Sergeant Greene’s tongue was loosened by a Chelsea bun and three cups of Darjeeling. But he made considerable efforts to avoid discussing what Ruth gathered was now certainly a murder enquiry. Instead he spoke of his own plans.
“You know of this new Criminal Investigation Division at New Scotland Yard in London?” he asked. “It is my aim to join it. It’s ambitious, but I am set on it.”
“I have no doubt you will succeed.”
“My superior officer has not discouraged me. It is such a passion of mine. I have read all the books on forensic investigation. I follow important cases in the newspapers. It is all about the science, you see.” His eyes shone, and Ruth was caught in their gaze so that, distracted, she knocked over the sugar bowl.
Ruth told him she wanted to do well in her studies for the sake of her father, a farmer, and her mother, the midwife.
“She was one of the first women to gain the new Certificate to practise midwifery,” Ruth said proudly. “I will become a teacher, because they both respect learning.”
“It’s a great thing to honour one’s parents,” Greene said earnestly.
“And this case, Sergeant?” Ruth said casually. “Shall we test our agreement there?”
“You cannot alter the course of police work,” he said in his formal voice.
“Naturally,” Ruth said. “But I intend to track it very closely and to be of assistance in any way I can.”
Ruth could have sworn he looked pleased.
The next day Ruth was buying a loaf for her small stores from a bakery in the centre of Oxford. Emerging from the entrance, she saw Fred Carter across the narrow street, walking with a very lovely young woman in a feathered hat and the most elegant dark-blue coat Ruth had ever seen.
Mr Carter noticed Ruth, and led his companion over.
“Miss Rutherford, may I introduce the Honourable Eleanor Carrimore. Miss Carrimore is a friend of Lord Trescanton’s and,” he said shyly, “a friend of mine.”
The young lady smiled upon Fred, and Ruth, with her powers of perception, saw that they were in love.
“This is the Miss Rutherford who saved you!” Eleanor Carrimore declared warmly, taking Ruth’s hand in hers. Ruth was sure that she was about to be embraced the young lady was so overcome with emotion in broad daylight!
“Hardly that,” she said.
“I cannot express my thanks enough.”
A shadow passed over Eleanor’s face, turning the perfect alabaster of her skin paler for a second.
“Fred wrote to me. He made light of the attack. I only learned the full dreadful story when I arrived. George is shocked, and he feels terrible, of course, about the punts.”
“Let me carry your basket, Miss Rutherford,” Fred said, “if you are walking our way.”
Miss Carrimore, Ruth learned, had known Lord Trescanton since they were babies.
“We were nursery playmates,” she said happily. “Our fathers have neighbouring estates in Norfolk and we roamed the grounds like ruffians!” She laughed. “My sister once said that George and I should betroth ourselves, like the infantas of Spain, married at three years old!”
“But you never did?” Ruth smiled.
Eleanor laughed, a sweet, soft laugh which made Fred Carter gaze at her, his countenance crumpling with love.
“Marry George?” Eleanor said. “No, George is my friend, and precious for that reason.”
They deposited Miss Carrimore at the Randolph Hotel where she was staying, and Fred continued with Ruth.
“So, when will you ask Miss Carrimore to marry you?” Ruth asked.
Fred’s mouth fell open. Ruth shrugged.
“I am too blunt,” she said. “But you cannot, of course, deny it. Does his Lordship sanction the match?”
Fred hesitated, then laughed.
“Miss Rutherford, you make a person incapable of pretence. Yes, George is delighted. He cares nothing for rank. It is a great thing about him.”
“He was certainly comfortable in having me sit, virtually without introduction, in his fine rooms at the College. A girl in a cheap felt hat, with no family to speak of.”
“It is a very nice hat, Miss Rutherford. But, yes, George has no airs. I am among the first common men to attend the university, and he made me welcome here.”
“You read History?”
“Yes. My teacher at the school back in Yorkshire said History uses my ability to store dates and facts pretty well. I’m lucky in that.”
Ruth clapped her hands.
“Memory is an interest of mine. I read recently in ‘The Times’ about training the memory.”
“Can it be done?”
“I have a whole pamphlet on the matter from the St Hilda’s library, and I am trying it myself. But I am poor at committing anything to memory.”
Then Ruth saw a menu, pinned in the door of a public house they were passing. It listed everything offered to eat and drink.
“When we meet again, Mr Carter,” Ruth said archly, “we will see what you can recall of this menu.” From her bag she pulled a notebook, and scribbled the menu down at speed. “Item and price, mind.”
Carter looked at the list then laughed.
“All right then. I accept your challenge.”