My head full of magicians and balloons, I return to the Porters’ Lodge, which appears to have descended into pandimonium during my short time with Junior Bursar. Porter is at the front desk comforting a very distressed young female student, who on closer inspection appears to be soaking wet. Head Porter is remonstrating loudly with two male students, who are boisterously threatening all kinds of things to persons unknown.
I don’t feel that I have the patience for tearful young ladies, so I sidestep that particular obstacle and head straight for Head Porter and the shouting chaps. A situation that far better suits my mood.
“What’s all this about, then?” I ask Head Porter, ignoring for a moment the inventive and colourful language being offered by our student friends, one of whom I recognise from a previous encounter.
“They’ve had some run in with a group from Hawkins College,” explains Head Porter, exasperated. “They were punting and Penelope ended up in the river.”
“The buggers rammed our punt deliberately! They intended to sink our punt…”
“Hey, don’t I know you?” I ask the red faced young man. “It’s Hershel, isn’t it? I think we’ve crossed paths before. I ended up searching your room, as I recall.” Hershel calms down remarkably.
“I apologise for our outburst,” he says, much more reasonably. “But they really went for us on the river and Penelope was terrified…”
“Okay, okay,” I reply. “I can understand you’re upset but you can’t go around shouting threats and things like that. We’ll speak to the Hawkins’ Porters and see what they say. Do you know who they were?”
“No, but there were five of them. Three chaps and two girls.”
“Right. Take Penelope back to her rooms and get her cleaned up. I’m can’t be having her causing a scene in the Lodge.”
Hershel escorts his friends out of the Lodge and some degree of order is restored.
“Do we really have to go and speak to them at Hawkins College?” Head Porter whines. “I can’t bloody stand their Head Porter. He’s so smug.”
“I know,” I say “But we should probably nip this one in the bud. Hershel can be quite exciteable.”
“Hmm. Where were you anyway? I thought you were checking the keys?”
“I was dragged away by Junior Bursar to discuss his party arrangements, apparently.”
Head Porter raises his eyebrows.
“He seemed more interested in your rather public row from the other day, though.”
Head Porter looks a little uncomfortable.
“Oh. That…” he says.
“Yes, that” I continue “Don’t worry, I pleaded ignorance.”
“But I did think you were going to tell me about this mystery lady?”
Head Porter sighs and is clearly irritated.
“It’s not really any of your business, Deputy Head Porter,”
“Oh, I know that,” I laugh “But I’m going to badger you about it anyway. Besides, I might be able to help. I’m quite good with affairs of the heart.”
“For goodness sake” Head Porter is trying to sound annoyed but he isn’t really. I can tell. “Come on, we’d best go and sort this out with Hawkins College.”
“You’re suddenly keen to get over there”
“Well, like you say, let’s nip it in the bud.”
“I could pop over there if you like?”
“You’re not going over there on your own. I know what you’re like. You deliberately wind up their Porters.”
“It’s good sport, Head Porter.”
“Get your hat. We’re going to Hawkins College.”