“What do you have, lovey?” Dowd said. “A little brandy, maybe? That’s what Oscar brings, isn’t it?”
She said it was and fetched a bottle, dispensing it to all three of them in tiny glasses.
“He brought us Dotterel too,” she said.
“Who’s Dotterel?” Jude inquired.
“The parrot. He was a present to me when I was little. He had a mate but she was eaten by the ragemy next door. The brute! Now Dotterel’s on his own, and he’s not happy. But Oscar’s going to bring me another parrot soon. He said he would. He brought pearls for Mama once. And for Papa he always brings newspapers. Papa loves newspapers.1′
She babbled on in a similar vein with barely a break in the flow. Meanwhile, the three glasses were filled and emptied and filled again several times, the liquor steadily taking its toll on Jude’s concentration. In fact she found the monologue, and the subtle motion of the light overhead, positively soporific and finally asked if she might lie down for a while. Again, Dowd made no objection and let Hoi-Polloi escort Jude up to the guest bedroom, offering only a slurred “sweet dreams, lovey” as she retired.
She laid her buzzing head down gratefully, thinking as she dozed that it made sense to sleep now, while the storm prevented her from taking to the streets. When it was over her expedition would begin, with or without Dowd. Oscar was not coming for her, that much seemed certain. Either he’d sustained too much injury to follow or else the Express had been somehow damaged by Dowd’s late boarding. Whichever, she could not delay her adventures here any longer. When she woke, she’d emulate the forces rattling the shutters and take Yzordderrex by storm.
She dreamt she was in a place of great grief: a dark chamber, its shutters closed against the same storm that raged outside the room in which she slept and dreamt—and knew she slept and dreamt even as she did so—and in this chamber was the sound of a woman sobbing. The grief was so palpable it stung her, and she wanted to soothe it, as much for her own sake as that of the griever. She moved through the murk towards the sound, encountering curtain after curtain as she went, all gossamer thin, as though the trousseaus of a hundred brides had been hung in this chamber. Before she could reach the weeping woman, however, a figure moved through the darkness ahead of her, coming to the bed where the woman lay and whispering to her.
“Kreauchee . . .” the other said, and through the veils Jude glimpsed the lisping speaker.
No figure as bizarre as this had ever flitted through her dreams before. The creature was pale, even in the gloom, and naked, with a back from which sprawled a garden of tails. Jude advanced a little to see her better, and the creature in her turn saw her, or at least her effect upon the veils, for she looked around the chamber as if she knew there was a haunter here. Her voice carried alarm when it came
“There’s som’ady here, ledy,” it said. “I’ll see nobody. Especially Seidux.” “It’s notat Seidux. I seeat no’ady, but I feelat som’ady
The weeping diminished. The woman looked up. There were still veils between Jude and the sleeper’s face, and the chamber was indeed dark, but she knew her own features when she saw them, though her hair was plastered to her sweating scalp, and her eyes puffed up with tears. She didn’t recoil at the sight, but stood as still as spirits were able amid gossamer, and watched the woman with her face rise up from the bed. There was bliss in her expression.
“He’s sent an angel,” she said to the creature at her side. “Concupiscentia . . . He’s sent an angel to summon me.”
“Yes. For certain. This is a sign. I’m going to be forgiven.”
A sound at the door drew the woman’s attention. A man in uniform, his face lit only by the cigarette he drew upon, stood watching.
“Get out,” the woman said.
“I came only to see that you were comfortable, Ma’am Quaisoir.”