The woman didn't smile. She said severely, "You're lucky. You Wouldn't be getting as much on Starvation. And you may have soup every day at midday and two cups of tea at four o'clock.''
Bond gave her a bitter smile. He took the horrible mug over to one of the little café tables near the windows overlooking the dark lawn and sat down and sipped the thin soup while he watched some of his fellow inmates meandering aimlessly, weakly, through the room. Now he felt a grain of sympathy for the wretches. Now he was a member of their club. Now he had been initiated. He drank the soup down to the last neat cube of carrot and walked abstractedly off to his room, thinking of Count Lippe, thinking of sleep, but above all thinking of his empty stomach.
After two days of this, Bond felt terrible. He had a permanent slight nagging headache, the whites of his eyes had turned rather yellow, and his tongue was deeply furred. His masseur told him not to worry. This was as it should be. These were the poisons leaving his body. Bond, now a permanent prey to lassitude, didn't argue. Nothing seemed to matter any more but the single orange and hot water for breakfast, the mugs of hot soup, and the cups of tea which Bond filled with spoonfuls of brown sugar, the only variety that had Mr. Wain's sanction.
On the third day, after the massage and the shock of the sitz baths, Bond had on his program “Osteopathic Manipulation and Traction.'' He was directed to a new section of the basement, withdrawn and silent. When he opened the designated door he expected to find some hairy H-man waiting for him with flexed muscles. (H-man, he had discovered, stood for Health-man. It was the smart thing to call oneself if you were a naturopath.) He stopped in his tracks. The girl, Patricia something, whom he had not set eyes on since his first day, stood waiting for him beside the couch. He closed the door behind him and said, ”Good lord. Is this what you do?''
She was used to this reaction of the men patients and rather touchy about it. She didn't smile. She said in a business-like voice, "Nearly ten per cent of osteopaths are women. Take off your clothes, please. Everything except your shorts.'' When Bond had amusedly obeyed she told him to stand in front of her. She walked round him, examining him with eyes in which there was nothing but professional interest. Without commenting on his scars she told him to lie face downward on the couch and, with strong, precise, and thoroughly practiced holds, went through the handling and joint-cracking of her profession.
Bond soon realized that she was an extremely powerful girl. His muscled body, admittedly unresistant, seemed to be easy going for her. Bond felt a kind of resentment at the neutrality of this relationship between an attractive girl and a half-naked man. At the end of the treatment she told him to stand up and clasp his hands behind her neck. Her eyes, a few inches away from his, held nothing but professional concentration. She hauled strongly away from him, presumably with the object of freeing his vertebrae. This was too much for Bond. At the end of it, when she told him to release his hands, he did nothing of the sort. He tightened them, pulled her head sharply toward him, and kissed her full on the lips. She ducked quickly down through his arms and straightened herself, her cheeks red and her eyes shining with anger. Bond smiled at her, knowing that he had never missed a slap in the face, and a hard one at that, by so little. He said, "It's all very well, but I just had to do it. You shouldn't have a mouth like that if you're going to be an osteopath.''
The anger in her eyes subsided a fraction. She said, "The last time that happened, the man had to leave by the next train.''
Bond laughed. He made a threatening move toward her. "If I thought there was any hope of being kicked out of this damn place I'd kiss you again.''
She said, “Don't be silly. Now pick up your things. You've got half an hour's traction.'' She smiled grimly. ”That ought to keep you quiet.''
Bond said morosely, "Oh, all right. But only on condition you let me take you out on your next day off.''
“We'll see about that. It depends how you behave at the next treatment.'' She held open the door. Bond picked up his clothes and went out, almost colliding with a man coming down the passage. It was Count Lippe, in slacks and a gay windcheater. He ignored Bond. With a smile and a slight bow he said to the girl, ”Here comes the lamb to the slaughter. I hope you're not feeling too strong today.'' His eyes twinkled charmingly.
The girl said briskly, "Just get ready, please. I shan't be a moment putting Mr. Bond on the traction table.'' She moved off down the passage with Bond following.
She opened the door of a small anteroom, told Bond to put his things down on a chair, and pulled aside plastic curtains that formed a partition. Just inside the curtains was an odd-looking kind of surgical couch in leather and gleaming aluminum. Bond didn't like the look of it at all. While the girl fiddled with a series of straps attached to three upholstered sections that appeared to be on runners, Bond examined the contraption suspiciously. Below the couch was a stout electric motor on which a plate announced that this was the Hercules Motorized Traction Table. A power drive in the shape of articulated rods stretched upward from the motor to each of the three cushioned sections of the couch and terminated in tension screws to which the three sets of straps were attached. In front of the raised portion where the patient's head would lie, and approximately level with his face, was a large dial marked in lbs.-pressure up to 200. After 150 lbs. the numerals were in red. Below the headrest were grips for the patient's hands. Bond noted gloomily that the leather on the grips was stained with, presumably, sweat.
“Lie face downward here, please.'' The girl held the straps ready. Bond said obstinately, ”Not until you tell me what this thing does. I don't like the look of it.''
The girl said patiently, "This is simply a machine for stretching your spine. You've got mild spinal lesions. It will help to free those. And at the base of your spine you've got some right sacroiliac strain. It'll help that too. You won't find it bad at all. Just a stretching sensation. It's very soothing, really. Quite a lot of patients fall asleep.''