Much refreshed by Profan's hospitality, Jophan stepped out briskly, and by noon had left the region of great estates far behind. He was now in open country again, a region of dry scrubland interspersed with bare sandy patches which became more frequent as he journeyed on.
As the country grew more desolate he kept an anxious eye open for the tribesmen whom Profan had mentioned. Then, as he was on the point of turning back to look more carefully, he espied a faint column of smoke rising into the air some distance to his left. Threading his way through the scrub in that direction he was greatly relieved to come across a group of tents which he knew must be a village of the strange natives.
The encampment contained several dozen of the Subrs, as Profan had said they were called, all sitting perfectly still on the ground before their tents and staring blankly into the distance. They seemed to be a sturdy and honest race, but with a strangely impassive cast of countenance, and their faces showed no emotion when Jophan made his appearance. Nevertheless he strode into the centre of the village and greeted them cheerily, expecting that they would spring to their feet and cluster round him. But instead they continued to ignore his presence completely. Surprised, Jophan raised his voice and greeted them again, announcing his name and the purpose of his visit. But still the strange people seemed unconscious of his existence. Indeed he would have judged them to be both blind and deaf had he not noticed one of them raise his eyebrows slightly when Jophan had finished speaking. Incensed at their apathy he lost his temper and flew into a rage, jumping up and down and waving his arms to attract their attention, and then launching into a loud and impassioned discourse, describing in detail the importance of his purpose and the impossibility of fulfilling it without their help. At this a few Subrs turned their eyes curiously in his direction, but none of them showed the slightest sign of answering his call.
In desperation Jophan went up to the native who had appeared to be the first to notice him, and pleaded with him for an explanation of the tribe's reluctance to co-operate.
The Subr looked indifferently at him and spoke.
"Many Neofen come," he grunted. "Many seek help. Many leave us in desert, our help wasted. You show difference."
For a moment Jophan could not understand what he meant, and then he realised he was being called on to demonstrate that he had the necessary stamina and strength of will to cross the desert. Resignedly, he began to run round and round the encampment.
The afternoon wore on, and Jophan continued to run round the encampment, watched impassively by the Subrs. Every now and then he would stop and plead with them again, and each time they evinced a little more interest.
Finally one of them rose and nodded at Jophan. Still without a word he picked up a skin water-bottle and a package of food, and stood waiting. His example was followed by several others until a small group had collected at Jophan's side. He thanked them gratefully, and the small expedition started off into the desert. -
This version is from GHUTENBERG'S BHIBLE -- Section 7-b (Appendix B) -- Copyright © 1994 by Greg Hills. All rights reserved.
All rights to the original material is retained by the authors.