The Chemickal Marriage

The Chemickal Marriage by Gordon Dahlquist Read Free Book Online

Book: The Chemickal Marriage by Gordon Dahlquist Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gordon Dahlquist
fruit.’
    Svenson smiled, and it seemed he might touch her cheek, but instead he stood. His unshaven beard was darker than his hair and gave a masculine cast to his sharp chin that she had not previously discerned. Indeed, standing above her in his boots and rough clothing, the Doctor exuded an altogether disturbing maleness.
    He was staring at her. Of course he was – he quite naturally wanted to know everything – but Miss Temple found herself unable to speak. Her cheeks burnt. How could she tell him about Chang? How could she speak about her secret needs? How could she explain the derangement she risked from even his kind hand?
    The silence was broken by Mr Brine offering a match for Svenson’s unlit cigarette. Mr Phelps shifted the conversation to food, removing from a satchel several meat pies and a green bottle of sweet wine.
    Over the meal, Mr Phelps related their own experiences since the Parchfeldt wood. They had joined a ragged party of fleeing men – minions of Mrs Marchmoor who did not question their presence – finally reaching St Porte and a surgeon for Svenson’s wounds. Two days by dray-cart had seen them to the city and the refuge of Rawsbarthe’s home, where the Doctor fell into a fever. Phelps had risked returning to the Foreign Ministry only once, to find his offices ransacked and abandoned – indeed, like the offices of all senior staff.
    ‘Who is in charge?’ asked Miss Temple.
    ‘The Foreign Minister, Lord Mazeby, still lives, but has ever battled dementia – thus Deputy Minister Crabbé’s untoward authority. Junior attachés, such as my own aide, Mr Harcourt, have been promoted, but true policy must lie with the Privy Council, or the Crown. The Queen is old, however, and the Duke who ruled the Privy Council dead. A non-entity like Lord Axewith may take his place, but what does that serve? The entire government, and industry as well –’
    Miss Temple interrupted to suggest he speak to what she did
not
know already.
    In the ensuing pause Doctor Svenson cleared his throat and more fully described Cunsher as an
agent
provocateur
, personally loyal to Phelps, who had employed his services abroad. At this, Phelps resumed the tale: while he had seen to the Doctor’s recovery – and then the Doctor to his own – Mr Cunsher had set to investigating their enemies. A recitation of Cunsher’s discoveries was again interrupted by Miss Temple – she
knew
about the St Royale, and the factory, and the Institute, and –
    ‘But you were unaware of your own danger!’ barked Phelps. ‘Villains watching your hotel and attacking the men in your employ!’
    ‘
Whose
villains?’ asked Miss Temple. ‘From the Contessa, or Vandaariff?’
    ‘We suspect the latter,’ said Svenson. ‘Not even Cunsher can get near Harschmort. It is a rearmed camp. The Cabal spread a story of blood fever to justify Vandaariff’s confinement at their hands, and one would expect at least an announcement of recovery, to allow him back into public life – but none has come.’
    ‘What of the Contessa?’ asked Miss Temple.
    ‘Nothing,’ spat Mr Phelps. ‘Not one sign.’
    The tower had a primitive barracks, six musty bunks, now echoing with Mr Brine’s snores. Miss Temple peered across the room, unable to see whether Svenson and Phelps were asleep, though she assumed they were.
    A dream had awoken her. She had been in Harschmort, standing before the Dutch mirror, naked but for a green silk bodice. Someone was watching from behind the glass and she felt a keen pleasure in imagining their hungry eyes as her hands traced the sweep of her white hips. She wondered who itwas and turned her buttocks to the glass. Someone she knew? Chang? In delicious provocation, Miss Temple bent forward and reached between her legs … and in answer, like delight’s inevitable consequence, the room changed. The mirror was gone, revealing the niche behind it and her observer. Stretched upon the velvet chaise was the dead-eyed,

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