Clockwork angel, p.49
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       Clockwork Angel, p.49

         Part #1 of The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
 
Page 49

 

  “Weeks of experimentation?” Tessa echoed. “When you were only eleven years old? That seems cruel. ”

  “Goodness—real goodness—has its own sort of cruelty to it,” said Jem, looking past her. “There, beside you on the bedside table, is a box. Can you give it to me?”

  Tessa lifted the box. It was made of silver, its lid inlaid with an enamel scene that depicted a slim woman in white robes, barefoot, pouring water out of a vase into a stream. “Who is she?” she asked, handing the box to Jem.

  “Kwan Yin. The goddess of mercy and compassion. They say she hears every prayer and every cry of suffering and does what she can to answer it. I thought perhaps if I kept the cause of my suffering in a box with her image on it, it might make that suffering a little less. ” He flicked open the clasp on the box, and the lid slid back. Inside was a thick layer of what Tessa thought at first was ash, but the color was too bright. It was a layer of thick silvery powder almost the same bright silver color as Jem’s eyes.

  “This is the drug,” he said. “It comes from a warlock dealer we know in Limehouse. I take some of it every day. It’s why I look so—so ghostly; it’s what drains the color from my eyes and hair, even my skin. I wonder sometimes if my parents would even recognize me… . ” His voice trailed off. “If I have to fight, I take more. Taking less weakens me. I had taken none today before we went out to the bridge. That’s why I collapsed. Not because of the clockwork creatures. Because of the drug. Without any in my system, the fighting, the running, was too much for me. My body started feeding on itself, and I collapsed. ” He shut the box with a snap, and handed it back to Tessa. “Here. Put it back where it was. ”

  “You don’t need any?”

  “No. I’ve had enough tonight. ”

  “You said that the drug meant a slow death,” Tessa said. “So do you mean the drug is killing you?”

  Jem nodded, strands of bright hair falling across his forehead.

  Tessa felt her heart skip a painful beat. “And when you fight, you take more of it? So, why don’t you stop fighting? Will and the others—”

  “Would understand,” Jem finished for her. “I know they would. But there is more to life than not dying. I am a Shadowhunter. It is what I am, not just what I do. I can’t live without it. ”

  “You mean you don’t want to. ”

  Will, Tessa thought, would have been angry if she’d said that to him, but Jem just looked at her intently. “I mean I don’t want to. For a long time I searched for a cure, but eventually I stopped, and asked Will and the rest to stop as well. I am not this drug, or its hold on me. I believe that I am better than that. That my life is about more than that, however and whenever it might end. ”

  “Well, I don’t want you to die,” Tessa said. “I don’t know why I feel it so strongly—I’ve just met you—but I don’t want you to die. ”

  “And I trust you,” he said. “I don’t know why—I’ve just met you—but I do. ” His hands were no longer clutching the pillow, but lying flat and still on the tasseled surface. They were thin hands, the knuckles just slightly too big for the rest of them, the fingers tapering and slender, a thick white scar running across the back of his right thumb. Tessa wanted to slide her own hand over his, wanted to hold his tightly and comfort him—

  “Well, this is all very touching. ” It was Will, of course, having come soundlessly into the room. He had changed his bloody shirt, and he seemed to have washed up hastily. His hair looked damp, his face scrubbed, though the crescents of his nails were still black with dirt and oil. He looked from Jem to Tessa, his face carefully blank. “I see that you told her. ”

  “I did. ” There was nothing challenging in Jem’s tone; he never looked at Will with anything but affection, Tessa thought, no matter how provoking Will was. “It’s done. There’s no more need for you to fret about it. ”

  “I disagree,” said Will. He gave Tessa a pointed look. She remembered what he had said about not tiring Jem out, and rose from her chair.

  Jem gave her a wistful look. “Must you go? I was rather hoping you’d stay and be a ministering angel, but if you must go, you must. ”

  “I’ll stay,” Will said a bit crossly, and threw himself down in the armchair Tessa had just vacated. “I can minister angelically. ”

  “None too convincingly. And you’re not as pretty to look at as Tessa is,” Jem said, closing his eyes as he leaned back against the pillow.

  “How rude. Many who have gazed upon me have compared the experience to gazing at the radiance of the sun. ”

  Jem still had his eyes closed. “If they mean it gives you a headache, they aren’t wrong. ”

  “Besides,” Will said, his eyes on Tessa, “it’s hardly fair to keep Tessa from her brother. She hasn’t had a chance to look in on him since this morning. ”

  “That’s true. ” Jem’s eyes fluttered open for a moment; they were silvery black, dark with sleep. “My apologies, Tessa. I nearly forgot. ”

  Tessa said nothing. She was too busy being horrified that Jem wasn’t the only one who had nearly forgotten about her brother. It’s all right, she wanted to say, but Jem’s eyes were shut again, and she thought he might be asleep. As she watched, Will leaned forward and drew up the blankets, covering Jem’s chest.

  Tessa turned around and let herself out as quietly as she could.

  The light in the corridors was burning low, or perhaps it had simply been brighter in Jem’s room. Tessa stood for a moment, blinking, before her eyes adjusted. She gave a start. “Sophie?”

  The other girl was a series of pale smudges in the dimness—her pale face, and the white cap dangling from her hand by one of its ties.

  “Sophie?” Tessa said. “Is something wrong?”

  “Is he all right?” Sophie demanded, a strange small hitch in her voice. “Is he going to be all right?”

  Too startled to make sense of her question, Tessa said, “Who?”

  Sophie stared at her, her eyes mutely tragic. “Jem. ”

  Not Master Jem, or Mr. Carstairs. Jem. Tessa looked at her in utter astonishment, suddenly remembering. It’s all right to love someone who doesn’t love you back, as long as they’re worth you loving them. As long as they deserve it.

  Of course, Tessa thought. I’m so stupid. It’s Jem she’s in love with.

  “He’s fine,” she said as gently as she could. “He’s resting, but he was sitting up and talking. He’ll be quite recovered soon, I’m sure. Perhaps if you wanted to see him—”

  “No!” Sophie exclaimed at once. “No, that wouldn’t be right or proper. ” Her eyes were shining. “I’m much obliged to you, miss. I—”

  She turned then, and hurried away down the corridor. Tessa looked after her, troubled and perplexed. How could she not have seen it earlier? How could she have been so blind? How strange to have the power to literally transform yourself into other people, and yet be so unable to put yourself in their place.

  * * *

  The door to Nate’s room was slightly ajar; Tessa pushed it open the rest of the way as quietly as she could, and peered inside.

  Her brother was a heaped mound of blankets. The light from the guttering candle on the bedside table illuminated the fair hair spread across his pillow. His eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling regularly.

  In the armchair beside the bed sat Jessamine. She, too, was asleep. Her blond hair was coming out of its carefully arranged chignon, the curls tumbling down onto her shoulders. Someone had thrown a heavy woolen blanket over her, and her hands clutched it, drawing it up against her chest. She looked younger than Tessa had ever seen her look, and vulnerable. There was nothing about her of the girl who had slaughtered the faerie in the park.

  It was so odd, Tessa thought, what brought out tenderness in people. It was never what you would have expected. As quietly as she could, she turned away, shutting the door behind her.

  Tessa slept fitfully that night, waking often amid dreams of
clockwork creatures coming for her, reaching out their spindly metal-jointed hands to catch and tear at her skin. Eventually that dissolved into a dream of Jem, who lay asleep in a bed while silver powder rained down on him, burning where it struck the coverlet he lay under, until eventually the whole bed burned, and Jem slept peacefully on, oblivious to Tessa’s warning cries.

  Finally she dreamed of Will, standing at the apex of the dome of St. Paul’s, alone under the light of a white, white moon. He wore a black frock coat, and the Marks on his skin were plain to be seen on his neck and hands under the glow of the sky. He looked down on London like a bad angel pledged to save the city from its own worst dreams, while below him London slept on, indifferent and unknowing.

  Tessa was torn from her dream by a voice in her ear, and a hand vigorously shaking her shoulder. “Miss!” It was Sophie, her voice sharp. “Miss Gray, you simply must wake. It’s your brother. ”

  Tessa shot upright, scattering pillows. Afternoon light poured through the bedroom windows, illuminating the room—and Sophie’s anxious face. “Nate’s awake? He’s all right?”

  “Yes—I mean, no. I mean, I don’t know, miss. ” There was a little catch in Sophie’s voice. “You see, he’s gone missing. ”

  16

  THE BINDING SPELL

  And once, or twice, to throw the dice

  Is a gentlemanly game,

  But he does not win who plays with Sin

  In the secret House of Shame.

  —Oscar Wilde, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”

  “Jessamine! Jessamine, what’s going on? Where’s Nate?”

  Jessamine, who was standing just outside Nate’s room, whirled to face Tessa as she hurried up the corridor. Jessamine’s eyes were red-rimmed, her expression angry. Loose curls of blond hair were coming out of the usually neatly arranged knot at the back of her head. “I don’t know,” she snapped. “I fell asleep in the chair beside the bed, and when I woke up, he was gone—just gone!” She narrowed her eyes. “Gracious, you look ghastly. ”

  Tessa glanced down at herself. She hadn’t bothered with a crinoline, or even shoes. She’d just thrown on a dress and slid her bare feet into slippers. Her hair was straggling down around her shoulders, and she imagined she likely resembled the madwoman Mr. Rochester kept in his attic in Jane Eyre. “Well, Nate can’t have gone very far, not as ill as he is,” Tessa said. “Isn’t anyone looking for him?”

  Jessamine threw up her hands. “Everyone’s looking for him. Will, Charlotte, Henry, Thomas, even Agatha. I don’t suppose you want us to roust poor Jem out of bed and make him part of the search party too?”

  Tessa shook her head. “Honestly, Jessamine—” She broke off, turning away. “Well, I’m going to look as well. You can stay here if you like. ”

  “I do like. ” Jessamine tossed her head as Tessa spun away and stalked off down the corridor, her mind whirling. Where on earth could Nate have gone? Had he been feverish, delirious? Had he gotten out of bed not knowing where he was and staggered off to look for her? The thought made her heart clench. The Institute was a baffling maze, she thought as she turned yet another blind corner into yet another tapestry-lined corridor. If she could barely find her way around it even now, how could Nate possibly—

 

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