The night in Islington was sweet and fragrant.
There were, of course, no Fuolornis Fire Dragons about in the alley, but if any had chanced by they might just as well have sloped off across the road for a pizza, for they were not going to be needed.
Had an emergency cropped up while they were still in the middle of their American Hots with extra anchovy they could always have sent across a message to put Dire Straits on the stereo, which is now known to have much the same effect.
"No," said Fenchurch, "not yet."
Arthur put Dire Straits on the stereo. Fenchurch pushed ajar the upstairs front door to let in a little more of the sweet fragrant night air. They both sat on some of the furniture made out of cushions, very close to the open bottle of champagne.
"No," said Fenchurch, "not till you've found out what's wrong with me, which bit. But I suppose," she added very, very, very quietly, "that we may as well start with where your hand is now."
Arthur said, "So which way do I go?"
"Down," said Fenchurch, "on this occasion."
He moved his hand.
"Down," she said, "is in fact the other way."
Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Stratocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff beer - which is not strictly relevant at this point since the record hadn't yet got to that bit, but there will be too much else going on when it does, and furthermore the chronicler does not intend to sit here with a track list and a stopwatch, so it seems best to mention it now while things are still moving slowly.
"And so we come," said Arthur, "to your knee. There is something terribly and tragically wrong with your left knee."
"My left knee," said Fenchurch, "is absolutely fine."
"Do it is."
"Did you know that ..."
"Ahm, it's all right. I can tell you do. No, keep going."
"So it has to be something to do with your feet ..."
She smiled in the dim light, and wriggled her shoulders noncommittally against the cushions. Since there are cushions in the Universe, on Squornshellous Beta to be exact, two worlds in from the swampland of the mattresses, that actively enjoy being wriggled against, particularly if it's noncommittally because of the syncopated way in which the shoulders move, it's a pity they weren't there. They weren't, but such is life.
Arthur held her left foot in his lap and looked it over carefully. All kinds of stuff about the way her dress fell away from her legs was making it difficult for him to think particularly clearly at this point.
"I have to admit," he said, "that I really don't know what I'm looking for."
"You'll know when you find it," she said. "Really you will." There was a slight catch in her voice. "It's not that one."
Feeling increasingly puzzled, Arthur let her left foot down on the floor and moved himself around so that he could take her right foot. She moved forward, put her arms round and kissed him, because the record had got to that bit which, if you knew the record, you would know made it impossible not to do this.
Then she gave him her right foot.
He stroked it, ran his fingers round her ankle, under her toes, along her instep, could find nothing wrong with it.
She watched him with great amusement, laughed and shook her head.
"No, don't stop," she said, but it's not that one now."
Arthur stopped, and frowned at her left foot on the floor.
He stroked her right foot, ran his fingers around her ankle, under her toes, along her instep and said, "You mean it's something to do with which leg I'm holding ...?"
She did another of the shrugs which would have brought such joy into the life of a simple cushion from Squornshellous Beta.
"Pick me up," she said quietly.
He let her right foot down to the floor and stood up. So did she. He picked her up in his arms and they kissed again. This went on for a while, then she said, "Now put me down again."
Still puzzled, he did so.
She looked at him almost challengingly.
"So what's wrong with my feet?" she said.
Arthur still did not understand. He sat on the floor, then got down on his hands and knees to look at her feet, in situ, as it were, in their normal habitat. And as he looked closely, something odd struck him. He pit his head right down to the ground and peered. There was a long pause. He sat back heavily.
"Yes," he said, "I see what's wrong with your feet. They don't touch the ground."
"So ... so what do you think ...?"
Arthur looked up at her quickly and saw the deep apprehension making her eyes suddenly dark. She bit her lip and was trembling.
"What do ..." she stammered. "Are you ...?" She shook the hair forwards over her eyes that were filling with dark fearful tears.
He stood up quickly, put his arms around her and gave her a single kiss.
"Perhaps you can do what I can do," he said, and walked straight out of her upstairs front door.
The record got to the good bit.