…Continued from ‘Buried Things’
There is a long pause, punctuated only by a long sigh from Professor K. It is a sigh that sounds like it has been waiting to be exhaled for a very long time. He spits out his next words with such disgust, it is almost as if they taste bilious in his mouth.
“As luck would have it, the two Fellows who were so perturbed died ‘peacefully in their sleep’ before they managed to make it to the authorities,” I can hear the inverted commas in his speech. “That was a stroke of luck for Old College, wouldn’t you say, Deputy Head Porter?”
Before I can answer him, a sharp knock at the door makes us both jump. This is followed immediately by Head Porter, face like thunder, striding through the door. Professor K is furious at this imposition and rises to his feet far more swiftly than I would have imagined for a man of his age.
“Head Porter! Is it not customary to wait to be invited into a Fellow’s quarters? How rude of you!”
Head Porter is unmoved by this and I am very surprised to see him stare stonily at Professor K.
“My apologies, Professor” Head Porter replies. His tone is distinctly unapologetic. “My Deputy has been neglecting her duties and I require her to return to The Lodge.” I wonder how he knew I was here?
“She has been assisting me with some important work,” Professor K snaps back “And I have not kept her away long. The Master will hear of your impudence!”
“I will remind you, Sir, that Deputy Head Porter belongs to my staff, not yours. And she has her own work to attend to” I really am shocked at Head Porter’s bravado. Speaking to a Fellow in this way is completely unacceptable. I can see Professor K becoming increasingly enraged and I cannot imagine that this is a good thing for a man of his advanced years.
“I am sorry, Head Porter,” I interject quickly. “It was wrong of me to be away for so long. Professor, I will speak to you on another occasion.”
“You have not heard the last of this, Head Porter!” Professor K says, darkly. I can still see the rage in his eyes as Head Porter practically drags me out of the room.
Once the door is closed behind us, I twist my arm out of Head Porter’s grip and turn to face him, my own anger burning hotly on my cheeks.
“There’s no need for that!” I say crossly. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m not happy with the amount of time you have been spending with Professor K,” Head Porter’s voice is like lead. “You need to realise you are here to do a job, not to be spending your time chatting up old men.” This is a most un-gentlemanly insult, no doubt designed to either enrage or shame me. It does neither.
“What’s the matter, are you jealous?” A childish reply but, hey, he started it. The look he returns leaves me in no doubt that if we weren’t getting on before, we certainly are not getting on at all now.
As Head Porter just stands there and looks at me, in a manner I assume he believes is intimidating, I cannot even be bothered to respond. I turn my back on him, making sure I flick my ponytail in the most derogatory way I can manage as I do so and make my way back to The Porters’ Lodge.
The walk calms me down a little. I didn’t appreciate his manner, but Head Porter was correct that I shouldn’t have been away from my post for so long. And I have been letting myself get a little distracted with all this mysterious nonsense recently. Perhaps I should keep my head down for a while and keep my mind on the job in hand.