A Friend Returns–PL

The professor was about a bit, bits, and little bits ago. I visited my friends at Old College. (A lovely place.) Definitely stop by PorterGirl’s blog here. I love what she does, and–adventure awaits!

[The following story is written by PorterGirl.]

***

On a bright and shiny spring day such as today, there is surely no finer place to be than The Master’s garden. I consider my great fortune at having a job which allows me unprecedented access to places of such unusual great beauty. And consider also, if you will, the very nature of the task that brings me to this charming spot – the enquiry of a long ­forgotten gate that doesn’t go anywhere! The key to which someone, for reasons best known to themselves, has seen fit to remove secretly from the Porters’ Lodge. I shake my head and indulge myself in a little chuckle. It certainly is a funny old world, within the walls of Old College. So funny, in fact, that it is almost enough to make a girl forget about the dead Fellows scattered carelessly about the place. Almost.

I am no horticulturalist, and so cannot properly identify the cheerful specimens currently occupying the beds and pots in The Master’s garden. But let me tell you, there are some fabulous blooms on display. A few early bees are fastidiously busying themselves about a bush adorned with blueish purple trumpet-­like flowers, while a flush of yellow tumbles from a solid-­looking urn, the rounded heads putting me in mind of bulging fried eggs. My colleague and sometime drinking partner, Head Gardener, really has done himself proud.

But I am not here to admire the view, I have business to attend to. I walk along the back wall of the garden and at first I am stumped. There is no sign of a gate, nor sign of a sensible place where one might be. Parts of the elderly wall are covered in a thick ivy, which appears to be the only thing holding it up in some places. Maybe the gate hides beneath the greenery? I roll up my sleeves and tentatively rustle around a little. Unconvinced that this is the best way forward, I am considering another course of action when I am abruptly disturbed.

“Goodness me! I think you could be bothering that wall, you know.”

Leaping figuratively out my skin and actually about a foot in the air, my shock and surprise turn to delight when I see the familiar figure standing behind me. The top hat worn at a jaunty angle atop a face full of genius and mischief, a dramatic pose struck and all wrapped up in a suit so sharp you could cut cheese with it – it can only be one man.

“Professor VJ Duke!” I exclaim with glee. “What on Earth are you doing here?”

“I’m just strolling about, you know. I do that from time to time. What are you up to?” replies the Professor, stepping forward to examine the wall with me.

“Oh, I’m looking for a gate,” I answer. “There’s an old gate somewhere along this wall.”

“I really don’t think I should believe that.” Professor VJ Duke seems to think this is funny. “Where do you suppose the gate would lead?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It can’t lead anywhere, except straight into the water. It’s some old access point from The River or something. It’s an Old College thing.”

“Well, the professor shall help. Perhaps there’ll be a treasure behind the gate;” and with the dexterity and elegance of a magician, the Professor flicks up his sleeves and gamely rustles around beneath the ivy.

“Anyway, Professor,” I continue. “What are you really doing here? I can’t believe you’re just strolling about so far from home.”

“Well, the last time Mr. Dean—I mean, The Dean—and I spoke he said something about a mystery going on here. And this professor was passing through, so I thought I should help a bit. Who knows? There could be some fighting.” 
Professor Duke begins to sing and hum, and hum and sing, “Living Inside Myself” by Gino Vannelli as he tears away at the greenery, theatrically tossing it aside and, occasionally, over the wall entirely.

“Good noodles and a sweet-sauce! Here’s your gate, for sure, Deputy Head Porter!”and he presents it with a flourish. It is still mostly hidden, but he has uncovered enough for me to see that it is, undeniably, a gate.

“Thanks Professor, well done,” I say. But this isn’t really that helpful. Whoever took the key to the gate either hasn’t tried to use it yet or couldn’t find the gate. No one has been near this for decades.

“Well welly! Let’s see what lays behind it. Perhaps a dragon—or treasure!” Professor VJ Duke says with some excitement.

“I haven’t got the key, it’s gone missing,” I reply glumly. “Anyway, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

“Rats and a Heifer. Well, it’s just as well. I’m not in the Battle Mood, and one must be to go through there, I’m sure,” the Professor says ruefully. “Well, how about we go and see The Dean?”

As I lead the Professor across the courtyards to The Dean’s staircase, he chats happily to me about his many adventures and travels. Although I have been unable to quite put my finger on what this Professor’s area of speciality might be, he certainly has an interesting and varied time of it, with his ‘research’.

On returning to The Dean’s rooms, I find him in a much happier composure than when I left him. The whiskey bottle is nowhere to be seen and the beginnings of disorder are creeping back in from the edges of the room. It is strange how he tidies when he is unsettled. But anyway. The Dean looks up with some surprise to see me accompanying Professor Duke. A broad grin breaks across his face and he gets up to shake his friend warmly by the hand.

“P. VJ!” he exclaims “So good of you to come at such short notice! It is marvellous to see you, dear boy.”

“Greetings, and so many of them, we better not begin saying them! Great to see you. I can’t stay too long, but I’ll give you any help I can. Professorish help, that is.”

“Right!” The Dean rubs his hands together. “Deputy Head Porter, I’ve given P. VJ here the run down on our situation here in College. I can tell you, I’ve been doing a bit of digging and there have been a fair few instances over the years of Fellows expiring in the same manner as our dear Professor K – peacefully in their sleep. No suspicious circumstances attributed to any of them – even the younger Fellows. Paperwork all completed by College doctors then the chaps are popped in the hole as quick as you like.”

“Aha! Fellows popped off and then all the details popped in the hole. No time for investigations, I suppose? Or for the authorities to look into the matter?” Professor Duke says, stroking his chin.

“Colleges ARE the authorities in this town,” The Dean replies grimly. “They are more powerful than you’ll ever know.”

“But Senior Bursar didn’t go very peacefully,” I point out “Any mention of untimely accidents or things of that nature?”

“That’s a good point,” says The Dean “And no – nothing like Senior Bursar’s demise.”

“Senior Bursar’s death seems a bit risky to me,” the Professor muses “It’s a bit of a noisy, messy death—bummer of a death—compared to Professor K’s. Especially if you consider that ‘peacefully in their sleep’ seems to be the fashionable way to do away with people around here. Something’s up”.

“Then there’s the thing about Senior Bursar having his kettle replaced just days before he was electrocuted,” I say “And now the missing key. A key that is of absolutely no use to anyone.”

“Keys, kettle and Professor K – do you suppose there’s a clue in there?” suggests The Dean, more joking that not I’m sure.

“I think there could be. But…K – it’s the chemical symbol for potassium?” Professor Duke is thinking fast. “Potassium cyanide – a poison! Professor K was a chemist, was he not?”

“That’s right!” The Dean cries excitedly.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I interject, feeling the need to reign this in before everyone gets too excited. “I think the ‘K’ thing might just be a coincidence. Let’s focus on the kettle and the key.”

“You say the key is of no use to anyone?” asks the Professor.

“That’s right,” I reply. “You saw the gate in the garden wall.”

“But what if the uselessness of the key is exactly what makes it so useful!”

“What do you mean, Professor?” I ask.

“Prehaps that key is used so little, no one would notice if it went missing. Not for a while, anyway. But maybe there is a key that is very useful and is used often. And if it went missing, that would be discovered almost immediately. Maybe the useless key is sitting in the place of a useful key – hiding its absence by taking its place.”

There is a brief silence while we consider this.

“That’s a bloody good point,” says The Dean, impressed. “But what key?”

Professor VJ Duke begins to fidget uncomfortably and checks his watch, irritated.

“My dears, I am already unforgivably late for my engagement,” he says. “I have to take my leave right away. The key, here, is the missing key. Find out which key is really missing. And the kettle – why would someone want to use a kettle as an instrument of death when poison has worked so well in the past? I hope I have been of some help. But I am a dull sort of fellow.”

“P. VJ, you have been a hero, as ever.” The Dean gushes as he shakes his friend’s hand once again. “Deputy Head Porter will see you out.”

I take Professor VJ Duke to Sprockett Gate rather than arouse Head Porter’s attention by taking him through the Porters’ Lodge. As I hold open the huge and heavy wooden doors for him to take his leave, the Professor gives me a smile as big as the moon.

“It’s been great to see you, Professor,” I say, then a little sadly “It’s a shame you can’t stay longer.”

“Oh dear! It is a pity, but I’ll come back! Promise,” he replies, his eyes twinkling “Besides, I’m sure you and The Dean will have this nonsense all figured out in no time, even without my help. You’re a very smart lady.”

“Oh, it’s not just that…I…” But I can’t think how to suitably end the sentence. “Travel safely, won’t you Professor,” is the best I can manage.

Professor VJ Duke tips his hat to me and smiles again as he strides merrily and hastily out into The City streets. I have a feeling I shall see him again. I only hope that time is not too far away.

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109 Responses to “A Friend Returns–PL”


  1. 1 erinkenobi2893 April 21, 2014 at 23:56

    The idea about the key–brilliant! :-D

    • 2 Professor VJ Duke April 22, 2014 at 14:05

      Many thanks, Erin!

      • 3 erinkenobi2893 April 22, 2014 at 15:09

        :-D

  2. 4 Susan P April 16, 2014 at 23:38

    Now, Professor, how is your jet lag? I think you got out of that a hero – which means you got out in time. Was it raining ?

    • 5 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:11

      Well, the professor has always had problems telling the time. That’s why I didn’t ask PorterGirl to dinner. Audrey said I should have. Should I have? I feel so silly now.

      That’s true about the hero part–especially where the professor is concerned.

      It was raining a bit. But it was also sunny.

      • 6 Susan P April 17, 2014 at 19:46

        Well, it would have been a kind gesture to invite her out to eat. Maybe next time.

      • 7 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 15:54

        Oh dear. You should have told me.

      • 8 Susan P April 18, 2014 at 16:22

        And then again, maybe you saved yourself getting a fork in your hand because you were trying to grab some of her lunch. I don’t know. Do you?

      • 9 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 16:48

        *laughing lots* I wouldn’t do that, would I?

      • 10 Susan P April 18, 2014 at 16:55

        You might…and some people can tell when you are thinking about doing such a dastardly thing. Amelia strikes me as the type.

      • 11 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 17:31

        You probably slap my hand if I did. Do you think Amelia is one to stay away from? I do.

      • 12 Susan P April 18, 2014 at 17:54

        I’ll admit that Harry nearly caught it on occasion. I took to eating food I know he doesn’t like just so I could have a decent meal. smiling

      • 13 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 18:01

        *laughing lots* I wouldn’t do such wicked things… *begins to wonder about himself though*

      • 14 Susan P April 18, 2014 at 18:14

        Think well, Professorish person.

      • 15 Professor VJ Duke April 21, 2014 at 12:49

        It’s hard to think, you know.

      • 16 Susan P April 21, 2014 at 14:18

        You think?

      • 17 Professor VJ Duke April 21, 2014 at 20:50

        *laughing* No, I don’t. Is it that obvious?

      • 18 Susan P April 22, 2014 at 23:53

        I think that your problem is not thinking. It’s thinking too hard.

      • 19 Professor VJ Duke April 23, 2014 at 00:47

        Haha. I think way too hard.

      • 20 Susan P April 23, 2014 at 17:35

        I knew that. So do I.

      • 21 Professor VJ Duke April 23, 2014 at 18:57

        *laughing* Oh well, I say!

      • 22 Susan P April 24, 2014 at 23:59

        It’s a sign of genius. Or Genies. I never can remember which.

      • 23 Professor VJ Duke April 25, 2014 at 13:03

        I’ve always wanted to be a Genie.

      • 24 Susan P April 25, 2014 at 14:53

        *poof* you are now a genie.

      • 25 Professor VJ Duke April 25, 2014 at 18:08

        *begins granting himself some wishes*

  3. 26 ladycheetah7 April 16, 2014 at 23:38

    A face full of genius and mischief. Yah, that sounds about right. The mischievious genius.

    • 27 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:10

      But the professor is dull, you know. What that’s word you have for me, Lady?

      • 28 ladycheetah7 April 17, 2014 at 16:31

        Ah..deceptively clever…lol

      • 29 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 15:25

        You know I actually like that description.

  4. 30 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 16, 2014 at 22:20

    I think the professor should also look a bit closer into the other bits of mystery looming over there at the college.

    The professor needs to hone in on his flirting skills a bit, I think. By the end, it was quite clear that the deputy head porter would like to be asked to dinner, just a heads up. *Audith sees such things easily* * happy to help a fellow woman out*

    • 31 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:05

      Isn’t it quite thrilling! I probably should. Would you go back with me?

      The professor can’t flirt. It’s rather like a law, don’t you think? Oh no! Really? Now I feel so bad! I should have taken PorterGirl to dinner. Oh dear. What do I do now?

      • 32 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 17, 2014 at 17:24

        Well, the secret garden is a favorite childhood book of mine, and the gate reminded me of it. Well, Duke, I um, yes, I’d go back with you.

        I’d say it is a very good idea to keep your wits about you, yes. I am not going to help you take two woman to dinner! Audith shan’t not even little bits!! *slams the door* *laughing as she does it* *PHEWY*

      • 33 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 15:43

        You know, I should read it. I never have. I’d probably like it lots. Or I’d rip it.

        *laughing lots* Well–let’s go to dinner with the PF, then.

      • 34 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 18, 2014 at 16:24

        You should read it, Duketh. I’d let you rip it. I see through your ripping sometimes, to see the marvel in your eys. (Is so using that in a poem…!)

        *………………..* The PL family….. *…………* *decides that sounds nice and opens the door*

      • 35 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 16:50

        *shock* Well…it’s true. Some books I’ve ripped, I’ve loved. What an interest that you know. (That would be amazing, I think.)

        What?! Aren’t I getting all your thoughts?

      • 36 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 18, 2014 at 17:03

        I know you have, I can tell. Like I’ve said, we’re eye to eye, Sir. No denying that. ( I am trying to write a poem, but I’m sooooooo busy at the moment. Hahaha. Commenting, and all that.) (I’m going to make sure it is amazing, actually.)

        Yes, I suppose you are, Duke.

      • 37 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 17:38

        It’s a wonder, for sure. (I’m sure it will be amazing. They all are.)

        But what did all the dots mean?

      • 38 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 18, 2014 at 17:42

        That was the silent treatment… *laughing*

      • 39 Professor VJ Duke April 18, 2014 at 18:00

        And all girls do that.

      • 40 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 19, 2014 at 14:56

        I suppose. Some more than others, but I was just being funny with my silent treatment.

      • 41 Professor VJ Duke April 21, 2014 at 13:11

        It made me laugh, you know! The professor wouldn’t dream of that.

      • 42 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 21, 2014 at 13:47

        You wouldn’t dream of giving the silent treatment? I can’t imagine giving you the silent treatment ever.

      • 43 Professor VJ Duke April 21, 2014 at 20:38

        Aw, that’s nice of you, for sure. Yes, I don’t think the professor is capable of such things. But, of course, funny silent treatments are just fine.

      • 44 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 21, 2014 at 20:45

        Good

      • 45 Professor VJ Duke April 21, 2014 at 21:11

        *smiles professorishly ’cause he knows what’s up*

      • 46 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 21, 2014 at 21:29

        Does not.

      • 47 Professor VJ Duke April 22, 2014 at 13:50

        I think I do!

      • 48 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 22, 2014 at 15:44

        Are you sure??

      • 49 Professor VJ Duke April 23, 2014 at 00:30

        Positive!

      • 50 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 23, 2014 at 03:05

        Tell me then….

      • 51 Professor VJ Duke April 23, 2014 at 18:28

        Oh no. I can’t do that.

      • 52 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 23, 2014 at 19:59

        You can, just won’t, be clear, professor.

      • 53 Professor VJ Duke April 24, 2014 at 14:17

        I’m always clear!

      • 54 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 24, 2014 at 19:23

        *pulls out the dagger and hopes this goes quick as she prepares to die*

      • 55 Professor VJ Duke April 24, 2014 at 23:21

        Jehoshaphat! You’re going to kill me!

      • 56 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 25, 2014 at 02:43

        No, I’m killing myself. *dramatic sigh*

      • 57 Professor VJ Duke April 25, 2014 at 13:12

        *knocks the knife from your hand* I think there was a tick on it.

      • 58 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 25, 2014 at 19:32

        *picks it up* Look it fell off!

      • 59 Professor VJ Duke April 26, 2014 at 15:51

        *throws the knife* You shouldn’t play with such things.

      • 60 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 26, 2014 at 21:12

        *laughs a whole lotta* Dang it! I was living on the edge, Duke.

      • 61 Professor VJ Duke April 27, 2014 at 19:02

        You’re not allowed when I’m here!

      • 62 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 27, 2014 at 23:31

        Yes, Sir. *eyes down and full of regret*

      • 63 Professor VJ Duke April 28, 2014 at 14:45

        That’s better.

      • 64 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 28, 2014 at 19:17

        *heart just skipped a few beats*

      • 65 Professor VJ Duke April 28, 2014 at 19:31

        Yeah, mine does that from time to time. I worry about heart attacks then.

      • 66 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 28, 2014 at 19:38

        I hope you don’t have a heart attack!

      • 67 Professor VJ Duke April 28, 2014 at 19:43

        Yes, never had one.

      • 68 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 28, 2014 at 19:50

        Good, me either, however I think I’m too young to worry about that for a while. I think you are, too.

      • 69 Professor VJ Duke April 28, 2014 at 20:06

        The professor…is…well…maybe you’re right.

      • 70 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 28, 2014 at 20:11

        I know what you want to say…something about mountains and stars or something.
        *catches that you stopped yourself*
        *knows she’s right* (probably)

      • 71 Professor VJ Duke April 28, 2014 at 20:24

        *decides he won’t divulge anything else*

      • 72 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 28, 2014 at 20:33

        *adds, ever again*
        *sits back crosses her arms not surprised at all*

      • 73 Professor VJ Duke April 29, 2014 at 17:21

        Haha, you make me out to be mean.

      • 74 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 29, 2014 at 19:20

        Tis your goal, I think.

      • 75 Professor VJ Duke April 29, 2014 at 21:58

        *smiles as big as a gusher*

      • 76 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 30, 2014 at 00:36

        You would… *crosses her eyes*

      • 77 Professor VJ Duke April 30, 2014 at 15:52

        They’ll stick now!

      • 78 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister April 30, 2014 at 20:05

        They didn’t! *sticks her tongue out at you*

      • 79 Professor VJ Duke May 1, 2014 at 12:54

        Stick that on this cold pole here…

      • 80 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister May 1, 2014 at 15:39

        Hey!!! You first!

      • 81 Professor VJ Duke May 1, 2014 at 20:10

        No!

      • 82 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister May 1, 2014 at 20:19

        Come on…just try it. (Plots this amazing plan to keep him near by.)

      • 83 Professor VJ Duke May 1, 2014 at 20:27

        Won’t shan’t try it!

      • 84 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister May 1, 2014 at 20:39

        Well, me either then!

      • 85 Professor VJ Duke May 2, 2014 at 12:44

        Spit-tooey!

      • 86 Audrey Dawn - Oldest Daughter Redheaded Sister May 2, 2014 at 18:15

        Blah!

      • 87 Professor VJ Duke May 2, 2014 at 21:04

        Huff-Hum and a roar!

  5. 88 The Dancing Rider April 16, 2014 at 19:48

    such an interesting tale — and a revealing take on the professor!

    • 89 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:23

      Many thanks, DR! You mean you learned something new about me?

      • 90 The Dancing Rider April 16, 2014 at 20:53

        Of course!

      • 91 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:03

        But what?

  6. 92 Simply Skeptical April 16, 2014 at 15:04

    Very interesting and engaging tale. The Professor is a complex one for sure. Hmm… So is “K” the key to the mystery?

    • 93 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:22

      Something like that, SS. The professor is inherently simple, you know.

  7. 94 L. Marie April 16, 2014 at 14:18

    Love these visits with the Professor. :-D
    And yes, I also thought of Terry Pratchett.

    • 95 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:21

      Many thanks! Goodness! I’ll have to look him up, and ask FEF about him.

  8. 96 Julie Harris April 16, 2014 at 13:16

    Dull is most definitely not a word I would think of to describe the Professor!

    • 97 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:19

      Many thanks! What one word would you pick?

      • 98 Julie Harris April 16, 2014 at 21:05

        Witty…clever…

      • 99 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:03

        And professorish, you know.

  9. 100 technophile9 April 16, 2014 at 13:12

    I loved this! :) But is there even a connection? Who’s to say that they didn’t die peaceably in their sleep?

    This reminds me slightly of Terry Pratchett – what with the Dean and a Bursar and a college…

    • 101 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:18

      Well, it’s a possibility. But I doubt it was a natural death. Especially, after ProfessorK went down. Am I right, PorterGirl? (Glad you liked it! More details on PorterGirl’s blog!)

      You know, I’ve never read Terry Pratchett. But was there a professor?

  10. 102 Brenda April 16, 2014 at 13:02

    The professor always adds a certain je ne sais quois.

    • 103 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:16

      Now that is an interest. But what does it mean exactly?

      • 104 Brenda April 16, 2014 at 20:32

        IT’s a french expression that means an undefinable thing.

      • 105 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:35

        Yes, that sounds a bit like me. Did you know I can be mathematically explained, though?

      • 106 Brenda April 17, 2014 at 02:41

        No I didn’t know that. :-)

      • 107 Professor VJ Duke April 17, 2014 at 16:11

        Me neither! But it sounds coolio!

  11. 108 PorterGirl April 16, 2014 at 12:26

    Always wonderful to have you visit us at Old College, Professor!

    • 109 Professor VJ Duke April 16, 2014 at 20:15

      My pleasure! Glad to be of some service too, you know.


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Punchy Argot:

1. Dadblameit.
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4. Chicky-woot-woot
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7. Gardoobled
8. Congratulilolations
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15. Huff-Hum and a Roar
16. So many thanks, I can't begin to thank you
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