Author : Robin de Graaf
Bartleby pushed open the heavy pub door. A bell jangled and a handful of pub patrons gave him a quick look-see. Realizing that they had no idea who he was, they quickly returned to their pints. Bartleby looked around, until he saw who he was looking for. He took off his hat and walked towards one of many tables.
“Good evening, John, glad you could make it.” He said, taking off his heavy coat. The man sitting at the table smiled and raised his glass.
“Anything for a friend. Please, sit.”
The man signaled one of the servers for two more glasses of gin.
“I’m sorry to have called upon you at such short notice,” Bartleby said, “but as you know, my life has been rather more… exciting than is customary lately.” He swallowed slowly.
“Are you referring to your courtship of Elizabeth?”
“Among other things. You know I’ve been seeing her for quite some time. And it’s been going quite well.”
The server came up to the table with two glasses perched on a heavy platter. “Two gin for the gentlemen,” he said with a nod.
“Thank you.” Bartleby said and grabbed a glass, draining it in one gulp.
“Bring me another, would you?”
“Certainly,” the server said with a friendly smile.
“Bartleby, I don’t mean to rush you, but what’s gotten you so spooked?” John said, leaning over a little.
Bartleby fidgeted with the empty glass, seemingly uneasy. He didn’t actually speak until his second gin had arrived, which he sipped rather than drained.
“Like I said, things seemed to be going well between Elizabeth and myself, but things have taken an… unexpected turn.”
“How do you mean..?” John asked.
“Last week we went to the theater, to see The Family Reunion, and in general, it was a fine night. After the play, she had agreed to accompany me for a drink at mine, if I promised to have her home before midnight.”
John grinned and nodded approvingly.
“Please don’t. Wait until you’ve heard the entire story.” Bartleby said, looking at John with a stern look.
“I apologize. Do continue…”
“So we arrive at mine, and as you know, I’m something of an inventor. In my spare time, at least. Having mentioned this to her before, she took the opportunity to ask whether she could see my current project.”
John laughed, “THAT thing? Waste of time, my friend, I’ve told you before and I’ll gladly repeat it!”
“Perhaps you won’t. We had been joking back and forth the entire evening, so when she said that she was going to be the first person to use it, I thought nothing of it. I should have.”
“She… Turned it on?” John said, sounding much less jovial than he’d sounded before.
Bartleby rummaged through his coat pocket and pulled out a photograph.
“I’ve been looking for proof, any evidence, for an entire week. Today, I finally found it.”
He handed the photograph to John, who studied it carefully. It was a picture of a group of women, dressed in Victorian fashion, smiling contentedly at the camera. One of the women in the picture made John look a little closer.
“Is that Elizabeth?” he asked.
“It is. Turn it over. Read the back.”
As he did, he noticed, in beautiful handwriting, that it said ‘1839, the girls in Green Park, London.’
A silence fell as John tried to collect his thoughts.
“This must be a fake. This isn’t possible.” He said eventually.
“It isn’t. That photograph was taken exactly 100 years ago.”
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