Time was when many of the parties I attended featured a bout of fisticuffs of some description. People may say that this is a sign of a mis-spent youth; I beg to differ. Partying and fighting is a very apt way to spend one’s youth, as such things are most calumnious when carried into proper adulthood. One needs to get that sort of thing out of the way early on. However, something tells me an imminent return to such times is upon us.
Professor Duke opens the door to reveal the mystery person who has been taking liberties with his doorbell. It is none other than The Master’s Wife, who at least seems to be entering into the spirit of things; she is wearing a costume. I say ‘wearing’ – this is a generous term for the adornment of three sheer scarves draped artfully across her body and the type of shoes my mother warned me about. Whatever she has come as is clearly a character that is very short on clothing.
“Good evening, daaarrrrlings!”
“Bloody hell,” Organ Scholar gasps. “Who invited her? And what… what is she… I mean… is that a costume?”
“Avert your eyes, Organ Scholar,” I reply, taking a large mouthful of unusual beverage. “This is no sight for a young gentleman.”
“Oh, just you, dadblameit,” sighs the Professor. “I thought it might’ve been a ghoul or something rather terrifyingly interesting. The Professor would tell you to come in, but you weren’t invited, see. And you aren’t really wearing anything of note, double-see.”
“But the dear Head Porter is here, isn’t that right?” She replies, her perfect frozen features managing a hint of a smirk. “And I cannot believe he would want to be at such an event unaccompanied by a lady.”
“Well maybe he’s got…a lady!” Professor Duke flaps his habit viciously in an attempt to scare her off. “But here’s the thing, I don’t think you’re a lady. Ladies don’t wear nothing, they wear something. Plus, we’re stock filled with ladies. Too many ladies. Ladies coming out of the rat holes—as they say.”
“Oh, but surely, my dear sweet Professor, this eclectic ensemble proves that I am very much all woman…”
She leans in close to him, her breath on his neck as the Professor very nearly cartwheels backwards in an attempt to avoid her advances. It’s no good. She is determined to come in.
Across the room, Head Porter’s face has adopted a similar shade to that of his milkman costume. His conversational companions have not yet noted the new arrival and he appears to be plotting an escape route. But she has him in her sights. And it seems that there can be no escape from The Master’s Wife.
She stalks across the room towards where Head Porter cowers like a hunted animal, flanked by Headmistress and The Dean. How she can even walk in those shoes is something of a mystery but that is the least of my worries as I place my drink on the sideboard and hurry after her. I motion to the Professor to join me, which he does, albeit reluctantly.
To my great surprise, Head Mistress doesn’t bat an eyelid at the half-naked harridan but instead scrutinises the Professor and I with great interest. A flicker of recognition creeps with a smile across her face.
“Now, aren’t you two the waiters from the French restaurant?” She asks, with a wink.
“We could be, I’m not sure, though,” replies the Professor. “This Professor usually gets mistaken for lots of people, just because. Plus, I hear being a Professor, and a Deputy Head Porter, pays way better than waiting tables, don’t you know.”
Headmistress throws back her head and releases a laugh so filthy you could grow cress in it. She is an intelligent woman and I rather wondered if she had clocked our ruse when she saw us on the River. The game, as they say, seems to be very much up.
“Oh, I think it is dreadfully sweet of you,” she says. “Looking out for your friend like that. But I assure you, Head Porter needs no protecting from me. My intentions are mostly honourable.”
“Actually,” I say “It was more of case of protecting you from…”
“This chitter-chatter is boring me dreadfully,” The Master’s Wife snaps suddenly. “And men dressed as nuns are frightfully offensive to me…”
“Hey!” I am most put out by this remark. But she is in no mood to discuss the matter and, ignoring me, turns to Headmistress.
“I thank you for keeping my Head Porter warm for me but surely you can see that he now has no further need of your company.”
Headmistress narrows her eyes and shoots The Master’s Wife quite the most fearsome and diabolical look I have ever witnessed. Which is quite something when you consider how well I know The Dean. And speak of the devil, he joins the fray with aplomb.
“Madame, The Master’s Wife you may very well be but I can tell you we don’t like this sort of thing at our parties,” The Dean declares. “Do you not think it most unseemly to continue with this carry-on?”
Now, ignoring me is one thing. People do it all the time. But ignoring The Dean can only ever end badly. The Master’s Wife remains engaged only with Headmistress.
“I shall ask you again to step aside, lady, if that is what you are.”
“I think not,” retorts Headmistress, chin jutting defiantly. “Who even are you? Ridiculous creature.”
The Master’s Wife does not take too kindly to this rebuff and shrieks, launching her fuchsia talons towards the truculent face of Headmistress. The whole thing happens in such a flash that I have barely time to move but Headmistress is quicker. Deftly catching the arm of her assailant, she twists the wrist backwards with her left hand whilst maintaining momentum with her right, which lands as a furiously balled fist right onto the dainty nose of The Master’s Wife.
The room fills with horrified gasps as an explosion of crimson erupts in spectacular fashion, great thick globules finding their way to the floor.
“My rug is now suitably ruined, the sudden,” mutters the Professor, sadly. “I knew I should’ve tackled her the moment she pushed past me. Maybe I would’ve broken one of her bones. Cool.”
“Now, now ladies,” splutters The Dean, evidently taken aback by this sudden and unexpected violence. “Let’s not make a scene.”
“Quite right,” replies Headmistress. “I say we take this outside. Right now.”