Bond looked once and then turned away towards the open porthole.
All the lights were on in the plane. There seemed to be plenty of spare places. Why did he have to get stuck with a passenger whose arm was hogging the central arm-rest. Bond made to get up and change his seat. A wave of nausea swept over him. He closed his eyes and waited. How extraordinary! He was never air-sick. He felt the cold sweat on his face. Handkerchief. Wipe it off. He opened his eyes again and looked down at his arms. The wrists were bound to the arms of his chair. What had happened? He had had his shot and then passed out or something. Had he got violent? What the hell was all this about? He glanced to his right and then stared, aghast. Oddjob was sitting there. Oddjob! Odd job in BO AC uniform!
'My God, Mary, this is a hell of a way to spend your Christmas! This is far beyond the line of duty. Anyway, get in the back and tell me why you're not stirring the plum pudding or going to church or something.'
But though on the ground the frontier was inviolate, the virus provided no defence against attack by air. The Tibetans had a small but brilliant air force. It had been assumed that in any attack by one of the two empires the other would be eager to check aggression by its rival. In such circumstances such an air force as Tibet possessed might prove invaluable. But against the combined air forces of Russia and China, it must surely (thought the leaders of those empires) prove impotent. This calculation omitted the spiritual factor. Not only had the Tibetan airmen been trained to the highest technical proficiency. They were also, one and all, conscious servants of the light. Boys though they were, and therefore as yet incapable of the deeper spiritual insight, they had been brought up to experience without perversion the fundamental values for which Tibet was standing. Full well they knew that the Tibetan community was the one sane and joyful community in a crazy world, and indeed the first terrestrial society to be consciously planned for the full expression of the spirit. They also knew that if they allowed Tibet to be conquered they would doom the human race to servitude under the will for darkness. They knew that henceforth all human loveliness would wither and vanish. And they were convinced that for themselves fulfilment must lie in perfect service in the air. With a calm and absolute courage more formidable than any fanaticism these young men soared against the invading bombers, and brought them down in thousands.
'Me!' cried Mrs. Markleham.
'Personally, he does not object, sir,' said I.
I do not hesitate to name Thackeray the first. His knowledge of human nature was supreme, and his characters stand out as human beings, with a force and a truth which has not, I think, been within the reach of any other English novelist in any period. I know no character in fiction, unless it be Don Quixote, with whom the reader becomes so intimately acquainted as with Colonel Newcombe. How great a thing it is to be a gentleman at all parts! How we admire the man of whom so much may be said with truth! Is there any one of whom we feel more sure in this respect than of Colonel Newcombe? It is not because Colonel Newcombe is a perfect gentleman that we think Thackeray’s work to have been so excellent, but because he has had the power to describe him as such, and to force us to love him, a weak and silly old man, on account of this grace of character. It is evident from all Thackeray’s best work that he lived with the characters he was creating. He had always a story to tell until quite late in life; and he shows us that this was so, not by the interest which be had in his own plots — for I doubt whether his plots did occupy much of his mind — but by convincing us that his characters were alive to himself. With Becky Sharpe, with Lady Castlewood and her daughter, and with Esmond, with Warrington, Pendennis, and the Major, with Colonel Newcombe, and with Barry Lynon, he must have lived in perpetual intercourse. Therefore he has made these personages real to us.
'The practical difficulties are bound to do so. I have swallowed the moral principles involved. Things being as they are, I have to accept that the end justifies the means.'
The nurse wrote ninety-five on his sheet and telephoned down to the ward sister. She looked in the dim mirror and tidied her hair in preparation for the R.M.O. in charge of this apparently Very Important Patient.