The Eyes Have It, p.1Randall Garrett / Fantasy
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This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction January 1964. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
THE EYES HAVE IT
In a sense, this is a story of here-and-now. This Earth, this year ... but on a history-line slipped slightly sidewise. A history in which a great man acted differently, and Magic, rather than physical science, was developed....
Illustrated by John Schoenherr
* * * * *
Sir Pierre Morlaix, Chevalier of the Angevin Empire, Knight of theGolden Leopard, and secretary-in-private to my lord, the CountD'Evreux, pushed back the lace at his cuff for a glance at his wristwatch--three minutes of seven. The Angelus had rung at six, as always,and my lord D'Evreux had been awakened by it, as always. At least, SirPierre could not remember any time in the past seventeen years when mylord had not awakened at the Angelus. Once, he recalled, the sacristanhad failed to ring the bell, and the Count had been furious for aweek. Only the intercession of Father Bright, backed by the Bishophimself, had saved the sacristan from doing a turn in the dungeons ofCastle D'Evreux.
Sir Pierre stepped out into the corridor, walked along the carpetedflagstones, and cast a practiced eye around him as he walked. Theseold castles were difficult to keep clean, and my lord the Count wasfussy about nitre collecting in the seams between the stones of thewalls. All appeared quite in order, which was a good thing. My lordthe Count had been making a night of it last evening, and that alwaysmade him the more peevish in the morning. Though he always woke at theAngelus, he did not always wake up sober.
Sir Pierre stopped before a heavy, polished, carved oak door, selecteda key from one of the many at his belt, and turned it in the lock.Then he went into the elevator and the door locked automaticallybehind him. He pressed the switch and waited in patient silence as hewas lifted up four floors to the Count's personal suite.
By now, my lord the Count would have bathed, shaved, and dressed. Hewould also have poured down an eye-opener consisting of half a waterglass of fine Champagne brandy. He would not eat breakfast untileight. The Count had no valet in the strict sense of the term. SirReginald Beauvay held that title, but he was never called upon toexercise the more personal functions of his office. The Count did notlike to be seen until he was thoroughly presentable.
The elevator stopped. Sir Pierre stepped out into the corridor andwalked along it toward the door at the far end. At exactly seveno'clock, he rapped briskly on the great door which bore thegilt-and-polychrome arms of the House D'Evreux.
For the first time in seventeen years, there was no answer.
Sir Pierre waited for the growled command to enter for a full minute,unable to believe his ears. Then, almost timidly, he rapped again.
There was still no answer.
Then, bracing himself for the verbal onslaught that would follow if hehad erred, Sir Pierre turned the handle and opened the door just as ifhe had heard the Count's voice telling him to come in.
Good morning, my lord, he said, as he always had for seventeenyears.
But the room was empty, and there was no answer.
He looked around the huge room. The morning sunlight streamed inthrough the high mullioned windows and spread a diamond-checkeredpattern across the tapestry on the far wall, lighting up the brillianthunting scene in a blaze of color.
Nothing. Not a sound.
The bedroom door was open. Sir Pierre walked across to it and lookedin.
He saw immediately why my lord the Count had not answered, and that,indeed, he would never answer again.
My lord the Count lay flat on his back, his arms spread wide, his eyesstaring at the ceiling. He was still clad in his gold and scarletevening clothes. But the great stain on the front of his coat was notthe same shade of scarlet as the rest of the cloth, and the stain hada bullet hole in its center.
Sir Pierre looked at him without moving for a long moment. Then hestepped over, knelt, and touched one of the Count's hands with theback of his own. It was quite cool. He had been dead for hours.
I knew someone would do you in sooner or later, my lord, said SirPierre, almost regretfully.
Then he rose from his kneeling position and walked out without anotherlook at his dead lord. He locked the door of the suite, pocketed thekey, and went back downstairs in the elevator.
* * * * *
Mary, Lady Duncan stared out of the window at the morning sunlight andwondered what to do. The Angelus bell had awakened her from a fitfulsleep in her chair, and she knew that, as a guest at Castle D'Evreux,she would be expected to appear at Mass again this morning. But howcould she? How could she face the Sacramental Lord on the altar--tosay nothing of taking the Blessed Sacrament itself.
Still, it would look all the more conspicuous if she did not show upthis morning after having made it a point to attend every morning withLady Alice during the first four days of this visit.
She turned and glanced at the locked and barred door of the bedroom._He_ would not be expected to come. Laird Duncan used his wheelchairas an excuse, but since he had taken up black magic as a hobby he had,she suspected, been actually afraid to go anywhere near a church.
If only she hadn't lied to him! But how could she have told the truth?That would have been worse--infinitely worse. And now, because of thatlie, he was locked in his bedroom doing only God and the Devil knewwhat.
If only he would come out. If he would only stop whatever it was hehad been doing for all these long hours--or at least finish it! Thenthey could leave Evreux, make some excuse--any excuse--to get away.One of them could feign sickness. Anything, anything to get them outof France, across the Channel, and back to Scotland, where they wouldbe safe!
She looked back out of the window, across the courtyard, at thetowering stone walls of the Great Keep and at the high window thatopened into the suite of Edouard, Count D'Evreux.
Last night she had hated him, but no longer. Now there was only roomin her heart for fear.
She buried her face in her hands and cursed herself for a fool. Therewere no tears left for weeping--not after the long night.
Behind her, she heard the sudden noise of the door being unlocked, andshe turned.
Laird Duncan of Duncan opened the door and wheeled himself out. He wasfollowed by a malodorous gust of vapor from the room he had just left.Lady Duncan stared at him.
He looked older than he had last night, more haggard and worn, andthere was something in his eyes she did not like. For a moment he saidnothing. Then he wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. When hespoke, his voice sounded dazed.
There is nothing to fear any more, he said. Nothing to fear atall.
* * * * *
The Reverend Father James Valois Bright, Vicar of the Chapel ofSaint-Esprit, had as his flock the several hundred inhabitants of theCastle D'Evreux. As such, he was the ranking priest--socially, nothierarchically--in the country. Not counting the Bishop and theChapter at the Cathedral, of course. But such knowledge did littlegood for the Father's peace of mind. The turnout of the flock wasabominably small for its size--especially for week-day Masses. TheSunday Masses were well attended, of course; Count D'Evreux was therepunctually at nine every Sunday, and he had a habit of counting thehouse. But he never showed up on weekdays, and his laxity had alloweda certain further laxity to filter down through the ranks.
The great consolation was Lady Alice D'Evreux. She was a plain, simplegirl, nearly twenty years younger than her brother, the Count, andquite his opposite in every way. She was quiet where he wasthundering, self-effacing where he was flamboyant, temperate where hewas drunken, and chaste where he was--
Father Bright brought his thoughts to a full halt for a moment. Hehad, he reminded himself, no right to make judgments of that sort. Hewas not, after all, the Count's confessor; the Bishop was.
Besides, he should have his mind on his prayers just now.
He paused and was rather surprised to notice that he had already puton his alb, amice, and girdle, and he was aware that his lips hadformed the words of the prayer as he had donned each of them.
_Habit_, he thought, _can be destructive to the contemplativefaculty_.
He glanced around the sacristy. His server, the young son of the Countof Saint Brieuc, sent here to complete his education as a gentlemanwho would some day be the King's Governor of one of the