I suspect he's sweet on Sophie and doesn't like to see her work too hard.'Tessa was glad to hear it. She'd felt awful about her reaction to Sophie's scar, and the thought that Sophie had a male admirer - and a handsome one like that- eased her conscience slightly. 'Perhaps he's in love with Agatha', she said.'I hope not. I intend to marry Agatha myself. She may be a thousand years old, but she makes an incomparable jam tart. Beauty fades, but cooking is eternal.
He opened his mouth. The words were there. He was about to say them when a jolt of terror went through him, the terror of someone who, wandering in a mist, pauses only to realise that they have stopped inches from the edge of a gaping abyss. The way she was looking at him - she could read what was in his eyes, he realised. It must have been written plainly there, like words on the page of a book. There had been no time, no chance, to hide it.Will, she whispered. Say something, Will.But there was nothing to say. There was only emptiness, as there had been before her. As there would always be.'I have lost everything', Will thought. 'Everything.
Jem and Will had set up camp on one of the long tables in the back of the library, ostensibly to help advise her, but more likely, it seemed, to mock and be amused by her consternation. You point your feet out too much when you walk, Will went on. He was busy polishing an apple on his shirtfront, and appeared not to notice Tessa glaring at him. Camille walks delicately. Like a faun in the woods. Not like a duck. I do not walk like a duck. I like ducks, Jem observed diplomatically. Especially the ones in Hyde Park. He glanced sideways at Will; both boys were sitting on the edge of the high table, their legs dangling over the side. Remember when you tried to convince me to feed a poultry pie to the mallards in the park to see if you could breed a race of cannibal ducks? They ate it too, Will reminisced. Bloodthirsty little beasts. Never trust a duck.
Tessa leaned forward and caught at his hand, pressing it between her own. The touch was like white fire through his veins: he could not feel her skin, only the cloth of the gloves, and yet it did not matter. How you have kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire. He had wondered once why love was always phrased in terms of burning: the conflagration in his own veins, now, gave the answer. You are good, Will, she said. There is no one better placed than I am to be able to say with perfect confidence how good you really are.
Say something in Mandarin, said Tessa, with a smile.Jem said something that sounded like a lot of breathy vowels andconsonants run together, his voice rising and falling melodically: Nihen piao liang.What did you say? Tessa was curious.I said your hair is coming undone here, he said, and reached outand tucked an escaping curl back behind her ear. Tessa felt the bloodspill hot up into her face, and was glad for the dimness of thecarriage. You have to be careful with it, he said, taking his handback, slowly, his fingers lingering against her cheek.