The Gift Bearer

by Charles L. Fontenay

Tags: Science Fiction, Novel-Classic,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: This could well have been Montcalm's greatest opportunity; a chance to bring mankind priceless gifts from worlds beyond. But Montcalm was a solid family man--and what about that nude statue in the park?

It was one of those rare strokes of poetic something-or-other that the whole business occurred the morning after the stormy meeting of the Traskmore censorship board.

Like the good general he was, Richard J. Montcalm had foreseen trouble at this meeting, for it was the boldest invasion yet into the territory of evil and laxity. His forces were marshaled. Several of the town’s ministers who had been with him on other issues had balked on this one, but he had three of them present, as well as heads of several women’s clubs.

As he had anticipated, the irresponsible liberals were present to do battle, headed by red-haired Patrick Levitt.

“This board,” said Levitt in his strong, sarcastic voice, “has gone too far. It was all right to get rid of the actual filth ... and everyone will agree there was some. But when you banned the sale of some magazines and books because they had racy covers or because the contents were a little too sophisticated to suit the taste of members of this board ... well, you can carry protection of our youth to the point of insulting the intelligence of adults who have a right to read what they want to.”

“You’re talking about something that’s already in the past, Mr. Levitt,” said Montcalm mildly. “Let’s keep to the issue at hand. You won’t deny that children see this indecent statue every day?”

“No, I won’t deny it!” snapped Levitt. “Why shouldn’t they see it? They can see the plate of the original in the encyclopaedia. It’s a fine copy of a work of art.”

Montcalm waited for some rebuttal from his supporters, but none was forthcoming. On this matter, they apparently were unwilling to go farther than the moral backing of their presence.

“I do not consider the statue of a naked woman art, even if it is called ‘Dawn,’” he said bitingly. He looked at his two colleagues and received their nods of acquiescence. He ruled: “The statue must be removed from the park and from public view.”

Levitt had one parting shot.

“Would it solve the board’s problem if we put a brassiere and panties on the statue?” he demanded.

“Mr. Levitt’s levity is not amusing. The board has ruled,” said Montcalm coldly, arising to signify the end of the meeting.

That night Montcalm slept the satisfied sleep of the just.

He awoke shortly after dawn to find a strange, utterly beautiful naked woman in his bedroom. For a bemused instant Montcalm thought the statue of Dawn in the park had come to haunt him. His mouth fell open but he was unable to speak.

“Take me to your President,” said the naked woman musically, with an accent that could have been Martian.

Mrs. Montcalm awoke.

“What’s that? What is it, Richard?” she asked sleepily.

“Don’t look, Millie!” exclaimed Montcalm, clapping a hand over her eyes.

“Nonsense!” she snapped, pushing his hand aside and sitting up. She gasped and her eyes went wide, and in an instinctive, unreasonable reaction she clutched the covers up around her own nightgowned bosom.

“Who are you, young woman?” demanded Montcalm indignantly. “How did you get in here?”

“I am a visitor from what you would call an alien planet,” she said. “Of course,” she added thoughtfully, “it isn’t alien to me.”

“The woman’s mad,” said Montcalm to his wife. A warning noise sounded in the adjoining bedroom. Alarmed, he instructed: “Go and keep the children out of here until I can get her to put on some clothes. They mustn’t see her like this.”

Mrs. Montcalm got out of bed, but she gave her husband a searching glance.

“Are you sure I can trust you in here with her?” she asked.

“Millie!” exclaimed Montcalm sternly, shocked. She dropped her eyes and left the room. When the door closed behind her, he turned to the strange woman and said:

“Now, look, young lady, I’ll get you one of Millie’s dresses. You’ll have to get some clothes on and leave.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me my name?” asked the woman. “Of course, it’s unpronounceable to you, but I thought that was the first thing all Earth people asked of visitors from other planets.”

“All right,” he said in exasperation. “What’s your name?”

She said an unpronounceable word and added: “You may call me Liz.”

Montcalm went to the closet and found one of Millie’s house dresses. He held it out to her beseechingly.

As he did so, he was stricken with a sudden sharp feeling of regret that she must don it. Her figure ... why Millie had never had a figure like that! At once, he felt ashamed and disloyal and sterner than ever.

Liz rejected the proffered garment.

“I wouldn’t think of adopting your alien custom of wearing clothing,” she said sweetly.

“Now look,” said Montcalm, “I don’t know whether you’re drunk or crazy, but you’re going to have to put something on and get out of here before I call the police.”

“I anticipated doubt,” said Liz. “I’m prepared to prove my identity.”

With the words, the two of them were no longer standing in the Montcalm bedroom, but in a broad expanse of green fields and woodland, unmarred by any habitation. Montcalm didn’t recognize the spot, but it looked vaguely like it might be somewhere in the northern part of the state.

Montcalm was dismayed to find that he was as naked as his companion!

“Oh, my Lord!” he exclaimed, trying to cover himself with a September Morn pose.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” apologized Liz, and instantly Montcalm’s pajamas were lying at his feet. He got into them hurriedly.

“How did we get here?” he asked, his astonished curiosity overcoming his disapproval of this immodest woman.

“By a mode of transportation common to my people in planetary atmospheres,” she answered. “It’s one of the things I propose to teach your people.”

She sat down cross-legged on the grass. Montcalm averted his eyes, like the gentleman he was.

“You see,” said Liz, “the people of your world are on the verge of going to space and joining the community of worlds. It’s only natural the rest of us should wish to help you. We have a good many things to give you, to help you control the elements and natural conditions of your world. The weather, for example...”

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