"A holy calm pervaded the back parlour of the Cafe de Travail. The smoke from five pipes, full of the vilest tobacco, hung in clouds about the ceiling. Round a table sat five gentlemen fingering five glasses, each of which contained a second or third edition of its owner's particular beverage. No one spoke. They had eaten too well for words. A vista of unlimited drinks at somebody else's expense opened itself out before the dazed eyes of at least three of the company. For the rest, even the most abominable shag will keep five, and fifty times five, men quiet"
Want more? No, I didn't think you would do and, in truth, neither did I as I settled down to read "I Will Repay : A Tale Of The Anarchist Terror" by Charles Benham last night. I had found the tale in an old 1900 edition of the New Penny Magazine, a bound volume of which I had bought at a local junk shop for a fiver. As far as I can discover, the story of foul deeds amongst a cell of Paris Anarchists has never seen light of day in any other format, so I approached the task in the style of a Howard Carter prizing open the tomb of Tutankhamun, not knowing what I might find but sure in the knowledge that it had not been seen by mankind for an awfully long time. Alas, my discovery was hardly noteworthy : think of Carter discovering a pile of old pop bottles and a rusted shopping trolley, and you will know how I felt.
I had been driven to my literary excavations by another example of making snap decisions based on a brief sample of the wears on offer. We had settled down to watch the first episode of a new drama series based on the exploits of nurses during the First World War called "The Crimson Field". Within five minutes of the thing starting, and following the bit where a young, pretty and cardboard-aristocrat drops her wedding ring into the strangely smooth waters of the English Channel, the Good Lady Wife and I exchanged glances which said "want more?" and came to the same, negative, conclusion.