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"The sequel to A College of Magics takes place in the same magical, Victorian-Edwardian Britain, and shows yet again that Stevermer is a worthy follower of Jane Austen for wit, of Dorothy Sayers for suspense and erudition. This emerging series will likely draw readers from across a very wide spectrum of the fantasy and alternate history audiences, including—indeed, never forgetting—the adult readership for the adventures of the boy named Harry."—Booklist on A Scholar of Magics
"One of the best fantasies I've read of the 2004 crop. A wonderfully conceived and described setting, likable characters, worthy villains, a reasonable mystery, and delightful writing."—Chronicle on A Scholar of Magics
"A Scholar of Magics is, quite precisely, wonderful—full of wonders."—Lois McMaster Bujold
"Such wonderful atmosphere. This is a very well written book and a pleasure to read."—SF Revu
A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS
"Peace, brother, be not over-exquisite"
Samuel Lambert, all too aware of his responsibilities as a guest, saw with dismay that there were loose bits of tea leaf in the bottom of his cup. Lambert was not easy to alarm. He had no objection to tea leaves as such, but their presence made it probable that his hostess would once again try her dainty, inexorable hand at telling his fortune.
Mrs. Robert Brailsford cultivated parlor fortune-telling as an excuse to bring out some of her intuitions, her observations, and on rare occasions, what amounted to impertinent remarks. Fragile, blond, and as fashionable as the wife of a Senior Fellow of Glasscastle University dared to be, Amy's refined exterior concealed a lively appreciation of the absurd. That she could sometimes behave with boundless absurdity herself was no small part of her charm.
Lambert liked Amy. He appreciated the hospitality shown to him by both the Brailsfords, and he respected Mr. Robert Brailsford, even felt a bit intimidated by him. But he liked Amy, and he felt quite sure that his liking was returned. In her, he found an appreciative audience for any reminiscences or observations he cared to make. She enjoyed his lapses into American speech and behavior. Indeed, she encouraged them.
Still, in the past six months Lambert had put up with Amy's examination of his handwriting, her analysis of the numerical value of the letters in his name, and an inspection of the bumps on his head that made him suppress a shudder every time he thought of it. Amy Brailsford's powers of divination had revealed that Lambert was a gentleman of keen perception, that he would take a long journey over water, marry well, and have seven children. Her evaluation of his handwriting was accurate enough to make Lambert reluctant to surrender to any more studies.
Enough was enough. Since his arrival at Glasscastle six months before, Lambert's experience of local etiquette had given him the confidence to brave most social perils. Afternoon tea was well within his capabilities. Impromptu fortune-telling was not. Lambert resolved to drink his tea with such fervor and dedication there would be nothing left in the cup to read. As Lambert took a deep breath and prepared to polish off his tea, leaves and all, the parlormaid joined them.
"Miss Brailsford has arrived, ma'am."
Amy Brailsford put her cup down on its saucer with such uncharacteristic force that the porcelain chimed in protest. "Who? That is, which Miss Brailsford?"
"Miss Jane Brailsford."
Amy looked askance at the maid. "Goodness. How extraordinary. Set another place at the table and ask Cook to cut a few more sandwiches. On second thought, make that rather a lot more sandwiches. And a fresh pot of tea. I'll be there in a moment" Amy turned to Lambert, eyes wide, to explain. "It's Robert's sister. The youngest of the family. She teaches at a school in France."
"A schoolteacher?" Lambert exclaimed. "That is, I meant to say, how interesting."
Amy looked puzzled by his response but continued, "We haven't seen her for years and years. It almost seems more likely that Robert's great-aunt Susannah left Cheltenham Spa to call on us than that Jane should visit. Excuse me, please."
Grateful for the unexpected reprieve, Lambert used the precious minute or so of solitude after Amy's departure to conceal the contents of his teacup in a brass pot that held a substantial aspidistra. When his sleeve brushed against the foliage, he roused a beetle from its afternoon nap. The insect flew low over the table, rose to an altitude just out of swatting range, and set itself to veer around the room for the rest of the day. After watching its erratic flight for several circuits of the room, Lambert helped himself to a few sugar cubes from the bowl. He wasted two shots before he got the hang of the insect's abrupt changes of speed and direction, but the third sugar cube closed its account. Lambert nailed the beetle on the wing at three paces, exactly over the tea tray. The corpse missed the milk pitcher with half an inch to spare and landed, legs to the sky, between the teapot and the sugar bowl. Uncomfortably aware that no etiquette book covered freelance insect extermination, Lambert retrieved the evidence. He deposited the dead beetle and the sugar cubes on top of the tea leaves in the aspidistra pot and resumed his seat.
Lambert was listening to the tick of the clock on the mantel and watching the progress of the afternoon sunlight across the oriental carpet when his hostess rejoined him. In Amy'swake was a woman somewhere in her early twenties, no older than Lambert was himself. She had clear gray eyes and smooth dark hair coiled and pinned into a large knot. Only a stray tendril here and there betrayed that she'd just taken off her hat. Her clothing, of good material and elegant cut, showed little sign of the dust of the road, but her half boots did. For all her elegant appearance, Miss Jane Brailsford had apparently traveled a considerable distance. Lambert rose as Amy performed the introductions and the maid arrived with the new place setting and a fresh supply of provisions.
- "Jane, may I present Mr. Samuel Lambert? He is an American visiting Glasscastle to help Robert and his friends with some studies of theirs. Mr. Lambert, allow me to present Miss Jane Brailsford, Robert's younger sister."
"Ma'am." Lambert didn't have to strain for sincerity. "I'm mighty pleased to make your acquaintance."
Jane made the proper reply and took her seat. The maid withdrew. Introductions successfully concluded, Amy sat and devoted herself to meeting her guests' need for tea and sandwiches.
Jane removed her gloves and folded them in her lap. She regarded Lambert with interest as he returned to his seat. "Some studies of Robin's? I suppose it is useless to ask directly. What sort of studies?"
Lambert couldn't help smiling a little. "I'm the last one who could tell you. The boys in charge are all Fellows of Glasscastle. They give the orders. I just do what I'm told." He inspected his teacup before he took a sip. No leaves. Maybe his luck had turned.
Jane reproached Amy. "You shouldn't have brought it upif I wasn't to ask about it." She turned her attention to a plate of stuffed mushrooms. Lambert had given them a wide berth after his first, since he detected the faint fishy presence of patum peperium in the filling. Jane appeared to find no fault with them, nor with anything else on her plate. Her manners were impeccable, but her appetite was fierce.
Amy dimpled. "My dear, why do you think I said it? I'm curious too. All I know is, Mr. Lambert is here as a marksman. He's allowed to take tea, but no other stimulants. Coffee, alcohol, and tobacco are forbidden. They would interfere with the accuracy of his aim."
"No stimulants of any kind?" Jane gave Lambert a searching glance. "But surely tea itself is a stimulant?"
"I prevailed upon the committee. They granted Mr. Lambert the privilege of drinking tea, provided it is not too strong," Amy said. "After all, what would life be without at least an occasional cup of tea? Hardly worth living."
"I tried to make the same case for brandy," said Lambert. "I gave it a game try, but somehow my opinions don't carry the weight that Mrs. Brailsford's do. I am a greenhorn here, and I appreciate her looking out for me."
Jane studied Lambert for a long time before she spoke. Lambert expected her to take him up on the word "greenhorn," but instead she said, "Then you make the ideal guest. Even a chicken sandwich constitutes adventure."
Lambert met the challenge in Jane's tone with utter solemnity. "Mrs. Brailsford's company is intoxicating enough. I reckon any more excitement than that would upset the Fellows."
"I reckon it would." Jane didn't just match his words, shematched his sober expression with one of her own, but there was a distinct gleam of humor behind her gravity. Lambert warmed to her.
"Isn't he a perfect lamb?" Amy asked Jane. "He says things like that all the time. Unfortunately, neither he nor Robert take the slightest notice of a woman's natural curiosity. Whatever they're doing, it involves firearms. Mr. Lambert is a genuine cowboy, but he is here as a professional sharpshooter. A dead shot." Amy obviously relished the phrase.
"Are you indeed?" Jane looked at Lambert again, her surprise ill concealed.
Lambert was still wincing slightly from hearing himself described as a perfect lamb. Before he could answer, Amy went on.
"He was traveling with Kiowa Bob's Genuine Wild West Show, but when Glasscastle needed him, he obliged us and came here to stay." Amy beamed at Lambert. "Luckily for us."
Jane said, "How extraordinary. Is there really such a person as Kiowa Bob?"
"Yup. Well, his name isn't Bob and he's not really Kiowa. But the fellow in question was good enough to take me on and show me the ropes," Lambert replied. "I only came to the tryouts to keep a friend of mine company. My friend got in with his roping and riding and then dared me to try the sharpshooting. To make a long story short, I was hired. I'll always be grateful to Kiowa Bob for giving me a chance."
"Very amiable of Mr. Bob, I'm sure. Had it been a long-held ambition of yours to go into show business?" Jane asked.
"Nope. I liked it better than what I was doing before, through." Lambert didn't give Jane a chance to ask him about that. Instead, he pushed on. "Thanks to the Wild West Show, I've had a chance to see the world. We toured America, of course. Spent months in New York City. When Kiowa Bob decided to arrange a European tour, I thought I'd come along and see a bit more of the world."
Jane's gray eyes were keen. "If you loved it so much, what made you decide to leave and come here?"
"I was recruited. We heard there was a big shooting contest held in London every year. Kiowa Bob thought it might help plug our show, so I entered. First thing I knew, Mr. Voysey, Mr. Brailsford, and those other men from Glasscastle were there to sign me up."
"You won the contest, then?" Jane asked.
"Of course he did," said Amy. "He wouldn't be here if he hadn't."
Jane looked puzzled. "Surely it defeated the purpose to have you leave the show just as you were, er, plugging it. Didn't your employer object?"
"At first I reckoned I'd just come down here for a day or so, straighten out your Fellows, and head right back to the show. Kiowa Bob gave me permission to miss a few performances. Then, once I'd seen Glasscastle and found out more about the job, I decided to stay here, at least for a spell. Kiowa Bob could have made me work out my contract, but he was a gent about it. He let me go with his blessing."
"Remarkable." Unlike most people, Jane did not subject Lambert to a cross-examination on the subject of the personal habits of Indians, cowboys, or buffalo. Instead, sheselected a cucumber sandwich from the offerings before her and began to consume it with obvious pleasure. Lambert was surprised at the degree of his disappointment. It seemed likely that Jane would ask more interesting questions than he was used to. What a pity she seemed so much more interested in the food.
Into the silence that ensued, Amy said, "Jane, it's wonderful to have you visit here at last. Robert will be so pleased. He would have met your train if only he'd known. You might have given us some hint you were coming."
Surprised, Jane paused in the methodical demolition of her sandwich. "I certainly might have. I might have neglected to do so; I'm quite capable of it. But in this instance, I am not guilty, upon my honor, m'lady. I sent a wire from London yesterday."
Amy frowned. "You did? How extraordinary. I wonder if Robert forgot to mention it to me. No, he wouldn't have."
"Preoccupied with his studies, perhaps?" Jane suggested. "Wires do go astray sometimes. Not often, I grant you. Where is our gentle Robin?"
It was Amy's turn to look reproachful. "You know he hates to be called that."
Jane merely smiled and took her time about selecting the next sandwich from the assortment before her.
"Robert is at a reception this afternoon. The new Vice Chancellor of Glasscastle is entertaining two cabinet ministers and Robert is there to help him. The plan is to establish warmer relations between the policy makers and those who carry out the policy. I quote." Amy gave Lambert a sidelong glance of mischief, and then added, "Mr. Lambert is here tokeep me company while they are busy making their relations more warm."
Jane was the picture of innocence as she thought this statement over. "Goodness. Luckily, they should have no trouble on a day like this." After a pensive moment, she asked, "Which group does Robin think he's in? Not the policy makers?"
Amy looked scandalized. "Jane. As if there could be any question. All the official funding Robert's research project receives comes straight from the Home Secretary. It couldn't be more direct, or more vital to our imperial interests."
"I suppose I needn't bother to ask about the unofficial funding. You won't say anything you shouldn't. I really must get Robin to tell me what it is he's working on this time." Jane spoke half to herself, half to her cup of tea.
"There was a last time?" Lambert prompted.
Jane looked pleased with herself. "Inadvertently. He needed some help attaining permission to do research in a Breton archive. I was able to smooth the waters, so to speak."
"Your sister-in-law told me you teach at a school in France. In Brittany?"
"What kind of teaching do you do?"
Prompt came the reply, as the gleam of humor reappeared beneath Jane's gravity. Not for a moment did she seem to entertain the notion of giving him a simple answer. "Oh, Mock Turtle's arithmetic: ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision."
Lambert could tell she was quoting from something. Itwas a sensation he often had at Glasscastle, when an allusion was being made to something that the speaker thought must be as familiar as the alphabet. Nine out of ten times whatever was being alluded to was so far beside the point it wasn't worth the breath it took to explain it. The tenth time the allusion generally turned out to be too clever, or too strained, to make sense to him. Lambert had learned it was faster and more interesting to wait and ask his friend Nicholas Fell to explain later. Either way, letting things pass unquestioned saved him the effort of trying to look interested in the resulting clarification. Lambert thought of it in baseball terms. He was Honus Wagner taking a pitch, confident that the next conversational opening would be something he could handle. So Lambert let the gleam in Jane's eyes go unchallenged. "I take it the school year is not in session yet?"
"That's right. Michaelmas term starts in a few weeks. Until then I've chosen to spend my free time here in England. I haven't seen Robin and Amy for years. There's also the lure of visiting the celebrated precincts of the university of Glasscastle. I'm looking forward to seeing all the sights."
"But you must know—" An awkward pause threatened to descend as Lambert searched for words and came up dry. "You can't—"
Jane looked puzzled. After a moment, she prompted Lambert. "I can't what?"
"It isn't—They don't—For women—" Lambert gave it up.
Jane frowned slightly, apparently perplexed by his lapse into silence.
"Jane knows perfectly well," said Amy.
Jane relented. "I do know Glasscastle is off-limits for any but those properly escorted by members of the university and they man the gates with Fellows of Glasscastle to keep it that way. Very proper and sedate, this place. What about you? Are you able to range at will, or do you have a chaperon?"
Lambert found Jane's flippancy engaging. "Oh, I range at will—within reason. Though there are quite a few places they don't let me ramble on my own."
"That must have the charm of novelty for you," said Jane.
"Needing a chaperon? There are plenty of places where outsiders aren't allowed in Glasscastle. Just because they let us inside the gates doesn't mean we're welcome there. An escort provides a simple way to prevent me from delivering unintentional offense while I'm a visitor." Lambert broke off, conscious of how stuffy he must sound. He must have been spending too much time listening to the Fellows' dinner conversation in hall. Pomposity must be contagious. Lambert felt himself poker up.
Jane's solemnity was back, and the challenging look that went with it. "Intentional offenses only, I take it?"
Lambert didn't let Jane's solemn look fool him. He did let the gleam of challenge in her eyes tempt him to maintain his air of gravity as long as possible. "Maybe I should have said inadvertent," he added, with diffidence.
His meekness seemed to take Jane aback. "I hope I haven't—inadvertently—offended you. I prefer the intentional offenses myself."
"Oh, I agree. There's nothing more satisfying than delivering a sound, well-regulated insult. Only to those who deserve it, of course," Lambert added with deliberate piety.
"But whoever does deserve to be insulted?" Amy asked. "When one's intentions are properly taken into account, there is seldom cause to give or even receive an affront. It's all a matter of understanding one another's intentions."
"Some intentions," Jane replied, "are not well intended."
Amy countered, "How do you know that? You can't read people's minds."
"Of course not. But I can pay attention to what they say and what they do. Easier to read behavior than the shape of people's heads," said Jane.
The edge in her voice made Lambert wonder if Jane might have some experience of Amy's fortune-telling. Eager to keep a safe distance from that particular topic, Lambert changed the subject. "What do you aim to do while you're here in Glasscastle? Are there any special places you'd like to see?"
"Oh, yes. The Winterset Archive, for one. Some consider it holds the finest collection of magic texts in the world. I'm told there's a larger one in Peking, but not surprisingly, most of that library is in Chinese. For another landmark, the chapel of St. Mary's. I have quite a list, but much depends upon my brother. I'll need him to squire me. If he's too busy, I'll need to change my plans." Jane sounded distinctly wistful.
"Oh, really," murmured Amy. "Too heavy-handed of you, Jane."
"I could escort you," said Lambert. "I'd be glad to. I've been shown around myself. It would make a nice change to be the one to do the showing. St. Mary's is the place everyone starts with. I'm free to come and go as I please in mostof the buildings around Midsummer Green, including the Winterset Archive."
"Excellent." Jane's delight was plain. "What else?"
"Do you know much about stained glass? The glass in St. Joseph's chapel is supposed to be old and fine, if you know about such things. I don't. The labyrinth in the botanical garden is famous, of course, but we'd need a Fellow of Glasscastle to escort us there. Everything in England seems old to me, but when they dug a reflecting pool in the garden at Wearyall, they found some Roman potsherds, so maybe Glasscastle will seem old to you too."
"I'd love to see everything," said Jane. "Tomorrow, perhaps?"
"Well, sure. Unless Jack Meredith needs me for a marksmanship trial. There are no tests scheduled tomorrow—that I know of." Lambert. didn't let the pleasure Jane's enthusiasm provoked overrule his honesty. "I can't show you everything, but what I can, it'd be a pleasure."
"Two o'clock?" Jane suggested eagerly.
Amy rolled her eyes but said nothing.
Lambert asked, "Shall I call for you here?"
"That would be perfect. It will give me the whole morning to torment Robin. You're very kind, Mr. Lambert." Jane's smile was wonderful.
"It's nothing." Lambert thought it over. "It might be better to get someone with full authority to go with us. Then neither of us will miss any points of interest."
"It's all new to me. Amy, would you care to come with us? Robin must have shared the best bits with you, surely?"
"Oh, I have seen quite enough stained glass for now. You two will enjoy yourselves."
Lambert held Amy's mildly satirical gaze. "You should come with us. I ought to have thought of it myself."
"Perhaps another time," said Amy. "I've been shown the glass in the chapel of St. Mary's so many times I think I may scream if I must admire it again so soon. When Robert decides to show you the labyrinth in the botanical gardens, I'll come along. Except for that, I'd rather stay here and put my feet up."
The parlormaid joined them again, this time bearing an envelope on her tray. Amy added, "Here's your wire at last, Jane. You put the wrong house number, I see."
"I did not."
"Your penmanship, I suppose. No wonder it was delayed." Amy opened the envelope and read. In a moment, she looked up. "I understand the part about inviting yourself for a visit of indefinite duration. I understand the part about hoping to be here in time for tea. But what on earth do you mean by Luke 15:23?"
"'Bring hither the fatted calf.'" Lambert smiled crookedly at the stares this earned him from Amy and Jane. "I liked Sunday school, that's all."
"I'm glad someone knows the reference," Jane said. "I looked it up specifically for Robin's benefit."
Amy shook her head. "You're a strange girl, Jane."
Jane's good cheer was unimpaired. "Odd, that's what Robin always says."
Lambert left the Brailsford house to walk back to his rooms at Glasscastle. It was a bright, warm day. Only a brisk southwestwind kept it from being unpleasantly hot. The wind forced him to adjust his Panama hat to a less jaunty angle to keep it on. It was insistent, shoving him along, as if it thought he should be off doing something useful. Yet he had nothing to do, useful or otherwise, until dinner.
Whatever the residents of Glasscastle town were doing, they seemed to be doing it out of sight. Even the busiest streets were nearly empty. Here and there weeds grew in the center of the streets, the usual wear and tear of cart traffic in abeyance for the summer holiday.
To Lambert, the buildings of the town of Glasscastle circled the foot of Glasscastle Hill like a ring of stone. Set like a jewel in the bezel of that ring was the walled and gated university of Glasscastle, where magic lived and worked in the harsh light of modern day.
Holythorn was the senior college of Glasscastle, and every scholar of Holythorn was a Fellow, a full scholar of magic. St. Joseph's was a less exalted institution, for it and its sister Wearyall admitted beginners, young men who were just setting out in the study of magic. All three colleges were vital to the whole that was Glasscastle. No religious mystery of three in one was required. It was an arrangement as practical as a three-legged stool.
In its way, Glasscastle was its own religion. Those who taught and studied there were devotees of the study of magic, magic for its own sake, the purest of disciplines. Behind its gates, Glasscastle enfolded itself in halls and towers, greens and gardens.
Lambert found it a pure delight to walk the mile and a half from the Brailsford house to the great gate of Glasscastle.The sun would have been hot, but the morning's high clouds had refused to burn off. The overcast thinned the summer sunlight and gave it a silvery cast. There was just a suggestion of potential bad weather to come in that slight overcast. With a persistent stiff breeze, the sky should have been utterly clear, yet the high cloud lingered. Lambert savored the warmth of the sun on his back as he walked the cobbled streets. He savored the cool of the shade when the street he walked was overarched with trees.
Glasscastle Hill loomed over town and university alike, the long grass on the hillside shimmering green and gold as the wind made waves through it. At first, Lambert had wondered at the starkness of the hill. Why build all around the base and never upon the hill itself? His friend Nicholas Fell, in Lambert's opinion the fount of all knowledge, arcane and historical, had explained the phenomenon to him.
Long ago, the hill had been crowned with a prehistoric fort. Traces of the flat walkway that had circled to the top were still faintly visible, as if the hill had been terraced once. It was no longer possible to tell which had come first, the remains of ancient dwellings at the foot of the hill or the tradition that the hill itself was a place of power and not to be built upon.
"There are legends that the hill is hollow," Fell had said, when Lambert asked him about it. "Only legends, alas. About one hundred years ago, the Vice Chancellor of the day authorized an archaeological survey. He believed the ancient Phoenicians once had an outpost here and that the local legends were folk memories of a tin mine somewhere in the hill."
"What did they find?" How many thousands of years hadmen walked here? How many stories had been told of hollow hills and places of power? Lambert's imagination was afire with the possibilities.
"Potsherds, mostly. Nothing lasts like a potsherd because nothing much can happen to it. Even if it breaks, from then on you have two potsherds," Fell said. "There was some excitement about a find at the crest of the hill, right where the old fort once was. It turned out to be a stoneware bottle, probably for beer, quite recent."
"No tin mine, then?"
"No, nor any gateway to the hollow hill. No champions asleep until England's hour of need. Nothing but a few broken pots. Not exactly the stuff of legends."
"No, I suppose not."
"Tsk, Lambert. You seem disappointed. It's only to be expected. Modern methods elicit modern answers. If you want a legend, that's easily arranged. Climb the hill by moonlight and weave your own. Profit by past example and take some beer with you."
Lambert paused at the head of Hautboy Road to savor the view of Glasscastle at the foot of the green and golden hill. Behind the crenellated walls, the spires and towers of the place were peaceful. As they always did in his mind's eye, the stones of Glasscastle seemed more than simply gray to Lambert. They were a gray stained subtly with other colors: lavender, silver, and violet, as iridescent as a pigeon's feathers.
From what Lambert could see at a distance, there was no more activity within the gates of Glasscastle than there was without. It was a sleepy afternoon, but for that constant southwest wind.
Even as he neared the great gate, Lambert weighed the merits of going out again. He'd had enough of sitting still. Yet his stiff collar bothered him. The boots he'd put on for a formal call were too good to hike in. Despite his light flannels and the crisp breeze, he was sweating. Whatever he did for the rest of the afternoon, a change of clothing was the first order of business.
In the cool shade of the gatehouse arch, Lambert greeted the Fellow of the university on duty as gatekeeper, signed the visitors book, and crunched out into the sunlight along the pea-gravel path that crossed the green to Holythorn.
From inside its gates, Lambert could not help but think of Glasscastle as a labyrinth or a maze, walls within walls. Three paths that met at the great gate soon branched into many, as the broad stretch of Midsummer Green yielded to the shadowed passages of the colleges that flanked it. A man could get lost in those passages, Lambert knew. More than once, he'd been lost himself.
Lambert made his way to Holythorn College. Once indoors, he climbed stairs two at a time, eager to reach what he considered home, the rooms Nicholas Fell had invited him to share six months before.
Fell, as a Senior Fellow of the college, had three rooms overlooking a garden. The middle room, spacious and comfortable, served as a sitting room. It boasted a deep window seat overlooking the garden, a sound, well-designed fireplace with a Venetian mirror hung above the mantelpiece, and a handsome old clock ticking industriously on the wall. On either side of the sitting room was a bedroom, Fell's twice the size of the one he'd given Lambert.
Even though Fell had a study filled with books and other reference materials at the Winterset Archive, his rooms at Holythorn were still lined floor to ceiling with his books. Lambert had never seen so many books in one place in his life as he had the first time he laid eyes on Fell's sitting room. Later, when he saw the Winterset Archive, his ideas about what constituted a lot of books had been revised upward radically. Nevertheless, he still found Fell's books a source of abiding wonder and pleasure.
As Lambert had few possessions of his own, his small bedroom was ample in size. All he really needed was a bed and a wash stand, and there was a wardrobe besides. The sitting room held everything else he considered vital to support life: Fell's books, a comfortable chair, and a good reading light. Given free run of such things, the living arrangements at Holythorn suited him tolerably well. He liked Fell and he was grateful to him for his generous hospitality. Compared with life on tour or in a rooming house, life at Glasscastle was a revelation. Never before had Lambert known such comfort, privacy, or peace.
At the moment, however, Lambert found the cosiness of Holythorn, usually so pleasant, stuffy and hot. He needed to be outdoors. He would change his clothes, get back out into that wind, and let good fresh air clear his head and calm him down.
As Lambert had half expected it would be, the sitting room he shared with Nicholas Fell was empty, as was Fell's bedroom. The only sign of recent human habitation in the sitting room was one of Fell's stale cheroots left half smoked and teetering on a scallop shell that did service as an ashtray. That cheroot had been there two days now. Lambert had last seenFell at breakfast the day before. Fell had said nothing at that time about any deviation from his usual routine, nor had he left any message for Lambert.
Lambert didn't permit himself to waste any time speculating about Fell's whereabouts. The man didn't need a nanny, after all, nor did he owe Lambert any explanation of his actions. Fell's scholarship—or to be exact, Fell's idiosyncratic notion of scholarship—drove him. That was explanation enough.
Lambert changed from flannels into a linen suit several degrees less impressive than the one he'd put on for tea with Amy. It was that much more comfortable and Lambert moved with ease as he took a circuitous path away from Holythorn. His route led Lambert behind the Holythorn kitchens, between the kitchen garden and the walled garden of St. Joseph's deanery, toward Pembroke gate, to the east side of Glasscastle, to the far side of the university from the Brailsford house.
There, in the shadow of Wearyall's cloister garden walls, Lambert sat on a stone bench and listened. The sound of chanting voices was clear and pure. There were more voices during the regular school year than there were now, so the volume was not as loud as it had been the first time Lambert came there. But the power in those voices had nothing to do with the volume. Many voices sang as one, intoning the pure tones of the chants. That was the source of the beauty, to Lambert. That such disparate young men could each bend his will to serve Glasscastle, that the individual could surrender himself for the good of the whole, that many could become one.
Lambert yielded to impulse and stretched out full length on the stone bench. He balanced his hat on his stomach and gazed up into the shimmer of leaves overhead. The wind in the trees blended with the chanting. Lambert stared upward. Beyond the leaves, the sky was raked with small scudding clouds. Yes, there was bad weather brewing out there somewhere, with more rain to come. Rainiest summer for years, folks said.
It had been raining when he first visited this spot. Lambert had arrived at Glasscastle in February. The grass had been just as green then, but the trees were bare and most of the flowers yellow, forsythia and daffodils within Glasscastle, gorse on the hillsides. The damp cold had sliced through Lambert's clothes courtesy of a wind that seemed never to ease or shift direction more than a degree or two from true north. It had been chilblain weather.
Lambert's arrival at Glasscastle had been in full cowboy regalia. He'd assumed that the men from Glasscastle, stern in their shiny top hats, meant to hire a cowboy sharpshooter, so he'd prepared accordingly. He'd worn his show costume, and he'd brought along the Colt Peacemaker, his most reliable weapon. The effect was all he'd planned. Heads had turned every step of the way, some with a nearly audible snap. It wasn't until he was inside the precincts of Glasscastle that he understood how he'd miscalculated. The Fellows of Glasscastle didn't want a cowboy, they just wanted a sharpshooter.
Lambert considered himself an entertainer, thanks to his time with Kiowa Bob. He had never meant to give anyone as much entertainment as he did that day at Glasscastle. Itcould have been worse. His shooting was up to standard. But the intense amusement his costume inspired was more than Lambert had bargained for. On top of that, Lambert had to strain to keep his embarrassment from showing. That had never been a problem before, even back in his earliest days with the Wild West Show. Lambert told himself to perk up. It didn't help much.
Luncheon, when they got around to serving it, made up for some of the social discomfort. After the meal, the Senior Fellows, the men in the shiniest top hats of all, took Lambert around the grounds of Glasscastle, and that was where Lambert understood the magnitude of his error. He'd been standing just here beside the bench, watching the rain drip from the brim of his hat, when his escort paused to listen to the chants from Wearyall College.
The place was beautiful, that much Lambert had noticed at once. The bench was in a spot well sheltered from that tireless wind in winter, ordinarily basking in the sun so that even on that roughest, coldest of days, snowdrops bloomed in the grass beside the ancient foundation stones. Lambert had been admiring the snowdrops in an absentminded way when the sound of chanting transfixed him.
Many voices raised as one, though not raised far, seemed to inhabit the trees, the grass, every mossy stone of the place—and illuminate it. The music filled Lambert's chest and stung his eyes with tears. It opened his heart the way only the sight of home and the sound of certain voices had ever opened it before. The change occurred with a speed that frightened him. One moment he was himself, waiting patiently for the tour to move on, and the next moment he wasclinging to the chant, waiting with his whole soul open, breathless to discover how it would change him next.
Time went away for Lambert as he stood listening, but his escort did not. He stood rapt as long as his guides' patience permitted, but at last Lambert had to yield and let himself be led away, towed along to finish the tour. As the distance from the garden grew and the intensity of the experience faded, the chant became a separate thing again, something Lambert could think about objectively.
Afterward, Lambert couldn't account for the power the chant held for him, couldn't really believe it had seized him with such speed and force. When he was thinking with his head again, not his heart, it was the purpose behind the music that intrigued Lambert most. The notes held a meaning he felt he ought to understand. Lambert was sure of that, yet all the while his rational mind flipped and struggled like a trout to explain to itself how he could possibly know any such thing. How could he be so sure of something he had never encountered before, something he knew nothing about? How could he be so sure that this was the most important thing that had ever happened to him? What had happened to him?
The spell of that oddly uncomplicated music lingered with Lambert when he walked away. Lambert agreed to stay and help the top hats of Glasscastle with their marksmanship project. He didn't know what it was about the chanting that changed things so. He simply knew he needed to hear more. He needed to learn more. He needed to be there.
From that day on, Lambert had adopted the manners of Glasscastle as quickly and as sincerely as possible. Hewanted to fit in there as best he could. He wanted to belong, but failing that, he wanted to spend every moment he could exploring the urgency that chanting roused within him. He had to put up with the teasing reminders of his debut, which embarrassed him a little more every time he remembered it. But they let him stay.
In two days, he was trusted to stick to the paths of the university open to him as a guest. The first chance he had, and every chance after that, he'd made his way back to the bench outside Wearyall. That was where he listened. That was where the music of the massed voices worked its way into his bones. That was where he first met Nicholas Fell.
It had been a miserable day, not raining but just about to, and the wind was unrelenting. After his first disastrous day at Glasscastle, Lambert had worn his best, most unobtrusive clothes, and after half an hour of sitting still, even his heavy topcoat did nothing to keep the chill away.
Lambert had been joined by a rumpled, wiry man with thick dark hair and a neatly trimmed mustache. It was hard to not stare at the dark hair, because the man was bareheaded. His voice, when the man spoke, was low, almost diffident.
"I'm terribly sorry to interrupt you," the newcomer said as he approached the bench, "but have you seen my hat?"
Lambert couldn't help taking a quick look around. There was the bench, the stone walls, the corner of garden, plenty of trees, and some snowdrops blooming. No hat. "Sorry, no."
The man sank down on the bench beside Lambert with a weary sigh. "Blast them. Where do they get these notions?"In reply to Lambert's look of inquiry, he explained apologetically, "My students believe I pay them insufficient attention. In reprisal, they have taken my hat. I thought I had interpreted the ransom note correctly. Apparently not." He thought it over. "It's a good hat. Worth going to some inconvenience to recover. But it isn't a remarkable hat. I may simply have to resign myself to its loss. My name is Nicholas Fell, by the way. You're the American, are you not?"
Lambert blinked. "I'm an American," he admitted cautiously.
"Around here, that means you're the American." Fell tugged at the corner of his mustache. "Beastly boys. I don't know where they get the time, let alone the energy."
"I thought the students of Glasscastle led an ascetic life." Lambert nodded toward the sound of chanting. "Rituals and all."
"Up at five o'clock in the morning to chant for hours, scrub the floors for a quick diversion, a cup of gruel and a good gossip for breakfast, and then off to attend their lectures?" Fell made a derisive sound. "That still leaves them hours to spend getting into trouble, the young animals. I liked that hat, damn it."
"If I find it, I'll be sure to report it."
Fell gave Lambert a long look. It was a piercing look, and Lambert wanted to squirm under the close scrutiny. "You are cold." Fell rose. "Come to my rooms with me and I'll give you a drink. Brandy all right?"
Lambert got to his feet. He was inches taller than Fell, but he didn't feel it, for all he loomed over him. Fell seemed to consider him an equal, someone of merit not for what hecould do or where he was from, but just for who he was. "You're very kind. I'm not supposed to drink anything stronger than tea, though."
"Sorry. Tea it is, then. Come along." Fell beckoned Lambert and the pair of them walked together along the winding paths to Holythorn. By the time they finished tea, Lambert knew he liked Fell. Over the next few days, Fell made it clear that he liked Lambert well enough to solve the problem of housing by letting him share his rooms at Holythorn.
Six months now, Lambert had been at Glasscastle. Six months of working at whatever job he was given, trying to fit in. The work they wanted him for was simplicity itself, firing every kind of weapon they handed him as accurately as possible. The hard part was fitting in when he wasn't working. Fell was far from the usual mold of Glasscastle scholars.
At first the whole atmosphere of Glasscastle had seemed foreign to Lambert, more foreign at times than the places he'd visited in France and Germany. There was no chance of forgetting he was foreign in countries where he didn't speak the language at all. At Glasscastle, after the first weeks, similarities lulled him. In some ways, it seemed more like home to him than Wyoming had. The serenity and the seriousness of Glasscastle made Lambert feel as if he belonged there. Yet sooner or later, he was always yanked back to reality. He was a guest, a wayfaring stranger, where left was right and right was left. Even the accents in words fell in strange places, so that in speaking the same language, Lambert could sometimes hardly understand, let alone be understood. It was the people who made him feel foreign. Some of the people. Fell didn't seem to care if Lambert were an Americanor not. Amy seemed to revel in any symptom of cowboy colorfulness that Lambert could think of.
People like Yardley, on the other hand, made Lambert feel foreign. Yardley was a Senior Fellow of Holythorn. That Lambert spoke English was something Yardley seemed unwilling to concede. He would often cock his head and ask Lambert to repeat what he'd said, as if his accent were too thick to understand. Some words, such as "reckon," Yardley treated as if they were not merely unfamiliar but profane. When Yardley was gatekeeper, the spectacle of Lambert writing his name in the visitors' book all by himself made Yardley marvel aloud.
Yardley was in Vienna for the summer. Lambert wished the Austrians joy of him. If there were any justice in the world, Yardley would be treated as rudely as he treated others. Lambert held no hope of such a thing. He knew the people of Vienna were far more polite than Yardley. Wayfaring strangers there were much better off.
Although he was a stranger, Lambert had set himself to learn everything he could about Glasscastle. There was no method to his study. He picked up facts at random, like seashells at the shore.
Chants at Glasscastle were in Latin. Even the least promising student, fresh faced and new to the university, was able to memorize the words and music that powered the wards of Glasscastle. As the day moved on, so did the chants. The words and music changed throughout the day and night, with students chanting in shifts according to their schedules. The timing of the changes in the chants was drawn from the bells.
Bells were almost as common as snowdrops at Glasscastle. Full sets of bells hung in the spires of St. Mary's and St. Joseph's. They were augmented by individual bells in each college. Every day was divided by bells, simple music to mark the hours. Every night was bordered by bells, from the curfew that rang stray undergraduates home at midnight to the vigorous changes that welcomed every day at Prime, a joyous cascade of sound that began in the last moments of darkness and spilled over into the first gray shades of morning.
Lambert learned the trees of Glasscastle as well as he learned the bells. Every tree gave a hint to the direction of the prevailing wind, for even the noblest beech tree, straight and proud and silver, held itself at a slight angle, leaning south. Glasscastle was well endowed with trees, great old cedars and limes and oaks as well as the beeches. The famous thorn tree that had given its image to the Glasscastle university seal and its name to Holythorn College grew beside the church of St. Mary's, sheltered in its cloistered courtyard. If, as legend insisted, the tree was nearly nineteen centuries old, it did not look it. It had bloomed exuberantly at Easter and Lambert hoped he'd still be around when the tree bloomed again. Folks told him it bloomed at Christmas as well as Easter but he didn't see how that was possible. A tree could blossom once a year, not twice.
The year at Glasscastle was divided as carefully as the days. The first term of the year began in mid-January and had been well under way by the time Lambert arrived. The next term began after Whitsuntide and lasted well into the summer. The third term didn't begin for more than a month. At first, Lambert had enjoyed the relative peace and quiet ofthe days between terms. Now holiday sleepiness made the days seem uncomfortably long.
There were older universities in England than Glasscastle. Oxford and Cambridge had been granting degrees long before Glasscastle admitted students to St. Joseph's, the first of its three colleges, in the late fourteenth century. There were larger universities and richer universities, but no other institution in the country was devoted to the study of magic. In the wake of the pestilence, all the resources of Glasscastle's great library had been turned to research in hope of preventing the return of the plague.
Down the centuries, the focus had changed. Glasscastle still prided itself on the research done within its walls. But the walls themselves had taken on a greater significance. Glasscastle was protected by its own and in turn it protected the knowledge stored in its archives. Wisdom, or at least knowledge, had found refuge there almost as long as the thorn tree had grown and blossomed.
In some ways, a student of Glasscastle led a monastic life. Every student who matriculated as an undergraduate devoted himself for a set number of hours each day to the chants that gave strength to the protective spells around Glasscastle. The first-year students took it in turn to chant the wards. In his first days at Glasscastle, Lambert had dared to picture himself among them, rising before dawn to join the chanting, dividing his day between study, devotion, and simple physical chores, as an undergraduate of St. Joseph's or Wearyall, he didn't care which. Students retired early, in theory at least, and they did not indulge in the intoxications common in the world outside. In theory. It was all theory asfar as Lambert was concerned. He had dared to picture himself as a second-year student, increasing the time spent in study as his place in the chants was taken by newer students. He had even dared to imagine himself passing the tests administered at the end of the ninth term, three years on, to earn the robes of a scholar of Glasscastle. Anyone could dream. In theory.
Lambert let the sway of the treetops lull him into a doze. Only a deep voice speaking almost in his ear brought him back to full attention.
"You. I might have known. You do know you aren't supposed to be here without an escort, don't you?" The voice belonged to Jack Meredith, like Fell and Voysey a Fellow of Holythorn, the man who administered the tests of marksmanship Lambert was given. Meredith was tall and strong enough to make his words sound like something of a threat, even to someone Lambert's size.
"I stay on the gravel path." Lambert was in no hurry to sit up. If Meredith had ever felt inclined to exercise the authority vested in him as a member of the university, Lambert had never detected a sign of it. "Were you looking for me?"
As soon as there was room on the bench, Meredith sat down next to Lambert. "Not you in particular, no. When I see someone sleeping on a garden bench between terms, I feel obliged to ask if he needs some sort of assistance. During the term, of course, I assume it is an exhausted undergraduate."
"What kind of help do they get?"
Meredith looked surprised by the question. "None. Anyone too weak to sustain our academic rigors is welcome to find more congenial surroundings."
"Right. I should have seen that one coming."
"Where's your Fell friend?" Meredith looked around as if he expected Nicholas Fell to spring up from the path before him. "I suppose Voysey and Stowe and Stewart have wheeled him out to impress the visiting ministry. All ancient and legendary glories of Glasscastle to report on the double."
Lambert took his time about deciphering Meredith's words. Fell was older than Meredith, but he didn't think Fell qualified as ancient any more than Meredith did. Meredith might be using slang to mean just the opposite of what he actually said. He often did. "I don't think Fell's off drinking fine old brandy with Voysey and the boys. I haven't seen him at all today. Or even yesterday. Doesn't seem likely that he'd impress any of the government bigwigs. Or vice versa. Voysey should probably keep Fell at a safe distance from anyone he wants to butter up."
"I couldn't agree more. Fell wouldn't impress my maiden aunt. That doesn't mean the Provosts would leave him out of it, though. Perhaps that's why Fell's playing least in sight. To keep out of their way."
"Lying low, you mean? You're probably right. Well, if you see him before I do, tell him to write home, will you? I miss him."
Meredith said, "There's no accounting for taste. If Voysey ever offered me some of that fine old brandy, I'd be there early and often. It's a pity they make a point of keeping the likes of us well away from the dignitaries."
"Next time, maybe."
"Cold comfort, Samuel. By next time, they'll have finished all the brandy. Mind you, I've no doubt they need thebrandy to get through the whole agenda. Wiston is the world's biggest bore and Fyvie's not much better. Voysey will be lucky if he doesn't doze off between speeches."
"What's it all about, do you know?" Lambert asked.
"Of course I know. Nobody gossips like an undergraduate, except perhaps a Senior Fellow. Voysey doesn't want old Wistful or Lord Fiver interfering with the project, but come next budget season, he doesn't want them to neglect us either. He invites them here so he can wine them and dine them on the premises. A reminder of what it means to have your research done in the true Glasscastle style."
"Wouldn't it work the other way?" Lambert protested. "If you let on to the ministers how comfortable we are here, they'll cut the budget. Won't they?"
Meredith's scorn was cheerful. "Not those two. They don't mind the hospitality a bit, but what really matters to them is the deference. Their support for the Agincourt Project lets them come here and soak up some gracious living."
"Surely they have plenty of that wherever they come from?"
"Oh, they do. They do. But the Agincourt Project isn't competing with their clubs. It's competing with Sopwith, Roe, and Cody and the other mad aviators. There's talk of a military air trial with a cash prize for the designer of the winning aeroplane. Wiston and Fyvie might well be carried away by the glamour of mankind in flight, so Voysey means to remind them that air trials are likely to involve hours of standing fetlock-deep in a muddy pasture somewhere. Much more comfortable to support the tireless efforts of Glasscastle."
"They can't take funding away from us—" Lambertcaught himself and rephrased his thought. "They wouldn't take funding away from the Agincourt Project before the device is designed and built, would they? That's just throwing money away, to cut the budget before the project is done." If the ministers did cut the funding, would they be cutting him too? Lambert wondered.
"You're right. But there are a lot of other projects out there competing for the money, and ministers are notoriously fickle beasts. Watch and see." Meredith sprang to his feet. "Now, do stop cluttering up the place. I can't just walk off and leave you here. Come along."
Lambert rose slowly. "You're wasted in this job, Meredith. You'd make a wonderful mother hen."
Meredith struck a pose and adopted what he obviously considered to be an accent right out of the wild west. "'When you call me that, smile.'"
Lambert just shook his head despairingly. "Just about everyone's read that book, haven't they?"
"They have now." Meredith laughed a little to himself.
Lambert came quietly. The popularity of Owen Wister's novel The Virginian never ceased to amaze him.
By the time dinner was served, Jane Brailsford was feeling quite at home in her brother's house. Amy's standard of domestic comfort was high. The guest room was delightful. Jane's luggage was unpacked. The grime of the journey had been washed away. She had changed into her favorite gown. Best of all, Robin was home at last.
Robert Brailsford believed in the importance of precision. This belief revealed itself in many ways. To his sister, the mostobvious symptom was his careful choice of clothing. Though he dressed simply, preferring plain black and white in all things, it was the nuance of his choice of garb that betrayed the care he lavished on his appearance. Even relaxing at home, he looked severely elegant, from the gloss of his dark hair, combed straight back, to the gleam of dull-finished gold shirt buttons against the starched perfection of his white linen shirt.
"You might have given us more notice you were coming," Robert told his sister. "Amy would have appreciated it." Precision in speech was another of Robert's habits. He overe-nunciated his words. Even when he wasn't being reproachful, the emphasis gave his words an accusing air, and on this occasion, he certainly intended to be as reproachful as possible. "It's August. We might have been away ourselves. As it is, it's sheer luck I wasn't obligated to attend the dinner for the ministers this evening."
Jane kept her tone suitably penitent. "I sent you a wire from London as soon as I arrived. I'm sorry I appeared before it did. It's just as well I never expect the fatted calf, isn't it?"
Robert frowned. "Oddly enough, I have no recollection of a prodigal sister anywhere in Scripture. I must say, your rackety ways seem to agree with you. You look splendid."
"Thank you. So do you. Amy, of course, is looking particularly splendid these days." Jane glanced across the table at her sister-in-law. "She always sets a high standard." Amy had the complexion and coloring of a china doll but there was far more to her than met the eye. Neither her flaxen ringlets nor her wide blue eyes were her best feature, rather it was the gleam of lively common sense that lit her from within.
"Jane brought me this brooch from Paris." Amy modeledthe delicate cameo for her husband. "Isn't it pretty?"
"Exquisite," said Robert, after a brief but loving inspection of his wife. "Do your duties at Greenlaw permit you to spend much time in Paris, Jane?"
"It is on the way," Jane said. "You've reminded me. Uncle Ambrose sends us all his love."
"Dear old boy. I must write to him soon," Robert said. "Have you come home to see the family? Unfortunate timing, if you have. Mama and Papa are in Scotland. Thomas is with his regiment and the last time he bothered to write, Alfred was in Orvieto. Something to do with studying the construction of a well they have there. He plans to spend the winter in Italy, I gather. Lord knows where Thomas's regiment will be."
"What on earth are Mama and Papa doing in Scotland?" Jane asked. "I thought they could be counted upon never to go farther afield than Tunbridge Wells."
"They're to stay with the Desmonds for the shooting."
"Ah, yes. Shooting. Amy tells me you have an American to help you shoot things for your studies, Robin." Jane saw no reason to beat about the bush. It was just the three of them at the table, after all. "What are you studying? Ornithology?"
"I'm not studying anything," Robert replied. "Discretion, Amy. Discretion is vital."
Amy smiled sunnily at her husband. "Why, darling, how can that be? You must have noticed by now that I haven't a shred of it."
"Must you insist others notice it too? Oh, never mind. Yes, Jane. For the moment, I have Mr. Lambert on my staff. Let him alone. He's working."
"What is he working on?"
"Curb your feminine curiosity just this once. Suffice it to say, there is work to be done, work vital to our imperial interests. You don't need the details."
"Oh, very well" Jane felt unusually indulgent toward Robert. She was happy to see her eldest brother again. It had been several years and he had far less hair than she remembered. In addition, he'd grown more solid, positively substantial about the midsection. Perhaps the excellence of the family cook had something to do with that. Certainly the happy combination of food and wine played a large part in Jane's tolerant mood. "Since you feel so strongly about it, I'll leave your wild colonial boy to his own devices. I'm only making the sacrifice for you, though. He seems delightfully unpretentious compared with the usual Glasscastle man."
Robert looked severe. "Lambert isn't a Glasscastle man, Jane, no matter what repellent stereotype that phrase may signify to you or to members of the popular press. He's a guest here and he's been good enough to help us with our research. That's all."
"He's not a student, in other words?" prompted Jane.
Robert frowned. "Certainly not. Did he give you the impression he was?"
"Of course he didn't," Amy said. "He's been put in his place quite thoroughly, Robert. You needn't worry about Mr. Lambert."
"Not if he has you to defend him, obviously." Robert beamed fondly at Amy as he tasted his wine. After a contented pause, he continued. "I was not worried about Lambert in quite that sense. It's the expert pestering Jane's capable of that concerns me. You let that man alone, understand? He works hard and he can't satisfy your curiosity about what we're doing, so no interrogations. Understood?"
Jane surrendered with reluctance. "Understood."
Robert studied her with as much intensity as he'd brought to his appreciation of the wine. "You haven't paid the slightest attention to my invitations to visit for years. What's brought you here now? It can't be pure family feeling."
"Can't it?" Jane tried to look offended. "Why can't it be?"
"Because I know you, Jane. You were happy to leave the bosom of the family when you went off to France and you've been happy to spend most of your holidays on the Continent since. If you're here in Glasscastle instead, it's for a very good reason." Robert kept up his scrutiny. "Honestly, now. What's the ulterior motive, Jane?"
Jane gave up on righteous indignation and settled for a confiding air. "I'm thinking of buying a motor car. A Blenheim Bantam, I thought. Small but sturdy."
Robert snorted. "A Blenheim Bantam? Nonsense. Those things are barely big enough to warrant four wheels. If you were fool enough to try to drive one in London, you'd be crushed like an insect. No, if you're going to bother at all, you'd do far better to buy yourself a real motor car while you're about it. When did you take up motoring?"
"I learned last winter. Now I want something small I can keep at Greenlaw for runs to the railway station and back, things like that." For once, Jane felt unalloyed fondness for her brother. He might be full of opinions about what sort of motor car was worth driving, but it would never cross his mind to tell her that she ought not drive one.
"Nonsense. You'll want a proper motor car if you needone at all, which I doubt. I'll show you mine, give you an idea what you'd be missing."
"You have a motor car, Robin? You astound me." Jane had always viewed her brother as the third last person in the world to welcome any form of innovation. The last two people would be Mother and Father.
"Not just a motor car. A Morgan Minotaur. Purrs like a cat, growls like a lion, and—on a suitable stretch of racetrack—it can do thirty-five miles per hour. I'll take you and Amy for a run on Sunday afternoon. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Amy?"
Amy looked delighted by the idea. "I would. We might go to Wells. We could take a picnic lunch."
Jane smiled at them both. "Robin, I have misjudged you. That sounds delightful."
When the possibilities of a Sunday afternoon picnic had been thoroughly discussed, a companionable silence fell over the dinner table.
After a suitable pause, during which she made neat work of removing the worst of the bones from her portion of fish, Jane asked, "Do you know someone named Nicholas Fell? I understand he's a Fellow of Glasscastle."
Robert looked exasperated. "Fell? Yes, of course I do. Save yourself the effort of questioning him. He has nothing to do with what we're working on."
"No?" Jane looked up from her fish bones with interest. "What does he do, then?"
"He's a Fellow of Glasscastle, Jane." Amy smiled tranquilly from Jane to Robert. "One might as well ask what a swan does, floating along the river."
"That's not a bad analogy," Robert conceded. "It's the effect we all strive to attain, certainly. To the world we present a facade of such effortless indifference that we might as well not be capable of magic at all. All seraphic calm on the surface, whilst among ourselves we know that underneath one paddles furiously, seeking one's own advantage all the while. Fell's not that sort."
"Not a paddler, do you mean?" Jane asked. "Or not calm?"
"I mean he's not focused entirely on his own advancement. Unlike some I could mention. On the contrary. At times Fell hardly seems interested in advancement at all. He's not the sort to volunteer for extra duty on the gate, mind, but he is devoted to Glasscastle. Doesn't let anything distract him from his studies."
"Mr. Fell doesn't care much for outward appearances," said Amy. "His paddling is in the interest of pure scholarship."
"A bit too pure, at times," said Robert. "One might wish him to pay a trifle more attention to his students, but one can't have everything. Fell was invited to help with the project at the outset. He soon grew bored with us and went back to his own work. One favor he did us first, though. He volunteered to host Lambert. The two of them are even sharing Fell's quarters. Good luck, that, since it lets Lambert stay close by yet keeps him isolated from the inquisitive. No one is less curious about the project than Fell, so Lambert doesn't have to worry about letting information slip inadvertently." Robert gave Jane a meaningful look. "You've promised, now—no interrogations."
"I've promised," said Jane. "Mr. Lambert knows Mr. Fell quite well, then?"
"Oh, yes. Not precisely David and Jonathan, but they seem to be good friends." Amy said.
"Most considerate of Mr. Lambert, offering to call for me tomorrow afternoon." Jane permitted herself to dwell on the thought of Mr. Lambert for a moment. There was something very striking about him. Of course it was only natural that she would find him attractive. So would she find any man that athletic, anyone who moved with such instinctive ease, anyone whose eyes held such utterly disarming modesty. Still, it would never do to let herself be distracted.
"Poor fellow just doesn't guess what he is in for. He's not afraid of you. Not yet." Robert seemed inclined to drop the subject in favor of devoting himself to his meal. "Give him time."
Copyright © 2004 by Caroline Stevermer Reader's Guide copyright © 2006 by Tor Books
Posted March 19, 2004
After spending time with Kiowa Bob's Wild West Show in locales like Wyoming, sharpshooting Samuel Lambert receives a job offer to work on the Agincourt Project at Glasscastle University in England. Though he is not entirely sure why a place of magical learning would invite an expert marksman, he jumps at the offer....................... After six months at the college Samuel feels he can adapt to anything though his snooty roommate Fell gives him much cause to doubt his belief but not as much as whenever he sees Jane Brailsford. Sister of one of the Project sponsors, Jane teaches math at Normandy¿s magical Greenlaw College. Strange things begin occurring with Fell seemingly in the middle that is when you can find him, but only Samuel and Jane seem to realize that weirdness is happening. Soon they learn that Fell shirks his duty as the Warden of the West, but vanishes before they can persuade him the world needs his powerful magic performing the tasks assigned a warden. Jane and Samuel realize trouble is brewing, but have no idea how to prevent it.................... The sequel to A COLLEGE OF MAGICS is a fine fantasy that leaps to and fro London as magic goes astray. Samuel and Jane make a fine couple with her being the magic practitioner and him the swordsman (with bullets instead of blades) while the support cast brings a feel that magic is real inside the Stevermer universe. Though the ending lacks action when compared to the sword (make that bullets) and sorcery of much of the plot, readers will relish this enchanting tale and look forward to more magic starring the lead pair.................. Harriet Klausner
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Posted March 10, 2010
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