Ravencliffe, p.1Carol Goodman
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First published in the United States of America by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014
Copyright © 2014 by Carol Goodman
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Ravencliffe / by Carol Goodman.
“A Blythewood Novel.”
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ava Hall continues to learn more about herself and her heritage through her work in a New York City settlement house as well as through her social obligations with the Blythewood girls.
[1. Supernatural—Fiction. 2. Identity—Fiction. 3. Love—Fiction. 4. Social settlements—Fiction. 5. Social classes—Fiction. 6. Boarding schools—Fiction. 7. Schools—Fiction. 8. New York (N.Y.)—History—1898–1951—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.G61354Rav 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013046780
Special Excerpt from Hawthorn
To Nora, my history muse
WHEN I’D DECIDED to work at the Henry Street Settlement house for the summer, I’d been told that part of my job might entail navigating the Lower East Side tenement houses where our clients lived. But I’d never pictured myself leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Or chasing after an escaped changeling.
I thought I’d left all that behind at Blythewood.
But now that’s exactly what I was doing, running hell-for-leather, leaping over the dividing walls between rooftops.
It had started that morning at Henry Street with an unexpected guest.
I was leaning out my office window trying to catch a breeze, watching a gang of boys whose damp and tattered clothing suggested they had been swimming off the piers. I envied them, even if the East River smelled, the currents were deadly, and bloated bodies occasionally bobbed to its slick, greasy surface. It would be worth it to feel cool water on my skin! I pulled the damp, limp lawn of my shirtwaist away from my tightly laced corset and closed my eyes. If only I could sail out this window and wing my way over the tarpaper roofs and water towers, out to the river. If only I could fly. . . .
A memory of a dark-eyed boy who had carried me up into the air on his ebony wings flitted through my mind. Raven. The last time I’d seen him he had fled from me, sure I saw him as a monster—but really I had only reacted to him as I did because I had been afraid that I was one. Now I might never get a chance to tell him I’d been wrong. The memory of him was so real I could almost feel the beat of his wings stirring the stale air around me and hear the rustle of feathers. . . .
I did hear rustling.
I turned around, but of course it wasn’t Raven. It was a young girl—a child in stature, but perhaps really a teenager stunted by poor nutrition—in a white shirtwaist that had been much mended but was clean and pressed and a plain brown skirt with a tattered muddy hem that hovered a few inches above the tops of her worn, scuffed boots. Instead of a hat, she wore a faded scarf tied over her hair, as many of the Jewish girls in the neighborhood did. All in all, she looked like many of the young immigrants who filled the Lower East Side tenements surrounding the settlement house. Like Tillie Kupermann, my friend who had died last year in the Triangle fire. As an image of Tillie striding across the smoke-filled factory floor filled my head, I remembered.
“Etta!” I cried. “Etta Blum! You were at the Triangle. You’re the girl Tillie—”
“Saved. Yes, although she couldn’t have done it without you and that strange young man.”
Raven. How much did Etta remember of that day? Raven leading us through the flames beneath a cloak and up onto the roof? A man in an Inverness cape shoving Tillie off the roof? What about me falling? Or Raven catching me midair and bearing me aloft on ebony wings? Or had she relegated all the events of that terrible day to the realms of nightmare?
“Much was strange about that day,” I said, glancing nervously at the door where Miss Corey and Miss Sharp had appeared, drawn by my crying out Etta’s name, no doubt. “But I’m so glad to see you. I’ve thought about you, but I didn’t know where to find you.” A prick of guilt stung me. I had seen her name on the rolls of survivors; I could have looked for her. I should have looked for her.
“I thought you were dead,” Etta said simply. “I saw you fall. But a couple of days ago I saw you walking on Ludlow Street. At first I thought you might be a ghost. I’ve seen so many strange things recently. But then I followed you and saw you come here to the settlement house.” She turned around and smiled shyly at Miss Sharp and Miss Corey. “It didn’t seem a place for ghosts.”
“No, of course not,” Miss Sharp said, holding out her hand to Etta. “It’s a place for girls who need help. Do you need help, Etta?”
“Not me!” Etta said. “It’s my sister, Ruth. She’s . . . she’s . . .” Etta’s face crumpled and she began to shake. Miss Sharp grasped her shoulders just before she slumped to the floor. She helped Etta into a chair and snapped at Miss Corey.
“Lillian, don’t just stand there! Make the girl some tea. And Ava”—she turned to me—“go see if there’s some bread and cheese in the soup kitchen—”
“No!” Etta roused herself to grasp my hand. “I want you to stay. I knew when I saw you that you were the only one who could help me . . . that if you could come back after falling off a ten-story building, you could bring back my sister.”
“How long has she been gone?” Miss Sharp asked, handing Etta a cup of tea.
“That’s just it,” Etta said. “She’s not gone—she’s just not herself anymore. And the thing that’s taken her place . . . it’s not human.”
We gave Etta three cups of sweet, hot tea, but she still didn’t make a lot of sense. A change
“When did you first imagine that she had changed?” Miss Corey asked brusquely, holding a pencil to her notebook.
“When did she stop being your sister?” Miss Sharp rephrased the question more gently.
“It was after the Fourth of July Tammany Hall excursion to Coney Island. Papa forbade us to go. He says picnics are for goyim.” She blushed, looking apologetically at blonde, blue-eyed Miss Sharp.
“But your sister didn’t care about the old ways, did she?” Miss Sharp asked gently.
I startled at the phrase. The old ways was how we talked of tradition at Blythewood. I’d learned last year that the phrase had a more sinister meaning having to do with breeding and forced marriages. I was surprised to hear Miss Sharp use it in connection with a Coney Island excursion, but I understood when Etta answered.
“No,” she admitted with a small, shy smile. “Ruth said we might as well have stayed in the shtetl in the old country if we’d only come to America to marry good Jewish boys and shave our heads. . . .” As Miss Corey’s eyes widened, Etta went on. “That’s what Jewish women do when they marry,” she explained. “Ruth didn’t care about marrying a Jewish boy. She flirted with the Irish boys on Cherry Street and the Swedes from Bay Ridge.”
“She went with all these men?” Miss Corey asked.
“Not that way!” Etta cried, bristling. “She liked laughing with the boys and going out to Coney Island to ride the Steeplechase and dancing at the dance halls. She worked hard all week at the factory and wanted to have a good time on her day off.”
“There’s many a girl who’s been led astray in the pursuit of fun,” Miss Corey said primly, giving me a knowing a look. Since I’d volunteered to spend my summer vacation working at the settlement house, the Blythewood librarian had kept a close eye on me and lectured me daily on the dangers of the city. “Especially girls who go with strange men.”
“Let’s not jump to any conclusions, Lil,” Miss Sharp said. She cradled Etta’s hand in hers and added in a softer tone, “But perhaps, Etta, the change that came over your sister is a result of an attachment she’s formed. Young women can sometimes seem quite different when they fall in love. ”
“Yes!” Miss Corey said, snapping her pencil in half. “They frequently act like perfect fools!”
“But that’s just the thing,” Etta said. “She’s not acting like a boy-crazy fool. She’s become perfectly obedient and suddenly has no interest in boys at all. She does everything Mama and Papa tell her to do—except for the ironing—but she wrings the clothes instead and hangs them all on the clothes rack, which is much harder.”
“But she won’t use the iron?” Miss Corey asked, looking up from the new pencil she was sharpening and catching Miss Sharp’s worried glance. “Is there anything else she won’t use or touch?”
Etta frowned, thinking. “The kettle,” she said finally. “Ruth used to get up first and put the kettle on the stove, but now she goes to fetch the water from the pump even though it’s six flights down and back . . . come to think of it, she doesn’t go near the stove either.”
“The iron, the kettle, the stove,” Miss Corey said. “All made of iron.”
“If she can’t touch iron,” I began, “does that mean she’s a fair—”
“It means it’s fairly certain we should go see her,” Miss Sharp broke in, widening her eyes at me. “Is she home now, Etta?”
Etta nodded. “It’s her half day at the factory, but she comes home straightaway now to help me and Mama make silk flowers to sell. Mama will be wondering where I am.”
“Well, let’s get you home, then,” Miss Sharp said, squeezing Etta’s shoulder. “Lillian, why don’t you take Etta down to the kitchen to see if there are any day-old loaves to be had while Ava and I collect my nursing bag so we can give Ruth a proper exam.”
“She’s not sick,” Etta began to object, but Miss Corey steered her out of the office, explaining to her that coming as a visiting nurse would give Miss Sharp an opportunity to speak with Ruth. When their voices had faded on the stairs, I turned to Miss Sharp, who was bent over her leather valise. It had surprised me that Vionetta Sharp, English teacher at Blythewood, would spend her summer off training as a nurse, but she told me that the world might soon be more in need of nurses than English teachers. The jeweled dagger she pulled out of her bag and slipped into a concealed sheath at her waist, though, did not look like part of the usual nurse’s kit. I recognized it as a magical dagger from Blythewood.
“What do you think has taken Ruth’s place?” I asked.
“A Fata mutabilis,” Miss Sharp replied, adding a potions vial to the bag. “Or in common parlance: a changeling.”
Henry Street was so crowded with housewives buying their dinners from food carts, young women pouring out of factories, and men pouring into the taverns, that we had to walk in pairs. Miss Corey went in front with Etta, while Miss Sharp walked beside me, whispering what she knew about changelings—which wasn’t much.
“Little is known about them in their indigenous state, as they are almost only encountered after they have assumed the characteristics of their human hosts. By that time they look almost entirely human, save for certain telltale marks on their skin, which only an expert trained by the Order can recognize. Also there are their habits—avoidance of iron, unusual appetites, insomnia—that give them away. If Etta’s sister has indeed been taken over by a changeling, it’s quite remarkable that Etta spotted the creature. When this is done, we should conduct an interview with Etta to test for preternatural talents. She might be a candidate for Blythewood.”
“I can’t imagine Etta wanting to leave her sister. She seems so devoted to her.” A sorrowful look from Miss Sharp froze my voice. “We will get her back, won’t we? That’s how the stories my mother used to read me always ended—once the changeling is driven off the real child returns.”
Miss Sharp sighed. “Unfortunately, those really are fairy stories. The original host is rarely restored. We’re not sure what the changelings do to them—we suspect they kill them to absorb their features and memories.” Seeing the look of horror on my face, Miss Sharp pulled me to the side of the street, out of the path of a horse-drawn ice cart, and gripped my shoulders.
“These creatures are dangerous, Ava. I know your . . . encounter with the Darkling this past year has predisposed you to look favorably on the fairies, but there are dangerous creatures hiding in plain sight, preying on humans, and as members of the Order we’re pledged to protect humanity from them.”
Vionetta Sharp might not have looked like a warrioress of an ancient Order, but she and Miss Corey had taken the same oath I had on my first night at Blythewood to defend humanity against the creatures of Faerie. Some of those creatures—trolls, goblins, ice giants—were dangerous and scary, but others, like the tiny lampsprites, were harmless. And then there were the Darklings . . .
“Darklings aren’t fairies,” I protested. “But yes, Raven did help me to see that the Order is wrong about the fairies. They’re not all evil. I thought you agreed. Your grandfather believed they weren’t all evil.”
“And nearly killed my uncle Taddie trying to prove it!” Miss Sharp snapped in an unusually brusque manner. She hadn’t been herself all summer. I’d put it down to the strain of settlement work, but now I saw that something else must be on her mind. “I believe it’s true that we have to revise the old ways of the Order, but we can’t throw them out willy-nilly. Many of these creatures are truly dangerous—the changelings perhaps most of all. Look at what one did to poor Lillian.”
“To Miss Corey? What do you—” The
“Made by a changeling that was trying to take her place. Her father killed it before it could, but it left those marks. So you can understand why Lillian does not feel kindly disposed toward the species. If that is what’s up there . . .” She lifted her eyes up to the tenement house where Etta and Miss Corey had stopped. “Then you must let us do what is necessary. You stay with Etta and help her distract her family while Lillian and I draw the creature out and . . . deal with it.”
I thought of the dagger in Miss Sharp’s bag and shivered despite the sultriness of the day. I’d seen Vionetta Sharp mesmerize a murder of shadow crows at Blythewood with that dagger. Her blue eyes were shining now with a cold light that reminded me of the eyes of the Dianas when they went into a Hunt trance. She didn’t look as if she would brook any disagreements. I nodded my head.
“Good girl,” she said, turning to join Etta and Miss Corey at the door of the tenement, dismissing me as abruptly as a general would dismiss a field soldier. My teacher was already on the hunt. I almost felt sorry for the creature waiting for us upstairs.
Though I was no stranger to the dark, unlit stairwells and strong odors of tenement houses, I felt a lowering sense of dread as we climbed to the sixth floor to face a creature trying to pass as human. Would it go with us peaceably? Or would it fight to keep its place? And how did Miss Sharp plan to deal with it?
At the top of the stairs, Etta removed a key from a string around her neck and held it to the lock of a worn and faded wooden door. She turned to Miss Corey. “Are you going to hurt it?” she asked.
“We’ll do what we have to do,” Miss Corey answered.
“I only want my sister back,” she said.
“We’ll do what we can,” Miss Corey said, not meeting her eyes.
We stepped into a dim and dingy room. The only light came from a window facing an airshaft, inches from a brick wall, and a smoking kerosene lamp on the center of a large round table. Around the table were gathered a circle of indistinct figures hunched over piles of incongruously bright flowers, the only color in the room. The two women at the table wore gray dresses and dark scarves over their heads. The two little boys were so covered with dirt I could only make out the whites of their eyes as they looked up at us. Everyone looked up except for one figure at the far side of the room, who curled herself over the table and tugged her scarf down lower over her forehead.
Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes