‘Quite so. Be patient, dear, and we will do it again. .. another day, with careful arrangements. .. which you might be thinking about. Now take your hand away, please; there is a rig coming down the road - see the dust? '
Mother did not scold me over being a half-hour late. But she did not press Charles when he refused her offer of lemonade, on the excuse that he had to get Ned (his gelding) home and curried and the buggy wiped down because his parents were going to need it. (A too complex lie - I'm sure he simply did not want to meet Mother's eye, or be questioned by her. I'm glad Father taught me to avoid fancy lies. )
Mother went upstairs as soon as Chuck left; I went out back.
Two years earlier Father had indulged us in a luxury many of our church members felt was sinfully wasteful: two outhouses, one for the boys and one for us girls, just like at school. In fact we truly needed them. That day I was delighted to find the girls privy empty. I flipped the bar to lock, and checked up.
Some blood, not o-kidworld.ru much. No problems. Slightly sore, nothing more.
So I sighed with relief and peed and reassembled myself, and went back to the house, picking up a piece of stove wood for the kitchen as I passed the wood pile - a toll each of us paid for each trip out back.
I dropped off the wood and stopped in the wash shed adjoining the kitchen, washed my hands and sniffed them. Clean. just my guilty conscience. I went to the clinic, stopping only to tousle Lucille's strawberry hair and par her bottom. Lucy was three, I think - yes, she was born in ‘94, the year after Father and I went to Chicago. She was a little doll, always merry. I decided that I wanted one just like her. .. but not this year. But soon. I was feeling very female.
I reached the clinic just as Mrs Altschuler was leaving. I spoke politely; she looked at me and said, ‘Audrey, you've been out in the sun without a sunbonnet again. Don't you know any better than that? '
I thanked her for her interest in my welfare and went on in. According to Father all she suffered from was constipation and lack of exercise. .. but she showed up at least twice a month and had not, since the first of the year, paid a single penny. Father was a strong man, firm-minded, but not good at collecting money from people who owed it to him.
Father entered her visit in his book and looked up: ‘I'm taking your bishop, young lady. '
‘Sure you don't want to change your mind, sir? '
‘No. I may be wrong but I'm certain. Why? Have I made a mistake? '
‘I think so, sir. Mate in four moves. '
‘Eh? ' Father stood up, went over to his chess table. ‘Show me. '
‘Shall we simply play it out? I may be mistaken:
‘Grrummph! You'll be the death of me, girl: He studied the board, then went back to his desk. ‘This will interest you. This morning's mail. From Mr Clemens -‘
‘Oh, my! '
I remember especially two paragraphs:
I agree with you and the Bard, sir; let's hang them. Hanging its lawyers might not correct all of this country's woes but it would be lots of fun and could do no harm to anyone.
Elsewhere I have noted that the Congress is the only distinct criminal class this country has. It cannot be mere coincidence that ninty-seven per cent of Congress are lawyers.
Mr Clemens added that his lecture agency had scheduled him for Kansas City next winter. ‘I recall that four years ago we failed to rendezvous in Chicago by a week. Is it possible that you will be in KC next January? '
‘Oh, Father! Could we? '
‘School will be in session:
‘Father, you know that I made up all time lost by going to Chicago. You know, too, that I am first among the girls in my class. .. and could be first including the boys if you hadn't cautioned me about the inadvisability of appearing too smart. But what you may not have noticed is that I have enough credits and could have graduated -‘
‘-with Tom's class last week. I noticed. We'll work on it. Deus volent and the crick don't rise. Did you get what you wanted in Butler? '
‘I got what I wanted. But not in Butler. '
‘I did it, Father. I am no longer virgin. '
His eyebrows shot up. ‘You have managed to surprise me. '
‘Truly, Father? ' (I didn't want him to be angry with me. .. and I thought that he had implied long back that he would not be. )
‘Truly. Because I thought that you had managed it last Christmas vacation. I have been waiting the past six months, hoping that you would decide to trust me with it. '
‘Sir, I didn't even consider keeping it from you. I depend on you. '
‘Thank you. Hmm, Maureen, freshly deflowered, you should be examined. Shall I call your mother? '
‘Oh! Does Mother have to know? '
‘Eventually, yes. But you need not have her examining you, if it frets you -‘
‘It does! '
‘In that case, I'll take you over to see Dr Chadwick. '
‘Father, why must I see Dr Chadwick? It is a natural event, I was not hurt, and I feel no need. '
We had a polite argument. Father pointed out that an ethical doctor did not treat members of his own family, especially his women folk. I answered that I was aware of that. .. but that I needed no treatment. And back and forth.
After a bit, having made sure that Mother was upstairs for her nap, Father took me into the surgery, locked the door, and helped me up on to the table, and I found myself in much the position for examination that I had been in earlier for Charles, except that this time I had removed only my bloomers.
I suddenly realised that I had become excited.
I tried to suppress it and hoped that Father would not notice it. Even at fifteen I was not naive about my unusual and possibly unhealthy relations with my father. As early as twelve I had had the desert-isle daydream with my father as the other castaway.
But I also knew how strong the taboo was from the Bible, from classic literature, and from myth. And I remembered all too well how Father quit letting me sit on his lap, had stopped it completely and utterly, once I reached menarche.
Father put on a pair of rubber gloves. This was something he had started as a result of the Chicago trip. .. which had not been to allow Maureen to enjoy the Columbian Exposition but to permit Father to attend school at Northwestern University in Evanston in order to get up to date on Professeur Pasteur's germ theories.
Father had always been strong for soap and water, but he bad had no science to back up his attitudes. His preceptor, Dr Phillips, had started to practise in. 1850, and (so said Father) regarded the rumours from France as ‘just what you could expect from a bunch of Frogs. '
After Father returned from Evanston, nothing ever again could be clean enough to suit him. He started using rubber gloves, and iodine, and boiling and sometimes burning used instruments, especially anything used with lockjaw.
Those impersonal clammy rubber gloves cooled me down. .. but I was embarrassed to realise that I was quite wet.
I ignored it, Father ignored it. Shortly he helped me down and turned away to strip off his gloves while I got back into my bloomers. Once I was ‘decent' he unlocked and opened the door.
‘Healthy, normal woman, ' he said gruffly. ‘You should have no trouble bearing offspring. I recommend that you refrain from intercourse for a few days. I conclude that you used a French purse. Correct? '
‘Yes, sir. '
‘Good. If you will continue to use them. .. every time! .. . and are discreet about your public conduct, you should have no serious problems. Hmm. .. do you feel up to another buggy ride? '
‘Why, certainly, sir. Is there any reason why I should not? '
‘No. Word came in that Jonnie Mae Igo's latest baby is ailing; I promised to try to get out there today. Will you ask Frank to hitch up Daisy? '
Ir was a long drive. Father took me along to tell me about Ira Howard and the Foundation. I listened, unable to believe my ears. .. save that Father, the only utterably dependable source of information, was telling me.
After a long stretch I at last spoke up. ‘Father, I think I see. How does this differ from prostitution? Or does it? '