At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith

Author:Alexander McCall Smith
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Tags: Fiction
ISBN: 9780307424884
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2009-03-24T16:00:00+00:00

The Librarian realised that von Igelfeld was somehow put out by the way in which the button incident had been concluded, and decided that this would be the right time to mention the Colombian request. He did not like to see von Igelfeld humiliated, particularly when it was at the hands of his colleagues. They were so rude, sometimes; always interrupting him as if they were the only ones who had any right to speak. Well, now he would speak, and they would have to listen this time.

‘Herr von Igelfeld,’ he began. ‘Putting buttons to one side – and who amongst us has not at some time shed a button, Herr Unterholzer? There is no shame in doing so, in my view. But be that as it may, there was a development while you were away. I thought I might mention it to you.’

Everybody looked at the Librarian, who for a few precious moments relished their evident anticipation. They could not interrupt him now.

‘I had a request a month or so ago from a foreign embassy,’ he said. ‘A very particular request.’

The silence deepened. Unterholzer’s lips were pursed, and von Igelfeld noticed that his hands were trembling slightly.

‘Oh yes?’ said von Igelfeld encouragingly. ‘You alluded to something earlier on, Herr Huber. You have the details to hand now, I take it?’

The Librarian nodded. ‘Yes, I do.’ He paused, but only for a moment. ‘The request came from the Colombian Embassy, in fact. They asked me for a copy of Portuguese Irregular Verbs, and I despatched one to them immediately. And . . . ’ Now the tension was almost unbearable. ‘And they asked me to provide a brief biographical note about yourself, including any honours already received, and to confirm the correct spelling of your name.’

The effect of these words was every bit as dramatic as the Librarian had anticipated. The information took a few moments to sink in, but when it had, all thoughts of buttons and such matters were replaced by a real and quite tangible sense of excitement. When all was said and done, what really mattered was the reputation of the Institute, and good news for one was good news for all. There may have been minor jealousies – and these were inevitable in philology – but when there was a whiff, even the merest whiff, of an honour from a foreign institution, then all such matters were swept aside. Now, in the face of this quite extraordinarily exciting news, the only thing that mattered was that they should find out, as soon as possible, what this development meant.

Prinzel was the first to suggest an explanation. ‘I should imagine that it is an honorary degree from a Colombian university,’ he said. ‘There are some very prestigious institutions in Bogotá. The Rosario, for example, is very highly regarded in South America. It is a private university in Bogotá. I should think that is what it is. May I be the first to offer my congratulations, Herr von Igelfeld!’

Von Igelfeld raised a hand in a gesture of modesty.


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