Story for the Day: The Cat and the Wizard - Part 2
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The wizard sighed and looked sullen, and Mr Vostibbens gave his leg an affectionate rub.
The wizard sighed and looked sullen, and Mr Vostibbens gave his leg an affectionate rub.
“Yes, I know you are still here with me,” the wizard crooned, petting the cat on the head, “but you do spend most of your time at the teahouse with Tabytha, and rightfully so. I would have you here oftener, but I own that she is the properest person to be in charge of you while Beldynn is away. She is an excellent manager and a good friend for lonely old men who have nothing else to do but pine over their sons.” He paused, and a velocity of unpleasant feelings assailed him. “He was there again today,” he grumbled. “Do not play coy, Mr Vostibbens. You cannot pretend to it. I know he was at the teahouse, and I can tell by your look that you were talking to him. Last time we spoke of him, we had a protracted discussion about why you should not be talking to him.”
The cat sniffed and looked perfectly unassuming.
“What do you mean there is no harm in talking to a scientist? They are the harbingers of everything that is mercenary and detrimental to the old ways! They are a wizard’s natural adversary! How could you betray me by courting him and sitting on his lap? Do not come here to me and pretend it was all innocently done. I know what scientists are—and given the chance, you know he would club you over the head and dissect you and claim it as a scientific necessity. You are nothing to him but feline anatomy to be recorded. Yes, you have very fine anatomy, I’m sure, only do not let that scientist find it out. If he discover you are a wizard’s cat, he shall take you apart flesh and bone to prove there is nothing extraordinary about you. What a man like that does not understand is that extroadinary cannot be measured with a microscope. He will look you up and down and examine every hair on your body and cry, ‘Aha! It is only a cat!’ without understanding the consciousness or acknowledging the soul. Fah!” he spat, tossing his hands. “Scientists! What is before them is all they see, and all they need to see. They care nothing about anything that cannot be quantified. Their reliance on logic alone is ghastly appealing. What good has logic ever done for anybody, Mr Vostibbens? Has it saved anybody? Has anybody used it to great advantage? No, because whether it be science or magic, everybody will believe as they like and leave reason by the wayside. Wizards understand logic as well as any scientist, and we know when is proper to use it and when we should rely more on intuition, a thing scientists say does not exist because it cannot be calculated.”
The cat canted its head, and the wizard sulked in silence.
“How can you say such a thing. Mr Vostibbens?” said the wizard presently, in an injured voice. “Do not say we are alike—indeed, we cannot be alike. It is morally and literally impossible that I should be compared to a scientist. You shall take it back, and you shall never repeat such a thing again. It hurts my feelings. Because I hate him. Do not look at me as though I have just offended your whiskers. I hate him, and that is all. I am a wizard, Mr Vostibbens, but I am still a man, and I am not above base aspersions. I am old and have no time for cold civilities.”
He gave a curt humph and folded his arms, and Mr Vostibbens chirruped and seemed severe.
“No,” said the wizard, with a relenting sigh, “I do not believe he deserved what happened to him, despite my feelings. I have no ill-will against the old man, regardless of how little I like his profession, but the Dean of the Academy, that atrocious institution—that man I would gladly see smoulder in the raging agony of a fire spell.” His fists clenched, his nose flared, and he snuffed. “Of course I would use spells on him—do not for a moment think I would not, only it has been forbidden by the king, and I do respect His Majesty, though he has prohibited the open use of magic. I know he only did it because the Chambers convinced him that magic is somehow harming someone—and yet he allows for the construction of that misshapen iron monstrosity that is to barrel through here in a great whiff of noise and steam—that he should forbid, but instead His Majesty bans the demonstration of magic in a public forum. It is discrimination run mad, Mr Vostibbens. Do they believe wizards would simply begin attacking technological progress? If we wanted to do so, we need not do it so brazenly. There are many spells that would make a locomotive dismantle itself. It is impudence and blatant disesteem of Adiethian ethics that impels the decisions in the Chambers. And now the Academy has not only removed its courses on magic, but it has expunged the curriculum of Adiethian history too. What is the Dean about, trying to have Marridonians forget their anscestry—and why should he remove class on magic? It is not as though the class was on practical application, only theory. If we forget our forebears and their ways for the sake of scientific endeavour, we will go nowhere as a people. We cannot move forward without glancing backward once in a while. That is the very meaning of accomplishment. Yes,” with a heavy sigh, “I am rhapsodizing, but I am grown tired of learned men thinking that magic is merely something to be forgotten. I do not mean to set myself against anyone, but they will make themselves such officious antagonists. Cannot they see there is such a thing as magic? Do not they see that it works?” The wizard gave a little flourish, and a blush of iridescent colour trailed from his hand. “And if magic did not create that glow, what did? Frewyns have little difficulty understanding that both science and magic might co-exist. Why must Marridonians be so obdurate? Perhaps that is part of the reason Beldynn left us for that frigid sloe of a country. There is talk of a Frewyn church being to go up near the residential quarter, rather in the poorer part of the capital. I suppose that is the easiest way to entice parishioners. The Chambers cannot like it, because it would mean Frewyn religion pervading the precious Marridonian womb, but why they should allow Frewyn magic in and want Adiethian magic out is amazing to myself. Is it because Frewyns do not call it magic? They might call it the Gift of the Gods, but it is magic still--- yes, I know I am rambling,” giving the cat a sharp look. “I do not mean to be so quarrelsome, Mr Vostibbens. I am only an angry old man, and when one in my line and at my age sees those of the same being suppressed into silent oblivion, it does vex me. Do forgive me.”
Mr Vostibbens bowed his head.
“Thank you. Well,” said the wizard, rolling up his velvet display mat, “I shall do my best not to talk of science or scientists at dinner. I have got my staff, and that should be all my concern—what was that?” stopping and staring at the cat. “You cannot be serious. Leaving? And he is going with the captain? But how can it be? Did Tabytha have anything to do with it? Well…” pausing and stroking the white bramble at the end of his chin. “But the man is married to his library. I daresay he will take the whole library with him. You know, Mr Vostibbens, though I do not like the man, it is a sad thing to think of such a paragon of the academic world as being to leave it. I suppose you are right in one respect—do not look at me like that, I am giving you your due credit—we are alike in that we are both becoming relics. Soon his ideas will be considered old fashioned and will be discredited by the country. I suppose they already are, which is why he was removed from his post. Once he is gone from Marridon, and all his knowledge gone with him, and his peers no longer look to him for guidance, he will understand how we feel. He certainly understands the isolation of genius, whatever that genius might operate by.”
The cat shook its head, and the bell around its neck jingled.
“I do not mean to call myself a genius, Mr Vostibbens,” said the old man, with a dignified air. “I only meant to imply that people with great knowledge understand how that knowledge must be got. Mastery of any subject requires much solitude and patience, leaving time for little else. Yes, we might be lonely in the evening of life, but we have gained in other ways.” He passed his thumb over the pommel of his staff, and his brows furrowed. “To leave our knowledge to our children, that they might benefit from our discoveries and concessions, is all any old man could ask for really.”
A slight blush tinged the wizard’s cheek, and he looked gravely at his empty table. A nose pushed his hand, and the wizard looked down to find Mr Vostibbens standing on his haunches and nuzzling him.