MABEL’S BOTTOM

Written approximately 1977

Ah, come in. I was hoping you’d make it before eight o’clock, and here you are. Please do come in, it’s perishing out there. Mabel’s got the fire going, so go straight through to the drawing room. Oh sorry, yes of course! Take your hat and coat off first; that’s better, I’ll hang them up myself. Mabel’s busy in the scullery somewhere, but I’ll get her to bring some coffee up presently. Now then, in here to the drawing room; as you can see we’ve had it re-decorated since you last came – do you like the green? Jemmy chose that, and I thought she must have been colour blind or something when I first saw it. But I’ve grown quite used to it now, it’s not so bad really. Anyway take a seat, the fire’s going nicely and you’ll soon warm up. Quite a blizzard isn’t there? I was out in it most of this afternoon – I know, how about a brandy to help take the chill off? I’ve got a drop in the cabinet here and it’s damn’ fine stuff. There’s a couple of glasses too, I always keep ’em handy. It’s alright, don’t get up again, I can reach them from where I’m sitting. Had this thing specially built for the purpose, by a carpenter chap who lives in a village just out of town. He’s done a good job; I gave him an extra little something for those pretty daughters of his when I paid him … which reminds me, I must ring for Mabel and get her to strike up the coffee.

I had this In idea today old man; I thought how nice it would be to write a book … oh yes, I’ll tell you what I’ve got instead of brandy; a fair sized lump of hashish. Would you like to try some? Good. Best leave the drink then I suppose. Ah, you’d like some of that too – a man after my own heart entirely! Well, there’s the glasses and the decanter, perhaps you could make yourself useful with them whilst I organise this. At the back here I’ve got a little silver pipe that’s just the ticket … Yes. I had an idea earlier this evening about writing a book. I’m not really sure what to write about; but most books these days are so dreary, I’m convinced that I could do a little better. Do you have any ideas about writing books? Didn’t you have one published once – yes, but wasn’t it about mathematics? Not exactly what I had in mind … Now this pipe; the lid pops up like this and the bowl’s inside, d’you see? Lovely piece of workmanship; I found this in a bazaar in northern India. Did I ever tell you that I’d spent some time in India?

They smoke a lot of the stuff over there of course. Good to see some in England now and again; I met this oriental fellow down in the town today you see. We were both sheltering in the same shop doorway, from the snow. He came out with some eastern comment about the weather, and I knew from his turn of phrase that he’d spent a good deal of his life in the old char shops, smoking the hookah. So I managed to get the conversation round to the subject, and the long and the short of it was that he sold me some of his private supply. Quite cheap it was, too.

And that was what gave me the idea of writing a book; sheltering from the blizzard and so on. If I can sit here in the comfort of my own fireside every evening, well sheltered, then something nice may get itself down onto paper. If I could just write one short page each day, then by the end of a year or so I’d have a whole book written – and hardly notice the effort … Ah yes, the brandy, thank you so much. Mmm, that is warming. Now I’ll order up the coffee before we have another one, and meanwhile get this smoking pipe loaded. The pipe of peace; that’s what the red Indians smoke isn’t it? Hiawatha and all that. I wonder what he used to get up to on quiet evenings round the camp fire, eh … ?

I wouldn’t want to write a book in verse like ‘Hiawatha’ though. Too ponderous, too structured, don’t you agree? No, as a mathematician I suppose you wouldn’t. That’s always been my trouble though; too interested in the big wide scheme of things and missing out on the details. Do you know, Jemmy left that beautiful flowering plant on the sideboard a little while ago – that one over there; lovely isn’t it? Flowering at this time of the year, absolutely extraordinary. Such a vivid colours the flowers are; almost bright red, except that they’re pink. Well I never even noticed the damn’ thing, not for the first three days after she’d put it there. Didn’t even notice it! Had no practical function you see; nothing that I needed to use it for …

Well that’s the pipe ready; I’ll just strike up a match and … there we are. Goodness; excuse me … tends to make you cough at first … oh dear me … that’s a bit better. Inhale deeply – – and hold it down. Takes a bit of getting used to, but – – there you are, you have a go. Yes, lovely pipe isn’t it; don’t spend too long looking at it though, or it’ll go out on you. That’s right; now where was I?

This book, yes. I wouldn’t want to write it in verse myself; just a simple little story would do the trick. Those ‘Just So Stories’ are nearer the mark. Have you read them? They’re intended for children of course, but they’re stories just for the sake of telling stories, that’s what I find attractive … Ah, the pipe. Thank you very much – – yes, yes. It’s a good thing we don’t have too much of this stuff in England though – – I mean, you wouldn’t want English girls getting up to the sort of thing that some of the native women did when I was out there, would you? Good heavens! The stories I could tell – but hardly the kind of thing to publish in a book, what? Absolutely not – I dread to think what people over here would say. They’d soon stop their sweet-faced young innocent playing-fields-of- Eton boys going over there, and no mistake!

I suppose it’s just an under-developed sense of conscience though, that stops me from writing about that side of things – oh, has it gone out? Re-light it old man, plenty more – funny thing, conscience. I think it must be the female side of the mind. I always say Jemmy’s the voice of my conscience; she’s such a good and proper wife, fine mistress of the household and so forth. But really it’s Mabel, who has this knack: if she knows I want to do something, but I’m too dense or shy or lazy to get up and do it, she often manages to get me round to it after all. What she does is suggest that I do something else, something that sounds very nice (but usually turns out indifferent); but when I go to do it, on the way something mysteriously reminds me of what I really wanted to do in the first place. And it’s much easier by then, because the thing that reminds me is the room I would have done it in – and now I’m in it – or the thing that I’d lost and couldn’t be bothered to look for – and now I’ve found it whilst fetching something else. So I do it after all, and it turns out fine.

Jemmy has a similar technique, but she uses it for her own personal advantage. You must know the sort of thing; perhaps she’s asked me to wait for her outside the butcher’s, which just happens to be opposite the flower shop, and she just happens to be five minutes late …

It’s much the same with our conscience, don’t you think? If I’ve taken Jemmy down into town, for instance, shopping or something, when really and truly I didn’t want to go at all. I’ll have told myself that I do want to, just so’s I can keep her happy. But suddenly some little worry will crop up – did I leave the light on in the bathroom? – something like that. And that’s because what I really wanted to do was to stay at home. If I was to go and see to the bathroom light, I’d find I had switched it off after all; but I’d feel much better for making sure just the same … In fact, of course, I’d probably end up staying with jimmy in the town, and feeling miserable, and taking it out on her. That’s what comes of ignoring the voice of one’s conscience – if you see what I mean …

Ah, Mabel! Good, here’s the coffee. That’s wonderful, thank you my love. Now tell me, do you have any of those oat biscuits left, the ones you made for tea during the week? You have. Splendid! A few of those would go down a treat just now … Lovely thing, Mabel, isn’t she? I’m very glad I’ve got her; makes life so much more pleasant. Especially, to tell the truth, on these long weekends when Jemmy’s away at her mother’s. Wonderful girl, Mabel, and such a pretty bottom she has, don’t you think?

* * *

A nice drop of coffee this, isn’t it? Comes up from WestAfrica you know. Bring it on one of those clipper ships, like the Snutty Cark – no – Cunty Shark – dear me no – does odd things to the old bonce, doesn’t it, this mixture of brandy and hashish? Shall I reload the pipe whilst the coffee’s cooling down a trifle? That’s it, pass it over, thanks very much. There – the Cutty Sark, that’s what I was trying to say, all the way from West Africa … The pipe, yes, I’ll fill it up again; where’s the hashish gone? Here we are. This is how they used to do it in India, roast the stuff a little, douse it in a candle flame like so, and it crumbles up much easier. There we are. Pack it down gently with the forefinger, and Bob’s your uncle. Splendid. Ignite one Lucifer matchstick, like so, and – – puff away like so. Just the job – – for a cold winter evening.

Nice to be sitting by the fire, isn’t it – – here you are, over to you … Nice to be sitting by the fire. I find myself staring into it for ages sometimes, getting quite lost in it. Where it gets glowing, deep down inside; there must be whole little worlds going on down there … Has the pipe gone out on you again? Here, pass it over, I’ll give it a bit of a poke. Yes, that’ll re-light. Where’s the … ? Ah! … There we go. The Indians often smoke this stuff – – in little clay pipes called – – chillums you know – – here you are … They’re sort of tapered affairs, straight with a bowl at one end, like this, narrowing down into the neck here at the bottom. They generally use a piece of clothto cover over the mouthpiece, to cool the smoke down a bit and stop the lips from getting burnt. You drop a little stone or clay ball into the bowl before you stoke it up with hashish, to avoid burning lumps being sucked down the neck. When the chillum rag catches fire, that’s the hashish smoker’s nightmare!

There would be racks of chillums, along with more ornate smoking pipes and various other paraphernalia, on sale in the bazaars. Middle-aged English ladies used to enjoy walking round the bazaars on warmish afternoons; I’m sure they thought it was quaint. They always took an interest in the pipe stall, and the stall-holder always made out that the pipes were for smoking tobacco. It was a little game that would go on, with both parties almost sure that they knew what the other was up to. One afternoon I overheard one of these ladies asking what exactly all these chillums were for. ‘Ah lady, Indian cigar-holders, very good’ came the oriental reply. And he said it so plausibly, that was what struck me. Of course for those of us who knew very well what all the pipes were for, it was a fine joke.

I would sometimes smoke with the Indians, but more often a group of us would get together – people from the colonial service, and some of the younger army officers – and we’d get well loaded of an evening. It made port and cigars in the drawing room after dinner seem a little tame … Would you care for a cigar, by the way? There should be a box of them up here on the mantelpiece. Yes, here they are … Oh, those biscuits have arrived. I’ll leave the box on the table anyway, help yourself if you want one.

Mabel, you must be exhausted with so much rushing around this evening … Good heavens, what’s that God-awful racket? Is it those cats again, causing great destruction outside the back door? If ours can’t make friends with that old tim, you’ll have to heave a bucket of water over him or something; frighten him off. Jemmy will singe my whiskers from my face if they’ve knocked over any more of her plant pots. Cold you go and sort it out please Mabel? Thank you very much …

Yes yes yes. Getting back to the east; occasionally you would be lucky enough to come across some hashish with a thin white streak of opium running through it … do have a couple of these biscuits, they’re delicious … That was the speciality up in the north in fact, where I spent a fair bit of my time. I remember one evening when four or five of us set to smoking that concoction; we all got into such a state that reality felt quite bent and crumpled. Standing up was difficult enough, and thinking about anything straightforward well nigh impossible. This all took place in my own lodgings – lodgings I call them, but they approximated to a miniature palace – and in the early hours the rest of them were all taken home in a heap by one of the locals who had a wagon of some sort. He had no illusions about what had been going on, knew exactly what we’d been up to, and he told them tall and interesting stories all the way home; he ended up with a nice fat tip. He’d stayed up half the night for the chance of it, so he’d earned his money. I’m sure he enjoyed himself too. He gave me an odd kind of a smile when I emerged from my slumbers the following afternoon. But that particular night I was left to myself, and quite exhorbitantly out of my normal state of mind.

I found myself staring at objects around the room; quite ordinary things, things which I’d usually just take for granted – like I did Jemmy’s plant over there for instance: odd bits and pieces on the shelves, ornaments, pictures and decorations hanging on the walls. Even the doorknobs and window catches, stuff like that. And I got to thinking that all these things have some sort of life of their own; they didn’t only exist for my convenience. Inanimate objects perhaps, but somehow they seemed so full of self-confidence. Each one thoroughly well suited for whatever job it was designed for; and also works of art in their own way, the products of honest old-fashioned craftsmanship. And looking at all these things in such a frame of mind, I began to feel so very much at home. All these belongings of mine were in some way now my friends

* * *

I wonder how Mabel’s getting on with those cats. We have three cats you know, and there’s an old stray tom who keeps wandering into their territory. The trouble is that he’s bigger than any of them, so they never manage to frighten him away for very long. An extraordinary thing happened the other evening though. The stray got into the house somehow, and managed to creep in here and curl up on that chair beside the door. It must be a lot warmer than outside at this time of year; but he didn’t try to hog the fire, or even act conspicuous at all. Then all of a sudden there was a terrible growling, and I turned round to see Jip – that’s our little black one – urging the stranger to leave forthwith, ears flapped back and everything. And when all three of them made to gang up on him, he soon decided it was time to retreat. But I thought I’d try getting up to make friends with him – and he hesitated by the door. Now the extraordinary thing was that Jip came up beside me and seemed to want to make friends too. Jip’s the most intelligent of the three by far; the Egyptian-looking one with green eyes. A witch’s familiar if you ask me – which would make Mabel the witch! I wonder where she’s got to; she makes such a fuss of those cats.

Anyway, I was talking about India wasn’t I? Did I get as far as telling you about my grandmother’s magic mirror? Well, it was that same night; even things I’d brought from England seemed just as much to belong there, and I remember more than anything looking at the mirror. It’s a small one, that I’ve got up in the bedroom now; my grandmother gave it to me when I was young. The frame is very ornately carved; wooden, and painted gold. I never fully appreciated it till then: dozens of tiny scrolls and oak leaves, and the ancient family crest carved onto a little shield at the bottom. That was painted red and blue and white. Of course I don’t use the crest – I’m descended along such a wiggly line of reference. But I like to look at my grandmother’s mirror, and the family crest. Gives one a sense of continuity, I think, to be plonked somewhere on the edges of history.

Was it history, that book that you wrote? I’m not trying to be rude, but you look too imaginative to be just a mathematician. A historical novel perhaps; that would be more your style, I’m sure. You ought to try it anyway, if you haven’t already. And India would be the ideal setting; plenty of history there, draped all over everything. I suppose that’s why the mirror in particular did not seem out of place. Everything with a tale behind it, that’s what really gives objects personality … I could tell you the full tale behind the mirror if you like; it had belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother, who got it from my great great grandfather, who was the fifth baronet. The female half of this duo was, I have to report, a simple country girl who came to live on an adjacent estate to the baronet’s. The old boy took a fancy to her, and press-ganged her into employment in his household; and once he’d got her he had his wicked way with her. He wasn’t one to take no for an answer you see. You can tell that from his portrait, which the ‘official’ family still have. I wangled my way into their place once – the country seat – in order to have a good look round … Please excuse me, must go to the loo. All the brandy and coffee has percolated through the system. I’ll tell you about the mirror in a minute.

* * *

I’ve just seen Mabel in a terrible tizz about those cats. Jip’s got himself scratched rather badly by the enemy; he must have gone for him I imagine. And he wanted to make friends the other evening! The other two were just ruffled and confused by that episode – they got touchy with each other. You know, the population of domestic cats is rising so fast, specially in places like here in Guildford, that the whole lot of them will have to learn to co-operate more. People won’t keep ’em if they’re continually scrapping and making a racket, so they’ll have to learn. Much the same goes for human beings, come to think of it. Our population’s growing very fast as well now, so the statisticians tell us.

This is more your field of course, but I think I’m right in saying that a hundred years from now – if things carry on as is projected – cities will have grown so large that they’ll be bumping into each other! Well that would be appalling, wouldn’t it? And packed together that close people would have to learn to get along together much better. The old territorial instinct would have to take a knock, for a start off. If the way people treat each other nowadays is anything to go by, life would become absolutely intolerable otherwise. Eventually people would invent some nasty way of exterminating each other on the grand scale, I shouldn’t wonder; they wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of each other anyway. I can’t imagine it, can you? Not being able to walk out into the countryside, just finding more and more people for miles on end. I’d pretty soon be thinking of extermination methods myself … Talking of extermination, I suppose we may as well be filling up that pipe again. One more pipeful would just about do me well. Help yourself to some more brandy too if you like. Now where are we? … Ah yes, pipe, hashish, candle … I say, would you be so good as to bung a couple of those logs on the fire whilst I’m about this? Thank you very much, it was getting a wee bit low. And if you could just pass up the matches off the table, thank you so much …

Oh yes, this mirror of my grandmother’s. There was one just like it at the family seat. They’re a matching pair I fact, and my grandmother had the other one. The family don’t have theirs any more, and I don’t know what happened to it. But they did until a few years back … There we are – – yes … However, to cut a long part of the story a bit shorter, when this young girl that the fifth baronet had imported became pregnant – – she was got rid of, just like that, shot into a mouldy and obscure little cottage with only a pittance to live on – – and there she lived with the baby – here’s the pipe – who was my great grandfather.

The only thing she ever got from him was the mirror, given to her as a parting gift. Perhaps it suited the old man’s sense of romance, to give her half a matching pair of mirrors. I don’t know whether the thing already had some attachment for her. Anyway, in due course she gave it to her son, or he inherited it upon her death; I never heard the details. He was a striking sort of a man, so I’m told, with a huge red beard and plenty of brawn. He got married, and I believe had one or two children, before leaving his wife and falling in love with an Irishwoman, my great grandmother. They had a child you see, my grandfather. They could never get married of course, but nevertheless cohabited very happily until my grandfather was a year or two old. However, at that point the lady in question was got at by some breed of religious types, who convinced her that living as she was with a married man was a grievous sin. So she left him. Perhaps the religion was just a handy excuse to escape from a man she’d got fed up with, but as the tale was told to me the case was more the opposite; she apparently left as the result of a severe crisis of conscience following her religious conversion. And she took nothing of his with her at all, except the mirror.

She passed it on to her son, my grandfather, who had it by the time he was sixteen, when he fell very ill. And with it came a message. Rather hackneyed it sounds really, but it’s part of the story so I’ll have to put it in: the person in whose keeping the mirror as left was instructed to gaze deeply into it; to use it as the Indians do a ‘mandala’ in fact. Yogic meditation and all that. Gaze into it, anyway, and ‘travel with the stars’; that’s the substance of it. Which is what I ended up doing that night in India, after smoking so much hashish. Off I went, flying; at least, that’s what it was like at the time. Of course when I woke up the next day it just seemed like a peculiarly vivid dream. I’d fallen asleep on top of the bedclothes, without undressing or anything. I felt very uncomfortable when I awoke, and climbed into bed properly for an extra two or three hours’ kip. Felt better after that. Anyway, the mirror’s always been something special to me since then, whether it was dreamed or not.

And that was not all about this mirror. The possessor of it is also under an injunction to keep a look out for the owner of the other half of the pair – which until recently was in the safekeeping of the family. When I went up and saw it though it was Mabel, who I found polishing it, that struck me so acutely. She used to work up there you see, and before I’d left I’d invited her down here; even offered her extra shillings to do so. And she came – I suppose she guessed she was onto a good thing. I don’t know if she takes the business of the mirror seriously at all; but it is said that when you find the person who has the other mirror, then he or she will be your ‘true love’ as they put it in those dreadful romantic novels. Funny sort of idea; I can’t imagine how the old fifth baronet got it into his head to start such an odd ball rolling …

* * *

Anyway, my grandfather fell ill, as I say, whilst he was employed as a yoiung man by a gentleman in the midlands who, it turned out, was part of a lesser branch of this same family. Well when he got ill he was nurse back to health by the gentleman’s daughter, who’d evidently taken a fancy to him. Being a romantic-headed sort herself, she’d already learnt from some female cousins about these mirrors and their significance. When she discovered the one that my grandfather had, she set to scheming in order to get hold of its twin, perhaps hoping that it would work some sort of charm. And when poor old Grandad got wind of this, he was off like a shot. He became a clergyman and married an eminently faithful wife into whose safe hands he passed the mirror at the earliest opportunity. She went to meet her maker some years back, my dear grandmother. But she was somewhat taken by the romance behind the mirror, and she passed it on to me, via my mother, due to the lack (so I was told) of suitable grand daughters …

Yes Mabel, how’s the cat? It’s his leg is it? Poor old Jip; that’ll keep him quiet for a day or two, won’t it. We shall have to have something done about that stray, if he’s going to start causing damage to our brood. But it serves Jip right, I’m sure, for not keeping out of the way when he ought to. Well make him comfortable and clean him up if you can, and if he’s still bad in the morning we’ll have the vet along to take a look. And when you’ve finished attending to the cat, perhaps you cold bring us some more coffee … I do think more coffee is called for, don’t you? … No, don’t rush off Mabel. I like to have a good look at you first, don’t be shy. With your hair done up like that you look very pretty you know. Yes of course it’s been like that all day, but it’s not just my advancing state of inebriation that makes me say how nice it looks. You’re wearing that brooch I gave you too – I’m glad it goes with your working togs. Adds a bit of extra sparkle, doesn’t it … You’re frowning at me Mabel. I know, I’m talking down to you again; and in front of a guest as well. I’m sorry, it’s my years of habit-forming life amongst the middle classes. I’ll make it up to you later, that I promise. And I’ll give you a chance to tell me what you tyhink of my awful gluttonous ways. Any chance of that coffee then? Bring some for yourself as well; I won’t have the likes of you locked away in the scullery all the time …

The thing about Mabel is that regardless of what she’s doing I’m always very interested in her, even though she’s not at all what one might term sophisticated – she’d spoil herself if she tried to be. But neither is she simple. There are startling depths to that girl’s nature, you’d be surprised. She’s what they call ‘canny’, and she knows it very well, though she’s thoroughly unpretentious. If I ever feel depressed you know, my mind caught up in a tangle of knots and loops with the wrong answers attached to every question, and each one leading to an even more horrible problem, then Mabel’s the one to sort me out. Common sense, that’s what she applies to the situation, inspired by undiluted female logic. I’ve no idea how she does it.

So that’s what the mirror’s done for me; helped to find a remarkably pretty and attentive scullery maid. Jemmy isn’t interested in the thing at all, except when she wants to give her hair a quick brush. You know, Jemmy and I stick together in a really remarkable way; I never cease to wonder at it myself. I say the most awful things about her sometimes, and I really do mean them at the time; but in all honesty, I’d never be without her – we’re too much a part of each other. It’s just that I wish quite often that was an extra room or two away. Mabel on the other hand I could manage without – wonderful girl, but so exhausting – yet when she’s nearby my first thought is always to get her closer still. Dreadful situation, I know, but we all seem to get along.

I never breathe a word about Mabel to Jemmy of course. That would ruin the whole thing. I prefer not to talk about the mirror to her now either, due to the Mabel aspect of the topic. But I still look hard at the mirror sometimes, and wonder about staring into it for a good long while. It was a funny sensation, when I did so before; seemed to make everything in my life make sense somehow. All the different people I knew with different ideas and different interests, all the different places I’d been to, all the things I’ lost over the years and all the things I hoped to get one day. It was as if they were all there, in the mirror, and they all belonged there together in such an orderly pattern, that had never made sense before. Things that I’d regretted seemed just as important, just as wonderful in fact, as things that I was overjoyed about. But I must be sounding sentimental; and that was not the sort of thing one usually did when one went smoking the Indian hash pipe … Would you care for a cigar by the way? Well I think I will.

Your book wasn’t autobiographical was it? The thought just struck me, that’s all. I still can’t pin down in my mind exactly what you were writing about … No, don’t tell me, it will come back. An autobiography might be the best thing for me to write, come to think of it. I mean, you never really know about anything except yourself, do you? Even with other people, you only know your own reactions to them. And my own family is such as hotch potch that defining myself would be quite a challenge. But having a family history is enjoyable, don’t you think? That’s why I like my grandmother’s mirror. Her daughter, incidentally, my mother that is, was divorced from my father, which completes the tally of unsatisfactory relationships. It was a bit of a minor scandal at the time. I wonder sometimes that I haven’t made a bigger upset of my own life than I have. I hope you’ll agree that in spite of it all this household is reasonably content. Could be better; I can see that you’d like to say that – but you’re not sure how it would be taken, eh? Well you’d be quite right, and I don’t try to deny it, but things get along. And it’s nice to have someone like yourself here, someone who I can talk about it all with so openly. It’s awful having to pretend, for the sake of some of Jemmy’s tea-party friends, that things are different than they really are. I tend to just keep out of the way, which makes her furious, but still …

You’re not off are you? Already without waiting for the coffee? Well, I hope I haven’t frightened you away. You’ll come again I hope; ah good. I’ll let you know when I have another spare evening like today. Very well then, follow me and I’ll find your coat for you … It’s draughty out here in the hall; my word, the weather must have got worse. We’ve still got the old grandfather clock here, you see – which was actually grandfather’s, he bought it new. Still keeps excellent time, and it’s never stopped once, not as long as I can remember. Nine forty-five; are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay? No, I suppose if you’re going to get back tonight then you’d best go sooner rather than later. Are you intending to walk? Good heavens! Rather you than me … Mabel my love! Two coffees? I’m afraid our friend has decided to go straight away after all. Never mind, take them into the drawing room and stay to have one of them yourself. It’s about time you sat down for a while … What’s that? … You cheeky devil! I’ll see you in a minute …

Well, here’s your hat … Dear me, these door hinges need another drop of oil. Good Lord! The snow’s about a foot thick! Well, the best of luck to you; you’ll take care, won’t you. It’s been very nice to see you again anyway, and do come again soon …

By the way, before you disappear into all that lot, what was that book that you wrote? It’ll be nagging at me for weeks if you don’t tell me now. I’ve been meaning to …

“The Bible.”