“Well, I certainly think that someone should explain!” exclaims The Dean, clearly becoming tetchy through tiredness and hunger. A large whiskey is way overdue also, which certainly won’t be helping matters.
“Now I shall a bit,” says Professor Duke, striding purposefully towards the centre of the room where the unfortunate King still lies unconscious. “Here it is: if the Villager and the Merchant arrived together it couldn’t possibly be either of those two. The Princess claims to have seen the Prince elsewhere at the time of the scream, so it could not have been him.”
“But wait,” I say, keen to have some involvement in proceedings, however small. “The Prince said that he heard the voice of a woman coming from the room – even though the Princess had not yet arrived.”
“Exactly right!” replies the Professor.
“Hang on, though,” The Dean interrupts. “According to the Knight, there was only himself and the Prince in the room when he arrived, isn’t that right?”
“That is correct,” replies the Prince, stiffly.
“And here is where the mistake is made, Mr. Dean,” the Professor says, much to The Dean’s chagrin. “But it is an easy mistake to make, even for a fellow as clever as yourself. Now then, take a look at this!”
The Professor approaches the Knight and deftly swipes the armoured helmet from his head. But… aha! I see. In fact, the helmet is removed from her head. A tumbling of auburn curls falls from beneath the helmet, framing a shocked and reddened face of a sturdy-looking young woman.
“I say that it was you, madam, who struck the King! And I know I’m right, so no debates, please.”
The Knight frowns hard at the Professor. He frowns back, even harder. It makes even myself a little unsteady, I must say. There is a stirring from the stricken King. The words are incomprehensible, especially in French, but I have no doubt that they are very rude ones. The Knight sighs.
“It’s no use, I cannot deny it,” she says, wearily. “It is true. We had a disagreement about the costumes for our next performance. After so much wine and singing, emotions were already uncontrollable and I struck the swine about the head. I didn’t mean any harm, it is the way I can be sometimes.”
“I say,” The Dean mutters to me. “These French are a feisty lot, aren’t they?”
“It certainly seems that way, Sir,” I reply. “I think it best we don’t upset them further.”
But The Dean ignores my advice and addresses the troupe, hands on hips and chin defiantly jutting.
“You people are perfectly beastly!” he announces, which is a bit rich coming from a man who oversees possibly the most violent College in England. “I should tell you that we three are here on highly important business. The prospect of being beaten in the head does not enthrall me whatsoever.”
“Zut Alors!” cries the Merchant. “Perhaps if you didn’t go around sticking your big stupid noses into matters that concern you not, the prospect of head-battering would not arise!”
“You dadblamed descendant of the fly!” exclaims Professor Duke. “The Dean has a perfectly delightful nose! I agree with you about the other thing, though.”
“Oh, that is absolutely IT!” The Dean roars. “You quislings are absolutely banned from Old College for absolutely ever! And ever! If you set foot on College grounds I shall have you shot. In fact, I shall shoot you myself.”
The Merchant and the Prince look as if they might be in the mood to return the threat, so I decide that the time has come to leave.
“We have an early start in the morning, chaps,” I say as calmly as possible. “What say we return to our own room and see about some food and rest, yes?”
“Good idea, I’m famished,” says the Professor. The Dean makes a sort of growling sound and stamps out of the room, deliberately causing the fittings to tremble in his wake.
Professor Duke and I scuttle after him as quickly as is polite. I rather fear that our bellicose neighbours were not grateful at all for our intervention. The Dean himself sulks for the remainder of the evening, even after several whiskies and a side of ham and cheese. The Professor lounges on his chaise longue, whistling tunes and telling himself jokes. I take a moment before sleeping to text Head Porter, to see how things are going back at the Lodge. All seems very much in order, in fact. He wishes me the best of luck for tomorrow, when we shall visit Chateau Chinon directly after breakfast.
He also has some other news.
It is quite the pleasure to fall asleep, wearing little but a smile, you know.