It was the eve of the visit to the Peitho Institute, and Marie and Sir John sat in their quarters in the Copperwaite mansion. Both were silent, thinking of their invitation for the following day and the deadline the day after. Mrs Harper arrived with some supper which she set on a table.
“Thank you,” said Sir John absently.
“Will that be all?” said Mrs Harper. “No need for anything else? Any information? Only I’m free for lunch tomorrow…”
“No that’s fine,” said Sir John. “Oh wait, there is one thing.”
“Twelve o’clock would suit,” said Mrs Harper.
“It’s just a quick thing,” said Sir John. “You said that Miss Copperwaite had an idea to play music through telephonic devices? But you changed her mind?”
“Yes, sir,” said Mrs Harper, “I told her it was a bl… that it wasn’t a very good idea, and she agreed and said she wouldn’t do it. That was just before she fell ill, in fact.”
“I see,” said Sir John. “That will be everything, thank you.”
Mrs Harper looked a little crestfallen and left the room.
“Do you know what I think?” said Sir John.
“That Clackprattle made Miss Copperwaite buy the sphere? That he wanted to build this musical telephone machine as well? And that he made her go to sleep when she said no to that?”
“Yes,” said Sir John, looking crestfallen now, “but why?”
“Did you say that this sphere increases his powers through sound? Perhaps he doesn’t want to send music through the devices … perhaps he wants to send mesmerism.”
Sir John gasped.
“Good lord!” he exclaimed. “The Queen has one, you know! We have to stop him!”
“Well, we have an invitation to see it happen…” said Marie, “…which is very strange. I feel it must be a trap of some kind.”
“I think so too,” said Sir John. “Well, I have some ideas to save us from that. Firstly, I’m going to put tin inside our hats. Then, I’m going to adapt my ionospheric emitter to shoot powerful electric charges. And most vitally of all, I’m going to borrow your earmuffs.”
Marie look perplexed.
“Tin hats? Ear muffs?” she said.
“…So I can’t be mesmerised when I tackle Clackprattle,” said Sir John, pointing to his ears. He left the room whistling to himself.
Marie looked at their hats. She put a finger gently on each one and said “proteger”.