But for the dust on its red exterior, the car was nondescript. However, if one were inclined toward such things, the car’s entire 30 year history from Detroit to Memphis could be read by the unblemished surface below the dust.
But as it was close to noon on a hot and humid Friday afternoon, no one seemed so inclined. The car glided into the parking lot of the Clark County Public Library. Here its driver parked in the shade of a hundred year-old oak.
Likewise, if someone were inclined to close observation of such matters, they would have said the car gave a sigh of gratification for the respite of the shade. They might also have heard a whispered, “You’re welcome, Mercury” from the aged driver as he exited his automobile. The driver then locked its doors and, aided by a carved willow cane, haltingly made his way up the grand flagstone steps and through the large brass revolving doors of the library.
The man was dressed in a brown tweed jacket and black woolen pants. Both were well-worn and too heavy for such a warm day. Yet both seemed to fit his stature perfectly, like plaid on a faded kilt or the fragrant, lingering smell of pipe smoke in a gentleman’s reading room.
He also wore a red bow tie, as in deference to his automobile he had to leave outside. His hair was a whimsical white that teased any observer to smile at its obvious lack of discipline to being tamed. Below his equally white brows, alert Delft Blue eyes scanned the surroundings with affection.
The library’s marbled lobby soared two floors above his head, with eight yellow alabaster chandeliers, suspended by antique brass chains, hanging pendulum like from a frescoed ceiling.
The air was cool, the sun’s glared muted and cooled by stained glass windows. The lobby opened to a descending marbled staircase, its steps buffed to a dull sheen by the countless footfalls of visitors as himself over the years.
At the bottom of the stairs, he turned and walked to one of the book-lined shelves, selected a book and moved to a wing-backed chair, next to a window and lit by floor lamp. He settled himself in and began to read.
A few moments later, a voice interrupted him. “Doctor Chesterfield?”
He looked up to see his valet. “Yes, Geoff.”
“The stable boy, Chars, said you were concerned for Mercury.”
“Yes, I rode her hard across the moors from the Littlefield’s estate. Tragic what this plague is doing to our countryside.” He paused. “Did Chars say Mercury is sound?”
“She will be well, sire. Just needs rest, as you do. Do you wish Annette to prepare your dinner?”
“No, I only came home to read a colleague’s findings on fever reduction. Have Chars prepare my carriage with another mount. I’m returning to the Littlefield’s tonight. Their daughter, Amy, is too ill to be left unattended by a physician.”
Soon after Geof left, Chesterfield raised his head from his reading. “Yes, of course, that’s it.” Rising from his chair he ran to the foyer where he grabbed his physician’s bag resting on a table and out to the courtyard to find his carriage waiting.
Geof's words, “Sire, you cloak…” Chased after him, never heard, lost in the howling winds of an approaching storm.
Within moments, he was on the glistening, mud compacted road to the Littlefield’s. Whipping his trotter faster, his thoughts raced the wind. “I’ve got to get to her,” he shouted. “Move! Move!” Dark clouds billowed above the heathered moors, its grasses swirling in a frenzied dance of abandon.
The Littlefield’s estate came into a view just beyond a bend in the slick road. The manor’s appearance as vast and desolate as the landscape surrounding it. The carriage took the bend too quickly and pitched to the side…”
“Sir…Sir?” A voice aroused the man from his reading. “The library’s closing in a few moments. “Would you like to check out that book?”
The man looked down at his reading, momentarily befuddled. “No…no, young man. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
“No better place to be,” the young man responded.
“Indeed,” the man said. “Indeed.” And, aided by his willow cane, he made his way out of the library. With halting gait, he walked down the grand flagstone steps to his Mercury, patiently waiting beneath the oak. The tree's branches now a canopy against the cooling night air. The car seemed to sigh his approach - if anyone were want to notice.
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