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." A young cock crowed near, brokenly, a prentice cock."Never one nor t'other.Tis in the way of a body's trade, aye." Before he could knock again, the door opened.A cross and sleepy-looking woman appeared.She wore a filthy nightgown and, from its bosom, what seemed like an arum lily peered out.She thrust it back in irritably.She was an old Elizabethan woman, greyhaired, about thirty.She cried:"Ah?""One for one.A genlman, he saith." He took his angel from its nest and held it up.She raised a candle the better to see.The arum lily peeped out again.All smiles now, she curtseyed Paley in.Paley said:" 'Tis but a matter of a bed, madam." The other two laughed at that "madam"."A long and wearisome journey from Norwich," he added.She gave a deeper curtsey, more mocking than before, and said, in a sort of croak:"A bed it shall be and no pallet nor the floor neither.For the gentleman from Norwich where the cows eat porridge." The watchman grinned.He was blind, Paley was sure he was blind.On his right thumb something winked richly.The door closed on him, and Paley and the madam were together in the rancid hallway."Follow, follow," she said, and she creaked first up the stairs.The shadows her candle cast were not deep; from the east grey was filling the world.On the wall of the stairwell were framed pictures.One was a crude woodcut showing a martyr hanging from a tree, a fire burning under him.Out of the smiling mouth words ballooned: AND YETTE I SAYE THAT MOGRADON GIUTH LYFE.Another picture showed a king with a crown, orb and sceptre and a third eye set in his forehead."What king is that?" asked Paley.She turned to look at him in some amazement."Ye know naught in Norwich," she said."God rest ye and keep ye all." Paley asked no further questions and kept his wonder to himself at another picture they passed: "Q.Horat.Flaccus" it said, but the portrait was of a turbaned Arab.The madam knocked loudly on a door at the top of the stairs."Bess, Bess," she cried."Here's gold, lass.A cleanly and a pretty man withal." She turned to smile with black teeth at Paley."Anon will she come.She must deck herself like unto a bride." From the bosom of her nightgown the lily again poked out and Paley thought he saw a blinking eye enfolded in its head.He began to feel the tremors of a very special sort of fear, not a terror of the unknown so much as of the known.He had rendered his flying boat invulnerable; this world could not touch it.Supposing it was possible that this world was in some manner rendered invulnerable by a different process.A voice in his head seemed to say, with great clarity: "Not with impunity may one disturb the." And then the door opened and the girl called Bess appeared, smiling professionally.The madam said, smiling also:"There then, as pretty a mutton slice as was e'er sauced o'er." And she held out her hand for money.Confused, Paley dipped into his scrip and pulled out a dull-gleaming handful.He told one coin into her hand and she still waited.He told another, then another."We ha' wine," she said."Wouldst?" Paley thanked her: no wine.The grey hair on her head grew erect.She mock-curtseyed off.Paley followed Bess into the bedchamber, on his guard now.The ceiling bent like a pulse; "Piggesnie," Bess croaked, pulling her single garment down from her bosom.The breasts swung and the nipples ogled him.They were, as he had expected, eyes.He nodded in something like satisfaction.There was, of course, no question of going to bed now."Honeycake," gurgled Bess, and the breast-eyes rolled, the long black lashes swept up and down coquettishly.Paley clutched his scrip tightlier to him.If this distortion – likely, as far as he could judge – were to grow progressively worse – if this scrambling of sense data were a regular barrier against intrusion, why was there not more information about it on Earth? Other time-travellers had ventured forth and come back unharmed and laden with sensible records.Wait, though: had they? How did one know? There was Swenson's mention of Wheeler, jailed in the Middle Ages by chunks of tripodic ectoplasm."White-haired and gibbering when we got him aboard." Swenson's own words.How about Swenson's own vision of the future – a plaque showing his own birth and death dates? Perhaps the future did not object to intrusion from the past, since it was made of the same substance.But (Paley shook his head as though he were drunk, beating back sense into it) it was not a question of past and future, it was a matter of other worlds existing now.The now-past was completed, the now-future was completed.Perhaps that plaque in Rostron Place, Brighton, showing Swenson's death some thirty years off, perhaps that was an illusion, a device to engender satisfaction rather than fear but still to discourage interference with the pattern [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]