Clockwork Princess (Page 13)

Clockwork Princess(13)
Author: Cassandra Clare

"Love him, do you?" Woolsey managed to make it sound unpleasant. "But you love Will, too."

Tessa froze inside. She had known that Magnus knew of Will’s affection for her, but the idea that what she felt for him in return was written across her face was too terrifying to contemplate. "That’s not true."

"Liar," said Woolsey. "Really, what is the difference if one of them dies? You always have a fine secondary option."

Tessa thought of Jem, of the shape of his face, his eyes shut in concentration as he played the violin, the curve of his mouth when he smiled, his fingers careful in hers-every line of him inexpressibly dear to her. "If you had two children," she said, "would you say that it was all right if one of them died, because then you’d still have another?"

"One can love two children. But your heart can be given in romantic love to only a single other," said Woolsey. "That is the nature of Eros, is it not? So novels would tell us, though I have no experience of it myself."

"I have come to understand something about novels," Tessa said.

"And what is that?"

"That they are not true."

Woolsey quirked an eyebrow. "You are a funny thing," he said. "I would say I could see what those boys see in you, but …" He shrugged. His yellow dressing gown had a long, bloody tear in it now. "Women are not something I have ever understood."

"What about them do you find mysterious, sir?"

"The point of them, mainly."

"Well, you must have had a mother," said Tessa.

"Someone whelped me, yes," said Woolsey without much enthusiasm. "I remember her little."

"Perhaps, but you would not exist without a woman, would you? However little use you may find us, we are cleverer and more determined and more patient than men. Men may be stronger, but it is women who endure."

"Is that what you are doing? Enduring? Surely an engaged woman should be happier." His light eyes raked her. "A heart divided against itself cannot stand, as they say. You love them both, and it tears you apart."

"House," said Tessa.

He raised an eyebrow. "What was that?"

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. Not a heart. Perhaps you should not attempt quotations if you cannot get them correct."

"And maybe you should stop pitying yourself," he said. "Most people are lucky to have even one great love in their life. You have found two."

"Says the man who has none."

"Oh!" Woolsey staggered back with his hand against his heart, mock swooning. "The dove has teeth. Very well, if you don’t wish to discuss personal matters, then perhaps something more general? Your own nature? Magnus seems convinced you are a warlock, but I am not so sure. I think there may be some of the blood of faeries about you, for what is the magic of shape-changing if it is not a magic of illusion? And who are the masters of magic and illusion if not the Fair Folk?"

Tessa thought of the blue-haired faerie woman at Benedict’s party who had claimed to know her mother, and her breath hitched in her throat. Before she could say another word to Woolsey, though, Magnus and Will came back in through the door-Will, as predicted, just as bloody as before, and scowling. He looked from Tessa to Woolsey and laughed a short laugh. "I suppose you were right, Magnus," he said. "Tessa is in no danger from him. One cannot say the same in reverse."

"Tessa, darling, put the poker down," Magnus said, holding out his hand. "Woolsey can be dreadful, but there are better ways of handling his moods."

With a last glare at Woolsey, Tessa handed the poker to Magnus. She went to retrieve her gloves, and Will his coat, and there was a blur of movement and voices, and she heard Woolsey laugh. She was barely paying attention; she was too focused on Will. She could tell already from the look on his face that whatever he and Magnus had said to each other in private, it had not solved the problem of Jem’s drugs. He looked haunted, and a little deadly, the blood freckling his high cheekbones only making the blue of his eyes more startling.

Magnus led them from the drawing room and out to the front door, where the cool air hit Tessa like a wave. She tugged her gloves on and nodded a good-bye to Magnus, who shut the door, closing the two of them out in the night.

The Thames glittered past the trees, the roadway, and the Embankment, and the gas lamps on Battersea Bridge shone down into the water, a nocturne in blue and gold. The shadow of the carriage was visible beneath the trees by the gate. Above them the moon appeared and disappeared between moving banks of gray cloud.

Will was utterly still. "Tessa," he said.

His voice sounded peculiar, odd and choked. Tessa stepped quickly down to stand beside him, looking up into his face. Will’s face was so often changeable as moonlight itself; she had never seen his expression so still.

"Did he say he would help?" she whispered. "Magnus?"

"He will try, but-the way he looked at me-he felt sorry for me, Tess. That means there’s no hope, doesn’t it? If even Magnus thinks the endeavor is doomed, there is nothing more I can do, is there?"

She laid her hand upon his arm. He did not move. It was so peculiar, being this close to him, the familiar feel and presence of him, when for months they had avoided each other, had barely spoken. He had not even wanted to meet her eyes. And now he was here, smelling of soap and rain and blood and Will…. "You have done so much," she whispered. "Magnus will try to help, and we will keep searching, and something may yet come to light. You cannot abandon hope."

"I know. I know it. And yet I feel such dread in my heart, as if it were the last hour of my life. I have felt hopelessness before, Tess, but never such fear. And yet I have known-I have always known …"

That Jem would die. She did not say it. It was between them, unspoken.

"Who am I?" he whispered. "For years I pretended I was other than I was, and then I gloried that I might return to the truth of myself, only to find there is no truth to return to. I was an ordinary child, and then I was a not very good man, and now I do not know how to be either of those things any longer. I do not know what I am, and when Jem is gone, there will be no one to show me."

"I know just who you are. You’re Will Herondale," was all she said, and then suddenly his arms were around her, his head on her shoulder. She froze at first out of pure astonishment, and then carefully she returned the embrace, holding him as he shuddered. He was not crying; this was something else, a sort of paroxysm, as if he were choking. She knew she should not touch him, yet she could not imagine Jem wanting her to push Will away at such a moment. She could not be Jem for him, she thought, could not be his compass that always pointed north, but if nothing else she could make his a slighter burden to carry.

"Would you like this rather dreadful snuffbox someone gave me? It’s silver, so I can’t touch it," Woolsey said.

Magnus, standing at the bay window of the drawing room, the curtain pulled aside just enough so that he could see Will and Tessa on his front steps, clinging to each other as if their lives depended on it, hummed noncommittally in response.

Woolsey rolled his eyes. "Still out there, are they?"

"Quite."

"Messy, all that romantic love business," said Woolsey. "Much better to go on as we do. Only the physical matters."

"Indeed." Will and Tessa had broken apart at last, though their hands were still joined. Tessa appeared to be coaxing Will down the steps. "Do you think you would have married, if you hadn’t had nephews to carry on the family name?"

"I suppose I would have had to. Cry God for England, Harry, Saint George, and the Praetor Lupus!" Woolsey laughed; he had poured himself a glass of red wine from the decanter on the sideboard, and he swirled it now, gazing down into its changeable depths. "You gave Will Camille’s necklace," he observed.

"How did you know?" Magnus’s mind was only half on the conversation; the other half was watching Will and Tessa walk toward their carriage. Somehow, despite the difference in their height and build, she appeared to be the one who was being leaned upon.

"You were wearing it when you left the room with him, but not when you returned. I don’t suppose you told him what it’s worth? That he’s wearing a ruby that would cost more than the Institute?"

"I didn’t want it," Magnus said.

"Tragic reminder of lost love?"

"Didn’t suit my complexion." Will and Tessa were in the carriage now, and their driver was snapping the reins. "Do you think there’s a chance for him?"

"A chance for who?"

"Will Herondale. To be happy."

Woolsey sighed gustily and put down his glass. "Is there a chance for you to be happy if he isn’t?"

Magnus said nothing.

"Are you in love with him?" Woolsey asked-all curiosity, no jealousy. Magnus wondered what it was like to have a heart like that, or rather to have no heart at all.

"No," Magnus said. "I have wondered that, but no. It is something else. I feel that I owe him. I have heard it said that when you save a life, you are responsible for that life. I feel I am responsible for that boy. If he never finds happiness, I will feel I have failed him. If he cannot have that girl he loves, I will feel I have failed him. If I cannot keep his parabatai by him, I will feel I failed him."

"Then you will fail him," Woolsey said. "In the meantime, while you are moping and seeking yin fen, I think I may take myself traveling. See the countryside. The city depresses me in the winter."

"Do as you like." Magnus let the curtain fall back, blocking the view of Will and Tessa’s carriage as it passed out of sight.

To: Consul Josiah Wayland

From: Inquisitor Victor Whitelaw

Josiah,

I was deeply concerned to hear of your letter to the Council on the topic of Charlotte Branwell. As old acquaintances, I had hoped you could perhaps speak more freely to me than you have to them. Is there some issue regarding her that concerns you? Her father was a dear friend of ours both, and I have not known her to do a dishonorable thing.

Yours in concern,

Victor Whitelaw

Chapter 6 Let Darkness

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,

Let darkness keep her raven gloss:

Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,

To dance with death, to beat the ground.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "In Memoriam A.H.H."

To: Inquisitor Victor Whitelaw

From: Consul Josiah Wayland

It is with some trepidation that I pen this letter to you, Victor, for all that we have known each other for some years now. I feel a bit like the prophetess Cassandra, doomed to know the truth and to have no one believe her. Perhaps it is my sin of hubris, which put Charlotte Branwell in the place she now occupies and from which she devils me.

Her undermining of my authority is constant, the instability which I fear it will cause in the Clave severe. What should have been a disaster for her-the revelation that she harbored spies under her roof, the Lovelace girl’s complicity in the Magister’s schemes-has been recast as a triumph. The Enclave hails the inhabitants of the Institute as those who uncovered the Magister and have harried him from London. That he has not been seen or heard from in the past months has been put down to Charlotte’s good judgment and is not seen, as I suspect it is, as a tactical retreat and regrouping on his part. Though I am the Consul and lead the Clave, it seems very much to me that this will go down as the time of Charlotte Branwell, and that my legacy will be lost-

To: Inquisitor Victor Whitelaw

From: Consul Josiah Wayland

Victor,

While your concern is much appreciated, I have no anxiety regarding Charlotte Branwell that I did not touch on in my letter to the Council.

May you take heart in the strength of the Angel in these troubled times,

Josiah Wayland

Breakfast was at first a quiet affair. Gideon and Gabriel came down together, both subdued, Gabriel barely saying a word, aside from asking Henry to pass the butter. Cecily had placed herself at the far end of the table and was reading a book as she ate; Tessa longed to see the title, but Cecily had placed the book at such an angle that it was not visible. Will, across from Tessa, had the dark shadows of sleeplessness below his eyes, a memory of their eventful night; Tessa herself poked unenthusiastically at her kedgeree, silent until the door opened and Jem came in.

She looked up with surprise and a lurch of delight. He did not look unusually ill, only tired and pale. He slid gracefully into the seat beside her. "Good morning."

"You look much better, Jemmy," Charlotte observed with delight.

Jemmy? Tessa looked at Jem with amusement; he shrugged and gave her a self-deprecating grin.

She looked across the table and found Will watching them. Her gaze brushed his, just for a moment, a question in her eyes. Was there any chance that somehow Will had found some replacement yin fen in the time between returning home and this morning? But no, he looked as surprised as she felt.

"I am, quite," Jem said. "The Silent Brothers were of great assistance." He reached to pour himself a cup of tea, and Tessa watched the bones and tendons move in his thin wrist, distressingly visible. When he set the pot down, she reached for his hand beneath the table, and he clasped it. His slim fingers wound about hers reassuringly.

Bridget’s voice floated out from the kitchen.

"Cold blows the wind tonight, sweetheart,

Cold are the drops of rain;

The very first love that ever I had

In greenwood he was slain.

I’ll do as much for my sweetheart

As any young woman may;

I’ll sit and mourn at his graveside

A twelve-month and a day."

"By the Angel, she’s depressing," said Henry, setting down his newspaper directly on his plate and causing the edge to soak through with egg yolk. Charlotte opened her mouth as if to object, and closed it again. "It’s all heartbreak, death, and unrequited love."

"Well, that is what most songs are about," said Will. "Requited love is ideal but doesn’t make much of a ballad."