By Peter Michael
There was something odd about
the guest attraction, Mr.
Fayliss, and something
odder still about
So far as parties go, Jocelyn's
were no duller than any others.
I went to this one mainly to listen
to Paul Kutrov and Frank Alva
bait each other, which is usually more
entertaining than most double features.
Kutrov adheres to the "onward and
upward" school of linear progress,
while Alva is more or less of a Spenglerian.
More when he goes along by
himself; less when you try to pin him
down to it. And since the subject of
tonight's revelations would be the pre-Mohammed
Arabian Culture, I'd find
Alva inclined toward my side of the
debate, which is strictly morphological
and without any pious theories of
I'd completely forgotten that Jocelyn
had mentioned something about
having a special attraction: a "Mr.
Fayliss", who, she insisted, was a troubadour.
I didn't comment, not wanting
to spend a day with Jocelyn on the
phone, exploring the Provence.
The night wasn't too warm for August,
and there were occasional gusts
of air seeping through the layers of
tobacco smoke that hovered over the
assemblage. As usual, it was a heterogeneous
crowd, which rapidly formed
numerous islands of discourse. The
trade winds carried salient gems of
intelligence throughout the entire
archipelago at times, and Jocelyn
walked upon the water, scurrying from
one body to another, sopping up the
overflow of "culture". She visited our
atoll, where Kutrov's passionate exposition
had already raised the mean
temperature some degrees, but didn't
stay long. Such debates didn't suggest
any course of social or political action,
and couldn't be trued in to any of her
My attention was wandering from
the Kutrov-Alva variations, for Bill
had only been speaking for ten minutes,
and could not be expected to arrive
at any point whatsoever for at
least another fifteen. From the east of
us came apocalyptic figures of nuclear
physics; from the west, I heard the
strains of Mondrian interwoven with
Picasso; south of us, a post mortem on
the latest "betrayal" of this or that aspiration
of "the people", and to the
north, we heard the mysteries of atonality.
It was while I was looking
around, and letting these things roll
over me, that I saw the stranger enter.
Jocelyn immediately bounced up from
a couch, leaving the crucial problem of
atmosphere-poisoning via fission
and/or fusion bombs suspended, and
made effusive noises.
This, then, was the "troubadour"—Mr.
Fayliss. The Main Attraction was
decidedly prepossessing. Tall, peculiarly
graceful both in appearance and
manner, dressed with an immaculateness
that seemed excessive in this post-Bohemian
circle. There was a decided
musical quality to his speech, as he
made polite comments upon being introduced
to each of us, and an exactness
in sentence-structure, word-choices
and enunciation that bespoke the foreigner.
Jocelyn took him around with
the air of conducting a quick tour
through a museum, then settled him
momentarily with the music group,
now in darkest Schoenberg, only partially
illuminated by "Wozzek". I
watched Fayliss long enough to solidify
an impression that he was at ease
here—but not merely in this particular
discussion. It was a case of his being
simply at ease, period.
Kutrov was watching him, too, and
I saw now that there would be a most-likely
permanent digression. Too bad—I'd
had a feeling that when he came
to his point, it would have been a
strong one. "Hungarian, do you suppose?"
Alva examined the evidence. Fayliss
had high cheekbones, longish eyes,
with large pupils. He was lean, without
giving an impression of thinness.
He had not taken off his gloves, and
I wondered if he would come forth
with a monocle; if he had, it would
not have seemed an affectation.
"I wouldn't say Slavic," Alva said.
He started off on ethnology, and we
toured the Near East again. I jumped
into the break when Kutrov was swallowing
beer and Alva lighting a cigaret
to observe that Fayliss reminded me of
some Egyptian portraits—although I
couldn't set the period. "If those eyes
of his don't shine in the dark," I added,
"they ought to."
A brief pause for appreciation,
then Jocelyn was calling for all
men's attention. She managed to get
it in reasonably short order, took a
deep breath, then dived into announcing
that our "special guest, Mr. Fayliss"
was going to deliver a song-cycle.
Fayliss arose, bowed slightly, then
nodded to Mark Loring, who brought
forth his oboe. "These songs were not
conceived or composed in the form I
am presenting them," he said. "But
I believe that the arrangement I use
is an effective one.
"I call this, 'Song of the Last Men'."
He nodded again to Loring, and the
performance began. His voice was affecting,
and his artistry unmistakable.
And there were overtones in his voice
that gave an added eeriness to the
weird music itself.
The songs told of the feelings, the
memories, and despair of a nearly-extinct
people—one which had achieved
a great culture and a world-wide civilization.
The singer knows that the
civilization has been destroyed; that
the people created by this culture and
civilization are gone, the few survivors
being pitiful fellaheen, unable to rebuild
or bring forth a culture of their
own. There is despair at the loss of
the comforts the civilization they knew
brought them, sorrow at their inability
to share in its greatness—even in
memory; and a resigned certainty that
they are the last of the race—they
will soon be gone, and no others shall
arise after them.
There was silence when Fayliss finished,
then discreet but firm applause,
as if the audience felt that giving full
reign to their approval would make
an impious racket. Fayliss seemed to
sense this feeling, and smiled as he
"These are not songs of your people,
are they?" asked Jocelyn.
Fayliss shook his head. "Oh no—they
are far removed from us. I am
merely an explorer of past cultures
and civilizations, and I enjoy adapting
such masterpieces of the past as I can
find. This arrangement was made for
you; I shall make a different one for
my own people, so that the sonic values
of the music and the words agree
with each other."
Kutrov blinked, then asked him—"Well,
can you tell us something more
about the people who created this cycle?
It has a familiar ring to it, yet I
cannot tie it in with any past culture
I have heard of."
Jocelyn cut in with the regretful
announcement that Mr. Fayliss had
another appointment, and called for a
note of thanks to him for coming.
More applause—this time unrestrained.
Fayliss smiled again and
swept his eyes around us, as if filled
with some amusing secret. Then he
said to Kutrov, "You would find them
I wandered over to the window, in
search of air, and noted that someone
had indiscreetly left a comfortable
chair vacant. I was near the door, so
that I could hear Jocelyn say to Fayliss:
"It was—very moving. Why, I
could almost feel that you were singing
Fayliss smiled again. "That is as it
"Of course," chimed in Loring,
who'd come up to ask Fayliss if he
could have a copy of the score, "that's
the test of expert performance."
The lights were dimmed again by
the fog of tobacco smoke, and I could
see the street quite clearly by moonlight.
I decided I would watch Fayliss,
and see if his eyes did glow in
the dark. I saw him go down the sidewalk,
with that graceful stride of his,
his hands in his pockets. But I couldn't
see his eyes at all.
Then a gust of wind tugged his hat,
and, for an instant I thought he'd have
to go scrambling after it. But, quick
as a rapier thrust, a tail darted out
from beneath his dress coat, caught
the hat, and set it back upon his head.
This etext was produced from Future combined with Science Fiction Stories
September 1951. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.