The Old Library, chapter one.
The Old Library.
1. The Door in the Library.
Francis Patcham had been lucky, or maybe it was simply a matter of hard work, he had won himself a place, free of charge at a very good boarding school in Hampshire. At first it was very difficult to get used to sleeping with others in a room, having to live your life to a strict timetable, but bit by bit he had overcome the problems and was now into the winter term.
Francis was thirteen years old when he started at the School and was due to remain there, apart from school holidays until he was at least sixteen, maybe eighteen years old.
The different subjects were interesting, he'd not had a chance in his previous school to learn Latin or Greek, but now he was really enjoying the experience and looking through the school library to find books witch were written in the old languages.
Many of the oldest books were in a section next to the wall, away from the door, presumably to help keep them away from the changing temperatures as people came and went, often leaving the door wide open.
Francis had been working on his homework, during a study period in the library when he needed to find a book with more information about healing in times gone by, what early doctors used before the time of antibiotics, painkillers and before vaccinations.
He went back to the same section of the library and was taking a large leather bound book off the shelf when he lost his balance and leaned heavily into the bookcase.
There was a creek and the whole bookcase gave way and he found himself falling into darkness. A cold breeze blew across his face and he tried to find his footing, only to fall down onto a wooden floor with a bump.
For a moment he couldn't see a thing, it was all blackness and then gradually as his eyes became accustomed to the dim light he realised he had fallen into some kind of laboratory. There was a candle burning set into an old candle stick, the light sending smoky whirls up into the air.
A large old wooden table stood in the middle of the room and on it were several glass bottles, and a large marble bowl, a thick one with a thick wooden handle sticking out of it.
Over in the corner were piles of very old books, leather bound like the one that had fallen with him into the room. But other than the soft sound of the candle burning, all was very quiet.
Francis stood up and walked around the room, looking to see if anything would give him a clue as to where he was, which part of the school this strange door led to.
Then he heard footsteps and he hung back in the shadows and stood very still, in the hope that whoever was coming might not see him in the dark, he was fairly sure he was not permitted into this part of the school. Or was this still the school? Had he fallen into a part of the building now owned by the school?
The door on the other side of the room opened and light shone in, a man in his middle ages walked into the room carrying a three branched candlestick which lit up the room. He was tall, of medium build and had shoulder length dark hair with sprinkles of silver streaked through it. He was wearing a long robe of some kind, and around his neck hung a pendant with a strange symbol on it.
The man put the candlestick down on the table and looked around, spotting the dropped leather bound book on the floor that Francis had left in a rush to get back against the shadows, to hid as best he could. The man picked the book up, 'I've not seen this one for many a year and its just what I needed!' he said. 'But who brought it?'
He stood still for a moment and listened, 'come out from the shadows, I know you are there, I can hear your heart beating' said the man.
Not knowing what was going to become of him now, Francis moved slowly forward into the light and faced the man.
'Hello, and I'm guessing you came from the library, what's your name boy?' said the man.
'Francis Patcham sir, I'm sorry if I am in the wrong place, but the bookcase gave way and I fell through' he said.
'Did you by gove! And pray tell me, what year is it at the moment, from where you came?'
'Why sir its 1972,' answered Francis, knowing full well that if a master or teacher asks you a question, then you must answer it and answer it truthfully.
'Well son, I fear you are in a different time now and that's for sure' said the man.
'I don't understand, what year did you think it was sir?' answered Francis.
'I can tell you, its 1772 and you have fallen not only through the bookcase, but through time itself!'
There was an odd silence which seemed to go on for a very long time while neither man nor boy said a word. Both trying to come to terms with these facts.
It was quiet for a moment and then they both heard footsteps approaching.
'Quick, curl up in a ball and I can cover you with a cloth, quickly now! Said the Master.
The door flung open and a women came in, 'Have you got my medicine yet?' said the women in a very haughty voice.
'No Mam, it won't be ready until later this evening, but I promise that I will have it ready before bedtime', he said.
'Very well, send it to me as quickly as possible', said the women.
' I certainly will for sure' said the master with a little bow of the head. The women turned around and swept out of the door, her long skirts sweeping the floor as she went and as the door closed all went quiet again.
'You can come out now, let me have a look at you young Francis and we had better find you something to wear other than your uniform'.
Francis came out from under the cloth and stretched,' Who was that, she was very rude to you?' he said.
'Let me introduce myself, my name is, Edward Langley and I am the Duke's Doctor.'
'Where am I?' asked Francis.
'You are in the home of the Duke of Sutton, and I can only imagine that in years to come this house is going to be turned into a school and part of the old house remains, especially the library.'
'Can I get back the same way?' asked Francis.
'I would imagine that we would need to try when the Moon is full, the magical atmosphere is strongest then and perhaps we can find a way. ' said Edward. 'But for the time being, I shall have to find you something to wear and take you on as my apprentice, that will solve the problem for now', he said.
Edward went to the other end of the room where a large wardrobe stood, and opened the door and looked through the contents, 'Here we are, this should fit you and I will find you something softer to wear underneath' he said.
'Shall I keep my underpants on sir?' asked Francis.
'You’re underwhat? ' replied Edward.
'You know sir, the things I wear underneath my trousers' and Francis pulled the waist of his trousers down enough to show the waistband of his underpants.'
'My goodness no! These have not been invented as yet, we don't wear anything under our robes, no one does! What we can do is to fold all your modern clothes up and tie them into a parcel and hide them in this wardrobe, then when the full moon comes and we can have a try at sending you back to your own time, you can take the modern clothes with you. Now hurry up and get changed before anyone else comes. Said Edward.
As he changed into a long brown robe with a hood and cord belt, he took his shoes off and was handed a pair of sandals by Edward, the Doctor, and they then packed all his modern clothes up and tied them in a parcel with a small rug.
It was agreed that he would remain Francis Patcham and that he would be Dr. Edward Langley's apprentice and help him with the lotions and potions which were needed by both the family and members of the staff.
His first task was to chop up mint leaves and add a small amount of brandy to them in order to make a medicine for indigestion.
The room took on a hive of activity as both master and pupil went to work chopping, blending and mixing.
'I shall take you down to the kitchens later and make sure you have something to eat, but first let us get these tasks finished' said Edward.
'Very good sir' came the reply and Francis put an effort into chopping the mint leaves.