“We have to do something.” Elsie whispered. The faded ghost peeped around the corner. “She’s in a world of her own.”
“You can’t interfere with someone’s love life.” Mr Kennington said. In life he had been a head librarian and he still had the habit of authority.
“She didn’t realise that he couldn’t see us for years.” Elsie said. “She’s not going to notice that he’s besotted by her.” Elsie sighed. “It’s so romantic.”
“She may not like him.” Mr Kennington pointed out.
The third of the library’s ghosts drifted over. “It’s up to him,” Tony said. “Unless she’s got a boyfriend somewhere else.” He looked nervously at Elsie and then looked away quickly.
“That’s not the only reason she would refuse.” Mr Kennington said. “After all, the young man is not likely to be a good provider.”
“We only know what Rhia told us.” Elsie said. She looked wistfully between Rhia, sorting out the classic fiction, and Liam, who seemed engrossed in his computer. “Tony, go and have a look at what he’s looking at, there’s a love.”
Tony looked at Mr Kennington, who nodded. The ghost of the teenager, the only one who had any understanding of computers, disappeared through the wall and slid into place behind Liam.
Elsie and Mr Kennington carefully composed themselves as Rhia picked up a faded book and walked passed them to the back rooms. Mr Kennington sniffed as soon as Rhia was out of sight of Liam and wagged a faded finger. “Your cleaner did not attend again this morning. It is completely unacceptable. You need to speak to her. In fact, it was Mr Liam who did that vacuum thing and dusted this morning.”
Rhia managed a smile. “Hello, Mr Kennington.” She sighed. “Liam can’t afford to pay the cleaner any more. He said he’ll take over that job.”
“It is inappropriate for the owner of the library to dust.” Mr Kennington said. “The first owner, his esteemed ancestor, would never had done such a thing.”
“We need new subscribers.” Rhia said. “People aren’t coming here. Liam doesn’t know what to do. He says people don’t like old books anymore.”
“Hi,” Tony said awkwardly as he slid out of the wall behind Rhia. She jumped and turned around.
“Tony, I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Rhia said. “Anyway, I need to get on. I’m going to see if I can do something about this spine before it goes.”
The ghosts watched her as he walked briskly into the back room before Elsie and Mr Kennington turned to Tony. Tony had only been dead three years and had managed to keep up with a lot of the technology. He shook his head.
“I think Rhia’s right. He’s looking at stuff like auctions and articles on the best way to sell old books. He looks pretty down as well.”
“See,” Mr Kennington nodded. “He’s not a good provider. Rhia is mostly sensible and would not chose a husband who couldn’t provide for her and a future family.”
“It’s not really like that these days.” Tony avoided Mr Kennington’s eyes. “Anyway, it looks bad. Perhaps he can ask her for a date once he has sold the library.”
“What?” Mr Kennington snapped, before taking a deep breath. “He can’t sell the library.”
“It’s not going to happen.” Elsie said with fake confidence. “I mean, we live here – if you know what I mean.”
“We’ll probably be still here, but I think they’ll turn this into a bar or some flats.”
“Flats?” Mr Kennington said. He didn’t always remember modern terminology.
“Apartments, small sets of rooms where people live.” Tony said helpfully.
“But then how will my Albert ever find me?” Elsie asked, her pale eyes wide.
“He isn’t coming back.” Mr Kennington said with as much patience as he could manage. “You have been dead over 100 years. If Albert was going to come back, he would have already got here.”
“I waited for him.” Elsie said. “I promised him. I said I would wait and always be in the library whenever I could so no matter what happened while he was away, he could find me.”
“I have overseen this library for nearly two centuries.” Mr Kennington pulled himself to his full height, such as it was, and drifted slightly upwards. He shook his head sadly. “It is all my fault. I have spent far too much time coaching Tony and now that Mr Pierce and Miss Ellis have found peace, well, we are spread thinly.” Mr Kenning shook his head. “Not that I blame either of you,” he said quickly. “It’s been a pleasure to see you come on, young Tony, and I certainly don’t want any more deaths in the library.” His translucent finger tapped at his pale chin. “We shall have to have an advertising campaign in all the appropriate newspapers. Perhaps even a picture!”
Tony shrugged. “People don’t bother much with papers these days.” He said. “Besides, adverts cost money. If Liam can’t afford a cleaner then he can’t afford hundreds of pounds and a marketing manager.”
“He shall have to sell a book.” Mr Kennington said. “It’s a dreadful thing for a library to do, and it should be resisted until there is truly no other way. Fortunately, I have been holding something in reserve.” He drifted towards the classics section. “It was before your time, Elsie, but Charles Dickens visited Leeds.” Mr Kennington sniffed. “He was not complimentary about our good city, but he did sign some copies of that Oliver Twist book.” Mr Kennington’s mouth twisted. He was not a fan of serialised fiction. “I know he signed quite a few, because a rascal came in and tried to force Mr Horace to purchase them.” Mr Kennington shook his head. “There was a dreadful scene and several of the dozen books he brought in fell down the crack at the back of the bookcase. No-one noticed as the rogue got quite vocal and had to be escorted out. Mr Horace threw his books at him afterwards. I couldn’t get out to see what was happening, of course, but the constabulary were called and there was quite a scuffle, Mr Dickens being popular.”
The ghosts drifted over to the classics section. Sure enough, behind the collected works of George Bernard Shaw, was a crack where the thin pine of the original shelves had split. Elsie slid in to check.
“They’re dusty, of course, but they seem okay and you can still see their autographs. But we can’t tell Liam. He can’t see us.”
Mr Kennington looked over to where Liam was slouched at his desk, his head in his hands and a blank look on his face. “We tell Rhia and hope that she can persuade Mr Liam to invest the small sum raised by the books into an advert in the Yorkshire Post. And then,” he said, shaking his head, “We need to work out how to get them respectably married – once Mr Liam can provide properly of course.” He frowned. “Do you think that they will raise enough funds with those novels?” He shook his head. “I shall start working on contingency plans, just in case.” He cast his eye over the two ghosts. “The library must go on!