I went in at the sign of The Temulent Termagant (a frowsy slattern asplay in a shallow ditch along the wayside, with toes pointing upward, cheeks feverishly flushed, hair and bonnet and skirts wildly disordered, and a fist angrily raised at a rachitic child hobbling by on crutches). A public house I had known well in youth, it was a building beneath whose peeling lintel I had not passed for two decades. It took me only moments to find the Philosopher; I spied him through clouds of tobacco smoke and melancholy, seated alone at a table in a corner, both his glass and the bottle of whiskey beside it about half empty. I had not seen him recently and, as he lifted his head at my approach, I was astonished at his appearance: hair uncropped and disheveled, complexion waxen, the rheum about his pale blue eyes making it seem they peered at me through minute pellicles of hoarfrost. He said nothing when I reached the table, but invited me to sit by extending a hand with nicotine stains like indelible varnish.

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