Chapter One"I've yet to fathom it. No doubt I never will. How canst thou expect any real consideration from a person of his -" Archimedea Timms paused, searching for a suitable word. "- his ilk, Papa?"
"Wilt thou pour me a cup of tea, Maddy?" her father asked, in just the sort of amiable voice that left one with no room to start an effective argument.
"He is a duke, for one thing," she said over her shoulder, a parting shot as she marched through the back dining room to locate Geraldine, since the parlor bell was in disorder. The time it took to find the maidservant, see water drawn and set to boil, and return to the parlor was not enough to make her forget the sequence of her thoughts. "A duke can scarcely be supposed to care seriously for such matters - the square is above thy left hand - as must be perfectly clear when his integration has not been prepared for the past week."
"Thou shouldst not be impatient, Maddy. This sort of thing must be done with infinite care. He is taking his time. I admire him for it." Her father's searching fingers found the carved wooden numeral two and slid it into place as an exponent of s.
"He is not taking his time, nor a bit of care. He is out and about the town, engaged in creaturely socializing. He has not the smallest regard for thy credit, nor his own."
Her father smiled, gazing straight ahead as he searched out a multiplication sign and added it to the sequence of wooden letters and numbers on the red baize tablecloth in front of him, his fingers floating over the blocks to check each by touch. "Knowest thou certain sure about the creaturely socializing, Maddy?"
"One has only to read the papers. There is not a worldly function which he has not attended this entire spring. And your joint treatise scheduled to be introduced on Third Day evening! I shall have to be the one to cancel it, I know, for he won't think of it. President Milner will be most aggravated, and rightly so, for who is to take Jervaulx's place at the podium?"
"Thou shalt write the equations upon the slate, and I shall be there to answer questions."
"If Friend Milner will allow it," she said broodingly. "He'll say that it's most irregular."
"No one will mind. We delight in thy presence every month, Maddy. Thou hast always been welcome to attend. Friend Milner himself once told me that a lady's face brightens the meeting rooms considerable."
"Of course I attend. Should I let thee go alone?" She looked up at the maidservant as the girl brought in the tray. Geraldine set the tea down, and Maddy poured her father a cup, touching his hand and guiding it gently to the saucer and handle. His fingers were pale and soft from all the years of indoor work, his face still unlined in spite of his age. There had always been an air of abstraction about him, even before he'd lost his sight. Truthfully, the set habits of his life had not changed so much after the illness that had blinded him years ago, except that now he leaned on Maddy's arm when he went for his daily walk or to the monthly meetings of the Analytical Society and used carved blocks and dictation in his mathematics instead of his own pen.
"Thou'lt call on the duke again today about the differentials?" he asked.
Maddy made a face, safe to do so when Geraldine had left. "Yes, Papa," she said, keeping her vexation from her voice with an effort. "I'll call on the duke again."
The first thing Christian thought of when he woke was the unfinished integration. He threw back the covers, evicting Cass and Devil from the bed, and shook his hand vigorously, trying to rid himself of the pins-and-needles sensation caused by sleeping on it. The dogs whined at the door, and he let them out. The uncomfortable itchy numbness in his fingers was slow to fade; he worked his fist as he poured chocolate and sat down in his dressing robe to leaf through the pages of Timms' ciphering and his own.
It was easy to tell the difference: Timms had a small, refined hand, a third the size of Christian's inverted scrawl. From his first day in the schoolroom, Christian had rebelled at the insistence on right-handed cursive and used his left, enduring the regular beatings across the offending palm with sullen silence, but it still embarrassed him to write when anyone could see him. This morning Timms' writing appeared so small that it even seemed hard to read; it swam on the page and gave Christian a headache trying to focus on it.
Obviously, he was a little the worse for whatever brandy he'd consumed last night. He took up a quill, already trimmed by his secretary to the special angle that Christian's ungraceful, upside-down hand posture required, and began to work, ignoring what had been written before. It was easy to lose himself in the bright, cool world of functions and hyperbolic distances. The symbols on the page might slide and quiver, but the equations in his head were like unfailing music. He blinked, screwed up his face against the pain that seemed to have settled around his right eye, and kept writing.