BENEATH THE SURFACE
Up came the dusk to the doors of the king’s palace—a hurry of grey banners flowing into the empty ways where the sun had been. Upon this high dominion Night could not advance unheralded, and here the Twilight messengered her coming long after the dark lay thick on the lowland and on the toiling water.
St. George, leaning from Amory’s window, looked down on the shadows rising in exquisite hesitation, as if they came curling from the lighted censer of Med. There is no doubt at all, Olivia had said gravely, that the dusk is patterned, if only one could see it—figured in unearthly flowers, in wandering stars, in upper-air sprites, grey-winged, grey-bodied, so that sometimes glimpsing them one fancies them to be little living goblins. He smiled, remembering her words, and glanced over his shoulder down the long room where the other light was now beginning to creep about, first expressing, then embracing the chamber dusk. It seemed precisely the moment when something delicate should be caught passing from gloom to radiance, to be thankfully remembered. But only many-winged colours were visible, though he could hear a sound like little murmurous speech in the dusky roof where the air had a recurrent fashion of whispering knowingly.
Indeed, the air everywhere in the palace had a fashion of whispering knowingly, for it was a place of ghostly draughts and blasts creeping through chambers cleft by yawning courts and open corridors and topped by that skeleton dome. And as St. George turned from the window he saw that the door leading into the hall, urged by some nimble gust, imaginative or prying, had swung ajar.
St. George mechanically crossed the room to close the door, noting how the pale light warmed the stones of that cave-like corridor. With his hand upon the latch his eyes fell on something crossing the corridor, like a shadow dissolving from gloom to gloom. Well beyond the open door, stealing from pillar to pillar in the dimness and moving with that swiftness and slyness which proclaim a covert purpose as effectually as would a bell, he saw old Malakh.
Now St. George was in felt-soled slippers and he was coatless, because in the adjoining room Jarvo, with a heated, helmet-like apparatus, was attempting to press his blue serge coat. In that room too was Amory, catching glimpses of himself in a mirror of polished steel, but within reach, on the divan where Jarvo had just laid it, was Amory’s coat; and St. George caught that up, slipped it on, and was off down the corridor after the old man, moving as swiftly and slyly as he. St. George had no great faith in him or in what he might know, but the old man puzzled him, and mystification is the smell of a pleasant powder.