12

DEATH OF BRIGHT HEART

Slowly, unaided by mechanical power, Bright Heart returned to the busy and unhappy region whence he had come. With all his strength he broadcast his challenge to the rulers, and to their minions, his own tricked followers.

To the disheartened faithful in all that region he cried, "Away with lying compromise! Refuse, refuse to do the foolish and wicked things that the rulers make to seem prudent and honourable. Refuse in your thousands, and all their power will vanish. They will kill us. Let them kill us by hundreds and thousands. But they cannot kill us all. There will be enough left for the making of the new world. Let us die gladly for the new world."

The authorities made haste to seize Bright Heart. But his words were already abroad upon the ether, and could not be recalled. So they tortured him to force him to recant what he had said. But he continued to proclaim the truth. When he was at the point of death he cried out, "Look! Look! The great Maker who made all nebulae in his likeness watches us from outside the world. His heart is bright. His tresses can brace the cosmos."

I, myself, half expecting to see a divine eternal nebula beyond the hosts of mortal nebula, looked. It was a strange shock to me to see, peering through the veil of innumerable nebulae, the almost human face of God, remote, inscrutable, intent, kindled (as it seemed to me) to ecstasy by the creatures of his own artistry.

Looking once more to Bright Heart, I saw that he was dead, and that slaves were taking his flesh to the nearest munition makers.

But the manner of his death and the words that he had spoken were rumoured from empire to empire throughout the cosmos. And it was said that he himself was the bright-hearted God, and that he had come into the world to save nebulae from their own folly.

Everywhere it was said, "Let us set up the new world now without delay, before we forget the glory of this death." Munition slaves left their battalions in hundreds to join the peace army of Bright Heart's followers. Warriors broke up the dance life of their regiments and foreswore their weapons, fraternizing with the enemy. Empires were shaken and overthrown by the tidal wave of the new life which advanced in all directions like the tremors of an earthquake.

Fire Bolt, observing these great events, wondered whether after all Bright Heart had been right and the new world was to be without further agony.

But presently he saw that, though many rulers had fallen, their places had been taken by others of the same kind, who, while they spoke fair to Bright Heart's followers, established themselves by the old methods. Then one by one the rulers told their peoples that some neighbouring power was insincere in its protestations of goodwill and was secretly planning an attack. Secretly each government provided its neighbours with evidence of its own warlike intentions, for use as propaganda. Thus, as the passion caused by Bright Heart's death waned, and became only a memory, the peoples were tricked once more into fear and hate and war. And the priestly leaders of the followers of Bright Heart told their respective peoples that the divine spirit of Bright Heart, the underlying principle of glad beholding and dancing, was bidding them wage the last of all wars to clear the cosmos of the evil-minded foe.

Chapter 13

Chapter 11

Nebula Maker Contents