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Chapter Two

This morning, two years later than that, was sweet and fragrant as he emerged from the cave he called home until he could think of a better name for it or find a better cave.

Though his throat was sore again from his early morning yell of horror, he was suddenly in a terrifically good mood. He wrapped his dilapidated dressing gown tightly around him and beamed at the bright morning.

The air was clear and scented, the breeze flitted lightly through the tall grass around his cave, the birds were chirruping at each other, the butterflies were flitting about prettily, and the whole of nature seemed to be conspiring to be as pleasant as it possibly could.

It wasn't all the pastoral delights that were making Arthur feel so cheery, though. He had just had a wonderful idea about how to cope with the terrible lonely isolation, the nightmares, the failure of all his attempts at horticulture, and the sheer futurelessness and futility of his life here on prehistoric Earth, which was that he would go mad.

He beamed again and took a bite out of a rabbit leg left over from his supper. He chewed happily for a few moments and then decided formally to announce his decision.

He stood up straight and looked the world squarely in the fields and hills. To add weight to his words he stuck the rabbit bone in his hair. He spread his arms out wide.

``I will go mad!'' he announced.

``Good idea,'' said Ford Prefect, clambering down from the rock on which he had been sitting.

Arthur's brain somersaulted. His jaw did press-ups.

``I went mad for a while,'' said Ford, ``did me no end of good.''

``You see,'' said Ford, ``--- ...''

``Where have you been?'' interrupted Arthur, now that his head had finished working out.

``Around,'' said Ford, ``around and about.'' He grinned in what he accurately judged to be an infuriating manner. ``I just took my mind off the hook for a bit. I reckoned that if the world wanted me badly enough it would call back. It did.''

He took out of his now terribly battered and dilapidated satchel his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic.

``At least,'' he said, ``I think it did. This has been playing up a bit.'' He shook it. ``If it was a false alarm I shall go mad,'' he said, ``again.''

Arthur shook his head and sat down. He looked up.

``I thought you must be dead ...'' he said simply.

``So did I for a while,'' said Ford, ``and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. A kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.''

Arthur cleared his throat, and then did it again.

``Where,'' he said, ``did you ...?''

``Find a gin and tonic?'' said Ford brightly. ``I found a small lake that thought it was a gin and tonic, and jumped in and out of that. At least, I think it thought it was a gin and tonic.''

``I may,'' he added with a grin which would have sent sane men scampering into trees, ``have been imagining it.''

He waited for a reaction from Arthur, but Arthur knew better than that.

``Carry on,'' he said levelly.

``The point is, you see,'' said Ford, ``that there is no point in driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later.''

``And this is you sane again, is it?'' said Arthur. ``I ask merely for information.''

``I went to Africa,'' said Ford.

``Yes?''

``Yes.''

``What was that like?''

``And this is your cave is it?'' said Ford.

``Er, yes,'' said Arthur. He felt very strange. After nearly four years of total isolation he was so pleased and relieved to see Ford that he could almost cry. Ford was, on the other hand, an almost immediately annoying person.

``Very nice,'' said Ford, in reference to Arthur's cave. ``You must hate it.''

Arthur didn't bother to reply.

``Africa was very interesting,'' said Ford, ``I behaved very oddly there.''

He gazed thoughtfully into the distance.

``I took up being cruel to animals,'' he said airily. ``But only,'' he added, ``as a hobby.''

``Oh yes,'' said Arthur, warily.

``Yes,'' Ford assured him. ``I won't disturb you with the details because they would -''

``What?''

``Disturb you. But you may be interested to know that I am singlehandedly responsible for the evolved shape of the animal you came to know in later centuries as a giraffe. And I tried to learn to fly. Do you believe me?''

``Tell me,'' said Arthur.

``I'll tell you later. I'll just mention that the Guide says ...''

``The ...?''

``Guide. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You remember?''

``Yes. I remember throwing it in the river.''

``Yes,'' said Ford, ``but I fished it out.''

``You didn't tell me.''

``I didn't want you to throw it in again.''

``Fair enough,'' admitted Arthur. ``It says?''

``What?''

``The Guide says?''

``The Guide says there is an art to flying,'' said Ford, ``or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.'' He smiled weakly. He pointed at the knees of his trousers and held his arms up to show the elbows. They were all torn and worn through.

``I haven't done very well so far,'' he said. He stuck out his hand. ``I'm very glad to see you again, Arthur,'' he added.

Arthur shook his head in a sudden access of emotion and bewilderment.

``I haven't seen anyone for years,'' he said, ``not anyone. I can hardly even remember how to speak. I keep forgetting words. I practise you see. I practise by talking to ... talking to ... what are those things people think you're mad if you talk to? Like George the Third.''

``Kings?'' suggested Ford.

``No, no,'' said Arthur. ``The things he used to talk to. We're surrounded by them for heaven's sake. I've planted hundreds myself. They all died. Trees! I practise by talking to trees. What's that for?''

Ford still had his hand stuck out. Arthur looked at it with incomprehension.

``Shake,'' prompted Ford.

Arthur did, nervously at first, as if it might turn out to be a fish. Then he grasped it vigorously with both hands in an overwhelming flood of relief. He shook it and shook it.

After a while Ford found it necessary to disengage. They climbed to the top of a nearby outcrop of rock and surveyed the scene around them.

``What happened to the Golgafrinchans?'' asked Ford.

Arthur shrugged.

``A lot of them didn't make it through the winter three years ago,'' he said, ``and the few who remained in the spring said they needed a holiday and set off on a raft. History says that they must have survived ...''

``Huh,'' said Ford, ``well well.'' He stuck his hands on his hips and looked round again at the empty world. Suddenly, there was about Ford a sense of energy and purpose.

``We're going,'' he said excitedly, and shivered with energy.

``Where? How?'' said Arthur.

``I don't know,'' said Ford, ``but I just feel that the time is right. Things are going to happen. We're on our way.''

He lowered his voice to a whisper.

``I have detected,'' he said, ``disturbances in the wash.''

He gazed keenly into the distance and looked as if he would quite like the wind to blow his hair back dramatically at that point, but the wind was busy fooling around with some leaves a little way off.

Arthur asked him to repeat what he had just said because he hadn't quite taken his meaning. Ford repeated it.

``The wash?'' said Arthur.

``The space-time wash,'' said Ford, and as the wind blew briefly past at that moment, he bared his teeth into it.

Arthur nodded, and then cleared his throat.

``Are we talking about,'' he asked cautiously, ``some sort of Vogon laundromat, or what are we talking about?''

``Eddies,'' said Ford, ``in the space-time continuum.''

``Ah,'' nodded Arthur, ``is he? Is he?'' He pushed his hands into the pocket of his dressing gown and looked knowledgeably into the distance.

``What?'' said Ford.

``Er, who,'' said Arthur, ``is Eddy, then, exactly?''

Ford looked angrily at him.

``Will you listen?'' he snapped.

``I have been listening,'' said Arthur, ``but I'm not sure it's helped.''

Ford grasped him by the lapels of his dressing gown and spoke to him as slowly and distinctly and patiently as if he were somebody from a telephone company accounts department.

``There seem ...'' he said, ``to be some pools ...'' he said, ``of instability ...'' he said, ``in the fabric ...'' he said ...

Arthur looked foolishly at the cloth of his dressing gown where Ford was holding it. Ford swept on before Arthur could turn the foolish look into a foolish remark.

``... in the fabric of space-time,'' he said.

``Ah, that,'' said Arthur.

``Yes, that,'' confirmed Ford.

They stood there alone on a hill on prehistoric Earth and stared each other resolutely in the face.

``And it's done what?'' said Arthur.

``It,'' said Ford, ``has developed pools of instability.''

``Has it?'' said Arthur, his eyes not wavering for a moment.

``It has,'' said Ford with a similar degree of ocular immobility.

``Good,'' said Arthur.

``See?'' said Ford.

``No,'' said Arthur.

There was a quiet pause.

``The difficulty with this conversation,'' said Arthur after a sort of pondering look had crawled slowly across his face like a mountaineer negotiating a tricky outcrop, ``is that it's very different from most of the ones I've had of late. Which, as I explained, have mostly been with trees. They weren't like this. Except perhaps some of the ones I've had with elms which sometimes get a bit bogged down.''

``Arthur,'' said Ford.

``Hello? Yes?'' said Arthur.

``Just believe everything I tell you, and it will all be very, very simple.''

``Ah, well I'm not sure I believe that.''

They sat down and composed their thoughts.

Ford got out his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic. It was making vague humming noises and a tiny light on it was flickering faintly.

``Flat battery?'' said Arthur.

``No,'' said Ford, ``there is a moving disturbance in the fabric of space-time, an eddy, a pool of instability, and it's somewhere in our vicinity.''

``Where?''

Ford moved the device in a slow lightly bobbing semi-circle. Suddenly the light flashed.

``There!'' said Ford, shooting out his arm. ``There, behind that sofa!''

Arthur looked. Much to his surprise, there was a velvet paisley-covered Chesterfield sofa in the field in front of them. He boggled intelligently at it. Shrewd questions sprang into his mind.

``Why,'' he said, ``is there a sofa in that field?''

``I told you!'' shouted Ford, leaping to his feet. ``Eddies in the space-time continuum!''

``And this is his sofa, is it?'' asked Arthur, struggling to his feet and, he hoped, though not very optimistically, to his senses.

``Arthur!'' shouted Ford at him, ``that sofa is there because of the space-time instability I've been trying to get your terminally softened brain to get to grips with. It's been washed out of the continuum, it's space-time jetsam, it doesn't matter what it is, we've got to catch it, it's our only way out of here!''

He scrambled rapidly down the rocky outcrop and made off across the field.

``Catch it?'' muttered Arthur, then frowned in bemusement as he saw that the Chesterfield was lazily bobbing and wafting away across the grass.

With a whoop of utterly unexpected delight he leapt down the rock and plunged off in hectic pursuit of Ford Prefect and the irrational piece of furniture.

They careered wildly through the grass, leaping, laughing, shouting instructions to each other to head the thing off this way or that way. The sun shone dreamily on the swaying grass, tiny field animals scattered crazily in their wake.

Arthur felt happy. He was terribly pleased that the day was for once working out so much according to plan. Only twenty minutes ago he had decided he would go mad, and now he was already chasing a Chesterfield sofa across the fields of prehistoric Earth.

The sofa bobbed this way and that and seemed simultaneously to be as solid as the trees as it drifted past some of them and hazy as a billowing dream as it floated like a ghost through others.

Ford and Arthur pounded chaotically after it, but it dodged and weaved as if following its own complex mathematical topography, which it was. Still they pursued, still it danced and span, and suddenly turned and dipped as if crossing the lip of a catastrophe graph, and they were practically on top of it. With a heave and a shout they leapt on it, the sun winked out, they fell through a sickening nothingness, and emerged unexpectedly in the middle of the pitch at Lord's Cricked Ground, St John's Wood, London, towards the end of the last Test Match of the Australian Series in the year 198-, with England needing only twenty-eight runs to win.


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