91: The Math Lessons

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“These books will help you grasp some of the simpler principles of finance, law, and accounting,” Mr. Shobbinton cleared his throat. “After you have memorized these fundamental principles, we can start with the basics.”

Edmund stared at the stack. It was at least half as tall as he was… He nodded slowly as he sat down in the nearer chair.

“I will be busy with my survey,” Mr. Shobbinton said, adjusting his monocle. He pulled a small pad of paper from his coat and handed it to Edmund. A small pencil stub was attached with a string. “These books will be very hard for you to read, and you will have many questions. When you do, write them down on a piece of paper and hand it to me when next our paths cross. If it is a good question, I will reply in writing. Is that understood?”

Edmund took the pad, and stared at it. It seemed pitifully small next to the massive stack of books, and he knew he would have questions, so he asked the first one that leapt to mind.

“Can I skip over the books I’ve already read?” Mr. Shobbinton froze, his monocle leaping from his eye like a startled frog.

“Already…” he paused. Edmund nodded.

“I’ve read these already,” he said, pointing at the top book, the third book, and the three on the bottom. They looked even older than the ones Mrs. Mapleberry had tried to throw out. “This one was kind of hard,” he admitted, feeling he should make a small concession. Mr. Shobbinton licked his lips, slowly.

“You understand the principles of Applied Euclidianism?” he asked.

“Yes,” Edmund said after a few moments of thought.

“And the properties of Prime Multiplication?”

“Yes,” Edmund said.

“And Koch Derivations?”

Edmund nodded, hoping that Mr. Shobbinton meant the recursive derivations discovered by Lauburn de’Koch.

“Well, well… I’ve underestimated you,” Mr. Shobbinton tried to smile as he pulled a thin stack of papers from his briefcase. “I think we shall start with something a bit more… advanced…”

After half an hour, Edmund was bored.

He had been very excited when he first entered the study and saw the large stack of books, but what Edmund thought would be some form of tutoring turned out to be little more than several pages of numbers and letters being thrown at him, and being told to add or subtract them for strange and esoteric reasons.

The books were little more than lists of formulae and symbolic logic, something Edmund would have found amazingly interesting if they weren’t so bland. Symbols were introduced, demonstrated, and then ignored, with no style, passion, or…well, poetry. Edmund barely had to glance through the book before he understood the principles, and then there was nothing more to say. They were unsatisfying drops of water in the book-less desert of Moulde Hall.

He added, he subtracted, he divided, multiplied, recursed, modulated, applied, and derived. And when he had finished double-checking his work, he had to do it all again.

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