Marion was excited. This was a day she had planned for months, and now it was finally here. She felt giddy with anticipation as she sat in the limousine beside Kristoph.

Of course, this being a semi-official occasion there was an escort for their car. Kristoph was dressed in a fine robe of gold and deep red. His presence at this occasion gave it a stamp of Presidential authority. But everyone knew it was the First Lady’s day.

“You’re practically jiggling,” Kristoph told her, pressing a hand down on her knee through the satin gown. “We won’t get there any faster.”

“I wish I could have been there earlier,” she replied. “I should have been helping them with the last preparations.”

“You’re the guest of honour at the official opening. You’re not meant to be putting up bunting.”

“I don’t think ANYONE is putting up bunting,” Marion told him with a giggle. “I have never seen any such thing on this planet. But Misha Limmon was going to arrange some hanging baskets around the door.”

“I didn’t think we had hanging baskets on Gallifrey,” Kristoph observed. “Misha Limmon... your chauffeur’s sister?”

“Yes. A charming lady. Very well educated. She’s my head librarian.”

“I look forward to meeting her. I don’t believe I have had the pleasure until now.”

“She was at the vernal equinox ball last year. But so were a lot of people. You probably don’t remember. Besides, you’re the Lord High President, now. You don’t MEET people. You overawe them.”

“A drawback of the job,” he admitted. “But I trust you will do all you can to make everyone a little less over-awed.”

“I’ll do my best. But I am the wife of the Lord High President. They’re all a bit over-awed by me, too.”

“You’ll show them,” Kristoph assured her. “That’s your gift, my dear. You put kings and commoners at their ease in your presence. Remember the Prince of Lme-Ohle. He was putty in your hands.”

Marion blushed at his compliments. She felt his hand on hers and didn’t tremble quite so much. But inside she was a bundle of nerves. It was hardly the first time she had attended a function as First Lady. But this one was so very important to her. It was her own special project. And if it was successful it would be only the first of its kind. She was anxious for it to go well.

“Oh... I didn’t expect so many people!” Marion exclaimed as the limousine drew near to the new building on the edge of the township where she taught school twice a week. She saw a group of her own schoolchildren in their best clothes cheering and waving as the car came to a stop. There were many adults from the township there, too. It looked as if everyone had taken the day off in honour of the occasion. There were several of her supporters from among the Ladies of Gallifrey there, too. It was a sunny day and they all had parasols, some held aloft by their personal maids. Lily held her own white lace parasol daintily. Lady Dúccesci did, too. Lady Patrexean and Lady and Madam Arpexia had their maids beside them. All of them sat on chairs while the Caretakers stood patiently. The social strata of Gallifrey were clearly defined. But all, children, Caretakers, and Ladies alike, were there for the opening of her library. Marion was pleased about that, even if the sight of so many of them was daunting.

Everyone bowed to Kristoph as he got out of the limousine, of course. But they kept bowing for Marion, too. She wished they had cheered or clapped rather than bowing. It still seemed too much for her.

Kristoph took her arm as they approached the library entrance. There wasn’t any bunting. But there were plenty of flowers. There was a big bouquet of them presented to her by one of the little children and many more making a splash of colour around the new building in hanging baskets and planters. It looked a bright, welcoming place as Marion had hoped it would.

Kristoph stepped forward. He faced the closed glass door and spoke in High Gallifreyan, invoking a blessing upon the new and as yet unused building. It was a custom of Gallifrey to do that whenever a building was newly occupied, whether as a home or as a place of business, learning or leisure. The invocation was for good fortune in the future for all who stepped through the doors.

Then it was Marion’s turn. She had a small speech ready, and her voice rang clear despite her nervousness. She spoke of her hope that the free library would enhance and enrich the lives of those who came to read the books and discover new ideas within them. Then she cut a huge ribbon with a pair of golden scissors presented to her on a velvet cushion and the double doors opened before her. Kristoph took her hand again as she stepped into her first library.

It was built in a rotunda style, like many libraries she had seen, on Earth, on Gallifrey, and elsewhere. On the outside it was only two storeys high, so as not to seem a daunting sight. But inside, Time Lord technology had made seven galleries above the ground floor and two below that she could see through the glass floor that was crystal clear in the centre. Diffused light from a crystal glass roof high above made it bright and airy.

The ground floor included the children’s library full of colourful and interesting books as well as the desk where books were checked in and out. The next three floors were fiction, literature, drama and poetry. Above them were the non-fiction sections. The floor immediately below was a study area with comfortable chairs for reading quietly. Below that was a reference section that readers had full access to.

Marion went to sit with the small children in the section given up to brightly coloured picture books. A man with a camera took her photograph surrounded by the young readers. Kristoph walked up the spiral staircase all the way to the top floor, urging those he met on each level not to bow to him, but to carry on perusing the newly fitted shelves full of books.

Slowly the library filled with Caretakers, all excited by the books in their thousands at their disposal. Soon there were people walking around all of the galleries above. Marion looked up at them, and then down at the study area below. Everyone seemed happy.

But they seemed reluctant to check out a book. The President and First Lady were there for nearly an hour, mingling with the new readers, especially the children, and the library staff waited patiently at the desk.

Then the man with the camera got ready for a very special photo opportunity. Marion smiled warmly to see that the first member of her library to check out a book was Rodan Mielles, accompanied by her grandfather. She shyly handed over a big illustrated book about deep space ships and Marion stamped the slip inside the cover with the date it had to be returned. The man got his photograph. Rodan got a book she would enjoy.

The next customer was Gallis Limmon, Marion’s chauffeur. He brought a book about the history of automobiles to his sister, the head librarian. She checked it out for him. He smiled warmly at her and respectfully at Marion before he left the library with his book.

That was the spur they needed. Soon many more of the people came to have books checked out by the First Lady. The librarians had very little to do for the time being. Everyone wanted Marion to stamp their library books.

“I hope they realise I’m not going to be doing this every day,” she remarked to Misha Limmon cheerfully. “But I am glad everyone is enjoying the library.”

“The children certainly are,” Misha answered. “We have run out of copies of the works of C.S. Lewis and that is the last ‘Hobbit’ on Gallifrey.”

“They’re the stories I have read to the children in school,” Marion explained. “They want to read them for themselves. I shall have to order more, so that nobody is disappointed.”

The choices the children made were easy to guess. They reflected the kind of literature Marion had exposed them to at school. There was a logic, also, to the kind of books the Caretakers chose to take home to read. Marion noticed that the men were interested in books about woodcraft and home improvement. The women took out books about needlework or cookery, practical crafts that would improve their homes.

Which was all well and good, and it was one of the things she hoped the library could do for them. But she noticed that very few of the Caretaker adults took out any fiction or poetry books.

In fact, Lady Dúccesci, who checked out the complete works of DH Lawrence, was the first to come to the desk with any kind of fiction at all.

“I wonder why that is,” she remarked absently in a quiet moment.

“It is because their daily lives are about work and duty,” Misha answered. “Fiction... to most adults in a township like this... seems frivolous and irrelevant.”

“Oh. But... they don’t sit and read stories in the evening when their work is done?”

“There is an oral tradition of story telling,” Misha explained. “But usually the elders, those who do not work because they are too old to do so, tell the stories to the young who are not yet working. Those between, they listen, but while they are working... while the evening meal is being cooked or a loom worked, or mending done. For them to sit and read to themselves would be... just not done.”

“That... doesn’t seem right,” Marion said. “They are missing out on so much. Even working people can take time out to read. Is there anything that could be done to encourage them? Otherwise, that is a whole part of the library that will go to waste... at least unless Lady Dúccesci gets bored with Lawrence and expands her tastes.”

Later, when the library closed its doors on its first day, Marion took tea with her head librarian and some of the Ladies at the Dower House. Aineytta de Lœngbærrow was the always charming hostess who eased the social gap between shy, unassuming Misha Limmon and the women whose husbands were giants of Gallifreyan politics. But it was Lady Dúccesci, over the tea, who had an idea to solve the problem of Caretaker reading habits. She had trouble putting her idea exactly into words at first, because the idea was a new one to her and to her companions. But Marion understood.

“You mean a reading circle,” she said. “A small meeting once a week to talk about books and suggest new ones to read. That’s a perfect idea. The study area on the lower floor would be ideal for the meetings. Misha... could you persuade a few friends to come...”

“Yes, I expect so,” she answered after a thoughtful pause. “Do you mean that... Ladies such as yourself would be present... as well as...”

“I would certainly like to come,” Lady Dúccesci said. Aineytta confirmed that she would definitely attend. Lily, too, was enthusiastic. And, of course, Marion would have to be there.

“But not to patronise,” she insisted. “It should be... equal. Everyone is coming to read books. Caretakers can do that as easily as Oldbloods and Newbloods. There is no special gift to it. So we should all be equal in the circle. And all opinions should count. It mustn’t be the four of us talking and Caretakers listening politely.”

“Marion, you are the wife of the Lord High President,” Lady Dúccesci pointed out. “You’re not even equal to the rest of us any more.”

“I’m still the foreigner everyone thought was beneath a Caretaker when I arrived,” she pointed out. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter who I am or who anyone is. We’re just going to enjoy some good books.”

Kristoph approved of the idea when Marion told him about it over their quiet dinner, at home in Mount Lœng House, at the end of that busy and exciting day. But he thought Marion was wrong to think that all they would be doing was enjoying some good books.

“Talitha Dúccesci looks like becoming the driving force of your little group,” he pointed out. “Interesting.”

“Why is it interesting?” Marion asked. “She’s been reading a lot of the books. She’s a big fan of DH Lawrence.”

“Whose characters tend to be working class people trying to rise above their station.” Kristoph smiled enigmatically and Marion was reminded that he had been a literature teacher on Earth for several years before she met him.


“Lord Dúccesci, her honourable but opinionated husband, is the chief spokesman for those of the High Councillors opposed to Caretakers rising above their station by means of extending voting rights to male householders over the age of 230... a proposal I am attempting to get passed in this Session. I wonder just what Talitha will tell him she is doing on Reading Circle days.”

“Oh, I do hope it doesn’t make trouble for her,” Marion said. “She is such a nice lady.”

“So do I,” Kristoph replied. “But that isn’t quite my point. Revolutions often have very quiet beginnings, in coffee houses and libraries, in places where people of different social status meet and discover common ground. It’s entirely possible that a seed of change for our world could be sown in this innocent little group of yours.”

Marion looked aghast. That wasn’t what she had meant to happen, at all. She really did just want to share the joy of reading a good novel with people who had never had the opportunity.

Kristoph smiled widely and laughed gently.

“It’s not before time. Rassilon bless the reading circle revolution, and let that seed of change germinate if it can. Just don’t overthrow the High Council while I’m still President. It would be just a little embarrassing to be deposed by my own wife.”