Thursday, 4 September 2014

Sydney -- Queen Lucinda

"He tracked her back down Sussex Street. They passed the alleyway above which the majority of his colleagues still worked over their ledgers.  Only six buildings down, but on the other side of the street, she went into a tall brick building with bright yellow sandstone ledges to its windows.  Prince Rupert's Glassworks (Office) 5th Floor.

Printing presses occupied the first three floors and the building thumped with their rhythms.  The staircase was filled with the harsh and volatile odours of inks.  Through an open door he saw men in aprons filling their formes from fonts of type. He was sweating as heavily as if he had sat in his normal place in Mr d'Abbs's establishment.

The firms on the fourth floor were, either through lack of custom or because of progressive management, closed for the Saturday afternoon.  The landing was quite deserted, apart from a charlady on her knees, clicking her tongue about this second vandal come marching across her work.  She was not mollified by tiptoeing.

Three firms had their names displayed on dark wooden doors on the fifth floor, all done in different scripts in careful gold leaf with jet-black gold shadows.  The first one he looked at was Prince Rupert's Glassworks.

He knocked, but only lightly, and entered after the very briefest pause.  It was no more than a single room, a desk, three chairs, all crushed beneath a sloping ceiling.  There was no rug on the floor, but the wall behind the desk held a framed etching of the Crystal Palace, and on the wall opposite the windows ( at which Lucinda now stood, her graceless hat held in her hand) there was a great bank of glass shelves displaying a dustless collection of bottles, (green, bright yellow, poison blue) and square book-sized sheets of glass in various finishes and colours. As the sun now played upon these shelves they glowed and bled and washed across each other like the contents of a casket in a children's story."

Oscar and Lucinda  Peter Carey


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