"Jessamine," she said. "I brought you something."
Jessamine very slowly raised her face. "Is it from Nate?"
"No," Tessa answered gently. "It’s something of yours." She reached into her pocket and drew it out, extending her hand toward Jessamine. In her palm lay a tiny baby dol that she had taken from its crib inside Jessamine’s dol ‘s house. "Baby Jessie."
Jessamine made an "oh" sound low in her throat, and plucked the dol from Tessa’s grasp. She held it tightly, against her chest. Her eyes spilled over, her tears making tracks in the grime on her face. She really was a most pitiful sight, Tessa thought. If only . . .
"Jessamine," Tessa said again. She felt as if Jessamine were an animal in need of gentling, and that repeating her name in a kind tone might somehow help. "We need your help."
"In betraying Nate," Jessamine snapped. "But I don’t know anything. I don’t even know why I’m here."
"Yes, you do." It was Jem, coming into the cell. He was flushed and a little out of breath, as if he had been hurrying. He shot Tessa a conspiratorial glance and closed the door behind him. "You know exactly why you’re here, Jessie-"
"Because I fell in love!" Jessamine snapped. "You ought to know what that’s like. I see how you look at Tessa." She shot Tessa a poisonous look as Tessa’s cheeks flamed. "At least Nate is human."
Jem didn’t lose his composure. "I haven’t betrayed the Institute for Tessa,"
he said. "I haven’t lied to and endangered those who have cared for me since I was orphaned."
"If you wouldn’t," said Jessamine, "you don’t really love her."
"If she asked me to," said Jem, "I would know she did not really love me."
Jessamine sucked in a breath and turned away from him, as if he had slapped her face. "You," she said in a muffled voice. "I always thought you were the nicest one. But you’re horrible. You’re all horrible. Charlotte tortured me with that Mortal Sword until I told everything. What more could you possibly want from me? You’ve already forced me to betray the man I love."
At the very corner of Tessa’s vision, she saw Jem rol his eyes. There was a certain theatricality to Jessamine’s despair, as there was to everything she did, but under it-under the role of wronged woman Jessamine had cast herself in-Tessa felt she was genuinely afraid.
"I know you love Nate," Tessa said. "And I know that I Will not be able to convince you that he does not return your sentiment."
"Jessamine, Nate cannot love you. There is something wrong with him- some piece missing from his heart. God knows my aunt and I tried to ignore it, to tell each other it was boyish high-jinks and thoughtlessness. But he murdered our aunt-did he tell you that?-murdered the woman who brought him up, and laughed to me about it later. He has no empathy, no capacity for gratitude. If you shield him now, it Will win you nothing in his eyes."
"Nor is it likely you Will ever see him again," said Jem. "If you do not help us, the Clave Will never let you go. It Will be you and the dead down here for eternity, if you are not punished with a curse."
"Nate said you would try to frighten me," said Jessamine in a sliver of a voice.
"Nate also said the Clave and Charlotte would do nothing to you because they were weak," said Tessa. "That has not proven true. He said to you only what he had to say, to get you to do what he wanted you to. He is my brother, and I tell you, he is a cheat and a liar."
"We need you to write a letter to him," said Jem. "Tel ing him you have knowledge of a secret Shadowhunter plot against Mortmain, and to meet you tonight-"
Jessamine shook her head, plucking at the rough blanket. "I Will not betray him."
"Jessie." Jem’s voice was soft; Tessa did not know how Jessamine could hold out against him. "Please. We are only asking you to save yourself. Send this message; tell us your usual meeting place. That is all we ask."
Jessamine shook her head. "Mortmain," she said. "Mortmain Will yet win out over you. Then the Silent Brothers Will be defeated and Nate Will come to claim me."
"Very well," said Tessa. "Imagine that does happen. You say Nate loves you. Then, he would forgive you anything, wouldn’t he? Because when a man loves a woman, he understands that she is weak. That she cannot hold out against, for instance, torture, in the manner in which he could."
Jessamine made a whimpering sound.
"He understands that she is frail and delicate and easily led," Tessa went on, and gently touched Jessamine’s arm. "Jessie, you see your choice. If you do not help us, the Clave Will know it, and they Will not be lenient with you. If you do help us, Nate Will understand. If he loves you . . . he has no choice. For love means forgiveness."
"I . . ." Jessamine looked from one of them to the other, like a frightened rabbit. "Would you forgive Tessa, if it were her?"
"I would forgive Tessa anything," Jem said gravely.
Tessa could not see his expression, she was facing Jessamine, but she felt her heart skip a beat. She could not look at Jem, too afraid her expression would betray her feelings.
"Jessie, please," she said instead.
Jessamine was silent for a long time. When she spoke, final y, her voice was as thin as a thread. "You Will be meeting him, I suppose, disguised as me."
"You must wear boys’ clothes," she said. "When I meet him at night, I am always dressed as a boy. It is safer for me to traverse the streets alone like that. He Will expect it." She looked up, pushing her matted hair out of her face. "Have you a pen and paper?" she added. "I Will write the note."
She took the proffered items from Jem and began to scribble. "I ought to get something in return for this," she said. "If they Will not let me out-"
"They Will not," said Jem, "until it is determined that your information is good."
"Then they ought to at least give me better food. It’s dreadful here. Just gruel and hard bread." Having finished scribbling the note, she handed it to Tessa. "The boys’ clothes I wear are behind the dol ‘s house in my room.
Take care moving it," she added, and for a moment again she was Jessamine, her brown eyes haughty. "And if you must borrow some of my clothes, do. You’ve been wearing the same four dresses I bought you in June over and over. That yel ow one is practical y ancient. And if you don’t want anyone to know you’ve been kissing in carriages, you should refrain from wearing a hat with easily crushed flowers on it. People aren’t blind, you know."
"So it seems," said Jem with great gravity, and when Tessa looked over at him, he smiled, just at her.
Chapter 15: Thousands More
There is something horrible about a flower;
This, broken in my hand, is one of those
He threw it in just now; it will not live another hour;
There are thousands more; you do not miss a rose.
-Charlotte Mew, "In Nunhead Cemetery"
The rest of the day at the Institute passed in a mood of great tension, as the Shadowhunters prepared for their confrontation with Nate that night. There were no formal meals again, only a great deal of rushing about, as weapons were readied and polished, gear was prepared, and maps consulted while Bridget, warbling mournful bal ads, carried trays of sandwiches and tea up and down the hal s.
If it hadn’t been for Sophie’s invitation to "come and have a pickle" Tessa probably wouldn’t have eaten anything all day; as it was, her knotted throat would all ow only a few bites of sandwich to slide down before she felt as if she were choking.
I’m going to see Nate tonight, she thought, staring at herself in the pier glass as Sophie knelt at her feet, lacing up her boots-boys’ boots from Jessamine’s hidden trove of male clothing.
And then I am going to betray him.
She thought of the way Nate had lain in her lap in the carriage on the way from de Quincey’s, and the way he had shrieked her name and held on to her when Brother Enoch had appeared. She wondered how much of that had been show. Probably at least part of him had been truly terrified- abandoned by Mortmain, hated by de Quincey, in the hands of Shadowhunters he had no reason to trust.
Except that she had told him they were trustworthy. And he had not cared.
He had wanted what Mortmain was offering him. More than he had wanted her safety. More than he had cared about anything else. all the years between them, the time that had knitted them together so closely that she had thought them inseparable, had meant nothing to him.
"You can’t brood on it, miss," said Sophie, rising to her feet and dusting off her hands. "He aren’t-I mean, he isn’t worth it."
"Who isn’t worth it?"
"Your brother. Wasn’t that what you were thinking on?"
Tessa squinted suspiciously. "Can you tell what I’m thinking because you have the Sight?"
Sophie laughed. "Lord, no, miss. I can read it on your face like a book. You always have the same look when you think of Master Nathaniel. But he’s a bad hat, miss, not worth your thoughts."
"He’s my brother."
"That doesn’t mean you’re like him," said Sophie decisively. "Some are just born bad, and that’s all there is to it."
Some imp of the perverse made Tessa ask: "And what of Will ? Do you stil think he was born bad? Lovely and poisonous like a snake, you said."
Sophie raised her delicately arched eyebrows. "Master Will is a mystery, no doubt."
Before Tessa could reply the door swung open, and Jem stood in the doorway. "Charlotte sent me to give you-," he began, and broke off, staring at Tessa.
She looked down at herself. Trousers, shoes, shirt, waistcoat, all in order.
It was certainly a peculiar feeling, wearing men’s clothes-they were tight in places she was not used to clothes being tight, and loose in others, and they itched-but that hardly explained the look on Jem’s face.
"I . . ." Jem had flushed all over, red spreading up from his col ar to his face. "Charlotte sent me to tell you we’re waiting in the drawing room," he said. Then he turned around and left the room hurriedly.
"Goodness," Tessa said, perplexed. "What was that about?"
Sophie chuckled softly. "Well, look at yourself." Tessa looked. She was flushed, she thought, her hair tumbling loose over her shirt and waistcoat. The shirt had clearly been made with something of a feminine figure in mind, since it did not strain over the bosom as much as Tessa had feared it would; still, it was tight, thanks to Jessie’s smaller frame. The trousers were tight as well, as was the fashion, molding themselves to her legs. She cocked her head to the side. There was something indecent about it, wasn’t there? A man was not supposed to be able to see the shape of a lady’s upper legs, or so much of the curve of her hips. There was something about the men’s clothing that made her look not masculine but . . . undressed.
"My goodness," she said.
"Indeed," said Sophie. "Don’t worry. They’l fit better once you Change, and besides . . . he fancies you anyway."
"I-you know-I mean, you think he fancies me?"
"Quite," said Sophie, sounding unperturbed. "You should see the way he looks at you when he doesn’t think you see. Or looks up when a door opens, and is always disappointed when it isn’t you. Master Jem, he isn’t like Master Will. He can’t hide what he’s thinking."
"And you’re not . . ." Tessa searched for words. "Sophie, you’re not-put out with me?"
"Why would I be put out with you?" A little of the amusement had gone out of Sophie’s voice, and now she sounded careful y neutral.
You’re in for it now, Tessa, she thought. "I thought perhaps that there was a time when you looked at Jem with a certain admiration. That is all. I meant nothing improper, Sophie."
Sophie was silent for such a long time that Tessa was sure she was angry, or worse, terribly hurt. Instead she said, final y, "There was a time when I- when I admired him. He was so gentle and so kind, not like any man I’d known. And so lovely to look at, and the music he makes-" She shook her head, and her dark ringlets bounced. "But he never cared for me. Never by a word or a gesture did he lead me to believe he returned my admiration, though he was never unkind."
"Sophie," Tessa said softly. "You have been more than a maidservant since I have come here. You have been a good friend. I would not do anything that might hurt you."
Sophie looked up at her. "Do you care for him?"
"I think," Tessa said with slow caution, "that I do."
"Good." Sophie exhaled. "He deserves that. To be happy. Master Will has always been the brighter burning star, the one to catch attention-but Jem is a steady flame, unwavering and honest. He could make you happy."
"And you would not object?"
"Object?" Sophie shook her head. "Oh, Miss Tessa, it is kind of you to care what I think, but no. I would not object. My fondness for him-and that is all it was, a girlish fondness-has quite cooled into friendship. I wish only his happiness and yours."
Tessa was amazed. all the worrying she had done about Sophie’s feelings, and Sophie didn’t mind at all. What had changed since Sophie had wept over Jem’s il ness the night of the Blackfriars Bridge debacle? Unless . . . "Have you been walking out with someone? Cyril, or . . ."
Sophie rol ed her eyes. "Oh, Lord have mercy on us all. First Thomas, now Cyril. When will you stop trying to marry me off to the nearest available man?"
"There must be someone-"
"There’s no one," Sophie said firmly, rising to her feet and turning Tessa toward the pier glass. "There you are. Twist up your hair under your hat and you’l be the model of a gentleman."
Tessa did as she was told.
When Tessa came into the library, the smal band of Institute Shadowhunters -Jem, Will, Henry, and Charlotte, all in gear now-were grouped around a table on which a smal oblong device made of brass was balanced. Henry was gesturing at it animatedly, his voice rising. "This," he was saying, "is what I have been working on. For just this occasion. It is specifical y calibrated to function as a weapon against clockwork assassins."