Miss Moneypenny gave a secret smile. “You know he thinks the world of you---or perhaps you don't. Anyway, as soon as he saw your Medical he told me to book you in.'' Miss Moneypenny screwed up her nose. ”But, James, do you really drink and smoke as much as that? It can't be good for you, you know.'' She looked up at him with motherly eyes.

Bond controlled himself. He summoned a desperate effort at nonchalance, at the throw-away phrase. "It's just that I'd rather die of drink than of thirst. As for the cigarettes, it's really only that I don't know what to do with my hands.'' He heard the stale, hangover words fall like clinker in a dead grate. Cut out the schmaltz! What you need is a double brandy and soda.

Miss Moneypenny's warm lips pursed into a disapproving line. "About the hands---that's not what I've heard.''

“Now don't you start on me, Penny.'' Bond walked angrily toward the door. He turned round. ”Any more ticking-off from you and when I get out of this place I'll give you such a spanking you'll have to do your typing off a block of Dunlopillo.''

Miss Moneypenny smiled sweetly at him. "I don't think you'll be able to do much spanking after living on nuts and lemon juice for two weeks, James.''

Bond made a noise between a grunt and a snarl and stormed out of the room.

2.

Shrublands

James Bond slung his suitcase into the back of the old chocolate-brown Austin taxi and climbed into the front seat beside the foxy, pimpled young man in the black leather windcheater. The young man took a comb out of his breast pocket, ran it carefully through both sides of his duck-tail haircut, put the comb back in his pocket, then leaned forward and pressed the self-starter. The play with the comb, Bond guessed, was to assert to Bond that the driver was really only taking him and his money as a favor. It was typical of the cheap self-assertiveness of young labor since the war. This youth, thought Bond, makes about twenty pounds a week, despises his parents, and would like to be Tommy Steele. It's not his fault. He was born into the buyers' market of the Welfare State and into the age of atomic bombs and space flight. For him, life is easy and meaningless. Bond said, "How far is it to Shrublands?''

The young man did an expert but unnecessary racing change round an island and changed up again. " 'Bout half an hour.'' He put his foot down on the accelerator and neatly but rather dangerously overtook a lorry at an intersection.

"You certainly get the most out of your Bluebird.''

The young man glanced sideways to see if he was being laughed at. He decided that he wasn't. He unbent fractionally. "My dad won't spring me something better. Says this old crate was okay for him for twenty years so it's got to be okay for me for another twenty. So I'm putting money by on my own. Halfway there already.''

Bond decided that the comb play had made him over-censorious. He said, "What are you going to get?''

"Volkswagen Minibus. Do the Brighton races.''

"That sounds a good idea. Plenty of money in Brighton.''

“I'll say.'' The young man showed a trace of enthusiasm. ”Only time I ever got there, a couple of bookies had me take them and a couple of tarts to London. Ten quid and a fiver tip. Piece of cake.''

"Certainly was. But you can get both kinds at Brighton. You want to watch out for being mugged and rolled. There are some tough gangs operating out of Brighton. What's happened to The Bucket of Blood these days?''

“Never opened up again after that case they had. The one that got in all the papers.'' The young man realized that he was talking as if to an equal. He glanced sideways and looked Bond up and down with a new interest. ”You going into the Scrubs or just visiting?''

"Scrubs?''

“Shrublands---Wormwood Scrubs---Scrubs,'' said the young man laconically. ”You're not like the usual ones I get to take there. Mostly fat women and old geezers who tell me not to drive so fast or it'll shake up their sciatica or something.''

Bond laughed. "I've got fourteen days without the option. Doctor thinks it'll do me good. Got to take it easy. What do they think of the place round here?''

The young man took the turning off the Brighton road and drove westward under the Downs through Poynings and Fulking. The Austin whined stolidly through the inoffensive countryside. “People think they're a lot of crackpots. Don't care for the place. All those rich folk and they don't spend any money in the area. Tearooms make a bit out of them---specially out of the cheats.'' He looked at Bond. ”You'd be surprised. Grown people, some of them pretty big shots in the City and so forth, and they motor around in their Bentleys with their bellies empty and they see a tea shop and go in just for their cups of tea. That's all they're allowed. Next thing, they see some guy eating buttered toast and sugar cakes at the next table and they can't stand it. They order mounds of the stuff and hog it down just like kids who've broken into the larder---looking round all the time to see if they've been spotted. You'd think people like that would be ashamed of themselves.''

"Seems a bit silly when they're paying plenty to take the cure or whatever it is.''

“And that's another thing.'' The young man's voice was indignant. ”I can understand charging twenty quid a week and giving you three square meals a day, but how do they get away with charging twenty quid for giving you nothing but hot water to eat? Doesn't make sense.'' "I suppose there are the treatments. And it must be worth it to the people if they get well.''

“Guess so,'' said the young man doubtfully. ”Some of them do look a bit different when I come to take them back to the station.'' He sniggered. “And some of them change into real old goats after a week of nuts and so forth. Guess I might try it myself one day.'' ”What do you mean?''

The young man glanced at Bond. Reassured and remembering Bond's worldly comments on Brighton, he said, “Well, you see we got a girl here in Washington. Racy bird. Sort of local tart, if you see what I mean. Waitress at a place called The Honey Bee Tea Shop--- or was, rather. She started most of us off, if you get my meaning. Quid a go and she knows a lot of French tricks. Regular sport. Well, this year the word got round up at the Scrubs and some of these old goats began patronizing Polly---Polly Grace, that's her name. Took her out in their Bentleys and gave her a roll in a deserted quarry up on the Downs. That's been her pitch for years. Trouble was they paid her five, ten quid and she soon got too good for the likes of us. Priced her out of our market, so to speak. Inflation, sort of. And a month ago she chucked up her job at The Honey Bee, and you know what?'' The young man's voice was loud with indignation. ”She bought herself a beat-up Austin Metropolitan for a couple of hundred quid and went mobile. Just like the London tarts in Curzon Street they talk about in the papers. Now she's off to Brighton, Lewes---anywhere she can find the sports, and in between whiles she goes to work in the quarry with these old goats from the Scrubs! Would you believe it!'' The young man gave an angry blast on his klaxon at an inoffensive couple on a tandem bicycle.

Bond said seriously, "That's too bad. I wouldn't have thought these people would be interested in that sort of thing on nut cutlets and dandelion wine or whatever they get to eat at this place.''

The young man snorted. “That's all you know. I mean''---he felt he had been too emphatic---”that's what we all thought. One of my pals, he's the son of the local doctor, talked the thing over with his dad--- in a roundabout way, sort of. And his dad said no. He said that this sort of diet and no drink and plenty of rest, what with the massage and the hot and cold sitz baths and what have you, he said that all clears the blood stream and tones up the system, if you get my meaning. Wakes the old goats up---makes 'em want to start cutting the mustard again, if you know the song by that Rosemary Clooney.''

Bond laughed. He said, "Well, well. Perhaps there's something to the place after all.''

A sign on the right of the road said: " Shrublands. Gateway to Health. First right. Silence please. '' The road ran through a wide belt of firs and evergreens in a fold of the Downs. A high wall appeared and then an imposing, mock-battlemented entrance with a Victorian lodge from which a thin wisp of smoke rose straight up among the quiet trees. The young man turned in and followed a gravel sweep between thick laurel bushes. An elderly couple cringed off the drive at a blare from his klaxon and then on the right there were broad stretches of lawn and neatly flowered borders and a sprinkling of slowly moving figures, alone and in pairs, and behind them a redbrick Victorian monstrosity from which a long glass sun parlor extended to the edge of the grass.

The young man pulled up beneath a heavy portico with a crenelated roof. Beside a varnished, iron-studded arched door stood a tall glazed urn above which a notice said: “ No smoking inside. Cigarettes here please. '' Bond got down from the taxi and pulled his suitcase out of the back. He gave the young man a ten-shilling tip. The young man accepted it as no less than his due. He said, ”Thanks. You ever want to break out, you can call me up. Polly's not the only one. And there's a tea shop on the Brighton road has buttered muffins. So long.'' He banged the gears into bottom and ground off back the way he had come. Bond picked up his suitcase and walked resignedly up the steps and through the heavy door.

Inside it was very warm and quiet. At the reception desk in the big oak-paneled hall a severely pretty girl in starched white welcomed him briskly. When he had signed the register she led him through a series of somberly furnished public rooms and down a neutral-smelling white corridor to the back of the building. Here there was a communicating door with the annex, a long, low, cheaply built structure with rooms on both sides of a central passage. The doors bore the names of flowers and shrubs. She showed him into Myrtle, told him that “the Chief'' would see him in an hour's time, at six o'clock, and left him. It was a room-shaped room with furniture-shaped furniture and dainty curtains. The bed was provided with an electric blanket. There was a vase containing three marigolds beside the bed and a book called Nature Cure Explained by Alan Moyle, M.N.B.A. Bond opened it and ascertained that the initials stood for ”Member: British Naturopathic Association.'' He turned off the central heating and opened the windows wide. The herb garden, row upon row of small nameless plants round a central sundial, smiled up at him. Bond unpacked his things and sat down in the single armchair and read about eliminating the waste products from his body. He learned a great deal about foods he had never heard of, such as Potassium Broth, Nut Mince, and the mysteriously named Unmalted Slippery Elm. He had got as far as the chapter on massage and was reflecting on the injunction that this art should be divided into Effleurage, Stroking, Friction, Kneading, Petrissage, Tapotement, and Vibration, when the telephone rang. A girl's voice said that Mr. Wain would be glad to see him in Consulting Room A in five minutes.

Mr. Joshua Wain had a firm, dry handshake and a resonant, encouraging voice. He had a lot of bushy gray hair above an unlined brow, soft, clear brown eyes, and a sincere and Christian smile. He appeared to be genuinely pleased to see Bond and to be interested in him. He wore a very clean smocklike coat with short sleeves from which strong hairy arms hung relaxed. Below were rather incongruous pin-stripe trousers. He wore sandals over socks of conservative gray and when he moved across the consulting room his stride was a springy lope.




Line : 33

Most Popular

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2021