Esmé was standing with crossed ankles again. "You're quite sure you won't forget to write that story for me?" she asked. "It doesn't have to be exclusively for me. It can--"
I said there was absolutely no chance that I'd forget. I told her that I'd never written a story for anybody, but that it seemed like exactly the right time to get down to it.
She nodded. "Make it extremely squalid and moving," she suggested. "Are you at all acquainted with squalor?"
I said not exactly but that I was getting better acquainted with it, in one form or another, all the time, and that I'd do my best to come up to her specifications. We shook hands.
"Isn't it a pity that we didn't meet under less extenuating circumstances?"
I said it was, I said it certainly was.
"Goodbye, " Esmé said. "I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact."
I thanked her, and said a few other words, and then watched her leave the tearoom. She left it slowly, reflectively, testing the ends of her hair for dryness.