But there was another voice somewhere, a voice which grated like the rasp of a saw cutting through bone, like the grind of a broken machine still working at ruinous top speed. It was an evil voice, a terror-filling voice.
Perhaps this really was the “death” which the tunnel underpeople had mistaken her for.
The Hunter’s hand released hers. She let go of D’joan.
There was a strange woman in the room. She wore the baldric of authority and the leotards of a traveler.
Elaine stared at her.
“You’ll be punished,” said the terrible voice, which now was coming out of the woman.– Cordwainer Smith, “The Dead Lady of Clown Town”, Galaxy Magazine, vol. 22, no. 6, August 1964, p.42.
Lady Arabella Underwood’s appearance about one third of the way into Cordwainer Smith’s classic Science Fiction story, “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” comes with that brief but somehow remarkable description of her attire: “She wore the baldric of authority and the leotards of a traveler.” Remarkable because it contains the somehow-evocative-of-something-deeply-meaningful parallel pair of concrete nouns modified by genitive prepositional phrases. The “leotards of a traveler” may simply be some sort of imagining of the sartorial preferences of a fictional future – although there is nothing in the story to suggest that Lady Arabella is in any real sense a traveller. The “baldric of authority” is also unexplained (Smith’s fiction is rich with allusion to unexplained details of his richly imagined future), and may perhaps be taken as some sort of badge of office. But this concrete “baldric” with its modifying phrase of qualitative genitive seems of a deeper rhetorical significance.
Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage;
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.”
– Sir Walter Raleigh “Pilgrimage”
What a pile of genitives of quality Sir Walter has collected here! Every concrete item of the pilgrim’s simple equipage is qualified by an abstract. The scallop-shell (the symbol of the pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago), the staff (the physical support), the scrip (the pilgrim’s small satchel), the bottle (water for the journey), and the gown (simple clothing) are transformed with those genitive prepositional phrases into the abstract qualities which are the true sustainers of a successful pilgrim.