Slowly, slowly a dingy pile of scraps grew between them. It wasn’t hard work, but it was dirty, and it would be days before their fingernails were clean again. With each shard of metal, each nail she tossed onto the pile, Camille’s resentment simmered toward boiling. Alain never helped dig. Nor did he wander the streets, eyes on the muck, ready to paw through it when metal glinted there. He didn’t need to. He was full of puffed-up promises—when he rose through the ranks of the Guard, there would be plenty for them all! Camille pried a long nail out of the earth and flung it on the pile. Alain couldn’t even keep his uniform clean. He seemed hardly to report for duty. How would he ever rise through the ranks? And his gambling debts only grew bigger and murkier, though he insisted they were nothing.

She continued to dig in the dirt, wrenching the metal bits free and hurling them at the bag, where they clinked dully together. Alain’s promises were as worthless as the pieces of paper Papa’s noble customers used to sign. They meant nothing. And it always fell to her to make something from that nothing.

“Any more and we won’t be able to carry the bag home,” Camille said, hoisting the flour sack they’d brought with them.

“Grace à Dieu,” Sophie muttered as she stood up. “We need gloves, Camille. There’s so much dirt under my nails they hurt.”

A horse cart rumbled toward them along the lane, kicking up clouds of dust. Before it’d even passed them, Sophie was bent over her knees, coughing.

“Shh, now.” Camille hugged Sophie close. “Are you all right?”

“My lungs—not quite—better,” she gasped.

Nearby a low wall ran toward an open field. On the other side of it, farmhands were cutting an early crop, their sickles flashing. A low wind billowed in their shirtsleeves. Behind the men, a band of trees crouched under a darkening sky. Camille dropped down onto the wall, pulling Sophie close beside her. Through the thin cloth of Sophie’s dress, her shoulder blades jutted out; her breath hitched in her throat in a way that made Camille wish she could breathe for her and spare her the pain. With Sophie’s fair head tucked against her neck, Camille closed her eyes and wished hard: somehow. Someday. Soon.

A moment later Sophie was kicking her heels dully against the stones.

“You’ll ruin your shoes that way.”

Sophie shrugged as if to say, They’re already ruined. “I could take in more work from Madame Bénard. She’s always saying I’ve got clever hands for trimming hats. I might even wait on customers in the shop.”

It would certainly help. “Are you certain? With your health?”

With her dirty fingers, Sophie carefully straightened the pleats on Camille’s sleeve. “Then you wouldn’t have to work la magie—”

“That would be a lot of hats.” Camille dropped her smile when she saw Sophie’s eyes darkening.

“Not everyone can work magic.”

It had been a vexed subject ever since the beginning, when Maman had begun teaching Sophie the simplest kind of magic, la magie ordinaire. Sophie insisted she couldn’t do it. Camille knew she didn’t want to. And unlike Camille, who could do it and who must, Sophie had walked away from working magic at all.

“Everyone’s struggling these days,” Camille said, pressing down her resentment. “We’re not the only ones. Apart from the nobles, all the people of France are hungry.” In the field, the farmhands worked their way through the green rows. “Perhaps this year’s harvest will be better.”

“One harvest won’t make our lives better. Bread will cost a bit less, bien s?r. But we’ll still be scraping through the mud for scraps of metal.”

“We won’t live off la magie forever. Something will change.”

Sophie glanced sidelong at Camille. “Alain said he would take me to a dance at the Palais-Royal.”

“And?” Camille said, uneasy.

“And,” said Sophie, dragging her finger in curlicues along the top of the wall, “he said I might meet someone there. Plenty of noblemen come to the Palais-Royal for the duc d’Orléans’ entertainments. He said he’d buy me a dress to wear and a friend of his would loan me some jewels.”

“Oh?” If Sophie went, what would she find there, at the crowded gaming tables or on the polished parquet floor of the ballroom? An aristocrat looking for a wife? Hardly. A girl for an evening or maybe a week. Not the fairy-tale romance she was wishing for. “Who’ll buy you a dress: Alain or the duc?”

“Alain, silly.” Sophie gave Camille’s shoulder a little push. “I can marry rich, I know it. Find someone who’d take care of us.”

Camille wanted to scream. Or give up. Of all the things that Alain did—his drinking, his gambling, his utter disregard for money—encouraging Sophie to marry high was the worst. Even when their parents were alive, this had been ridiculous. And Maman had encouraged it with her stories. She told them she’d lived at Versailles when she was a little girl: she’d had a pretty dog on a red ribbon, a white pony, her own enameled box for her rings. But her stories had the dim, dappled feel of dreams—nothing to hold on to. And after Papa had to sell the press, after her parents died, a rich husband for Sophie was a very dangerous daydream. She caught Sophie looking at her: her blue eyes large in her face, her lips parted, waiting. Hoping.

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