TOWARDS the end of an autumn afternoon an elderly man with a thin face and grey Piccadilly weepers* pushed open the swing—door leading into the vestibule of a certain famous library, * and addressing himself to an attendant, stated that he believed he was entitled to use the library, and inquired if he might take a book out. Yes, if he were on the list of those to whom that privilege was given. He produced his card—Mr John Eldred—and, the register being consulted, a favourable answer was given. 'Now, another point,' said he. 'It is a long time since I was here, and I do not know my way about your building; besides, it is near closing—time, and it is bad for me to hurry up and down stairs. I have here the title of the book I want: is there anyone at liberty who could go and find it for me?' After a moment's thought the doorkeeper beckoned to a young man who was passing. 'Mr Garrett,' he said, 'have you a minute to assist this gentleman?' 'With pleasure,' was Mr Garrett's answer. The slip with the title was handed to him. 'I think I can put my hand on this; it happens to be in the class I inspected last quarter—but I'll just look it up in the catalogue to make sure. I suppose it is that particular edition that you require, sir?' 'Yes, if you please, that and no other,' said Mr Eldred. T am exceedingly obliged to you.' 'Don't mention it I beg, sir,' said Mr Garrett, and hurried off.
T thought so,' he said to himself when his finger, travelling down the pages of the catalogue, stopped at a particular entry. 'Talmud: Tractate Middoth, with the commentary of Nachmanides, * Amsterdam, 1707. 11.3.34. Hebrew class, of course. Not a very difficult job this.'
Mr Eldred, accommodated with a chair in the vestibule, awaited anxiously the return of his messenger—and his dis appointment at seeing an empty—handed Mr Garrett running down the staircase was very evident. T'm sorry to disappoint you, sir, said the young man, 'but the book is out.' 'Oh dear!' said Mr Eldred, 'is that so? You are sure there can be no mistake?'