Antonio trimmed the lamp, conscious of the flickering smoke being burnt by the small flame. He hated working past dark and having to rely on artificial light to see, but by the same token, he could barely drag himself away from his studies.
He had petitioned every Abbot in the mission, for the better part of the year, to gain access to the records. He had made the long hot journey from the humble farming hut he called home, to the monastery every morning at the crack of dawn and left for the exhausting return walk with the setting sun.
While in the monastery, he hauled heavy buckets of soapy water up ten flights of twisting staircase to scrub the floors of the dedicate’s quarters; he had weeded gardens till his back ached and his fingers cracked and touched up the aging frescoes on the side of the library in the glare of the hot sun.
He had melted candle stubs and recycled the wax for thousands of prayer candles, pouring it into tapered molds with exacting precision, readied for resale just in time for Sunday petitions.
His final act was to personally see to the trimming of the Bishop’s ceremonial robes, a task well suited to his slender fingers and steady hands. The finely spun gold trim lined the white robes, a glittering compliment to the severity of the garment’s traditional cut.
For weeks he had performed these tasks and at the completion of each, he had approached the Abbot and asked for his wish to be granted. Unrestricted access to the deepest vaults of the library.
He had arrived home at noon today, as his request had been rejected and there were no more tasks he could perform. Dejected, he was sitting at this home-made table, sipping a cup of tea, when the sound of a horse and rider reached his ears, and grew louder until it stopped outside of his door.
He walked over to the door and flung it open, to find a page-boy from the monastery standing in the opening.
“His holiness, the Abbot of Witchford, bade me give you this.” the boy said, thrusting a rolled piece of parchment into his hand, sealed with a red wax impression.
He turned and mounting his horse, heeled it into motion and sped back the way he came, without a backwards glance.
He ran his thumb along the edge, breaking the seal and unfurled the parchment, to read the inked message: “Antonio, you are hereby granted access to the libraries for the period of one afternoon, e from noon today until dark.” Signed, Abbot Sebastian.
He gasped and the parchment snapped back into a curl in his hand. He looked up at the sky to mark the height of the sun in the sky. It was well past three already, and the trip back would take him the better part of an hour. If he was lucky, he would have an hour, and not much more. An hour! That is nothing! I have so much I want to research!
Frantic, he grabbed up his satchel with his quill and some essentials, slipped his feet into satchel and slammed the door behind him.
He made the trip back to the Abbey in record time, and the parchment was a sweaty crumpled note by the time he raced up to red library door, to seek admittance. He knocked on the door, taking great gulps of air to slow his racing heart, panting in the heat.
He pulled on the long cord dangling beside the door, which led through the wall and was attached to a bell on the inside. He could hear it tinkling inside. He waited. And he waited. Impatient, he pulled the cord again, harder, and not just once. It jangled on the other side, several times.
Finally the door creaked open and the chief librarian, with a balding plate and metal rimmed glasses peered owlishly out at him.
“It’s just about closing time,” he muttered “and the light will be gone soon.”
“I have a note!” Antonio screeched, shoving his foot in the door as it started to close. He thrust the crumpled parchment in through the opening.
The librarian frowned back at him and took the parchment from him and unfolded its soggy form.
The ink had run, the words blurring in Antonio’s sweaty palm.
The librarian frowned once again at the parchment. “I cannot read the end time for this missive. What does it say?”
“It says I am allowed access from noon till dawn.” He surreptitiously crossed his fingers behind his back.
“Highly unusual!” harped the librarian, stepping aside as he did so. “I will not be able to be here with you until morning, I have to sleep! Fine, enter if you will, but i will be locking you in at dark, if you have not left! And NO CANDLES!!!”
Antonio sighed with relief. Candles were the least of his concern. So what if he was crossing the line? There really was no choice, was there?
“No candles” he replied in tacit agreement.
English Idiom: Crossing The Line: ” C o .”
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