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A river wound its lazy way past what had been a medium sized town house in
years gone by, a house converted to a modern cafe which nevertheless still retained
the impression of antiquity. In the muddy brown water, large, grey backed fish
flicked their tails lazily, searching for food without noticeable enthusiasm amongst
the reeds. A variety of small birds chittered and squabbled in the treetops and on the
ground, industriously clearing the area of tourist scattered crumbs. It could have
been almost any one of a hundred similar places, pretty, popular and probably
expensive. A steep cobbled street ran past, surfaced thus to give the long vanished
horse a firm grip on the road in icy weather. The cobbles were new, having been put
down only a few months earlier in an effort to keep, or rather to restore, what was
felt to be the original character of the area. Motor cars, indeed all traffic larger or
more powerful than the ordinary pedal bicycle had been banned from this stretch of
road, offering a sort of oasis in the middle of thundering traffic noise. There were
several people in the ever popular cafe. In a corner near to the delicately rounded bay
window were two blue rinsed late middle aged women, heavily beringed, heavily
made up and looking rather overdressed by the more casual fashions of the day.
While not cold, they both wore furs. One leaned forward and spoke in a deliberate
and purposeful stage whisper that could be heard several tables away.
’Just look at that couple over there. Talk about beauty and the beast. Have you
ever seen anything like it?’
Her friend looked in the direction indicated and saw an attractive youngish
woman talking earnestly to a man who was appreciably, perhaps even considerably
older, holding his hand across the table and gazing with appeared to be devotion into
his face.
’Can you see those scars? I don’t know how she can bear to look at him. Isn’t it
revolting? You’d think he would sit so that other people can’t see his face so readily.’
’Yes, I noticed when we came in. Dreadful, isn’t it? A bit tactless, even,’
answered her companion. ’He’s a lot older than she is, too. You’d think he’d have
more sense at his age.’
’Well, that’s men for you. I suppose she is pretty.’ The speaker sounded
’I expect that some men are attracted to that sort of thing, but no, I wouldn’t
call her pretty. Not exactly. Not with that type of suntan. Permanent, you know, I
suppose she has to take what she can get, all things considered. Of course, with a face
like that, I don’t suppose he has a great deal of choice either.’