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Authors: Charlie Cochrane

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BOOK: Lessons in Discovery
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The urge in Jonty to take his friend’s hand, to caress his face

and whisper comforting words, was almost overpowering, but he

settled for the English refuge in times of distress. “Want a cup of tea, Orlando? Make us both feel a bit better.”

Jonty went off to find his beloved teapot and the solace it

always seemed to provide. It was the same one that had witnessed the afternoon when Orlando had got drunk. When he’d pranced

around this very set of rooms in a state of undress, finally lying on the carpet with his friend and going to sleep like a baby. Only the carpet had changed, for the obvious reason that a madman had cut his throat and spilled his blood all over it.

Jonty produced tea and jam tarts, sitting at the opposite end

of the sofa to Orlando whilst trying not to appear too eager. The man seemed to have a question or two on his mind given the look

of concentration that was fixed on his face.

“Jonty, I’d already come to the conclusion that something

had happened this last year. Happened to me, to make me change


Lessons in Discovery

so completely. I really hadn’t even considered something like this, yet it explains so much. You said we were lovers…”

“That’s true, Orlando. I couldn’t deny it.” Jonty felt the great hole in his heart start to close just a little. They were still talking, taking tea and being civil—there was, after all, the slightest

glimmer of hope.

“I have no knowledge of romance, or at least I thought I

hadn’t. Not in my first twenty-seven years. Will you tell me what we did? Did we kiss?”

Jonty’s voice, when he eventually found the courage to

speak, was dripping with tenderness. “Of course we did. And held hands.” He considered whether he should try holding hands now,

but was too scared. “It was very nice, you know, for both of us.”

Orlando nodded, taking in all this new evidence as if to add

to some strange theory he was formulating. “But there must have

been more, mustn’t there?”

Jonty smiled wistfully, remembering a lot more than he

dared to say at present. The effects of one devastating burst of honesty had made him much more wary now. “Indeed.”

“Where did we touch?” Orlando’s voice was barely above a


“All over. There was no shyness between us then. Not

recently, anyway.” Jonty cast his eyes down and studied the rim

of his teacup with as much concentration as if it had been an

original folio.

“And was that it? The Bible speaks of becoming one flesh,

man and wife cleaving together. I assume that men can do the

same. Did we ever…”

Jonty looked up into dark eyes which were full of hunger to

know the truth and a fear about so much that had been forgotten.

“Aye, we did. It was one of our greatest pleasures, Orlando…” He couldn’t continue, feeling his eyes once more beginning to well

and a lump forming in his throat. 47

Charlie Cochrane

Orlando didn’t say anything except, “It’s fine,” and could do

nothing other than pat his friend’s shoulder and refill his cup of tea. They sat for a good ten minutes not talking, until Orlando

seemed to finally pluck up the courage to speak.

“I would ask you to bear with me and be patient. I know it

can’t be easy, but you must understand that I feel no ill will at all about what you told me. If we were intimate then I must have

loved you a great deal and I can appreciate how anyone could fall for you, Jonty. You’re like a great shaft of sunshine on the very darkest day, and when you appeared at my bedside that afternoon

I fell down the stairs, it was such a startling thing. I’d never had a friend and then, out of the blue, I was told I had one. These last few days I’ve had to relearn all that means, what a friendship truly is. Now you say that we were lovers and I’ve another set of rules to get my head around. I need time to understand things, if I can ever understand them. I hope that you’ll give me it.”

“Of course I will, you chump.” The enormous relief Jonty

felt was clear in his voice. “You’ve been the most precious thing to me for a whole year—I’d never do anything to harm or frighten you.”

“Have we had happy times, Jonty? I’ve never known much

contentment in my life. Did I find it this last year?”

Jonty felt almost giddy with happiness, his intense sadness

turning to a mad delight. “Oh, we’ve done such things in high

spirits, Orlando. We even punted in January, can you believe it?

And we slid along the Backs on the ice like two silly

undergraduates and you even got drunk down at Thomas’s and

wanted to bathe in the fountain. Well, don’t look so disbelieving, because you did and I have a porter who’d witness to it.”

“I don’t believe a word of that.” Orlando pouted, the first

time he’d produced that expression since August. It made Jonty

hoot like an owl.


Lessons in Discovery

“Oh, that’s the very expression you wore that day at

Thomas’s. I had to drag you back to my set and then you decided

that you’d take a soak in my bathroom, so your clothes got strewn everywhere. I didn’t know where to look, honestly. You sailed

into the bathroom and launched yourself into the water, murdering Gilbert and Sullivan songs all the time until you sobered up. Next thing you fell asleep in front of my fire, stark naked. It was just as well that Miss Peters was away at the time, because if she’d come visiting, she would have had the shock of her life.” Jonty laughed till he was breathless and in the end Orlando had to laugh too.

“Well, I still think you made most of that story up. I never

sing in the bath and I don’t lie around naked. Unless…” It

appeared that a sudden awful thought had struck him. Perhaps

he’d realised there might be all sorts of things that he’d taken to doing this last year which he knew nothing about. Scandalous

things. “I don’t take my clothes off at any other times, do I?”

“Not that I’m aware of. I don’t think you’re a disciple of

Adam in his unfallen state. Quite respectable in public.” Jonty

grinned. He slipped the ring back on his finger, surreptitiously admiring it. He didn’t mention some of the more daring things his friend had seen fit to do over the year, like kissing him on a beach in broad daylight (albeit their only audience being some seabirds and starfish) or making love in a punt at midnight under the

willows down at Grantchester this last September, before the

university became alive again for Michaelmas term. They’d been

bold then, not going as far as the last favours but sharing some of the more discreet pleasures that they’d known. Orlando wasn’t

ready for that particular revelation and there was still a chance that he never would be.

Jonty smiled wistfully, putting down the papers he’d been

given. “Come on, Orlando, let’s leave this stuff for today and get some fresh air. You’ve been cooped up far too long and a nice

walk to the Bishop’s Cope for a pint wouldn’t be good enough. 49

Charlie Cochrane

The Backs are what you need, and some icy air in your lungs to

blow the cobwebs out. We might find a moorhen to make us laugh

or hear an owl out a bit early. I always like the water in the

evening, it’s nice and peaceful. We’ll go and find your coat and gloves once I’m ready—and wear a nice warm hat or our friend

with the starched pinny will be giving us lines again.”

The next day Jonty’s pigeonhole contained a package from

Miss Peters, which he hurriedly took over to Orlando’s rooms.

They spread it over the broad oaken desk to pore over the contents like two excited schoolboys.

In all the commotion I forgot to put this in with the new

the covering note said
. We discovered these papers
among the joists when we had the recent renovation work on the
Whoever had hidden the things had possibly done it at the time of the original part of the building’s construction, which was soon after Shaa’s disappearance.
Lemuel is most excited,

especially at the coded pieces. Someone must have had something
that he wanted to hide but had, at the same time, felt the need to
record it
. Perhaps a translation of the documents into plain English would give a clue to the motive for such contradictory

My brother feels that, as his speciality is zoology, he
hasn’t the wit or understanding to decode these ciphers.
The implication was
but you, Dr. Coppersmith, have.

The original documents should be entering the college

library after the history fellows have had their grubby mitts on
Orlando and Jonty sniggered at the words their friend had used here. Miss Peters lost no love over the
makers up of stories
as she referred to historians. She preferred a nice invertebrate to dissect and draw or experiment on; there were facts, there was

scholarship for you. Not some namby-pamby, so-called

intellectuals taking a series of facts and making ninety different 50

Lessons in Discovery

interpretations of them. For donkey’s years the historians had

argued over the Woodville Ward and none of them were any

closer to solving the mystery.
A nice mixture of mathematical
logic and Shakespearian feeling is needed here. I hope you

succeed, and quickly, as the complication we feared has arisen. A
complication named Dr. Owens.

“Oh.” That was a name Orlando remembered.

“I’ll take your ‘Oh’ and raise it with a ‘hell’.” Jonty’s eyes

narrowed. “Grubby little swine.”

If any true Bride’s man sought a solution to the mystery of

the Woodville Ward in the dry well, he also would have liked to

see Dr. Arthur Owens tipped into a full one, with his books tied around his obnoxious neck. He’d been a Bride’s man himself, a

notable philosophy scholar, then had taught at the college for five years, before taking himself, and several works purloined from the library, off to the college next door, the arch rivals of St. Bride’s.

He’d then published a series of papers, all of which were said to be plagiarised from his students’ work although no one had been

able to prove it.

He has persuaded the vice chancellor…

“Sheer nepotism, the man’s his godfather.” Orlando snorted,

sending several sheets of paper flying in his anger.

to coerce Lemuel into letting him have a look at these

documents, him being a historian—
they could almost see the hatred written into the word—
and an alleged expert on the

period. Lemuel refused outright at first, but has been pressured
into complying, assuming that you can’t find a solution. You have
until the start of the Lent term and then, should you have failed,
Owens is to be allowed to infect the original documents with his
slimy fingers.

She had finished the letter with the words
your dear, but

outraged, friend, Ariadne Peters
. Under the name was a tiny mark which Jonty was convinced was a kiss and over which he and 51

Charlie Cochrane

Orlando argued for ten minutes, the other man being sure it was a blot.

The new papers fell into two categories: coded texts which

Orlando had gleefully taken hold of to work on, and some letters addressed to, and received from, one Johan Breton. These Jonty

was delighted to plough through. As he’d re-familiarised himself with the case, among the names of the great and good and

powerful—not necessarily the same people in each case—he’d

come across this young friend of the Woodville Ward. There had

been just one mention of Breton in the summary document, an

occasion when he, Shaa and one Isaac Gaveson had got

themselves into hot water with the college authorities for

associating with ladies of a lewd nature. The idea of that had

tickled Jonty’s imagination, although
had never knowingly associated with such women himself.

Only one other document had referred to Breton. The writer

had found out that the man had been a local lad who must have

shared his friend’s desire to go to sea. Breton had subsequently served ten years aboard a ship, presumably associating with a few more lewd women along the way, then returned, marrying a local

lass, and living to a respectable old age. He was buried up at


To find letters from Shaa himself, along with Breton’s

replies, was a real bonus. Jonty had no great hopes that they

would shed any light on the case and on his first reading of them this seemed to be vindicated. They were full of tittle-tattle and gossip, with some personal outpourings of feeling, but nothing

new was revealed. Shaa spoke often of his sea longing, of how his studies in astronomy only further enhanced his wish to travel and to make something of himself on his own terms. He voiced his

frustrations in being cooped up at “Elizabeth Hall”, as he referred to it, dropping the “Queen”. His fondness for Breton shone

through the pages, although Jonty recognised that it wasn’t the


Lessons in Discovery

same sort of fondness he felt for Orlando; there was too much

mention of the lewd women, and some of their more respectable

counterparts, for that. Gaveson was also referred to—he appeared to be another student, a none-too-welcome hanger-on to a happy

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