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"Oh, no. Of course not. It's thrilling. These SPECTRE people. Haven't I read about them somewhere? In the papers?"

It was the girl. She stood and waited for him to come up to her.And I will say also that in this novel there is no very weak part — no long succession of dull pages. The production of novels in serial form forces upon the author the conviction that he should not allow himself to be tedious in any single part. I hope no reader will misunderstand me. In spite of that conviction, the writer of stories in parts will often be tedious. That I have been so myself is a fault that will lie heavy on my tombstone. But the writer when he embarks in such a business should feel that he cannot afford to have many pages skipped out of the few which are to meet the reader’s eye at the same time. Who can imagine the first half of the first volume of Waverley coming out in shilling numbers? I had realised this when I was writing Framley Parsonage; and working on the conviction which had thus come home to me, I fell into no bathos of dulness. Mr. Spiker was so interested, that he became quite stony. 鈥楤atala, Aug. 9, 1888.鈥擜s our Dr. Miss Sahiba, Minnie, is away, I have now and then to try my 鈥榩rentice hand a little, but in a very[442] humble, cautious way. I have nothing to do with making pills, but have invested in big bottles of castor-oil and turpentine. I have quinine, of course, and ammonia in case of bites or stings. I don鈥檛 revel in physic, like Minnie; and dimness of sight and want of steadiness of hand do not serve to make me more fit to add Doctor to my name. What a blessing it is that some people actually like doctoring! I remember saying to my ... kind-hearted 鈥斺€? now a doctor, that operations must be trying. 鈥淚 like them,鈥 was his simple, truthful reply. Well鈥擝uckland liked playing with snails and snakes. De gustibus non disputandum!鈥 M. reached for the ashtray made out of a twelve-inch shell base and rapped out his pipe with the air of a man who has done a good afternoon's work.

For several decades the world remained divided between the Empire and the Federation. More than once in this period the Empire made ready to crush the Federation; but, as zero hour approached, unrest within the Empire itself strangely increased to such a pitch that at the critical moment serious rebellions, generally in Britain or America or China itself, made attack impossible. Throughout these decades the government of the Federation concentrated on defence and social development. For defence it relied partly on its mountains, but mainly on a great air force, built at heavy cost of luxury and comfort. Economic resources were meagre. A modest supply of oil was still produced in the western territory of the Federation. Water-power was developed to the utmost. Gold was assiduously sifted from the river-beds and mined in the mountains for the purchase of urgently needed foreign goods. Agriculture and pasture were the main occupations throughout the territory, apart from the manufacture of munitions and planes. The manner of life of the Free Peoples had perforce to be very simple, but it was adequate to health and fullness of mentality, and the standard was the same for all.

Inattentively he skimmed through the remaining pages, ticked himself off the distribution slip, and threw the docket into his out-tray.