ã€€ã€€Stephanus picked at the egg salad sandwich on his tray, running his finger along the edge, making the salad cream even with the bread. Isis meowed at him from the bottom of the bed. “You don’t have to stay,” said Stephanus. She meowed at him again. “It’s no good saying anything to me,” said Stephanus. “I don’t speak cat.” He leaned over to scratch her head and she purred. “Well,” he said to her softly, “I speak that much cat.” Isis rubbed her head against his arm. “You know,” he said quietly, “I could take Eurydice and Ammut. We could leave. He couldn’t take us away then, and we wouldn’t cause anyone any more trouble.” Isis’ eyes, bright and open, reflected the sun that had broken through the clouds. “That might be for the best. The safest, any how.”
ã€€ã€€ã€€Isis’ ears perked as the door inched open. Isis padded off the bed, toward the door, tail raised like an antenna. A girl, hair pulled back in a severe ponytail, peered in. “Who are you? What do you want?” said Stephanus. He hoped she hadn’t heard him talking to the cat.
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Shari Pitch,” she said. “I wanted to see Errol’s cat.”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Shari Pitch,” Stephanus repeated. “You’re here for the party?”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Yes,” she said. “You’re the cousin, aren’t you? I hear you’re sick.”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”I don’t like parties,” Stephanus said, crossing his arms.
ã€€ã€€ã€€”I don’t much either. I do want a look about, however. This is a very big house.”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Isn’t that rude?” said Stephanus. “Won’t you be missed?”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Not for a little while.” She crouched down to pet Isis, who didn’t seem to mind that she was rude and purred when petted. “Maybe you can show me some things of interest. I’d like to see the scroll, for example.”
“You know, the Klarion Scroll? I know all about it. Do you have a demon, Stephanus Gale? I’ve seen your sister’s. I wonder what kind of demon you have.”
“A guinea pig,” Stephanus said sarcastically, remembering what Mrs. Welkin had said at her shop. Then he was struck that Shari Pitch knew about the demons and the scroll. How did she know? Didn’t Uncle Marcellus tell him people in Hathersage didn’t know? Well, the Hamwich family knew, but how did she know? Stephanus leaped across the room and closed the door abruptly. “What are you talking about?” he asked.
She cradled Isis in her arms, stood, and smiled impishly. “I know some things. My grandmother has told me. I don’t know where the scroll is though.”
Errol had told him about the scroll when he’d told him about the curse. Perhaps he should strong arm this Shari Pitch back down to the party and turn her over to Errol. Better yet, Uncle Geoffrey and Aunt Melisande. “I don’t know where the scroll is either,” said Stephanus. “I’m certain that a person like you could never get in to see it.”
“Very smart,” said Shari. “At least you didn’t pretend that you did know for very long. I’m certain a person like you couldn’t get in to see it either, especially since your demon is only a guinea pig.”
“I don’t want to see the scroll,” said Stephanus. “I think you should leave.”
“If I were you, I’d want it,” said Shari nonchalantly, leaning against the closed door. “You could help your sister with it. You could help yourself.”
“I’m not cursed,” said Stephanus. “I have no need of the scroll.”
“You mean you’re not??”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”No, I’m not. I lied.”
ã€€ã€€ã€€”Oh,” said Shari. “I’m sorry for you, then.”
“You must feel so left out,” she said. “The weakest link or something like that.”
Stephanus felt his cheeks grow warm. “I do not feel anything of the sort!”
“Then why are you so angry?”
“I am not angry! You have absolutely no idea what it means to be cursed!”
“No? I know you get all sorts of lovely things, like Isis and magic. I wish my family had a curse. It would make us legitimate.”
A light rap on the door made Shari move away from it as Errol poked his head around the corner. “There you are,” said Errol. “Your grandmother sent me to look for you. I see you’ve met Stephanus.”
“I came looking for your cat, and here she was,” said Shari innocently.
“You’d best leave,” said Stephanus.
“Stephanus was just telling me that he might show me the scroll chamber,” said Shari.
“I said no such thing!” said Stephanus.
“Oh,” said Errol, casually. “You know about that?”
“Gran says she saw it once. Can I?”
“No!” said Stephanus. “Of course you can’t! That’s a terrible idea!”
“On the contrary, I think it’s a good idea,” said Errol. “Come along, Isis. Let’s show Shari the scroll chamber. Stephanus, of course you should come too.” Isis hopped up on Errol’s shoulders, entwining her tail around his neck, and the three of them left Stephanus’ room, Stephanus full of misgiving. The shadow servants had melted into the corners and along the floorboards, giving the hallway the look of years of varnished dust. Shari’s eyes stared at the iron wall sconces, the rich draperies lining the hall windows, and the dark paintings on the interior walls. Errol opened a door that Stephanus wasn’t sure he’d seen before, one at the very end of the hallway. “We’re going to go downstairs for a long time,” said Errol. “I hope you’re not afraid of the dark?”
“No,” said Shari, as though she were accepting a dare. “I like the dark.”