Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

‘Priscilla, you have not yet admitted to yourself that you can't marry your brother. Until you realise that, right down in your gizzard, you aren't mature enough to start courting no matter how grown up your body is. But you must not try to interfere with Donald's right to a-wooing go. '

‘But I love him! '

‘What do you mean by "love"? '

‘Oh, you're just being mean to me! '

‘Quit blubbering and try to behave like a grown woman. I want you to tell me what you mean by the word "love". That you are horny about him, so hot for him that you would couple with him behind any bush if he would let you, I will concede. It doesn't surprise me; I find him just as attractive, he's as pretty as a collie pup. But I have more sense about it than you have. Any woman is going to find Donald sexually attractive; if you try to keep other women away from him, you'll be piling up more grief for yourself than you will ever be able to handle.

‘But being in sexual heat over a man is not love, my sweet daughter. I am willing to believe that Donald loves you as he stood up to three muggers to protect you. But tell me what you mean when you say that you love him. .. other than your hot pants - an irrelevant concurrent phenomenon. '

‘Uh. .. everybody knows what love is! '

‘If you can't define a word, you don't know what it means. Priscilla, this is a fruitless discussion and today is a busy day. We have established that you have hot pants over Donald. We have established that Donald loves you but we have not established that you love him. And I have pointed out what all of us know, that you can't marry your brother. .. which your brother has conceded but you are not willing to admit. So we'll continue this discussion on some later date when you've grown up a bit. ' I stood up.

‘But - Mama, what do you mean by "love"? '

‘"Love" means a number of things but it always means that the other person's happiness and welfare come first. Come, let's get bathed and dressed, so -‘

The telephone sounded. I said, ‘Catch it, will you, Donald? '

‘Yes, mum; thank'ee, mum. ' The screen was in the living room; Donald went there still carrying Princess Polly in his left arm. He flipped the switch. ‘Start talking; it's your money. '

I heard Susan's voice. ‘Mama, I - Polly! Oh, you bad, bad girl! '

Polly turned up her nose, wiggled and jumped down, and stalked away. I must add that she had never taken any interest in telephone images and voices. I think it may have been the lack of living odour but I must admit that feline reasoning is not for mortal man to comprehend. Or woman.

Donald said, ‘Susie, am I going to have to show you the strawberry mark on my shoulder? I'm your brother, Mrs Schultz, the handsome one. How's married life? Boring? '

‘Married life is just dandy and what are you doing in Kansas City and why didn't you come four days ago for my wedding and where's Mother? '

‘Mama is around here somewhere and you didn't invite me. '

‘I did so! '

I moved in. ‘Yes, you did invite him, Sweet Sue, and all the rest of his family, all eight. Nine. But only Brian was able to come, as you know, so don't needle Donald. Good to see you, dear. How is Henry? '

‘Oh, Hanky's all right. He says I can't cook the way you do but that he has decided to keep me for other reasons - I rub ‘his back. '

‘That's a good reason:

‘So he says. Mama, I called for mo reasons. .. and the first reason no longer applies. I've been screwing up my courage since Sunday to tell you that I lost Princess Polly. And now she's not lost. How did she get there? '

‘I don't know. How did you lose per? '

‘I'm not sure. We were all the way to Olathe before we found a filling-station that also serviced Shipstones. While Hank was trading his stone for a fully charged one, I opened Polly's cage to change per sand box - she had made a mess and the dragon wagon was stinking.

Tm not clear just what happened then. I thought that I saw per back in. Hank says that I told him it was all right to let her ride free in the back. Anyhow we left and picked up the control road at Olathe and Hank turned it over to the bug, and we eased back the seats and went right to sleep. Oh, we were tired! '

‘I'll bet you were! ' I agreed, thinking about my own wedding.

‘The alarm woke us when we reached Wichita and we were just getting our baggage out at the Holiday Inn when I saw that Polly was missing. Mama, I almost had a heart attack. '

‘What did you do? '

‘What could we do? We turned around and rolled back to Olathe. And the station was closed. And we played kitty, kitty, here, Polly! for a half-hour and the station owner's name was on the building and we asked a policeman and found his house and woke him and he wasn't pleased. '

‘I find myself unsurprised. '

‘But, yes, he had seen a little black and white cat, about the time we were there, but not later, which means she wasn't there all the time it took us to drive four hundred miles. So we left your telecode and asked him to call you if she showed up and we started back to Wichita but the bug quit and we took turns keeping each other awake while we rode the wire by hand. .. or we would have had to get on to a slow road. Just the same it was three in the morning by the time we got to Wichita again and they hadn't held our room and we slept in the car till morning. Mama, it was not the most successful wedding night on record. I think Hanky was ready to toss me back. .. and I wouldn't have blamed him. '

‘Are things better now? '

‘Oh, yes! But - Finding Princess Polly at home raises another point. '

‘Do you want me to ship per to you? '

Susan suddenly stopped smiling. ‘Mama. .. pets are not permitted in married students' dormitories. I didn't know. So I guess we got to go out into Tempe and find us somewhere else to live. .. and I'm not sure we can afford it. You won't let her stay there? Yes, she's my cat, but - Please? '

Susan, I'm selling this house today. '

She looked blank. ‘Yes, Mama. Uh, if you put, her in a kennel. .. with per doctor, I guess. .. I'll come and get her. As fast as I can make arrangements. We'll have to cash a bond. I'll have to work it out with Henry. But I won't let you down. I promised. I know it. '

‘My good Susan. Dear, Princess settled it, I think, when she managed to find per way home in only three days, when she's never been anywhere before. Yes, I'm selling this house but we are moving only a mile or so. I want a smaller house and not all this acreage. I can persuade Princess to accept a new home that close by, I think; it is a problem I've coped with before. '

Susan let out a deep sigh. ‘Mama, have I told you lately that you're wonderful? '