Back to Dangerous Chimes this week my friends…
Professor Paragon had taken his visitors downstairs to his study.
Once inside the warm and welcoming room he sat them in deep leather chairs before the crackling log fire, and from an adjoining little kitchen he brought steaming bowls of herb rich soup and crusty bread, and hot muffins with honeycomb, and some sardines for Fastnet.
‘Just a little refreshment whilst Barney prepares our supper. I always like to have something simmering on the hob,’ he said. ‘You never know when one might need to fortify the inner man (or even inner bird.) Now then, you will be wanting to know about the bells, and why I can’t just wave a wand and make everything good and right, and as it was. Well now, where’s my grimoire? Ah, yes…’ He took down a great leather bound book from the shelf above the fire.
‘Let’s see. Bones, Bees, Balm, Bandits – I’ll look at them later; Basilisks, Boggarts, Bindweed, Blizzards… Ah, here we are – Bells. Bells, bells, bells, – Campanology, Tintinnabulation, Change Ringing… and yes, ‘The Bells of Goldcaster. Perhaps you, Miss Trundle, would care to read the rhyme on this page?’
Elisabeth held the heavy book open on her lap, polished her spectacles with the hem of her dress, and then read aloud with wonder.
M AGNUS, mighty, tells the time, with
A BELARD, the half hour chime;
G ODOLPHIN strikes the quarter tone,
I GNATIUS rings when day’s full grown;
C ALABAR sings the sunrise hour;
All peal each day to hold the power.
‘Yes,’ said the Professor, shaking his head sadly. ‘The magic bells – ‘To hold the power.’ No pealing, no power. Well, very little. And that rapidly diminishing – the special power that is. You see not only are the bells harmoniously pitched as one would expect but they are also in tune with the Dancing Sisters circle and lines of earth energy in Summerdale and the immediate surroundings. No wonder I had trouble getting back today. Time travel is difficult enough, but without the power of the bells empowering my base programme I was very lucky to return at all. If I had left it any later I hate to think what could have happened. I might have got back at the wrong time, in the wrong place. Indeed, I might not have got anywhere – I would have had to remain stuck in Milton Keynes for ever. Now that is a sobering thought. A well organised place with pleasant park land, but too twenty first century for my taste.’
Elisabeth closed the Grimoire and handed it back to Professor Paragon.
‘As you can travel in time,’ said Elisabeth ‘Could we not just go back long enough to get the Militia from the south before the pirates came?’
‘Ah, but time travel is a very complicated affair. There are a great many arrangements that have to be made and precautions that have to be taken (as I believe you will discover in your next adventure after this…)’
‘My next adventure?’
‘Never mind, never mind – just an involuntary flash of foresight. Please forget I even mentioned it. No, activity in alternative time is the problem. It’s all a matter of causality and determinism.’
‘Yess…’ nodded Doctor Johnson sagely. ‘I suppose it would be.’
‘Ah,’ said Mr Bagley. ‘Er, of course.’
‘Causality…’ mused Boswell.
‘Determinism…?’ pondered Elisabeth.
‘I don’t know what causality and determinism means.’ said Tom
‘Well Tom, let me put it like this. Going back is the biggest problem. The slightest changes you make can lead to drastic differences when you return.’ explained the Professor. ‘Even a bit of shopping in the past can be fraught with complications. The shop keeper makes a bit more money, more stock has to be ordered, if you buy the last packet of porridge oats maybe the next customer has to have bacon for his breakfast instead. It all seems quite innocent. But suppose he chokes on the bacon, falls ill and dies, doesn’t marry or have children whose descendants don’t exist, one of whom does not marry your grandmother, who marries somebody else and so does not give birth to your father. In that instance you wouldn’t be able to be here when you return. You see the difficulty?’
’Great heavens!’ exclaimed Boswell.
‘Whereas going forward in time is not so full of peril. Things may change after you have bought your shopping, but then things are always changing as a result of what everybody does. We can make a difference by the good or evil that we do, but we cannot be responsible for unpredictable consequences arising from our everyday activity. Does that make it a bit clearer, Tom?’
‘Er, yes, I think so. Thank you sir.’
‘But if Tom was not here in the present to come back to,’ said Elisabeth, ‘He wouldn’t have been able to go back into the past in the first place, and so would only exist back then, and would have vanished completely from now…’
‘I told you it was complicated.’ smiled Professor Paragon.
‘But most succinctly explained.’ said Boswell. ‘I can see by Doctor Johnson’s animated expression that he would relish exploring the philosophical implications with you in greater depth.’
‘Indeed I would sir.’
‘I shall look forward to it, Doctor Johnson.’ said the Professor. ‘But for the
moment we must dwell on our own present.’
Next week? We learn about the preparations for fighting back…
Author of Dangerous Chimes, read more about Michael Macauley over here.