Vaporized by the sun! Wasn't that what the universe had in store for all of us? There would come a day when the sun exploded like a red balloon, and everyone on earth would be reduced in less than a camera flash to carbon. Didn't Genesis say as much?. This was far more than dull old theology: It was precise scientific observation! Carbon was the Great Leveler--the Grim Reaper. Diamonds were nothing more than carbon, but carbon in a crystal lattice that made it the hardest known mineral in nature. That was the way we all were headed. I was sure of it. We were destined to be diamonds!
But what he said was true enough: I had recently destroyed a perfectly good set of wire braces by straightening them to pick a lock. Father had grumbled, of course, but had made another appointment to have me netted and dragged back up to London, to that third-floor ironmonger's shop in Farringdon Street, where I would be strapped to a board like Boris Karloff as various bits of ironmongery were shoved into my mouth, screwed in, and bolted to my gums.
Not to be too dramatic about it, that night I slept the sleep of the damned. I dreamt of turrets and craggy ledges where the windswept rain blew in from the ocean with the odor of violets. A pale woman in Elizabethan dress stood beside my bed and whispered in my ear that the bells would ring. An old salt in an oilcloth jacket sat atop a piling, mending nets with an awl, while far out at sea a tine aeroplane winged its way towards the setting sun.
What intrigued me more than anything else was finding out the way in which everything, all of creation - all of it! - was held together by invisible chemical bonds, and I found a strange, inexplicable comfort in knowing that somewhere, even though we couldn't see it in our own world, there was a real stability.