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The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

Excerpt 1It
would be simple enough to follow him. Roger was a man of habits,
and even when his hours of work were irregular he would still take
his mid-day meal, whenever he did take it, at the same restaurant.
Miss Temple found an antiquarian book shop across the street ---
where, as she was obliged to purchase something for standing so
long watching through its window, she on impulse selected a
complete four-volume Illustrated Lives of Sea Martyrs. The
books were detailed enough to warrant her spending the time in the
window, apparently examining the colored plates, while actually
watching Roger first enter and then, after an hour, re-emerge,
alone, from the heavy doors across the street. He walked straight
back into the Ministry courtyard. Miss Temple arranged for her
purchase to be delivered to the Boniface, and walked back into the
street, feeling like a fool.
had re-crossed the square before her reason convinced her that she
was not so much a fool as an inexperienced observer. It was
pointless to watch from outside the restaurant. It was only from
inside that she could have determined whether or not Roger dined
alone, or with others, or with which particular others, or whether
with any of whom he might have shared significant words --- all
crucial information. Further, unless he had merely thrown her over
for his work --- which she doubted, scoffing --- she was like to
learn nothing from observing his working day. It was after work ---
obviously --- that any real intelligence would be gathered.
Abruptly, for by this time she was across the square and in the
midst of the shops, she entered a store whose windows were thick
with all shapes of luggage, hampers, oilskins, gaiters, pith
helmets, lanterns, telescopes, and a ferocious array of walking
sticks. She emerged some time later, after exacting negotiations,
wearing a ladies black traveling cloak, with a deep hood and
several especially cunning pockets. A visit to another shop filled
one pocket with opera glasses, and a visit to a third weighed down
a second pocket with a leather bound notebook and an all-weather
pencil. Miss Temple then took her tea.
Between cups of Darjeeling and two scones slathered with cream
she made opening entries in the notebook, prefacing her entire
endeavor and then detailing the day's work so far. That she now had
a kind of uniform and a set of tools made everything that much
easier and much less about her particular feelings, for tasks
requiring clothes and accoutrements were by definition objective,
even scientific, in nature. In keeping with this, she made a point
to write her entries in a kind of cipher, replacing proper names
and places with synonyms or word-play that hopefully would be
impenetrable to all but herself (all references to the Ministry
were to "Minsk" or even just "Russia", and Roger himself --- in a
complex train of thought that started with him as a snake that had
shed his skin, to a snake being charmed by the attractions of
others, to India, and finally, because of his still-remarkable
personal presence --- became "the Rajah"). Against the possibility
that she might be making her observations for some time and in some
discomfort, she ordered a sausage roll for later. It was placed on
her table, wrapped in thick wax paper, and presently bundled into
another pocket of her cloak.
Though the winter was verging into spring, the city was still
damp around the edges, and the evenings colder than the lengthening
days seemed to promise. Miss Temple left the tea shop at four
o'clock, knowing Roger to leave usually at five, and hired a
carriage. She instructed her driver in a low, direct tone of voice,
after assuring him he would be well paid for his time, that they
would be following a gentleman, most likely in another carriage,
and that she would rap on the roof of the coach to indicate the man
when he appeared. The driver nodded, but said nothing else. She
took his silence to mean that this was a usual enough thing, and
felt all the more sure of herself, settling in the back of the
coach, readying her glasses and her notebook, waiting for Roger to
appear. When he did, some 40 minutes later, she nearly missed him,
amusing herself for the moment by peering through the opera glasses
into nearby open windows --- but some tingling intuition caused her
to glance back at the courtyard gates just in time to see Roger
(standing in the road with an air of confidence and purpose that
made her breath catch) flag down a coach of his own. Miss Temple
rapped sharply on the roof of the coach, and they were
thrill of the chase --- complicated by the thrill of seeing Roger
(which she was nearly certain was the result of the task at hand
and not any residual affection) --- was quickly tempered when,
after the first few turns, it became evident that Roger's
destination was nothing more provocative than his own home. Again,
Miss Temple was forced to admit the possibility that her rejection
might have been in favor of no rival, but, as it were, immaculate.
It was possible. It might even have been preferable. Indeed, as her
coach trailed along the route to the Bascombe house --- a path she
knew so well as to once have considered it nearly her own --- she
reflected on the likelihood that it was that another woman had
taken her place in Roger's heart. To her frank mind, it was not
likely at all. Looking at the facts of Roger's day --- a Spartan
path of work to meal to work to home where undoubtedly he would,
after a meal, immerse himself in still more work --- it was more
reasonable to conclude that he had placed her second to his
vaulting ambition. It seemed a stupid choice, as she felt she could
have assisted him in any number of sharp and subtle ways, but she
could at least follow the (faulty, childish) logic. She was
imagining Roger's eventual realization of what he had (callously,
foolishly, blindly) thrown aside, and then her own strange urge to
comfort him in this sure-to-be-imminent distress when she saw that
they had arrived. Roger's coach had stopped before his front
entrance, and her own a discreet distance behind.
Roger did not get out of the coach. Instead, after a delay of
some minutes, the front door opened and his manservant Phillips
came toward the coach bearing a bulky black-wrapped bundle. He
handed this to Roger through the open coach door, and then in turn
received Roger's black satchel and two thickly bound portfolios of
paper. Phillips carried these items of Roger Bascombe's work day
back into the house, and closed the door behind him. A moment
later, Roger's coach jerked forward, returning at some pace into
the thick of the city. Miss Temple rapped on her coach's ceiling
and was thrown back into her seat as the horses leapt ahead,
resuming their trailing surveillance.
this time it was fully dark, and Miss Temple was more and more
forced to rely on her driver that they were on the right path. Even
when she leaned her head out of the window --- now wearing the hood
for secrecy --- she could only glimpse the coaches ahead of them,
with no longer a clear confidence about which might be Roger's at
all. This feeling of uncertainty took deeper hold the longer they
drove along, as now the first tendrils of evening fog began to
reach them, creeping up from the river. By the time they stopped
again, she could barely see her own horses. The driver leaned down
and pointed to a high, shadowed archway over a great staircase that
led down into a cavernous gas-lit tunnel. She stared at it and
realized that the shifting ground at its base, which she first took
to be rats streaming into a sewer, was actually a crowd of
dark-garbed people flowing through and down into the depths below.
It looked absolutely infernal, a sickly-yellow portal surrounded by
murk, offering passage to hideous depths.
"Stropping, Miss," the driver called down and then, in response
to Miss Temple's lack of movement, "train station." She felt as if
she'd been slapped --- or at least the hot shame she imagined being
actually slapped must feel like. Of course it was the train
station. A sudden spike of excitement drove her leaping from the
cab to the cobblestones. She quickly thrust money into the driver's
hand and launched herself toward the glowing arch. Stropping
Station. This was exactly what she had been looking for --- Roger
was doing something else.
took her a few desperate moments to find him, having wasted
valuable seconds gaping in the coach. The tunnel opened into a
larger staircase that led down into the main lobby and past that to
the tracks themselves, all under an intricate and vast canopy of
ironwork and soot-covered brick. "Like Vulcan's cathedral," Miss
Temple smiled, the vista spreading out beneath her, rather proud of
so acutely retaining her wits. Beyond coining similes, she had the
further presence of mind to step to the side of the stairs, use a
lamp post to perch herself briefly on a railing, and with that
vantage use the opera glasses to look over the whole of the crowd
--- which her height alone would never have afforded. It was only a
matter of moments before she found Roger. Again, instead of
immediately rushing, she followed his progress across the lobby to
a particular train. When she was sure she had seen him enter the
train, she climbed off of the railing and set off first to find out
where it was going, and then to buy a ticket.
had never been in a station of such size --- Stropping carried all
traffic to the north and west --- much less at the crowded close of
a working day, and to Miss Temple it was like being thrust into an
ant-hill. It was usual in her life for her small size and delicate
strength to pass unnoticed, taken for granted but rarely relevant,
like an unwillingness to eat eels. In Stropping Station, however,
despite knowing where she was going (to the large chalk board
detailing platforms and destinations), Miss Temple found herself
shoved along pell mell, quite apart from her own intentions, the
view from within her hood blocked by a swarm of elbows and
waistcoats. Her nearest comparison was swimming in the sea against
a mighty mindless tide. She looked up and found landmarks in the
ceiling, constellations of ironwork, to judge her progress and
direction, and in this way located an advertising kiosk she had
seen from the stairs. She worked her way around it and launched
herself out again at another angle, figuring the rate of drift to
reach another lamp post that would allow her to step high enough to
see the board.
lamp post reached, Miss Temple began to fret about the time. Around
her --- for there were many, many platforms --- whistles fervently
signaled arrivals and departures, and she had no idea, in her
subterranean shuffling, whether Roger's train had already left.
Looking up at the board, she was pleased to see that it was
sensibly laid out in columns indicating train number, destination,
time, and platform. Roger's train --- at platform 12 --- left at
6:23, for the Orange Canal. She craned her head to see the station
clock --- another hideous affair involving angels, bracketing each
side of the great face (as if keeping it up with their wings),
impassively gazing down, one holding a pair of scales, the other a
bared sword. Between these two black metal specters of judgment,
Miss Temple saw with shock that it was 6:17. She threw herself off
the lamp post toward the ticket counter, burrowing vigorously
through a sea of coats. She emerged, two minutes later, at the end
of an actual ticket line, and within another minute reached the
counter itself. She called out her destination --- the end of the
line, round-trip --- and dropped a handful of heavy coins onto the
marble, pushing them peremptorily at the clerk, who looked beakily
at her from the other side of a wire cage window. His pale fingers
flicked out from under the cage to take her money and shoved back a
perforated ticket. Miss Temple snatched it and bolted for the
conductor stood with a lantern, one foot up on the stairs into the
last car, ready to swing himself aboard. It was 6:22. She smiled at
him as sweetly as her heaving breath would allow, and pushed past
onto the car. She had only just stopped at the top of the steps to
gather her wits when the train pulled forward, nearly knocking her
off her feet. She flung her arms out against the wall to keep her
balance and heard a chuckle behind her. The conductor stood with a
smile at the base of the steps in the open doorway, the platform
moving past behind him. Miss Temple was not used to being laughed
at in any circumstance, but between her mission, her disguise, and
her lack of breath, she could find no immediate retort and instead
of gaping like a fish merely turned down the corridor to find a
compartment. The first was empty and so she opened the glass door
and sat in the middle seat facing the front of the train. To her
right was a large window. As she restored her composure, the last
rushing view of Stropping Station --- the platform, the trains
lined up, the vaulted brick cavern --- vanished, swallowed by the
blackness of a tunnel.
compartment was all dark wood, with a rather luxurious red velvet
upholstery for the bank of three seats on either side. A small milk
white globe gave off a meager gleam, pallid and dim, but enough to
throw her reflection against the dark window. Her first instinct
had been to pull off the cloak and breathe easily, but though Miss
Temple was hot, scattered, and with no sense of where she was
exactly going, she knew enough to sit still until she was thinking
clearly. Orange Canal was some distance outside the city, nearly to
the coast, with who knew how many other stops in between, any one
of which might be Roger's actual destination. She had no idea who
else might be on the train, and if they might know her, or might
know Roger, or might in fact be the journey's reason itself. What
if there were no destination at all, merely some rail-bound
assignation? In any case, it was clear that she had to find Roger's
location on the train or she would never know if he disembarked or
if he met someone. As soon as the conductor came to take her
ticket, she would begin to search.
did not come. It had already been some minutes, and he had only
been a few yards away. She didn't remember seeing him go past ---
perhaps when she entered? --- and began to get annoyed, his
malingering on top of the chuckle making her loathe the man. She
stepped into the corridor. He was not there. She narrowed her eyes
and began to walk forward, carefully, for the last thing she wanted
--- even with the cloak --- was to stumble into Roger unawares. She
crept to the next compartment, craned her head around so she could
peer into it. No one. There were eight compartments in the car, and
they were all empty.
train rattled along, still in darkness. Miss Temple stood at the
door to the next car and peered through the glass. It looked
exactly like the car she was in. She opened the door and stepped
through --- another eight compartments without a single occupant.
She entered the next car, and found the exact same situation. The
rear three cars of this train were completely unoccupied. This
might explain the absence of the conductor --- though he still must
have known her to be in the rear car and if he had been polite
could have taken her ticket. Perhaps he merely expected her to do
what she was doing, moving ahead to where she should have been in
the first place, if she hadn't been so late to reach the train.
Perhaps there was something she didn't know about the rear cars, or
the etiquette on this particular trip --- would that explain the
chuckle? --- or about the other passengers themselves. Perhaps they
were in a group? Perhaps it was less a journey and more of an
excursion? Now she despised the conductor for his presumption as
well as his rudeness, and she moved forward in the train to find
him. This car as well was empty --- four cars! --- and Miss Temple
paused at the doorway into the fifth, trying to recall just how
many cars there were to begin with (she had no idea) or how many
might be normal (she had no idea) or what exactly she could say to
the conductor, upon finding him, that would not reveal her complete
ignorance (she had no immediate idea). As she stood thinking, the
train stopped.
Excerpt 2She
rushed into the nearest compartment and threw open the window. The
platform was empty --- no one boarding, and no one leaving the
train. The station itself --- the sign said Crampton Place --- was
closed and dark. The whistle blew and the train --- throwing Miss
Temple back into the seats --- lurched into life. A chill wind
poured through the open window as they gathered speed and she
pulled the window closed. She had never heard of Crampton Place,
and was happy enough not to be going there now --- it struck her as
desolate as a Siberian steppe. She wished she had a map of this
particular line, a list of stops. Perhaps this was something she
might get from the conductor, or at least a list she could write
down in her book. Thinking of the book, she took it out and,
licking the tip of the pencil, wrote "Crampton Place" in her
deliberate, looping script. With nothing else to add, she put the
book away and returned to the corridor and then, with a sigh of
resolve, stepped into the fifth car.
knew it was different from the perfume. Where the other corridors
were imbued with a vague industrial mixture of smoke and grease and
lye and dirty mop-water, the corridor of the fifth car smelled ---
startling because she knew them from her own home --- of frangipani
flowers. With a surge of excitement, Miss Temple crept to the
nearest compartment and slowly leaned forward to peer into it. The
far seats were all occupied: two men in black topcoats and between
them a woman in a yellow dress, laughing. The men smoked cigars,
and both had trimmed and pointed beards, with hearty red faces, as
if they were two examples of the same species of thick, vigorous
dog. The woman wore a half-mask made of peacock feathers that
spread out over the top her head, leaving only her eyes to pierce
through like gleaming stones. Her lips were painted red, and opened
wide when she laughed. All three were gazing at someone in the
opposite row of seats, and had not noticed Miss Temple. She
retreated from view, and then, feeling childish but knowing nothing
else for it, dropped to her hands and knees and crawled past,
keeping her body below the level of the glass in the door. On the
other side, she carefully rose and peered back at the opposite row
of seats and froze. She was looking directly at Roger
was not looking at her. He wore a black cloak, closed about his
throat, and smoked a thin, wrapped cheroot, his oak-colored hair
flattened back over his skull with pomade. His right hand was in a
black leather glove, his left, holding the cheroot, was bare. At a
second glance Miss Temple saw that the right gloved hand was
holding the left glove. She also saw that Roger was not laughing,
that his face was deliberately blank, an expression she had seen
him adopt in the presence of the Minister or Deputy Minister, or
his mother, or his uncle Tarr --- that is, those to whom he owed
deference. Sitting against the window, the seat between them
unoccupied, was another woman, in a red dress that flashed like
fire from beneath a dark fur-collared cloak. Miss Temple saw the
woman's pale ankles and her delicate throat, like white coals
beneath the flaming dress, flickering in and out of view as she
shifted in her seat. Her darkly red mouth wore an openly
provocative wry smile and she puffed at a cigarette through a long
black lacquered holder. She also wore a mask, of red leather,
dotted with glittering studs where the eyebrows would be, and then
--- Miss Temple noted with some discomfort --- forming a gleaming
tear, just ready to drop from the outer corner of each eye. She had
obviously said whatever the others were laughing at. The woman
exhaled, a deliberate stream of smoke sent to the other row of
seats. As if this gesture were the conclusion of her witticism, the
others laughed again, even as they waved the smoke from their

Miss Temple stepped clear of the window, her back flat against the
wall. She had no idea what she ought to do. To her right was
another compartment. She risked a peek, and saw the far seats
occupied with three women, each with a traveling cloak wrapped
around what seemed to be, judging from their shoes, elegant evening
wear. Two wore half-masks decorated with yellow ostrich feathers
while the third, her face uncovered, held her mask on her lap,
fussing with an uncooperative strap. Miss Temple pulled her own
hood lower and craned to see that the other seat held two men, one
in a tailcoat and one in a heavy fur that made him seem like a
bear. Both of these men wore masks as well, simple black affairs,
and the man in the tailcoat occupied himself with sips from a
silver flask, while the man in the fur tapped his fingers on the
pearl inlaid tip of an ebony walking stick. Miss Temple darted
back. The man in the fur had glanced toward the corridor. In a rush
she scampered past Roger's compartment, in open view, and through
the connecting door to the previous car.
shut the door behind her and crouched on her hands and knees.
Interminable seconds passed. No one came to the door. No one
entered in pursuit, or even curiosity. She relaxed, took a breath,
and brought herself sharply to task. She felt out of her depth,
beyond her experience --- and yet, frankly, Miss Temple had no
confirmation why this must be true. Despite being assailed with
sinister thoughts, all she had definitely learned was that Roger
was attending --- without obvious pleasure, nor anything more
evident than obligation --- an exclusive party of some kind, where
the guests were masked. Was this so unusual? Even if to Miss Temple
it was, she knew this did not figure, so much was strange to her
sheltered life that she was no objective judge --- had she been in
society for an entire season, this kind of entertainment might seem
if not so routine as to be dull, at least a known quantity.
Further, she reconsidered the fact that Roger was not sitting next
to the woman in red, but apart from her --- in fact, apart from
everyone. She wondered if this was his first time in their company.
She wondered who this woman was. The other, in yellow with the
peacock feathers, interested her much less, simply for having been
so vulgarly receptive to the more elegant woman's wit. Clearly the
men were unconcerned about hiding their identities --- they must
all know each other and be traveling as a group. In the other
compartment, all being masked, perhaps they didn't. Or perhaps they
did know each other but were unaware of it because of the
masks --- the whole pleasure of the evening would lie in guessing,
she realized, and in remaining hidden. It struck Miss Temple as
perhaps a great deal of fun, though she knew that her own dress, if
fine for the day, was nothing to wear to such an evening, and that
her cloak and hood, though they protected her identity for the
moment, were nothing like the proper party mask everyone else would
thoughts were interrupted by a clicking sound from the other
corridor. She risked a look and saw the man in the fur --- quite
imposing when not seated, nearly filling the corridor with his wide
frame --- stepping out of Roger's compartment and closing the door
behind him. Without a glance toward her, he returned to his own.
She sighed --- releasing a tension she had been unable to fully
acknowledge --- he had not seen her, he was merely visiting the
other compartment. He must know the woman, she decided, even though
he could have stepped into the compartment to speak to any person
in it, including Roger. Roger saw so many people in his day ---
from government, from business, from other countries --- and she
realized with a pang how small her own circle of acquaintance
actually was. She knew so little of the world, so little of life,
and here she was cowering in an empty train car, small and
ridiculous. While Miss Temple was biting her lip, the train stopped
more she dashed into a compartment and opened the window, and once
more the platform was empty, the station shuttered and dark. This
sign read Packington --- a place she had never heard of --- but she
took a moment to enter it into her notebook just the same. When the
train began to move again she closed the window. As she turned back
to the compartment door she saw that it was open, and in it stood
the conductor. He smiled.
"Ticket, Miss?"She
fished her ticket from her cloak and handed it to him. He took it
from her, tilting his head to study the printed destination, still
smiling. In his other hand he held an odd metal clamping device. He
looked up.
the way to Orange Canal, then?"
"Yes. How many more stops will that be?""Quite a few."She
smiled back at him, thinly. "Exactly how many, please?"
"Seven stops. Be the better part of two hours.""Thank you."The
clamping device punched a hole in the ticket with a loud snapping
sound, like the bite of a metal insect, and he returned it to her.
He did not move from the door. In response, Miss Temple flounced
her cloak into position as she met his gaze, claiming the
compartment for herself. The conductor watched her, glanced once
toward the front of the train and licked his lips. In that moment
she noticed the porcine quality of his heavy neck, particularly how
it was stuffed into the tight collar of his blue coat. He looked
back at her and twitched his fingers, puffy and pale like a parcel
of uncooked sausages. Confronted with this spectacle of
ungainliness, her contempt abated in favor of mere disinterest ---
she no longer wanted to cause him harm, only that he should leave.
But he wasn't going to leave. Instead, he leaned closer, with a
feeble kind of leer.
riding up with the others, then, are you?"
you can see, no."
"It's not always safe, a young lady alone ..."He
trailed off, smiling. The conductor persisted in smiling at all
times. He fingered the clamping device, his gaze drifting toward
her well-shaped calves. She sighed.
"Safe from what?"He
did not answer.
Before he could, before he could do anything that would cause
her to either scream or feel still more galling pitiful disdain,
she raised her open palm to him, a signal that he need not answer,
need not say anything, and asked him another question.
you aware where they --- where we --- are all
conductor stepped back as if he had been bitten, as if she had
threatened his life. He retreated to the corridor, touched his cap,
and turned abruptly, rushing into the forward car. Miss Temple
remained in her seat. What had just happened? What she'd meant as a
question the man had taken as a threat. He must know, she reasoned,
and it must be a place of wealth and influence --- at least enough
that the word of a guest might serve to cost him his position. She
smiled (it had been a satisfying little exchange, after all) at
what she had learned --- not that it was a surprise. That Roger was
attending in a subordinate position only reinforced the possibility
that representatives from the upper levels of government might well
be present.
a vague gnawing restlessness, Miss Temple was reminded that she was
actually getting hungry. She dug out the sausage roll.
the next hour there were five more stops --- Gorsemont, De Conque,
Raaxfall, St. Triste, and St. Porte --- every name going into her
notebook, along with fanciful descriptions of her fellow travelers.
Each time, looking out the window, she saw an empty platform and
closed station house, with no one entering or leaving the train.
Each time also she felt the air getting progressively cooler, until
at St. Porte it struck her as positively chill and laced with the
barest whiff of the sea, or perhaps the great salt marshes she knew
to exist in this part of the country. The fog had cleared, but
revealed merely a sliver of moon and the night remained quite dark.
When the train started up again, Miss Temple had at each station
crept into the corridor and carefully peered into the fifth car,
just to see if there was any activity. Once she had a glimpse of
someone entering one of the forward compartments (she had no idea
who --- black cloaks all looked the same), but nothing since.
Boredom began to gnaw at her, to the point that she wanted to go
forward again and get another look into Roger's compartment. She
knew this to be a stupid idea that only preyed upon her because of
restlessness, and that further it was times like these when one
made the most egregious mistakes. All she had to do was remain
patient for another few minutes, when all would be clear, when she
could get to the very root of the whole affair. Nevertheless, her
hand was in the act of turning the handle to enter the fifth car
when the train next stopped.
let go of it at once, shocked to see that all down the corridor the
compartment doors were opening. Miss Temple ducked back into her
compartment and threw open the window. The platform was crowded
with waiting coaches, and the station windows were aglow. As she
read the station sign --- Orange Locks --- she saw people spilling
from the train and walking very near to her. Without closing the
window she darted back to the connecting door: people were exiting
from a door at the far end, and the last person --- a man in a blue
uniform --- had nearly reached it. With a nervous swallow and a
flutter in her stomach, Miss Temple stepped silently through the
door and rapidly, carefully, padded down the corridor, glancing
into each compartment as she passed. All were empty. Roger's party
had gone ahead, as had the fur-coated man.
man in the blue uniform was gone from view. Miss Temple picked up
her pace and reached the far end, where an open door and a set of
steps lead off the train. The last people seemed to be some yards
ahead of her, walking toward the coaches. She swallowed again. If
she stayed on the train, she could just ride to the end and take
the return trip easily. If she got off, she had no idea what the
schedule was --- what if the Orange Locks station were to close up
like the previous five? At the same time, her adventure was
continuing in the exact manner she had hoped. As if to make up her
mind, the train lurched ahead. Without thinking Miss Temple leapt
off, landing with a squawk and a stumble on the platform. By the
time she gathered herself to look back, the train was racing by. In
the doorway of the final car stood the conductor. His gaze was
cold, and he held his lantern toward her the way one holds a cross
before a vampire.

The train was gone and the roar of its passage faded into the low
buzz of conversation and the clops and jingles and slams of the
travelers climbing into their waiting coaches. Already full coaches
were moving away, and Miss Temple knew she must decide immediately
what to do. She saw Roger nowhere, nor any of the others from his
car. Those remaining were in heavy coats or cloaks or furs, a
seemingly equal number of men and women, perhaps twenty all told. A
group of men climbed into one coach and a mixture of men and women
piled into two more. With a start she realized that there was only
one other coach remaining. Walking in its direction were three
women in cloaks and masks. Throwing her shoulders back and the hood
farther over her face, Miss Temple crossed quickly to join
was able to reach the coach before they had all entered, and when
the third woman climbed up and turned, thinking to shut the door
behind her, she saw Miss Temple --- or, the dark, hooded figure
that Miss Temple now made --- and apologized, situating herself
farther along on the coach seat. Miss Temple merely nodded in
answer and climbed aboard in turn, shutting the door tightly behind
her. At the sound, after a moment to allow this last person to sit,
the driver cracked his whip and the coach lurched into motion. With
her hood pulled down, Miss Temple could barely see the faces of the
other passengers, much less anything out the window --- not that
she could have made sense of she might have seen anyway.
other women were at first quiet, she assumed due to her own
presence. The two across from her both wore feathered masks and
dark velvet cloaks, the cloak of the woman to her left boasting a
luxurious collar of black feathers. As they settled themselves in
the coach, the one to her right opened her cloak and fanned
herself, as if she were overhot from exertion, revealing a dress of
shimmering, clinging silk that seemed more than anything else like
the skin of a reptile. As this woman's fan fluttered in the
darkness like a night bird on a leash, the coach filled with
perfume --- sweet jasmine. The woman sitting next to Miss Temple,
who had preceded her into the coach, wore a kind of tricorn hat
rakishly pinned to her hair, and a thin band of cloth tied over her
eyes, quite like a pirate. Her wrap was simple but probably quite
warm, made of black wool. As this was not quite as sumptuous, Miss
Temple allowed herself to hope she might not be so out of place, as
long as she kept herself well concealed. She felt confident her
boots --- cunningly green --- if glimpsed, would not make her look
out of place.
rode for a time in silence, but Miss Temple was soon aware that the
other women shared her own sense of excitement and anticipation, if
not her feeling of terrible suspense. Bit by bit they began making
small exploratory comments to one another --- first about the
train, then about the coach or about each other's clothing, and
finally, hintingly, at their destination. They did not at first
address Miss Temple, or indeed anyone in particular, merely
offering comments in general and responding the same way. It was as
if they were not supposed to be talking about their evening at all,
and could only proceed to do so by degrees, each of them making it
tacitly plain that they would not be averse to bending the rule. Of
course Miss Temple was not averse in the slightest, she just had
nothing to say. She listened to the pirate and the woman in silk
complement each other on their attire, and then to both of them
approve of the third woman's mask. Then they turned to her. So far
she had said nothing, merely nodding her head once or twice in
agreement, but now she knew they were all examining her quite
closely. So she spoke.
do hope I have worn the right shoes for this cold an
shifted her legs in the tight room between seats and raised her
cloak, exhibiting her green leather boots, with their intricate
lacing. The other three leaned to study them, and the pirate next
to her confided, "They are most sensible --- for it will be cold, I
am sure."
your dress is green as well ... with flowers," noted the woman with
the feathered collar, whose gaze had moved from the shoes to the
strip of dress revealed above them.

The woman in silk chuckled. "You come as a Suburban Rustick!" The
others chuckled too and, so bolstered, she went on.
of those ladies who live among novels and flowered sachets ---
instead of life itself, and life's gardens. The Rustick, and the
Piratical, the Silken and the Feathered --- we are all richly
Temple thought this was a bit thick. She did not appreciate being
termed either "suburban" or "rustick" and further was quite
convinced that the person who condemns a thing --- in this case
novels --- is the same person who's wasted most of her life reading
them. In the moment, as she was being insulted, it was all she
could do not to reach across the coach (for it was an easy reach)
and take sharp hold of the harpy's delicate ear. But she forced
herself to smile, and in doing so knew that she must place her
immediate pride to the service of her adventure, and accept the
more important fact that this woman's disdain had given her a
costume, and a role to play. She cleared her throat and spoke
"Amongst so many ladies, all striving to be most elegant, I
wondered if such a costume might be noticed all the
pirate next to her chuckled. The silken woman's smile was a little
more fixed and her voice a bit more brittle. She peered more
sharply at Miss Temple's face, hidden in the shadow of her
what is your mask? I cannot see it ..."
Is it also green? It cannot be elaborate, to fit under that
"Indeed, it is quite plain.""But
we cannot see it."
we should like to."
thinking was to make it that much more mysterious --- it being in
itself, as I say, plain."
reply the silken woman leaned forward, as if to put her face right
into the hood with Miss Temple, and Miss Temple instinctively
shrank back as far as the coach would allow. The moment had become
awkward, but in her ignorance Miss Temple was unsure where the
burden of gaucherie actually lay --- with her refusal or
the silken woman's gross insistence. The other two were silent,
watching, their masks hiding any particular expression. Any second
the woman would be close enough to see, or close enough to pull
back the hood altogether --- Miss Temple had to stop her in that
very instant. She was helped, in this moment, by the sudden
knowledge that these women were not likely to have lived in a house
where savage punishment was a daily affair. Miss Temple merely
extended two fingers of her right hand and poked them through the
feathered mask-holes, straight into the woman's eyes.
silken woman shot back in her seat, sputtering like an overfull
kettle coming to boil. She heaved one or two particularly whinging
breaths and pulled down her mask, placing a hand over each eye,
feeling in the dark, rubbing away the pain. It was a very light
touch and Miss Temple knew no real damage had been done --- it was
not as if she had used her nails. The silken woman looked up at
her, eyes red and streaming, her mouth a gash of outrage, ready to
lash out. The other two women watched, immobile with shock. Again,
all was hanging in the balance and Miss Temple knew she needed to
maintain the upper hand. So she laughed.
then a moment after laughing pulled out a scented handkerchief and
offered it to the silken woman, saying in her sweetest voice, "O my
dear ... I am sorry ..." as if she were consoling a
kitten. "You must forgive me for preserving the ...
chastity of my disguise." When the woman did not
immediately take the handkerchief Miss Temple herself leaned
forward and as delicately as she could dabbed the tears from around
the woman's eyes, patiently, taking her time, and then pressed the
handkerchief into her hands. She sat back. After a moment, the
woman raised the handkerchief and dabbed her face again, then her
mouth and nose, and then, with a quick shy glance at the others,
restored her mask. They were silent.
sounds of the hoofbeats had changed, and Miss Temple looked out of
the coach. They were passing along some kind of stone-paved track.
The country beyond was featureless and flat --- perhaps a meadow,
perhaps a fen. She did not see trees, though in the darkness she
doubted she could have had they been there --- but it did not seem
like there would be trees, or if there had been once, that they had
been cut down to feed some long-forgotten fire. She turned back to
her companions, each seemingly occupied with her own thoughts. She
was sorry to have ruined the conversation, but did not see any way
around it. Still, she felt obliged to try and make amends, and
attempted to put a bright note in her voice.
sure we shall be arriving soon."
other women nodded, the pirate going so far as to smile, but none
spoke in reply. Miss Temple was resilient.
have reached the paved road."
Excerpt 3Exactly as before, all three women nodded and the pirate
smiled, but they did not speak. The moment of silence lengthened
and then took hold in the coach, each of them sinking deeper, as
the air of solitude intruded, into her own thoughts, the earlier
excitement about the evening now somehow supplanted by an air of
brooding disquiet, the exact sort of gnawing, unsparing unrest that
leads to midnight cruelty. Miss Temple was not immune, especially
since she had a great deal to brood about if she were to shift her
mind that way. She was keenly reminded that she had no idea what
she was doing, where she was going, or how she would possibly
return --- and indeed, more than any of these, what she would
return to. The stable touchstone of her thoughts had
disappeared. Even her moments of satisfaction --- frightening the
conductor and besting the silken woman --- now struck her as
distant and even vain. She had just formed the further, frankly
depressing, question, "was such satisfaction always at odds with
desire?" when she realized that the woman in the feathered cloak
was speaking, slowly, quietly, as if she were answering a question
only she had heard being asked.
have been here before. In the summer. It was light in the coach ...
it was light well into the evening. There were wildflowers. It was
still cold --- the wind is always cold here, because it is close to
the sea, because the land is so flat. That is what they told me ...
because I was cold ... even in summer. I remember when we reached
the paved road --- I remember because the movement of the coach
changed, the bouncing, the rhythm. I was in a coach with two men
... and I had allowed them to unbutton my dress. I had been told
what to expect ... I had been promised this and more ... and yet,
when it happened, when their promises began to be revealed ... in
such a desolate locale ... I had goosebumps everywhere." She was
silent, then glanced up, meeting the eyes of the others. She
wrapped her cloak around her and looked out the window, smiling
I am back again ... you see, it gave me quite a thrill."
one said a word. The clattering hoofbeats changed once more,
drawing the coach onto uneven cobblestones. Miss Temple --- her
mind more than a little astir --- glanced out the window to see
that they had entered a courtyard, past a large, tall iron gate.
The coach slowed. She could see others already stopped around them,
passengers piling out (adjusting cloaks, putting on hats, tapping
their walking sticks with impatience), and then a first glimpse of
the house itself: splendid, heavy stone, some three tall stories
high and without excessive ornament save for its broad windows, now
streaming out welcoming golden light. The entire effect was of a
simplicity that, when employed on such massive scale, bespoke a
hard certainty of purpose --- in the same way as a prison or an
armory or a pagan temple. She knew it must be the great house of
some Lord.
Their coach came to a halt, and as the last person in Miss
Temple took it upon herself to be the first person out, opening the
door herself and taking the coachman's large hand to aid her
descent. She looked up to see, at the end of the courtyard, the
entrance to the house, double doors flung open, servants to either
side, and a stream of guests disappearing within. The massive
splendor of the place amazed her, and she was again assailed by
doubt, for surely once inside she would have to remove her hood and
cloak and be revealed. Her mind groped for a solution as her eyes,
brought back to their task, scanned the milling crowd for a glimpse
of Roger. He must already be in the house. Her three companions
were all out of the coach and had begun walking toward the

The pirate paused for a moment, looking back, to see if she was
with them, and in another sudden decision Miss Temple merely gave
in answer a small curtsey, as if to send them on their way. The
pirate cocked her head, but then nodded and turned to catch up with
the other two. Miss Temple stood alone.
looked about the courtyard --- was there perhaps some other way
inside? --- but knew that her only hope, if she wanted to truly
discover what Roger was doing and why, in service to this, he had
so peremptorily thrown her over, was to present herself at the
grand entryway. She fought the urge to run and hide in a coach, and
then the urge to just put things off long enough to record her most
recent experiences in the notebook. If she must go in, it was
better to go in at the proper time, and so she forced her legs to
take her with a sureness of step that her racing heart did not
share. As she got closer she moved among the other coaches, whose
drivers were being directed by grooms toward the other side of the
courtyard, more than once causing her to dodge rather sharply. When
her path was finally open, the last of the other guests --- perhaps
her three companions? --- had just cleared the entryway and
vanished from her view. Miss Temple lowered her head, throwing more
shadow over her face, and climbed the stairs past footmen on either
side, noting their black livery included high boots, as if they
were a squadron of dismounted cavalry. She walked carefully ---
raising her cloak and her dress high enough to climb the stairs
without falling, but without being so vulgar as to expose her
ankles. She reached the top of the stairs and stood alone on a pale
marble floor, with long, mirrored, torch-lit hallways extending
before her and to either side.
think perhaps you're meant to come with me."
Temple turned to see the woman in red, from Roger's car. She no
longer wore her fur collared cloak, but she still had the lacquered
cigarette holder in her hand, and her bright eyes, gazing fixedly
at Miss Temple through the red leather mask, quite belied their
jeweled tears. Miss Temple turned, but could not speak. The woman
was astonishingly lovely --- tall, strong, shapely, her powdered
skin gleaming above the meager confines of the scarlet dress. Her
hair was black and arranged in curls that cascaded across her bare
pale shoulders. Miss Temple inhaled and nearly swooned from the
sweet smell of frangipani flowers. She closed her mouth, swallowed,
and saw the woman smile. It was very much how she imagined she had
so recently smiled at the woman in blue silk. Without another word,
the woman turned and led the way down one of the mirrored halls.
Without a word Miss Temple followed.

Copyright 2011 by Gordon Dahlquist. Reprinted with permission by
Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
by by Gordon Dahlquist

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0385340354
  • ISBN-13: 9780385340359