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(with apologies to Dennis Wheatley and the Duc de Richleau)

DINNER was at eight o’clock, but coffee was not served till after ten.  You sit back and inhale the first cloud of fragrant smoke from one of your long Hoyo de Monterrey cigars that are your especial pride.  Max has just retired after serving some of your priceless old brandy.  Swivelling the medium-sized balloon-shaped glass and sniffing its rare ethers appreciatively you decide the time is right to join your favourite on-line discussion group.

Carrying your glass you move across the hall into a softly lit room and pause for a moment to savour the atmosphere.  The room is scattered with Chippendale furniture and on the floor rests an exquisite Persian silk carpet.  The walls are lined shoulder-high with serried rows of gilt-tooled books, and above them hang fine old colour prints and maps and four old masters.  You cast your eyes around the objects in the room.  The Tibetan Buddha seated on the Lotus; bronze figurines from ancient Greece; beautifully chased rapiers of Toledo steel and Moorish pistols inlaid with turquoise and gold; ikons from Holy Russia set with semi-precious stones; and curiously carved ivories from the East.  You feel at ease among these precious mementoes of past travels and adventures.

Moving to a seat placed in front of one of the walls, overlooked by a Van Dyck portrait of a Cavalier, you gently touch one of the spines of the books.  Without a sound an area of the leather-bound classics smoothly moves aside revealing your state-of-the-art communications centre.  Setting down your glass and resting your cigar on an onyx ashtray, you settle in your chair and quickly direct your browser to your favourite website.

The thought of meeting old friends and discussing subjects of mutual interest sends a shiver of anticipation down your spine as you select the link that will take you to The Library . . .

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