His Dark Materials Omnibus

His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman

Book: His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip Pullman
seemed that Mrs. Coulter knew everyone important in London.
    In the intervals between all these other activities Mrs. Coulter would teach her the rudiments of geography and mathematics. Lyra’s knowledge had great gaps in it, like a map of the world largely eaten by mice, for at Jordan they had taught her in a piecemeal and disconnected way: a junior Scholar would be detailed to catch her and instruct her in such-and-such, and the lessons would continue for a sullen week or so until she “forgot” to turn up, to the Scholar’s relief. Or else a Scholar would forget what he wassupposed to teach her, and drill her at great length about the subject of his current research, whatever that happened to be. It was no wonder her knowledge was patchy. She knew about atoms and elementary particles, and anbaromagnetic charges and the four fundamental forces and other bits and pieces of experimental theology, but nothing about the solar system. In fact, when Mrs. Coulter realized this and explained how the earth and the other five planets revolved around the sun, Lyra laughed loudly at the joke.
    However, she was keen to show that she did know some things, and when Mrs. Coulter was telling her about electrons, she said expertly, “Yes, they’re negatively charged particles. Sort of like Dust, except that Dust isn’t charged.”
    As soon as she said that, Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon snapped his head up to look at her, and all the golden fur on his little body stood up, bristling, as if it were charged itself. Mrs. Coulter laid a hand on his back.
    “Dust?” she said.
    “Yeah. You know, from space, that Dust.”
    “What do you know about Dust, Lyra?”
    “Oh, that it comes out of space, and it lights people up, if you have a special sort of camera to see it by. Except not children. It doesn’t affect children.”
    “Where did you learn that from?”
    By now Lyra was aware that there was a powerful tension in the room, because Pantalaimon had crept ermine-like onto her lap and was trembling violently.
    “Just someone in Jordan,” Lyra said vaguely. “I forget who. I think it was one of the Scholars.”
    “Was it in one of your lessons?”
    “Yes, it might have been. Or else it might’ve been just in passing. Yes. I think that was it. This Scholar, I think he was from New Denmark, he was talking to the Chaplain about Dust and I was just passing and it sounded interesting so I couldn’t help stopping to listen. That’s what it was.”
    “I see,” said Mrs. Coulter.
    “Is it right, what he told me? Did I get it wrong?”
    “Well, I don’t know. I’m sure you know much more than I do. Let’s get back to those electrons.…”
    Later, Pantalaimon said, “You know when all the fur stood up on her dæmon? Well, I was behind him, and she grabbed his fur so tight her knuckles went white. You couldn’t see. It was a long time till his fur went down. I thought he was going to leap at you.”
    That was strange, no doubt; but neither of them knew what to make of it.
    And finally, there were other kinds of lessons so gently and subtly given that they didn’t feel like lessons at all. How to wash one’s own hair; how to judge which colors suited one; how to say no in such a charming way that no offense was given; how to put on lipstick, powder, scent. To be sure, Mrs. Coulter didn’t teach Lyra the latter arts directly, but she knew Lyra was watching when she made herself up, and she took care to let Lyra see where she kept the cosmetics, and to allow her time on her own to explore and try them out for herself.
    Time passed, and autumn began to change into winter. From time to time Lyra thought of Jordan College, but it seemed small and quiet compared to the busy life she led now. Every so often she thought of Roger, too, and felt uneasy, but there was an opera to go to, or a new dress to wear, or the Royal Arctic Institute to visit, and then she forgot him again.
    When Lyra had been living there for six weeks or so, Mrs.

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