But it wasn’t really so heart-throbby as I had expected. The jailer stopped at the end of a long passageway. He spun the clicking dial, while I waited in a kind of horror. I think I expected to see the Professor with shaved head (they couldn’t shave much off his head, poor lamb!) and striped canvas suit, and a ball and chain on his ankle.
The door swung open heavily. There was a narrow, clean little room with a low camp bed, and under the barred window a table strewn with sheets of paper. It was the Professor in his own clothes, writing busily, with his back toward me. Perhaps he thought it was only an attendant with food, or perhaps he didn’t even hear the interruption. I could hear his pen running busily. I might have known you never would get any heroics out of that man! Trust him to make the best of it!
“Lemon sole and a glass of sherry, please, James,” said the Professor over his shoulder, and the warder, who evidently had joked with him before, broke into a cackle of laughter.
“A lady to see yer Lordship,” he said.
The Professor turned round. His face went quite white. For the first time in my experience of him he seemed to be at a loss for speech.
“Miss—Miss McGill,” he stammered. “You are the good Samaritan. I’m doing the John Bunyan act, see? Writing in prison. I’ve really started my book at last. And I find the fellows here know nothing whatever about literature. There isn’t even a library in the place.”
For the life of me, I couldn’t utter the tenderness in my heart with that gorilla of a jailer standing behind us.
Somehow we made our way downstairs, after the Professor had gathered together the sheets of his manuscript. It had already reached formidable proportions, as he had written fifty pages in the thirty-six hours he had been in prison. In the office we had to sign some papers. The sheriff was very apologetic to Mifflin, and offered to take him back to town in his car, but I explained that Parnassus was waiting at the gate. The Professor’s eyes brightened when he heard that, but I had to hurry him away from an argument about putting good books in prisons. The sheriff walked with us to the gate and there shook hands again.
Peg whickered as we came up to her, and the Professor patted her soft nose. Bock tugged at his chain in a frenzy of joy. At last we were alone.
I never knew just how it happened. Instead of driving back through Port Vigor, we turned into a side road leading up over the hill and across the heath where the air came fresh and sweet from the sea. The Professor sat very silent, looking about him. There was a grove of birches on the hill, and the sunlight played upon their satin boles.
“It feels good to be out again,” he said calmly. “The Sage cannot be so keen a lover of open air as his books would indicate, or he wouldn’t be so ready to clap a man into quod. Perhaps I owe him another punch on the nose for that.”