"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
"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
"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
"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.
Excerpted from "Flowers from the Storm" by Laura Kinsale. Copyright © 1992 by Laura Kinsale. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.