It was at this point that disaster struck. Miss Devlin, who had been woken up by the sound of Angela hurrying along the passage to fetch Mr. Hesketh, came out of her room to see what was going on just as Mr. Hesketh was passing, and the two of them bumped into one another. Since nobody had informed Miss Devlin that the Latin master was staying there at present, she immediately took it that the strange man with whom she had collided in the dark was a burglar. She shrieked, and for a few seconds the two of them grappled together in the gloom, until Mr. Hesketh managed to free himself and stepped back.
‘Oh, no you don’t!’ cried Miss Devlin. ‘Help! Police!’
She accompanied her yell with a neat yet powerful right hook, which connected with Mr. Hesketh’s jaw and laid him out flat. As he lay there groaning, Miss Devlin stepped over him and turned on a nearby wall-lamp.
‘Why, it’s Mr. Hesketh!’ she said in astonishment as she looked down at the young man’s prostrate figure.
She glanced up and saw Angela standing open-mouthed nearby, and her eyes widened. Despite herself, Angela almost laughed as she quite clearly saw an awful suspicion enter the Games mistress’s head, but other concerns swiftly intruded and she ran forward and bent over the unfortunate young man, who was rubbing his jaw groggily and attempting to sit up.
‘Are you all right?’ said Angela. ‘Help me get him up, Miss Devlin.’
‘I’m all right, I think,’ said Hesketh. He refused her hand and got to his feet slowly.
‘But what—’ Miss Devlin began, looking from Angela to Mr. Hesketh and back again. ‘Why is Mr. Hesketh here? I thought you were a burglar.’
‘No, I’m not a burglar,’ said Hesketh grimly, moving his head from side to side to make sure it was still attached to his neck. He winced.
It was finally beginning to dawn on Miss Devlin that laying out the Latin master with a single punch was perhaps not the best way to foster good relations with a fellow teacher, and she went pink in the face at the enormity of what she had done.
‘Oh, dear me!’ she exclaimed. ‘Oh, Mr. Hesketh, I’m most dreadfully sorry. How will you ever forgive me? Let me run downstairs and get you some ice.’
‘No, no,’ said Hesketh.
‘Oh, but I insist,’ said Miss Devlin. ‘It’s the least I can do.’
All three of them were by now very embarrassed, but how the situation might eventually have resolved itself will never be known, for at that moment there was an interruption in the form of Miss Bell, who emerged from her room in a hurry, glanced around at them all and said urgently:
‘Where is the Princess?’