Two thirds of the whole child population was growing up not only practically without schooling or religious influences of any kind, but also indescribably brutal and immoral; living amid the filth of vilely overcrowded courts, unprovided with water supply or sanitary conveniences, existing always at the lowest level of physical health, and constantly decimated by disease; incessantly under temptation by the flaring gin palaces which alone relieve the monotony of the mean streets to which they were doomed; graduating almost inevitably into vice and crime amid the now incredible street life of an unpoliced metropolis.
Doc looked solemn for a moment, then he started to chuckle. "You are getting altogether too smart, Miss Sandra Lea Grayling," he said. "Yes, yes—a chess player is happy to win in any barely legitimate way he can, by an earthquake if necessary, or his opponent sickening before he does from the bubonic plague. So—I confess it to you—I was very happy to chalk up my utterly undeserved win over the luckless Machine."
O’er Chatsworth hill gleamed brightly down,
And Heaven in a wild flower,
The drone from Jodrell Bank began again: "Herrell McCray, Herrell McCray, Herrell McCray, this is Jodrell Bank responding—"
She had now reached the edge of the Black-moss, which lay half-way between her master’s and her father’s dwelling, when she heard a loud noise coming down Glen-Scrae, and in a few seconds she felt on her face some flakes of snow. She looked up the glen, and saw the snow-storm coming down, fast as a flood. She felt no fears; but she ceased her song; and had there been a human eye to look upon her there, it might have seen a shadow on her face. She continued her course, and felt bolder and bolder every step that brought her nearer to her parents’ house. But the snow-storm had now reached the Black-moss, and the broad line of light that had lain in the direction of her home was soon swallowed up, and the child was in utter darkness. She saw nothing but the flakes of snow, interminably intermingled, and furiously wafted in the air, close to her head; she heard nothing but one wild, fierce, fitful howl. The cold became intense, and her little feet and hands were fast being benumbed into insensibility.
"Your Excellency has a lucid way of putting things," Retief said.
Up country in India spring is a period of conflicting impressions. The sharp--sometimes almost too sharp--bite of the cold season has yielded to a warm and languorous atmosphere, perfumed powerfully with mango blossom; dew still beads the grass at dawn; English flowers luxuriate, impelled to rarer bloom and fragrance. There comes a sense of ease and peace, and scented calm, that would be blissful but for the lurking knowledge that the sun is only just withholding the full fierceness of his power--giving "quarter," as it were--till preparations are complete to resist the trials of the true hot weather. Fans and punkahs must be fixed and hung, mosquito curtains washed and mended, screens of sweet kus-kus root made ready for the doorways, supplies of captive quail and teal laid in to tempt the jaded palate, when all day long the hot west wind would scorch and shrivel everything outside the darkened houses, and the temperature might stand as high at midnight as at noon.
“Agreed,” replied the monarch.
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