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´╗┐Title: A Matter of Ethics
Author: Winterbotham, R. R. (Russell Robert)
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 "A Matter of Ethics" ***


               Homer was a shy Faderfield bachelor; his
             visitor was a beautiful Pleiades girl. At any
            rate she was a girl, and Homer had a problem--

                          A MATTER OF ETHICS

                         By Russ Winterbotham

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
                              April 1955
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


The fly rod, the letter and the small jar of paint were, in a sense,
half of the problem Homer Hopkins had to solve. The other half rested
in his complex mind.

Fader's Fadeless Formulae had offered him a position, not a job, to
take charge of its research department, at ten thousand a year, twice
what he was paid at Faderfield Junior College to teach chemistry. All
this was in the letter.

"But I like being a teacher," said Homer. And he looked at the fly
rod. "And I also like to fish." Teaching chemistry had left him little
time for fishing. The science had advanced with such gigantic strides
that Homer was continually catching up on the subject. He spent his
vacations going to colleges, and his off days reading literature,
orienting himself.

The little jar of paint had brought it about. Homer had sent a jar like
it to C. J. Fader suggesting that it be placed on the market. All Homer
had wanted was a fat check, and a royalty which he could invest so he
could retire someday. Instead, C. J. Fader had offered him a job. The
Old Man, who ran the principal industry of Faderfield, would expect a
new formula a month and Homer was afraid he might not be able to turn
one out every month. Homer knew enough about C. J. to realize that if
he offered ten thousand, he would expect a ninety-thousand profit.
Homer could qualify for the first figure, but he wasn't so sure about
the second.

And then the door bell rang.

Homer glanced out the window at the row of lighted houses across
the street. He lived by himself in a little four-room cottage near
the junior college. Twice a week the cleaning woman got rid of the
male litter and on Saturdays a student did the outside work to keep
the little rented home in trim with the rest of the neat little
neighborhood. Homer managed by himself the rest of the time.

Whoever was at the door was not in line with the window. Callers were
not infrequent. There were three other bachelor males in the chemistry
department who dropped in occasionally. And some of the neighbors came
over from time to time, usually to borrow a book. Students sometimes
came to see him, especially when their grades were low.

Homer opened the door. It was not a bachelor friend. It was not a
neighbor. It was not a student. It was a very pretty young woman. She
was dressed like she was going to a masquerade, with spangled tights,
or something of that nature, a glittering tiara and shoes covered with
rhinestones.

Her hair was black and her eyes were brown. There was a faint flush on
her cheeks that looked well with the ivory shade of her smooth skin.

Without being invited, she stepped past Homer and into the house. She
looked around, from floor to the ceiling. She strode across the room
and sank down on Homer's overstuffed divan.

"I like this place," she said. "Do you want to move, or will you share
it with me?"

"Uh?" Homer laughed nervously. "I beg pardon?"

"What for? You didn't do anything."

"I meant I misunderstood you," Homer said. "I thought you suggested
taking my house away from me."

"I didn't," said the young woman. "If you want to stay, it's all right
with me. I'll only be here a few days. The place is much too large for
one person."

Homer's jaw dropped. He closed his mouth and bobbed his adam's apple a
couple of times. But he was beyond words.

       *       *       *       *       *

She rose, strode across the room and opened the front door. She stepped
out on the porch and Homer felt a momentary relief. It was an illusion.
C. J.'s offer had been more of a shock than he thought. Then she
appeared again, carrying a black bag.

"Where will I put my things?" she asked.

"Ma'am," said Homer. "I am a gentleman." That, he decided, was the best
way to state his position in mixed company.

"What has that got to do with it? I'm a lady."

"Certainly, ma'am, but you must realize that what you're suggesting
is--er--most unorthodox. I don't propose to turn my house over to you
with or without company. Even if--" Homer clamped his jaw shut for he
almost said that the offer was attractive. How could he have said such
a thing? He'd hardly known this woman for a full minute.

"Your house? I'll admit your arms and legs are yours, and so no doubt
is your hair, your teeth, your eyes and your ears. But how can you say
this house is yours?"

Homer looked at the girl. She spoke perfect English although now that
he noticed there _was_ just a slight accent. She had something of an
Italian grace, French fire, and the wholesome heartiness of Scandinavia
in her, and yet she was different.

"It is my private property," said Homer. "I'll admit I do not own it,
but I rent it. I have a year's lease."

"When I studied your customs and manners I must have overlooked a few
things," she said. "But I can't see how you can own a dwelling."

Homer was horrified. Undoubtedly she was from behind the Iron Curtain.
"This is America, ma'am," he said stiffly.

"I thought this was the earth," she said.

Again Homer's jaw dropped as if he had not heard correctly. "Do you
mean that you are from Some Other Place?" His voice supplied capitals.

"I am assuredly not of _this_ planet," she said. "I'm Qalith of Planet
12, star 10, Pleiades." Her smile was pleasant too, Homer observed. "I
learned your language by telepathy but unfortunately I didn't go deeply
into your economics and social customs."

Homer decided she must have tuned in on Russia, then he realized that
English is not usually spoken there, so he assumed she had listened to
some subversives somewhere. If she _was_ from the Pleiades. More than
likely she was a spy. "Do you think the Revolution will come during our
life-time?" he asked.

"There is a revolution every twenty-four hours on this planet," she
smiled. "On my planet the revolution is 26 hours, your hours."

This was a joke, Homer decided. A student trick, extremely in bad
taste. Especially since it entailed a girl to expose herself in such a
costume.

"I hope you didn't park your spaceship by a fire plug," he said
sarcastically.

"Fire plug? I missed that when I learned your language. Something
electrical, no doubt. But if you mean my space shuttle, it is in
a desolate area south of here." She pointed in the direction of
the Cambridge Manor Country Club. "We know that spaceships have a
disturbing effect on primitive races such as yours."

In spite of Homer's determination not to believe this girl, he felt
an admiration in the way she played her role. He wondered if there
was really a spaceship on the golf course. It would certainly have a
disturbing effect on early morning golfers. Good heavens! C. J. Fader
belonged to Cambridge Manor!

"Miss--er--Qalith," Homer said, "your being here presents problems,
whether or not you are from the Pleiades! You must understand that this
isn't the proper thing to do." Homer glanced toward the window and
quickly moved over to the venetian blinds which he turned downward,
just in case one of the neighbors looked in. "I must sit down and think
a moment. Then we'll decide what must be done."

"I know what I'm going to do," said Qalith. "So you decide what you're
going to do."

       *       *       *       *       *

Homer had a bottle of bourbon in his kitchen cabinet. The board of
trustees of Faderfield Junior College frowned on faculty drinking of
any sort, and of course alcoholic beverages were forbidden on the
campus under strictest penalties--expulsion for a student, dismissal
for an instructor. But Homer was extremely moderate and there were
times when he felt that whisky had a respectable place in the scheme of
things. He poured himself a drink, after offering one to Miss Qalith.
She declined.

"I must be careful what I eat and drink on strange planets," she said.

"A wise forethought," Homer said, with a nod. He mixed the whisky with
tap water, dropped in an ice cube and began sipping it as he sat in a
straight-backed chair opposite her.

"Now," he began, "I won't question anything you've said. It doesn't
matter really whether you were born in Faderfield, the next county or a
planet 200 light years distant. There's one fact we can't deny. You are
a woman. Right?"

"You are perceptive, sir--"

"My name's Homer," he said. He smiled and she smiled back. Homer
finished his drink and put aside the glass. "I'm a man."

"That I had already perceived."

"Do men and women--ah--occupy the same lodgings on Planet 12?"

"Certainly. And so do they here. I looked in all the houses on this
street before I came to yours. I picked your house because you were
alone."

"But those people are married!" said Homer. "I'm an unmarried man. A
bachelor."

"Are you a social outcast? An exile?" Qalith asked.

"No. I have not chosen a mate--as yet," he didn't want her to think he
was opposed to the idea. "On earth it's not customary for an unmarried
couple--"

"Oh," said Qalith. "That old thing."

Homer felt a little indignant. "It isn't to be ignored."

"Far be it from me to upset the earth," she said. "I just dropped in
for a brief time to complete our museum catalog of your system. We're
not complete on the earth, you see, and your little village seemed to
have a pretty fair representation of human society, except a lack of
primitive tribes. Now I'm not so sure it is anything but primitive."

"We are civilized," said Homer. "Highly civilized. We have a certain
moral code and your being with me jeopardizes my position in respect
to that code." He paused. "If anyone saw you here, I'd be disgraced. I
couldn't face my fellow citizens." He added mentally that he wouldn't
get that job with Fader's Fadeless Formulae if he wanted it.

"Is that why you closed the blinds?"

Homer nodded.

"It would seem to me to be worse if people knew I was here and didn't
see us," she said. "But I'm new to your planet and I still have a
problem. Where will I stay?"

Homer thought quickly. "There's a rooming house where some of the lady
teachers stay." He paused, looked at her spangled costume and shook his
head. "But your clothes wouldn't be understood. They'd think you were a
burlesque queen."

"A burlesque queen?"

"Another thing you'd never understand," said Homer. "If I could find
the proper clothes, I could say you were a cousin from Des Moines--"

"What is a cousin from Des Moines?"

Homer shook his head. "You'd give away the show."

"Why don't you say I'm from another planet?"

"No one would believe it. In fact, I'm not sure I believe it myself."

"If Earthlings won't believe the truth, why not let me stay here? No
one would believe I did."

"You don't understand," Homer groaned. "There's such a thing as
custom. Moral law. Ethics. Social behavior. There are ways a person can
act because to act otherwise is not the thing to do. Certain things
cannot be done and people are quick to suspect that they are being done
sometimes when they're not being done. Am I clear?"

"No," said Qalith. "But the earth file in our museum is going to be a
large one."

Suddenly the phone rang. Homer jumped and knocked his empty glass to
the floor. Quickly he rose and lifted the phone.

"This is Fader, Hopkins," came a voice over the wire. "About my
letter--"

"Oh yes, C. J. It came today."

"This is a big thing, my boy."

"I know it is, C. J."

"I want to get started on it immediately."

"To be frank, C. J., I wanted a little time to think it over."

"I'll make it twelve thousand if you make up your mind now--tonight,"
Fader said. "I'm going to expand. I'll make Fader's Fadeless the
biggest line of paints in the world, but I've got to have research.
You've convinced me you can do the job--"

"Can't I call you back C. J.? I just want to study this thing--" And
get rid of Qalith, Homer told himself.

"No! I'm coming over to talk to you." There was a click in the receiver
and Homer held a silent phone.

"A funny instrument," said Qalith, "It'll never take the place of
telepathy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Homer put the phone back in its cradle, and picked up the empty liquor
glass. He took it to the kitchen. It wasn't the first thing he had to
do, but C. J. might not approve so Homer had to get it out of sight. He
closed the kitchen cabinet door so the whisky was out of sight. Then he
went to the living room and saw that Qalith was unpacking her bag.

Homer could see the spangles of garments like the one she wore. She was
setting out small boxes, which looked a great deal like boxes of things
that women always carry--perfume, cosmetics, and so on.

"No, no, no!" Homer shouted. "You mustn't unpack your bag! C. J. will
be here any minute."

"I was here first," said Qalith.

"Listen, Qalith," said Homer, "On your planet there must be certain
rules of conduct that may seem outlandish when considered alone, but
have very good reason for being when you consider them in the light of
other facts."

"Oh yes," said Qalith. "One should always wear a telepathy helmet when
he's keeping a secret."

Homer took Qalith by the arm, led her to the divan and sat down beside
her. Quickly and pointedly he told her about Fader's Fadeless Formulae
and the opportunity that faced him. And he gave her the Facts of life.

"The only drawback is that old skinflint Fader himself," Homer
explained. "As I'm fixed now, I have a pleasant job. The dean's nice
and easy going. I get along fine and I like my work. Fader will pay me
twice as much, but he'll be breathing down my neck every minute, making
sure he's making a 90 per cent profit on everything I do."

"You don't know whether to take a job in which you'll be unhappy, but
which can give you what you want or to stay on a job where you'll be
happy, but poor. Is that it?" Qalith looked at him with a curious
expression in her eyes.

"That's it," said Homer.

The front doorbell rang and Homer realized he'd spent more time
explaining to Qalith than he should have spent. He jumped to his feet.
His arms swept up the boxes and piled them into the bag. He lifted the
bag and ran to the kitchen. "Hide, Qalith! Hide quickly! In the bedroom
and close the door!" he said.

He thrust the bag in the broom closet off the kitchen.

When he returned he saw Qalith admitting C. J. Fader at the front door.

"Harrumph!" said Mr. Fader. His eyes traveled over Qalith from spangled
boots to gleaming tiara.

"Oh, Mr. Fader," said Homer thickly.

"I must have arrived more quickly than you anticipated," said Fader. He
stepped forward and nudged Homer. "You sly young dog."

"It's not what you think, C. J.," said Homer.

"I haven't said a word about what I thought," said Fader. "What I want
to know is where you found her."

"I didn't--"

"I'm from another planet," said Qalith.

"I'll say you are, baby," said Fader, chucking her under the chin. "You
know, Homer here had me fooled. But I can see he's not as namby pamby
as I thought. Yes, sir! He's quite a boy."

"He's been explaining all of the manners and customs of the earth to
me," said Qalith.

"And I'll bet he knows how!" said Fader.

"It's really the truth," said Homer. "Qalith is from the Pleiades."

"Oh yes! Near Cincinnati! Well I always heard those Cincy girls were
pretty cute. Playing at the Roxy?"

Homer shuddered. "She's left her spaceship on the Cambridge Manor golf
links," he said.

Mr. Fader roared. "Homer, you're a man after my own heart! I'll tell
you what, boy. You come into my organization and I'll make you a vice
president with a big chunk of stock. You can have charge of research
and if you can line up the babes for our conventions we'll put the
whole dammed paint trade in our pocket inside of two years! After all,
boy, it's girls and salesmen, not the quality of your product that win
on today's market!"

Slowly the idea sank into Homer's brain. Mr. Fader hadn't wanted to
hire him because he was anything special as a chemist.

"How much will I get?" Homer asked bluntly.

"The stock ought to be worth twelve thousand a year," said Fader. "On
top of that you'll get twenty-five thousand as vice president in charge
of research and conventions."

And the ten thousand that Homer hoped to get had been cheap. Ten
thousand for a chemist, twenty-five for a salesman, plus a bundle of
stock. A high priced pimp.

"Are you sure I'll be worth it?"

"Don't talk like a nincompoop, boy! We're in." He turned to Qalith.
"Got any friends, honey?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Qalith's eyes seemed to gleam. Fader's hand straightened with a jerk.
He stood stiffly.

"He's hypnotized," said Qalith. "We can talk and he won't hear or
remember what we say."

"There's not much to be said," said Homer.

"You don't want the job?"

"With this lecherous old tom-cat?"

Qalith smiled. "You are Puritanical," she said. "You're stuffy and
naive and innocent. But I like you."

"I'm probably crazy too," said Homer.

Qalith shook her head. "No. You're unhappy. You don't like being a
teacher either, do you?"

"Of course I do!" Homer spoke with too much emphasis. "It's a pleasant
life."

"But you've seen broken old men teaching. Men who had brains and who
didn't have a cent in their savings account. You know you'll starve all
your life and get very little thanks for discovering genius. You know
and you want to get away from it. That's why you even considered going
with Fader in the first place. If you'd really been contented you'd
have turned him down right off."

Homer realized she spoke the truth. "But any job has its drawbacks.
I've either got to teach chemistry or become a research chemist.
From what I've seen, Fader and Faderfield Junior College are my only
choices. And Chemistry is all I know."

"You know about ethics and customs of your planet. You know what people
are supposed to do and rarely do."

"It doesn't make a living for me."

"Not on earth. But on Planet 12, you'd be an authority on the planet
Earth. The only authority because you know all about the earth's unkept
laws of social conduct and you're one of the few that ever kept those
laws."

One thing held Homer back. "Is your planet really communistic? Don't
you have private property?"

"Do you own this house?"

"Well I rent it, but some people do own their houses."

"Are you sure?"

"Well, they have mortgages and taxes and so on."

"Actually very few people own what they think they have, excepting
their bodies."

"But men move in with women and women move in with men--"

"This thing you call marriage corresponds with a custom we have," said
Qalith. "I was going to marry you."

"I don't know you and you don't know me!"

"How do you think I found you without telepathy? And you've seen me
now--is there anything wrong about me that--well, that--"

"Nothing!" Homer said fervently. He thought of people who had courted
many years and still didn't know each other. Then he glanced down at
Fader, still staring hypnotically. "What a tale he's going to spread
about town tomorrow!" Homer said.

"He won't believe it," said Qalith.

"I'll be gone," said Homer.

"Then we'd better get going. You can work on the earth file on the trip
to the Pleiades."

"Says you," said Homer. He got her bag from the broom closet and as
an afterthought, he picked up his rod and tackle. Maybe he'd get some
fishing done on Planet 12, among other things--



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Matter of Ethics" ***

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