June 23, 1926 - Florence, Italy
The clouds were twisted streamers of white, crawling lazily in the distance. The sun was low, casting rippled reflections off the Arno River. It was a morning sun, warm, yet foretelling a hot day. Gulls circled a cluster of fishing skiffs, boats drifting slowly down the centre of the waterway. Their calls of protest mingled with the growing myriad city-sounds of Florence.
Sir Jonathan paid them all scant attention, his focus centered on the cobbled walkway that skirted the river. His ancient frame ambled with a shuffling gait, his pale features hidden beneath a white fedora, and behind an even whiter beard.
Clutched under one arm was a package, a fresh supply of tobacco from the local confectionery. Swinging from his free hand was bag filled with groceries - a stick of bread, a wedge of cheese, fruit, tea bags and a selection of jams.
Several locals and shop owners raised their hand in greeting, but he passed with little acknowledgment. They shook their heads in mirth. The aging scholar was in his own world - again.
* * *
The door opened into an opulent room. It was said the villa once belonged to a mighty Florentine noble. The professor's attention was immediately drawn to the thickly bound book, the tome that had so captivated him two days past. With deliberate control, he laid on a pot of tea, filled his favorite pipe, and prepared himself for a long sit.
Seated once more, Sir Jonathan took the book and laid it gently in his lap. For the hundredth time he silently thanked his friend at the University of Florence - the same friend who had produced this very book that had so stolen his life. He closed his eyes. He would have to do something special for the man...