a) where is the action taking place?
b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will give pounds 30 worth of book- tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, "Independent on Sunday", 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday.
I had once happened to give some attention to the subject of military bridges - a branch of military science which includes the construction of rafts and contrivances of the like sort - and I should have been very proud, indeed, if I could have carried my people and my baggage across by dint of any idea gathered from Sir Howard Douglas or Robinson Crusoe. But we were all faint and languid from want of food, and besides, there were no materials. Higher up the river there were bushes and river-plants, but nothing like timber; and the cord with which my baggage was tied to the pack-saddles amounted altogether to a very small quantity - not nearly enough to haul any sort of craft across the stream.
And now it was, if I remember rightly, that Dthemetri submitted to me a plan for putting to death the Nazarene, whose misguidance had been the cause of our difficulties. There was something fascinating in this suggestion; for the slaying of the guide was, of course, easy enough, and would look like an act of what politicians call "vigour". If it were only to become known to my friends in England that I had calmly killed a fellow-creature for taking me out of my way, I might remain perfectly quiet and tranquil for all the rest of my days, quite free from the danger of being considered "slow"; I might ever after live on upon my reputation, like "single-speech Hamilton" in the last century, or "single-sin" in this, without being obliged to take the trouble of doing any more harm in the world. This was a great temptation to an indolent person; but the motive was not strengthened by any sincere feeling of anger with the Nazarene. Whilst the question of his life and death was debated, he was riding in front of our party, and there was something in the anxious writhing of his supple limbs that seemed to express a sense of his false position, and struck me as highly comic. I had no crotchet at that time against the punishment of death, but I was unused to blood, and the proposed victim looked so thoroughly capable of enjoying life (if he could only get to the other side of the river), that I thought it would be hard for him to die, merely in order to give me a character of energy. Acting on the result of these considerations, and reserving to myself a free and unfettered discretion to have the poor villain shot at any future moment, I magnanimously decided that, for the present, he should live, and not die.
Literally Lost 44: The book was 'Travels Through France' by Tobias Smollet. The action took place in Le Muy, in the south of France. The winner is D Lintern from Sutton in Surrey.