Jessamine giggled, the dressmaker smiled limpidly, and Tessa considered racing out into the street and ending it all by throwing herself under a hansom cab. As if conscious of her annoyance, Jessamine glanced toward her with a condescending smile. “I’m also looking for a few dresses for my cousin from America,” she said. “The clothes there are simply horrible. She’s as plain as a pin, which doesn’t help, but I’m sure you can do something with her.”
The dressmaker blinked as if this were the first time she’d noticed Tessa, and perhaps it was. “Would you like to choose a design, ma’am?”
The following whirlwind of activity was something of a revelation for Tessa. In New York her clothes had been bought by her aunt—ready-made pieces that had had to be altered to fit, and always cheap material in drab shades of dark gray or navy. She had never before learned, as she did now, that blue was a color that suited her and brought out her gray-blue eyes, or that she should wear rose pink to put color in her cheeks. As her measurements were taken amidst a blur of discussion of princess sheaths, cuirass bodices, and someone named Mr. Charles Worth, Tessa stood and stared at her face in the mirror, half-waiting for the features to begin to slip and change, to reform themselves. But she remained herself, and at the end of it all she had four new dresses on order to be delivered later in the week—one pink, one yellow, one striped blue and white with bone buttons, and a gold and black silk—as well as two smart jackets, one with darling beaded tulle adorning the cuffs.
“I suspect you may actually look pretty in that last outfit,” Jessamine said as they climbed back up into the carriage. “It’s amazing what fashion can do.”
Tessa counted silently to ten before she replied. “I’m awfully obliged to you for everything, Jessamine. Shall we return to the Institute now?”
At that, the brightness went out of Jessamine’s face. She truly hates it there, Tessa thought, puzzled more than anything else. What was so dreadful about the Institute? Of course its whole reason for existing was peculiar enough, certainly, but Jessamine had to be used to that by now. She was a Shadowhunter like the rest.
“It’s such a lovely day,” Jessamine said, “and you’ve hardly seen anything of London. I think a walk in Hyde Park is in order. And after that, we could go to Gunter’s and have Thomas get ices for us!”
Tessa glanced out the window. The sky was hazy and gray, shot through with lines of blue where the clouds briefly drifted apart from one another. In no way would this be considered a lovely day in New York, but London seemed to have different standards for weather. Besides, she owed Jessamine something now, and the last thing in the world the other girl wanted to do, clearly, was go home.
“I adore parks,” said Tessa.
Jessamine almost smiled.
* * *
“You didn’t tell Miss Gray about the cogs,” Henry said.
Charlotte looked up from her notes and sighed. It had always been a sore point for her that, however often she had requested a second, the Clave only allowed the Institute one carriage. It was a fine one—a town coach—and Thomas was an excellent driver. But it did mean that when the Institute’s Shadowhunters went their separate ways, as they were doing today, Charlotte was forced to borrow a carriage from Benedict Lightwood, who was far from her favorite person. And the only carriage he was willing to lend her was small and uncomfortable. Poor Henry, who was so very tall, was bumping his head against the low roof.
“No,” she said. “The poor girl, she seemed so dazed already. I couldn’t tell her that the mechanical devices we found in the cellar had been manufactured by the company that employed her brother. She’s so worried about him. It seemed more than she’d be able to bear.”
“It might not mean anything, darling,” Henry reminded her. “Mortmain and Company manufactures most of the machine tools used in England. Mortmain is really something of a genius. His patented system for producing ball bearings—”
“Yes, yes.” Charlotte tried to keep the impatience out of her voice. “And perhaps we should have told her. But I thought it best that we speak to Mr. Mortmain first and gather what impressions we can. You’re correct. He may know nothing at all, and there may be little connection. But it would be quite a coincidence, Henry. And I am very wary of coincidence.”
She glanced back down at the notes she’d made about Axel Mortmain. He was the only (and likely, though the notes did not specify, illegitimate) son of Dr. Hollingworth Mortmain, who in a matter of years had risen from the humble position of ship’s surgeon on a trading vessel bound for China to wealthy private trader, buying and selling spices and sugar, silk and tea, and—it wasn’t stated, but Charlotte was in agreement with Jem on the matter—probably opium. When Dr. Mortmain had died, his son, Axel, at barely twenty years of age, had inherited his fortune, which he’d promptly invested in building a fleet of ships faster and sleeker than any others plying the seas. Within a decade the younger Mortmain had doubled, then quadrupled, his father’s riches.
In more recent years he had retired from Shanghai to London, had sold his trading ships, and had used the money to buy a large company that produced the mechanical devices needed to make timepieces, everything from pocket watches to grandfather clocks. He was a very wealthy man.
The carriage drew up in front of one of a row of white terraced houses, each with tall windows looking out over the square. Henry leaned out of the carriage and read the number off a brass plaque affixed to a front gatepost. “This must be it.” He reached for the carriage door.
“Henry,” said Charlotte, placing a hand on his arm. “Henry, do keep in mind what we talked about this morning, won’t you?”
He smiled ruefully. “I will do my best not to embarrass you or trip up the investigation. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why you bring me along on these things. You know I’m a bumbler when it comes to people.”
“You’re not a bumbler, Henry,” Charlotte said gently. She longed to reach out and stroke his face, push his hair back and reassure him. But she held herself back. She knew—she had been advised enough times—not to force on Henry affection he probably did not want.
Leaving the carriage with the Lightwoods’ driver, they mounted the stairs and rang the bell; the door was opened by a footman wearing dark blue livery and a dour expression. “Good morning,” he said brusquely. “Might I inquire as to your business here?”