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."I remember now, Roger.You warned me about that."Halsted smiled."I'm amazed you do remember.But don't worry—it won't hurt.""I'm not worried," said Rose.Henry had cleared die table and was serving the concluding brandy when Halsted rattled his spoon against the water glass and said, "Gentlemen, the time has come for grilling our worthy guest.Mario, suppose you take over the task of grill-master.""Sure," said Gonzalo.He turned to their guest."We have your name, Mr.Rose, but what we'd like to know is what you do for a living."Rose said, "I'm a printer.I make a pretty fair living out of it, but what really gives my life meaning is that I'm a book collector.Not an undiscriminating^ one, of course.No one would have enough room to collect books indiscriminately.What I collect are old books on chemistry, pre-Lavoisier."Gonzalo looked puzzled at the final word, but said, "Does that mean you're a chemist, Mr.Rose?"Rose shook his head."Not at all.I just like those old books and their old woodcuts of chemical instruments, their old ways of describing chemical experiments and so on.I have a number of medieval books on alchemy, too." He felt about his clothing."I don't think I remembered to bring my card case, but you're welcome to visit my establishment and look at the books yourselves if you want to.—Come to think of it, wasn't one of you introduced as a retired chemist?"Drake coughed through the smoke of his cigarette and said, "That was I.I'd love to look at your collection.""Yes," said Halsted, "well, don't ask David where his shop is located, he probably doesn't remember.But I do and I'll write it down for you, Jim.It's really an interesting collection he has— you'll enjoy it."Gonzalo looked impatient.He said, "I'm the grill master and I don't want to go any deeper into the collection right now.During the meal, Mr.Rose said he belonged to some group which I think he was going to compare to the Black Widowers.""Well, yes, I was," said Rose."Good.You are now free to do so," said Gonzalo."Go ahead.""Thank you," said Rose."I belong to a group called the Thursday Lunch and, as the name implies, we meet every Thursday for lunch—at the Arts Club, actually.It's a very nice group of slightly superannuated gentlemen—rather like yourselves.In fact, last Thursday I just happened to witness the simultaneous arrival of three of the more important of the Thursday Lunchers, each one with his cane, struggling up the stairs toward the front door.I couldn't help but think that the cane is our mark of distinction.""How many attend the luncheon?" asked Gonzalo."Actually, anywhere from fifty to ninety, depending on the weather and on the nature of the speaker.""You have speakers, then?""Oh, yes.We begin the meeting at noon and there's a half-hour cocktail period.At twelve-thirty sharp, luncheon is served.At one-fifteen P.M., our entertainer is introduced—someone who sings or plays an instrument—and at one-thirty we have our speaker.At two P.M., we break up.The whole thing lasts only two hours, but it's all very congenial and it's the high point of the week for most of us— certainly for me." "How long have you been a member?" asked Trumbull suddenly."Nineteen years.The club was founded in nineteen-oh-five, so it has a longish history as such things go.""What are the qualifications for entry?" asked Gonzalo."To start with, it was a group of newspapermen who met for lunch every Thursday, and for a while it was intended for newspapermen only.However, you know how these clubs tend to expand.We now consider ourselves a group of communicators.Anyone who is engaged in reaching the public with information of some sort or other qualifies.This means the group now includes writers of all sorts—editors, publishers, members of the visual media, artists, and so on.I qualify primarily because I'm a printer, though being a book collector also helps."As a matter of fact," Rose went on, "being a printer makes me a particularly useful TL-er, since we put out an annual book in connection with our annual banquet.""What kind of book?" asked Avalon."Nothing elaborate.It lists all the members, with photographs of many of diem.It contains some essays—our president is a well-known writer and can be counted on to contribute—and artwork, photographs of all our guests, a list of those members who died in the past year, and so on.I print it without charge and, believe me, the money the club saves in this way is vital.""But it's money you lose," said Drake."Well, money isn't everything, to coin a phrase.The pleasure I get out of the Thursday Lunch restores the balance to my favor and, to be absolutely truthful, the fact that they rather fawn on me for my free printing is also pleasant.But that's just among us, please."Avalon said gravely, "I hope Roger assured you that anything said at a Black Widowers meeting is considered a privileged communication and never passes beyond these walls.""So he did," said Rose.By now, Gonzalo was twitching a little, and scowling."Listen, Mr.Rose, is there anything about this club of yours that's upsetting you?""Upsetting me?" Rose looked surprised."I can't say there is.""No little mystery, no little puzzle, nothing that you can't quite explain."Rose's expression of surprise deepened."Not at all.Is there supposed to be?"Avalon said soothingly, "Pay no attention to Mario, Mr.Rose.He's never happy unless there's a puzzle at hand.The rest of us don't require it.—Tell me, what kind of speakers does your club have?""It's always been difficult to find speakers.We don't pay, and the audience is less than a hundred and is, by and large, not composed of important and famous people, for all that we're communicators [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]