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34. No. That is not quite the sound of sandal on buttock. It is, rather, the noise made when the great thinker discovers That, of his five supposed children, only one is really his own. And, she adds triumphantly, it’s the one you like the least!

35. This is again the day of that ancient, ill-understood festival When scholars must kneel on porches with their buttocks in the air While servant-girls belabour them with inferior copies of the classics. Odd. One might have thought this would have died out long before now.

36. Frowning again, the girl looked over from the table On which she knelt with her tender little behind in the air, and asked: ‘Are you quite sure this ritual really will release my Auntie’s bonded soul from torment?’ From behind the embroidered screen nearby, a strong voice answered:

‘I am!’

37. Of the line of elegant flowers which were nodding beside this stair, There is now one less than were there at the start of the day. Perhaps it stands resplendent on some poet’s sunlit table? Or perhaps the woman next door to him is wearing it in her hair?

38. On the wall, a delightful picture of flowers. On the table, a delightful vase of the same flowers. A petal quivers, as if just about to fall. It quivers again, as if still just about to fall.


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