In this warm and fanciful story of a Connecticut farmer, Marion Zimmer
Bradley has caught some of the glory that is man's love for man—no
matter who he is nor whence he's from. By heck, you'll like little Matt.
by ... Marion Zimmer Bradley
Mr. Emmett did his duty by the visitor from
another world—never doubting the right of it.
You say that Matthew is
your own son, Mr. Emmett?
Yes, Rev'rend Doane, and a
better boy never stepped, if I do
say it as shouldn't. I've trusted
him to drive team for me since he
was eleven, and you can't say
more than that for a farm boy.
Way back when he was a little
shaver so high, when the war
came on, he was bounden he was
going to sail with this Admiral
Farragut. You know boys that
age—like runaway colts. I
couldn't see no good in his being
cabin boy on some tarnation Navy
ship and I told him so. If he'd
wanted to sail out on a whaling
ship, I 'low I'd have let him go.
But Marthy—that's the boy's Ma—took
on so that Matt stayed
home. Yes, he's a good boy and
a good son.
We'll miss him a powerful lot
if he gets this scholarship thing.
But I 'low it'll be good for the
boy to get some learnin' besides
what he gets in the school here.
It's right kind of you, Rev'rend,
to look over this application thing
Well, if he is your own son, Mr.
Emmett, why did you write 'birthplace
unknown' on the line here?
Rev'rend Doane, I'm glad you
asked me that question. I've been
turnin' it over in my mind and
I've jest about come to the conclusion
it wouldn't be nohow fair
to hold it back. I didn't lie when
I said Matt was my son, because
he's been a good son to me and
Marthy. But I'm not his Pa and
Marthy ain't his Ma, so could be I
stretched the truth jest a mite.
Rev'rend Doane, it's a tarnal
funny yarn but I'll walk into the
meetin' house and swear to it on
a stack o'Bibles as thick as a cord
You know I've been farming
the old Corning place these past
seven year? It's good flat Connecticut
bottom-land, but it isn't
like our land up in Hampshire
where I was born and raised. My
Pa called it the Hampshire Grants
and all that was King's land when
his Pa came in there and started
farming at the foot of Scuttock
Mountain. That's Injun for fires,
folks say, because the Injuns used
to build fires up there in the
spring for some of their heathen
doodads. Anyhow, up there in the
mountains we see a tarnal power
of quare things.
You call to mind the year we
had the big thaw, about twelve
years before the war? You mind
the blizzard that year? I heard tell
it spread down most to York. And
at Fort Orange, the place they call
Albany now, the Hudson froze
right over, so they say. But those
York folks do a sight of exaggerating,
Anyhow, when the ice went out
there was an almighty good thaw
all over, and when the snow run
off Scuttock mountain there was
a good-sized hunk of farmland in
our valley went under water. The
crick on my farm flowed over the
bank and there was a foot of water
in the cowshed, and down in the
swimmin' hole in the back pasture
wasn't nothing but a big gully
fifty foot and more across, rushing
through the pasture, deep as a
lake and brown as the old cow.
You know freshet-floods? Full up
with sticks and stones and old
dead trees and somebody's old
shed floatin' down the middle.
And I swear to goodness, Parson,
that stream was running along so
fast I saw four-inch cobblestones
floating and bumping along.
I tied the cow and the calf and
Kate—she was our white mare;
you mind she went lame last year
and I had to shoot her, but she
was just a young mare then and
skittish as all get-out—but she
was a good little mare.
Anyhow, I tied the whole kit
and caboodle of them in the woodshed
up behind the house, where
they'd be dry, then I started to
get the milkpail. Right then I
heard the gosh-awfullest screech
I ever heard in my life. Sounded
like thunder and a freshet and a
forest-fire all at once. I dropped
the milkpail as I heard Marthy
scream inside the house, and I
run outside. Marthy was already
there in the yard and she points
up in the sky and yelled, "Look
We stood looking up at the
sky over Shattuck mountain where
there was a great big—shoot now,
I d'no as I can call its name but
it was like a trail of fire in the
sky, and it was makin' the dangdest
racket you ever heard, Rev'rend.
Looked kind of like one of
them Fourth-of-July skyrockets,
but it was big as a house. Marthy
was screaming and she grabbed
me and hollered, "Hez! Hez,
what in tunket is it?" And when
Marthy cusses like that, Rev'rend,
she don't know what she's saying,
she's so scared.
I was plumb scared myself. I
heard Liza—that's our young-un,
Liza Grace, that got married to
the Taylor boy. I heard her crying
on the stoop, and she came flying
out with her pinny all black and
hollered to Marthy that the pea
soup was burning. Marthy let out
another screech and ran for the
house. That's a woman for you.
So I quietened Liza down some
and I went in and told Marthy it
weren't no more than one of them
shooting stars. Then I went and
did the milking.
But you know, while we were
sitting down to supper there came
the most awful grinding, screeching,
pounding crash I ever heard.
Sounded if it were in the back
pasture but the house shook as if
somethin' had hit it.
Marthy jumped a mile and I
never saw such a look on her face.
"Hez, what was that?" she
"Shoot, now, nothing but the
freshet," I told her.
But she kept on about it. "You
reckon that shooting star fell in
our back pasture, Hez?"
"Well, now, I don't 'low it did
nothing like that," I told her.
But she was jittery as an old hen
and it weren't like her nohow.
She said it sounded like trouble
and I finally quietened her down
by saying I'd saddle Kate up and
go have a look. I kind of thought,
though I didn't tell Marthy, that
somebody's house had floated
away in the freshet and run
aground in our back pasture.
So I saddled up Kate and told
Marthy to get some hot rum ready
in case there was some poor soul
run aground back there. And I
rode Kate back to the back
It was mostly uphill because
the top of the pasture is on high
ground, and it sloped down to the
crick on the other side of the rise.
Well, I reached the top of the
hill and looked down. The crick
were a regular river now, rushing
along like Niagary. On the other
side of it was a stand of timber,
then the slope of Shattuck mountain.
And I saw right away the
long streak where all the timber
had been cut out in a big scoop
with roots standing up in the air
and a big slide of rocks down to
It was still raining a mite and
the ground was sloshy and
squanchy under foot. Kate
scrunched her hooves and got real
balky, not likin' it a bit. When
we got to the top of the pasture
she started to whine and whicker
and stamp, and no matter how
loud I whoa-ed she kept on a-stamping
and I was plumb scared
she'd pitch me off in the mud.
Then I started to smell a funny
smell, like somethin' burning.
Now, don't ask me how anything
could burn in all that water, because
I don't know.
When we came up on the rise
I saw the contraption.
Rev'rend, it was the most tarnal
crazy contraption I ever saw in
my life. It was bigger nor my
cowshed and it was long and thin
and as shiny as Marthy's old
pewter pitcher her Ma brought
from England. It had a pair of
red rods sticking out behind and
a crazy globe fitted up where the
top ought to be. It was stuck in
the mud, turned halfway over on
the little slide of roots and rocks,
and I could see what had happened,
The thing must have been—now,
Rev'rend, you can say what
you like but that thing must have
flew across Shattuck and landed
on the slope in the trees, then
turned over and slid down the hill.
That must have been the crash
we heard. The rods weren't just
red, they were red-hot. I could
hear them sizzle as the rain hit
In the middle of the infernal
contraption there was a door, and
it hung all to-other as if every
hinge on it had been wrenched
halfway off. As I pushed old
Kate alongside it I heared somebody
hollering alongside the contraption.
I didn't nohow get the
words but it must have been for
help, because I looked down and
there was a man a-flopping along
in the water.
He was a big fellow and he
wasn't swimming, just thrashin'
and hollering. So I pulled off my
coat and boots and hove in after
him. The stream was running fast
but he was near the edge and I
managed to catch on to an old
tree-root and hang on, keeping his
head out of the water till I got my
feet aground. Then I hauled him
onto the bank. Up above me
Kate was still whinnying and raising
Ned and I shouted at her as I
bent over the man.
Wal, Rev'rend, he sure did give
me a surprise—weren't no proper
man I'd ever seed before. He was
wearing some kind of red clothes,
real shiny and sort of stretchy and
not wet from the water, like you'd
expect, but dry and it felt like
that silk and India-rubber stuff
mixed together. And it was such
a bright red that at first I didn't
see the blood on it. When I did I
knew he were a goner. His chest
were all stove in, smashed to
pieces. One of the old tree-roots
must have jabbed him as the current
flung him down. I thought
he were dead already, but then
he opened up his eyes.
A funny color they were, greeny
yellow. And I swear, Rev'rend,
when he opened them eyes I felt
he was readin' my mind. I thought
maybe he might be one of them
circus fellers in their flying contraptions
that hang at the bottom
of a balloon.
He spoke to me in English,
kind of choky and stiff, not like
Joe the Portygee sailor or like
those tarnal dumb Frenchies up
Canady way, but—well, funny.
He said, "My baby—in ship. Get—baby ..."
He tried to say
more but his eyes went shut and
he moaned hard.
I yelped, "Godamighty!" 'Scuse
me, Rev'rend, but I was so blame
upset that's just what I did say,
"Godamighty, man, you mean
there's a baby in that there dingfol
contraption?" He just moaned
so after spreadin' my coat around
the man a little bit I just plunged
in that there river again.
Rev'rend, I heard tell once
about some tomfool idiot going
over Niagary in a barrel, and I
tell you it was like that when I
tried crossin' that freshet to reach
I went under and down, and
was whacked by floating sticks
and whirled around in the freshet.
But somehow, I d'no how except
by the pure grace of God, I got
across that raging torrent and
clumb up to where the crazy dingfol
machine was sitting.
Ship, he'd called it. But that
were no ship, Rev'rend, it was
some flying dragon kind of thing.
It was a real scarey lookin' thing
but I clumb up to the little door
and hauled myself inside it. And,
sure enough, there was other
people in the cabin, only they
was all dead.
There was a lady and a man
and some kind of an animal
looked like a bobcat only smaller,
with a funny-shaped rooster-comb
thing on its head. They all—even
the cat-thing—was wearing those
shiny, stretchy clo'es. And they
all was so battered and smashed
I didn't even bother to hunt for
their heartbeats. I could see by
a look they was dead as a doornail.
Then I heard a funny little
whimper, like a kitten, and in a
funny, rubber-cushioned thing
there's a little boy baby, looked
about six months old. He was
howling lusty enough, and when
I lifted him out of the cradle kind
of thing, I saw why. That boy
baby, he was wet, and his little
arm was twisted under him. That
there flying contraption must have
smashed down awful hard, but
that rubber hammock was so soft
and cushiony all it did to him was
jolt him good.
I looked around but I couldn't
find anything to wrap him in.
And the baby didn't have a stitch
on him except a sort of spongy
paper diaper, wet as sin. So I
finally lifted up the lady, who had
a long cape thing around her, and
I took the cape off her real gentle.
I knew she was dead and she
wouldn't be needin' it, and that
boy baby would catch his death
if I took him out bare-naked like
that. She was probably the baby's
Ma; a right pretty woman she was
but smashed up something shameful.
So anyhow, to make a long
story short, I got that baby boy
back across that Niagary falls
somehow, and laid him down by
his Pa. The man opened his eyes
kind, and said in a choky voice,
I told him I would, and said
I'd try to get him up to the house
where Marthy could doctor him.
The man told me not to bother.
"I dying," he says. "We come
from planet—star up there—crash
here—" His voice trailed off into
a language I couldn't understand,
and he looked like he was praying.
I bent over him and held his
head on my knees real easy, and
I said, "Don't worry, mister, I'll
take care of your little fellow until
your folks come after him. Before
God I will."
So the man closed his eyes and
I said, Our Father which art in
Heaven, and when I got through
he was dead.
I got him up on Kate, but he
was cruel heavy for all he was
such a tall skinny fellow. Then
I wrapped that there baby up in
the cape thing and took him
home and give him to Marthy.
And the next day I buried the
fellow in the south medder and
next meetin' day we had the baby
baptized Matthew Daniel Emmett,
and brung him up just like our
own kids. That's all.
All? Mr. Emmett, didn't you
ever find out where that ship
really came from?
Why, Rev'rend, he said it come
from a star. Dying men don't lie,
you know that. I asked the
Teacher about them planets he
mentioned and she says that on
one of the planets—can't rightly
remember the name, March or
Mark or something like that—she
says some big scientist feller with
a telescope saw canals on that
planet, and they'd hev to be pretty
near as big as this-here Erie canal
to see them so far off. And if they
could build canals on that planet
I d'no why they couldn't build a
I went back the next day when
the water was down a little, to
see if I couldn't get the rest of
them folks and bury them, but the
flying machine had broke up and
washed down the crick.
Marthy's still got the cape
thing. She's a powerful saving
woman. We never did tell Matt,
though. Might make him feel
funny to think he didn't really
b'long to us.
But—but—Mr. Emmett, didn't
anybody ask questions about the
baby—where you got it?
Well, now, I'll 'low they was
curious, because Marthy hadn't
been in the family way and they
knew it. But up here folks minds
their own business pretty well,
and I jest let them wonder. I told
Liza Grace I'd found her new
little brother in the back pasture,
and o'course it was the truth.
When Liza Grace growed up she
thought it was jest one of those
yarns old folks tell the little
And has Matthew ever shown
any differences from the other
children that you could see?
Well, Rev'rend, not so's you
could notice it. He's powerful
smart, but his real Pa and Ma
must have been right smart too to
build a flying contraption that
could come so far.
O'course, when he were about
twelve years old he started reading
folks' minds, which didn't
seem exactly right. He'd tell
Marthy what I was thinkin' and
things like that. He was just at
the pesky age. Liza Grace and
Minnie were both a-courtin' then,
and he'd drive their boy friends
crazy telling them what Liza
Grace and Minnie were a-thinking
and tease the gals by telling them
what the boys were thinking
There weren't no harm in the
boy, though, it was all teasing.
But it just weren't decent, somehow.
So I tuk him out behind
the woodshed and give his
britches a good dusting just to
remind him that that kind of thing
weren't polite nohow. And Rev'rend
Doane, he ain't never done
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe May 1954.
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.