'IS IT the third?'
'Yes, the third. The boy at Spitalfields, the tramp at Limehouse, and now another boy. The third.'
'And this was at Wapping?'
Hawksmoor looked out of his window at the streets below, from which no noise reached him; then his eyes grew larger as he looked at the window itself and noticed the patina of dust thrown up by the city; then he altered his gaze once more and concentrated upon his own image as it was reflected in the window -or, rather, the outline of his face like an hallucination above the offices and homes of London. His head ached and he closed his eyes at last, pressing his fingers lightly against his temples before asking, 'And why do they think there's a connection?'
The young man behind him was about to sit on a small office chair but he stood up again awkwardly, brushing his sleeve against an indoor plant which quivered in a stream of air from the ventilation system. The connection is, sir, that they were all strangled, all in the same area, and all churches.'
'Well this is a mystery, isn't it? Do you like mysteries, Walter?'
'It's a mystery they're trying to solve.'
And Hawksmoor was impatient to see it for himself. The strip lighting in the corridors emitted a vague hum which pleased him, but when he looked up he could see its exposed cables covered in dust: part of the corridor was in darkness, and so they waited in darkness for a little while before the doors of the lift opened for them. And as he and his assistant drove away from New Scotland Yard, he gestured at the streets outside and murmured, 'It's a jungle out there, Walter.' And Walter laughed, since he knew Hawksmoor's habit of parodying the remarks made by their colleagues. A song was passing through Hawksmoor's head -One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, but what was the third for?
The oddly shaped tower of St George's-in-the-East, which seemed to have burst through the roof rather than simply to rise from it, was visible as they parked by the river; and, as they walked across Ratcliffe Highway towards the church, Hawksmoor bit the inside of his mouth and drew blood: once again, as with every such inquiry, he was faced with the possibility of failure. The church and its precincts were already cordoned off, and a small crowd had gathered in front of the white tape -a crowd composed largely of local people who had come out of curiosity to stare at the scene of the child's death. And there were murmurs of 'here he is!' and 'who's he?' as Hawksmoor passed quickly through them and ducked under the tape before walking around the side of the church to a small park behind. An inspector and some young constables from the local CID were crouched over, looking at the ground beside a partly ruined building which had the words M SE M OF still visible above its entrance; the inspector was dictating observations into a tape-recorder but, as soon as he saw Hawksmoor striding towards him, he switched it off and stood up, grimacing at a pain in his back. Hawksmoor chose not to see it and came very close: 'I am Detective Chief Superintendent Hawksmoor, and this is my assistant Detective Sergeant Payne: your Divisional Superintendent has been in touch with you about my involvement?'
'Yes, he's been in touch, sir.' Hawksmoor, satisfied that everything had been explained, turned round to look at the rear wall of the church and wondered how long it had taken to erect. A group of children were peering through the railings of the park, their faces pale beside the dark iron. 'Some queer found him late last night,' the inspector was saying and then he added, since Hawksmoor did not reply, 'Some queer might have done it.'
'I need a time.'
'About four in the morning, sir.'
'And there is an identification?'
The father -' and the inspector glanced over at two figures, a man sitting down upon a bench beneath an oak tree with a woman constable standing and looking down at him, one hand upon his shoulder. A siren could be heard somewhere in the distance.
Hawksmoor took out a pair of spectacles from his top pocket and examined the man: he knew the face of shock and this one seemed no different, although now the father looked up and caught his gaze.
Hawksmoor held his breath until the man looked down upon the ground, and then he turned suddenly to the inspector.
'Where is the body?'
The body? The body's gone, sir.'
Hawksmoor examined the man's uniform. 'Perhaps you have been told, inspector, that you must never move the body until the investigating officer has arrived?'
'But the father came, sir -'
'Never move the body!' And then he added, 'Where has it gone?'
'It's gone for examination. It's gone to the pathologist.'
And so the atmosphere of the murder was already destroyed. He walked over to the father, who started to get up from the bench until Hawksmoor waved him down. 'No, no,' he said, 'Don't move. Stay where you are.'
The father smiled apologetically, but his face was so red from grief that it seemed raw and unformed. Hawksmoor imagined himself peeling off the layers of skin and flesh until there was nothing left but the gaping holes of mouth and eyes. 'He was such a friendly boy,' the father was telling him, 'He was always so friendly.' Hawksmoor bowed his head. 'I was asked to bring something of his,' the father was saying, 'Is it for the dogs? I couldn't take any of his clothes, I just couldn't, you know, but I brought you this' -and he held a children's book in front of him. Hawksmoor wanted to touch its bright cover, but already the father was leafing through it and sighing. 'He used to read this book over and over. So many times.' Hawksmoor watched his hand turning the pages, and then by chance saw an engraving of an old man with a stick, while beside him a child scraped a fiddle. Even as he stared at it he remembered other such illustrations from his own books: a picture of a graveyard with a hare reading from one of the tombs, of a cat sitting beside a pile of stones. There had been verses beneath them which seemed to go on for ever, line being added to line in succession, but he could not now recall the words. He took the book from the father's hands and gave it to the policewoman before asking him gently, 'When did you last see your son?'
'Do you mean what time?'
'Yes, can you remember the time?'
And the man frowned with the effort, as if nothing really existed before the fact of this death. He might have been sitting there for ever in the shadow of St George's-in-the-East. 'It must have been about six yesterday evening. Yes it was, because the clock struck.'
'And did he say -'
'Dan. He was Dan.'
'And did Dan say where he was going?'
'He said he was going out. He just opened the door and went out.
That was the last time.'
Hawksmoor rose and said, 'We're doing all we can. We'll keep you informed.' And the father stood up beside him in order to shake his hand, in an almost formal gesture. Walter had been watching all this from the middle of the park, and now he cleared his throat as Hawksmoor came up to him saying, 'Well, we might as well go and see it'.
The body of the child was already in place in the examination room when they arrived. Labels had been tied around its left ankle and around both of its wrists; the head had been placed in a wooden block, with the nape of the neck resting in the curvature. The pathologist had just finished washing his hands and glanced up at the two men with a smile: Hawksmoor made a point of smiling also, but none of them glanced at the naked corpse which lay only two feet away. 'You don't waste any time,' the pathologist said as he took a tape-recorder out of his pocket.
'Time is not on our side.'
The pathologist, not hearing this, bent over the body and spoke softly into the tape-recorder: 'I am now examining the external surface of the body. The face has become engorged and discoloured blue, the eyes are bulged and showers of tiny petechiae in the eyelids and conjuctivae indicate asphyxia. The tongue is protruding through the teeth. A small amount of blood has trickled from burst vessels in the ears but not in the nose. There is evidence of the emptying of the bladder and back passage. No evidence of sexual assault. I am looking now for fingertip or nail impressions on each side of the neck at around voice-box level -' and then, after a sudden pause, he continued -'None of these. Several scratches on the neck which could have been made by the victim trying to prise off the attacker's hands.
From the injuries I would say that he was strangled as he lay on the ground, with his murderer either kneeling or sitting astride him. The lividity here has formed well. Minor bruises under the scalp and over the spine suggest that he had been pressed on his back during the strangling. There is no impression of a ligature, and there are no bite marks. There are some teeth pressure marks on the reverse of the lips.'
And as he talked Hawksmoor gazed at the feet of the corpse, trying to imagine them in the act of running, but the pathologist now switched off his tape and Hawksmoor relaxed.
The mortuary assistant came forward and cut both of the boy's hands off at the wrist, taking them to a separate bench for examination.
The pathologist then made a single incision from the throat to the pubic region, cutting in a slight curve to avoid the umbilicus; then he stripped the tissue away from the ribs. The tongue, aorta, oesophagus, heart and lungs were removed in a single operation and placed on a dissecting table beside the gutted corpse. The stomach contents were put in a glass jar. Once again the pathologist switched on his recorder as Hawksmoor suppressed a yawn: There is bruising behind the voice box, and a fracture of the hyoid bone, which suggests that the killer had considerable strength -' at this last phrase his voice rose a little and he glanced at Hawksmoor. 'So I would say definitely asphyxia by strangulation.' The pathologist's hands, which he now held over the corpse, were red and dripping: he was about to scratch his head, but stopped in mid-gesture. His assistant was now carefully examining the nails on each finger of the severed hands. Hawksmoor, watching all this, felt a rapid tic in his left eye and turned away so that no one might see it.
'I need to know when,' he said, 'In this case when is more important than how. Do you have a time-table?' For although images of this murder now surrounded him, and the parts of the body had become emblems of pursuit, violence and flight, they were as broken and indistinct as the sounds of a quarrel in a locked room. Only the phases of time could be known clearly: the quickening and deepening of respiration at the first shock of the hands around the throat; livid congestion and laboured respiration as the grip tightens and consciousness becomes confused; infrequent respiration, twitchings, loss of consciousness; terminal vomiting and death. Hawksmoor liked to measure these discrete phases, which he considered as an architect might consider the plan of a building: three to four minutes for unconsciousness, four to five minutes for death.
'And so do you have a time-table?' was his question.
'A time-table is going to be difficult.'
'And how difficult is difficult?'
'You know that temperature rises sharply during asphyxiation?'
Hawksmoor nodded and put his hands in his pockets. 'And you know that heat loss is variable?'
'I don't know about the time. Even if I allow for a rise of temperature of six degrees at death, and even if the rate of cooling was only two degrees an hour, his present body heat would mean that he was killed only six hours ago.' Hawksmoor felt the tic returning as he listened to this intently, and he rubbed his eye. 'And yet the extent of the lividity is such that the bruises were made at least twenty-four hours ago normally they can take two or three days to come out like this.'
Hawksmoor said nothing, but stared in the man's face. 'You say the timing is crucial, superintendent, but I have to say that in this case I don't understand the timing at all.' The pathologist at last looked down at his bloody hands, and went towards a metal sink to wash them. 'And there's another thing,' he called out over the sound of running water, 'There are no impressions, no prints. A strangler's fingers pressed into the neck will leave a curved nail impression, but there are only bruises here.'
'I see.' And Hawksmoor watched Walter suddenly leave the room.
'I will have to do more tests, superintendent, but I'm almost sure that there are no prints.'
'Could the murderer have chilled his hands?'
That's possible, certainly. Or they might just have been very cold.'
'And if there was a struggle, I suppose the boy might have clutched the fingers to loosen them and then disturbed the prints?' Although this sounded like a question the pathologist did not answer it, and for the first time Hawksmoor stared down at the opened corpse. He knew it was not yet completely cold, and in that moment he felt its heat blasting his face, and as the air crumpled like silk around him it was his own body upon the table.
Walter was sitting with his head bowed forward over his knees when Hawksmoor eventually joined him in the corridor. He put his hand on the young man's shoulder: 'Well, Walter, what do you make of that timing?'
Walter looked up at him in alarm, and Hawksmoor averted his eyes for a moment. 'It's impossible, sir.'
'Nothing is impossible. The impossible does not exist. All we need is a new death, and then we can proceed from the beginning until we reach our end.'
'And what end is that, sir?'
'If I knew the end, I could begin, couldn't I? I can't have one without the other.' And he smiled at Walter's evident perplexity. 'Don't worry, I know what I'm doing. Just give me time. AH I need is time.'
'I'm not worried, sir.'
'Good. And since you're so happy you can go and see the father.
Tell him what we've found out. But don't tell him too much.'
And Walter sighed: Thank you very much. I appreciate the gesture, sir.'
Hawksmoor remembered another phrase which his colleagues used: 'Life is full of grief, Walter, life is full of grief.'
He walked back to St George's-in-the-East, which in his mind he had now reduced to a number of surfaces against which the murderer might have leaned in sorrow, desperation or even, perhaps, joy. For this reason it was worth examining the blackened stones in detail, although he realised that the marks upon them had been deposited by many generations of men and women. It was now a matter of received knowledge in the police force that no human being could rest or move in any area without leaving some trace of his or her identity; but if the walls of the Wapping church were to be analysed by emission spec troscopy, how many partial or residual spectra might be detected?
And he had an image of a mob screaming to be set free as he guided his steps towards the tower which rose above the houses cluttered around Red Maiden Lane, Crab Court and Rope Walk. To the right of it he heard a confused murmur of voices, and to the left of it he heard the sounds from the river, until at last in tront of him he could see, even in the light of the early afternoon, the diffused whiteness of the arc-lights which had been erected around the scene of the small boy's murder. Only two detective constables remained on the site, and their task was to guard it from the sightseers who had come to gaze upon this place and who would otherwise have collected pieces of stone or wood as souvenirs of this death. Hawksmoor stood watching the scene for a few minutes until he was roused by the bell striking the hour: he glanced up at the church (which by some trick of perspective seemed about to fall on him), and then he wandered away from its grounds and walked towards the Thames.
The gloom of the secluded wharves and muddy banks had always attracted him and, when he came to Wapping Reach, he stared down at the shadows of the clouds moving quickly over the surface of the water. But when he removed his glasses and again looked down, it seemed to him that the river itself was perpetually turning and spinning: it was going in no certain direction, and Hawksmoor felt for a moment that he might fall into its darkness. Two men passed on a small boat -one of them was laughing or grimacing, and seemed to be pointing at Hawksmoor, but his voice did not carry over the water; Hawksmoor watched this dumb-show pass until it turned the bend towards Tower Bridge and vanished as suddenly as it had arrived.
It had started to rain and he began walking along the riverbank away from Wapping and towards Limehouse. He turned left down Butcher Row, for he could see now the tower of St Anne's Limehouse ahead of him, and he entered that area of abandoned houses and derelict land which still divides the city from the river. Then he stopped suddenly in confusion: the dampness had released a close, rank smell from the lush vegetation which spread over the stones and sprang up between wires, and he could see a vagrant squatting on the ground with his face turned up to catch the rain. So he turned away from this waste-land and crossed into Shoulder-of-Mutton Alley, and there was silence by the time he came to the front of St Anne's.
Hawksmoor could have produced a survey of the area between the two churches of Wapping and Limehouse, and given at the same time a precise account of the crimes which each quarter harboured. This had been the district of the CID to which he had been attached for some years, before he was assigned to the Murder Squad, and he had come to know it well: he knew where the thieves lived, where the prostitutes gathered, and where the vagrants came. He grew to understand that most criminals tend to remain in the same districts, continuing with their activities until they were arrested, and he sometimes speculated that these same areas had been used with similar intent for centuries past: even murderers, who rapidly became Hawksmoor's speciality, rarely moved from the same spot but killed again and again until they were discovered. And sometimes he speculated, also, that they were drawn to those places where murders had occurred before. In his own time in this district, there had been a house in Red Maiden Lane in which three separate murders had been perpetrated over a period of eight years, and the building itself gave such an impression to those who entered it that it had stayed unoccupied since the last killing. In Swedenborg Gardens Robert Haynes had murdered his wife and child, and it was Hawksmoor who was called when the remains were found beneath the floorboards; in Commercial Road there had been the ritual slaying of one Catherine Hayes, and then only last year a certain Thomas Berry had been stabbed and then mutilated in the alley beside St George's-in-the-East. It had been in this district, as Hawksmoor knew, that the Marr murders of 1812 had occurred -the perpetrator being a certain John Williams, who, according to De Quincey whose account Hawksmoor avidly read, 'asserted his own supremacy above all the children of Cain'. He killed four in a house by Ratcliffe Highway -a man, wife, servant and child -by shattering their skulls with a mallet and then gratuitously cutting their throats as they lay dying. Then, twelve days later and in the same quarter, he repeated his acts upon another family. He was transformed, again according to De Quincey, into a 'mighty murderer' and until his execution he remained an object of awe and mystery to those who lived in the shadow of the Wapping church. The mob tried to dismember his body when eventually it was brought in a cart to the place of burial -at the conflux of four roads in front of the church, where he was interred and a stake driven through his heart. And, as far as Hawksmoor knew, he lay there still: it was the spot where he had this morning seen the crowd pressing against the cordon set up by the police. And it did not take any knowledge of the even more celebrated Whitechapel murders, all of them conducted in the streets and alleys around Christ Church, Spitalfields, to understand, as Hawksmoor did, that certain streets or patches of ground provoked a malevolence which generally seemed to be quite without motive. And he knew, also, how many murders go undetected and how many murderers remain unknown.
And yet in the crimes which he had investigated, there was always so strong a sense of fatality that it seemed to Hawksmoor that both murderer and victim were inclined towards their own destruction; it was his job only to hurry the murderer along the course which he had already laid for himself-to become, as it were, his assistant. It was this fatality, also, which gave such resonance to the last words of those about to die and, as Hawksmoor walked on from Limehouse to Spitalfields, he passed rooms and corners where such words had often been spoken: There's something wrong in my kitchen', 'Next time you see me you will know me', 'I want to finish a letter', 'You will be happy soon'. He was now crossing Whitechapel High Street, passing that spot where the last man had been hanged in chains: the murderer's words on this occasion had been, as Hawksmoor knew, There is no God. I do not believe there is any and, if there is, I hold Him in defiance'. Now he could see the church of Spitalfields ahead of him.
He never neglected the opportunity of studying the pattern of murder, and the instincts of the murderer, in all their various forms: in the eighteenth century, for example, it was quite usual for the noses of the victims to be bitten off during the act of strangling but that custom, as far as Hawksmoor was aware, had completely disappeared. And it was important for him, also, to master his subject so thoroughly that he knew the seasons and the rules of death: stabbings and strangulations were popular in the late eighteenth century, for example, slashed throats and clubbings in the early nineteenth, poison and mutilation in the latter part of the last century. This was one reason why the recent cases of strangling, culminating in the third corpse at Wapping, seemed to him to be quite unusual -to be taking place at the wrong time. He did not speak of such things to his colleagues, however, who would not have understood him.
He walked into the police station, off Brick Lane, where an Incident Room had been established after the body of Thomas Hill had been found in the abandoned runnel some nine months before. Two or three constables looked up incuriously as he came in, and he made no effort to introduce himself to them; the telephones rang occasionally and one man, smoking furiously, was bent over a typewriter. Hawks- moor watched him for a moment and then sat quietly in the far corner of the room: the open files, the plastic cups lying on the floor, the pieces of official paper pinned casually to a cork board, the discarded newspapers, the telephones ringing again, all of this disorder confused and wearied him. 'Well if you feel up to it,' one young man was saying, 'You could do that. This is true. This is true.' And then his companion answered, 'But it was raining'. Hawksmoor watched them standing together and wondered if there was any connection between the two remarks: he considered the matter carefully as the men moved a few inches backward and forward as they talked, and concluded that there was none. He listened again and he heard the phrases, 'I fell asleep', 'I dreamed' and 'I woke up' -and he repeated to himself the words, 'asleep', 'dreamed' and 'woke' to see if their shape or sound accounted for their position in the sequence which the two men were unfolding. And he saw no reason for them; and he saw no reason for the words he himself used, which came out of him like vomit, which carried him forward without rhyme or meaning. And the lives of these others gripped him by the throat and kept him huddled on his seat.
Then an older man in uniform came up to him saying, 'We were expecting you, sir.'
Hawksmoor suppressed the instinct to rise from his chair in alarm.
That's right. That's why I'm here.'
'Yes, I heard you'd been called in, sir.'
Hawksmoor had noticed before how the older police officers seemed to lose their ability to react, as if they could no longer deal with the reality which they encountered every day; and he decided to test this man a little. The operation,' he asked, 'is it going according to the book?'
'Yes, to the book. It's coming along nicely, sir.'
'But perhaps there is no book in this case, inspector.'
'Well this is true, sir, this is true.'
'I'm glad you know what is true.' Hawksmoor scratched his cheek as he spoke. He was playing a part: he knew this, and believed it to be his strength. Others did not realise that their parts had been written for them, their movements already marked out like chalk lines upon a stage, their clothes and gestures decided in advance; but he knew such things, and thought it better to have chosen. The uniformed officer seemed not to have heard his last remark, and looked blankly at him. And so Hawksmoor went on, 'I'm worried about the time.'
The time? You mean the time now '
'No, the time then, the time of the murder. I have no time.'
That is a question, sir. I'm aware of that -' He took out a cigarette and put it between his lips, letting it hang there without lighting it.
'Yes,' he said, That is a question.'
'And every question has an answer, inspector. Is that true?'
'Yes I suppose you're right there, sir, you're very right there.'
Hawksmoor watched him closely: he wanted him to break down and confess his ignorance, or cry out in bewilderment at the deaths he had seen: anything, so that he might relieve Hawksmoor of his own feelings. But the inspector had now wandered to another desk, starting a desultory conversation with a young constable who shifted from one foot to another as he spoke. Hawksmoor rose and walked out of the room.
A police car drove him through the grey evening until he got out at the corner of Grape Street, near the Seven Dials. He rented a small flat here in an old house beside the Red Gates, a pub which he now passed while lost in his own thoughts; and as he mounted the stairs he considered the steps in the tower of the Wapping Church. He had almost reached his own door when he heard a voice beneath him calling out, 'Cooee! Cooee! It's only me, Mr Hawksmoor! Have you got a minute?' He paused and looked down at his neighbour as she stood in the open doorway, the light from her small hall casting her shadow upon the landing. 'Is it you Mr Hawksmoor? I'm that blind without my glasses.' And he saw her looking at him greedily. There's been a gentleman calling for you.' She fingered the edge of her cardigan which barely concealed the outline of her plump breasts. 'I don't know how he got through that front door. Don't you think it's shocking, Mr Hawksmoor '
That's right, Mrs West. That's quite all right.' He gripped the dusty banister with his right hand. 'Did he say what he wanted?'
'I didn't think it was my place to enquire, Mr Hawksmoor. I said I'm only Mr Hawksmoor's neighbour I'm not his housekeeper and knowing him he wouldn't thank me if I was!' Hawksmoor wondered how well she did know him and, as she laughed, he watched the dark mound of her tongue. And as she laughed she stared at him also; she saw a tall man wearing a dark coat, despite the summer heat, slightly balding but with a moustache darker than was usual in a man of his age. Then he said would you be back? I said I couldn't tell, you don't keep such regular hours. And then he said neither did he.'
Hawksmoor climbed the last stairs. 'I'll see to it, Mrs West. Thank you.'
She took a step out onto the landing in order to watch him before he climbed out of sight. That's all right. I'm always here. I'm not going anywhere, not with my legs, Mr Hawksmoor.'
He opened his door, just enough for him to slide through so that, even if she had craned her neck, she would not be able to see the interior of his flat. Thank you,' he called out before closing the door, 'Good night. Thank you.'
He entered the main room and stood by the window, looking out at the building opposite; he could see shapes there, but then he realised that they were reflections of the house in which he now stood -and he did not know if he was looking out or looking in. The smell of cooking ascended from Mrs West's kitchen, and as he thought of her bent over her plate he could hear vague sounds of shouting and laughter from the Red Gates. And for a moment everything was real: this was how life had always been.
He turned round with a start, thinking he had seen a sudden movement in a corner of the room. There was a convex mirror propped there (it was of the type generally used in shops to deter thieves), and he lifted it up to see if anything had crawled behind it; but there was nothing. He carried the mirror into the centre of the room, and the dust from its edges came off on his fingers; then he held it up against the light of the window and, although he tried to gaze calmly at the reflection, his calmness was broken by the sight of his face staring distended out of the frame with the world itself curved around it. And he could see the same person he had always been -the character which does not age but which remains cautious and watchful, and which stares out with the same intensity. He tried to smile at himself, but the smile would not last. So he remained still until his face became an object like the others swimming in the circle of his gaze -an armchair, a grey carpet, a lamp upon a dark wooden table, a transistor radio placed upon its side, and the bare white walls around all of these things. He put down the mirror. Then he raised his arms above his head and clenched his palms, for it was time to make his visit.
He was about to leave the flat as quietly as he had arrived but then on a sudden instinct he slammed the door and, as he went out into the early evening, he enjoyed the sound which the heels of his shoes made on the pavement. As he walked down St Giles Street he could see two street musicians ahead of him, one of whom was singing a melancholy pop-song while the other begged for money. Hawksmoor recognised the refrain, although he could not remember where he had heard it: I will climb up, climb up, even if I Come tumbling down, rumbling down.
And when the singer gazed at him he felt uneasy; he could find no coins in his pocket, and stared helplessly as the other gambolled around him with open palms. It was only when he had gone a few yards further that he realised that the singer had been blind.
It had grown cold by the time he reached the home where his father was kept; he believed that he was late but, as he hastened down the gravel drive, he felt the old agony return at the sound of plates rattling within the building and the bark of a dog somewhere in the yard behind the large brick house. 'He's waiting for you,' the nurse said with a smile which lasted only as long as she looked at him, 'He's missed you, he really has.' They walked together down a corridor where the smell of old age lingered and then gusted suddenly as a door slammed in the distance. Some of those who passed Hawksmoor glared at him, while others came up to him, all the time talking and then fingering his jacket -perhaps they thought they knew him well, and were continuing with a conversation which had only recently been broken off. One old woman stood in a night-dress, her back against the wall, and repeated 'Come John, come John, come John' into the air in front of her, until she was taken gently by the arm and led away still muttering. This was a quiet place, although Hawksmoor knew that it was only the drugs which kept most of them from screaming.
'Oh it's you,' his father murmured when Hawksmoor approached him; then he stared down at his hands, groping at them as if they belonged to someone else.
And Hawksmoor thought: this is how I will see you always, bent down and looking at your own body. 'I've just come to see how you are, Dad,' he said loudly.
'Well please yourself. You've always pleased yourself.'
'And how are you keeping?'
'I keep myself to myself.' And he glared at his son. 'I'm all right.'
And there was another pause before he added, 'There's life in the old dog yet'.
'Are you eating well?'
'I couldn't tell you about that. How do I know?' He sat very still on the edge of his narrow bed when a nurse passed with a trolley.
'You look healthy enough. '
'Oh yes. Well, I haven't got worms.' And then suddenly his hands trembled uncontrollably. 'Nick,' he said, 'Nick, is there still more to come? What happened to that letter? Did they find you out?'
Hawksmoor looked at him astonished. 'What letter, Dad? Is this a letter you wrote?' He had a sudden image of the mail being burnt in the basement of this place.
'No, not me. Walter wrote it. You know the one.' And then the old man gazed out of the window. His hands had stopped trembling but he made shapes in the air with them, all the time murmuring under his breath. Hawksmoor leaned forward to hear and, as he came closer to his father, he smelt once again his flesh and his sweat.
And he could still remember the days, many years before, when after his mother's death he could smell the drink on his father's breath as he lay sodden and snoring in his armchair. Once Hawksmoor had opened the door of the toilet, and he was sitting in front of him with his shrivelled cock in his hand. 'Don't you knock,' he said, 'before coming in?' And after that Hawksmoor always felt ill when he ate the food his father prepared. But there came a time when his disgust seemed to cleanse him, and he grew to enjoy the silence of the house and the purity of his hatred. And slowly, too, he learned to hold himself back from all others: he despised their laughter and their talk about sex, and yet he was still fascinated by such things, like the popular songs which unnerved him but which sometimes so overwhelmed him that he eventually woke from them as from a trance.
On his thirteenth birthday he had seen a film in which the central character was a painter who, unable to sell his work, grew cold and hungry as he went from one unsuccessful interview to the next; eventually he had become a vagrant, sleeping in the streets of the city where once he had walked in hope. Hawksmoor left the cinema in a mood of profound, terrified apprehension and, from that time, he was filled with a sense of time passing and with the fear that he might be left discarded on its banks. The fear had not left him, although now he could no longer remember from where it came: he looked back on his earlier life without curiosity, since it seemed to lack intrinsic interest, and when he looked forward he saw the same steady attainment of goals without any joy in their attainment. For him, the state of happiness was simply the state of not suffering and, if he cared for anything, it was for oblivion.
He was leaning forward to listen to his father, but he heard only the words, 'Here comes a candle!', before the old man looked up at him and, with a smile like that of a child, spat in his face. Hawksmoor recoiled, and looked at him in horror before wiping his cheek with the sleeve of his raincoat: 'I'm late!' he shouted, 'I'm going!' And there was a general wailing and commotion in the ward as he departed.
Mrs West heard the ringing and looked down into Grape Street: 'Is it you again?'
'Is he not back yet?'
'He's come and he's gone. He's always rushing around.'
She was bored with her own company on this summer evening.
'You can come up and wait for a minute,' she said, more quietly now, 'He may not be long.'
'I'll just come up for a minute then. I can't stay.' And Walter Payne ascended the stairs.
Mrs West was waiting for him at her door, having hastily replaced her cardigan over her blouse which, even so, gaped open at one or two points. 'You just missed him. Didn't you hear him slam that door. It's shocking.' She was discomposed enough to lean against Walter as she bent down over a teapot and a plate of biscuits. 'What do you fancy?
Go on, have a brandy snap. Be a devil.' And then she added as Walter sat down with a sigh, 'I suppose it's important is it?'
'I work with him '
She interrupted. 'Oh, him. Don't ask me anything about him. I can't give you any information there. My hands are tied.' And her hands came out before her, one placed on top of the other as if they were bound together at the wrist. Walter looked down in alarm, while at the same time Mrs West noticed the brown spots on her wrinkled and faded skin. 'I can't fathom him,' she said, almost to herself, before glancing curiously at the plate of brandy snaps and then grabbing another one. Walter would have liked to pursue this subject, but she carried on talking as she ate. 'But these old houses, you see, you never know what you're hearing. Sometimes I wonder what it was like before my time, but you never know…'And her voice trailed off just before she stuffed another biscuit into her mouth. 'And I didn't catch your name.'
'Well then, Walter, tell me a bit more about yourself.'
'Well, like I told you, I work with him upstairs.' And both of them now looked up at the ceiling, as if Hawksmoor might even then have his ear to the floor. 'Previously I was with computers.'
Mrs West settled herself comfortably in her chair. 'Now that's a subject I don't understand. Like my thermostat.'
'It's simple. You feed in the information and out comes the answer.'
Walter never tired of this subject, although his eagerness seemed to exhaust Mrs West. 'You know, you could put the whole of London in the charge of one computer and the crime would go right down. The computer would know where it was going to happen!'
'Well that's news to me, Walter. And how does this computer know what to do?'
'It's got a memory bank.'
'A memory bank. Now that's the first time I've heard about anything like that.' She shifted in her seat. 'What kind of memory?'
The memory of everything.'
'And what does this memory do?'
'It makes the world a safer place.'
'Pull the other one!' she said as she lifted her skirt slightly and kicked her leg in the air. Her curiosity now sated, she moved over to the television and switched it on; and in companionable silence they both settled down to watch the cartoons which had appeared on the screen. Mrs West shrieked with laughter at the antics of a wolf and the little creatures it was pursuing; even Walter found himself amused by the inhabitants of this harmless world. But when the cartoon was over she gazed out of the window.
Walter rose to leave: 'It doesn't look as if he's coming back, does it?'
Mrs West shook her head. 'No he's out again for the night if I know him.' And Walter wondered what she meant. 'You can come again,' she said as he left the flat. Then she went to her window and watched him as he walked away, her hands drumming against her sides.
And it was not long after that Hawksmoor returned. When he opened the door of his flat, the full weariness of the evening hit him: he longed for sleep, since there was something screaming within him which needed to be laid to rest. The lights of Grape Street were reflected in his dark room, and he had only just entered it when he shrank back in alarm: something was sitting, or crouching, in the corner. He turned on the light quickly, and saw that it was only a jacket he must have flung there. 'My second skin,' was the phrase which occurred to him, and he repeated it softly to himself as he prepared for sleep. Then he dreamed, as others do, although he had learned how to forget his dreams.
The next morning he was sitting in his office, his back to the light, when Walter came in whistling. 'Don't you knock,' he asked, 'before you walk in?'
Walter paused until he saw that he was smiling. 'I called at your flat last night, sir, to tell you the news.' For some reason Hawksmoor blushed but, since he said nothing, Walter continued -although more hesitantly than before. 'It's as we expected, sir.' He laid some papers down on Hawksmoor's desk. The only blood and tissue groups were from the victim. Nothing at all off the other one, the assailant.'
'And did the other one leave no prints or marks?'
'As I said, nothing at all.'
'Doesn't that strike you as odd?'
'It's unusual, sir.'
'Good thinking, Walter.' Hawksmoor put on his glasses and pretended to examine the papers which Walter had brought to him. 'I want you to type out a report for me,' he said at last, 'and I want you to address it to the Assistant Commissioner. Put in all the usual details date and time of discovery, list of responsible officers, you know what I mean.' He leaned back and took off his glasses: 'And now, Walter, I will give you the facts as I understand them'.
And these were the facts, as far as anybody understood them at this time. On the evening of November 17 in the previous year, the body of a boy later to be identified as Thomas Hill, who had been missing from his home in Eagle Street for seven days, was discovered in one of the passages of the abandoned tunnel by Christ Church, Spitalfields: he had been strangled, apparently by hand since there were no ligature marks around the neck; and several ribs were broken which, with internal bruising, suggested that he had fallen from a height of at least thirty feet. Despite the most exhaustive examination, however, no trace of his murderer had yet been found -certainly no print marks, and no particles of the killer's clothes, were discovered anywhere in the vicinity. A thorough search of the grounds and of the tunnel had revealed nothing but a bus-ticket, and some pages torn from one of the many religious pamphlets on sale in the church itself: no significance could be attached to any of these items. House-to-house enquiries had been equally unsuccessful and, although certain suspects had been closely questioned, no real evidence of guilt was forthcoming. Then on May 30 of this year a vagrant known as 'Ned', but whose real name was Edward Robinson, was found by the door of the crypt beneath S t Anne's Limehouse; it was assumed at first that in a drunken stupor he had fallen down the steep flight of steps which lead to the crypt, but forensic examination revealed that he had been strangled -again no trace of the murderer was found upon the tramp or in the surrounding grounds. The only possible clue to the killer's identity was a photograph, very badly creased and damaged but apparently that of a small child, which had been found in a pocket of the vagrant's overcoat.
There was no reason to connect this killing with the murder of Thomas Hill six months previously, and in fact it might have been safe to assume that Edward Robinson had been a victim of one of the innumerable and often violent quarrels which break out between those inhabitants of the area known to the police as 'transients'.
Exhaustive questioning, however, had revealed no evidence of a fight or quarrel. The absence of prints or saliva upon the dead man had once more baffled the forensic scientist, and it was he who eventually surmised that there was a 'comparability factor' between the two cases. And then on August 12 of this year the body of a small boy, Dan Dee, was discovered in the ground behind St George's-inthe-East, Wapping. It transpired that the victim had left his house in Old Gravel Lane around six the previous evening in order to join his friends in a game of football beside the Tower Hamlets Estate; when he had not returned by eleven, his anxious parents contacted the police but it was not until the following morning that a constable had found the child's corpse lying beside an abandoned shelter in the grounds of the church. He had been strangled, apparently by manual means, but again no prints were found on the neck or body. House-to-house enquiries, a thorough search of the grounds, and exhaustive forensic tests had revealed nothing: an unhappy fact which Hawksmoor now added to the end of his report.
He could not help smiling as he recounted the details of these murders, and by the time he had finished he felt quite calm. 'So you see, Walter,' he said in a lower tone now, 'We live in the shadow of great events'. And then he added: 'If only we knew what they were.'
'He must be a madman, sir, mustn't he?'
Hawksmoor looked down at his hands, placed flat upon the desk: 'Don't assume that.'
'But I can assume he's dirt!'
'But the dirt needs the cleaner and the cleaner needs the dirt.' He drummed the fingers of his right hand on the desk. 'And tell me, Walter, tell me what else you think.'
'You mean, what do I think is the story?'
'We have to assume there is a story, otherwise we won't find him, will we?' His hand was still once more.
'It's difficult to know where to begin, sir.'
'Yes, the beginning is the tricky part. But perhaps there is no beginning, perhaps we can't look that far back.' He got up from his desk and went over to the window, from where he could see a thin pillar of smoke rising into the clouds. 'I never know where anything comes from, Walter.'
'Comes from, sir?'
'Where you come from, where I come from, where all this comes from.' And he gestured at the offices and homes beneath him. He was about to say something else but he stopped, embarrassed; and in any case he was coming to the limits of his understanding. He was not sure if all the movements and changes in the world were part of some coherent development, like the weaving of a quilt which remains one fabric despite its variegated pattern. Or was it a more delicate operation than this -like the enlarging surface of a balloon in the sense that, although each part increased at the same rate of growth as every other part, the entire object grew more fragile as it expanded? And if one element was suddenly to vanish, would the others disappear also -imploding upon each other helplessly as if time itself were unravelling amid a confusion of sights, calls, shrieks and phrases of music which grew smaller and smaller? He thought of a train disappearing into the distance, until eventually only the smoke and the smell of its engine remained.
He turned from the window, and smiled at Walter: 'I'm sorry, I'm just tired'. There was a noise in the corridor outside, and abruptly he walked back to his desk. 'I want new men brought in,' he said, 'add that to the report. The others are getting nowhere, and I don't like their methods -' he could see once again the chaos in the Incident Room, and the detective with the cigarette hanging from his mouth 'And next time, Walter, next time tell them nothing is to be moved, nothing at all!'
Walter rose to go, but Hawksmoor put up his hand to detain him.
'Murderers don't disappear. Murders aren't unsolveable. Imagine the chaos if that happened. Who would feel the need to restrain himself then?' And for a moment Hawksmoor saw his job as that of rubbing away the grease and detritus which obscured the real picture of the world, in the way that a blackened church must be cleaned before the true texture of its stone can be seen.
Walter was impatient to be gone. 'And so what do we do next?'
'We do nothing. Think of it like a story: even if the beginning has not been understood, we have to go on reading it. Just to see what happens next.'
'So it seems that we've lost him, sir.'
'I don't mind losing him for the moment. He'll do it again. They always do it again. Trust me on that.'
'But we have to stop him before then, don't we?'
'All in good time, Walter, all in good time.' Walter glanced at him curiously, and he hesitated. 'Of course I want to stop him. But I may not have to find him -he may find me.' And then he paused. 'What time is it now?'
WHAT A Clock is it, dear Mr Dyer? I have let my Watch run down.
It is almost six o'clock, I replied as I took off my dark Kersey-coat and placed it upon a Pin by the doorway. Mrs Best gasps at this and, looking down on me from the Stair-head as I entered the street Door, puts a Hand up to her Breast. And this Thought ran around in my Head for a Moment: you damn'd confounded pocky Whore.
The time goes so swiftly, says she, I wish I were able to Recover it a little and that, Mr Dyer, in more ways than One.
Time cannot be restored, Mrs Best, unless it be in the Imagination.
Ah the Poets, the Poets, Mr Dyer. Then she looks on me again and says sighingly: I would have no need for the Memory of Things past if that which were Present were more agreeable. She put her hand upon the Rail as she spoke and then cried out: more Dust, and I cleaned here only yesterday!
It was my Desire to make my self pleasing to her at this Point, for in the wide World who was there to trust besides? Are you Sick, I asked her.
I am I know not how, she replies as she comes down the Stairs to me, but I sicken for want of Company: I must entertain my self with my little Dogge and Catte; I am a poor Widow, as you see, Mr Dyer, and in this antient House there are so many Noises to Disturb me. Then she laugh'd giving me a little Push, and I smelt the Liquor upon her Breath.
Well Mrs Best, they say these old Houses have as many ghostly Tenents as a Mossoleum, so you will not starve from want of chitchat.
It is not Words but Deeds I require, she replied, and you know, Mr Dyer, I do not have a bit of Nun's flesh about me.
At this I stepped back from her and was at a Loss what to say, but even then Nat Eliot came from my Closet and I called up to him, Nat you Rogue, come down to the Kitchin and employ your self about my Supper. And Mrs Best said to him also: tell Mr Dyer about the Gentleman, Nat.
Which Gentleman, I asked.
He left no Name is that not right, Nat?
And no message neither, added Nat.
And this Image was drawn in my Mind: Mr Hayes, the maggot-headed Rogue and no good Surveyour and writer of Letters that threaten me, had come to the Door of my Lodgings when he knows that I am not withinne, so that he might Disturb me and Confound me and Perplex me. I have watched him these last Seven days, since I left my own Note to him. And I beleeve that he follows me where he may.
Mrs Best was talking above my Thoughts, and I could hear her latest Noises like the tolling of a Bell: Nothing, says she, is to be heard of but Disputes about Elections do I say right Mr Dyer? (You are right, adds Nat furiously) I saw Mrs Wanley in the street -she has the House by the Corner (I know that House! cries Nat) -and her Conversation was a little Surprizing to me, for this Politicking is a Fever even the Women seem to catch (What can be done about it? asks Nat confounded at the News). Well, she continu'd laughing at Nat who had sat himself down upon the bottom Stair, a little Opera may drive away that Sicknesse, am I not right again, Mr Dyer? And then she sang out: Tho' the Years sail away on a Wherry, Be merry, my friends, be merry.
And tho' Time may spill from the Cup,
Drink it up, my friends, drink it up.
I will eat now, says I putting on a cheerful Air to fitt her Catch, for if I go to Bed hungry I will rise in the Night.
Oh, says she, be sure to wear your Night-gown and I will be obliged to you.
Nat enters the Kitchin and I climb the Stairs of Eternity to my Chamber, expecting a Moment when one small Thrust shall plunge me into the Pitte. Mr Hayes, Mr Hayes, what do you know and what can I do? I am so far from finding an End to my Work as never to be able to hope for any End: when I enter'd my Closet, I wer. t to Stool at once and the vast Outpouring caused me Torment.
And then, on the next Day, another Stroke fell upon me. I knew how to guard my Thoughts in the Office, and even with Walter Payne I was more private than before tho' I knew not how this affected him.
The villain Hayes still watch'd me and on this morning he happened to be examining some Draughts in my Chamber as I worked there with Walter. Do I understand this right, says he, that in the new church of St Mary Woolnoth you wish the wooden Cornice to be continu'd round, the Ceiling plain without pannells, and the steps in the Cupola to be of Portland stone?
That is how I have fashion'd it, Mr Hayes.
And there is to be no Pinnacle?
There is no Necessity for a Pinnacle: those express'd in the first D'esignes were much too Slender.
Well, well, says he, you are the Architect. And then he goes on: does Sir Chris, know of this, and of the long Delay?
I gave him a Report on the Pinnacle long before this, I replied keeping down my Bile, and as for the Delay Sir Chris, knows that the death of the Mason stopp'd our Work. He knows also, I continu'd, that I will complete my Church withinne the Time granted to me even tho' the originall Building was in so bad a Condition. (To give this Fact another Turn: the death of his son, Thomas, by falling from the Tower of the Spittle-Fields Church, work'd strangely upon the Mason, Mr Hill. He died suddenly in his Chamber for, when taken with an apoplectical Fitt, he fell upon his Hearth where the Coles lay lighted, and his Back and Side were so grievously Burnt that there was no Hope for him.)
Well Mr Dyer, says the Serpent Hayes once more, it is all within your Hands to make or to mar. And with this he left my Chamber, smiling upon Walter.
The Smile enraged me and I could no more restrain my self: It is the work of Providence, I said to Walter, that most Men are not able to foretel their own Fate, for there was one in this Room who must surely die.
We all must Die, murmur'A Walter looking strangely upon me.
Yes, I replied, but it is hard to say who is Sick and who is Well.
I left the Office at Six and when the Rogue Hayes parted from me in the Passage I returned his Bow but coldly. It was a misty Evening, but it was not so obscure that the little Hawks-eyed creature could not follow me: so I walked with all speed up Whitehall and turned into the Strand, and for all this space I could hear the sound of Heels following me. I looked back once but the Villain hid himself from me: well, well, says I to my self, I will lead you a Dance for one day you must learn how to lead Apes in Hell. I quicken'd my Pace towards the Seven Dials and did not trouble to turn my Head, for I knew that he would not wish to lose me; but yet when I came to St Giles I crossed over with all Speed and the Run of the Coaches must have kept him on the other Side.
Then I hasten'd thro' Grape Court and turned into the Red Gates at the half-paved Entry there. Here I let the Mist leave me as I Stood by the Door: I walk'd in bravely enough but, when I saw the Letter by the Counter, I was close to sinking down upon the Floor. It was address'd, To Mr Dyer to be left for him at the Red Gates by Grape Court: With Care. But who could prophesy where I was to be, and who could calculate upon my Arrival on this Day? I open'd the Letter with trembling Hands and read what could not be indur'd: This his to lett you know that you shul be spoken about, so betid you flee the Office by Monda next or you may expect the worse as suer as ever you was born.
This filled me with horrible Apprehensions and I stagger'd to a Corner where I might groan over them; the Tap-boy ask'd me what I wished but I made no Answer until he came by me and touched me on the Arm, at which I shivered terribly. Do you call Sir, said he laughing, and I demanded a Pint of strong Ale. And as I drank these were my Reflections: I knew this Hayes, this Dog, by the Excrement he sent to me. I could smell him out, for he left his Ordure every where. And it was not so strange, neither, that he had placed his Letter here for had he not hounded me hither? Then I rejoyced, for tho' he might conceeve himself to be the Pursuer in truth it was I who follow'd him; we were fix'd in the same Center and, tho' moving contrary Ways at first, we were sure to encounter somewhere or other upon the Circumference. Thus he could no more escape me than a convicted Thief escapes the Gallows. If the Wind be in the right Corner, he will have Flam for Flam. And then I considered this: the Villain gives me Hints and Whispers but how much has he truly learned of my Work?
Has he knowledge of Mirabilis or of the man Joseph? There was no Question but that he could not know of the Sacrifices, for the Blood was spill'd in Darknesse and Secresy, but it was a Topick unsettled with me if he had ever followed me to Black Step Lane before it was ransacked by the idle Mobb.
The Noise and the Vapours of the Ale-house now began to affect me, and my Thoughts were soon so confus'd and all in a Heap that under the Weight of them my poor Mind sank back. For I thought I heard a Door closing, and the sound of Steps crossing the Threshold; and there seemed to come the Voice of a Woman calling, Is it you againe? Like an eccho came the Reply, Is he not yet back? There was then such a Roaring in my Ears that I woke as if from a Trance and looked about me in Astonishment. But I check'd my self: and so, said I, do you waste your Time by becoming a Mirror for outward Things?
Your Work is too pressing for you to sit by an Ale-house stove, so be gone and contemplate Mr Hayes his Fate in your Chamber. The Tavern was quiet now, and the Customers sat nodding against each other like the stinking Snuff of a Candle when it is just going out in an over-heated Socket. Who is that worshipful Lump of Clay, that Thing which lolls by the Stove in an Elbow-chair? That Thing is me, and as I rise I reel but keep my Step. Thus I wandred across St Giles and then beyond, but I was not so Drunken that I did not keep my Wits from being scattered: when I reach'd my Lodgings I took a Sweat and went to Bed, very hot and my Pulse high. I did not sleep so well after, but had some confus'd Doses.
I woke next Day with a light Head that allow'd strange Fancies in: I would as like have staid all day in my Gown and be denied to everybody, but then a fresh Idea gave me the Resolution to get up with a good heart. I dress'd my self and took my best Periwigg from its little Box before Nat came in to rouse me: Well sir, I said to him when he enter'd (and he made an aukward Stop when he heard me address him thus), I have just had a Thought I will not exchange for fifty Guineas.
He was urgent with me to discover it but I would not, and soon enough his wandering Mind was set upon another Course. Mrs Best, says he, sent message last Night if you would play a little Quadrille but you had not returned and I could not answer for you, I waited and waited till I grew quite Tired and then it was about the Middle of the Night when I heard a Noise Peace, Nat, I replied, you will disturb me this Morning with your Chatter for I have another Fish to Fry. And then I hugg'd my self closely.
It was with great Exultation that I walk'd into the Office and, having greeted Walter who was staring out of the Window as pale as if he had seen his own Spectre, I entered the Closet of Mr Hayes. I saw him thinking, O God here he comes! here he comes! but I approach'd him with all the Civility imaginable and ask'd him if he might grant me a Favour. He gave me a Bow and entreated me to proceed, saying that he would give me as much Favour as he could. Then I discours'd with him thus: that the Mason, before his own Fatality and in Grief at his Son's death, had not paid much heed to the Outwalls of St Mary Woolnoth facing Lombard Street, and that these Walls were in consequence wanting not less than seven or eight Foot in Height. When they were completed, then the Scaffolding might after that be intirely struck and taken away: no more Delay and, I added, since you have worked in strict Partnership with the Mason I would be very much obliged if you would inspect his Work and see what is necessary to finish it. The Villain told me that if it lay in his Power he would give me Satisfaction in this regard, for he too had been sensible of the Delay; then I thank'd him again, and he thank'd me for coming so modestly to him. And thus I drew him by Smiles into Perdition. Are you still affected by the Vertigo? J asked. I have a little Trouble, he replied to my great Delight.
He was as good as a dead Man, a Jack-pudding to be eaten, and as I returned to my own Closet I made my Guts to shake with Laughter like a trodden Quagmire. Walter was perplex'd by my sudden Mirth and asked me, how it was? And I replied, it was very well.
Here is something to encrease your Laughter, says he presently, there is a letter here from the Vicar of Mary Woolnoth.
The same. He trusts that you will inform him when you have fixed a time for removing the Heathen Rubbidge -or so he puts it in his canonical Speech.
The Man is a Fool, I said, to talk of Rubbidge; I would sooner put him in the Cart when I hear the Clapper of the Rubbidge-men.
For in truth the Parson Priddon is a peece of hypocritical Holinesse who wears an old-fashioned Coat and has his Stockings hanging about his Legs; and yet his Face is red and plump, and his Eyes sparkling. He speaks of God from his Pulpit but knows no more of It than the May-fly knows of the Water above which it buzzes or the Mobb know of the Sunne when they feel its Heat upon their sweaty Faces. No Churchman has so well observ'd the Act of Uniformity, for in King Charles the Second's time who was more eager than him for putting the Penal Laws in execution; in King James's who a greater Stickler for abolishing them; in King William's who more violent for sending home the Dutch Blew-Guards in the English service; and now in Queen Anne's who more complaisant to our Dutch allies? Walter has left my Closet to make Water but on coming in again he says: And will you remove that Poor stuff, as Priddon calls it?
To go back a little: the church of St Mary Woolnoth, having been grievously damaged in the Fatal year 1666 and its Sides, Roof and Part of the Ends damnified by the Fire, it was admitted within the authority of the Commission as a fit Church for restoring. It was mostly built of Stone, Square and Boulder yet what was destroy'd, as the Front to Lombard Street, I have re-erected in Free-stone. But first it had been necessary for me to inspect and secure the Foundacions, and it was while the work men were digging by the Side of the Church that they found severall human Bones in the Gravell. They kept on in their Digging in order to uncover the Bodies that were hurried there but, as they were thus imployed, part of an antient Chappell fell in upon them. To cut the Matter short, they had found here a primitive Church, with a semi-circular Presbyterium or Chancel which came near to the Form of a Cross; and the Foundations were not of Rubbidge but of Kentish rubble-stone, artfully worked and consolidated with exceeding hard Mortar in the Roman manner. Inscriptions were then uncover'd to DEO MOGONTI CAD and DEO MOUNO CAD: they pleased me exceedingly when I viewed them, for the tradition reported by Mr Cambden is that the god Magon, or Idol of the Sunne, made good this quarter of the City.
Parson Priddon, who watched my Labourers from the safety of his House next the Church, hastened into the Street when I arriv'd to inspect the Ruines. Then he peer'd uneasily into the Pitte where the Chapel had been found, saying, Pray, sir, by your leave I will look upon this idle Stuff. I advis'd him to wear a Jack-cap of Leather to keep him from the Hurt of falling Brick or Timber, and at this he takes a Step away: what a happy Occasion it was, says he, when the Supreme Being brought Peace and Tranquillity to our Minds and saved us from such Idolatry! But he stopp'd short in his canting Discourse when a work man carried to me another Stone on which, after I had scraped off the Incrustation, I found the inscription DUJ.
What is that, asked the Parson, is it some new Absurdity?
It is not the particular name of a God, I replied, but in the British tongue DU means Dark, and it may be that here was a Patch where Nocturnal sacrifices were once perform'd.
At this he drew himself up a little saying, I cannot assent to spiritual Raptures; all this Darknesse is past, Mr Dyer, and it has been revealed to us that we have a Rationall God. We walked a little away from the Pitte, for the Dust was falling upon our Cloathes, and I held my peace.
Then he goes on: What is this DU but the Language of Infants, Mr Dyer? I told him that I agreed with him upon that, but he had already struck into his Theme as if he were mounting the Pulpit as he spoke: What is this DU when we see how God guides the whole of his Creation in the wonted course of Cause and Effect which we may prove, Mr Dyer, by considering the unaffected Simplicity of Nature.
And at this point the venerable Priddon raised his Arm around him, tho' I could see only the courts and alleys of Cheap-side. I grant you, he said hastily, that the Streets are but a poor Prologue to my Theme but look you Heavenwards (and he raysed his Voice as he looked up at the Sky) and you will be filled with a pleasing Astonishment if you could see with the aid of a Telescope so many Worlds hanging above one another, moving peacefully and quietly round their Axles and yet shewing such an amazing Pomp and Solemnity. If we consult our Reason as well as our Interest, Mr Dyer, we will pity the poor Heathens and regret their coming hither.
But in the walls of Pardon Church-Yard before the Fire, I replied, to the North of St Pauls I did not know it.
– In that Church-yard was artificially and richly painted the Dance of Macabre or Dance of Death. Is that not like this DU?
It was most unadvisedly done, sir, replied the good Parson, and, once dwelt upon, it will provoke Melancholly. Besides, all our Ceremonies can be as well explained by plain Reason.
But what of Miracles?
Ah Miracles, he said taking my Arm as we walked towards Grace-church Street, Miracles are but divine Experiments.
But was not Christ risen from the Dead?
This is the very truth, Mr Dyer, but I will insinuate to you another Truth which will explain how all these Controversies may be decided.
It is known that Christ was hurried three Days and three Nights, is it not? I replied very willingly that it was. And yet the Scriptures say, he went on, that he was buried on Friday night and rose again before day on Sunday.
That is so.
And so, Mr Dyer, how do you propose to unriddle this Enigma?
It is a Puzzle indeed, sir.
Then he gave a little Laugh and continued: Well, we are in need only of an Astronomer, for a Day and two Nights in the Hemisphere of Judaea is in the contrary Hemisphere two Days and a Night: that makes up the Summ imploy'd in the Scriptures. For as you know, he went on merrily, Christ suffered for the whole World.
He gave me a look of Infinite wisdom as we walked forward, but then he stopped of a sudden and raised one Finger to his Ear. Listen, says he, I hear the Faith spouting from the Lips of Children, yea, from the Mouths of Babes. And as we turn'd the corner into Clements Lane, three or four Children came towards us singing: When I did come to the old church stile, There did I rest for a little while; When I did come to the old church yard, There the bells so loud I heard; When I did come to the old church door, There I stopped me to rest a little more.
This Rhyme carried so many things into my Memory that I was like to break into Weeping, but I kept my Countenance and smiled upon them. Parson Priddon had at this Instant seen a little Girl who was like to a Bawd in Embrio: in his merry Humour, he stroaked her upon the Head and told her to be good and to mind her Book; whereupon the Creature very barbarously took hold of that nameless Part of him and almost squeez'd and crush'd those Vitals to Death before running off with the others. Murther, murther, Priddon calls out, and I could not forebear from laughing out loud, at which he looked sideways at me; but after a little while he had recover'd himself and said in a more grave Style, I must eat now. Monday is a day of Game and I cannot be without my Meat! I must eat!
So he returned at once to his House where I willingly accompanied him, having other Business to do about the Church; and no sooner had we passed thro' the Entry than he was calling into the Kitchin for a couple of Geese roasted by one of the clock at the farthest. Then, when the cry of Sir, Dinner's upon the Table! came, he was up from his Chair in a moment and soon beseiging his Goose with heaps of Cabbage, Carrots and Turneps. After he had digested his Meat and given two great Belches, he grew more composed and expressed to me in an utterly fatigued Fashion that the little Child would be a Theme for his next Sermon: for even in her Infancy had she not demonstrated that we are but imperfect and confus'd Coppies of the universall Pattern?
A Woman is a deep Ditch, said he, her House inclines to Death and her Paths unto the Devil.
That Girl will go upon the Town pritty soon, I added.
Well, sir, that is the Fate of these Females bred up in the Streets; it is the Mobb way of usage, for no doubt in Imagination they have already committed many hot Rapes upon her. I have never been married myself, says he going off into a Trance. And then he recalled his Topick: It is a fact, sir, he went on while taking another glass of French wine, that the Mobb is now everywhere in tumult, with such hideous Yelling and Howling that I can scarce hear my self speak in my own House. Do you notice how I have put dubble Iron-bars to the Windows -and he waved a little Goose-bone at them -for they have been attacking Dwellings in the neighbourhood and the Watch do nothing but scratch their Arses.
The wine was heating my own Blood as I replied: Who then can talk of the Good of Mankind and the publicke Benefit when there is nothing but Rage and Folly on the Streets? Here the Parson belched again. Men are not rational Creatures, I continu'd, they are sunk into Flesh, blinded by Passion, besotted by Folly and hardened by Vice.
Will you take some Pudding, Mr Dyer?
They are like Insects who, having their Birth in Excrement, from thence borrow their Colour and their Smell.
Parson Priddon was blowing upon his Dish of Broth as I spoke. Yes it is a filthy Crowd, says he, and so we must thank God for civil Government; for although the Grave will equal all Men, and it may be that niceties of Birth and Quality will not be observed hereafter, it is necessary for the Order and Oeconomy of the Universe that there should be differences of Breeding and Dignity. Will you send me that Tooth-pick case by you?
And I put down my Knife to speak: The Mobb will bait Cripples as well as Bears, and they will turn a wild Bull loose upon the Streets for Sport. When the Hangman leaves the Wretch kicking in the Air at Tyburn, the women and children fight to pull him down by the Legs.
Then they take a peece of his Cloathes, kiss it, and spit upon it.
Ah, these are sad Times. Will you pass me that Tooth-pick case, Mr Dyer?
And yet we must be Merry, I went on changing my Mood, for they are the Glass of our Age in which we may all see ourselves.
Well, well, Mr Dyer, everything is in Motion and we may all be chang'd by and by. He was like to have discoursed next on the quiddities of Time but, since I was straitened in that Commodity, I presently took my leave of him as he reached for the Tooth-pick case.
And now Walter hands me the Letter from Priddon: I can scarce read it, I said, since I broke my Spectacles when I dropped them on the Ground by St Mary Woolnoth. But you may do this business for me, Walter, by writing to the good Parson that he need not fear the Contagion of these Heathen altars: tell him that we are building as fine a peece of Christianity as he is like to see in London. Walter took up his Pen and waited, for he knew there was more to come. And did you inform the Mason's assistant, I added, that my Tablet must be made of hard Stone and set rough upon the Stroake?
It is all done, said he with a Sigh.
And when the Tablet is finished, Walter, make it plain that no one is to come near it: I wish to have care of it and be my own Carver. It will be my Inscription. Walter turned to the Window in order to hide his Face from me, tho' I knew what Thoughts were swarming through his Head. He fears that he will become an Object of Scorn and Suspicion for conducting my Orders and seeming too close with me. Why be so Dismal? I asked him.
I? I am not Dismal.
I see it even in your Posture, Walter, but there is no need for this Gloominesse. Then I added: They do not sing my Praise now but they will never, never forget my Work.
At this point he turned round of a Sudden: Oh I quite forgot, says he, Sir Christopher sent word that he must see your Ground-platts and your Uprights without delay: he visits the Commission tomorrow and must be thoroughly familiar with them.
Who tells you this?
Master Hayes informed me, he replied reddening a little.
And where may Sir Christopher be?
He has gone to Crane Court to read a Lecture there. Shall I inform Mr Hayes to have the Plans taken there? Then he stopp'd short when he saw my Visage. Or shall I carry them myself?
No, I replied, I will go with them in a Moment since I have other business with Sir Chris. But I could not refrain from adding: Mr Hayes is not to be spoken of, and have I not told you to trust nobody except yourself?
So it was in some Discomposure of Mind that I coach'd it to Crane Court where the Greshamites, or Fellows of the Royal Society, or Virtuosi, or Mountebanks, or Dogs, dissect the Mites in Cheese and discourse upon Atomes: they are such Quacks as you would desire to Piss upon, and I would rather stay in my Closet than indure one of their Assemblies where they tittle-tattle on their Observations and Thoughts, their Guesses and Opinions, their Probabilities and Conceptions, their Generations and Corruptions, their Increasings and Lessenings, their Instruments and Quantities. And yet it was of Necessity that I waited on Sir Chris.: if I showed him the Draughts, he would approve them instantly, but if I neglected to make them known to him he would at some later time examine them with great Intensity and discover all manner of seeming Faults.
Is Sir Christopher Wren withinne? I ask'`a of a mean-faced Porter when I arrived at the Door.
He is with Gentlemen of the highest Importance, says he, and you can on no account be admitted to him. And then he added with a haughty Look: some foreigners are present.
I have Papers of the highest Importance, I replied, and with a severe Countenance (from biting my Lip) I brush'd by him.
There was a great number of People in the Hall, some of whom were known to me by Sight, and i walk'd to the Stairhead so that they might not take Notice of me: for look, they would say, here is Master Dyer, a mean Architect, and no fit Man for our Discourse. I could hear Sir Chris, his Voice and it put me in so sudden a Fear that I could not go near him but walked up into the Repository and Library (which is three Rooms struck into one). I sat here upon a Stool and, to calm my self, surveyed the Books around me: A Discourse on the Air Register lean'd against Hypothesis on Earthquakes which was near to toppling upon A Discourse on Fire and flames. And I could have laughed out loud at these Reasoners engaged in their wise Disputes. I took down from its Shelf Dr Burnet's New System of the World, and saw that some skilful Philosopher had written upon the Frontispiece, IN CONFUTATION OF MOSES; you could as easily set a Mouse-Trap Maker against an Ingineer.
The Repository smelt of Damp and Cole-dust but when I rose quickly to take a sudden Cramp from my right Leg, I knocked my Head against some living Thing above me; I might have scream'd out but, glancing up in Terror, I saw it was a strange Bird petrified and suspended upon a Wire. You have found one of our Rarities, a Voice in a Corner said to me and, squinting into the Gloom, I saw an odd-shaped and melancholy-visaged old man pointing to the Bird upon the Wire. It is a white-fronted Goose from Aegypt, says he, and now beleeved quite Lost from the World. And yet, he adds coming towards me, you know the Poet's words: Nothing is lost when once it is Designed, It is Eternal work when perfect of its Kind.
Quite eternal, says he stroking the Bird's drooping Wing with his Finger, quite, quite eternal: tho', he added quickly, it is also of great Use for our Aerial Mechanicks. I touch'd the Wing of the Bird also, for I could think of nothing to say. You see around you, he goes on, the Relics of many of Nature's kingdoms: in this Bottle you may view a Serpent found in the Entrails of a living Man and there, in that Box yonder, Insects which breed in Man's teeth and flesh; in the wooden Chest beside it, you will see all manner of Mosses and Mushrooms and in there, on that Shelf, certain Vegetable Bodies petrified. There in that Corner, he continues wheeling around, is a Monkey from the Indies which is as tall as a Man, and in this Cabinet here some marine Gems from the Islands of Barbados: the Mysteries of Nature will soon be Mysteries no more; and he snuffled a little as he spoke. But I forget myself, he adds, have you seen the Abortive put up in Pickle which is but newly come? No? Then you must view this Homunculus. At which point he leads me by the Arm to a glass Jar set upon a Table in which the Thing was suspended. We dissect tomorrow, says he, all being well; I am interested for myself in its Mathematicall Ratios.
And then I thought: this Embrio has no Eyes and yet it seems to look upon me. But I spoke out loud to cover my Confusion: What are these Instruments, sir?
You see here, sir, he replied, the Tools of our Profession; here is a Hygroscope which is a practical Invention to show the Moisture or the Dryness of the Air; and at this he gives a little Cough. Then as he entered the main part of his Discourse on Selenoscopes, Muscovy Glasses, Philosophical Scales, Circumferentors, Hydrostaticall Ball- ances, and the rest, my Mind wandred into the following Reflections: such vain Scrutinyes and Fruitless Labours are theirs, for they fondly beleeve that they can search out the Beginnings and Depths of Things.
But Nature will not be so discover'd; it is better to essay to unwind the labyrinthine Thread than hope to puzzle out the Pattern of the World.
And you are acquainted with the Science of Opticks? he asks putting his Face close up to mine.
Do I see Visions, sir? This Answer pull'd him up short and he made no Reply, for those who are not engaged in what is call'd Practical or Useful Learning are now dismissed as meer Verbalists and students of Umbratick Things. But if Usefulnesse be their Rule, I do not know that a Baker or a skilful Horse-leech may not contest with them. I do indeed have some Observations of my own, I now replied as he was about to take his leave of me, which in due Course I shall publish.
Oh sir, says he pricking up his Ears, and what may these be?
They will be my Observations, I told him, on Toasting Cheese By A Candle Without Burning Fingers. And the old man looked at me astonished as I left the Repository and stepped quietly down the Stairs.
Sir Chris, had not yet begun his Discourse to the Assembly, but as I entred the back of the Room he was showing an Experiment with the Air-Pump: a sprightly black Cat was placed in the glass Chamber and in a few Moments, upon Sir Chris, exhausting the Air, it fell into Convulsions and would have expir'd but that the Air was again admitted. He did not Bow to the Assembly who gave him great Applause at this, but brought some peeces of Paper from his Pocket as the Cat, meanwhile, ran screeching through my Legs and out of the Door.
The Company buzzed like Flies above Ordure but, when it had settled itself again, Sir Chris, thus began: Mr Bacon, Mr Boyle and Mr Lock moved the first Springs of this illustrious Society, which is call'd the Royal Society. They are reason enough why we should be gathered here, for it is by their Example that we have learned that the Experimentall Philosophy is an Instrument for Mankind's domination of Darknesse and Superstition (and I crie out inwardly as he speaks: but look behind you), and that through the Sciences of Mechanicks, Opticks, Hydrostaticks, Pneumaticks as well as Chymistry, Anatomy and the Mathematicall Arts we have begun to understand the works of Nature (but not your own corrupcion). This has not been the work of one enlightened Generation only: in the Air, the more accurate history of Winds and Meteors has been achiev'd by the Lord Bacon, Des Cartes, Mr Boyle and others. In the earth, new lands by Columbus, Magellan and the rest of the Discoverers, and the whole Subterranean world has been described by the universally learned Kircher (listen to a few sighes from Hell). The history of Plants has been much improv'd by Bauhinus and Gerhard, beside the late account of English vegetables published by Dr Merret, another excellent Virtuoso of this Society (another giddy son of a Whore). Natural History has found a rich Heap of Materialls in the particulars of the Venae Lacteae, the Vasa Lymphatica, the several new Passages and Glandules, the origination of the Nerves and the Circulation of the Blood (he that is filthy, let him be filthy still). We proceed by Rationall Experiment and the Observation of Cause and Effect: the Ancients pierced meerly in the Bark and Outside of Matter, but the only things that can stick into the Mind of Man are built upon impregnable Foundations of Geometry and Arithmetick: the rest is indigested Heaps and Labyrinths (this is a plain lie). Thus there are many secret Truths which the Ancients have passed over for us to uncover: we have seen the spots of the Sunne, and its conversion about its own Axis; we have seen the laterall Guardians of Saturn and Jupiter, the various Phases of Mars, the Horns of Venus and Mercury (and does not your Heart stop at the Immensity of the Void that surrounds them?) And at last, Gentlemen, Astronomy has taken to herself another Assistant, Magneticks, so that true Science has at last dis- cover'd the Secrets of the Attracted Sea and the Magnetical Direction of the Earth (oh the horror of Waves and the Night). Terrors only confound weaker Minds but such Bugbears were produced by Speculation, and chiefly prevailed in Time past when the old way of Learning flourished (how can you speak of Time past who does not understand the meaning of Time?) Men began to be frighted from their Cradles, which Fright continu'd to their Graves. But from that period in which the real Philosophy appeared there has scarce been any Whisper remaining of such Horrours (and yet for most Men Existence is still no better than a Curse) and every Man is unshaken by those Tales at which his Ancestours trembled: the course of Things goes quietly along in its own true Channel of Cause and Effect. For this we are beholden to Experiments; for although the New Science has not yet completed the Discovery of the True world it has already vanquished those wilde inhabitants of False worlds. And this brings me to the second great work of this Royal Society (the Company shift hither and thither on their Chairs: they long to begone, and their Bollocks are itching for Whores), which is to judge and resolve upon Matters of Fact -whether Camphire comes from Trees, do Horns take root and Grow, can Wood be turned to Stone, do Pebbles grow in Water, what is the nature of petrifying Springs, and such like Questions do concern us (these are meer winter Tales for schoolboys). We take an exact view of the Repetition of the whole Course of the Experiment, observe all the chances and regularities of Proceeding, and thus maintain a critical and reiterated Scrutinie of those Things which are the plain Objects of our Eyes (7, Nicholas Dyer, will give them Things to look upon). This is a learned and inquisitive Age, Gentlemen, a prying and laborious Age, an Age of Industry: it will be as a Beacon for the Generations to come, who will examine our Works and say, It was then that the World began anew. I thank you.
As alwaies, Sir Chris, remained as still as a Statue as they clapp'd him, but he received with every possible mark of Friendlinesse those who came to him after the Company had departed their several Ways.
I held myself in Readiness at the back of the Room, but he seemed to pay no mind to me while I stood there; then, much trembling, I approached him with the Draughts ready in my Hand. Ah Nick, says he, Nick, I cannot be concerned with these now: but come this way, and see something for your Amusement. I was at a Loss for Words (having gone to much Trouble to transport the Upright Planns) but I followed him in company with a very few others into a further Room.
This is a curious Peece of Art, says he, as we enter'd, which I did not make Mencion of in my Discourse; and he pointed to a Landskip which hung before a Curtain. It is moved by clockwork as you shall see, he continues, and thus is it called the Moving Picture. Then he clapp'd his Hands and we watched: indeed it looked as an ordinary Picture but then the Ships moved and sailed upon the Sea till out of Sight; a Coach came out of the Town, the motion of the Horses and Wheels being very distinct, and a Gentleman in the Coach seemed to salute the Company. I stood up and said in a loud voice to Sir Chris.: I have seen this before but I do not know in what Place. And in front of the astonished'd Eyes of the Company I left the Room, walking out into Crane Court where I breathed but uneasily. Then I went directly to my Lodgings, and fell into a profound Sleep.
It was Nat who woke me at the Close of Day. As please you sir, says he putting his Head around the Door, there is a Gentleman below who wishes to speak with you.
I jumped up from my Bed with the Thought that this was the serpent Hayes come to my House to force me to confesse all. I desired him to walk up, in as loud a Voice as I dared, while I swiftly dried the Sweat from my Brow with a peece of Linnen cloth. Yet I came to my Senses pritty fast for I knew that Step upon the Stairs very well; it was not so fast now but still full of Purpose, and in comes Sir Chris, bowing: I came to see how you do, Nick, he says, since you left us so suddenly. And he gave me a cautious Look before smiling at me. I feared you were Sick, he continued, or grew faint from want of Air since the College sometimes stinks of Spirit and Chymick Operations.
I stood uneasily in front of him: I was not sick, sir, but I had other Business and so went on my way.
I was vexed with myself for not studdying your Draughts of St Mary Woolnoth, Sir Chris, went on smiling and speaking softly as if indeed I were a Sick man, are they with you now by any Chance?
I have them here, I replied and took from my Buroe the Uprights and the Ground Platts.
Is this new drawing Paper? he asked as he snatch'd them from me, It has a coarser Surface.
It is my customary Paper, I answer'A but he paid no Heed.
He scrutinised the Draughts but quickly: the little Turret marked A is a noble piece of Work, says he, and I presume the Cornices are of Stucco?
Yes, that is my Purpose.
Good, good. And the Steps? I see no Steps.
They are not marked, but there are Eight: they have a fourteen inch tread and a five inch rise.
That is good, that is resolved upon. Your Draughts are well made, Nick, and this work will stand tryal in a Hurricano, I have no Doubt.
And then he goes on after a Pause: certainly we would have had an old and rotten Church if it had not been for the Fire. He had Time on his Hands, as they say, and now he settled himself into my Elbow Chair: I have long been of the Opinion, says he, that the Fire was a vast Blessing and the Plague likewise; it gave us Occasion to understand the Secrets of Nature which otherwise might have overwhelm'd us. (I busied my self with the right Order of the Draughts, and said nothing.) With what Firmness of Mind, Sir Chris, went on, did the People see their City devoured, and I can still remember how after the Plague and the Fire the Chearfulnesse soon returned to them: For- getfulnesse is the great Mystery of Time.
I remember, I said as I took a Chair opposite to him, how the Mobb applauded the Flames. I remember how they sang and danced by the Corses during the Contagion: that was not Chearfulnesse but Phrenzy. And I remember, also, the Rage and the Dying These were the Accidents of Fortune, Nick, from which we have learned so much in this Generation.
It was said, sir, that the Plague and the Fire were no Accidents but Substance, that they were the Signes of the Beast withinne. And Sir Chris, laughed at this.
At which point Nat put his Face in: Do you call, sirs? Would you care for a Dish of Tea or some Wine?
Some Tea, some Tea, cried Sir Chris, for the Fire gives me a terrible Thirst. But no, no, he continued when Nat had left the Room, you cannot assign the Causes of Plague or Fire to Sin. It was the negligence of Men that provoked those Disasters and for Negligence there is a Cure; only Terrour is the Hindrance.
Terrour, I said softly, is the lodestone of our Art. But he was too busied about his own Thoughts to hear me.
We can learn, Nick, to control Fire. Since it is the Dissolution of heated Sulphureous Bodies, we need satiated Air and then it will be quite Extinguish'd. But this is for Futurity. As for the Contagion, I made a Diary at that time of Wind, Weather and other Conditions of the Air such as Heat, Cold and Weight: all these together give a true account of Epidemical diseases.
You may tell that, I answered, to those dying of the Distemper: they will be greatly comforted. Then Nat came in with the Tea as I continued: There were those, sir, who were made fearful by the two great Comets which appeared in the end of 1664 and in the beginning of 1665.
I remember them, says he taking the Dish of Tea without a word to my Boy, what of it?
And it was said that they gave off a great hollow Sound which signified Disasters to come.
This is meer Schoolboy prattle, Nick. We can already prophesy the place of Comets among the fixed Starres, we need only Line, Distance, Motion and Inclination to the Ecliptick.
I was pleased to think my Face was in Shaddowe as I continued: But what of those who say 1666 contained the Number of the Beast, and so boded some ominous and direful Matter?
It is one of the greatest Curses visited upon Mankind, he told me, that they shall fear where no Fear is: this astrological and superstitious Humour disarms men's Hearts, it breaks their Courage, it makes them help to bring such Calamities on themselves. Then he stopped short and looked at me, but my Measure was not yet fill'd up so I begg'd him to go on, go on. And he continued: First, they fancy that such ill Accidents must come to pass, and so they render themselves fit Subjects to be wrought upon; it is a Disgrace to the Reason and Honour of Mankind that every fantasticall Humourist can presume to interpret the Skies (here he grew Hot and put down his Dish) and to expound the Time and Seasons and Fates of Empires, assigning the Causes of Plagues and Fires to the Sins of Men or the Judgements of God. This weakens the Constancy of Humane Actions, and affects Men with Fears, Doubts, Irresolutions and Terrours.
I was afraid of your Moving Picture, I said without thought, and that was why I left.
It was only Clock-work, Nick.
But what of the vast Machine of the World, in which Men move by Rote but in which nothing is free from Danger?
Nature yields to the Froward and the Bold.
It does not yield, it devours: You cannot master or manage Nature.
But, Nick, our Age can at least take up the Rubbidge and lay the Foundacions: that is why we must study the principles of Nature, for they are our best Draught.
No, sir, you must study the Humours and Natures of Men: they are corrupt, and therefore your best Guides to understand Corrupcion.
The things of the Earth must be understood by the sentient Faculties, not by the Understanding.
There was a Silence between us now until Sir Chris, says, Is your Boy in the Kitchin? I am mighty Hungry.
He can go to the Boiling cooks, I replied, and choose us some Meat.
That is the Answer, Nick, to all of our Problems.
He shifted in his Seat, and I smelt a Fart as I called Nat to us and gave him his Charge. And Nat bows low to Sir Chris, saying, And what kind of Meat can I get you, sir, may it be beef, mutton, veal, pork or lamb?
Mutton, and I will be obliged.
And will you have it fat or lean?
Much done or little done?
Very good, sir, and will you have a little Salt and Mustard upon the side with your Roll, to make a proper Feast?
Begone Nat, I murmur'd, before this Gentleman anatomises you.
And with a look of Horrour Nat rushed out of the Room. He is a poor Boy, I said, and you must Excuse him.
He once had the Small-pox did he not, Nick?
That is so.
Sir Chris leaned back, satisfied: I could tell it by his Face. And there is a Residue of a Stammer there, if I heard him aright?
He was once confounded by it, but I cured him.
By what means, sir?
By magick art, sir.
You must discourse on that Topick, says he laughing, at the Society: if you can be perswaded to stay long enough.
After a little while Nat brought in the Meats and was as like to have stood in a corner and watched us earing if I had not waved him away.
To go back a Bit, continued Sir Chris, after he had finished his Portion, Of all nations we were most us'd to order our Affairs by Omens and Praedictions, until we reached this Enlightened Age: for it is now the fittest season for Experiments to arise, to teach us the New Science which springs from Observation and Demonstration and Reason and Method, to shake off the Shaddowes and to scatter the Mists which fill the Minds of Men with a vain Consternation. And then he gave his Eloquence a Stop.
It had started to Rain so fast that I got up from my Chair to close the Shutters, which made my Chamber exceeding dark. But I saw no need for a Candle as I composed my self and gave Sir Chris, this Reply: You say that it is time to shake off the Mist, but Mankind walks in a Mist; that Reason which you cry up as the Glory of this Age is a Proteus and Cam'el'eon that changes its Shape almost in every Man: there is no Folly that may not have a thousand Reasons produc'd to advance it into the Class of Wisdom. Reason itself is a Mist. At this point Sir Chris, held up his Hand, palm forward, but I continued: These Philosophers or Experimenters who are so bold as to trust in their Reason or their Invention or their Discoveries are like Cats that try to hide their Excrement in the Coles, for in the dust of their Elaboratories they conceel the true state of Nature. I may give you an Instance: they cannot conceeve how the Foetus is form'd in the Womb so that the Fancy of the Mother can wound the Embrio, and yet it is so These are but Fables, Nick. Sir Chris, then called for a Light and at once Nat brought in a Candle to place it in the Lanthorn; but in his Haste he dropp'd the Taper and the Room was filled with Smoak. I do not Rely upon such Stories, Sir Chris, went on, but upon my own ri^l Observation, to test if such-and-such be true: I put my Faith in Experience.
You speak of Experience, I replied, and hold it to be consistent with Reason? At this he nods sagely. But may it not be that Experience is inconsistent with Reason: the Gulphe in which Truth lies is bottomless and it will wash over whatever is thrown into it.
He shakes his head as the Candle falters and then flares up: This is but a windy Conceit of Knowledge, Nick, a Maze of Words in which you will lose your self.
As he spoke, Nat was crouch'd upon the Floor, gazing at us wide-eyed. I know this is an Age of Systems, said I at last, but there is no System to be made of those Truths which we learn by Faith and Terrour: you may make your Planns to explain the effects of the Lodestone, the Ebbing and the Flowing of the Sea, or the Motion of the Planets, but you cannot lead to any Cause that satisfies the Truths of those who have looked into the Abyss or seen Sacred Visions. Or of those, I added falteringly, who say that Daemons stir up Raptures and Exstasies in Men. I watched the Shaddowe of Nat upon the Wall, and saw how he trembled.
There are no Spirits, says Sir Chris softly, rising and going to my Window to view the Street beneath.
I looked at him searchingly but his Face was hidden from me. But what of that Demoniack, I cried, locked up in Bedlam, who spoke so truly to me and who said -and here I was about to Blirt out all, so I checked myself. Then the Room suddenly fell quiet as the Rain stopped. But indeed, I continued recovering myself, I am only a builder of Churches.
Sir Chris, now gave a glance down at Nat bent in the Corner and I saw them observing each other in the Gloom before he spoke: Ah, Nick, what dark or melancholy Passions can overshadow the Man whose Senses are always so full of so many various Productions as yours are?
You need not humour me, I said, rising and then sitting down again.
You live too solitary, Nick.
I am no more solitary in my Closet than you are in your Elaboratory: my strange and extravagant Passions, as you call them, are no different from the Hypotheses you build in the Air when you describe that Imaginary world of Attommes and Particles which is all of your own Making. Your World and your Universe are but Philosophicall Romances: how can you call me Phrensied?
Your Mind has a Distemper, he replied, which I may cure: I am aware of the Composition of the Blood, and so I can better understand the difference between Phrensies and Inspirations.
Then I saw the shaddowe of Nat his head slowly turn to me. Yes, I said, yes, and what of your Microscopical Glasses for what do we see with their Aid but frightful Shapes and Figures? When the Breath is condens'd on a Glass does not the Microscope show us Snakes and Dragons withinne it? There is no Mathematicall Beauty or Geometrical Order here -nothing but Mortality and Contagion on this Ordure Earth.
Sir Christopher walked over to face me, before placing his Hands upon my Shoulders: This is a meer Rabble of Words, Nick, which you must place in Order for your own good Health. There is no Truth so abstruse nor so far elevated that Man's Reason may not reach it: what you understand, you may control. Keep hold of this Truth, Nick, and all will be well.
I was quieter now: And when Reason bids us goodnight, sir, what then?
Why should you ask me such a Question?
I grew angry with him once more: your Zeal, I said, is more for Experriments than for the Truth, thus you will turn Experriments into a Truth of your own devising.
This does not signifie two-pence, Nick.
But, I went on looking at Nat again, while you pursew your Rationall Philosophy the general Practice of the World shows that we are in a state of Rapine -like people on a full Career on the Ice, all slide directly into the same Hole they saw their Companions sink into just before them. And I heard Nat laugh at this.
That does not justifie the Folly of it, Sir Chris, replied.
There is a Hell, sir, there are Gods and Daemons and Prodigies: your Reason is but a Toy, your Fortitude downright Madnesse against such Terrours.
He looked at me steadily enough for one who has been Destroy'd: You have many unseasonable Passions, says he, and I could wish you a better Mien. But the years we have been acquainted cannot be obliterated by the Expression of your Melancholy temperament.
I admit, I replied softly, I am of a Melancholick humour but it has been aggravated by many Hardships of which you know nothing.
I know now, Nick. Just after this the Clock struck Ten, and he went to the Window to see if the Rain had entirely ceased. He stared out at the Moon above the Houses: I have stayed late enough, says he after a Moment, it has been a dreadfully Stormy Day, has it not, but now it has cleared for a fine Night. Then he shook me by the Hand in a most familiar Manner, as Nat rose from the Corner and showed him to the Stairs.
I sat upon my Bed and looked down at the Floor. When I heard the Door being closed behind Sir Christopher I called out, Nat! Nat!, and as he came running back into my Chamber I lowered my Voice and whispered to him, Nat, I have said too much, Nat, I have said all.
He came up close to me and put his Head upon my Shoulder: it is no matter, says he, for he is a good Gentleman and will never harm you.
And yet as he spoke I repeated to myself: What must I do? What must I do? But then I bethought myself of Vitruvius his phrase, O pigmy Man, how transient compared to Stone and remembered that this sad Humour of mine would soon be changed, as each Humour makes way for another and cannot even be recollected once it has passed.
When my Name is no more than Dust, and my Passions which now heat this small Room are cooled for ever, when even this Age itself is for succeeding Generations nothing but a Dreem, my Churches will live on, darker and more solid than the approaching Night.
And Nat was saying to me: Your story of the poor Creatures sliding thro' the Ice made me to Laugh, Master, and it put me in Mind of a Song I learnt I know not how when I was a little Child, and I will sing it now to cheer you if I can. And at that he suddenly placed himself before the Window and began: Three Children sliding thereabout, Upon some Ice too thin, That so at last it did fall out That they did all fall in.
Yee Parents all that Children have
And yee that have none yet,
Preserve your Children from the Grave,
Teach them at Home to sit.
I do not recall how it ends, Master, says Nat at a Loss. But then, as he stood before me, at last I wept.
To go on with my Story: my Sorrow being parted from me (and no Harm coming from Sir Chris., as it turned out), I was perfectly Easy of Manner with the Serpent Hayes until the Time had come for my Purpose. And then at about Six of the Clock in the Evening, three weeks after the Events just related, I approach'd him in his Closet and in the politest possible Manner asked if he might take a Glass with me?
He said that he had much Businesse to complect, but when I gave him to understand that the church of St Mary Woolnoth needed his Attention, he readily assented: now, thought I, go you like a Bear to the Stake. I took the Villain first to Hipolyto's in Bridge-street, near the Theatre Royal, where we crack'd the first Bottle of French claret; Hayes was of a greedy and covetous Disposition, and grew thirsty as he drank the Wine I paid for. Then we walk'd on to the Cock and Pye in Drury Lane, where a second and third Bottle succeeded on the Table; then we took a turn to the Deville Tavern opposite Katherine Street, and all the while I watched his Glass attentively. Then we coach'd it to Black-Marys-Hole by St Paul Churchyard (for he was now too drunken to walk). This was such a Place that the Walls were adorned with many unsavoury Finger-dabs, and marks sketched by unskilful Hands with candle-flame and charcole. The Floor was broken like an old Stable, the Windows were mended with Brown- paper and the Corners were full of Dust and Cobwebs. Over the Mantle on a little Shelf were half a dozen long bottles of Rosa Sous with an Advertisement for the speedy Cure of a violent Gonorrhea.
There was a handful of Fire in a rusty Grate and a large earthern Chamber Pot in the chimney-corner: the Mixture of Scents that met us when we first entred were those of Tobacco, Piss, dirty Shirts and uncleanly Carcasses, but Hayes was so drunken that he did not so much as regard it. I like it here, says he entering through the Door with a staggering Gait, and yet I do not remember choosing it.
I led him to a Table and, when the Boy approach'd us, call'd for Brandy. Tell me, says Hayes, how Licquour makes Men see things Dubble: for see this here (and he pick'd up a Pipe) this is Dubble to me now. What Mistery is this?
You must wear the plant called Fuga Demonum, I told him, to prevent the seeing of Visions.
What? says he squinting at me. And then he goes on: But there are many, many different things in this World, are there not Master? For whereas I might say, I would eat more Cheese if I had it, a Northern man would speak it thus (and here he opened his Mouth to one side like a Fish) Ay sud eat mare cheese gyn ay had et, and a Western man thus (and here he lowered his Head down into his Neck) Chud eat more cheese an chad it. His Eyes were brisk and sparkling: more Brandy, I thought to myself, before the Spirit sinks utterly. But there must be rules, Mr Dyer, he was saying, do you agree with me there?
There must be rules, sir. Then he sank back in his Chair, and his Eyes lost their brightnesse.
I have had Letters, said I to make Tryal of him in his Infirmity.
I have had Letters, too.
But these ones threaten me, I replied.
They threaten you? And he gave me a blank Look: the Rogue is cunning even in his Cups, was my Thought. Now he had fixed his Wigg to the Chair and reached but to Spew, while still I smiled upon him; then he looked around himself as if suddenly waking and, seeing some Sots pissing against the Wall, he went to join them. But he was not able to Walk, only to Reel, so he took out his Gear and pissed under the Table where we sat. I poured his Glass: No, no, no more, says he, no more, I have a Pain in my Stomach. He got up again and, staring straight ahead, went towards the Door; 1 walked with him and asked him which way he was travelling. To my Lodgings, he replied. I suppose you go along Lombard Street? He assented to this, and I said: then I will help you.
The Night was far advanc'd, and the Clock struck Eleven as we entered the Street; I wanted no Coachman to see us, so I took him by the Arm and led him thro' Alleys to the Church. He had so got his Load, as they say, that he came along with me quite willingly and was even ready to sing out loud as we cross'd the dark and empty Lanes.
Do you know this one, do you? he asks: Wood and clay will wash away, Wash away, wash away, Wood and clay will wash away I have forgot the rest, he adds as he links his Arm in mine. Then on reaching Lombard Street he looked up at me: Where are we going, Nick?
We are going Home, says I and pointed out to him the Church of St Mary Woolnoth with the Scaffolding upon it.
This is no Home, Nick, at least not for a Live Man.
He makes to Laugh out loud, but I put my Hand over his Mouth: Quiet, I said, the Watchman may hear us!
To which he replied: There is no Watchman, the Watchman has gone from this Site, why did you not know this when you wrote expressly? And then he goes on: Let me climb up the Scaffolding, let me climb up and see the Moon.
No, no, I replied softly, let us visit the new Work. And so we crept, both of us Laughing, to the Place where the Pipes were being laid. He bent over to look at this Work, tho' he could see but little, and then I stroked him and put my Hands around his Neck. I owe you a Pass, I whispered, and now you shall have it. He made no Crie, and yet it is possible that I myself uttered one: I do not know. I read once of an Englishman in Paris who rose in his Sleep, unlock'd the Door, took his Sword and went down towards the river Seine where, having met with a Boy, he kill'd him and returned still asleep to his Bed: so it was with me, for when I came to my self Hayes was lying beneeth the Pipes and wooden Planks had been put over his Corse. Then I trembled at what I had done, and looked up at the new Stone of the Church to stare away my Feare. Thus I remained under the Shaddowe of the Walls for a good while, until I grew sensible of the Cold, and then I walked with swift Pace back into Lombard Street.
I was just got into Grace-Church-street when I pass'd a Constable, who asked me if I needed a Link on so dark a Night? I told him that I knew my Way very well and needed no Light nor Watchman, while all the while I was as like to have made a Stool-pan of my Breeches. Your Servant, sir, says he at last, and a safe Night to you. I looked fearfully behind me until he had gone into Great Eastcheap and then, being acquainted with these Streets, I put a good Distance between us. At Cripple-gate I whipt into a Coach and made him drive away as if the Divill were behind me; but it was not until I sank back in the Vehicle that I found I still had the dead Man's linnen Kerchief grasp'd in my Hand: I dropt it out of the Flap of the Coach which opens just behind the Coachman. In this manner I travelled as far as Drury Lane, where I took myself next into an Ale-house but, what with the Running and the dreadful Apprehensions, I was almost as wet with Sweat as if I had been plunged into the Thames. I lean'd against the rotten Wall of the Tavern but, as soon as I had recovered my Breath, I was seized with an unusual Merriment: I call'd for Strong-water and made my self Drunken as soon as may be.
I knew not what Time it was when a Mask came to my Table and brightened upon me at a strange Rate: Captain, says she, my dearest Captain, will you take a Turn with me? And then she fluttered me in the Face with her Fan and languish'd upon me, taking my own Glass to her Lips.
You have no Shame in doing this? I ask'd her as she settled down beside me.
Never fear, my Captain, those things like Shame are meer Bugbears for Children, she replied. I drive my Trade like an Honest woman, and I am as sound as a Eunuch which is the main Point. Kiss me, Captain, and I will show you.
But do you not fear God?
She mov'd back a little from me: Fuh, says she, I hate all that Stuff.
Then I took her Wrist and whisper'd to her: Have you any Rods?
She gave me Eye-contact and smiled then: You are a flogging Cully, I see, Captain. Well, well, I am an old Partner in that Game. So after some more merry Discourse the Harlot took me with her to the Dog Tavern where she kept her Room: come in, says she after I mounted the Stairs behind her and was a little Fatigued, come in and be at your Ease while I clean myself. And then in my Sight she washed her Bubbies and sweetened her Arm-pits. With her Cloaths off, she smelt as frowzily as an old Goat but I turned my Face to the Wall and did not so much as move a Finger as she went to work on me. You are new to this Game, says she, for I see that the Body is still fresh.
THE SKIN was being stripped from Hawksmoor's back and he was trapped, shuddering, in this dream until he screamed and the scream became a telephone ringing beside him. He froze in a jack-knife position; then he picked up the receiver and heard the message: 'Boy found dumped by church. Body still fresh. Car coming'
. And for a moment he did not know in what house, or what place, or what year, he had woken. But he tasted the foulness of his mouth as he stumbled from the bed.
Now, in the warm car, he considered the duties he would have to perform; as he passed St George's, Bloomsbury, he speculated about the photographs he would require -both to mark the position of the body, with the individual folds and creases of its clothing, and to record any materials clutched in the hands or fluids trickling from the mouth; as he travelled down High Holborn and across Holborn Viaduct, past the statue of Sir Christopher Wren, the police radio emitted three bursts of unintelligible sound which seemed for a moment to illuminate his driver's face; as the car moved along Newgate Street, he considered the scale of the projection and detail drawings he would need but, as he stared at the back of his driver, small phrases from the dream returned to him and he shifted uneasily in his seat; as he was driven down Angel Street, the glass of an office-block glowed just before the morning sun was obscured by a cloud, and he could see other buildings reflected in its surface; and as he entered St Martin's-le-Grand he remembered certain words but not the tune which accompanied them: Set a man to watch all night, watch all night, watch all night…
And now, as the car moved into Cheapside and then Poultry, its siren echoing through the streets of the city, Hawksmoor was able to concentrate upon the objects for which he would soon be searching fibres, hair, ash, burnt paper and perhaps even a weapon (although he knew that no weapon would in fact be found). On an occasion such as this, he liked to consider himself as a scientist, or even as a scholar, since it was from close observation and rational deduction that he came to a proper understanding of each case; he prided himself on his acquaintance with chemistry, anatomy and even mathematics since it was these disciplines which helped him to resolve situations at which others trembled. For he knew that even during extreme events the laws of cause and effect still operated; he could fathom the mind of a murderer, for example, from a close study of the footprints which he left behind -not, it would seem, by any act of sympathy but rather from the principles of reason and of method. Given that the normal male tread is twenty eight inches, Hawksmoor had calculated that a hurried step was some thirty six inches, and a running gait some forty inches. On these objective grounds, he was able to deduce panic, flight, horror or shame; and by understanding them, he could control them. All of these matters occupied his attention, as he drove towards St Mary Woolnoth, so that he might conceal from himself his rising excitement at the thought of viewing the body and for the first time entering the crime.
But when he came to the corner of Lombard Street and King William Street, he saw at once that a policeman was holding up a white sheet while a photographer was preparing his camera. 'Don't!' he shouted as he quickly left the car, 'Don't do anything yet! Just move out of the light!' and he gestured them away from the steps of St Mary Woolnoth. He did not glance at the body, however, but stopped on the pavement in front of the iron gates and looked up at the church: he saw a curved window, with pieces of glass as thick and dark as pebbles, and then above it three smaller square windows which gleamed in the autumn light. The bricks around them were cracked and discoloured, as if they had been licked by flame, and as Hawks- moor's gaze crept upward six broken pillars were transformed into two thick towers which seemed to him like the prongs of a fork which impaled the church to the earth. Only now did he look at the corpse of the dead boy which lay along the fourth of eight steps and, as he opened the gates and approached it, certain complicated thoughts disturbed his calm. Even though there was a slight dawn rain, he took off his dark coat and placed it on top of some polythene sheets which had already been laid down.
The boy looked as if he had opened his eyes wide in mock terror, perhaps trying to frighten some other children during a party game, but at the same time his mouth was gaping open in what might have been a yawn. The eyes were still bright, before the muscles relaxed into the dull and fixed stare of eternal repose, and the gaze of the child disconcerted Hawksmoor. He called for a roll of adhesive tape used in collecting evidence; bending over the corpse, he placed a piece of the tape against the neck: he could smell the body as he leaned towards it, and through the tape his fingers could touch it. Yet as he felt the neck he was compelled to look away and he stared up towards a stone tablet on which was inscribed, 'Founded In the Saxon Age and Last Rebuilt by Nicholas Dyer, 1714'. The passage of time had partly erased the letters, and in any case Hawksmoor made no effort to understand them. He got up quickly: his sweat might look like rain, he thought, as he handed the adhesive tape to the police officer. 'There is nothing on the neck,' he told him. Then he climbed up the last four steps and entered the silent church; it was in darkness still, and he realised that the windows only reflected the light, like a mirror. Glancing behind to make sure that no one could see him, he approached the baptismal font in a corner, cupped his hands in its stale water, and rubbed them over his face.
The young officer came up to him as he left the church and murmured, 'She found him. She stayed here until she saw a copper' he was nodding towards a red-headed woman who was sitting on an old stone just within the gates. Hawksmoor apparently paid no attention to her, and looked up at the side of the church facing King William Street: 'What is this scaffolding here for?'
'It's for the excavations, sir. They're excavating here.'
Hawksmoor said nothing. Then he turned back to face the officer: 'Have you made a note of the weather conditions?'
'It's raining, sir.'
'I know it's raining. But I want the precise temperature. I want to see how the body cools.' He looked up at the sky and the rain fell down upon him, over his cheeks and across his open eyes as he stared upwards.
The area had already been cordoned off at his instructions; large canvas screens had been placed around the gates and sides of the church to conceal the police operation from the gaze of those people who would inevitably congregate at the spot where a murder had been committed. Now that Hawksmoor was satisfied that he had staked out the right territory, with the body at its centre, he took charge of the operation in all of its aspects. More adhesive tape was used on the trousers, socks, sweater and shirt of the victim; soil was taken from his shoes, together with control specimens of the earth close at hand, and the shoes were then placed in a polythene bag. The body was now stripped under the arc-lights, so that it acquired a bright pallor, and each item of clothing put in a separate bag which Hawksmoor insisted on labelling himself and then handing to the exhibits officer. Nail-scrapings were taken, before the hands were bagged and then sealed with tape. At the same time, the ground was being searched for fibres, footprints or smears: anything of even remote interest to the investigating team was given a serial number, registered in a master-log, and then deposited in a padded transit box.
Throughout these activities Hawksmoor, still without his overcoat despite the steady light rain, kept up a low whispering; it would have appeared to anyone who knew nothing of police procedure that this man had gone entirely mad, and was talking to himself within two feet of a corpse, but in fact Hawksmoor was reciting his own observations into a small tape-recorder.
His last comment was, 'Nothing else here', when the pathologist arrived; he was a small, corpulent man who nevertheless conveyed a certain air of stateliness as he slowly climbed the steps of St Mary Woolnoth. He nodded to Hawksmoor and then, murmuring 'Yes, I see the body', he knelt down beside the corpse and opened a small brown bag. For a moment he paused, his fingers quivering.
'I'm sorry to get you up so early,' Hawksmoor was saying but he had already taken out his knife and with one rapid movement had cut through the abdomen; he now placed a thermometer beside the liver of the dead child and then leaned back to survey his handiwork. Then, whistling almost imperceptibly, he stood up in order to talk to Hawksmoor.
'You hardly need me to tell you, do you, superintendent?'
'I do, sir, thank you very much. Eventually I need you to tell me the time.'
'Ah well, time waits for no man.' He stepped back and looked at the broken pillars. 'It's a fine church, isn't it, superintendent? They don't build them like that any more…'His voice trailed off as his attention was once more drawn to the body.
'I don't know who "they" are, Sir.' But he was already down on his knees, blinking as the arc-lights were suddenly turned off. They were somehow embarrassed in each other's company and, as the pathologist waited to take a second reading of the temperature, Hawksmoor walked behind the canvas screens and across the street to Poultry. From the corner there, he could see the front of the church entire: he had passed it before but he had never looked at it, and now it seemed startlingly incongruous in its setting despite the fact that other buildings so pressed in upon it that it was almost concealed. He imagined that very few who passed its walls realised that they were the walls of a church and as a result the building, massive through it was, had managed to disappear from sight. And even for him it was only now, after this death, that it emerged with the clarity and definition which it must have possessed for those who looked upon it when it was first built. Hawksmoor had often noticed how, in the moments when he first came upon a corpse, all the objects around it wavered for an instant and became unreal -the trees which rose above a body hidden in woodland, the movement of the river which had washed a body onto its banks, the cars or hedges in a suburban street where a murderer had left a victim, all of these things seemed at such times to be suddenly drained of meaning like an hallucination. But this church had grown larger and more distinct in the face of death.
He walked back to the steps and the pathologist took him aside for a few moments; then he called the other officers over to him. The situation now is this,' he explained quietly as the sun rose above the buildings, That the body can be moved up to the mortuary where the professor will be carrying out the post-mortem. What we want to know now, of course, is what we have learned here which might be of interest to the professor.' He looked across at the corpse as one label was attached to each wrist and ankle. It was placed in a polythene bag which was sealed at both ends and then, wrapped within an opaque transit sheet, it was carried to a stretcher before being taken to a police van parked at the corner of Lombard Street. Some women cried out in grief or alarm as the stretcher was taken through the small crowd which had assembled; and when a young girl tried to touch the side of the plastic sheet, her arm was knocked roughly away by one of the policemen carrying it. Hawksmoor saw all this and smiled, before turning round to face the red-headed woman who had discovered the body.
He watched her now with some interest as she sat by the railings of the old church and, thinking herself unobserved among all this activity, took out a small pocket mirror from her handbag; she was patting her hair into shape, turning slightly to one side and then to the other as she did so. Then she stood up, and he noticed that the damp stone had left a large stain on the back of her dress. Hawksmoor was interested in her because he always studied the reactions of those who came across the corpses of the violently slain -although most of them simply ran from the sight, as if to protect themselves from the agony and corruption which a murdered body represents. It was his belief that even the finder of that body can become an accomplice in its fate and, by completing the process which leads to its dicovery, can also suffer guilt. But this woman had stayed. He walked over to the officer who had been interviewing her: 'Did you get what you could out of her?'
'I got what I could, but it wasn't much. She doesn't have a clue, sir.'
'And I don't have a clue. What about time?'
'She only recalls time insomuch as it was raining, sir.'
Hawksmoor looked at the woman again; now that he was closer to her he noticed a certain slackness around her mouth, and the expression of puzzled intensity as she stared at the twin towers of the church. And he understood why she had not fled, but had stayed watching over the body of the murdered boy until someone else had come. 'She doesn't know the time of day, sir,' the officer added as Hawksmoor walked towards the woman.
He approached her slowly, so as not to alarm her. There now,' he said when he came to her, 'It was raining when you found him?'
'Raining? It was raining and it wasn't raining.' She stared into his face, and he flinched.
'And what was the time?' he asked her softly.
'Time? There was no time, not like that.'
And then she laughed, as if they had been sharing some enormous joke. 'I see you,' she said and gave him a push with her hand.
'Did you see him?'
'He had red hair like me'.
'Yes, you have nice red hair. I like your hair very much. And did he speak to you?'
'He don't say much, not him. I don't know what he said.'
For one instant Hawksmoor wondered if she was talking about the boy. 'And what did he do?'
'He seemed to be moving, do you know what I mean? And then he wasn't moving. What do they call this church?'
He had forgotten and in panic he swung round to look at it; when he turned back she was peering into her handbag. 'Well, Mary,' he said, 'We'll be meeting again soon, I hope?' At this she started crying, and in his embarrassment he walked away from her into Cheapside.
Generally he knew by instinct the likely length of an investigation, but on this occasion he did not: as he fought to get his breath he suddenly saw himself as others must see him, and he was struck by the impossibility of his task. The event of the boy's death was not simple because it was not unique and if he traced it backwards, running the time slowly in the opposite direction (but did it have a direction?), it became no clearer. The chain of causality might extend as far back as the boy's birth, in a particular place and on a particular date, or even further into the darkness beyond that. And what of the murderer, for what sequence of events had drawn him to wander by this old church? All these events were random and yet connected, part of a pattern so large that it remained inexplicable. He might, then, have to invent a past from the evidence available -and, in that case, would not the future also be an invention? It was as if he were staring at one of those puzzle drawings in which foreground and background create entirely different images: you could not look at such a thing for long.
He retraced his steps to the church where, to his annoyance, he found that Walter had been watching him. The red-headed woman was being led away and he spoke loudly so that she might hear. 'What time do you call this, then?'
'I don't know the time, sir. I was told to collect you.' Walter seemed very pale in the early morning light. 'I was told you were going to the Incident Room.'
Thank you for telling me.' And as they drove to Spitalfields Walter turned the radio to the conventional police wavelength, but Hawksmoor leaned forward and shifted the dial. Too many stories,' he said.
'Is it the same man, sir?'
'It's the same MO.' Hawksmoor emphasised the last two letters, and Walter laughed. 'But I don't want to talk about it yet. Give me time.'
The music of a popular song now came from the radio as Hawks-moor gazed out of the window; and he saw a door closing, a boy dropping a coin in the street, a woman turning her head, a man calling. For a moment he wondered why such things were occurring now: could it be that the world sprang up around him only as he invented it second by second and that, like a dream, it faded into the darkness from which it had come as soon as he moved forward? But then he understood that these things were real: they would never cease to occur and they would always be the same, as familiar and as ever-renewed as the tears which he had just seen on the woman's face.
Walter was now preoccupied with another subject: 'Do you believe in ghosts, sir?' he was saying as Hawksmoor stared gloomily out of the window.
'Yes, you know, ghosts, spirits.' After a pause he continued. 'I only ask because of those old churches. They're so, well, old.'
There are no ghosts, Walter.' He leaned forward to turn off the song on the radio and then he added, with a sigh, 'We live in a rational society'.
Walter glanced at him: 'You sound a bit frail, sir, if you don't mind my saying'.
Hawksmoor was surprised, since he did not realise that he sounded like anything. 'I'm just tired,' he said.
By the time they had reached the Incident Room at Spitalfields, from where all the enquiries on these murders were still being so- ordinated, the telephones were ringing constantly and a number of uniformed and plain clothes officers were moving about the room, calling and joking to one another. Their presence unnerved Hawksmoor; he wanted nothing to happen until he understood the reasons for its happening, and he knew that he would quickly have to dominate this investigation before it ran out of control. A video unit was being placed in a corner of the room, and Hawksmoor stood in front of it in order to speak. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' he said very loudly. Their noises ceased and as they looked towards him he felt quite calm. 'Ladies and gentlemen, you will be working in three shifts, with an incident officer in charge of each shift. And there will be a conference each day -' He paused for an instant as the lights flickered.
'It has often been said that the more unusual the murder the easier it is to solve, but this is a theory I don't believe. Nothing is easy, nothing is simple, and you should think of your investigations as a complicated experiment: look at what remains constant and look at what changes, ask the right questions and don't be afraid of wrong answers, and above all rely on observation and rely on experience. Only legitimate deductions can give any direction to our enquiry.' A policewoman was now testing the video equipment which was being installed and, as Hawksmoor spoke, pictures from the various scenes of the murders -Spitalfields, Limehouse, Wapping and now Lombard Street -were appearing on the screen behind him so that momentarily he was in silhouette against the images of the churches. 'You see,' he was saying, The propensity for murder exists in almost everyone, and you can tell a great deal about the killer from the kind of death he inflicts: an eager person will kill in a hurried manner, a tentative person will do it more slowly. A doctor will use drugs, a workman a wrench or shovel, and you must ask yourselves in this case: what kind of man murders quickly and with his bare hands? And you must remember, too, the sequence of actions which follows the murder: most killers are stunned by their action. They sweat; sometimes they become very hungry or thirsty; many of them lose control of their bowels at the moment of death, just as their victims do. Our murderer has done none of these things: he has left no sweat, no shit, no prints. But one thing remains the same. Murderers will try and recall the sequence of events: they will remember exactly what they did just before and just after -' And at this point Hawksmoor always assisted them, since he liked to be entrusted with the secrets of those who had opened the door and crossed the threshold. He spoke gently and even hesitantly to them, so that they knew he was not judging them. He did not want them to falter in their testimony but to walk slowly towards him; then he might embrace them, in the knowledge they both now shared, and in embracing them despatch them to their fate. And when, after all the signs of fear and guilt, they confessed, he felt envious of them. He envied them the fact that they could leave him joyfully. '-But they can never remember the actual moment of killing. The murderer always forgets that, and that is why he will always leave a clue. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we are looking for. Some people say that the crime which cannot be solved has yet to be invented. But who knows? Perhaps this will be the first. Thank you.' And he stood very still as the incident officer for that morning arranged the men and women into various teams. A cat, adopted as a mascot, was accidentally kicked during these activities and ran screeching out of the room, brushing against Hawksmoor's right leg as he walked over to Walter who was now staring at the keys of a computer.
Walter sensed him at his shoulder: 'I don't know how you managed without them, sir,' he said without turning around, 'In the past, I mean.' After a noise which was as faint and yet to Hawksmoor as disquieting as a human pulse, certain letters and digits moved across the small screen. Walter now looked up at him in his eagerness: 'Do you see how it's all been organised? It's all so simple!'
'I seem to have heard that somewhere before,' Hawksmoor replied as he bent forward to look at the names and addresses of those convicted or suspected of similar crimes; and of those who had used a similar modus operandi -manual strangulation, with the murderer sitting or kneeling on the body of the victim.
'But it's much more efficient, sir. Think of all the agony it saves us!'
He now entered a different command, although his hands barely seemed to move across the keyboard. And yet despite his excitement it seemed to Walter that the computer itself only partly reflected the order and lucidity to which he aspired -that the composition of these little green digits, glowing slightly even in the morning light, barely hinted at the infinite calculability of the world outside. And how bright that world now seemed to him, as a face formed in an 'identikit' composition, flickering upon the screen with green shading in place of shadow so that it resembled a child's drawing. 'Ah,' Hawksmoor said, 'the green man did it.'
And when he grew bored with all this information, he decided that it was time to return to St Mary Woolnoth and resume the investigation there. It was almost midday when they reached it, and the autumn sun had changed the structure of the church so that once more it seemed quite strange to him. He and Walter were walking around to the side facing King William Street, when for the first time he noticed that there was a gap between the back of the church and the next building -an open patch of ground, part of which was covered with transparent sheeting. Hawksmoor looked down at the exposed soil and then drew back. 'I suppose,' he said, 'these are the excavations?'
'It looks like a rubbish tip to me.' Walter surveyed the deep furrows, the small pits with planks laid across them, the yellow clay, the pieces of brick and stone apparently thrown haphazardly to the edges of the site.
'Yes, but where did it come from? You know, Walter, from dust to dust…'
And his voice trailed off when he realised that they were being watched. A woman, wearing rubber boots and a bright red sweater, was standing in the far corner of the excavations. 'Hello love!' Walter shouted to her, 'We're police officers. What are you up to?' His voice had no echo as it passed over the freshly dug earth.
'Come on down and see!' she called back. 'But there's nothing here!
Nothing's been touched overnight!' In confirmation of this, she kicked a piece of plastic sheeting which remained firmly in place. 'Come on, I'll show you!'
Hawksmoor seemed to hesitate, but at this moment a group of children turned the corner into King William Street and he suddenly descended into the site by means of a metal ladder. Tentatively he crossed around the edge of the open pits, smelling the dankness of the earth as he did so. It was quieter here beneath the level of the pavement, and he lowered his voice when he reached the archaeologist: 'What have you found here?'
'Oh, flint blocks, some bits of masonry. That's a foundation trench there, you see.' As she talked she was scraping the skin off the palm of her hand. 'But what have you found?'
Hawksmoor chose to ignore the question. 'And how far down have you reached?' he asked her, peering into a dark pit at his feet.
'Well it's all very complicated, but at this point we've got down to the sixth century. It really is a treasure trove. As far as I'm concerned we could keep on digging for ever'. And as Hawksmoor looked down at what he thought was freshly opened earth, he saw his own image staring back up at him from the plastic sheeting.
'Do you mean this is the sixth century here?' he asked, pointing at his reflection.
'Yes, that's right. But it's not very surprising, you know. There's always been a church here. Always. And there's a lot more to find.'
She was certain of this because she saw time as a rock face, which in her dreams she sometimes descended.
Hawksmoor knelt down by the side of the pit; as he took a piece of earth and rubbed it between his fingers, he imagined himself tumbling through the centuries to become dust or clay. 'Isn't it dangerous,' he said at last, 'To dig so close to the church?'
'Well, might it fall?'
'On us? No, that won't happen, not now.'
Walter, who had been examining the wooden supports which held up the church, had joined them: 'Not now?' he asked her.
'Well, we did find a skeleton recently. Not something you would be interested in, of course.'
But Walter was interested. 'Where did you find it?'
'It was there, next to the church, where the pipes are being laid.
They were pretty new, too.' Hawksmoor glanced in the direction to which she pointed, and he could see soil which was the colour of rust.
He looked away.
'And how new is new?' Walter was asking her.
'Two or three hundred years, but we haven't completed our tests yet. It may have been a workman who was killed when the church was rebuilt.'
'Well,' said Hawksmoor. 'It's a theory, and a theory can do no harm.' Then he suggested to Walter that they might leave, since time was pressing, and they ascended into the street where once more they heard the noises of traffic. He looked up at an office-building on the other side, and saw the people moving around in small lighted rooms.
And it was while Walter lingered with the policemen who were still methodically searching the immediate area of the murder that Hawksmoor noticed the tramp kneeling by the corner of Pope's Head Alley, opposite the north wall of St Mary Woolnoth. He seemed at first to be praying to the church but then Hawksmoor realised that, although the pavement was still damp after the morning rain, he was finishing a sketch in white chalk. He crossed the road slowly and stood by the side of the kneeling man: for a moment he looked with horror at his hair, which was thickly matted into slabs like tobacco.
The tramp had drawn the figure of a man who had put a circular object up to his right eye and was peering through it as if it were a spy glass, although it might equally have been a piece of plastic or a communion wafer. He paid no attention to Hawksmoor, but then he looked up and they stared at each other; Hawksmoor was about to say something when Walter called out and beckoned him towards their car. 'We ought to go back,' he was saying when Hawksmoor came up to him.
'They've found someone. Someone's confessed.'
Hawksmoor drew his hand three times across his face. 'Oh no,' he muttered, 'Oh no. Not yet.'
The young man sat, with bowed head, in a small waiting room; as soon as Hawksmoor saw his hands, small with the nails bitten down to the flesh, he knew that this was not the one. 'My name is Hawksmoor,' he said, 'and I am involved with this enquiry. Can you go in?'
He opened the door to the interview room. Tn you go. Sit down over there. How do you do? Have they treated you well, Mr Wilson?' There was a muttered reply which Hawksmoor did not care to hear: the man sat down on a small wooden chair and started rocking slightly, as if he were trying to comfort himself. At this point Hawksmoor did not want to go on; he did not want to enter this chamber of tortures and look around within it. 'I'm going to interview you,' he said very quietly, 'with regard to the murder of Matthew Hayes, whose body was found at the church of St Mary Woolnoth at about 5.30 a.m. on Saturday, October 24. The boy was last seen alive on Friday, October 23. You have given yourself up. What do you know about his death?' Walter came in with a note-book, as the two men stared at each other across the table.
'What do you want me to say? I've already told them.'
'Well, tell me. Take your time. We have plenty of time.'
'It doesn't take any time. I killed him.'
'Who did you kill?'
'The boy. Don't ask me why.' And once more he bowed his head; but he looked up at Hawksmoor in the silence which followed, as if pleading with him to make him go on, to make him say more. He was hunched forward, rubbing his hands against his knees, and in that instant Hawksmoor saw the man's thoughts as a swarm of small flies trapped in a bare room, swerving to one side and then another in an effort to break free.
'Well I am asking you why,' he said gently, 'I have to know why, Brian.'
He did not register the fact that Hawksmoor knew his name. 'What else can I do, if that's the way it is? I can't help it. That's the way it is.'
Hawksmoor examined him: he saw that his fingers, now clenched, were stained with nicotine; he saw that his clothes were too small; he saw the carotid artery pulsing on the side of his neck, and he restrained an impulse to touch it. Then without a trace of eagerness he enquired, 'And how do you go about killing, when you get the chance?'
'I just get hold of them and I do it. They need to be killed.'
They need to be killed? That's a bit strong, isn't it?'
'I don't see why it is. You should know -' And he was about to say something when, for the first time, he noticed that Walter was standing behind him, and he stopped short.
'Go on. Would you like a glass of water, Brian?' With a sudden gesture Hawksmoor motioned Walter out of the room. 'Go on, I'm listening. It's just you and me.'
But the moment had gone. 'Well it's up to you to do something then, isn't it?' The young man concentrated upon a small crack in the floor. 'I can't be held responsible once I've told you.'
'You haven't told me anything I didn't know.'
Then you know everything.'
He was clearly not the murderer whom Hawksmoor was seeking, but it was generally the innocent who confessed: in the course of many enquiries, Hawksmoor had come across those who accused themselves of crimes which they had not committed and who demanded to be taken away before they could do more harm. He was acquainted with such people and recognised them at once -although they were noticeable, perhaps, only for a slight twitch in the eye or the awkward gait with which they moved through the world. And they inhabited small rooms to which Hawksmoor would sometimes be called: rooms with a bed and a chair but nothing besides, rooms where they shut the door and began talking out loud, rooms where they sat all evening and waited for the night, rooms where they experienced blind panic and then rage as they stared at their lives. And sometimes when he saw such people Hawksmoor thought, this is what I will become, I will be like them because I deserve to be like them, and only the smallest accident separates me from them now. He noticed a rapid nervous movement in the young man's cheek, and it reminded him of a coal which dims and then brightens when it is blown upon. 'But you haven't told me anything,' he heard himself saying, 'I want you to tell me what happened.'
'But how can I confess if you won't believe me?'
'But I do believe you. Go on. Go on with it. Don't stop now.'
1 followed him until I was sure I had him alone. It was down by that street, the one in the paper. He knew I was after him but he didn't say much. He just looked at me. Who said he could live? I wouldn't mind being dead if someone could do it like that. Do you know what I'm saying?'
'Yes, I know what you mean. How many have you killed, Brian?'
And the man smiled as Walter entered the room with a glass of water. 'More than you know. Many more. I could do it in my sleep.'
'But what about the churches? Do you know about those?'
'What churches? There are no churches. Not in my sleep.'
Hawksmoor grew angry with him now. 'That doesn't make any sense,' he said, That doesn't make any sense at all. Does it make any sense to you?' The man turned towards Walter, his arm outstretched for the glass of water, and as he did so Hawksmoor noticed some livid welts on his neck where he had been mutilating himself. 'You can go now,' he told him.
'You mean you don't want me to stay here with you? You don't want to lock me up?'
'No, Mr Wilson, that won't be necessary.' He could not look into the man's eyes, and so he got up to leave the room; Walter followed him, smiling. 'Send him home,' Hawksmoor said to the constable outside, 'Or charge him with wasting police time. Do what you want with him.
He's no use to me.'
He was still angry when he entered the incident room and approached one of the officers: 'Have you got anything for me?'
'We have some sightings, sir.'
'Do you mean we have witnesses?'
'Well, let's put it this way, sir '
'Let's not, if you don't mind.'
'I mean, we have statements, which we're checking now.'
'So let me see them now.'
A sheaf of photocopies was given to him, and Hawksmoor looked over each one rapidly: 'It was about midnight when the witness saw a tall man with white hair walking down Lombard Street… at three a. m. the witness said she heard an argument, one low voice and one high voice, coming from the direction of the church. One of the men sounded as if he were drunk… Then about thirty minutes later he saw a short, plump man walking hurriedly away in the direction of Gracechurch Street… She heard a young boy singing in Cheapside at about eleven p. m… He saw a man of average height dressed in a dark coat trying the gates of St Mary Woolnoth… then she heard the words, We are going home. The witness did not know the time'. None of these apparent sightings interested Hawksmoor, since it was quite usual for members of the public to come forward with such accounts and to describe unreal figures who took on the adventitious shape already suggested by newspaper accounts. There were even occasions when a number of people would report sightings of the same person, as if a group of hallucinations might create their own object which then seemed to hover for a while in the streets of London. And Hawksmoor knew that if he held a reconstruction of the crime by the church, yet more people would come forward with their own versions of time and event; the actual killing then became blurred and even inconsequential, a flat field against which others painted their own fantasies of murderer and victim.
The officer, hesitating slightly now, came up to him: 'We've got the usual mail, sir. Do you want to look at that as well?' Hawksmoor nodded, gave back the sheaf of witnesses' statements and then leaned over the new bundle of papers. There were more confessions, and letters from people explaining in great detail what they would like to do with the murderer once he had been caught (some of them coincidentally borrowing effects from the murderer's own repertoire).
Hawksmoor was accustomed to such messages and even enjoyed reading them; there was, after all, some amusement to be derived from the posturing imaginations of others. But there were other, more impersonal, letters which still enraged him: one correspondent requested more information, for example, and another proffered advice. Did the police know, he now read, that children often murder other children and might it not be a good idea for you to interview the poor boy's schoolfellows? Question them severely, since children were such liars! Another correspondent asked if there had been any mutilation of the body and, if so, what form did it take? He put the paper down and stared at the wall in front of him, biting his thumb nail as he did so. When he looked at the desk again, another letter caught his attention. The phrase DON'T FORGET was printed across its top, suggesting that the lined paper had been torn from a standard memorandum pad. Four crosses had been drawn upon it, three of them in a triangular relation to each other and with the fourth slightly apart, so that the whole device resembled an arrow: The shape was familiar to Hawksmoor; and suddenly it occurred to him that, if each cross was the conventional sign for a church, then here in outline was the area of the murders -Spitalfields at the apex of the triangle, St George's-in-the-East and St Anne's at the ends of the base line, and St Mary Woolnoth to the west. Underneath had been scrawled, in pencil, This is to let you know that I will be spoken about'. And there followed another line, so faint that Hawksmoor could hardly read it, 'O misery, if they will die'. Then he turned the page and he trembled when he saw the sketch of a man kneeling with a white disc placed against his right eye: this had been the drawing which he had seen issuing from the hand of the tramp beside St Mary Woolnoth. Beneath it was printed in capitals, THE UNIVERSAL ARCHITECT'. And he wondered at this as, surreptitiously, he placed the letter in his pocket.
'So what do you make of it?' was the question he asked Walter as they sat together later in Hawksmoor's office, contemplating the sign of the arrow which now lay on the desk between them.
'I don't really make anything of it. If the computer '
'And the tramp?'
Walter was puzzled at this. 'It could be the same man who did the drawing. And that sign might be a tramp sign, No Hope Here, or something. Shall I have it analysed?'
'And one of the tramps was killed. We could make a connection there.' Hawksmoor saw a pattern forming, but its vagueness angered him.
'As far as I can see, sir '
'As far as you can see, Walter, tell me what do you see?'
He was taken aback at this: 'I was simply going to say, sir, that we have to be logical about this.'
'Oh yes by all means let's be logical. Tell me this logically, then.
How did he know about the churches?'
The crosses may not be churches.'
Hawksmoor paid no attention to this. 'I never mentioned the churches. Not to anyone outside. Of course they must be churches.'
This last remark was directed again at Walter, who now shifted uneasily under Hawksmoor's gaze as he tried to think of something more positive to add. 'And that tramp was there, wasn't he?'
'I know he was there, Walter. That's what worries me.'
The evening was misty as Hawksmoor left the office, and a circle of roseate light had formed around the almost full moon. He walked up Whitehall and then turned right into the Strand, noticing at that moment how the exhalation of his breath mingled with the mist.
Someone behind him was saying, 'I have said too much!' but when he turned his head he could see only two children coming towards him through the cold evening. And they were singing: Then he unto the parson said, Shall I be so when I am dead?
Oh yes, oh yes, the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.
But this must have been an illusion, for then he heard 'Penny for the guy! Penny for the guy!'. He peered into the pram which the two children were pushing in front of them, and saw a straw effigy with painted face. 'What are you going to do with that?' he asked as he dropped three small coins into the open hand of one child.
'We're going to burn him.'
'Well wait, don't do it yet. Wait.' He walked on and, as he turned up Katherine Street, he thought he heard the sounds of one particular step following him: he turned around quickly with a sigh, but he could see only the crush of evening travellers with their bodies bent forward.
Then he walked a little further and heard the same step again, echoing louder in the mist. 'I'll lead you a dance,' he whispered to himself, and quickened his pace as he turned sharply left into Long Acre, crossed among the heavy traffic coming out of St Martin's Lane, and darted through the small alleys of that vicinity. When he turned once more, he smiled because he could see no one still in pursuit.
In fact Walter had been following him. The behaviour of his superior was beginning to alarm him, not least because he was closely associated with Hawksmoor and would undoubtedly rise or fall with his reputation. There were those in the office who considered Hawks- moor to be 'old fashioned', even to be 'past it'; it had been precisely in order to mitigate those opinions that Walter had tried to interest him in computer technology. But the oddity of Hawksmoor's behaviour in recent days -his sudden rages and no less abrupt retreats into silence, his tendency to walk off by himself as if walking away from the case altogether -all this, combined with his apparent inability to make any progress in his investigations of the murders, was a cause of some concern to Walter. It was his belief that Hawksmoor was suffering from personal problems, and that he was probably drinking. Walter was nothing if not enterprising: the only way to satisfy himself about such matters, and eventually to safeguard his own career, was to watch him closely. And Hawksmoor had not, as he believed, eluded his pursuer. He had gone back to his flat in Grape Street, and as he stood in front of the window he remembered part of the song he had just heard. And all the while Walter was gazing up at him, examining with curiosity his pale countenance.
I LOOKED DOWN upon the Street, as the Sunne rose above the mean Rents opposite, and yet I saw it not for all my Thoughts revolved upon the late Destruction of Mr Hayes and my hot Bout with the Harlot: a Torrent of Images threatened to o'erwhelm me, when I was rous'd from my Stupor by someone gazing upon me. I whirl'd about, but it was only Nat crept into the Room. You have a pale Look indeed, Master, says he.
Leave me, I whispered, I am sick and would be solitary for a while.
There is Blood upon your Gown, Master, let me Leave me! And in that Instant I bethought myself of the Writings I kept and which could still condemn me in spite of Mr Hayes his Extinction. Nat! Nat! I called out as he was about to slink away. Do you know the little Box beneeth the Bed, Nat?
I have seen it this Day and every Day since I entered your Service, which was a great Time ago, and it has never been moved Nat, leave off your Ramblings, take this Key and open it. There is a Notebook inside it which I wish you to find. Dig deep withinne the Linnen, Nat: you may tell it by the Bees-wax which covers it. And, when you hear the Car-men calling for the Rubbidge, give it to them.
But cover it first with stinking Stuff, so that they care not to look into it.
And all this while Nat was rummaging in the Box with I see it not and It is not in this Corner and It is missing from this Spot until he stands up solemnly and declares: It is gone.
It is not here, not there, not anywhere. It is Gone.
I put my Face against the Glass, groaning and contemplating this further Turn, till like a Louse I jumped: for tho' my own Back was but patched and peeled, and my Box had vomited up its Secrets I knew not whither, I could not absent my self from the Office on such a Day as this; so, with much Pain, I put on my Cloathes and coach'd it to Scotland Yard. Yet I need not have been in as great a Hurry since Mr Hayes was not miss'd at first; he was constantly attending the Works and giving directions to the Workmen, going from place to place as he thought fit and (he being a Bachelour without Family to raise the Alarm) those in the Office merely ask'd, Has Mr Hayes left Word, or a Note in his Door, to let us know where he is to be found? It was said, I suppose he has not murdered any Body? And who laugh'd the loudest but myself?
It was after Noon when the Corse was discovered beneeth the Pipes new laid by St Mary Woolnoth, which fact was made known to me in the following Manner: Mr Vannbrugghe, a great cryer up of News, blew into my Closet like a dry Leaf in a Hurricanoe. He pulls off his Hat to me and cries, he is my Humble servant (when the Rogue is thinking all the while, Kiss my Ballocks). I hate, says he, to be a Messenger of 111 News. Then he settled himself upon the Arm of a Chair and assumed as solemn an Air as any Parson on a Holyday: Mr Hayes, Sir, is dead, murdered most Foully.
Quite dead. Where is Walter?
I kept my Countenance: Mr Hayes dead? If this is so, I have heard nothing of it. And I rose from my Chair in feigned Disbelief.
Well that is strange, he replied, since it was Walter who discovered the Body. Where is Walter? I must speak with him.
I sat down at once and answered him trembling: I have not seen him, sir, but I have no doubt I will.
I am so much taken by the Rogue's adventure, do give me leave to question him myself.
How did Hayes die?
He died a servant to your Church, for some Ruffian must have set upon him as he inspected the Foundacions of St Mary Woolnoth.
In Lombard Street?
I believe it is there, Mr Dyer. He looked on me oddly at this, and indeed I scarce knew what I was saying as in my Thoughts I contemplated the sight of Walter gazing down at the Corse of Mr Hayes.
Did you tell me how he died?
He was choaked to Death.
Strangled, like a Bear on a Leash. What Age is this, he goes on, when the Churches are not hallowed?
He looked at me then with half a Smile, and it came into my Mind to jest with edge tools (as they say), knowing that from Death springs Laughter: if you have forgot your Age, I replied, consult your Glass.
At that he gave a very genteel turn to the Ribbon of his Cravat-string: I see, says he, that you leave off the Grimaces of a feigned Sadnesse and, to speak plainly, I did not like the Man myself.
I liked him well enough, I declared, and I wished no Harm to come to him. Again I tried to rise from my Chair saying, I must go now to discover the Truth in all this. But there came a sudden Giddinesse into my Head: there was a scent of Orange-Flo wer-water in the Room, I saw Vannbrugghe his little Mouth wag but I heard only confus'd Words as I bowed down and stared at the Dust upon the Floor.
When I returned to my self he was showing his Teeth in a Smile.
This Death has taken away your Spirits, says he, but it cannot be helped: we all must die although (for he could never resist a Quixotic- ism)
I admit I will never do anything with as little Desire in my Life. I gave him a Glance and at that he slunk away or, as the Rakes term it, he brush'd off, having had the worst of the Lay: just as a Rod is the best argument for the back of a Rogue, so Contempt is the best Usage that ought to be shown to a Fool. Your Servant, Sir he calls out as he turns into the Passage. Yes, he loves me as an Ivy does the Oak, and will never leave me till he has hugg'd me to my Ruine.
When I could no longer hear his Step I hasten'd to the little Desk upon which Walter fair-writes, but there was nothing so much there as a Peece of Paper to reveal to me where he had been, and where he was now. His Repository was lock'd against it, but I had watched Walter and knew that he hid his Key beneath a Board where no Nail was: it was removed by me with the utmost Ease and Quietness but, upon opening the Box, I saw only a pile of Bills and Measurements.
But then a little Paper dropped down to the Ground, and when I bent to pick it up I saw plainly that Walter had written upon it, O Misery, Them Shall Dye. I puzzled over this for a Moment, but there was so much Noise and Whispering around the Office that I could not remain by myself and, in fear of Censure, I walked into the Passage to join the Throng. Mr Lee, Mr Strong, and Mr Vanbrugghe were there engaged in Talk and as I walked toward them they call'd out, Where is Walter?
What has become of him? Is he withinne? and such like Questions.
I doubt not but that he is being Examined, 7 replied, and that he will return to us presently. Vanbrugghe did not look upon me as I spoke but waited for me to finish with an indifferent Air, and then began to discourse about Mr Hayes his suddaine Death, who he supposed his Murtherer to be, and other Trifles. My Thoughts were travelling down a different Road: Is it not just, said I after a while, that he be Buried where he Fell? And to this the Pack concurred, as a proper Course for one so devoted to the Work of the Office. Then I walk'd out into the Yard to puzzle once more the meaning of Walter's words, for they strangely afflicted me. And how could it be that Walter had made so sudden a Discovery of the Corse? I wheel'd and wheel'd about, not knowing whether to go or to stay, and the Wind would not let me think but blew upon my Face bringing the Scents of the River; so at last I enter'd my Closet and shut the Door, at which Time I had a sudden Vision of Walter running in Fear down Lombard Street.
I wrote his Words upon a Paper -O
Misery, Them Shall Dye -but
I could still find no clew to unravel their Sense. Then after a while it came to me to anagrammatize its Letters and thus I spell'd out in Horrour: Dyer Has Smote Me III, with the initials YH for the name of Yorick Hayes. And I stared astonished at my Labours: for how could it be that the Villain had foretold his own Fate, when he was making merry in his Cups only minutes before his Extinction? And yet if these were Walter's own words, how might it be that he could communicate with the Dead Man unless it be by some Instillation of his Spirit? And when had he composed this troublesome Stuff? All these blinde Feares whirled about me: Walter, Walter, I said out loud, do I not talk madly? And at this there was a Knock upon the Door and I bounded up like a Dog afraid of Whipping. But it was only the coxcomb Vanbrugghe once more making his Bow: Mr Hayes, says he, was a great Frequenter of Plays and, once we have put him in a Shift and given him over to the Clerk of the Parish, we thought to take ourselves to the Play-House in his Memory. Do you agree, Mr Dyer?
I was about to speak out, but the Callus of this man's Vanity has made him invulnerable and he takes everything you say in good Part.
It is agreed, I replied.
But to go on with my Theme: a Coroner's Jury had been summoned and met to make an Inquiry how the Party (as they called him) came by his Death, and such Witnesses as could be got besides Walter were examined; but their Testimonies appeared very obscure in the apprehension of most People. Some under examination confirmed that they had seen a lofty man in a dark Coat waiting about Midnight at the end of Pope's Head Alley, while others declared that they had observed a drunken Man by the New Church, and yet others beleeved that they had heard violent Singing in the Dusk of the Evening. All these had but a confus'd sense of Time, and it became clear that there was nothing Certain. So it is that the World makes its own Demons, which then the People see.
Mean-while the villain Hayes was clean'd and shav'd and put into his Shift: he was left to lie in his Coffin for just one Day, with a square peece of Flannel over his Face and Neck to obscure the Signs of his Death, before he was taken thro' Cheapside and Poultry to be buried by the east wall of St Mary Woolnoth. Sir Chris, had conceeved a great Dislike of Funerals and, sighing, he looked upon the Walls new built rather than down into the Grave. Mr Vannbrugghe glanced around at the Company with a melancholy Air but, as we threw sprigs of Rosemary upon the Coffin, he repeated in a jovial Tone the words of the Service: From dust to dust, says he, From dust to dust. Then he leaned over to whisper at me behind his Hand: I do not see you at your Devotions, Mr Dyer.
I have faith in the true Religion, 7 replied unthinking.
Well, well, says he smiling, Mr Hayes is now our Scholar in these Matters.
Then we returned down Cheapside in the same Order as we came, Walter still being absent and, it was thought, suffering from melan chollic Sicknesse after being surpriz'd by the Discovery of the horrid Corse. Yet all of us (save Sir Chris.) made Merry, taking Heart from that Catch, and I yet alive!: at five o'clock of the same Day, we made our way thro' New Inn, crossed Russell Court and steered to the Playhouse.
Mr Vannbrugghe, after his Devotions at the Barbers, was all improved by Powder, Washballs and Perfume so that he was as fragrant as a Bermoodoes Breez or any sweet-bag: here is a self- conceited Puppy who was born a Boy and will die before he is a Man.
Coming too soon for the Play we took a Turn in the Lobby, which is nothing but a Rendez-vous of all Extravagances, or rather the Shambles where young and old are expos'd to Sale. For among the Saunterers with their Hands in their Pockets come the Ladies from the Stews: all of them patched and painted, where beneath they are Old and Yellow and fit only to turn Stomachs. And then on a sudden Glance I observed the Harlot who had encounter'd me on that fa tall Night: at once I turned away from her and busied myself in the reading of Advertisements fix'd to the Pillars.
Well, well, says she walking up close to me and talking to some black Devil in a Mask, do you see how the Captain stared at us and gnashed his Teeth as if he could eat us for looking at Him? Captain, says she again coming beside me, you turn your Back upon me as you have done before. And she laugh'd as I shuddered and burned. Here now, she goes on taking my sweating Hands in her own, these are mighty Hands which could work much Mischief. Before I could speak, the Porter moved among the Company saying, The Play begins when it is exactly six by your Watches, will you please to go in, will you please to go in? Another Day then, Captain, says she, or let it be another Night?
And she took herself off with a Smile.
After a Pause to find my Breath I walked into the Pit where the others were already sat upon the Benches: they were not the best Seats neither, since the Gentlemen in front of us had so powdered their Perriwigs that they endangered my Eyes as soon as they turned round to stare at the Company. At first I beleeved they stared at me for the most part, since I was sadly discomfited after my Discourse with the Harlot, but my Perturbation soon passed when I saw that there was no Meaning to their Looks, either to Themselves or each other. So it was with an easier Mien that I settled my self down to watch this Assembly with its Amorous Smirks, its A la Mode Grins, its Antick Bows -the World being but a Masquerade, yet one in which the Characters do not know their Parts and must come to the Play-House in order to studdy them. Let there be no Stop to Bawdy so that those in the Pit can see themselves; fill the Stage with Villainy, with Swearing and Blaspheming and Open Lewdness. The grossest Touches will be most true.
And now the Curtain was drawn to show a dark Room where some one was playing a Pack of Cards; above him some dozen Clouds were trimm'd with Black, and there was a new Moon something decay'd.
And then for a moment I was environ'd by these painted Scenes and lived among them even as I sat in the Pitt: now my Lord All-Pride leads Doll Common away, and the Scene is drawn to show a Chamber of Tortures where he says, Do you like this Ribbon (pointing to a Whip), this Cutt of the Sleeve (pointing to a Knife), this Stocking (pointing to a hanging Rope)? And I was a Child again, watching the bright World.
But the Spell broke when at this Juncture some Gallants jumped from the Pitt onto the Stage and behaved as so many Merry-Andrews among the Actors, which reduced all to Confusion. I laugh'd with them also, for I like to make Merry among the Fallen and there is pleasure to be had in the Observation of the Deformity of Things. Thus when the Play resumed after the Disturbance, it was only to excite my Ridicule with its painted Fichons, wicked Hypocrisies and villainous Customs, all depicted with a little pert Jingle of Words and a rambling kind of Mirth to make the Insipidnesse and Sterility pass. There was no pleasure in seeing it, and nothing to burden the Memory after: like a voluntarie before a Lesson it was absolutely forgotten, nothing to be remembered or repeated.
When this Masquerade was complete, the prattler Vanbrugghe led us on to the Grey Bear tavern, where the whimzey-headed and the slender-witted and the shallow-brained come to sip their Brandy and make their Chit-chat on what they have just view'd. And so sir, he cried as we waited for the Tapster, how did you like the Play?
I have forgot it, sir.
I asked him what he said, for there was such a mish-mash of Conversation around us that I could scarcely understand him -the frequenters of Taverns have Hearts of Curd and Souls of Milk Sop, but they have Mouths like Cannons which stink of Tobacco and their own foul Breath as they cry What News? What's a Clock? Methinks it's Cold to Day! Thus is it a Hospital For Fools: DRAMATIS PERSONAE John Vanbrugghe: An Architect in Fashion Nicholas Dyer: A Nothing, a Neighbour Sir Philip Bareface: A Courtier Moneytrap: A Jobber Various Gentlemen of the Town, Rakes, Bullies and Servants vannbrugghe. (Taking up his glass) I said, sir, forgot so soon? dyer. (Sits down) There was nothing that I recall save that the Sunne was a Round flat shining Disc and the Thunder was a Noise from a Drum or a Pan. vannbrugghe. (Aside) What a Child is this! (To Dyer) These are only our Devices, and are like the Paint of our Painted Age. dyer. But in Meditation the Sunne is a vast and glorious Body, and Thunder is the most forcible and terrible Phaenomenon: it is not to be mocked, for the highest Passion is Terrour. And why was it, too, that this Scribbler mock'd Religion? It is a perilous Case. vannbrugghe. Amen to that. I pray the Lord. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! But let me tell you plainly, sir, this Scribbler was just; Religion is only the quaint Leger-de-main of strong-pated Statesmen who, to overawe the Capriciousness of the giddy Multitude, did forge the Image of some Punisher of all Humane actions. dyer. (Aside) A small rational Sir Fopling this! vannbrugghe. Have I told you this Story? When a Widow, hearing in a Sermon of the Crucifixion, came to the Priest after, dropped him a Courtsie and asked him how long ago this sad Accident happened?
When he answered, about 15 or 16 hundred Years ago, she began to be comforted and said, Then by the grace of God it may not be true.
(Laughing). dyer. (In a low tone) Interest is the God of your World, who may be sacrificed to Hypocrisie. vannbrugghe. (Aside) I find he knows me! (To Dyer) What was that? dyer. It was nothing, nothing at all.
There is an uneasy Silence between them vannbrugghe. And how do your Churches, Mr Dyer? dyer. (In alarm) They do very well, sir. vannbrugghe. You build in Greenwich next? dyer. (Wiping sweat from his brow) I build first in Bloomsbury, and then in Greenwich. vannbrugghe. How interesting. (He pauses) The Play was well received, was it not? dyer. The Audience had so humble an Opinion of itself tonight that it thought what pleased the People of Fashion ought also to please it. vannbrugghe. And yet there was that to please all: the Language was enrich'd with beautiful Conceptions and inimitable Similitudes.
(He stares at Dyer) Are you not of my Mind in this at least? dyer. No, I am not of your Mind, for the Dialogue was fitted up with too much Facility. Words must be pluckt from Obscurity and nourished with Care, improved with Art and corrected with Application.
Labour and Time are the Instruments in the perfection of all Work. (Aside) Including churches. vannbrugghe. (Coughs in his glass) Here is a Speech that would fright me into Nothing! (To the Boy) Fill some Brandy, sirrah! (To Dyer) But the greatest Art is to speak agreeably about the smallest Things, to spread a general evenness of Humour and a natural decency of Style. dyer. (Looking at him scornfully) So that is why Wits swarm like Egypt's Frogs. If I were a Writer now, I would wish to thicken the water of my Discourse so that it was no longer easy or familiar. I would chuse a huge lushious Style! vannbrugghe. (Interrupting) Ah the music of Erudition, it is unimaginable to weaker Wits. dyer. (Ignoring him) I would imploy outlandish Phrases and fantasti-call Terms, thus to restore Terrour, Reverence and Desire like wild Lightning. vannbrugghe. (Offended) I do not wish for meer Words: I wish for Matter. dyer. And what is matter, according to the Greshamites, but blind Attomes? vannbrugghe. (Laughing) Well let us drop that Matter.
They stand again without speaking, only drinking vannbrugghe. (Inclining his head) See this Man's manner as he walked by me: he has lately been in the powdering Tub of Affliction and it has affected his Step. (He calls out and smiles at the Man) Sir Philip, Sir Philip! (Aside to Dyer) His sword is tyed as high as the Waist-band of his Breeches, do you see, and it has no more Motion when he walks than a Two-foot Rule stuck into the Apron of a Carpenter. (To Sir Philip Bareface) You have been to Court, I hear, what's done? sir philip. Extraordinary News, I do assure you. dyer. (Aside) Only when you are hanged, sirrah. sir philip. The events in Silesia have caused great Consternation: I never approved of our Affairs there after my Lord Peterborough was called away. It is true my Lord Galway is a brave General and a Man of excellent Parts (he breaks off to look around cautiously) but what, then, if Luck is not on his side? (He whispers now) Did you read of my Lord in the Spectator! dyer. (Aside) I have seen Mr Addison among the Buggerantoes in Vinegar Yard: truly he is a Man of Parts. sir philip. (Still whispering) I see nothing ahead but endless Broils and Divisions. But here is Master Money trap who will tell us more News. Pray Sir (addressing him) what Intelligence from the City? moneytrap. There are those frighted at the News from Silesia. But I can tell the secret of that: Stocks may fall, but I say buy. vannbrugghe and sir philip. (In unison) Buy? moneytrap. Yes, buy, for they fall only by degrees to rise further.
Yesterday South Sea stock was 95 one quarter and Bank was 130! sir philip. This is strange News indeed.
CHORUS OF GENTLEMEN AND SERVANTS. What News is this? What News is this? (And then they sing)
Bankrupts, Elopements, Thefts and Lotteries Strange News from Petersburg and Flanders, Fast Mails from Frankfurt and Saxony Bring Chit-chat, Jobbing, Venery and Slanders.
Exeunt Sir Philip and Money trap, in conversation. Vannbrugghe and Dyer talk apart. dyer. (Having listen'd attentively to the Song) Was I not saying that Poetry is now sunk and miserably debas'd? It is as low a Thing now as the music of Italian Opera, and not even as Sweet as the Songs we heard in Childhood. For the best Authors, like the greatest Buildings, are the most ancient: this is but a cold Age of the World, filled with a generall Imperfection. vannbrugghe. No, no, the Fables and Religions of the Ancient World are well nigh consum'd: they have served the Poet and the Architect long enough, and it is now high time to dismiss them. We must copy the present Age, even in our Songs. dyer. (Aside) His Eyes and Countenance show a great Alteration, for this Matter touches him keenly. (To Vannbrugghe) If we copy the present Age, as you put it, we will be like those people who judge only by Resemblance and are therefore most delighted with Pictures of their Acquaintance. We will be like the Greshamites who will deal only with that which they know or see or touch: and so your Playwrights catch the Audience as Woodcocks and Widgeons are caught, by a lowd Bell and a greasie Light. vannbrugghe. (Aside) He has a solemn Air, but still he mocks me. (To Dyer) Well said, sir, you have brought yourself off cleverly. And so you would lugg down old Aristotle, Scaliger and all their Commentators from the high Shelf, and let the Moths flutter round your Gabardeen, so that you can furnish Prose with Episodes, Narrations, Deliberations, Didacticks, Pathetics, Monologues, Figures, Intervals and Catastrophes? dyer. (Aside) Methinks he strives to shine in his Talk the more to Insult my own. (To Vannbrugghe) I will say this only: that there is scarcely any Art or Faculty wherein we do not come short of the Ancients. vannbrugghe. (Spitting upon the floor) But the bounds of the Mind are yet unknown: we form our Judgments too much on what has been done without knowing what might be done. Originals must soar into the region of Liberty. dyer. And then fall down, since they have Wings made only of Wax.
Why prostrate your Reason to meer Nature? We live off the Past: it is in our Words and our Syllables. It is reverberant in our Streets and Courts, so that we can scarce walk across the Stones without being reminded of those who walked there before us; the Ages before our own are like an Eclipse which blots out the Clocks and Watches of our present Artificers and, in that Darkness, the Generations jostle one another. It is the dark of Time from which we come and to which we will return. vannbrugghe. (Aside) What is this Stuf f about Time? (To Dyer) This is well said, but this Age of ours is quite new. The World was never more active or youthful than it is now, and all this Imitation of the past is but the Death's Head of Writing as it is of Architecture. You cannot learn how to build from the Instructions of a Vitruvius or to manage a good Mien from a Tomb-painting: in the same Fashion, that which truly pleases in Writing is always the result of a Man's own Force. It is his proper Wealth, and he draws it out of himself as the Silk-worm spins out of her own Bowel. And speaking of Bowels They break off for a Minute as Vannbrugghe repairs to the Jakes; and Dyer listens to the assembled Company who can now be heard. rake. Why are Women like Frogs, sirrah? his companion. Tell me, why are Women like Frogs? rake. Because only their lower parts are Man's Meat. Ha, ha, ha, ha! his companion. And I will tell you another. A plain countryman, being called at an Assize in Norfolk to be a Witness about a peece of Land that was in Controversy, the Judge asked him what call you that Water which runs on the south side of the Close? The Fellow answered, My Lord, our Water comes without Calling. Ha, ha, ha!
Dyer scowls and then looks upon two Gentlemen in another Corner, who are inflamed with Liquor and speaking wildly. first gentleman. You hear this on Rep? second gentleman. Pozz. It was his Phizz and the Mobb saw it: it was in the News. As sure as Eggs are Eggs. first gent. Ah but these Eggs give me disconsolate Dreams, and make me melancholy for Days after. second gent. And do you know why you do not like Eggs? first gent. Why do I not like Eggs, sirrah? second gent. Because your Father was so often pelted with them! dyer. (To himself) There is nothing but Corruption withinne, a hollow sounding Box: whatsoever I see, whatsoever I hear, all Things seem to sound Corruption! (He turns towards Vannbrugghe, who has come back to the Table) What was I saying? vannbrugghe. You were extolling the Ancients. dyer. Yes, so I was. The Ancients wrote of General Passions, which are the same, but you wish only for that which is lively or new or surprizing. But the Ancients knew how Nature is a dark Room, and that is why their Plays will stand when even our Playhouses are crumbled into Dust: for their Tragedy reflects Corruption, and Men are the same now as they have ever been. The World is still mighty sick. Did you hear during the late Plague – vannbrugghe.
(Laughing) I had quite forgot that Distemper. dyer. -Did you hear of the Victim who persewed a young Girl, kissed her and then said, I have given you the Plague! Look here! And then he opened his Shirt to show her the fa tall Tokens. There is a Horrour and Loathsomeness there that must affect us all. vannbrugghe. (Aside) But there is a mixture of Delight in the Disgust it gives you. (To Dyer) I see, sir, that you are for strolling in Dirty Lanes and among the Cole-pits, like the Irish among their Boggs. dyer. Yes, for in such Places may the Truth be found. vannbrugghe. And so the Fumes issuing from a Jakes are for you Incense from an Altar: for they also have allwaies been the same! dyer. Should I peruse the casual Scratches and inside Daubings made upon the Walls, in order to take my Inspiration from their Novelty? vannbrugghe. (Growing impatient) There is nothing so pedantick as many Quotations, and your reverence for the Ancients is an excuse for meer Plagiarism. dyer. This is not so. (He gets up from the Table, walks awkwardly about, and then resumes his Seat) Even the magnificent Vergil has borrowed almost all his Works: his Eclogues from Theocritus, his Georgicks from Hesiod and Aratus, his Aeneid from Homer. Aristotle himself derived many things from Hippocrates, Pliny from Dioscorides, and we are assur'd that Homer himself built upon some Predecessors.
You will have Variety and Novelty, which is nothing but unruly Fancy. It is only from Imitation – vannbrugghe.
(Laughing) Plagiarism! dyer. (With a grave countenance) -Only from Imitation that we have Order and Massiveness. vannbrugghe. (Sighing) Words, words, words breeding no thing but more Wordiness which represents no thing in Nature, either, but a meer Confused Idea of Grandeur or Terrour. Pray speak that you may be understood, Mr Dyer: Language was design'd for it, they say. dyer. So you would have me speak Plain, when then my Words would blast you! (Vannbrugghe raises his Eyebrows at this, and Dyer adopts a lower tone) Reality is not so plain, sir, and will escape you as the Mist escapes the Squab who puts out a Hand to grasp it.
Enter Potboy boy. Do you call, sirs, do you call? Coffee or Brandy, Gentlemen? I have a fresh Pot a making. vannbrugghe. Make it Brandy, for this is thirsty work.
He takes off his wig for a moment to cool himself, and Dyer notices his Hair. dyer. (Aside) It is strangely Black beneeth his Wigg: the clear Water has been used to turn it. vannbrugghe. (Staring at him) And you were saying? dyer. (In confusion, lest he was heard) I have lost my Thred. (He hesitates)
I am troubled by many Thoughts. vannbrugghe. Why so? Tell me your Affliction: do you speak of Mr Hayes? dyer. That Piece of Deformity! (He checks himself) No, I speak of Walter who is Sick. vannbrugghe. You are condemned dyer.
Condemned? To what? Speak! Quick! vannbrugghe. -You are condemned to be always fearful. It is your natural Temper. dyer. (Hastily) Well, enough of this. (Clumsily, to break the silence between them) And I can press my Theme still further, for Milton copied Spenser – vannbrugghe.
No doubt you were more charmed by Milton's Hell than by his Paradise. dyer. -And Spenser copied his master Chaucer. The world is a continued Allegory and a dark Conceit. vannbrugghe. And what is your Allegory, sir? dyer. (Somewhat drunken now) I build in Hieroglyph and in Shadow, like my Ancients. vannbrugghe. (Interrupting) So you speak of your Churches at last! dyer. No! But yes, yes, I do, I do. For just as in the Narration of Fables we may see strange Shapes and Passages which lead to unseen Doors, so my Churches are the Vesture of other active Powers. (He warms to his theme as the Brandy warms him) I wish my Buildings to be filled with Secresy, and such Hieroglyphs as conceal from the Vulgar the Mysteries of Religion. These occult ways of Proceeding were treated of by the Abbot Trithemius in his very learned and ingenious Discourse de Cryptographia… (He breaks off here suddenly and nervously) vannbrugghe. Do not be abashed, Mr Dyer. dyer. (In a lower tone) But this Art, like that of Painting upon Glass, is but little practiced now and is in great measure lost. Our Colours are not so Rich. vannbrugghe. But they are rich enough else where. dyer. How so? vannbrugghe. In the Elaboratory, or so I am told, they use Salts to turn blew into red, and red into Green. dyer. I see you have not understood this Discourse.
Both men growing uneasy, they turn to look at the Company; but the Hour is past Midnight, and the Tavern empty except for the Boy cleaning the Tables. vannbrugghe. I am tired now: I must find a Chair to take me home.
He comes forward, as Nicholas Dyer sleeps uneasily in his Cups, and addresses the Audience with a SONG What foolish Frenzy does this Man possess To cling to Ancients and expect Success?
To bring old Customs on the modern Stage When nought but Sense and Reason please this Age?
Goodnight, Mr Dyer.
He makes a low Bow to him, and exits. Dyer wakes suddenly and stares wildly around. Then he stands up unsteadily and delivers to the Audience another SONG And yet who was that miserable Creature Who trusts to Sense and coppies Nature?
What Warmth can his dull Reasons still inspire When in Darkness only can be seen the Fire?
He exits. boy. (Calling out after him) What, no Epilogue?
No, and there will be none, for this Play is follow'd by a Masquerade.
When I return'd to my Lodgings, much incens'd at the high talk of Vannbrugghe, I tyed an Handkerchief about my Head, tore a woollen Cap in many places, as likewise my Coat and Stockings, and looked exactly what I design'd to represent: a Beggar-Fellow, and one who might merit the World's just Scorn. Then I slipped out of my Closet at Two a clock, when all the Household was abed, proposing to make my way through the Streets without a Lanthorn. As I passed the Bed-chamber of Mrs Best I heard her call out, Lord what Noise is that?
And then a Man (so, says I to myself, she has found fresh Meat) replied, Perhaps the Dog or Catte. I was instantly in the Entry and came out at the Street-door without any other Disturbance. And as I |i walk'd the Street the fearful Lightness in my Head, which so afflicted f| me, passed away and in these Beggar robes I was once more fastened by the Earth: in that manner, all my Fears and anxious Perplexities left me.]
At Three in the Morning, with the Moon on my left Hand, I came to | an old House by Tottenham Fields and here I sank into a corner with i my Chin upon my Breast: another Beggar came but he did not like my Looks and was soon gone. Then I rous'd my self and walked into the i Pasture by Montagu House, close behind my new Church at Bloomsbury.
It was a silent Night but that the Wind made a low Sound like a Woman sighing; I laid my self down upon the grass curled like an Embrio and was recalling Days far gone when I heard a Whistling borne to me by the Wind. I rais'd my self upon my Knees, crouch'd ready to Spring, and then I saw a young Fellow crossing the Pasture i towards me: he was as like to have walked straight to the Bloomsbury Church, in which Path I would assist him. I stood upright and went to ›r him with a Smile: How do you do my little Honey, says 1, How do you ^; do my Sweetheart?; \ At that he was much affrighted and said, For God's sake who are you?
I am your pretty Maid, your merry Wren. And will you show me the Church yonder so that we may hug in its Shaddowe?
I see no Church, says he. But these were desperate Words, for he was tied like a dead Bird to a Tree. And it was some time after when I returned to my Lodgings, singing old Songs in the silent Feelds.
On the fifth Day after I did see an Advertisment for that pritty young Fellow: Run away on Friday last from his Master, Mr Walsall, in Queen's Square, a Boy about 12 Years of Age, Thomas Robinson; he had on dark grey Cloaths all of a sort, the Sleeves of his Coat faced with Black, a brown Peruke, a red Mark on one of his Hands. Whosoever brings him to Mr Walsall's aforesaid, or at the Red Gates in Grape Court, shall have lb5 Reward and no questions ask'd. This is well put; ask no Questions and you shall hear no Lies, Mr Walsall, and I shall tell you this also without a Recompense: your Boy has more Marks now.
And so I busied my self about the Churches of Bloomsbury and Greenwich with a lighter Heart, and this in spite of the Fact that Walter had not return'd to the Office and, it was said, had grown so heavy with Hypochondriacall Melancholie that he was like to sink into the Ground. It was some Days following that I made a Visit to him in his Lodgings in Crooked Lane, on the east -side of St Michael's Lane, where a nasty slut his Landlady whisper'd to me as I enter'd through the Door: He is sick of the Feaver and we despair of him, sir, (at this she clinched her Hands as if there were Silver in them) and he speaks mighty strange and is sometimes crying or roaring like a little Boy that has been whipped. What shall we do, sir?
Then she led me to his mean Chamber which stank of Sweat and Piss like the Hovel of a Car-man; when Walter saw me he tried to rise from his Bed but I put my Hands upon him: No, no, 7 whisper'd, stay, stay, Walter. Then he showed Signes of great Terrour which perplexed me: Do you know me? I asked him.
Know you? Yes, very well.
How do you do, then?
Very bad, master. I care not much indeed what becomes of me. Here he stopt and fetched a Sigh.
I tried to cheer him: And then, Walter, what then? You cannot Sigh for ever, and what will you do with your self then?
I don't know, not I; hang myself, I think. I don't know anything I can do better.
Tell me, Walter, what is the Matter? Is it such a Secret that you dare not tell it? I hope you have not committed Murther.
But he did not Laugh as I had hoped: I am not sure, he replied, and now it is no such great matter neither.
No great Matter, and yet you talk of hanging your self! I made a Stop here and, taking my Eyes from his Face which was wonderfully Pale, I saw fastened with Pins to the Wall divers Planns and Draughts of my London Churches; and this touch'd my Heart for the poor Boy, silent as he might be in the Office, showed his Devotion here. And now, as he lay Sick among my Images, he raised his Head from the Pillow: I thought, said he at last, that you might leave your Post and forget me.
Why so, Walter, when I can never cancell my Obligation to you for your Labours? You are my right Hand.
No, no, I wished you to leave: I wished to be free from your Service.
You are filled with disturbing Thoughts and melancholly Vapours, Walter. You must lie now and rest.
But then he raised his Head a little higher still: How far is the Pillar at Bloomsbury advanc'd, he said, let it not stand upon the cold Ground but lift it above the Tower! And have you finished the Moddell of Greenwich Church? At that he took Pen and Ink, and wrote down a great many things upon his Paper, and made Lines with a short brass Rule, but I understood nothing of them.
Let them alone, I said, you are too Sick, too Sick.
Then he glared at me: You saw the Lines I wrote before?
I saw some Musty Stuff in Anagram placed in the Box beneeth your Chair, I replied, but it was of no account.
Walter grew yet more agitated: I assure you, there was no Anagram.
I speak of the Letters I left for you.
This is not clear to me, Walter.
I wish'd to entice you to leave the Office for I was so much at your Mercy there, said he staring at me wildly, but I never wish'd to cause you such Agonie. I was in a Box and could not creep out of it: I wish'd to be free but instead I have bound my self.
Those letters were the work of the villain Hayes, I replied (without thinking of what I said), and they were not of your Doing.
But then he took from beneath his Pillow a seal'd Letter, conveyed it to me, and as our Eyes met he sank back affrighted. I will tell you a Mystery, says he, I followed you and then I lost you. That night I dream'd I killed Mr Hayes and then on the next Day I found his Corse.
Was there Truth in this Dreame? And what must I do?
The nasty Slut appear'd in the Room againe: He is always disturbed so, said she, since he discovered the Body. And his wild Talk is filled with you and Mr Hayes.
The Fever has grown so considerable, I told her, that you must tie him firmly to the Bed. We must make Time his Cure.
Walter lay groaning, and I contemplated his Face for the last time before I turned my Back on him and went on my own Way. This visit had given me News indeed, and as I climbed down the narrow Stairs I unsealed the Letter which he had left with me: at once I saw it to be one of those which had threatened me and which I had layed to Mr Hayes.
And so my own Assistant had watch'd me and plotted against me: it was he, he alone, who wished to be rid of me. It was he who laid deep Planns for me to be gone. And who knows what else he might now have committed to Paper in his Delirium? I was uncertain which way the next Winde might toss me, and as I walked back to my Lodgings I watched as those who travel in suspected Places.
I spoke nothing of my Visit to Walter when I came into the Office on the next morning, for I had too private a Sense and was too close in my Manner of speaking to give them a Rod (as they say) to beat me with.
But they suspected me of I know not what, and the absence of Walter was cried up as a Stroke against me: they whispered against me so as not to be over-heard, but I needed no Trumpet-tongued Devils to understand all their Plots and Intrigues. They avoided me as if my Breath were Contagious, or a Plague-sore running upon me. And then three days following this, Sir Christopher asked to see me: he did not tell me what the Purpose was and, tho' I imagined my self to be Undone, I did not ask Questions for fear of giving him Suspicion. I went into his Chamber trembling, but he did not so much as Hint at Walter but spoke of Mr Vannbrugghe his Projects in a most familiar Manner.
I was easy for a while but then the Purpose behind his Discourse became most plain when, in the next Week, I received a very flaming Injury which was so loaded with Aggravations that I cou'd scarce get over it. For I read this in the Gazette: His Majesty has been pleased to appoint Sir John Vannbrugghe to be Comptroller of His Majesty's Works in England. One remarkable Passage I had like to forgot: the new King had made Vannbrugghe a Knight, but that was as nothing beside this new Case. What are we coming to, and what is to be expected, when those like this Reptile Knight are advanc'd before me? Yet I am held in such Despight that I cannot over-reach him, and so I must burn. It is the same the World over: Persons that have nothing to recommend them but the Marks of Pride and a high Value for them-selves have gained Esteem; being supposed to have some Merit only for pretending it, the Cox-comb struts like a Crow in the Gutter while the others laugh at me behind their Hands. With the Queen dead, Sir Chris, shall lose all Favour with those now in Power and what Hope for me then?
They wish to turn me out and thus destroy me, and there is a known Maxim for this purpose: Throw Dirt and if it does not stick throw Dirt continually and some will stick. So I must stay out of their Way: suspicious and jealous Men have good Eyes, and they will now be fasten'd on me.
Such Thoughts were heavy upon me when I enlarged upon my new Work to the Commission thus: We desire the Honble. Board to know that the Walls of the Bloomsbury Church are complete and all is prepar'd for the Plaisterers; it will be proper that they begin the Ceilings and Walls during the best of the Winter, that the Work be thoroughly dry before any Frost take it. The Church is bounded by Russell Street to the North, Queen Street to the West, and to the South-east Blooms bury Market; this area being very populous in the months of Summer, the Fields being close by, what Preparations are to be made for outside Doors so that the Church may be shut from the Rabble? The West Tower is advanc'd about 25 or 28 Feet above the Roof of the Church, and I will place upon that my Historical Pillar which will be of square Form and built with rough Stone. (And this I do not add: on the Apex of this Shaft will be placed the sevenedged Starre which is the Eye of God. The Empereur Constantine set up a Pillar at Rome as big as this, in one Stone, and placed the Sunne on the Sumit of it. But that parhelion or false Sunne was forced to leave Shineing: my Fabrick will last 1000 yeares, and the Starre will not be extinguish'd.) I also humbly offer to the Commissioners the following account of the present state of the Church of Greenwich, viz. the Stonework on the South side and part of the East and West End is advanc'd about four feet above the level of last year's Work, and the Masons have a good Quantity of Stone wrought to cany on the side next the Street. (And this I keep conceal'd: Dr Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal and a man of snivelling covetous Temper, predicts a total Eclipse of the Sunne on the date 22 April 1715: at that dark Time, when the Birds flock to the Trees and the People carry Candles in their Houses, will I lay the last Stone secretly and make the Sacrifice due.) Further, I have been ordered by the Honble. Board to prepare and lay before the Commissioners a particular Estimate of the charge in building the Church of Little St Hugh in Black Step Lane. I have examined the Prices proposed and find them the same with the Churches of Limehouse and Wapping. The parts of Land shaded with a faint Brown are granted already, and the parcels of Land in private Hands are shaded Yellow. The vacant Ground in the Front is worth 3 pounds per annum and at 20 years purchase of 60 pounds; the Buildings backwards are let at 72 pounds per annum at six years purchase and worth 432 Pounds, viz. the Tobacconist, the Tallow Chandler, the Pewterers and the Weavers. These are washed with Blew. All of which is humbly submitted, N. Dyer.
And across these mean Dwellings of Black Step Lane, where as a Boy I dwell'd for a while, the Shaddowe of my last Church will fall: what the Mobb has torn down I will build again in Splendour. And thus will I compleet the Figure: Spittle-Fields, Wapping and Lime- house have made the Triangle; Bloomsbury and St Mary Woolnoth have next created the major Pentacle-starre; and, with Greenwich, all these will form the Sextuple abode of Baal-Berith or the Lord of the Covenant. Then, with the church of Little St Hugh, the Septilateral Figure will rise about Black Step Lane and, in this Pattern, every Straight line is enrich'd with a point at Infinity and every Plane with a line at Infinity. Let him that has Understanding count the Number: the seven Churches are built in conjunction with the seven Planets in the lower Orbs of Heaven, the seven Circles of the Heavens, the seven Starres in Ursa Minor and the seven Starres in the Pleiades. Little St Hugh was flung in the Pitte with the seven Marks upon his Hands, Feet, Sides and Breast which thus exhibit the seven Demons -Beyde lus, Metucgayn, Adul'ee, Demeymes, Gadix, Uquizuz and Sol. I have built an everlasting Order, which I may run through laughing: no one can catch me now.
AND HAWKSMOOR laughed at this. 'You can see things in whatever order you want, Walter, and we'll still catch him.
He's cunning, though.' Then he pointed at his own head.
'He's very cunning.'
'Time will tell, sir.'
Time will not tell. Time never tells.' Once more he raised his arm involuntarily, as if in greeting. 'So let's start again. Where were the bodies found?'
They were found at St Alfege's, Greenwich, and at St George's, Bloomsbury.'
Hawksmoor noticed that the sky had cleared quite suddenly, going from grey to blue like an eye which had suddenly opened. 'And what was the order again?'
'One after another, within a few hours.'
The report said that it could have been minutes.'
'Minutes is impossible, sir.'
'No, we can't deal in minutes.' And yet what might happen in a minute, when his back was turned? He looked down at the pattern of dust on the carpet and, as he did so, he heard the noises within his head like the sounds of a crowd roaring in the distance. When he looked up, Walter was talking again.
'What I can -well I can't -1 mean, we have nothing positive off the paperwork.' And they both looked at the documents scattered across Hawksmoor's desk. 'I can't believe,' Walter continued, 'I can't believe it.' And he picked up the forensic report on the two most recent murders. Both victims had been strangled with a ligature which had not been tied -there was no mark of a knot, at least -but had been held tight for at least fifteen to twenty seconds at an unusually high level in the neck. The ligature was evidently a folded hard cloth of some kind, set in four distinct lines across the front of the neck. The marks extended around the sides, especially the right, but faded at the back, showing that both victims had been strangled from behind on the left.
In spite of the closest possible examination of the cuticle, the pathologist was unable to detect any weave or pattern that would reflect the actual structure of the ligature. Exhaustive forensic tests had also failed to identify any prints, marks or stains which might be connected with the perpetrator of these actions.
Two days before Hawksmoor had crossed the Thames in a police launch to Greenwich, and as he came up to the dock he leaned forward over the side and allowed his index finger to trail in the oily water. He walked from the harbour and, catching sight of a church tower, turned down a small alley which seemed to lead in that direction. Almost at once he found himself surrounded by small shops in which there was very little light: they were of an old design, leaning forward over the pavement, and in his confusion he hurried down another lane only to stop short when the stone wall of the church apparently blocked off the end; but this was an illusion since a child then walked across it, singing. And at last Hawksmoor emerged into the street, just in time to see the church rising above him. He calmed himself by reading the gold script painted upon a board by the portico: This church was built on the traditional site of the martyrdom of Alfege. It was rebuilt by…'. His eyes wandered down the elaborate scroll, but such things bored him and he was distracted by a flight of birds returning to the branches of a single tree, each bird distinct against the winter sky.
He walked around the side of the church where a group of police officers waited for him -from the way they stood, self-consciously talking in low voices, Hawksmoor knew that the body was behind them on the grass. He walked over and, in those first moments when he was staring down at it, he wondered how he would look to the strangers who encircled his own corpse; and would the breath have left his body like a mist, or like the air evacuated from a paper bag which a child blows up and then explodes? Then he returned to the others: 'What time was he found?'
'At six o'clock this morning, sir, when it was still dark.'
'Do we know '
'He might have fallen from the tower, sir. But nobody knows.'
Hawksmoor looked up at the spire of St Alfege's and, when he blotted out the sun with his right hand, he noticed the white dome of the Observatory which was half concealed by the dark stone of the church. And he remembered that there was something here which he had heard of many years before, and which he had always wanted to see. Eventually he was able to break free from the others, muttering his excuses, and when he came to the foot of the hill he began to run, bounding over the short grass until he reached the summit.
There was a guard by the iron gate in front of the Observatory and Hawksmoor stopped in front of him, out of breath. 'Where,' he said, 'where is the zero meridian?'
The meridian?' The old man pointed to the other side of the summit. 'It's over there.'
But when Hawksmoor came to that place, he found nothing.
'Where is the meridian?' he asked again, and he was directed a little way down the hill. He looked around, and saw only dirt and stones.
'It's over there!' someone else called out. 'No, over there!' was the cry from another. And Hawksmoor was bewildered for, no matter how he turned and turned about, he could not see it.
Walter had put down the forensic report and was grinning at him.
'And so we're stuck,' he said. And then he added: 'As sure as eggs is eggs'- Hawksmoor smoothed the pages of the report which had been creased by Walter. 'Where does that expression come from?'
'It doesn't come from anywhere, sir, not as far as I know. I mean, everyone says it.'
Hawksmoor paused for a moment, wondering what everyone said about him. 'What was it you were asking me just now?'
Walter no longer tried to conceal his impatience: 'I was asking basically, sir, well, where do we go from here?'
'We go on. Where else should we go? We can't turn back. No one can turn back.' He had heard the annoyance in Walter's voice, and now he tried to console him. 'He's at my fingertips -don't worry, I can reach him. I feel it.' And after Walter had left him, he drummed his fingers on the desk as he contemplated new aspects of this problem: at the same time as the body of the child had been found in the grounds of St Alfege's, another body had been discovered propped against the back wall of St George's, Bloomsbury, where it runs alongside Little Russell Street. Hawksmoor had visited that spot also, and to those officers already working there he had seemed almost indifferent; it was not indifference, however, but agony. The pattern, as Hawks- moor saw it, was growing larger; and, as it expanded, it seemed about to include him and his unsuccessful investigations.
It was dark now, and the light from the buildings beyond his window shone on his face as he gave a great yawn. He left the office quietly, made his way out of the yard, and as he walked through the clear night to St George's, Bloomsbury, the cold December air turned his breath into clouds of moisture which rose above his head. He paused at the corner of Russell Street and New Oxford Street as a vagrant, muttering 'Jesus fucking Christ! Jesus fucking Christ!', glared at him; and in alarm he walked quickly up to the church, opening the iron gate which led to the small courtyard beside it. He stood beneath the white tower, and looked up at it with that mournful expression which his face always carried in repose: for one moment he thought of climbing up its cracked and broken stone, and then from its summit screaming down at the silent city as a child might scream at a chained animal. But his sudden anger was destroyed by a noise quite close to him. He remained still; a wooden door to his right seemed to be moving in the wind and, as he peered at it, he saw the sign Crypt Entrance written above the portal. The wind continued to blow the door gently backward and forward: to prevent it from opening too suddenly upon him, he hurried towards it and held it closed with his palm. But the wood felt unnaturally warm, and he snatched his hand away. The door opened slightly once more, and Hawksmoor decided to move it towards him with the tips of his fingers, very softly and very slowly so that it was only gradually he heard a faint but sustained laughter coming from within.
When he had opened the door to a sufficient width he slid through its entrance, holding his breath as he did so although the odours of wood and old stone were already forming a metallic taste in the back of his throat. The passage of the crypt was warm, and in his anxious state he imagined a host of people pressing around him -not touching him but close enough to forbid him movement. He walked forward slowly, since his eyes were not yet accustomed to the darkness, but he paused when he thought he heard scuffling noises somewhere in front of him.
He did not cry out, but he lowered himself to the ground and put his hands across his face. The faint sounds had diminished, and now he could hear a voice murmuring, 'Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes'.
Hawksmoor stood up at once and, poised for flight, he bent his body away from the direction of that voice and its whispered words. Then there was silence, and Hawksmoor knew that his presence had been sensed; he heard the sound of something being struck, and the light at the end of the passage made him jerk back his head in astonishment for in that instant he saw a young man, with his trousers draped around his ankles, holding onto a girl who was leaning against the stone wall. 'Fuck off!' the young man screamed, 'fuck off, you old sod!'
And Hawksmoor laughed in relief: 'I'm sorry,' he called out to the couple, as the match flickered out and they once more vanished into the darkness, 'I'm sorry!' When he got out of the passage, he leaned against the wall of the church, fighting for breath; once more he could hear the sound of laughter but, when he looked around, he saw only the rubbish of the city being blown against the church steps.
Slowly he walked back to Grape Street, his head bowed against the wind; when he reached the door, he looked up at Mrs West's window and saw two shadows thrown by the firelight upon the ceiling. So she has found a man at last, was his thought as he entered the passageway; it was dark here but at once he saw a small package, addressed to him, which seemed to have been tossed over the threshold. It was wrapped in coarse brown paper: he took it in both hands, held it out in front of him, and climbed the stairs to his own flat. Then, still in his overcoat, he sat down in his bare front room and tore open the parcel greedily: there was a small book within it, with a shiny white cover which was slightly sticky to the touch as if it had recently been coated in wax or resin. As soon as he opened it he saw the same drawing: the man was kneeling and holding something like a spy glass against his right eye. On other pages there were verses, sketches in the form of a cross and then on separate sheets certain phrases inscribed in brown ink -The Fortitude of the Stars', The Power In Images', The Seven Wounds'; towards the end Hawksmoor read, 'O Misery, They Shall Die' and in his horror he dropped the white book upon the floor, where it lay as the darkness of the night changed to the grey of the winter dawn. At which time he was thinking of the man who had drawn the kneeling figure beside St Mary Woolnoth; the tramp's shape was just above Hawksmoor's own as he stretched wide-eyed upon his bed, as if both of them were stone effigies of the dead lying above each other in an empty church.
'I'm still interested in that tramp,' he said as soon as Walter had entered the room.
'Which one was that, sir?'
The tramp by the church. The one who made the drawing.' He turned away from Walter to hide his eagerness. 'Do you still have the letter?' And after a brief search among the files arranged neatly on Hawksmoor's desk, it was found. It seemed so flimsy, just a sheet torn from a memorandum pad with the words 'Don't Forget' printed at its top, and at that moment Hawksmoor made a simple connection: it was as if he had climbed higher and, seeing much further into the distance, had lost his fear. 'Where,' he asked, 'is the nearest class- house to that church?'
The nearest one to the City is in the Commercial Road, it's that old building '
The one between Limehouse and Wapping?'
As they drove across London to the Commercial Road, Hawksmoor felt quite calm and allowed his fingers lightly to touch the letter placed in the inside pocket of his jacket. But as soon as they arrived he left the car hurriedly and dashed up the steps of a grimy brick building: Walter looked at him running ahead, beneath the grey London sky, and pitied him. Following Hawksmoor, he opened the wooden doors of the hostel, saw the faded green paint of its interior and the linoleum floors stained with grease or dirt, smelt the mixture of disinfectant and stale food, heard the faint calls and sounds from within the building.
And by this time Hawksmoor was knocking on a glass partition, behind which sat an elderly man eating a sandwich: 'Excuse me,' he was saying, 'Excuse me' as the man slowly put down his food and, apparently with reluctance, slid back the glass partition and murmured 'Oh yes?'
'You work here, I take it?'
'What does it look like to you?'
Hawksmoor cleared his throat. 'I am a police officer.' He handed him the letter. 'Do you recognise this piece of paper?'
The man pretended to study it. 'Yes, I've seen this kind of paper.
The staff use it. Don't ask me why.' He took out of a drawer a memorandum pad with the same words printed across it. 'What can you forget in a place like this?'
'And do you recognise the handwriting?' Walter noticed that Hawksmoor had become very still.
'Well, it's not mine.'
'I know it's not yours. But do you recognise it?'
'Not as far as I know.'
And Walter saw Hawksmoor nod, as if this was exactly what he had expected. Tell me this, then. Have you come across a tramp called the Architect, or anything like that?'
He blinked and put his finger in the air. 'We have the Preacher, the Flying Dutchman, the Pilgrim. But I don't know of any Architect. He'll be a new one on me.'
Hawksmoor stared at him. 'Do you mind if we have a look around?'
'Be my guest. ' His eyes briefly met those of Hawksmoor. 'You'll find just two of them there. They're supposed to be sick.'
Walter followed Hawksmoor down a corridor and into a large room which contained some formica tables and metal chairs: a large television set, placed upon a high shelf, had been turned on and the sounds of a children's programme chimed as emptily as an ice-cream van in a deserted street. Hawksmoor glanced up at it before walking through into another room where a number of mattresses, wrapped in plastic, had been arranged in two rows. On one of them a tramp lay upon his stomach, while a second man was crouched in a corner smoking. 'Hello,' Walter called out, 'And what do they call you, then?'
Neither of the men looked up. 'We are police officers. Do you know what I mean?' And then, in the silence, Walter added loudly: 'They're not very friendly, sir, are they?'
The tramp in the corner turned his head: 'I know what you mean. I know full well what you mean.'
Hawksmoor stepped up to him, without coming too close: 'Oh do you? And I suppose you know someone called the Architect?'
There was a pause. 'I don't know anyone by that name. No one at all by that name.' He wrapped his arms about his body as he crouched there: 'You don't enquire about people. You don't ask questions'. It was not clear whether he was addressing these remarks to himself, or to Hawksmoor who was now surveying the dilapidated room.
The Architect!' The tramp on the bed had propped himself on one elbow and was calling out to them. The Architect! God bless us all and every one!'
Hawksmoor moved up to the end of the bed, and stood with his hands clasped as if in prayer. 'Do you know him?'
'Do I know him? Do I know him? Yes, I know him.'
'And do you know his name? I mean, his real name.'
'His name is Legion.' When the tramp laughed it was obvious to Hawksmoor that he was lying on the bed because he was drunk, perhaps still drunk from the night before.
'And where can I find him?'
'Do you have a little cigarette on you, officer?'
'I don't have one now, but I will give you some later. Where did you say I could find him?'
'I don't find him. He finds me. Now you see him and now you don't.'
Everyone remained silent and, as Hawksmoor sat down on the side of this bed, he heard the noise of a plane travelling somewhere overhead. 'And when did you see him last?'
'I saw him in Hell. He was roasting nicely.'
'No, you weren't in Hell were you? Tell me again.'
Then the man's mood changed as he curled up on the bed and faced the wall. 'I was with him,' he said and the whole sad weight of the drink seemed to hit him so that he could barely speak.
Hawksmoor gently touched his filthy overcoat. 'You were with him, were you? You look like a man who could deal a powerful blow.'
'Hop it. Fuck it. I'm saying no more.'
Walter came up to stand beside him as Hawksmoor whispered, 'Now don't be frightened. I'm not going to frighten anybody.' There was a sound of weeping in the corridor.
'I'm not frightened. I've done nothing.' Then he pretended to sleep, or perhaps did sleep; Hawksmoor pointed to the tramp's arm which lay stretched out, and Walter gave it a jerk so that the man rolled off his bed.
'You're wanted,' Hawksmoor told him, loudly now, as Walter dragged him to his feet. 'I'm not arresting you. I'm asking you nicely to come with me.' The tramp stared at him. There will be something in it for you, you'll see. We're just taking you for a little ride.'
They dragged him outside, passing the receptionist who kept on chewing his sandwich as he watched them, and as they came out into the air the tramp stared across at the church of St Anne's, Limehouse, and then looked up at its tower which loomed over the three of them in the dark street. Then he closed his eyes, as if he was about to faint.
'Help him, Walter,' Hawksmoor murmured as they bundled him into the back of their car. But the tramp neither knew nor cared what was happening to him, since there would be other times when he would have no memory of this. And now he was in a small white room, with the same man facing him across a table, while behind a two-way mirror Walter took notes and watched this scene: hawksmoor. How are you feeling now? tramp. Feeling? Oh not so bad. Not so bad, you know. Do you happen to have a fag on you? hawksmoor. Not so bad? That is good news. (He takes off his glasses)
Can I talk to you then? tramp. Yes. Yes, I hope to talk to you soon. Do you have a fag on you?
By any chance?
Pause. Hawksmoor lights a cigarette and hands it to him. hawksmoor. I am having a nice time. Are you? (Silence) You were telling me about the Architect? Am I right in thinking that? tramp. (Genuinely puzzled) Yes, that is possibly true. I think I was.
HAWKSMOOR. Yes? tramp. (Nervously) Yes, I said that. Yes. hawksmoor. And so you know him? Am I right to say that you know him? tramp. I think I do. You can say that. I think I do. hawksmoor. Can you give me his name at all? tramp. Oh, I wouldn't know about that. Not his name. hawksmoor. But you saw him?
Silence. tramp. When? hawksmoor. I'm asking you the very same question. When did you see him? tramp. I saw him that night. hawksmoor. (Eagerly) What night? tramp. That night.
Silence. hawksmoor. Well, what time was it? tramp. Oh good God, now you're asking me something. hawksmoor. (Softly) Was it very dark? tramp. Pitch black. hawksmoor. I'm not going to hurt you. I would like you to remember. tramp. Next thing there was police and so forth. I won't say I was genuinely sober. Next thing the police was in. hawksmoor. In where? tramp. I've seen you before, haven't I? hawksmoor. In where? tramp. In that church. hawksmoor. This is a coincidence, isn't it? tramp. I remember nothing more than that. I'm not joking you.
Nothing more than that. (He is silent fora moment) What time are you letting me out? (Pause) I've had enough of this. (Silence) I'm that tired. hawksmoor. (Suddenly) What does he look like? tramp. Oh I don't know. (Pause) All that hair. It's wicked, isn't it?
Hair like tobacco. And then he draws. Draws the life out of you. I never saw such drawings. (Silence) Can I go out now? (Silence) Well then I'll go.
He gets up to leave, looks at Hawksmoor, and then walks out of the door as Walter comes in. hawksmoor. (Excitedly) It was the same man. Doesn't it seem to you to be the same man?
He read the brief jottings which Walter had made in his notebook during the interview and a small fly, attracted by its brightness under the neon, settled on the left-hand page. Hawksmoor noticed its legs waving like filaments bending in a sudden heat, and the shape of its wings cast a shadow upon the whiteness of the paper. Then as he turned the page he killed the insect, and its body smeared across the ink became an emblem of this moment when Hawksmoor had a vision of the tramp dancing around a fire, with the smoke clinging to his clothing and then wrapping him in mist.
'It is the same man,' he said again, 'It must be him.'
Walter anticipated his thoughts now: 'And we must be seen to be taking some action. At last'.
And so they walked to the Incident Room from where a carefully worded press statement was released, suggesting that the police were anxious to interview a certain vagrant in connection with the murders and giving a description of the man in question. And Hawksmoor called out to the various members of the investigating teams, 'I want the hostels checked, and the parks, and the derelict houses. Even the churches…' A young uniformed officer, who had a large birth mark splayed across his cheek, came up to him: 'One of the problems, sir, is obviously going to be the fact that there may be a few like him, a few who look like him'. Hawksmoor avoided looking at the scarlet brand: 'I know that, but that's the way it is And once again his voice trailed off for he knew that, just as he would recognise the murderer, so also would the murderer recognise him.
It was dusk now as he walked down Brick Lane to Christ Church, Spitalfields, passing Monmouth Street and turning down Eagle Street where the east wall of the old church rose among the ruined houses.
As he walked forward the street lamps flckered alight, and the shape of the church itself altered in their sudden illumination. Hawksmoor reached the gate through which he could see the abandoned tunnel, now boarded up, and in the neon's reflected light the grass and trees beside the church seemed to glow. He opened the gate, and as he walked down the path he was momentarily startled by a white moth which flew around his shoulders: he lengthened his stride to escape it but it stayed with him until he had turned the corner of the church and saw the main road and the market in front of him. In the gathering darkness he moved towards the small pyramid, placed his hands upon it as if to warm them, but in that instant he felt a wave of disorder -and, with it, the sensation that someone was staring fixedly at him.
He turned around quickly but in the sudden movement his glasses fell to the ground; he stepped forward, without thinking, and broke them. 'Now,' he said out loud, 'Now I won't be able to see him.' And, curiously enough, his feeling was one of relief.
Joyfully he turned down Commercial Road towards Whitechapel; there was a fight in a side alley, and one man was kicking another who had already fallen; a blind woman was standing by the side of the road, waiting to be helped across; a young girl was murmuring the words of a popular song. And then he saw on the other side of the street, going in the opposite direction and towards the church, a tall but indistinct figure who seemed to be drawn to the protection of the shop-fronts and the dark walls of brick. The man's clothes were torn and old; his hair was matted into a slab, like tobacco. Hawksmoor crossed the road rapidly and walked a few yards behind the tramp, but in his nervousness he coughed: the tall figure turned and seemed to smile before quickening his pace. Hawksmoor cried out in alarm, 'Wait! Wait for me!' and then ran in pursuit. Both of them were in sight of the church and the still indistinct figure ran across the grass by its side; Hawksmoor followed but as he ran past the pyramid he collided with a small boy who had been standing in its shadow. And as the boy looked up at him Hawksmoor noticed how pale his face seemed. In that instant of inattention the tall figure had run around the corner of the church and, by the time Hawksmoor had turned it, had already disappeared. He ran back to ask the child if he had seen anything of the fleeing man, but the small park was now empty: the grass and trees had ceased to glow and, in the darkness, they seemed to be crumbling back into the earth. If he did not act now the atmosphere of the church-yard would overpower him and he would be lost: he started walking in the direction of Limehouse for, if there was one place a vagrant might think to hide from a pursuer, it was in the abandoned sites and derelict houses near St Anne's.
He hailed a taxi and took it as far as the Limehouse church; as he stepped out the cold wind caught him in the face and for a moment he sought shelter behind an advertisement hoarding on which could be seen a number of computers floating above the city. Eventually he went towards St Anne's, but then veered to the right and crossed a patch of waste land beside it: the wind blew even more strongly here, since it came directly from the river, and it brought to him the scattered shouts and calls of the meths-drinkers who were a few hundred yards away from him. As he walked forward he noticed the sparks rising above a fire, and when he came closer he could see the dark shapes which were apparently dancing around it. They are happy, he thought, for they do not remember; and then he began running towards them. 'You!' he cried, 'You! What are you doing and what do you want here?' But they did not stop their dancing when he came up to them: it seemed that he was being grabbed, as if to enter the ring, but with a shout he pulled himself free. Then they became still and gazed at him when he questioned them. 'Have any of you seen the one called the Architect? He's one of you. Have you seen him?' They were all old ones, dishevelled and weary now that the spell of the dance had passed. They said nothing but stared into the flames and one of them began to moan. Hawksmoor noticed that the head of a toy bear had been thrust onto a pole, and was lying upon the charred ground. He shouted at them impatiently: 'I am a police officer! Put out that fire now!' None of them moved and so Hawksmoor himself walked into the fire and stamped upon it ferociously until there were only ashes and burned sticks remaining.
'Where is he?' he shouted at them again as they began to retreat from him, 'Do any of you know where he is?' But still they made no noise and Hawksmoor, disgusted at himself for behaving in a manner which he had not foreseen, turned away. As he walked back he called out into the air, 'I don't want to see any more fire, do you understand me? No more fire!'
He found the road which leads down to the river and, wrapping his dark coat closely around himself so that he might withstand the wind, he passed an old tramp who was squatting by the roadside and with his fingers digging into the damp earth. Hawksmoor looked at him closely, but he was not the man he sought. The tramp stared back at him as he passed, and continued staring as he walked into the distance: Hawksmoor heard him shouting out something but the sounds of the river were closer to him and he could not distinguish the words. The muddy water raced beneath his feet and the lights of the city had changed the sky to a transient purple, but he was thinking only of the figure fleeing before him in Spitalfields and of the pale face of the boy as it had looked up at him in the shadow of the church.
And he could not escape these images, as the time passed and the disorder spread. The circulation of the suspect's description, followed inevitably by rumour and speculation in the newspapers, had not materially assisted the investigation of the six murders; it had, in fact, only inflamed the passions of those for whom the description of the tramp seemed to act as an emblem of all that was most depraved and evil. On the first day of the 'photo-fit' being released, there were scores of sightings of the man from all over the country, and the number of such sightings did not greatly diminish until public attention had been diverted elsewhere. More unfortunately, however, a number of tramps were abused or assaulted by gangs who used the excuse of 'the child murderer' to express their resentment at harmless wandering men. One group of small children actually killed one such vagrant: he was sleeping drunkenly on a patch of waste ground, and they set him alight. After these events it became accepted that Hawksmoor had committed an 'error of judgment' in releasing such sketchy details of the suspect -and Hawksmoor's position was made all the more precarious by the fact that, after exhaustive searches and inquiries, no trace of the man had been discovered. It seemed that he had just disappeared -that is, as some of the officers involved in the case used to say to each other, if he ever existed in the first place.
But Hawksmoor knew that he existed and, although he had never mentioned to anyone the night of his pursuit, he knew that the murderer was closer to him than ever. There were even occasions when he believed that he was being followed and, as he lay awake one night, he conceived the fantasy that he too should dress as a tramp in order to surprise him -but even as the idea occurred to him he rejected it, trembling. He took long walks in the evening in order to avoid such thoughts, but he found that he was treading the same paths as before.
There was a time, for example, when he walked into the park behind St George's-in-the-East and sat upon a bench close to the abandoned museum -it had been upon this bench that he had spoken to the father of the murdered child, and glimpsed the illustrations in the book which the weeping man had held in front of him. And as he stared at the trees beside the church he contemplated the calm of a life which itself resembled a park with no people in it -then he might sit and stare at these trees until he died. But his momentary serenity unnerved him, for it seemed to imply that his life was already over.
Each night he came home from his wanderings and held the white notebook in his hands, first bringing it close to his nose in order to savour the slight odour of wax which still lingered upon its stiff covers. He read again each phrase, and then stared intently at the drawings as if they might yield some clue. But they offered nothing and one night, in his anger, he tore the pages from the book and threw them across the floor. When he arose in panic the next morning, he looked down at the scattered sheets and said out loud, 'What rage is this? What fury? Of what kind?' Then he took the pages, smoothed them with the palm of his hand, and fixed them with pins to the walls.
So that now, if he sat looking down upon Grape Street, the letters and images encircled him. And it was while he sat here, scarcely moving, that he was in hell and no one knew it. At such times the future became so clear that it was as if he were remembering it, remembering it in place of the past which he could no longer describe. But there was in any case no future and no past, only the unspeakable misery of his own self.
And so when he sat with Walter in the Red Gates he could scarcely talk, but looked down at his glass as Walter anxiously watched his face. Yet he drank in order to speak freely, for it seemed to him that he had lost his connection to the world and had become much like one of the cardboard figures in a puppet theatre, shaking a little as the hand which held him trembles. But if he could speak, and the voice came not from someone crouched below but from himself… 'Do you know,' he murmured and Walter craned forward to hear him. 'Do you know that when murderers kill themselves, they try and make it look like another murder? But do you know how many of them are struck by lightning? A lot. More than you think.' He glanced around furtively.
'You know what we were told years ago, it must be years ago now, that you could see the image of the murderer imprinted on the victim's eyes? If only I could get that close, you see. And I'll tell you something else. There are some people so frightened of being murdered that they die of their own fear. What about that?' Walter felt his legs trembling with the suppressed desire to run, and he got up quickly to order more drinks. When he returned Hawksmoor stared at him. 'I know it, Walter, I can feel it. Do you know, I can go into a house and feel if a murder has taken place there? I can feel it.' And he let out a loud laugh, which for a moment silenced the other conversations in the pub.
A broken glass was being swept from the floor and, as Hawksmoor noticed how each of the shattered pieces shone quite differently in the light, Walter seized his opportunity to speak. 'Do you think we need a break from this case, sir? A real break?'
Hawksmoor was visibly alarmed: 'Who told you to say that?'
Walter tried to calm him. 'No one told me, but it's been eight months now. You deserve a rest from it.'
That's a strange word, deserve, isn't it? Do you know what it means?'
'It means to need something, doesn't it?'
'No, it means to be worthy of something. And so I'm worthy of rest.'
Walter noticed how his hand trembled, and Hawksmoor gripped his glass more tightly. 'I don't know what to say to that, sir.' He gazed at Hawksmoor, not without friendliness. 'You'll start to dream about it soon,' he put it to him gently.
'What makes you think I don't dream about it now?' He had spoken too loudly, and once again there was a sudden silence in the room.
Hawksmoor looked down, abashed, and this was the occasion for which Walter had waited. 'It just seems to me, sir, that we're not getting anywhere. '
'Is that how it seems to you?'
That's how it seems to everyone, sir. ' Hawksmoor looked up at him sharply, and in that moment the relationship between the two men was subtly but permanently changed. 'We don't have the facts,'
Walter was saying, 'and that's our problem.'
'You know about facts, do you, all these facts we don't have?'
Hawksmoor was very grim. 'In your experience, Walter, do any two people see the same thing?'
'No, but '
'And so it's your job to interpret what they have seen, to interpret the facts. Am I right?'
The conversation puzzled Walter, and he decided to retire from it.
'And so the facts don't mean much until you have interpreted them?'
'And where does that interpretation come from? It comes from you and me. And who are we?' Hawksmoor raised his voice. 'Don't you think I worry when everything falls apart in my hands -but it's not the facts I worry about. It's me.' When he stopped, he passed his hands trembling across his face. 'Is it hot in here or is it just me?' He took out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his forehead and then, as Walter still said nothing, he added, 'I'm going to find him.'
And then, later, he heard himself saying, 'I told you about that notebook, didn't I?' But he managed to stop himself and, muttering an excuse, went once more to the bar where three women turned and laughed when he began speaking to them. Walter watched the sweating, shambling figure as he winked and said, 'I'll show you something you won't forget. Do you want to see something?' And they laughed again: 'What is it?' one of them asked 'Something you've got for us? Something small, I should think'. And they cackled. But they stopped when he took some pictures out of his jacket pocket and held them up to the light in triumph. 'Get them out of here!' the same woman cried in disgust, 'We don't want any of that filth!' Then Hawksmoor himself looked at what he held in his hands, and bowed down as if in prayer when Walter came up to him and saw that he was holding photographs of the murder victims. Tut them away now, sir, ' he murmured, 'I'll take you back.' Hawksmoor stuffed the photographs into his pocket, yawning, and Walter led him home.
The ringing of the telephone startled Hawksmoor as he sat at his desk: it was the Assistant Commissioner who wished to see him at once but, as soon as he rose from his chair, he became quite calm. He remained calm as he ascended in the lift to the thirteenth floor and, when he entered a large office, the Assistant Commissioner was staring out of the window at the grey rain: this will be the shape of your damnation, Hawksmoor thought, to look out perpetually and mournfully. But the figure turned round swiftly. 'Forgive me, Nick.'
'Forgive you? Forgive you for what?' There was turmoil in Hawksmoor's face.
'Forgive me for summoning you like this.' Then he sat down, and cleared his throat. 'How's the case going, Nick? How close are you to finding him?' The telephone rang but he ignored it and waited for Hawksmoor to speak. Then he added, in the gathering silence, T'm not sure we're getting anywhere, Nick.'
T'm sure we are. In time, sir.' Hawksmoor stood with his arms straight down by his sides, almost at attention.
'But we're not becoming any wiser. We've got nothing extra have we?' Hawksmoor averted his eyes from the man's gaze and stared out of the window behind him. 'I've got something else for you, Detective Superintendent, not quite in your usual line but '
'You mean you're taking me off the case?'
'I'm not so much taking you off this case as putting you on another one.'
Hawksmoor took a step backward. 'You're taking me off the case.'
'You've got things out of perspective, Nick. You laid the foundations, and you did a good job, but now I need someone to build the case up stone by stone.'
'But the bodies are buried in the foundations,' Hawksmoor replied, 'generally speaking, that is.'
The Assistant Commissioner lowered his voice slightly: There's been some talk about you recently. They say you've been under a lot of strain.'
'And who is they?' Whenever he heard that word, he imagined a group of shadows moving from place to place.
'Why don't you take some time off? Before you begin the new case.
Why don't you have a good rest?' And he rose, making a point of looking directly at Hawksmoor, who looked back helplessly.
When he returned to his own office Walter was waiting for him: 'How did it go?'
'So you knew.'
'Everyone knew, sir. It was only a matter of time.' And Hawksmoor heard a vast sea roaring around him: he saw quite distinctly a small creature waving its arms in panic as the water swirled around him like storm clouds. 'I tried to help -' Walter began nervously to say.
'I don't want to hear it.'
'But you wouldn't let me. Things had to change, sir.'
'Everything has changed, Walter.' He took the files from his desk.
'And I hand everything on to you. It's all yours now.' Walter stood up as Hawksmoor gave him the files; they were both on opposite sides of the desk, and their fingertips met accidentally as they leaned towards each other.
'Sorry,' said Walter drawing back quickly and apologising for his touch.
'No, it wasn't your fault. It had to happen.'
Hawksmoor sat very still after Walter had left the room, and during the course of the afternoon he tried to look at himself as if he were a stranger, so that he might be able to predict his next step. Time passes, and he looks down at his own hands and wonders if he would recognise them if they lay severed upon a table. Time passes, and he listens to the sound of his own breathing, in its rise and its fall. Time passes, and he takes a coin from his pocket to observe how it has been worn down in its passage from hand to hand. When he closes his eyes at last, he finds himself slipping forwards and wakes at the moment of his fall. But still he goes on falling; and the afternoon changes to evening, and the shadows around Hawksmoor change.
He left the office at last, and went back to Grape Street. He sat in his room and turned on the television: there was a man playing patience in a darkened alcove, and Hawksmoor leaned forward eagerly to scan that darkness, looking beyond the actor and examining the chair, the velvet curtain, the vase of dusty flowers. Then, with the television still on, he walked into the next room, lay down upon his bed, and did not wake up when the morning light lay in a band across his face.
THE RAYES of the Morning did not rouse me, and when I woke I scarce knew in what House or Place or Year I found my self. And tho' I resolved to walk out my Wretchednesse I only reached the Corner when I returned exceeding weary: there was a light Rain, also, which frighted me for if a Cold grows inveterate you may reckon it the beginning of a mortal Distemper. So thus uneasy I returned to my Closet, where I fell to thinking on the shape of my new Church which even then rose above the Mire and Stink of this City.
I went to bed at Eight of the Clock but between One and Two, after I had slept but four hours, I came to Vomiting: whether from my Distemper, or from the pannick Fright which comes to me in the Night, I am not certain. I drank a Spoonful or two of Cherry Brandy, which put me to Sleep until Nat Eliot woke me at Seven. But then I fell to Vomiting againe and, as all the while my Urine was as red as Blood, I lay sighing upon my Bed and saying: What will become of me? What will become of me?
Then with much Trembling I writ in my own Hand to the Reptile Knight: Sir John, pray do me the Favour to tell the Board that I did intend to be up at the Yard today, to speak of those matters concerning the Church of Little St Hugh in Black Step Lane, but that being pritty sick I would wish to stay a Day or two longer to hasten my Recovery.
Your most humble Servant to command etcetera. I called for Nat to run with the Letter to Whitehall, and he enters all of a hot Sweat: Another man came, says he, but I denied him to you. I let no one visit you as you ordered me, and when he says Is your Master withinne? I replied Yes, he is in but he is just sat down to Breakfast and can on no account be roused at this time; and then sometimes I tell them you are Sick, so I vary my Tricks with the Wind. I am a true Barricadoe to all who come!
He was scratching all over like a Wherry-man as he spoke: What Company do you keep in your Clothes, sir, I cried, that they must needs Bite you?
They are my Friends, he replied, since they never leave me.
Then why so melancholy at it? Your Face is as long as my Pencil and not so useful.
They are my only Friends. Then he stops short, growing uneasy at his own Words, and lookd down upon the Floor. And that, I said to my self, is the manner in which I will allways remember you, my boy Nat: looking down in Perplexity after a sudden Pause. But he ceases stirring his Foot in the Dust and asks: What is a hyena, Master?
It is an Animal which laughs and imitates Humane voices.
Good, good, he said as he rushed out of the Door with my Letter.
I know well enough why it is that they come to Visit me: they wish to see me in my Sicknesse so that they can triumph over me. Even still they suspect me and in the Office they murmur against me for the late death of Walter; their Suspicions are encreased by my Solitar inesse, yet why should I suffer them to speak to me when I become confused and Tonguetied in their Company? But to leave the Passions and to go on with the Facts: Walter hanged himself on the Door of his Bed Chamber; it was on a Sunday, the week following my Visit to him, between Nine and Ten in the Morning and he was not discovered by the sluttish Mistress of the House until the evening. He had only his Shirt and there he hung until between Seven and Eight at Night when the Coroner, being brought to see him, pronounced that he was not Compos Mentis. I was pritty composed: I told the impan nelled Jury that in his Ravings he had confessed to the Murther of Mr Hayes, but that I did not beleev him until this Self-murther. Thus once again did I kill two Birds; I was a good Joyner and worked in Wood and then I became a good Plaisterer and worked with Stucco: the death of Yorick Hayes has been laid to Walter, so putting me out of the Road of eager Inquirers, and Walter has despatched himself, so saving me the Labour. I would willingly have transmitted to him in succession all the Secrets of my Art but he watched me, pursewed me, threatened me, betrayed me. And if he is quite undone now, why should I feel Guiltinesse: if a Dog should by chance Bark at me, should I not tread upon its Taile?
At about Eleven at Night, Walter was buried stark Naked in the open Ground: I would have preferred him to be beneeth Little St Hugh, but it is no great Matter. There is a Mist in Humane affairs, a small thin Rain which cannot be perceeved in single Drops of this Man or that Man but which rises around them and obscures them one from another, yet it takes Form in the Fabrick of my new built Church.
When I look up from my Bed as if to gaze at my Ceeling, I see its Tower and feel the Wind blowing about my Face; when I touche the Hand or Arm of another, as it may be Nat, I feel its Stone rough upon the Stroak; when I am Hot, in my Mind I enter its Aisles and I am cool againe. I am sensible of the Malice which this Work has drawn upon me, but why should I murmur or repine at these Injuries: let it be Interest, Folly or Malice they act by, they are their own Enemies and not mine for, like Basilisks desirous to infect a Looking-glass, they kill themselves by Repercussion of Vapours. I have complected my Business, and I bid the World go whistle as I see before me the unbroken Stone and the pattern of Stone.
I have finished six D'esignes of my last Church, fastned with Finns on the Walls of my Closet so that the Images surround me and I am once more at Peece. In the first I have the Detail of the Ground Plot, which is much like a Prologue in a Story; in the second there is all the Plan in a small form, like the disposition of Figures in a Narrative; the third Draught shews the Elevation, which is like the Symbol or Theme of a Narrative, and the fourth displays the Upright of the Front, which is like to the main part of the Story; in the fifth there are designed the many and irregular Doors, Stairways and Passages like so many ambiguous Expressions, Tropes, Dialogues and Metaphoricall speeches; in the sixth there is the Upright of the Portico and the Tower which will strike the Mind with Magnificence, as in the Conclusion of a Book.
There is also a Narrative which is hidden so that none may see it, and in a retired Place have I put the effigy of Friar Bacon who made the brazen Head that spake Time is. Nor shall I leave this Place once it is completed: Hermes Trismegistus built a Temple to the Sunne, and he knew how to conceal himself so that none could see him tho' he was still withinne it. This shall now suffice for a present Account, for my own History is a Patern which others may follow in the far Side of Time. And I hugg my Arms around my self and laugh, for as if in a Vision I see some one from the dark Mazes of an unknown Futurity who enters Black Step Lane and discovers what is hidden in Silence and Secresy. I will break off now And now I break. In the space of these last seven Nights I have had wild frightfull Dreames, and there is a new Smell in my Nose like that of burnt Raggs. I know that some Alteration has come upon me, for I seem to hear Spirits who speak with a Low-sunk Voyce as many Persons have in Colds. Yet they are without any Hoarseness, being very clearly discernable, and they say, What Wind blew you hither Nick, Nick? Do you know us Nick, Nick? and when I cry O God Yes they go on, When are we Nick, Nick? and the Question becomes a Roaring in my Ears.
I do not fear Death for the Pain of it, being perswaded that I have endur'd as great Pains in this Life as I should find in Death; and yet it may also be that I cannot die. You may scorn this, but there have been Wonders just as great: I took my first Walk, about Eleven yesterday morning, and there by Hogg Lane I met with my own Apparition with Habit, Wigg, and everything as in a Looking-glass. Do I know you? I call'd out, much to the Bewilderment of those who passed by, but the Thing did not answer me and walked quickly away. I was much surprized but I was not affrighted. Then on this very Morning in my own Chamber I saw an Image again before me -a species of such a Body as my own, but in a strange Habit cut like an Under-garment and the Creature had no Wigg. The Back of it was always towards me and as I turned my Head it turned away equally so that I could not see its Face: my Night-gown was dark with Sweat, as if a Shaddowe had passed over it, and I must have cried out some thing for Nat was calling Master! Master! Open the Door and let me in!
Have a little Patience and I will let you in immediately, I replied and, keeping my Eyes fixed on the Image which did not move, I went across to the Door.
You will have Mrs Best afflicted if you call so loud, says Nat hurrying into the Room.
I nodded towards the Image: I have this morning, Nat, vomited up an abortive Child.
Oh well, says he not knowing what it signified, shall I bring you water to wash your Mouth? Mrs Best says For God's sake hold your Tongue, can you not see I have some thing with me? And I pointed at the Image, which still sat with its Back to me but which now bent forward and a Sigh rose like Smoak out of its Mouth, like Smoak out of a Lamp. I know not, Nat, I said, but it seems to be Real.
And Nat heard or saw something for thereupon he began to look Red and was seiz'd with violent Tremblings: Good God, he cried out, let me see nothing! And then the cold Sweat ran from his Face as he stumbled towards the Stairway. But I murmured my own Words as the Image began to fade: I am ready now for my approaching Change.
I am cut down out of Time and I turn and turn about upon my Bed: what says Mr Andrewes his Almanack for this month, Nat? And he reads to me from News of the Starres: in this month Mars is in Scorpio, Master, and if he is not bitten he will continue direct in Motion until the sixth Day. From thence he becomes retrograde, which means backwards Leave off your Commentaries, Nat!
– all the month after and is in square to Venus the second Day. Nat blushes at the mention of Venus and then goes on: at present, Master, the Starres do not favour Building and London labours under weighty Pressures and Difficulties not yet accommodated. I must take this to Mrs Best who has the Lumbago and is still troubled about the Loins Nat, Nat see if there are Prognostications of Plotting and other scurvey D'esignes.
He pores upon the Pages and then comes to a Stop: Yes, here in the Starry Messenger it is said that there are some Spirits at work and Danger at Home. Then he bends his Head again: and, look, here in Poor Robin's Vox Stellarum there is a Rhyme full of Meaning. Up he gets with a grave Look and begins to recite, holding the Page before him: I saw a church Tower twelve yards deep I saw Dust made of Men's teares that weep I saw a Stone all in a Flame of Fire I saw a Stairway big as the Moon and higher I saw the Sunne red even at midnight, I saw the Man who saw this dreadful Sight.
What is the answer, Master? I cannot fathom it.
There is no Answer, Nat, for there is no End to this Rhyme.
And then I slept, and now in my long Sicknesse 1 am lifted above the poor Globe of this time-broken World: the rebels have come as far as Lancaster, a Fire last night in Tower Hill, a Dog howling by Moon- night and now I no longer have Fitts when I drink my Brandy, Hannover's troops are assembling at Warrington, the Clowds beneeth me, the Rebels are cut to peeces at Preston, and I cannot hinder the Cold from passing through all the Cloaths I put on my Bed and my Lord Warrington is killed in this Action as my Hand touches the Sheets and their Voices eccho as I try to hide myself withinne the Rocks in an area foresaken of Men and Nat calls as my Fever mounts and then breaks and as I sweat the Snow falls and the Rebels are come into London as Prisoners and I open my Eyes and now there is Frost Fayre upon the Thames.
And on this Day my Feaver abated: I rose from my Bed calling Nat, Nat where are you? but he had gone I knew not wither, and I was alone. I had been woken by the firm Resolution to visit my new completed Church, so I dressed with all Haste and yet with Care: the cold Winde had left Ice upon the Windows, and I wrapt my self up in my dubble-buttoned Coat tho' it was spotted with Tallow. As I came out into the Street a Chair-man gave a Blow to my Knees with his Pole which sent me cursing back into the Doorway and, Lord, the Coaches and Carts so shook the Ground that it was as like a natural Tremour or Convulsion of the Earth: and how many Dayes and Nights, thought I, have I laid in my fiery Feaver? What Time is this? There were some Prentices rolling along a Foot-ball in the Street beside me but when I called out to them What a Clock is this? they made no Answer, as if I were a man invisible and not to be heard. And yet some Labourers seemed to be returning home with Planks and Ladders, which suggested to me that I had risen at the close of Day, but I knew not. I walked by Leicester Feelds and heard the Mountebank calling What do you have? What do you have? I have that, thought I, which your Drops will not cure. Make way there, says some Fellow pushing a Wheelbarrow, will you have your Guts squeezed out? and I stepped back into a Crowd of common Women with their ragged Handkerchiefs, blew Aprons, and their Faces, like mine own, descended from some unknown Original. I walked down Cranborn Street, where the Cooks stood dripping at their Doors, and then into Porters Street, where the Nuts and Oysters were piled high in Shops that ran upon Wheels. All this shall pass, and all these Things shall fall and crumple into the Dust, but my Churches shall survive. From there I walked into Hogg Lane, where a Rag-seller laid hold of my Arm and asked me, What do you lack, sir? I? I lack the World, for I move like a Ghost through it.
The Noises of the City so confused me, and left me so Weak, that I could barely stand but coach'd it quite up into Fenchurch Street where a Cart, overturn'd upon the Road, forced me to alight. Once more I could hear the Cryes around me: Buy my dish of great Eeles, one call'd and to its Echoe another took up the Plaint of Any Kitchin stuff need you, my Maides? and I murmur'd these to my self as I trod upon the Stones.
As I came up into Lime Street the Skie grew dark with the Cold and yet here was an old Woman with a Child on her Back singing Fine writing Inke! Fine writing Inke! and I too might have been a Child againe, so familiarly did it sound. Then there rose that Cry which I have heard all my Life, Have you something to Mend, have you something to Mend? and I passed thro' Leadenhall Street weeping, for I knew I would never more hear it. I walked down St Mary Axe to London Wall, and my Teares fell upon the Mosse as I bent to touch it; then thro' Bishopsgate and down old Bedlam into Moorfields, and here it seemed to me that I heard the Rejoycing of the Mad who have no thought of Time as I do; then thro' Long Alley where I passed the great Musick Shop where the Crowd at the Door were dancing to the latest Tune, and one little Red-faced Blade beat Time upon the Counter as I went on.
And then I turned into that part called the Great Feeld. Some children in Blew jackets and Kite-Lanthorned Caps ran past me: You will be dead before I return was my Thought as I stared into the Entry of Black Step Lane. With an even Pace I walked forward and at last my Church was rising above me: like the Noise of Thunder it struck even my own Spirit with an air of Greatnesse beyond any thing I had seen before. A man in fur Cap and grey Stockings passed me and looked back in Astonishment, so rapt was I in the sight of the vast Stone; and all the Cryes died away as I mounted the Steps and approached the Porch of Little St Hugh. The Church was above me now and, tho' I was plunged into Shaddowe, I did not move but waited until my Eyes had cleared a little. Then I opened the Door and crossed the Threshold. I walked forward saying, From my first Years Thy Honours have I endured with a troubled Mind, and I stood in the Aisle looking upwards till I could look on more: I had run to the end of my Time and I was at Peace. I knelt down in front of the Light, and my Shaddowe stretched over the World.
THE SHADOW moved slowly over his face until his mouth and eyes were obscured: only his forehead still caught the sun's rays,, and they illuminated the beads of sweat that had accumulated there before he woke. Even in sleep he knew that he was sick, and he had dreamed that the blood poured from him like coin; he was woken by the sound of an argument in the street below and, as he knelt upright with his hands over his ears, he considered the possibility that he had gone mad. 'But how could I be mad yet?' he said, and smiled at the sound of his own voice just before he heard three knocks upon the door. He dropped his hands and waited, hardly breathing, and it was only when he heard three further knocks that he got up from his bed, walked slowly into the hallway and called out, 'Who's there?'
'It's only me, Mr Hawksmoor!'
He opened the door on Mrs West, averting his eyes as he listened to her: 'I thought I heard you call, Mr Hawksmoor. Did you call?' He said nothing and she took a step forward: There was a man came for you last night. I was just putting out the bottles, not that I can hardly bend, and he was ringing and ringing so I said you was out. Was I right? And then I heard you call just now and I thought, you never know do you?
So I came up.' And all the while she examined his face with open curiosity. 'I thought there might be a reason, Mr Hawksmoor.'
He smiled, still saying nothing, and was about to close the door upon her when he remembered: 'Oh, Mrs West, I'm about to go away '
'You need a good rest do you?'
He looked at her with suspicion. 'That's right. I deserve a rest. So if anyone comes will you tell them?'
'I'll tell them.' Her hands were clenched, into fists.
Hawksmoor watched her descend the stairs, leaning heavily against the banister as she did so, and only when she had turned out of sight did he close the door. He walked back into the bedroom and, when he looked down at his arms, he saw long furrows where he had scratched himself in his sleep: and in that moment he was consumed by his hatred for those he worked with. They had not wanted him to succeed, they had tricked him, they had betrayed him, and now they had triumphed over him. He could not breathe and in alarm he crossed over to the window and opened it: it was a cold December day and, as he leaned out, he could feel the heat leaving his body like an exhalation until he became calm again. From this height, the movements of those in the street seemed to him to be marked by a peculiar fatality, as though they were being drawn by a thread which they would never see; and as he stared down at their faces he wondered what a face was, and from what original it had sprung.
It was time now to join them. He crept down the hallway, pausing only to put on his coat and shoes before walking slowly down the stairs and into the street. A light rain was falling, and he had just reached the corner when he glanced up at the clouds and suddenly decided to turn back; then, as he passed the Red Gates, he noticed his own reflection in the frosted window, beneath a sign for Beers and Spirits. The reflection turned to stare at him before walking on: Hawksmoor passed his hand across his face and then called out, 'Do I know you?' and several passers-by stopped in astonishment as he ran out into the road crying. 'Do I? Do I?' No answer came and, as he tried to follow the retreating figure, the crowds of the city hampered his progress and closed him in. Eventually he retraced his steps to Grape Street: he was so tired now that he no longer cared who might be watching or waiting for him on his return. He lay down upon his bed with his hand covering his eyes, but the sounds of traffic came through the open window and he could not sleep. Then his eyes opened: and that's another thing, he thought, why are churches built in that shape? And he repeated the word -churches, churches, churches, churches, churches -until it meant nothing.
'Cooee! Cooee!' The voice could have come from somewhere within the room, and on first waking he did not know what he had heard. 'Mr Hawksmoor!'
He jumped out of bed shouting, 'What is it? What's happened?' and then crouched beside the bedroom door, putting his weight against it in case Mrs West should try to enter.
'Your front door was open and I didn't know did I? I thought you was going away…'. And then after a pause she asked him, 'Are you decent?'
She was still just outside his door, and he wanted to pound upon it in his fury. 'Just a minute!' he shouted and he was surprised to find that he was still wearing his coat and shoes. Where had he been as he slept? He opened the door, and hurried past her into the bathroom where he ran cold water from the tap; he was about to splash it over his face, but instead he watched the surface of the rushing water. 'I am going away,' he called out to her, 'Eventually.'
'Where will you go?'
'Oh I don't know,' he muttered, 'Where does anyone go?' And he heard her moving about the flat. He came out of the bathroom quietly, to find her peering at the pages of the white notebook which he had pinned against the walls of his front room. He noticed that her hair was still lustrous and was about to stroke it when he realised that she had to move her whole body as she turned from one drawing to the next: 'What happened to your neck?' He tried to conceal his disgust.
'Oh that's nothing. That's my arthritis. I'm used to it.' She continued to look at the drawings, with the verses and phrases beneath them. 'What are you doing here then? Are these yours?'
'Mine? No, they're not mine.' He tried to laugh. They're just a story I'm working on. I don't know the ending as yet.'
'I like a nice ending.'
'That's the same as saying, you like a nice death.'
She was puzzled at this and simply murmured, 'Oh yes?' as she turned to go.
'But what do you really see in them, Mrs West?' He blocked her passage to the door. 'Do you see anything strange in them?' He was genuinely interested in her reply.
'Good God, don't ask me. I see nothing.'
She seemed disturbed. 'Well, don't take it to heart,' he said, 'I was only asking.'
At the word 'heart' she trembled and the weight of the years was released from her momentarily. 'What sign are you, Mr Hawksmoor?'
'Sign? I know nothing about signs.'
'You know, signs. Star signs. I bet you're a Pisces, like me.
Secretive. Am I right?' He did not answer her but looked once again at the drawings. 'They say we're going to have a good year, when Venus gets into our quarter.'
He blushed. 'I wouldn't know about that now, would I?'
She sighed and prepared once more to leave him. 'Well have a nice time, Mr Hawksmoor.' Then she winked at him. 'Once you know where you're going, that is.'
He traced his name in the dust along the window-sill and then erased it. He turned on the radio but he could hear the voices whispering, 'What wind blew you here? What wind blew you here?' As he sat in the middle of the room sometimes he could see moving shapes, just out of the corner of his eye, but they were as indistinct as shadows on water and when he turned his head to look at them they were gone.
And as dusk fell he recited one of the verses inscribed in the white notebook: I saw a door which opened on a fire I saw a pit which rose up even higher I saw a child who danced round and round I saw a house which stood beneath the ground I saw a man who is not, nor ever could he be, Hold up your hand and look, for you are he.
And as Hawksmoor's voice reverberated around the room, some coins fell off the mantelpiece. There were more verses beneath these but, since the poem seemed to go on for ever, he lost interest. And he switched on the television set, craning forward eagerly when he saw the image of a man with his back turned towards him. He turned up the contrast, and then the brightness, but the image became no more distinct. And Hawksmoor stared at the screen, as time passed.
Now a morning service was being transmitted, and he knew that it was a Sunday. The priest was raised above his congregation: 'So you may say how complicated and perilous modern life is, and how dark the future seems, and how distant our ancestors. But I will tell you this, my good friends, that each age has found itself to be dark and perilous, and each age has feared for its future, and each age has lost its forefathers. And so they have turned to God, thinking to themselves, if there are shadows there must also be light! And beyond the years, my friends, there is an eternity which we may see with the help of God's grace. And what is so wonderful is that this eternity intersects with time, just as in this church -' Hawksmoor's attention wandered to a fly which was trying to find a way out of the closed window, and when he looked at his television again the priest had moved on -'when a mother glances at a child with love, the light from her eyes soothes and nourishes the infant; the voices we raise in this church can also be instruments of light, banishing shadow; you must learn to see this light, my friends, and you must move forward towards it for this light is a reflection of the Light of God.'
Hawksmoor seemed to recognise the interior of the church as an image of the hushed congregation appeared on the screen; and then the exterior of the church was shown as the camera moved downwards from the bell tower to the steps, lingering on the sign beyond the porch which read 'Christ Church, Spitalfields. Erected by Nicholas Dyer, 1713'. And the time before had been a dream for he knew now: he was looking down at the body in front of St Mary Woolnoth and once again noticing the sign which read, 'Founded in the Saxon Age and Last Rebuilt by Nicholas Dyer, 1714'. There had been such a name upon the board by the Greenwich church, and he recognised what a symmetry this was.
He allowed the knowledge of the pattern to enclose him, as the picture on the television screen began to revolve very quickly and then to break up into a number of different images. Where before the churches had been for him a source of anxiety and of rage, now he contemplated each one in turn with a beneficent wonder as he saw how mightily they had done their work: the great stones of Christ Church, the blackened walls of St Anne's, the twin towers of St George's-in-the-East, the silence of St Mary Woolnoth, the unbroken facade of St Alfege's, the white pillar of St George's Bloomsbury, all now took on a larger life as Hawksmoor contemplated them and the crimes which had been committed in their name. And yet he sensed that the pattern was incomplete, and it was for this that he waited almost joyfully.
It had grown colder when he left the house the next morning, and the frost obscured the windows of the public library when he took down the encyclopaedia and turned to the entry for DYER Nicholas.
And this is what he read: '1654 -c.
1715. English architect; was the most important pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, and a colleague both of Wren and Sir John Vannbrugghe in the Office of Works at Scotland Yard. Dyer was born in London in 1654; although his parentage is obscure, it seems that he was first apprenticed as a mason before becoming Wren's personal clerk; he later held several official posts under Wren including that of surveyor at St Paul's. His most important independent work was completed as a result of his becoming the principal architect to the 1711 Commission for New London Churches; his was the only work to be completed for that Commission, and Dyer was able to realise seven of his own designs: Christ Church Spitalfields, St George's-in-the-East Wapping, St Anne's Limehouse, St Alfege's in Greenwich, St Mary Woolnoth in Lombard Street, St George's Bloomsbury and, finest of all, the church of Little St Hugh beside Moorfields. These edifices show most clearly his ability to handle large abstract shapes and his sensitive (almost romantic) lines of mass and shadow. But he seems to have had no pupils or disciples in his lifetime, and changes in architectural taste meant that his work has had little influence and few admirers. He died in London in the winter of 1715, it is thought of the gout, although the records of his death and burial have been lost.' Hawksmoor stared at the page, trying to imagine the past which these words represented, but he saw nothing in front of him except darkness.
The streets were already filled with people when he left the library and returned to Grape Street. Despite the intense cold he was sweat ing as he took down the pages from the white notebook, placed them carefully in order, and then with a gesture of impatience stuffed them in his pocket. He tried to concentrate on what he should do next, but his mind wavered and fell away into the shadows of the unseen church of Little St Hugh. He had come to the end by chance, not knowing that it was the end, and this unanticipated and uncertain climax might yet rob him of his triumph: his will was emptied, replaced by the shape of moving things as he sat in his dark coat and watched the sun rolling across the roof-tops. Then he shook his head and stood up with an urgency which suggested that he wished to forestall, at least, another death. But as soon as he stepped into the street he felt afraid; someone knocked against him and he might have turned back at this moment, if the bus which travelled between Bloomsbury and Fenchurch Street had not arrived and if Hawksmoor had not entered it without thought. He sat huddled in his seat while in front of him an infant lay asleep with its chin upon its breast: and that, Hawksmoor thought, is how you will sleep when you are old. His forehead burned; he pressed it against the window and gazed at the mist which rose from the mouths of the people as they hurried through the streets of the city.
He descended at Fenchurch Street, expecting to glimpse the spire of the church somewhere above him, but here were only the burnished towers of office-blocks which gleamed in the winter light. A seller of hot chestnuts stood on the corner of Gracechurch Street, and for a moment Hawksmoor watched the coals of his brazier as they brightened and then dimmed with the passage of the wind down the crowded thoroughfares; he went up to him saying, 'Little St Hugh?' and the man, not pausing in his cries, pointed up Lime Street. And his refrain of Hot chestnuts! Hot chestnuts! was taken up by another calling Woe! Woe! and then by a third who cried out Paper! Paper! These were the calls he had known all his life and Hawksmoor grew melancholy as he walked up Lime Street into St Mary Axe. He passed a record shop from which came the loud sounds of a popular song, and when he glanced inside he saw a young man at the counter beating time with his finger. But as he watched him he missed his footing on the pavement, and jumped back as a car swerved to avoid him. 'What time is it?' he asked an old woman who walked beside him, but she stared through him as if he had become invisible. He continued down Bishopsgate, carried by the movement of the crowd, and asked a stall-holder for the direction of the church: 'Follow the wall,' the man said and turned slowly to point down Wormwood Street, 'Follow the wall'. And as he came close to London Wall he sensed a smell like that of mown grass or cut flowers, so unusual a scent for the middle of winter that it must have sprung from the moss sprinkled upon the old stones. And from London Wall he passed into Moorfields where in the middle of the road a mad woman cried out, her words lost in the roar of the traffic. And as the pavement shook beneath his feet he hurried down Long Alley: some children in blue caps and blazers passed him laughing, and their motion turned him round so that now he saw ahead of him Black Step Lane. So still did he stand that a young man in a fur cap passed him and then looked back in astonishment, as Hawksmoor now walked towards Little St Hugh.
It stood at the back of a deserted square; weeds and long grass had sprung up between the cobblestones inside this square, and the flagstones against the walls of the church were cracked and pitted.
When he looked up at the front of Little St Hugh he saw how its large stones were eroded also, and one area had a blackened surface as if the darkness had been painted upon it. There was a circular window above the porch, like an eye, and the reflection of the weak sun glittered upon it as Hawksmoor walked forward. He mounted the steps slowly and then paused in the shadow of a stone effigy which crouched above him. He could hear no noise coming from within. He noticed a rusted metal chain which hung from some old brick; he looked up suddenly and saw a cloud which for a moment possessed the features of a human face. Then he opened the door and crossed the threshold. He paused again within the porch so that his eyes might become accustomed to the gloom and there, above the wooden doors which led to the nave of the church, had been placed the painting of a young boy lying inside a pit; it was covered with dust' but he could just make out the inscription beneath it, 'I Have Endured All These Troubles For Thy Sake'. There was a smell of dampness, and Hawksmoor bowed his head before entering the body of the church.
Which seemed to spring to life around him, for the creaking of the doors and the sound of his footsteps upon the stone echoed through the interior. He was in a great square room; above him a plaster ceiling, curved like a shallow dish and lit by circular windows of plain glass; as he stood in the nave, he was surrounded on three sides by galleries which were supported by thick columns of old stone; the altar was covered with a canopy of dark wood, and the rails in front of it were made of iron. Hawksmoor looked for relief from the darkness of wood, stone and metal but he could find none; and the silence of the church had once again descended as he sat down upon a small chair and covered his face. And he allowed it to grow dark.
And his own Image was sitting beside him, pondering deeply and sighing, and when he put out his hand and touched him he shuddered.
But do not say that he touched him, say that they touched him.
And when they looked at the space between them, they wept. The church trembled as the sun rose and fell, and the half-light was strewn across the floor like rushes. They were face to face, and yet they looked past one another at the pattern which they cast upon the stone; for when there was a shape there was a reflection, and when there was a light there was a shadow, and when there was a sound there was an echo, and who could say where one had ended and the other had begun? And when they spoke they spoke with one voice: and I must have slept, for all these figures greeted me as if they were in a dream. The light behind them effaced their features and I could see only the way they turned their heads, both to left and to right. The dust covered their feet and I could see only the direction of their dance, both backwards and forwards. And when I went among them, they touched fingers and formed a circle around me; and, as we came closer, all the while we moved further apart. Their words were my own but not my own, and I found myself on a winding path of smooth stones. And when I looked back, they were watching one another silently.
And then in my dream I looked down at myself and saw in what rags I stood; and I am a child again, begging on the threshold of eternity.