16 July 2014

from Gaudy Night, chapter 7 (Dorothy L. Sayers)

"And what were you doing on our wall, sir?" demanded Harriet. in the moonlight she beheld a fresh, fair and ingenuous face, youthfully rounded and, at the moment, disturbed by an expression of mingled apprehension and amusement. He was a very tall and very large young man; but Harriet had clasped him in a wiry grip that he could scarcely shake off without hurting her, and he showed no disposition to use violence.

"Just having a beano," said the young man, promptly. "A bet, you know, and all that. Hang my cap on the tip-top branch of the Shrewsbury beeches. My friend there was the witness. I seem to have lost, don't I?"

"In that case," said Harriet severely, "where's your cap? And your gown, if it comes to that? And, sir, your name and college?"

"Well," said the young man, impudently, "if it comes to that, where and what are yours?"

When one's thirty-second birthday is no more than a matter of months away, such a question is flattering. Harriet laughed.

"My dear young man, do you take me for an undergraduate?"

"A don - a female don. God help us!" exclaimed the young man, whose spirits appeared to be sustained, though not unduly exalted, by spirituous liquors.

"Well?" said Harriet.

"I don't believe it," said the young man, scanning her face as closely as he could in the feeble light. "Not possible. Too young. Too charming. Too much sense of humour."

"A great deal too much sense of humour to let you get away with that, my lad. And no sense of humour at all about this intrusion."

"I say," said the young man, "I'm really most frightfully sorry. Mere lightheartedness and all that kind of thing. Honestly, we weren't doing any harm. Quite definitely not. I mean, we were just winning the bet and going away quietly. I say, do be a sport. I mean, you're not the Warden or the Dean or anything. I know them. Couldn't you overlook it?"

"It's all very well," said Harriet. "But we can't have this kind of thing. It doesn't do. You must see that it doesn't do."

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