The imp took the piece of paper. It looked to be torn from and exercise book; smaller than either imperial or A4 and faintly ruled with blue lines with a red margin a thumb's width from the edge. He held it up to the light, where he could see an inscription in a child's scrawl and faded ink.
I, Harold Waterman, hereby trade my trust in the inherent goodness of human nature for the solemn belief that everybody looks out for themselves.
(signed) Harold Waterman 17th August 1970
"Call me a sentimental old imp if you like, but I found that rather sad." Devious replaced the paper. "Imagine what he'd be like if he still trusted people."
"He'd be poor." Jasfoup re-filed the receipt in its cardboard binder. "He'd still be pursuing love and chasing butterflies by the canal." He put his hand on his chest and closed his eyes:
Perish the lore that deadens young desire;
Pursue, poor imp, th' imaginary charm,
Indulge gay hope, and fancy's pleasing fire:
Fancy and hope shall too soon of themselves expire.
"A pretty way of putting it, sir, but more appropriate to young John, if you don't mind. Not that I'm not flattered, you understand, but I'm definitely a ladies' imp."
Jasfoup shook his head. "That was a quotation not a come-on, you stupid imp. From book one of Beattie's 'The Minstrel'."
"Ah! Sorry." The imp gave him a mock punch. "I thought you were...you know."
"Nope. Just pointing out that everybody suffers disappointments." He turned to go but stopped when Devious tugged at his trouser leg.
"What if we were to give it back to him? His trust in people, I mean."
Jasfoup looked thoughtfully at the file. "It wouldn't last long. Just until his hopes were dashed again."
"Long enough for you to take advantage of him though."
Jasfoup smiled, tucking the paper into his jacket pocket. "Well if you put it like that..."
Devious began walking up the next flight of stairs but paused when the demon spoke again.
"Do you think there's any chance of there being tea further up? I'm parched."
Devious thought about it. "Were in the early seventies already sir. The further up we go the older the records become. The likelihood of tea declines exponentially. of course, there is the possibility of finding a cooking pot suspended over an open fire but this is a library."
"I suppose." Jasfoup sat on a stack of Gideon Bibles. The friction between the belief systems made them warm to the touch and he let out an involuntary sigh of contentment. "You go up to the top on your own then. I'll just wait here." He yawned, showing all three rows of teeth. "I might even have a nap."
"All the way up there? On my own?" Devious clutched at the demon's trouser leg. "Will it be all right, do you think?"
"Why shouldn't it be? This is the Tower of Records. What could possibly be here that would be dangerous, especially to an imp. The worst thing you'll come across is a few dust mites." Jasfoup settled into his pile of bibles and closed his eyes.
"Dust mites?" Devious crept toward the stairwell, looking all around and alert for the slightest noise. He began to ascend, testing the aether for signs of imp passages but finding none. His bare feet trod on something with the noise of a crushed eggshell and he stooped to examine his find. It was a snail shell, the gastropod long since moved out. "Five thousand year old dust mites. What will they evolve into in five thousand years, that's what I want to know."