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Episode 4

“You look a mess,” she says frankly. “But you would be lovely if you tried. You should try, Cate. Six months and you’ll have to marrysomeone. You can’t stay here and protect us forever.”

Six months before I turn seventeen—but only three before I have to announce an engagement. The thought chips away at my composure.

Maura’s right. She’s saying the same thing as Mrs. Corbett—not in the same way, and not for the same reasons. But if Mother were alive, Maura and I would be attending teas, paying and receiving calls, positioning ourselves as eligible, marriageable young ladies. I’ve put it off, afraid of bungling it somehow, of drawing attention to us. Now I’ve waited too long and the delay has done just that.

We mustn’t give the Brothers any reason to suspect us.

“I think we should give the governess a chance. We’ll be careful,” Maura promises.

“She’ll be living right here. She’ll never let you read those novels, or Tess continue her studies, or me spend all day in the dirt.” My heart falls at the thought. Gardening is the one freedom I’ve allowed myself. If the governess makes me stay indoors all day painting fruit baskets, I’ll go mad. “If she realizes what we are—”

Maura smirks, twisting her curls up into a chignon. “If she’s troublesome, we’ll alter her memory. Isn’t that what evil witches do?”

I whip around to look at her. “That’s not funny.” My sisters don’t know that I’m capable of mind-magic. It’s terribly rare, and it’s reckoned to be the very darkest kind of magic there is. Mother was the only one who knew, and even she was horrified.

Maura skewers her hair into place with pins. “I was only joking.”

“Well, don’t. It’s not right to go into people’s minds and muddle things! It’s too invasive. It’s—” I stop myself before I saywicked.

But Maura stares at me in the mirror, like she knows what I’m thinking. “We’re witches, Cate. We were born that way. Magic isn’t shameful, no matter what the Brothers would have us believe. It’s a gift. I wish you would accept that


 magic isn’t a gift from the Lord, it’s devil-sent. Women who can do magic—they’re either mad or wicked. Destined for an asylum at best, or a prison ship or an early grave.

“It feels more like a curse,” I sigh, straightening the hairpins on her dressing table.

“To you!” Maura slams her hand down on the dressing table, rattling the glass bottles and scattering the hairpins again. Her blue eyes burn bright in her pale face. “Because you try to pretend it doesn’t exist. If it were up to you, we’d never use magic at all. We should be learning all we can, practicing as much as possible. It’s our birthright.”

“So you would have us practice magic in the mornings, and have the Brothers’ wives and daughters over to tea in the afternoons? You don’t think the two are a wee bit incompatible?”

“Why? Why can’t we have both?” Maura plants her hands on her hips. “It’s not the Brothers who are stopping us, Cate. It’s you.”

I reel back, stung, and almost knock into the globe. I steady it on the pedestal with both hands. “I’m protecting you.”

“No, you’resmotheringus.”

“Do you think I enjoy it?” I demand, throwing up my hands. “I’m trying to keep you safe. I’m trying to keep you from ending up like Brenna Elliott!”

Maura sinks onto her window seat, her hair as red as the maples lining the drive. “Brenna Elliott was a fool.”

It isn’t that simple, and Maura knows it. “Was she? Or was she just careless? They ruined her either way.”

Maura raises an eyebrow, skeptical. “She was odd before.”

“Odd or not, she didn’t deserve what was done to her in that place,” I snap.

Brenna Elliott gives me nightmares. She’s a girl from town, my age. It was never unusual to find her walking down the street, deep in conversation with herself, humming beneath her breath. But she was a pretty girl and Brother Elliott’s granddaughter, and everyone forgave her eccentricity— right up until she tried to warn her uncle Jack of his death, the day before it happened. After he died—right on schedule, in a carriage accident—her own father turned her in. She was accused of witchery and shipped off to Harwood. Less than a year later, she slit her wrists. When her grandfather found out, he insisted she had been simpleminded all her life—that it was illness responsible for her mad talk, not witchery. He brought her home to recover. For the first few weeks, she had to be fed like a baby and wouldn’t talk to anyone. She still barely leaves the house.

I grab Maura’s arm. “I’m not bossy for the joy of it. I’m trying to protect you. I won’t see you shipped off to Harwood. I won’t stand by and see Tess with scars on her wrists and no life in her eyes!”

“Shhh!” Maura hisses, flinging me off. “Father will hear.”

I can’t help it. The thought of my sisters being sent away to suffer Lord knows what because of some lack of diligence on my part—it haunts me.

I’d rather they think I’m a shrew.

“I’m going out,” I announce. “You go tell Tess about the governess, if you’re so pleased.”

I pound down the wide wooden staircase, worry choking me. I hope Tess will be sensible of the threat this newcomer could bring. If only I could trust my sisters to be more careful, more vigilant about what could befall us—

I promised Mother I would look after them. I was the one she trusted—not Mrs. Corbett, not Mrs. O’Hare, not even Father. Their safety is my responsibility now. But they don’t make it easy. They practice magic whenever my back is turned, whenever they think no one will see. They relish unconventional pursuits and unconventional books. Lately Maura’s been rebelling against my rules, fighting me at every turn.

I do everything I can, but it’s always too much or not enough or all wrong somehow.

The kitchen smells of cinnamon and apples. A pie sits on the wide windowsill, steam fogging the glass, leaking from the cross carved into the center of its golden crust.

I grab my cloak from the peg by the door and hurry outside. The air is sweet and acrid at the same time, a blend of smoke from the chimneys and dead leaves blanketing the ground. My favorite spot is up ahead: a bench in the rose garden beneath the statue of Athena. There, surrounded by the tall hedges, we can’t be seen from the house—except from the window in the east corner of my bedroom.

I know: I’ve checked.

I throw myself onto the cold marble and shove off my hood. My eyes fall on a rose, its tips brown and nibbled, petals scattered around the stem. I fix it in my gaze.

Novo,I think.Novo.

It doesn’t revive. It does not alter itself in any way.

But I can feel the magic in me. It’s there in every breath, every angry heartbeat, its gossamer threads pulsing and tightening my chest. It’s teasing, cajoling, begging to be let loose. It’s always like this when a strong emotion comes over me. Particularly when I haven’t let myself do magic for a few days.

I try again:Novo.

Nothing. I slump forward, elbows on knees, chin cradled in my hands. I’m a useless witch. Tess is barely twelve, and she can alter the entire garden without a word. Could probably do it with her eyes closed. I’m sixteen and I can’t manage a simple silent spell.

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