‘Sit close all the same,’ returned Sir Hector, breaking into a gallop. ‘For once, I’m going to show my paces!’

Like a whirlwind, like a sheet of flame over dry bracken galloped Sir Hector through the parkland — a sight so glorious, the few early-morning predestrians lucky enough to witness it never forgot it in all their lives. His tail streamed like a comet, the plaits of his mane like candle-flames; from his nostrils (at least so one pedestrian asserted) flashed sparks of fire! Miss Bianca’s silvery fur blew about like snowflakes; Shaun even in the lee of the cantle had to hold his whiskers on; Mandrake crouched ever lower and lower until he lay almost flat (thus accidentally offering the least wind-resistance possible). Not only Jack was left far behind, but Sir Hector’s stable companions as well; though their dismayed jockeys took out the whip, Sir Hector outdistanced them all with such contempuous ease, when he at last entered the city it was at a walk . . .

‘THAT’S the white horse’, Peter Lake declared, his outstretched right arm pointing toward the thunder. And the way he’s running, he’s going to make it.’

Pearly hadn’t changed his stance. Peter Lake took the tip of the sword and replaced it above his collarbone. ‘And so am I, Pearly, so am I, although in a way that will never be clear to you. You see, it works. The balances are exact. The world is a perfect place, so perfect that even if there is nothing afterward, all this will have been enough. Now I see, now I’m sure of what I must do. And it must be done quickly.’

He moved the sword until it began to cut into him. Then he looked up far past Pearly. ‘Only love . . .’ he said. ‘Drive hard.’

The sword was driven into him until its hilt came to rest on his shoulder . . .

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