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´╗┐Title: World Without Glamor
Author: Marlowe, Stephen
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "World Without Glamor" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         World Without Glamor

                          _By Milton Lesser_

                Colonists on Talbor had little time for
            anything but work, which was bad for morale. So
            Earth sent a special ship--with a unique cargo.

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
                          October 1953
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Marsden had filled a basin with well water and began to lather his
hands and face with soap when Marie entered their cabin. He looked
up and clucked his tongue in disapproval. "Lord," he said. "Look at
yourself."

Marie scowled at him as she removed her bandanna and shook loose her
short-cropped hair. "How do you expect me to look?" Her plain but
pretty face was sweat-streaked. She wore a simple tunic which fell
halfway down her thighs and almost matched her sturdy, sun-darkened
legs in color, although sweat darkened the back of the garment and left
rings of white under the armpits where it had evaporated.

"I know how I'd like you to look."

"Harry Marsden, just what do you mean by that?"

He had felt it for some time now, this smouldering resentment which
had wedged its way between them after only two years of marriage. He
couldn't talk to her without arguing, not after they had finished
working for the day under the broiling sun and returned, bone-weary
and stiff-muscled, to their cabin. The routine sickened him: he would
come in first, splash cold water on his face, maybe scrub up some.
Marie would follow after feeding their chickens (chickens here on
Talbor, three dozen long light years from Earth!), strip off her tunic
and try to scrub the grime from her body while he looked at her. And
if it were warm she'd prepare their simple dinner half-naked, with no
thought for modesty, until he knew every plane, every curve of her body
and realized it was a body strong for work and not soft for play, a
body good for bearing children, a body which could work all day in the
fields like a machine but which would never lose the grit from its
pores.

"I didn't mean anything by it. Forget what I said, Marie." Marsden went
to the clothing rack and took down his one good suit. He looked again
at Marie, then closed his eyes and let a growing eagerness engulf him.

The ship from Earth was coming. Not the ship with more farm machinery,
not the battered freighter which reached Talbor twice every year, but
a tourist ship--the first one in Marsden's memory. There would be
real Earth people on it, men and women. He thought deliciously of the
women, wasp-waisted, high-breasted, lithe-legged and delicate. Marie
would seem so plain against them, so tragically unfeminine--unless the
pictures lied. Born on Talbor, Marsden had never seen a real woman of
Earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Maybe Marsden would feel more inclined to watch the patterned years
drag by on Talbor if he just once saw the women of Earth. He never told
this to Marie, for she wouldn't understand.

"We'd better hurry," she said, "or we won't get to town till after the
ship comes in."

Marsden nodded. "Like to see it land. Everyone will be there, I'll bet."

"I suppose so. It's a great deal of trouble, if you ask me."

"Trouble? Don't you want to see the people of Earth?" There it was
again--Marsden felt an argument brewing. Marie spoke like an old woman,
but she was only twenty-five. You couldn't blame her, though, and every
time Marsden's thoughts took that tack he felt sorry for his wife. She
had known nothing but Talbor all her life.

"They're people," said Marie. "Just folks." But she carefully removed
the frilly dress which had hung near Marsden's suit on the rack and
examined it critically.

"You're going to wear that?"

"What's wrong with it?"

"Nothing. You haven't put it on since we got married, that's all."

"We can't scare the Earth people off with a lot of tunics and
coveralls."

"Better get dressed," said Marsden, chuckling with grim amusement as
Marie struggled with the unfamiliar garment. Marsden's own starched
collar threatened to choke him, but the women of Earth would expect it.

"What's so funny, Harry?"

"There must be an easier way to climb into that thing. You look so
funny."

Marie's back was toward him. She took the dress off and threw it across
the bed. "All right, I won't wear it. I won't wear anything. I'm not
going."

"Now, Marie."

"Don't you 'now' me. I'll stay right here."

"I was joking," said Marsden, squirming uncomfortably inside his collar.

Marie flung the dress from bed to floor. "You can throw it out, for all
I care. Or give it away."

"Thank you, I'll stay here."

"For crying out loud!" Marsden said in exasperation. "This is the
biggest thing to hit Talbor in years. The Earth people are coming to
visit us and you want to stay home."

"They probably will make fun of us."

"If we act like bumpkins they will. If we act--well, sophisticated,
they won't."

"I'm not sophisticated." Marie sat down on the bed where her dress had
been, drew her legs up, wrapped her arms around her knees. "Do I look
sophisticated?"

"Put the dress on."

"I've never been off Talbor, never. We have one town, two hundred
people on seventy or eighty farms. Is it my fault I wasn't born on
Earth? Do you think I would have married you if I had much choice?"

"Oh," said Marsden. "I see."

Marie stared at him and shrugged her bare shoulders. "I'm sorry. I
didn't mean that, Harry. But you don't see. Talbor is all right for you
because you're a man and you like to work like that. Don't you think
I'd rather be small and attractive, instead of--"

"I think you're very attractive."

"That's a lie. I know how you and Charlie Adcock get together and
look at those magazines with pictures of Earth women. Your tongues
practically hang out."

"You've been spying on us."

"Really, Harry. Is looking at a magazine so secret I'm not permitted to
watch? Why don't you treat me like an equal, anyway? But no, you think
of the women of Earth. Well, let me tell you this, Harry Marsden: I'm
stronger than them, I can work harder and I'll probably live longer and
have more kids. What do you say to that?"

"I'm going into Talbor City. If you don't want to see them, I do."

"Watch that collar doesn't strangle you along the way."

"I'll get used to it," said Marsden, running a thick finger between
stiff cloth and raw skin.

"Your face is getting red."

"That's all right."

"Red as a beet."

"Shut up."

"I'll bet you find it hard to breathe."

"Shut up!"

"Try and make me." Marie got off the bed, and when Marsden made a
threatening gesture he thought she would run away. Instead, she leaped
at him, got her strong fingers under the collar and yanked. The stiff
collar burst open, the entire shirt-front ripped. Marie began to laugh.

Marsden went for her with murder in his eyes, but at that moment there
came a roaring overhead like a dozen summer storms rolled into one,
booming and crashing in the sky over their cabin. Talbor's sullen
orange sun had almost set, but bright light flashed in through the
window, blinding them.

"I ought to beat you," said Marsden. But he opened the door and went
outside into the strong, hot wind which had stirred over their rocky
farmland and flapped the torn ends of his shirt against his chest.

The spaceship from Earth had arrived on Talbor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Talbor City's one street, dry and dusty from the long day and hot sun,
was ablaze with light. Marsden had never seen so many electric lights
lit at once, not even on Saturday nights. Even as he entered the city
from the north, taking off his torn shirt and discarding it because no
shirt seemed better than a damaged one, he heard the singing.

Charlie Adcock's deep, off-key voice rose stridently above the others,
singing a song which was popular among the men of Talbor, but which the
women hated.

    I want my arms around
    A slim, small girl of Earth.
    If she don't come to me
    I think I'll have to die
    For the slim, small girl of Earth.

"Well, Harry! Thought you'd never get here."

"I had some things to do," Marsden lied.

"They already landed. They're here on Talbor. Here. They went to the
hotel right away, of course. First time the hotel's been used since the
last freighter crew decided to stay overnight. The mayor's declared a
holiday. Nobody's working tomorrow."

"Me and Marie got to work," said Marsden, realizing he might be able to
make peace with his wife after a day in the field.

"You ain't serious."

Marsden said, "How many of them came?"

"About twenty, half of them women, Harry. You should see the women,
Harry. They wear real frilly things, like you never even saw on
Talbor. They're beautiful, friend. You _know_ it. I mean beautiful all
over. Hair fixed like it would take weeks to unravel. Belly's so thin
you could get your fingers around them. Straight, slim legs, not a
muscle on them. Such white skin you'd swear it was made out of milk.
And the way they walked, Harry--so delicate they could have run across
a field of fresh eggs without breaking a shell."

"I think I'll spend the night in town," said Marsden, forgetting all
about Marie.

"Oh, didn't Marie come to town with you?"

Marsden shook his head without talking.

"Janie didn't come neither. Say now, that's all right, Harry. That sure
is all right. Leave the wife at home on a night like this. You know
what? I think I'll take a room right there in the hotel and maybe even
get to eat breakfast with the women of Earth. What do you say, Harry?"

"Suits me." Marsden's mind formed a brief image of Marie trying
awkwardly to fit into the dress--to please me, he suddenly
realized--and then the image faded. With Charlie Adcock he pushed
through the crowd on the hotel steps.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marsden felt breakfast, heavy mouthful by mouthful, forming an
uncomfortable lump inside his chest. It was a long table big enough for
thirty people, with the men and women of Earth chatting comfortably
on all sides of it, their gay clothing making the dining room appear
intolerably drab. Marsden had been on the verge of forgetting breakfast
entirely, for when he reached the dining room he found all the seats
at the table were taken except one between two delicate, wasp-waisted
women of Earth. But Charlie Adcock, who was already seated, had waved
him on toward the table with a broad grin, and it was either sit down
or forever be a coward in Charlie's eyes.

"Hello," one of the women said while Marsden fidgeted and scooped
forkfuls of bacon and eggs into his dry mouth.

Marsden blinked. She was talking to him.

"Good morning, Miss."

"So you're a native of Talbor. Tell me, how do you stand it?"

"Born here, I guess." Marsden found it difficult to talk and eat at the
same time. His face grew uncomfortably warm, his tongue seemed to swell
until he wanted to spit it out.

"I'm Alice Cooper, Mr.--"

Mister. No one had ever called him Mister. "Better call me Harry,
Miss. Just Harry."

"I want you to tell me all about your primitive planet, Harry.
Everything. I've got a camera and I'm going to take pictures and write
notes about them so when I get back to Earth I can tell everyone about
this quaint planet."

Marsden wished he had a shirt, for it wasn't right for Alice Cooper
to have to see his sun-scorched, hair-matted chest while she ate. But
Marsden felt somewhat better when he let his eyes rove to the men of
Earth. They sat tall and straight in clothing fancier than it was
right for a man to wear, but they were thin, pale and--well, a little
washed-out looking.

"Why don't you show me around?" Alice Cooper suddenly asked him. "You
can't see a place unless a native shows it to you, and we have to leave
tonight."

"Tonight?"

"Of course, Harry. We have lots of planets to visit and we can't spend
more than a day on an out-of-the-way mote like Talbor."

"Well, now, there are plenty of interesting things on Talbor."

"Oh, I know. I know. Rustic cabins, rocky fields, stolid farmers who
work the soil all day and fall into bed exhausted at night. It's all
very thrilling."

"We have some mighty nice scenery," Marsden told her. "Madison falls
are two-hundred feet high, and we've got some mountains that--"

"Certainly, Harry. But I can see that sort of thing just anyplace. I
want you to show me your farm, your fields. How you people of Talbor
can get by on this rocky, God-forsaken place I'll never know. Why your
parents came here I could never figure out."

He stood up awkwardly. "I guess--well...."

Alice Cooper rose to her feet in a liquid motion beautiful to behold.
The top of her head came up to his shoulders and she reached out with
one small, dainty hand and touched his upper arm.

"My, but you have big muscles."

Marsden smiled.

"You need them in this grim, dreary place, of course. You probably wish
you didn't. You probably would rather be thin and wear glasses maybe
and spend most of your time in an air-cooled office and do things like
that."

"I don't know. A man would grow bored working in an office."

"See?" Alice Cooper cried. "See? I just knew I'd love Talbor. You're so
primitive. Why, you're practically--Cro-Magnon. Come on outside, Harry.
I want to take your picture."

She took his big hand and led him to the door. Marsden looked back
uncomfortably and saw Charlie Adcock off in a corner with two of the
women of Earth, talking avidly. Strangely, he thought Charlie was
scowling about something.

Talbor's strong orange sunlight made him squint while Alice Cooper
said: "Tremendous place for a camera enthusiast. I hear it never rains
around here. Surprising this place isn't a desert, don't you think?"

"It rains when it has to."

"Here. Stand over here. Yes, facing the sun. Can you do something to
show you're almost--almost ancestral?"

"I don't understand, Miss."

"Goodness, I mean your muscles. Flex them. Use them to do something
like lifting a heavy object. Break something if you want to. I'm sure
those muscles are good for something besides weeding your fields or
pulling a plow."

Marsden began to feel foolish but obliged her with a handstand. He lost
his balance, though, before she could take the picture and tumbled flat
on his back in the dusty street, landing so hard he saw stars.

       *       *       *       *       *

A couple of men who had been watching from the hotel steps snickered.
"I didn't know Marsden was an acrobat."

"His old lady claims she's going to sell him to the interstellar circus
when it comes around."

"What do you say we give him a hand?"

Marsden sat up, rubbed his head. One of the men came over and offered
his arm. Cat-quick, Marsden leaped to his feet and thrust the man away
from him so hard that he stumbled back, crashed against the bottom
steps and fell. Something clicked, and Alice Cooper squealed excitedly:

"I got it! That was perfect, Harry. Thank you ever so much. I caught it
just after you started to shove him and now when my friends see this
they'll know Talbor is a primitive place. Are there many murders here?"

"I've never heard of one," said Harry, dusting his trousers off. "We're
too busy for crime, I guess."

"How terribly dull. Statistics show that more advanced societies are
prone to higher crime rates, particularly crimes of passion, since
everyone is high strung and capable of flying off the handle as the
expression goes. Did you ever think of committing a crime of passion,
Harry?"

She stood there, small and frail in the sunlight, delicately, lushly
curved. She wet her lips and they were very red in the sunlight and
against her pale white face.

"No," said Marsden thickly. "I'd better take you back inside to your
friends, maybe."

"Why, don't be ridiculous. See, they're all outside anyway."

Marsden's gaze took in Talbor City's one street. The crowds had thinned
considerably; people moved off toward the outskirts and the farmlands
in twos and threes, the Earth people scattered among them and going
to see Talbor with them. Marsden felt lost and alone and a little
frightened, for he knew he would go off into the country-side with
Alice Cooper in another moment, and he hardly trusted himself.

"They're not my friends, Harry. We're traveling together, but we hardly
know each other. You don't just make friends with anyone, it isn't
civilized. People are always out to get you, to trick you, to make
fun of you and take advantage of you. Oh, you've got to be careful, I
always say. Shall we see Talbor now?"

"I should go home and start plowing."

"I'm leaving tonight, Harry." Her hand slipped under his arm and
nestled there. His bare arm tingled.

"What would you like to see?" he asked uncomfortably.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Everyone has a different crop to grow," Marsden explained later. "On
my farm it's barley."

"Just barley? It must be rather dull, growing barley all year long."

"We have some cattle and chickens, too. But I spend most of my time
tending the irrigation ditches. Summertime it's a sunrise to sunset
job."

"You poor man. You--" Suddenly Alice Cooper's eyes grew big. She gasped
and clutched at Marsden's arm. "Harry, over there! Ooo, Harry!"

Marsden turned, saw a small dog bounding across the field playfully,
turning and twisting and barking at its own shadow.

"It's nothing to be afraid of."

"An animal, nothing to be afraid of? Harry, it's coming this way."

The dog had seen them. Yelping, its tail wagging, it came right up to
them, nuzzling against Marsden's leg while he crouched and petted it.

"Better take me back to town, Harry."

"There boy, there boy." Marsden scratched the dog's ear, cuffed it
gingerly with his big hand, turned it around, thumped its rear and
watched it leap away across the rocky meadow. "Don't worry, Miss. A
little dog like that never hurt anyone."

"I feel faint, Harry. I expected wilderness and that's what I came to
see--but animals running around loose? That's too much."

"Dogs and men get along fine on Talbor."

"On Earth dogs are in the zoo where they belong." Alice Cooper patted
her brow daintily with a handkerchief. "I do wish we could get out of
this sun."

A person not liking dogs. It wasn't right, Marsden thought. And hating
the sun and the soil out of which crops grew and.... Well, he couldn't
blame Alice Cooper. Everything was so strange and new to her and she
was just plain upset.

"I could take you to my cabin," he told her. "It's nearby."

Alice Cooper nodded, took one step forward, turned her ankle and
tripped. She fell heavily, catching one of her high heels against the
hem of her frilly dress. There was a ripping sound and a long tear
appeared in the bottom of the dress.

"It's ruined," said Alice Cooper in despair.

"My wife can fix it."

"Your what?"

"My wife."

"Don't tell me you get married here on Talbor? I knew this was a
primitive society, really primitive--but not to that extent. You get
married and--and stay with one partner for life, for your whole life?
Really?"

"That's right," said Marsden. "Don't you?"

"Well--you wouldn't understand, Harry. You just wouldn't understand.
Here, help me up."

He got her to her feet, but her twisted ankle wouldn't support her.
"You'd better carry me."

Marsden nodded, got one hand under her arms from behind, the other in
back of her thighs. Cradling her thus, he began to walk. She weighed
almost nothing, she was incredibly feather-light, but pleasant to the
touch and smelling, this close, of some delightful perfume.

"You're strong," she said.

Gulping audibly, Marsden averted his face from hers, only inches away.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he pushed the cabin door open with one foot, Marie started to
smile at him from inside. The smile faded. "Harry. Oh. Is she--hurt or
something?"

"Aren't you the bright one," Alice Cooper said. "I'm too lazy to walk."

"Be quiet, Marie," Marsden said. "What's the matter with you?"

"Did I say something wrong? I'm sorry."

"It's to be expected," Alice Cooper declared.

"You were gone all night, Harry."

"He can take care of himself, I'm sure," Alice Cooper said.

Harry frowned. "I told you to keep quiet, Marie."

"No, let her talk, Harry. Of course he was gone all night. What's the
matter, don't you think he can take care of himself?"

"My Harry is quite a capable man, thank you."

"Marie!"

"Your Harry. That's right, you are fettered to one another all your
lives. It's fantastic. Will you be a good girl and bring me something
to eat?"

Marie nodded and soon returned with two plates of stew. It was
Marsden's favorite food and Marie had probably prepared it as a peace
offering, but two plates meant one for him and one for Alice Cooper and
Marie would go hungry.

"I'm not in the mood to eat," said Harry, while his stomach grumbled.

"You? Not in the mood to eat Talborian stew? I'd like to see the day.
Go ahead, I'm not hungry."

"You're both crazy," Alice Cooper said. "Pretending you're not hungry
so the other can eat. No wonder this is such a backward place. If
someone said that to me I'd gobble the food up quick before he could
change his mind. On Earth, naturally, no one would ever say it."

"I'll get some cold cloths for your leg," Marsden said to break the
awkward silence which followed.

"Cloths, nothing." Alice Cooper stood up. "Did you think I really hurt
myself? I only wanted you to carry me and take me here, but if this
hefty wife of yours is here, I guess you might as well take me back to
town."

"If I wasn't a lady ..." began Marie.

"You? That's very good, my dear. A lady wrestler, you mean. Well,
Harry, what are you waiting for? Take me back to Talbor City, please."

Marsden looked at his wife's plain, unpainted but still pretty face,
at the way days under the bright sun had added glowing highlights to
her red-brown hair and Alice Cooper seemed like a wilted flower by
comparison. Marsden thought of the long walk with her back to Talbor
City and wished it were over already.

       *       *       *       *       *

The spaceship blasted off with a terrible clamor. The people of Earth,
the men and women, were gone. They had been here on Talbor only a few
hours but to Marsden it seemed much longer. He was infinitely glad they
could only stay one day.

He met Charlie Adcock near the steps of the hotel. Charlie carried his
shirt under one arm and was scowling. "You know," he said, "songs and
pictures are funny things. They sure can fool a guy sometimes."

"Yeah," said Marsden.

"I don't know, Harry. I'm still glad they came. We were busting to see
something different, either to have them come here or maybe to take off
and forget all about Talbor."

"What do you mean, forget about Talbor? Talbor's a pretty nice place.
You work all day, sure, but it's good, clean work and you know your
friends are working too, and then Saturday night you can go into town
hooting and hollering and no one cares."

"Yeah, Harry. Sure. That's what I mean. You know what? Those women of
Earth are kind of skinny."

"It was an accident they came when they did," said Marsden. "A lucky
accident. I like Talbor now. I wouldn't change places with anyone."

"It's still nice looking at pictures and singing songs, I guess, if we
can forget about the real women of Earth."

"A lucky accident," said Marsden again. "Just when we got all
starry-eyed about things that didn't matter, they came and showed us
what we really had."

"Well, see you."

Later, after Marsden returned to his cabin, Marie said:

"I'll wear that dress Saturday nights if you want."

"Fine," said Marsden. "But only Saturday nights. It's silly the rest of
the time."

He took Marie in his arms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alice Cooper removed the tight corset with a sigh of relief. "The first
thing I'm going to do when we get back home is go out to the beach
somewhere and get sunburned. Swim and ride horseback, too," she told
one of her companions. "I feel all--all scrunched up."

"Little wonder, Alice. Women weren't made to wear these tight things
and get all constricted."

"What a job," said Alice. "Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. We
still have three more planets to visit on this trip."

"It's worth it. Sociology Central figures it out just right. When the
folks on one of the out planets get a little disgruntled with what
they've got, we're sent. They've built up a mighty splendid picture of
Earth and Earth people."

"I know it. So we come along and do everything we can to make Earth
look like the worst sink hole in the universe. By the time we leave,
the two ideas--their own glorified impression of Earth and our warped
play-acting--kind of merge. They realize they have a pretty good thing
on their own home planet."

"That's the way it should be, but I _still_ like Earth."

"Me too," Alice smiled. "One of these days, though, my husband is going
to make me give up my career and raise a whole crew of children. You
know something? I think I'd like that fine."



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