Jack was comfortably installed in the quarter gallery with a
cup of grog and a letter from Dr Skinner, Professor of Mathematical
Husbandry at the University of West Doggerland, an ivy-covered
brownstone red-brick institution on (and, depending on the weather,
sometimes off) the shores of the North Sea. Jack had much admired
her presentation to the Royal Society titled Some Influences of
Nutations on Mutations. She in turn knew of Jack's astronomical
writings and Stephen's papers on natural philosophy, and they
maintained an amiable academic correspondence.
This letter though was something of a puzzle. It was
addressed to Captain Jno. Aubrey, Esq, but intended for Stephen:
"Please pass on to Maturin at the very first opportunity." (This
quarter gallery was really too gloomy for comfortable reading, and
the professor's handwriting... was that word 'Docking'? And
'eels'... no, 'all eels'.) The remaining sheets were covered in
some sort of code, from which only a few scattered words made any
sense to Jack:
TACT ... GAG AT ACT ... TAG A GAGA CAT
What on Earth could have a cat have to say to eels?
"I am sure that she will explain," replied Stephen, looking
gravely at his coffee. They were sitting in the White Horse, a
rambling inn located at the end of the High St.
Just then, a short, plump, pale woman of a certain age
approached their table and peered through her glasses at Stephen.
"Maturin!" she cried happily.
Time passed: quickly for Dr Skinner and Stephen,
interminably for Jack. His mind wandered as they bandied terms
that meant nothing to him or made no sense. Blending theory quite
exploded? Base pairs, incomplete penetrance and codominance?
These last did not sound quite respectable phrases for a lady to
use. His companions sounded impossibly advanced; they were really
ahead of their time.
"Jack, Jack!" called Stephen. "I am afraid that you do
not quite attend. The professor was saying that we meet in Dorking
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