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

So it was grand for Maureen that, once I ceased being a bawdy school girl, I almost never needed to use contraception.

One balmy March day in 1912 Briney nailed me to the ground on a bank of the Blue River, almost exactly duplicating an earlier occasion, 4 March 1899, on a bank of the Marais des Cygnes. We both delighted in making love outdoors, especially with a spice of danger. On the occasion of that 1912 prank I was wearing opera-length silk hose and green round garters, and my husband photographed me so, standing, naked in the sunlight, facing the camera and smiling - and that picture played a major part in my life six years later, and seventy years later, and over two thousand years later.

That picture, I am told, changed the entire history of the human race in several time tines.

Maybe so, maybe not. I'm not fully sold on World-as-Myth even though I am a Time Corps field agent, even though the smartest people I know tell me it's the real McCoy. Father always required me to think for myself, and Mr Clemens urged me to, also. I was taught that the one Unforgivable Sin, the offence against one's own integrity, was to accept anything at all simply on authority.

Nancy has two birthdays: the day I bore her, which was registered with the Foundation, and the date we handed out to the world, the day that matched more properly the date of my marriage to Brian Smith. That was easy to do at the end of the-nineteenth century, as in Missouri vital statistics were just beginning to be taken. Most records were still of the family-Bible sort. The County Clerk of Jackson County recorded births and deaths and marriages if offered to him, but nothing happened if such milestones were not reported.

Nancy's birth was reported correctly to the Foundation, a report signed by me and Brian, and certified by Dr Rumsey. Then a month later Dr Rumsey filed a birth certificate with the county clerk, with the false date.

Easy to do - Nancy was born at home; all my babies were born at home until the middle thirties. So there were no hospital records to confuse the issue. On 8 January I wrote the happy news (false date) to several people in Thebes and sent an announcement to the Lyle County Leader.

Why such a silly hooraw to fuzz the date of birth of a baby? Because the customs of those times were cruel, cruel, harshly cruel. Mrs Grundy would have counted on her fingers and whispered that we had to get married to give our sinful bastard a name she shouldn't bear. Yes. It was all part of the nastiness of the grim age of Bowdler, Comstock, and Grundy, the vultures that corrupted what could have been a civilisation.

Near the end of that century single women openly gave birth to babies whose fathers might or might not be around. But this was not the behaviour of a truly free culture; it was the other swing of the pendulum and not easy for mother or child. The old rules were being broken but no workable new code had as yet evolved.

Our expedient kept everyone in Thebes County from knowing that sweet little Nancy was a ‘bastard'. Of course Mother knew the date was false. .. but Mother was not in Thebes; she was in St Louis with Grandpa and Grandma Pfeiffer. And Father had gone back into the Army.

I still don't know how to look at this. A girl should not pass judgement on her parents. .. and I shan't.

The Spanish-American War had brought me closer to Mother. Her worry and grief made me decide that she really did love Father; they just kept it private from the children.

Then, on the day of my wedding, while Mother was dressing me, she gave me that motherly advice that traditionally the brides mother gives the bride to ensure matrimonial tranquillity.

Can you guess what she told me? Better sit down to hear this.

She told me that I must be prepared to endure without resentment submission to my husband for ‘family duties'. It was the Lord's plan, explained in Genesis, and was the price that women must pay for the privilege of having children. .. and if I would just look at it that way, I could submit cheerfully. But I must realise also that men have needs different from ours; you must expect to meet his needs. Don't think of it as animal, or ugly - just remember your dear children.

I said, ‘Yes, Mother. I will remember. '

So what happened? Did Mother cut Father off? Whereupon he went back into the Army? Or did he tell her that he wanted to get out of that little town, so deep in the gumbo mud, and try a second career in the Army?

I don't know. I don't need to know; it's not my business. Father did go back into the Army, so quickly after my wedding that I feel sure he had it planned before then. His letters showed that he was in Tampa for a while, then Guantanamo in Cuba. .. then clear out in the Philippines, in Mindanao, where the Muslim Moms were killing more of our soldiers than the Spaniards had ever managed. .. and then he was in China.

After the Boxer Rebellion I thought my father was dead, for I did not hear for a long time. Then at last he was at the Presidio in San Francisco and his letter from there referred to other letters I had never received.

He left the Army in 1912. He was sixty that year - was he retired on age? I don't know. Father always told you what he wanted you to know; if you crowded him, he might treat you to some creative fiction. .. or he might tell you to go straight to hell.

He came to Kansas City. Brian invited him to come live with us, but Father had already found himself a flat and settled into it before he let us know that he was in town, indeed before we knew that he had left the Army.

Five years later he did move in with us because we needed him.