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The Edge of the Knife

was puzzled, and then realization hit him like a blow in the stomach-pit. He'd forgotten,
"I didn't see anything in the papers about it," one boy was saying.
"The newscast, last evening, said Khalid was in Ankara, talking to the President of
Turkey," another offered.
"Professor Chalmers, would you tell us just what effect Khalid's death had upon the
Islamic Caliphate and the Middle Eastern situation in general?" a third voice asked with
exaggerated solemnity. That was Kendrick, the class humorist; the question was pure
"Well, Mr. Kendrick, I'm afraid it's a little too early to assess the full results of a thing
like that, if they can ever be fully assessed. For instance, who, in 1911, could have
predicted all the consequences of the pistol-shot at Sarajevo? Who, even today, can guess
what the history of the world would have been had Zangarra not missed Franklin
Roosevelt in 1932? There's always that if."
He went on talking safe generalities as he glanced covertly at his watch. Only five
minutes to the end of the period; thank heaven he hadn't made that slip at the beginning
of the class. "For instance, tomorrow, when we take up the events in India from the First
World War to the end of British rule, we will be largely concerned with another victim of
the assassin's bullet, Mohandas K. Gandhi. You may ask yourselves, then, by how much
that bullet altered the history of the Indian sub-continent. A word of warning, however:
The events we will be discussing will be either contemporary with or prior to what was
discussed today. I hope that you're all keeping your notes properly dated. It's always easy
to become confused in matters of chronology."
He wished, too late, that he hadn't said that. It pointed up the very thing he was trying to
play down, and raised a general laugh.
As soon as the room was empty, he hastened to his desk, snatched pencil and notepad.
This had been a bad one, the worst yet; he hadn't heard the end of it by any means. He
couldn't waste thought on that now, though. This was all new and important; it had
welled up suddenly and without warning into his conscious mind, and he must get it
down in notes before the "memory"—even mentally, he always put that word into
quotes—was lost. He was still scribbling furiously when the instructor who would use the
room for the next period entered, followed by a few of his students. Chalmers finished,
crammed the notes into his pocket, and went out into the hall.
Most of his own Modern History IV class had left the building and were on their way
across the campus for science classes. A few, however, were joining groups for other
classes here in Prescott Hall, and in every group, they were the center of interest.
Sometimes, when they saw him, they would fall silent until he had passed; sometimes
they didn't, and he caught snatches of conversation.