“Well the Old Gorgon was right about the trains at any rate” thought Bertie.
Their arrival at Cambridge Station on a cold and blustery autumn afternoon had gone without incident, though Henry had almost been delayed in the capital – some business for the Aunt he was staying with while in London. He had managed to join them at the last minute however.
With him also were Sebastian, Lady Glossop and Marko; no doubt Sebastian looked askance on this but Bertie knew that he was good at knocking heads together – which might be far more useful than shooting holes in British Citizens or charging them on horseback with a sabre. As usual Marko had simply shrugged and agreed to accompany them, and he was now clad in smart merchant seaman’s attire, lighting up one of his Turkish cigarettes and peering round.
The cold and gathering gloom brought back warm memories of his own time in Cambridge, and of student discussions at Tea Shops with hot buttered crumpets, and poking round dusty bookshops. A brief wave of nostalgia flooded over him. He had always liked the Autumn, and favoured the Autumn Term with its run up to Christmas and Carols at Kings.
He had wired Doctor Oswaldtwistle ahead, and he had agreed to meet them for tea at five. His rooms were at Trinity, where the Doctor lectured in English Literature. Bertie had snored through several of his lectures, which had focused heavily on Chaucer he recalled.
He noticed that Marko and Sebastian were looking around outside the N & ER station, and at the line of cabbies outside.
“The station’s a mile or two outside of town chaps”, said Bertie. “In fact rumour has it that the University blocked any attempts to build it closer back in the forties.”
“The University has that much clout?” asked Sebastian.
“Cambridge and its university are inseparable Old Bean — as you’ll see when we get a bit closer. Seventeen colleges — each built like a Bally Castle with towers, chapels, courtyards, and ancient libraries and dining halls and whatnot, housing 3,000 students, from a total town population of 40,000. That’s a big chunk. ‘Dreaming Spires’ and all that rot.”
“It is very old, yes?” said Marko.
“Well Legend has it that the university was founded in 300 B.C. by a Spanish prince named Cantaber, though what the fellow was doing wallowing around in the swamps here I don’t know. Cook’s tour perhaps.”
“Written records begin in the 12th and 13th centuries. There are even two colleges for the Ladies – Girton and Newnham, founded nearly 20 years ago.” Sebastian harruphed, and missed a glare from Lady Glossop.
“We’ll need a place to stay” suggested Sebastian.
“What Ho. What Ho.” burbled Bertie. “Hotels all over Cambridge -the Hoop on Bridge Street and the Prince of Wales on Sidney Street maybe. But of course, as an old Trinity Man myself I might be able to wangle a stay in college rooms. Maybe guests too – but of course that’s up to you chaps.”
“Ladies too.” Bertie lifted his hat and nodded toward Lady Glossop. He smiled at her nervously, and tried to suppress the image of naked boobies illuminated and bobbing up and down in the moonlight.