Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)(3)


by Cassandra Clare

Tessa nodded. The bulging-eyed man hurried to help the woman out of the carriage—and then another woman, following after her. Each of them immediately opened an umbrella and raised it, sheltering themselves from the rain. Then they fixed their eyes on Tessa.

They were an odd pair, the women. One was very tall and thin, with a bony, pinched face. Colorless hair was scraped back into a chignon at the back of her head. She wore a dress of brilliant violet silk, already spattered here and there with splotches of rain, and matching violet gloves. The other woman was short and plump, with small eyes sunk deep into her head; the bright pink gloves stretched over her large hands made them look like colorful paws.

“Theresa Gray,” said the shorter of the two. “What a delight to make your acquaintance at last. I am Mrs. Black, and this is my sister, Mrs. Dark. Your brother sent us to accompany you to London.”

Tessa—damp, cold, and baffled—clutched her wet shawl tighter around herself. “I don’t understand. Where’s Nate? Why didn’t he come himself?”

“He was unavoidably detained by business in London. Mortmain’s couldn’t spare him. He sent ahead a note for you, however.” Mrs. Black held out a rolled-up bit of paper, already dampened with rain.

Tessa took it and turned away to read it. It was a short note from her brother apologizing for not being at the docks to meet her, and letting her know that he trusted Mrs. Black and Mrs. Dark—I call them the Dark Sisters, Tessie, for obvious reasons, and they seem to find the name agreeable!—to bring her safely to his house in London. They were, his note said, his landladies as well as trusted friends, and they had his highest recommendation.

That decided her. The letter was certainly from Nate. It was in his handwriting, and no one else ever called her Tessie. She swallowed hard and slipped the note into her sleeve, turning back to face the sisters. “Very well,” she said, fighting down her lingering sense of disappointment—she had been so looking forward to seeing her brother. “Shall we call a porter to fetch my trunk?”

“No need, no need.” Mrs. Dark’s cheerful tone was at odds with her pinched gray features. “We’ve already arranged to have it sent on ahead.” She snapped her fingers at the bulging-eyed man, who swung himself up into the driver’s seat at the front of the carriage. She placed her hand on Tessa’s shoulder. “Come along, child; let’s get you out of the rain.”

As Tessa moved toward the carriage, propelled by Mrs. Dark’s bony grip, the mist cleared, revealing the gleaming golden image painted on the side of the door. The words “The Pandemonium Club” curled intricately around two snakes biting each other’s tails, forming a circle. Tessa frowned. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing you need worry about,” said Mrs. Black, who had already climbed inside and had her skirts spread out across one of the comfortable-looking seats. The inside of the carriage was richly decorated with plush purple velvet bench seats facing each other, and gold tasseled curtains hanging in the windows.

Mrs. Dark helped Tessa up into the carriage, then clambered in behind her. As Tessa settled herself on the bench seat, Mrs. Black reached to shut the carriage door behind her sister, closing out the gray sky. When she smiled, her teeth gleamed in the dimness as if they were made out of metal. “Do settle in, Theresa. We’ve a long ride ahead of us.”

Tessa put a hand to the clockwork angel at her throat, taking comfort in its steady ticking, as the carriage lurched forward into the rain.

SIX WEEKS LATER

1

THE DARK HOUSE

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade

—William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”

“The Sisters would like to see you in their chambers, Miss Gray.”

Tessa set the book she had been reading down on the bedside table, and turned to see Miranda standing in the doorway of her small room—just as she did at this time every day, delivering the same message she delivered every day. In a moment Tessa would ask her to wait in the corridor, and Miranda would leave the room. Ten minutes later she’d return and say the same thing again. If Tessa didn’t come obediently after a few of these attempts, Miranda would seize her and drag her, kicking and screaming, down the stairs to the hot, stinking room where the Dark Sisters waited.

It had happened every day of the first week that Tessa had been in the Dark House, as she had come to call the place they kept her prisoner, until eventually Tessa had realized that the screaming and kicking didn’t do much good and simply wasted her energy. Energy that was probably better saved for other things.

“One moment, Miranda,” Tessa said. The maid bobbed an awkward curtsy and went out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Tessa rose to her feet, glancing around the small room that had been her prison cell for six weeks. It was small, with flowered wallpaper, and sparsely furnished—a plain deal table with a white lace cloth over it where she ate her meals; the narrow brass bed where she slept; the cracked washstand and porcelain jug for her ablutions; the windowsill where she stacked her books, and the small chair where she sat each night and wrote letters to her brother—letters she knew she could never send, letters she kept hidden under her mattress where the Dark Sisters would not find them. It was her way of keeping a diary and of assuring herself, somehow, that she would see Nate again someday and be able to give them to him.

She crossed the room to the mirror that hung against the far wall, and smoothed down her hair. The Dark Sisters, as they in fact seemed to wish to be called, preferred her not to look messy, although they didn’t appear to mind her appearance one way or the other past that—which was fortunate, because her reflection made her wince. There was the pale oval of her face dominated by hollow gray eyes—a shadowed face without color in its cheeks or hope in its expression. She wore the unflattering black schoolmarmish dress that the Sisters had given her once she’d arrived; her trunk had never followed her, despite their promises, and this was now the only piece of clothing she owned. She looked away quickly.

She hadn’t always flinched from her reflection. Nate, with his fair good looks, was the one in the family generally agreed to have inherited her mother’s beauty, but Tessa had always been perfectly content with her own smooth brown hair and steady gray eyes. Jane Eyre had had brown hair, and plenty of other heroines besides. And it wasn’t so bad being tall, either—taller than most of the boys her own age, it was true, but Aunt Harriet had always said that as long as a tall woman carried herself well, she would forever look regal.