In came lamplight, and Charlotte with it. Tessa felt an odd twinge, almost disappointment—but who else had she been expecting? Despite the late hour, Charlotte was dressed as if she planned to go out. Her face was very serious, and there were lines of tiredness below her dark eyes. “You’re awake?”
Tessa nodded, and lifted the book she had been reading. “Reading.”
Charlotte said nothing, but crossed the room and sat down at the foot of Tessa’s bed. She held out her hand. Something gleamed in her palm; it was Tessa’s angel pendant. “You left this with Henry.”
Tessa set her book down and took the pendant. She slipped the chain over her head, and felt reassured as the familiar weight settled against the hollow of her throat. “Did he learn anything from it?”
“I’m not sure. He said it was all clogged up on the inside with years of rust, that it was a wonder it was working at all. He cleaned out the mechanism, though it doesn’t seem to have resulted in much of a change. Perhaps it ticks more regularly now?”
“Perhaps.” Tessa didn’t care; she was just happy to have the angel, the symbol of her mother and her life in New York, back in her possession.
Charlotte folded her hands in her lap. “Tessa, there is something I haven’t told you.”
Tessa’s heart began to beat faster. “What is it?”
“Mortmain …” Charlotte hesitated. “When I said that Mortmain introduced your brother to the Pandemonium Club, that was true, but not the whole truth. Your brother already knew about the Shadow World, before Mortmain ever told him. It seems he learned about it from your father.”
Stunned, Tessa was silent.
“How old were you when your parents died?” Charlotte asked.
“It was an accident,” Tessa said, a little dazed. “I was three. Nate was six.”
Charlotte frowned. “So young for your father to confide in your brother, but … I suppose it’s possible.”
“No,” Tessa said. “No, you don’t understand. I had the most ordinary, the most human, upbringing imaginable. Aunt Harriet, she was the most practical woman in the world. And she would have known, wouldn’t she? She was mother’s younger sister; they brought her with them from London when they came to America.”
“People keep secrets, Tessa, sometimes even from the ones they love.” Charlotte brushed her fingers across the cover of the Codex, with its embossed seal. “And you must admit, it does make sense.”
“Sense? It doesn’t make any kind of sense!”
“Tessa …” Charlotte sighed. “We don’t know why you have the ability that you do. But if one of your parents was connected in some way to the magical world, doesn’t it make sense that that connection might have something to do with it? If your father was a member of the Pandemonium Club, isn’t that how de Quincey might have known about you?”
“I suppose.” Tessa spoke grudgingly. “It’s only … I believed so strongly when I first came to London that everything that was happening to me was a dream. That my life before had been real and this was a dreadful nightmare. I thought that if only I could find Nate, we could go back to the life we had before.” She raised her eyes to Charlotte’s. “But now I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the life I had before was the dream and all this was the truth. If my parents knew of the Pandemonium Club—if they were part of the Shadow World too—then there is no world I can go back to that will be clean of all this.”
Charlotte, her hands still folded in her lap, looked at Tessa steadily. “Have you ever wondered why Sophie’s face is scarred?”
Caught off guard, Tessa could only stammer. “I—I wondered, but I—didn’t like to ask.”
“Nor should you,” said Charlotte. Her voice was cool and firm. “When I first saw Sophie, she was crouched in a doorway, filthy, with a bloody rag clutched to her cheek. She saw me as I went by, even though I was glamoured at the time. That’s what drew my attention to her. She has a touch of the Sight, as do Thomas and Agatha. I offered her money, but she wouldn’t take it. I wheedled her into accompanying me to a tea shop, and she told me what had happened to her. She had been a parlor maid, in a fine house in St. John’s Wood. Parlor maids, of course, are chosen for their looks, and Sophie was beautiful—which turned out to be both a great advantage and a great disadvantage for her. As you might imagine, the son of the house took an interest in seducing her. She turned him away repeatedly. In a rage, he took a knife and cut open her face, saying that if he couldn’t have her, he’d make sure no one ever wanted her again.”
“How awful,” Tessa whispered.
“She went to her mistress, the boy’s mother, but he claimed that she’d tried to seduce him, and he’d taken up the knife to fight her off and protect his virtue. Of course, they threw her out on the street. By the time I found her, her cheek was badly infected. I brought her here and had the Silent Brothers see to her, but while they cured the infection, they couldn’t heal the scar.”
Tessa put her hand to her own face in a gesture of unconscious sympathy. “Poor Sophie.”
Charlotte cocked her head to the side and looked at Tessa out of her bright brown eyes. She had such a strong presence, Tessa thought, that it was hard to remember sometimes how physically small she was, how birdlike and tiny. “Sophie has a gift,” she said. “She has the Sight. She can see what others do not. In her old life she often wondered if she was mad. Now she knows that she is not mad but special. There, she was only a parlor maid, who would likely have lost her position once her looks had faded. Now she is a valued member of our household, a gifted girl with much to contribute.” Charlotte leaned forward. “You look back on the life you had, Tessa, and it seems safe to you in comparison to this one. But you and your aunt were very poor, if I am not mistaken. If you had not come to London, where would you have gone once she died? What would you have done? Would you have found yourself weeping in an alley like our Sophie?” Charlotte shook her head. “You have a power of incalculable value. You need ask nothing of anyone. You need depend on no one. You are free, and that freedom is a gift.”
“It is hard to think of something as a gift when you have been tormented and imprisoned for it.”
Charlotte shook her head. “Sophie said to me once that she was glad she had been scarred. She said that whoever loved her now would love her true self, and not her pretty face. This is your true self, Tessa. This power is who you are. Whoever loves you now—and you must also love yourself—will love the truth of you.”