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

I remember Earth.

I knew her when she was clean and green, mankind's beautiful bride, sweet and lush and lovable.

I speak of my own time time, of course, numbered ‘two' and coded ‘Leslie LeCroix. ' But the best known time lines, those policed by the Time Corps for the Circle of Ouroboros, are all one at the time I was born, 1882 Gregorian, only nine years after the death of Ira Howard. In z88z the population of Earth was a mere billion and a half.

When I left Earth just a century later it had increased to over four billion and that swarming mass was doubling every thirty years.

Remember that ancient Persian parable about doubling grains of rice on a chessboard? Four billion people are a smidgen larger than a grain of rice; you quickly run out of chessboard. On one time line Earth's population swelled to over thirty billion before reaching final disaster; on other time lines the end came at less than ten billion. But on all time lines Dr Malthus had the last laugh.

It is futile to mourn over the corpse of Earth, as silly as it would be to cry over an empty chrysalis when its butterfly has flown. But I am incurably sentimental and forever sad at how Man's Old Home has changed.

I had a marvellously happy girlhood.

I not only lived on Earth when she was young and beautiful but I also had the good fortune to be born in one of her loveliest garden spots, southern Missouri before people and bulldozers ravaged its green hills.

Besides the happy accident of birthplace, I had the special good fortune to be my father's daughter.

When I was still quite young my father said to me, ‘My beloved daughter, you are an amoral little wretch. I know this, because you take after me; your mind works just the way mine does. If you are not to be destroyed by your lack, you must work out a practical code of your own and live by it. '

I thought about his words and felt warm and good inside. ‘Amoral little wretch -‘Father knew me so well.

‘What code should I follow, Father? '

‘You have to pick your own. '

‘The Ten Commandments? '

‘You know better than that. The Ten Commandments are for lame brains. The first five are solely for the benefit of the priests and the powers that be; the second five are half-truths, neither complete nor adequate. '

‘All right, teach me about the second five. How should they read? '

‘Not on your tintype, lazy bones; you've got to do it yourself. ' He stood up suddenly, dumping me off his lap and almost landing me on my bottom. This was a running game with us. If I moved fast, I could land on my feet. If not, it was one point to him.

‘Analyse the Ten Commandments, ' he ordered. ‘Tell me how they should read. In the meantime, if I hear just once more that you have lost your temper, then when your mother sends you to discuss the matter with me, you had better have your McGuffey's Reader tucked inside your bloomers. '

‘Father, you wouldn't. '

‘Just try me, carrot top, just try me. I will enjoy spanking you. '

An empty threat - He never spanked me once I was old enough to understand why I was being scolded. But even before then he had never spanked me hard enough to hurt my bottom. Just my feelings.

Mother's punishments were another matter. The high justice was Father's bailiwick; Mother handled the low and middle - with a peach switch. Ouch!

Father spoiled me rotten.

I had four brothers and four sisters - Edward, born in I876; Audrey in'78; Agnes in i88o; Tom, '8i; in'8z I carne along; Frank was born in I884, then Beth in'92; Lucille, '94; George in I897 - and I took up more of Father's time than any three of my siblings. Maybe four. Looking back on it, I can't sec that he made himself more available to me than he did to any of my brothers and sisters. But it certainly worked out that I spent more time with my father.

Two ground-floor rooms in our house were Father's clinic and surgery; I spent a lot of my free time there as I was fascinated by his books. Mother did not think I should read them, medical books being filled with things that ladies simply should not delve into. Unladylike. Immodest.

Father said to her, ‘Mrs Johnson, the few errors in those books I will point out to Maureen. As for the far more numerous and much more important truths, I am pleased that Maureen wants to learn them. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " John, eight, verse thirty two. '

Mother set her mouth in a grim line and did not answer. For her the Bible was the final word. .. whereas Father was a freethinker, a fact he did not admit even to me at that time. But Father knew the Bible more thoroughly than Mother did and could always quote a verse to refute her - a most unfair way to argue, it seems to me, but an advantage he needed in dealing with her. Mother was strong-willed.

They disagreed on many things But they had rules that let them live together without bloodshed. Not only live together but share a bed and have baby after baby together. A miracle.

I think Father set most of the rules. At that time and place it was taken for granted that a husband was head of his household and must be obeyed. You may not believe this but the wedding ceremony in those days required the bride to promise to obey her husband - in everything and forever.

If I know my mother (I don't, really), she didn't keep that promise more than thirty minutes.

But they worked out practical compromises.

Mother bossed the household. Father's domain was his clinic and surgery, and the barn and outbuildings and matters pertaining thereto. Father controlled all money matters. Each month he gave Mother a household allowance that she spent as she saw fit. But he required her to keep a record of how she spent it, bookkeeping that Father examined each month.

Breakfast was at seven, dinner at noon, supper at six; if Father's medical practice caused him to need to eat at other times, he notified mother - ahead of time if possible. But the family sat down on time.

If Father was present, he held Mother's chair for her; she thanked him, he then sat down and the rest of us followed. He said grace, morning, noon, and night. In Father's absence my brother Edward seated Mother and she said grace. Or she might direct one of us to return thanks, for practice. Then we ate, and misbehaviour at the table was only one notch below high treason. But a child did not have to sit and squirm and wait for the grown-ups after he was through eating; he could ask to be excused, then leave the table. He could not return even if he discovered that he had made a horrible mistake such as forgetting that it was a dessert night. (But Mother would relent and allow that child to eat dessert in the kitchen. .. if he had not teased or whined. )

The day my eldest sister Audrey entered high school Father added to the protocol: he held Mother's chair as usual. Once she was seated Mother said, ‘Thank you, Doctor. ' Then Edward, two years older than Audrey, held her chair for her and seated her just after Mother was seated: Mother said, ‘What do you say, Audrey? '