At the table the children were quiet. Lewis held his spoon in an overhand grip and looked with a kind of tendresse down into his bowl between scoops at the slick of melted ice-cream, again with the wordless, absorbed manner of someone identifying, practically, step by step the things that pleased him, umbrellaed from the fact of others, like Diane. Like Mavis. Mavis was still carving pieces of the stewed pear out with her spoon, stopping now and then to take out a seed, a hair, a little black burnt bit and place it on a tissue.
“Uh-uh, in the bowl,” said Diane to Lewis, who had intended to put his sticky spoon down on the table. He licked his lips as broadly as possible, then yawned.
“No!” said Lewis.
“He always says he’s not tired, Miss Crawford.”
“Oh,” said Diane, “then that will make you a good employee some day.”
“What’s an employee?” asked Lewis, looking keenly into her eyes now.
Mavis looked surreptitiously up at Diane too between small scoops of her ice-cream, (she had finished her pear, and was now onto the real business of dessert).
“An employee is someone you work for,” said Diane, “err, I mean someone who works for you.”
“What do they do?”
Again Mavis looked with secret interest up at Diane, happy for her brother’s bravery.
“Oh, many things. Anything, really.”
Diane thought about it. “Yes, I suppose an employee can be a juggler.”
“He means a ‘librarian’ Miss Crawford.”
“Oh, yes, librarians are employees.”
“How do they know how to do so many things?” said Lewis.
“No,” interjected Mavis, “employees, where do they learn all these things?”
“Other people teach them things, but usually an employee will do one thing specifically, not all these things like juggling and—”
“What does a librarian do, Miss Crawford?”
“A librarian?” said Diane, stalling. Mavis just stared at her expectantly. “A librarian works in a library, she’s in charge of all the books, and anyone who wants to use a book has to go to her and ask. She’s the one in charge of all the books.”
“What books are there?” shouted Lewis.
“Lewis!” said Mavis, “you’re supposed to ask things nicely!”
“What books are there?” Lewis whispered, cupping a hand around his mouth.
Again Mavis turned curiously to Diane, waiting for an answer.
“What books is the librarian in charge of?”
“Well there are many librarians…”
“But the librarian that you know, where is she? what books is she in charge of?”
“Well she’s in a big, tall round building like a castle, and she’s at the very top, on the very top level, and all the books are up there.”
“What’s at the bottom of the library?”
“All the people are down the bottom, on the lowest level. If you want to go up and get a book you have to go round and round and round up the steps to the very top, but only if the people down the bottom want you to go up there. Down the bottom you have all the entertainment going on, and all the important people are watching, all the important people in the world are watching, and some people are acting and dancing, on the stage there, and there’s a big red curtain and every day the people dance down there, and all the important people watch, and sometimes, every now and then they’ll let someone up to the librarian, but you have to know how the way to get up there, because it’s a big mess behind the stage, and its dark, but up there are all the books in the world.”