Sleep did not come easily that night. For a long time Jon lay motionless beside Brooks, thinking of the day while he listened to the sounds beyond the window-the familiar and unfamiliar sounds of a world he didn't belong in.
Somehow, by some accident, he had been lost on a planet that was not his own. It had been hard for the beans to admit that to him, but of course, there wasn't any other answer. Only, how did he get here and why did so many wild creatures and inventions seem familiar?
Thomas had a theory about the wild creatures and life on other planets. As they puzzled over it that afternoon, Thomas had said, "The latest belief among astronomers is that our earth wasn't made by chance. It's the result of certain exact conditions. There are other suns just like ours, and the same laws affect them. So there are bound to be other worlds like ours . . . with life developing on them in almost exactly the same way. If there are people like Jon on them, then naturally-"
"I won't dispute you," Said Mary, "but that doesn't solve Jon's problem."
That was when Thomas suggested they get help.
"Oh, good heavens, NO!" she exclaimed. "How could anyone help us? Don't you realize what a mess it would be if people start buzzing around? The papers would get it, and we'd have reporters and half the world swarming all over the place like bees. Honestly speaking!"
"Um . . . guess you're right. Thank Pete someone like Angus Macklin didn't find you, Jon. It was extremely lucky we happened on you when we did."
"No, it didn't happen that way, sir. I picked you." He then explained to the beans how he felt the aura of friendliness and compassion that they released and how he had waited for them by the side of the Road.
"That settles it," said Thomas Bean. "If you picked us to help you, we're sticking by you. Now, here's the crazy thing to consider: Our civilization is pretty advanced-if not the most advanced on earth-yet we're just beginning space travel. No human being has landed on distant planets yet (and by distant, I mean planets that are not within the Milky Way Galaxy). So-how did you, whose civilization seems to be behind ours, ever reach us? You must have-"
"Thomas," Mary interrupted him, "you're starting off wrong. Can't you see how wrong you are?"
"But, Mary, I'm judging by what I see. Jon's people haven't progressed beyond the age of Barter and the handloom. They must be tribal, for he knows nothing of money, laws, cities, and government."
"Thomas, cities come and go. Governments fall, and money becomes worthless. Is there a mill on this earth that can produce anything as wonderful and tough as Jon's jacket?"
"Well, if we had that kind of fiber-"
"But we do not have such fiber. Can anyone on this earth learn a language as quickly as he learned ours-and read thoughts the way he does?"
"Can anyone move the way he does?"
Thomas shook his head, his lips compressed.
"Thomas," she went on, if all the people on this earth were absolutely honest, would we need laws and jails and armies and bombs and things? Therefore, doesn't it seem obvious that Jon's people are actually far in advance of us?"
"They're certainly mighty intelligent . . ."
"So intelligent that they could easily have all the expensive and complicated things we have, if they wanted to but they must not want them. They don't value them. I'm sure they've progressed way beyond lusting after expensive and complicated things and value other things more. Thomas, how long do you think it will take us to do away with crime and war?"
Thomas Bean shook his head. "I hope I'm wrong, but at the rate we're going, we'll need another million years."
"Then there's our starting point. If Jon's people are million years ahead of us, they've long known about space travel and they've simplified it. They seem to have simplified everything else. My goodness, Thomas, they could have worked out something as simple as stepping through a door from one room to another."
"That sounds a little farfetched," said Thomas. But maybe I am a million years behind. Does it make any sense to you, Jon?"
At that time, in Jon's mind, something moved. "From one room to another," he repeated. "Door-door-It seems familiar-the idea, I mean."
"Think!" Mary Bean urged him. "Think hard!"
It was no use. The thought, whatever it was, remained in hiding.
When Brooks and Sally came home from school, he spent the rest of the afternoon helping Brooks in the garden. Already they had begun to accept him as Jon O'Connor.
Lying awake in the night beside Brooks, he searched for the hidden thought. It seemed important, the most important of all the hidden thoughts; but the harder he searched, the farther it seemed to retreat from him.
He dozed finally and long later awoke suddenly. Rascal was barking, warning of wild creatures crossing the pasture. The deer and her fawn.
Instantly, silently, he was out of bed, telling Rascal to be quiet while he drew on his clothes. In another minute he was outside, running with lightened feet to the pasture fence and bounding over it.
But the deer had been frightened by Rascal's barking. They had gone back up the forested slope and refused to come down again.
Disappointed, Jon paused and automatically glanced upward.
For the first time since his arrival, he saw the wonder of the stars. Here in the open pasture, above the black bowl of the surrounding mountains, they blazed in uncounted millions. Even as he stared at them, one streaked like a flaming jewel across the sky and at that moment Jon remembered something.
A shooting star! There had been shooting stars when-when something happened. Shooting stars-and a door.
H raced back to the house, excited. It was nearing dawn, and the beans were already stirring. As he burst into the living room, he saw Thomas, still in pajamas, lighting a fire in the fireplace.
"There was a . . ."
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