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It was cramped and small house; not to mention it being an ancient structure, filled with musty overcrowded rooms—but it was home.
And a very fine home it was to Mr. Elijah Dempsey. Elijah, as he preferred, love the tidy but very much filled rooms he kept, which were quite few. Most of the reason his house lacked a spacious feeling, was from the wide variety of collection he either had packed away or else had on display arrayed magnificently on his walls.
“You’ve got more than you know what to do with,” the folk of the town often warned Elijah. “It’s not going to come to any good end…especially with the burglars so I hear sneaking around…only loot where there’s the most, mind you.”
Despite their lecturing, Elijah Dempsey continued to acquire and keep all items he thought necessary for sentimental reasons. And his reputation for it grew bigger as it got just as worse.
Out of all the rooms in his home, Elijah loved most and spent the majority of his time in what was the smallest one, his study. And that was where his troubles began…
* * *
Elijah Dempsey, well renown for hardly ever showing himself, was once again at his study, wishing he really weren’t known at all. He didn’t fancy town’s people prying into his own business and hoped they’d all soon realize the true peacefulness of keeping to one’s self.
Elijah spent most of his days in his study writing. Writing books of all sorts, fairy tales, great adventures, documentaries on his family relations, books of facts no child would enjoy reading, and many more. And very beautifully told they were, though he never so much as considered getting one published for fear of being known any more widely than he already was.
Elijah’s study was lit by an arrangement of wax candles for there were no windows in this part of the house. And in whole, there were not many, for the last thing Elijah wanted was for outsiders peeping at him through windows, let alone in his study.
The flickering yellow light danced upon the large blank pages of a book propped slightly up on a desk facing Elijah. He smiled down at them, for blank as they were, they told much. A book full of empty pages to him, he saw as opportunities to open new worlds for many to discover.
No! No, many would not discover them…only he would. Goodness knows the chatter that would surely go around town about him if they all knew of the worlds he opened doors to in his books. No, most undoubtedly they would be kept to him, and that was settled.
Large specks of dust floated around the room like lazy fireflies, and Elijah picked up his quill, blowing a thin layer of it off the feather. Quills were just one of the many collections Elijah had. This one, however, was his favorite.
He dipped the quill in a small bottle of black ink, a held it up to the page, pausing. How to begin a book? He could look through his large collected works of literature to see how they all started theirs…no. He would make something original, and from himself.
It was raining, a dark and ominous evening; and just as he had feared, Perrin was startled greatly by a knock at his door…
Just as Elijah was finishing the sentence, thoroughly satisfied with the name he invented for his character, he too, received a knock at his door. He jumped, no less startled than his story could have told, and bumped his knees on the bottom of the desk.
It shook, sending drops of ink onto his pages, and he muttered angrily. Who would be coming to his house? He couldn’t remember the last time something like this had happened, and there was never even a time he had wanted it to.
“Can’t keep to themselves, can they? Got to make sure’ they’ve got their noses in my…” Elijah muttered as he peeped out of his window.
It was the governor.
The governor of the town! Oh my! Elijah was in no state to host anyone at the moment let alone the governor, and yet here he was, knocking at his doorstep. Elijah gulped hard, and blinked once or twice, opening the door.
The governor exclaimed, flashing his famous smile, displaying rows of overly white teeth. The governor tried much too hard to make his short, plump look the best, insisting the white of his teeth match his dazzling vest. From this hung many golden chains connected to all sorts of trinkets he kept in his vest pockets. And this was worn over a rich purple dress shirt; below it, a brown leather belt, keeping in place the white pair of slacks he wore to match his vest to match his teeth.
“Ah, yes…Governor Hornbell, what a—a pleasant surprise…” Elijah sighed stepping aside for the governor.
“It always is, m’boy, always is…now then I’m here to discuss some matters with you, Dempsey! Ever so glad I was able to find you here at home…”
Where else do you think I’ve been the past four years? Elijah thought to himself. No matter, he led the governor over to his least overcrowded room and made space on what furniture was there for them to sit. This was too much…the governor was inviting himself for a stay at his home! What was going to happen next, was he now to ask for tea or something outrageous of the sort?
“Well then, Elijah, I’ll just assume you were going to make us tea…of course, it’s not a problem I’ll just wait here—you know I’m a very patient man…” Governor Hornbell winked at Elijah, flashing another smile. Elijah sighed heavily, getting up and agreeing barely half-heartedly.
A few minutes later, Elijah was back in the presence of Governor Hornbell, both now with a cup of tea in their hands.
“So as I mentioned, Dempsey, there are some matters I mean to speak to you about, and it’s not just me who agrees to them. The whole town believes we ought to have a word with you…”
“T-the town? The whole town?”
“Well, very much of it, to say in the least…but anyway, we’re getting off the subject, you see…I believe it is wholly my job to explained to you our feelings. We feel you ought to get up and out of your home, Elijah! Come, spend in my—ahem, our—wonderful community. Be apart of our events, for example, especially the major ones…it’s been three years in the row now that you’ve missed the annual Summer Celebration! Come now, do you honestly think that it’s healthy for you?”
Elijah wanted to object, saying he knew what was healthy for himself, but no matter—this was the governor. He let his eyes fall to the amber drink, debating silently with his reflection. Elijah sighed once again, and inquired in a strained voice.
“Well now…m-must it—must it be always?”
“Perhaps not. But do say you’ll join us for our next feast…it’s to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of my own two twins, Josiah and Brunhilda Hornbell! Really, you can’t miss it for anything; they’re to present a complete meal for the entire town, followed by wonderfully prepared speeches! They make me so proud…”
“Hmm…it sounds lovely,” Elijah mused over his tea. “I suppose I could offer a slight chance of attendance, but only a slight chance, mind you!”
“Oh, very good, Dempsey! I knew you could do it…excellent it’ll, be in two days! I’ll look forward to seeing you there, as I’m sure my twins will as well.”
“Yes, I’m sure…” Elijah heaved a sigh of self pity and stood. Setting his cup aside, he turned back to the governor and asked, “Is there anything else you needed now that you’re here? Or will you be on your way?” He looked to him hopefully.
“Oh well, now that you mention my being here…what about those books you write, eh, Dempsey? Been keepin’ up to the old authoring business?”
Elijah turned back around, clearly stunned. “Books…books?”
“Now how did you know about that?” Elijah blushed slightly, looking flustered.
“Oh, I know, Dempsey—I know.” Governor Hornbell chortled slightly, putting away his own cup of tea. There was a short pause.
“Oh…well about that,” Elijah blushed further. “They are—I suppose you could say—books. But nothing professional of course! And nothing worth reading, if you want my opinion…”
“No, Elijah, I’ll stick to my own opinions, thank you very much; so, come on then, let’s see them!” He exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air, smiling wide.
Elijah turned away and headed off for his study, moaning audibly enough for only him to hear. Back in his favorite room, Elijah searched around franticly. “Can’t give him anything entertaining…yes, I’ll give him something he hates! Something such as…ah, of course, the biography of Firman Dempsey! Hornbell won’t like this a bit, especially with Firman being an accountant and all, what’s interesting about that? Yes, he’ll find it dull, and then leave me alone to my own books!” Elijah spoke furiously to himself, snatching a red, leather bound book on his shelf.
Bringing it back out to the governor, he caressed the binding, trying to put on a smile. “Here you are, governor…it’s nothing much, but it’s definitely the best I’ve got to show you!” He cleared his throat guiltily, handing it over.
Hornbell smiled hungrily and he received the book, leaning back in his chair, handling it like glass. He spread his hand across the red leather, pulling a satisfied face, and opened the cover. Revealing a pair of brittle reading glasses, the governor made a gruff sort of noise, and read the first page out loud:
“‘The Adventures of the Seven Knights: a tale of excitement, joy, grief, romance, defeat, and of victory’…sounds fascinating!” Hornbell quickly flipped to the first chapter, his eyes growing intense as he began reading.
Elijah’s face fell. He had grabbed the wrong book! The one he had snatched was his own favorite, his very best masterpiece he had ever written…in the hands of the governor!
“Oh, you see, I must have misplaced my books, gotten mixed around and all that. Here, let me get you the correct one, this book I believe is not adequate for someone of—uh—such high standards as you to be reading…” Elijah fumbled for words.
“No, no, Dempsey this one will do. Already, I am intrigued by your vibrant descriptions and charming characters…no! I insist! Sit, Elijah, have another cup of tea, and explain to me your writing career as I continue reading.” Hornbell motioned towards Elijah’s former chair.
This was getting far too out of hand! At first the governor himself had to appear at Elijah’s home, and then invite himself in, indulge in his very own tea, and now read his books! And how long was he to stay? Elijah bit his lip nervously, slowly sitting down.
Minutes passed by in the appearance of hours, and Elijah grew no less concerned, as Governor Hornbell read in silence. He portrayed himself slightly comical from the concentration he held while reading; Elijah couldn’t help but feel a little self-pleased seeing as how someone (especially the governor) could be so captivated by his very own books.
However, he could not but help feeling relieved when Hornbell lowered the book, looking fully content. The governor sighed deeply, blinking once or twice.
“Well, Dempsey…I must say it—why, it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before!”
“G-glad you enjoyed it…” Elijah muttered in reply.
“And I want you to know, ever since I had only reached pages five through six, I had in mind to get this acknowledged …you would love that of course? Ah, of course, what author would not love to have his or her book published?”
It took a moment for Elijah to understand what the governor was speaking of, though when he did, it distressed him greatly. “No! I mean, no, of course not, this…this…writing,” he waved vaguely in the direction of his book, “is not—well—fit for the reading of the public!”
“Not—not fitting for the public to read? Preposterous! Why, this is better than all fictional books I have in my own library! It must be issued! What? Too much work? Dempsey, I’ll have you know, I’ve got the finest scriveners in the province, it’s no work for them…and even if it is, if I say they’ll do it—they’ll do it.”
It was unbearable for Elijah Dempsey. Anything he brought up as an objection, Hornbell had a solution! Haunting thoughts of town folk getting to know him better swarmed his mind, punctuated by the somewhat delightful ones to think that he would see his own book in a shop!
Suddenly, Elijah’s views on it went from refusing, to not being able to make up his mind. His very own works published! Hadn’t that been a dream of his ever since he was a boy?
Elijah was staring blankly into the face of a beaming Governor Hornbell. Right at the moment, Elijah’s poignant thoughts of being popular were outweighed by the joys of having his books recognized by the public…and to push matters further, he had somewhat envied those who were famous when he was younger.
“Ah…you see…having a book published is lovely,”
“Indeed it is, Dempsey, indeed it is; so it’s settled then, I’ll…”
“Wait! I…well I just want to make sure that—oh—yes. I suppose it’s what you would call ‘settled’…” Elijah sighed deeply, not really able to believe that he was saying the things he was.
“Excellent! Oh, Elijah, you’re slowly bringing yourself together. You’ll be attending a feast, and now publishing a book! Knew my visit would be successful…” Hornbell went off talking to himself. Elijah stood somewhat involuntarily, staring around his room. Was this all a dream?
Hornbell stood up himself, holding the book, and looking at it as if it were a prize he had just won. “Ha…my very own Elijah Dempsey, an author…” he muttered to himself. “Well I guess I’ll be going now, since I’ve got much more than my intentions accomplished…always a pleasure, Elijah.” The governor murmured, still staring at the book, and heading for the doorway.
It was not much later that Elijah Dempsey was abruptly the only one in his house again. And the silence that followed was more suffocating than any solitude he had experienced before. The bright and talkative spirit had left his home, replaced by the calm sense of isolation—but was it really calm?
Elijah suddenly seemed not to mind it as much if someone or other happened to show up…often would not be anywhere near comforting, but it would not be as bad as he would have guessed…and the governor wasn’t as stuck up as he imagined…perhaps a bit intrusive, but nothing more.
It was hard for Elijah to think he was discovering a social side of himself…