Sir Humphrey, after the manner of book-lovers, began to wander round studying the closely packed shelves. He said severely that he wondered Fountain had not had the library catalogued and arranged in decent order.
From her seat in the window Felicity remarked that she didn’t suppose he cared. ‘Not bookish, darling,’ she smiled.
‘That is self-evident,’ said her father, putting on his glasses and studying the backs of a row of calf-bound classics.
‘They all look fairly dull anyway,’ said Felicity airily.
Sir Humphrey, who had discovered a treasure, did not reply. She transferred her attention to the activities of a gardener who was sweeping up the fallen leaves on the lawn and left her parent to browse in peace. When Fountain came in apologising for keeping his visitor waiting, he was turning over the pages of a dusty volume culled from the obscurity of a top shelf and said absently: ‘Not at all, not at all. I have been looking over your books. My dear sir, are you aware that they are all arranged according to size?’
Fountain looked a trifle bewildered and said that he was afraid he was not much of a reader. He was told that he should employ someone to put the library in order. It appeared that many rare editions were in his possession, and that De Quincey was rubbing shoulders with somebody’s Recollections of the Russian Court. He gathered from Sir Humphrey’s tone that this was a crime and said that he was very ignorant in these matters.
‘I believe your grandfather was a great collector,’ said Sir Humphrey. He held up the book in his hand. ‘Here is an old friend whom I have not met, alas, for many years. I cannot think why it is missing from my own shelves. I wonder if I may borrow it? A pernicious habit, I am aware.’
‘Do by all means,’ said Fountain, hoping to get away from the subject of books. ‘Very glad if you’d borrow anything you want to.’
‘Thank you. I just have a fancy to dip into these pages again. I will take the first volume, if I may.’
Fountain gave his noisy laugh. ‘First volume, eh? I don’t mind admitting I shy at anything in more than one volume.’ Sir Humphrey looked at him with much the same wonder as he would have displayed upon being confronted by a dinosaur. ‘Dear me!’ he said. ‘Yet this work – it is Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature – you would find well worth the – ah – labour of reading. But I did not come to talk about books. I must not waste your time.’How many bookshelves (or pictures of bookshelves) have you craned your eyes at recently? Love this.
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