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Chapter Thirty-one

A few days after landing in this mountainous land they hit a coastline which swept diagonally before them from the south-west to the north-east, a coastline of monumental grandeur: deep majestic ravines, soaring pinnacles of ice --- fjords.

For two further days they scrambled and climbed over the rocks and glaciers, awe-struck with beauty.

``Arthur!'' yelled Ford suddenly.

It was the afternoon of the second day. Arthur was sitting on a high rock watching the thundering sea smashing itself against the craggy promontories.

``Arthur!'' yelled Ford again.

Arthur looked to where Ford's voice had come from, carried faintly in the wind.

Ford had gone to examine a glacier, and Arthur found him there crouching by the solid wall of blue ice. He was tense with excitement --- his eyes darted up to meet Arthur's.

``Look,'' he said, ``look!''

Arthur looked. He saw the solid wall of blue ice.

``Yes,'' he said, ``it's a glacier. I've already seen it.''

``No,'' said Ford, ``you've looked at it, you haven't seen it. Look!''

Ford was pointing deep into the heart of the ice.

Arthur peered --- he saw nothing but vague shadows.

``Move back from it,'' insisted Ford, ``look again.''

Arthur moved back and looked again.

``No,'' he said, and shrugged. ``What am I supposed to be looking for?''

And suddenly he saw it.

``You see it?''

He saw it.

His mouth started to speak, but his brain decided it hadn't got anything to say yet and shut it again. His brain then started to contend with the problem of what his eyes told it they were looking at, but in doing so relinquished control of the mouth which promptly fell open again. Once more gathering up the jaw, his brain lost control of his left hand which then wandered around in an aimless fashion. For a second or so the brain tried to catch the left hand without letting go of the mouth and simultaneously tried to think about what was buried in the ice, which is probably why the legs went and Arthur dropped restfully to the ground.

The thing that had been causing all this neural upset was a network of shadows in the ice, about eighteen inches beneath the surface. Looked at it from the right angle they resolved into the solid shapes of letters from an alien alphabet, each about three feet high; and for those, like Arthur, who couldn't read Magrathean there was above the letters the outline of a face hanging in the ice.

It was an old face, thin and distinguished, careworn but not unkind.

It was the face of the man who had won an award for designing the coastline they now knew themselves to be standing on.


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