She hated la magie, but it was all she had.

Sitting at the worn table, Camille went back, again and again, to the shadowy, bottomless well, to the memory of their deaths and beyond that, to her memories of their lives as they used to be. Then she reached past even those for a deeper sorrow, one that glimmered darkly, like a silvery fish deep in a black pond. Maman. Papa. Alain, too, the brother who’d held her safe on a window ledge to show her a swallow’s nestlings, was gone into that fathomless water. Tears came but she kept working the metal, until what once had been broken took on the hard, useful shape of a coin.


In the morning, Sophie’s cough was better. She’d been up before Camille, rekindling the fire in the stove, deftly toasting ragged ends of bread and heating old tea leaves for breakfast, which she brought in and set on the floor next to the chair in which Camille had fallen asleep.

“It smells like summer.” There was a tiny, unexpected thrill in Sophie’s voice.

Camille sat up and squinted. Sunlight poured in through the little window above the eaves. “What time is it?” She touched Sophie’s hair where the sunlight warmed it to gold. “You’ve washed your hair.”

“Clever of me, wasn’t it?” Sophie fanned it across her shoulders. “And it’s nearly dry.”

“Alain carried the water up this morning?”

“Last night. Before you came home.” Sophie’s face clouded. “Do you think something’s happened to him?”

Beyond drinking himself into a stupor? Wishing she had sugar for the tea, Camille swiveled the cup so the chip faced away and drank. “No.”

“But imagine if he were pickpocketed at the Palais-Royal? It happens there all the time, he told me. Or—what if he’s fallen into the Seine?”

“I’m certain he’s somewhere safe, sleeping off his … mood.” In her hand, the teacup shivered on its saucer.

“You’re shaking.”

“A little tired, that’s all.”

Sophie stretched her fingers toward Camille’s throat, but she didn’t touch the wound. “It’s not right.”

Camille raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t like Sophie to see anything negative in her big brother. “He frightens me, sometimes. I don’t know what’s happened to him to make him like this.”

“Not that it’s an excuse,” Sophie said, “but he gets so angry about our situation.”

“Does he?” Camille bit back the rest of her words. Once, Alain had been a real older brother who’d cared for her. A brother she’d adored. But now he was a burden, one she seemed to bear the brunt of more and more.

“You needn’t have turned coins last night. It takes too much from you. I know Alain will bring us his winnings.” Sophie squeezed Camille’s hand. “écoute-moi. I have an idea—let’s go out and have fun, just this once? I don’t mind walking however far we need to. We both need new shoes.”

Camille drank the last of her weak tea. “You want new shoes.”

“I need them. How else can I look becoming? S’il te pla?t?” She draped her arms around Camille’s shoulders and whispered in her ear: “Please.”

“Someday soon, ma chère,” Camille said. “And until then, you do know you’re becoming no matter what, don’t you?” Camille slipped out of her sister’s arms and stood up. Through the doorway she could see the table, and on it, the scratched green tin that served as their money box. Last night she’d used all the dented type in the hatbox, and even that wasn’t enough; in the end, she’d resorted to prying nails out of the walls.

“But we’ve got so much now—”

“We don’t!” The words burst out, meaner than she’d meant. “I’m sorry, darling. Madame Lamotte stopped me yesterday when I was coming up the stairs. The rent is past due. And Alain—”

“Fine.” Sophie pushed her shoulders back stiff and tight, like a toy soldier’s. “So where are we going to go?”


At the edges of Paris, the tall buildings shrank, and the cloud-dark sky reasserted itself. The houses, a few with thatched roofs, stood close to the road, sometimes separated from its dust and mud by stone walls. Peering over them, Camille spied the green relief of gardens: bright leaves of apple trees, a tangle of peas twined with pink blossoms.

Sophie tilted her head up and wrinkled her nose. “It was so nice earlier. Now it feels like it’s going to rain.”

“We’re almost there.” Attached to one of the larger houses was a farrier’s shop, its back built into the wall that ran along the lane. Smoke drifted over the roof; from inside the workshop door sparks flew out to fizzle in the dirt yard where horses were shod.

“Here?” Sophie looked as if she were expecting handsome apprentices to hand them boxes full of metal scraps.

Camille laughed. There was no point in being frustrated with Sophie. Tucking her skirts behind her, Camille squatted in the dirt. Digging with a fingernail, she pried a bent nail out of the earth and held it up to Sophie. “See? No need for apprentices.”

“I disagree,” Sophie said petulantly, but after breaking off a couple of twigs from a branch that hung over the wall and giving one to Camille, she too sank to the ground and started digging.

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