Saturday, January 13, 2018


High Tea with Dame Müller

Sherlock Holmes, Eton School for Boys
1 November 1867
There’s a new boy at Godolphin House. Rumor has it they sent him over from the commoners’ rooms to fill an opening left by Master Jeffrey Tooms, who was suddenly attacked by disabling tremors in his legs and arms.  Several distinguished doctors visited Jeffrey’s room and tried to cure him. They cut and bled him, wrapped evil-smelling poultices around his extremities, and poured patent medicines down his throat, to no avail.  I myself spent hours buried in stacks of medical books in the library, trying to discover the cause of his affliction. Unfortunately, his family came to take the boy away before I could reach a conclusion.
The only positive aspect of this dreadful situation is that the school term has only just begun, so the sad departure of Jeffrey and the arrival of a new boy to take his place will not cause undue disturbance in the residence hall.
Dragoș Covenu is the new student, a rather exotic-looking boy with an exotic name. He is my age, 13, with tea-colored skin, black hair, large brown eyes with long lashes, and his English is atrocious. Most of the boys give him a wide berth, as I should do, but there is something about him that interests me. He is better built and taller than the rest of us. The muscles on his arms and legs are shapely and well-defined, and he moves with an easy grace, as if he’d just walked out of a Greek myth or a legend from the Crusades. I could envision him as a dark knight in shining armor, or a pirate standing, sword drawn, under the skull and crossbones. 
When Dame Müller, the house supervisor, introduced Dragoș to the young residents of Godolphin Hall, she mentioned he was going in for sports and military strategy, which are not enormously taxing fields of study. He quite looks the part for either profession; strapping and fit, sturdy legs and haunches for marching long distances. I can attest to these pleasing physical characteristics, as I stand behind him during afternoon drills.
Eton students and masters alike wonder how this boy, a foreigner, was allowed to take up residence in Godolphin House, a privilege reserved for sons of the peerage or country gentlemen like my father. I suppose it would have been comparable to a freed slave in America somehow gaining entrance to Harvard University. Toes felt stepped on, naturally. Outrage was expressed. Some believed that in order to have leapt across our social barriers so easily, he must be some kind of foreign royalty. But he doesn’t carry himself with that kind of restraint or sophistication. Not by a long shot.
I have a full schedule this term, playing violin in the chamber orchestra and continuing my Greek and Latin studies. And Composition. What’s new on my plate are Chemistry and Forensics, the latter being a recently established branch of the physical sciences. It should prove useful to my future career as a master sleuth. And there is my membership in the Classical Society, composed of retiring boys like myself who wish to keep a certain distance from the noisy herd.
As an opening salvo to welcome the new term, Dame Müller invited Lord Craven, his boorish friend Baronet Goad, and myself to high tea. I cannot account for why she selected the three of us out of all the Godolphin inmates, except that we are the least popular boys at Eton; Craven and Goad because they are despicable and mean, and myself because I am a friendless hermit. She claims we were invited since we had all three won the lottery held last spring to raise funds for the Chess Club. But I don’t remember buying a ticket, and Craven and Goad wouldn’t know a chessboard from a cheeseboard.
Very well, high tea it is. And I suppose she will treat us to more stories about German children cartwheeling through streets of Düsseldorf after the defeat of the Archbishop of Cologne in 1288. Dame Müller feels it is her duty to impress upon her Eton charges that Germany has a history at least as illustrious as England’s, though I’m not sure cartwheeling boys can compete with the scions of old London.

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