The Lost Night

As Deputy Head Porter raised her whiskey-filled Arsenal mug to The Dean’s crystal tumbler with a celebratory clink, she quietly congratulated herself on handling the situation so delicately. Breaking the news to The Dean that the Lord Layton portrait was missing, presumed stolen, was no small undertaking. There had been the keenly anticipated, expletive-laden outburst, of course, but then The Dean was prone to those on the receipt of any unsolicited communication.

The excitement of last term had ignited something unprecedented within The Dean. Although bearing many of the hallmarks of an institutionalised academic, he was really nothing of the sort. His eccentricities come from his genius, which has garnered him international respect and adulation from his contemporaries in the unforgiving arena of the legal stratosphere. It is unsurprising that he gets so frustrated with the vexing nuances of College life. The opportunity to focus his mind on something more deserving of his intellect had been inspirational.

The news of another Old College mystery had, in fact, inspired a number of toasts, each one being more creative than the last. The first toast had been to ‘The Team’, which included Head Porter, Deputy Head Porter and The Dean himself. Deputy Head Porter then reminded him that they had left out Porter, so a further, revised, toast was implemented. A toast celebrating the general brilliance of Old College was made, swiftly followed by a solemn and sincere toast to the great Lord Layton and his marvellous portrait. That didn’t seem quite solemn enough, so a toast to the great Lord Layton and his marvellous work was offered up in recompense. They were very pleased with themselves following this and so were further inspired to toast, not only themselves, but The Queen, Jesus and Tottenham Hotspur (a special request from Deputy Head Porter).

There followed some minor contention from Deputy Head Porter about being forced to drink from an Arsenal mug, but a swift refilling of said receptacle soon moved the conversation in another direction.

“You know, Sir – there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” announced Deputy Head Porter, swaying a little and with the hint of a slur upon her lips.

“Is it… is it that I am brilliant?” The Dean replied, striking a heroic pose and holding his glass aloft.

Although, by now, Deputy Head Porter was heavily under the influence of Scottish nectar, she was not insensible enough to notice compliment bait when it was so theatrically presented to her.

“That, Sir, was one of the several things I was thinking of” she replied. “I have always wanted to tell you how brilliant you are and how much I love you,”

“I knew it!” boomed The Dean with glee “Now, tell me other things like that.”

Thrown off kilter for a moment, Deputy Head Porter had to rapidly call to mind other suitable accolades to lavish upon The Dean. Through the greasy alcoholic fog she conjured the least salacious thing she could muster.

“I have also always wanted to tell you how much I like your… hair?”

“Oh! Fabulous, yes indeed” said The Dean as he preened himself in what looked like it should have been a comedy fashion. Impossible to tell for sure, though. “What about my trousers? Do you like my trousers?”

The Dean’s array of colourful trousers was a much celebrated thing around College, none more so than by Deputy Head Porter herself.

“Your trousers, Sir, are…” She waved her arms vaguely, as if the word she was trying to catch was a butterfly, “Magnificent!”

“Magnificent!” bellowed The Dean “My trousers are magnificent!”

In honour of the great Scottish drink that was fuelling the evening, and Deputy Head Porter’s own Highland ancestry, a rousing chorus of the underappreciated ditty, ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ commenced and continued for rather longer than was decent.

When they had exhausted themselves and the whiskey, The Dean took to his desk and eventually produced an elderly looking bottle of crème de menthe. An evil-looking drink at the best of times, goodness knows the wisdom of partaking in such a refreshment after a bottle and a half of scotch. Having neither the capacity nor the desire to rinse their current drinking implements, The Dean and Deputy Head Porter chose to drink directly from the dusty yet ornate bottle.

“Come now my dear girl,” began The Dean, passing the alchemic vessel to his companion. “You didn’t come here to talk about my trousers, did you?”

Deputy Head Porter suppressed an un-ladylike belch that was bubbling in her throat and shook her head.

“No, Sir. I came here because you invited me. And to tell you about the Lord Layton.”

The Dean slowly cast his eyes towards the oak beamed ceiling in thought.

“Yes. But no, not that. The other thing. Before the singing.”

“Oh, that” replied Deputy Head Porter. “You have to promise you won’t breathe a word of this to anyone.”

The Dean clasped his right hand to his chest and screwed his eyes shut

“You have my word, as a gentleman” he garbled.

“It was just that… just… you know, I think I am wasting my life as Deputy Head Porter, you know? I had such hopes and dreams for myself, you know? I had a career, I had everything! And now I’m here. Shuffling keys and… and eating things. Sir – there is only one thing for it. You have to make me Head Porter!”

The Dean’s immediate reaction was not quite what Deputy Head Porter had been hoping for. He burst into deep, echoing laughter and slapped his thigh vigorously. Deputy Head Porter was a little put out, but unrepentant.

“I just think I am capable of more than being Head Porter’s whipping boy”

“Whipping girl” corrected The Dean.

“Whatever.”

“How much do you love me?”

“What?” Deputy Head Porter was suddenly shaken into something approaching sobriety.

“You said I had marvellous trousers and you loved me. How much?”

“Oh! Loads.”

“I love you loads too. You know what, Deputy Head Porter? You should be the Dean of College!” And he deftly scooped up his mortarboard from the desk and presented it, albeit rather shakily, to a stunned Deputy Head Porter.

For reasons best known to those choose to combine whiskey and crème de menthe, items of clothing were exchanged and new positions implemented. The Dean interpreted his new role as Deputy Head Porter as doing the exact opposite of what he was instructed. At first, Deputy Head Porter found this amusing. Eventually, when it came to the passing of the bottle, it became rather irritating.

As the newly-appointed Dean of College, Deputy Head Porter immediately ordered the execution of almost everyone. The actual Dean delighted in this and, bowler hat wedged uncomfortably on his head, agreed to carry out every assignation by his own fair hand.

Sometime soon after, The Dean and Deputy Head Porter found their way to the armchair and the settee respectively. It had been a long night and starlight had given way to the very beginnings of dusk. Unconsciousness was the only logical conclusion, but not before a solemn pact was sworn never to speak of these revelations again. Particularly to other members of The Committee For The Prevention Of Drunken Behaviour.

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