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encouraged, because it is black magic, and so it is wrong. The magic of the priests is white magic, and so it is right. Put that down in your little book."

Raoul obediently wrote it down. "Still, I should like to know—"

"Let us speak of pleasanter things," Bbulas interrupted again. "Tomorrow night, we are holding a potlatch and we should be honored to have the pleasure of your company."

"Delighted," Raoul bowed.

"I was wrong," Cyril said. "This is not a remarkable example of cultural diffusion. It is a remarkable example of a diffuse culture."

"But I cannot understand," Raoul said to Cyril later, in the imagined privacy of their hut. "Why are you suspicious of this charming, friendly people, so like the natives that the textbooks lead one to expect?"

Naturally, Skkiru—having made his way in through a secret passage known only to the entire population of the city and explicitly designed for espionage, and was spying outside the door—thought, we are textbook natives. Not only because we were patterned on literary prototypes, but because Bbulas never really left school—in spirit, anyway. He is the perpetual undergraduate and his whole scheme is nothing more than a grandiose Class Night.

"Precisely what I've been thinking," Cyril said. "So like the textbooks—all the textbooks put together."

"What do you mean? Surely it is possible for analogous cultural features to develop independently in different cultures?"

"Oh, it's possible, all right. Probability—particularly when it comes to such a great number of features packed into one small culture—is another matter entirely."

"I cannot understand you," Raoul objected. "What do you want of these poor natives? To me, it seems everything has been of the most idyllic. Rapport was established almost immediately."

"A little too immediately, perhaps, don't you think? You haven't had much experience, Raoul, so you might not be aware it usually isn't as easy as this."

Cyril flung himself down on one of the cots that had been especially hardened for Terrestrial use and blew smoke rings at the ceiling. Skkiru was dying for a cigarette himself, but that was another cultural feature the Snaddrath had to dispense with now—not that smoking was insufficiently primitive, but that tobacco was not indigenous to the planet.

"That is because they are not a hostile people," Raoul insisted. "Apparently they have no enemies. Nonetheless, they are of the utmost interest. I hardly expected to land a society like this on my very first field trip," he added joyfully. "Never have I heard of so dynamic a culture! Never!"

"Nor I," Cyril agreed, "and this is far from being my very first field trip. It has a terribly large number of strange elements in it—strange, that is, when considered in relationship to the society as a whole. Environmental pressures seem to have had no effect upon their culture. For instance, don't you think it rather remarkable that a people with such an enormously complex social structure as theirs should wear clothing so ill adapted to protect them from the weather?"

"Well," Raoul pointed out enthusiastically—another undergraduate type, Skkiru observed, happiest with matters that either resembled those in books or came directly from them, so that they could be explicitly pigeonholed—"the Indians of Tierra del Fuego wore nothing but waist-length sealskin capes even in the bitterest cold. Of course, this civilization is somewhat more advanced than theirs in certain ways, but one finds such anomalies in all primitive civilizations, does one not?"

"That's true to a certain extent. But one would think they'd at least have developed boots to cope with the mud. And why was the beggar the only one to wear mudshoes? Why, moreover—" Cyril narrowed his eyes and pointed his cigarette at Raoul—"did he wear them only the first time and subsequently appear barefooted?"

"That was odd," Raoul admitted, "but—"

"And the high priest spoke of thrashing that boy. You should know, old chap, that cruelty to children is in inverse ratio to the degree of civilization."

Raoul stared at his colleague. "My faith, are you suggesting that we go see how hard they hit him, then?"

Cyril laughed. "All I suggest is that we keep a very open mind about this society until we can discover what fundamental attitudes are controlling such curious individual as well as group behavior."

"But assuredly. That is what we are here for, is it not? So why are you disturbing yourself so much?"

But it was Raoul, Skkiru thought, who appeared much more disturbed than Cyril. It was understandable—the younger man was interested only in straightforward ethnologizing and undoubtedly found the developing complications upsetting.

"Look," Cyril continued. "They call this place a hut. It's almost a palace."

My God, Skkiru thought, what kind of primitive conditions are they used to?

"That is largely a question of semantics," Raoul protested. "But regard—the roof leaks. Is that not backward enough for you, eh?" And Raoul moved to another part of the room to avoid receiving indisputable proof of the leakage on his person. "What is more, the sanitary arrangements are undeniably primitive."

"The roofs of many palaces leak, and there is no plumbing to speak of, and still they are not called huts. And tell me this—why should the metal-workers be the pariahs? Why metal-workers?"

Raoul's eyes opened wide. "You know there is often an outcast class with no apparent rationale behind its establishment. All the tapes—"

"True enough, but you will remember that the reason the smiths of Masai were pariahs was that they manufactured weapons which might tempt people to commit bloodshed. I keep remembering them, somehow. I keep remembering so many things here...."

"But we have seen no weapons on this planet," Raoul argued. "In fact, the people seem completely peaceful."

"Right you are." Cyril blew another smoke ring. "Since this is a planet dependent chiefly upon minerals, why make the members of its most important industry the out-group?"

"You think it is that they may be secretly hostile?"

Cyril smiled. "I think they may be secretly something, but hardly hostile."

Aha, Skkiru thought. Bbulas, my splendidly scaled friend, I will have something interesting to tell you.

"You idiot!" Bbulas snarled later that night, as most of the Snaddrath met informally in the council chamber belowground, the new caste distinctions being, if not forgotten, at least in abeyance—for everyone except Bbulas. "You imbecile!" He whirled, unable to repress his Snadd emotions after a long behaviorally Terran day. "I have half a mind to get rid of you by calling down divine judgment."

"How would you do that?" Skkiru demanded, emboldened by the little cry of dismay, accompanied by a semi-somersault, which Larhgan gave. In spite of everything, she still loved him; she would never belong to Bbulas, though he might plan until he was ochre in the face.

"Same way you did the rope trick. Only you wouldn't come back, my boy. Nice little cultural trait for the ethnologists to put in their peace pipes and smoke. Never saw such people for asking awkward questions." Bbulas sighed and straightened his antennae with his fingers, since their ornaments made them too heavy to allow reflective verticalization. "Reminds me of final exams back on Gambrell."

"Anthropologists always ask awkward questions—everybody knows that," Larhgan put in. "It's their function. And I don't think you should speak that way to Skkiru, Bbulas. Like all of us, he's only trying to do his best. No man—or woman—can do more."

She smiled at Skkiru and his hearts whirled madly inside him. Only a dolt, he thought, would give way to despair; there was no need for this intolerable situation to endure for a lifetime. If only he could solve the problem more quickly than Bbulas expected or—Skkiru began to understand—wanted, Larhgan could be his again.

"With everybody trying to run this planet," Bbulas snarled, taking off his headdress, "no wonder things are going wrong."

Luccar intervened. Although it was obvious that he had been enjoying to a certain extent the happy anonymity of functionless yam-stealer, old elective responsibilities could not but hang heavy over a public servant of such unimpeachable integrity.

"After all," the old man said, "secretly we're still a democracy, and secretly I am still President, and secretly I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps we weren't a little rash in—"

"Look here, all of you," Bbulas interrupted querulously. "I'm not doing this for my own amusement."

But that's just what you are doing, Skkiru thought, even though you wouldn't admit it to yourself, nor would you think of it as amusement.

"You know what happened to Nemeth," Bbulas continued, using an argument that had convinced them before, but that was beginning to wear a little thin now. "Poorest, most backward planet in the whole Galaxy. A couple of ethnologists from Earth stumbled on it a little over a century ago and what happened? More kept on coming; the trade ships followed. Now it's the richest, most advanced planet in that whole sector. There's no reason why the same thing can't happen to us in this sector, if we play our cards carefully."

"But maybe these two won't tell other anthropologists about us," Luccar said. "Something the older one remarked certainly seemed to imply as much. Maybe they don't want the same thing to happen again—in which case, all this is a waste of time. Furthermore," he concluded rather petulantly, "at my age, I don't like running about in the open; it's not healthful."

"If they don't tell other anthropologists about us," Bbulas said, his face paling to lime-green with anxiety, "we can spread the news unobtrusively ourselves. Just let one study be published, even under false coordinates, and we can always hire a good public relations man to let our whereabouts leak out. Please, everybody, stick to your appointed tasks and let me do the worrying. You haven't even given this culture a chance! It's hardly more than a day old and all I hear are complaints, complaints, complaints."

"You'd better worry," Skkiru said smugly, "because already those Terrans think there's something fishy about this culture. Ha, ha! Did you get that—fishy?"

Only Larhgan laughed. She loved him.

"How do you know they're suspicious?" Bbulas demanded. "Are you in their confidence? Skkiru, if you've been talking—"

"All I did was spy outside their door," Skkiru said hastily. "I knew you couldn't eavesdrop; it wouldn't look dignified if you were caught. But beggars do that kind of thing all the time. And I wanted to show you I could be of real use."

He beamed at Larhgan, who beamed back.

"I could have kept my findings to myself," he went on, "but I came to tell you. In fact—" he dug in his robe—"I even jotted down a few notes."

"It wasn't at all necessary, Skkiru," Bbulas said in a tired voice. "We took the elementary precaution of wiring their hut for sound and a recorder is constantly taking down their every word."

"Hut!" Skkiru kept his antennae under control with an effort, but his retort was feeble. "They think it's a palace. You did them too well, Bbulas."

"I may have overdone the exterior architecture a bit," the high priest admitted. "Not that it seems relevant to the discussion. Although I've been trying to arrange our primitivism according to Terrestrial ideas of cultural backwardness, I'm afraid many of the physical arrangements are primitive according to our conceptions rather than theirs."

"Why must we be primitive according to Terran ideas?" Luccar wanted to know. "Why must we be slaves even to fashions in backwardness?"

"Hear, hear!" cried an anonymous voice.

"And thank you, Skkiru," the former President continued, "for telling me they were suspicious. I doubt that Bbulas would have taken the trouble to inform me of so trivial a matter."

"As high priest," Bbulas said stiffly, "I believe the matter, trivial or not, now falls within my province."

"Shame!" cried an anonymous voice—or it might have been the same one.

Bbulas turned forest-green and his antennae twitched. "After all, you yourself, Luccar, agreed to accept the role of elder statesman—"

"Yam-stealer," Luccar corrected him bitterly, "which is not the same thing."

"On Earth, it is. And," Bbulas went on quickly, "as for our assuming primitive Earth attitudes, where else are we going to get our attitudes from? We can't borrow any primitive attitudes from Nemeth, because they're too well known. And since there are no other planets we know of with intelligent life-forms that have social structures markedly different from the major Terran ones—except for some completely non-humanoid cultures, which, for physiological reasons, we are incapable of imitating—we have to rely upon records of primitive Terran sources for information. Besides, a certain familiarity with the traits manifested will make the culture more understandable to the Terrans, and, hence, more attractive to them psychologically." He stopped and straightened out his antennae.

"In other words," Skkiru commented, emboldened by a certain aura of sympathy he felt emanating from Larhgan, at least, and probably from Luccar, too, "he doesn't have the imagination to think up any cultural traits for himself, so he has to steal them—and that's the easiest place to steal them from."

"This is none of your business, Skkiru," Bbulas snapped.

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