Rain rattled the windowpanes, and though it read six on every clock in the room, the skies outside were as grey as night; the perfect occasion to wrap one’s fingers around a cup of hot tea and a good book. Light from the gas lamps lit up the cedar shelves, giving warmth to the wood’s colour and kissing the pages of so many hard-bound voices, quietly calling to him. His eyes scanned the titles printed on their spines, scouring every one of the innumerable volumes that filled the walls of that grand, librarious study.
The sound of footfall echoed softly across the wood floor, climbing up the walls with hollow resound. Then a light clink of glassware as a brittled voice gently broke the silence, “Your tea, Sir.”
“Ah, thank you, Alf.”
The man turned and received the cup, though his eyes and thoughts still wandered the shelves. The loss in his face did not escape the old butler.
“Is there something the matter, Sir?”
When no reply came, he instead ventured, “Will you be needing anything else tonight, Sir?”
Steam curled from the cup, for a moment twining the man’s face and hair as he drank; there was a thoughtful look set deep in his eyes, searching, and yet not searching. A hopeful, childlike wonder gleaming in the irises, but also a frown tightly knit in his forehead.
So many stories, memories that were meant to be lived and relived again… just to have them dance in his heart and touch the strings again…
The man ran a hand down the front of his waistcoat, a habit he had frequented through many of his years. The shelves were full, but still they seemed… empty. Something inside him had hoped, by some forlorn tug by childhood memories of fantastic stories of fantastic places, that he may find something that had been overlooked or forgotten. He missed the thrill of finding new things in familiar places, the expectation that something might be meaningful.
But perhaps that was part of the fantasy.
Grasping his pocket watch, he repeatedly opened and closed it to allow his fingers something to fiddle with. He caught a groan in his mouth and tired words fell out, speaking mostly to himself—
“There’s something missing…”
“Edward, if there had been any book left worth a sixpence on the market, I would’ve bought it for myself three years ago.”
The man sighed heavily. “Then what else is there left for me? My inheritance paid for those books, and all they do is haunt me.”
A silence fell between them. But then the butler placed a thin hand on the man’s shoulder. “If I may say so, Sir, there is still your father’s Old Book.”
The butler left the study, and upon returning, he handed the man a tattered book. The pages were near falling out of their clothes, abused by a lifetime of handling and discoloured like old parchment.
With a wry smile and gingerly hands, he thumbed through the book, skimming the faint, hand printed words that were scrawled in the margins. He stopped at the first large print title he came to—Luke.
Edward chuckled, a sweet sound to fill that room. “Still haven’t given up on me?”
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