Page 28

 Cornelia Funke

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He never used a single word that couldn’t be found in Inhheart, for he was firmly convinced that only words from Fenoglio’s story could learn to breathe in this world.
Others were just ink on paper.
"‘Fenoglio,’ I ask, ‘are the White Women only servants? Orpheus went on, as Ironstone hung on every word from his soft—too soft—lips. "‘Do the dead stay with them, or do the White Women take them somewhere else?’ ‘I expect so,’ the old fool replies. ‘I once told Minerva’s children about a castle made of bones to comfort them for Cloud-Dancer’s death, but I was only talking off the cuff.’ Off the cuff! Huh!"
"The old fool!" repeated Ironstone like an echo, but in his reedy, glass man’s voice it was not a very impressive sound. Orpheus turned and went back to his desk. "With all your roaming around, I hope at least you didn’t forget to tell Mortimer I want to talk to him? Or was he too busy playing the hero?"
"He says there’s nothing to talk about. He says he doesn’t know anything about the White Women except what everyone knows." "Oh wonderful!" Orpheus reached for one of the pens that Jasper had sharpened so laboriously and snapped it in two. "Did you at least ask whether he still sees them sometimes?"
"I’m sure he does." Jasper’s voice was as delicate as his limbs. "Once the White Women have touched someone they never let him go. Or so the moss-women say.
"I know that!" said Orpheus impatiently. "I tried questioning a moss-woman about that rumor, but the nasty creature wouldn’t talk about it. She just stared at me with her mousy eyes and said I eat too much rich food and drink too much wine!"
"They talk to the fairies," Jasper said. ‘And fairies talk to glass men. Although not all of them," he added with a sidelong glance at his brother. "I’ve heard that the moss-women tell another tale of the White Women, too. They say they can be summoned by anyone whose heart they’ve already touched with their cold fingers."
"Oh, indeed?" Orpheus looked thoughtfully at the glass man. "I hadn’t heard that one before."
"And it’s not true! I’ve tried summoning them!" said Farid. "Again and again!"
"You! How often do I have to explain that you died much too quickly?" Orpheus snapped contemptuously at him. "You were in a great hurry to die and just as great a hurry to come back.
"What’s more, you’re such a poor catch that I’d assume they don’t even remember you! No, you’re not the person to do it." He went to the window again. "Go and make me some tea!" he told Farid without turning. "I have to think."
"What kind of tea?"
Farid put Jasper on his shoulder. He took the little man with him whenever he could, to keep him safe from his big brother. Sometimes, when Orpheus didn’t need either of them because he was taking his pleasure with one of the maids, or seeing his tailor for yet another fitting of some new clothes — which could last hours — Farid took Jasper with him to Seamstresses’ Alley, where the glass women helped to thread the dressmakers’ needles, tread seams smooth with their tiny feet, and tack lace to costly silk. For Farid had now also learned that glass men don’t just bleed, they fall in love, too, and Jasper was head over heels in love with a girl who had pale yellow limbs.
He was only too fond of watching her in secret through her mistress’s workshop window.
"What kind of tea? How should I know? Something good for a stomachache," replied Orpheus crossly. "I’ve had a pain in my belly all day as if there were stag beetles in it. How am I supposed to get anything sensible down on paper in that state?"
Of course. Orpheus always complained of a stomachache or a headache when his writing wasn’t going well. I hope his belly torments him all night, thought Farid as he closed the study door behind him. I hope it plagues him until he writes something for Dustfinger at last.
"At least he didn’t tell you to go for the physician!" Jasper was doing his best to cheer up Farid, who was carrying him down the steep stairs to the kitchen. Yes indeed, the physician who lived beyond the city gate. Orpheus had sent Farid there only a few days ago. If you went to fetch him at night he threw logs of wood at you, or came to the door brandishing one of the pairs of pincers he used to draw teeth.
"Stomachache! Headache!" said Farid crossly. "Cheeseface has been overeating again, that’s all!"
"Three roast gold-mockers filled with chocolate, fairy-nuts roasted in honey, and half a suckling pig stuffed with chestnuts," said Jasper, counting it up. Then he ducked in alarm as he saw Jink by the kitchen door. The marten made Jasper nervous, even though Farid kept assuring him that while martens did like to chase glass men, they never, ever ate them.
There was only one maid still in the kitchen. Farid stopped in the doorway when he saw it was Brianna. That was all he needed. She was scrubbing the pots and pans from supper, her beautiful face gray with exhaustiOn. The working day began for Orpheus’s maids before sunrise and often didn’t end until the moon was high in the sky. Orpheus himself made a tour of inspection of the whole house every morning, looking for cobwebs and dust, a speck on one of the mirrors that hung everywhere, a tarnished silver spoon or a shirt that still showed a dirty mark after laundering. If he found anything he would deduct a sum from all the maids’ paltry wages on the spot.
And he almost always did find something.
"What do you want?" Brianna turned, wiping her wet hands on her apron.
"Orpheus has a stomachache," muttered Farid, without looking at her. "I’m to make him some tea.
Brianna went to one of the kitchen dressers and took an earthenware jar off the top shelf. Farid didn’t know which way to look as she poured hot water on the herbs. Her hair was the same color as her father’s, but wavy, and it shone in the candlelight like the red-gold rings that the Governor liked to wear on his thin fingers. The strolling players sang songs about Dustfinger’s daughter and her broken heart.
"Why are you staring like that?" She took a sudden step toward him. Her voice was so cutting that Farid instinctively flinched back. "Yes, I look like him, don’t I?"
It was as if, all through the silence of the last few weeks, she had been sharpening her words until they were knives that she could thrust through his heart.
"You don’t look in the least like him. I keep telling my mother so. You’re only some good-for-nothing layabout who playacted that he was my father’s son, keeping up the pretense so long that in the end my father thought he had to die for you!"
Every word a knife, and Farid felt them piercing his heart.
Brianna’s eyes were not like her father’s. She had her mother’s eyes, and they looked at Farid with the same hostility as Roxane's. He wanted to hit her to silence her beautiful mouth. But she resembled Dustfinger too much.
"You’re a demon, an evil spirit bringing nothing but bad luck." She handed him the ready-brewed tea. "There, take Orpheus that. And tell him his stomach would feel better if he didn’t eat so much."
Farid’s hands trembled as he took the mug.