The wife and the two daughters and the son raised their glasses to their lips.
The wine ran down over the chins of all four of them.
By morning the city was blowing in great black soft flakes across the sea bottom. The fire was exhausted, but it had served its purpose; the red spot on the sky grew larger.
From the stone hut came the rich brown smell of baked gingerbread. His wife stood over the table, setting down the hot pans of new bread as Hathaway entered. The two daughters were gently sweeping the bare stone floor with stiff brooms, and the son was polishing the silverware.
“We’ll have a huge breakfast for them,” laughed Hathaway. “Put on your best clothes!”
He hurried across his land to the vast metal storage shed. Inside was the cold-storage unit and power plant he had repaired and restored with his efficient, small, nervous fingers over the years, just as he had repaired clocks, telephones, and spool recorders in his spare time. The shed was full of things he had built, some senseless mechanisms the functions of which were a mystery even to himself now as he looked upon them.
From the deep freeze he fetched rimed cartons of beans and strawberries, twenty years old. Lazarus come forth, he thought, and pulled out a cool chicken.
The air was full of cooking odors when the rocket landed.
Like a boy, Hathaway raced down the hill. He stopped once because of a sudden sick pain in his chest. He sat on a rock to regain his breath, then ran all the rest of the way.
He stood in the hot atmosphere generated by the fiery rocket. A port opened. A man looked down.
Hathaway shielded his eyes and at last said, “Captain Wilder!”
“Who is it?” asked Captain Wilder, and jumped down and stood there looking at the old man. He put his hand out. “Good lord, it’s Hathaway!”
“That’s right.” They looked into each other’s faces.
“Hathaway, from my old crew, from the Fourth Expedition.”
“It’s been a long time, Captain.”
“Too long. It’s good to see you.”
“I’m old,” said Hathaway simply.
“I’m not young myself any more. I’ve been out to Jupiter and Saturn and Neptune for twenty years.”
“I heard they had kicked you upstairs so you wouldn’t interfere with colonial policy here on Mars.” The old man looked around. “You’ve been gone so long you don’t know what’s happened—“
Wilder said, “I can guess. We’ve circled Mars twice. Found only one other man, name of Walter Gripp, about ten thousand miles from here, We offered to take him with us, but he said no. The last we saw of him he was sitting in the middle of the highway in a rocking chair, smoking a pipe, waving to us. Mars is pretty well dead, not even a Martian alive. What about Earth?”
“You know as much as I do. Once in a while I get the Earth radio, very faintly. But it’s always in some other language. I’m sorry to say I only know Latin. A few words come through. I take it most of Earth’s a shambles, but the war goes on. Are you going back, sir?”
“Yes. We’re curious, of course. We had no radio contact so far out in space. We’ll want to see Earth, no matter what.”
“You’ll take us with you?”
The captain started. “Of course, your wife, I remember her. Twenty-five years ago, wasn’t it? When they opened First Town and you quit the service and brought her up here. And there were children—“
“My son and two daughters.”
“Yes, I remember. They’re here?”
“Up at our hut. There’s a fine breakfast waiting all of you up the hill. Will you come?”
“We would be honored, Mr. Hathaway.” Captain Wilder called to the rocket, “Abandon ship!”
They walked up the hill, Hathaway and Captain Wilder, the twenty crew members following taking deep breaths of the thin, cool morning air. The sun rose and it was a good day.
“Do you remember Spender, Captain?”
“I’ve never forgotten him.”
“About once a year I walk up past his tomb. It looks like he got his way at last. He didn’t want us to come here, and I suppose he’s happy now that we’ve all gone away.”