Whilst always delighted to be in the scintillating company of young Organ Scholar, I am rather perturbed that our unexpected addition to the table will delay Professor Duke’s revelations about his mysterious hat. There is clearly an interesting story behind it and my unquenchable thirst for knowledge has a particular desire to be quenched, I must say.
As the Professor and Organ Scholar discuss the nuances of musical theory, my mind wanders to things beyond the riddles of bloodied messages and haunted hats and into the realms of knowledge itself. They say that knowledge is power and if such a thing is true, it would explain mankind’s relentless quest for it. At Old College I am surrounded by the phenomena; centuries of searching for innumerable truths have left the weighty notions of knowledge almost palpable.
Not that this obstinate endeavour has done us too many favours, it would seem. Perhaps too many pursue knowledge with the less-than-noble intention of gaining power and too few strive to attain wisdom. If knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit and wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad, mankind needs to make quite the leap between the two before we reach enlightenment.
Before I can begin to ponder what this leap might be, our starters arrive. Delivered to us by the blandly charming Waitress, the offerings presented to us are interesting to say the least. I am certain that I ordered mozzarella sticks but before me I seem to have some kind of bread crumbed bullets. Organ Scholar is less hesitant and he has already taken a mouthful of whatever it is he ordered before the plate is fully placed upon the table. Professor Duke pokes warily at his victuals with a butter knife.
“What have you got there?” I ask, bravely taking a bite from my own plate.
“I’d hoped it was calamari,” he replies. “But I rather suspect it to be deep fried rubber bands. What a thing.”
“Mine was champion,” says organ Scholar, noisily wiping his lips. His plate has been practically licked clean. “Mind you, I am bloody hungry.”
“I fear I’m falling behind in the race,” says the Professor, warily eyeing the most rapidly-emptied plate the restaurant has ever seen. “But let’s have speaks about the choir and whatnot. I’m thinking we should track down the old choir and see what they’re about. See what they have to say. And generally, just see. My idea, you see, is to either convince them to train up their replacements or – better still – to infiltrate them.”
“Sneak some of them in to the new Choir?” I say, valiantly chomping on some surprisingly rigid mozzarella. “That’s not a bad idea, you know.”
“Bad ideas sometimes squeak into here, but I throw them back out,” the Professor taps at his temple. “Organ Scholar, you must know the fellows we need. Is this a possibility, my man?”
“To be honest, most of them are quite glad to be out of it all, what with the sudden disappearance of Music Professor,” Organ Scholar replies. “It’s put the wind up them. But there’s maybe one or two I could have a word with. Deputy Head Porter, you know Penelope?”
Indeed I do. Penelope is the starry-eyed girlfriend of College prankster and some-time Porters’ assistant Hershel. Apparently, she has the voice of an angel. The face of one too, if memory serves. She could be perfect!
“Great, see what you can do,” I reply. “Get her onboard and maybe she will talk round some of the others.”
Suddenly, a lethal ring of deep fried rubber band hurtles past my ear and careens into an ice cream sundae three tables behind me. Professor Duke looks up guiltily.
“Goodness! Where did that come from?”
This seafood bombardment has caught the attention of Waitress who scowls in our general direction and tut-tuts, quite to our surprise.
“I’m sorry about that a bit,” the Professor attempts to make amends. “But I’ve heard word that the food is dynamic in these parts.”
“Well, it certainly is this evening!” Waitress replies, a little testily. “You are my second customer who wouldn’t keep their food on their plate.”
“See, that’s the thing, I’m thinking the plates might be too small. But anyways and some, I think that was our buddy (and his lady friend) you’re referring too,” says the Professor. “Tell me, where you there? Did you see what happened?”
“It was a very difficult thing not to see,” she continues. “The pair of them made a show of themselves all evening. Especially the woman. She was incredibly demanding about everything – no less than with the attentions of your friend. The poor old thing was terrified. I caught him sizing up the fire exit for a means of escape. When I came to clear away the starters she was on his lap and going at him like he was the main course. I hardly even got to serve the next dish when she started screaming, ripped the plate from my hand and threw the whole lot over him.”
I can’t help but laugh a little. Poor Head Porter!
“What happened then?” I ask.
“He ran away as fast as he could,” Waitress answers, grinning a little herself. “Left her to pay the bill. Serves her right, the crazy moo.”
Waitress takes our plates and bustles off towards the kitchens, leaving us to savour the mental scene that has been cast before us. I am the first to break from reverie.
“I think, without doubt, that we should not let Head Porter go on any more dates unchaperoned. Professor, you and I are going to have to accompany him on any and every romantic pursuit from now on.”
“We will have to,” he replies, nodding sagely. “We can spy from the bar or something. Intervene when necessary. Can’t have his reputation in tatters!”
So – there is a choir to convince, a Choir to rescue and a hapless lover to be saved from himself. Tonight we have our plates full in every sense of the word.