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

In view of the state of the claim and the capital investment required to work it, we regret to have to report that we recommend against attempting to work this claim.

We agree with your arithmetic as to the effect on the commercial feasibility of processing low-grade ore if the new Congress does in fact pass legislation requiring free and unlimited coinage of silver at sixteen to one. But we are not as sanguine as you are that such legislation will indeed pass.

We are forced to recommend that you sell your bond-and-lease for whatever it will bring. Or cut your losses and surrender it.

We remain, sincerely at your service,

Brian Smith Associates

Brian Smith, President

This report was typical for an old claim being reopened by a new optimist - the commonest situation in mining. (The West is pocked with holes where some prospector ran out of money and luck. )

I wrote many letters like that one. They hardly ever believed unfavourable reports. They frequently demanded their money back. Then a client often took the bit in his teeth and went ahead anyhow. .. and went broke trying to satisfy a bond-and-lease on country rock assaying only enough silver per ton to go broke on, plus a trace of platinum and a whiff of gold.

The clients attempting to mine gold were even worse. There is something about gold that has an effect on human judgement similar to that of heroin or cocaine.

But there were also a few rational investors - gamblers, but gambling the odds correctly. Offered a chance to reduce upfront expenses in exchange for points, they often took that option. .. and the claims selected by these more level-headed people were more likely to merit a go-ahead from Brian.

Even these worthwhile mining claims usually lost money in the long run, through failure of their owners/operators to shut down soon enough when the operations stopped paying their costs. (Brian did not lose when that happened; he simply stopped making money from his percentage of the net. ) But some of them made money and some of them made lots of money and some of them were still making money regularly forty years later. Brian's willingness to postpone his return other than a modest fee put our children into the best schools and Brian's quondam secretary, Mama Maureen, into big, fat emeralds. (I don't like diamonds. Too cold. )

I see that I've missed telling about Nelson and Betty Lou and Random Numbers and Mr Renwick. That's what comes of being a Time Corps operative; all times look alike to you, and temporal sequence becomes unimportant. All right, let's fill in.

Random Numbers may have been the silliest cat I've ever lived with - although all cats are sui generis, and Pixel has his supporters for the title of funniest cat, unlimited, all times, all universes. But I'm sure Betty Lou would vote for Random Numbers. Theoretically title to Random lay in Brian, since the cat was his bride's wedding present to him, somewhat delayed. But it is silly to talk of title to a cat, and Randie felt that Betty Lou was his personal slave, available at all hours to scratch his skull, cuddle him, and open doors for him, a conviction she supported by her slavish obedience to his tiniest whim.

Betty Lou was Brian's favourite sweetheart for, oh, pretty steadily for three years, then as circumstances brought them together for years and years. Betty Lou was Nelson's wife, Nelson being my cousin who played fast and loose with a lemon meringue pie. My past had come back to haunt me.

Nelson showed up in December of 1906, shortly after Brian had decided to strike out on his own. Brian had met Nelson once, at our wedding, and neither of us had seen him since that day.

He had been fifteen then, no taller than I; now he was a tall, handsome young man of twenty-three, who had earned a master's degree in agronomy at Kansas State University, Manhattan. .. and was as charming as ever, or more so. I felt that old tingle deep inside me and those cold lightnings at the base of my spine. I said to myself, Maureen, as a dog returneth to its vomit, you are in trouble. The only thing protecting you is that you are seven months gone, big as a house, and as seductive as a Poland China sow. Tell Briney in bed tonight and get him to keep a close eye on you.

Big help! Nelson showed up in the afternoon. Brian invited him to stay for dinner. When he learned that Nelson had not checked into a hotel, he invited Nelson to stay overnight. That was to be expected; at that year and in that part of the country, people never stayed in hotels when homes of kinfolk were at hand. We had had overnighters several times even in our first crackerbox; if you didn't have a spare bed, you made up a pallet on the floor.

I didn't say anything to Brian that night. While I was sure that I had told Briney the lemon-pie story, I wasn't sure that I had mentioned Nelson by name. If I had not-or if Brian had not made the connection - then let sleeping dogs bury their own bones. It was swell to have an understanding and tolerant husband but, Maureen, don't be a greedy slut! Don't stir it up again.

Nelson was still there the next day. Brian was his own boss now, but not overwhelmed by clients; he had no need to leave the house that day other than to check our post office box at the Southside substation. Nelson had arrived in an automobile, a smart four-passenger Reo runabout. Nelson offered to drive Brian to the post office.

He offered to take me, too. I was glad that I had the excuse of a little girl - Nancy was at school; Carol at home - and a baby boy not to accept. I had never ridden in an automobile and, to tell the truth, I was scared. Surely, I expected to ride in one someday; I could see a time coming when they would be commonplace. But I was always more timid when I was pregnant, especially toward the end - my worst nightmare concerned miscarriage.

Brian said, ‘Can't you get the Jenkins girl to come over for an hour? '

I said, ‘Thank you, another time, Nelson. Brian, paying for a baby watcher is an unnecessary expense. '

‘Penny pincher. '

‘I surely am. As your office manager I intend to pinch every penny so hard that the Indian will scream in pain. Go along, gentlemen; I'll get the breakfast dishes done while you're out. '