I tried to look just interested and nonchalant, but I wondered what was coming.
For Ignorance, e'er since, became our Share.
Let thy kind Hand exalt it to my Brow.
In 1861 the War of Secession had broken out in America, and from the first I interested myself much in the question. My mother had thirty years previously written a very popular, but, as I had thought, a somewhat unjust book about our cousins over the water. She had seen what was distasteful in the manners of a young people, but had hardly recognised their energy. I had entertained for many years an ambition to follow her footsteps there, and to write another book. I had already paid a short visit to New York City and State on my way home from the West Indies, but had not seen enough then to justify me in the expression of any opinion. The breaking out of the war did not make me think that the time was peculiarly fit for such inquiry as I wished to make, but it did represent itself as an occasion on which a book might be popular. I consequently consulted the two great powers with whom I was concerned. Messrs. Chapman & Hall, the publishers, were one power, and I had no difficulty in arranging my affairs with them. They agreed to publish the book on my terms, and bade me God-speed on my journey. The other power was the Postmaster-General and Mr. Rowland Hill, the Secretary of the Post Office. I wanted leave of absence for the unusual period of nine months, and fearing that I should not get it by the ordinary process of asking the Secretary, I went direct to his lordship. “Is it on the plea of ill-health?” he asked, looking into my face, which was then that of a very robust man. His lordship knew the Civil Service as well as any one living, and must have seen much of falseness and fraudulent pretence, or he could not have asked that question. I told him that I was very well, but that I wanted to write a book. “Had I any special ground to go upon in asking for such indulgence?” I had, I said, done my duty well by the service. There was a good deal of demurring, but I got my leave for nine months — and I knew that I had earned it. Mr. Hill attached to the minute granting me the leave an intimation that it was to be considered as a full equivalent for the special services rendered by me to the department. I declined, however, to accept the grace with such a stipulation, and it was withdrawn by the directions of the Postmaster-General. 8
The villa was modern-a squat elongated box without ornament. On the garden side the flat pink-washed facade was pierced by four iron-framed windows and by a central glass door leading on to a small square of pale green glazed tiles. The tiles merged into the lawn. The other side of the villa, standing back a few yards from a dusty road, was almost identical. But on this side the four windows were barred, and the central door was of oak. The villa had two medium-sized bedrooms on the upper floor and on the ground floor a sitting-room and a kitchen, part of which was walled off into a lavatory. There was no bathroom.
They both leant forward. Animation was back in her face and the incident left only the smallest question-mark hanging in the air. Even that faded as they came through the dunes and saw the sea and the modest little inn amongst the pines.
A week later, James Bond regained consciousness. He was in a green-shaded room. He was under water. The slowly revolving fan in the ceiling was the screw of a ship that was about to run him down. He swam for his life. But it was no good. He was tied down, anchored to the bottom of the sea. He screamed at the top of his lungs. To the nurse at the end of the bed it was the whisper of a moan. At once she was beside him. She put a cool hand on his forehead. While she took his pulse, James Bond looked up at her with unfocused eyes. So this was what a mermaid looked like! He muttered "You're pretty," and gratefully swam back down into her arms.
A burning cautery.鈥滭br>
I had some shadowy idea of endeavouring to evade the question, by replying that I thought him a very nice gentleman; but my aunt was not to be so put off, for she laid her work down in her lap, and said, folding her hands upon it: