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

‘Mother, I had not thought about it. Do you really think there will be school as usual tomorrow? '

‘There will be. Have you studied? '

(She knew I hadn't. You can't do much with Greek irregular verbs when you are down on your knees, scrubbing the kitchen floor. ) ‘No, Ma'am. '

‘Well? What would your father expect of you? '

I sighed. ‘Yes, Ma'am'

‘Don't feel sorry for yourself. Summer school was your idea. You should not waste that extra tuition. Now git! I will get supper by myself tonight. '

They did not come home that week.

They did not come home the following week.

They did not come home that fall.

They did not come home that year.

(Chuck's body came home. The GAR provided a firing squad and I attended my first military funeral and cried and cried. A bugler with white hair played for Charles: ‘- sleep in peace, soldier brave, God is nigh. ' If I ever come close to believing, it is when I hear ‘Taps'. Even today. )

After that summer session in 1898, when September carne it was necessary to make a choice; go to school or not, and if so, where? I did not want to remain home, doing little but play nursemaid to George. Since I could not go to Columbia, I wanted to go to Butler Academy, a two-gear private school that offered a liberal arts course acceptable at Columbia or at Lawrence in lieu of lower division. I pointed out to Mother that I had saved Christmas and birthday presents and ‘egg money' (‘egg money' was any earned money - taking care of neighbours' children, minding a stand at the county fair, and so forth - not much and quite seldom) - I had saved enough for my tuition and books.

Mother said, ‘How will you get back and forth? '

I answered, ‘How does Tom get back and forth? '

‘Don't answer a question with a question, young lady. We both know how your brother did it: by buggy in good weather, on horseback in bad weather. .. and he stayed home in the very worst weather. But your brother is a grown man. Tell me how you will do it. '

I thought about it. A buggy was no problem; the Academy had a barn for horses awaiting their masters. Horseback? I could ride almost as well as my brothers. .. but girls do not arrive at school wearing overalls, and lide-saddle was not a good idea for weather not suited to a buggy. But even good weather and a buggy. .. From late in October to early in March I would have to leave home before daylight and return home after dark.

In October 1889 Sarah Trowbridge had left her father's farm to go four miles by buggy to Rich Hill. Her horse and buggy came home. Sarah was never seen again.

Ours was a quiet countryside. But the most dangerous animal in all history walks on two legs. .. and sometimes slinks along country roads.

‘I am not afraid, Mother. '

‘Tell me what your father would advise you to do. '

So I gave up, and prepared to go back to high school for another semester, or more. School was less than a mile away and there were people we knew within shouting distance the whole way. Best of all, our high school had courses I had not had time to take. I continued Greek and another year of Latin and started differential equations and first-year German and audited geology and medieval history instead of study hall those two hours. And of course I still continued piano lessons on Saturday mornings - Mother had taught me for three years, then she had decided that I could profit from more advanced training than she could give me. It was an ‘in kind' deal; Miss Primrose owed Father both for herself and for her ailing and ancient mother.

So that kept me out of mischief the school year starting September 1898 while still leaving me plenty of time to write a newsy unsentimental letter to Mr Smith (Sergeant Smith! ) each week, and another to Tom, and another to Father, and another to Chuck. .. until one carne back to me the week before Chuck came back to us, forever.

I didn't see boys or young men any to speak of. The good ones had gone to war; those who remained behind struck me, mostly, as having drool on their chins. Or too impossibly young for me. I was not consciously being faithful to Mr Smith. He had not asked me to, and I would not expect him to be faithful to me. We had had one - just ore - highly successful first meeting. But that did not constitute a betrothal.

Nor was I faithful. But it was just my young cousin Nelson, who hardly counts. Nelson and I had ore thing in common: we were both as horny as a herd of goats, all the time. And another thing - we were both as cautious as a vixen with kits in coping with Mrs Grundy.

I let him pick the times and places; he had a head for intrigue. Between us, we kept each other toned down to a pleasant simmer without waking Mrs Grundy. I could happily have married Nelson, despite his being younger than I, had we not been so closely related. A dear boy. (Except for that lemon pie! )

They were not home for Christmas. But two more bodies came home. I attended each funeral, for Chuck's sake.

In January my brother Tom came marching home with his regiment. Mother and Frank went to Kansas City to see the troop train arrive and the parade down Walnut, and the countermarch back to the depot where most of them got back aboard to go on terminal furlough at their home towns. I stayed home to take care of my sisters and George, and thought privately that it was pretty noble of me.