The porter at the Magdalen gate was astonished by the bedraggled group which appeared that evening.
“Mr Carter! What in heaven’s ?”
“Show us to his rooms,” Ruth interrupted.
The porter looked self-important.
“As you may know, miss, ladies are not permitted without proper introduction, accompanied by ”
“Can’t you see he’s ill and we’re helping him?” Ruth asked.
The porter, huffing and puffing, escorted them into St Philip’s Quad, where a tall, black-haired man in a frock coat hurtled from a nearby door, nearly knocking Ruth over.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, and then noticed who the policeman and the doctor were supporting between them. “Carter! My goodness, what have you done to yourself?”
His voice was thick with concern.
“Trescanton.” Carter weakly took his friend’s proffered arm, relieving the doctor of his load. “I’ve been making a fool of myself.” He turned to Greene. “This is my friend, George Lord Trescanton.”
“You’ve not fallen in the river?” the young lord asked, horrified.
“Worse,” Ruth put in. “Can we please proceed to your rooms, Mr Carter?”
“Yes, immediately,” Trescanton said. “But to mine instead. My man has a good fire burning, and Freddy’s rooms will be icy as usual. Follow me. Porter, you can go.”
In Trescanton’s handsome rooms the doctor pronounced Freddy sound, if exhausted, bandaged his head and left. Ruth introduced herself to Trescanton, making it clear that she was, for the moment, a fixture.
“Now, then,” Greene said, standing over them all. “In the absence of a superior officer, I will take down details of the incident.” He turned to the man he had saved. “Your name first, sir.”
Frederick Carter turned out to be a man quite different from the two tipsy blades who had so ineptly pulled him from the Cherwell. He was a working-class undergraduate from a Yorkshire mining family. He had been grammar school educated and was studying History. He and the 9th Earl of Hardstone had become firm friends in the year since they had first met.
“And this evening,” Greene asked. “Why were you out in a punt?”
Carter looked down bashfully.
“I was aiming to practise the art of punting,” he said.
Trescanton sat up.
“And I was advising you, idiot that I am, and at this unseasonable time of year. Nobody punts in October, of course. My friend, Fred, you see, was hoping to take out a young lady who is due into Oxford later this week.”
“I took out a Magdalen punt. I’ve never set foot in one before. I was too nervous back in my freshman year to try it.” He grimaced. “I was anxious not to look a fool.”
Trescanton put an arm around his friend’s shoulder.
“You could never look a fool, Carter.” He looked at Ruth. “Brightest man at Magdalen,” he said. “Fred Carter can do anything he sets his mind to.”
Ruth observed the two men closely. They were so unalike in status, but she could see how they might form a friendship, learning much one from the other. It was her pastime to be constantly curious about mankind, to observe such relationships and how they functioned.