His Dark Materials Omnibus

His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman Page A

Book: His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip Pullman
Coulter decided to hold a cocktail party. Lyra had the impression that there was something to celebrate, though Mrs. Coulter never said what it was. She ordered flowers, she discussed canapés and drinks with the caterer, and she spent a whole evening with Lyra deciding whom to invite.
    “We must have the archbishop. I couldn’t afford to leave him out, though he’s the most hateful old snob. Lord Boreal is in town: he’ll be fun. And the Princess Postnikova. Do you think it would be right to invite Erik Andersson? I wonder if it’s about time to take him up.…”
    Erik Andersson was the latest fashionable dancer. Lyra had no idea what “take him up” meant, but she enjoyed giving her opinion nonetheless. She dutifully wrote down all the names Mrs. Coulter suggested, spelling them atrociously and then crossing them out when Mrs. Coulter decided against them after all.
    When Lyra went to bed, Pantalaimon whispered from the pillow:
    “She’s never going to the North! She’s going to keep us here forever. When are we going to run away?”
    “She is,” Lyra whispered back. “You just don’t like her. Well, that’s hard luck. I like her. And why would she be teaching us navigation and all that if she wasn’t going to take us north?”
    “To stop you getting impatient, that’s why. You don’t really want to stand around at the cocktail party being all sweet and pretty. She’s just making a pet out of you.”
    Lyra turned her back and closed her eyes. But what Pantalaimon said was true. She had been feeling confined and cramped by this polite life, however luxurious it was. She would have given anything for a day with Roger and her Oxford ragamuffin friends, with a battle in the claybeds and a race along the canal. The one thing that kept her polite and attentive to Mrs. Coulter was that tantalizing hope of going north. Perhaps they would meet Lord Asriel. Perhaps he and Mrs. Coulter would fall in love, and they would get married and adopt Lyra, and go and rescue Roger from the Gobblers.
    On the afternoon of the cocktail party, Mrs. Coulter took Lyra to a fashionable hairdresser’s, where her stiff dark blond hair was softened and waved, and her nails were filed and polished, and where they even applied a little makeup to her eyes and lips to show her how to do it. Then they went to collect the new dress Mrs. Coulter had ordered for her, and to buy some patent-leather shoes, and then it was time to go back to the flat and check the flowers and get dressed.
    “Not the shoulder bag, dear,” said Mrs. Coulter as Lyra came out of her bedroom, glowing with a sense of her own prettiness.
    Lyra had taken to wearing a little white leather shoulder bag everywhere, so as to keep the alethiometer close at hand. Mrs. Coulter, loosening the cramped way some roses had been bunched into a vase, saw that Lyra wasn’t moving and glanced pointedly at the door.
    “Oh, please, Mrs. Coulter, I do love this bag!”
    “Not indoors, Lyra. It looks absurd to be carrying a shoulder bag in your own home. Take it off at once, and come and help check these glasses.…”
    It wasn’t so much her snappish tone as the words “in your own home” that made Lyra resist stubbornly. Pantalaimon flew to the floor and instantly became a polecat, arching his back against her little white ankle socks. Encouraged by this, Lyra said:
    “But it won’t be in the way. And it’s the only thing I really like wearing. I think it really suits—”
    She didn’t finish the sentence, because Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon sprang off the sofa in a blur of golden fur and pinned Pantalaimon to the carpet before he could move. Lyra cried out in alarm, and then in fear and pain, as Pantalaimon twisted this way and that, shrieking and snarling, unable to loosen the golden monkey’s grip. Only a few seconds, and the monkey had overmastered him: with one fierce black paw around his throat and his black paws gripping the polecat’s lower limbs, he took one of

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