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Solomonsong

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Few of the smaller dining rooms saw regular use. For students on the meal plan, mounting flights of stairs with laden plates was too much work for most first-year students, and had proved too much for Bunny on this occasion. (Not that they were actually taking a meal. Charles and Camilla were off places unknown. It felt like having a limb lopped off.) But this one seemed long-forgotten, with a beautiful fireplace devoid of shards of beer bottle and cold pale light streaming in.

There was an upright piano in the corner, looking like someone had forgotten to haul it to the curb for disposal and had simply tucked it away from shame. Francis leant over it and started picking out a tune. (In honor of the change in weather he wore a fur coat; he'd have looked like an Edward Gorey illustration except that the fur itself was golden-blond.) After a few moments the succession of tuneless notes began to sound limpingly musical, and he accompanied it in falsetto, like Lotte Lenya.

"Why, Francis, I didn't know you knew German," Henry said, too cool to be really sardonic. To Richard's ear, it sounded fine, but he could imagine a more sophisticated inner critic writhing. And Henry was nothing if not that. He'd already pulled out a chair, but he walked over to the piano's side, peering down through his spectacles.

"Enough for singing songs. I'll stop." Francis' voice was low again, abruptly, and somewhat sharp. He gave him an oddly charged sideways glance, and slid off of the piano bench. The lid fell down heavily over the keys.

Richard sat at the table opposite, stupidly, and spread his books.