When we saw the foreign woman, we felt like a man who dies, and goes home to the mother of the world, that lives in the sky, and finds his crimes forgiven in her arms that span the stars and seas.
She was an accidental exile. Claire was visiting the garden district when the storm came to Zanzibar. She was a carefree youth, pampered and beautiful. The cloud heaved her on its mighty shoulder – Claire and her electric cart, the gold palanquin – and carried them east across a quarter of the world.
When she landed, she was somewhere between Florence and Genova, two city-states fighting an endless war. Worse, they were fighting it with swords and spears. Claire is a patricia. By law, she needs at least a railroad train to return to Zanzibar with dignity befitting her rank.
Claire is scarcely more than a girl, strong of will and too young to understand what can and can’t be done. Cursing the grim force of history, she will bend her hosts toward peace, and dominion, and the leap from the age of bronze to the age of steam. She is ready to steal anything, even the bones of the dead, to get home again. Her only slogan is: The exile must return.
She said, “But why should you choose me from all the others?” The fat man said, “Why it is obvious, don’t you think? You are foremost among the ranks of those who break things.” Claire quailed in her terror and said, “O Stranger, why should you think I am foremost among the ranks of those who break things?” And the man smiled his idiot’s smile and said, “Because you are trying to break the world.”