“But it didn’t work out,” said the captain.
“No. After the fifth killing at breakfast, I discovered I wasn’t all new, all Martian, after all. I couldn’t throw away everything I had learned on Earth so easily. But now I’m feeling steady again. I’ll kill you all off. That’ll delay the next trip in a rocket for a good five years. There’s no other rocket in existence today, save this one. The people on Earth will wait a year, two years, and when they hear nothing from us, they’ll be very afraid to build a new rocket. They’ll take twice as long and make a hundred extra experimental models to insure themselves against another failure.”
“A good report from you, on the other hand, if you returned, would hasten the whole invasion of Mars. If I’m lucky I’ll live to be sixty years old. Every expedition that lands on Mars will be met by me. There won’t be more than one ship at a time coming up, one every year or so, and never more than twenty men in the crew. After I’ve made friends with them and explained that our rocket exploded one day—I intend to blow it up after I finish my job this week—I’ll kill them off, every one of them. Mars will be untouched for the next half century. After a while, perhaps the Earth people will give up trying. Remember how they grew leery of the idea of building Zeppelins that were always going down in flames?”
“You’ve got it all planned,” admitted the captain.
“Yet you’re outnumbered. In an hour we’ll have you surrounded. In an hour you’ll be dead.”
“I’ve found some underground passages and a place to live you’ll never find. I’ll withdraw there to live for a few weeks. Until you’re off guard. I’ll come out then to pick you off, one by one.”
The captain nodded. “Tell me about your civilization here,” he said, waving his hand at the mountain towns.
“They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn’t try too hard to be all men and no animal. That’s the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn’t mix. Or at least we didn’t think they did, We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn’t move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.
“We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.”
“And these Martians are a found people?” inquired the captain.
“Yes. They knew how to combine science and religion so the two worked side by side, neither denying the other, each enriching the other.”
“That sounds ideal.”
“It was. I’d like to show you how the Martians did it.”
“My men are waiting.”
“We’ll be gone half an hour. Tell them that, sir.”
The captain hesitated, then rose and called an order down the hill.
Spender led him over into a little Martian village built all of cool perfect marble. There were great friezes of beautiful animals, white-limbed cat things and yellow-limbed sun symbols, and statues of bull-like creatures and statues of men and women and huge fine-featured dogs.
“There’s your answer, Captain.”
“I don’t see.”
“The Martians discovered the secret of life among animals. The animal does not question life. It lives. Its very reason for living is life; it enjoys and relishes life. You see—the statuary, the animal symbols, again and again.”
“It looks pagan.”
“On the contrary, those are God symbols, symbols of life. Man had become too much man and not enough animal on Mars too. And the men of Mars realized that in order to survive they would have to forgo asking that one question any longer: Why live? Life was its own answer. Life was the propagation of more life and the living of as good a life is possible. The Martians realized that they asked the question ‘Why live at all?’ at the height of some period of war and despair, when there was no answer. But once the civilization calmed, quieted, and wars ceased, the question became senseless in a new way. Life was now good and needed no arguments.”