The decline of world-population had started long ago after the period of rapid increase which took place in the early phase of industrialization. It was due partly to the widespread use of efficient contraceptive methods, partly to anxiety about economic insecurity, partly to a vague sense of the futility and falsity of civilization. In the rather tired Utopia of North America, where the decline was first seriously felt, insecurity cannot have been a cause, for prosperity was universal. But disillusionment about a curiously aimless Utopia was a serious factor in American life. The early totalitarian states had always feared decline of population, and had done their utmost to check it, but without much success. The newer totalitarian states, the Russian and Chinese Empires, and the World Empire in its early phase, had attacked the problem with characteristic ruthlessness.
"Good God," said Bond. "That's tough stuff to start the day on."
'Not much, I fear,' returned my mother. 'Not so much as I could wish. But Mr. Copperfield was teaching me -'
Bond pulled on his clammy trousers and sat down on the sand and dismantled his gun. He did it by touch, using his shirt to dry each part and each cartridge. Then he reassembled the gun and clicked the trigger round the empty cylinder. The sound was healthy. It would be days before it rusted. He loaded it and tucked it into the holster inside the waistband of his trousers and got up and walked back to the clearing.
'All right. But then you tell. I've never seen a man look so dead on his feet. I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought you must be plastered.' She gave him a quick glance. 'You still look pretty bad. Here' - she leant forward to the dashboard -'I'll switch on the blower. Get you properly warmed up.' She paused. 'Well, my bit of the story's quite simple really. Papa rang me up one day from Marseilles to find out how I was. He asked if I had seen you and seemed very annoyed when he heard I hadn't. He practically ordered me to go and find you.' She glanced at him. 'He's quite taken to you, you know. Anyway he said he had found out the address of a certain man you were looking for. He said he was sure that by now you would have found out that address too. He said that, knowing you, I would find you somewhere close to this address. It was the Piz Gloria Club. He told me if I found you to tell you to watch your step, to look after yourself.' She laughed. 'How right he was! Well, so I left Davos, which had really put me on my feet again, like you said it would, and I came up to Samaden the day before yesterday. The Seilbahn wasn't running yesterday, so I was going to come up today to look for you. It was all as simple as that. Now you tell.'
The knife of white bows appeared. It was followed by ten yards of empty polished deck, glass windshields, a low raked cabin with a siren and a blunt radio mast, the glimpse of a man inside at the wheel, then the long flat well of the stern and a drooping red ensign. Converted MTB, British Government surplus?
鈥楯an. 8, 1876.鈥擬y expenses have been less than I expected. I think that Margaret must be a very good manager.... I can now form a rough idea of my expenses, and I think my sweet Laura will like to see a rude estimate. As rupees and annas may puzzle you, I write in English fashion鈥擖br> 'He's a dedicated man,' her chief had said when he gave her the assignment. 'Don't imagine this is going to be any fun. He thinks of nothing but the job on hand and, while it's on, he's absolute hell to work for. But he's an expert and there aren't many about, so you won't be wasting your time. He's a good-looking chap, but don't fall for him. I don't think he's got much heart. Anyway, good luck and don't get hurt.'
James Bond, sitting on the edge of his bed, said, "Thank you."