Lewis and Carroll

Confused skies. Kevin Kilgour

Charles Carroll was a many-sided boy. Full of stories, he was what his teachers called “a dreamer.” Of days, that is, but of many other things, also. He stood out. His hunger for knowledge was tangible and often prompted inquisitive adults to ask for his favorite subject.

This was one of the rare questions that could give Carroll pause. What was his favorite subject? He could solve math problems with eloquent ease before turning to a writing assignment and completing it with formulaic brilliance. Truthfully, he loved them all.

Unfortunately, this was not an acceptable response. At least, it was unacceptable to Carroll’s parents.

It is often the case that our parents’ opinions matter significantly more than the opinions of others. So it was in Carroll’s case. Mr. and Mrs. Carroll soon demanded that Charles approach his education more directly.

“Why don’t you study history, Charlie? You’ve done so well on your exams,” his mother suggested.

“That’s true, but didn’t I do just as well in mathematics? I don’t know which I prefer. Wouldn’t it be better to study both and decide later?”

But, of course, one does not simply study both history and mathematics, or so his father believed. Not only was it unheard of (a mathematical historian? Ha!), but impossible. School was expensive, and the Carrolls could ill afford to fund the delusions of an indecisive child.

Charles succumbed to his parents’ better judgment and enrolled in history, disavowing all ties to mathematics.

***

Walking into Calculus lecture, Gabriel Utterson spotted a familiar face that was surely out of place.

“Hey Carroll, I didn’t know you were on the mathematics track. Weren’t you history?”

Utterson, a future lawyer, had met Carroll during orientation. The two got along just fine, but Carroll found Utterson mildly overbearing. Less polite individuals might have called Utterson meddlesome, but Carroll was, in fact, quite polite. By no accident, Utterson had not seen Carroll since orientation.

“Oh, hi Utterson. Yeah, still history. Sometimes I sit in on mathematics classes, but just for fun. Anyways, I better find my seat.”

“Later,” Utterson uttered, but Carroll had already slipped away and sat down in what Utterson calculated to be the seat farthest from his own.

Naturally, Utterson spent the entire class pondering Carroll’s strange behavior. Who sits in on calculus for fun?

The class closed with a pop quiz. Strangely, Carroll participated. As Utterson turned in his paper, he quickly rummaged through the pile for Carroll’s assignment. None bore the name Charles Carroll.

The mystery consumed Utterson. He got home and looked through the course enrollment list. No Carroll.

There was, however, one name he had never seen before. This student was enrolled in a full mathematics course load. An old article in the school paper reported that he had been awarded a full ride scholarship in an essay-writing contest. According to campus housing, the student was Carroll’s roommate.

“Lewis,” Utterson whispered.