8-page mur­der mys­tery By ali­son Carter

The new bridge was a re­mark­able feat of en­gi­neer­ing – and it was a clever and cal­cu­lat­ing mind which had en­gi­neered the mur­der of the Don found be­neath it . . .

The People's Friend Special - - FRONT PAGE - Ali­son Carter

It was barely past dawn on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 7, 1749, a misty Cam­bridge morn­ing, with that pale light that seems to flood over the fens and soak the an­cient build­ings of the city.

Anne Ma­son trot­ted out of the Old Hall, glad to leave be­hind the odours of yes­ter­day’s for­mal din­ner.

She walked around the clois­ter and through the nar­row pas­sage to cross the won­der­ful new bridge. She had to get to the Porters’ Lodge to fetch a de­liv­ery of new milk, and what a plea­sure it was to step over the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge and feel its new tim­bers be­neath her hur­ry­ing feet.

Her sim­ple fig­ure, dressed in the dull green of a maid’s cus­tom­ary dress, with a prac­ti­cal ker­chief about her neck and tucked into her bodice, blended with the hues of the bridge.

In the si­lence Anne heard only a dis­tant duck, and the faint slap of wa­ter against the steep side of the River Cam.

But then she heard a heav­ier sound, the thud of wood on stone. She leaned against the side of the bridge and peered down to the dark wa­ters.

The edge of a punt peeped out into her field of vi­sion, and she frowned. That clumsy ves­sel was still there, then, clog­ging up the hand­some scene – the new bridge, the grassy bank, the shin­ing wa­ters.

A slight cur­rent pulled the punt out a lit­tle from un­der the bridge, and a pair of shoes came into view, form­ing a neat V with their soft black leather toes fac­ing away from each other.

If this is an un­der­grad­u­ate, Anne thought, he’s fallen asleep drunk in the punt overnight and will get a drub­bing from the next Fel­low to cross from one half of Queens’ Col­lege to the other.

Wear­ing light din­ner pumps, and in this au­tumn chill! Then Anne saw breeches slide into view, and no­ticed that the legs were not those of a young, vir­ile man, but bent and thin.

She hur­ried over to the other side of the bridge and stared down as the face of Dr Gre­go­rius looked back at her, eyes open but with not a spark of life in them.

A pool of dark liq­uid was soak­ing into the rough wood of the punt below his griz­zled neck and chest. The doc­tor was most cer­tainly dead.

****

Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 6, 1749

“It’s a hand­some thing, Mrs Es­sex, and that’s a fact.”

Anne put her bas­ket on the ground and stood be­side her friend. The two of them gazed upon the bridge, its lovely arch, the long, straight, smooth wooden beams that made up its struc­ture. It was early and none of the lazy un­der­grad­u­ates were yet up and do­ing.

“It’s a mas­ter­piece, Anne,” Mrs Es­sex said. “My hus­band is an ar­chi­tect with no equal. You know, of course, that al­though it ap­pears curved, there is not one curved piece of tim­ber in the whole thing?”

Anne looked afresh, and sure enough, the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge was made of en­tirely straight pieces.

“It needs no fix­ings at all.” Mrs Es­sex – El­iz­a­beth, as Anne some­times dared to call her – was smil­ing hap­pily. “You might lift the whole thing com­plete and set it down here in the quad, and it would be just as strong and sta­ble as be­fore.

“So my hus­band says. He talks of arcs, and ra­di­als, and tan­gents – or some such. I think the word, the thing that keeps it up, is com­mis­sion.”

“Com­pres­sion, per­haps?” Anne sug­gested.

“Com­pres­sion! Just so,” El­iz­a­beth said brightly. “For my­self, I wish I un­der­stood one jot of it, but I do not, ex­cept that I am proud as a pea­cock of my James.”

“Well, it is quite a thing,” Anne said.

Out of the cor­ner of her eye she could see Cook ap­pear­ing around the back of the col­lege build­ings, and his move­ments, even at this dis­tance, told her that it would be a busy day.

“But I can’t stand here all day and ad­mire,” she said. “It’s the For­mal Din­ner this af­ter­noon, and all hands are on deck.”

“James is in­vited to that din­ner,” El­iz­a­beth said, “and I am al­lowed into col­lege to­day not just to view his work, but also to find out for him what he must wear, hav­ing no aca­demic gown.”

“They’re stick­lers at High Ta­ble, Mrs Es­sex, so get along to the porters, who will tell you ex­actly what’s re­quired.”

It was soon af­ter the be­gin­ning of term, and the scene was Queens’ Col­lege, Cam­bridge. Anne had been lady’s maid at the Pres­i­dent’s Lodg­ings for two years, and hard work she had of it.

The col­leges, she ob­served, seemed so serene to any­one pop­ping their head through a wicket gate and tak­ing a sneaky look at a great court or col­lege gar­den, but they were packed full of dons and pro­fes­sors, and above all they were packed with pim­ply un­der­grad­u­ates who got in the way.

The Pres­i­dent’s Lodg­ings were the lo­ca­tion of a hun­dred grand gath­er­ings a year, be­yond all those din­ners in the Great Hall.

Anne’s mis­tress, Lady Sedg­wick (wife of the pres­i­dent), needed sewing do­ing at ev­ery mo­ment, end­less items fetched from the town, and even ad­vice on food and drink.

Ev­ery­one knew that Anne Ma­son was a clever girl, for a maid, who could set her hand to any­thing.

To­day was not a pri­vate din­ner in the lodg­ings. To­day was a great, tire­some feast in the Hall at which she must add her labours to those of the usual army of serv­ing men and women. There were never enough ser­vants.

Pick­ing up her bas­ket, Anne took one last look at the new bridge. It would make life eas­ier, that was cer­tain – a quicker way to get over the Cam and from one part of col­lege to the other.

It was so hand­some! Anne felt sure that it would be there for cen­turies, per­haps even an­other three hun­dred years (which was the age of Queens’ Col­lege), and be a sight to see for thou­sands of folk to come.

“Thank you, Anne,” Mrs Es­sex said. “I will en­quire at the lodge.” She set off to climb the slope of the bridge.

“You’ll want to go this a-way,” Anne said gen­tly, point­ing be­hind her.

Mrs Es­sex blinked and laughed.

“Yes, of course. You know how dis­tracted I can be, Anne, and that I have no sense of di­rec­tion. My hus­band de­spairs of me! He, a man who de­signs th­ese mar­vel­lous struc­tures, and me, his wife, a silly thing!”

A punt bumped against the bank below the bridge.

“Not silly, Mrs Es­sex,” Anne said, smil­ing.

“Please call me El­iz­a­beth,” the lady replied. Anne looked at the punt. “I must speak to the Clerk of Works about th­ese boats. They have be­gun to moor again in this sec­tion of the river.”

“Cer­tainly they are ugly,” El­iz­a­beth said.

“Farm­ers and trades­men use them to carry all man­ner of cargo north and south, to and from the fens. If they need to stop, they ought to tie up out­side the city, or at least pol­lute the air of some other col­lege. They stink of un­pro­cessed wool or of eel buck­ets!”

El­iz­a­beth screwed up her nose.

“I must go,” she said, and turned and trot­ted away, her lawn pet­ti­coat a flash of bright pink against the sober colours of the col­lege.

“Are you Mrs Sedg­wick’s maid?”

Anne turned to see Dr Gre­go­rius be­hind her, his scowl­ing face dark with stub­ble. He was a mis­er­able, self­ish old don who lodged in some of the best rooms in Queens’. “Yes, sir.” She curt­seyed. The doc­tor was a fool not to know who she was – she was about col­lege all day, ev­ery day, and in­dis­pens­able to all.

“Where’s Doc­tor Sedg­wick?” he de­manded crossly.

The old man had no grace about him, no pleases or thank yous.

“I can­not say, sir, where the pres­i­dent is just now. I saw him at break­fast with Mrs Sedg­wick, but that was an hour ago.”

Dr Gre­go­rius grunted. Anne no­ticed a great smear of egg on his neck­tie and screwed up her nose. Some­times, in times of sick­ness among the col­lege staff, she had to make an at­tempt to clean Dr Gre­go­rius’s rooms, and they were dread­ful.

What a waste of good cham­bers it was, too, to have them in­hab­ited by a don who taught lit­tle and pro­duced no schol­ar­ship at all, so they said.

Even the ser­vants knew that Dr Gre­go­rius abused his po­si­tion in the col­lege through his idle­ness, and that the other dons would dearly love to eject him, but that it could not be done with­out statute. A bad don was very dif­fi­cult to dis­lodge.

“Fetch that boy – what’s his name?” the doc­tor said. “The id­iot who can’t brush a horse to save his life.”

“Ben Atkins, Doc­tor. Grooms­man.”

“He doesn’t de­serve the ti­tle,” the doc­tor said. “Fetch him. I need to find Sedg­wick and talk to him soon about the riff-raff they are al­low­ing to sit at High Ta­ble now. Atkins will know where the pres­i­dent is, since he pre­pares his car­riage.”

“I be­lieve Ben Atkins is out of col­lege, sir, vis­it­ing his –”

“Vis­it­ing! Vis­it­ing, just as full term be­gins! Who do th­ese ser­vants think they are?”

“His mother has the gout very badly, and so –”

“What do I care about the mother or the boy?” the don shouted. “I need as­sis­tance, and this col­lege is gone to the dogs!” He glared down at Anne, and she turned away at the reek of his breath.

“This builder, this Es­sex cur who pegs to­gether bits of oak – I hear he is to dine at our High Ta­ble, just for us­ing his saw and his ham­mer!” Dr Gre­go­rius shook his head in dis­gust.

Anne looked at the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge and smiled. It was so much more than saw and ham­mer. She knew no math­e­mat­ics, but Mrs Es­sex had told her some­thing of the skill that went into it, the lack of nails, the per­fect bal­ance of weight and wood. Dr Gre­go­rius knew noth­ing.

He was limp­ing off now, gouty him­self, grum­bling.

Anne dis­liked Dr Gre­go­rius with a nag­ging in­ten­sity, not be­cause he had done her any harm, but be­cause of the way he treated Ben.

Ben Atkins – fair-haired, smil­ing Ben who had barely looked at Anne al­though she could never take her eyes from him. Ben, who was her se­nior by half a decade and hand­some as the sun. The mere thought of him made the hand that held her bas­ket trem­ble.

The doc­tor had beaten Ben more than once – a coward’s beat­ing with a thin cane in a cor­ner of the sta­ble yard be­fore Ben could see it com­ing. Anne had seen the marks, and heard Ben’s short, ag­o­nised cry one day over a wall.

Cook, his teeth set in anger, had told Anne in an un­guarded mo­ment what had hap­pened, how Ben had pre­pared a mare for one of the younger fellows who went off out to see his sweet­heart. He had for­got­ten that Dr Gre­go­rius needed a horse.

It had been a slip, Cook said, and for it Ben had re­ceived a bloody stripe on his neck and a scar that would never fully fade.

Anne watched the old fool leave the court. What a mean-spir­ited, God­less beast he was!

She had to hurry now and make a start on a list of tasks that was an arm long. Some­times it was not a bless­ing that she could read, be­cause peo­ple gave her lists!

It was a long, ex­haust­ing day. Din­ner was at the cus­tom­ary hour of four in the af­ter­noon, and what pluck­ing and rolling, but­ter­ing and slic­ing there was be­fore that!

High Ta­ble was to be full to burst­ing, and ev­ery­thing had to be just so. Anne emerged along a dark pas­sage­way be­side the bake­house and al­most bumped into Tom God­win.

“Why, Miss Anne!” he said, smil­ing his twin­kling smile and tak­ing the bucket of pig slops from her. “This is too heavy for you.”

“Now, that’s non­sense, Mr God­win,” Anne said. “I go to the pigs daily, with or with­out you.” He grinned. “But I like to help; it’s more fun be­ing amongst the bus­tle of the ser­vants than among the pale philoso­phers up there!”

Tom God­win was an un­der­grad­u­ate in his se­cond year of study. Very un­usu­ally he was of or­di­nary stock, the son of a book­binder who had shown such prom­ise at school that the school­mas­ter, a mem­ber him­self of Queens’ Col­lege, had rec­om­mended a schol­ar­ship.

Tom was cheeky and fun, a friend to many and a wel­come change from the se­ri­ous faces of the sons of the gen­try. Anne sus­pected that his stud­ies were not his high­est con­cern, but she liked him all the more for that.

“Give me that pail,” Anne said. She knew that it wasn’t quite proper to chat­ter with the un­der­grad­u­ates, but Tom was barely one of them.

“Shan’t,” he said. “Not un­til you tell me who is to be at this grand din­ner.”

“And why do you want to know?”

He tapped the full bucket against the stone wall.

“Well, I ad­mire this ar­chi­tect fel­low, and I’d like to hear what he says.”

“Well, Mr James Es­sex will in­deed be there.”

“Then I shall lis­ten at the door and hear what man­i­fest pearls fall from his lips.”

“Will you be a builder when you have taken your de­gree?” Anne asked. He looked a lit­tle crest­fallen. “My father wants much more for me,” he said. “I must choose a pro­fes­sion, be the first of the Cam­bridgeshire God­wins to do so, and make a mint of money as a lawyer or some such.”

“I am sure you can do that,” Anne said.

“But have I the time?” Tom asked, and grinned again. “I have too many other in­ter­ests.”

Anne, though she had no fancy for him her­self, could see why he was beloved of the town girls and ad­mired by the cal­low stu­dents.

Ru­mour had it that Tom God­win had known war, which gave him a cer­tain ro­mance that was rare in this city of cos­set­ted schol­ars.

Be­fore be­ing given his schol­ar­ship, Tom was sup­posed to have been briefly in a reg­i­ment, and to have helped put down the Ja­co­bite Ris­ing in Scot­land – all be­fore he was nine­teen!

Some­times he made mod­est ref­er­ence to this, and Anne had seen the girls out­side the Ea­gle and Child tav­ern blush and sim­per, and stu­dents gasp.

The din­ner went well. Cook smiled and sighed with re­lief as the cake went out. He gave Anne a slice of ap­ple tart and said she could go as soon as she’d scraped the grease from a great cop­per roast­ing pan.

She washed her hands with soap un­til they were raw, try­ing to rid them of the scent of beef drip­ping, and wan­dered across the bridge and to­wards the lovely old chapel.

It was seven at night, and Even­song was over, so it was a good mo­ment to sneak in and sit in the pews, gaz­ing up at the roof and en­joy­ing the peace.

Anne loved the si­lence, but when she re­alised her head was droop­ing, she gath­ered her skirts and slipped back out of the chapel. It was a dark night, cloud-cov­ered, but she recog­nised the voices of Mr Dut­ton and Pro­fes­sor Walsh.

“The thing is still prim­i­tive,” the younger man, Dut­ton, said softly. “It’s barely been im­proved since the days of the First Ge­orge.”

“You talk non­sense, as ever, Dut­ton,” the pro­fes­sor said in his cracked voice. “Thirty yards is quite un­nec­es­sary.” Dut­ton chuck­led. “We shall see, Fran­cis, we shall see,” he said.

“But is the thing safe from Bill’s crit­i­cal eye?” the pro­fes­sor asked.

“He’ll never know,” Dut­ton said. “I’ve seen to that.”

Anne frowned. Th­ese two

Fellows of the col­lege, as far as she knew, un­der­took no sci­en­tific stud­ies. Mr Dut­ton was try­ing for a post in the Greats depart­ment, and Walsh was his su­pe­rior. Anne had no idea what their plan might in­volve, and why it was un­suit­able for the eyes or ears of the pres­i­dent.

Anne dragged her ach­ing feet back to the room she shared with one of the cham­ber­maids, washed, crawled on to the pal­let and was asleep be­fore her body hit the horse hair mat­tress. Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 7, 1749

Anne ran to the Porters’ Lodge and cried mur­der.

It was soon ap­par­ent that the academics were go­ing to be of no use what­ever in dis­cov­er­ing how Dr Gre­go­rius had ended up life­less in an empty punt with his life’s blood soak­ing into its tim­bers. They rushed about and made no progress.

The Clerk of Works, a sen­si­ble man with a great deal of mus­cle, sum­moned two porters and they lifted the cold body of the doc­tor and pre­pared to bear it into the chapel for de­cency’s sake, but not be­fore al­most ev­ery mem­ber of col­lege had viewed the gory scene.

“Shot with a Brown Bess,” a voice be­hind Anne said.

She had been charged by the clerk with track­ing down the owner of the punt, and she was al­ready dread­ing en­ter­ing the nas­tier inns of the city. She spun round to see Tom God­win be­hind her.

“I beg your par­don,” she said. “A brown what?”

“Brown Bess. A stan­dard mus­ket. I saw the bul­let hole when they got him out, poor old fel­low.” Anne stared. “Good­ness,” she said, “I never heard of any­one shot in a col­lege be­fore.”

“It’s a bad day,” he agreed. “Do they think it was the owner of the punt that killed him? They shouldn’t have let some pass­ing mer­chant moor up there, that’s what I say.”

“Do you think the mur­derer was in the punt with the doc­tor?” Anne asked. Tom shrugged. “It is not likely. Such prox­im­ity would have meant more . . .”

He hes­i­tated, clearly wish­ing to spare the del­i­cate feel­ings of a fe­male, but Anne’s ea­ger ex­pres­sion made him carry on.

“More, er, gore, Anne. No, who­ever had that Brown Bess was . . .” he scanned the sides of the river “. . . on one side or the other, at a win­dow, per­haps, for that sort of wound. The river is nar­row enough that a mus­ket’s span of ac­cu­racy would al­low it.” Anne nod­ded. “Poor man,” she said. “Come, now,” Tom said, “you didn’t like him any more than I did, any more than any­one here did. He was a mis­er­able crea­ture.” Anne sighed. “We should not speak ill.” “I sup­pose not. I can’t say we were bo­som friends, the doc­tor and I, but I’d not have killed him, even if I had a Brown Bess about me.”

Tom looked pale, and Anne could see that the event had shaken him. Per­haps he had the added trou­ble of mem­o­ries of war, mem­o­ries that he didn’t care to re­visit.

The pres­i­dent, in his full gown and wig, strode up. Anne curt­seyed and Tom bowed.

“Are you God­win, the schol­ar­ship man?” the pres­i­dent asked. Tom nod­ded re­spect­fully. “The porters are say­ing that you can tell it was a gun that got him.”

“Yes, sir. A mus­ket, at my guess.”

“Good Lord! How did such a weapon get into my col­lege?” Sir Wil­liam looked about him, the black folds of his gown mov­ing in the Oc­to­ber breeze. “Smith, come here.”

The most se­nior of the porters bus­tled over.

“Sir,” he said, touch­ing his soft, three-cor­nered hat.

“If a weapon – a gun, by thun­der – has got into Queens’, I want to know how. The Fellows will be ap­palled – in a place of study and of peace!”

Smith, the porter, bris­tled. The porters saw them­selves as keep­ers of all that was im­por­tant in col­lege life, and as ut­terly eff icient. They suf­fered no fools gladly.

“I think you will f ind, sir, that my men have not ever been lax in –”

“Then how did the thing get in­side?” the pres­i­dent in­ter­rupted. “A com­mon sol­dier’s weapon, if this man’s opin­ion is ac­cu­rate.”

Anne was edg­ing away, but then she stopped.

“Beg­ging your par­don, Sir Wil­liam,” she said.

The pres­i­dent, a very tall man, looked about him for a mo­ment be­fore notic­ing Anne. “What is it, girl?” “Might not the weapon have come into col­lege via the river it­self?”

Sev­eral nearby voices fell silent, and Smith nod­ded em­phat­i­cally, pleased that the ded­i­ca­tion of his men was not in ques­tion. The pres­i­dent blinked. “Ah, yes, that’s true, of course.” He scanned the scene. “Is that man Atkins here? Get him to find the owner of that filthy punt.”

“Mr Atkins is yet away, Sir Wil­liam,” Anne said care­fully, “vis­it­ing his ail­ing mother. He’s been gone some days on leave of ab­sence. But I have al­ready been tasked by the Clerk of Works with search­ing the tav­erns.”

“What are you wait­ing for?” Sir Wil­liam al­most shouted. “I want this ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent cleared up.”

Tom gave Anne a twin­kling look of sym­pa­thy, and she hur­ried to the Great Gate to leave col­lege. On her way, she no­ticed Walsh and Dut­ton stand­ing in the court, look­ing up at a tall mul­lioned win­dow and whis­per­ing.

That win­dow surely be­longed to the rooms of Dr Gre­go­rius. She had to as­sume that, now he was dead, his col­leagues had re­alised that the best set of rooms in col­lege had be­come avail­able.

In Queens’ Lane, El­iz­a­beth Es­sex hur­ried up be­hind Anne and fell into step with her.

“James has told me all about it!” she said. “He was back in the col­lege this morn­ing, talk­ing over the main­te­nance of his bridge with the clerk, and he came out to the court when you raised the alarm!”

The Es­sex fam­ily lived a stone’s throw from Queens’ Col­lege, and so heard its news daily.

“What can have hap­pened?” El­iz­a­beth said. “It’s ter­ri­ble.”

“This mus­ket may have come in with the punt,” Anne said. “I am to find the man who owns the punt and have him brought here. I will be­gin at the Ea­gle and Child, be­ing the clos­est and most likely inn.” El­iz­a­beth gaped. “But he might be a dan­ger­ous fel­low, Anne!”

“I hadn’t thought of it, but you may be right.”

“I will pro­vide sup­port, and call for an off icer if any­thing hap­pens,” Mrs Es­sex said ea­gerly. She turned on her heel and headed swiftly right down Trump­ing­ton Street.

“Mrs Es­sex,” Anne called, and the lady turned, smil­ing. “The Ea­gle is this way.”

“Oh, yes, of course, how fool­ish of me. I never know where I am go­ing.”

As they walked, El­iz­a­beth chat­tered on about Dr Gre­go­rius, her mind wan­der­ing through many pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“You do not sup­pose that he sim­ply, well, died of nat­u­ral causes? The gen­tle­man was

aged, and did not have the most healthy habits, Anne.”

Anne smiled to her­self. Mrs Es­sex was a sweet lady, but her mind was not among the sharpest that Cam­bridge of­fered. Some­times Anne won­dered what passed be­tween this wife and her bril­liant hus­band over their din­ner ta­ble.

“That might have been a likely cause,” Anne said gen­tly, “were it not for the great hole in the doc­tor’s head, and the co­pi­ous blood upon the punt.”

“Oh, yes, of course.” Mrs Es­sex gig­gled.

They reached the Ea­gle, and Anne went in and en­quired af­ter the punt’s owner while Mrs Es­sex waited out­side.

“We don’t get hardly any punts­men in here,” the land­lord said, sniff­ing. “They keep to the fens.”

“What about Davy Winslow?” a fat woman, no doubt his wife, said. “He only comes in a few times a year, and he’s been known to bring a flat boat through the shal­lows around here, car­ry­ing car­goes up to Water­beach or be­yond.” The land­lord laughed. “Winslow! He’d have had trou­ble shoot­ing one of them col­lege men yes­ter­day.” “Why is that?” Anne asked. The land­lord pointed to a bun­dle in a cor­ner of the inn.

“Davy,” he shouted. “Young woman to see you.”

The bun­dle shifted, and a red, shiny face peeped out. Two rheumy eyes blinked once, closed again, and the bun­dle let out a great shak­ing snore.

“Oh, Rob,” the land­lady said to her hus­band. “You let him stay the night.” The land­lord turned to Anne. “Sorry, missy, but Davy Winslow’s been en­tirely on his back and drowned in strong ale since yes­ter­day noon or there­abouts. Poor Davy, he has a hard life and his visit to the city is his yearly treat. And I can prom­ise you he’s no money for bread, let alone a mus­ket. The other fel­las bought him his ale.”

Anne traipsed back to Queens’ and re­lated her find­ings to the clerk. He ap­peared to have taken over the mat­ter now that the pres­i­dent had been called away to Lon­don.

“Well, I knew you’d get the tale right, Anne,” he said glumly. “I don’t think we’ll dis­cover who did this deed, and it’s bad hav­ing folks gos­sip about the col­lege, so it will have to be al­lowed to rest, I think, and sink below the at­ten­tion of pry­ing eyes.

“But,” Anne said, “I am sure there are ways to look into it, ques­tions to ask.”

“It was done in the dark, Anne, af­ter the for­mal din­ner. The doc­tor was at ta­ble right un­til the end, lay­ing into the port wine, and so no­body saw the mur­der, or we’d know.”

“Still, a mur­derer leaves a trace; I’m sure that’s true. May I think on it?” The clerk shrugged. “Sir Wil­liam is busy now, and abroad in Lon­don; I truly think he’d like to for­get this, Anne. But if you think you can un­cover things, you carry on.” He smiled. “I’d have thought you had enough work to do.”

Anne left the clerk. She chose not to men­tion that her usual daily work was all toil and drudgery, whereas mur­der of­fered some­thing more lively al­to­gether.

She had jobs to do that day for Lady Sedg­wick – hems to turn up and lace to soak – un­til at least six in the evening, but af­ter that she slipped back into chapel.

Ser­vants were per­mit­ted to sit in the back rows of pews, be­hind the choir stalls, ex­cept for im­por­tant ser­vices, and in Anne’s ex­pe­ri­ence the chapel was an ex­cel­lent place to hear the loose talk of the col­lege.

The love affairs of the choral schol­ars were much dis­cussed be­tween the In­troit and the Psalm. She had ob­served that the tenors got them­selves into far more ro­man­tic trou­ble than the basses, which Anne felt was a sub­ject for later study.

She knelt to pray as the dean sang the chants, and then sat up and looked about her. The rows of oak pews were ar­ranged in a ris­ing rake up the chapel sides, and Anne saw below her the un­mis­tak­able fair hair of Ben Atkins bent over a hym­nal. Her heart leaped in her breast. So he was re­turned from his mother and father’s home!

Anne sat, watch­ing the can­dle­light re­flect off his hair and day­dream­ing. She ought, of course, to have been ab­sorb­ing ev­ery word of the ser­mon, and she did keep her fin­ger in her Bi­ble at the les­son, which was Mark 4:22: “For noth­ing is hid­den ex­cept to be made man­i­fest; nor is any­thing se­cret ex­cept to come to light.”

But Ben was so near, and she felt such an ache in her heart, that it was diff icult to lis­ten to the dean, and hard to keep the les­son in mind.

At last Even­song was over. For the first time, as the peo­ple rose to leave, Anne no­ticed Mr Dut­ton among them. He nod­ded to Anne as she hov­ered in the porch, wait­ing to see if Ben would no­tice her.

Then Pro­fes­sor Walsh ap­peared, rub­bing his eyes af­ter a chapel nap, and Anne was cer­tain that he avoided the eye of his stu­dent, Mr Dut­ton.

The dean emerged and en­gaged them both in con­ver­sa­tion about the Michael­mas ser­vices, and they looked un­com­fort­able and ready to leave.

“Mr Atkins!” Anne said, feign­ing sur­prise as Ben came out of the chapel porch. “I did not know you were here! Giv­ing up a prayer for your mother? I hope she is re­cov­ered.” He blushed. “Oh, she is so much bet­ter,” he said. “I came back only this last hour, and since the sta­ble lads have seen to the horses so well in my ab­sence, and the ser­vice was just be­gin­ning, I thought I’d f ind a lit­tle peace.”

“We have been so noisy to­day, of course,” Anne said, “with the ter­ri­ble mat­ter of Doc­tor Gre­go­rius.”

Ben looked puz­zled, and Anne found that he had not heard about the mur­der. She de­scribed the facts thus far – the punt, the body, the weapon, the lack of any idea of who had done it.

“A mus­ket?” Ben’s face turned pale, and Anne’s heart took an­other tum­ble. She won­dered if Ben were some­how in­volved in this mur­der. If not, why was he pale?

He glanced over at the two dons. Anne could see that they were in fact strain­ing to hear what she and Ben were say­ing, as the dean mur­mured on about choir prac­tices and flow­ers.

“Yes, a mus­ket. What’s called a Brown Bess,” Anne said. “Ben, what is it?”

The dean had scut­tled away to his ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal plan­ning, and Ben glanced at Walsh and Dut­ton.

“Noth­ing at all,” Ben said. “What a ter­ri­ble day for the col­lege. Now I must get back to my work.”

He fled, and Anne was left flab­ber­gasted. Ei­ther th­ese three men, all so dif­fer­ent, were some­thing to do with the death of the doc­tor, or some­thing else ne­far­i­ous was afoot.

****

Anne couldn’t sleep that night. She tossed and turned and an­noyed her bed­fel­low, the cham­ber­maid. The brief ex­change she had heard be­tween the pro­fes­sor and Mr Dut­ton, in the dark be­fore the mur­der, kept re­turn­ing to her – words about dis­tance, and about hid­ing some­thing from the pres­i­dent . . .

In the morn­ing, a Sun­day, she badly fum­bled the dress­ing of her mis­tress’s hair and dropped a pot of pow­der. In the end Lady Sedg­wick sent her away in ir­ri­ta­tion to buy more pow­der. Anne set off for the town along Sil­ver Street and met El­iz­a­beth Es­sex, ea­ger for news.

“There is some­thing afoot, Mrs Es­sex,” Anne said, hes­i­tat­ing, des­per­ate not to men­tion Ben if it could be avoided. “It is some­thing to do with that gun, for I heard two Fellows talk­ing about some­thing be­fore the dread­ful mur­der, which I feel al­most cer­tain was the weapon it­self.”

“Two wicked men?” El­iz­a­beth asked, her face a pic­ture of fas­ci­nated cu­rios­ity. “Two bri­g­ands of the town?”

“No, Mrs Es­sex, two Fellows of the col­lege.” “Oh. Who?” Anne hes­i­tated. It was usu­ally un­wise to voice sus­pi­cions about one’s bet­ters.

“Well, I heard Pro­fes­sor Walsh and young Mr Dut­ton, who –”

“Oh, Fred­er­ick Dut­ton!” El­iz­a­beth re­laxed. “You know, I might have mar­ried him, but he’s a dullard. All that Latin and Greek! I chose my James and it was the choice of a sen­si­ble woman, what­ever they say about my lack of brain.

“Look, Anne, there he is, over there!” She was wav­ing her gloved hand. “Why don’t we ask him about the Brown Bess? He’s sure to tell me, be­cause I was his sweet­heart for ever such a long –”

“El­iz­a­beth!” Anne seized the lady’s arm. “You must not!”

But Mrs Es­sex was over the street al­ready, nar­rowly miss­ing be­ing mown down

by a cart and horse. She had taken Fred­er­ick Dut­ton by the wrist and was talk­ing in­tently to him. Anne crossed af­ter her.

“Fred­die,” she was say­ing. “If you have been play­ing with guns, then we must learn about it. Of course I know you could no more mur­der that old man than drive a knife into your own heart, but Anne here must and will know all the facts of the case, mustn’t you, Anne?”

Anne stood, wide-eyed, wait­ing to see what the young scholar would say. There was a pause.

“Oh, heav­ens, Lizzie,” he said, his face fallen, “what a mud­dle. It’s a re­lief to talk.”

Mrs Es­sex touched his wig and then his shoul­der, as though pat­ting a small dog. “Fred­die, just tell us.”

“We had a bet, the pro­fes­sor and I. It was tom­fool­ery, know­ing that the pres­i­dent will not al­low arms into col­lege. Ja­cob – Ja­cob Walsh, you know, the man who knows Herodi­tus so well?” El­iz­a­beth nod­ded and smiled. “Ja­cob and I got into a dis­pute. He claimed that the mod­ern mus­ket is an im­prove­ment, that it can reach its tar­get at more than thirty yards with ac­cu­racy. It’s all non­sense, but he says that wars are won so much more eas­ily be­cause of this ad­vance, and he would not be si­lenced, so I laid a guinea on it.”

“And then you had to fetch a mus­ket, for proof?” Anne asked.

He blinked at her, no doubt as­ton­ished to be ques­tioned by a ser­vant, but car­ried on.

“We had one brought in, paid a ser­vant well. It is in col­lege, in a blan­ket chest that’s never used; the ser­vant said he’d put it in there.” He looked anx­ious. “At least, it was. It ought to be checked, now that this thing has hap­pened. I’ve talked with the pro­fes­sor. We both ac­knowl­edge that we are ashamed of our bet and our se­cret, but when nei­ther of us con­fessed at the scene of the mur­der, well, it be­came im­pos­si­ble to do so later.”

Mrs Es­sex gave him a look of sym­pa­thy.

“You are quite right to speak now,” she said, and then turned to Anne. “There, Anne dear, we have found an an­swer to the source of the mus­ket.”

Anne gath­ered ev­ery ounce of her courage.

“Sir, how do we know that you, or Pro­fes­sor Walsh, or both of you to­gether, did not take that mus­ket and kill Doc­tor Gre­go­rius your­selves?” Dut­ton’s face blanched. “I, kill a man? We didn’t even know where one might store the thing. I’d never laid eyes on a gun in my life!” He seemed to rec­ol­lect him­self. “You are Anne, who at­tends Lady Sedg­wick?” he said. “I do not think you may make ac­cu­sa­tions.

“Any­way, we did not see the gun, not af­ter we gave it to a ser­vant for lock­ing in the chest. That was days be­fore the mur­der. We meant to use the gun only once, to set­tle the bet, and then have it re­moved.”

He ran a hand through the stiff white­ness of his wig, dis­tracted.

“We couldn’t know that some­one would come and take it.”

“Now,” Mrs Es­sex said, en­thu­si­as­tic in her new role as de­tec­tive, “which ser­vant was this?” She looked from Anne to Dut­ton, and back again.

But Anne al­ready knew, and a weight set­tled on her heart.

“The man who grooms the horses,” Dut­ton said in a sullen voice. “Ben­jamin.”

Anne dreaded her next en­counter with Ben Atkins. It was only now, know­ing that he might be a mur­derer, she re­alised that she was in love with him.

If he was the only man to have known about the gun, and if he had stored it away to serve the stupid wa­ger be­tween the dons, then it seemed per­fectly pos­si­ble that he had killed Dr Gre­go­rius.

She walked to the of­fice of the Clerk of Works with a heavy heart. The clerk agreed to have the four large blan­ket boxes in the linen store checked. There was no mus­ket in any. The mur­derer had used it and (most prob­a­bly) cast it into the Cam af­ter­wards, so that it could never be traced.

Anne thought of those beat­ings, and of Ben’s ex­pres­sion when­ever Dr Gre­go­rius crossed his path.

“Yes, I helped them,” Ben said in a dull voice. They were alone in the sta­ble. “Fools, both of them. They paid me to fetch them a mus­ket. I rode to the gar­ri­son yon­der.” He waved a hand to the west. “I put it in the blan­ket chest – Dut­ton thought that was a good hid­ing place.

“I laid it in the chest that’s never used, and I swear, Anne, that I never went there again nor saw it again. I knew they would con­duct some ex­per­i­ment, but thank­fully I trav­elled a few days later to my mother’s house – you know that – and that was the end of it.”

Anne put her hands over her face, then looked at him.

“But at any time be­tween the stor­ing of the mus­ket and your de­par­ture, you could have taken the gun again, used it, thrown it away. That is what will be said.”

“I didn’t. I am no killer, Anne!” His ex­pres­sion was all ur­gent ap­peal, and she longed to hold him, and to be sure that he was telling the truth.

“He beat you, Ben,” Anne said softly, and she heard his gasp, in the muf­fled quiet of the sta­ble.

He closed his eyes, his face con­torted in agony.

“Yes, and I hated him – a cal­lous, cruel man who cared for no-one.”

He opened his eyes again, large and blue, and even now Anne would have given any­thing for him to kiss her, there among the trusty horses and the sweet hay.

“But I can­not kill. It isn’t in me, Anne.”

She nod­ded, and left him, vow­ing that she would find the truth, and that this man, whom she loved, would not hang at Cax­ton Gib­bet.

Ben’s sal­va­tion came from an un­ex­pected quar­ter. Work took over for Anne, as Sun­day ended and Mon­day be­gan.

Lady Sedg­wick had a bad cold, and there were poul­tices to pre­pare and broths to strain. Anne scur­ried from Pres­i­dent’s Lodg­ings to kitchens and back.

Later, she went to the laun­dry to find a house­maid who would press some sheets for her in a hurry, and was taken aback to see a pile of used table­cloths stir in a cor­ner.

“Who is that?” she said sternly, and af­ter a minute a small fig­ure emerged.

It was a lit­tle girl, no more then six, in pet­ti­coats and a mob cap. She had the round face and dark eyes of Cook.

“Oh, Dor­cas!” Cook had en­tered hur­riedly be­hind Anne, who turned round and saw that he looked re­ally shame­faced. “This my daugh­ter,” he said. The child ran up and wrapped her plump arms around her father’s leg.

“My wife is near her con­fine­ment, and poorly with it. I have no friend or rel­a­tive to leave this one with, and she gets into ev­ery­thing. Don’t you, sweet­ing?” He bent to em­brace the child. “So I have let Dor­cas sleep in the laun­dry, Anne. She’s been such a good girl, hid­ing away and play­ing.”

Anne pat­ted the child’s head and smiled.

“Well, Dor­cas, and what have you been amus­ing your­self with among the shirts and the lye?”

The child leaped away from her father and held up her lit­tle hands. She closed one eye, ar­ranged her arms as if fir­ing a weapon, and shouted, “Bang!”

Cook and Anne stared at her, then Anne ap­proached her care­fully, get­ting down on one knee.

“Is that you with a gun, dear?” she asked.

The lit­tle girl nod­ded en­thu­si­as­ti­cally.

“I couldn’t lift it out, but I prac­tised for when I could!”

The child ran over to the row of blan­ket chests along the wall, swiftly pur­sued by Anne. The lit­tle girl clam­bered over the near three chests to reach the one at the back, a dusty old thing that looked like it had been made in the time of Queen Bess and hardly used.

“In here!” the child said, and heaved open the heavy lid. Her father came for­ward lest the lid trap her arms. Dor­cas looked down into the chest.

“All gone,” she said for­lornly. “No gun. No bang.”

Cook con­firmed that Dor­cas had been sleep­ing in the laun­dry since be­fore Ben Atkins left for his mother’s home.

Dor­cas was cer­tain that her pre­cious gun had been in the chest un­til what she called “two sleeps since”, and Cook swore that his daugh­ter had a good grasp of time.

So it had to be very re­cently that the gun had been taken, and cer­tainly since Ben had left, many days ago.

“Then it is al­most im­pos­si­ble

that Ben took the gun to kill Dr Gre­go­rius!” Anne said joy­fully.

Dor­cas would have re­gret­ted the loss of her toy be­fore. She had been check­ing that chest at least daily.

Anne kissed Dor­cas many times and gave her bar­ley sugar. Cook was less than cheer­ful about his daugh­ter hav­ing a mus­ket for a toy, but he agreed with Anne about the tim­ing, and Anne ran off to find Ben.

“I knew you could not have done such a thing,” she said.

“I am glad to hear it,” Ben said, “for your opin­ion is of im­por­tance to me.” Sud­denly his arms were around her, and shortly af­ter­wards he kissed her, and all was right, Anne felt, with the world.

“But,” Ben said a while later, “you still do not know who killed Gre­go­rius.”

“Per­haps no­body cares,” Anne said, happy in his arms.

“Per­haps they ought to,” he said, and Anne knew that he was the right man to love, be­cause he was vir­tu­ous.

“The gun was taken, and very lately,” she said, think­ing, “by some­one stealthy, who avoided the gaze of Dor­cas.”

They walked out on to Sil­ver Street and leaned over the north side of the bridge, look­ing to­wards the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge. Ben put his arm around her.

“Tell me,” she said, “why you took not a whit of no­tice of me from the day you came to Queens’ Col­lege.” He smiled. “Don’t you know that when a man falls in love, a shy man like me, he can’t bear to look, in case he never gets his heart’s de­sire, and be­cause he’s afraid and awk­ward.”

Anne kissed him right there on Sil­ver Street, as the ladies and gen­tle­men passed by. A minute later, she pushed him away.

“We must stand our sus­pects up and knock them down,” she said firmly. “Like ninepins?” Anne nod­ded. “First – and I take no plea­sure in stand­ing him up there – is the builder of that bridge. He was in the col­lege that evening and had cause to dis­like the doc­tor.” “Mr Es­sex? His mo­tive?” “Doc­tor Gre­go­rius showed open dis­dain for men he thought be­neath him. I my­self heard him say that Mr Es­sex should not be asked to dine at High Ta­ble.”

“But he’s a clever man. Mr Es­sex, I mean.”

“And as such might find a way to com­mit a mur­der.” “Surely not.” “We must knock him down, Ben. That’s the plan.”

“You’re a girl with a fine mind, Anne,” he said, putting his arms around her waist.

“For a lady’s maid, you mean?”

“For any­thing. Give me a kiss.”

“Wait.” She was think­ing again, and as she gazed along the river at the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge, and the an­cient build­ings of Queens’, she knew there was some­thing she was miss­ing.

“Well, we must speak to the builder of the bridge,” she said.

“Dare we? A maid and a grooms­man, ap­proach the en­gi­neer?”

“I know his wife. I dare.”

They walked to the Es­sex house on Malt­ing Lane. Ben’s work in the sta­bles waited; Anne’s mis­tress would fly into a rage when she re­turned. But Anne had the bit be­tween her teeth.

On the way they met Tom God­win who (Anne knew) ought to be about his busi­ness, too, study­ing.

“Can I be of as­sis­tance?” he asked, nod­ding at Ben. He wore an un­tidy yel­low frock coat and his stock­ings were grubby. Anne felt that Tom was some­thing of a mis­fit in a seat of learn­ing.

“Mr God­win,” Anne said, “should you not be at lec­tures?”

“I know it, Miss Anne,” Tom said, “but I’m bet­ter mov­ing about, a-do­ing of things.”

“Well, we are a-knock­ing down the ninepins,” Anne said.

Tom cocked his head on one side, and that in­fec­tious grin was back. “Ninepins?” “I will tell you anon,” Anne said, “but now we have to go.”

El­iz­a­beth was out vis­it­ing a sick friend, and to be­gin with James Es­sex saw no rea­son to con­verse with two ser­vants, and young ones at that.

“The Clerk of Works at the col­lege,” Ben ex­plained re­spect­fully, “has given up on find­ing the mur­derer of Doc­tor Gre­go­rius, and so we think it in­cum­bent upon us to try, sir.” Mr Es­sex shrugged. “I had no lik­ing for the old man,” he said. He led them into a par­lour and bade them sit.

James Es­sex was a sharp, in­tel­li­gent man with what Anne spot­ted was prob­a­bly a quick tem­per. He might pos­si­bly, she thought, kill a man in anger.

“I ad­mire the univer­sity well enough,” he said, “and many of the men who work in­side the col­leges. I dare say that th­ese top­ics they study – Phi­los­o­phy, the Clas­sics – are as im­por­tant as en­gi­neer­ing.”

The ex­pres­sion on his face did not match his words.

“But there are men there who think them­selves far su­pe­rior, and Gre­go­rius is – was – one of those men.”

Anne swal­lowed hard, and gath­ered all her courage to ask him for an al­ibi.

“We hope to es­tab­lish,” she said, “for the ben­e­fit of our em­ployer, the col­lege, where each . . . where each per­son was who, that evening, might have been able to –”

She was in­ter­rupted, and was glad of the in­ter­rup­tion, as the fig­ure of El­iz­a­beth Es­sex burst into the room. Her hus­band stood to greet her.

“Th­ese two are ask­ing where I was on Fri­day night last, Lizzie,” he said, smil­ing. El­iz­a­beth smiled at Anne. “Fri­day night? Well, you came back from the din­ner at the col­lege with far too much brandy in­side you, and snored most lustily all the night!”

Mr Es­sex coloured and looked ir­ri­tated, but his wife car­ried on re­gard­less.

“Now, Anne, how goes the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mur­der of that poor old man? I have been mean­ing to come to find you, be­cause I have such an idea!”

They all looked at her doubt­fully, but she nod­ded vig­or­ously.

“Why should the punt not have come into the col­lege con­tain­ing the body of Dr Gre­go­rius?”

She was lit up with the clev­er­ness of her no­tion.

“Then the doc­tor might have been cru­elly mur­dered any­where along the river by some rogue want­ing his time­piece, or his –”

“Ex­cept that you and I saw the punt, quite empty, that very morn­ing,” Anne said gen­tly. El­iz­a­beth looked crest­fallen. “There now,” she said, “you are right, as al­ways. Why can I not fig­ure th­ese things as you can?”

Her hus­band drew an arm around her.

“You are a woman of many good parts,” he said, “and I love you.”

She smiled her pretty dim­pled smile, and then Anne and Ben took their leave.

“I will just call upon the kitchen,” Anne said, and they ducked around the side of the house.

The maid-of-all-work was pick­ing wee­vils from a pot of flour, and happy enough to stop and talk to fel­low ser­vants.

“Oh, the mas­ter fair makes the house shake,”

she said, “when he sleeps. My mis­tress has the pa­tience of an an­gel. And I well re­call the night of the din­ner at Queens’, for he came home be­fore dark and was slum­ber­ing by nine, mak­ing the china rat­tle all over the house!”

Ben and Anne hur­ried back to their work.

“Mr Es­sex didn’t kill the doc­tor,” Anne said. Ben shook his head. “Both the lady and the maid are art­less, guile­less crea­tures.”

“In ad­di­tion, why would such a man bite the hand that feeds him? He built their bridge and their lodg­ings; why risk it all in a mo­ment of vi­o­lence?”

Ben and Anne stopped again on the Sil­ver Street bridge, and looked along the river.

“It is straight here,” Anne mused, “and calm. Fur­ther up, the wind whis­tles across the mead­ows, and boats strug­gle to stay straight.”

“It is the high walls of the col­lege that pro­vide the shel­ter just here,” Ben said as he kissed his lover’s neck and snaked an arm around her waist. But Anne shook him off, and leaned over the bridge.

“A punt can only moor with its long side to the bank?”

“Of course. It is more than twenty feet long, Anne.” She nod­ded. “When I am at lib­erty, I want to visit the High Ta­ble.” “You can­not!” Ben said. “I mean, I want to stand at the lit­tle door at the side, where the Fellows pa­rade in, and see the lie of the land. There is also a Bi­ble text that will not cease echo­ing in my mind, Ben.” “A text?” “It’s from Mark, and I think it was the les­son when . . .” She bit her lip. “There is more to know, and I have too much go­ing around my brain. You had bet­ter kiss me to clear it, Ben!”

Af­ter din­ner that evening Anne made her way to the low door that led to the High Ta­ble.

It stood less than f ive feet from the near end of the long carved ta­ble, and she could see por­traits of past pres­i­dents through a chink.

Then, as night fell, she called again at the Es­sex house.

“For­give my pre­sump­tion,” she said to James Es­sex, as his wife looked on, fas­ci­nated, “but can you tell me any­thing of the talk that night, es­pe­cially from Doc­tor Gre­go­rius?”

Mr Es­sex pon­dered.

“The rest took very lit­tle no­tice of him. He grum­bled and com­plained. The im­pres­sion I re­ceived was that the other Fellows of the col­lege had long ago ceased pay­ing him at­ten­tion.”

“But can you re­call what he said?”

“He was an­gry at a stu­dent’s lazi­ness. He said that he would be go­ing to Sir Wil­liam and de­mand­ing that the lad be thrown out of the col­lege.” “Which stu­dent?” “I can’t re­call a name. No, wait – there was no name! One of the men turned im­pa­tiently to him and asked for one, and when the old man strug­gled to re­call it his col­league turned away.”

“But you think that the doc­tor was go­ing to have an un­der­grad­u­ate rus­ti­cated?”

“It hap­pens,” Ben put in. “They do no work and are sent home with their tail be­tween their legs, and in the end they live off their in­tended for­tune.”

“Most do so,” Anne said qui­etly. “My thanks, Mr Es­sex.”

Anne had not seen Tom God­win for some time when they met on the Math­e­mat­i­cal Bridge two days later.

“Hello, Anne,” he said, smil­ing his usual cheery smile.

“Have you been to lec­tures, Mr God­win?” she asked. “I have not seen you about col­lege.”

“There are times when I must knuckle down, as they say. Off for the milk again?”

“Yes,” Anne said. “No more punts have moored since that day, I no­tice.” He nod­ded. “We want no more Fellows meet­ing a vi­o­lent end,” he said, mov­ing to pass her, but Anne pointed to­wards the older side of the col­lege, and he stopped.

“If I shot a man from that win­dow,” she said, “and he stood in a punt, then would he not fall on to the bank?”

There was a still­ness in the air as Tom God­win stopped breath­ing.

“And if,” Anne con­tin­ued, “I shot a man from the other side, say from a win­dow there . . .” Her arm moved through 180 de­grees. “Would he not fall in the wa­ter?”

“You’re a marks­man now, Anne, as well as a lady’s maid?”

“I know a mus­ket shot can strike a frail body with force, and I keep re­call­ing how the old man lay quite straight in the punt, in an at­ti­tude of hav­ing fallen there.” She saw that Tom gripped the edge of the bridge, and she turned again.

“But if I were to stand there, on the Sil­ver Street bridge, I might, in the dark­ness – if I could make out the man in the punt – shoot him. And he might fall head­long and lie along the punt.

“Doc­tor Gre­go­rius, for in­stance, was an­gry at the punts moor­ing here. He was a busy­body, and I dare say that he stepped into a punt to find out who had tied it up there with­out per­mis­sion. He was go­ing to his rooms in the dark af­ter too much wine.”

“Why should any­one want to shoot the old fool?” Tom asked lightly.

“Some had cause, Tom.” Anne turned to face him. “I kept hear­ing the words of a les­son, Tom, go­ing round in my head. It was about lis­ten­ing at doors, and se­crets.

“Then you made a com­ment about lis­ten­ing for pearls of wis­dom from the High Ta­ble, and I be­gan to think, Tom.”

“Never a wise thing, in a ser­vant,” he said coldly.

“The other stu­dents look down on you, Tom.”

“Curse them! They gave me this schol­ar­ship, and it is a mill­stone around my neck! I must study while I’d rather be ac­tive, but my mother and my father hang the whole fu­ture of the fam­ily upon me. I feel my­self to be in a trap.”

He glanced up at Anne, know­ing he had said too much, and it was at that mo­ment that Ben joined them, and stood qui­etly be­side his love.

“You heard through the door of the hall that Doc­tor Gre­go­rius had lost pa­tience with you. He was in charge of your stud­ies.”

“He was no man to talk of idle­ness,” Tom said through grit­ted teeth.

“Did you re­alise that you might be ex­pelled from the col­lege?” Anne asked softly.

Tom raised his head. His eyes burned.

“How could I bear that dis­grace? If he’d taken my name to Sedg­wick, and I’d been rus­ti­cated, what then?

“God knows, I hate the place, but I’d hate the dis­ap­point­ment of my father so much more! I lis­tened, and I learned that I was per­ilously close to ex­pul­sion, but if I could stop him, then . . .” “You killed him?” “I knew the child, Dor­cas, was hid­ing in the laun­dry and I chat­ted with her – it was a wel­come dis­trac­tion in my mood. I knew the mus­ket was in that chest be­cause she prat­tled about it. I opened the chest, waited un­til the day of the din­ner and took the gun.” “Where is it now?” Tom pointed down to the dark wa­ters of the Cam.

There was si­lence. Ben and Anne looked at one an­other.

“It’s a hang­ing,” Ben said softly.

Tom’s head jerked up to face them, his eyes full of sup­pli­ca­tion.

“My mother!” he said, his voice stran­gled.

Ben let out a long breath, and looked at Anne. “What if he flees, Anne?” Anne said noth­ing, and Ben con­tin­ued.

“I will not say that a life should ever be held cheap, and tak­ing the life of that old man was a crime that will never be washed away. But what if we sent Tom away now, let him run? Do we want to see him hanged?”

“They would fol­low him, Ben, as soon as a fel­low stu­dent found his room empty, or missed him at a sem­i­nar.”

“I have to be in Pro­fes­sor Walsh’s rooms in one hour,” Tom whis­pered.

“What,” Ben said, “if none of the horses were sad­dled just now? If the grooms­man had cho­sen to­day to brush them all and pol­ish all the tack, all at once?”

Tom was look­ing from one to the other ea­gerly, his hand trem­bling on the pale wood of the bridge. “Can it be so?” he asked. Ben looked at Anne, and she nod­ded. Tom God­win gave them one last look of grat­i­tude, turned, and ran in the di­rec­tion of the side gate of the col­lege.

“What have we done?” Anne asked.

“Shown mercy,” her lover replied. “And now, you will go to her Lady­ship, and I to my horses, the Cam will keep flow­ing, and the day will go on.”

The End.

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