The Game That Never Ends, Part Eight

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The Game That Never Ends: Part Eight

    Among the village-gardeners, it was so easy to lose sight of any others. Alone, sequestered in their impenetrable forest thickets, the people came to feel they existed on the earth all alone.

   The coming of the peddler introduced new products obviously fabricated elsewhere. At first, his annual trips were rebuffed by the elders. They stopped him at the edge of the forest before he could emerge along the narrow game trail into the clearing where the village opened to the river.

   "Go back to where you came," the Elders told him.

   "We have no need of your goods," they continued, speaking as one, one speaking for all.

   "Why do you reject me?" the peddler wanted to know.

   "You are not of the garden-village," they told him. "You bring strange things to us. For all we know, there is disease in what you carry."

   "That’s right. You may have a disease in your goods against which we have no defence," another spoke up and, seeing the glares from his fellows, grew quickly silent.

   He told the peddler more than they wanted him to know.

   "Don’t be afraid of me," he told them, wide-eyed with seeming astonishment. "You can try my goods for as long as you want. The village down stream and up country from you deal with me. They breathe the same air, hunt the same fields, quaff at the same cup as you."

  He knew their language. He seemed aware of their customs. In fact, he seemed to know all about them.

   The first year, the sent him away. For five years, he returned, for ten and each time he was turned back by the Elders.

   One year, he did not appear on the path at the usual time.

   "Do you think he has finally decided not to come?" the grandfather of the husband asked his son, father to the husband.

   "I don’t think so, father," came the answer. "I think he is watching us from the forest this year, all year. I don’t know why we fascinate him. We have certainly told him no enough times."

  "We have told him no consistently," his father told him. "I don’t know if we have told him no enough yet. He seems set on our village as a customer."

   For years the Elders did not see the peddler. The Elders began to die, one after another.

   Finally, there was only one of the original Elders left.

   He had changed his mind about the peddler. His change seemed total and very, very sudden.

   He was the Elder who spoke out of turn in the first meeting with the peddler.

   If the village-gardeners had looked in the Elder’s hut they would have found some of the peddler’s wares. If they had followed the Elder into the forest, they would have found a treasure trove of peddler’s wares, all stored for the pleasure of the fearful Elder.

   "There is no disease among his goods," he now assured the new Leader Council. "I feel sure of it."

   "Let the peddler into our village," he concluded.

   When the peddler entered, much to the amazement of the villagers, he did not seem to have aged at all.