This book is the first of a series. The next book is Trubshaws's Folly.
The year is 1950 and the setting is a typical English boys preparatory (boarding) school. The main protagonist is an 11, going on 12, boy by the name of Trubshaw. His adventures will hopefully appeal to any youth of about that age, and also to anyone, of any age, curious to read more about the setting and the era referred to.
We were all together in the Staff Common Room as ever at the beginning of the new term. The Headmaster was addressing us standing with his back to the fireplace. On either side of the fireplace there were single-seater armchairs, and opposite it was a three-seater settee. There were five of us, the core of his staff, all comfortably seated. There was no fire lit in the fireplace, after all this was early September, so no fear of his gown catching fire. He always wore his M.A. gown as a kind of uniform, while we assistant masters did not.
“Well, gentlemen, here we are for a new term. I am pleased to say we have a full set of First Form eight year olds starting. In fact two of them are younger brothers. So we will have to get used to a Smithson Major and a Smithson Minor, and a Prebble Major and a Prebble Minor.”
The Headmaster always pretended to be no good at names, when in fact he was always spot on.
“In addition to our First Form new boys we have another one, who is rather a special case. His name is Trubshaw, and he is coming here as a special favour to a friend of mine. This friend is a Cambridge don, and his son is eleven years old. His mother died in childbirth, and my friend Trubshaw has rather . . .” (he paused) “. . . special views on education. So son Trubshaw has been at home till now. No school. No school friends. He has been studying on his own, in his father's study, under his father's tutelage. He has Latin, Algebra, Geometry, some History, and has read quite widely. I am quoting his father here, and we will have to reserve judgment on all these points.”
At this point he looked at me: “Chaplain, I have put him in your form, the Fourth Form, and I recommend you appoint a mentor from your form to look after him. In addition to all the gaps we will find in his education, he will need a friend of the same age to tell him how this school works. All our silly customs, and suchlike.”
I nodded my head in agreement. “Certainly, Headmaster.”
“As you know, gentlemen, I have had to find a replacement for our young sports master, er . . . Rowley.” He never loses an opportunity to pretend a loss of memory regarding names. We all exchange glances, waiting for the next one.
This was the way our esteemed Headmaster ran the school. There were five what you might call permanent staff, four of whom had been too old for the war. I had been ordained in 1938, and had finished my curacy just in time to have the problem solved of where I would find a parish by the start of the war. The obvious solution was to volunteer to be an army chaplain. Of course, when the war ended and I was demobbed, there were lots of us in the same boat, looking for a parish. In desperation I had applied to be on the staff here, which included the incumbency of the original parish church attached to the school. Five years on I had assumed that this would be my working life. I rather liked teaching, and my parish consisted of sixty boys from eight to thirteen or fourteen, all the staff of the school, and no one else. I had come to realise that this was a rewarding way to live out my life.
To explain my incumbency a little further, the main building was an old manorial hall, with a few cottages originally built for the workers on the farm land. So in what was originally a very small village, a church owned by the hall was built. Some time later the hall became a hunting lodge, and a large set of stables was built around a quadrangle of space. It even had a small tower with a clock that would have looked fine on any market town hall. All the stables were now classrooms, after suitable transformation internally, and my church was a non-stipendiary living, with me receiving the salary of a schoolmaster of Melton Hall Preparatory School for Boys.
After the meeting the Headmaster called me to one side.
“Chaplain, I would like you take the school car and meet young Easton at the station. He will arrive on the evening train.” There were but two trains a day, so this was sufficient detail.
“Please show him to his room in the hall, and help him get to know the layout of the place, his classroom, that sort of thing. He can join us for our evening meal. I will make sure Cook knows.”
This was typical of him. My four colleagues were so much older that tasks like this normally fell to me. I had become a sort of administrative assistant, though regarded by my colleagues as very much the junior member in the Staff Common Room.
So after tea I was off in the Armstrong-Siddeley to the station, a twenty minute drive away, wondering what sort of a fellow this Easton would turn out to be.