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The gradual failure of agriculture was of course a very slow process. Ordinary citizens of the empire did not notice it. True, there were great desert tracts in which the ruins of former farmsteads might be observed; but the slow-witted populace never dreamed that this was a symptom of an ever-spreading disaster. Only by comparing the present output with past records could the trouble be realized. But the records and the sacred proportions of agricultural production were known only to the ‘mystery’ of agriculture, in fact to the heads of the world agricultural system. These magnates knew vaguely that something was wrong; but since for sundry reasons it was unlikely that there would be trouble in their day, they held their tongues. The decline was in fact easily concealed, because, while supplies were dwindling, the population of the world was also rapidly decreasing.

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When the man had finished he put the pad in his pocket. 'Well, well! Pretty hot stuff. Wilco. My routine's at midnight. This' - he indicated the gold - 'can go to Berne for the bag. Anything else?'

“Lady Susan!” repeated Edmund, in a voice of disappointment. “She certainly never will, Frances,” he added, “for I shall never have the folly, or the presumption, to put it in her power to do so. You know I[46] have just explained to you that I can never marry—at least—But I may say never; for it would indeed be wildly romantic to hope that I ever shall be enabled, even to seek to do so, consistently with honour, and my own—wishes! the word is too inadequate. And were I, by the most unlooked-for circumstances, placed at liberty—am I to—to have—the vanity to—But you are leading me on to speak too much of myself, Frances; which is always, you know, a dangerous, as well as an unbecoming topic.” He ceased, and all three walked on for a time in silence. At length Julia said, in a low tone—For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years I seemed to watch the successful carrying out of this policy, the patient perfecting of the social organization, the amplification of human life, the slow but universal rise of intelligence, the proliferation of culture in a thousand novel directions. Throughout this long period the forwards played an unostentatious but valuable part. Their spiritual researches led to no striking discovery, but they formed mankind’s permanent outposts towards the super-human; and their influence in keeping the daily lives of ordinary men and women sweet, and in preventing the temper of the race from becoming merely mundane, was probably very great. Of course there were fluctuations in their integrity and in their usefulness, phases of corruption and regeneration, of stagnation and of significant change; periods too when their presence was barely tolerated or even actively resented, and others when their influence was very great. But on the whole throughout this age their part was never central and dominant, as it was later to become. Bond sat up as if he had been stung. 'What in God's name are you talking about, Tiger?' Bond's lips turned down. Cut it out. Stop being so damned morbid. All this is just reaction from a dirty assignment. You're stale, tired of having to be tough. You want a change. You've seen too much death. You want a slice of life - easy, soft, high.

"I'll say it is, Your Honour," said Felix Leiter fervently.

So I bent down and began and of course in a minute we were in each other's arms again under the shower and our bodies were slithery with water and soap and he turned the shower off and lifted me out of the shower cabinet and began to dry me lingeringly with the bath towel while I leaned back within his free arm and just let it happen. Then I took the towel and dried him, and then it was silly to wait any longer and he picked me up in his arms and carried me through into the bedroom and laid me down on the bed and I watched through half-closed lashes his pale shape as he went around drawing the curtains and locking up.

'She told me that she made a last request to me, and left me a last charge.'