Emanating grim mordacity from the top of his raven-haired head to the very tips of his elegant Italian shoes, The Bursar emerges from the gloom of the dungeons. A mirthless smile clings spitefully to his lips as he appears to bathe in irascible delight at our collective consternation.
“Well, this is a surprise, Sir” I address The Bursar, folding my arms defiantly. “Not a particularly pleasant one, either.”
“Deputy Head Porter, you disappoint me,” he replies. “Have you not missed your Bursar during your Gallic gallivanting?
“Who is this ridiculous looking man?” asks the Curator, obviously unimpressed at the new arrival.
“I say to you now, garçon, that you must be careful how you form your subsequent utterances,” purrs The Bursar. “For it would be distressing to me if you were to embarrass yourself in the presence of your betters.”
The Curator furrows his brow in concentration. His English may well be perfect, but The Bursar’s communication style is baffling even to a native.
“You know,” says Professor Duke, “don’t pick on him too much. For one, he doesn’t like Old College too muchly much. And for two, your shoes are more pickable than anything ever, I fear.”
“He is another filthy, English pig-dog,” The Dean points out, helpfully. “Like us, from Old College. Although what the bugger is doing here is anyone’s guess, quite frankly.”
“Searching for the Holy Grail, just the same as you, The Dean.”
“Now hold on for a few,” says the Professor, raising an eyebrow “I’d thought the Grail quest you were going on involved digging up an ancient monastery underneath Apple Tree Court, or some such dadblamery like that…and…aha! By being here you’re admitting we were right all along! I feel smart, the sudden.”
The Bursar exults a cheerless chortle. I am getting rather irritated with these false displays of joviality, truth be told. The man seems to think himself an arch-villain. Perhaps he is. He certainly has the haircut for it.
“Can it really be ruminated that I would postulate the presence of the Grail beneath Apple Tree Court?”
The Professor leans close to me.
“What’s he saying?” he whispers.
The Bursar continues.
“That was an aberration of devilish design. You see, I have no intended persuasions of allowing a thing as inestimable as the Holy Grail to remain in a rancorous hovel such as Old College…”
“You stinking great bugger!” roars The Dean, purple with rage. “How dare you speak of our College in that way! I have a bloody good mind to punch you on the nose.”
“Quiet, you!” The Bursar retorts.
“Yes, hush,” I say to The Dean. “If we’re lucky, he might just reveal the intricacies of his fiendish plan before vowing to kill us all.”
“Hmm, that seems something of a risk,” replies The Dean, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “I am not in the mood to be killed. But I am rather interested to hear about the plan.”
“We could always hear the plan, then punch him in the nose, then escape from getting killed,” suggests the Professor.
“For many years I have been assembling my wits for this occasion, even forging partialities that stretch for decades spent in order to find the true resting place of the Holy Grail. But it is not for the glory of Old College that I do this, nor even for the sublimity of my own person -no!”
“I bet he’s doing it for his shoes,” suggests the Professor. He is duly ignored.
“Oh, your snivelling Master will receive a Grail from the very bowels of his paltry brain factory, a thing to satisfy his lust for dignity. As they dig the ground now, my men will place such an article in a place to be found – like a trinket in the sand!”
“Do you mean to say that you have been digging up the lawns knowing full well that the Grail isn’t even there?” The Dean huffs. “Head Gardener is going to be absolutely furious with you, you know.”
“He will never know a thing about it,” The Bursar continues, really getting a feel for the situation. The poor Curator is focusing very hard on his words, trying to keep up. He isn’t the only one. “The tongues to tell him shall be silenced this very day. The authentic Grail shall immediately be dispatched to my superiors in my motherland while the illegitimate bauble shall be lauded by the asinine thinkers of your fatuous institution.”
The Bursar pauses for what I can only assume to be dramatic effect. Actually, this is quite handy as it gives us a chance to try to exactly understand quite what he is getting at. Eventually, The Dean gamely has a stab at it.
“So, you are going to place an imitation Grail amongst the diggings at Old College, whilst sending the real Grail back to some unspecified country, presumably one for whom you have been spying or conducting other such nefarious duties?”
“Also, I am going to kill you all.”
“Very cunning,” I say, surprisingly unfazed by the casual threat to our lives. “The only problem is – we haven’t actually found the Grail.”
“Oui, it is true,” agrees the Curator, no doubt joining in at the first opportunity he has to actually understand what is being said. “The Grail, she was taken from here many years ago and returned to your confounded College.”
“Now now Bursar,” I say “No one actually ever says ‘curses’.”
“Silence, wench. There is no further recourse left open to me but to slaughter you all where you stand.”
“I am sure—if you have a good many thinks on the matter—you could think of another option,” but the Professor’s words fall on deaf ears.
The Bursar advances upon us.
He doesn’t get very far.
Rather unexpectedly, the Curator strides towards the murderous academic and punches him square in the face with such ferocity I think for a moment that The Bursar no longer has a nose. He falls flat to floor, unconscious.
The Curator, tenderly rubbing the knuckles of his right hand, turns to us.
“Mes amis,” the Curator says, his voice low and soft. “I do not know who this man is, but he is a dangerous lunatic certainly. He must never lay his crazy hands upon the Holy Grail. I bring to you now an offer. I shall keep him here in my dungeon until we have all forgotten about him and you shall return safely to England.”
“That’s jolly good of you,” says The Dean.
“But in return you must make me a promise,” the Curator licks his lips nervously. “You must swear to return the Grail to Chinon if ever you find where in your College it is hidden. Convenu?”
The Dean holds out his hand and fixes the Curator with a hardy gaze.
“As a man of my word… you have my word, sir.”
The Curator accepts his hand and shakes it firmly.
“Very well,” he replies. “Then it is done. Hurry now, from this place, return with speed to merry England. But – never forget the bargain you have made with me here this day.”
Not needing to be told twice, we hasten from the dungeons and out of Chateau Chinon with the intention of collecting our things from the inn and returning to Old College with great alacrity.
The conversation on the journey home should be very interesting.