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Chapter Twenty-nine

BARAK AND I SAT IN a corner of the Barbary Turk. The tavern where Barak had arranged to meet the sailor from the Baltic was a gloomy, cavernous place, smelling equally of stale beer and salt water, for it was right on the river front. Through the small window I could see Vintry Wharf, crowded with warehouses. I was reminded that the warehouse whose conveyancing I had lost was nearby, at Salt Wharf.

It was early evening and there were few other customers as yet. In the middle of the room a huge thigh bone, thrice the size of a man's, hung in chains from the high rafters. When we had arrived, Barak went to fetch some beer and I looked at the plaque fixed to it: The leg of a giant of old times, dug from the Thames silt, anno 1518. The year I came to London. I touched the thing lightly, causing it to swing gently in the embrace of its chains. It felt cold, like stone. I wondered whether it could indeed be from some gigantic man. Certainly humankind took some troubling forms. I thought of my own bent back and the king's diseased leg, which perhaps was the cause of all his marital troubles. A touch at my arm made me jump, as though someone had divined my dangerous thoughts. But it was only Barak pointing me to the gloomy corner.



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