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

‘Really? I thought there was another reason. That wee bit of proud flesh:

‘There's that, I admit. A contributing factor. But don't change the subject. You've given Mr Fones more than six hard-working years - much of your time away from home - and now he wants to indenture you, make you his bound boy, for a pittance. He's trying to milk you like a cow. Let him know that you know it. .. and that you won't let him get away with it. '

My husband nodded soberly. ‘I won't let him. Beloved, I knew what he was trying to do. But I had to think of you and our children. '

‘You do. You will. You always have. '

Brian came home early the next day, carrying a battered Oliver typewriter. He put it down and kissed me. ‘Madam, I have joined the ranks of the unemployed. '

‘Really? Oh, goodie! '

‘I am an ungrateful wretch. I am no better than a Wobbly and I probably am one. He has treated me like his own son, his own flesh and blood. And now I do this to him. Smith, get out of here! Leave these premises; I don't want to see your face again. Don't you dare take even a piece of paper out of this office. You are through as a mining consultant; I'm going to let the whole mining community know how thoroughly unreliable, completely undependable, utterly ungrateful you are. '

‘Doesn't he owe you some salary? '

‘Salary and two weeks notice and earned participation in that Silver Plume Colorado deal. I declined to budge until he paid up. He did, reluctantly, with more comments on my character. ' Briney sighed. ‘Mo, it upset me to listen to what he said. But I feel relieved, too. Free, for the first time in more than six years. '

‘Let me draw you a tub. Then dinner in your robe and then to bed. Poor Briney! I love you, sir. '

My sewing-room became an office and we installed a Bell telephone in addition to our Home instrument and put the them side by side near my typewriter. Our letterhead carried both numbers and a post office box number. I kept a baby bed in there and a couch I used for quick naps. Mr Fones animosity did not seem to hurt' us, and it may have helped simply by emphasising that Brian was no longer working for Davis and Fones - a fact Brian advertised in all the trade journals. My first job with the typewriter was to write to about one hundred and fifty people and or firms, announcing that Brian Smith Associates was now in business. .. and announcing a new policy.

‘The idea is, Mo, that I am betting on my own judgement, I'll confer with anyone, first visit free, here in Kansas City. If I travel, it's my railroad ticket, two dollars a night for a hotel room, three dollars a day for food, costs such as livery stable rents as required by the survey, plus per diem consulting fee. .. all in advance. In advance because I saw while working for Mr Fones how nearly impossible it is to get a client to pay for a dead horse. Fones did it by refusing to budge until he had a retainer in hand equal to his projected expenses, applied overhead, and expected minimum profit. .. more, if he could squeeze it out.

‘It's on that per diem that I'll differ in my methods from Davis and Fones. I will use a formal, signed contract, with two options, the client to make his choice ahead of time. Forty dollars a day -‘

‘What! !'

But Briney had spoken seriously. ‘Mr Fones charged a client that much for my services. My dear, there are plenty of lawyers who get paid that much per diem for nice clean work in a warm courtroom. I want to be paid at that rate for trudging and sloshing and sometimes crawling through mines that are always cold and usually wet. For that price they'll get my best professional judgement as to how much it will cost to work that mine, including capital investment required before they ship their first ton of ore. .. and my best guess, based on assays, geology, and other factors, as to whether or not the claim can be worked at a profit. .. for it is a sad fact that, in the mining business as a whole, more money goes into the ground than ever is taken out.

‘That's the business I'm in, Mo. Not in mining. I get paid for telling people not to mine. To cut their losses and run. They often don't believe me, which is why I must insist on being paid in advance.

‘But once in a while I have had the happy privilege of telling someone, "Go ahead, do it! It will cost you this big wad of money. .. but you should get it all back and more. "

‘And that is where the second option comes in, the one I really prefer. Under the second option I gamble with the client. I lower my per diem and instead take some points on the net, if and when. I won't take more than five points at most, and I won't do a held survey for less than expenses plus a per diem of fifteen dollars a day, minimum. That bracket leaves room to dicker.

Now-Can you write a model letter for me, explaining the tariff schedule? How they can have our best work, at our standard fee. Or we'll gamble with them at a much lower fee, and they will still have our best work. '

‘I'll try, Mister Boss Man, sir. '

It paid. It made us rich. But I did not suspect how well it paid until forty years later when circumstances caused my husband and me to count up all our assets and figure their worth. But that is forty years later and this account may not go on that long.

It paid especially well through an oddity of human psychology. .. or an oddity of persons seized by the mining mania, which may not be the same thing. Like this. ..

The compulsive gamblers, the sort who try to beat lotteries or slot machines or other house games, almost always were betting on striking it rich on some caim that could not be worked at a profit. Each of these saw himself as another Cowboy Womack. .. and did not want to share his lucky star with some hireling, even at only five points. So, if he could scrape it up, he paid the full fee, grumbling.

After a survey (when I was my husband's secretary) I would prepare a letter along these lines, telling this optimist that his best vein was:

- surrounded by country rock that has to be dug out to get at the high grade. The mine can not be worked successfully without drifting a new tunnel out to the north to the highway, through a right of way still to be negotiated via the third level of the claim to the north of yours.

In addition, your claim requires a blacksmith, a tool repair shop, a new pumping system, new ties and rails for approximately two hundred yards of track, etc. , etc. - plus wages for eighty shifts per month as required by the bond-and-lease for an estimated three years before appreciable pay tonnage could be taken to the mill, etc. , etc. , see enclosures A, B, and C.