“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.”
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.
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—”