فصل 24

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فصل 24

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24

“This cannot be my house, Leonard.” The palatial brick mansion’s expansive five-windowed frontage and towering four stories in one of London’s toniest neighborhoods made it inconceivable. I felt a pang of regret, though. The tall windows were trimmed in white to stand out against the warm brick, their old glass winking in the midday sunshine. Inside, I imagined that the house would be flooded with light. It would be warm, too, for there were not the usual two chimneys but three. And there was enough polished brass on the front door to start a marching band. It would be a glorious bit of history to call home.

“This is where I was told to go, Mistress . . . er, Mrs. . . . um, Diana.” Leonard Shoreditch, Jack’s erstwhile friend and another of Hubbard’s disreputable gang of lost boys, had been waiting—with Hamish—in the private arrivals area at London City Airport in the Docklands. Leonard now parked the Mercedes and craned his neck over the seat, awaiting further instructions.

“I promise you it’s your house, Auntie. If you don’t like it, we’ll swap it for a new one. But let’s discuss future real-estate transactions inside, please—not sitting in the street where any creature might see us. Get the luggage, lad.” Gallowglass clambered out of the front passenger seat and slammed the door behind him. He was still angry not to have been the one to drive us to Mayfair. But I’d been ferried around London by Gallowglass before and preferred to take my chances with Leonard.

I gave the mansion another dubious look.

“Don’t worry, Diana. Clairmont House isn’t half so grand inside as it is out. There is the staircase, of course. And some of the plasterwork is ornate,” Hamish said as he opened the car door. “Come to think of it, the whole house is rather grand.”

Leonard rooted around in the car trunk and removed my small suitcase and the large, hand-lettered sign he’d been holding when he met us. Leonard had wanted to do things properly, he said, and the sign bore the name CLAIRMONT in blocky capitals. When Hamish had told him we needed to be discreet, Leonard had drawn a line through the name and scrawled ROYDON underneath it in even darker characters using a felt-tip marker.

“How did you know to call Leonard?” I asked Hamish as he helped me out of the car. When last seen in 1591, Leonard had been in the company of another boy with the strangely fitting name of Amen Corner. As I recalled, Matthew had thrown a dagger at the two simply for delivering a message from Father Hubbard. I couldn’t imagine that my husband had stayed in touch with either young man.

“Gallowglass texted me his number. He said we should keep our affairs in the family as much as possible.” Hamish turned curious eyes on me. “I wasn’t aware Matthew owned a private car-hire business.”

“The company belongs to Matthew’s grandson.” I’d spent most of the journey from the airport staring at the promotional leaflets in the pocket behind the driver’s seat, which advertised the services of Hubbards of Houndsditch, Ltd., “proudly meeting London’s most discriminating transportation needs since 1917.”

Before I could explain further, a small, aged woman with ample hips and a familiar scowl pulled open the arched blue door. I stared in shock.

“You’re looking bonny, Marthe.” Gallowglass stooped and kissed her. Then he turned and frowned down the short flight of stairs that rose from the sidewalk. “Why are you still out on the curb, Auntie?”

“Why is Marthe here?” My throat was dry and the question came out in a croak.

“Is that Diana?” Ysabeau’s bell-like voice cut through the quiet murmur of city sounds. “Marthe and I are here to help, of course.”

Gallowglass whistled. “Being held against your will agreed with you, Granny. You haven’t looked so lively since Victoria was crowned.”

“Flatterer.” Ysabeau patted her grandson on the cheek. Then she looked at me and gasped. “Diana is as white as snow, Marthe. Get her inside, Gallowglass. At once.”

“You heard her, Auntie,” he said, sweeping me off my feet and onto the top step.

Ysabeau and Marthe propelled me through the airy entrance with its gleaming black-and-white marble floor and a curved staircase so splendid it made me gasp. The four flights of stairs were topped with a domed skylight that let in the sunshine and picked out the details in the moldings.

From there I was ushered into a tranquil reception room. Long drapes in gray figured silk hung at the windows, their color a pleasing contrast to the creamy walls. The upholstery pulled in shades of slate blue, terra-cotta, cream, and black to accent the gray, and the faint fragrance of cinnamon and cloves clung to all of it. Matthew’s taste was everywhere, too: in a small orrery, its brass wires gleaming; a piece of Japanese porcelain; the warmly colored rug.

“Hello, Diana. I thought you might need tea.” Phoebe Taylor arrived, accompanied by the scent of lilacs and the gentle clatter of silver and porcelain.

“Why aren’t you at Sept-Tours?” I asked, equally astonished to see her.

“Ysabeau told me I was needed here.” Phoebe’s neat black heels clicked against the polished wood.

She eyed Leonard as she put the tea tray down on a graceful table that was polished to such a high sheen that I could see her reflection in it. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve met. Would you like some tea?”

“Leonard Shoreditch, ma-madam, at your service,” Leonard said, stammering slightly. He bent in a stiff bow. “And thank you. I would dearly love some tea. White. Four sugars.”

Phoebe poured steaming liquid into a cup and put only three cubes of sugar in it before she handed it off to Leonard. Marthe snorted and sat down in a straight-backed chair next to the tea table, obviously intent on supervising Phoebe—and Leonard—like a hawk.

“That will rot your teeth, Leonard,” I said, unable to stop the maternal intervention.

“Vampires don’t worry much about tooth decay Mistress . . . er, Mrs. . . . um, Diana.” Leonard’s hand shook alarmingly, making the tiny cup and saucer with its red Japanese-style decoration clatter.

Phoebe blanched.

“That’s Chelsea porcelain, and quite early, too. Everything in the house should be in display cases at the V&A Museum.” Phoebe handed me an identical cup and saucer with a beautiful silver spoon balanced on the edge. “If anything is broken, I’ll never forgive myself. They’re irreplaceable.”

If Phoebe were going to marry Marcus as she planned, she would have to get used to being surrounded by museum-quality objects.

I took a sip of the scalding hot, sweet, milky tea and sighed with pleasure. Silence fell. I took another sip and looked around the room. Gallowglass was stuffed into a Queen Anne corner chair, his muscular legs splayed wide. Ysabeau was enthroned in the most ornate chair in the room: high-backed, its frame covered in silver leaf, and upholstered in damask. Hamish shared a mahogany settee with Phoebe. Leonard nervously perched on one of the side chairs that flanked the tea table.

They were all waiting. Since Matthew wasn’t present, our friends and family were looking to me for guidance. The burden of responsibility settled on my shoulders. It was uncomfortable, just as Matthew had predicted.

“When did the Congregation set you free, Ysabeau?” I asked, my mouth still dry in spite of the tea.

“Gerbert and I came to an agreement shortly after you arrived in Scotland,” she replied breezily, though her smile told me there was more to the story.

“Does Marcus know you’re here, Phoebe?” Something told me he had no idea.

“My resignation from Sotheby’s takes effect on Monday. He knew I had to clear out my desk.”

Phoebe’s words were carefully chosen, but the underlying response to my question was clearly no.

Marcus was still under the impression that his fiancée was in a heavily fortified castle in France, not an airy town house in London.

“Resignation?” I was surprised.

“If I want to go back to work at Sotheby’s, I’ll have centuries to do so.” Phoebe looked around her. “Though properly cataloging the de Clermont family’s possessions could take me several lifetimes.”

“Then you are still set on becoming a vampire?” I asked.

Phoebe nodded. I should sit down with her and try to talk her out of it. Matthew would have her blood on his hands if anything went wrong. And something always went wrong in this family.

“Who’s gonna make her a vamp?” Leonard whispered to Gallowglass. “Father H?”

“I think Father Hubbard has enough children. Don’t you, Leonard?” Come to think of it, I needed to know that number as soon as possible—and how many were witches and daemons.

“I suppose so, Mistress . . . er, Mrs. . . . er—”

“The proper form of address for Sieur Matthew’s mate is ‘Madame.’ From now on, you will use that title when speaking to Diana,” Ysabeau said briskly. “It simplifies matters.”

Marthe and Gallowglass turned in Ysabeau’s direction, their faces registering surprise.

“Sieur Matthew,” I repeated softly. Until now Matthew had been “Milord” to his family. But Philippe had been called “Sieur” in 1590. “Everyone here calls me either ‘sire’ or ‘Father,’” Philippe had told me when I asked how he should be addressed. At the time I’d thought the title was nothing more than an antiquated French honorific. Now I knew better. To call Matthew “Sieur”—the vampire sire—marked him head of a vampire clan.

As far was Ysabeau was concerned, Matthew’s new scion was a fait accompli.

“Madame what?” Leonard asked, confused.

“Just Madame,” Ysabeau replied serenely. “You may call me Madame Ysabeau. When Phoebe marries Milord Marcus, she will be Madame de Clermont. Until then you may call her Miss Phoebe.”

“Oh.” Leonard’s look of intense concentration indicated he was chewing on these morsels of vampire etiquette.

Silence fell again. Ysabeau stood.

“Marthe put you in the Forest Room, Diana. It is next to Matthew’s bedchamber,” she said. “If you are finished with the tea, I will take you upstairs. You should rest for a few hours before you tell us what you require.”

“Thank you, Ysabeau.” I put the cup and saucer on the small round table at my elbow. I wasn’t finished with my tea, but its heat had quickly dissipated through the fragile porcelain. As for what I required, where to start?

Together Ysabeau and I crossed the foyer, climbed the graceful staircase up to the first floor, and kept going.

“You will have your privacy on the second floor,” Ysabeau explained. “There are only two bedrooms on that level, as well as Matthew’s study and a small sitting room. Now that the house is yours, you may arrange things as you like, of course.”

“Where are the rest of you sleeping?” I asked as Ysabeau turned onto the second-floor landing.

“Phoebe and I have rooms on the floor above you. Marthe prefers to sleep on the lower ground floor, in the housekeeper’s rooms. If you feel crowded, Phoebe and I can move into Marcus’s house. It is near St. James’s Palace, and once belonged to Matthew.”

“I can’t imagine that will be necessary,” I said, thinking of the size of the house.

“We’ll see. Your bedchamber.” Ysabeau pushed open a wide, paneled door with a gleaming brass knob. I gasped.

Everything in the room was in shades of green, silver, pale gray, and white. The walls were papered with hand-painted depictions of branches and leaves against a pale gray background. Silver accents gave the effect of moonlight, the mirrored moon in the center of the ceiling’s plasterwork appearing to be the source of the light. A ghostly female face looked down from the mirror with a serene smile. Four depictions of Nyx, the personification of night, anchored the four quadrants of the room’s ceiling, her veil billowing out in a smoky black drapery that was painted so realistically it looked like actual fabric.

Silver stars were entangled in the veiling, catching the light from the windows and the mirror’s reflection.

“It is extraordinary, I agree,” Ysabeau said, pleased by my reaction. “Matthew wanted to create the effect of being outside in the forest, under a moonlit sky. Once this bedchamber was decorated, he said it was too beautiful to use and moved to the room next door.”

Ysabeau went to the windows and drew the curtains open. The bright light revealed an ancient four-poster, canopied bed set into a recess in the wall, which slightly minimized its considerable size.

The bed hangings were silk and bore the same design as the wallpaper. Another large-scale mirror topped the fireplace, trapping images of trees on the wallpaper and sending them back into the room.

The shining surface reflected the room’s furniture, too: the small dressing table between the large windows, the chaise by the fire, the gleaming flowers and leaves inlaid into the low walnut chest of drawers. The room’s decoration and furnishings must have cost Matthew a fortune.

My eyes fell on a vast canvas of a sorceress sitting on the ground and sketching magical symbols. It hung on the wall opposite the bed, between the tall windows. A veiled woman had interrupted the sorceress’s work, her outstretched hand suggesting that she wanted the witch’s help. It was an odd choice of subject for a vampire’s house.

“Whose room was this, Ysabeau?” The adjoining rooms suggested that Matthew had planned on sharing the house with someone.

“I think Matthew made it for you—only he did not realize it at the time.” Ysabeau twitched open another pair of curtains.

“Has another woman slept here?” There was no way I could rest in a room that Juliette Durand had once occupied.

“Matthew took his lovers elsewhere,” Ysabeau answered, equally blunt. When she saw my expression, she softened her tone. “He has many houses. Most of them mean nothing to him. Some do.

This is one of them. He would not have given you a gift he didn’t value himself.”

“I never believed that being separated from him would be so hard.” My voice was muted.

“Being the consort in a vampire family is never easy,” Ysabeau said with a sad smile. “And sometimes being apart is the only way to stay together. Matthew had no choice but to leave you this time.”

“Did Philippe ever banish you from his side?” I studied my composed mother-in-law with open curiosity.

“Of course. Mostly Philippe sent me away when I was an unwelcome distraction. On other occasions to keep me from being implicated if disaster struck—and in his family it struck more often than not.” She smiled. “My husband always commanded me to go when he knew I would not be able to resist meddling and was worried for my safety.”

“So Matthew learned how to be overprotective from Philippe?” I asked, thinking of all the times he had stepped into harm’s way to keep me from it.

“Matthew had mastered the art of fussing over the woman he loved long before he became a vampire,” Ysabeau replied softly. “You know that.”

“And did you always obey Philippe’s orders?”

“No more than you obey Matthew.” Ysabeau’s voice dropped conspiratorially. “And you will quickly discover that you are never so free to make your own decisions as when Matthew is off being patriarchal with someone else. Like me, you might even come to look forward to these moments apart.”

“I doubt it.” I pressed a fist into the small of my back in an effort to work out the kinks. It was something Matthew usually did. “I should explain what happened in New Haven.”

“You must never explain Matthew’s actions to anyone,” Ysabeau said sharply. “Vampires don’t tell tales for a reason. Knowledge is power in our world.”

“You’re Matthew’s mother. Surely I’m not supposed to keep secrets from you.” I sifted through the events of the past few days. “Matthew discovered the identity of one of Benjamin’s children—and met a great-grandson he didn’t know he had.” Of all the strange twists and turns our lives had taken, meeting up with Jack and his father had to be the most significant, not least because we were now in Father Hubbard’s city. “His name is Jack Blackfriars, and he lived in our household in 1591.”

“So my son knows at last about Andrew Hubbard,” Ysabeau said, her face devoid of emotion. “You knew?” I cried.

“Philippe was concerned about Jack’s blood rage. He wanted me to meet the boy, in case I saw any worrying behavior.” Ysabeau’s smile would have terrified me—once. “And do you still think I deserve your complete honesty, daughter?”

Matthew had warned me that I wasn’t equipped to lead a pack of vampires.

“You are a sire’s consort, Diana. You must learn to tell others only what they need to know, and nothing more,” she instructed.

Here was my first lesson learned, but there were sure to be more.

“Will you teach me what I need to know, Ysabeau?”

“Yes.” Her one-word response was more trustworthy than any lengthy vow. “But you must be careful, Diana. Even though you are Matthew’s mate and his consort, you are a de Clermont and must remain so until this matter is settled. Your status in Philippe’s family will protect Matthew.”

“Matthew said the Congregation will try to kill him—and Jack, too—once they find out,” I whispered.

“They will try. We will not let them. But for now you must rest.” Ysabeau pulled back the bed’s silk coverlet and plumped the pillows.

I circled the enormous bed, wrapping my hand around one of the posts that supported the canopy.

The carving under my fingers felt familiar. I’ve slept in this bed before, I realized. This was not another woman’s bed. It was mine. It had been in our house in the Blackfriars in 1590 and had somehow survived all these centuries to end up in a chamber that Matthew had dedicated to moonlight and enchantment.

I slept for nearly twenty-four hours, and it might have been longer but for a loud car alarm that pulled me out of my dreams and plunged me into an unfamiliar, green-tinged darkness. It was only then that other sounds penetrated my consciousness: the bustle of traffic on the street outside my windows, a door closing somewhere in the house, a quickly hushed conversation in the hallway.

Hoping that a pounding flow of hot water would ease my stiff muscles and clear my head, I explored the warren of small rooms beyond the white door. I found not only a shower but also my suitcase resting on a folding stand designed for much grander pieces of luggage. From it I pulled out the two pages from Ashmole 782 and my laptop. The rest of my packing had left a great deal to be desired.

Except for some underwear, several tank tops, yoga tights that no longer fit me, a pair of mismatched shoes, and black maternity pants, there was nothing else in the bag. Happily, Matthew’s closet held plenty of pressed shirts. I slid one made of gray broadcloth over my arms and shoulders and avoided the closed door that surely led to his bedroom.

I padded downstairs in bare feet, my computer and the large envelope with the pages from the Book of Life in my arms. The grand first-floor rooms were empty—an echoing ballroom with enough crystal and gold paint to renovate Versailles, a smaller music room with a piano and other instruments, a formal salon that looked to have been decorated by Ysabeau, an equally formal dining room with an endless stretch of mahogany table and seating for twenty-four, a library full of eighteenth-century books, and a games room with green-felted card tables that looked as if it had been plucked from a Jane Austen novel.

Longing for a homier atmosphere, I descended to the ground floor. No one was in the sitting room, so I poked around in office spaces, parlors, and morning rooms until I found a more intimate dining room than the one upstairs. It was located at the rear of the house, its bowed window looking out over a small private garden. The walls were painted to resemble brick, lending the space a warm, inviting air.

Another mahogany table—this one round rather than rectangular—was encircled by only eight chairs.

On its surface was an assortment of carefully arranged old books.

Phoebe entered the room and put a tray bearing tea and toast on a small sideboard. “Marthe told me you would be up at any moment. She said that this was what you would need first thing and that if you were still hungry, you could go down to the kitchen for eggs and sausage. We don’t eat up here as a rule. By the time the food makes it up the stairs, it’s stone cold.”

“What is all this?” I gestured at the table. “The books you requested from Hamish,” Phoebe explained, straightening a volume that was slightly off kilter. “We’re still waiting for a few items. You’re a historian, so I put them in chronological order. I hope that’s all right.”

“But I only asked for them on Thursday,” I said, bewildered. It was now Sunday morning. How could she have managed such a feat? One of the sheets of paper bore a title and date—Arca Noë 1675— in a neat, feminine hand, along with a price and the name and address of a book dealer.

“Ysabeau knows every dealer in London.” Phoebe’s mouth lifted into a mischievous smile, changing her face from attractive to beautiful. “And no wonder. The phrase ‘the price isn’t important’ will galvanize any auction house, no matter the lateness of the hour, even on the weekend.”

I picked up another volume—Kircher’s Obeliscus Pamphilius—and opened the cover. Matthew’s sprawling signature was on the flyleaf.

“I had a rummage through the libraries here and at Pickering Place first. There didn’t seem much point in purchasing something that was already in your possession,” Phoebe explained. “Matthew has wide-ranging tastes when it comes to books. There’s a first edition of Paradise Lost at Pickering Place and a first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack signed by Franklin upstairs.”

“Pickering Place?” Unable to stop myself, I traced the letters of Matthew’s signature with my finger.

“Marcus’s house over by St. James’s Palace. It was a gift from Matthew, I understand. He lived there before he built Clairmont House,” Phoebe said. Her lips pursed. “Marcus may be fascinated by politics, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Magna Carta and one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence to remain in private hands. I’m sure you agree.”

My finger rose from the page. Matthew’s likeness hovered for a moment above the blank spot where his signature had been. Phoebe’s eyes widened.

“I’m sorry,” I said, releasing the ink back onto the paper. It swirled back onto the paper, re-forming into my husband’s signature. “I shouldn’t practice magic in front of warmbloods.”

“But you didn’t say any words or write down a charm.” Phoebe looked confused.

“Some witches don’t need to recite spells to make magic.” Remembering Ysabeau’s words, I kept my explanation as brief as possible.

“Oh.” She nodded. “I still have a great deal to learn about creatures.”

“Me, too.” I smiled warmly at her, and Phoebe gave me a tentative smile in return.

“I assume you’re interested in Kircher’s imagery?” Phoebe asked, carefully opening another of the thick tomes. It was his book on magnetism, Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica. The engraved title page showed a tall tree, its wide branches bearing the fruits of knowledge. These were chained together to suggest their common bond. In the center God’s divine eye looked out from the eternal world of archetypes and truth. A ribbon wove among the tree’s branches and fruits. It bore a Latin motto: Omnia nodis arcanis connexa quiescunt. Translating mottoes was a tricky business, since their meanings were deliberately enigmatic, but most scholars agreed that it referred to the hidden magnetic influences that Kircher believed gave unity to the world:

“All things are at rest, connected by secret knots.”

“‘They all wait silently, connected by secret knots,’” Phoebe murmured. “Who are ‘they’? And what are they waiting for?”

With no detailed knowledge of Kircher’s ideas about magnetism, Phoebe had read an entirely different meaning in the inscription.

“And why are these four disks larger?” she continued, pointing to the center of the page. Three of the disks were arranged in a triangular fashion around one containing an unblinking eye.

“I’m not sure,” I confessed, reading the Latin descriptions that accompanied the images. “The eye represents the world of archetypes.”

“Oh. The origin of all things,” Phoebe looked at the image more closely.

“What did you say?” My third eye opened, suddenly interested in what Phoebe Taylor had to say.

“Archetypes are original patterns. See, here are the sublunar world, the heavens, and man,” she said, tapping in succession each of the three disks surrounding the archetypal eye. “Each one of them is linked to the world of archetypes—their point of origin—as well as to one another. The motto suggests we should see the chains as knots, though. I’m not sure if that’s relevant.”

“Oh, I think it’s relevant,” I said under my breath, more certain than ever that Athanasius Kircher and the Villa Mondragone sale were crucial links in the series of events that led from Edward Kelley in Prague to the final missing page. Somehow, Father Athanasius must have learned about the world of creatures. Either that or he was one himself.

“The Tree of Life is a powerful archetype in its own right, of course,” Phoebe mused, “one that also describes the relationships between parts of the created world. There’s a reason genealogists use family trees to show lines of descent.”

Having an art historian in the family was going to be an unexpected boon—from both a research standpoint and a conversational one. Finally I had someone to talk to about arcane imagery.

“And you already know how important trees of knowledge are in scientific imagery. Not all of them are this representational, though,” Phoebe said with regret. “Most are just simple branching diagrams, like Darwin’s Tree of Life from On the Origin of Species. It was the only image in the whole book. Too bad Darwin didn’t think to hire a proper artist like Kircher did—someone who could produce something truly splendid.”

The knotted threads that had been waiting silently all around me began to chime. There was something I was missing. Some powerful connection that was nearly within my grasp, if only . . .

“Where is everybody?” Hamish poked his head into the room.

“Good morning, Hamish,” Phoebe said with a warm smile. “Leonard has gone to pick up Sarah and Fernando. Everybody else is here somewhere.”

“Hullo, Hamish.” Gallowglass waved from the garden window. “Feeling better after your sleep, Auntie?”

“Much, thank you.” But my attention was fixed on Hamish. “He hasn’t called,” Hamish said gently in response to my silent question.

I wasn’t surprised. Nevertheless, I stared down at my new books to hide my disappointment.

“Good morning, Diana. Hello, Hamish.” Ysabeau sailed into the room and offered her cheek to the daemon. He kissed it obediently. “Has Phoebe located the books you need, Diana, or should she keep looking?”

“Phoebe has done an amazing job—and quickly, too. I’m afraid I still need help, though.”

“Well, that is what we are here for.” Ysabeau beckoned her grandson inside and gave me a steadying look. “Your tea has gone cold. Marthe will bring more, and then you will tell us what must be done.”

After Marthe dutifully appeared (this time with something minty and decaffeinated rather than the strong black brew that Phoebe had poured) and Gallowglass joined us, I brought out the two pages from Ashmole 782. Hamish whistled.

“These are two illuminations removed from the Book of Life in the sixteenth century—the manuscript known today as Ashmole 782. One has yet to be found: an image of a tree. It looks a little like this.” I showed them the frontispiece from Kircher’s book on magnestism. “We have to find it before anyone else does, and that includes Knox, Benjamin, and the Congregation.”

“Why do they all want the Book of Life so badly?” Phoebe’s shrewd, olive-colored eyes were guileless. I wondered how long they would stay that way after she became a de Clermont and a vampire.

“None of us really know,” I admitted. “Is it a grimoire? A story of our origins? A record of some kind? I’ve held it in my hands twice: once in its damaged state at the Bodleian in Oxford and once in Emperor Rudolf’s cabinet of curiosities when it was whole and complete. I’m still not sure why so many creatures are seeking the book. All I can say with certainty is that the Book of Life is full of power— power and secrets.”

“No wonder the witches and vampires are so keen to acquire it,” Hamish said drily.

“The daemons as well, Hamish,” I said. “Just ask Nathaniel’s mother, Agatha Wilson. She wants it, too.”

“Wherever did you find this second page?” He touched the picture of the dragons.

“Someone brought it to New Haven.”

“Who?” Hamish asked.

“Andrew Hubbard.” After Ysabeau’s warnings I wasn’t sure how much to reveal. But Hamish was our lawyer. I couldn’t keep secrets from him. “He’s a vampire.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of who—and what—Andrew Hubbard is. I’m a daemon and work in the City, after all,” Hamish said with a laugh. “But I’m surprised Matthew let him get near. He despises the man.”

I could have explained how much things had changed, and why, but the tale of Jack Blackfriars was Matthew’s to tell.

“What does the missing picture of the tree have to do with Athanasius Kircher?” Phoebe asked, bringing our attention back to the matter at hand.

“While I was in New Haven, my colleague Lucy Meriweather helped me track down what might have happened to the Book of Life. One of Rudolf’s mysterious manuscripts ended up in Kircher’s hands. We thought that the illumination of the tree might have been included with it.” I gestured at the frontispiece to Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica. “I’m more certain than ever that Kircher had at least seen the image, based solely on that illustration.”

“Can’t you just look through Kircher’s books and papers?” Hamish asked.

“I can,” I replied with a smile, “provided the books and papers can still be located. Kircher’s personal collection was sent to an old papal residence for safekeeping—Villa Mondragone in Italy. In the early twentieth century, the Jesuits began to discreetly sell off some of the books to raise revenue.

Lucy and I think they sold the page then.”

“In that case there should be records of the sale,” Phoebe said thoughtfully. “Have you contacted the Jesuits?”

“Yes.” I nodded. “They have no records of it—or if they do, they aren’t sharing them. Lucy wrote to the major auction houses, too.”

“Well, she wouldn’t have got very far. Sales information is confidential,” Phoebe said.

“So we were told.” I hesitated just long enough for Phoebe to offer what I was afraid to ask for.

“I’ll e-mail Sylvia today and tell her that I won’t be able to clear out my desk tomorrow as planned,” Phoebe said. “I can’t hold Sotheby’s off indefinitely, but there are other resources I can check and people who might talk to me if approached in the right way.”

Before I could respond, the doorbell rang. After a momentary pause, it rang again. And again. The fourth time the ringing went on and on as though the visitor had jammed a finger into the button and left it there.

“Diana!” shouted a familiar voice. The ringing was replaced by pounding.

“Sarah!” I cried, rising to my feet.

A fresh October breeze swept into the house, carrying with it the scents of brimstone and saffron. I rushed into the hall. Sarah was there, her face white and her hair floating around her shoulders in a mad tangle of red. Fernando stood behind her, carrying two suitcases as though their collective weight were no more than a first-class letter.

Sarah’s red-rimmed eyes met mine, and she dropped Tabitha’s cat carrier on the marble floor with a thud. She held her arms wide, and I moved into them. Em had always offered me comfort when I felt alone and frightened as a child, but right now Sarah was exactly who I needed.

“It will be all right, honey,” she whispered, holding me tight.

“I just spoke to Father H, and he said I’m to follow your instructions to the letter, Mistress . . .

Madame,” Leonard Shoreditch said cheerfully, pushing past Sarah and me on his way into the house. He gave me a jaunty salute.

“Did Andrew say anything else?” I asked, drawing away from my aunt. Perhaps Hubbard had shared news of Jack—or Matthew.

“Let’s see.” Leonard pulled on the end of his long nose. “Father H said to make sure you know where London begins and ends, and if there’s trouble, go straight to St. Paul’s and help will be along presently.”

Hearty slaps indicated that Fernando and Gallowglass had been reunited.

“No problems?” Gallowglass murmured.

“None, except that I had to persuade Sarah not to disable the smoke detector in the first-class lavatory so she could sneak a cigarette,” Fernando said mildly. “Next time she needs to fly internationally, send a de Clermont plane. We’ll wait.”

“Thank you for getting her here so quickly, Fernando,” I said with a grateful smile. “You must be wishing you’d never met me and Sarah. All the Bishops seem to do is get you more entangled with the de Clermonts and their problems.”

“On the contrary,” he said softly, “you are freeing me from them.” To my astonishment, Fernando dropped the bags and knelt before me.

“Get up. Please.” I tried to lift him.

“The last time I fell to my knees before a woman, I had lost one of Isabella of Castile’s ships. Two of her guards forced me to do so at sword point, so that I might beg for her forgiveness,” Fernando said with a sardonic lift to his mouth. “As I’m doing so voluntarily on this occasion, I will get up when I am through.”

Marthe appeared, taken aback by the sight of Fernando in such an abject position.

“I am without kith or kin. My maker is gone. My mate is gone. I have no children of my own.”

Fernando bit into his wrist and clenched his fist. The blood welled up from the wound, streaming over his arm and splashing onto the black-and-white floor. “I dedicate my blood and body to the service and honor of your family.”

“Blimey,” Leonard breathed. “That’s not how Father H does it.” I had seen Andrew Hubbard induct a creature into his flock, and though the two ceremonies weren’t identical, they were similar in tone and intent. Once again everyone in the house waited for my response. There were probably rules and precedents to follow, but at that moment I neither knew nor cared what they were. I took Fernando’s bloody hand in mine.

“Thank you for putting your trust in Matthew,” I said simply.

“I have always trusted him,” Fernando said, looking up at me with sharp eyes. “Now it is time for Matthew to trust himself.”

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