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

‘That is why I must go with him. Where is Frank? I want him to hitch Loafer. '

‘I'll hitch him, Father, ' I put in. ‘Frank just now left for school, in a rush. He was a bit late. ' (Tending Beau had made Frank late, but it wasn't necessary to say so. )

Father looked worried. I insisted, ‘Loafer knows me, sir; he would never hurt me. '

I had just returned to the house when I saw Father standing at the new telephone instrument, which hung in the hallway we used as a waiting-room for patients. Father was saying, ‘Yes. .. yes, I understand. .. Good luck, sir, and God speed. I will tell her. Goodbye. ' He took the receiver away from his ear, stared at it, then remembered to hang it up.

He looked at me. ‘That was for you, Maureen. '

‘For me? ' I had never had a telephone call.

‘Yes. Your young man, Brian Smith. He asks you to forgive him but he will not be able to call on you next Sunday. He is catching a train for St Louis at once in order to return to Cincinnati, where he will be enlisting in the Ohio State Militia. He asks to be permitted to call on you again as soon as the war is over. Acting for you, I agreed to that. '

‘Oh. ' I felt an aching tight place under my wishbone and I had trouble breathing. ‘Thank you, Father. Uh. .. could you show me how to call him, call Rolla I suppose I mean, and speak to Mr Smith myself? '

Mother interrupted. ‘Maureen! '

I turned to face her. ‘Mother, I am not being forward, or unladylike. This is a very special circumstance. Mr Smith is going off to fight for us. I simply wish to tell him that I will pray for him every night while he is gone. '

Mother looked at me, then said gently, ‘Yes, Maureen. If you are able to speak to him, please tell him that I shall pray for him, too. Every night'

Father cleared his throat, loudly. ‘Ladies -‘

‘Yes, Doctor? ' Mother answered.

‘The matter is academic. Mr Smith told me that he could talk only a few moments because there was a long line of students waiting to use the telephone. Similar messages, I assume. So there is no use in trying to reach him; the telephone wire will be in use. .. and he will be gone. Which in no way keeps you two ladies from praying for his safety. Maureen, you can tell him so in a letter. '

‘But I don't know how to write to him! '

‘Use your head, daughter. You know at least three ways. '

‘Doctor Johnson, please. ' Mother then said gently, to me, ‘Judge Sperling will know. '

‘Judge Sperling. Oh! '

‘Yes, dear. Judge Sperling always knows where each of us is. '

A few minutes later we all kissed Tom goodbye, and Father also, while we were about it, although he was coming back. .. and, so he assured us, it was extremely likely that Tom would be back - sworn in, then told what day to return for duty, as it was most unlikely that the state militia could accept a thousand or more new bodies all on the same day.

They drove off. Beth was crying quietly. Lucille was not - I don't think she understood any of it - but was solemn and round-eyed. Mother did not cry and neither did I. .. not then. But Mother went upstairs and closed her door. .. and so did I. I now had a room to myself, ever since Agnes married, so I threw the latch and lay down and let myself cry.

I tried to tell myself that I was crying over my brother, Thomas. But I knew better; it was Mr Smith who was causing that ache in my heart.

I wished, with all my soul, that I had not caused him to use a French purse in making love to me a week earlier. I had been tempted - I knew, I was certain, that it would be ever so much nicer just to forget that rubber sheath and be bare to him, inside and out.

But I had told Father solemnly that I would always use a sheath. .. until the day when, after sober discussion with the man concerned, I omitted it for the purpose of becoming pregnant. .. under a mutual firm intention of marrying if we succeeded.

And now he was going off to war. .. and I might never see, him again.

I dried my eyes and got up and took down a little volume: of verse, Professor Palgrave's ‘Golden Treasury'. Mother had given it to me on my twelfth birthday, and it had been given to her on her twelfth birthday, in 1866.

Professor Palgrave had found two hundred and eighty-eight lyrics which were fine enough, in his exquisite taste, for his treasury. That day I wanted just one: Richard Lovelace's To Lucasta, On Going To The Wars':

- I could not love thee, Dear, so much,

Loved I not Honour more.

Then I cried some more, and after a while I slept. When I woke up, I got up and did not let myself cry again. Instead I slipped a note under Mother's door, telling her that I would get supper for all of us by myself. .. and she could have supper in bed if it pleased her to do so.

She let me cook supper but she came down and presided and, for the first time, Frank seated Mother and sat opposite her. She looked at me. ‘Maureen, will you return thanks? '

‘Yes, Mother. Dear Lord, we thank nee for that which we are about to partake. Please bless this food to our use and bless all our brothers and sisters in Jesus everywhere, both known to us and unknown. ' I gulped and added, ‘And on this day we ask a special blessing for our beloved brother, Thomas Jefferson, and for all other young men who have gone to serve our beloved country. ' (Et je prie que le bon Dieu garde bien mon ami! ) ‘In Jesus Name. Amen. '

‘Amen, ' Mother said firmly. ‘Franklin, will you carve? '