“Herr, um, sir, I think what we are doing is not right. We are telling lies and sneaking about. It is not honest.”
“Hans, you are a good fellow but you do not see the big picture. And you worry too much. All the time worrying about the men, about the weather, about the work. Relax. The vildingar are simple people. I know this. I haf studied about them at the university before I come here. They are busy with their primitive rituals, these nature folk. They have not evolved as we have and do not have the rational thinking abilities that we have. That is why they have no great monuments and universities.”
“Herr Doktor” said Hans. “I know that you are an educated man and that you are smarter than me. But I think you are wrong in your opinion of these peoples.”
“Indeed.” The Geologist’s good humour suddenly evaporated. “So little Hans knows better now, hum? Perhaps you think that you should be in charge? Since you know so much better than educated scientists? How much schooling have you, Hans?”
Hans blushed. His lack of formal education had always been an embarrassment to him, especially when in the company of academics such as the professor.
“No sir. I do not think I know best. But I think even educated men make mistakes sometimes. They sit in universities and libraries but they do not go and live among the folk they write about.” Hans was surprised at his own audacity in responding to the professor’s condescension.
“Even smart men can be wrong sometimes. They are only human, isn’t that so, sir?”
“Yes it is!” snapped the professor. “All the same I do not need advice from an ignorant little peasant such as yourself. You should not be setting yourself up above your betters.”
Hans stared down at his shoes. The conversation had clearly taken a turn for the worse.
“Well?” asked the Geologist. “Have you anything more to say?”
“I just think that these people are not dumb as you think they are. And we are not doing what we said we would. You told the Shawnee leader that we were just some farmers. But here we are stealing copper ore from under their grounds. We do not have their leave to do this. It is wrong.”
“That is enough of your babbling, Hans! It is your job to oversee the men. You do not make the decisions here. Now do your job.”
The professor turned back to his desk and looked pointedly at the papers spread upon it. Hans sighed. He was genuinely surprised at himself. He usually deferred to the geologist both because of the man’s greater age and his higher level of education. That was the way of things in Hans’ little village when he was growing up. The fine folk made decisions and the ordinary folk followed their instructions.
“But maybe that isn’t the only way to live.” thought Hans. “Maybe in this different land there were different ways of doing things.”