Study Guide

Splendors and Glooms Quotes

By Laura Amy Schlitz

  • Love

    At the thought of seeing him again, her heartbeat quickened, and she felt a tug in her belly that she recognized as hunger—not hunger for food but for something far more shameful and dangerous: love. (P.16)

    Cassandra has everything she's wanted in life—including power, magical abilities, and a ton of money—but she's lacking in real love. That makes the rest of it hard to enjoy, especially because she knows that she'll die alone (which is depressing).

    He was selfish and rude, and his personal habits were disgusting. Nevertheless, Lizzie Rose loved him, as she might have loved a small wild animal she was trying to tame. She had a chivalrous tenderness for anyone weaker than herself, and she knew Parsefall was often afraid. (2.9)

    It's not easy, but Lizzie Rose is determined to love Parsefall, warts and all. She considers him the closest thing she has to a family now that her parents are dead, and she's not going to let him go unloved.

    Lizzie Rose thought wistfully of the days when she worked with her parents in the theater. There had been times when there was little money, but her mother had always managed it so that she didn't look too shabby. Lizzie Rose was a striking child, with her bright hair and transparent complexion. Her parents had taught her to carry herself well and to speak clearly. The Fawrs had not been rich, but they had been loving and comfortable. It had been a happy life. (2.14)

    The difference between Lizzie Rose and Parsefall is that she actually has memories of a loving, safe childhood. That's why she's able to look on the bright side of things and actually believe that the world can be a lovely place.

    "She only loves the Others," Clara sobbed. "They c-can't do anything bad because they're dead."

    "Listen to me, Clara." Dr. Wintermute took his daughter's hands and squeezed them tightly. "Stop crying and listen. Your mother loves you dearly. She should not have said those things to you." (6.23-24)

    Even though Clara is spoiled and doted upon, she still feels like her parents don't love her enough, especially her mother. She's certain her mother loves the dead children more than she'll ever love Clara.

    He was ashamed of it, but he often found himself wishing that Charles Augustus had been the twin to survive the cholera. It was his most terrible secret. He loved Clara. He was quite sure he loved her, though he sometimes felt he didn't know her very well. (6.31)

    Clara isn't wrong to feel like her parents don't love her in the same way they love her dead siblings—even her father secretly thinks he loved Charles Augustus more. The poor girl can't help but disappoint her parents by surviving instead of her brother.

    She patted the dog, feeling the tensed muscles under the silky fur. Ruby had begun life as one of Mrs. Pinchbeck's dogs but had deserted her mistress when Lizzie Rose came to live with Grisini. Ruby was a morbidly sensitive dog, drawn to anyone in distress; Lizzie Rose, grieving for her parents, found comfort in the spaniel's love. In no time at all, the two were inseparable. (8.3)

    Lizzie Rose has some serious Disney princess qualities, including her innate goodness and her love for animals. Even dogs follow her around because she's so nice and wonderful to them.

    Had she known that in his heart, she must always be second to Charles Augustus? It had been true, but was true no longer. If she came back to him, he would find a way to tell her so; he would clasp her tightly and tell her over and over how much he loved her. (12.12)

    Clara's father doesn't realize just how much he loves his daughter until she's gone … and then he regrets terribly that he's kept her at arm's length. If only he could get her back, he could start to make amends and be a good father to her.

    A thrill ran through her like an electric shock. Why, he loves me, she thought in amazement. The idea was new to her. If anyone had asked her, she would have said that of course her father loved her; good fathers must always love their children. But she had always known how deeply he mourned Charles Augustus. She was the twin who should have died. Now, feeling the tremor in her father's hand, she understood that she was precious to him, and she wanted to weep for joy. (25.8)

    Even though this whole situation is horrible and Clara can't even call out to her father, she's still happy to see such palpable love in his eyes. She was never sure before now if he truly loved her, but she is finally confident her dad adores her.

    "You do blame me," she contradicted him, "and it's true. I didn't love her in the way I did the others. How could I, when I knew she might be taken away? I bore you five children, Thomas. Five children in eight years—I carried them in sickness and bore them in pain. You don't know what that's like. No man knows. But I loved them, truly I loved them—and then Cholera came, and they were taken from me. All but Clara. I wanted to love her. I tried—I did love her, but then she was taken, too." (40.18)

    Mrs. Wintermute doesn't love Clara like she did her other children, but it's not because of anything that Clara has done. She's just afraid to love Clara because she is always thinking of how much it would hurt to lose her little girl and have her only remaining child taken away.

    Cassandra was as pale as death, but her eyes glittered. "I caught you, I trapped you!" she panted. "I knew I could do it! I saw into your mind, and I knew you loved the boy. Love is always a trap!" (46.8)

    Cassandra must have lived a pretty miserable life if she thinks that love is always a trap. She thinks she's winning when Clara steals the phoenix-stone, but in the end, Clara is the one who manages to destroy it. She chooses to act out of love, not greed.

  • Manipulation

    Clara hesitated. She had no wish to follow Grisini into a dim and empty room, but she could think of no polite way to refuse. Close at hand, she could see how disreputable he looked. His tattered frock glistened with fog, and there was a patch of sticking plaster under his chin. (5.8)

    It's clear that Grisini is the sort of man who could be dangerous, even to Clara, who is transfixed by his puppet show. She can tell he has some sort of ulterior motive in talking to her, but she doesn't know how to say no.

    "You are weary of mourning, are you not? You want to laugh and to dance … and there is something else, yes? No, do not deny it; I can see into your deepest heart. You carry a secret, don't you, mia piccina? Something that haunts you and makes you feel you are a very wicked girl … ?" (5.30)

    Grisini is a master puppeteer and can manipulate emotions easily, as though people are puppets on strings. He makes Clara feel badly about her siblings' deaths even though it wasn't her fault and she couldn't have done anything to stop it.

    "Grisini would kill us," Parsefall said desperately. He dug his fingernails into her hand. "If we peached on him, he'd kill us. You don't know 'im the way I do." He heard his voice rise and lowered it again. "Promise me you won't go to the coppers."

    Lizzie Rose gave a little shiver. She wasn't promising anything. (10.58-59)

    The children aren't staying away from the cops out of loyalty to Grisini; they're just terrified of him. He has manipulated them over the course of their lives so that they will fear for their lives if they ever cross him.

    He understood that the arrangements gave every advantage to the kidnapper. Until the next morning, Dr. Wintermute could not leave the cemetery. He would not catch so much as a glimpse of his daughter's captor; he had only the kidnapper's word that Clara would be released after the ransom was paid. Nevertheless, he had determined to follow the instructions in the letter. It had come with a spiral of glossy hair: one of Clara's ringlets. The sight of that curl had robbed Dr. Wintermute of his last shred of common sense. (12.5)

    Dr. Wintermute knows that the kidnapper is playing on his fear and worry, but he can't defy him—he's too worried about Clara's safety and well-being. He'll go along with this sick game if it means he can get his daughter back.

    He congratulated himself on the excellence of his plan. He had chosen his victim well. Dr. Wintermute could be relied upon to pay Clara's ransom; a man who had lost four children and would stop at nothing to rescue the fifth. Not until the following morning would the doctor understand that his daughter was never coming home. (14.5)

    Grisini is so terrible. He plays with people and their emotions like they're his puppets, and he doesn't even feel guilty about causing the Wintermutes so much distress. He doesn't even intend to give Clara back, even though she's all that they have left in life.

    He selected his words carefully. "To me, you are as beautiful as you ever were."

    It was a double insult. She bared her teeth at him, the unhealthy color in her cheeks deepening. "How dare you, Gaspare! I could have let you die—" (19.14-15)

    Grisini likes to rub in the fact that he once manipulated Cassandra into teaching him magic by pretending to love her, and he hurts her feelings even now when he suggests that she was never beautiful to him. He only used her for his own personal gain.

    He spoke her name as he once had, lingering over each syllable. He remembered how her eyes used to kindle when he spoke like that. She had fought against her love for him like a fish on the hook, but he had once had the power to soften her.(19.26)

    Seeing Grisini again brings back all of the pain and humiliation of their shared past. Cassandra hates to think about how she fell in love with him when he didn't return her feelings at all. He was pretending the whole time they were "together."

    An idea flashed through his mind like a comet. He wanted to clap his hands and crow with laughter and drum his heels with joy. In one flash of inspiration, he saw how he might gain the power of the fire opal—the power, not the doom of it. He thought of the children he had planned to discard as useless. They would not be useless now. (19.56)

    Even when he's bedridden and in pain, Grisini can't help but think about how he can manipulate the people around him to become even more powerful. He doesn't care about Lizzie Rose and Parsefall at all—he just wants them to come to Strachan's Ghyll and steal the phoenix-stone for him.

    And whichever it is, he thought, will be my puppet and my slave. If Parsefall steals it, he will use it according to my commands. And if it is Lizzie Rose … She has not yet learned fear, not as the boy has, but I shall enjoy teaching her. (19.69)

    Grisini is certain that when Lizzie Rose or Parsefall ends up stealing the phoenix-stone, he will be able to use the child like a puppet. He doesn't ever consider the fact that they might use the stone against him. You know, since they despise him and all.

    Cassandra had unearthed treasures from her collections and strewn them about the rooms, hoping to stimulate the children's appetite for plunder. Each day, she had hoped for their arrival, only to be disappointed. Then that morning, she had awakened knowing that the children were on their way. (29.17)

    Cassandra sure does delight in setting out a pretty little trap for the children. She wants to show them that there are lots of shiny, valuable things to steal at Strachan's Ghyll—including the best thing of all, the phoenix-stone.

  • Suffering

    The witch burned. She tossed in a sea of blankets, dizzy with heat. It was fever, not fire, that tormented her, fever and the nightmares that came with it. (P.1)

    There's a price to be paid for hanging onto something as powerful and dangerous as the phoenix-stone. Cassandra is starting to understand that it's not all fun and games—the stone is going to kill her if she's not careful.

    Lizzie Rose was hungry. As she pushed the puppet stage through the streets, her nostrils drew in savory odors from the street vendors: roasted chestnuts, baked potatoes, and coffee. Her stomach growled, complaining that she had eaten nothing since breakfast. At noontime, Grisini had bought his usual sausage roll—she could smell the garlic on his breath—but he hadn't brought anything home. (2.1)

    Grisini is completely indifferent to the suffering of the children, hoarding all of the food for himself and leaving nothing for Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. They have to go work for him without anything in their stomachs. How cruel.

    She bent her head and brought up one hand as if to cover her face. "Of course, it was dreadful for Mamma. For Papa, too, but Mamma nearly died of grief." She cleared her throat. "It was seven years ago. I'm twelve years old today." (3.34)

    Poor Clara has grown up in a pretty bleak household, especially when it comes to her parents. She has to tiptoe around her mother, who is always in mourning and is easily upset.

    His fingers were clever enough, but there were only nine of them. The little finger on his right hand was missing. There was no scar, nothing ugly to see. It was just that the little finger was not there. Parsefall didn't know what had become of it. He was almost certain he had once had ten fingers, and it tormented him that he couldn't remember what had become of the one he lost. (3.56)

    Although Parsefall has no idea what happened to his missing finger, he's sure that it was something terrible. Does he want to remember what happened, or is he better off just forgetting the whole violent incident?

    Dear God, if the child was ill … He told himself there could be nothing wrong. If Clara had been anyone else's daughter, he would have said she was as strong as a little pony. But the nightmare of the past would be with him till the day he died. When the cholera struck, the children had been taken ill very suddenly. He remembered his wife's face as she wept over the bodies of the children he had been unable to save. (6.7)

    The Wintermutes have been through some serious trauma with the deaths of four children, and now, whenever Clara looks even the slightest bit off, Dr. Wintermute has to check her health. He's terrified of losing yet another child and going through that pain all over again.

    That night Parsefall had a nightmare. It was Ruby who sounded the alarm, sniffing at her mistress's face and whining softly. Lizzie Rose heard Parsefall's labored breathing and climbed out of bed. She drew a blanket around her shoulders, tiptoed out of her room, and knelt beside the sleeping boy. She wanted to rouse him before he screamed; Grisini did not like being awakened. (10.1)

    Parsefall acts like a tough guy during the day and pretends he doesn't need anyone else—especially not Lizzie Rose—but at night, he's plagued by terrible nightmares. That's when he needs someone to comfort and care for him, to make him feel safe again.

    Parsefall couldn't sleep. He was plagued by two powerful enemies of slumber: hurt pride and an upset stomach. His stomach muscles jerked and strained, trying to subdue the half-digested mess inside: oysters, mashed turnips, eel pie, sausages, and a pudding compounded from treacle and suet. A wave of nausea passed over him, and he wondered if he was going to be sick. (22.1)

    This kid never catches a break. The one time that he has enough money to go to a puppet show and eat whatever he wants, he ends up feeling awful afterward. He's not used to all of that rich food.

    He had seen her shabby lodgings and sat by her meager fire. He remembered the darns and patches on her frock, and the way the sole of her boot parted from the upper. How could he, who had lived in comfort all his life, condemn her for stealing? The girl had no one to provide for her, no one to protect her. (28.18)

    Now that Dr. Wintermute has had time to reflect, he feels bad about yelling at Lizzie Rose. Even if the girl is a thief, how can he hold it against her? It's obvious that she's been through a lot of struggle and strife in her life.

    Parsefall's face was unreadable, but Clara seemed to feel his thoughts. They were like splinters of glass when a mirror breaks: jagged, brittle, darting in all directions. He knew he was going to be hurt, but he didn't know how, or how much. He fastened his eyes on Grisini's face, desperate to anticipate what might happen next. (33.32)

    When Parsefall realizes that Grisini is at Strachan's Ghyll, he is totally terrified. He knows what Grisini is capable of, and he has been subjected to his violent whims before. He doesn't want to be hurt by the sadistic magician now.

    "And he shall go on bleeding until I choose to stop it." Cassandra looked from Lizzie Rose to Parsefall. "You see how I avenge you, my children? You see how great my power is? This man will never harm you again. He is my puppet." She raised her arms, spreading her fingers as if manipulating strings. "See? I can make him bleed, and I can make him dance." (44.38)

    The kids might hate Grisini and want him gone, but that doesn't mean that they want to watch him cruelly tortured before their eyes. Cassandra thinks she's doing them a favor, but Lizzie Rose steps in to stop her—she doesn't want to be responsible for this bloody scene.

  • Mortality

    Her muscles locked. For almost a minute, she stood frozen. Once the stone was destroyed, she would be powerless. She was old, and soon she would die. She knew she would die alone. But not by fire. And she would die without asking for help from Grisini. That one humiliation she would be spared. (P.24)

    The phoenix-stone is killing Cassandra, but she's still reluctant to relinquish it because she knows that once it's gone, she'll probably die of old age. It's just that she doesn't want to die in the way the other women have—in a painful, fiery blaze. Yeah, us neither.

    "There was cholera." Clara spoke hurriedly, as if eager to get the explanation over with. "Quentin was just a baby. That's Selina by the column—she was the eldest. She was seven, and Adelaide was six, and Charles Augustus and I were five. He was my twin." She hesitated a moment and plunged on. "Papa thinks the contagion was in the watercress. I was naughty that day. I've never liked eating green things, and I wouldn't eat the watercress at tea. So I wasn't ill, but the others died." (3.34)

    Even though she was only five at the time, Clara remembers clearly what happened to her siblings and how they all died. What a traumatic thing for a little girl to carry around for more than half of her life.

    "They take plaster," Clara said very calmly, "and press it over the—the dear one's face. And then later take more plaster and make a mask. That way—" She stopped and covered her mouth with her hand. She did not seem grief stricken so much as embarrassed.

    Parsefall's eyes went back to the four white casts. "That's nasty," he said. "Stickin' plaster on somebody's face wot's dead. It's 'orrible." (3.39-40)

    It's clear that the Wintermutes aren't going to let their deceased children be forgotten anytime soon. They have reminders of them everywhere, which is disturbing to Parsefall when he enters their grand home.

    Against an ivory background was a weeping willow tree, less than an inch high. Each branch and front was fashioned from snippets of human hair. "Ah, so this is for mourning! The hair is from your dead brothers and sisters, I suppose." (5.26)

    What a terrible birthday gift. Instead of giving her daughter something fun or pretty, Clara's mother gives her a locket with the hair of all of her dead siblings inside. It's a morbid reminder that she's lucky to be alive.

    "He would have been twelve years old today. We went to Kensal Green, the way we always do, because it was his birthday, and we went in the mausoleum and cried." She spoke the last word flatly; crying was an essential part of the outing. "I hate the mausoleum. I hate seeing the caskets and the space on the shelf next to Charles Augustus—I hate looking at it and thinking that I should have to lie there one day, all dark and dead and cold." (6.28)

    It's impossible for Clara to move on from her siblings' deaths when she's constantly being forced to go to the cemetery and cry over them. She can't help but think that she must belong there, too.

    "No, is 'e?" Parsefall took the photograph and peered at it narrowly. "I didn't look that close. I thought 'e was sleepin'. He's a real little swell, ain't he?"

    Lizzie Rose frowned at him. "You shouldn't call him a swell now he's dead."

    "It ain't my fault 'e's dead," Parsefall said, stung. "They're all dead in that family." (10.29-31)

    Lizzie Rose is absolutely horrified that Parsefall stole a picture of Charles Augustus … from after he'd died. The Victorians really knew how to creepily remember the dead, didn't they?

    Dr. Wintermute sat on the center platform, which had been erected for himself and his wife. One day, they would lie together in peace, surrounded by the children they had lost. Four of his children were already entombed here; whenever he turned his head, he saw the caskets that held their mortal remains. (12.2)

    The mausoleum is a horrible place for Dr. Wintermute to pass off the ransom money because he can't help but think about his own mortality, his dead children, and whether or not Clara is still alive. What a mean place for Grisini to choose.

    "Yes. Perhaps that was a mistake." He knew he was on dangerous ground, but he went on. "I have sometimes thought that it made Clara unhappy to visit Kensal Green every Christmas. I've often wondered if we mourned our dead children at the expense of the one who lived—" (40.11)

    Dr. Wintermute realizes they've been focusing way too much on their dead children and not enough on their living daughter. They really need to figure out a way to come out of this mourning period as a family and start letting themselves experience joy and happiness.

    Grisini screamed. He swayed back and forth like a falling tree, his arms flailing. The ice beneath him shattered and gave way. There was a loud splash. (46.26)

    Throughout the book, Grisini is super smug and convinced that no one can touch him—but in the end, it's a little girl who spells his demise. When he chases after Clara, he ends up falling through the ice and drowning to death. Good riddance.

    He couldn't cure her. Even as she clung to life, Cassandra understood that. Her body was failing. At intervals, her old nightmares returned to mock her. She cowered inside a ring of flames: scarlet and yellow and green and blue. She screamed and thrashed with terror until the doctor came and held her, murmuring nonsense, as if she were a sick child. (51.3)

    Now that the phoenix-stone has been destroyed, Cassandra knows that life is leaving her. She still dreams about the stone, but she knows that she won't die in a fire like she feared. She'll die of old age and sickness, just like a normal woman.

  • Society and Class

    Clara loved presents, but she dreaded the ceremony of opening them. It was ill-bred to show too much excitement, but if she wasn't grateful enough, she ran the risk of hurting her mother's feelings. Clara thrust the thought aside. This year she would do everything exactly right. (1.2)

    Being a young lady is a total drag when you're not even allowed to act excited when opening your birthday gifts. Clara has to make sure that she reacts to everything just right, which is both difficult and confusing.

    It was a beautiful dress, but childish; next year, when she was thirteen, she would wear longer skirts and a whalebone corset. Clara wasn't looking forward to that. Her present clothes were constrictive enough. (1.6)

    Clara isn't just restricted in what she does and says—she's also restricted in how she moves because her clothes are so stiff. How is she supposed to enjoy herself or play like a normal kid if she has to wear a whalebone corset?

    Most of the time when she eavesdropped, she heard about how spoiled she was. She supposed it was true. She made extra work for the servants, and her parents cosseted her, worrying endlessly about her health. Her father inspected the nursery weekly, using his pocket handkerchief to check for drafts, and the nursery fire was kept burning even in the summer. Clara's birthday frock had been made by the finest dressmaker in London, and she knew her presents would be many and expensive. (1.22)

    There's no doubt about it: Clara comes from a pretty loaded family. Her parents lavish her with gifts and pretty things, but at the end of the day, their affection is withheld. That's tougher for her than not getting all of the material belongings she wants.

    Agnes's mouth twisted. At Clara's age, Agnes had been a scullery maid. She saw no romance in earning a living. "You know that's wrong, miss. Your mother wouldn't like it a bit. And what would your little friends think, having to take tea with common children like those Greaseenies?" (1.50)

    Clara thinks that it must be so exciting and romantic for children to work for their living—like Lizzie Rose and Parsefall do—but that's because she's never had to work a day in her life. If she did, she'd probably understand how hard and exhausting it is.

    Whoever lived here had money enough for fires in every room, and an army of housemaids to stoke them. Lizzie Rose tried to imagine what it would be like to live year-round in a house like this one, with ample coal in winter and a garden in the spring. (2.18)

    When Lizzie Rose first shows up at the Wintermute home, she can't even imagine what it would be like to live in such a grand house. The idea of being warm all of the time and having enough to eat is incredible to her.

    Then Miss Cameron turned on Clara. "What on earth possessed you? How could you laugh in such an unladylike manner?"

    "I don't know," said Clara.

    Miss Cameron's frown deepened. "Skeletons and cemeteries—! And in a house of mourning! Nothing could be in worse taste!" (4.22-24)

    Poor Clara gets sent to bed without dinner on her birthday because she doesn't behave in a ladylike fashion during the puppet show. She doesn't ever get a break from acting like a young lady—she always has to be on her best behavior, no matter what.

    What Lizzie Rose called her bedroom was in fact nothing of the kind. Grisini's lodgings consisted of two rooms: his private bedroom, and a large parlor. Parsefall slept in a nest of blankets before the parlor fire. When Lizzie Rose joined the household, Grisini—with the air of one offering the jewels of the Orient—purchased a straw mattress and invited her to share the hearth with Parsefall. (8.10)

    Lizzie Rose and Parsefall live in circumstances quite different from those of Clara Wintermute. They don't even get their own rooms or nice mattresses, and they're lucky if there's a fire to warm them at all.

    It was a mistake. Lizzie Rose raised her chin and reproached him with her eyes. "No, thank you, sir. That isn't what I came for." She gave the leashes a jerk, gathering the dogs into a pack. "Good evening, sir." And by the time the constable had found the appropriate coin, she had gone, her dignity hampered but not overcome by her retinue of unmanageable dogs. (11.25)

    Lizzie Rose may be just a poor orphan, but that doesn't mean she'll act like a street urchin. When the policeman offers her money in exchange for information, she refuses, choosing to hang on to her dignity instead.

    Lizzie Rose clasped the letter to her breast. She felt as if she were living in a play. In the theater, legacies arrived during the fifth act, when everything was at its worst. Some offstage person would die, clearing the pathway for a happy ending. A legacy meant rescue, luxury, and the promise of happiness. (24.13)

    When Cassandra writes the letter to Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, she knows it will be irresistible. After all, these are poor orphans without many opportunities in life—they are delighted by the idea of being rich and well fed.

    "But Lizzie Rose can be a lady," Clara said coaxingly, "because she's going to inherit Strachan's Ghyll. Madama—the woman who lives here—is going to leave her estate to Parsefall and Lizzie Rose. So Lizzie Rose will be an heiress, and we can have lessons together from Miss Cameron. And Parsefall will work during the day, but he'll come home every evening, so we can be together." (50.71)

    All of Lizzie Rose's practicing of good manners and proper speech pays off in the end when she comes to live with the Wintermutes. Now, she'll be seen as a real lady by everyone instead of just by herself.

  • The Supernatural

    "I don't—" Clara began, but the watch had vanished again. He snapped his empty fingers, and it gleamed in the palm of his other hand. He lost the watch a third time and discovered it behind Clara's sash; he produced it from under her chin; he bent almost double and brought it out from the hem of her skirt. He circled her, his hands fluttering, the watch winking in and out of thin air. (5.16)

    To Clara, Grisini is just a clever puppeteer who can perform some magic tricks and sleight of hand. What she doesn't know is that he's a real magician, and he can do other things besides making his watch disappear and reappear. Like, say, make her disappear, too.

    How could she have dreamed of crushing the stone? She had come close to losing it; she had wielded the silver mirror with force enough to shatter the metacarpal bones in her hand. If her arm had not changed direction, she would have lost everything: color and power and healing. (7.6)

    All this time, Cassandra has thought of the phoenix-stone as the thing that gives her power. She thinks that she's the stone's master, but it's becoming clear that the stone is her master. It's more powerful than she is and can destroy her if it wants.

    The mirrors around her were alive. Each mirror held a wraith of a woman, burning. The sheets of glass reflected the image over and over again, like colored beads in a kaleidoscope. Cassandra lifted her hands to cover her eyes. The women lifted their arms with her. Each pair of blazing hands moved in rhythm with her hands. (13.13)

    Now that Cassandra is growing old and weak, the phoenix-stone haunts her nearly all the time—both when she's awake and asleep. She can't escape her fate … and the fate of all of the other women who have burned to death before her.

    "She is real," Parsefall said in a thread of a voice. "Grisini must've—"

    Lizzie Rose's fingers tightened. "He couldn't have, Parse. People can't do things like that. Magic spells—and evil magicians—" There was a brief, pregnant pause. "They're only in plays." (18.12-13)

    When they find the puppet, Parsefall is convinced that Grisini has turned Clara into a puppet, but Lizzie Rose isn't so sure. After all, that's a crazy notion, right? People can't just turn children into puppets … right?

    "The other women who burned. The opal is known as the phoenix-stone because the fires recur. Almost everyone who possessed it died by fire. One woman was struck by lightning. Another perished in a house fire; that was said to be an accident. But there were other women who set themselves ablaze. Madwomen, suicides. One woman left a letter behind. She said that the women she saw in her looking glass had driven her insane." (19.37)

    The phoenix-stone is insanely powerful, but it's also more dangerous than Cassandra ever guessed. The stone's magic leads all of its owners to die in fires and even drives some of them insane. Yikes.

    The captive child would be easy prey. Above all things, Clara Wintermute would desire the magic power that would break Grisini's spell. Nothing would be simpler than to tempt her with the fire opal. It only remained for Cassandra to devise some way of speaking to Clara in her paralyzed state. It could be done; with the power of the cursed stone, it could be managed. Cassandra thought of the intricate, draining spell she would have to cast and wanted to groan with weariness. (29.31)

    Being a witch isn't all fun and games, especially for Cassandra. She doesn't use her magic to do fun or silly things—or even to impress people at parties. She has to do these long, complicated spells just so she can get one of the kids to steal the stone so she won't have to burn to death.

    "Ah, the automaton watch!" Cassandra lifted her hands; one was bandaged like a mummy's paw. "So that's how he cast his spell on you! Years ago, I gave him that watch. He was my pupil in sorcery, Gaspare was; he pretended to love me, and I—" She shrugged. "You know how it is. Someone pretends to love you, and you give away too much." (31.21)

    All of Grisini's magical power is housed in his automaton watch, which is something he received as a present from his former lover, Cassandra. She must have truly loved him if she was willing to share her magic with him—too bad he was so undeserving of it.

    "You see how beautiful it is? And beauty is only the beginning. There's power in it—power to gain, power to heal, power to break down the barriers between minds. That's how I can speak to you. I brought you inside it, so that I could see into your heart." (31.53)

    With the phoenix-stone, Cassandra can do all sorts of cool things, like heal wounds and read minds. But it's all pretty useless if she's living a lonely, isolated life, isn't it? Magic won't save her from unhappiness.

    She was no witch, and she had no idea how to work her spell. But she had devised a ritual, and over and over she practiced it.

    She began by recalling the night Cassandra's magic had brought her to life. She pictured herself swelling until she was full-size; she envisioned herself crossing the carpet and going out into the passage. (33.2-3)

    Clara has never done magic before, but apparently it has something to do with wanting it badly enough. She wants to warn Parsefall and Lizzie Rose about Cassandra's scheme, so she starts to work hard to enter their dreams.

    "It's the maze. On the Tower Room floor—the red lines that woz painted there! We been making the lines wiv our tracks—over and over—"

    "It's a spell," Lizzie Rose said despairingly. "We can't leave. She cast a spell on us so we can't leave." (43.32-33)

    When the kids try to leave Strachan's Ghyll in the middle of the night, they're dismayed to find that Cassandra's magic is too strong for them and they can't leave. That old witch still has some tricks up her sleeve.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Parsefall snorted. He had a very good idea how Grisini had taken care of Lizzie Rose's earrings. He'd seen the ticket from the pawnshop. He pointed to the teapot, and Clara reached for it. "Would you like another cup of tea?" (3.43)

    Lizzie Rose is so trusting of other people that she believes Grisini when he says he's keeping her mother's earrings safe. Too bad she'll never get them back—Grisini pawned them a long time ago.

    Parsefall hung the Devil puppet back on the gallows and turned his back. The two girls went on talking. The chirping, purring sounds in their voices seemed to indicate they were becoming friends, but Parsefall paid no attention to their words. He was searching the room for something to steal. (3.62)

    Parsefall isn't going to let his time in the Wintermute home go to waste. He's not there to make friends with someone like Clara; he's more focused on stealing something and sneaking off with it.

    The two policemen emerged from the house, followed by Grisini. He bowed to them, turned on his heel, and headed down the street. The policemen set off in the opposite direction, their heads close together.

    "They don't like Grisini," Parsefall concluded. "They think he's flimflammin' 'em." (9.3-4)

    Even though Grisini is obsequious and flattering toward the policemen, they can tell that he's hiding something. He doesn't seem like the kind of man that you can trust, and even the children can see that they suspect he has something to do with Clara's disappearance.

    "You did. You stole it from the Wintermute house. Oh!" Lizzie Rose recalled the frantic haste with which Parsefall had tidied away the blankets that morning. "That's why you were so afraid of the coppers!"

    Parsefall said, "Woz not," but without much force.

    "You're a thief!" Lizzie Rose cuffed him. "Oh, Parsefall, for shame!" (10.20-22)

    Finding the picture of Charles Augustus horrifies Lizzie Rose and makes her feel hopeless about reforming Parsefall. How is she ever going to turn him into a good person if he's constantly lying and stealing?

    "How do you know what he will believe?" demanded Grisini. "What do you know of him?" He twisted both plaits around his hands and dragged her closer, peering into her face. There was a moment of utter silence as he glared into her eyes. Then: "Have there been words between you?" (15.32)

    It's too bad that Lizzie Rose is a terrible liar—she could really use that skill right now. Grisini can see right way that she's hiding something, and he's totally correct. Lizzie Rose went to the police to tell them what she knew, and Grisini is not pleased about it.

    "Not a pickpocket, no. When you first meet her, you will be struck by her air of innocence. It is misleading. She's a deceitful little puss, in spite of her pious airs. You must not let her deceive you."

    "I am not easily deceived." (19.66-67)

    Grisini tells Cassandra that she should watch out for Lizzie Rose, but the real person that she should watch out for is Grisini. After all, she's been fooled by him once already, so she should know that he's a liar.

    "It will be better if you write to them. They're ungrateful little beggars and dislike my society. You may have to lure them here—and you'll have to address your letter to the girl. The boy can't read." (19.71)

    Grisini and Cassandra are two adults who can practice magic, and yet they spend their time trying to deceive and lure innocent children to Strachan's Ghyll. What a bunch of turds.

    Hunger was another, lesser specter, and with hunger came guilt. Parsefall was shocked by how much money he spent on sausage rolls and penny buns. He lied to Lizzie Rose about his daily earnings and concealed from her the shameful fact that he'd bought something to eat. (25.3)

    Growing up in abject poverty has taught Parsefall to lie about everything because it's how he can stay alive. If he lies about buying food, he can eat it all himself, and that way he won't starve to death.

    "I never! I told him Grisini stole it. Only he didn't believe me, and oh, Parse—"

    "Oh, never mind," Parsefall said irritably. He was vastly relieved; she hadn't betrayed him. "You didn't peach on me, but you botched the lie. I mighta known. You're no good at lyin'. You're never goin' to make your way in the world if—" (27.15-16)

    Parsefall worries about Lizzie Rose because she can't lie properly. She sees it as a distasteful habit, but he sees it as a way of life—it's what she needs to do in order to survive in the big, bad world.

    He made sure that the servants always found him in bed. The witch must think that he was still bedridden. She must never suspect that each day he dragged himself around and around the small room, resurrecting his strength. (30.28)

    Grisini may be super injured, but he's still scheming, as always. He's determined to get one of the children to steal the phoenix-stone so that he can take over its power and wreak havoc on the world. Stay classy, Grisini.

  • Transformation

    None of this showed on his face. Like Clara, Thomas Wintermute could make his countenance a mask. He regarded Miss Cameron with a look of courteous interest. "What is the matter, Miss Cameron?" (6.3)

    Clara and Dr. Wintermute have both gotten really good at transforming their faces so that they reveal none of their inner emotions. After living in a house of mourning for so long, sometimes it's necessary to hide what they're thinking, especially if they're tired of all the grief and crying.

    Clara slept. Never in her life had she known so dense a sleep, a sleep without dreaming without the slightest twitch of finger or eyelid. She was as lifeless as a pressed flower. If she had been awake, she could not have said whether her eyes were open or shut. Her mind was empty, freed from guilt and terror and grief. (9.44)

    Clara doesn't yet know what has happened to her—she doesn't even know where she is. That's a good thing because there will be plenty of time for freaking out when she wakes up and realizes that she's now an inanimate puppet.

    Her anguish over Clara's disappearance had been so great that he had feared for her reason. Then the letter arrived. The dazzling, improbable hope that Clara might be ransomed had changed Ada into a woman he had never seen. Her eyes were tearless; she was charged with energy and decision. There was only one thing to do, she stated: get the money and pay the ransom. (12.8)

    For years now, Mrs. Wintermute has been a hysterical, crying mess. But when the ransom note about Clara comes, she somehow gets stronger, perhaps because she has something to focus on now. She has a task that needs to be completed.

    Grisini's regular clothes were grimy and torn, but they had once been elegant; his tattered frock coat had been cut by a master tailor, and his hat was genuine beaver. The clothes he wore now made him look like a pauper. An overcoat woven of some heavy wool covered him from throat to knee. His boots were clumsy, and his trousers were frayed. The torn brim of a slouch hat cast his face into shadow. (15.25)

    This isn't Grisini's first time at the rodeo when it comes to evading the police. He has a whole outfit that he uses in order to slip into the shadows and become unrecognizable. What a devious dude.

    The puppet in her hand was beautifully made and entirely suitable for a dancer. She had black ringlets and a snow-white frock. Her complexion was delicately pink and white; her Cupid's bow mouth wore an enigmatic simper. Around her neck was a locket smaller than a pea. The jewel in the center flashed blue fire.

    "Parsefall," whispered Lizzie Rose. "It's Clara." (17.63-64)

    Right away, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall recognize the puppet and are horrified to see that it's Clara. Lizzie Rose doesn't believe that it's the real girl right away, but Parsefall knows deep down inside that Grisini has turned Clara into a puppet. After all, it's happened to him, too.

    "I don't know," Lizzie Rose said faintly. "She feels like wax—or soft leather—and oh, Parsefall, I think she's warm—"

    I'm not wax, Clara thought. I'm myself. Only I can't move. (18.34-35)

    Clara is starting to see that being a puppet comes with certain disadvantages, like not being able to move or speak. This is going to be a really tough situation to get herself out of—and she'll need help.

    They did not take the dogs. As they strolled side by side, it dawned on Lizzie Rose that her hands were empty; there was no caravan to push and no dogs straining at the leash. She said in wonder, "I haven't even a market basket," and Parsefall, following her thoughts, favored her with one of his lopsided smiles. (21.2)

    Their lives are usually so hard that not having to carry or push something down the street is a treat and transforms the walk into an outing. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall can't wait to go to their first show as audience members.

    A thrill of joy ran through Clara. She was moving with such lightness and sureness that she almost fancied that she moved by herself. The drunken man jerked his thumb at her and said, "Look at that!" and she wanted to smile at him. Why, he was—she searched for the right word and found it—innocent. (23.13)

    After days and days of lying still and not being able to speak, it's a relief to be moved with the puppet strings, even though she's not the one in control. Thankfully, Clara trusts Parsefall completely. He may be rough around the edges, but he's a good kid.

    The coat was loose and warm and deliciously heavy; it hid her nightdress, reaching to the tops of her boots. Lizzie Rose cast a glance over her shoulder. Across the room, the looking glass reflected a stranger: a princess with loose red hair and startled eyes.

    The transformation was so arresting that Lizzie Rose would have liked to look at herself a little longer, but she dared not. (30.11-12)

    Lizzie Rose has always seen herself as an unremarkable little pauper, but when she tries on the clothes at Strachan's Ghyll, she realizes that she can be striking—she can look like a real princess.

    You need only wish for the stone, and you will be yourself again. If your wish is strong enough, your strings will snap and Grisini's spell will be broken. If Clara wished, she might save Parsefall; she could save him if she stole the stone herself. The curse would fall upon her. Clara shut her eyes in terror. (46.4)

    Clara doesn't need a magical stone or a watch to turn herself back into a little girl—she just needs courage and the determination to save Parsefall from a horrible fate. She sacrifices herself for his sake out of love, which is stronger than any magic.

  • Good vs. Evil

    But the muscles of her arm betrayed her. The silver mirror changed direction. It struck Cassandra's left hand with such violence that the mirror glass cracked. Four bones shattered, and the back of her hand began to ooze blood from a dozen cuts. (P.27)

    As much as Cassandra wants to destroy the phoenix-stone, she cannot because it has too strong of a hold on her. She is too attached to the dark power that it gives her, so she cannot smash it.

    It occurred to Lizzie Rose that it would be easy to hit him. It would serve him right, and he was certainly within range. She pushed the tempting idea aside and reached for the poker. "I'm going to stir up the fire," she whispered. "You're cold as ice." (10.7)

    Lizzie Rose makes being good look easy, but inside, it's a little more complicated. She has moments where she wants to smack Parsefall for being mean to her, too, but she tries to opt for kindness each time.

    He reached in his pocket and took out the automaton watch. It was almost nine o'clock, and he wanted to see the hour strike. He cherished a childish fancy that someday the machinery might jam so that the wolf could capture its prey. He imagined the tiny jaws tearing at the swan's feathers; he pictured drops of ruby-bright blood, smaller than grains of sand. (14.4)

    Grisini is such a bloodthirsty man that he even roots for the wolf, which is chasing a swan, on his automaton watch. He's never on the side of good and always wants the predator to win.

    "Will you lock the door after you leave?" entreated Lizzie Rose. "In case he wakes up—and is angry—?"

    "I'll lock you in," promised Mrs. Pinchbeck. "No matter what 'appens, you'll be safe from him tonight." (15.79-80)

    Mrs. Pinchbeck might be dramatic (and often drunk), but she's really good-hearted when it comes down to it. She decides to protect the children instead of Grisini, even though he's the one who pays the rent.

    He made a small, impatient gesture. "I told you: I was experimenting. There was an accident. A child died." He saw her features contort in a grimace of disgust. "What, are you shocked? Have you grown sentimental? Magic power cannot be had for nothing. There must always be some sacrifice. You of all people should know that." (19.22)

    Cassandra is a pretty mean old woman, but even she is disgusted by Grisini and his "experiments." He's truly evil and doesn't even seem to care that he's hurt and killed so many children.

    He gobbled every crumb, sucked the sugar from his fingers, and despised himself for his greed. Lizzie Rose would scarcely have believed that her adopted brother possessed so tender a conscience: Clara knew better. She recognized guilt, even when it was only a shadow in someone else's mind. (25.4)

    Lizzie Rose thinks that Parsefall doesn't care when he's being bad, but Clara knows the truth: Parsefall does have his own moral compass. He wants to do the right thing, but it's hard to share when there's so much scarcity in his life.

    He thanked God he had not gone to the police station, as he had threatened to do. The girl might be telling the truth, after all; the photograph of Charles Augustus might have been stolen by Grisini, or even by the boy in Ebury Square. Perhaps if he questioned her a second time—kindly and patiently—she might tell him the truth about the matter. At the very least, he could apologize for his rash behavior, provide money for her immediate wants, and make sure the beefy fellow left her alone. (29.19)

    Even though Dr. Wintermute had wanted to act in anger toward Lizzie Rose, he ends up listening to the better part of himself—the part that feels compassion toward the poor girl. He can't just lash out at her because he's terrified by his daughter's disappearance.

    With all the strength she could muster, she thought the words she wanted to say:

    Lizzie Rose! Listen to me! There's danger! Madama's a witch, and the fire opal's evil! Don't let her trick you into taking it! Whatever you do, don't take it! (33.6-7)

    Clara is just a little girl stuck in a puppet's body, but she's determined to stand up to the evil that threatens her dear friends, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. She's not going to let them fall for Cassandra's schemes if she can help it.

    Lizzie Rose had made up her mind to behave like the youngest daughter in the fairy tales she loved. The youngest daughter always preferred the humblest gift: a rose instead of a diamond, a blessing instead of a fortune. Things always seemed to turn out so well for her. (36.1)

    Even in the face of abject poverty and hunger, Lizzie Rose refuses to become greedy. She won't even take any of the expensive, fine things that Cassandra offers her, instead asking for just a few books and a pretty little picture.

    Then the old woman opened her eyes. "You're good," she said flatly. It was not a compliment but an accusation. "Gaspare lied. He said you were deceitful. You're good, God help you, and God help me. Horribly, inconveniently good." (36.60)

    When Cassandra realizes that Lizzie Rose is good—and that it's not an act—she knows that the girl will never steal the phoenix-stone. She's too unadulterated and pure to be tempted by such an evil stone.

  • Friendship

    It was an extraordinarily friendly smile. Clara was struck to the heart. Improbable as it might seem, this girl—who was graceful and clever and older than she—liked her. Of the seventeen children who were coming to her birthday party, there was not one, Clara felt, who really liked her. (1.28)

    Clara Wintermute is so starved for the company of other children, especially since all of her siblings are dead, that she can't forget the one time that Lizzie Rose smiles at her. She decides that she has to track down this girl and become friends with her pronto.

    Lizzie Rose and Parsefall trailed after it. Clara would have liked to wave to them, but she forced herself to speak only to her guests. She stayed close to Miss Cameron, uttering stock phrases of hospitality. (4.21)

    Clara desperately wants to spend more time with Lizzie Rose and Parsefall after her birthday party, but she knows that she'll never be allowed to befriend two street children. Her parents would find it most unsavory.

    Lizzie Rose smiled to herself. It was his favorite, and her masterpiece. She had told it many times and perfected each detail; if she was in the mood to describe every gemstone on the enchanted coach, or every ribbon on Cinderella's gown, she didn't spare him. "Wrap yourself up," she whispered, "and I'll tell." She reached for his quilt so that she could wind a cocoon around him. (10.16)

    Parsefall might not let Lizzie Rose get close most of the time, but he's a glutton for stories. That's when they really get along—when Lizzie Rose is telling him a fairy tale with plenty of lush details and action.

    There was a queer, high noise, as piercing as a pennywhistle. Parsefall had no idea that it came from his own throat. He knew only that his whole body had been set in motion. He leaped like a cat onto Grisini's back, seizing him by the collar. (15.35)

    He's not a touchy-feely kind of guy, nor does he like to talk about his emotions, but Parsefall is still a loyal friend. When he sees that Grisini is hurting Lizzie Rose, he immediately jumps on the evil magician's back even though he's terrified of him.

    "I ain't turning orphelings into the street," Mrs. Pinchbeck said grandly. "I 'aven't the 'eart. It's one thing if you 'ad the money, but if you 'aven't, you can"—she thought for a moment—"you can 'elp Luce around the 'house. Tidy up." (16.51)

    Lizzie Rose and Parsefall expect to be evicted now that Grisini's gone, but Mrs. Pinchbeck lets them stay even though it means she'll lose rent money. She steps in and is a real friend to them when they're in need, and the children appreciate it more than anything.

    Almost at once, he felt better. As he lay there with one hand draped over her, he fancied that she sympathized with him, that she understood his terror. The idea was comforting. He pulled her closer. She was warm and strong and solid. As if he were stretching out a hand, he tried to think himself inside her, to imagine the thoughts that passed through her mind. (22.14)

    Parsefall usually pushes people away when they try to get close to him, but he feels differently about Clara when she's a puppet. It's easier to accept her as a friend when she's a little puppet—a friend who can understand him but not ask him any questions.

    "The coppers are going to come after us—don't you understand? If they find out you took that photograph, they'll send you to prison—or Australia. I don't know which. Only I won't let them." She looked suddenly fierce. "I won't lose you. So we must go away, and we must go tonight, before the coppers come." (27.33)

    Although it would be easier for Lizzie Rose to turn in Parsefall to the police and wipe her hands clean of him, she would never do that. The two children are bound together by friendship and loyalty, so instead she'll help him escape.

    For the moment, at least, he had found a sort of sanctuary. He would bring the bearskin rug into the room, and Clara—he would certainly bring Clara. He set the lamp on the floor and went out into the passage to fetch her. (37.75)

    Even though Grisini's experience has scared the living daylights out of Parsefall, he doesn't forget Clara when he goes off to find a hiding spot. He brings her along because they're buddies now and they look out for each other.

    "You asked if she was dear to me. The shoe was on the other foot: she cared for me. Her nature was affectionate, and she was as eager to please as her own lapdog. When I had headaches—I had dreadful headaches in those days—she used to sit by me and bathe my forehead with lavender water. She had many friends, but I was her first, and, she used to say, her dearest. She always called me that: her dearest friend." (37.9)

    Cassandra doesn't like to admit that she was attached to Marguerite, but it's clear that the one true friendship she had in her life had a profound impact on her. She cannot forget Marguerite or stop feeling guilty about stealing the phoenix-stone from her.

    He saw Clara bow her head to hide a smile, and he turned back to wink at Lizzie Rose. They were waiting, all three of them, for the moment when they could be alone again and free to laugh together. (E.21)

    At the end, the children are like the Three Musketeersan unbreakable trio of mischief-makers. They all know that when they go back to London, they're going to have an awesome time hanging out with each other.