Clockwork Prince (Page 46)

Clockwork Prince(46)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"He’s Nephilim," said Woolsey. "And you’ve never cared for them. How much did he pay you to summon Marbas for him?"

"Nothing," said Magnus, and now he was not seeing anything that was there, not the river, not Will, only a wash of memories-eyes, faces, lips, receding into memory, love that he could no longer put a name to. "He did me a favor. One he doesn’t even remember."

"He’s very pretty," said Woolsey. "For a human."

"He’s very broken," said Magnus. "Like a lovely vase that someone has smashed. Only luck and skil can put it back together the way it was before."

"Or magic."

"I’ve done what I can," Magnus said softly as Will pushed the latch, at last, and the gate swung open. He stepped out onto the Walk.

"He doesn’t look very happy," Woolsey observed. "Whatever it was you did for him . . ."

"At the moment he is in shock," said Magnus. "He has believed one thing for five years, and now he has realized that all this time he has been looking at the world through a faulty mechanism-that all the things he sacrificed in the name of what he thought was good and noble have been a waste, and that he has only hurt what he loved."

"Good God," said Woolsey. "Are you quite sure you’ve helped him?"

Will stepped through the gate, and it swung shut behind him. "Quite sure,"

said Magnus. "It is always better to live the truth than to live a lie. And that lie would have kept him alone forever. He may have had nearly nothing for five years, but now he can have everything. A boy who looks like that . . ."

Woolsey chuckled.

"Though he had already given his heart away," Magnus said. "Perhaps it is for the best. What he needs now is to love and have that love returned. He has not had an easy life for one so young. I only hope she understands."

Even from this distance Magnus could see Will take a deep breath, square his shoulders, and set off down the Walk. And-Magnus was quite sure he was not imagining it-there seemed to be almost a spring in his step.

"You cannot save every fal en bird," said Woolsey, leaning back against the wal and crossing his arms. "Even the handsome ones."

"One Will do," said Magnus, and, as Will was no longer within his sight, he let the front door fal shut.

Chapter 18: Until I Die

My whole life long I learn’d to love.

This hour my utmost art I prove

And speak my passion-heaven or hell?

She will not give me heaven? ‘Tis well!

-Robert Browning, "One Way of Love"

"Miss. Miss!" Tessa woke slowly, Sophie shaking her shoulder. Sunlight was streaming through the windows high above. Sophie was smiling, her eyes alight. "Mrs. Branwel ‘s sent me to bring you back to your room. You can’t stay here forever."

"Ugh. I wouldn’t want to!" Tessa sat up, then closed her eyes as dizziness washed through her. "You might have to help me up, Sophie," she said in an apologetic voice. "I’m not as steady as I could be."

"Of course, miss." Sophie reached down and briskly helped Tessa out of the bed. Despite her slenderness, she was quite strong. She’d have to be, wouldn’t she, Tessa thought, from years of carrying heavy laundry up and down stairs, and coal from the coal scuttle to the grates. Tessa winced a bit as her feet struck the cold floor, and couldn’t help glancing over to see if Will was in his infirmary bed.

He wasn’t.

"Is Will all right?" she asked as Sophie helped her slide her feet into slippers. "I woke for a bit yesterday and saw them taking the metal out of his back. It looked dreadful."

Sophie snorted. "Looked worse than it was, then. Mr. Herondale barely let them iratze him before he left. Off into the night to do the devil knows what."

"Was he? I could have sworn I spoke to him last night." They were in the corridor now, Sophie guiding Tessa with a gentle hand on her back. Images were starting to take shape in Tessa’s head. Images of Will in the moonlight, of herself tell ing him that nothing mattered, it was only a dream-and it had been, hadn’t it?

"You must have dreamed it, miss." They had reached Tessa’s room, and Sophie was distracted, trying to get the doorknob turned without letting go of Tessa.

"It’s all right, Sophie. I can stand on my own."

Sophie protested, but Tessa insisted firmly enough that Sophie soon had the door open and was stoking the fire in the grate while Tessa sank into an armchair. There was a pot of tea and a plate of sandwiches on the table beside the bed, and she helped herself to it grateful y. She no longer felt dizzy, but she did feel tired, with a weariness that was more spiritual than physical. She remembered the bitter taste of the tisane she’d drunk, and the way it had felt to be held by Will -but that had been a dream. She wondered how much else of what she’d seen last night had been a dream-Jem whispering at the foot of her bed, Jessamine sobbing into her blankets in the Silent City . . .

"I was sorry to hear about your brother, miss." Sophie was on her knees by the fire, the rekindling flames playing over her lovely face. Her head was bent, and Tessa could not see her scar.

"You don’t have to say that, Sophie. I know it was his fault, real y, about Agatha-and Thomas-"

"But he was your brother." Sophie’s voice was firm. "Blood mourns blood."

She bent farther over the coals, and there was something about the kindness in her voice, and the way her hair curled, dark and vulnerable, against the nape of her neck, that made Tessa say: "Sophie, I saw you with Gideon the other day."

Sophie stiffened immediately, all over, without turning to look at Tessa.

"What do you mean, miss?"

"I came back to get my necklace," Tessa said. "My clockwork angel. For luck. And I saw you with Gideon in the corridor." She swal owed. "He was . . .

pressing your hand. Like a suitor."

There was a long, long silence, while Sophie stared into the flickering fire.

At last she said, "Are you going to tell Mrs. Branwel ?"

Tessa recoiled. "What? Sophie, no! I just-wanted to warn you."

Sophie’s voice was flat. "Warn me against what?"

"The Lightwoods . . ." Tessa swal owed. "They are not nice people. When I was at their house-with Will -I saw dreadful things, awful-"

"That’s Mr. Lightwood, not his sons!" The sharpness in Sophie’s voice made Tessa flinch. "They’re not like him!"

"How different could they be?"

Sophie stood up, the poker clattering into the fire. "You think I’m such a fool that I’d let some half-hour gentleman make a mockery of me after all I been through? After all Mrs. Branwel ‘s taught me? Gideon’s a good man-"

"It’s a question of upbringing, Sophie! Can you picture him going to Benedict Lightwood and saying he wants to marry a mundane, and a parlor maid to boot? Can you see him doing that?"

Sophie’s face twisted. "You don’t know anything," she said. "You don’t know what he’d do for us-"

"You mean the training?" Tessa was incredulous. "Sophie, real y-"

But Sophie, shaking her head, had gathered up her skirts and stalked from the room, letting the door slam shut behind her.

Charlotte, her elbows on the desk in the drawing room, sighed and bal ed up her fourteenth piece of paper, and tossed it into the fireplace. The fire sparked up for a moment, consuming the paper as it turned black and fell to ashes.

She picked up her pen, dipped it into the inkwell, and began again.

I, Charlotte Mary Branwell, daughter of Nephilim, do hereby and on this date tender my resignation as the director of the London Institute, on behalf of myself and of my husband, Henry Jocelyn Branwell- "Charlotte?"

Her hand jerked, sending a blot of ink sprawling across the page, ruining her careful lettering. She looked up and saw Henry hovering by the desk, a worried look on his thin, freckled face. She set her pen down. She was conscious, as she always was with Henry and rarely at any other times, of her physical appearance-that her hair was escaping from its chignon, that her dress was not new and had an ink blot on the sleeve, and that her eyes were tired and puffy from weeping.

"What is it, Henry?"

Henry hesitated. "It’s just that I’ve been-Darling, what are you writing?" He came around the desk, glancing over her shoulder. "Charlotte!" He snatched the paper off the desk; though ink had smeared through the letters, enough of what she had written was left for him to get the gist. "Resigning from the Institute? How can you?"

"Better to resign than to have Consul Wayland come in over my head and force me out," Charlotte said quietly.

"Don’t you mean ‘us’?" Henry looked hurt. "Should I have at least a say in this decision?"

"You’ve never taken an interest in the running of the Institute before. Why would you now?"

Henry looked as if she had slapped him, and it was all Charlotte could do not to get up and put her arms around him and kiss his freckled cheek. She remembered, when she had fal en in love with him, how she had thought he reminded her of an adorable puppy, with his hands just a bit too large for the rest of him, his wide hazel eyes, his eager demeanor. That the mind behind those eyes was as sharp and intel igent as her own was something she had always believed, even when others had laughed at Henry’s eccentricities.

She had always thought it would be enough just to be near him always, and love him whether he loved her or not. But that had been before.

"Charlotte," he said now. "I know why you’re angry with me."

Her chin jerked up in surprise. Could he truly be that perceptive? Despite her conversation with Brother Enoch, she had thought no one had noticed.

She had barely been able to think about it herself, much less how Henry would react when he knew. "You do?"

"I wouldn’t go with you to meet with Woolsey Scott."

Relief and disappointment warred in Charlotte’s breast. "Henry," she sighed. "That is hardly-"

"I didn’t realize," he said. "Sometimes I get so caught up in my ideas.

You’ve always known that about me, Lottie."

Charlotte flushed. He so rarely called her that.

"I would change it if I could. Of all the people in the world, I did think you understood. You know-you know it isn’t just tinkering for me. You know I want to create something that Will make the world better, that Will make things better for the Nephilim. Just as you do, in directing the Institute. And though I know I Will always come second for you-"

"Second for me?" Charlotte’s voice shot up to an incredulous squeak.

"You come second for me?"

"It’s all right, Lottie," Henry said with incredible gentleness. "I knew when you agreed to marry me that it was because you needed to be married to run the Institute, that no one would accept a woman alone in the position of director-"

"Henry." Charlotte rose to her feet, trembling. "How can you say such terrible things to me?"

Henry looked baffled. "I thought that was just the way it was-"

"Do you think I don’t know why you married me?" Charlotte cried. "Do you think I don’t know about the money your father owed my father, or that my father promised to forgive the debt if you’d marry me? He always wanted a boy, someone to run the Institute after him, and if he couldn’t have that, well, why not pay to marry his unmarriageable daughter-too plain, too headstrong-off to some poor boy who was just doing his duty by his family -"

"CHARLOTTE." Henry had turned brick red. She had never seen him so angry. "WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?"

Charlotte braced herself against the desk. "You know very well," she said.

"It is why you married me, isn’t it?"

"You’ve never said a word about this to me before today!"

"Why would I? It’s nothing you didn’t know."

"It is, actual y." Henry’s eyes were blazing. "I know nothing of my father’s owing yours anything. I went to your father in good faith and asked him if he would do me the honor of all owing me to ask for your hand in marriage.

There was never any discussion of money!"

Charlotte caught her breath. In the years they had been married, she had never said a word about the circumstances of her betrothal to Henry; there had never seemed a reason, and she had never before wanted to hear any stammered denials of what she knew was true. Hadn’t her father said it to her when he had told her of Henry’s proposal? He is a good enough man, better than his father, and you need some sort of a husband, Charlotte, if you are going to direct the Institute. I’ve forgiven his father’s debts, so that matter is closed between our families.

Of course, he had never said, not in so many words, that that was why Henry had asked to marry her. She had assumed . . .

"You are not plain," Henry said, his face still blazing. "You are beautiful.

And I didn’t ask your father if I could marry you out of duty; I did it because I loved you. I’ve always loved you. I’m your husband."

"I didn’t think you wanted to be," she whispered.

Henry was shaking his head. "I know people call me eccentric. Peculiar.

Even mad. all of those things. I’ve never minded. But for you to think I’d be so weak-wil ed-Do you even love me at all?"

"Of course I love you!" Charlotte cried. "That was never in question."

"Wasn’t it? Do you think I don’t hear what people say? They speak about me as if I weren’t there, as if I were some sort of half-wit. I’ve heard Benedict Lightwood say enough times that you married me only so that you could pretend a man was running the Institute-"

Now it was Charlotte’s turn to be angry. "And you criticize me for thinking you weak-wil ed! Henry, I’d never marry you for that reason, never in a thousand years. I’d give up the Institute in a moment before I’d give up . . ."

Henry was staring at her, his hazel eyes wide, his ginger hair bristling as if he had run his hands madly through it so many times that he was in danger of pul ing it out in chunks. "Before you’d give up what?"