Edward was the sole remaining heir of the Barrister Greene line. He was well-bred, good-tempered, educated and had perfectly good manners but was unlucky in love and never married. The years glided swiftly by and made him oblivious. One day, young Edward found himself an old bachelor. By the morning our story found him asleep in his chair, Mr Greene could barely remember the time when the fact that he had no family of his own had mattered to him. The only thing that could eventually lead him to regret his solitude was the absence of heirs to his estate. But Mr Greene was more absorbed in reading thick books and in working on the nature and properties of the yellow rose and the Scottish slate-blue thistle. These two plants were his two most recent obsessions and instead of indulging in gloomy thoughts about successions, heirs, testaments and deaths, Mr Greene preferred tending to the soil of his garden.
Edward was fond of solitude and retirement from his early childhood. He was educated to become the proud heir of a long line of dignitaries but his studies led him to a tremendous deception. He realised that human nature was by definition unstable, capricious and selfish, that benevolence and tolerance were less easy to find than ignorance and wrath, that good men and bad men alike made fickle friends, and that the ideal world he had imagined for himself was impracticable in the presence of large numbers of people. He, therefore, fled the world and spent most of his time around his house. During his long and lonesome life, Mr Greene amassed a certain knowledge of the world he had fled by studying it from a comfortable distance. Even though he was much disillusioned himself, he was nevertheless determined to use his knowledge and superior understanding for the betterment of his fellow men.
Mr Greene had been looking for an occasion to put this intention into practice for several months when, one morning, the gruesome stain of blood appeared on his writing desk. Naturally, Mr Greene experienced a fit of freezing panic at first. When he saw the blood on his fingers, he was alarmed, frightened, terrified, disgusted. He ran after Mrs Inglis to reassure her but also to set his own mind at rest. After he turned his back on the stain, Mr Greene found out that the reflexes of an old scholar gradually took over his panic. The feeling of immediate stiffening horror he had experienced in his study left him and he was able to persuade Mrs Inglis to follow him back to the house. To his great relief, she did follow him to his study and stood behind him while he reflected on his next move.
Surmounting his disgust, Mr Greene bent to examine the blood. It had started to darken and was thickening into large irregular clots. An asymmetrical dark burgundy red rim had formed all around it and Mr Greene realised that if he left the stain there, it would damage the polish of the writing desk. He felt the chilly fit of panic return in full force. Suddenly, Mrs Inglis hurried back downstairs and came back, carrying an iron bucket in one hand and a wet cloth in the other.
“We must clean it up, Mr. Greene, or it will ruin your father’s desk. Here, let me wipe it up.” Mr Green observed that Mrs Inglis had washed her face. Her hiccup had stopped and she appeared more determined than ever to wash, scrub and clean. Mr. Greene smiled a kind thank you and rapidly rummaged through the upper left drawer of the desk for the yellow silk polishing cloth. In less than a minute or two, the water in the bucket was murky red and the surface of the writing desk shone clean and clear.
Everything was as it had always been. Except that something was different, something Mr Greene could never suspect, something that was to force him out of his house and into the wide world in less than a fortnight.