In Which A New Year Begins
For a week, Maggie did not leave her room. As a matter of fact, it was a great effort to rouse herself even from her bed those first days, so exhausted was she by her grief, and so purposeless seemed her existence after her bereavement. Another week passed, and still tears were constantly upon her cheeks, a sob continually caught somewhere between her chest and her throat, and mid-task, the beautiful girl would bow with sorrow and succumb to a fit of weeping, which, no matter how much she submitted to it's demands, was ever a hard master in proving never to soothe her aching heart. You might say there was not, in Maggie's life up until now, a more defining moment.
Tell me, reader, did ever Juliet love Romeo, or Viola love Orsino, or Rosalind love Orlando more than our Maggie loved Eustace? Judge for yourself, whether or not this is one of the great ironies that God employs to bring about immense acts from ordinary people, by inspiring in them emotions so deep that they would wish to die, only to awake one morn, as if their desperate desire had been fulfilled, and begin to live anew.
Every room of Godfather Cadogan's manor was filled with memory – the corridors rang with their footsteps, the atrium held it's breath in recollection of the scene it once beheld there – the bare floor of her godfather's chamber seemed yet warmed by Eustace's presence, the sitting room carpet still bearing prints of the toppled table... echoes of Eustace's voice lingered in the shadows of every corner of the mansion until Maggie, nearly driven mad, betook herself to the park, there to doodle without interest and listlessly watch the people hurry to and fro on the streets.
In those days, the icy wind whipping snowflakes into her face, and seeping it's frigid fingers into her very bones, Maggie thought she could still hear every word Eustace had ever said...
"I'm sorry –"
"No – don't be."
"I'm Mortimer Clancy. I didn't know someone else lived here..."
"My name's Eustace. Your name is – Mortimer?"
"After my godfather..."
Maggie smiled through her tears, and wiped them away, reliving that day so many years ago...
"What do you do here?"
"Well, I read, and I write – and I read some more, and I sleep occasionally... and eat if I remember..."
"All by yourself?"
Maggie felt her heart thrill as if it had been yesterday. She closed her eyes, and let herself drift back in time, more than happy to forget...
"I hope you haven't been too bored in my company – but if you have, I can remedy that...You musn't tell anybody, but I want to make a timeline of all history – all places, and all times. Include everything. It will be massive..."
It was a wondrous goal... cut short, by fate's hard, unfeeling hand.
But there were things beyond history that Maggie would never think of in the same way again...
"Being awake at night is always a very ticklish subject... I don't think we should just sit up and waste time. This is a very special occurrence. A dark and stormy night in an old and solitary manor – Now, I think, is the perfect time to talk of serious matters..."
And she had agreed to his proposition! It was the best thing she had ever committed to in her entire life. Many happy years had been pored into Eustace's work...
"Goodnight then – illustrator of timelines..."
He carried such wisdom within his heart, and yet viewed the world through the eyes of a child:
"What is that?"
"Cordial. Is it not good?"
"I don't suppose I've ever had that before...It's rather nice, though..."
"'Goodbye'... It sounds so nice, doesn't it... I like to think of it as a combination of words... good, meaning pleasant, and bye, rather like lullaby... something pleasant as well …."
Maggie smiled through her tears, and heard once more the impassioned voice of the man who once awakened what was best and noblest in her.
"Though you can't see me, touch me, talk to me, you will have my spirit with you always. And you know, that's better than if I were right there beside you, but did not have your spirit with me. Without that, I would pass into nothingness... but with our love, we shall endure forever. Just glance beside you. I'll be there...
"Do you remember what I told you about history being sacred since it is the record of all God has done...? Don't you think God works in the most wonderful ways? Think of it... You meeting me was a special occurrence, wouldn't you say? 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... 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 rose, in her eyes a curious gleam. Dashing the tears from her cheeks, she strode home with determination, banging open door after door through the mansion, and leaving them agape at her passing. Through the atrium she went, up the staircase, around the corner, through the door, past the first corridor, to the end of the second corridor, and stopped at last before the last door.
Taking a deep breath, Maggie laid her hand upon the latch, opened the door, and reverently crossed the rug that was the only appurtenance in the empty room. She mounted the creaking stairs.
One by one, her footfalls echoed about her, about the entire manor, multiplying, racing, tattling, colliding, and resounding until at last she reached the tenth step. There her courage almost failed her, and for a moment Maggie laid her forehead against the wood, praying for the strength to continue on.
The Lord never abandons His own – the slight weight she laid upon the door made the latch give way and it swung open, revealing the library: delightfully dusty, comfortably cluttered, and drenched in sunlight.
The large chair was empty now. Other than that, it seemed no different from the last day Eustace had sat there and worked with Maggie upon his grand scheme. She traced a finger down the paper that lay on the oblong table. Then, slowly, deliberately, Maggie walked behind the massive wooden desk, and pulled out the huge chair. There passed forever and an age, until she at last she seated herself in Eustace's place... dipped a quill... and began to write.
It was the first day of the new year.