You know, there are some things for which I just have to accept that I am too old. As we return to the welcome embrace of Old College, I come to realise that staying up all night is one of them. Although, I have had to endure probably the worst fancy dress party ever held and that is bound to take the wind out of anyone’s sails. None more so than three of the guests, who I imagine will be waking any moment on the floor of Professor Duke’s rooms. I am not particularly relishing that event, but it seems there is no avoiding it as that is exactly where we are headed.
“You’re looking like a dead flower, you know,” says the Professor. A night of nun-related shenanigans certainly hasn’t tempered his spirit. “Look forward to that competition which is in a few hours. That’s what I’m doing. Must convince yourself of these things, see.”
A small, involuntary whimper escapes my lips. I mean, it should be fun, certainly. But sleep might be better. The Professor shakes his head.
“Oh dadblameit. You’re just mad you look like a nun. I am, too. But you can’t let these trivial things bother you. The Master’s Wife is going to be escorted by Head Porter. That should be a thing or a few. And remember the itchy powder? Haha. That’s a triumph, I tell you.”
He has a point. I cannot deny that it will be very satisfying to watch those smug buggers from Hawkins squirm. Hey ho. A nice cup of tea and I shall be as perky as a perky thing.
Someone who is decidedly perkier than she should be is Headmistress. On entering the Professor’s rooms, we find her perched happily on the arm of the enormous settee, chatting away and taking frequent sips from what looks like The Dean’s whiskey. This is a risky manoeuvre on her part, but as The Dean appears to still be in heavy slumber, a cushion propped thoughtfully under his head, perhaps it’s worth the risk.
Head Porter, who has now abandoned his milkman outfit, slumps on the settee, regarding Headmistress with adoring but heavy eyes. He snatches an envious glance at The Dean, who is making a noise like logs being sawn. There is no sign of The Master’s Wife or Organ Scholar.
“Goodness!” exclaims Professor Duke. “What’s up in my rooms?”
“Oh there you are,” replies Headmistress “Where have you two been? Look, someone has eaten nearly all of the cake.”
I look across to the ragged remains of the green cake residing reproachfully on the coffee table. Some crumbs have found their way onto the rug, which won’t please the Professor at all. Who ate that?
“Now, Headmistress, I feel like I should maybe apologize,” says the Professor. “You know, for putting stuff in your drink. But you see, if I apologized for real, I wouldn’t be a rogue anymore. And we all know I’m a rogue of many sorts. Hope you didn’t mind, though, still.”
“Oh, I didn’t mind that at all,” Headmistress purrs in response. “It is a party after all. It reminds me of the Seventies.”
There is a question that I know I must ask. I do not necessarily want to know the actual answer, but there is nothing for it.
“What have you done with The Master’s Wife?”
Glances are exchanged between Head Porter and Headmistress. I knew I shouldn’t have asked.
“Me and Organ Scholar carried her back to The Lodge and tucked her up in bed whilst she was still out of it,” Head Porter replies.
There is a tutting from Headmistress.
“Organ Scholar and I, dear.”
“Right. Anyway, I think we got her in there without anyone noticing. Then I sent off young Organ Scholar to get some rest.”
“But what about her nose?” I ask. “Surely she’s going to remember getting punched in the face?”
Headmistress throws back her head and fills the room with a throaty laugh.
“I rather hope she does remember it!” Headmistress exclaims, winking at Head Porter. “Cheeky moo, she is.”
Well, that is fair enough, I suppose. I am too tired to contemplate it further and make the suggestion that those of us still conscious should find our way to our beds while we still can. Head Porter grasps this opportunity eagerly, heaving himself from the settee and placing a protective arm around Headmistress. Bidding us goodnight (which should more properly be a good morning) they leave the Professor and me with the conundrum that is the sleeping Dean. I spent a night with The Dean, once. It is not something I would heartily recommend but thankfully I was too intoxicated to remember much about it.
After some brief discussion, we decide that it is in all probability better to leave him where he is rather than risk moving him. He could awaken unexpectedly at any moment and if there is one thing sure to aggravate The Dean, it is the unexpected.
Deciding that there has been enough blood spilt for one night, there is little left to do but beat a hasty retreat to the Land of Nod for whatever time can be stolen from the approaching dawn.
The plan has been executed. All we can do now is hope that it works.