She Turned Me Into a Newton!Mystery teasers are little stories where you need to figure out what happened based on the given clues.
After identifying a suspicious fellow Yankee at the local pub, Nora Shekrie decided to take a holiday at the market in Blyth. She was escorted by her not-too-distant relatives, Sir Loine of Boef and Lady Rose Boef. Nora wanted to take home some memento of her visit, something more than the prepaid travel vouchers Sir Harold had supplied.
After a morning of making nice with the locals, receiving thanks, admiration, and not a few jibes about being from "the Colonies", Nora was quite enjoying herself. The morning tea and late lunch were taking up a serene position in her abdomen, the sun was shining, and the studied quaintness of the market enchanted her more with each passing hour.
She politely examined each stall of wares, commented astutely on some aspect of almost every shop, and generally impressed the vendors as something rather better than the stereotypical American tourist. Finally, at half-past two o'clock, she found the item to take home. An youngish gentleman selling out-of-print books had an item that intrigued her.
"It's the manuscript of an early draft of the speech," he explained as she bent over to examine the fine penmanship. "One of my ancestors was an assistant to Sir Isaac Newton. He served in Parliament, you know." Nora nodded. "Dodgy times, what with the Glorious Revolution and all, but my many-greats grandfather found a stable position with Sir Isaac, right after the knighthood gave him enough money to hire someone permanent-like. Sir Isaac asked G-g-g-grandfather, Thomas Hanscomb was his name, to write some for his first speech in the House of Lords. Oh, Newton supplied the ideas sure enough, but Hanscomb did the first bit of writing, not what many could write back then.
"Newton took Hanscomb's draft, did it up his own way, no surprise to either of them I warrant, and gave back the first. That's it, there in the frame and protective glass and all, and I keep it out of the sun like you see here." The three of them noted the shade over the one item, giving it further protection from the light. "Sir Isaac made his grand speech, both houses passed whatever bill, and Thomas Hanscomb stuffed this copy into his things. It come down to me after all this time."
Nora nodded, seeming to have reached some decision. "And it's certainly dear enough," she held up a hand to stop him, "but fairly, given its history. Across the pond, a representative's first speech in Congress is considered a great event." She considered her bank balance, held a mental argument with herself, and pulled out her billfold.
"I take traveler's cheques, VISA, and cash," he smiled. Nora smiled in return, pulling out a small plastic card.
She felt a polite tug at her sleeve: Rose. " For a purchase this significant, I usually like to get my mind well settled before I sign the papers, just to be sure. Shall we have a cuppa, and you talk to me about this?"
There was a note in Rose's voice; Nora had learned to respect that tone over her ten days with the family. She turned to the stall-keeper. "Would a fiver hold it for an hour?"
"M'lady, at this price, a scone would hold it for the day."
Nora grinned. "A scone, it is. With jam?" He nodded. They had a deal.
They chose their table and allowed Harold to seat them with their food. He trundled back to the stalls with the extra scone, leaving his wife and guest to discuss the matter.
"Rose, it sounds like I got off cheaply. You certainly know your business. Care to let me in on the secret? I'm usually the one who spots these things."
How did Rose know that Nora shouldn't buy the manuscript?
HintLook up Isaac Newton's record in Parliament.
AnswerFirst of all, "Sir" Isaac Newton never served in Parliament. He served in 1698 and in 1701-02, but he wasn't knighted until 1705. If the knighthood gave him the wherewithal to hire an assistant, that helper could not have written a Parliamentary speech with him.
Second, Newton never argued before the House of Lords: he represented his university, Cambridge, in the House of Commons.
Third, Newton's only recorded words in Parliament were a point of order, a request to close a drafty window. He never made a "maiden speech", nor argued for any bill.
To top it all off, his service and knighthood had nothing to do with his scientific work. James II tried to turn the universities into Catholic institutions; Newton (and Cambridge itself) staunchly opposed the idea. Newton simply voted that way at every opportunity. The Queen so appreciated his efforts in support of this and other of her political causes that she knighted him.
After explaining the problems to the embarrassed vendor, Nora bought the document for £13, just as a reminder that she doesn't know it all. She eventually got it identified: a portion of an unfinished play by a minor author, circa 1870.
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