Eikin got up off the balls of his feet. “Come close to the hearth. I will have a look round for dry wood and get a fire going. I don’t reckon anyone will see us in this murk, and we should be safe enough.”
She crossed stiffly to the hearth and knelt down on the slate flags, shivering with her arms around her damp knees while Eikin poked about the long room, breaking apart old chairs and testing fallen beams for any dry soundness. She watched him in a kind of daze as he returned, knelt, and began to build a little fire. The tiny spark which caught the dry tinder-moss was the only clear thing to her: a small and shining, golden thing, a perfect petal of light. How many memories were trapped in a single petal of flame? she wondered. How many memories were made around fires, and caught in fires, and lay silent and secret in fires forever…
“Mind the fire.” She was aware of Eikin getting up and standing over her, looking down at the uncertain flame that was licking along the moss and twigs. “It will be cold for a while, until it can be built up. Mind it.”
“Where are you going?” she asked mechanically.
“To the wood,” he replied, “to look for dry bracken, to make a bed for you. Be quiet and mind the fire.”
He went, making no more noise than a shadow, and left her alone in the long low room that had once been the centre of a farmhouse, alone in the quiet and the drip-drip of water that came through the thin patches of thatch, and the rush of wind and rain overhead. The noises, she felt, only added to the depth of the quiet, and to her aching lonesomeness. She was almost too tired to remember to tend the little flame in front of her, except that it was the only thing to do to stave off the last sharp thrust of loneliness that threatened to break her breastbone.
Margaret took the book, then, but she took Julianna’s hand as well, hard in the grip of her long fingers. “I will take it, but I will not let you go until you tell me what you mean. Too often people have slipped by me, leaving me without answers. Not this time.”
She expected Julianna to spook and bolt, and for a moment the girl looked completely abashed by the powerful fingers locking over her wrist. Julius, linked to her, also started, drawing in a swift breath of surprise or pain. But she held the beautiful things and would not let them go, no matter how frightened they looked, no matter how beautiful. Finally Julius moved toward his sister, his hands going out gingerly, steadily, toward the captured hand.
“Everything makes a sound,” he said patiently, as if he was speaking to a wild animal. “And all sound makes a pattern. Did God not speak, and did not his voice makes the form of things? The sound of your soul and the sound of the soul of this book make a pattern together.” His fingertips touched the back of her hand, cold, pressing, begging her to let Julianna go. “So we know that you are meant to go together.”
“You can see that?” Margaret whispered. She was not sure if she believed him or not.
Black-spangled, flushed with lilac-colour, Julius’ eyes turned her. The fingers worked around hers. “No, but we can feel it. We can’t often hear it, but we can often feel it. Madam—” His voice grew audibly pained, and Margaret suddenly let fly her fingers, letting go of the brittle wrist.
Margaret took a step back, feeling the wings of the darkness fold about her shoulders. Concerned, shy, pale-lit things, the twins watched her from the doorways of their bedrooms.
“My world is flat,” she said at last. “My world is flat like a pan overtop of hell. We don’t believe such things.”
“You are only blind,” said Julianna, as if that was a comfort. “Those who have eyes to see can see.”
Where had she heard those words before…? “But I am not blind. I keep waiting for the end of your world to come up but it keeps curving on toward the sunrise and I do not know if I can take the roundness of it, nor what the sun keeps showing up. You live in an awful world,” she said huskily. “How can you bear the spice of it?”
“It runs in our veins,” said Julius simply. Then he added, “Yours will empty into ours.”
She stared at him, almost beyond wanting to understand, yet that tenacious germ of human spirit drove her inexorably on, on toward the blinding sunrise. “I think yours must empty into mine, young sir, but either way I will die.”