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A port opened as they stared at it. Men came out. Burl and Saya were barbarically attired, but they had been fighting some sort of local monster--the men on the s.p.a.ce-ship could not quite grasp what they had seen--and they had been helped by dogs. Human beings and dogs, together, always mean some sort of civilization.
The dogs gave an impression of a very high level indeed. They trotted confidently over to the ship, and they sniffed cautiously at the men who had landed. Then their behavior was admirable. They greeted the new-come men with the self-confident cordiality of dogs who are on the best possible terms with human beings,--and there was no question of any suspicion by anybody. The att.i.tude of a man toward a dog is a perfectly valid indication of his character, if not of his technical education.
And the newcomers knew how to treat dogs.
So Burl and Saya went forward, with the confident pleasure with which well-raised children and other persons of innate dignity greet strangers.
The ship was the _Wapiti_, a private cruiser doing incidental exploration for the Biological Survey in the course of a trip after good hunting. It had touched on the forgotten planet, and it would never be forgotten again.
The survey-ship _Tethys_ made the first landing on the forgotten planet, and the _Orana_ followed, and some centuries later the _Ludred_. Then the planet was forgotten until the _Wapiti_ arrived. The arrival of the _Wapiti_ was as much an accident as the loss of the punched card which caused the planet to be overlooked for some thousands of years.
Somebody had noticed that the sun around which it circled was of a type which usually has useful planets, but there was no record that it had ever been visited. So a request to the sportsmen on the _Wapiti_ had caused them to turn aside. They considered, anyhow, that it would be interesting to land on a brand-new world or two. They considered it fascinating to find human beings there before them. But they could not understand the use of such primitive weapons or garments of such barbaric splendor. They had trouble, too, because in forty-odd generations the speech of the universe had changed, while Burl and Saya spoke a very archaic language indeed.
But there was an educator on the _Wapiti_. It was quite standard apparatus,--simply basic-education for a human child, so that one's school-years could be begun with a backlog of correct speech, and reading, with the practical facts of mathematics, sanitation, and the general information that any human being anywhere needs to know.
Children use it before they start school, and they absorb its information quite painlessly. It is rare that an adult needs it. But Burl and Saya did.
Burl was politely invited to wear the head-set, and he politely obliged.
He found himself equipped with a new language and what seemed to him an astonishing amount of information. Among the information was the item that he was going to have--as an adult--a severe headache. Which he did.
Also included was the fact that the making of records for such educators was so laborious a process that it took generations to compile one master-record for the instruments.
Burl, with a splitting headache, nevertheless urged Saya to join him in getting an education. And she did. And thereafter they were able to converse with the sportsmen on the _Wapiti_ comfortably enough,--except for their headaches.
And all this led to extremely satisfactory arrangements. Sportsmen could not but be enthusiastic about the hunting of giant insects with dogs and spears. The sportsmen on the _Wapiti_ wanted some of that kind of sport. Burl's fellow-tribesmen were delighted to oblige,--though they had not quite the zest of Burl. They had to acquire educations in their turn, so they could talk to their new hunting-companions. But the hunting was magnificent. The _Wapiti_ abandoned its original plans and settled down for a stay.
Presently Burl's casual talk of the lowlands produced results. An atmosphere-flier came out of the ship's storage-compartments. And through the educator Burl was now a civilized man. He had not the specialized later information of his guests, but he had knowledge they could not dream of, and which it would take much of a century to put in recordable form for an educator.
So an atmosphere-flier went down into the lowlands through the cloud-banks. There were three men on board. They had good hunting.
Magnificent hunting. Even more importantly, they found another cl.u.s.ter of human beings who lived as fugitives among the insect giants. They brought them to the plateau, a few at a time. Sportsmen stayed in the lowlands with modern weapons, hunting enthusiastically, while the transfer took place.
In all, the _Wapiti_ stayed for two months Earth-time. When it left, its sportsmen had such trophies as would make them envied of all other hunters in three star-cl.u.s.ters. They left behind weapons and atmosphere-fliers and their library and tools. But they took with them enthusiasm for the sport on the once-forgotten planet, and rather warm feelings of friendship for Burl.
They sent their friends back. The next ship to come in found a small city on the plateau, with a population of three hundred souls,--all civilized by educator. Naturally, they'd had no trouble building civilized dwellings or practising sanitation, or developing a neatly adapted culture-pattern for their particular environment. This second ship brought more weapons and fliers and news from the first party about commercial demand for the incredibly luxurious moth-fur, to be found on only one planet in all the galaxy.
The fourth ship to land on the plateau was a trading-ship anxious to load such furs for recklessly bidding merchants in a dozen interplanetary marts. There were then nearly a thousand people living on the plateau. They had a natural monopoly,--not of moth-fur and b.u.t.terfly-wing fabric, and panels of irridescent chitin for luxurious decoration, but--of the strictly practical and detailed knowledge of insect-habits which made it possible to obtain them. Off-planet visitors who tried to hunt without local knowledge did not come back from the lowlands. In time, Burl firmly enacted a planetary law which forbade the inexperienced to go below the cloud-layer.
Because, of course, a government had to be formed for the planet. But men with the basic education of citizens everywhere did not fumble it.
They had a job to do which was more important than anybody's vanity. It was a job which gave deep and abiding satisfaction. When naked, trembling folk were found in the mushroom-jungles and brought to the plateau, they had one instant, feverish desire as soon as they got over the headache from the educator.
They wanted to go back to the lowlands. It was profitable, to be sure.
But it was even more of a satisfaction to hunt and kill the monsters that had hunted and killed men for so long. It felt good, too, to find other humans and bring them out to sunshine.
So nowadays the forgotten planet has ceased to be forgotten. It is hardly necessary to name it, because its name is known through all the Galaxy. Its population is not large, so far, but it is an interesting place to live in. In the popular mind, it is the most glamorous of all possible worlds,--and for easily understandable reasons. The inhabitants of its capital city wear moth-fur garments and b.u.t.terfly-wing cloaks for the benefit of their fellows in the lowlands. There is no day but fliers take off and dive down into the mists. When human hunters are in the lowlands, they dress as the lowlanders they used to be, so that lowlanders who may spy them will be sure that they are men, and friends, and come to them to be raised to proper dignity above the insects. It is not unusual for a man to be brought up to sunshine, and have his session with the educator, and be flying his own a.s.signed atmosphere-flier within a week, diving back above what used to be the place where he was hunted, but where he has become the hunter.
It is a very pleasant arrangement. The search for more humans in the lowlands is a prosperous business, even when it is unsuccessful. The wings of white Morpho b.u.t.terflies bring the highest prices, but even a common swallow-tail is riches, and the fur of caterpillars--duly processed--goes into the holds of the planet-owned s.p.a.ce-line ships with the care given elsewhere to platinum and diamonds.
And also it is good sport. The planet is a sportsman's paradise. There are not too many visitors. n.o.body may go hunting without an experienced host. And off-planet sportsmen tend to feel somewhat queasy after a session as guest of the folk who have made Burl their planet-president.
Visitors are not so much alarmed at fighting flying beetles in mid-air, even though the beetles may compare with the hunters' craft in size and are terrifically tenacious of life. The thing that appalls strangers is the insistence of Burl's fellow-citizens--no longer only tribesmen--upon fighting spiders on the ground. With their memories, they like it that way. It's more satisfactory.
Not long ago the Planet President of Sumor XI was Burl's guest for a hunt. Sumor XI is a highly civilized planet, and life there has become tame. Its president is an ardent hunter. He liked Burl, who is still all hard muscle despite his graying hair. He and Saya have a very comfortable dwelling, and now that their children are grown they have room in it even for a planet president, if he comes as a sportsman guest. The Planet President of Sumor XI even liked the informal atmosphere of a house where pleasantly self-possessed dogs curl up comfortably on rugs of emperor-moth down that elsewhere are beyond price.
But the President of Sumor XI was embarra.s.sed on his visit. He and Burl are both hunters, and they are highly congenial. But the President of Sumor XI was upset on his last flight to the lowlands. Burl got out of the atmosphere-flier alone, and for pure deep personal satisfaction he fought a mastodon-sized wolf spider with nothing but a spear.
He killed the creature, of course. But the President of Sumor XI was embarra.s.sed. He wouldn't have dared try it. He felt that, however sporting it might be, it was too risky a thing for a Planet President to do.
But Saya took it for granted.
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