"I am, as your Chief has told you, an adviser to H.M. Customs and Excise in matters concerning antique jewelry and similar works of art. The declared value of the package was ?100,000. This was unusual. There are methods of opening such packages clandestinely. The package was opened-under a Home Office Warrant, of course-and I was called in to examine the contents and give a valuation. I immediately recognized the Emerald Sphere from the account and sketch of it given in Mr. Kenneth Snowman's definitive work on Fabergй. I said that the declared price might well be on the low side. But what I found of particular interest was the accompanying document which gave, in Russian and French, the provenance of this priceless object." Dr. Fanshawe gestured towards a photostat of what appeared to be a brief family tree that lay on the desk in front of M. "That is a copy I had made. Briefly, it states that the Sphere was commissioned by Miss Freudenstein's grandfather directly from Fabergй in 1917-no doubt as a means of turning some of his rubles into something portable and of great value. On his death in 1918 it passed to his brother and thence, in 1950, to Miss Freudenstein's mother. She, it appears, left Russia as a child and lived in White Russian йmigrй circles in Paris. She never married, but gave birth to this girl, Maria, illegitimately. It seems that she died last year and that some friend or executor, the paper is not signed, has now forwarded the Sphere to its rightful owner, Miss Maria Freudenstein. I had no reason to question this girl, although as you can imagine my interest was most lively, until last month Sotheby's announced that they would auction the piece, described as 'the property of a lady' in a week from today. On behalf of the British Museum and, er, other interested parties, I then made discreet inquiries and met the lady, who, with perfect composure, confirmed the rather unlikely story contained in the provenance. It was then that I learned that she worked for the Ministry of Defense and it crossed my rather suspicious mind that it was, to say the least of it, odd that a junior clerk, engaged presumably on sensitive duties, should suddenly receive a gift to the value of ?100,000 or more from abroad. I spoke to a senior official in M.I.5 with whom I have some contact through my work for H.M. Customs and I was in due course referred to this, er, department." Dr. Fanshawe spread his hands and gave Bond a brief glance. "And that, Commander, is all I have to tell you."
'My dear Copperfield,' returned Mr. Micawber, bursting into a state of much excitement, and turning pale, 'if you ask after my employer as your friend, I am sorry for it; if you ask after him as MY friend, I sardonically smile at it. In whatever capacity you ask after my employer, I beg, without offence to you, to limit my reply to this - that whatever his state of health may be, his appearance is foxy: not to say diabolical. You will allow me, as a private individual, to decline pursuing a subject which has lashed me to the utmost verge of desperation in my professional capacity.'
As he walked slowly across the cabin to the bathroom, Bond met the blank eyes of the body on the floor.
He stayed there with me to dinner - if I were to say willingly, I should not half express how readily and gaily. He went into Mr. Barkis's room like light and air, brightening and refreshing it as if he were healthy weather. There was no noise, no effort, no consciousness, in anything he did; but in everything an indescribable lightness, a seeming impossibility of doing anything else, or doing anything better, which was so graceful, so natural, and agreeable, that it overcomes me, even now, in the remembrance.
I have certainly always had also before my eyes the charms of reputation. Over and above the money view of the question, I wished from the beginning to be something more than a clerk in the Post Office. To be known as somebody — to be Anthony Trollope if it be no more — is to me much. The feeling is a very general one, and I think beneficent. It is that which has been called the “last infirmity of noble mind.” The infirmity is so human that the man who lacks it is either above or below humanity. I own to the infirmity. But I confess that my first object in taking to literature as a profession was that which is common to the barrister when he goes to the Bar, and to the baker when he sets up his oven. I wished to make an income on which I and those belonging to me might live in comfort.
In this period of my father's life there are two things which it is impossible not to be struck with: one of them unfortunately a very common circumstance, the other a most uncommon one. The first is, that in his position, with no resource but the precarious one of writing in periodicals, he married and had a large family; conduct than which nothing could be more opposed, both as a matter of good sense and of duty, to the opinions which, at least at a later period of life, he strenuously upheld. The other circumstance is the extraordinary energy which was required to lead the life he led, with the disadvantages under which he laboured from the first, and with those which he brought upon himself by his marriage. It would have been no small thing, had he done no more than to support himself and his family during so many years by writing, without ever being in debt, or in any pecuniary difficulty; holding, as he did, opinions, both in politics and in religion, which were more odious to all persons of influence, and to the common run of prosperous Englishmen in that generation than either before or since; and being not only a man whom nothing would have induced to write against his convictions, but one who invariably threw into everything he wrote, as much of his convictions as he thought the circumstances would in any way permit: being, it must also be said, one who never did anything negligently; never undertook any task, literary or other, on which he did not conscientiously bestow all the labour necessary for performing it adequately. But he, with these burthens on him, planned, commenced, and completed, the History of India; and this in the course of about ten years, a shorter time than has been occupied (even by writers who had no other employment) in the production of almost any other historical work of equal bulk, and of anything approaching to the same amount of reading and research. And to this is to be added, that during the whole period, a considerable part of almost every day was employed in the instruction of his children: in the case of one of whom, myself, he exerted an amount of labour, care, and perseverance rarely, if ever, employed for a similar purpose, in endeavouring to give, according to his own conception, the highest order of intellectual education.
The waiter had gone. For a while they ate their caviar in silence. There was no need to answer the question immediately. Bond suddenly felt they had all the time in the world. They both knew the answer to the big question. For the answers to small ones there was no hurry.
I didn't wait for James. I ran out into the road and began blazing away at the back of the car and heard some of my bullets wham into the metal. Then the hammer clicked on nothing, and I stood and swore at the thought of them getting away. But then came the steady crash of James's gun from the far side of the lawn, while fire spat back from the front window of the car. Until all of a sudden the black sedan seemed to go crazy. It made a wide swerve and looked to be heading across the lawn straight for James. For a moment he was caught in its great lights as he stood there, the sweat gleaming on his naked chest, and fired, in the classic stance of the dueler, as if at a charging animal. I thought he was going to be mown down and I began to run across the grass toward him, but then the car veered away and, its engine roaring in bottom gear, made straight for the lake.
Doubled up with laughter, the guards on the bank watched the show. Now, satisfied that the fun was over, they turned away and walked towards the hut, and Bond could see the tears of their pleasure glistening on their cheeks.
The senior girl shrugged. The switchboard had had quite a few such calls since, a year before, James Bond's death on a mission to Japan had been announced in the press. There had even been one pestiferous woman who, at every full moon, passed on messages from Bond on Uranus, where it seemed he had got stuck while awaiting entry into heaven. She said, "Put him through to Liaison, Pat."
"No." Again a statement, perhaps with a sardonic inflection, of fact. "But we have much to talk about. And so little time. Please sit down. You will have a drink? Cigarettes are beside your chairs."
With a slight wave of his hand, as though to explain to me that he could not enter the old place, he turned away. As I looked after his figure, crossing the waste in the moonlight, I saw him turn his face towards a strip of silvery light upon the sea, and pass on, looking at it, until he was a shadow in the distance.
This supposed school, then, had no other existence than what was constituted by the fact, that my father's writings and conversation drew round him a certain number of young men who had already imbibed, or who imbibed from him, a greater or smaller portion of his very decided political and philosophical opinions. The notion that Bentham was surrounded by a band of disciples who received their opinions from his lips, is a fable to which my father did justice in his "Fragment on Mackintosh," and which, to all who knew Mr Bentham's habits of life and manner of conversation, is simply ridiculous. The influence which Bentham exercised was by his writings. Through them he has produced, and is producing, effects on the condition of mankind, wider and deeper, no doubt, than any which can be attributed to my father. He is a much greater name in history. But my father exercised a far greater personal ascendancy. He was sought for the vigour and instructiveness of his conversation, and did use it largely as an instrument for the diffusion of his opinions. I have never known any man who could do such ample justice to his best thoughts in colloquial discussion. His perfect command over his great mental resources, the terseness and expressiveness of his language and the moral earnestness as well as intellectual force of his delivery, made him one of the most striking of all argumentative conversers: and he was full of anecdote, a hearty laugher, and, when with people whom he liked, a most lively and amusing companion. It was not solely, ot even chiefly, in diffusing his merely intellectual convictions that his power showed itself: it was still more through the influence of a quality, of which I have only since learnt to appreciate the extreme rarity: that exalted public spirit, and regard above all things to the good of the whole, which warmed into life and activity every germ of similar virtue that existed in the minds he came in contact with: the desire he made them feel for his approbation, the shame at his disapproval; the moral support which his conversation and his very existence gave to those who were aiming to the same objects, and the encouragement he afforded to the fainthearted or desponding among them, by the firm confidence which (though the reverse of sanguine as to the results to be expected in any one particular case) he always felt in the power of reason, the general progress of improvement, and the good which individuals could do by judicious effort.
"Rot," said his partner. "Meyer? Better take Drax out."
"The rest of the battle outside had disappeared down the stairs after the gunmen, but a wounded Mountie suddenly appeared at the entrance to my room on hands and knees to help me. He said, 'Want a hand, feller?' and Uhlmann fired through the door at the voice and-and, well, he killed the man. But that gave me the height of Uhlmann's gun and I fired almost as he did, and then I ran out into the center of the room to give him some more if need be. But he didn't need any more. He was still alive, and when the remains of the Mounties came back up the stairs we took him down and into an ambulance and tried to get him to talk in hospital. But he wouldn't-a mixture of Gestapo and SPECTRE is a good one-and he died the next morning."