‘Priscilla, there is no excuse for your calling Margaret by a derogatory slang name. Is there someone you would like to have here to keep you company? '
‘I don't need any company. I don't need any help. Feed the cat and bring in the Star - what's hard about that? '
‘Have you stayed alone in a house before? '
‘Oh, sure, dozens of times! '
‘Really? What were the occasions? '
‘Oh, all sorts. Papa and Aunt Marian would take the whole family somewhere, and I would decide not to go. Family outings are a bore. '
‘Overnight trips? '
‘Sure. Or more. Nobody in the house but me and Granny Bearpaw. '
‘Oh. Mrs Bearpaw is live-in help? '
‘I just got through saying so. '
‘That isn't quite what you said and your manner is not as polite as it could be. Staying with Mrs Bearpaw in the house is not the same as staying alone. .. and I have gathered an impression that Granny with a frying-pan could intimidate an intruder. '
‘She wouldn't use a frying pan; she's got a shot-gun:
‘I see. But I can't get her to stay with you. .. and apparently you have never stayed alone before. Priscilla, I can arrange for a couple to stay here - strangers to you but reliable. '
‘Mother, why can't I simply stay here by myself? You act like I'm a child! '
‘Very well, dear, if that is what you prefer. ' (But I'm not going to leave it entirely up to your good judgement. I'm going to hire the Argus Patrol to do more than cruise slowly past three times a night - I'll place the next thing to a stakeout on this house. I shan't leave you vulnerable to some night prowler just because you think you are grown up. )
‘That's what I prefer! '
‘Very well. Everyone has to learn adult responsibility at some time; I simply was reluctant to thrust it on you if you did not want it. I'll be leaving at ten o'clock Monday morning, the sixth, for Colorado -‘
‘Colorado! Why didn't you say so? Take me along! '
‘No, this is a business trip:
‘I won't be any trouble. Can I take the train up to the top of Pikes Peak? '
‘You aren't going; you're going to stay here and go to school. '
‘I think that's mean. '
I was gone two days and I had a wonderful time. Being a director was a bit dazzling the first time, but when it came time to vote, I simply voted the way George did, for the nonce - later I would have opinions.
At lunch Mr Harriman had me placed at his right. I didn't touch the wine and I noticed that he didn't, either. He had been all business at the meeting but was most charming at lunch - no business talk.
‘Mrs Johnson, Mr Strong tells me that you and I share an enthusiasm - space travel. '
‘Oh, yes! ' We talked about nothing else then and were last to leave the table; the waiters were clearing it around us.
George and I spent the night at a guesthouse half way between Denver and Colorado Springs, on the inner road, not the highway. We discussed envelope number three in bed:
‘The Douglas-Martin Sunpower Screens will cause the greatest change in the American countryside since the first transcontinental railroad. Moving roadways will be built all over the country, powered by D-M screens. These will follow in general the network of Federal highways now in existence - Highway One down the East Coast, Route Sixty-Six from Chicago to LA, and so forth.
‘String cities will grow up along these moving roads and the big cities now in existence will stop growing and even lose population.
‘The moving roads will dominate the rest of the twentieth century. Eventually they will die out, like the railroads - but not until next century. '
‘Maureen, ' George said soberly, ‘this is awfully hard to believe. '
I said nothing.
‘I don't see how they could be made to work. '
‘As a starter, try multiplying a thousand miles by two hundred yards, to get square yards, then call it horsepower. Use a ten per cent efficiency factor. Save the surplus power in Shipstones when the Sun is high and bright; use that surplus to keep the roads rolling when the Sun doesn't shine. ' (I could be glib about it; I had done the arithmetic many times in thirty-four years. )
‘I'm not an engineer. '
‘Then discuss it with your best engineer - Mr Ferguson? when you get home. '
‘You stand by this? '
‘It's my prophecy. It won't happen quickly - the first roadcity - Cleveland to Cincinatti - won't roll for several years. I'm telling you now so that Harriman Industries can get in on the ground floor. '
‘I'll talk to Ferguson. '
‘Good. And now let me be nice to you because you have been so very nice to me. '
I returned on Wednesday and stopped at the office of Argus Patrol before I went Nome. I spoke to Colonel Frisby, the president of the company. I'm back; you can take the special watch off my home. Do you have a report for me? '
‘Yes, Mrs Johnson. Your house is still there, no fires, no burglars, no intruders, nothing but a noisy party on Monday night, and one not quite so noisy last night - kids will be kids. Your daughter did not go to school yesterday - slept in, we think; the party Monday night ran quite late. But she's at school today and looks none the worse. Shall we put this on your bill or do you want to pay for this special service now? '
I paid it and went home, feeling relieved.
I let myself in and sniffed; the place needed airing.
And a thorough house cleaning. But those were minor matters.
Priscilla got Nome a little after four, looking apprehensive, but smiled when I did. I ignored the mess the house was in, took her out to dinner, and told her about my trip. Some off it.
On Friday I picked her up at school and we went to Jim Rumsey's office, by appointment. Priscilla wanted to know why?
‘Dr Rumsey wanted to see you again after a couple of months. It has been just two months. '
‘Do I have to be poked? '
‘I won't! '
‘Say that again. Say it loud enough to be heard in Dallas. Because, if you mean that, then I'll have to bring your father into it. He still has legal custody of you. Now say it'
She shut up.
About an hour later Jim called me into his private office. ‘First, the good news. She doesn't have crabs. Now the bad news. She does have syphilis and clap:
I used a heartwarming expletive.
Jim tut-tutted. ‘Ladies don't talk that way. '
‘I'm not a lady. I'm an old bag with an incorrigible daughter. Have you told her? '
‘I always tell the parent first'
‘All right, let's tell her. '
‘Slow down. Maureen, I recommend putting her into a hospital. Not just for gonorrhoea and syphilis, but for what her emotional condition will be after we tell her. She's cocky at the moment, almost arrogant. I don't know what she'll be ten minutes from now. '
‘I'm in your hands, Jim. '
‘Let me call Bell Memorial, see if I can get an immediate admission. '
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