“Yes,” said Charlotte, “the newspapers say he made his fortune in imports of silk and tea.”
“Bah.” Jem spoke lightly, but there was an edge to his voice. “He made his fortune in opium. All of them did. Buying opium in India, sailing it to Canton, trading it for goods.”
“He wasn’t breaking the law, James.” Charlotte pushed the newspaper across the table toward Jessamine. “Meanwhile, Jessie, perhaps you and Tessa can go through the paper and make note of anything that might pertain to the investigation, or be worth a second look—”
Jessamine recoiled from the paper as if it were a snake. “A lady does not read the newspaper. The society pages, perhaps, or the theater news. Not this filth.”
“But you are not a lady, Jessamine—,” Charlotte began.
“Dear me,” said Will. “Such harsh truths so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion.”
“What I mean,” Charlotte said, correcting herself, “is that you are a Shadowhunter first, and a lady second.”
“Speak for yourself,” Jessamine said, pushing her chair back. Her cheeks had turned an alarming shade of red. “You know,” she said, “I wouldn’t have expected you to notice, but it seems clear that the only thing Tessa has to put on her back is that awful old red dress of mine, and it doesn’t fit her. It doesn’t even fit me anymore, and she’s taller than I am.”
“Can’t Sophie … ,” Charlotte began vaguely.
“You can take a dress in. It’s another thing to make it twice as big as it was to start with. Really, Charlotte.” Jessamine blew out her cheeks in exasperation. “I think you ought to let me take poor Tessa into town to get some new clothes. Otherwise, the first time she takes a deep breath, that dress will fall right off her.”
Will looked interested. “I think she should try that out now and see what happens.”
“Oh,” Tessa said, thoroughly confused. Why was Jessamine being so kind to her suddenly when she’d been so unpleasant only the day before? “No, really it’s not necessary—”
“It is,” Jessamine said firmly.
Charlotte was shaking her head. “Jessamine, as long as you live in the Institute, you are one of us, and you have to contribute—”
“You’re the one who insists we have to take in Downworlders who are in trouble, and feed and shelter them,” Jessamine said. “I’m quite sure that includes clothing them as well. You see, I will be contributing—to Tessa’s upkeep.”
Henry leaned across the table toward his wife. “You’d better let her do it,” he advised. “Remember the last time you tried to get her to sort the daggers in the weapons room, and she used them to cut up all the linens?”
“We needed new linens,” said Jessamine, unabashed.
“Oh, all right,” Charlotte snapped. “Honestly, sometimes I despair of the lot of you.”
“What’ve I done?” Jem inquired. “I only just arrived.”
Charlotte put her face into her hands. As Henry began to pat her shoulders and make soothing noises, Will leaned across Tessa toward Jem, ignoring her completely as he did so. “Should we leave now?”
“I need to finish my tea first,” Jem said. “Anyway, I don’t see what you’re so fired up about. You said the place hadn’t been used as a brothel in ages?”
“I want to be back before dark,” Will said. He was leaning nearly across Tessa’s lap, and she could smell that faint boy-smell of leather and metal that seemed to cling to his hair and skin. “I have an assignation in Soho this evening with a certain attractive someone.”
“Goodness,” Tessa said to the back of his head. “If you keep seeing Six-Fingered Nigel like this, he’ll expect you to declare your intentions.”
Jem choked on his tea.
Spending the day with Jessamine began as badly as Tessa had feared. The traffic was dreadful. However crowded New York might have been, Tessa had never seen anything like the snarling mess of the Strand at midday. Carriages rolled side by side with costermongers’ carts piled high with fruit and vegetables; women shawled and carrying shallow baskets full of flowers dived madly in and out of traffic as they tried to interest the occupants of various carriages in their wares; and cabs came to a full stop in the midst of traffic so that the cabdrivers could scream at one another out their windows. This noise added to the already awesome din—ice cream peddlers shouting “Hokey-pokey, penny a lump,” newspaper boys hawking the day’s latest headline, and someone somewhere playing a barrel organ. Tessa wondered how everyone living and working in London wasn’t deaf.
As she stared out the window, an old woman carrying a large metal cage full of fluttering colorful birds stepped out alongside their coach. The old woman turned her head, and Tessa saw that her skin was as green as a parrot’s feathers, her eyes wide and all black like a bird’s, her hair a shock of multicolored feathers. Tessa started, and Jessamine, following her gaze, frowned. “Close the curtains,” she said. “It keeps out the dust.” And, reaching past Tessa, Jessamine did just that.
Tessa looked at her. Jessamine’s small mouth was set in a thin line. “Did you see—?” Tessa began.
“No,” Jessamine said, shooting Tessa what she had often seen referred to in novels as a “killing” look. Tessa glanced hastily away.
Things did not improve when they finally reached the fashionable West End. Leaving Thomas patiently waiting with the horses, Jessamine dragged Tessa in and out of various dressmakers’ salons, looking at design after design, standing by while the prettiest shop assistant was chosen to model a sample. (No real lady would let a dress that might have been worn by a stranger touch her skin.) In each establishment she gave a different false name and a different story; in each establishment the owners seemed enchanted by her looks and obvious wealth and couldn’t help her fast enough. Tessa, mostly ignored, lurked on the sidelines, half-dead from boredom.
In one salon, posing as a young widow, Jessamine even examined the design for a black mourning dress of crepe and lace. Tessa had to admit it would have set off her blond pallor well.
“You would look absolutely beautiful in this, and could not possibly fail to make an advantageous remarriage.” The dressmaker winked in a conspiratorial fashion. “In fact, do you know what we call this design? ‘The Trap Rebaited.’”