What astronomical system is your world in? - perhaps that may assist."
"It's the one that has the sun in it - and the moon - and Mars" - he shook his head at each name - hadn't ever heard of them, you see - "and Neptune - and Uranus - and Jupiter - "
"Hold on!" says he - "hold on a minute! Jupiter . . . Jupiter . . . Seems to me we had a man from there eight or nine hundred years ago - but people from that system very seldom enter by this gate." All of a sudden he begun to look me so straight in the eye that I thought he was going to bore through me. Then he says, very deliberate, "Did you come STRAIGHT HERE from your system?"
"Yes, sir," I says - but I blushed the least little bit in the world when I said it.
He looked at me very stern, and says -
"That is not true; and this is not the place for prevarication. You wandered from your course. How did that happen?"
Says I, blushing again -
"I'm sorry, and I take back what I said, and confess. I raced a little with a comet one day - only just the least little bit - only the tiniest lit - "
"So - so," says he - and without any sugar in his voice to speak of.
I went on, and says -
"But I only fell off just a bare point, and I went right back on my course again the minute the race was over."
"No matter - that divergence has made all this trouble. It has brought you to a gate that is billions of leagues from the right one. If you had gone to your own gate they would have known all about your world at once and there would have been no delay. But we will try to accommodate you." He turned to an under clerk and says -
"What system is Jupiter in?"
"I don't remember, sir, but I think there is such a planet in one of the little new systems away out in one of the thinly worlded corners of the universe. I will see."
He got a balloon and sailed up and up and up, in front of a map that was as big as Rhode Island. He went on up till he was out of sight, and by and by he came down and got something to eat and went up again. To cut a long story short, he kept on doing this for a day or two, and finally he came down and said he thought he had found that solar system, but it might be fly-specks. So he got a microscope and went back. It turned out better than he feared. He had rousted out our system, sure enough. He got me to describe our planet and its distance from the sun, and then he says to his chief -
"Oh, I know the one he means, now, sir. It is on the map. It is called the Wart."
Says I to myself, "Young man, it wouldn't be wholesome for you to go down THERE and call it the Wart."
Well, they let me in, then, and told me I was safe forever and wouldn't have any more trouble.
Then they turned from me and went on with their work, the same as if they considered my case all complete and shipshape. I was a good deal surprised at this, but I was diffident about speaking up and reminding them. I did so hate to do it, you know; it seemed a pity to bother them, they had so much on their hands. Twice I thought I would give up and let the thing go; so twice I started to leave, but immediately I thought what a figure I should cut stepping out amongst the redeemed in such a rig, and that made me hang back and come to anchor again. People got to eying me - clerks, you know - wondering why I didn't get under way. I couldn't stand this long - it was too uncomfortable. So at last I plucked up courage and tipped the head clerk a signal. He says -
"What! you here yet? What's wanting?"
Says I, in a low voice and very confidential, making a trumpet with my hands at his ear -
"I beg pardon, and you mustn't mind my reminding you, and seeming to meddle, but hain't you forgot something?"
He studied a second, and says -
"Forgot something? . . . No, not that I know of."
"Think," says I.
He thought. Then he says -
"No, I can't seem to have forgot anything. What is it?"
"Look at me," says I, "look me all over."
He done it.
"Well?" says he.
"Well," says I, "you don't notice anything? If I branched out amongst the elect looking like this, wouldn't I attract considerable attention? - wouldn't I be a little conspicuous?"
"Well," he says, "I don't see anything the matter.