As Edmund’s eyes began to adjust, he could see her head lying on the massive marble desk, surrounded by unkempt papers and books that had spilled out onto the floor. It looked like she was sleeping. Edmund at first considered waking her, when he realized the woman looked suspiciously still, enough so that Edmund doubted she was breathing. Carefully, he pinned the flap of fabric back with a nail to let in some light and stepped closer to the woman, wondering if he should check for a pulse like it was described in Doctor Diltori’s Accumulative Anatomies
When he reached the desk, he carefully snaked his fingers around the pile of books, searching for the woman’s neck, when he noticed she was covered with a thin layer of dust, as were the books and papers. On second glance, he saw the woman’s slim torso vanished into the large marble block that formed the rear of the desk.
This was not a woman at all, but a statue of stone, lovingly painted and carefully posed to look exactly like a sleeping lady.
The rat’s whiskers twitched and it squeaked in irritation at Edmund, as he blew gently on the statue, brushing the dust off lightly with his fingers to get a better view.
The dust tickled his nose and made him sneeze, which scattered more dust, which made him sneeze again. He fell into a fit of sneezes, sending up a whirlwind of dust in the small alcove until it seemed like the dust itself was attacking him like a swarm of bees. The rat scrambled away towards the hole in the tapestry, and Edmund followed, sneezing the dust out of the alcove and into the library
How odd, Edmund thought as his convulsions subsided, that someone should go to the trouble of making a statue of a woman, and then make her sleeping. Odder still to go to all the trouble of making a giant tapestry to cover it, and then nail the cloth to the wall to keep anyone from discovering it by chance. Perhaps he would figure out exactly why someday.
Edmund started to crawl back into the alcove, when he saw the rat sitting up on its hind legs, staring at him. Its whiskers twisted about, and its beady eyes seemed to be asking ‘now what?’
“Would you care to come with me, Sir?” Edmund asked, politely. He wasn’t sure there was any need for politeness to a rat, but he decided to be safe rather than sorry. Despite his best efforts, however, the rat didn’t move as Edmund slipped back through the tapestry and into the alcove.