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celebrity. Since-
Hawksmoor went wandering, escorting on his arm the lady he was treating with
such tender attention that it seemed he wanted to make her his own. He
led Lady Genevieve up and down through the rich gloom of the Abbey's
interior as, he explained, he himself had interpreted and copied it.
Within the walls and under the gothic peak of roof was, altogether,
more than a hectare of space. He could have told her the precise area, down
to the last decimal of a square millimeter, but he did not.
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Together they walked the aisles of the great church for a
considerable time, hands touching now without any seeming constraint,
with less peculiarity of feeling-then out again into the cloister's open air,
where mild rain had come to replace sunlight while they were gone.
The rain felt very strange upon the lady's face, but she made no comment on
the strangeness.
Her escort, saying little, looked at her and guided her back inside.
The couple walked, their footfalls echoing upon square paving stones,
straight down the middle of the towering nave.
"Gothic arches. I'll explain the structural theory of them to you if you
like. The tallest, here in the nave, are more than thirty meters
high. A ten-story building, if it was narrow enough, could fit inside. The
loftiest interior of any church in all old England."
"I see no other people here."
"Do you wish for other people? Wait, that may be a verger, walking
down the other aisle-see? And is that a priest I see at the high altar?"
Lady Genevieve stopped in her tracks. She knew these other people were some
kind of sham. "What about my husband?"
"He is not here. Though as far as I know the Premier Dirac is well."
Hawksmoor's voice became querulous. "Do you miss your bridegroom?" Then, as if
he were trying to restrain himself but could not: "Do you love him very
much?"
The lady shuddered. "I don't know what I feel about him. I
can't say that I miss him; I can hardly remember what he is like."
"I'm sure your memory can call up anything you really want to know. Anything
at all from your past."
"Yes, I suppose-if I was willing to make the effort." She sighed, and seemed
to try to pull herself together. "Dirac and I never quarreled
seriously about anything. He was good to me, I
suppose, in the few days we lived together. But the truth is, I
was-I am-terribly afraid of him." Once more she paused, looking at her
taller companion's face, his head outlined against bright stained
glass. "Tell me, what has happened to my child?"
"Child?"
"I was& pregnant."
"You know the answer to that. You donated your& protochild, I believe is the
proper term, to the colony program. Or do you mean what might have happened
afterward?"
The couple stood regarding each other, no longer touching. A
silence stretched between them.
At last the lady broke it. "Nick, tell me the truth. What's
happened?"
"To you? You are here with me, and you are safe. Perhaps that ought to be
enough for now. But whenever you decide you really want to probe more deeply& "
For a moment Lady Genevieve could not speak. The sensation reminded her of her
earlier problem in obtaining enough air with which to form and utter words,
but this difficulty was somehow even more fundamental.
"No!" she cried out suddenly. "Don't tell me anything-anything
frightening-just now. Can't we get out of this old building? What are all
these monuments around us, graves?"
Her escort remained calm. "Many of them are. Tombs built into the walls and
floor. But tombs so old I didn't think that they would mean anything
to you, frighten you-"
"Isn't there anywhere else we can go?"
"There are a great many places." He took the lady's hand and stroked it
soothingly. In her perception there was still something peculiar about the
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contact. "Let's try this way for a start."
With Nick gallantly providing an arm upon which the lady was willing to lean
for comfort and guidance, the couple progressed from the western end of the
nave into a stone-walled room that
Nick murmured was St. George's chapel, then out of that grim place
along a narrow passage penetrating a wall of tremendous thickness, to reach
what were obviously the living quarters.
On their arrival in these very different rooms, Hawksmoor looked
somewhat anxiously at the lady and asked her what she thought. Before he
considered this space ready to use for entertaining, he had several
times redesigned and refilled it with several successive sets of furnishings,
according to the changing dictates of his taste.
After all, he was still very young.
Parts of his version of the Abbey, including the structural shell and much of
the pleasing detail in the stonework and glass, had existed for many months
before he met or even heard of the
Lady Genevieve. It was Nick's private hobby as well as a component
of his work in which he was deeply interested. But all this flurry of recent
hasty revision had of course the single object of pleasing Jenny.
Actually, as he confessed later to his beloved, he had been able to discover
very little about how these inner, semiprivate rooms had actually looked in
the original down through the centuries-and in truth he did not
really care. It was the grand design, the stonework and its decoration,
that he had found most fascinating-at least until very recently.
Presently she was sitting in a comfortable modern chair. The room's stone
walls were hung with abstract tapestries. The windows were too high for
their clear glass to let in any real view of the outside. "It is a strange
temple, Nick."
"It is a very old temple."
"And you live here?"
He had remained on his feet, restless, still watching her reactions
closely, his boots resounding upon the bare stone between two thickly
woven modern-looking rugs. "I suppose I
spend as much time here as I do anywhere."
"And what god or goddess was it meant to serve?" [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]