"I've had enough of that Form Three," Mr
Wilkins said to Mr Carter when he went into the staff room after his
algebra lesson. "I gave them an easy problem this morning, and nobody
could give me the right answer. Well, I'm going to make them come to the
classroom on Saturday afternoon, believe me!"
"Don't worry, Wilkins," said Mr Carter. "Here is a letter for you."
Mr Wilkins took the envelope, looked at it, and
saw L. P. Wilkins in his sister's handwriting. Mr Wilkins began to
worry because his younger sister Margaret was usually too busy at her
London hospital where she worked as a nurse. She did not often write
letters to him. He loved his sister, which was not surprising, because
she was a very nice young lady. He opened the envelope and read:
I shall spend next week-end with my friends not
far from Dunhambury. So I think I can visit you for an hour at tea-time
on Saturday. I shall take a bus from Dunham-bury to Linbury,- but don't
meet me; I think I can find my own way.
Mr Wilkins put the letter back in the envelope
as one of the other teachers came into the staff room. Nobody except the
Headmaster and Mr Carter knew that his first name was Lancelot. Nothing
was wrong with Lancelot: it was a nice name for the right man, but Mr
Wilkins thought that he was not the right man. He would have made no
secret of it if his name had been Bill or Jack or Tom. But Lancelot...
Mr Wilkins came up to the notice-board and saw
that Mr Carter was on duty on Saturday afternoon and evening. "That's
fine," he thought. "The detention class will be over at a quarter past
five, and I'll be free."
He finished his tea, and when he heard a knock
at the door some minutes before the end of break there was only Mr
Carter and himself in the staff room.
"Come in!" called Mr Wilkins.
The visitor was Jennings.
"It's about our wall newspaper, sir," he said
to Mr Carter and explained. "I'm writing the lives of famous people like
Charles Dickens, sir. But we think the boys may not be very interested
in reading about them. So we are going to write about some infamous
people too - like you and Mr Wilkins, sir... or... I mean people who are
not so famous as Charles Dickens, but are more interesting to read
"Go on," said Mr Carter with a smile. "Well,
sir, teachers never tell people what they were like when they were at
school, and I think, sir, these are the things which will be most
interesting to read in a wall newspaper."
"No, I don't remember anything from my school
years which you could put in your wall newspaper, thank you very much,"
said Mr Wilkins.
"I see, sir," said Jennings. "Well, sir, maybe
we will write something about you if we know what your initials stand
"My name, little boy, is L. P. Wilkins," said Mr Wilkins angrily. "And what L. P. stands for is not your business."
"No, sir, of course not. I'm sorry, sir," said Jennings.
Then he decided to ask Mr Carter some question.
Mr Carter did not make a secret of his first name. Jennings knew that
Mr Carter's first name was Michael. He decided to ask Mr Carter how old
he was. He knew that it was a difficult thing because grown-ups often
gave very strange answers, like a hundred and six last birthday.
"Do you remember the first car, sir?" Jennings asked Mr Carter.
Mr Carter thought for a moment, then smiled and
said, "I see, Jennings. You want to know how old I am. Mr Wilkins told
me that Form Three couldn't work out easy problems. So try to work this
out. Five years ago I was twice as old as you will be in four years, and
in ten years I shall be five times older than you were two years ago."
"Oh, sir, this is worse than the problem about the man who walked at x miles an hour, sir," said Jennings.
"Don't you have anything better to do than ask us a lot of silly questions?" said Mr Wilkins.
"I'm sorry, sir," said Jennings and left the staff room.
"It's very difficult to make Mr Wilkins happy,"
thought Jennings when he heard the bell for the next lesson. When he
came into the classroom Darbishire asked him, "Do you know anything
about them now?"
"Nothing," answered Jennings. "I can only I say that Mr Carter is a man whose age is a problem for clever schoolboys "
"And what about Old Wilkie?"
"He's worse. He doesn't want to talk about his school years."
They sat down at their desks and opened their
exercise-books for the Headmaster's Latin lesson. When they were waiting
for Mr Pemberton Jennings wrote the list of the famous and not so
Mr M. Carter
Mr L. P. Wilkins
The late A. Grimshaw.