'Ha!' said my aunt, knitting her brows thoughtfully, and glancing at Agnes. 'And what's become of him?'
A curious equality of friendship, originating, I suppose, in our respective circumstances, sprung up between me and these people, notwithstanding the ludicrous disparity in our years. But I never allowed myself to be prevailed upon to accept any invitation to eat and drink with them out of their stock (knowing that they got on badly with the butcher and baker, and had often not too much for themselves), until Mrs. Micawber took me into her entire confidence. This she did one evening as follows:
O! can I refuse my Hero? Can I refuse my Lover? Can I refuse my dear Chevalier? Indeed, I cannot! No, no, I cannot! I will not! The Temptation is too great to be resisted by frail Mortality.
"I know," commented Bond sourly. "Free luncheon vouchers every second Friday. Key to M.'s personal lavatory. New suit to replace the one that's somehow got full of holes." But he kept his eyes fixed on the flitting fingers, infected by Mary Goodnight's excitement. What in hell was she getting so steamed up about? And all on his behalf! He examined her with approval. Perched there, immaculate in her white tussore shirt and tight beige skirt, one neat foot curled round the other in concentration, the golden face under the shortish fair hair incandescent with pleasure, she was, thought Bond, a girl to have around always. As a secretary? As what? Mary Goodnight turned, her eyes shining, and the question went, as it had gone for weeks, without an answer.
At the turn of the century, when things were going badly for the little seaside town and when the fashion was to combine pleasure with a 'cure', a natural spring in the hills behind Royale was discovered to contain enough diluted sulphur to have a beneficent effect on the liver. Since all French people suffer from liver complaints, Royale quickly became 'Royale-les-Eaux', and 'Eau Royale', in a torpedo-shaped bottle, grafted itself demurely on to the tail of the mineral-water lists in hotels and restaurant cars.
The plane sang steadily on above the endless sea of whipped-cream clouds that looked solid enough to land on if the engines failed. The clouds broke up and a distant blue haze, far away to their left, was Paris. For an hour they flew high over the burned-up fields of France until, after Dijon, the land turned from a pale to a darker green as it sloped up into the Juras.