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Chapter 3 Mankind at the Cross Roads

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'What's that?' asked Mathis. 'The doctor said the cuts looked like a square M with a tail to the top. He said they didn't mean anything.'

What would I have given, to have been sent to the hardest school that ever was kept! - to have been taught something, anyhow, anywhere! No such hope dawned upon me. They disliked me; and they sullenly, sternly, steadily, overlooked me. I think Mr. Murdstone's means were straitened at about this time; but it is little to the purpose. He could not bear me; and in putting me from him he tried, as I believe, to put away the notion that I had any claim upon him - and succeeded. Between him and his brother, David figured, it should take only two hours before eight hundredpounds of proof was flopping at his feet.

But he set up no monopoly of the general attention, or the conversation. When little Em'ly grew more courageous, and talked (but still bashfully) across the fire to me, of our old wanderings upon the beach, to pick up shells and pebbles; and when I asked her if she recollected how I used to be devoted to her; and when we both laughed and reddened, casting these looks back on the pleasant old times, so unreal to look at now; he was silent and attentive, and observed us thoughtfully. She sat, at this time, and all the evening, on the old locker in her old little corner by the fire - Ham beside her, where I used to sit. I could not satisfy myself whether it was in her own little tormenting way, or in a maidenly reserve before us, that she kept quite close to the wall, and away from him; but I observed that she did so, all the evening.

I was careful to keep these thoughts from my aunt, though 1 suspect that she was just as startled and perhaps shocked by the gloss that my "finishing" in Europe had achieved. She must have found me very much the town mouse, however gangling and simple I might feel inside, and she plied me with questions to discover how the gloss went, how much I had been sullied by the fast life I must have led. She would have fainted at the truth, and I was careful to say that, while there had been flirtations, I had returned unharmed and heart-whole from the scarlet cities across the water. No, there had not even been a temporary engagement. No lord, not even a commoner, I could truthfully say, had proposed to me, and I had left no boy-friend behind. I don't think she believed this. She was complimentary about my looks. I had become "une belle fille." It seemed that I had developed "beaucoup de tempйrament"-a French euphemism for "sex appeal"-or at any rate the appearance of it, and it seemed incredible to her that at twenty-three there was no man in my life. She was horrified at my plans and painted a doomful picture of the dangers that awaited me on the road. America was full of gangsters. I would be knocked down on the highway and "ravagйe." Anyway it was unladylike to travel on a scooter. She hoped that I would be careful to ride sidesaddle. I explained that my Vespa was a most respectable machine and, when I went to Montreal and, thrilling with every mile, rode it back to the house, in my full regalia, she was slightly mollified, while commenting dubiously that I would "faire sensation."

Bond shrugged his shoulders. The grey-blue eyes that looked into Mr Du Font's eyes, which had turned hard and watchful despite his embarrassment, held a mixture of candour, irony and self-deprecation. 'I used to dabble in that kind of thing. Hangover from the.war. One still thought it was fun playing Red Indians. But there's no future in it in peacetime.'