The following morning found Elena knocking at Mary Allen’s door. Her neighbour could see that something was amiss.
“This is getting seriously weird.” Mary brought through a Royal Albert pot of tea and two matching cups and saucers, placing them clumsily on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “Early Grey, Elena, things always go better with Earl Grey.”
Elena wasn’t much in the mood for small talk, she just wanted answers. “What do you think he meant by saying that I feed him?”
Mary flopped down beside her, with a whiff of Chanel 19. “It’s love, isn’t it?”
“Love? But how can it be love?”
Mary poured a little milk into each cup. “I don’t know how, but it is. Love is blind, they say. Never experienced it myself.”
“The problem is that each dream is getting longer, clearer, more real somehow. He even spoke to me, properly this time from his lips, though there weren’t many words. Michael thinks I’m working too hard, but I’m not. I haven’t been able to work for days, I felt quite ill this morning. And I’m getting worried now.”
“About falling to sleep?”
Elena nodded, watching Mary fill up her cup to near the top. “If only I knew who he was, why doesn’t he come out and tell me.”
Mary sat back in the sofa and sighed. “Have you looked at yourself in a mirror in these dreams?”
“I’ve not come across one yet, though I know my hair is a bit lighter than my own, virtually blonde in fact.”
“Then those initials carved in the oak tree, PH, you said?”
“The P could be you, if he sees you as Persephone and the H is Hades. Unless we’re talking about two historical figures.”
“It would be a shot in the dark but I’ll give it a go.”
“You mean, find out all the men in the past whose Christian names begin with H? That would be a very long shot.”
“Not all history, Dear. From what you describe he lived somewhere between 1490 and, say, 1600. And there’s already something bugging me about all this.”
“Bugging you!” Elena reached for her cup of tea.
“Yes, I can’t quite put my finger on it, from what you described about him and that initial H… the number twenty three. I don’t know. We’ll go through to my library in a minute, I should’ve been onto this days ago.”
Mary Allen’s library, in fact her spare room, was an eclectic collection of books, old and new, mainly historical, though there was plenty of biography and fiction too. Elena sat down on the wooden chair and watched her friend peruse the massive selection of titles.
“Maybe we should just stick to the internet,” Elena said, eyeing the grey sky out of the window.
“No, no, Dear. Books are far better, especially my books.”
Elena noticed that Mary was drawn particularly to the Shakespeare section, which included a copy of the First Folio.
“Hm. You know when I said this fellow’s odd behaviour reminded me of Hamlet’s ghost?”
“Yes.” Elena noticed a book that had Pluto in the title, one of Mary’s astrological books. She stood up and pulled it out of the bookcase. “Can I have a look at this?”
“Of course, Dear, jump in. We need to get to the bottom of this.”
Elena recalled that some astrologers talked about Pluto’s mask, from the myth of Hades, who was said to wear a mask which could make him invisible. “Maybe this isn’t all about Neptune and the Moon after all, like we suspected.”
Mary turned to face her, peering over her reading glasses. “Go on.”
Elena held up the book about Pluto. “Perhaps it’s all about drastic change and masks and hidden things.”
“What makes you say this?”
“It might be a hunch but think we can narrow down the search to someone in history born on February 23. I just know that number means something.”
“You may be right, Dear. Let’s get to it then.”
An hour later, after much intensive searching on the internet and through Mary’s book collection, they had found nothing of apparent significance.
“It’s looking as though I’m going to have to wait until tonight to find out more.”
Mary knelt down beside her, putting a consoling hand on hers. “It is all rather exciting though, isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me to say, but you really can’t beat a good mystery.”