After the puddle was cleaned up and Janet was back at the front desk in case anyone got lost and came in, Marie sat back down at the catalogue room’s computer and looked at the de Havilleau website again. She was about to close it down and get on with her real work when it occurred to her that she didn’t know much about the museum or its purpose, and yet she was going there tomorrow. She decided that browsing through the site and understanding the museum and why it had been set up was probably the prudent thing to do. It would only spoil Jimmy’s attempts to gloat if she said the wrong thing and they could laugh at him back.
The site had a history link in the footer as well, so she clicked on that as somewhere to start. A picture downloaded, with text beneath it; a large, black and white image of a striking young man with a thin black moustache, a widows’ peak that looked to be have been styled with some kind of wax, and a nose that looked as though it had been broken more than once. The picture looked old, and Marie judged it to have been taken in the first few decades of the twentieth century.
Otto de Havilleau read the caption beneath the picture, and the text went on to describe him as a gentleman explorer born into an aristocratic family. The text had a hint of censure as it described how he’d married, got his wife with child and then gone off on frequent expeditions to various parts of the globe, usually returning with odd artefacts and trinkets picked up from wherever he’d been. He lavished these on his wife, and when she disliked them he sold them and used the money to buy her other, more contemporary things. Marie found herself liking the sound of him even though the author of the piece appeared to find him objectionable. Many of the items that he’d collected and they’d kept now formed the core of what was known as the de Havilleau collection. A significant part of the collection was on display in the de Havilleau museum, which was open to the public at a nominal fee. Marie noted carefully that the size of this fee wasn’t described.
Not all artefacts are on display, noted the text, and some of the artefacts have been permanently withdrawn from public view. If you are visiting us to see an especial item we recommend that you call ahead to confirm that the item will be available. The museum does not accept liability for costs incurred as a result of failing this check.
Marie found a piece of paper and wrote a note to herself to call the museum before lunch. She knew that she should probably do it right now, but she felt compelled to keep reading. The rest of the page seemed somehow dull and uninteresting though, and she found herself clicking back to the bookmarked page, with the picture of the statue in its display case.
She stared at it, and then she leaned in closer. She hunted for a zoom function, and finally found one, and enlarged the picture. Unless there was a problem with the image, it looked to her as though the display case was more of a display cage – she was sure that she could see thin black wires laced through the glass to reinforce it. To keep things out, or in, she wondered.
There was a bang, and she sat upright suddenly. She shook her head, and wondered how her thoughts had managed to wander so far. The webpage in front of her didn’t look right, but she was already turning away, looking to see what had made the noise that had woken her out of her thoughts. Janet was standing next to her desk looking sheepish.
“Mouse,” she said. “I’ve got no idea what it would be doing in here, it’s not like there’s anything for it to eat.”
“What did you do?” asked Marie. “Stamp on it?”
“I threw a book at it,” said Janet. There was something defensive in the way she was standing. “I missed though.”
Marie looked round and couldn’t see a book on the floor.
“Right,” she said. “Well, if you see it again shout for me. I’ll have to put some traps down.”
“Do we have any?”
Marie sighed. “I’ll have to buy some traps and then put them down.”
Janet smiled at last. “It was a big one,” she said. “I hope they make traps large enough.”
“Rat-traps,” said Marie. Janet looked nervous. “Before your time,” said Marie. “It wasn’t fun.”