The Secret History by Donna Tartt


  I went inside one of these new buildings. It was like a laboratory, maybe, or a museum. My footsteps echoed on the tile floors. There was a cluster of men, all smoking pipes, gathered around an exhibit in a glass case that gleamed in the dim light and lit their faces ghoulishly from below.

  I drew nearer. In the case was a machine revolving slowly on a turntable, a machine with metal parts that slid in and out and collapsed in upon themselves to form new images. An Inca temple … click click click … the Pyramids … the Parthenon. History passing beneath my very eyes, changing every moment.

  “I thought I’d find you here,” said a voice at my elbow.

  It was Henry. His gaze was steady and impassive in the dim light. Above his ear, beneath the wire stem of his spectacles, I could just make out the powder burn and the dark hole in his right temple.

  I was glad to see him, though not exactly surprised. “You know,” I said to him, “everybody is saying that you’re dead.”

  He stared down at the machine. The Colosseum … click click click … the Pantheon. “I’m not dead,” he said. “I’m only having a bit of trouble with my passport.”

  “What?”

  He cleared his throat. “My movements are restricted,” he said. “I no longer have the ability to travel as freely as I would like.”

  Hagia Sophia. St. Mark’s, in Venice. “What is this place?” I asked him.

  “That information is classified, I’m afraid.”

  I looked around curiously. It seemed that I was the only visitor. “Is it open to the public?” I said.

  “Not generally, no.”

  I looked at him. There was so much I wanted to ask him, so much I wanted to say; but somehow I knew there wasn’t time and even if there was, that it was all, somehow, beside the point.

  “Are you happy here?” I said at last.

  He considered this for moment. “Not particularly,” he said. “But you’re not very happy where you are, either.”

  St. Basil’s, in Moscow. Chartres. Salisbury and Amiens. He glanced at his watch.

  “I hope you’ll excuse me,” he said, “but I’m late for an appointment.”

  He turned from me and walked away. I watched his back receding down the long, gleaming hall.

 


 

  Donna Tartt, The Secret History

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