿½sok vannak ott... de igaz, Hyal Darrï¿½l beszï¿½ltem. Forradalmï¿½r. Az itteni egyetemeken hï¿½nyï¿½dott-vetï¿½dï¿½tt, tanult Olaszorszï¿½gban, Franciaorszï¿½gban, Svï¿½jcban, indiai politikai menekï¿½lt ï¿½s kï¿½t nagy csillag ragyog elï¿½tte: az egyik egy ï¿½j szintetikus filozï¿½fiai rendszer, a mï¿½sik felkelï¿½s az indiai angol uralom zsarnoksï¿½ga ellen. Hï¿½ve az egyï¿½ni terrornak ï¿½s a kï¿½zvetlen tï¿½meg-akciï¿½nak. Ezï¿½rt tiltottï¿½k be a lapjï¿½t, aminek Kadar vagy Badar, vagy valami ilyen cï¿½me volt, itt Kaliforniï¿½ban. Egy hajszï¿½lon mï¿½lt, hogy nem deportï¿½ltï¿½k. Most aztï¿½n itt van ï¿½s a filozï¿½fiï¿½jï¿½nak rendszerbe foglalï¿½sï¿½n dolgozik. ï¿½ meg Aaron rï¿½mï¿½tï¿½en veszekszenek, persze filozï¿½fiai dolgokon.

Itt kifï¿½jta magï¿½t Paula ï¿½s mindjï¿½rt mosolygott egyet.

- Elmondtam a magamï¿½t. Tekintse ï¿½ket ismerï¿½seinek. De mï¿½g egy intï¿½ szï¿½t arra az esetre, ha mï¿½g intimebben ï¿½sszejï¿½n velï¿½k, mï¿½g pedig fï¿½rfitï¿½rsasï¿½gban: Hyal Dar teljesen antialkoholista, Malken Thï¿½odore poï¿½tikusan tud becsï¿½pni ï¿½s egyetlen cocktailtï¿½l be is csï¿½p, Hancock Aaron szakavatott borkï¿½stolï¿½, Mc Fane Terrence pedig nem igen tudja egymï¿½stï¿½l megkï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½ztetni az italokat, de nem is nagyon vï¿½logatï¿½s, szï¿½z ember kï¿½zï¿½l kilencvenkilencet biztosan az asztal alï¿½ iszik ï¿½s jï¿½zanul taglalja tovï¿½bb az epikurens anarchizmust.

Valamit mï¿½g megfigyelt Graham az ï¿½tkezï¿½s folyamï¿½n. A bï¿½lcsï¿½szek Forrestet egyszerï¿½en Dicknek szï¿½lï¿½tottï¿½k, Paula keresztnevï¿½kï¿½n szï¿½lï¿½totta ï¿½ket, ï¿½k azonban megadtï¿½k a hï¿½z asszonyï¿½nak a kellï¿½ tï¿½rsadalmi megszï¿½lï¿½tï¿½st. Ebben nem volt semmi erï¿½ltetett. A filozï¿½fusok, akik kevï¿½s dolgot tiszteltek a nap alatt, a munkï¿½t pï¿½ldï¿½ul nem, - ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l is egyformï¿½n elismertï¿½k bizonyos mï¿½rtï¿½kben a Forrestnï¿½ fï¿½lï¿½nyï¿½t ï¿½s a keresztnevï¿½t soha nem mondtï¿½k ki. Ilyenekbï¿½l hamar rï¿½jï¿½tt Graham Evan, hogy Forrest Dick felesï¿½ge a maga mï¿½dja szerint demokrata ï¿½s kirï¿½lynï¿½ tud lenni egyszerre.

Ugyanez lï¿½tszott ï¿½tkezï¿½s utï¿½n a nagy szalonban. Paula akï¿½rmilyen barï¿½tsï¿½gos, sï¿½t merï¿½sz volt, senki sem ï¿½lt ezzel vissza. Mielï¿½tt a tï¿½rsasï¿½g elhelyezkedett, mindenkihez volt szava ï¿½s jobban sziporkï¿½zott a zabolï¿½tlan jï¿½kedvï¿½ szellemtï¿½l, mint akï¿½rki mï¿½s. Egyik csoporttï¿½l a mï¿½sikhoz, egyik sarokbï¿½l a mï¿½sikba csengett ï¿½t a kacagï¿½sa. ï¿½s ez a kacagï¿½s elragadta Grahamet. Valami roppant kellemes, hullï¿½mos remegï¿½s hallatszott benne, ami minden eddig hallott kacagï¿½stï¿½l megkï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½ztette. Ettï¿½l a kacagï¿½stï¿½l nem tudta Graham figyelme kï¿½vetni az ifjï¿½ Wombold ï¿½r vitaszï¿½noklatï¿½t arrï¿½l, hogy Kaliforniï¿½nak nem a japï¿½ni beï¿½zï¿½nlï¿½st kitiltï¿½ tï¿½rvï¿½nyre van szï¿½ksï¿½ge, hanem ï¿½ppen ellenkezï¿½leg kï¿½tszï¿½zezer japï¿½ni kulira, akik elvï¿½gezzï¿½k Kalifornia fï¿½ldmï¿½ves munkï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s kitekerjï¿½k a fï¿½ldbirtokosokat fenyegetï¿½ nyolcï¿½rai munkaidï¿½ rï¿½mï¿½nek a nyakï¿½t. Mint Graham megtudta, az ifjï¿½ Wombold ï¿½r nagy fï¿½ldbirtokï¿½rï¿½kï¿½s volt Wickenberg vidï¿½kï¿½n, aki bï¿½szke arra, hogy nem ï¿½szik az ï¿½j idï¿½k divatjï¿½val ï¿½s nem lï¿½p a birtokukon nem lakï¿½ fï¿½ldesurak sorï¿½ba.

A zongora felï¿½l, ahol Mason Eddie kï¿½pezte a lï¿½nyok csoportjï¿½nak kï¿½zï¿½ppontjï¿½t, hangos rag-time zene ï¿½s kuplï¿½ï¿½neklï¿½s hallatszott. Mc Fane Terrence ï¿½s Hancock Aaron tï¿½zesen ï¿½sszevitatkoztak a futurista zene fï¿½lï¿½tt. Grahamet a japï¿½ni bevï¿½ndorlï¿½si vitï¿½bï¿½l Hyal Dar mentette ki, aki proklamï¿½lta, hogy ï¿½zsia az ï¿½zsiaiakï¿½ ï¿½s Kalifornia a kaliforniaiakï¿½.

Paula a szoknyï¿½jï¿½t is felkapta siettï¿½ben, olyan szabadjï¿½ra eresztett jï¿½kedvvel szaladt vï¿½gig a termen. Dick utï¿½na. El is csï¿½pte a felesï¿½gï¿½t, mikor az ï¿½ppen a Wombold-csoport kï¿½zï¿½ akart besiklani elï¿½le.

- ï¿½tkozott nï¿½! - szidta Dick komikus haraggal. Aztï¿½n segï¿½tett neki rï¿½beszï¿½lni Hyal Dart, hogy tï¿½ncoljon.

Hyal Dar megadta magï¿½t, fakï¿½pnï¿½l hagyta ï¿½zsia ï¿½s az ï¿½zsiaiak sorsï¿½t ï¿½s kezï¿½t-lï¿½bï¿½t hajigï¿½lva, kï¿½sï¿½rtetiesen parodizï¿½lta a tangï¿½t, amelyrï¿½l kï¿½lï¿½nben is kijelentette, hogy ez a modern tï¿½nc »harsonï¿½zï¿½ kulminï¿½ciï¿½ja«.

- ï¿½s most, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, - vezï¿½nyelt Paula - ï¿½nekeld el Grahamnek a makk-nï¿½tï¿½t.

Forrest mï¿½g ï¿½tkarolva tartotta a felesï¿½gï¿½t, kï¿½szï¿½lvï¿½n, hogy vï¿½grehajtsa a kilï¿½tï¿½sba helyezett bï¿½ntetï¿½st. Sï¿½tï¿½ten rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- A makk-nï¿½tï¿½t! - kiï¿½ltott Ernestine a zongora mellï¿½l. ï¿½s a kiï¿½ltï¿½st Mason Eddie, meg a tï¿½bbi lï¿½nyok is ï¿½tvettï¿½k.

- Kï¿½rlek Dick, kï¿½rlek, - mondta Paula - Graham az egyetlen, aki mï¿½g nem hallotta.

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Hï¿½t akkor ï¿½nekeld el az alanhalat.

- Elï¿½nekelem a Hegyi Fickï¿½ dalï¿½t, - szeszï¿½lyeskedett Dick, elkï¿½nyeztetett csillogï¿½ssal a szemï¿½ben. Dobbantott a lï¿½bï¿½val, ï¿½gaskodott, egï¿½szen jï¿½l utï¿½nozva Hegyi Fickï¿½t, nagyot nyerï¿½tett, megrï¿½zta sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½t ï¿½s elkezdte kiabï¿½lni:

- Hallgassatok meg! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok a dombokon!

- A makk-nï¿½tï¿½t! - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe rï¿½gtï¿½n ï¿½s nyugodtan Paula. A hangjï¿½ban megbï¿½jt egy kis acï¿½lossï¿½g.

Dick engedelmesen abbahagyta Hegyi Fickï¿½ dalï¿½t, de egyszersmind rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t, mint a csï¿½kï¿½nyï¿½s csikï¿½.

- Van egy ï¿½j nï¿½ta - mondta ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen. - Rï¿½lam szï¿½l ï¿½s rï¿½lad, Paula. A nishinamektï¿½l vettem.

- A nishinamek Kalifornia itteni rï¿½szï¿½nek a kihalt ï¿½slakï¿½i - magyarï¿½zta gyorsan Paula a mellette ï¿½llï¿½ Grahamnek.

Dick nï¿½hï¿½ny merevlï¿½bï¿½ tï¿½nclï¿½pï¿½st tett, ahogy az indiï¿½nok tï¿½ncolnak, tenyerï¿½vel csapkodta a lï¿½baszï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s elkezdte az ï¿½j dalt. A felesï¿½gï¿½t fï¿½lkï¿½zzel tovï¿½bb fogta.

- ï¿½n Aikut vagyok, az elsï¿½ nishinam ember. Aikut mï¿½s szï¿½val ï¿½dï¿½m. Apï¿½m a farkas volt, anyï¿½m a hold. Ez pedig Yototowi, a felesï¿½gem. ï¿½ az elsï¿½ nishinam nï¿½. Apja a sï¿½ska volt, anyja a vadmacska. Az ï¿½n szï¿½lï¿½im utï¿½n ï¿½k voltak a legjobb szï¿½lï¿½k. De csak ï¿½ utï¿½nuk. A farkas nagyon bï¿½lcs, a hold nagyon ï¿½reg. De ki hallott valami jï¿½t a sï¿½skï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s a vadmacskï¿½rï¿½l? A nishinameknek mindig igazuk van. Nï¿½luk minden nï¿½nek nagyon helyesen vadmacska volt az anyja, kicsi, rï¿½ncos, rosszkedvï¿½, mï¿½rges, csï¿½kosfarkï¿½ vadmacska.

Itt az elsï¿½ fï¿½rfirï¿½l ï¿½s nï¿½rï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ dalt a nï¿½k tiltakozï¿½sa ï¿½s a fï¿½rfiak helyeslï¿½se szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe.

- Ez itt Yototowi, mï¿½s szï¿½val ï¿½va, - folytatta Dick, gorombï¿½n maga mellï¿½ rï¿½ntva Paulï¿½t, hogy ezzel a vadak nyersesï¿½gï¿½t illusztrï¿½lja - Yototowin nem sok nï¿½znivalï¿½ van. De ne ï¿½tï¿½ljetek meg nagyon. Ennek a sï¿½ska ï¿½s a csï¿½kosfarkï¿½ vadmacska az oka. ï¿½n Aikut vagyok, az elsï¿½ fï¿½rfi. De az ï¿½zlï¿½semet ne kï¿½rdezzï¿½tek. ï¿½n vagyok az elsï¿½ ember ï¿½s ï¿½, akit meglï¿½ttam, az elsï¿½ nï¿½. Ahol csak egyet lehet vï¿½lasztani, ott nincs nagy vï¿½logatï¿½s. ï¿½dï¿½m ilyen helyzetben volt. ï¿½vï¿½t vï¿½lasztotta. Yototowi az egyetlen nï¿½ volt szï¿½momra az egï¿½sz vilï¿½gon, ennï¿½lfogva ï¿½t vï¿½lasztottam.

ï¿½s Graham Evan, amint hallgatta ï¿½s nï¿½zte azt a kart, amely a hï¿½ziasszony egï¿½sz gyï¿½ngï¿½d lï¿½nyï¿½t birtokolva karolta ï¿½t, hirtelen azt ï¿½rezte, hogy valami rosszul esik neki ï¿½s hivatlanul az a gondolat tï¿½madt benne, amit hangosan elhessegetett magï¿½tï¿½l: Forest Dick szerencsï¿½s... nagyon szerencsï¿½s...

- ï¿½n Aikut vagyok, - ï¿½nekelt tovï¿½bb Dick - ez a nï¿½ az ï¿½n harmatom. Az ï¿½n mï¿½zes harmatom. Hazudtam nektek. Az apja nem volt sï¿½ska, az anyja nem volt vadmacska. Az apja a Sierrï¿½k hajnala volt, az anyja a nyï¿½ri keleti szï¿½l a hegyekben. ï¿½k fogtak ï¿½ssze ï¿½s a szellï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s a fï¿½ldbï¿½l addig leheltï¿½k ki minden ï¿½dessï¿½gï¿½ket, mï¿½g a szerelmï¿½k pï¿½rï¿½ja a mï¿½lnabokrok ï¿½s a manzanilla-fï¿½k lombjï¿½t ezzel a mï¿½zzel harmatozta meg. Yototowi az ï¿½n mï¿½zharmat-asszonyom. Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok Aikut! Yototowi az ï¿½n fï¿½rjtyï¿½kom, az ï¿½n szarvastehenem, az ï¿½n lï¿½gy zï¿½porbï¿½l ï¿½s kï¿½vï¿½r termï¿½fï¿½ldbï¿½l valï¿½ virulï¿½ asszonyom. A gyenge csillagfï¿½ny ï¿½s a napfelkelte elï¿½tti hegyi pï¿½r szï¿½lte ï¿½t...

Itt Forrest ï¿½jra felvette a termï¿½szetes hangjï¿½t, miutï¿½n a rï¿½gtï¿½nzï¿½st megelï¿½gelte.

- ï¿½s ha gondoljï¿½tok, hogy az ï¿½reg, drï¿½ga, kï¿½kszemï¿½ Salamon rï¿½lam is beszï¿½l egy kicsit, mikor az ï¿½nekek ï¿½nekï¿½t dalolja, hamar ï¿½rjatok alï¿½ egy elï¿½fizetï¿½si ï¿½vet, hogy ï¿½n kï¿½lï¿½n megï¿½rjam a magam ï¿½nekeinek ï¿½nekï¿½t!

Legelï¿½szï¿½r Masonnï¿½ kï¿½rte Paulï¿½t, hogy jï¿½tsszï¿½k, de Mc Fane Terrence ï¿½s Hancock Aaron fosztottï¿½k meg a rag-time csoportot a zongorï¿½tï¿½l, ï¿½s ï¿½k bï¿½ztï¿½k meg Malken Theodort, mint pirulï¿½ nagykï¿½vetet, hogy hozza el Paulï¿½t. Graham hallotta, mikor Terrence ï¿½gy szï¿½lt Paulï¿½hoz:

- Szeretnï¿½m jobb belï¿½tï¿½sra bï¿½rni ezt a pogï¿½nyt, azï¿½rt kï¿½rnï¿½m, legyen olyan szï¿½ves eljï¿½tszani a »Vï¿½zparti Gondolatok«-at.

- Utï¿½na pedig »A kenderhajï¿½ kislï¿½ny«-t, ha lenne szives, - kï¿½rte Hancock, a szï¿½banforgï¿½ pogï¿½ny - ez majd az ï¿½n igazamat fogja bizonyï¿½tani. Ez a vad kelta egy olyan ï¿½satag elmï¿½letet ï¿½llï¿½tott fel a zenï¿½rï¿½l, amit mï¿½r a barlanglakï¿½k is tï¿½lhaladtak, ï¿½s mï¿½g hozzï¿½ olyan romlatlanul buta, hogy ultramodernnek meri magï¿½t nevezni.

- ï¿½, Debussy, - nevetett Paula - mï¿½g mindig rajta tusakodnak? Jï¿½, megprï¿½bï¿½lom megkï¿½zelï¿½teni. De nem tudom, mivel kezdjem.

Hyal Dar is segï¿½tett a hï¿½rom bï¿½lcsnek leï¿½ltetni Paulï¿½t a hangverseny-zongorï¿½hoz, amely Graham ï¿½tï¿½lete szerint nem volt tï¿½lnagy ehez a nagy szobï¿½hoz. Paula leï¿½lt, miutï¿½n a filozï¿½fusok elvonultak a zongorï¿½tï¿½l arra a helyre, ahonnan nyilvï¿½n mï¿½skor is szoktï¿½k hallgatni a zenï¿½t.

Az ifjï¿½ kï¿½ltï¿½ messze a zongorï¿½tï¿½l hasra fekï¿½dt egy nagy medvebï¿½rï¿½n ï¿½s ujjait annak szï¿½rï¿½be mï¿½lyesztette. Terrence ï¿½s Aaron kï¿½nyelmesen elhelyezkedett egy pï¿½rnï¿½zott ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sben, elï¿½g kï¿½zel egymï¿½shoz, hogy titokban oldalba tudjï¿½k bï¿½kni egymï¿½st, ha Paula majd vitï¿½juk szï¿½banforgï¿½ pontjait fogja interpretï¿½lni. A lï¿½nyok hanyag, szï¿½nes csoportokban heverï¿½sztek a szï¿½les kereveteken, vagy kettesï¿½vel, hï¿½rmasï¿½val ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½ltek a nagy koa-fa karosszï¿½kek ï¿½lï¿½jï¿½n ï¿½s karjï¿½n egymï¿½s mellett.

Graham Evan mï¿½r indult, hogy Paula mellett elfoglalja a kottaforgatï¿½ tisztï¿½t, de lï¿½tta, hogy Hyal Dar ugyanekkor mï¿½r el is foglalta ezt a hivatalt, ï¿½ tehï¿½t nyugodt ï¿½s ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½ pillantï¿½ssal vette szemï¿½gyre az egï¿½sz kï¿½pet. A zongorï¿½t, amely a szoba vï¿½gï¿½n egy ï¿½velt falkikï¿½pzï¿½sben ï¿½llott, ï¿½gy ï¿½gyesen mintegy akusztikai hangszekrï¿½nybe helyeztï¿½k. A vidï¿½msï¿½g ï¿½s ingerkedï¿½s elhallgatott. Persze, gondolta Graham, az asszonykï¿½nak megvan a maga jï¿½tï¿½kmodora ï¿½s tehetsï¿½ges zongorï¿½snak tartjï¿½k. ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt csï¿½kï¿½nyï¿½sen elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½tette magï¿½t, hogy csalï¿½dni fog.

Ernestine, aki egy kï¿½zeli szï¿½ken ï¿½lt, elï¿½re hajolva sï¿½gta oda neki:

- Mindent tud, amit akar. ï¿½s nem is nagyon tï¿½ri magï¿½t. Leschetitzkytï¿½l ï¿½s Carreno Terï¿½ztï¿½l tanult, tudja ï¿½s ragaszkodik az ï¿½ mï¿½dszerï¿½khï¿½z. De nem is jï¿½tszik nï¿½iesen. Csak hallgassa meg.

Paula kis akkordokat ï¿½s futamokat fogott a felsï¿½ regiszterekben. De bï¿½rmily kifogï¿½stalanok voltak ezek, Graham megmaradt annï¿½l, hogy csalï¿½dni fog. Jï¿½tï¿½k elï¿½tt ilyen bevezetï¿½ kis billentyï¿½-futkosï¿½st eleget hallott mï¿½r ragyogï¿½ technikï¿½jï¿½, de kï¿½zepesen muzsikï¿½lis zongorï¿½soktï¿½l. Arra semmi esetre sem volt elkï¿½szï¿½lve, hogy Paula ï¿½ppen Rachmaninoff erï¿½teljes prï¿½ludejï¿½t fogja jï¿½tszani, amit ï¿½ jï¿½l eddig csak fï¿½rfiaktï¿½l hallott.

A kï¿½t csengï¿½ kezdï¿½-taktust Paula mesteri mï¿½don, fï¿½rfiasan kapta ki a zongorï¿½bï¿½l; ï¿½gy tetszett, mintha felemelnï¿½ az egï¿½sz zongorï¿½t ï¿½s a zengï¿½ hï¿½rozatot a kï¿½t kezï¿½vel, a fï¿½rfiassï¿½g erejï¿½vel ï¿½s biztossï¿½gï¿½val. ï¿½s aztï¿½n a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ andante tisztasï¿½gï¿½ba ï¿½s vï¿½ghetetlen lï¿½gysï¿½gï¿½ba ï¿½gy szï¿½kkent le, vagy ï¿½gy zuhant le - Graham nem tudott a kï¿½t szï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½tt vï¿½lasztani - ahogy csak fï¿½rfiak tudnak zongorï¿½zni.

ï¿½s Paula jï¿½tszott tovï¿½bb. Erejï¿½t ï¿½s nyugalmï¿½t nem lehetett kinï¿½zni abbï¿½l a kicsi, szinte gyerekes nï¿½bï¿½l, akit Graham fï¿½lig lehï¿½nyt pillï¿½i alatt lï¿½tott a nagy zongora ï¿½benfaperemï¿½n tï¿½l. Paula ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy uralkodott ezen a zongorï¿½n, mint sajï¿½tmagï¿½n, vagy akï¿½r a zeneszerzï¿½n. ï¿½s Graham megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy az asszony billentï¿½se hatï¿½rozott ï¿½s parancsolï¿½, mikor a prï¿½lude az elhalï¿½ akkordokban elmult, fï¿½jdalmas emlï¿½kï¿½vel teli erejï¿½nek, amely mintha mï¿½g a levegï¿½ben remegett volna.

Mialatt Aaron ï¿½s Terrence izgatott suttogï¿½ssal vitatkoztak az ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sben, Hyal Dar pedig Paula utasï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ra mï¿½sik kottï¿½t keresett, az asszony Dickre nï¿½zett, aki az enyhe vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ lï¿½mpï¿½kat gyujtotta fel, mï¿½gnem Paula a kellemes ragyogï¿½s valï¿½sï¿½gos oï¿½zisï¿½ban ï¿½lt ott ï¿½s ruhï¿½jï¿½nak, hajï¿½nak sï¿½tï¿½tes aranya egyarï¿½nt felragyogott.

Graham figyelte, mennyire nagyobbï¿½ nï¿½tt a nagy szoba a megsokasodott ï¿½rnyï¿½koktï¿½l. Hat-hï¿½t mï¿½ter hosszï¿½ volt, rakott kï¿½falbï¿½l mï¿½sfï¿½lemelet magasban famennyezetbe ment ï¿½t ï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n keresztï¿½l a mestergerendï¿½rï¿½l gallï¿½ria fï¿½ggï¿½tt, arrï¿½l pedig mindenfï¿½le vadï¿½llati prï¿½mek lï¿½gtak, oaxakai ï¿½s ecuadori kï¿½zifonï¿½sï¿½ szï¿½nyegek, meg a dï¿½li Pacific-szigetekrï¿½l valï¿½, tilolt fahï¿½jbï¿½l csinï¿½lt, nï¿½vï¿½nyi nedvekkel festett rostos takarï¿½k. Graham tudta, mit ï¿½brï¿½zol ez: kï¿½zï¿½pkori kastï¿½ly ï¿½nnepi termï¿½t. A stï¿½lus-ï¿½rzï¿½ke szinte heves hiï¿½nyï¿½t ï¿½rezte a nagy terï¿½tett asztalnak, amelynek felsï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½n ezï¿½st, alsï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½n cinn a holmi, alatta pedig komondorok acsarkodnak a ledobï¿½lt csontok felett.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb, mikor Paula ï¿½ppen elï¿½g Debussyt jï¿½tszott, hogy ï¿½j hadianyaggal lï¿½ssa el Terrencet ï¿½s Aaront, Graham nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½lï¿½nk percig muzsikï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½lgetett vele. Paula a zeneelmï¿½let olyan jï¿½ ismerï¿½jï¿½nek bizonyult, hogy Graham ï¿½szre sem vette, mï¿½ris belesodrï¿½dott a sajï¿½t kedvenc elmï¿½letï¿½nek a kifejtï¿½sï¿½be.

- ï¿½gy tehï¿½t - vonta le a vï¿½gkï¿½vetkeztetï¿½st - a zene igazi pszichikai tï¿½nyezï¿½jï¿½nek hï¿½romezer ï¿½vre volt szï¿½ksï¿½ge, hogy a nyugati lï¿½lekbe bevï¿½sï¿½djï¿½k. Debussy sokkal kï¿½zelebb jut a... mondjuk: Pythagoras idejï¿½nek elmï¿½lkedtetï¿½ ï¿½s szuggesztï¿½v tisztasï¿½gï¿½hoz, mint elï¿½dei kï¿½zï¿½l akï¿½rki...

Paula itt fï¿½lbeszakï¿½totta az ï¿½sszefoglalï¿½st: odaintette az ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sben hï¿½borï¿½skodï¿½ Terrencet ï¿½s Aaront. Mikor odajï¿½ttek, mï¿½g mindig vitatkoztak. Terrence hevesen kï¿½rdezte:

- Na ï¿½s? Fogadjunk, hogy nem tud kiragadni Bergsonbï¿½l egy zenï¿½re vonatkozï¿½ gondolatot, amely vilï¿½gosabb, mint, a Nevetï¿½s Elmï¿½letï¿½nek tï¿½bbi gondolata, amely egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem vilï¿½gos.

- Hallgassanak ide, - szï¿½lt ragyogï¿½ szemmel Paula - van egy ï¿½j prï¿½fï¿½tï¿½nk. Hallgassï¿½k meg ezt az urat. Mï¿½ltï¿½ ellenfï¿½l mind a kettï¿½jï¿½k szï¿½mï¿½ra. Egyetï¿½rt magukkal abban, hogy a zene a vï¿½r, a vas, a szï¿½mok vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½l valï¿½ menekï¿½lï¿½s, hogy a gyengï¿½d lelkek, az ï¿½rzelmes lelkek, a magasrï¿½ptï¿½ lelkek a vilï¿½g durva kï¿½znapisï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l a ritmus ï¿½s rezgï¿½s tï¿½lvilï¿½gï¿½nak andalï¿½tï¿½ ï¿½lmaiba emelkednek...

- Ez atavizmus, - hï¿½rgï¿½tt Hancock Aaron - Terrence barlanglakï¿½i, fï¿½lmajmai ï¿½s ï¿½si cï¿½lï¿½plakï¿½i csinï¿½ltak ilyesmit...

- Vï¿½rjon csak, - uszï¿½totta Paula - ezek az ï¿½ kï¿½vetkeztetï¿½sei, rendszerei, ï¿½rvei. ï¿½s lï¿½nyegesen ellentmond a maga ï¿½llï¿½spontjï¿½nak. Idï¿½zte Patert, hogy »minden mï¿½vï¿½szet tï¿½rekvï¿½si irï¿½nya a zene«...

- Ez tisztï¿½ra ï¿½zï¿½nvï¿½z elï¿½tti, mikroorganikus okoskodï¿½s, vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe Aaron - a sejt-elemek reakciï¿½ja a napfï¿½ny hullï¿½mhossz vï¿½ltakozï¿½ behatï¿½sï¿½ra, minden nï¿½pdal ï¿½s rag-time alapja. Terrence ï¿½ppen ezen vï¿½gzi az ï¿½ okoskodï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s ezzel teljesen nevetsï¿½ges lesz a hencegï¿½sï¿½vel egyï¿½tt. Hï¿½t most hallgasson ide. Ki fogom mutatni...

- Vï¿½rjon csak, - szï¿½lt Paula - Graham ï¿½r azzal ï¿½rvel, hogy az angol puritï¿½nsï¿½g a zenï¿½t, az igazi zenï¿½t, szï¿½zadokra elfojtotta...

- ï¿½gy van - mondta Terrence.

- ï¿½s hogy Angliï¿½nak ahoz, hogy elï¿½rkezzï¿½k a ritmus ï¿½rzï¿½ki gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½hez, elï¿½bb Milton ï¿½s Shelley...

- A metafizikus Shelley - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Aaron.

- De lï¿½rai metafizikus, - tette hozzï¿½ azonnal Terrence - remï¿½lem, Aaron, ezt maga is elismeri.

- ï¿½s Swinburne? - kï¿½rdezte Aaron ï¿½jabb ï¿½rvek tï¿½megï¿½t sejtetve.

- ï¿½ azt mondja, - provokï¿½lta ï¿½ket tovï¿½bb Paula - hogy Offenbach a Sullivan elï¿½futï¿½rja volt. ï¿½s Offenbach elï¿½dje Auber volt. Ami pedig Wagnert illeti, kï¿½rdezzï¿½k meg. Kï¿½rdezzï¿½k csak meg...

ï¿½s Grahamot sorsï¿½ra hagyva megszï¿½kï¿½tt. ï¿½s Graham utï¿½na nï¿½zett, figyelte utï¿½nozhatatlan tï¿½rdmozdulatï¿½t, amely a ruhï¿½t emelte, mikor odalï¿½pett Masonnï¿½hoz, hogy bridgejï¿½tï¿½kosokat hozzon ï¿½ssze. Terrence hangjï¿½t alig is hallotta Graham:

- Azt leszï¿½gezhetjï¿½k, hogy a gï¿½rï¿½gï¿½k minden mï¿½vï¿½szetï¿½nek inspirï¿½lï¿½ alapja a zene volt...

Kï¿½sï¿½bb, mikor a kï¿½t bï¿½lcs teljesen belefeledkezett annak heves megvitatï¿½sï¿½ba, hogy vajjon Berlioz vagy Beethoven mï¿½vei fejeznek-e ki mï¿½lyebb intellektust, Graham mï¿½djï¿½t lelte, hogy odï¿½bb ï¿½lljon. Nyilvï¿½n azzal a cï¿½llal, hogy megint megtalï¿½lja a hï¿½ziasszonyt. De Paula kï¿½t lï¿½nyhoz csatlakozott, akik egy karosszï¿½k suttogï¿½, nevetgï¿½lï¿½ menedï¿½kï¿½be zï¿½rkï¿½ztak el, a tï¿½rsasï¿½g legnagyobb rï¿½sze pedig nyakig ï¿½lt a bridgeben. ï¿½gy aztï¿½n Graham egy csoportba vetï¿½dï¿½tt, amelyet Forrest Dick, Wombold ï¿½r, Hyal Dar ï¿½s az ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½si Kï¿½zlï¿½ny munkatï¿½rsa alkottak.

- Igazï¿½n sajnï¿½lnï¿½m, ha nem jï¿½hetne velem, - mondta Dick az ï¿½jsï¿½gï¿½rï¿½nak - csak egy naprï¿½l van szï¿½. Szeretnï¿½m itt tartani holnapra.

- Lehetetlen, - felelte az - de el kell intï¿½znem Santa Rosï¿½t. Burbank egy egï¿½sz dï¿½lelï¿½ttï¿½t igï¿½rt nekem ï¿½s ï¿½n tudja, hogy ez mit jelent. Pedig tudom, hogy a Kï¿½zlï¿½ny ï¿½rï¿½lne, ha beszï¿½molï¿½t kapna a kï¿½sï¿½rletrï¿½l. Nem mondhatnï¿½ el most... rï¿½viden, csak egï¿½sz rï¿½viden? Itt van Graham ï¿½r. Bizonyosan ï¿½t is ï¿½rdekelni fogja.

- ï¿½jabb vï¿½zmï¿½vek? - kï¿½rdezte Graham.

- Nem, - felelte Wombold ï¿½r - egy eszeveszett prï¿½bï¿½rï¿½l van szï¿½: remï¿½nytelenï¿½l nyomorult farmerekbï¿½l jï¿½ farmereket csinï¿½lni. ï¿½n azt ï¿½llï¿½tom, hogy minden mai farmer, akinek nincs sajï¿½t fï¿½ldje, ï¿½ppen a fï¿½ld hiï¿½nyï¿½val bizonyï¿½tja, hogy nem ï¿½rti a dolgï¿½t.

- Sï¿½t, - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Hyal Dar, nyomatï¿½kul a levegï¿½ben rï¿½zva keskeny ï¿½zsiai ujjait - ï¿½ppen ellenkezï¿½leg. Az idï¿½k vï¿½ltoztak. A rï¿½termettsï¿½g impliciter mï¿½r rï¿½g nem jelenti a birtoklï¿½st. A kï¿½sï¿½rlet ragyogï¿½, a kï¿½sï¿½rlet heroikus. ï¿½s sikerï¿½lni fog.

- Mi az, Dick? - kï¿½rdezte Graham - mondd el!

- ï¿½, semmi az egï¿½sz, jelentï¿½ktelen aprï¿½sï¿½g, - felelte kï¿½nnyedï¿½n Forrest - a legvalï¿½szï¿½nï¿½bb, hogy nem jï¿½n ki belï¿½le semmi, ï¿½mbï¿½r ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy megvannak a remï¿½nyeim...

- Jelentï¿½ktelen aprï¿½sï¿½g? - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe Wombold. - Tizenkï¿½tezer hold elsï¿½minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½ mï¿½lyen fekvï¿½ fï¿½ldet odaadni egy csomï¿½ kï¿½tyuba jutott embernek, hogy hï¿½zzanak fel, hogy mï¿½ltï¿½ztassanak farmerkedni, kï¿½lï¿½n fizetï¿½ssel ï¿½s ellï¿½tï¿½ssal!

- Csak arrï¿½l az ellï¿½tï¿½srï¿½l van szï¿½, amit a fï¿½ld megterem; - javï¿½totta ki Dick - szï¿½val elmondom vilï¿½gosan az egï¿½szet. A Sacramento folyï¿½n innen kihasï¿½tottam tizenkï¿½tezer holdat.

- Gondolj a lucernï¿½ra, ami ott megtermett ï¿½s amire szï¿½ksï¿½ged van! - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe megint Wombold.

- A kotrï¿½gï¿½peim kï¿½tszer is leszedtï¿½k onnan a tavalyi iszapot. A helyzet az, hogy ï¿½nszerintem a nyugat, meg az egï¿½sz vilï¿½g rï¿½ kell hogy jï¿½jjï¿½n az intenzï¿½v termelï¿½sre. Az ï¿½ttï¿½rï¿½ munkï¿½bï¿½l ki akarom venni a rï¿½szemet. A tizenkï¿½tezer holdat felosztottam ï¿½tvenholdas parcellï¿½kra. Meg vagyok gyï¿½zï¿½dve, hogy mindegyik parcella nemcsak el tud tartani kï¿½nyelmesen egy csalï¿½dot, hanem mï¿½g hat szï¿½zalï¿½kot hoz is.

- Ha kiosztotta, az kï¿½tszï¿½znegyven csalï¿½dot jelent - szï¿½molta a Kï¿½zlï¿½ny embere - ï¿½s ha csalï¿½donkï¿½nt ï¿½t csalï¿½dtagot szï¿½mï¿½tunk, az ezerkï¿½tszï¿½z lelket jelent.

- Nem egï¿½szen, - szï¿½lt Dick - nï¿½hï¿½ny parcella mï¿½r le van foglalva ï¿½s ennï¿½lfogva csak valamivel tï¿½bb mint ezerszï¿½z jï¿½n ki. De remï¿½ljï¿½k a legjobbat. Nï¿½hï¿½ny bï¿½ esztendï¿½ ï¿½s akkor hat lelket lehet szï¿½mï¿½tani egy csalï¿½d ï¿½tlagï¿½ra. Mi ï¿½gy remï¿½ljï¿½k.

- Kik azok a mi? - kï¿½rdezte Graham.

- ï¿½, egy mezï¿½gazdasï¿½gi szakï¿½rtï¿½ bizottsï¿½gom foglalkozik a dologgal. A magam emberei, kivï¿½ve Lieb professzort, akit a Szï¿½vetsï¿½ges kormï¿½nytï¿½l kaptam kï¿½lcsï¿½n. Mï¿½r most a lï¿½nyeg ez: a parcellï¿½sok kï¿½telesek egyï¿½ni felelï¿½ssï¿½ggel ï¿½gy farmerkedni, ahogy a mezï¿½gazdasï¿½gi mï¿½dszerï¿½nket mi mindegyiknek kijelï¿½ljï¿½k ï¿½s megmagyarï¿½zzuk. A fï¿½ld mindenï¿½tt teljesen egyforma. Egyik parcella ï¿½gy hasonlï¿½t a mï¿½sikhoz, mint egyik tojï¿½s a mï¿½sikhoz. A parcellï¿½k gazdasï¿½gi eredmï¿½nye elï¿½g ï¿½rtelmes nyelven fog beszï¿½lni. Az egyes farmereknek hanyagsï¿½gbï¿½l vagy ostobasï¿½gbï¿½l eredï¿½ hibï¿½it, amelyeket az egï¿½sz tizenkï¿½tezer hold ï¿½tlaga nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½vï¿½ fog tenni, nem tï¿½rjï¿½k. Aki hibï¿½s, arra rï¿½bizonyï¿½t a tï¿½bbiek ï¿½tlaga. ï¿½s az pusztul. A szï¿½mï¿½tï¿½s tiszta. Egyik farmer sem kockï¿½ztat semmit. Ha szï¿½mï¿½tja azt az ï¿½lelmet, amit termel ï¿½s maga ï¿½s csalï¿½dja felï¿½l, szï¿½mï¿½tja tovï¿½bbï¿½ az ï¿½vi ezer dollï¿½r kï¿½szpï¿½nzfizetï¿½st, akkor akï¿½r buta, akï¿½r okos, ï¿½s az esztendï¿½ akï¿½r rossz, akï¿½r jï¿½, neki biztosan megvan a havi szï¿½z dollï¿½rja legalï¿½bb. A butï¿½t ï¿½s alkalmatlant ki fogja szorï¿½tani az okos ï¿½s ï¿½gyes. Ez az egï¿½sz. ï¿½gy fogjuk megmutatni, hogy kell intenzï¿½ve termelni bï¿½ntetï¿½s terhe alatt. ï¿½s mï¿½g tï¿½bbrï¿½l is van szï¿½, mint a garantï¿½lt kï¿½szpï¿½nzfizetï¿½srï¿½l. Mikor a fizetï¿½sï¿½t megkapta, minden jï¿½vedelmï¿½bï¿½l kï¿½teles nekem hat szï¿½zalï¿½kot leadni. ï¿½s ha tï¿½bbet adott le, mint a fizetï¿½se, az ï¿½sszes hatszï¿½zalï¿½kokat neki adom vissza.

- Ami azt jelenti, - mondta a Kï¿½zlï¿½ny embere - hogy minden farmer, aki ember a talpï¿½n, ï¿½jjel-nappal dolgozni fog, hogy pï¿½nzt csinï¿½ljon. Miï¿½rt ne? Szï¿½zdollï¿½ros ï¿½llï¿½sok nem teremnek minden bokorban. Az Egyesï¿½lt-ï¿½llamok ï¿½tlagos farmere a sajï¿½t fï¿½ldjï¿½bï¿½l nem tud kihozni tiszta ï¿½tven dollï¿½rt havonta, plï¿½ne ha szï¿½mba vesszï¿½k azt a pï¿½nzt, ami kï¿½lï¿½nben is jï¿½rna neki a munkafelï¿½gyeletï¿½rt vagy a kï¿½zvetlen szemï¿½lyes munkï¿½ï¿½rt. Az arravalï¿½ ember nagyon termï¿½szetesen le fogja dolgozni a kezï¿½t, hogy az ilyen kereseti alkalmat megtarthassa ï¿½s utï¿½na fog nï¿½zni, hogy a csalï¿½djï¿½nak minden tagja is megtegye a magï¿½ï¿½t.

- Az egyetlen kifogï¿½som ï¿½ppen erre vonatkozik, - jelentette ki Mc Fane Terrence, aki ï¿½ppen most csatlakozott a csoporthoz, - az ember mindig csak azt az egyet hallja, hogy dolgozni. Ez elriasztï¿½ gondolat, ez a dolgozï¿½s, hogy mindegyik a maga ï¿½tven holdjï¿½n tesz-vesz, tï¿½ri magï¿½t reggeltï¿½l estig, estï¿½tï¿½l reggelig... ï¿½s ugyan miï¿½rt? Egy kis hï¿½sï¿½rt, egy kis kenyï¿½rï¿½rt ï¿½s talï¿½n egy kis vajï¿½rt a kenyï¿½rre. ï¿½s ezt minek? Hï¿½t hï¿½s, kenyï¿½r ï¿½s vaj mindennek a vï¿½ge, az ï¿½let ï¿½rtelme, a lï¿½t cï¿½lja? Ahogy az igï¿½slï¿½ elpusztul, ï¿½gy ez az ember is egy veszï¿½dsï¿½ges ï¿½let utï¿½n fog meghalni. Milyen cï¿½l lesz ezzel betï¿½ltve? Kenyï¿½r, hï¿½s, vaj? Ez az egï¿½sz? A teli has ï¿½s a menedï¿½k a hideg ellen, mï¿½g a test bele nem zuhan a gï¿½dï¿½r sï¿½tï¿½t homï¿½lyï¿½ba?

- De Terrence, - vetette ellen Forrest Dick - hiszen maga is meg fog halni.

- De az ï¿½n ï¿½letem - felelte rï¿½gtï¿½n Terrence - a henyesï¿½g dicsï¿½ ï¿½lete! A csillagok ï¿½s virï¿½gok ï¿½rï¿½i a zï¿½ld fï¿½k alatt a fï¿½ben suttogï¿½ szellï¿½vel! A kï¿½nyveim, a bï¿½lcselï¿½im ï¿½s azoknak a gondolatai! Szï¿½psï¿½g, muzsika, minden mï¿½vï¿½szet minden enyhï¿½lï¿½se! Micsoda? Ha majd ï¿½n elvesztem a sï¿½tï¿½tbe, ï¿½n jï¿½l ï¿½ltem ï¿½s megkaptam az ï¿½letemï¿½rt a jutalmat! De ezek a maga ï¿½tvenholdas kï¿½tlï¿½bï¿½ igavonï¿½i! Reggeltï¿½l estig fï¿½radï¿½s ï¿½s lihegï¿½s, az ingï¿½k hï¿½tï¿½n verejtï¿½k, ami oda is szï¿½rad, mint a kazï¿½nkï¿½, hï¿½s ï¿½s kenyï¿½r a hasukban, tetï¿½, amin nem esik be az esï¿½, egy csomï¿½ kï¿½lyï¿½k, aki utï¿½na tovï¿½bb ï¿½ljen, ï¿½lje a robotnak ugyanazt az ï¿½llati ï¿½letï¿½t, hogy megtï¿½mhesse a gyomrï¿½t ugyanolyan hï¿½ssal ï¿½s kenyï¿½rrel, hogy rï¿½szeltesse a hï¿½tï¿½t ugyanazzal a verejtï¿½kes inggel ï¿½s elmuljon ï¿½ is ï¿½gy, hogy nem tud a vilï¿½gbï¿½l egyebet, mint hï¿½st, kenyeret ï¿½s talï¿½n, talï¿½n egy kis vajat.

- De valakinek csak kell dolgozni, - szï¿½lalt fel Wombold ï¿½r mï¿½ltatlankodva - hogy ï¿½n henyï¿½lhessen.

Terrence komoran felelt:

- Igaz. Szomorï¿½, de igaz. - Aztï¿½n lehajtotta fejï¿½t. - ï¿½s kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½m a jï¿½ istennek ezeket az igavonï¿½ barmokat, akik vonszoljï¿½k ï¿½s hajtjï¿½k az ekï¿½t a fï¿½ldeken, ezeket a denevï¿½rszemï¿½, vaksi bï¿½nya-barmokat, akik fejtik a szenet meg az aranyat, kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½m mindezeket az ostoba paraszt ï¿½llatokat, akik rï¿½vï¿½n puha maradhat a kezem ï¿½s akik megadjï¿½k a hatalmat az olyan derï¿½k gyerekeknek, mint itt ez a Dick, aki rï¿½m mosolyog ï¿½s megosztja velem a prï¿½dï¿½t ï¿½s meghozatja nekem a legï¿½jabb kï¿½nyveket ï¿½s helyet ad nekem az asztalï¿½nï¿½l, amelyet az ilyen kï¿½tlï¿½bï¿½ munkabarmok tesznek gazdaggï¿½ ï¿½s helyet ad a tï¿½zhelye mellett, amelyet ugyanezek a barmok ï¿½pï¿½tettek ï¿½s viskï¿½t ï¿½s ï¿½gyat ad nekem az ï¿½serdï¿½ben a madrono-fï¿½k alatt, ahovï¿½ a munka sohasem tolja be a maga utï¿½latos fejï¿½t.

Graham Evan nem nagyon sietett ï¿½gyba ezen az estï¿½n. A nagy hï¿½z is, az aprï¿½ asszony is szokatlanul hatott rï¿½. Ahogy ott ï¿½lt az ï¿½gy szï¿½lï¿½n fï¿½lig levetkï¿½zve ï¿½s kiszï¿½vott egy fapipa dohï¿½nyt, visszaidï¿½zte emlï¿½kezetï¿½be Forrestnï¿½t, vï¿½ggiggondolt az elmult tizenkï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½n ï¿½s maga elï¿½ gondolta, ahï¿½ny, kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le formï¿½ban lï¿½tta eddig: az asszonyt, aki muzsikï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½lgetett vele ï¿½s aki elragadta a jï¿½tï¿½kï¿½val; aki vitï¿½ba csalta a bï¿½lcseket, aztï¿½n otthagyta ï¿½t ï¿½s elment bridge-asztalokat szervezni a vendï¿½gek szï¿½mï¿½ra; aki a nagy karosszï¿½kben olyan gyerekesen gubbaszkodott, mint mellette a kï¿½t kislï¿½ny; aki az energia rejtett erejï¿½vel elhallgattatta a Forrest kiabï¿½lï¿½sï¿½t, mikor az a Hegyi Fickï¿½ dalï¿½nak elï¿½adï¿½sï¿½val fenyegetett; aki a fï¿½rdï¿½medencï¿½ben olyan rettenthetetlenï¿½l ï¿½lte meg a fuldoklï¿½ paripï¿½t, pï¿½r ï¿½rï¿½val kï¿½sï¿½bb pedig szemï¿½lyï¿½ben is, ruhï¿½jï¿½ban is egï¿½szen mï¿½skï¿½nt, mint egy ï¿½lom lï¿½pett be az ebï¿½dlï¿½be, hogy a vendï¿½gsereggel talï¿½lkozzï¿½k.

A nagy hï¿½z pedig, minden ï¿½rtï¿½kes csodï¿½jï¿½val ï¿½s bizarr kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½ssï¿½gï¿½vel egyï¿½tt, versenyre kelt a Paula figurï¿½jï¿½val, hogy a fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½t foglalkoztassa. ï¿½jra, meg ï¿½jra, aztï¿½n megint ï¿½jra lï¿½tta maga elï¿½tt a Hyal Dar vï¿½kony ujjait, amint ï¿½rvelve gesztikulï¿½lnak a levegï¿½ben, Hancock Aaront fekete oldalszakï¿½llï¿½val, amint bergsoni tï¿½teleket hirdet, Mc Fane Terrence rojtos kabï¿½tujjait, amint hï¿½lï¿½t ï¿½d az istennek a kï¿½tlï¿½bï¿½ igavonï¿½ barmokï¿½rt, amelyek lehetï¿½vï¿½ teszik, hogy henyï¿½lhessen a Forrest Dick kosztjï¿½n ï¿½s a Forrest Dick madrono-fï¿½i alatt.

Graham kiverte a pipï¿½jï¿½t, utoljï¿½ra vï¿½gigfuttatta a pillantï¿½sï¿½t a vendï¿½gszobï¿½n, amely a modern kï¿½nyelem tetejï¿½t nyujtotta, aztï¿½n lecsavarta a villanyt ï¿½s az ï¿½ber sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½gben hï¿½vï¿½s pï¿½lmï¿½k kï¿½zt talï¿½lta magï¿½t. Megint hallotta felcsendï¿½lni Forrestnï¿½ kacagï¿½sï¿½t, megint prï¿½bï¿½lta kifejezni magï¿½nak ezt az asszonyt az ezï¿½st, az acï¿½l ï¿½s az erï¿½ szavaival, ï¿½s a sï¿½tï¿½tben megint felbukkant elï¿½tte a Paula ruhï¿½jï¿½nak az az utï¿½nozhatatlan, emelï¿½ tï¿½rdmozdulata. A ragyogï¿½ lï¿½tomï¿½s mï¿½r szinte terhï¿½re volt, annyira nem tudta magï¿½tï¿½l elhessegetni. Minduntalan visszatï¿½rt ï¿½s kigyult elï¿½tte fï¿½nyek ï¿½s szï¿½nek ï¿½lï¿½kï¿½pï¿½ben, amelyrï¿½l tudta, hogy fantï¿½zia csupï¿½n, de amely folyton a valï¿½sï¿½g illï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½t akarta elhitetni.

Lï¿½tta a lovat ï¿½s lovast a vï¿½z alï¿½ tï¿½nni ï¿½s ï¿½jra felbukni ï¿½s a hab csapï¿½sa ï¿½s a patï¿½k rugkapï¿½lï¿½sa kï¿½zepette a nï¿½i arcot, amely nevetett, mikor a haja ï¿½sszefolyt a mï¿½n vï¿½zbengomolygï¿½ sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½vel. ï¿½s felcsengtek a fï¿½lï¿½ben a prï¿½lude zengï¿½ kezdï¿½-taktusai, mikor Rachmaninoff legragyogï¿½bb tisztasï¿½gï¿½ zenï¿½je felett lï¿½tta azokat a finom kezeket, amelyek a lovat kormï¿½nyoztï¿½k.

Elalvï¿½skor a gondolatai a fejlï¿½dï¿½s azon processzusa felett valï¿½ csodï¿½latï¿½ba kalandoztak, amely az ï¿½si porbï¿½l ï¿½s sï¿½rbï¿½l a nï¿½ tï¿½ndï¿½klï¿½, dicsï¿½ testï¿½t ï¿½s lelkï¿½t tudta formï¿½lni.

Mï¿½snap reggel Graham tï¿½bbet is megismert a nagy hï¿½z szokï¿½saibï¿½l. Hallode, aki nï¿½mely aprï¿½ rï¿½szletbe mï¿½r elï¿½zï¿½ nap bevezette, mï¿½ra mï¿½r tudta, hogy a vendï¿½g felï¿½bredï¿½skor ï¿½gyban hajt fel egy csï¿½sze kï¿½vï¿½t, de utï¿½na jobban szeret asztalnï¿½l reggelizni. Hallode nem is mulasztotta el figyelmeztetni, hogy az asztalnï¿½l valï¿½ reggelizï¿½s nem rendszeres dolog, nincs idï¿½hï¿½z kï¿½tve, aki reggelizni akar, az hï¿½t ï¿½s kilenc kï¿½zï¿½tt akkor ï¿½l le, amikor akar. Ha lï¿½ kell neki, vagy ï¿½szni akar, vagy autï¿½zni, vagy akï¿½rmilyen szerszï¿½mot vagy alkalmatossï¿½got, egy szavï¿½ba kerï¿½l: Hallode nyomban elintï¿½zi.

Graham fï¿½l nyolckor lï¿½pett be a reggelizï¿½terembe. ï¿½ppen jï¿½kor, hogy elbï¿½csï¿½zhassï¿½k a Kï¿½zlï¿½ny munkatï¿½rsï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s az idahï¿½i ï¿½gynï¿½ktï¿½l. Ezek mï¿½r megreggeliztek ï¿½s kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½dtek a telep egyik autï¿½jï¿½ra, amelynek reggeli jï¿½rata Eldorï¿½dï¿½ban elï¿½rte a sanfranciscï¿½i reggeli vonatot. Egyedï¿½l ï¿½lt le tehï¿½t. A nagyszerï¿½ kinai inas felszï¿½lï¿½totta, hogy rendeljen, amit csak parancsol. Elsï¿½ ï¿½hajtï¿½sa mingyï¿½rt teljesï¿½lt is: jeges sherrybe hï¿½tï¿½tt szï¿½lï¿½t kapott, amelyrï¿½l az inas bï¿½szkï¿½n jegyezte meg, hogy a telepen termett. Aztï¿½n fejï¿½t rï¿½zta a kaliforniai divatï¿½ reggeli egyï¿½b cikkeire, a kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le lisztpï¿½pekre ï¿½s levesekre, ellenben lï¿½gy tojï¿½st ï¿½s sonkï¿½t rendelt. Ekkor Wainwright Bert toppant be, lï¿½thatï¿½ szï¿½nï¿½szkedï¿½ssel jï¿½tszvï¿½n a merï¿½ vï¿½letlent, mert ï¿½t perc mulva fï¿½kï¿½tï¿½ben ï¿½s ï¿½tvï¿½gygerjesztï¿½ pongyolï¿½ban belï¿½pett Desten Ernestine ï¿½s kifejezte meglepetï¿½sï¿½t afelett, hogy a korï¿½n reggelizï¿½k ilyen tï¿½megï¿½t talï¿½lja itt.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb, mikor ï¿½ppen mind a hï¿½rman felkeltek, Desten Lute ï¿½s Wainwright Rita ï¿½rkeztek reggelizni. Graham billiï¿½rdozni ment Berttel. Jï¿½tï¿½k kï¿½zben ï¿½rtesï¿½lt Forrest Dicknek arrï¿½l a szokï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l, hogy sohasem jï¿½n asztalhoz reggelizni, hogy hihetetlen korï¿½n mï¿½r dolgozik az ï¿½gyï¿½ban, hat ï¿½rakor kï¿½vï¿½zik ï¿½s csak kivï¿½teles alkalmakkor jelenik meg a vendï¿½gei kï¿½zï¿½tt fï¿½l egy elï¿½tt. Ami Forrest Paulï¿½t illeti, mesï¿½lte Bert, ï¿½ rossz alvï¿½ ï¿½s kï¿½sï¿½n kel, kilincstelen ajtï¿½ mï¿½gï¿½tt lakik a maga kï¿½lï¿½n nagy ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyï¿½ban, ï¿½s a titkos folyosï¿½t mï¿½g ï¿½, Bert, is csak egyszer lï¿½tta. Paulï¿½t nagyon ritkï¿½n lï¿½ttï¿½k fï¿½l egy elï¿½tt megjelenni, nï¿½ha mï¿½g akkor sem.

- Tudja, - mesï¿½lte Bert - Paula egï¿½szsï¿½ges ï¿½s erï¿½s ï¿½s minden, de mï¿½r ï¿½lmatlansï¿½ggal szï¿½letett. Mindig rosszul alszik. Mï¿½r kisbaba korï¿½ban sem tudott aludni. De ï¿½ nem tï¿½rï¿½dï¿½tt vele soha, mert nagyon erï¿½s akarata van ï¿½s nem engedi, hogy az ï¿½lmatlansï¿½g rï¿½menjen az idegeire. Ha az idegei okoskodnak, akkor persze ideges. Csakhogy ahelyett hogy elkezdene megvadulni, ï¿½ csak azï¿½rt is le akar csillapodni ï¿½s le is csillapodik. Azokat az ï¿½jszakï¿½it, mikor az idegeivel kï¿½szkï¿½dik, az ï¿½ fehï¿½r ï¿½jszakï¿½inak nevezi. Megesik, hogy csak hajnalban alszik el, sï¿½t reggel kilenckor, vagy tï¿½zkor; akkor egyhuzamban vï¿½gigalussza az egï¿½sz napot ï¿½s olyan frissen jï¿½n le a dinerhez, hogy no.

- Szervezet dolga, azt hiszem - vï¿½lte Graham.

Bert bï¿½lintott.

- Ezer nï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½l kilencszï¿½zkilencvenkilenc nem tudnï¿½ megcsinï¿½lni. De ï¿½ meg. ï¿½ nagyon jï¿½l megvan ï¿½gy ï¿½s ha nem tud aludni egyszer, kialussza magï¿½t mï¿½skor ï¿½s el van intï¿½zve.

Wainwright Bert mï¿½g beszï¿½lt egyetmï¿½st a hï¿½ziasszonyrï¿½l ï¿½s Graham hamarosan megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy a fiatalember a rï¿½gi ismeretsï¿½g elï¿½jogai ellenï¿½re is nagy ï¿½s fï¿½lï¿½nk tiszteletet ï¿½rez a Paula fensï¿½bbsï¿½ge irï¿½nt.

- Nincs senki a vilï¿½gon, - folytatta Bert - aki le nem vetnï¿½ az utolsï¿½ ingï¿½t, ha Paula akarja. Fï¿½rfi, asszony, ï¿½r, szolga, akï¿½rmilyen rangï¿½, az mind mï¿½r eleve a teljes hï¿½dolattal egyenlï¿½, ha Paula nagy ï¿½s parancsolï¿½ akar lenni. ï¿½s nem tudok rï¿½jï¿½nni, hogyan csinï¿½lja. Lehet, hogy valami kifejezï¿½s, ami megjelenik a szï¿½jï¿½n, vagy mit tudom ï¿½n, micsoda... mindenesetre ï¿½rvï¿½nyt tud szerezni ennek a valaminek ï¿½s mindenki jï¿½l megï¿½rti.

- Olyan a... a lï¿½nye - vï¿½lte Graham.

- Ez az! - bï¿½lintott Bert. - Olyan a lï¿½nye. Megcsinï¿½lja ï¿½s megvan. Az ember valami hï¿½vï¿½set ï¿½rez valahogyan, nem tudom, miï¿½rt. Lehet, hogy azzal az ï¿½nuralommal tud ilyen biztos ï¿½s nyugodt lenni, amit hosszï¿½ ï¿½lmatlan ï¿½jszakï¿½kon tanult meg, mikor ï¿½sszeszorï¿½totta a fogï¿½t ï¿½s nem panaszkodott. A papï¿½rforma pï¿½ldï¿½ul az volna most, ha ma ï¿½jszaka le se tudta volna hï¿½nyni a szemï¿½t: tudja, az izgalom, a sok vendï¿½g, a Hegyi Fickï¿½ fuldoklï¿½sa, miegymï¿½s. Azonban mindenfï¿½le olyan dolog, amitï¿½l a legtï¿½bb nï¿½ nem tud aludni, mint ï¿½letveszedelem, tengeri vihar, meg mï¿½s ilyesmi, - Dick azt mondja, hogy Paulï¿½t nem ï¿½rinti. Dick azt mondja, hogy Paula ï¿½gy tud aludni, mint a kis baba, mikor a vï¿½rost, ahol van, bombï¿½zzï¿½k, vagy a hajï¿½t, amin van, az a veszedelem fenyegeti, hogy a szï¿½l a parthoz csapja. Paula egy csoda, annyi szent. Prï¿½bï¿½lja meg, biliï¿½rdozzon vele egyszer. Karambolt. Majd meglï¿½tja.

Kicsit kï¿½sï¿½bb Graham ï¿½s Bert csatlakoztak a lï¿½nyokhoz a nappaliban. Graham a rag-time, a tï¿½nc ï¿½s csevegï¿½s kï¿½vetkezï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½ja alatt egy pillanatig sem ï¿½rezte szï¿½nni valami elhagyatottsï¿½g, hiï¿½ny ï¿½rzï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s azt a vï¿½gyat, hogy a hï¿½ziasszony valahogyan hirtelen ï¿½s vï¿½ratlanul belï¿½pjen kï¿½zï¿½jï¿½k a nyitott ajtï¿½n.

Ezutï¿½n nyergeltette az Altadenï¿½t. Vele ment Bert egy Mollie nevï¿½ telivï¿½r kanca hï¿½tï¿½n. Graham kï¿½t ï¿½ra hosszat tanulmï¿½nyozta a telep tejgazdasï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s pontosan ï¿½rkezett vissza, hogy megtartsa az elï¿½re megbeszï¿½lt talï¿½lkozï¿½t Ernestine-nel a tenniszpï¿½lyï¿½n.

A lunchnï¿½l olyan sï¿½vï¿½rsï¿½ggal foglalt helyet, amit nem lehetett teljesen erï¿½s ï¿½tvï¿½gya szï¿½mlï¿½jï¿½ra ï¿½rni ï¿½s hatï¿½rozott csalï¿½dï¿½st ï¿½rzett, mikor a hï¿½ziasszony nem jelent meg.

- Fehï¿½r ï¿½jszakï¿½ja van - gyanï¿½totta Forrest Dick.

ï¿½s mï¿½g pï¿½r rï¿½szlettel hozzï¿½jï¿½rult ahoz az elï¿½adï¿½shoz, amelyet Bert tartott volt Paula szervezetï¿½nek a normï¿½lis alvï¿½sra valï¿½ alkalmatlansï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l.

- Kï¿½rlek, mï¿½r tï¿½bb ï¿½ves hï¿½zasok voltunk ï¿½s mï¿½g sohasem lï¿½ttam alva. Tudtam, hogy aludni is szokott, de sohasem lï¿½ttam. Egyszer hï¿½rom nap ï¿½s hï¿½rom ï¿½jjel a szemï¿½t sem hï¿½nyta le ï¿½s az egï¿½sz idï¿½ alatt kedves ï¿½s vidï¿½m maradt ï¿½s mikor vï¿½gre elaludt, csak a kimerï¿½ltsï¿½g miatt tudott aludni. Ez akkor volt, mikor a Tovï¿½bb kikï¿½tï¿½tt a Carolina-szigeteknï¿½l ï¿½s az egï¿½sz lakossï¿½g nekilï¿½tott, hogy elkergessen bennï¿½nket. Nem a veszedelem tette; nem volt ott semmi veszedelem. Hanem a zaj. Meg az izgalom. Paula nagyon intenzï¿½ven ï¿½lte ï¿½t a dolgokat. ï¿½s csak mikor mï¿½r ï¿½gyszï¿½lvï¿½n mindenen tï¿½l voltunk, akkor lï¿½ttam elï¿½szï¿½r ï¿½letemben aludni.

A dï¿½lelï¿½tt folyamï¿½n ï¿½j vendï¿½g ï¿½rkezett, bizonyos Ware Donald, akivel Graham a lunchnï¿½l talï¿½lkozott. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszott, hogy mindenkit jï¿½l ismer, mint aki sokszor vendï¿½ge a nagy hï¿½znak. Graham kihï¿½mozta a beszï¿½lgetï¿½sbï¿½l, hogy ifjï¿½kora ellenï¿½re a Pacific-vidï¿½k egy igen jï¿½nevï¿½ hegedï¿½mï¿½vï¿½sze.

- Nagyon szerelmes Paulï¿½ba - mondta Ernestine Grahamnek az ebï¿½dlï¿½bï¿½l kimenet.

Graham ï¿½sszerï¿½ncolta a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½t.

- ï¿½, Paula nem haragszik, - nevetett Ernestine - mindenki beleszeret, aki csak idejï¿½n. ï¿½ mï¿½r megszokta. Roppant kedvesen tudja ï¿½szre nem venni a szimptï¿½mï¿½kat, elszï¿½rakozik rajtuk ï¿½s a legjobbat hozza ki belï¿½lï¿½k. Dick nagyszerï¿½en mulat rajta. Nem lesz itt egy hete mï¿½g ï¿½s maga is ï¿½gy lesz vele. Ha nem szeret bele, valamennyien pï¿½ldï¿½tlanul meg leszï¿½nk lepetve. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l ha nem szeret bele, megsï¿½rti a Dick ï¿½rzï¿½seit is. ï¿½ az ilyet magï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½rtetï¿½dï¿½ dolognak tartja. Mï¿½r megszokta. ï¿½s ha egy szerelmes, bï¿½szke fï¿½rj megszokik ilyesmit, rï¿½mesen rosszul esik neki lï¿½tni, hogy a felesï¿½gï¿½t nem mï¿½ltï¿½nyoljï¿½k.

- ï¿½ istenem, ha ezt vï¿½rjï¿½k tï¿½lem, akkor azt hiszem, kï¿½nytelen leszek vele, - sï¿½hajtott Graham - csakhogy ï¿½n azt, amit mindenki csinï¿½l, ï¿½ppen azï¿½rt gyï¿½lï¿½lï¿½m, mert mindenki csinï¿½lja. De hï¿½t ha ï¿½gy szokï¿½s, hï¿½t ï¿½gy szokï¿½s, rendben van. Igaz, hogy ilyen sok szï¿½p lï¿½ny kï¿½zï¿½tt nagyon nehï¿½z lesz a dolgom.

Nagy szï¿½rke szemï¿½ben volt valami csï¿½folï¿½dï¿½ fï¿½ny, ami annyira megkapta Ernestinet, hogy mï¿½lyen belenï¿½zett a fï¿½rfi szemï¿½be, rï¿½jï¿½tt, hogy mit csinï¿½l, lesï¿½tï¿½tte a pillantï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s elpirult.

- A kis Theo is, az a tegnap esti kï¿½ltï¿½, emlï¿½kszik, ï¿½gy-e, - fecsegett tovï¿½bb azzal az ï¿½tlï¿½tszï¿½ cï¿½lzattal, hogy kievickï¿½ljen a zavarï¿½bï¿½l - ï¿½rï¿½lten szerelmes Paulï¿½ba. Hallottam, mikor Hancock Aaron valami szonett-ciklussal ugratta. Nem nehï¿½z kitalï¿½lni, mi ihlette meg. ï¿½s Terrence, tudja, az az ï¿½r ember, az is szï¿½p csendesen szerelmes belï¿½. Muszï¿½j nekik, nem tehetnek rï¿½la. Maga elï¿½tï¿½li ï¿½ket?

- Forrestnï¿½nek ez mind jï¿½r - mondta Graham, bï¿½r valahogyan rosszul esett neki, hogy a haszontalan fejï¿½, ï¿½bï¿½cï¿½-rajongï¿½ epikureus anarchista, aki hivalkodik azzal, hogy henyï¿½l ï¿½s mï¿½s kenyerï¿½n ï¿½l, szerelmes lehet az aprï¿½ asszonyba, ha mingyï¿½rt szï¿½p csendesen is.

- Neki kijï¿½r minden fï¿½rfi ember csodï¿½lata, - folytatta nyugodtan - keveset lï¿½ttam mï¿½g belï¿½le, de mï¿½ris mondhatom, hogy nagyon jelentï¿½keny ï¿½s vï¿½gtelenï¿½l bï¿½jos asszony.

- Fï¿½ltestvï¿½rem, - bï¿½szkï¿½lkedett Ernestine - pedig ï¿½gy-e el se lehet kï¿½pzelni, hogy egy csï¿½pp kï¿½zï¿½s vï¿½r is van bennï¿½nk. ï¿½ annyira mï¿½s. ï¿½ egï¿½sz mï¿½s, mint akï¿½rmelyik Desten, mint akï¿½rmelyik lï¿½ny, akit ï¿½letemben lï¿½ttam, az igaz, hogy lï¿½nynak nem is lehet mondani. Tudja, mï¿½r harmincnyolc...

- Ejnye, kis cica... - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Graham.

A csinos kis szï¿½ke meglepetve ï¿½s elï¿½mulva nï¿½zett rï¿½, nyilvï¿½n egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ï¿½rtette a Graham fï¿½lbeszakï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t.

- Karmol a kis macska - mondta Graham trï¿½fï¿½s rosszalï¿½ssal.

- ï¿½, - kiï¿½ltotta Ernestine - maga teljesen fï¿½lreï¿½rtett. Majd meglï¿½tja, mi itt nagyon nyiltak vagyunk. Mindenki tudja, hogy Paula hï¿½ny ï¿½ves. ï¿½ maga szokta elmondani. ï¿½n is megmondom, tizennyolc vagyok, na hï¿½t. ï¿½s most, amiï¿½rt ï¿½gy viselte magï¿½t, meg fogja mondani, hogy maga hï¿½ny ï¿½ves.

- Mint Dick - felelte Graham rï¿½gtï¿½n.

- ï¿½ pedig negyven! - kacagott diadalmasan a kislï¿½ny. - Nem jï¿½n ï¿½szni? Azt hiszem a vï¿½z rettenetes hideg.

Graham a fejï¿½t rï¿½zta.

- Lovagolni megyek Dickkel.

A kis lï¿½ny arca a tizennyolc esztendï¿½ nyiltsï¿½gï¿½val borult el.

- Ja persze. Megint azok az ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½s mï¿½trï¿½gyï¿½k, meg domboldalfejtï¿½sek, meg turbinï¿½k...

- De mondott valamit Dick ï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½rï¿½l, meg fï¿½rdï¿½srï¿½l...

A lï¿½ny arca vidï¿½man felragyogott.

- Akkor talï¿½lkozunk a medencï¿½nï¿½l. Ugyanaz a tï¿½rsasï¿½g bizonyosan. Paula is ï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½ra mondta a fï¿½rdï¿½st.

Mikor egy hosszï¿½ ï¿½rkï¿½d alatt elvï¿½ltak, hogy Graham a toronyszobï¿½ba menjen ï¿½s ott a lovaglï¿½shoz ï¿½tï¿½ltï¿½zzï¿½k, Ernestine megï¿½llt ï¿½s visszaszï¿½lt:

- Nï¿½zze, Graham...

A fï¿½rfi szolgï¿½latkï¿½szen visszafordult.

- Higyje el, nincs semmi szï¿½ksï¿½g, hogy beleszeressen Paulï¿½ba. ï¿½n azt ï¿½ppen csak ï¿½gy mondtam.

- Nagyon, nagyon fogok vigyï¿½zni - mondta Graham ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen, de volt valami trï¿½fï¿½s a szemï¿½ben, mikor ezt kijelentette.

Mindazonï¿½ltal meg kellett ï¿½llapï¿½tania magï¿½ban, mikor ment a szobï¿½ja felï¿½, hogy Forrest Paula bï¿½ja, vagy ennek messzi, tï¿½ndï¿½ri csï¿½pjai mï¿½r eljutottak a lelkï¿½ig ï¿½s kezdenek kï¿½rï¿½je fonï¿½dni. Nagyon jï¿½l ï¿½rezte magï¿½ban, hogy szï¿½vesen lemondana most errï¿½l a lovaglï¿½srï¿½l, ï¿½s szï¿½vesebben volna egyï¿½tt az asszonnyal, mint rï¿½gi jï¿½ barï¿½tjï¿½val.

Mikor kilï¿½pett a hï¿½zbï¿½l ï¿½s a pï¿½nyvakarï¿½k felï¿½ tartott a vï¿½n tï¿½lgyek alï¿½, sï¿½vï¿½ran kutatott, nem lï¿½tja-e a hï¿½ziasszonyt. De csak Dick volt ott, meg a lovï¿½sz, bï¿½r az ï¿½rnyï¿½kban dobogï¿½ sok nyergelt lï¿½ lehetï¿½sï¿½gekkel kecsegtette. Mï¿½gis vï¿½gï¿½l Dick meg ï¿½ egyedï¿½l lovagoltak el. Dick kivï¿½lasztotta a lovï¿½t: egy ï¿½lï¿½nk, telivï¿½r pejcsï¿½dï¿½rt, hï¿½tï¿½n kis ausztrï¿½liai nyereggel, oldalï¿½n acï¿½lkengyellel, szï¿½jï¿½ban egy zablï¿½val ï¿½s kettï¿½s szï¿½rral.

- Nem tudom, mi a Paula programja, - mondta Forrest - eddig mï¿½g nem bï¿½jt ki, de kï¿½sï¿½bb mindenesetre ï¿½szni fog. Ott majd talï¿½lkozunk vele.

Graham ï¿½rï¿½mmel ï¿½lvezte a lovaglï¿½st, ï¿½mbï¿½r nem egyszer rajtakapta magï¿½t, hogy a karkï¿½tï¿½-ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½t nï¿½zi, vajjon mennyi idï¿½ van mï¿½g hï¿½tra ï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½ig. Itt volt a juhok ellï¿½si ideje ï¿½s ï¿½k egyik karï¿½m utï¿½n a mï¿½sik mellett lovagoltak el. Hol egyik, hol mï¿½sik szï¿½llt le a lï¿½rï¿½l lï¿½bra ï¿½llï¿½tani ezeket a gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½bbnï¿½l gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½bb ï¿½s nagyszerï¿½ Shropshire- ï¿½s Rambouillet-Merino-fajokat, amelyek annyira remï¿½nytelenï¿½l az emberi szelekciï¿½ szï¿½rmazï¿½kai voltak, hogy szï¿½les hï¿½tukrï¿½l kï¿½ptelenek voltak sajï¿½t erejï¿½kkel felkï¿½szolï¿½dni, ha elestek, ï¿½s gyï¿½moltalanul kapï¿½ltak nï¿½gy lï¿½bukkal az ï¿½g felï¿½.

- Alaposan dolgoztam, hogy kihozzam az amerikai merinï¿½t; - mondta Dick - hogy megadjam neki a fejlett lï¿½bat, az erï¿½s hï¿½tat, a jï¿½l formï¿½lt bordï¿½t, a csontozatot. A rï¿½gi hazai tenyï¿½szetnek nem volt meg a szilï¿½rd vï¿½za. ï¿½veghï¿½zban nevelt, manikï¿½rï¿½zï¿½tt fajta volt az.

- Nagy dolgokat csinï¿½lsz, - biztosï¿½totta Graham - gondolj csak az idahï¿½i szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½nyodra. Az magï¿½tï¿½l beszï¿½l.

Forrest Dick szeme csillogott, mikor felelt:

- Idahï¿½n mï¿½r tï¿½l vagyok. Akï¿½rmilyen hihetetlenï¿½l hangzik ï¿½s akï¿½rhogy bocsï¿½natot kï¿½rek a hencegï¿½sï¿½rt, Michigan ï¿½s Ohio mai nagy juhtelepei elbï¿½jhatnak az ï¿½n kaliforniai tenyï¿½sztï¿½sï¿½ Rambouillet-juhaim mellett. Vedd Ausztrï¿½liï¿½t. Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt eladtam hï¿½rom nyï¿½jat hï¿½romszï¿½z dollï¿½rjï¿½val egy idevetï¿½dï¿½tt jï¿½vevï¿½nynek. Hazavitte ï¿½s megmutatta ï¿½ket, aztï¿½n eladta nyï¿½jï¿½t ezer dollï¿½rjï¿½val ï¿½s nï¿½lam rendelt mï¿½g egy szï¿½llï¿½tmï¿½nyt. Ausztrï¿½lia sohasem fogja megbï¿½nni, hogy a vilï¿½gra jï¿½ttem. ï¿½k ott azt mondjï¿½k, hogy a lucerna, az artï¿½zi kutak, a fagyasztott hï¿½st szï¿½llï¿½tï¿½ hajï¿½k ï¿½s Forrest gazdasï¿½ga hï¿½romszoroztï¿½k meg a gyapjï¿½- ï¿½s juhhï¿½s-termelï¿½st.

Visszamenet egï¿½szen vï¿½letlenï¿½l Mendenhallal, a lï¿½tenyï¿½sztï¿½si igazgatï¿½val, talï¿½lkoztak. Ez elvitte ï¿½ket egy oldalt esï¿½ legelï¿½rï¿½szre, amelyet fï¿½s szakadï¿½kok hasï¿½tottak ï¿½t ï¿½s itt-ott tï¿½lgyek ï¿½rnyï¿½koztak be, hogy megtekintsenek egy egyï¿½ves mï¿½nest, amely mï¿½snap volt szï¿½tosztandï¿½ a Miramar-dombok magaslati legelï¿½in ï¿½s karï¿½mjaiban. Kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l kï¿½tszï¿½zan voltak, durvaszï¿½rï¿½ek, korukhoz kï¿½pest nagyok ï¿½s csontosak, most kezdtek vedleni.

- Nem tï¿½mjï¿½k ï¿½ket rendszeresen, - magyarï¿½zta Forrest - de Mendenhall ï¿½r utï¿½nanï¿½z, hogy ellï¿½sï¿½ktï¿½l kezdve sohase szenvedjenek hiï¿½nyt a teljes tï¿½plï¿½lï¿½kban. Fent a dombvidï¿½ken, ahova mennek, a fï¿½vet egy kis maggal egyensï¿½lyozzuk nekik. Ettï¿½l minden este ï¿½sszejï¿½nnek az etetï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½s a csikï¿½sok minden fï¿½radsï¿½g nï¿½lkï¿½l egyï¿½tt tudjï¿½k ï¿½ket tartani. A legutolsï¿½ ï¿½t ï¿½v alatt csak magï¿½ba Oregonba ï¿½vente ï¿½tven darab kï¿½tï¿½ves csï¿½dï¿½rcsikï¿½t szï¿½llï¿½tottam. Tudod, hivatalosan elismert mï¿½rkï¿½juk van mï¿½r. Azok fenn, ï¿½szaknak, tudjï¿½k, mit vesznek. A portï¿½kï¿½m minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t mï¿½r ï¿½gy ismerik, hogy akï¿½r lï¿½tatlanban is vï¿½sï¿½rolnak.

- Sokat nevelsz nekik, mi? - kï¿½rdezte Graham.

- Lï¿½thatsz eleget San Francisco uccï¿½in a tï¿½rszekerek elï¿½tt, az bizonyos - felelte Dick.

- ï¿½s Denver uccï¿½in - tette hozzï¿½ Mendenhall ï¿½r - ï¿½s Los Angeles uccï¿½in, ï¿½s... ugyan kï¿½rem, kï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt a nagy lï¿½ï¿½nsï¿½g idejï¿½n mi hï¿½sz vagonra valï¿½ nï¿½gyï¿½ves herï¿½ltet szï¿½llï¿½tottunk Chicagï¿½ba, ï¿½tlagos sï¿½lya nyolcszï¿½z kilï¿½ volt egynek. A kï¿½nnyebbek ï¿½gy hï¿½tszï¿½zat nyomtak, de ï¿½ssze tudtunk ï¿½llï¿½tani pï¿½rokat kilencszï¿½zasokbï¿½l is. Istenem, istenem, micsoda lï¿½ï¿½rak voltak abban az esztendï¿½ben... az ï¿½gig ï¿½rtek az ï¿½rak.

Mikor Mendenhall ï¿½r ellovagolt vï¿½konylï¿½bï¿½, fejï¿½t kapkodï¿½ Palominï¿½jï¿½n, egy mï¿½sik ember nyargalt hozzï¿½juk, akit Dick Henessy ï¿½r, az ï¿½llatorvos gyanï¿½nt mutatott be Grahamnek.

- Azt hallottam, hogy a nagysï¿½gos asszony megnï¿½zi a csikï¿½kat - magyarï¿½zta a gazdï¿½jï¿½nak - ï¿½s idelovagoltam, hogy megmutassam neki itt ezt a Szarvast. Egy hï¿½ten belï¿½l lovagolhatja. Most melyiket nyergeltette?

- A Bohï¿½cot - felelte Dick, mint aki vï¿½rja a kritikï¿½t. ï¿½s Hennessy ï¿½r kritikï¿½ja ï¿½ppen olyan gyorsan kï¿½vetkezett is, mint helytelenï¿½tï¿½ fejcsï¿½vï¿½lï¿½sa.

- Sose fogom helyeselni, hogy asszonyok tenyï¿½szcsï¿½dï¿½rï¿½ket lovagoljanak. A Bohï¿½c veszedelmes lï¿½. Mï¿½g rosszabb. Leveszem a kalapomat a rekordja elï¿½tt, de rosszindulatï¿½ ï¿½s fifikus. Szï¿½jkosï¿½rral kellene lovagolni. Aztï¿½n meg nagyon rï¿½gï¿½s. Nem tudom, hogyan lehet pï¿½rnï¿½t rakni a patï¿½ira.

- Jï¿½, jï¿½, - csitï¿½totta Dick - a felesï¿½gem markï¿½t azï¿½rt megï¿½rzi a lï¿½nak a szï¿½ja...

- Ha a lï¿½ egy szï¿½p napon nem esik rï¿½ - dï¿½rmï¿½gï¿½tt Hennessy. - Annyi biztos, hogy nagy kï¿½ esik le a szï¿½vemrï¿½l, ha ï¿½ttï¿½r itt erre a Szarvasra. Mert ez aztï¿½n hï¿½lgynek valï¿½ lï¿½, minden a vilï¿½gon, csak nem rosszindulatï¿½. Bï¿½jos lï¿½, igazï¿½n bï¿½jos lï¿½, ï¿½s a hancï¿½rozï¿½sait is le fogja szokni. Az igaz, hogy mindig jï¿½kedvï¿½ lesz ï¿½s sohasem fog lovaglï¿½iskolai gï¿½ppï¿½ romlani.

- Hï¿½t most indulhatunk - indï¿½tvï¿½nyozta Forrest. - A felesï¿½gemnek a Bohï¿½cban is meglesz a maga jï¿½kedvï¿½ lova, ha idehozza a csikï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½. Tudod, - magyarï¿½zta Grahamnek - ez az ï¿½ birodalma. A nyerges lovak ï¿½s a kï¿½nnyebb fajok az ï¿½ keze alï¿½ tartoznak. Nagyszerï¿½ eredmï¿½nyeket ï¿½r el. Magam sem ï¿½rtem. Mintha egy kislï¿½ny beszabadulna egy veszedelmes robbantï¿½szerekkel telt kï¿½sï¿½rleti laboratï¿½riumba, elkezdenï¿½ az anyagokat az ismert mï¿½don ï¿½sszevissza keverni ï¿½s sokkal erï¿½sebb vegyï¿½leteket hozna ki, mint a nagyszakï¿½llï¿½ vegyï¿½szek.

A hï¿½rom fï¿½rfi egy kilomï¿½tert vï¿½gtatott toronyirï¿½nyt, aztï¿½n nekivï¿½gtak egy szakadï¿½knak, amelyben a tavaszi olvadï¿½s csï¿½rgedezett, aztï¿½n kijutottak egy dï¿½slegelï¿½jï¿½, messzi, hullï¿½mos fensï¿½kra. Graham elsï¿½ pillantï¿½sa sok kï¿½vï¿½ncsi tekintetï¿½ egyï¿½ves ï¿½s mï¿½sodfï¿½ves csikï¿½ hï¿½tterï¿½re esett, elï¿½ttï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½pen ott lï¿½tta a hï¿½ziasszonyï¿½t a Bohï¿½c nevï¿½ ragyogï¿½ telivï¿½r pejnek a hï¿½tï¿½n, a lï¿½ hï¿½tsï¿½ lï¿½baira ï¿½gaskodott, elsï¿½ lï¿½baival a levegï¿½t kapï¿½lta ï¿½s ï¿½lesen nyihogott. ï¿½k visszafogtï¿½k a kantï¿½rszï¿½rat ï¿½s figyeltï¿½k.

- Egyszer nagyon megjï¿½rja, - mondta bosszï¿½san az ï¿½llatorvos - ez a Bohï¿½c nem megbï¿½zhatï¿½ lï¿½.

De ebben a pillanatban Forrest Paula, ï¿½szre sem vï¿½ve a kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½get, erï¿½sen rï¿½kiï¿½ltott a lï¿½ra ï¿½s erï¿½sen belevï¿½gta az ï¿½les sarkantyï¿½t a lï¿½ selymes oldalï¿½ba. Az ï¿½llat visszaï¿½llt a nï¿½gy lï¿½bï¿½ra ï¿½s mozgï¿½konyan, dobogva egy helyben maradt.

- Jï¿½tszol a tï¿½zzel? - tett neki alig ï¿½rezhetï¿½ szemrehï¿½nyï¿½st Dick, amint hï¿½rman odalovagoltak.

- ï¿½, elbï¿½rok vele - lehelte Paula ï¿½sszeszorï¿½tott fogai kï¿½zï¿½tt, Bohï¿½c pedig hï¿½tracsapva a fï¿½lï¿½t, gonoszul villogï¿½ szemmel harapï¿½sra vicsorï¿½totta a fogï¿½t. A harapï¿½s veszedelmes is lehetett volna a Graham lï¿½bï¿½ra, de Paula hirtelen a nyaka kï¿½zï¿½ csapott a lï¿½nak, elrï¿½ntotta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s mind a kï¿½t sarkantyï¿½t beleeresztette az oldalï¿½ba.

Bohï¿½c megremegett, nyihogott ï¿½s egy percig nyugton maradt.

- Ez a rï¿½gi nï¿½ta, - nevetett Dick - a fehï¿½r ember nï¿½tï¿½ja. Paula nem fï¿½l a lï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s a lï¿½ ezt tudja. A lovas mï¿½resre tanï¿½tja, kiszorï¿½tja belï¿½le az erï¿½szakossï¿½got ï¿½s megtanï¿½tja, hogy mit kell erï¿½szak alatt ï¿½rteni istenigazï¿½ban.

Amï¿½g ott ï¿½lltak ï¿½s nï¿½ztï¿½k, kï¿½szen arra, hogy ott hagyjï¿½k a maguk lovï¿½t, ha a Paulï¿½ï¿½val baj van, Bohï¿½c hï¿½romszor prï¿½bï¿½lt meg toporzï¿½kolva fï¿½llï¿½zadni ï¿½s Forrest Paula, aki gondosan, ï¿½gyesen kezelte a zablï¿½t, hï¿½romszor vï¿½gta sarkantyï¿½it a lï¿½ bordï¿½i kï¿½zï¿½, mï¿½gnem az ï¿½llat izzadva, habtï¿½l nedvesen, dï¿½hï¿½sen meg nem adta magï¿½t.

- A fehï¿½r embernek mindig ez volt a rendszere, - filozofï¿½lt Dick, mialatt Grahamet a bestia-leigï¿½zï¿½ asszonyka irï¿½nti izgalmas ï¿½s borzongï¿½ csodï¿½lat ï¿½rzï¿½se fogta el - a fehï¿½r ember szerte az egï¿½sz vilï¿½gon tï¿½ltett a vadak vadsï¿½gï¿½n, tï¿½lravaszkodta, tï¿½lskalpolta, tï¿½lkegyetlenkedte, tï¿½lette ï¿½ket. Igen, tï¿½lette. Fogadni merek, hogy a fehï¿½r ember vï¿½gsï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½tï¿½sban tï¿½bbet megevett a genus humï¿½numbï¿½l, mint amennyit a vadember vï¿½gsï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½tï¿½sban megevett.

- Jï¿½ napot, - kï¿½szï¿½nt Paula a vendï¿½gnek, a fï¿½rjï¿½nek ï¿½s az ï¿½llatorvosnak - azt hiszem, elintï¿½ztem vï¿½gre. Nï¿½zzï¿½k a csikï¿½kat. Vigyï¿½zzon ennek a lï¿½nak a szï¿½jï¿½ra, Graham. Fï¿½lelmes tï¿½madï¿½. Maradjon egy kicsit messze tï¿½le, akkor megmenti a sajï¿½t lï¿½bï¿½t ï¿½regkorï¿½ra.

Hogy a Bohï¿½c nyilvï¿½nos engedetlensï¿½gï¿½vel ï¿½gy kï¿½szen voltak, most meg a csikï¿½kat szï¿½llta meg valami gonosz szellem, amely vad nyargalï¿½sra kï¿½sztette ï¿½ket. Rohantak ï¿½s tomboltak a zï¿½ld gyepen, mï¿½gnem ï¿½jra kï¿½vï¿½ncsisï¿½g fogta el ï¿½ket, visszasereglettek, megï¿½lltak bï¿½mulni, aztï¿½n egy kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen szemtelen pejcsikï¿½ vezetï¿½se alatt fï¿½lkï¿½rbe tolongtak a lovasok elï¿½tt ï¿½s fï¿½rgï¿½n hegyeztï¿½k a fï¿½lï¿½ket.

Graham elï¿½szï¿½r alig vette ï¿½szre a csikï¿½kat. Proteuszi hï¿½ziasszonyï¿½t lï¿½tta az ï¿½j szerepben. ï¿½s mikor a nagyszerï¿½, izzadï¿½, leigï¿½zott ï¿½llatot nï¿½zte, amelyet az asszony megfï¿½kezett, ezt mondta magï¿½ban: vajjon sohasem lesz vï¿½ge az ï¿½jabb ï¿½s ï¿½jabb szerepek sorï¿½nak? Hegyi Fickï¿½ a nagysï¿½ga ellenï¿½re is szelï¿½d kis hï¿½ziï¿½llat volt ehez a nyihogï¿½, harapï¿½, rï¿½gï¿½ Bohï¿½choz kï¿½pest, aki a leglelkesebb, legszeszï¿½lyesebb telivï¿½r minden leglelkesebb gonoszsï¿½gï¿½t tï¿½rta napvilï¿½gra.

- Nï¿½zz oda, - sï¿½gta Paula Dicknek, hogy a szemtelen pejcsikï¿½t meg ne riassza - nem csodï¿½s ï¿½llat? Ezï¿½rt dolgoztam.

Majd Grahamhez fordult:

- Mindig van bennï¿½k valami hiba, valami kis tï¿½kï¿½letlensï¿½g. A legjobb esetben csak megkï¿½zelï¿½tik a tï¿½kï¿½letest. De ez tï¿½kï¿½letes. Nï¿½zze meg. Szinte olyan kitï¿½nï¿½, amilyet valaha egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban produkï¿½lni tudok. Az apja a Nagyfejï¿½, ha a lï¿½tenyï¿½sztï¿½si regiszterï¿½nket ismeri. Hatvanezer dollï¿½rï¿½rt kelt el, mikor megrokkant. Mi bï¿½reltï¿½k tenyï¿½sztï¿½sre. Ez a csikï¿½ a mï¿½n egy esztendejï¿½nek egyetlen csikaja. De meg is nï¿½zheti. Ez aztï¿½n lï¿½bszï¿½r, ez aztï¿½n tï¿½dï¿½. Ami az anyjï¿½t illeti, bï¿½ven vï¿½logathattam olyan kancï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt, amelyek megï¿½tï¿½ttï¿½k a regiszter mï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½t. Az ï¿½ anyja nem ï¿½tï¿½tte meg, de mï¿½gis rï¿½ esett a vï¿½lasztï¿½som. Megï¿½talkodott vï¿½n kisasszony volt, de az egyetlen mï¿½ltï¿½ kanca Nagyfejï¿½hï¿½z. Ez a csikï¿½ az elsï¿½ csikaja ï¿½s tizennyolc ï¿½ves volt, mikor ellette. De ï¿½n tudtam a magam dolgï¿½t. Csak rï¿½ kellett nï¿½znem Nagyfejï¿½re ï¿½s a kancï¿½ra, ennek ï¿½gy kellett lenni.

- Az anyja fï¿½lvï¿½r volt - magyarï¿½zta Dick.

- De a mï¿½sik rï¿½szrï¿½l egï¿½sz sor Morgan-lï¿½ volt az ï¿½se - tette hozzï¿½ rï¿½gtï¿½n Paula - ï¿½s a hï¿½tï¿½n vï¿½gig megvolt a musztï¿½ng-vadlï¿½ csï¿½kja. Ezt a csikï¿½t Nimfï¿½nak fogjuk hï¿½vni, hiï¿½ba nem jut be a regiszterbe. Ez lesz az elsï¿½ makulï¿½tlan, tï¿½kï¿½letes hï¿½taslovam, tudom biztosan, olyan, amilyet szeretek, az ï¿½lmom, amely vï¿½gre megvalï¿½sult.

- A lï¿½nak nï¿½gy lï¿½ba van, - jelentette ki jelentï¿½sen Hennessy ï¿½r - minden sarkï¿½n egy.

- ï¿½s ï¿½t vagy hï¿½tfï¿½le jï¿½rï¿½mï¿½dja - tette hozzï¿½ kï¿½nnyedï¿½n Graham.

- De ï¿½n nem szeretem azokat a sokjï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ Kentucky-lovakat, - mondta gyorsan Paula - legfeljebb sï¿½tatereken. Kaliforniï¿½ban, durva utakon, hegyi ï¿½svï¿½nyeken, meg miegymï¿½s, ï¿½n a gyors lï¿½pï¿½st szeretem, a rï¿½kalï¿½pï¿½st, azt a hosszï¿½t, amely elnyï¿½lik simï¿½n a talaj felett, vagy a nem tï¿½lhosszï¿½, sima galoppot. Meg termï¿½szetesen a szorosra fogott kï¿½nnyï¿½ kentert. De ezt nem tartom kï¿½lï¿½n jï¿½rï¿½mï¿½dnak, ez nem egyï¿½b, mint a szï¿½l vagy a rossz talaj kï¿½vetelmï¿½nyeihez redukï¿½lt hosszï¿½ lï¿½pï¿½s.

- Gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ - csodï¿½lta Dick melegen szemlï¿½lï¿½ szemmel a szemtelen pejcsikï¿½t, amely vakmerï¿½en kï¿½zel volt a megtï¿½rt Bohï¿½c remegï¿½ ï¿½s tï¿½gult orrlyukï¿½ fejï¿½hez ï¿½s ï¿½lï¿½nken szaglï¿½szta.

- Jobb szeretem, - jelentette ki Paula - ha a magam lovai majdnem telivï¿½rek, mintha mind telivï¿½rek. A versenylï¿½nak megvan a maga helye a gyepen. Pusztï¿½n lovaglï¿½si cï¿½lokra tï¿½lsï¿½gosan specializï¿½lva van.

- Pompï¿½s pï¿½rosï¿½tï¿½s, - mondta Hennessy ï¿½r, a Nimfï¿½ra mutatva - elï¿½g rï¿½vid a futï¿½shoz ï¿½s elï¿½g hosszï¿½ a hosszï¿½ lï¿½pï¿½shez. Megvallom, nem nagyon hittem ebben a keresztezï¿½sben. De nagyszerï¿½ ï¿½llat sï¿½lt ki belï¿½le, azt el kell ismerni.

- Kislï¿½nykoromban nem voltak lovaim, - mondta Paula Grahamnek - ï¿½s hogy most nemcsak vannak lovaim, hanem a magam szï¿½ve vï¿½gya szerint tenyï¿½szthetem ï¿½s fejleszthetem ï¿½ket, az olyan jï¿½, hogy talï¿½n nem is lehet igaz. Nï¿½ha nem is tudom elhinni. Ki kell lovagolnom ï¿½s meg kell nï¿½znem ï¿½ket, hogy megbizonyosodjam.

Forrest felï¿½ fordï¿½totta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s a szemï¿½t hï¿½lï¿½san emelte rï¿½. Graham megfigyelte, hogy egy hosszï¿½ fï¿½lpercig nï¿½znek egymï¿½s szemï¿½be. Tisztï¿½n lï¿½tta, mennyire ï¿½rï¿½l Forrest a felesï¿½ge ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½nek, fiatalos lelkesedï¿½sï¿½nek ï¿½s ï¿½letkedvï¿½nek. Szerencsï¿½s fickï¿½, - gondolta rï¿½la Graham ï¿½s ezzel nem a hï¿½zigazdï¿½ja ï¿½riï¿½si fï¿½ldbirtokï¿½t, annak sikerï¿½t ï¿½s tï¿½kï¿½letessï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½rtette, hanem ennek a csodanï¿½nek a birtokï¿½t, aki ilyen egyenrangï¿½an ï¿½s megï¿½rtï¿½en tudott az ura szemï¿½be nï¿½zni.

Hitetlenï¿½l latolgatta az Ernestine ï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t, hogy Paula harmincnyolc ï¿½ves. Az asszonyka a csikï¿½k felï¿½ fordult ï¿½s lovaglï¿½korbï¿½csï¿½val egy fekete egyï¿½vesre mutatott, amely ott legelï¿½szett a tavaszi gyepen.

- Nï¿½zd meg ezt az egyenes keresztcsontot, Dick, ï¿½s ezeket az ï¿½getï¿½sre valï¿½ csï¿½dï¿½ket. Elï¿½ggï¿½ kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½znek a Nimfa hosszï¿½ csuklï¿½itï¿½l, ï¿½gy-e, Graham? De ï¿½n ï¿½ppen ezt akartam.

Egy kicsit nevetett, nagyon kis bosszï¿½sï¿½ggal a hangjï¿½ban.

- Az anyja ragyogï¿½ aranypej volt, szinte akï¿½r egy ï¿½j hï¿½szdollï¿½ros ï¿½s ï¿½n ï¿½gy szerettem volna egy pï¿½r csikï¿½t tï¿½le, ugyanolyan szï¿½nï¿½t, csak a magam dicsï¿½sï¿½gï¿½re. Hï¿½t azt bizony nem mondhatom, hogy sikerï¿½lt, pedig egy nagyszerï¿½ aranypej ï¿½getï¿½-mï¿½nnel pï¿½rosï¿½tottam. Ez a jutalmam, ez a fekete. ï¿½s vï¿½rjon csak, majd a tenyï¿½szkancï¿½knï¿½l meg fogja lï¿½tni a mï¿½sikat. ï¿½des testvï¿½re ennek ï¿½s mahagï¿½nibarna. Mekkorï¿½t csalï¿½dtam.

Aztï¿½n kï¿½t egyï¿½tt legelï¿½szï¿½ meggypejt pï¿½cï¿½zett ki.

- Ez kï¿½t Guy Dillon-ivadï¿½k, tudja, Don Dillonnak a testvï¿½re. Kï¿½t kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ kancï¿½tï¿½l szï¿½rmaznak, az anyjuk nem volt ugyanaz a meggypej-ï¿½rnyalat. Nem kitï¿½nï¿½en illenek egymï¿½shoz? Mind a kettï¿½nek a szï¿½re a Guy Dillonï¿½.

Elindï¿½totta megzabolï¿½zott lovï¿½t. Csendesen elmellï¿½zte a mï¿½nes szï¿½rnyï¿½t, nehogy megriassza ï¿½ket. De nï¿½hï¿½ny csikï¿½ futï¿½snak eredt.

- Nï¿½zd! ï¿½t kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k huzï¿½-lï¿½! Nï¿½zd, hogy emelik az elï¿½lsï¿½ lï¿½bukat, mikor futnak.

- Sï¿½lyosan csalï¿½dni fogok, - mondta elismerï¿½en Dick - ha nem hozol ki belï¿½lï¿½k egy dï¿½jnyertes nï¿½gyesfogatot.

ï¿½s megint felragyogott az a hï¿½lï¿½s nï¿½zï¿½s, amely rosszul esett Grahamnek, mikor ï¿½szrevette.

- Kettï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k nehezebb kancï¿½tï¿½l valï¿½, lï¿½tod, az ott a kï¿½zï¿½pen ï¿½s az a mï¿½sik a bal szï¿½lï¿½n, aztï¿½n ott az a mï¿½sik hï¿½rom, azokbï¿½l ki lehet vï¿½lasztani a gyeplï¿½st ï¿½s az ostorhegyest. Egy apamï¿½n, ï¿½t kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ kanca, ebbï¿½l egy ï¿½sszeillï¿½, egyensï¿½lyozott nï¿½gyes, ï¿½t kï¿½zï¿½l vï¿½lasztva, ugyanabbï¿½l az ï¿½vjï¿½ratbï¿½l, hï¿½t ez csak hihetetlen szerencse?

Gyorsan Hennessy ï¿½rhoz fordult:

- Nï¿½zzï¿½k csak azokat, amiket pï¿½lï¿½-pï¿½niknak fogunk eladni a kï¿½tï¿½vesek kï¿½zï¿½l. Mï¿½r kivï¿½laszthatja ï¿½ket.

- Ha Mendenhall el nem adja kerek ezerï¿½tszï¿½zï¿½rt azt a fakï¿½t, - mondta nï¿½vekvï¿½ lelkesedï¿½ssel az ï¿½llatorvos - akkor a pï¿½lï¿½ kiment a divatbï¿½l. Rajtuk tartottam a szememet. Ott az a vilï¿½gos aranypej. Tetszik emlï¿½kezni, hogy kezdett visszamaradni. Hï¿½t nem kell annak csak mï¿½g egy esztendï¿½ ï¿½s... ni, hogy lï¿½p... hogy fordul... egy tehï¿½nbï¿½rnyi terï¿½leten? Meg fog tudni fordulni egy ezï¿½stdollï¿½ron! Csak egy esztendei nevelï¿½s kell neki ï¿½s a nemzetkï¿½zi versenyen valï¿½sï¿½gos szï¿½nhï¿½z lesz. Tessï¿½k rï¿½m hallgatni. Kezdettï¿½l fogva hittem ebben a lï¿½ban. Ne is ï¿½lljunk szï¿½ba azzal a burlingamei nï¿½psï¿½ggel. Ha kï¿½sz a lï¿½, tessï¿½k egyenesen keletre kï¿½ldeni.

Paula bï¿½longatva hallgatta Hennessy ï¿½r vï¿½lemï¿½nyï¿½t, ï¿½s annak a bï¿½sï¿½ges fiatal ï¿½letnek a szemlï¿½letï¿½ben, amely rï¿½ volt bï¿½zva, a szeme egyï¿½tt csillogott melegen a Hennessy ï¿½r szemï¿½vel.

- Azï¿½rt mindig rosszul esik, - vallotta meg Grahamnek - mikor ilyen gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½llatokat elad az ember, hogy olyan korï¿½n kieresztjï¿½k a vilï¿½gba.

Annyira elmerï¿½lt az ï¿½llatokban, hogy amit mondott, abban nem lehetett szenvelgï¿½st vagy pï¿½zt keresni. Dick ï¿½rezte, hogy az asszonyka vï¿½lemï¿½nyeit Graham elï¿½tt mï¿½ltatnia kell.

- ï¿½n, amilyen szamï¿½r vagyok, ï¿½trï¿½ghatom magam egy egï¿½sz lï¿½tenyï¿½sztï¿½si kï¿½nyvtï¿½ron ï¿½s kï¿½nlï¿½dhatom ï¿½s veszï¿½dhetem a Mendel-tï¿½rvï¿½nnyel, mï¿½g beleszï¿½dï¿½lï¿½k. A tehetsï¿½g - ï¿½. Neki nem kell szabï¿½lyzatokat tanulni. A maga boszorkï¿½nyos, intuitï¿½v mï¿½djï¿½n egyszerï¿½en tudja. Nem kell neki egyï¿½b, mint hogy szemmï¿½rtï¿½kre jï¿½l megnï¿½zzen egy csomï¿½ kancï¿½t, a kezï¿½t egy kicsit vï¿½gighï¿½zza a hï¿½tukon, egy kicsit kï¿½rï¿½lkutasson, mï¿½g kivadï¿½ssza a megfelelï¿½ mï¿½neket, - akkor aztï¿½n kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l megkapja, amilyen eredmï¿½nyt akar. Kivï¿½ve a szï¿½nt. Mi, Paula?

Az asszonyka nevetve mutatta a fogait, mikor sajï¿½t magï¿½n nevetett. Nevetett Hennessy ï¿½r is. ï¿½s Dick folytatta:

- Nï¿½zd meg azt a csikï¿½t. Mindnyï¿½jan tudtuk, hogy Paulï¿½nak nincs igaza. De nï¿½zd meg. Paula egy rozzant ï¿½reg telivï¿½rbï¿½l, amelyiket vï¿½nsï¿½gï¿½re mï¿½r ki akartunk selejtezni, mintaszerï¿½ tenyï¿½szcsï¿½dï¿½rt nevelt. Kapott tï¿½le egy csikï¿½t. Ezt visszapï¿½rosï¿½totta telivï¿½rrel. Ebbï¿½l kapott egy kancï¿½t, azt megint telivï¿½rrel pï¿½rosï¿½totta, csunyï¿½n rï¿½cï¿½folt minden jï¿½vendï¿½lï¿½sï¿½nkre, ï¿½s nï¿½zz oda, nï¿½zd csak meg: vilï¿½graszï¿½lï¿½ pï¿½lï¿½-pï¿½nit hozott ki. Egy dolog miatt le kell vennï¿½nk Paula elï¿½tt a kalapot: a kivï¿½logatï¿½snï¿½l nem hagyja magï¿½t a rendes nï¿½i szentimentalizmustï¿½l vezettetni. ï¿½, elï¿½g jï¿½zan hozzï¿½. ï¿½ppen olyan hatï¿½rozott, mint akï¿½rmelyik fï¿½rfi, mikor arrï¿½l van szï¿½, hogy a nem kivï¿½natosat el kell dobni ï¿½s meg kell csinï¿½lni a cï¿½lnak megfelelï¿½ kivï¿½lasztï¿½st. De a szï¿½nnek mï¿½g nem ura. Itt csï¿½dï¿½t mond a tehetsï¿½ge. Mi, Paula? Mï¿½g egy kicsit tovï¿½bb kell dolgoznod Duddyval ï¿½s Fuddyval a magad dicsï¿½sï¿½gï¿½re. Errï¿½l jut eszembe, hogy van Duddy?

- Lï¿½bra kapott, - felelte Paula - hï¿½la Hennessy ï¿½rnak.

- Nem komoly, - tette hozzï¿½ az ï¿½llatorvos - mindï¿½ssze egy kicsit kiesett a tï¿½plï¿½lkozï¿½si kerï¿½kvï¿½gï¿½sbï¿½l. A lovï¿½sz ijedsï¿½ge nagyobb volt, mint maga a baj.

A csikï¿½legelï¿½tï¿½l az uszodï¿½ig Graham a hï¿½ziasszonyï¿½val beszï¿½lgetett. Olyan kï¿½zel lovagolt mellette, amennyire ezt a Bohï¿½c vad magatartï¿½sa megengedte. Dick ï¿½s Hennessy elï¿½l mentek mï¿½lyen elmerï¿½lve gazdasï¿½gi dolgokba.

- Az ï¿½lmatlansï¿½g mindig kï¿½lï¿½n nyeregsï¿½lya volt az ï¿½letemnek, mondta Paula, mikï¿½zben megcsiklandozta sarkantyï¿½jï¿½val a Bohï¿½cot, hogy az ismï¿½t fenyegetï¿½ hï¿½borï¿½sï¿½gnak elejï¿½t vegye - de korï¿½n megtanultam, hogy az izgalmat ne hagyjam rï¿½ï¿½lni az idegeimre ï¿½s a sï¿½lyï¿½t az agyamra. Valï¿½sï¿½ggal ï¿½gy van, hogy korï¿½n rï¿½jï¿½ttem: kï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½letmï¿½kï¿½dï¿½st csinï¿½ltam belï¿½le ï¿½s szï¿½rakozï¿½st talï¿½ltam benne. Ez volt az egyetlen mï¿½dja, hogy fï¿½lï¿½je kerekedjem valaminek, amirï¿½l tudtam, hogy makacskodni fog, amï¿½g ï¿½n makacskodom. Tudja a mï¿½djï¿½t, - persze hogy tudja - hogyan kell kikerï¿½lni egy ï¿½rvï¿½nybï¿½l?

- Hogyne, nem szabad ellene dolgozni, - felelte Graham. Az asszonyka orcï¿½inak sugï¿½rzï¿½ szï¿½nï¿½t nï¿½zte ï¿½s azokat a pici verejtï¿½kgyï¿½ngyï¿½ket, amelyek makrancos lovï¿½val folytatott folytonos kï¿½zdelmï¿½bï¿½l fakadtak. Harmincnyolc! Vajjon nem fï¿½llentett-e Ernestine? Forrest Paulï¿½t huszonnyolcnak sem nï¿½zte volna az ember. Arcbï¿½re egy leï¿½ny arcbï¿½re volt, olyan finom-pï¿½rusï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½ttetszï¿½, mint a leï¿½nyokï¿½.

- Nagyon helyes, - mondta az asszony - nem szabad ellene dolgozni. Bele kell egyezni, ahogy lerï¿½ntja ï¿½s felrï¿½ntja az embert, vele egyï¿½tt kell dolgozni, hogy kijussunk a levegï¿½re. Erre a fortï¿½lyra Dick tanï¿½tott. Ugyanez ï¿½ll az ï¿½lmatlansï¿½gra. Ha kï¿½zvetlen esemï¿½nyek izgalma nem enged bejutni ï¿½lomorszï¿½gba, engedek neki, ï¿½s igy a zavarï¿½ ï¿½rvï¿½nyekbï¿½l hamarï¿½bb elï¿½rkezem az ï¿½ntudatlansï¿½gba. Rï¿½viszem a tudatomat, hogy a legkï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½bb szï¿½gletekbï¿½l ï¿½jra meg ï¿½jra vï¿½gigszemlï¿½lje ï¿½s vï¿½gigï¿½lje azokat a dolgokat, amelyek az ï¿½ntudatlansï¿½gtï¿½l visszahï¿½znak. Vegyï¿½k pï¿½ldï¿½ul a tegnapi fï¿½rdï¿½si esetet Hegyi Fickï¿½val. Mï¿½ra virradï¿½ ï¿½jszaka ï¿½gy ï¿½ltem ï¿½t, mintha a valï¿½sï¿½gban ï¿½tï¿½ltem volna. Aztï¿½n ï¿½tï¿½ltem mint nï¿½zï¿½, mint ahogy a lï¿½nyok lï¿½ttï¿½k, mint ahogy maga lï¿½tta, mint ahogy a cowboy lï¿½tta ï¿½s legkivï¿½lt mint ahogy az uram lï¿½tta. Aztï¿½n megkomponï¿½ltam festmï¿½nynek, sok kï¿½pet csinï¿½ltam belï¿½le, minden szemszï¿½gbï¿½l, a kï¿½peket kï¿½pzeletben megfestettem, berï¿½mï¿½ztam, felakasztottam, aztï¿½n mint nï¿½zï¿½ megtekintettem, mintha az egï¿½szet elï¿½szï¿½r lï¿½ttam volna. Aztï¿½n beleï¿½ltem magam minden rendï¿½ ï¿½s rangï¿½ nï¿½zï¿½k helyï¿½be, savanyï¿½ vï¿½nkisasszonyoktï¿½l ï¿½s biedermeyer-emberektï¿½l kezdve internï¿½tusi kislï¿½nyokig ï¿½s ezer ï¿½v elï¿½tti gï¿½rï¿½g fiï¿½kig. Aztï¿½n az egï¿½szet megkomponï¿½ltam, elzongorï¿½ztam ï¿½s elkï¿½pzeltem, hogyan jï¿½tsszï¿½k el nagy zenekarok ï¿½s jazz-bandek. Eldï¿½doltam, megverseltem epikusan, lï¿½rikusan, komikusan, aztï¿½n, persze nehï¿½z ï¿½s hosszï¿½ idï¿½ mulva, elaludtam a kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n ï¿½s nem tudtam, hogy aludtam, csak mikor ma dï¿½li tizenkettï¿½kor felï¿½bredtem. Mikor legutoljï¿½ra hallottam az ï¿½rï¿½t, hatot ï¿½tï¿½tt. Hat ï¿½rï¿½t aludni egyhuzamban, ez az alvï¿½si lutrin a legnagyobb kvinternï¿½ nekem.

Mire ezt befejezte, Hennessy ï¿½r ellovagolt egy keresztï¿½ton ï¿½s Forrest Dick visszamaradt, hogy a felesï¿½ge mï¿½sik oldalï¿½n szerepeljen lovagul.

- Tartasz egy jï¿½ fogadï¿½st, Evan? - kï¿½rdezte.

- Elï¿½bb szeretnï¿½m tudni, mirï¿½l van szï¿½.

- Szivart teszek szivar ellen, hogy az uszoda medencï¿½jï¿½ben tï¿½z percen belï¿½l nem tudod megfogni Paulï¿½t... nem, mondjunk inkï¿½bb ï¿½t percet, mert emlï¿½kszem, hogy nem vagy rossz ï¿½szï¿½.

- Kedvezz neki egy kicsit, - mondta Paula nagylelkï¿½en - tï¿½z perc halï¿½lra fï¿½rasztja.

- Csakhogy te nem ismered ï¿½t - intette Dick - ï¿½s nem ï¿½red meg nekem a szivarokat. ï¿½n mondom neked, hogy nem rossz ï¿½szï¿½. Kanaka-tï¿½rzsbelieket is elhagyott, ï¿½s te tudod, hogy ez mit jelent.

- Akkor talï¿½n jobb lesz, ha meggondolom. Kï¿½pes rï¿½msï¿½zni egy megsemmisï¿½tï¿½ tempï¿½t, mï¿½g mielï¿½tt vï¿½glegesen startoltam volna. Mesï¿½ld el, mit tud, milyen dï¿½jakat nyert.

- Csak egyet mondok el. A Marquesas-szigeteken mï¿½g ma is emlegetik. Az 1892-es nagy orkï¿½n idejï¿½n tï¿½rtï¿½nt. Negyvenï¿½t ï¿½ra alatt huszonkï¿½t kilomï¿½tert tett meg, ï¿½s csak ï¿½ meg egy tï¿½rsa ï¿½rtek partot. Pedig mind kanakï¿½k voltak. ï¿½ volt az egyetlen fehï¿½r ember kï¿½zï¿½ttï¿½k. Mï¿½gis kibï¿½jtï¿½lte ï¿½s legyï¿½rte az utolsï¿½t is kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k...

- De azt mondod, volt mï¿½g egy - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe Paula.

- Az nï¿½ volt, - felelte Dick - az utolsï¿½ kanaka megfulladt.

- ï¿½s a nï¿½ fehï¿½r nï¿½ volt? - firtatta Paula.

Graham gyorsan rï¿½pillantott. Paula az urï¿½hoz intï¿½zte a kï¿½rdï¿½st, de a feje ï¿½sszefordult a Grahamï¿½val. A fï¿½rfi nï¿½zï¿½se talï¿½lkozott az asszony egyenes, kï¿½rdï¿½ nï¿½zï¿½sï¿½vel. Hasonlï¿½ egyenessï¿½ggel ï¿½llotta a nï¿½zï¿½st, mikor felelt:

- Kanaka nï¿½ volt.

- Sï¿½t kirï¿½lynï¿½, ha ï¿½gy tetszik, - tette hozzï¿½ Dick - az ï¿½si fï¿½nï¿½ki tï¿½rzsbï¿½l szï¿½rmazï¿½ kirï¿½lynï¿½. ï¿½ volt Huahoa kirï¿½lynï¿½je.

- A fejedelmi vï¿½r adott neki erï¿½t, hogy tï¿½ltegyen a benszï¿½lï¿½tteken, - kï¿½rdezte Paula - vagy maga segï¿½tett neki?

- Inkï¿½bb ï¿½gy mondanï¿½m, hogy utolsï¿½ lehelletig egymï¿½snak segï¿½tettï¿½nk, - felelte Graham - rï¿½vid ï¿½s hosszï¿½ idï¿½kï¿½zï¿½kben felvï¿½ltva voltunk ï¿½nkï¿½vï¿½letben. Egyszer egyik, mï¿½sszor mï¿½sik, ennyi volt az egï¿½sz. Alkonyatkor ï¿½rtï¿½nk partot, vagyis egy szirtfalat, amelyet hatalmas dï¿½lkeleti passzï¿½tszelek hullï¿½mverï¿½se csapkodott. A kanaka nï¿½ csipkedett ï¿½s rï¿½ngatott a vï¿½zben, hogy eszmï¿½letre tï¿½rï¿½tsen. Tudja, ï¿½n ki akartam menni, ï¿½s ez egyenlï¿½ lett volna a halï¿½llal. ï¿½ nagynehezen megï¿½rttette velem, hogy tudja tï¿½jï¿½kozni magï¿½t, hogy az ï¿½ramlat a part mentï¿½ben nyugatnak halad ï¿½s kï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½n belï¿½l olyan helyre dob bennï¿½nket, ahol fï¿½ldre lï¿½phetï¿½nk. Eskï¿½szï¿½m, hogy ez alatt a kï¿½t ï¿½ra alatt hol aludtam, hol elï¿½jultam. ï¿½s eskï¿½szï¿½m, hogy mikor vï¿½letlenï¿½l eszmï¿½letre ï¿½bredtem, ï¿½s ï¿½szrevettem, hogy a hullï¿½mverï¿½s bï¿½gï¿½se megszï¿½nt, akkor ï¿½ eszmï¿½letlen volt: vagy aludt, vagy elï¿½jult. Most rajtam volt a sor, hogy eszmï¿½letre rï¿½ngassam ï¿½s csipkedjem. Mï¿½g hï¿½rom ï¿½rï¿½ig tartott, mï¿½g a homokra jutottunk. Ott aludtunk, ahol kikecmeregtï¿½nk a vï¿½zbï¿½l. Mï¿½snap reggel az ï¿½getï¿½ napsï¿½tï¿½s kï¿½ltï¿½tt fel bennï¿½nket, valami vadbanï¿½nfï¿½k ï¿½rnyï¿½kï¿½ba vonszoltuk magunkat, ott ihatï¿½ vizet talï¿½ltunk ï¿½s aludtunk tovï¿½bb. ï¿½jszaka volt, mikor megint felï¿½bredtem. Megint ittam egyet ï¿½s egyhuzamban aludtam reggelig. ï¿½ mï¿½g akkor is aludt, mikor a szomszï¿½d vï¿½lgybï¿½l egy vadkecskï¿½re vadï¿½szï¿½ kanaka-csapat kerï¿½lt elï¿½ ï¿½s megtalï¿½lt bennï¿½nket.

- ï¿½mbï¿½r tï¿½ltettï¿½l egy vï¿½zbe veszett benszï¿½lï¿½tt tï¿½rsasï¿½gon ï¿½s ki lehettï¿½l merï¿½lve, fogadni mernï¿½k, hogy te segï¿½tettï¿½l inkï¿½bb a nï¿½nek - mondta Dick.

- ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½ hï¿½lï¿½s kellett, hogy legyen magï¿½nak; - mondta Paula kihï¿½vï¿½an, szembe nï¿½zve Grahammel - hogy nem volt fiatal, hogy nem volt szï¿½p, hogy nem volt egy aranybarna fiatal istennï¿½, azt nekem ne is mondja.

- Az anyja Huahoa kirï¿½lynï¿½je volt, - felelte Graham - az apja egyetemet vï¿½gzett ember volt ï¿½s angol gentleman. Mind a ketten a vï¿½zbe vesztek menekï¿½lï¿½s kï¿½zben ï¿½s Nomï¿½r maga lett a kirï¿½lynï¿½. Csakugyan fiatal volt. Szï¿½p is volt, mint ahogy a vilï¿½gon akï¿½rhol akï¿½rmelyik nï¿½ szï¿½p lehet. Hï¿½la az apja szï¿½nï¿½nek, nem volt aranybarna. Aranysï¿½rga volt. De bizonyosan hallotta a histï¿½riï¿½jï¿½t...

Megï¿½llt ï¿½s kï¿½rdï¿½en nï¿½zett Dickre, aki nemet intett. A kï¿½zeli ï¿½lï¿½sï¿½vï¿½ny mï¿½gï¿½l ï¿½rkezï¿½ lï¿½rma, kiabï¿½lï¿½s ï¿½s loccsanï¿½ vï¿½z zaja hirdette, hogy ott vannak az uszodï¿½nï¿½l.

- Egyszer majd elmondja nekem a tï¿½rtï¿½net folytatï¿½sï¿½t - mondta Paula.

- Dick tudja. Csudï¿½lom, hogy nem mesï¿½lte.

Paula vï¿½llat vont.

- Talï¿½n nem ï¿½rt rï¿½, vagy sose jï¿½tt szï¿½ rï¿½la.

- Tudja Isten, elï¿½ggï¿½ elterjedt histï¿½ria, - nevetett Graham - mert tudja meg, hogy valaha egyszer morganatikus, vagy hogy nevezzem, kirï¿½lya voltam a kannibï¿½l szigeteknek, vagy legalï¿½bb is egy polinï¿½ziai sziget paradicsomï¿½nak...

ï¿½s zï¿½radï¿½kul, mialatt leugrott a lovï¿½rï¿½l, vidï¿½man dï¿½dolta:

A kï¿½k vizeken,

Opï¿½l partokon,

A mahimi fï¿½k rejtekï¿½n...

Paula folytatta a dal egy mï¿½sik sorï¿½val:

Fehï¿½r pillangï¿½ indaszï¿½ron,

Mï¿½hecske nyï¿½lï¿½ lï¿½herï¿½n...

ï¿½s amï¿½g dï¿½dolt, Bohï¿½c egy hajszï¿½l hï¿½jï¿½n belemart a lï¿½bï¿½ba. Sarkantyï¿½val utasï¿½totta rendre ï¿½s megvï¿½rta Dicket, aki fï¿½ldre segï¿½tette, aztï¿½n a lovat kikï¿½tï¿½tte.

Wainwright Bert a tizenï¿½tmï¿½teres nagy trambulin tetejï¿½rï¿½l kiabï¿½lt le:

- Szivarba! Benne vagyok! Nem tudja megfogni! Egy pillanat, rï¿½gtï¿½n jï¿½vï¿½k!

Jï¿½tt is olyan fejessel, amely professzionistï¿½tï¿½l is szï¿½p lett volna ï¿½s a lï¿½nyoktï¿½l tapsolï¿½ elismerï¿½st vï¿½ltott ki.

- Csinos ugrï¿½s volt, nagyon szï¿½p egyensï¿½lyban volt tartva - mondta neki Graham, mikor megint kibukkant a vï¿½zbï¿½l.

Bert ï¿½gy szeretett volna tenni, mintha a dicsï¿½ret nem ï¿½rdekelnï¿½, de ez nem sikerï¿½lt neki, ennï¿½lfogva, hogy tï¿½lessï¿½k rajta, a fogadï¿½sra terelte a szï¿½t.

- Nem tudom, milyen ï¿½szï¿½ maga, Graham, - mondotta - de ï¿½n a Dick szivarjaiban benne akarok lenni.

- ï¿½n is! ï¿½n is! - kiï¿½ltottï¿½k karban Ernestine, Lute ï¿½s Rita.

- Fogadok kandï¿½rozott cukorba, kesztyï¿½be, - tette hozzï¿½ Ernestine - vagy amibe csak mer.

- De ï¿½n sem ismerem a nagysï¿½gos asszony rekordjait, - vetette ellen Graham, miutï¿½n minden fogadï¿½st ï¿½llott - mindenesetre, ha ï¿½t perc alatt...

- Tï¿½z, - mondta Paula - tï¿½z perc. ï¿½s az uszoda kï¿½t ellenkezï¿½ vï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l startolunk. Rendben van? Bï¿½rmilyen ï¿½rintï¿½s nyert.

Graham hallgatag elismerï¿½ssel szemlï¿½lte vï¿½gig hï¿½ziasszonyï¿½t. Nem azt a sima fehï¿½rselyem fï¿½rdï¿½ruhï¿½t vette fel, amit nyilvï¿½n csak nï¿½i tï¿½rsasï¿½gban hordott fï¿½rdï¿½shez, hanem egy mï¿½sikat, amely kacï¿½ran utï¿½nozta a legfrissebb divatot: a fï¿½rdï¿½kosztï¿½mje majdnem a vï¿½zzel azonos szï¿½nï¿½, vilï¿½goskï¿½k-zï¿½ld changeant selyembï¿½l kï¿½szï¿½lt, a szoknya ï¿½ppen tï¿½rden felï¿½l ï¿½rt ï¿½s Graham ï¿½jra lï¿½tta ezeknek a tï¿½rdeknek a gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t, - lï¿½bï¿½ra hasonlï¿½ szï¿½nï¿½ harisnyï¿½t hï¿½zott ï¿½s keresztszalagokkal megkï¿½tï¿½tt pici fï¿½rdï¿½cipï¿½t, fejï¿½re eleven kis fï¿½rdï¿½sapkï¿½t tett, amely ï¿½ppen olyan eleven volt, mint ï¿½, mikor ï¿½t perc helyett tï¿½zhez ragaszkodott.

Wainwright Rita tartotta az ï¿½rï¿½t, mialatt Graham ï¿½tment az ï¿½tvenmï¿½teres medence mï¿½sik oldalï¿½ra.

- Paula, - mondta intï¿½en Dick - ha nem vigyï¿½zol, baj lesz. Graham Evan valï¿½sï¿½gos halember.

- ï¿½n pedig fogadni mernï¿½k, - hencegett a lojï¿½lis Bert - hogy Paula a szelelï¿½lyuk nï¿½lkï¿½l is fittyet hï¿½nyna neki. ï¿½s fogadni mernï¿½k, hogy Paula ugrani is jobban tud.

- Akkor el is vesztenï¿½d a fogadï¿½st, - felelte Dick - lï¿½ttam Huahoï¿½ban azt a sziklï¿½t, ahonnan leugrott. Az ï¿½ ideje utï¿½n ï¿½s Nomï¿½r kirï¿½lynï¿½ halï¿½la utï¿½n jï¿½rtam ott. Az ugrï¿½s idejï¿½n mï¿½g nagyon fiatal volt Graham, huszonkï¿½t ï¿½ves mindï¿½ssze. De ehez az ugrï¿½shoz fiatalnak is kellett lennie. A Pau-Wi szikla tetejï¿½rï¿½l ugrott le. Hï¿½romszï¿½gelï¿½ssel ki lehetett szï¿½mï¿½tani, hogy a szikla harminckilenc mï¿½ter magas. ï¿½s nem is ugorhatott szabï¿½lyos, jï¿½l kivitelezett fejest, mert kï¿½t alantabb kiugrï¿½ sziklafokot is ki kellett kerï¿½lnie, mï¿½g a levegï¿½ben volt. A kanakï¿½k hagyomï¿½nyai szerint a kï¿½t kiugrï¿½ fok kï¿½zï¿½l a magasabbik volt az a pont, ahonnan a legkitï¿½nï¿½bb kanakï¿½k emberemlï¿½kezet ï¿½ta le mertek ugrani. Hï¿½t ï¿½ leugrott a csï¿½csrï¿½l. Megjavï¿½totta a hagyomï¿½nyt. ï¿½ maga fog hagyomï¿½ny maradni, mï¿½g Huahoï¿½ban kanakï¿½k ï¿½lni fognak... Lï¿½gy kï¿½szen, Rita. Ha a mï¿½sodpercmutatï¿½ a hatvanhoz ï¿½r, startoltass.

- Szinte szï¿½gyen egy ilyen kivï¿½lï¿½ ï¿½szï¿½t trï¿½kkï¿½kkel becsapni - mondta bizalmasan Paula, mialatt szembe nï¿½zett a medence tï¿½loldalï¿½n ï¿½llï¿½ ellenfelï¿½vel ï¿½s mind a ketten a jeladï¿½st vï¿½rtï¿½k.

- Lehet, hogy megcsï¿½p, mielï¿½tt a trï¿½kkï¿½dhï¿½z jutsz - intette megint Dick. Aztï¿½n mintegy aggï¿½dva egy kicsit, Berthez fordult: - Jï¿½l mï¿½kï¿½dik a szelelï¿½? Mert ha nem, akkor Paulï¿½nak lesz ï¿½t kellemetlen mï¿½sodperce, mï¿½g kijut onnan.

- Minden rendben, - biztosï¿½totta Bert - magam ott jï¿½rtam. A szelelï¿½ mï¿½kï¿½dik. Annyi levegï¿½ van, amennyi kell.

- Kï¿½sz? - kiï¿½ltotta Rita. - Mehet!

Graham ï¿½gy szï¿½guldott a medence innensï¿½ vï¿½ge felï¿½, mint egy versenyfutï¿½, Paula pedig a nagy trambulin felï¿½ repï¿½lt. Mikor a kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ magassï¿½gï¿½ ugrï¿½deszkï¿½kkal ellï¿½tott trambulin legtetejï¿½re ï¿½rt, Graham keze-lï¿½ba mï¿½r rajta is volt az alsï¿½ keresztlï¿½cen. ï¿½s mikor Graham fï¿½lig felï¿½rt a faalkotmï¿½nyon, Paula ugrani kï¿½szï¿½lt. Ezzel arra kï¿½sztette az ï¿½ldï¿½zï¿½t, hogy abbahagyja a mï¿½szï¿½st, a hï¿½t mï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½n megï¿½llapodjï¿½k ï¿½s ugrï¿½sra kï¿½szen legyen, ha Paulï¿½t kï¿½vetni kell a vï¿½zbe. De Paula lekacagott rï¿½ ï¿½s nem ugrott.

- Mï¿½lnak a percek, - kiabï¿½lta Ernestine - az idï¿½ drï¿½ga!

Mikor Graham megint mï¿½szni kezdett felfelï¿½, Paula megint megï¿½llï¿½totta fï¿½lï¿½ton a szï¿½nlelt ugrani kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½ssel. De Graham nem sokat fecsï¿½relte az idejï¿½t. Eltï¿½kï¿½lten nekivï¿½gott ï¿½s Paula hiï¿½ba jï¿½tszotta az ugrani kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½ testhimbï¿½lï¿½st, nem tudta megï¿½llï¿½tani. Igyekezett felfelï¿½, hogy elï¿½rhesse a tï¿½zmï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½t, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g Paula leugrott. ï¿½s Paula sokkal okosabb volt, semhogy tï¿½tovï¿½zott volna. Leugrott. Fejï¿½t hï¿½traszegte, karjï¿½t behajlï¿½totta, kezï¿½t szorosan a mellï¿½hez fogta, lï¿½bszï¿½rait egyenesen egymï¿½shoz szorï¿½totta. A teste vï¿½zszintesre fordult a levegï¿½ben, amint ï¿½velve zuhant le ï¿½s el a trambulintï¿½l.

- ï¿½, Kellermann Annette! - hangzott fel Wainwright Bert lelkes, csodï¿½lï¿½ kiï¿½ltï¿½sa.

Graham abbahagyta a mï¿½szï¿½st, hogy az ugrï¿½s tï¿½kï¿½letessï¿½gï¿½t megfigyelje. Lï¿½tta, amint az asszonyka valamivel a vï¿½z szï¿½ne elï¿½tt elï¿½re szegi a fejï¿½t, kiegyenesï¿½ti a karjait ï¿½s ï¿½sszeteszi a kezï¿½t, hogy ï¿½vet formï¿½ljon a feje elï¿½tt ï¿½s igy megvï¿½ltoztatva a teste egyensï¿½lyï¿½t, a vï¿½zszintesbï¿½l ï¿½tmenjen a hibï¿½tlan vï¿½zhasï¿½tï¿½ szï¿½gbe.

Abban a pillanatban, ahogy a vï¿½zbe ï¿½rt, Graham kihajlott a tï¿½zmï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½n ï¿½s vï¿½rt. Ebbï¿½l a magassï¿½gbï¿½l ki tudta venni a vï¿½z szï¿½ne alatt a Paula testï¿½t, amint teljes tempï¿½val ï¿½szik a medence mï¿½sik vï¿½ge felï¿½. ï¿½s csak ekkor ugrott. Bï¿½zott benne, hogy utï¿½lï¿½ri. Erï¿½s, hosszï¿½ fejest ugrott, hï¿½t mï¿½terrel tï¿½volabb ï¿½rt vizet, mint a Paula ugrï¿½sa.

De amint Graham a vï¿½zbe ï¿½rt, Dick kï¿½t nagy lapos kï¿½vet merï¿½tett a vï¿½zbe ï¿½s ï¿½sszeï¿½tï¿½gette ï¿½ket. Ez volt a jeladï¿½s Paula szï¿½mï¿½ra, hogy vï¿½ltoztassa meg az irï¿½nyï¿½t. Graham is hallotta a vï¿½z alatt a hangot ï¿½s csodï¿½lkozott. Mï¿½r tempï¿½val ï¿½rt a vï¿½zbe, ï¿½s a fenï¿½ken azonnal hihetetlen gyorsan kezdett ï¿½szni a medence tï¿½voli vï¿½ge felï¿½. Felbukkant ï¿½s szï¿½ttekintett a vï¿½z felï¿½letï¿½n. A tapsolï¿½sban kitï¿½rï¿½ lï¿½nyok tekintetï¿½t kï¿½vetve megpillantotta az asszonykï¿½t, aki a medence mï¿½sik oldalï¿½n ï¿½ppen kapaszkodott kifelï¿½ a vï¿½zbï¿½l.

Graham ï¿½jra vï¿½gigfutott a medence mentï¿½n ï¿½s Paula ï¿½jra felmï¿½szott a trambulin favï¿½zï¿½n. De ezï¿½ttal a fï¿½rfi jobban gyï¿½zte lendï¿½lettel ï¿½s kitartï¿½ssal, ï¿½s az asszonyka, elvesztvï¿½n a vezetï¿½st, odaszorult a hï¿½tmï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½ra. Nem is vesztegette az idejï¿½t azzal, hogy szabï¿½lyosan felï¿½lljon a fejeshez, egyszerï¿½en lï¿½bbal beledobta magï¿½t a vï¿½zbe ï¿½s a medence nyugati oldala felï¿½ fordult. Mind a ketten szinte ugyanabban a pillanatban hasï¿½tottï¿½k a levegï¿½t. Graham a vï¿½z szï¿½nï¿½n is, a vï¿½z alatt is megï¿½rezte az arcï¿½n ï¿½s a karjï¿½n a vï¿½ztï¿½megnek azt a mozgï¿½sï¿½t, amit Paula igyekvï¿½ tempï¿½i okoztak, de az asszonyka elveszett abban a mï¿½ly ï¿½rnyï¿½kï¿½ rï¿½szben, amelyet a dï¿½lutï¿½ni nap alacsony ï¿½llï¿½sa homï¿½lyosï¿½tott el ï¿½s itt Graham nem lï¿½thatott semmit.

Az ï¿½ldï¿½zï¿½, mikor elï¿½rte a medence oldalï¿½t, felbukkant. Az asszony nem volt lï¿½thatï¿½. Graham prï¿½szkï¿½lve kapaszkodott a szï¿½razra, aztï¿½n ugrï¿½sra kï¿½sz ï¿½llï¿½sba helyezkedett, hogy azonnal ugorjon, mihelyt Paulï¿½t megpillantja. De az asszony nem mutatkozott sehol. Rita kiï¿½ltotta az idï¿½t:

- Hï¿½t perc!... Hï¿½t ï¿½s fï¿½l!... Nyolc!... Nyolc ï¿½s fï¿½l!

ï¿½s Forrest Paula nem tï¿½rt fel a vï¿½z szï¿½nï¿½re. De Graham nem nyugtalankodott, mert a tï¿½bbiek arcï¿½n nem lï¿½tott nyugtalansï¿½got. Rita kiï¿½ltott:

- Kilenc perc!

- Vesztettem! - jelentette ki Graham. - Tï¿½bb mint kï¿½t perce van a vï¿½z alatt ï¿½s ti olyan ï¿½ldott jï¿½ nyugodt arcot vï¿½gtok, hogy ï¿½n sem lehetek izgatott. Mï¿½g van egy percem. Lehet, hogy mï¿½gsem vesztettem.

Ezt mï¿½r gyorsan tette hozzï¿½ ï¿½s hirtelen lï¿½bbal ugrott be a medencï¿½be. A vï¿½z alatt megfordult ï¿½s a kezï¿½vel kezdte vï¿½gigvizsgï¿½lni a medence cementfalï¿½t. Kï¿½zï¿½ptï¿½jon, becslï¿½se szerint mintegy hï¿½rom mï¿½ternyire a felszï¿½n alatt, a keze nyï¿½lï¿½st talï¿½lt a falon. Kitapogatta, megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy nincs rajta rï¿½cs ï¿½s bï¿½tran behatolt. ï¿½gyszï¿½lvï¿½n be sem jutott, mï¿½ris azt tapasztalta, hogy a vï¿½zbï¿½l ki tud emelkedni. Vigyï¿½zva, lassan emelkedett fel, szuroksï¿½tï¿½tben bukkant ki ï¿½s ï¿½vatosan, loccsanï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l tapogatï¿½dzott maga kï¿½rï¿½l.

Ujjai egy hideg, sima karhoz ï¿½rtek, amely gï¿½rcsï¿½sen hï¿½zï¿½dott vissza az ï¿½rintï¿½stï¿½l, mialatt tulajdonosa a meglepï¿½dï¿½tt rï¿½mï¿½let kiï¿½ltï¿½sï¿½t hallatta. Graham szorosan megragadta ï¿½s elkezdett nevetni. Paula vele nevetett. ï¿½s a fï¿½rfi tudatï¿½n a »First Chanty« egy sora cikï¿½zott keresztï¿½l: »Hallottam kacagï¿½sï¿½t a homï¿½lyban ï¿½s mï¿½lyen szerettem ï¿½t...«

- Megijesztett, mikor hozzï¿½m ï¿½rt, - mondta Paula - nesztelenï¿½l jï¿½tt ï¿½s ï¿½n ezer mï¿½rfï¿½ldnyire voltam innen. ï¿½brï¿½ndoztam...

- Mirï¿½l?

- Megmondom ï¿½szintï¿½n: egy toalett-ï¿½tlet jutott eszembe. Porhanyï¿½s tapintï¿½sï¿½, puha, mï¿½lnabor-szï¿½nï¿½ bï¿½rsony, hosszï¿½, zï¿½rt vonalak ï¿½s mï¿½ly, fï¿½nytelen arany-bordï¿½rï¿½k, zsinï¿½rok, minden. Egyetlenegy ï¿½kszer: egy gyï¿½rï¿½, egy ï¿½riï¿½si, galambvï¿½rszï¿½nï¿½ rubin, amit Dicktï¿½l kaptam, mikor a Tovï¿½bb vitorlï¿½ssal hajï¿½kï¿½ztunk.

- Mï¿½ssal nem foglalkozik e pillanatban? - nevetett Graham.

Paula vele nevetett ï¿½s a jï¿½kedvï¿½k zaja furcsa ï¿½ressï¿½ggel kongott a zï¿½rt ï¿½s visszhangzï¿½ sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½gben.

- Ki mondta meg magï¿½nak? - kï¿½rdezte Paula.

- Senki. Mivel kï¿½t perce volt mï¿½r a vï¿½z alatt, tudtam, hogy valami effï¿½lï¿½nek kell lenni a jï¿½tï¿½kban. Nekifogtam megkeresni.

- A Dick ï¿½tlete volt. Utï¿½lag ï¿½pï¿½ttette bele a medencï¿½be. Csupa szeszï¿½lyes ï¿½tlet. ï¿½rï¿½me telt benne, hogy ï¿½reg hï¿½lgyek gï¿½rcsï¿½ket kaptak a rï¿½mï¿½lettï¿½l, mikor ï¿½ a fiaikkal vagy az unokï¿½ikkal beszaladt a medencï¿½be ï¿½s itt bï¿½jt el velï¿½k. De miutï¿½n egy-kettï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k, mï¿½r tudniillik az ï¿½reg hï¿½lgyek kï¿½zï¿½l, szinte szï¿½rnyet halt ijedtï¿½ben, Dick engem bï¿½ztatott fel, hogy - mint most - kemï¿½nyebb legï¿½nyeket tartsak bolonddï¿½. Pï¿½ldï¿½ul magï¿½t. De voltak mï¿½s esetek is. Volt itt pï¿½ldï¿½ul egy Coghlan-lï¿½ny, Ernestinenek egy barï¿½tnï¿½je, egy kis intï¿½zeti lï¿½ny. Ravaszul odaï¿½llï¿½tottï¿½k odafent a szelelï¿½lyuk mellï¿½. Dick leugrott a nagy trambulinrï¿½l ï¿½s ideï¿½szott a szelelï¿½fï¿½lke belsï¿½ falï¿½hoz. Nï¿½hï¿½ny perc mulva, mikor a kislï¿½ny mï¿½r odavolt, hogy Dick megfulladt, ï¿½ rettenetes sï¿½ri hangon elkezdett felkiabï¿½lni hozzï¿½ a szelelï¿½lyukon ï¿½t. A Coghlan-lï¿½ny abban a nyomban fï¿½lholtra ï¿½jult.

- Gyenge kis portï¿½ka lehetett, - vï¿½lte Graham, akiben pikï¿½ns vï¿½gyï¿½dï¿½s ï¿½tkï¿½zï¿½tt fel egy szï¿½l gyujtï¿½ utï¿½n, hogy meggyujthassa ï¿½s megnï¿½zhesse, hogyan fest Forrest Paula, amint ott lubickol mellette, hogy a felszï¿½nen tartsa magï¿½t.

- Volt mentsï¿½ge bï¿½ven, - felelte Paula - nagyon fiatal volt, tizennyolc ï¿½ves. Aztï¿½n meg olyan bakfisszerï¿½en bele volt bolondulva Dickbe. Mind belebolondulnak. Tudja, Dick olyan gyerekes, mikor eltrï¿½fï¿½l velï¿½k, hogy el sem tudjï¿½k kï¿½pzelni benne a kemï¿½ny, vasszorgalmï¿½, mï¿½ly gondolkodï¿½sï¿½, ï¿½rett, javakorbeli hï¿½zasembert. Kicsit zavarï¿½an hatott, hogy ez a kislï¿½ny, mikor felï¿½bredt, de mï¿½g nem tï¿½rt egï¿½szen ï¿½ntudatra, a szï¿½ve minden titkï¿½t kiï¿½ntï¿½tte. Dick arca valï¿½sï¿½gos tanulmï¿½ny volt, mikor a kislï¿½ny kidadogta a...

- Na? Ott maradtok ï¿½jszakï¿½ra? - hangzott le a szelelï¿½lyukon megafonszerï¿½ zï¿½rtsï¿½ggal a Wainwright Bert hangja.

- Jaj, - sï¿½hajtott fel megkï¿½nnyebbï¿½lten Graham, mert az elsï¿½ hangra megijedt ï¿½s megkapta a Paula karjï¿½t - most az egyszer ï¿½n ijedtem meg. A kislï¿½ny meg van bosszulva. Most aztï¿½n azt is tudom, mi a szelelï¿½lyuk...

- Itt az ideje, hogy nekivï¿½gjunk a felvilï¿½gnak, - mondta Paula - ismerek ennï¿½l bï¿½josabb csevegï¿½helyeket is. Menjek elï¿½re?

- Mindenesetre, ï¿½n majd szorosan maga mï¿½gï¿½tt megyek. Mindenesetre kï¿½r, hogy a vï¿½z nem foszforeszkï¿½l. Mert akkor kï¿½vethetnï¿½m a maga tï¿½ndï¿½klï¿½ sarkï¿½t, mint az az ï¿½riember, akirï¿½l Byron ï¿½rt... emlï¿½kszik?

Hallotta az asszony igenlï¿½ feleletï¿½t a sï¿½tï¿½tben, aztï¿½n amint ezt mondta:

- Hï¿½t ï¿½n indulok.

A leghomï¿½lyosabb kï¿½rvonalakat sem lï¿½thatta, de abbï¿½l a kevï¿½s neszbï¿½l, amit Paula ï¿½tï¿½tt, tudta, hogy az asszonyka fejjel elï¿½re lebukott a vï¿½z alï¿½. ï¿½s csak kï¿½pzeletben lï¿½tta azt a kecsessï¿½get, amellyel Paula ezt megcsinï¿½lta. Ez az a mozdulat, amit az ï¿½tlagos ï¿½szï¿½ nï¿½k ï¿½ppensï¿½ggel nem kecsesen szoktak megcsinï¿½lni.

- Valaki ï¿½rulkodott - vetette fel azonnal a vï¿½dat Bert, mihelyt Graham felbukkant a medencï¿½ben ï¿½s kimï¿½szott.

- Bizonyï¿½ra maga volt az a csirkefogï¿½, - duplï¿½zott rï¿½ Graham - aki kï¿½veket kocogtatott a vï¿½z alatt. Ha vesztettem volna, feltï¿½tlenï¿½l ï¿½vï¿½st jelentettem volna. Ez gï¿½rbe dolog volt, valï¿½sï¿½gos bï¿½nszï¿½vetsï¿½g. Hivatott bizottsï¿½g, meg vagyok gyï¿½zï¿½dve, ï¿½rulï¿½snak minï¿½sï¿½tette volna az egï¿½szet. Ez mï¿½r a kerï¿½leti bï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g elï¿½ tartozik.

- De hiszen nyert - szï¿½lt Ernestine.

- Bizony nyertem. ï¿½s ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt nem is jelentem fel sem magï¿½t, sem a cinkostï¿½rsait, ha a vesztett fogadï¿½sokat rï¿½gtï¿½n kifizetik. Lï¿½ssuk csak. Magï¿½tï¿½l kapok egy skatulya szivart...

- Egy szivart, pardon.

- Egy skatulyï¿½t! Egy skatulyï¿½t!

- Fogï¿½cskï¿½t! - kiï¿½ltotta Paula. - Jï¿½tsszunk fogï¿½cskï¿½t! Maga a fogï¿½!

Ahogy mondta, meg is tette. Rï¿½ï¿½tï¿½tt a Graham vï¿½llï¿½ra ï¿½s beugrott a vï¿½zbe. Mielï¿½tt utï¿½naugorhatott volna Graham, Bert is megfogta, megforgatta, de Graham rï¿½ï¿½tï¿½tt a vï¿½llï¿½ra. Erre Bert rï¿½ï¿½tï¿½tt Dickre, aki mï¿½r nem tudott elmenekï¿½lni. Dick a medencï¿½ben ï¿½ldï¿½zte a felesï¿½gï¿½t, Bert ï¿½s Graham az alkalmat lestï¿½k, hogy rï¿½ï¿½thessenek, a leï¿½nyok pedig felmenekï¿½ltek a trambulinra ï¿½s csï¿½bï¿½tï¿½ sorban ï¿½lltï¿½k vï¿½gig az ï¿½tmï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½t.

Ware Donald, mint nem jelentï¿½s ï¿½szï¿½, kihagyta a programmjï¿½bï¿½l a dï¿½lutï¿½ni sport-szï¿½rakozï¿½st. De diner utï¿½n teljesen lefoglalta Paulï¿½t a zongorï¿½nï¿½l, ami valahogyan elï¿½gedetlen ï¿½rzï¿½ssel tï¿½ltï¿½tte el Grahamet. A nagy hï¿½zba, ahol mindig el voltak kï¿½szï¿½lve vï¿½ratlan lï¿½togatï¿½sokra, ï¿½j vendï¿½gek jï¿½ttek: egy Weil Adolph nevï¿½ ï¿½gyvï¿½d, aki azï¿½rt jï¿½tt, hogy egy nagyobb vï¿½zjogi pï¿½rrï¿½l ï¿½rtekezzï¿½k Dickkel, aztï¿½n Braxton Jeremy, egyenesen Mexikï¿½bï¿½l, Dick fï¿½felï¿½gyelï¿½je a Harvest-csoportnï¿½l, amely Braxtonnel egyï¿½tt ï¿½llandï¿½an kifogyhatatlan volt, aztï¿½n O'Hay Edwin, szï¿½nhï¿½zi ï¿½s zenekritikus, vï¿½rï¿½shajï¿½ ember, vï¿½gï¿½l Bishop Chauncey, a San Franciscï¿½i Hetilap szerkesztï¿½je ï¿½s kiadï¿½tulajdonosa, ï¿½s mint Graham megtudta: Dick rï¿½gi cimborï¿½ja ï¿½s ï¿½llandï¿½ lï¿½togatï¿½ja.

Dick egy borzasztï¿½ kï¿½rtyapartï¿½t szervezett, amelynek »Iszonyï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½s« volt a neve, ï¿½s amelyben, noha az izgalom az egeket verte ï¿½s a jï¿½tï¿½kosok veszettï¿½l tï¿½rtï¿½k a fejï¿½ket, tï¿½z cent volt a legnagyobb tï¿½t ï¿½s erï¿½s jï¿½tï¿½k esetï¿½n a vonulï¿½ bankï¿½r ï¿½sszesen kilencven centet nyerhetett vagy veszthetett, de egy ilyen jï¿½tï¿½kot is tï¿½z percig tartott lejï¿½tszani. A szoba vï¿½gï¿½n egy nagy asztal mellett folyt ez a csata, a jï¿½tï¿½kosok ï¿½llandï¿½an aprï¿½ ï¿½sszegeket hoztak vagy kï¿½lcsï¿½nï¿½ztek ï¿½s szï¿½ntelenï¿½l aprï¿½pï¿½nzï¿½rt kiabï¿½ltak.

Kilenc jï¿½tï¿½kos ï¿½lt a nagy harc kï¿½rï¿½l. Graham nem akarta a lapot venni, inkï¿½bb kibicelt Ernestinenek ï¿½s ï¿½llandï¿½an lenï¿½zett a nagy szoba mï¿½sik vï¿½gï¿½re, ahol Forrest Paula ï¿½s a hegedï¿½s Beethoven-szimfï¿½niï¿½kba ï¿½s Dï¿½libes-balettekbe merï¿½ltek el. Braxton Jeremy azt kï¿½vetelte, hogy az alapot emeljï¿½k fel hï¿½sz centre. Dick, aki nï¿½gy dollï¿½r ï¿½s hatvan cent erejï¿½ig a legnagyobb vesztï¿½ volt, mint maga ï¿½llï¿½totta, sirï¿½nkozva indï¿½tvï¿½nyozta: ï¿½llï¿½tsanak fel pinkï¿½t, hogy legyen mibï¿½l kifizetni a villanyt ï¿½s a takarï¿½tï¿½st. Graham mï¿½lyet sï¿½hajtvï¿½n, hogy megint elveszï¿½tett egy tï¿½tet (ï¿½t centet, amit kï¿½tszeresen tartott), kijelentette Ernestinenek, hogy meg akarja fordï¿½tani a kï¿½rtyajï¿½rï¿½st ï¿½s ezï¿½rt kabalï¿½bï¿½l kï¿½rï¿½lsï¿½tï¿½l a szobï¿½ban.

- Tudtam elï¿½re - mondta fï¿½lhangon Ernestine.

- Mit?

A lï¿½ny jelentï¿½sen Paula irï¿½nyï¿½ba nï¿½zett. Graham megfelelt:

- Lï¿½ssa, mï¿½r csak ezï¿½rt is kï¿½nytelen vagyok odamenni.

- Ekkora merï¿½szsï¿½get - mondta gï¿½nyosan a lï¿½ny - nem merek letï¿½rni.

- Ha merï¿½szsï¿½gbe kerï¿½lne, mï¿½r nem is tennï¿½m meg.

- Akkor inkï¿½bb biztatom rï¿½.

Graham ingatta a fejï¿½t.

- ï¿½n mï¿½r el vagyok szï¿½nva, hogy egyenesen odamegyek ï¿½s ï¿½rtalmatlannï¿½ teszem azt a cincogï¿½ embert. Most mï¿½r kï¿½sï¿½ volna lebeszï¿½lni engem. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l itt van O'Hay ï¿½r, aki tenni akar a maga lapjï¿½ra.

Ernestine hamar odadobott tï¿½z centet ï¿½s nem igen tudta, nyer-e vagy veszï¿½t, annyira ï¿½lï¿½nken figyelte Grahamet, aki ï¿½tment a szobï¿½n. Pedig tudta a lï¿½ny, hogy Wainwright Bert figyelmï¿½t nem kerï¿½li ki, hogy ï¿½ nï¿½z ï¿½s hogy hova nï¿½z. Viszont sem ï¿½, sem Bert, sem akï¿½rki az asztalnï¿½l nem vette ï¿½szre, hogy Dick gyorspillantï¿½sï¿½ szeme egy rï¿½szletet sem mulasztott el a mellï¿½kcselekmï¿½nybï¿½l, mialatt a szï¿½ja csacsisï¿½gokat hadart, amik mindenkit megnevettettek.

Ernestine, aki azt a benyomï¿½st keltette, hogy csak kevï¿½ssel kisebb Paulï¿½nï¿½l, de inkï¿½bb hajlandï¿½ a hï¿½zï¿½sra, ragyogï¿½ egï¿½szsï¿½gï¿½, vilï¿½gosszï¿½ke lï¿½ny volt, akinek arcbï¿½rï¿½t a tizennyolcï¿½ves lï¿½nyok szinte ï¿½tlï¿½tszï¿½ pirossï¿½ga ragyogta ï¿½t. A szemlï¿½lï¿½nek ï¿½gy tetszett, hogy ujja, keze, csuklï¿½ja, karja, nyaka, keble rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ gyengï¿½dsï¿½gï¿½n keresztï¿½l lehet lï¿½tni. ï¿½s ehez a rï¿½zsï¿½s, gyenge-piros ï¿½ttetszï¿½sï¿½ghez most valami meleg tï¿½nus jï¿½rult, ami nem kerï¿½lte el Dick figyelmï¿½t, amint a lï¿½nynak a szobï¿½n vï¿½giglï¿½pkedï¿½ Grahamre szegzett pillantï¿½sï¿½t kileste. Dick ï¿½szrevette ï¿½s felismerte a lï¿½ny rajongï¿½an kï¿½pzelt vagy kitalï¿½lt ï¿½lmï¿½t, bï¿½r ennek szavai rejtve maradtak elï¿½tte.

Amire nï¿½zett a lï¿½ny, amirï¿½l ï¿½lmodott, az a Graham fejedelmi jï¿½rï¿½sa volt, fejï¿½nek magas, kï¿½nnyed, telivï¿½r tartï¿½sa ï¿½s aranybronz, naptï¿½l hamvas hajï¿½nak az az elragadï¿½ kï¿½cossï¿½ga, amely fï¿½jdalmas vï¿½gyat keltett az ujjaiban, hogy dï¿½delgetve ebbe a hajba fï¿½rja ï¿½ket, amire, csak most ï¿½rezte elï¿½szï¿½r, hogy hasznï¿½lni lehet az ujjait.

Paula is ï¿½szrevette ï¿½s szemmel kï¿½sï¿½rte Graham kï¿½zeledï¿½sï¿½t a hegedï¿½mï¿½vï¿½sszel valï¿½ tï¿½rsalgï¿½sï¿½nak egy szï¿½netï¿½ben, melynek folyamï¿½n nem mulasztotta el megkritizï¿½lni azt a kritikï¿½t, amelyet O'Hay legutï¿½bb Bauer Haroldrï¿½l ï¿½rt. ï¿½ is gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve figyelte meg a fï¿½rfi kecses mozgï¿½sï¿½t, feje magas, kï¿½nnyed egyensï¿½lyï¿½t, rendetlen hajï¿½t, sima arca tiszta bronzï¿½t, nagyszerï¿½ homlokï¿½t, nagy szï¿½rke szemï¿½t, a fï¿½lig lehï¿½nyt pillï¿½k alatt lappangï¿½ gyerekes dacossï¿½ggal, amely megelï¿½zte az asszonykï¿½t ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½ mosolyt. Paula azï¿½ta, hogy elï¿½szï¿½r lï¿½tta ezt az embert, gyakran megfigyelte a mosolyï¿½t. Ellenï¿½llhatatlan mosoly volt ez, amely a derï¿½k pajtï¿½skodï¿½s sugï¿½rzï¿½sï¿½val ragyogott a szemï¿½ben ï¿½s szeme sarkait pici, lelkes vonalakba rï¿½ncolta. Ez a mosoly kihï¿½vta a mï¿½sok mosolyï¿½t; Paula ï¿½rezte, hogy ï¿½ is hallgatag ï¿½dvï¿½zletet mosolyog viszonzï¿½sul, amint tovï¿½bb magyarï¿½zta Warenek, mennyire kifogï¿½solja, hogy O'Hay tï¿½lsï¿½gosan elismerte Bauert.

De hallgatï¿½lagosan ï¿½gy intï¿½zï¿½dï¿½tt, hogy Ware Donalddel maradt a zongorï¿½nï¿½l jï¿½tszani. Pï¿½r futï¿½ szï¿½ utï¿½n mï¿½r benne volt egy sorozat magyar tï¿½ncban. Graham megint csak csodï¿½lta, semmittevï¿½en ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lt ï¿½s cigarettï¿½zott egy ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sben.

Csodï¿½lta az asszony ezerfï¿½lesï¿½gï¿½t ezeknek a gyakorlott ujjaknak a lï¿½ttï¿½n, amelyek a Bohï¿½cot tudtï¿½k kormï¿½nyozni ï¿½s fï¿½ken tartani, a fï¿½ldalatti ï¿½regben tudtak ï¿½szni ï¿½s lubickolni ï¿½s tizenkï¿½t mï¿½ter magasrï¿½l hattyï¿½-ï¿½vben szelve ï¿½t a levegï¿½t, pontosan a vï¿½z szï¿½ne elï¿½tt tudtak ï¿½sszefonï¿½dni, hogy a mï¿½ugrï¿½k fejvï¿½dï¿½ karï¿½vï¿½t megformï¿½ljï¿½k.

Graham illendï¿½sï¿½gbï¿½l csak pï¿½r percet jï¿½rkï¿½lt, visszatï¿½rt a kï¿½rtyï¿½zï¿½khoz ï¿½s az egï¿½sz tï¿½rsasï¿½got kacagï¿½sra fakasztotta, olyan jï¿½l utï¿½nozta zsargonban a zsidï¿½ember aggodalmï¿½t ï¿½s szenvedï¿½lyï¿½t, mikor egyre-mï¿½sra adta le az ï¿½tcentes pï¿½nzdarabokat a szerencsï¿½s, napbarnï¿½totta mexikï¿½i bï¿½nyafï¿½felï¿½gyelï¿½nek.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb, mikor az Iszonyï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½s feloszlott, Bert ï¿½s Desten Lute pocsï¿½kkï¿½ tettï¿½k Beethoven Sonata Pathï¿½tiquejï¿½nek adagio-tï¿½telï¿½t: lehetetlen ragtime-tï¿½ncot jï¿½rtak hozzï¿½, amit Dick azonnal el is nevezett Szerelmi Vad-andalgï¿½nak, mï¿½gnem Paula nevettï¿½ben nem bï¿½rt tï¿½bbï¿½ magï¿½val ï¿½s abbahagyta a jï¿½tï¿½kot.

ï¿½j csoportok alakultak. Weil, Rita, Bishop ï¿½s Dick bridgere ï¿½ltek ï¿½ssze. Ware Donaldet a fiatalsï¿½g Braxton Jeremy vezï¿½rlete alatt kiszorï¿½totta a Paula monopolizï¿½lï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l, Graham ï¿½s O'Hay, ketten fï¿½lreï¿½ltek egy ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sbe ï¿½s O'Hay ï¿½zletrï¿½l beszï¿½lt.

A zongorï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½llï¿½k egy ideig valamennyien hawaii nï¿½ger »hula«-dalokat ï¿½nekeltek, aztï¿½n Paula kï¿½sï¿½rte sajï¿½t magï¿½t. Nï¿½hï¿½ny nï¿½met szerelmi dalt ï¿½nekelt el egymï¿½sutï¿½n, csak a kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte ï¿½llï¿½knak szï¿½nta az ï¿½neket, nem az egï¿½sz szobï¿½nak ï¿½s Graham Evan szinte ï¿½rï¿½mmel ï¿½llapï¿½totta meg magï¿½ban, hogy vï¿½gre egy kis tï¿½kï¿½letlensï¿½get talï¿½lt benne. Az asszonyka nagyszerï¿½ zongorï¿½s lehetett, nagyszerï¿½ lovas, mï¿½ugrï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½szï¿½, de az nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½ volt, hogy jï¿½l formï¿½lt torka ellenï¿½re sem nagyszerï¿½ ï¿½nekesnï¿½. De Graham ezt a megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½st hamarosan kï¿½nytelen volt mï¿½dosï¿½tani. Bizony Paula ï¿½nekesnï¿½ volt, mï¿½g pedig kifogï¿½stalan. Hangjï¿½nak gyengesï¿½ge vï¿½gre is csak viszonylagos volt. Nem rendelkezett ideï¿½lis hanganyaggal. Kellemes volt a hangja, gazdag, a nevetï¿½sï¿½nek melegszï¿½vï¿½sï¿½ rezgï¿½se az ï¿½nekï¿½ben is megvolt, de a nagy ï¿½nekhangok lï¿½nyeges terjedelmï¿½vel ï¿½s erejï¿½vel nem rendelkezett. Hallï¿½sa, intonï¿½lï¿½sa minden gond nï¿½lkï¿½l tiszta tudott maradni; ï¿½rzï¿½s, mï¿½vï¿½szi szï¿½nvonal, tudï¿½s ï¿½s intelligencia volt az ï¿½nekï¿½ben. De a hangterjedelme ï¿½s ereje Graham ï¿½tï¿½lete szerint alig ï¿½rte el a jï¿½ ï¿½tlagot.

Ha a mennyisï¿½g elï¿½tt nem is, a minï¿½sï¿½g elï¿½tt meg kellett hajolni. Egy nï¿½ hangja volt ez, a nï¿½isï¿½g minden gazdagsï¿½gï¿½val teljes. A vilï¿½g minden vï¿½rmï¿½rsï¿½klete, hangulata megvolt benne, de a fegyelem vezï¿½rlete alatt: - ez volt Graham analï¿½zisï¿½nek ï¿½j eredmï¿½nye. Csodï¿½lni kellett, milyen mï¿½vï¿½szettel tï¿½rt ki az elï¿½l, hogy hangja adott hatï¿½rait tï¿½llï¿½pje. Ezt nagyon sikeresen csinï¿½lta.

ï¿½s mialatt szï¿½rakozottan bï¿½logatott O'Haynek az opera helyzetï¿½rï¿½l valï¿½ elmefuttatï¿½sï¿½ra, Graham hirtelen kï¿½vï¿½ncsi lett, vajjon az a Forrest Paula, aki ilyen tï¿½kï¿½letesen ura a vï¿½rmï¿½rsï¿½kletï¿½nek, ura tud-e maradni mï¿½lyebb, szenvedï¿½lyesebb dolgokban is. Volt ebben a gondolatban valami kihï¿½vï¿½; alapja kï¿½vï¿½ncsisï¿½g volt, az igaz, de csak rï¿½szben. A kï¿½vï¿½ncsisï¿½gon messze-messze tï¿½l pedig ez a kihï¿½vï¿½s a fï¿½rfi ï¿½si kï¿½pï¿½ben ï¿½rte a fï¿½rfit.

Ez a kihï¿½vï¿½ valami kï¿½sztette arra, hogy ott ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½ljen, vï¿½gigtekintsen a nagy szobï¿½n, feje felett a gerendï¿½zott tetï¿½n, a mindenfï¿½le zsï¿½kmï¿½nyokkal teleaggatott fï¿½ggï¿½ galï¿½riï¿½n ï¿½s meglï¿½ssa vï¿½gï¿½l Forrest Dicket, mindennek a sok fï¿½ldi jï¿½nak gazdï¿½jï¿½t, az asszony fï¿½rjï¿½t, amint bridget jï¿½tszik ï¿½s hangosan kacag azon, hogy Ritï¿½t megint passzolï¿½son kapta. Mert Grahamben megvolt a bï¿½torsï¿½g, hogy szemï¿½be nï¿½zzen minden mï¿½lyebb jelentï¿½sï¿½gnek, minden tudat alattinak. Amit tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½sï¿½ben kihï¿½vï¿½nak ï¿½rzett, amï¿½gï¿½tt ott bujkï¿½lt a Nï¿½. Forrest Paula ragyogï¿½an, ï¿½lvezetesen nï¿½ volt, egï¿½szen ï¿½s szokatlanul nï¿½. Annak a meghï¿½kkentï¿½ lï¿½tvï¿½nynak a szemekbe sujtï¿½ elsï¿½ pillanatï¿½tï¿½l kezdve, mikor az uszodï¿½ban a nagy mï¿½n hï¿½tï¿½n ï¿½szott, Paula folyton-folyvï¿½st ï¿½jra meg ï¿½jra megbabonï¿½zta az ï¿½ fï¿½rfi-fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½t. Hogy nem szokta volna meg a nï¿½ket, azt Graham nem mondhatta magï¿½rï¿½l. Sï¿½t ï¿½llandï¿½ ï¿½llapota az volt, hogy a nï¿½k kï¿½zepes egyformasï¿½ga mï¿½r untatja. Hogy erre a kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s nï¿½re bukkant, az olyan volt, mikor a gyï¿½ngyhalï¿½szok megtalï¿½ljï¿½k a tengerben azt a nagy gyï¿½ngyï¿½t, aminï¿½t egy nemzedï¿½k csak egyszer halï¿½szhat ki.

- ï¿½rï¿½mmel lï¿½tom, hogy mï¿½g ï¿½letben van - mosolygott rï¿½ Paula valamivel kï¿½sï¿½bb.

Az asszonyka Lute-tal egyï¿½tt kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½dï¿½tt aludni menni. Ernestine, Bert, Braxton Jeremy ï¿½s Graham rï¿½szvï¿½telï¿½vel mï¿½g egy bridge-parti alakult, O'Hay ï¿½s Bishop pedig fï¿½lig elmerï¿½ltek a szï¿½nhï¿½zi messzelï¿½tï¿½krï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ eszmecserï¿½be.

- Ez az O'Hay - folytatta Paula - roppant kedves ï¿½r ember, ha ki lehet csalni a bï¿½vï¿½helyï¿½rï¿½l.

- Bï¿½vï¿½helye alatt, - mondta Graham - gondolom, a zenï¿½t kell ï¿½rteni.

- Zenï¿½ben egyenesen szenvedhetetlen, - szï¿½lt bele Lute - ez az egyetlen dolog, amirï¿½l aztï¿½n a leghalvï¿½nyabb sejtelme sincs. Megï¿½rjï¿½ti az embert.

- Nem baj, - csitï¿½totta Paula, a nevetï¿½stï¿½l elfojtott hangon - ï¿½riï¿½si bosszï¿½ kï¿½szï¿½l. Dick ï¿½ppen most sï¿½gta nekem, hogy holnap estï¿½re hï¿½vjam meg a bï¿½lcseket. Hiszen maga is hallotta, hogyan beszï¿½lnek zenï¿½rï¿½l. A zenekritikus, az hivatalosan az ï¿½ prï¿½dï¿½juk.

- Terrence a multkor este - szï¿½lt Lute - megjegyezte, hogy az idei szezï¿½n zenekritikusok dolgï¿½ban nagyon termï¿½ketlen volt.

- Terrence ï¿½s Aaron majd itatni fogjï¿½k - nevetett elï¿½re Paula - ï¿½s Hyal Dar egymaga kï¿½pes az ï¿½ irtï¿½zatos mï¿½vï¿½szet-elmï¿½letï¿½t ï¿½gy rï¿½hï¿½zni a zenï¿½re, hogy az elsï¿½ szï¿½tï¿½l az utolsï¿½ig mindent a vilï¿½gon megcï¿½fol. ï¿½ maga mondja, hogy a sajï¿½t elmï¿½letï¿½ben egy csï¿½ppet sem hisz, mint ahogy nem gondolta komolyan, mikor tï¿½ncolt. Ez az ï¿½ jï¿½kedve. ï¿½ olyan mï¿½ly filozï¿½fus, hogy a jï¿½kedvet meg kell szereznie valahonnan.

- ï¿½s ha egyszer O'Hay Terrence-szel ï¿½sszeakasztja a kereket, - jï¿½vendï¿½lte Lute - mï¿½r lï¿½tom elï¿½re, hogy Terrence karon fogja, leviszi a biliï¿½rdterembe ï¿½s az italok olyan ï¿½rï¿½letes sorï¿½val fogja ï¿½lï¿½nkï¿½teni a vitï¿½t, amilyenben O'Haynek sohasem volt rï¿½sze.

- ï¿½s O'Hay ï¿½r - ï¿½rï¿½lt megint elï¿½re Paula - mï¿½snap egy kicsit beteg lesz.

- Megmondom Terrencenek, hogy csinï¿½lja meg! - lelkesedett Lute.

- Ne gondolja ï¿½m, - mondta Paula Grahamnek - hogy rosszak vagyunk. Ez mï¿½r benne van a hï¿½z levegï¿½jï¿½ben. Dick ï¿½gy szereti. ï¿½ maga is folyton ugratï¿½sokat csinï¿½l. Ez a szï¿½rakozï¿½sa. Fogadni mernï¿½k, hogy most is Dick mondta Lutenak, hogy Lute mondja Terrencenek, hogy vigye O'Hayt a biliï¿½rdterembe. Lute, tedd a kezed a szï¿½vedre...

Lute ï¿½vatosan ï¿½s zï¿½rkï¿½zottan felelt:

- Hï¿½t... ï¿½szintï¿½n szï¿½lva... a gondolat eredetileg nem teljes egï¿½szï¿½ben tï¿½lem valï¿½...

Ekkor Ernestine lï¿½pett hozzï¿½juk ï¿½s elragadta Grahamet:

- Mind magï¿½ra vï¿½runk. A parti ki van osztva. Mi ketten jï¿½tszunk egyï¿½tt. Aztï¿½n meg Paula mï¿½r nagyon ï¿½lmos. Kï¿½szï¿½njï¿½n neki ï¿½s hagyja menni.

Tï¿½z ï¿½ra volt, mikor Paula aludni ment. A bridge egyig is eltartott. Dick rokoni kï¿½zvetlensï¿½ggel karolva ï¿½t Ernestine vï¿½llï¿½t, jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nt Grahamnek, mikor az ï¿½t a toronyszoba felï¿½ ï¿½gazott, aztï¿½n csinos kis sï¿½gornï¿½jï¿½vel a maga szobï¿½i felï¿½ haladt tovï¿½bb.

- Valamire figyelmeztetni akarlak, Ernestine - mondta bï¿½csï¿½zï¿½skor. Szï¿½rke szeme nyiltan ï¿½s ï¿½szintï¿½n nï¿½zett a lï¿½ny szemï¿½be, de a hangja elï¿½g komoly volt ahoz, hogy a lï¿½ny felfigyeljen.

- Mit csinï¿½ltam megint? - kï¿½rdezte Ernestine nevetve.

- Semmit... egyelï¿½re. De ne is kezdj bele, mert nagy szï¿½vfï¿½jdalmat szerzel magadnak. Mï¿½g gyerek vagy, tizennyolc ï¿½ves. Mï¿½g hozzï¿½ ï¿½tkozottul csinos ï¿½s kedves gyerek. Annyira, hogy akï¿½rmelyik fï¿½rfi rajtad felejtheti a szemï¿½t. De Graham Evan nem akï¿½rmelyik fï¿½rfi...

- ï¿½, tudok ï¿½n vigyï¿½zni magamra - bï¿½kte ki a lï¿½ny hirtelen kitï¿½rï¿½ bosszï¿½sï¿½ggal.

- De azï¿½rt csak hallgass rï¿½m. Minden lï¿½ny ï¿½letï¿½ben eljï¿½n az az idï¿½, mikor a szerelem mï¿½hecskï¿½je nagyon hangosan kezd zï¿½mmï¿½gni a szï¿½szke fejï¿½ben. Ilyenkor kell legjobban vigyï¿½zni, hogy az ember ne tï¿½vedjen ï¿½s ne szeressen abba, aki nem arra valï¿½. Te mï¿½g nem szerettï¿½l bele Graham Evanbe ï¿½s nem is kell egyebet tenned, mint ezutï¿½n sem beleszeretni. Nem neked valï¿½, fiatal lï¿½nyoknak egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem valï¿½. Megcsontosodott agglegï¿½ny, aki bizonyosan tï¿½bbet elfelejtett mï¿½r a szerelemrï¿½l, a romantikus szerelemrï¿½l, a fiatal lï¿½nyokrï¿½l, mint amennyit te valaha is megtanulnï¿½l, ha tï¿½z ï¿½leted volna is. ï¿½s ha valaha megint meghï¿½zasodik...

- Megint?

- Hogyne, drï¿½gï¿½m, hiszen ï¿½zvegyember. Tï¿½bb, mint tizenï¿½t ï¿½ve.

- Nos? - kï¿½rdezte a lï¿½ny bizalmatlanul.

- ï¿½ppen ez az, - folytatta Dick nyugodtan - ï¿½ mï¿½r ï¿½tï¿½lte a maga ifjï¿½sï¿½gi regï¿½nyï¿½t, mï¿½g pedig csodï¿½latosan. ï¿½s az a tï¿½ny, hogy tizenï¿½t ï¿½vig nem nï¿½sï¿½lt meg ï¿½jra, azt jelenti...

- Hogy a csapï¿½st nem tudta kiheverni? - vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe Ernestine. - Az lehet. De nem bizonyï¿½t semmit...

- ...azt jelenti, - folytatta Dick rendï¿½letlenï¿½l - hogy a vadregï¿½nyes ifjï¿½sï¿½g inasï¿½vein mï¿½r tï¿½l van. Csak rï¿½ kell nï¿½zned ï¿½s meglï¿½tnod, hogy alkalom dolgï¿½ban mindig el volt lï¿½tva ï¿½s hogy mindig akadtak az ï¿½tjï¿½ba nagyon kitï¿½nï¿½ asszonyok, nagyon okos asszonyok, ï¿½rett asszonyok, akik kivetettï¿½k rï¿½ a hï¿½lï¿½t ï¿½s prï¿½bï¿½ra tettï¿½k az ellenï¿½llï¿½kï¿½pessï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s szilï¿½rdsï¿½gï¿½t. De egyik sem tudta megfogni. Ami a fiatal lï¿½nyokat illeti, nagyon jï¿½l tudod, hogy az ilyenfajta embernek minden ujjï¿½ra tï¿½z akad. Gondold meg ezt jï¿½l ï¿½s igyekezz nem ï¿½brï¿½ndozni rï¿½la. Ha most vissza tudod tï¿½le tartani a szï¿½vedet, megtakarï¿½tod magadnak a kï¿½sï¿½bbi nagyon fï¿½jdalmas csalï¿½dï¿½st.

Megfogta a lï¿½ny egyik kezï¿½t ï¿½s a vï¿½llï¿½t gyengï¿½den ï¿½tkarolva magï¿½hoz vonta. ï¿½s a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ csend percei alatt eredmï¿½nytelenï¿½l tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt azon, vajjon hol jï¿½rnak most a lï¿½ny gondolatai.

- Tudod, mi kutyamï¿½jï¿½ vï¿½n fickï¿½k... - kezdte fï¿½lig mentegetï¿½dzve, fï¿½lig trï¿½fï¿½lkozva.

De a lï¿½ny nyugtalan, bosszï¿½s mozdulattal szï¿½lalt meg:

- Csak az ilyen vï¿½n fickï¿½k ï¿½rnek valamit. A fiatalok mind gyerekek. ï¿½ppen ez a baj velï¿½k. Tele vannak ï¿½lettel, tï¿½nccal, nï¿½tï¿½val, olyanok, mint a csikï¿½k. De nem komolyak. Nem nagyok. Nem... ï¿½, ezek sohasem keltik egy lï¿½nyban az okossï¿½g, a kiprï¿½bï¿½lt erï¿½, a... a... szï¿½val a fï¿½rfiassï¿½g ï¿½rzï¿½sï¿½t.

- ï¿½rtem. De nï¿½zzï¿½k meg az ï¿½rem mï¿½sik oldalï¿½t is. Az kellene ezzel szemben, hogy ti ragyogï¿½ fiatal jï¿½szï¿½gok is hasonlï¿½ benyomï¿½st keltsetek az illetï¿½ vï¿½n fickï¿½ban. Csakhogy egy meglett fï¿½rfi nï¿½zhet benneteket jï¿½tï¿½kszernek, jï¿½tszï¿½pajtï¿½snak, aranyos kis teremtï¿½seknek, akikkel ï¿½gy vagy amï¿½gy roppant kedvesen el lehet bolondozni, de nem nï¿½zhet barï¿½tnak, egyenrangï¿½nak, tï¿½rsnak, mindenben igazi tï¿½rsnak. Az ï¿½let valami olyan, amit meg kell ismerni. ï¿½s egy hozzï¿½d hasonlï¿½ fiatal bakfis megismert mï¿½r belï¿½le valamit?

- Mondd, - kï¿½rte Ernestine hirtelen, szinte tragikusan - mesï¿½ld el nekem ezt az ï¿½ fiatalkori regï¿½nyï¿½t, azt a fiatal lï¿½nyt, mikor ï¿½ is fiatal volt, tizenï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt.

- Tizenï¿½t? Tizennyolc. Hï¿½romï¿½ves hï¿½zasok voltak, mikor az asszony meghalt. Szï¿½mï¿½tsd ki magadnak. Annak rendje ï¿½s mï¿½dja szerint megeskï¿½dtek, egy anglikï¿½n pap adta ï¿½ssze ï¿½ket ï¿½s rendes hï¿½zassï¿½gban ï¿½ltek, mikor te ï¿½ppen a legelsï¿½ pihegï¿½ lï¿½lekzetet vetted ezen a vilï¿½gon.

- Igen, igen. Csak mondd tovï¿½bb. Milyen volt a nï¿½?

- A nï¿½ ragyogï¿½ bï¿½rï¿½, aranybarna, vagy inkï¿½bb aranysï¿½rga, fï¿½lvï¿½rszï¿½letï¿½sï¿½ polinï¿½ziai kirï¿½lynï¿½ volt. Az anyja volt az elï¿½bbi kirï¿½lynï¿½, az apja pedig egy Oxfordban nevelkedett angol ember. Nomï¿½rnak hï¿½vtï¿½k. ï¿½ volt Huahoa kirï¿½lynï¿½je. Vadnak szï¿½letett, de Graham elï¿½g fiatal volt hozzï¿½, hogy mï¿½g vadabb legyen. A hï¿½zassï¿½gukban nem volt semmi kicsinyes. Graham nem volt ï¿½henkï¿½rï¿½sz kalandor. A felesï¿½gï¿½nek pedig egy szigeti kirï¿½lysï¿½g ï¿½s negyvenezer alattvalï¿½ volt a hozomï¿½nya. ï¿½ a vagyonï¿½t csatolta ehez a kirï¿½lysï¿½ghoz ï¿½s az a vagyon nem volt megvetendï¿½. Olyan palotï¿½t ï¿½pï¿½ttetett, amilyen addig sem ï¿½llott az ottani szigeteken ï¿½s ezutï¿½n sem fog ï¿½llani. Igazi, stï¿½lusos szigetlakï¿½-palota volt, a teteje fï¿½vel fedve, a gerendï¿½it kï¿½zzel faragtï¿½k ï¿½s kï¿½kusz-szakï¿½llal kï¿½tï¿½ztï¿½k ï¿½s a tï¿½bbi. A szigetben volt a gyï¿½kere, abbï¿½l nï¿½tt ki. Egy volt a szigettel. Pedig nem mï¿½s tervezte, mint Hopkins, akit Graham New-Yorkbï¿½l hozatott oda. Istenem, megvolt a maguk kirï¿½lyi jachtja, megvolt a nyaralï¿½juk a hegyekben, megvolt a hajï¿½hï¿½zuk: egy kenu-hï¿½z, amely maga is palotaszï¿½mba mehetett. Tudom, mert nagy ï¿½nnepsï¿½geken ott voltam, igaz, hogy az ï¿½ idejï¿½k utï¿½n. Nomï¿½r halott volt mï¿½r ï¿½s senki sem tudta, hogy Graham merre van. Egy oldalï¿½gi uralkodï¿½ volt a kirï¿½ly. Azt mï¿½r emlï¿½tettem, hogy Graham barbï¿½rabb volt, mint a nï¿½. Az ebï¿½djï¿½khï¿½z arannyal terï¿½tettek. De mire valï¿½ ezekrï¿½l beszï¿½lni. Graham gyerek volt mï¿½g, az asszony pedig fï¿½lig angol, fï¿½lig benszï¿½lï¿½tt, de igazi ï¿½s hï¿½sï¿½ges kirï¿½lynï¿½. Mind a kettï¿½ fajï¿½nak egy-egy gyï¿½ngye, csodï¿½latramï¿½ltï¿½ gyermeki pï¿½r. Tï¿½ndï¿½rmese volt, amit vï¿½gigï¿½ltek. ï¿½s... lï¿½tod, Ernestine, az ï¿½vek elmï¿½ltak ï¿½s Graham Evan rï¿½g elhagyta az ifjï¿½sï¿½g birodalmï¿½t. Az aztï¿½n igazï¿½n rendkï¿½vï¿½li nï¿½ lesz, aki most elcsavarja a fejï¿½t. Amellett jï¿½formï¿½n le van tï¿½rve. Nem verte el a pï¿½nzï¿½t, inkï¿½bb azt lehet mondani, hogy nem volt szerencsï¿½je.

- Paula inkï¿½bb lehetne az esete - mondta Ernestine elgondolkozva.

- Igen, hogyne, - jï¿½rult hozzï¿½ Dick - Paula, vagy egy mï¿½s nï¿½, aki van olyan figyelemremï¿½ltï¿½, mint Paula, ezerszer inkï¿½bb hatï¿½ssal lehetne rï¿½, mint a hozzï¿½d hasonlï¿½ drï¿½ga, fiatal, aranyos teremtï¿½sek. Tudod, nekï¿½nk ï¿½reg legï¿½nyeknek megvan a magunk kï¿½lï¿½n gusztusa.

- Nekem pedig a fiatal fiï¿½kkal kell beï¿½rni - sï¿½hajtott Ernestine.

- Idï¿½vel, igen. De kï¿½zben mindig arra gondolhatsz, hogy egyszer belï¿½led is lesz majd olyan nagyszerï¿½, ï¿½rett nï¿½, aki a szerelmi csatï¿½ban legyï¿½ri az Evanhoz hasonlï¿½ fï¿½rfit.

- Csakhogy akkor mï¿½r rï¿½g fï¿½rjnï¿½l leszek.

- Az lesz a szerencsï¿½d, drï¿½gï¿½m. ï¿½s most jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t. Harag nincs, mi?

Ernestine szenvedï¿½lyesen mosolyogva rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t, csï¿½kra tartotta a szï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s mikor elvï¿½ltak, ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Nem haragszom, megï¿½gï¿½rem egy feltï¿½tel alatt: ha megmutatod az utat, amelynek a vï¿½gï¿½n megtalï¿½lom az olyan aggastyï¿½nokat, mint te, meg Graham.

Forrest Dick menet kï¿½zben mindenï¿½tt lecsavarva a villanyt, bement a kï¿½nyvtï¿½rba, kivï¿½lasztott ï¿½t-hat kï¿½tet mechanikai ï¿½s fizikai ï¿½rtekezï¿½st ï¿½s kï¿½zben a sï¿½gornï¿½jï¿½vel valï¿½ beszï¿½lgetï¿½sre visszagondolva elmosolyodott, mint aki meg van magï¿½val elï¿½gedve. Erï¿½sen hitte, hogy idejï¿½ben szï¿½lt, egy perccel sem hamarï¿½bb a kelletï¿½nï¿½l. De a kï¿½nyvek kï¿½zï¿½ rejtett csigalï¿½pcsï¿½n felmenet, amely a dolgozï¿½szobï¿½jï¿½ba vezetett, Ernestine egy megjegyzï¿½se, amely a tudatï¿½ban visszhangzott, olyan hirtelen ï¿½llï¿½totta meg a lï¿½pcsï¿½ kï¿½zepï¿½n, hogy kï¿½nytelen volt nekitï¿½maszkodni a falnak:

- Paula inkï¿½bb lehetne az esete...

Aztï¿½n hangosan elnevette magï¿½t ï¿½s folytatta az ï¿½tjï¿½t.

- Ostoba szamï¿½r! ï¿½s tizenkï¿½t ï¿½ves hï¿½zas vagy!

Csak akkor jutott eszï¿½be megint a dolog, mikor mï¿½r lefekï¿½dt az ï¿½gyra, egy pillantï¿½st vetett a baromï¿½terre ï¿½s a hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½kre ï¿½s nekifogott, hogy megoldja azt az elektromossï¿½gi kï¿½rdï¿½st, amely nem ment ki a fejï¿½bï¿½l. ï¿½tpillantott a nagy udvaron a felesï¿½ge ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnya felï¿½, hogy vajjon Paula ï¿½bren van-e mï¿½g ï¿½s ekkor megint felbukkant benne az Ernestine megjegyzï¿½se. De lenï¿½zï¿½en elhessegette a gondolatot, megint ostoba szamï¿½rnak nevezte magï¿½t, rï¿½gyujtott egy cigarettï¿½ra, gyakorlott szemmel kezdte ï¿½tfutni a kï¿½tetek tartalomjegyzï¿½kï¿½t ï¿½s a keresett oldalakat gyujtï¿½szï¿½lakkal jelï¿½lte meg.

Graham mï¿½snap reggel nyugtalanul ï¿½dï¿½ngï¿½tt a nagy hï¿½zban. Kï¿½vï¿½ncsian, vajjon Paula elï¿½jï¿½n-e a nappal elsï¿½ felï¿½ben. Mï¿½r jï¿½val elmult tï¿½z ï¿½ra, mikor a zeneterembe vetï¿½dï¿½tt. ï¿½mbï¿½r tï¿½bb napos vendï¿½ge volt a nagy hï¿½znak, olyan nagy volt ez a hï¿½z, hogy a zeneterem egï¿½szen ï¿½j birodalom volt a szï¿½mï¿½ra. Nagyon szï¿½p helyisï¿½g volt, hosszï¿½ban hï¿½sz, szï¿½ltï¿½ben tizenkï¿½t mï¿½terre lehetett becsï¿½lni, magas, dï¿½szes mennyezetï¿½rï¿½l sï¿½rga ï¿½veg alï¿½l rejtett aranyszï¿½nï¿½ vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½s ï¿½mlï¿½tt szï¿½jjel. Vï¿½rï¿½s tï¿½nusokat adtak lï¿½gyan a falak ï¿½s a bï¿½torok, ï¿½s az egï¿½sz terem Grahamre azt a benyomï¿½st tette, hogy a muzsika ringatï¿½ csendjï¿½t leheli.

Egy Keith-kï¿½pet szemlï¿½lt csak ï¿½gy unottan, amelyen diadalmas nap-ragyogta lï¿½gkï¿½r volt megfestve s a bï¿½rï¿½nyok iker-ï¿½rnyï¿½kot vetettek. Egyszer csak a szeme sarkï¿½bï¿½l lï¿½tta, hogy hï¿½ziasszonya lï¿½p be a terem tï¿½voli vï¿½gï¿½n. Ez a lï¿½tvï¿½ny, amilyen festï¿½i volt, megint elï¿½llï¿½totta egy kicsit a lï¿½lekzetï¿½t. Paula talpig fehï¿½rbe volt ï¿½ltï¿½zve. A mï¿½vï¿½sziesen egyszerï¿½ ï¿½s nyilvï¿½n szabï¿½stalannak kï¿½szï¿½lt »holoku« omlï¿½ redï¿½i nagyon fiatalnak ï¿½s magasabbnak mutattï¿½k. Graham ezt a holokut jï¿½l ismerte onnan, ahonnan ered: a Hawaii-szigetek »lana«-irï¿½l, ahol a holoku bï¿½jossï¿½ tudja tenni a jelentï¿½ktelen asszonyt ï¿½s kï¿½tszeresen bï¿½jossï¿½ a bï¿½jos asszonyt.

Ahogy a termen keresztï¿½l ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lve mosolyogtak egymï¿½sra, Graham megfigyelte az asszony testtartï¿½sï¿½t, feje mozdulatï¿½t, tekintete nyï¿½jassï¿½gï¿½t, ami mind barï¿½tsï¿½gos, pajtï¿½skodï¿½, fiï¿½s kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½st lï¿½tszott mondani. Legalï¿½bb a fï¿½rfi ezt hï¿½mozta ki belï¿½le, mikor az asszony felï¿½je tartott.

- Nagy hibï¿½t kï¿½vetett el ennï¿½l a szobï¿½nï¿½l - mondta komolyan Graham.

- Ne mondja, mit?

- Hosszabbnak kellene lennie, sokkal hosszabbnak, kï¿½tszer ekkorï¿½nak.

- Miï¿½rt? - kï¿½rdezte Paula, tiltakozï¿½an rï¿½zva a fejï¿½t. A fï¿½rfi gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve nï¿½zte az arca lï¿½nyos szï¿½nï¿½t, ami rï¿½cï¿½folt harmincnyolc esztendejï¿½re.

- Azï¿½rt, mert akkor kï¿½tszer ennyit kellett volna jï¿½nnie ma reggel ï¿½s kï¿½tszeressï¿½ tette volna azt a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½get, hogy nï¿½zem magï¿½t, amint jï¿½n. Mindig mondtam, hogy a holokunï¿½l bï¿½josabb nï¿½i ruhï¿½t sohasem talï¿½ltak fel.

- Szï¿½val a holoku ï¿½s nem ï¿½n. Lï¿½tom, maga is olyan, mint Dick. A bï¿½kja gumira jï¿½r. Ha az ember mohï¿½n utï¿½na nyï¿½l, a bï¿½k visszaugrik. De most megmutatom magï¿½nak ezt a termet. A tervezï¿½skor Dick szabad kezet adott nekem. Teljesen az enyï¿½m, mï¿½g a mï¿½retei is.

- ï¿½s a kï¿½pek?

- Azokat is ï¿½n vï¿½lasztottam. Mindegyiket magam akasztottam fel. Bï¿½r Dick veszekedett velem amiatt a Verescsagin miatt. A kï¿½t Milletre ï¿½s ott arra a Corotra vonatkozï¿½lag egyetï¿½rtett velem, azt az Isabeyt is helyeselte, abba is belement, hogy akadhat Verescsagin, ami beleillik egy zeneterembe, de ï¿½ppen ez a Verescsagin nem. Tudja, ï¿½ a mi hazai piktoraink mellett kardoskodik ï¿½s a tï¿½bbire fï¿½ltï¿½keny. Tï¿½bb hazait akart, ki akarta mutatni, hogy ï¿½rtï¿½keli a hazai tehetsï¿½get.

- Ezek a maguk Pacific-partvidï¿½ki emberei nagyon jï¿½k. Beszï¿½ljen rï¿½luk. Nï¿½zzï¿½k csak ezt... Persze, ez egy Keith. De mi az ott mellette? Nagyon szï¿½p.

- Az egy Maccomas, - felelte Paula. Graham jï¿½lesï¿½ kellemetessï¿½ggel kï¿½szï¿½lt neki egy fï¿½lï¿½rï¿½s kï¿½pzï¿½mï¿½vï¿½szeti csevegï¿½snek, mikor Ware Donald lï¿½pett be. Kutatï¿½ tekintete lï¿½thatï¿½an felragyogott, mikor az asszonykï¿½t megpillantotta.

A hegedï¿½jï¿½t a hï¿½na alatt hozta. Hatï¿½rozott, szinte ï¿½zletszerï¿½ lï¿½pï¿½sekkel odament a zongorï¿½hoz ï¿½s kottï¿½kat kezdett kirakni.

- A lunchig dolgozni fogunk, - magyarï¿½zta Paula Grahamnek - Ware eskï¿½dï¿½zik, hogy gyalï¿½zatosan kijï¿½ttem a gyakorlatbï¿½l. Azt hiszem, fï¿½lig-meddig igaza is van. A lunchnï¿½l talï¿½lkozunk. Persze itt is maradhat, ha akar, de ï¿½va intem magï¿½t: csakugyan dolgozni fogunk. Dï¿½lutï¿½n megyï¿½nk ï¿½szni. Dick azt mondta, hogy nï¿½gykor talï¿½lkozunk az uszodï¿½ban. Azt is mondta, hogy valami ï¿½j nï¿½tï¿½ja van, amit el fog ï¿½nekelni... Hï¿½ny ï¿½ra, Ware?

- Tï¿½z perc mulva tizenegy, - felelte rï¿½viden, szinte kissï¿½ ï¿½lesen a hegedï¿½mï¿½vï¿½sz.

- Korï¿½bban jï¿½tt, tizenegyre beszï¿½ltï¿½k meg. ï¿½s tizenegyig vï¿½rnia kell, tisztelt uram. Szaladok ï¿½s megnï¿½zem Dicket. Mï¿½g nem mondtam neki jï¿½ reggelt.

Paula jï¿½l ismerte az ura idï¿½beosztï¿½sï¿½t. A kis notesznek a hï¿½tsï¿½ lapjaira, amely mindig ott ï¿½llt az ï¿½gya mellett az olvasï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nyon, titkos hieroglifï¿½k voltak beï¿½rva. Ezekbï¿½l minden nap tudta, hogy az ura fï¿½lhï¿½tkor kï¿½vï¿½zott; ha nem lovagolt ki, akkor hï¿½romnegyed kilencig minden valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½sï¿½g szerint az ï¿½gyï¿½ban talï¿½lhatï¿½ kefelevonatai ï¿½s kï¿½nyvei kï¿½zï¿½tt; kilenc ï¿½s tï¿½z kï¿½zï¿½tt hozzï¿½fï¿½rhetetlen, mert Blakenek diktï¿½lja a levelezï¿½st; tï¿½z ï¿½s tizenegy kï¿½zt hozzï¿½fï¿½rhetetlen, mert felï¿½gyelï¿½kkel ï¿½s igazgatï¿½kkal tï¿½rgyal, mikï¿½zben Bonbright, a titkï¿½r, mint valami udvari hï¿½rlapï¿½rï¿½, minden szï¿½t lejegyez, amit bï¿½rki a beszï¿½lgetï¿½sek pergï¿½tï¿½zï¿½ben kiejt a szï¿½jï¿½n.

Tizenegykor, ha vï¿½ratlan tï¿½viratok vagy tï¿½rgyalï¿½sok nem jï¿½ttek kï¿½zbe, rendesen szï¿½mï¿½thatott rï¿½, hogy egy idï¿½re egyedï¿½l talï¿½lja Dicket, bï¿½r vï¿½ltozatlanul elfoglalva akkor is. Mikor a titkï¿½rok dolgozï¿½szobï¿½jï¿½n keresztï¿½lment, az ï¿½rï¿½gï¿½p kattogï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l tudta, hogy egy akadï¿½llyal mï¿½r nem kell szï¿½molnia. A kï¿½nyvtï¿½rban pedig abbï¿½l, hogy Bonbright ï¿½r egy kï¿½nyvet vadï¿½szott Manson ï¿½r, a rï¿½vidszarvu-tenyï¿½szet felï¿½gyelï¿½je szï¿½mï¿½ra, tudta, hogy fï¿½rje befejezte a vezetï¿½kkel valï¿½ tï¿½rgyalï¿½si ï¿½rï¿½t.

Megnyomta a gombot, amely a rakott kï¿½nyvespolcok egy szakaszï¿½t kettï¿½nyitotta ï¿½s elï¿½varï¿½zsolta azt a kis acï¿½lfokï¿½ csigalï¿½pcsï¿½t, amely Dick dolgozï¿½szobï¿½jï¿½ba vezetett. Lent egy hasonlï¿½an elfordï¿½thatï¿½ polc-szakasz engedelmeskedett a gombnyomï¿½snak ï¿½s zajtalanul engedte be Paulï¿½t a szobï¿½ba. Arcï¿½n a csalï¿½dï¿½s kis ï¿½rnyï¿½ka futott keresztï¿½l, mikor megismerte Braxton Jeremy hangjï¿½t. Habozva megï¿½llt. ï¿½ sem lï¿½tta ï¿½ket, azok sem lï¿½ttï¿½k ï¿½t.

- Ha ï¿½rasztunk, hï¿½t ï¿½rasztunk, - mondta a bï¿½nyafï¿½felï¿½gyelï¿½ - de belekerï¿½l egypï¿½r garasba, jï¿½ egypï¿½r garasba, mï¿½g megint kiszivattyï¿½zzuk. Aztï¿½n meg csunya szï¿½gyen ï¿½gy a vï¿½zbe fojtani az ï¿½reg Harvestet.

- A kï¿½nyvek azonban megmutatjï¿½k, hogy a tavalyi esztendï¿½ben nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½ passzï¿½vï¿½val dolgoztunk, - szï¿½lalt meg most Dick hangja - minden nyavalyï¿½s bandita Huertï¿½tï¿½l kezdve az utolsï¿½ parasztig, aki lovat lopott, kizsebelt bennï¿½nket. Sï¿½t most mï¿½r jï¿½nnek a komolyan veendï¿½ banditï¿½k is, a rendkï¿½vï¿½li taksï¿½val, a forradalmiak, meg a szï¿½vetsï¿½giek. Tï¿½l lehetne ï¿½ket ï¿½lni, ha legalï¿½bb a vï¿½gï¿½t lï¿½tnï¿½ az ember. De semmi biztosï¿½tï¿½kunk nincs, hogy ezek a rendetlensï¿½gek nem fognak mï¿½g tï¿½z-hï¿½sz ï¿½vig eltartani.

- Mï¿½gis... az ï¿½reg Harvest... gondolja csak el: elï¿½rasztani... - protestï¿½lt a fï¿½felï¿½gyelï¿½.

- Gondoljon csak Villï¿½ra, - felelte ï¿½les nevetï¿½ssel Dick, amelynek keserï¿½ ï¿½ze nem kerï¿½lte el Paula figyelmï¿½t - azt mondja, hogy ha felï¿½lkerekedik, mind a fï¿½ldet szï¿½tosztja a parasztoknak. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ logikus lï¿½pï¿½s a bï¿½nyï¿½k szï¿½tosztï¿½sa lesz. Mennyire becsï¿½li, amit a lefolyt esztendï¿½ alatt kigubï¿½ztunk az alkotmï¿½nypï¿½rtiaknak?

- Szï¿½zhï¿½szezren felï¿½l. Nem is szï¿½mï¿½tva azt az ï¿½tvenezer dollï¿½rt aranyban, amit Torenas kapott, mikor visszalï¿½pett. Guaymasnï¿½l megugrott a seregï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s Eurï¿½pï¿½ba ment a pï¿½nzzel... hiszen ezt mind megï¿½rtam ï¿½nnek.

- Ha ï¿½zemben tartjuk a tï¿½rnï¿½kat, Jeremy, ezek tovï¿½bb fognak bennï¿½nket zsebelni ï¿½s zsebelnek mindï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½n ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½, ï¿½men. Azt gondolom, jobb lesz elï¿½rasztani. Ha jobban tudunk vagyont csinï¿½lni, mint ezek a csirkefogï¿½k, mutassuk meg, hogy ï¿½ppen olyan kï¿½nnyen rombolni is tudjuk a vagyont.

- Ezt mondom ï¿½n is nekik. ï¿½k mosolyognak ï¿½s ï¿½jra kezdik, hogy ennyi meg ennyi ï¿½nkï¿½ntesen felajï¿½nlott ï¿½sszeg a kï¿½nyszerï¿½tï¿½ kï¿½rï¿½lmï¿½nyek kï¿½zï¿½tt nagyon megfelelne a forradalmi vezï¿½reknek. Ez alatt ï¿½nmagukat ï¿½rtik. Az igazi, komoly vezï¿½rek tï¿½z pesobï¿½l egyet sem igen lï¿½tnak. Istenem. Megmutattam nekik, mit csinï¿½ltunk. ï¿½llandï¿½ munkaalkalmat ï¿½tezer parasztnak. A napszï¿½mot tï¿½z centavï¿½rï¿½l szï¿½ztï¿½zre emeltï¿½k. Mutattam nekik parasztokat, akik tï¿½z centavï¿½t kaptak, mikor felvettï¿½k ï¿½ket ï¿½s ï¿½t pesï¿½t kaptak, mikor mutattam ï¿½ket. A felelet: ugyanaz a rï¿½gi mosoly, ugyanaz a rï¿½gi viszketï¿½ tenyï¿½r, ugyanaz a rï¿½gi kï¿½szsï¿½g az »ï¿½nkï¿½nt felajï¿½nlott« ï¿½sszeg elfogadï¿½sï¿½ra a forradalom szent cï¿½lja ï¿½rdekï¿½ben. Istenemre mondom, az ï¿½reg Diaz is rablï¿½ volt, de tisztessï¿½ges rablï¿½. Azt mondom Arranzï¿½nak: »Ha letesszï¿½k a lantot, itt marad ï¿½tezer mexikï¿½i munka nï¿½lkï¿½l, mit csinï¿½lnak velï¿½k?« Arranzo nevetett ï¿½s hidegvï¿½rrel vï¿½laszolt. »Mit csinï¿½lunk velï¿½k?« Azt mondja: »Hï¿½t puskï¿½t adunk a kezï¿½kbe ï¿½s lekï¿½ldjï¿½k ï¿½ket Mexikï¿½t elfoglalni.«

Paula kï¿½pzeletben lï¿½tta Dick kedvetlen vï¿½llvonï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t, mikor felelni hallotta:

- A lï¿½nyeg az, hogy az ï¿½rcanyag ott van ï¿½s csak mi tudjuk kiszedni. A mexikï¿½iak nem. Nincs hozzï¿½ eszï¿½k. De puska van a kezï¿½kben ï¿½s tï¿½bbet kiszednek belï¿½lï¿½nk, mint mi a bï¿½nyï¿½bï¿½l. Itt mi csak egyet tehetï¿½nk, Jeremy. Egy esztendï¿½re nem beszï¿½lï¿½nk haszonrï¿½l, kitesszï¿½k a munkï¿½sokat ï¿½s aztï¿½n egy ï¿½v mulva gyerï¿½nk a mï¿½rnï¿½kï¿½kkel ï¿½s a szivattyï¿½kkal.

- Beadtam ï¿½n ezt Arranzï¿½nak. ï¿½s mit felelt? Ha mi kitesszï¿½k a munkï¿½sokat, neki majd gondja lesz rï¿½, hogy a mï¿½rnï¿½kï¿½k is ki legyenek tï¿½ve, a bï¿½nya majd ott ï¿½ll elï¿½rasztva ï¿½s megehetjï¿½k. Nem, ezt mï¿½r nem is mondta. Csak mosolygott. De a mosolya ezt jelentette. Kï¿½t centï¿½rt kicsavartam volna azt a sï¿½rga nyakï¿½t, de mit ï¿½rtem volna vele? Mï¿½snap az ï¿½ csizmï¿½jï¿½ban ï¿½gyis bejï¿½n az irodï¿½mba egy mï¿½sik hazafi ï¿½s mï¿½g tï¿½bbet kï¿½r. ï¿½gy aztï¿½n Arranzo megkapta a baksist ï¿½s mï¿½g ennek tetejï¿½be, mielï¿½tt elment volna, hogy Juarez kï¿½rï¿½l a fï¿½csapathoz csatlakozzï¿½k, az embereivel elhajtatta hï¿½romszï¿½z ï¿½szvï¿½rï¿½nket, ami harmincezer dollï¿½r ï¿½rtï¿½kï¿½ ï¿½szvï¿½rhï¿½st jelent, mikor mï¿½g hozzï¿½ le is adtam neki a tejet. Sï¿½rga gï¿½rï¿½ny!

- Ki most a forradalmï¿½rok vezï¿½re a mi zï¿½rt kutatmï¿½nyi terï¿½letï¿½nkï¿½n? - hallotta Paula a kï¿½rdï¿½st ï¿½s megismerte a Dick hirtelen gondolatugrï¿½sï¿½t, amit mindig olyankor lehetett nï¿½la ï¿½szrevenni, mikor valamely helyzet szï¿½mos fonalï¿½t ï¿½sszefogta ï¿½s tettre kï¿½szï¿½lt.

- Bena Raoul.

- Mi a rangja?

- Ezredes. Valami hetven csirkefogï¿½ van alatta.

- Mi volt a mestersï¿½ge, mikor mï¿½g dolgozott?

- Juhï¿½sz.

- Helyes, - szï¿½lt Dick gyorsan ï¿½s ï¿½lesen - maga szï¿½nhï¿½zat fog jï¿½tszani. Maga hazafi lesz. Rohanjon vissza, ahogy a lï¿½ba bï¿½rja. Elï¿½gï¿½tse ki ezt a Bena Raoult. Keresztï¿½l fog lï¿½tni a szitï¿½n, vagy nem mexikï¿½i. Szerelje le, mondja neki, hogy tï¿½bornokot csinï¿½l belï¿½le, egy mï¿½sodik Villï¿½t.

- Szent isten, igen, de hogyan?

- Ugy, hogy egy ï¿½tezer emberbï¿½l ï¿½llï¿½ sereg ï¿½lï¿½re ï¿½llï¿½tja. Eressze el a munkï¿½sokat. Vele vï¿½tesse fel ï¿½ket ï¿½nkï¿½nteseknek. Biztonsï¿½gban vagyunk, Huerta meg van szelï¿½dï¿½tve. Mondja neki, hogy maga igazï¿½n hazafi. Adjon minden embernek puskï¿½t. Ezt mï¿½g kiizzadjuk utolsï¿½ guba gyanï¿½nt, ï¿½s maga igazi hazafinak fog bizonyulni. ï¿½gï¿½rje meg minden embernek, hogy visszavesszï¿½k, ha a hï¿½borï¿½nak vï¿½ge lesz. Aztï¿½n adja rï¿½juk ï¿½ldï¿½sï¿½t, hadd menjenek Bena Raoullal egyï¿½tt. Csak a szivattyï¿½erï¿½t tartsa ï¿½zemben. ï¿½s ha egy esztendï¿½re kizï¿½rjuk a hasznot, ugyanakkor kizï¿½rjuk a vesztesï¿½get is. ï¿½s talï¿½n egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem kell elï¿½rasztanunk az ï¿½reg Harvestet.

Paula mosolygott a Dick megoldï¿½sï¿½n, mikor lopva visszatï¿½rt a csigalï¿½pcsï¿½n a zeneterembe. Levert volt, de nem a Harvest-csoport helyzete miatt. Hiszen miï¿½ta fï¿½rjhez ment, mindig volt valami zavar a mexikï¿½i bï¿½nyï¿½kban, amiket Dick ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½lt. A levertsï¿½gï¿½t az okozta, hogy elmulasztotta a reggeli ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½st. De ez a levertsï¿½g eltï¿½nt, mikor Grahammel talï¿½lkozott, aki Ware tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban a zongorï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½gyelgett ï¿½s az asszonyka belï¿½pï¿½sekor ï¿½gy lï¿½tta, hogy itt a tï¿½vozï¿½s perce.

- Ne szaladjon, - biztatta Paula - maradjon itt ï¿½s legyen tanuja a szorgalom kï¿½lï¿½nleges lï¿½tvï¿½nyï¿½nak. Ez majd inspirï¿½lni fogja, hogy belefogjon abba a kï¿½nyvbe, amit Dick emlï¿½tett nekem.

A lunchnï¿½l Dick arcï¿½n nyoma sem volt a Harvest-csoport miatti gondnak. Nem is talï¿½lta volna ki senki, hogy Braxton Jeremy lï¿½togatï¿½sa valami kevï¿½sbï¿½ kellemest is jelenthetett, mint a szilï¿½rd ï¿½zleti hasznot. Weil Adolf annak jelï¿½ï¿½l, hogy ami jï¿½ratban volt, azt Dickkel valami ï¿½szre nem vett idï¿½ben elintï¿½zte, elutazott ugyan a hajnali vonattal, Graham az asztalnï¿½l mï¿½gis nagyobb tï¿½rsasï¿½got lï¿½tott, mint valaha. Egy Tullynï¿½ nevï¿½ hï¿½lgyï¿½n kï¿½vï¿½l, aki idï¿½s, testes, tï¿½rsasï¿½gbeli hï¿½lgy volt, szemï¿½veget hordott, de egyebet nem lehetett tudni rï¿½la, hï¿½rom ï¿½j urat is lï¿½tott, akiknek kilï¿½tï¿½t ï¿½gy-ahogy megï¿½llapï¿½totta: Gulhuss ï¿½r, ï¿½llami ï¿½llatorvos, Deacon ï¿½r, a partvidï¿½ken igen ismert nevï¿½ arckï¿½pfestï¿½, ï¿½s Lester kapitï¿½ny, egy Pacific Mail-ï¿½ceï¿½njï¿½rï¿½ kapitï¿½nya, aki egyszer idestova hï¿½sz ï¿½ve kapitï¿½nykodott Dick egy kereskedelmi vitorlï¿½sï¿½n ï¿½s bevezette ï¿½t a hajï¿½zï¿½s tudomï¿½nyï¿½ba.

Az ï¿½tkezï¿½s vï¿½get ï¿½rt ï¿½s a bï¿½nyafï¿½felï¿½gyelï¿½ az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra nï¿½zett, mikor Dick megszï¿½lalt:

- Jeremy, meg akarom mutatni magï¿½nak, milyen fï¿½ba vï¿½gtam a fejszï¿½met. Rï¿½gtï¿½n megyï¿½nk is. Majd lesz ideje ï¿½gyis, mï¿½g kiï¿½r az ï¿½llomï¿½sra.

- Menjï¿½nk mind, - mondta Paula - csatlakozzunk hozzï¿½juk. Magam is meghalok a kï¿½vï¿½ncsisï¿½gtï¿½l, Dick olyan homï¿½lyosan beszï¿½lt rï¿½la.

Miutï¿½n megkapta Dick hozzï¿½jï¿½rulï¿½ fejbï¿½lintï¿½sï¿½t, a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ percben mï¿½r autï¿½kat ï¿½s hï¿½taslovakat rendelt.

- Mi az? - kï¿½rdezte tï¿½le Graham, mikor elkï¿½szï¿½lt a parancsokkal.

- Dick valami ï¿½jabb bolondsï¿½ga. Mindig ï¿½j dolgokon tï¿½ri a fejï¿½t. Ez most egy talï¿½lmï¿½ny. Eskï¿½dï¿½zik, hogy forradalmat fog csinï¿½lni a farmgazdï¿½lkodï¿½s terï¿½n, pontosan szï¿½lva a kisbirtokok terï¿½n. ï¿½ltalï¿½ban mï¿½r van rï¿½la fogalmam, de a kivitelt mï¿½g nem lï¿½ttam. Mï¿½r egy hete kï¿½sz, de valami zavar volt egy kï¿½bellel vagy valami berendezï¿½si dologgal.

- Milliï¿½rdokat jelent... ha megy a dolog - mosolygott Dick az asztalon keresztï¿½l - milliï¿½rdokat a vilï¿½g minden farmere szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½s nekem is egy kis percentet belï¿½le... ha menni fog.

- De mirï¿½l van szï¿½? - kï¿½rdezte O'Hay. - Zenï¿½t vezet be a tejgazdasï¿½gi istï¿½llï¿½kba, hogy a tehenek nyugodtabban adjï¿½k le a tejet?

Dick a trï¿½fa hangjï¿½n vï¿½laszolt:

- Annyi az egï¿½sz, hogy minden farmer ï¿½gy szï¿½nthat, hogy a hï¿½za elï¿½tt ï¿½l a verandï¿½n. Komolyan: munkakikï¿½szï¿½bï¿½lï¿½ ï¿½llomï¿½st akarok iktatni a termï¿½fï¿½ld termï¿½szetes produkciï¿½ja ï¿½s az ï¿½lelem tiszta laboratï¿½riumi elï¿½ï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sa kï¿½zï¿½. De csak vï¿½rjanak, mï¿½g meglï¿½tjï¿½k. Gulhuss, tudja meg, hogy ha a talï¿½lmï¿½ny bevï¿½lik, megï¿½lï¿½m vele a sajï¿½t mestersï¿½gemet, mert innen Jerikï¿½ig minden kisgazda nyugodtan nï¿½lkï¿½lï¿½zni fogja az egyetlen lovï¿½t is.

Autï¿½k ï¿½s hï¿½taslovak a tejgazdasï¿½gon tï¿½l vagy kï¿½t kilomï¿½ternyire vittï¿½k a tï¿½rsasï¿½got, ahol egy nï¿½gyzetalakï¿½ sï¿½k fï¿½ldrï¿½sz be volt kerï¿½tve. Dick megjegyezte, hogy ez ï¿½ppen huszonï¿½t hold.

- Tessï¿½k, - mondta - ez az a farm, ahol nem kell lï¿½ ï¿½s a farmer ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½l a verandï¿½n. Mï¿½ltï¿½ztassanak a verandï¿½t ide kï¿½pzelni.

A sï¿½k rï¿½sz kï¿½zepï¿½n egy legalï¿½bb tizenkï¿½t mï¿½ter magas, egï¿½sz alacsonyan megerï¿½sï¿½tett acï¿½lpï¿½zna ï¿½llott. A pï¿½zna tetejï¿½n lï¿½vï¿½ dobbï¿½l vï¿½kony drï¿½thuzal futott a fï¿½ld legszï¿½le felï¿½ ï¿½s ott egy kis benzines lokomobil egyik kormï¿½nycsapjï¿½hoz kapcsolï¿½dott. A lokomobil mellett kï¿½t szerelï¿½ ï¿½lldogï¿½lt. Dick intï¿½sï¿½re megindï¿½tottï¿½k a motort ï¿½s ï¿½tnak indï¿½tottï¿½k.

- Ez itt a veranda, - mondta Dick - kï¿½pzeljï¿½k csak el, hogy mi vagyunk a jï¿½vï¿½ farmerei, ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lï¿½nk az ï¿½rnyï¿½kban ï¿½s olvassuk a reggeli lapot, mialatt az ember ï¿½s lï¿½ nï¿½lkï¿½li szï¿½ntï¿½s megindul.

Az acï¿½lpï¿½zna csï¿½csï¿½n ï¿½lï¿½ dob lassan gombolyï¿½totta fel a drï¿½thuzalt ï¿½s a gï¿½p, amelyet a huzal kï¿½rben engedett, kï¿½ralakï¿½ barï¿½zdï¿½t szï¿½ntott, vagy nem is kï¿½ralakï¿½t, hanem befelï¿½ tï¿½rekvï¿½ spirï¿½lis-alakï¿½t.

- Nincs lï¿½, nincs hajtï¿½, nincs munkï¿½s. Csak a farmer kell, hogy megindï¿½tsa a motort ï¿½s elindï¿½tsa az ï¿½tjï¿½n.

A boszorkï¿½nyos masina kifordï¿½totta a barna anyafï¿½ldet ï¿½s vezetï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l folytatta a fï¿½ldrï¿½sz kï¿½zï¿½ppontja felï¿½ rï¿½vidï¿½lï¿½ spirï¿½lis vonal ï¿½tjï¿½t. Dick tovï¿½bb lelkesedett:

- Szï¿½ntani, boronï¿½lni, hengerelni, vetni, trï¿½gyï¿½zni, mï¿½velni, aratni, mindent lehet innen a verandï¿½rï¿½l. ï¿½s ahol a farmer egy villamostï¿½rsasï¿½gtï¿½l tud ï¿½ramot bï¿½relni, ott nem lesz egyï¿½b munka, mint hogy ï¿½, vagy a felesï¿½ge, megnyomja a gombot, aztï¿½n a fï¿½rfi mehet ujsï¿½got olvasni, az asszony tï¿½sztï¿½t gyï¿½rni.

- Most mï¿½r mindï¿½ssze az hiï¿½nyzik, - mondta Graham - hogy ezt a kï¿½rt nï¿½gyszï¿½gesï¿½teni lehessen.

- ï¿½gy van, - helyeselt Gulhuss ï¿½r - a nï¿½gyszï¿½gbe helyezett kï¿½r levï¿½g a fï¿½ldbï¿½l nï¿½hï¿½ny holdat.

Graham arca egy pillanatig a fejszï¿½molï¿½s jeleit ï¿½rulta el. Aztï¿½n kimondta:

- Huszonï¿½t holdankï¿½nt ï¿½tlag hï¿½t hold a hozzï¿½vetï¿½leges vesztesï¿½g.

- Igaz, - felelt Dick - de a farmer verandï¿½ja valahol ezen a hï¿½t holdon lesz. Ezen a hï¿½t holdon lesz a hï¿½za, az istï¿½llï¿½ja, a konyhakertje ï¿½s mindenfï¿½le mellï¿½kï¿½pï¿½lete. Nagyon jï¿½ lesz. Ha kiveri a fejï¿½bï¿½l a hagyomï¿½nyokat, akkor mindezt nem a huszonï¿½t hold kï¿½zepï¿½re, hanem a hï¿½t holdnyi sarkakra fogja ï¿½pï¿½teni. Oda fogja ï¿½ltetni a gyï¿½mï¿½lcsfï¿½it, a mï¿½lnabokrait ï¿½s az ï¿½rnyï¿½kot adï¿½ fï¿½kat is. Mert kï¿½pzeljï¿½tek jï¿½l el: ha a rï¿½gi megszokott mï¿½don a nï¿½gyzet kï¿½zepï¿½n hï¿½zza fel az ï¿½pï¿½leteit, ez arra kï¿½nyszerï¿½ti, hogy a kï¿½zï¿½ppont kï¿½rï¿½l megtï¿½rt derï¿½kszï¿½gekben vï¿½gezze a szï¿½ntï¿½st.

Gulhuss lelkesen bï¿½lintott.

- ï¿½gy van. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l mindig utat kell hagynia a kï¿½zï¿½pponttï¿½l az orszï¿½gï¿½thoz vagy a szolgalmi ï¿½thoz. Ez zavarja a szï¿½ntï¿½s alapossï¿½gï¿½t. Ha az ember huszonï¿½t holdat ï¿½gy elvï¿½g a megfelelï¿½ kisebb nï¿½gyszï¿½gekre, ez mï¿½r kï¿½lterjes gazdï¿½lkodï¿½s.

- Bï¿½rcsak a hajï¿½zï¿½s is ilyen magï¿½tï¿½l menne, - jï¿½rult hozzï¿½ az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos tetszï¿½shez Lester kapitï¿½ny.

- Vagy az arckï¿½pfestï¿½s, - nevetett Wainwright Rita, jelentï¿½sen kacsintva Deacon ï¿½rra.

- Vagy a zenekritika, - jegyezte meg Lute, aki nem kacsintott ugyan senkire, de hogy a jelenvoltak kï¿½zï¿½l valaki elï¿½rtette a cï¿½lzï¿½st, azt O'Hay gyors vï¿½lasza jelezte:

- Vagy szï¿½pnek lenni.

- Mennyibï¿½l ï¿½llï¿½thatï¿½ ki a gï¿½p? - kï¿½rdezte Braxton Jeremy.

- E pillanatban, beleszï¿½mï¿½tva a hasznot is, gyï¿½rtani ï¿½s szï¿½llï¿½tani tudjuk ï¿½tszï¿½z dollï¿½rï¿½rt. Ha ï¿½tmegy a kï¿½zhasznï¿½latba, modern, nagyban valï¿½ eladï¿½si berendezkedï¿½ssel hï¿½romszï¿½zï¿½rt is meg tudjuk csinï¿½lni. De mondjunk ï¿½tszï¿½zat. Vegyen tizenï¿½t szï¿½zalï¿½kot kamatra ï¿½s tï¿½ketï¿½rlesztï¿½sre, akkor a gï¿½p ï¿½vi hetven dollï¿½rba kerï¿½l a farmernek. Kï¿½tszï¿½z dollï¿½ros fï¿½ldï¿½rak mellett melyik farmer kap ï¿½vi hetven dollï¿½rï¿½rt lovat? A gï¿½p mï¿½g hozzï¿½ a legszigorï¿½bb minimumot vï¿½ve kï¿½tszï¿½z dollï¿½rt takarï¿½t meg neki ï¿½vente akï¿½r sajï¿½t munkï¿½ban, akï¿½r napszï¿½mban.

- De mi vezeti a gï¿½pet? - kï¿½rdezte Rita.

- A pï¿½zna tetejï¿½n az a dob. A dob fokokra van osztva az egï¿½sz radius szerint, ami, mondhatom, elï¿½g hosszï¿½ szï¿½molï¿½sokba kerï¿½lt, ï¿½s a drï¿½thuzal, mikor a dob kï¿½rï¿½ csavarodik ï¿½s rï¿½vidï¿½l, lassan vonja a lokomobilt a kï¿½zï¿½ppont felï¿½.

- Van azonban nagyon sok ellenï¿½rve annak, - mondta Gulhuss - hogy ï¿½tmegy a kï¿½zhasznï¿½latba, mï¿½g a kisbirtokosok szempontjï¿½bï¿½l is.

Dick egyetï¿½rtï¿½en bï¿½lintott.

- Hogyne. Magam feljegyeztem ï¿½s osztï¿½lyoztam negyvennï¿½l tï¿½bbet. Ugyanannyi kifogï¿½som van maga a gï¿½p ellen. Ha sikerï¿½l is, hosszï¿½ idï¿½be telik, mï¿½g tï¿½kï¿½letesï¿½tjï¿½k ï¿½s ï¿½tadjuk a nyilvï¿½nossï¿½gnak.

Graham ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l kettï¿½osztotta a figyelmï¿½t: rï¿½szint a kï¿½rben jï¿½rï¿½ gï¿½pre figyelt, rï¿½szint meg-megnï¿½zte a lovon ï¿½lï¿½ Forrest Paula festï¿½i jelensï¿½gï¿½t. Aznap ï¿½lte elï¿½szï¿½r a Szarvast, azt a Palomina-kancï¿½t, amit Hennessy lovagolt be neki. Graham rejtett mosollyal ismerte el kivï¿½lï¿½ asszonyisï¿½gï¿½t. Az asszonyka vagy a lï¿½hoz rajzolta a toalettjï¿½t, vagy kivï¿½lasztotta a lï¿½hoz legalkalmasabbat, mindenesetre nagy sikert aratott vele.

Lovaglï¿½kabï¿½t helyett, mivel a dï¿½lutï¿½n meleg volt, drapp vï¿½szonblï¿½zt hordott fehï¿½r kihajtott gallï¿½rral. A lovaglï¿½ruhï¿½k aljï¿½nak mintï¿½jï¿½ra szabott rï¿½vid szoknya csak a tï¿½rdï¿½ig ï¿½rt, tï¿½rdtï¿½l a champagne-szï¿½nï¿½, sarkantyï¿½s kis csizma szï¿½rï¿½ig feszes lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½g lï¿½tszott ki. A szoknya ï¿½s a nadrï¿½g szarvasszï¿½nï¿½ selyem-corduroybï¿½l kï¿½szï¿½lt, ami a manchester-szerï¿½ bordï¿½zott nadrï¿½ganyagok egy fajtï¿½ja. A kezï¿½re hï¿½zott lï¿½gy-fehï¿½r kesztyï¿½k szï¿½ne ï¿½ssze volt hangolva a blï¿½zgallï¿½r szï¿½nï¿½nek a hangsï¿½lyï¿½val. Kalapja nem volt, a haja simï¿½n ï¿½s mï¿½lyen le volt fï¿½sï¿½lve a fï¿½lï¿½re ï¿½s hï¿½tul a nyakï¿½ra.

- Nem ï¿½rtem, - mondta Graham szelï¿½d feddï¿½ssel - hogy ilyen arcbï¿½rrel hogy teheti ki magï¿½t a napsï¿½tï¿½snek.

Paula mosolygott, fehï¿½r fogai ragyogtak.

- Nem is teszem. Pontosan szï¿½lva: az ï¿½vnek csak egy kis rï¿½szï¿½ben szoktam magam ï¿½gy sï¿½ttetni. Szeretem ezt, mert szeretem, ha a hajam egy kis aranybarna ï¿½rnyalatot kap a naptï¿½l, viszont egï¿½szen lesï¿½lni nem merek.

A lï¿½ tï¿½ncolt. Egy kis levegï¿½ï¿½ramlï¿½s visszafordï¿½totta az asszony szoknyï¿½ja szegï¿½lyï¿½t ï¿½s megmutatta pontosan kirajzolt tï¿½rdï¿½t, ahogy a lovaglï¿½nadrï¿½g szorosan megfeszï¿½lt rajta. Graham ï¿½szrevette, milyen kemï¿½nyen szorul ez a tï¿½rd az egï¿½szen ï¿½j, szarvasszï¿½nï¿½ angol disznï¿½bï¿½rnyereghez, amelyet gazdï¿½ja kï¿½lï¿½n a ruhï¿½hoz ï¿½s lï¿½hoz vï¿½lasztott. ï¿½s a fï¿½rfi kï¿½pzeletï¿½ben megint megjelent az a gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½, fehï¿½r tï¿½rd, amely az ï¿½szï¿½ Hegyi Fickï¿½ izmai kï¿½zï¿½tt keresett tï¿½masztï¿½kot.

Mikor a motor mï¿½gneses gyujtï¿½ja defektust kapott ï¿½s a szerelï¿½k sï¿½rgï¿½lï¿½dve taszï¿½tottï¿½k a fï¿½lig felszï¿½ntott kï¿½r kï¿½zepe felï¿½, a tï¿½rsasï¿½g Paula vezetï¿½se alatt ott hagyta Dicket a talï¿½lmï¿½nyï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½s nekivï¿½gott, hogy a kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ tenyï¿½sztelepek kï¿½zï¿½tt elzarï¿½ndokoljon az uszodï¿½hoz. Crellin ï¿½r, a sertï¿½stenyï¿½sztï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½, megmutatta nekik Lady Isletont, amely nagyszerï¿½, kï¿½vï¿½r, ï¿½jszï¿½lï¿½tt tizenegy malacï¿½val kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ naiv magasztalï¿½sokat vï¿½ltott ki. Crellin ï¿½r legalï¿½bb nï¿½gyszer lelkes melegsï¿½ggel jegyezte meg:

- ï¿½s kï¿½rem, a tizenegy kï¿½zï¿½tt egyetlenegy korcs nincsen.

Lï¿½ttak mï¿½g mï¿½s dicsï¿½ kocï¿½kat is, Berkshiret, Duroc-Jerseyt, kï¿½kszalagosokat, mï¿½g bele nem fï¿½radtak, lï¿½ttak ï¿½jszï¿½lï¿½tt gï¿½dï¿½lyï¿½ket, bï¿½rï¿½nykï¿½kat, kerekre hï¿½zott kosokat ï¿½s birkï¿½kat. Paula teleprï¿½l-telepre felvette a telefonkagylï¿½t ï¿½s elï¿½re leadta a figyelmeztetï¿½st, hogy jï¿½n a tï¿½rsasï¿½g. Manson ï¿½r valï¿½sï¿½gos kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½st hevenyï¿½szett, bemutatta a nagy King Polï¿½t szï¿½leshï¿½tï¿½, rï¿½vidszarvï¿½ hï¿½remï¿½vel egyï¿½tt, valamint rï¿½vidszarvï¿½ hï¿½remï¿½t mï¿½s bikï¿½knak is, amelyek nagyszerï¿½sï¿½g ï¿½s rekordok dolgï¿½ban csak kevï¿½ssel maradtak King Polï¿½nak alatta. Parkman, a Jersey-felï¿½gyelï¿½, is kï¿½znï¿½l volt a kellï¿½en felkï¿½szï¿½lt szemï¿½lyzettel, hogy parï¿½dï¿½zva bemutassa a Nagy Sï¿½rkï¿½nyt, Arany Kedvest, Kirï¿½lykutat, Oxfordi Legï¿½nyt ï¿½s a Karnaki Tï¿½ndï¿½rgyereket, mindmegannyi kï¿½kszalagos bikï¿½t, kitï¿½nï¿½ hï¿½rï¿½, elï¿½kelï¿½ jï¿½ tejelï¿½ dinasztiï¿½k alapï¿½tï¿½it ï¿½s leszï¿½rmazottait, tovï¿½bbï¿½ Rï¿½zsakirï¿½lynï¿½t, a Lï¿½gyott anyjï¿½t, Menyecskï¿½t, az Arany Kedves anyjï¿½t, Zsï¿½kmï¿½nyt, az Olga anyjï¿½t, Gertiet, a Maitlands anyjï¿½t, a jï¿½ tejelï¿½s birodalmï¿½nak hasonlï¿½an kï¿½kszalagos ï¿½s kï¿½kvï¿½rï¿½ Jersey-matrï¿½nï¿½it. Mendenhall ï¿½r, aki a lovak birodalmï¿½t kormï¿½nyozta, bï¿½szkï¿½n vezettetett elï¿½ egy csoport hatalmas apamï¿½nt, ï¿½lï¿½n a hatalmas Hegyi Fickï¿½val ï¿½s egy mï¿½g nagyobb csoport kancï¿½t, ï¿½lï¿½n az ezï¿½stnyerï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ Fotherington Princesszel. Mï¿½g a Princess anyjï¿½t, a mï¿½r csak fï¿½lnapi munkï¿½ra fogott ï¿½reg Alden Bessiet is elï¿½hozatta, hogy kiki megadhassa a kellï¿½ tiszteletet egy ilyen kivï¿½lï¿½ anyaï¿½llatnak.

Mikor a nï¿½gy ï¿½ra kï¿½zeledett, Ware Donald, aki nem szeretett ï¿½szni, az egyik autï¿½val visszatï¿½rt a nagy hï¿½zba, Gulhuss ï¿½r pedig visszamaradt, hogy Mendenhall ï¿½rral lï¿½tenyï¿½sztï¿½srï¿½l csevegjen. Dick mï¿½r ott volt, mikor a tï¿½rsasï¿½g az uszodï¿½hoz ï¿½rkezett ï¿½s a lï¿½nyok azonnal kï¿½vetelni kezdtï¿½k az ï¿½j nï¿½tï¿½t.

- Tulajdonkï¿½ppen nem is nï¿½ta, - magyarï¿½zta Dick, huncut csillogï¿½ssal a szemï¿½ben - ï¿½s nem is ï¿½n talï¿½ltam ki. Tï¿½rsasjï¿½tï¿½k, Japï¿½nban jï¿½tszottï¿½k mï¿½r a szï¿½letï¿½sem elï¿½tt ï¿½s meg vagyok gyï¿½zï¿½dve, mï¿½g azelï¿½tt hogy Kolumbus felfedezte volna Amerikï¿½t. Egy duettrï¿½l van szï¿½, ami zï¿½logolï¿½ssal van egybekï¿½tve. Paula fogja velem ï¿½nekelni. Gyere, majd megtanï¿½talak. ï¿½lj le ide, ï¿½gy. Ti mindnyï¿½jan ï¿½ljetek le kï¿½rbe.

Paula, ï¿½gy ahogy volt, lovaglï¿½ruhï¿½san, leï¿½lt a hallgatï¿½sï¿½g kï¿½rï¿½nek a kï¿½zepï¿½re a betonra, szemkï¿½zt az urï¿½val. Ahogy Dick magyarï¿½zta neki, a tenyerï¿½vel a tï¿½rdï¿½re csapott, aztï¿½n ï¿½sszecsapta a tenyerï¿½t, aztï¿½n odacsapta a tenyerï¿½t a Dick tenyerï¿½hez, mint a gyerekek szoktak jï¿½tszani, a ritmust egyï¿½tt tartva az urï¿½val. Akkor aztï¿½n Dick elï¿½nekelte a nï¿½tï¿½t, amely kurta volt, Paula azonnal megtanulta, vele ï¿½nekelte ï¿½s tenyï¿½rrel csapkodta a taktust hozzï¿½. A keletiesen fï¿½lbemï¿½szï¿½ melï¿½diï¿½t lassan, szinte egyhangï¿½an ï¿½nekeltï¿½k, de az ï¿½nek hamarosan izgalmat vï¿½ltott ki a hallgatï¿½sï¿½gbï¿½l:

Cson-Kï¿½na, Cson-Kï¿½na,

Cson-cson, Kï¿½na, Kï¿½na,

Nagasaki, Yokohama,

Hakodate... haj!!!

Azt az utolsï¿½ szï¿½tagot, hogy haj, hirtelen, kirobbanï¿½an kellett ï¿½nekelni, egy oktï¿½vï¿½val magasabban, mint a melï¿½dia hangneme. Mï¿½r most abbï¿½l ï¿½llt a tï¿½rsasjï¿½tï¿½k, hogy ennï¿½l a kiï¿½ltï¿½snï¿½l Dick ï¿½s Paula ï¿½sszeï¿½tï¿½ttï¿½k a kezï¿½ket ï¿½s Paula kezï¿½nek csukva kellett lennie, ha Dickï¿½ csukva volt, vagy nyitva, ha Dickï¿½ nyitva volt. Ha nem, akkor Paula vesztett. A legelsï¿½ ï¿½neklï¿½snï¿½l Paula nyert, mert az ï¿½ keze is csukva volt, a Dickï¿½ is. Dicknek zï¿½logot kellett adni. Levette a kalapjï¿½t ï¿½s Lute ï¿½lï¿½be dobta.

- Ez a zï¿½logom! Gyerï¿½nk tovï¿½bb, Paula.

ï¿½s megint ï¿½nekeltï¿½k ï¿½s csapkodtï¿½k a tenyerï¿½ket:

Cson-Kï¿½na, Cson-Kï¿½na,

Cson-cson, Kï¿½na, Kï¿½na,

Nagasaki, Yokohama,

Hakodate... haj!!!

Ezï¿½ttal a Paula keze csukva volt, a Dickï¿½ nyitva.

- Zï¿½logot! Zï¿½logot! - kiabï¿½ltï¿½k a lï¿½nyok.

Paula ijedten nï¿½zett vï¿½gig magï¿½n.

- Mit adhatok?

- Adj egy hajtï¿½t! - tanï¿½csolta Dick. ï¿½s Paula egyik teknï¿½sbï¿½ka-hajtï¿½je is a Lute ï¿½lï¿½be vï¿½ndorolt.

- Hogy az ï¿½rdï¿½g vigye el! - haragudott Paula, mikor ugyanï¿½gy az utolsï¿½ hajtï¿½jï¿½t is elvesztette, mert mï¿½r kï¿½tszer vesztett, mï¿½g Dick egyszer. - Nem ï¿½rtem, hogy lehetek ilyen buta. Te tï¿½lsï¿½gosan ravasz is vagy, Dick. Sose tudlak megelï¿½zni, sose tudom kitalï¿½lni, mit akarsz.

Megint elï¿½nekeltï¿½k a jï¿½tï¿½kot. Paula vesztett. Tullynï¿½ rï¿½mï¿½lt felkiï¿½ltï¿½sa kï¿½zben odaadta zï¿½logba az egyik sarkantyï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s azzal fenyegetï¿½dzï¿½tt, hogy lehï¿½zza az egyik csizmï¿½jï¿½t, ha a mï¿½sik sarkantyï¿½t is elveszti. De hï¿½romszor nyert egymï¿½sutï¿½n. Dick odaadta az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s mind a kï¿½t sarkantyï¿½jï¿½t. Aztï¿½n Paula veszï¿½tette el az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s a mï¿½sik sarkantyï¿½jï¿½t is. Megint elkezdtï¿½k a Cson-Kï¿½nï¿½t ï¿½s Tullynï¿½ hatï¿½rozottan protestï¿½lt:

- Kï¿½rlek, Paula, most mï¿½r befejezhetnï¿½d. Dick, szï¿½gyelheted magad.

De Dick gyï¿½zedelmesen vï¿½gta ki a haj!-t, nyert. Egyï¿½tt kacagott a tï¿½bbiekkel, mikor Paula lehï¿½zta az egyik kis csizmï¿½t ï¿½s odadobta a Lute ï¿½lï¿½ben ï¿½sszegyï¿½lt halomhoz.

- Nincs semmi baj, Martha nï¿½ni, - nyugtatta meg Paula Tullynï¿½t - Ware nincs itt. ï¿½ az egyetlen, aki megbotrï¿½nkoznï¿½k ezen. Gyerï¿½nk, Dick. Mindig csak nem fogsz nyerni. Cson-Kï¿½na, Cson-Kï¿½na...

Most mï¿½r sokkal gyorsabban ï¿½nekeltek, egyszerï¿½en vï¿½gighadartï¿½k ï¿½s a tenyerï¿½k olyan gyorsan verï¿½dï¿½tt ï¿½ssze, mint a taps. A testmozgï¿½s ï¿½s izgalom hatï¿½sa hozzï¿½jï¿½rult a napsï¿½tï¿½shez, az asszonyka nevetï¿½ arca csupa rï¿½zsapiros ragyogï¿½s volt.

Graham Evan, a szï¿½tlan nï¿½zï¿½, kellemetlen mï¿½ltatlansï¿½got ï¿½rzett. Ismerte a Cson-Kï¿½na-jï¿½tï¿½kot mï¿½g a nipponi teahï¿½zak gï¿½sï¿½i rï¿½vï¿½n ï¿½s noha tudta, hogy a Forrest-csalï¿½d ï¿½s a nagy hï¿½z nem tï¿½rï¿½dik a konvenciï¿½val, megdï¿½bbentï¿½nek ï¿½rezte, hogy Paula ilyen jï¿½tï¿½kban rï¿½szt vegyen. Ebben a pillanatban mï¿½g nem jutott eszï¿½be, hogy ha a jï¿½tï¿½kban tï¿½rtï¿½netesen Lute, vagy Ernestine, vagy Rita vett volna rï¿½szt, ï¿½ egyszerï¿½en kï¿½vï¿½ncsi lett volna, mi fog kisï¿½lni ebbï¿½l a bolondsï¿½gbï¿½l. Csak utï¿½lag ï¿½llapï¿½totta meg aztï¿½n, hogy erï¿½s ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½se ï¿½s felhï¿½borodï¿½sa mï¿½s szï¿½mlï¿½ra volt irandï¿½: az volt a fï¿½, hogy Paula volt a jï¿½tï¿½kos ï¿½s Paula ekkor mï¿½r nagyobb szï¿½mot tett a fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½ban, mint ï¿½ maga is kï¿½pzelte volna. Ezt mï¿½g nem tudta. Mindï¿½ssze annyit tudott e pillanatban, hogy haragudni kezd ï¿½s hatï¿½rozottan erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½sï¿½be kerï¿½l, hogy bele ne szï¿½ljon.

Ekkorra mï¿½r Dick cigarettatï¿½rcï¿½ja, gyufaskatulyï¿½ja, Paula mï¿½sik csizmï¿½ja, ï¿½ve, szoknyï¿½jï¿½nak biztosï¿½tï¿½tï¿½je ï¿½s jegygyï¿½rï¿½je a zï¿½logok csomï¿½jï¿½hoz kerï¿½lt. Tullynï¿½ sztoikusan beletï¿½rï¿½dï¿½tt arccal hallgatott.

- Cson-Kï¿½na, Cson-Kï¿½na... - nevetett Paula ï¿½s tovï¿½bb ï¿½nekelt. ï¿½s Graham hallotta, mikor Ernestine nevetve szï¿½lt oda Bertnek:

- Nem tudom, mi marad rajta a vï¿½gï¿½n.

- Hiszen ismerjï¿½k, - felelte Bert - ha nekivadul, akkor nincs megï¿½llï¿½s. ï¿½s most ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, nekivadult.

- Haj!! - kiï¿½ltottï¿½k Paula ï¿½s Dick egyszerre ï¿½s aztï¿½n szï¿½tkaptï¿½k a kezï¿½ket. A Dick keze nyitva volt, a Paulï¿½ï¿½ csukva. Graham ï¿½gyelte, amint az asszonyka hiï¿½ba nï¿½z vï¿½gig magï¿½n, hogy valamit zï¿½lognak talï¿½ljon.

- Gyerï¿½nk, Lady Godiva, - sï¿½rgette Dick - ittï¿½l, tï¿½ncoltï¿½l, most add meg az ï¿½rï¿½t.

- Bolond ez az ember? - gondolta magï¿½ban Graham. - Akinek ilyen felesï¿½ge van!

- Hï¿½t jï¿½, - sï¿½hajtotta Paula ï¿½s az ujjai mï¿½r a blï¿½zï¿½n motoszkï¿½ltak - ha muszï¿½j, hï¿½t muszï¿½j.

Graham tombolt magï¿½ban, elfordï¿½totta a tekintetï¿½t ï¿½s nem is nï¿½zett vissza. Szï¿½net kï¿½vetkezett ï¿½s ï¿½ tudta, hogy most mindenki lesi, mit fog Paula csinï¿½lni. Egyszer csak Ernestine elfojtott nevetï¿½sï¿½t hallotta, majd az egï¿½sz tï¿½rsasï¿½g kitï¿½rï¿½ kacagï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s Bert hangjï¿½t, aki kiabï¿½lni kezdett:

- ï¿½ssze voltak beszï¿½lve! Ki volt csinï¿½lva!

Ez megdï¿½ntï¿½tte Graham elhatï¿½rozï¿½sï¿½t. Gyorsan odanï¿½zett. Az asszonykï¿½n nem volt blï¿½z, ellenben ï¿½vtï¿½l felfelï¿½ ï¿½szï¿½ruhï¿½ban volt. Nyilvï¿½n mï¿½g a lovaglï¿½s elï¿½tt magï¿½ra vette.

- Gyerï¿½nk! - kiï¿½ltotta Dick - Lute a kï¿½vetkezï¿½.

De Lute nem kï¿½szï¿½lt a Cson-Kï¿½nï¿½ra. Pirulva szaladt a lï¿½nyok ï¿½lï¿½n az ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½kabinok felï¿½.

Graham nï¿½zte a Paula testtartï¿½sï¿½t a trambulin tizenkï¿½tmï¿½teres ugrï¿½deszkï¿½jï¿½n, nï¿½zte pompï¿½s mï¿½ly fejesï¿½t, hallotta Bert magasztalï¿½ felkiï¿½ltï¿½sï¿½t:

- ï¿½ Kellermann Annette!

Aztï¿½n mï¿½g mindig idegesen a trï¿½fï¿½tï¿½l, amely megbotrï¿½nkoztatï¿½ssal fenyegette, elkezdett tï¿½nï¿½dni errï¿½l a csodanï¿½rï¿½l, a nagy hï¿½z aprï¿½ asszonyï¿½rï¿½l. Vajjon hogy lett ilyen csodï¿½latos nï¿½vï¿½? Mialatt vï¿½gigvette vï¿½z alatt a medencï¿½t, kï¿½nyelmes tempï¿½kkal ï¿½szott elï¿½re ï¿½s nyitott szemmel figyelte a felfelï¿½ sekï¿½lyesedï¿½ feneket, rï¿½jï¿½tt, hogy semmit sem tud rï¿½la. A Forrest Dick felesï¿½ge. Ennyit tudott ï¿½sszesen. De nem tudott semmit a szï¿½letï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l, az ï¿½letï¿½rï¿½l, a multjï¿½rï¿½l.

Ernestine emlï¿½tette neki, hogy ï¿½ meg Lute fï¿½ltestvï¿½rei Paulï¿½nak. Ez is egy kis adat volt, mindenesetre. (A talaj nï¿½vekvï¿½ vilï¿½gossï¿½ga figyelmeztette, hogy kï¿½zeledik a medence vï¿½gï¿½hez ï¿½s mivel valamiben, ami nem lehetett mï¿½s, mint kï¿½t birkï¿½zï¿½ ember ï¿½sszekeveredett csomï¿½ja, megismerte Dick ï¿½s Bert ï¿½ssze-vissza fonï¿½dott lï¿½bait, visszafordult ï¿½s a vï¿½z alatt ï¿½szott mï¿½g vagy hat mï¿½tert.) Aztï¿½n adat volt az is, hogy Paula Martha nï¿½ninek szï¿½lï¿½totta Tullynï¿½t. Vajjon vï¿½rszerinti nagynï¿½nje? Vagy csak csalï¿½diassï¿½gbï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½tja ï¿½gy a Lute ï¿½s Ernestine anyjï¿½nak a nï¿½vï¿½rï¿½t!

Feljï¿½tt a vï¿½z alï¿½l. A tï¿½bbiek felszï¿½lï¿½tottï¿½k, hogy lï¿½pjen be: kï¿½nn a bï¿½rï¿½ny benn a farkast jï¿½tszanak. Ebben a fï¿½rge jï¿½tï¿½kban a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ fï¿½lï¿½ra alatt minduntalan meg kellett csodï¿½lnia Paula elevensï¿½gï¿½t, hajlï¿½konysï¿½gï¿½t, de agyafï¿½rtsï¿½gï¿½t is, mikor az embergyï¿½rï¿½n mindig sikerï¿½lt ï¿½tszï¿½knie. Mikor mï¿½r ï¿½gy elfï¿½radtak, hogy be kellett fejezni a jï¿½tï¿½kot, az egï¿½sz tï¿½rsasï¿½g lihegve ï¿½szott a medencï¿½n vï¿½gig, aztï¿½n kimï¿½sztak a napra ï¿½s kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½ltï¿½k Tullynï¿½t.

Hamarosan ï¿½j trï¿½fï¿½k kerï¿½ltek szï¿½nyegre ï¿½s Paula lehetetlen dolgokrï¿½l vitatkozott Tullynï¿½val.

- De Martha nï¿½ni, ï¿½ppen mert maga sosem tanult ï¿½szni, nincs igaza, ha tart egy ilyen ï¿½llï¿½spontot. ï¿½n nagyon jï¿½ ï¿½szï¿½ vagyok ï¿½s azt ï¿½llï¿½tom, hogy akï¿½r itt rï¿½gtï¿½n beugrom a medencï¿½be ï¿½s tï¿½z percig a vï¿½z alatt tudok maradni.

- Csacsisï¿½g, fiam, - mosolygott Tullynï¿½ - az apï¿½d, mikor fiatal volt, sokkal fiatalabb, mint te most, drï¿½gï¿½m, tovï¿½bb bï¿½rta vï¿½z alatt, mint akï¿½rki, ï¿½s a rekordja, ha jï¿½l emlï¿½kszem, hï¿½rom perc ï¿½s negyven mï¿½sodperc volt, mï¿½r pedig jï¿½l emlï¿½kszem, mert magam tartottam az ï¿½rï¿½t ï¿½s magam mï¿½rtem le az idï¿½t, mikor Selby Harry ellen megnyerte a fogadï¿½st.

- Igen, tudom, hogy az apï¿½m annak idejï¿½n legï¿½ny volt a talpï¿½n, - bï¿½szkï¿½lkedett Paula - de az idï¿½k megvï¿½ltoztak. ï¿½s ha most itt volna a drï¿½ga ï¿½reg, fiatalsï¿½gï¿½nak minden pompï¿½jï¿½val, ï¿½s megprï¿½bï¿½lna velem a vï¿½z alï¿½ jï¿½nni, ï¿½n bizony legyï¿½znï¿½m. Tï¿½z percig? Hï¿½t persze, hogy lenn tudok maradni tï¿½z percig. Fogok is. Maga tartja az ï¿½rï¿½t, Martha nï¿½ni, ï¿½s lemï¿½ri az idï¿½t. Ugyan, nincsen ennï¿½l kï¿½nnyebb. Annyi az egï¿½sz, mint...

- Mint halat lï¿½ni a vederben - egï¿½szï¿½tette ki helyette Dick.

Paula felmï¿½szott a trambulin tetejï¿½re.

- Kï¿½rem lestoppolni, mikor a levegï¿½ben vagyok.

- Kï¿½rek egy bukfenc-fejest! - kiï¿½ltotta Dick.

Paula bï¿½lintott, mosolygott ï¿½s szï¿½nï¿½szkedve jï¿½tszotta, milyen ï¿½riï¿½si erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½st tesz, hogy a tï¿½dejï¿½t annak lehetï¿½ befogadï¿½kï¿½pessï¿½gï¿½ig megtï¿½ltse levegï¿½vel. Graham gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve szemlï¿½lte. Maga is mï¿½ugrï¿½ volt ï¿½s a bukfencfejest mï¿½s nï¿½tï¿½l, mint professzionistï¿½tï¿½l, mï¿½g nem lï¿½tta. A kï¿½nnyï¿½ kï¿½kes-zï¿½ld selyemkosztï¿½m nedvesen tapadt Paulï¿½ra ï¿½s megmutatta testï¿½nek arï¿½nyos vonalait. Miutï¿½n trï¿½fï¿½san mï¿½g egy gï¿½rcsï¿½s nyelï¿½ssel bekapta azt az utolsï¿½ kï¿½bcentimï¿½ter levegï¿½t, ami mï¿½g a tï¿½dejï¿½be fï¿½rt, ugrott. Fï¿½ggï¿½leges tartï¿½ssal, egyenesen, ï¿½llï¿½ lï¿½bakkal, amelyek egymï¿½shoz feszï¿½ltek, mikor rï¿½toppantak az ugrï¿½deszka mï¿½sik, rugalmas vï¿½gï¿½re. A rugalmas deszka feldobta a levegï¿½be. Paula labdï¿½vï¿½ gï¿½mbï¿½lyï¿½dï¿½tt ï¿½ssze, teljesen megfordult maga kï¿½rï¿½l, aztï¿½n a bukfenc utï¿½n a fejes tï¿½kï¿½letes testtartï¿½sï¿½ba egyenesedett ki ï¿½s hullï¿½mot is alig vetve maga kï¿½rï¿½l, hibï¿½tlan fejessel a vï¿½zbe zuhant.

- Egy toledï¿½i penge is nagyobbat loccsant volna - volt Graham ï¿½tï¿½lete.

- ï¿½ istenem, ha ï¿½n ï¿½gy tudnï¿½k ugrani, - sï¿½hajtotta ï¿½mulattal Ernestine - de sosem fogok ï¿½gy tudni. Dick azt mondja, hogy a mï¿½ugrï¿½s a kellï¿½ idï¿½beosztï¿½stï¿½l fï¿½gg. Paula ezï¿½rt csinï¿½lja olyan hihetetlenï¿½l jï¿½l. Neki nagyszerï¿½ idï¿½ï¿½rzï¿½ke van...

- ï¿½s ï¿½rzï¿½ke a keresetlen testtartï¿½shoz - tette hozzï¿½ Graham.

- A szï¿½ndï¿½kosan keresetlen testtartï¿½shoz - mondta Dick.

- ï¿½rti, hogyan kell fï¿½radsï¿½gos ï¿½ton eljutni a vï¿½gsï¿½ kï¿½nnyedsï¿½ghez; - fï¿½zte tovï¿½bb Graham - ilyen tï¿½kï¿½letes bukfencezï¿½st mï¿½g sose lï¿½ttam professzionistï¿½ktï¿½l.

- ï¿½s ï¿½n mï¿½g bï¿½szkï¿½bb vagyok rï¿½, mint ï¿½, - mondta Dick - tudod, ï¿½n tanï¿½tottam. Igaz, hogy kï¿½nnyï¿½ volt megtanï¿½tani. Nem kerï¿½lt semmi megerï¿½ltetï¿½sï¿½be. Ehez mï¿½g hozzï¿½ az erï¿½s akarata, az idï¿½ï¿½rzï¿½ke, kï¿½rlek: az elsï¿½ prï¿½bï¿½ja mï¿½r kifogï¿½stalan volt.

- Paula rendkï¿½vï¿½li nï¿½, - mondta bï¿½szkï¿½n Tullynï¿½, mikï¿½zben a szeme ide-oda ingadozott az ï¿½ra kis mutatï¿½ja ï¿½s a vï¿½z sï¿½ma felszï¿½ne kï¿½zï¿½tt - a nï¿½k sohasem ï¿½sznak olyan jï¿½l, mint a fï¿½rfiak. ï¿½ igen... Hï¿½rom perc negyven mï¿½sodperc! Lefï¿½zte az apjï¿½t!

- De ï¿½t percet sem fog kibï¿½rni odalenn, tï¿½znï¿½l mindenesetre sokkal kevesebbet, - ï¿½llapï¿½totta meg Dick ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen - felrobbanna a tï¿½deje.

Nï¿½gy perc elteltï¿½vel Tullynï¿½ izgatott kezdett lenni ï¿½s aggodalmasan nï¿½zett az egyik arcrï¿½l a mï¿½sikra. Lester kapitï¿½ny, aki nem volt beavatva, kï¿½romkodva topogott ide-oda ï¿½s vï¿½gï¿½l is beugrott a vï¿½zbe.

- Valami tï¿½rtï¿½nt, - mondta Tullynï¿½ megï¿½rizve ï¿½nuralmï¿½t - talï¿½n baja esett ugrï¿½s kï¿½zben. Maguk fï¿½rfiak, menjenek utï¿½na.

Graham, Bert ï¿½s Dick talï¿½lkoztak a vï¿½z alatt, vidï¿½man vigyorogtak ï¿½s jelentï¿½sen nyomkodtï¿½k egymï¿½s kezï¿½t. Dick jelet adott a mï¿½sik kettï¿½nek, hogy kï¿½vessï¿½k ï¿½s az ï¿½rnyas, sï¿½tï¿½t vï¿½z alatt odaï¿½szott a szelelï¿½hï¿½z, ott csatlakoztak Paulï¿½hoz ï¿½s taposva a vizet, halkan suttogtak ï¿½s nevetgï¿½ltek.

- Csak azï¿½rt jï¿½ttï¿½nk, - magyarï¿½zta Dick - hogy megmondjuk: minden rendben van. Most csak mï¿½g ï¿½gyesebben folytatni kell... Te menj elï¿½re, Bert. ï¿½n majd Evan utï¿½n.

Egymï¿½sutï¿½n mentek a sï¿½tï¿½t vï¿½z alï¿½ ï¿½s egymï¿½sutï¿½n bukkantak ki a medence felszï¿½nï¿½n. Ekkorra Tullynï¿½ mï¿½r felkelt ï¿½s ott ï¿½llott a medence peremï¿½n.

- Ha tudnï¿½m, hogy megint viccelsz, Dick... - kezdte mondani.

De Dick ï¿½gyet sem vetett rï¿½, emberfeletti nyugalmat mï¿½melt ï¿½s olyan hangosan rendelkezett, hogy Tullynï¿½ is hallja:

- Ezt rendszeresen kell csinï¿½lni, gyerekek. Bert ï¿½s Evan, gyertek velem. Kï¿½t-kï¿½t mï¿½ternyire egymï¿½stï¿½l ezen az oldalon indulunk ï¿½s vï¿½gigkutatjuk a feneket. Aztï¿½n megyï¿½nk tovï¿½bb ï¿½s megismï¿½teljï¿½k visszafelï¿½.

- Ne fï¿½radjanak az urak, - kiï¿½ltotta Tullynï¿½, aki mï¿½r nevetni kezdett - te pedig, Dick, csak gyere ki. Nyakon akarlak ï¿½tni.

- Vigyï¿½zzatok rï¿½, lï¿½nyok, - kiï¿½ltott Dick - nevetï¿½gï¿½rcsï¿½t kapott szegï¿½ny.

- Mï¿½g nem kaptam, - kacagott Tullynï¿½ - de fogok.

- De a keserves teremtï¿½sit neki, asszonyom, ez nem nevetni valï¿½! - lihegte Lester kapitï¿½ny, mikï¿½zben kï¿½szï¿½lï¿½dï¿½tt megint nekivï¿½gni, hogy felkutassa a feneket.

Mikor a derï¿½k tengerï¿½sz a vï¿½z alï¿½ merï¿½lt, Dick megkï¿½rdezte:

- Rï¿½jï¿½tt, Martha nï¿½ni, komolyan ï¿½s igazï¿½n rï¿½jï¿½tt?

Tullynï¿½ bï¿½lintott.

- De azï¿½rt csak folytassï¿½tok, van mï¿½g egy beugrott ember. Nekem Coghlan Elsie anyja tavaly Honoluluban elmondta az egï¿½szet.

Paula mosolygï¿½ arca csak tizenegy perc elteltï¿½vel bukkant fel a felszï¿½n alï¿½l. Adta a kimerï¿½ltet, gyorsan kievickï¿½lt ï¿½s a nagynï¿½ni mellett zihï¿½lva omlott a fï¿½ldre. Lester kapitï¿½ny, aki a megerï¿½ltetï¿½, serï¿½ny kutatï¿½stï¿½l csakugyan kimerï¿½lt, figyelmesen tanulmï¿½nyozta Paulï¿½t, aztï¿½n odament a legkï¿½zelebbi oszlophoz ï¿½s hï¿½romszor alï¿½zatosan odacsapta a fejï¿½t a betonhoz.

- Fï¿½lek, hogy nem voltam lenn tï¿½z percig, - mondta Paula - de nem sokkal kevesebb ideig voltam, ï¿½gy-e, Martha nï¿½ni?

- Egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem voltï¿½l sokï¿½ig vï¿½z alatt, - felelte Tullynï¿½ - ha kï¿½vï¿½ncsi vagy a vï¿½lemï¿½nyemre. Mï¿½g az is meglep, hogy nedves vagy. Na, na, vegyï¿½l rendesen lï¿½lekzetet, fiam. A szï¿½nï¿½szetnek nincs ï¿½rtelme. Emlï¿½kszem kislï¿½nykoromra, mikor Indiï¿½ban utaztam. Ott volt egy fakï¿½r-iskola. A fakï¿½rok mï¿½ly kutakba mentek le ï¿½s sokkal tovï¿½bb voltak lenn, mint te, ï¿½des fiam, sokkal tovï¿½bb.

- Maga tudta! - szï¿½lt vï¿½dolï¿½ hangon Paula.

- De te nem tudtad, hogy tudom. ï¿½s ennï¿½lfogva nagyon csunyï¿½n viselted magad. Egy hï¿½lgy az ï¿½n koromban ï¿½s ilyen szï¿½vvel...

- ï¿½s ilyen kemï¿½ny fejjel...

- Egy fï¿½lesgombï¿½rt szï¿½vesen nyakon ï¿½tnï¿½lek.

- Egy fï¿½lesgombï¿½rt szï¿½vesen megï¿½lelnï¿½m magï¿½t, - nevetett vissza Paula - ilyen csuronvizesen. De legalï¿½bb Lester kapitï¿½nyt bolonddï¿½ tartottuk. ï¿½gy-e, kapitï¿½ny?

- Ne beszï¿½ljen hozzï¿½m, - morogta sï¿½tï¿½ten a derï¿½k kapitï¿½ny - el vagyok foglalva, a bosszï¿½ï¿½llï¿½son gondolkozom. Ami magï¿½t illeti, Forrest, egyelï¿½re habozok, vajjon felrobbantsam a tejgazdasï¿½gï¿½t, vagy lesï¿½ntï¿½tsam a Hegyi Fickï¿½t. Lehet, hogy megteszem mind a kettï¿½t. Kï¿½zben kimegyek megnï¿½zni, melyik lï¿½ a magï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½s megrï¿½gom.

Dick a Haramiï¿½n, Paula a Szarvason egymï¿½s mellett lovagoltak haza a nagy hï¿½zba.

- Hogy tetszik neked Graham? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

- Nagyszerï¿½ ember, - felelte Paula - a te tï¿½pusod, Dick. Univerzï¿½lis ember, mint te, ï¿½s ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy rajta van a vilï¿½glï¿½tottsï¿½g ï¿½s kalandos mult mindenfï¿½le bï¿½lyege, tenger, kï¿½nyv, minden. Mï¿½vï¿½szlï¿½lek mï¿½g hozzï¿½ ï¿½s igazï¿½n sokoldalï¿½. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l kedï¿½lye is van. Megfigyelted a mosolyï¿½t? Ellenï¿½llhatatlan. Muszï¿½j vele mosolyogni.

- ï¿½gy van. De megvannak a komoly vonï¿½sai is.

- Igen, ott a szeme sarkï¿½ban, rï¿½gtï¿½n a mosolygï¿½sa utï¿½n, ï¿½szre lehet venni. Nem ï¿½ppen fï¿½radtsï¿½gra vallï¿½ vonï¿½sok, inkï¿½bb azok a rï¿½gi, ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½s kï¿½rdï¿½sek: miï¿½rt, minek, mire jï¿½ ez, mire valï¿½ az egï¿½sz?

A lovascsapat sereghajtï¿½i gyanï¿½nt Ernestine ï¿½s Graham beszï¿½lgettek hï¿½tul.

- Dick mï¿½ly ember, - mondta Ernestine - maga egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ismeri ï¿½t teljesen. Fï¿½lelmesen mï¿½ly ember! ï¿½n egy kicsit ismerem. Paula nagyon ismeri. De azonkï¿½vï¿½l nagyon kevesen lï¿½thatnak a felszï¿½ne alï¿½. ï¿½ igazi filozï¿½fus, olyan ï¿½nuralma van, mint egy sztoikus bï¿½lcsnek vagy egy angol embernek ï¿½s ï¿½gy tud komï¿½diï¿½zni, hogy bolonddï¿½ tartja az egï¿½sz vilï¿½got.

A hosszï¿½ kerï¿½tï¿½snï¿½l a tï¿½lgyek alatt, ahol a lï¿½rï¿½l leszï¿½llï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½g ï¿½sszeverï¿½dï¿½tt, Paula az oldalï¿½t fogta a nevetï¿½stï¿½l.

- Tovï¿½bb, tovï¿½bb, - biztatta Dicket - mï¿½g, mï¿½g!

- Paula azzal vï¿½dolt, - magyarï¿½zta Dick - hogy azzal a rendszerrel, ahogy az inasokat szoktam elkeresztelni, kimerï¿½tem a szï¿½tï¿½ramat.

- ï¿½ pedig mï¿½sfï¿½l perc alatt legalï¿½bb negyven ilyen nevet mondott mï¿½g... tovï¿½bb, Dick, mï¿½g...

- Aztï¿½n - folytatta Dick ï¿½neklï¿½ hangon - lehet mï¿½g Lï¿½tode ï¿½s Tudode, Fusside ï¿½s Menjoda, Figyeljcsak ï¿½s ï¿½gyeljcsak, Hopplahï¿½ ï¿½s Netene, Hajahaj ï¿½s Ejnyeno, Azabaj ï¿½s Azajï¿½, Forduljfel ï¿½s Pukkadjmeg, ï¿½rdï¿½gvigyen ï¿½s Azanyï¿½d...

Azzal sarkantyï¿½pengetve bement a hï¿½zba, mï¿½g ï¿½tkï¿½zben is folytatva a rï¿½gtï¿½nzï¿½tt nï¿½vjegyzï¿½ket.

Az elï¿½gedetlensï¿½g ï¿½s nyugtalansï¿½g egy hete kï¿½vetkezett most Graham szï¿½mï¿½ra. Vï¿½vï¿½dott rï¿½szint annak tudata kï¿½zï¿½tt, hogy az elsï¿½ vonattal el kellene hagynia a nagy hï¿½zat, rï¿½szint a vï¿½gy kï¿½zï¿½tt, hogy lï¿½ssa ï¿½s mï¿½g tï¿½bbet lï¿½ssa Paulï¿½t, hogy vele legyen ï¿½s tï¿½bbet legyen vele, - sem el nem utazott, sem pedig nem lï¿½tta gyakrabban, mint ittlï¿½te legelsï¿½ napjai alatt.

Elï¿½szï¿½r is az alatt az ï¿½t nap alatt, mï¿½g az ifjï¿½ hegedï¿½mï¿½vï¿½sz itt volt, az szinte teljesen lefoglalta magï¿½nak Paula minden nyilvï¿½nos idejï¿½t. Graham gyakran bevetï¿½dï¿½tt a zeneterembe ï¿½s mialatt azok ï¿½gyet sem vetettek rï¿½, kedvetlenï¿½l ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lt ott fï¿½lï¿½rï¿½k hosszat ï¿½s hallgatta ï¿½gynevezett munkï¿½jukat. ï¿½k egï¿½szen megfeledkeztek a jelenlï¿½tï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s vagy belepirulva mï¿½lyedtek el a szenvedï¿½lyes muzsikï¿½lï¿½sba, vagy ï¿½sszedugva a fejï¿½ket pajtï¿½skodï¿½an fecsegtek ï¿½s nevetgï¿½ltek a pihenï¿½ szï¿½netek alatt. Hogy a fiatal muzsikus mï¿½r szinte kï¿½nos hevessï¿½ggel szerelmes Paulï¿½ba, az nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½ volt Graham elï¿½tt. De ami rosszul esett neki, az az ï¿½nkï¿½nytelen hï¿½dolat volt, amellyel az asszonyka nï¿½ha Warere pillantott, mikor az kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen szï¿½pen csinï¿½lt valamit. Hiï¿½ba prï¿½bï¿½lta magï¿½nak mondani Graham, hogy ebben az asszonynak csak az ï¿½rtelme szï¿½lalt meg, csak a mï¿½sik mï¿½vï¿½szetï¿½nek adï¿½zott a gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dï¿½ elismerï¿½ssel. Graham fï¿½rfi volt ï¿½s rosszul esett neki. ï¿½s addig esett rosszul, amï¿½g nem bï¿½rt tovï¿½bb ott maradni.

Egyszer vï¿½letlenï¿½l ï¿½ppen akkor cseppent oda a zeneterembe, mikor egy Schumann-dal befejezï¿½se utï¿½n Ware elment. Paula mï¿½g ott ï¿½lt a zongorï¿½nï¿½l, arcï¿½n valami ï¿½tszellemï¿½lt ï¿½lmodozï¿½s kifejezï¿½sï¿½vel. Ahogy rï¿½nï¿½zett Grahamre, szinte nem ismerte meg, gï¿½piesen felszedelï¿½dzkï¿½dï¿½tt, mondott valami szï¿½rakozott kï¿½zhelyet. Grahamet ez sï¿½rtette ï¿½s bï¿½ntotta, de igyekezett azt gondolni, hogy ez Paula rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l csak affï¿½le mï¿½vï¿½szï¿½brï¿½nd, az imï¿½nt jï¿½tszott zenï¿½nek mï¿½g lelkï¿½ben csengï¿½ visszhangjï¿½ra valï¿½ hallgatï¿½s. Azonban ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l okoskodni kezdett: az asszonyok furcsa teremtmï¿½nyei az ï¿½ristennek, kï¿½pesek szï¿½vï¿½ket a legkï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sebb ï¿½s legkï¿½vetkezetlenebb mï¿½don elveszï¿½teni. Hï¿½tha ez a fiatal legï¿½ny ï¿½ppen a zenï¿½jï¿½vel fogja meg benne a nï¿½t?

Ware elutazï¿½sa utï¿½n Forrest Paula ï¿½gyszï¿½lvï¿½n teljesen visszavonult a maga lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ba a titkos ajtï¿½ mï¿½gï¿½. De mint Graham a szemï¿½lyzeten ï¿½szrevette, ezt senki sem talï¿½lta feltï¿½nï¿½nek.

- Paula olyan nï¿½, - magyarï¿½zta Ernestine - aki kitï¿½nï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½got talï¿½l sajï¿½t magï¿½ban. Gyakran vannak nï¿½la a magï¿½nyossï¿½gnak olyan idï¿½szakai, mikor Dick az egyetlen, aki lï¿½tja.

- Ami a tï¿½rsasï¿½g tï¿½bbi rï¿½szï¿½re nem nagyon hï¿½zelgï¿½ - mondta mosolyogva Graham.

- Ami azt jelenti, - vetette ellen Ernestine - hogy mindig kitï¿½nï¿½nek talï¿½lja a tï¿½rsasï¿½got, valahï¿½nyszor tï¿½rsasï¿½gban van.

A vendï¿½gjï¿½rï¿½s a nagy hï¿½zban csappanï¿½fï¿½lben volt. Jï¿½tt mï¿½g nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½j vendï¿½g, ï¿½zleti vagy tï¿½rsadalmi alapon, de tï¿½bben mentek el. Hallode ï¿½s kï¿½nai szemï¿½lyzete rï¿½vï¿½n a nagy hï¿½z ï¿½lete ï¿½gy folyt, mint a karikacsapï¿½s, hogy a vendï¿½gek szï¿½rakoztatï¿½sa a hï¿½ziak nagyon csekï¿½ly kï¿½telessï¿½gï¿½nek tï¿½nt fel. A vendï¿½gek bï¿½ven elszï¿½rakoztak vagy magukban, vagy egymï¿½ssal. Dick a lunch elï¿½tt mï¿½g egy percre is ritkï¿½n jelent meg. Paula pedig, aki most kï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½letï¿½nek programjï¿½t ï¿½lte, diner elï¿½tt sohasem volt lï¿½thatï¿½.

- Ne gondolj a gonddal! - mondta nevetve egy dï¿½lben Dick ï¿½s a box-kesztyï¿½k, kardok ï¿½s tï¿½rï¿½k birodalmï¿½ban egy kis testmozgï¿½sra hï¿½vta ki Grahamet.

Mikor kï¿½t menet kï¿½zï¿½tt kifï¿½jtï¿½k magukat, ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- ï¿½s most itt az ideje, hogy nekilï¿½ss annak a kï¿½nyvnek. ï¿½n csak egy vagyok a sok kï¿½zï¿½l, akik vï¿½rnak, hogy olvashassï¿½k, ï¿½s mï¿½r nagyon vï¿½rom. Tegnap kaptam Havelytï¿½l levelet. Emlï¿½ti a kï¿½nyvet ï¿½s kï¿½vï¿½ncsi, mennyire vagy.

Igy aztï¿½n Graham a toronyszobï¿½ban rendbeszedte a jegyzeteit ï¿½s fï¿½nykï¿½pfelvï¿½teleit, megcsinï¿½lta a munka vï¿½zlatï¿½t ï¿½s nekifogott a bevezetï¿½ fejezeteknek. Annyira belemerï¿½lt, hogy Paula irï¿½nt ï¿½bredezï¿½ ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½se elhalvï¿½nyodott volna, ha nem talï¿½lkozik vele minden este a dinernï¿½l. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l, mï¿½g Ernestine ï¿½s Lute el nem utaztak Santa Barbarï¿½ba, mindig volt dï¿½lutï¿½nonkï¿½nt ï¿½szï¿½s, lovaglï¿½s, vagy autï¿½-kirï¿½ndulï¿½s a Miramar-dombok legelï¿½ire ï¿½s az Anselmo-hegyek fensï¿½k-tanyï¿½ira. Tettek mï¿½s autï¿½utakat is, olykor Dick is velï¿½k tartott, a Sacramento medrï¿½ben dolgozï¿½ nagy kotrï¿½gï¿½pekhez, a Kis Farkas ï¿½s Los Cuatos folyï¿½cskï¿½k gï¿½tï¿½pï¿½tï¿½seihez, vagy az ï¿½tvenholdas farmerek tizenkï¿½tezer holdnyi kolï¿½niï¿½jï¿½hoz, ahol Dick megprï¿½bï¿½lta, hogy kï¿½tszï¿½zï¿½tven csalï¿½dapa a csalï¿½djï¿½val egyï¿½tt meggazdagodjï¿½k a fï¿½ldbï¿½l.

Graham tudta, hogy Paula nï¿½ha hosszï¿½ magï¿½nyos lovaglï¿½sokat csinï¿½l. Egyszer ott is kapta a kerï¿½tï¿½snï¿½l, mikor leszï¿½llt a Szarvasrï¿½l.

- Nem gondolja, - mondta neki szemrehï¿½nyï¿½an - hogy megrï¿½vidï¿½ti a lovï¿½t, ha nem tï¿½rsasï¿½gban lovagolja?

Paula nevetett ï¿½s a fejï¿½t rï¿½zta.

- Hï¿½t akkor - rukkolt ki bï¿½tran Graham - ï¿½n mï¿½gis szeretnï¿½k magï¿½val kilovagolni.

- Ott van Lute, Ernestine, Bert, meg a tï¿½bbiek.

- Ez az orszï¿½g ï¿½j orszï¿½g nekem. ï¿½s az ember csak olyanok ï¿½ltal ismerhet meg egy vidï¿½ket, akik ismerik. Lï¿½ttam ezt a vidï¿½ket a Lute, az Ernestine ï¿½s mind a tï¿½bbiek szemï¿½n keresztï¿½l, de mï¿½g nagyon sok minden van, amit nem lï¿½ttam ï¿½s amit csak a maga szemï¿½n ï¿½t lï¿½thatok.

- Tetszetï¿½s elmï¿½let, - felelte Paula kitï¿½rï¿½en - maga egy... egy tï¿½jkï¿½p-vampï¿½r.

- De a vampï¿½rok gonosz kï¿½vetkezmï¿½nyei nï¿½lkï¿½l - felelte Graham gyorsan.

Paula nem vï¿½laszolt azonnal. Nyiltan ï¿½s egyenesen nï¿½zett a fï¿½rfi szemï¿½be ï¿½s az lï¿½thatta, hogy Paula megfontolta ï¿½s meggondolta, amit mond.

- Nem tudom, jï¿½l ï¿½rtem-e magï¿½t? - mondta vï¿½gre az asszonyka. ï¿½s Graham fantï¿½ziï¿½ja rï¿½ugrott erre a pï¿½r szï¿½ra ï¿½s sorra vette ï¿½s talï¿½lgatta az esetleg bennï¿½k rejlï¿½ mellï¿½kï¿½rtelmet.

- De hiszen annyi mindent beszï¿½lhetnï¿½nk egymï¿½ssal, - prï¿½bï¿½lkozott ismï¿½t - annyi mindent... kellene beszï¿½lnï¿½nk egymï¿½ssal...

- Igy ï¿½rtettem - mondta Paula nyugodtan. ï¿½s a szavait megint az a nyilt, egyenes tekintet kï¿½sï¿½rte.

ï¿½gy ï¿½rtette. Ez a gondolat lï¿½ngba borï¿½totta Grahamet. De a nyelve nem volt elï¿½g gyors ï¿½s nem tudta kivï¿½deni azt a hï¿½vï¿½s, kihï¿½vï¿½ nevetï¿½st, amellyel Paula befordult a hï¿½zba.

A nagy hï¿½z tï¿½rsasï¿½ga tovï¿½bb fogyatkozott. Paula nagynï¿½nje, Tullynï¿½, Graham nagy csalï¿½dï¿½sï¿½ra, aki sokat akart mï¿½g tï¿½le megtudni Paula felï¿½l, nï¿½hï¿½ny napi idï¿½zï¿½s utï¿½n elutazott. Esett ugyan szï¿½, hogy talï¿½n hosszabb tartï¿½zkodï¿½sra visszatï¿½r, de maga Tullynï¿½ mondta, hogy mivel most jï¿½tt haza Eurï¿½pï¿½bï¿½l, egï¿½sz csomï¿½ olyan kï¿½telessï¿½gszerï¿½ lï¿½togatï¿½s van a nyakï¿½n, amit elï¿½bb le akar adni, hogy aztï¿½n az ï¿½lvezetes lï¿½togatï¿½sokhoz fogjon hozzï¿½.

O'Hay, a zenekritikus, kï¿½nytelen volt nï¿½hï¿½ny napot itt vesztegelni mï¿½g, hogy szemï¿½lyesen, szemtï¿½l-szembe ï¿½lje tï¿½l annak a zenei tï¿½madï¿½snak szï¿½rnyï¿½ kulminï¿½ciï¿½jï¿½t, amelyet a filozï¿½fusok zï¿½dï¿½tottak rï¿½. Ez persze a Dick ï¿½tlete ï¿½s trï¿½fï¿½ja volt. A csata estig is eltartott, ha Ernestine egy lï¿½tszï¿½lag vï¿½letlen megjegyzï¿½se alkalmat adott Hancock Aaronnak, hogy belevesse az elsï¿½ bombï¿½t O'Hay legmï¿½lyebb meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½seinek kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½be. Hyal Dar, aki kï¿½szsï¿½ges ï¿½s heves szï¿½vetsï¿½gesnek bizonyult, robbantï¿½ zeneelmï¿½letï¿½re tï¿½maszkodva, ï¿½tkarolï¿½ tï¿½madï¿½ssal sietett a veszï¿½lyeztetett O'Hay segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½re. Az ï¿½tkï¿½zet dï¿½hï¿½ngve tombolt addig, mï¿½g a lobbanï¿½kony ï¿½r ember, aki a kï¿½t ï¿½gyes szï¿½facsarï¿½ ellenfï¿½l vï¿½gï¿½saitï¿½l mï¿½r magï¿½nkï¿½vï¿½l volt, nagy lelki kï¿½nnyebbsï¿½ggel el nem fogadta Mc Fane Terrence gyengï¿½d unszolï¿½sï¿½t, hogy vonuljanak vissza kettesben egy nyugalmas helyre, pihenjenek meg a biliï¿½rdteremben, ahol ketten egy csillapï¿½tï¿½ italka mellett, tï¿½vol ezektï¿½l a barbï¿½roktï¿½l, szï¿½vï¿½k szerint kidiskurï¿½lhatjï¿½k magukat az igazi zenï¿½rï¿½l. ï¿½s reggel kï¿½t ï¿½rï¿½ra a szemï¿½t vadul forgatï¿½ ï¿½s dï¿½hï¿½ngï¿½ O'Hay ott tartott, hogy az egyenesen lï¿½pdelï¿½ ï¿½s megdï¿½nthetetlenï¿½l szilï¿½rd Terrence vitte lefekï¿½dni.

- Nem tesz semmit, - mondta kï¿½sï¿½bb Ernestine O'Haynek - ez elï¿½relï¿½thatï¿½ volt. Ezek a szï¿½szï¿½tyï¿½r filozï¿½fusok mï¿½g egy szentet is az ivï¿½sba kergetnï¿½nek.

- Azt hittem, hogy a Terrence kezï¿½ben magï¿½t nem kell fï¿½lteni, - mentegetï¿½dzï¿½tt Dick trï¿½fï¿½san - tudja, mï¿½gis: kï¿½t ï¿½r ember egyï¿½tt... Elfelejtettem, hogy Terrence rettenetesen tud inni. Mikor magï¿½nak jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nt, akkor mï¿½g feljï¿½tt hozzï¿½m egy kis beszï¿½lgetï¿½sre. ï¿½s olyan szilï¿½rd volt, mint a kï¿½szikla. ï¿½gy beszï¿½d kï¿½zben emlï¿½tette, hogy lenyelt nï¿½hï¿½ny kortyot, ï¿½n, ï¿½n... igazï¿½n nem is ï¿½lmodtam, hogy... magï¿½t... ilyen kellemetlen helyzetbe hozta...

Mikor Lute ï¿½s Ernestine elutaztak Santa Barbarï¿½ba, Wainwright Bertnek ï¿½s a hugï¿½nak eszï¿½be jutott, hogy Sacramentï¿½ban nekik is van egy otthonuk, amelyet rï¿½gï¿½ta elhanyagoltak mï¿½r. Ugyanaznap kï¿½t festï¿½ ï¿½rkezett, Paula pï¿½rtfogoltjai. De ezek keveset mutatkoztak, befogattak ï¿½s egï¿½sz napra kimentek a dombok kï¿½zï¿½, vagy hosszï¿½szï¿½rï¿½ pipï¿½jukbï¿½l pï¿½fï¿½keltek a biliï¿½rdteremben.

A nagy hï¿½z kï¿½nnyï¿½, szabad ï¿½lete haladt tovï¿½bb, mint a vï¿½zfolyï¿½s. Dick dolgozott. Graham dolgozott. Paula megmaradt a maga visszavonultsï¿½gï¿½ban. A madrono-erdei bï¿½lcsek otthon maradtak beszï¿½lgetï¿½ssel fï¿½szerezett vacsorï¿½juknï¿½l vagy vitaestï¿½lyeiken ï¿½s csak akkor jï¿½ttek be, ha Paula zongorï¿½zott nekik. Sacramentï¿½bï¿½l, Wickenbergbï¿½l ï¿½s a vï¿½lgy mï¿½s vï¿½rosaibï¿½l most is vï¿½ratlanul be-becsï¿½ppentek autï¿½zï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½gok, de ez sohasem zavarta Hallodï¿½t ï¿½s inasseregï¿½t; Graham vï¿½gignï¿½zte, mikor adott esetben tï¿½kï¿½letes diner mellï¿½ tudtak leï¿½ltetni hï¿½sz vï¿½ratlan vendï¿½get, ha az ï¿½rtesï¿½tï¿½st hï¿½sz perccel elï¿½bb megkaptï¿½k. Voltak olyan estï¿½k is, bï¿½r ritkï¿½n, mikor csak Dick, Graham ï¿½s Paula ï¿½ltek a diner-asztalnï¿½l. Ilyenkor a kï¿½t fï¿½rfi a korai lefekvï¿½s elï¿½tt mï¿½g elbeszï¿½lgetett egy ï¿½rï¿½t, Paula pedig kï¿½nnyï¿½ dolgokat zongorï¿½zgatott magï¿½nak, vagy mï¿½g hamarabb visszavonult, mint ï¿½k.

De egy holdvilï¿½gos este, mikor Watsonï¿½k, Masonï¿½k ï¿½s Womboldï¿½k autï¿½kon beï¿½llï¿½tottak, Graham azon vette ï¿½szre magï¿½t, hogy mindegyik bridge-nï¿½gyes ï¿½sszeverï¿½dï¿½tt mï¿½r ï¿½s ï¿½ mindegyikbï¿½l kimaradt. Paula zongorï¿½zott. Graham, mikor odalï¿½pett, elkapta a szemï¿½ben az ï¿½rï¿½m villanï¿½sï¿½t, amely ï¿½ppen olyan gyorsan el is tï¿½nt. Paula kï¿½nnyed mozdulatot tett, mintha fel akarna kelni. Ezt Graham ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy megfigyelte, mint azt: mennyire ura ez az asszony az aprï¿½ ï¿½sztï¿½neinek. Mert ï¿½lve maradt.

Azonnal az lett megint az asszonyka, gondolta magï¿½ban Graham, aminek eddig mindig lï¿½tta, az igaz, hogy elï¿½g keveset lï¿½tott belï¿½le. A fï¿½rfi beszï¿½lt, ami ï¿½ppen eszï¿½be ï¿½tlï¿½tt ï¿½s az asszonnyal egyï¿½tt bï¿½ngï¿½szett a dalkottï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt. Egyik dalt a mï¿½sik utï¿½n prï¿½bï¿½lgatta vele ï¿½s olyan sikerrel rendelte alï¿½ a maga magas baritonjï¿½t a Paula vilï¿½gos szoprï¿½njï¿½nak, hogy a bridgezï¿½k tï¿½bb dalt megï¿½ljeneztek.

- Igen, hatï¿½rozottan fï¿½jdalmat ï¿½rzek a vï¿½gytï¿½l, hogy megint kimehessek Dickkel a nagyvilï¿½gba, - mondta Paula, mikor szï¿½netet tartottak - ï¿½, bï¿½rcsak holnap indulhatnï¿½nk. De Dick most nem utazhatik. Nyakig ï¿½l mindenfï¿½le kï¿½sï¿½rletekben ï¿½s gazdasï¿½gi esemï¿½nyekben. Hï¿½t pï¿½ldï¿½ul mit gondol, mit tervez megint? Mintha nem lenne ï¿½gyis elï¿½g dolga, most azon van, hogy felforgassa az egï¿½sz eladï¿½si rendszert, vagy legalï¿½bb a Kaliforniï¿½ra ï¿½s a Pacific-partvidï¿½kre vonatkozï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½t: a vevï¿½ket ide akarja hozni a gazdasï¿½gra.

- Hiszen jï¿½nnek. Az elsï¿½ ember, akivel itt talï¿½lkoztam, idahoi bevï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½ ï¿½gynï¿½k volt.

- Igen, de Dick az egï¿½szet intï¿½zmï¿½nyesen akarja megcsinï¿½lni, tudja, ï¿½gy, hogy valamennyien en masse jï¿½jjenek egy meghatï¿½rozott idï¿½ben. Nem olyan egyszerï¿½ aukciï¿½fï¿½le eladï¿½sra gondol, ï¿½mbï¿½r azt mondja, hogy egy kicsit ilyesmivel is felpiszkï¿½lja ï¿½ket ï¿½s nï¿½veli az ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½st. Hanem ï¿½venkï¿½nt nagy vï¿½sï¿½rt gondol, hï¿½rom napig tartï¿½ nagy kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½st, ahol ï¿½ az egyetlen kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½. Mostanï¿½ban minden dï¿½lelï¿½ttjï¿½nek a felï¿½t Agar ï¿½s Pitts urakkal tï¿½lti. Agar az eladï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½je. Pitts a kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½je.

Sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s vï¿½gigfuttatta ujjait a billentyï¿½soron.

- ï¿½, csak elmehetnï¿½nk mï¿½gis... Timbuktuba, Mokpï¿½ba vagy Jerikï¿½ba!

- Csak nem akarja azt mondani, - nevetett Graham - hogy volt mï¿½r Mokpï¿½ban?

- Eskï¿½szï¿½m mindenre, ami szent ï¿½s az ï¿½letemre. Voltam. Rï¿½gesrï¿½gen, Dickkel egyï¿½tt, a Tovï¿½bb vitorlï¿½s idejï¿½n. Szinte azt mondhatnï¿½m, hogy mï¿½zesheteinket Mokpï¿½ban tï¿½ltï¿½ttï¿½k.

ï¿½s Graham, mialatt mokpï¿½i visszaemlï¿½kezï¿½seket cserï¿½lt ki vele, azon tï¿½rte a fejï¿½t, vajjon Paula szï¿½ndï¿½kosan hivatkozik-e folytonosan az urï¿½ra.

- Az ember azt hinnï¿½, hogy maga itt paradicsomnak talï¿½lja az ï¿½letet.

- Hogyne, hogyne, - felelte Paula olyan hangon, amely Graham elï¿½tt fï¿½lï¿½sleges buzgalomnak lï¿½tszott - de utï¿½bbi idï¿½ben nem tudom, mi lelt. Parancsolï¿½ szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½rzem annak, hogy felkerekedjem. Tavaszi nyugtalansï¿½g, azt hiszem. Az indiï¿½n vï¿½rï¿½s istenek varï¿½zsa. Csak Dick ne dolgoznï¿½ agyon magï¿½t ï¿½s ne kï¿½tnï¿½ meg kezï¿½t-lï¿½bï¿½t mindenfï¿½le tervekkel. Tudja, egï¿½sz hï¿½zassï¿½gunk alatt az egyetlen komoly rivï¿½lisom ez a gazdasï¿½g volt. Dick hï¿½sï¿½ges termï¿½szetï¿½ ember ï¿½s alapjï¿½ban vï¿½ve ez a gazdasï¿½g az elsï¿½ szerelme. Mï¿½g akkor tervelte ki ï¿½s indï¿½totta el az egï¿½szet, mikor engem nem ismert ï¿½s azt sem tudta, hogy a vilï¿½gon vagyok.

- Itt ni, prï¿½bï¿½ljuk csak ezt egyï¿½tt, - mondta Graham hirtelen, egy dalt rakva elï¿½je a kottatartï¿½ra.

- Hiszen ez a »Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tja«. Ettï¿½l mï¿½g jobban rï¿½mjï¿½n a bolondï¿½ra.

ï¿½s elkezdte dï¿½dolni:

A nyugvï¿½ napnak szï¿½llta felï¿½

Kï¿½vesd a hï¿½vï¿½ szavakat,

Mï¿½g hontalanul visz a szï¿½l tovï¿½bb,

S mindegy: kelet ï¿½s nyugat.

- Mit kell az alatt ï¿½rteni, - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe magï¿½t - hogy hï¿½vï¿½ szavakat? ï¿½n mindig ï¿½gy ï¿½rtettem, hogy cigï¿½ny szavakat, cigï¿½ny nyelvet. Nï¿½ha olyan bolond dolognak ï¿½reztem, milyen furcsa lehet egy nyelvet kï¿½vetni a vilï¿½g kï¿½rï¿½l, milyen ï¿½rdekes biolï¿½giai kirï¿½ndulï¿½s.

- Elvï¿½gre lehetne ï¿½gy is magyarï¿½zni. De nem azt jelenti. Egy mï¿½sik strï¿½fï¿½bï¿½l meg lehet ï¿½llapï¿½tani, hogy ez a hï¿½vï¿½ szï¿½ a cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tmutatï¿½ jeleire vonatkozik. ï¿½k kï¿½t ï¿½gacskï¿½t szoktak bizonyos formï¿½ban keresztbe tenni ï¿½s az ï¿½ton hagyjï¿½k, ez a cigï¿½ny ï¿½tjelzï¿½. A kï¿½t ï¿½gat kï¿½t kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ fï¿½rï¿½l vagy bokorrï¿½l kell tï¿½rni. Pï¿½ldï¿½ul itt a farmon manzanita-ï¿½gbï¿½l ï¿½s madrono-ï¿½gbï¿½l lehetne cigï¿½ny ï¿½tjelzï¿½t csinï¿½lni, vagy tï¿½lgyfagallybï¿½l ï¿½s vï¿½rï¿½sfenyï¿½bï¿½l, vagy vadgesztenyï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½gerfï¿½bï¿½l, vagy borï¿½kafenyï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s borostyï¿½nbï¿½l vagy ï¿½fonyï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s orgonï¿½bï¿½l. Ez a cigï¿½ny-cimbora jele a cimbora szï¿½mï¿½ra, vagy a cigï¿½ny-szerelmes jele a szerelmes szï¿½mï¿½ra. ï¿½s most ï¿½ dï¿½dolta:

Vissza az ï¿½tra tovï¿½bb, tovï¿½bb,

Tenger hiï¿½ba int,

Kï¿½vesd a gallykereszteket,

Menj s tï¿½rj vissza megint.

Paula megï¿½rtï¿½en intett, egy pillanatig zavarodott szemmel nï¿½zett keresztï¿½l a hosszï¿½ szobï¿½n a kï¿½rtyï¿½zï¿½k felï¿½, aztï¿½n felocsudott pillanatnyi szï¿½rakozottsï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s hamar megszï¿½lalt:

- Tudja isten, nagyon sok cigï¿½nysï¿½g van nï¿½melyikï¿½nkben. ï¿½n mï¿½g telivï¿½r cigï¿½nynï¿½l is tï¿½bb vagyok. ï¿½s bukolikus hajlandï¿½sï¿½gai ellenï¿½re Dick is szï¿½letett cigï¿½ny. ï¿½s amit magï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½lt nekem, abbï¿½l magï¿½t is menthetetlenï¿½l cigï¿½nynak tartom.

- Tulajdonkï¿½ppen a fehï¿½r ember az igazi cigï¿½ny, a cigï¿½nyok kirï¿½lya. Messzebb hatï¿½rt bevï¿½ndorolt, vadabbul ï¿½s kevesebb felkï¿½szï¿½ltsï¿½ggel, mint akï¿½rmelyik cigï¿½ny. A cigï¿½nyok kï¿½vettï¿½k az ï¿½tjelzï¿½iket, de a fehï¿½r ember szï¿½mï¿½ra nem rakott gallykereszteket senki. Jï¿½jjï¿½n, prï¿½bï¿½ljuk meg.

ï¿½s amï¿½g a vers gondtalan mondatait a vidï¿½m, kï¿½nnyelmï¿½ melï¿½diï¿½ra elï¿½nekeltï¿½k, Graham lenï¿½zett Paulï¿½ra ï¿½s csodï¿½lkozott rajta is, sajï¿½t magï¿½n is. Dick fedele alatt neki nincs helye az asszony mellett. Mï¿½g mindig itt van, pedig mï¿½r napokkal elï¿½bb el kellett volna mennie. ï¿½vek hosszï¿½ sora utï¿½n most kezdte magï¿½t igazï¿½ban megismerni. Ez varï¿½zslat, ez ï¿½rï¿½let. Az volna jï¿½, ha azonnal eltï¿½pnï¿½ magï¿½t innen. ï¿½lt mï¿½r varï¿½zslatban azelï¿½tt is, ismerte az ilyen ï¿½rï¿½letet ï¿½s mindig ki tudta szakï¿½tani magï¿½t. Talï¿½n elpuhï¿½tottï¿½k az ï¿½vek? - kï¿½rdezte sajï¿½t magï¿½t. Vagy ez az ï¿½rï¿½let mï¿½lyebb, mint amilyet valaha ismert? Hiszen innen eltï¿½pni magï¿½t azt is jelentenï¿½, hogy drï¿½ga dolgokat tiporjon el magï¿½ban, fï¿½ltï¿½kenyen dï¿½delgetett ï¿½s fï¿½ltett drï¿½ga dolgait titkos belsï¿½ ï¿½letï¿½nek, amelyben mï¿½g sohasem kellett eltiporni semmit.

ï¿½s eddig nem szakï¿½totta ki magï¿½t. Itt ï¿½ll az asszony mellett, lenï¿½z barna hajkoronï¿½jï¿½ra, amely aranyosan ï¿½s bronzosan ragyog ï¿½s a fï¿½lek felett ï¿½rjï¿½ngï¿½ csigï¿½kba gï¿½ndï¿½rï¿½dik, ï¿½nekli vele ezt a dalt, amely lï¿½ngra lobbantja a lelket, amely az asszony lelkï¿½t is lï¿½ngra kell hogy lobbantsa, mert ez az asszony olyan, amilyen, ï¿½s ï¿½gy ï¿½rez, ahogy olykor elsuhanï¿½ homï¿½llyal fï¿½lig tudtï¿½n kï¿½vï¿½l sejteni engedi.

- Boszorkï¿½ny ez az asszony ï¿½s a hangja nem utolsï¿½ fegyvere a boszorkï¿½nysï¿½gï¿½nak - gondolta Graham, mikor a fï¿½lï¿½ben zengett ï¿½s remegett a Paula hangja, ez a gazdag asszonyi hang, amely minden mï¿½s nï¿½ï¿½tï¿½l eltï¿½rï¿½en annyira a Paula lï¿½nyï¿½nek eredeti hangja volt. ï¿½s Graham minden kï¿½tsï¿½gen tï¿½l tudta, hogy most az asszonyt is megï¿½rintette valahogyan ez az ï¿½rï¿½let, amely ï¿½t megragadta, hogy az asszonynak is ï¿½reznie kell, mint ahogy ï¿½ ï¿½rzi, hogy a fï¿½rfi ï¿½s a nï¿½ ï¿½sszetalï¿½lkoztak.

Megremegtek mind a ketten, mikor ï¿½nekeltek ï¿½s ennek a megremegï¿½snek puszta gondolata is ï¿½lesztette a fï¿½rfi ï¿½rï¿½letï¿½nek tï¿½zï¿½t, hï¿½t mï¿½g biztos tudata; a hangja ï¿½ntudatlanul hozzï¿½melegedett a befejezï¿½ sorok merï¿½szsï¿½gï¿½hez, mikor hangjuk ï¿½s remegï¿½sï¿½k egymï¿½sba fonï¿½dva ï¿½nekelte:

Sï¿½lyomnak a szï¿½llï¿½ fellegek,

Kis ï¿½znek a zï¿½ld legelï¿½,

A nï¿½ szï¿½vï¿½nek egy fï¿½rfiszï¿½v,

Mint hajdani szï¿½p idï¿½n,

A nï¿½ szï¿½vï¿½nek egy fï¿½rfiszï¿½v,

ï¿½gy szï¿½llj velem tovï¿½bb,

Ott messze, messze a hajnal int,

S miï¿½nk az egï¿½sz vilï¿½g.

Vï¿½rta, hogy Paula felnï¿½zzen, mikor az utolsï¿½ hangok elhaltak. De az asszony egy pillanatig mozdulatlan maradt. A zongorï¿½ra szegezte a szemï¿½t. ï¿½s az az arc, amely ekkor fordult Graham felï¿½, mï¿½r a nagy hï¿½z asszonykï¿½jï¿½nak az arca volt, a szï¿½ja huncutul mosolygott, a szemï¿½ben hamissï¿½g ragyogott.

- Gyerï¿½nk ï¿½s rï¿½zzuk fel Dicket. Veszï¿½t. Sose lï¿½ttam, hogy kï¿½rtya kï¿½zben kijï¿½tt volna a sodrï¿½bï¿½l, de nevetsï¿½gesen rosszkedvï¿½ lesz, ha sokï¿½ig veszï¿½t.

ï¿½s a jï¿½tï¿½kasztal felï¿½ indulva folytatta:

- Kï¿½lï¿½nben szeret kï¿½rtyï¿½zni. Ez az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½dï¿½lï¿½s. Jï¿½t tesz neki. Megesik ï¿½vente egyszer-kï¿½tszer, hogy ha jï¿½ poker-partï¿½ van egyï¿½tt, egï¿½sz ï¿½jszaka ott ï¿½l ï¿½s lehetetlen ï¿½sszegeket tesz fel, mikor nem maximï¿½ljï¿½k az alapot.

Szinte kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l azutï¿½n, hogy a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t elï¿½nekeltï¿½k, Paula elï¿½bukkant elvonultsï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s Graham valï¿½sï¿½ggal kï¿½nlï¿½dott a toronyszobï¿½ban, hogy mindenï¿½ron munkï¿½ja mellett maradjon, mikor reggelente a Paula ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyï¿½bï¿½l dalokat ï¿½s operaï¿½riï¿½kat, a nagy tï¿½likertbï¿½l kacagï¿½st ï¿½s kutyaszidï¿½st, vagy a tï¿½voli zeneterembï¿½l a zongora-ritmus ï¿½rï¿½khosszat tartï¿½ lï¿½ktetï¿½sï¿½t hallhatta. De Dick pï¿½ldï¿½jï¿½ra a dï¿½lelï¿½ttjeit ï¿½ is munkï¿½nak szentelte ï¿½s ritkï¿½n talï¿½lkozott Paulï¿½val a lunch elï¿½tt.

Paula kijelentette, hogy ï¿½lmatlansï¿½gi periï¿½dusa elmult ï¿½s kï¿½sz minden mulatsï¿½gra ï¿½s kirï¿½ndulï¿½sra, amit Dick nyujthat neki. Arra az esetre pedig, ha Dick nem volna hajlandï¿½ ezeket szemï¿½lyesen szervezni, azzal fenyegetï¿½dzï¿½tt, hogy vendï¿½gekkel tï¿½lti tele a hï¿½zat ï¿½s majd megtanï¿½tja Dicket, hogy mi az az ï¿½lï¿½nksï¿½g. A nagynï¿½nje, Tullynï¿½, ezidï¿½tï¿½jt tï¿½rt vissza nï¿½hï¿½ny napi tartï¿½zkodï¿½sra ï¿½s Paula is ekkor fogta be ï¿½jra Duddyt ï¿½s Fuddyt a magas, Studebaker-ï¿½getï¿½kocsiba. Duddy ï¿½s Fuddy tï¿½zes ï¿½getï¿½k voltak, de Tullynï¿½ kora ï¿½s testsï¿½lya ellenï¿½re nyugodt volt, ha Paula kezï¿½ben tudta a gyeplï¿½szï¿½rat. Ahogy Grahamnek meg is mondta.

- Ez olyan engedmï¿½ny volt, amit Paula kivï¿½telï¿½vel egy nï¿½nek sem teszek meg. ï¿½ az egyetlen nï¿½, akire lï¿½-dolgokban rï¿½ merem bï¿½zni magam. ï¿½ tud lï¿½val bï¿½nni. Mï¿½r gyermekkorï¿½ban is odavolt a lovakï¿½rt. Csoda, hogy cirkuszi lovarnï¿½ nem lett belï¿½le.

Graham mï¿½g sokkal tï¿½bbet is megtudott Paulï¿½rï¿½l a nagynï¿½nivel folytatott kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ csevegï¿½sek folyamï¿½n. Desten Philiprï¿½l, Paula apjï¿½rï¿½l, Tullynï¿½ nem gyï¿½zï¿½tt eleget beszï¿½lni. Desten a bï¿½tyja volt Tullynï¿½nak, sokkal idï¿½sebb volt mint ï¿½ ï¿½s az ï¿½ gyermekkorï¿½nak kirï¿½lya gyanï¿½nt szerepelt. Nagy koncepciï¿½jï¿½, kirï¿½lyi termï¿½szetï¿½ ember volt, a kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½gesebb emberek ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½gnek nï¿½ztï¿½k a termï¿½szetï¿½t. A legkalandosabb ï¿½s leggavallï¿½rosabb dolgokat csinï¿½lta folyton. Viszont ez a termï¿½szete tette kï¿½pessï¿½, hogy a negyvenkilences idï¿½k nagy arany viharï¿½ban ï¿½ppen olyan kï¿½nnyen nyert vagyonokat, mint amilyen kï¿½nnyen el is veszï¿½tette. ï¿½ maga rï¿½gi new-englandi csalï¿½dbï¿½l szï¿½rmazott, de egyik dï¿½dapja francia ember volt, aki hajï¿½tï¿½rï¿½st szenvedett a nyilt ï¿½ceï¿½non, megmenekï¿½lt ï¿½s partot ï¿½rt, hogy a Maine-partvidï¿½k egyï¿½b tengerï¿½sz-farmerei kï¿½zï¿½tt megtollasodjï¿½k.

- ï¿½s minden generï¿½ciï¿½ban egyszer, de csak egyszer, - mondta Tullynï¿½ - kiï¿½t ez a francia Desten. A sajï¿½t generï¿½ciï¿½jï¿½ban Philip volt ez a francia, a mostaniban pedig Paula kapta meg ezt az ï¿½rï¿½ksï¿½get, mï¿½g pedig teljes mï¿½rtï¿½kben. Lute ï¿½s Ernestine fï¿½ltestvï¿½rei neki, de senki sem gondolnï¿½, hogy egy csï¿½pp kï¿½zï¿½s vï¿½r is van bennï¿½k. Ezï¿½rt szaladt Paula az elsï¿½ alkalommal Franciaorszï¿½gba, ahelyett hogy elment volna mï¿½lovarnï¿½nek. Az a francia Desten-ï¿½s hï¿½zta ï¿½t oda.

Errï¿½l a franciaorszï¿½gi kiruccanï¿½srï¿½l is sokat megtudott Graham. Desten Philip csillaga annak idejï¿½n leï¿½ldozï¿½ban volt, szerencsï¿½jï¿½nek kereke vï¿½ltozï¿½an fordult hol fel, hol le. Lute ï¿½s Ernestine csï¿½pp jï¿½szï¿½gok voltak mï¿½g, az ï¿½ gondozï¿½suk nem sok gondot volt okozandï¿½ Desten hugainak. De Paula, aki Tullynï¿½nak jutott, a nehezebb esetnek szï¿½mï¿½tott, »amiatt a francia miatt«.

- ï¿½, Paula azï¿½rt hamisï¿½tatlan new-englandi, - bizonykodott Tullynï¿½ - ami a tisztessï¿½get, egyenessï¿½get, engedelmessï¿½get, hï¿½sï¿½get illeti, ï¿½ a legmegbï¿½zhatï¿½bb teremtï¿½s a vilï¿½gon. Gyerekkorï¿½ban kï¿½ptelen volt hazugsï¿½got kiereszteni a szï¿½jï¿½n, csak ha mï¿½st meg kellett menteni. De akkor aztï¿½n new-englandi ï¿½sei egyszerre nem voltak sehol ï¿½s ï¿½ppen olyan nagyszerï¿½en hazudott, mint annak idejï¿½n az apja. Az apja ugyanilyen elragadï¿½ modorï¿½, merï¿½sz, hangosan nevetï¿½, ï¿½lï¿½nk lï¿½ny volt, mint ï¿½. De ami benne kï¿½nnyed ï¿½s vidï¿½m, az az apjï¿½ban udvariassï¿½g volt. Az emberek vagy rajongtak ï¿½rte, vagy elkeseredett ellensï¿½gei lettek. Akivel talï¿½lkozott, azt nem hagyta hidegen. A vele valï¿½ ï¿½rintkezï¿½s vagy a szeretetet, vagy a gyï¿½lï¿½letet hï¿½vta ki. Paula, azt hiszem, abban kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zik tï¿½le, hogy nï¿½ ï¿½s nem megy bele szï¿½lmalomharcokba, ami a fï¿½rfiak elï¿½joga. Azt hiszem, nincs egyetlen ellensï¿½ge a fï¿½ld kereksï¿½gï¿½n. Mindenki szereti, legfeljebb azok a kacï¿½r nï¿½k nem, akik irï¿½gylik tï¿½le a csinos urï¿½t.

ï¿½s ahogy ezt Graham hallgatta, a nyitott ablakon ï¿½t valahonnan a hosszï¿½ ï¿½rkï¿½dok alï¿½l behallatszott a Paula dalolï¿½sa, hangjï¿½ban azzal az ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½sen kï¿½sï¿½rtï¿½ remegï¿½ssel, ami Grahamnek kï¿½sï¿½bb mindig eszï¿½be jutott. Paula most felkacagott ï¿½s Tullynï¿½ a hang felï¿½ intve a fejï¿½vel, rï¿½mosolygott Grahamre:

- Hallja? Most Desten Philip nevet ott ï¿½s a francia ï¿½s, ï¿½s a francia nï¿½k mind a francia ï¿½s mï¿½gï¿½tt, aki ï¿½tszï¿½rmazott ide a Penobscot partjï¿½ra, amerikai ruhï¿½t hï¿½zott magï¿½ra ï¿½s belement a hajszï¿½ba. Vette ï¿½szre, hogy Paula nevetï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l felpillant ï¿½s elmosolyodik kivï¿½tel nï¿½lkï¿½l mindenki? ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy volt a Philip nevetï¿½sï¿½vel is.

Tullynï¿½ szerint Paula mindig szenvedï¿½lyesen szeretett muzsikï¿½lni, festeni, rajzolni. Kislï¿½ny korï¿½ban el lehetett menni utï¿½na a hï¿½z kï¿½rï¿½l vagy mï¿½g messzebb azoknak a figurï¿½knak ï¿½s ï¿½brï¿½knak a nyomï¿½n, amiket mindenï¿½vï¿½ odarajzolt, ahova csak lehetett: papï¿½rszeletekre, fadarabokra, mï¿½g a homokba ï¿½s sï¿½rba is.

- Mindent, mindenkit szeretett, - mondta Tullynï¿½ - ï¿½s minden, mindenki szerette. Az ï¿½llatoktï¿½l sohasem fï¿½lt. De azï¿½rt mindig nagyon tisztelte ï¿½ket: nagyon finomï¿½rzï¿½kï¿½nek szï¿½letett ï¿½s ez a tisztelete az ï¿½llatok szï¿½psï¿½gï¿½nek szï¿½lt. Igen, javï¿½thatatlan bï¿½lvï¿½nyimï¿½dï¿½ volt, imï¿½dta a hï¿½seit, akï¿½r pusztï¿½n szï¿½pek voltak az illetï¿½k, akï¿½r vï¿½ghezvittek valamit. Legyen az zongora, vagy egy nagy kï¿½p, vagy lï¿½ vagy egy tï¿½jrï¿½szlet, Paula sohasem fogja kinï¿½ni azt a szï¿½psï¿½gimï¿½datot, amit a szeretett dolgok irï¿½nt ï¿½rez.

ï¿½s amint a nagynï¿½ni tovï¿½bb mesï¿½lte, Paula tettre vï¿½gyott, a szï¿½psï¿½get csinï¿½lni is akarta, nemcsak bï¿½mulni. De kï¿½nosan ingadozott, hogy a zenï¿½nek vagy a festï¿½snek szentelje-e magï¿½t. Mikor Boston legelsï¿½ zenetanï¿½rainak a vezetï¿½se alatt teljes iramban dolgozott, nem bï¿½rt magï¿½val: vissza kellett tï¿½rnie a rajzolï¿½shoz. A festï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nytï¿½l pedig elcsalta a szobrï¿½szat.

- A legkï¿½lï¿½nb irï¿½nt valï¿½ rajongï¿½sï¿½val, szï¿½vben-lï¿½lekben a szï¿½psï¿½ggel eltelve igy nï¿½tt fel folyton ingadozva ï¿½s ï¿½nmagï¿½t kï¿½nozva, mihez van nagyobb talentuma ï¿½s vajjon zseni-e vagy nem. ï¿½n ï¿½gy talï¿½ltam jï¿½nak, hogy minden munkï¿½t teljesen hagyjon abba ï¿½s elvittem egy ï¿½vre kï¿½lfï¿½ldre. Erre mï¿½g a tï¿½nchoz is nagy talentumot kezdett mutatni. De mindig vissza-visszafï¿½jt a muzsikï¿½jï¿½hoz, meg a kï¿½peihez. Nem, nem volt ï¿½llhatatlan. Az volt a baja, hogy tï¿½lsï¿½gosan talentumos volt...

- Tï¿½lsokfï¿½lekï¿½ppen volt talentumos, - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Graham.

- ï¿½gy van, ï¿½gy helyesebb. De a talentum ï¿½s a zseni kï¿½zï¿½tt nagy a kï¿½lï¿½nbsï¿½g ï¿½s ha most vï¿½n koromban a lelkem ï¿½dvï¿½ssï¿½gï¿½re kell megmondanom, nem tudom megmondani, hogy a gyerekben mutatkozott-e valaha a zseni nyoma. Akï¿½rmibe fogott bele, semmiben sem alkotott valami nagyot, az bizonyos.

- Kivï¿½ve, hogy az, aki! - tette hozzï¿½ Graham.

- Az bizony nagy dolog, - bï¿½lintott Tullynï¿½ lelkes mosollyal - Paula ragyogï¿½, rendkï¿½vï¿½li nï¿½, makulï¿½tlan, termï¿½szetes. ï¿½s elvï¿½gre mit jelent alkotni? Tï¿½bbre nï¿½zem Paula egyetlen bolond bravï¿½rjï¿½t, - ï¿½ igen, hallottam, hogy ï¿½lte meg az ï¿½szï¿½ tenyï¿½szmï¿½nt, - mint valamennyi kï¿½pï¿½t, ha mind mestermï¿½ is egytï¿½l-egyig. De eleinte nehezen tudtam ï¿½t megï¿½rteni. Dick gyakran hï¿½vja ï¿½t a soha meg nem nï¿½vï¿½ kislï¿½nynak. Pedig ï¿½n istenem, milyen nagynak tud lï¿½tszani, ha kell. ï¿½n a magam rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l azt szoktam mondani rï¿½la, hogy a legï¿½rettebb gyerek, akit lï¿½ttam. Dick volt a legjobb dolog, ami valaha is tï¿½rtï¿½nt vele. Akkor lï¿½tszott ï¿½gy elï¿½szï¿½r igazï¿½n, hogy megtalï¿½lta magï¿½t. Igy talï¿½lta meg.

ï¿½s Tullynï¿½ tovï¿½bb mesï¿½lt: leï¿½rta, hogyan utazgattak egy esztendeig Eurï¿½pï¿½ban, hogyan kezdte ï¿½jra a festï¿½st Paula Pï¿½rizsban, hogyan jutott vï¿½gï¿½l is arra a meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½sre, hogy a sikert csak kï¿½zdelem ï¿½rï¿½n lehet megszerezni ï¿½s hogy a nagynï¿½nje pï¿½nze csak akadï¿½ly a szï¿½mï¿½ra.

- ï¿½s erre is tudott mï¿½dot, - mondta Tullynï¿½ sï¿½hajtva - bizony egyszerï¿½en felmondott nekem, hazakï¿½ldï¿½tt. Csak egï¿½szen sovï¿½ny apanï¿½zst volt hajlandï¿½ elfogadni, ï¿½nï¿½llï¿½ lakï¿½st vett a Quartier Latinben, ï¿½sszeï¿½llt kï¿½t mï¿½sik amerikai lï¿½nnyal. Akkoriban talï¿½lkozott Dickkel. Dick kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s ember volt. Nem lehetne hamarjï¿½ban megmondani, hogy akkor mivel foglalkozott. Kabarï¿½t vezetett, ï¿½ nem effï¿½le modern kabarï¿½t, hanem igazi diï¿½kkï¿½vï¿½hï¿½zat, igazi kabarï¿½t. Nagyon disztingvï¿½lt kocsma volt. Egï¿½sz sereg ï¿½rï¿½lt jï¿½rt oda. Tudja, Dick akkor ï¿½rkezett vissza valami lehetetlen kalandokbï¿½l a vilï¿½g vï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s azt mondta, hogy most egy darabig nem ï¿½lni fogja az ï¿½letet, hanem ahelyett beszï¿½lgetni fog az ï¿½letrï¿½l. Paula elvitt egyszer oda. Elï¿½zï¿½ nap jegyeztï¿½k el egymï¿½st, Dick meglï¿½togatott, meg minden. Annak idejï¿½n ismertem Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rdot ï¿½s a fiï¿½rï¿½l is tudtam mindent. A vilï¿½g szempontjï¿½bï¿½l Paula nem is csinï¿½lhatott volna jobb partit. Regï¿½ny volt az egï¿½sz. Paula lï¿½tta ï¿½t, mikor a kaliforniai egyetemi csapatot gyï¿½zelemre vezette Stanford ellen. ï¿½s most abban a mï¿½teremben lï¿½tta viszont, ahol egyï¿½tt lakott a kï¿½t amerikai lï¿½nnyal. Nem tudta, hogy Dick milliomos-e vagy kï¿½vï¿½s, Dicknek akkor nem volt semmije, Paula pedig nem sokat tï¿½rï¿½dï¿½tt a pï¿½nzzel. Mindig a szï¿½vï¿½re hallgatott. Kï¿½pzelje el ezt a helyzetet: Dick, a meghï¿½dï¿½thatatlan, ï¿½s Paula, aki sohasem flï¿½rtï¿½lt. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, egyenesen egymï¿½s nyakï¿½ba estek, mert egy hï¿½t leforgï¿½sa alatt nyï¿½lbe volt ï¿½tve az egï¿½sz dolog ï¿½s Dick engem is meglï¿½togatott, mintha az ï¿½n elhatï¿½rozï¿½som akï¿½r jobbra, akï¿½r balra jelentett volna valamit. De a Dick kabarï¿½jï¿½rï¿½l beszï¿½ltem. A Filozï¿½fus-kabarï¿½nak hï¿½vtï¿½k. Szï¿½k kis pincehelyisï¿½g volt a Quartier kï¿½zepï¿½n, ï¿½s nem volt benne tï¿½bb egyetlen asztalnï¿½l. Kï¿½pzelje el azt a kabarï¿½t. De milyen asztal volt az! Hatalmas, sï¿½ma lapï¿½, kerek asztal, mï¿½g viaszkosvï¿½szonnal sem terï¿½tettï¿½k le, fï¿½ja mocskos volt az italtï¿½l, amit az asztalt verdesï¿½ filozï¿½fusok dï¿½ntï¿½ttek rï¿½. Harminc embernek akadt hely kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte. Nï¿½ket nem engedtek be. Paulï¿½val ï¿½s velem kivï¿½telt tettek. Lï¿½tta itt Hancock Aaront. Hï¿½t ï¿½ is egyike volt ott a filozï¿½fusoknak ï¿½s mï¿½ig is azzal henceg, hogy nagyobb szï¿½mlï¿½val maradt adï¿½sa Dicknek, mint bï¿½rmelyik vendï¿½ge. Ott szoktak volt ï¿½sszejï¿½nni mind ezek a vad, fiatal gondolkozï¿½k, vertï¿½k az asztalt ï¿½s Eurï¿½pa valamennyi nyelvï¿½n bï¿½lcsï¿½szetrï¿½l beszï¿½lgettek. Dicknek mindig gyengï¿½i voltak a filozï¿½fusok. De Paula elsï¿½pï¿½rte ezt a kis kalandot. Csak akkor eskï¿½dtek meg, mikor Dick felszerelte a Tovï¿½bb nevï¿½ szkunert ï¿½s az istenadta fiatal pï¿½r nekivï¿½gott a mï¿½zesheteknek Bordeauxbï¿½l Hongkongba.

- ï¿½s a kabarï¿½t bezï¿½rtï¿½k, - mondta Graham - ï¿½s a filozï¿½fusok ott maradtak hajlï¿½k ï¿½s vita nï¿½lkï¿½l.

Tullynï¿½ szï¿½vbï¿½l kacagott ï¿½s rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t. ï¿½gy kacagott, hogy az oldalï¿½t fogta.

- Rï¿½juk hagyta alapï¿½tvï¿½nynak! Valami rï¿½szalapï¿½tvï¿½ny, vagy valami ilyen, nem tudom. Annyit tudok, hogy egy hï¿½napon belï¿½l a rendï¿½rsï¿½g rï¿½tette a kezï¿½t, mint anarchista klubra.

ï¿½mbï¿½r ï¿½gy tudomï¿½st szerzett Paula ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½sï¿½nek ï¿½s talentumainak szï¿½les terï¿½letï¿½rï¿½l, Graham mï¿½gis meg volt lepetve, mikor egy napon egï¿½szen egyedï¿½l talï¿½lta Paulï¿½t egy ablakmï¿½lyedï¿½sben teljesen elmerï¿½lve valami finom hï¿½mzï¿½sbe.

- Szeretek kï¿½zimunkï¿½zni, - mondta az asszonyka - minden drï¿½ga bolti kï¿½zimunka semmi nekem ahoz kï¿½pest, amit magam rajzolok ï¿½s magam csinï¿½lok. Dick azelï¿½tt haragudni szokott, ha kï¿½zimunkï¿½zok. ï¿½ a teljesï¿½tï¿½kï¿½pessï¿½g embere, a kï¿½rbaveszett energia kikï¿½szï¿½bï¿½lï¿½sï¿½nek a hï¿½ve. Mindig azt mondta, hogy a kï¿½zimunka idï¿½pazarlï¿½s. Parasztok egy fï¿½lesgombï¿½rt elvï¿½gzik ugyanazt a munkï¿½t. De aztï¿½n meg tudtam ï¿½rtetni vele az ï¿½llï¿½spontomat. Olyan ez, mint ha az ember maga muzsikï¿½l. Pï¿½nzï¿½rt persze jobb zenï¿½t hallhatok, mint amilyen tï¿½lem telik, de leï¿½lni a zongorï¿½hoz ï¿½s muzsikï¿½lni a magunk ujjï¿½val, a magunk fejï¿½vel, egï¿½sz mï¿½s ï¿½s sokkal kedvesebb ï¿½lvezet. Teljesen mindegy, hogy az ember a mï¿½s elï¿½adï¿½sï¿½t akarja-e felï¿½lmï¿½lni, vagy az elï¿½adï¿½sba a maga egyï¿½nisï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s felfogï¿½sï¿½t viszi bele. Nagy lelki ï¿½rï¿½m ï¿½s beteljesï¿½lï¿½s. Nï¿½zze ezt a kis hï¿½mzett liliomszegï¿½lyt a bojt szï¿½lï¿½n, ehez semmi sem hasonlï¿½t a vilï¿½gon. Enyï¿½m az ï¿½tlet, egï¿½szen az enyï¿½m, ï¿½s enyï¿½m az ï¿½tlet megformï¿½lï¿½sa ï¿½s megvalï¿½sï¿½tï¿½sa. A boltokban akad szebb ï¿½tlet ï¿½s jobb munka, de az mï¿½s. Ez az enyï¿½m. ï¿½n kï¿½pzeltem el ï¿½s ï¿½n csinï¿½ltam meg. ï¿½s ki mondja, hogy a hï¿½mzï¿½s nem mï¿½vï¿½szet?

Elhallgatott ï¿½s kï¿½rdï¿½en mosolygott Grahamre.

- ï¿½s ki mondja, - folytatta Graham - hogy a szï¿½p nï¿½i nem ï¿½kesï¿½tï¿½se nem a legï¿½rtï¿½kesebb ï¿½s egyszersmind a legï¿½desebb mï¿½vï¿½szet?

- Roppantul tudok tisztelni - bï¿½lintott Paula helyeslï¿½en - egy ï¿½gyes masamï¿½dot vagy varrï¿½nï¿½t. Ezek igazï¿½n mï¿½vï¿½szek, mï¿½g pedig fontosak a vilï¿½g kï¿½zgazdasï¿½gi ï¿½letï¿½ben, mint Dick mondanï¿½.

Egy mï¿½sik alkalommal Graham, mikor a kï¿½nyvtï¿½rba igyekezett, hogy az Andes-hegysï¿½grï¿½l megnï¿½zzen valamit, Paulï¿½ra bukkant, amint kecsesen hajolt a nagy asztalon egy nagy ï¿½v rajzpapï¿½r fï¿½lï¿½, kï¿½rï¿½tte vaskos mï¿½ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½szeti mappï¿½k tornyosultak ï¿½s azzal foglalkozott, hogy terveket rajzolt a madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcsei szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½pï¿½tendï¿½ tanyï¿½hoz vagy hï¿½zikï¿½telephez.

- Nagy problï¿½ma, - mondta sï¿½hajtva; - Dick azt mondja, hogyha megï¿½pï¿½ttetem, akkor hï¿½t ember szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½pï¿½tsem. Most nï¿½gy bï¿½lcsï¿½nk van, de neki hï¿½t a szï¿½ve vï¿½gya. Azt mondja, hogy ne sokat veszï¿½djem tusvezetï¿½kekkel meg ilyesmivel, mert melyik filozï¿½fus szokott egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban fï¿½rï¿½dni? Azonkï¿½vï¿½l egï¿½sz komolyan hï¿½t tï¿½zhelyet ï¿½s hï¿½t konyhï¿½t ajï¿½nl, mert a filozï¿½fusok mindig ï¿½ppen az ilyen fï¿½ldi dolgok fï¿½lï¿½tt szoktak veszekedni.

- Persze. Hï¿½t nem Voltaire veszekedett gyertyavï¿½gek miatt egy kirï¿½llyal? - kï¿½rdezte Graham, gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve az asszonyka graciï¿½zusan hanyag testtartï¿½sï¿½ban. Harmincnyolc? Lehetetlen. Szinte kislï¿½nynak lï¿½tszott, aki az iskolai feladatï¿½n izgul ï¿½s mï¿½rgelï¿½dik. ï¿½s eszï¿½be jutott Tullynï¿½ megjegyzï¿½se, hogy Paula a legï¿½rettebb gyerek, akit valaha lï¿½tott.

Elcsodï¿½lkozott. Ugyanaz az asszony ez, aki a kerï¿½tï¿½s mellett a tï¿½lgyek alatt kï¿½t rï¿½vid mondattal a szï¿½vï¿½ig vï¿½gott egy bekï¿½vetkezhetï¿½ helyzetnek? Azt mondta: »Igy ï¿½rtettem.« Mit ï¿½rtett? Csak ï¿½gy ï¿½rtelem nï¿½lkï¿½l hasznï¿½lt egy tï¿½rsalgï¿½si frï¿½zist? De viszont ï¿½ remegett ï¿½s lelkendezett vele egyï¿½tt, mikor a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t ï¿½nekeltï¿½k. Ezt Graham tudta. De viszont a Ware Donald jï¿½tï¿½kï¿½ra is lï¿½tta felmelegedni ï¿½s felragyogni. Ennï¿½l a pontnï¿½l azonban Graham egyï¿½nisï¿½ge, ï¿½nje is megszï¿½lalt. Ware Donalddal, az mï¿½r mï¿½gis csak mï¿½s volt. ï¿½s erre a gondolatra jï¿½lesï¿½en, de egyszersmind ï¿½ngï¿½nnyal is, elmosolyodott.

- Min mulat? - kï¿½rdezte Paula. - Isten lï¿½tja a lelkemet, nem vagyok mï¿½ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½sz. ï¿½s ezennel felszï¿½lï¿½tom magï¿½t, helyezzen el egy ï¿½pï¿½letben hï¿½t filozï¿½fust azoknak a lehetetlen megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½soknak a figyelembevï¿½telï¿½vel, amiket Dick leszegezett.

Fenn a toronyszobï¿½ban Graham, maga elï¿½tt a fel sem nyitott Andes-kï¿½nyvekkel, harapdï¿½lta az ajkï¿½t ï¿½s gondolkozott. Ez a nï¿½ nem nï¿½. Gyerek a feje bï¿½bjï¿½ig. Vagy - ï¿½s ennï¿½l a gondolatnï¿½l habozott egy kissï¿½ - csak tï¿½lozza ezt a termï¿½szetessï¿½get? Csakugyan megï¿½rtette ott a tï¿½lgyek alatt? Feltï¿½tlenï¿½l. Meg kellett hogy ï¿½rtse. Elvï¿½gre nagyvilï¿½gi asszony. Ismeri a vilï¿½got. Nagyon okos. Ha az ember visszaemlï¿½kszik szï¿½rke szemï¿½nek pillantï¿½sï¿½ra, abbï¿½l csak a sï¿½ly ï¿½s erï¿½ benyomï¿½sa marad meg. Erï¿½: ez az? Graham visszaidï¿½zte azt az elsï¿½ estï¿½t, mikor Paula olykor az acï¿½l kï¿½pzetï¿½t villantotta fel benne, a vï¿½kony ï¿½s csecsebecseszerï¿½ acï¿½lï¿½t. Akkor a kï¿½pzeletï¿½ben hasonlatok bukkantak fel: a Paula erejï¿½t elefï¿½ntcsonthoz, vï¿½sett gyï¿½ngykagylï¿½hoz, lï¿½nyok hï¿½tï¿½gï¿½ hajfonatï¿½hoz hasonlï¿½totta.

ï¿½s most ï¿½bredt csak a tudatï¿½ra annak a kerï¿½tï¿½s melletti rï¿½vid szavak ï¿½s a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tja elï¿½neklï¿½se ï¿½ta, hogy valahï¿½nyszor egymï¿½s szemï¿½be nï¿½ztek, mindig kï¿½lcsï¿½nï¿½sen tudatï¿½ban voltak ki nem mondott dolgoknak.

Hiï¿½ba forgatta a kï¿½nyv lapjait az utï¿½n az adat utï¿½n, amit keresett. Megprï¿½bï¿½lta a fejezetet e nï¿½lkï¿½l az adat nï¿½lkï¿½l folytatni, de egy ï¿½rva szï¿½ nem jï¿½tt a tollï¿½ra. Esztelen izgatottsï¿½g jï¿½tt rï¿½. Elï¿½vett egy menetrendet ï¿½s a vonatok indulï¿½sï¿½t fontolgatta, majd mï¿½st gondolt, a hï¿½zi telefont ï¿½sszekï¿½tï¿½tte az istï¿½llï¿½val ï¿½s nyergeltette Altadenï¿½t.

A kora nyï¿½ri Kalifornia tï¿½kï¿½letes reggelï¿½t talï¿½lta kinn. A legenyhï¿½bb szellï¿½ sem hï¿½borgatta az alvï¿½ fï¿½ldeket, amelyekrï¿½l a fï¿½rjek pitypalattya ï¿½s a mezei pacsirtï¿½k dala hallatszott. A levegï¿½ben nehï¿½z orgonaillat ï¿½szott, ï¿½s mikor az orgonasï¿½vï¿½ny mentï¿½n ellovagolt, messzirï¿½l a Hegyi Fickï¿½ ï¿½blï¿½s nyerï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s Fotherington Princess ezï¿½stï¿½s vï¿½laszï¿½t hallotta.

Miï¿½rt ï¿½l most itt a Forrest Dick lovï¿½n? - kï¿½rdezte magï¿½tï¿½l. Miï¿½rt nem siet most az ï¿½llomï¿½s felï¿½ vezetï¿½ ï¿½ton, hogy elcsï¿½pje a legelsï¿½ vonatot, amelyet megnï¿½zett a menetrendben? Az elhatï¿½rozï¿½snak ï¿½s cselekvï¿½snek ez a szokatlan gyengesï¿½ge, amint keserï¿½en ï¿½tgondolta, ï¿½j szerep volt a szï¿½mï¿½ra. De az biztos, gondolta fellï¿½ngolva, hogy ez az egyetlen ï¿½let most az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½s ez az egyetlen nï¿½ a vilï¿½gon.

Fï¿½lrerï¿½ntotta a lovat, hogy el hagyjon oldalt haladni egy angora-kecskenyï¿½jat. Tï¿½bb szï¿½z ï¿½llat volt ï¿½s mind anyakecske. Lassan tereltï¿½k ï¿½ket a baszk pï¿½sztorok, az ï¿½llatok gyakran megï¿½llottak, mert mindegyiket kis gï¿½dï¿½lyï¿½je kï¿½sï¿½rte. A lï¿½telepen sok kancï¿½t lehetett lï¿½tni ï¿½jszï¿½lï¿½tt csikajï¿½val. Egyszer pedig, mivel idejï¿½ben meghallotta a figyelmeztetï¿½ kiï¿½ltï¿½st, nyargalva tï¿½rt le a mellï¿½kï¿½svï¿½nyre, hogy kitï¿½rjen egy csapat harmadfï¿½ves mï¿½ncsikï¿½nak, amelyeket a telepen ï¿½t hajtottak valahova. Izgalmukat a farmnak ez az egï¿½sz rï¿½sze ï¿½tvette, a levegï¿½ csakï¿½gy zengett az ï¿½les nyihogï¿½stï¿½l, mialatt Hegyi Fickï¿½, ennyi versenytï¿½rsat lï¿½tvï¿½n ï¿½s hallvï¿½n maga mellett, bolondul nyargalt le s fel a maga elkerï¿½tett helyï¿½n ï¿½s ï¿½jra meg ï¿½jra beletrombitï¿½lta a vilï¿½gba azt a kihï¿½vï¿½ meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½sï¿½t, hogy ï¿½ a legcsodï¿½latramï¿½ltï¿½bb ï¿½s leghatalmasabb lï¿½ny, amely eleven lï¿½nak ezen a vilï¿½gon valaha is ï¿½tjï¿½ba akadt.

ï¿½s a mellï¿½kï¿½svï¿½nyre a Haramia hï¿½tï¿½n Forrest Dick ï¿½gaskodott ï¿½s farolt be. Gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ggel elï¿½rehajolva nï¿½zte sok-sok ï¿½llata kï¿½zï¿½tt ezt a kis vihart.

- Termï¿½kenysï¿½g! Termï¿½kenysï¿½g! - kiï¿½ltotta kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½s gyanï¿½nt, mikor megrï¿½ntotta a kantï¿½rt ï¿½s megï¿½llt, ha ugyan megï¿½llï¿½snak lehetett nevezni, hogy aranybarna kancï¿½ja habzï¿½, vicsorgï¿½ szï¿½jjal kapkod hol a gazdï¿½ja, hol a Graham lï¿½baszï¿½ra utï¿½n, egyik pillanatban kapï¿½lja az utat, rï¿½gtï¿½n utï¿½na pedig tehetetlen dï¿½hï¿½ben egyik hï¿½tsï¿½ lï¿½bï¿½val belerï¿½g az ï¿½res levegï¿½be ï¿½s belerï¿½g mï¿½g tï¿½zszer egymï¿½sutï¿½n.

- Ezek a fiatal csikï¿½k - mondta Dick nevetve - jï¿½l megnyerï¿½ttetik a derï¿½k Hegyi Fickï¿½t. Hallgasd a dalï¿½t: »Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon! ï¿½n tï¿½ltï¿½m be a vï¿½lgyeket! Halljanak meg a kancï¿½k ï¿½s remegjenek meg a csendes legelï¿½kï¿½n, mert ï¿½k ismernek engem. A fï¿½ld tele van kï¿½vï¿½rsï¿½ggel, a fï¿½k nedvekkel teljesek. Ez a tavasz. A tavasz az enyï¿½m. ï¿½n vagyok a tavasz kirï¿½lysï¿½gï¿½nak a fejedelme. A kancï¿½k emlï¿½keznek a hangomra. Ismernek anyï¿½ik ï¿½ltal mï¿½g a lï¿½tï¿½k elï¿½tti idï¿½bï¿½l. Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon, ï¿½s a vï¿½lgyek, amelyek a jï¿½vetelem hangjï¿½t visszhangozzï¿½k, az ï¿½n heroldjaim!«

Tullynï¿½ elutazï¿½sa utï¿½n Paula bevï¿½ltotta a fenyegetï¿½sï¿½t: megtï¿½ltï¿½tte vendï¿½gekkel a hï¿½zat. Nyilvï¿½n eszï¿½be jutott mindenki, aki vï¿½rta a meghï¿½vï¿½st. A hintï¿½, amely a tizenkï¿½t kilomï¿½ternyire fekvï¿½ ï¿½llomï¿½sra jï¿½rt, ritkï¿½n jï¿½tt ï¿½s ritkï¿½n ment ï¿½resen. ï¿½nekesek, muzsikusok, mï¿½vï¿½szemberek jï¿½ttek-mentek, meg a fiatal lï¿½nyok egï¿½sz csapatai a fiatalemberek elmaradhatatlan kï¿½sï¿½retï¿½vel. Mamï¿½k, nï¿½nik, tï¿½rsalkodï¿½nï¿½k hemzsegtek a nagy hï¿½z minden folyosï¿½jï¿½n ï¿½s zsï¿½folï¿½sig ï¿½ltï¿½k tele az autï¿½kat a piknik-kirï¿½ndulï¿½sok alkalmï¿½val.

ï¿½s Graham azon tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt, vajjon Paula nem szï¿½ndï¿½kosan hagyja-e maga kï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½zï¿½nleni ezt a sok embert. ï¿½ a maga rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l vï¿½gleg abbahagyta a kï¿½nyve munkï¿½jï¿½t, rï¿½szt vett a sportolï¿½ ifjï¿½sï¿½g kora reggeli ï¿½szï¿½saiban, a reggeli lovaglï¿½sokban ï¿½s minden mulatsï¿½gban, ami a hï¿½zban vagy hï¿½zon kï¿½vï¿½l elï¿½fordult.

Reggeltï¿½l estig folyton volt valami. Egy este Dick, aki ragaszkodott a szokï¿½saihoz ï¿½s lunch elï¿½tt sohasem mutatkozott a vendï¿½gei kï¿½rï¿½ben, nekiï¿½lt a pï¿½kernek a dohï¿½nyzï¿½ban ï¿½s egï¿½sz ï¿½jszaka kï¿½rtyï¿½zott. Graham is benne volt a jï¿½tszmï¿½ban, de bï¿½ven kï¿½rpï¿½tolva ï¿½rezte magï¿½t, mikor hajnaltï¿½jt Paula meglï¿½togatta a jï¿½tï¿½kosokat. Az asszonyka ismï¿½t egy ï¿½gynevezett fehï¿½r ï¿½jszakï¿½t virrasztott vï¿½gig, noha ezt friss arcbï¿½rï¿½n ï¿½s szï¿½nï¿½n semmi sem mutatta. Grahamnak erï¿½t kellett vennie magï¿½n, hogy ne nï¿½zze tï¿½lsokat Paulï¿½t, aki aranyszï¿½nï¿½ pezsgï¿½s italokat kevert a zï¿½llï¿½tt tekintetï¿½, elcsigï¿½zott jï¿½tï¿½kosok felï¿½dï¿½tï¿½sï¿½re. Mikor pedig ittak, bemondatta velï¿½k a hï¿½rom mestert, aztï¿½n elkergette ï¿½ket, hogy vegyenek hideg fï¿½rdï¿½t a reggeli ï¿½s a mindennapi munka, vagyis mulatsï¿½g elï¿½tt.

Paula sosem volt egyedï¿½l. Graham mindï¿½ssze annyit tehetett, hogy csatlakozott a folyton kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte lï¿½vï¿½ csoportokhoz. Bï¿½r a fiatalok szï¿½net nï¿½lkï¿½l roptï¿½k a stepet ï¿½s a tangï¿½t, Paula ritkï¿½n tï¿½ncolt, akkor is az ifjï¿½ legï¿½nykï¿½kkel. Egyszer mï¿½gis kitï¿½ntette Grahamet egy rï¿½gimï¿½di keringï¿½vel.

- ï¿½seitek vï¿½zï¿½zï¿½n elï¿½tti tï¿½nca! - kiï¿½ltotta trï¿½fï¿½san a fiataloknak, mikor nekifogott. Az egï¿½sz parkett az ï¿½vï¿½ ï¿½s Grahamï¿½ volt.

Amint egyszer vï¿½gigtï¿½ncoltak a terem hosszï¿½n, egï¿½szen belejï¿½ttek. Paula azzal a megï¿½rtï¿½en alkalmazkodï¿½ ï¿½rzï¿½kkel, amit Graham felismert benne ï¿½s amely az asszonykï¿½t olyan kivï¿½teles zongorakï¿½sï¿½rï¿½vï¿½ ï¿½s lovassï¿½ tette, alï¿½vetette magï¿½t a fï¿½rfi mesteri tï¿½nctudï¿½sï¿½nak ï¿½s csakhamar szinte egy ï¿½rzï¿½ gï¿½p rï¿½szei lettek, amely zï¿½kkenï¿½ ï¿½s megï¿½llï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l csinï¿½lta a dolgï¿½t. Pï¿½r perc mulva mï¿½r ismertï¿½k egymï¿½s tï¿½kï¿½letes lï¿½pï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s fordulï¿½sï¿½t. Graham ï¿½rezte Paulï¿½nak a tï¿½ncban valï¿½ teljes odaadï¿½sï¿½t, ï¿½s mï¿½r ritmikus megï¿½llï¿½sokat ï¿½s tï¿½rdhajlï¿½tï¿½sokat prï¿½bï¿½ltak, ï¿½gy hogy lï¿½buk nem hagyta el a parkettet. Ez ï¿½gy elragadta a nï¿½zï¿½ket, hogy az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos elragadtatï¿½snak Dick felkiï¿½ltï¿½sa adott hangot:

- Repï¿½lnek! Repï¿½lnek!

A zene a Salome-keringï¿½t jï¿½tszotta. A melï¿½dia ellassulï¿½ befejezï¿½sï¿½vel ï¿½k is egyre lassabban ï¿½s lassabban jï¿½rtï¿½k, mï¿½g egï¿½szen meg nem ï¿½llottak.

Beszï¿½dre itt nem volt szï¿½ksï¿½g. Szï¿½tlanul egymï¿½sra pillantva tï¿½rtek vissza a tï¿½rsasï¿½ghoz, ahol Dick szï¿½nokolni kezdett:

- Lï¿½ssï¿½k, ï¿½rficskï¿½k, kisasszonykï¿½k ï¿½s egyï¿½b fiatalsï¿½g! Igy tï¿½ncolunk mi ï¿½regek. Ne ï¿½rtsï¿½k fï¿½lre, a modern tï¿½ncok ellen egy szavam sincs. Akad kï¿½ztï¿½k nagyon jï¿½ ï¿½s elegï¿½ns is. De ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt nem volna nagy szerencsï¿½tlensï¿½g, ha a keringï¿½t jï¿½l megtanulnï¿½k. Ahogy maguk szoktak keringï¿½zni, mikor megprï¿½bï¿½ljï¿½k, az rettenetes. Mi ï¿½regek mï¿½g tudunk egyetmï¿½st, ami ï¿½r valamit.

- Pï¿½ldï¿½ul? - kï¿½rdezte egy kisasszonyka.

- Megmondom magï¿½nak. Arrï¿½l nem beszï¿½lek, hogy az ifjï¿½ nemzedï¿½k testmozgï¿½si mï¿½dja benzinszagï¿½...

Egy percig tiltakozï¿½ kiï¿½ltï¿½sok nyomtï¿½k el a hangjï¿½t.

- Errï¿½l nem beszï¿½lek. Magam is benzinszagï¿½ vagyok, tudom. De senki maguk kï¿½zï¿½l nem tanulta meg a helyvï¿½ltoztatï¿½s rï¿½gi jï¿½ mï¿½djï¿½t. Nincs itt egy lï¿½ny sem, akit Paula az asztal alï¿½ ne tudna tï¿½ncolni. Nincs itt egy legï¿½ny sem, aki kï¿½rhï¿½zba ne kerï¿½lne, ha Grahammel ï¿½s velem elkezd gyalogolni. Igen, igen, tudom, hogy mindnyï¿½jan ï¿½gy fel tudjï¿½k kurblizni a gï¿½pet ï¿½s ï¿½gy meg tudjï¿½k rï¿½ntani a fï¿½ket, hogy no. De senki sincs maguk kï¿½zï¿½tt, aki szabï¿½lyosan meg tudja ï¿½lni a lovat, az igazi lovat, ï¿½gy, ahogy kell. ï¿½s ahogy kï¿½t befogott lovat elhajtanak! Borzasztï¿½! ï¿½s ti nyurga kamaszok, akik a motorcsï¿½nakjaitokkal vï¿½gignyargalï¿½sszï¿½tok az ï¿½blï¿½t, hï¿½ny kï¿½zï¿½letek tudnï¿½ megfogni egy rï¿½gimï¿½di dereglye vagy szkï¿½ner kormï¿½nyï¿½t segï¿½tsï¿½g nï¿½lkï¿½l, hogy a maga embersï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l kikï¿½ssï¿½n vele?

*-* Azï¿½rt mï¿½gis csak odaï¿½rï¿½nk,
ahova kell - vetette ellen a fentebbi kisasszony.

- Azt elismerem. Csakhogy nem nyujtanak mindig tetszetï¿½s lï¿½tvï¿½nyt. Mondok ï¿½n maguknak egy szï¿½p lï¿½tvï¿½nyt, amilyet egyikï¿½k sem tud soha produkï¿½lni: mikor Paula kezï¿½be kapja nï¿½gy szilaj lï¿½ gyeplï¿½jï¿½t, a lï¿½bï¿½t nekifeszï¿½ti a kocsinak ï¿½s hajrï¿½, vï¿½gigrepï¿½l a hegyi ï¿½ton.

Egy meleg reggelen, a fedett folyosï¿½ hï¿½vï¿½s ï¿½rkï¿½djai alatt, nï¿½gyen-ï¿½ten verï¿½dtek ï¿½ssze, kï¿½ztï¿½k volt Paula is. Graham kï¿½rï¿½l csoportosultak, aki olvasva ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lt ott egyedï¿½l. Miutï¿½n elbeszï¿½lgettek kissï¿½, Graham ï¿½jra belemerï¿½lt a folyï¿½iratba, mï¿½g pedig ï¿½gy, hogy csakhamar teljesen megfeledkezett a tï¿½bbiekrï¿½l. De a bekï¿½vetkezett csend tudata hirtelen felkï¿½ltï¿½tte a figyelmï¿½t. Felnï¿½zett. A tï¿½bbiek elszï¿½ledtek, csak Paula maradt ott. Mï¿½g hallotta a keresztfolyosï¿½rï¿½l visszacsengï¿½, tï¿½volodï¿½ kacagï¿½sukat. De Paula! Graham elfogta az arca, a szeme kifejezï¿½sï¿½t. A Paula nï¿½zï¿½se ï¿½rajta nyugodott, ï¿½rï¿½ volt szegezve. A szemï¿½ben kï¿½tsï¿½g, tï¿½pelï¿½dï¿½s, szinte fï¿½lelem ï¿½lt, ebben az elsuhanï¿½ pillanatban Grahamnek mï¿½g ideje volt ï¿½szrevenni, hogy ez a nï¿½zï¿½s mï¿½ly ï¿½s kutatï¿½; gyors fantï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½nak ideje volt ezt a nï¿½zï¿½st annak a nï¿½zï¿½sï¿½hez hasonlï¿½tani, aki vï¿½gzetï¿½nek ï¿½ppen most felnyitott kï¿½nyvï¿½be pillant bele. Paula tekintete megremegett, lesï¿½tï¿½tte a szemï¿½t ï¿½s az arcszï¿½ne fï¿½lreï¿½rthetetlen pirulï¿½ssï¿½ ï¿½lï¿½nkï¿½lt. Kï¿½tszer is megmozdult az ajka, hogy szï¿½ljon, de mint akit ennyire tetten ï¿½rtek, kï¿½ptelen volt futï¿½ gondolatai kï¿½zï¿½l egyet is kimondani. A kï¿½nos helyzetet Graham mentette meg. Odavetve mondta:

- ï¿½ppen ennek a De Vriesnek a Burbank Luther mï¿½kï¿½dï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½rott magasztalï¿½sï¿½t olvasom. ï¿½gy tï¿½nik fel nekem, hogy ami Burbank a hï¿½zinï¿½vï¿½nyek vilï¿½gï¿½ban, ugyanaz Dick a hï¿½ziï¿½llatok vilï¿½gï¿½ban. Maguk ï¿½leteket teremtenek itt, az ï¿½let anyagï¿½bï¿½l a hasznossï¿½g ï¿½s szï¿½psï¿½g ï¿½j alakjait formï¿½ljï¿½k.

Paula ekkorra mï¿½r ï¿½sszeszedte magï¿½t, nevetett ï¿½s fogadta a bï¿½kot.

- Attï¿½l tartok, - folytatta Graham kï¿½nnyed komolysï¿½ggal - mikor a maguk eredmï¿½nyeit szemlï¿½lem, hogy elfecsï¿½relt ï¿½letre nï¿½zek vissza. Miï¿½rt nem fogtam ï¿½n is bele ï¿½s miï¿½rt nem cselekedtem? Borzasztï¿½an irï¿½gylem mind a kettï¿½jï¿½ket.

- Bizony, fï¿½lelmesen sok ï¿½lï¿½lï¿½ny szï¿½letï¿½sï¿½ï¿½rt vagyunk felelï¿½sek - mondta Paula. - Az embernek elï¿½ll a lï¿½lekzete, ha ezt a felelï¿½ssï¿½get meggondolja.

- A farm bizonyosan csak ï¿½gy leheli magï¿½bï¿½l a termï¿½kenysï¿½get; - mosolygott Graham - noha mï¿½g ilyen mï¿½ly benyomï¿½st nem tett rï¿½m az ï¿½let virï¿½gzï¿½sa ï¿½s gyï¿½mï¿½lcsï¿½zï¿½se. Itt minden boldogul ï¿½s sokasodik...

Paula hirtelen gondolattï¿½l megkapatva kï¿½zbevï¿½gott:

- Egyszer megmutatom magï¿½nak az aranyhalaimat. ï¿½n tenyï¿½sztem ï¿½ket, igen, mï¿½g hozzï¿½ kereskedelmi cï¿½lokra. A legritkï¿½bb fajokkal ï¿½rasztom el a sanfranciskï¿½i kereskedï¿½ket. Mï¿½g New-Yorkba is szï¿½llï¿½tok. Sï¿½t mi tï¿½bb, egï¿½sz komolyan keresek vele. Igazi pï¿½nzt. Dick kï¿½nyvei mondjï¿½k, mï¿½r pedig ï¿½ a legrigorï¿½zusabb kï¿½nyvelï¿½. Az egï¿½sz telepen nincs egy kalapï¿½cs, ami ne volna leltï¿½rozva ï¿½s nincs egy patkï¿½szeg, ami ne volna szï¿½mlï¿½zva. Ezï¿½rt van annyi hivatalnoka a kï¿½nyvelï¿½snï¿½l. Tudja, mit csinï¿½lt Dick? Szï¿½mba vette a legcsekï¿½lyebb kiadï¿½si tï¿½telt is, felszï¿½mï¿½totta a lovak felfï¿½vï¿½dï¿½sa vagy lesï¿½ntulï¿½sa miatt elveszett idï¿½ kï¿½zï¿½parï¿½nyosï¿½t ï¿½s ijesztï¿½en vï¿½gnï¿½lkï¿½li szï¿½moszlopokbï¿½l a harmadik tizedesig kiszï¿½mï¿½totta, mennyibe van neki egy igï¿½slï¿½ egy ï¿½rai munkaereje.

- ï¿½s az aranyhalak?... - szï¿½lt Graham, akit idegessï¿½ tett, hogy Paula annyit beszï¿½l az urï¿½rï¿½l.

- Igen. Hï¿½t Dick a kï¿½nyvelï¿½ivel ugyanï¿½gy tartatja szï¿½mon az ï¿½n aranyhalaimat. A farm-munka ï¿½s a hï¿½zimunka minden olyan kis rï¿½szletï¿½vel megterhelik a szï¿½mlï¿½mat, amit a halakra veszek igï¿½nybe. Mï¿½g a postabï¿½lyeget ï¿½s az irodaszereket is felszï¿½mï¿½tjï¿½k. A berendezï¿½s amortizï¿½ciï¿½jï¿½ra rï¿½szt kell fizetnem. Mï¿½g vï¿½zdï¿½jat is fizetek, mintha Dick valami vï¿½rosi vï¿½zmï¿½vï¿½llalkozï¿½ volna, ï¿½n pedig elï¿½fizetï¿½. Mï¿½gis keresek tï¿½z szï¿½zalï¿½kot. Kerestem mï¿½r harmincat is. De Dick kinevet. Azt mondja, hogy ha az egï¿½szbï¿½l levonom egy haltenyï¿½sztï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½ fizetï¿½sï¿½t, vagyis azt, ami nekem jï¿½rna, akkor vagy rossz fizetï¿½st kapok a munkï¿½mï¿½rt, vagy rï¿½fizetek az ï¿½zletre, mert amit keresek, az nem volna elï¿½g fizetï¿½s egy ilyen kitï¿½nï¿½ felï¿½gyelï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra. De Dick ï¿½ppen ezzel a mï¿½dszerrel boldogul a vï¿½llalkozï¿½saiban. Hacsak nem kimondottan kï¿½sï¿½rletet vï¿½gez, sohasem csinï¿½l semmit, mï¿½g a legparï¿½nyibb rï¿½szletekig pontosan nem tudja, mit csinï¿½l.

- Nagyon biztos mindenben - jegyezte meg Graham.

- Sohasem ismertem embert, - folytatta Paula melegen - aki sajï¿½tmagï¿½ban ennyire biztos lett volna. De mï¿½g olyat sem, aki csak felï¿½nyire szilï¿½rd. Dick zseni, de a szï¿½nak csak paradox ï¿½rtelmï¿½ben. Zseni, mert annyira egyensï¿½lyozott ï¿½s normï¿½lis, hogy a zseninek a legszemernyibb rï¿½sze sincs meg benne. Az ilyen emberek ritkï¿½bbak ï¿½s nagyobbak, mint a zsenik. Kedvenc gondolatom, hogy Lincoln is ehez a tï¿½pushoz tartozott.

- Meg kell vallanom, - mondta Graham - hogy nem ï¿½rtem egï¿½szen.

- ï¿½, nem mernï¿½m azt mondani, hogy Dick olyan jï¿½, olyan... olyan kozmikusan jï¿½, mint Lincoln, - felelte Paula gyorsan - Dick jï¿½, de nem errï¿½l beszï¿½lek. Ami a kï¿½zï¿½s tï¿½pus bennï¿½k, az a rendkï¿½vï¿½li egyensï¿½ly, a kï¿½zï¿½pszer, a lï¿½ngolï¿½s hiï¿½nya. ï¿½n viszont zseniï¿½lis vagyok. Tudja, ï¿½gy csinï¿½lom a dolgokat, hogy nem tudom, hogyan csinï¿½lom. Csak ï¿½ppen csinï¿½lom. A zenï¿½ben ï¿½gy tudok hatï¿½st elï¿½rni. Vagy vegyï¿½k a mï¿½ugrï¿½st. Eskï¿½szï¿½m, nem tudom magï¿½nak megmondani, hogy csinï¿½lom a fecskefejest vagy a bukfencet. Ezzel szemben Dick semmit sem kï¿½pes megcsinï¿½lni, amï¿½g elï¿½re vilï¿½gosan nem tudja, hogyan fogja csinï¿½lni. Mindent egyensï¿½llyal, elï¿½relï¿½tï¿½ssal csinï¿½l. Dick egy ï¿½ltalï¿½nos, ï¿½sszefoglalï¿½ csoda, aki sohasem volt rï¿½szletcsoda bï¿½rmiben is. ï¿½, ï¿½n ismerem. Az atlï¿½tika semmifï¿½le szakï¿½ban soha nem volt Champion vagy rekordjavï¿½tï¿½. De kï¿½zepes sem volt soha. ï¿½gy van minden egyï¿½bbel, lelkileg, ï¿½rtelmileg is. Olyan, mint az egyenletesen kovï¿½csolt lï¿½nc, amelynek sem erï¿½sebb, sem gyengï¿½bb szeme nincsen.

- Attï¿½l tartok, - mondta Graham - hogy olyan vagyok, mint maga: kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½gesebb ï¿½s csekï¿½lyebb lï¿½ny, zseniï¿½lis. Alkalomadtï¿½n ï¿½n is fellï¿½ngolok ï¿½s ï¿½ntudatlan dolgokat csinï¿½lok. ï¿½s nem vagyok fï¿½lï¿½tte annak a szï¿½nvonalnak, ahol az ember tï¿½rdre hull a titokzatossï¿½g elï¿½tt.

- Dick pedig gyï¿½lï¿½li a titokzatossï¿½got, vagy legalï¿½bb ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, ï¿½ sosem elï¿½gszik meg azzal, hogy tudja a hogyant, ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½sen kutatja a hogyannak a miï¿½rtjï¿½t is. A titokzatossï¿½gban az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra van valami kihï¿½vï¿½. ï¿½gy izgatja, mint a vï¿½rï¿½s posztï¿½ a bikï¿½t. Rï¿½gtï¿½n hï¿½mozni kezdi ï¿½s a magvï¿½t keresi ï¿½s megtudja a hogyant is, a miï¿½rtet is, mikor az illetï¿½ dolog mï¿½r nem titokzatossï¿½g tï¿½bbï¿½, hanem egyszerï¿½ ï¿½ltalï¿½nosï¿½tï¿½s ï¿½s tudomï¿½nyosan levezethetï¿½ valï¿½sï¿½g.

A fejlï¿½dï¿½ helyzetbï¿½l nagyon sok rejtve maradt a hï¿½rom fï¿½szereplï¿½ elï¿½tt. Graham semmit sem tudott arrï¿½l, milyen kï¿½tsï¿½gbeesett erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½ssel igyekszik Paula gï¿½rcsï¿½sen ragaszkodni az urï¿½hoz, Dick pedig kï¿½tsï¿½gbeesetten el lï¿½vï¿½n foglalva ezer tervï¿½vel ï¿½s kisï¿½rletï¿½vel, egyre ritkï¿½bban tartï¿½zkodott a Paula tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban. A lunchnï¿½l mindig megjelent, de dï¿½lutï¿½n ritkï¿½n jutott hozzï¿½, hogy kimenjen a vendï¿½geivel. Azoknak a hosszï¿½ sifrï¿½rozott tï¿½viratoknak a sokasï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l, amelyek Mexikï¿½bï¿½l jï¿½ttek, Paula tudta, hogy a Harvest-csoport helyzete nagyon sï¿½lyos. Meg aztï¿½n lï¿½thatta, hogy Mexikï¿½ kï¿½lfï¿½ldi tï¿½kï¿½seinek sok ï¿½gynï¿½ke ï¿½s futï¿½rja mindig lï¿½halï¿½lï¿½ban ï¿½s sokszor alkalmatlan idï¿½ben ï¿½rkezik a telepre Dickkel tï¿½rgyalni. De azon a panaszon felï¿½l, hogy ezek elveszik a legï¿½rtï¿½kesebb idejï¿½t, Dick a tï¿½rgyalï¿½sok lï¿½nyegï¿½rï¿½l nem kï¿½zï¿½lt vele semmit.

- Istenem, ï¿½gy szeretnï¿½m, ha nem volna annyi dolgod, - sï¿½hajtotta az ura karjai kï¿½zï¿½tt, mikor egy szerencsï¿½s dï¿½lelï¿½tt tizenegy ï¿½rakor egyedï¿½l talï¿½lta ï¿½s a tï¿½rdï¿½re ï¿½lt.

De mï¿½g ekkor is megzavarta Dicket, aki levelet diktï¿½lt a fonogrï¿½fba. A sï¿½hajï¿½t pedig a Bonbright figyelmeztetï¿½ kï¿½hï¿½gï¿½se okozta, akit tï¿½bb tï¿½virattal a kezï¿½ben lï¿½tott belï¿½pni. Kï¿½rlelï¿½en szï¿½lt az urï¿½hoz:

- Akarod, hogy megkocsikï¿½ztassalak ma dï¿½lutï¿½n Duddy ï¿½s Fuddy fogatï¿½n? Csak ï¿½gy kettesben ï¿½s a vendï¿½gektï¿½l megszï¿½kï¿½nk, jï¿½?

Dick a fejï¿½t rï¿½zta ï¿½s mosolygott.

- Lunchnï¿½l igen fontos tï¿½rsasï¿½ggal fogsz talï¿½lkozni. Mï¿½snak nem szï¿½ksï¿½ges megtudni, de neked megmondom.

Itt meghalkï¿½totta a hangjï¿½t, Bonbright pedig tapintatosan az akta-ï¿½llvï¿½nyoknï¿½l keresett dolgot magï¿½nak.

- Ezek a Tampico-petrï¿½leum emberei. Maga Samuels, a Nacisco elnï¿½ke. Aztï¿½n Wishaar, a Pearson-Brooks ï¿½rdekeltsï¿½g fontos belsï¿½ embere, az a fickï¿½, aki ï¿½sszehozta a kelet-partvidï¿½ki vasï¿½t ï¿½s a Tiuna Central megvï¿½sï¿½rlï¿½sï¿½t, mikor ezek a Naciscï¿½t ki akartï¿½k ï¿½tni a nyeregbï¿½l. Aztï¿½n Mathewson, ez a nagy tï¿½rzsfï¿½nï¿½ke a Palmerston-ï¿½rdekeltsï¿½g ï¿½ceï¿½non-inneni rï¿½szï¿½nek; tudod, ezek a Palmerstonï¿½k az az angol tï¿½rsasï¿½g, amelyik olyan csï¿½nyï¿½n ellï¿½tta a bajï¿½t a Naciscï¿½nak ï¿½s Pearson-Brooksï¿½knak. Aztï¿½n... szï¿½val lesznek mï¿½g egynï¿½hï¿½nyan. Ha ilyen emberek egyszerre ott hagyjï¿½k a boltot ï¿½s ï¿½sszefutnak, abbï¿½l lï¿½thatod, hogy odalenn Mexikï¿½ban bajok lehetnek a krï¿½ta kï¿½rï¿½l. Tudod, ezek petrï¿½leumban dolgoznak ï¿½s ï¿½n a magam szakmï¿½jï¿½ban nagyon fontos legï¿½ny vagyok odalenn; mï¿½r most ï¿½k az ï¿½n bï¿½nyaï¿½rdekeimet bele akarjï¿½k kapcsolni a petrï¿½leumba. Igazï¿½n nagy dolgok vannak a levegï¿½ben ï¿½s nekï¿½nk most ï¿½ssze kell fognunk ï¿½s valamit csinï¿½lnunk, vagy pedig kihï¿½zni a lï¿½bunkat Mexikï¿½bï¿½l. ï¿½s mert ï¿½k a hï¿½romï¿½velï¿½tti bajok idejï¿½n benne hagytak a vï¿½zben, most megengedem magamnak, hogy duzzogjak a sï¿½tramban ï¿½s rï¿½szorï¿½tsam ï¿½ket, hogy eljï¿½jjenek hozzï¿½m.

Megsimogatta a felesï¿½gï¿½t, drï¿½ga mindenï¿½nek nevezte, de Paula ï¿½szrevette, hogy a szeme tï¿½relmetlenï¿½l rï¿½vedezik a fonogrï¿½fon ï¿½s annak befejezetlen levelï¿½n. Sï¿½t Dick olyan bï¿½csï¿½fï¿½le mï¿½don egy erï¿½sebbet ï¿½lelt rajta, ami sejteni engedte, hogy tï¿½bb idï¿½ nincs ï¿½s Paulï¿½nak menni kell.

- ï¿½gy aztï¿½n, - mondta Dick - a dï¿½lutï¿½nom el van foglalva. Egyik pï¿½nzember sem maradhat tovï¿½bb, valamennyi mï¿½g diner elï¿½tt indulni akar.

Paula szokatlan hirtelensï¿½ggel siklott le a fï¿½rje tï¿½rdï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s bontakozott ki az ï¿½lelï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l. Megï¿½llt egyenesen elï¿½tte, a szeme felvillant, az arca elsï¿½padt ï¿½s a tekintetï¿½ben valami elhatï¿½rozï¿½s ï¿½lt ki, mintha sï¿½lyosan fontos dolgot kï¿½szï¿½lne mondani. De megszï¿½lalt egy csengï¿½ ï¿½s Dick az ï¿½rï¿½asztal telefï¿½nja utï¿½n nyï¿½lt.

Paula lehajtotta a fejï¿½t, nï¿½mï¿½n sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s mikor vï¿½gigment a szobï¿½n ï¿½s kilï¿½pett az ajtï¿½n, Bonbright pedig mohï¿½n lï¿½pett elï¿½ a tï¿½viratokkal, mï¿½g hallotta a telefï¿½nbeszï¿½lgetï¿½s elejï¿½t:

- Nem. Az lehetetlen. Vagy megcsinï¿½lja
az az ï¿½r a dolgot, vagy tï¿½nkreteszem. Az ï¿½ megï¿½llapodï¿½sai
hajï¿½tï¿½fï¿½t sem ï¿½rnek. Ha csak a megï¿½llapodï¿½s volna a kezeink kï¿½zï¿½tt,
persze hogy nyugodtan megszegnï¿½. De ï¿½n nekem a birtokomban van ï¿½m egy
roppant ï¿½rdekes levelezï¿½s, amirï¿½l ï¿½ megfeledkezett... Igen, igen, ez
minden bï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g elï¿½tt elegendï¿½ lesz. Dï¿½lutï¿½n ï¿½tig az akta ott lesz
ï¿½nnï¿½l. ï¿½s azt ï¿½zenem neki, hogy ha ezt a trï¿½kkï¿½t megprï¿½bï¿½lja
keresztï¿½lvinni, kitï¿½rï¿½m a nyakï¿½t. Alapï¿½tok egy konkurrens vonalat ï¿½s
egy ï¿½ven belï¿½l minden hajï¿½ja a vï¿½grehajtï¿½ kezï¿½n lesz... Azonkï¿½vï¿½l...
Hallï¿½, ott van mï¿½g?*... *Nï¿½zzen utï¿½na annak is, amit mondtam.
Meglï¿½tja, rï¿½ fog jï¿½nni, hogy az ï¿½llamkï¿½zi Kereskedelmi Bï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g
kï¿½tszer is megcsï¿½pte...

Sem Graham, sem maga Paula, nem sejtette, hogy Dick, az ï¿½leseszï¿½, mï¿½lylï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ Dick, aki megtï¿½rtï¿½ntï¿½k elï¿½tt is meg tudta lï¿½tni ï¿½s ï¿½rteni a dolgokat, aki kï¿½zzel meg nem foghatï¿½ ï¿½rnyalatokbï¿½l ï¿½s sejtï¿½sekbï¿½l tudott olyan ravaszul kispekulï¿½lt hipotï¿½ziseket ï¿½pï¿½teni, amelyeket a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ esemï¿½nyek gyakran igazoltak, - mï¿½r ï¿½rezte, ami mï¿½g nem kï¿½vetkezett be, de ami bekï¿½vetkezendï¿½ lehetett. Nem hallotta Paula rï¿½vid, jelentï¿½s szavait a tï¿½lgyek alatt, nem volt ott, mikor Graham az ï¿½rkï¿½dok alatt Paulï¿½t azon a mï¿½ly, vizsgï¿½lï¿½dï¿½ nï¿½zï¿½sen kapta rajta. Dick semmit sem hallott, keveset lï¿½tott, de sokat ï¿½rzett, sï¿½t a sejtï¿½s kusza mï¿½djï¿½n mï¿½g Paulï¿½nï¿½l is hamarï¿½bb megï¿½rzett olyan dolgokat, amiket Paula maga csak kï¿½sï¿½bb tudott megï¿½rteni.

A legkï¿½zzelfoghatï¿½bb dolog, amelyre gondolatait ï¿½pï¿½thette, az az ï¿½jszaka volt, mikor ï¿½ el volt ugyan merï¿½lve a bridgeben, de azï¿½rt ï¿½szrevette, hogy a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tja elï¿½neklï¿½se utï¿½n Paula milyen hirtelen hagyja ott a zongorï¿½t, ï¿½s abban az ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½ mosolygï¿½sban is, amellyel azok ketten hozzï¿½lï¿½ptek, hogy a vesztï¿½sbï¿½l felï¿½llï¿½tsï¿½k, meglï¿½tta, hogy Paula trï¿½fï¿½s, ingerkedï¿½ arcï¿½ra valami szokatlannak az ï¿½rzï¿½se van ï¿½rva. Abban a percben, mikor maga is nevetve viszonozta a Paula nevetï¿½sï¿½t, mosolygï¿½sa kï¿½zben rï¿½pillantott a Paula mellett ï¿½llï¿½ Grahamre, ï¿½s annak az arcï¿½n is felfedezte ezt a szokatlan valamit. Ez az ember ki van kelve magï¿½bï¿½l - gondolta akkor Dick. De miï¿½rt van kikelve magï¿½bï¿½l? Van valami ï¿½sszefï¿½ggï¿½s a Graham lelkiï¿½llapota kï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½s a kï¿½zï¿½tt, hogy Paula olyan hirtelenï¿½l felkelt a zongorï¿½tï¿½l? Kï¿½rtya kï¿½zben mindig ezek a kï¿½rdï¿½sek jï¿½rtak a fejï¿½ben, magï¿½ban nevetett az egï¿½sz dolog ostobasï¿½ga felett, osztott, megkereste a segï¿½tï¿½t ï¿½s megnyerte a rubbert.

Magï¿½ban azutï¿½n is esztelennek ï¿½s kï¿½ptelennek szï¿½mï¿½totta azt a lehetï¿½sï¿½get, hogy tï¿½tova sejtelme valï¿½sï¿½ggï¿½ vï¿½ljï¿½k. Jï¿½zanul arra a kï¿½vetkeztetï¿½sre jutott, hogy az egï¿½sz csak vï¿½letlen kitalï¿½lï¿½s, ostoba agyrï¿½m, amely semmisï¿½geken alapul. Mindï¿½ssze azt lehetett kï¿½vetkeztetni, hogy a barï¿½tja ï¿½s a felesï¿½ge vonzï¿½dnak egymï¿½shoz. De olykor nem tudta agyï¿½bï¿½l a hirtelen feltï¿½rï¿½ gondolatot elhessegetni, hogy miï¿½rt hagytï¿½k abba olyan hirtelen az ï¿½neklï¿½st akkor este. Miï¿½rt volt neki az az ï¿½rzï¿½se, hogy most itt valami szokatlan tï¿½rtï¿½nik? Miï¿½rt volt Graham kikelve magï¿½bï¿½l?

Bonbright sem tudta, hogy mikor a gazdï¿½ja egyik napon kevï¿½ssel tizenkettï¿½ elï¿½tt tï¿½viratot diktï¿½l neki, azï¿½rt lï¿½p diktï¿½lï¿½s kï¿½zben az ablak felï¿½, mert az ï¿½trï¿½l kï¿½zelgï¿½ lï¿½dobogï¿½s tï¿½voli nesze hallatszik be. Mï¿½skor is megtï¿½rtï¿½nt dï¿½lelï¿½ttï¿½nkï¿½nt, hogy Dick ugyanï¿½gy az ablakhoz lï¿½pett ï¿½s lï¿½thatï¿½ szï¿½rakozottsï¿½ggal pillantott ki a lovaglï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½g lï¿½rmï¿½jï¿½ra, amely a kirï¿½ndulï¿½s utolsï¿½ ï¿½llomï¿½sa gyanï¿½nt megï¿½rkezett a tï¿½lgyek alï¿½. De ezen a dï¿½lelï¿½ttï¿½n, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g az ï¿½rkezï¿½ket megpillantotta volna, tudta, hogy ezek az ï¿½rkezï¿½k kik lesznek.

- Braxton biztonsï¿½gban van, - folytatta vï¿½ltozatlan hangon a diktï¿½lï¿½st, de szemï¿½t az ï¿½tra szegezte, ahol a lovasoknak fel kell majd bukkanni - baj esetï¿½n a hegyek kï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½tjuthat Arizonï¿½ba. Keresse fel Connorst azonnal. Braxton rï¿½szletes rendelkezï¿½seket hagyott nï¿½la. Connors holnap Washingtonban van. Bï¿½rmi tï¿½rtï¿½nik, kimerï¿½tï¿½ jelentï¿½st kï¿½rek... alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½s.

Az ï¿½ton a Szarvas ï¿½s Altadena poroszkï¿½ltak egymï¿½s mellett a hï¿½z felï¿½. Dick nem csalï¿½dott, ï¿½ket vï¿½rta. Tï¿½volabbrï¿½l kiabï¿½lï¿½s, kacagï¿½s, lï¿½dobogï¿½s jelezte, hogy a tï¿½rsasï¿½g tï¿½bbi rï¿½sze kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l mï¿½gï¿½ttï¿½k kï¿½zeledik. Dick szilï¿½rdan folytatta a munkï¿½t s ezalatt magï¿½ban megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy Graham meglehetï¿½s lovas, de nem jelentï¿½keny ï¿½s gondoskodni kellene rï¿½la, hogy az Altadenï¿½nï¿½l nehezebb lovat kapjon.

- A kï¿½vetkezï¿½t, Bonbright ï¿½r, legyen szï¿½ves a Harvest-chiffre szerint megï¿½rni. Braxton Jeremynek ï¿½runk. Kï¿½ldje el mind a kï¿½t irï¿½nyban. Vagy az egyik, vagy a mï¿½sik talï¿½n keresztï¿½lcsï¿½szik...

A vendï¿½gek ï¿½rja megint elvonult a nagy hï¿½zbï¿½l ï¿½s a lunch nem egyszer csak a kï¿½t fï¿½rfit ï¿½s Paulï¿½t talï¿½lta az asztalnï¿½l. Estï¿½nkï¿½nt, mialatt Graham ï¿½s Dick elbeszï¿½lgettek egy ï¿½rï¿½cskï¿½t lefekvï¿½s elï¿½tt, Paula nem jï¿½tszogatott mï¿½r csendes dolgokat a zongorï¿½nï¿½l, hanem ott ï¿½lt velï¿½k, finom hï¿½mzï¿½sen dolgozott ï¿½s hallgatta, amit beszï¿½ltek.

A kï¿½t fï¿½rfinak sok volt a kï¿½zï¿½s tï¿½mï¿½ja, ï¿½letï¿½k mï¿½djï¿½ban volt valami hasonlï¿½ ï¿½s a vilï¿½got hasonlï¿½ szempontokbï¿½l nï¿½ztï¿½k. ï¿½letfelfogï¿½suk inkï¿½bb rideg volt, mint szentimentï¿½lis. Reï¿½lis ember volt, mind a kettï¿½. Paula ï¿½llandï¿½an a kï¿½t ï¿½rctuskï¿½nak hï¿½vta ï¿½ket.

- Igen, igen, - mondta nekik nevetve - ï¿½rtem magukat. Maguk sikerï¿½lt emberek, maguk az ï¿½lï¿½ sikerek. Fizikai sikereket gondolok. Egï¿½szsï¿½gesek. Ellenï¿½llï¿½k. Szï¿½vï¿½sak. Bï¿½rtï¿½k szusszal, ahol kevï¿½sbï¿½ ellenï¿½llï¿½ emberek a fï¿½be haraptak. Keresztï¿½lgï¿½zoltak az afrikai lï¿½zakon ï¿½s eltemettï¿½k a tï¿½bbieket. Ez vagy az a szegï¿½ny gï¿½thï¿½s fickï¿½ mï¿½r a faluja patakjï¿½ban megkapja a tï¿½dï¿½gyulladï¿½st ï¿½s elpatkol, mielï¿½tt a nyilt tengerre eljuthatna. Maguk mï¿½rt nem kaptak tï¿½dï¿½gyulladï¿½st? Mert elï¿½kelï¿½bbek? Mert szolidabban ï¿½ltek? Mert jobban vigyï¿½ztak magukra ï¿½s tï¿½bb ï¿½vï¿½intï¿½zkedï¿½st tettek?

Fejï¿½t rï¿½zva felelt magï¿½nak:

- Nem. Hanem mert maguk szerencsï¿½sebbek. ï¿½gy ï¿½rtem, hogy szerencsï¿½sebben szï¿½lettek, jobb szervezetet kaptak. Dick pï¿½ldï¿½ul Guayaquilben hï¿½rom matrï¿½zï¿½t ï¿½s kï¿½t gï¿½pï¿½szï¿½t temette el. Sï¿½rgalï¿½z. Dicket mï¿½rt nem ï¿½lte meg az a sï¿½rgalï¿½z-csira, vagy micsoda? Igy ï¿½ll a dolog magï¿½nï¿½l is, tisztelt szï¿½lesvï¿½llï¿½ ï¿½s szï¿½lesmellï¿½ Graham ï¿½r. A legutolsï¿½ csatangolï¿½sa alkalmï¿½val mï¿½rt nem maga veszett oda a mocsarakban, miï¿½rt a fï¿½nykï¿½pï¿½sze? No vallja meg. Hï¿½ny kilï¿½ volt az a fï¿½nykï¿½pï¿½sz? Milyen szï¿½les vï¿½lla volt neki? Mi volt a mellbï¿½sï¿½ge? Milyen tï¿½g volt az orrlyuka? Milyen kemï¿½ny volt az ellenï¿½llï¿½kï¿½pessï¿½ge?

- Bizony ï¿½sszevissza hatvan kilï¿½ volt, - ismerte be Graham bï¿½nbï¿½nï¿½ hangon - de indulï¿½skor ï¿½gy lï¿½tszott, hogy nagyon jï¿½ karban van. Azt hiszem, ï¿½n jobban meglepï¿½dtem, mint ï¿½, mikor beadta a kulcsot. De nem azon mï¿½lt, hogy kicsi ï¿½s kï¿½nnyï¿½ ember. A kistermetï¿½ emberek, ha kï¿½lï¿½nben rendben vannak, szï¿½vï¿½sabbak szoktak lenni. Csakhogy azï¿½rt maga fejï¿½n talï¿½lta a szï¿½get. Nem volt meg a hozzï¿½ valï¿½ szervezete, az ellenï¿½llï¿½kï¿½pessï¿½ge. ï¿½rted, Dick, mit akarok mondani?

- Bizonyos tekintetben - felelte Dick - ez ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy az izmok ï¿½s a szï¿½v minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½nek a kï¿½rdï¿½se, mint azoknï¿½l a bokszolï¿½knï¿½l, akiket az izom ï¿½s a szï¿½v tesz kï¿½pessï¿½, hogy gyï¿½zzï¿½k a dolgot akï¿½r hï¿½sz, harminc, negyven fordulï¿½n keresztï¿½l. Mostanï¿½ban San Franciscï¿½ban nagy divat a bokszolï¿½s, sok szï¿½z fiatalember ï¿½lmodozik arrï¿½l, hogy sikerei lesznek a ringben. Megfigyeltem ï¿½ket munka kï¿½zben. Mind kitï¿½nï¿½en nï¿½z ki, a testï¿½k pompï¿½s, egï¿½szsï¿½gesek, ï¿½gyesek, fiatalok. A szellemï¿½k, akaraterejï¿½k kivï¿½lï¿½. ï¿½s tï¿½z kï¿½zï¿½l nem akad egy, aki tï¿½z fordulï¿½t vï¿½gig tudjon csinï¿½lni. Nem ï¿½gy ï¿½rtem, hogy leï¿½tik ï¿½ket. Kifï¿½lnak. A szï¿½vï¿½k, az izmuk nem a legjobb minï¿½sï¿½gï¿½ rostokbï¿½l kï¿½szï¿½lt. Egyszerï¿½en nem arra valï¿½k, hogy teljes tempï¿½ban ï¿½s feszï¿½ltsï¿½gben tï¿½z fordulï¿½t vï¿½gigcsinï¿½lhassanak. Nï¿½melyik mï¿½r nï¿½gy-ï¿½t fordulï¿½ban kifï¿½l. Olyan pedig, aki a hï¿½sz-fordulï¿½s mï¿½rkï¿½zï¿½st vï¿½gigcsinï¿½lja, ï¿½ssï¿½n ï¿½s kapjon, hï¿½rom percnyi verekedï¿½s utï¿½n csak egy-egy percnyi pihenï¿½vel, hogy hï¿½sz perc jusson pihenï¿½sre ï¿½s egy ï¿½llï¿½ ï¿½ra a verekedï¿½sre, - olyan negyven kï¿½zï¿½l sem akad egy. Egy akad tï¿½zezer kï¿½zï¿½l, aki negyven fordulï¿½ig gyï¿½zi, mint Nelson, Gans vagy Wolgast.

- ï¿½rtik, ï¿½gy-e, mire akarok kilyukadni? - folytatta megint Paula. - Itt vannak maguk ketten. Mind a ketten elmï¿½ltak negyven ï¿½vesek. Mind a ketten kemï¿½nykï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ vï¿½n bï¿½nï¿½sï¿½k. Mind a ketten ï¿½tmentek mï¿½r olyan bajokon ï¿½s megprï¿½bï¿½ltatï¿½sokon, amiktï¿½l mï¿½sok elhulltak az ï¿½ton. Mind a ketten tudnak jï¿½kedvï¿½ek ï¿½s bolondok lenni. Mind a ketten vï¿½gigkï¿½nlï¿½dtï¿½k ï¿½s vï¿½gigverekedtï¿½k a vilï¿½got. Mind a ketten...

- ...jï¿½tszottuk az ï¿½rï¿½lt kakadï¿½t? - trï¿½fï¿½lt Dick.

- ï¿½gy van ï¿½s ittak, mint a gï¿½dï¿½ny. Mï¿½g az alkohol sem tudta magukat tï¿½nkre tenni. Tï¿½lszï¿½vï¿½sak voltak. Az asztal alï¿½ ittï¿½k a tï¿½bbieket, vagy plï¿½ne a kï¿½rhï¿½zba, vagy plï¿½ne a sï¿½rba, ï¿½s dalolva mentek tovï¿½bb a maguk ragyogï¿½ ï¿½tjï¿½n ï¿½pen maradt izomszï¿½vetekkel ï¿½s ï¿½zï¿½letekkel, mï¿½g csak nem is fï¿½jt mï¿½snap a fejï¿½k. Ide akarok kilyukadni: maguk sikerï¿½lt pï¿½ldï¿½nyok. Az izmaik a telivï¿½r ï¿½llat izmai, a szerveik a telivï¿½r ï¿½llat szervei. Ebbï¿½l ered a maguk telivï¿½r ï¿½llati ï¿½letfilozï¿½fiï¿½ja. Ezï¿½rt hï¿½vom magukat ï¿½rctuskï¿½knak, ezï¿½rt prï¿½dikï¿½ljï¿½k ï¿½s gyakoroljï¿½k a realizmust, mikor eltaszï¿½tjï¿½k, legyï¿½rik, legï¿½zoljï¿½k azokat a szerencsï¿½tlenebbeket, akik meg sem mernek mukkanni ï¿½s mint a Dick bokszolï¿½ fiatalemberei, mï¿½r az elsï¿½ fordulï¿½nï¿½l kifï¿½lnï¿½nak, ha ki kellene ï¿½llniok a gï¿½tra.

Dick a trï¿½fï¿½s megsï¿½rtï¿½dï¿½s hosszï¿½ fï¿½ttyï¿½t hallatta.

- Ezï¿½rt prï¿½dikï¿½ljï¿½k az erï¿½sek evangï¿½liumï¿½t, - folytatta Paula - mert ha gyengï¿½knek szï¿½lettek volna, akkor a gyengï¿½k evangï¿½liumï¿½t prï¿½dikï¿½lnï¿½k, ï¿½s odatartanï¿½k a mï¿½sik arcukat is. De maguk, kï¿½t tagbaszakadt ï¿½riï¿½s, ha nyaklevest kapnak, nem tartjï¿½k oda a mï¿½sik arcukat.

- De nem ï¿½m, - vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe nyugodtan Dick - mi azonnal elordï¿½tjuk magunkat: »ï¿½sd, nem apï¿½d«, ï¿½s meg is tesszï¿½k. Te, Evan, ez az asszony alaposan megfogott bennï¿½nket. Az ï¿½letfilozï¿½fia olyan, mint a vallï¿½s: hasonlï¿½t ahoz, aki vallja. Az ember kï¿½pï¿½re ï¿½s hasonlatossï¿½gï¿½ra teremtï¿½dik.

ï¿½s mï¿½g a beszï¿½lgetï¿½s tovï¿½bb ï¿½radt, Paula tovï¿½bb varrogatott: szeme tele volt ennek a kï¿½t embernek a kï¿½pï¿½vel, csodï¿½lta, kutatta, mï¿½rlegelte ï¿½ket magï¿½ban, hï¿½jï¿½val az ï¿½ szilï¿½rdsï¿½guknak, rï¿½eszmï¿½lve, hogy olyan rï¿½gi meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½sek recsegnek ï¿½s inognak a lelkï¿½ben, amelyek mï¿½r lï¿½nyï¿½nek rï¿½szei voltak.

Az est kï¿½sï¿½bbi folyamï¿½n ez a zavar szï¿½ra is kï¿½sztette. Vï¿½laszolt Dicknek egy megjegyzï¿½sï¿½re:

- A legfurcsï¿½bb az, hogy az ï¿½letrï¿½l valï¿½ tï¿½lsok filozï¿½fï¿½lï¿½s tï¿½bbet ï¿½rt az embernek, mint akï¿½rmi mï¿½s. A filozï¿½fiai lï¿½gkï¿½r megzavarja az embert, a nï¿½t legalï¿½bb biztosan megzavarja. Annyit hallunk mindenrï¿½l ï¿½s minden ellen, hogy a vï¿½gï¿½n semmiben sem lehetï¿½nk biztosak. Pï¿½ldï¿½ul a Mendenhall felesï¿½ge protestï¿½ns. A vilï¿½gon semmi felï¿½l nincsen semmifï¿½le kï¿½tsï¿½ge. Az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra minden szilï¿½rd, elintï¿½zett ï¿½s megmozdï¿½thatatlan. Csillagsebessï¿½grï¿½l ï¿½s jï¿½gkorszakrï¿½l fogalma sincs, de ha volna is, ez a legkisebb mï¿½rtï¿½kben sem vï¿½ltoztatnï¿½ meg a felfogï¿½sï¿½t, hogy fï¿½rfinak, nï¿½nek hogy kell viselkednie ezen a vilï¿½gon ï¿½s a tï¿½lvilï¿½ggal valï¿½ viszonylatban. De itt nï¿½lunk maguk ketten lesujtanak az ï¿½rctuskï¿½val, Terrence eljï¿½rja az epikureus anarchizmus gï¿½rï¿½g tï¿½ncï¿½t, Hancock a bergsoni metafizika csillogï¿½ fï¿½tylait lobogtatja, Leï¿½ ï¿½nnepi ï¿½ldozatokat mutat be a Szï¿½psï¿½g oltï¿½rï¿½n, Hyal Dar pedig abba nem hagyja szemfï¿½nyvesztï¿½ mutatvï¿½nyait a maga csavaros, robbantï¿½ bï¿½lcsï¿½szetï¿½vel, mï¿½g az eszï¿½t meg nem tapsoljï¿½k. Nem lï¿½tjï¿½k, mit jelent ez? Azt, hogy az emberi ï¿½tï¿½letben nincs semmi szilï¿½rd. Semmi sem helyes. Semmi sem helytelen. Az ember az Eszmï¿½k tengerï¿½n ott ï¿½ll delejtï¿½, kormï¿½ny ï¿½s tï¿½rkï¿½p nï¿½lkï¿½l. Tegyem ezt? Vissza kell magamat tartanom attï¿½l? Rossz lesz? Tisztessï¿½ges dolog ez? Mendenhallnï¿½nak ezekre a kï¿½rdï¿½sekre nyomban van felelete. De van-e a filozï¿½fusoknak? Nincs. Nekik csak eszmï¿½ik vannak. Rï¿½gtï¿½n beszï¿½lni kezdenek az eszmï¿½rï¿½l, beszï¿½lnek, beszï¿½lnek, beszï¿½lnek, ï¿½s ï¿½sszes mï¿½veltsï¿½gï¿½kkel nem jutnak semmi vï¿½geredmï¿½nyre. ï¿½n magam is ï¿½gy vagyok vele mï¿½r. Hallgatok ï¿½s hallgatok, beszï¿½lek ï¿½s beszï¿½lek, mint ahogy most beszï¿½lek ï¿½s maradok meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l. Nincs prï¿½bakï¿½ve semminek...

- De van, - mondta Dick - a rï¿½gi, ï¿½rï¿½k prï¿½bakï¿½: az igazsï¿½g. Nem elï¿½g?

- ï¿½, most megint lesujt az a bizonyos rï¿½ztuskï¿½ - nevetett Paula. - ï¿½s Hyal Dar nï¿½hï¿½ny karlï¿½bï¿½lï¿½ssal ï¿½s szï¿½facsarï¿½ssal ki fogja mutatni, hogy a rï¿½ztuskï¿½ is illï¿½ziï¿½. ï¿½s Terrence ki fogja mutatni, hogy a rï¿½ztuskï¿½ a legjobb esetben megvetendï¿½, csekï¿½ly ï¿½s lï¿½nyegtelen valami. ï¿½s Hancock kimutatja, hogy Bergson esedï¿½kes mennyorszï¿½ga rï¿½ztuskï¿½kkal van kikï¿½vezve, de felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ekkel, mint a tieid. ï¿½s Leï¿½ kimutatja, hogy egyetlen rï¿½ztuskï¿½ van a vilï¿½gmindensï¿½gben, az a Szï¿½psï¿½g, ï¿½s az sem rï¿½z, hanem arany.

Egy napon Paula kï¿½rlelte az urï¿½t:

- Gyere, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, ma dï¿½lutï¿½n menjï¿½nk lovagolni. Verd ki a gondokat a fejedbï¿½l, ï¿½s az ï¿½gyvï¿½dek, a bï¿½nyï¿½k, a tenyï¿½szï¿½llatok akasszï¿½k fel magukat.

- Szeretnï¿½k, Paul, de nem lehet. Autï¿½val ki kell mennem a Vadgesztenyï¿½sre. Lunch elï¿½tt izenetet kaptam. Nem boldogulnak a lï¿½ppal. Az alagcsï¿½vezï¿½sben valami hibï¿½nak kellett lenni ï¿½s most az erï¿½s dinamitozï¿½ssal felbontottï¿½k. Szï¿½val mit ï¿½r a jï¿½ gï¿½t, ha a feneke nem tartja a vizet?

Mikor hï¿½rom ï¿½rï¿½val kï¿½sï¿½bb visszatï¿½rt a Vadgesztenyï¿½srï¿½l, Dick ï¿½szrevette, hogy Paula ï¿½s Graham most elï¿½szï¿½r lovagoltak ki ketten egyedï¿½l.

Egy mï¿½s napon Wainwrightï¿½k ï¿½s Coghlanï¿½k, akik kï¿½t autï¿½val egy heti kirï¿½ndulï¿½sra indultak az Orosz-folyï¿½hoz, egy napra megï¿½llapodtak a nagy hï¿½zban, ï¿½s ottlï¿½tï¿½k arra indï¿½totta Paulï¿½t, hogy kiadja a hajrï¿½-jelszï¿½t: ki fognak rï¿½ndulni a Los Banos-hegyekbe. Mivel reggel indulnak, Dick nem tudta ï¿½ket elkï¿½sï¿½rni, ï¿½mbï¿½r a diktï¿½lï¿½s kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n otthagyta Blaket ï¿½s a kocsikhoz kï¿½sï¿½rte a tï¿½rsasï¿½got. Meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½tt rï¿½la, hogy a befogï¿½s, a lï¿½szerszï¿½mok kï¿½rï¿½l minden rendben van ï¿½s beï¿½ltette a kirï¿½ndulï¿½kat, ragaszkodvï¿½n hozzï¿½, hogy Graham a bakra ï¿½ljï¿½n Paula mellï¿½.

- Azt akarom, hogy szï¿½ksï¿½g esetï¿½re egy fï¿½rfi ereje ott legyen tartalï¿½kban Paula mellett. ï¿½n is vittem mï¿½r le effï¿½le taligï¿½t ï¿½gy a lejtï¿½n, hogy a benne ï¿½lï¿½k nem jï¿½l ï¿½reztï¿½k magukat. Egypï¿½r kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k kitï¿½rte a nyakï¿½t. De hogy mï¿½g egyszer megnyugtassam magukat arra nï¿½zve, hogy Paula hajt, mondok egy verset:

Ni csak a kis Paula, ni,

Hogy tud kettï¿½t hajtani.

Hï¿½t mï¿½g mit tudsz, kicsikï¿½m?

Nï¿½gyet is elhajtok ï¿½n.

Mindenki kacagott. Paula intett az inasoknak, hogy eresszï¿½k el a lovak fejï¿½t, a kezï¿½be fogta a nï¿½gy erï¿½s szï¿½j kormï¿½nyzï¿½sï¿½t, ï¿½s rendbe szedte, a nyakon meghï¿½zta, megszorï¿½totta a gyeplï¿½t, ahogy nï¿½gyesfogathoz kell.

A bï¿½csï¿½zï¿½ trï¿½fï¿½k bï¿½beli zï¿½rzavarï¿½ban a vendï¿½geknek nem jï¿½rt az eszï¿½ben egyï¿½b, mint a ragyogï¿½ reggel, a vidï¿½m nap ï¿½gï¿½rete ï¿½s a nyï¿½jas hï¿½zigazda, aki jï¿½ mulatï¿½st kï¿½vï¿½n. De Paula annak a lelkes ï¿½rï¿½mnek a fenekï¿½n, hogy nï¿½gy ilyen lï¿½ van a kezï¿½ben, valami tï¿½tova kedvetlensï¿½get ï¿½rzett, amelyben valahogy az is benne szerepelt, hogy Dick itt marad. Graham lelkï¿½n pedig Dick vidï¿½m arcï¿½nak lï¿½ttï¿½ra egy kis furdalï¿½s futott keresztï¿½l, hogy itt ï¿½l e mellett az asszony mellett, ahelyett hogy vasï¿½ton ï¿½s hajï¿½n rohanna innen a vilï¿½g mï¿½sik vï¿½gï¿½re.

Dick arcï¿½n azonban rï¿½gtï¿½n elhalvï¿½nyodott a jï¿½kedv, mihelyt sarkon fordult, hogy bemenjen a hï¿½zba. Tï¿½z ï¿½ra utï¿½n pï¿½r perccel befejezte a diktï¿½lï¿½st ï¿½s Blake ï¿½r felkelt, hogy menjen. De nem ment, mintegy bocsï¿½natkï¿½rï¿½en megszï¿½lalt:

- Azt tetszett mondani, Forrest ï¿½r, hogy emlï¿½keztessem a rï¿½vidszarvï¿½-kï¿½nyv kefelevonataira. Tegnap mï¿½r a mï¿½sodik tï¿½viratot kï¿½ldtï¿½k, hogy sï¿½rgessenek.

- Kï¿½ptelen vagyok magam nekiï¿½lni, - felelte Dick - a tipogrï¿½fiï¿½t korrigï¿½lja meg maga, aztï¿½n adja oda Manson ï¿½rnak az ï¿½rtelmi hibï¿½kat korrigï¿½lni, mondja meg neki, hogy a Devon-kirï¿½ly pedigreeje okvetlen ki legyen javï¿½tva, aztï¿½n tegyï¿½k postï¿½ra.

Tizenegyig Dick a felï¿½gyelï¿½ket ï¿½s munkavezetï¿½ket fogadta. Utï¿½na alig egy negyedï¿½ra alatt vï¿½gzett Pitts ï¿½rral, a kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½si felï¿½gyelï¿½vel, akivel hozzï¿½vetï¿½leg megï¿½llapï¿½tottï¿½k a telep elsï¿½ kiï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sos nagyvï¿½sï¿½rï¿½nak a katalï¿½gusï¿½t. Ekkorra Bonbright ï¿½r mï¿½r ott ï¿½llt kezï¿½ben a tï¿½viratcsomï¿½val ï¿½s mï¿½g ezt fel sem dolgoztï¿½k, mï¿½r itt volt a lunch ideje.

Most maradt elï¿½szï¿½r egyedï¿½l azï¿½ta, hogy a kirï¿½ndulï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½got kocsiba ï¿½ltette. A hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½be ment ï¿½s odalï¿½pett, ahol a falon a baromï¿½terek ï¿½s hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½k sorakoztak. De nem ezekhez jï¿½tt, hanem ahoz a leï¿½nyarchoz, amely alattuk a kerek farï¿½mï¿½bï¿½l mosolygott le.

- Paula, Paula, - mondta hangosan - ennyi esztendï¿½ utï¿½n meglepetï¿½st szerzel magadnak is, nekem is? ï¿½rett fejjel megy el az eszed?

Lï¿½bszï¿½rvï¿½dï¿½t ï¿½s sarkantyï¿½t tett fel, hogy lunch utï¿½n kï¿½szen legyen kilovagolni. Hogy mit gondolt ï¿½ssze, amï¿½g lehajlott, azt rï¿½viden ï¿½sszefoglalva megmondta a berï¿½mï¿½zott arckï¿½pnek:

- ï¿½llok elï¿½be.

ï¿½s kisvï¿½rtatva, mikor indult, mï¿½g hozzï¿½tette:

- A mezï¿½ny szabad. Elï¿½ny nincs... semmi elï¿½ny.

Az esti cocktail idejï¿½n Grahamen kï¿½vï¿½l Paula volt az egyetlen a kirï¿½ndulï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½gbï¿½l, aki megjelent. Graham nevetve mondta Dicknek:

Komolyan mondom, ha hamarosan el nem megyek tï¿½letek, mï¿½g nyugdï¿½jas lesz itt belï¿½lem ï¿½s csatlakozhatom a madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcseihez.

- Bï¿½r valamennyien egyï¿½ttvï¿½ve egyetlen kï¿½nyvet tudnï¿½nak ï¿½sszehozni! - felelte Dick. - Neked meg ï¿½ppen az a dolgod, hogy itt ï¿½rd meg a kï¿½nyvedet. ï¿½n piszkï¿½ltalak, mï¿½g nekiï¿½ltï¿½l, ï¿½s az ï¿½n dolgom, hogy tovï¿½bb is piszkï¿½ljalak.

Paula is biztatta Grahamet, hogy maradjon mï¿½g. Azok a kï¿½zï¿½mbï¿½s, gï¿½pies frï¿½zisok, amelyekkel marasztalta, ï¿½des muzsika gyanï¿½nt hangzottak a Dick fï¿½lï¿½be. Repesett a szï¿½ve. Vï¿½gre is lehetetlen-e, hogy teljessï¿½ggel tï¿½vedett? Paula ï¿½s Graham okos, meglett emberek, az effï¿½le bolondsï¿½got rï¿½luk kï¿½ptelennek ï¿½s hihetetlennek tetszett feltï¿½telezni. Hiszen nem mai csirke egyik sem, hogy olyan kï¿½nnyen kiadja magï¿½t.

Dick fï¿½lemelte a poharï¿½t:

- Igyunk a kï¿½nyvre!

Aztï¿½n Paulï¿½hoz fordult:

- A cocktail elsï¿½rangï¿½. Paula, te felï¿½lmï¿½lod ï¿½nmagadat. Kï¿½r, hogy Hallode urat nem tanï¿½tod meg a mï¿½vï¿½szeted titkaira. Az ï¿½ cocktailjï¿½t a tieddel nem is lehet egy napon emlï¿½teni. Igen, mï¿½g egyet kï¿½rek.

Graham a Szelimmel ismerkedett, azzal az ï¿½tmï¿½zsï¿½s, szï¿½nfekete herï¿½lttel, amelyet Dick adott alï¿½ja az Altadena helyett. Egyedï¿½l lovagolt a szakadï¿½k fenyvesei kï¿½zï¿½tt azokon a dombokon, ahonnan le lehetett lï¿½tni a farm kï¿½zï¿½ppontjï¿½ra. Poroszkï¿½lt a lovï¿½n, figyelgette az ï¿½llat jï¿½indulatï¿½, vidï¿½m, engedelmes termï¿½szetï¿½t, a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t dï¿½dolgatta ï¿½s gondolatait a dal szï¿½vege szerint hagyta kalandozni. Gondtalanul, szeszï¿½lyes kedvï¿½ben azokra a termï¿½szetimï¿½dï¿½ szerelmesekre gondolva, akik erdei fï¿½kba vï¿½gjï¿½k a kezdï¿½betï¿½iket, letï¿½rt egy borostyï¿½nï¿½gat ï¿½s egy fenyï¿½ï¿½gat. Fel kellett ï¿½llnia a kengyelben, hogy le tudjon tï¿½pni egy hosszï¿½szï¿½rï¿½, ï¿½tï¿½gï¿½, kï¿½szï¿½ indï¿½t ï¿½s az ï¿½gakbï¿½l keresztet kï¿½thessen. Mikor az ï¿½tjelzï¿½ kialakult a keze alatt, maga elï¿½ dobta az ï¿½tra ï¿½s lï¿½tta, hogy Szelim keresztï¿½llï¿½p rajta, de nem lï¿½p rï¿½. Mï¿½g vissza is nï¿½zett ï¿½s nï¿½zte, mï¿½g az ï¿½t el nem fordult. Jï¿½ jel, gondolta magï¿½ban, hogy a lï¿½ nem taposta el.

A kï¿½szï¿½ indï¿½k, amelyeket elï¿½rhetett, borostyï¿½n- ï¿½s fenyï¿½gallyak, amelyek az arcï¿½ba csapï¿½dtak lovaglï¿½s kï¿½zben, arra kï¿½sztettï¿½k, hogy tovï¿½bb kï¿½tï¿½zgesse az ï¿½tjelzï¿½ket, amiket, ha kï¿½szen lettek, mindjï¿½rt el is dobott. Egy ï¿½ra mulva a szakadï¿½k elhajlï¿½sï¿½hoz ï¿½rt. Tudta, hogy az ï¿½t erre mï¿½r nehï¿½z ï¿½s kemï¿½ny. Tanakodott, vï¿½gï¿½l visszafordult.

Szelim nyerï¿½tï¿½sï¿½re felfigyelt. Kï¿½zvetlen kï¿½zelbï¿½l vï¿½laszolï¿½ nyerï¿½tï¿½s hangzott. Az ï¿½t kï¿½nnyï¿½ volt erre, Graham ï¿½getï¿½sbe fogta a lovat, nagy ï¿½vben fordult be ï¿½s meglï¿½tta a Szarvason lovaglï¿½ Paulï¿½t.

- Hallï¿½! - kiï¿½ltott rï¿½. - Hallï¿½! Hallï¿½!

Paula visszafogta a lovï¿½t, mï¿½g egymï¿½s mellï¿½ kerï¿½ltek.

- ï¿½n ï¿½ppen most fordultam meg, - mondta az asszonyka - de miï¿½rt fordult vissza maga? Azt hittem, hogy a Kis Szï¿½rke tanyï¿½ra igyekszik.

- Maga tudta, hogy elï¿½tte lovagolok? - kï¿½rdezte Graham, bï¿½mulva a Paula egyenesen rï¿½szegezett szemï¿½nek nyilt, fiï¿½s tekintetï¿½n.

- Persze hogy tudtam. A mï¿½sodik ï¿½tjelzï¿½ utï¿½n mï¿½r nem volt semmi kï¿½tsï¿½gem.

- Igaz, ezt egï¿½szen elfelejtettem - nevetett Graham rajtakapottan. - De miï¿½rt fordult vissza?

Paula vï¿½rt, mï¿½g Szarvas ï¿½s Szelim ï¿½tlï¿½ptek egy keresztbe dï¿½lt ï¿½gertï¿½rzsï¿½n, hogy a szemï¿½be nï¿½zhessen Grahamnek, mikor vï¿½laszol:

- Mert nem akartam kï¿½vetni a nyomï¿½t... senkinek a nyomï¿½n nem akarok menni, - tette hozzï¿½ mingyï¿½rt magyarï¿½zï¿½an - a mï¿½sodik ï¿½tjelzï¿½re mï¿½r visszafordultam.

Graham hirtelen nem tudott mit mondani ï¿½s valami fï¿½lszeg csend kï¿½vetkezett. ï¿½reztï¿½k mind a ketten ezt a fï¿½lszegsï¿½get, amely egyï¿½tt jï¿½r a tudott, de ki nem mondott dolgokkal.

- Szokï¿½sa magï¿½nak ï¿½gy ï¿½tjelzï¿½ket dobï¿½lni? - kï¿½rdezte Paula.

- Most tettem elï¿½szï¿½r - mondta fejï¿½t rï¿½zva Graham. - Tudja, itt olyan garmadï¿½ban terem a hozzï¿½valï¿½, hogy ez kï¿½sï¿½rtett. Aztï¿½n meg az a dal is motoszkï¿½lt bennem.

- Bennem is motoszkï¿½lt ma reggel, mikor felï¿½bredtem - felelte Paula ï¿½s ezï¿½ttal egyenesen elï¿½re szegte a fejï¿½t, hogy kikerï¿½ljï¿½n egy vadszï¿½lï¿½-indï¿½t, amely ï¿½ppen elï¿½tte lï¿½gott be az ï¿½tra.

ï¿½s Graham, amï¿½g az arca profiljï¿½t, aranybarna hajï¿½nak koronï¿½jï¿½t, dalra szï¿½letett torkï¿½t nï¿½zte, megï¿½rezte a maga szï¿½vï¿½ben az ï¿½si fï¿½jdalmat, ï¿½hsï¿½get ï¿½s sï¿½vï¿½rgï¿½st. Az asszony kï¿½zelsï¿½ge izgatta. Ahogy megnï¿½zte szarvas-szï¿½nï¿½ selyem corduroy-ruhï¿½jï¿½ban, a lï¿½tvï¿½ny viharosan verte fel benne a teste kï¿½pï¿½nek emlï¿½keit; amint a Hegyi Fickï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½n ï¿½szik, amint tizenkï¿½t mï¿½terrï¿½l fejest ugrik, amint kï¿½zï¿½pkori stï¿½lusï¿½ sï¿½tï¿½tkï¿½k toalettjï¿½ben vï¿½giglï¿½pked a szobï¿½n ï¿½s a hullï¿½ szï¿½vetet tï¿½rdï¿½nek azzal az ï¿½rjï¿½tï¿½ mozdulatï¿½val emeli.

Paula trï¿½fï¿½san szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe ezeket a lï¿½tomï¿½sokat:

- Kap egy krajcï¿½rt, ha megmondja, mire gondol.

Graham azonnal kï¿½sz volt a felelettel:

- Hï¿½lï¿½t adtam az Istennek, hogy maga mï¿½g egyszer sem emlï¿½tette Dicket.

- Annyira nem szereti?

- Ne legyen igaztalan - felelt Graham majdnem szigorï¿½an. - ï¿½ppen az, hogy szeretem Dicket. Kï¿½lï¿½nben pedig...

- Nos?

A hangjï¿½bï¿½l bï¿½torsï¿½g csengett, ï¿½mbï¿½r mereven maga elï¿½ nï¿½zett Szarvas hegyes fï¿½lï¿½re.

- Nem is ï¿½rtem, miï¿½rt maradok. Mï¿½r rï¿½g el kellett volna mennem.

- Miï¿½rt? - kï¿½rdezte Paula, mï¿½g mindig a lï¿½ fï¿½lï¿½t szemlï¿½lve.

- Ne beszï¿½ljen ï¿½gy. Kettï¿½nknek nincs beszï¿½dre szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½nk, hogy megï¿½rtsï¿½k egymï¿½st.

Paula egï¿½szen felï¿½je fordult, arca forrï¿½ lett a pirossï¿½gtï¿½l ï¿½s szï¿½tlanul nï¿½zett rï¿½. A jobbkeze gyorsan felemelkedett, mintha a mellï¿½hez akarnï¿½ szorï¿½tani, de fï¿½lï¿½ton hatï¿½rozatlanul megï¿½llt, aztï¿½n lehullott. Graham lï¿½tta, hogy a szemï¿½ben ï¿½rï¿½m ï¿½s izgalom ï¿½g. Ezt nem lehetett fï¿½lreï¿½rteni. Izgalom is volt a szemï¿½ben, ï¿½rï¿½m is. ï¿½s ï¿½, ahogy ez nï¿½mely fï¿½rfinak tudni adatik, a mï¿½sik kezï¿½be fogta a kantï¿½rt, szorosan mellï¿½je lï¿½ptetett, ï¿½gy magï¿½hoz hï¿½zta, hogy a lï¿½ megingott belï¿½ ï¿½s tï¿½rdï¿½vel a Paula tï¿½rdï¿½n, szï¿½jï¿½val a Paula szï¿½jï¿½n belecsï¿½kolta a maga vï¿½gyï¿½t az ï¿½vï¿½be. Itt nem volt tï¿½bbï¿½ kï¿½tsï¿½g, a szorï¿½tï¿½sra szorï¿½tï¿½s felelt, a forrï¿½sï¿½gra forrï¿½sï¿½g. A fï¿½rfi a bï¿½szkesï¿½g boldog borzadï¿½sï¿½val ï¿½rezte magï¿½n az asszony lehelletï¿½t.

A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban Paula kirï¿½ntotta magï¿½t. Arca olyan lett, mint az ï¿½n. A szeme tï¿½zelt. Felkapta a lovaglï¿½ostorï¿½t, mintha Grahamet akarnï¿½ megï¿½tni, de a rï¿½mï¿½lt Szarvasra csapott vele. Ugyanabban a pillanatban olyan hirtelensï¿½ggel ï¿½s erï¿½vel dï¿½fte a lï¿½ba a sarkantyï¿½jï¿½t, hogy az felhorkant ï¿½s megugrott belï¿½.

Graham hallgatta, hogyan hal el a tompa dobogï¿½s az erdei ï¿½svï¿½nyen, mï¿½g ï¿½ vï¿½re lobogï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l szï¿½dï¿½lten ï¿½l a nyeregben. Mikor a tï¿½volodï¿½ patï¿½k utolsï¿½ nesze is elhangzott, fï¿½lig lecsï¿½szott, fï¿½lig leesett a nyeregbï¿½l a fï¿½ldre ï¿½s leï¿½lt egy mohos sziklï¿½ra. Nagyon odavolt, - sokkal jobban, mintsem lehetsï¿½gesnek tartotta volna addig a pillanatig, mï¿½g Paulï¿½t a karjai kï¿½zt ï¿½rezte. A kocka el van vetve.

Olyan hirtelen egyenesedett ki, hogy Szelim megijedt, visszaugrott, mï¿½g a kantï¿½r engedte ï¿½s horkolni kezdett.

Ami tï¿½rtï¿½nt, nem volt elï¿½re megfontolt dolog. Ezt nem lehetett kikerï¿½lni. Ennek ï¿½gy kellett tï¿½rtï¿½nni. ï¿½ nem akarta, nem tervezte. ï¿½mbï¿½r most mï¿½r tudta, hogy mikor az elutazï¿½sï¿½t egyre halogatta, mikor itt lebzselt, akkor mindezt elï¿½re kellett lï¿½tnia. Most mï¿½r azzal sem ï¿½r semmit, ha elutazik. ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½get, poklot, boldogsï¿½got jelent egyszerre, hogy most mï¿½r nincs kï¿½tsï¿½ge tï¿½bbï¿½. Paula megmondta neki, amit kellett, beszï¿½d nï¿½lkï¿½l, olyan beszï¿½ddel, amelynek emlï¿½ke mï¿½g ott ï¿½g az ajkï¿½n. Felidï¿½zte ï¿½s hosszasan ï¿½tï¿½lte ezt a csï¿½kot, ï¿½rzï¿½kei boldogan fï¿½rï¿½dtek a visszaemlï¿½kezï¿½s tengerï¿½ben.

Cirï¿½gatva ï¿½rintette meg a tï¿½rdï¿½t azon a helyen, ahova a Paula tï¿½rde ï¿½rt ï¿½s az ï¿½szinte szerelmes alï¿½zatos hï¿½lï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½rezte. Csodï¿½latos dolognak lï¿½tta, hogy egy ilyen csodï¿½latos nï¿½ szereti, aki nem kislï¿½ny, hanem asszony, aki tisztï¿½ban van a sajï¿½t akaratï¿½val ï¿½s eszï¿½vel. Ez az asszony lihegett a karjai kï¿½zï¿½tt, ennek az asszonynak az ajka volt az ï¿½vï¿½. Minden ï¿½rzï¿½s felï¿½bredt most benne, amit adni tudott, ï¿½s nem is ï¿½lmodta ennyi esztendï¿½ utï¿½n, hogy ennyit tud adni mï¿½g.

Felkelt, nekilï¿½tott, hogy felï¿½ljï¿½n Szelimre, amely a szï¿½jï¿½val taszigï¿½lta a vï¿½llï¿½t, de megï¿½llott ï¿½s eltï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt.

Hogy elutazzï¿½k-e, arrï¿½l most mï¿½r nincs szï¿½. Ez most mï¿½r vï¿½gleg el van intï¿½zve. Dicknek megvannak a maga jogai, az igaz. De Paulï¿½nak is. Neki pedig a tï¿½rtï¿½ntek utï¿½n nincs joga elutazni, hacsak... hacsak Paula is vele nem jï¿½n. Ha most elutazna, az azt jelentenï¿½, hogy csï¿½kolï¿½dzott ï¿½s odï¿½bb ï¿½llott. Miï¿½ta a nemek ï¿½letï¿½ben megtï¿½rtï¿½nik, hogy ugyanazok a fï¿½rfiak egy nï¿½t szeretnek ï¿½s ilyenkor a kï¿½zkeletï¿½ hï¿½romszï¿½g kï¿½rï¿½ben rï¿½gtï¿½n felï¿½ti a fejï¿½t a csalï¿½s, azï¿½ta a fï¿½rfit megcsalni kisebb dolog, mint a nï¿½t.

Amint lassan lovagolt tovï¿½bb, azt latolgatta magï¿½ban, hogy a vilï¿½g a valï¿½sï¿½gok vilï¿½ga. Paula is, Dick is, ï¿½ is reï¿½lis emberek ebben a vilï¿½gban, ï¿½ntudatosak, akik az ï¿½let dolgainak egyenesen a szemï¿½be nï¿½znek. Ez az ï¿½gy sem papra, sem tï¿½rvï¿½nyre, sem egyï¿½b bï¿½lcsesï¿½gekre nem tartozik. Ezt maguknak kell elintï¿½zni. Valaki szenvedni fog, az bizonyos. De az ï¿½let maga is szenvedï¿½s. Siker az ï¿½letben nem egyï¿½b, mint a fï¿½jdalmat legkisebbre korlï¿½tozni. Hï¿½listennek Dick is ï¿½gy fogta fel az ï¿½letet. Mind a hï¿½rman ï¿½gy fogjï¿½k fel. ï¿½s aztï¿½n semmi sem ï¿½j a nap alatt. Szï¿½mtalan nemzedï¿½kek szï¿½mtalan hï¿½zassï¿½gi hï¿½romszï¿½gei elintï¿½ztï¿½k mï¿½r a maguk dolgï¿½t. Majd elintï¿½zik most ï¿½k is. A vilï¿½gon mindent el lehet intï¿½zni.

Aztï¿½n elkergette fejï¿½bï¿½l a jï¿½zan gondolatokat ï¿½s ï¿½tadta magï¿½t az emlï¿½kezï¿½s gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½nek, mï¿½g egyszer megsimogatta a tï¿½rdï¿½t, mï¿½g egyszer az ajkï¿½ra kï¿½pzelte a Paula ajkï¿½t. Egyszer Szelimet meg is ï¿½llï¿½totta, hogy kitï¿½rt karjai kï¿½zï¿½tt megnï¿½zze azt a homorï¿½ ï¿½ressï¿½get, amelyet egy pillanatig Paula tï¿½ltï¿½tt ki.

Paulï¿½t csak diner-nï¿½l lï¿½tta viszont ï¿½s a megszokott Paulï¿½nak talï¿½lta. Mï¿½g az ï¿½ szeme, amelyet a titok tudata ï¿½lesebbï¿½ tett, sem tudta rajta felfedezni a nagy nap esemï¿½nyï¿½nek semmi nyomï¿½t, sem annak a haragnak a nyomï¿½t, amelytï¿½l Paula ï¿½gy elsï¿½padt ï¿½s amely a tekintetï¿½ben ï¿½gett, mikor felkapta a lovaglï¿½ostorï¿½t, hogy ï¿½ssï¿½n vele. Mindenben a nagy hï¿½z asszonykï¿½ja volt, mint mï¿½skor. Mikor a tekintetï¿½k vï¿½letlenï¿½l talï¿½lkozott, a Paula szeme tisztï¿½n, zavartalanul tekintett rï¿½, nyoma sem volt bennï¿½k a titoknak. A helyzetet kï¿½nnyebbï¿½ tette nï¿½hï¿½ny ï¿½j vendï¿½g jelenlï¿½te. Ezek hï¿½lgyek voltak, Dick ï¿½s Paula jï¿½ ismerï¿½sei, akik kï¿½t napra jï¿½ttek.

Mï¿½snap reggel a zeneteremben a zongorï¿½nï¿½l talï¿½lta ï¿½ket ï¿½s Paulï¿½t.

- Szokott ï¿½nekelni, Graham? - kï¿½rdezte egy bizonyos Hoffman kisasszony, aki, mint Graham megtudta, egy San Franciscï¿½ban megjelenï¿½ nï¿½i folyï¿½irat szerkesztï¿½je volt.

- Gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½en, - felelte Graham - nem igaz, nagysï¿½gos asszony?

- De igen, - felelt Paula mosolyogva - mï¿½r csak azï¿½rt is, mert elï¿½g gyï¿½ngï¿½d, hogy ne ï¿½nekelje tï¿½l az ï¿½n hangomat.

- Nincs mï¿½s hï¿½tra, mint hogy ezt bebizonyï¿½tsuk.

ï¿½s Paulï¿½ra nï¿½zett, hogy egy pillantï¿½st kapjon tï¿½le:

- Itt van az a duett, amit a multkor ï¿½nekeltï¿½nk, az nekem nagyon jï¿½l fekszik.

ï¿½s megint Paulï¿½ra nï¿½zett, de semmi jelet nem kapott tï¿½le, ami a Paula kedvï¿½t vagy szï¿½ndï¿½kï¿½t elï¿½rulta volna.

- A kotta ott van a mï¿½sik szobï¿½ban, megyek ï¿½s elhozom.

Mikor kiment, akkor hallotta a Paula hangjï¿½t:

- A Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tja, kedves, jï¿½ dal.

Most nem ï¿½nekeltï¿½k olyan kï¿½nnyedï¿½n, mint az elsï¿½ alkalommal. A hangjuk szï¿½ndï¿½kosan kevï¿½sbï¿½ remegett ï¿½s kissï¿½ hï¿½vï¿½sebb volt. De gazdagabban ï¿½nekeltï¿½k, tartalmasabban, mint ahogy akï¿½r a zeneszerzï¿½ is gondolhatta. A maguk egyï¿½ni felfogï¿½sï¿½nak nem adtak most helyet. De Graham sok mindenre gondolt, amï¿½g ï¿½nekelt ï¿½s tudta, hogy Paula is azokat gondolja ï¿½s hogy a szï¿½veikben egy mï¿½sik duett lï¿½ktet, amelyrï¿½l sejtelme sincs annak a pï¿½r asszonynak, aki a dal vï¿½gï¿½t megtapsolja.

- Fogadni mernï¿½k, hogy sohasem ï¿½nekelte jobban - mondta Paulï¿½nak.

Mert ï¿½j szï¿½nt vett ï¿½szre a hangjï¿½ban. A hangja most teljesebb, teltebb volt, a kiterjedï¿½se megnï¿½tt ï¿½s ï¿½nekre termett torka most tï¿½nt fel igazï¿½n.

- ï¿½s most, mivel tudom, hogy ï¿½gysem tudja, mi az, - mondta Paula - elmagyarï¿½zom magï¿½nak, mi az az ï¿½tjelzï¿½...

- ï¿½reg Dick, - mondta Mc Fane apai hangon - a te ï¿½llï¿½spontod fï¿½lreismerhetetlenï¿½l Carlyle-szerï¿½.

A madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcsei az asztalnï¿½l ï¿½ltek. Paulï¿½val, Dickkel ï¿½s Grahammel hï¿½ttagï¿½ diner-tï¿½rsasï¿½got alkottak.

- Kedves Terrence, - felelte Dick - azzal, hogy nevet adsz egy ï¿½llï¿½spontnak, mï¿½g nem gyï¿½rï¿½d le. Tudom, hogy a tï¿½telem Carlyle-szerï¿½, de ettï¿½l nem lesz gyï¿½ngï¿½bb. A hï¿½sï¿½k tisztelete nagyon helyes dolog. Nemcsak mint puszta skolasztikus beszï¿½lek, hanem mint gyakorlati tenyï¿½sztï¿½ is, akinï¿½l a Mendel-rendszerek alkalmazï¿½sa mindennapos dolog.

- Szï¿½val azt kell kï¿½vetkeztetnem, - vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe Hancock - hogy a hottentotta felï¿½r a fehï¿½r emberrel?

- A Dï¿½l elï¿½ï¿½tï¿½lete beszï¿½l belï¿½led, Aaron; - mosolygott Dick - az az elï¿½ï¿½tï¿½let, amit nem is a szï¿½letï¿½s, hanem a korai kï¿½rnyezet okoz, tï¿½lsï¿½gosan kemï¿½ny diï¿½ a te egï¿½sz filozï¿½fiï¿½d szï¿½mï¿½ra. Mint ahogy Spencer Herbertnek sem vï¿½lt javï¿½ra a manchesteri iskola tï¿½lkorai befolyï¿½sa.

- Szï¿½val, - mondta harcra kï¿½szen Hyal Dar - Spencer meg a hottentotta, az egy kutya?

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Majd kifejtem neked a dolgot, Hyal. Azt hiszem, tisztï¿½zni tudom. Az ï¿½tlagos hottentotta, vagy az ï¿½tlagos melanï¿½ziai nincs messze attï¿½l, hogy egy kutya legyen az ï¿½tlagos fehï¿½r emberrel. A kï¿½lï¿½nbsï¿½g ott van, hogy arï¿½nylag sokkal tï¿½bb hottentotta marad csupï¿½n ï¿½tlagember ï¿½s arï¿½nylag sokkal nagyobb szï¿½zalï¿½k fehï¿½r ember felï¿½lmï¿½lja az ï¿½tlagot. Ezeket neveztem el iramvezetï¿½knek, ezek mozdï¿½tjï¿½k elï¿½ fajuk ï¿½tlagï¿½nak a haladï¿½sï¿½t. Hangsï¿½lyozom, hogy az ï¿½tlagember termï¿½szetï¿½t nem vï¿½ltoztatjï¿½k meg, intelligenciï¿½jï¿½t nem fejlesztik ki. De nï¿½velik a felkï¿½szï¿½ltsï¿½gï¿½t, kï¿½nnyebbï¿½ teszik a dolgï¿½t, kï¿½pessï¿½ teszik arra, hogy az egyï¿½ttes iram rï¿½vï¿½n gyorsabban dolgozhassanak. Adj az indiï¿½n kezï¿½be az ï¿½j meg a nyï¿½l helyett egy modern fegyvert ï¿½s az indiï¿½n hasonlï¿½thatatlanul jobb ï¿½s sikeresebb vadï¿½sszï¿½ vï¿½lik. Maga az indiï¿½n vadï¿½sz egy csï¿½ppet sem vï¿½ltozik meg. De az indiï¿½n faj olyan kevï¿½s ï¿½tlagfeletti embert termelt, hogy tï¿½zezer nemzedï¿½ken keresztï¿½l egy sem akadt, aki puskï¿½t tudott volna adni nekik.

- Fejtsd ezt ki rï¿½szletesen, - biztatta Terrence - kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l sejtem mï¿½r a gondolatmenetet. Aaron egykettï¿½re meg fog futamodni ï¿½sszes faji elï¿½ï¿½tï¿½leteivel ï¿½s a felsï¿½bbsï¿½gre vonatkozï¿½ ostobasï¿½gaival egyï¿½tt.

- Ezek az ï¿½tlagfï¿½lï¿½tti emberek, - folytatta Dick - ezek az iramvezetï¿½k a feltalï¿½lï¿½k, a felfedezï¿½k, az ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½k, a produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellemek. Azt a fajt, amely kevï¿½s ilyen vezï¿½rszellemet tud felmutatni, nevezhetjï¿½k alantasabb alsï¿½bbrendï¿½ fajnak. Az ilyen faj mï¿½g mindig ï¿½jjal ï¿½s nyï¿½llal vadï¿½szik. Nincs mï¿½g felszerelve. Mï¿½r most: az ï¿½tlagos fehï¿½r ember magï¿½ban vï¿½ve ï¿½ppen olyan bestiï¿½lis, korlï¿½tolt, merev, visszamaradt, fejletlen, mint az ï¿½tlagos vadember. De az ï¿½tlagos fehï¿½r embernek gyorsabb a tempï¿½ja. Az ï¿½ tï¿½rsadalmï¿½ban a nagyszï¿½mï¿½ produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellemek megadtï¿½k neki a felszereltsï¿½get, a szervezettsï¿½get ï¿½s ellï¿½ttï¿½k tï¿½rvï¿½nnyel. Hol az a nagy ember, az a hï¿½rosz, a produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellem fogalmï¿½t ï¿½rtve alatta, akit a hottentotta faj fel tud mutatni? A Hawaii-nï¿½gert egyetlenegyet mutatnak fel: Kamehamehï¿½t. Az amerikai nï¿½gerek legfeljebb kettï¿½t: Booker T. Washingtont ï¿½s Du Boist. Ez is mind a kettï¿½ fehï¿½r fï¿½lvï¿½r.

Paula eleven ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½st szï¿½nlelt, mikor Dick folytatta a fejtegetï¿½st. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszott, hogy a dolog nem untatja. De Graham megï¿½rtï¿½ szeme ï¿½gy vette ï¿½szre, hogy a lelke mï¿½lyï¿½n el van tikkadva. ï¿½s mikor Terrence ï¿½s Hancock egy kis idï¿½re fegyverszï¿½netet kï¿½tï¿½ttek, az asszonyka halkan odaszï¿½lt Grahamnek:

- Szavak, szavak, szavak, csupa szï¿½ ï¿½s milyen sok! Lehet, hogy Dicknek igaza van, majdnem mindig igaza szokott lenni. De megvallom azt a rï¿½gi gyengesï¿½gemet, hogy ezt a sok szï¿½ï¿½radatot kï¿½ptelen vagyok rï¿½hï¿½zni az ï¿½letre, az ï¿½n ï¿½letemre, az ï¿½n ï¿½lï¿½semre, arra, hogy mit kellene tennem, mit muszï¿½j tennem.

Az asszony szeme beszï¿½d kï¿½zben rendï¿½letlenï¿½l az ï¿½vï¿½re szegezï¿½dï¿½tt. Graham nem maradhatott kï¿½tsï¿½gben azirï¿½nt, hogy Paula mirï¿½l beszï¿½l.

- Nem tudom megï¿½rteni, hogy produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellemek ï¿½s iramvezetï¿½k mit jelentenek az ï¿½n ï¿½letemben... Nem mondjï¿½k meg nekem, mi a jï¿½, mi a rossz, nem mutatnak utat egyetlen lï¿½pï¿½snek sem. Itt pedig megindult a szï¿½ï¿½r ï¿½s most mï¿½r egï¿½sz este hï¿½mpï¿½lyï¿½gni fog...

Aztï¿½n kissï¿½ hevesen hozzï¿½tette:

- ï¿½ jï¿½l ï¿½rtem ï¿½n, mit beszï¿½lnek ï¿½k. Csakhogy ez nem tartozik rï¿½m. Szavak, szavak, szavak... ï¿½n pedig tudni akarom, hogy mit tegyek, mit csinï¿½ljak magammal, mit csinï¿½ljak magï¿½val, mit csinï¿½ljak Dickkel.

Graham nem felelhetett neki. Forrest Dick ezen a napon benne volt a beszï¿½dben ï¿½s ï¿½ppen most hozzï¿½ fordult, hogy adatokat kï¿½rdezzen tï¿½le bizonyos dï¿½lamerikai nï¿½ptï¿½rzsek felï¿½l, akik kï¿½zï¿½tt Graham utazott volt. Aki ekkor a Dick arcï¿½ra nï¿½zett, nem talï¿½lhatta ki, hogy a gondtalan, vidï¿½m vitï¿½zï¿½n kï¿½vï¿½l mï¿½s is van az arca mï¿½gï¿½tt. Graham ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy nem is ï¿½lmodta, akï¿½rcsak Paula, Dicknek tizenkï¿½t ï¿½v ï¿½ta felesï¿½ge, hogy Dick vï¿½letlen, gondtalan pillantï¿½sai pontosan ï¿½szrevesznek minden kï¿½zmozdulatot, minden szï¿½k-odï¿½bbtolï¿½st, minden elsuhanï¿½ arckifejezï¿½st. ï¿½s Dick ezt kï¿½rdezte magï¿½ban:

- Mi tï¿½rtï¿½nik itt? Paula mï¿½s, mint rendesen. Hatï¿½rozottan ideges, a beszï¿½lgetï¿½sï¿½k nagyon komoly. Graham egï¿½szen sï¿½padt. Az agya kï¿½ptelen ï¿½gyelni arra, amit mond. Valami egyï¿½b jï¿½r a fejï¿½ben ï¿½s nem az, amirï¿½l beszï¿½l. Mi az az egyï¿½b?

Aztï¿½n a vita ï¿½rdï¿½ge, amely mï¿½gï¿½ titkos gondolatait rejtette, mï¿½kï¿½dni kezdett: mï¿½g nagyobb mederben ï¿½s nagyobb hï¿½vvel vitatkozott tovï¿½bb. Graham befejezte a kï¿½rdezett adatok felsorolï¿½sï¿½t. Paula halkan kitï¿½rve szï¿½lt oda neki:

- Most az egyszer szinte gyï¿½lï¿½lni tudnï¿½m ezt a nï¿½gy bï¿½lcset.

Dick mialatt nyugodt mondatokban fejlesztette tovï¿½bb a tï¿½telï¿½t ï¿½s lï¿½thatï¿½an elmï¿½lyedve a tï¿½rgyban, beszï¿½lt tovï¿½bb, lï¿½tta Paula oldalt fordulï¿½sï¿½t. A Paula szavait nem hallhatta, de lï¿½tta nï¿½vekvï¿½ idegessï¿½gï¿½t, lï¿½tta Graham hallgatagon megï¿½rtï¿½ kifejezï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s azon tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt, mi lehet az a pï¿½r szï¿½, amit Paula mondott. Mindezalatt pedig folytatta elï¿½adï¿½sï¿½t tovï¿½bb:

- Fischer ï¿½s Speiser megegyeznek abban, hogy sokkal csekï¿½lyebb a karakter-egysï¿½g az alsï¿½bbrendï¿½ fajok leszï¿½rmazï¿½sï¿½ban, mint amennyi pï¿½ldï¿½ul a franciï¿½ban, a nï¿½metben, az angolban...

Az asztalnï¿½l senki sem gyanï¿½totta, hogy Dick szï¿½ndï¿½kosan terelte a szï¿½harcot egy ï¿½j mellï¿½kï¿½svï¿½nyre. ï¿½s Leï¿½ sem ï¿½lmodta kï¿½sï¿½bb, hogy nem az ï¿½ felszï¿½lalï¿½sa, hanem Dick mesteri kï¿½szsï¿½ge vï¿½ltoztatta meg az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos tï¿½mï¿½t. Leï¿½ ugyanis azt kï¿½rdezte, hogy a nï¿½i produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellemek milyen szerepet jï¿½tszanak a maguk fajï¿½ban.

- A nï¿½k nem produkï¿½lnak, ï¿½des Leï¿½ fiam, - felelt neki Terrence, mikï¿½zben a tï¿½bbiekre hunyorï¿½tott - a nï¿½k konzervatï¿½vok. ï¿½k tisztï¿½n megtartjï¿½k a tï¿½pust. Leszegezik ï¿½s ugyanolyannak tartjï¿½k fenn. ï¿½k a haladï¿½s diadalszekerï¿½nek ï¿½rï¿½k kï¿½lï¿½ncei. Ha nem volnï¿½nak nï¿½k, akkor kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½nk minden anyaszï¿½lte fickï¿½ produkï¿½lï¿½ vezï¿½rszellem volna. ï¿½tnyujtalak tï¿½ged a mi kivï¿½lï¿½ ï¿½llattenyï¿½sztï¿½nknek ï¿½s gyakorlati mendelistï¿½nknak, aki itt ï¿½l ma este kï¿½ztï¿½nk ï¿½s igazolni fogja futï¿½ megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½saimat.

Dick azonnal felkapta a dolgot:

- Hatoljunk le mindenekelï¿½tt a kï¿½rdï¿½s fenekï¿½ig ï¿½s keressï¿½k meg, hogy mirï¿½l van szï¿½ alapjï¿½ban vï¿½ve.

ï¿½s komoly arccal feltette a kï¿½rdï¿½st:

- Mi az, hogy nï¿½?

Hyal Dar vï¿½laszolt. Szï¿½ja sarkï¿½ban az incselkedï¿½s ï¿½rdï¿½ge nevetett ï¿½s gï¿½nyra gï¿½rbï¿½tette vï¿½kony, cinikus ajkait:

- A rï¿½gi gï¿½rï¿½gï¿½k azt mondtï¿½k a nï¿½rï¿½l, hogy a termï¿½szet fï¿½rfit akart csinï¿½lni, de elhibï¿½zta.

Leï¿½ megdï¿½bbent. Elpirult. A szemï¿½ben fï¿½jdalom ï¿½lt ï¿½s a szï¿½ja vonaglott, mikor nï¿½mï¿½n fordult Dickhez segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½rt. Hancock azonban mï¿½g rï¿½duplï¿½zott:

- A nï¿½? A fï¿½l-nem. Mintha az isten teremtï¿½s kï¿½zben visszavonta volna a kezï¿½t. Csak fï¿½l-lelket hagyott neki. A legjobb esetben vakon tapogatï¿½dzï¿½ lelket.

- Nem! Nem! - kiï¿½ltott fel az ifjï¿½. - Ne mondjatok ilyeneket! Dick, te tudod. Szï¿½lj nekik! Szï¿½lj nekik! Mondd meg nekik!

- Szeretnï¿½m, - felelte Dick - de ez a lï¿½lekrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ vita csak homï¿½lyos lehet, mint a lelkek maguk. Mindnyï¿½jan tudjuk magunkrï¿½l, hogy gyakran tapogatï¿½dzunk, gyakran eltï¿½vedï¿½nk ï¿½s akkor tï¿½vedï¿½nk el legjobban, mikor azt hisszï¿½k, hogy tudjuk, hol vagyunk ï¿½s mikor azt hisszï¿½k, hogy mindent tudunk ï¿½nmagunkrï¿½l. Micsoda az ï¿½rï¿½ltnek az ï¿½nje? Ami a miï¿½nk, csak kicsit kevï¿½sbï¿½, vagy sokkal kevï¿½sbï¿½ ï¿½sszefï¿½ggï¿½. Mi az ï¿½nje a bolondnak? A fï¿½lkegyelmï¿½nek? A gyengeelmï¿½jï¿½ gyereknek? A lï¿½nak? A kutyï¿½nak? A moszkitï¿½nak? A kecskebï¿½kï¿½nak? A fafï¿½regnek? A csigï¿½nak? ï¿½s mi a te ï¿½ned, Leï¿½, mikor alszol ï¿½s ï¿½lmodol? Mikor tengeri beteg vagy? Mikor szerelmes vagy? Mikor kï¿½likï¿½d van? Mikor gï¿½rcs ï¿½ll a lï¿½badba? Mikor hirtelen elfog a halï¿½lfï¿½lelem? Mikor dï¿½hï¿½s vagy? Mikor magadon kï¿½vï¿½l vagy a vilï¿½g szï¿½psï¿½gï¿½nek megï¿½rzï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s azt hiszed, hogy most kifejezhetetlen, elmondhatatlan dolgokat gondolsz? Szï¿½ndï¿½kosan mondom: csak hiszed, hogy gondolsz. Mert ha csakugyan gondolnï¿½l is ilyen dolgokat, akkor a vilï¿½g szï¿½psï¿½gï¿½nek ez a megï¿½rzï¿½se nem volna kifejezhetetlen, elmondhatatlan. Hanem tiszta volna, ï¿½les ï¿½s hatï¿½rozott. Szavakba tudnï¿½d foglalni. Az ï¿½ned is tiszta, ï¿½les, hatï¿½rozott volna, mint a gondolataid ï¿½s a szavaid. Ergï¿½, kedves Leï¿½, mikor egzaltï¿½lt hangulataidban azt hiszed, hogy a lï¿½t csï¿½csï¿½n ï¿½llsz, a valï¿½sï¿½gban csak ï¿½rzï¿½seidnek ï¿½rï¿½lt orgiï¿½jï¿½t hadonï¿½szod, reszketed, tï¿½ncolod, de sem a tï¿½nc lï¿½pï¿½sï¿½t, sem az orgia ï¿½rtelmï¿½t nem ismered. Nem ismered ï¿½nmagadat. A lelked, az ï¿½ned abban a pillanatban kï¿½sza, tapogatï¿½dzï¿½ valami. Lehet, hogy a kecskebï¿½kï¿½nak, mikor a tï¿½ partjï¿½n felfuvalkodik ï¿½s a sï¿½tï¿½tben rekedt brekegï¿½seket intï¿½z varangyos pï¿½rjï¿½hoz, abban a pillanatban szintï¿½n van valami kï¿½sza, tapogatï¿½dzï¿½ ï¿½nje. Nem, Leï¿½kï¿½m, az emberi ï¿½n tï¿½lhomï¿½lyos valami ahoz, hogy bï¿½rmelyikï¿½nk homï¿½lyos ï¿½nje is felfoghassa. Vannak, akik fï¿½rfiaknak lï¿½tszanak, de ï¿½njï¿½k nï¿½i. Vannak, akiknek ï¿½njï¿½k tï¿½bbszï¿½rï¿½s. Vannak kï¿½tlï¿½bï¿½ teremtmï¿½nyek, akik affï¿½le se hï¿½s, se hal, se madï¿½r lï¿½nyek. Az ï¿½njeink kï¿½dï¿½s lidï¿½rcek gyanï¿½nt lebegnek ï¿½t homï¿½lyokon, sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½geken ï¿½s derengï¿½seken. Minden kï¿½d ï¿½s homï¿½ly, ï¿½s mi mind kï¿½dï¿½sek ï¿½s homï¿½lyosak vagyunk a misztï¿½rium kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n.

- De hï¿½tha nem misztï¿½rium, - szï¿½lt Paula - csak misztifikï¿½ciï¿½? Fï¿½rfi-misztifikï¿½ciï¿½?

- Igy az igazi nï¿½ beszï¿½l, - felelt Dick - akirï¿½l Leï¿½ azt tartja, hogy nem fï¿½l-lï¿½lek. A lï¿½nyeg az, Leï¿½, hogy nem ï¿½s lï¿½lek ï¿½ssze van fonï¿½dva ï¿½s keverve; az egyikrï¿½l keveset tudnak, a mï¿½sikrï¿½l mï¿½g kevesebbet.

- De a nï¿½k szï¿½pek - hebegte az ifjï¿½.

- Ohï¿½! - vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe Hancock gonoszul villogï¿½ fekete szemmel. - Szï¿½val te a nï¿½t azonosï¿½tod a szï¿½psï¿½ggel?

Az ifjï¿½ kï¿½ltï¿½ ajka szï¿½ra nyilt, de csak bï¿½lintani tudott.

- Rendben van. Akkor hï¿½vjuk tanusï¿½gul az utï¿½bbi ï¿½vezredek festï¿½szetï¿½t, mint a gazdasï¿½gi viszonyok ï¿½s tï¿½rsadalmi intï¿½zmï¿½nyek tï¿½krï¿½t. Ennek a segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½vel meglï¿½thatjuk, hogy a fï¿½rfi hogyan rothasztotta ï¿½s alacsonyï¿½totta le a nï¿½t vï¿½gyï¿½nak kï¿½pï¿½vï¿½ ï¿½s a nï¿½ hogyan engedte meg neki, hogy...

- Ne bï¿½ntsï¿½k tovï¿½bb Leï¿½t, - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Paula - legyenek mindnyï¿½jan ï¿½szintï¿½k, mondjï¿½k azt, amit tudnak, vagy hisznek.

- A nï¿½ igazï¿½n szent dolog - jelentette ki ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen Hyal Dar.

- Ott van a Madonna - szï¿½lt Graham, Paula segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½ï¿½l a vitï¿½ba elegyedve.

- ï¿½s a gerincvelï¿½ - tette hozzï¿½ Terrence, amiï¿½rt mingyï¿½rt megkapta Hyal Dar helyeslï¿½ bï¿½lintï¿½sï¿½t.

- Egyszerre egy beszï¿½ljen! - mondta Hancock. - Nï¿½zzï¿½k a Madonna-kultuszt, amely rï¿½szleges nï¿½kultusz volt az ï¿½sszes nï¿½knek ahoz a mai ï¿½ltalï¿½nos nï¿½kultuszï¿½hoz kï¿½pest, amit Leï¿½ kï¿½pvisel. A fï¿½rfi lusta ï¿½s tunya ï¿½llat. Nem szereti a kï¿½nyelmetlensï¿½get. Szereti a nyugalmat, a zavartalansï¿½got. ï¿½s miï¿½ta csak a fï¿½ldï¿½n ï¿½l, azon veszi magï¿½t ï¿½szre, hogy egy nyugtalan, ideges, ingerlï¿½keny, hisztï¿½riï¿½s ï¿½titï¿½rshoz van szï¿½jazva, akinek a neve nï¿½. Ennek a tï¿½rsnak hangulatai, kï¿½nnyei, hiï¿½sï¿½gai, mï¿½rgei vannak ï¿½s erkï¿½lcsi felelï¿½tlensï¿½gei. Nem pusztï¿½thatja el, meg kell tartania, pedig a nï¿½, miï¿½ta a vilï¿½g ï¿½ll, mindig felzaklatta a nyugalmï¿½t. Mit tehet ilyen kï¿½rï¿½lmï¿½nyek kï¿½zï¿½tt a fï¿½rfi?

- Csak bï¿½zd rï¿½ a ravasz gazemberre - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Terrence.

- ï¿½gi bï¿½lvï¿½nykï¿½pet csinï¿½lt belï¿½le, - folytatta Hancock - eszmï¿½nyï¿½tette a nï¿½ jï¿½ tulajdonsï¿½gait ï¿½s olyan tï¿½volsï¿½gba tette, hogy a rossz tulajdonsï¿½gai ne ï¿½rhessenek el az ï¿½ idegeihez ï¿½s ne zavarhassï¿½k, mikor nyugalmas, lusta bï¿½kepipï¿½jï¿½t szï¿½vja ï¿½s a csillagokrï¿½l elmï¿½lkedik. ï¿½s mikor a rendes hï¿½tkï¿½znapi nï¿½ nyugtalanï¿½tani prï¿½bï¿½lta, ï¿½ kiverte a fejï¿½bï¿½l ezt a nï¿½t ï¿½s az ï¿½gi nï¿½re gondolt, a tï¿½kï¿½letes nï¿½re, az ï¿½let hordozï¿½jï¿½ra, a halhatatlansï¿½g letï¿½temï¿½nyesï¿½re. Akkor jï¿½tt a reformï¿½ciï¿½. Az anya-kultusznak bealkonyult. De a fï¿½rfi mï¿½g mindig hozzï¿½ volt kï¿½tï¿½zve nyugalmï¿½nak hï¿½borï¿½tï¿½jï¿½hoz. Mit tett most?

- A gazember... - vigyorgott Terrence.

- Azt mondta: »ï¿½lmot ï¿½s illuziï¿½t csinï¿½lok belï¿½led.« ï¿½s megcsinï¿½lta. Addig a Madonna volt az ï¿½gi nï¿½je, a nï¿½rï¿½l alkotott legmagasztosabb elkï¿½pzelï¿½se. Mï¿½r most a Madonna minden eszmï¿½nyi tulajdonsï¿½gï¿½t visszaruhï¿½zta a fï¿½ldi nï¿½re, mindegyik nï¿½re ï¿½s elbolondï¿½totta sajï¿½t magï¿½t: azï¿½ta is hisz a nï¿½kben, hisz a nï¿½ben, mint Leï¿½.

- Hallod, - mondta Dick - ahoz kï¿½pest, hogy legï¿½nyember vagy, bï¿½mulatos tï¿½jï¿½kozottsï¿½got mutatsz a nï¿½k nyugtalanï¿½tï¿½ voltï¿½t illetï¿½leg. Vagy pusztï¿½n elmï¿½let az egï¿½sz?

Terrence elnevette magï¿½t.

- Kedves Dick, Aaron ï¿½ppen most olvassa Marholm Laurï¿½t. Kï¿½pes neked fejezetenkï¿½nt, mondatonkï¿½nt felmondani.

- ï¿½s ezzel a sok beszï¿½ddel - mondta Graham - a nï¿½nek mindeddig mï¿½g a ruhï¿½ja szegï¿½lyï¿½t sem ï¿½rintettï¿½k.

Paula ï¿½s Leï¿½ hï¿½lï¿½san pillantottak rï¿½.

- Pï¿½ldï¿½ul a szerelem, - lehelte Leï¿½ - senki mï¿½g egy szï¿½t sem szï¿½lt a szerelemrï¿½l.

- ï¿½s a hï¿½zassï¿½gi jogrï¿½l, - csattant fel Hancock - ï¿½s a vï¿½lï¿½srï¿½l ï¿½s a tï¿½bbnejï¿½sï¿½grï¿½l ï¿½s az egynejï¿½sï¿½grï¿½l ï¿½s a szabad szerelemrï¿½l.

- Mondjad csak, Leï¿½, - kï¿½rdezte Hyal Dar - miï¿½rt van az, hogy szerelmi ï¿½gyekben mindig a nï¿½ a tï¿½madï¿½, a vadï¿½szï¿½ fï¿½l?

- Ez nem igaz, - felelte a fiï¿½ nyugodtan, a fï¿½lï¿½nyes tudï¿½s hangjï¿½n - ez is egyike a ti Shaw-fï¿½le szamï¿½rsï¿½gaitoknak.

- ï¿½ljen Leï¿½! - helyeselt Paula.

- Szï¿½val Wildenak - kï¿½rdezte tovï¿½bb Hyal Dar - nem volt igaza, mikor azt mondta, hogy a nï¿½ hirtelen ï¿½s vï¿½ratlan odaadï¿½ssal tï¿½mad?

- Nï¿½zd, - mondta Leï¿½ - az ilyen beszï¿½dek ï¿½llatot, ragadozï¿½t csinï¿½lnak a nï¿½bï¿½l.

ï¿½s Dickhez fordult, de kï¿½zben lopva Paulï¿½ra pillantott ï¿½s a szemï¿½bï¿½l szerelem ï¿½radt.

- Mondd, Dick, ragadozï¿½ ï¿½llat a nï¿½?

Dick csendesen felelt, rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s a hangjï¿½ban benne volt a szelï¿½dsï¿½g afelett, amit a fiï¿½ titkos tekintetï¿½ben lï¿½tott:

- Nem. Hogy a nï¿½ ragadozï¿½, azt nem mondhatom. De azt sem mondhatom, hogy a nï¿½ zsï¿½kmï¿½ny. Azt sem, hogy zavartalan gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g a fï¿½rfi szï¿½mï¿½ra. Csak azt, hogy a fï¿½rfi szï¿½mï¿½ra nagy gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½g...

- ï¿½s nagy ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½g - tette hozzï¿½ Hancock.

- Nagy ï¿½s szï¿½p ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½g - igazï¿½totta ki komolyan Dick.

- Hadd kï¿½rdezek Leï¿½tï¿½l valamit - szï¿½lt most Hyal Dar. - Mondja, Leï¿½, miï¿½rt szereti a nï¿½ azt a fï¿½rfit, aki megveri?

- Hï¿½t azt, aki nem veri meg, nem szereti?

- Nem hï¿½t.

- Kedves Dar, neked rï¿½szben igazad van, de nagy rï¿½szben nincs igazad. Meghatï¿½rozï¿½sok dolgï¿½ban mï¿½r rï¿½g tanultam tï¿½letek egyetmï¿½st. Ebbï¿½l a kï¿½t ï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sbï¿½l ravaszul kihagytï¿½l egy fontos definiciï¿½t. Majd ï¿½n pï¿½tolom helyetted. Az a fï¿½rfi, aki megveri azt a nï¿½t, akit szeret, alsï¿½bbrendï¿½ fï¿½rfi. Az a nï¿½, aki szereti azt a fï¿½rfit, aki megveri, alsï¿½bbrendï¿½ nï¿½. A felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ fï¿½rfi nem veri meg azt a nï¿½t, akit szeret. A felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ nï¿½ - ï¿½s itt ï¿½ntudatlanul Paulï¿½ra tï¿½vedt a szeme - nem szeretheti azt a fï¿½rfit, aki megveri.

- Biztosï¿½thatlak, Leï¿½, - mondta Dick - hogy ï¿½n Paulï¿½t soha, soha nem vertem meg.

Leï¿½ elpirult. Aztï¿½n folytatta:

- Lï¿½tod, Dar, nincs igazad. Paula szereti Dicket, pedig Dick nem is verte meg.

Dick most Paulï¿½hoz fordult, arcï¿½n azzal a kifejezï¿½ssel, hogy kitï¿½nï¿½en mulat ï¿½s mintegy tekintetï¿½vel kereste a Paula arcï¿½n a legï¿½nyke szavainak helyeslï¿½sï¿½t. De valï¿½jï¿½ban mï¿½sï¿½rt nï¿½zett rï¿½: azt a hatï¿½st kereste, amit a felesï¿½gï¿½re ilyen helyzetben ezek a szavak gyakorolhattak. ï¿½gy lï¿½tta, hogy a Paula szemï¿½ben meglobban valami, amit nem ismer. A Graham arcï¿½t kifejezï¿½stelennek talï¿½lta, legalï¿½bb is az ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½s kifejezï¿½sï¿½nek semmi lï¿½thatï¿½ vï¿½ltozï¿½sa nem volt felfedezhetï¿½ rajta. Graham bï¿½kolt Leï¿½nak:

- A nï¿½i nem ma este megtalï¿½lta a maga Szent Gyï¿½rgy lovagjï¿½t. Maga megszï¿½gyenï¿½t engem, Leï¿½. ï¿½n itt ï¿½lï¿½k ï¿½lbe tett kï¿½zzel, mï¿½g maga hï¿½rom sï¿½rkï¿½nnyal kï¿½zd egyszerre.

- De mï¿½g milyen sï¿½rkï¿½nyokkal! - csatlakozott Paula. - Ha O'Hayt le tudtï¿½k itatni, vajjon mit fognak mï¿½velni magï¿½val?

- A szerelmi lovagon - mondta Dick - a vilï¿½g ï¿½sszes sï¿½rkï¿½nyai sem vehetnek erï¿½t. Az a legjobb a dologban, Leï¿½, hogy ezï¿½ttal a sï¿½rkï¿½nyoknak sokkal inkï¿½bb igazuk van, mint te kï¿½pzeled, de azï¿½rt neked ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy sokkal inkï¿½bb igazad van.

Terrence jelentkezett:

- Ez a sï¿½rkï¿½ny jï¿½ sï¿½rkï¿½ny, Leï¿½ fiam. Ez a sï¿½rkï¿½ny ezennel cserben hagyja hï¿½rhedt tï¿½rsait, ï¿½tpï¿½rtol a te oldaladra ï¿½s felveszi a Szent Terrence nevet. ï¿½s ez a Szent Terrence egy ï¿½des kis kï¿½rdï¿½st akar intï¿½zni hozzï¿½d.

- Elï¿½bb ez a sï¿½rkï¿½ny ordï¿½t! - szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Hancock. - Leï¿½! kï¿½rdezlek mindenre, ami a szerelemben drï¿½ga ï¿½s szent: miï¿½rt tï¿½rtï¿½nik meg nem egyszer, hogy a szerelmesek fï¿½ltï¿½kenysï¿½gbï¿½l megï¿½lik a nï¿½t, akit szeretnek?

- Mert meg vannak sebesï¿½lve, mert betegek ï¿½s mert elï¿½g szerencsï¿½tlenek voltak, hogy egy alsï¿½bbrendï¿½ nï¿½t szerettek, aki nem riadt vissza attï¿½l a bï¿½ntï¿½l, hogy fï¿½ltï¿½kennyï¿½ tegye ï¿½ket.

- Csakhogy Leï¿½kï¿½m, - szï¿½lt Dick - a szerelem tï¿½vedhet. Adj kielï¿½gï¿½tï¿½bb feleletet.

- Dicknek igaza van, - mondta Terrence - de ï¿½n mindenesetre testtel-lï¿½lekkel a te vitï¿½zi kardod mellett ï¿½llok. A szerelem felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ tï¿½pusoknï¿½l is tï¿½vedhet ï¿½s ha tï¿½ved, felï¿½ti a fejï¿½t a zï¿½ldszemï¿½ szï¿½rnyeteg. Tegyï¿½k fel, hogy az elkï¿½pzelhetï¿½ legtï¿½kï¿½letesebb nï¿½ megszï¿½nik szeretni a fï¿½rfit, aki nem veri ï¿½s beleszeret a mï¿½sikba, aki szereti ï¿½s szintï¿½n nem veri. Mi tï¿½rtï¿½nik akkor? Hangsï¿½lyozom, hogy mindegyik felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ tï¿½pus. Hï¿½t most ki a kardot ï¿½s ï¿½ss szï¿½t a sï¿½rkï¿½nyok kï¿½zï¿½tt.

Leï¿½ bï¿½tran felelt:

- Az elsï¿½ fï¿½rfi nem fogja megï¿½lni a nï¿½t, egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem is fogja bï¿½ntani. Mert ha bï¿½ntanï¿½ nem felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ ember volna, hanem alsï¿½bbrendï¿½.

Dick a cigarettï¿½jï¿½val bajlï¿½dott ï¿½s senkinek az arcï¿½t nem figyelhette.

- Szï¿½val - kï¿½rdezte - az illetï¿½ egyszerï¿½en fï¿½lreï¿½llna?

Leï¿½ szilï¿½rdan, komolyan bï¿½lintott.

- Egyszerï¿½en fï¿½lreï¿½llna, megkï¿½nnyï¿½tenï¿½ az asszony dolgï¿½t ï¿½s nagyon finoman bï¿½nna vele.

- Alkalmazzuk az ï¿½rvet »ad hominem«, - mondta Hancock. - Tegyï¿½k fel, hogy beleszeretsz a nagysï¿½gos asszonyba ï¿½s a nagysï¿½gos asszony belï¿½dszeret ï¿½s ketten a nagy hintï¿½ban megszï¿½ktï¿½k...

- ï¿½, ï¿½n nem szï¿½knï¿½k meg... - bï¿½kte ki ï¿½gï¿½ arccal az ifjï¿½.

- Hallja, ez nem nagyon hï¿½zelgï¿½ - bï¿½torï¿½totta Paula.

- Feltï¿½ve, de meg nem engedve - mondta Hancock.

A fiï¿½ zavara mï¿½r szï¿½nalmas volt. A hangja remegett, de azï¿½rt bï¿½tran Dick felï¿½ fordult:

- Dicken van a sor felelni.

- Meg is felelek - mondta Dick. - Nem ï¿½lnï¿½m meg Paulï¿½t. Tï¿½ged sem ï¿½lnï¿½lek meg, Leï¿½. Ezt nem. Az mï¿½r mï¿½s kï¿½rdï¿½s, mit ï¿½reznï¿½k belï¿½l. Azt mondanï¿½m: isten veletek, gyerekek. De...

Itt megï¿½llt ï¿½s a szeme sarkï¿½ban a nevetï¿½s vonalai trï¿½fï¿½t jelentettek:

- ...azt mondanï¿½m magamban, hogy Leï¿½ bakot lï¿½tt. Nem ismeri Paulï¿½t.

- A nagysï¿½gos asszony - nevetett Terrence - megzavarnï¿½, valahï¿½nyszor a csillagokrï¿½l elmï¿½lkedik.

- Soha, soha, Leï¿½, - kiï¿½ltott fel Paula - ezt ï¿½gï¿½rem magï¿½nak.

- Ezzel meghazudtolnï¿½ sajï¿½t magï¿½t, nagysï¿½gos asszony, - szï¿½lt Terrence. - Elï¿½szï¿½r is nem tehetne rï¿½la, de megtennï¿½. Mï¿½sodszor kutyakï¿½telessï¿½ge volna, hogy megtegye. Vï¿½gï¿½l pedig, ha szabad magamat igy kifejeznem, mint fï¿½lig-meddig tekintï¿½ly mondhatom, hogy fiatal koromban, mikor ï¿½rï¿½lt szerelmes voltam, mikor a szï¿½vem tele volt a nï¿½vel ï¿½s a szemem tele volt a csillagokkal, az volt a legdrï¿½gï¿½bb gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½gem, ha az imï¿½dott nï¿½ elszeretett a csillagoktï¿½l.

- Terrence, - kiï¿½ltott fel Paula - ha mï¿½g tovï¿½bb is ilyen szï¿½p dolgokat beszï¿½l, akkor hï¿½rmasban szï¿½kï¿½m meg magï¿½val ï¿½s Leï¿½val a hintï¿½n.

- Bï¿½r mï¿½r lï¿½tnï¿½m, - mondta gï¿½lï¿½nsan Terrence. - De a kalapskatulyï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt hagyjon helyet egy pï¿½r csillagï¿½szati kï¿½nyvnek, amiket ï¿½n meg Leï¿½ tanulmï¿½nyozni fogunk ï¿½res ï¿½rï¿½inkban.

A csata dagï¿½lya elhï¿½zï¿½dott Leï¿½rï¿½l. Hyal Dar ï¿½s Hancock Dicknek estek neki.

- Mondd, - kï¿½rdezte Hyal Dar - hogy ï¿½rtetted azt, hogy »ez nem volna eljï¿½rï¿½s«?

- Ahogy mondtam. Ahogy Leï¿½ mondta.

Dick mï¿½r ï¿½szrevette, hogy Paula fï¿½radtsï¿½ga ï¿½s idegessï¿½ge egy idï¿½ ï¿½ta eltï¿½nt ï¿½s az asszony szinte sï¿½vï¿½r ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½ssel figyel. Folytatta:

- Az ï¿½n gondolkodï¿½som ï¿½s vï¿½rmï¿½rsï¿½kletem szerint az elkï¿½pzelhetï¿½ legborzasztï¿½bb lelki szenvedï¿½s lehet megcsï¿½kolni egy nï¿½t, aki tï¿½ri a csï¿½komat.

De tegyï¿½k fel, hogy a nï¿½ elbolondï¿½tana, mondjuk a rï¿½gi barï¿½tsï¿½g miatt, azï¿½rt, hogy szenvedï¿½st ne okozzon, azï¿½rt, mert sajnï¿½lna?

- Elï¿½ttem ez megbocsï¿½thatatlan bï¿½n volna. Ez nem volna eljï¿½rï¿½s az ï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l. Nem tudom megï¿½rteni, mi a helyes, vagy mi a kellemes abban, ha valaki tovï¿½bb lï¿½ncolja magï¿½hoz azt a nï¿½t, aki nem akar ott maradni. Leï¿½nak teljesen igaza van. A rï¿½szeg mesterember az ï¿½klï¿½vel keltheti fel ï¿½s tarthatja ï¿½bren a szerelmet a maga korlï¿½tolt ï¿½letepï¿½rjï¿½ban. De a magasabbrendï¿½ emberi hï¿½m, akiben felsuhan egy kis racionalitï¿½s, akiben megvillan egy kis spiritualitï¿½s, nem emelhet durva kezet a szerelemre. Leï¿½val tartok: megkï¿½nnyï¿½tem az asszony dolgï¿½t ï¿½s nagyon finoman bï¿½nnï¿½k vele.

- ï¿½s mi lesz ï¿½gy - kï¿½rdezte Hyal Dar - a ti nyugati civilizï¿½ciï¿½tok hï¿½res monogï¿½m hï¿½zassï¿½gi intï¿½zmï¿½nyï¿½vel?

Hancock is megszï¿½lalt:

- A szabad szerelem hï¿½ve vagy talï¿½n?

- Csak egy elcsï¿½pelt kï¿½zhellyel felelhetek - mondta Dick. - Nincs szerelem, amely nem szabad. Persze sose felejtsï¿½tek el, hogy felsï¿½bbrendï¿½ emberekrï¿½l van szï¿½. ï¿½s ez a szempont meg is adja neked a vï¿½laszt, Dar. Az egyedek ï¿½riï¿½si tï¿½bbsï¿½gï¿½t a monogï¿½m berendezkedï¿½ssel, vagy akï¿½rmilyen mï¿½s rideg, szigorï¿½ hï¿½zassï¿½gi intï¿½zmï¿½nnyel kell a tï¿½rvï¿½ny ï¿½s a munka keretei kï¿½zï¿½tt tartani. A tï¿½meg nem ï¿½rett a szabad hï¿½zassï¿½gra vagy szabad szerelemre. A szabad szerelem ezeknï¿½l csak a kicsapongï¿½s engedelmï¿½t jelentenï¿½. Csak olyan nemzetek nï¿½ttek fel ï¿½s maradtak meg, ahol az Isten ï¿½s az ï¿½llam fegyelemben ï¿½s rendben tartottï¿½k a nï¿½p ï¿½sztï¿½neit.

- Szï¿½val, - kï¿½rdezte Hyal Dar - te nem hiszel a hï¿½zassï¿½g tï¿½rvï¿½nyeiben, ha pï¿½ldï¿½ul rï¿½lad van szï¿½, de hiszel bennï¿½k, ha mï¿½sokrï¿½l van szï¿½?

- Hiszek bennï¿½k, akï¿½rkirï¿½l van szï¿½. Gyerekek, csalï¿½d, ï¿½letpï¿½lya, tï¿½rsadalom, ï¿½llam, mindezek a dolgok parancsoljï¿½k a hï¿½zassï¿½g, a tï¿½rvï¿½nyes hï¿½zassï¿½g szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½t. ï¿½s ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt hiszek a vï¿½lï¿½s intï¿½zmï¿½nyï¿½ben is. Fï¿½rfi ï¿½s nï¿½, tï¿½bb ï¿½zben is tud szerelmes lenni, tï¿½bbszï¿½r is megeshetik vele, hogy a rï¿½gi szerelem elhal benne ï¿½s ï¿½j szï¿½letik a helyï¿½n. Az ï¿½llam ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy nem ellenï¿½rizheti a szerelmet, mint a fï¿½rfi vagy a nï¿½. Ha valaki szerelmes, akkor szerelmes, ez minden, amit tud rï¿½la. Egyszer csak itt a szerelem: megragad, sï¿½hajt, ï¿½nekel, dobog. A kicsapongï¿½st azonban ellenï¿½rizheti az ï¿½llam.

- Nagyon komplikï¿½lt szabad szerelem ez a te ï¿½llï¿½spontod - mondta bï¿½rï¿½lï¿½an Hancock.

- Hogyne. Mï¿½g pedig azï¿½rt, mert a tï¿½rsadalomban ï¿½lï¿½ fï¿½rfi is nagyon komplikï¿½lt ï¿½llat.

Ekkor Leï¿½ ï¿½j gondolattal lepte meg az asztaltï¿½rsasï¿½got:

- Vannak azonban szerelmes fï¿½rfiak, akik belehalnak, ha szerelmï¿½k tï¿½rgyï¿½t elvesztik. Belehalnak, ha a nï¿½ meghal, de mï¿½g inkï¿½bb belehalnak, ha a nï¿½ tovï¿½bb ï¿½l ï¿½s mï¿½st szeret.

- Hï¿½t azok csak haljanak meg tovï¿½bb is, - felelte kï¿½nyï¿½rtelenï¿½l Dick - mint ahogy eddig mindig meghaltak. Sehol semmi baj nem lett abbï¿½l, hogy meghaltak. ï¿½gy vagyunk alkotva, hogy a szï¿½vï¿½nk nï¿½ha tï¿½ved.

- Az ï¿½n szï¿½vem nem tï¿½vedhet soha, - szï¿½lt bï¿½szkï¿½n Leï¿½, nem is sejtvï¿½n, hogy titkï¿½t az asztalnï¿½l mindenki tudja - ï¿½n biztosan tudom, hogy nem volnï¿½k kï¿½pes kï¿½tszer szeretni.

- Igazad van, fiam, - helyeselt neki Terrence - a te szï¿½dbï¿½l az ï¿½sszes igaz szerelmesek hangja beszï¿½l. »A szerelemben a teljessï¿½g a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½.« Hogy mondta Shelley? Vagy Keats ï¿½rta? »Csodï¿½latossï¿½g, vad gyï¿½nyï¿½r.« Nyomorï¿½sï¿½gos, fï¿½lszerelmï¿½ semmirekellï¿½ volna, aki csak ï¿½lmï¿½ban is azt kï¿½pzelnï¿½, hogy az ï¿½ asszonyï¿½n kï¿½vï¿½l mï¿½s asszonyi lï¿½ny csak ezredrï¿½sznyire is lehet olyan drï¿½ga, olyan bï¿½bï¿½jos, olyan elragadï¿½, olyan dicsï¿½, olyan csodï¿½latos, hogy ï¿½ mï¿½g egyszer szerelmes lehessen ï¿½letï¿½ben.

Mikor kï¿½sï¿½bb ï¿½tmentek az ebï¿½dlï¿½bï¿½l a zeneterembe, Dick folytatta a tï¿½rsalgï¿½st Hyal Darral, de magï¿½ban arra volt kï¿½vï¿½ncsi, vajjon Paula bejï¿½n-e ma hozzï¿½ jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nni ï¿½s megcsï¿½kolni, vagy a zongorï¿½tï¿½l egyenesen aludni siet majd. Paula pedig Leï¿½val arrï¿½l az ï¿½j szonettrï¿½l beszï¿½lgetett, amit a fiï¿½ mutatott neki ï¿½s magï¿½ban arra volt kï¿½vï¿½ncsi, vajjon meg fogja-e ma Dicket csï¿½kolni. ï¿½s hirtelen nagyon erï¿½s vï¿½gyat ï¿½rzett, hogy megcsï¿½kolja, maga sem tudta, miï¿½rt.

Diner utï¿½n aznap este mï¿½g beszï¿½lgettek egy kicsit. Paula ï¿½nekelni kezdett a zongorï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½s Terrencet egy szerelmi szï¿½noklat kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n zavarta meg. Terrence a mondatot kï¿½zï¿½pen hagyta fï¿½lbe, ï¿½gy kezdte hallgatni azt az ï¿½j valamit, amit az asszony hangjï¿½ban ï¿½szrevett, aztï¿½n csendesen ï¿½tlopï¿½dzkodott a szobï¿½n, hogy mint Leï¿½, ï¿½ is vï¿½gignyuljon a medvebï¿½rï¿½n. Hyal Dar ï¿½s Hancock hasonlï¿½kï¿½ppen abbahagytï¿½k a vitï¿½t, mind a kettï¿½ egy-egy hï¿½vogatï¿½ karosszï¿½kbe fï¿½szkelte magï¿½t. Graham, akit az ï¿½nek mintha nem nagyon ï¿½rdekelt volna, valami folyï¿½iratot bï¿½ngï¿½szett. De Dick megfigyelte, hogy hamarosan abbahagyta a lapozgatï¿½st. Az az ï¿½j valami a Paula hangjï¿½ban sem kerï¿½lte el a Dick figyelmï¿½t. Iparkodott ennek a jelentï¿½sï¿½gï¿½re rï¿½jï¿½nni.

Mikor Paula befejezte az ï¿½neket, a hï¿½rom bï¿½lcs egyszerre csï¿½dï¿½lt oda hozzï¿½ megmondani, hogy most az egyszer belefelejtkezett az ï¿½nekbe ï¿½s ï¿½gy dalolt, ahogy ï¿½k mindig kï¿½rtï¿½k, hogy daloljon. Leï¿½ mozdulatlanul, szï¿½talanul, ï¿½tszellemï¿½lt ï¿½brï¿½zattal maradt fekve a medvebï¿½rï¿½n, ï¿½llï¿½t a kï¿½t tenyerï¿½be tï¿½masztotta.

- Az egï¿½sz ettï¿½l a szerelmi beszï¿½lgetï¿½stï¿½l van, - mondta nevetve Paula - azoktï¿½l a kedves gondolatoktï¿½l, amiket Leï¿½ meg Terrence... meg Dick beszï¿½ltek bele a fejembe.

Terrence megrï¿½zta boglyas, ï¿½sz fejï¿½t.

- A szï¿½vï¿½be, akarta mondani inkï¿½bb. A maga szï¿½ve ï¿½s a torka ma este tele van szerelemmel. ï¿½s drï¿½ga nagysï¿½gos asszony, most elï¿½szï¿½r hallottam a hangjï¿½t a maga szï¿½p teljessï¿½gï¿½ben. Tï¿½bbet nekem ne panaszkodjï¿½k, hogy kicsi a hangja. Nagy hang az, telt, mint egy nagy kï¿½tï¿½l, nagy aranykï¿½tï¿½l, amivel a hajï¿½kat kï¿½tik meg a Boldogok szigetï¿½n a kikï¿½tï¿½ben.

- Ezï¿½rt jutalmul elï¿½neklem magï¿½nak a Glï¿½riï¿½t. Ezzel fogjuk megï¿½nnepelni, hogy a sï¿½rkï¿½nyokat olyan dicsï¿½en kivï¿½geztï¿½k Szent Leï¿½, Szent Terrence... ï¿½s termï¿½szetesen Szent Richard.

Dick egy szï¿½t sem mulasztott, de maga azzal kerï¿½lte ki a szï¿½lï¿½st, hogy ï¿½tment a pohï¿½rszï¿½khez ï¿½s szï¿½dï¿½s whiskyt kevert magï¿½nak.

Mialatt Paula a Glï¿½riï¿½t ï¿½nekelte, ï¿½ vï¿½gignyï¿½lt egy kereveten, szopogatta az italt ï¿½s visszaemlï¿½kezett. Egyszer mï¿½r hallotta ï¿½gy ï¿½nekelni Paulï¿½t: Pï¿½rizsban, rï¿½vid jegyessï¿½gï¿½k alatt ï¿½s rï¿½gtï¿½n azutï¿½n, mikor a Tovï¿½bb fedï¿½lzetï¿½n nï¿½szutaztak.

Kisvï¿½rtatva ï¿½res poharï¿½val intett Grahamnek, hogy igyï¿½k. Kï¿½t cocktailt kevert ï¿½s mikor Graham is megitta az ï¿½vï¿½t, azt indï¿½tvï¿½nyozta Paulï¿½nak, hogy ï¿½nekeljï¿½k el megint ketten a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t.

Paula rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s elkezdte a »Das Kraut Vergessenheit«-ot ï¿½nekelni. A dal utï¿½n Leï¿½ kitï¿½rt:

- Ez nem volt jï¿½ nï¿½, ez borzasztï¿½ nï¿½ volt. De a fï¿½rfi igazi szerelmes volt. A nï¿½ boldogtalannï¿½ tette, de ï¿½ mï¿½gis szerette. ï¿½s most nem tud mï¿½g egyszer szeretni, mert ezt a szerelmet nem tudja elfelejteni.

- ï¿½s most, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, - mondta Paula rï¿½mosolyogva az urï¿½ra - a makk-nï¿½ta kï¿½vetkezik. Tedd le a poharadat, lï¿½gy jï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½ltesd a tï¿½lgyet.

Dick lustï¿½n feltï¿½pï¿½szkodott a kerevetrï¿½l ï¿½s felï¿½llt. Makrancosan rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t, mintha a sï¿½rï¿½nyï¿½t rï¿½znï¿½ ï¿½s nagyokat kapï¿½lva a lï¿½bï¿½val Hegyi Fickï¿½t utï¿½nozta.

- Meg akartam mutatni Leï¿½nak, hogy a telepen nem ï¿½ az egyetlen kï¿½ltï¿½ ï¿½s szerelmi lovag. Hallgassï¿½tok meg a Hegyi Fickï¿½ dalï¿½t, csupa csoda ï¿½s vad gyï¿½nyï¿½r, hallgassï¿½tok meg, Terrence ï¿½s ti tï¿½bbiek. Hegyi Fickï¿½ nem sokat ï¿½brï¿½ndozik az imï¿½dott egyetlenrï¿½l. Egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ï¿½brï¿½ndozik. ï¿½ maga a megtestesï¿½lt szerelem, ï¿½gaskodik, ha meglï¿½tja a lovakat ï¿½s megmondja nekik. Hallgassatok ide!

Dick vad, boldog mï¿½nnyerï¿½tï¿½ssel tï¿½ltï¿½tte meg a szobï¿½t ï¿½s reszkettette meg a levegï¿½t. Aztï¿½n sï¿½rï¿½nyrï¿½zï¿½ ï¿½s fï¿½ldkapï¿½lï¿½ mozdulatokkal ï¿½nekelte:

- Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon. ï¿½n tï¿½ltï¿½m be a messzi vï¿½lgyeket. A kancï¿½k hallanak engem ï¿½s megremegnek a csendes legelï¿½kï¿½n, mert ï¿½k ismernek engem. A fï¿½ld tele van kï¿½vï¿½rsï¿½ggel ï¿½s a fï¿½k nedvekkel teljesek. Ez a tavasz. A tavasz az enyï¿½m. ï¿½n vagyok a tavasz kirï¿½lysï¿½gï¿½nak a fejedelme. A kancï¿½k emlï¿½keznek a hangomra. Ismernek anyï¿½ik ï¿½ltal mï¿½g a lï¿½tï¿½k elï¿½tti idï¿½bï¿½l. Hallgassatok rï¿½m! ï¿½n vagyok a Szerelem! ï¿½n dobogok vï¿½gig a dombokon ï¿½s a messzi vï¿½lgyek, amelyek a jï¿½vetelem hangjï¿½t visszhangozzï¿½k, az ï¿½n heroldjaim.

A madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcsei most hallottï¿½k elï¿½szï¿½r a Dick dalï¿½t ï¿½s nem gyï¿½ztï¿½k magasztalni. Hancock mingyï¿½rt felhasznï¿½lta, hogy ï¿½jra megindï¿½tsa a vitï¿½t ï¿½s elkezdte kidolgozni a szerelem biologiko-bergsoni meghatï¿½rozï¿½sï¿½t, de Terrence megï¿½llï¿½totta. Terrence ugyanis ï¿½szrevette, milyen fï¿½jdalom tï¿½krï¿½zï¿½dik a Leï¿½ arcï¿½n.

- Drï¿½ga nagysï¿½gos asszony, - kï¿½rte Terrence - legyen szï¿½ves, ï¿½nekeljen mï¿½g. Szerelemrï¿½l ï¿½nekeljen, csak szerelemrï¿½l. Azt tapasztaltam, hogy a csillagokrï¿½l nï¿½i ï¿½nekhang-kï¿½sï¿½ret mellett tudok legjobban elmï¿½lkedni.

Kis idï¿½ mulva Hallode lï¿½pett a szobï¿½ba, vï¿½gigvï¿½rta a Paula dalï¿½t, aztï¿½n nesztelenï¿½l Grahamhez osont ï¿½s tï¿½viratot adott ï¿½t neki. Dick szigorï¿½an rï¿½nï¿½zett az inasra. A kï¿½nai mentegetï¿½dzï¿½tt:

- Nagyon fontos... azt hiszem...

- Ki vette fel? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

- ï¿½n... ï¿½n felvettem. Eldoradï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½jszakai inspekciï¿½s telefonon bemondta. Nagyon fontosan, mondta. ï¿½n felvettem.

- Elï¿½g fontos bizony - szï¿½lalt meg Graham, miutï¿½n a tï¿½viratot elolvasta. - Dick, kï¿½rlek, van vonat ï¿½jszaka San Franciscï¿½ba?

- Hallode, gyere csak vissza - szï¿½lt Dick az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra pillantva. - Melyik sanfranciscï¿½i vonat ï¿½ll meg Eldoradï¿½ban?

- Tizenegy tï¿½z, - felelt azonnal a kï¿½nai - van idï¿½. De nem sok. Soffï¿½r hï¿½vjak?

Dick igent bï¿½lintott ï¿½s Grahamhez fordult:

- Feltï¿½tlen el kell menned mï¿½g az ï¿½jjel?

- Feltï¿½tlen. Nagyon fontos. Van idï¿½m becsomagolni?

Dick mï¿½g egyszer intett Hallode felï¿½, hogy igen. ï¿½s megint Grahamhez fordult:

- Annyi idï¿½d mï¿½g van, hogy egy kï¿½zitï¿½skï¿½ba bedobï¿½ld a legszï¿½ksï¿½gesebb holmit. Mondd, Hallode, Gyeride ï¿½bren van mï¿½g?

- Igenis.

- Kï¿½ldd fel a nagysï¿½gos ï¿½rnak segï¿½teni. Ha az autï¿½ elï¿½ï¿½llott, rï¿½gtï¿½n szï¿½ljatok. Autï¿½ kell, nem kocsi. Mondd meg Saundersnek, hogy a versenygï¿½pet vegye.

Mikor Graham kisietett, Terrence megjegyezte:

- Kellemes, szï¿½p nagy darab ember.

Mind Dick kï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½ltek, Paulï¿½t kivï¿½ve, aki a zongora mellï¿½l hallgatta az urï¿½t.

- Graham azok kï¿½zï¿½ a kevesek kï¿½zï¿½ tartozik, - mondta Dick - akikkel el mernï¿½k menni a vilï¿½g vï¿½gï¿½re is. Ott volt a Dï¿½lvï¿½z fï¿½dï¿½lzetï¿½n, mikor ez a hajï¿½ a kilencvenhetediki orkï¿½nkor Pangï¿½ban partot ï¿½rt. Pango kis homokfolt, semmi egyï¿½b, nï¿½gy mï¿½ter magasan ï¿½ll a dagï¿½ly szï¿½ne felett, nï¿½hï¿½ny kï¿½kuszdiï¿½fa van rajta ï¿½s lakatlan. Az utasok kï¿½zt valami negyven asszony volt, angol tisztek felesï¿½gei, meg ilyenek. Grahamnek fï¿½jt az egyik karja, csunyï¿½n meg volt dagadva, kï¿½gyï¿½ harapta meg. A tenger ï¿½rï¿½lten viharzott. A csï¿½nakok nem tudtak boldogulni. Kettï¿½t eresztettek le a hajï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s mind a kettï¿½nek a legï¿½nysï¿½ge odaveszett. Nï¿½gy matrï¿½z prï¿½bï¿½lkozott egymï¿½sutï¿½n, hogy partra vigyen egy kï¿½nnyï¿½ csï¿½nakot ï¿½s mind a nï¿½gynek csak a holttestï¿½t dobta vissza a fedï¿½lzetre a vï¿½z. Mikor a legutolsï¿½ csï¿½nakot oldoztï¿½k le, Graham a fï¿½jï¿½s karjï¿½val nekivetkï¿½zï¿½tt ï¿½s nekifogott. Partra is vitte a hajï¿½t, az igaz, hogy a hullï¿½m ï¿½gy odacsapta a parthoz, hogy a fï¿½jï¿½s karja eltï¿½rt ï¿½s hï¿½rom bordï¿½ja behorpadt. De a csï¿½nakot mï¿½g megerï¿½sï¿½tette. Hogy a kï¿½telet partra vigyï¿½k, mï¿½g hat ember vï¿½gott neki az Evan csï¿½nakjï¿½ban a homokpadnak. Nï¿½gy el is jutott a homokra. Az asszonyok kï¿½zï¿½l csak egy veszett oda: szï¿½vbajos volt ï¿½s szï¿½rnyet halt az ijedtsï¿½gtï¿½l. Kï¿½sï¿½bb beszï¿½ltem Grahammel errï¿½l a dologrï¿½l. De olyan szï¿½fukar volt, mint egy angol. Csak annyit tudtam kiszedni a csirkefogï¿½bï¿½l, hogy a gyï¿½gyulï¿½sa sï¿½mï¿½n folyt le. Az ï¿½ vï¿½lemï¿½nye szerint a sï¿½svï¿½z, az erï¿½feszï¿½tï¿½s, a csonttï¿½rï¿½s mintegy ellenmï¿½reg gyanï¿½nt hatott ï¿½s meggyï¿½gyï¿½totta a karjï¿½t.

A szoba mï¿½sik vï¿½gï¿½n Graham ï¿½s Hallode lï¿½ptek be. Dick lï¿½tta, hogy Graham elsï¿½ keresï¿½ pillantï¿½sa Paulï¿½t illette.

- Kï¿½sz vagyunk - jelentette Hallode.

Dick felkï¿½szï¿½lt, hogy kikï¿½sï¿½rje vendï¿½gï¿½t a kocsihoz, de Paula lï¿½thatï¿½lag benn szï¿½ndï¿½kozott maradni. Graham odalï¿½pett hozzï¿½, hogy elmondja az ilyenkor szokï¿½sos sajnï¿½lkozï¿½sokat ï¿½s bï¿½csï¿½zï¿½si formulï¿½kat.

ï¿½s az asszony, mï¿½g melegen attï¿½l, amit Dick az imï¿½nt mesï¿½lt, gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dï¿½tt Graham kitï¿½nï¿½ megjelenï¿½sï¿½ben, kedvï¿½re legeltette szemï¿½t kï¿½nnyed, magas fejtartï¿½sï¿½n, hanyag, napsï¿½tï¿½tte hajï¿½n ï¿½s tartï¿½sï¿½nak kï¿½nnyedsï¿½gï¿½n, amely testsï¿½lya ï¿½s szï¿½les vï¿½llai ellenï¿½re szinte mï¿½r kedï¿½lyesnek tï¿½nt fel. Mikor Graham kï¿½zel lï¿½pett hozzï¿½, Paula egyenesen belenï¿½zett a hosszï¿½kï¿½s, szï¿½rke szemekbe, amelyeknek fï¿½lig lehï¿½nyt pillï¿½i mï¿½gï¿½tt gyerekes szomorï¿½sï¿½g bujkï¿½lt. Megvï¿½rta, mï¿½g a szomorï¿½sï¿½gnak ez a kifejezï¿½se eltï¿½nik ï¿½s helyï¿½n felfï¿½nylik az a mosoly, amelyet olyan jï¿½l ismert.

Amit a fï¿½rfi mondott, ï¿½ppen olyan kï¿½znapi volt, mint az asszonyka sajnï¿½lkozï¿½sa. De a Graham szemï¿½ben, amï¿½g egy pillanatig a kezï¿½t fogta, ott ï¿½lt az a valami, amit Paula ï¿½ntudatlanul vï¿½rt ï¿½s amelyre a maga nï¿½zï¿½sï¿½vel felelt. ï¿½s ugyanaz a valami benne volt abban is, ahogy Graham megszorï¿½totta a kezï¿½t. Erre a gyors szorï¿½tï¿½sra ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l szorï¿½tï¿½ssal felelt ï¿½ is. Mint ahogy Graham megmondta: kï¿½ztï¿½k kevï¿½s beszï¿½dre volt szï¿½ksï¿½g.

Mikor eleresztettï¿½k egymï¿½s kezï¿½t, Paula lopva Dickre pillantott. Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vi kï¿½zï¿½s ï¿½letï¿½k alatt megtanulta, milyen ï¿½lesen tud megfigyelni Dick, ï¿½s babonï¿½san tisztelte fï¿½rjï¿½nek azt a szinte boszorkï¿½nyos tehetsï¿½gï¿½t, hogy ï¿½rnyalatokbï¿½l meglï¿½tja a tï¿½nyeket ï¿½s hogy az ï¿½rnyalatokat olyan kï¿½vetkezetesekkï¿½ tudja egybefï¿½zni, amelyek nï¿½ha megijesztenek ï¿½thatï¿½sï¿½gukkal ï¿½s helyessï¿½gï¿½kkel. De Dick, noha felï¿½je volt fordulva, Hancock valami mï¿½kï¿½jï¿½n nevetett ï¿½s mosolyra vont szemï¿½t ï¿½ppen most fordï¿½totta ï¿½felï¿½jï¿½k. Indult Grahamet kikï¿½sï¿½rni.

Nem, gondolta Paula, Dick egï¿½sz biztosan nem lï¿½tott semmit abbï¿½l a kis titokbï¿½l, amit kicserï¿½ltek maguk kï¿½zï¿½tt. Kicsi volt, gyors volt az egï¿½sz: villanï¿½s a szemben, az ujjak hirtelen ï¿½sszeszorulï¿½sa. Nem tartott sokï¿½. Hogy lï¿½thatta volna ezt Dick, vagy hogy ï¿½rezhette volna meg? A szemï¿½k meg a kezï¿½k kï¿½lï¿½nben is rejtve volt elï¿½le, mert Graham hï¿½ttal ï¿½llt neki.

Mï¿½gis, azt kï¿½vï¿½nta magï¿½ban, bï¿½r ne nï¿½zett volna ï¿½gy lopva Dickre. Bï¿½ntotta a lelkiismeret. Ennek a gondolata kï¿½nozta, mikor nï¿½zte, hogyan megy a kï¿½t egyforma alakï¿½, nagy szï¿½ke fï¿½rfi egymï¿½s oldalï¿½n kifelï¿½. Miben vï¿½tkes? - kï¿½rdezte magï¿½tï¿½l. Mi takargatnivalï¿½ja is volna? De volt annyira becsï¿½letes, hogy szembenï¿½zzen az igazsï¿½ggal ï¿½s kertelï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l megï¿½llapï¿½tsa, hogy van valami takargatnivalï¿½ja. Az arca lï¿½ngot vetett arra a gondolatra, hogy csalï¿½sra ragadtatta magï¿½t.

- Csak kï¿½t-hï¿½rom naprï¿½l van szï¿½ - mondta Graham, mikor a kocsinï¿½l kezet szorï¿½tott Dickkel.

Dick lï¿½tta a barï¿½tja nyilt, egyenes tekintetï¿½t ï¿½s megismerte keze szorï¿½tï¿½sï¿½nak erejï¿½t ï¿½s kemï¿½nysï¿½gï¿½t. Graham kezdett valamit mondani, de aztï¿½n nem mondta. ï¿½s Dick tudta, hogy egyebet akart mondani, nem amit mondott:

- Azt hiszem, ha visszajï¿½vï¿½k, be kell csomagolnom.

- Hï¿½t a kï¿½nyv? - vetette ellen Dick, magï¿½ban korholva magï¿½t azï¿½rt a hirtelen ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½rt, ami a mï¿½sik szavaira tï¿½madt benne.

- ï¿½ppen ez az, - felelte Graham - be szeretnï¿½m fejezni. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, nem tudok ï¿½gy dolgozni, mint te. Ez a hely tele van kï¿½sï¿½rtï¿½ssel. Nem vagyok kï¿½pes nekiï¿½lni a kï¿½nyvnek. ï¿½lï¿½k, ï¿½lï¿½k, ï¿½s az ï¿½tkozott pacsirtï¿½k folyton a fï¿½lembe csengenek ï¿½s magamban lï¿½tni kezdem a rï¿½teket, a fenyveseket ï¿½s Szelimet. Egy ï¿½rï¿½ig eltï¿½tovï¿½zom, akkor aztï¿½n feladom a kï¿½zdelmet ï¿½s telefonï¿½lok, hogy nyergeljï¿½k Szelimet. Vagy ha nem ez van, hï¿½t valami egyï¿½b az ezerfï¿½le mulatsï¿½gbï¿½l.

Feltette a lï¿½bï¿½t a lï¿½ktetve remegï¿½ gï¿½p felhï¿½gï¿½jï¿½ra ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Hï¿½t a viszontlï¿½tï¿½sra, ï¿½regem.

- Gyere vissza ï¿½s fogj neki kemï¿½nyen. Ha kell, szigorï¿½ napi adagokra fogjuk beosztani a munkï¿½t ï¿½s minden reggel rï¿½d zï¿½rom az ajtï¿½t, mï¿½g meg nem csinï¿½ltad. ï¿½s ha estig nem csinï¿½lod meg, estig nem eresztelek ki. Majd ï¿½n megdolgoztatlak. Van cigarettï¿½d? Gyujtï¿½d?

- Minden rendben van.

- Mehet, Saunders - parancsolta Dick a soffï¿½rnek. A kocsi a ragyogï¿½an vilï¿½gos felhajtï¿½rï¿½l egy csapï¿½ssal beletï¿½nt a sï¿½tï¿½tbe.

Mikor visszament a hï¿½zba, Paula a bï¿½lcseknek zongorï¿½zott. Dick fï¿½lrehï¿½zï¿½dott a kerevetre, hogy vï¿½rjon ï¿½s kï¿½vï¿½ncsi legyen, vajjon Paula jï¿½n-e jï¿½ï¿½jszakï¿½t kï¿½vï¿½nni ï¿½s megcsï¿½kolni, ha jï¿½n a lefekvï¿½s ideje. Az bizonyos, mondta magï¿½ban, hogy ezt az esti csï¿½kot nem tettï¿½k rendszeressï¿½. Paulï¿½t sokszor nem lï¿½tta mï¿½snap dï¿½lig, akkor is csak vendï¿½gek tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban. Azt is nagyon sokszor megtette Paula, hogy feltï¿½nï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½l mï¿½r korï¿½n fekï¿½dni ment ï¿½s nem csï¿½kolta meg az urï¿½t, mert ez azt jelenthette volna, hogy a tï¿½bbiek is menjenek ï¿½s zavarta volna a tï¿½rsasï¿½got.

Nem, - hatï¿½rozta el Dick magï¿½ban - egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem dï¿½ntï¿½ jelentï¿½sï¿½gï¿½, hogy ï¿½ppen ma este jï¿½n-e Paula megcsï¿½kolni, vagy nem. - De azï¿½rt kï¿½vï¿½ncsi volt, mi lesz.

Paula tovï¿½bb jï¿½tszott ï¿½s tovï¿½bb ï¿½nekelt, a zenï¿½nek nem volt vï¿½ge-hossza ï¿½s Dick elaludt. Mikor felï¿½bredt, egyedï¿½l volt a szobï¿½ban. Paula ï¿½s a bï¿½lcsek csendesen tï¿½voztak el. Megnï¿½zte az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½t. Egy ï¿½rï¿½t mutatott. Paula tehï¿½t szokatlanul sokï¿½ jï¿½tszott. Mert azt tudta Dick, hogy csak most ment el. ï¿½ppen attï¿½l ï¿½bredt fel, hogy a zene ï¿½s a beszï¿½lgetï¿½s megszakadt.

ï¿½s Dick tovï¿½bb kï¿½rdezgette magï¿½ban, mi lesz. Mï¿½skor is megtï¿½rtï¿½nt, hogy elbï¿½biskolt a Paula jï¿½tï¿½kï¿½n. A jï¿½tï¿½k vï¿½gï¿½n a felesï¿½ge ilyenkor mindig csï¿½kkal kï¿½ltï¿½tte fel ï¿½s aludni kï¿½ldte. Ma nem. Lehet, hogy mï¿½g visszajï¿½n. Fekve maradt ï¿½s fï¿½lï¿½lomban vï¿½rt tovï¿½bb. Mikor megint az ï¿½rï¿½ra nï¿½zett, kï¿½t ï¿½ra volt. Paula nem jï¿½tt vissza.

Leoltotta a lï¿½ngokat ï¿½s mikor vï¿½gigment a hï¿½zon ï¿½s a folyosï¿½ lï¿½ngjait is vï¿½gig leoltogatta, az aprï¿½, jelentï¿½ktelen semmisï¿½gek szinte maguktï¿½l sorakoztak a kï¿½tsï¿½g ï¿½s gyanu ï¿½sszefï¿½ggï¿½ lï¿½ncï¿½vï¿½, amelyet akaratlanul vï¿½gig kellett nï¿½znie magï¿½ban.

A hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½ben, mikor a baromï¿½terekre ï¿½s hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½kre pillantott, a farï¿½mï¿½bï¿½l Paula nevetï¿½ arca tï¿½nt a szemï¿½be. Megï¿½llt elï¿½tte, mï¿½g kï¿½zelebb is lï¿½pett hozzï¿½ ï¿½s hosszasan vizsgï¿½lï¿½dva nï¿½zte.

- Hï¿½t jï¿½, mondta aztï¿½n, mikor felhajtotta a paplant, megigazï¿½totta maga mï¿½gï¿½tt a pï¿½rnï¿½kat ï¿½s egy csomï¿½ kefelevonat utï¿½n nyï¿½lt - akï¿½rmi lesz, ï¿½llok elï¿½be.

Oldalt felnï¿½zett a kï¿½pre:

- De jobb szeretnï¿½m, kicsi asszonyka, ha nem tennï¿½d.

Ezzel kï¿½vï¿½nt neki jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t.

Azonkï¿½vï¿½l, hogy olykor-olykor lunchre vagy dinerre vendï¿½g akadt, a nagy hï¿½z ï¿½res volt. Az elsï¿½ ï¿½s mï¿½sodik napon Dick hiï¿½ba mulasztotta vagy halasztotta el a munkï¿½jï¿½t, hogy kï¿½szen ï¿½lljon, ha Paula dï¿½lutï¿½nra ï¿½szni vagy lovagolni hï¿½vnï¿½.

Dick megfigyelt valamit: Paula mindig ï¿½gy intï¿½zte, hogy a csï¿½k alkalmï¿½t kikerï¿½lje. Hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½je ajtajï¿½bï¿½l a nagy fedett folyosï¿½n ï¿½t szï¿½lt oda neki jï¿½ï¿½jszakï¿½t. Reggel Dick mï¿½r vï¿½rta, hogy mint rendesen, Paula tizenegy ï¿½rakor bejï¿½n hozzï¿½ jï¿½reggelt kï¿½vï¿½nni. Amint az ï¿½ra tizenegyet ï¿½tï¿½tt, Dick azonnal kitette Agar ï¿½s Pitts urakat azokkal a fontos ï¿½gyekkel egyï¿½tt, amelyek a bekï¿½vetkezendï¿½ telepi tenyï¿½szï¿½llatvï¿½logatï¿½s mï¿½g rendezetlen anyagï¿½ra vonatkoztak. Tudta, hogy Paula mï¿½r fenn van, hallotta ï¿½nekelni. Ott ï¿½lt az ï¿½rï¿½asztalnï¿½l, vï¿½rt ï¿½s most az egyszer tï¿½tlen volt. Egï¿½sz halmaz levï¿½l ott vï¿½rta az asztalon az alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½sï¿½t. Arra gondolt, hogy ezeket a reggeli lï¿½togatï¿½sokat Paula vezette volt be ï¿½s Paula volt az, aki kissï¿½ csï¿½kï¿½nyï¿½sen ki is tartott mellettï¿½k. Imï¿½dandï¿½ dolog volt, mikor Paula lï¿½gyan rï¿½kï¿½szï¿½ntï¿½tt, hogy »Jï¿½reggelt, vidï¿½m ï¿½riember«, ï¿½ pedig karjï¿½ba zï¿½rta az asszonyka kimonï¿½s kis alakjï¿½t.

ï¿½ maga rï¿½vidre fogta ezt a lï¿½togatï¿½st ï¿½s mikor ï¿½tï¿½lelve tartotta az asszonyt, nem egyszer ï¿½reztette vele, hogy nagyon sok a dolog. Most eszï¿½be jutott, hogy sokszor ï¿½szrevette ilyenkor a karjaibï¿½l kibontakozï¿½ Paula arcï¿½n azt a bizonyos nï¿½ma ï¿½rnyï¿½kot elsuhanni.

Mï¿½r negyed tizenkettï¿½ volt, ï¿½s Paula nem jï¿½tt. Felvette a telefonkagylï¿½t, hogy felhï¿½vja a tejgazdasï¿½got ï¿½s egy beszï¿½lgetï¿½sbe kapcsolï¿½dott bele. Mingyï¿½rt visszaakasztotta a kagylï¿½t, de a nï¿½i hangok gyors pergï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l mï¿½g meghallotta:

- Hagyd az ï¿½rdï¿½gbe az uradat. Pakold fel a kis Wade-eket ï¿½s gyere, hacsak egy-kï¿½t napra is.

Ez Paulï¿½tï¿½l szokatlan volt. Mindig ï¿½rï¿½mmel szokta fogadni az olykor elï¿½fordulï¿½ vendï¿½gtelen idï¿½kï¿½zï¿½ket, mikor ketten egymï¿½ssal maradtak egy napra, vagy kettï¿½re. ï¿½s most azon igyekezett, hogy Wadenï¿½t ideï¿½desgesse Sacramentï¿½bï¿½l. Olyan szï¿½ne volt a dolognak, mintha Paula nem akarna vele egyedï¿½l maradni ï¿½s tï¿½rsasï¿½ggal igyekeznï¿½k vï¿½dekezni.

Dick elmosolyodott, mikor megï¿½llapï¿½totta magï¿½ban, hogy a reggeli ï¿½lelï¿½s, amelynek gyï¿½ngï¿½dsï¿½ge most nem jutott ki neki, hirtelen kï¿½vï¿½natossï¿½ vï¿½lt. Az a vï¿½gya tï¿½madt, hogy elvigye magï¿½val Paulï¿½t, ahogy nï¿½ha szoktï¿½k, utazgatni. Ez talï¿½n megoldanï¿½ a problï¿½mï¿½t. Nagyon szorosan magï¿½hoz vonnï¿½ a felesï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s mï¿½g szorosabban maga mellett tartanï¿½. Miï¿½rt ne mehetnï¿½nek el Alaskï¿½ba egy kis vadï¿½szkirï¿½ndulï¿½sra? Paulï¿½nak ez rï¿½gi vï¿½gya volt. Vagy mï¿½rt ne mehetnï¿½nek a Tovï¿½bb napjainak rï¿½gi portyï¿½zï¿½ terï¿½letï¿½re, a Dï¿½li Tengerekre? San Franciscï¿½nak kï¿½zvetlen hajï¿½ ï¿½sszekï¿½ttetï¿½se van Tahitival. Tizenkï¿½t nap mulva partra szï¿½llhatnï¿½nak Papitiban. Vajjon Laviniï¿½nak megvan-e mï¿½g a kocsmï¿½ja? Elfutï¿½ tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½sein ï¿½tillant egy kï¿½p, mikor ï¿½ meg Paula a mangï¿½fï¿½k ï¿½rnyï¿½kï¿½ban Lavinia verandï¿½jï¿½n reggeliznek.

ï¿½klï¿½vel lecsapott az ï¿½rï¿½asztalra. Nem, annyira mï¿½gsem gyï¿½va, hogy bï¿½rmilyen fï¿½rfitï¿½l valï¿½ fï¿½lelmï¿½ben megszï¿½kjï¿½k a felesï¿½gï¿½vel. Azonkï¿½vï¿½l szabad az asszonyt elvinni onnan, ahovï¿½ talï¿½n a vï¿½gyï¿½dï¿½sa kï¿½ti? A vï¿½gyait nem ismeri. Azt sem tudja, milyen messzire haladt Paula ï¿½s Graham kï¿½zt a dolog. Nem valami tavaszi bolondsï¿½g esetleg, ami elmï¿½lik majd a tavasszal egyï¿½tt? Csakhogy az a baj, hogy hï¿½zassï¿½guk tizenkï¿½t esztendeje alatt Paula sohasem mutatott hajlandï¿½sï¿½got effï¿½le tavaszi bolondsï¿½gokra. A fï¿½rje szï¿½vï¿½nek soha egy percnyi kï¿½tsï¿½get sem okozott. Hihetetlenï¿½l vonzotta a fï¿½rfiakat, sok fï¿½rfival jï¿½tt ï¿½ssze, fogadta csodï¿½latukat, sï¿½t udvarlï¿½sukat is, de ï¿½ maga mindig megmaradt egyformï¿½nak ï¿½s nyugodt sajï¿½tmagï¿½nak, Forrest Dick felesï¿½gï¿½nek...

- Jï¿½ reggelt, vidï¿½m ï¿½riember!

ï¿½ kukkantott be hozzï¿½, egï¿½sz termï¿½szetes arccal, a hallbï¿½l. Szeme-szï¿½ja mosolygott az ura felï¿½, ujja vï¿½gï¿½vel csï¿½kot dobott neki.

- Jï¿½ reggelt, drï¿½ga kis holdvilï¿½gom! - mondta ï¿½ is egï¿½szen termï¿½szetesen ï¿½s kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l.

Most be fog jï¿½nni, gondolta Dick, ï¿½ a karjï¿½ba fogja ï¿½lelni ï¿½s kiteszi a csï¿½k prï¿½bï¿½jï¿½nak.

Hivogatï¿½an tï¿½rta ki a karjï¿½t. De Paula nem jï¿½tt be... Megrezzent, egyik kezï¿½vel ï¿½sszefogta a mellï¿½n a kimonï¿½jï¿½t, a mï¿½sikkal felkapta a ruha hosszï¿½ aljï¿½t, mintha el akarna futni ï¿½s gyanakodva, fï¿½lelve pillantott vissza a hallon vï¿½gig. Dick ï¿½les fï¿½le semmi neszt sem volt kï¿½pes felfedezni. Paula visszamosolygott rï¿½, mï¿½g egy csï¿½kot dobott felï¿½je ï¿½s eltï¿½nt. Dick mï¿½g tï¿½z perc mulva sem ocsudott fel. Mikor a belï¿½pï¿½ Bonbright tï¿½viratokkal a kezï¿½ben megriasztotta, mï¿½g akkor is olyan mozdulatlanul ï¿½lt ott az ï¿½rï¿½asztalnï¿½l, mint tï¿½z hosszï¿½ percen keresztï¿½l.

Azonban Paula boldog volt. Dick sokkal rï¿½gebben ismerte mï¿½r minden hangulatï¿½nak kï¿½lsï¿½ jeleivel egyï¿½tt, semhogy ne ï¿½rtette volna annak a jelentï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t, hegy Paula most ï¿½nekelve ment vï¿½gig a hï¿½zon, az ï¿½rkï¿½dok alatt, vï¿½gig a tï¿½likerten. Dick csak a lunch gongszavï¿½ra hagyta el az irodï¿½jï¿½t. Paula nem jï¿½tt az ï¿½ton elï¿½be, mint mï¿½skor. De a hangjï¿½t lehetett hallani: az ï¿½neklï¿½s elhalkulva veszett el a tï¿½likerten ï¿½t az ebï¿½dlï¿½ irï¿½nyï¿½ban.

Stoddard Harrison ezredes, a nemzetï¿½rsï¿½g ezredese, nyugalomba vonult kereskedelmi fejedelem, akinek az ipari helyzet ï¿½s a szociï¿½lis nyugtalansï¿½g volt a vesszï¿½paripï¿½ja, szinte egï¿½sz ï¿½tkezï¿½s alatt szï¿½val tartotta a tï¿½rsasï¿½got a munkaadï¿½-felelï¿½ssï¿½gi tï¿½rvï¿½nynek a mezï¿½gazdasï¿½gi munkï¿½sokra valï¿½ kiterjesztï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l. De Paula kï¿½zben mï¿½dot talï¿½lt, hogy mintegy vï¿½letlenï¿½l elujsï¿½golja Dicknek: dï¿½lutï¿½n ï¿½trï¿½ndul Wickenbergbe Masonï¿½khoz.

- Hogy mikor jï¿½vï¿½k vissza, azt persze nem tudom. Hiszen ismered Masonï¿½kat. Azt nem is merem kï¿½rni, hogy velem gyere, pedig szeretnï¿½m.

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Szï¿½val, - folytatta Paula - ha nincs szï¿½ksï¿½ged Saundersre...

Dick helyeslï¿½en bï¿½lintott:

- ï¿½n ma dï¿½lutï¿½n Callahannel megyek ki - mondotta ï¿½s miutï¿½n Paula kiesett a dï¿½lutï¿½njï¿½bï¿½l, egy pillanat alatt mï¿½r beosztotta a maga idejï¿½t. - Nem ï¿½rtem, Paula, mï¿½rt szereted jobban Saunderst. Callahan a jobbik soffï¿½r ï¿½s termï¿½szetesen a biztosabb is.

- Talï¿½n ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt, - felelte mosolyogva Paula - ami biztos, az lassï¿½.

- Azï¿½rt mï¿½g egy gyorstï¿½rï¿½n is Callahan volna a favoritom, nem Saunders.

- Hova mï¿½gy vele ma dï¿½lutï¿½n?

- Megmutatom Stoddard ezredesnek a lï¿½mentes, egy embert igï¿½nylï¿½ farmot, tudod, azt az automatikus szï¿½ntï¿½sï¿½ huszonï¿½t holdas bolondsï¿½got, amibe belevï¿½gtam a fejszï¿½met. Egï¿½sz csomï¿½ ï¿½jï¿½tï¿½s van, amivel mï¿½r egy hete vï¿½rnak, hogy elï¿½ttem prï¿½bï¿½ljï¿½k ki. Nagyon el voltam foglalva. Azutï¿½n pedig vï¿½gigkalauzolom a kolï¿½niï¿½n. Mit szï¿½lsz: ï¿½t szaporulat a mult hï¿½ten.

- Azt hittem, - mondta Paula - hogy a telepesek lï¿½tszï¿½ma mï¿½r betelt.

- Be is telt. De ezek kisbabï¿½k. ï¿½s ï¿½ppen a legkevesebbet ï¿½gï¿½rï¿½ csalï¿½d elkï¿½vette azt a vakmerï¿½sï¿½get, hogy ikrei szï¿½lettek.

Stoddard ezredes is megszï¿½lalt, akinek rendkï¿½vï¿½l hizelgett, hogy Dick szemï¿½lyesen fogja elkï¿½sï¿½rni.

- A fï¿½ldkï¿½stolï¿½k egï¿½sz serege csï¿½vï¿½lja a fejï¿½t a maga kï¿½sï¿½rlete felett. ï¿½n fentartom a magam vï¿½lemï¿½nyï¿½t akkorra, mikor a kellï¿½ szï¿½madatokkal egyï¿½tt megtekintettem a dolgot.

Dick alig hallotta, annyi mï¿½s gondolat kavargott benne. Paula nem emlï¿½tette, vajjon Wadenï¿½ ï¿½s a kis Wade-ek jï¿½nnek-e, azt mï¿½g kevï¿½sbï¿½ emlï¿½tette, hogy meghï¿½vta ï¿½ket. De ezt nem lehetett hibï¿½ul felrï¿½ni. Mindkettï¿½jï¿½knek voltak olyan vendï¿½gei, akikrï¿½l a mï¿½sik csak akkor tudott, mikor mï¿½r megï¿½rkeztek.

Annyi mindenesetre biztos volt, hogy Wadenï¿½ ma nem jï¿½n, kï¿½lï¿½nben Paula nem autï¿½zna ï¿½tven kilomï¿½tert. ï¿½ppen ez az elmenï¿½s, ezt nem lehetett ï¿½szre nem venni. Paula fut, mï¿½g pedig tï¿½le fut. Nem tud szembenï¿½zni azzal az eshetï¿½sï¿½ggel, hogy ketten maradnak ï¿½s az intimitï¿½s termï¿½szetes veszedelmei fenyegethetnek. Az ï¿½, Dick szï¿½mï¿½ra egyetlen dolog veszedelmes: azt mutatni, hogy fï¿½l.

Az is ï¿½tlï¿½tszï¿½, hogy Paula bebiztosï¿½tja az estï¿½t. A dinerhez nem jï¿½n vissza, arra mï¿½rget lehet venni, sï¿½t rï¿½gtï¿½n diner utï¿½n sem, hacsak az egï¿½sz wickenbergi tï¿½rsasï¿½got magï¿½val nem hozza. Olyan kï¿½sï¿½n jï¿½n haza, hogy Dicket mï¿½r ï¿½gyban hihesse. Hï¿½t jï¿½, nem rontja el a kedvï¿½t - hatï¿½rozta el magï¿½ban kemï¿½nyen Dick, mikor Stoddardnak vï¿½laszolt:

- Papï¿½ron a kï¿½sï¿½rlet fï¿½nyesen bevï¿½lt. Bï¿½sï¿½ges helyet hagytam a szï¿½mï¿½tï¿½sokban az emberi termï¿½szetnek is. El is ismerem, hogy itt a kï¿½tsï¿½get ï¿½s a veszedelmet egy okozhatja: az emberi termï¿½szet. De a prï¿½bï¿½nak egyetlen mï¿½dja az, hogy az ember csakugyan megprï¿½bï¿½lja. Amit meg is teszï¿½nk.

- Nem ez az elsï¿½ dolog, - mondta Paula - amit Dick kitalï¿½lt, hogy nyerjen vagy veszï¿½tsen rajta.

- Csakhogy tizenkï¿½tezer hold fï¿½ld, aztï¿½n az ï¿½sszes farmerek szï¿½mï¿½ra a forgï¿½tï¿½ke, meg mindegyiknek ï¿½vi ezer dollï¿½r kï¿½szpï¿½nz! - szï¿½lt Stoddard ezredes. - Nï¿½hï¿½ny ilyen kudarc, ha ez kudarc lesz, alaposan megszivattyï¿½zza ï¿½m a Harvestet.

- A Harvestnek ï¿½ppen erre van szï¿½ksï¿½ge - felelte Dick kï¿½nnyedï¿½n.

Stoddard ezredes ï¿½rtelmetlenï¿½l bï¿½mult rï¿½.

- Igen, igen, - mondta Dick - szivattyï¿½ kell neki. A bï¿½nyamï¿½veket elï¿½rasztottuk... tudja, a mexikï¿½i helyzet...

Mï¿½sodik nap dï¿½lelï¿½tt tï¿½rtï¿½nt, aznap, mikorra Graham visszajï¿½ttï¿½t vï¿½rtï¿½k, hogy Dick, aki tizenegykor lï¿½ra ï¿½lt ï¿½s ï¿½gy kerï¿½lte ki a Paula dï¿½lelï¿½tti kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½sï¿½vel jï¿½rï¿½ elï¿½zï¿½ napi kudarcot, kifelï¿½ menet a hallban talï¿½lkozott Ohohï¿½val, aki egy ï¿½lre valï¿½ frissen szedett orgonï¿½t vitt valahovï¿½. Az inas ï¿½tja nyilvï¿½n a toronyszoba felï¿½ vezetett, de Dick kï¿½lï¿½n megbizonyosodott rï¿½la:

- Hovï¿½ viszed, Ohohï¿½?

- Graham ï¿½r szobï¿½jï¿½ba... ma jï¿½nni fog...

Mï¿½r most kinek az ï¿½tlete volt ez? Dick gondolkozott. Ohohï¿½ï¿½? Hallodeï¿½? Paulï¿½ï¿½? Emlï¿½kezett, hogy Graham tï¿½bbszï¿½r emlegette, mennyire szereti az orgonï¿½t.

A kï¿½nyvtï¿½rszobï¿½ban letï¿½rt az ï¿½tjï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s a toronyszobï¿½hoz kï¿½zel lï¿½pett ki a hï¿½zbï¿½l a virï¿½gok kï¿½zï¿½tt. A toronyszoba nyitott ablakain ï¿½t Paula boldog dï¿½dolï¿½sa hallatszott ki. Dick hirtelen beharapta az alsï¿½ ajkï¿½t a foga kï¿½zï¿½ ï¿½s tovï¿½bb bandukolt.

Azon jï¿½rt az esze, hogy ebben a szobï¿½ban sok kitï¿½nï¿½, sï¿½t csodï¿½latramï¿½ltï¿½ fï¿½rfi ï¿½s nï¿½ lakott mï¿½r, ï¿½s Paula mï¿½g sohasem nï¿½zett utï¿½na a szobï¿½juk virï¿½gdï¿½szï¿½nek. Hallode, aki valï¿½sï¿½gos mï¿½vï¿½sze volt a virï¿½goknak, maga lï¿½tta ezt el, vagy megvolt a jï¿½l kitanï¿½tott szemï¿½lyzete hozzï¿½.

Azok kï¿½zï¿½tt a tï¿½viratok kï¿½zï¿½tt, amelyeket Bonbright kï¿½zbesï¿½tett neki, ott volt a Grahamï¿½ is. Dick kï¿½tszer is elolvasta, noha Graham egyszerï¿½en ï¿½s lï¿½nyegtelenï¿½l csak jelezte, hogy kï¿½sï¿½bb ï¿½rkezik.

Szokï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l eltï¿½rï¿½en Dick ezï¿½ttal nem vï¿½rta meg a lunch-gong mï¿½sodik ï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t. Mï¿½r az elsï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½sre elindult, mert szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½rezte, hogy a Hallode cocktailjei kï¿½zï¿½l igyï¿½k egyet. Bï¿½torsï¿½got kellett szednie magï¿½ba, hogy az orgonï¿½k utï¿½n Paulï¿½val talï¿½lkozzï¿½k. De Paula mï¿½r megelï¿½zte. Az asszonyka, aki ritkï¿½n ivott, egyedï¿½l ï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem, ï¿½ppen egy ï¿½res cocktailes poharat tett vissza a pohï¿½rszï¿½kre.

Dick intett Hallode felï¿½ ï¿½s feltartotta egy ujjï¿½t. ï¿½s ezalatt megï¿½llapï¿½totta magï¿½ban, hogy mint neki, Paulï¿½nak is szï¿½ksï¿½ge volt a szï¿½verï¿½sï¿½tï¿½re.

- Most megcsï¿½ptelek! - szidta vidï¿½m hangon Paulï¿½t. - Titokban korhelykedel. Ez a legsï¿½lyosabb szimptï¿½ma. Aznap, mikor elvettelek, igazï¿½n nem hittem volna, hogy akit elveszek, deliriumban fog meghalni.

Mielï¿½tt Paula felelhetett volna, egy fiatalember lï¿½pett be, akit mind a ketten Winters ï¿½r gyanï¿½nt ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½ltek ï¿½s akinek szintï¿½n meg kellett inni egy cocktailt. Dick megprï¿½bï¿½lta magï¿½val elhitetni, hogy az nem megkï¿½nnyebbï¿½lï¿½s volt, amit Paula modorï¿½ban ï¿½rzett, mikor az asszony a vendï¿½get ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lte. Tudniillik mï¿½g egyszer sem lï¿½tta Paulï¿½t ilyen nyï¿½jasnak Winters ï¿½rhoz, pedig elï¿½g gyakran talï¿½lkoztak. Mindenesetre hï¿½rmasban fognak ebï¿½delni.

Winters ï¿½r okleveles gazdï¿½sz volt ï¿½s a Pacific Fï¿½ldmï¿½velï¿½ Ujsï¿½g tudï¿½sï¿½tï¿½ja, Dick protegï¿½ltja. Adatokat jï¿½tt ï¿½sszeï¿½rni a kaliforniai halastavakrï¿½l ï¿½s Dick magï¿½ban mï¿½r rendezte Winters szï¿½mï¿½ra a dï¿½lutï¿½ni idejï¿½t.

- Evan tï¿½viratozott, - mondta Paulï¿½nak, - csak holnaputï¿½n jï¿½n a nï¿½gyï¿½rï¿½ssal.

- Pedig mennyit veszï¿½dtem miatta, - mondta Paula, - az orgonï¿½im elhervadnak ï¿½s tï¿½nkremennek.

Dick az ï¿½rï¿½m meleg nyilallï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½rezte magï¿½ban. Most az ï¿½ nyilt, egyenes Paulï¿½ja szï¿½lalt meg. Mindegy, hogy miben megy a jï¿½tï¿½k ï¿½s mi lesz a vï¿½ge, a fï¿½, hogy Paula az alantas kis csalï¿½sok nï¿½lkï¿½l fogja vï¿½gigjï¿½tszani. Mindig ilyen volt: tï¿½lsï¿½gosan nyilt ahoz, hogy csalni tudott volna.

De azï¿½rt Dick megjï¿½tszotta a szerepï¿½t: felï¿½letes ï¿½s ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½s nï¿½lkï¿½li kï¿½rdï¿½st intï¿½zett Paulï¿½hoz, hogy mifï¿½le orgonï¿½k.

- Hï¿½t a Graham szobï¿½jï¿½ba - felelte Paula - egy ï¿½lre valï¿½t vitettem fel a legï¿½nyekkel ï¿½s magam rendeztem el az egï¿½szet. Tudod, mennyire szereti az orgonï¿½t.

Lunch vï¿½gï¿½ig Paula nem tett emlï¿½tï¿½st Wadenï¿½ jï¿½vetelï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s Dick most mï¿½r tudta, hogy nem is jï¿½n, mert Paula odavetve megkï¿½rdezte:

- Vï¿½rsz valakit?

Megrï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s megkï¿½rdezte:

- Van valami dolgod ma dï¿½lutï¿½n?

- Nem gondoltam semmire. Rï¿½d pedig, azt hiszem, most nem igen szï¿½mï¿½thatok, mert Winters ï¿½rral folyton halakrï¿½l fogtok beszï¿½lni.

- Dehogy nem, - felelte Dick - ï¿½tadom ï¿½t Hanley ï¿½rnak, aki a legfrissebb kikï¿½ltï¿½tt ikrï¿½ig megolvasta a pisztrï¿½ngokat ï¿½s minden sï¿½gï¿½r nagyapjï¿½nak tudja a nevï¿½t. Mondok neked valamit...

Megï¿½llt ï¿½s gondolkozott. Aztï¿½n hirtelen ï¿½tlet ragyogott fel az arcï¿½n:

- Ma dï¿½lutï¿½n naplopï¿½s lesz. Fogjuk a puskï¿½t ï¿½s megyï¿½nk mï¿½kust lï¿½ni. A multkor ï¿½szrevettem, hogy nagyon odakaptak arra a dombra a Kis Mezï¿½ felett.

Dick figyelmï¿½t nem kerï¿½lte el a nyugtalansï¿½gnak az a hullï¿½ma, amely hirtelen elhomï¿½lyosï¿½totta a Paula szemï¿½t. De ï¿½ppen olyan hirtelen el is tï¿½nt, mert Paula tapsolt egyet ï¿½s mï¿½ris a rï¿½gi volt.

- De nekem ne hozzï¿½l puskï¿½t.

- Ha nem akarsz jï¿½nni... - kezdte szeliden Dick.

- De igen, akarok menni, csak nincs kedvem lï¿½vï¿½ldï¿½zni. Viszem a Le Gallienne ï¿½j kï¿½nyvï¿½t, most jï¿½tt, ï¿½s kï¿½zben majd felolvasok neked. Emlï¿½kszel? Mikor legutoljï¿½ra mentï¿½nk mï¿½kust vadï¿½szni, akkor is Le Galliennet olvastam fel neked. »Az aranyleï¿½ny keresï¿½se«, az volt a cï¿½me...

Paula a Szarvast ï¿½s Dick a Haramiï¿½t ï¿½lte. Szorosan egymï¿½s mellett lovagoltak ki, mï¿½r amennyire ezt a Haramia megï¿½talkodott gonoszsï¿½ga engedte. Beszï¿½lgetni is csak tï¿½redï¿½kesen lehetett miatta. Kis fï¿½lï¿½t visszacsapta ï¿½s fogait vicsorï¿½tva szeretett volna megszabadulni Dick kantï¿½rjï¿½nak ï¿½s sarkantyï¿½jï¿½nak kormï¿½nyzï¿½sï¿½tï¿½l, hogy harapï¿½snyira kaphassa a Paula lï¿½bï¿½t vagy a Szarvas sima vï¿½knyï¿½t. Minden kï¿½sï¿½rletnï¿½l ï¿½thullï¿½mzott szeme fehï¿½rjï¿½n a rï¿½zsaszï¿½n ï¿½rnyalat. Nyugtalan fejdobï¿½lï¿½sa, hï¿½nykolï¿½dï¿½ ï¿½gaskodï¿½si kï¿½sï¿½rletei, amelyeket a fejszorï¿½tï¿½ szï¿½j akadï¿½lyozott, sohasem szï¿½neteltek, csak mikor megtorpant, oldalgott ï¿½s farolni kezdett.

- Ez az utolsï¿½ ï¿½ve neki - mondta Dick. - Idomï¿½thatatlan lï¿½. Kï¿½t ï¿½llï¿½ esztendeig dolgoztam rajta a legcsekï¿½lyebb eredmï¿½ny nï¿½lkï¿½l. Ismer, ismeri a szokï¿½saimat, tudja, hogy hatalmamban tartom, tudja, mikor kell beadni a derekï¿½t, de mindig elï¿½gedetlen. Folyton tï¿½plï¿½lja magï¿½ban az ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½s remï¿½nysï¿½get, hogy egyszer valamikor el tud kapni a fogï¿½val, ï¿½s hogy ezt az idï¿½t el ne mulassza, egyetlen alkalmat sem szalaszt el.

- Egyszer mï¿½g csakugyan tï¿½ljï¿½r az eszeden.

- Ezï¿½rt is teszek le rï¿½la. Nem mintha nagy gondot okozna, de elï¿½bb-utï¿½bb meg kell hogy harapjon, ha a valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½sï¿½g tï¿½rvï¿½nye ï¿½r valamit. Ha a valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½sï¿½g csak annyi is, mint milliï¿½ az egyhez, isten tudja, hogy a milliï¿½ban hol van az a hely, ahol az a bizonyos egy hirtelen felbukkan.

- Csodï¿½latos valaki vagy te, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½ - mosolygott Paula.

- Miï¿½rt?

- Statisztikai adatokban, szï¿½zalï¿½kokban, ï¿½tlagokban ï¿½s kivï¿½telekben gondolkozol. Kï¿½vï¿½ncsi vagyok, hogy mikor elï¿½szï¿½r lï¿½ttuk egymï¿½st, vajjon melyik formula szerint vettï¿½l szemï¿½gyre ï¿½s mï¿½rlegeltï¿½l engem?

- Akasszanak fel, ha ilyesmire gondoltam - nevetett vissza Dick. - Hiszen minden szï¿½mï¿½tï¿½si alapom hiï¿½nyzott. Nem ï¿½llott rendelkezï¿½semre olyan statisztika, amely rï¿½d illett volna. Mindï¿½ssze megï¿½llapï¿½tottam magamban, hogy itt van a legcsodï¿½latosabb nï¿½nemï¿½ lï¿½ny, aki valaha kï¿½t lï¿½bon jï¿½rt, ï¿½s tudtam, hogy jobban akarom ï¿½t, mint ahogy valaha bï¿½rmit is akartam. Muszï¿½j volt, hogy az enyï¿½m legyen... ï¿½s...

- ï¿½s, tiï¿½d is lett - fejezte be helyette Paula. - De azï¿½ta, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, azï¿½ta. Bizonyosan elï¿½g statisztikai adalï¿½kot gyï¿½jtï¿½ttï¿½l ï¿½ssze rï¿½lam.

- Keveset, egï¿½szen keveset. De remï¿½lem is, hogy az utolsï¿½t sohasem fogom megtalï¿½lni.

Itt hirtelen megï¿½llt, mert Hegyi Fickï¿½ fï¿½lreismerhetetlen nyerï¿½tï¿½se szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe. Felbukkant maga a csï¿½dï¿½r is, hï¿½tï¿½n a cowboyjal, ï¿½s Dick egy pillanatig gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dï¿½tt a lï¿½ hosszï¿½, lengï¿½ lï¿½pï¿½sï¿½nek befejezett tï¿½kï¿½letessï¿½gï¿½ben. De aztï¿½n, mikor Hegyi Fickï¿½ meglï¿½tvï¿½n ï¿½ket, vï¿½gtatni kezdett, figyelmeztette Paulï¿½t:

- Ebbï¿½l jï¿½ lesz kijutni.

Egyszerre kaptï¿½k sarkantyï¿½ba a kï¿½t kancï¿½t, visszafordï¿½tottï¿½k ï¿½s repï¿½lni kezdtek, mialatt a hï¿½tuk mï¿½gï¿½tt hallottï¿½k a lovas csendesï¿½tï¿½ hï¿½hahï¿½-kiï¿½ltï¿½sï¿½t, a sï¿½lyos patï¿½k dobbanï¿½sï¿½t az orszï¿½gï¿½ton ï¿½s a csï¿½dï¿½r vad, kï¿½vetelï¿½ nyerï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t. A Haramia felelt ï¿½s rï¿½gtï¿½n utï¿½na a Szarvas is. A hangokbï¿½l tudtï¿½k, hogy Hegyi Fickï¿½ nem trï¿½fï¿½l.

Letï¿½rve az egyenes ï¿½trï¿½l, vï¿½gtatva fordultak be ï¿½s ï¿½tven lï¿½pï¿½snyire megï¿½lltak. Ott vï¿½rtak addig, mï¿½g a veszedelem elhaladt.

- Tulajdonkï¿½ppen mï¿½g nem tett kï¿½rt soha senkiben - mondta Paula, mikor visszafelï¿½ indultak.

- Kivï¿½ve mikor vï¿½letlenï¿½l letaposta a Cowley lï¿½bï¿½t. Egy hï¿½napig fekï¿½dt bele, emlï¿½kezhetel - mondta Dick, visszaszorï¿½tva az egyenes ï¿½tra az oldalgï¿½ Haramiï¿½t. A szeme sarka egy villanï¿½sï¿½val elkapta azt a furcsa pillantï¿½st, amellyel Paula nï¿½zett rï¿½.

Kï¿½rdï¿½s volt ebben a pillantï¿½sban, ahogy kivette, szeretet ï¿½s fï¿½lelem, igen, szinte fï¿½lelem, vagy legalï¿½bb is valami olyan vï¿½rakozï¿½s, ami az aggodalommal volt hatï¿½ros, de legkivï¿½lt valami kutatï¿½s, kï¿½rdï¿½s, fï¿½rkï¿½szï¿½s. Dick ï¿½gy talï¿½lta, hogy ez valahogyan egybeesik Paulï¿½nak a statisztikai gondolkodï¿½srï¿½l tett megjegyzï¿½sï¿½vel. De ï¿½gy tett, mintha nem lï¿½tott volna semmit. Lovaglï¿½ostorï¿½val vï¿½gigvï¿½gott a lovï¿½n ï¿½s ï¿½rdeklï¿½dve nï¿½zett egy lefolyï¿½ csatornï¿½t, amely mellett elhaladtak.

- Ezt se csinï¿½ltï¿½k meg, - mondta - mï¿½r egy hï¿½napja ki kellett volna javï¿½tani.

- Mi lett azokkal a nevadai musztï¿½ngokkal? - kï¿½rdezte Paula.

Dick egy mï¿½nest vett volt abban az idï¿½ben, mikor a nevadai legelï¿½kre olyan rossz esztendï¿½ jï¿½rt, hogy vagy elvesztegettï¿½k a musztï¿½ngokat potomï¿½ron, vagy hagytï¿½k ï¿½ket ï¿½hen dï¿½gleni. Egy egï¿½sz vasï¿½trakomï¿½nyra valï¿½t hozatott le ï¿½s beosztotta ï¿½ket a tï¿½volabbi hegyi legelï¿½kre nyugatnak.

- Itt az ideje, hogy betï¿½rjï¿½k ï¿½ket - felelte Dick. - Kï¿½lï¿½nben arra gondolok, hogy a jï¿½vï¿½ hï¿½ten amolyan igazi, rï¿½gimï¿½di ï¿½llatszemlï¿½t ï¿½ssek nyï¿½lbe. Mit szï¿½lsz hozzï¿½? Csinï¿½ljunk ï¿½kï¿½rsï¿½tï¿½st, meg mindenfï¿½lï¿½t ï¿½s hï¿½vjuk meg az egï¿½sz vidï¿½ket?

- Csakhogy te nem leszel ott - vetette ellen Paula.

- Egy napot rï¿½szï¿½nok. Rendben van?

Paula bï¿½lintott. A lovaikkal letï¿½rtek az ï¿½t szï¿½lï¿½re, hogy kitï¿½rjenek hï¿½rom nagy mezï¿½gazdasï¿½gi gï¿½pnek, amely ott haladt el mellettï¿½k mindenfï¿½le korongjaival ï¿½s boronï¿½ival.

- Ezeket - magyarï¿½zta Dick - ï¿½tviszik most a Gï¿½rgï¿½ Rï¿½tekre. Arravalï¿½ talajon sokkal jobban fizet a gï¿½p, mint a lï¿½.

A vï¿½lgybï¿½l kijutottak mï¿½r. Megmï¿½velt fï¿½ldek ï¿½s fï¿½s dombok kï¿½zï¿½tt elhaladva, ï¿½j ï¿½tra fordultak, amely nyï¿½zsgï¿½tt a sok tï¿½rszekï¿½rtï¿½l. Ezek az ï¿½ttï¿½rï¿½shez valï¿½ kavicsot cipeltï¿½k a kï¿½fejtï¿½ malombï¿½l, amelynek mormogï¿½sa ï¿½s kattogï¿½sa felï¿½lrï¿½l lehallatszott hozzï¿½juk.

- Tï¿½bbet kell vele foglalkozni, mint amennyit ï¿½n foglalkoztam vele - jegyezte meg Dick, elrï¿½ntva a Haramia vicsorgï¿½ fogï¿½t a Szarvas vï¿½konyï¿½nak veszedelmes kï¿½zelsï¿½gï¿½bï¿½l.

- ï¿½s ï¿½n milyen hï¿½lï¿½tlanul elhanyagoltam Duddyt ï¿½s Fuddyt, - mondta Paula - olyan szï¿½kre fogtam a kosztjukat, hogy az mï¿½r szï¿½gyen. Mï¿½gis milyen vï¿½gak ï¿½s kedvesek.

Dick nem felelt. De a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ huszonnï¿½gy ï¿½rï¿½n belï¿½l rosszul esett neki, ha eszï¿½be jutott, mit mondott Paula.

Folytattï¿½k ï¿½tjukat. A kï¿½fejtï¿½ lï¿½rmï¿½ja elhalt mï¿½gï¿½ttï¿½k. Behatoltak egy erdï¿½s gyï¿½rï¿½be, ï¿½tlovagoltak egy kis szakadï¿½kon, amelyben a manzanita bï¿½rszï¿½nï¿½re, a madrono rï¿½zsï¿½sra festette a dï¿½lutï¿½ni napsï¿½tï¿½st, aztï¿½n leereszkedtek a fiatal eukaliptusz-ï¿½ltetvï¿½nyen ï¿½t a Kis Rï¿½tre. De mielï¿½tt leï¿½rtek, leszï¿½lltak ï¿½s kikï¿½tï¿½ttï¿½k a lovakat. Dick elï¿½szedte a nyeregkï¿½pï¿½bï¿½l a huszonkï¿½t millimï¿½teres ismï¿½tlï¿½-fegyvert ï¿½s Paulï¿½val egyï¿½tt ï¿½vatosan megkï¿½zelï¿½tette a rï¿½t szï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½llï¿½ vï¿½rï¿½sfenyï¿½-csoportot. Elrejtï¿½zkï¿½dtek az ï¿½rnyï¿½kban ï¿½s a rï¿½ten ï¿½t fï¿½rkï¿½szve vettï¿½k szemï¿½gyre a dombnak szï¿½zï¿½tven mï¿½ternyire kezdï¿½dï¿½ meredek lejtï¿½jï¿½t.

- Ott vannak... hï¿½rom... nï¿½gy... - suttogta Paula, mikor ï¿½les szeme ï¿½szrevette ï¿½ket a fiatal bï¿½zï¿½ban.

Ezek az ï¿½vatosak voltak, a vï¿½gtelen kï¿½rï¿½ltekintï¿½s ï¿½s figyelem bajnokai, amelyek a Dick irtï¿½ bï¿½reseinek mï¿½rgezett bï¿½zï¿½jï¿½tï¿½l meg acï¿½lkelepcï¿½jï¿½tï¿½l mindeddig ï¿½vakodtak. Ezek a tï¿½lï¿½lï¿½ pï¿½ldï¿½nyok voltak, mindegyik az az ï¿½gyes, amely hï¿½sz ï¿½gyetlen kï¿½zï¿½l megmarad ï¿½s megint be tudja nï¿½pesï¿½teni a domboldalt.

Dick aprï¿½ tï¿½ltï¿½nyekkel tï¿½ltï¿½tte meg a fegyvert, megvizsgï¿½lta a hangfogï¿½t ï¿½s teljes hosszï¿½ban hasrafekve, kï¿½nyï¿½kï¿½re tï¿½maszkodva nï¿½zett vï¿½gig a mezï¿½n. Mikor tï¿½zelt, nem hallatszott dï¿½rrenï¿½s, csak a szerkezet kettyent egyet, jelï¿½ï¿½l annak, hogy kidobta az ï¿½res tï¿½ltï¿½nyt, ï¿½j tï¿½ltï¿½nyt szorï¿½tott a helyï¿½re ï¿½s automatikusan ï¿½jra felhï¿½zta a ravaszt. Egy nagy, sï¿½tï¿½tbarna mï¿½kus ugrott fel a levegï¿½be, felfordult ï¿½s eltï¿½nt a bï¿½zï¿½ban. Dick vï¿½rt. Szemï¿½t a puskacsï¿½ mentï¿½n azokra a foltokra szegezte, ahol a puszta fï¿½ld jelezte az elpusztï¿½tott bï¿½zavetï¿½s helyï¿½t. Mikor egy ilyen tisztï¿½son a sebzett mï¿½kus megjelent, hogy biztos helyre vï¿½nszorogjon, a fegyver megint kettyent egyet, a mï¿½kus oldalvï¿½st elhemperedett ï¿½s fekve maradt.

Az elsï¿½ kettyenï¿½sre valamennyi mï¿½kus a lyukba menekï¿½lt, ezt a meglï¿½ttet kivï¿½ve. Nem maradt mï¿½s hï¿½tra, mint megvï¿½rni, mï¿½g a kï¿½vï¿½ncsisï¿½guk legyï¿½zi az ï¿½vatossï¿½gukat. Erre az idï¿½kï¿½zre szï¿½mï¿½tott Dick. Amint ott fekï¿½dt ï¿½s fï¿½rkï¿½szte a domboldalt, nem bukkan-e ki valahol egy kï¿½vï¿½ncsi fej, azon tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt, vajjon Paula fog-e szï¿½lni neki. Paulï¿½nak lelki baja van, megtartja-e magï¿½nak? Ezt nem szokta. Mindig ï¿½gy volt, hogy elï¿½bb-utï¿½bb hozzï¿½ jï¿½tt a bajï¿½val. Viszont, gondolta Dick, ilyesfï¿½le baja sohasem volt azelï¿½tt. ï¿½ppen ez az egyetlen dolog, amit nem igyekszik az urï¿½val megbeszï¿½lni. Mï¿½srï¿½szrï¿½l azonban Paula mindig olyan nyilt ï¿½s egyenes szokott lenni. ï¿½veken keresztï¿½l csodï¿½lta ï¿½s szerette ezt a tulajdonsï¿½gï¿½t. Meg fog-e most nyilalkozni ez a tulajdonsï¿½g?

ï¿½gy fekï¿½dt ï¿½s gondolkozott. Paula viszont hallgatott Nem volt nyugtalan. Meg sem moccant. Mikor Dick oldalt pillantott, ott lï¿½tta fekï¿½dni a hï¿½tï¿½n, behï¿½nyt szemmel, kitï¿½rt karokkal, mintha fï¿½radt volna.

Egyik lyukbï¿½l kikukkant a fejecske, ugyanolyan szï¿½nï¿½, mint a szï¿½raz fï¿½ld, amelyben lakott. Dick hosszï¿½ percekig vï¿½rt, mï¿½g a fej tulajdonosa megbizonyosodott rï¿½la, hogy nincs veszedelem, kibï¿½jt ï¿½s felï¿½lt a hï¿½tsï¿½ lï¿½baira kï¿½rï¿½lnï¿½zni, mi volt az a kettyenï¿½s, ami megijesztette. A puska megint kettyent.

- Eltalï¿½ltad? - kï¿½rdezte Paula, ki sem nyitva a szemï¿½t.

- El. Mï¿½g pedig a hasasat. Egï¿½sz sor nemzedï¿½knek bevï¿½gtam az ï¿½tjï¿½t.

Eltelt egy ï¿½ra. A dï¿½lutï¿½ni nap erï¿½sen tï¿½zï¿½tt le, de ï¿½rnyï¿½kï¿½ban nem volt kellemetlen. A fiatal bï¿½zavetï¿½st koronkï¿½nt kï¿½nnyed szellï¿½cske hajlï¿½totta lusta hullï¿½mokba ï¿½s megzï¿½rgette felettï¿½k a vï¿½rï¿½sfenyï¿½fï¿½k ï¿½gait is. Dick elejtette a harmadik mï¿½kust is. Paula mellett ott hevert a kï¿½nyv, de nem ajï¿½nlkozott, hogy felolvas. Dick vï¿½gre megemberelte magï¿½t, hogy megszï¿½laljon:

- Valami bajod van?

- Semmi. Fï¿½j a fejem. Az a gyalï¿½zatos kis neuralgikus fï¿½jdalom a szemem felett, ez az egï¿½sz.

- Tï¿½lsï¿½gba vitted a kï¿½zimunkï¿½t.

- Nem, nem kï¿½zimunkï¿½ztam.

Lï¿½tszatra mindez elï¿½g termï¿½szetes volt. De Dick, mikï¿½zben megengedte egy szokatlan nagysï¿½gï¿½ mï¿½kusnak, hogy kibï¿½jjon a lyukbï¿½l ï¿½s jï¿½kora utat tegyen meg a kopasz fï¿½ldï¿½n a vetï¿½s felï¿½, ezt gondolta magï¿½ban: »Nem, ma itt kï¿½ztï¿½nk nem lesz beszï¿½lgetï¿½s. ï¿½s nem fogunk ï¿½sszebï¿½jni ï¿½s nem fogunk csï¿½kolï¿½dzni a fï¿½ben.«

Az ï¿½ldozatra szï¿½nt mï¿½kus most ï¿½rt a vetï¿½s szï¿½lï¿½hez. Megnyomta a ravaszt. Az ï¿½llat elesett, egy pillanatig nem mozdult, aztï¿½n gyors, torz rï¿½ngatï¿½dzï¿½ssal igyekezett az ï¿½rege felï¿½. A szerkezet tovï¿½bb mï¿½kï¿½dï¿½tt: klik, klik, klik. A menekvï¿½ mï¿½kus kï¿½rï¿½l porfelhï¿½cskï¿½k szï¿½ktek fel a fï¿½ldrï¿½l, megmutatva, hogy a hibï¿½s lï¿½vï¿½sek milyen kï¿½zel jï¿½rtak hozzï¿½. Dick olyan gyorsan tï¿½zelt, ahogy csak billegetni tudta a mutatï¿½ ujjï¿½t a ravaszon, mintha csak valami ï¿½ntï¿½zï¿½csï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½lomï¿½radatot fecskendezett volna.

Mï¿½r majdnem befejezte az ï¿½jratï¿½ltï¿½st, mikor Paula megszï¿½lalt:

- Szent isten, micsoda sortï¿½z! Eltalï¿½ltad?

- El, az ï¿½sszes mï¿½kusok nagypapï¿½jï¿½t talï¿½ltam el, a hatalmas bï¿½zafalï¿½t, fiatal borjak tï¿½plï¿½lï¿½kï¿½nak pusztï¿½tï¿½jï¿½t. De kilenc fï¿½sttelen patron egy mï¿½kusra, az nem ï¿½zlet. Jobban kell vigyï¿½znom.

A nap lejjebb szï¿½llott. A szellï¿½ megï¿½llt. Dick megint elejtett egy mï¿½kust ï¿½s erï¿½sen leste a domboldalt, hogy mï¿½g egyet meglï¿½sson. ï¿½me, gondoskodott a hozzï¿½valï¿½ idï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s most vï¿½rta a bizalmas vallomï¿½st. A helyzet csakugyan olyan sï¿½lyos, mint amilyentï¿½l fï¿½lt. ï¿½s mï¿½g sï¿½lyosabbï¿½ vï¿½lhatik, mert minden jel szerint a vilï¿½ga dï¿½ledezik kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte. Rï¿½gi hatï¿½rkï¿½vek tolï¿½dlak el a helyï¿½krï¿½l. Dick megriadt, meg volt rï¿½zva. Hiszen ha akï¿½rmilyen mï¿½s nï¿½rï¿½l volna szï¿½, nem Paulï¿½rï¿½l! Olyan biztos volna a dolgï¿½ban. Itt volna a biztonsï¿½ga tï¿½mogatï¿½sï¿½ra az egyï¿½tt eltï¿½ltï¿½tt tizenkï¿½t esztendï¿½.

- ï¿½t ï¿½ra, megy le a nap - szï¿½lalt meg, lï¿½bï¿½ra ï¿½llt ï¿½s nekikï¿½szï¿½lt, hogy Paulï¿½t felsegï¿½tse.

- Jaj de jï¿½l esett ez a kis pihenï¿½s, - mondta Paula, mikor elindultak a lovakhoz - a szemem sokkal jobban van. De nem is prï¿½bï¿½ltam neked felolvasni.

- Ne is lï¿½gy olyan csacsi, - felelt Dick kï¿½nnyedï¿½n, mintha nem bï¿½ntanï¿½ semmi - bele ne merj kukkanni se abba a Le Galliennebe. Majd elolvassuk mï¿½skor. Tartsd fel a kezed az ï¿½gre. Mondd, hogy bizony isten.

- Bizony isten.

- Mondd utï¿½nam: »szamarak tï¿½ncoljanak ï¿½reganyï¿½m sï¿½rjï¿½n, ha olvasok.«

- Szamarak tï¿½ncoljanak ï¿½reganyï¿½m sï¿½rjï¿½n, ha olvasok...

Graham tï¿½vollï¿½tï¿½nek harmadik reggelï¿½n Dick gondoskodott rï¿½la, hogy a tejgazdasï¿½gi felï¿½gyelï¿½jï¿½vel legyen elfoglalva, mikor Paula megtette rendes tizenegyï¿½rai lï¿½togatï¿½sï¿½t, bekukucskï¿½lt hozzï¿½ ï¿½s az ajtï¿½bï¿½l szï¿½lt be: jï¿½ reggelt, vidï¿½m ï¿½riember. Masonï¿½k megjï¿½ttek nï¿½hï¿½ny autï¿½nyi lï¿½rmï¿½s fiatalsï¿½ggal ï¿½s Paula ï¿½gy a lunch ï¿½s a dï¿½lutï¿½n idejï¿½re biztonsï¿½gba jutott. Dick ï¿½szrevette, hogy Paula az estï¿½jï¿½t is bebiztosï¿½tja, mikor unszolva tartja ott ï¿½ket bridgezni ï¿½s tï¿½ncolni.

De a negyedik dï¿½lelï¿½ttï¿½n, Graham vï¿½rt visszatï¿½rï¿½sï¿½nek napjï¿½n, Dick egyedï¿½l volt tizenegykor az irodï¿½jï¿½ban. Az ï¿½rï¿½asztala fï¿½lï¿½ hajolva leveleket ï¿½rt alï¿½ ï¿½s hallotta, mikor Paula lï¿½bujjhegyen belï¿½pett a szobï¿½ba. Nem nï¿½zett fel, de mialatt folytatta az alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½st, egï¿½sz lelkï¿½vel odahallgatott a kimonï¿½ halk, selymes suhogï¿½sï¿½ra. ï¿½rezte, hogy Paula most fï¿½lï¿½je hajlik ï¿½s visszafojtotta a lï¿½lekzetï¿½t. Paula lï¿½gyan megcsï¿½kolta a hajï¿½t ï¿½s a szokï¿½sos szï¿½val jï¿½ reggelt kï¿½vï¿½nt neki, de kisiklott a Dick karjainak sï¿½vï¿½r lendï¿½letï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s kacagva futott ki. Ami ï¿½ppen olyan erï¿½sen hatott Dickre, mint ez a csalï¿½dï¿½s, az a boldogsï¿½g volt, amit az asszonyka arcï¿½n lï¿½tott. Paula nagyon szegï¿½nyesen tudta ï¿½lcï¿½zni a hangulatait: most ragyogott a szeme ï¿½s mohï¿½ volt a tekintete, mint a gyerekï¿½. Dick kï¿½ptelen volt elhessegetni magï¿½tï¿½l az ï¿½sszefï¿½ggï¿½st: ma dï¿½lutï¿½nra vï¿½rjï¿½k Graham jï¿½ttï¿½t.

Nem is igyekezett meggyï¿½zï¿½dni rï¿½la, vajjon Paula telerakta-e friss orgonï¿½val a toronyszobï¿½t. Lunchnï¿½l, amelyet hï¿½rom davisi gazdasï¿½gi akadï¿½miai hallgatï¿½val osztottak meg, azon kapta magï¿½t, hogy erï¿½nek-erejï¿½vel dolgot keres magï¿½nak dï¿½lutï¿½nra, mikor Paula prï¿½bï¿½lkozva szï¿½ba hozta, hogy szeretnï¿½ Grahamot kocsin behozni Eldoradï¿½bï¿½l.

- Kocsin? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

- Igen, Duddyval ï¿½s Fuddyval. Ideje mï¿½r befogni ï¿½ket ï¿½s gyakorolnï¿½m ï¿½ket is, magamat is. De ha ezt meg akarod osztani velem, akkor persze megyï¿½nk, ahova akarod, Graham pedig jï¿½jjï¿½n autï¿½val.

Dick prï¿½bï¿½lta elhitetni magï¿½val, hogy Paula arcï¿½n nem aggodalom lï¿½tszik, mikor vï¿½rja, hogy az ajï¿½nlatï¿½val mi tï¿½rtï¿½nik. Magï¿½ban mï¿½r kï¿½rvonalozta a dï¿½lutï¿½ni programjï¿½t ï¿½s nevetve felelt Paulï¿½nak:

- Szegï¿½ny Duddy ï¿½s Fuddy kiadnï¿½k a pï¿½rï¿½jukat, ha az ï¿½n utamat kellene beszaladniok ma dï¿½lutï¿½n. Mostantï¿½l dinerig kï¿½tszï¿½z kilomï¿½tert kell megtennem. A versenygï¿½pen megyek, az ï¿½t csupa por lesz meg zï¿½kkenï¿½, ï¿½s csak nï¿½hol egy kis sï¿½k. Nincs szï¿½vem hozzï¿½, hogy magammal vigyelek. Csak menj ï¿½s vedd Duddyt ï¿½s Fuddyt.

Paula felsï¿½hajtott, de olyan rossz szï¿½nï¿½sznï¿½ volt, hogy Dick ebbï¿½l a sï¿½hajbï¿½l, amely az ï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l valï¿½ lemondï¿½s szokï¿½sos jelï¿½ï¿½l volt szï¿½nva, kï¿½nytelen volt a dï¿½ntï¿½se felett valï¿½ megkï¿½nnyebbï¿½lï¿½st kiolvasni.

- Hovï¿½ mï¿½gy? - kï¿½rdezte Paula ragyogva. ï¿½s Dick megint meglï¿½tta, hogyan szï¿½nesedik az arca, milyen boldog ï¿½s hogy csillog fï¿½l a szeme.

- Le kell mennem a folyï¿½ mentï¿½n a csatornï¿½zï¿½shoz. Carlson ragaszkodik hozzï¿½, hogy ï¿½tbaigazï¿½tï¿½sokat adjak neki. Aztï¿½n felmegyek Sacramentï¿½ba ï¿½s ï¿½tba ejtem a Vadkacsa-vidï¿½ket is, hogy beszï¿½ljak Ving-Fo-Vonghoz.

- Az isten szerelmï¿½re, - kï¿½rdezte kacagva Paula - ki az a Ving-Fo-Vong, hogy helyï¿½be kell menned ï¿½s meg kell lï¿½togatnod?

- Nagyon fontos ember az, drï¿½gï¿½m. Kï¿½t milliï¿½ja van, krumplival ï¿½s spï¿½rgï¿½val kereste lenn Delta-ï¿½llamban. A Vadkacsa-vidï¿½ken bï¿½rbe adok neki nyolcszï¿½z holdat.

Itt az akadï¿½mistï¿½khoz fordult Dick.

- Ez a fï¿½ldrï¿½sz ï¿½ppen Sacramentï¿½n tï¿½l fekszik, a folyï¿½ nyugati oldalï¿½n. Jï¿½ pï¿½ldï¿½ja a fï¿½ldï¿½hsï¿½gnek, amely most kï¿½vetkezik. Iszapos zsombï¿½k volt, mikor megvettem, a rï¿½gi vï¿½gï¿½sï¿½ emberek egyenesen kinevettek vele. Sï¿½t egy csomï¿½ vadï¿½szati jogot is meg kellett vennem. Hï¿½t dollï¿½romban volt holdja, nem is olyan rï¿½gen. Ismerik az ilyen kï¿½kï¿½s zsombï¿½kot. Nem ï¿½r semmit. Legfï¿½ljebb a kacsï¿½knak jï¿½, meg itt-ott legelï¿½nek. Holdankï¿½nt ï¿½tlag szï¿½zï¿½tven dollï¿½rba kerï¿½lt lecsapolni, kiszï¿½rï¿½tani ï¿½s viselni a folyamszabï¿½lyozï¿½s rï¿½mesï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½t. ï¿½s most mit gondolnak, milyen ï¿½rtï¿½kelï¿½si alapon csinï¿½lom meg a tï¿½zï¿½ves bï¿½rleti szerzï¿½dï¿½st a vï¿½n Ving-Fo-Vonggal! Nyolcszï¿½z dollï¿½r holdja. Tï¿½bbet keresek, mintha magam csinï¿½lnï¿½k kertï¿½szetet rajta. Ezek a kï¿½naiak a zï¿½ldsï¿½g terï¿½n valï¿½sï¿½gos varï¿½zslï¿½k ï¿½s telhetetlenï¿½l dolgoznak. Nem ismerik a nyolcï¿½rai munkaidï¿½t. Hanem a tizennyolcï¿½rait. Az utolsï¿½ kuli is ï¿½zletrï¿½szes, akï¿½rmilyen mikroszkï¿½pikusan pici ï¿½zletrï¿½sze van is. ï¿½gy kerï¿½li meg Ving-Fo-Vong a nyolcï¿½rï¿½s munkaidï¿½-tï¿½rvï¿½nyt.

Dick dï¿½lutï¿½n maga vezette a gï¿½pet. Nagyon gyorsan hajtott ugyan, de teljes biztonsï¿½ggal. Nem tï¿½rt soha olyan baleseteket, amelyekï¿½rt szemï¿½lyesen lett volna felelï¿½s. Nem is tï¿½rtï¿½nt vele ilyesmi soha. A tapogatï¿½dzï¿½st, a kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½lsï¿½get nem szerette: amilyen pontossï¿½ggal ï¿½s hatï¿½rozottsï¿½ggal vett fel egy ceruzï¿½t, vagy nyï¿½lt egy ajtï¿½gomb utï¿½n, ugyanolyan pontosan ï¿½s hatï¿½rozottan vï¿½gzett el nagyobb dolgokat is, pï¿½ldï¿½ul vezette a nï¿½pes orszï¿½gutakon gyors iramban a nagy lï¿½erejï¿½ gï¿½pkocsit.

De akï¿½rhogy vezetett, akï¿½rhogy hajtotta keresztï¿½l Carlsonnal ï¿½s Ving-Fo-Vonggal a legnagyobb fontossï¿½gï¿½ ï¿½gyeket, ï¿½ntudatï¿½nak kellï¿½s kï¿½zepï¿½n folytonosan ott makacskodott a gondolat, hogy Paula tï¿½le igen szokatlan dolgokat csinï¿½l: Eldoradï¿½tï¿½l a telepig tï¿½z kilomï¿½teres hosszï¿½ ï¿½ton kocsikï¿½ztatja Grahamet.

- Hej... - kezdett ï¿½ppen bele, hogy hangosan elmorogja egy gondolatï¿½t. De ezt felfï¿½ggesztette, a kocsi ï¿½rï¿½nkï¿½nti sebessï¿½gï¿½t hetven kilomï¿½terrï¿½l felrugtatta szï¿½ztï¿½zre, elrohant balrï¿½l egy elï¿½tte haladï¿½ egylovas kocsi mellett, ï¿½tcsapott az orszï¿½gï¿½t jobboldalï¿½ra, hogy maga mellett helyet hagyjon, de lï¿½tszï¿½lag szinte az orrï¿½ra rohanjon egy szembejï¿½vï¿½ gyalogosnak. A sebessï¿½get nyolcvanra mï¿½rsï¿½kelte ï¿½s visszatï¿½rt a gondolatï¿½hoz:

- Hej, kicsi Paula, miket gondolna, ha ï¿½n mernï¿½k ï¿½gy kocsikï¿½zni valami jï¿½kï¿½pï¿½ kislï¿½nnyal.

Ahogy ezt elkï¿½pzelte ï¿½s kirajzolta magï¿½nak, nevetett rajta, mert kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen a hï¿½zassï¿½guk elejï¿½n kitapasztalta Paulï¿½nak a nï¿½ma fï¿½ltï¿½kenysï¿½gre valï¿½ hajlandï¿½sï¿½gï¿½t. Paula sohasem csapott szcï¿½nï¿½t, soha nem tett hatï¿½rozott megjegyzï¿½st, soha nem kockï¿½ztatott kï¿½rdï¿½st, de kezdettï¿½l fogva ï¿½ppen olyan nï¿½mï¿½n, mint fï¿½lreï¿½rthetetlenï¿½l mindig ï¿½reztetni tudta a sï¿½rtï¿½dï¿½ttsï¿½gï¿½t, ha Dick valamelyik nï¿½vel a kelletï¿½nï¿½l tï¿½bbet foglalkozott.

Elmosolyodott a Dehamenynï¿½ esetï¿½re valï¿½ visszaemlï¿½kezï¿½stï¿½l. Dehamenynï¿½, a csinos barna ï¿½zvegy - Paula barï¿½tnï¿½je, nem az ï¿½vï¿½ - egyszer rï¿½gen vendï¿½ge volt a nagy hï¿½znak. Paula egy nap kijelentette, hogy dï¿½lutï¿½n nem fog kilovagolni, de dï¿½lutï¿½n ï¿½ meg Dehamenynï¿½ Paula elï¿½tt beszï¿½ltï¿½k meg, hogy kilovagolnak a fenyves hegyszorosba a bï¿½lcsek erdejï¿½n tï¿½l. ï¿½s kevï¿½ssel indulï¿½suk utï¿½n ki mï¿½s ï¿½rte utï¿½l ï¿½ket ï¿½s csatlakozott hozzï¿½juk harmadiknak, mint Paula? Akkor nagyon nevetett magï¿½ban az eset felett ï¿½s roppantul jï¿½l esett neki a dolog Paulï¿½tï¿½l, mert sem Dehamenynï¿½, sem a vele valï¿½ kilovaglï¿½s nem jelentett a szï¿½mï¿½ra semmit.

Kezdettï¿½l fogva ï¿½gy volt, hogy mï¿½s nï¿½k irï¿½nt valï¿½ ï¿½rdeklï¿½dï¿½seit elnyomta magï¿½ban. ï¿½ltalï¿½ban mindig sokkal kï¿½rï¿½ltekintï¿½bb volt e tekintetben, mint Paula. Mï¿½g bï¿½torï¿½totta is a felesï¿½gï¿½t, mindig szabad kezet adott neki, bï¿½szke volt rï¿½, hogy a felesï¿½ge milyen kitï¿½nï¿½ emberekre van hatï¿½ssal, boldog volt, hogy Paula boldog, ha azok mulattatjï¿½k vagy szï¿½rakoztatjï¿½k. ï¿½s joggal. Hiszen olyan szilï¿½rd, olyan biztos lehetett Paulï¿½ban, mï¿½g inkï¿½bb, mint Paula lehetett ï¿½benne. ï¿½s ezt a szilï¿½rdsï¿½got tizenkï¿½t esztendï¿½ nevelte ï¿½gy, hogy ï¿½ppen olyan biztos volt a felesï¿½gï¿½ben, mint a fï¿½ld naponkï¿½nti forgï¿½sï¿½ban. Most pedig ï¿½me, a fï¿½ld forgï¿½sa kï¿½tsï¿½ges tï¿½tellï¿½ lett ï¿½s a rï¿½gi, drï¿½ga kis Paula tiszta vilï¿½ga rï¿½szolgï¿½lt, hogy jobban megnï¿½zze az ember.

Visszahajtotta balcsuklï¿½jï¿½rï¿½l a kesztyï¿½szï¿½rat, hogy rï¿½pillantson az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra. Graham ï¿½t perc mulva kiszï¿½ll a vonatbï¿½l az eldoradï¿½i ï¿½llomï¿½son. Dick maga is Sacramentï¿½tï¿½l nyugatnak hazafelï¿½ tartott ï¿½s falta a kilomï¿½tereket. Egy negyedï¿½ra mulva elhaladt mellette az a vonat, amely Grahamet kellett hogy hozta legyen. Csak mikor mï¿½r jï¿½cskï¿½n elhagyta Eldoradï¿½t, ï¿½rte utï¿½l Duddyt, Fuddyt ï¿½s a fogatot. Paula hajtott, Graham ï¿½lt mellette. Dick lassï¿½tott, mikor elhaladt mellettï¿½k, ï¿½dvï¿½zletet intett Grahamnek ï¿½s mikor ï¿½jra gyorsï¿½tott, nyï¿½jasan kiï¿½ltott oda:

- Ne haragudjatok, hogy felverem elï¿½ttetek a port. Diner elï¿½tt jï¿½tszhatunk egy parti biliï¿½rdot, Evan, ha beï¿½rkezel.

- Ez nem mehet ï¿½gy tovï¿½bb. Tenni kell valamit... most mingyï¿½rt.

A zeneteremben voltak, Paula a zongorï¿½nï¿½l ï¿½lt arccal Graham felï¿½ fordulva, aki szorosan mellette ï¿½llott, szinte fï¿½lï¿½tte.

- Hatï¿½roznia kell - folytatta Graham.

Egyikï¿½k arca sem mutatta, hogy boldogok attï¿½l a nagy dologtï¿½l, ami tï¿½rtï¿½nik velï¿½k, most hogy tanakodtak, mit kell tenniï¿½k.

- De ï¿½n nem akarom, hogy maga elmenjen, - mondta Paula - ï¿½n nem is tudom, mit akarok. Legyen tï¿½relmes hozzï¿½m. Nem magammal tï¿½rï¿½dï¿½m most. Magammal majd azutï¿½n fogok tï¿½rï¿½dni. Dickkel kell tï¿½rï¿½dnï¿½m. ï¿½s magï¿½val kell tï¿½rï¿½dnï¿½m...

ï¿½s kï¿½nyszeredetten elmosolyodott:

- Ez olyan szokatlan helyzet nekem...

- De ezt el kell intï¿½zni, drï¿½ga szï¿½vem. Dick nem vak.

- Mit lï¿½thatott volna? Semmit, azt az egy csï¿½kot kivï¿½ve az erdï¿½ben, azt pedig nem lï¿½thatta. Vagy maga valami mï¿½srï¿½l is tud? Felszï¿½lï¿½tom, hogy nyilatkozzï¿½k, tisztelt uram!

Graham igyekezett csatlakozni Paula kï¿½nnyed hangjï¿½hoz:

- Bï¿½r tudnï¿½k egyï¿½brï¿½l is.

De aztï¿½n visszaesett a komorsï¿½gï¿½ba:

- ï¿½rï¿½lt vagyok, magï¿½ba vagyok ï¿½rï¿½lve. ï¿½s itt meg is ï¿½llok. Nem tudom, hogy van-e maga is ennyire ï¿½rï¿½lt. Egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban szerelmes-e maga is, nem tudom.

Mialatt beszï¿½lt, rï¿½tette a kezï¿½t Paulï¿½nak a billentyï¿½kï¿½n nyugvï¿½ kezï¿½re. De Paula szelï¿½den visszahï¿½zta a magï¿½ï¿½t.

- Lï¿½ssa? - mondta Graham panaszosan. - ï¿½s mï¿½gis akarta, hogy visszajï¿½jjek.

Paula egyenesen a szemï¿½be nï¿½zett:

- Akartam, hogy visszajï¿½jjï¿½n.

ï¿½s megismï¿½telte mï¿½g egyszer, halkabban, mintha tï¿½nï¿½dnï¿½k:

- Akartam, hogy visszajï¿½jjï¿½n.

- ï¿½n pedig teljessï¿½ggel tanï¿½cstalan vagyok - tï¿½rt ki Graham tï¿½relmetlenï¿½l. - Szeret?

- Szeretem, Evan... hiszen tudja. De...

Megakadt ï¿½s mint egy bï¿½rï¿½, mï¿½rlegelte a dolgot.

- De? Nos?

- De Dicket is szeretem. Nem nevetsï¿½ges?

A fï¿½rfi nem felelt a mosolygï¿½sra. Az asszony szeme gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve melegedett azon a gyerekes szomorï¿½sï¿½gon, amely a Graham szemï¿½t elfutotta. Grahamnek mï¿½r a nyelvï¿½n volt a szï¿½, de lenyelte. Paula szerette volna tudni, mi volt az, amit Graham mondott volna. Csalï¿½dï¿½st ï¿½rzett, hogy Graham nem mondta ki.

- Majd lesz valahogy, - mondta komolyan Grahamnek. - Valami mï¿½don majd lesz valahogy. Dick azt szokta mondani, hogy minden mindig lesz valahogy. Minden vï¿½ltozik. Ami nem vï¿½ltozik, az meghalt. ï¿½s mi nem haltunk meg. Egyikï¿½nk sem halt meg, ï¿½gy-e?

- Nem ï¿½tï¿½lem el, - felelt Graham tï¿½relmetlenï¿½l - amï¿½rt szereti... amï¿½rt tovï¿½bb szereti Dicket. ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt nem is tudom, mit talï¿½l rajtam szeretni valï¿½t, ha Dickkel ï¿½sszehasonlï¿½t. Az ï¿½llï¿½spontja nagyon becsï¿½letes. Dick nagy ember hozzï¿½m kï¿½pest, ï¿½s »Nagy Szï¿½v az ï¿½ neve«...

Paula mosolygott ï¿½s bï¿½lintott helyeslï¿½se jelï¿½ï¿½l.

- ...de ha tovï¿½bb szereti Dicket, mi van ï¿½nvelem?

- ï¿½n magï¿½t is szeretem.

- Az nem lehet, - kiï¿½ltott fel Graham, hevesen elfordult a zongorï¿½tï¿½l, gyors lï¿½pï¿½sekkel keresztï¿½lment a szobï¿½n, megï¿½llt ï¿½s szemï¿½gyre vette a szemkï¿½zti falon lï¿½gï¿½ Keith-kï¿½pet, mintha eddig nem lï¿½tta volna. Paula nyugodt mosolygï¿½ssal vï¿½rt. Tetszett neki a fï¿½rfi lï¿½zadozï¿½ haragja.

- Nem szerethet kï¿½t fï¿½rfit egyszerre! - kiï¿½ltotta felï¿½je Graham.

- Mï¿½gis ï¿½gy van, Evan. ï¿½ppen ezt akarom valahogy tisztï¿½zni. Az a baj, hogy nem tudom, melyikï¿½ket szeretem jobban. Dicket olyan rï¿½gï¿½ta ismerem mï¿½r. Maga viszont... maga...

- Friss ismeretsï¿½g - vï¿½gott kï¿½zbe Graham, haragosan felï¿½je lï¿½pve.

- Nem, nem errï¿½l van szï¿½, Evan, nem. Hanem maga valahogyan megmutatott engem sajï¿½tmagamnak. ï¿½n szeretem magï¿½t annyira, mint Dicket. Jobban szeretem. Nem... ï¿½n nem tudom...

Magï¿½ba rogyott, kezï¿½be temette az arcï¿½t ï¿½s engedte, hogy a fï¿½rfi gyengï¿½den a vï¿½llï¿½ra tegye a kezï¿½t.

- Lï¿½ssa, - folytatta - nekem nem kï¿½nnyï¿½ ï¿½m a dolgom. Nem gyerekjï¿½tï¿½k. Annyi minden szï¿½vï¿½dik bele ebbe a dologba, hogy nem is tudom ï¿½tï¿½rteni. Maga azt mondja, hogy teljessï¿½ggel tanï¿½cstalan. Nï¿½zzen rï¿½m, ï¿½n mï¿½g tanï¿½cstalanabb vagyok. Maga... minek is errï¿½l beszï¿½lni... fï¿½rfiember, a fï¿½rfi tapasztalataival ï¿½s a fï¿½rfi termï¿½szetï¿½vel rendelkezik. Magï¿½nak az egï¿½sz nagyon egyszerï¿½. »Szeret, vagy nem szeret.« De ï¿½n meg vagyok ingatva, ï¿½ssze vagyok zavarva. ï¿½n sem vagyok mai gyerek, de a szerelem kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½le fajtï¿½iban semmi tapasztalatom sincsen. Sosem voltak kis ï¿½gyeim. Eddig csak egy embert szerettem... ï¿½s most magï¿½t. Maga, ï¿½s ez a maga irï¿½nt valï¿½ szerelem, egy tï¿½kï¿½letes hï¿½zassï¿½gba rontott be, Evan.

- Tudom.

- ï¿½n... ï¿½n nem ï¿½rtem... nekem idï¿½ kell, akï¿½r arra, hogy magam tisztï¿½zzam az egï¿½szet, akï¿½r arra, hogy engedjem magï¿½tï¿½l tisztï¿½zï¿½dni.

Aztï¿½n szenvedï¿½lyesen kitï¿½rt:

- ï¿½, hiszen csak ne Dickrï¿½l volna szï¿½!

Graham keze ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l simogatni kezdte a vï¿½llï¿½t.

- Ne... ne... mï¿½g ne... - mondta Paula szelï¿½den. Ugyanolyan szelï¿½den el is tolta a simogatï¿½ kezet, de egy pillanatig szeretettel megcirï¿½gatta, mielï¿½tt eleresztette. ï¿½s kï¿½rï¿½ hangon folytatta:

- Ne... Ha hozzï¿½m ï¿½r, nem tudok gondolkozni. ï¿½n... nem tudok...

- Akkor el kell mennem, - mondta a fenyegetï¿½st Graham, de a hangjï¿½bï¿½l nem ï¿½rzett a fenyegetï¿½s komolysï¿½ga, Paula mï¿½gis tiltakozï¿½ mozdulatot tett; Graham folytatta: - Ez a helyzet ï¿½gy lehetetlen ï¿½s elviselhetetlen. Csirkefogï¿½nak ï¿½rzem magam, de azï¿½rt tudom, hogy nem vagyok csirkefogï¿½. Utï¿½lom a csalï¿½st... ï¿½ tudok hazudni, nagyszerï¿½en tudok... de nem csalhatok meg olyan embert, mint Dick. Inkï¿½bb elï¿½be ï¿½llok ï¿½s azt mondom: »Dick, szeretem a felesï¿½gedet. ï¿½ is szeret engem. Mit akarsz csinï¿½lni?«

Paula hirtelen egy percnyi elszï¿½nï¿½st ï¿½rzett:

- Tegye meg!

- Meg is teszem. Most rï¿½gtï¿½n.

- Ne, ne! - kiï¿½ltotta Paula hirtelen rï¿½mï¿½lettel. - El kell mennie!

ï¿½s megint a szenvedï¿½lyes kitï¿½rï¿½s hangjï¿½n mondta:

- De nem tudom elereszteni!

Ha Dicknek eddig volt mï¿½g kï¿½tsï¿½ge, vajjon helyes-e a gyanï¿½ja Paula szï¿½vï¿½t illetï¿½en, akkor Graham visszatï¿½rtï¿½vel ez a kï¿½tsï¿½g is eltï¿½nt. Nem kellett bizonysï¿½g utï¿½n nï¿½znie, csak Paulï¿½ra. Az egï¿½sz asszony csupa hirtelen felragyogï¿½s volt, csupa zsendï¿½lï¿½s, mint kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½ttï¿½k a teljes tavasz, boldog nevetï¿½sï¿½ben boldogabb volt a szï¿½n, torkï¿½ban gazdagabb volt az ï¿½nek, csupa forrï¿½ izgalom ï¿½s szï¿½ntelen tenni vï¿½gyï¿½s fï¿½tï¿½tte belï¿½lrï¿½l. Korï¿½n kelt, kï¿½sï¿½n fekï¿½dt. Nem kï¿½mï¿½lte magï¿½t, ï¿½gy tï¿½nt fel, hogy pezsgï¿½ gyanï¿½nt issza ki a hangulatait. ï¿½s Dicknek az jutott eszï¿½be, vajjon nem azï¿½rt ilyen-e Paula, mert nem mer idï¿½t hagyni magï¿½nak a gondolkozï¿½sra.

Azt is ï¿½szrevette Dick, hogy Paula fogy. ï¿½s megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy Paula ettï¿½l bï¿½josabb lett, mint valaha ï¿½s hogy szï¿½nessï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½s ï¿½desï¿½gï¿½nek termï¿½szetes ï¿½letteltsï¿½ge szinte lï¿½gies szï¿½psï¿½get kapott.

ï¿½s a nagy hï¿½z zavartalan, vidï¿½m, zï¿½kkenï¿½ nï¿½lkï¿½li ï¿½lete ezalatt folyt tovï¿½bb. Dick olykor elgondolkozott, meddig fog mï¿½g ez a kï¿½lsï¿½leg zavartalan ï¿½let tartani ï¿½s visszarettent egy olyan jï¿½vendï¿½ gondolatï¿½tï¿½l, amikor ez megszï¿½nhetik. Eddig senki sem tudott, senki sem sejtett semmit, ezt szentï¿½l hitte. De meddig maradhat ez ï¿½gy? Sokï¿½ig nem, abban biztos volt. Paula nem elï¿½ggï¿½ szï¿½nï¿½sznï¿½ ehez. De bï¿½rmily mesteri mï¿½don tudna is palï¿½stolni kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½ges, csunya rï¿½szleteket, egyï¿½nisï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½j szï¿½ne, ï¿½j hangja olyasmi, aminek leplezï¿½se a vilï¿½gon minden nï¿½ erejï¿½t felï¿½lmï¿½lnï¿½.

Dick tudta, hogy ï¿½zsiai inasai valï¿½sï¿½gos csodï¿½i az ï¿½leslï¿½tï¿½snak. De a diszkrï¿½ciï¿½nak is, ezt hozzï¿½ kellett tennie. Csakhogy itt vannak a komornï¿½k. A nï¿½k. Minden nï¿½ hamis. A legjobbnak kï¿½zï¿½lï¿½k is nagy ï¿½rï¿½mï¿½re szolgï¿½lna, ha a ragyogï¿½, makulï¿½tlan Paulï¿½t olyan esendï¿½nek kapnï¿½ rajta, mint ï¿½va akï¿½rmelyik lï¿½nya. ï¿½s egy nap, egy este valamelyik komorna, a hï¿½z valamelyik nï¿½i alkalmazottja egyszer csak ï¿½szrevehet valamit a dologbï¿½l, mï¿½r tudniillik a Paula szï¿½vï¿½nek a dolgï¿½bï¿½l, mert hogy Graham mennyire van ï¿½rdekelve, azt Dick mï¿½g nem tudta kihï¿½mozni. Mindenesetre rï¿½gi pï¿½ldaszï¿½, hogy asszonyt kell megbï¿½zni, ha asszonyt akarunk megcsï¿½pni. Maga Paula, amennyire mï¿½s dolgokban is egyï¿½ni volt, ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy egyï¿½ni volt e tekintetben is. Sosem vett ï¿½szre nï¿½la az ï¿½gynevezett ï¿½s nï¿½i hamissï¿½gbï¿½l semmit, sosem lï¿½tta mï¿½s asszonyokra leselkedni, hogy a tilosban kapja ï¿½ket, kivï¿½ve a Dick szemï¿½lyï¿½vel kapcsolatban. ï¿½s mikor erre gondolt Dick, megint elmosolyodott, a Dehamenynï¿½-ï¿½gy emlï¿½ke jï¿½l esett neki. Az egï¿½sz dologban egyï¿½bkï¿½nt csak Paula fantï¿½ziï¿½ja lï¿½tott akkor is ï¿½gyet.

Mindenfï¿½le irï¿½nyï¿½ tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½sei kï¿½zben Dicknek az is eszï¿½be ï¿½tlï¿½tt, vajjon Paula gondol-e arra, hogy ï¿½, Dick, ï¿½szrevette-e a dolgot.

Paula bizony gondolt erre. Szerette volna tudni, mit tud Dick, de nem tudott kiokosodni maga sem. A Dick rendes modorï¿½ban, kedvï¿½ben, irï¿½nta valï¿½ hangjï¿½ban semmi vï¿½ltozï¿½st nem tudott felfedezni. Dick elvï¿½gezte a maga hihetetlen tï¿½megï¿½ munkï¿½jï¿½t, mint rendesen, trï¿½fï¿½lt, ï¿½nekelt ï¿½s ugyanaz a vidï¿½m, derï¿½k fiï¿½ volt, ami mï¿½skor. Paula ugyan prï¿½bï¿½lt kiï¿½rezni a Dick modorï¿½bï¿½l valami fokozottabb ï¿½j nyï¿½jassï¿½got, de csak kï¿½nozta magï¿½t a tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½ssel, vajjon nem kï¿½pzelï¿½dik-e.

Azonban nem sokï¿½ig maradt kï¿½tsï¿½gben. Olykor tï¿½rsasï¿½gban, asztalnï¿½l, este a szalï¿½nban, kï¿½rtya kï¿½zben lopva rï¿½pillantott fï¿½lig lehï¿½nyt szempillï¿½k alï¿½l az urï¿½ra, mikor az ura nem nï¿½zett oda. ï¿½s vï¿½gre biztos lett benne, hogy meglï¿½tta Dick szemï¿½ben ï¿½s arcï¿½ban a tudï¿½st. Errï¿½l azonban nem mondott Grahamnek semmit. Ez ï¿½gy sem segï¿½thetett volna a dolgon. Sï¿½t Graham esetleg elment volna innen, ha megtudja, hogy Dick sejt valamit. ï¿½s Paula ï¿½szintï¿½n megvallotta magï¿½ban, hogy ezt semmi esetre sem szeretnï¿½.

ï¿½s mikor vï¿½gre ï¿½gyszï¿½lvï¿½n biztos lett arrï¿½l, hogy Dick tud vagy sejt valamit, akkor megkemï¿½nyï¿½tette magï¿½t ï¿½s vakmerï¿½en jï¿½tszani akart a tï¿½zzel. Ha Dick tudja, miï¿½rt nem szï¿½l? Sose volt gyï¿½va beszï¿½dï¿½ ember. ï¿½s Paula egyszerre rettegett is tï¿½le, vï¿½gyott is rï¿½, hogy Dick szï¿½ljon, mï¿½gnem a rettegï¿½se elcsendesedett ï¿½s most mï¿½r komoly remï¿½nykedï¿½st ï¿½rzett magï¿½ban, hogy Dick szï¿½ba hozza a dolgot Vï¿½gre is Dick az, aki cselekszik ï¿½s aki mindig cselekedett, akï¿½rmirï¿½l volt szï¿½. ï¿½ maga mindig Dickre, a tettek emberï¿½re, tï¿½maszkodott eddig. Graham a helyzetet hï¿½rom ismeretlenï¿½ egyenletnek nevezte. Rendben van, oldja meg Dick. Hiszen ï¿½ mindent meg tud oldani. Miï¿½rt nem cselekszik hï¿½t?

Kï¿½zben Paula gï¿½rcsï¿½sen kapaszkodott a maga lï¿½zas gondtalansï¿½gï¿½ba, igyekezett nem ï¿½rezni a lelkiismerete ï¿½tï¿½letï¿½t kï¿½tfelï¿½ tartozandï¿½sï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l, rettegett a tï¿½lmï¿½lyre hatï¿½ gondolatoktï¿½l, ï¿½lete hullï¿½mï¿½nak ï¿½gyszï¿½lvï¿½n a tarajï¿½n kapaszkodott meg, csak egyet akart ï¿½rezni, hogy ï¿½l, ï¿½l, ï¿½l. Nï¿½ha alig tudta, min jï¿½r az esze, csak egy gondolat volt benne vilï¿½gos: a bï¿½szkesï¿½g, hogy kï¿½t ilyen fï¿½rfi jï¿½r utï¿½na. A bï¿½szkesï¿½g mindig egyik alapvetï¿½ vonï¿½sa volt az egyï¿½nisï¿½gï¿½nek, a bï¿½szkesï¿½g, a diadalï¿½rzet a maga tehetsï¿½ge, kitï¿½nï¿½sï¿½ge, sikere felett, akï¿½r zenï¿½rï¿½l, akï¿½r kï¿½lsï¿½ megjelenï¿½srï¿½l, akï¿½r ï¿½szï¿½srï¿½l volt szï¿½. Mindegy volt neki, mire bï¿½szke: hogy gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½en tï¿½ncol, hogy szï¿½pen ï¿½s ï¿½zlï¿½ssel ï¿½ltï¿½zkï¿½dik, hogy csupa grï¿½cia ï¿½s vakmerï¿½sï¿½g, mikor ï¿½gy ugrik fejest, ahogy mï¿½s nï¿½k nem is mernek, hogy a maga tï¿½rï¿½kenysï¿½gï¿½vel lecsï¿½szik a medencï¿½be a Hegyi Fickï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½n ï¿½s acï¿½los akarattal keresztï¿½lkï¿½nyszerï¿½ti a medencï¿½n az ï¿½llatot.

ï¿½s most bï¿½szkï¿½lkedett, hogy mint az ï¿½ fajtï¿½jukbï¿½l valï¿½ fajta, egymï¿½s mellett szemlï¿½li ezt a kï¿½t szï¿½rkeszemï¿½, szï¿½ke fï¿½rfit. Izgatott ï¿½s lï¿½zas volt, de nem ideges. Nï¿½ha szinte hidegen hasonlï¿½totta ï¿½ket ï¿½ssze, mikor egyï¿½tt voltak ï¿½s igyekezett kitudni magï¿½bï¿½l, melyikï¿½k szï¿½mï¿½ra akar szebb ï¿½s elragadï¿½bb lenni. Graham az ï¿½vï¿½, gondolta magï¿½ban, de Dick mï¿½r rï¿½gen az ï¿½vï¿½ ï¿½s nem akar rï¿½la lemondani.

Volt valami lehellete a kegyetlensï¿½gnek ebben a zsibongï¿½ bï¿½szkesï¿½gben, mikor arra gondolt, hogy ez a kï¿½t fejedelmi fï¿½rfi ï¿½rte ï¿½s miatta szenved. Mert azt nem is prï¿½bï¿½lta letagadni maga elï¿½tt, hogy Dick, ha tudja, vagy helyesebben szï¿½lva: miï¿½ta tudja, kï¿½tsï¿½gtelenï¿½l szintï¿½n szenved. A maga rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l pedig meg volt gyï¿½zï¿½dve, hogy szerelmi dolgokban ï¿½ a fantï¿½zia ï¿½s a tartalom asszonya, Graham irï¿½nt valï¿½ vonzalmï¿½ban a fï¿½rfi frissesï¿½ge, ujsï¿½ga, kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½sï¿½ge nem jï¿½tszik szerepet. Hogy a testi szenvedï¿½lynek tï¿½bb szerepe volna az ï¿½gyben a legkisebb szerepnï¿½l, azt tagadta magï¿½nak.

Lelke mï¿½lyï¿½n tudatï¿½ban volt a maga kï¿½nnyelmï¿½sï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½s ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½s annak is, hogy mindennek egyikï¿½kre vagy mindhï¿½rmukra vï¿½gzetesen kell vï¿½gzï¿½dnie. De beï¿½rte azzal, hogy szï¿½ndï¿½kosan messze magasan lebegjen el az ilyen gondolatszakadï¿½kok felett ï¿½s ne is vessen szï¿½mot ezeknek a lï¿½tezï¿½sï¿½vel. Ha egyedï¿½l volt ï¿½s a tï¿½krï¿½be nï¿½zett, trï¿½fï¿½san megfenyegette magï¿½t az ujjï¿½val: ï¿½ te fï¿½rfivadï¿½sz! ï¿½s ha megengedte magï¿½nak, hogy egy kicsit komolyabban gondolkozzï¿½k, akkor sietett belï¿½tni, hogy Shawnak ï¿½s a madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcseinek talï¿½n igazuk volt, mikor kï¿½rhoztatï¿½an fejtegettï¿½k a nï¿½k fï¿½rfivadï¿½szatra valï¿½ hajlandï¿½sï¿½gait.

Nem adott igazat a Hyal Dar megï¿½llapï¿½tï¿½sï¿½nak, hogy a nï¿½ a termï¿½szet balfogï¿½sa, mikor fï¿½rfit akart teremteni. De minduntalan eszï¿½be jutott a Wilde mondï¿½sa, hogy a nï¿½ hirtelen ï¿½s vï¿½ratlan odaadï¿½ssal szokott tï¿½madni. ï¿½gy tï¿½madta ï¿½ Grahamet? - kï¿½rdezte magï¿½tï¿½l. Hirtelen ï¿½s vï¿½ratlan volt-e az az odaadï¿½s, amely eddig megtï¿½rtï¿½nt? ï¿½s tovï¿½bb fog-e mï¿½g menni? Graham el akar utazni. Vele, vagy nï¿½lkï¿½le, de el akar utazni. ï¿½ pedig visszatartja. Megvan ebben a visszatartï¿½sban a nagyobb odaadï¿½s hallgatï¿½lagos ï¿½gï¿½rete? Ha ideï¿½rt, a tovï¿½bbi tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½st elnevette, beledobta magï¿½t a futï¿½ jelenbe, igyekezett mï¿½g szebb ï¿½s mï¿½g elbï¿½jolï¿½bb lenni ï¿½s ragyogott annak a boldogsï¿½gï¿½tï¿½l, hogy ï¿½l ï¿½s beleborzong az ï¿½let kï¿½jï¿½be, ahogy ezt soha nem is ï¿½lmodta volna.

Az ï¿½gy van, hogy fï¿½rfi ï¿½s nï¿½ az egymï¿½s kï¿½zelsï¿½gï¿½ben nem tudhat fentartani egy hatï¿½rozott, megingathatatlan tï¿½volsï¿½got. Paula ï¿½s Graham ï¿½szrevehetetlenï¿½l kï¿½zelebb jutottak egymï¿½shoz. A mï¿½ly nï¿½zï¿½sektï¿½l ï¿½s kï¿½zï¿½rintï¿½sektï¿½l megengedett dï¿½delgetï¿½sekhez vezetett az ï¿½t, mï¿½gnem elkï¿½vetkezett, hogy mï¿½sodszor is egymï¿½s mellï¿½re omlottak ï¿½s mï¿½sodszor is hosszasan megcsï¿½koltï¿½k egymï¿½s szï¿½jï¿½t. ï¿½s Paula ezï¿½ttal nem is haragudott mï¿½r. Sï¿½t ahelyett megszï¿½lalt:

- Nem szabad elmennie.

Graham pedig megint elmondta, immï¿½r ezredszer:

- Nem szabad ittmaradnom. ï¿½, csï¿½kolï¿½dztam ï¿½n mï¿½r ajtï¿½k hï¿½ta mï¿½gï¿½tt ï¿½letemben ï¿½s vï¿½gigcsinï¿½ltam az effï¿½le bolondsï¿½gokat mind. De most magï¿½rï¿½l van szï¿½! ï¿½s Dickrï¿½l van szï¿½.

- Higyje el, Evan, majd lesz valahogy.

- Rendben van. Jï¿½jjï¿½n velem. ï¿½s akkor mondja majd, hogy lesz valahogy. Jï¿½jjï¿½n rï¿½gtï¿½n.

Paula vonakodott. Graham unszolta.

- Emlï¿½kezzï¿½k vissza, mit mondott Dick akkor este, mikor Leï¿½ hadakozott a sï¿½rkï¿½nyokkal. Hogy mï¿½g ha a felesï¿½gï¿½rï¿½l, magï¿½rï¿½l, volna is szï¿½, ha elmenne, ï¿½ azt mondanï¿½: ï¿½ldjon meg az isten, gyerekek.

- Hiszen ï¿½ppen ez teszi olyan sï¿½lyossï¿½ a dolgot. ï¿½ Nagy Szï¿½v csakugyan, maga nagyon jï¿½ nevet adott neki. Nï¿½zze, figyelje meg ï¿½t jobban. ï¿½ppen olyan kedves hozzï¿½m, mint akkor este mondta, hogy milyen kedves lenne hozzï¿½m, ha... Mï¿½g kedvesebb. Figyelje meg csak.

- Tudja? Szï¿½lt?

- Nem szï¿½lt, de biztos vagyok benne, hogy tudja, vagy sejti. Figyelje csak meg. Nem akar mï¿½rkï¿½zni magï¿½val.

- Mï¿½rkï¿½zni?

- Igen. Ez a helyes szï¿½. Nem akar mï¿½rkï¿½zni. Emlï¿½kezzï¿½k csak vissza tegnapra. Mikor a mi tï¿½rsasï¿½gunk odaï¿½rkezett, ï¿½ ï¿½ppen azzal volt elfoglalva, hogy musztï¿½ngokat tï¿½rt be. De mikor odaï¿½rtï¿½nk, tï¿½bbet nem ï¿½lt lï¿½ra. ï¿½ nagyszerï¿½ lovas. Maga is megprï¿½bï¿½lkozott ezekkel a musztï¿½ngokkal. Elï¿½g jï¿½l csinï¿½lta, de meg kell mondani ï¿½szintï¿½n: nyomï¿½ba sem lï¿½phetett Dicknek. De ï¿½ nem akart tï¿½ntetni maga ellen. Mï¿½r ebbï¿½l az egyetlen kis dologbï¿½l is biztos vagyok, hogy sejti. Hallgasson csak ide. Nem vette ï¿½szre utï¿½bbi idï¿½ben, hogy sohasem cï¿½folja, amit maga ï¿½llï¿½t, hanem udvariasan mindent rï¿½hagy magï¿½ra, pedig mï¿½sok ï¿½llï¿½tï¿½sairï¿½l mindig van kritikï¿½ja? Aztï¿½n meg biliï¿½rdozni tovï¿½bb biliï¿½rdoz magï¿½val, mert azt maga jobban tud. Vï¿½vni is tovï¿½bb vï¿½v, mert abban egyformï¿½k. De mï¿½r rï¿½g nem bokszol ï¿½s nem birkï¿½zik magï¿½val.

- Jobban bokszol, - mondta halk, szomorï¿½ beismerï¿½ssel Graham - ï¿½s jobban birkï¿½zik nï¿½lam.

- Lï¿½ssa. Csak figyelje meg ï¿½s rï¿½ fog jï¿½nni, hogy mit akarok ï¿½n azzal mondani, hogy nem mï¿½rkï¿½zik magï¿½val. Velem ï¿½gy bï¿½nik, mint a tï¿½zes csikï¿½val: szabadjï¿½ra ereszti a kantï¿½rt, hogy tomboljak, ha akarok. A vilï¿½g minden kincsï¿½ï¿½rt nem lï¿½pne kï¿½zbe. Higyjen nekem, ï¿½n ismerem ï¿½t. ï¿½ a sajï¿½t mï¿½djï¿½n ï¿½l. Megtanï¿½thatnï¿½ a filozï¿½fusokat, hogy mi a gyakorlati filozï¿½fia. Nem, nem, ne szakï¿½tson fï¿½lbe, mï¿½g akarok valamit mondani. A kï¿½nyvtï¿½rbï¿½l titkos lï¿½pcsï¿½ vezet fel a Dick irodï¿½jï¿½ba. Csak ï¿½ hasznï¿½lja, meg ï¿½n, meg a titkï¿½rai. Ha az ember felï¿½r a lï¿½pcsï¿½ tetejï¿½re, mï¿½r benn is van a szobï¿½ban a kï¿½nyvespolcok kï¿½zï¿½tt. Most ï¿½ppen onnan jï¿½vï¿½k. Be akartam menni hozzï¿½ lï¿½togatï¿½ba ï¿½s hangokat hallottam. Gondoltam magamban: valami gazdasï¿½gi tï¿½rgyalï¿½s, aminek hamar vï¿½ge lesz. Vï¿½rtam. Csakugyan gazdasï¿½gi tï¿½rgyalï¿½s volt, de olyan ï¿½rdekes, sï¿½t mint Hancock mondanï¿½, olyan »fï¿½nyszï¿½rï¿½«, hogy maradtam ï¿½s hallgatï¿½dztam. Tudniillik Dickre szï¿½rta a fï¿½nyt. Hallgasson ide. Dick egy alkalmazottja felesï¿½gï¿½nek az ï¿½gye volt szï¿½nyegen. Az ilyen nagy telepen mindig adï¿½dnak hasonlï¿½ dolgok. Az asszonyt nem ismernï¿½m meg, ha lï¿½tnï¿½m ï¿½s a nevï¿½t sem hallottam. ï¿½ppen elkeseregte a bajï¿½t, mikor Dick beleszï¿½lt: »Nem errï¿½l van szï¿½, ï¿½n azt akarom tudni, hogy bï¿½torï¿½totta-e maga Smith urat.« Nem Smithrï¿½l volt szï¿½, mï¿½s nevet mondok. Akirï¿½l szï¿½ van, az Dick egyik vezetï¿½ alkalmazottja ï¿½s nyolc ï¿½ve dolgozik nï¿½la. Az asszony tagadta: »Nem, kï¿½rem, dehogy. Mï¿½r elejï¿½tï¿½l kezdve folyton macerï¿½lt. ï¿½n mindig kitï¿½rtem az ï¿½tjï¿½bï¿½l. Az uram nagyon hirtelen termï¿½szetï¿½ ember ï¿½s ï¿½n mindenï¿½ron azon voltam, hogy itt megtartsa a szolgï¿½latï¿½t. Mï¿½r idestova egy ï¿½ve dolgozik itt ï¿½s ï¿½gy-e nincs ellene semmi panasz? Ezelï¿½tt nem volt ï¿½llandï¿½ munkï¿½ja ï¿½s nagyon nehï¿½z idï¿½kï¿½n mentï¿½nk ï¿½t. De ï¿½ nem volt hibï¿½s. Nem rï¿½szeges ember. ï¿½ mindig...« Itt Dick kï¿½zbevï¿½gott: »Rendben van, rendben van. A munkï¿½ja meg a termï¿½szete nem tartozik erre a dologra. Biztos benne, hogy sohasem bï¿½torï¿½totta Smith urat?« De az asszony olyan biztos volt a dolgï¿½ban, hogy tï¿½z percig egyhuzamban beszï¿½lt, elmondta, hogyan ï¿½ldï¿½zte ï¿½t az illetï¿½. Kedves hangon beszï¿½lt, olyan kedves, fï¿½lï¿½nk, asszonyos hangon. A kï¿½nyvespolcoktï¿½l nem lï¿½thattam, de biztosra veszem, hogy nagyon kellemes nï¿½ lehet. Szï¿½val ott maradtam, hï¿½tha ki tudok kukucskï¿½lni ï¿½s meglï¿½tom. Lï¿½tni akartam, milyen. Most Dick szï¿½lalt meg: »Mï¿½r most beszï¿½ljï¿½nk arrï¿½l a tegnapi reggeli zavarrï¿½l. Nyilvï¿½nosan ment a dolog? ï¿½gy ï¿½rtem, hogy magï¿½n, az urï¿½n ï¿½s Smith ï¿½ron kï¿½vï¿½l a szomszï¿½dok is tudtak a jelenetrï¿½l?« Az asszony felelt: »Igenis, kï¿½rem. Tetszik tudni, neki nem volt joga bejï¿½nni hozzï¿½m a konyhï¿½ba. Az uram nem is az ï¿½ keze alatt dolgozik. ï¿½s ï¿½ ï¿½tï¿½lelt ï¿½s mindenï¿½ron meg akart csï¿½kolni, mikor az uram bejï¿½tt. Az uram hirtelenharagï¿½ ember, de nem valami nagyon erï¿½s. Smith ï¿½r agyon akarta vï¿½gni. Az uram kirï¿½ntotta a kï¿½sï¿½t, Smith ï¿½r megfogta a karjï¿½t ï¿½s elkezdtek a konyhï¿½ban dulakodni. Lï¿½ttam, hogy itt emberhalï¿½l lesz, kiszaladtam ï¿½s segï¿½tsï¿½gï¿½rt kiabï¿½ltam. A szomszï¿½dok akkor mï¿½r hallottï¿½k a lï¿½rmï¿½t. A kï¿½t fï¿½rfi ï¿½sszetï¿½rte az ablakot meg a tï¿½zhelyet; mikor a szomszï¿½dok szï¿½tvï¿½lasztottï¿½k ï¿½ket, a konyha tele volt fï¿½sttel ï¿½s hamuval. ï¿½n igazï¿½n nem csinï¿½ltam semmit, hogy ilyen szerencsï¿½tlensï¿½g tï¿½rtï¿½njen. Tetszik tudni, ahogy most az asszonyok ezt el fogjï¿½k mesï¿½lni...« Itt Dick fï¿½lbeszakï¿½totta, de ï¿½t percig tartott, mï¿½g le tudta rï¿½zni. Az asszony attï¿½l fï¿½lt, hogy az urï¿½nak fel fognak mondani. Amit Dick mondott neki, az tovï¿½bbi vï¿½rakozï¿½sra kï¿½sztetett. Dick nem dï¿½ntï¿½tt mï¿½g ï¿½s ï¿½n tudtam, hogy most az illetï¿½ vezetï¿½ alkalmazott van soron. Be is jï¿½tt. Nagyon szerettem volna lï¿½tni. De csak hallani lehetett. Dick mindjï¿½rt a lï¿½nyegre tï¿½rt. Elmondta a jelenetet ï¿½s a botrï¿½nyt ï¿½s Smith elismerte, hogy a dolog jï¿½ darabig nagyon lï¿½rmï¿½san folyt le. Aztï¿½n Dick kijelentette, hogy az asszony nem adott semmi bï¿½torï¿½tï¿½st Smithnek. De Smith felpattant. »Az asszony hazudik. ï¿½gy tud nï¿½zni a szemï¿½vel, hogy az mï¿½r kihï¿½vï¿½s. ï¿½s rï¿½m kezdettï¿½l fogva mindig ï¿½gy nï¿½zett. Tegnap reggel meg ï¿½ppen szï¿½beli meghï¿½vï¿½sra mentem el a konyhï¿½jï¿½ba. A fï¿½rjï¿½t nem vï¿½rtuk. ï¿½s mikor az ura betoppant, ï¿½ elkezdett vï¿½dekezni ellenem. Ha azt mondja, hogy nem bï¿½torï¿½tott...« Dick elhallgattatta. »Ezzel nem tï¿½rï¿½dï¿½m. Ez nem is fontos.« De Smith ragaszkodott a maga mondï¿½kï¿½jï¿½hoz. »Dehogynem fontos, ha tisztï¿½znom kell magamat.« Megint Dick felelt ï¿½s hallottam, hogy a hangja hideggï¿½, kemï¿½nnyï¿½, bï¿½rï¿½ivï¿½ vï¿½lik. »Nem, abban egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem fontos, amibï¿½l ï¿½n nem fog tudni kimosakodni. ï¿½n a lï¿½rmï¿½ban, a botrï¿½nyban vï¿½tkes, Smith ï¿½r, abban, hogy megindï¿½totta a pletykï¿½s asszonyok pergï¿½ nyelvï¿½t, hogy megbontotta a telep fegyelmï¿½t ï¿½s rendjï¿½t, szï¿½val csupa olyan dologban, amitï¿½l nagyon sï¿½lyos valami adï¿½dik: a telep munkakï¿½pessï¿½gï¿½nek a sï¿½relme.« De Smith nem tudta ezt megï¿½rteni. Az ï¿½ hite szerint az volt a vï¿½d, hogy a fï¿½rjes nï¿½ ï¿½ldï¿½zï¿½sï¿½vel megsï¿½rtette a tï¿½rsadalmi erkï¿½lcsï¿½t ï¿½s azzal igyekezett enyhï¿½teni a hibï¿½t, hogy folyton azt hajtogatta: az asszony kacï¿½rkodott vele. A vï¿½gï¿½n hozzï¿½tette: »Vï¿½gre is, kï¿½rem alï¿½ssan, a fï¿½rfi az csak fï¿½rfi ï¿½s beismerem, hogy az az asszony bolondot csinï¿½lt belï¿½lem ï¿½s ï¿½n is bolondot csinï¿½ltam magambï¿½l.« Dick aztï¿½n azt mondta: »Nï¿½zze, Smith ï¿½r, maga nyolc ï¿½ve dolgozik nï¿½lam. Ebbï¿½l hat esztendeje vezetï¿½ ï¿½llï¿½sban. A munkï¿½ja ellen nincs kifogï¿½som. Hogy tud dolgozni, azt meg kell adni. Ami a szemï¿½lyes erkï¿½lcseit illeti, ahoz nekem semmi kï¿½zï¿½m. Bï¿½nom is ï¿½n. Tï¿½lem akï¿½r tï¿½rï¿½k, vagy mormon is lehet. A privï¿½t cselekedetei csak magï¿½ra tartoznak, rï¿½m nem tartoznak mindaddig, mï¿½g a maga itteni munkï¿½jï¿½t nem ï¿½rintik. Mindegyik kocsisom tï¿½krï¿½szegre ihatja magï¿½t szombat este. Akï¿½r minden szombat este. Az az ï¿½ dolga. De abban a pillanatban, mihelyt hï¿½tfï¿½n reggel nem csinï¿½lja rendesen a dolgï¿½t a lovaim kï¿½rï¿½l, ha idegesï¿½ti, vagy bï¿½ntja ï¿½ket, vagy csak attï¿½l lehet tartani, hogy bï¿½ntani fogja ï¿½ket, vagy csak a legcsekï¿½lyebb mï¿½rtï¿½kben kï¿½nnyebbre fogja azt a munkï¿½t, aminek hï¿½tfï¿½n meg kell lenni, akkor az a kocsis mehet isten hï¿½rï¿½vel.« Erre Smith dadogott. »Azt tetszik mondani, hogy... hogy mehetek isten hï¿½rï¿½vel?« Dick felelt: »Igen, Smith ï¿½r, azt mondom. Mehet isten hï¿½rï¿½vel. Nem azï¿½rt, mert a mï¿½sik fï¿½rfi asszonyï¿½t kerï¿½lgette, ez a maga dolga, meg az ï¿½vï¿½. Hanem mert botrï¿½nyt, zavart okozott ï¿½s ezzel megsï¿½rtette a telep munkakï¿½pessï¿½gï¿½t.« Hï¿½t lï¿½ssa, Evan, Dick tï¿½bb emberi tragï¿½diï¿½t tud kisillabizï¿½lni a telep statisztikai szï¿½moszlopaibï¿½l, mint az ï¿½tlagos ï¿½rï¿½ egy nagyvï¿½ros zï¿½rzavarï¿½bï¿½l. Vegye pï¿½ldï¿½ul a tejgazdasï¿½gi jelentï¿½seket, amiket a fejï¿½k kï¿½lï¿½n-kï¿½lï¿½n kï¿½telesek beadni: ennyi meg ennyi liter tej reggel ï¿½s este, ettï¿½l ï¿½s ettï¿½l a tehï¿½ntï¿½l, ennyi pedig attï¿½l. Dick az illetï¿½ munkï¿½st nem is ismeri. De a tej egyszer csak csï¿½kkenï¿½st mutat. ï¿½s Dick szï¿½l a tejgazdasï¿½gi felï¿½gyelï¿½nek: »Mondja, Parkman ï¿½r, hï¿½zas ember ez a Barchi Peratta?« »Igen, kï¿½rem.« »Rosszul ï¿½l a felesï¿½gï¿½vel?« »Igen, kï¿½rem.« Vagy egy mï¿½sik eset. »Mondja, Parkman ï¿½r, az ï¿½sszes fejï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½l eddig ez a Simpkins tartja a hosszï¿½ idï¿½ rekordjï¿½t. Most lecsï¿½szott. Mi a baj vele?« Parkman ï¿½r nem tudja. »Valami hiba van a krï¿½ta kï¿½rï¿½l. Beszï¿½ljen vele ï¿½gy, mint egy apa, ï¿½s szedje ki belï¿½le. Rendbe kell hogy hozzuk, ha valami baja van.« ï¿½s Parkman ï¿½r ki is szedi belï¿½le. Az tï¿½rtï¿½nt, hogy Simpkins fia, aki a Stanford-egyetemen bï¿½jta a kï¿½nyvet, ellumposodott, bï¿½rtï¿½nbe kerï¿½lt ï¿½s vï¿½ltï¿½hamisï¿½tï¿½s miatt vï¿½rja a fï¿½tï¿½rgyalï¿½st. Dick a sajï¿½t ï¿½gyvï¿½djeit kï¿½ldte oda, elintï¿½zte a dolgot, a fiï¿½ bï¿½ntetï¿½sï¿½t felfï¿½ggesztettï¿½k ï¿½s Simpkins napi jelentï¿½sei visszaugrottak a rï¿½gi rekordra. A legjobb a dologban, hogy a fiï¿½ megjavult, Dick ï¿½rdeklï¿½dni kezdett irï¿½nta, elvï¿½geztette vele a technikï¿½t ï¿½s alkalmazta az alagcsï¿½vezï¿½si munkï¿½latoknï¿½l havi szï¿½zï¿½tven dollï¿½r fizetï¿½ssel, a fiï¿½ meghï¿½zasodott, jï¿½vï¿½je van, az apja pedig most is feji a teheneket.

- Magï¿½nak igaza van, - mondta Graham ï¿½szintï¿½n - jï¿½l mondtam, mikor azt a nevet adtam neki, hogy Nagy Szï¿½v.

- ï¿½n mï¿½s nevet adtam neki, - szï¿½lt Paula melegen - az ï¿½n ï¿½rï¿½k Sziklï¿½mnak hï¿½vom. ï¿½ olyan szilï¿½rd. Megï¿½ll minden viharban. ï¿½ maga nem is ismeri. Olyan biztos. Olyan egyenesen ï¿½ll. Soha nem szenvedett csorbï¿½t egï¿½sz ï¿½letï¿½ben. Az isten mosolya van rajta. Az isten mosolygott rï¿½ az egï¿½sz ï¿½letï¿½n vï¿½gig. Soha sem kï¿½nyszerï¿½tette tï¿½rdre semmi... eddig. ï¿½n... ï¿½n nem tudnï¿½m ezt a lï¿½tvï¿½nyt megï¿½rni. Meghasadna a szï¿½vem. ï¿½s most...

Kï¿½rï¿½ mozdulattal ragadta meg a Graham kezï¿½t, s a mozdulat fï¿½lig cirï¿½gatï¿½ssï¿½ vï¿½ltozott. Aztï¿½n folytatta:

- ...most fï¿½ltem Dicket. Ezï¿½rt nem tudom, mit csinï¿½ljak. Nem magam miatt hï¿½trï¿½lok ï¿½s ingadozom. Ha alant jï¿½rï¿½ ember volna, ha kicsinyes volna, ha gyenge volna, ha a kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½gessï¿½g legparï¿½nyibb morzsï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½szrevettem volna benne, ha valaha mï¿½r tï¿½rdre kï¿½nyszerï¿½tette volna valami az ï¿½letben, hï¿½t akkor, drï¿½gï¿½m, mï¿½r rï¿½g elmentem volna magï¿½val.

A szemï¿½t hirtelen nedvessï¿½g futotta el. Keze szorï¿½tï¿½sï¿½val nyugtatta meg a fï¿½rfit ï¿½s hogy visszanyerje ï¿½nuralmï¿½t, tovï¿½bb beszï¿½lt:

- Tudja, mit mondott Dick annak az embernek? »A maga kis ujjï¿½t, Smith ï¿½r, ï¿½n a magam szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½s az egï¿½sz vilï¿½g szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½rtï¿½kesebbnek tekintem, mint annak az asszonynak az urï¿½t teljes mindensï¿½gï¿½ben. A minï¿½sï¿½tï¿½se annak az embernek ez: jï¿½indulatï¿½, tisztessï¿½gtudï¿½, nem kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s, nem erï¿½s, legjobb esetben kï¿½zï¿½mbï¿½s munkaerï¿½. Magï¿½nak azonban mennie kell, ï¿½s ï¿½n magam, nagyon sajnï¿½lom a dolgot.« Mondott mï¿½g sok ilyesmit. De a lï¿½nyeget elmondtam magï¿½nak. Meglï¿½thatja belï¿½le a Dick ï¿½letfelfogï¿½sï¿½t. ï¿½s ï¿½ a sajï¿½t felfogï¿½sa szerint ï¿½l. Az ï¿½ltalï¿½nost rï¿½hï¿½zza az egyï¿½nre. Akï¿½rmit mï¿½vel az egyï¿½n, az az ï¿½ dolga mindaddig, mï¿½g nincs kï¿½rï¿½ra az egyï¿½nek azon csoportjï¿½nak, amelyben ï¿½l. Belement abba, hogy Smithnek teljes joga van az asszony utï¿½n jï¿½rni, sï¿½t el is ï¿½rni, ha arra kerï¿½l a sor. Sokszor mondta elï¿½ttem, hogy a szerelmet nem lehet sem erï¿½szakkal megtartani, sem kikï¿½nyszerï¿½teni. Igen, ha elmennï¿½k magï¿½val, ï¿½ azt mondanï¿½: ï¿½ldjon meg az isten, gyerekek. Ha megszakadna is a szï¿½ve belï¿½, ezt mondanï¿½. ï¿½szerinte a mult szerelmï¿½t nem lehet beleerï¿½szakolni a jelenbe. Azt is mondta egyszer, hogy minden szerelmes ï¿½ra ï¿½nmagï¿½nak a jutalma, mindkï¿½t rï¿½szrï¿½l be van fejezve, tiszta sor. ï¿½s mindig azt vitatta, hogy elvesztett szerelem, az egyszerï¿½en nincs, az kï¿½ptelensï¿½g. A szerelmi panaszkodï¿½st egyszerï¿½en kinevette.

- ï¿½s ï¿½n egyetï¿½rtek vele, - mondta Graham, - A megcsalt fï¿½l azt mondja: »Azt ï¿½gï¿½rted, hogy mindig fogsz szeretni«, ï¿½s ï¿½vatolni akarja a dolgot, mint ennyi meg ennyi dollï¿½rrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ vï¿½ltï¿½t. A dollï¿½r az dollï¿½r, de a szerelem vagy ï¿½l, vagy meghalt. Ha meghalt, hogy lehessen behajtani? Mindnyï¿½jan egyetï¿½rtï¿½nk ï¿½s a megoldï¿½s nagyon egyszerï¿½. Szeretjï¿½k egymï¿½st. Ez elï¿½g. Miï¿½rt mulasztunk el egy percet is?

Paula fï¿½lï¿½ hajolt, az ujjai a billentyï¿½k felett az asszonyka ujjait kerestï¿½k. Elï¿½bb megcsï¿½kolta a hajï¿½t, aztï¿½n lassan szembe fordï¿½totta az asszony fejï¿½t ï¿½s megcsï¿½kolta az engedelmes ajkakat. Paula megszï¿½lalt:

- Dick nem ï¿½gy szeret engem, mint maga. Azt hiszem, nem szerelmesen szeret. Olyan sokï¿½ig voltam az ï¿½vï¿½, azt hiszem, szokï¿½sï¿½vï¿½ vï¿½ltam neki. ï¿½s mielï¿½tt megismertem magï¿½t, nagyon sokszor fï¿½rta az oldalamat, vajjon a gazdasï¿½got szereti-e jobban, vagy engem.

Graham egyre unszolta:

- Nï¿½zze, olyan egyszerï¿½. Csak hatï¿½rozottnak kell lenni. Menjï¿½nk.

Felï¿½llï¿½totta az asszonyt ï¿½s mï¿½ris indulni akart. De Paula hirtelen elfordult tï¿½le, leï¿½lt ï¿½s kezï¿½be temette ï¿½gï¿½ arcï¿½t.

- Maga ezt nem ï¿½rti, Evan. ï¿½n szeretem Dicket. ï¿½s mindig is fogom szeretni.

- ï¿½s engem? - kï¿½rdezte Graham ï¿½lesen.

- Magï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½rtetï¿½dik, - felelte Paula mosolyogva - hiszen Dicken kï¿½vï¿½l maga az egyetlen ember, aki... ï¿½gy megcsï¿½kolt ï¿½s akit ï¿½n ï¿½gy megcsï¿½koltam. De nem tudom magam elszï¿½nni. A hï¿½romszï¿½get, ahogy maga nevezi, nekem kell megoldanom. ï¿½n pedig nem tudom megoldani. ï¿½sszehasonlï¿½tom, mï¿½rlegelem, latolgatom mindkettï¿½jï¿½ket. Rï¿½gondolok Dickre ï¿½s egyï¿½tt eltï¿½ltï¿½tt ï¿½veinkre. Aztï¿½n kikï¿½rdezem a szï¿½vemet maga felï¿½l. ï¿½s nem tudom, ï¿½s nem tudom. Maga nagy ember, az ï¿½n nagy szerelmesem. De Dick kï¿½lï¿½nb magï¿½nï¿½l. Maga... maga valahogyan fï¿½ldibb, valahogyan... keresem a talï¿½lï¿½ szï¿½t... emberibb. Ezï¿½rt szeretem magï¿½t jobban... vagy legalï¿½bb azt hiszem, hogy talï¿½n jobban szeretem. Vï¿½rjon csak...

Elhallgattatta ï¿½s a nyugtalan kezet lefogta a magï¿½ï¿½val.

- Vï¿½rjon csak, mï¿½g akarok valamit mondani. Rï¿½gondolok Dickre, ï¿½gy-e, ï¿½s egyï¿½tt eltï¿½ltï¿½tt ï¿½veinkre. De arra is gondolok, hogy mi van vele ma ï¿½s mi lesz vele holnap. Nem vagyok kï¿½pes elviselni a gondolatot, hogy valaki szï¿½nakozhassï¿½k a fï¿½rjemen, hogy maga szï¿½nakozzï¿½k rajta, mï¿½r pedig szï¿½nnia kell, ha megvallom magï¿½nak, hogy magï¿½t jobban szeretem. Ezï¿½rt ingadozom. Ezï¿½rt riadok mindig olyan hamar vissza ï¿½s nem tudok mit csinï¿½lni. Meghalnï¿½k a szï¿½gyentï¿½l, ha valaki az ï¿½n tetteim miatt sajnï¿½lnï¿½ Dicket. Egï¿½sz komolyan mondom, meghalnï¿½k. Nem tudok rï¿½mesebb, borzasztï¿½bb valamit elkï¿½pzelni, mint hogy Dicket sajnï¿½ljï¿½k. Sohase sajnï¿½ltï¿½k vilï¿½gï¿½letï¿½ben. Mindig legï¿½ny volt a gï¿½ton, pompï¿½s, fï¿½nyes, erï¿½s, megtï¿½madhatatlan. Nem is ï¿½rdemli meg, hogy sajnï¿½lni lehessen. Ez az ï¿½n vï¿½tkem... ï¿½s a magï¿½ï¿½, Evan.

Hirtelen eltolta magï¿½tï¿½l a Graham kezï¿½t, ï¿½gy folytatta:

- ï¿½s minden tettï¿½nk szï¿½nalomramï¿½ltï¿½vï¿½ teszi, minden ï¿½rintï¿½s, amit megengedek magï¿½nak. Nem lï¿½tja, milyen zavaros nekem az egï¿½sz? Aztï¿½n itt van az ï¿½n bï¿½szkesï¿½gem is. Hogy maga tanuja legyen annak, hogyan csalom meg olyan aprï¿½sï¿½gokban, mint ez...

Itt megint megfogta a kezï¿½t ï¿½s lï¿½gyan, ujja hegyï¿½vel megsimogatta.

- ...mint ez most, ez a gondolat a maga irï¿½nt valï¿½ szerelmemben sï¿½rt meg, lekicsinyï¿½t, kell is hogy lekicsinyï¿½tsen a maga szemï¿½ben. Visszaborzadok attï¿½l a gondolattï¿½l, hogy a perfidia abban, amit teszek...

Itt Graham kezï¿½t a maga arcï¿½hoz szorï¿½totta.

- ...jogot ad magï¿½nak a Dick irï¿½nt valï¿½ szï¿½nalomra ï¿½s az irï¿½ntam valï¿½ lenï¿½zï¿½sre.

A Graham keze izgatott ï¿½s tï¿½relmetlen volt. Paula megsimogatta ezt a kezet, szinte szï¿½rakozottan eltï¿½nï¿½dve tartotta maga elï¿½, nï¿½zte anï¿½lkï¿½l, hogy lï¿½tta volna, aztï¿½n megfordï¿½totta ï¿½s megcsï¿½kolta a tenyerï¿½t. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban Graham mï¿½r talpra ï¿½llï¿½totta ï¿½s magï¿½hoz rï¿½ntotta.

ï¿½s Paula, mikor kibontakozott, szemrehï¿½nyï¿½an szï¿½lt:

- Lï¿½ssa, itt van...

Egy mï¿½s alkalommal, mikor egymï¿½s mellett lovagoltak, Graham megkï¿½rdezte:

- Mondja, miï¿½rt mesï¿½li el nekem ezeket Dickrï¿½l? Hogy tï¿½vol tartson? Hogy vï¿½dekezzï¿½k ellenem?

Paula bï¿½lintott, de aztï¿½n gyorsan hozzï¿½tette:

- Nem, nem egï¿½szen. Tudja, ï¿½n nem akarom magï¿½t... tï¿½lsï¿½gosan tï¿½voltartani. Azï¿½rt beszï¿½lek, mert annyit gondolok Dickre. Jusson eszï¿½be, hogy tizenkï¿½t esztendeig Dick tï¿½ltï¿½tte be a lelkemet. Azï¿½rt beszï¿½lem mindezt, mert... azt hiszem, mert ezt gondolom. Kï¿½pzelje el ezt a helyzetet. Hiszen maga itt egy tï¿½kï¿½letes hï¿½zassï¿½g ï¿½rulï¿½ja!

- Tudom, - felelte a fï¿½rfi - ï¿½s nem is szeretem az ï¿½rulï¿½ szerepï¿½t. Maga ragaszkodik hozzï¿½, hogy mint ï¿½rulï¿½ szerepeljek itt, ahelyett, hogy elmenjï¿½nk innen. Nem tehetek rï¿½la. Prï¿½bï¿½lok magï¿½ra nem gondolni, prï¿½bï¿½lom a gondolataimat mï¿½sfelï¿½ kï¿½nyszerï¿½teni. De pï¿½ldï¿½ul ma dï¿½lelï¿½tt megï¿½rtam fï¿½lig egy fejezetet ï¿½s tudom, hogy gyalï¿½zatosan rossz. ï¿½jra kell ï¿½rni. Mert kï¿½ptelen vagyok magï¿½ra nem gondolni. Micsoda magï¿½hoz kï¿½pest Dï¿½l-Amerika ï¿½s egï¿½sz etnolï¿½giï¿½ja? Ha kï¿½zel ï¿½rek magï¿½hoz, a karom mï¿½r elï¿½re maga kï¿½rï¿½ fonï¿½dik, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g tudnï¿½m, mit csinï¿½lok. ï¿½s eskï¿½szï¿½m, hogy maga is odakï¿½vï¿½nja a karomat, odakï¿½vï¿½nja, ï¿½s ezt maga is jï¿½l tudja.

Paula ï¿½sszefogta a kantï¿½rszï¿½rat, jelezvï¿½n, hogy galoppot fog diktï¿½lni. De elï¿½bb hamiskï¿½s mosollyal elismerte:

- Odakï¿½vï¿½nom, drï¿½ga ï¿½rulï¿½, oda.

Gyakran ï¿½gy volt kï¿½zï¿½ttï¿½k, hogy Paula ugyanabban a pillanatban engedett ï¿½s vï¿½dekezett egyszerre. Figyelmeztetï¿½en mondta:

- Szeretem az uramat... ezt ne felejtse el...

ï¿½s a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban mï¿½r ott volt a karjai kï¿½zï¿½tt.

Egy mï¿½s ï¿½zben Paula kï¿½zenfogta Dicket ï¿½s Grahamet, odavezette ï¿½ket a nagy szobï¿½ban a Dick kedvenc heverï¿½ kerevetï¿½hez ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Hï¿½l' istennek, most az egyszer hï¿½rmasban vagyunk. Gyerï¿½nk, ï¿½ljï¿½nk le ï¿½s mesï¿½ljï¿½nk szomorï¿½ tï¿½rtï¿½neteket a kirï¿½lyok halï¿½lï¿½rï¿½l. Jï¿½jjenek, urak, ï¿½rfiak ï¿½s vï¿½logatott cigï¿½nylegï¿½nyek, mondjuk el Armageddont, mikor utoljï¿½ra leszï¿½llt a nap.

Nagyon jï¿½kedvï¿½ volt, ï¿½s Dick meglepetve lï¿½tta, hogy a felesï¿½ge rï¿½gyï¿½jt egy cigarettï¿½ra. A tï¿½z ujjï¿½n meg tudta volna olvasni, hï¿½ny cigarettï¿½t szï¿½vott el Paula a lefolyt tizenkï¿½t ï¿½v alatt, akkor is csak mint hï¿½ziasszony, hogy kï¿½nnyebbï¿½tse a helyzetï¿½t egy-egy erï¿½sen dohï¿½nyos hï¿½lgyvendï¿½gnek. Kï¿½sï¿½bb, mikor Dick cocktailt kevert magï¿½nak ï¿½s Grahamnek, Paula megint azzal lepte meg, hogy keverjen neki is egy picikï¿½t.

- Csakhogy ez Scotch ï¿½m! - intette Dick.

- ï¿½ csak egy egï¿½sz picikï¿½t. Akkor aztï¿½n egyï¿½tt ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lï¿½nk, hï¿½rom jï¿½ cimbora ï¿½s diskurï¿½lunk ï¿½s kibeszï¿½ljï¿½k az egï¿½sz vilï¿½got. ï¿½s mikor mï¿½r mindent kibeszï¿½ltï¿½nk, akkor elï¿½neklem nektek a Walkï¿½rï¿½k dalï¿½t.

A beszï¿½lgetï¿½sben Paula a szokottnï¿½l ï¿½lï¿½nkebben vett rï¿½szt, a tï¿½rtï¿½netet is ï¿½gy vï¿½lasztotta meg, hogy az urï¿½bï¿½l kiszedjen valamit. Ezt Dick ï¿½szre is vette, de azï¿½rt belement a dologba ï¿½s szabad folyï¿½st engedett a szï¿½ke naplovagokrï¿½l szï¿½lï¿½ tï¿½mï¿½nak.

Grahamnek az jutott eszï¿½be, hogy ï¿½me, Paula versengï¿½sre csï¿½bï¿½tja vele Dicket. De Paula a dolognak erre az oldalï¿½ra alig gondolt, inkï¿½bb csak ennek a kï¿½t hozzï¿½ tartozï¿½ pompï¿½s fï¿½rfinak a lï¿½tvï¿½nyï¿½ban gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dï¿½tt. Magï¿½ban egyszer ezt is gondolta: »Most vadï¿½szatrï¿½l ï¿½s nagyvadrï¿½l beszï¿½lnek. Ejtett el valaha aprï¿½ asszony kï¿½t nagyobb vadat?«

Paula tï¿½rï¿½kï¿½sen ï¿½lt a kereveten. Ha fï¿½lrefordï¿½totta a fejï¿½t, Grahamet lï¿½thatta, aki kï¿½nyelmesen nyï¿½lt el a nagy karosszï¿½kben. A kï¿½nyï¿½kï¿½nï¿½l pedig Dicket, amint a vï¿½nkosokon hevert vï¿½gig. Mikor azok beszï¿½ltek, a Paula szeme ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½sen az egyikrï¿½l a mï¿½sikra cikï¿½zott, ï¿½s mikor ï¿½k a reï¿½lis gondolkodï¿½sï¿½ emberek hideg, acï¿½los szavaival beszï¿½ltek kï¿½zdelemrï¿½l ï¿½s viaskodï¿½srï¿½l, az ï¿½ gondolatai is ilyen szï¿½nt kaptak, mï¿½g vï¿½gre elï¿½rkezett oda, hogy hidegen, annak a szï¿½nalomnak kï¿½nyszerï¿½sï¿½ge nï¿½lkï¿½l tudott Dickre nï¿½zni, amely mï¿½r napok ï¿½ta fï¿½jdalmasan fel-felbukkant a szï¿½vï¿½ben.

Bï¿½szke volt Dickre, aki minden nï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra kitï¿½nï¿½, szemrevalï¿½ fï¿½rfi lehetett. De tï¿½bbï¿½ nem ï¿½rzett fï¿½jdalmat miatta. A fï¿½rfiaknak igazuk van. Ez a harc. A verseny a gyorsakï¿½, a viaskodï¿½s az erï¿½sekï¿½. Ez a kï¿½t fï¿½rfi annyi versenyt megfutott, annyi kï¿½zdelmet vï¿½gigverekedett, hï¿½t neki nem szabad? ï¿½s ï¿½gy szemlï¿½lte ï¿½ket tovï¿½bb, hogy ez a gondolat ï¿½jra ï¿½s ï¿½jra felbukkant benne.

Ez a kï¿½t ember nem volt szerzetes. Nagyon szabadosan ï¿½lhettek abban a multban, amelybï¿½l, mint misztï¿½riumok, odalï¿½ptek hozzï¿½. Bizonyosan voltak olyan nappalaik ï¿½s ï¿½jszakï¿½ik, amilyenekben a hozzï¿½ hasonlï¿½ asszonyoknak nem lehet rï¿½szï¿½k. Ami Dicket illeti, egï¿½szen nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½, - hallott is errï¿½l suttogni egyetmï¿½st - hogy mï¿½s nï¿½k is elï¿½fordultak az ï¿½letï¿½ben, mikor vï¿½gigtombolta a vilï¿½got. A fï¿½rfi fï¿½rfi marad, hï¿½t mï¿½g kï¿½t ilyen fï¿½rfi! Paula ï¿½gï¿½ fï¿½ltï¿½kenysï¿½get ï¿½rzett azok ellen az ismeretlen asszonyok ellen, akik bizonyos, hogy voltak, ï¿½s megkemï¿½nyedett a szï¿½ve. Kipling egy sora futott ï¿½t a fejï¿½n: ott szereztï¿½k a mulatsï¿½got, ahol talï¿½ltï¿½k.

Sajnï¿½lni? Miï¿½rt sajnï¿½ljon ï¿½ jobban, mint ahogy ï¿½t sajnï¿½ljï¿½k? Az egï¿½sz dolog tï¿½l van minden sajnï¿½laton, annyira nagy ï¿½s annyira termï¿½szetes. Nagy jï¿½tï¿½k, amibe belefogtak ï¿½s mind nem gyï¿½zhetnek. Jï¿½tszott a gondolattal ï¿½s mind tovï¿½bb-tovï¿½bb fï¿½zte, vajjon mi lesz a vï¿½ge az egï¿½sznek? Ettï¿½l a gondolattï¿½l eddig visszarettent, de most a kis pï¿½linka bï¿½torsï¿½got gyujtott belï¿½. ï¿½gy tï¿½nt fel neki, mintha a vï¿½gï¿½tï¿½letet lï¿½tnï¿½ kï¿½zeledni, elmosï¿½dottan ï¿½s kivehetetlenï¿½l, de borzasztï¿½an.

Merengï¿½sï¿½bï¿½l Dick keze rezzentette fel. Dick a szeme elï¿½ nyï¿½lt ï¿½s elvette elï¿½le a levegï¿½bï¿½l azt a lï¿½thatatlan valamit, amire mozdulatlanul meredt.

- Lï¿½tsz? - kï¿½rdezte Dick trï¿½fï¿½san, mikor Paula felï¿½je fordult.

A Dick szeme nevetett, de Paula ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l meglï¿½tott benne valamit, amitï¿½l a maga hosszï¿½ pillï¿½it lesï¿½tï¿½tte. Dick mindent tud. Az asszonyka most mï¿½r minden kï¿½tsï¿½get kizï¿½rï¿½an tudta, hogy Dick mindent tud. Ezt lï¿½tta meg a Dick nï¿½zï¿½sï¿½ben ï¿½s ettï¿½l sï¿½tï¿½tte le a szemï¿½t. De azï¿½rt trï¿½fï¿½san dï¿½dolta vï¿½laszul a dalt:

- Cynthia, Cynthia, nï¿½la jï¿½rt a gondolatom...

Aztï¿½n megint csatlakozott a beszï¿½lgetï¿½shez, kinyujtotta a kezï¿½t ï¿½s ivott egy kis kortyot a fï¿½lig ï¿½res pohï¿½rbï¿½l.

Jï¿½jjï¿½n, ami jï¿½n, gondolta magï¿½ban, ï¿½llunk elï¿½be. ï¿½rï¿½ltsï¿½g az egï¿½sz, de valï¿½sï¿½gos, eleven ï¿½let. Sohasem ï¿½lt ennyire azelï¿½tt. ï¿½s megï¿½ri; mindegy, hogy a vï¿½gï¿½n milyen kikerï¿½lhetetlen ï¿½rat kell ï¿½rte fizetni. Szerelem? Hï¿½t szerette olyan igazï¿½n valaha Dicket, mint amilyen szerelemre kï¿½pesnek ï¿½rzi most magï¿½t? Vagy a szeretet mï¿½lysï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½sszetï¿½vesztette a szerelemmel annyi hosszï¿½ esztendï¿½n keresztï¿½l? A szemï¿½ben melegsï¿½g ï¿½lt ki, mikor Grahamet nï¿½zte. Megï¿½llapï¿½totta, hogy Graham ï¿½gy hat rï¿½, mint Dick nem hatott soha.

Nem lï¿½vï¿½n szokva az ennyire erï¿½s szeszhez, a szï¿½ve gyorsabban kezdett dobogni. Dick lopva rï¿½nï¿½zett olykor, ï¿½s ï¿½szrevette ï¿½s tudta, miï¿½rt ragyogï¿½bb, miï¿½rt olyan ï¿½lï¿½nk az arca ï¿½s a szï¿½ja.

Egyre kevesebbet ï¿½s kevesebbet beszï¿½lt Dick ï¿½s a kï¿½t naplovag vitï¿½ja abban vï¿½gzï¿½dï¿½tt, hogy kï¿½lcsï¿½nï¿½sen elismertï¿½k egymï¿½s hï¿½stetteit. Vï¿½gï¿½l Dick az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra pillantott, felï¿½llt, ï¿½sï¿½tott, nyujtï¿½zkodott ï¿½s kijelentette indiï¿½n tï¿½jszï¿½lï¿½ssal:

- Lefekvï¿½si idï¿½t itt van. Fehï¿½r ember fejï¿½t lï¿½gni ï¿½lmossï¿½gtï¿½l. Igyunk meg a szentjï¿½nos-ï¿½ldï¿½st, Evan?

Graham bï¿½lintott. Mind a ketten eleget ittak mï¿½r.

- Iszï¿½kos nï¿½ni, tï¿½ltsek neked is?

Paula rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s a zongorï¿½nï¿½l tett-vett, a kottï¿½kat rakosgatta. A fï¿½rfiak megittï¿½k az italukat.

Graham mï¿½g segï¿½tett Paulï¿½nak lezï¿½rni a zongorï¿½t, Dick megvï¿½rta ï¿½ket az ajtï¿½ban, aztï¿½n pï¿½r lï¿½pï¿½sre mï¿½g egyï¿½tt mentek. Menetkï¿½zben Graham a Paula figyelmeztetï¿½sï¿½re leoltogatta a hall lï¿½ngjait. Dick vï¿½rt, ahol az utaik elvï¿½ltak ï¿½s ahol Graham jï¿½ï¿½jszakï¿½t szokott kï¿½vï¿½nni, hogy felmenjen a toronyszobï¿½ba.

Elaludt az utolsï¿½ lï¿½ng is.

- Ne, azt ne, maga csacsi, - hallatszott a Paula hangja, - azt ï¿½jszakï¿½ra ï¿½gve szoktuk hagyni.

Dick nem hallott semmit. De ezt a sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½get jï¿½l ismerte. Megï¿½tkozta magï¿½ban a maga hajdani ï¿½lelï¿½seit, amelyeket ï¿½gy sï¿½tï¿½tben vï¿½ltott Paulï¿½val. Mert ezekbï¿½l az emlï¿½kekbï¿½l tudta most egï¿½sz biztosan, hogy azok gyorsan megï¿½leltï¿½k egymï¿½st, mielï¿½tt mï¿½g a lï¿½ng ï¿½jra felgyï¿½lt.

Azon vette ï¿½szre magï¿½t, hogy nincs bï¿½torsï¿½ga az arcukba nï¿½zni. Nem akarta lï¿½tni Paula hosszï¿½pillï¿½jï¿½, ï¿½szinte szemeit ï¿½s ezï¿½rt a cigarettï¿½ja meggyujtï¿½sï¿½val kezdett bajlï¿½dni, mialatt iparkodott magï¿½ban egy normï¿½lis bï¿½csï¿½ rendes szavait ï¿½sszeszedni. Paula megfogta a kezï¿½t s ï¿½ utï¿½na szï¿½lt mï¿½g Grahamnek:

- Hogy halad a kï¿½nyv? Hï¿½nyadik fejezet?

Graham eltï¿½nt s ï¿½k mentek Paulï¿½val kï¿½z a kï¿½zben. Paula lï¿½bï¿½lta az ï¿½ kezï¿½t, ugrï¿½lt, tï¿½ncolt ï¿½s mindenfï¿½le bolondsï¿½got beszï¿½lt; azt utï¿½nozta, mikor a kisgyereket egy felnï¿½tt ember kï¿½zenfogva vezeti. Dick pedig azon gondolkozott, milyen turpissï¿½g motoszkï¿½l az asszony fejï¿½ben, amivel majd ki fogja kerï¿½lni a rï¿½g nï¿½lkï¿½lï¿½zï¿½tt esti csï¿½kot.

Paula nyilvï¿½n nem talï¿½lta meg ezt az ï¿½rï¿½gyet, mikor odaï¿½rtek, ahol a lakosztï¿½lyaik felï¿½ kettï¿½ï¿½gazott az ï¿½t. Tovï¿½bb lï¿½bï¿½lva az ura kezï¿½t, tovï¿½bb csacsogott gyerekesen tï¿½cskï¿½t-bogarat ï¿½s bement vele egyï¿½tt az irodï¿½ba. Itt aztï¿½n Dick adta meg magï¿½t. Sem szï¿½ve, sem ereje nem volt hozzï¿½, hogy leleplezze, miben sï¿½ntikï¿½l az asszony.

ï¿½gy tett, mintha hirtelen eszï¿½be jutott volna valami, kï¿½zenfogva oldaltvezette az ï¿½rï¿½asztalhoz ï¿½s onnan felszedett egy levelet.

- Feltettem magamban, hogy erre a levï¿½lre reggel az elsï¿½ autï¿½val elkï¿½ldï¿½m a vï¿½laszt.

Megindï¿½totta a diktafont ï¿½s elkezdett diktï¿½lni. Paula az elsï¿½ mondat alatt mï¿½g fogta a kezï¿½t. Aztï¿½n Dick ï¿½rezte az ujjak bï¿½csï¿½t jelentï¿½ szorï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s a »jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t« sï¿½gï¿½ szavait.

- Jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t, asszonyka - felelte gï¿½piesen ï¿½s diktï¿½lt tovï¿½bb, mintha a Paula tï¿½vozï¿½sï¿½t mï¿½r el is felejtette volna.

Addig nem is hagyta abba, mï¿½g biztos nem volt benne, hogy Paula most mï¿½r nem hallja a hangjï¿½t.

Egy dï¿½lelï¿½tt Dick, mikï¿½zben Blakenek vï¿½laszokat diktï¿½lt vagy kï¿½rvonalazott, tï¿½zszer is azon a ponton volt, hogy a levelezï¿½s tï¿½bbi rï¿½szï¿½t elhalï¿½ssza. Mikor pedig tï¿½z ï¿½rakor Blake vï¿½gre ï¿½sszemarkolta a jegyzeteit ï¿½s felkelt, Dick ï¿½gy szï¿½lt hozzï¿½:

- Hï¿½vja fel Hennessyt ï¿½s Mendenhallt. Talï¿½n a tenyï¿½szcsï¿½dï¿½r-istï¿½llï¿½ban megtalï¿½lja ï¿½ket. Mondja meg nekik, hogy ne ma, hanem holnap dï¿½lelï¿½tt jï¿½jjenek.

Bejï¿½tt Bonbright ï¿½s elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½tette a holmijï¿½t, hogy Dick tï¿½rgyalï¿½sait a felï¿½gyelï¿½kkel stenografï¿½lja.

- ï¿½s kï¿½rem, Blake ï¿½r, - szï¿½lt mï¿½g Dick - kï¿½rdezze meg Hennessyt, mi van Alden Bessievel. Tegnap este nagyon rossz bï¿½rben volt az ï¿½reg kanca.

- Kï¿½rem, Forrest ï¿½r, - szï¿½lalt meg Bonbright - Hanley sï¿½rgeti, hogy feltï¿½tlen tessï¿½k vele menni.

ï¿½s mikor a gazdï¿½ja idegesen felrï¿½ncolta a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½t, hozzï¿½tette:

- A Vadgesztenyï¿½s-tï¿½ltï¿½s csatornï¿½jï¿½rï¿½l van szï¿½. Valami hiba van a tervekben. Azt mondja, hogy nagyon sï¿½lyos tï¿½vedï¿½s.

Dick megadta magï¿½t. Aztï¿½n egy ï¿½ra hosszat a felï¿½gyelï¿½kkel ï¿½s munkavezetï¿½kkel a telep ï¿½gyeit beszï¿½lte meg.

Javï¿½ban folyt a tï¿½zes vita Wardmannel a juhok kivï¿½logatï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l, mikor felkelt az ï¿½rï¿½asztalï¿½tï¿½l ï¿½s odalï¿½pett az ablakhoz. Beszï¿½lgetï¿½s, lï¿½dobogï¿½s, a Paula hangja csalta oda.

- Vegye azt a Montana-jelentï¿½st, - folytatta kinï¿½zve - egy pï¿½ldï¿½nyt mï¿½g ma odakï¿½ldï¿½k magï¿½nak. Azt mondjï¿½k, hogy a recept nem felelt meg. Csak nyugtatï¿½szernek volt jï¿½, a petï¿½ket nem ï¿½lte meg. Nem nagyon sikerï¿½lt...

Nï¿½gy lï¿½ vonult el a szeme elï¿½tt. Paula, aki kï¿½t lovassal trï¿½fï¿½lkozott, ott lï¿½ptetett Martiner ï¿½s Froelig, Dick rï¿½gi barï¿½tai kï¿½zï¿½tt, egyik festï¿½, mï¿½sik szobrï¿½sz, aznap kora reggel ï¿½rkeztek. Graham a Szelim hï¿½tï¿½n volt a negyedik ï¿½s szorosan mï¿½gï¿½ttï¿½k lovagolt. Ilyen elosztï¿½sban lovagolt tova a tï¿½rsasï¿½g, de Dick arra gondolt, hogy azok nï¿½gyen hamarosan kï¿½t-kï¿½t pï¿½rra fognak oszlani.

Pï¿½r perccel tizenegy utï¿½n nyugtalanul, idegesen, cigarettï¿½val a szï¿½jï¿½ban ï¿½tment a nagy tï¿½likertbe. Itt keserï¿½en elmosolyodott azokon a beszï¿½des jeleken, amelyek azt hirdettï¿½k, hogy Paula elhanyagolta az aranyhalait. Ez a lï¿½tvï¿½ny eszï¿½be juttatta a Paula titkos tï¿½likertjï¿½t, ahol a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½t medencï¿½iben a vï¿½logatottabb ï¿½s kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sebb formï¿½jï¿½ pï¿½ldï¿½nyokat tartotta az asszony. Dick ï¿½tment ide, kilincs nï¿½lkï¿½li ajtï¿½kon, olyan ï¿½ton, amelyet csak Paula ï¿½s a szemï¿½lyzet ismertek kï¿½vï¿½le.

Ez Dick egyik nagy ajï¿½ndï¿½ka volt Paula szï¿½mï¿½ra: olyan pazar szerelmi fï¿½szek, amilyet csak a pï¿½nzkirï¿½lyok engedhettek meg maguknak. Dick szabad kezet adott a felesï¿½gï¿½nek ï¿½s ragaszkodott hozzï¿½, hogy az asszony szabadjï¿½ra hagyja tombolni kï¿½lï¿½nc ï¿½tleteit. Szerette annak idejï¿½n ingerelni hajdani gyï¿½mjait annak a csekk-kï¿½nyvnek ellenï¿½rzï¿½ szelvï¿½nyeivel, amit Paula hasznï¿½lt. Ez a szoba egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem tartott rokonsï¿½got a nagy hï¿½z beosztï¿½si ï¿½s ï¿½pï¿½tï¿½szeti stï¿½lusï¿½val, olyan mï¿½lyre volt eldugva az ï¿½pï¿½letben, hogy vonalai ï¿½s szï¿½nei nem zavartak semmit. Lï¿½tvï¿½nyossï¿½gszï¿½mba ment, de nem sokan lï¿½thattï¿½k. Paula hï¿½gain ï¿½s bizalmasain kï¿½vï¿½l csak egy-egy mï¿½vï¿½sz rï¿½szesï¿½lt ritka alkalmakkor abban a szerencsï¿½ben, hogy ide belï¿½phessen ï¿½s elï¿½llhasson a lï¿½lekzete. Graham hallott mï¿½r errï¿½l a szobï¿½rï¿½l, de Paula mï¿½g ï¿½t sem hï¿½vta meg megtekinteni.

Kï¿½ralakï¿½ szoba volt ez ï¿½s elï¿½g kicsi ahoz, hogy a tï¿½gassï¿½ggal olykor egyï¿½ttjï¿½rï¿½ hï¿½vï¿½s benyomï¿½st elkerï¿½lje. A nagy hï¿½z szilï¿½rd betï¿½nbï¿½l ï¿½pï¿½lt, ez a szoba kï¿½lï¿½nleges ï¿½zlï¿½sï¿½ mï¿½rvï¿½nybï¿½l. A kï¿½rnyezï¿½ ï¿½rkï¿½dok ï¿½vei vï¿½sett fehï¿½r mï¿½rvï¿½nybï¿½l kï¿½szï¿½ltek, annyi gyengï¿½d zï¿½ld dï¿½sszel, amennyi ï¿½ppen elejï¿½t vehette a visszaverï¿½dï¿½ fï¿½ny zavarï¿½ hatï¿½sï¿½nak. A leghalvï¿½nyabb rï¿½zsaszï¿½n lehelte be a mï¿½rvï¿½nyoszlopokat ï¿½s az alacsony mennyezet aljï¿½n, amely nyugodott rajtuk, a vigyorgï¿½ fejek helyï¿½t Puck-szerï¿½, humoros, boldog arcok sora foglalta el kï¿½rben. Dick vï¿½gigmendegï¿½lt az ï¿½rkï¿½dok rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ mï¿½rvï¿½nykï¿½vezetï¿½n, engedte, hogy a hely szï¿½psï¿½ge lassan megvegye a szï¿½vï¿½t ï¿½s megnyugtassa idegessï¿½gï¿½t.

A tï¿½likert magvï¿½t ï¿½s jellegzetes rï¿½szï¿½t a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½t adta. Hï¿½rom kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½ magassï¿½gï¿½, egymï¿½sba folyï¿½, sekï¿½ly medencï¿½jï¿½t fehï¿½r mï¿½rvï¿½nybï¿½l vï¿½stï¿½k olyan finomra, mint egy-egy nagy kagylï¿½. A medencï¿½k felett ï¿½letnagysï¿½gï¿½ gyerekek szobrai ï¿½lltak itt-ott, finom kï¿½z rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ mï¿½rvï¿½nybï¿½l faragta ï¿½ket. Az egyik a kagylï¿½ szï¿½lï¿½n ï¿½t lekukucskï¿½lt az alacsonyabb medencï¿½kre, a mï¿½sik mohï¿½n nyujtotta ki kezecskï¿½jï¿½t az aranyhalak utï¿½n, a harmadik a hï¿½tï¿½n fekve kacagott fel az ï¿½gre, a negyedik futott valamerre gï¿½drï¿½s lï¿½bacskï¿½ival, mï¿½sok ï¿½lldogï¿½ltak, mï¿½sok lenn jï¿½tszottak a fehï¿½r ï¿½s piros rï¿½zsï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt, de mind ott voltak a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½ton ï¿½s valamelyik pontjï¿½hoz voltak tervezve. A mï¿½rvï¿½ny talï¿½lï¿½ szï¿½ne, a szobrï¿½sz tehetsï¿½ge az ï¿½let illï¿½ziï¿½jï¿½t tudta megadni. Nem amorettek voltak ezek, hanem eleven, meleg kisgyerekek.

Dick gyï¿½nyï¿½rkï¿½dve, hosszasan nï¿½zte a rï¿½zsaszï¿½nï¿½ tï¿½rsasï¿½got, a cigarettï¿½ja is kialudt, de ï¿½ csak tartotta tovï¿½bb. Ez az, gondolta magï¿½ban, ez hiï¿½nyzik Paulï¿½nak: gyerek, kis baba. Szenvedï¿½lyesen szerette a gyerekeket. Ha nekik lett volna... Dick felsï¿½hajtott ï¿½s ï¿½j gondolattï¿½l megkapatva odapillantott a Paula kedvenc ï¿½ldï¿½gï¿½lï¿½ helyï¿½re. Biztos volt benne, hogy nem fogja lï¿½tni a megszokott kï¿½zimunka tarka, kedves csomï¿½jï¿½t. Paula mostanï¿½ban nem kï¿½zimunkï¿½zott.

Nem ment be az ï¿½rkï¿½dok mï¿½gï¿½tti kis galï¿½riï¿½ba, ahol Paula vï¿½logatott festmï¿½nyeket ï¿½s metszeteket tartott, meg mï¿½rvï¿½ny- ï¿½s bronzmï¿½solatait azoknak a szobroknak, amiket az eurï¿½pai mï¿½zeumokban megszeretett. Ehelyett felment a csigalï¿½pcsï¿½n, elhaladt a Szï¿½rnyas Gyï¿½zelem gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ szobra mellett, ott, ahol kettï¿½vï¿½lt a lï¿½pcsï¿½, ï¿½s belï¿½pett a Paula lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ba, amely az egï¿½sz felsï¿½ ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnyat elfoglalta. De elï¿½bb mï¿½g megï¿½llt egy kicsit a szobor mellett, visszafordult ï¿½s lenï¿½zett a tï¿½ndï¿½ri tï¿½likertre. Tï¿½kï¿½letes, szï¿½nes, kï¿½szï¿½rï¿½lt drï¿½gakï¿½nek lï¿½tta ï¿½gy az egï¿½szet ï¿½s beismerte, hogy az anyagi eszkï¿½zï¿½ket ugyan ï¿½ adta hozzï¿½, de az egï¿½sz a Paula mï¿½ve, a Paula remeklï¿½se. A felesï¿½ge sokï¿½ ï¿½lmodott errï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½ egyszer megvalï¿½sï¿½totta az ï¿½lmot. Most azonban, gondolta magï¿½ban Dick, ez mï¿½r nem jelent Paula szï¿½mï¿½ra semmit. Paula nem pï¿½nzsï¿½vï¿½r, ezt tudta rï¿½la. Ha nem tudja Paula szerelmï¿½t megtartani mï¿½skï¿½p, puszta csecsebecsï¿½k ï¿½s drï¿½gasï¿½gok ï¿½gysem billenthetnek Paula szï¿½vï¿½nek mï¿½rlegï¿½n semmit.

ï¿½gy ï¿½gyelgett a Paula szobï¿½in vï¿½gig, alig is lï¿½tva, amire nï¿½zett, de gyengï¿½den nï¿½zve minden darabra. Minden itt is, mint Paulï¿½nak mindene, finom, vï¿½lasztï¿½kos, eredeti, ï¿½kesen szï¿½lï¿½ volt. De mikor benï¿½zett a fï¿½rdï¿½szobï¿½ba ï¿½s megnï¿½zte a sï¿½lyesztett rï¿½mai medencï¿½t, a vilï¿½gï¿½rt meg nem tudta volna ï¿½llni, hogy meg ne nï¿½zzen egy kis csï¿½vet ï¿½s fel ne jegyezzen valamit a telep bï¿½dogosa szï¿½mï¿½ra.

A Paula festï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nyï¿½ra azzal a termï¿½szetes gondolattal nï¿½zett, hogy nem fog ï¿½j vï¿½sznat talï¿½lni rajta. De csalï¿½dott. A sajï¿½t portrï¿½ja ï¿½llott elï¿½tte. Ismerte Paulï¿½nak azt a szokï¿½sï¿½t, hogy az alakok pï¿½zï¿½t ï¿½s vonalait fï¿½nykï¿½pekrï¿½l nï¿½zte le, aztï¿½n emlï¿½kezetbï¿½l dolgozta ki. Az a fï¿½nykï¿½p, amit Paula ehez a portrï¿½hoz hasznï¿½lt, szerencsï¿½s pillanatfelvï¿½tel volt, ami lï¿½hï¿½ton ï¿½brï¿½zolta Dicket. A Haramia egyetlenegyszer egy pillanatig nyugodtan maradt ï¿½s Dick kalappal a kezï¿½ben, csinosan omlï¿½ hajjal, keresetlen arckifejezï¿½ssel, nem vï¿½rva a bekï¿½vetkezï¿½ csettenï¿½st, ebben az egy pillanatban egyenesen a lencsï¿½be nï¿½zett. Hasonlï¿½bb kï¿½pet semmifï¿½le fotogrï¿½fus nem csinï¿½lhatott volna. Paula megnagyï¿½totta a fejet ï¿½s a vï¿½llat ï¿½s errï¿½l a kï¿½prï¿½l csinï¿½lta a nagyï¿½tï¿½st. De a festmï¿½ny mï¿½r tï¿½lhaladta a fï¿½nykï¿½pet, Dick mï¿½r lï¿½tta a Paula sajï¿½t, ï¿½nï¿½llï¿½ munkï¿½jï¿½t.

Odalï¿½pett ï¿½s kï¿½zelebbrï¿½l megnï¿½zte. Ez a szemkifejezï¿½s, ez az egï¿½sz arckifejezï¿½s az ï¿½vï¿½? Rï¿½nï¿½zett a fï¿½nykï¿½pre. Ott ez a kifejezï¿½s nem volt meg. Odament egy tï¿½kï¿½rhï¿½z, szabadjï¿½ra eresztette az arckifejezï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s erï¿½sen Paulï¿½ra ï¿½s Grahamre gondolt. ï¿½s lassankï¿½nt ez a kifejezï¿½s jelent meg a szemï¿½ben ï¿½s az arcï¿½n. Hogy mï¿½g biztosabb legyen, visszament a festï¿½ï¿½llvï¿½nyhoz ï¿½s meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½tt rï¿½la. Tehï¿½t Paula tudja. Igen, Paula tudja, hogy ï¿½ mindent tud. Paula meglï¿½tta rajta, leolvasta az arcï¿½rï¿½l valamikor, mikor ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l rajta volt az arcï¿½n, aztï¿½n emlï¿½kezetbï¿½l odafestette a vï¿½szonra.

Paula kï¿½nai komornï¿½ja, Szentatyï¿½m, belï¿½pett az ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½szobï¿½bï¿½l. Nem lï¿½tta Dicket ï¿½s Dick ï¿½szrevï¿½tlenï¿½l megfigyelhette a kï¿½zelgï¿½ leï¿½nyt. Szentatyï¿½m lesï¿½tï¿½tt szemmel, mï¿½lyen elmerï¿½lve jï¿½tt be. Dick ï¿½szrevette az arcï¿½n, hogy nagyon szomorï¿½, ï¿½s hogy a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½nek az a furcsa, aggï¿½dï¿½ vonala, amely utï¿½n a nevï¿½t is kapta, eltï¿½nt. Nem aggï¿½dott, nem lelkendezett tï¿½bbï¿½ az arckifejezï¿½se, hanem le volt verve, mï¿½lyen le volt sujtva.

Dick magï¿½ban azt a megfigyelï¿½st tette, hogy ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, valamennyiï¿½k arca beszï¿½des, ï¿½rulï¿½ kezd lenni. Aztï¿½n rï¿½ijesztett a lï¿½nyra:

- Adjon isten, Szentatyï¿½m.

A lï¿½ny visszafordult kï¿½szï¿½nni ï¿½s rï¿½pillantott Dickre. Ez a pillantï¿½s rï¿½szvï¿½tet jelentett. Tehï¿½t Szentatyï¿½m tudja. Hï¿½rmukon kï¿½vï¿½l az elsï¿½. Nï¿½, akire rï¿½ lehetett bï¿½zni, hogy talï¿½lja ki Paula titkï¿½t, annyit van Paula mellett, mikor Paula egyedï¿½l van.

Szentatyï¿½m ajkai remegtek, tï¿½rdelte reszketï¿½ kezeit, ï¿½gy igyekezett bï¿½torsï¿½got venni, hogy szï¿½ljon. Dick ï¿½szre is vette ezt rajta.

- Kï¿½rem szï¿½pen, - kezdte a leï¿½ny akadozva - talï¿½n tetszik gondolni engem bolond, de mondani valami szeretnï¿½m. Nagysï¿½gos ï¿½r jï¿½ ember. Nagysï¿½gos ï¿½r enyï¿½m ï¿½reg anyjï¿½hoz volt nagyon jï¿½ ember. Hozzï¿½m is rï¿½gen, rï¿½gen nagyon jï¿½ ember...

Itt megakadt, a nyelvï¿½vel nedvesï¿½tette meg rï¿½mï¿½lt ajkï¿½t, aztï¿½n elszï¿½ntan az ura szeme kï¿½zï¿½ nï¿½zett ï¿½s folytatta:

- ï¿½n ï¿½gy lï¿½tok, nagysï¿½gos asszony...

De Dick arca olyan tiltï¿½ kifejezï¿½st ï¿½ltï¿½tt, hogy Szentatyï¿½m szï¿½rnyï¿½ zavarba jï¿½tt, elpirult, amint Dick gyanï¿½totta, a gondolatok felett valï¿½ szï¿½gyenï¿½ben, amiket ki akart nyï¿½gni. Dick megszï¿½lalt, hogy megnyugtassa:

- A nagysï¿½gos asszony nagyon szï¿½p kï¿½pet festett.

A kï¿½nai leï¿½ny felsï¿½hajtott ï¿½s mikor hosszasan nï¿½zte a Dick kï¿½pï¿½t, megint az a rï¿½szvï¿½t jelent meg a szemï¿½ben. Megint sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s Dick ï¿½szrevette, milyen fagyos hangon felel:

- Igen, nagysï¿½gos asszony nagyon szï¿½p kï¿½pet festett.

Aztï¿½n hirtelen ï¿½lesen fï¿½rkï¿½szve pillantott Dickre, vizsgï¿½lta az arcï¿½t, a vï¿½szon felï¿½ fordult ï¿½s a kï¿½p szemï¿½re mutatva, kicsinylï¿½en szï¿½lt:

- Nem jï¿½.

A hangja ï¿½les volt ï¿½s haragos.

- Nem jï¿½ - mondta vissza mï¿½g egyszer a vï¿½llï¿½n keresztï¿½l, mï¿½g hangosabban, mï¿½g ï¿½lesebben, megindult vï¿½gig a szobï¿½n ï¿½s eltï¿½nt a Paula hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½ben.

Dick kihï¿½zta magï¿½t, kiegyenesedett. ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l erï¿½t gyï¿½jtï¿½tt hozzï¿½, hogy szembenï¿½zzen azzal, aminek most mï¿½r hamarosan be kell kï¿½vetkeznie. Hï¿½t bizony, ez a vï¿½g kezdete. Szentatyï¿½m mï¿½r tudja. Nemsokï¿½ra tï¿½bben is tudni fogjï¿½k, mindenki tudni fogja. Bizonyos mï¿½rtï¿½kben mï¿½g ï¿½rï¿½lt is. ï¿½rï¿½lt, hogy a halogatï¿½s kï¿½nja mï¿½r nem sokï¿½ig fog tartani.

ï¿½s mikor elindult kifelï¿½, vidï¿½man fï¿½tyï¿½rï¿½szett, csalï¿½ figyelmeztetï¿½sï¿½l Szentatyï¿½m szï¿½mï¿½ra, hogy semmi gondja-baja a vilï¿½gon.

Ugyanaz nap dï¿½lutï¿½n, mï¿½g Dick a Froelig, Martinez ï¿½s Graham tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½ban kï¿½nn jï¿½rt, Paula lopva elment a Dick lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ba. A Dick hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½ben vï¿½gignï¿½zte az elektromos gombok sorï¿½t, a kapcsolï¿½tï¿½blï¿½t, amely az ï¿½gyï¿½t ï¿½sszekï¿½tï¿½tte a farm minden pontjï¿½val ï¿½s Kalifornia nagy rï¿½szï¿½vel, fonogrï¿½fjï¿½t az ï¿½gy fï¿½lï¿½ fï¿½ggesztett polcon, az olvasï¿½sra vï¿½rï¿½ kï¿½nyvek, folyï¿½iratok ï¿½s fï¿½ldmï¿½velï¿½si jelentï¿½sek rendezett sorï¿½t, a hamutï¿½lcï¿½t, cigarettï¿½t, ï¿½rï¿½szerszï¿½mot ï¿½s termosz-ï¿½veget.

ï¿½szrevette a maga arckï¿½pï¿½t is, az egyetlen kï¿½pet a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½ben. Itt megï¿½llott. A kï¿½p a baromï¿½terek ï¿½s hï¿½mï¿½rï¿½k alatt lï¿½gott, ahovï¿½, mint Paula tudta, Dick legtï¿½bbet pillantott. Valami eszï¿½be jutott. Befordï¿½totta a mosolygï¿½ arckï¿½pet a falnak ï¿½s a rï¿½ma hï¿½tï¿½rï¿½l az ï¿½gyra pillantott ï¿½s megint vissza. De hirtelen megrettent mozdulattal visszafordï¿½totta a kï¿½pet. Az jutott eszï¿½be, hogy ez a kï¿½p idetartozik.

Aztï¿½n megpillantotta a falon a pisztolytartï¿½ban a nagy revolvert, amely az ï¿½gyban fekvï¿½nek ï¿½ppen keze ï¿½gyï¿½be esett. Odanyï¿½lt ï¿½s egy kicsit kiemelte az agyï¿½t. A revolver, amint vï¿½rta is, kï¿½nnyen jï¿½rt. Rï¿½ismert Dickre. Dicknï¿½l sohasem eshetett meg, hogy egy revolver, akï¿½rmilyen sokï¿½ nem hasznï¿½lja, beleszoruljon a pisztolytokba.

ï¿½nnepï¿½lyesen lï¿½pett be az irodï¿½ba, szemï¿½gyre vette az ï¿½riï¿½si iratpolcokat, a tï¿½rkï¿½pek ï¿½s nyomtatvï¿½nyok szekrï¿½nyeit, a leltï¿½ri kï¿½tetek forgathatï¿½ polcait ï¿½s az ï¿½llatï¿½llomï¿½nyi anyakï¿½nyvek vaskos kï¿½teteinek hosszï¿½ sorait. Vï¿½gï¿½l a Dick kï¿½nyveihez ï¿½rt, ahoz a jï¿½ sok ï¿½rtekezï¿½shez, folyï¿½iratokbï¿½l valï¿½ kï¿½lï¿½nlenyomathoz, tï¿½z-tizenkï¿½t komoly kï¿½tethez, amiket Dick maga ï¿½rt. Sillabizï¿½lva olvasta el a cï¿½meket: »A bï¿½za Kaliforniï¿½ban.« »Gyakorlati tejgazdasï¿½g.« »A farm szervezete.« »A farm-kï¿½nyvelï¿½s.« »A tenyï¿½szkos Amerikï¿½ban.« »A termï¿½fï¿½ld pusztï¿½tï¿½sa.« »A trï¿½gyï¿½zï¿½s.« »A lï¿½here Kaliforniï¿½ban.« »A Kaliforniï¿½ban legalkalmasabb takarmï¿½nyok.« »Az amerikai rï¿½vidszarvï¿½-tenyï¿½sztï¿½s.« Ennï¿½l az utolsï¿½ kï¿½tetnï¿½l Paula elmosolyodott. Eszï¿½be jutott az a nagy vetï¿½lkedï¿½s, amelyben Dick gyï¿½zï¿½tt a tehï¿½n kï¿½tfï¿½le, vï¿½gï¿½ ï¿½s tejelï¿½ tenyï¿½sztï¿½sï¿½nek ï¿½llï¿½spontjï¿½val azok ellen, akik a tehenet egyï¿½ttes cï¿½lra vitattï¿½k alkalmasnak.

Tenyerï¿½vel megcirï¿½gatta a kï¿½tetek hï¿½tï¿½t, hozzï¿½juk nyomta az arcï¿½t ï¿½s behï¿½nyt szemmel tï¿½maszkodott hozzï¿½juk. Egy gondolat villant fï¿½l benne, amely elhalvï¿½nyodott ï¿½s szomorï¿½an eloszlott, mert nem merte vï¿½giggondolni: »ï¿½ Dick, Dick!...«

Az ï¿½rï¿½asztal hangosan Dicket hirdette neki. Rendes volt ï¿½s tiszta. Nem volt rajta restancia, kivï¿½ve azt a drï¿½tfonatï¿½ kosarat, amelyben a legï¿½pelt levelek vï¿½rtak az alï¿½ï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ra ï¿½s azoknak a vilï¿½gossï¿½rga kutyanyelveknek a szokatlanul magas halmazï¿½t, amilyenekre a titkï¿½rai szoktï¿½k az Eldorï¿½dï¿½bï¿½l telefï¿½non leadott tï¿½viratokat gï¿½pelni. Futï¿½lag ï¿½tszaladt a legelsï¿½ tï¿½virat kezdï¿½ sorain ï¿½s vï¿½letlenï¿½l ï¿½ppen olyan jelentï¿½st talï¿½lt elolvasni, amely izgatta ï¿½s ï¿½rdekelte. Elolvasta kï¿½zelrï¿½l ï¿½sszehï¿½zott pillï¿½kkal, majd mï¿½lyebbre kutatott a halmazban, mï¿½g magyarï¿½zï¿½ adatokat talï¿½lt. Braxton Jeremy, a nagy, lelkes, kedves Braxton Jeremy meghalt. Mexikï¿½i parasztok rï¿½szeg csï¿½cselï¿½ke ï¿½lte meg a hegyekben, mikor a Harvestbï¿½l ott prï¿½bï¿½lt ï¿½tmenekï¿½lni Arizï¿½nï¿½ba. A tï¿½virat kï¿½t nappal elï¿½bbrï¿½l volt keltezve. Tehï¿½t Dick mï¿½r kï¿½t napja tudta ï¿½s nem ijesztette meg a rossz hï¿½rrel. Mert ez a rossz hï¿½r sokat jelentett. Pï¿½nzt. Azt jelentette, hogy a Harvest-bï¿½nyacsoport dolga rosszrï¿½l rosszabbra fordult. ï¿½s Dick nem szï¿½lt. Ez ï¿½.

Jeremy tehï¿½t meghalt. ï¿½gy tï¿½nt fel neki, mintha a szoba hirtelen kihï¿½lt volna. Megremegett. Ilyen az ï¿½let: az ï¿½t vï¿½gï¿½n folyton ott a halï¿½l. ï¿½s a nï¿½vtelen fï¿½lelem ismï¿½t erï¿½t vett rajta. Valami vï¿½gï¿½tï¿½let lï¿½gott a levegï¿½ben. Ki lesz az elï¿½tï¿½lt? Nem prï¿½bï¿½lta kitalï¿½lni. Mindegy. Vï¿½gï¿½tï¿½let, az biztos. Nehï¿½z volt tï¿½le a lelke ï¿½s nehï¿½z volt tï¿½le a nï¿½ma szoba, mikor csendesen kiment.

Terrence elvett magï¿½nak egy cocktailt a tï¿½lcï¿½rï¿½l, amit Ejha hordott kï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- A mi kis asszonyunk olyan ï¿½rzï¿½ki, mint egy madï¿½rka.

A diner elï¿½tti ï¿½rï¿½ban Graham, Leï¿½ ï¿½s Mc Fane Terrence tï¿½rtï¿½netesen ï¿½sszeakadtak a dohï¿½nyzï¿½ban. Az ï¿½r ember ï¿½va intette az ifjï¿½ kï¿½ltï¿½t:

- Ne, Leï¿½, ne. Elï¿½g az az egy. Az arcod mï¿½r ï¿½g tï¿½le. Mï¿½g egy cocktail ï¿½s ki fog gyulladni. Nem helyes abban a kamasz fejedben ï¿½sszekeverni a szï¿½psï¿½get ilyen erï¿½s itallal. Bï¿½zzad az ivï¿½st a felnï¿½ttekre. Az ivï¿½sban is van valami vï¿½rrokonsï¿½g az emberek kï¿½zï¿½tt. Te nem vagy rokon. Ami engem illet...

Felhajtotta a cocktailt ï¿½s elgondolkozva ï¿½zlelte a nyelvï¿½vel az italt. Aztï¿½n megvetï¿½en csï¿½vï¿½lta a fejï¿½t:

- Ez asszonyoknak valï¿½ ital. Ez engem nem szeret. Nem harap belï¿½m. Nekem is nagyon-nagyon kevï¿½s gusztusom van rï¿½. ï¿½des fiam, Ejha, keverj nekem egy komoly italt egï¿½sz hosszï¿½, egyenes pohï¿½rban.

Vï¿½zszintesen feltartotta nï¿½gy ujjï¿½t, ezzel jelezve, mennyi legyen a pï¿½linka a pohï¿½rban ï¿½s Ejha kï¿½rdï¿½sï¿½re, hogy milyen legyen a whisky, ï¿½gy felelt:

- Scotch whisky, vagy irish whisky, bourbon vagy rozs, amelyiket kï¿½zelebb ï¿½red.

Graham nemet intett a kï¿½nainak ï¿½s rï¿½nevetett az ï¿½rre.

- Engem bizony nem fog leinni, Terrence. Nem felejtettem el, mit csinï¿½lt O'Hayvel.

- Higgye el, vï¿½letlen baleset volt. Azt mondjï¿½k, hogy ha az ember nincs kifogï¿½stalan kondï¿½ciï¿½ban, egy korty ital is ï¿½gy fï¿½ldhï¿½z vï¿½gja, mintha doronggal ï¿½tï¿½ttï¿½k volna fejbe.

- ï¿½s maga?

- Engem sose vï¿½gtak mï¿½g doronggal fejbe. Nagyon kevï¿½s ï¿½lettapasztalatom van.

- Hanem, Terrence, szï¿½lt kï¿½zbe Leï¿½ - te a nagysï¿½gos asszonyrï¿½l beszï¿½ltï¿½l. ï¿½gy hangzott, hogy valami szï¿½p fog kisï¿½lni belï¿½le.

- Nem is lehet mï¿½skï¿½ppen. Azt mondtam, hogy olyan ï¿½rzï¿½ki, mint egy kis madï¿½r. Nem mint a kis ugrï¿½ndozï¿½ barï¿½zdabillegetï¿½, nem mint a lï¿½gy ï¿½s ï¿½nnepï¿½lyes galamb, hanem mint a vidï¿½m madï¿½rkï¿½k, mint a vadkanï¿½rik, amiket a szï¿½kï¿½kutakban lï¿½tni, amint fï¿½rdenek, szï¿½ntelenï¿½l csicseregnek ï¿½s trillï¿½znak, a verï¿½fï¿½nyen szï¿½rjï¿½k a vï¿½zcsï¿½ppeket ï¿½s boldog mellecskï¿½jï¿½kï¿½n ragyog az arany szï¿½v. Ilyen a mi kis asszonyunk. Nagyon megfigyeltem. Minden ezen a kerek vilï¿½gon arravalï¿½ neki, hogy az ï¿½ napjainak ï¿½rï¿½meit szolgï¿½lja: a fï¿½ldi mirtusz illetï¿½ktelen pirossï¿½ga, mert legfeljebb a levendula sï¿½padt szï¿½nï¿½hez lenne joga, a magï¿½nyos vï¿½rï¿½s rï¿½zsa, amely a fï¿½rdï¿½ szellï¿½ben hajbï¿½kol, a hibï¿½tlan Duchesse-rï¿½zsaszï¿½l, amely a bokrï¿½rï¿½l beleï¿½gaskodik a napsï¿½tï¿½sbe ï¿½s ahogy ï¿½ mondta nekem, »olyan szï¿½nï¿½, mint az alkony ï¿½s olyan alakï¿½, mint a csï¿½k«. Mindegy neki: a Fotherington Princess ezï¿½st nyerï¿½tï¿½se, a zuzmarï¿½s reggel birkakolompjai, a szï¿½p angorakecskï¿½k, amik naphosszat ï¿½gy ï¿½keskednek a domboldalon, mint a selyemfestmï¿½nyek, a piros fï¿½gebab indï¿½i a kerï¿½tï¿½seken, a hosszï¿½, meleg fï¿½ a hajlï¿½sokban ï¿½s az ï¿½t mentï¿½n, a nyï¿½ri naptï¿½l megperzselt dombok, amelyek sï¿½rgï¿½sbarnï¿½k, mint a settenkedï¿½ oroszlï¿½n, ez mind az ï¿½vï¿½. Mï¿½g azt is lï¿½ttam, hogy ï¿½rzï¿½ki gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½get talï¿½l benne, mikor a karjï¿½t ï¿½s a nyakï¿½t fï¿½rdeti a napfï¿½nyben.

- ï¿½ a szï¿½psï¿½g lelke, - sï¿½hajtotta Leï¿½ - az ember megï¿½rti, hogy az ilyen nï¿½kï¿½rt meg lehet halni.

- Hï¿½t mï¿½g hogy lehet ï¿½lni ï¿½rtï¿½k, - folytatta Terrence - ï¿½s szeretni ï¿½ket, a drï¿½gï¿½kat. Hallgasson ide, Graham ï¿½r, elmondok magï¿½nak egy titkot. Mi bï¿½lcsï¿½szek a madrono-erdï¿½bï¿½l, mi Dick bï¿½kezï¿½sï¿½gï¿½nek nyugodt kikï¿½tï¿½jï¿½ben evezï¿½ hajï¿½tï¿½rï¿½ttek ï¿½s ingyenï¿½lï¿½k, mi egy szerelmes egyesï¿½let vagyunk. ï¿½s mindnyï¿½junk ideï¿½lja a kis nagysï¿½gos asszony. Mi, akik csak vï¿½gigbeszï¿½ljï¿½k ï¿½s vï¿½gigï¿½lmodjuk a napjainkat ï¿½s a vilï¿½g minden kincsï¿½ï¿½rt meg nem mozdï¿½tanï¿½nk a kezï¿½nket, mi az ï¿½ feleskï¿½dï¿½tt lovagjai vagyunk.

- Meg tudnï¿½nk ï¿½rte halni - tette hozzï¿½ Leï¿½, csendesen bï¿½lintva a fejï¿½vel.

- Nem, ï¿½csï¿½m, ï¿½lni tudnï¿½nk ï¿½s verekedni tudnï¿½nk ï¿½rte. Meghalni kï¿½nnyï¿½.

Graham megï¿½rtette. Az ifjï¿½ nem ï¿½rtett az egï¿½szbï¿½l semmit. De a kelta szemï¿½ben, amely a deres hajbunda alï¿½l villogott elï¿½, meg lehetett lï¿½tni, hogy tisztï¿½ban van a helyzettel.

Kï¿½vï¿½lrï¿½l fï¿½rfihangok hallatszottak ï¿½s mikor Martinez ï¿½s Hyal Dar lï¿½ptek be, Terrence megszï¿½lalt:

- Azt mondjï¿½k ezek, hogy nagyszerï¿½ lenn Catalinï¿½ban az idï¿½ ï¿½s pompï¿½s tunhalfogï¿½s esik.

Ejha cocktailt hordott kï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½s nagyon sï¿½rgï¿½tt-forgott, mert Hancock ï¿½s Froelig is belï¿½ptek. Terrence ï¿½nï¿½llï¿½an itta a maga nagy poharï¿½bï¿½l azt a temï¿½ntelen pï¿½linkï¿½t, amit a mozdulatlan arcï¿½ kï¿½nai ï¿½ppen kivï¿½lasztott a szï¿½mï¿½ra ï¿½s atyai hangon adta elï¿½ Leï¿½nak, milyen mï¿½ltatlan ï¿½s veszedelmes dolog az ivï¿½s.

Hallode lï¿½pett be, ï¿½sszehajtogatott papirost tartott a kezï¿½ben ï¿½s habozva nï¿½zett kï¿½rï¿½l, hogy kinek adja oda. Terrence odaintette:

- Ide, gyorssarkï¿½ ï¿½gi futï¿½r! - Belenï¿½zett, aztï¿½n elmondta: - Egy kï¿½rvï¿½ny, nagyon csinosan van megfogalmazva. Ernestine ï¿½s Lute megjï¿½ttek, ï¿½k ï¿½rtï¿½k. Hallgassanak ide, felolvasom: »ï¿½ nemes ï¿½s dicsï¿½ szarvasok! Kï¿½t szegï¿½ny ï¿½s alï¿½zatos tekintetï¿½ ï¿½nï¿½ke egyedï¿½l bolyong az erdï¿½n ï¿½s alï¿½zatosan engedelmet kï¿½r, hogy a diner elï¿½tti rï¿½vid idï¿½re a csorda tanyï¿½jï¿½ra belï¿½phessen.« A szarvas a mi nyelvï¿½nkï¿½n agglegï¿½nyt is jelent, tehï¿½t ï¿½sszezavartï¿½k a metafï¿½rï¿½t. De az ï¿½tlet jï¿½. Dick szabï¿½lya, mï¿½g pedig igen kitï¿½nï¿½ szabï¿½lya az, hogy a dohï¿½nyzï¿½ba csak a fï¿½rfiak egyhangï¿½ beleegyezï¿½sï¿½vel lehet vï¿½szonnï¿½pet beengedni. Feltehetem tehï¿½t a kï¿½rdï¿½st? A nï¿½-pï¿½rtiak feleljenek igennel. Ellenvï¿½lemï¿½ny? Kisebbsï¿½g. Kimondom a hatï¿½rozatot: Hallode repï¿½ljï¿½n ki szï¿½rnyas sarkaival ï¿½s hozza be a hï¿½lgyeket.

Leï¿½ egy verssorral egï¿½szï¿½tette ki az elnï¿½ki szï¿½noklatot. Tisztelettel ejtette ki a szavakat. Mikor ajkai megformï¿½ltï¿½k ï¿½s kimondtï¿½k a szavakat, a szï¿½jï¿½val szinte megcsï¿½kolta ï¿½ket:

- »Kirï¿½lyi homlokoktï¿½l megï¿½rintett sarukkal...«

Terrence pedig mindjï¿½rt folytatta a verset:

- »ï¿½gy fogja megtapodni sï¿½tï¿½t oltï¿½rukat...« Aki ezt ï¿½rta, az nagy ember. Leï¿½ barï¿½tja, Dicknek is barï¿½tja, ï¿½s ï¿½n bï¿½szke vagyok rï¿½, hogy nekem is barï¿½tom.

- Hï¿½t az a mï¿½sik sor, - mondta Leï¿½ - ugyanabbï¿½l a szonettbï¿½l, - tette hozzï¿½ Grahamnek magyarï¿½zva - hallgassa csak meg, hogy cseng: »A pirkadï¿½s dalï¿½t vï¿½gyï¿½dva hallani...«

ï¿½s halk hangjï¿½n a szï¿½psï¿½g bï¿½vï¿½lete ï¿½rzett, amint folytatta:

- Hallgassa ezt: »Az eldorbï¿½zolt szï¿½psï¿½g csak szenny marad kezï¿½n, S az ï¿½lmodott jï¿½vï¿½t ï¿½jjï¿½alkotja majd...«

Mikor Paula hï¿½gai belï¿½ptek, abbahagyta ï¿½s tiszteletteljesen felkelt, hogy ï¿½dvï¿½zï¿½lje ï¿½ket.

A diner olyan volt, mint ï¿½ltalï¿½ban azok a diner-ek, amelyeken a madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcsei is jelen voltak. Dick ï¿½ppen olyan dï¿½hï¿½s ellentmondï¿½nak bizonyult, mint rendesen, ï¿½sszeakasztotta a kereket Hancock Aaronnal Bergson felett ï¿½s ï¿½les, realisztikus felfogï¿½ssal tï¿½madta Bergson metafizikï¿½jï¿½t. Vï¿½lemï¿½nyï¿½t ebben foglalta ï¿½ssze:

- A te Bergsonod, kedves Aaron, sarlatï¿½n. Azt a bizonyos bï¿½vï¿½sz-motyï¿½t hordja a hï¿½tï¿½n, amelynek metafizikai trï¿½kkjei a tudomï¿½ny legfrissebb eredmï¿½nyeivel vannak felcicomï¿½zva ï¿½s kicsinosï¿½tva.

- Ez igaz, - jï¿½rult hozzï¿½ Terrence - Bergson sarlatï¿½n gondolkozï¿½. ï¿½ppen ezï¿½rt olyan nï¿½pszerï¿½.

- Ezennel kï¿½tsï¿½gbe vonom, hogy... - szeretett volna Hancock kï¿½zbeszï¿½lni.

- Vï¿½rj csak egy kicsit, Aaron. Valami ï¿½tvillant a fejemen. Hadd csï¿½pem el, mielï¿½tt eloszlik a vï¿½gtelensï¿½gben. Dick rajtacsï¿½pte a Bergson kellï¿½keit, amelyeket egyenesen a tudomï¿½ny kincseshï¿½zï¿½bï¿½l lopott. Az ï¿½ megdï¿½nthetetlen biztossï¿½gi ï¿½llï¿½spontja is lopï¿½s: Darwin erï¿½elmï¿½letï¿½bï¿½l lopta, amely az erï¿½sebb fenmaradï¿½sï¿½n alapszik. ï¿½s mit csinï¿½lt Bergson ezzel az elmï¿½lettel? Hozzï¿½csapott egy marï¿½knyit a James-fï¿½le rendszerbï¿½l, mazsola gyanï¿½nt elszï¿½rta benne azt a mindnyï¿½junkban ï¿½lï¿½ remï¿½nyt, hogy nem halunk meg egï¿½szen ï¿½s kifï¿½nyesï¿½tette az egï¿½szet Nietzschï¿½nek a bï¿½n sikerï¿½re vonatkozï¿½ felfogï¿½sï¿½val...

- Wilde-ot akarta mondani - javï¿½totta ki Ernestine.

Terrence udvariasan meghajolt ï¿½s sï¿½hajtott egyet:

- Ha maga nincs jelen, talï¿½n a magam szï¿½mï¿½ra is kï¿½pes lettem volna elplagizï¿½lni a gondolatot. Majd egyszer a rï¿½gisï¿½gbï¿½vï¿½rok eldï¿½ntik a szerzï¿½sï¿½get. A magam rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½gy talï¿½lom, hogy Matuzsï¿½lem-szaga van. De hogy folytassam: a bï¿½jos kï¿½zbeszï¿½lï¿½s elï¿½tt azt voltam bï¿½tor fejtegetni, hogy...

ï¿½gy folyt a beszï¿½lgetï¿½s tovï¿½bb. Kï¿½sï¿½bb egy megjegyzï¿½snï¿½l Paula jelentï¿½sen Grahamre pillantott, mert Aaron ezt mondta:

- Ki biztosabb minden dolgï¿½ban, mint Dick?

Terrence mindjï¿½rt felelt rï¿½:

- ï¿½ppen tegnap nï¿½ztem meg az egyï¿½ves fajcsikï¿½k mï¿½nesï¿½t. Ezeknek a ragyogï¿½ ï¿½llatoknak a kï¿½pï¿½vel emlï¿½kemben folytatom a kï¿½rdï¿½st: kiben lehet az ember biztosabb, mint Dickben?

Most Martinez is megkockï¿½ztatott egy megjegyzï¿½st:

- De Hancock elï¿½bbi ellenvetï¿½se csakugyan alapos. A vilï¿½g misztï¿½riumok nï¿½lkï¿½l kï¿½zï¿½nsï¿½ges ï¿½s haszontalan volna. Dick pedig nem lï¿½tja a misztï¿½riumokat.

- Nincs igaza Dickkel szemben, - szï¿½llt sï¿½kra Terrence - ï¿½n nagyon jï¿½l ismerem ï¿½t. Dick elismeri a misztï¿½riumot, de nem a dajkamesï¿½ket. Az ï¿½ szï¿½mï¿½ra nem lï¿½teznek az olyan rablï¿½tï¿½rtï¿½netek, amilyenekben ï¿½nï¿½k romantikusok tobzï¿½dnak.

- Terrence ï¿½rt engem, - helyeselt Dick. - A vilï¿½g maga mindig misztï¿½rium fog maradni. Az ï¿½n emberi ï¿½ntudatom szï¿½mï¿½ra nincs nagyobb misztï¿½rium, mint a gï¿½zok reakciï¿½ja, amelyek az egyszerï¿½ vï¿½zcseppet szï¿½lik. Ha az ember ezt a misztï¿½riumot megoldanï¿½, az ï¿½sszes tï¿½bbi jelensï¿½gek megszï¿½nnï¿½nek misztikusak lenni. Ez az egyetlen vegyi reakciï¿½ olyan, mint azoknak az axiï¿½mï¿½knak egyike, amelyeken a mï¿½rtan egï¿½sz ï¿½pï¿½lete nyugszik. Anyag ï¿½s erï¿½, ezek ï¿½rï¿½k misztï¿½riumok, amelyek a tï¿½r ï¿½s idï¿½ misztï¿½riumaiban nyilatkoznak meg. Maguk a megnyilatkozï¿½sok nem misztikusak, csak amik megnyilatkoznak: az anyag ï¿½s az erï¿½, ï¿½s ahol megnyilatkoznak: a tï¿½r ï¿½s az idï¿½.

Itt Dick elhallgatott ï¿½s kï¿½zï¿½mbï¿½sen a kifejezï¿½stelen Ejha ï¿½s Nï¿½zdcsak arcï¿½ra fï¿½ggesztette a tekintetï¿½t, akik ï¿½ppen vele szemkï¿½zt szolgï¿½ltï¿½k ki valamelyik vendï¿½get. Ezek az arcok nem beszï¿½lnek, gondolta magï¿½ban, de tizet lehet tenni egy ellen, hogy ï¿½k is tudjï¿½k azt, ami Szentatyï¿½mat annyira kihozta a sodrï¿½bï¿½l.

Terrence learatta a diadalt.

- ï¿½me lï¿½thatjï¿½k. Ez a Dick tï¿½kï¿½letes gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½ge. Nem repï¿½lni szï¿½rnyas sarkokkal fel a levegï¿½be. ï¿½ a jï¿½ ï¿½reg talajon szilï¿½rdan ï¿½ll, tï¿½ny ï¿½s tï¿½rvï¿½ny alapjï¿½n, szembe fordulva minden lï¿½gies fantï¿½ziï¿½val ï¿½s bugyborï¿½kolï¿½ ï¿½brï¿½ndozï¿½ssal.

Sem az asztalnï¿½l, sem az est kï¿½sï¿½bbi folyamï¿½n senki sem vehette ï¿½szre, hogy Dicknï¿½l nincs minden rendben. Lï¿½thatï¿½an ï¿½nnepelni akarta Lute ï¿½s Ernestine visszaï¿½rkeztï¿½t, nem igen ment bele a filozï¿½fusok mï¿½ly fejtegetï¿½seibe, trï¿½fï¿½val ï¿½s ravaszsï¿½ggal ï¿½tï¿½tte el a dolgokat. A trï¿½fï¿½s hang Paulï¿½ra is rï¿½ragadt, segï¿½tett neki a szokï¿½sos trï¿½fï¿½kban, amelyek nem kï¿½mï¿½ltek senkit.

A legmulatsï¿½gosabb valamennyi trï¿½fa kï¿½zï¿½tt a csï¿½kvï¿½lasz nevï¿½ tï¿½rsasjï¿½tï¿½k volt. Mindenkinek rï¿½szt kellett venni. Grahamnek jutott a megtiszteltetï¿½s, hogy ï¿½ legyen az elsï¿½, ï¿½gyhogy vï¿½gignï¿½zhette a tï¿½bbiek zavarï¿½t, akiket Dick egyenkï¿½nt bocsï¿½tott be, mint rendezï¿½, a tï¿½likertbï¿½l.

Hancockot karonfogva vezette be Dick a szobï¿½ba ï¿½s odaï¿½llï¿½totta Paula ï¿½s a hï¿½gai elï¿½, akik a szoba kï¿½zepï¿½n egy sorban hï¿½rom szï¿½kre ï¿½llottak. Hancock gyanakodva szemlï¿½lte ï¿½ket ï¿½s ragaszkodott ahoz, hogy a sort ï¿½vatosan kï¿½rï¿½ljï¿½rja ï¿½s minden oldalrï¿½l szemï¿½gyre vegye. De nem tudott rajtuk semmi kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½set felfedezni, kivï¿½ve hogy mind a hï¿½rom nï¿½ puha fï¿½rfikalapot tett a fejï¿½re.

- Nem rossz kï¿½p - mondta Hancock, amint ott ï¿½llott elï¿½ttï¿½k ï¿½s nï¿½zte ï¿½ket.

- Bizony nem rossz, - mondta Dick - ï¿½k reprezentï¿½ljï¿½k a telepet a maga legszebb mivoltï¿½ban. ï¿½k a csï¿½kvï¿½lasz hï¿½lgyei. Tessï¿½k vï¿½lasztani, Aaron.

Aaron hirtelen hï¿½trafordult, hï¿½tha valami fenyegetï¿½ dolog tï¿½rtï¿½nik a hï¿½ta mï¿½gï¿½tt.

- Nem ismerem a jï¿½tï¿½kot. Mind a hï¿½rom hï¿½lgyet megcsï¿½kolhatom?

- Nem. Vï¿½lassz egyet, az fog megcsï¿½kolni.

- De nem lesz megsï¿½rtve az a kï¿½t hï¿½lgy, akit nem vï¿½lasztok? ï¿½s az nem baj, hogy szakï¿½llam van?

Lute megnyugtatta:

- Dehogy baj, sï¿½t. Mindig szerettem volna tudni, milyen lehet megcsï¿½kolni egy feketeszakï¿½llas embert.

Ernestine sï¿½rgette:

- Ma itt valamennyi filozï¿½fus csï¿½kot fog kapni. Siessen. A tï¿½bbiek vï¿½rnak. Engem mï¿½g sokan meg fognak csï¿½kolni.

- Kit vï¿½lasztasz? - biztatta Dick is.

Hancock gï¿½lï¿½nsan vï¿½laszolt:

- Hï¿½t ï¿½des istenem, ha szabad vï¿½lasztani, akkor ï¿½n a kis nagysï¿½gos asszonyt csï¿½kolom meg.

ï¿½sszecsï¿½csï¿½rï¿½tette a szï¿½jï¿½t, Paula lehajolt felï¿½je ï¿½s a kalap benyomott tetejï¿½rï¿½l egy pohï¿½rra valï¿½ vï¿½z zï¿½dult Hancock kï¿½pï¿½be.

Mikor Leï¿½ra kerï¿½lt a sor, ï¿½ rï¿½gtï¿½n bï¿½tran Paulï¿½t vï¿½lasztotta, de majdnem felbomlott a jï¿½tï¿½k, mert hï¿½dolatteljesen meghajolt ï¿½s megcsï¿½kolta a Paula ruhï¿½ja szegï¿½lyï¿½t.

- Nem ï¿½r, nem ï¿½r, - tiltakozott Ernestine - igazi csï¿½kot kï¿½rï¿½nk. Csï¿½csï¿½rï¿½tï¿½s! Kï¿½szï¿½tse a szï¿½jï¿½t!

Lute, hogy kimentse a fiï¿½t kï¿½nos zavarï¿½bï¿½l, beleszï¿½lt:

- Hagyja abba, elï¿½bb csï¿½koljon meg engem, Leï¿½.

Leï¿½ hï¿½lï¿½san pillantott rï¿½, felï¿½je tartotta a szï¿½jï¿½t, de a fejï¿½t nem szegte elï¿½ggï¿½ felfele, ï¿½gyhogy Lute kalapjï¿½rï¿½l ï¿½ppen a tarkï¿½jï¿½ba ï¿½mlï¿½tt a vï¿½z.

Terrence viszont azt a ravaszsï¿½got talï¿½lta ki, hogy kijelentette:

- Mind a hï¿½rman csï¿½koljanak meg. Ez lesz a paradicsom megszorozva hï¿½rommal.

De ezzel azt ï¿½rte el, hogy mind a hï¿½rom kalaprï¿½l egyszerre vï¿½z ï¿½mlï¿½tt az arcï¿½ba.

Dick szï¿½les jï¿½kedve nï¿½ttï¿½n-nï¿½tt. A vilï¿½g leggondtalanabb emberï¿½nek lehetett volna tartani, mikor Froeligot ï¿½s Martinezt az ajtï¿½ mellï¿½ ï¿½llï¿½totta eldï¿½ntendï¿½ a vitï¿½t, hogy melyikï¿½k a nagyobb.

- Tï¿½rdet egyenesen ï¿½s ï¿½ssze, fejet hï¿½tra!

Mikor a fejï¿½k az ajtï¿½hoz ï¿½rt, a mï¿½sik oldalrï¿½l rettentï¿½ dï¿½rrenï¿½s rï¿½mï¿½tette meg ï¿½ket. Az ajtï¿½ kicsapï¿½dott: Ernestine ï¿½llt mï¿½gï¿½tte kï¿½t kezï¿½ben egy-egy bï¿½rbunkï¿½s gongï¿½tï¿½vel.

Dick ï¿½ppen magassarkï¿½ selyempapucsot vett a kezï¿½be ï¿½s egy lepedï¿½t borï¿½tott a maga meg a Terrence fejï¿½re, hogy a tï¿½bbiek harsogï¿½ kacagï¿½sa kï¿½zben ï¿½j tï¿½rsasjï¿½tï¿½kra tanï¿½tsa, mikor Masonï¿½k, Watsonï¿½k ï¿½s az ï¿½sszes hozzï¿½juk tartozï¿½ wickenbergiek ï¿½zï¿½nlï¿½ttek be a szobï¿½ba.

Dick azonnal ragaszkodott hozzï¿½, hogy az ujonnan ï¿½rkezett tï¿½rsasï¿½g fiatalemberei is csinï¿½ljï¿½k vï¿½gig a csï¿½kvï¿½lasz-jï¿½tï¿½kot. De azï¿½rt meghallotta a sok ember zï¿½rzavaros, kï¿½lcsï¿½nï¿½s ï¿½dvï¿½zlï¿½sei kï¿½zben, mikor Mason Lottie ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Ah, jï¿½ estï¿½t, Graham, ï¿½n azt hittem, maga mï¿½r elutazott.

Ennyi ujonnan ï¿½rkezett vendï¿½g fogadï¿½sï¿½nak tï¿½mkelegï¿½ben Dick, kï¿½vï¿½lrï¿½l megtartva fï¿½ktelen jï¿½kedvï¿½t, belï¿½lrï¿½l vï¿½rt valamire: vï¿½rt arra az ï¿½les megfigyelï¿½ kï¿½pessï¿½gre, amely nï¿½kben nï¿½kkel szemben mindig megvan. ï¿½s nï¿½hï¿½ny pillanattal kï¿½sï¿½bb mï¿½r el is fogta Mason Lottie egy erï¿½sen felvillanï¿½ pillantï¿½sï¿½t, amelyet Paulï¿½ra szegezett a lï¿½ny, mikor Paula ï¿½ppen szembe kerï¿½lt Grahammel ï¿½s mondott neki valamit.

- Mï¿½g nem - ï¿½llapï¿½totta meg magï¿½ban Dick. - Lottie mï¿½g nem tudja. De a gyanï¿½ja mï¿½r rï¿½sen van ï¿½s semmi sem tehetnï¿½ boldogabbï¿½ nï¿½i termï¿½szetï¿½t, mintha majd felfedezi, hogy a makulï¿½tlan Paula ï¿½ppen olyan nï¿½, mint a tï¿½bbi.

Mason Lottie huszonï¿½tï¿½ves, magas, feltï¿½nï¿½ lï¿½ny volt, tagadhatatlanul nagyon szï¿½p ï¿½s mint Dick mï¿½r tudta, tagadhatatlanul merï¿½sz. Nem nagyon rï¿½gen a lï¿½ny ï¿½gy hatott rï¿½, sï¿½t olyan ï¿½rthetï¿½en provokï¿½lta, hogy belement vele egy kis flï¿½rtbe, de nem engedte annyira jutni, mint amennyire a lï¿½ny szerette volna. Az ï¿½ rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l nem volt komoly a dolog. Viszont nem engedte, hogy a lï¿½ny rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l komollyï¿½ vï¿½ljï¿½k. Azonban mindenesetre tï¿½bb kis flï¿½rt-sï¿½tï¿½t tettek egyï¿½tt ï¿½s ezï¿½rt most Dick a Lottie szemï¿½ben inkï¿½bb kereste a gyanï¿½ elsï¿½ jelï¿½t, mint a wickenbergi nï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½l akï¿½rmelyikï¿½ben.

Egy fï¿½lï¿½ra mulva odalï¿½pett Mason Lottiehoz, aki a kis Maxwell-lï¿½nynak ï¿½ppen ezt mondta:

- ï¿½ igen, nagyon szï¿½pen tï¿½ncol.

Aztï¿½n azzal a tiszta ï¿½s ï¿½rtatlan tekintettel, amelyrï¿½l Dick tudta, hogy ez fï¿½rkï¿½szi ï¿½t, Dickhez fordult:

- ï¿½gy-e, Dick?

- Kicsoda? Gondolom, Grahamrï¿½l van szï¿½ - felelte zavartalan egyenessï¿½ggel. - ï¿½ bizony nagyon szï¿½pen tï¿½ncol. Mit szï¿½lna hozzï¿½, ha csapnï¿½nk egy kis tï¿½ncot, hogy Maxwell kisasszony is meggyï¿½zï¿½djï¿½k rï¿½la. ï¿½mbï¿½r itt egyetlen nï¿½ van csak, akivel Graham meg tudja mutatni, amit tud.

- Persze, Paula - mondta Lottie.

- Persze, hogy Paula. Tudja, maguk fiatal jï¿½szï¿½gok nem tudnak keringï¿½zni. Nem volt soha alkalmuk megtanulni.

Lottie felï¿½tï¿½tte szï¿½p fejï¿½t. Dick udvariasan rï¿½hagyta.

- Vagy esetleg tanultak egy kicsit a mostani tï¿½ncdivat elï¿½tt. Szï¿½val elindï¿½tom Paulï¿½t ï¿½s Grahamet, ï¿½n felkï¿½rem magï¿½t ï¿½s fogadni merek, hogy az egï¿½sz tï¿½rsasï¿½gban nem is fog tï¿½bb pï¿½r tï¿½ncolni.

A keringï¿½ kï¿½zepï¿½n abbahagyta. ï¿½gy szï¿½lt Lottiehoz:

- Adjuk ï¿½t nekik egï¿½szen a teret. Megï¿½ri a lï¿½tvï¿½ny.

ï¿½s ragyogva a gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½gtï¿½l, ott ï¿½llt ï¿½s nï¿½zte, hogyan tï¿½ncolja vï¿½gig a felesï¿½ge Grahammel a keringï¿½t. Tudta, hogy Lottienak, aki mellette ï¿½ll ï¿½s lopva olykor rï¿½nï¿½z, mï¿½r elaludt a gyanï¿½ja.

A tï¿½nc ï¿½ltalï¿½nos lett ï¿½s mivel nagyon meleg volt az este, a tï¿½likertbe vezetï¿½ nagy ajtï¿½k tï¿½rva-nyitva ï¿½llottak. Hol az egyik, hol a mï¿½sik pï¿½r kitï¿½ncolt a hosszï¿½ ï¿½rkï¿½dok alï¿½ a ragyogï¿½ holdvilï¿½gra, mï¿½gnem mindenki ezt csinï¿½lta.

Kï¿½sï¿½bb, szï¿½net alatt, mikor Dick az egï¿½sz tï¿½rsasï¿½gnak rï¿½szletes elï¿½adï¿½st tartott ï¿½j ï¿½jszakai fï¿½nykï¿½pezï¿½gï¿½pï¿½nek erï¿½nyeirï¿½l, Paula ï¿½gy szï¿½lt Grahamhez:

- Micsoda ember! Hiszen maga is hallhatta, mikor a szilï¿½rdsï¿½gï¿½t diner kï¿½zben Aaron annyira megrï¿½tta ï¿½s Terrence annyira magasztalta. Soha semmi szï¿½rnyï¿½sï¿½g nem esett vele ï¿½letï¿½ben. Soha nem gyï¿½rte le semmi. Mint ahogy Terrence mondta, mindig nyugodtan lehetett rï¿½ ï¿½pï¿½teni. ï¿½s most mindent tud, mindent tud, ï¿½s mï¿½gis olyan biztos magï¿½ban ï¿½s olyan biztos bennem.

A Maxwell-lï¿½ny elvitte Grahamet tï¿½ncolni ï¿½s Paula egyedï¿½l fï¿½zte tovï¿½bb a gondolatait. Dick elvï¿½gre nem is szenved olyan nagyon. Ezt ï¿½ tudhatta volna elï¿½re. Dick a hidegeszï¿½, a gondolkozï¿½. A felesï¿½ge elvesztï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½ppen olyan rendï¿½letlenï¿½l vennï¿½ tudomï¿½sul, mint pï¿½ldï¿½ul a Hegyi Fickï¿½ï¿½t, vagy mint ahogy Braxton Jeremy halï¿½la ï¿½s a Harvest-bï¿½nyï¿½k elï¿½rasztï¿½sa sem rendï¿½tette meg. Ilyen melegen szeretni Grahamet ï¿½s ilyen filozï¿½fussal egyï¿½tt maradni, aki egy ujjal sem tartanï¿½ vissza, nagyon nehï¿½z dolog. ï¿½s megint csak Grahamnek arra a kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen elragadï¿½ vonï¿½sï¿½ra gondolt: az emberi mivoltï¿½ra, a fellï¿½ngolï¿½sï¿½ra. Kï¿½zï¿½s terï¿½leten talï¿½lkoztak. Dick nem tett rï¿½ ilyen hatï¿½st mï¿½g pï¿½rizsi megismerkedï¿½sï¿½k ï¿½rï¿½lt idejï¿½n sem. Dick is elragadï¿½ szerelmes volt, pompï¿½san ï¿½s gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½en tudott beszï¿½lni ï¿½s szerelmet vallani, ami neki akkor annyira tetszett, de az egï¿½sz mï¿½s volt, mint amit most ï¿½ Graham irï¿½nt ï¿½rez, ï¿½s amit Graham kell, hogy ï¿½ irï¿½nta ï¿½rezzen. ï¿½s ï¿½ olyan tapasztalatlan is volt szerelmi dolgokban akkor rï¿½gen, mikor Dick olyan nagyszerï¿½en ï¿½s pompï¿½san felbukkant elï¿½tte.

Ahogy ï¿½gy gondolkozott, megkemï¿½nyedett Dick irï¿½nt ï¿½s szabadjï¿½ra eresztette Graham irï¿½nt valï¿½ forrï¿½ vonzï¿½dï¿½sï¿½t. A sok ember, a vidï¿½msï¿½g, az izgalom, a tï¿½nckï¿½zben valï¿½ ï¿½rintkezï¿½s szorossï¿½ga ï¿½s gyengï¿½dsï¿½ge, a nyï¿½ri este melege, az ï¿½zï¿½nlï¿½ holdfï¿½ny, a virï¿½gok ï¿½jszakai illata, - minden csak lobogtatta ezt a lï¿½ngot ï¿½s mohï¿½n gondolt arra, hogy legalï¿½bb mï¿½g egyszer tï¿½ncolni szeretne Grahammel.

Dick ezalatt magyarï¿½zott:

- Nem kell mestersï¿½ges vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½s hozzï¿½. Nï¿½met talï¿½lmï¿½ny. Rendes vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½snï¿½l elï¿½g egy fï¿½lpercig exponï¿½lni. ï¿½s ami a fï¿½ elï¿½nye, a lemezt rï¿½gtï¿½n elï¿½ lehet hï¿½vni, mint akï¿½rmilyen mï¿½st, sï¿½t sokszorosï¿½tani is lehet. De persze a negatï¿½vot az ember nem sokszorosï¿½tja.

- De ha jï¿½ a lemez, - egï¿½szï¿½tette ki Ernestine - a rendes lemezt is lehet ï¿½gy preparï¿½lni, hogy sokszorosï¿½tï¿½shoz hasznï¿½lhassa az ember.

Ernestine tudta, hogy a fï¿½nykï¿½pezï¿½gï¿½pben egy ï¿½riï¿½si, hatmï¿½teres, rï¿½gï¿½ra jï¿½rï¿½ kï¿½gyï¿½ van elhelyezve, amely rï¿½gtï¿½n kiugrik, mint a paprikajancsi a skatulyï¿½bï¿½l, mihelyt Dick megnyomja a rï¿½gï¿½t. Voltak mï¿½sok is, akik tudtï¿½k ï¿½s ezek biztattï¿½k Dicket, hogy vegye a gï¿½pet ï¿½s csinï¿½ljon egy felvï¿½telt.

Dick nagyon belement volt a trï¿½fï¿½kba, most mï¿½r nem maradt ideje. Bonbright nï¿½hï¿½ny olyan tï¿½viratot hagyott az asztalï¿½n, amik a mexikï¿½i helyzetre vonatkoztak ï¿½s amikre sï¿½rgï¿½sen vï¿½laszolni kellett. Elï¿½bb tehï¿½t a gï¿½ppel a kezï¿½ben ï¿½tvï¿½gott a hï¿½zon ï¿½s a tï¿½likert-folyosï¿½n keresztï¿½l. A tï¿½ncolï¿½ pï¿½rok lassan elfogytak az ï¿½rkï¿½dok alatt ï¿½s betï¿½ncoltak a hallba. Dick egy oszlophoz tï¿½maszkodott ï¿½s nï¿½zte ï¿½ket, amint elsuhantak mellette. Legutoljï¿½ra jï¿½ttek Paula ï¿½s Graham, olyan kï¿½zel hozzï¿½, hogy kinyujtott kï¿½zzel elï¿½rhette volna ï¿½ket. De nem vettï¿½k ï¿½szre, pedig a hold ï¿½ppen rï¿½vilï¿½gï¿½tott. Csak egymï¿½st lï¿½ttï¿½k, az egymï¿½s szemï¿½be nï¿½ztek.

Az elï¿½ttï¿½k tï¿½ncolï¿½ pï¿½r mï¿½r benn volt a hallban, mikor a zene elhallgatott. Graham ï¿½s Paula megï¿½llottak, Graham a karjï¿½t kï¿½szï¿½lt nyujtani, hogy a tï¿½ncosnï¿½jï¿½t bevezesse. De Paula hirtelen vï¿½gytï¿½l megkapatva, a mellï¿½re omlott. Graham fï¿½rfiak mï¿½djï¿½ra ï¿½vatosan mozdulatlan maradt egy percig, de Paula a fï¿½lkarjï¿½val ï¿½tfogta a nyakï¿½t ï¿½s erï¿½szakkal vonta maga felï¿½ csï¿½kra a fï¿½rfi fejï¿½t. Elrï¿½ppenï¿½ szenvedï¿½lyes pillanat volt az egï¿½sz. A kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban mï¿½r mentek karonfogva befelï¿½ ï¿½s Paula nevetï¿½se boldogan ï¿½s termï¿½szetesen hangzott.

Dick az oszlopba kapaszkodott ï¿½s ï¿½gy tï¿½mogatta magï¿½t, hogy el ne essï¿½k. ï¿½gy sem bï¿½rt megï¿½llani a lï¿½bï¿½n, az oszlopnak tï¿½maszkodva leï¿½lt a fï¿½ldre. Gyilkos fulladï¿½st ï¿½rzett s ezt az az ï¿½rzï¿½s kï¿½sï¿½rte, vagy talï¿½n okozta, mintha a szï¿½ve nagyot ugrana a mellï¿½ben. Levegï¿½ utï¿½n kapkodott. Az ï¿½tkozott szï¿½v magasra ugrott, fojtogatta ï¿½s a fï¿½ldre kï¿½nyszerï¿½tette ï¿½s ahogy dï¿½hï¿½sen kï¿½pzelï¿½dï¿½tt magï¿½ban, ï¿½gy ï¿½rezte, hogy szï¿½ve felszaladt a szï¿½jï¿½ba, de ï¿½ megrï¿½gta ï¿½s az ï¿½letadï¿½ lï¿½lekzettel egyï¿½tt lenyelte. Megborzongott, fï¿½zott ï¿½s ï¿½rezte, hogy kiveri a verejtï¿½k. A Forrestek nem voltak szï¿½vbajosok, - dï¿½rmï¿½gte magï¿½ban. Mï¿½g ï¿½lt ï¿½s hogy kï¿½nnyï¿½tsen magï¿½n, az oszlopnak tï¿½maszkodva, megtï¿½rï¿½lte izzadt arcï¿½t. A keze reszketett ï¿½s valami makacs belsï¿½ remegï¿½s folytï¿½n kï¿½nnyï¿½ ï¿½melygï¿½st ï¿½rzett.

Tï¿½nï¿½dï¿½tt magï¿½ban. Nem olyan volt a kï¿½p, mintha Graham csï¿½kolta volna meg Paulï¿½t. Ellenkezï¿½leg: Paula csï¿½kolta meg Grahamet. Ez szerelem. Ez szenvedï¿½ly. Lï¿½tta a sajï¿½t szemï¿½vel ï¿½s mikor fellï¿½ngolt a dolog elï¿½tte, ugrani ï¿½rezte a szï¿½vï¿½t ï¿½s a szï¿½vszï¿½lhï¿½dï¿½s intï¿½ elï¿½jelei ragadtï¿½k meg. Akaratereje megfeszï¿½tï¿½sï¿½vel magï¿½hoz tï¿½rt ï¿½s lï¿½bra ï¿½llott. Megdï¿½bbenve morogta:

- Bizony isten feljï¿½tt a szï¿½mba ï¿½s megharaptam. Megharaptam.

A rendes ï¿½ton a tï¿½likerten keresztï¿½l visszament ï¿½s mikor a fï¿½nykï¿½pezï¿½gï¿½ppel a kezï¿½ben belï¿½pett, olyan ï¿½lomszï¿½nï¿½ volt az arca, hogy a fogadtatï¿½sra nem volt elkï¿½szï¿½lve. Lute ezzel fogadta:

- Kï¿½sï¿½rtetet lï¿½ttï¿½l?

- Rosszul van? Mi baja? - kï¿½rdeztï¿½k mï¿½sok.

- Mi ez? Mi bajotok? *-* kï¿½rdezte
viszont tï¿½lï¿½k ï¿½.

- Az arcod... - mondta Ernestine - ahogy nï¿½zel. Valami tï¿½rtï¿½nt. Mi az?

ï¿½s mialatt igyekezett ura lenni ï¿½nmagï¿½nak, ï¿½szrevette, hogy Mason Lottie gyorsan a Graham ï¿½s Paula arcï¿½ra pillant, Ernestine pedig ï¿½szreveszi ezt a pillantï¿½st ï¿½s ï¿½ is kï¿½veti abba az irï¿½nyba.

- Igen, - hazudta - rossz hï¿½rek. ï¿½ppen most kaptam. Braxton Jeremy meghalt. Megï¿½ltï¿½k. Megcsiptï¿½k a mexikï¿½iak, mikor megprï¿½bï¿½lt ï¿½tjutni Arizonï¿½ba.

Terrence Dick karjï¿½ra tette a kezï¿½t:

- Szegï¿½ny jï¿½ Jeremy, Isten nyugtassa, nagyon derï¿½k ember volt. Gyere, ï¿½regem, jï¿½t fog tenni egy korty ital, ï¿½n odavezetlek, mert ï¿½n arravalï¿½ ember vagyok.

- ï¿½, egï¿½szen jï¿½l ï¿½rzem magam, - mondta Dick mosolyogva, vï¿½llat vont ï¿½s kiegyenesedett, mintha igyekeznï¿½k erï¿½t venni magï¿½n - egy pillanatra nagyon lesujtott. Eszem ï¿½gï¿½ban sem volt, hogy Jeremy ne tudjon kivergï¿½dni. De megfogtï¿½k kï¿½t mï¿½rnï¿½kï¿½vel egyï¿½tt. Elï¿½szï¿½r rettentï¿½en verekedtek. Bevettï¿½k magukat egy sziklaszakadï¿½k alï¿½ ï¿½s az ï¿½tszï¿½z fï¿½nyi tï¿½meget huszonnï¿½gy ï¿½rï¿½n keresztï¿½l sakkban tudtï¿½k tartani. De a mexikï¿½iak vï¿½gï¿½l felï¿½lrï¿½l dinamitot dobtak rï¿½juk. Haj, haj, az ï¿½let olyan, mint a fï¿½. ï¿½s hol a tavalyi fï¿½? Terrence, a te ï¿½tleted nem rossz ï¿½tlet. Gyerï¿½nk.

Pï¿½r lï¿½pï¿½s utï¿½n visszanï¿½zett ï¿½s visszaszï¿½lt:

- De azï¿½rt a trï¿½fï¿½t nem hagyjuk abba. Rï¿½gtï¿½n visszajï¿½vï¿½k ï¿½s megcsinï¿½lom a felvï¿½telt. Ernestine, ï¿½llï¿½tsd ï¿½ssze a csoportot, ï¿½s legyen gondod rï¿½, hogy a legerï¿½sebben vilï¿½gï¿½tott helyre ï¿½lljanak.

Terrence a dohï¿½nyzï¿½ban kinyitotta a bar-szekrï¿½nyt, kirakta a poharakat, Dick pedig ezalatt felgyujtott egy faliï¿½gï¿½t ï¿½s a szekrï¿½nyajtï¿½ hï¿½tï¿½nak a tï¿½krï¿½ben vizsgï¿½lgatta az arcï¿½t.

- Most mï¿½r rendben van, - mondta - egï¿½szen magamhoz jï¿½ttem.

- Csak mï¿½lï¿½ rosszullï¿½t volt - szï¿½lt Terrence ï¿½s tï¿½ltï¿½tte a whiskyt. - Bizony az embernek joga van a szï¿½vï¿½re venni, ha rï¿½gi barï¿½tai elmennek.

Kocintottak ï¿½s szï¿½tlanul ittak.

- Mï¿½g egyet - mondta Dick odatolva a poharï¿½t.

- Szï¿½lj mikor elï¿½g - mondta az ï¿½r, ï¿½s rendï¿½thetetlen figyelemmel szemlï¿½lte a pï¿½linkï¿½nak a nagy pohï¿½rban emelkedï¿½ ï¿½rjï¿½t.

Dick vï¿½rt, amï¿½g fï¿½lig megtelik.

Megint kocintottak ï¿½s szï¿½tlanul ittak egymï¿½s szemï¿½be nï¿½zve. Dick hï¿½lï¿½san olvasta Terrence szemï¿½bï¿½l a szï¿½ve teljes felajï¿½nlï¿½sï¿½t.

Mikor visszaï¿½rtek a hall kï¿½zepï¿½re, Ernestine vidï¿½man ï¿½llï¿½tgatta csoportba az ï¿½ldozatokat, de kï¿½zben a Lottie, Paula ï¿½s Graham arcï¿½rï¿½l prï¿½bï¿½lt valamit megtudni arrï¿½l a zavaros valamirï¿½l, amit megï¿½rzett. Mï¿½rt nï¿½zett Lottie olyan hirtelenï¿½l ï¿½s olyan kutatï¿½an Grahamre ï¿½s Paulï¿½ra? Paulï¿½val sincs minden rendben. Nyugtalan, zavart, mï¿½g pedig valahogy nem olyan mï¿½don, ahogy ezt Braxton Jeremy halï¿½lhï¿½re okozhatta volna. Graham arcï¿½rï¿½l Ernestine nem tudott olvasni semmit. Teljesen olyan volt, mint mï¿½skor, a trï¿½fï¿½in a Maxwell-lï¿½ny ï¿½s Masonnï¿½ ï¿½ppen nagyokat nevettek.

Paula a maga rï¿½szï¿½rï¿½l zavarodott volt. Mi tï¿½rtï¿½nt? Mï¿½rt hazudott Dick? Mert hogy Jeremy meghalt, azt mï¿½r kï¿½t napja tudja. ï¿½s ennyire soha senki halï¿½la nem hatott rï¿½. Talï¿½n mï¿½rtï¿½ktelenï¿½l ivott. Hï¿½zasï¿½letï¿½k folyamï¿½n Paula mï¿½r lï¿½tta nï¿½hï¿½nyszor italosnak a fï¿½rjï¿½t. Dick mindig jï¿½l bï¿½rta az italt, nem is lehetett ilyenkor ï¿½szrevenni a szesz egyï¿½b jelï¿½t rajta, mint hogy fï¿½tyolos lett a szeme ï¿½s tï¿½lsï¿½gosan beszï¿½des lett, csapongï¿½an jï¿½rt az esze ï¿½s dalokat rï¿½gtï¿½nzï¿½tt. Talï¿½n lenn a dohï¿½nyzï¿½ban ivott a vasfejï¿½ Terrence-szel? Paula emlï¿½kezett rï¿½, hogy diner elï¿½tt valamennyit ott talï¿½lta egyï¿½tt. Dick furcsa viselkedï¿½sï¿½nek igazi oka egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem jutott eszï¿½be. Mï¿½r csak azï¿½rt sem, mert Dicknek nem volt szokï¿½sa leselkedni.

Dick vï¿½gan jï¿½tt vissza, szï¿½vbï¿½l nevetett Terrence valami mï¿½kï¿½jï¿½n, sï¿½t Grahamet odahï¿½vta ï¿½s mï¿½g egyszer elmondatta a mï¿½kï¿½t. Jï¿½ï¿½zï¿½en nevettek mind a hï¿½rman, s ezalatt Dick elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½tette a fï¿½nykï¿½pezï¿½st. Mikor a nagy kï¿½gyï¿½ kiugrott a gï¿½pbï¿½l ï¿½s a rï¿½mï¿½lt asszonyok ï¿½sszevissza sikoltoztak, a fenyegetï¿½ homï¿½ly teljesen eloszlott a lelkekrï¿½l ï¿½s Dick mingyï¿½rt nekifogott, hogy a borsï¿½-jï¿½tï¿½kot megrendezze.

Ez a tï¿½rsasjï¿½tï¿½k abbï¿½l ï¿½llott, hogy egymï¿½stï¿½l tizenï¿½t lï¿½pï¿½snyire szï¿½keket ï¿½llï¿½tottak ï¿½s a jï¿½tï¿½kosoknak ï¿½t perc alatt a lehetï¿½ legtï¿½bb borsï¿½szemet kellett elvinni egy asztali kï¿½s pengï¿½jï¿½n egyik szï¿½ktï¿½l a mï¿½sikhoz. A versenyt megelï¿½zï¿½ prï¿½bï¿½lkozï¿½sok utï¿½n Dick Paulï¿½t vï¿½lasztotta a maga partnerï¿½nek ï¿½s nemes viadalra hï¿½vta ki az egï¿½sz vilï¿½got, beleï¿½rtve Wickenberget ï¿½s a madrono-erdï¿½t is. A fogadï¿½sokban sok doboz cukor forgott kockï¿½n. A verseny vï¿½gï¿½n Dick ï¿½s Paula lettek az elsï¿½k Graham ï¿½s Ernestine ellen, akik az utï¿½nuk kï¿½vetkezï¿½ legjobb pï¿½rnak bizonyultak. A tï¿½rsasï¿½g elï¿½szï¿½r azt akarta, hogy Dick beszï¿½det tartson, de aztï¿½n elkezdtek kiabï¿½lni, hogy Dick rï¿½gtï¿½nï¿½zzï¿½n egy borsï¿½himnuszt. Dick engedett a kï¿½zï¿½hajnak. Indiï¿½n szokï¿½s szerint merevlï¿½bï¿½ ugrï¿½sokkal ï¿½s lï¿½bszï¿½rveregetï¿½ssel ï¿½tï¿½tte az ï¿½nekhez a hangsï¿½lyt:

- ï¿½n vagyok Forrest Dick, Szerencsï¿½s Richï¿½rd fia, Jonathannak, a puritï¿½nnak, a fia, fia Johnnak, aki tengeri rablï¿½ volt, mint elï¿½tte az ï¿½ apja, Albert, aki Mortimernek volt a fia, a kalï¿½znak, akit meglï¿½ncolva akasztottak fel ï¿½s ï¿½ gyermektelenï¿½l halt meg. ï¿½n vagyok az utolsï¿½ Forrest, de az elsï¿½ borsï¿½-hordï¿½. Sem Nimrï¿½dhoz, sem Sandowhoz nem lehet engem hasonlï¿½tani. Kï¿½spengï¿½n hordom a borsï¿½t, ezï¿½stkï¿½s pengï¿½jï¿½n. A borsï¿½szemeket az ï¿½rdï¿½g ingerli. ï¿½n pedig kecsesen, gyorsan ï¿½s nagy mennyisï¿½gben hordom a borsï¿½szemeket. Olyan borsï¿½szem mï¿½g nem termett, amely kifogott volna rajtam. A borsï¿½szem gurul. A borsï¿½szem gurul. De mint Atlas, aki a vilï¿½got hordja, ï¿½n sohasem ejtem el. Istentï¿½l megï¿½ldott tehetsï¿½g vagyok. Mestere vagyok a mï¿½vï¿½szetnek. Ez pedig gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ mï¿½vï¿½szet. A borsï¿½szemek gurulnak, a borsï¿½szemek gurulnak ï¿½s ï¿½n viszem ï¿½ket mindï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½n ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½. Aaron bï¿½lcs ember. Nem tud borsï¿½szemet vinni. Ernestine szï¿½ke. Nem tud borsï¿½szemet vinni. Evan sportember. Elejti a borsï¿½szemeket. Paula a partnerem. Hozzï¿½nyï¿½l a borsï¿½szemekhez. Csak ï¿½n, ï¿½n, Isten ï¿½s sajï¿½t tehetsï¿½gem kegyelmï¿½bï¿½l, csak ï¿½n tudok borsï¿½szemet vinni. Ha akï¿½rki megelï¿½gelte a himnuszomat, vï¿½gjon hozzï¿½m valamit. Bï¿½szke vagyok. Fï¿½radhatatlan vagyok. Kï¿½pes vagyok akï¿½rmeddig ï¿½nekelni. ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½ fogok ï¿½nekelni. Kezdetik a mï¿½sodik ï¿½nek. Ha meghalok, borsï¿½ï¿½gyba temessetek. Amï¿½g ï¿½lek...

Az elï¿½relï¿½tott pï¿½rnadobï¿½lï¿½s elfojtotta a himnuszt. De csapongï¿½ jï¿½kedvï¿½t nem. Mert a kï¿½vetkezï¿½ pillanatban mï¿½r ott volt egy sarokban, hogy Mason Lottieval ï¿½s Paulï¿½val ï¿½sszeeskï¿½vï¿½st szï¿½tson Terrence ellen.

ï¿½gy folytatï¿½dott a mulatsï¿½g, egï¿½sz ï¿½jjel tï¿½ncoltak, trï¿½fï¿½ltak ï¿½s jï¿½tszottak. ï¿½jfï¿½lkor soupert szolgï¿½ltak fel ï¿½s a wickenbergiek csak hajnali kettï¿½kor voltak menendï¿½k. Mikor aztï¿½n szedelï¿½dzkï¿½dtek, Paula azt indï¿½tvï¿½nyozta, hogy mï¿½snap dï¿½lutï¿½n rï¿½nduljanak ki a Sacramento folyï¿½hoz ï¿½s nï¿½zzï¿½k meg Dick rizstenyï¿½sztï¿½si kï¿½sï¿½rleteit.

- Nekem mï¿½s tervem van, - mondta Dick Paulï¿½nak. - Ismered a Szikomor-patakon tï¿½l azokat a hegyi legelï¿½ket? Ott a legutï¿½bbi tï¿½z napon belï¿½l hï¿½rom egyï¿½ves csikï¿½ pusztult el.

- Ezï¿½storoszlï¿½nok! - kiï¿½ltott Paula.

- Mï¿½g pedig legalï¿½bb kettï¿½! - mondta Dick, majd magyarï¿½zï¿½an Graham felï¿½ indult: - ï¿½szakrï¿½l hï¿½zï¿½dtak le ide. Nï¿½ha megteszik. ï¿½t ï¿½vvel ezelï¿½tt hï¿½rman is voltak. Moss ï¿½s Hartley ott lesznek ï¿½s vï¿½rnak a kutyï¿½kkal. Kettï¿½nek megtalï¿½ltï¿½k a csapï¿½sï¿½t. Mit szï¿½lnï¿½tok hozzï¿½, ha valamennyien velem jï¿½nnï¿½tek? Rï¿½gtï¿½n lunch utï¿½n indulhatunk.

- ï¿½n hadd menjek a Mollien! - kï¿½rte Lute.

- Te pedig jï¿½hetsz az Altadenï¿½n - mondta Paula Ernestinenek.

A lovak felï¿½l hamar hatï¿½roztak. Froelig ï¿½s Martinez is beleegyeztek, hogy mennek, de elï¿½re megmondtï¿½k, hogy sem lï¿½ni, sem lovagolni nem tudnak jï¿½l.

Azutï¿½n mindnyï¿½jan kikï¿½sï¿½rtï¿½k a wickenbergieket ï¿½s mikor az autï¿½k elmentek, mï¿½g fenmaradtak egy kicsit egyetmï¿½st elï¿½kï¿½szï¿½teni a vadï¿½szatra. Vï¿½gï¿½l aztï¿½n indultak lefekï¿½dni.

- Jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t mindenkinek - mondta Dick. - ï¿½n mï¿½g megnï¿½zem Alden Bessiet, mielï¿½tt lefekszem. Hennessy ott virraszt mellette. Lï¿½nyok, el ne felejtsï¿½tek, lunchhï¿½z mï¿½r lovaglï¿½ruhï¿½ban gyertek; aki elkï¿½sik, azt elï¿½tkozom.

Fotherington Princess kiï¿½rdemï¿½lt anyja csakugyan rossz bï¿½rben volt, de Dick csak azï¿½rt akarta ilyen kï¿½sï¿½n megnï¿½zni, mert egyedï¿½l kï¿½vï¿½nt lenni ï¿½s mert nem bï¿½rta volna lelki erï¿½vel, hogy esetleg egy percre is egyedï¿½l maradjon Paulï¿½val kevï¿½ssel az utï¿½n, amit a tï¿½likertben meglï¿½tott.

Megfordult, mert kï¿½nnyï¿½ lï¿½pteket hallott a kavicson.

Ernestine utï¿½lï¿½rte ï¿½s karon fogta.

- Szegï¿½ny ï¿½reg Alden Bessie. Gondoltam, veled jï¿½vï¿½k.

Dick mï¿½g mindig jï¿½tszotta ma ï¿½jszakai szerepï¿½t. Felidï¿½zte az este folyamï¿½n adï¿½dott mindenfï¿½le trï¿½fï¿½kat ï¿½s nevetett ï¿½s hahotï¿½zott a visszaemlï¿½kezï¿½stï¿½l. De amint elhallgattak, Ernestine megszï¿½lalt:

- Dick, neked valami bajod van.

A lï¿½ny ï¿½rezte, hogy Dick megmerevedik. Sietve tette hozzï¿½:

- Tehetek valamit? Jï¿½l tudod, hogy szï¿½mï¿½thatsz rï¿½m. Beszï¿½lj.

- Helyes. Beszï¿½lek. Csak egyet akarok mondani.

Hï¿½lï¿½san megszorï¿½totta a lï¿½ny karjï¿½t ï¿½s folytatta:

- Holnap reggel ï¿½zenetet kapsz tï¿½lem. Sï¿½rgï¿½set, de nem tulsï¿½gosan komolyat, csak ï¿½ppen arrï¿½l lesz szï¿½, hogy Lutetal egyï¿½tt csomagolj ï¿½s utazz el.

- Ez minden? - kï¿½rdezte a lï¿½ny meghï¿½kkenve.

- Nagy szï¿½vessï¿½get teszel vele.

- Hï¿½t nem akarsz velem beszï¿½lni? - kï¿½rdezte a lï¿½ny megdï¿½bbenve a visszautasï¿½tï¿½s fï¿½lï¿½tt.

- Olyan idï¿½ben fogod kapni az ï¿½zenetemet, hogy idejï¿½ben felkeltsenek. Alden Bessievel ne tï¿½rï¿½dj. Menj be szï¿½pen. Jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t.

Megcsï¿½kolta, gyï¿½ngï¿½den a hï¿½z felï¿½ tolta ï¿½s tovï¿½bb ment.

A beteg kancï¿½tï¿½l visszafelï¿½ jï¿½vet Dick mï¿½g megï¿½llt egy kicsit a csï¿½dï¿½ristï¿½llï¿½nï¿½l, hogy hallgassa Hegyi Fickï¿½ ï¿½s tï¿½rsai ï¿½rï¿½kï¿½s dobogï¿½sï¿½t. Valahonnan a dombok felï¿½l a csendes levegï¿½n ï¿½t valami legelï¿½szï¿½ ï¿½llat magï¿½nyos kolompja hallatszott ide. Vï¿½ratlanul gyengï¿½d szellï¿½cske kï¿½lt, amely balzsamos meleggel simogatta. ï¿½s balzsamossï¿½ tette a levegï¿½t az ï¿½rï¿½ bï¿½za ï¿½s szï¿½radï¿½ fï¿½ szinte parfï¿½mï¿½s szaga. A lovak dobogtak. Dick mï¿½lyet sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s azt ï¿½rezte, hogy soha jobban nem szerette mindezt: felnï¿½zett, ï¿½s pillantï¿½sa vï¿½gigfutott azon a vonalon, amit a hegyek ï¿½le megrajzolt a csillagok mezejï¿½re.

- Nem, Cato, az ember nem ï¿½rthet veled egyet. Az ember nem ï¿½gy megy el az ï¿½letbï¿½l, mint a kocsmï¿½bï¿½l. ï¿½gy megy el belï¿½le, mint egy lakï¿½sbï¿½l, az egyetlen lakï¿½sbï¿½l, amelyet valaha is ismerhet. Elmegy... sehovï¿½. Mï¿½gï¿½tte jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t, elï¿½tte a kaszï¿½s ember... ï¿½s sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½g.

Indulni kï¿½szï¿½lt, de a mï¿½nek dobogï¿½sa mï¿½g egyszer visszatartotta, ï¿½s a kolomp tisztï¿½n csengett a domboldalon. Az orra mï¿½ly lï¿½lekzettel szï¿½vta be a levegï¿½ balzsamï¿½t ï¿½s szerette. ï¿½s Dick szerette ezt a fï¿½ldet, amelyet ï¿½ teremtett.

Egy idï¿½zet jutott eszï¿½be:

Benï¿½ztem a jï¿½vï¿½be

S ott senkimet se lï¿½ttam...

Aztï¿½n elmosolyodott ï¿½s megfejelte egy mï¿½sikkal:

Kilenc nagy fiut szï¿½lt nekem,

A tï¿½bbi kilenc lï¿½ny volt...

Mikor visszatï¿½rt a hï¿½zba, nem ment be mingyï¿½rt, hanem egy darabig ï¿½lldogï¿½lva nï¿½zte a hï¿½z ï¿½riï¿½s vonalait. Bent sem tï¿½rt rï¿½gtï¿½n a maga lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ba. Inkï¿½bb vï¿½gigkï¿½szï¿½lta a hallgatag szobï¿½kat, a tï¿½likertes folyosï¿½kat ï¿½s a derengï¿½ vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ hallokat. A lelkiï¿½llapota olyan volt, mint azï¿½, aki utazni kï¿½szï¿½l. Felcsavarta a lï¿½ngokat Paula gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½ tï¿½likertjï¿½ben, leï¿½lt egy puritï¿½n ï¿½zlï¿½sï¿½ rï¿½mai mï¿½rvï¿½nylï¿½cï¿½ra ï¿½s vï¿½gigszï¿½vott egy cigarettï¿½t, amï¿½g kitervezte a teendï¿½ket.

ï¿½, elï¿½g ï¿½gyesen fogja csinï¿½lni. Olyan vadï¿½szbalesetet fog rendezni, hogy bolonddï¿½ tartja vele az egï¿½sz vilï¿½got. Gondja lesz rï¿½, hogy fel ne sï¿½ljï¿½n vele. Holnap lesz a napja, a Szikomor-folyï¿½n tï¿½l, az erdï¿½kben. A nagyapja, Forrest Jonathan, a hï¿½res puritï¿½n, vadï¿½szbaleset kï¿½vetkeztï¿½ben halt meg. ï¿½ elï¿½szï¿½r nem hitt ebben a balesetben. Hï¿½t ha nem volt baleset, akkor az ï¿½regï¿½r jï¿½l csinï¿½lta. A csalï¿½dban sohasem gyanï¿½tottï¿½k, hogy nem baleset volt, hanem mï¿½s.

Mikor a kezï¿½t a gombra tette, hogy lecsavarja a vilï¿½gï¿½tï¿½st, mï¿½g vï¿½rt egy pillanatig, hogy gyors pillantï¿½st vessen a medencï¿½ben ï¿½s a rï¿½zsï¿½k kï¿½zï¿½tt jï¿½tszï¿½ mï¿½rvï¿½nyszobrokra.

- Viszontlï¿½tï¿½sra, gyerekek, - szï¿½lt halkan hozzï¿½juk - ti voltatok hozzï¿½m a legkï¿½zelebb, mikor elhatï¿½roztam.

A hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½tnï¿½zett a Paula szobï¿½ja felï¿½. Nem lï¿½tott vilï¿½gossï¿½got. Bizonyosan alszik.

Az ï¿½gya szï¿½lï¿½n vette ï¿½szre, hogy az egyik cipï¿½jï¿½t nem fï¿½zte ki. Mosolygott a szï¿½rakozottsï¿½gï¿½n ï¿½s kifï¿½zte. De ugyan mi szï¿½ksï¿½ge is van az alvï¿½sra? Idestova nï¿½gy ï¿½ra reggel. Legalï¿½bb megnï¿½zi utoljï¿½ra a napfelkeltï¿½t. A vï¿½gsï¿½ dolgok hamar mï¿½lnak. Voltakï¿½ppen fel van mï¿½r ï¿½ltï¿½zve ï¿½letï¿½ben utoljï¿½ra. ï¿½s a tegnap reggeli fï¿½rdï¿½je legyen az utolsï¿½. A puszta vï¿½z ï¿½gysem ï¿½llï¿½tja meg a halï¿½l munkï¿½jï¿½t. Megborotvï¿½lkozni azonban mï¿½gis meg fog. Ez lesz az utolsï¿½ hiï¿½sï¿½ga. A halott ember arcï¿½n a szï¿½r mï¿½g nï¿½ni szokott egy ideig.

A fali safebï¿½l elï¿½vette vï¿½grendelete egy pï¿½ldï¿½nyï¿½t, odavitte az ï¿½rï¿½asztalhoz ï¿½s gondosan ï¿½tolvasta. Nï¿½hï¿½ny aprï¿½ pontot mï¿½g beleï¿½rt olvashatï¿½, tiszta ï¿½rï¿½ssal, ï¿½s elï¿½vigyï¿½zatbï¿½l hat hï¿½nappal elï¿½bbrï¿½l keltezte ezt a pï¿½tlï¿½st. Az utolsï¿½ pontban hï¿½tre egï¿½szï¿½tette ki a madrono-erdï¿½ bï¿½lcseinek szï¿½mï¿½t ï¿½s alapï¿½tvï¿½nyt tett a szï¿½mukra.

Aztï¿½n ï¿½tnï¿½zte az ï¿½letbiztosï¿½tï¿½si kï¿½tvï¿½nyeket, mindegyiknï¿½l meggyï¿½zï¿½dï¿½tt, hogy az ï¿½ngyilkossï¿½gra is ï¿½rvï¿½nyes klauzula benne van. Alï¿½ï¿½rta azokat a leveleket, amelyek elï¿½zï¿½ nap reggel ï¿½ta vï¿½rtak rï¿½. Levelet diktï¿½lt a diktafonba a kï¿½nyveinek kiadï¿½jï¿½hoz. Miutï¿½n rendbehozta az ï¿½rï¿½asztalï¿½t, gyorsan mï¿½rleget hevenyï¿½szett a bevï¿½telekrï¿½l ï¿½s kiadï¿½sokrï¿½l, levonva a Harvest-bï¿½nyï¿½k teljes jï¿½vedelmï¿½t. Ebbï¿½l a mï¿½rlegbï¿½l mï¿½g egyet csinï¿½lt, erï¿½sen felsrï¿½folta a kiadï¿½sokat, ï¿½s a bevï¿½teleket lehetetlenï¿½l kis ï¿½sszegekre szorï¿½totta le. Az eredmï¿½ny mï¿½g mindig jï¿½ kï¿½pet mutatott.

A papï¿½rokat eltï¿½pte ï¿½s programot ï¿½rt arrï¿½l, hogyan kell ezentï¿½l a Harvest-helyzetet kezelni. Vï¿½zlatosan csinï¿½lta, vï¿½letlen ï¿½tlet gyanï¿½nt, hogy mikor majd megtalï¿½ljï¿½k az ï¿½rï¿½sai kï¿½zï¿½tt, ne kelthessen gyanï¿½t. Ugyanï¿½gy kidolgozta a juhnemesï¿½tï¿½s hï¿½szï¿½ves programjï¿½t ï¿½s kidolgozott egy tenyï¿½sztï¿½si tï¿½blï¿½zatot le- ï¿½s felmenï¿½ ï¿½gakkal a Hegyi Fickï¿½, Fotherington Princess ï¿½s vï¿½logatott leszï¿½rmazottaik szï¿½mï¿½ra.

Mikor Hallode hat ï¿½rï¿½ra bejï¿½tt a kï¿½vï¿½val, Dick az utolsï¿½ pontot ï¿½rta le rizstermelï¿½si tervezetï¿½nek.

»Bï¿½r az olasz rizs talï¿½n megï¿½rnï¿½ a korai ï¿½rlelï¿½sre vonatkozï¿½ kï¿½sï¿½rleteket, a sï¿½k ï¿½ltetvï¿½nyeket egy ideig egyenlï¿½ rï¿½szben a Moti, Joko ï¿½s Wateribune fajokra akarom mï¿½g fordï¿½tani. Mivel ï¿½gy az ï¿½rï¿½si idï¿½ kï¿½lï¿½nbï¿½zï¿½, ugyanaz a munkaerï¿½ ï¿½s ugyanaz a gazdasï¿½gi felszerelï¿½s ugyanazon vezetï¿½s alatt tï¿½bbet tud megmunkï¿½lni, mintha csak egy fajta termesztï¿½sï¿½rï¿½l lenne szï¿½.«

Hallode az ï¿½rï¿½asztalon szolgï¿½lta fel a kï¿½vï¿½t ï¿½s Dick magï¿½ban ï¿½szintï¿½n megcsodï¿½lta az ï¿½nuralmï¿½t, mert a kï¿½nai arca mozdulatlan maradt mï¿½g akkor is, mikor bepillantott a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½be ï¿½s lï¿½tta, hogy az ï¿½gy ï¿½rintetlen.

Fï¿½l hï¿½tkor megszï¿½lalt a telefon. Dick megismerte a Hennessy fï¿½radt hangjï¿½t:

- Tudtam, hogy ilyenkor mï¿½r ï¿½bren tetszik lenni ï¿½s ï¿½rï¿½met okozok azzal a hï¿½rrel, hogy Alden Bessie tï¿½l van a bajon. Nem ment kï¿½nnyen. Most pedig ï¿½n esem le a lï¿½bamrï¿½l.

Dick megborotvï¿½lkozott, rï¿½pillantott a zuhanyra, egy darabig tï¿½tovï¿½zott, aztï¿½n makacs kifejezï¿½st ï¿½ltï¿½tt. »Akasszanak fel, ha megteszem, - gondolta magï¿½ban - tisztï¿½ra idï¿½pocsï¿½kolï¿½s volna.« ï¿½s mindï¿½ssze a cipï¿½je helyett hï¿½zott mï¿½sikat, nehï¿½z magasszï¿½rï¿½t, ami vadï¿½szatra valï¿½.

Visszaï¿½lt az ï¿½rï¿½asztalï¿½hoz ï¿½s ï¿½ppen megnï¿½zte a noteszï¿½ben a ma reggeli munkï¿½ra vonatkozï¿½ jegyzeteket, mikor Paula lï¿½pett be. Nem a szokott szavakat mondta, hanem szorosan hozzï¿½lï¿½pett ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- A makk-ï¿½ltetï¿½. A fï¿½radhatatlan, ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½ munkï¿½s Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½.

Dick felkelt ï¿½s nem nyujtott kezet, hogy ne kï¿½nyszerï¿½tse Paulï¿½t testi ï¿½rintkezï¿½sre. Paula sem nyujtotta a kezï¿½t. A fï¿½rfi ï¿½szrevette a lilï¿½skï¿½k ï¿½rnyï¿½kot az asszonyka szeme alatt.

- Fehï¿½r ï¿½jszaka? - kï¿½rdezte ï¿½s szï¿½ket hï¿½zott neki.

- Fehï¿½r ï¿½jszaka, - felelte Paula - egy mï¿½sodpercet se tudtam aludni, pedig annyira prï¿½bï¿½ltam.

Egyiknek sem akarï¿½dzott beszï¿½lni. Mind a ketten kelletlenï¿½l ï¿½reztï¿½k, hogy nem tudjï¿½k elvonni a tekintetï¿½ket egymï¿½s szemï¿½bï¿½l.

- Te... te sem lï¿½tszol egï¿½szen egï¿½szsï¿½gesnek... - mondta Paula.

- Igen, az arcom. Nï¿½ztem magam is borotvï¿½lkozï¿½s kï¿½zben. Az a kifejezï¿½s nem akar elmï¿½lni rï¿½la.

- Valami tï¿½rtï¿½nt veled az ï¿½jjel - prï¿½bï¿½lkozott Paula. ï¿½s Dick meglï¿½tta a szemï¿½ben ugyanazt a rï¿½szvï¿½tet, mint amit Szentatyï¿½m szemï¿½ben lï¿½tott.

Paula folytatta:

- Mindenki ï¿½szrevette az arcod kifejezï¿½sï¿½t. Mi volt az?

Dick vï¿½llat vont. Eszï¿½be jutott, hogy ennek az arckifejezï¿½snek elsï¿½ figyelmeztetï¿½sï¿½t maga is a Paula-festette arckï¿½ptï¿½l kapta. ï¿½s kitï¿½rï¿½en felelt:

- Nï¿½ha ilyen az arcom. ï¿½szrevetted?

Paula bï¿½lintott. Aztï¿½n hirtelen gondolat villant meg benne, amely kiformï¿½lï¿½dott, mielï¿½tt szavakba foglalta volna.

- Dick, csak nincs valami ï¿½gyed?

Ez az ï¿½t mï¿½g nyitva van. Hï¿½tha Dicknek valami mï¿½s titka van. Ez mï¿½g segï¿½thetne. Hangjï¿½bï¿½l, arcï¿½bï¿½l a remï¿½ny nï¿½zett elï¿½. De Dick lassan ingatta a fejï¿½t. Mosolygott. Figyelte Paula arcï¿½n a csalï¿½dottsï¿½got. Majd ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Visszavonom. Csakugyan van valami ï¿½gyem.

- Szï¿½vï¿½gy? - kï¿½rdezte Paula ï¿½s sï¿½vï¿½ran vï¿½rta a vï¿½laszt.

- Szï¿½vï¿½gy.

Meglepï¿½ dolog kï¿½vetkezett, amire Paula nem volt elkï¿½szï¿½lve. Dick hirtelen kï¿½zelebb tolta a szï¿½kï¿½t, mï¿½g a tï¿½rdï¿½k ï¿½sszeï¿½rt, elï¿½re hajlott ï¿½s gyorsan, de gyengï¿½den foglyul ejtette az asszonykï¿½nak tï¿½rdï¿½n nyugvï¿½ kezï¿½t.

- Ne ijedj meg, madï¿½rka, - nyugtatta meg - nem foglak megcsï¿½kolni. Rï¿½gï¿½ta nem csï¿½kollak meg mï¿½r. Errï¿½l nem akarok beszï¿½lni. De most elï¿½szï¿½r akarom neked megmondani, milyen bï¿½szke vagyok, milyen bï¿½szke vagyok magamra. Bï¿½szke vagyok, hogy szerelmes vagyok. Szerelmes, az ï¿½n koromban! Hihetetlen ï¿½s csodï¿½latos. ï¿½s mï¿½g milyen szerelmes! Milyen kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½sen, szokatlanul ï¿½s ï¿½rdekesen szerelmes! Csakugyan, megcsï¿½foltam minden kï¿½nyvet ï¿½s minden biolï¿½giï¿½t. Monogï¿½m vagyok. Szeretem az asszonyt, az egyetlen asszonyt. Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vig volt az enyï¿½m ï¿½s szeretem bolondul, de ï¿½ milyen nagyon-nagyon!

Paula keze elï¿½rulta a megï¿½tï¿½dï¿½sï¿½t. Kï¿½nnyedï¿½n, ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l megprï¿½bï¿½lta kiszabadï¿½tani a kezï¿½t. De Dick mï¿½g erï¿½sebben megfogta.

- Ismerem minden gyï¿½ngesï¿½gï¿½t. De gyï¿½ngesï¿½gï¿½vel ï¿½s erejï¿½vel egyï¿½tt, mindenestï¿½l olyan ï¿½rï¿½lten szeretem, mint akkor elï¿½szï¿½r, azokban az ï¿½rï¿½lt pillanatokban, mikor elï¿½szï¿½r tartottam a karjaim kï¿½zï¿½tt.

A Paula keze lï¿½zadozott az erï¿½szakos fogï¿½s alatt. ï¿½nkï¿½nytelenï¿½l kezdte eltolni magï¿½tï¿½l az urï¿½t ï¿½s el akarta hï¿½zni a kezï¿½t. A szemï¿½be kiï¿½lt a fï¿½lelem. Dick tudta, milyen kï¿½nyes Paula ï¿½s kitalï¿½lta, hogy szï¿½jï¿½n a mï¿½sik fï¿½rfi friss csï¿½kjï¿½val, attï¿½l fï¿½l, hogy az ura szenvedï¿½lyessï¿½gre ragadtatja magï¿½t.

- Kï¿½rlek, kï¿½rlek, ne ijedj meg, fï¿½lï¿½nk, drï¿½ga, szï¿½p, bï¿½szke kis madï¿½r. Nï¿½zd, eleresztelek. Tudd meg, hogy a lehetï¿½ legjobban szeretlek ï¿½s ï¿½ppen annyi tekintettel vagyok rï¿½d, mint magamra, vagy mï¿½g tï¿½bbel.

Elhï¿½zta a szï¿½kï¿½t, hï¿½tradï¿½lt ï¿½s lï¿½tta, hogy Paula nï¿½zï¿½sï¿½ben bizalom tï¿½krï¿½zï¿½dik.

- Az egï¿½sz szï¿½vemet ki akarom tenni elï¿½d ï¿½s azt akarom, hogy te is tedd ki elï¿½m az egï¿½sz szï¿½vedet.

- Ez az irï¿½ntam valï¿½ szerelem ï¿½j dolog? - kï¿½rdezte Paula. - ï¿½jjï¿½ï¿½bredï¿½s?

- ï¿½j is, meg nem is.

- Azt hittem, hogy mï¿½r rï¿½gï¿½ta csak szokï¿½s vagyok a szï¿½modra.

- De ï¿½n egï¿½sz idï¿½ alatt szerettelek.

- De nem szerelemmel.

- Nem. De szilï¿½rdsï¿½ggal. Olyan biztos voltam benned is, magamban is. Az ï¿½n szï¿½momra az egï¿½sz olyan ï¿½llandï¿½ ï¿½s ï¿½rï¿½kre elintï¿½zett valami volt. Beismerem. De mikor ezt az ï¿½llandï¿½sï¿½got rï¿½zkï¿½dtatï¿½s ï¿½rte, az egï¿½sz szerelem fellobbant bennem. Egï¿½sz idï¿½ alatt mindig megvolt bennem, mint ï¿½llandï¿½, ï¿½reg hï¿½zastï¿½rsi ï¿½rzï¿½s.

- ï¿½s velem mi van?

- Errï¿½l akarok beszï¿½lni. Tudom, hogyan emï¿½szted most magad ï¿½s mi bï¿½ntott az imï¿½nt. Olyan igazï¿½n tisztessï¿½ges vagy, olyan igazï¿½n hï¿½, hogy kï¿½t fï¿½rfi osztozï¿½sï¿½nak a gondolatï¿½tï¿½l visszaborzadsz. Megï¿½rtettelek. Rï¿½gen volt, mikor akï¿½rmilyen szerelmes ï¿½rintï¿½st megengedtï¿½l nekem. ï¿½s ugyanolyan rï¿½gen volt, mikor ï¿½n akï¿½rmilyen szerelmes ï¿½rintï¿½st megprï¿½bï¿½ltam.

- Hï¿½t te tudtad elejï¿½tï¿½l kezdve? - kï¿½rdezte Paula gyorsan.

Dick bï¿½lintott. Aztï¿½n a tï¿½rgyilagos mï¿½rlegelï¿½s hangjï¿½n hozzï¿½tette:

- Talï¿½n mï¿½r akkor ï¿½reztem, mi kï¿½vetkezik, mikor mï¿½g te nem is tudtad. De ebbe vagy egyï¿½b dolgokba ne menjï¿½nk bele.

Paulï¿½t fï¿½jdalmas szï¿½gyen fogta el arra a gondolatra, hogy a fï¿½rje tanuja volt valami gyï¿½ngï¿½dsï¿½gnek kï¿½zte ï¿½s Graham kï¿½zï¿½tt. Kï¿½rdezni prï¿½bï¿½lt:

- Te lï¿½ttad...

- Ne alacsonyï¿½tsuk le magunkat rï¿½szletekkel, Paula. Kï¿½lï¿½nben sincs benne semmi rossz. Nem is volt rï¿½ szï¿½ksï¿½g, hogy lï¿½ssak valamit. Emlï¿½kszem mï¿½g, hogyan kaptam ï¿½n is titkos, lopott csï¿½kokat a sï¿½tï¿½tben hangosan kimondott kï¿½t »jï¿½ï¿½jszakï¿½t« kï¿½zï¿½tt. Mikor a szerelem ï¿½rettsï¿½gï¿½nek minden jele lï¿½thatï¿½, a szerelmi ï¿½rnyalatok ï¿½s vï¿½ltozï¿½sok, amiket nem lehet elrejteni, a szem ï¿½ntudatlan gyengï¿½dsï¿½ge a futï¿½ pillantï¿½sban, a hang akaratlan meglï¿½gyulï¿½sa, a torok ï¿½des elszorulï¿½sa, bizony akkor nem sok szï¿½ksï¿½gï¿½nk van rï¿½, hogy az ï¿½jszakai csï¿½kot kilesse valaki. Ennek mï¿½r ï¿½gy kell lenni. ï¿½s tudd meg, drï¿½ga asszonykï¿½m, hogy mindenben igazat adok neked...

- Nem... nem volt... sok... az egï¿½sz... - vï¿½vï¿½dott Paula.

- Meg lettem volna lepve, ha sok lett volna. Ez nem vallott volna rï¿½d. Mï¿½g ï¿½gy is meglepett. A mi tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vï¿½nk utï¿½n nem volt vï¿½rhatï¿½...

- Dick, - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe Paula, elï¿½re hajolva, fï¿½rkï¿½szï¿½en, ï¿½s miutï¿½n egy darabig rendezte gondolatait, egyenesen kimondta - ï¿½llï¿½tod, hogy a mi tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vï¿½nk alatt soha ilyesmi nem tï¿½rtï¿½nt veled?

- Mondtam, - felelt Dick csendesen - hogy mindenben igazat adok neked.

- Nem feleltï¿½l a kï¿½rdï¿½semre. ï¿½, nem az aprï¿½ ï¿½s futï¿½ flï¿½rtï¿½ket gondolom, nem a kis tavaszi kacï¿½rkodï¿½sokat. A csalï¿½st gondolom, a technikai csalï¿½st. Megcsaltï¿½l rï¿½gebben?

- Rï¿½gebben is kevï¿½sszer ï¿½s hosszï¿½, hosszï¿½ ideje egyï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem.

- Mindig szerettem volna tudni - mondta Paula tï¿½nï¿½dve.

- ï¿½s mondom, hogy mindenben igazat adok neked. ï¿½s most mï¿½r azt is tudod, miï¿½rt mï¿½ltï¿½nyos, ha igazat adok.

- Szï¿½val hasonlï¿½ mï¿½rtï¿½kkel, hasonlï¿½ jogaim vannak. ï¿½, nem Dick, nincsenek, nincsenek. Igaz, hogy te mindig az egyforma jogok mellett tï¿½rtï¿½l lï¿½ndsï¿½t.

- De most mï¿½r nem, - mondta Dick mosolyogva - az ember fantï¿½ziï¿½ja erï¿½sen dolgozik. Az utï¿½bbi hetekben kï¿½nytelen voltam az ï¿½llï¿½spontomat megvï¿½ltoztatni.

- Szï¿½val te szerinted hï¿½nek kell lennem?

Dick bï¿½lintott.

- Amï¿½g egyï¿½tt ï¿½lsz velem.

- ï¿½s hol van az egyenlï¿½sï¿½g?

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Nincsen semmifï¿½le egyenlï¿½sï¿½g. ï¿½, tudom, hogy ez nagyon kï¿½lï¿½nï¿½s nï¿½zetvï¿½ltozï¿½s. De mï¿½ig rï¿½jï¿½ttem arra a rï¿½gi igazsï¿½gra, hogy a nï¿½ mï¿½s, mint a fï¿½rfi. Minden, amit a kï¿½nyvekbï¿½l ï¿½s elmï¿½letekbï¿½l magamï¿½vï¿½ tettem, elhomï¿½lyosodik az ï¿½rï¿½k valï¿½sï¿½g elï¿½tt, hogy a nï¿½ a gyermekeink anyja. Tudod, ï¿½n... ï¿½n mindig remï¿½ltem, hogy gyerekï¿½nk lesz. De hï¿½t ezen mï¿½r tï¿½l vagyunk. Most az a kï¿½rdï¿½s, mi van a szï¿½vedben? ï¿½n az enyï¿½met kinyitottam elï¿½tted. Aztï¿½n majd elhatï¿½rozhatjuk, hogy mi a teendï¿½.

A bekï¿½vetkezett csend mï¿½r kï¿½nossï¿½ dagadt. Vï¿½gre Paula lehelve mondta:

- ï¿½ Dick, ï¿½n szeretlek, ï¿½n mindig szeretni foglak. Te vagy az ï¿½n Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½m. Tudod, tegnap is odamentem a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½dbe ï¿½s az arckï¿½pemet a falnak fordï¿½tottam. Borzasztï¿½ volt. Lehetetlennek tetszett. Visszafordï¿½tottam, ï¿½, de milyen gyorsan.

Dick rï¿½gyujtott ï¿½s vï¿½rt. Vï¿½gre kitï¿½rt:

- De mï¿½g mindig nem mondtad meg egï¿½szen, hogy mi van a szï¿½vedben.

- Szeretlek.

- ï¿½s Evant?

- Az mï¿½s. Rettenetes, hogy ï¿½gy kell beszï¿½lnem veled. Nem is tudom. Nem tudom elhatï¿½rozni, hogy mi van a szï¿½vemben.

- Szerelem? Vagy kaland? Vagy az egyik, vagy a mï¿½sik.

Paula rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Hï¿½t nem tudod megï¿½rteni, hogy ï¿½n sem ï¿½rtem? Nï¿½zd, ï¿½n nï¿½ vagyok. ï¿½n sohasem jï¿½rtam a bolondjï¿½t. Most hogy ez megtï¿½rtï¿½nt, nem tudok vele mit csinï¿½lni. ï¿½gy lï¿½tszik, hogy Shawnak, meg a tï¿½bbinek igaza van. A nï¿½ ragadozï¿½ ï¿½llat. Ti mind a ketten fejedelmi zsï¿½kmï¿½nyok vagytok. Nem tehetek rï¿½la. Ez provokï¿½l engem. ï¿½s magam elï¿½tt is megfejthetetlennek lï¿½tszom. A fogalmaimat, az elveimet a viselkedï¿½sem sorra megdï¿½ntï¿½tte. Akarlak tï¿½ged. Akarom Evant is. Mind a kettï¿½tï¿½ket akarlak. Ez nem kaland, hidd el nekem. ï¿½s ha valahogyan mï¿½gis az, ï¿½n nem tudom... nem, nem az, tudom, hogy nem az.

- Akkor szerelem.

- De ï¿½n tï¿½ged szeretlek, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½.

- ï¿½s azt mondod, hogy ï¿½t szereted. Mind a kettï¿½nket nem szerethetsz.

- De igen. ï¿½gy van. Mind a kettï¿½tï¿½ket szeretlek. ï¿½, ï¿½n ï¿½szinte vagyok, ï¿½szinte is leszek. Ezt ï¿½n ki akarom bogozni. Azt hittem, hogy segï¿½teni fogsz nekem. Ezï¿½rt jï¿½ttem most hozzï¿½d. Kell, hogy legyen valami megoldï¿½s.

ï¿½s kï¿½nyï¿½rgï¿½en nï¿½zett Dickre. Aki vï¿½laszolt:

- A megoldï¿½s: vagy az egyik vagy a mï¿½sik. Mï¿½s megoldï¿½st nem tudok elkï¿½pzelni.

- Ezt mondja ï¿½ is. De ï¿½n nem tudom rï¿½szï¿½nni magam. ï¿½ amellett volt, hogy egyenesen elï¿½dbe ï¿½lljon. De ï¿½n nem akartam megengedni neki. El akart menni, de ï¿½n itt tartottam, akï¿½rmilyen sï¿½lyos volt ez mind a kettï¿½tï¿½knek, mert egyï¿½tt akartalak lï¿½tni benneteket, ï¿½ssze akartalak hasonlï¿½tani benneteket, mï¿½rlegelni akartalak benneteket a szï¿½vemben. De nem mentem semmire. Mind a kettï¿½tï¿½ket akarlak. Egyitekrï¿½l sem tudok lemondani.

Dick szemï¿½ben megvillant valami:

- Lï¿½tod, milyen szerencsï¿½tlen dolog ez: te poligï¿½miï¿½ra vagy hajlandï¿½, mi pedig ostoba hï¿½mek nem tudunk megbï¿½kï¿½lni egy ilyen helyzettel.

- Ne lï¿½gy kegyetlen, Dick.

- Bocsï¿½ss meg. Nem ï¿½gy gondoltam. A fï¿½jdalmam miatt mondtam... hogy filozï¿½fusi tetszelgï¿½ssel prï¿½bï¿½ljam elviselni.

- ï¿½n megmondtam neki, hogy ï¿½ az egyetlen fï¿½rfi ï¿½letemben, aki van akkora ember, mint az uram, de az ï¿½n uram mï¿½g nagyobb.

- Igen, ez lojï¿½lis volt irï¿½ntam is, magad irï¿½nt is. Addig voltï¿½l az enyï¿½m, amï¿½g meg nem szï¿½ntem a vilï¿½gon legelsï¿½ ember lenni. Akkor aztï¿½n a vilï¿½gon a legelsï¿½ ember ï¿½ lett. Ne rï¿½zd a fejed, majd ï¿½n ezt megmagyarï¿½zom. Nem ismered a lelkedet, a vï¿½gyadat, ï¿½gy-e. Nem tudsz vï¿½lasztani kï¿½ztï¿½nk, mert egyformï¿½n akarsz mind a kettï¿½nket. ï¿½gy van?

- ï¿½gy. Vagy inkï¿½bb ï¿½gy, hogy kï¿½lï¿½nfï¿½lekï¿½ppen akarlak mind a kettï¿½tï¿½ket.

- Akkor a dolog el van intï¿½zve.

- Hogyan?

- ï¿½gy, hogy ï¿½n vagyok a vesztes. Graham nyert. Hï¿½t nem lï¿½tod? Itt ï¿½llok vele egyenlï¿½en ï¿½s minden elï¿½nyï¿½m vele szemben a mi egyï¿½tt eltï¿½ltï¿½tt tizenkï¿½t esztendï¿½nk, az elmult szerelem tizenkï¿½t esztendeje, a szeretet ï¿½s emlï¿½kezet kï¿½telï¿½kei ï¿½s lï¿½ncai. ï¿½des istenem, ha ezt a sï¿½lytï¿½bbletet az Evan serpenyï¿½jï¿½be vetnï¿½k, egy pillanatig sem kï¿½telkednï¿½l, hogy mit hatï¿½rozol. Az ilyesmi most esett meg veled ï¿½letedben elï¿½szï¿½r ï¿½s mivel nagyon kï¿½sï¿½n jï¿½tt, aki meghï¿½dï¿½tott, nehezen tudod elhinni.

- De te hï¿½dï¿½tottï¿½l meg, Dick.

- ï¿½ nem. Szerettem ezt hinni mindig, nï¿½ha hittem is, de igazï¿½ban nem hittem el soha. Tulajdonkï¿½ppen sohasem vettelek le egï¿½szen a lï¿½badrï¿½l, mï¿½g az elejï¿½n sem, abban a forrï¿½ viharban, amilyen az volt. Lehet, hogy elkï¿½prï¿½ztattalak. Te sohasem voltï¿½l ï¿½gy oda, mint ï¿½n. Sohasem voltï¿½l olyan szerelmes, mint ï¿½n. ï¿½n voltam elï¿½szï¿½r szerelmes...

- ï¿½s milyen pompï¿½s szerelmes voltï¿½l!

- ï¿½n voltam elï¿½szï¿½r szerelmes Paula ï¿½s te viszonoztad ugyan, de nem ugyanï¿½gy. Sohasem vettelek le a lï¿½badrï¿½l. Nyilvï¿½nvalï¿½, hogy Evannek sikerï¿½lt.

- Szeretnï¿½m ezt biztosan tudni. Megvan az az ï¿½rzï¿½sem, hogy meghï¿½dï¿½tott, mï¿½gis tusakodom. Ez a kettï¿½ pedig nem fï¿½rhet ï¿½ssze. Lehet talï¿½n, hogy engem fï¿½rfi nem is hï¿½dï¿½that meg. De te nem segï¿½tesz nekem semmit.

- Ezt te tudod megoldani, Paula. Csak te.

- De ha segï¿½tenï¿½l, ha csak megprï¿½bï¿½lnï¿½d, ï¿½ csak egy egï¿½szen picit, hogy tï¿½mogass...

- Csakhogy ï¿½n fegyvertelen vagyok. Meg van kï¿½tve a kezem. Nem tï¿½rhatom ki a karom, hogy tï¿½mogassalak... Nem, nem, szï¿½vem, ne szï¿½lj kï¿½zbe. Te az ï¿½ karjaiban voltï¿½l. Attï¿½l a gondolattï¿½l, hogy megï¿½lellek, ï¿½gy remegsz, mint egy rï¿½mï¿½lt madï¿½rka. Hï¿½t nem ï¿½rted? A tetteid ellenem dï¿½ntenek. A tested dï¿½ntï¿½tt maga. Az ï¿½ ï¿½lelï¿½sï¿½t el tudod viselni. Az enyï¿½mnek mï¿½g a gondolatï¿½t sem.

Paula csendes hatï¿½rozottsï¿½ggal ingatta a fejï¿½t:

- ï¿½s mï¿½gsem szï¿½nom el magam, nem vagyok kï¿½pes.

- Csakhogy muszï¿½j. Ez a helyzet elviselhetetlen. Gyorsan kell hatï¿½roznod, mert Evannek mennie kell. Ezt megï¿½rtheted. Vagy neked kell menned. Ketten egyï¿½tt nem maradhattok itt tovï¿½bb. Minden perc sï¿½rget. Kï¿½ldd el Evant. Vagy pï¿½ldï¿½ul elmehetsz te ï¿½s egy darabig Martha nï¿½ninï¿½l maradhatsz lï¿½togatï¿½ban. Ha mind a kettï¿½nktï¿½l el leszel vï¿½lasztva, kï¿½nnyebb lesz valami elhatï¿½rozï¿½sra jutnod. Talï¿½n jobb is lesz lefï¿½jni a vadï¿½szatot. Majd ï¿½n kimegyek magam, te pedig itthon maradsz ï¿½s megbeszï¿½lheted a dolgot Evannel. Vagy gyere te is, ï¿½s megbeszï¿½lhetitek lovaglï¿½s kï¿½zben. Akï¿½rhogy is, ï¿½n csak kï¿½sï¿½n jï¿½vï¿½k haza. Akï¿½r egï¿½sz ï¿½jszaka kinn alhatom a karï¿½mban. Mire visszajï¿½vï¿½k, Evan mï¿½r ne legyen itt. Vagy elmentï¿½l vele te is, vagy nem. Ez lesz a dï¿½ntï¿½sed.

- ï¿½s ha elmegyek?

Dick vï¿½llat vont, felkelt ï¿½s a karkï¿½tï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra pillantott.

- ï¿½zentem Blakenek, - mondta ï¿½s egy lï¿½pï¿½st tett az ajtï¿½ felï¿½, hogy ï¿½t is megindï¿½tsa - hogy ma dï¿½lelï¿½tt korï¿½bban jï¿½jjï¿½n.

Paula megï¿½llt az ajtï¿½ban ï¿½s felï¿½je hajolt:

- Csï¿½kolj meg, Dick.

Majd mikor Dick megcsï¿½kolta, elcsuklï¿½ hangon hozzï¿½tette:

- Ez nem szerelmi csï¿½k volt... Arra az esetre szï¿½lt, ha ï¿½gy dï¿½ntï¿½k, hogy... megyek.

A titkï¿½r mï¿½r jï¿½tt befelï¿½ a hallon ï¿½t, de Paula tï¿½tovï¿½zott. Dick kï¿½szï¿½nt a titkï¿½rnak:

- Jï¿½ reggelt, Blake ï¿½r. Sajnï¿½lom, hogy olyan korï¿½n felvertem. Mindenekelï¿½tt legyen olyan szï¿½ves Agar ï¿½s Pitts uraknak telefonozni. Ma dï¿½lelï¿½tt kï¿½ptelen vagyok fogadni ï¿½ket. ï¿½s a tï¿½bbit is, kï¿½rem, halassza holnapra. Beszï¿½lje meg Hanley ï¿½rral a talï¿½lkozï¿½t. Mondja meg neki, hogy a Vadgesztenyï¿½s csatornï¿½jï¿½ra vonatkozï¿½ terveit helyeslem, fogjon neki gï¿½zerï¿½vel. De Mendenhall ï¿½rral mï¿½gis beszï¿½lni akarok. ï¿½s Manson ï¿½rral is. Kï¿½resse ï¿½ket fï¿½l tï¿½zre.

- Mï¿½g valamit, Dick - szï¿½lt Paula. - Ne felejtsd el, hogy ï¿½n marasztottam itt. Nem az ï¿½ hibï¿½ja vagy kï¿½vï¿½nsï¿½ga volt. ï¿½n nem engedtem el.

- Elï¿½ggï¿½ megbolondï¿½tottad, - mondta mosolyogva Dick; az ittmaradï¿½sï¿½ra nem is tudnï¿½k mentsï¿½get, ahogy ï¿½t ismerem. De meg tudom ï¿½rteni, mert te nem engedted, meg aztï¿½n mert olyan szerelmes, amilyen szerelmes egy fï¿½rfi lehet, ha rï¿½lad van szï¿½. ï¿½ sokkal jobb a jï¿½ ï¿½tlagnï¿½l. Nem sokan tudjï¿½k, amit ï¿½ tud. Boldoggï¿½ fog tenni...

- Nem tudom, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, - mondta Paula felemelve a kezï¿½t - hogy leszek-e mï¿½g valaha boldog. Ha lï¿½tom az arcodon, hogy mit csinï¿½ltam veled... ï¿½, milyen boldog ï¿½s elï¿½gedett voltam tizenkï¿½t esztendï¿½n keresztï¿½l. Nem tudom elfelejteni. Ezï¿½rt vagyok kï¿½ptelen dï¿½nteni is. De igazad van. Itt az ideje, hogy megoldjam a h...

Itt megakadt, mert nem tudta kimondani azt a szï¿½t, hogy »hï¿½romszï¿½g«, pedig mï¿½r a nyelve hegyï¿½n volt. Mï¿½s szï¿½val segï¿½tett magï¿½n:

- ...a helyzetet. Kimegyï¿½nk mind a vadï¿½szatra. Kimenet beszï¿½lek vele ï¿½s elkï¿½ldï¿½m, akï¿½rhogyan dï¿½ntï¿½k is.

- A te helyedben nem hamarkodnï¿½m el a dolgot. Tudod, hogy nem szoktam erkï¿½lcsï¿½skï¿½dni, hacsak nem hasznos. De ebben az esetben rendkï¿½vï¿½l hasznos. Lehetnek gyerekeitek is... Kï¿½rlek, kï¿½rlek, ne szï¿½lj kï¿½zbe. Szï¿½val ilyen esetekben a botrï¿½ny nem nagyon hasznï¿½l a gyereknek, ha rï¿½gen tï¿½rtï¿½nt is. A hï¿½tlen elhagyï¿½s sokï¿½ig tart. ï¿½n majd gondoskodom neked tï¿½rvï¿½nyes vï¿½lï¿½okrï¿½l, ami a pert legalï¿½bb egy ï¿½vvel megrï¿½vidï¿½ti.

- Ha ï¿½gy dï¿½ntï¿½k - mosolygott Paula szomorï¿½an. - De nem szeretnï¿½k ï¿½gy dï¿½nteni. Magam sem ï¿½rtem az egï¿½szet. Talï¿½n ï¿½lom az egï¿½sz, nemsokï¿½ra felï¿½bredek, Szentatyï¿½m bejï¿½n ï¿½s azt fogja mondani, hogy milyen egï¿½szsï¿½gesen ï¿½s milyen sokï¿½ig aludtam.

Habozva indult el, de alig tett pï¿½r lï¿½pï¿½st, hirtelen megï¿½llt.

- Dick! Azt elmondtad nekem, mi van a szï¿½vedben, de azt nem, hogy mi van a fejedben. Nehogy valami ostobasï¿½got csinï¿½lj! Gondolj Holbrook Dennyre... nehogy nekem vadï¿½szati szerencsï¿½tlensï¿½gre gondolj!

Dick rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s hunyorgï¿½ szemmel azt jï¿½tszotta, hogy mulattatja a dolog. De magï¿½ban csodï¿½lkozott, hogy Paula intuitï¿½v tehetsï¿½ge mennyire fejï¿½n talï¿½lta a szeget. Olyan gesztussal, amely magï¿½ba ï¿½lelte az egï¿½sz farmot ï¿½s minden tervï¿½t, hazudta:

- Ezt mind itt hagyni? A kï¿½nyvemet a fokozott fajtenyï¿½sztï¿½srï¿½l? ï¿½s az elsï¿½ sajï¿½t nagyvï¿½sï¿½romat, amely ï¿½ppen most ï¿½rett meg?

Paula kiderï¿½lï¿½ arccal felelte:

- Hï¿½t ez furcsa is lenne. De kï¿½rlek, Dick, azt tudnod kell, hogy ha nehezen tudom is elszï¿½nni magam, abban...

Kereste a szï¿½t, aztï¿½n utï¿½nozta Dick elï¿½bbi gesztusï¿½t, amely egybefogta a nagy hï¿½zat ï¿½s minden kincsï¿½t. ï¿½s ezzel a gesztussal folytatta:

- ...abban mindennek a legkisebb rï¿½sze nincs. Igazï¿½n nincs.

- Azt ï¿½n nagyon jï¿½l tudom. Nincs olyan ï¿½nzetlen nï¿½, mint...

- Nï¿½zd, Dick, - szakï¿½totta fï¿½lbe Paula, akit ï¿½j gondolat izgatott - ha csakugyan olyan nagyon szerelmes vagyok Evanbe, mint te hiszed, akkor nagyon keveset szï¿½mï¿½tana nï¿½lam, ha vadï¿½szati szerencsï¿½tlensï¿½g tï¿½rtï¿½nik veled. De, lï¿½tod, nem akarom. Ez nem olyan egyszerï¿½ dolog, ezt alaposan meg kell fontolnod.

Habozva megint egy lï¿½pï¿½st tett kifelï¿½, aztï¿½n visszatï¿½rve igen halkan mï¿½g ezt mondta:

- Szï¿½vembï¿½l sajnï¿½lom, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½... ï¿½s mindenen tï¿½l nagyon ï¿½rï¿½lï¿½k, hogy mï¿½g mindig szeretsz.

Mielï¿½tt Blake visszatï¿½rt, Dicknek mï¿½g volt ideje szemï¿½gyre venni a tï¿½kï¿½rben az arcï¿½t. Arra mï¿½lyen rï¿½ volt vï¿½sve az a kifejezï¿½s, amely elï¿½zï¿½ este ï¿½gy megijesztette a tï¿½rsasï¿½got. Ez a kifejezï¿½s nem lï¿½togatï¿½ba jï¿½tt, hanem ï¿½llandï¿½an. Hï¿½t persze, gondolta magï¿½ban Dick, az ember nem haraphatja ï¿½gy szï¿½t a szï¿½vï¿½t a foga kï¿½zï¿½tt, hogy mï¿½g nyoma se maradjon.

ï¿½tment a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½be ï¿½s nï¿½zte Paula arckï¿½pï¿½t a baromï¿½terek alatt. Falnak fordï¿½totta a kï¿½pet, leï¿½lt az ï¿½gyra ï¿½s ï¿½gy nï¿½zett egy darabig a kï¿½p hï¿½tï¿½ra.

- Szegï¿½ny kis jï¿½szï¿½g, - mondta magï¿½ban - sï¿½lyos dolog neki, hogy ilyen kï¿½sï¿½n ï¿½bredt ilyesmire.

De mikor tovï¿½bb bï¿½mult a semmibe, hirtelen felbukkant elï¿½tte a lï¿½tomï¿½s, amint Paula a holdfï¿½nyben odaborul Grahamhez ï¿½s felï¿½je nyujtja az ajkï¿½t.

Megrï¿½zta a fejï¿½t, hogy elrï¿½zza magï¿½tï¿½l ezt a kï¿½pet ï¿½s gyorsan felkelt.

Fï¿½l tï¿½zre elintï¿½zte a levelezï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s az ï¿½rï¿½asztalï¿½n csak nï¿½hï¿½ny adat feljegyzï¿½se maradt, amit a rï¿½vidszarvï¿½- ï¿½s a juhtenyï¿½szet vezetï¿½ivel folytatandï¿½ beszï¿½lgetï¿½seiben szï¿½ndï¿½kozott felhasznï¿½lni. Ott ï¿½llt az ablaknï¿½l ï¿½s mosolyogva intett bï¿½csï¿½t Lutenak ï¿½s Ernestinenek, akik a hintï¿½ban elrobogtak, mikor Mendenhall belï¿½pett hozzï¿½. Dick mï¿½djï¿½t ejtette, hogy beszï¿½lgetï¿½s kï¿½zben elï¿½tte ï¿½s Manson elï¿½tt mintegy vï¿½letlenï¿½l elmondja nagy kï¿½rvonalakban a tenyï¿½sztï¿½sre vonatkozï¿½ fontosabb terveit.

- Nagyon nagy figyelmet kell szentelnï¿½nk - mondta Mansonnek - a King Polo leszï¿½rmazottaira. Minden valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½sï¿½g megvan rï¿½, hogy ha a Hï¿½zi Szarvassal, Alberta kisasszonnyal, vagy Morva Nellyvel pï¿½rosï¿½tjuk, mï¿½g nï¿½la is kï¿½lï¿½nb utï¿½dokat kapunk. Az idï¿½n mï¿½r elmulasztottuk, de jï¿½vï¿½re vagy azutï¿½n King Polo lesz igazi megalapï¿½tï¿½ja a nyertes ï¿½llatnak.

ï¿½s mint Mansonnel, ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy Mendenhallal is sikerï¿½lt aprï¿½ra megismertetni fajtenyï¿½sztï¿½si elveinek messzemenï¿½ alkalmazï¿½sï¿½t.

Mikor ezek elmentek, Hallodï¿½t hï¿½vta fel a hï¿½zi telefonon ï¿½s kiadta neki az utasï¿½tï¿½st, hogy Grahamet vigye a fegyverszobï¿½ba puskï¿½t ï¿½s egyï¿½b szï¿½ksï¿½ges felszerelï¿½st vï¿½lasztani.

Tizenegy ï¿½ra lett. Dick nem tudta, hogy Paula feljï¿½tt a kï¿½nyvtï¿½rbï¿½l a titkos lï¿½pcsï¿½n ï¿½s hallgatï¿½dzva ï¿½llott a kï¿½nyvespolcok mï¿½gï¿½tt. Be akart jï¿½nni, de Dick hangjï¿½nak hallatï¿½ra megï¿½llott. Dick Hanleynek telefonï¿½lt a Vadgesztenyï¿½s csatornï¿½jï¿½rï¿½l.

- ...Ha mï¿½r errï¿½l beszï¿½lï¿½nk, ï¿½tnï¿½zte a Nagy Miramar jelentï¿½seit?... Nagyon helyes. Le kell szï¿½mï¿½tani. ï¿½ltalï¿½ban nem ï¿½rtek egyet a jelentï¿½sekkel. Van ott vï¿½z. Bizonyos vagyok benne, hogy nem messze a szint alatt bï¿½sï¿½gesen talï¿½lunk artï¿½zi ï¿½ton. Kï¿½ldje fel a fï¿½rï¿½gï¿½pet haladï¿½k nï¿½lkï¿½l ï¿½s kezdje meg a fï¿½rï¿½st. Az iszap pï¿½ldï¿½tlanul gazdag ï¿½s ha azt a szï¿½raz lyukat ï¿½t ï¿½ven belï¿½l nem tesszï¿½k tï¿½zszer ï¿½rtï¿½kesebbï¿½...

Paula sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s a lï¿½pcsï¿½n visszament a kï¿½nyvtï¿½rba. A javï¿½thatatlan, ï¿½rï¿½kkï¿½ dolgozï¿½, makkjait folyton ï¿½ltetï¿½ Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, - gondolta magï¿½ban. Szerelmi vilï¿½ga recseg kï¿½rï¿½lï¿½tte ï¿½s ï¿½ nyugodtan intï¿½zkedik csatornï¿½k ï¿½s furatï¿½sok dolgï¿½ban ï¿½s az eljï¿½vendï¿½ ï¿½vek sorï¿½n ï¿½t is mindig ï¿½ltetni ï¿½s dolgozni fog.

Dick sohasem tudta meg, hogy Paula ekkor olyan kï¿½zel jï¿½tt hozzï¿½ a bajï¿½val, de elment. Megint ï¿½tment a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½be, de nem cï¿½ltalanul: utoljï¿½ra vï¿½gig akarta nï¿½zni az ï¿½gya mellett ï¿½llï¿½ blokk jegyzeteit. Minden dolga rendben volt mï¿½r. Csak az volt hï¿½tra, hogy rendbe szedje a dï¿½lelï¿½tti feljegyzï¿½seket ï¿½s feleljen nï¿½hï¿½ny tï¿½viratra, aztï¿½n jï¿½het a lunch ï¿½s utï¿½na a vadï¿½szat a Szikomor-hegyek kï¿½zï¿½tt. Majd ï¿½gyesen csinï¿½lja. A Haramia lesz az oka az egï¿½sznek. Mï¿½g szemtanuja is lesz: Froelig, vagy Martinez. Csak az egyik, mind a kettï¿½ nem. Egy ember elï¿½g lesz tanunak, majd mikor a kantï¿½rral baj lesz, a kanca felï¿½gaskodik ï¿½s rï¿½zuhan lovasï¿½ra a bozï¿½tban. ï¿½s ez az egy szemtanu majd hallani fogja a fegyverdï¿½rrenï¿½st a bozï¿½tbï¿½l, ahol a baleset katasztrï¿½fï¿½vï¿½ fog vï¿½lni.

Dick ï¿½gy dï¿½ntï¿½tt, hogy Martinez jobb lesz tanunak, mert izgï¿½konyabb ember. Majd ï¿½gy intï¿½zi, hogy Martinez legyen mellette a szï¿½k csapï¿½son, mikor arra kerï¿½l a sor, hogy a Haramia elkezd ï¿½gaskodni. Martinez nem jï¿½ lovas. Annï¿½l jobb. Nagyon jï¿½ lesz a Haramiï¿½t csakugyan felidegesï¿½teni ï¿½s izgatni egy-kï¿½t perccel az esemï¿½ny elï¿½tt. Ez valï¿½szï¿½nï¿½ lï¿½tszatot ad majd a dolognak, Martinez lovï¿½t is idegessï¿½ fogja tenni, ennï¿½lfogva Martinez is olyan izgatott lesz, hogy az esemï¿½nyeket nem lï¿½tja majd tisztï¿½n.

Hirtelen fï¿½jdalomtï¿½l szorï¿½totta ï¿½kï¿½lbe a kezï¿½t: az asszonyka szerelmes, feltï¿½tlenï¿½l nagyon szerelmes, mï¿½skï¿½p nem lehetne megï¿½rteni ezt az elszï¿½nt kegyetlensï¿½get. Tudniillik a zeneterembï¿½l a nyitott ablakon ï¿½t behallatszott a Paula ï¿½s Graham hangja, amint egyï¿½tt ï¿½nekeltï¿½k a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t.

Amï¿½g az ï¿½nek tartott, a keze ï¿½gy maradt. ï¿½s ï¿½k a bolond, kï¿½nnyelmï¿½ ï¿½neket tisztï¿½n vï¿½gigï¿½nekeltï¿½k, egï¿½szen bolond, kï¿½nnyelmï¿½ vï¿½gï¿½ig. ï¿½ csak ott ï¿½llt ï¿½s hallgatta, hogy Paula vidï¿½man kacagva vï¿½lik el Grahamtï¿½l ï¿½s kacagva megy ï¿½t a hï¿½zon a maga lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ig ï¿½s mï¿½g ott is kacagott tovï¿½bb, mintha trï¿½fï¿½san kitalï¿½lt mulasztï¿½sokï¿½rt trï¿½fï¿½san szidnï¿½ Szentatyï¿½mat.

Tï¿½volrï¿½l a Hegyi Fickï¿½ elmosï¿½dott, de fï¿½lreismerhetetlen harsonahangjï¿½t lehetett hallani. King Polo is sietett jelenteni felsï¿½ges ï¿½nmagï¿½t ï¿½s a kancï¿½k ï¿½s ï¿½szï¿½k hï¿½remei mind felemeltï¿½k vï¿½laszolï¿½ szavukat. Dick hallgatta ezt az ï¿½ltalï¿½nos nyerï¿½tï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s bï¿½gï¿½sï¿½t ï¿½s nyihogï¿½sï¿½t a pï¿½rzï¿½snak ï¿½s sï¿½hajtva mondta magï¿½ban:

- A vilï¿½g nyert vele, hogy ï¿½ltem. Nem rossz ezzel a gondolattal aludni menni.

Az ï¿½gya melletti telefï¿½n csï¿½ngï¿½tt. Leï¿½lt az ï¿½gy szï¿½lï¿½re, hogy felvegye a hallgatï¿½t. Beszï¿½lgetï¿½s kï¿½zben ï¿½tnï¿½zett a Paula ï¿½pï¿½letszï¿½rnya felï¿½.

Bonbright volt a telefï¿½nnï¿½l ï¿½s jelentette, hogy Chauncey Bishop beszï¿½l Eldoradï¿½bï¿½l, ahovï¿½ automobilon ï¿½rkezett. Bonbright ï¿½gy ï¿½tï¿½lte, hogy Bishop, a San Franciscï¿½i Hetilap kiadï¿½-szerkesztï¿½je, Dick rï¿½gi jï¿½barï¿½tja, elï¿½g fontos ember. Egyenesen Dickhez kapcsolta az interurbï¿½n hï¿½vï¿½st.

- Lunchre mï¿½g ideï¿½rhetsz, - mondta Dick a laptulajdonosnak - ï¿½s feltï¿½ve, hogy itt tï¿½ltheted az ï¿½jszakï¿½t... ugyan, ne tï¿½rï¿½dj azzal a kï¿½t munkatï¿½rssal. Mi ezï¿½storoszlï¿½nra megyï¿½nk ma dï¿½lutï¿½n ï¿½s biztosan lï¿½vï¿½nk is. A csapï¿½suk megvan... Ki? Az az ï¿½rï¿½nï¿½?... Mirï¿½l akar? Hogyne!... Szï¿½tnï¿½zhet a farmon ï¿½s tï¿½z tï¿½mï¿½t is talï¿½l majd, amirï¿½l ï¿½sszeï¿½rhat hï¿½sz kolumnï¿½t. A fiatalembert majd elvisszï¿½k az oroszlï¿½nvadï¿½szatra, ott majd ihletet kap... Ne fï¿½lj, hogyne. Olyan lovat adok alï¿½ja, amin egy gyerek is elkocoghat.

Mennï¿½l tï¿½bben, annï¿½l vï¿½gabban, - mondta magï¿½ban akasztï¿½fahumorral Dick. Plï¿½ne ujsï¿½gï¿½rï¿½k. ï¿½s Forrest Jonathan, a lï¿½versenyimï¿½dï¿½ nagypapa, sokkal izgatottabb lehetett annak idejï¿½n egy-egy sikeres finish elrontï¿½sakor, mint amilyennek most az unokï¿½ja lï¿½tszott.

Dick a fï¿½lï¿½n tartotta a kagylï¿½t, hallotta, hogy Chauncey Bishop rï¿½beszï¿½li a munkatï¿½rsï¿½t a vadï¿½szatra. ï¿½s kï¿½zben azon tï¿½pelï¿½dï¿½tt: hogyan lehetett Paula olyan kï¿½nnyelmï¿½en kegyetlen, hogy rï¿½gtï¿½n azutï¿½n elï¿½nekelhette a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t?

- Rendben van, gyere rohanva, - mondta vï¿½gï¿½l megï¿½llapodï¿½skï¿½ppen Bishopnak - a lovak felï¿½l kiadom a parancsot. Veheted azt a pejt, amelyiken legutoljï¿½ra is lovagoltï¿½l.

Alig akasztotta vissza a kagylï¿½t, a csengï¿½ megint megszï¿½lalt. Ezï¿½ttal Paula hï¿½vta:

- Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, drï¿½ga Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, az ï¿½rvelï¿½sed vï¿½gig hibï¿½s. Azt hiszem, tï¿½ged szeretlek a legjobban. ï¿½ppen most szï¿½nom el magamat a dï¿½ntï¿½sre. Mï¿½g pedig melletted. De hogy mï¿½g biztosabb legyek a dolgomban, mondd azt nekem, amit az elï¿½bb mondtï¿½l, tudod, azt hogy »szeretem az asszonyt, az egyetlen asszonyt. Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vig volt az enyï¿½m ï¿½s most szerelmes vagyok bele, olyan nagyon-nagyon szerelmes.« Mondd ezt nekem, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½.

- Hï¿½sï¿½gesen szeretem az asszonyt, - ismï¿½telte Dick, - az egyetlen asszonyt. Tizenkï¿½t ï¿½vig volt az enyï¿½m ï¿½s most szerelmes vagyok bele, olyan nagyon-nagyon szerelmes.

Mikor befejezte, szï¿½net kï¿½vetkezett. Vï¿½rt ï¿½s nem merte megtï¿½rni. Vï¿½gre Paula szï¿½lalt meg nagyon halkan, nagyon lï¿½gyan, nagyon tisztï¿½n:

- Van mï¿½g valami kicsisï¿½g, amit majdnem elfelejtettem megmondani neked. Szeretlek. Sohasem szerettelek ennyire. Tizenkï¿½t esztendï¿½ utï¿½n vï¿½gre meghï¿½dï¿½tottï¿½l. Az elsï¿½ perctï¿½l kezdve meghï¿½dï¿½tottï¿½l, csak ï¿½n nem tudtam. Most dï¿½ntï¿½ttem egyszer s mindenkorra.

Gyorsan letette a kagylï¿½t. Dick pedig ï¿½lve maradt ï¿½s gondolkozott: most mï¿½r tudja, mit ï¿½rez a halï¿½lraï¿½tï¿½lt, aki az utolsï¿½ percben kegyelmet kap. Elfelejtette, hogy nem akasztotta vissza a hallgatï¿½t, mï¿½g akkor is ott tartotta a fï¿½lï¿½nï¿½l, mikor Bonbright bejï¿½tt a titkï¿½rok szobï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l.

- Bishopnak tengelytï¿½rï¿½se volt. Bï¿½torkodtam egy gï¿½pï¿½nket ï¿½rtï¿½k kï¿½ldeni.

- Helyes. Nï¿½zzen majd utï¿½na, mit javï¿½thatnak az ï¿½ gï¿½pjï¿½n az embereink.

Mikor megint egyedï¿½l maradt, felkelt, nyujtï¿½zkodott egyet ï¿½s szï¿½rakozottan le s fel jï¿½rkï¿½lt a szobï¿½ban. ï¿½s belebeszï¿½lt az ï¿½res levegï¿½be:

- ï¿½reg Martinez pajtï¿½s, ma dï¿½lutï¿½n olyan nagyszerï¿½ cirkuszi trï¿½fï¿½tï¿½l fosztalak meg, hogy sohasem fogod megtudni, milyen sikerï¿½lt dolog lett volna.

Megnyomta a Paula telefonjï¿½hoz szï¿½lï¿½ csontgombot ï¿½s felvette a kagylï¿½t.

Szentatyï¿½m felelt ï¿½s nyomban hï¿½vta ï¿½rnï¿½jï¿½t a telefï¿½nhoz.

- Van egy kis nï¿½tï¿½m, Paula, amit el akarok neked ï¿½nekelni. ï¿½reg nï¿½ger egyhï¿½zi dal:

ï¿½nmagï¿½nak, ï¿½nmagï¿½nak,

ï¿½nmagï¿½nak, ï¿½nmagï¿½nak,

Valljon minden igaz lï¿½lek

ï¿½nmagï¿½nak, ï¿½nmagï¿½nak.

Paula vidï¿½man, gyï¿½ngyï¿½zï¿½en kacagott Dick nagy gyï¿½nyï¿½rï¿½sï¿½gï¿½re, mikor vï¿½laszolt:

- ï¿½n pedig azt akarom, hogy mï¿½g egyszer elmondd »ï¿½nmagadban, ï¿½nmagadban«, amit az elï¿½bb nekem mondtï¿½l. Szeretlek, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½. Dï¿½ntï¿½ttem. Soha a vilï¿½gon most mï¿½r nem lesz nekem mï¿½s fï¿½rfi, csak te. Most pedig lï¿½gy jï¿½ hozzï¿½m ï¿½s hagyj ï¿½ltï¿½zkï¿½dni. Sietnem kell, ha lunchig kï¿½sz akarok lenni.

- ï¿½tmehetek? Csak egy percre?

- Mï¿½g nem, te kapzsi. Majd tï¿½z perc mulva. Elï¿½bb hadd vï¿½gezzek Szentatyï¿½mmal. Aztï¿½n teljesen kï¿½szen leszek a vadï¿½szatra. A Robin Hood-felszerelï¿½semet veszem fel, tudod, a zï¿½ldet a sï¿½tï¿½tbarnï¿½val, azt a nagy tollamat. ï¿½s a harminc-harmincas puskï¿½t veszem. Az elï¿½g nehï¿½z lesz ezï¿½storoszlï¿½nra is.

- Nagyon boldoggï¿½ tettï¿½l.

- Te pedig lekï¿½setsz. Tedd vissza a kagylï¿½t. Sohasem szerettelek ennyire, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½.

ï¿½s hallani lehetett, amint a kagylï¿½t visszatette. Dick meglepetve ï¿½llapï¿½totta meg magï¿½ban, hogy valahogyan nem tud belemenni abba a boldogsï¿½gba, amelyet mï¿½r a magï¿½ï¿½nak tartott. Sï¿½t inkï¿½bb mintha most is hallotta volna, amint Paula ï¿½s Graham hangja mindenrï¿½l elfeledkezve ï¿½neklik a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t.

Jï¿½tszott Grahammel a felesï¿½ge? Vagy vele jï¿½tszott? Soha ï¿½gy nem viselkedett mï¿½g, ez ï¿½rthetetlen volt tï¿½le. Dick megoldï¿½s utï¿½n kutatott magï¿½ban ï¿½s ekkor megint maga elï¿½tt lï¿½tta holdfï¿½nytï¿½l megvilï¿½gï¿½tottan, ahogy feltartott ajakkal odaborul Grahamre ï¿½s hï¿½zza le a fï¿½rfi fejï¿½t a magï¿½ï¿½hoz.

Dick vï¿½vï¿½dva rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t ï¿½s az ï¿½rï¿½jï¿½ra nï¿½zett. Tï¿½z perc mulva, sï¿½t mï¿½r nem is tï¿½z perc mulva, a karjï¿½ban fogja tartani Paulï¿½t ï¿½s mindent tudni fog.

Ez a rï¿½vid idï¿½ olyan nehezen mult, hogy ï¿½ lassan elindult, megï¿½llt cigarettï¿½ra gyujtani, szï¿½vott egyet belï¿½le, eldobta, aztï¿½n megint megï¿½llt ï¿½s hallgatta a titkï¿½rok szobï¿½jï¿½bï¿½l hallatszï¿½ ï¿½rï¿½gï¿½p-kattogï¿½st. Mikor mï¿½g kï¿½t perce volt hï¿½tra, megï¿½llt a fedett tï¿½likert-folyosï¿½n, mert tudta, hogy az ï¿½t a titkos ajtï¿½ig kï¿½rï¿½lbelï¿½l egy percet eltart. ï¿½llt ï¿½s nï¿½zte, hogyan lubickolnak a vadkanï¿½rik a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½ton.

A kanï¿½rik riadtan emelkedtek a levegï¿½be, mint valami aranyos, kristï¿½lyos felhï¿½cske a napsï¿½tï¿½sben. Dick is megriadt. A dï¿½rrenï¿½s felï¿½lrï¿½l hallatszott, a Paula szobï¿½i felï¿½l. Megismerte a dï¿½rrenï¿½st: a harminc-harmincas hangja volt. Rohant keresztï¿½l a tï¿½likerten.

- ï¿½ kï¿½nyszerï¿½tett rï¿½!

Ez volt az elsï¿½ gondolata, ï¿½s ami egy perccel elï¿½bb mï¿½g ï¿½rthetetlen volt elï¿½tte, az most olyan tiszta ï¿½s ï¿½les lett, mint a puskadï¿½rrenï¿½s. ï¿½s ï¿½t a tï¿½likerten, fel a lï¿½pcsï¿½n, keresztï¿½l a felszakï¿½tott ï¿½s tï¿½rva-nyitva hagyott ajtï¿½n, vï¿½gig ott lï¿½ktetett az agyï¿½ban:

- ï¿½ kï¿½nyszerï¿½tett rï¿½! ï¿½ kï¿½nyszerï¿½tett rï¿½!

Paula ott fekï¿½dt ï¿½sszegï¿½rbedve, reszketve, teljes vadï¿½szruhï¿½ban. Csak a kis bronz-sarkantyï¿½ nem volt rajta. Azt a rï¿½mï¿½lt leï¿½ny riadt tehetetlensï¿½gï¿½ben mï¿½g mindig ott tartotta felette.

Dick gyorsan megvizsgï¿½lta. Paula lï¿½lekzett, de nem volt eszmï¿½letï¿½nï¿½l. A golyï¿½ a balmellï¿½n ment be ï¿½s a hï¿½tï¿½n jï¿½tt ki. Dick a telefï¿½nhoz ugrott ï¿½s amï¿½g a hï¿½zi telefï¿½n kapcsolï¿½sï¿½ra vï¿½rt, azon imï¿½dkozott, bï¿½r Hennessy ott volna a tenyï¿½szcsï¿½dï¿½r-istï¿½llï¿½ban. Egy lovï¿½szgyerek jï¿½tt a telefï¿½nhoz. Dick az ï¿½llatorvos utï¿½n szalajtotta, aztï¿½n intï¿½zkedett, hogy Gyeride maradjon a kapcsolï¿½-tï¿½blï¿½nï¿½l, Hallode pedig jï¿½jjï¿½n ï¿½t hozzï¿½ azonnal.

A szeme sarkï¿½bï¿½l lï¿½tta, hogy Graham rohan be a szobï¿½ba ï¿½s odafut Paulï¿½hoz.

- Hennessy, - rendelkezett Dick - jï¿½jjï¿½n lï¿½halï¿½lï¿½ban. Hozzon mindent, ami az elsï¿½ segï¿½lyhez kell. Puskagolyï¿½ ment a tï¿½dï¿½n, vagy a szï¿½ven, vagy mind a kettï¿½n keresztï¿½l. Jï¿½jjï¿½n egyenesen a felesï¿½gem lakosztï¿½lyï¿½ba. Rohanjon.

Aztï¿½n ï¿½lesen szï¿½lt oda Grahamnek:

- Ne nyï¿½lj hozzï¿½. ï¿½rthat neki, belsï¿½ vï¿½rzï¿½st kaphat.

Aztï¿½n telefï¿½non Gyeridï¿½nek parancsolt:

- Callahan azonnal menjen a versenygï¿½ppel Eldorï¿½dï¿½ba. ï¿½tkï¿½zben talï¿½lkozni fog Robinson doktorral, vegye fel ï¿½s hozza vissza olyan gyorsan, ahogy jï¿½nni bï¿½r. Rohanjon, mint egy ï¿½rï¿½lt. Az asszonyod megsebesï¿½lt, mondd meg neki. Ha siet, az ï¿½letï¿½t menti meg.

A hallgatï¿½val a fï¿½lï¿½n Paula felï¿½ fordult. Tekintete a Grahamï¿½val talï¿½lkozott, aki az asszonyka fï¿½lï¿½ hajlott, de nem nyï¿½lt hozzï¿½.

- Forrest, - kezdte Graham - ha kï¿½sz vagy...

Dick elhallgattatta egy Szentatyï¿½mra vonatkozï¿½ figyelmeztetï¿½ pillantï¿½ssal. A lï¿½ny mï¿½g mindig ott ï¿½llt, nï¿½mï¿½n ï¿½s tehetetlenï¿½l tartotta a sarkantyï¿½t a kezï¿½ben.

- Megbeszï¿½lhetjï¿½k kï¿½sï¿½bb - mondta rï¿½viden Dick, aztï¿½n a szï¿½jï¿½t visszafordï¿½totta a kagylï¿½hoz. - Hallï¿½? Robinson doktor?... A felesï¿½gem golyï¿½t kapott a mellï¿½be. Tï¿½dï¿½, vagy szï¿½v, vagy mind a kettï¿½. Callahan mï¿½r ï¿½ton van a versenygï¿½ppel, hogy ï¿½tkï¿½zben felvegye ï¿½nt. Jï¿½jjï¿½n olyan gyorsan, ahogy a jï¿½ isten csak engedi, mï¿½g Callahannel talï¿½lkozik. Isten ï¿½ldja.

Visszament Paulï¿½hoz. Hamar kï¿½sz lett a vizsgï¿½lattal. A fejï¿½t rï¿½zva nï¿½zett fel Grahamre ï¿½s ï¿½gy szï¿½lt:

- Sï¿½lyos. Nem gyerekjï¿½tï¿½k.

Szentatyï¿½mhoz fordult:

- Tedd le azt a sarkantyï¿½t ï¿½s hozz pï¿½rnï¿½kat. Evan, tedd alï¿½ a kezed a mï¿½sik oldalon, aztï¿½n lassan ï¿½s egyenletesen emeld. Szentatyï¿½m, told alï¿½ azt a pï¿½rnï¿½t... Vigyï¿½zva, vigyï¿½zva...

Felnï¿½zett. Hallode nï¿½mï¿½n, a tovï¿½bbi parancsokat vï¿½rva ï¿½llt elï¿½tte.

- Eredj, mondd meg, hogy Bonbright ï¿½r vï¿½ltsa fel Gyeridï¿½t a kapcsolï¿½-tï¿½blï¿½nï¿½l. Gyeride ï¿½lljon Bonbright ï¿½r mellett ï¿½s ha parancsot kap, azonnal szaladjon. Vegye maga mellï¿½ az ï¿½sszes inasokat. Mikor Saunders befut a Bishop ï¿½r tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½val, Gyeride azonnal indï¿½tsa vissza Eldorado felï¿½ utï¿½na nï¿½zni, nem kapott-e Callahan ï¿½tkï¿½zben defektust. Gyeride kerï¿½tse elï¿½ Manson urat ï¿½s Pitts urat, vagy akï¿½rmelyik mï¿½sik kï¿½t felï¿½gyelï¿½t, akinek gï¿½pje van, hogy ï¿½lljanak elï¿½ ï¿½s vï¿½rjanak a gï¿½pekkel itt a hï¿½znï¿½l. Gyeride viselje gondjï¿½t a Bishop ï¿½r tï¿½rsasï¿½gï¿½nak ï¿½ppen ï¿½gy, mint mï¿½skor. Ha elvï¿½gezted, gyere vissza, hogy szï¿½lï¿½thassalak.

Aztï¿½n Szentatyï¿½mhoz fordult:

- Most mondd el, hogyan tï¿½rtï¿½nt.

Szentatyï¿½m tï¿½rdelte a kezï¿½t ï¿½s rï¿½zta a fejï¿½t.

- Hol voltï¿½l, mikor a fegyver elsï¿½lt?

A kï¿½nai leï¿½ny vonaglott ï¿½s az ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½ felï¿½ mutatott, Dick gorombï¿½n rï¿½szï¿½lt:

- Gyerï¿½nk! Beszï¿½lj!

- Nagysï¿½gos asszony mondott nekem kell sarkantyï¿½. ï¿½n elï¿½bb elfelejtett. ï¿½n mentem gyors. ï¿½n hallott lï¿½vï¿½s. ï¿½n visszajï¿½tt gyors. ï¿½n futott be.

ï¿½s Paulï¿½ra mutatott, jelezvï¿½n, hogy ezt talï¿½lta itt.

- ï¿½s a fegyver? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

- Fegyver volt hiba benne. Fegyver talï¿½n nem jï¿½ volt. Talï¿½n nï¿½gy percet, talï¿½n ï¿½t percet, nagysï¿½gos asszony sokï¿½ig prï¿½bï¿½lt fegyver csinï¿½l jï¿½.

- Prï¿½bï¿½lta a fegyver szerkezetï¿½t, mikor te a sarkantyï¿½ï¿½rt mentï¿½l?

Szentatyï¿½m bï¿½lintott.

- ï¿½n elï¿½bb mondta talï¿½n Gyeride tud csinï¿½lni fegyver jï¿½. Nagysï¿½gos asszony mondta nem kell. Mondta nagysï¿½gos ï¿½r tudja. Aztï¿½n letette fegyver. Aztï¿½n kï¿½sï¿½bb megint prï¿½bï¿½lt fegyver. Aztï¿½n mondott nekem kell sarkantyï¿½. Aztï¿½n... jï¿½tt lï¿½vï¿½s.

Hennessy megï¿½rkezï¿½se ï¿½tjï¿½t vï¿½gta a tovï¿½bbi faggatï¿½snak. Az ï¿½ vizsgï¿½lata alig volt hosszabb, mint a Dickï¿½. Felnï¿½zett ï¿½s megcsï¿½vï¿½lta a fejï¿½t.

- Semmi nincs, amihez hozzï¿½ merhetnï¿½k fogni. A vï¿½rzï¿½s kifelï¿½ megszï¿½nt, de a belsï¿½ vï¿½rzï¿½s nï¿½. Kï¿½ldï¿½tt orvosï¿½rt?

- Robinson jï¿½n. Telefonon elfogtam a rendelï¿½jï¿½ben.

ï¿½s Grahamhez fordulva magyarï¿½zta:

- Ez a Robinson fiatal sebï¿½sz. Nagyon jï¿½. Okos ï¿½s bï¿½tor. Ebben a tekintetben jobban bï¿½zom benne, mint akï¿½rmelyik nagyhï¿½rï¿½ ï¿½regben. Mit gondol, Hennessy ï¿½r? Megmarad?

- A dolog nagyon rosszul nï¿½z ki. ï¿½mbï¿½r ï¿½n nem mondhatok semmit, ï¿½n csak ï¿½llatorvos vagyok. Robinson majd megmondja. Nincs mï¿½s, mint vï¿½rni.

Dick bï¿½lintott ï¿½s kiment a Paula hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½jï¿½be hallgatni, mikor hangzik fel a versenyautï¿½ zaja, amelyet Callahan vezet. A hintï¿½ lassan megï¿½rkezett, aztï¿½n hirtelen megint elrobogott. Graham kijï¿½tt hozzï¿½ a hï¿½lï¿½fï¿½lkï¿½be.

- Bocsï¿½natot akarok kï¿½rni tï¿½led, Forrest. Egy percre elvesztettem a fejemet. Itt talï¿½ltalak ï¿½s azt hittem, hogy itt voltï¿½l, mikor tï¿½rtï¿½nt. Nyilvï¿½n baleset volt.

- Szegï¿½ny jï¿½szï¿½g, - mondta Dick helybenhagyï¿½an bï¿½lintva - milyen bï¿½szke volt mindig, hogy ï¿½vatosan tud bï¿½nni a fegyverrel.

- Megnï¿½ztem a fegyvert, - mondta Graham - de semmi hibï¿½t nem tudtam talï¿½lni rajta.

- Hiszen ez az, ï¿½gy tï¿½rtï¿½nt. Ami hiba volt, az helyreugrott. ï¿½gy sï¿½lt el a fegyver.

ï¿½s elkezdett beszï¿½lni, mï¿½ris felï¿½pï¿½tve a hazugsï¿½gok rendszerï¿½t, hogy Grahamet is fï¿½lrevezesse. De magï¿½ban jï¿½l ï¿½rtette, milyen kitï¿½nï¿½en rendezte Paula a dolgot. Hogy a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t elï¿½nekelte, ez a bï¿½csï¿½ja volt Grahamtï¿½l, egyszersmind pedig az ï¿½neklï¿½ssel elï¿½re elhï¿½rï¿½totta a gyanï¿½t arrï¿½l, amit kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l utï¿½na szï¿½ndï¿½kozott vï¿½ghezvinni. Ugyanï¿½gy tett vele is. Elbï¿½csï¿½zott tï¿½le ï¿½s azzal az utolsï¿½ telefonï¿½lï¿½ssal bejelentette neki, hogy most mï¿½r az egï¿½sz vilï¿½gon nem lesz szï¿½mï¿½ra mï¿½s fï¿½rfi.

Otthagyta Grahamet ï¿½s elment a fï¿½lke mï¿½sik vï¿½gï¿½be.

- Ennyi lelki erï¿½, ennyi elszï¿½ntsï¿½g, - dadogta magï¿½ban reszketï¿½ szï¿½jjal - szegï¿½ny jï¿½szï¿½g, nem tudott kettï¿½nk kï¿½zï¿½tt vï¿½lasztani ï¿½s ï¿½gy oldotta meg a dolgot.

A versenyautï¿½ zajï¿½ra ï¿½ is, Graham is egymï¿½sra nï¿½ztek. Bementek a szobï¿½ba, hogy vï¿½rjï¿½k az orvost. Graham kï¿½nosan feszengett, maradni szeretett volna, de ï¿½rezte, hogy mennie kellene.

- Kï¿½rlek, Evan, maradj - szï¿½lt Dick. - Nagyon szeretett tï¿½ged. Ha kinyitja a szemï¿½t, ï¿½rï¿½lni fog, ha meglï¿½t.

Mialatt Robinson megvizsgï¿½lta Paulï¿½t, Dick ï¿½s Graham tï¿½volabb ï¿½llottak. ï¿½s mikor az orvos, arcï¿½n azzal a kifejezï¿½ssel, hogy kï¿½sz, felegyenesedett, Dick kï¿½rdï¿½en nï¿½zett rï¿½. Robinson a fejï¿½t rï¿½zta.

- Nincs mit csinï¿½lni. ï¿½rï¿½k, sï¿½t esetleg percek kï¿½rdï¿½se.

Habozott egy pillanatig. Fï¿½rkï¿½szte Dick arcï¿½t.

- Ha akarja, kï¿½nnyebbï¿½ tudom tenni a dolgot. Visszanyerheti ï¿½ntudatï¿½t ï¿½s akkor egy darabig szenvedni fog.

Dick vï¿½gigment kï¿½tszer a szobï¿½n. Mikor megszï¿½lalt, Grahamhez fordult:

- Mï¿½rt ne hagyjuk felï¿½ledni, akï¿½rmilyen rï¿½vid idï¿½re is? A fï¿½jdalom, az mindegy. Ha kell, meglesz a kikerï¿½lhetetlen gyors injekciï¿½. Az ï¿½ helyï¿½ben ï¿½n is ï¿½gy akarnï¿½m, te is. Szeretett ï¿½lni, szerette az ï¿½lete minden percï¿½t. Mï¿½rt tagadnï¿½nk meg tï¿½le bï¿½rmennyit is abbï¿½l a kevï¿½sbï¿½l, ami maradt neki?

Graham mintegy helyeslï¿½en lehajtotta a fejï¿½t. Dick az orvoshoz fordult:

- Talï¿½n tudja ï¿½gy izgatni, stimulï¿½lni, hogy eszmï¿½letre tï¿½rjen. Ha tudja, tegye meg. ï¿½s ha a fï¿½jdalmai tï¿½lnagyok lesznek, akkor kï¿½nnyï¿½thet a dolgon.

Mikor kezdte kinyitni a szemï¿½t, Dick odaintette Grahamet. Paula elï¿½szï¿½r ï¿½rtelmetlenï¿½l bï¿½mult, majd Dick arcï¿½ra szegezte a tekintetï¿½t, aztï¿½n a Grahamï¿½re. Megismerte ï¿½ket ï¿½s az ajkai szomorï¿½ mosolyra hï¿½zï¿½dtak. Megszï¿½lalt:

- Elï¿½szï¿½r... elï¿½szï¿½r azt hittem, hogy meghaltam.

De hirtelen mï¿½s jutott eszï¿½be. Dick ï¿½szrevette ezt az ï¿½t kutatï¿½ pillantï¿½sban. A pillantï¿½s azt kï¿½rdezte, vajjon tudja-e Dick, hogy nem vï¿½letlenï¿½l tï¿½rtï¿½nt. Dick nem ï¿½rult el semmit. Paula ï¿½gy tervezte. Tï¿½vozzï¿½k az ï¿½letbï¿½l ebben a hitben.

Paula megszï¿½lalt megint. Lassan, gyengï¿½n beszï¿½lt, lï¿½thatï¿½ fï¿½jdalmak kï¿½zï¿½tt, minden szï¿½ utï¿½n megï¿½llt, hogy erï¿½t gyï¿½jtsï¿½n a beszï¿½dhez:

- Nem... volt... igazam. Mindig olyan biztos voltam, hogy velem nem tï¿½rtï¿½nhetik baleset, ï¿½s most nï¿½zzï¿½tek, mit csinï¿½ltam.

- Nagy szï¿½gyen - mondta Dick gyengï¿½d hangon. - Mi tï¿½rtï¿½nt? Lecsapï¿½dott?

Paula bï¿½lintott rï¿½. Az ajkï¿½n megint megjelent a szomorï¿½, bï¿½tor mosoly, mikor trï¿½fï¿½san, a gyerek-beszï¿½det utï¿½nozva mondta:

- Dick, hï¿½vd be mind a szomszï¿½dokat ï¿½s mutasd meg nekik, mit csinï¿½lt a rossz kis Paula. Sï¿½lyos, mondd?

Dick nem felelt mingyï¿½rt. Paula komolyan hozzï¿½tette:

- Lï¿½gy becsï¿½letes, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½. Ismersz.

Dick bï¿½lintott.

- Szï¿½val sï¿½lyos. Sokï¿½ tart mï¿½g?

*-* Nem sokï¿½. De akï¿½rmikor
megkï¿½nnyï¿½thetjï¿½k a dolgot.

Paula kï¿½vï¿½ncsian nï¿½zett az orvosra ï¿½s megint Dickre:

- ï¿½gy gondolod, hogy...?

Dick igent intett. Paula hï¿½lï¿½san suttogta:

- Nem is vï¿½rtam tï¿½led mï¿½st, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½. De Robinson doktor belemegy?

Az orvos odalï¿½pett mellï¿½, hogy lï¿½thassa, ï¿½s igent intett.

- Kï¿½szï¿½nï¿½m, doktor. De kï¿½rem, majd ï¿½n mondom, hogy mikor.

- Nagyon fï¿½j? - kï¿½rdezte Dick.

A Paula szeme fï¿½lelmesen kitï¿½gult ï¿½s a szï¿½ja megreszketett, mielï¿½tt felelt:

- A fï¿½jdalom nem nagy, de fï¿½lelmes, borzasztï¿½ fï¿½lelmes. Nem akarom sokï¿½ tï¿½rni. Majd szï¿½lok.

Megint mosoly jelent meg az ajkï¿½n. ï¿½jabb szeszï¿½ly mosolya.

- Az ï¿½let furcsa, roppant furcsa, ï¿½gy-e? ï¿½n ï¿½gy akarok kimenni belï¿½le, hogy szerelmes dal legyen a fï¿½lemben. Kï¿½rem, Evan, ï¿½nekelje el a Cigï¿½nyok ï¿½tjï¿½t. Alig egy ï¿½rï¿½ja mï¿½g egyï¿½tt ï¿½nekeltem magï¿½val. Gondoljon vissza. Kï¿½rem, Evan, kï¿½rem...

Graham egy pillantï¿½ssal kï¿½rt engedelmet Dicktï¿½l. Dick egy pillantï¿½ssal adta meg.

- De erï¿½sen ï¿½nekelje, boldogan, szerelmesen, ahogy egy udvarlï¿½ cigï¿½ny ï¿½nekelnï¿½. ï¿½s ï¿½lljon hï¿½trï¿½bb, oda, ahol lï¿½thatom.

ï¿½s Graham vï¿½gigï¿½nekelte az egï¿½sz dalt:

A nï¿½ szï¿½vï¿½nek egy fï¿½rfiszï¿½v,

Mint hajdani szï¿½p idï¿½n,

A nï¿½ szï¿½vï¿½nek egy fï¿½rfiszï¿½v,

ï¿½gy szï¿½llj te velem tovï¿½bb,

Ott messze, messze a hajnal int,

S miï¿½nk az egï¿½sz vilï¿½g.

Ezalatt Hallode mozdulatlan arccal ï¿½llott az ajtï¿½nyï¿½lï¿½sban, mint egy szobor, ï¿½s vï¿½rta a parancsokat. Szentatyï¿½m kï¿½tsï¿½gbeesve ott ï¿½llt ï¿½rnï¿½je fejï¿½nï¿½l, mï¿½r nem tï¿½rdelte a kezï¿½t, de ï¿½gy ï¿½sszeszorï¿½totta, hogy az ujja hegye ï¿½s a kï¿½rme belefehï¿½redett. Hï¿½tul a Paula ï¿½ltï¿½zï¿½-asztalï¿½nï¿½l Robinson doktor zajtalanul oldotta fel a csillapï¿½tï¿½szer kapszulï¿½jï¿½t ï¿½s megtï¿½ltï¿½tte a pravazt.

Mikor Graham befejezte, Paula a szemï¿½vel mondott neki kï¿½szï¿½netet, lehï¿½nyta a szemï¿½t ï¿½s egy darabig mozdulatlanul fekï¿½dt. Kï¿½sï¿½bb felnï¿½zett.

- Most pedig, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, kï¿½rem az Aikut ï¿½nekï¿½t, ï¿½s a Harmat-asszonyt, a Rï¿½gy-asszonyt. ï¿½llj oda, ahol Evan ï¿½llott, hogy jï¿½l lï¿½thassalak.

ï¿½s Dick ï¿½nekelt:

- ï¿½n vagyok Aikut, az elsï¿½ nishinam. Aikut annyit jelent, hogy ï¿½dï¿½m. Az apï¿½m a farkas volt, az anyï¿½m a holdvilï¿½g. Ez pedig Yototowi, a felesï¿½gem. Yototowi annyit jelent, hogy ï¿½va. ï¿½ az elsï¿½ nishinam nï¿½. ï¿½n vagyok Aikut. Ez az ï¿½n harmat-asszonyom. Ez az ï¿½n mï¿½zharmat-asszonyom. Az apja a sierrai hajnal volt, az anyja a nyï¿½ri hegyek keleti szele. Ezek ï¿½lltak ï¿½ssze ï¿½s a levegï¿½bï¿½l ï¿½s a fï¿½ldbï¿½l minden ï¿½dessï¿½get kiadtak, mï¿½g a szerelmï¿½k zï¿½porï¿½ban a mï¿½lnabokor ï¿½s a manzanita leveleit a mï¿½zharmat szï¿½llotta meg. Yototowi az ï¿½n mï¿½zharmat-asszonyom. Hallgassatok rï¿½m. ï¿½n vagyok Aikut. Yototowi az ï¿½n fï¿½rjtyï¿½kom, az ï¿½n ï¿½nï¿½kï¿½m, az ï¿½n rï¿½gy-asszonyom, a lï¿½gy esï¿½ ï¿½s a kï¿½vï¿½r fï¿½ld asszonya. A halvï¿½ny csillagfï¿½nybï¿½l ï¿½s a tï¿½nï¿½ hajnalpirbï¿½l szï¿½letett a vilï¿½g hajnalï¿½n, ï¿½ nekem az egyetlen nï¿½ ï¿½s minden nï¿½ nekem ï¿½.

Paula lehï¿½nyt szemekkel megint nï¿½mï¿½n fekï¿½dt egy darabig. Egyszer mï¿½lyebb lï¿½lekzetet prï¿½bï¿½lt venni, de ettï¿½l tï¿½bbszï¿½r kï¿½nnyedï¿½n kï¿½hï¿½gnie kellett.

- Prï¿½bï¿½ld meg, ne kï¿½hï¿½gj - mondta Dick.

Lï¿½ttï¿½k, hogyan vonja szorosra a szemï¿½ldï¿½kï¿½t akarata megfeszï¿½tï¿½sï¿½ben, hogy erï¿½t vegyen azon a kï¿½nzï¿½ ingeren, amely gï¿½rcsï¿½t okozhatott volna.

Aztï¿½n kinyitotta a szemï¿½t ï¿½s megszï¿½lalt:

- Szentatyï¿½m, gyere ide, ahol lï¿½thatlak.

A kï¿½nai lï¿½ny szï¿½t fogadott, vakon botorkï¿½lt kï¿½rï¿½l. Robinson kï¿½nytelen volt a karjï¿½nï¿½l megfogni ï¿½s vezetni.

- Isten veled, Szentatyï¿½m. Te mindig nagyon jï¿½ voltï¿½l hozzï¿½m. ï¿½s lehet, hogy ï¿½n nï¿½ha nem voltam jï¿½ hozzï¿½d. Ne haragudj. Ne felejtsd el, hogy a nagysï¿½gos ï¿½r mindig pï¿½tolni fogja az apï¿½dat ï¿½s az anyï¿½dat... ï¿½s minden gyï¿½ngyï¿½met neked adom.

Behï¿½nyta a szemï¿½t annak jelï¿½ï¿½l, hogy a rï¿½vid kihallgatï¿½s vï¿½get ï¿½rt.

A kï¿½hï¿½gï¿½si inger megint elkezdte kï¿½nozni. Attï¿½l lehetett tartani, hogy egyre erï¿½sebb lesz. Gyï¿½ngï¿½n, mï¿½g mindig lecsukott szemmel megszï¿½lalt:

- Kï¿½sz vagyok, Dick. Aluszkï¿½lni akarok. Kï¿½szen van a doktor? Gyere kï¿½zelebb. Fogd a kezemet, mint akkor, a kis halï¿½lkor.

Grahamra nï¿½zett. Dick nem nï¿½zett oda, mert tudta, hogy ebben az utolsï¿½ pillantï¿½sban szerelem van. Mint ahogy tudta, hogy ha most Paula ï¿½rï¿½ nï¿½zne, ebben az utolsï¿½ pillantï¿½sban is szerelem volna. Paula Grahamnek magyarï¿½zta a kifejezï¿½st:

- Egyszer operï¿½ltak. Bevittem magammal Dicket az altatï¿½ba ï¿½s ï¿½ fogta a kezemet, mï¿½g elaltattak. Henley az altatï¿½st a rï¿½szeg sï¿½tï¿½tsï¿½gnek hï¿½vta, meg a kis halï¿½lnak. Nem volt nehï¿½z.

Szï¿½tlanul nï¿½zte tovï¿½bb Grahamet. Aztï¿½n Dick felï¿½ fordï¿½totta az arcï¿½t ï¿½s a szemï¿½t, aki kï¿½zvetlenï¿½l mellette tï¿½rdelt ï¿½s a kezï¿½t fogta.

Paula megszorï¿½totta az ujjï¿½val a Dickï¿½t. ï¿½gy, ï¿½s a szemï¿½vel kï¿½rte, hogy Dick hajtsa hozzï¿½ a fï¿½lï¿½t.

- Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, - sï¿½gta neki - nagyon, nagyon szeretlek. ï¿½s bï¿½szke vagyok, hogy olyan hosszï¿½, hosszï¿½ ideig a tied lehettem.

Az ujja szorï¿½tï¿½sï¿½val mï¿½g kï¿½zelebb hozta magï¿½hoz.

- Sajnï¿½lom, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½, hogy nem volt kis baba...

Ujja elernyedï¿½sï¿½vel jelezte, hogy Dick visszahï¿½zï¿½dhatik tï¿½le. ï¿½gy mind a kï¿½t fï¿½rfit nï¿½zhette felvï¿½ltva.

- Kï¿½t kedves, kedves fiï¿½. Isten veletek, kedves fiï¿½k. Isten ï¿½ldjon meg, Vï¿½rï¿½s Felhï¿½.

Az orvos feltï¿½rte a Paula karjï¿½n a ruhï¿½t. ï¿½k vï¿½rtak.

- Jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t, jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t - mondta csendesen, ï¿½lmos kis madarat utï¿½nozva. - Kï¿½sz vagyok, doktor. Elï¿½bb jï¿½l feszï¿½tse meg a bï¿½rt. Tudja, hogy nagyon ï¿½rzï¿½keny vagyok. Fogj szorosan, Dick.

Robinson, miutï¿½n Dick beleegyezï¿½en pillantott rï¿½, kï¿½nnyedï¿½n ï¿½s gyorsan dï¿½fte a tï¿½t a kifeszï¿½tett bï¿½rbe, a pravaz tolï¿½jï¿½t biztos kï¿½zzel nyomta beljebb, aztï¿½n az ujja hegyï¿½vel gyï¿½ngï¿½den dï¿½rzsï¿½lte a morfint, hogy felszï¿½vï¿½djï¿½k.

- Jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t, jï¿½ ï¿½jszakï¿½t... - suttogta Paula nemsokï¿½ra ï¿½lmosan.

Fï¿½lig mï¿½g ï¿½ntudatnï¿½l az oldalï¿½ra fekï¿½dt, szabad fï¿½lkarjï¿½t behajtotta a vï¿½nkoson ï¿½s megfï¿½szkelte rajta a fejï¿½t, aztï¿½n ï¿½sszehï¿½zva a testï¿½t olyan gï¿½rbï¿½re, hogy jï¿½l elhelyezkedjï¿½k, mï¿½g izgett-mozgott, hogy helyï¿½t talï¿½lja. Dick tudta, hogy ï¿½gy szeret aludni.

Hosszï¿½ idï¿½ mulva gyengï¿½n sï¿½hajtott ï¿½s olyan csendesen kezdett agonizï¿½lni, hogy nem is vettï¿½k ï¿½szre, mikor meghalt. A szoba csendjï¿½be kï¿½vï¿½lrï¿½l becsicseregtek a szï¿½kï¿½kï¿½ton lubickolï¿½ vadkanï¿½rik ï¿½s messzirï¿½l behallatszott a Hegyi Fickï¿½ harsonahangja ï¿½s Fotherington Princess ezï¿½stï¿½s nyerï¿½tï¿½se.

Vï¿½ge.