'What do you think, Penny?' The Chief of Staff turned to M's private secretary who shared the room with him.
"I've told them not to hurry," said Leiter. He rapped on the table with his hook. "We'll have another Martini first and while you drink it you'd better come clean." There was warmth in his smile, but his eyes were watching Bond. "Just tell me one thing. What business have you got with my old friend Shady Tree?" He gave his order to the waiter and sat forward in his chair and waited.
I had at this time written from time to time certain short stories, which had been published in different periodicals, and which in due time were republished under the name of Tales of All Countries. On the 23d of October, 1859, I wrote to Thackeray, whom I had, I think, never then seen, offering to send him for the magazine certain of these stories. In reply to this I received two letters — one from Messrs. Smith & Elder, the proprietors of the Cornhill, dated 26th of October, and the other from the editor, written two days later. That from Mr. Thackeray was as follows:—
They looked roguishly back at him from the shadows. They were the worst. They were nothing. Zero. Baccarat.
Taking it as a whole, I regard this as the best novel I have written. I was never quite satisfied with the development of the plot, which consisted in the loss of a cheque, of a charge made against a clergyman for stealing it, and of absolute uncertainty on the part of the clergyman himself as to the manner in which the cheque had found its way into his hands. I cannot quite make myself believe that even such a man as Mr. Crawley could have forgotten how he got it, nor would the generous friend who was anxious to supply his wants have supplied them by tendering the cheque of a third person. Such fault I acknowledge — acknowledging at the same time that I have never been capable of constructing with complete success the intricacies of a plot that required to be unravelled. But while confessing so much, I claim to have portrayed the mind of the unfortunate man with great accuracy and great delicacy. The pride, the humility, the manliness, the weakness, the conscientious rectitude and bitter prejudices of Mr. Crawley were, I feel, true to nature and well described. The surroundings too are good. Mrs. Proudie at the palace is a real woman; and the poor old dean dying at the deanery is also real. The archdeacon in his victory is very real. There is a true savour of English country life all through the book. It was with many misgivings that I killed my old friend Mrs. Proudie. I could not, I think, have done it, but for a resolution taken and declared under circumstances of great momentary pressure.
Then Miss Mills benignantly dismissed me, saying, 'Go back to Dora!' and I went; and Dora leaned out of the carriage to talk to me, and we talked all the rest of the way; and I rode my gallant grey so close to the wheel that I grazed his near fore leg against it, and 'took the bark off', as his owner told me, 'to the tune of three pun' sivin' - which I paid, and thought extremely cheap for so much joy. What time Miss Mills sat looking at the moon, murmuring verses- and recalling, I suppose, the ancient days when she and earth had anything in common.
'Why to London?' returned Ham.
Slither, scrape, rip. His shoulders carefully expanding and contracting; blistered, bloodstained feet scrabbling for the sharp knobs of iron, Bond, his lacerated body tearing its way down the forty feet of shaft, prayed that the girl would have strength to stand it when she followed.
M. drew on his pipe. His eyes through the smoke were bland, scarcely interested. "So that, in theory, there is no reason why this emerald ball should not have been unearthed from the Kremlin, furnished with a faked history to establish ownership, and transferred abroad as a reward to some friend of Russia for services rendered?"