Clockwork Prince (Page 28)

Clockwork Prince(28)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"That I Will die," Jem said. His eyes were wide, and fever-bright; there was a trace of blood, still, at the corner of his mouth. The shadows under his eyes were nearly blue.

Will dug his fingers into Jem’s wrist, denting the material of his shirt. Jem did not wince.

"You swore to stay with me," he said. "When we made our oath, as parabatai. Our souls are knit. We are one person, James."

"We are two people," said Jem. "Two people with a covenant between us."

Will knew he sounded like a child, but he could not help it. "A covenant that says you must not go where I cannot come with you."

"Until death," Jem replied gently. "Those are the words of the oath. ‘Until aught but death part thee and me.’ Someday, Will, I Will go where none can fol ow me, and I think it Will be sooner rather than later. Have you ever asked yourself why I agreed to be your parabatai?"

"No better offers forthcoming?" Will tried for humor, but his voice cracked like glass.

"I thought you needed me," Jem said. "There is a wal you have built about yourself, Will, and I have never asked you why. But no one should shoulder every burden alone. I thought you would let me inside if I became your parabatai, and then you would have at least someone to lean upon. I did wonder what my death would mean for you. I used to fear it, for your sake. I feared you would be left alone inside that wall. But now . . . something has changed. I do not know why. But I know that it is true."

"That what is true?" Will ‘s fingers were still digging into Jem’s wrist.

"That the wal is coming down."

Tessa could not get to sleep. She lay unmoving on her back, staring up at the ceiling. There was a crack across the plaster of it that looked sometimes like a cloud and sometimes like a razor, depending on the shift of the candlelight.

Dinner had been tense. Apparently Gabriel had told Charlotte that he refused to return and partake in the training anymore, so it was going to be only Gideon working with her and Sophie from now on. Gabriel had refused to say why, but it was clear Charlotte blamed Will ; Tessa, seeing how exhausted Charlotte looked at the prospect of more conflict with Benedict, had felt heavy with guilt for having brought Will with her to the training, and for having laughed at Gabriel.

It did not help that Jem had not been at dinner. She had wanted so badly to speak to him today. After he had avoided her eyes at breakfast and then been "il " at dinner, panic had twisted her stomach. Was he horrified by what had happened between them the night before-or worse, sickened? Maybe in his secret heart of hearts, he felt as Will did, that warlocks were beneath him. Or maybe it had nothing to do with what she was. Maybe he was simply repel ed by her wantonness; she had welcomed his embraces, not pushed him away, and hadn’t Aunt Harriet always said that men were weak where desire was concerned, and that women were the ones who had to exercise restraint?

She hadn’t exercised much last night. She remembered lying beside Jem, his gentle hands on her. She knew with a painful inner honesty that if things had continued, she would have done whatever he wanted. Even now, thinking about it, her body felt hot and restless; she shifted in bed, punching one of the pil ows. If she had destroyed the closeness she shared with Jem by all owing what had happened last night, she would never forgive herself.

She was about to bury her face in the pil ow, when she heard the noise. A soft rapping at the door. She froze. It came again, insistently. Jem. Her hands shaking, she leaped from the bed, ran to the door, and threw it open.

On the threshold stood Sophie. She wore her black housemaid’s dress, but her white cap had come askew and her dark curls were tumbling down.

Her face was very white and there was a spot of blood on her col ar; she looked horrified and almost sick.

"Sophie." Tessa’s voice betrayed her surprise. "Are you all right?"

Sophie looked around fearful y. "May I come in, miss?"

Tessa nodded and held the door open for her. When they were both safely inside, she bolted it and sat down on the edge of her bed, apprehension like a lead weight in her chest. Sophie remained standing, twisting her hands in front of her.

"Sophie, please, what is it?"

"It’s Miss Jessamine," Sophie burst out.

"What about Jessamine?"

"She . . . It’s just to say, I’ve seen her . . ." She broke off, looking wretched.

"She’s been slipping away in the nights, miss."

"Has she? I saw her last night, in the corridor, dressed as a boy and looking quite furtive. . . ."

Sophie looked relieved. She didn’t like Jessamine, Tessa knew that well enough, but she was a well -trained maid, and a well -trained maid did not tattle on her mistress. "Yes," she said eagerly. "I’ve been noticing it for days now. Her bed sometimes not slept in at all, mud on the rugs in the mornings when it weren’t there the night before. I would’ve told Mrs. Branwell, but she’s had so dreadful much on her mind, I couldn’t bear to."

"So why are you tell ing me?" Tessa asked. "It sounds as if Jessamine’s found herself a suitor. I can’t say I approve of her behavior, but"-she swal owed, thinking of her own behavior the night before-"neither of us is responsible for it. And perhaps there is some harmless explanation. . . ."

"Oh, but, miss." Sophie plunged her hand into the pocket of her dress and drew it out with a stiff cream-colored card clamped between her fingers.

"Tonight I found this. In the pocket of her new velvet jacket. You know, the one with the ecru stripe."

Tessa did not care about the ecru stripe. Her eyes were fixed on the card.

Slowly she reached out and took it, turning it over in her hand. It was an invitation to a ball.

July 20, 1878 Mr. BENEDICT LIGHTWOOD presents his compliments to MISS JESSA MINE LOVELA CE, and requests the honor of her company at a masquerade ball given on Tuesday next, the 27th of July. RSVP.

The invitation went on to give details of the address and the time the bal would begin, but it was what was written on the back of the invitation that froze Tessa’s blood. In a casual hand, as familiar to her as her own, were scrawled the words: My Jessie. My very heart is bursting at the thought of seeing you tomorrow night at the "great affair." However great it may be, I shall have eyes for nothing and no one but you. Do wear the white dress, darling, as you know how I like it-"in gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls," as the poet said. Yours always, N.G.

"Nate," Tessa said numbly, staring down at the letter. " Nate wrote this. And quoted Tennyson."

Sophie drew her breath in sharply. "I feared-but I thought it couldn’t be.

Not after all he did."

"I know my brother’s handwriting." Tessa’s voice was grim. "He’s planning to meet her tonight at this-this secret ball. Sophie, where is Jessamine? I must speak to her this instant."

Sophie’s hands began to twist more rapidly. "See, that’s the thing, miss-"

"Oh, God, has she gone already? We’l have to get Charlotte. I don’t see another way-"

"She hasn’t gone. She’s in her room," Sophie interrupted.

"So she doesn’t know you found this?" Tessa flapped the card.

Sophie swal owed visibly. "I-she found me with it in my hand, miss. I tried to hide it, but she’d already seen it. She had such a menacing look on her face when she came reaching for it, I couldn’t help myself. all the training sessions I’ve done with Master Gideon, they just took over and, well -"

"Well, what? Sophie-"

"I hit her on the head with a mirror," Sophie said hopelessly. "One of those silver-backed ones, so it was quite heavy. She went down just like a stone, miss. So I . . . I tied her to the bed and I came looking for you."

"Let me see if I have this quite correct," said Tessa after a pause.

"Jessamine found you with the invitation in your hand, so you struck her over the head with a mirror and tied her to her bed?"

Sophie nodded.

"Good Lord," said Tessa. "Sophie, we’re going to need to fetch someone.

This bal cannot remain a secret, and Jessamine . . ."

"Not Mrs. Branwell," Sophie moaned. "She’l sack me. She’l have to."

"Jem-"

"No!" Sophie’s hand flew to her col ar, where the spot of blood was.

Jessamine’s blood, Tessa realized with a jolt. "I couldn’t bear if he thought I could do such a thing-he’s so gentle. Please don’t make me tell him, miss."

Of course, Tessa thought. Sophie loved Jem. In all the mess of the past few days, she had nearly forgotten. A wave of shame swamped her as she thought of the night before; she fought it back, and said determinedly, "There is only one person, then, Sophie, whom we can go to. You do understand that?"

"Master Will," said Sophie with loathing, and sighed. "Very well, miss. I suppose I don’t care what he thinks of me."

Tessa rose and reached for her dressing gown, and wrapped it around herself. "Look upon the bright side, Sophie. At least Will won’t be shocked. I doubt Jessamine’s the first unconscious female he’s ever dealt with, or that she’l be the last either."

Tessa had been wrong about at least one thing: Will was shocked.

"Sophie did this?" he said, not for the first time. They were standing at the foot of Jessamine’s bed. She lay flung upon it, her chest rising and fal ing slowly like the famous Sleeping Beauty waxwork of Madame du Barry. Her fair hair was scattered on the pil ow, and a large, bloody welt ran across her forehead. Each of her wrists was tied to a post of the bed. "Our Sophie?"

Tessa glanced over at Sophie, who was sitting in a chair by the door. Her head was down, and she was staring at her hands. She studiously avoided looking at Tessa or Will.

"Yes," Tessa said, "and do stop repeating it."

"I think I may be in love with you, Sophie," said Will. "Marriage could be on the cards."

Sophie whimpered.

"Stop it," Tessa hissed. "I think you’re frightening the poor girl more than she’s already frightened."

"What’s to be frightened of? Jessamine? It looks like Sophie won that little altercation easily." Will was having trouble repressing a grin. "Sophie, my dear, there is nothing to worry about. Many’s the time I have wanted to hit Jessamine over the head myself. No one could blame you."

"She’s afraid Charlotte Will sack her," said Tessa.

"For hitting Jessamine?" Will relented. "Tess, if this invitation is what it looks like, and Jessamine is truly meeting your brother in secret, she may have betrayed us all. Not to mention, what is Benedict Lightwood doing, throwing parties that none of us know about? Parties to which Nate is invited? What Sophie did was heroic. Charlotte Will thank her."

At that, Sophie lifted her head. "Do you think so?"

"I know it," said Will. For a moment he and Sophie looked at each other steadily across the room. Sophie looked away first, but if Tessa was not mistaken, there had been-for the first time-no dislike in her eyes when she’d gazed at Will.

From his belt Will drew his stele. He sat down on the bed beside Jessamine and gently brushed aside her hair. Tessa bit her lip, restraining the impulse to ask him what he was doing.

He laid his stele against Jessamine’s throat and quickly sketched two runes. "An iratze," he said, without Tessa’s having to ask. "That is, a healing rune, and a Sleep Now rune. This should keep her quiet at least until morning. Your skil with a hand mirror is to be admired, Sophie, but your knot making could be improved."

Sophie muttered something under her breath in response. The suspension of her dislike of Will appeared to be over.

"The question," said Will, "is what to do now."

"We must tell Charlotte-"

"No," Will said firmly. "We must not."

Tessa looked at him in astonishment. "Why not?"

"Two reasons," said Will. "First, she would be duty-bound to tell the Clave, and if Benedict Lightwood is hosting this ball, I would make a fair guess that some of his fol owers Will be there. But they might not all be. If the Clave is warned, they may be able to get word to him before anyone can arrive to observe what is truly going on. Second, the bal began an hour ago. We do not know when Nate Will arrive, seeking Jessamine, and if he does not see her, he may well depart. He is the best connection to Mortmain we have. We do not have any time to lose or waste, and waking Charlotte to tell her of this Will do both."

"Jem, then?"

Something flickered in Will ‘s eyes. "No. Not tonight. Jem is not well enough, but he Will say he is. After last night I owe it to him to leave him out of this."

Tessa looked at him hard. "Then what do you propose to do?"

Will ‘s mouth quirked up at both corners. "Miss Gray," he said, "would you be amenable to attending a bal with me?"

"Do you remember the last party we went to?" Tessa inquired.

Will ‘s smile remained. He had that look of heightened intensity that he wore when he was strategizing a plan. "Don’t tell me that you weren’t thinking the same thing I was, Tessa."

Tessa sighed. "Yes," she said. "I shall Change into Jessamine and go in her place. It is the only plan that makes sense." She turned to Sophie. "Do you know the dress Nate spoke of? A white dress of Jessamine’s?"

Sophie nodded.

"Get it brushed and ready to be worn," said Tessa. "You Will have to do my hair as well, Sophie. Are you calm enough?"

"Yes, miss." Sophie got to her feet and scurried across the room to the wardrobe, which she threw open. Will was still looking at Tessa; his smile widened.

Tessa lowered her voice. "Will, has it crossed your mind that Mortmain might be there?"

The smile vanished from Will ‘s face. "You Will go nowhere near him if he is."

"You cannot tell me what to do."

Will frowned. He was not reacting at all in the way Tessa felt he should.

When Capitola in The Hidden Hand dressed up as a boy and took on the marauding Black Donald to prove her bravery, no one snapped at her.