“Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance - like a thrown trifle.”
“I generally find,' Clent murmured after a pause, 'that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out.'
'And when we get found, Mr. Clent, when the creditors and bailiffs come after us and it's payment time...'
'...then we borrow more, madam, at a higher interest. We embark on a wilder gamble, make a bigger promise, tell a braver story, devise a more intricate lie, sell the hides of imaginary dragons to desperate men, climb to even higher and more precarious ground...and later, of course, our fall and catastrophe will be all the worse, but later will be our watchword, Mosca. We have nothing else - but we can at least make later later.”
“Push something in someone’s face, and they will shove it away reflexively. Threaten to snatch it away from them, and sometimes they become convinced that it is what they want.”
“Since that time Saracen had been making a name for himself. That name was not ‘Saracen’. Indeed the name was more along the lines of ‘that hell-fowl’, ‘did-you-see-what-it-did-to-my-leg’, ‘kill-it-kill-it-there-it-goes’ or ‘what’s-that-chirfugging-goose-done-now’.”
“But I don’t want to be grateful. I’m tired of being kicked about like a pebble, and told that I have to be happy that it’s no worse. I’ve had enough. It’s time the pebble kicked back.”
“Mosca said nothing. The word ‘damsel’ rankled with her. She suddenly thought of the clawed girl from the night before, jumping the filch on an icy street. Much the same age and build as Beamabeth, and far more beleaguered. What made a girl a ‘damsel in distress’? Were they not allowed claws? Mosca had a hunch that if all damsels had claws they would spend a lot less time ‘in distress’.”
“Clent's expression had set up camp somewhere between amusement and pain. "Sometimes I forget that your small size is the result of youth, not pickling. You are... young, Mosca.
"To be young is to be powerless, but to have delusions of power. To believe that one can really change things, make the world better and simpler in good and simple ways. To grow old is to realize that nobody is ever good, nothing is ever simple. That truth is cruel at first, but finally comforting."
"But...," Mosca broke in, then halted. Clent was right- she knew that he was. And yet her bones screamed that he was also wrong, utterly wrong. "But sometimes things /are/ simple. Just now and then. Just like now and then people /are/ good."
"Yes." Clent gave a deep sigh. "Yes, I know. Innocent people force one to remember that. For you see, there is a cruelty in all innocence."
Mosca remained silent for a few moments, daunted by the colossal sadness in his voice. "I'll never understand you, Mr. Clent," she said at last.
"Mosca," he replied simply, "I truly hope you never do.”
“That," he whispered, "is unthinkable." In Mosca’s experience, such statements generally meant that a thing was perfectly thinkable, but that the speaker did not want to think it.”
“Desperation is a millstone. It wears away at the very soul, grinding away pity, kindness, humanity and courage. But sometimes it whets the mind to a sharpened point and creates moments of true brilliance. And standing there, nose tickled by the dusty hide of the stuffed deer head, such a moment visited Mosca Mye.”
“Eponymous Clent- Wanted for thirty-nine cases of fraud, counterfeiting, selling, and circulating lewd and unlicensed literature, claiming to be the impecunious son of a duke, impersonating a magistrate, impersonating a horse doctor, breach of promise, forty-seven moonlit flits without payment of debts, robbing shrines, fleeing from justice before trial, stealing pies from windows and small furniture from inns, fabricating the Great Palthrop Horse Plague for purposes of profit, operating a hurdy-gurdy without a license. The public is advised against lending him money, buying anything from him, letting him rooms, or believing a word he says. Contrary to his professions, he will not pay you the day after tomorrow.”
“My good lady,’ interrupted Clent, ‘are you telling me that he is not the Luck? That you have in some way obfuscated the chronology of his nativity?’
Seconds passed. A beetle flew into Mistress Leap’s hair while she stared at Clent, then it struggled free and flew off again.
‘Did you lie about when he was born?’ translated Mosca.”
“It was hopeless. She was flawless. She was a sunbeam. Mosca gave up and got on with hating her.”
“This was thieves’ cant. Mosca was a lover of words, and she had a sneaking liking for the grimy panache of cant, and those who wore it like a ragged red cloak.”
“You’re a peach full of poison, you know that?" Mosca snapped back, but could not quite keep a hint of admiration from her tone.”
“To be young is to be powerless, but to have delusions of power. To believe that one can really change things, make the world better and simpler in good and simple ways. To grow old is to realize that nobody is ever good, nothing is ever simple. That truth is cruel at first, but finally comforting.”
“Mye, do you ever think of the future?’
‘Do I get to have a future?”
“Mosca sniffed at perfection. Perfection had no pulse and no heart.”
“However, the crowds all the while maintained their mouse-tense hush, their air of urgency. Fear. There was a reek of it everywhere, Mosca realized, in every guarded glance or falsely friendly backslap. A clammy smell, like rotten leaves. And everybody went about their lives in spite of it, because fear was part of their lives.”
“Gravelip, a young, slight footman with a pocked nose and large ears, obediently gave a smile like toothache. He seemed less than delighted to have outpaced his friends in the ugliness race.”
“Night smelt the way Havoc’s songs sounded. It smelt of steel and rushlights and the marsh welcoming a misstep and anger souring like old blood.”
“By the time Brand Appleton reached the castle grounds, he had acquired a significant crowd. Never in the history of Toll had one man needed so many people to arrest him.”
“Lost: one bonnet, two clogs. Kept in spite of the odds: two thumbs, one life.”
“Fear of the Locksmiths and Skellow’s thumb-cutting knife flooded Mosca but did not fill her. Somehow there was room in her core for an angry little knot of excitement, tight and fierce as a pike’s grin.”
“She was gauging him, trying to work out what cards he had up his sleeve. For now he might be able to keep her off balance by smiling meaningfully and dropping hints, delaying the moment in which she realized that she held all the cards, and that his well-brushed sleeves held nothing but his arms.”
“Would you have her birched in the public square? Baited by dogs perhaps? Madam, we have destroyed her good name, and she will find the world a much colder and darker place as a result. Even now her father is probably changing her name to Buzzletrice.”
“One of the two of us, thought Mosca, is in a lot of trouble right now. I wonder which of us it is? She isn’t turning pale or plucking at her handkerchief. Oh draggles, I think it’s me.”
“And you may comfort yourself with the thought that you have been the caltrop under her satin shoe every step of the way. You misdirected the Romantic Facilitator she had hired, you turned up in her own house and reported her plans to her father and when she was on the brink of snatching the ransom you careered in from stage left dressed as a pantomime horse and threw everything into disorder. And then, just when she was probably working her way towards claiming a second ransom, you rescued her.”
“And below them, Toll-by-Night set about folding itself away, like a stilt-legged monster into a closet. Its inhabitants crept back into the unwanted places, the crannies and cellars and forgotten attics, and locked themselves in.
A bugle blew. A silver jingling swept through the town, sealing away all bad reputations and bitter-tasting names.
Another bugle sounded. And day swept in like a landlord, not knowing that it was only a guest in night's town.”
“Mosca had preferred it when she could hear the edge in her companion’s voice. Now she felt like someone who knows that there is a scorpion somewhere in the room but can’t see where it is.”
“That clock’s a lot like the town, she decided. Looks good, sounds great, pretends to be some sort of masterpiece. But it’s broken. It’s rotten and broken right down inside where its heart’s cogs meet. That’s Toll.”
“original ideas are the easy part. Actually producing the idea as a successful product is what is hard.”
“Growing up, I was discouraged from telling personal stories. My dad often used the phrase “Don’t tell anyone.” But not about creepy things. I don’t want to lead you down the wrong path. It would be about insignificant things. Like I wouldn’t make the soccer team and my father would say, “Don’t tell anyone.” And I would say, “They’re gonna know when they show up to the games and I’m not on the team and I’m crying.”
“What are stories for if we don't learn from them?”
“... je t'emmènerais dans une contrée resplendissante et prospère, au foyer d'une famille aristocratique des lettrés, fastueux domaine où abondent les fleurs et les saules, terroir de la douceur, de richesse et d'honneurs, pour t'installer dans la joie et en toute sécurité.
Cao Xueqin, "Le Rêve dans le pavillon rouge", trad, fr. par Li Tche-Houa, J. Alézaïs, révision par A. D'Hormon, Paris, Gallimard, "Bibliothèque de la Pléiade", 1981, vol. 1, p. 8.”
“It isn't as simple as a fascination of the flesh. It's everything about her that I love: her intelligence, her ambition, her talent, her sense of humor, her dependability, her kindness.”
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