Stan Hawthorne was so distraught that he gave a lurch and almost fell over backward in the recently oiled chair that Wilson Adams had left him. Having recovered himself, he burst out,
"Dammit, Jones, this job isn't worth the aggravation! It's been one humiliation after another. Now I know why Adams quit so suddenly. He must've known that everything was about to fall apart."
"Well, that faculty meeting was rather awkward. But Roger did get promoted."
"He apparently reacted to that by seducing Sarah Swift. She was just in here in hysterics. She's obviously going to raise hell. I give up! I just plain fucking give up!"
Surprised by Stan's news, and also by his uncharacteristic use of obscenity, Jones momentarily felt a little the way he had when they had once come around an island and encountered a Japanese destroyer. After only the shortest pause, he asked,
"Where is Sarah now?"
"She shot out of here. She said she's never coming back."
"She's probably just gone down to the Pink Room. I'll see if I can catch her."
Sarah was at one of the tables, and Jones was happy to see Tensy across from her. He sat down at the end of the table between them, and Sarah said loudly to him,
"Roger's dropped me."
"But you still have Sam and Milton."
"Fuck Sam and Milton. Anyway, I got rid of them just last week."
It was hard not to laugh, but Tensy said,
"I'm sure they'll be willing to come back, dear."
"Compared to Roger, they're just kids."
"You're more sophisticated than those boys, Sarah, but you're actually younger. Part of sophistication consists in learning to handle these things with a certain aplomb."
"You mean, like you behind the coke machines with your skirts up?"
Tensy suddenly looked dangerous, but she continued,
"Even that. The object is to avoid making a bad situation worse. You must have given Stan Hawthorne a severe shock."
"Good! That bastard needs one."
"But you don't really want to get Roger fired, do you?"
"He said that he and Octavia have decided to be monogamous. That's a crock of shit. She won't be! And then he'll find someone else. Probably one of my friends."
Sarah was now weeping with her head down on the table, and Tensy motioned for Jones to leave. He did so, and found Hawthorne still at his desk, looking hardly better.
"Sarah's downstairs in tears, but she's in the care of Tensy. She's upset, not because Roger seduced her, if you can call it that, but because he dropped her."
Stan looked at Jones and asked,
"Will she calm down if he takes her up again?"
"Things might be getting a little out of hand, Stan. You don't want to be in the position of recommending that a professor re-seduce a student."
"No. I was just being funny. I think. It's not really so damn funny at all. Sarah knows everything that's gone on here for years."
"She certainly does. Did she threaten to go to the dean."
"The dean, the president, the police, the newspapers, and, I think, the FBI."
"She may just want attention. But Sarah tells almost everyone almost everything. And the dean seems to pick up rumors very fast."
"He has what amount to spies. So I knew I had to call him first."
"You already have?"
"I left word with his secretary that I have to speak with him on an important matter. I have an appointment with him in two hours. I haven't decided what to tell him."
"Does Roger know how Sarah's reacted?"
"Yes. I called him. He didn't deny the affair, but wound up more or less babbling. Octavia called a half hour later to cancel his classes. Roger's gone to bed and won't get up."
"How did she sound?"
"Absolutely furious. She said to tell Sarah that, if she gets Roger fired, she, Octavia, will personally come and strangle her. She also said that she comes from the part of Brooklyn that spawned the Murder Inc. gang, and that she knows how to put out a contract. Of course, I haven't seen Sarah since. If you see her, you might pass that on."
Stan actually smiled, and Jones replied,
"You look better than when I saw you first, Stan."
"Yes. I feel better. If this gets as nasty as it may, I'll just resign as chairman. I'll lose some money, and any chance for a full professorship, but I'll still have tenure. Life will go on."
"I hope you don't do that unnecessarily."
"You'd better hope not. The dean might make you the youngest chairman in the university. I can't imagine who else could handle this sort of thing."
"Oh no! I can always plead that I'm too committed in Washington for that."
"Lucky you. If Loomis makes Preston Jenkins chairman, he'll burst an artery in the first ten minutes."
"Yeah. The veins in his forehead stand out dangerously when he gets mad."
"Do you want to come with me to see the dean?"
"I think I'm too junior for that."
"I suppose so. I can tell him that there are rumors that Roger has had an affair with a student."
"He'll want to know whether Roger denies them."
"The best thing would probably be for Roger to say he's never touched the woman. Sarah isn't likely to have any proof. Why don't you call him and see if he's prepared to do that."
Jones hesitated, but Stan added,
"You're closer to his age than I am. It wouldn't be unnatural for you to consult with him at a time of crisis."
"Okay, I'll have a try."
Jones went into his own office and closed the door to make the call. It was Octavia who answered.
"Jones! I'm so glad you called. I've been pacing around here like a tigress."
"He had three straight shots of whiskey in a row and went to bed. He'll be out for hours. That's how he reacts to crises."
"Stan thinks it'd be best for him to deny everything."
"For the moment, he's too drunk to deny anything."
"Sure, but I suppose you could say that he collapsed from the shock of the unjust accusation."
"No one who knows Roger is going to be fooled by any of this. I was just about to come up there and find Sarah and put the fear of God into her."
"It may be too late for that. She's been holding forth in the Pink Room for all to hear. The dean picks up rumors very quickly, and Stan has to tell him something. Dean Loomis isn't what I would call a naive soul."
"I've met him a few times. I suppose I could go to him in tears and beg him not to fire Roger. I can deal with humiliation better than most women."
"It may come to that. But it's possible that Loomis will call me to see what I think. I can say honestly that, if anything did happen, it was probably mostly Sarah's doing."
"Yes. That's probably the best thing. Then, if that isn't good enough, I'll come crawling to him. It'll be sincere enough. I really do have that fear of ending up on the street."
"I guess this is virtue's reward. I was the one who declared for monogamy and made Roger drop Sarah."
"This whole thing isn't great for me, either. Sarah knows about that little episode with Tensy, probably from the girl who surprised us. It happened before my appointment, and isn't grounds for dismissal, but I certainly don't want it more widely known than it already is."
"Well, whatever else I do, I'm going to find Sarah. She needs to feel some fear."
It was about five in the afternoon, when everyone else had left, that the call came from the dean. Jones went downstairs, and was greeted cheerily, as if nothing were wrong. Loomis said,
"I asked Stan Hawthorne if he'd mind if I discussed this matter with you, and he urged me to do so. There's something that puzzles me greatly. How could a man with a wife like that fool around with the secretary?"
"You feel sure that he did?"
"Ennis is apparently too sick to confirm, deny, or admit. He's probably gone into a funk. Obviously, none of us really knows what happened between two people in private, but we have to be realists. I want to know why."
"Well, you know, this is something that's ending, not beginning. A few months ago, Roger was pretty sure that he'd be let go. He had nothing to lose."
"But, still, with a wife like that! It's rumored that she gets around, too. Did he do it to keep up?"
"You know, we have a lot of faculty married couples who swap wives, and so on. I don't like it at all, but there's nothing I can do about it. This, however, involves a student. It's dishonorable. That's not what you young men won the war to protect."
"There's also the question of who initiated this."
"I've seen this young lady around. I don't really know anything about her, but she doesn't look as if she were born yesterday."
"Well, no. She's quite talented, a good student. We even made her an assistant. But she's adventurous, certainly."
"Has she approached you, Jones?"
"Not explicitly. But even when I was only a student, I thought she was much too dangerous."
"So she seduced Ennis?"
"It's certainly possible."
"So he's not evil, just weak?"
"There are kinds of weakness. There were men we really couldn't send out in combat, but who were very good at getting things out of the navy bureaucracy. We started out with torpedoes that were mostly duds, and it was a non- combatant supply officer who finally got us decent ones."
"I don't like weakness of any kind. I'd fire Ennis, but there's another dimension. Are you aware of it?"
"I don't think so."
"Howard Garfield interceded with the president to get Ennis tenure. We can't dismiss him for moral turpitude without severely embarrassing Mr. Garfield. We can't do that."
"So that's all there is to it?"
"In one way. When Ennis reappears, I'm going to make him feel like a ten-year old who's been caught stealing candy. But that leaves the matter of Miss Swift in the air."
"Yes. She's very upset at being dropped, and she's making threats. I saw her briefly, and Mrs. Blakey-Fenton was trying to calm her."
"That's good. Very good. I wonder if Mrs. Blakey-Fenton could keep track of Miss Swift over the next few days. I could hardly ask her myself."
"I know the Blakey-Fentons quite well, since they're publishing my journal. I think Tensy would be quite willing to do that. She probably already is. I can make sure."
"A mature woman can sometimes get these love-sick young girls to see some reason. Thank you, Jones."
On impulse, Jones drove to the Blakey-Fenton house, on its own little circle at the end of a dead end street in Hyde Park. Tensy's car was parked askew in front of Reggie's Buick convertible. It was an odd car for an Englishman of his sort to have gotten, but Jones supposed that it was part of being American.
Reggie answered the door himself and swept Jones into the library for a sherry. Unprompted, he said,
"Yes, we've got her here. Quite an attractive young lady, but inclined to throw up her cookies. Tensy and one of the maids have her out back."
"Her married lover just dropped her. She didn't take it well."
"So I understand. Part of growing up, I should think. Are you thinking of standing in for the lover?"
"Definitely not. She's one of our students, for one thing."
"That's against the rules here, isn't it?"
"It is important to follow the local rules. In Mexico, for example, one musn't inadvertantly walk between a man and his drink. And then, in India, it's important not to fell a sacred cow with one's motor car. They tend to tie the driver to the steering wheel and set fire to the car."
"I'll remember that. Was Sarah threatening to prefer charges or anything as she came in the door?"
"Not that I noticed. Of course, if you haven't boffed her, it hardly matters to you, does it?"
"Not really. But it does make me uneasy. A hysterical woman might claim almost anything."
"One does need insulation. And, of course, they sometimes threaten suicide. It's better to call the police at that point."
"She hasn't done that, has she?"
"I don't think so. I dare say Tensy has things well in hand."
At that moment, Tensy appeared from the rear of the house and greeted Jones. Dropping into a chair, she said,
"It's just amazing how much passion Roger seems to have inspired. She's resting now, but she was really quite sick. There's vomit all over the dress I was wearing."
Reggie said to her,
"I'm rather glad that you don't bring home wounded or orphaned animals, dear."
"And you wonder why I bring home wounded girls?"
"Well, I suppose there isn't a Royal Society for the Humane Treatment of Mistresses."
"I knew that you wouldn't be terribly enthusiastic in this case, and I started out by taking Sarah to her home. She lives with her parents in a modest house not far from here. We were going to tell them just that she had some sort of tummy flu."
"As we were nearing her home, we saw Octavia Ennis out in front with Sarah's parents. They're both rather dumpy and frumpy, and they came about to Octavia's shoulders."
Jones put in,
"Octavia was threatening mayhem on Sarah, and must have looked up her home address."
"The mother was weeping, and the father was absolutely goggle-eyed. Octavia was gesticulating wildly and obviously talking at a great rate. I couldn't set Sarah down in the middle of that, so I kept going and brought her here."
Reggie looked rather thoughtful, and replied,
"It might have been interesting if you had stopped and joined the performance. I think I might have in your position."
"I'm sure you would have, my dear. But I am trying to contain something of a scandal."
Reggie asked a few questions, and concluded,
"I don't really see a problem. A sexual scandal overtakes the philosophy department, but neither you nor Jones is involved. It's not so good for this Howard Garfield, but he seemed a rather pathetic figure when I met him that one evening. He rather reminded me of a German defector that we turned and sent back to Germany, supposedly to spy for us. But we knew he wasn't really up to it. So we put the documents we wanted the Germans to see on him and parachuted him back. Parachutes are tricky, and his didn't open."
Jones laughed and replied,
"Dean Loomis wants to treat this Garfield as gently as possible, and we don't want a scandal involving his protege."
"Is Dean Loomis important to us?"
"He's done me some pretty considerable favors, and seems likely to do more. I'd like to do something in return."
Reggie nodded, apparently with approval, and Tensy said,
"There's also another angle. Roger Ennis is a perfect assistant or managing editor for a journal. It's an unpaid job which confers a moderate amount of prestige on the holder. For me, he could be the first reader of the papers that come in. For Jones, he could be the managing editor who sees to correspondence, the sending of papers to referees, and so on."
"We're beginning to discover that journals are a lot of work, some of which isn't fun or interesting."
"Fair enough. There's no point in working harder than you have to. And, of course, Ennis will be willing to do practically anything at this point. Tensy, see if you can't get this young lady cleaned up and made presentable. She can then stay to dinner. How about you Jones? You haven't eaten already, have you?"
When Jones accepted the invitation, Reggie replied,
"Good. I know you Americans dine at five, but that's one thing I haven't been able to take on."
As Tensy moved away, she said,
"One condition, Reggie. I'll be the one, and not you or Jones, to drive Sarah home later."
Reggie was delighted, and said to Jones,
"Sarah must be very dangerous indeed."
Tensy reappeared with Sarah a surprisingly short time later, probably because she knew that Reggie didn't like to wait. Sarah, obviously in one of Tensy's dresses, looked a little pale to Jones. But there was no remaining sign of hysteria. When she was introduced to Reggie, he said,
"I understand that you'll be graduating this spring. If you'd like, we'll find you a job in one of my companies."
Sarah obviously hadn't expected anything of the sort, and looked very pleased. Jones didn't think that Reggie had company hostessing in mind, and this idea was partially confirmed when he said,
"Later on, we'll have to work out what will be most suitable. Perhaps something in advertizing."
Sarah became quite animated, and Jones had the impression that she had entirely forgotten Roger Ennis. It was remarkable how easily and quickly Reggie solved problems.