THE captain soon afterward entered and having performed before Beelzebub all the ceremonies appropriate to Beelzebub’s rank, said:
“Your Right Reverence, allow me to ask your authoritative opinion upon an ‘inevitability’ that lies in the line of our course, and which will hinder our smooth falling by the shortest route.
“The point is that if we follow our intended course, then our ship, after two ‘Kilprenos’ will pass through the solar system ‘Vuanik.’
“But just through where our ship must pass, there must also pass, about a ‘Kilpreno’ before, the great comet belonging to that solar system and named ‘Sakoor,’ or, as it is sometimes called, the ‘Madcap.’
“So if we keep to our proposed course, we must inevitably traverse the space through which this comet will have to pass.
“Your Right Reverence of course knows that this ‘Madcap’ comet always leaves in its track a great deal of ‘Zilnotrago’ which on entering the planetary body of a being disorganizes most of its functions until all the ‘Zilnotrago’ is volatilized out of it.
“I thought at first,” continued the captain, “of avoiding the ‘Zilnotrago’ by steering the ship around these spheres, but for this a long detour would be necessary which would greatly lengthen the time of our passage. On the other hand, to wait somewhere until the ‘Zilnotrago’ is dispersed would take still longer.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 57]
“In view of the sharp distinction in the alternatives before us, I cannot myself decide what to do, and so I have ventured to trouble you, your Right Reverence, for your competent advice.”
The captain having finished speaking, Beelzebub thought a little and then said as follows:
“Really, I do not know how to advise you, my dear Captain. Ah yes . . . in that solar system where I existed for a long time, there is a planet called Earth. On that planet Earth arose, and still continue to arise, very strange three-centered beings. And among the beings of a continent of that planet called ‘Asia,’ there arose and existed a very wise three-brained being whom they called there ‘Mullah Nassr Eddin.’
“For each and every peculiar situation great and small in the existence of the beings there,” Beelzebub continued, “this same terrestrial sage Mullah Nassr Eddin had an apt and pithy saying.
“As all his sayings were full of the sense of truth for existence there, I also always used them there as a guide, in order to have a comfortable existence among the beings of that planet.
“And in the given case too, my dear Captain, I intend to profit by one of his wise sayings.
“In such a situation as has befallen us, he would probably say:
“‘You cannot jump over your knees and it is absurd to try to kiss your own elbow.’
“I now say the same to you, and I add: there is nothing to be done; when an event is impending which arises from forces immeasurably greater than our own, one must submit.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 58]
“The only question is, which of the alternatives you mentioned should be chosen – that is, to wait somewhere or to add to our journey by a ‘detour.’
“You say that to make a detour will greatly lengthen our journey but that waiting will take still longer.
“Good, my dear Captain. Suppose that by making the detour we should save a little time, what do you think: Is the wear and tear of the parts of our ship’s machinery worth while for the sake of ending our journey a little sooner?
“If the detour should involve even the most trifling damage to our ship, then in my opinion we ought to prefer your second suggestion, that is, to stop somewhere until the path is cleared of the noxious ‘Zilnotrago.’ By that means we should spare our ship useless damage.
“And we will try to fill the period of this unforeseen delay with something useful for us all.
“For instance, it would give me personally great pleasure to talk with you about contemporary ships in general and about our ship in particular.
“Very many new things, of which I still know nothing, have been done in this field during my absence from these parts.
“For example, in my time these big transspace ships were so complicated and cumbersome that it took almost half their power to carry the materials necessary to elaborate their possibility of locomotion.
“But in their simplicity and the freedom on them these contemporary ships are just embodiments of ‘Bliss-stokirno.’
“There is such a simplicity for beings upon them and such freedom in respect of all being-manifestations that at times you forget that you are not on one of the planets.
“So, my dear Captain, I should like very much to know how this boon was brought about and how the contemporary ships work.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 59]
“But now go and make all arrangements necessary for the required stopping. And then, when you are quite free, come to me again and we will pass the time of our unavoidable delay in conversation useful for us all.”
When the captain had gone, Hassein suddenly sprang to his feet and began to dance and clap his hands and shout:
“Oh, I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad of this.”
Beelzebub looked with affection on these joyous manifestations of his favorite, but old Ahoon could not restrain himself and, shaking his head reproachfully, called the boy – half to himself – a “growing egoist.”
Hearing what Ahoon called him, Hassein stopped in front of him, and, looking at him mischievously, said:
“Don’t be angry with me, old Ahoon. The reason of my joy is not egoism but only the coincidence which chances to be happy for me. You heard, didn’t you? My Dear grandfather did not decide only just to make a stop, but he also promised the captain to talk with him. . .
“And you know, don’t you, that the talks of my dear grandfather always bring out tales of places where he has been, and you know also how delightfully he tells them and how much new and interesting information becomes crystallized in our presences from these tales.
“Where is the egoism? Hasn’t he himself, of his own free will, having weighed with his wise reason all the circumstances of this unforeseen event, decided to make a stop which evidently doesn’t upset his intended plans very much?
“It seems to me that my dear grandfather has no need to hurry; everything necessary for his rest and comfort is present on the Karnak and here also are many who love him and whom he loves.
“Don’t you remember he said recently ‘we must not oppose forces higher than our own’ and added that not only one must not oppose them, but even submit and receive all their results with reverence, at the same time praising and glorifying the wonderful and providential works of OUR LORD CREATOR?
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 60]
“I am not glad because of the misadventure but because an unforeseen event issuing from above has occurred, owing to which we shall be able to listen once more to the tales of my dear grandfather.
“Is it my fault that the circumstances are by chance most desirable and happy for me?
“No, dear Ahoon, not only should you not rebuke me, but you should join me in expressing gratitude to the source of all beneficent results that arise.”
All this time Beelzebub listened attentively and with a smile to the chatter of his favorite, and when he had finished said:
“You are right, dear Hassein, and for being right I will tell you, even before the captain’s arrival, anything you like.”
Upon hearing this, the boy at once ran and sat at the feet of Beelzebub and after thinking a little said:
“My dear Grandfather, you have told me so much about the solar system where you spent so many years, that now perhaps I could continue just by logic alone to describe the details of the nature of that peculiar corner of our Universe.
“But I am curious to know whether there dwell three-brained beings on the planets of that solar system and whether higher ‘being-bodies’ are coated in them.
“Please tell me now about just this, dear Grandfather,” concluded Hassein, looking affectionately up at Beelzebub.
“Yes,” replied Beelzebub, “on almost all the planets of that solar system also, three-brained beings dwell, and in almost all of them higher being-bodies can be coated.
“Higher being-bodies, or as they are called on some planets of that solar system, souls, arise in the three-brained beings breeding on all the planets except those before reaching which the emanations of our ‘Most Holy Sun Absolute,’ owing to repeated deflections, gradually lose the fullness of their strength and eventually cease entirely to contain the vivific power for coating higher being-bodies.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 61]
“Certainly, my boy, on each separate planet of that solar system also, the planetary bodies of the three-brained beings are coated and take an exterior form in conformity with the nature of the given planet, and are adapted in their details to the surrounding nature.
“For instance, on that planet on which it was ordained that all we exiles should exist, namely, the planet Mars, the three-brained beings are coated with planetary bodies having the form – how shall I tell you – a form like a ‘karoona,’ that is to say, they have a long broad trunk, amply provided with fat, and heads with enormous protruding and shining eyes. On the back of this enormous ‘planetary body’ of theirs are two large wings, and on the under side two comparatively small feet with very strong claws.
“Almost the whole strength of this enormous ‘planetary body’ is adapted by nature to generate energy for their eyes and for their wings.
“As a result, the three-brained beings breeding on that planet can see freely everywhere, whatever the ‘Kal-da-zakh-tee,’ and they can also move not only over the planet itself but also in its atmosphere and some of them occasionally even manage to travel beyond the limits of its atmosphere.
“The three-brained beings breeding on another planet, a little below the planet Mars, owing to the intense cold there are covered with thick soft wool.
“The external form of these three-centered beings is like that of a ‘Toosook,’ that is, it resembles a kind of ‘double sphere,’ the upper sphere serving to contain the principal organs of the whole planetary body, and the other, the lower sphere, the organs for the transformation of the first and second being-foods.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 62]
“There are three apertures in the upper sphere, opening outwards; two serve for sight and the third for hearing.
“The other, the lower sphere, has only two apertures: one in front for taking in the first and second being-foods, and the other at the back for the elimination from the organism of residues.
“To the lower sphere are also attached two very strong sinewy feet, and on each of these is a growth that serves the purpose of fingers with us.
“There is still another planet, a quite small one, bearing the name Moon, in that solar system, my dear boy.
“During its motion this peculiar little planet often approached very near to our planet Mars and sometimes during whole ‘Kilprenos’ I took great pleasure in observing through my ‘Teskooano’ in my observatory the process of existence of the three-brained beings upon it.
“Though the beings of this planet have very frail ‘planetary bodies,’ they have on the other hand a very ‘strong spirit,’ owing to which they all possess an extraordinary perseverance and capacity for work.
“In exterior form they resemble what are called large ants; and, like these, they are always bustling about, working both on and within their planet.
“The results of their ceaseless activity are now already plainly visible.
“I once happened to notice that during two of our years they ‘tunnelled,’ so to say, the whole of their planet.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 63]
“They were compelled to undertake this task on account of the abnormal local climatic conditions, which are due to the fact that this planet arose unexpectedly, and the regulation of its climatic harmony was therefore not prearranged by the Higher Powers.
“The ‘climate’ of this planet is ‘mad,’ and in its variability it could give points to the most highly strung hysterical women existing on another of the planets of that same solar system, of which I shall also tell you.
“Sometimes there are such frosts on this ‘Moon’ that everything is frozen through and through and it becomes impossible for beings to breathe in the open atmosphere; and then suddenly it becomes so hot there that an egg can be cooked in its atmosphere in a jiffy.
“For only two short periods on that peculiar little planet, namely, before and after its complete revolution about its neighbor – another planet nearby – the weather is so glorious that for several rotations the whole planet is in blossom and yields the various products for their first being-food greatly in excess of their general need during their existence in that peculiar intraplanetary kingdom which they have arranged and where they are protected from all the vagaries of this ‘mad’ climate inharmoniously changing the state of the atmosphere.
“Nearest to that small planet is another, a larger planet, which also occasionally approaches quite close to the planet Mars and is called Earth.
“The said Moon is just a part of this Earth and the latter must now constantly maintain the Moon’s existence.
“On the just mentioned planet Earth, also, three-brained beings are formed; and they also contain all the data for coating higher being-bodies in themselves.
“But in ‘strength of spirit’ they do not begin to compare with the beings breeding on the little planet aforementioned. The external coatings of the three-brained beings of that planet Earth closely resemble our own; only, first of all, their skin is a little slimier than ours, and then, secondly, they have no tail, and their heads are without horns. What is worst about them is their feet, namely, they have no hoofs; it is true that for protection against external influences they have invented what they call ‘boots’ but this invention does not help them very much.
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 64]
“Apart from the imperfection of their exterior form, their Reason also is quite ‘uniquely strange.’
“Their ‘being-Reason,’ owing to very many causes about which also I may tell you sometime, has gradually degenerated, and at the present time, is very, very strange and exceedingly peculiar.”
Beelzebub would have said still more, but the captain of the ship entering at that moment, Beelzebub, after promising the boy to tell him about the beings of the planet Earth on another occasion, began to talk with the captain.
Beelzebub asked the captain to tell him, first, who he was, how long he had been captain, and how he liked his work, and afterwards to explain some of the details of the contemporary cosmic ships.
Thereupon the captain said:
“Your Right Reverence, I was destined by my father, as soon as I reached the age of a responsible being, for this career in the service of our ENDLESS CREATOR.
“Starting with the lowest positions on the transspace ships, I ultimately merited to perform the duties of captain, and it is now eight years that I have been captain on the long-distance ships.
“This last post of mine, namely, that of captain of the ship Karnak, I took, strictly speaking, in succession to my father, when after his long years of blameless service to HIS ENDLESSNESS in the performance of the duties of captain from almost the very beginning of the World-creation, he had become worthy to be promoted to the post of Ruler of the solar system ‘Kalman.’
[3. Cause of delay in falling, p. 65]
“In short,” continued the captain, “I began my service just when your Right Reverence was departing for the place of your exile.
“I was still only a ‘sweeper’ on the long-distance ships of that period.
“Yes . . . a long, long time has passed by.
“Everything has undergone change and is changed since then; only our LORD AND SOVEREIGNremains unchanged. The blessings of ‘Amenzano’ on HIS UNCHANGEABLENESS throughout Eternity!
“You, your Right Reverence, have condescended to remark very justly that the former ships were very inconvenient and cumbersome.
“Yes, they were then, indeed, very complicated and cumbersome. I too remember them very well. There is an enormous difference between the ships of that time and the ships now.
“In our youth all such ships both for intersystem and for interplanetary communication were still run on the cosmic substance ‘Elekilpomagtistzen,’ which is a totality consisting of two separate parts of the omnipresent Okidanokh.
“And it was to obtain this totality that just those numerous materials were necessary which the former ships had to carry.
“But these ships did not remain in use long after you flew from these parts, having soon thereafter been replaced by ships of the system of Saint Venoma.”