Penelope’s Favour

The story so far… Head Porter is embarking on a continually disastrous mission to find true love. Meanwhile, The Dean is receiving hate mail from an unknown and barely literate source. More importantly, the Old College Choir is in disarray having been commandeered by the ridiculously untalented Master’s Wife, but Deputy Head Porter and Professor VJ Duke have devised a plan to engage the services of an ex-choir member. Organ Scholar has managed to convince the delightful Penelope to assist, but first she wants a favour…


Favours for students invariably make me uneasy. They are rarely reasonable and often involve a larger degree of compromise than is strictly fair. However, if we want to save the reputation of the Choir I don’t see that we have much choice.

“It’s only a small favour,” says Organ Scholar, somewhat unconvincingly. “All it will take is a quiet word with The Dean.”

“Words with The Dean are neither small, nor quiet” I reply, folding my arms. “What sort of words did Penelope have in mind?”

“When Hershel graduated in the Spring, The Dean banned him from ever returning to Old College. He has been away travelling since then but now wants to return to resume his relationship with Penelope. She would really love it if he could come and visit her at College.”

A weary-sounding sigh escapes my lips and I feel a twinge of despair. Hershel was a brilliant but problematic student during his time at Old College and was a regular at receiving the hairdryer treatment from The Dean. A combination of elaborate pranks and relentlessly obstinate behaviour made him very unpopular amongst the senior Fellowship and I had one or two run-ins with him myself. I am in no mood to bargain for his reprieve, particularly given the disposition of The Dean just lately.

Professor Duke seems to read my frame of mind directly.

“Oh, what a horrid thing,” he says. “The Dean usually never changes his mind, but she wants a favor. What a predicament. A favor is like a cherry sucker, not…this! But, if we can arrange it all, she’ll help us?”

Organ Scholar nods emphatically.

“Oh, absolutely, aye. I think, deep down, she wants to help the Choir.”

“I only believe that for a minute. After all, she’s not doing it for free.” The Professor pauses for a moment and I can almost hear the whirring of cogs beneath his top hat. “Now here’s a sudden thought: I’d say that Hershel’s presence could be of great benefit to our cause. Wouldn’t you say so, Deputy Head Porter?”

I have to think about this for a moment. The presence of Hershel is indicative of many things but benefits are few and far between, from my experience.

“I would be interested to hear the reasons behind your thinking, Professor.”

“Yes, well, I’d tell them to you, but I can’t right now,” he replies. “This professor happens to have a lecture I must run to. Now, while I’m gone, please keep Head Porter from the dating scene. It’s not fair to the ladies.”

Touching the brim of his hat and smiling benignly, the Professor takes his leave of us and bounds off towards the lecture theatre. Organ Scholar watches him go.

“What does he actually lecture about?” he asks.

“Do you know, I’m really not sure” I reply, truthfully. “But he certainly knows a lot about things I’ve never even heard of.”

“So, what should I do now?”

“Go and tell Penelope that we agree to her request – but I need good notice of Hershel’s arrival, okay? Bring her up to speed on the Choir Competition – I take it she is familiar with the piece?”

“Of course, it’s Tavener’s ‘Hymn To The Mother Of God’!” He says this as if it is a ditty I should be humming all the time. I take his word for it.

“Good,” I say, nodding. “I suppose the next thing is to see if she can get a half decent tune out of the tone-deaf buggers. Rather her than me. Anyway. I’m off to see The Dean.”

“Oh, do you think you can talk him round about Hershel?” Organ Scholar’s eyes widen in surprise.

“I’m not banking on it,” I reply, glumly. “But there might be another way.”


  1. Good to know what the hair dryer treatment is – I guess I gave a few of those to my kids! You’ve left us with a lot of ????? this time. Can’t wait to meet Hershel and find out what advantage he might bring to the situation.

    1. I have been on the end of a few hairdryer treatments myself. Would love to see you in action – I bet the kids didn’t misbehave again! All will be revealed, of course. It will be good to have Hershel back, he is such fun to write.

    2. I’ve been thinking…did you mention the Professor is American? We could translate a story to a US campus!
      Maybe include a transatlantic journey of some sort? Needs a lot of thought!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s