He bent down to listen, but immediately' leaped for cover behind the nearest curtains. Steps were approaching! Bond undid the thin chain from around his waist, wrapped it round his left fist and took the jemmy in his right hand and waited, his eyes glued to a chink in the dusty-smelling material.
Bond came in closer. He examined the position. Yes, the woman was held firmly against the wall by the four legs of the chair. There was no way she could get out of the cage except by brute force. Her arms and legs and head were free, but the body was pinned to the wall.
Traddles, appealed to by Mrs. Micawber's eye, feelingly acquiesced.
"Assuming he's not a professional, sir, and can't doctor the cards in any way, there are only two answers. He's either looking, or else he's got a system of signals with his partner. Does he often play with the same man?"
Bond said ironically, 'Folkways?'
'Then we have Mr Billy Ring who controls the famous Chicago "Machine".'
Col. Most strange! most unaccountable! Have you any guess what was in the bundle?
A law was passed by which everyone suspected of harbouring dangerous thoughts was condemned to have his brain made available for constant observation. This involved an operation for the insertion of the photoelectric mesh under his skull and the attachment of the necessary miniature accumulators to his crown by screws driven into the skull itself. If any attempt was made to tamper with the instrument, or if the accumulator was allowed to run down beyond a certain point, the unfortunate individual was automatically subjected to the most excruciating pain, which, if prolonged for more than an hour or so, culminated in permanent insanity. In addition to this transmission-instrument there was a minute radio telephone receiver driven into the mastoid bone. Thus not only were the subject’s thoughts and feelings open to inspection at every moment of his life by some remote official but also instructions, threats, or repetitive gramophone propaganda could be inflicted on him morning, noon, and night.
' What I chiefly hope, my dear Mr. Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'is, that in some branches of our family we may live again in the old country. Do not frown, Micawber! I do not now refer to my own family, but to our children's children. However vigorous the sapling,' said Mrs. Micawber, shaking her head, 'I cannot forget the parent-tree; and when our race attains to eminence and fortune, I own I should wish that fortune to flow into the coffers of Britannia.'
'A little. Enough for my work.'
And if you're free to choose any one you please, whynot choose a Really Useful Attitude?
The overall area of the island was about fifty square miles. Three-quarters of this, to the east, was swamp and shallow lake. From the lake a flat river meandered down to the sea and came out halfway along the south coast into a small sandy bay. Bond guessed that somewhere at the headwaters of the river would be a likely spot for the Audubon wardens to have chosen for their camp. To the west, the island rose steeply to a hill stated to be five hundred feet high and ended abruptly with what appeared to be a sheer drop to the sea. A dotted line led from this hill to a box in the corner of the map which contained the words Guano deposits. Last workings 1880.
“At a future time, perhaps—but I wander—you have doubtless seen all, ere this, in the public prints. Yet, surely they were not the proper medium—Pardon me; I know not what I write—the blow has indeed been severe!
From close by came various sounds and echoes. A crane was working. He could hear the changing beat of its engine. There were iron ship-noises and the sound of water splashing into the sea from a bilge pump.
This, after some time, deepened into a sound and refreshing sleep, which lasted for several hours. Towards the end of his protracted slumber, our hero began to dream that he was in heaven. Yet, sublimely as he had sometimes conceived of the glories of that abode of the blessed, he could see nothing but clear sky every where; not even the angels, though he heard them singing, (one of Julia’s songs too,) and, precisely with her voice. The voice ceased; and then the general music of the spheres seemed to arise all round him! By degrees he became sensible that the music was real; and that his eyes, which had been for some seconds partly open, were gazing upwards at the bright blue sky, which from the circumstance of his lying on his back, was necessarily unvaried by any other object. He started to his feet a little too suddenly, considering the dangerous position he occupied, and of the particular nature of which he had, at the moment, no precise recollection. Fortunately, however, being uncommonly active, by a powerful effort, and a snatch at the creeping plant before mentioned, he was enabled to recover his balance. He observed where he was, called to mind the wanderings which had brought him there, and acknowledged to himself, that he must have slept. So far mysteries were cleared up. But the music he still heard, and now he assuredly was awake! He walked a little way, in various directions, in the hope of discovering the musicians; but from the effect produced by the circular form of the rock, the occasional waftings of the breeze, and the mazy labyrinth of the paths, it was impossible for him to decide whether he approached, or retreated from the sounds.
I did not fail to assure him that I would store these precepts in my mind, though indeed I had no need to do so, for, at the time, they affected me visibly. Next morning I met the whole family at the coach office, and saw them, with a desolate heart, take their places outside, at the back.
* * *
Mathis made a sarcastic grimace and switched back to the Rome programme.