Those who sought the heart of the library had to pass a granite statue. The Silent Woman stood a few feet inside the entrance to the Reading Room. The gray Silent Woman had been sculpted by a famous artist. Her bowed head was wrapped in a carven scarf. Her eyes were down and closed.
In a dim corner of the Reading Room I took off my winter coat and settled into a plush armchair. Wooden shelves heavy with gilt-lettered books enclosed the silence, like the walls of a cathedral. My seat faced one side of the Silent Woman.
I opened a book. For an hour I read. Then I shut the book. The dry pages seemed unimportant. Small voices from the nearby Children’s Room had tiptoed up to me.
I listened to the little voices.
Like a bubbling stream of soft, musical notes, the voices pattered and splashed and giggled. They chimed like crystal water cascading over stones. From the Children’s Room I heard glee, excitement, surprise . . . softly running feet . . . a sudden cry of delight. I heard the joy of eager spirits that refuse to sit.
I tried to understand the indistinct voices, that swelled from a knowledge of life’s immediate fullness.
As I listened to the happy voices, I lifted my eyes to the Silent Woman.
Her head was bowed. Her eyes were closed.
She seemed to be waiting.