Not everything he saw was familiar. The walls of the room itself were strange. They were not metal or plaster or knotty pine; they were not papered, painted or overlaid with stucco. They seemed to be made of some sort of hard organic compound, perhaps a sort of plastic or processed cellulose. It was hard to tell colors in the pinkish light. But they seemed to have none. They were "neutral"—the color of aged driftwood or unbleached cloth.
McCray didn't know they were Hatcher's people, of course. He did not know even that they were animate beings, for they lacked all the features of animals that he had been used to. No eyes. No faces. Their detached members, bobbing about seemingly at random, did not appear to have any relation to the irregular spheres that were their owners.
Coventry was forced to halt. It would be impossible in this narrow thoroughfare to get past the long line of beasts burdened with huge bales that swung broadside from their backs. The syce stood up behind him to proffer advice.
"Right you are. Come along," Arthur agreed, in a spasm of pity for the futility of the man.
It seemed as if some great army had settled on the land and built permanent quarters.
We turned back to dress for dinner. Yes, that was the word I wanted; he was a shut-up fellow. Even the rudimentary Alstrop felt it. But shut-up consciously, deliberately—or only instinctively, congenitally? There the mystery lay.
My heart was full and my head ringing with excitement, so I can recall little or nothing of the remainder of that memorable afternoon save my wonder, when we stepped out into the street again, to find men and women going about their business just as if nothing had happened. It did not seem possible, when my whole life was changed. I was so bewildered I could scarce believe it was the same world again. I could not talk or even listen to Mr. O'Rourke; as for Angus, I paid no heed to his chatter at all, and it was only when we paused in the Piazza di Spagna to bid good-bye to our friend that I found some words to thank him, and promised to see him again on the following Thursday.
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