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.Or did ancient Greek vampires fear other sacred things? And how, in that case, had unconverted pagan vampires in the first century A.D.reacted to Christians frantically waving the symbols of their faith at them to protect themselves from having their blood drunk or their noses bitten off? Not much vincere in hoc signo, he mused ironically, turning his steps past the Crystal Palace absurdity of the old London and Northwestern station and along the Botley Road to the more prosaic soot-stained brick of the Great Western station a hundred yards beyond.He was now not alone in the fog-shrouded roadbed between the nameless brick pits and sheds that railway stations seemed to litter spontaneously about themselves.Other dark forms were hastening from the lights of the one station to the lights of the other, struggling with heavy valises or striding blithely along in front of brass-buttoned porters whose breath swirled away to mingle with the dark vapors around them.From the direction of the London and Northwestern station, a train whistle groaned dismally, followed by the lugubrious hissing of steam; Asher glanced back toward the vast, arched greenhouse of the station and saw Don Simon walking, with oddly weightless stride, at his elbow.The vampire held out a train ticket in his black-gloved hand.“It is only right that I provide your expenses,” he said in his soft voice, “if you are to be in my service.”Asher pushed aside the ends of his scarf—a woolly gray thing knitted for him by the mother of one of hiswilder pupils—and tucked the little slip of pasteboard into his waistcoat pocket.“Is that what it is?” They climbed the shallow ramp to the platform.In the harsh glare of the gaslights, Ysidro’s face looked white and queer, the delicate swoop of the eyebrows standing out against pale hair and paler skin, the eyes like sulfur and honey.A woman sitting on a bench with two sleepy little girls glanced up curiously, as if she sensed something amiss.Don Simon smiled into her eyes, and she quickly looked away.The vampire’s smile vanished as swiftly as it had been put on; in any case, it had never reached his eyes.Like every other gesture or expression about him, his smile had an odd, minimal air, almost like a caricaturist’s line, though Asher had from it a sudden impression of an antique sweetness, the faded-out shape of what it once had been.For a moment more Ysidro studied the averted profile and the silvery-fair heads of the two children pressed against the woman’s shabby serge shoulders.Then his glance returned to Asher’s.“From the time Francis Waisingham started running his agents in Geneva and Amsterdam to find out about King Philip’s invasion of England, your secret service has had its links with the scholars,” he said quietly.The antique inflection to his speech, like its faint Castilian lisp, was barely discernible.“Scholarship, religion, philosophy—they were killing matters in those days, and at that time I was still close enough to my human habits of thought to be concerned about the outcome of the invasion.And too, it was still respectable among scholars to be a warrior, and among warriors to be a scholar, which it is no longer, as I’m sure you know.”Asher’s old colleague, the Warden of Brasenose, sprang to mind, totting disapprovingly over some minor Balkan flare-up in the course of which Asher had nearly lost his life, while Asher, cozily consuming scones on the otherside of the hearth, had nodded agreement that no, h’rm, England had no business meddling in European politics, damned ungentlemanly, hrmph, mphf.He suppressed his smile, unwilling to give this slender young man anything, and kept silent.He leaned his shoulders against the sooty brick of the station wall, folded his arms, and waited.After a moment Ysidro went on, “My solicitor—a young man, and agreeable to meet with his clients at late hours if they so desire—did mention that, when he worked in the Foreign Office, there was talk of at least one don at Oxford and several at Cambridge who ‘did good work,’ as the euphemism goes.This was years ago, but I remembered it, out of habit, and of interest in things secret.When I had need of an—agent—it was no great matter to track you down by the simple expedient of comparing the areas about which papers were published and their probable research dates with times and places of diplomatic unease.It still left the field rather wide, but the only Fellow younger than yourself who might possibly have fit the criteria of time and place would have difficulty passing himself off as anything other than an obese and myopic rabbit …”“Singletary of Queens,” sighed Asher.“Yes, he was researching in Pretoria at the same time I was, trying to prove the degeneracy of the African brain by comparative anatomy.The silly bleater still doesn’t know how close he came to getting us both killed.”That slight, ironic line flicked into existence at the corner of Ysidro’s thin mouth, then vanished at once.The train came puffing in, steam roiling out to blend with the fog, while vague forms hurried onto the platform to meet it.A girl with a face like a pound of dough sprang from a third-class carriage as it slowed, into the arms of a podgy young man in a shop clerk’s worn old coat, and they embraced with the delighted fervor of a knight welcoming his princess bride.A mob of undergraduates came boiling outof the waiting room, noisily bidding good-by to a furiously embarrassed old don whom Asher recognized as the Classics lecturer of St.John’s.Linking their arms, they began to carol “Till We Meet Again” in chorus, holding their boaters over their hearts.Asher did not like the way his companion turned his head, studying them with expressionless yellow eyes as if memorizing every lineament of each rosy face.Too like a cook, he thought, watching lambs play at a spring fair.“The war was my last job,” Asher went on after a moment, drawing Ysidro’s glance once more to him as they crossed the platform [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]