Having studied the city for a time, Quaisoir left the window and went through to her dressing room.
“I mustn’t go to Him like this,” she said, starting to undress. “That would be shameful.”
The woman caught sight of herself in one of the mirrors and sat down in front of it, peering at her reflection with distaste. Her tears had made mud of the kohl around her eyes, and her cheeks and neck were blotchy. She took a piece of linen from the dressing table, sprinkled some fragrant oil upon it, and began to roughly clean her face.
“I’ll go to Him naked,” she said, smiling in anticipation of that pleasure. “He’ll prefer rne that way.”
This mystery lover intrigued Jude more and more. Hearing her own voice musky with talk of nakedness, she was tantalized. Would it not be a fine thing to see the consummation? The idea of watching herself couple with some Yzordderrexian Maestro had not been among the wonderments she’d anticipated discovering in this city, but the notion carried an erotic frisson she could not deny herself. She studied the reflection of her reflection. Though there were a few cosmetic differences, the essentials were hers, to the last nick and mole. This was no approximation of her face, but the thing exactly, which fact strangely excited her. She had to find a way to speak with this woman tonight. Even if their twinning was simply a freak of nature, they would surely be able to illuminate each other’s lives with an exchange of histories. All she needed was a clue from her doppelganger as to where in the city she intended to go looking for her Maestro lover.
With her face cleansed, Quaisoir got up from in front of the mirror and went back into the bedroom. Concupis-centia was sitting by the window. Quaisoir waited until she was within inches of her servant before she spoke, and even then her words were barely audible.
“We’ll need a knife,” she said.
The creature shook her head. “They tookat em all,” she said. “You seem how ey lookat and iookat.”
“Then we must make one,” Quaisoir replied. “Seidux will try to oppose our leaving.”
“You wishat to kill em?”
“Yes, I do.”
This talk chilled Jude. Though Seidux had retreated before Quaisoir when she’d threatened to cry rape, Jude doubted that he’d be so passive if challenged physically. Indeed, what more perfect excuse would he need to regain his dominance than her coming at him with a knife? If she’d had the means, she would have been Clara’s mouthpiece now and echoed her sentiments on man the desola-tor, in the hope of keeping Quaisoir from harm. It would be an unbearable irony to lose this woman now, having found her way (surely not by accident, though at present it seemed so) across half the Imajica into her very chamber.
“I cet shapas te knife,” Concupiscentia was saying.
“Then do it,” Quaisoir replied, leaning still closer to her fellow conspirator.
Jude missed the next exchange, because somebody called her name. Startled, she looked around the room, but before she’d half scanned it she recognized the voice. It was Hoi-Polloi, and she was rousing the sleeper after the storm.
“Papa’s here!” Jude heard her say. “Wake up, Papa’s here!”
There was no time to bid farewell to the scene. It was there in front of her one moment, and replaced the next with the face of Peccable’s daughter, leaning to shake her awake.
“Papa—” she said again.
“Yes, all right,” Jude said brusquely, hoping the girl would leave without further exchanges coming between her and the sights sleep had brought. She knew she had scant moments to drag the dream into wakefuiness with her, or it would subside and the details become hazy the deeper it sank.
She was in luck. Hoi-Polloi hurried back down to her father’s side, leaving Jude to recite aloud all she’d seen and heard. Quaisoir and her servant Concupiscentia; Seidux and the plot against him. And the lover, of course. She shouldn’t forget the lover, who was presumably somewhere in the city even now, pining for his mistress who was locked up in her gilded prison. With these facts fixed in her head, she ventured first to the bathroom, then down to meet Peccable.