The Height of Absurdity: Red Leicester 13.5
26 February, 2019 by katelaity
‘A library?’ I rolled my eyes heavenward. ‘Is that your idea of a solution?’
Tansy looked at me with an expression of surprise. ‘Why on earth do you not like libraries?’
‘I associate them with punishment. Whenever old Stevenson had had enough of my shenanigans he would clip me round the ear and tell me to go to the library. I think I spent the better part of the 18th century in the library and that is why I know nothing about the birth of the novel.’ Which was just as well as far as I was concerned. Novels are a damn nuisance.
‘The birth of the English novel was in the 17th century with Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. And the novel proper even earlier with Cervantes’ Don Quixote.’ Tansy managed to keep his tone from being too withering. ‘If you had actually used the library while you were there you might have learned a few things—which you would have had little chance of doing in Stevenson’s class.’
We dressed, ate lunch and then took a stroll down to the Municipal Library. It was a solid building without ostentation but I suppose if a building is just meant to hold books that was the best way to proceed.
I was surprised to see the place full of people.
‘You oughtn’t look so surprised,’ Tansy said with a chuckle. ‘Libraries are all the rage.’
‘Are they?’ People seemed to be reading all sorts of things: newspapers, novels and pamphlets.
‘All men though.’ Tansy frowned.
‘We have a room for women upstairs,’ a bright voice said from behind us. A young man with an energetic air met our surprise gazes as we turned. ‘They preferred it that way, so they could read in peace without men bothering them—or seeing what they read. Some of them read law cases so they know what’s due them.’ He laughed.
‘Are you the librarian?’ Tansy said, sticking out a hand.
‘Henry Stafford, head librarian, at your service.’ They shook hands and smiled. He and Tansy hit it off at once and as I shook his hand, I could feel a touch of chagrin that my friend always seemed to delight everyone we met in an instant. It was an unnerving habit.
Or perhaps I lacked refinement.
In no time at all Tansy had filled the librarian in about our quest—well, not precisely our real quest, but the immediate one about the missing monarch. In a trice he ushered us to a table nearby and before we knew it, had a selection of books pulled out for us. ‘Here are the accepted histories, here the rumours, here a recent pamphlet sponsored by a descendent of one of the minor members of the House of York.’
‘Goodness!’ It was quite a pile of things.
Stafford coughed politely. ‘I ought to say that I am also a distant relation to people involved in the War of the Roses. Indeed, my great-great something or other was both a friend and an enemy to King Richard at various times. I am named for him.’
‘So you know this history intimately?’ Tansy paused, a finger marking his place in a curious volume. ‘Do not be modest. There is no need.’
Stafford gave a slight bow. ‘I would say I know the facts such as they are well and the rumours to a wide extent.’
‘That will save us time,’ I said, vainly trying to conceal my relief that we would not be required to pore through so many pages.
‘Where ought we begin?’ Tansy asked eagerly.
‘Greyfriars Priory Church!’