It was strange and lovely to be back after nearly six years. My aunt said she could hardly recognize me, and I was certainly surprised by Quebec. When I had left it, the fortress had seemed vast and majestic. Now it seemed like a large toy edifice out of Disneyland. Where it had been awesome, I found, irreverently, that it looked made out of papier-mвchй. And the giant battles between the faiths, in which I had once thought myself to be on the point of being crushed, and the deep schisms between the Canadiennes and the rest, were now reduced, with my new perspective, to parish-pump squabbling. Half ashamed, I found myself contemptuous of the screaming provincialism of the town, of the dowdy peasants who lived in it, and of the all-pervading fog of snobbery and petit bourgeoisie. No wonder, a child of all this, that I had been ill equipped for the great world outside! The marvel was that I had survived at all.
To cunning, jilting Baggages o'th' Town.
Tiger had opened the partitions when they entered the room. He had commented, 'In the West, when you have secrets to discuss, you shut all the doors and windows. In Japan, we throw everything open to make sure that no one can listen at the thin walls. And what I have now to discuss with you is a matter of the very highest secrecy. The sake is warm enough? You have the cigarettes you prefer? Then listen to what I have to say to you and swear on your honour to divulge it to no one.' Tiger Tanaka gave his great golden shout of mirthless laughter. 'If you were to break your promise, I would have no alternative but to remove you from the earth.'
Of course I was thrilled. The 400 is the top nightclub in London, and I had never graduated higher than the cellar places in Chelsea. I told him a bit about myself and made Astor House sound funny, and he was very easy to talk to, and when the bill came he knew exactly how much to tip and it seemed to me that he was very grownup to be still at school, but then English public schools are supposed to grow people up very quickly and teach them how to behave. He held my hand in the taxi, and that seemed to be all right, and they seemed to know him at the 400 and it was deliciously dark and he ordered gins and tonics and they put a half-bottle of gin on the table that was apparently his from the last time he had been there. Maurice Smart's band was as smooth as cream and when we danced we fitted at once and his jive was just about the same as mine and I was really having fun. I began to notice the way his dark hair grew at the temples and that he had good hands and that he smiled not just at one's face but into one's eyes. We stayed there until four in the morning and the gin was finished and when we went out on to the pavement I had to hold on to him. He got a taxi, and it seemed natural when he took me in his arms, and when he kissed me I kissed back. After I had twice taken his hand off my breast, the third time it seemed prissy not to leave it there, but when he moved it down and tried to put it up my skirt, I wouldn't let him, and when he took my hand and tried to put it on him, I wouldn't do that either, although my whole body was hot with wanting these things. But then, thank heavens, we were outside the flat and he got out and took me to the door and we said we would see each other again and he would write. When we kissed good-by, he put his hand down behind my back and squeezed my behind hard, and when his taxi disappeared round the corner I could still feel his hand there and I crept up to bed and looked into the mirror over the washbasin and my eyes and face were radiant as if they were lit up from inside and, although probably most of the lighting-up came from the gin, I thought, Oh, my heavens! I'm in love!
Quarrel laughed shortly. "Okay, cap'n. Since you says so. But Ah sho hopes de Almighty knows he's no dragon too!"
In the silence round his own table, Bond suddenly heard a distant croupier intone: 'Neuf. Le rouge gagne, impair et manque.'
'That's just what I would have chosen for dinner. How thoughtful of you, Tiger.'
Vallance didn't answer. Instead he pressed a switch on the big intercom on his desk.