“Will,” said Lyra.
She spoke quietly, but he was startled all the same. She was sitting on the bench beside him and he hadn’t even noticed.
“Where did you come from?”
“I found my Scholar! She’s called Dr. Malone. And she’s got an engine that can see Dust, and she’s going to make it talk – “
“I didn’t see you coming.”
“You weren’t looking,” she said. “You must’ve been thinking about something else. It’s a good thing I found you. Look, it’s easy to fool people. Watch.”
Two police officers were strolling toward them, a man and a woman on the beat, in their white summer shirtsleeves, with their radios and their batons and their suspicious eyes. Before they reached the bench, Lyra was on her feet and speaking to them.
“Please, could you tell me where the museum is?” she said. “Me and my brother was supposed to meet our parents there and we got lost.”
The policeman looked at Will, and Will, containing his anger, shrugged as if to say, “She’s right, we’re lost, isn’t it silly.” The man smiled. The woman said: “Which museum? The Ashmolean?”
“Yeah, that one,” said Lyra, and pretended to listen carefully as the woman gave her instructions.
Will got up and said, “Thanks,” and he and Lyra moved away together. They didn’t look back, but the police had already lost interest.
“See?” she said. “If they were looking for you, I put ’em off. ‘Cause they won’t be looking for someone with a sister. I better stay with you from now on,” she went on scoldingly once they’d gone around the corner. “You en’t safe on your own.”
He said nothing. His heart was thumping with rage. They walked along toward
a round building with a great leaden dome, set in a square bounded by honey-colored stone college buildings and a church and wide-crowned trees above high garden walls. The afternoon sun drew the warmest tones out of it all, and the air felt rich with it, almost the color itself of heavy golden wine. All the leaves were still, and in this little square even the traffic noise was hushed.
She finally became aware of Will’s feelings and said, “What’s the matter?”
“If you speak to people, you just attract their attention,” he said, with a shaking voice. “You should just keep quiet and still and they overlook you. I’ve been doing it all my life. I know how to do it. Your way, you just – you make yourself visible. You shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t play at it. You’re not being serious.”
“You think so?” she said, and her anger flashed. “You think I don’t know about lying and that? I’m the best liar there ever was. But I en’t lying to you, and I never will, I swear it. You’re in danger, and if I hadn’t done that just then, you’d’ve been caught. Didn’t you see ’em looking at you? ‘Cause they were. You en’t careful enough. If you want my opinion, it’s you that en’t serious.”
“If I’m not serious, what am I doing hanging about waiting for you when I could be miles away? Or hiding out of sight, safe in that other city? I’ve got my own things to do, but I’m hanging about here so I can help you. Don’t tell me I’m not serious.”
“You had to come through,” she said, furious. No one should speak to her like this. She was an aristocrat. She was Lyra. “You had to, else you’d never find out anything about your father. You done it for yourself, not for me.”
They were quarreling passionately, but in subdued voices, because of the quiet in the square and the people who were wandering past nearby. When she said this, though, Will stopped altogether. He had to lean against the college wall beside him. The color had left his face.