In Which Eustace Speaks Inspiringly
The next morning dawned grey and wet, the rain having finally ceased, but by no means retreating graciously with no traces left behind, as callers are meant to. Maggie appeared a bit later than usual on account of her unusual night, and found Eustace, still in his dressing gown, poring over his parchment which he had unfurled over the entirety of the table, the seat of the two chair which he had dragged over and put to service, and the length of his desk.
Papers were scattered everywhere, and Eustace was muttering to himself as he feverishly examined the text he was holding, and then compared it to a set of copious notes he had laying on the floor.
“Good morning...?” Maggie said, lingering in the doorway. Eustace looked up quickly. His eyes were large and tired, and there were dark smudges beneath them.
“Oh, it's morning, is it?” Eustace glanced out the window. “I suppose it is.” He sighed and brushed at an ink stain upon the sleeve of his dressing gown. “I'm sorry. I'd better go dress.”
Maggie giggled as he shuffled off, but called after him, “Did you sleep after I left?”
“Yes. But then I woke up, and there was so much to get ready for our work today I couldn't go back to sleep, so I came in here to study a little.” Maggie shook her head at his queer ways, and soon the student reappeared, settling his shirt and sitting down in the floor to tie his shoes.
“I hope you are as eager to work as I am on my – our – timeline,” Eustace corrected himself, and stood to his feet. “I just couldn't sleep. I'm quite alright, though.” He left his thick dark hair awry, and hurried over to the desk. “You see, this is a section from the middle that is the most complete. I've decided it won't actually be a scroll, but will be divided into regular pages in an immense book. But for now, a scroll helps us to see the flow of things. The columns are the years, and the different lines are the various geographical locations. Like here – see...”
He pointed to a section that was supported by one of the chairs and showed Maggie the eight parts he had labeled: The British Isles and Western Europe, Germany and Eastern Europe, Persia and the MidEast, Africa, Asia, Northern Americas, Southern Americas, Various Islands.
“You have everything,” Maggie marveled.
“And along the top are the dates that different things happened?” Eustace nodded and pointed to the numbers that he had penciled in. He had a unique manner of writing numbers that he had developed in his solitude, of spelling out the word and then bracketing it with the numeric symbol. 1One1, 2Two2... Maggie questioned him about this funny way of writing.
“Do you think it's funny? I thought it made a lot of sense. Now you can never mistake someone's sevens for their ones, or their threes for their eights.”
“I've never heard of anyone writing like that before,” Maggie said.
Eustace laughed. “But you've never heard of anyone undertaking such a task as this one either, have you.”
Maggie curled up in the chilly window seat with her sketchbook, and Eustace began to point out different elements of this particular section of history that would do well with illustrations, and they commenced to look at the many books Eustace had laying about for as many descriptions as they could find. They agreed that this was to be a bit of practice, as Eustace was still filling in bits of information here and there, and searching for documentation on life in Borneo in 1100's. He set Maggie up with an excellent description of Viking long-houses which she began to thoughtfully draw; and so the morning passed.
Presently, Eustace, in making his way back and fourth along his chronology, tripped upon a stack of books in the floor and almost tumbled headlong, but he crashed into the bookshelf and there caught himself. Maggie looked up quickly to see him white-faced and shaking as he got back upon his feet, and flashed a smile.
“Are you alright?” Maggie asked, standing and setting aside her sketchbook. The kind-hearted lass went to the young student, concern in her motherly little heart.
“I'm fine,” Eustace said, “Only suddenly weak. I think I might be hungry.”
“Did you eat any breakfast?”
“I don't think so.”
“I don't know how you could have eaten any and not known it. What about supper yesterday?”
“I don't remember,” Eustace shook his head, waving her away. “I was busy.”
“Well, I'm terribly hungry,” Maggie said. It was the truth. “I'll go and get something for us to eat if you want.”
“Oh no, don't bother –” Eustace began, but thinking better of it, complied. “Very well. But we must get right back to work.”
Maggie agreed, and weaving her way out of the cluttered library, skipped lightly down the stairs and through the manor to rummage in the kitchen. She found that there was nearly nothing to eat, but then remembering that it was Sunday, realized that the coffee man would be here tomorrow, bringing fresh provisions. Nevertheless, Maggie managed to find some cheese and bread, along with a jar of preserved cucumbers and a length of sausage. Taking a bottle of cordial, Maggie returned to the garret study and began to set out their meal.
“Today is Sunday,” she apologized, “so there wasn't much down there.”
“What does Sunday have to do with it?” wondered Eustace, as he stacked his books and contemplated whether or not to set the chairs to rights so they could be used properly. He decided to stand – Maggie could have the wooden chair that sat near the table.
“The coffee man comes on Mondays to bring what is wanted. He knocks at the side door, and I try to answer it if I can. He is interesting to talk to.”
“'The coffee man'? Why does he come here?”
“Just to deliver things, I suppose. He is rather nosy, though,” Maggie said, helping herself to some bread and sausage. “He is always asking what I amuse myself with, and if I ever see my godfather.”
“Do you?” Eustace took a drink of the cordial and looked surprised. “What is that?” he asked.
“Cordial. Is it not good?” Maggie took a sip herself, and tasted it. It seemed to be quite normal.
“I don't suppose I've ever had that before.” Eustace said, eying his cup. “It's rather nice, though.” He another smaller swallow.
“Anyhow, no, I never see him,” Maggie answered.
“I suppose that's a good thing. You remember what he said when he came up here.”
He dropped his voice. “Don't tell anyone about me.” It was again on the tip of Maggie's tongue to ask Eustace why not, but just then he asked her, “Do you remember what I told you about history being sacred since it is the record of all God has done?”
Maggie nodded. “Yes. I was so surprised to discover you it's a wonder I remember anything you told me at all, but I do.”
“Don't you think God works in the most wonderful ways? Think of it.” Luncheon forgotten, Eustace stood and went over to the window, looking out at the sun illuminating the wet world beyond the mansion. He spread his arms wide. “You meeting me was a special occurrence, wouldn't you say? But all the history of world through all time has been made up of special occurrences that define people's lives; a moment in time that is fixed, and everything else follows the direction it pivots for in indefinite length of time. So our partnership in this is unique – and sacred too. We are a part of history.”
Maggie watched him in fascination as he approached, and leaned over the table to her. “Think of it. A partnership of eternal consequence between a solitary student and a little girl who can draw, in compiling perhaps the most monumental work on history ever conceived in the mind of man! Is that not a moment that defines history? If not in the history of the world, for I am not so self-important as to think the name Eustace Reid will ever be talked of, but in the histories of us?”
Maggie was right: she had known from the beginning that he was an uncommon young man. But she did not realize exactly how uncommon he was. Not yet, at least. And though Eustace was a brilliant mind, he was wrong about one thing... One day his name would be talked of, thanks to an unassuming little story written about him, in twenty-first century America. Perhaps it's better he didn't know. He probably would have just laughed.