"That's rather a lot to hang your hopes on." Miss Moore says. Ann sniffles. Fat teardrops fall into her tea.
"Come now." Miss Moore says, patting her hand. "There is time. What shall we do to cheer you? Would you like to tell me more of your story about all the lovely things you do in the realms?"
"I'm beautiful there," Ann says, voice thick with the ache of tears held back.
"Very beautiful," I say. "Tell her how we frightened away the water nymphs!"
A smile flickers across Ann's lips for a moment. "We did show them, didn't we?"
Miss Moore pretends to be put out. "Now then, don't keep me in suspense. Tell me about the water nymphs."
As we tell her the tale in great description, Miss Moore listens intently. "Ah, I see you've been reading after all. That is consistent with the ancient Greek tales of nymphs and sirens, who led sailors to their deaths with their song. And have you had success in finding your temple, was it?" "Not yet. But we visited the Golden Dawn, a bookseller's near Bond Street, and found a book on secret societies by a Miss Wilhelmina "Yatt,"Ann says.
"The Golden Dawn . . . ," Miss Moore says, taking a bit of her cake."I don't believe I know it."
"Miss McCleethy had an advert for it in her suitcase," Ann blurts out."Gemma saw it there."
Miss Moore raises an eyebrow.
"It was open," I say, blushing."I could not help seeing it."
"We saw Miss McCleethy there at the shop. She asked for the book, so we did as well. It has knowledge about the Order!" Felicity says.
"Did you know the Order used anagrams to conceal their true identities when needed?" I ask.
Miss Moore pours tea for us."Is that so?"
Ann jumps in. "Yes, and when we did an anagram for Miss McCleethy, it spelled out They Call Me Circe, That proves it."
"Proves what?" Miss Moore asks, spilling a bit of tea that she must sop up with her napkin.
"That Miss McCleethy is Circe, of course. And she's come back to Spence for some diabolical purpose," Felicity explains.
"Would that be the teaching of drawing or Latin?" Miss Moore asks with a wry smile.
"It is a serious matter, Miss Moore," Felicity insists.
Miss Moore leans in with a solemn face. "So is accusing someone of witchcraft for visiting a bookseller's."
Properly chastised, we drink our tea.
"We followed her," Ann says quietly."She went to Bedlam, to where Nell Hawkins lives." Miss Moore stops midsip."Nell Hawkins. Who is she?"
"She's a girl who believes in the Order. She says that Circe is trying to get to her. That's why she went mad," Ann says with relish. She really does have a taste for the macabre.
"My brother, Tom, is a clinical assistant at Bethlem. Nell Hawkins is a patient there," I explain.
"Interesting. And you've spoken with this person?"
"Yes," I say.
"Did she tell you she was acquainted with Miss McCleethy?"
"No," I answer, somewhat embarrassed."She is mad, and it is difficult to decipher her ramblings. But she was at Saint Victoria's
School for Girls when this terrible misfortune befell her, and we've reason to believe that Miss McCleethy was in their employ at the same time."
"That is curious." Miss Moore says, pouring milk into her tea till the liquid turns a cloudy beige."Do you know that for a fact?"
"No," I admit. "But I've sent an enquiry to their headmistress. I expect to know shortly."
"Then you know nothing, really," Miss Moore says, smoothing her napkin in her lap. "Until you do, I would advise you to be careful with your accusations. They can have unforeseen repercussions."
We look at each other guiltily."Yes, Miss Moore."
"Ann, what have you done there?" she asks.
Ann's been scribbling on a piece of paper. She tries to cover it with her hand."N-nothing."
That's all it takes for Felicity to pull it away.
"Give that back!" Ann whines, trying unsuccessfully to grab it.
Felicity reads aloud. "Hester Moore, Room She Reet." "It is an anagram of your name. Not a very good one," Ann says hotly."Fee, if you please!"
Felicity reads on, undaunted. "O, Set Her More. Set More Hero." Felicity's eyes flash. A feral grin appears. "Er Tom? Eros He,"
It doesn't matter that it makes no sense. It is that Tom and Eros have been combined in the same sentence that has humiliated Ann to no end. She snatches it back. Others in the tearoom have noted our childish behavior, and I'm terribly embarrassed that our visit has ended on such a note. Miss Moore will probably never invite us on an outing again.