Wetting the baby’s head – A Cambridge Fellows missing scene

The link to the original of this appears to be broken so here it is again:

November 1909

Cambridge, lounge bar of the Bishops’ Cope


“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.” Orlando looked at the table, where there should only have been two glasses in total, one for him and one for Jonty. He was fairly certain there were four, if not six, of the things, but where they’d all come from and why some of them continually evaded his grasp was a mystery.

“Me? It was your suggestion. Another practice at wetting the baby’s head.” Jonty grinned, with both mouths and all four eyes. “The next baby.”

“Is there a next baby?”

“Undou..undou…yes. At some point. Lavinia will probably pop them out like peas.”

“They should call the next one Jonathan.” Orlando had struggled with the “sh” of should, even though he’d been speaking as slowly and precisely as he could manage. “And Helena if a girl.” He avoiding using the phrase “if she’s a girl” in case of the treacherous sibilants tripping him up again.

“Nonsense.” Jonty may have looked blurry eyed but he was handling the “s” remarkably well. “They’ll call the little tyke what they want. Although Ralph’s mother was Al…Alex…” he had one more shot at the fence, “Alexandra, so as that name has double connections I suspect that tops the betting for a girl.” He bowed, elaborately, nearly toppling over in the process. “Come on. We should leave.”

Orlando wondered how they’d come to be in such a state; he only recalled two or three pints of ale, if that, and maybe a tot of whisky to chase them down with. On an empty stomach admittedly, but it had been a busy day. The landlord at the Bishop’s Cope was obviously putting something into his brew to make it more potent. If this was the state they’d got into practicing, maybe for the real thing they’d have to celebrate in the St. Bride’s buttery on milk and water biscuits.

“Back to college? Or home?” Jonty had begun to sway, or maybe that was an optical illusion, Orlando being aware that everything had begun to flit around a bit—pavement, houses, street lamps, the lot.

“Home. And in a cab, I think. It looks like rain.” Orlando was proud of having come up with that excuse, rather than having to admit to the squalid truth that he wasn’t sure his legs would get him there without a diversion into a gutter somewhere.

“Excellent idea. Let’s get the porters to find us one.” Jonty slipped his arm though Orlando’s.  “I shall ensure that you get to the lodge in one piece.”

“I don’t…” Orlando held his tongue. Why protest that he didn’t need help when it was an excuse to walk arm in arm? “Thank you. I appreciate the offer.”

“My pleasure.” Jonty made another elaborate bow, nearly ended up in the gutter, then grasped at Orlando’s arm again. “Maybe we should have our next practice in the privacy of our own home. Forsythia Cottage has less of a tendency to wobble.”

“It does indeed. Homeward ho, then.”

“Homeward ho? How poetic. We’ll make a bard of you yet.” Jonty tugged Orlando’s arm. “You could compose an ode for the baby when he or she comes. Not one of your filthy limericks, though.”

My limericks? I’ve never written one in my life.”

“Really? I could have sworn I remember something like ‘A mathematician from Totton was scratching himself on the…hmphmhphm’.”

Orlando, whose hand was now clamped over his lover’s mouth, was determined not to let go until they’d reached, if not St. Bride’s then at least the college next door. Jonty could finish his poem there and nobody would bat an eyelid.  “Don’t you dare repeat that at the font, you monkey.”


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