THE FIRST DAY AT SCHOOLCategory: Education
The three of them (the mother and her two boys) were still waiting in the playground when at last they heard the Master’s footsteps.
“I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” said Mr Victor.
“Not at all, sir,” the mother said.
Mr Victor led the party into the school.
The place had a musty smell, floors and stairs were worn down, and there were dark turnings lit by gas lamps. Outside a room marked Headmaster, on the first floor, two boys stood palely to attention.
“Yes?” Mr Victor spoke softly to them.
“Miss Skegham sent us to you, sir,” said the smaller one raising his hand aloft as he spoke.
“Г11 attend to you both later,” he said. “Wait there.”
He led the way into the room, gave the mother a chair, and he sat at a table. He took their names and ages.
“William, you’ll go to Mr Denning’s class, it’s Standard V, and you, Michael, until you make your First Communion — had better remain with Miss Twining. The boys in her class are younger than you, but you’ll move up later.”
He was leading them up to the classroom on the next floor when a shouting and running-was heard on the landing above. Then a boy came rushing down the stairs, his hand on the wooden rail, and moving so fast that he was like a bird in flight as he went past. There was a glimpse of two small eyes and a head of short black hair, and an apology as he disappeared. “Please, may I pass, sir!” Heavier footsteps sounded, and a middle-aged man, wearing thick spectacles, came down the stairs.
“Oh, sir,” he cried on seeing Mr Victor, “Criddle’s escaped!”
“Escaped, Mr. Wimpole?” said Mr Victor.
“He ate the apple, sir, I mean the one I had provided for drawing lesson. He got away, sir.”
“I’m afraid you won’t catch him now,” said Mr Victor.
Michael gave a light nervous knock on the classroom door, lifted the latch and entered. A woman with an oval face turned from the class of boys.
“I was sent here to you, Miss,” he said huskily. “I’m new and my name is Michael M’Cloud. I’ll be older than the other boys here, but I haven’t my First Communion made.”
“Very well, Michael,” she said. “Go and sit next to James Higley.”
James, a cross-eyed boy, gave him a smile.
“Now, boys, take out your books for sums.”
Miss Twining gave Micky a new sum book, blotting paper and a pen, and he shared an inkwell with James. Multiplication sums were chalked on the blackboard. “Now, you may start,” said Miss Twining. The sums on the board were very easy, but he had used a slate before and the pen and ink felt complicated to him, “Put your name on your book for a start,” said James. He nodded and took up the pen in his thick fingers.
“Try to keep the knuckle down, Michael,” he heard the teacher say, and then he felt her stooping down over him. Her delicate hand took firm hold of his fist and began to guide his own shaky one along the paper. “Michael M’Cloud” he wrote and a warm feeling of gratitude to her filled him. A bell sounded in the corridor and the boys stood up and marched in orderly manner from the room.
After playtime they had drawing and Miss Twining said: “You will all draw from memory this morning, and remember, I shall make an example of any boy I catch using a rubber. Above all no talking and no copying.” And with these words she went out of the classroom.
Most boys started drawing at once, whilst a few gazed at the backs of other boys7 hands, and others looked down at their drawing books with faces screwed up, and others bit their lip as they thought.
Micky looked down at the greyish naked sheet before him… A drawing from memory — he didn’t know what it meant, but he had to do something and slowly he began to draw the profile of a man. That was soon done, for he was skilled at it. He decided to give the man a moustache. As he was doing this he felt a violent jabbing at his elbow and he looked to see the boy next to him pick up the drawing and show it around.
“Just see what this, chap’s done. He’s drawn a man’s face.” Some boys laughed and others shook their heads in pity. A boy on the front bench felt down in his pocket and brought out a tiny red rubber.
“Here, quick, rub it out,” he said, “before you catch it ”
Micky began to rub out the drawing, removing at the same time all traces of the use of a rubber.
“But what have I to draw?” he asked.
“A tulip,” said the boy next him,
“What’s that like?”
“One of them flowers toffs have in long vases. Practically, all stalk — that’s the beauty of them. At the top they’re like an egg- cup.”
“Isn’t there something else?”
“No, nothing,” said another boy. “Shes infatuated with flowers, and we all have to draw ’em.” Here the door opened and Miss Twining entered. Micky bent down to his drawing.
Some minutes later the bell sounded in the corridor, and the boys put down their pencils. A monitor came round to collect the papers, and when he took Micky’s he said: “What’s that — a cabbage?” And at his words Micky suddenly became aware of the fact that when drawing the tulip the image that had been in his mind was a cabbage.
(From, One Small Boy by B. Noughton)