An acceptable diversion
At length, I found poor Wilkers. The handbag of his dreams was sadly not in attendance, and subsequently neither was Wilkers normally genial expression. I gradually goaded him into the subject of politics and factories, which had the unexpected result of forming a small cadre of gents intent on solving the question of unions and voting.
When the discussion grew ostentatiously heated, I would excuse myself to fetch a few of the stronger drinks – the deployment of which (with a few distracting remarks) generally seemed to bring the group back to an even keel.
Some time after the third such strategic endeavor, an old briefcase entertained us with accounts of his glory days with the British SS, complete with all the “and I shan’t say where” and “but I can’t tell you what it said” endings one might expect – masterfully timed and greeted with a chorus of groans.