She could see Sophie reflected in the mirror as well; her face was turned so that her scarred cheek was to the mirror. It looked even more awful in daylight. It was like seeing a lovely painting slashed to ribbons with a knife. Tessa itched to ask her what had happened, but knew she shouldn’t. Instead she said, “I’m much obliged to you for helping me with the dress.”
“Pleased to be of service, miss.” Sophie’s tone was flat.
“I only wanted to ask,” Tessa began. Sophie stiffened. She thinks I’m going to ask her about her face, Tessa thought. Out loud she said, “The way you talked to Will in the corridor last night—”
Sophie laughed. It was a short laugh, but a real one. “I am permitted to speak to Mr. Herondale however I like, whenever I like. It’s one of the conditions of my employment.”
“Charlotte lets you make your own conditions?”
“It’s not simply anyone who can work at the Institute,” Sophie explained. “You need to have a touch of the Sight. Agatha has it, and so does Thomas. Mrs. Branwell wanted me right away when she knew I had it, said she’d been looking for a maid for Miss Jessamine for simply ages. She warned me about Mr. Herondale, though, said he’d likely be rude to me, and familiar. She said I could be rude right back, that nobody would mind.”
“Someone ought to be rude to him. He’s rude enough to everyone else.”
“I’d warrant that’s what Mrs. Branwell thought.” Sophie shared a grin with Tessa in the mirror; she was absolutely lovely when she smiled, Tessa thought, scar or no scar.
“You like Charlotte, don’t you?” she said. “She does seem awfully kind.”
Sophie shrugged. “In the old house I was in service in, Mrs. Atkins—that was the housekeeper—she would keep track of every candle we used, every bit of soap we had. We had to use the soap down to a sliver before she’d give us a new bit. But Mrs. Branwell gives me new soap whenever I want it.” She said this as if it were a firm testament to Charlotte’s character.
“I suppose they have a lot of money here at the Institute.” Tessa thought of the gorgeous furnishings and the grandeur of the place.
“Perhaps. But I’ve made over enough dresses for Mrs. Branwell to know she doesn’t buy them new.”
Tessa thought of the blue gown Jessamine had worn to dinner the night before. “What about Miss Lovelace?”
“She has her own money,” said Sophie darkly. She stepped back from Tessa. “There. You’re fit to be seen now.”
Tessa smiled. “Thank you, Sophie.”
* * *
When Tessa came into the dining room, the others were already midway through breakfast—Charlotte in a plain gray dress, spreading jam onto a piece of toast; Henry half-hidden behind a newspaper; and Jessamine picking daintily at a bowl of porridge. Will had a pile of eggs and bacon on his plate and was digging into them industriously, which Tessa couldn’t help noting was unusual for someone who claimed to have been out drinking all night.
“We were just talking about you,” Jessamine said as Tessa found a seat. She pushed a silver toast rack across the table toward Tessa. “Toast?”
Tessa, picking up her fork, looked around the table anxiously. “What about me?”
“What to do with you, of course. Downworlders can’t live in the Institute forever,” said Will. “I say we sell her to the Gypsies on Hampstead Heath,” he added, turning to Charlotte. “I hear they purchase spare women as well as horses.”
“Will, stop it.” Charlotte glanced up from her breakfast. “That’s ridiculous.”
Will leaned back in his chair. “You’re right. They’d never buy her. Too scrawny.”
“That’s enough,” Charlotte said. “Miss Gray shall remain. If for no other reason than because we’re in the middle of an investigation that requires her assistance. I’ve already dispatched a message to the Clave telling them that we’re keeping her here until this Pandemonium Club matter is cleared up and her brother is found. Isn’t that right, Henry?”
“Quite,” Henry said, setting the newspaper down. “The Pandemonium thingie is a top priority. Absolutely.”
“You’d better tell Benedict Lightwood, too,” said Will. “You know how he is.”
Charlotte blanched slightly, and Tessa wondered who Benedict Lightwood might be. “Will, today I’d like you to revisit the site of the Dark Sisters’ house; it’s abandoned now, but it’s still worth a final search. And I want you to take Jem with you—”
At that, the amusement left Will’s expression. “Is he well enough?”
“He is quite well enough.” The voice wasn’t Charlotte’s. It was Jem’s. He had come into the room quietly and was standing by the sideboard, his arms folded across his chest. He was much less pale than he had been the previous night, and the red waistcoat he wore brought a slight tinge of color to his cheeks. “In fact, he’s ready when you are.”
“You should have some breakfast first,” Charlotte fretted, pushing the plate of bacon toward him. Jem sat, and smiled at Tessa across the table. “Oh, Jem—this is Miss Gray. She’s—”
“We’ve met,” Jem said quietly, and Tessa felt a rush of heat in her face. She couldn’t help staring at him as he picked up a piece of bread and applied butter to it. It seemed hard to imagine that anyone quite so ethereal-looking could possibly eat toast.
Charlotte looked puzzled. “You have?”
“I encountered Tessa in the corridor last night and introduced myself. I think I may have given her something of a fright.” His silver eyes met Tessa’s across the table, sparkling with amusement.
Charlotte shrugged. “Very well, then. I’d like you to go with Will. In the meantime, today, Miss Gray—”
“Call me Tessa,” Tessa said. “I would prefer it if everyone did.”
“Very well, Tessa,” said Charlotte with a little smile. “Henry and I will be paying a call on Mr. Axel Mortmain, your brother’s employer, to see if he, or any of his employees, might have any information as to your brother’s whereabouts.”
“Thank you.” Tessa was surprised. They had said they were going to look for her brother, and they were actually doing it. She hadn’t expected that they would.
“I’ve heard of Axel Mortmain,” said Jem. “He was a taipan, one of the big business heads in Shanghai. His company had offices on the Bund.”