Emile was lighting a new cigarette with the embers of the old as they came to meet him. The sunlight was dazzling and despite the crisp cold air the city was in full swing. Couples walked and kissed or bickered and groups gossiped and gesticulated. An omnibus pulled by a horse went by, leaving the steam off the animal in its wake and the clatter of the coach. Opposite was a cafe. The aroma of coffee and pastry wafted across along with cigarette smoke, perfume, and the murmur of a city talking endlessly about itself.
The trio walked along the road and Sir John realised how different was the life here from Southampton Row. They passed two men deep in conversation. From the gestures and tone, Sir John was sure that a fight was immanent. But to his surprise the men suddenly burst out laughing and slapped each other on the back.
“Where are we going?” said Sir John, trying to regain some bearings.
Emile stopped his long determined striding and pointed over the road to a restaurant with a bold Art Deco sign: Les Magots de la Chine. The restaurant was crowded with some diners shivering at outside tables.
“This place is adequate,” said Emile. “The wine list is a little short, but he has the good stuff. I must warn you it may be expensive compared to England. And it may also taste of something more than boiled beef.”
Emile strode across the road without a glance, causing a horse and cart to halt rapidly. The man driving the cart shouted something at Emile who turned to look and curse him back. Sir John couldn’t make out the words, but he noticed Marie blush. They both scurried across in Emile’s wake, trying to avoid getting killed.
When they got to the restaurant a waiter turned to Emile who was in turn bearing down on him.
“I am sorry sir, but we are full,” he said in French, glancing up and down at Emile’s peculiar dress and the Jennings’ obviously foreign air.
“Then throw someone out,” said Emile, flabbergasted.
The waiter looked dumbfounded. “Sir, I cannot…”
“Do you still have the Lafite ‘71?” said Emile.
“The … yes we do … maybe we could…”
“Well you may keep it a while longer,” said Emile and turned to leave.
“Sir, please!” said the waiter. Emile turned with a disinterested air.
“Maybe we can find something?” said the waiter.
“How does it feel to be back?” said Sir John to Marie.
“Exciting and exhausting,” she said.
“Same as ever then,” he said and they smiled at each other.
“Ahem,” coughed Emile, “I have acquired us an excellent table. I am happy to purchase for you dinner, if you may purchase the wine.”
“Same as ever, indeed,” said Sir John.
Photograph taken and modified from the public domain with the following creative commons license