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The first day of spring, p.1
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       The First Day of Spring, p.1

           Mari Wolf
 
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The First Day of Spring


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING

  By Mari Wolf

  Illustrated by Ed Emsh

  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of ScienceFiction June 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence thatthe U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  [Sidenote: _Here is a love story of two young people who met under themagic of festival time. One was Trina, whose world was a gentlemake-believe Earth. The other was Max, handsome spaceman, whose worldwas the infinite universe of space...._]

  The First Day of spring, the man at the weather tower had said, andcertainly it felt like spring, with the cool breeze blowing lightlyabout her and a faint new clover smell borne in from the east.Spring--that meant they would make the days longer now, and the nightsshorter, and they would warm the whole world until it was summer again.

  Trina laughed aloud at the thought of summer, with its picnics andlanguid swims in the refilled lakes, with its music and the heavy scentof flowers and the visitors in from space for the festival. She laughed,and urged her horse faster, out of its ambling walk into a trot, acanter, until the wind streamed about her, blowing back her hair,bringing tears to her eyes as she rode homeward toward the easternhorizon--the horizon that looked so far away but wasn't really.

  "Trina!"

  His voice was very close. And it was familiar, though for a moment shecouldn't imagine who it might be.

  "Where are you?" She had reined the horse in abruptly and now lookedaround her, in all directions, toward the north and south and east andwest, toward the farm houses of the neighboring village, toward thelight tower and the sun tower. She saw no one. No one else rode thisearly in the day in the pasture part of the world.

  "I'm up here, Trina."

  She looked up then and saw him, hovering some thirty feet off the groundin the ridiculous windmill-like craft he and his people used when theyvisited the world.

  "Oh, hello, Max." No wonder she had known the voice. Max Cramer, downfrom space, down to the world, to see her. She knew, even before hedropped his craft onto the grass beside her, that he had come to seeher. He couldn't have been on the world for more than the hour she'dbeen riding.

  "You're visiting us early this year, Max. It's not festival time forthree months yet."

  "I know." He cut the power to the windmill blades, and they slowed,becoming sharply visible. The horse snorted and backed away. Max smiled."This world is very--attractive."

  His eyes caught hers, held them. She smiled back, wishing for thehundredth time since last summer's festival that he were one of herpeople, or at least a worldling, and not a man with the too white skinof space.

  "It may be attractive," she said. "But you always leave it soon enough."

  He nodded. "It's too confining. It's all right, for a little while, butthen...."

  "How can you say that?" She shook her head sadly. Already they werearguing the same old unresolvable argument, and they had scarcelygreeted each other. After all his months in space they met with the samewords as they had parted. She looked past him, up and out, toward thehorizon that seemed so many miles away, toward the morning sun thatseemed to hang far, far off in the vaulted blue dome of the sky.

  "How can you even think it? About this?"

  His lips tightened. "About _this_," he repeated. "A horizon you couldride to in five minutes. A world you could ride around in two hours. Asun--you really call it a sun--that you could almost reach up and pluckout of that sky of yours." He laughed. "Illusions. World of illusions."

  "Well, what do you have? A ship--a tiny ship you can't get out of, withwalls you can see, all around you."

  "Yes, Trina, with walls we can see."

  He was still smiling, watching her, and she knew that he desired her.And she desired him. But not the stars.

  "You have nothing like this," she said, knowing it wouldn't do any good.She looked past him at the light tower, one of the many that formed theprotective screen about her world, that made it seem great and convex, ahuge flattened sphere with the sun high above, and not the swift curvingsteel ball that it actually was.

  This was her world. It was like Earth, like the old Earth of the legendsof the time before the radiation wars. And even though her mind mightknow the truth about the screens that refracted light and the atomicpile that was her sun, her heart knew a more human truth. This was aworld. As it had been in the beginning. As it must be till the end--oruntil they found a new Earth, somewhere, sometime.... Max sighed. "Yes,you have your world, Trina. And it's a good one--the best of its kindI've ever visited."

  "Why don't you stay here then?"

  A spaceman, she thought. With all the dozens of men in my world, why didit have to be a spaceman? With all the visitors from New France and NewChile and New Australia last festival, why did it have to be him?

  "I have the stars, Trina."

  "We do too!" Last festival, and the warm June night, heavy, druggedlyheavy with honeysuckle and magnolia, and the hidden music from thepavillions. And Max Cramer, tall and strong boned and alien, holding herin his arms, dancing her away from her people, out onto the terraceabove the little stream, beneath the full festival moon and the summerstars, the safe, sane, well ordered constellations that their ancestorshad looked upon from Earth.

  "My stars are real, Trina."

  She shook her head, unable to argue with him. World-woman and spaceman,and always different, with nothing in common between them, really,except a brief forgetfulness at festival time.

  "Come with me, Trina."

  "No." She gathered up the reins and chucked at the horse and turned,slowly, for the village.

  "You wouldn't come--for me?"

  "You wouldn't stay, would you?"

  She heard the windmill blades whir again, and a rustling of wind, andthen he was beside her, skimming slowly along, barely off the ground,making her horse snort nervously away.

  "Trina, I shouldn't tell you this, not until we've met with yourcouncilmen. But I--I've got to."

  He wasn't smiling now. There was a wild look about his face. She didn'tlike it.

  "Captain Bernard's with the council now, giving them the news. But Iwanted to see you first, to be the one who told you." He broke off,shook his head. "Yet when I found you I couldn't say anything. I guess Iwas afraid of what you'd answer...."

  "What are you talking about?" She didn't want to look at him. Itembarrassed her somehow, seeing him so eager. "What do you want to tellme?"

  "About our last trip, Trina. We've found a world!"

  She stared at him blankly, and his hand made a cutting gesture ofimpatience. "Oh, not a world like this one! A planet, Trina. And it'sEarth type!"

  She wheeled the horse about and stared at him. For a moment she feltexcitement rise inside of her too, and then she remembered thegenerations of searching, and the false alarms, and the dozens ofbarren, unfit planets that the spacemen colonized, planets likeground-bound ships.

  "Oh, Trina," Max cried, "This isn't like the others. It's a new Earth.And there are already people there. From not long after the Exodus...."

  "A new Earth?" she said. "I don't believe it."

  The council wouldn't either, she thought. Not after all the other newEarths, freezing cold or methane atmosphered or at best completelywaterless. This would be like the others. A spaceman's dream.

  "You've got to believe me, Trina," Max said. "And you've got to helpmake the others believe. Don't you see? You wouldn't live in space. Iwouldn't live here--on this. But there, on a real planet, on a realEarth...."

  Then suddenly she fel
t his excitement and it was a part of her, untilagainst all reason she wanted to believe in his mad dream of a world.She laughed aloud as she caught up the reins and raced her horsehomeward, toward the long vista of the horizon and the capital villagebeyond it, ten minutes gallop away.

  * * * * *

  Max and Trina came together into the council hall and saw the twogroups, the roomful of worldmen and the half dozen spacemen, apart fromeach other, arguing. The spacemen's eyes were angry.

  "A world," Captain Bernard said bitterly, "there for your taking, andyou don't even want to look at it."

  "How do we know what kind of world it is?" Councilman Elias leanedforward on the divan. His voice was gentle, almost pitying. "You broughtno samples. No vegetation, no minerals...."

  "Not even air samples," Aaron Gomez said softly. "Why?"

  Bernard sighed. "We didn't want to wait," he said. "We wanted to getback here, to tell you."

  "It may be a paradise world to _you_," Elias said. "But to us...."

  Max Cramer tightened his grip on Trina's hand. "The fools," he said."Talking and talking, and all the time this world drifts farther andfarther away."

  "It takes so much power to change course," Trina said. "And besides, youfeel it. It makes you heavy."

  She remembered the stories her father used to tell, about his own youth,when he and Curt Elias had turned the world to go to a planet thespaceman found. A planet with people--people who lived under glassdomes, or deep below the formaldehyde poisoned surface.

  "You could be there in two weeks, easily, even at your world's speed,"Captain Bernard said.

  "And then we'd have to go out," Elias said. "Into space."

  The worldmen nodded. The women looked at each other and nodded too. Oneof the spacemen swore, graphically, and there was an embarrassed silenceas Trina's people pretended not to have heard.

  "Oh, let's get out of here." The spaceman who had sworn swore again,just as descriptively, and then grinned at the councilmen and theiraloof, blank faces. "They don't want our planet. All right. Maybe NewChile...."

  "Wait!" Trina said it without thinking, without intending to. She stoodspeechless when the others turned to face her. All the others. Herpeople and Max's. Curt Elias, leaning forward again, smiling at her.

  "Yes, Trina?" the councilman said.

  "Why don't we at least look at it? Maybe it is--what they say."

  Expression came back to their faces then. They nodded at each other andlooked from her to Max Cramer and back again at her, and they smiled.Festival time, their eyes said. Summer evenings, summer foolishness.

  And festival time long behind them, but soon to come again.

  "Your father went to space," Elias said. "We saw one of those worlds thespacemen talk of."

  "I know."

  "He didn't like it."

  "I know that too," she said, remembering his bitter words and thenightmare times when her mother had had so much trouble comforting him,and the winter evenings when he didn't want even to go outside and seethe familiar, Earth encircling stars.

  He was dead now. Her mother was dead now. They were not here, todisapprove, to join with Elias and the others.

  They would have hated for her to go out there.

  She faltered, the excitement Max had aroused in her dying away, and thenshe thought of their argument, as old as their desire. She knew that ifshe wanted him it would have to be away from the worlds.

  "At least we could look," she said. "And the spacemen could bring upsamples. And maybe even some of the people for us to talk to."

  Elias nodded. "It would be interesting," he said slowly, "to talk tosome new people. It's been so long."

  "And we wouldn't even have to land," Aaron Gomez said, "if it didn'tlook right."

  The people turned to each other again and smiled happily. She knew thatthey were thinking of the men and women they would see, and all the newthings to talk about.

  "We might even invite some of them up for the festival," Elias saidslowly. "Providing they're--courteous." He frowned at the young spacemanwho had done the swearing, and then he looked back at Captain Bernard."And providing, of course, that we're not too far away by then."

  "I don't think you will be," Bernard said. "I think you'll stay."

  "I think so too," Max Cramer said, moving closer to Trina. "I hope so."

  Elias stood up slowly and signalled that the council was dismissed. Theother people stood up also and moved toward the doors.

  "We'd better see about changing the world's course," Aaron Gomez said.

  No one objected. It was going to be done. Trina looked up at Max Cramerand knew that she loved him. And wondered why she was afraid.

  * * * * *

  It was ten days later that the world, New America, came into thegravitational influence of the planet's solar system. The automaticdeflectors swung into functioning position, ready to change course,slowly and imperceptibly, but enough to take the world around the systemand out into the freedom of space where it could wander on its randomcourse. But this time men shunted aside the automatic controls. Menguided their homeland in, slowly now, toward the second planet from thesun, the one that the spacemen had said was so like Earth.

  "We'll see it tomorrow," Trina said. "They'll shut off part of the lighttower system then."

  "Why don't they now?" Max Cramer asked her. It was just past sunset, andthe stars of a dozen generations ago were just beginning to wink intoview. He saw Venus, low on the horizon, and his lips tightened, and thenhe looked up to where he knew the new sun must be.

  There was only the crescent of Earth's moon.

  "Now?" Trina said. "Why should they turn the screens off now? We'restill so far away. We wouldn't see anything."

  "You'd see the sun," Max said. "It's quite bright, even from here. Andfrom close up, from where the planet is, it looks just about likeEarth's."

  Trina nodded. "That's good," she said, looking over at the rose tints ofthe afterglow. "It wouldn't seem right if it didn't."

  A cow lowed in the distance, and nearer, the laughing voices of childrenrode the evening breeze. Somewhere a dog barked. Somewhere else a womancalled her family home to supper. Old sounds. Older, literally, thanthis world.

  "What are the people like, out there?"

  He looked at her face, eager and worried at the same time, and hesmiled. "You'll like them, Trina," he said. "They're like--well, they'remore like _this_ than anything else."

  He gestured, vaguely, at the farmhouse lights ahead of them, at the slowwalking figures of the young couples out enjoying the warm springevening, at the old farmer leading his plow horse home along the path.

  "They live in villages, not too different, from yours. And in cities.And on farms."

  "And yet, you like it there, don't you?" she said.

  He nodded. "Yes, I like it there."

  "But you don't like it here. Why?"

  "If you don't understand by now, Trina, I can't explain."

  They walked on. Night came swiftly, crowding the rose and purple tintsout of the western sky, closing in dark and cool and sweet smellingabout them. Ahead, a footbridge loomed up out of the shadows. There wasthe sound of running water, and, on the bank not far from the bridge,the low murmuring of a couple of late lingering fishermen.

  "The people live out in the open, like this?" Trina said.

  "Yes."

  "Not underground? Not under a dome?"

  "I've told you before that it's like Earth, Trina. About the same size,even."

  "_This_ is about the same size, too."

  "Not really. It only looks that way."

  The fishermen glanced up as they passed, and then bent down over theirlines again. Lucas Crossman, from Trina's town, and Jake Krakorian fromthe southern hemisphere, up to visit his sister Lucienne, who had justhad twins....

  Trina said hello to them as she passed, and found out that the twinslooked just like their mother, except for Grandfather Muell
er's eyes,and then she turned back to Max.

  "Do people live all over the planet?"

  "On most of it. The land sections, that is. Of course, up by the polesit's too cold."

  "But how do they know each other?"

  He stopped walking and stared at her, not understanding for a minute.Girl's laughter came from the bushes, and the soft urging voice of oneof the village boys. Max looked back at the fishermen and then down atTrina and shook his head.

  "They don't all know each other," he said. "They couldn't."

  She thought of New Chile, where her cousin Isobelle was married lastyear, and New India, which would follow them soon to the planet, becauseCaptain Bernard had been able to contact them by radio. She thought ofher people, her friends, and then she remembered the spacemen's farflung ships and the homes they burrowed deep in the rock of inhospitableworlds. She knew that he would never understand why she pitied thepeople of this system.

  "I suppose we'll see them soon," she said. "You're going to bring someof
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