27 October, 1937 was rainy and cold. Clivenden had taken refuge from the weather in a tearoom off Charing Cross Road. He had finished the list of errands Smithers had handed him but was unwilling to return to the office just yet.
They were both attractive women in a patrician sort of way. The hostess had shown them to the table behind him. Neither was in the first blush of youth, but neither looked to be beyond thirty, either, Clivenden though. He had heard them tell the hostess they were waiting for their sister and, watching them surreptitiously by way of their reflection in the tearoom window, he could see the resemblance between them.
Both had dark copper hair shot through with red gold highlights, and quite a lot of it if the thick coronet of braid that crowned their heads was home grown and not a hair piece. They both had long oval faces, high cheekbones, brows arching high over cat-tilted eyes, and dimple bracketed mouths.
He was not normally an eavesdropper, but as the hostess had led them past him, the one now sitting on his right in the reflection had stopped beside his table long enough that he had looked up at her, and had found her practically staring at him with a pair of the greenest eyes he had ever seen. Strange, fey eyes. Then, with a slight smile, she had continued on her way, leaving him startled and unsettled.
They were wearing matching black wool suits with mandarin collars, but the green eyed one who had all but accosted him had a silver pin in the shape of a rearing horse on her right shoulder. The other had a silver pin in the shape of an acorn and oak leaf in the same location.
Acorn Pin told the waitress, “Just bring us a pot and three cups. We’ll order after our sister gets here.,” Then, after the waitress had left, she said to her sister, “What was that about?” She nodded in Clivenden’s direction.
“I’ll remember why in a minute,” Green Eyes replied, fished some knitting out of her handbag and began to knit. She was murmuring something to herself as she worked the needles.
“Ah.” Her sister gazed idly out into the tearoom. It had started to rain again, a slow, steady, relentless rain. The waitress quickly returned with their pot of tea and three cups and saucers. Acorn Pin poured first into her sister’s cup and then into her own. Green Eyes took a sip from her cup and made a face.
“Oh, I beg your pardon,” Acorn Pin replied, making a graceful waving gesture with her hand over both cups and the pot. “Is Mother serious about having it at Salsbury?”
Green Eyes took another sip, nodded and smiled. “Where else? We’ve got to strengthen the South, and that is the southern nexis. We’re going to lose so much of London as it is, and there doesn’t seem to be a way we can keep from losing St. Michael’s in Coventry. All those beautiful windows.” She frowned. “I’m going to hate the next ten years quite thoroughly.”
“Nasty, hateful man,” Acorn Pin curled her lip in disgust. She set her handbag in her lap, opened it and took out her own knitting. “Ridiculous little square mustache.”
Green Eyes shook her head. “They always seem to have the most unbelievable talent for self delusion. Remember Napoleon and his little comb over.”
“Oh, please. It was all I could do to keep a straight face around the wretched little man.” They knitted in silence a while.
Clivenden’s attention was caught by a woman in a black wool suit with a mandarin collar sprinting across the street between the passing cars, heading straight for the door of the tearoom. “This will be the sister they’re waiting for,” he thought. Even though this one slipped loose her white silk scarf to reveal jet black hair, it was done in the same up-swept manner crowned with a braid. She had a circular silver pin on her right shoulder with the silhouette of a raven cut out of the edge of it. She spoke with the hostess and pointed to where her sisters sat, but as she passed his table, she took a step back and paused to take a good look at him, shot him the tiniest smile, then continued on to her table. Clivenden was startled to note that her eyes were as black as her hair.
As Black Hair settled into her chair, she looked over at Green Eyes. They both said, “Daphne” at the same time and nodded as though that settled something. The mention of the name made him start. Were they acquaintances of Daphne’s who had seen him with her somewhere? How could they know he was here trying to talk himself out of his silly infatuation with Daphne and work up the nerve to propose to Eleanor?
But Black Hair was saying, “Sorry I was late. Cliodna walked in just as I was heading out the door.”
“Cakes now?” Acorn Pin asked.
Black Hair shook her head. “We haven’t time. The train to Salsbury leaves in about 45 minutes. Mr. Black is arranging taxis.”
Acorn Pin divided the remainder of the pot between their cups and they sipped in silence a moment. Then knitting was put away and silver coins were counted out of change purses and stacked into two neat little stacks.
Then with a perfectly straight face, Acorn Pin asked, “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
To which Black Hair, with an equally straight face replied, “When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”
And Green Eyes added, “That will be ere the set of sun.”
They looked at each other, then broke out laughing.
“I don’t care how educated he was. James Stuart was a grubby, smelly little man,” muttered Green Eyes making a face.
Then they gathered their things up and made ready to depart. The waitress came up then, saw the twin piles of silver coinage, and murmured a delighted “thank you.”
As they passed Clivenden’s table, they stopped and Black Hair and Green Eyes turned to face him. “Do yourself a favor. Forget Eleanor and marry Daphne.” Black Hair counseled him seriously.
“But only if you want a long happy marriage and children,” Green Eyes added, equally seriously.
“There’s the taxis,” Acorn Pin interjected. They paused only long enough to smile sweetly at him, then turned and trooped out the door where three taxis had pulled up in front of the tearoom.
Thunderstruck, Clivenden watched in astonishment as each got into one of the three taxis which promptly pulled into traffic and sped away.