Monday, May 10, 2010

What Might Have Been

A chance comment by Mr. Tangaroa, and Annabella has more questions. However, these are questions I have studiously avoided for ten years. Though I may be a doctor in his estimation, I have no right to use the title. The lambasting I received at my vivas from the head of the department left no question in that regard.

She is not the first to question why I did not continue to fight for my doctorate. Though the refutation of my dissertation was likely motivated by internal University politics, I have not had the resources to renew the process.

Dr Wirefly had found the papers I published under my name. She made no mention of the other, less scholarly popular science articles, published under a pseudonym. I made no attempts to disguise my writing style, and using my mother’s maiden surname is not a very difficult puzzle to solve. Those articles were not my best writing, but they were what the editors wanted, and the income they generated helped pay the bills.

I rather doubt anyone at the University has read them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Journey Begins

Well, we are underway, without too much trouble. I was glad to note that Annabella did not over-pack greatly. Two city dresses, and the rest in the sturdier day-wear suitable for field work. We managed to cull her choices down to fit in a single trunk, and I am quite proud of the thought processes that she voiced while detailing the reasons for her selections.

Still, I worried that we would have too much luggage, until I saw the mountains of equipment Dr Wirefly brought, and the supplies packed by Professor Chavignol. I count it fortunate that our luggage was able to fit into our cabin.

Annabella is still excited about the adventure of going abroad. True, it is the first time outside Caledon for both of us, but I have been re-reading the professors’ notes. I hope there will not be anything to tarnish her exuberance. However, we are following a path that is fraught with danger.

I worry that Professor McMinn was not exaggerating the problems with the last expedition. He was one given more to understatement than hyperbole, as I recall. Then again, he was a much more jovial fellow before he left with the professors. I ask myself again, what dark memories trouble him so, that he rarely smiles?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the Past, the Future Gleamed Brightly

I did have quite a lot of books to put in storage, but there are some that I could not quite bring myself to put elsewhere, most significantly, my student journals. I would not impose them on anyone, yet I cannot bring myself to destroy them. Perhaps locked away in the trunk, to be found decades after my death, they may bring amusement to a social anthropologist. So many bright plans I had, with Professor Haddington-Scott's example, to have tenure and family seemed possible.

I now know how vanishingly rare her situation was, and how lucky they were to have each other. Finding a mate who respected her work and realized it was as important as his own, that is an amazing feat. I thought it might be possible, but through my years at Oxbridge, I was mostly seen as a research mine, when I was seen at all by "gentleman" scholars. Disillusionment set in after the third time I was not credited as a full researcher on a team of equally-ranked graduate students. Still, I continued, in hopes of at least gaining my doctorate, and later tenure, even if finding a partner was out of the question.

Then the Professors disappeared, and I was turned out of the department. I do not regret the years I have given to Annabella, but the future is no longer mine to grasp, it seems.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Importance of Physical Balance

I will freely admit I am not the local authority on what a Proper Young Lady needs to know in Society. Luckily, I have Madame Rowbottom's example to follow, and her generosity in gaining dance lessons and riding academy stabling. She has said that it is a fair trade for Miss Rowbottom's language tutoring, but it is more than many have offered for my services.

However, knowing that a woman alone is often vulnerable, I have taken advantage of my status of an Oxbridge alumnus to tutor Miss Annabella in fencing and other forms of self defense. This is one instance when being a shop-keeper's daughter, and one of a pack of children in the town is an advantage. By using many forms, of no particular school, I hope she is less predictable in combat. Pray that it never comes to that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NOW she is at last asking Questions.

The letter from Sir JJ seems to have woken Miss Annabella out of her dreams, for now she is trying to wring the last bit of information out of the one page missive. On first reading, the letter is innocuous enough. The wording is that of an invitation to the Library, not his home. The hour might be considered odd, save that the Caledon Libraries accommodate the hours of all residents of our nation.

However, if one is observant, one notes the letterhead is for the Librarians Militant, not the Caledon Library System. An interesting move, considering that group was one of the sponsors of the last expedition the Professors Scott. I have been unable to ascertain their interest in the lost city of Ligniplies, as archaeology was not the focus of either of the the professors, though Professor Haddington-Scott's area of study was Alchemical History and Practice, this was not the sort of field-work either of them had participated in before.

There was one person, out of a dozen scholars and adventurers, who did return from that fateful expedition. Professor McMinn has been closed-mouthed about it, but his condition on his return was said to have been near death. His friends have stated he is greatly changed. He has not published since his return, and if he had not gained tenure before the expedition, this would have caused him to be released from his college. The Deans must know something else, but I have not discovered a whisper of it.

Sir JJ's summons arriving within a fortnight of Miss Nan's achievement of her majority seems curious. This on top of the shock Miss Nan received at the family solicitor's office - that the house is in her name, not her aunt's - might have brought her out of the clouds at last. I have answered her questions truthfully, but only with the facts I know. My conjectures I have withheld, as I do not want to taint her formulation of her own conclusions.

But for now, we should continue with our normal activities, and it is time for her daily walk with Miss Rowbottom. I shall accompany them as a chaperon, as Miss Hawksmoor is no longer with the Rowbottom household, but the girls are unlikely to find trouble in the park. At least I have a new book, and Observations of Street Nuisances should prove entertaining.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Finally, we can being to work in earnest.

Miss Annabella and I are finally free of one of the most severe impediments to her scholarship, and perhaps I may be able encourage her to follow the path of her mother, Professor Sophronia Haddington-Scott. The professor had been my mentor at Oxbridge, and I have done what I could since... leaving the university to nurture her daughter's education. Said nurturing has had a decade of blocks placed by a harridan.

Ever since the professor's cousin, Mrs Gertrude Manley, appeared on the Scott's doorstep, we have been saddled with the worst example of woman-hood I have yet the misfortune to meet. After blocking her attempts to claim the Professors' home, she and her child moved in, claiming they had no where else to go. She did not hide her tracks well enough, and after the first bills appeared from her dressmakers, I was able to find her late husband's solicitor, and routed that and all following bills to her handlers.

Still, her presence in the house meant she freed up more of her allowance, as the Great Aunts handled the rents and household expenses. No matter how she tried, that stupid cow did not get her hands on the accounts, and after the first arguments with the grocers in the village, she left it to me, as it was "beneath her" to do servant's work.

That same attitude left her daughter Elizabeth in my tutoring. I only hope that I was able to give the girl some tools to think for herself, but her mother was not interested in her scholarship, I was a glorified nurse to watch her girl while she courted Society, and perhaps snag a gentleman of means, with fewer wits than her first husband. I have had less time to work with Miss Elizabeth, as her mother seemed to realize she was too old to set her cap for the eligible bachelors, and was determined to use her daughter as a marriage pawn.

I did what I could, giving the girl the idea she could stand on her own, but now her mother has taken her off on a tour of the Continents, in search of a gentleman who has not been warned of her cold-blooded hunt. I wish them luck, boxed their things away in the attic, and changed the locks on the house.

We are comfortable in the Professors' home, and while she does not share the same passion for learning, Miss Annabella is a bright student, who shows promise - when her head is out of the clouds. Still, I am minded of the Great Aunts' conviction that the Professors are still alive, and of the notes I was able to... borrow from the University. As such, I have kept my field gear in good order, and ready to go at a moment's notice. Nan does not see the need for the field skills I have attempted to teach her, as we have not gone anywhere save for the Library and museums, but I feel the need to be prepared. We have finally been able to delve into some of the basic principles in the Professors' studies, and I hope we are not too late.