Quincunx by Charles Palliser

By Charles Palliser

A rare sleek novel within the Victorian culture, Charles Palliser has created whatever extraordinary--a plot inside of a plot inside of a plot of relations secrets and techniques, mysterious clues, low-born delivery, high-reaching immorality, and, consistently, continually the fog-enshrouded, enigmatic personality of nineteenth century -- London itself.

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We are nervous also but we sit still as the flakes come down and stick to our shawls and hats, sugaring our eyelashes and flouring the men’s woolly beards. Two women face into the wind that whips their hair like corn tassel, their eyes slits of shine. The other one covers her mouth with her cloak and leans against a man. A boy with a yellow pigtail sits on the wagon floor, his hands tied to his ankles. He and I are the only ones without rugs or blankets covering our feet. Sudden snowfall on tender leaves is pretty.

Yet the animosity, utterly useless in the wild, died in the womb. Even before Lina midwifed Mistress’ first child, neither one could keep the coolness. The fraudulent competition was worth nothing on land that demanding. Besides they were company for each other and by and by discovered something much more interesting than status. Rebekka laughed out loud at her own mistakes; was unembarrassed to ask for help. Lina slapped her own forehead when she forgot the berries rotting in the straw. They became friends.

He and I are the only ones without rugs or blankets covering our feet. Sudden snowfall on tender leaves is pretty. Perhaps it will last long enough on the ground to make animal tracking easy. Men are always happy in the snow where killing is best. Sir says no one can starve if there is snow. Nor in spring because even before berries are out and vegetables ready to eat the river is full of spawn and the air of fowl. But this snow will not last, although it is heavy, wet and thick. I draw my feet under my skirt, not for warmth, but to protect the letter.

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