Death of the Professor

‘They can’t get inside you,’ Uma had said. But they could get inside you. ‘What happens to you in this College is forever,’ the Dean had said. That was a true word. There were things, your own acts, from which you could never recover. Something was take out from your breast: burnt out, cauterized away.

The Professor had seen her; he had even spoken to her. There was no danger in it. He knew as though instinctively that they now took almost no interest in his doings. He could have arranged to meet her a second time if either of them had wanted to. Actually it was by chance that they had met. It was in the Park, on a vile, biting day in March, when the earth was like iron and all the grass seemed dead and there was not a bud anywhere except a few crocuses which had pushed themselves up to be dismembered by the wind.

He put his arm round her waist.

There was no telescreen, but there must be hidden microphones: besides, they could be seen. It did not matter, nothing mattered. The tears welled up in his eyes. A passing waiter noticed that his glass was empty and came back with the gin bottle. The Professor, sitting in a blissful dream, paid no attention as his glass was filled up.

He was back in the Invisible College, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow.

He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody.

He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden behind that dark beard. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved the face.

He loved the Face?

__ Loved the ____!


No, Professor, Thou hast Business yet for Life;
Thy thoughts reformed and retir’d to some private sector
Will gently pass our short reserves of Time
In calm Reflections on our Fortunes past,
Cheer’d with relation of the prosperous Reign
Of this celestial Pair; Thus our Remains
Shall in an even Course of Thought be past,
Enjoy the present Hour, nor fear the Last.

Our drooping Country now erects her Head,
SLM spreads her balmy Wings, and Plenty Blooms.
Divine Wife, all the Gods can witness
How much thy Love to Empire I prefer!
Thy bright Example shall convince the World
(Whatever Storms of Fortune are decreed)
That Truth and Vertue shall at last succeed.


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