Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > Foundation and Earth > Chapter 18: The Music Festival
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
Chapter 18: The Music Festival
78Lunch was in the same dining room in which they hadhad breakfast. It was full of Alphans, and with them were Trevize andPelorat, made thoroughly welcome. Bliss and Fallom ate separately,and more or less privately, in a small annex.
There were several varieties of fish, together with soup in whichthere were strips of what might well have been boiled kid. Loaves ofbread were there for the slicing, butter and jam for the spreading. Asalad, large and diffuse, came afterward, and there was a notable absenceof any dessert, although fruit juices were passed about in apparentlyinexhaustible pitchers. Both Foundationers were forced to be abstemiousafter their heavy breakfast, but everyone else seemed to eat freely.
"How do they keep from getting fat?" wondered Pelorat in a lowvoice.
Trevize shrugged. "Lots of physical labor, perhaps."It was clearly a society in which decorum at meals was not greatlyvalued. There was a miscellaneous hubbub of shouting, laughing, andthumping on the table with thick, obviously unbreakable, cups. Womenwere as loud and raucous as men, albeit in higher pitch.
Pelorat winced, but Trevize, who now (temporarily, at least) felt notrace of the discomfort he had spoken of to Hiroko, felt both relaxedand good-natured.
He said, "Actually, it has its pleasant side. These are people whoappear to enjoy life and who have few, if any, cares. Weather is whatthey make it and foodiis unimaginably plentiful. This is a golden agefor them that simply continues and continues."He had to shout to make himself heard, and Pelorat shouted back,"But it's so noisy.""They're used to it.""I don't see how they can understand each other in this riot."Certainly, it was all lost on the two Foundationers. The queerpronunciation and the archaic grammar and word order of the Alphanlanguage made it impossible to understand at the intense sound levels. Tothe Foundationers, it was like listening to the sounds of a zoo infright.
It was not till after lunch that they rejoined Bliss in a smallstructure, which Trevize found to be rather inconsiderably differentfrom Hiroko's quarters, and which had been assigned them as their owntemporary living quarters. Fallom was in the second room, enormouslyrelieved to be alone, according to Bliss, and attempting to nap.
Pelorat looked at the door-gap in the wall and said uncertainly,"There's very little privacy here. How can we speak freely?""I assure you," said Trevize, "that once we pull the canvas barrieracross the door, we won't be disturbed. The canvas makes it impenetrableby all the force of social custom."Pelorat glanced at the high, open windows. "We can be overheard.""We need not shout. The Alphans won't eavesdrop. Even when they stoodoutside the windows of the dining room at breakfast, they remained ata respectful distance."Bliss smiled. "You've learned so much about Alphan customs in thetime you spent alone with gentle little Hiroko, and you've gained suchconfidence in their respect for privacy. What happened?"Trevize said, "If you're aware that the tendrils of my mind haveundergone a change for the better and can guess the reason, I can onlyask you to leave my mind alone.""You know very well that Gaia will not touch your mind under anycircumstances short of life-crisis, and you know why. Still, I'm notmentally blind. I could sense what happened a kilometer away. Is thisyour invariable custom on space voyages, my erotomaniac friend?""Erotomaniac? Come, Bliss. Twice on this entire trip. Twice!""We were only on two worlds that had functioning human females onthem. Two out of two, and we had only been a few hours on each.""You are well aware I had no choice on Comporellon.""That makes sense. I remember what she looked like." For a few moments,Bliss dissolved in laughter. Then she said, "Yet I don't think Hirokoheld you helpless in her mighty grip, or inflicted her irresistible willon your cringing body.""Of course not. I was perfectly willing. But it was her suggestion,just the same."Pelorat said, with just a tinge of envy in his voice, "Does thishappen to you all the time, Golan?""Of course it must, Pel," said Bliss. "Women are helplessly drawnto him.""I wish that were so," said Trevize, "but it isn't. And I'm glad itisn't I do have other things I want to do in life. Just the same,in this case I was irresistible. After all, we were the first peoplefrom another world that Hiroko had ever seen or, apparently, that anyonenow alive on Alpha had ever seen: I gathered from things she let slip,casual remarks, that she had the rather exciting notion that I mightbe different from Alphans, either anatomically or in my technique. Poorthing. I'm afraid she was disappointed.""Oh?" said Bliss. "Were you?""No," said Trevize. "I have been on a number of worlds and I have hadmy experiences. And what I had discovered is that people are people andsex is sex, wherever one goes. If there are noticeable differences, theyare usually both trivial and unpleasant. The perfumes I've encountered inmy time! I remember when a young woman simply couldn't manage unless therewas music loudly played, music that consisted of a desperate screechingsound. So she played the music and then I couldn't manage. Iassure you if it's the same old thing, then I'm satisfied.""Speaking of music," said Bliss, "we are invited to a musicale afterdinner. A very formal thing, apparently, that is being held in ourhonor. I gather the Alphans are very proud of their music."Trevize grimaced. "Their pride will in no way make the music soundbetter to our ears.""Hear me out," said Bliss. "I gather that their pride is that theyplay expertly on very archaic instruments. Very archaic. Wemay get some information about Earth by way of them."Trevize's eyebrows shot up. "An interesting thought. And that remindsme that both of you may already have information. Janov, did you seethis Monolee that Hiroko told us about?""Indeed I did," said Pelorat. "I was with him for three hours andHiroko did not exaggerate. It was a virtual monologue on his part andwhen I left to come to lunch, he clung to me and would not let me gountil I promised to return whenever I could in order that I might listento him some more.""And did he say anything of interest?""Well, he, too like everybody else insisted that Earthwas thoroughly and murderously radioactive; that the ancestors of theAlphans were the last to leave and that if they hadn't, they would havedied. And, Golan, he was so emphatic that I couldn't help believinghim. I'm convinced that Earth is dead, and that our entire search is,after all, useless."79Trevize sat back in his chair, staring at Pelorat,who was sitting on a narrow cot. Bliss, having risen from where she hadbeen sitting next to Pelorat, looked from one to the other.
Finally, Trevize said, "Let me be the judge as to whether our searchis useless or not, Janov. Tell me what the garrulous old man had to sayto you in brief, of course."Pelorat said, "I took notes as Monolee spoke. It helped reinforcemy role a scholar, but I don't have to refer to them. He was quitestream-of-consciousness in his speaking. Each thing he said would remindhim of something else, but, of course, I have spent my life trying toorganize information in the search of the relevant and significant,so that it's second nature for me now to be able to condense a long andincoherent discourse "Trevize said gently, "Into something just as long and incoherent? Tothe point, dear Janov."Pelorat cleared his throat uneasily. "Yes, certainly, old chap. I'lltry to make a connected and chronological tale out of it. Earth wasthe original home of humanity and of millions of species of plants andanimals. It continued so for countless years until hyperspatial travelwas invented. Then the Spacer worlds were founded. They broke away fromEarth, developed their own cultures, and came to despise and oppressthe mother planet.
"After a couple of centuries of this, Earth managed to regain itsfreedom, though Monolee did not explain the exact manner in which thiswas done, and I dared not ask questions, even if he had given me achance to interrupt, which he did not, for that might merely have senthim into new byways. He did mention a culture-hero named Elijah Baley,but the references were so characteristic of the habit of attributingto one figure the accomplishments of generations that there was littlevalue in attempting to "Bliss said, "Yes, Pel dear, we understand that part."Again, Pelorat paused in midstream and reconsidered. "Of course. Myapologies. Earth initiated a second wave of settlements, founding many newworlds in a new fashion. The new group of Settlers proved more vigorousthan the Spacers, outpaced them, defeated them, outlasted them, and,eventually, established the Galactic Empire. During the course of thewars between the Settlers and the Spacers no, not wars, for heused the word `conflict,' being very careful about that the Earthbecame radioactive."Trevize said, with clear annoyance, "That's ridiculous, Janov. How cana world become radioactive? Every world is very slightlyradioactive to one degree or another from the moment of formation,and that radioactivity slowly decays. It doesn't become radioactive."Pelorat shrugged. "I'm only telling you what he said. And he wasonly telling me what he had heard from someone who only told himwhat he had heard and so on. It's folk-history, told and retoldover the generations, with who knows what distortions creeping in ateach retelling.""I understand that, but are there no books, documents, ancienthistories which have frozen the story at an early time and which couldgive us something more accurate than the present tale?""Actually, I managed to ask that question, and the answer is no. Hesaid vaguely that there were books about it in ancient times and thatthey had long ago been lost, but that what he was telling us was whathad been in those books.""Yes, well distorted. It's the same story. In every world we go to,the records of Earth have, in one way or another, disappeared. Well,how did he say the radioactivity began on Earth?""He didn't, in any detail. The closest he came to saying so wasthat the Spacers were responsible, but then I gathered that the Spacerswere the demons on whom the people of Earth blamed all misfortune. Theradioactivity "A clear voice overrode him here. "Bliss, am I a Spacer?"Fallom was standing in the narrow doorway between the two rooms, hairtousled and the nightgown she was wearing (designed to fit Bliss's moreample proportions) having slid off one shoulder to reveal an undevelopedbreast.
Bliss said, "We worry about eavesdroppers outside and we forget theone inside. Now, Fallom, why do you say that?" She rose and walkedtoward the youngster.
Fallom said, "I don't have what they have," she pointed at thetwo men, "or what you have, Bliss. I'm different. Is that because I'ma Spacer?""You are, Fallom," said Bliss soothingly, "but little differencesdon't matter. Come back to bed."Fallom became submissive as she always did when Bliss willed her tobe so. She turned and said, "Am I a demon? What is a demon?"Bliss said over her shoulder, "Wait one moment for me. I'll be rightback."She was, within five minutes. She was shaking her head. "She'll besleeping now till I wake her. I should have done that before, I suppose,but any modification of the mind must be the result of necessity." Sheadded defensively, "I can't have her brood on the differences betweenher genital equipment and ours."Pelorat said, "Someday she'll have to know she's hermaphroditic.""Someday," said Bliss, "but not now. Go on with the story, Pel.""Yes," said Trevize, "before something else interrupts us.""Well, Earth became radioactive, or at least its crust did. At thattime, Earth had had an enormous population that was centered in hugecities that existed for the most part underground ""Now, that," put in Trevize, "is surely not so. It must be localpatriotism glorifying the golden age of a planet, and the details weresimply a distortion of Trantor in its golden age, when itwas the Imperial capital of a Galaxy-wide system of worlds."Pelorat paused, then said, "Really, Golan, you mustn't teach memy business. We mythologists know very well that myths and legendscontain borrowings, moral lessons, nature cycles, and a hundred otherdistorting influences, and we labor to cut them away and get to whatmight be a kernel of truth. In fact, these same techniques must beapplied to the most sober histories, for no one writes the clear andapparent truth if such a thing can even be said to exist. For now,I'm telling you more or less what Monolee told me, though I suppose Iam adding distortions of my own, try as I might not to do so.""Well, well," said Trevize. "Go on, Janov. I meant no offense.""And I've taken none. The huge cities, assuming they existed, crumbledand shrank as the radioactivity slowly grew more intense until thepopulation was but a remnant of what it had been, clinging precariously toregions that were relatively radiation-free. The population was kept downby rigid birth control and by the euthanasia of people over sixty.""Horrible," said Bliss indignantly.
"Undoubtedly," said Pelorat, "but that is what they did, according toMonolee, and that might be true, for it is certainly not complimentary tothe Earthpeople and it is not likely that an uncomplimentary lie wouldbe made up. The Earthpeople, having been despised and oppressed by theSpacers, were now despised and oppressed by the Empire, though here wemay have exaggeration there out of self-pity, which is a very seductiveemotion. There is the case ""Yes, yes, Pelorat, another time. Please go on with Earth.""I beg your pardon. The Empire, in a fit of benevolence, agreed tosubstitute imported radiation-free soil and to cart away the contaminatedsoil. Needless to say, that was an enormous task which the Empire soontired of, especially as this period (if my guess is right) coincidedwith the fall of Kandar V, after which the Empire had many more thingsto worry about than Earth.
"The radioactivity continued to grow more intense, the populationcontinued to fall, and finally the Empire, in another fit of benevolence,offered to transplant the remnant of the population to a new world oftheir own to this world, in short.
"At an earlier period, it seems an expedition had stocked the ocean sothat by the time the plans for the transplantation of Earthpeople werebeing developed, there was a full oxygen atmosphere and an ample supplyof food on Alpha. Nor did any of the worlds of the Galactic Empire covetthis world because there is a certain natural antipathy to planets thatcircle stars of a binary system. There are so few suitable planets insuch a system, I suppose, that even suitable ones are rejected becauseof the assumption that there must be something wrong with them. This isa common thought-fashion. There is the well-known case, for instance,of ""Later with the well-known case, Janov," said Trevize. "On with thetransplantation.""What remained," said Pelorat, hurrying his words a little, "wasto prepare a land-base. The shallowest part of the ocean was found andsediment was raised from deeper parts to add to the shallow sea-bottomand, finally, to produce the island of New Earth. Boulders and coralwere dredged up and added to the island. Land plants were seeded so thatroot systems might help make the new land firm. Again, the Empire hadset itself an enormous task. Perhaps continents were planned at first,but by the time this one island was produced, the Empire's moment ofbenevolence had passed.
"What was left of Earth's population was brought here. The Empire'sfleets carried off its men and machinery, and they never returned. TheEarthpeople, living on New Earth, found themselves in completeisolation."Trevize said, "Complete? Did Monolee say that no one from elsewherein the Galaxy has ever come here till we did?""Almost complete," said Pelorat. "There is nothing to come here for,I suppose, even if we set aside the superstitious distaste for binarysystems. Occasionally, at long intervals, a ship would come, as ours did,but it would eventually leave and there has never been a follow-up. Andthat's it."Trevize said, "Did you ask Monolee where Earth was located?""Of course I asked that. He didn't know.""How can he know so much about Earth's history without knowing whereit is located?""I asked him specifically, Golan, if the star that was only aparsec or so distant from Alpha might be the sun about which Earthrevolved. He didn't know what a parsec was, and I said it was a shortdistance, astronomically speaking. He said, short or long, he did notknow where Earth was located and he didn't know anyone who knew, and,in his opinion, it was wrong to try to find it. It should be allowed,he said, to move endlessly through space in peace."Trevize said, "Do you agree with him?"Pelorat shook his head sorrowfully. "Not really. But he said thatat the rate the radioactivity continued to increase, the planet musthave become totally uninhabitable not long after the transplantationtook place and that by now it must be burning intensely so that no onecan approach.""Nonsense," said Trevize firmly. "A planet cannot become radioactiveand, having done so, continuously increase in radioactivity. Radioactivitycan only decrease.""But Monolee is so sure of it. So many people we've talked to onvarious worlds unite in this that Earth is radioactive. Surely,it is useless to go on."80Trevize drew a deep breath, then said, in a carefullycontrolled voice, "Nonsense, Janov. That's not true."Pelorat said, "Well, now, old chap, you mustn't believe somethingjust because you want to believe it.""My wants have nothing to do with it. In world after world we findall records of Earth wiped out. Why should they be. wiped out if thereis nothing to hide; if Earth is a dead, radioactive world that cannotbe approached?""I don't know, Golan.""Yes, you do. When we were approaching Melpomenia, you said that theradioactivity might be the other side of the coin. Destroy records toremove accurate information; supply the tale of radioactivity to insertinaccurate information. Both would discourage any attempt to find Earth,and we mustn't be deluded into discouragement."Bliss said, "Actually, you seem to think the nearby star is Earth'ssun. Why, then, continue to argue the question of radioactivity? Whatdoes it matter? Why not simply go to the nearby star and see if it isEarth, and, if so, what it is like?"Trevize said, "Because those on Earth must be, in their way,extraordinarily powerful, and I would prefer to approach with someknowledge of the world and its inhabitants. As it is, since I continue toremain ignorant of Earth, approaching it is dangerous. It is my notionthat I leave the rest of you here on Alpha and that I proceed to Earthby myself. One life is quite enough to risk.""No, Golan," said Pelorat earnestly. "Bliss and the child might waithere, but I must go with you. I have been searching for Earth sincebefore you were born and I cannot stay behind when the goal is so close,whatever dangers might threaten.""Bliss and the child will not wait here," said Bliss. "Iam Gaia, and Gaia can protect us even against Earth.""I hope you're right," said Trevize gloomily, "but Gaia could notprevent the elimination of all early memories of Earth's role in itsfounding.""That was done in Gaia's early history when it was not yet wellorganized, not yet advanced. Matters are different now.""I hope that is so. Or is it that you have gained informationabout Earth this morning that we don't have? I did ask that you speakto some of the older women that might be available here.""And so I did."Trevize said, "And what did you find out?""Nothing about Earth. There is a total blank there.""Ah.""But they are advanced biotechnologists." ,"Oh?""On this small island, they have grown and tested innumerable strainsof plants and animals and designed a suitable ecological balance, stableand self-supporting, despite the few species with which they began. Theyhave improved on the ocean life that they found when they arrived here afew thousand years ago, increasing their nutritive value and improvingtheir taste. It is their biotechnology that has made this world such acornucopia of plenty. They have plans for themselves, too.""What kind of plans?"Bliss said, "They know perfectly well they cannot reasonably expect toexpand their range under present circumstances, confined as they are tothe one small patch of land that exists on their world, but they dreamof becoming amphibious.""Of becoming what ?""Amphibious. They plan to develop gills in addition to lungs. Theydream of being able to spend substantial periods of time underwater; offinding shallow regions and building structures on the ocean bottom. Myinformant was quite glowing about it but she admitted that this had beena goal of the Alphans for some centuries now and that little, if any,progress has been made."Trevize said, "That's two fields in which they might be more advancedthan we are; weather control and biotechnology. I wonder what theirtechniques are.""We'd have to find specialists," said Bliss, "and they might not bewilling to talk about it."Trevize said, "It's not our primary concern here,but it would clearly pay the Foundation to attempt to learn from thisminiature world."Pelorat said, "We manage to control the weather fairly well onTerminus, as it is.""Control is good on many worlds," said Trevize, "but always it's amatter of the world as a whole. Here the Alphans control the weatherof a small portion of the world and they must have techniques we don'thave. Anything else, Bliss?""Social invitations. These appear to be a holiday-making people,in whatever time they can take from farming and fishing. Afterdinner, tonight there'll be a music festival. I told you aboutthat already. Tomorrow, during the day, there will be a beachfestival. Apparently, all around the rim of the island there will bea congregation of everyone who can get away from the fields in orderthat they might enjoy the water and celebrate the sun, since it will beraining the next day. In the morning, the fishing fleet will come back,beating the rain, and by evening there will be a food festival, samplingthe catch."Pelorat groaned. "The meals are ample enough as it is. What would afood festival be like?""I gather that it will feature not quantity, but variety. In anycase, all four of us are invited to participate in all the festivals,especially the music festival tonight.""On the antique instruments?" asked Trevize.
"That's right.""What makes them antique, by the way? Primitive computers?""No, no. That's the point. It isn't electronic music at all, butmechanical. They described it to me. They scrape strings, blow in tubes,and bang on surfaces.""I hope you're making that up," said Trevize, appalled.
"No, I'm not. And I understand that your Hiroko will be blowing onone of the tubes I forget its name and you ought to be ableto endure that.""As for myself," said Pelorat, "I would love to go. I know very littleabout primitive music and I would like to hear it.""She is not `my Hiroko,'" said Trevize coldly. "But are the instrumentsof the type once used on Earth, do you suppose?""So I gathered," said Bliss. "At least the Alphan women said theywere designed long before their ancestors came here.""In that case," said Trevize, "it may be worth listening to allthat scraping, tootling, and banging, for whatever information it mightconceivably yield concerning Earth."81Oddly enough, it was Fallom who was most excited atthe prospect of a musical evening. She and Bliss had bathed in thesmall outhouse behind their quarters. It had a bath with running water,hot and cold (or, rather, warm and cool), a washbowl, and a commode. Itwas totally clean and usable and, in the late afternoon sun, it was evenwell lit and cheerful.
As always, Fallom was fascinated with Bliss's breasts and Bliss wasreduced to saying (now that Fallom understood Galactic) that on herworld that was the way people were. To which Fallom said, inevitably,"Why?" and Bliss, after some thought, deciding there was no sensibleway of answering, returned the universal reply, "Because!"When they were done, Bliss helped Fallom put on the undergarmentsupplied them by the Alphans and worked out the system whereby theskirt went on over it. Leaving Fallom unclothed from the waist up seemedreasonable enough. She herself, while making use of Alphan garments belowthe waist (rather tight about the hips), put on her own blouse. It seemedsilly to be too inhibited to expose breasts in a society where all womendid, especially since her own were not large and were as shapely as anyshe had seen but there it was.
The two men took their turn at the outhouse next, Trevize mutteringthe usual male complaint concerning the time the women had taken.
Bliss turned Fallom about to make sure the skirt would hold in placeover her boyish hips and buttocks. She said, "It's a very pretty skirt,Fallom. Do you like it?"Fallom stared at it in a mirror and said, "Yes, I do. Won't I be coldwith nothing on, though?" and she ran her hands down her bare chest.
"I don't think so, Fallom. It's quite warm on this world."" You have something on.""Yes, I do. That's how it is on my world. Now, Fallom, we're going tobe with a great many Alphans during dinner and afterward. Do you thinkyou can bear that?"Fallom looked distressed, and Bliss went on, "I will sit on your rightside and I will hold you. Pel will sit on the other side, and Trevizewill sit across the table from you. We won't let anyone talk to you,and you won't have............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2014, All Rights Reserved