"Thank you very much." He turned his back on Sluggsy and sauntered over to the counter and hoisted himself onto a stool, putting his case on the next one.
On the very first evening after our arrival, Mr. Barkis appeared in an exceedingly vacant and awkward condition, and with a bundle of oranges tied up in a handkerchief. As he made no allusion of any kind to this property, he was supposed to have left it behind him by accident when he went away; until Ham, running after him to restore it, came back with the information that it was intended for Peggotty. After that occasion he appeared every evening at exactly the same hour, and always with a little bundle, to which he never alluded, and which he regularly put behind the door and left there. These offerings of affection were of a most various and eccentric description. Among them I remember a double set of pigs' trotters, a huge pin-cushion, half a bushel or so of apples, a pair of jet earrings, some Spanish onions, a box of dominoes, a canary bird and cage, and a leg of pickled pork.
"I'll give you a countdown from five. Now! Five, four, three, two, one. Fire!"
Now came a stretch of reconstruction work where there had been a landslide. There were big warning notices: 'Achtung! Baustelle! Vorsichtig Fahren!' The broken road hugged the mountain-side on the right. On the left was rickety fencing and then a precipice falling hundreds of feet down into a gorge with an ice-floed river. In the middle of the bad stretch, a huge red wooden arrow pointed right to a narrow track across a temporary bridge. Bond suddenly shouted 'Stop!'
His visit to the Ministry of Supply had added nothing to his knowledge of the case. He had studied Tallon's record and his reports. The former was quite straightforward-a lifetime in Army Intelligence and Field Security-and the latter painted a picture of a very lively and well-managed technical establishment-one or two cases of drunkenness, one of petty theft, several personal vendettas leading to fights and mild bloodshed but otherwise a loyal and hardworking team of men.
Sluggsy looked me over greedily. He said, "Not much, that is. Eh, bimbo?" and walked over to the key rack behind the desk and took down all the keys and let himself out through the back entrance. I put down the chair and, as coolly as I knew how, but painfully aware of my toreador pants, walked across the room and went behind the counter.
All I know is that the enterprise was cut short, almost before it had begun, by the need to concentrate all human energy upon a purely terrestrial problem. For at this time the surface of the planet began to suffer from immense upheavals and subsidences, buckling and cracking like the skin of a roasting apple. Prodigious volcanic eruptions calcined whole countries. The seas poured torrentially into new depressions, drowning the populations; or retreated from newly upheaved continents; or was sucked down, in gigantic maelstroms through fissures in the ocean bed, to issue again with explosive and devastating effect as spouts of superheated water and steam, tearing apart the solid crust of the earth, boiling the cities, and soaring to the stratosphere. Whether this disastrous activity was due to the accumulation of radioactivity in the planet’s core or merely to the cooling and shrinking of the core, and the consequent collapse of the crust, or to some occult cause, I do not know.