then this stretch of decay and disrepair were but signs of transition. The time would come when these ghost farms and ghost towns and perhaps ghost cities would return to the soil from which they had, in their complex fashion, sprung. The time would come when these costly monuments of an earlier civilization would be as gone and forgotten as the cities of antique times.
Two more evenings were spent fishing. On the fourth day Cargill heard a woman's loud voice talking from the living room. It was an unpleasant voice and it startled him.
Curiously, he hadn't previously thought of these people as being in communication with anyone else. But the woman was unmistakably giving instructions to the Bouvy father and daughter. Almost as soon as she had stopped talking Cargill felt the ship change its course. Toward dark Lela came in.
"We'll be camping with other people tonight," she said. "So you watch yourself." She sounded fretful and she went out without waiting for him to reply.
Cargill considered the possibilities with narrowed eyes. After four days of being in hobble chains, with no sign that they would ever come off, he was ready for a change. "All I've got to do," he told himself, "is catch two people off guard." And he wouldn't have to be gentle about it either. "Careful," he thought. "Better not build my hopes too high."
Nevertheless, it seemed to him that the presence of other people might actually produce an opportunity for escape.
Through the open doorway Cargill caught a glimpse of the outside activity. Men walked by carrying fishing rods. The current of air that surged through brought the tangy odor of river and the damp pleasant smell of innumerable growing things.
It grew darker rapidly. Finally, Cargill could stand his confinement no longer. He stood up and, taking care not to trip over his chain, went outside and sank down on the grass. The scene that spread before him had an idyllic quality. Here and there under the trees ships were parked. There were at least a dozen that he could see, and it seemed to him that the lights of still others showed through the thick foliage along the shore. The sound of voices floated on the air and somehow they no longer sounded harsh or crude.
There was a movement in the darkness near him. Lela Bouvy settled down on the grass beside him. She said breathlessly, "Kind of fun living like this, isn't it?"
Cargill hesitated and then, somewhat to his surprise, found himself inwardly agreeing. "There's a desire in all of us," he thought, "to return to nature." The will to relax, the impulse to lie on green grass, to listen to the rustling of leaves in an almost impalpable breeze—all that he could feel in himself. He also had the same basic urge that had driven these Planiacs to abandon the ordered slavery of civilization. He found himself saddened by the realization that the abandonment included a return to ignorance. He said aloud, "Yes, it's pretty nice."
A tall powerful-looking woman strode out of the darkness. "Where's Bouvy?" she said. A flashlight in her hand winked on and glared at Lela and Cargill. Its bright stare held steady for seconds longer than was necessary. "Well, I'll be double darned," the woman's voice said from the intense blackness behind the light, "little Lela's gone and found herself a man."
Lela snapped, "Don't be a bigger fool than you have to be, Carmean."
The woman laughed uproariously. "I heard you had a man," she said finally, "and now that I get a look at him I can see you've done yourself proud."
Lela said indifferently, "He doesn't mean a thing to me."
"Yeah?" said Carmean derisively. Abruptly she seemed to lose interest. The beam of her flashlight swept on and left them hi darkness. The light focused on Pa Bouvy sitting in a chair against the side of the ship. "Oh, there you are," said the woman.
The big woman walked over. "Get up and give me that chair," she said. "Haven't you got no manners?"
"Watch your tongue, you old