Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
[Illustration: _Illustrated by Kelly Freas_]
_If Saranta wished to qualify as one who loved
his fellow man, he should have known that often
the most secretive things are the most obvious._
BY CHARLES L. FONTENAY
After the morning inspection tour, Tardo, the Solar Council's Planetary
Aid agent, and his companion, Peo, were taken to the castle which stood
on a hill overlooking the area.
Tardo and Peo were entertained royally at luncheon by Saranta, their
host, who appeared to be the wealthy overlord of this portion of the
planet. The meal was delicious - tender, inch-thick steaks served with
delicate wine sauce and half a dozen of the planet's exotic vegetables,
topped off by a cool fruit dessert.
"My recommendation will be of considerable importance to you," said
Tardo as they ate. "If it is favorable, there is certain technical aid
aboard ship which will be made available to you at once. Of course, you
will not receive advanced equipment from the Solar Council until there
is a more thorough investigation."
"I'm afraid our culture is too simple and agrarian to win your
approval," said Saranta modestly.
"That isn't a major consideration. The Council understands the
difficulties that have faced colonies in other star systems. There are
certain fundamental requirements, of course: no abnormal religious
practices, no slavery ... well, you understand what I mean."
"We really feel that we have done well since we ... our ancestors, that
is ... colonized our world a thousand years ago," said Saranta, toying
with a wineglass. A smiling servant filled the glasses of Tardo and Peo.
"You see, there was no fuel for the ship to explore other planets in the
system, and the ship just rusted away. Since we are some distance from
the solar system, yours is the first ship that has landed here since
"You seem to have been lucky, though," said Peo. He was navigator of the
Council ship, and had asked to accompany Tardo on the brief inspection
trip. "You could have landed on a barren planet."
"Well, no, the colonizers knew it was liveable, from the first
exploration expedition," said Saranta. "There were difficulties, of
course. Luxuriant vegetation, but no animal life, so we had no animals
to domesticate. Pulling a plow is hard work for a man."
"But you were able to solve this situation in a humanitarian way?" asked
Tardo, peering at him keenly. "That is to say, you didn't resort to
Saranta smiled and spread his hands slightly.
"Does this look like a slave society to you?" he countered. "The
colonists were anxious to co-operate to make the planet liveable. No one
objected to work."
"It's true we've seen no slaves, that we know about," said Tardo. "But
two days is a short time for inspection. I must draw most of my
conclusions from the attitudes of you and the others who are our hosts.
How about the servants here?"
"They are paid," answered Saranta, and added ruefully: "There are those
of us who think they are paid too well. They have a union, you know."
"A carry-over from Earth, no doubt," he commented. "An unusual one, too,
for a culture without technology."
When the meal was over, the two men from the ship were conducted on a
tour of the area. It was a neat agricultural community, with broad
fields, well-constructed buildings and, a short distance from Saranta's
castle-like home, a village in which artisans and craftsmen plied their
Peo tried to notice what he thought Tardo would look for on such a short
inspection. The Council agent, he knew, had had intensive training and
many years of experience. It was hard for Peo to judge what factors
Tardo would consider significant - probably very minor ones that the
average man would not notice, he thought.
Tardo had seemed most intent on the question of slavery, and Peo looked
for signs of it. He could see none. The people of the planet had had
time to conceal some things, of course. But the people they saw in the
village wore a proud air of independence no slave could assume.
Saranta apologized for their having to walk, explaining that there was
no other means of transportation on the planet.
"And, without transportation, you can understand why we have not been
able to develop a technology," he added. "We hope transport will be
included in the first assistance you will give us."
Tardo asked about the fields.
"I see there is no one working them," he said. "Is that done by the
"Our labor supply is transient," answered Saranta after a moment's
hesitation. "The laborers who will work our fields - for a wage, of
course - are probably in the next town or the one beyond it now."
Alpha Persei was sinking in the western sky when Tardo and Peo took
their leave of Saranta and made their way down the road toward their
planetary landing craft.
"It looks like a good world to me," said Peo. "If tomorrow's inspection
is as satisfactory, I suppose you will recommend the beginning of
"There will be no inspection tour tomorrow, and I shall recommend
against aid at this time," replied Tardo. "I've seen enough."
"Why?" asked Peo, surprised.
"There are two classes of people on this planet, and we've seen only
one," said Tardo. "Those we have seen are freemen. The others are no
better than animals. We give no aid that helps men tighten their hold
over their fellows."
"If you haven't seen them, how do you know there is another class?"
demanded Peo. "There is no evidence of any such situation."
"The evidence is well hidden. But if you think your stomach can take it
now, I'll tell you. If you remember your history, colonizing ships 1000
years ago had no space to carry animals along. They had to depend on
native animal life of the planet, and this planet had none."
"Saranta said that. But I don't see ..."
"Those were delicious steaks, weren't they?" remarked Tardo quietly.
This etext was produced from _If Worlds of Science Fiction_
September 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling
and typographical errors have been corrected without note.