If I had told Cuff about Greswold and about Isaac Newtons complicated friendship with a Mr. F., he wouldn't have written any of it down. He wouldnt have considered it relevant. A man falling through air and shadows in Trinity College, 1665. A secret friendship between two young men, forged in alchemical and mathematical calculations. How could that have any bearing on a series of murders in Cambridge that took place in 2002 and 2003? If I had suggested that, Cuff would have raised one of his thick black eyebrows and his pen would have paused in midair. Elizabeth Vogelsang would have understood. Cuff wouldnt.
Lily went to prison because the seventeenth century was missing from her court records, from her story. Her time line needed to be longer, much longer, and there were many sidelines and tracks, twistings and turnings and yes, it was a labyrinth, a skein of silk that began to weave itself in 1665, 339 years ago.
Ive been thinking about labyrinths this summer. Ariadne giving Theseus the thread so that he could find his way back out of the labyrinth, away from the black void of the flesheating Minotaur. Unravellings have to start somewhere. Now that I see, for the first time, how connected everything is, I know that the threads between Isaac Newton and us were all attached, like the ground elder under Kits soil.
That summer in which I wrote my story and yours for Patricia Dibb, Kit and I declared war on the ground elder that had taken over her flower beds at Sturton Street. As we began to dig, we could see how each of those separate plants, uncurling above ground, was joined to a great network of root systems underground. There was no point in digging up part of it; you had to pull up the whole thing, and if you didn't, it would start reaching out again in the wet darkness of the soil, another green leaf curling up a week or so later. Grace, Kits elderly neighbour, leaning over the chicken wire fence, uttered her warnings about the impossibility of ever killing it off. She had spent fifty years trying, she said. Break those roots just once, she said, and the wound on the root will make scores of new shoots.
Excerpted from Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott Copyright © 2007 by Rebecca Stott. Excerpted by permission of Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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