Old smells lived in the air. I sneezed.
“Good heavens, child, what’s the matter?”
“Grandpa, it’s the books. You have too many books.”
He looked down at me from underneath his bushy eyebrows, and when he spoke his moustache twitched.
“Imogen, a person never has too many books.”
I didn’t realize then, sitting in his library, that these books were his life. He had bought them, sometimes, in place of food, and devoured them instead of his dinner. Several passages from each tome were memorized, burned into his brain like the words on paper. They were a part of him, as much as my arm was a part of me.
“The old man didn’t have much of anything,” my father remarked, the morning after Grandpa’s death. “The whole house was a wreck, except for the library. We could get thousands of bucks if we sold them.”
“That would be like selling Grandpa,” I said, staring into my cold coffee.
“They’re only books,” my mother reassured me.
While they read the will, I ran my hands over the books again. There were so many, some in foreign languages. All of them would be sold to people who never cared how hard Grandpa worked for them. I had never enjoyed reading, but Grandpa had made me discipline myself to read “good books”. I was aware of a vast amount of knowledge around me, knowledge bought dearly and treasured.
Then a surprise, a shock. The whole of his library, willed to me. It came with a letter.
A person never has too many books. I am sadly disappointed in your collection of books. Allow me to accommodate you with mine. I trust that they will be your companions, roads to unknown regions. Treat them as you would treat me: with love.