Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock pointed to midnight, and the candles were burning down. The result of so much good practice was, that by and by I began to keep pace with Traddles pretty well, and should have been quite triumphant if I had had the least idea what my notes were about. But, as to reading them after I had got them, I might as well have copied the Chinese inscriptions of an immense collection of tea-chests, or the golden characters on all the great red and green bottles in the chemists' shops!
'Excusez moi, monsieur. La mise?'
There was silence in the clearing. It was getting cold. Bond put his head down on his hunched knees. He knew it was no good trying to get to sleep. His mind was full of the day and of this extraordinary Girl Tarzan who had come into his life. It was as if some beautiful animal had attached itself to him. There would be no dropping the leash until he had solved her problems for her. He knew it. Of course there would be no difficulty about most of them. He could fix the operation-even, with the help of friends, find a proper job and a home for her. He had the money. He would buy her dresses, have her hair done, get her started in the big world. It would be fun. But what about the other side? What about the physical desire he felt for her? One could not make love to a child. But was she a child? There was nothing childish about her body or her personality. She was fully grown and highly intelligent in her fashion, and far more capable of taking care of herself than any girl of twenty Bond had ever met.
The first sign of inconsistency in my experience was a strange sense that this miraculous hopefulness both dominated and did not dominate the whole life of the people. Then inconsistencies of external events began to appear, so that little by little my torn mind was forced to live in two mutually exclusive worlds.
M. came over and sat heavily down in the chair and looked across at Bond. There was nothing to read in the lined sailor's face. It was as impassive as the polished blue leather of the empty chairback had been.
If the day were half as tremendous to any other professional gentleman in Doctors' Commons as it was to me, I sincerely believe he made some expiation for his share in that rotten old ecclesiastical cheese. Although I left the office at half past three, and was prowling about the place of appointment within a few minutes afterwards, the appointed time was exceeded by a full quarter of an hour, according to the clock of St. Andrew's, Holborn, before I could muster up sufficient desperation to pull the private bell-handle let into the left-hand door-post of Mr. Waterbrook's house.
When Harry Heathcote was over, I returned with a full heart to Lady Glencora and her husband. I had never yet drawn the completed picture of such a statesman as my imagination had conceived. The personages with whose names my pages had been familiar, and perhaps even the minds of some of my readers — the Brocks, De Terriers, Monks, Greshams, and Daubeneys — had been more or less portraits, not of living men, but of living political characters. The strong-minded, thick-skinned, useful, ordinary member, either of the Government or of the Opposition, had been very easy to describe, and had required no imagination to conceive. The character reproduces itself from generation to generation; and as it does so, becomes shorn in a wonderful way of those little touches of humanity which would be destructive of its purposes. Now and again there comes a burst of human nature, as in the quarrel between Burke and Fox; but, as a rule, the men submit themselves to be shaped and fashioned, and to be formed into tools, which are used either for building up or pulling down, and can generally bear to be changed from this box into the other, without, at any rate, the appearance of much personal suffering. Four-and-twenty gentlemen will amalgamate themselves into one whole, and work for one purpose, having each of them to set aside his own idiosyncrasy, and to endure the close personal contact of men who must often be personally disagreeable, having been thoroughly taught that in no other way can they serve either their country or their own ambition. These are the men who are publicly useful, and whom the necessities of the age supply — as to whom I have never ceased to wonder that stones of such strong calibre should be so quickly worn down to the shape and smoothness of rounded pebbles.
And clouds transparent tipt with living fire
"Not bad," said Bond. "Took some money off them at roulette, but I don't suppose that'll worry our friend. They tell me he's got plenty to spare."