1.

“The Demon is among us. A dangerous and murderous creature, vile and vicious, debased and disgusting, an abomination and an affront to God Almighty and all of His creatures. He walks among us, disguised as us, eating of our bread, enjoying and abusing our cherished liberties.”

Bishop Mather’s hard eyes looked out over the pulpit to the congregation. There were three churches in Bungay, but St. Mary’s was the largest, the one to which the best families of town belonged. I recognized their faces from the market, where they had all been warm and smiling. Now they sat on the cold wooden pews, their backs stiff and their eyes locked on Bishop Mather. Even the littlest children dared not squirm.

“He is a slave to the Devil,” the bishop continued, his voice rolling over us like a thick fog. “A man cannot serve two masters. A man must choose to serve God, or he must surely choose the Devil. And be he the Devil in Hell or the Devil in Rome makes no difference.”

A curious trick among the congregation. Although they kept their eyes on Bishop Mather, and he kept his on them, they were all watching us for a reaction. Our family histories—Winston and Edmonstone—were well-known. In broad outlines they differed little from those of our neighbors: until Henry VIII all of England had been Catholic, as indeed had almost all of Europe. By the reign of Queen Elizabeth we were Protestant, like most English noble families. But long after the kingdom had renounced Catholicism, our families continued to marry Catholics: Isabelle’s father had found a wife in Spain, and my mother’s mother had come from Portugal. And then, of course, my father’s mother was a witch. Or his grandmother was, or possibly both.

They watched us as Bishop Mather spoke, checking our reactions and judging appropriately.

“A reckoning is coming,” he continued. I admitted that he had a very powerful presence. He appeared every inch a giant. Fee-fie-fo-fum. “The Devil’s servant in Westminster would wrap us in his coils and crush England. He would lay the yoke down upon our necks and press us down before that Antichrist, and commit the care of our England’s sheep to the very wolves of the Vatican.”

This went on for some time. The imagery became quite lurid, and at least some of it was bloody enough that I believed that in any other context my mother would not allow me to hear it.

It was already difficult enough for me to sit upright. I was exhausted from lack of sleep the night before. After we’d read the notebook Isabelle and I had been stunned. The rest of the book was filled with notes and scribbles, mostly in foreign languages. Most of it was in Lord Edmonstone’s handwriting, but some of it in my father’s, and quite surprisingly a goodly amount was in my mother’s handwriting.

Bishop Mather spoke of the Catholics, his fellow countrymen, as a great demon bent on destroying us all, but I kept thinking that there was a real demon with the actual power and, more importantly, the will to destroy us all.

Was the treasure of Tantibus somewhere in England? Had Isabelle’s father found it? Had he brought it here? I didn’t seem likely. He couldn’t be that irresponsible. I felt uncomfortable discussing it with Isabelle, as he was her father and I certainly wouldn’t want to think that my father might be responsible for the destruction of England. But Lord Edmonstone had suddenly left, perhaps to stop Tantibus before he reached England. Was he trying to take the treasure away from here before it was too late? He couldn’t have known that it was already too late: Tantibus had only arrived that evening. He was off by a few hours.

The day that he spent, or rather lost, in Westminster was the problem. What had he said to my father? “Too many things happening at once. The one thing will overtake the other.” The revolution to overthrow the king was something that he had been intimately involved in for years if not decades, but it came to head at the exact wrong time. He spent the day trying to disentangle himself from that plot, and by the time he was free Tantibus had arrived and everything was thrown into disarray.

I didn’t say all of that to Isabelle but I thought it. And I know that she did, too.

“The great evil of our most lamentable king shall not long last. England shall rise and throw off the yoke of the Antichrist and of the Roman heresy embodied. England’s savior gathers even as we speak, our fair maid, the rightful queen Mary and her Glorious husband William of Orange.”

When we’d finished reading the book Isabelle and I looked at each other, uncertain of what to do next. It was very late in the evening—we had to read the passage slowly, so full it was of difficult words. And in the near-dark the words, small and tightly pressed together, were a challenge to decipher.

I was frightened, but all at once thrilled. Isabelle and I played at adventures all the time; here we were now in the midst of a real one. We were surrounded by magic, by a very real magic. The crows that changed shape; Emily Shively, who was alive but maybe not; the ghastly creature that arrived by boat.

I wanted her to stay. I didn’t want to sleep alone in this strange house. I hadn’t ever, and didn’t want to start now, but I couldn’t ask, and she couldn’t offer, and so she stood, and folded the book against her chest, and left, her light feet carrying her silently back to her room, and for the first time I was alone in mine through the night.

Isabelle and I knew more than anybody, perhaps even more than my parents, about the magic of Tantibus. The necklaces that Lord Edmonstone had given us—through mine I could always feel Isabelle’s heart. I knew where she was. I knew that as I lay in my bed she was on the other side of the wall, shivering even though she wasn’t cold, trying hard to close her eyes and sleep. I couldn’t read her mind, but I could sense her. He had told us to keep the necklaces, that they bound us to each other. If these simple pieces of enchanted wood held this power, what awesome power came from the jewels that Tantibus sought?

“But even after the King falls—and he will fall, God demands it—there is still a demon in our midst, a monster far greater than any papists or Turk. Here in England, born of English privilege of pure Saxon blood, there are those who deny our Lord and Savior and embrace damnation.”

Beside me, Isabelle stiffened. Bishop Mather was no longer looking above the crown. He had spent his sermon stoking the congregation’s anger, gathering it behind himself like a storm cloud, and now, at the height of his rhetoric, he unleashed it.

“Those my age and older can remember the visitor from the South who came at the invitation of our own liege, who in this very room denounced the truth of Christ. He was young and callow then, but even as he has matured he has remained apart. We prayed that lightning would destroy him but it did not. The Lord has other plans for him. I am told he is fleeing now, knowing that his evil work is in danger, than when England is saved he will be among those cast down.”

I suppose the people were looking at all of us, but the most intense focus was on Isabelle, who had flushed beet red at first but was now defiantly straightening her back and forcing herself into a cold composure. She had heard worse things said about her father.

“Cast down,” the old man repeated, lowering his voice, “he and his sin.”

He let the words ring out, filling the large room and seeping into the walls and woodwork. When the last of the echo had died down he spoke again, in a brighter voice. The sermon was over, and now there would be prayers and singing. My mind turned away again.

When the service was over and we were free to go there was a long and slow procession through the doors of the church. There was much chatter among the congregants. The people who had seemed hypnotized by the bishop now relaxed. I could see that many of them had already forgotten the details about what they had heard and were concerned with thoughts of tea and dinner, and preparing for tomorrow’s market. But there were a few, old women and young men mostly, who clung to the hardest words that the bishop had said, and I knew that if a Catholic appeared before them they would gladly kill him right there.

We were stopped every other step by people from the town, welcoming us, inviting us for tea, asking us about our travels and our home, freely repeating gossip they had heard. Mother politely declined all requests for tea, reminding them of our special dispensation to conduct private services at home, and asserting that “family traditions are important to uphold.” This satisfied most people, although a few raised an eyebrow.

Isabelle’s dress attracted attention from the town, as did the scarf in her hair. I recognized one woman from the market; she touched Isabelle’s hair again and then reminded her that if she came to market she could receive a sweetie.

“Lady Falmouth,” a heavy voice rolled from behind us, just as we were about to escape. “It has been an honor to have you among us. Your family has done much for Bungay through its history, and it is a comfort to have Winstons represented in our church once again.” Up close Bishop Mather was actually quite scary. His calmness made him nearly terrifying.

She smiled politely but stepped away nonetheless. “My husband’s family, of course, but it was a lovely sermon.”

“Shall Lord Falmouth be joining you?” He moved in such a way as to block our path without making it obvious.

“Oh yes, he had expected to join us on the voyage but at the last minute he had some unexpected business to attend to in London.” I wondered if Bishop Mather did the math and realized that there was no room for Father in the carriage. “He shall be here as soon as is possible.”

Without looking he reached a hand out and found Isabelle. He ran a hand down her hair and let it rest on her shoulder.

“And Lord Edmonstone?”

“He has pressing business on the Continent and I’m afraid will not be able to join us here for some time. As the child’s godparents we are looking for her.”

He smirked. “A burden, for certain, but one that will be rewarded in Heaven.”

“No burden at all.” This was a swordfight of smiles.

Bishop Mather looked down at last, and took Isabelle’s chin in his hand, lifting her head up so she could look at him.

“I met our father once, when he was much younger. A very intelligent young man, full of passion. I see much of him in you.”

Isabelle pulled her chin away from his touch.

“My Lord,” Mother began, shepherding us past him, “we must go.”

“Of course.” We had to step to the side to pass him. He didn’t try to stop us, but he didn’t get out of the way either, and he never took his eyes off of Isabelle. I could feel them burning into her back even as we walked away.

Some more pleasantries from the villagers. We kept walking, unhurried but not stopping, and in near silence until we had finally passed out of the town. The gloomy manor on the hill for once looked like a safe refuge.

“Isabelle,” Mother broke the silence, “you must ignore everything that man said.” Isabelle nodded but didn’t talk back. “Do you understand?” She nodded again.

I asked, “Do we have to go back?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“Why?”

She thought before answering. “People fear what is different. The unknown is frightening, to be honest. We want the rhythms of life to be steady and predictable. It’s only natural. But the truth is that things are always changing, there is more that we don’t know than there are things that we do, and when something comes along and reminds us of just how little control we have…  It won’t hurt us much to give them back a little of that control, I suppose.”

I still didn’t understand.

“It can be dangerous,” she continued. “You saw how he spoke to them, and how they reacted. Especially right now, with what is happening.” The war, she meant. Not the monster. “We need to be safe. And that means making them feel safe.”

“Why does he hate my father?” Isabelle suddenly asked.

Mother sighed. “Because he is a hateful man, basically. He may have done more to drive my husband away from the church than anybody. You will find religious men who speak of God and faith in a loving way, who use their beliefs in a way that helps them to better people. They are kind, and generous, and want only the best for those around them.”

“Like Father Mallory,” I said.

“Yes, he’s a good example, though he is a bit daft sometimes.”

We could all agree on that. “Bishop Mather isn’t Father Mallory,” I said.

“No. You will also find religious men for whom their faith is just another weapon, another way to establish themselves as being better than others. They convince themselves of their wisdom to judge and to condemn, and forgive themselves easily. When Lord Edmonstone came to visit here years ago—” Isabelle perked up at the mention of her father—”they had a very public argument, he and Mather. Your father was much more hot-headed back then. Your father said some very scandalous things—nothing that he doesn’t say at home, but certainly things that one shouldn’t say in public, especially in a strange town.” We were quite close to Winston House now, and I followed my mother’s gaze to a scorch mark on the side of the house nearest the road. At some point in its long history somebody had attempted to set fire to the house and failed. “They weren’t run out of town,” she continued, “not quite, but Robert and Hector left very shortly afterwards returned to London, and Hector began to sell off his holdings here.”

“But not the house?” I asked.

“No, nobody wanted to buy the house.”

“Because of the witch thing?” I asked.

She laughed. “That, and the hideous tapestries, and how drafty it is, and how far from the town center. And I think they’d have to keep Chauncey.”

We were inside now. Everybody had things to do: Jane and Mr. Percy to the kitchen, Miss Annie and mother to the library. Chauncey had stayed in town; he was an important member of the church and there were meetings and other such things to attend to. Before she retreated into the library to resume her studies, though, Mother came over and knelt down between Isabelle and me. She took our hands, one each, as Lord Edmonstone had done in London.

“On his own, Bishop Mather is harmless. But promise me that you will stay away from him. Be polite always, but should he speak to you, think of a reason to go away. Someplace public, like the market, where you and he can be seen. He behaves differently when he knows he is being watched. Can you promise me that?”

We nodded. She kissed us both on the foreheads and sent us off to dress into play clothes.

2.

Changed into something more comfortable now, I came out of my room. Jane was in the hallway, slowly opening Isabelle’s door, when she heard me. She startled, the way that she used to do all the time but didn’t do much anymore. “You frightened me. Here, come on.” She took my hand and led me into Isabelle’s room. Isabelle was putting on her shoes at that moment, and she protested for a minute but Jane signaled for us to be quiet.

“Did you read the book?” she asked us. We nodded. The book was on Isabelle’s bed, under the pillow. We couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. “Was that what you were looking for? The story, I mean?”

I nodded and Isabelle said yes. Jane was clearly very excited. I asked Jane if she’d read it, too, and she said she had. She moved over the bed and sat down on it. Her hair was still brushed for church, and in the excitement of the moment her face was unusually bright and had an almost healthy color. It struck me for the first time that Jane was actually rather pretty; fear and insecurity had left her drained and drab, but with hints of pink in her cheeks and eyes that weren’t always downcast she was almost a different person. Her voice, too, was steady and strong, not warbly and faint like before.

“That’s what we saw in London, isn’t it?” she asked, smiling conspiratorially. “Your father found the treasure, and he has it. Or,” and she looked at me, “maybe your father. They’re best friends, maybe one was hiding it for the other.”

I didn’t know what to say. Sitting on the bed her head was the height as ours. She looked straight into my eyes while she asked us.

“You two are so clever,” she said. “You must know more than I do. Which one of them has it?” I could see that Isabelle had decided not to answer any questions, and I began to feel uneasy myself. Jane continued, her smile growing broader. “This is so exciting, isn’t it? Isabelle, your father tells you everything. You know where it is, don’t you?” Her face shifted back and forth between mine and Isabelle’s. “You know, too,” she said to me. “She’s told you.” And then Jane gasped as she realized. “One of you has it! You!” She took Isabelle’s hand suddenly. “He gave it to you!” And then to me. “Or did she give it to you? Can I see it?”

Her grip on Isabelle was too strong, her smile was too broad. She wasn’t pretty at all, actually. Jane looked at that moment like a pale pink vulture. And at that moment she realized how she looked and awkwardly released Isabelle.

“Forgive me,” she said quietly. Her voice collapsed to its normal weak tone, unsteady and afraid. Her eyes cast down to our feet. “I… My imagination gets the better of me sometimes. Mrs. Smith is always getting on me about that.”

“It’s just a story,” Isabelle offered.

“Of course. I just… I got carried away.” Jane took a deep breath and stood. “I must go back to the kitchen. I’m very busy. You two run along and play.”

When she was gone Isabelle turned to me and said, “Let’s get our swords.”

We went into the grove of dead trees, far from the house. I had an irrational but strong feeling that I didn’t want to be seen practicing. Isabelle and I held our swords out in front of us, pointing the sharp tips at each other’s faces, and waited. When I sensed a moment of distraction in her eyes I attacked, lunging at her. She batted me away and took her own swing. I parried it and the wood made a fantastic cracking sound that sent a nearby bird—a red one, I checked—into the air. I wished the swords were made of iron, that we were hearing a hard clash of metal blades instead of the crack of wooden ones, but it was all we had. We battled as hard as we could.

In one moment I caught sight of the dragon she had carved into the blade. When she showed it to me that day in London I had seen a magnificent snarling beast with fierce claws and a bolt of flame. But now, fighting her in a strange grove, preparing to defend myself and my family and even Isabelle from all manner of monsters, I saw instead a crude series of scratches made by the eager but unlearned hand of an eight-year-old child. In truth, I didn’t even know which part of the dragon was the head and which was the tail, and the scratches I took as flames may just as well have been stray whittle marks.

I felt so useless, and ridiculous.

“Why are you fighting?”

We stopped. The little boy from before, with the laugh-snort and the zigzag run. Asa, I remembered his name. He was sitting in an open patch in the orchard. His arms were stretched wide, and a trio of little brown and white birds walked up and down his arms, chirping quietly. I must have thought he was just a branch when we came in.

“We’re not fighting,” I said. “We’re practicing.”

“Why?” He looked at the birds as he lowered his arms; they walked up towards his shoulders, trying to stay straight, and then eventually flew away to the nearest branch.

Isabelle put down her sword. “You,” she said, going to him. “You fixed my lip.” She knelt down in front of him and showed him where the cut had been. He touched it with his little fingers and laughed. “How did you do that?”

He reached for her sword without answering. “I want to see.” She let him take the sword.

“What are you doing out here?” I asked him.

“Walking,” he answered, turning the sword in his hands.

“This is very far from your home,” I said. He swung the sword a little and Isabelle jumped back.

“This is heavy for me,” he said.

“It’s supposed to be heavy,” Isabelle said, taking it back.

“Why?”

“So you can use it. To protect yourself.” She swung at a nearby dog-violet with enough force to cut the flower clean off from the stem. Asa picked it up and smelled it, and then carefully balanced the decapitated flower back on top of its stem.

“Protect yourself?” he asked.

“From bad guys,” I said.

“Are there bad guys?”

“I think so.” I said.

Asa considered this. He took my hand and led me towards the edge of the grove. “I want to show you something.”

From behind the last of the dead trees he pointed to our house. Jane was outside gathering wood for the stove. Asa watched her coolly. Mr. Percy came out, too, and took a larger pile. They laughed about something and went in. Asa turned his eyes to the cottage where Chauncey slept, and then to the town, visible in the distance. Jane came back out, still laughing, to collect something small that she had left behind. He squeezed my hand and hid behind the tree.

“What are we looking at?” I asked him.

Chauncey came out of his cottage then, axe in hand. I was amazed that for such an old man he still had strength enough to chop wood. On the road that led past our house and into Bungay a rider sped past on horseback, going so fast he had to use one hand to keep his hat in place. He passed the house and headed straight into town. Asa hid further behind the tree.

“Bad guys,” he said finally. “Monsters.” This was a game to him. He scrunched his face up at them and I realized that he was only pretending. If a dog had come out then he might have declared it a dragon. We turned and went back to Isabelle, who was kneeling down on the ground. She was tracing a finger along the stem of a dog-violet—the same one, I realized, that she had hit with the sword. The flower had reattached itself to the stem. Asa squeezed my hand.

“I can protect you from the monsters,” he said.

Isabelle looked up at him, her eyes studying him carefully.

“There’s no such thing as monsters,” she said to herself. His little face was serious, and then he broke into his laugh-snort and made his little hands like claws. He roared like a dragon—a squeaky little child dragon who actually said “roar” when he roared—and pounced on her. She laughed and fell over, and then he turned and pounced on me, and it was my turn to laugh and fall over. We did this for some time, laughing and pouncing, and for a moment I was convinced that this was all just a game, a product of our overactive imaginations.

And then I’d catch a glimpse of Isabelle’s lip, and the dog-violet on its stem, and the happy laughter of the strange little boy who sat with birds on his arms and could make flowers grow in dry soil.

3.

“Somebody was in my room.”

Isabelle closed the door behind her. The adults were all flitting about the house preparing for supper, and I was alarmed at how careless Isabelle was being. Girls were not allowed in boys’ rooms, period.

I asked if anything was missing.

“The book is gone.” We had come back inside after Asa ran off. Miss Annie informed us that we were to scrub up for supper as we would have company, and then ushered us into our rooms. I’d gotten lost in a thought once I entered my room, and after nearly fifteen minutes I had only succeeded in unbuttoning two of my coat buttons and taking off one shoe. I had no idea where the time went.

Isabelle had gone into her own room, she explained to me, and found proof straight away that somebody had been in there. “My bed sheets weren’t right,” she said. She had made her bed in the morning the way that she liked it, with the top sheet folded over twice at the top. Whoever had remade it only folded it once.

My own bed, I noted, had been made as well. Usually I just pulled the covers up sloppily, only slightly less messy than if I’d done nothing. Somebody had folded everything properly. I assumed it was Jane doing me a favor, and didn’t complain.

“I looked more closely,” Isabelle continued. “I think whoever it was completely turned my mattress over. All my clothes were moved. All my drawers, everything. The locked compartments in my trunk were forced open.” I asked her what was in them. “Nothing,” she said. “I lost the keys years ago. They were empty and I closed them so I wouldn’t accidentally lose anything in them. The locks were broken.”

“Jane,” I said. “Looking for the treasure.”

Of course it was.

“Jane knew Emily Shively, didn’t she?”

I supposed she did. Inasmuch as everybody knew everybody on Shandos Place. Except for the patrons of the Three Tuns. That’s why we always assumed that one of them had stolen her.

“And Emily worked for Tantibus?”

I shushed her. Something about saying his name out loud made me uncomfortable.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because she was a crow, like in the book. He uses crows. Or his people disguise themselves as crows.” Were all crows his servants, or just some? I remembered the crows on my windowsill. Six of them: death.

“You think Jane is a crow, too?” I asked.

“She’s changed since we came here. What if he got to her?”

Heavy footsteps in the hall, and Isabelle’s eyes grew wide. We listened as they came closer, passing Isabelle’s door, and then Mother’s.

“Hide!” I said. This wasn’t like home, with its shadowy spaces. Although my room here was dark, it was also plain and square. All Isabelle could do was wriggle herself under the bed.

The door creaked open.

“Master Julian.” It was Mr. Percy. “Your mother wishes to know how much progress you have made in getting dressed.” He scanned me quickly and frowned. Then he came in, leaving the door open. “Perhaps I can be of help, young sir.” His frown eased into a friendly almost-smile. “We are having company tonight, a most unpleasant guest it would seem. We must be on our best behavior. Come.”

I obeyed. He stood me up on a stool and then looked through my wardrobe for suitable clothing. “Did you see the rider come into town earlier today?” I had, as a matter of fact. “News from London.”

“William has invaded?”

“No, not yet, but news of the heir has spread. Everybody knows now.” That he was telling me this was, I think, a measure of respect. He wasn’t hiding news from me like a baby, or—even worse—wasn’t completely oblivious to the fact that I understood what was happening around me. It made me feel a little proud.

“Was there news from Father?”

“No, unfortunately.” He had selected the appropriate clothing and turned to face me. “We are all concerned that there has been no communication from either him or Lord Edmonstone, but we must trust that they know what they are doing and are being careful. Master Julian, might you be so kind as to do me a favor?”

I didn’t know what to say, so I nodded. “Can you close that door, and bring your—” he lowered his voice to a near-whisper—”friend out from under the bed?” I did as I was told. Once the door shut Isabelle wriggled out. “Milady,” he said to her. “May I ask what this is all about?”

“Somebody was in Isabelle’s room,” I finally admitted.

“There’s been nobody here all day,” he assured.

“All of my things were moved around,” Isabelle said.

“Jane, cleaning up.”

“But nothing was cleaned,” she answered.

“And nothing is missing?”

Neither of us answered, which was answer enough. “What is it, children?”

Isabelle told the story. Mr. Percy, to his credit, listened carefully. She told him about the book and how we got it; after some consideration she described its contents, and what we had come to understand. And lastly, carefully, about what we had seen when Emily came, and earlier, on the docks in London. He listened to it all.

“I see,” is all he said. I expected him to stand up and brush it off, call us silly children or something similar. “You don’t think Miss Annie may be involved?”

“No,” I said. “Just Jane.”

“And she believes you have this ‘treasure’?” He said treasure with a slight intonation, like it was something imaginary. We nodded.

“You were with Jane all day, weren’t you?” I asked. I hoped he could say that we were crazy, but he didn’t.

“I’m afraid not,” Mr. Percy said. “I was helping Chauncey for much of the morning, chopping wood; and then I went into town to hear the news, and then back to prepare for supper. Jane has been alone in the kitchen most of the day.” The kitchen, not far from our bedrooms.

“Jane suspects your father gave you the treasure,” he said. “Did he?”

“No,” Isabelle answered. Mr. Percy looked over at me and I nodded in agreement.

“What did the book say the treasure looks like?”

I remembered better than she did. “It’s a gem, usually. Black or red. In one version they says its a statue and in another just a gem, but they don’t describe it.”

“You have nothing like this in your home?” he asked Isabelle.

“No,” she insisted.

“Think, child. What did your father bring with him when he left Portsmouth? What was in the carriage with you?”

“Just my things. Nothing special.”

It dawned on me, and worried me, that Mr. Percy did not think we were crazy after all.

“He brought you no gifts from his recent voyage?”

“Dresses.”

To me: “And your father, he has given you nothing?”

“No.”

Mr. Percy stood and paced behind his chair. He eclipsed the light coming from my window and Isabelle and I sat entirely in his shadow.

“I have noticed a change come over Jane since the Incident,” he said. “I have tried since we have come here to befriend her and encourage her. She is very intelligent, you know, but quite afraid. Her upbringing, I’m afraid, was difficult. And she is alone here. She cannot return to her home, or at least she won’t. I’m afraid she could be very vulnerable to an outside influence. Much like Miss Shively.”

“So you believe us?” I asked.

“Young sir, I have seen enough in my life to know that I understand little.” He stopped pacing and came closer to us. “If there is ever a danger, I will protect you. I have done so before.” Memories of London in the dark. The room grew very heavy. His looking at us made me uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, but uncomfortable nonetheless. “I always knew the two of you would be the death of me,” he joked, ruffling my hair with is giant hand and gently tweaking Isabelle’s nose. We both laughed, even if it meant forcing it a little.

And then he grew serious again. “If either of you see a crow flying around here, even if it’s just an ordinary crow, you are to come inside and inform me at once.” And again, jokingly, “Now do please get dressed as quickly as you can. You, too, young lady. I’ll send Miss Annie to hurry you along.”

When he opened the door we could see Jane in the hall, surveying the table she was setting, her hair done up and a faint smile on her face.

Isabelle smiles when she is afraid. It’s not a big grin, like she’s crazy, but the corners of her mouth turn up and her eyes brighten. It may be because of the scary stories her father used to tell her, that she is still thrilled despite herself. I suspect also that she’s chewing on her lip, which is why it looks like she’s smiling.

Mr. Percy, when very angry, grins a wide smile. It is terrifying. Or at least it was when we were little. Whenever we were caught: “Children…” And the smile. A smile because the rage he was really feeling could get him fired. The smile did nothing to mask the feeling, though.

Father smiles when he has a secret. He grins like a fool the entire day before any birthday.

Mother smiles when she’s lying. She looks a bit like a fox when she does so, her mouth slightly open so you can see the tips of her teeth. She cocks her head to the side, too, just a little, so she looks at you from the corner of her eyes instead of head on. Her lies are usually innocuous—there are no more cookies in the jar, but you may check. But not always: “We’ll be safe here,” she had said.

Miss Annie’s face is always warm and pleasant but she rarely smiles. I’ve seen her smile when she hears music.  Mrs. Smith smiles often. Mrs. Smith only ever smiles or yells. She may be crazy. She’s never yet had a reason to yell at me.

Lord Edmonstone—his emotions are always genuine. When he’s happy he smiles, when he’s sad he frowns, when he’s thinking hard he furrows his brow. For everybody else, the smile is a lie, a mask, one that is easy to understand once you’ve figure it out, but it takes practice and experience.

I’d never seen Jane smile before. This was a small smile, not showing happiness. A lock of her hair swept prettily over her eye and she let it sit there, hiding her eyes behind it as she spread the tablecloth. It meant something, this smile. I knew that someday—and I suspected that it would be someday soon—I would learn what it meant.

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