Isaac Kreiner stood at the back of the class watching as Smith taught his class. He dusted a small speck off his black velvet military style jacket and readjusted the red carnation buttonhole. He knew there was something odd about the new teacher but he couldn't put his finger in what. Isaac had been a student at the school before he eventually became a teacher after a short stint in the navy. That was where he had lost the sight in one eye and the lower part of his right leg, when a shell had unexpectedly exploded on deck. He had always been at institutions, the orphanage, the school the navy and now he was part of the school again. Nelson was what the boys called him behind his back, others were more derogatory especially with the tension building up around Europe. He always claimed his last name was Saxon not German. Isaac knew next to nothing about his parents as far as he was concerned he was an orphan except for some mysterious uncle who had paid for his education. A Doctor of some sort was the only information he could gather on this benevolent relative. He frowned as he heard Smith stumble over some his historical fact. He was always doing that. The school thought him quite the eccentric until Smith came along and stole his crown. Isaac knew he was still in his mid-thirties and there was still hope of him getting the position of headmaster, he was just disappointed that the candidate had been chosen from the outside to teach in the school.
Isaac sat at his desk once again attempting to write his novel, a pursuit he had started in the upper fourth, and was still trying to complete. Of course it had gone through many re-writes since its germination. Inspired by a fragment of a journal that had lined the bag in which he had packed his meagre belongings to come here from the orphanage as a small child. He had sent what existed of the story to a publisher once, but had not received a favourable reply in fact it was quite cutting and had for a time put him off writing. Apparently a story of an arctic explorer who finds something frozen in the ice was not what they were looking for at that moment in time. Isaac looked up at a knock on the door of his small dusty room, although it was more a cupboard than a room with books and papers piled high and only space enough for a small desk, chair and bed pushed next to each other. It was claustrophobic which was why he often found himself excuses to leave its confines.
"Come in," called out Isaac.
In through the door walked Smith, he occasionally graced Isaac's room with his presence and was kind enough to let him share the maid Martha, to help with tidying (even though that meant just moving books from one pile to another).
"Ah, Mr Kreiner," Smith replied stumbling over a pile of papers Isaac had just finished marking, sending them spilling across the floor. "Sorry," he mumbled trying to gather the mess up into a recognisable state. "I'll send Martha in…."
"Did you want something important, sir?"
"Important? Oh, yes…that was it," he paused as if thinking, off in a world of his own, before snapping out of his daydream. "Timothy Latimer."
"I know the boy. What about him?"
"I heard from my boys that you intervened at a beating."
"Yes I did. What of it?"
"I gave them permission, Mr Kreiner. It was not your place to interfere with discipline."
"I ensured that Latimer wasn't beaten senseless, sir. It would not do to have a death on your hands during your term here Mr Smith," he replied with a frown, knowing what it was like to be in Latimer's position, the scapegoat for all that went wrong. "You should supervise your class more closely. They take an enjoyment in administering discipline that is most disturbing."
"If that is the case you should have brought it to my attention rather than usurping my authority."
"In this case it would have been too late, but in the future I will inform you first before taking action, sir."
"Good, good. I'm glad that has been cleared up," Smith headed back out the door knocking over another pile of this time, unmarked papers, without noticing. "Carry on."
He lighted the small gas lamp then placing it on the mantelpiece as he shrugged on a flannel dressing gown over his pyjamas. He took up the lamp in one hand and a sturdy walking stick from where several were crammed into the umbrella stand which sat awkwardly by the door leaning to one side. Isaac slept in the building, there was nowhere else for him to go, and he knew no one. He usually kept a keen ear open for any trouble, with a school full of boys there was always potential for trouble and he should know after all he had been behind plenty of pranks in his time as a student. He had managed, using the skills learned in science, to create a counter weight system which would dump flour on unsuspecting victims. His tutor had punished him for the prank, but rewarded him for his ingenuity and showing the principals he had learned. Isaac shuffled out of his room heading down the corridor and across the landing towards Smith's accommodation. He was not a coward, the medal locked in his desk proved that, but his time in the navy had made him more prone to caution. On hearing sounds from the study he shrunk back into the shadows, turning down the lamp so the light would not be seen. He waited for the culprits to reveal themselves.
He was surprised to see Baines and Mr Clark emerge along with one of the maids. He might have guessed that Baines was involved but the farmer was a sensible member of the community. Why would he be helping a boy play a prank? Isaac pulled back further into the shadows. Something in his guts told him that there was trouble afoot and caution was needed. He waited for them to leave before approaching the room, and crossing the threshold. On entering he saw that the room was in disarray, books papers and furniture strewn everywhere. This was more than just a prank, it was criminal damage. Isaac wasn't sure whether he should take this to the headmaster or go straight to the police.