“In we come everybody, in we come Sir John, Mrs Jennings, Morag,” said Miss Henderson at the door of the artists church.
“Mon Dieu!” said Sabine, jumping up from the big table. “What happened?”
“Let’s get these lot in,” said Miss Henderson, “and I can try to explain.”
She brought the trio in, arms around the Jennings and one hand on the lead of Morag. Sabine helped her get the humans into chairs and the dog onto a comfortable rug. All three had a vacant look in their eyes and their lips twitched occasionally. Miss Henderson sat down at the table.
“I think, under the circumstances, a nice cup of tea might be in order,” she said. “I’ll make one in just a minute.”
“Have you been crying?” said Sabine. “Your eyes… never mind tea I think this calls for brandy.”
Sabine disappeared for a moment then returned with an ornate bottle and two glasses.
“It is extra old, from Cognac,” she said as she poured two glasses.
“Oh well, I suppose it will do anyway,” said Miss Henderson. She took the glass and took a big gulp of the drink.
“That’s actually quite acceptable under the circumstances,” said Miss Henderson. “Thank you Mrs… I mean Madame Bell… Bell..”
“Sabine, please,” said Sabine, “under the circumstances.”
“Under the circumstances,” agreed Miss Henderson, and drank the rest of the glass.
“So what happened?” said Sabine, refilling the drink.
“Well we went to see the Walrus and we had the test,” she said. “I was last, but even though that was the case I don’t know what was said to the others. It was like he spoke to them, but you couldn’t hear, like his words were underwater. But after he spoke, they were in this state, all gin and tonic as Morag says.”
“Did he speak to you?” said Sabine. “What did he say?”
“He said… well he said,” started Sabine then took another big gulp of the brandy. “There’s this gentleman… and some difficulty.”
Sabine patted Miss Henderson’s wrist.
“With gentlemen there is always some difficulty,” Sabine said. “They are naturally difficult creatures.”
“Actually,” said Miss Henderson, “It’s not a difficulty with the gentleman. It’s a difficulty with family and friends. It’s a question of what people might think.”
“Felicity, do you mind if I call you that?” said Sabine. “Felicity, what matters is what he thinks and what you think. Other people, they either like you and will accept you or don’t and then you don’t need them. Good friends are good friends not because they like who you are, but because they like you no matter who you are.”
Miss Henderson looked up at Sabine and nodded slowly. Sabine raised her glass and smiled and the two women clinked glasses together. They both drank.
“So, I suppose we have to go back and try again,” said Sabine sighing. “Maybe we can work out what’s needed to pass the test next time.”
“Actually,” said Miss Henderson. “I’m not sure we do.”
She pulled her hand out from under the table, still clenched in a fist. She opened her whitened fingers one by one to reveal a small piece of metal.