“Caballo?” I croaked.
'All right, all right,' said Bond.
In the imperial system the great majority of human beings were practically serfs, while in the free system all shared equally in the frugal prosperity of the whole federation, and there was ample individual freedom. The one was a gigantic police state, the other a co-operative venture of free men. In the one there was strict censorship, in the other complete freedom of expression. In the one the dominant mood was apathy, mutual suspicion, and neurotic vindictiveness; in the other buoyant confidence and unfailing mutual friendliness prevailed in spite of the constant external danger. It might have been expected that the need for watchfulness and unity would have forced the Tibetans to sacrifice freedom to military dictatorship, and would set up the kind of deterioration which external danger had long ago caused in revolutionary Russia. But the Tibetans were by now too sure of themselves and of each other to feel the need to restrict freedom. Their discipline was at bottom a thorough self-discipline, which, though it permitted unlimited discussion and criticism, freely and fervently accepted in the last resort the decision of the government. And treason was by now unthinkable.
"It's not a thing to make a habit of," said Bond mildly. "But I can't say I blame you the way it was. So what happened then?"
"We always cut for partners after each rubber," said M. "Unless there's a challenge. And on guest nights, Mondays and Thursdays, you stick to your guest. Drax nearly always brings a man called Meyer, his metal broker. Nice chap. Jew. Very fine player."
Kerim's laugh was disarming. `You'll learn, my dear. In England, they are great people for jokes. There it is considered proper to make a joke of everything. I also have learned to make jokes. They grease the wheels. I have been laughing a lot this morning. Those poor fellows at Uzunkopru. I wish I could be there when the police telephone the German Consulate in Istanbul. That is the worst of forged passports. They are not difficult to make, but it is almost impossible to forge also their birth certificate-the files of the country which is supposed to have issued them. I fear the careers of your two comrades have come to a sad end, Mrs Somerset.'
Now the bell had stopped. In its place there started up a droning whine, rather like the noise of a very fast electric fan, with, behind it, the steady, unvarying tick-pause-tock, tick-pause-tock of some land of metronome. The combination of the two sounds was wonderfully soothing. It compelled attention, but only just on the fringe of consciousness -like the night-noises of childhood, the slow tick of the nursery clock combined with the sound of the sea or the wind outside. And now a voice, the Count's voice came over the distant wire or tape that Bond assumed was the mechani cal source of all this. The voice was pitched in a low, singsong murmur, caressing yet authoritative, and every word was distinct. 'You are going to sleep.' The voice fell on the word 'sleep'. 'You are tired and your limbs feel like lead.' Again the falling cadence on the last word. 'Your arms feel as heavy as lead. Your breathing is quite even. Your breathing is as regular as a child's. Your eyes are closed and the eyelids are heavy as lead. You are becoming tireder and tireder. Your whole body is becoming tired and heavy as lead. You are warm and comfortable. You are slipping, slipping, slipping down into sleep. Your bed is as soft and downy as a nest. You are as soft and sleepy as a chicken in a nest. A dear little chicken, flurry and cuddly.' There came the sound of a sweet cooing and clucking, the gentle brushing together of wings, the dozy murmuring of mother hens with their chicks. It went on for perhaps a full minute. Then the voice came back. 'The little darlings are going to sleep. They are like you, comfortable and sleepy in their nests. You love them dearly, dearly, dearly. You love all chickens. You would like to make pets of them all. You would like them to grow up beautiful and strong. You would like no harm to come to them. Soon you will be going back to your darling chickens. Soon you will be able to look after them again. Soon you will be able to help all the chickens of England. You will be able to improve the breed of chickens all over England. This will make you very, very happy. You will be doing so much good that it will make you very, very happy. But you will keep quiet about it. You will say nothing of your methods. They will be your own secret, your very own secret. People will try and find out your secret. But you will say nothing because they might try and take your secret away from you. And then you would not be able to make your darling chickens happy and healthy and strong. Thousands, millions of chickens made happier because of you. So you will say nothing and keep your secret. You will say nothing, nothing at all. You will remember what I say. You will remember what I say.' The murmuring voice was getting farther and farther away. The sweet cooing and clucking of chickens softly obscured the vanishing voice, then that too died away and there was only the electric whine and the tick-pause-tock of the metronome.
The girl snorted. "All right, Mr Know-all," she said angrily. "Just you wait."