Trebitsch took his address and wrote. A month later he was invited to the Cocoa Works in York, upon request. Boiling sugar and panned chocolate laced the air. Men in hygiene masks stirred giant steel pots; carters lifted boxes; a woman directed him to Rowntree’s office. They chuckled and shook hands. An effort had been made at tidiness but it was a studied-in room.
“We never know when to stop buying books do we?” asked Trebitsch.
“If only books offered the shelter of bricks and cement,” said Rowntree.
Trebitsch laughed. Rowntree’s desk was busy: with maps; charts and tables; more books. Ignacz squinted at one by Haralambos and Holborn.
“The blue bible,” said Seebohm Rowntree. “Third edition. How are you, Mr. Lincoln? Family well?”
“Good, good. Yes. Life in Hampton on Thames is fine: high population, good treated water.”
“Oh yes indeed. Your wife and children like it?”
“Margaret is quite at home. Julius, Ignatius and John are also well. “
“Wonderful. Two of them are quite young you said.”
“Fifteen months apart. John is the littlest, only a year and a winter.”
“Mr. Lincoln, through our letters I have been impressed with your earnestness and considerable experience.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rowntree. That is the greatest compliment I have ever received. “
“The Board of Trade has commissioned me to conduct a study of land: rural societies, property and development. Mr. Lloyd George who manages the board is quite keen for the findings to inform policy, apparently.”
“Marvellous! Marvellous! You must have very big plans indeed. Is this not a great opportunity? What is the extent of the survey?”
“We are tasked to examine throughout Europe.”
“Quite wide indeed.”
“It will require a team of researchers, and for me to employ a private secretary.”
“Most certainly. This is a very big job requiring an enthusiastic and energetic approach.”
“Could you fill the role? As my clerk?”
“It’s of such a scale that it requires great clerical work. Fortunately, i was just such a great cleric!”
Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.