"Then, yes," she said. "Yes, I Will marry you, James Carstairs. Yes."
"Oh, thank God," he said, exhaling. "Thank God." And he buried his face in her lap, wrapping his arms around her waist. She bent over him, stroking his shoulders, his back, the silk of his hair. His heart pounded against her knees.
Some smal inner part of her was reeling with amazement. She had never imagined she had the power to make someone else so happy. And not a magical power either-a purely human one.
A knock came at the door; they sprang apart. Tessa hastily rose to her feet and made her way to the door, pausing to smooth down her hair-and, she hoped, calm her expression-before opening it. This time it really was Sophie. Though, her mutinous expression showed she had not come of her own accord. "Charlotte is summoning you to the drawing room, miss," she said. "Master Will has returned, and she wishes to have a meeting." She glanced past Tessa, and her expression soured further. "You, too, Master Jem."
"Sophie-," Tessa began, but Sophie had already turned and was hurrying away, her white cap bobbing. Tessa tightened her grip on the doorknob, looking after her. Sophie had said that she did not mind Jem’s feelings for Tessa, and Tessa knew now that Gideon was the reason why. Still. . .
She felt Jem come up behind her and slip his hands into hers. His fingers were slender; she closed her own around them, and let out her held breath.
Was this what it meant to love someone? That any burden was a burden shared, that they could give you comfort with a word or a touch? She leaned her head back against his shoulder, and he kissed her temple. "We’l tel Charlotte first, when there’s a chance," he said, "and then the others. Once the fate of the Institute is decided . . ."
"You sound as if you don’t mind what happens to it," said Tessa. "Won’t you miss it here? This place has been your home."
His fingers stroked her wrist lightly, making her shiver. "You are home for me now."
Chapter 19: If Treason Doth Prosper
Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
-Sir John Harrington
Sophie was tending a blazing fire in the drawing room grate, and the room was warm, almost stuffy. Charlotte sat behind her desk, Henry in a chair beside her. Will was sprawled in one of the flowered armchairs beside the fire, a silver tea service at his elbow and a cup in his hand. When Tessa walked in, he sat upright so abruptly that some of the tea spilled on his sleeve; he set the cup down without taking his eyes off her.
He looked exhausted, as if he had been walking all night. He still wore his overcoat, of dark blue wool with a red silk lining, and the legs of his black trousers were splattered with mud. His hair was damp and tangled, his face pale, his jaw dark with the shadow of stubble. But the moment he saw Tessa, his eyes glowed like lanterns at the touch of the lamplighter’s match. His whole face changed, and he gazed upon her with such an inexplicable delight that Tessa, astonished, stopped in her tracks, causing Jem to bump into her. For that moment, she could not look away from Will ; it was as if he held her gaze to him, and she remembered again the dream she had had the night before, that she was being comforted by him in the infirmary. Could he read the memory of it on her face? Was that why he was staring?
Jem peered around her shoulder. "Hal o, Will. Sure it was a good idea to spend all night out in the rain when you’re still healing?"
Will tore his eyes away from Tessa. "I am quite sure," he said firmly. "I had to walk. To clear my head."
"And is your head clear now?"
"Like crystal," Will said, returning his gaze to Tessa, and the same thing happened again. Their gazes seemed to lock together, and she had to tear her eyes away and move across the room to sit on the sofa near the desk, where Will was not in her direct line of sight. Jem came and sat down beside her, but did not reach for her hand. She wondered what would happen if they announced what had just happened now, casual y: The two of us are going to be married.
But Jem had been correct; it was not the right time for that. Charlotte looked as if, like Will, she had been awake all night; her skin was a sickly yel ow color, and there were dark auburn bruises beneath her eyes. Henry sat beside her at the desk, his hand protectively over hers, watching her with a worried expression.
"We are all here, then," Charlotte said briskly, and for a moment Tessa wanted to remark that they were not, for Jessamine was not with them. She stayed silent. "As you probably know, we are near the end of the two-week period granted to us by Consul Wayland. We have not discovered the whereabouts of Mortmain. According to Enoch, the Silent Brothers have examined Nathaniel Gray’s body and learned nothing from it, and as he is dead, we can learn nothing from him."
And as he is dead. Tessa thought of Nate as she remembered him, when they had been very young, chasing dragonflies in the park. He had fal en in the pond, and she and Aunt Harriet-his mother-had helped to pul him out; his hand had been slippery with water and green-growing underwater plants.
She remembered his hand sliding out of hers in the tea warehouse, slippery with blood. You don’t know everything I’ve done, Tessie.
"We can certainly report what we know about Benedict to the Clave,"
Charlotte was saying when Tessa forcibly snapped her mind back to the conversation at hand. "It would seem to be the sensible course of action."
Tessa swal owed. "What about what Jessamine said? That we’d be playing into Mortmain’s hands by doing so."
"But we cannot do nothing," said Will. "We cannot sit back and hand over the keys to the Institute to Benedict Lightwood and his lamentable offspring.
They are Mortmain. Benedict is his puppet. We must try. By the Angel, haven’t we enough evidence? Enough to earn him a trial by the Sword, at least."
"When we tried the Sword on Jessamine, there were blocks in her mind put there by Mortmain," Charlotte said wearily. "Do you think Mortmain would be so unwise as to not take the same precaution with Benedict? We Will look like fools if the Sword can get nothing out of him."
Will ran his hands through his black hair. "Mortmain expects us to go to the Clave," he said. "It would be his first assumption. He is also used to cutting free associates for whom he no longer has a use. De Quincey, for instance.
Lightwood is not irreplaceable to him, and knows it." He drummed his fingers on his knees. "I think that if we went to the Clave, we could certainly get Benedict taken out of the running for leadership of the Institute. But there is a segment of the Clave that fol ows his lead; some are known to us, but others are not. It is a sad fact, but we do not know whom we can trust beyond ourselves. The Institute is secure with us, and we cannot all ow it to be taken away. Where else Will Tessa be safe?"
Tessa blinked. "Me?"
Will looked taken aback, as if startled by what he had just said. "Well, you are an integral part of Mortmain’s plan. He has always wanted you. He has always needed you. We must not let him have you. Clearly you would be a powerful weapon in his hands."
"All of that is true, Will, and of course I Will go to the Consul," said Charlotte.
"But as an ordinary Shadowhunter, not as head of the Institute."
"But why, Charlotte?" Jem demanded. "You excel at your work-"
"Do I?" she demanded. "For the second time I have not noted a spy under my own roof; Will and Tessa easily evaded my guardianship to attend Benedict’s party; our plan to capture Nate, which we never shared with the Consul, went awry, leaving us with a potential y important witness dead-"
"Lottie!" Henry put his hand on his wife’s arm.
"I am not fit to run this place," said Charlotte. "Benedict was right. . . . I Will of course try to convince the Clave of his guilt. Someone else Will run the Institute. It Will not be Benedict, I hope, but it Will not be me, either-"
There was a clatter. "Mrs. Branwell!" It was Sophie. She had dropped the poker and turned away from the fire. "You can’t resign, ma’am. You-you simply can’t."
"Sophie," Charlotte said very kindly. "Wherever we go after this, wherever Henry and I set up our household, we Will bring you-"
"It isn’t that," Sophie said in a smal voice. Her eyes darted around the room. "Miss Jessamine-She were-I mean, she was tell ing the truth. If you go to the Clave like this, you’l be playing into Mortmain’s plans."
Charlotte looked at her, perplexed. "What makes you say that?"
"I don’t-I don’t know exactly." Sophie looked at the floor. "But I know it’s true."
"Sophie?" Charlotte’s tone was querulous, and Tessa knew what she was thinking: Did they have another spy, another serpent in their garden? Will, too, was leaning forward with narrowed eyes.
"Sophie’s not lying," Tessa said abruptly. "She knows because-because we overheard Gideon and Gabriel speaking of it in the training room."
"And you only now decided to mention it?" Will arched his brows.
Suddenly, unreasonably furious with him, Tessa snapped, "Be quiet, Will. If you-"
"I’ve been stepping out with him," Sophie interrupted loudly. "With Gideon Lightwood. Seeing him on my days off." She was as pale as a ghost. "He told me. He heard his father laughing about it. They knew Jessamine was found out. They were hoping you’d go to the Clave. I should’ve said something, but it seemed like you didn’t want to go to them anyways, so I . . ."
"Stepping out?" said Henry incredulously. "With Gideon Lightwood?"
Sophie kept her attention on Charlotte, who was gazing at her, round- eyed. "I know what Mortmain is holding over Mr. Lightwood too," she said.
"Gideon only just found out. His father doesn’t know he knows."
"Well, dear God, girl, don’t just stand there," said Henry, who looked as poleaxed as his wife. "Tel us."
"Demon pox," said Sophie. "Mr. Lightwood’s got it, has had for years, and it’l kil him in a right couple of months if he doesn’t get the cure. And Mortmain said he can get it for him."
The room exploded in a hubbub. Charlotte raced over to Sophie; Henry call ed after her; Will leaped from his chair and was dancing in a circle. Tessa stayed where she was, stunned, and Jem remained beside her. Meanwhile, Will appeared to be singing a song about how he had been right about demon pox all along.
"Demon pox, oh, demon pox,
Just how is it acquired?
One must go down to the bad part of town
Until one is very tired.
Demon pox, oh, demon pox
I had it all along-
No, not the pox, you foolish blocks,
I mean this very song-
For I was right, and you were wrong!"
"Will!" Charlotte shouted over the noise. "Have you LOST YOUR MIND? CEASE THAT INFERNAL RACKET! Jem-"
Jem, rising to his feet, clapped his hands over Will ‘s mouth. "Do you promise to be quiet?" he hissed into his friend’s ear.
Will nodded, blue eyes blazing. Tessa was staring at him in amazement; they all were. She had seen Will many things-amused, bitter, condescending, angry, pitying-but never giddy before.
Jem let him go. "Al right, then."
Will slid to the floor, his back against the armchair, and threw his arms up.
"A demon pox on all your houses!" he announced, and yawned.
"Oh God, weeks of pox jokes," said Jem. "We’re for it now."
"It can’t be true," said Charlotte. "It’s simply-demon pox?"
"How do we know Gideon did not lie to Sophie?" asked Jem, his tone mild. "I am sorry, Sophie. I hate to have to say it, but the Lightwoods are not trustworthy. . . ."
"I’ve seen Gideon’s face when he looks at Sophie," said Will. "It was Tessa who told me first that Gideon fancied our Miss Col ins, and I thought back, and I realized it was true. And a man in love-a man in love Will tell anything.
Betray anyone." He was staring at Tessa as he spoke. She stared back; she could not help it. Her gaze felt pulled to him. The way he looked at her, with those blue eyes like pieces of sky, as if trying to communicate something to her silently. But what on earth . . . ?
She did owe him her life, she realized with a start. Perhaps he had been waiting for her to thank him. But there had been no time, no chance! She resolved to thank him at the first opportunity that presented itself. "Besides, Benedict was holding a demon woman on his lap at that party of his, kissing her," Will went on, glancing away. "She had snakes for eyes. Each man to his own, I suppose. Anyway, the only way you can contract demon pox is by having improper relations with a demon, so . . ."
"Nate told me Mr. Lightwood preferred demon women," said Tessa. "I don’t suppose his wife ever knew about that."
"Wait." It was Jem, who had suddenly gone very still. "Wil -what are the symptoms of demon pox?"
"Quite nasty," said Will with relish. "It begins with a shield-shaped rash on one’s back, and spreads over the body, creating cracks and fissures in the skin-"
Jem expel ed a gasp of breath. "I-I shall return," he said, "in just a moment. By the Angel-"
And he vanished out the door, leaving the others staring after him.
"You don’t think he has demon pox, do you?" Henry inquired of no one in particular.
I hope not, since we just got engaged, Tessa had the urge to say-just to see the looks on their faces-but repressed it.
"Oh, shut up, Henry," said Will, and looked as if he were about to say something else, but the door banged open and Jem was back in the room, panting, and holding a piece of parchment. "I got this," he said, "from the Silent Brothers-when Tessa and I went to see Jessamine." He gave Tessa a slightly guilty look from under his fair hair, and she remembered him leaving Jessamine’s cel and returning moments later, looking preoccupied.
"It is the report on Barbara Lightwood’s death. After Charlotte told us that her father had never turned Silas Lightwood over to the Clave, I thought I would inquire of the Silent Brothers if there was another manner in which Mrs.