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This first sentence of the short story to me is mesmerising in a way that is typical for Fleming’s writing: It instantly involves the reader, exuberates knowledge and expertise (in this case with regard to zoology) and opens up an exotic, promising world that can be used as a setting for the story which is to follow, laying the foundation for a sharp contrast between the beauty of nature on the one hand and the brutality of human life on the other hand.The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird.
Fleming then uses the motif of the lawnmower to shift the scene of the action from Jamaica to London—another fine example of his literary mastery. With the same motif, Fleming also creates another sharp contrast between insignificant every-day problems and the brutal events on the veranda. At the same time, the subject of decay and transitoriness comes up again:Up on the broad veranda of Content the last rays of the sun glittered on the red stains. One of the doctor birds whirred over the balustrade and hovered close above Mrs Havelock’s heart, looking down. No, this was not for him. He flirted gaily off to his roosting-perch among the closing hibiscus.
M, who knew the Havelocks, has summoned Bond and presents this very personal case to him. The two men reflect on what would be the right thing to do, and for the first time Bond feels sorry for M because of the difficult situation he finds himself in—the situation of a judge ruling on a case he is personally involved in. Finally, M orders Bond to kill the man who pulled the strings behind the murder of the Havelocks, an ex-Gestapo man called von Hammerstein. M hands over to Bond a grey file with red letters on it which read: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY ...There came the sound of someone in a small sports car making a racing change at the bend of the drive. If Mrs Havelock had been alive she would have been getting ready to say: ›Judy, I’m always telling you not to do that on the corner. It scatters gravel all over the lawn and you know how it ruins Joshua’s lawnmower.‹
It was a month later. In London, October had begun with a week of brilliant Indian summer, and the noise of the mowers came up from Regent’s Park and in through the wide open windows of M’s office. They were motor-mowers and James Bond reflected that one of the most beautiful noises of summer, the drowsy iron song of the old machines, was going for ever from the world. Perhaps today children felt the same about the puff and chatter of the little two-stroke engines. At least the cut grass would smell the same.
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