A LETTER FROM THE PAST
Elmer Galway and David Green were sitting facing each other in a cluttered office on the third floor of Green’s rare book shop in West London. They were separated by a glass-top table; a single object, wrapped in a piece of cloth, sat on it. Outside it was already dark at three o’clock in the afternoon and a fine drizzle was falling. It was equally dark inside the room, except for a floor lamp that spilled its cone of yellowish light on the table.
They had been together for fifteen minutes, and up to that point Green had been doing most of the talking. He had told the professor all about Señor Alfonso Lopez de Burgos, a Spaniard who was in London on a business trip and who had come to the shop the day before, bringing with him an ancient book that he wished to have appraised with the intention of selling it. The book in question was the object lying on the table, and Green would very much appreciate Galway’s expert opinion as to its origin and authenticity, as well as its possible historical value. Time was of the essence because Sr. Lopez de Burgos was leaving the next day for Hamburg, where he also intended to have the book evaluated. The Spaniard obviously believed that he had in his possession a valuable item and was shopping around in search of the highest bidder. No, Sr. de Burgos was not one of his regular clients, Green informed Galway, in answer to his question.
Leaning forward, Galway picked up the covered book from the table and carefully removed the wrapping cloth. He was wearing white cotton gloves, a standard procedure for handling ancient