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If a game hasn't begun yet – which we're a-coming, ain't we?


As always, Captain Aubrey felt keenly the absence of his particular friend and surgeon of HMS Surprise, Dr Maturin. At that moment Stephen was conducting a census of the wolves on a nearby island. This involved spending the night listening for their distinct calls while concealed by a small pond, a prospect that Stephen faced with extreme happiness, but in Jack's private view amounted to mere howling demography.

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:


What on Earth could have a cat have to say to eels?

"Dorking," said Jack, "is a strong contender for the most boring place in Surrey; no, no, I do it down – the whole of South East England. Why did the professor want to meet us here?"

"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 because

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