One of Elswita’s grandmother’s favourite sayings was, “You can’t plant yam and reap eddoe.”
So Elswita’s reward was in line with her actions. She was here to work, not play, and therefore she was not about to let Christian distract her from her goals.
If she hadn’t had her feet firmly on solid ground she could easily have been led astray by Christian Grenfell-Darling. Despite him being a very good student – he claimed never to have missed a lecture, though he admitted sleeping through a few – he was a terribly bad influence on all around him.
He was tall and handsome with thick blond hair and eyes the colour of a typical Barbadian sky. He was invited to, and attended, many parties. His friends were rich and brash and rowdy.
But there was something very endearing about him. Elswita found him kind and witty and couldn’t help mothering him.
When they met in the library he often complained of headaches, which were in fact the result of attending one too many parties. And she’d seen him take the hair of the dog from his little silver flask on more than one occasion.
Still, he’d rescued her, when others stood by watching as she struggled to raise herself from the icy snow, and he’d made her laugh and become the distraction she needed for a broken heart.
“Your liver will not thank you in five years’ time,” Elswita told him.
They were sitting in the library, working side by side.
“Which part of my anatomy is my liver again, Doctor?” he asked, bleary eyed.
Elswita teasingly raised an eyebrow at him and returned to her books.
“Are you not going to answer?” he said.
“No. You’re mocking me.”
“Is it here?” he said, pointing to his knee.
A smile came to Elswita’s lips, but she didn’t answer.
“Here?” he said, pointing to his heart. “Or maybe here,” he said, pointing to his ear.
“You’re being ridiculous,” Elswita said.
“I merely tease, sweet Elswita.”
“Well, go and tease elsewhere. I have an exam on Monday and I’m far from ready for it.”
Elswita knew her words wouldn’t sting, and she let out a giggle. Her giggling stopped abruptly when Mr Keene, the librarian, cleared his throat and peered at her disapprovingly over his spectacles.
Christian hadn’t finished. He nudged Elswita to get her attention again.
“Look, I have something to show you.” And he produced a neatly written letter from his breast pocket and handed it to her.
Christian, it has come to my attention that you have been fraternising with undesirables and that you spend more time in the tavern than you do at your studies. This must stop immediately. You have our family name and honour to uphold. It behoves me to say that if I receive any such further reports, then I will have no choice but to cut your funding with immediate effect . . .
“Your father?” Elswita said.
“Yes. I have my suspicions about who may have misinformed him: my cousin Edward. Without evidence I cannot name him. However, I strongly denied to Father that I am fraternising with any undesirables. To add to that, I am top of my class, and I assured him that I will not leave Edinburgh without a first-class degree.”
Elswita’s heart swelled with pride for her new, trusted friend.
Christian then explained to Elswita about Edward, who was also a first-year student at the University of Edinburgh. Edward was studying the Greats.
The cousins barely spoke, and even as children they never saw eye to eye. For the sake of propriety, however, they were on nodding terms, and fortunately the university was large enough to keep them apart.
“Why would Edward do such a thing, though?” she whispered, looking over towards Mr Keene.
“Indeed – that is the very question.”
But Elswita couldn’t help feeling Christian was hiding something from her.
“I hope you’re coming to George’s run on Saturday,” he said, changing the subject. “He’s been training like a madman and eating half-raw steaks like our American cousins.”
“He’s already asked me.”
“Jolly good. I’ll reserve us some seats. He came second last year in the one-hundred-yard dash and was beaten by a fraction of a second by that cad, Thomas Worthington.”
“So I hear.”
“So you’re coming?”
“Yes, I’m coming. Now stop disturbing me, Christian. Look. Mr Keene is rising from his seat.”