“Wouldn't it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn't have tea?”
There is magic in making someone laugh, in knowing them so well you can anticipate what will amuse or surprise them. There is magic in the spontaneity of laughter, the eruptive power that can't be held back, though Gloria had an aunt who once described a movie she had seen as being so funny, "...she could hardly keep from laughing." It remained one of the family mysteries. The Reading Man imagined, once he was back home, away from his temporary haunt among the pastry, of phoning Gloria. She would answer, he would say, "Hi, it's me," and they would both laugh from pure, silly, held-my-breath-too-long, what-if-you-weren't-there, joy.
Each day when The Reading Man, Mr. Apotienne by name, took reluctant leave of the tea room, he walked the length of Billington's Cove, taking one direction on the paved seaside road, returning by the pebbly shore. With the amount of baked goods he consumed - and as irresistible as they were, he thought his restraint admirable - he would need to buy new slacks at the place that outfitted the fishermen, that being the nearest supplier of masculine trousering. Canvas pants so sturdy they could hold him up like leg braces did not meet his requirement for the wardrobe of a courting type. So with actual pleasure he paced off the butter, sugar, flour, a great deal more butter, eggs and the like that, among other influences, made him light-headed each morning in order to maintain, even as Gloria did in her way, a certain standard. He was beginning to wonder how much his old life would miss him if he never went home. That evening, he promised, he would list reasons for and against letting himself be slowly absorbed by the sand and the lanes and the intoxicating air of what had to be a pocket of enchantment that he might not find again if he ever left.