Clockwork Angel
Page 17

 Cassandra Clare

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“He wasn’t breaking the law, James.” Charlotte pushed the newspaper across the table toward Jessamine. “Meanwhile, Jessie, perhaps you and Tessa can go through the paper and make note of anything that might pertain to the investigation, or be worth a second look—”
Jessamine recoiled from the paper as if it were a snake. “A lady does not read the newspaper. The society pages, perhaps, or the theater news. Not this filth.”
“But you are not a lady, Jessamine—,” Charlotte began.
“Dear me,” said Will. “Such harsh truths so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion.”
“What I mean,” Charlotte said, correcting herself, “is that you are a Shadowhunter first, and a lady second.”
“Speak for yourself,” Jessamine said, pushing her chair back. Her cheeks had turned an alarming shade of red. “You know,” she said, “I wouldn’t have expected you to notice, but it seems clear that the only thing Tessa has to put on her back is that awful old red dress of mine, and it doesn’t fit her. It doesn’t even fit me anymore, and she’s taller than I am.”
“Can’t Sophie … ,” Charlotte began vaguely.
“You can take a dress in. It’s another thing to make it twice as big as it was to start with. Really, Charlotte.” Jessamine blew out her cheeks in exasperation. “I think you ought to let me take poor Tessa into town to get some new clothes. Otherwise, the first time she takes a deep breath, that dress will fall right off her.”
Will looked interested. “I think she should try that out now and see what happens.”
“Oh,” Tessa said, thoroughly confused. Why was Jessamine being so kind to her suddenly when she’d been so unpleasant only the day before? “No, really it’s not necessary—”
“It is,” Jessamine said firmly.
Charlotte was shaking her head. “Jessamine, as long as you live in the Institute, you are one of us, and you have to contribute—”
“You’re the one who insists we have to take in Downworlders who are in trouble, and feed and shelter them,” Jessamine said. “I’m quite sure that includes clothing them as well. You see, I will be contributing—to Tessa’s upkeep.”
Henry leaned across the table toward his wife. “You’d better let her do it,” he advised. “Remember the last time you tried to get her to sort the daggers in the weapons room, and she used them to cut up all the linens?”
“We needed new linens,” said Jessamine, unabashed.
“Oh, all right,” Charlotte snapped. “Honestly, sometimes I despair of the lot of you.”
“What’ve I done?” Jem inquired. “I only just arrived.”
Charlotte put her face into her hands. As Henry began to pat her shoulders and make soothing noises, Will leaned across Tessa toward Jem, ignoring her completely as he did so. “Should we leave now?”
“I need to finish my tea first,” Jem said. “Anyway, I don’t see what you’re so fired up about. You said the place hadn’t been used as a brothel in ages?”
“I want to be back before dark,” Will said. He was leaning nearly across Tessa’s lap, and she could smell that faint boy-smell of leather and metal that seemed to cling to his hair and skin. “I have an assignation in Soho this evening with a certain attractive someone.”
“Goodness,” Tessa said to the back of his head. “If you keep seeing Six-Fingered Nigel like this, he’ll expect you to declare your intentions.”
Jem choked on his tea.
Spending the day with Jessamine began as badly as Tessa had feared. The traffic was dreadful. However crowded New York might have been, Tessa had never seen anything like the snarling mess of the Strand at midday. Carriages rolled side by side with costermongers’ carts piled high with fruit and vegetables; women shawled and carrying shallow baskets full of flowers dived madly in and out of traffic as they tried to interest the occupants of various carriages in their wares; and cabs came to a full stop in the midst of traffic so that the cabdrivers could scream at one another out their windows. This noise added to the already awesome din—ice cream peddlers shouting “Hokey-pokey, penny a lump,” newspaper boys hawking the day’s latest headline, and someone somewhere playing a barrel organ. Tessa wondered how everyone living and working in London wasn’t deaf.
As she stared out the window, an old woman carrying a large metal cage full of fluttering colorful birds stepped out alongside their coach. The old woman turned her head, and Tessa saw that her skin was as green as a parrot’s feathers, her eyes wide and all black like a bird’s, her hair a shock of multicolored feathers. Tessa started, and Jessamine, following her gaze, frowned. “Close the curtains,” she said. “It keeps out the dust.” And, reaching past Tessa, Jessamine did just that.
Tessa looked at her. Jessamine’s small mouth was set in a thin line. “Did you see—?” Tessa began.
“No,” Jessamine said, shooting Tessa what she had often seen referred to in novels as a “killing” look. Tessa glanced hastily away.
Things did not improve when they finally reached the fashionable West End. Leaving Thomas patiently waiting with the horses, Jessamine dragged Tessa in and out of various dressmakers’ salons, looking at design after design, standing by while the prettiest shop assistant was chosen to model a sample. (No real lady would let a dress that might have been worn by a stranger touch her skin.) In each establishment she gave a different false name and a different story; in each establishment the owners seemed enchanted by her looks and obvious wealth and couldn’t help her fast enough. Tessa, mostly ignored, lurked on the sidelines, half-dead from boredom.
In one salon, posing as a young widow, Jessamine even examined the design for a black mourning dress of crepe and lace. Tessa had to admit it would have set off her blond pallor well.
“You would look absolutely beautiful in this, and could not possibly fail to make an advantageous remarriage.” The dressmaker winked in a conspiratorial fashion. “In fact, do you know what we call this design? ‘The Trap Rebaited.’”
Jessamine giggled, the dressmaker smiled limpidly, and Tessa considered racing out into the street and ending it all by throwing herself under a hansom cab. As if conscious of her annoyance, Jessamine glanced toward her with a condescending smile. “I’m also looking for a few dresses for my cousin from America,” she said. “The clothes there are simply horrible. She’s as plain as a pin, which doesn’t help, but I’m sure you can do something with her.”
The dressmaker blinked as if this were the first time she’d noticed Tessa, and perhaps it was. “Would you like to choose a design, ma’am?”
The following whirlwind of activity was something of a revelation for Tessa. In New York her clothes had been bought by her aunt—ready-made pieces that had had to be altered to fit, and always cheap material in drab shades of dark gray or navy. She had never before learned, as she did now, that blue was a color that suited her and brought out her gray-blue eyes, or that she should wear rose pink to put color in her cheeks. As her measurements were taken amidst a blur of discussion of princess sheaths, cuirass bodices, and someone named Mr. Charles Worth, Tessa stood and stared at her face in the mirror, half-waiting for the features to begin to slip and change, to reform themselves. But she remained herself, and at the end of it all she had four new dresses on order to be delivered later in the week—one pink, one yellow, one striped blue and white with bone buttons, and a gold and black silk—as well as two smart jackets, one with darling beaded tulle adorning the cuffs.
“I suspect you may actually look pretty in that last outfit,” Jessamine said as they climbed back up into the carriage. “It’s amazing what fashion can do.”
Tessa counted silently to ten before she replied. “I’m awfully obliged to you for everything, Jessamine. Shall we return to the Institute now?”
At that, the brightness went out of Jessamine’s face. She truly hates it there, Tessa thought, puzzled more than anything else. What was so dreadful about the Institute? Of course its whole reason for existing was peculiar enough, certainly, but Jessamine had to be used to that by now. She was a Shadowhunter like the rest.
“It’s such a lovely day,” Jessamine said, “and you’ve hardly seen anything of London. I think a walk in Hyde Park is in order. And after that, we could go to Gunter’s and have Thomas get ices for us!”
Tessa glanced out the window. The sky was hazy and gray, shot through with lines of blue where the clouds briefly drifted apart from one another. In no way would this be considered a lovely day in New York, but London seemed to have different standards for weather. Besides, she owed Jessamine something now, and the last thing in the world the other girl wanted to do, clearly, was go home.
“I adore parks,” said Tessa.
Jessamine almost smiled.
* * *
“You didn’t tell Miss Gray about the cogs,” Henry said.
Charlotte looked up from her notes and sighed. It had always been a sore point for her that, however often she had requested a second, the Clave only allowed the Institute one carriage. It was a fine one—a town coach—and Thomas was an excellent driver. But it did mean that when the Institute’s Shadowhunters went their separate ways, as they were doing today, Charlotte was forced to borrow a carriage from Benedict Lightwood, who was far from her favorite person. And the only carriage he was willing to lend her was small and uncomfortable. Poor Henry, who was so very tall, was bumping his head against the low roof.
“No,” she said. “The poor girl, she seemed so dazed already. I couldn’t tell her that the mechanical devices we found in the cellar had been manufactured by the company that employed her brother. She’s so worried about him. It seemed more than she’d be able to bear.”
“It might not mean anything, darling,” Henry reminded her. “Mortmain and Company manufactures most of the machine tools used in England. Mortmain is really something of a genius. His patented system for producing ball bearings—”
“Yes, yes.” Charlotte tried to keep the impatience out of her voice. “And perhaps we should have told her. But I thought it best that we speak to Mr. Mortmain first and gather what impressions we can. You’re correct. He may know nothing at all, and there may be little connection. But it would be quite a coincidence, Henry. And I am very wary of coincidence.”
She glanced back down at the notes she’d made about Axel Mortmain. He was the only (and likely, though the notes did not specify, illegitimate) son of Dr. Hollingworth Mortmain, who in a matter of years had risen from the humble position of ship’s surgeon on a trading vessel bound for China to wealthy private trader, buying and selling spices and sugar, silk and tea, and—it wasn’t stated, but Charlotte was in agreement with Jem on the matter—probably opium. When Dr. Mortmain had died, his son, Axel, at barely twenty years of age, had inherited his fortune, which he’d promptly invested in building a fleet of ships faster and sleeker than any others plying the seas. Within a decade the younger Mortmain had doubled, then quadrupled, his father’s riches.