Yay for Saturday! Here’s my latest snippet from A Most Malicious Murder — stuck in class and ruminating over what Poe had told him about the murdered chambermaid, Charles has to dissuade one of his friends from coming with him to meet Poe and discuss their next steps. Enjoy!
Unable to check his pocket watch and frustrated by the lack of visible clocks, an impatient Charles sat through his mathematics lecture only half-listening to the instructor as he tracked the passage of time by the wan afternoon sunlight. A milky square of it had finally reached the opposite wall of Mr. Sisson’s rooms when the mathematics don abruptly barked, “Mr. O’Donnell, am I boring you?”
Next to Charles, O’Donnell straightened out of a dozing slouch. “No, sir,” the undergraduate said, blinking heavily. “My apologies—I didn’t sleep well last night.”
“I see. You might wish to stay away from the public houses tonight. I find that a clear head and a stomach empty of alcohol makes sleep much more achievable.” The don pulled out his pocket watch, studying it. “We shall leave off our exploration of calculus here, gentlemen. I expect you all to do the assigned reading, and we shall continue our discussion next time.” His beady gaze fell on O’Donnell. “I look forward to your contribution, Mr. O’Donnell. Good afternoon.”
Charles gathered his books together, noting the barely restrained yawn that threatened to split O’Donnell’s face. Intellectually he knew that not everyone was as fascinated by mathematics as he was, but it still boggled him to see others nodding off during lectures on algebra and trigonometry. If he hadn’t been distracted with the news he’d learned from Poe, he would have been fascinated by Sisson’s discussion of calculus.
“The next lecture will be a joy,” O’Donnell said heavily as they filed out into the corridor. “Oh, well. Pater already knows I’m not a maths genius. Shall we deposit our notes in my rooms and go in search of afternoon tea? There may be more tidings about that poor chambermaid.”
The news about the murder had spread breathlessly throughout Christ Church by noon. While sawing through gravy-covered beef Charles had heard any number of theories about the murderer, each one more lurid than the next. “Oh. I-I’m afraid I have a prior engagement,” he apologized.
O’Donnell’s mouth quirked at that. “Abandoning me already? Ah, well. I suppose I can’t blame you—Pater always said I was a bad influence.”
“No, it’s n-not that at all.” Poe had intimated that he wasn’t to discuss the particulars of that unfortunate girl’s death. But O’Donnell couldn’t have had anything to do with it—quite apart from the fact that he was with me all evening, he’s not that sort.
Still, he didn’t like to lie, especially to a friend. “I’m going to finish the mathematics reading, and then I’m going to speak with M-mr. Poe about my writing.”
That caused O’Donnell to stop in his tracks. “You’re meeting with Poe? God in heaven, bring me along, please,” he begged. “I’d dearly relish a chance to speak with him about his inspiration.”
Charles wanted to groan in frustration. “I really m-must speak to him alone this time,” he said quickly. “But I promise I’ll d-do my best to get you an interview before he leaves, if you like.”
O’Donnell seemed ready to argue, but capitulated when Charles also promised to share his Mathematics notes. “Oh, all right. But if I don’t get a chance to speak to him before he leaves Oxford, I’ll grumble at you for the rest of the term.”
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