My father was a gloomy man. He had been for many years. I could not remember a time when he was happy, although my mother assured me that he had been happy once. Back when my father was the crown prince’s son, a young man and the grandson of the King, he had been happy. And my father himself told me that on the day he married my mother, he was the happiest man in the world.
That was before the accident that took the life of my grandfather and my great-grandfather, as well as my father’s two younger brothers. That was three years before I was born.
My father was deeply hurt when he lost so many of his family – and at the same time he suddenly found himself bearing the weight of the kingdom on his young shoulders.
My mother tried to comfort him. It helped, I think. My father would have been much sadder without her. She did much to raise his spirits, and it did some good. He still smiled – sometimes. He would be enthusiastic about something – occasionally. There were moments when he would be with us and we would all enjoy each other and laugh together. There were interludes where I can remember his face was bright and his eyes would sparkle.
But most of the time, my father looked sad and weary. His shoulders sagged and he walked slowly.
There was much that weighed on his heart. Some of it I was aware of when I was a small child; some of it I didn’t learn till many years later. But what I was increasingly aware of from a young age was that there were men who despised my father.
Melthro was their leader.
Melthro was a popular lord among the people in the southern part of Oren. He had many allies, and he had a vision for the kingdom – a different one than my father.
My father, like his father and grandfather before him, was a follower of Áronyeh and the True Way. Or, the “old and superstitious ways,” as some called them. Melthro and most of the lords and barons from the South derided my father and his “scruples”.
I first saw this on display when I was ten years old. Forgive me, for although I told you I would begin my story where I stood up to Jelran, I must first tell you this, for it will help you understand Melthro’s power and influence, and his utter disrespect for my father. It was during the Council of Lords, which in times of peace would meet every other year to discuss the affairs of the kingdom. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it was about the third time in my life that I could remember when so many horses and carriages and men came to the city, and that my father was very busy meeting with the important leaders of the land.
The morning of the second day of the Council, Othniel and I were playing together in the palace grounds with our baby brothers, Jeysen and Relend. Our mother came out and had the servants bring the two little ones in, and then was left alone with us in the courtyard. She knelt down and looked me in the eye. She was silent for a moment, and the expression in her eyes was profound – it was both tender and grave, and it held me where I was, waiting intently for her to speak.
“Edlen,” she said at last, “You will someday be King.” She paused for a moment, and let those words sink into me. “You are old enough to begin to understand what grown men have to say. You shall come with me today, to watch your father in the Council of Lords.”
“Really?” I said. “Does Father want me to?”
My mother paused a moment. “He wants you to learn to be a King,” she said. “Part of that is to watch and learn from him.”
I grinned, and my boyish heart raced as I imagined myself by my father’s side, his hand on my shoulder as he addressed the lords of Oren. It was a special feeling to be included by my father. At that time in my childhood, I whole heartedly embraced my role as my father’s heir, and longed to be a part of everything he did.
My mother turned to my brother Othniel. “You shall come too, Othniel. You are also now old enough, and you shall be an important prince in the land. You both shall come and learn today what it means to be the King of Oren.” She stood back up.
“When are we going, mother?” Othniel asked.
“Soon, so both of you should go dress for the court.”
Othniel turned to me, his eyes and mouth wide in an excited grin. “Race you!” And he scampered into the palace and up the stairs to our quarters. I was right on his heels. Although smaller, he was more agile than I was and I was unable to catch him, and he got to our room first.
Minutes later we had put on our court apparel and were rushing back down to find our mother. She found us and immediately began adjusting our work, shaking her head and smoothing every wrinkle she could find. “There,” she said, “that should be presentable.” She stood and sighed. “Come, let us go.”
The palace of the king was large. It was surrounded by several acres, around which was built a stone wall about the height of two men. The palace itself was located off-center toward the main gate in the southern wall. This part of the grounds formed a large courtyard, where for the present the visiting lords of the land had parked their carriages. There was a stable there as well for their horses.
To the West, the North, and the East, the grounds formed a park full of gardens and grassy yards. The one to the North (in the back of the palace) was where my brothers and I usually played. It was the most private and we were usually left alone amidst the grass, the trees and the various garden walls. It was a boy’s paradise to us, and we treated it as such – much to the anxiety of the gardener, who feared we would step on his flowers and break the branches of the bushes, and much to the chagrin of our mother when we soiled or tore our clothes from climbing the trees. Both of them (the gardener and our mother) would remind us that the palace grounds were not just for our enjoyment, but for all the residents of the palace.
My family and I were not the only residents. We did have nearly half the palace to ourselves – the North and West wings. These wings were for us, our family servants, and any guests we entertained. But the East wing was for other important dignitaries – some were ambassadors from other kingdoms, some visiting barons and lords. This week, I knew, the East Wing was full.
The South wing was the largest of all the wings. It was different from the other wings. It contained many large and grand rooms, including the Great Hall, the King’s Library (I must tell you more about the library! Perhaps later in my story), the throne room, and the Hall of the Lords.
The Hall of Lords was where our mother took us. This was where the great Council of Lords was meeting. I was excited. I had been in the hall many times, but only when it was not in use. Whenever there was a Council, I was not allowed inside. It was “not a place for small children’s ears”, I had heard my mother say before, to “hear the inner workings of the kingdom”. But now I was big enough! I felt very grown-up.
Much to my disappointment, my mother did not lead us inside the main floor of the hall as I had imagined she would. Instead, she took Othniel and I up the stairs that led to the balcony of the hall. I guess we weren’t that grown up… we had to be tucked out of the way of all the “important business”. My boyish spirits sank.
“Hello, Edlen! Hello, Othniel!” said a cheery voice as soon as we entered the balcony. I looked up to see a girl about our age grinning and waving it us. Her greeting was instantly followed by a strong (though silent) reprimand from her mother, who was sitting beside her. Othniel and I knew her well. She was Leonah, the daughter of Lord Doáno. I was surprised to see her, but I smiled and returned her wave. “I guess it makes sense that she’s here,” I thought. “She’s old enough to see her father in the counsel too.” Leonah was eight, like Othniel (although she seemed more my age because she was the same height as me). She was usually around the palace for several weeks at a time, three or four times a year. Even though her father’s lands were many miles to the north, Lord Doáno was often at the palace, and he often brought his family with him.
I liked Leonah (most of the time). She was a fun playmate for Othniel and myself, and we usually got along well… even though she was sometimes a bit feisty and strong-headed. When she wanted to get her way, Othniel and I would usually give in to her. Perhaps it was because we wanted to feel chivalrous (being the king’s sons and all). It probably helped that she was pretty. She had long dark hair and deep brown eyes that seemed to snap at you when she wasn’t pleased (which she wasn’t now… she didn’t like being reprimanded, especially by her parents because then she couldn’t retort back).
I sat down beside her, and Othniel on my other side. “Hi,” I whispered.
“Hi,” she replied, still annoyed. “We have to be really quiet, you know, so they can’t hear us below,” she added, rolling her eyes.
“O look,” said Othniel, interrupting. “I see your father down there.” He pointed at Lord Doáno. Leonah’s father was seated with some of the other lords from the northern part of the kingdom. He was well-dressed for the occasion, in red and green embroidered with gold (red and green were the official colors of his territory). “He looks really important,” Othniel added, with some admiration in his voice. Leonah nodded and smiled slightly.
“Shhh,” reminded my mother, who had sat down on Othniel’s other side. (Othniel had forgotten to whisper.) She reached past us and touched Leonah’s mother on the shoulder and smiled a silent greeting. Leonah’s mother smiled back. (Our mothers were good friends. Come to think of it, our fathers were too.)
I leaned over the rail a bit to see my father. There he was seated in the King’s chair at the end of the hall (which was close to where we sat in the balcony). He was dressed in his royal robes, blue embroidered with white, and he wore the royal crown upon his head, which was made of gold and embedded with diamonds and sapphires. (I knew from my history lessons that this crown had been fashioned by the dwarves of the southern mountains as a gift to our kingdom when my great-great-grandfather was king, over a hundred years ago.) I swelled with pride for my father and sat up a little straighter. “Father looks splendid,” I whispered, loud enough for Othniel and Leonah to hear.
My mother must have heard me, for she reached reached over and squeezed my shoulder and replied, “Yes. He does.” I looked at her, and she was smiling, looking down to where father sat. But something about her expression gave me pause. Her face was still grave as it had been earlier… full of love and admiration for my father, as only her face could express… and yet also grave, and uneasy. I wondered at this.
“I think they are starting soon,” said Leonah, leaning in my direction and pointing toward my father.
As she spoke, I saw my father stand and raise his scepter, and the lords all stood and were quiet. “Welcome, lords of Oren,” he said.
“Sire,” said the lords in unison. Then they sat down again. (I learned later that this was a formality… they did it every morning of the counsel.)
My father began speaking. I do not remember all that he said, and all that followed as the various lords took turns speaking for the next hour. I must confess to you that I was quickly bored… there were a lot of things mentioned that I did not fully understand, like financial matters, road construction, and trade with other kingdoms and realms. I began to fidget.
I looked over at Othniel. He was leaning on our mother. Asleep. I looked over at Leonah. She was wide awake, seemingly interested in everything the lords were talking about below.
“Are you paying attention to everything they’re talking about?” I whispered.
“Yes. Aren’t you?”
“Sort of. But not everything. I’m getting tired of sitting here.”
Leonah smirked. “Of course it’s boring. So far they’re agreeing on everything. They haven’t started talking about the problems in the south yet.”
My interest was suddenly peeked. “Problems?”
“You’ll see,” Leonah said. “My father says that it will probably be brought up by…” her eyes narrowed, and she almost spat out the words (in spite of us whispering). “...Lord Melthro.”
“Lord Melthro?” I asked. “Why Lord Melthro?”
Leonah looked at me incredulously. “You’re the King’s son, and you haven’t figured out what’s going on?” She shook her head and sighed. “You’ll see.”
Just then, I noticed my father speaking. “We have discussed trade with other kingdoms,” he said, “and we have been discussing the border guarassen, but up till now we have avoided the issue of the southern border. Lords Melthro and Doáno both want to address this issue, and have agreed…” my father looked around at the other lords, “... surprising, I know, but they agreed…” (there was some nervous laughter among the lords) “... that Lord Melthro should speak first.”
Leonah jabbed me in the side. “Here it comes,” she whispered.
Lord Melthro rose. Even from up above in the balcony, he cut an impressive figure. He was tall, and his voice was deep. He had a long, narrow black beard that reached halfway down to his waist. He was dressed in his usual colors of red and black.
“I thank you, O King,” he said. I shuddered where I sat. Ever since I could remember, Melthro’s voice sent shivers down my spine. There was something in his voice, his tone… something that at ten years old I couldn’t describe, though as I grew I began to understand it.
It was a coldness.
To be sure, it was guised in feigned thoughtfulness and statesmanship, and most of the Lords of Oren, it seemed, could not sense it. But I could. Even at ten years old, I could.
“King Melca, and Lords of Oren, I speak for many of us when I bring this petition to the counsel. For many, many years… yea, even centuries… no one in this room can recall a time when our nation dealt freely with our neighbor to the South, the people of Galtor.”
“Galtor!” I thought. I shuddered again. I had heard of this place. It was part of the history lessons Othniel and I learned. Galtor was an evil kingdom, ruled by an evil king, with evil laws and evil ways. So this was what Leonah meant when she said, “problems in the South.” But why did Lord Melthro want to talk about Galtor?
Melthro continued. “Before any of us were born, in another time and place, this law and statute was set up in our land, that none were to have any dealings, any trade, or any travel, to their land except by the King’s leave. And we know, of course, what that means: only for purposes of subversion, or spying, or perhaps all-out war.”
Melthro paused his oration and eyed my father. There was, in his face, a subtle look of disapproval. There was a murmuring among some of the lords. I saw lord Doáno narrow his eyes and shake his head. Obviously, he was not pleased with Melthro’s speech.
Melthro turned to the lords. “At the time this law was made, it seemed sensible to our fathers. Their ways are different than ours. Many of their customs have been, shall we say, offensive to many of our sensibilities and traditions. But listen, my lords. The times are changing, and with those times we must adapt. Here in Oren, we have our religious feelings, and to be sure they matter. But these must also be balanced with practical concerns. My proposal, O king is simple: that we reevaluate the law that prohibits dealings with Galtor, and allow at least some limited trade across our southern border.”
I immediately felt the tension in the room. The murmuring arose again, this time louder. It was mostly among the lords from the northern parts of the kingdom, and much of it was centered around Lord Doáno.
“Trade with Galtor! How dare he!” Leonah whispered fiercely.
Lord Melthro raised his hand. “I have many good reasons for what I am saying,” said Lord Melthro. “And I will gladly list them all to you. But I know that some of us are not thrilled at change of this nature, and especially Lord Doáno. I will yield the floor and let him speak.”
“Oh, my father will tell you what for,” whispered Leonah. It was loud enough for her mother to hear, and she nudged her again disapprovingly. Leonah scowled.
Below, her father stood up. He, too, was an impressive figure… although in a different way. Lord Doáno was a whole head shorter than Melthro, but he was built thicker. He was strong. Leonah had once boasted that if there was ever a war, her father’s weapon of choice would be a battle-axe.
I took a good look at him again. He was not pleased. I could tell not just by his scowl, but by the color in his face. “Lords of Oren!” he boomed. “Lord Melthro has invited objections to his proposal. I will gladly give them. Let me remind you of our history.” Lord Doáno swept his gaze around the room. “This is the year eight hundred seventy-five. That number means something. It was eight hundred and seventy-five years ago that Áronyeh created this world. It was eight hundred and twenty-five years ago that the evil one, Ordéash, spurned his Creator and, seeking to twist all that Áronyeh had made, came to Arah and beguiled Rayôn and Qeyrah, who through their lack of faith brought death and ruin into our world. It has now been seven hundred twenty-five years since Oren, the fifth son of Rayôn and the father of our nation and our people, came to the lands between the Middle and the river that bears his name, and likewise his twin Jema between his river and the sea. Galtor, their older brother and the fourth son of Rayôn, settled to the south.
“Galtor hated his creator and was of one spirit with Ordéash, and he likewise taught his children to hate the One who created them. As his family grew and spread throughout his lands, Ordéash and his sons grew more and more wicked. They openly declared their allegiance to the enemy. They set up a temple to him and demanded that all in their lands bow the knee and worship the evil one as their most supreme god. Any who resisted, or who tried to follow Áronyeh, were slaughtered — unless they could escape. Some fled to nearby kingdoms, including our own. And as everyone in this room knows, one of these refugees was my own mother.” Lord Doáno paused and looked sternly at Lord Melthro. “My mother knew, better than anyone here, the evil and cruelty of Ordéash worshipers.”
I looked at Melthro to see his reaction. He merely nodded slightly. I couldn’t read his face.
Lord Doáno continued. “Galtor, becoming the servant of Ordéash as he was, was not content to establish his rebellion in his own kingdom. Evil is never satisfied to stay where it is! He sent messengers and spies into other kingdoms, including our own! Guised as merchants and craftsmen they were, so as not to raise suspicion as to their true purpose. But soon enough they revealed themselves, when they sowed suspicion and distrust into the hearts of people, to turn them away from Áronyeh. It was not long before there was a mixed group of Galtorians, along with our own people, who began to set up shrines to Ordéash, and secretly meet and perform accursed rituals. And so darkness began to spread in our realm.
“Our father, Oren, saw what was happening to his people, and five hundred years ago he banned all merchants of Galtor and any who followed Ordéash from the kingdom. He raised an army from among his sons and fortified our border to keep them out. He tore down the shrines and burned the ground on which they were built. Thus he held back the evil in our land, and confined it beyond the border. Oren lived to a ripe old age of four hundred thirty-seven. Before his death, he charged his sons — our fathers — to protect our lands and never let Ordéash establish a foothold.”
Lord Doáno stopped and spun a full circle on his heel, raised his hands dramatically and boomed even more loudly. “Lords! Do not forget our own history. For if you do, I assure you, Galtor has not forgotten. They still remember. They have long been ambitious to rule over the other kingdoms, from the Jonád mountains and the Tolgen Sea to the Wilds of Gelen. And so far, they have not yet attempted to fight us openly, because we and the other kingdoms around them have been united in resisting them. Instead, they seek to weaken our resolve, and influence us away from our Creator. They are very intentional in doing this. If you doubt me, any of you are welcome to talk to the ambassador from Telra. Ask him what happened only fifty years ago in his country when they began to allow trade with Galtor. Ask him about the cults that sprung up in his lands, about the poisoning of their king’s son and an attempt on the life of the king himself! This, O lords, is why we do not allow their merchants into our lands. This, O lords, is why we do not allow our merchants into theirs. This, O lords, is why we do not trade with them.”
Lord Doáno whirled and sat down in his seat. The hall erupted… some of the Lords were saying “Hear, hear!” while others were loudly crying their disapproval.
Leonah jumped to her feet and said out loud, “You tell them, father!” Immediately her mother grabbed her shoulders and sat her back down, and whispered to hear fiercely. “Leonah, silence! We are guests and you must not speak!” she reprimanded. “If you continue to be unruly I will not bring you back!”
Leonah’s eyes seemed to be on fire.
“Do you think Lord Melthro is angry now?” whispered Othniel. He was awake. I looked down and saw Lord Melthro was standing with his hand raised, waiting for the other lords to quiet down. If he was angry, he didn’t show it, but he had his ready reply.
“I must congratulate you, Lord Doáno. That was a very heartfelt, and shall we say, colorful interpretation of Galtor’s history. I am sure your dear mother (and she was a fine woman, I’m sure), would be very proud of you. But you do yourself and the other lords a mis-service, to leave out certain facts that you deem unimportant but that are, in fact, quite relevant.
“I do not doubt the sincerity of your mother and the accounts of her sufferings. Any woman who had been through what she had, who had endured torture and disfigurement, and the loss of her family, would feel as she did. All these things were the unfortunate results of civil unrest between the rulers of Galtor and a small number of the people who had fallen behind and felt disaffected. Yes, there was some religious conflict, and I’m not saying the rulers of Galtor were right in what they did; nevertheless, to set it up as purely a persecution by evil devil-worshipers against pious protestors, is an oversimplification of what happened. This becomes evident with a careful study of Galtor’s history and politics.”
“A careful study!” Lord Doáno blurted out. “A careful study indeed!”
“Please, Lord Doáno,” said Melthro, “I know you are quite passionate, but please try to not interrupt.”
Lord Doáno glowered.
“Lords, I believe the time has come when we need to move on from what has happened in years past. I do not believe that Galtor is trying in any way to subvert our kingdom. My lands are on the border, and so I am quite aware of current events. I know the happenings in Galtor. And furthermore, I see that allowing trade and dialogue between our nations offers us tremendous advantage, if we can but curb our religious zeal and see it.”
“Tremendous advantage?” interrupted another Lord, who was seated close to Lord Doáno. “What advantage can come from trading with the likes of Galtor?”
“That’s Lord Benthrop,” whispered Leonah. “His lands are just North of ours.”
“I am so glad you asked, Lord Benthrop,” said Melthro. There was a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. He looked at Lord Benthrop, and Lord Doáno, and the other lords seated near them, and continued. “It is easy, O Lords, to say in the North, ‘we have no need for Galtor.’ You are far away from the border towns. Your streets do not have merchants who frequent the Galtorian marketplaces, as ours do. There is viable trade, and commerce. Galtor is a land full of grain, and fruits, and seeds and nuts, many of which you have served at your feasts in your halls… they have ports on the Eastern Sea, and colonies on other continents, from which they export precious gems and metals that cannot be found in our own country.
“They have also made great advancements in their understanding of machines, and their architecture. Their halls and palaces are becoming the envy of the world. You have heard of their great aqueducts, and their paved roads. Their knowledge is advancing, and their education is great, and it would behoove us to learn from their discoveries, and emulate their enterprise. But,” he said, “We cannot learn from them. We risk falling behind them, because we do not trade with them.” Lord Melthro looked around at the other lords, and his voice dropped. “You know, my fellow lords, that many of us in the South have found enforcing the long tradition of not trading with Galtor, to be… impractical.”
I heard a small murmur arise from some of the men in the room. Melthro raised his hand and paused, before continuing. “There are too many good men in my cities who trade openly with Galtor. I see no wrong in what they do… in fact, there has been much good of it. The prosperity for the people in my lands has greatly increased from this trade. These men are making an honest living, providing for their wives and little ones, and employing others who likewise make a living for their families. What shall we say then? Are these men criminals? Traitors? Say it is not so!”
The murmuring grew louder.
“Lords! Brothers!” exclaimed Melthro. “All I ask is that we change our policies as a nation, as a kingdom… that these honest subjects of ours be affirmed in their good work.”
“Their good work!” exclaimed Lord Doáno, rising on his feet. “It is subversive, Melthro! Subversive! Nothing good can come of this! You list all these so-called ‘advances’ of Galtor, and fail to mention the ravages in their land! They declared their allegiance to the great enemy of all mankind! They have certainly accomplished great feats, Melthro, and you know who they give the credit to? To their lord and master Ordéash! And what has Ordéash brought about in Galtor? Sickness! Ruin! Death! Galtor’s cities are filled with slums! Its paved roads and palaces are built on the backs of slaves! Their ships are driven by men condemned to die. And by your advocation of trade with them, you would bring all this evil into our land!”
The hall of lords really erupted this time. All the lords stood and began shouting.
I was taken aback. Never had I seen a room of grown-ups yelling at eachother. It was unnerving. I looked at my mother. She was clenching her jaw and squeezing her eyes shut. I looked at Othniel. His eyes were wide in shock. He looked at me. “Why are they all shouting, Edlen?”
I looked down at the lords, and then back at my younger brother, searching for words to say.
“Peace!” It was my father. He stood in front of his throne and held the scepter high. “Peace!” The lords quieted down and slowly began to sit.
“Lord Melthro,” said my father. “Have you spoken your piece?”
“I suppose that I have, Sire,” said Melthro. “There are many things I could go on to list, of the advantages of trade with Galtor. The other lords with lands on the border will know of what I speak. I could go on to list the advantages in architecture, in medicine, in agriculture… or even how even many things you take for granted, like paper and books, were first conceived in Galtor. But for now, I am finished.”
“Then, Lord Melthro, and other lords, hear me,” said my father. “Lord Doáno is right. You do not know what you are asking, when you want to overturn the law against trade with Galtor. I have little to add to what lord Doáno has already spoken. Do not be allured by what you perceive as riches and prosperity. Remember the saying of old, ‘Áronyeh opposes the proud, but strengthens the humble.’ Galtor has lifted up its fist in the face of our Creator. We are in His hands, and it is up to Him to bless our kingdom and prosper us. What then, could you possibly hope to gain by trading with His enemies? Lord Melthro, and you other lords who have been tolerating this law breaking in your realm — you know who you are — for the good of Oren, and for devotion to our Creator, you must enforce the law in your lands.”
Melthro stood to his full height and looked at the king. “Sire, we have been told this before, and it is wearying to us. One cannot simply ‘enforce the law’, as you insist we do, without throwing many of our people — honest, hard-working people — into prison. The people in my lands would certainly riot if I tried it. We have no desire to enforce this law. It is an old law, and outmoded law. And it is not just the lands on the border where this law is not being enforced. Half the country has given up on the old strict ways. Sire, when you ask us to enforce this law, it is you who do not know what you are asking.”
A fire lit in my father’s eyes. “Melthro!” he said, but at the same time many of the lords responded in support of Melthro with “Hear, hear!” and “Aye!” My father raised his hand for silence, and continued. “Melthro, I am king of this realm and I am not ignorant. I know very well the extent to which the law is being ignored, and those who allowed it to happen. The garrison and the border guard has been left to each lord to administer in his realm, rather than the king himself. And I can see that this policy has been exploited by some of you.”
Melthro’s eyes narrowed. “And Sire, what do you propose? Taking power and autonomy away from us, and concentrating it in yourself?”
My father opened his mouth to reply, and I watched to see what he would say. But no words came. He had no reply. Melthro had cornered him.
“Are you speaking against the king?” shouted Lord Doáno.
“Of course not,” said Lord Melthro. “But I am reminding us all… if there is a disagreement of policy, the solution is not to remove our powers over our own jurisdiction and have our king raise a personal army to patrol our lands. That,” he gestured with his hand to the lords seated around the hall, “would not sit well with any of us.” He looked my father in the eye.
My father visibly swallowed, and furrowed his brow. I saw the tension in his knuckles as he gripped his scepter tightly. “We will discuss this more, Lord Melthro,” he said.
“Of course,” Melthro said cooly. “We would like to know your intentions, Sire.”
I hardly remember what else was said after that. I felt thoroughly shaken inside. I was only ten, but the implications of what I had seen were obvious to me. My father was the king. Someday I would be. My job would be to protect the kingdom, enforce good, and ban evil from the realm. And yet, my father was not able to do this because of strong opposition among the lords. If my father, my strong, wise father, could not do it, how then could I?