- Author: Edgar Pangborn
Read book online «Angel's Egg by Edgar Pangborn (best books for 7th graders .TXT) 📕». Author - Edgar Pangborn
BY EDGAR PANGBORN
Illustrated by DAVID STONE
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction June 1951.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
When adopting a pet, choose the species that
is most intelligent, obedient, loyal, fun to
play with, yet a shrewd, fearless protector.
For the best in pets—choose a human being!
Mr. Cleveland McCarran
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D. C.
In compliance with your request, I enclose herewith a transcript of the pertinent sections of the journal of Dr. David Bannerman, deceased. The original document is being held at this office until proper disposition can be determined.
Our investigation has shown no connection between Dr. Bannerman and any organization, subversive or otherwise. So far as we can learn he was exactly what he seemed, an inoffensive summer resident, retired, with a small independent income—a recluse to some extent, but well spoken of by local tradesmen and other neighbors. A connection between Dr. Bannerman and the type of activity that concerns your Department would seem most unlikely.
The following information is summarized from the earlier parts of Dr. Bannerman's journal, and tallies with the results of our own limited inquiry.
He was born in 1898 at Springfield, Massachusetts, attended public school there, and was graduated from Harvard College in 1922, his studies having been interrupted by two years' military service. He was wounded in action in the Argonne, receiving a spinal injury. He earned a doctorate in Biology, 1926. Delayed after-effects of his war injury necessitated hospitalization, 1927-'28. From 1929 to 1948 he taught elementary sciences in a private school in Boston. He published two textbooks in introductory biology, 1929 and 1937. In 1948 he retired from teaching: a pension and a modest income from textbook royalties evidently made this possible.
Aside from the spinal injury, which caused him to walk with a stoop, his health is said to have been fair. Autopsy findings suggested that the spinal condition must have given him considerable pain; he is not known to have mentioned this to anyone, not even his physician, Dr. Lester Morse. There is no evidence whatever of drug addiction or alcoholism.
At one point early in his journal, Dr. Bannerman describes himself as "a naturalist of the puttering type. I would rather sit on a log than write monographs; it pays off better." Dr. Morse, and others who knew Dr. Bannerman personally, tell me that this conveys a hint of his personality.
I am not qualified to comment on the material of this journal, except to say that I have no evidence to support (or to contradict) Dr. Bannerman's statements. The journal has been studied only by my immediate superiors, by Dr. Morse, and by myself. I take it for granted you will hold the matter in strictest confidence.
With the journal I am also enclosing a statement by Dr. Morse, written at my request for our records and for your information. You will note that he says, with some qualifications, that "death was not inconsistent with an embolism." He has signed a death certificate on that basis. You will recall from my letter of August 5 that it was Dr. Morse who discovered Dr. Bannerman's body. Because he was a close personal friend of the deceased, Dr. Morse did not feel able to perform the autopsy himself. It was done by a Dr. Stephen Clyde of this city, and was virtually negative as regards cause of death, neither confirming nor contradicting Dr. Morse's original tentative diagnosis. If you wish to read the autopsy report in full, I shall be glad to forward a copy.
Dr. Morse tells me that so far as he knows, Dr. Bannerman had no near relatives. He never married. For the last twelve summers he occupied a small cottage on a back road about twenty-five miles from this city, and had few visitors. The neighbor Steele mentioned in the journal is a farmer, age 68, of good character, who tells me he "never got really acquainted with Dr. Bannerman."
At this office we feel that unless new information comes to light, further active investigation is hardly justified.
Capt., State Police
Encl: Extract from Journal of David Bannerman, dec'd. Statement by Lester Morse, M.D.
LIBRARIAN'S NOTE: The following document, originally attached as an unofficial "rider" to the foregoing letter, was donated to this institution in 1994 through the courtesy of Mrs. Helen McCarran, widow of the martyred first President of the World Federation. Other personal and state papers of President McCarran, many of them dating from the early period when he was employed by the FBI, are accessible to public view at the Institute of World History, Copenhagen.
EXTRACT FROM JOURNAL OF DAVID BANNERMAN JUNE 1-JULY 29, 1951
It must have been at least three weeks ago when we had that flying saucer flurry. Observers the other side of Katahdin saw it come down this side; observers this side saw it come down the other. Size anywhere from six inches to sixty feet in diameter (or was it cigar-shaped?) and speed whatever you please. Seem to recall that witnesses agreed on a rosy-pink light. There was the inevitable gobbledegookery of official explanation designed to leave everyone impressed, soothed and disappointed.
I paid scant attention to the excitement and less to the explanations—naturally, I thought it was just a flying saucer. But now Camilla has hatched out an angel.
I have eight hens, all yearlings except Camilla; this is her third spring. I boarded her two winters at my neighbor Steele's farm when I closed this shack and shuffled my chilly bones off to Florida, because even as a pullet she had a manner which overbore me. I could never have eaten Camilla. If she had looked at the ax with that same expression of rancid disapproval (and she would) I should have felt I was beheading a favorite aunt. Her only concession to sentiment is the annual rush of maternity to the brain—normal, for a case-hardened White Plymouth Rock.
This year she stole a nest successfully, in a tangle of blackberry. By the time I located it, I estimated I was about two weeks too late. I had to outwit her by watching from a window; she is far too acute to be openly trailed from feeding ground to nest. When I had bled and pruned my way to her hideout, she was sitting on nine eggs and hating my guts. They could not be fertile, since I keep no rooster, and I was about to rob her when I saw the ninth egg was not hers, nor any other chicken's.
It was a deep blue, transparent, with flecks of inner light that made me think of the first stars in a clear evening. It was the same size as Camilla's eggs. There was an embryo, but nothing I could recognize.
I returned the egg to Camilla's bare and fevered breastbone, and went back to the house for a long cool drink.
That was ten days ago. I know I ought to have kept a record; I examined the blue egg every day, watching how some nameless life grew within it, until finally the angel chipped the shell deftly in two parts. This was evidently done with the aid of small horny out-growths on her elbows; these growths were sloughed off on the second day.
I wish I had seen her break the shell, but when I visited the blackberry tangle three days ago she was already out. She poked her exquisite head through Camilla's neck feather, smiled sleepily, and snuggled back into darkness to finish drying off. So what could I do, more than save the broken shell and wriggle my clumsy self out of there?
I had removed Camilla's own eggs the day before—Camilla was only moderately annoyed. I was nervous about disposing of them even though they were obviously Camilla's, but no harm was done. I cracked each one to be sure. Very frankly rotten eggs and nothing more.
In the evening of that day I thought of rats and weasels, as I should have earlier. I hastily prepared a box in the kitchen and brought the two in, the angel quiet in my closed hand. They are there now. I think they are comfortable.
Three days after hatching, the angel is the length of my fore-finger, say three inches tall, with about the relative proportions of a six-year-old girl. Except for head, hands, and probably the soles of her feet, she is clothed in feathery down the color of ivory. What can be seen of her skin is a glowing pink—I do mean glowing, like the inside of certain seashells. Just above the small of her back are two stubs which I take to be infantile wings. They do not suggest an extra pair of specialized forelimbs. I think they are wholly differentiated organs; perhaps they will be like the wings of an insect. Somehow I never thought of angels buzzing. Maybe she won't. I know very little about angels.
At present the stubs are covered with some dull tissue, no doubt a protective sheath to be discarded when the membranes (if they are membranes) are ready to grow. Between the stubs is a not very prominent ridge—special musculature, I suppose. Otherwise her shape is quite human, even to a pair of minuscule mammalian pin-heads just visible under the down.
How that can make sense in an egg-laying organism is beyond my comprehension. Just for the record, so is a Corot landscape; so is Schubert's Unfinished; so is the flight of a hummingbird, or the other-world of frost on a windowpane.
The down on her head has grown visibly in three days and is of different quality from the body down. Later it may resemble human hair, probably as a diamond resembles a chunk of granite....
A curious thing has happened. I went to Camilla's box after writing that. Judy was already lying in front of it, unexcited. The angel's head was out from under the feathers, and I thought, with more verbal distinctness than such thoughts commonly take, So here I am, a naturalist of middle years and cold sober, observing a three-inch oviparous mammal with down and wings.
The thing is—she giggled!
Now it might have been only amusement at my appearance, which to her must be enormously gross and comic. But another thought formed unspoken: I am no longer lonely. And her face, hardly bigger than a dime, immediately changed from laughter to a brooding and friendly thoughtfulness.
Judy and Camilla are old friends. Judy seems untroubled by the angel. I have no worries about leaving them alone together.
I made no entry last night. The angel was talking to me, and when that was finished I drowsed off immediately on a cot which I have moved into the kitchen to be near them.
I had never been strongly impressed by the evidence for extrasensory perception. It is fortunate that my mind was able to accept the novelty, since to the angel it is clearly a matter of course. Her tiny mouth is most expressive, but moves only for that reason and for eating—not for speech. Probably she could speak to her own kind if she wished, but I dare say the sound would be above the range of my hearing as well as my understanding.
Last night after I brought the cot in and was about to finish my puttering bachelor supper, she climbed to the edge of the box and pointed, first at herself and then at the top of the kitchen table. Afraid to let my vast hand take hold of her, I held it out flat and she sat in my palm. Camilla was inclined to fuss, but the angel looked over her shoulder and Camilla subsided, watchful but no longer alarmed.
The table-top is porcelain, and the angel shivered. I folded a towel and spread a silk handkerchief on top of that; the angel sat on this arrangement with apparent comfort, near my face. I was not even bewildered, without realizing why. That doesn't seem possible, does it? But there was a good reason.
She reached me first with visual imagery. How can I make it plain that this had nothing in common with my sleeping dreams? There was no weight of symbolism from my littered past, no discoverable connection with any of yesterday's commonplaces, indeed no actual involvement of my personality at all. I saw. I was moving vision, though without eyes or other flesh. And while my mind saw, it also knew