A Kafka-esqe scene ensues. Nobody can tell you precisely what this mysterious clearance is or how you set about obtaining it. The shifty brown eyes peer at you. It is your move now. You ask what the fee for the clearance would be if one knew where to obtain it. A figure is named. You ask if, as a special favour, you may deposit this sum so that, when more is known about it, the clearance may be obtained for you. There is a shrug, then a grudging assent. The eyes watch sullenly as you count the money out. You agreed too quickly. He is wishing he asked for more and wondering if it is too late. No, it is not. He made a mistake. He forgot the price of the Government stamp. You smile politely and pay that, too. There is no answering smile. Other brown eyes have observed the transaction and there will be a share-out when you have gone.
Note: Not quite this kind of Fan Dance (Link) these days, but arduous and stressful enough. It seems like the time of the season of the witch.
Text: Eric Ambler, The Night-Comers, 1956