Clockwork angel, p.22
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       Clockwork Angel, p.22

         Part #1 of The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 22

 

  Mortmain was silent as the two Shadowhunters left the room. A few moments later they were out in the square, breathing fresh air—as fresh as the air of London ever was. It might be thick with coal smoke and dust, Charlotte thought, but at least it was free of the fear and desperation that had hung like a haze in Mortmain’s study.

  Drawing the device from her sleeve, Charlotte offered it to her husband. “I suppose I ought to ask you,” she said as he received it with a grave expression, “what is that object, Henry?”

  “Something I’ve been working on. ” Henry looked at it fondly. “A device that can sense demon energies. I was going to call it a Sensor. I haven’t got it working yet, but when I do!”

  “I’m sure it will be splendid. ”

  Henry transferred his fond expression from the device to his wife, a rare occurrence. “What pure genius, Charlotte. Pretending you could summon the Clave on the spot, just to frighten that man! But how did you know I’d have a device you could put to your uses?”

  “Well, you did, darling,” said Charlotte. “Didn’t you?”

  Henry looked sheepish. “You are as terrifying as you are wonderful, my dear. ”

  “Thank you, Henry. ”

  The ride back to the Institute was a silent one; Jessamine stared out the window of the cab at the snarling London traffic and refused to say a word. She held her parasol across her lap, seemingly indifferent to the fact that the blood on its edges was staining her taffeta jacket. When they reached the churchyard, she let Thomas help her down from the carriage before reaching to grip Tessa’s hand.

  Surprised at the contact, Tessa could only stare. Jessamine’s fingers in hers were icy. “Come along,” Jessamine snapped impatiently, and pulled her companion toward the Institute doors, leaving Thomas staring after them.

  Tessa let the other girl draw her up the stairs, into the Institute proper, and down a long corridor, this one almost identical to the one outside Tessa’s bedroom. Jessamine located a door, pushed Tessa through it, and followed, shutting the door behind them. “I want to show you something,” she said.

  Tessa looked around. It was another of the large bedrooms of which the Institute seemed to have an infinite number. Jessamine’s, though, had been decorated somewhat to her taste. Above the wooden wainscoting the walls were papered in rose silk, and the coverlet on the bed was printed with flowers. There was a white vanity table too, its surface covered with an expensive-looking dressing table set: a ring stand, a bottle of flower water, and a silver-backed hairbrush and mirror.

  “Your room is lovely,” Tessa said, more in hopes of calming Jessamine’s evident hysteria than because she meant it.

  “It’s much too small,” Jessamine said. “But come—over here. ” And flinging the bloodied parasol down onto her bed, she marched across the room to a corner by the window. Tessa followed with some puzzlement. There was nothing in the corner but a high table, and on the table was a dollhouse. Not the sort of two-room cardboard Dolly’s Playhouse that Tessa had had as a child. This was a beautiful miniature reproduction of a real London town house, and when Jessamine touched it, Tessa saw that the front of it swung open on tiny hinges.

  Tessa caught her breath. There were beautiful tiny rooms perfectly decorated with miniature furniture, everything built to scale, from the little wooden chairs with needlepoint cushions to the cast-iron stove in the kitchen. There were small dolls, too, with china heads, and real little oil paintings on the walls.

  “This was my house. ” Jessamine knelt down, bringing herself to eye level with the dollhouse rooms, and gestured for Tessa to do the same.

  Awkwardly, Tessa did, trying not to kneel on Jessamine’s skirts. “You mean this was the dollhouse you had when you were a little girl?”

  “No. ” Jessamine sounded irritated. “This was my house. My father had this made for me when I was six. It’s modeled exactly on the house we lived in, on Curzon Street. This was the wallpaper we had in the dining room”—she pointed—“and those are exactly the chairs in my father’s study. You see?”

  She looked at Tessa intently, so intently that Tessa felt sure she was supposed to be seeing something here, something beyond an extremely expensive toy that Jessamine should have long ago grown out of. She simply didn’t know what that could be. “It’s very pretty,” she said finally.

  “See, here in the parlor is Mama,” said Jessamine, touching one of the tiny dolls with her finger. The doll wobbled in its plush armchair. “And here in the study, reading a book, is Papa. ” Her hand glided over the little porcelain figure. “And upstairs in the nursery is Baby Jessie. ” Inside the little crib there was indeed another doll, only its head visible above tiny coverlets. “Later they’ll have dinner here, in the dining room. And then Mama and Papa will sit in the drawing room by the fire. Some nights they go to the theater, or to a ball or a dinner. ” Her voice had grown hushed, as if she were reciting a well-remembered litany. “And then Mama will kiss Papa good night, and they will go to their rooms, and they will sleep all night long. There will be no calls from the Clave that drive them out in the middle of the night to fight demons in the dark. There will be no one tracking blood into the house. No one will lose an arm or an eye to a werewolf, or have to choke down holy water because a vampire attacked them. ”

  Dear God, Tessa thought.

  As if Jessamine could read Tessa’s mind, her face twisted. “When our house burned, I had nowhere else to go. It wasn’t as if there were relations that could take me in; all of Mama and Papa’s relations were Shadowhunters and hadn’t spoken to them since they’d broken with the Clave. Henry is the one who made me that parasol. Did you know that? I thought it was quite pretty until he told me that the fabric is edged with electrum, as sharp as a razor. It was always meant to be a weapon. ”

  “You saved us,” Tessa said. “In the park today. I can’t fight at all. If you hadn’t done what you did—”

  “I shouldn’t have done it. ” Jessamine stared into the dollhouse with empty eyes. “I will not have this life, Tessa. I will not have it. I don’t care what I have to do. I won’t live like this. I’d rather die. ”

  Alarmed, Tessa was about to tell her not to talk like that, when the door opened behind them. It was Sophie, in her white cap and neat dark dress. Her eyes, when they rested on Jessamine, were wary. She said, “Miss Tessa, Mr. Branwell very much wants to see you in his study. He says it’s important. ”

  Tessa turned to Jessamine to ask her if she would be all right, but Jessamine’s face had closed like a door. The vulnerability and anger were gone; the cold mask was back. “Go along, then, if Henry wants you,” she said. “I’m quite tired of you already, and I think I’m getting a headache. Sophie, when you return, I’ll need you to massage my temples with eau de cologne. ”

  Sophie’s eyes met Tessa’s across the room with something like amusement. “As you like, Miss Jessamine. ”

  7

  THE CLOCKWORK GIRL

  But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays

  Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days

  Hither and thither moves, and checks and slays.

  —“The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,”

  translated by Edward FitzGerald, 1859

  It had grown dark outside the Institute, and Sophie’s lantern cast strange dancing shadows on the walls as she led Tessa down one flight of stone stairs after another. The steps were old, concave in the centers, where generations of feet had worn them down. The walls were roughly textured stone, the tiny windows set into them at intervals giving way eventually to blankness that seemed to indicate that they had passed belowground.

  “Sophie,” Tessa said finally, her nerves rubbed raw by the darkness and silence, “are we going down into the church crypt, by any chance?”

  Sophie chuckled, and the lights of the lantern flickered on the walls. “It used to be the crypt, before Mr. Branwell had it fixed up into a laboratory for himself. He’s always down
there, tinkering with his toys and his experiments. It doesn’t half drive Mrs. Branwell wild. ”

  “What’s he making?” Tessa nearly tripped over an uneven stair, and had to grab for the wall to right herself. Sophie didn’t appear to notice.

  “All sorts of things,” Sophie said, her voice echoing strangely off the walls. “Inventing new weapons, protective gear for the Shadowhunters. He loves clockwork and mechanisms and that sort of thing. Mrs. Branwell sometimes says she thinks he’d love her better if she ticked like a clock. ” She laughed.

  “It sounds,” Tessa said, “as if you’re fond of them. Mr. and Mrs. Branwell, I mean. ”

  Sophie said nothing, but the already proud set of her back seemed to harden slightly.

  “Fonder of them than you are of Will, anyway,” Tessa said, hoping to soften the other girl’s mood with humor.

  “Him. ” The disgust was plain in Sophie’s voice. “He’s— Well, he’s a bad sort, isn’t he? Reminds me of the son of my last employer. He was proud just like Mr. Herondale. And whatever he wanted, he got, from the day he was born. And if he didn’t get it, well …” She reached up then, almost unconsciously, and touched the side of her face, where the scar ran from mouth to temple.

  “Then what?”

  But Sophie’s brusque manner was back. “Then he’d be like to pitch a fit, that’s all. ” Transferring her glowing lantern from one hand to the other, she peered down into the shadowy darkness. “Be careful here, miss. The stairs can get awfully damp and slippery toward the bottom. ”

  Tessa moved closer to the wall. The stone was cold against her bare hand. “Do you think it’s simply because Will’s a Shadowhunter?” she inquired. “And they— Well, they rather think they’re superior, don’t they? Jessamine, too—”

  “But Mr. Carstairs is not like that. He isn’t at all like the others. And neither are Mr. and Mrs. Branwell. ”

  Before Tessa could say anything else, they came to an abrupt stop at the foot of the stairs. There was a heavy oak door there with a barred grille set into it; Tessa could see nothing through the grille but shadows. Sophie reached for the wide iron bar across the door and pushed it down, hard.

  The door swung open onto an enormous brightly lit space. Tessa moved into the room with wide eyes; this had clearly been the crypt of the church that had originally stood on this spot. Squat pillars held up a roof that disappeared into darkness. The floor was made up of great stone slabs darkened with age; some were carved with words, and Tessa guessed that she stood on the gravestones—and the bones—of those who had been buried in the crypt. There were no windows, but the bright white illumination that Tessa had come to know as witchlight shone down from brass fixtures fastened to the pillars.

  In the center of the room were a number of large wooden tables, their surfaces covered with all manner of mechanical objects—gears and cogs made of dully shining brass and iron; long strings of copper wire; glass beakers filled with liquids of different colors, some of them giving off wisps of smoke or bitter odors. The air smelled metallic and sharp, like the air before a storm. One table was entirely covered with a scatter of weapons, the blades shining under the witchlight. There was a half-finished suit of what looked like thinly scaled metal armor, hanging on a wire frame by a great stone table whose surface was concealed by a lumpy cluster of thick woolen blankets.

 

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