Home > The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)(14)

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)(14)
Author: Philip Pullman

The van driver was addressing Will, who was on his knees beside Lyra. Will looked up and around, but there was nothing for it; he was responsible. On the grass next to him, Lyra was moving her head about, blinking hard. Will saw the wasp Pantalaimon crawling dazedly up a grass stem beside her.

“You all right?” Will said. “Move your legs and arms.”

“Stupid!” said the woman from the car. “Just ran out in front. Didn’t look once. What am I supposed to do?”

“You still there, love?” said the van driver.

“Yeah,” muttered Lyra.

“Everything working?”

“Move your feet and hands,” Will insisted.

She did. There was nothing broken.

“She’s all right,” said Will. “I’ll look after her. She’s fine.”

“D’you know her?” said the truck driver.

“She’s my sister,” said Will. “It’s all right. We just live around the corner. I’ll take her home.”

Lyra was sitting up now, and as she was obviously not badly hurt, the woman turned her attention back to the car. The rest of the traffic was moving around the two stationary vehicles, and as they went past, the drivers looked curiously at the little scene, as people always do. Will helped Lyra up; the sooner they moved away, the better. The woman and the van driver had realized that their argument ought to be handled by their insurance companies and were exchanging addresses when the woman saw Will helping Lyra to limp away.

“Wait!” she called. “You’ll be witnesses. I need your name and address.”

“I’m Mark Ransom,” said Will, turning back, “and my sister’s Lisa. We live at twenty-six Bourne Close.”

“Postcode?”

“I can never remember,” he said. “Look, I want to get her home.”

“Hop in the cab,” said the van driver, “and I’ll take you round.”

“No, it’s no trouble. It’d be quicker to walk, honest.”

Lyra wasn’t limping badly. She walked away with Will, back along the grass under the hornbeam trees, and turned at the first corner they came to.

They sat on a low garden wall.

“You hurt?” Will said.

“Banged me leg. And when I fell down, it shook me head,” she said.

But she was more concerned about what was in the rucksack. She felt inside it, brought out a heavy little bundle wrapped in black velvet, and unfolded it. Will’s eyes widened to see the alethiometer; the tiny symbols painted around the face, the golden hands, the questing needle, the heavy richness of the case took his breath away.

“What’s that?” he said.

“It’s my alethiometer. It’s a truth teller. A symbol reader. I hope it en’t broken . . . . ”

But it was unharmed. Even in her trembling hands the long needle swung steadily. She put it away and said, “I never seen so many carts and things. I never guessed they was going so fast.”

“They don’t have cars and vans in your Oxford?”

“Not so many. Not like these ones. I wasn’t used to it. But I’m all right now.”

“Well, be careful from now on. If you go and walk under a bus or get lost or something, they’ll realize you’re not from this world and start looking for the way through . . . . ”

He was far more angry than he needed to be. Finally he said, “All right, look. If you pretend you’re my sister, that’ll be a disguise for me, because the person they’re looking for hasn’t got a sister. And if I’m with you, I can show you how to cross roads without getting killed.”

“All right,” she said humbly.

“And money. I bet you haven’t—well, how could you have any money? How are you going to get around and eat and so on?”

“I have got money,” she said, and shook some gold coins out of her purse.

Will looked at them incredulously.

“Is that gold? It is, isn’t it? Well, that would get people asking questions, and no mistake. You’re just not safe. I’ll give you some money. Put those coins away and keep them out of sight. And remember—you’re my sister, and your name’s Lisa Ransom.”

“Lizzie. I pretended to call myself Lizzie before. I can remember that.”

“All right, Lizzie then. And I’m Mark. Don’t forget.”

“All right,” she said peaceably.

Her leg was going to be painful; already it was red and swollen where the car had struck it, and a dark, massive bruise was forming. What with the bruise on her cheek where he’d struck her the night before, she looked as if she’d been badly treated, and that worried him too—suppose some police officer should become curious?

He tried to put it out of his mind, and they set off together, crossing at the traffic lights and casting just one glance back at the window under the hornbeam trees. They couldn’t see it at all. It was quite invisible, and the traffic was flowing again.

In Summertown, ten minutes’ walk down the Banbury Road, Will stopped in front of a bank.

“What are you doing?” said Lyra.

“I’m going to get some money. I probably better not do it too often, but they won’t register it till the end of the working day, I shouldn’t think.”

He put his mother’s bank card into the automatic teller and tapped out her PIN number. Nothing seemed to be going wrong, so he withdrew a hundred pounds, and the machine gave it up without a hitch. Lyra watched open-mouthed. He gave her a twenty-pound note.

“Use that later,” he said. “Buy something and get some change. Let’s find a bus into town.”

Lyra let him deal with the bus. She sat very quietly, watching the houses and gardens of the city that was hers and not hers. It was like being in someone else’s dream. They got off in the city center next to an old stone church, which she did know, opposite a big department store, which she didn’t.

“It’s all changed,” she said. “Like . . . That en’t the Cornmarket? And this is the Broad. There’s Balliol. And Bodley’s Library, down there. But where’s Jordan?”

Now she was trembling badly. It might have been delayed reaction from the accident, or present shock from finding an entirely different building in place of the Jordan College she knew as home.

“That en’t right,” she said. She spoke quietly, because Will had told her to stop pointing out so loudly the things that were wrong. “This is a different Oxford.”

“Well, we knew that,” he said.

He wasn’t prepared for Lyra’s wide-eyed helplessness. He couldn’t know how much of her childhood had been spent running about streets almost identical with these, and how proud she’d been of belonging to Jordan College, whose Scholars were the cleverest, whose coffers the richest, whose beauty the most splendid of all. And now it simply wasn’t there, and she wasn’t Lyra of Jordan anymore; she was a lost little girl in a strange world, belonging nowhere.

“Well,” she said shakily. “If it en’t here . . . ”

It was going to take longer than she’d thought, that was all.

FOUR

TREPANNING

As soon as Lyra had gone her way, Will found a pay phone and dialed the number of the lawyer’s office on the letter he held.

“Hello? I want to speak to Mr. Perkins.”

“Who’s calling, please?”

“It’s in connection with Mr. John Parry. I’m his son.”

“Just a moment, please . . . ”

A minute went by, and then a man’s voice said, “Hello. This is Alan Perkins. To whom am I speaking?”

“William Parry. Excuse me for calling. It’s about my father, Mr. John Parry. You send money every three months from my father to my mother’s bank account.”

“Yes . . . ”

“Well, I want to know where my father is, please. Is he alive or dead?”

“How old are you, William?”

“Twelve. I want to know about him.”

“Yes . . . Has your mother . . . is she . . . does she know you’re phoning me?”

Will thought carefully.

“No,” he said. “But she’s not in very good health. She can’t tell me very much, and I want to know.”

“Yes, I see. Where are you now? Are you at home?”

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