11,041 vagabonds plus:
He describes everything to her recovered from behind the false wall in the blue light beam of a flashlight, all breathless discoveries. They both look up as the staircase in another part of the house creaks under one confident heavy step, followed by a dragging foot. It's the latter that makes her shudder. 'I thought we were alone', she says aloud, her voice breaking. The creaking stops momentarily.
In the beam of the light:
Chosen first, an unsent love letter, skimmed with predictable prose and childish poetry, dry as a sand-baked brook petrified with cobweb roots. 'No wonder he hid it', he laughs nervously.
'And look here', he says admirably. 'The promise of a music composition, lovingly detailed, similar to a schematic for a machine that will set men aloft without wings'.
Next, and handled delicately: A long lost Will and Testament, crest in wax with a generation's coat of arms. 'Let's open it', she whispers. He shines the light across her profile, high cheekbone beauty from an age gone by. She smiles at him, and he promises himself he will kiss her hard some other time. 'It's only one sentence', his voice serious and low, in the unemotional tone of a coroner holding and inspecting a diseased heart:
In sound mind and body, I proclaim complete possession of mansion, stable, and all burdens herewith to my beloved.
And lastly: A dilapidated pocket diary with ponderous, dog-chewed pencil. The uneven footsteps begin again, louder, much closer, from the heights. She grasps his arm tight. He darkens the light and can hear her breathing hard. 'I'm not breathing hard', she whispers. 'We'll read this later then. Let's get out of here'.
Still Life (1670)
~Jean François de Le Motte
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